MEET THE MEMBERS

Holly Webber has been a member of WLT for five years and is registered for one of WLT’s upcoming fall classes. She lives in Austin, TX.

HW photo

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Holly Webber: I write mainstream women’s fiction. I also write movie reviews!

Scribe: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

HW: I’d like to have a cup of tea with Rosamunde Pilcher. She can tell me what it was like to write entire novel manuscripts on a Hermes typewriter.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

HW: It would have to be Letting Go by David Hawkins. He would help me work through all the negative emotions I’d have about being stranded :)

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

HW: Writing can be such a lonely sport, but my association with WLT has reassured me that none of us are really alone. I still remember how, at my first agent conference, I realized that WLT writers were super-cooperative and supportive of each other, rather than competitive.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

HW: I’ve seen several of my writer-buddies get published this past year, and their success has given me the encouragement I need to put my own work out there and see what happens. Up until now, I’ve kept my manuscripts to myself.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

HW: I would like the world to know that I’ve written over 120 movie reviews at Movie Reviews for Mere Mortals, and that I’m the new on-staff movie reviewer for FactoryTwoFour. I’m also the only female on their editorial staff!

MEMBERS REVIEW

THE BOOM: HOW FRACKING IGNITED THE AMERICAN ENERGY REVOLUTION AND CHANGED THE WORLD

by Russell Gold

Published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster.

The Boom

Reviewed by Catherine Musemeche.

The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World, has a compelling message for those of us living in the energy gorging United States. There is a cost to harvesting fossil fuels and for too many years we have been blind to it. Fracking has ripped the blinders off because with this boom the rigs aren’t hidden in the Arctic Circle or the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They are sprouting, literally, in our backyards.

To truly understand the evolution of a technique, one must delve into the personalities of those who pioneered it and this is where Russell Gold excels. Gold, a senior Wall Street Journal energy reporter, is our tour guide to an adventure story that begins with Edward Roberts, a nineteenth century inventor who devised the petroleum torpedo, an improvised IED that could be snaked down a shaft to bomb stubborn oil out of stagnant wells.

Gold introduces us to a string of fracking buffs who never gave up on the technique even when industry mainstreamers saw little point to it. In the 1970s, when America’s domestic supply of oil and gas appeared to be tapering off Houston oilman George Mitchell built his fortune fracking in Wise County, just west of Denton, Texas, which has recently put a fracking ban on the November ballot. Aubrey McClendon, a former landman turned CEO of Chesapeake Energy, was arguably the most evangelistic of all natural gas enthusiasts and headlined the next generation of frackers in the 1990s. McClendon was the driving force behind the company’s lock down of leases in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana and propelled Chesapeake to the top of American drillers in 2005.

Gold vividly details how North Dakota has recently been transformed into a massive oilfield that now produces as much oil as several smaller OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) members. In doing so he leads us to ponder the obvious question that follows. What will happen to the rough-rider state after all the oil is pumped out?

And therein lies the problem with fracking.

No one seems to know or agree on what will be left behind, in terms of soil and water contamination, poorly constructed wells that leak over time or, geologic disruptions that result in “induced seismicity,” i.e. mini-earthquakes.

The Boom presents both sides of the fracking debate. On the one hand the natural gas “boom” provides a cleaner source of energy than coal for decades to come, is relatively cheap and promises energy independence for the United States. On the other hand, however, it is American soil that is being mined, albeit underground, in close proximity to neighborhoods (as of 2013 more than 15 million people lived within a mile of a well that had been recently fracked) and the environmental costs are mounting.

Gold makes no attempt to apply lipstick to the fracking pig as he leads us through all the downsides. We learn that drilling rigs several stories high are built with little thought to the destruction of pristine landscapes and that underground water aquifers can be contaminated by wells lined with defective cement. We hear how the fracking infrastructure changes life as large trucks bearing massive equipment and loads of water (several Olympic size swimming pools worth just to frack one well) roll through Sullivan County in rural Pennsylvania. The relentless clang of construction and drilling along with noxious smells transform small towns into mini-industrial sites.

After reading The Boom, you will want to lower your hot water heater a notch, fling open your windows and take the bus to work because the true cost of fracking and the fossil fuels it bears may have less to do with money than it has to do with climate change and losing our habitat. Just ask the residents of Sullivan County situated in a region peppered with 10,000 wells. Their land and their lives will never be the same.

Catherine Musemeche is the author of Small: Life and Death on the Front Lines of Pediatric Surgery, Dartmouth College Press/University Press of New England, Fall 2014. She is a pediatric surgeon and she lives in Austin, Texas.

Instructor Spotlight

Deanna Roy is the USA Today bestselling author of the Forever romance series and Baby Dust. Her children’s book, Dust Bunnies: Secret Agents, was published in 2012 and she is currently working on a children’s series called Magic Mayhem.

She’s written numerous short stories and articles which have been published in 34th Parallel, Farfelu, The First Line, and The Writer. You can find out more about Deanna and her work by visiting her website.

Deanna will be teaching a class for the Writers’ League of Texas on September 27 at St. Edward’s University called “Self Publishing: Writing What You Love in Marketable Packages.” Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

Deanna Roy

Scribe: Why did you decide to self-publish?

Deanna Roy: On my birthday in 2011, two prominent authors had a lengthy public dialogue about publishing that changed everything.

Barry Eisler had just turned down a half-million dollar deal with a publisher to do it himself, and he and JA Konrath decided to blow the lid right off self-publishing. After reading this, and considering the five years I’d been collecting rejection letters from agents, I decided to give it a try. It was a birthday gift to myself — be courageous. Be bold.

So I set out to learn everything I needed to know to transform my manuscript into a real book.

Scribe: What are some important things for writers to consider when deciding to self-publish vs. going the traditional route?

DR: The most important thing is to be honest with yourself about how much you want to learn. While you can hire out a lot of the tasks that might scare you — cover design, ebook formatting, paperback production — you still need to know enough to hire people who do a good job.

The temptation is just to hand it over to some company that will do it all for you. That’s a road to heartache and despair! Most services like this do not put the right sort of cover on your book, and without the right cover, you are sunk from day one. Truly excellent covers by graphic designers who put up “pre-made” covers between custom jobs are easy to find for $50. And those covers will ROCK.

But you have to know this. If you aren’t up for learning what you need to know to do it yourself, then you’ve already set yourself up to fail.

The second thing to realize is that if the summary paragraph in your query to agents isn’t getting them to request it, then using that same paragraph on a retailer site like Amazon isn’t going to make anyone fork over their hard-earned cash to buy your book. You still have things to learn.

If, however, you’re getting agent requests, even if they ultimately reject the book, you might be ready to give this a shot. Likewise, if you’ve gotten rights reversions to a bunch of previously published books, you are in the best position of ALL.

Scribe: What are some of the challenges and benefits of self-publishing?

DR: The biggest challenge is one people don’t think about: Am I cut out for this?

I see a lot of authors with one finished manuscript spending quite a bit of money to prepare it for market, only to become disillusioned right away when it only sells to friends and family. A truly successful self-publisher is not a one-hit wonder. The single home runs are as rare as the debut novelist who gets a six-figure deal. It happens, definitely, but it is the exception that everyone talks about, not the rule. Most writers won’t really figure out what they are doing, or have enough books on their shelf to run successful promotions, until they have three books, preferably related or in a series.

The benefits are enormous. I live my life the way I want. When I feel pressure to meet a deadline or if life gets in the way of my work, I can simply rearrange my schedule. When we realized this last August that the changes at Amazon were harming new releases, I delayed my next three titles. They are going out in October now and I took a little vacation.

I set my own prices and decide what to write, when to write it, and what pen name I want to use. I collaborate with other authors, trade beta reads, hang out with fans, and if I decide a book didn’t turn out the way I wanted, I just pull it off the digital shelf and keep it for a time when I want to revise and try it again. I have definitely had more clunker ideas than good ones!

None of this is easy, but neither is trying to write while you have a full-time job. I have weeks where I work 12-hour days, definitely. But then I have weeks where I do little more than glance at my daily sales and go shopping. I make my own rules, and I live by my own standards. It’s amazing. It’s the most incredible life I could have ever imagined.

–Thanks, Deanna!

Click here to register for the class

 

MEET THE MEMBERS

Angela Butler joined WLT earlier this month and is registered for one of WLT’s upcoming fall classes. She lives in Austin, TX.

Angela Butler

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Angela Butler: I’m a mix of memoir, creative nonfiction, and contemplative writing. Having been through some pretty significant life changing events (think of being affected by prison, suicide, divorce, and a cult-like religion), I really like to write about how we reinvent ourselves after change.

Scribe:  What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

AB: Wayne Dyer seems like a natural, veggie loving, green smoothie type of author. Eckhart Tolle strikes me as an author who sips expensive wine while sitting next to a beautiful orchard. And Brene Brown, a Texas native, seems like the type that would sit with me in a lousy bar and buy me shots of Tequila.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

AB: Sera Beak, author of The Red Book, would keep me laughing at my red-hot dilemma, and praying to a Divine Feminine to come and rescue my sorry self!

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

AB: The free event I attended at Book People gave me a clearer picture of the world of self-publishing. While I continue to work on my own book, still in rough draft form, I can see it beginning to take shape and piece itself together, and I am just beginning to explore publishing options, not to mention a good editor!

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

AB: After taking an 18 month break from writing because I thought I was done with it, I’ve finally resigned to the fact that it’s what I do, it’s my art, and it’s my way of creating meaning out of life. I have stories to share. I’m ready to take it to the next level; to stop wishing, worrying and letting fear stop me. In the future I see a memoir written, a website thriving, and some public speaking opportunities.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

AB: If you visit my website at www.angelabarnesbutler.com you will read this:

“What is your truth? Everybody has one. I believe when you are willing to tell your truths you discover unimaginable strength that you didn’t know you had. When you choose to live life with this type of authenticity, it allows you to learn to live with freedom and peace of mind, while giving you courage to leap forward, take chances, and control your own destiny.” This is what I write about, and my hope is that it will inspire others to live their lives with purpose and joy.

MEMBERS REVIEW

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE

by Regina Jennings

Published in 2014 by Bethany House Publishers.

Caught in the Middle

Reviewed by Mary Bryan Stafford.

Library Journal called Regina Jennings, “…a fresh voice in Christian historical romance…” and she is. Her main character, Anne Tillerton, conceals her vulnerability in the manners and garb of a buffalo hunter. She’s tough and intends to stay that way until she gets saddled with a baby who’s been deserted by his mother. And to confuse her even more, she meets a debonair young man, Nicholas Lovelace––a nice man, a kind, trustworthy man.  Nothing like the man in her past who nearly destroyed her.

Jennings writes with humor and empathy. Telling the story from two points of view, Jennings lets the reader in on both Nick and Anne’s inner turmoil. Both characters have their insecurities and the reader stays in their heads quite a bit. True to the genre, both have redeeming qualities, if sometime buried behind their own defenses.

Cast the characters for a 1960’s movie and you’d come up with James Garner and Suzanne Pleshette. Sorry, I just couldn’t think of any modern actors who could carry it off. This is historical fiction after all.

The setting was recognizably Texas in the 1880’s. Surprisingly, baby formula powder, while not widely available at the time, did exist.

I loved the cover––a beautiful girl in the perfect dress for the parlor wearing boots appropriate for stompin’ through buffalo dung. That says it all about Anne’s character.

The writing is light, nicely paced, a quick read and appropriate for any audience. The ending was how it should have been––not exactly what the characters wanted in the beginning, but all turned out right in the end––A Sunday kind of read.

Mary Bryan Stafford is seventh generation Texan and a member of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas. She graduated from The College of William and Mary in Virginia with degrees in English and Spanish but got back to Texas on the fast train. She lives in the Hill Country where she spends her time writing and training her horses. An award-winning author, she is the author of the novel A Wasp in the Fig Tree, excerpts “Blowout,” in the anthology, Women Write About the Southwest, winner of the Willa Award, “Epiphany” in the anthology The Noble Generation III and many times in the Texas Poetry Calendar. You may reach Mary Bryan Stafford at http://www.marybryanstafford.com

 

Instructor Spotlight

Shennandoah Diaz is an Austin-based writer and freelance Branding and Communications expert. She has taught numerous workshops focusing on social media, marketing, branding, publishing, and website development for authors. You can find out more about Shennandoah by visiting her website.

Shennandoah will be teaching a class on these topics for WLT on September 13 at St. Edward’s University called “Marketing on the Web: Building Your Online Presence.” Read the interview below and visit the class page to learn more.

shennandoah 2013Scribe: How important is having an online presence to the success of one’s work?

Shennandoah Diaz: No matter what stage of the publishing process you are in—be it just starting your book or already published–It is absolutely crucial to have an online presence. Publishing is a business, and although the quality of the manuscript matters most of all, at the end of the day it comes down to which author can sell books. Many agents and publishers are looking at more than just the manuscript, and will do an online search to see if the author has an established online presence or not. If your manuscript is in need of work, but your platform is rocking, agents and editors will take a chance on you, but without that online presence they may pass you up for a stronger manuscript or an author with a larger platform.

Even if you do have a publishing deal, you may not realize that you are responsible for marketing your book. Publishers have limited budgets and reserve their marketing and PR dollars for the established bestselling authors. You also have a VERY narrow window of time to prove your book is a seller. Many bookstores and publishers will give a book 3 months from launch to prove whether or not it’s going to sell. It’s crucial that you connect with readers, build an audience, and secure reviews and pre-sales to keep your book from getting backlisted. It also takes time to build an audience. If you wait until 3 months before launch, you risk the chance your book will die before it gets to take off.

We also have to realize that we are deep in the digital age. Recent research has shown that over 80% of book purchases are influenced by or made online. People go online to read reviews before they buy, to get recommendations from friends or trusted sources, and to find good deals. They also expect to connect directly with the author, and to learn more about the mind behind the masterpiece. The days of hiding out in a writer’s retreat with bottle of bourbon and an anti-social attitude are dead. But it’s a very good thing. The internet puts the power back into the author’s hands and allows you to connect with readers all over the world without leaving your home. It allows you to control your fate as a writer and determine how you present yourself to the world and give you a boost when it comes time for that publisher to make a decision on your book.

Scribe: Do you think marketing online works better for some genres or markets than others?

SD: The internet is an equal opportunity environment. All genres and markets need to be online and the basic strategy is the same. The key though is knowing who you reader is, what they are looking for, what interests them, and where they hang out online.

Scribe: You are a writer, a novelist, and a media expert. How do you manage & present your different personas online?

SD: Good question and one that I am actually in the middle of addressing. For a long time I maintained one presence for all of my endeavors. I did this because of the time concerns and because my day job required that I maintain multiple presences for all of my clients. That left me mentally and energetically drained and unable to handle multiple presences for myself. I have consolidated my daytime endeavors, and am now working on splitting off my online markets. This is because who I connect with and serve as a consultant is completely different from the people I connect with as a fiction writer and publishing expert. I am currently in development on this and plan on launching my reorganized profiles the end of the year.

I will say for those people who are debating on whether to consolidate or split their online personas please consider the following:

  • How much time do you have and are willing to invest in marketing each profile?
  • Who are you trying to reach and are they related or unrelated markets?
  • What are your long-term goals and does having more than one persona online help you meet those goals?

Marketing online is largely an investment of time, and although there are many tips and tricks that allow you to multiply and leverage your efforts, it’s important that you have a realistic idea of how much time you have to invest in online marketing. It’s also important to balance that time with the activities that will yield you a finished book and other writing opportunities. It can’t detract from the main goal—a published book. But if you are clear on your goals, your resources, and manage your time well, every investment you make into your online presence will bring you closer to your dream of becoming a published author.

Mary fb

MEET THE MEMBERS

Mary Vela has been a member of WLT for over two years and is registered for one of WLT’s upcoming classes. She lives in San Antonio, TX.

Mary fb

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Mary Vela: I love to write for children. I have published a total of 16 picture books and 12 short stories. My husband contributes by making the stories humorous and entertaining. Some of my books won awards and one is currently a finalist in a national competition.

Scribe: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

MV: I would love to have coffee with romance writer, Nora Roberts. My next goal is to write and publish a romance novel. I already have the title:  Suffer for Love.

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

MV: If I were stranded on a deserted island, I would want to have a book on how to write great fiction. I would read it over and over until I memorized it. Then I’d be ready to write a novel with vivid details of my experiences on the island.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

MV: The Writers’ League has contributed immensely to my writing career. I learned a lot from their classes and met many wonderful and talented writers. Writers’ League plays a major role in helping writers succeed.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

MV: I would like to write a romance novel but I know it won’t be easy. I have to learn how to “show” and not “tell.” At present, I have at least 50,000 words written but it is far from complete. I repeatedly tell myself, “You can do it!” so I won’t give up.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

MV: Besides being a writer, I am also the inventor of three plush dolls called Luv-Beams®. The patented dolls are so unique that they stop traffic. A group made up of educators and parents gave them Preferred Choice and Seal of Excellence awards and Toy Directory’s TDMonthly Magazine featured them as winning toys. Two dolls are pictured below:

Mary Vela Dolls

Recently, I started an adventure series involving the doll characters and hope to launch them soon. The first book, You Can’t Take the Dinosaur Home, published in English and Spanish, already won two awards. Below is an illustration from their book.

Mary Vela Dolls Series

You’re welcome to see my books and dolls on my website: www.luv-beams.com. They are available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc. under my name: Mary Esparza-Vela. They are also available at special rates by writing to me at luv-beams@satx.rr.com.