Celebrate Your Book With a Party!

November 4, 2011 was starred, circled, highlighted and otherwise bolded on my wall calendar, computer calendar, and represented in a countdown ticker on my desktop.

What’s so special about that date, you ask? My book launch party for Lakeside Reunion, my debut novel, which released in November by Love Inspired.

After receiving the call from Rachelle that launched me from an unpublished author into the publishing world, I envisioned hosting a book launch party to celebrate this dream-turned-reality with family and friends.

I set the date, searched online for book launch information, and came across articles by Deborah Vogts and Ava Pennington on the CAN site. Their articles are very informative, so if you’re in the planning stages, check out their great advice.

Following their leads, I created a budget, then enlisted family and friends to help. I chose to host the party at my church because it wouldn’t cost me anything and it would be a good marketing opportunity for our church.

Once I saw my cover, I decided to keep a simple, yet classic theme of leaves. What better symbolizes autumn?

As silly as it may sound, I compared myself to a bride-to-be preparing for her wedding day. If you’ve planned a wedding or helped with one, you know what I’m talking about—budgets, food, décor, and we can’t forget the dress.

I sent out almost 100 invitations to family and friends across the country. I wanted them to celebrate with me (and buy my book)!

I kept the menu simple–cinnamon roll mini pancakes to go with the breakfast theme in the book, apples & caramel dip, candy corn M & Ms, cake, cider, coffee and tea. We had plenty of food leftover so people don’t attend to eat.

The building anticipation created a roller coaster of emotions—would anyone show up, would I sell any books, would I run out of food, what if they hate the book? The day couldn’t arrive fast enough—the day was approaching too quickly. I still had too much to do! What was I thinking having a book launch party anyway?

The weekend of my party, my prayer partner and close friend Reba J. Hoffman flew up from Florida to attend. My friend Carolyn, who was one of the first to read Lakeside Reunion in its infancy ten years ago, drove up from Virginia to share in my special day. My family rallied around me. My Coffee Girls surprised me with a large keepsake box. What I pictured in my head was nothing compared to what played out on that gorgeous autumn afternoon.

Tears flowed. Cameras flashed. I laughed. I hugged. I signed. God used little ole me to write a story that touched hearts. One of my mother’s friends shared how Lindsey’s story helped her cope with her husband’s recent death. As family members and friends celebrated this milestone in my life, I gave God the glory. After all, had it not been for Him, none of that day would have been possible.

What about you? Did you have a book launch party? What special moment stood out to you? If you haven’t had one yet, are you planning one for your book? What expectations do you have?

Using Stolen Moments to Write

NaNoWriMo begins today. Around the world, millions of writers are pounding on their keys to produce a novel in 30 days.

Many writers aren’t like Richard Castle with styling offices and ability to write full-time. Most writers I know work full-time inside or outside the home, care for a family, have church responsibilities, act as the family chauffeur, battle dust bunnies from overtaking their homes, and try to squeeze in a decent night’s sleep.

Who has time to write? Well, many of them may not have time to write, but the majority of them MAKE the time to write.

I’m a stay-at-home-work-at-home-mom who owns and operates an in-home family childcare program. Not working isn’t an option. With my My Book Therapy responsibilities, book contracts, family and church commitments, life can be a bit crazy.

A schedule and stolen moments help me find time to write. Also, I’ve encouraged my family to help with housework, laundry and cooking. Plus I use my Crock Pot and bread machine a lot. I write in the evenings so Hubby runs errands and chauffeurs our son.

If you don’t have evenings to write, do you have 15 minutes in your day? The Fly Lady has a great site to help people get their homes and lives in order. One of her principles is you can do anything in 15 minutes … including writing.

I downloaded an egg timer for my computer. When I’m stuck on a scene or needing motivation, I set timer for 15 minutes and free write without editing. When I’m writing my rough drafts, I use my timer to increase my word count. After all, rough drafts are allowed to be rough.

If you are serious about your writing and want to make progress, enlist your family to help out. Delegate household duties, grab the timer and have everyone work for 15 minutes.

Another way to get some writing time is to ask your spouse to take your children for an hour or two each evening. The children and spouse will have a special bonding time and you will have time to write. Turn off the Internet and focus on your manuscript.

If you don’t have a spouse, consider doing a play date swap with a friend or neighbor. Ask a high school student to entertain your kids for an hour or so. Or write after your kids go to bed. If that won’t work, get up an hour earlier in the mornings. If you work outside the home, write during lunch. If you have to chauffeur your kids, take your laptop or a notebook and write while you’re waiting.

Set a daily writing goal and use stolen moments to build your word count. Remember, your first draft doesn’t need to be perfect.

Balancing life with work, family and writing can be a juggling act. Find what works for you. If you don’t take your writing time seriously, no one else will either.

**A bit of self-promotion: My debut novel, Lakeside Reunion, releases today! I’m having contests to promote my book. Visit my Lakeside Reunion Contest Page for more information. The token for this blog is a novel.

Your Turn: Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? How do you find time to write?

Guest Blogger: Emily Rodmell for Love Inspired Historical

I’m excited to welcome a special guest to the WordServe Water Cooler–Emily Rodmell, associate editor for Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical. She also coordinates the lines’ continuity series. You can find her online at Twitter @EmilyRodmell or at Harlequin.com.

Good morning Wordserve Water Cooler. My name is Emily Rodmell, and I’m here today to chat with you all about a great opportunity for historical romance authors.

As associate editor for Harlequin’s Love Inspired lines, I get to work on inspirational contemporary romance, romantic suspense and historical romance. And it’s the Love Inspired Historical line that I’m here to talk about today.

Love Inspired Historical is a line dedicated to Christian historical romance from any time period before World War II. It started publishing two books a month in 2008, and early this year we doubled the amount of books we put out each month to four. That’s great news for historical romance readers, but it’s also great news for historical romance writers because it means that we need double the amount of authors. Since the expansion, we’ve welcomed around 20 new authors to the group, and we still have room for more.

If you love the days of old, we’d love to see a submission from you. We’re looking for great, emotional love stories set in a variety of settings and time periods. We always welcome Western stories, but we’d also love to see settings such as Biblical, Regency, Amish, Scottish, missionary and other unique eras that you’re passionate about. Make your characters relatable and your plots unpredictable. While we all know that the hero and heroine end up together in a romance novel, it’s the journey to that happily ever after that’s the fun part. Also, make sure your characters have something keeping them apart that they must overcome. Conflict, both internal and external, is vital to a successful romance.

We’re open to both published and unpublished authors. If you’re a published romance author, we accept a submission of a proposal (synopsis and three chapters). If you’re unpublished in romance, start with a query letter and synopsis, but make sure to have a full manuscript ready to send should we request it. I’m also open to submissions for our other two lines: Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense. You can mail your queries to my attention at 233 Broadway, Ste. 1001 New York, NY 10279 or have your agents get in touch.

Your Turn: We’re eager to see what you come up with. I’ll be around today to answer any questions you’d like to ask about writing for Love Inspired Historical.

Learning to Let Go

This week my oldest son is preparing to return to college. Instead of rooming in the dorms, he will be sharing an apartment with three of his friends. As the piles grow in the dining room and shrink in his bedroom, I’m reminded of the day we took him to college for the first time two years ago.

I awoke that morning, smiling and vowing to stay positive. It was going to be a great day. The beginning of a new adventure for him. He was leaving the family nest to spread his wings. Hubby made a manly breakfast for a new college freshman. We joked during breakfast and pretended it was like any other day.

Hubby and our two boys loaded the trunk while I finished getting ready. As I applied mascara, it hit me—no not the mascara wand, but my little boy was a man now and heading out for a new path in his life. I teared up, sniffed a little, and reached for my lip gloss. Before I could apply the color to my lips, I had my face buried in a hand towel to muffle my sobs. I was so not ready for this. He was just a baby. He needed me.

No, not really.

I needed him to need me more than he actually needed me.

I dried my tears, reapplied makeup and rode the 90 minutes to his campus. We emptied the car and transported everything to his very generic dorm room. When it was time to leave, he wrapped his arms around me and said, “I love you, Mommy.” Suddenly he was five again and heading off to his first day of kindergarten. My chest ached from holding back the sob, but I managed to squeak out an “I love you” in return and smiled. As we pulled away from the curb, my hand clutched the door handle as my brain screamed, “I’m not ready to let him go yet.” My heart felt as though it was being shaved with a carrot peeler.

Thoughts tumbled through my head—I should have prayed more for him. I should have forced him to study more and do less gaming. The “I should haves” lasted for about five minutes until the sobs rocked my chest. It was a rough night and next morning.

But I did what every good parent needs to do—I let him go. It was his time to make his way in the world. We are always here to support and encourage him, but he has to make mistakes and learn from them.

As writers, we create stories, nurture them, and edit until the prose shines. We dream of the future, of getting the call. But none of that can happen until we press send or drop that manuscript in the mailbox.

While our manuscripts are not our babies, we have parallel feelings between parenthood and writing. Writers spend a lot of creative and emotional energy crafting their books and novels. Whether it’s non-fiction or fiction, we become a part of that topic or those characters. As a novelist, I know my characters better than I do some family members.

Once we’ve written those books to the best of our abilities, it’s time to let them go—time to send that manuscript to the destination it was intended. As the postman drives off with it or we receive that SENT window in our email, we may think, “Wait, I’m not ready yet.” But we have to learn to let go. Then we are faced with waiting and possibly rejection.

Just as sending my son off to college is a necessary part of his development, letting go of our work and submitting it for possible publication is necessary growth for a writer.

By the way, it does get easier—submitting those manuscripts and having my son return to college. Remind me of that next August when my youngest son heads off to college.

Your turn: What experience in your life has helped you let go of something, even though it may have been hard at the time? Do you struggle with letting go of your manuscripts when it’s time to submit?

Photo credit: gerbrak

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