One Blog becomes Two

It has come to my attention that this blog attempts to cover too many subjects. For that reason, Ive decided to separate Rocking Horse Writing into two blogs.

If youd like to join me in my adventures in writing, reading, and publishing.

If you follow Rocking Horse Writing solely to laugh and cry at my equestrian adventures and mishaps.

Of course, if youd still like to follow BOTH of my blogs that would be the best option of all! This will be my last post on Rocking Horse Writing, as my two new blogs will require all my extra time and energy. Thanks for your input, loyalty, and sticking around through the blog changes!

Eleven Ways to Support A Friends Book Release

In the week since my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, was published, Ive engaged in a whirlwind of tweets, Facebook posts, blog appearances, and in-person visits to bookstores, libraries, tack shops, horse barns, etc. Im starting to realize I probably should have majored in marketing instead of English! Ive been overwhelmed with support from many friends, relatives, fellow writersparticularly a few close friends scattered across the country who have been hand-delivering my bookmarks to local riding stables and sharing my Facebook posts with their social networks. Im so grateful!

Still, people continue to ask me, What can I do to help? Well, the obvious answer is Buy the book! But going beyond that, Id like to re-share a portion of a post I read and posted a couple of years ago on WriterUnboxed.com by Chuck Sambuchino (editor of Writers Digest) on how to support an authors book release. Ive been using many of these strategies (especially number 6!) to help support the book releases of my fellow writers. The suggestions are so simple, yet effective, that I must share them. Hopefully, the good karma Ive been putting out there will come back to visit me in these next days and weeks!

To view the complete post from writerunboxed.com, click HERE.   I am sharing my favorite portion of his post below:

Anyone can support an authors book release by doing different things to help the book sell and get noticed. So, in no particular order, here are 11 things — some big, some small — that you can do to support a writer friend when their book comes out:

1. Buy their book. An obvious point, sure, but important nonetheless. Naturally, we must buy new copies of books, not used copies, for the sale to count and the author to get a royalty. So buy new. Heck, consider pre-ordering the book. Publishers pay attention to pre-orders to help get a sense of what titles are getting buzz and attention. Impressive pre-orders help the author.

2. Buy their book for others as a gift. Think of which friends and relatives would enjoy the book/novel. Buy it for them as either a birthday gift or holiday gift. You get to support your author friend and give cool gifts at the same time! Get copies signed if possible to make gifts special. Even people who dont read many novels will still take note if a gifted book is personalized and autographed.

3. Face the book out at bookstores. Simply rearrange a bookstore shelf so that your friends book faces out to make it much more noticeable. (The theme begins: Its all about getting noticed.)

4. When you actually read the book, read it where people can see it. Read it in public. Read it on the subway. Read it in the aisle seat of a plane. Read it on the deck of a cruise ship. After all, dont you find yourself looking at what others are reading when you pass by? I do! And if I see 3 different people in 3 different places reading the same book, will I start to investigate it out of curiosity? Yes. Its all about building public knowledge of something to the point where people are curious and discuss it.

5. Ask a bookstore employee where the book is located. When entering a bookstore, do not look for the book, even if you know exactly where it is. Go to the bookstore customer service clerk and ask them about the book. They will find it in their system and lead you to the book. My hope is that if several people do this at the same bookstore, then the employee(s) will begin to take notice of the title, wondering what all the buzz is about. If youre lucky enough that an employee finally picks it up and reads it, then they might put it in the Employee Picks section or refer it to people who come in and ask Whats something good I probably dont know about? or What book makes a good gift? Let bookstore employees help sell copies!

6. Leave a review on Amazon or BN.com or Goodreads or all. Reviews are still very important. Think about it. If you come by a new book and see it has 2.0 stars on Amazon, would you buy it? On some level, that silly rating does affect me and my decision — and my guess is that it affects you, too. So its crucial that, when you read a book and enjoy it, you leave a review on Amazon or BN.com or Goodreads or all. Those first 10-20 reviews really matter and can set a book on the right path. (Note: You can leave the same review on all sites to save time.)

7. Like the book on Amazon, or Like the authors Facebook Fan page, or both. I heard from a literary agent once that the more Likes a book had on its Amazon page, the more frequent it turned up in Amazons comparable titles elsewhere. Getting your personal friends to Like another friends page is an easy favor to ask, as it requires no money. (Heck, go do some good right now: Open this separate page and Like Brians Facebook page if you have a second.)

8. Reserve a copy at the library. An employee here at Writers Digest Books once told me that if all copies of a book are reserved from our county library before the title came out, the system has a way of noticing this popularity and marking the book as one for more orders. (Also: Use the bookstore method above and ask librarians about the book — simply to draw attention to it and get the title on the mind of staff.)

9. Attend the book release party (if there is one) and bring a warm body or two. This task isnt so much to help the author as it is to help the authors self-esteem. Its lonely to have a book release party or local signing with low attendance. If you already bought a copy, bring that book to be signed.

10. Spread news of the book through your social media channels. When the author mentions it on Facebook, share the news with your social circles and include a small note about what the book is and why they should buy it. In other words, spreading the word by saying My friend got published! is nice — but its better to say, This new book by my hilarious friend is a great gift for dads who are raising daughters. Laugh-out-loud-funny stuff for all fathers to enjoy! See how the second one targets people in a simple-yet-specific way? Do this kind of targeting when you spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, or blogs.

11. If you have media contacts or know people of influence, arrange a connection. This is one of the best things you can do and probably the biggest way you can truly influence the life of the book and the success of the author. If youre married to the cousin of a local news personality, its exactly that kind of connection that serves as a great introduction between author and TV host. If you know a book reviewer at a newspaper in Boston, say so. If your old college buddy now runs the biggest reading club in all of Central California, try and help your author friends book be a future choice in that club. Utilize your network! Chuck Sambuchino

So select a few items off this list and help your writer-friends to succeed!  When your book gets published,  youll be glad you did.

Its Release Day for TRAIL OF SECRETS!

The big day has finally arrivedthe publication of my debut YA novel, Trail of Secrets! Do you love horses, or mysteries, or ghost stories, or books about people who view the world in a slightly different way? If you answered yes to any of the above, then I hope youll check out my book.

The digital version of Trail of Secrets is available on AMAZON or SMASHWORDS for $4.99. The print version can be purchased on LULU for $11.95.

Dont forget to enter my giveaway for one of three signed copies of Trail of Secrets on GOODREADS! (Giveaway ends September 15, 2015.)

Happy trails to you!

TIME FOR A #GIVEAWAY!

The release date of my YA mystery, Trail of Secrets, is scheduled for August 27, 2015. Thats less than two weeks away! To celebrate, Im giving away three signed copies of my book on Goodreads.

CLICK HERE to enter!

Do you know anyone who loves horses, or enjoys YA mysteries? Feel free to share the giveaway with this link

The winner will be announced September 15, 2015. Good luck!

TRAIL OF SECRETS Cover Reveal!

At last, the cover for Trail of Secrets has arrived! I instantly fell in love with the cover when I first saw it a few weeks ago. I wanted to share it with the world immediately, but Ive been sworn to secrecy until today. Im so thankful to Caroline Andrus for designing such a mysterious equestrian-themed cover. It truly captures the essence of my novel. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!

Trail of Secrets, by Laura Wolfe

Spending three weeks of her summer at the elite Foxwoode Riding Academy in northern Michigan should have been one of the happiest times of sixteen year-old Brynlei’s life. But from the moment Brynlei arrives at Foxwoode, she can’t shake the feeling she’s being watched. Then she hears the story of a girl who vanished on a trail ride four years earlier. While the other girls laugh over the story of the dead girl who haunts Foxwoode, Brynlei senses that the girl—or her ghost—may be lurking in the shadows.

Brynlei’s quest to reveal the truth interferes with her plan to keep her head down and win Foxwoode’s coveted “Top Rider” award. To make things worse, someone discovers Brynlei’s search for answers and will go to any length to stop her. As Brynlei begins to unravel the facts surrounding the missing girl’s disappearance, she is faced with an impossible choice. Will she protect a valuable secret? Or save a life?

Publisher:  Fire and Ice Young Adult Books (coming August/September 2015)
Age level: 13-18

Still not sure if you want to read it? Watch the trailer:

 

I hope to see you next week, when Ill recount every detail of my recent visit to the Kentucky Horse Park!

Horsin Around Thursdays: The A Circuit

Welcome back to Horsin Around Thursdays! Before I get to todays book, I have exciting news related to the upcoming release of my young adult equestrian thriller, Trail of Secrets. Ive been working my way through the final edits and, a few days ago, I even got a sneak peek at the cover. I absolutely love it! Unfortunately, it may be several more weeks before I can reveal the cover to the outside world. Because patience is not one of my virtues, Im keeping myself happily entertained by reading other peoples horse-themed books.

This week its all about horse showing at the highest levelThe A Circuit. In case youve never heard of The A Circuit four book Series, co-written by Catherine Hapka and professional equestrian, Georgina Bloomberg, prepare to indulge in a guilty pleasure.

Summary (from Amazon.com):  The A Circuit is the top of the top when it comes to horse showing. Its a world with its own rules and super-privileged lifestyles. Teens employ private tutors so they can travel the circuit all year showing horses that cost as much as some peoples homes.Tommi, Kate, and Zara are all elite competitors on the circuit, but they come from totally different backgrounds. Tommi is a billionaire heiress trying to prove she has real talent (not just deep bank accounts). Kate puts the working in working student-every win has been paid for with hours of cleaning stalls. Shes used to the grueling schedule, but Fitz, the barns resident hot guy, is about to become a major distraction. And then theres Zara. Shes the wild child of a famous rock star, but shes ready to take riding seriously. Can a party girl really change her ways?Readers who enjoy peeking into the elite world of series of Gossip Girl or The A-List will feel right at home in this new series with its friendships, drama, and privilege set against a backdrop of competitive horseback riding.

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (May 24, 2011)

Recommended Reading Age: 12-17

If you crave a book filled with drama, horses, and a glimpse into how the other half lives, then pack your beach bag with The A Circuit for a fun, summer read!

My next post will be in two weeks because Ill be off on a road trip with my family for a while. One of our destinations will be the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Cant wait to report back on the experience!

Five Things I Learned at Write on the Red Cedar

Its been a week and Im (almost) fully recovered from Write on the Red Cedar, an intensive twelve-hour day of lectures, round tables, networking, and writing workshops. As promised, Im reporting back my top five takeaways, and Ill also let you know whether or not I accomplished the goals I set for myself prior to attending the conference.

First, here are my Top Five Takeaways

1. Genres are Blending

Keynote speaker, Donald Maass, talked at length about the changing characteristics of the books appearing on the New York Times Bestsellers list. No longer are books categorized simply as literary fiction or commercial fiction. The genres, more often than not, are blending together. The most successful writers of commercial fiction all have one thing in commonthey utilize the techniques of literary fiction to write genre fiction. The result: great story-telling meets beautiful writing. He recommended that writers pick a genre as a framework for a story, rather than as list of genre-specific rules to follow. This blending of genres allows writers a new level of freedom that has not been seen in the past.

2. Dont Focus on the Eyes

While listening to Kristina Riggles lecture, entitled How to Make your Characters Walk off the Page, I was struck by her thoughts on physical descriptions. Mainly, that the eye color of your characters doesnt matter. What? Eye color doesnt matter? Oh, man. At that moment, I realized Ive been spending way too much time describing the colors of my characters eyes and not enough on their other mannerisms. She said to give your characters one or two memorable distinctive features, that arent necessarily physical. Kristina Riggle used Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby as an example of a character whose physical appearance is barely described throughout the novel. Yet, the reader picks up on the formality and correctness of Jay Gatsby from the description of his posture and the statement that Gatsby had the look of someone who had his hair trimmed every day. Nowhere in the book is there any mention of Gatsbys eye color, hair color, etc.
3. Things Can Always Get Worse

In the writing workshop segment of the conference, Donald Maass asked us to write down  our protagonists main conflict or goal. Then he asked us to think of one way to make the goal matter more. For example, who else would benefit if this goal were achieved? In what new way can character discover that the unfulfilled goal hurts?

Then, he asked us to think of a way to make it more difficult for our protagonist to achieve his or her goal. What is the worst consequence the protagonist can face by not achieving his or her goal?

Then, he asked us to write down a way things can get even worse for our protagonist. How does he or she screw up? What trivial problem can pop up at the most inopportune time? For example, maybe on the day the protagonist is supposed to attend an important meeting with someone who can help him achieve his goal, his car wont start and he misses the meeting.

Then, believe it or not, we were asked to make things even worse for our protagonist! What if the protagonist failed completely? How does the house go down in flames? The readers should be taken on an emotional journey where they fear that all is lost before the protagonist, at last, figures a way out of the mess.

In other words, always raise the stakes.

4. The Importance of Networking

Like many writers, Im an introvert who would rather stab toothpicks in my eyeballs than try to make small talk with a bunch of people who I dont know. That said, there is something encouraging and revitalizing about meeting and connecting with other writers face to face. There are few people who can relate to the emotional roller coaster of writing like other writers. Theyve experienced rejections and occasional successes, theyve thrown first drafts of novels in the garbage, theyre struggling to build author platforms and promote their books, and they take the craft of writing seriously otherwise they would not have spent the money and time to attend a conference.

So much of a conference depends on who is sitting next to you. I totally lucked out in that department, as I had two awesome women writers sitting next to me. One of them was in the process of writing a memoir and is the editor of Grand Traverse Woman magazine. The other just had her writing published in the childrens magazine, Spider. Even though we dont write the same genres, they are two more connections Ive made in the writing world. I traded cards with several other people as well. So, now I have more people to email with writing questions, more people who might help promote my book, and more people to cheer on as they continue on their unique writing journeys!

5. Never Give Up!

One of the speakers told a story of an agent who received 7,000 queries last year. Out of those 7,000 queries, she requested 138 partial manuscripts. Out of those 138 partial manuscripts, she requested 30 full manuscripts. Out of those 30 full manuscripts, she took on seven new clients. Thats one-percent. Lets face it, the numbers are dire. The speaker said, that if a writer believes in his or her work and is interested in signing with an agent, that person should query no less than 100 agents before seeking another alternative. And, more importantly, if writers put in the requisite work, they should believe that they can be a part of that one-percent.

What did I learn from this? I gave up WAY too early on finding an agent for my last novel. I think I only queried twelve agents. Dont get me wrong, I believe my novel ended up with the perfect publisher for that particular book. But, in the future, Ill query at least 100 agents before throwing in the towel.

As for my other goals, heres how I did:
Goal #1: Pitch my book to agent Katharine Sands without sounding like a mumbling idiot.
Result: I did it! I practiced my pitch tirelessly for the few days leading up to the conference. Thankfully, my agent appointment was in the morning, so I did not have to stress out about it all day. I sat across from her. She stared at me and said nothing, so I recited my pitch. I didnt stumble or forget how to speak. I didnt sweat profusely or turn bright red. The eight minutes went by in the snap of a finger. In the end, it didnt seem as though the agent really connected with my book, but thats okay. My goal wasnt to get a book deal. It was to make my pitch without sounding like a mumbling idiot. Mission accomplished!

Goal #2: Learn three ways to improve my current manuscript

Result: This is a big YES! (See Top Five Takeaways above).

Goal #3: Exchange business cards with at least six people

Result: Did it! Ive already received a couple emails from people I met at the conference. Business cards are crucial to networking. Get them!

Goal #4:  Find a potential online critique partner or critique group

Result: I didnt fully accomplish this one, but I did join a writers Facebook group, appropriately named Finish the Damn Book. Im guessing I can find a critique partner through this group when I need one.

Im going to keep setting goals for myself, whether they are writing (or riding) related. My new goal is to finish the first revision of my thriller novel based on all the information I learned at the conference. Be sure to check back in a couple weeks for my February blog post which will deal with a few of the things that I LOVE the most!

Writing Conference Goals Five Days and Counting . . .

This Saturday Im heading to East Lansing, Michigan to attend the Write on the Red Cedar writing conference. The event promises to be an action-packed, information-filled day highlighting a number of talented speakers and ending in a four-hour intensive writing workshop led by renowned literary agent Donald Maass. In addition to listening to the speakers and participating in the writing workshop, I will also have the opportunity to meet privately with literary agent Katharine Sands of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. My meeting with Katharine Sands will be short and to the pointeight minutes long to be exact! In those eight minutes, I will try to remember how to speak and pitch my new novel to her. Ive never pitched a novel to an agent in person before, so this will be uncharted territory for me.

To help prepare myself for the conference, Ive decided to put together a list of (realistic) goals that I hope to accomplish on Saturday.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1.  Pitch my book to Katharine Sands without sounding like a mumbling idiot

The thought of pitching my book to a real, live agent is making me nervous. Ive been practicing my pitch on my husband. Ill get halfway through it, say um a few times and then lose my train of thought. I wrote the pitch down on paper and tried to memorize it, while still sounding natural. Lets just say, theres still lots of room for improvement! Luckily, I have five more days to practice.

2.  Learn three ways to improve my current manuscript

Ill be actively writing and revising my work during the workshop with Donald Maass. Ive only heard great things about his workshops, which are based on his book, Writing the Breakout Novel. Cant wait to see how my manuscript transforms!

3.  Exchange business cards with at least six people

Im confident I can achieve this goal. I just had new business cards printed and shipped to me. They are shiny and new and all of my contact information is up to date. Im excited to pass them around!

4.  Find a potential online critique partner or critique group

I havent had great luck with critique groups that meet in person due to scheduling conflicts, weather cancellations, etc. Id love to meet another writer (or writers) with whom I could exchange work online and help each other meet our writing goals from the comfort of our own homes.

5.  Come home with at least five solid takeaways

I promise to achieve this goal, mostly because Ive already entitled my next blog post The Top Five Things I Learned at Write on the Red Cedar.

Be sure to check back in a couple of weeks to see how I fared with all of my writing conference goals. Until then, happy writing!

My YA Novel is getting Published!

Happy 2015 Everyone! I was planning on doing my usual January post where I review my writing and riding goals from last year and set up new goals for the coming year, but that all seems really boring now. Why? Because my new year just started out with a BANG! On New Years Day, I accepted an offer from Fire and Ice YA to publish my Young Adult thriller, Trail of Secrets. Somebody pinch me! The release date is scheduled for sometime in August or September 2015 and my book will be available in both digital and print formats. And to make things even better, Fire and Ice YA publishes tons of horse-related books. They are the ideal publisher for my book, as Trail of Secrets takes place at a riding academy in Northern Michigan. I cant wait to read some other books published by Fire and Ice YA and let everyone know when I find some gems.

Ive been overwhelmed by all the congratulatory messages Ive received on my Author Facebook page the last couple of days. Some people have asked how they can help me in these months before the book is released. The answer is pretty simple: spread the word! Id love for my blog readers to like my FB page and share the link with friends. Trail of Secrets will most likely to appeal to young adults and adults who love horses, enjoy ghost stories, or simply crave a good mystery. In the meantime, Ill be sure to keep everyone up to date on the cover reveal, pre-sale opportunities, and the release date.

Ill save the big reveal of my list of 2015 goals for a future post when theres a little less excitement in the air. But heres a hint: I need to get back to riding!

Hope everyones year is off to a great start too!

2014 NaNoWriMo Results

For the last month, Ive been living and breathing NaNoWriMo. I didnt answer my phone, I cancelled dentist appointments, I almost forgot to pick my kids up from school one day . . . But now that November is gone and NaNoWriMo is officially over, its time to emerge from my home office, stretch my fingers, let my eyes adjust to the light, and total up the number of words Ive written.

The goal of NaNoWriMo was to write 50,000 words in thirty days. The bad news is that I fell short. (Why does Thanksgiving have to be in November?) The good news is that I wrote 43,000 words. For me, thats a success story. After all, I wrote 20,000 more words than I did last November, and now I have the bulk of the first draft of my new novel written. In case anyone is wondering, its a thriller about a couple of evil Realtors in downtown Chicago. Theres still a lot more writing to do, but Im hoping to complete my first draft by January so I can begin the revision process.

The 23,000 words that I wrote in NaNoWriMo 2013 became my first equestrian young adult novel, Trail of Secrets. Im still trying to locate the perfect publisher/agent for that book. Ill be sure to post updates of any developments.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is starting to get in the holiday spirit!

Do you have a NaNoWriMo success story? Please share!