Amy on writing

Who are you?

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions.”

–The Brain, The Breakfast Club

Who am I? I’ve been asking my self this question a lot lately. Who am I. Why am I interesting…

My name is Amy Westphal and I’m an author…. amongst many others things. I am a wife, a mother, a painter, a cake designer, a Harry Potter enthusiast and now, after seven years of toil. I am ready to call myself a author.

Being a author sounds so simple but it’s not. It’s more than just editing a story you wrote a million times and telling yourself you suck until one day you decide hey, This doesn’t suck anymore.

As I come to completion of my first novel, I find my attention turning to the business of being a novelist. Like my time as a gallery artist and cake designer, as a novelist, you are your business. So I’m my own business and I need to promote my business.

And to be honest. It’s been a while since I’ve had to promote my art and I’m daunted. I’m 37 and I’m not tech savvy. Its embarrassing. I can paint you anything, design you a cake that doesn’t look like a cake. I can talk your ear off and make you laugh and I’d like to think I can write a compelling story. But I can hardly use my iPhone. I type with 3 fingers and I’m not on social media. Gasp why. I don’t get it, I don’t like it, I don’t have time for it. I do however love some well timed tweets that make their way into the news sites I read everyday, all day, as the time allows (bathroom). My world for the last few years as been my daughters. And the crazy world of family daycare. 6 cousins, 1 grandma, 2 aunties, and me. And a houseful of other wonderful butter beans and peanut butter cups fill my day.

Which brings me back to this quote. Who do you think you are. Who am I.

I’m a writer who needs a platform. An artist out of the game ready to make a valiant effort to join the digital world.

I’m Amy Westphal and welcome to my blog. I hope I don’t bore the shit out of you.

Amy on writing

Is It Worth It?

cropped-c09c1573-32d4-468d-bc3e-0e2066d2a15b.jpeg
Capture the Tide cover art by Amy Westphal

Lets research it…

Paid book reviews and the independent or emerging author.

Is it worth the cost or the effort? Good question. Here’s my take.

I entered the Readers Choice Awards Contest the last day of the deadline. My book wasn’t finished by my editor yet but I really wanted to find some literary street cred and based on my research, this contest is the real deal. Not only do they judge completed works, they also judge unpublished works. Exactly what I needed. For more info go to http://www.readersfavorite.com

Needless to say. I did not win the contest. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ll know I’ve had my fair share of rewrites since I started my journey and my book is a different book today. However… I did submit an updated manuscript to be reviewed and got a really nice 5 star review for my novel CAPTURE THE TIDE. I will post the review below. I’m pretty pleased with it.

Now, some people might think that a paid review is meaningless. You’ve probably seen them on Amazon or something, but it doesn’t mean that all paid reviews are equal and that they don’t have value. As an emerging writer, I see no reason not to take opportunities that give you legitimacy. Everyone knows that a strong platform pays. Agents love a platform, and even better? A platform with a healthy following. And I’m working on that here. I don’t have staggering numbers like some literary bloggers, but I am pleased with the growth of my website and blog. But up until now I have mostly talked about my writing process and managing mom life with entrepreneuring, I haven’t actually discussed my book itself with much detail. And I think its time to change that.  So for the first time on http://www.amy-westphal.com I’d like to use my professional review to share a taste of what CAPTURE THE TIDE is all about.

Readers Favorite Book review for CAPTURE THE TIDE by Amy Westphal

Reviewed By Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers’ Favorite

“Life is ugly, gritty, complicated, glorious, and beautiful. But not pretty. Stories are pretty, saccharin tales of black and white and no gray.” It takes Lauren a remarkable journey of discovery to learn those simple truths about life and about humanity as a whole. There will always be the good and the bad, the glorious and the evil, the happy and the sad. Even with a fresh start, a cleansing if you will, humanity will always recover with the same mix and make the same mistakes. When an asteroid hits Lauren’s world, it takes away her home, her family, her life. She has to start again. But she is not alone. And once she discovers that simple fact, she is able to fit together again the pieces of the puzzle that disrupted her life and will create her new life. 

Amy Westphal’s novel, Capture the Tide, is more than an Armageddon story of total destruction and the survival of the few in the aftermath of disaster. It’s a powerful story about the human tenacity to recover and to try again, to survive in the best possible way under unknown, uncertain circumstances. The plot develops from Lauren’s entrapment in a bomb shelter, securely locked away for two years with no connection to the outside world. She has no idea what will await her when the clock finally ticks down and the lock on the door disengages. She finds a world totally different from the one she remembered, but also a world not so different. There are the good, the bad and the ugly, as well as the glorious and beautiful everywhere she wanders. Until she finds her family again and a way to create a new life for herself. A powerful plot that outlines the many faces of humanity. The description invites the reader right into the story and the characters are so real that the reader feels they know them intimately.

So honestly my darlings, what do you think? Does this sound like a book you would like to read? Inquiring minds (mine) want to know..

Post up in the comments.

Cheers, Amy

And for more information about paid reviews I recommend checking out http://www.janefriedman.com  she is an incredible resource for writers.

Image- My cover design for CAPTURE THE TIDE

Amy on writing

The Slow Burn

I had a sawdust bath the other day.

It sounds weird I know, but it was pretty amazing.

For my 10th wedding anniversary my Hubs and I went to this amazing day spa off the Northern California coast. Aside from being a relaxing and lovely full day of pampering and non-kiddy fun, it was this enzyme sawdust bath that got me thinking. A dangerous pastime? I know.

So this enzyme bath is done in a hot tub-sized box in a sauna with finely ground cedar sawdust and minerals. All steeping in its own natural fermentation. For 20 minutes, in our own natural state, I baked, sweltered and steamed in heavy, stinky-sweet wood and relaxed. Relaxed more than I ever do, at any point, in any day.

Every so often our personal attendant would come in the room and cool our sweaty brows with ice-cold wash cloths and give us sips from cool water from metal straws. I didn’t need to move a muscle, can you imagine. it was luxurious, until it wasn’t.

So whats the point? In this bath, I initially thought it was the peak of comfortable perfection. I love the heat. And in a zero gravity position I basked in the warm softness. I could have stayed like that forever…

But then it got hot, really hot, but I endured because I could feel the toxins and stress leaving my body. Its good I told myself.

Then it got hotter, the air thicker. I started wiggling around, releasing my hands and feet for just a little relief. Then my arms my legs, just a bit. Could someone open a window?

When it was almost done with, I could feel every fleck of dust weighted to me, the heat unbearable. I reminded myself that I wanted this, I signed up, I paid. This is my romantic weekend so I took in every minute of it. I closed my eyes and let it take me. The whole experience. And when I climbed out, I felt amazing. Really.

Now, what does this have to do with writing? Nothing really, but I learned something.

When I finished my book, I thought the hard part was over. But running a blog and trying to get published is so much more challenging. I came out of the gate like a wild horse ready to conquer this world but the rejection and the long wait times for even a hint of opinion have been excruciating. Sometimes I think letting go is the answer. But thats not me. In the hardest, darkest most disappointing times I endure, I make it work. Because I remind myself that things aren’t born from nothing. I control my destiny and my experiences. What I will get from this is what I put in. And I’m willing to let it burn.

Why? because at the end of the day I know it will be worth it, that I’ll have accomplished something incredible.

No matter how hard things get, endure, work. And you will get there.

It’s all about the journey.

Cheers, Amy

painting- oil on canvas by me

Amy on writing

Heyyyy….

Thank you WP fam for following me on my publishing journey. It’s been a pleasure to get to know and engage with so many interesting and talented people.

And if you missed anything, here are the latest posts that got me to this epic number…

Amy’s Bad Advice #5

Nothing

What It Isn’t

I hope you’ll stay tuned. I really look forward to telling you when I get to where I’m going. If you feel at any point you need to get off this ride, stuff it and take a Dramamine.

Cheers and thank you,

Amy

Amy on writing

Quid Pro Quo

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I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!

-Melvin Udall, As Good As It Gets

This post is about the importance of critique partners and beta readers.

So you wrote a book and had it edited, your mama and your friends love it. So obviously, you’re ready to hit the query trenches.

Wrong…

I learned this one the hard way.

Even your smartest, most well read loved ones are not enough. And your editor? Their job is to clean up your book with out destroying the integrity of your writing. But if your integrity is questionable, you have a problem.

NOT ONE OF THESE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO TELL YOU YOUR NOVEL SUCKS.

So who will tell you your shit sucks? Hopefully your CP will. And perhaps a beta or two who have no need to stroke your fragile ego.

So now that you know you need one, where do you find a CP?

I only have one answer for this, and please advise that this is only my opinion, I advise you to take to the internet. Join a writing group, connect with fellow bloggers on WordPress (👍) and cut a deal.

If you don’t find someone suitable to CP with, you could look up people willing to beta read for a small fee. Or, if you are time and cash-strapped, you could check out the super awesome resource http://www.querytracker.com  that I mentioned in Query, Querying, Queried…and sign up to post in the forums. Here you can not only post your query for anonomous critique, you can also submit your first five pages for a critique too! Just remember to reciprocate.

Write on Writers, Cheers! Amy

Amy on writing

Poetry… in Fiction?

Like reeds on water,

We sway, they cannot break us.

We will only bend.

— Lauren, Capture the Tide

I love haiku, I find it very cathartic. So much that my novels protagonist writes Haiku.

For me, utilizing poetry in my fiction novel offered another level of depth I was searching for. For both my writing and my protagonists character. But how do you take that further? Music, Art, Astro physics? How do you merge your passions and create a deep and believable world full of history and meaning?

I’ve spent a month in the blogosphere and I am still in awe of the incredible artists I have encountered. Novelists, poets, lifestylers, storytellers…..writers. It’s good company to be in. And it got me into some inspired thinking….

Feel free to tell me how you merge your passions in the comments….I love it…..Until then, I’ll be rubbing all my sticks together to see if they make fire🔥

Cheers! Amy

Painting by me.

Amy on writing

You want me to do what?

Picking an editor that’s right for you.

I recently blogged about my querying journey, but how did I get there? Let me backtrack a bit and talk bout editing…

You’ve written a book, now what? Now it’s time to edit. Oh you already did? Ran it through spell checks, reread it a hundred times? That’s nice. You haven’t been edited though.

If you’re serious about launching your book and you don’t find a pro, you are doing yourself an enormous disservice. Even the best writers need a fresh eye.

So what do you do? If you’re lucky, you know someone who will do it for free or a small fee. Or if you’re more lucky, you can rely on critique partners and beta readers to help you work it right. If you’re me, you got Nothing and need to start from scratch.

I researched local editors first. People I could meet in person. I found a few. They had different styles, all valuable but Difficult for me to life manage, so I checked out internet services. There are a lot of those too!

Here is what I learned:

Benefits of In house editor- offer the chance to meet in person or Skype. Together you can go line by line and really get gritty with your work. Time consuming but a great option.

Benefits of Internet services- offers you opportunity to send them your work and they will edit your book using a tracker on Microsoft word, that way you can see every change they make or suggest, always keeping the integrity of your work in tact.

This is what I chose:

I chose the internet. Quick efficient and time tested.

I recommend skribendi, book baby or standout books. Each are excellent. I particularly love the comments and questions from my editor that allowed me To make the change, or take a suggestion, or to note any inconsistencies. And even better? It works with my limited schedule. I will admit that pros on either platform aren’t free. But it’s an investment in your career right?

So what’s your editing process? Tips to share or questions? Let me know in the comments. I love it!

Cheers, Amy.

Painting by me

Quote-Yeats