Utterly Loved Foreword Author… Sylvain Reynard

Utterly Loved Book Cover

 

Finally, the Utterly Loved news you’ve been patiently waiting for, and I’ve been keeping secret, can now be shared.

 

I’m humbly thrilled to announce that the foreword author for Utterly Loved is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author and true humanitarian who inspired so many aspects of Utterly Loved… Sylvain Reynard.

In the brilliant foreword of Utterly Loved, Sylvain Reynard eloquently captures the enormous need in the world and inspires abundant generosity like no one else can.

Please read the incredible story of what transpired in Utterly Loved Foreword Author Reveal at Bookish Temptations.

Stay tuned for a schedule of blog tour events and signed copy giveaways for Utterly Loved beginning December 1st as we head into an exciting release week!

Utterly Loved
Where not one dollar will ever line my pocket…
Where your involvement can change the world.

Your humble shoe,

Kat Bastion

© 2012 by Kat Bastion

Why Writing Contests Matter

Why Writing Contests Matter

© 2012 by Kat Bastion

For those of you following me here on my blog or on Twitter, you likely heard the news on Saturday as I vibrated in excitement.  I’d become a finalist in the Lone Star Writing Contest. {vibrates}

Or perhaps, you’d heard the additional exciting news yesterday.  I’d become a finalist in The Catherine Writing Contest. {vibrates more}

So what’s all the hoopla about contests anyway?

Well, I can tell you one thing for certain.  I would not be here writing this blog were it not for the contests that I entered when I finally had a piece I thought was worthy.

It turns out I did… and didn’t.

My entry didn’t final in that contest.  Nor in the several that came after that.  What I did get was invaluable.  It was the first qualified feedback I’d ever received on my writing.  One of those very first judges took such great time and care in pointing out every flaw in great detail.  She also commended me on my strengths.  I am forever thankful for both.

What did I do?

I rolled up my sleeves and got busy.  Made changes.  Listened.  Learned.  Improved.

The First and Best Reason To Enter Writing Contests:  Feedback

Since that first contest back in the fall of 2010, I’ve been working on a new manuscript that has my creativity flowing.  With my new gem, I entered about eight more contests in the fall of 2011, and I’ve entered seven so far this fall… and counting. 

Last year, those first few contests helped me see what was completely unnecessary in the story (several judges told me to ditch the first page altogether), what the story didn’t have that it very much needed, and where I shined naturally as a writer.

I analyzed every single comment.  Of course, I disregarded the ones I felt had been generated by a lack of caffeine, but I took to heart the feedback that had very good points I either hadn’t considered or lacked the skills and experience to know.

   Some Rules on Contest Feedback:

  • There are no rules for you on feedback. 
  • Everything is subjective.
  • Judges volunteer their time.  Take the time to listen.
  • Comments are suggestions to use if you want.  It’s your story.
  • If multiple judges make the same comment, they may have a point.
  • Judge qualifications vary from trained and unpublished to authors.
  • Read the contest score areas.  Is your entry well-suited for them?
  • Scores are a quantitive way to rank something difficult to judge.

Don’t let negative comments get you down.  Use them to your advantage.  Almost every comment I’ve received has been constructive.  To me, that feedback is worth every penny I paid to enter.

Keep in mind that why you did not score well, may have absolutely nothing to do with your writing talent.  Your judge may not like your writing style, may not connect to your voice, or may have given a valiant effort to judge your piece, but really aren’t familiar with your subgenre.

My area, paranormal romance, is particularly challenging with judges.  In paranormal romance there are vampires, shape-shifters, witches, magick, ghosts, mediums, time-travel, and fantasy.  That is a very broad spectrum.  Mine is a time-travel that has Highlanders and magick.  I may get a judge used to reading vampires.  Even with my recent finalist feedback, one judge commented she doesn’t normally read time-travel.  Another indicated she stumbled a bit on the Scottish brogue.

Bottom line?  Comments and feedback are so valuable to us as fledgling writers.  Use them in the best way possible; to learn and grow as a writer.

Contests As Mini-Reviews

It occurred to me this week, that contests are excellent training for the reviews we will receive as published authors.

Not everyone will relay comments in a constructive fashion.  Many may not relate to our work.  Some will think what you wrote has been done before.  {whispers} Even if you are certain it has not…

What do I focus on?

The rave reviews.  The praise.  The gushing.  Words like, stunning, spectacular, fabulous, and powerful.

Do I ignore all of the not so stellar comments?  No way.  I simply look at them, decide if they have merit or not, and apply them or discard them and move on.

It’s the positive that keeps me energized.  I use every single bit of praise to fuel the motivational fire that keeps me writing. 

Those supportive comments?  They will come from my supportive fans someday.

The Big Payoff

If you’ve honed your craft well enough, if your entry is well suited to the contest you’ve entered, and if the planets have actually aligned for you, a phone call (or occassionally an email) will come with the phrase, “Congratulations!  You’re a finalist.”

Now we’re at the endgame.  We have hit the main reason contests are so beneficial for us as a writer.

Your entry will now be read by acquiring agents or editors.  If you’re lucky…both.

The interesting thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to win a contest to get a request for a submission.  Some final judges have such quality entries to judge, they may grant a win to one entry, but request a submission from both.  Last year I won two contests and was a finalist in a third.  Of the three, I received one request for my full manuscript from an editor at one of the big six publishing houses. 

What do I tell myself?  It takes only one.

Many contests post the results in the RWR (Romance Writers Report), list the results on their websites, and announce the contest news on their email loops.

Fame, baby!

What To Look For When Entering Contests

One of the first things I look for when entering contests is the final judges.  Are they an agent or editor that I would be interested in submitting to if they request my final manuscript?

I also look at the rules of the contest.  My entry is seen in its best light if it’s the first three chapters, but not all contests are designed the same. 

Some contests judge the first 7,000 words, which takes me through half of my third chapter.  Some ask for the first 25 pages or 30 pages.  Some are 50 pages.

Most contests ask for the first part of the story, beginning at page one.  One I’ve seen asks for only page one. 

Other interesting contests, like Reveal Your Inner Vixen, ask for up to twenty pages of the part of your manuscript that best outlines sexual tension.  {smirks} … Now we’re talking…

   Absolute Musts Before Entering A Contest

  • Read the contest’s entry rules.
  • Read the contest’s formatting rules.
  • Follow above said rules exactly if you don’t want to waste your time by being disqualified.
  • Print off all the rules and check them off as you go to make sure you don’t miss one.
  • Mark your calendar to be sure you make the entry deadline.

My suggestion?  Enter the contest early if you can.  I usually enter them a week or more before their entry deadline.  Why?  Sometimes I’ve had questions, and it takes a day or two to get an answer.  Most entrants enter at the last minute, myself included, and technical difficulties can, and do, occur.

What Happens After You Hear The Results?

If you hear that coveted “Congratulations! You’re a finalist!” you often have a week to revise your entry based on the feedback you’ve received.  Then, you re-submit.  You wait.  You hope your entry is the one that judge has been waiting their entire career to find.

If you hear back you didn’t final, print off those score sheets and comments.  See what areas you need to work on.  Make that entry shine for the next time.

Either way.  One very important thing to do as soon as you can? 

Write Thank You Notes!

Write thank you notes to both the judges and the contest coordinator.  Again, they’ve volunteered their time in their very busy lives and writing careers to help you with yours.  Show them your appreciation for doing so, even if they didn’t rave about your entry.  They may be buying your book off the shelf later and smiling in remembrance.

If you final, be sure to triple-check what you do next.  As I mentioned, some allow you to revise the entry.  Others require you to add a synopsis to the entry that may have been optional in the first round. 

Ask when you’re allowed to share the news on social media.  Last Friday, I was asked to wait until the following day.  On Monday, I was asked to wait two days, until Wednesday.

When you can share the news?  Shout it from the rooftops!  You’ve worked hard to make it this far.  To be a  finalist in a writing contest means you’ve risen to the top of a very competitive area and it’s an accomplishment to be proud of and share.  Those who have been supporting you and cheering for you along the way will want to share in your success.

Am I still entering contests?

Absolutely.  I am always learning and growing.  The feedback is unmatchable.  When you final or win, the accomplishment feels amazing.  {vibrates just thinking about it}

I truly hope you enter your writing in contests that suit your work.  Let me know how it goes! 

Meanwhile, I have to go.  I’ve an entry to revise for re-submission and thank you notes to write… ;)

I wish you all the best in your writing endeavors and good luck in your contest submissions!

Your Favorite Shoe,

Kat

© 2012 by Kat Bastion

Lost ManCandy: How Copyright Protects Us All

Lost ManCandy: How Copyright Protects Us All

© 2012 – by Kat Bastion

(DISCLAIMER: None of the following is legal advice. The following is merely food for thought from your new favorite shoe.)

Where did all the tasty blog ManCandy go?

Sadness had filled my Twitter timeline. Sobs and moans were heard as bloggers deleted photo after photo of their favorite celebrity’s abs and pecs. Many changed their hard-body avatars. People pulled down a black veil over their face in mourning.

It came to light, that a court case had been settled regarding copyright infringement. A photographer took an author and fellow blogger to task when she, like so many others have, unknowingly violated copyright law by using photos others had posted on the internet.

Ripples of panic and sorrow were felt throughout the Twittersphere…and still are.

Everyone who’s heard the news has been deleting or replacing photos on their blog sites. Many closed down their Pinterest and Tumblr accounts. The one who went to court? She paid money she didn’t have for her unknowing infringement on the artist’s copyright. A difficult lesson learned by one of us should be heeded by all.

I jumped on Google to see what kinds of photos you can use without permission. The muck I had to wade through was astonishing. Just in the last decade, organizations have attempted to clarify what is and isn’t fair use with regard to an artist’s work. I found guidelines posted from entities (for their users) ranging from Wikipedia to Stanford (for their reporters.)

Why all the gray area? Fair use has some ambiguity. It’s left up to a judge to decide.

Today, on my Twitter feed, someone posted a super hot photo of Channing Tatum on Pinterest. {fans self}

Hmmmmm… Could she have found a loophole in the rules? Did her post fall under “fair use”? Or maybe she hadn’t heard. The photo had a GQ watermark on it. Maybe that’s okay, then. Right?

Wrong.

My brief research revealed that if the use of a photo falls under the “fair use” portion of copyright law, it may be okay to use a celebrity’s photo without the celebrity’s permission, however it is not okay to use without the photographer’s permission. In this particular case, it would be GQ’s permission. Go to GQ’s website and read their disclaimer at the bottom. You cannot use any material without written permission.

There are other issues at stake besides just copyright that I came across. Anyone in a photograph, celebrity, or otherwise, could sue for privacy violation if they didn’t give you written permission to post a photo publicly. If you took a photograph with your favorite celebrity, and there were twenty fans in the picture, technically the celebrity and the twenty fans would have to give you written permission to have their face plastered onto the internet.

What a bummer. Photos are such a beautiful compliment to our writing. In an 800 word blog, your picture gets to also say a thousand.

So what do we do?

  • We take and post our own beautiful photos. If there are other people in that photo, make sure you have their written permission to make the photo public. Watch out for minors! Make sure you have their parents’ or guardians’ permission.
  • We get permission from photographers and periodicals when they have a photo we absolutely have to use. And we prepare ourselves to pay for that use.
  • We use photos that give us express permission to do so, with the type of licensing granted (like creative commons on Flickr), and make sure we follow their licensing guidelines.

Seem like too much work?

I’ve heard violators have paid $4,000.00 for a copyright infringement and can pay upwards to $25,000.00. So, we have to ask ourselves, how much is posting that photo properly worth.

Copyright Protects Us All

There is a silver lining in all this rapid education. I hope that with all the blogging and re-educating, we realize that as writers and authors, we want our work to be protected just as much as the photographer. The moment our words are inked, they belong to us.

Copyright empowers the artist to say how their work is used and who has the right to do so. The law enables us to stop the piracy of our carefully crafted work of art. After months and years we spend to get that one story out there, perhaps we can appreciate how the photographer feels.

Every time I think of the ManCandy we’ve all lost, I’m going to take heart in the protections we’ve gained. And…watch the DVD I will have purchased of Magic Mike any time I need a good dose of my paid for ManCandy. {laughs}

Happy safe blogging!

Kat

© 2012 – by Kat Bastion