Countdown to Augustina: Guess What Came in the Mail?

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Guess what came in the mail!!!!!!

Holding your book, your project, your baby for the first time in physical form is so surreal!

Now I think it’s safe to say that AUGUSTINA in August is gonna happen! The goal is to have it proofed one last time and available by August 1, but I think–I hope–it will be a few days before then.

I can’t wait!!!!!

I hope you guys love it! :)

Countdown to Augustina: Taking a Poll

As I work on Augustina, specifically on the formatting, it got me wondering which formats people read Sadie in.

And then in the last few weeks, people have mentioned that they’ve reread Sadie  in anticipation of Augustina (so cool!!!), which made me wonder how many times you’ve read Sadie

And then I wondered who was your favorite character.

So…

If you read Sadie, answer the three questions below:

Awesome. Thanks!

If you haven’t read Sadie, now’s your chance. It’s 50% off here.

Sadie

Countdown to Augustina:

Countdown to Augustina: COVER

Alright, my friends. I’ve been uploading Augustina‘s cover on my website and here on the blog, trying to get everything updated, but I haven’t officially shared Augustina’s new cover.

So are you ready?

I’m so excited!

Here it is. Let me know what you think.

Augustina by Rebecca Belliston

Against the odds, Sarah Augustina Dawson (Sadie) survived the wrath of Guillermo. But not without a price. Forced to leave her beloved Montana behind, she and Josh are on the run. Within the warmth of the South, she’s determined to find peace and conquer her past, even if only in her mind. But Guillermo can’t let go. He’s still orchestrating, hunting, and devising ways to exact his own kind of justice. When the law swings in his favor, he’s ready to end the feud that started the moment Josh walked into Sadie’s life. 

Countdown to AUGUSTINA: Names

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Day 3 of the countdown to Augustina.

Josh’s siblings play a bigger role in Book 2. He has five younger brothers and sisters. I happen to have five kids, so…his siblings’ names are based on the names of my kids. :)

My kids love this.

I do, too.

My dad, Gerald N. Lund, sometimes wrote us into his stories, too. If you’ve read the Work and the Glory series, you might notice the youngest daughter is named Rebecca Steed. And in the Alliance, Eric’s little sister is named Becky. :)

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So…I kinda did the same.

Josh’s siblings are named Jake, Lauren, Mike, Drew, and Katie, all versions of my kids’ names.

Fun, fun, fun.

Countdown To Augustina: Synopsis

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For day 2 of the countdown, here’s the synopsis of Augustina, the sequel to Sadie:

Against the odds, Sarah Augustina Dawson (Sadie) survived the wrath of Guillermo. But not without a price. Forced to leave her beloved Montana mountains behind, she and Josh are on the run. Within the warmth of the South, she’s determined to find peace and conquer her past, even if only in her mind. But Guillermo can’t let go. He’s still orchestrating, hunting, and devising ways to exact his own kind of justice. When the law swings in his favor, he’s ready to end the feud that started the moment Josh walked into Sadie’s life.

Check back for more updates in the countdown to Augustina, or if you aren’t signed up yet, you can get updates to your email address by signing up here.

Thanks!!!

Writing Tip #4: Why You Need Beta Readers

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I hate saying my book is done. Why? Because I feel like my book is never done. When people say, “Hey, did you finish your book?” Instead of boring them with a long explanation about the writing/publishing process, I try to say, “Well…I finished another draft.”

Nonetheless, I finished Augustina right before Christmas–or at least, I finished another draft. :) And then I did the scariest thing known to all mankind (maybe not, but it felt like it.)

I gave my book to readers

I sent it to friends and family–i.e. the most supportive people in the world–who agreed to read this baby of mine and give me honest feedback. I even gave them permission to be brutal, because my motto is: I’d rather fix it while I can than read about issues later on goodreads when I can’t do anything about it.

Beta readers

Having beta readers (early readers) is a necessary, yet extremely painful process for most authors. Because let’s face it. Most of us think our books are either perfect, or pretty darn close. When we ask readers to find what’s wrong in our project, we’re usually thinking, “Yeah right. Like you’re going to find anything wrong with this masterpiece. It’s flawless, I’m tellin’ ya. Simply flawless. You’re gonna laugh, cry, and hug this book until it hurts. Pulitzer Prize here I come.”

I’ve felt that way in the past. I never felt that way with AugustinaAugustina was the hardest book I’ve written. To most of you, it looks like I’ve only written one book. Sadie. I’ve actually written six now. Augustina was by far the hardest to write.

It’s about a girl who’s battered, left for dead, and needing to put the pieces of her life back together. It didn’t come easy for her to crawl out of the hole I so unfeelingly wrote for her. Quite frankly, it wasn’t easy for me to write her out of it. (What was I thinking?) Plus, Augustina has a spiritual conversion in it which–yikes–was crazy hard to write.

Yet…

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By the time I finished, I loved the book. I truly, truly love it now. But I still wasn’t sure if I accomplished what I hoped to accomplish. Had I gone too far or not far enough? Was it too raw or just a soap opera?

That’s why I needed early readers.

Giving your baby to a beta reader is like saying, “Here. Take this little piece of my heart, analyze it, check it for errors, and then tell me every single minuscule thing wrong with it, crush it under your foot, and give me back the shards  to see if I can put it back together with something slightly better.”

When I gave Augustina to friends and family, my fingernails went to my teeth, I paced the floor, and I tried to brace myself for the first honest feedback to come back.

Freaky scary.

If you’re an author, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

HOWEVER…

I have amazingly supportive people in my life. I sent it to a dozen or so people before Christmas and they’re starting to get back to me. Being an author for five years has hardened me to the initial cringes that accompany honest feedback, so I was prepared for the worst (or at least, I told myself I was). But all the feedback I’ve been given is good. It’s great, actually!

Firstly, so far everyone has really liked the book.

Whew!

Huge sigh of relief.

Secondly, the places they’ve said are weak really are weak. I can see it. My readers seriously help me spot places that need fixing. I love it. I’m not even angry at them for it. Haha. In fact, I’m so, so, so grateful I can make the manuscript stronger.

See. I’m growing up as an author. Yay me!

So that’s my Writing Tip #4:

Have beta readers.

1) Have a lot of them.

My husband saw one thing. My sister saw something completely different. My friend is a romance reader and saw issues there, while another family member was hoping I could tweak the action. They all read differently, so have several readers. Men, women, old, young.

2) Make sure you have readers that are your target audience

If you don’t know your target audience, then you have more problems you need to work on. Once you know your audience, get beta readers from that group. Not all your beta readers need to be your target audience, in fact, some shouldn’t be. But have a good chunk. And then give their insights the most weight.

3) It’s impossible to please all the readers.

In fact, don’t try.

In the end, you need to love your own book. But in all the feedback I’ve received so far, I can fix the concerns with simple tweaking to the story. It takes nothing away from the parts I love, but instead, helps enrich the story for others.

A win-win.

If I get feedback that’s contrary to what I think, I have a handful of people to run it by to see if they agree with my beta reader. If they do, I’ll have to let it go. And like I said, I give the most weight to comments from readers in my target audience. 

(I’m going to repost what I wrote on this blog.)

4) Have a writing reader

You might need to read that again.

Try to have at least one reader who actually knows how to write. An author. Call them your writing partner or buddy or whatever—preferably something nice so they’ll keep reading—but their experience will be invaluable to you. Plus, they’ll see things in your manuscript others won’t.

I’ve been blessed with some great writing buddies the past few years. They’re insights and critiques have been invaluable to me. If you don’t know any writers, join a group. There are thousands of writer’s groups out there that meet in libraries and coffee shops all over the world. Most likely there’s one near you.

5) On the flip-side, have non-writer readers.

Before I sent Sadie to my publisher, I had around 25 people read it. And then as I worked with the editor, I had several more follow behind to see if what I changed worked. The huge majority of your readers in the future won’t be authors. Having non-writer readers will help make sure you aren’t overwriting your story.

6) When you get harsh criticism, take a deep breath.

Your job is to figure out if 1) They’re right, or 2) They’re not. It’s probably best to give it a day or two before you fully digest the comments.

With my first book, I had several comments I didn’t particularly like. As I go back now with more experience under my belt, plus some time that has given me perspective, I can see that most of the comments were right. Most, I say. Not all.

So figure out if the comment is right or not, and if you’re still not sure, ask someone you trust who has read your book. 

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Augustina is now with the publisher. I’m sure they’ll find even more that needs tweaking. I’ll go back to the drawing board and work this project a little bit more, which I’m happy to do. At the end of the day, it will be a better book because of all my early readers. If you’re one of them, THANK YOU! It helps a ton. (And if you haven’t given me feedback yet, it’s not too late. I’d still love to hear your thoughts. A book is never done until it’s on the shelf.)

Alright. That’s my thoughts on beta readers. Anything you want to add?

How have you used beta readers to help strengthen your writing? Where do you find beta readers? How do you deal with the feedback that hurts? Comment here.

Other writing tips:

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Writing Tip #1: Keep Your Readers Reading by Knowing When to End Chapter

I’m so close to finishing my WIP, I can taste it. AUGUSTINA, the sequel to SADIE, should be done very, very soon. The first 2/3 is finished and to my awesomely supportive beta readers. The last 1/3 is in the polishing stage. I’m at mile 25 baby. I’m so excited to get this book to all of you. I love it. I hope you do, too!

As I finish it up, I’m going back through all the writing tips I’ve learned through the years. Here’s one:

Writing Tip 1: Keep your readers reading by ending chapters at the climax of a scene, not the resolution

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The goal of an author is to keep the reader reading. We’ve all started books and never finished. Heaven forbid our readers do that with our masterpiece, right?

So keep them reading. End with a cliffhanger.

Every chapter.

Every time.

TV shows, especially dramas, go to commercial right at the height of intensity. Even in reality shows, the music will build to a dramatic swell, and then BAM! You’re watching a Geico commercial. 

They do that so you don’t leave. So you don’t get distracted. So you don’t forget in those two minutes of commercials how much you really love that show.

The human race as a whole has severe ADHD. We have the attention spans of gnats.

You might be asking, “How do I end my scenes without chapter breaks then?”

You can do the classic three-star break between scenes. Like this…

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Readers are less likely to put down a book after this kind of break than a full chapter break. However, it’s still bookmarkable. (If that wasn’t a word before, it is now.)

Or…

In the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, she rolls one scene into the next without any breaks. She’ll even skip days with just a simple transition sentence. I don’t recall seeing any  ***  in her books. She just starts the next paragraph with the next scene.  “Even two days later, Katniss still couldn’t…”

The effect is the reader gets to the end of the chapter, and they really, really, really need to go to bed. But someone’s about to die! How can they possibly go to bed when someone is about to die? They can’t. Not if they care about the characters (a whole different topic).

And there’s no other bookmarkable places because her chapter breaks are the only breaks. So the reader looks like this:


That is awesome writing. That is my goal.

I’m still trying to master this concept. It’s hard to do. But the greatest compliments I’ve received as an author are the ones the sound like this:

“Hey, I started your book yesterday. Thanks a lot,” said with dripping sarcasm. “I was supposed to get all this stuff done, and I ended up staying up WAY too late to finish.”

Ah. Sigh.

That’s the hope.

*Dear Readers: I’m sorry. Authors are mean. We don’t care about your home life. Well, we sort of do. We’re trying to let you escape it for a four or five hours. Or Six. Or ten.*

Though Augustina has been in different stages of writing for nearly three years, I’m just now solidifying the ends of the chapters and trying to smooth all the scene transitions.  My goal is to keep those pages turning.

So that’s writing tip #1.

End your chapters at the height of the scene with a good ole cliff hanger.

The more you do it, the more natural it feels to leave your readers hanging. You’ll instinctively know when it’s time to take a commercial break.

What do you think? 

Do you like the cliff hanger trick? Where have you seen it used well? What do you do when a scene really doesn’t have a spot for dramatic pause? Share your thoughts here.

Other writing tips:

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Keep Your Readers Reading