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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year, Pajama Girl style!

It was one year ago today that I received the email telling me Pajama Girl had won the first MeeGenius Author Contest.  It was my first book to be accepted for publication and you can probably imagine the level of happy I was experiencing at that moment.  As today is the one year anniversary of that life-changing moment I think we need to do something exciting here.  Don't you? 

I have a nice collection of author swag that you are in need of.  I have autographed Pajama Girl postcards, autographed Breath of Eyre book marks and book covers, autographed bookmarks for the Prophecy of Days series and a few miscellaneous mystery swag items.  (I've profiled these authors here and here)  Wouldn't you love to get your hands on some of this stuff?  You betcha!  So how do you do it?  Let me tell you. 

Rules for the first anniversary Pajama Girl Awesome Swag-a-thon Giveaway! 

To enter:
Comment on this post for an automatic entry.  Please include your email address so I can contact you if you're a winner. 

Score additional entries by doing the following:
1 additional entry for 'liking' my Facebook page (if you already like my page, mention that in the comments for your extra entry)
5 additional entries for reviewing Pajama Girl on Goodreads

That's easy enough, don't you think?  

Winners will be announced Thurs. January 5, 2012. 

Good luck!  And remember, Pajama Girl loves you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chris Eboch Interview

      It's interview time again.  This time, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Eboch.   To give a little shout out to my group, SCBWI Michigan,  I'll say that I've heard an abundance of admirable things about Ms. Eboch from SCBWI MI AdCom members.  So when I found myself with the opportunity to do a guest blog post for her, I jumped at it. 
     In return (although you guys are getting a much better deal), she agreed to do an interview for my blog, which I am quite grateful for.  When you see some of the awesome answers she gave, you'll be grateful too. 
     So, without futher ado, Chris Eboch!

Restless Writer (RW):  You have written a couple historical adventures for children. Are you a big fan of history? How much research did you have to do for these books?
Chris Eboch (CE): I’ve always enjoyed ancient/world history. My family lived in Saudi Arabia when I was a child, and we traveled extensively, so I got exposed to other cultures and their histories early.

I traveled through Mexico and Central America for two months after college, before I ever planned to write a book set there. That gave me a good background on the Maya and plenty of ideas for The Well of Sacrifice. I did additional research through libraries and museums. (This was before the Internet, but I was living in New York City so I had other great resources.)

I’ve loved Egyptian history since I was young, and I traveled to Egypt as an adult. My mystery The Eyes of Pharaoh is actually the second book I’ve written with an ancient Egyptian setting. (The first is not publishable, however.) I already had many reference books on my shelves when I started research. I favor the kind with lots of illustrations and insight into people’s daily lives.

One of the secrets to writing historical fiction is understanding how people have changed – and how they haven’t. I believe that while we may eat different foods, wear different clothes, and worship different gods, we are still motivated by the same emotions: love, fear, greed, friendship. The seven deadly sins are thousands of years old, after all.

That’s how I can write stories with exotic settings that resonate with young readers today. They can understand a girl like Eveningstar, the heroine in The Well of Sacrifice, because she looks up to her older brother, is jealous of her sister, feels shy about going to a party, and is trying to figure out what she believes and what to do when she sees injustice. The Eyes of Pharaoh is a mystery with strong friendships and young people who are starting to understand that the world is much bigger and more complicated than they realized. The feelings and messages are still relevant.
RW:  You’ve also written some scary adventures for kids. Would you ever go on a paranormal investigation? (Personally, I’d be too terrified.)
CE:  I think ghost hunting would be fun. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but perhaps the most exciting question in the world is “What if...?” In my Haunted series, about a brother and sister who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, I get to ponder why some spirits might get stuck behind after death. And my young hero and heroine get to have some hair-raising adventures that I probably wouldn’t enjoy myself in real life!

RW:  You’ve written books for children, writers and adults. Is there a particular audience you enjoy most?  CE:  They all have their advantages. I’ve enjoyed writing for children, but after doing so for almost 15 years, I wanted to try something different. I love reading romantic suspense, so I tried writing some and am now publishing that under the name Kris Bock. In some ways the books aren’t that different – the adult books are longer and, well, more adult, but my style for both is plenty of action and adventure, with crisp, vivid language.
My first adult book, Rattled, involves treasure hunting adventures in the New Mexico desert, with dangers ranging from rattlesnakes to flash floods. My brand new romantic suspense, Whispers in the Dark, has a slower build up to the intense action, as a young archaeologist realizes she’s stumbled into something sinister. I’m learning to slow down a little and give more character development in the romantic suspense, but I like books where plenty happens, so that’s what I try to write.
As for writing for writers, I’ve done a lot of teaching and critiquing, and I write a blog on the craft of writing, Write Like a Pro! I’ve also written many articles for Children’s Writer and their annual Writer’s Guides, and a couple for Writer’s Digest. It seemed natural to collect and expand many of my articles and workshop notes into a book. I wanted Advanced Plotting to take users beyond the basic advice most books cover, with specific techniques such as how to write a cliffhanger chapter ending.

RW:  What do you think is the most difficult aspect of being a writer today?
CE:  Writers today have more choices than ever. In some ways that’s great, but it’s also hard to identify the best option, and there can be pressure to do too much of everything. It’s hard to wade through the conflicting advice and figure out what will actually work for you. I think this is true at every level – if you are a beginner, should you take classes (and which ones), network at writers conferences, hire a freelance editor, or jump into publication? Once you are published, which of the many marketing opportunities are most worth your time? The path used to be difficult but fairly straightforward. Now it’s not so much a path as a big rabbit warren of options.

RW:  Most of my blog readers are aspiring authors. What is a piece of advice you wish you’d gotten when you were starting out?
CE:  It’s even harder than you think, so take the time to learn. Life works at such a breakneck pace today that it’s tempting to rush through every stage of being a writer. But it takes time and training to learn to write well. It takes time to understand the industry, especially with all the new options. For those who are tempted by self-publishing, it takes time (and often money) to do it well, and much more time to market yourself.
Few people would think they could decide to become a doctor or a lawyer or a college professor, and expect to have it happen within a year. But people think they can become successful writers in no time. I think this is partly because we assume creative fields depend on “talent” rather than hard work and education. Plus, it’s hard to judge your own work. I advise aspiring authors to be patient and focus on their craft for several years before trying to get their work published. Rush toward publication too quickly and you’ll just suffer more disappointments.

RW:  You do paid critiques for writers. What do you enjoy most about helping writers improve their craft?
CE:  I give really tough critiques, for a novel usually a 4 to 6 page editorial letter discussing my concerns and suggestions on the plot, characters, setting, theme, and voice. I don’t do detailed line editing, but I do make plenty of comments on the manuscript as well. I’m often concerned that clients will be overwhelmed by all the advice. But 95 percent of the time, I hear back “Everything you said makes sense and resonates.” I’m relieved, and I really respect writers who are willing to do those kinds of major revisions.
A couple of times, I’ve had the chance to do second critiques, or to critique another piece of writing from the same author. I’ve always seen enormous improvement, which is very satisfying. It’s partly an altruistic desire to see other people getting closer to their dreams, but I suppose part of it is vanity as well, since I can feel good about my teaching/editing skills.

RW:  What is the hardest thing about doing critiques?
CE:  I’ve been fortunate that most of my private clients have good ideas but need help with the structure/and or style. But I’ve worked with students in a number of formats, including community college classes and a correspondence school. Sometimes students are enthusiastic about an idea that’s not very good, or that’s been done too often before, or that they don’t yet have the skills to do successfully. I can still try to teach them techniques for improving their writing, but it’s challenging to gently let people know that something should just be considered a practice piece, and not submitted for publication. People don’t always want to let go.

RW:  Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us anything about it?
CE:  I just published Whispers in the Dark, my romantic suspense set at an archaeology site in the Southwest. I’m in the planning stages of another romantic suspense/mystery, where the heroine finds the body of a murder victim. And learns about falconry. And falls in love. I’m really excited about it and anxious to start the first chapter, but I find the writing goes smoother if I spend a lot of time on character development and plot planning first.
I’m not actively working on anything for children right now, though I hope to have another Haunted book out one of these days.

Learn more about Chris and read excerpts of her work at www.chriseboch.com (for children’s books) or www.krisbock.com (for adult romantic suspense written under the name Kris Bock) or see her Amazon page. You can also read excerpts from Advanced Plotting and get other writing craft advice on her blog
Thank you so much for doing this interview, Chris!  Lots of great advice and information here.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Eve Marie Mont Interview

Eve Marie Mont
     After a long silence, I finally have something to say.  It's a foggy memory, but I'm pretty sure Facebook helped me discover a book called A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont, coming out in March 2012.  If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you might realize that I LOVE Jane Eyre.  So Eve's title, alone, made my heart do a little pitter patter.  I watched the book trailer and read the blurb. I was completely sold.  There was no question, I had to have this book. 
     After pushing aside the vague feeling of "I wish I'd come up with that," I also had to tell the author she's brilliant.  So I pre-ordered the book and contacted Eve.  As it turns out, Eve and I have very similar taste in reading.  So that seals the deal.  What's not to love about Eve Marie Mont?  In short, nothing.
    Generous soul that I am, I asked to interview her so you can love her and her books too.  Here we go!

 RW (Restless Writer): Obviously, you are a Jane Eyre fan.  Can you give us an estimate of how many times you’ve read the book?  What are some of the things you most love about it?

EMM (Eve Marie Mont):  Despite calling Jane Eyre one of my favorite novels of all time, I’ve probably only read it about five times in its entirety. Of course while I was writing A Breath of Eyre, I pored over certain scenes, reading them again and again for “research purposes.” But to be honest, it didn’t feel like work. Since I first read Jane Eyre in eleventh grade, I have never found another story with such a restrained yet passionate romance. Each time I read those long passages between Jane and Edward and watch their relationship evolve from master-employee to star-crossed soul mates, I am swept up in the romance of it all over again. Because Mr. Rochester is the ultimate bad boy: dark, arrogant, and moody, but not beyond hope. And Jane is the ultimate heroine to redeem him: strong, intelligent, moral, and unafraid to speak her mind. I knew I wanted my protagonist, Emma, to step into her shoes as she awakens to first love and discovers her own strength of character.

Isn't the cover gorgeous?
RW:  The premise for A Breath of Eyre is brilliant.  How long did it take you from first draft to submissions?

EMM:  The idea has been rattling around in my head for years, but I didn’t actually start writing A Breath of Eyre (then called The Trouble with Jane) until winter of 2009. Since I teach full-time, I wrote off and on during weekends and breaks that year and then raced through the final 100 pages in a mad blur over winter 2010. My agent and I whipped it into shape that spring and summer, and we shopped it around in fall 2010, when Kensington made their offer. So all told, it was a little under two years from draft to submission.

RW:  If there was a way to make fictitious characters real for one day, which 3 would you want to spend a day with?

EMM:  Great question! I’d start my morning dishing the dirt with Elizabeth Bennett over coffee and scones. From there, I’d take long a walk with Holden Caulfield through Manhattan, where we’d go ice skating at Rockefeller Center, visit the Museum of Natural History, and share stories about all the phonies we know. I’d end the day horseback riding along the moors with Edward Rochester, followed by a cozy, fire-lit evening back at his mansion.

RW:  I asked my blog readers if they like to write with or without music.  I usually have to write with music playing so I was surprised at the number who said they need to write in silence or with quiet instrumental music only.  What about you?

EMM:  I usually can’t write with music playing, but for many scenes, I’ll play a song to get me inspired and tease out the ideas while the music’s on, then shut it off so I can do the actual writing. But the song will still be echoing in my head, and it definitely helps me set the tone for certain scenes. Those are the chapters that tend to be the most cinematic, which I love! For A Breath of Eyre, the bands that were most influential were Coldplay, Thirteen Senses, Barcelona, and Embrace. Embrace’s “Gravity” sort of became the unofficial love theme of the book.

RW:  What are the last few good books you’ve read?

EMM:  Oh, wow, I’ve read so many good books this year, most of them YA. Here’s a link to a guest post I did for The Nightstand, a YA group blog I belong to, with blurbs about my top 5 books from 2011:

RW:  Can you share any teasers about the next two books yet?

EMM:  I can tell you that Book 2 is loosely based on The Scarlet Letter and has my protagonist, Emma, doing a lot of growing up as she navigates her way through secrets and scandal. Book 3 is inspired by The Phantom of the Opera and will take place in Paris; it’s definitely going to be the most fantastical and dark book of the series.

RW:  Since you’re a Phantom of the Opera fan, I have to ask if you like the musical version as well?

EMM:  Believe it or not, I only saw the musical once when I was about sixteen years old. I remember loving it then, and I thought the music was so haunting and lovely, but like any English teacher worth her salt, I prefer the book. :)

RW:  You will be exploring The Scarlet Letter and The Phantom of the Opera in your next 2 books.  Anything else planned beyond that?

EMM:  I have a file on my computer called “Good Story Ideas,” where I write down every idea I come across, from the silly to the seemingly brilliant. My head is swimming in my series right now, so I don’t have the brain power to attend to new projects, but I’ve got a few shiny new ideas that call to me every now and then when I should be doing others things. I can say it will almost definitely be a young adult book, and I’m leaning toward a stand-alone idea with some elements of magical realism, in the vein of Sarah Addison Allen.

Huge thanks to Eve for doing this interview and for having such awesome taste in Literature.  Your students are truly lucky to have you.   Excited readers, like myself, are lucky to have such awesome books to look forward to.  (Aside: all of you don't realize that I basically devoted a year of my middle school life to The Phantom of the Opera.  I loved everything about it.  The original novel, novels based on it, information about the Paris Opera House and the musical.  The first novel I ever wrote was in that year.  I hand wrote, in a spiral notebook, my version of The Phantom of the Opera.  It was terrible writing but so fulfilling.  This is to illustrate how wildly excited I am, not just about A Breath of Eyre but the upcoming Phantom of the Opera book.  I daresay I squealed with delight when I discovered that fact.  Share my joy, gentle readers.)

Discover Eve's brilliance for yourself at:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Third Campaigner Challenge - Always Look Behind

Another fabulous challenge from Rachael Harrie.  Here are the rules, followed by my entry:

Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:

  • that it’s morning, 
  • that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
  • that the MC (main character) is bored
  • that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
  • that something surprising happens.

Always Look Behind

The sun begins to stretch wispy rays over the horizon.  Maria clutches her blanket around her shoulders trying not to shiver.  The tag scratches her neck, reminding her she should have cut it off. 
Her scalp is caked with sand.  Sleeping on the beach isn’t as glamorous as it seems.  What she’d really like is a steamy bath.  She inhales, wishing the scent of lavender bath oil was greeting her nostrils.  Instead, a putrid smell triggers her gag reflex.  She covers her mouth with her hand and crawls closer to the waves.  The fishy smell emanating from the wet sand is better than whatever she’d caught a nose full of.  Probably some rotting animal.  Anyway, she won’t remain any longer to find out.  He’s not coming. 
The golden orange light of the sun intensifies, driving home the point that she’s alone.  What did she really expect would happen?  Devon wasn’t a knight in shining armor.  How could he get away with picking her up and heading out of town, forever, while this godforsaken town snored and drooled in the moonlight?  It had always been a stupid idea.       
Maria buries her face in the blanket and rubs at the sand that has suddenly found its way into her eyes. 
She staggers along the shore, not knowing where she’s going, only that she isn’t going to come back. 
It’s a shame she doesn’t look behind her to find out what that smell is.  If she only turned around, she would see that Devon did arrive, as promised.  Only he has a knife through his neck and a note pinned to his shirt:  He can never have you now. –Your Guardian 
           As is, she wanders on, oblivious to the grave danger she’s in.

If you enjoyed this dark little tale, please head here and vote for it.  It's #94.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ebook Review: Ebenezer's Ghosts by Michael Lawrence

I'd like to start adding ebook reviews to my blog, for a number of reasons.  I won't bore you with them right now. 
To kick off this amazing feature, I selected a short book that promised to be interesting: Ebenezer's Ghosts by Michael Lawrence.  So, on to the review!

We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, yes?  We also know various adaptations: print, stage, and big screen.  In fact, we may well be sick to death of old man Scrooge.  Then along comes Michael (sung to the tune of Along Comes Mary...if you don't know what this aside is taking about, kindly ignore.)

Michael gives the classic his own unique treatment that is just perfect for this pre-Halloween time of year. 

With most references to Christmas removed, the reader focuses more on the ghosts themselves.  This is made easy by Michael's chillingly detailed descriptions.  A phrase that I won't soon forget, "The hand was folded like a cup of knuckles".  Isn't that a truly awesome description?  What does it mean exactly?  I'm not 100% sure but it sounds disgustingly fantastic.  There are many more brilliant gems like that throughout the story.  Particularly vivid is the scene of the first spirit making a grand entrance, the second ghost's special "party trick", prophetic apple juggling and a fantastic use of the Tiny Tim character. 

While reading, I stopped frequently to admire the word choices and imagery.  Don't let this ebook original fool you.  Michael is a master of language.  Nothing but excellent writing here.

The ending is also quite different than the many variations of the classic original.  Without spoiling it, I'll just say that, for me, the ending hints at Michael's interest in alternate realities and how things might, or might not, turn out. 

My final verdict, this is a good read for middle schoolers and up.  For a quick read with fantastic ghostly descriptions, I highly recommend it. 

With Halloween fast approaching, this is a good tale to cuddle up with in the dark.  If you have a Kindle, or Kindle reading capabilities and want to check this out, I can loan it to the first person who asks.  Just include your email address in the comments and I'll send it along.  I am a librarian after all.   There are also extracts.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Giveaway and guest post

Hello everyone!  How are you?  I'm awesome and because of that, I want to share the love with all of you.  Who doesn't need some love? 

1.  I have discovered a little gem called Novel Publicity.  Every Friday is Karma Friday, in which, authors, like many of us, pay it forward by liking each other on Facebook and Twitter.  The idea is that you never know who you will connect with and who might help you out, or be helped by you in the future.  I've participated the past two Fridays and have already discovered some awesome writers. 

2.  Inspired by the karma, by the platform building campaign by Random Acts of Publicity, I decided to do a little giveaway of my own if anyone is interested in playing along.  I recently created a YA paranormal short story for Halloween and put it on Amazon for fun.  The feedback I've been receiving is really encouraging so I thought I'd follow up with a giveaway.  If you're willing to read "Kiss of Death" and leave a review on Amazon you can comment here and leave your email address for a chance to win an Amazon gift card.  If I get 5 reviews, the gift card will be $5.  If I get 10 reviews, $10.  I can't imagine more than 10 people will play along but we'll cross that bridge if we get to it. 
An offshoot of that which doesn't directly benefit me, I'd love to start an Indie Book Discussion group here or on Facebook so that all the small press, Indie books, ebook authors among us can generate discussion and reviews.  Stay tuned as I work out logistics on that.  Any interest?

3.  Today I'm the guest blogger on author, Chris Eboch's blog.  I wrote about revising...which I'm off to continue doing now.  Unfortunately, this novel won't revise itself and I don't want to be stuck in the revising stage this time next year.  Onward! 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Trick or Treat!

Since Halloween is coming up, I decided to offer you, my devoted readers, a little trick or treat.  I wrote Kiss of Death: a YA paranormal short story about Kate, who goes to an out of control teenage Halloween party.  She meets a handsome young man who becomes her savior at the party, she reveals a secret she's been hiding for years and there may or may not be a curse and kissing involved.  Anyway, since the themes in the story are just right for this time of year, I decided to offer it as an Amazon ebook for the month of October.  Since I have amazing friends and connections, it also has this awesome cover by Sean Ashby.  I'm really pleased with it.  Notice that menacing person silhouetted by the title?  What's his deal?  You'll have to read to find out.  I hope you will.  If you don't, the trick's on me but that's just par for the course at this time of year.  
PS.  S.J. Lomas is my YA writing pen name.   

Friday, September 30, 2011

But enough about me... Part 2

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my flash fiction post below.  You people are truly awesome.  Really.  So that's why I'd love to know more about you.  I've got a whole blog here about me.  Blah blah blah.  Let's hear about someone else for a change.
Last time, I asked for your top 10 songs, this time I'd like your list of top 10 books.  Again, the criteria for the 10 is up to you.  Top 10 favorite books of all time, that you just read, that make you cry, that you wish you'd written...etc.  Whatever you want.  I think I'll pick the top ten books that influenced the novel I'm writing revising now.  In no particular order:

1.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2.  A Crack in the Line by Michael Lawrence
3.  Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
4.  The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
5.  Across the Universe by Beth Revis
6.  Falling Under by Gwen Hayes
7.  Shiver by Maggie Stiefvator
8.  Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass
9. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
10.  Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks

Dying to see your lists!!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

2nd Campaigner Challenge

Rachael put together a challenge for us to write a brief post 200 words or less with the following requirements:

1.  The word "Imago" be in the title.

A.Entomology . an adult insect.
B.Psychoanalysis . an idealized concept of a loved one, formed in childhood and retained unaltered in adult life.

2.  The following words also had to appear in the post:
A. noxious exhalations from putrescent organic matter; poisonous effluvia or germs polluting the atmosphere.
B. a dangerous, foreboding, or deathlike influence or atmosphere.
A. a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument; hiatus.
B. Anatomy . one of the numerous minute cavities in the substance of bone, supposed to contain nucleate cells.
C. Botany . an air space in the cellular tissue of plants.

To gape; to yawn.

an apparently meaningful coincidence in time of two or more similar or identical events that are causally unrelated

Here is my attempt at the challenge.  Enjoy or detest.  
Imago of my author

     When I put down your book for the first time, my heart was full.  You were like a god to me.  A genius of the written word.  No lacuna to be found.  Every word, thought, detail, tight and complete.  Perfection. 
     I thought it was synchronicity when we both suffered slights in an uncaring world.  I seized the chance to reach out to you, to align ourselves to each other at last.  You accepted my life preserver, and together, we drifted away from the miasma of decaying dreams.
      Some days I would oscitate, shocked and hurt at the vitriol the world had to offer.  Sometimes it was you, head in hands, wondering why we still bothered. We would stand before the mirror together each day, hands entwined, searching for signs of ruin.  My eyes didn’t shine as bright.  Your hair became grayer.  But then we would turn to each other and the smile lines would deepen.  If it hadn’t been for the heartbreak, I wouldn’t have found the courage to reach you.  And you are all that matters.   


Thursday, September 22, 2011

But enough about me...

Hello everyone out there!  In the spirit of fairness (and pushing down that debut video post of mine) I decided to do something fun with you.  At least, I think it'll be fun. 
Besides writing, music is very important to me.  I usually listen to music while I write.  It helps me access the right mood, feelings, words.  So I thought I'd post a list of the top 10 songs I listen to while writing my YA novel...which I'm still revising.  In exchange, I hope you'll post your own top 10 list of songs in the comments.  It can be for what you're writing, it can just be the soundtrack of your life, it can be your favorite 10 songs right now, it could be 10 songs you just hate.  Whatever you want.  It's all about you. 

These are the 10 most played according to my Itunes, and you know, Itunes doesn't lie. 

1.  The Consort  - Rufus Wainwright
2.  Trapeze - Iron and Wine
3.  Thinking About You - Radiohead
4.  A Long Goodbye - Erasure
5.  Rise - Gabrielle
6.  I hope tomorrow is like today - Guster
7.  To the Ghosts who write history - The Low Anthem
8.  Porcelain (Trin Remix with Enya) - Moby and Enya
9.  Follow Me  - Paul McCartney
10.  I'm About to Come Alive - Train

What top ten songs make your list?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Versatile Blogging at it's...um...most versatile? **9/20 UPDATE**

Hello my restless readers!  In the interest of keeping things fresh and interesting, I decided to try a video post!  How cutting edge!  (not really)  What spurred this crazy endeavor, you might wonder?  Well, you'll find out in the video.  

(Could I have posted a video with a more flattering still?  I doubt it.)

One bonus tidbit about me, I'm a little crazy.  Otherwise, why would I decide to debut a video post when I'm coming down with a cold and didn't feel like applying makeup?  This is as real as it gets folks and I decided to just go ahead and throw it on the internet for your consumption.  Yep.  Insane.
As mentioned in the video, big thanks to :

So, that means it's time for me to share the love as well.  So here are my picks for versatile bloggers:
Michael Lawrence  (ok, not technically a blog but he's the king of versatile and I'm a huge fan...in case there was any doubt in your mind.  He's written successfully for babies through adults.  If that ain't versatile, I don't know what is.) 

Go check them out!

And that's all from me right now.  I still have that cold.  Time to sleep it off.  

**9/20 UPDATE**

A fellow campaigner has graciously offered to spotlight other campaigners on his blog and my spotlight is up now.  Thank you so much, Chris for offered up the blog space to help promote your fellow writers.  You're scoring some big time karma points, for sure.  

Also, just pressed 'send' on the submission of my Pajama Girl sequel.  Fingers crossed that goes over well.  Don't forget that MeeGenius, my publisher, is hosting their second new author contest.   That's the reason Pajama Girl is available to you now.  I've definitely enjoyed working with the good people at MeeGenius.  So what are you waiting for?  Head over with your picture book manuscript and take a look at the guidelines.  Maybe YOU will be this years winner!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Working and hoping

Well, September seems to be a productive month for me.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  September has become a happy month for me. 
I sent out a picture book manuscript to a publisher I met through SCBWI in July.  Within 12 hours, she'd responded that the story was 'cute' and they would consider it.  I have no idea how long the considering process might take but I'm pleased to have received that tiny scrap of validation.  It's 'cute'.  It was worth passing on to the next level.  I hope to have great news on that front sooner or later.  We'll see.

I also finished a draft of the Pajama Girl sequel this afternoon and sent it to my illustrator to see what he thinks.  I'll admit it, I've been hyper critical of #2.  It's very difficult.  I truly loved Pajama Girl.  It was like a direct gift from the muse, and a lot like Mary Poppins: "practically perfect in every way".   PG2 required a lot more planning and drafting than PG.  I think I've finally come up with something interesting and new that stays true to PG.  Fingers crossed.

And now, a trilogy you should all read:

The Naia Underwood contest concluded with success.  Our winner is happily reading the first book in the Aldous Lexicon trilogy.  I love those books so much, I'm excited for her, experiencing them for the first time.  If your curiosity is piqued at all, take a look at excerpts from the books.  I dare you to not get sucked in.


Ok, something that you all might actually care about.  MeeGenius, the publisher of my Pajama Girl, is hosting their second annual new book contest.  Pajama Girl was the contest grand prize winner last year.  I can now say that I'm a published children's author.  Prior to the contest, I couldn't say that.  If you have a picture book manuscript, illustrated or not, and you've been sitting on it or getting heaps of rejections, I urge you to consider entering the contest.  I'm certainly happy I did it.  The prizes are pretty awesome this year!  Cold hard cash AND a publishing deal!
I also discovered this week that one of the contestants who didn't place last year just had their story published with MeeGenius, so you never know what could happen. 

You could be distributing postcards like this next year for your own book.  Wouldn't that be awesome?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

September is starting well

Wow, it's been an exciting couple of weeks!  My oldest child started kindergarten last week at my elementary school alma mater.  That's it's own emotional roller coaster, but first and foremost, I am so proud of that girl.  She's excited about what she's learning and she's happy to get up in the morning and get dressed for school.  I love it.  Ok, back to writing stuff.

If you've been following me for awhile, you'll notice some changes here...like the fact that I've doubled my number of followers in a weeks time.  Thank you Rachael Harrie and your awesome campaign!  :::waving and smiling at all my fellow campaigners and new writing friends:::

You'll also notice that super cute sticker in the upper right hand corner.  Thanks to meeting my fellow campaigners, I stumbled across a giveaway to win your own custom blog badge or sticker.  I chose the sticker so I could have a cute link to my digital picture book, PAJAMA GIRL.  Huge thank you to Carrie Butler, for offering the giveaway and designing such a cute sticker.  I love it! 

Another awesome thing is that Elana Johnson is now a follower of my blog!  I find this pretty incredible because I feel like every blog I follow has been buzzing about her debut novel, POSSESSION.  And by 'buzzing' I mean falling over themselves with praise and adoration for her book.  First, Allen Zadoff starting following me on Twitter and now I've got Elana Johnson here, I have totally entered an alternate universe here.  (and I like it!)

And that's still not all.  I am surprised and honored that a fellow campaigner, whilst visiting the plethora of campaigner blogs, decided that my blog was worthy of an award!  So thank you so much, Megan for thinking so much of this blog.  I really appreciate it. 

The award is to recognize bloggers with less than 200 followers.  Recipients of the blog are supposed to award it to 5 other bloggers, because, let's face it, writer's enjoy sharing the love.  I will share the love, I promise, but I'm too brain dead at this exact moment to do so.  I'll try to get to it sometime before Labor Day weekend is over.  Hold me to it folks.  After all, yours may be the blog I award it to.  

Finally, to end this little love fest, I want to remind you that the Naia Underwood giveaway I'm moderating is making me sad because only 4 people have entered.  For the backstory, I'm moderating the social media for Naia Underwood because her creator is an author I deeply admire and consider a friend.  I really, truly, love the trilogy she appears in, The Aldous Lexicon, and I want to see them become successful as ebooks.  Truly, my YA novel would not have been written if it wasn't for the trilogy.  The giveaway winner will be announced this coming Monday, Sept. 5.  So I'm urging you to enter.  All you have to do is Tweet to @NaiaUnderwood or leave a comment on her Facebook page, answering the question, "What would you do if you came face to face with an alternate version of yourself."  (the trilogy deals with alternate realities)  The winner receives a $12 Amazon gift card, which would easily cover the cost of the trilogy, although, of course, you can use it for whatever you want.  Spread the love folks, enter the contest.  It'll set my little heart aglow, and really, isn't that what we all want?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Author publicity events coming up!

First, I wanted to let those of you who are writers and aspiring writers know that you can take part in Rachael Harrie's Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign.  It runs now through October 31, 2011.
In this campaign you can connect with other writers and aspiring writers and work to build each other's online platforms.  This includes increasing your blog and other social media followings and participating in cool challenges and connecting with other people in the same boat.  This is the third one Rachael's hosted and the first one I'll be participating in.  (I would have done it before but I hadn't heard of it yet).  She's only letting people sign up through Aug. 31, so if you're even slightly interested, act now!

Second, Darcy Pattison is hosting Random Acts of Publicity Week, Sept. 6-9, 2011.  The point of this is to help promote your favorite book or author.  To participate, you can do easy but valuable things such as write a review of the book for Amazon (or, ahem, in my case, review the Apple or Android app).  Become a follower of their blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Post a review on your own blog or social media account.  And nominate them to win awesome prizes, like a book marketing consultation.

I am very excited about both of these events.  I would love it if someone would nominate me for some of those marketing consultations.  Just sayin'.  I'll return the favor!  After all, in this business, it pays to help each other out.  You never know which connection will get you closer to publication.  Agreed?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

SCBWI Conference Wrap up AND contest you shouldn't miss

Ok, my mind is beginning to get hazy on what happened in LA.  Two days after I returned, I took a road trip with my husband and young children to Milwaukee and Chicago.  It's been a busy month.  But I promised you more stories, so more stories I shall share, disjointed as they may seem at this point.

First, I'll begin with a super happy photo of my first time behind the author table.  This picture was taken by the insanely talented Angela Matteson.  She's a children's illustrator and I really like her style.  So much that I'm currently trying to think of a story to match to her style so I can ask her to illustrate another book for me for MeeGenius.  (don't worry Sean, I still want to do a PJ Girl sequel with you.  Still working out just the right idea though.  It'll get here.)  Don't hold your breath, Angela.  As Sean will attest, it can take me awhile to formulate and write a new idea.  But when I get it, oh boy, I'll be crossing my fingers that you'll want to work with me.

Notice the lighting in the photo.  Very bright, right?  I told you those lights were shining in my eyes.  One very nice, and tall, gentleman stayed to chat with me for awhile and kindly positioned himself in such a way that the lights didn't blind me for awhile.  My enduring gratitude to you, sir, whoever you are.

Ok, on to other things.  The party for instance.  SCBWI has a tradition of wild costume parties on Saturday night of the conference.  This year's theme, in honor of their 40th Anniversary, was the 40 Winks Pajama Party.  Well, I didn't have to take more than 10 seconds to figure out what I would be wearing.  (Hello, my picture book is titled PAJAMA GIRL!)  I am extraordinarily lucky to have met two wonderful friends at the conference last year who were on board with group costumes so we were the three Pajama Girls.  Thank you so much to Lisa Lamm Aikins and Jody Lamb for not only dressing up with me, but for the awesome fun we had together at the conference.  You ladies are amazing.

Also, thanks to Sean, the coolest illustrator rockin' a viking helmet, for designing the super cute shirts.  Someone even asked me about the shirt because they'd heard of Pajama Girl.  (swoon)  There's buzz, people!  It might be a small mosquito buzz, but it still counts.

So on to the party.  I had been trying, unsuccessfully, that day to meet up with the fabulous author, Christy Raedeke.  Loyal blog readers will know that I interviewed her here last year.  I loved her book, The Prophecy of Days.  I'm really behind in my reading this summer but I'm very excited to read the second book, The Serpents Coil.  I was really looking forward to meeting her in person but it didn't seem like it was going to work out.  So while Jody and I were hanging around near the lobby doors trying to find her, we did run into Ray Veen again.  I'm pretty sure Ray thought Christy was a figment of my imagination but he humored me.  Good sport, that Ray Veen.  Anyway, while we were waiting, we seized the opportunity to chat with Jon Scieszka.  I got a pic. with him the following day that I will insert here for your viewing pleasure.

Yes, Jon is a riot.
Giving up on ever finding Christy, me, Jody and Ray headed toward the food line and mingled like the sociable and cool people we are.  Interestingly enough, we had a conversation with someone (sorry, I told you I was hazy at this point) about how hard it was to find people.  With 1300+ attendees, you'd meet someone cool in a session and say, "Catch ya later" only to never even catch a glimpse of them again.  However, I kept running into Ray and Chris Friden.  Jody and I had met Chris the night before at the member book sale while I was still trying to find my Pajama Girl table.  We'd ran into him periodically throughout the day and would you believe I ran into him again at the pajama party?  Of course you would...because it's true.  Shortly after running into Chris, we found Lisa and the trio of Pajama Girls was complete.  Next, we hit the dance floor because I'm a dancin' queen, and Chris was cuttin' it up out there too.  Once the party had to officially stop we all said our goodbyes and Jody and I headed to the lobby to try our luck at kidlit celeb spotting.  But who did we find?  Go ahead.  Guess.  Yes, it was Chris again!  So we had some drinks and laughed, hysterically, as we told our own crazy stories into the night.  Really, it was some hard core belly laughs.  Tears were involved.  It was good times.  Everyone needs to laugh like that much more often than they do.  Go find someone and share some laughs right now.  The blog will still be here when you get back.  So thank you to Jody and Chris for making me laugh so hard.  I needed it.  That was definitely a high point of the conference for me.

So, the next day, I was knocked out.  Jody and I went down for breakfast.  I was a zombie so I went back to bed for awhile.  Didn't emerge until the Golden Kite luncheon but I felt much better.  Jody went home that night, sad sad.  And as I sat around the lobby, alone, hoping to find someone awesome to talk to, I ran into Ray Veen again.  He too was preparing to head home so we hung out for a bit before I sent him off with a pep talk for conquering LAX and getting safely back home to MI.  (which he did successfully).

Next day was intensives.  Ran into Chris again.  (is there any surprise?)  (actually, a funny aside, every time I type Chris, I accidentally type Christ and have to make sure I take the 'T' off.  Now that I think of it, Chris did wear white a lot...)  Anyway, intensives...I got to work on my query letter with Tina Wexler.  She seems like an awesome person to work with.  She's definitely on my list of agents of query now.  Afternoon was revising your novel with editor Julie Strauss Gabel of Dutton Children's.  I don't think she's interested in anything I write but it was still valuable to hear her perspective.

Afterwards, I hung out in the lobby to see if anyone cool was left and who did I finally get the chance to see?  Why, my BFF Jay Asher!  We'd smiled at each other a few times during the conference but never got a chance to talk so I marched myself over and changed that.  We probably chatted for about 40 minutes.  At one point during our wonderful reunion a guy I recognized but couldn't place came over.  He said a few things to Jay and then turned to me saying, "Have we met?"  I said no so he held out his hand and said, "I'm Arthur."  I said, "Hi, I'm Sarah" but what I was thinking was along the lines of "Holy shit, he's Arthur Levine!"  Arthur Levine is a big deal in children's publishing.  I played it as cool as I could considering I had no idea what to say to the man.  But he didn't hang with us very long.  Whew!  It was a relief to just chill with Jay.  I'm super suave when in the presence of a New York Times bestseller who has sold movie rights for not just that bestselling book, but for the next book that hasn't even come out yet.  Smooth like melted butter.  You betcha.  I'm sure Jay would agree.  At any rate, he knows who I am and he gave me a hug.  Two of them if you really want to know.  No picture this year though because things were too hectic.

So there you have it.  LA 2011 in a nutshell.  I guess this post was a slightly obese nutshell.  Sorry.  But, if you read the title of this post, there's a little more.


Loyal blog readers will also know that I interviewed author, Michael Lawrence here last year.  You'll also recall that I have an overwhelming amount of respect and admiration for the guy.  At this point, I would dare say we're friends.  Anyway, we have embarked on a joint venture to help promote his amazing trilogy, The Aldous Lexicon.  They are available as ebooks now (the print version is out of print which makes me very sad.  Truly, I LOVE those books).  In an effort to keep them in the public eye we've created a Facebook and Twitter page for them under Naia Underwood (she's a character in the trilogy).  Naia is hosting a contest.  Send her a tweet @NaiaUnderwood or respond to her FB status to answer the question, "What would you do if you came face to face with an alternate version of yourself?"  (it happened to her).  Doing either of those things will enter you in a random drawing for a $12 Amazon gift certificate.  Who doesn't want free money for books?  Seriously!  That's all you have to do, but we're already planning future contests and other fun stuff so it would be worth your while to follow her or 'like' her, as the case may be.  This contest is open until Labor Day, Sept. 5, 2011.  Please get entered and spread the word.  You've got nothing to lose!  Ok, that's my plug for Naia.  She's close to my heart so I really hope you'll consider checking out her page.  Off soapbox.

Still dreaming of the Fonz....

Thursday, August 11, 2011

More magical moments in LA

You'd think the Henry Winkler moment was enough for one trip wouldn't you?  But no.  There was more!
First, I should mention that previous to the Henry Winkler "HW" moment, the Michigan SCBWI members were going to have lunch together.  However, we couldn't find our entire group so it ended up being just me, Jody, Ray, and Laura.  I give you my 100% personal seal of approval that these people are awesome.  Read their blogs, buy their books, wish you'd had lunch with them too.  They'll be part of the story again later.
Ok, so let's go back to autograph time during the HW moment.  Jody and I were so flustered after having met Henry that we walked right out of the room even though we had books for Norton Juster to sign as well.  Isn't that silly?  Luckily, we remembered and headed over to Norton, who only had a short line because he hadn't spoken at the conference yet.  I handed him my copy of The Dot and the Line, which I'd learned about from a mathematics graduate student at Oxford University years ago.  (that's another series of moments to explore at a later date) So I asked Norton if he was really good at math or what.  He chuckled and explained that he's not good at math but this was meant as a revenge story.  The dot represents a woman, the squiggle represents a disreputable guy Norton didn't like, and the line represents Norton.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you'll just have to read the book.  It's a lot of fun.)  So Norton wrote the book to get back at the squiggle guy.  The moral of the story being, sometimes revenge does pay.
So I had that little moment with Norton Juster but it was fun.
After that, it was time to head over to the SCBWI PAL (published and listed) member book sale, of which I was taking part!  I had dropped off my 300 Pajama Girl postcards that morning and had no idea how the event would be set up.  Last year, it was like a book sale table where you could buy the books and mingle with the authors if they were around.  This year, every author had their own table so it was like your very own author event.  I was thrilled!
Now, I know, I look far from thrilled in this picture.  Why is that?  A number of things.  I was tired, I was hungry and there were amazingly bright lights shining straight into my face.  None of those things made it a particularly comfortable experience but trust me, it was still thrilling.  My first author event! And, as you can see, people actually stopped by to talk to me and take a postcard, which is more than I could have hoped for.  I mostly expected to sit there by myself, feeling sheepish until the event was over but I probably talked to a good 30 people.  When you're a little ebook surrounded by ink and paper, 30 people is a big deal.  So that was definitely a great moment.

Ok, now we can move on to Saturday's first moment.  Imagine, if you will, another author signing event.  This time, David Small and Sarah Stewart are among the signers and I want my copy of The Library signed because it's a beautiful book and every book lover should own it.  David was first.  He signed the book and I told him how I was a librarian and that the very first library I ever worked at had a framed poster of the cover of this book and I thought it was so beautiful.  He seemed politely impressed and passed the book over to his wife, Sarah Stewart, to sign.  Here's where things get good.

Me:  I was just telling David that I'm a librarian and the first library I worked at had a beautiful poster of this up behind their check out desk.
Sarah: (looking up at me from beneath her big brimmed gardening hat) Oh, you're going to make me cry.  It's just such an honor to be married to him.
Me:  (frankly, I don't know if I said anything cuz I'm thinking, "Oh my God, I made Sarah Stewart cry!)
Ok, so I'm a little hazy on the details here but she asked where I was from and said her son had been testing cars in my city and we talked about said city for awhile.  Then she asked if I'd like a postcard of her garden.  Um, yes please.  I'll take whatever you're willing to give me, Sarah Stewart.  So she hands me a postcard of this beautiful, huge, maze garden she has.  Reminded me of something you'd find in Europe.  I took it and exclaimed about how she must spend all her time there...blah blah blah.  And she turns the card over, which has a few bullet points of things for writers.  1. Learn Latin.
    Me:  Ooh!  I took Latin in college.  My professor was a genius, seriously, the most intelligent person I've ever met.
Sarah:  Yes, my Latin professor was a genius too.
Me:  In fact, I took Latin with my husband, while we were dating.  When he finally proposed, he got in touch with our Latin professor and asked him how to say a traditional Roman proposal and he proposed...
Sarah & I together: In Latin!
    At this point, Sarah stood up, tears in her eyes and wrapped me in a huge hug.
    Sarah:  Your husband must be a very special man.
    Me:  Yes, he is.  (starting to cry myself)  He even got 120 floating candles to help with the proposal.

So there we stood, crying and embracing each other.  We said some sort of farewell and I turned back to the line to find Jody standing there.

Jody: (paraphrased) What the heck is going on here?
Me: (still teary) I made Sarah Stewart cry!  She made me cry!  We just had the most beautiful moment!
Jody: (paraphrased) What the hell is up with you and these incredible author moments!  You suck!
Me:  (paraphrased) I know!  I'll meet you in the hall.

So I went to the hall to compose myself.  Ran into Chris (who shall appear again later) and we chit chatted about what went down in day two of autographing until Jody came out and then we headed off for, drumroll, The 40 Winks Pajama Party.  Which is where this selection of moments will say goodbye for now.  We'll pick up again next week with the Pajama Party because I'm going out of town again.  If you get lonely in the meantime, by all means stare at my Henry Winkler picture some more.  It helps me through the day, let me tell you. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A collection of amazing moments

I am home from the SCBWI 40th Anniversary Annual Conference.  It was very different than last year but still an incredible experience.  To try and tell the story this year, I'm going to focus on my most memorable moments from this trip.  Pictures will be forthcoming.  Try to keep your pants on...please.

So, moment #1 came pretty early in the game.  Henry Winkler, aka. the Fonz from Happy Days, was a special guest.  You may not know that he and Lin Oliver, co-founder of SCBWI, write a middle grade series together,  Hank Zipzer.  Henry gave a very emotional and exciting talk about how he and Lin write together and how we should write with passion to please ourselves first.  Let editors reign in the material if they see fit.  That evening, Henry and Lin were signing their books.  Folks, let me tell you, you don't have the opportunity to meet Henry Winkler and walk away from it.  So, my friend Jody and I planned our moment making strategies and got in line to see Henry.  Jody tells it more amusing than I do so I'm stealing her beginning.  Jody was in front of me.  She read Henry's latest book, "I've Never Met an Idiot on the River" and learned that Henry LOVES to fish and he LOVES Montana.  That was going to be her approach and she expected Henry to be delighted that she'd read the book.  Here's what happened:
Jody:  When are you going to Montana?
Henry:  Next week.

End of conversation.  Henry slid the book over for Lin to sign.  Lin, being one of the sweetest women alive asked Jody if she was from Montana...which, she is not.  Things got awkward from there and Jody left the table feeling disappointed and
irritated with the whole experience. 

Now, it was my turn.

I handed my book to Henry, who didn't really look at me and I started with the brilliant little speech I'd come up with while waiting in line.  My moment went a little something like this:

Me:  First, I wanted to tell you that when I was a little girl I was convinced I would marry Fonzie when I grew up.
Henry:  (a teeny tiny chuckle)
Me:  Also, I wanted you to know I absolutely loved your work as Barry Zuckercorn on Arrested Development.
Henry: (glancing up)  Thank you.
Lin jumped in at this point as we discussed a little about the brilliance of Arrested Development, I was so sad when it went off the air, yadda yadda yadda.  I wasn't done with my speech so I pressed on.
Me:  AND I'm a librarian....
Henry: (looking up, I've caught his attention now)
Me: And I love to recommend these books to kids, especially when people have reluctant reader boys, I like to give them these books because they're so great.
Henry:  (reaches out and clasps my hand warmly)  Thank you, Sarah.
Me:  (internally)  HENRY WINKLER IS HOLDING MY HAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me:  (externally)  Can I take a picture with you?
Henry:  Of course.
So I throw my bags on the floor and run around that table like nobody's business.  I put my arm around Henry's shoulders and, yes, YES, he reaches up and clasps my hand again.  There is photographic evidence.  (I'll add the rest of the photo later, but this part bears close examination anyway, don't you think.)

  I could have gone home happy right then and there.  But you need more moments from me than that.  And there are several.  But we'll take some time to absorb the awesomeness of my Henry Winkler moment.  There will be more posts coming, all in good time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sarah Jane Freyman Interview

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sarah Jane Freyman of the Sarah Jane Freyman Literary Agency about publishing and her goals as an agent.  She was very insightful, inspiring and an absolute pleasure to talk with.  She's accepting queries...so read on and take heart! 

We all know ebooks are changing the publishing industry.  Sarah affirms they're definitely having an impact on publishing but they aren't to be fear or scorned.  She reminds us that there was a time when books were illustrated manuscripts made by their creator.  People had to deal with a move to print.  Going back even further, all stories were told verbally without paper.  Things change.  The one thing that doesn't change is "the need for humans to hear story."  Whatever medium those stories come to us is just fine.  We must, "save what's worth saving, embrace technology and make it beautiful".  The only thing she feels needs to be changed about ebooks is the amount of money authors make from their work.  "That will have to change."  (I agree!)
Her final thought on ebooks and publishing right now, "We're a little lost in the rapids right now but we'll find the flow."
Talking about manuscripts and what she's interested in representing, she says, "Everything interests me."  She would love to see an illustrated novel for adults or YA or a fabulous mystery, but really, she loves a good story.  (Sarah Jane Freyman Agency does not currently represent children's authors other than Young Adult.)  They more recently added Young Adult to their list after she read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  She admits it was "one hell of a story."  The writing wasn't great but the story was and Sarah could see the market was shifting and she wanted to be part of the great work being done in the Young Adult market.
Sarah has been an agent since the 1970s.  To keep at a job for that long, a person must really love what they do.  Sarah's love for her job shone through as we talked.  For her, the best part about being an agent is "discovering new worlds and dipping into them."  She loves discovering a wonderful story and savoring that moment of wondering what it could be and how she can help to realize it's potential.  As a result, Sarah Jane Freyman is an editorial agency.  If the underlying story and the author's writing is good enough, she'll take on a client and offer editorial help to get it up to speed for the market.
Sarah's ideal client is simply a nice person.  If you're nasty, aggressive, or too touchy, don't query here.  Be willing to consider editorial advice and be polite.
Serious writers know the market is seemingly impossible to break into but Sarah offers hope.  She believes writers need to learn to write a good query letter and to seek outside help for their work if they need it.  (critique groups, outside editors, etc.)  Don't send in your work before it's ready!  Authors get a high from that completed manuscript and often want to send it out immediately.  Sit on your hands until the madness passes!  Although, Sarah says publishing is a paradox.  You have to strike a balance between sitting on your hands and leaping before you look.  Keep learning and never give up.  Learn from mistakes and try again. 

Thank you so much, Sarah for taking the time to talk with me!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gwen Hayes Interview

I recently picked up a book called Falling Under.  The cover is gorgeous, don't you agree? Here's some of the back cover copy:
"Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life, not allowed the same freedoms as the rest of the teenagers in the small California town of Serendipity Falls.  But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, she feels every urge she's ever denied burning through her at the slightest glance from Haden Black.  Theia knows she's seen Haden before - not around town, but in her dreams."

That, alone, sounds pretty compelling, right?  For better or for worse, it's taken me so darn long to revise my novel that I've started reading books that have similar elements to make sure I haven't been trumped.  It scares me to read these books until, phew, I discover they're completely different than mine.  However, books like Falling Under aren't only different than mine, but written so beautifully that I find myself getting lost in the writing, then going back to figure out how she did that.  Gwen Hayes is a masterful storyteller.  Her characters are well drawn and interesting.  (The supporting cast is a riot!)  The descriptions are not too lengthy but gripping.  Each chapter ends with a mini-cliffhanger.  (I did some heavy revising on my chapter endings after I put this book down.  Thanks, Gwen!)  Books like this become instant inspiration for me and the authors become heroic, in my eyes.  (this includes the other authors I've interviewed here.)  So, I highly recommend reading Falling Under if you're looking for a dark, beautifully written paranormal romance.  The scenes will not quickly leave your mind.  If you don't believe me, here's the first sentence of the book, "Everything changed the night I saw the burning man fall from the sky."  Amazing!  And if that doesn't catch your attention, just wait until you find out who the burning man is and how she describes him.  So, without further gushing, here's my interview with the brilliantly talented, Gwen Hayes.

RW (Restless Writer): In your acknowledgements, you admit that it scared you to write this book. I know what scared me reading it, but what scared you about writing it?
GH (Gwen Hayes):  When Falling Under started haunting me, I was busy writing a romantic comedy. I wasn't quite prepared for all the dark, twisty things...I thought I was going to write funny books. It was scary because it seemed like such a stretch for me and I was afraid I was going to blow it. Also...I totally creeped myself out.
RW: What was your first inspiration/idea for this book? 
GH: The first scene with the burning man wouldn't leave me alone. I had no idea what I was embarking on...but that is the original idea.
RW: I was blown away by the pacing and the fantastic chapter endings.  As a writer, it makes me wonder how much was changed in the editing process.  Are there major difference, that surprised you, between the version you first submitted and the final? 
GH: Thank you! I do like to end my chapter and scene endings with a reason to turn the page. :) As for revisions, the first version is unrecognizable. For instance, Madame Varnie came about as a surprise during revisions. And what a surprise Varnie is, right?
RW:  Within the book, Theia makes a comment about vampires who sparkle in the sunlight.  Are you a Twilight fan?  (if yes, team Edward or Jacob?) Did it have any influence on how you told Theia’s story? 
GH: I really enjoyed Twilight. I think Stephenie Meyer does a great job connecting people to the story. And I always felt that Jacob was kind of whiny...so def. Team Edward.
RW:  As a mother of young children, I’m fascinated how other moms make time for their writing.  How do you do it? 
GH:  My kids were 11 and up when I began writing, so I have no idea how women with wee ones do it. My husband is the reason I can write, though. He takes care of everything and reminds me to eat when I'm writing. 
RW:  How long did it take you to complete Falling Under, find an agent, sell it and when did you start the sequel? 
GH:  The book took about 6 months to write, and I got an agent less than a month later. I know this is not typical. I know this because I had been querying agents for some time before this book. Penguin bought the book 3 months after I acquired my agent. It all went super duper fast.
RW:  Amazon reviewers, even the negative ones, agree that the world of Under is a unique and interesting place.  Was it easy to write about such a creepy, dangerous place? 
GH:  Well, yes and no. The Under scenes came pretty easily writing wise, but they sometimes left me unsettled. 
RW:  Amazon reviewers also agree that the supporting characters are awesome.  Varnie alone is so interesting I can imagine his own series of books.  How do you keep your amazing supporting cast in check while you tell Theia’s story?  Do they ever try to get more of the spotlight? 
GH:  In a lot of ways, it's just as much their story as Theia's....we're just looking at it through Theia's eyes. And I don't think Theia could function without her best friends, so they are very important to the way she sees her story. 
RW:  Do you belong to any professional organizations?  If yes, how have they impacted your career? 
GH:  I belong to RWA-Romance Writers of America. It's a strong, empowering organization. I'm very proud of the fact that I write romance.
RW:  What are a few of the last great books you’ve read and what struck you about them? 
GH:  I just finished revisions (I don't read much YA while I'm writing YA), so I'm really looking forward to TEXAS GOTHIC by Rosemary Clement-Moore which I shipped to myself last week when she gave me a copy at a conference...and now I have to wait for it to get home. :)
RW:  These days, everyone imagines their favorite books as movies.  Do you have an ideal cast in your head for Falling Under? 
GH:  ARGH...I suck at this question. No...I really don't know the young actors these days, but trust if there is ever a movie, the ideal cast will make it their own. Also, I wouldn't mind it being a Tim Burton movie. I think he would understand Under very well.
Thank you so much, Gwen, for taking the time from revisions to do this interview.  Everyone, keep an eye out for Dreaming Awake, the sequel to Falling Under, coming out in 2012.   For more info. on that, and to see the amazing cover for Dreaming Awake, visit Gwen's website.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Shelley Watters Agent Critique contest!

That Shelley Watters is at it again!  She's got another agent judged contest going on and I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a shot.  I've majorly rewritten my first page.  Well, it feels major to me anyway.  This is 356 words, rather than 250, but heck, this is my blog so I figured I'd post what a saw fit.  Here it is, see what you think. 

Title: Dream Girl
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Word Count: 74,171

Chapter 1.

    I’d imagined it forever but when the time came, I wasn’t prepared for my gothic fantasies to become real. For most of my eighteen years, things were as normal as the Cheerios I’d eaten for breakfast.  The day I met Gabriel started out no different.  My alarm had gone off. I’d gone through the same old morning routine.  Checked my phone for new texts from my best friend, Tiffany.  Listened to a voice mail from my mom and left my apartment the same way I always did: wondering WWJE do? (What would Jane Eyre do?) 
    That particular morning, I drove to work wondering how Jane Eyre would spend the summer after graduating high school. Summer stretched out before me like a lazy cat. I really hoped I could figure out what to major in at college. I didn’t have to decide until next year, but it would be nice to have it squared away and know where my life was heading. I always like a concrete goal to work toward.   
My thoughts had to wait when, ten minutes late, as usual, I hustled into the public library, my workplace for the past three years.  Ditching my purse in my locker, I strode into the workroom, an open space populated by cubicles for the librarians and long tables for the support staff.  I held my breath as I scurried past the row of supervisor offices on my right.  The last thing I wanted was one of them to notice I wasn’t manning the circulation desk already.
Escaping detection in supervisor alley, I made it to the staff copy room, where our mailboxes resided.  Hoping to duck in to retrieve my nametag, I discovered my boss, Laura Faust, talking to a guy who wore his brown tee shirt and rumpled jeans really well.  At least, he looked good from behind, which was all I could see of him.
            I tried to inconspicuously snake my arm around them to access my mailbox but Laura stopped me. 
            “Christine,” she said.  “I’d like you to meet Gabriel, our new page.”
            “Nice to meet you,” Gabriel said as he turned toward me.