Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cover Reveal! Corrine Jackson's IF I LIE

Squee! I'm super excited about Corrine Jackson's upcoming book, IF I LIE. Even moreso now that she's revealed the cover. Isn't it pretty?

Here's the summary of IF I LIE:

A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception.

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Author Interview: Dawn Rae Miller, Young Adult author

Dawn Rae Miller

Today I have the pleasure of talking to Dawn Rae Miller, author of Larkstorm, a book I’m really excited about. Larkstorm is an amazing un-putdownable book, with an incredibly romantic and tense love story, edge of your seat action and high stakes fantasy. Ooh, and did I mention the awesome magic – and witches? Truly amazing, pick up your copy asap!

But before you do, read below for Dawn’s insights on writing, publishing and Larkstorm. Also, Dawn was kind enough to offer to answer any reader questions, so if you have anything to ask her, leave it in the comments and she'll stop by later to answer!

Here’s a brief synopsis of Larkstorm:

In the years following the destructive Long Winter, when half the world’s population perished, the State remains locked in battle against the Sensitives: humans born with extra abilities.

As one of the last descendants of the State’s Founders, seventeen-year-old Lark Greene knows her place: study hard and be a model citizen so she can follow in her family’s footsteps. Her life’s been set since birth, and she’s looking forward to graduating and settling down with Beck, the boy she’s loved longer than she can remember.

However, after Beck is accused of being Sensitive and organizing an attack against Lark, he disappears. Heartbroken and convinced the State made a mistake, Lark sets out to find him and clear his name.

But what she discovers is more dangerous and frightening than Sensitives:

She must kill the boy she loves, unless he kills her first.

Hi Dawn! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, Larkstorm. What was your inspiration for the story of Larkstorm?

My inspiration was boredom. My husband travels frequently and one evening I decided to try to write a book. From the beginning I knew I wanted to write an anti-instalove love story. I wanted to take two people who meant everything to each other and rip them apart. And I wanted to write about witches because my son believes he’s going to grow up to be a wizard.

You have an incredibly strong and intense narrator who slowly but surely learns tons about her own strengths as the book progresses. Tell us a bit about how Lark came to be. Do you share any of her qualities?

Lark came to me quickly. But what’s strange – to me, at least – is that Beck took shape simultaneously. I couldn’t write Lark without writing Beck and vice versa. I needed to know how they’d both react to situations.

As for similar qualities? I’m short. And very determined. 

Larkstorm has such a wonderful setting. Being in dystopian, snowy SF is fun to read, but it really came alive for me when they get to Summer Hill? What made you choose these two settings? Are they based anywhere real? I’d personally love to visit Summer Hill, well, maybe when Lark and Beck aren’t there together…

I live in San Francisco near the Presidio which is where Lark’s home is located. I love hiking through the eucalyptus, and the views of the Bay are breathtaking. The area is ringed with San Francisco mansions. It seemed like the perfect place to set a school and The State’s headquarters.

As for Summer Hill, I spend a large chunk of my summer in Northern Michigan. My house is at the top of a hill with a forest of trees at the rear and rolling farmland at the front. I love it there – you can come visit anytime :D

I don’t want to be spoilery, but some of the Sensitives have some pretty cool powers. If you could have one power, what would it be?

Transportation. I’d love to be able to travel any place in the world in seconds.

Also, if you were a witch in the Larkstorm society, would you be light or dark?

I’d absolutely be Dark.

And, I just had to comment on the unbelievable sexual tension between Lark and Beck. How did you keep them from jumping each other’s bones? Tee hee. My heart raced in more than one scene, waiting for them to kiss.

Lark likes rules, and the rules say no physical contact between minors. But if it were up to Beck, they’d kiss all the time. But he respects her, even if it means he doesn’t get what he wants.

What was your favorite part of writing Larkstorm?

Revising. I loved getting deeper into the story, finding a new idea and weaving it in.

Most challenging?

Figuring out the history of the Channing family and what caused the two sides to split.

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I toyed with writing when I was a kid, but never thought much about it. I wrote for my school newspaper in high school and college, and took a writing for publication course in college. But after graduation I set that part of me away and focused on having a career and raising kids.

Larkstorm is the first book I wrote (I’ve written three more since, and two rough drafts that will be complete novels shortly). I don’t think I’m a good example because I started writing Larkstorm at the end of January 2010. I had multiple offers on that manuscript by April 6th and signed with Kathleen shortly after.

We spent two months revising and went out on sub. I think everyone, myself included, thought it would sell quickly because of how fast I found an agent and how much interest there was at that level. But we did three rounds over 9 months and all I had were R&R’s and failed editorial and acquisition boards. After a particularly hard month where we thought the book was going to sell and didn’t, I wanted to put it away.

At the end of August, Kathleen and I discussed trying hybrid publishing. The agency was behind me and I had nothing to loose, so I decided to go for it. I worked with an editor on macro edits as well as line edits to get the book ready for the real world.

Tell me how you felt when you first saw your cover? So many aspiring writers dream of their first book cover. That must have been a great moment.

To be honest, I’d seen several versions of the cover so there was no one moment of “THERE IT IS!” It was a quieter, “Ahhh…I like how she changed this to this,” kind of thing.

That said, I LOVE my cover. Sarah Marino, the cover designer took an idea I had and transformed it into a stunning visual.

What is the best part of the publishing process?

Getting to know other writers. I love how social and supportive the YA community is – which is why I waste hours on twitter.

Can you give us any hints about what happens in book 2? Also, when can I read it?:D

Lark is a very different girl in book 2. And keep an eye on Ryker in book 1 – he’s a major player in the next book.

Thanks Dawn! I’m looking forward to reading more exciting books from you in the future!

Click the Larkstorm cover below to purchase your copy. Hurry, you won’t regret it, and clear a lot of hours to stay up reading.:)

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Truly Creative Mind

Found this quote yesterday. I absolutely love it.:)

"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:

A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.

To him...

a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create - - - so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating." -Pearl Buck-

Monday, July 11, 2011

Author Interview, Liz Michalski

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Liz Michalski, author of Evenfall. Read below for Liz’s insights on writing, publishing and Evenfall. Also, Liz was kind enough to offer to answer any reader questions, so if you have anything to ask her, leave it in the comments and she'll stop by later to answer them!

Cross a Murphy woman and she'll haunt you the rest of your days.

That's what they say in Hartman, Connecticut, where the Murphy women are known for their beauty, willfulness, and disastrous luck with men. No one knows the truth of this saying better than Frank Wildermuth. Fifty years ago, he fell in love with Gert Murphy, but through fate and bad timing wound up married to her sister. He spent the rest of his life quietly regretting his mistake. Now Frank's dead --dead, that is, but not quite gone.

All Andie Murphy ever wanted was to get out of town. But she’s back to settle Evenfall, her Uncle Frank’s estate, where some things never change -- and some things have changed a lot. Aunt Gert, for example, still drives her crazy. On the other hand, Cort, the wide-eyed farmboy she used to babysit, is all grown up -- with a whole new definition for the word sleepover.

But if you're a Murphy woman, love never goes smoothly. As Andie struggles with her feelings, Frank sees a chance for redemption -- one that could cost his niece dearly. They'll both need to decide --

Is true love really everlasting? Is home a physical location, or a place you carry in your heart? And if you truly regret your mistakes, can your deepest dreams come true?

Hi Liz! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, Evenfall. What was your inspiration for the story of Evenfall?

I woke up with the first few lines of the novel in my head one morning. I didn't have any plans for them, but I wrote them down. A few weeks later I was touring a home much like Evenfall, and realized the ghost from those lines would be perfectly at home there.

Finally, I was living in a beautiful rural area, and I could see it start to change as developers came along. Evenfall, which is set in Connecticut farmland, was a way to hold onto that.

You have three incredible narrators. What came into your decision to write this from multiple point of views. How difficult was that?

I knew, from those first lines that started the book, that Frank would be first person. Gert is such a strong character that I decided to keep her in third person, so as not to overpower him. Andie's voice evolved as I went along. Having three different narrators was hard to balance sometimes, but it was useful in that they each had information the others didn't, which allowed me to tell the story more completely.

I loved all your narrators, but I will admit I had a soft spot for Gert and thought her character was just wonderful. Which narrator is your favorite, if you had to choose? Also, which is the most like you?

Oh, I have a hard time choosing! I do like Gert, though -- she reminds me of those New England Yankee women you see in movies like Adam's Rib. And Andie is so lost, it's hard not to root for her.

Speaking of characters, you had a few animal characters in this book. I know you’re an animal lover. Any of your own pets represented in these pages?

I've had a fascination with goats since one tried to eat my dress when I was five, so it was fun to find a way to put them into the book. Unfortunately, livestock isn't allowed where I live now, much to my husband's relief.

And I've always loved big brown dogs like Nina - she's based on several dogs I actually owned. (Actually, I put together a whole 'secret page' on my website about Nina for readers who like the book. If they e-mail me at, I'll send them the link!)

Oh, and… the love interest, Cort. Yummy. He was a very swoony love interest. Not really a question, but just felt it was worth mentioning. Watching Andy reconnect with him was quite fun!

Evenfall has one, er, steamy bit with Cort and Andie, and I can always tell when friends have read it -- they're like "Ummm, about that scene..." Or they just say the page number and smile. My lovely kindergarten teacher came to one of my readings, and when she bought the book, all I could think was "Oh, no!" :)

Evenfall has such a wonderful and unique setting. Is it based anywhere real?

It is, actually. I spent about 10 years in rural Connecticut, and Evenfall is based on that area of the country. It's quite beautiful -- I drove through there last summer with my daughter and she kept saying "Mom, it's so green!" Just fields and fields in some places.

What was your favorite part of writing Evenfall?

I think creating characters I can care about, who wind up haunting my dreams a bit, is the best part about writing.

Most challenging?

Creating enough tension to move the reader from page to page, chapter to chapter.

Reading Evenfall, I often felt myself often wanting the things she writes about on her farm, particularly with the canned peaches and the homemade tart she made to share with Cort. What are some of your favorite goodies/snacks?

Kettle-popped popcorn with real butter and salt. Pizza. Anything with tomato sauce, actually. And on the beach, at least twice a year, I have to have a frozen Snickers bar and a cold Coke.

What can we expect from you in the future. Any projects underway?

I'm just under 100 pages into my next book. It's a little more magical than Evenfall. It's about a family where, in every generation, one daughter develops the ability to make things disappear -- to wish things away. It makes adolescence and all those mother-daughter fights particularly interesting. : )

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I've always written -- I was a reporter, then an editor, then a freelancer for a long time. As a reporter, I always liked the character-driven pieces best -- the interviews with people who were a little different, a little exciting. I think writing my own story was just a natural outgrowth from that.

Tell us about your journey to getting an agent.

I was extremely fortunate. When I was about halfway through my manuscript, I attended a writing conference (Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace in Boston). I'd signed up for a critique of my first 20 pages with an agent. I wanted to make the most of my chances, so I researched all the agents who were attending, and found one that I thought would be a great fit. He liked what I'd written and agreed to see the rest when I'd finished. I sent it to him, and he signed me a few months later.

And how about finding your publisher?

My agent worked with me for about a year on revisions -- he has a wonderful ear for nuance. He sent it out, and he had an offer within a few days. I've been really, really lucky. BUT -- and it's a big but -- I feel like I need to tell aspiring authors not to get discouraged -- I spent years working on this story. A lot of them! So although it looks like it all happened very quickly, a lot of hard work went into getting to that point.

Tell me how you felt when you first saw your cover? I have to say yours is one of the prettiest I’ve seen in a while and captures both the general feel/theme of your book as well as the story. That must have been a great moment.

The cover was one of the most exciting moments for me -- I actually screamed when I opened the e-mail. I absolutely love it. Which is kind of funny, because it was the exact opposite of what I'd envisioned. I'd thought it would be kind of pale and ghostly, but the saturated color pops so well and the image totally captures the story, so it shows what I know. : )

What is the best part of the publishing process?

Besides being lucky enough to have my book published? I'd have to say it's the people I've met. To connect with other writers and book lovers has been pretty amazing. (Present company included, Jenn!) Aw, thanks, Liz.:)

The worst?

Hmmm. As a debut author, the challenge of getting my name out there has been daunting at times, particularly since I tend to be a little shy. I'm lucky, though - my family, especially my mother, has no qualms about telling people to check out my book! : )

Thanks Liz! I’m looking forward to reading more exciting books from you in the future!

Jenn, Thank you so much!

Click the cover below to order Evenfall, and be sure to check out Liz's website or find her on Facebook.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meadowland Review - Spring Issue Now Live

The spring issue of The Meadowland Review is now live. Check it out for a great selection of fiction, poetry and original art and photography.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

For Writers, An Impossible Choice

Last weekend, at an author event/panel I had the pleasure of going to, someone in the audience asked a question that got me thinking and that I’ve since discussed with other writers, so I figured I’d throw it out here and see what my blogger friends have to say. And, for the record, most of the authors on the panel seemed to feel the impossibility of the choice as much us in the audience. Anyway, here goes:

If you could either never write or never read again, which would you choose?

Wow. I know, right? Nearly impossible.

I just can’t pick. I keep going back and forth.

The year after my first son was born I did very little reading and didn’t write at all. Once I got used to balancing things a bit more, I started doing both again. It was then that I realized when I’m writing/creating, is when I most feel like me. It’s my escape and my true love and where my heart and soul are. It’s everything I am, I think. And well, it fulfills me in a way that hardly anything else does. I don’t think I could stop writing.

But reading – wow. There is nothing like reading either. And well, as great as writing is, it is work and reading is nothing but pleasure and enjoyment and well, if I could never, ever get lost in a book again – where would I be? No. There’s no way I could give up reading. Ever.

So, basically, I have no idea. As one of the authors on the panel said, can I choose death?

It’s nearly impossible, at least for me.

So what would you choose?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Are You Afraid Of?

Everyone is scared of something. Whether it's your typical claustrophobia/death/heights,etc. or something more specific or uncommon, we all have something that churns our fears. Maybe something that gives us nightmares.

Call this post part curiosity and part research. As a writer who likes to write the scary, creepy stuff, I love to tap into what makes people squirm - and scream. Stephen King's IT would never have been so popular if so many people didn't find clowns terrifying. In my current WIP I have a scene with a picture that moves and more than one beta commented that this is something that has always really creeped them out. Which got me thinking about what other little nuances make people scared.

So you tell me - what are you afraid of?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Writer’s Guide to Surviving the Emocoaster. Plus, How Reading Helps and Hinders Us.

Writing and self doubt go together like Nutella and a spoon.

Writers, naturally full of doubt, introspection, and self-criticisms, are often strapped in tightly to the emocoaster (emotional roller coaster). The range of emotions over the course of a writing project, or a period of querying or editor submission, or even a single week or day can vary wildly. One minute you’re in love with a project, it’s the greatest thing you’ve ever written no seriously I love this story, and the next, you’re ready to tear out your hair, gouge your eyeballs and drink a drano cocktail to rid the world of another hack writer (okay, a bit dramatic, but you get my point.).

The highs are high, the lows are low, the little self-doubt monster continues surfing on the swell of emotions that comes in droves, driven by the constant back-burner wrangling of fears: will I make it? Will I ever be good enough?

On a good writing day, you’re riding high, and it’s easy to banish the thoughts, but one little slip up: a bad writing day, a batch of particularly negative beta comments, an agent/editor rejection, a bad review, whatever, can send the emocoaster plummeting once again.

And then there’s those times where you’re stuck in one pattern or another, either sailing on the whoo hoo my writing rocks breeze or sloshing through the I suck sewers and just trying to get through the fricken first draft, when you happen to read a great book, one that grabs you and pulls on every emotion, has you rereading lines and whole passages because the language is that beautiful, but you’re flying through it anyway because the plot and tension are amazing too and you finish and put it down and are so smitten with the book that you broodingly stare at it and want to break down in tears because:

Damn it will I ever write like that?

Here’s the thing about reading. For a writer, there is nothing as useful as reading, and reading a heck of a lot. It keeps ideas fresh, keeps us current on what’s happening in the reading world, and, duh – writers are readers – it’s fun, too. Plus, there are things you really can’t just know or learn any other way. It’s one of those you’ll know it when you see it things. Things like story flow, plotting, pacing, dialogue, tension, action, emotion, relationships, climax, characterizations, sentence structure, plot structure, mythology, and gosh, the list could go on forever. These things soak in when you read, whether you're consciously looking for them or not.

But reading can hinder us too. I tear through books pretty quickly but I find that when I read too much, too fast, my head starts getting too crowded with ideas. If I’m really taken by one author’s metaphors, but the next book amazed by another’s tone, and the following week swimming in awesome voice and dialogue and next floored by descriptions… etc., I start looking at my ms like I need to fix everything at once. It’s overwhelming.

I know many of us do this comparison thing, so here’s what I’ve learned to remember:

When I am first drafting, I have to slow down my reading DRASTICALLY. Too many different voices interfere with mine, and if it’s anything even close to my genre/story, my muse is off balance, stumbling along like she sucked down way too many books at last call.

Also, when reading a published novel, it’s good to always keep in mind: it’s been written, rewritten, revised like hell (most likely) and edited by many industry professionals. Your book? The one you’re crying and thinking sucks? Most likely it’s a draft – go easy on yourself. Just finish the thing, then freak out.:D

Relax. Ride the emocoaster when you have to, allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel before letting it go. Like I tell my kids, we can’t control the outside forces that make us feel what we feel, we can only control our reactions to them. A rejection, beta comments that bring us down, or a beautifully written book we feel we can never aspire to. Whatever it is, let it soak in, accept it, have some chocolate/wine/cheese doodles/etc. and then move on. We all have our down days and rejection and writing can beat us up, but just keep pounding away at the keyboard and finish that draft so that someday, it’s your book people are sighing over and underlining in and putting on the shelf for a second, third or fourth read someday.

So up up up we climb again, until the emocoaster takes another dive.

But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reading Your Novel Backwards

Hello lovely blogger friends -

I’ve been a horrible blogger, I know. It’s just that I’m still in the revising cave – it seems I’ve got a permanent residence here now. But since moving into my new revision digs, I’ve had many revising revelations. It seems with each project, and even each round of revisions, I seem to discover something new.

So my topic this week is REVISING BACKWARDS! I know – it sounds crazy. And honestly? It very well could be.

But here’s the thing. I’ve always had a pretty good time with revising the Big Stuff. You know, plot, continuity, consistency, pacing. But what was lacking, round after round of revisions was the mechanical stuff I was trying to iron out: sentence structures, crutch words I didn’t see, character voice inconsistencies, etc.

And that’s when I realized I was getting lost in the woods of my drafts. Because I knew the story so well and because I was so focused on the “read-through” and trying to see everything at once, I was missing some of the little stuff, which let’s face it, if that stuff doesn’t work in the end, it can very much become the big stuff and make or break your ms.

So now I’m reading backwards! Not really backwards, exactly, but yeah, backwards.

I started at the last chapter and am going chapter by chapter, from end to start.

Yes, I am aware this means I am adding a step and will have to do another read-through the right way when I’m done. And yes, it is slow-going, because I’m seeing so much more this way and rewriting much.

But doing this is helping me forget about the story and focus on the words, to concentrate on the structure of individual sentences and character voices and throw plot development, pacing and flow out the window (for now).

Looking at each chapter/scene alone, instead of part of the whole really helps to isolate the scene and to find what works and doesn’t within that confined space. Once each is polished, I’ll string them all together again and get back to looking at the whole and focusing on the big picture.

How about you? Have you ever read your ms backwards?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Author Interview: Alice Loweecey, Mystery Author

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Alice Loweecey, Mystery Author of Force of Habit (A Falcone and Driscoll investigation). Read below for her insights on writing and publishing! If you have any comments or questions for her, leave your info in the comments and she’ll stop by later.

Before we get started with the interview, here’s a bit about Force of Habit:

Giulia Falcone is convinced she's going to Hell. First, because she left the convent. Second, her new job with a private investigator has her sneaking around and lying. Adjusting to life in the outside world isn't easy. Makeup, dating, and sex are all new to her. And despite a crush on her boss Frank Driscoll—a foul-mouthed, soft-hearted ex-cop—Giulia is sure he'd never fall for an ex-nun.

Her first case involves drop-dead handsome Blake Parker, a man with immense wealth and an ego to match. He and his fiancée are getting disturbing "gifts" with messages based on biblical verses. When Giulia is drawn into the stalker's twisted game, salacious photos of her appear, threatening her job and her friendship with Frank. No one imagines—least of all naïve Giulia—the danger ahead, when following the clues turns into a fight for her life.

Hi Alice! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, Force of Habit. What was your inspiration for this novel?

Thanks for having me!

I queried a well known agent with my first book, a religious horror, mentioning in my query that I was an ex-nun and thus knew religion. He passed, but suggested that he’d like to see a mystery starring an ex-nun who solves crimes. I dismissed that suggestion initially, because “I wrote horror.”

However, the idea percolated in my head, and wouldn’t leave me alone. Eight months later I had Force of Habit. I queried the same agent with it, he asked for the first three chapters—and passed. In the politest way possible, too. Ya gotta laugh.

Guila is such an awesome character. When reading FoH, I found myself really routing for her, both in her personal quest for identity resolution, her attempts at romance, and of course in her debut as a detective in training. Authors often pull character traits from themselves or someone they know. How many of Guila’s attributes were inspired by you or someone you know?

Very few. The similarities to me are: She was a Franciscan nun, and so was I. Giulia is much more uptight and repressed than I ever was. However, some nun traits are universal and enduring. For instance, about fifteen years after I left the convent, a priest told me I still “stood” like a nun. Force of Habit is fiction—my characters come out of my bizarre and dark brain and nowhere else.

FoH is a fun, fast-paced story and we get to follow Guila through many unexpected events that lead to both the discovery of the stalker she investigates and finding out things about herself. These two sides of her are woven seamlessly together, appealing to both types of readers. I really enjoyed that juxtaposition of emotional growth and mystery/action. Are these the same types of books you’re also drawn to as a reader? What are your favorite books/authors?

Absolutely. I always prefer books that blend genres. One of my favorite writers was Patricia Wentworth. She wrote dozens of light mysteries with a touch of romance. However, my real writing inspiration is HP Lovecraft. He wrote the creepiest psychological horror. You can’t really overlook the fact that he was a snob and a bigot, but some of his stories still give me a shiver in broad daylight.

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

High school, I think. That was when I started writing a bit of everything: Poetry, plays, short stories, the beginnings of novels. I searched for my voice and imitated my favorites (HP Lovecraft, Lloyd Alexander). Writing was something I did every free moment because I loved it. Perhaps my lightbulb moment came when one of my poems won first place in a local women’s organization contest. Earning money for writing was a new experience for me. I realized if I could get to this point once, I could get to it again. That was a very good day.

What was your favorite part of writing FoH?

Surprisingly, the gamer parts. I’m not a gamer and don’t know the first thing about them. Fortunately, I work with some hardcore gamers. I did a bunch of online research and sat at the feet (figuratively) of one to learn the basics. It’s a whole ‘nother culture.

Most challenging?

The attempted rape scene and its aftermath. I had to get into my MC’s head for that and it was a scary place for a chapter or two.

Tell us about your journey to getting an agent.

Fast-forward past the convent and theater and marriage and kids. In 2006, I had a finished novel that I thought was All That. A thorough critique by a published writer cured me of that. (She and I are friends to this day, despite the fact that she writes sweet Christian fiction and that particular novel was my religious horror, which one critiquer refused to read while alone in the house.)

In 2007, after 2 complete rewrites and invaluable help from the regulars on the Absolute Write Water Cooler, I began querying. I found a new agent who loved the book. A year later, that agent quit the business and I was back to square one. However, I had three complete novels by this time and several layers of rhino hide. I was ready to hit the query trail again.

That was in September of 2008. I researched every agency that represented one of the genres of my books (mystery, paranormal, and horror). I sent out queries in batches of six, ready to send a new query out for every rejection or non-response. I gave each query three months. If I heard nothing by that time, I assumed it was a pass and crossed them off my list. This turned into roller-coaster time. I got requests for partials and fulls. I also got form rejections on requested fulls (ouch!). I got two offers to revise and resubmit on two different books. I had one agent love my characters and another say they were bland. It truly is a subjective business.

Then in spring of 2009, I sent a "Why not?" query to Kent D. Wolf, an agent whose list of sales and genres he was seeking looked interesting. The next day, he called to request the full of the mystery. (Agents don't normally call for that. I was a bit startled.) Two days later, he called to discuss the book, the characters, the convent, and how I felt about revising. (Is the sky blue? Of course I was willing to revise!) Two days after that, he called to offer representation.

Six days. Okay, to be technical, a total of four years, 185 rejections, and six days.

And how about finding your publisher?

My submission story went faster. We went on sub in June. 6 months and something like 8 passes later, we sold to Midnight Ink. An agent who knew and loved my genre, had sales in it, and knew the people involved in it was my goal, and it paid off. I have to plug Absolute Write again, because the pros and amateurs there gave advice, critiqued, held my hand during the rejections, and did it freely because we're all fellow writers and we're all in this together. Without them, my journey would've been much longer.

What is the best part of the publishing process?

All the great people I’m working with. My editor is so much fun and full of great ideas for making my book read even better. My production/copyeditor, who’s just as intensely picky as I am. The thrill of seeing my first page proofs. Holding a real ARC. Holding a real, final version. Walking into a Barnes & Noble and seeing my book—mine!—on the shelf.

The worst?

Those gremlins of self-doubt. They pop up out of nowhere and you’re never really prepared for them. They whisper in your ear that you’re not really a good writer, that it’s a fluke, that no one will ever buy your book, that you should’ve stayed home in obscurity reading books, because you don’t have the talent to write anything more than a grocery list. It takes tenacity and determination and much gritting of teeth. This is where fellow writers are invaluable. They understand the gremlins and are there for those times as well as the celebratory moments.

Can you give us a hint of what we can expect from book two in the series? And when is it coming out?

In book 2, Giulia’s going undercover—in the convent. It’s nothing like Sister Act! There will be catfights, oppression, clashing personalities, and gratuitous pawing of lacy underwear. Stay tuned!

Any last advice for any writers out there?

Never give up! Never surrender! (With thanks to the movie Galaxy Quest.) I had some brain-melting setbacks in my drive to see my name on a shelf in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. But if it had been easy, then seeing my book on those shelves wouldn’t be as sweet.

Also, find some fellow writers, online or in meatspace. This business is like the roller coaster from Hell sometimes, and fellow screaming coaster passengers make it easier.

Thanks Alice! Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top 20 Ways Writing is like Motherhood

For those who follow my blog regularly, you know the two roles I hold most dear. Mommy and writer. Both are wonderful and such an ingrained part of who I am. But, both drive me bonkers too. Here are the top twenty ways I find the roles to be the same.:) So when you’re in between hugging your little ones and writing your masterpiece, check these out.

Balancing the two most important WIPs in your life (children and books).

20. Let’s start with the obvious. To do either well, you have to be at least a little crazy. Once you make either decision, there’s no turning back. And if you’re really, truly, committed to either, you may, in fact, end up committed.

19. It hurts! Both are incredibly painful to birth. Both come with their set of painkillers, however.

18. Creativity is paramount. Just as you can’t recycle plots, characters, or played out storylines, neither can you (in my case anyway), expect your kids to be satisfied with the same old same old. I’m always trying to come up with new games, new creative ways to have fun. Exhausting in either case, but really fun, too!

17. Critics. There will always be critics! Judging every choice you make. Every single thing you do in raising your kids. Every word you write. You can’t please them all, so work your hardest and don’t listen to the chatter when you’ve finished.

16. Crap everywhere. Bad grammar, dirty diapers, run on sentences, repeated words, flat characters, potty training, adverbs, having to find a restroom within a moment’s notice and overused dialogue tags. There is crap everywhere. So. Much. Crap. Clean it up. Move on.

15. Rejection Hurts. Writers get rejected. A lot. It’s kinda what we do when we’re not writing. And it hurts like hell when someone puts our work down. Our creation, our “baby.” But when someone puts our real kids down, it hurts even more. Boo to rejection.

14. Dichotomy of emotions. You never realized you could love something so much yet inexplicably want to mutter curses under your breath half the time you’re around it.

13. Multitasking. Get used to it. You will NEVER think straight again.

12. Hello wall, how are you today! No one listens. Rules are basically out the window. They are in control. Or at least, you are definitely not in control. Characters, outlines, plots, children. Everyone runs amuck.

11. Guilt. Going away without your kids for the weekend? Closing your word doc to start on an SNI? Bad Mommy! Bad Writer! Self guilt in effect.

10. You feel incredibly proud at the smallest accomplishment either makes and feel the inane need to share every little thing about your kids/manuscript with strangers (hint: no one cares.)

9. They both make you fat. No, no, it’s true. Whether it’s nibbling the cut off crusts off gooey grilled cheese sandwiches or soothing your writer soul with chocolate, those calories add up! Good thing the mom/writer uniform (sweats) is forgiving.

8. Discipline. Oh God I suck at this one. Getting your writer butt in the chair is hard! But not as hard as sticking to the rules set for your kids. Both, however, are unforgivingly necessary if you want to get anywhere with either. No backing down on this one.

7. Unlike regular day jobs, neither writing nor children leave you alone. Ever. The thing is, you secretly don’t want them to. You secretly revel in every second you spend together. You wouldn’t change either for the world. But seriously, I mean ever.

6. They tantrum, they whine, they don’t play nice. And guess who’s left to figure it out? Yes, mother. Yes, writer – you are!

5. Every single little choice matters. Every word, every metaphor, every period and semicolon. Every limit you place on your kids, every lesson, every moment you spend together, every bit of attention you give them. You can’t cut corners with either. People will notice and the end result if you do? Nowhere near as good as you could have done.

4. Your work is NEVER done. Ever. Ever. There is always a revision. There is always something breaking, or a fight to get in the middle of, or homework or snacks or an accident. A plot hole, a character that needs more depth. Roll up your sleeves and get back to work.

3. You work damn hard. As hard as you can. Some of it’s instinct, some of it’s skill. Some of it is merely from the heart. But you give it your all and when you put your product out into the real world, all you can do is hope you did your very best.

2. Coffee is the answer.

And the number one reason being a writer is like being a mom: If you’re good at either, really good, you’ll end up with a finished product that looks seamless, effortless, and like you hardly had to work for it at all.

So enjoy your children and your writing too. Give them both, time, love and attention and grow together.:)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Author Interview: K.A. Stewart, Urban Fantasy Author

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing K.A. Stewart, Urban Fantasy Author of A Devil in the Details (From the Jesse James Dawson Series). Read below for her insights on writing and publishing! If you have any comments or questions for her, leave your info in the comments and she’ll stop by later.

Before we get started with the interview, here’s a bit about A Devil in the Details:

Jesse James Dawson was an ordinary guy (well, an ordinary guy with a black belt in karate) – until the day he learned his brother had made a bargain with a demon. Jesse discovered there was only one way to save his brother: Put up his own soul as collateral and fight the demon to the death.

Jesse lives to free his brother and becomes part of a loose organization of champions who put their own souls on the line to help those who get in over their heads with demons. But now experienced champions are losing battles at a much higher rate than usual. Someone has changed the game. And if Jesse can’t figure out the new rules, his next battle may be his last.

Hi Kari! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, A Devil in the Details. What was your inspiration for this novel?

Jesse and his world were actually my hubby’s idea in the beginning. He’d been complaining about not being able to find the kind of UF books that he wanted to read, so I finally asked him, “Okay, what kind of hero DO you want to see?” Several hours later, Jesse was wandering around inside my head, telling me all kinds of neat stories.

Jesse is such an awesomely real character. When reading Devil, I found myself really liking him, both as a person and a hero. Plus, he’s sweet in an unconventional way, not to mention a total badass with some fun geeky hobbies. Authors often pull character traits from themselves or someone they know. How many of Jesse’s attributes were inspired by you or someone you know?

If you ask my friends, they’ll get into arguments over which Jesse traits are me, and which are my hubby. Seriously. Flat out brawls over the subject, I swear.

I will fully admit though, that Jesse’s zombie phobia is totally mine. Hate hate hate zombies. They freak me out in the worst possible way.

Most characters I come up with are at least a little bit like someone I know. Usually, a combination of several different people. The Dr. Bridget character, for example, is based around two of my friends, both of whom happen to be doctors.

People always come to me saying, “I know you based Character X on so-and-so” but it’s rarely ever true.

The setting(s) in the book also felt very real–What inspired your settings?

The first book is set in Kansas City, Jesse’s “home base” so to speak. It’s where I live at the moment, and the city itself is so huge and diverse that it offers a great range of possibilities. Pretty much any setting I need is available without too much stretching.

Most of the places I describe are based on real locations, though I’ve altered names and appearances to suit my own purposes. Any Kansas City native could probably figure out the real-life correlations if they put their minds to it.

In subsequent books, Jesse will be travelling quite a bit, so I hope that allows me to expand more, and imagine other places.

Devil is a fun, fast-paced story that goes in unexpected places. Are these the same types of books you’re also drawn to as a reader? What were your favorite books/authors?

Oh yeah. I think most writers write the things they love to read.

I’m pretty firmly entrenched in the fantasy/urban fantasy realm with my reading. I rarely stray out of my comfort genre, I fully admit.

Right now, my favorites include Stacia Kane’s Downside series, both of Jim Butcher’s series (Dresden Files and the Codex Alera), Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series, Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series, John Levitt’s Dog Days series.

I seem to have a series fetish.

And I’m always on the lookout for new stuff! There are amazing authors debuting every week, it seems, and I can hardly keep up with my reading wish list.

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t remember ever NOT wanting to be a writer. I know that I started reading fantasy at a very early age (I read The Hobbit in 1st grade), and I think that’s what set my feet on the path. I wrote my first “book”, a self-illustrated story about a family of rabbits surviving a flood, for a school project when I was about seven or eight.

I remember teaching myself to type on my mother’s old Brother typewriter, and hammering away at those keys for hours every night on this giant (truly horrible) epic fantasy/romance thing. I was…twelve? Maybe?

I always knew that I wanted to be published, but I also knew that my early stuff just wasn’t good enough. Didn’t stop me from writing it, of course, because sometimes those words just have to come out. But I didn’t seriously try to get published until Devil. Something just told me it was “the one”.

What was your favorite part of writing Devil?

All of it?

No, really, writing Devil was a joy right from the beginning, partly because I had it planned so well from the start. Devil was my first attempt at outlining a book before I wrote it, and now that I’ve done that, I’ve done it on every book written since and I don’t think I’ll ever do it another way again. It went so smoothly.

Most challenging?

The humor, I think. People don’t often have the same sense of humor I do, so I spent a lot of time checking with other people. “Is this really as funny as I think it is?”

Tell us about your journey to getting an agent.

I started querying Devil on the first of March, ’08. Over the next six months, I sent out 28 queries. I got rejections on about a third of those, no response on a third, and about a third asked to see more.

I actually sent a query to my now-agent toward the end of that period, in late August. He asked for the full within a couple days, which I sent. And because I was friends with another client of his, I knew he was going on vacation. So imagine my surprise when I got an email from him, FROM his vacation, saying how much he liked reading it and that he’d be in touch soon. There was a phone call, and on September 5, 2008, I signed with him.

And how about finding your publisher?

Well first, I did a couple rounds of revision for my agent. The first one was what I’ll call “medium” level, as in I added several major scenes, reworked one sub-plot completely, things like that. The second was more of a polish round, just tightening and tweaking.

We went out on sub late January/early February of ’09 (I think). I say “I think” because my agent didn’t keep me in the loop. It was a deliberate choice, because I’m a neurotic mess on my best days, so I figured it was easier for everyone involved if I just stayed out of it. On March 16th, he called to say we had an offer. So I think I was on sub for about 6 weeks.

In publishing time, that’s the equivalent of light speed. It actually went very fast.

What is the best part of the publishing process?

Oh, all of it! I love edit letters, ‘cause then I get to take what was a pretty good story to begin with and truly make it as awesome as I always knew it could be. Opening the email with my new cover art is like Christmas every time (and since they’ve both come shortly before my birthday, it’s extra awesome). I love how excited people are to read my little stories, and all the comments people make on Twitter and Facebook, anticipating the next one.

And the absolute best part of the process, from writing all the way through publishing, is all the friends I’ve made that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. In my experience, writers are one of the most generous, supportive groups around.

The worst?

The waiting. Oh gawd, the waiting. Things happen all at once, and then nothing for months. And then suddenly whoosh again!

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Very few people in the world get to do what they dream about, and I’m one of the lucky ones.

Can you give us a hint of what we can expect from book two in the series? And when is it coming out?

The second book in the series, A SHOT IN THE DARK, comes out on July 5, 2011, and the back cover reads like this:

Jesse James Dawson is a Champion, putting his life on the line for those foolish enough to bargain with demons and fighting to save their souls. But even a Champion needs some downtime, so Jesse takes his annual camping trip to Colorado for some male bonding over friendly games of paintball.

Unfortunately, the fun and war games are interrupted by a pack of creatures summoned up from the very depths of hell by an entity Jesse prayed he’d never see again. With the lives of his friends and a teenager’s soul on the line, Jesse’s only hope may like with an even more dangerous enemy – his personal demon, Axel.

Thanks Kari! Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter 2011 Issue of Meadowland Review Now Live!

The winter 2011 issue of The Meadowland Review is now live. Check out a great selection of poetry, fiction and artwork.

*P.S. Hope all my blogger friends are well. I'm deep in a writing/revising rush, but hope to catch up with you all on my blog and yours very soon.:)*

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Author Interview: Timothy Power, Middle Grade Author

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Timothy Power, middle grade author of The Boy Who Howled. Read below for Tim’s insights on writing and publishing! If you have any comments or questions for him, leave your info in the comments and he’ll stop by later.

Before we get started with the interview, here’s a bit about The Boy Who Howled: As far back as Callum can really remember, he's been living in the Wild as the furless mascot of a wolf pack. But when his pack sends him back to live with his own kind—humans—fitting in is quite a challenge. He doesn't remember English very well, so he accidentally says his name is "Clam." He's spent most of his life eating fresh-killed elk, so dining with vegetarians is tricky. And when he tries to impress the Alpha student in the school cafeteria by stealing food, people seem offended! A mix of wildness and humor, Timothy Power's inventive writing makes him a debut author to watch. And Callum's quest to find his place in a strange world will have readers rooting for him—when they're not howling with laughter.

Hi Tim! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, The Boy Who Howled. What was your inspiration for this novel?

Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for inviting me over for an interview.

The Boy Who Howled started out as a kind of writing exercise. Something got me thinking about the feeling we’ve all had as kids when we’re with our parents somewhere outside the home and suddenly find ourselves lost and alone, wondering where on earth Mom and Dad might be. I decided to begin with a boy who was someplace far from home, and then try to figure out how to get him back to his family safe and sound. I imagined his family lived in the city, and the farthest place from that were the woods, so that’s where I put him at the beginning of the story. The rest came together from there.

Callum is such a funny and real character. When reading TBWH, I found myself not only laughing along, but really rooting for him. He made me smile and giggle often. Authors often pull character traits from themselves or someone they know. How many of Callum’s attributes were inspired by you as a child or someone you know?

Naturally, Callum’s incredible intelligence was inspired directly by me. J The other attributes of his personality rose from his situation. In order for me as the author to get him safely home, I figured he had to be curious, and good at making connections, and had learned to be bold from his education in the ways of wolves.

Mrs. T-G is very bossy, and can be curt in a kind-hearted way. I would say there is something a little “Mary Poppins” about her. And she wears a long, sweeping coat of faux animal skin. I think that probably came from Cruella DeVille. But Mrs. T-G is a hero, not a villain!

World-famous wildlife wrangler Buzz Optigon is definitely a kooky version of the late, great Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin.

The setting(s) in the book also felt very real. What inspired your settings? I assume you’ve never lived with wolves in the woods.:) Tell us a bit about creating Callum’s world, both in the woods and out.

I basically wrote the story of Callum’s life in the Wild as if he were living at home with a human family, and then just changed the physical surroundings. Instead of a chair, for example, there was a rock, and instead of a nice meatloaf being served up for dinner, it was freshly killed elk.

What was your favorite part of writing TBWH?

I loved it whenever the opportunity arose to insert a joke or some kind of silliness. It was never my intention to obscure the serious underpinnings to Callum’s story, but I like a funny story more than anything.

Most challenging?

I found it really challenging to maintain the kind of suspended disbelief that allows the reader to accept Callum’s adventures as they happen, without stopping dead in their tracks with a frustrated “What the hey?”

TBWH is a wonderful story for middle grade readers. It’s so much fun to read and watch Callum on his adventure in what many readers undoubtedly laugh along with as everyday life for them/not so much for Callum. What type of young reader were you? What were your favorite books/authors?

I read like crazy when I was young. I loved Edward Eager’s books, and Louise Fitzhugh is a personal hero. I still read as much middle grade as I can. I love fantasy, and also serious adventures, but my favorites are stories that are scary and funny at the same time. One of my recent faves is Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror from the Black Ship. And I love Dr. Cuthbert Soup’s A Whole Nother Story.

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I have always written, from a very young age. I wrote my first novel when I was 12. An excerpt can be found on my blog. Sadly, it was not received favorably by my family members. My sister’s opinion of it was especially damning. But I was undaunted, and remained so for the nearly half a century it took me to get any professional interest in my writing.

Tell us about your journey to getting an agent.

I queried far and wide, according to Miss Snark’s advice. And the MS was far and widely rejected. A few agents reacted positively, but felt it wasn’t right for them. A few didn’t understand the book, or failed to connect with the voice. One agent memorably explained to me that she didn’t understand how the wolves were talking, since wolves don’t speak English. And she repped children’s books! Of course, in TBWH Callum imagines what the wolves are saying after interpreting their body language. He uses the voice in his head. Jennifer DeChiara called me out of the blue one day, and right away I could tell that she totally “got” it. I was honored to accept her offer of representation.

And how about finding your publisher?

It took some time for the MS to find a home. A few houses already had “wolf” books on their lists and passed. The wise and wonderful Margaret Miller at Bloomsbury connected immediately to the voice and story and the rest is children’s lit history!

What is the best part of the publishing process?

The best part is hearing someone say they laughed out loud while reading the book. I’ve heard from a few people who say they NEVER laugh out loud while reading a book but DID when reading TBWH. That’s great!

The worst?

That entire civilizations can come and go while waiting for THE SLIGHTEST LITTLE THING to happen in the publishing process.

Can you give us a hint of what you’re working on now? What can we expect to read from you next?

I have a second book currently under consideration at Bloomsbury, but I don’t want to jinx it by saying anything! Fingers crossed, though.

Thanks Tim! Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!