Monday, January 19, 2015

Sudden Impact!

So much going on, as usual.

Had an awesome time with Julie Flanders at the Bookfest at Icefest this weekend! Met some cool new authors and even sold a few books. Two funny stories. One - everyone thought I was so professional because of my banner, ha! And second, I had some plastic toy horns to give away to kids, and one little guy ran over and grabbed one, but Dad said no and put it back. This guy was determined, he kept grabbing it and hugging it. Later Julie kept cracking up about it - "You'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hand!" she said. So funny it was!

I'd love to hear about any conferences near you and meet you there if I can. Let's do this!

To add to my pretty fantastic weekend, my sons had great basketball games for me to watch - edge of my seat exciting!

And lastly, I'm happy to present the versatile C. Lee McKenzie. She's releasing another intense YA (already!) and brings us some insight on her writing process. So glad she stopped by!

Why I write what I do
I write contemporary, realistic YA because when I was a teen I could never finds characters in books that I could relate to. While young characters often floundered around, trying to sort out who they were and where they were going, they weren’t the main characters; they were not the ones driving the story. If they were, the stories were outdated. Little Women comes to mind. Those kids didn’t deal with the same issues I was dealing with and they didn’t talk like I did.

As for writing middle grade, I love to write fantasy adventure stories for that age. And these give me a break from my young adult topics of suicide, loss and abuse. I treat my middle grade stories as my sorbet.

How my writing process works
I get ideas from music, or a news articles or conversations. I often tuck these at the back of my head until I hear a character. They pretty much come full born, kind of like Venus from the froth. I see them, their voices are clear, and they can be downright bossy unless I start writing their story.

The most I do as far as planning is concerned is to write a sentence summary—never more than two sentences. That summary I put in the header, so it appears on each page. I tweak it as I go, or I tweak the story so it stays true to that summary. Then I write as long as the words come. When they stop, I take a break or print out and go outside to read what I’ve put down on the page. I don’t always do that right away. I often leave the day’s work alone until the next day.

One thing I’ve found helpful for starting again is to write a sentence or two that describes where I think the story should go next. Sometimes I even list things I want in the next scene or chapter. When I come back to the story, I have a place to start.

Short vs. Long
My shortest stuff is poetry, but I’m rather lousy at writing it, so I keep it private, unless it’s limericks or some doggerel for fun.

I love/hate writing short stories. They’re interesting challenges, and when I start one I’m always convinced I won’t be able to finish it.

I was kind of surprised when I checked out my list of books at Amazon []  see just how many I’d actually completed for anthologies. And I just had another one accepted by Leap Books for their new collection, Down the Rabbit Hole. It will celebrate Alice In Wonderland’s 150th Birthday.

Writing for teens, I stay at around 60,000 words for a novel. That seems to be about right for my stories and for the teen market. Haven’t heard otherwise.


one Secret
Cleo has struggled to heal after her baby sister’s death, but the flashbacks to the accident won’t go away. With the move, she vows to keep her tragedy a secret and avoid pitying looks.

one Mystery
Something’s strange about the abandoned house across the street—flashes of light late at night and small flickers of movement that only someone looking for them would see. 
Everyone says the house is deserted, but Cleo is sure it isn’t, and she’s sure whoever is inside is watching her.

another Secret
In one night, Belleza’s life changes forever. So famous, her only choice is to hide her secret from the world so she can silence small town bigotry. 

Then Cleo happens.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

How to have a Happy 2015!

Happy New Year, Insecure Writers Support Group!
Join us! Founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh

A new year is a time for a fresh start. It causes reflection on what has past and contemplation on what we can do to improve ourselves. I appreciate the thought of making resolutions - but I think they've become a trivial joke, empty, repetitive words without true intention behind them. I know I've wanted to lose weight for years now and I never seem to get that done! And when the holidays come around again, I'm disappointed in myself...

So here are my suggestions to take New Year's Resolutions to another level.

1. Be Shrewd - Evaluate your circumstances and prioritize. We are all in different places with many responsibilities. There's only so much we can do. If you can squeeze in some extra "you" time somewhere in your day - for working out or writing or whatever (maybe alternate days!) then that's awesome!

2. Be Definitive - Don't be vague with your goals. We all want to be in better shape, but saying, "I want to lose twenty pounds" isn't good enough. You need a strategy. Here are my "live healthier" goals for this year:
  • No snacks after 9pm (some people are taking the no junk food challenge for 21 days, more power to them!)
  • Eat at least 3 fruits/vegetables each day
  • At least one form of exercise each day (and I count housework - so win-win)
  • Walk dog at least once a week
That last one will be a real challenge. I do not like getting out in the cold. And I have so many other things I need to do. But we both need the exercise!

3. Be Flexible - You never know when someone will get injured, or sick, or lose a job, or lose a loved one, or have some life-changing event occur. These types of things take precedence and our resolutions become very insignificant in comparison. And that's okay. We can come back and re-evaluate them later. Take care of the important stuff first.

4. Be Positive - Focus on the things you accomplish, even if they aren't "on the list" - you did it! And if you need some support, use social media - we're listening and we're happy for you!

5. Be Content with yourself! Set reasonable goals and expectations. We all make mistakes, we all grow older, and we all have to keep going. This is me, take it or leave it!

And now, I have some more great insights for writers from Stephanie Faris! This guest post is part of her blog tour celebrating the release of 25 ROSES - a super fun middle grade book.

Should Writers Follow Trends…or Follow Our Hearts?
By Stephanie Faris

In case the overabundance of dystopian films at theaters has you fooled, dystopia is out. So are vampires. But there is good news for John Green fans. Illness books are the thing.

For now, anyway.

Having been a fiction writer for almost half of my life, I’ve learned one important lesson: by the time something is a hit, it’s usually already too late. I was one of the authors, after all, who noticed the ghost-hunting craze in the mid-00s and crafted a revolutionary series about tween ghost hunters. Unfortunately, I watched as the book went from, “Great idea but not quite what we’re looking for” to, “We’ve published too many other books like this lately.”

In other words, the publishing process is as slow as molasses (as we say in the South). If you’re playing to a trend, chances are that trend will be dead by the time you land an agent and go through the submission process. It might even be dead by the time the manuscript makes its way through the U.S. postal system.

So what’s an author to do? The key is to predict what’s next. But that’s far easier said than done. In YA, obviously we’re going to see piles of books about terminal illnesses before the industry decides the market is now oversaturated. For children, novels-in-cartoons (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) see to have become a hit genre of their own, while bullying is among the most popular themes in children’s literature. And the dystopian trend has created a demand for tough-girl novels for young readers.

It seems the trends destined to burn out the quickest are those trends that become phenomenal successes. The Fault in Our Stars is a great example of that. Once hundreds of books hit the market, along with a half dozen or so hit movies, readers will begin to demand something different—just as they sought an alternative to the Hunger Games and Twilight takeovers of a few years ago.

When I first started writing, paranormal was fairly unpopular—especially vampire books (unless you were Anne Rice.) Interestingly, the authors I knew who insisted on writing paranormal books when editors and agents wouldn’t touched them were the same ones who thrived when the field suddenly took off. Why? They were ready, polished manuscript in hand, when agents and editors finally decided they were ready to see paranormal work.

Unless you’re psychic, though, you’ll never know what the next big trend will be. So pay attention to trends but stay true to your heart. And maybe keep that unwanted manuscript tucked safely away in case someday that genre suddenly takes off.

by Stephanie Faris

Mia moves from the shadows to the spotlight when her matchmaking plans go awry in this contemporary M!X novel from the author of 30 Days of No Gossip.

Mia is used to feeling overlooked: her perfect older sister gets all the attention at home, and the popular clique at school are basically experts at ignoring her. So when it’s time for the annual Student Council chocolate rose sale, Mia is prepared to feel even worse. Because even though anyone can buy and send roses to their crushes and friends, the same (popular) people always end up with roses while everyone else gets left out.

Except a twist of fate puts Mia in charge of selling the roses this year—and that means things are going to change. With a little creativity, Mia makes sure the kids who usually leave empty-handed suddenly find themselves the object of someone’s affection. But her scheme starts to unravel when she realizes that being a secret matchmaker isn’t easy—and neither is being in the spotlight. 

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, both with Aladdin M!x. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.

Here are Stephanie's links and a fabulous giveaway!

Website -- Blog -- Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I love being able to help others by announcing their accomplishments! If you have a release or reveal this year, drop me an email and I'll see what I can do. I like to have an interesting post to go along with announcements, so keep that in mind!


Lastly, CHRONOLOGY just came out! It's a compilation of fun and thrilling stories put out by Curiosity Quills. If anyone would like to read and review it, let me know in the comments. My contribution is The Comeback: A zombie love story - Death won't keep them apart!

Oh, and I just put out my latest newsletter with info on where I'll be and what I'm up to. I'm still deciding how I want to distribute it...

What's in the fryer for you? Did you have a nice holiday?
Any resolutions?

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