Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where's the Proof??

I hauled my camera to the Westford Grill last night, but forgot to whip it out. You know, because the conversation was THAT good. (W is for Westford Grill, writers in person?)

Kip Wilson Rechea (@kiperoo) talked about how she writes every day so she maintains altitude. You know, those writing take-offs can be bumpy (and time consuming)!! How smart is that?

Melissa Stewart (@mstewartscience) spoke about speaking at schools. Check out her awesome stash of science books

Deborah Kops (@Deborahkops) talked of our responsibility as writers to promote strong, confident girls as main characters in our books. Because girls today certainly could use good role models. 

Kris Asselin (@KristineAsselin) wowed us with her logline. I know that good news will be on the horizon for Kris' excellent YA. 

Jolanta Davis spoke with me at length about special needs advocacy. Thanks so much Jolanta! I'd love to see you publish around this issue. Clearly you have the expertise and the heart for it!

What did I contribute? I'm not entirely sure. I loved the conversation and the laughs, though!

Thanks again Kris, for making the meet up happen! I can't wait to see everyone again at #nescbwi!

What nuggets of wisdom have you gleaned from your writing friends recently? Will I see you at the NESCBWI? 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

'P' is for kaPUT

In Hawaii, we visited some LOST beaches. Darned if I know which one this was.

So, I have struggled and failed with the whole publish-a-blog-post-a-day thing. I gave it the old college try, and I'm officially throwing in the towel. Phew. Peanuts for those prolifics who can post prose each day. I bow to you!!

I am not sure what the protocol is here--for me to graciously peter out--but I am going to leave my link to other A-to-Zers on my blogroll, since I'm still supporting those going strong.

And now for my Tuesday Monday Meeting:

I'm going fast and furious on my rewrite, and hoping to connect with a few crit partners this week. I love skype! I am fending off a Shiny New Idea (although it's dark and gruesome. Why is it that when I'm writing my MG fantasy, do I always get ideas for dark and dystopic YAs? Yin and yang, I suppose). I hope to let the S.N.I.simmer for a few months before getting sidetracked.

I am even thinking self-imposed deadline to hurry this rewrite along.

So, now it's your turn. What are you working on? Do you have goals for the week? Do you have children underfoot for their spring vacation?? Are you actually A-to-Zing? Which LOST beach do you think that is?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Anita Miller Publishes EARTHLING HERO

Everyone give a warm welcome to Anita Laydon Miller who recently parted ways with an A+ agency to e-publish her middle grade science fiction, EARTHLING HERO.

Here’s a blurb about the book: Imagine waking one summer night to see someone standing beside your bed. The “someone” is a complete stranger, but looks exactly like you. That’s what happens to eleven-year-old Mikey Murphy. The next few days are filled with adventures—breaking into a high-security military installation, engaging expert assassins in hand-to-hand combat, searching for an evil alien’s hideout in the middle of a national landmark—all with two new alien friends at his side. Can Mikey and his friends survive their adventures and save the world?

I love Anita's book. I've read it, and now I'm reading it to my kids. We are all enthralled. Anita did an excellent job--it's fantastic. The premise is funky and fun, and the characters live and breathe. The book is an awesome ride that I recommend everyone take!

So, Anita, welcome! Thanks for being here. Tell us. Why did you decide to e-publish this book on your own?

Thanks for having me Heather. In a sentence, I wanted more control over my work.

And are you happy with the experience so far?

Yeah, I am. Here’s the thing: the book is finally out there. Any 9-12-year-old kid looking for an inexpensive e-book that’s full of fun and adventure can turn to EARTHLING HERO.

Speaking of inexpensive, why did you price it at $.99?

I think I can explain that best with this twenty-second video. Brace yourself, I dance in it.

So my point is that it’s not about the money--I’m not expecting to be a Hocking or a Konrath. Sure, I’d love to sell three million EARTHLING HERO’s for $.99, but I don’t think that’ll happen. What I hope will happen is that a lot of parents will recognize this is a good book for their kids, and they’ll buy it. I want kids to read the book. I want to make the world dance with my words…lofty goal, I guess.

Love the dance. So happy that you felt comfortable enough on my blog to cut loose! About the book's format--what if someone wants to help you reach that lofty goal, but they don’t have an e-reader?

They can download the book from Smashwords to their PC or Mac in the following formats: .pdf, .Epub, and .mobi. Those formats can be read, respectively, using Adobe Acrobat Reader, the free Barnes & Noble Nook application and the free Amazon Kindle application. OR readers can download the book from Amazon to their PC or Mac and read it using the free Kindle application.

Anybody who’s reading this post, can read EARTHLING HERO. If they can’t figure out how, have them email me. I want them to have access to all e-books, not just my own, and it’s probably a simple explanation that will allow them that access.

I can attest--I downloaded the book very easily onto my PC.

Here's where you can buy EARTHLING HERO: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

And, please check out Anita's fantastic Middle Grade blog, author website, and blog.

But, before you go, give Anita some love in the comments--she'll be by to hang out and answer questions!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"K" is for...Silent K.

Nope, not this guy:

Although he seems interesting. If a bit simplistic.

But I'm talking about words, you know, like knob, knack, kneel.

Once when a crit partner told me that the "K" in J.K. Rowling stood for nothing, I heard, "Knothing". Silent, (albeit made-up) K strikes again.

Which brings me to what was bothering me during my MG revision. What was wrong with the story? Why couldn't I move forward with it? Knothing. A big freakin' silent K. My very own silent Killer. It was that big quiet thing that made me know that my project wasn't ready. Might never be ready. I couldn't revise it away, couldn't move forward. I was a hostage to the silent K.

Once I found that silent K, I decided instead of digging it out, word for word, and instead of abandoning the project (still a possibility), that I was going to rewrite.

I'm enthused. And. I'm getting rid of my silent K. Curious about what my silent K was for this project? Well, I'm not going to say. Because I'm pretty sure that each writer, each project, each novel, *could have its own particular silent K. I've found this one, and I'm working forward. Have you found yours?

*not to say that each project does have a silent killer. but mine did. :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jon

Some things are best said in another language. El me cae bien. Which translates to: I fall in well with him. Which is just a very cool way to describe friendship, I think. And that is how I feel about my crit partner Jon.

I turn to Jon unabashedly when I'm stressed, or overwhelmed, and when I'm enthused. He is supportive of all my writing emotions. And let's face it, there are a ton. On a daily basis. :)

And, his creativity is contagious. He inspires some really cool stuff--things I might not have thought of otherwise. When I know that J will read my work/hear my idea/put his energy behind a project, I know I have to step it up, and take it to the next level.

I get to reach. And isn't that what it's all about?

J, thank you for your energy, your creativity, your constant support. I would be wallowing without you.

J, me caes bien.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"F" is for FREEBIE!

So, remember how Margaret (M.A. Golla) offered a free copy of her book to the best commenter during her interview last Friday? Well, she loved you all.


Just call me Oprah! YOU get a FREE BOOK! And YOU get a FREE BOOK! And...EVERYONE GETS A FREE BOOK!

Margaret is so excited about THE FAST AND THE FAERIEOUS--the second book in THE GOBLIN'S APPRENTICE series--coming out MAY 1st, that she wants you all to have a copy of TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME.

Here's what you do:
1. Go to TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME's page at Smashwords, and buy the book. (You have to create an account and log in.)
2. At checkout, put in this code: MJ62G.
3. Now you have the book! Choose your format (I chose PDF and it worked fine on my PC)
4. Stop by Margaret's blog and say Thanks.
5. Mark May 1st on your calendar for the release of THE FAST AND THE FAERIEOUS.

Wow. Who new "F" day was going to be THIS MUCH FUN?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"E" is for Electronics, Survivor Style

Just a quick note about how much fun I have following #JeffProbst during survivor. Live tweeting makes reality TV even more awesome. :) Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"D" is for Dunkin' Disaster.

photo from
I love my coffee. I have a Keurig one cup coffee maker, and every morning I throw in a little k-cup of Rain Forest Nut, or Hazelnut, or, if I'm really feeling frisky, Pumpkin Spice, and presto, I have my own perfect cup of coffee. Throw in a little stevia and a dash of milk, and I'm in coffee heaven.

Except, of course, on the days that someone forgets to leave me a swallow of milk for the coffee. Now, everyone knows the rule. Mom needs her coffee. Do not finish it. Ever. The Mommy Monster might just rear her ugly head.

So, today, when I searched the fridge for any type of milk-like substitute, I tried not to panic. In the past, I have used ice cream (any flavor--even strawberry), cool whip, soy milk, and almond milk. The first two work well, the last two, yuck. I mean, I'll put soy milk and almond milk on my cereal, but for some reason, they just make my coffee taste un-coffee-like. Coming up empty handed this morning, and running late to a swim lesson for my daughter, I decided I'd do the Dunkin'.

An hour later, feeling decidedly zombie-ish, I scoured the Dunkin' Donuts menu. I'd had bad luck in the past, and wanted to drink something yummy. I do like their coffee coolattas, but didn't feel like dessert so early in the morning. So I thought I would try the mocha swirl latte. Chocolate, foamed milk, and coffee? What could go wrong?

I took one sip and considered turning on my heals to exchange it. It tasted like it had been burned over a camp fire, while my son dumped in charred, chalky dirt. Had time permitted, I would have not suffered through the deluge of disgustingness. Luckily it was small and I finished it in a few sips.

Now I wait for the caffeine to kick in.

So, please tell me, what do you order when you order coffee at DD? What is good? What tastes the least like they swirled charcoal dust in? I'm horrible at ordering at Starbucks too--I freeze like a deer in headlights.

And, it made me think of how books are really personal preference, and that agent rejection shouldn't be taken personally. I'm sure that the girl in the pigtails and skimpy pleated shirt and platform boots behind me would have loved my coffee. One person's charcoal swirled burned disaster is another person's yum. :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

"C" is for Cheatin', and Monday Meeting

His shirt says, "I DO ALL MY OWN STUNTS". 
I didn't get my B post in, but if I had, it would have been, "B" is for Birthday Boy. Saturday we celebrated my 7-year-old's birthday by going to the movies and having a sleepover for a bunch of his friends. There really was no sleeping involved. I'm still recouping. :)

So, I feel like I've Cheated on the whole A-to-Z challenge, by missing the SECOND DAY (which was Saturday). But life is like that right now--I feel like I'm barely hanging on to all my responsibilities--a ton of stuff is happening in real life, and not enough in my writing/blog life.

So, the fact that I've Cheated on my friends by not making it to their blogs recently, or on my writing partners by not getting to skype with them recently, or on my coworkers by not checking-in via chat, weighs on me. I'm just feeling overwhelmed by life in general and need to take things one moment at a time. All I can say is that I'm missing all my connections in the blogging world, and that I value them all. You know who you are. I'll try to Cheat less. :)

And that brings me to the Monday Meeting:

I am being kind to myself this week, and just saying that my goals are to write and blog. And nothing much beyond that. I hope to revamp the blog a bit--simplify and re-do some things--and make it to some A-to-Z participants blogs, the Practice Room, and visit a few old blogging friends. And follow Anita on her blog tour.

What plans do you have this week? Have you been Cheatin' on one part of your life? What do you say to yourself when you struggle with getting "it all" done? How do you divide your time?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Margaret Golla Publishes TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME

Today is A day in the A to Z challenge. Since I couldn't really make my very serious Friday Feature bend around the whims of A words, I've decided to first share with you an A word from the urban dictionary. This interview today is brought to you by the letter A, for asdfasdfasdf. Which you can type for "help" in situations where you only have the use of one hand. Or as a filler when you don't want to answer an incriminating question. Now on to the interview!!

Everyone give a warm welcome to Margaret Golla!

I had the pleasure of reading Margaret's e-book, Book One of The Goblin's Apprentice: TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME. Here's the blurb:

With summer break almost over, eleven-year-old Kyte Webber is bored to tears. Adventure is hard to find when you lived outside a town called Nowhere, Oklahoma, and the highlight of your summer is looking for a missing garden gnome statue. But when Kyte discovers a very real, very small and very much alive garden gnome by the name of Rory Leafhopper, she wonders what fairy tale she walked into by mistake.

Over the last month, mythical creatures have vanished from around Nowhere—not even a swarm of pixies is to be found—and Rory worries that he’s the last gnome standing. Kyte vows to help him find the others, but when a witch invades Kyte’s dreams, turning her dream into a real nightmare, she learns time is of the essence. During the full moon tomorrow night, the witch intends to brew her magical Mythical stew—and Rory is the missing ingredient!

As Kyte tries to keep Rory safe, she discovers a few facts about herself that her mother had been keeping a secret. Doubts about who she really is confuse her as the gnome is snatched. Now it's up to Kyte to save Rory and free the Mythicals before the witch slices, dices and tosses them into a stew —and get home in time for dinner!

I have to say, I loved spunky Kyte. I loved her quips. For instance:
A cheer would have been nice. Guess a gal couldn't have everything.
Okay. Psycho witch: one. Normal kid: zip.
Maybe if I prayed hard enough a knight in shining armor would show up. Uh, nope. Not even the guy from the Old Spice commercials made an appearance.
The story was in excellent hands with Kyte, and was a satisfying Middle Grade tale. I'm positive that Kyte will delight readers. In fact, check out a middle grade book reviewer's take on the book.

And Margaret is going to GIVE AWAY a free copy of the e-book to the person who leaves the best question or comment here, on this post, before Monday. So get cracking! Want to do some research before leaving your excellent comment? Please check out her blog, or previous Friday Feature.

Margaret, thanks for being here today. You'd been in the trenches for a long time--what made you take matters into your own hands, and self-pub TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME?

It was all about the story.

I think deep down I knew the other stories weren’t good enough, but when I started writing about 11-year-old Kyte Webber, I knew she was special. I tried selling through the traditional methods, but after two years of ‘NO’ or nibbles with ultimate rejections I grew frustrated. NY wasn’t interested in a light fantasy with a female protagonist. They wanted ‘boy’ books, vampires or post-apocalyptic stories. 

 By Christmas of 2010, I had started querying book two in the Goblin’s Apprentice series, The Fast and the FAERIEous. I wasn’t unwilling to keep trying for a NY agent or publisher, but I started hearing from friends and family about their kids or grandkiddies getting e-readers, Ipads, Iphones, Nintendo DSi’s for Christmas. I think the teetering point for me was when I read an article that Nintendo DSi’s had their screens enlarged so kids can use them to download free books.

--personally, I don’t see kids reading on their DSi’s, but it showed that technology was moving in that direction for the younger reader. But do I think I’m ahead of the curve on this one?—YES.

Oh, and GNOMEO AND JULIET came out—I thought I might get some cross-over to my book, TO GNOME ME IS TO LOVE ME. It didn’t happen, but I tried.

What was the actual process of publication like--were there details that drove you crazy? What made you happy?

Verifying for proper formatting drove me bonkers. It wasn’t hard, it was tedious. The happiest part of the process was two-part: picking a cover and still smiling when I re-read the story for the 10th time.

Formatting sounds very tedious--I'm glad you stuck with it. I love the cover! Did you do everything alone, or did you hire any parts out?

I have zero artistic talent, so I paid for my covers. Every other part of the process I did alone with a huge support group of writer friends (some self-pubbed, some traditionally pubbed) and beta readers.

What advice do you have for others who are considering self publication?

Remember: this is YOUR career. Think about the big picture. Don’t waste your time publishing your first book. So many times the first book isn’t good enough. Don’t rely on family and friends to be honest with you—they won’t. They love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Find a group of like-minded writers and ask for HONESTY in their critiques. Yes, the truth does hurt, but how will you become a better writer if you don’t know what’s wrong and how to fix things?

I also think you need to have a ‘back list’ ready to publish. The way to get your name out there is to keep putting books up for sale. This is another reason not to publish your first story. It could take upwards of a year or more to have the second book available.

Even if you don’t self-pub, I think every writer needs to be aware of what is happening in the publishing industry. For example, writers who used to write for Dorchester but had their rights to their books returned are still losing money because Dorchester is still selling those books under their umbrella. Yeah, it will get even uglier when more small print presses go under and electronic presses pop up to take an author’s money.

I DID manage to get into the Tulsa World (our local paper).

Scroll about half-way down the article. Though my name and titles were put out there, it didn’t result in any sales.

I love your suggestion for having a 'back list'. What great advice! Margaret, what have you done to get the word out about your book?

I have to admit that I’ve been a little lax on the marketing front. I’ve offered LOST LEPRECHAUN LOOT as a freebie. It’s a companion book to the series. In other words, it involves the same character, Kyte Webber, but in a short, usually themed, adventure instead of the main series. 

I’ve been blogging for years. I have an active presence on Facebook, but I don’t tweet. I’ve currently trying to find book bloggers and reviewers, but middle grade is a tough nut to crack. Many reviewers will only review a print copy, and many of them won’t touch self-publishing. 

In the past, this was perfectly understandable, but it’s a new world of publishing out there. So many NY Times best-selling authors (J. A. Konrath, Barry Eisler, Connie Brockway) are going rogue, and many self-published authors are going NY (Amanda Hocking). It’s an interesting and turbulent time for publishing. 

Hindsight being what it is, would you do anything differently?

To tell you the truth I wouldn’t trade anything for the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years of rejection. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I wrote romance for six years before I finally admitted to myself that I can’t write romance. I found my writing voice and style when I started writing middle grade, but I had to be comfortable with my writing abilities, strengths AND weaknesses to do it. 

 I still judge numerous writing contests every year because it opens my eyes to my writing flaws. All the query letters that I’ve written, re-written, and wrote from scratch for the umpteenth time for every book I tried to sell (6 of them before GNOME) taught me to write a cover copy. I learned to condense my story into one 25-word logline. And I can write long and short synopses.  

If I didn’t try to play by the game for years, I wouldn’t know how to do this when I self-published—and yes, you do need these skills. The rejections taught me that not everyone will like my stories. It isn’t because they don’t ‘GET’ me, it’s because it isn’t their preference. {shrug} I don’t usually read NYT best-sellers, because they don’t interest me. Same thing.

Are you selling this book exclusively as an ebook? And if so, why?

Yes, I am. Money is a big motivator. I don’t have the kind of cash to fling around to print books, plus hand-selling is overrated. I don’t want to guilt anyone into buying my books, which is why I’m giving away the freebie. If you like my story and want more, you can buy it.

Margaret, I love the cover art--it's so appealing--how did you accomplish that?

I paid someone who is über-talented, Laura Morrigan.

Whiskey Press just hired her to work with them on their covers . . . I just hope she can still help me out!

She did an amazing job!

Thanks Margaret, for giving us insight into self pubbing an e-book for Middle Graders--I think that you're at the leading edge of this trend. Everyone, please leave Margaret a comment or question. She'll be by to respond, and I'm sure that she won't use asdfasdfasdf more than once to duck a hardball question. :)

And, I for one, will be waiting to follow Kyte's further adventures in Margaret's book two of The Goblin's Apprentice: THE FAST AND THE FAERIEOUS!