Friday, June 17, 2011

BOOK GIVEAWAY Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Lynn Kelley

Welcome, all! Today, we have an awesome opportunity to not only hear from an excellent author, Lynn Kelley, but also to party down with her as she and her co-writers celebrate the release of the second book of the Monster Moon series, SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG. So strap on a party hat, grab a noise maker, and yell.

Loudest two people at the party WIN a copy of CURSE OF ZALA MANOR or SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG. (You can be loudest by leaving the most rockin' comment or question for Lynn, of course.)

Lynn hasn't been blogging long, but she has already filled her blog with kindness, support, and knowledge. Make sure to check out her blog! She's just wonderful. 

Without further ado, let's get this party started! *throwing confetti*

Here's a little about Lynn:

Lynn Kelley worked as a court reporter for 25 years while she and her husband, George, raised their four little monsters. She’s co-author of CURSE AT ZALA MANOR and SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG, the first two books in the Monster Moon mystery series. Her story, “The Jobo Tree” won her Highlights For Children’s Author of the Month award. She also authored a picture book, Merry as a Cricket (WhipperSnapper Books).

She tries to keep her overactive imagination in check and is a big scaredy cat who’s afraid to watch horror movies.

Woo-hoo, Lynn--Thanks for being here! And thanks for coming to hang out with us during your celebration for the release of SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG. Party hats and noisemakers for all. *passing out popcorn* Tell us a little about this book.

Thanks so much, Heather. This is a wonderful opportunity, and I’m thrilled you invited me to be your guest.

Bog is the second book in the Monster Moon Mystery series for kids ages 8 to 12, written by myself and two co-authors under the pseudonym BBH McChiller.

The main character, AJ Zantony, is a monster magnet. Emily Peralta, the brainiac new girl, returns in this book, and so does our readers’ favorite varmint, Vlad the snarky pirate rat. AJ’s best friend, Freddy ‘Hangman’ Gallows, made a cameo in Zala Manor, but in this book he plays a major role, smelly pranks and all.

The trouble starts in Old Chinatown when Vlad is attacked by a raven and flees to the salt water bog. AJ never dared to venture into the creepy marshlands, but he can’t let Vlad die. It’s pretty much nonstop action from that point on. The zombuddies are pitted against one nightmarish creature after another.

In CURSE AT ZALA MANOR, readers get acquainted with the characters. SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG reintroduces them, but it’s faster paced and has even more gross kid stuff. Both books are suitable for reluctant readers.

Sounds creepy, gross and mysterious. Awesome! I've been reading the book, and I'm already hooked and loving your quirky characters! Lynn, what kind of writing schedule do you keep? What does a balanced life look like for you?

I have no clue what a balanced life looks like. I gave up on “things getting back to normal” when the kids were younger. Plans seldom turn out the way I plan, and those dang monkeys are always tossing wrenches my way.

My writing schedule has been pathetic the past nine months, ever since I decided to catch up on technology. That includes:

· Designing a website, ( a major feat for a near computer illiterate soul. Can’t blame my age. I’m technologically challenged, even with the remote control.
· Switching to a Mac. Still learning it.

· Tackled making a book trailer, and by trial and error ended up with two:
· Started a blog.
· Still learning Twitter (@LynNerdKelley). 

I seriously need to get back to revising the first draft of my edgy YA novel, THE PINK BUS, set in Huntington Beach, CA in the summer of 1971.

And I need to send out queries for my humorous chapter book, CURSE OF THE DOUBLE DIGITS, where the young MC turns ten and deals with one embarrassing mishap after another.

Wow! Lots of balls in the air--so awesome! Tell us, what has your writing journey been like so far? What made you start writing seriously? And, what kind of supports keep you going?

When my kids were young, I considered writing when they grew up, but then my daughter, Amy, needed help getting her reading points. She was in third grade. I started reading to her each night. In the middle of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, I was so impressed by his storytelling that it inspired me to become a children’s writer, so I signed up for Creative Writing classes at the community college.

My writing journey has been a wild, erratic ride and resulted in some of the highest and lowest points in my life.
Writer friends offer invaluable support and camaraderie. Other supports that keep me going are little things like seeing kids’ excited expressions during author visits, receiving fan letters, or hearing how one of my stories touched someone’s life. Throw me a bone and it keeps me going.

SECRET OF HAUNTED BOG, and the first book, CURSE AT ZALA MANOR are collaborative efforts. Tell us how the three of you write these books. Do you each write a chapter? Do you have some other method? What are the pitfalls of collaboration? What are the benefits? How did the collaboration come about?

I had just joined the critique group, Books Born Here (BBH), right around Halloween. The topic of childhood fears came up. Snakes, witches, spiders, clowns, monsters under the bed. Someone thought it would be fun to collaborate on a spooky mystery. In the end, it turned out that Kathy Sant, Maria Toth, and I followed through with it.

We usually meet at restaurants and coffee shops like Starbucks a couple times a week and plot out the entire storyline, then plot one chapter at a time.

We each write one or two assigned chapters with the guidelines to keep it around 5 pages and add a cliff hanger at the end. We’re free to embellish as we see fit, and it’s a hoot when we meet again and read them aloud because there are always cool surprises. Once the skeleton of the whole manuscript is done, together we comb through it line by line and weave it into one storytelling voice.

The pitfalls are that we don’t always agree on everything, so we take a vote. We decided at the beginning that the majority would rule and compromises would be made for the betterment of the books. Another pitfall for me is that I live in the High Desert and drive 40 miles one way through the Cajon Pass to meet with them.

The benefits are that we each have different strengths and learn from each other. We also share the work, and when one is in the middle of a crisis or tragedy, the others pick up the slack. For me, all the interesting topics we discuss and the laughing attacks are like a party.

I love it--that writing a novel becomes a party. I think that is one of my goals with some of my projects. Make it a party! Lynn--how did you get the series from drafts to published books?

We finished the first draft of CURSE AT ZALA MANOR in nine months. How appropriate since it was our baby, and Kathy is a retired obstetrician!

We locked ourselves in a suite at the historic Mission Inn in Riverside, CA and revised 12 hours a day the whole weekend, choosing better verbs, slashing entire chapters, and fixing plot holes. We were treated to a private late night tour of the catacombs beneath the inn. The spooky atmosphere helped us add sensory details and tweak the scenes that are set in underground tunnels.

We sent our baby off to agents and editors. Some of the comments we received were real gems, so we revised those scenes again, especially the first and last chapters.

We lost track of how many revisions we’d made when CURSE AT ZALA MANOR was acquired by Stargazer Publishing. It’s a small press in Corona, California that targets educational and library markets.

It's so great that you all had each other during the querying process--that can be such a difficult time. In general, Lynn, what has surprised you on your writing journey?

My whole attitude toward life changed. I found science and history more interesting and am willing to try new things. One year my nephew had a reptile birthday party. I wouldn’t touch a snake or lizard before that, but I wanted to see how they felt in case I had to describe it in a story.

I’m still surprised at how much there is to learn about the craft of writing. One lifetime isn’t enough.

Wow--that strikes a chord with me. That life changes fundamentally, and that one lifetime isn't enough. What has been your most important writing resource?

Reading how-to books and taking classes help. Joining a writers group led by author Marilyn Donahue got me on the right track when I was a newbie wandering aimlessly. The whole group offered the support and guidance I needed. I also joined SCBWI and attended conferences and workshops.

Years later, I joined the Books Born Here critique group, and that’s where Maria, Kathy, and I began working on the Monster Moon series.

When I first started writing 15 years ago, the internet wasn’t part of our lives. I wish it had been. Now that I’m blogging, I’m amazed at the wealth of info that’s out there.

How do you do social media? What has been your purpose, and how have you driven toward that purpose?

I’m on Facebook and started my blog in May. Just over a week ago I joined Twitter (@LynNerdKelley) and I’m still trying to work out the kinks. 

One of my goals since I started writing has been to reach reluctant readers. That included some of my own kids. Reading well is a key to success. And with all the incredible, inspiring books out there, those kids are missing out big time.

Awesome goal. What kind of marketing do you and your co-writers do for the Monster Moon series? What do you think has worked best?

We've tried to think outside the bog for unique places to do signings. CURSE AT ZALA MANOR takes place around Halloween, so one of the big pumpkin patches let us sell books, and Ghost Walk in Riverside, which draws about 4,000 people each year, let us set up a booth. Maria and Kathy dressed as Batsy and Frizzelda, the quirky Literary Witches of Craggy Cove, and I dressed as Funny Bones, a silly skeleton with a Bag’O’Bones (jokes).

We also got to do two episodes of “Homework Hotline” on KLCS, PBS-Los Angeles. Kathy and Maria wore their witches’ getup and taught kids how to cook up suspense in their writing and how to brainstorm story ideas (in a graveyard with Brain, a pet brain on a leash).

Chicken that I am, I was happy as the cue card girl. Good thing I made cue cards because the teleprompter messed up!

A literacy event at the Feldheym Library in San Bernardino led to a television interview on the Inland Empire Alive show hosted by Dennis Baxter (KCSB – IMEG).

At a City of Readers community meeting, also in San Bernardino, the keynote speaker was an assistant to First Lady Michelle Obama. After his talk, we were surprised when he took a seat next to Maria. We signed a copy of CURSE AT ZALA MANOR for the Obama girls and asked him if he could give it to them. He couldn’t promise, but said he’d try. A few weeks later he sent an email that he personally delivered it to the First Lady!

Book signings are iffy as far as sales, but we’ve done well at some of the school visits and community events.

We’re just getting into social media, so I’m not sure how that will work out, but I’m enjoying the “social” part of it!

I love how varied your marketing methods are. And, it's thrilling to think of your book inside the White House! What advice do you have for other writers out there?

Joining a “good” critique group is one of the best things a writer can do. They can give you invaluable feedback and support you when rejections abound, plus you get to witness the progress they’re making in their writing journeys.

Be gentle on yourself during rough times, give yourself rewards for even small accomplishments, and don’t give up on your dreams.
Study the craft of writing – forever.

I love the idea of rewards for small accomplishments. Lynn, what are your biggest distractions?

I have a big family. That means constant drama and traumas.

My main distraction, like I said, is catching up on technology. I bumble my way through all of it. I don’t know how many meltdowns I had making those book trailers. Basically, hours of tears and prayers got me through it.

I have never had to make a book trailer. That might be something I would delegate! Just because I'm curious, do you prefer coffee or tea? Or something else…?

Coffee, please, with cream. No sugar. Occasionally, a shot of Bailey’s is yummy.

Coffee with Bailey's, coming right up! Thanks, Lynn, for the great interview. And thanks for your generosity of giving away TWO BOOKS at our party. Everyone who leaves a comment or question here in the comments (Lynn will be stopping by) will have a chance to win! In the meantime, check out Lynn's blog, friend her on Facebook, and follow her on twitter (@LynNerdKelley)! 

Oh, and have some popcorn and cake. I have the best popcorn ever for our party today--cocoa popcorn, and bacon ranch popcorn. Enjoy! (But maybe don't mix the two.)


  1. Definitely not too early for cocoa popcorn.

    Lynn--Thanks again for the great interview! I really love all the ideas that you guys have for marketing. Do you have any zany ideas for marketing the future books?

    What advice do you have for writers who are embarking on collaborative projects?

  2. Cocoa popcorn yummy for breakfast,with a cup of java!

    Thank you again, Heather, for having me. You're awesome, especially after the awful day you dealt with yesterday and then getting an interview done, too. Whew!

    Zany marketing ideas? Hmm, actually, I'm tossing around some zany ideas for a follow-up book trailer! And we're hoping to do some Skype visits. I've never done one, but that will be another new way for us to market and connect with more readers.

    My advice for working on a collaborative project is that you've got to be willing to give up some of your ideas if they don't quite work. When you have two or more creative egos working together, you have to compromise for the sake of the project. And try to have fun. Just because it's work doesn't mean it can't be fun!

  3. I love the covers of your books. And how fun to work with a couple writers. I'm not sure I could do that but it would probably work with the right person. Love you marketing efforts!

  4. Lynn, you were born zany! Thanks for the invite to the celebration. I loved the interview. You are my inspiration, and definitely the poster-child for sucessful multi-tasking!
    Nice to meet you, Heather -- great party! I am wearing my best pink bunny slippers for the occasion and if you could, um, yeah, take this...thanks...those are my Granny Bee's secret family recipe brandied fruit and persimmon cookies!

  5. Thanks, Laura. You have to have good chemistry to work together, but if you find the right person, you oth learn so much from working together.

    Annie! So glad you joined the party, pink bunny slippers and all! Haha! You inspire me, too, with your excellent critiques and your humor!

  6. This sounds like a very dynamic way of writing. Rather than brainstorming or hashing it out with the different parts in my own head, this sounds like a sleepover party of creativity. Very neat.

  7. Wahoo, Lynn. Great interview. Wonderful ideas. Watching you go and grow is awesome. Thanks for all of the ways you encourage me. I'm glad I know you and get to work with you, on occasion. Keep up the good work. Now, get back on that bus.

  8. I also love the retro feeling covers and look forward to checking the books out. Very curious about your collaborative process. I think you answered a lot of questions here and once I read the book I will most likely have more. It seems like there would be a lot of writing energy writign in a group and you would be much less likely to get stuck. Do you think you employ the rules of improv when working together at all?

  9. Just popped in to say that my daughter (9) loved the first book in the series. She loves spooky mysteries and it was right up her alley. She keeps asking me when the second one will be out. She'll be so happy that it's released now!

    Great job Lynn! (and Kathy and Maria :)

  10. Hi Rebecca, Yes, it's so much easier to brainstorm with my co-writers. We bounce ideas off each other and come up with some pretty wild stuff, which leads to lots of laughs and then more brainstorming. I'm so uninhibited that my mind goes places it wouldn't go when working alone! Yep, a sleepover party of creativity is a great idea. Our whole critique group has been meaning to do that, but haven't yet.

  11. Aw, thanks, Jonathan. I'm so glad you joined the party!

    Thanks for celebrating with us, StephaniePQW. Soon enough we'll be celebrating the release of your novel! We've come a long way, haven't we?

    Tina Laurel, those are excellent questions! Yes, you could say we improv, though I never thought of it that way. We improv without even realizing it. And I don't worry about getting stuck because one of us will come up with an idea, just by throwing things out there, and it jogs a new idea in the other one.
    Yes, lots of writing energy that gets us pumped up, and that's why it seems like a party to me. Contact me any time with questions.

    So nice to have you stop by and celebrate with us, Tasha. Woo hoo! That's wonderful to hear tha your daughter loved Curse at Zala Manor and wants to read Haunted Bog. Tell her that Vlad says, "Watch yer step, matey. Arrr!" And I say, "Happy reading!."

  12. Oops, sorry about all the typos, you guys. I didn't sleep good the past two nights. Zzzzz . . .

  13. Mom I loved the interview. I am so proud of you. Thank you for always helping me when I struggled with reading growing up. I love you so much Mom and I can't wait to see what's next. Love Amy

  14. See, you're a reader after all if you read the whole interview! Thank you, Amy. You're so sweet! Love, Mom

  15. Hi everyone! *waving* *passing around cake* Thanks so much for coming!

    Lynn--Thanks for so graciously fielding questions and comments. I would love to hear more about your edgy YA. What's it about?

    And, do you have any abandoned books in the drawer?

    Everyone, keep the questions coming!

  16. Oh, and Amy--that is sooo sweet! Thanks for stopping by and cheering for your mom!

  17. Haha! Heather, your enthusiasm is great. I'm ready for some of that bacon ranch popcorn. And then some of your scrumptious cake!

    More about Pink Bus? Well, 15-year-old Leslie has never had a boyfriend. Never even been kissed. She's on a mission to find The One and catch up with her best friends, the Skybows. The four of them vow to make their summer sizzle. Riding the Pink Bus to Huntington Beach is the perfect place to scheme on guys.

    Leslie meets surfer hunk, Anchovie, her dream guy. He chooses her over her the others. The Skybows follow Anchovie and his surfer friends to a grungy party house and into a world they never bargained for. The story is tempered with humor as the Skybows' sunny summer turns darker and darker.

    Yes, I do have other books, forlorn and neglected in a drawer. Someday . . .

  18. Wow Lynn, congrats the wonderful books! Awesome that that you can work with other authors for these too. What a wonderful idea!

    And, I've never tried cocoa popcorn before but I think I'll have to check my local shop for some! ;-)

    Have a lovely weekend both of you! ;-)

  19. Fabulous interview! It was fascinating to learn more about the collaborative process. I'm so impressed with all the projects Lynn has going on! Oh, and I love her phrase, "thinking outside the bog" Tee-hee :)

  20. Not entering to win - just admire someone who can write books with other authors.

  21. Talei, thanks for stopping by the party and leaving your comment. I think everyone should try working on a short, collaborative at least once, if for no other reason than to just make a fun exercise out of it. It's amazing how much you learn from each other's strengths. Yes, cocoa popcorn rocks!

    Hello Jess - So glad you came over to check out the interview and left all those nice comments. Very uplifting!

    Welcome, Alex. Aw, you should enter for a chance to win. The winners will be chosen tonight or Monday morning, so it's not to late to enter. I love getting people's input. Thank you for stopping by.

  22. Yay, just got rid of a computer virus, so I'm finally able to read Lynn's fab interview. Awesome job, Heather! And boggity-bog, fun answers, Lynn!

    BTW, Zombud, Vlad says he'll gladly trade ye some of his prized parrot feathers for a pirate hat filled with popcorn! And any other scraps will be much appreciated by the underground rat society. Midnight Monster revival at "Eternal Repose" cemetery... (BYOB) Bring yer own Baileys or be prepared to walk the plank, matey. Har, Har, Har. :-)

    I can hardly wait till "Pink Bus" is published! Cool and realistic characters & great storytelling and writing!

    See ya soon, ZB!

  23. Maria, haha, you made my day. Now, if you weren't one-third of BBH McChiller, I'd say you're one of the winners with your awesome comments, but, alas, ye already got the books, matey! And of course Vlad couldn't pass up on cocoa popcorn, cake, or leftovers.
    Splice the main brace! I'm so glad that stinkin' virus is gone!

    See ya at the Midnight Monster revival with me flask and a shot of coconut rum for Vlad!

  24. Great interview, Ladies! I love the photo of Lynn and her little one...Congratulations on the newest books. :)

  25. Thanks so much, Sharon! The baby is my grandbaby, the joy of my life. I call her Little Twinkle Eyes!

  26. I've totally not heard of these books before, but they'll be perfect for my boys! Thanks for the great interview Heather and Lynn!

  27. Ali, thanks for celebrating with us. I'm so glad your boys will become zombuddies. Any kids who read a Monster Moon book become one of our zombuddies! Tell the boys that Vlad says, "Ahoy, mateys. Watch yer step in Haunted Bog. Yeo-heave-ho and a barrel of fun. Arr!"

    Vlad always has to throw his pieces of eight into the coversation. Gotta love a talking rat!

  28. I've never heard how collaborating on a book worked before. Fascinating! I love the titles too.

    I agree, it would take a lifetime to learn about writing. If not longer.

    Good luck with your books, Lynn.

  29. Hello Theresa! Nice to meet you. Thanks for your comments. I'm stopping by your blog right now!


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