Monday, January 31, 2011

Magic and Mayhem, Contests, and Features!

I promised one of my crit partners that I'd blog 5 times between January 18th and January 31st. I'll have to go back and check, but I think I might be one post short. I'm a horrible blogger. Mainly because I'm a horrible planner. I'm such a spontaneous person that the thought of lining up blog topics and posts in advance makes me break out into a sweat. I'm going to try to be better, though. I promise. ;)

So, it sounds silly to say, but I'm officially eleven months from the release of SHAEDES OF GRAY. It sounds like forever away, but really, it's not. A year has never felt so short to me, including my daughter's senior year of high school, and that year flew by! So, for the next eleven months, I'll be doing one contest per month. You can win books, critiques, swag, writerly essentials (you know, post-its, notebooks, pens, the stuff we can't live without), and in later months, I'll be giving away some awesome Shaede-related stuff that I'm really excited about. But I'll be keeping the details under-wraps for a while! Also, I'm going to be adding some new features to this blog: guest posts, short stories, and other fun stuff. I'll be crossing my fingers that I can teach myself to be a better planner, because I want this year on the blog to be epic!

Also, I'll be contributing to the Magic and Mayhem blog once a week. It's a Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy blog featuring myself and three other AMAZING debut authors. We'll be doing some fun contests, blogging about what we love...mainly all things Paranormal/UF! So stop by and say hello. This week we'll be giving away our favorite books of 2010. Be sure to leave a comment over there to be entered to win and spread the word! We'd love to hear from you.

Monday, January 24, 2011

An Interview and Giveaway! Welcome, Author Michelle McLean!

I'm so excited to have author Michelle McLean as a guest on my blog today! In addition to being one of the nicest people I've met in the on-line author community, she's a contributor to the blog chain I used to participate in. I met some great people and found friends and crit partners through Michelle. And besides being an uber talented poet and fiction writer, her non-fiction book, HOMEWORK HELPERS: ESSAYS AND TERM PAPERS hit the shelves last week.

Tell us a little about your book, Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers:

Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers is a fun, user-friendly book that guides the reader, step by step, through writing a dozen different types of essays, including the dreaded SAT essay. Using straightforward, plain English, this book shows the reader exactly what they need to do, from start to finish, and includes rough draft, edited, and final draft versions of every type of essay discussed. This book also provides chapters that include tips and instruction on researching, proofreading, and citations.

What was your motivation behind writing the book?

My goal with it is to help people, especially students, get through their assignments with the least amount of pain and confusion possible. Essays are something that everyone has to write, whether they want to or not. Being confused by the process doesn’t make it any easier. It seems like most of the “help” guides out there are so full of complicated language and instructions they don’t help anyone. So I wanted to write a book that would actually help students through the entire process, from picking a topic to turning it in.

What issues did you address or target in Homework Helpers and what was your research procedure?

For the most part, I am just walking my readers through every step of the writing process for a dozen different types of essays. I also address things like researching, proofreading, and citing sources, and included a chapter with tips on how to write the SAT essay. As an English major, I’ve spent a lot of years writing every kind of essay and paper you can imagine. So, my research for the book mainly consisted of triple checking to make sure I had all the right rules for each essay. The sample essays in the book are actually my own essays from my school days, so I used them as a base and went from there.

Query letters vs. Non-fiction proposals: which would you rather write and why?

Ooo tough one LOL Query letters can be a pain, but I think I’d have to go with them. They can be kind of fun to play with and they are much shorter and less involved. A non-fiction proposal contains an overview of the book, a marketing section, a promotion section, an author section, a competition section, a detailed outline, chapter abstracts, and sample chapters. They can easily run 60+ pages.

Are you working on any other non-fiction projects, companions, or follow ups to Homework Helpers?

I am :) I am working on a book on how to write about two dozen different forms of poetry and a book that focuses on literary analysis essays and literary criticisms.

Aside from your non-fiction writing, you also write fiction. How long have you been writing fiction? Was it a natural path to follow from non-fiction or was your non-fiction borne of your fiction writing?

I’ve been writing fiction (with an aim for publication) for six years. I technically started with fiction since I’ve been writing stories and poetry for as long as I can remember. But I’ve always enjoyed writing essays and papers and even started my college career with the goal to become a historian or archivist. My first publications were non-fiction narrative essays in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
So, I’ve sort of always done both, hand in hand.

What is the hardest part of being a non-fiction writer? Fiction? Is one more difficult than the other?

Fiction is more fun, but harder for me than non-fiction. Writing stories for myself and writing them with an eye to get them published are two totally different things. There is an art to storytelling, one I’m still working on.

Non-fiction comes a lot easier to me. But then, I’ve been doing it “professionally” a lot longer. I have a master’s degree in English so I’ve spent a good 20 years writing essays and papers. Non-fiction is basically taking facts and presenting them to your audience. It’s taking information I know or can look up and arranging it in a logical and organized manner.

Fiction is a lot more messy :) There are more potential problems (plot holes, characterization problems, etc). It’s emotional as opposed to the more analytical non-fiction.

Tell us a little about your journey: What was your agent search like? Your submission process? Did you ever feel like tearing your hair out?

You know, I expected it to be hard. I’d spent a couple years repeatedly revising and unsuccessfully querying a novel in the past, so I’d definitely done my time in the query trenches and had more than my fair share of rejections.

So with this book, it was a shock at what a whirlwind it ended up being. From sending my first query to signing with my agent, it was only about 3 ½ weeks. My agent, the fabulous Krista Goering, emailed to set up a phone call within an hour of reading my proposal and I signed with her the day we spoke. It took about six months to get an offer for the book from Career Press.

Would you mind volunteering one random fact about yourself?

Um… my right foot is half a size larger than my left foot, courtesy of my pregnancy with my son :D

Is there anything else about your book you’d like my readers to know

While the book is mainly geared toward junior high, high school, and college students, it also contains chapters on researching and proofreading that can be used by any writer. The processes I outline for writing essays can also be applied to any project, so even if you aren’t currently in school and needing help with essays, you can still find useful information and tips in the book.

In celebration of Michelle's release, we're giving away some sweet swag!

All you have to do to enter is comment on the blog. I'll draw a winner from the comments, just please make sure I have your contact information if you don't supply it on your profile! Thanks for stopping by, Michelle! And good luck!!

If you want to find Michelle's book on the web, you can find it at the following places:

Barnes and Noble

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Stroke

I've been working on an aspect of my writing that's been weak. Namely, the sex scene. They're a lot harder to write than you'd think. When I sent the second book in my series off to my crit partners, I told them: I've been flexing my writing muscles a bit. Let me know what you think.

I got an email from one crit partner this week telling me that she'd stumbled upon the first sex scene while reading during her daughter's gymnastics class. Can you say uncomfortable? And to top it all off, guess what song was playing on the radio?

The next day I got an email from a second crit partner. The title: The Stroke. It read along the lines of OMG I'm SO glad I wasn't in public when I read this!

I think I'm getting better at writing these babies! ;)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Case of the Stolen Zen

I have a friend--and crit partner--who is calm. Seriously, unshakably calm. She's the sort of friend who always has a logical explanation, the pragmatic soul who thinks everything through before making a decision. A steady, unflappable influence. And she's totally rubbed off on me.

I've stolen her Zen. Now, I don't want you guys to think I've been a bad friend. I gave it back to her this morning. But over the past month, I needed it. Things have been a little unsettled in my writerly world. It was the sort of situation that would have had the old me biting my nails, eating compulsively, and lying wide awake in bed at night. But thanks to my stolen, er, borrowed Zen, this particular bump in the road didn't faze me.


Because I've learned one thing over the past year: The publishing industry is what it is. Sounds cryptic, but it's true. I can't do anything about timelines, responses, unexpected changes. These things happen in publishing just like they happen everywhere. And really, in comparison, publishing doesn't move any slower--or faster--than any other business. I can't do anything to change that. I'm a writer. I write. I can control my words, my scenes, my characters, and that's where I should focus my energy all of the time.

So, now that I've given my friend back her Zen, am I running around my house like a maniac, fraught with worry? Not exactly. Now returned, my friend says her Zen feels like swiss cheese. Full of holes like I held on tight and it ripped when I gave it back. And maybe I did manage to keep a little.