My Writing Process Blog Tour - Dark Fantasy writer Brent Kelly

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Continuing with the My Writing Process Blog Tour, today we hear from Brent Kelly, a dark fantasy writer from the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

What are you working on?

These days I’m trying to wrap up my third novel, CHUGGIE AND THE PRISONER GODS. It’s about my pal Chuggie and some trouble he’s gotten into. It’s the third book of his ongoing series, the first being CHUGGIE AND THE DESECRATION OF STAGWATER. The second was CHUGGIE AND THE BLEEDING GATEWAYS. There should be many more to come. In this book, Chuggie’s stuck on a world called Glughu, and he needs to get home to try and stop a war. We also get to see through the eyes of Chuggie’s friend Fey Voletta, as well as young lady named Squip who was born into poverty. I’m even more excited about this next book than the first two for several reasons. The story is amped up, the monsters are more monstrous, and there are going to be pictures. I’ve got an artist named David Starr creating illustrations, and the ones I’ve seen so far are just glorious. The man knows what he’s doing, and his illustrations are going to be a great addition to the story.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Chuggie’s stories are in the genre of Dark Fantasy. What you won’t find are dragons, werewolves, vampires, fairies, elves, trolls, centaurs, or zombies. A lot of Dark Fantasy tales are set right here on Earth. There’s nothing wrong with that, but with Chuggie I created a new world. It’s called Mag Mell, and I have a pretty wild time exploring there. On Mag Mell, there is a race of beings called Steel Jacks – basically creatures of living energy who live in 8-foot-tall metal suits. They arrived through the Tetracardi Rift, and they’re not to be trifled with. They also lend a touch of sci-fi to the story. The Steel Jacks want Chuggie to join their team, but he does his best to avoid them. He spends his days trying  in vain to stay out of trouble and his nights telling crazy, boozy tales that may not have happened exactly how he says.

Why do you write what you do?

It’s what I’m best at writing. I dabble in horror, sci-fi, children’s stories, and so on. With Dark Fantasy – particualarly Chuggie’s stories – I feel like I’m home. His adventures are light-hearted, silly, whimsical, profanity-filled, gory, gruesome, creepy, and sexy. I can really let my imagination off its chain when I’m writing about him.

How does your writing process work?

There’s a long period of writing notes. Then I’ll write down every conflict in the book that I can think of. That becomes a basic outline. I don’t spend too much time working on a huge outline initially because it’ll be useless by chapter 4. I’ll outline a chapter at a time, write the chapter, then a quick outline, then write a chapter, and so on. Once I have a completed manuscript, I’ll send it to my editor Kate Jonez at Omnium Gatherum. She’ll read it and send back her editorial suggestions. We’ll edit for two months. Then, if Odin wills it, we’ll publish the book exactly on schedule. CHUGGIE AND THE PRISONER GODS is slated for release this September. Want my opinion? Everyone should get the most excited they’ve ever been and then maintain that level of excitement until the book comes out, star

tiiiiiiing… NOW!

brent kelley
brent kelley

Brent Michael Kelley lives and writes in the Wisconsin Northwoods.

He is the author of CHUGGIE AND THE DESECRATI

ON OF STAGWATER

(Mischief Mayhem Want and Woe)

and 

CHUGGIE AND THE BLEEDING GATEWAYS

(Mischief Mayhem Want and Woe Book 2)

.

He shares a home with such things as hairless dogs, a snake named Darth Batman, and the woman he married on Halloween. In addition to writing about his pal Chuggie, he likes writing story-poems, painting monsters, and making wine. Some say late at night, if you’re alone by a campfire, you can summon Brent by closing your eyes and saying his name eleven times. He insists this is not true and there’s no way it will work… yet. He can be found on the web at brentmichaelkelley.com.

Friday Twitter Tips - Article Links Edition

TwitterBirdMonday, we will have another My Process Blog Tour entry but today it's Friday, and that means Friday Twitter Tips. I know how y'all love a schedule, so I'm sticking to my schedule. I don't know about y'all (you know you're from Texas if you use "y'all" in two consecutive sentences), but I'm getting a little tired of the same old query tips. So, today's theme is Article Links. Below are tweets promoting articles as varied as how to plan a blog tour, how to increase  your productivity, how to set up Google Authorship in Wordpress and more!

[embed]https://twitter.com/gordonwarnock/status/476745615221993472[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/olsonkayla/status/476745594879229954[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/nfrail17/status/476354915485634560[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/WritersDigest/status/474884684934291456[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/BadRedheadMedia/status/470020089409200128[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/WritersDigest/status/469784889236398080[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/SassyOutwater/status/469799650716053505[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/pwheeler_agent/status/458228927992176640[/embed]

If you have a helpful or interesting article about writing you'd like to share, please post it in the comments!

Next week, I am going to post the Six Query Tips I've Learned from Compiling Friday Twitter Tips, your one stop post for Six Query Tips.


 

 PREVIOUSLY ON FRIDAY TWITTER TIPS

Do Your Homework

More Query Advice

 DFW Writers’ Conference Edition

Query Advice Edition

Writing Advice Edition

One Submission at a Time

#PubTips

#PubTips

#PubTips

#PubTips

 

My Writing Process Blog Tour - Fantasy writer Anna Hess

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Today on My Writing Process Blog Tour, we hear from genre busting, but mostly fantasy, writer Anna Hess.

Why do you write what you do?

I write because there is a steady stream of characters in my head that I’ve become good friends with. They’ve helped me through hard times and embellished good times, but mostly they have helped me learn about myself. I’d like to share these characters and their stories with others, and if only one other person has as much fun with them as I have, then that was worth it. And if not, well, I still had fun with them. I also write because I’d like to contribute to the children’s/young adult age when I was inhaling any book I could get my hands on.

How does your writing process work?

I’m not sure if my writing process has a pattern, but if it did it would work something like this - I picture something ridiculous happening, build a scenario around it, feather it into a basic storyline, and immediately jot down a series of notes that I spend an inflated amount of time, and many pots of coffee, trying to interpret later. Then, after many months of yelling ‘Just do it already!!’ at myself, I sit down and put a solid string of scenarios on paper. I carry a notepad and a small pencil around with me almost all of the time. Though, it never fails that ideas come to me when I’m in a pitch black theater or have hands full of gooey bread dough and am utterly incapable of writing. More than once I’ve found a shredded and dried piece of a napkin in the dryer and have spent long moments trying to understand what “cave tree orgooo bler” means. I write very quickly (tpyos are common) and with a steady flow, so it’s very difficult to me to go back and change small portions of a story, I mostly have to change a huge chunk of it. Also, you can throw in the usual amount of the author self-loathing cycle, following “This is amazing! This is horrible! I hate myself! *pour coffee*”.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My writing probably differs from similar genres because it is fairly advanced in humor, cynicism and relationships and spans across the border of children’s and young adult. I try to write for advanced young readers. When I was growing up there weren’t many books for children 9-15, and after reading everything on the shelves at the local library I read Jurassic Park (I was 9, and the librarian was worried it was too violent) and then started the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (admittedly that took awhile). I’m so happy that there are authors adding to the young adult genres, and that I can always see my younger cousins tucked into a corner with a book. If I could contribute to this, I’d consider that a great accomplishment.

What are you working on?

I’m working on at least a dozen different projects ranging from beginning readers to advanced adult. Most of these are fantasy, though I also delve into the horror genre sometimes, but moreso with ghost stories and psychological thrillers. Currently my favorite project is a young adult fantasy series in which my characters are animals and mythical creatures trying to strategize in a non-classic battle of good against evil. I’m also reworking some short stories that were published in newspapers, including a mini-series about a multi-universe bond between two teenagers, and another about a ghost wolverine (which, frankly, is terrifying to me). I am currently publishing a study on butterflies and bison, and at the moment I am editing my answers to Melissa’s blog (thanks so much for including me!)while I wait for a satellite image to process.

anna hess
anna hess

Anna Hess is a chronic daydreamer and musician that finally settled on an enigmatic career in cartography so that she could mix science and art. She fell into a series of job opportunities including saving prairies, surveying powerlines, finding patterns in how floods occur, saving butterflies, and preparing chemistry laboratories. Through her 11 years of college (she did get a doctorate) she worked with theater companies doing everything from acting to props to stage management to substituting for mannequins. However, she enjoys writing fantasy more than anything else. You can find her on Twitter

@AnnaNHess

.

My Writing Process Blog Tour - YA Author A.M. Bostwick

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When I asked A.M. Bostwick to participate in the My Writing Process Blog tour she agreed, with a caveat: she doesn't have a blog. No worries, I said. We'll post it on mine! Then she tagged three more people who don't have blogs. I'm happy to host their answers to the blog tour for the next few days.  First up, Abigail. What are you working on?

I’m on a break from a NA/YA I’ve spent nearly a year on. It was unexpected, but I decided to delve into a sequel to my debut MG novel, THE GREAT CAT NAP, a mystery adventure.  For the longest time, I didn’t know where time would find my feline narrator. All of a sudden, I just knew. I’ve had a lot of fun writing this – I knew all the characters, found plenty of new seedy ones for Ace to encounter and an entirely new mystery for Ace to solve that I hope will appeal to young readers.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I flip between YA and MG and sometimes NA! So it depends. As for Ace, it’s different because it’s from the first person viewpoint of a cat, I suppose. He’s sophisticated, smart and sassy – and in a world that’s perhaps a bit more noir and dark than many MG. I think my YA differs in that I face some common dilemmas of that age group, but also some larger-than-life issues that are unique to the character. It’s not so unique, however, that someone couldn’t empathize with the situation and want to know how the character pulls through.

Why do you write what you do?

In MG, I like to write what amuses me. As a kid, I related strongly to books about animals. I grew up isolated, in the country, with a lot of cats, dogs and rescued wildlife. I loved books with animals as the heroes. As I got older, I really found myself in real-life, contemporary stories, however, which are what my YA focus on. So many of my friends found themselves in fantasy, and it took me a long time to get into that genre. Maybe that’s why I write contemporary. It’s still what I gravitate toward.

How does your writing process work?

As much as I try to “think” of ideas, that never works for me. It usually starts with a character speaking to me and suddenly everything catches fire and I write like crazy – scenes, parts of chapters, dialogue. Just to get the feel. Then I like an outline. I always know the end. Maybe not literally, but I know where the character arcs will end. I like to leave enough room to be surprised. Not everything is plotted. Just the main points.

abigail
abigail

A.M. Bostwick writes Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. An early draft of her young adult novel, “Break the Spell,” was a finalist in the 2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fab 5 Contest. Abigail lives in northern Wisconsin with her husband, dog and thrill-seeking cat. The Great Cat Nap, winner of the 2014 Tofte/Wright Children's Literature Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, is her debut novel.

Thanks, Abigail! For more information about Abigail and her writing as well as a sample chapter of THE GREAT CAT NAP, check out her website or follow her on Twitter @bostwickAM

Top Ten Tuesday/Thursday - Top 10 Books I've Read This Year

toptentuesday After reading 100 books last year, I've only read 20 this year. I'm three behind my goal of one per week. As a result, this Top Ten Tuesday (shut up, I know it's Thursday), Top 10 Books I've Read This Year, will encompass half of my reading accomplishments. Yikes. I need to stop watching tv and start reading. Though in my defense, I've abandoned more books than usual this year. Regardless, these ten stood out.

 

 

My Writing Process Blog Tour

My friend and fellow DFW Workshop member, David Goodner, tagged me in the My Writing Process Blog Tour meme. Below are my answers, and the three people who agreed to keep this meme going.

What am I working on?

I'm editing my historical novel, PALO DURO, to ready it for submission in September.

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How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write character driven mysteries with too much cussing to qualify it as a cozy, not enough blood to qualify it as gritty, too much romance to qualify it as a procedural and not enough romance for it to be erotica. The central character is a male instead of a female, a police chief instead of an amateur sleuth, and it's a crime novel instead of a thriller. To me, it's a pretty straight forward small town crime novel, which it turns out is more unique than I thought.

Why do I write what I do?

I love history and historical fiction. I love learning something new when I read and the opportunity to do that for other readers is appealing. Plus, there aren't enough American authors writing about American history. Unless it's the Civil War. Everyone writes about the Civil War. But, there is so, so much more out there to write about. It's getting better, actually. I've seen quite a few unique American historical fiction novels recently: The Traitor's Wife, Orphan Train, One Thousand White Women, to name a few. I love British and European history as much as the next person, but it's time for historical fiction to move on from Nazis and the British monarchy, I think.

Why do I write mysteries? I'm not sure, truth be told. Since my reading habits are so varied, I I don't read a ton of mysteries and when I do it's whatever catches my eye. It might be cozy, traditional, noir, thriller, crime procedural.  This lack of genre focus in my reading probably explains why my novel isn't easily slotted into a sub-genre. I've been influenced by many of them. When I wrote STILLWATER, I wrote a mystery I would like to read and discovered I like writing mysteries.

And women's fiction? That is such a hard genre to define. To me, all of my novels are women's fiction because they have a strong female as a central character. I've dabbled in erotica but haven't written a traditional romance. I might one day, but for now I'm focusing on writing strong female protagonists in male dominated worlds.

How does my writing process work?

My writing process is 60% procrastination, and by procrastination I mean naps, and 40% writing. I'm not kidding.

I start with an idea, usually a character. I'll go through my daily activities, distracted and distant, thinking about this idea; fleshing out the character, the situation, the setting. Then, I start writing. I don't outline, save for one or two word sentences for each chapter, which I usually write once I'm halfway done with the book. It's at the halfway mark that it starts to flow, I realize there's an end to work toward. I finish the first draft, polish it up, then send it to my first reader, Mark. He tears it apart, and I rewrite. He teases me that I write two novels worth of prose for every novel I write. So far, he's right. I keep hoping that as I develop as a writer, I will develop a more streamlined writing process.  So far, that hasn't happened.

If the idea is historical fiction, I try to read as much as I can on the subject and time period before  so I have a good grasp on the feel of the time. Between my first and second draft, I'll do specific research to get the details right. I can't research while I write or I will fall down every research rabbit hole there is and get nothing done.

Three of my writing friends have graciously agreed to continue this little meme.

abigail
abigail

A.M. Bostwick writes Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. An early draft of her young adult novel, "Break the Spell," was a finalist in the 2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fab 5 Contest. Abigail lives in northern Wisconsin with her husband, dog and thrill-seeking cat. THE GREAT CAT NAP, winner of the 2014 Tofte/Wright Children's Literature Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, is her debut novel.

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anna-photo

Anna Davis. Writer. Mom. Wife. Avid reader. Coffee lover. Cyberpunk. Sci-fi nerd. Winner of the DFW Writer’s Conference “Fire and Ash” Short Story Contest. Editorial Assistant at Henery Press.

jenny
jenny

Jenny Martin is a librarian, a book monster, and a certified electric-guitar-rawking Beatle-maniac. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son, where she hoards books and regularly blisses out over all kinds of live and recorded rock. Her debut YA novel, TRACKED, will be released in 2014 by Dial, an imprint of Penguin.

Friday Twitter Tips - Do Your Homework Edition

[embed]https://twitter.com/MsMariaVicente/status/474638891358896131[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/MKDB/status/473296674463313920[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/literaticat/status/473160177269895168[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/ChuckSambuchino/status/472815199507202048[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/carlywatters/status/472767014000685057[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/alecdshane/status/472134391742078976[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/EricRubenLawyer/status/471607871369920512[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/JennieGoloboy/status/469931486758449152[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/JennieGoloboy/status/469930289108508672[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/WritersDigest/status/469784889236398080[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/AgentShea/status/469200603382816768[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/SusanMacNeal/status/469098613919191040[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/Renee_Nyen/status/466659881375006720[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/ZulfiqarRashid/status/465880333720625152[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/WritersDigest/status/471640179535777792[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/kate_mckean/status/471330492231335938[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/jsinsheim/status/462763493754540033[/embed]

Tweet of the Week

[embed]https://twitter.com/AdviceToWriters/status/462653016626061312[/embed]

Previously on Friday Twitter Tips...

More Query Advice

 DFW Writers' Conference Edition

Query Advice Edition

Writing Advice Edition

One Submission at a Time

#PubTips

#PubTips

#PubTips

#PubTips

It's summer! Time to make ice cream.

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Summer in the Swamp means two things, reading books and making ice cream. The eating is implied. Because, ice cream. The last Swamp two posts have been about reading, which means to keep the world in balance, this one must be about ice cream. I love it when ice cream balances out the world, don't you? It's kind of a super hero in that respect.

Now, if you've followed my blog for a while, you've read my ice cream posts and you know I'm a big fan of The Perfect Scoop. I thought it was all I would ever need in an ice cream cookbook. Until one day, I went to Williams Sonoma and this beautiful little cookbook crooked its finger at me and winked.

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I've proved the old adage that you eat with your eyes because I've gained five pounds just flipping through this baby like a teenager through Playboy. Probably not the best analogy, but I'm going to stick with it because this book is full of ice cream p0rn.

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But, really. I read it for the recipes.

Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl

Raspberry Ice Cream, Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Malted Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Bittersweet Chocolate chips

Chocolate Midnight Cake

How to Make Chocolate Shavings

Chocolate Chip Cookies (because one can never have too many CCC recipes)

Cheesecake Ice Cream

How to assemble an Ice Cream Cake without it sliding off to the side and making a mess in your freezer

Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Malted Vanilla Ice Cream with Peanut Brittle and Milk Chocolate Pieces

Yes, yes, yes!

pictures from the cookbook

You better believe you'll have what I'm having.

Cough. Yes. Well. Back to blogging.

This summer, I'll be making ice cream from this book and reviewing the recipes here. Someone has to sacrifice their waistline for the greater good, and in summer 2014, that someone will be me.

You can download a sample of the book from Scribd.

 

Top Ten Tuesday - 10 Books That Will Be in My Backpack* This Summer

image from danshamptons * I have mountains and rivers in my future, not beaches. Maybe one beach, but it'll be cold. I'm still using the beach picture...oh, never mind.

From The Broke and the Bookish: Ten Books That Will Be In My Beach Bag This Summer...Until I go to Barnes and Noble and hear the siren song of the buy 2 get 1 free table.

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass - I bought this at DFW Con a month ago and have been reading it in fits and starts. I need to dive into it.

Calling me Home by Julie Kibler - another purchase from DFW Con.

Ashenden, or The British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham - part of my Reading Hitchcock series

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy - I've never met Murphy personally, but she's friends with writers in my workshop. Plus, the book has received good reviews.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell - I should probably add Attachments to the list as well.

The Smoke at Dawn by Jeff Shaara - Civil War historical fiction

The Lumineers by Elizabeth Catton - the 2013 Booker Prize Winner has been on my bedside table for three weeks, getting dusty. I'm 100 pages in and am enjoying it...?

Silas Marner by George Eliot - for my 23 Short Classics Book Club on Goodreads

Whack Job by Kendel Lynn - Second in the Elliot Lisbon series, and a book I gave away a couple of weeks ago!


 

Your turn. What's in your suitcase/beach bag/backpack this summer? Share in the comments.

It's Summer! Time to read.

image from danshamptons Welcome to June. The month where temperatures start to rise outside and I buy a jumbo Ibuprofen from Costco to alleviate all the headaches my constantly fighting 12 and 15 year old sons will give me until August 25. But, refereeing fights is not what this post is about. June is also the official start of reading season and I'm here with links to all the Summer Reading lists that have hit the internet like Old Faithful. But, wait, Melissa. Why aren't you recommending books to read for the summer? One, I'm lazy. Two, I have a smidge of a headache (my body prepping for the summer, no doubt). Three, it's almost nap time.

Enough about me. On to the book recommendations and general bookish type links!


 

The LA Times decides to make every other book list feel inadequate from the word go and  previews 143 books. 143!

Also on the LA Times, David Ulin muses about unfulfilled summer reading projects.

Worried they'll lose their literary street cred if they admit to reading a book with a picture of sand and water on the cover, five best-selling authors' tell what they're reading this summer, and it's heavy on the thinking and learning. (CNN)

The Minneapolis Star Tribune gives five mysteries you must read, then 10 more. That's 15 recommendations, btw. You're welcome.

USA Today Profiles Rainbow Rowell, as they should because she is made of awesomeness. They did not confirm, nor deny, the rumor that rainbows shoot from Rowell's fingers and unicorns dance on her keyboard when she is writing, but anyone who's read her work already knows the answer.

USA Today HIghlights 30 Hot Summer Reads. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say these are duplicated in the LA Times Summer Preview of 143 books. 143!

The thought of scrolling through 143 (143!) or 30 book recommendations stress you out?  Hollywood Report has you covered with a measly 10 recs for you ADHD suffering fools.

Huff Po, that bastion of the long read, decided 30 was too many but 10 was not enough, so they went with 16. They don't know why they chose 16 instead of 15, or 20 either, but they sure as hell never considered 143. 143! Though now that they think of it, a 143 picture gallery would pull in a helluva lot of page views...

Then, the NY Post goes and chooses 29. Where do these people come up with these numbers? I like the variety in the Post's choices, though.

The St Louis Post Dispatch wins for organization: they've divided their list out by month of release. Or maybe they win for the lazy. Trust me, I'm a well-qualified judge (see this post you're reading). We'll be nice and call it the Cut and Paste Award.


Don't worry. I'm trying to post on my blog every weekday during June. I'll be back with more links to book recommendations soon. Probably sooner than I should.

 

 

Friday Twitter Tips: Mostly Query Advice. Again. #pubtip #querytip

With the ease of internet research, you'd think writers wouldn't keep making the same query mistakes over and over. But, you'd be wrong. https://twitter.com/Renee_Nyen/status/466659881375006720

https://twitter.com/AliceNicoleH/status/466577390400200706

https://twitter.com/LZats/status/466013761048825856

https://twitter.com/jawlitagent/status/465954427975647233

https://twitter.com/literaticat/status/465926248313544705

https://twitter.com/SarahGreenhouse/status/465843281600196608

https://twitter.com/gordonwarnock/status/465198395192537089

https://twitter.com/Michrichter1/status/464953239427768320

https://twitter.com/carlywatters/status/463307781366636544

https://twitter.com/byobrooks/status/463787652785778688

https://twitter.com/agentgame/status/462319015244091392

https://twitter.com/gordonwarnock/status/461979714236997632

https://twitter.com/byobrooks/status/463787652785778688

https://twitter.com/WritersDigest/status/465242484386590720

https://twitter.com/jawlitagent/status/461520453677637632

https://twitter.com/gordonwarnock/status/461202307724902400

https://twitter.com/bradfordlit/status/461186703961509888

https://twitter.com/Mary_C_Moore/status/460900346336796672

https://twitter.com/jawlitagent/status/460805702861467649

https://twitter.com/jawlitagent/status/460788700159676416

https://twitter.com/SaraMegibow/status/460780327741321216

https://twitter.com/jsinsheim/status/460203985220403201

https://twitter.com/WolfsonLiterary/status/459897340657410048

TWITTER TIP OF THE WEEK (for everyone suffering through yet another rejection)

https://twitter.com/LitRejections/status/459768474467053568

Friday Twitter Tips 5/6

Friday Twitter Tips 4/25

Friday Twitter Tips 4/18

Friday Twitter Tips 2/28

Friday Twitter Tips 2/14

Friday Twitter Tips 2/7

Friday Twitter Tips 1/31

Friday Twitter Tips 1/24

 

 

 

Q&A with Agatha Award Nominated Author Kendel Lynn & a Giveaway!

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Kendel-About-2

Kendel Lynn is a little bit like Superman. The bug-adverse, hand sanitizer obsessed, cupcake loving editor of Henery Press by day, the author of the Elliot Lisbon mystery series by night. Or at least during vacation (as you'll see below). Since starting Henery Press, Kendel's authors have been nominated for three Agatha Awards, winning one, and her press has gained a loyal following of readers who want witty cozies with strong female protagonists. Her eye for winners is no doubt due to her own writing skills, as any reader of the first Elliot Lisbon mystery, Board Stiff, will attest. In celebration of the release of her second Elliot Lisbon novel, Whack Job, Kendel graciously agreed to put on her writer hat and answer some questions and promised to do the same with her editor alter ego very soon.

Have you always been a writer or was it something you came to later in life?

I’ve always been a reader, mysteries especially. I think I fell into writing the way a lot of writers do: I kept reading books and thinking: I could do better than this! So one day I tried. May I say it’s much more difficult to be on the writerly side of the book.

You're from California and live in Texas. What made you choose the coast of South Carolina as the setting for your Elliot Lisbon series?

I lived on Hilton Head Island for three years and it was lovely! It’s an interesting amalgamation of residents. There’s old money, new money and no money. Half of the residents are part-timers, either they vacation there or retired there from the northern states, and the other half are longtime South Carolina families. Plenty of spots to plan a murder.

You're the managing editor of a full-service publisher, Henery Press. When in the world do you find time to write?

Vacations! I love to come to the office when we’re closed. There’s something serene and invigorating about being the only person around. It’s quiet – no people, no phones, no email. I can get a ton done.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the outline for the third in the series, SWAN DIVE, which comes out next April. I’ll grow the outline for about two months, until it’s about fifty pages, then start the draft. Which I hate! I much prefer the outline and revisions.

Writers are typically masters of procrastination. I know I've elevated it to an art form. What are your favorite procrastination activities or are you one of those always on the go, productive people?

Oh procrastination! I’m a sucker for the boob tube. I love everything Forensic Files to Once Upon A Time (what a finale!) to the Blacklist to Kitchen Nightmares. I actually love all kinds of cooking competition shows and hate to cook. As in, if it’s up to me to make dinner, we’re having cereal.

Is there a particular author who has influenced your writing style?

Stephen King inspired me to write well, to do my best and then be better. His style is quite unique and free and I love it. THE STAND is probably my all-time favorite book, but I’m a wimp these days and skim the scarier parts. Sue Grafton and the late Lawrence Sanders definitely played a role in style. I love influencing a traditional mystery with a dash of flair!

I have what I call comfort reads, novels I return to year after year, some that I read when I'm going through difficult times in my life. Do you have a novel like that? If so, what is it?

When I feel like I need to connect with mysteries, I’ll grab A IS FOR ALIBI by Sue Grafton. If I feel like I need a dose of imagination, I’ll grab the entire Harry Potter series and read them through. They are magical and endearing and I can get lost in minutes.

I know it might be difficult to separate your inner editor from your inner writer, but as a writer, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to unpublished writers?

Two pieces (because I’m like that):

Firstly, have great beta readers. The ones who will tell you how it is, not just how much they enjoy your work. They are hard to find, but hang on when you get them. Even after you’re under contract, always use betas before you send to your agent and/or editor.

Secondly, keep writing. After you’ve polished your novel and started submitting to agents/editors, write the next book. If an agent or editor loves your work, their first question will be: where’s the next one? Publishers want to invest in your career, and if you’ve got more books behind the first one, it’ll give you an edge.

whack job
whack job

When Elliott Lisbon blends her directorship of the Ballantyne Foundation with her PI-in-Training status by planning parties and performing discreet inquiries for charitable patrons. But when the annual Wonderland Tea Party makes everyone go mad as a hatter, Elli gets pulled into a shooting, a swindle, and the hung for a Faberge egg.

From seedy pawn parlors to creepy antique shops, Sea Pine Island’s other half prove to be as wacky as the wealthy. As Elli falls farther down the rabbit hole, she finds a scheming salesman, a possessive paramour, a dead donor–in fact, the only thing missing is a bottle labeled “Drink Me.” As events evolve from curious to crazy, Elli gets lost in the maze and finds herself trapped in a house of cards with a killer.

In honor of Elliot Lisbon's endearing quirks, reply below with what you consider your own endearing quirks, or what our family members might call annoying habits, to win a SIGNED copy of Kendel's new book, Whack Job. The contest will run through Tuesday, May 20. Winner announced Wednesday, May 21.

DFW Writers' Conference: Tuesday Morning Twitter Tips Edition

Since I am writing a full recap of the DFW Writers' Conference for a Sisters in Crime newsletter, I am not going to recap the weekend here. Though I will say it was outstanding. I learned so much and met many wonderful people. I also felt very 21st century. I took notes on my computer and, because wi-fi was free at the conference center, I was able to have Twitter open in the background and to tweet my favorite quotes from Donald Maass, Jonathan Mayberry and Les Edgerton, among others. So, because I'm still a teeny bit brain fried, I'm going to do a Tuesday Morning Twitter Tips, Writers' Con edition. https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/463019723597168641

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462962742777753602

https://twitter.com/LZats/status/462649834575376384

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462961882144309248

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462697309105451009

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462662824854974464

https://twitter.com/NinaAmir/status/462646869412159488

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462645931683246080

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462600246065770496

https://twitter.com/DFW_Writers/status/462626728905416704

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462598829745790976

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462596217839427584

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462595349312319488

https://twitter.com/DFW_Writers/status/462644165117882368

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462330786041966593

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462321976464273408

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462321419439726592

https://twitter.com/SwampOfBoredom/status/462268264941228032

https://twitter.com/NataliaSylv/status/463072082692042754

 

 

Friday Twitter Tips: Query Advice Edition

TwitterBirdIf you're a writer at a certain point in your career, you've heard the words "build your platform." In case you haven't,  in short it means engaging on social media, blogs, networking, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. Though I think too much emphasis can be put on platform building for unpublished writers, specifically those who spend more time blogging and tweeting than writing (you know who you are; stop it right now!), I appreciate the idea and I think in the long run, having a presence on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada, will all pay off with greater exposure and more sales. But, that's down the road. For the here and now, what can an unpublished writer really get from these platforms? Besides lots of follows by people who only want to promote their own books? Well, if you're following the right people, you can get some great advice. I follow some wonderful writers (@deannaraybourn being my favorite author Twitterer by far) and they give brilliant advice and encouragement. But, if you want advice that will make a difference right now, i.e. land you an agent or sell your book, you should be following literary agents and editors. Some are more prolific twitterers than others. (I especially recommend Margaret Bail (@MKDB) for her almost daily 10 Queries Tweets.) But, all of their advice is useful. If you read along long enough, you'll have an, "Oops. I've done that" moment. You'll also notice a pattern in their advice, namely they can sound like a broken record. Seems like we writers never learn. Either that or we don't follow them on Twitter and listen to their advice!

In case The Twitter scares you or you're too lazy to bother, every (or most) Fridays, I round up my favorite Twitter #pubtips from the week. It's my very own public service to you.  This week's focus is on querying.

https://twitter.com/kate_mckean/status/458936933021151232

https://twitter.com/NYCeditor/status/458275481054642176

https://twitter.com/hannahnpbowman/status/456833668737425408

https://twitter.com/SaraMegibow/status/457178626861977600

https://twitter.com/MarleneStringer/status/456450748105388032

https://twitter.com/DebNemeth/status/456423862411214848

https://twitter.com/AliceNicoleH/status/456073213227712513

https://twitter.com/KatBrzozowski/status/454388209859182592

https://twitter.com/WolfsonLiterary/status/453519368866258944

https://twitter.com/jawlitagent/status/450644862925561856

https://twitter.com/ALRutter/status/449498326816534528

https://twitter.com/JennieGoloboy/status/448636494354202624

Friday Twitter Tips, Writing Advice Edition

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Yes, I've fallen down on my Friday Twitter Tips so much I have a huge backlog of favorites to post. So many, the brilliance of the tips would be lost amid the avalanche. So, I'm focusing this Friday Twitter Tips on one particular subject: writing advice. Because writing advice is like dieting advice: you know it already, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded. https://twitter.com/DFW_Writers/status/456986286486589440

https://twitter.com/erinjorge/status/456504055305498624

https://twitter.com/DanielleBurby/status/455800573384982528

https://twitter.com/ALeeMartinez/status/454345104921083904

https://twitter.com/AgentShea/status/454258574597038080

https://twitter.com/DelilahSDawson/status/453144132475953152

https://twitter.com/UweStender/status/450292815868997632

https://twitter.com/UweStender/status/449525699981115392

https://twitter.com/susanorlean/status/446402111043948546

https://twitter.com/KatBrzozowski/status/444471572825661440

 

 

We have a winner!

jasmine
jasmine

Thanks for all the entries for the autographed copy of Deanna Raybourn's newest release, CITY OF JASMINE. I wish I could give everyone a copy, it's that good! But, I cannot. The winner is - or should I say, "the authographed copy of CITY OF JASMINE goes to..." Lindsey Carlson!

Her answer to the question: Do you re-read and if so, which book do you re-read the most was:

YES!  My boyfriend makes fun of me for re-reading books and re-watching movies, but if it's something you love....  It's hard to pick just one book that I have re-read the most since I have so many favs.  Probably, it would be Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede because I read it when I was little...and have kept reading it ever since.  So for longevity sake, it wins by default.  :)

Congrats, Lindsey!

Again, thanks to all who entered. I hope to be able to do more  author Q&As and book giveaways in the future. Be sure to follow my site so you'll be in the know!

Reading Hitchcock - The Trouble with Harry by Jack Trevor Story

harry
harry

I'm not sure I've ever had so little to say about a book I've read than what I do about The Trouble with Harry by Jack Trevor Story. "Eh."

I didn't like it, I didn't hate it. No, the real problem is this: I didn't get it. I suppose my mind isn't wired to fully appreciate farce. I can't stop thinking how much easier it would all be if they'd just do the logical thing and call the police. I remember having pretty much the same reaction to Hitchcock's version. It was okay, had some funny bits, but the humor wasn't broad enough for me to forget the ridiculousness of it all. Overall it was a movie I was happy to say I'd seen so I'd never have to watch it again. Exactly how I feel about the book.

Q&A with NYT Bestselling Author Deanna Raybourn

deanna
deanna

A month ago, I won an Advance Reader Copy of Deanna Raybourn's new release, CITY OF JASMINE, through a contest on her website. When I sent her my address, I asked if she would do an e-mail Q&A with me and she graciously agreed, which was no surprise. She is one of the most approachable and engaging authors on Twitter (as you'll see in a question below). If you don't follow her, you really should.

How did you get into this writing gig? Was writing something you've always wanted to do or a talent you were surprised to discover you had? 

I have always been a writer. I made up stories as a child, and I remember being absolutely thrilled when I learned how to print so I could get them out of my head and onto paper! I double-majored in English and history since I wanted to write historical fiction, and I wrote my first novel when I was 23. It took me fourteen years to get published, but I wrote the whole time. I have a tidy collection of very bad unpublished novels in my attic.

When I picked up SILENT IN THE GRAVE at the bookstore and read the first line I absolutely fell in love with your authorial voice. Did that line come to you in a flash of inspiration or was it something you labored over for months to get exactly right? 

The first line was in its finished form almost from the first draft—but it took ages for me to find that voice! I had been writing for years and going nowhere. My collection of rejection letters was truly impressive, and my agent finally told me she thought the problem was that I didn’t have a fully developed voice. So she advised me to take an entire year off from writing and just read. I asked her what I was supposed to do after that, and she said, “You’ll know!” She was right. I read for an entire year and at the end of that year I realized the books all had things in common. They were all historical with a British sensibility, a mystery structure, and a bit of romance. That’s when I knew exactly the sort of book I needed to write. About that same time, I ran across a single line in a book of poisons about a fascinating case in France. I took the crime and twisted it up a bit and that’s how I came up with SILENT IN THE GRAVE. That first line is very true to Julia Grey as a narrator, but it’s also very true to me.

Your Julia Gray novels have been very successful. With the publication of A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS last year, and with CITY OF JASMINE this week, you've switched heroines and eras. What inspired you to branch out from your Julia Gray series? Was it a book you read about the 20s, a movie you saw, or a vacation you took? Was your publisher resistant to you moving away from a series that had been so successful? 

My publisher actually requested it. They’ve never wanted me to do more than three books in a row in the Julia series, and when it was time to take a second break—we’d already published THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST between books three and four—they told me I had carte blanche to write about whatever I wanted. That was almost too much freedom! I finally had to narrow things down by making out a list of all the topics I read about for pleasure. I circled a few of them I was most interested in to see if I could fit them together somehow. I also had the barest idea of a girl who comes from a privileged background going to Africa. That snippet of a plot had been floating around in my files for awhile, and this was the perfect chance to dust it off and take it for a walk.

jasmine
jasmine

During the denouement of CITY OF JASMINE (no spoilers, don't worry!) you revealed Gabriel Starke had a connection to characters from your Julia Gray novels, even mentioning Nicholas Brisbane, though not by name. I absolutely loved that. Are all of your novels going to be connected like this in some way? Can we expect you to go back and forth in time with your novels and novellas, fleshing out events you've alluded to? 

Absolutely—and I’m so happy I can finally talk about it! The prequel novella to CITY OF JASMINE is WHISPER OF JASMINE, and in that story, where the heroine of A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS introduces the main characters of CITY OF JASMINE, there are a few minor characters from the Julia Grey series who make appearances. It’s the first chance I’ve had to hint at how everything is tied together. Each fictional world I have created is linked to the others, and readers will get to see more and more of those links as the novels and novellas continue.

Since I finished CITY OF JASMINE, I've been trying to figure out how old Julia and Nicholas would be in 1920 and wondering if they're alive. Can you share that information or would it spoil a future story? 

If they were alive—and I’m not saying one way or another!—they would be sixty and seventy, respectively. I can tell you that the novel I have coming out in the fall of 2014 will give you a definitive answer on what has become of them…

It seems most of the popular historical fiction on the market is set in Europe. Do you think American writers are drawn to the European setting because, like you, that is what they read, or is it because European history is much broader and deeper than American history? Have you ever considered writing a novel set in America, with American characters?

I have! I wrote a contemporary magical realism novel set in the US. It was a sort of palate cleanser after I wrote SILENT IN THE GRAVE and had moved across country. My historical source books were all packed away in storage for a year, so I decided to try something completely different. It was an interesting experiment, but it just didn’t feel as natural to me as a European setting. I think that’s because I read European—and a little Asian and African—history for pleasure, so I have much more exposure to those cultures. And that’s embarrassing to admit since I live in one of the hotspots of colonial history now! I do have a couple of ideas floating around for books set in the US, one about a Texas outlaw ancestor of mine, and another set in my current hometown. European history has a gloss of glamour to it, and you’re quite right about the depth and breadth. It’s just a luxury to have so many different cultures and stories colliding in one place for such a long span of time. You can pick any year, any spot, and there will be a story just waiting to be told.

For me, creating character names and book titles is the hardest part of writing. How do you come up with character names? Do your titles come to you easily or do you leave the title up to your editor?

Titles can be mine, theirs, or ours—it just depends on whether the working title is strong enough to carry the finished book. If I have a character quoting a poem or play, sometimes that will lend a phrase that will work. Other times the publisher and I will bat titles back and forth to find something that fits. Character names are MUCH easier! I keep a running list of interesting names, and if a character stumps me I can usually find inspiration there. Very occasionally, I will name a character in homage to someone else—Nicholas Brisbane’s first name is in honor of Nick Charles, and every novel of mine has at least one name taken from an Agatha Christie book. It’s a subtle way of paying tribute to an author I love

You are one of my favorite authors to follow on Twitter because you maintain a perfect balance between promoting your work, personal observations and anecdotes as well as interaction with your followers. Is the social media aspect of writing something you enjoy or is it something you do because it's part of the job?

Oh, thanks! I do try hard to get it right, and for me that means tweeting as I’d like to be tweeted unto. It can’t all be promotional or people feel used, and frankly that’s not much fun. I love the interaction on Twitter. I’ve connected with lots of readers and writers there, and it’s a huge relief sometimes to be able to get out of the ivory tower and interact with other people. Facebook I loathe, but I do post there since it’s still a place where a lot of people like to get their updates. I also blog and send out monthly newsletters, but Twitter will always be my favorite, I suspect. I love that it moves so fast and you can just jump into a conversation and disappear as quickly as you came.

For the unpublished authors reading this, do you have a road to publication war story or was your path easy? 

After I took a year off to read and then two years to write SILENT IN THE GRAVE, it took another two to place the book with a publisher. All told, it was fourteen years for me from first novel to book deal, and it was not easy. It was grueling. But I was lucky enough to have the support of my family and a wonderful agent—all of whom believed it was going to happen for me. I’m so glad they were right!

We writers are famous for our ability to procrastinate. What's your favorite procrastination activity? 

Reading and researching. I love falling down the rabbit hole and wandering around, learning everything I can about a really obscure topic. I also hang out on Twitter and watch TCM for inspiration. I’m working on not feeling guilty when I do those things because I’ve come to realize that every time I procrastinate, I actually uncover something I end up using! Procrastination is actually one of my very best creative tools.

TCM! I love TCM! It's one of my dreams to sit across from Robert Osborne and guest program a night of classic movies. If you were a guest programmer, what four movies would you choose, and why?

Oh, this is a tough one…there would have to be some Hitchcock, and I think I’d start with SUSPICION. Cary Grant was just perfection in that one, and Joan Fontaine is always fabulous when she’s in peril. I have to have some Peter O’Toole, so next would be THE LION IN WINTER. That’s the first film I saw him in, and I fell irrevocably in love. Besides that, there is nothing more glorious than Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine. That would be followed by THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. I prefer the Anthony Andrews version, but the Leslie Howard/Merle Oberon version is the only one to air on TCM and it’s sublime. Percy Blakeney is my most beloved fictional crush, so he had to be on the list somehow! I’d finish up with THE THIN MAN because I adore the Charleses—and Asta. The runner-up would be THE WOMEN for sheer delectable bitchery. This means I had to leave off: ROPE, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE AWFUL TRUTH, EVIL UNDER THE SUN, DEATH ON THE NILE, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII, NIGHT MUST FALL, TOPPER, BERKELEY SQUARE, REBECCA, HOLIDAY, ROMAN HOLIDAY, HOW TO STEAL A MILLION, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, TO CATCH A THIEF, ABOVE SUSPICION…I should stop now.

Some people love to re-read books. Others can't imagine it. Are you a re-reader? If so, what book have you re-read the most times?

That one’s easy—REBECCA. I read it for the first time when I was fourteen, and it’s still a favorite. For a long time it was my go-to travel book, the extra book I took on trips in case the book I was reading turned out to be a dud. I was thrilled when it finally came out in a digital format so I can always have a copy on hand! Obvious favorite rereads are Christie and Conan Doyle, but I will also reach for Elizabeth Peters, Mary Stewart, Jane Austen, Anya Seton. If a book is good enough to own, it will stand up to rereading, and I love finding new things in an old favorite.

***

medeanna
medeanna

A week after completing this Q&A, I had the privilege to meet Deanna at a CITY OF JASMINE book signing at Murder by the Book in Houston. She was just as lovely, friendly and witty in person as she is online. Lucky you, I have a signed copy of CITY OF JASMINE (read my review here) to give away. The contest will run until Friday. Leave a comment below and tell me if you re-read books and if you do, what book have you read the most?

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Book Review: City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

jasmine

There are a few things you can always count on with a Deanna Raybourn novel: a plucky heroine, stellar dialogue, wonderful descriptions, copious amounts of wit, a smouldering romance and a bit of history to ground it all in reality. City of Jasmine (★★★★) has all of that, as well as a textbook MacGuffin to keep the plot moving forward through the Syrian desert in 1920. Raybourne's greatest achievement might be always making me want to visit whatever setting she's selling. Since vacationing to Syria isn't an option right now, I'll just round up some friends and head to the hooka bar down the street. What I loved most about City of Jasmine, though, were the little connections to her Lady Julia Grey series, as well as her Africa novel, A Spear of Summer Grass. I can get easily bored by a series - the same characters doing the same thing over and over - but connecting her books through past characters (Tarquin March from Lady Julia, Ryder from A Spear of Summer Grass) gives readers the series they crave while keeping the characters, plots and settings fresh. Plus, sussing out all of the connections is like hunting for little Easter eggs. If I'm not much mistaken, Raybourn obliquely mentioned Nicholas Brisbane in the City of Jasmine denouement. These little tidbits make me want to go back and re-read her previous novels to see what other connections there might be. (It is also going to drive me crazy if I don't figure out how old Julia and Brisbane would be in 1920. Are they still alive? For someone who hates math, I am constantly trying to figure out ages and dates in novels. It makes my head hurt, but it weirdly makes me love a novel more.)

If I had one complaint, and this is a complaint I have for almost all Historical Fiction novels: there wasn't a map! Publishers listen up: It should be the Golden Rule of Historical Fiction to include maps, especially in novels where there's a journey. Please?

In short, if you are looking for a fun read with enjoyable characters doing adventurous things in lush settings, you can never go wrong with a Deanna Raybourn novel and City of Jasmine fits the bill nicely.

(I received an Advanced Reader Copy of City of Jasmine through a contest on Raybourn's blog.)