Thursday, April 26, 2012

WHY I WRITE




Ask writers why they write and you’ll get a bajillion different answers. If you want to go deep, the answer might be, “Like all human beings, I have a powerful urge to create.” Another might say, “I love playing with words, creating characters, giving them a past, present and future.” All excellent answers.

Some people are multi-talented and my examples are close to home. I write for a company called Belle Books. Publisher/owner, Debra Dixon, puts in long hours at her day job and always answers emails from her authors the same day she receives them, a rarity in the world of publishing. She also makes quilts in her spare time. Co-publisher/owner, Deborah Smith, writes best-selling books, works as an editor, creates pendants for authors to give out at book signings and paints. Truly impressive!

And then there’s me. Sigh. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write. I especially love the fact that my books are published and people like to read what I write. (Okay, not everybody) And, yes, I do have the urge to create. So, why do I write? Because my hands are FRIGGIN’ BLUNT INSTRUMENTS, that’s why. (Sorry about the yelling.)                  

I write because I draw like a three-year-old. I’m good at Words With Friends but I suck at Pictionary.

I write because nobody told me when I paint by numbers, to let one color dry before I apply a second and smush up it all up into a big, fat multi-colored mess. Hey, maybe I could call it abstract art and make the big bucks.

I write because I no longer make candles. Imagine, if you will, smoldering, red-hot paraffin in claw-like hands. Any questions?
                                     
I no longer knit since the unfortunate incident when my multiple gifts of hand-made slippers all unraveled the day after Christmas.

Truth be told, I write because I can’t imagine life without it. That’s it. That’s all she wrote!

How do you express your desire for creativity?






Monday, April 23, 2012

What's Up With Allie Emerson?




I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.

I’ve always loved the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley. It speaks to me as a writer and a human being. As writers, we face monumental challenges, we persevere in spite of overwhelming odds and hopefully, we rebound from bitter disappointments bloody but unbowed. But, for me, Henley’s words resonate on a deeper level. I use the underlying premise of his poem to build my characters and their alternative worlds.

In the Unbidden Magic series I write for Bell Bridge Books, I started with a simple idea. My protagonist, fifteen-year-old Allie Emerson, had a story to tell. I needed to get inside her head to tell it. I am her conduit. Because Allie is always in charge, I had no choice but to write her story in first person narrative. I tried, but found I could not do it any other way.

At the beginning of the series, Moonstone, Allie lives with her single mother in a 24 foot travel trailer parked next to a cow pasture in a small rural town. From the onset, I felt it was important for the paranormal aspects of Allie’s life to be an extension of her normal world. In other words, I let Allie guide me as she explored her telekinetic power by causing Blaster the bull to run backwards, as well as using her powers to defend a classmate against a gang attack. Moonstone is about self-discovery.

 In the second book, Moon Rise, Allie learns more about the moonstone’s functions and refines her powers but, because of psychic injury, she remains in the familiar world of home and school. 
                                               
In book 3, Moon Spun, Allie is ready for a bigger challenge. Enter the faeries! Allie explores a strange new world I call the Land of Boundless. However, because she still needs to be grounded in the real world, she accesses the portal to Boundless through an old cistern located behind the apple tree next to the trailer.

 Shadow Moon, book 4, finds Allie traveling to southern California to search for a missing family member. The motivation for this decision springs from a surprise discovery in the previous book. 

I'm currently writing book 5, Midnight Moon and yes, Allie is still living in the same crappy travel trailer. Her relationship with her mother, Faye, continues to be upside down, but the fact remains, they love each other deeply. I am now obsessed with making sure I tie up all the loose ends I created in the first four books. 

What about Beck and Junior? As Allie would say, "Killer question." Readers of the series seem clearly in one camp or the other. But I've learned to trust the process. This is Allie's story. She'll let me know. 

Okay, readers, what do you want to see in book 5, Midnight Moon? Let me know. It could happen.






Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PUBLISHED AUTHORS REACT TO BOOK REVIEWS



Mention book reviews to authors and you’ll surely get a reaction. We need them to sell our books. (Good ones) We love them. (Five stars? Wow!) We hate them. (Say what? You think my baby is ugly?) We either ignore them or read them obsessively.

Let’s see what the following six authors have to say about reviews. Trish Jensen, Donnell Bell, Kathryn Magendie, Alicia Rasley,Elizabeth Sinclair and me. Between us, we have over fifty books in print and more on the way. If you want to know more about my guests, click on their names and you’ll find links to their websites.

Do you read your book reviews?


Trish Jensen: I do. Not constantly, but occasionally I’ll look with eyes half shut. I usually do this when I get a Google alert about a review. Amazon and B&N don’t show up in Google alerts, so I don’t follow them regularly.


Kathryn Magendie: I did when Tender Graces came out. But I was wearing myself out thinking I had to thank everyone who reviewed it. I exhausted myself and was having trouble writing the next book. My editor finally said, “Kat, stop it! You’ll make yourself insane and, one day, you will come across a review that will rip out your heart. Just write the next book and don’t worry about the rest.” The best advice EVER!
                                                                       
Alicia Rasley: Obsessively. Most of mine, however, are customer reviews on the bookstore sites.
Elizabeth Sinclair: Yes.



Marilee Brothers: Yes, unless they start out, “Here’s what I hate about this book . . .”

 Do you ever respond to them?

Jensen: Yes. Not all, of course. But if someone really touches me, I’ll respond. I’ve only answered a couple of negative reviews, but it’s usually fairly short. “Ouch.” There’s no point in arguing or asking WHY? Especially when the review attacks me as an author rather than the book. They’ve made up their minds and I don’t want to get sucked into their negative mindsets.

Magendie:  Back then, I would often thank the reviewer, until I began to feel as if I were intruding. I worried reviewers may not feel they could be as honest if they felt I was “lurking around.” But, I’ve been on both sides. Before I became co-publishing editor for the Rose & Thorn Journal, I used to review books for them and once had an author strongly defend a comment I made about her book. I didn’t know how to respond, even though I’d been honest. A caveat: I no longer review books unless I do so on Amazon and I can be completely positive. Now that I’ve been published, I am much more understanding of the process and blood, sweat and tears that go into this business.


Rasley: Blogger/book review sites: Yes, I send a thank you. Customer reviews: No, because I don't want them to feel crowded. But if they email me to say they reviewed a book, I send them a thank you note.


Sinclair: Yes.


Brothers: Yes.

If so, do you have a standard reply such as, ‘Thank you for taking the time to read and review my book …etc.”

Jensen: If it’s a well thought out review, I’ll thank them. If the review focuses on one aspect of the book that colors their thoughts about the book as a whole, or the reviewer makes a disparaging remark about me as an author, then it’s just not worth it.

Magendie: I was polite and kind to any reviewer, even if they had an “if only she  . . .” or “I wish she  . . .” I receive reader mail sometimes that asks, “How come?” or “Why did you?” and I’m always positive and grateful someone is discussing my books. Not everyone will love my word and I shouldn’t expect that.

Rasley: Yes, that’s just what I say, and end with a link to another book or a blog post or something of mine.

Sinclair: Yes, this is the wording I use for those reviews that are . . .less than stellar. For the ones that are truly complimentary, I get more specific. One thing I never do (although the temptation is always there) to argue with the reviewer. They’ve had their say and for me to attack them serves no productive purpose.

Brothers: If the reviewer has a blog, I make an effort to leave a “Thank you for reviewing my book” comment. Several years ago, I did challenge a reviewer who gleefully accused me of plagiarizing a book I hadn’t read. She apologized but the review was never removed.

Any advice for reviewers?




Donnell Bell: I’ve received a couple of zingers, but thanks to contests, I’ve developed a tough skin, and reviews are just one person’s opinion. However, when they turn personal, I am Pollyanna enough to be appalled. I read a review of a New York/USA Today Bestselling author and was at a loss why some reviewers feel, because the author is popular, it gives them the right to demean and make a personal attack. One reviewer wrote, “Readers, don’t bother. There, I’ve done my good deed for the day." In my opinion, that person just wasted his time and mine.


Jensen: Spellcheck. <g> (Teasing) My advice? Before you publish that review, consider how it might feel if it was written about you or your work. How would you feel receiving that type of criticism? There are people behind those books who worked hard to bring you a pleasurable experience. Remember, the words you choose do matter.

Magendie: Remember that there are humans behind those books---people with heart and soul and puppies and kittens and children and grandchildren and parents and hurts and loves and happiness and sadness and joy and---well, we’re tender in the heart when it comes to our words, and feel oh-so-vulnerable putting ourselves out there. Be honest, but maybe find some way to be positive if you can. That said, I believe a reviewer should be allowed to write whatever kind of review they choose and the author should either not read them or suck it up.

Rasley: Authors with more than one book for sale might be better to review, because readers then might be able to read more than just the reviewed book.

Sinclair: Actually, I have a few suggestions. A. Review the book and not the author. You wouldn’t badmouth Edison because the light in your bathroom blew out. It’s the book you’re reviewing, not the hand that wrote it. Reviewers can be heartless when tearing apart a book, and that’s their job. But when they turn to attacks on the author, that’s personal and has no place in a book review. B. Make sure you get your facts straight before criticizing in a public forum. I’ve had reviews that have left me scratching my head. Example: A reviewer said of my recent sweet romance, Hawks Mountain, that it contained “too much sex.” Sweet romances contain sexual tension, but close the door on physical love scenes, so there was no sex in the book. C. Don’t give the entire story away so another reader has no reason to buy the book.

Brothers: We all need editors. It might be a good idea to ask a friend to look over what you’ve written to see if it makes sense. One of the strangest reviews I’ve ever received included an extensive laundry list of plot points she considered ridiculous and silly. I could practically see her rolling her eyes. Then, she concluded with, “But I can’t stop reading the series and can’t wait for Book Five.” Whoa, didn't see that one coming.

Any other comments regarding book reviews?

Jensen: Every review is a reflection of the person writing it.

Magendie: I’ve yammered on enough, by gawd! But I want to say this: Thank you readers, and thank you reviewers. Without you, our words wouldn’t have that encouraging/supportive/wonderful voice out there. Even a “not so good” review gives us another voice in the sea of books.

Rasley: Thanks to reviewers! I think of them as the “Super-readers.”

Sinclair: I got some really good advice from an author friend years ago. Read the review. Get furious. Scream, shout, stomp your feet and cry. For five minutes. Then get back to what you do best. Write another book, because success is the best revenge.

Brothers: All of the above – LOL!






Wednesday, April 11, 2012

AN AUTHOR TO WATCH




Our guest today is Jamie Blair. Jamie’s first book, LEAP OF FAITH, will be published by Simon and Schuster in 2013. Jamie lives in North Canton, Ohio with her husband, their two elementary school-aged kids, a wisp of a cat and two bearded dragons. By day, she makes a living as a Command Center Strategist for a call center company (No, she doesn’t make phone calls, and yes, she will take you off their list). By night, she writes novels about crazy teenagers in love, while partaking in large quantities of dark chocolate and guzzling energy drinks. She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and co-founded the GotYA blog. Welcome to Book Blather, Jamie.





 Tell us a little about your background and your journey to publication.

 Unlike many writers, I didn’t always know I wanted to write.  I remember joking around with my husband after reading a book I loved, telling him it made me want to write the next Great American Novel.  The seed was there, but I didn’t take it seriously or start writing until I had an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. 

Four manuscripts later, I found an agent.  A year later, I found a second agent, my current fantastic-super-ninja-agent, who sold my fifth manuscript, LEAP OF FAITH. 

Describe your reaction when you found out you’d sold your first book.

Calm.  It wasn’t the reaction I’d been expecting, and I doubt it was the reaction my agent was expecting on the other end of the phone.  I think she thought I was disappointed with the offer—I was far from disappointed. 

I’ve learned something about myself during this journey.  Good news or bad, I stay calm.  It’s not intentional, but a true reaction, like my mind needs time to process what’s going on before I have any emotional response.  It’s weird…I know. 

 I regret the fact that I didn’t get serious about writing until I retired from my job and my kids were grown and gone. Despite the demands of a busy household, you’ve persevered in your writing. How do you manage to find time to write?

Sometimes by screaming, yelling, pleading and bribing my two third and fourth grade kids to give me some writing time, but they’re pretty good about letting me have time to write.  They’ve never known anything different than me spending large amounts of time with my face stuck in my laptop since I’ve been writing since they were very little.   My husband has grown to accept it and enjoys telling people that I have a book coming out next year. 

I also have a regular, full time career at a great company, and my co-workers are great and supportive of my writing. 

 Your book deals with an interesting concept, namely a young girl on the run with a newborn baby that isn’t hers. Is it based on a real situation? If not, how did you come up with the idea?

LEAP OF FAITH isn’t based on a true story, at least not that I’m aware of.  It started out as an idea about a teen girl whose mom is a surrogate and morphed into a story about girl on the run with her baby sister who lands with the first real family she’s ever had and her first true love.   In the end she might or might not get to keep any of them.

5. How do you plan to promote LEAP OF FAITH?

Social media mostly, with information and giveaways on my Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Jamie-M-Blair/280042602029930, Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13185121-leap-of-faith
and blogs. 


6. How about a brief excerpt?

LEAP OF FAITH hasn’t been edited yet, so I’m not sure what will or won’t make it into the final manuscript or what I have permission to share.  What I can do is share the playlist I made while writing LEAP OF FAITH.  Some songs are a little old now, but some books take a few years to find their way.

                          

In addition to GotYA- www.thegotya.blogspot.com, Jamie can be found on Reading, Writing and Waiting, the young adult book review blog- www.youngadultbookworm.blogspot.com - Twitter- @JamieMBlair, or lurking on Goodreads and Facebook. 
 For more about Jamie M. Blair, visit her website at http://www.jamiemblair.com.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Setting as Character

Our guest blogger today, Trish Milburn, writes paranormal young adult fiction for Bell Bridge Books, contemporary romance for Harlequin American and paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne as well as independently publishing her romantic suspense and women's fiction titles. She's a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart award. Welcome to Book Blather, Trish.

I was thrilled recently when Bell Bridge Books released White Witch, the first in my Coven series. It’s a book that I have loved since I typed the first word and is set in a place that has a lot of natural beauty, the mountains of North Carolina. It’s also a setting with which I’m familiar, so it was easy to infuse it with the sights, sounds and smells of the mountains.
                                                    
I like to make setting a living, breathing part of my books, a character in and of itself. I tend to write about places that really interest me, ones that have captured my imagination in some way. For Elly: Cowgirl Bride from Harlequin American, it was rural Wyoming, ranch country. I loved bringing in the things I’d seen and experienced when I visited that area a few years ago. There are the soaring mountains, the long miles of emptiness, and the classic western tourist town of Cody with its western d├ęcor shops and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

For the next two books in the Coven series, Bane and Magick, I was facing writing about a place I hadn’t been – Salem, Massachusetts. So last July, I made a trip to Salem so that I could see it firsthand. I spent a day walking all over town, visiting the tourist attractions, poking around the shops, exploring the parks and the harbor, and taking photos. So when I sat down to write those books, I wasn’t picturing Salem as two-dimensional photographs and maps. It was alive, colorful, full of sounds and scents in my memory. I think the books will be better for that first-hand experience.

But site research isn’t always possible. For Winter Longing, my second young adult novel written as Tricia Mills, it was more of a challenge since it was set in Alaska and I’d never been there and couldn’t make a trip there as easily as I did Salem. But that’s what research is for, and with things like blogs by people who live there, GoogleEarth, and a friend who’d lived in the area (and whose brain I could pick), it was fun to create a fictional town set in the midst of a real area. I have long been fascinated by Alaska, and as a reader myself I love books set there. One of my favorite mystery series is the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow. I’ve probably learned as much about life in Alaska from these books as I have any other source.
                                                                  
My other published novels are all set in places I’ve been – the Gulf Coast of Florida, the mountains of Northeast Tennessee and Colorado. The Teagues of Texas trilogy that Harlequin American is currently in the middle of releasing is set in the Hill Country of Texas. It was fun to create my own town that took its inspiration from several towns in the Hill Country, Fredericksburg, Gruene and Marble Falls among them. My best friend lives in San Antonio, so I’ve been to the Hill Country three times, gathering great material for these books.

Now, I’m curious. Does a book’s setting matter to you? What are some examples of ones that have really come alive for you?


To buy Trish's books, visit her website at http://www.trishmilburn.com


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Meet Rick Taubold

The road to publication is often frustrating but never dull. Along the way, the writer encounters potholes, steep climbs and U-turns. Many give up, never to experience the thrilling sprint to the finish line. Rick Taubold persevered and is now the author of three books with several more in the works. Here’s his story. Welcome to Book Blather, Rick.


Thanks for having me, Marilee.

My journey into writerdom is a lot like that of other authors.  I've always liked to write, and I loved to read sci-fi when I was younger.  Of course, I've branched out a lot since then.  In high school, I wrote some not very good stuff, one of which was a one sci-fi short story in Spanish for my third-year Spanish class.  All I'll say is that the Spanish was good.

In college, classes took up a lot of my time, so my writing interests fell by the wayside.  I did write one six-page sci-fi story for an English class in 1967 that wasn't too bad.  It wasn't until I'd finished grad school that the writing itch came back.  I'd gotten into playing Dungeons and Dragons, which requires imagination to create and act out the characters that you role-play.  I'd created some interesting ones and at one point lamented that I'd spent so much time creating them only to have them be tossed aside and replaced with other characters in another adventure.  These were what's known in the writing biz as "interesting characters."  That's when I decided to write a novel about them.  Easier said than done.  I had several characters in search of a story, and novels don't usually start out that way unless one of those characters is a larger-than-life version of yourself.  That can be a recipe for a writing disaster unless you've led a very interesting life--which I hadn't.

I don't recall now the origin of the novel's concept, only that I played around with it for a couple of years.  This was around the time that I became seriously involved with the woman I'm now married to.  Once I had what I thought was a workable plot idea, I realized I needed a few more characters to complete the cast.  Remember that sci-fi story I wrote back in college?  An expanded version of it and its main character found its way into the novel.  What's interesting is that none of the characters at that point was the MAIN character.  That's when I dug deep inside my soul and came up with that sort-of-larger-than-life version of myself.  Not really.  Scott Madison was a totally fictional character who happened to share one or two of my minor life experiences.

I began the novel in earnest in the summer of 1991, a year after I got married, and completed the first draft a couple of years later. That's when I realized it needed a lot of work still.  I got involved in some local writing workshops taught by an award-winning sci-fi author and set about revising my masterpiece.  Finally, after numerous rejections from agents, in 2003 I found a small publisher for it.  More Than Magick came out in September of 2004 and went out of print three years later.

Meanwhile, I had begun another project, Vampires, Inc., the first novel in the Mortal Vampires series with co-author Chris Hosey, and was looking for a place to sell it.  My publisher at first accepted it, then several month later changed their mind and canceled the contract.  Undaunted, I determined to find another publisher.  Meanwhile I got back the rights on Magick, sold that to Double Dragon Publishing, then found out they were also looking fore vampire novels.  I sold Vampires, Inc. to them as well.  They released it in June 2009 (three months before the other publisher would have released it), and Magick that September five years to the month it was first published.  Double Dragon also published Vampires Anonymous in July 2010.  For the time being the third novel in the vampires series is on hold because I have something really exciting in the works.

In late March of 2009, a writer friend contacted me about another writer she knew who looking for someone to novelize his YA fantasy screenplay.  Several writers had turned him down due to "not having the time."  Although I had a full plate, I agreed to look at it.  The rest--as they say--is history.  I fell in love with Chris Keaton's wonderful script and knew that I had to do this.  My wife had been after me to try YA fantasy, but one needs an idea first.  And here was a brilliant idea being dropped in my lap.

Three years and several drafts later, The Mosaic is nearly done.  It's been more of a challenge than I expected, and the learning process has been an interesting one.  In the beginning, I figured that I had all I needed.  The screenplay was a complete story populated with great characters.  However, it soon became evident that a screenplay is little more than an outline.  During the process of turning one into a movie, you have input from the director, actors, set designers, and numerous other artists to craft it into a full-blown film.  I soon learned that, as a novelist, I had to take on all these roles and one can't simply translate a script into a novel, which is what I did in the first draft.

When you're writing a novel from your own ideas, many of the details develop in your head as you go along.  This was not my story, but I had to get to know it just as intimately as if it had been my idea originally.  A screenplay is a very lean medium.  Regardless of how much is in the scriptwriter's head, most of that vision stays there and only the distilled essence ends up on paper.  With novelists, a lot more of the vision ends up on paper.

In short, I had to figure out how to turn 100+ pages of screenplay into a 400+ pages of novel while still staying true to Chris' vision.  We've had to make some changes--quite a few in fact.  Chris has given me a lot of leeway to "do whatever it takes" and trusted me not to muck it up (and he lets me know if I do).  Actually, my wife has been my worst and best critic.  She wants this project to succeed.  And she is really picky (in a good way).

At the beginning of this collaboration, Chris and I were both considering traditional publishing routes.  I even had a couple of some agents in mind to submit it to.  But as we all know, 2009 was a turning point in publishing.  Self-publishing suddenly became a reputable way to get your work out there, so that's the route we're taking, for now at least.  And we're approaching it very seriously, from meticulous editing of the manuscript to cover design to concerted promotional efforts.  Our goal is to achieve success so that Chris can sell the screenplay, which is why this project came about.

It's been quite a journey, and Chris has shown a lot of confidence in me.  I'm trying my best not to disappoint either of us.  I see this first venture into self-publishing as turning point in what I hope will be the start of an interesting future for my writing career. 

You can check on updates and news about The Mosaic at: www.themosaicnovel.com

My personal website (to be revamped very soon) is: www.ricktaubold.com

I co-host a blog on writing with author Scott Gamboe: www.writewell.silverpen.org