Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Interview with Sally Shields, author of The Daughter-in-Law Rules and publicity specialist

Hi all. For a change of pace, I've interviewed my friend Sally, a local author and publicity specialist. I even designed the header on her blog so take a look. Sally wrote a self-help book called The Daughter-in-law Rules and it went on to become an Amazon best-seller. You can visit Sally on her blog at >

Q: What is the concept behind the DIL Rules and how did you arrive at that name?

Sally Shields: The Daughter-in-Law Rules is based on the 7th spiritual law of success, which is: the quickest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. By that I mean, be a loving, kind-hearted, sensitive person, and the world will reflect that back to you, even in the form of your mother-in-law! I loved that book The Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. I patterned the Daughter-in-Law Rules on that book.

Q: What motivated you to write the DIL Rules?

SS: Like a lot of women, I got married and got a mother-in-law. But after a couple of years, I was left scratching my head, thinking, where is the manual for this?!!! I wrote to the ladies that wrote the bestselling book The Rules, and told them that since they helped all these women meet and marry the men of their dreams, they then needed to provide some advice on how to get along with the other woman in their man's life—his mom! These two authors told me it was the best idea they'd ever heard. I honestly just wanted some advice on the topic! "You should write it," they said. At first I thought they were crazy since the last thing I'd written was a term paper in high school English class! But, the gears started turning in my mind. So I started to jot down all the troublesome incidents that would pop into my head in regards to my MIL, and came up with a rule and a solution to deal with each and every one. When I put a few of these rules into practice (and saw that they actually worked) I thought maybe I could help save other young wives years of needless contention!

SS:Q: Have you published any other work that you've written?

SS: I have three music books; Modern Jazz Piano (Hal Leonard, 2004), The Pianist’s Jammin’ Handbook and A Baker’s Dozen: 13 Jazz Etudes for the Intermediate Sight-Reader. I've also written The Collaborator Rules: 101 Surefire Ways to Stay Friends with Your Co-Author as well as a poetry book called "A Pond Beneath the Moon.” And I’m currently working on two other books; The Million Dollar Author Club and Naturally Thin or Discipline? Insider Secrets of the Super-Slim.

Q: What makes you unique as an author?

SS:I am very focused on solving a problem in a very short period of time. I don't mind telling people what to do or how they should do it. Here's the Rule. Now do it. Sometimes people tell me that they don't want to do these rules because it seems like too much work. Then I give them the Dr. Phil answer which is, "Well, how's THAT workin' for ya?!!" These rules are problem-solution oriented so give them a try!

Q: What inspires your work?

SS: I love being creative and just coming up with stuff that I think will help people, or bring humor to a situation, while at the same time solving my own life's problems! My vision is now to create more harmony among mothers and daughters-in-law around the world while at the same time raising money for breast cancer. I am currently working with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation on a unique fundraising idea with Estee Lauder, who also supports breast cancer.

Q: Has your book been featured in any national publications or on television?

SS: Yes! I've been in Star Magazine, Girlfriendz, For the Bride, and Obvious Magazine. I've appeared twice on the nationally syndicated The Daily Buzz, Fox & Friends, Rachel Ray, Tyra Banks,, as well as having appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio . As well, The DIL Rules was recommended as Book of the Week by Dr. Laura Schelssinger.

Q: Are you self-published or through a publishing house?

SS: I started off self-publishing with Outskirts Press, a print on demand company, but have re-released The DIL Rules under my own imprint, Safflower Publishing Inc. with a new cover, subtitle, foreword, interior design and illustrations, and am working on a DIL Rules board game and calendar.

Q: Who or what personally inspires you to push forth with your career?

SS: I've been a musician ever since I was a kid, and I just get a lot of energy from performing, speaking, being out there in the media and expressing my ideas in my unique way fuels and motivates me forward.

Q: Have your book sales been positively/negatively affected by the financial changes in the country and if so how you come up with ways to divert from it (if negative)?

SS: I notice that the more radio and TV appearances I do, I can keep the sales up. It seems to be more about continually letting people know about the book that makes more of a difference than the financial state of affairs. It would be fun to compare current sales to what it will be like when Obama whips this country back in shape eventually! :-)

Q: Do you have any events coming up that people should know about or book tours?

SS: As I have 2 small kids, I have been doing virtual book tours from home and doing national radio tours via telephone. I do some local book signings here in New York, and I speak at various events such as the ASJA, and the Catholic Writers Event asks me to speak at their events. I also do a weekly radio show called Blurb! that is a book contest for authors. For more information on how authors can apply to be on the show, check out As well, the head of the African Women’s Business Network has purchased the foreign rights to the DIL Rules and she has invited me over to speak in Lagos Nigeria sometime in 2010.

Q: What advice would you have for young entrepreneurs and authors?

SS: I would say keep it fun, because otherwise all those hours you put in wouldn't make any sense! And remember that there are only two elements that you need to succeed in any endeavor: a passion for your topic and a sincere desire to help people.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

SS: I see myself with my own reality show, as a Daughter-in-Law Rules seminar leader, a speaker at Bridal events, fundraiser and spokesperson for Breast Cancer fundraising, and continuing to partner with corporations such as Macys, David's Bridal 1-800-flowers, Estee Lauder, and Martha Stewart Weddings.

Q: Any final words of wisdom?

SS: Never give up on your dreams. You don't have to know the how, but focus on the why. Don't set limits and reach for the sky. Do positive affirmations morning and evening, and you will see your thoughts transform into things. You can manifest your desires by focusing on the things that you want. Don't give up because it takes a while for the universe to prepare the meal that you've ordered, but know that it is in the oven back there so make sure you don't leave the restaurant!

Thanks, Sally, for joining us today and for the great information. Readers, here's your chance to get some personal advice from Sally—about getting along with your daughter-in-law, marketing your own book, living your dream. Just click on the "comment" line below and let us hear from you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview with Neesha Meminger, author of SHINE, COCONUT MOON

Neesha Meminger, author of SHINE, COCONUT MOON joins us today to hang a bit. Neesha is a warm, funny and brilliant woman whose works are deeply moving and poetic, yet starkly realistic, dealing with themes of coming of age, race, and cultural identity.

1. Hi, Neesha. Your first book, the young adult novel SHINE, COCONUT MOON came out last March. Can you tell us about the book and what prompted you to write it?

SHINE actually started out as an epic story of the bonds and fissures created between mothers and daughters through migration, culture, tradition, and the Great Generational Divide. After many ground-up revisions, the 9/11 layer was added, Uncle Sandeep entered the scene, and the story became more focused, more clearly about how relationships, in general, weather all sorts of storms.

2. I know this is not an autobiographical book, but can you tell us about your background, and how, perhaps that has informed the events in the book.

It's not autobiographical, but there is much in SHINE that reflects my own experiences growing up, the experiences of my family, my friends, and people I knew. There are several scenes in the book that are based on events I either witnessed or lived through. And the characters are all amalgamations of people I know and love. Including Mike :).

3. How long have you been writing?

I've been journaling for as long as I can remember. But writing, and reading, were always about survival for me. They were about *communication*--and when you don't speak the official language in your new home, your very survival hinges on communication. My parents both did not speak English fluently when we first moved to Canada from India, so as the eldest child, I became the default interpreter. It was critical that I learned, FAST, how to speak, understand, read, and write the language (and, by extension, the *culture*) that we were all immersed in.

When my mother lost my younger brother in a crowd, it was really a matter of life and death for her to be able to communicate that to a police officer. And, if she couldn't do it adequately, it fell on me.

So, I developed the habit, early on, of reading EVERYTHING--instruction manuals, signs in windows, ingredients lists . . . and packing every single second of each day scribbling words I'd learned.

I would say that was the beginning of my journey.

4. What have you been working on lately?

I've been deeply absorbed in a paranormal YA that I am *very* excited about. I would say it's eighty-five percent of the way there.

5. Can you share with us a bit about your path to becoming a published author?

My path was not easy, nor was it quick. I first saw my work published in my early twenties--mostly poems, essays, and short stories. It was a thrill, but it was not enough. I never felt my true self shone through in so few lines or so few pages. I had so much more to say and I knew it would take many, many more pages for me to say it! *grin*

So, I started to write longer and longer pieces, focusing on fiction. I knew I wanted to write book-length works because those were what had affected me so deeply. The books that really shaped the way I saw the world, books that taught me something about people, life, the emotions, how to navigate through difficult terrain -- not by telling me how to do it, but through *story* . . . those were the types of books I wanted to read, and those were the ones I wanted to write.

I completed my first manuscript when I was in the MFA program at the New School in NYC. It was a crappy manuscript, to be sure, but through writing it, I learned how to write a book-length work. How to stick with something and see it through until it was finished. And how to shape and mold small segments so that when you were finished, it was one, long, cohesive story.

After that, I took many years to learn how to revise. How to find more stories, give them form, and refine them. Then, began the years of querying agents and editors. Finally, after more polishing and refining, I caught the interest of two agents. I signed with one and, together, we worked on what would become SHINE, COCONUT MOON.

6. What advice would you like to give to fellow writers?

Honestly, the best advice I have is to keep going. I know it has been said many times before, but it is always worth repeating. You have to be as stubborn as my ornery father to get anywhere in life, I think. And writing is no exception.

The other advice I'd give is to find a community of writers. A good network of supportive writers, who are open and generous, is worth its weight in gold.

7. Name a book that influenced you the most, as a writer and an individual.

Hmm. For fiction that would have to be Tuck, Everlasting. It's MG, but it had a *tremendous* impact on me when I read it all those years ago. I had no idea you could write things that (a) weren't *true*; and (b) didn't even seem *possible*. So, that book really opened up, for me, one of the most important things a writer can possess: a vivid imagination.

In non-fiction, I would have to say Bird by Bird, by Ann Lemotte. I loveloveLOVED that book. She infuses humor, spirituality, and so much truth in each page of that book. I find it inspiring every time I read it.

8. Tell us something unexpected about yourself.

This may not seem unexpected to your readers, but it is unexpected for *me*. [whispers] I am horribly addicted to The Tudors series by HBO. When hubby is still at work and kiddies are in bed, I am watching episode after episode, back to back. I am deeply mesmerized.

Thanks for stopping by, Neesha! That was wonderful. Since we are actual *real-time* friends, and neighbors (yes, we literally live across the street from each other and have our regular pow-wows at the local Starbucks. How we met is quite a story in itself, though. We live in a very busy citified community where could have easily remained strangers) I am privileged to *hear* this in your lovely voice, which is as wonderful as your writing voice.

Love you, lady. and I am beyond ecstatic that you are finally writing a paranormal. Now I am dying to know more. Guess I'll find out at our next Starbucks meetup!

Reblog: Fiction Groupie; Roni England gives Title advice

I stumbled on this blog quite by accident and I'm glad I did. Roni England gives excellent advice for tackling one of the most dreaded aspects of novel writing; choosing a title! I happen to freak out until I get a title for a WIP as those who know me well will attest. I am just as bad when a friend is in need of a title and tend to barrage said victim with endless, usually bad attempts. I'm happy to say that I was about 30% responsible for naming SCONES and SENSIBILITY (I called it Crumbs and Sensibility, which kind of lacks that catchy ring, but did lead to the current fabulous title.)

From Fiction Groupies, the blog of writer Roni England

The Title Struggle
Many writers say not to worry about the title of your WIP because most of the time, the publisher's marketing department changes it from whatever your name was anyway. However, I have also read that agents (can't remember which agent blog this was on) sometimes ask to see pages even if the query was only alright because the title was really great. So, I think it's worth giving more than a passing thought.

Coming up with a title is HARD. How are you supposed to come up with a few words that a) make a reader want to pick up the book b) relate to some important aspect of your book and c) hasn't been used before? It's daunting.

Some writers say that a name pops into their head before they even start the story--that the title itself was part of the inspiration. This was not the case for my first two novels. Shadow Falls was titled The Scholarship until I got through the second draft. I didn't like the working title, but I needed something to call the thing besides "the book". Wanderlust was the same way. I started off calling it Rockstar. However, with my most recent WIP, the title finally came to me first: Exposure Therapy. Now that third one could change since I'm just starting the book, but I kind of like it.

So what can you do to help come up with title possibilities?

Brainstorm a list of words that come to mind about your book. Don't edit yourself, just make the list.

--Some obvious things that could inspire the title

* Character names (Carrie)
* Character career
* Setting (Twilight)
* Theme (Atonement)
* Conflict/Turning Point (Marked)
* Time Period
* Special object that plays role in the story (The Sword in the Stone)

--There are some titles that aren't so literal and this is a good way to come up with them. For those of you who have read Hush, Hush, you know that those words aren't uttered in the book. So why is it called that? According to the author, it's because the book is about secrets.

Look for inspiration in unexpected places.

--Music: song titles and lyrics have been used for titles (Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True and She's Come Undone; In the Still of the Night has been used multiple times, Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts). However, do note that song lyrics are subject to copyright laws but song titles are not. Either way, this doesn't come into play until you get published.

--Nursery Rhymes: James Patterson has used this as a theme--Along Came a Spider, Jack and Jill

--Cliches & Puns: something to avoid in writing, but if twisted a bit for a title it can work. Tall, Dark, and Dead by Tate Hallaway, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy and Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

--Classic Literature/Shakespeare: The Sound and the Fury, A Rose by Any Other Name

Alright, I hope that gets your brain cranking. In case your wondering about my titles, here's where I got them from:

Shadow Falls is the name of the town in the book, but is also a play on the fact that something dark is trying to consume the character

Wanderlust is the name of the hero's band, but also a play on the fact that he can't settle down. It also plays into the MC because although she has the desire to see the world, something in her past keeps her stuck in one place (emotionally and literally)

Exposure Therapy is from the MC's job as a social worker. She has something to overcome in her past and exposure therapy is a technique used by counselors to work through phobias and such. It's also a play on the fact that the book will be sexy and well, things will be exposed, lol.

So what's the title of your WIP? How'd you come up with it? What are some of your favorite book titles?

Also, don't forget my Amazon gift certificate contest is still open until midnight (central) tonight, so if you missed yesterday's post, check it out to enter.

**Today's Theme Song**
"I'm Like A Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying To Get You Off"-- Fall Out Boy
FOB are masters at the unconventional yet awesome punny titles
(player in sidebar, take a listen)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reblog: Heidi Ayarbe's Awesome Author's Visit

I decided to visit my dear friend Heidi Ayarbe's (author of FREEZE FRAME, 2008 and the forthcoming COMPROMISED)blog expecting to find something entertaining and I did. So I am sharing the splendor and the wonder that is Heidi.

This year my author visits were with Kindergarteners, second and third graders, who, in my opinion, had some of the best questions and comments ever!

1. Did you write your book in pencil or are you allowed to use a pen?
2. Do you have lots of pictures in the book?

I asked how long they thought it took me to write the book:
Student A: Ummm, like ten hours.
Student B: No way. At least two weeks.
Me: About three and a half years. So I started when you were still wearing diapers and finished when you were in first grade.
Students. Whoaaaaaaaa ... (whispers -- she's really slow.)

3. Do you read your book after you're done?

I talked about revision and making corrections and how my editor had pages and pages of notes on how I needed to make my book better.
Student A: Oh. Did you forget your capitals and periods?
Student B: I bet you missed a lot of spelling words.

4. How did you draw the picture on the front?
5. Do you really like your job?

And my favorite ...

6. How did you get the pages in the book? (Comments afterward included: Geez. If she had to put her book together in the garage she'd never get done.)

Thank you Fritsch School for welcoming me and making me smile. Thank you for your amazing attention to detail.

PLUS, I loved the hugs. (High Schoolers and Middle Schoolers usually don't hug me.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interview with Becca Fitzpatrick, author of HUSH, HUSH

HUSH, HUSH is a dark and dangerous YA fantasy set in a town in coastal Maine involving a romantic liason between a high school girl and a fallen angel. The plot is involved but the action kept me completely riveted and never confused. I read through the book in less than a week, which is a big thing for me, because it takes a VERY engaging book for me to give up writing time. I just had to know what happened. So, I am so thrilled to introduce Becca Fitzpatrick, the author of HUSH, HUSH, who will give us some surprising insights into the book's origins.
Patch the fallen angel from Hush, Hush is such a dark and seductive creature. What gave you the idea for the book?

The very first inspiration for the story came from an experience in my own tenth-grade biology class. We must have been studying human reproduction, because my teacher asked me, in front of the whole class, to name characteristics I would be attracted to in a mate (yikes!) I sat next to a really cute boy, and the thought of naming characteristics I might look for in a mate was a humiliation I was not about to subject myself to. I told my teacher, “pass,” but the experience always stuck with me, and when I sat down to write Hush, Hush, that little piece of my history evolved into an early scene in the book.

Hush, Hush is set in coastal Maine and makes much use of it’s moody terrain. What is your connection to this area?

When I was in high school, I was pretty sure I would grow up to be a marine biologist. I had posters of whales and dolphins pinned up all over my bedroom, I had a huge collection of whale/dolphin T-shirts, my Christmas present from my parents in 9th grade was a whale-watching vacation to California, and my aunt and uncle adopted a humpback whale for me named Tanith. Every so often, the whale adoption agency would send me photos of Tanith in the wild, and once I even got a humpback whale calendar. As I was flipping through the photos in the calendar, I came across this amazing photo of a breaching whale, and in the background was the Maine coast, dense with evergreens. I hung on to that picture for years, and it was my dream to someday move to Maine. Eventually I forgot about that dream, but when I started writing Hush, Hush I found myself writing about a girl growing up in a small, atmospheric Maine town without even realizing that of course I'd picked Maine as the setting because of my childhood dream. It's funny how something so seemingly small as a photograph I first saw when I was fourteen years old could have such a big impact on Hush, Hush, but there you have it.

You wove your intricate plot so deftly, yet you left some loose ends that I can only assume are deliberate. I’m talking about the mystery behind Nora’s father’s death. I’m feeling this is going to be explored in the next book, CRESCENDO. Am I right, or is that top secret?

Without ruining anything, I will say that in Crescendo, you'll find out what happened the night Nora's dad was murdered. Let's just say he was living a secret with ties to Patch...

Nora Grey is a pragmatic girl who shuns danger, yet is drawn into Patch’s dangerous web. Do you relate to Nora in anyway or is she strictly a fictitious character.

The only thing Nora and I have in common is our curly hair. (If I remember one thing about my teen years, it was how much I hated my hair. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to torture Nora with the same big, curly hair. Ha!) While Nora claims to be a sensible person who shuns danger, she's a pretty unreliable narrator. She's actually very lured by the idea of danger. Since her father's death, she's tried very hard to create a safe, comfortable life for herself. She's terrified that what happened to her father will happen to her. But underneath everything, she's a very reckless, impulsive, and spontaneous girl.

As a follow-up; is Patch based on anyone you know or would like to know?

His character was inspired by a guy I knew long ago. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

How long have you been writing? Is Hush, Hush the first book you’ve written?

I started Hush, Hush in the fall of 2003. After receiving several rejections for the manuscript, I put it away and started another YA novel called The Tornado Interviews. In the end, I came back to Hush, Hush, and found someone who believed in it as much as I do.

What was your road to publication?

Long and bumpy! It took me five years to write and sell Hush, Hush. I probably have around seventy five rejection letters.

What is the best advice you can give aspiring authors?

Keep a journal. You never know when your own life experiences will inspire a story.

What are some of your favorite reads? Which influenced you most as a writer?

Oh, wow. I love so many different types of books. I love Jane Austen, Diana Gabaldon, Karen Joy Fowler, Laurie Halse Anderson and Sandra Brown. This year, I really enjoyed Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Tell us something unexpected about Becca Fitzpatrick.

Hmm. In high school, I could run the mile in five-and-a-half minutes.

Are you doing a book tour? Where are some of the places you are scheduled to visit?

I'm touring in January and February, but my schedule isn't finalized yet. I'll post cities on my website as soon as I can.

Can you tell us the best place to visit you online?

My website is

Thanks so much, Lisa, for the interview!!
You are most welcome, Becca. Stop by again when CRESCENDO is due to come out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Cudas Speak, Part Two: Dhonielle Clayton, aka Baby Cuda

Before the interview I want to make an exciting announcement: In honor of the December release of Cuda Lindsay Eland's SCONES AND SENSIBILITY, the Cudas are hosting their very first ARC contest!!! Details and entry information coming soon!

And now, join us as Baby Cuda, Dhonielle Clayton swims to the top of the tank.

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hmm, I am a twenty-six year old 3rd grade teacher. I have my masters in Children's and Young Adult Literature and haven't read an adult book since I graduated college four years ago. I love Asian foods, particularly clumpy white rice, sauteed onions and the taste of sesame oil. I am plagued with chronic heartburn due to my penchant for spicy foods. I haven't grown an inch since 7th grade, maxing out at 5'1''. I love to travel, having lived in Japan, England and France. And my favorite thing to do is sleep in hammocks. I have puffy, brown hair. I am scared of whales and most sea mammals. My Irish heritage has made me obsessed with all forms of cooked cabbage. I don't enjoy the smell of fish. I am so happy to be part of the Cuda camp, they are my surrogate mothers, friends and confidantes.

2. You have an interesting agent story. Can you tell us?
I researched and obsessed over the whole "land an agent" thing. I wrote and re-wrote my query letter. I sent it to the Cudas who chomped on it. Then, I sent my agent an excerpt from my little 30,000 word terrible first novel. She told me she loved it AND it needed a lot of work. This wonderful, stellar, spectacular and patient woman signed me, sent me gigantic revision letter and off we went into a failing children's book publishing economy. But two years later we are still going strong and now I must hurry up and give her something new to sell.

3. You write in a few different styles. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I am scatterbrained and get bored with myself easily so I try to switch things up and continue to try different writing styles. I tend to write first-person, lyrical prose loaded with strong images and the internal machinations of the main character (which often leads to NO plot, my big problem). I am drawn to people who write that way and most of the time it's the way the words come out. But, I am trying to dabble in the third-person with an plot-oriented and high-concept novel. Wish me luck!

4. In your young life, you've been a bit of an adventurer. Can you tell us a few highlights and also tell us how these adventures have informed your writing?

I travel because I thrive on exciting isolation to help my writing: sitting in Parisian cafes alone with my notebook, sipping cafe au lait and nibbling on a crepe while staring at fashionable French ladies; perched over a 24-hour ramen noodle bar slurping up tonkatsu ramen with chopsticks and a chugo spoon while curious Japanese onlookers steal glances at me as I write; wandering the cobblestone streets of North London marveling at the way people speak; laying on pink-sand Bermudian beaches asleep instead of writing. I like to borrow small details from each place I have spent a significant amount of time in to pepper into my writing. I tend to produce more written work when I am traveling versus when I am at home, teased with millions of distractions.

5. What books/ people/ experiences inspired you growing up?

Harriet the Spy
by Louise Fitzhugh
The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin

I was mostly inspired by my grandparents and parents habit of dragging me down South every summer. Going to my grandmother's Mississippi farm and my mother's hometown in North Carolina has really shaped my imagination. Southern imagery, people, food, and preoccupations live strongly in my imagination even though I was raised slightly below the Mason Dixon line in the Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC. I have written strong scenes and loads of pages from the sticky booth of a Waffle House (one of my favorite places on Earth).

6. Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I still leap onto my bed every night afraid there is someone underneath it who will grab my ankles (I should not have watched "IT" as a child).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meet the Cudas

We Cudas have decided the best way to celebrate the release of Lindsay Eland's fantabulous book, out this December, SCONES AND SENSIBILITY, is to let the readers of this blog meet us all. We are quite a crew (or chew, some might say) and each of us is distinctly different from the other fish in the tank.

Have no fear, you will be hearing from Becca Fitzpatrick and Neesha Meminger. They are kind enough to fit my interview into their seriously frantic schedules and it will be a treat! In the meantime, while we await Baby Cuda Dhonielle Clayton's arrival, let me introduce you to the creatures that swim in our pond.

Lisa: Mama Cuda. Sometimes goes by the name of The Bottom Feeder or Fang
Lindsay: Nice Cuda, who could possibly nibble you to death. Also known as Love Bites Cuda
Dhonielle: Baby Cuda, Baby Genius Cuda
Cyndy: Longtooth of the West
Kate: Snaggletooth of the East
Pippa: Our newest Cuda, but no less sharp in the tooth. Quickjaw of the North
Our Cuda on hiatus:
Cathy: Eagle-eye Cuda or one who swoops down to eat wayward fishies
And lastly, our Cuda Emeritus:
Linda: Wise Cuda, or fondly known as Yoda Cuda.

Wrestling the Plot monster, change of plans and Meet the Cudas

My interview schedule is getting pushed back slightly. I now hope to interview the other four members of my killer critique group, The Cudas. So far I've interviewed the wonderful Lindsay Eland, last month. (Don't forget to pre-order Lindsay's new book, out in December, Scones and Sensibility.) Linds is known as the "nice Cuda", though through years of exposure to we sharp-toothed fishies, she has certainly added an edge to her critiques!

Next Cuda on tap is Dhonielle Clayton, aka, "The Baby Cuda" or sometimes dubbed "The Baby Genius". Dhonielle is the writer all other writers might be tempted to hate: She landed a big-time agent on HER FIRST QUERY. Yep. But if you read her brilliant writing, you'd know why. And you wouldn't hate her either. You'd love her and beg to read more. And beg her to PLEASE WRITE MORE.

That being said, expect to hear from this fascinating lady very soon. (maybe later today).

So far, we are skimming the upper levels of the Cuda shark tank. But as the weeks go by, we are going to be doing some deep sea diving and meet the fiercer, bottom swimming Cudas. I'll introduce them as they surface. Oh..I guess I should fess up. As the founder of the Cudas, I'm one of them. Mama Cuda they call me, but don't let that kindly name fool you. My critiques are also on the savage side. Of course my graphic design students at Bronx Community College are not the least surprised about this, I'm just as demanding when it comes to art.

But don't get we Cudas wrong. It's all about one thing. Excellence. Our commitment to each other is fearsome; our only goal to help each other reach our fullest potential. And that is a beautiful thing—to know that you will get an honest appraisal of your work, even though it may leave a few teeth marks.

So far, with two contracted authors and most Cudas signed with an agent, you might say our tough approach is working. (yeah, and it's also working at BCC—hey guys!!!)

Now about that plot monster.

The plot of my WIP has grown extra arms. I'm afraid if I don't lop some off (you know, as Stephen King says—kill those darlings) they will strangle my entire book. And the Cudas might have to go on a feeding frenzy. They are a very hungry group. I'd like to avoid becoming their next meal if I can.

I am well-known for my convoluted plots. So wish me luck as I interview my characters as well today and try to make sense of their motives. Hopefully it will dawn on them that they NEED the plot to work if they want to see the light of day.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Upcoming Interviews

I have two very exciting interviews lined up and coming to you in the next week or so.

First, I have Becca Fitzpatrick, author of the new YA hit, HUSH, HUSH. Becca is ready to roll, but I asked if she minded waiting until I finish her excellent book so I can discuss it intelligently. I LOVE it so far and am so excited to talk to her about it and all kinds of other authorly things.

Next I will be welcoming Neesha Meminger, author of the critically acclaimed SHINE, COCONUT MOON. Neesha is going to stop by to share her thoughts on coming of age, cultural identity issues other tidbits about writing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Muse Musings

I am very happy to have published the two previous posts on this blog. For one, I'm happy to share and I hope those of you who visit here have found the information useful, but also, I am continually utilizing the resource myself.

I am following Elana Johnson's prescription for editing my monster WIP and it IS REALLY HELPING. I've divided the beast into chunks which has miraculously allowed me to focus and to stop RE-READING and revising the first three chapters. Like Lady Macbeth washing her hands, I've read, rinsed, repeated way too often.

Thanks to Elana, I've gotten out of my rut and moved onto—woohoo—chapter 6! And, to bolster my confidence as I plow ahead, trying not to balk at the monumental task, and trying not to let doubt cloud my vision, I have been re-reading Kathryn Craft's pronouncements. They have become my EIGHT COMMANDMENTS OF CONFIDENCE. If anyone wants to voluntarily embroidered them on a sampler so I can nail them to my wall, please let me know.

So, hat's off to my Blog Muses and may the force be with us all.