Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Backstory Buggaboo

Lately I've been working with a few lovely and talented beta readers and I notice they grapple with a common issue. Back story overload. Once I cut away two thirds of what they had written (and my their writing was lovely!) the wonderful stories they were telling emerged, glistening and lovely as morning dew. And, to their credit, each of them accepted the bloodbath and rewrote, to excellent results. I've been calling this bloodbath, "Killing Your Darlings" for years, a phrase I have gleefully borrowed from Stephen King from his book, ON WRITING. (If you haven't read it, get it NOW.)

I also find that backstory, how little or how much to include, still gives me headaches at the beginning of any new WIP. When I noticed this excellent blog post about back story dos and dont's I had to share it (with Janice Hardy's generous permission). You really should check this out. I think I'm going to look at this website every day. It's a huge treasure trove of writerly information.

Friday, March 23, 2012

So how do you deal with the distraction---I mean multi-tasking?

Lately, I've found myself wishing either for an extra five-ten hours in the day or perhaps a pills that would let me do without sleep. And while we're at it, how about a personal chef and a very intelligent robot that can clean my house and buy my groceries. (and maybe do the laundry as well?). Then I'd also like a personal assistant to keep track of my appointments and someone to do---oh never mind. You get the point right?

Between thinking about marketing myself, doing design work, keeping up with my job, the household stuff (which includes paying attention to what my teenage daughter and college boy are up to) and oh yeah--the three WIPs I have going (did I mention critiquing and beta-reading?) I'm kind of on a creativity overload. I'm not complaining---it's all good. But, I've never been known for my cool methodical temperament. When you think of me, think of a cheerful storm, or as my colleague and I call ourselves once we get going--a detonation.

Yeah. It's an exciting time for me. But I am wanting to do everything at once. And I am finding it a little difficult to focus on writing with so many other cool projects begging for my attention (blog design, designing my website, book cover design, illustration---shall I continue?). Plus, my amazing publisher Spencer Hill Press and the incredible Kate Kaynak seems to be just like me--full of ideas and energy (but much more organized about it.) She's got me so excited, I'm about to bust (but I'm not breathing a word of what she's got me excited about--CIA swear as one of my students says.)

So, I want to know--how do you all handle it? I do drag myself to the gym and that helps. But seriously--maybe most of you aren't as kooky as me? If you are, I want to know (not you, Michelle!--I already know all about it, lol). This morning I'm really proud of myself--I ate breakfast before noon, showered and even painted my toenails..but it was a struggle.

How do you spell multi-tasking? D-I-S-T-R-A-C-T-I-O-N?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Meet Sandi B. Jones, blog contest winner.

 To celebrate our collaboration, Sandi and I have interviewed each other. To read my interview, visit Sandi's blog at:

Tell us about your the book you are current working on.

Not to be all mysterious, but I can’t say much right now! My latest is a Gothic novel for young adults, currently under consideration with agents. I’d describe it as dark, romantic, Southern, and psychological. I’ve also published a few paranormal romances for adults under a different name.

What was your inspiration?

I’m a big history geek. One of the few assignments I enjoyed in high school was a research paper on Frankenstein. Digging in crumbly old books, I was enthralled by the Romantic poets and their Gothic stories. If I had a time machine, I’d go back to that era and hang out with them for a day or two. And…well, I have to confess a crush on Gerard Butler as the Phantom of the Opera. After watching that film, I wanted to write something similar to the story with the combination of love, yearning, fear, and horror.

If you could cast a movie of your book, who would be the main characters?

I didn’t have any real people in mind as I wrote the story, but I think I would cast Logan Lerman as my tortured hero. I thought Lerman was fantastic in Gamer. (Just realized that movie also starred Gerard Butler. Hmmm.) The main character would be harder to cast. Maybe a sixteen year-old version of Rihanna.

What made you decide to be a writer?

I wrote my first book before I started Kindergarten. It was about a duck! Haha! But seriously, when I was bored out of my mind in school, I started writing short fan fiction for my friends. I might cast my bff as the main character and Jon Bon Jovi as the hero. In no time, I’d crank out thirty steamy pages. I really hope my friends threw those stories away! Honestly, though, there’s nothing more satisfying to me than writing.

Tell us about teenage Sandi!

Most of the time I looked like I stepped out of a Tim Burton movie. Big hair, heavy makeup, and lots of black clothes. Actually, I haven’t changed much! Haha! I’ve always been quiet, so the way I dressed was my self-expression. I was a punk rocker at heart! I took denim and embellished it with fringe, leopard print, lace. I wore black alligator boots, and I was BAD. To look at me, nobody ever guessed I kept a paperback novel stowed in my spiked leather purse.

What books are your favorites?

This is a hard question. There are so many! One of my all-time favorites is The Bride Finder, which is a fantastic Gothic romance. I also like Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes, and anything written by Agatha Christie, Stephen King, or Poe.

More recently, I’ve enjoyed Darker Still, Nevermore, Jane, The Devouring, and The Hollow.

If you could be anything else besides a writer, what would you be?

I have two of the best possible jobs for me, being a high school librarian and a writer, but if I had to do something else, I would be a marine biologist. I’d join the crew of an ocean vessel and save a whale!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Contest Winner, Sandi B. Jones' Blog Makeover!

Here it is! I'm thrilled with the result, and I hope Sandi is too! It was fun trying to capture the essence of Sandi—funny, dark, gothic, romantic and Southern. I hope I succeeded.

I already loved Sandi's blog, which is one of the reasons she won this contest (in addition to following the rules and begging so eloquently). Sandi is a YA writer and a school librarian with some incredibly useful insight into the minds of actual real life teens (wow!) and their reading habits. She is also funny, interesting and super nice. It's really been great (and easy) working with her. So....

Please visit Sandi on MAD, BAD and DANGEROUS TO KNOW.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A BIG SQUEEEEE, for Michelle McLean!!!

You have no idea how happy I am to announce my good friend Michelle McLean's book deal for her Historical Romance, TREASURED LIES in PM:

Here it is:

This makes me so happy and proud. Michelle and I know each other for quite a few years, supporting each other through the various ups and downs of our careers. In fact, Michelle, who has also has a nonfiction book Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers, from Career Press, even helped my daughter to a research paper!

Since last fall Michelle and I have been working closely on a picture book project (which for us seems to be harder than almost anything else we have ever done). In between, we had a little distraction—as in our novels sold WITHIN TWO WEEKS of each other. (we've known about this for awhile but had to keep it hush, hush.).

Now I am happy to shout about it! We both said that 2012 was going to be our year.

I guess, so far, it has!

Congrats to you my wonderful partner and pal! You rock!!! Here's to more sales this year (and getting that darned picture book done!)

And, in case you'd like to congratulate her on her website (recently dressed up for the big occasion by yours truly) here are the links:



Monday, March 12, 2012

So can I toot my own horn?

Here is something I am very proud of! The book cover I designed for Crescent Moon Press for author Berinn Rae for her forthcoming book, HELLBOUND. Good luck on your release, Berinn!

Here is the link to Crescent Moon Press:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

DRUMROLL, please!!!! WINNERS!!!!!

The grand prize winner of a total blog banner redesign along with some template tinkering and advice AND a partial read from Victoria Marini

goes to:

SANDI B. JONES. *take a bow, Ms. Jones*

You know what, Sandi, your entry and comment about the Care Bears really did crack me up, but that wasn't what finally won me over.  First, let me say, everyone made wonderfully persuasive pleadings. Everyone dutifully tweeted, followed, etc. Some even retweeted my every utterance, which did sway me somewhat. But then I looked at the blogs. I noted: activity, amount of followers, attempts to make blog pretty..and I decided that Sandi has been tireless in her efforts to make her blog wonderful..and it IS wonderful. And you know, I want my efforts to really make a difference. I firmly believe, that Sandi has knocked herself out with her blog--but she needs that extra something that makes it all work. She needs that redesign to take her to the next level. She's tried really hard. I want to give her the boost she has earned.

So congrats, Sandi! Your blog sold me and I can just picture how wonderful we are going to make it.

and for second prize:

Totally no less deserving and really, just as fabulous and interesting, Sarah, you are cool--and so deserving. So we can talk---but in the mean time, you get:

A copy of Meredith Zeitlin's new book and an signed book from Heidi Ayarbe along with some cool swag!

SARAH AHLERS accept your prize!!!

So, winners DM, email whatever. I need an address for the second prize winner and an email from the first prize winner.

I'll be forwarding your partial to Victoria and brainstorming ideas. When we are done--we are going to hoot holler and plan some kind of shebang, Sandi, okay?

WOOT!! and thanks everyone for all the tweets, hollers, pleadings. I feel privileged to have met all of you and hope we can all be in contact and support each other as writers!

I am actually almost ready to announce...

But you know--it was such a tough choice. I feel like I want to help all of you--soooo---I'm going to REALLY uber help the grand prize winner (like even advise on blog templates, etc) and for everyone else, if you agree to host a blog tour interview for both Heidi and me when we need it, I will redo your blog banner in return.

Does that sound fair? You are all wonderful and deserving. I just happened to have found ONE who I think for various reasons, as in blog activity, effort, amount of followers and general personal coolness that came across in the blog, should be the grand prize winner. The second prize winner, is equally as cool, but for whatever reason, the GRAND prize winner's blog just screamed--'please, PLEASE, help me--I need this so badly! I'm working my little tail off here!"

Do you know who you are? You're going to find out TODAY!!!! Woohoo!! And I can't wait to FIX YOU UP!!!

Contest is officially over. Winners to be announced at week's end!

Yep---there were a lot of great entries. So I'm going to read through them, check out blogs and decide. If the deciding gets to hard (which I think it might) I'm just going to throw the names into a hat!