Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Guest Blogger Geoffry Young Haney: Self-Publishing: Your "Demo" Tape?


Please welcome guest blogger, Geoffry Young Haney.  He has some interesting thoughts on self-publishing and how it might develop with the future of publishing.  Enjoy!  And feel free to start a discussion in the comments.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  

Self-Publishing: Your "Demo" Tape?

As I've been diving harder than I ever have before into editing a manuscript, I've been learning a ton. But lately I've found myself wondering what to do next. I know I wish to have an agent and a publishing deal when it comes to The World Within My Walls [my current WIP]. It's a series (a big one - four main stories and possibly four related tales, including two prequels...) and I want to make sure my rights are intact for something I feel could make a long-term splash out there in the world - if given a chance. But I've been battling with what to do in the MEANTIME, that is to say, the time when TWWMW will sit idly on my computer and its queries sit unanswered in the slush piles of busy lit agents.

I have myriad other ideas that could be better suited for the New World: e-books. (Eeek!) Or more specifically... SELF-PUBLISHED e-books (and non e-books alike)!!! Now before I'm struck down by the Publishing Gods of Old, let me remind them that I did just mention that in many ways I prefer the Old Ways: A publishing house edits, designs, prints, and promotes your book and you sit back to take in the profits. This is what they still do. Only things have change. This day and age is not for the author who simply wants to sit back. More and more authors are relied on to almost tirelessly promote themselves. There is just far too much entertainment out there to not be active! Getting lost in the crowd is almost a given. A review in Entertainment Weekly or a positive blurb from some big wig won't alone sell your book (unless that big wig is a certain Mrs. Meyer, in which case you might as well buy your mansion right now...) Authors need to go out there and FIND their audiences, with blogging, Facebook pages, Twitters, Tweeties, Torpedoes, Tiptocksters, or any other oddly names social networking site that comes out this month. Therefor authors, especially new or aspiring ones, are more responsible than ever for the success of their product. This is a good thing, I think. Who is better at selling something than the person passionate enough to sink countless hours, days, weeks, and years of their life into creating it?

Yet publishers, store chains, and e-book outlets seem to forget all that. They want US to do more for less (go ahead and check out this post from lit agent/blogger extraordinaire Kirstin Nelson for just one glaring example.) With more people out there writing books than ever before and new technology looming around every corner, the Big Guys hope to cling even tighter to those keys to the pearly gates of publishing heaven while squeezing as much money out as they can. I think they're afraid that their time is running out, at least their time of being financial giants. Now I don't mean to come down hard as these "Gatekeepers"; that is not my intention in writing this. And it certainly is a pessimistic worldview, perhaps, to see publishing simply as a mega corporate demon and not as something that cares about the books they sell - really cares about the stories they print. But let's not kid ourselves. The bottom line will always matter, and when their pockets aren't as fully lined as they used to be, we as the artists feel it. We've seen this in the music industry, an industry who continues to cry about profits dropping from 13.5 BILLION to 8 BILLION dollars since the wave of file-share and the Internet. And what did they do? Instead of looking inward for solutions to better their product for a waning public and to learn to better serve their artists, they alienated their potential customers by dragging college kids to court. (By the way, if I ever complain about making 8 BILLION dollars, I want someone to cut my head off...) 

Now it may have been all well and good back in the day to hand over so much responsibility and profit to a publishing house, seeing as they were chiefly involved in making you money and sharing your work. In many cases that is still the best route. But consider that authors now have even more responsibility in selling themselves, and it only seems fair that the money should shift some. Heck, most of the blogs I follow are authors just like me, seeking an audience while having little if ANY published works to their credit. Already we're pimping ourselves. Why? Because its what you gotta do now. It looks good on your resume to have a blog and a readership, even if you don't quite have anything published. So on top of pouring over and perfecting manuscripts, synopsises (synopsi?), and query letters (*shudder*) we should maintain and write blogs, guest blog on other blogs with more readership (thanks Casey!), read and comment on each others blogs, and have a veritable blog orgy in the limited amount of time we have between ACTUAL writing, family, and (in most cases) a 9-5 that pays the bills. Why, then, would we want to do all this promotion and networking just to turn around and hand over more of our money to companies who seem to be doing less, or at the very least doing the same (while we work harder.)

And yet we have this model of publishing that is drowning in its own overhead and intrinsically designed around Gatekeeper mentality. What do you want from your story? A million dollars? If we all wanted the big bucks alone we'd have picked something easier to do. No, what I simply want (and many others, I'm sure, though I can't speak for them) is for my stories to be read and enjoyed. We want to make an impact with our words, touch a chord or pull on a heart string; inspire someone to share their tale. But with standard publishing...
  1. An agent must like your work enough to represent it.
  2. That agent must convince a publisher to take it on.
  3. That publisher must convince those higher up to promote and present it properly (you know, as if they liked it.)
How many hoops does a story-teller jump through just to REACH an audience? How much approval (opinion) must we seek before someone actually READS our story simply to ENJOY it free from the worry of whether they can make any MONEY off it or not?

Enter self-publishing. Now keep in mind, no one's even making a living off the e-book/POD thing (though J.A. Konrath is doing a decent job at it. If anyone is thinking of entering the self-pub game, I highly suggest following his blog, A Newbie's Guide To Publishing, and especially checking out this post from it.) And as Joe is quick to remind us, he has been writing for many years (his tenth novel finally sold in 2003 after 9 previous novels had been rejected a combined 500 or so times), has an agent, and has published books that sell. He just also works in the e-book medium and works in it well.

So don't go thinking e-books or self-pub is the Golden Ticket to a candy factory full of amazing wealth and deliciousness. I simply argue that, like all our other networking we do, this New Frontier of fast and friendly e-booking could be a great tool. And if you choose to go the self-pub print route, you don't even have to BUY the books first, with a little thing called Print-On-Demand (POD.) Now, it takes a lot of work and a lot of know-how to produce something worth putting out there. But I argue that we're already DOING a lot of the work. We tirelessly join critique groups. We're networking with not only authors, but artists and designers and musicians and all these creative types. We are surrounding ourselves with people who have the know-how. You mean to tell me that between all the people you know you couldn't find one starving artist who is exceptionally good as an editor (maybe even freelances or has held an editor position in the past) and would be willing to work with you for little to no money? Remember, they're a fan of you or your project already without seeing dollar signs in their eyes. Same with designers. Plenty of people in your circles I'm sure could teach you to properly create a PDF which would be the layout of your POD book. You could have illustrations! Tons of them, because a publisher isn't freaked out by how much ink it would be! This should be what our community is about, not a never-ending word vomit, empty praise, or comments on blogs. It should be about HELPING each other.

My point in saying all of this boils down to one main point and my biggest problem with self-pub critique: One of people's biggest complaints I've heard with the POD and self-publishing models is that "99.9% of its list is nearly unreadable dreck" because there aren't "quality checks" in place. How does that make you feel? That just because you haven't found an agent or a house whose opinion is that your story is good enough (and will sell,) and you choose instead to self-pub that you're peddling garbage? The quote above came from an anecdote by seasoned man of publishing Michael Stearns, founder and agent at Upstart Crow Literary. It was posted on the linked blog entry (read it, Upstart Crow is a pretty cool and innovative agency) and goes on to make many valid points about the importance of publishers and editors, including that they bring with them "those ineffable quality enhancers that make a book cost more than its printing, paper, and binding. Editing. Marketing. Publicity. Design. Attention to detail. Vision." All well and good.

But I argue that, in this new age, authors are already DOING so much of this, and that our web of contacts and networking buddies could help us with the rest. We already need to have a manuscript looking solid before submitting it. Agents want to see that we can do all those things above: self-edit, self-marketing and promotion; our attention to detail and our vision. Why? Because we are no longer simply creators of story, we are partners in selling a product. I will never sit here and say publishing houses are over and done with, or diminish the importance of a solid critique group, a skilled agent, and an experienced editor. I'm merely saying that we don't necessarily have to rely on one to get the others.

I'll equate it (as I always tend to do, because that's where most of my experience lies) to the music industry. Look at it like this. No one 10 years ago thought you could make a living off original music without a label. A label, after all, fronted hundreds of thousands of dollars for you and/or your band to go to a studio, paid for you to make a music video, and promoted you. But now that just isn't the case. What made it possible? Technology. MySpace began dictating what was popular and put artists directly in touch with an audience. Home studios became all the rage. We can shoot and edit our own music video and have it on YouTube in a week. My former band spent a little under 3 grand to buy an entire recording studio (Mac laptop and all) which we used to produce completely serviceable recordings. Could it have gone on the radio the next day? Maybe not. But our MUSIC, our MESSAGE was out there. There are more than a handful of examples of success musicians have had with just a few microphones and a solid set of MIDI synths and beats. Adam Young, the man behind the wildly popular Owl City, did just that...

Owl City was started by Adam Young in his parents' basement while he worked at a Coca-Cola warehouse, turning to music as a result of his insomnia. Young received much attention for songs he had uploaded to MySpace, the "viral popularity" of which would later result in his signing to Universal Republic. In 2007, Owl City released an EP titled Of June, followed by the 2008 release of the album Maybe I'm Dreaming. Of June reached #20 on the Billboard Electronic Albums chart, and Maybe I'm Dreaming peaked on the same chart at #16.

Owl City's first two records were released while Young was unsigned. In early 2009, music industry website "Crazed Hits" leaked that Owl City signed with the major label Universal Republic.

Owl City's third album Ocean Eyes was released on iTunes July 14, 2009, with the physical release following on July 28, 2009. The album debuted at #27 on the Billboard 200. Owl City has released four singles, "Hello Seattle", "Hot Air Balloon", "Strawberry Avalanche", and "Fireflies". "Fireflies" topped the US and Canadian charts and became the most-downloaded song on iTunes in the US. Ocean Eyes reached the top ten on the US album charts and topped the US electronic charts and also reached Amazon MP3's top 10 most downloaded album list. By December 2009, it was certified Gold in the United States. On 24 January 2010, Owl City reached the number 1 spot in the UK Top 40 Singles chart with "Fireflies".
via Wikipedia
See that? Adam hit Billboard's electronic charts WITHOUT a major label. He landed a deal on the STRENGTH of his own self-produced product. And then look what he did with major backing.  And Adam didn't just cut a disk and sell a few hundred copies at a local record shop (wait, what's that?...), I'm talking national radio play (his newest single is actually on the radio in the other room as I write this), attention from the big labels, loads of MySpace fans. All produced from the kid's basement. All which he and a team he surrounded himself with worked for tirelessly. In short, no one told Adam he was good enough - he told THEM. I suspect we could see the same sort of thing happen with self-pub, especially with the wave of e-books making access to a book quick and easy (just the way we've been trained to like it. Thanks iTunes.)

So if you're thinking about self-publishing, as I am, remember that it's not always about the glitz and gloss of the finished product. Yes, Owl City does sound more polished than a rapper's Escalade, but there are plenty of indie bands out there who actually EMBRACE the low-fi, DIY sound of a home studio and write great material doing so. There are million dollar studios trying to EMULATE that sound for their million dollar artists because they fail to see that its not the presentation, its the message. The "best" isn't always better, and for me, it will ALWAYS boil down to the message and the passion; it'll always be about the story.

Do the work, find that editor and design friend (if you haven't inadvertently already,) do your very best to present the product well. Embrace your limitations and make the most of what you CAN accomplish. And then go out and promote the heck out of it! (You're already doing it now...) Don't imagine you will sell a Rowling amount of copies and don't try to hit a home run the first time out. Just put your best foot forward and surround yourself with the tools and the people to make that happen - people who were in your corner long before an agent told them they should be. Think of that self-pub release as a demo tape (or that indie release EP), something to give the masses and to get your voice out there. And don't let the fact that there's a lot of crap out there keep you from considering producing your own work. There was and still is a lot of crap on MySpace and judging by the fact that cast members from Jersey Shore can land book deals practically in their sleep, there was, still is, and always will be a lot of crap in Barnes & Noble. Self-publishing isn't for the Big Guys, its for us and our audience, no matter how small said audience may be. You probably get rich and famous, but who knows, maybe your little book could be the Owl City of the literary world.

Geoffrey Young Haney is an aspiring author and musician hailing from the west side of the Mitten State. He is currently editing and revising his novel, The Sons of The Moon (vol. 1 of The World Within My Walls series). At night, he spends his sleep locked in nightmares of query letters and critique groups as he plummets closer and closer to a third round of agent submissions. That, and he's expecting his first child in May (that's a lot to toss and turn over!) When not in bed, he regularly posts on his blog, Creating Life, where he and his wonderful wife, Michelle, share their journey into parenthood and, God willing, the publishing world.

Tuesday Tip #30

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature. If you'd like to share a tip, please do so.

Today I have a tip from our lovely friend in Greece, Ann Marie (who still doesn't have a blog!).  We had a similar tip a couple months ago, but Ann Marie offers some different ideas and commentary so I wanted to share it anyway.  Besides, if it's being suggested more than once, it must be good!

May I share with you my greatest writing, teaching, list making and memory aid; the mini tape recorder. You know those reporter- gadget -thingies. I have been using one of these amazing inventions since I was 14 and studying hard for my O levels in England. As well as recording ideas and paraphrasing sections of huge text books (highlighting and copying passages is so tiring) it's the most amazing way to get down your ideas for a plot, re-write or theme for a new book...BEFORE you go to the local supermarket and the elusive idea gets buried under an avalanche of corn flakes and cleaning agents! I carry my recorder (about the size of a mobile phone) with me wherever I go. I'm an English language teacher in Greece so I'm constantly using it to record new vocabulary for my students to help them remember the correct pronunciation of a word. Every student has their own tape which they keep and it helps them immensely. My husband, who is writing a thesis, uses his gadget to "catch zee ideas" ( well, he speaks like that 'cause he's Greek!) when he drives ( if the donkey has run out of fuel) to university. He records ideas and recites studies he has read and then goes over it at night. My 2 boys also use their recorders when preparing essays to 'brainstorm' ideas before they write. They also use it when learning German and English swear words and find it hysterically funny. I would advise you
NOT to pass on that tip to your offspring though ....

I have one that's a little obsolete (it works with rechargeable batteries) but you can find tiny little digital things that are so light you can have them with you wherever you go. Get one with a counter though, as this helps you to find the exact place you want without wasting time. I teach until around 10 o'clock at night so I work REALLY late at my writing. I use this wonderful invention as I'm pretty sleepy and can't be bothered to write notes. I keep it beside my bed at night just in case I have any flashes of inspiration....I'm still waiting...maybe I got the wrong model?

Honestly, all you writers out there, it's such a versatile 'MUST.' If you can't afford one then most mobile phones have a voice recorder so you could try that instead.

Good luck...oh, the other really funny thing is actually hearing what you sound like...most people don't believe their voice is like THAT!! If you are horrified by the nasally tones, the BEST thing is you can delete your creative idea and nobody need ever know!

Thanks Ann Marie!  I still haven't picked one up, but I definitely plan to.  It sounds like such a great tool.

Vacation + Books

We're heading out to AZ to visit my mom really early tomorrow morning and will be there through the week.  I should have a post up on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, at least.  The normal stuff.  Not sure if I'll fit anything else in blog-wise.   

But I will fit some of this in...

Dani NoirMarcelo in the Real World (Schneider Family Book Award. Teen)The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book OneUnwind

And if you're looking for a book recommendation, this is my new favorite. 

Hex Hall (Book 1)

What are you reading? What is your latest book recommendation? Any exciting plans for the week? Blog posts you need to plug?

The comment box is all yours!

Agent Spotlight: Kirsten Wolf

This week's Agent Spotlight features Kirsten Wolf of  MacKenzie Wolf.
Status: Ms. Wolf is currently closed to submissions. Check the agency website to learn when she reopens to submissions.
Kirsten_headshot_bw About: "Kirsten Wolf is a graduate of University of Massachusetts Amherst and Boston University School of Law. A native of Boston, MA, Kirsten relocated to New York in 2003 and began her career in publishing. After several years as an assistant, associate agent, and contracts manager, Kirsten founded Wolf Literary Services, a literary agency and consulting company, in 2008. As Wolf Literary has grown over a decade in business, Kirsten has become a trusted and invaluable resource for numerous companies throughout the industry.
"Kirsten now brings that wealth of experience to MacKenzie Wolf, as the head of the consulting division and the legal and financial guru of the team. Currently dedicating her time to consulting for media agencies, publishers, and independent artists, Kirsten prides herself on guiding her clients through the confusing, confrontational, and sometimes downright dull parts of the media world in the most painless way possible, while always making sure that the client is assured their interests are being safely looked after.
"Kirsten is not currently accepting submissions.
"Bar Admissions: Massachusetts, New York" (Link)
About the Agency:
“MacKenzie Wolf is a full-service literary agency and legal consulting company, born of a shared passion for stories that are both urgent and timeless. We pride ourselves on providing multi-faceted and individualized service—including representation at the forefront of entertainment law—that encompasses all our clients’ creative and career goals.
"Core to MacKenzie Wolf’s business is the recognition that offering our clients legal and strategic services in addition to traditional book representation is vital in the face of a changing publishing landscape. Our team is creative, nimble, and highly engaged; we don’t just sign up projects, we sign up creators, and we believe that good representation is integral to an enduring career.
"Our agency division is headed by partner Gillian MacKenzie, who brings to the company her established list from the eponymous agency she ran successfully from 2005 to 2018. MacKenzie Wolf books run the gamut from international and New York Times bestsellers to critically praised indie darlings, from award-winning contemporary fiction to forward-thinking narrative nonfiction and memoir, from vibrant children’s favorites to stories by bold, category-defying voices. We also represent an array of lauded illustrators and animators, and a growing list of independent editors and ghost-writers. MacKenzie Wolf titles are united by authentic storytelling, compelling writing, fresh perspectives, and ideas that redefine how we see the world.
"Our legal and financial consulting division, unique among literary agencies, puts us at the forefront of current issues in publishing. Kirsten Wolf, Esq., an attorney with over fifteen years’ experience in the publishing industry, including ten running her own agency Wolf Literary Services, runs the consulting division, working with a varied and ever-growing list of literary agencies, publishers, and independent artists. We have extensive experience with a full complement of publishing and publishing-adjacent agreements, including international book contracts, collaboration agreements, book-to-film options, and much more.
"From concept to execution, our agents work closely with clients across all aspects of their literary careers. Our detailed editorial approach, cross-disciplinary expertise, and extensive network of contacts mean we are especially situated to serve our clients’ many needs. We are their tireless champions in finding their perfect publishing match, in addition to providing attentive management of translation, audio, and film & TV rights; industry-leading contract negotiation; advice on the side project they just haven’t stopped thinking about; and assistance with all the administrative day-to-day of being a writer/creator.
"At MacKenzie Wolf we are our clients’ fiercest advocates and biggest fans.” (Link)
Web Presence:
MacKenzie Wolf website.
Agency Twitter.
Agency Instagram.
Publisher's Marketplace page.
Twitter @awearyaweary.
What She's Looking For:
From Her Agent Query page:
"Kirsten Wolf is open to both fiction and non-fiction for all ages, though is most interested in children’s, middle grade, and young adult books.
"She is actively seeking new and inventive picture books, young adult featuring believable, honest voices, and is especially keen to acquire fresh, original middle grade.
"Regarding adult fiction, she is looking for commercial women's fiction, particularly romance and erotica, and gothic/horror novels, as well as aggressive and provocative speculative/edgy fiction.
"Regarding adult non-fiction, she is drawn to new stories told in new ways, such as smart pop culture and humor books, the website/blog-to-book format, and very recent history, especially of things like the internet and the way the world has changed over the past 25 years. Because of her background as a chef, she is eager to acquire cookbooks and food writing in general."What She Isn't Looking For:
“She is not currently considering academic non-fiction or business books.” (Link)
Editorial Agent?
A list of clients is available on the agency website.
Ms. Wolf’s clients include: Susan Colasanti, C.K. Kelly Martin, Reade Scott Whinnem, among others.
Query Methods:
E-mail: Yes (only).
Snail-Mail: No.
Online-Form: No.Submission Guidelines (always verify): Ms. Wolf is currently closed to submissions.
Send a query letter and the first 50 pages for fiction or a proposal for non-fiction. Attachments can be attached or included in the body of the email.
Please address your query to a specific agent.
See the MacKenzie Wolf website. for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
Response Times:
The agency only responds if interested. (Link)
Worth Your Time:
No agent interviews found.
Please see the MacKenzie Wolf Literary website for additional contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last Updated: 6/11/2020.
Agent Contacted for Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? N/A.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's/teen fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying. The information found herein is subject to change.

Guest Blogger S. Kyle Davis: Authorship

Please give a warm welcome to guest blogger S. Kyle Davis. Kyle has a fabulous website and newly created blog you should definitely visit. Enjoy!

In a Word: Authorship

Authorship is an odd word, one that, for us wordsmiths, conjures up the image of Dickens, Shakespeare, Austin, and Whitman sailing off into the sunset together for fame and pirate glory. (Oo! Book idea!) But more than an odd word, it’s also an odd and slippery concept.

What does it mean to be an author? The term has changed so much. These days it means you’re “published.” Anyone else who writes, whether they have completed anything or not, is merely an “aspiring” author. I’ve written a whole blog post about this concept, so I’ll spare you all the rehash.

My personal issues with the moniker “aspiring” aside, the issue is still odd. One thing that has really changed in the last 100 years or so is the author’s importance. The author is king these days... well, we don’t have kings anymore, we have celebrities, and that’s pretty true too. J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer make E! News on a regular basis. And have you seen the James Patterson commercial?

But that’s not what I’m talking about, really. What I mean is that the author’s opinion on their own work is king, and all work is sacrosanct. These days, you wouldn’t dare take someone else’s story and rewrite it to make it better. A few hundred years ago, that would be THE thing to do. Shakespeare made his entire career out of it, just to name one. These days, you’d just get sued (especially if you touch the work of a certain sue-happy Scottish writer we all know and love).

So maybe you can’t pick up your favorite “dirty secret” novel (that pulpy novel you love, despite the terrible prose) and rewrite it so that it finally actualizes its potential... at least not if you want your writing to see the light of day. However, if you go back a bit in time and find something in the public domain... things are free game.

I’m not talking about being inspired by a story, or “retelling” it in a different time period (ala 10 Things I Hate About You, a movie I can, sad to say, quote at length*). I’m talking about taking the actual text (Project Gutenberg would be helpful here) and injecting your own writing. Make it up to date. Change the time setting maybe, or add aliens. Or zombies. Whatever your heart desires. Make the story your own.

It’s a tough and gutsy thing to do. If you don't do it right, readers will hate you. There are only two ways it would work:

1) Take something unknown and pulpy and make it relevant and interesting.

2) Take something extremely well-known (in the manner of the fore-linked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and be completely irreverent with the source text. The more readers can tell you’re having fun, the better.

It is perhaps possible to be reverent to a well-known source text and not have readers hate you. However, in order for them to know you’re not so arrogant as to think you can improve on Jane Austin, you will need to change it up a lot. And I mean, a lot. As in, bring on the aliens, or at least a modern prep school with plaid skirts. Something.

Anyway, I hope you find this as inspiration. Break free of the “king author” mindset, and rip some classic work of literature to shreds.

Shakespeare would be proud of you.

*For example: "I'm down. I got the 411, and you're not going and getting jiggy with some boy. I don't care how dope his ride is. My mamma didn't raise no fool."

So Tell Me: Do You Write Slower Now?

Tuesday Tip:  Join Inkwell, a new community for writers, if you haven't already!

I've been thinking about something lately.

The more I write and the more I learn about writing, the less I produce and the less confident I am. 

Here's what I mean:

When I wrote my first novel, I wrote 152k in five months.  I clocked in 50k for my second in two months.  My third was 55k in three months.  I finished that last draft almost a year ago.  Since then, I've tried rewriting it about ten times with no success, and I feel like I've been peeling the words off my brain one at a time.  So I started something new hoping the words would flow like they used to.  Nope.  I'm lucky to write a few thousand (or hundred) words in one month now.  No matter what I work on, I spend a whole lotta time on very little.

So what happened? 

Has my internal editor become so strong it paralyzes me?  Have I lost all confidence in myself?  Have I spread myself too thin with everything I have going on?  Have I spent too long trying to rewrite novel three?  Is it that I'm so determined to fix that novel I can't move on?  Am I no longer writing for me?

Not sure.  But I feel like the more I learn about writing, the slower it goes and the less confident I am.  I can't seem to let go and just spew words anymore. 

Seems like it should be the other way around, doesn't it?

So Tell Me:  As you've learned to write, do you find you write slower than you used to?  Are you more or less confident in your ability?

New Community For Writers - Inkwell

There's a new community for writers trying to stretch its wings, and you know how I love community endeavors!~ I've invited Buffy Andrews, one of the founding members, here to spread the word. Please consider joining and getting involved (and feel free to friend me!).

Introducing Inkwell.ning.com

When virtual friends Jessica Milar and Sheri Larsen asked me to help develop an online community for new and established writers and artists, I couldn’t say no. As a struggling writer, I know how difficult and frustrating and lonely the road can be. And if I can help a fellow traveler, I’m happy to do it.

One of our goals is to provide new writers and artists (including illustrators, web comic creators and graphic artists) the resources and support they need to be successful.

We also want Inkwell to be a community for established writers and artists, a place for them to promote their work and help others while continuing to learn and grow their skills. My skills as an editor have helped me become a better writer, I think, and I’ve seen this in the editors and copy editors who work for me.

What I love most about Inkwell is that the site belongs to those who join. Its success depends on each member participating, spreading the word and growing the site through engaging groups and interactive features. We hope that those who join will not only find the resources they need but a caring community of writers and artists who are dedicated and passionate about their craft.

Please, visit the site, join and let’s help each other do the best work of our lives. I have met so many gifted writers and artists since beginning my journey, including Casey who so graciously allowed this post. I’m confident that if we work together, we can accomplish some amazing things.

Want to know more about Buffy? Here's her bio:

"I am Assistant Managing Editor of Features and Niche Publications at the York Daily Record/Sunday news in York, Pa. I lead a team that produces a glossy women's magazine, a high-end home magazine, a daily lifestyle section, weekly entertainment magazine as well as a variety of niche products, everything from non-fiction books to specialty Web sites to vodcasts and videos. I write for middle-grade and young adult."

Guest Bloggers Heather, Tina, & Jon: Why W.I.B.I.J.?

Hi everyone! I was recently invited by Heather, Tina, and Jon to take part in a test-launch of their exciting new blog game, Where In the Blogosphere in Jon (W.I.B.I.J.). Yesterday was the official unveiling! It's a scavenger hunt game that promotes community involvement through a series of clues, keywords, and commenting. And there are awards! Please visit one (or all) of their blogs above to read about the unveiling .

Want to know more? Of course you do! Well, the circus trio is taking over Lit Rambles today for a guest post Q&A that explains the what and the why behind W.I.B.I.J. Enjoy!

(Jon)--Heather: Why W.I.B.I.J.?

(Heather)--I think that the idea came about for WIBIJ as I was trailing you around the blogosphere. Suddenly you were EVERYWHERE. Each time I landed at one of my familiar blog stops, there you were, right in front of me, leaving an awesome comment full of glitter, wit, and support.

I'm a big fan of scavenger hunts. When I need some time to write, I gather plastic eggs or blocks or balls, and hide them for my kids to find. Other days I draw clues, or write rhymes for my older kids. With a little set-up, I have a solid chunk of time to myself without my kids needing me or bickering with each other. So, with that in mind, I joked with you about how we should play a game where people try to figure out "Where In the Blogosphere Is Jon?!" But I was mostly joking! Tina: you were there when I was joking around about it on Jon's blog. Were you scared that I was going to ask you to get involved?

(Tina)--No, I was totally scared that you weren't going to ask!

The first few times we chatted together about how this was going to happen and what this game was going to be all about, your chats kept flying over my head and I thought there was no way I was going to be able to keep up with these fast folks. It was the chats and the abbreviations. I have learned a lot of texting speak since this whole game began and I figure that is at least something to get out of it! That and I've already had a whole lot of fun. And besides becoming friends and co-workers with you, Jon, and you, Heather, I have made others besides. I feel like you get to know people when you play WIBIJ. Jon: What do you think about the purpose of WIBIJ? And do we scare you with all the abbreviations we have left to learn?

(Jon)--Tina, you totally said it right there, "I feel like you get to know people when you play WIBIJ." When Heather started her joke, I was like, whoa, this would be awesome! As a new writer, new blogger, and newbie all around, I am intimidated by the whole process: shiny new idea to signing your first book. I haven't been through the process, so I feel WIBIJ is an awesome way for me to share my process of learning what the Blogosphere has to offer with those who want to learn. It's the perfect setup: writers need a break, they come play WIBIJ, the bloggers with a message or advice are a destination - totally a win-win. Totally a community.

One thing I love about well-established authors is how they conduct themselves around each other. "You bumped me off the NYT Best Sellers list? I warmed the seat for you, enjoy your stay." There's no competition, except the friendly kind, like at W.I.B.I.J.?! There are no major Hollywood-style feuds of jealousy. Writers are intellectual, prolific, and quirky. WIBIJ is about bringing them all together, no matter the stage of writing they find themselves, for fun-and-games, lessons, and the feeling of belonging. I am proud to be a part of this collaboration, especially when I get to teach you the meanings of AKA, EST, and HIMYM. Heather: What have you learned from WIBIJ that you wish had come into your life earlier?

(Heather)--Jon, I wish that I had earlier realized about the merits of collaboration. I had no idea that it could be so wonderful. As soon as I joked about the idea for WIBIJ, I started figuring stuff out in my head. How could it work? What would it look like? And you guys were so polite--I knew half the things coming out of my head were gibberish, but you never once poked fun.

I remember you saying to me once, "I think we need another blog for this." And I was mortified. I could barely manage my blog and writing and everything. But, there are three of us working on it, and it's amazing. I mean, have you seen the blog? It's a work of art. It is so much bigger and better than what I imagined it could be. The merits of collaboration! Because, Jon, you and Tina are amazing at what you do.

WIBIJ is so much more incredible than anything I could have ever come up with on my own. It makes me want to collaborate with other things, as well, like my writing. When you get three enthusiastic, intelligent, motivated people in the same (chat) room, there's nothing you can't accomplish. Everyone needs co-workers! Tina: Your recaps and blow-by-blow comments during the race are incredible. Were you a sportscaster in a former life? What made you come up with the idea of a recap which gives everyone a taste of the race, even people who didn't play?

(Tina)--Shucks, thanks, H! Maybe I thought of it because I felt like I was behind both in the race (our practice runs) and in the collaborating. I wanted a way for everyone to play and appreciate and for us to be able to toot the horn of the blogs we feature and all the players, not just the winners. And I just love ceremony.

As for the collaborating, I am totally surprised at the hidden benefits of it all. I had no doubt that working with the two of you would make the blog better, look how wonderful your blogs already are! But the killer has been efficiency. I had no idea I would be more productive instead of less. In every aspect of my life. The fiction writing, the output at WIBIJ and even vacuuming!

Well, not really that last part, but we often talk dinner in my morning meeting with H, so I'm never caught at dinnertime without a plan! Co-workers are the best. It's nice to feel I'm not alone in my cubicle and perhaps the game can do that for others. Jon: tell the folks out there how to leave the best, most glittery comments they can!

(Jon)--Well, I was never trying to leave uber glittery comments all over. The sparkle in my attitude is a direct reflection of the motivation, emotion, and sometimes clairvoyance of the blogger who has captivated me for the moment. I spread glitter because I've collected glitter. Seeing other bloggers get it right and share their a-ha moment is the ultimate motivator. I learn from the best. In order to pay it forward, I leave a comment that is pertinent to the post (because I always read the post) and I make sure to follow up later in the day or week.

I think it's important to look at blogging as a communication tool, and therefore, a place for discussions, conversations, and debates. Essentially, the how-to of glittery comments is based off having an ongoing conversation with the intention of making friends and connections. Like I said, we writerly folk are quite quirky, so it's really easy to find a lot of fun things to say. Heather: What can you tell our friends about W.I.B.I.J.?! to ease their concerns and motivate them to give W.I.B.I.J.?! a try, despite the 'scary' time element?

(Heather) Well, first off, if people are intimidated by the timed race, they should start with the relaxed game, and start their clue seeking an hour or more after the race starts. The game is open for a full 24 hours, so they have all the time in the world! And, people need to remember that google is their friend.

For those of us who thrive under pressure, it is a ton of fun to show up as the race starts, and try to beat the other contestants to the blogs and comments. The clues are spaced out every ten minutes, so at some point, if you're googling quickly, you'll be hanging out at the WIBIJ big top, waiting for the next clue to appear. I think the most fun is trying for the Best Comment Award, which is open to anyone who participates during the 24 hours. We have had some rockin' comments already!
The gist of the game is that you come when you can, follow the clues to different blogs, leave an awesome comment, try to win either the Award for First Place or Best Comment, collect Jon's clue words, unscramble the phrase, and hang out and meet some writerly folk. We hope you have some fun, find some great blogs and enjoy the community! So with all that great stuff going on, I have to ask you, Casey's awesome followers, Why NOT W.I.B.I.J.?!

Casey, thanks so much for having Jon, Tina and myself on your blog to talk about our favorite blogging game! The next game is Wednesday, March 24th at 1PM EST. Everyone should consider themselves cordially invited to come and play. And to sign up their blog to be featured on a future game. The game takes less than an hour to play. It's fun! A good break from, well, everything. You played W.I.B.I.J.?! last week, Casey--what did you think?

Heather, I have to admit, it was little confusing and overwhelming at first, but it only took me a few minutes to the get the hang of it. Once I did, I flew through the game and had a blast. I absolutely love the idea behind W.I.B.I.J. and the way it encourages community involvement. I really can't wait to see it take off. My advice for everyone wanting to play is to visit the blog ahead of time, read the rules on the right sidebar, and take a few minutes to check out how the previous game played (maybe even go through the motions!). I can't encourage that enough, especially for anyone wanting to take part in the speed race. Mark you calenders, good luck and have a blast!

WANTED: Critique Partner for Kim

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I'm posting up a "wanted ad" today for a suspense writer (adult). If you write and/or read in a similar genre, please read her details and excerpt below and consider swapping some pages to see if you're compatible. In her own words, here's what Kim's looking for!

My name is Kim Cresswell and I'm looking for a critique partner.

I'm a full-time author (agented) of romantic suspense and paranormal suspense thrillers.

I am looking for an experienced partner to exchange a few pages with per week. I'm presently working on a four book paranormal series and would prefer a critique partner who writes in my genres or loves reading romantic suspense and/or paranormal suspense. :)

I've posted a short excerpt below and can be contacted at writer1(at)rogers.com


Kim Cresswell


Excerpt from REFLECTION by Kim Cresswell
(Romantic Suspense)

In the donut shop, Andrew West sat on a hard stool at the end of a worn Formica counter and ordered another coffee, this one to go. Cinnamon and sugar icing collided with the sharp tang of bleach as the waitress wiped the counter beside him.

Outside, traffic built up. While a half-moon poked through the clouds, he eyed the woman heading into the store next door. Anticipation nipped his skin.

She’d be dead by sunset. Sweet retribution.

Thanks to Nathan’s unlimited resources, including the use of his helicopter, Andrew could keep a step ahead of the reporter. Of course, knowing where she’d be every minute came in handy. He couldn’t bring himself to say her name. Her name was like sour vomit on his tongue.

How could a jury have believed her lies? Her bullshit had helped put his father behind bars. Her lies had forced his father to kill himself.

She’d said his old man was a dirty cop, implicated him in the theft of million of dollars’ worth of cocaine from the Miami-Dade evidence-storage facility, and accused him of selling the drugs on the street.

His father had been set up. He wasn’t a thief or a drug dealer. He was hardworking man who’d dedicated his life to protect others.

Andrew heard she had gotten a friggin’ award.


And his father? A wooden box.

From the get-go, Andrew’s plan was simple. Take out everyone the woman cared about. Make her suffer. Experience loss like he had. Worked like a charm when he’d shot her ex-husband. Funny how things work out. The old guy, George had been a bonus, a two-for-one deal.

She was next.

His palms itched. He couldn’t wait.

The woman crossed the street, carrying two plastic shopping bags. Andrew shot to his feet. Once she was on the other side, he tossed two dollars on the counter, grabbed his coffee and left Donut Junkie with a smile on his face.

Tucked inside his rental car, he clutched the PDA Nathan had given him and turned on the device. It felt good to have such control. The Palm Pilot beeped. The small LCD screen burst to life. On a miniature green and blue street map, a red light blinked.

The bitch would be moving soon.

In the semi-darkness of the alley Andrew started the engine and waited.


Tip Tuesday #28

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to share a tip, please do so.

Today, blog reader and friend Lisa Nowak (newly agented!) has a quick tip to share. Please visit her blog on your way out. Enjoy!

I keep a notepad and a light-up pen beside my bed so I don't have to get up or turn on the light when I get those night-time inspirations. I did some research, because many light-up pens are disposable. The pens at the link below have replaceable batteries. You can buy them in many colors, but I like red because it doesn't interfere with your night vision. You have to buy a minimum of 12, but they make nice gifts for your writer friends. :)


I love this idea, Lisa! My youngest has recently started sleeping through the night (thank goodness!) and I'm finally dreaming again. I should really keep a pen and pad by my bed for the wacky dreams and late-night thoughts I've been having. Thanks!

In Which I Talk About Myself and Fear

Recently, two of my favorite bloggers talked about fear. Elana Johnson confessed one her paralyzing fears in a Friday Night Confessions post and tons of people chimed in with their own fears. What a sense of community! Then, Beth Revis posted on Fear this weekend, fear of failure and fear of success, and it definitely resonated with me. I think fear as it relates to writing is something we all deal with, and I love that we're embracing that and sharing our feelings.

So what do I fear? Too many things to name. But I've been trying to figure out what I fear most. Something's holding me back. Well, I'm holding me back, but why? Why would I do that when I have every reason to be encouraged (and I do). I really don't know. But whatever that deep-rooted, paralyzing fear is, it's creating compound fears. I'm now frightened that it's not fear but maybe I just don't have what it takes to be a published author.

Amusing, since I've never even been in the trenches....

But that's sort of the problem. If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know I used to have trouble just finishing a manuscript. I'd fall out of love with an MS when I'd meet The Middle and allow myself to be seduced by a Shiny New Idea. I feel like I've gotten past that, but now I'm struggling with revision.

Every time I get deep into revision, I find I can't stand what I've written and want to rewrite the manuscript entirely. To the point that it makes me sick to keep working on it the way it is. Do you see the problem? I'm forever starting over. And if I keep doing this, I'll never have something to query. I'll never be the kind of writer an agent will want to represent. And I'll never have the writing career I dream of.

But there's no way in heck I'm going to query an agent with something I don't absolutely love and feel confident in. How can I expect them to get behind me and my work 100% when I'm not? I can't and I won't. So what's wrong with me? Why don't I love my writing like so many of you seem to? Where's my motivation to finish. What do I fear that paralyzes me this much?

I don't know, exactly, but I do know I'm afraid I won't live up to your expectations. I'm afraid I'll let you all down while I continue to let myself down. And I'm afraid I just don't have what it takes.

Some of you have noticed that I've sort of disappeared behind my blog features. I think this has a lot to do with that. I haven't wanted you to see that I'm not making as much progress as I'd like. That, as much as I've been revising, I'm no where near querying. That I could be a failure. But now that it's out there, I hope I can come back out a little.

Is there anyone else that has or has had the same problem as me? Everyone I know seems to have the problem of rejection and/or waiting and wondering, but I can't seem to even get that far. I'm feeling a little alienated by myself.

But it helps having you all here, around me, sharing your fears, and it especially helps when I see you succeeding.

What do you fear?

Interview with YA Author Alisa M. Libby

Today I have an interview with YA author Alisa M. Libby, author of The Blood Confession and The King's Rose, whom you may remember from a guest post last month. Enjoy!

Hi Alisa! Could you start things off by telling us a little about yourself?

I've always loved to write, always wanted to be an author. I started my first novel in the second grade. The plot changed dramatically over the years, depending on what book or movie I was obsessed with at the time. I remember that ball gowns, mysterious magical powers, and unicorns played pivotal roles. Eventually I moved on to writing poetry, and years later I made my way back to short fiction and novels. It was all a part of the writer's journey, finding my “voice” for my first book. I'm still on that journey. I see the writing of each book as a singular adventure.

You have two published young adult historical novels out with Dutton, The Blood Confession and The Kings Rose. Can you tell us about them?

My first two books are about historical bad girls. The Blood Confession is historical fantasy inspired by the legend of Countess Erzebet Bathory, who believed that bathing in the blood of virgins would keep her eternally young and beautiful. The King's Rose is about Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of the notorious King Henry VIII, who was accused of having an affair with one of the king's servants during their marriage.

Writing historical novels generally takes a lot of research. How much research went into yours? Have you done anything really interesting in the name of research?

I love reading about a character, searching for a detail that may shed new light on their personality or the world they inhabited. For my first novel I read all that I could find about the Countess, Hungary in the 16th century, and the Ottoman Empire. I did foray into fantasy in order to create “reasons” (highly illogical reasons, of course) as to why Erzebet murdered her servants and bathed in their blood. Knowing the Bathory legend, I researched how blood may have been viewed in her world: it's religious and medicinal and magical properties. These details really informed the character.

For Catherine Howard, there was a lot more information to draw from, as many fabulous historians have written extensively about the Tudor era. I read about the culture of Henry's court, what they believed, how they ate, dressed, celebrated, and lived. There were also other characters—Henry, his former wives, the dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Lady Rochford—whom I had to learn about in order to tell Catherine's story. My husband and I took a trip to England to do some research. I had never been to England and this was a great excuse! We visited Hampton Court where Catherine celebrated her new role as queen, and the Tower of London where she was eventually imprisoned for her lustful crimes. This made me feel more in touch with her, as a person. Catherine Howard is not the most famous of Henry's wives—her own cousin, Anne Boleyn, probably takes that honor—so she doesn't get many visitors. I was there for her, and I told her so when I visited her grave site. It felt good to pay her homage.

What did your journey from aspiring author to published author entail? What were the key milestones along the way?

Key milestones! Here we go:

1. Being critical of my own work. After graduating from an undergrad writing program, I did a lot of reading and reflecting on my writing. I learned what worked for me in a novel and what didn't, and realized that my own writing had strayed into the latter category. An unpleasant but necessary lesson to learn, it helped me regain focus on the type of book I wanted to write. From there, I tried to figure out which of my many projects was the most book-like (conceptually, at least) and perhaps the most marketable.

2. Finding an agent. Partly luck, yes. But if I hadn't queried and put myself “out there” it would never have happened.

3. Revising. And revising, and revising again. Taking direction and critique—first from my agent and later from my editor—and not taking it personally.

4. Getting a book deal. Partly luck again, I admit.

How did you come to work with your literary agent?

A friend of mine met an agent at a party and got his card for me. I had been intending to start querying agents once my novel was “perfect” but getting an agent's card gave me the urge I needed to send it, immediately. I had a few projects that I was working on, but I saw my Countess Bathory YA novel as the most exciting, morbid, and marketable. So I sent him that. I was lucky that he saw some promise in it, even though it needed a lot of work.

Is there anything that you’ve learned or experienced during the publishing process that’s surprised you?

Lots of things! Where to begin? I've learned how challenging it is to write on a deadline, but that it can be extremely motivating as well (first I need to procrastinate and tidy the house and generally avoid work at all costs, evidently). I've learned that there is a big difference between an idea and a book, and putting too much pressure on a new idea can effectively snuff out that little flame of inspiration before it has a chance to ignite. I've learned that writing doesn't suddenly become easy after getting published. Each novel has unique challenges that need to be addressed. It's not as if I've learned the magical formula for writing (and selling, for that matter) a book. It still takes work and perseverance. That said, I know that I'm lucky to have an agent willing to guide me through those first revisions.

I love your author website. Did you create it? Did it go up before or after your books were published? How has the marketing and promotion side of publication been for you?

The website was created (by a professional designer, whom I hired and paid) to promote my first book, then updated to include my second. The process of promoting a book has been an eye-opening experience. I'm much more comfortable at home in my hooded sweatshirt, clacking away on my computer. But when my book was published there was an expectation—a necessity, even—that I do my part in promotion. I still find speaking engagements very nerve-wracking, but I've also had some great experiences talking about my books and about writing with other people. It's just outside of my comfort level, but I'm getting better and more comfortable with practice. I find it difficult to know what I should be spending time on for the sake of publicity. All I can do is focus on what I'm most comfortable doing. That said, I'm certainly willing to try new things if I think it might help my book.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Write, read, critique! Read books that are similar to what you want to write, and be critical—take note of what works and what doesn't work. Now turn that same critical eye to your own work. This can be downright uncomfortable, but it's absolutely necessary and you'll become a better writer, with practice. The sooner your own weaknesses become clear, you'll be able to address those issues.

You also may want to start a blog, create a web presence. You can blog about your writing, your progress, your accomplishments, your plans. Blog about what you're reading, post reviews, blog about books that have influenced you as a writer. Blog about writing tips that have (or haven't) worked for you, connect with other writers and writing communities. It's up to you if you want to share any bits of your works-in-progress—personally I don't, so don't feel the pressure to do so if you don't feel comfortable. Be wary about how much personal information you divulge (that's a real sticking point for me, as a blog is very public). The point is to get yourself out there, get connected with other blogging writers and create a place for yourself online—something professional that shows how devoted you are to your writing career and might impress an agent or an editor, were she to visit your blog (it could happen). If you have a blog with a readership, once you're published you'll have a perfect venue for book promotion.

You must be working on something new. Can you divulge anything about your current work(s)-in-progress?

As much as I love writing historical fiction, I needed to take a break. The thought of diving into all of that research made me want to hide under a library desk. This was a red flag, since I love research. I've been writing some contemporary fiction (my characters wear jeans! Unbelievable!) with some magical real/fantasy elements. I feel indebted to my current work-in-progress, as it pulled me out of a post-Catherine Howard dry spell. That's all I can say about it, I'm afraid. I don't want to jinx anything!

Where can readers stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest on you and your books?

Please visit my website and especially my blog, which is updated more regularly: www.alisamlibby.wordpress.com. Please visit and comment!

Finally, what’s one interview question you haven’t been asked and wish you would be? And please, answer it!

How about: who is your literary hero? Wilhelmina Harker, from Dracula by Bram Stoker. From Mina I learned a valuable lesson about fiction, and about life: bravery is not the absence of fear. True bravery is experiencing great fear, but forging ahead with what must be done, regardless. Her character makes that book so powerful for me. I look forward to re-reading it some day.

What a fabulous interview, Alisa. I loved reading about you and what you've learned while building your career as an author. Very inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing.

Agent Feedback: Jennifer Rofe

Every once in a while I receive feedback on an agent through e-mail that a writer wishes to share. Until the day I get us a forum going, I've decided to share them this way. The most recent is on Jennifer Rofe of Andrea Brown and comes from a hilarious writer, Ann Marie, in Greece. I've really enjoyed my ongoing correspondence with her and I'm trying to get her blogging. Her original e-mail is as follows:

After spending the morning ‘googling’ about my favourite literary agent, Ms. J Rofe, I felt I had to express my thanks to her and the Andrea Brown Agency in general for their kindness and consideration.

I recently submitted a query from Greece where I have lived and worked for the last 20 years. In this part of the world, it is fairly common to see people still using donkeys as a means of transport and even to use the animals dung as a form of energy. Although in the past we owned one of these noble beasts, we never actually tried the latter ‘natural fuel.’ Possibly my British upbringing (and the availability of a national sewerage network system in the UK ) caused me to be reticent about going to those extremes!

Anyway, the point is that I live in a modern Greece with many Third World elements despite its grand and ancient past. So imagine how thrilled I was when I sent my recent query and within hours had received a very polite e-mail acknowledging the receipt of my work. I know that it was just a standard reply sent to all those who submit their work to this particular agency. However, this e-mail caused me to feel euphoric for days on end just knowing that this project of mine had managed to reach its intended destination all the way across the Atlantic. Thank goodness I won’t have to agonize for the next couple of months wondering whether my e-mail was received or not!

So, once again, thank you for this consideration to writers; remember that not all of us live in places with the modern conveniences that perhaps most Americans take for granted!

All the very best!
Ann Marie

Elizabeth Gilbert - Nurturing Creativity

Because it's too awesome not to share further, I nabbed this video from YA author Stephanie Perkins (Natural/Artificial) who got it from Stella. Thanks girls!

If you're reading from a reader, click through.

Tip Tuesday #27

Tip Tuesday is a recurring feature where readers send in tips for fellow writers. If you'd like to share a tip, please do so.

Today, middle grade author Beth Pollock, whom you may remember from my interview with her, offers up a tip on overused words. I think it compliments my Tighter Writing series nicely. Enjoy!

One of my favorite ways to clean up my writing is to go through my list of overused words. Every author has a set of words that he or she relies on, and the more I write, the more I recognize my crutches. I now have a list of forty words that I check my documents for at every stage. It's a bit time-consuming, but it's amazing how a manuscript can be improved by eliminating those words. It also helps my early drafts -- I'm less likely to use them simply because I've had to edit them so many times!

Here's an example from my recent writing. 'Turn' is a word that I overuse, likely because it's useful in so many contexts. On checking my manuscript, I found my characters turning to talk to one another, turning up the heat, turning an activity into a game and turning their luck around. In some cases I found a synonym; in other cases I eliminated the phrase entirely. (In addition to the adverbs that Casey mentioned in a recent post, other culprits in my writing include 'could', 'know', and the ever-useful 'look'.)

A fun way to discover some of your own crutches is to enter a few pages on wordle.net. This website generates a picture of your story in words, and the ones you use most will appear in the largest font.

This is such a great tip, Beth. I keep an eye out for my crutches, but I haven't made an official list yet. I love the idea. Thank you!

Gone Revising Blog Fest

I'm feeling motivated to make progress on my MS today, so I've decided to dedicate this Monday just to that (+kids+cleaning+laundry+cooking+etc). Consider me Gone Revising (+++++).

And since I'm not posting anything remotely interesting or insightful, I thought I'd turn the focus to all of your fabulous blogs instead (400+ followers, really?!? Thank you!).

Feel free to plug your blog in the comments and tell everyone what you're up to. If you haven't posted anything today, consider this your prompt to do so and then come back and tell us about it.

I'll pop in a few times to see what you've brought to the Blog Fest. Have fun!

Interview with Author Fiona Ingram

Happy Friday! A couple months ago I featured a wonderful guest post by author Fiona Ingram. I've brought her back today for an interview. Enjoy!

Hi Fiona! Please start off by telling us a little about yourself.

I come from a background of theater studies and journalism. My studies and love of travel have combined because after university I spent a year in London at drama school and a year in Paris studying mime. After a few years working in grassroots and community-based theater, I began to write more and gradually moved into journalism. Becoming a children’s author happened by
accident after I went on a family trip to Egypt with my mother and two young nephews.

You have a middle-grade adventure novel called The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. Can you tell us a little about the story and the awards you've received for it?

The book is a thrilling adventure for two boys (12 and 14), whose fun trip to Egypt turns into a dangerously exciting quest to uncover an ancient and mysterious secret. A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive … only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another! I have a great book website. Young explorers will enjoy an interactive journey through Egypt, following Justin and Adam’s exciting adventure on www.secretofthesacredscarab.com. Readers can also browse the first chapter of the book and there is a Book Glossary for interested readers. Those who survive the journey and manage to translate the Curse of Thoth will be able to read the first chapter in Adam and Justin’s next adventure—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—as they hunt for the Scroll of the Ancients.

I think book contests and awards are a great way to get one's book out there. I have won two Finalist places (2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and 2009 National Best Books Awards) and one win (Winner 2009 Readers' Favorite Awards). The book was also nominated number 2 in The Children's and Teens Book Connection nominations for The Top Ten Favorite Books of 2009 for Kids, Tweens and Teens. I am very proud of that achievement for a first book, written by an overseas author (I live in South Africa).

I love that you originally wrote The Secret of the Sacred Scarab for your nephews after a trip to Egypt with them. How much of the book is made up of anecdotes of that trip?

A lot! Egypt is an extraordinary place and so we had an amazing adventure. Most of the characters are based on people we met. For example, the hilarious description of the customs official is taken directly from real life. When he stamped my nephew’s passport, the official sniggered about how my nephew was “too yunk (sic) to sign.” My nephew was really upset, but this amusing moment, as well as many others made their way into the book. My nephews gobbled olives and other delicacies just the way my heroes Adam and Justin do. I also made the boys’ journey follow our real journey. It gave a tremendous structure to the story.

You’re a self-published author. Can you tell us why you chose to go that route and what the pros and cons have been? What advice would you give to writers thinking about self-publishing?

To be honest, I didn't know any better when I opted for self-publishing. I knew nothing about book publishing; I write for a journalism market, which is totally different. I did not want a local publisher because South Africa has a very limited market and there's not much chance of a locally published book making it overseas. Also, political changes have affected what publishers feel they should be putting on the shelves; another factor is that most of the population does not have a culture of reading. One fifth of the country is still illiterate so it's overall not a good scenario. I sent my three chapters and begging letter to 35 British agents, 33 of whom were not interested. One gave me great advice and praised my writing, saying I should just persist. The other said she would have taken me but she had someone with a similar idea. (Who could possibly have an idea like mine, I thought, in my naïveté). A friend put me onto someone who had self-published and the book looked just like a 'real' book. Surprised, and still ignorant, I went ahead with an American “assisted self-publishing” (is there such a thing?) company, iUniverse.

Pros: you can get your book out there if you do it yourself, and have complete control over what the results will be (I wanted illustrations and maps etc).

Cons: you won't have the same kind of shelf presence (if any at all) that a traditionally published author will have. However, having said that, I was shocked to find that the jostling for shelf space means that even trade books will struggle to make headway if they don't sell in 3-6 months. In addition, trade publishers now expect their authors to work as hard as perhaps self-published authors in marketing their books. One is expected to have author platforms and one's own ways of marketing books. Another drawback—although this perception is changing—has been that self-published books are generally rubbish, with the author not being able to afford the 'must haves' that enable it to meet the industry's standards. I have been praised for the quality of my book and I owe it all to literary agent Nathan Bransford (who, alas, is not my agent). I read a scathing article on Editorial Anonymous about how dreadful the average self-published book is and why agents wouldn't touch one with a barge pole. Nathan’s comment was that if he came across a self-published book that met the standards of the industry, he would gladly look at it. I thought, “I’ll show you.” I am still going to send him a copy…

Some advice when choosing the self-publishing route.

Expect what you pay for. Many charlatans in the marketplace take your money and leave you with a few poorly produced copies and no real platform for sales. Do some research and find out exactly what they offer. They should offer: a top program with all the elements for your book to meet traditional publishing standards. This includes the ISBN, a barcode, title and author name on the spine, back cover copy, and author bio details, as well as proper typesetting. They should offer editing and proofreading services, and a presence on the top book sites (such as Amazon), as well as a program that helps get you into the bricks-and-mortar outlets such as Ingram’s, Barnes & Noble, and Baker & Taylor. They should also offer an optional extra marketing strategy to cover radio and television and some Publishers Catalogue-type publications (you’ll pay extra for this), as well as sending out review copies and press releases to relevant people. Check everything they do for you, including your layout and copy proofing. If you’re not experienced enough to spot errors, then get someone else to look at it. It is expensive, but given that trade publishers are now looking at self-published books that do make the grade, it’s worth it.

The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is the first book in a series titled The Chronicles of the Stone. How does the story continue? When do you plan to publish the second title?

Adam and Justin discover that the ancient scarab they were given is, in fact, the First Stone of Power, one of seven scattered around the ancient world thousands of years ago. A race against time and uber-baddie Dr Faisal Khalid ensues. The person who unites all the Stones of Power with the Stone of Fire, (swept away when the tomb of the Scarab King collapses) will be able to read the ancient and magical Book of Thoth. The reader will gain mastery of time, space, and hold dominion over the beasts of the earth, creatures of the sea, birds of the air, and be able to achieve immortality. (The amazing thing is that this is a real legend, not something I made up.) Scary stuff as readers realize when they encounter the ruthless Dr Khalid. Once the first Stone of Power came to light, it is only a matter of time before the others begin to surface, manifesting usually in the weapons or regalia of long-dead warriors and kings. Such is the case with the second stone which might just be hidden in the hilt of the most famous sword in history—the sword of King Arthur, the sword Excalibur. My second title is The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. The quest takes Justin and Adam to Scotland.

I am about two thirds of the way through and writing as fast as I can, in between marketing book one and doing free-lance work to survive. I have an agent interested in the second book. She hasn’t read a word yet of the manuscript but has based her desire to represent me on the quality of the first book, and the great 5-star reviews and the awards/nominations I have won. Once I have finished, I will send her the manuscript and hold thumbs while I get stuck into book three.

How has the promotion side of the business been for you? What fun things have you done to promote your book?

Promoting has been the hardest thing I have ever done. Marketing is far more difficult than writing. Yet, marketing is vital because if you don’t really push your book in all possible ways, no one will notice your work. I do everything: write articles, my own blog, going on blog tours (brilliant results) Facebook, Twitter, my website, the book website, get book reviews, ask for interviews, enter book contests and awards, and just tell everyone about my book. The fun stuff is doing book readings at schools and libraries here in South Africa. I usually do a quiz on Egypt and chat to kids about how easily one can create their own stories.

What did your journey from aspiring author to self-published author entail? What were the key milestones along the way?

My journey has entailed a lot of work, many tears, much frustration, and then the joy of getting wonderful reviews and winning contests. I think the learning process was particularly bumpy because I live another continent away; I couldn’t just pick up the phone and call my publishers. It was also hard to write ‘in American’ since I come from a British-based background. At times things seemed so difficult, so futile, and I asked myself what on earth I was doing. I spent pots of money on making the book as good as possible, as well as doing a lot of marketing I had to pay for because I couldn’t do it long distance. The publishers are extremely supportive and send out review copies constantly. That helps with getting reviews. The best moments are hearing a child say, “I loved your book.” Actually so many adults have said that as well! Other wonderful moments have been getting the emails that say, “Congratulations! Your book has been honored as a "Finalist/Winner" in the "Children's/Juvenil Fiction" category of (name of contest)!”

Is there anything that you’ve learned or experienced during the self-publishing process that’s surprised you?

Yes, professional people in the industry have been particularly kind, taking the trouble to reply to my queries or requests for advice. I have received so many free tips from people who are in it as a business and don’t have to help. I also found that people have gone out of their way to help me when they didn’t have to do that. I am extremely impressed with the professional levels of service in the USA. It’s so difficult to get any kind of recognition in South Africa, and yet in the USA people have been so willing to assist, advise, review my book, and point me in the right direction. I am eternally grateful because I think without that help I would have made many more errors.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I have some great articles on my website www.FionaIngram.com with all the steps I took to get to where I am now. However, 3 simple tips should help.

1. Don’t give up. Even if you feel beaten, down, depressed, unappreciated, whatever, do not give up your project. Make your mantra and say it every day. (Mine involves being a world famous best selling author with as much money as You-Know-Who)

2. Make sure that your manuscript/book is as perfect as can be, and if that means spending money on editing and proofreading, do it.

3. Do not stop marketing: Even when your book is out there and you’ve sent off your press releases, don’t stop spreading the word! Do something every day (either online or physical) to continue your marketing thrust. Remember—marketing doesn’t sell books … marketing gives you exposure and exposure sells books (my thanks to marketing guru Penny Sansivieri of Author Marketing Experts for those words).

What’s your writing process like? Would you say your work as a journalist and editor has informed your writing much?

Journalism, as you probably know, is a completely different style from writing fiction. Taut, concise, bold, factual … not your lovely-curled-up-with-a-book-read. It was such freedom to be able to really write, really explore images, words, sounds and the ‘feel’ of things. I truly enjoy writing as an author, not as a journalist. That said, writing a book is not quite the same thing as writing an article or a press release. I had an instinctive feel for how things should unfold in my book, and I think that came from writing so many university essays and a master’s degree thesis where structure and development of a theme is very important. Sounds unlikely, but when you read a book that is wobbly or unstructured, you, the reader, become impatient. If the writer doesn’t know which way the story is going, how can the reader be expected to continue with it? It was my first book and I did feel trepidation, but to my surprise, the turning point in the plot came very naturally, and the other elements just dovetailed in. I have a clear overview of where each story is going, and I stick to those pointers, but I allow for my imagination and ‘coup de foudre’ ideas to unfold. (An example: in the second book I recently had one of the revelatory moments when I linked two important themes together).

My editorial and journalistic background has been a mixed blessing. On the one hand I have the advantage in knowing about grammar, structure, vocabulary, spelling etc. (And being something of a tyrant myself when editing someone else’s articles…) On the other hand, the whole process of being edited was a humbling experience. My editor said she loved the book. Huge smiles from me … already picturing Bloomsbury Press clamoring to make me the next You-Know-Who. Then I opened the document to find red lines everywhere. I was devastated—how could she like the book when it was clear I had failed the exam? I was totally crushed by the silly mistakes I felt I should have picked up. I have now learned to ‘read between the lines’ when it comes to writing vs. editing. In final production, cover, illustrations, presentation etc. I am so grateful for my previous experience because I was able to pick up on many small but vital elements that make a difference—such a sizing of illustrations and maps, placement of pics, small details of layout that I found pleasing or disturbing to the eye. Chapter headings, line counts on a page (I counted them on every single one of the 257 pages), widows and orphans.

Where can readers stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest on you and your books?

I have a good author site www.Fionaingram.com where I put up all my articles and reviews. There is also a link to my blog. Interested readers can also visit the book website at www.secretofthesacredscarab.com.

Finally, what’s one interview question you haven’t been asked and wish you would be? And please, answer it!

That’s an interesting question. The question I have never been asked is: is there anything you regret about embarking upon this career? My answer is: I wish I had done it ten years earlier than I did, but I would not be the person I am now, my nephews who inspired my heroes would have still been in rompers, and the trip that gave me the foundation of the mythology behind the book series had not happened yet. So, even if I had gone ten years before we did, none of this would be the way it is today. I have had to accept that life and the Universe have the timing that is perfect for us, even if we don’t know it at the time.

Thank you so much for the great interview, Fiona! I really appreciate the inside look at self-publishing and your career. Best of luck to you with the agent that's interested in book 2 and in all your future endeavors!