Friday, July 29, 2011

Books/Movies/Summer....OH MY!

What a fabulous summer this has been. Yes, I said "has". Sadly, I am back at work on Monday. To be honest - I'm kinda looking forward to it - the structure, getting this set of a good year, etc. But, I'm also sad to see my lazy days of summer slip on by.

I set out to spend the summer doing four major things:
  1. Catching up on books in my TBR pile
  2. Seeing some of the FAB blockbuster movies - especially HP 7.2
  3. Chillaxin' with the family and catching up on some of the to-do list
  4. Finishing revisions on my current project
Yea, I was seriously OVER REACHING!@!*?

Yes, I did read 7 books - all fabulous. And yes, I saw HP 7.2 (BEYOND EPIC), got caught up on my fav TV shows on movies on DVD, and chillaxed with the family. I also got the entire to-do list done (with the exception of the garden).

Productive, yes?

What I did not quite finish - my revisions.


I made loads of progress. More importantly, I really like the product. It is turning out more haunting, more thrilling, and . . . well . . . more than I had hoped.

So, a definite win.

How was your summer? Any big news??? School year starting soon???

Oh! And I wanted to give a quick shout out to my Tween Erika. You have seen her reviews every so often as part of my Bookanista Reviews. Well, she has her FIRST how-to arts article being published in an international kids zine soon. GO ERIKA!!!! I'll give you more deets once I have them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Imaginary Girls - a deliciously dark tale.

WOW! Can you believe it's Thursday already?? I've been very busy in party prep for my teenager's epic birthday bash this weekend (thus the lack of post yesterday)...

But, I did manage to find a little time for some reading.

Before I get to my Bookanista shout out, however, check out what the other Bookanista's have on tap:

Elana Johnson point you to HUMAN .4
Lisa and Laura Roecker glories in THE GODDESS TEST
Shannon Messenger delves into THE FUTURE OF US with a giveaway
Carolina Valdez Miller shivers over THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE with a giveaway
Scott Tracey and Shana Silver are wild about WILDEFIRE
Jessi Kirby celebrates A SCARY SCENE IN A SCARY MOVIE
Corrine Jackson sneaks into SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD
Stasia Ward Kehoe embraces ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE

On to my Bookanista Shout out for IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Summa

Release Date: June 14, 2011

Basic Blurb: (from Amazon)
Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.
Why I liked it: 

There was so much to like about IMAGINARY GIRLS - the writing, the storyline, the characters. For me, though, it was the tone of the story that really drew me in. Haunting, with themes of love and loss, I found the tone of this story mesmerizing. It is a deliciously beautiful and well-crafted debut. Great job Nova Ren Suma.

So...what are you reading? What was your favorite book this summer?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Birthdays, Awards, And TMI

To start off this post, I have to give my baby a HUGE shout out! My Teen, Fabiana turns the big 1-5 today!!! I seriously CAN NOT believe she is going to be driving, graduating, leaving - all within the next few years. Wow...I distinctly remember being pregnant with her. 


For those wondering, she is celebrating with a fabulous party over the weekend. And yes, I'll be tweeting during that time, in search of a little sanity, no doubt.

Now, on to the awards and TMI part. Ali Cross is a sweetheart and gave me some awards and other stuff. So, are about to get inundated with way too much info about me!

First - the awards. 

According to the rules, I guess I am supposed to tell you 7 random things about me:
  1. I am strangely obsessed with comments. IDK, seeing my inbox full of comments from you guys just makes me smile. Daily.
  2. I love my job - but every single year, at the end of summer, I have a mini-panic attack at the mere thought of going back to work and trying to balance one more thing - a HUGE thing - back on my plate.
  3. I secretly wish I could participate in a triathlon - very humorous considering I can not run. Like at all (bad knees). Not to mention the fact that I am horribly out of shape!
  4. I think I am a really boring person. No seriously. That is why things like THIS are so dang hard for me to finish.
  5. Yea, okay - I have nothing else to say about me. See #4 for clarification....
And I guess I am supposed to answer this meme too . . . (you really ARE trying to kill me, aren't you Ali?)

Do you think you're hot?

Upload a picture or wallpaper that you're using at the moment. 
Yep - a little inspiration for my current project

When was the last time you ate chicken meat?
Um, yesterday....we eat poultry a lot. Well, most of us. We do have a vegetarian in the house. 

The song(s) you listened to recently:
I listen to music constantly - typically my Pandora mix of two stations that play intense movie soundtrack music. Yea, I am weird! When I'm not listening to movie soundtracks, I listen to everything from Muse, to Paramour, to the Killers, to Jason Mraz, to Maroon 5, to, to, to...
I am very eclectic.

What were you thinking as you were doing this?
"Man Christine - you ARE boring, aren't you? Oh well...."

Do you have nicknames? What are they?
Not really. When I was young, my mom called me Tina. That is, until I hit 13 and INSISTED I be called Christine. Oh! And my father in law used to call me Christina.
My close online friends call me "C" for ease of typing, I suspect. Otherwise, I'm just....

Tag 8 bloggers . . .
Okay - I am picking some bloggers I would LOVE to either a) know more about or b) torture (just kidding). 

Check out their blogs when you get a chance.

I think I bored you all enough with my TMI...Anything you guys want to share?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Too Many Minds...

So, a few weeks ago I was chatting with two of my favorite peeps (shocking I know!). I was frustrated with my progress - or lack of progress - on my new project and was venting. Both of my friends, at different times, and in different conversations, told me the same basic thing.

Don't Overthink.

See, I am a thinker. I think about every detail in my stories. I can see potential outcomes of particular situations many steps ahead. I can envision multiple outcomes to any situation. And my creative process tends to work in reverse of many people - from the finished product backwards to the first step.

While this is a great way of looking at things most of the time, there is one major hiccup...

I absolutely tend to overthink, overplan, overanticipate. And as I pursue my writerly dreams, that can be a HUGE stumbling block, preventing me from focusing on the moment at hand in favor of the possible outcomes down the road.

While I talked this issue through with one of my friends, I remembered one of my favorite movies - The Last Samurai. In particular, I remembered the too-many-minds scene. I tried to embed it, but suffered an epic click here to take a look.

Here's the quotes form the scene (taken from Wikiquote)-

Nobutada: Please forgive, too many mind.
Nathan Algren: Too many mind?
Nobutada: Hai. Mind the sword, mind the people watch, mind the enemy, too many mind... [pause] No mind.

Remembering this scene reminded me that at this stage of my revisions I really needed to focus on only one thing - finishing my project. Everything else will take care of itself later.

So, I am marching forward, trying to keep "one mind", one single focus for now. (And yes, my writerly BFFs are still reminding me of this...daily).

How about you? Do you sometimes struggle by getting too far ahead of yourself?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Show Your Fears A Little Love Too!

Happy Friday Everyone! I can't believe the month of July is almost over - crazy, you know! Today I want to talk about fear. After the two posts earlier this week looking at some of the more common "sins" of writing - predictability, sloth, gluttony, disrespect, haste, denial, and abandonment - a common thing came up in the comments and emails I received -


I think every writer has had a moment, or a million, in which the fear of something has consumed almost everything else. Maybe it has even prevented that writer from moving forward, querying that project, emailing that agent, etc.

Personally, I battle with fear on an almost daily basis in one form or another:

  • What if I can't figure out these revisions?
  • What if no one follows my new blog?
  • What if I NEVER find an agent/editor/publisher in fiction?
  • What if, what if, what if.
The fear of failure (and success, actually) can literally choke the air from my lungs at times, throwing me into a place so dark, and so scary I can't think straight.

But here's the thing...

Maybe that isn't all bad, you know? Maybe that fear...that dark place has a purpose too.

Fear, in it's purest form, alerts me to danger. It tells me when I need to pay more attention, or when I'm encountering something uncomfortable. 

And, most importantly, it's fear that keeps me from complacency by forcing me to act in some way - to fight or flight. Something.

It is only when I obsess on that fear, or resist action of some form, or allow myself to get stuck in the darkness that I have a problem. 

It is only when I forget that fear has a purpose too that it prevents me from moving forward.

So, the next time fear grips you by the throat and chokes the air from your lungs, be still and try to hear what your fear is really telling you - what action you need to take, or why you are uncomfortable. Submit, for a moment, instead of resisting. And then move forward. You may be surprised what you find.

How do you deal with fear?

(Oh, and about that dark place - that's a source of my best stories!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Another Amazing Debut - The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

HAPPY THURSDAY everyone! I hope you are all enjoying a fab summer with lots of fab books! I can't believe I am back at work in a week...A WEEK! Oh well, no point it stressing over that. Much more fun to talk about books. 

But before I get to my Bookanista shout out, check out what the other Bookanistas have on tap:

Elana Johnson raves about BLOOD RED ROAD
Lisa and Laura Roecker shivers over A SCARY SCENE IN A SCARY MOVIE
Carolina Valdez Miller gushes over THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS + a giveaway
Bethany Wiggins cheers for CHIME
Rosemary Clement-Moore is enraptured by  ENTWINE
Stasia Ward Kehoe applauds THE PREDICTEDS
Scott Tracey praises SUPERNATURALLY

On to my Bookanista Shout out for THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab

Release Date: August 2, 2011

Basic Blurb: (from Amazon)
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.

Why I liked it: 

WOW! This book is easily one of my favorites this year! Victoria Schwab manages to weave a great story, with fabulous well-rounded characters and beautiful writing - everything I look for in a book. I think I'll break that down a little more:

  • Story line - This one felt different than many of the other books out there - it stood out in my mind as fresh; not easy in our crowded marketplace.
  • Characters - Victoria did a nice job building characters that leap off the page. I loved their authenticity. Nicely done.
  • Beautiful writing - I am a sucker for the written word - especially when it is honed and used in such a beautiful way as this book. A true delight to read

So, there you have it - my reasons for absolutely falling in  LOVE with The Near Witch. Trust me, this is a very worth while read! I can't wait to see what Ms. Schwab brings us in the future!!!

What are you reading these days?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Haste, Denial, Abandonment....yes, I AM talking about writing!

Here we are with part 2 of my recap of the sins of writing. Yesterday, I covered predictability, sloth, gluttony, and disrespect.
Today we'll cover the last three.

Sin #5 - HASTE - I am SO darn guilty of this one. You know, sending out your ms before it's ready. Now, I'm not just talking about sending it to agents or editors early - I mean your readers too. I am a firm believer in NOT burning out readers with multiple reads. Not only is it, well, rude. But you will never get as good a read as you do the first time. So, be careful about burning through readers - and always save a fresh set of eyes for the end!

Sin #6 -DENIAL - I think all of us can come up with reasons for WHY we aren't where we want to be with writing. Maybe we haven't gotten the agent/book deal/whatever we hoped for. Or maybe we are too busy with children/day job/other responsibilities. Or. Or. Or
Maybe you are exactly where you want to be - but you aren't growing as an author anymore, your time overly usurped by your other obligations - marketing/promo/etc
Regardless of what is true for you, excuses do NOT solve the problem. Action does. But you can't take action until you own up to the truth of your situation - whatever it is - and make a plan to move forward.
Nuf said!

Sin #7 - ABANDONMENT - This is a deeply personal one for me. It refers to abandoning your manuscripts. Now, it is true that some mss were not meant to be finished or revised. They were practice. But if you find yourself regularly abandoning your work, you need to look at this!
For me, I abandoned 4 GOOD mss last year. FOUR.
That is ridiculous!
I really don't have good reasons for it. I stopped because the writing got hard. Or a crit was particularly harsh. Or I got lost within the plot. Or. Or. Or.
The truth -
So, don't abandon if fear is the motivation. See things through to the end.

So, what do you think? Like these sins? Any we should add???

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Deadly Sins - Pt 1

As promised, I am recapping the Amy Koss workshop I attended a few weeks ago. The focus of the workshop was the "7 Deadly Sins of Writing". With each, she offered advice, an exercise, something to drive home the concepts.

Needless to say - this was a great workshop.

This post focuses on the first few sins discussed.

Sin #1 - PREDICTABILITY - Personally, this is a HUGE one to me! I don't know about you, but I do a lot of reading. And you know what I've found - formulaic stories that are very VERY predictable. Girl feels like an outcast, only to find out she has super natural abilities. She meets a bad boy, falls in love, and must choose between bad boy and good guy friend. Oh, and did I mention, she saves the world from good and evil.
Sound familiar? Yea, I thought so.
Wanna make sure YOUR story doesn't fall into this trap? Tell a friend the opening scene and initial problem in your story and see if they can guess the plot from there. If they can, watch may have fallen victim to PREDICTABILITY.

Sin #2 - SLOTH - As Amy describes it, this sin refers to lazy writing. Yep, telling the story instead of showing it. As Ms. Koss highlights, you MUST write EVERY SINGLE WORD. In music, I was taught to "play the pauses". To me, this is the same thing. Write the words, the phrasing, the pauses. All of it.
No lazy writing here.

Sin #3 - GLUTTONY - Of course, the danger of overcoming Sin #2, Sin #3, also known as purple prose. A great way to guard for this, ask yourself whether or not each and every word advances the plot. If it does not, cut it. All of it!
Another great exercise, figure out what you really like to do with writing. Then be wary of it - this is the thing you will tend to be gluttonous about. For example, let's say you like dialogue. Be careful you don't overuse it.
For me, I repeat myself. Let me say that again...(just kidding!). I am a gluttonous MESS when it comes to repetitions. Just asked my CPs.

And the last sin I'll talk about today -
Sin #4 - DISRESPECT - Don't disrespect your reader. Since I write YA, I will tailor this one to fit my genre...Don't talk down to the reader - don't preach or lie, don't assume that because you write for kids the work requires less work.
Amy gave a great exercise to get in touch with your inner reader. Imagine yourself as the target age of your audience - in my case, 17. Then, remember where you, at the age, spent your time reading. Picture it in exquisite detail. Go back and talk to that younger self. Promise her (or him) that you will do right by her - you will give her the stories SHE (HE) would want to read.

Whew! That's it for today...
I'll bring the last three sins tomorrow.
What are YOUR deadly writing sins?

Monday, July 18, 2011


Hi everyone! It's time to talk about writing. Specifically, our characters. I went to a fabulous workshop conducted by Amy Koss several weeks ago. I'm going to be recapping everything over the next few posts, but one thing in particular really stood out for me...

Use character traits to "show" your characters.

In particular, use the main attributes of the characters to show, rather than tell, the story. For example, if your character is "lazy", don't describe him as lazy. Instead have him speak and move and act in a lackadaisical way.

I know, nothing new here. This is stuff we have heard. But honestly, it is NOT something I do as well as I could.

To help "teach" the point, Amy had us make a list of our primary and secondary characters in a current WiP. We then had to come up with one or two words to describe the main attributes of the character. She suggested having this list written or printed where we could refer to it often as we revise our manuscripts.

Wow! What a powerful exercise. I have to say, this simple process has not only helped me maintain my characters voices in my current projects, but it has also really helped be zero in on my characters.

Here is a sample of my list for my current project, TRANSCEND:
Ien - submission, insecure
Erik - confident, dominating
Katherine - controlling, scared
Kiera - untouchable, free
James - loyal
Sister Anne - passively controlling, illusive

This list literally lives on a 3x5 card I pull out as I revise. It is a godsend, trust me.

Try it out for yourself and let me know what you discover.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blog Tour Fun with Eisley Jacobs

We end this fun week with a stop on the Virtual Tour for Eisley Jacob's book BORN TO BE A DRAGON.

Take it away Eisley:

First off, thank you, Christine, for hosting me on your blog today! When Christine emailed me, I don’t think she had any idea her Diversity Week would fall during my first week of launch! So it’s quite awesome and ironic, since today’s post is all about how I got from Point A -- the finished manuscript -- to Point Z -- independent publishing.  

I started on this independent publishing road back in November 2010. I’d decided to stop querying (after the 80th time) and do some research on this enigma called independent publishing (self pub). Who was going indie? How was it going? What are the advantages? Any disadvantages? Immediately people began popping into my field of vision -- folks who had always chosen this route and others who were at the end of their first launch. Because the writing community rocks, people had no qualms when it came to answering my questions. I discovered there are a variety of reasons people indie publish. Sometimes a book is too long for a traditional house. Sometimes it’s not the right season for the topic to sell to the houses. There have been too many of a particular topic in the industry lately. Some authors want total control of their work. 

This got the noggin on fire. To think, in a few short months I could have the writer's ultimate dream come true! I could have a published book. However, there were still those doubts in my head. Is it good enough? Was my editor sufficient? Does the story drive the child (I write middle grade fantasy)? Is… Does… How… What if… Ahhh! Now, let me just tell you, this is a terrible turnstile of thinking, because it just goes round and round and round until you feel your head is going to explode. I don’t know if it ever ends either… most authors will tell you the same. The road doesn’t end when you have glue on a spine; it’s only the beginning. 

The advantages of independent publishing far outweigh the disadvantages for me. The advantages start with my having complete say with what happens in my manuscript. No one tells me to fix that scene in that chapter because the publisher doesn’t like it (happened to a friend). I have control over the cover (I love my cover!), page color (white or cream?), size, number of pages… and on and on. You, as the indie author, have control over every aspect.

Now with that very control could come a disadvantage for some people. As I said, you are in control of everything. Everything! The channels of distribution, the marketing, the promotional material, scheduling signings or appearances, blog tours, sales, etc. This “disadvantage” could be the key in figuring out if this is a road for you. If you think you can keep yourself motivated and ignore the naysayers (because there will be some), then  you too can start down this indie road. Weigh your options heavily. Analyze the pros and cons for each venue and nitpick your choices. One will shine over the others.

On day two of my Scavenger Hunt, I told the watchers (a vlog on fellow indie author, Kristie Cook's site) the future of publishing is… “so bright, you’ve got to wear shades.” It’s true. And when folks ask what my plans are for my next book or series, they ask if I will try the traditional route first, and I struggle with the answer. It was a lot of work, but it’s been such a rewarding process! There have been parts I’ve loved… and hated. So I have to debate where to go next. 99% of me says I am going indie all the way, unless a publisher wants to pick up my series (for mass marketing). So, unless something in me changes, this is the way I will go for my YA series – RINGS OF TIME and the other books in the DRAGONS FOREVER series. 

If you have any specific questions about how the road has been for me, I’d be glad to answer anything I can! Thank you again, Christine, for this awesome opportunity to talk about this journey! It’s been amazing!

Thanks Eisley! I LOVE that you've stopped by. And be sure to stop by her blog today and get in on a great contest she has going.

So - how was the week? Learn anything new? I know I have!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rebecca Gives her spin on self-publishing

Today brings another interview - this time with Rebecca Knight and her experiences with self-publishing:

CF: Why did you begin writing?

RK: I actually have been writing since before I could write! When I was 5 I used to draw “books” telling alternate versions of Peter Pan with myself as a main character, etc. Then, I dictated stories to my parents until they insisted I practice my six-year-old scrawl and write down my own tales.

I’ve always written stories and poems, but the one who convinced me to try to write a novel was my husband, back in 2005-2006. I didn’t believe in myself like he believed in me for several months, but when I did, I sat down, and wrote Legacy of the Empress.  It’s awesome to have such a great support system at home J.

CF: Tell me a little about your personal writing process?
RK: I’m not going to lie—while I was writing Legacy I learned a lot about what NOT to do. I swear I rewrote that book at least 5-6 times while I was learning how to craft a good story.  Now, I’m a total outliner.  I have to have a beginning, middle, end, and all of the main points in between before I even start. This goes for short stories, too.  If I don’t have a path to follow, I sit down and figure it out before I start. 

CF: What is the hardest part aspect of being a writer?
RK: I think the hardest part is keeping focused and balanced.  I get really excited and almost manic when I have a great idea, and want to drop everything to write it, even when I’m working on another project. I also don’t want to do things like sleep.

My husband is like this with his creative projects, too, so we take turns helping the other one keep focused. He tells me to write down my next idea and helps me prioritize, and I do the same for him.  For example, I have my next 3-4 writing projects planned out, but I have to finish my current one before I can move on.

Writers and artists are all crazy. We’d never get anything done without a little organization.

CF: How do you manage to balance writing with other real-life things (like children, etc)?
RK: I don’t have any children, so that’s got to make it easier J.  After work, I write for a couple of hours while my husband does his projects and/or plays video games. Just so I don’t burn out (which I did before and am trying to avoid), I make sure I relax for at least an hour before bed and take one day a week to do sweet, sweet nothing, no matter how much I “have to get done.” I think it’s important to take care of yourself, or you won’t have much to give.

CF: What is your book about (in 140 characters or less)
RK: Dark magic is devouring the people of Taleria. Only one girl can stop it by freeing an ancient Empress who fought the evil centuries before.

Ha! Exactly 140 J

CF: What was the inspiration for LEGACY of the EMPRESS?
RK: I actually got the idea for Legacy back in college when I was taking a fiction writing class. There was a writing prompt we did where I imagined lines of magic intersecting all over the world like a grid, and an Empress imprisoned in a crystal fortress.

I never did anything with it, and ended up finding it a couple of years later in my journal just sitting there, waiting to become something cool.  It’s awesome finding treasures like that in old notebooks J.

CF: I know you've talked alot about why you made the decision to self-publish this, but could you brefly summarize that decision for my readers here
RK: When I heard the news about Amanda Hocking, I realized that I’d almost bought her books several times when browsing cheap reads for Kindle, and I’d had no clue that she was self published. I quickly thumbed through the e-books I’d recently bought, and wouldn’t you know it, 9/10 were indies!

This blew my mind. Before when I was trying to get an agent, self publishing meant you went with some vanity press and tried to sell books no one wanted out of the trunk of your car.  Now, it seemed a totally viable option.

I researched it further, reading blogs like J.A. Konrath’s, and the fact that people are making a much better living as a self published mid-list author than a mid-list commercially published one really sealed the deal for me. My entire goal as a writer is to be able to do what I love for a living, and this option, numbers-wise, seemed like the best way to meet that goal.

I recently read that only 1% of new books are from debut authors, and I know for a fact the majority of those aren’t in my genre. I’ve been haunting publisher’s weekly for years now waiting for the market to change, and it’s just tightening up further and further for new genre writers.  Self publishing is the smartest move for my career at this time.  I’m loving it so far!  I definitely made the right call.

CF: What is the most important thing for writer's to consider as they think about diversification with publishing?
RK: I think the most important thing to consider is what your Main Goal is. Do you want recognition from the Industry?  Do you want to be on a bookshelf in Barnes and Noble?  Do you want to sell as many copies as you can?  Do you want to get paid to write for a living?

Once you discover what your main goal is, it’s a lot easier to figure out which path is right for you.  For me, it was self publishing, because I don’t give a crap about being validated by the industry. I don’t care about being in a brick-and-mortar bookstore because they’re pretty much going out of business anyway. The only thing I care about is getting my writing out there in front of readers, so it was an easy decision for me to make once I had all the facts.

CF: What have you learned in this process that you wish you knew earlier?     
RK: When I think about the fact that I could have published for kindle 2 years ago, I want to go back in time and kick myself! I could already be making a living. However, everything was just taking off then, and hindsight, of course, is 20/20. At least I’m doing it now!

CF: How about marketing and distribution - any advice on these?
RK: As far as marketing goes, I’ve had a lot of success connecting with readers through twitter and my blog. Also, meeting other authors on the kindle boards and working to support one another (like you’re doing right now) is great. However, I’ve noticed the biggest bumps in sales as soon as I release another story.  The best marketing is to write more stuff, which is something that every author can control J.

The thing that doesn’t seem to be working for a lot of indies is buying ads. It’s all about the free social networking, from what I can tell. I spend an hour or two a day hanging out online.

CF: What are you currently working on?
RK: I’m currently writing another two stories for my Fairytale Assassin short story series J. They are so much fun, and I love them!  They’re basically paranormal stories about an agent named Veronica Grim who fights real life fairytale villains.  No Rest for the Wicked is the first part of the series and contains two short stories: Blood Don’t Lie and Heartless.  It’s currently free on Smashwords and B&N.  The second part, Carnivore is only $0.99 cents on Amazon and Smashwords.

When I’ve got five of these stories, I’m going to bundle them into a collection.  After that… you’ll just have to wait and see!

CF: Would you ever consider traditional publishing? Why or why not?
RK: I would if they could ever give me a better deal than I have with self publishing. I get 35% royalties on my $0.99 titles and was getting 70% on my $2.99 book before I put Legacy on sale.  Basically, if I sell these books myself, I’m making more in royalties with a more competitively priced book than any publisher can offer. 

If a publisher gave me a better deal than that, I’d absolutely consider it J. But until that day, not a chance with the contracts the way they are now. I’d be shooting myself in the foot.

CF: Randomness time:
sweet or salty?  Salty!
online on in person?  Online! (I’m shy)
fav genre of writing?  It’s between fantasy and sci fi, but I also love me some romance!
most inspiring writer and why--  Dan Simmons. He wrote my favorite book of all time, Hyperion, and continues to create absolutely gorgeous sci fi. I love you, Dan!  I want to be able to make someone breathless with my writing, like he did with Hyperion. P.S., read Hyperion.  Seriously.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Christine! J It was a treat, and I appreciate your support so much.  You rock!

Thank YOU Rebecca, for sharing your journey with us. Having read Legacy, I can say...GREAT JOB!!! You really make me consider self-publishing as an option for some of my works...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Introducing Michelle Raynor - I mean Michelle McLean...

HAPPY THURSDAY everyone! I hope you are all enjoying a fab summer with lots of fab books! I know I am. Actually, today is more about waiting in line to see Harry Potter (going to the midnight show...), but I will be reading as I wait!

Enough about me, in keeping with my self-pub series this week, I am doing a little interview with Michelle Raynor who just released her first e-picture book into the world. Who is Michelle Raynor? Well most of you know her better as Michelle McLean, author of Homework Helpers: Essays and Term Papers.

So what makes a published author with an agent make the decision to branch into picture books through self-publishing? I decided to ask her and find out more about her decisions:

About the PB:

CF: Why self pub a PB - tell me the story of your motivation behind it?
MR: With self-pubbing becoming easier and easier, especially the rise of the e-book, I just had a “why not?” moment. I’ve been writing picture books for years and have a file full of manuscripts. But few agents rep them and breaking out of the slush pile is even harder than with a novel. Finding an illustrator was also an obstacle, but once I convinced my very talented friend, Toni Wilson, to give it a shot, we ended up with a very cute book J Previously, the other huge obstacle in self-pubbing was the cost to print a full color picture book. But with ereaders gaining more popularity, that is no longer an issue. There is a print version of my book, but with digital publication, something that once would have been impossible, or impractical, for me has become a dream come true.

CF: A blurb for it in 140 characters or less
MR: Alex and his sister Izzy are stuck inside during one rainy week, but with a few wishes they still manage to have the most magical adventures

CF: Tell me about the pub process
MR: It was incredibly easy, though there was a huge learning curve J For a novel, it wouldn’t be as complicated, but with all the images in my book, the formatting was a bit tricky. Now that I know what to do, the next one should go much more smoothly. I went through Smashwords, who really does all the work for you. We followed their formatting guide, submitted it to their review team, they converted it to digital files compatible with all the different ereaders out there, and distributed it to all the retailers. For the print version, we went through Lulu, who also has a distribution service (it should be available at your favorite online retailers by the end of the summer and is available through Lulu now). I’ve also heard great things about Create Space, so for book 2 I’ll use them, just to compare.

CF: Tell me about your marketing and distribution plans
MR: I’ll market it like I’ve been doing for my traditionally published book, though I’m focusing more on promoting the eversion than the print version. I’ve already made two school appearances, and am doing all the normal, fun swag. I’m making the rounds on the blogosphere (thanks for hosting me today!), have an Amazon and Facebook page for my pen name, Michelle Raynor, and will be hosting giveaways and contests. The distribution is handled for me through Smashwords and Lulu – the ebook is currently available for all ereaders on Smashwords, for the Nook on Barnes and Noble, for all Apple products through iBooks, and will be up in the next week or so on Amazon, Borders, Sony, Diesel, and Scrollmotion. The print version is available on Lulu now and will be up on all the online retailers by the end of the summer.
CF: What are your future goals with your PB
MR: To get it out there as best as I can. And to get more books out J This is one of the fun things with self-pubbing. The process is much faster. The books still go through an intense round of edits, but with a couple of awesome illustrators on my side (Toni Wilson and Lisa Amowitz), who do not only the interior illustrations but also my covers, I’m able to have my books for sale within months instead of years.

About you:
CF: Why a pseudonym?
MR: Because I write such vastly different genres, I felt it would be easier for my audiences to keep my books separate if I wrote each genre under a different name. I wouldn’t want a student looking for essay help to search and find only picture books, or a mom looking for picture books to search and find a historical romantic suspense novel J A different name for each genre prevents that from happening. So, I’m Michelle Raynor for kids’ books, Michelle McLean for NF, and MacKenna Marquis for novels.

CF: Future writing goals?
MR: I have two new picture books with my illustrators right now – I hope to have at least one of them out by the end of the summer. I’m currently working on revisions with my agent on a historical romantic suspense novel. And I have two NF books making the submission rounds with editors right now. Next up is another novel…just haven’t narrowed down the project yet J

CF: Tell me some obscure factoid we DON'T know
MR: Hmmm…when I turned 30 my hair went curly. It used to be straight, with a slight wave if it got long. Now when I get it wet, it looks like I’ve just gotten a perm :D

CF: What is your fav part of writing path
MR: I really love the very beginning and the very end. That rush of intense passion for a new idea – and the supreme satisfaction of holding the finished product…and watching people enjoy it J

Wow – thanks for the great interview Michelle! To check out your own digit copy of her book, leave a comment. One random person will win a copy! Contest ends today. WOO HOO!!!

Want more great reads to check out - look at this fab list:

Elana Johnson revels in Ruby Red
Lisa and Laura Roecker is nuts for I'm Not Her
Shelli Johannes-Wells features Guestanisto author Matt Blackstone
Shannon Messenger swoons for Supernaturally - with a giveaway
Carolina Valdez Miller is bedazzled by Between - with a giveaway
Beth Revis reveals her reading recommendataions
Jessi Kirby discovers Where Things Come Back
Shana Silver wonders at The Near Witch
Stasia Ward Kehoe celebrates Selling Hope

For more about the Bookanistas, our own upcoming books, and our reviews, check out our website - The Bookanistas. You can also find us on Facebook, and find our crazy celebration vlogs on YouTube.

Yea, we're crazy like that!

What are you reading these days?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Road to Self-Publishing - An Interview with Heather McCorkle

Today brings another interview - this time with Heather McCorkle and why she made the decision to forge her own path:

CF: Tell me a little about your thoughts on nontraditional publication and
 diversity (in publishing)

HM: Non-traditional publication, or self-publishing and small presses with different publishing models, wasn't always something I've believed in. I read a few self-published novels that were awful, then I gave up on the idea. There is no gatekeeper, no quality control to make sure the novels are up to par (save for in the small presses). Then over the years I started reading a lot of really bad traditionally published novels, some from the Big 6 publishers. My belief in them started to wane. Thankfully, times are changing and choices are opening up to writers that have never been available before. When I found Abbott Press and realized they would have quality control and a mark of quality offered to the best novels by Writer's Digest, I knew change was coming, a very good change. 

CF: What motivated your decision to self-publish?

HM: I used to be a hardcore traditionalist. I felt a traditional publisher was the only way to go. But after two agents and two failed manuscripts on editorial submission, I started to realize something. Good books, even great books, were passed up because they didn't fit the publisher list for that year. I also realized that traditional publishers are out a year to two years from purchasing to publication on novels, which puts them in a precarious position when it comes to trends (which is part of why good books get passed up). I got a lot of, "We loved this but we already have a paranormal novel in our lineup," and "Beautiful writing but the trend is on the way out." The worst part was, I discovered a large portion of them didn't want to look at rewrites because they just had way too many submissions to worry about a reread. 

CF: What do you love about this journey so far? What is the hardest part?

HM: I love how much control I have over the process with Abbott Press. Every creative decision is mine to make, though they do help guide me along the way. With a traditional publisher I would have almost no say over my cover, the interior layout, how and when it releases, etc. It made me feel so free. The hardest part is standing up to the self-publishing haters (especially since I used to be one). And the fear. When it's all in your hands there is a lot of fear of failure that grips you. But I will have wonderful marketing with Abbott so that helps alleviate a lot of it.  

CF: Has the idea of diversification changed your opinions on traditional publication? Why or why not?

HM: Absolutely. Traditional publishers take 90% of an author's profits. That used to mean something, great PR, marketing, exposure, not so much anymore. Ask agents and publishers, most of them will tell you to be prepared to do a lot of your own marketing. So what is that 90% going for? The designer name on your binding I'm afraid. Yes there is a lot to be said for designer names, but in the end Amanda Hocking didn't need one.

CF: What advice would you give writers about this "new world" of publishing?

HM: Shed your prejudices, explore your options very thoroughly, and be prepared. If you are going to go with a small press or self-publishing then be ready to do your marketing, have a great platform already, an excellent online presence. And above all, only put out quality work that has been professionally edited by someone other than yourself. And remember, don't condemn traditionalist, they got us where we are today. 

CF: What is next for you?

HM: Even as I prepare for the August debut of my YA urban fantasy novel, The Secret of Spruce Knoll, I'm revising the sequel. My novel is the first in a trilogy and I plan on releasing them all (another perk you won't get with the traditional choice!) as well as a tie-in standalone novel. You won't see quick releases within the course of a few months though. I'm taking my time on these babies, revising them thoroughly, and having them professionally edited. I'm guessing seven months between each release. Best of luck to all of you, no matter what road you choose to follow!

Thank you for stopping by Heather. Now it's your turn - any follow up questions you'd like to ask???