Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 positives & 2017 wishlist (with a prize)!

I don't believe anyone has been immune from the craziness that was 2016. For me personally, there was a lot of good in the craziness, and I thought it would be nice to have a positive discussion when there was so much that sucked this year.

I went to Romantic Times, where I met Brenda Drake and fellow Pitch Wars mentors for the first time (which was also my first trip outside of Australia) and participated in the Pitch Wars Roadshow.

I had SHATTERED published with City Owl Press, which felt like an even bigger milestone for me than having book 1, DIVIDED, published. I became a bonafide published author in my eyes with the sequel entering the world. And it was my first ever in-person book launch for me for a novel.

I edited and published my first ever anthology, WORDS WITH HEART, which is a charity anthology.

I launched Literary Loveliest, a charity auction site with a literary focus. The first auction we did raised money for the victims of the Louisiana floods.

I also ran my first solo Pitch Wars Roadshow at Conflux.

Despite the bad in 2016, positives can be found. And I'm hoping 2017 will be even better. My 2017 wish list includes:

  • Finishing my new WIP
  • Finishing and publishing book 3 in the Open Heart series
  • Getting an agent
  • My Pitch Wars mentee, the amazing Roseanne Rivers, getting an agent
  • Having a fantabulous Pitch Madness Team in 2017 
  • Finding an amazing mentee for Pitch Wars 2017.
What's your 2017 goals? 

All comments go into the draw for eCopies of my books DIVIDED and SHATTERED, as well as a $10 Amazon gift voucher. Entries are open until 1 January. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Guestopia: Rebecca Carpenter

Today, on Guestopia (yes, we've changed the date this month!), we are delighted to welcome author Rebecca Carpenter to YAtopia! Here's a little bit about Rebecca...

Rebecca Carpenter is a native of western Colorado. She is married with two grown children and four awesome grandchildren. She owns and runs a large childcare center where she shares her love for books. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, and exploring the beautiful mountains of Colorado.

And let's commence with the interview!

Is this your first published book?

It’s the first one traditionally published. I self-published a memoir about my teen pregnancy in 2012 called, The Total Deconstruction of Chloe Wilson.

What’s it called?

Butterfly Bones

Which genre?

Contemporary soft science fiction. I use soft because it’s character driven with bits of sci-fi.

Which age group?

Young adult

Is it a series or standalone?

It’s the first in the Metamorphosis Series.

Are you an agented author?

No. I submitted to Lakewater Press, and they don’t require an agent.

Which publisher snapped up your book?

The amazing Lakewater Press.

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book?

I have been involved in every choice made for Butterfly Bones. The team at Lakewater want it to be a positive experience and they do a great job of making the author feel important.

Do you have another job?

I own a run a large childcare center/preschool in Grand Junction, Colorado. A typical work week is at least 60 hours. And I work part time as a copy editor.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

I had made the mistake of entering contests early on, before the book was ready. So yes, I’ve had a few rejections. But they were right in doing so.

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?

I was listening to a song called, ‘Caterpillar’ by The Cure. It sparked the initial story ideas, although in my mind it played out as a horror story about a girl becoming a powerful creature and taking revenge on the bullies from school.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

This project started so long ago, that I don’t’ remember how much time I spent. Generally I take about a couple of days to plot.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

I had to do a lot of wrestling, but it was the other way around. Bethany didn’t want to star in a horror novel. She had other things in mind. Once I listened to her wants and goals, the story flowed beautifully.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

My critique group was reading it while I was writing it. I would finish a chapter and bring it to the next meeting.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

I had critique and BETA readers. This was over a couple of years in the making.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

I’m thinking it was four. Mainly the beginning kept changing.

How many drafts until it was published?

Two. Very. Painful. Drafts. But all worth it in the end.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

It’s the same storyline, but I needed to add more description as well as keep the theme of the story woven throughout each chapter.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

Nothing I’d change. I love it the way it is.

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

Dialogue. It flows naturally for me. And humor.

What part do you find hardest?

Narrative. Keeping the right balance between what needs to be told, in the character’s voice, as well weaving in bits of backstory can be challenging.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

I barrel through them. Don’t have time to let them stop me.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

Too many. Usually three or four books at once, and sometimes a screenplay in there as well.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

Both. Some people have a gift. But anyone can learn the craft if they’re willing.

How many future novels do you have planned?

Two more at the time for the Metamorphosis Series. But many more to come.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I write picture books, middle grade, and screenplays.

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

Just seeing your sweat and blood out there in the world. And the great reviews. Those are awesome.

Give me one writing tip that works for you.

Just sit down and write. Let it flow. Edit later.

And one that doesn't.

I don’t know of anything that doesn’t work except for not writing.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

It’s told in multi POV.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?  
Maybe why I chose to write a young adult book. Especially since I work with children and spend my days immersed in picture books. I love all books. For all ages. But young adult has a special place in my heart. Figuring out who we are. First love. First kiss. First heartbreak. Relationships with peers. The whole self-esteem roller coaster that teens go through. Puberty. This time period intrigues me where there is so much inner and outer growth, so many irrational choices, experimentation, and a taste of adulthood. It’s a difficult transitionary time—one in which we all have the privilege of experiencing—good or bad. Or maybe it’s good and bad. And that’s what I want to write about—the crazy, scary, funny, sad, wonderful, horrible experiences of a teenager.

Fabulous! Thank you so much for joining us today, Rebecca. Lakewater Press are currently offering a pretty awesome contest if you purchase a copy of Butterfly Bones in December. Send them proof of purchase and they'll enter you in the draw to win a Kindle! Wow! Here are a few links that might help!

Barnes & Noble

And if you want to follow Rebecca, these links might help too!


Monday, November 28, 2016

Why Books are the Perfect Gift

Fireplaces crackle. Marshmallows melt in steaming cups of hot cocoa. Holiday music tickles our ears everywhere we go. Ahh. 'Tis the season...to find the perfect gift for family, friends, coworkers, and your Scrooge neighbor whose heart needs a little melting.

If you're bad at shopping or just can't seem to think of the perfect gift for that one person, there's a gift that works for everyone. 


Yes, it's true! Even Cousin Billy who hasn't picked up a book since he was forced to in high school (and even then, he only used the book as a coaster while he looked up SparkNotes.) The trick is in finding the book match made in book heaven. 


If Cousin Billy hated reading in high school, it's a safe bet he's not a fan of the classics. So that narrows down your list. What does he like? If Cousin Billy dresses up in time period appropriate Renaissance garb and uses words like "hither" and "perchance" everytime the Ren Faire is in town, look up a non fiction book about the Renaissance. Or get him an action-packed fiction novel set in that time. Nerdome not his thing? Maybe Cousin Billy watches Master Chef religiously and then causes the smoke alarm to go off while he tries to recreate the recipes from memory. Help the guy out and buy his favorite Master Chef's cookbook. Is he super into origami? There are books for that. Whatever Cousin Billy's thing is, there's a book or there for said thing. 

And a book is perfect because:
A) Books keep giving. They can be enjoyed over and over.
B) This is a gift that says, "I notice what you love." So thoughtful.
C) Buying a book means you're supporting the arts. 
D) This gift works for your budget. Buy new or explore the dusty used bookstore down the street. 

So what do you say? Will you give the gift of books this Christmas? Are you going to receive some books? (Hey, today is Cyber Monday, so while you're shopping for Cousin Billy's perfect book, treat yourself to an e-book with Amazon Kindle's 85% off sale! Because you're awesome and thoughtful.)

Happy shopping and Happy Holidays! 


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Character Tension - Part 3 - Love and Romance

Welcome to the third and final part of the tension mini-series! If you haven't been here from the start, go back and check out the previous two parts in order to get up to speed. We're discussing tension in characters and how you can use them to build the tension in your book!

Okay, so this week we're looking at love and romance, and woah boy, there is a whole load of tension you can create there, so let's get started.


First - the first thing you want to do is create barriers and obstacles between your two lovers. This can be anything from other people standing in the way to physical obstacles. Are there other lovers in the way? Family standing against them? Are they in opposite locations? Give them a physical task to do that means they might never get there. Think about disaster movies where the two star crossed lovers have to battle their way across a devastated city in order to find each other. You might not have to go that far, but think about what you could do to make things harder for them.

Second - what are their biggest, darkest secrets that can push the other lover away? Have they done something almost unforgivable? Do they know something about the other person that could shatter both their worlds? Are they enemies who just happen to be in love? Give them an almost insurmountable task and it will make the HEA even sweeter when they finally get there.

Third - then you have the big stuff: abuse, neglect, competition, affairs, divorce, custody battles, substance abuse and persecution from others. All of these things give a great natural conflict, and thus, great natural tension. What happens if this hits the lovers (or family) and they are blindsided? What if they have lived with it for years? How would each of these elements impact them on their daily and long term life?

As you can see, there are a whole host of things you can do to up the ante against your lovers and raise the tension in your novel!

So, that's the end of the tension mini series that looks at character. There are lots more things you can do to up your character tension, as well as the tension in other elements in your book, but hopefully this series will get you started!

Good luck and keep writing! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My Experience with NaNoWriMo (And Why I May Never Do it Again)

In 2014, I did NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is November). I didn’t officially sign up, probably because I’m just not a joiner, but I started November 1 with a manuscript I’d mostly plotted in September and October. I wrote Monday thru Friday, taking weekends off out of respect for my family, and three weeks later, I was finished. Over 70,000 words in fifteen writing days.
Since November 2014, I’ve applied the concept of NaNo—taking a month to focus on writing a novel—two more times. In May 2015, I wrote a manuscript in just under four weeks, and last month, I took a week to focus on my WIP, which sat at 35,000 words, and in seven days added 44,000 words, bringing it to completion.
So, I suppose you could say I’m a fan of NaNoWriMo, and I recommend everyone try NaNo at some point. The effort required to succeed will teach you skills that can be useful when you write any time of the year. Here is my list of skills you may learn:
  1. Discipline. How to sit at your computer and write, even when the words aren’t flowing. The muse may not visit you daily, but what happens when you are a contracted author, working on a deadline? Then you won’t be able sit back and let the muse show up when she will. So learning to write even when you’re not feeling particularly creative is a valuable skill. After forcing yourself to take the time to write, even if you’d rather play games on your phone or catch up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you’ll learn that even when you aren’t feeling in the mood, you can start the words flowing if you just start writing.
  2. Plotting. I know, for some, the word “Plotting” is evil. But it doesn’t have to be. I’m not suggesting that everyone (or anyone, for that matter) needs to outline the entire manuscript before writing—though you may want to give it a try at least once—because for many, that is death of the creativity and the story. But plotting doesn’t have to be an outline or a synopsis of the entire, unwritten story. Simply thinking ahead before you write on a daily basis can be helpful, especially if you struggle with a muse who takes unexpected and extended vacations. By “thinking ahead,” I mean spend a little time—5-10 minutes—looking over the previous writing and scribbling out ideas about what you envision happening next. You don’t have to follow this mini scene or chapter outline, but spending some time brainstorming will get you into the story a little quicker.
  3. Scheduling. Some things can’t be removed from your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule, but others can be. Like a monthly hair appointment. Stretch the style an extra week or two. Move your dentist appointment. Skip book club. Cut back on workouts (but don’t cut OUT workouts). But with all the things you take out of your schedule, please remember that an occasional shower is necessary. At least one a week. Besides, showers are great places to brainstorm, so really, showering is as important to your creativity as to your socially acceptable-ness.
  4. Balance. Actually, I think balance is impossible if you seek balance daily between all your responsibilities. You can’t do it all or be it all every single day. Without considering writing, some days your schedule is so full of errands, appointments, and/or kids’ activities that you can’t cook a meal or get the laundry done. So why shouldn’t writing be—temporarily—the thing that leaves those tasks undone or delegated to another family member? There’s nothing wrong with asking the kids or your spouse to help with meals or laundry. Maybe you eat out a little more—or the rest of the family eats out while you eat at your computer, furiously typing. It’s only temporary. This is easier when the kids are old enough to help and the spouse is willing to assist. If that’s not possible, make a list of daily or weekly chores that you could ignore for a couple of weeks. Or make one day “chore day” and do as much meal prep and laundry as possible. If your kids are too young for you to do much writing during their waking hours, find a babysitter or exchange favors with a mom-friend. Or this might be a nice time for grandma to make a lengthy visit, if grandma is a helpful guest, not a needy one. And if your spouse is helpful (and even if your spouse isn’t helpful, because it’s good for a marriage), remember to thank him or her. You can always go back to the computer after expressing your gratitude ;-)

Despite the success I’ve had, I may never do NaNoWriMo again, because November is not always the best month for me to take time off and focus on writing. Other months may work better. But November isn’t the only month when a writer can write! If you can’t participate in NaNo this year, schedule your own during a month or a block of 4-5 weeks where you CAN focus on writing. The skills practiced and learned during a writing marathon will help in the future when you only have a week or a few days to devote to your manuscript.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Character Tension - Part 2 - Family

Welcome back to this mini-series about how to build tension in your novel. Last month, we looked at conflicting characters. This week, we’re going to take it one step further and look at conflicting family members. Check out the top three suggestions I have for really amping up the tension between those who love (or hate!) each other the most:

First - family members are all raised in the same way...or are they? Take a look at how some family members might be favored over others? Who gets away with blue murder, and who doesn't? Why is someone their father's favorite and another not? Who is unfairly treated and who is the princess/prince of the house? Even as adults, characters will harbor resentments (or over the top loyalty) depending on how their parents raised them.

Second - how do partners raise their children? Do they agree on discipline? Disagree? Do they disagree on where they should live, work, let the children go to school? What if one person listens exclusively to their parents and never to their wife/husband? There are many instances in a family unit to rub up against one another. Everything from divorce, custody battles, substance abuse problems, neglect to success, religion, sex and more.

Third - power struggles within families also create a great way to build tension. What happens when one family member wants power over another? Maybe a son trying to prove himself over his father? A mother trying to show how much more beautiful she is than her teenage daughter? A father trying to rule his house with an iron fist?

As you can see, there are many ways the family unit can build tension throughout the landscape of your novel, and you should make sure these elements are fully developed as they'll give your character a new level of depth, too.

Check in next month for my final tension post - love and romance!  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Your Creative Space

I’ve recently moved. Not a major, new-city-new-life type move, but it is a new house which means I’m carving out new spaces to write in. So writing spaces and office spaces are on my mind. 
Any space can become a writing space. I’ve written in hotel rooms, studio apartments, coffee shops, church classrooms, theaters. For me, these are what I need to settle into a space and make it inspiring:
  1. A computer or a tablet with a keyboard. Okay, so that’s probably a little obvious. I have, in a pinch, written scenes in a notebook, but I prefer typing. My iPad mini and a bluetooth keyboard served me well for a few months, and they fit easily in a purse without adding much weight. I can be ready to write at a moment’s notice.
  2. Music. For me, music is often necessary. It blocks out nearby conversations, if I’m writing in public, or the screams of either silence or the kids if I’m writing at home (playing screams, of course). Music also gets me into the story’s mood, since I generally pick a specific album or build a playlist for each manuscript. So this also means I usually need earbuds. Once, I had to beg my husband to bring me a pair when I was at a coffee shop. Now I make sure to keep a pair in every bag that I might carry with me.
  3. Coffee, tea, or water. I need something to drink. If the writing is flowing, I’ll ignore it, but I need a mug or cup nearby. Just because.
  4. Bathroom access. Number 3 explains this necessity, but I need breaks while writing, and a trip to the bathroom is the best excuse to get up and move. 
  5. Table and chair. While I have written while sitting on the floor, I prefer a table of some sort and a regular chair. I know many writers who write on the couch or the bed, but for me, that’s not usually where I’m able to be most productive. I also like to get dressed as opposed to staying in pajamas even when I won’t be leaving the house. 

What’s on your list of necessities for carving out writing space?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to Work on Multiple Novels at Once

I've always balked at the kind of people who could read two or more books at the same time. I'd much rather be totally immersed in one world, start to finish. And isn't it kind of like cheating on one book with another?

That's what I thought when it came to writing multiple novels at the same time too. My main fear was that I would fall more in love with one WIP (work-in-progress) and the other would fall to the side, never to be seen again.

Until, without meaning to, I found myself in a wild love affair with three WIPs. Three. The scandal!
Since I've been balancing all three projects pretty well (or as well as I can with my attached baby) for a few weeks now, I'm an expert (of course). So if you're thinking of dipping your toes in the torrid world of multiple projects, here are three expert tips to help you stay faithful (ha!) to all of them.

1. Your WIPs should be at different stages.

All three of my WIPs require different kinds of creativity and thinking. One of them is a fresh idea, so I'm playing with world-building, plot, characters, everything. No actual writing is happening yet. Just daydreaming, notes, and Pinterest boards. Total freedom.

My second is in the first draft stage and is actually the sequel to my third WIP. So the world and characters have already been established. I know most of the plot, but I'm a bit of a pantser so there's a lot of room for exploration here too.

My third project is my oldest. This one has gone through revision after revision, edits after edits. Queries. Contests. And after Pitch Wars this year, we're saddling up and going through revisions yet again. (Never surrender!)

2. Establish Priorities.

With the different kinds of creativity and thinking, if I get stuck or bored with one kind, I can easily cozy up to another one for a while. But I also don't want to lose focus by switching things up too much. My goal is publication. So I want to move each project forward, but I want to move the revisions forward before the one that has no words, you know? So if I'm not stuck, first priority goes to revisions, then the sequel, and then the new idea.

3. Don't try this with more than a few books.

This can really only work if you're able to prioritize and give honest, good time and effort to what's most important. That won't happen if you're trying to juggle ten books. You have to commit at some point, player.

Have you tried working on multiple novels? What worked and didn't work for you?

Happy writing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

$20 Amazon voucher to celebrate Shattered Book Blitz


SHATTERED: An Open Heart Novel Book 2
Healing a battered heart will risk her last link to humanity

Mishca needs to save her sisters, but only Ryder can save her.

The truth about Mishca’s past shattered her heart. She deals with the pain by focusing on a new mission: saving her newfound family from their creator. With her sisters scheduled for termination, Mishca and her friends set out on a journey up the North Queensland Coast to save them before someone else dies.

Ryder understands the need driving Mischa. It’s in her DNA. But he’s not giving up on the chance they can still be together. She’s the only one to have seen him levitate. The only one to watch the sparks dance across his skin. The only one he trusts enough to know what is in his heart. And now, he might be the only one who can stop Mishca from losing her humanity. Driven apart by secrets, will they come together in time?

Buy SHATTERED on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooksKobo, Fishpond,  Indie Bound, Booktopia or via the various outlets found on the City Owl Press website.

Don't forget to add it on Goodreads! Haven't read DIVIDED yet? Find it at AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboFishpondIndie Bound, WalmartBooktopia, Boomerang Books, or via the various outlets found on the City Owl Press Website. And you can add it on Goodreads!

To celebrate the impending release of SHATTERED, you could win a $20 gift voucher. Check out all the ways to enter in the Rafflecopter Link a Rafflecopter giveaway

DSCF0416About the author

YA & NA author, Sharon M. Johnston, hails from sunny Queensland, Australia. When she's not writing, Sharon works in PR, spends time with her family, and plays far too much Pokemon Go.

You can find her on TwitterFacebook, and on her website.