Thursday, April 28, 2016

Orange is the Color of Creativity

Our new family of three recently moved into a new apartment, and it just so happens that our son's room is pink. Pink carpet. Pink walls. Pink closet.

Can a boy have a pink room? Sure. Do I want to give my son this pink room? No. (But to be fair, I hate the shade and wouldn't want to give it to a girl either.) So I've been thinking about color schemes, digging into the effects of colors.

Did you know orange inspires creativity?

I wonder if we infused our writing spaces with splashes of orange, would it make a difference in our creativity? Internet research points to yes, and the internet can't be wrong. (Ha.)

So my gift to you is a bunch of orange images. Soak up the orange! Wiggle your toesies in the orange. And then sit your booty down and write the most creative words of your life!

You're welcome.  

So does your writing space have any orange? If not, what color is it and why? Comment below!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Short, Sweet and Inspiring

So, apologies from me today. My blog is a short one, what with attending the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention and so much work I don't know where to start, but I do hope inspiring, nonetheless.

If there's one thing I've learnt, heard and digested time and time again from published authors, experienced editors and supportive literary agents, is that not a single writer has landed a book deal without one essential element. And what do you think that ingredient is, people?

You got it...



And even when that contract has been signed, the persevering doesn't stop. Only those authors, proactive and hungry for success, who work tirelessly building connections, supporting fellow writers, conversing with book bloggers, reviewers, readers and new contacts are the ones who reap the rewards.

And we're not talking a few months of hard work; we're talking years and years of relentless effort, digging deep into their reserves for what's left of their hope. Through those low, depressing moments when they no longer believe in themselves or their work; during those times when they're ready to give in to the slow progress they make; when an attack from the green-eyed monster hits; when sales cease and confidence hits an all time low; when the rejections flood in; when the 1 star, hard hitting review comes in for EVERYONE to see. And on and on through the dark times of a creative.

WE ALL HAVE THESE TIMES. But if you give up when one hurts so bad, then you could just be about to walk right past the next door of opportunity.

Never give up. Put your party face on every day, and throw yourself, heart and soul, into everything you do. If you can't face your own writing, then support another author with theirs. We're in this together, and helping others might be the key to unlocking more of that precious commodity we all possess called hope. Luck and timing play a part in all we do, but we are the drivers of our destiny vehicles, no one else.

So stop whining, stop wishing, stop giving up. Get out there, get positive, pick yourself up and MAKE IT HAPPEN!

And to close, here's the coolest high five I have ever seen!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Different Doesn't Mean Alone

I am a professional musical theatre performer. I started dance at age three and spent most of my childhood getting ready for the next rehearsal. Theatre things were always normal to me. It was normal to wear dance tights under almost every outfit; it was normal to do your homework by flashlight during tech rehearsal; and it was normal to be gay.

I didn’t even realize that homosexuality was considered strange by some people until I was about sixteen. I went to a friend’s birthday party, and before I even got into the door he pulled me aside and whispered in a terrified voice that I had to pretend to be his girlfriend. He had told his parents we were dating. They had threatened to pull him out of theatre so he could find a nice girl to date. He had lied on the spot and told them he already had a girlfriend. Me.

I went along with it for the night, trying to get his mother to hate me so she would make us break up. Then my friend would have had heartbreak as an excuse to avoid dating until college. When he would be far away and out of his parents’ reach.

It hurt my heart so badly that my beautiful, loving friend had to hide who he was from his own family. It hurt me more to find out that he wasn’t the only one. But somehow I held onto this naïve notion that my peers would be the last ones to deal with having to hide their sexuality in order to be accepted by the people around them.

But that didn’t turn out to be true. I want to say it’s gotten better, but that might be too hopeful.
I’m in the process of submitting a new story that has some LGBTQ themes, and there are so many agents looking for LGBTQ characters. On the one hand, that’s awesome! People are actively pushing for inclusion in the publishing industry. But on the other hand, it’s terribly sad. Because if agents are searching so actively for LGBTQ books, that means they aren’t out there yet. That means there is another poor little gay boy asking a girl to pretend to be dating him so he can stay in theatre.

Maybe their generation will be the last. Maybe today’s teens will get to look back and say, thanks to us, no one has to be afraid of their sexuality. What they went through in high school will be a story to tell that their children will never believe. At least that’s the hope.

Until then, it’s up to us to write the stories so that those kids fighting to fit in will know that different doesn’t mean alone.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hanging out with MG author Christine Porter

Today I'm hanging out with a fellow South African writer, Christine Porter. Her MG books include Peril Beyond the Waterfall and Night of the Cologoro. 

A bit about Christine:

I am a Pretoria-based writer of children’s fantasy (mostly). This is largely because I refuse to take anything seriously, and believe things should be bent to my will. I did not anticipate that characters, much like people, have minds of their own and often will not be told. I am the middle of three sisters, bilingual, staunchly South African and an avid tourist (but a terrible photographer). When I'm not writing or travelling, I run a small electronic bookshop and provide friendly advice and manuscript prep services to other writers.

Instead of an author interview, today I'll be interviewing Jeremiah Dumnien, the central character in Peril Beyond the Waterfall. He also shows up again in Night of the Cologoro with a brand new sidekick.

1. Tell us about yourself in 140 characters or less.
I left my boring home town two years ago to find adventure and I don’t regret it. Laenutia is a lot more fun than Omondei!

2. What's the one thing you want the most?
To be a knight! I have to wait until my 14th birthday before I can even squire, but I’m practicing with the sword whenever my father’s not looking. I’m going to be the best knight Laenutia has ever seen.

3. What's the one thing you fear the most?
I’ve faced a lot of scary things, but nothing was more terrifying than Lord Null. I still have nightmares about his white staring eyes.

4. If you could be any animal for a day, what would it be and why? A dragon for sure! Imagine being able to fly around and breathe fire. I could go anywhere I wanted and do anything I wanted. What fun!

5. What's your favourite thing about Laenutia? There’s always something new happening. In Omondei it was just farming and chores. Now there’s magic everywhere, there’s always a creature to meet or a place to discover. I learn a lot about how things work and people treat me like a grown up most of the time. Except when I ask to be trained as a squire early, then it’s all “No, you’re still a kid!” Unfair.

Peril Beyond the Waterfall is available right now! Night of the Cologoro will be released May 31, so keep a look out for that. Jeremiah sounds like a really cool kid with big dreams.


Thursday, April 14, 2016


Years ago, the gardening bug bit me. I devoured plant books, magazines, and garden tags. After scorching some poor Hostas in the full sun, I learned what should be planted where.

If we hadn't moved to the country, maybe I'd be a Master Gardener now instead of an author. Out in the country the deer eat everything. My love affair with gardening came to screeching halt.

Now I focus my attention on indoor plants. Even my dead Grandmother would appreciate my African Violets. Everyone thinks I have a green thumb, when in reality I just chuck out the crappy plants. If they are wimpy and require too much coddling, out they go.

And this is how editing a manuscript reminds me of tending plants.

Dead leaves, branches, and limbs need to be removed to improve the overall health of the plant. The same can be said of cutting out words, phrases, or even whole scenes so that the book as a whole can fly.

Don't cut the life out of your manuscript. Just cut out the fluff and fat. Don't let your story take over, either. Don't be scared of it. Make it behave.

Years ago, I wrote my first full-length novel--a fairy tale saga with a word count of 140,000 (that's super full-length, right?). Besides the book being way too long, so were my sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.

So what did I do? Just give up?
No way.
That was just the beginning.

After consulting a professional editor, I cut out the outer story, joined a critique group to help my prose, and read books and blogs and articles galore.

Then I wrote something else. Something completely different.
By then my writing had transformed. I learned how and when to use commas. My chapter length varied from short to medium. Any sentences that strayed longer than necessary got chopped.

Instead of the water and sunlight needs of plants, I researched which candles should be used during spells to raise the dead or to end winter. I learned about the Blood Moon and the Book of Shadows.

I carefully tended the story, adding details and removing adverbs. I found a small beta reader group to help me transform my early manuscript into what became known as:

A happy ending came to both books, actually, because after years of sitting dormant, I once again picked up my fairy tale. The first time, I simply read it through. I still loved the story, but there was so much work to do reworking the manuscript.

But I'm not afraid of a work, and when it was ready I found a publisher for An Occasionally Grim Fairy Tale (to be released in 2016).

And they lived happily ever after... 

About the Author - Ann M. Noser

Growing up an only child, I learned to entertain myself. During summer vacations, my greatest form of exercise consisted of turning the pages of a book. Now I'm all grown up and full of stories half-written in my head. I have to write them down so I can find out what happens next.

Contact info/how to find me:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Celebrating the Release of TREASURE AT LURE LAKE by Shari L. Schwarz

Success stories are how we as writers encourage each other. With each new friend who "makes it" we know that its within our reach as well. Today, I'm super excited to announce the release of a dear friend's masterpiece. Shari and I met online talking about the SCBWI conference in Colorado, and she graciously invited me to stay the night at her home and to share a hotel room even though we were complete strangers. I'm so glad we put aside our reservations because we became fast friends. At that time, we both shared our MG boys adventure stories with each other, and critiqued together. Now, I'm happy to introduce you to her and and celebrate the release of her debut novel TREASURE AT LURE LAKE.

Isn't the cover gorgeous!?!?

Twelve-year-old Bryce’s best-laid plans for a backpacking trip with his grandpa seem about to fall through all because his big brother, Jack, is threatening to boycott the trip. But when Bryce stumbles upon a secret treasure map in his grandpa's barn loft, he doesn't mean to steal it or unearth a painful family secret that will explain the root of the brothers’ conflict. Bryce is determined to find the treasure even if it means lying to his grandpa.

As Bryce, Jack, and Grandpa hike to a remote cabin in the Rocky Mountains, sibling rivalry clouds the brothers' judgment, and all Bryce's plans for an epic adventure go downriver. The boys must work together to survive the dangers of the wilderness, and each other, or the treasure and their family's secret may never see the light of day.

Shari Schwarz lives in Ft. Collins, Colorado near the Rocky Mountains with her husband and their four boys. TREASURE AT LURE LAKE (Cedar Fort Publishing, April 12, 2016) is her debut which reflects her love for a good survival adventure story. When she’s not reading or writing, Shari can be found freelance editing, weight-lifting, gardening or watching her boys play football, basketball, cup-stacking, or wrestling. She frequently dreams of exploring Oregon Coast beaches or plotting out her next children’s book.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Taking The Time

So, as some of you may have noticed, this is a short and sweet post that is 7 days late and post-dated back to the 10th.

Why you ask? Well, long story short: I've been out of the country dealing with family emergencies and now I'm back and...dealing with medical issues. Yes, life is entertaining at the moment. But fear not! It is wonderful writing fodder for the future.

This is why I'm talking about taking time out in this post. Writing is an obsessive career and passion. We can't help it. It's just who we are. We are curious, quirky, fascinated and tenacious little things and we dream big and don't let those dreams go.

And this is an amazing thing!

However, I'm also going to advise that now and then you take a little "time out". Whether this is for family, friends, stress, fun, holiday, etc, doesn't matter. What matters is that you can unplug. Don't worry, the sandcastle won't fall down if you step out for a moment.

Yes, we try our hardest to build our platform, go through the query trenches, write out next ms, polish our craft, work hard...everything we know we should be doing. However, that doesn't mean kill ourselves in the process.

It probably doesn't help that writing is such a competitive sport (you might mock, but how many writers ask you "how many queries did you send?" "Got a response on that full yet?" "Are you not on sub yet?"). With the best intentions, we also use it as a measure of our own success. Whether we like to admit it or not.

So I advocate to take some time out. But take it when you feel you need to. You won't destroy your career by having the occasional break.  In fact, you might just re-energize it.

After all, fresh minds think fresh thoughts. For me, I can do this on one of the nearby beaches to my home (Lara Bay). I'd love to see where you do your relaxing!!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Four Publisher Responses and Author Reactions

My writing this year has taken off in a direction different from what I expected. But not in a bad way. Definitely not. Reflecting on that, I started thinking about the kinds of responses publishers give to authors. Some responses are good (We Want YOU! Comes to mind 😍) while other are less than good. But an offer doesn't mean an author should say yes, and a rejection isn't always a closed door.
Here are a few examples of responses an author might receive from a publisher:
1. Dear Author,
We've reviewed your project and decided that the story isn't right for our house. Best of luck.

Personally, I think this response is the absolute worst because it gives the author nothing to work with. WHY isn't the story right? Is it truly an issue of the story just doesn't fit the publishing house's focus or target audience or some other not-personal-regarding-my-craft reason? Or is the publisher politely saying, "Your writing needs work. Sorry." I usually worry it's the second, but I'm probably paranoid. I HOPE I'm paranoid. There's not a whole lot an author can do about this response except check that publisher off the list for that manuscript. However, this doesn't mean future projects can't be pitched to that publisher too. And if you have the opportunity for a meeting at a conference with the acquisitions editor, you can discuss what kinds of stories their house IS looking for. 

2. Dear Author,
We've reviewed your project. You know your craft and tell an excellent story. However, we saw a problem with your POV choice/character arc/subplot inclusion/any-other-of-a-dozen things. The manuscript would be better stronger if you made changes in that area. If you do decide to make changes, we’ll be happy to look at this project again.

While still a rejection, this response is so much better than the first. At least you have a solid, fixable reason for the rejection. Of course, now you have to decide whether to make changes or not. Even if you make changes based on the publisher's feedback, that's no guarantee they'll make an offer. Their needs may change before you resubmit. Maybe you still miss the mark they want you to hit. So before you begin a major revision, you'll have to decide if you agree with the publisher's assessment. Maybe what they've told you explains why you've been getting so many of the first, generic rejections. Or perhaps their assessment is personal preference. 
One house rejected two of my manuscripts and gave reasons both times. The first rejection included a possible flaw in the MC's character arc which might explain the other rejections that manuscript received. I appreciated that rejection and explanation SO much! While I haven't tackled any revisions yet, when I'm ready I'll know what I can do to improve that manuscript and possibly resubmit it to publishers.
The second rejection I received  provided a suggestion I disagreed with. The revision they suggested would be major, but I don't think it's necessary. However, I'm not dismissing the suggestion forever and ever. Who knows, maybe one day I'll make those changes too. 

3. Dear Author,
We've reviewed your project. You know your craft and tell an excellent story, and we'd like to make an offer. However, we do want the following revisions made to the manuscript. If you are willing to work with our editor making these changes, then see the terms of our offer below.

This response is a great response, since, after all, it includes an offer. However, it also includes the promise of work. More work than the normal polishing up with an editor (I’m assuming). So like the second response, you'll have to decide if you agree with the changes the publisher wants. Maybe they've suggested you remove a subplot or change locations or delete a character. Can you live with those changes? Will this still be the story you envisioned? Or will this change create a totally new story that isn't the one you wanted to tell? So if you receive this kind of response, don't shoot back a "yes, yes, yes!!!!" email. Take time to consider the offer and the changes. And go out to celebrate regardless of what your decision is. Because any offer is worth a celebration 😀

4. Dear Author,
We've reviewed your project. Your storytelling skills and knowledge of the writing craft are stellar, and we'd like to make an offer. Our terms are below.

Of course, this sounds like the dream response. Hopefully, they don't see any major changes they just aren't voicing, and you'll have only a little cleaning up and polishing to do. But like with the third response, you shouldn't shoot off a "yes, yes, yes!!!" email. Consider their terms. Consider what the publisher is able to do in terms of distribution and marketing. Consider their expectations of their authors. Are those expectations ones you can confidently meet? Do research on their authors and books, if you haven't already. Then decide if you want to work with this publisher or not.

I’m sure there are many other responses a publisher can give along with several variations of these examples. The important thing to remember is that every publisher response, except for the generic, we’re-not-interested one, requires careful consideration before making a decision. One day, that perfect response will come. Maybe in a form similar to number 3, but you’ll know when the offer is the right time, the right place, the right path for you. 
Without naming any names, what are some helpful or not-so-helpful responses you've received?