Archive for June, 2012

Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest Cline

June 25, 2012 Monday

This month’s final book signing was also the most anticipated. Ever since I had read Ready Player One, I’d dreamed of meeting Ernest Cline.

Ready Player One is an amazing novel, and I have to say it brought out the uber-geek in me. It was filled with a lot of references to 80’s pop culture, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the action-packed, thrill-filled story.  The audiobook version was read by actor and fellow geek Wil Wheaton, which made the story even more awesome to listen to.

I got my best buds Lena and Maiko hooked on it too. Thanks to Lena, who found the listing for Ernest Cline’s book signing at Book Soup, the three of us were able to meet one of our favorite writers in person.

The first thing we saw, was a DeLorean with Texas license plates parked right outside the bookstore.

DeLorean night Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineErnest Cline’s DeLorean

Ernest Cline was already inside, waiting to tell us his story. He seemed nervous when he stepped up onto the podium to loud applause. He quickly got over it though, as he talked nonstop for 30 minutes.

He told us of his geeky origins–playing computer games on his Atari, playing Dungeons and Dragons, watching John Hughes movies, listening to Rush. All of his hobbies and obsessions made it onto to the pages of his best-selling novel.

Ernest Cline worked as a short order cook, fish-gutter, video store clerk, radio personality, website designer and technical support drone before finally finding his calling as a writer.

ernest cline2 Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineAuthor and Screenwriter Ernest Cline

Throughout all of the many changes in his life, one thing remained constant: his love for geeking out. In 1996, his geek obsession with the cult movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension compelled him to write a spec script. Tired of waiting the movie’s promised sequel, Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, Ernest Cline decided to write the script himself.

He read books on scriptwriting, wrote the script, and  posted it online.  He only did it for fun, and so was shocked when he found a copy of the script being sold at a comic book shop he went to. He told the shop owner that he wrote the script, and asked if he could get it for a discount, but of course the man said “no.” He told Ernie to sign it however, so he could sell it for about $10 more.

Receiving high praise for his spec script from Dr. Banzai’s fans and even the press, gave Ernie the idea that he could actually make a career out of it. He moved from Ohio to Austin, where he knew some successful filmmakers like Richard Linklater, and Robert Rodriguez had started their careers.

While he was trying to figure out how to make films, he performed regularly at the Austin Poetry Slam (even winning  as Slam Champion twice).

ernest cline1 Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineAuthor and Screenwriter Ernest Cline

His geeky roots struck again in 1998 when his obsession with Star Wars coincided with the much awaited release of the prequel, Episode 1. His mom had just passed away from cancer around that time, and he thought, “what if you were a Star Wars fan, and you knew you were going to die?” He spoke to other Star Wars obsessed friends and they confessed that they, too, had the same fear. He had a friend who began to drive more carefully on the freeway, for fear that he would get into an accident before he got to watch Episode 1. An idea for a movie came about from this fear, and he began to write Fanboys.

Ernie had a crazy idea that he could make the movie all by himself. He wrote the script with a very low budget in mind. It would be a road trip movie, and all he would need was a camera and a van.  He bought the van, picturing it as the characters’ Millenium Falcon, carrying them from Texas all the way to the Skywalker Ranch. There they would break in and try to get a sneak peek at Episode 1.

book soup Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest Cline

The DeLorean in front of Book Soup

In Fanboys, Ernie wrote a part for film critic and Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles. He sent Harry the script. Harry loved it and the two became good friends. Harry featured the making of Fanboys on his Ain’t It Cool News, garnering the attention of several Star Wars fans—and film makers.

Ernest Cline found himself going on an amazing rollercoaster of news that was every geek’s dreams. The Weinstein Company bought the rights to the film and the long process of making it began. Ernie had intended Fanboys to be a loveletter to Star Wars fans and fellow geeks, but the company wanted to make the movie more commercial and appeal to a broader audience. They ended up changing the story line about the cancer-ridden Star Wars fan completely. Star Wars fans heard about this, and banded together, campaigning against “Darth Weinstein.”

Weinstein finally caved and returned the movie to its original film maker, director and plot line. Ten years after Ernie set out to make the film from scratch, Fanboys was finally released. It instantly became a cult favorite.

Fanboys led Ernie to believe that there were other people out there who shared his geekiness and his love for Star Wars and other things. He decided to write what he knew and put everything he loved in a novel. In 2011, Random House published Ready Player One, which instantly became a New York Times Bestseller.

The amazing success of Ready Player One changed Ernest Cline’s life and finally allowed him to buy something he’d always wanted: A DeLorean. He purchased the car to promote the release of Ready Player One (whose main character drives a DeLorean). He combined aspects of Ghostbusters’ Ecto 1, Buckaroo Banzai’s Jet Car and Doc Emmet Brown’s DeLorean into one car: Ecto 88.

people swarming DeLorean1 Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineFans posing with the DeLorean

Halfway through his talk, an audience member pointed out that a metermaid was writing him a parking ticket for his car. This prompted Ernest Cline to tell us a story about how his many brushes with the law.

“Cops turn into 14 year old boys when they see my car. One time, a cop pulled me over and then disappeared. Five minutes later, three other cop cars came and all the cops came over and posed for pictures with my DeLorean”.

Ernie says he’s gotten many parking tickets, but the one speeding ticket he got was for going 75 on a 55mph road. The cop who pulled him over was a lady, who wasn’t impressed with his DeLorean. He begged her to write “88mph” on the speeding ticket so he could frame it, but of course she refused.

Ernie ended his talk and allowed questions from the audience. Someone asked about the Contest Ernie just started, patterned after the story in Ready Player One. Ernie was thrilled when several video game developers, including Warren Robbinett, whom he mentions in his story, contacted him and offered to create games for him based on his book. Naturally, he said yes—and the contest was born.

The winner of the contest gets to take home the DeLorean Ernie’s driving on his paperback release book tour.

me with flux capacitor Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineComplete with a Flux Capacitor!

After answering questions and getting a loud applause from the audience, Ernie went into the back of the bookstore and we all lined up to get our books signed.

me with ernest cline Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineMyself with Ernest Cline

He asked us if we liked Star Wars or Star Trek better and signed our books. He happily posed for pictures and encouraged us to go outside to check out his DeLorean.

ernest cline maiko Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineMaiko and Ernest Cline


ernest cline lena Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineLena and Ernest Cline

The DeLorean’s speakers blasted the theme song for “Back to the Future”. It was a thrill to sit inside and check out the Hoverboard and Flux Capacitor based on the hit movie.

me de lorean hoverboard Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineSitting inside Ernest Cline’s DeLorean (with his Back to the Future hoverboard)

A Lamborghini was parked right behind the DeLorean, but people ignored it. They wanted instead to pose for pictures with the DeLorean and Ernest Cline.

lamborghini Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineThe popular DeLorean and the ignored Lamborghini

drivers seat de lorean Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineGoing Back to the Future

The sky had grown dark by the time Ernest Cline finished signing and stepped outside. He gave “Save the Clock Tower” flyers and posed with fans in front of his DeLorean.

three of us with ernest cline Back to the Future with Author/Fanboy Ernest ClineFangirls with Fanboy Ernest Cline and his DeLorean

Maiko, Lena and I had tons of fun that night. It was the best book signing any geek could ask for.


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TWN WWW 3001 Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Kelly Polark

Every Wednesday, I feature a writer/blogger and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow bloggers/writers better through their workspace and writing habits. I also wanted my bloggy friends to share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Kelly Polark, author of two fun blogs Book Recs of the Rock and Famous and Kelly Polark.

Welcome, Kelly!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

kelly polark Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Kelly PolarkKelly Polark

I’m a married mother of three living in the Midwest. I used to teach grade school full time. I enjoyed being a stay at home mom for 12 years with some substitute teaching here and there. I am now a teacher’s assistant in a kindergarten classroom at my kids’ school. The kindergarteners make me smile every single day. I’m so happy easing back into the realm of education.

I write poetry, picture books, and middle grade. My writing is usually lighthearted. I love to laugh. I have a few picture book irons in the fire that I will reveal sometime this year on my blog. My first picture book app will be published this year with Meegenius.

My family keeps me busy, but I do like to get out every once in a while to see a rock concert. I love music.

I have two blogs. One connects me with other writers (I love how supportive the writing community is). My newest blog is called Book Recs of the Rock & Famous. My hope is that fans will google their favorite celebrity, see what their fave musician or actor is reading, and then read that book! A unique way to promote literacy.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I accomplish the majority of my writing on my laptop either at my desk that is in our family room or on the couch. The laptop I use sat low on the desk and I slouched terribly while writing. My husband set me up with a wireless keyboard (which was helpful since my K key was gone on the laptop) and a laptop pedestal so the screen would be eye level. He saved my back!

kelly workspace Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Kelly PolarkKelly’s workspace

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

My desk is built in, so it came with the house. icon smile Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Kelly Polark The desk is usually cluttered with books, mail, and kids’ school papers. I do have an organizer to set papers in. But that needs to be sorted through! I also have file cabinets under the desk, but I need to find all the files I packed (we thought we were moving last year & I packed 30 boxes. Long story.) and reset my filing system. Then hopefully I will be more organized!

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

The most important thing I guess is the laptop. If I’m writing rhyming poetry or picture books, I have my rhyming dictionary handy. I also have a gazillion spiral notebooks filled with ideas, poems, picture books. I’ll have one of those handy as well.

4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

I love that my workspace is at home. I’m a homebody. Nothing too sentimental on it right now as we packed framed pictures and knick knacks when we staged our home to sell (which I should one day put back up!).

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

I love, love, love fountain Coke from McDonald’s. Love. I usually just have 3-4 a week, so usually my writing beverage, if any, is water. But I pretend I’m more alert to write with a Coke so I have an excuse to get one!

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

I have three favorite authors. I memorized Shel Silverstein’s poetry as a child. He is a huge influence on my poetry writing. I also love S.E. Hinton. Her writing is so honest. I reread The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now for the umpteenth time last year. I follow her on Twitter, and when she tweets me back, I’m like a 12 yr old girl with Bieber fever. My favorite current author is Adam Rex. I met him a few months ago at a book signing. He is just so clever and witty.

2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

I’m a sporadic writer. I don’t have a typical day. Or rituals. I’m boring.

3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I don’t write everyday. I don’t want my writing to feel like a chore. I probably should push myself more than I do to get more writing time in. Some weeks I write 5 days a week, other weeks I may write 2 days a week. It just depends on my and my family’s schedule. I even took December off from writing entirely!

I am currently addicted to Twitter. That is a fun distraction!

4. Why do you write?

I started writing when I was a stay at home mom to three kids. I needed a creative outlet. I’ve always loved books. I used to teach third grade and loved sharing them with the students. I love sharing them with my own children. Our house is packed with bookcases and books. My current job in the kindergarten classroom allows me to read a different picture book a day to the students. I LOVE that! My adult writing passion first started when I dabbled with poetry (which I loved writing as a child.) I took a few online writing courses, attended some local SCBWI meetings, and went from there.

5.Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

I think the best lesson I’ve learned about writing is keep at it. I’ve grown so much as a writer since I started. Just do it. And don’t quit.

6.Do you have a favorite picture that you’d like to share with us?

This is me with my grandma’s dog when I was four. Man, I loved that dog.

kelly modified Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Kelly Polark

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Thanks, Kelly, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

1,776 total views, 4 views today

Michael Scott’s Book Signing at Vroman’s

On June 6th, 2012 author Michael Scott’s had a book signing at Vroman’s Pasadena. It was a special occasion, as he was signing the The Enchantress, the last book in the series that made him famous.

Unfortunately, it was also the day President Obama was in town for a fund-raising event. On top of that, the Devils and the Kings were playing at Staples Center. I expected horrible traffic on the freeway, so I avoided it by taking local streets.

It still took me two hours to get to the bookstore. But it was worth it, as I got to see one of my favorite fantasy authors.

Michael Scott is one of Ireland’s most successful authors. He has written over a hundred books for both kids and adults alike, and is considered as a foremost authority on the Celtic folklore.

michael scott 2 Michael Scott’s Book Signing at VromansAuthor Michael Scott

At his book signing, Michael spoke of how he had come to write the series he is best known for– The Secrets of the Immortal Nicolas Flamel. With the exception of the main characters Josh and Sophie Newman, all of the human characters in the books are real. Other non-human characters were based on original myths and legends. That being the case, he was assigned a nonfiction editor, to help him check facts.

the series so far1 Michael Scott’s Book Signing at Vromans

Michael told us a little bit about himself and his writing journey. The audience got a laugh when he said that his mother actually wanted him to be an accountant, and she still doesn’t think much of him being a writer.

Michael was a bookseller for many years and he came across books that made him say “I can write better than this.” He says that most writers start out as readers.

When asked how one becomes a writer, Michael replied, “I’m not a big fan of writing courses or classes, and I didn’t take any of those myself. If you want to write, you put your bottom on a chair, and you write. You write everyday. Writing is practice.”

michael scott and audience Michael Scott’s Book Signing at VromansAuthor Michael Scott answering questions

An audience member asked Michael to comment on ebooks and the publishing industry. Michael said he’s been in the business long enough to have heard the death of the book several times. As long as there are people reading, then it doesn’t matter. There will always be a place for books. Most people buy the digital copy  to read, and a physical copy to have.

Someone asked if he would sign his kindle? “Absolutely,” Michael replied. He mentioned how there are some people who have their kindle cases signed and swap it out when it’s full. He once signed a case in Dallas, and the owner told him to be careful and not to overlap with John Grisham’s signature. “I know my place,” Michael quipped.

Michael answered a  lot more questions and told us many more interesting things about publishing, writing and myths. After that, we all lined up to get our books signed.

It was a thrill to talk to Michael. I mentioned that the last time I saw him was at the Long Beach Borders a couple of years back. He remembered the occasion well, and we chatted for a bit about YA books. He gave me a few recommendations and I thanked him for adding two more books to my already growing To Be Read pile. icon smile Michael Scott’s Book Signing at Vromans

myself and michael scott Michael Scott’s Book Signing at VromansMyself with author Michael Scott

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Leigh Bardugo’s Book Launch

Last June 4th, I had the pleasure of attending another awesome book signing. YA Author Leigh Bardugo celebrated the launch of her debut book, Shadow and Bone.

shadow and bone Leigh Bardugos Book Launch

Leigh made sure everyone had a great time. Champagne flowed freely and savory sweets were available for anyone with a sweet tooth.

The best part about the launch was Leigh herself. It was inspiring to hear her talk of how she got started on her writing career.

Leigh shared her humble beginnings with us by reading a passage from a story she had written at age 11. I was amazed at how developed her vocabulary and voice was, even at that young age.

Leigh Bardugo at skylight books Leigh Bardugos Book LaunchAuthor Leigh Bardugo at Skylight Books

She laughed as she recounted the plot of the first story she wrote. She had named her assassin character Blood and had given her a quest. She reflected on how writers, writing their first fantasy stories, always seemed to begin with a quest.

Leigh was teary-eyed as she shared the ups and downs she’d been through just to get the book out. She overflowed with gratitude for the people who had kept her going. Her mom and her friends, were like zombies rising up in the dead of night, knocking on her windows and telling her “Leigh! Don’t quit. Write that book.”

After reading a passage from her book, Leigh opened up the floor to questions.

Some of the questions included the following:

1. What was your biggest influence in terms of other authors?

The first book I read that made me sorry to leave was Dune.

2. Did I know when you were writing it, that  it was going to be YA?

Yes and no. I really didn’t understand what was going on in publishing in terms of YAI knew I wanted to write a story about people at a particular place in their life. There are decisions you make when you’re 17 that are totally acceptable and if you made them when you were 30 you should be punched in the face. That was the story I wanted to write. I didn’t really think about it being a YA.

3. What are you most excited about your book tour?

I’m excited to meet actual teen readers.

4. Have you started writing the next book yet?

Book two of the series (Grisha Trilogy) is done. Book Three will be done by the end of the year, I hope. I’m also working on another Horror project but I haven’t had much time to work on it. I also have another fantasy series which I really want to write, but I’m not allowed to write another fantasy until I’m done with  this one.

5. Other than the zombies, what other things brought you out of the dark place of feeling like you couldn’t do it?

Oh boy. Thank you. More crying. I think this book, and rediscovering fantasy and rediscovering what it was like to feel like a teenager again, are true. Fantasy and science fiction are empowering. They tell you to be strong. They tell you to be a bad ass, to be prepared, to be resourceful–war is coming! I love literary fiction, but it’s like, Holden Caufield, what did you teach me? Mope? You know who taught me how to be resourceful? Paul Atriades, Dune. Rediscovering that was a really big deal. And one day you get up and get out of bed, and you think, screw it. I’m just going to do this one thing. I tricked myself out of this long, dark period of time.

Leigh’s parting words were heartfelt and inspiring:

I can’t believe I’m here. I’m looking here and I know all these people, and they’re all out here for me. And I still feel like I’m going to wake up. It’s an incredible feeling. There’s this other side to the story—like getting an agent, and getting a book deal and all that stuff. But the truth is, the advice I give to all writers (I’m always shocked when people ask me for writing advice, and I’m like, you haven’t read the book yet, it could be terrible) is, just finish. Just finish. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be clever. It just has to be done. Finish the book. You can rewrite it, you can rework it, you can do whatever it takes.  It just has to be finished. And then you get an agent. And then what really happens after that is just like in the stories. Magic happens. Magic occurs and then you end up here tonight in front of these incredible people.

Of course we gave her a round of loud applause when she was done. The night didn’t end there however. Leigh gave away awesome prizes to some lucky winners, and of course signed copies of her book.

Leigh Bardugo showing off prizes Leigh Bardugos Book LaunchLeigh giving away some prizes

Some people were dressed in Tsarpunk attired, to keep in line with Shadow & Bone’s theme. It was fun watching them mingle about, while I stood in line.

picture by Morgan Fahey modified Leigh Bardugos Book LaunchAuthor Leigh Bardugo with friends dressed in Tsarpunk attire, photo by Morgan Fahey

Finally it was my turn to get my book signed.

myself with Leigh Bardugo Leigh Bardugos Book LaunchMyself with Author Leigh Bardugo

Seeing Leigh, a fellow SCBWI-L.A. member, shine that night, was wonderful.

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TWN WWW 300 Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Cynthia Willis

Every Wednesday, I feature a writer/blogger and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow bloggers/writers better through their workspace and writing habits. I also wanted my bloggy friends to share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Cynthia Willis, author of the wonderful Middle Grade books DOG GONE & BUCK FEVER.

You can also find her sharing her writing wisdom and blogging at http://cynthiawillis.blogspot.com/

Welcome, Cynthia!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

cynthia willis Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Cynthia WillisAuthor Cynthia Willis

Thank you for inviting me to Wednesday Writer’s Workspace!

I am lucky enough to be able to write full time these days. I most prefer working on my novels, middle-grade and YA, but I have also taken on freelance writing and editing projects associated with my past life as an editor of Reading textbooks. School visits and promotional events are also part of my schedule.

My hobbies and interests include yoga (I love yoga—such a great break from writing), horseback riding (although, sadly, I no longer own a horse or live near a stable), and drawing/sketching. I wish I could label any of these a talent (hidden or otherwise), but that would be a lie–especially the drawing. As much as I love to sketch, my drawings are lame.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I spend most of writing time in my office, at my desk. Although, I do write in my favorite Barnes and Noble Café at least once per week. A change of scenery is often a good thing for me. And a chai latte is never a bad idea.

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

I recently splurged and bought myself a new desk from a local furniture store. I sort of had to. My old desk was falling apart. The situation was getting ugly. So, I took advantage of a sale and bought a desk and file cabinets (so exciting) that I could position close to a window. I love to write near a window.

cynthia workspace Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Cynthia WillisCynthia’s Workspace

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

I need to have my favorite books (fiction as well as books on craft) within reach or on my desk. When I get stuck, I go for one of these books and read. This un-sticks me most of the time.

4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

What I love most about my workspace these days is the space itself. The small room used to be a guest room and office. Now it’s just my office. Yea!

My favorite things include my crystal Pegasus (a sentimental gift), my great grandfather’s pocket watch (which I wind up right before I write, each time I write), and my furry writing buddies (three Siamese cats and a very old dog).

pegasus Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Cynthia WillisCynthia’s crystal pegasus

clock Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Cynthia WillisCynthia’s great grandfather’s pocket watch

5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Tea until I’m fully caffeinated (chai lattes are my most favorite) and then water with lemon.

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

This might be a disappointing answer, but I don’t have a favorite author. There are too many talented, amazing writers for me to choose one favorite.

As for inspiration, I am inspired every time I read amazing writing and a great story.

2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

I start each day by answering emails, visiting Twitter, and sometimes checking out Facebook. Then I get into my work in progress, usually by rereading whatever I last wrote as a warm up. I end the day by working on a presentation that might be coming up or preparing for some promotional something or other. And then I read. I always try to set aside time to read before dinner. After dinner I visit blogs and do the social networking thing.

3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I do write each day, although I sometimes skip Sundays when there is too much life stuff to catch up on. Depending on the day, I’ll spend 4 to 7 hours writing.

I am not easily distracted from my writing, which is great. However, there is always stuff to do, which can be frustrating. I often wish I could clone myself and make my clone do all the non-writing, boring stuff.

4. Why do you write?

Because I have to. Seriously. I itch if I don’t write. But I am also driven to write stories that readers can escape into the way I’ve been able to escape into some novels. That’s my dream or goal.

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

I believe that perseverance is crucial when writing and publishing. Persistence is necessary in learning the craft, in writing stories, and in taking those stories to and through publication.

As for quotes, here are a couple that I like a lot and relate to:

“Half my life is an act of revision.” ~ John Irving

“We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.”

~ Somerset Maugham

Thanks again for having me!

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Thanks, Cynthia, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

1,619 total views, 2 views today

The Value of Critiques & SCBWI L.A.’s Critiquenic

Critiques may be scary at first, but they are another valuable tool that any writer should take advantage of. Having our work critiqued can help us in so many ways:

  1. We are so close to our own stories, and having fresh pairs of eyes look over our manuscript will help us get a new perspective on our story elements.
  2. Critique partners and group members will point out flaws in our work, which we might have missed.
  3. Each person brings a different sent of experiences as writers and as readers into reading your story, thus each will suggest a different technique or tip for improving your work.
  4. Two heads are always better than one, and ideas always flow more freely when you have another person to act as a sounding board.

Criticism is a difficult thing to handle, but over time and experience, writers learn to develop thick skins and open minds. While critiques can result in great ideas, they can also lead to bad ones. Ultimately, it’s up to the writer to decide what ideas to listen to, and what to ignore.

I love getting critiques, and I’m not afraid to hear what fellow writers have to say about my work. I love it when my work gets ripped to shreds (Yes, I may be a masochist. Don’t worry, I’m looking into it) because it gives me the opportunity to make my story even better.

The thing is, I don’t go to critiques to get complimented on my awesome writing (although those are appreciated, of course). So I do get suspicious when I get compliments, unless they’re balanced out with honest critique. I love getting  helpful feedback on my work and tips on  how to fix problem areas in my manuscript.

When I heard that SCBWI L.A. was holding its annual Critiquenic, I naturally signed up.

The Critiquenic was held last June 2nd, 2012.  This year there were over a hundred participants. Word has apparently gotten around that attending the Critiquenic has the following awesome benefits:

  1. Participants get to network with other writers and perhaps even make some lasting friendships.
  2. Participants get to listen to some wonderful new stories, as shared by groupmates who are writing in the same genre.
  3. Participants get to picnic with other writers, and even get free bottled water and brownies.
  4. Most importantly, participants get helpful critiques from established writers as well as other writers in the group.

All these and more for the amazing price of $0. Well, actually maybe $3 if you count the parking fees.

The critiquenic was held at its usual location in Beverly Hills’s Roxbury Park. Registration started early at 11am, though I got in a little later because I couldn’t seem to find parking around the area.

I spotted my facilitator, YA author Sara Wilson Etienne (HARBINGER), sitting beneath a shady area, along with other groupmates.

critiquenic 2012 group 1.1  The Value of Critiques & SCBWI L.A.’s CritiquenicModerator Sara Wilson Etienne, & Critiquenic 2012 groupmates

While we ate the sandwiches and salads we brought for lunch, we introduced ourselves to each other, and talked a little about our stories.

At exactly 12 noon, we began the critique. We were each given 20 minutes for our session.

At one point, awesome organizer Sue Welfringer even dropped by to hand out bottles of water and brownies. (SCBWI L.A. really spoils us, and we love it, of course!)

I was the 2nd to the last participant to get critiqued. After someone had finished reading my  first chapter out loud, Sara began the session by giving her thoughts on it. Others soon joined in. I eagerly soaked up all their feedback and wrote down all their comments.

critiquenic 2012 group 1  The Value of Critiques & SCBWI L.A.’s CritiquenicModerator Sara Wilson Etienne, my critiquenic groupmates and I

The session ended around 3 PM. After thanking our wonderful moderator Sara, and my fellow group mates, I headed for home, eager to incorporate the feedback into my rewrite notes.

As soon as I got home, I immediately did my usual routine of filing the papers from the critique session.

I always ask my critique partners to write their comments and feedbacks on my manuscript freely, so I can refer to them later on.

I’ve been to many critiques, and not  wanting to throw away any of the papers my critique groups had marked and wrote their comments on, I devised a way to organize them.

I print out front and side labels with the following information: name of the critique group,  date and place of the critique and the chapter & title critiqued.

critiquenic label 300x225  The Value of Critiques & SCBWI L.A.’s CritiquenicCritique folder label

After printing out the labels and posting them on the front and side tab of the folder, I file all the papers in the folder, along with whatever notes I’ve written down for that session. That way, when I’m ready to rewrite or edit that chapter, I just pluck out the folder I need and I have all the comments, notes, and feedbacks from the critique session organized and ready to use.

critique folders 300x225  The Value of Critiques & SCBWI L.A.’s CritiquenicCritique folders containing copies of my manuscripts

with handwritten feedback from group members

Maybe I’m being too anal, but as a writer, I know  how easy it is to get lost in tons of papers.  So I try to be as organized as I can, as I find it cuts my work in half.  I prefer spending a little time organizing my paper and computer files right away, rather than waste an hour trying to find them when I need them.  I’d much rather use that hour writing than sifting through an ocean of paper. icon smile  The Value of Critiques & SCBWI L.A.’s Critiquenic

Do you have your own method of compiling your critique notes?

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Last May 23rd, 2012, I attended a book signing at Mysterious Galaxy. It was for Cecil Castellucci’s new book, Year of the Beasts, which is a novel that is part narrative and part comic book.

year of the beasts Cecil Castelluccis Year of the Beasts, and Why I Attend Book Signings

It’s a novel notion—to have alternating chapters of prose and comics, and I was eager to find out how YA author Cecil Castellucci thought up the idea.

cecil castellucci Cecil Castelluccis Year of the Beasts, and Why I Attend Book SigningsCecil reading from her book

As I sat there waiting for the event to start, I realized with dismay that there were only a few of us in the audience. Cecil had her book launch in L.A. the day before. I figured most of her friends and fans had gone to that event and probably didn’t want to drive to the South Bay.

I wondered how Cecil must be feeling, knowing she’d driven all the way here just to chat with a few of us. Was she disappointed? Sad?

I needn’t have worried, though. Cecil is a professional author, a rockstar, and a veteran when it comes to book signings and public events. She went into that evening’s event without expectation, and she gave us the same energy she would give a room  full of people.

with cecil castellucci Cecil Castelluccis Year of the Beasts, and Why I Attend Book SigningsWith YA author Cecil Castellucci

That made me think of the reality of being a debut author. If I ever did get published, I’d probably encounter the same fears as any beginning author. I’d be afraid that I’d come into an event and no one would show up.

And this is the first reason I attend book signings.

1. I go to book signings to support the authors who have worked their asseTs off to get published.

I know how much authors have given up to get published. I know because I’m giving those things up too—watching favorite shows, hanging out with family and friends, lazy weekends. All those things get set aside because Time is precious when you’re a writer struggling to get published. Most moments not spent writing is a waste of time.

But Time isn’t the only thing a writer gives up. Money becomes an even more precious commodity. Writing conferences, workshops, and classes all cost money. Not to mention money spent on paper, ink, office supplies and books.

I am a reader, and a writer, and I know the value of stories and books, and the hard work that goes into creating one. I go to book signings to support the people who write books, those who publish books, and those who sell books.

2. I also go to book signings to learn.

There is so much to learn from authors who have made it. And authors are generous people who will love nothing more than to see you succeed. Whenever I go to a book signing, I leave with some new writing tip, some new technique for lifting  writer’s block, or for finding story ideas. I also leave with query tips, tips on how to get published, and even book or website recommendations, which in turn lead me to favorite new novels, or helpful writing books, or websites.

3. I go to book signings to get inspired.

Writing is a long and lonely task—and one that often entails a lot of self-doubt.  Being in our heads all the time and stuck in the worlds we create is fun, but it can also easily drain us of motivation. So it’s good to come out of our writing caves, explore the real world and get a different perspective.

And the best perspectives usually come from people who have been where we are, and have done what we’re trying to do.

Seeing favorite authors in the flesh is a thrill in itself. But whether they’re favorite authors or new authors, hearing them talk about their journey to publication always inspires me.

These authors remind me why I write, and why I need to keep on writing. They make the dream of publication more real for me, because they are living, breathing examples of what happens when writers never quit on their dreams.

4. I go to book signings because I am a bibliophile.

There, I said it. I love books. I am addicted to the smell of the printed word, and the feel of books in my hand. I am a book addict, and I will take any excuse to add more books to my already teetering collection.

I also like to tell myself that I buy books because I’m supporting the industry, which I hope someday to be a part of.

5. I go to book signings to network.

Book signings are always a great opportunity to make new friends and to connect with fellow writers. You can never have enough writer friends. icon smile Cecil Castelluccis Year of the Beasts, and Why I Attend Book Signings

Sometimes the author’s agent and editor will also show up at the book launch, and I find that a great opportunity to introduce myself to them. The agents may not remember me in the long run, but I can always refer to our meeting when I query them.

6. Finally, I go to book signings to earn good karma points.

What goes around comes around, they say. Here in Los Angeles, especially, I find this to be true. I see the same people at book signings—authors supporting fellow authors.

One day I hope get published. Thanks to various writing events and book signings, I’ve made wonderful connections with other writers and authors. I know they’ll be there to show their support for me at my book signings. Why? Because writers are grateful people who love to return the favor.

So now you know why I’m always featuring book signings on my blog.

I’ve been to a few more since Cecil Castellucci’s  signing for The Year of the Beasts. Apparently, June is the month for book signings.. So don’t be surprised if you see more posts on the book signings I’ve attended this month.

Anyway, these are my reasons for attending book signings whenever I can.  What about you?

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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer/blogger and his/her workspace. My aim is to get to know fellow bloggers/writers better through their workspace and writing habits. I also wanted my bloggy friends to share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome H.R. Sinclair aka Southpaw, author of that fun blog I am HR Sinclair.

Welcome, H.R.!
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Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

southpawportrait Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes HR SinclairHR Sinclair aka Southpaw’s “studio shot”

I don’t know what bits to share. So, I decided to share just bits. I’ve hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney, I’ve been chased by a bison (thanks to my best friend), I’ve been whitewater rafting on a class 5 rapid, and I’ve been in two major earthquakes and several of minor ones.

Those are some of my exciting tidbits. I doubted you wanted to know that I love sorting and organizing things, and that I dislike talking on the telephone. (Even though those are all true too.)

I enjoy writing urban fantasy. I like horror, mystery, suspense, action, and adventure and they all seem to fit nicely into urban fantasy.

On Workspace

1. Where do you do most of your writing?
I write mostly at the dining table on my laptop. I like the laptop’s mobility. If I need a quiet place or an active place I can search it out. And if I find myself stuck somewhere for hours I can take my writing with me.

southpawswritingpad Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes HR SinclairSouthpaws’ writing pad

2. Where did you get your desk? How did you go about arranging your work area?
I don’t arrange my work area. I just go with whatever is there when I sit down.

3. What’s your writing beverage? What do you love to drink while you’re writing?
I don’t drink anything while I write. It is hazardous. Let’s just say I had a bad experience with a cup of tea and my old laptop and leave it there. However before writing, I like hot tea, usually chai with a little milk. On a break or after writing, I like coffee with milk and sugar.

Before writing, I like a tea, usually chai with a little milk. On a break or after writing I like coffee with milk and sugar.

On Writing


1. Who is your favorite author? Who inspired you to write?

I have many favorite authors. I love Neil Gaiman, Jim Butcher, Sharon Kay Penman, Ilona Andrews, and Karen Chance to name a few.

2. What’s your typical day as a writer like? Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?
As of yet, I don’t have a typical day or any rituals. Maybe I should get some. Maybe I’d get more writing done.

3. Do you write everyday? How many hours a day do you spend writing? What are some of your worst writing distractions?
I do not write in my WIP every day. My biggest distractions are the Internet and blogging – oh and work.

4. Why do you write?
I write to tell a story that I hope will one day amuse, entertain, or take someone away from everyday woes. So many authors have done this for me and if I could do that for someone else, I’d be a happy bear.

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us? How about a favorite writing quote?

“Just do it” – Okay that may not be a writing quote, but it works.

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Thanks, H.R., for giving us a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.

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Starters Giveaway Winner

Last May 25th, to end my Spotlight Week with YA Author Lissa Price,  I invited everyone to join my STARTERS Giveway.

giveaway1 Starters Giveaway Winner

Today, I’m happy to announce the lucky winner:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations Lea Krnjeta!

You win the following prizes:

1. A SIGNED Copy of STARTERS, complete with a special sketch by author Lissa Price

2. A special Starters button, and

3. A Starters LED necklace, with three modes of lighting.

Thanks to all those who participated in the Starters Giveaway. Don’t be sad if you didn’t win this time. I have more giveaways planned in the future. icon smile Starters Giveaway Winner

Happy Monday everyone!

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The Green and Blue Belt Challenge

Eleonor Roosevelt once said, Do one thing every day that scares you.

Last May 20th, I did just that. In fact I did two things that scared me: I tested in my martial arts class for two belt levels: Green and Blue.

This meant that I had the longest testing time that Sunday. This also meant I was exhausted beyond belief after the exam.

You might be wondering if I’m some masochist intent on subjecting myself to crazy challenges.

bowing The Green and Blue Belt ChallengeBowing before class

I’m not. Not really (though I do love challenges). I am, however, the only one in the entire Los Angeles Doce Pares system (comprised of 3 schools), who is currently an Orange Belt.

blue belt test The Green and Blue Belt ChallengeTaking the Blue Belt Exam with Green Belt classmates

Master Erwin wanted me to level up twice so I wouldn’t be alone every time I had to take another belt exam—and so Steve (the only other higher belt in my class) would have a partner to learn the lessons with.

with master erwin The Green and Blue Belt ChallengeWith Master Erwin

The test was nerve-wracking at first, but once I got into the “zone” and focused on what I had to do, I found that adrenalin kicked in and I was able to perform the tasks required of me.

One portion of the Belt Exam which  both scared and thrilled me was the Multiple Attackers part.

I had to fend off the two instructors who attacked me, using  various disarming techniques I learned class.

The practical application portion of our martial arts lessons is scary–but I  do enjoy it a lot because I know how useful this can be in certain situations.

I was exhausted, but happy at the end of my four hour long exam.

class picture The Green and Blue Belt ChallengeLos Angeles Doce Pares

I took up the challenge, aware that I would have to learn twice as many lessons, and that I would have the longest testing time that day. It was scary, to say the least, but I knew without a doubt that as long as I put my mind to it, I could accomplish anything.

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Thanks to Maiko for taking the pictures, and to Lena for taking the videos!

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