Archive for July, 2012

Preparing for the SCBWI Summer Conference

The SCBWI Summer Conference is one of the biggest annual events facilitated, and attended by members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Children’s books writers and illustrators attend a variety of workshops to increase their knowledge of the craft, listen to keynote speakers, and network with the myriad of authors, agents, editors and publishers who will be attending the conference.

I attended the conference for the first time ever last year. About a week before the event, I made a list of things to do and things to bring. Now that I’ve had some experience, I have a better idea of how to prepare for the conference.

This year, the conference will run from August 3 – 6, 2012. It’s only three days away, but I’m already starting my preparations for the event.

If you’re attending the conference for the first time, you might find the following To Do List useful. If you’ve attended it before, the list might give you some great ideas about what to add to your conference packing list.

SCBWI Summer Conference To Do List:

1.  Print out a copy of the conference schedule and highlight the workshops and keynote events you want to attend.

You can download a PDF copy of the schedule HERE.

2. Or if you’re a bit of a techie, download the Guidebooks app for the SCBWI Conference 2012 on your smartphone, ipad or android tablet. Customize your schedule.

This FREE app is awesome and super useful. It has general information about the conference, maps of the conference venue, a list of keynote events, a schedule for each day of the conference, and a twitter app that lets you follow  #LA11SCBWI.

SCBWI Guidebook App

This year, the app has some great new features such as a facebook link, a personal to do list, SCBWI Bookstore info, separate buttons for easy access to a schedule of Monday Intensives, Keynotes, Optional Activities PROtrack workshops, Illustrator Workshops, Nonfiction Workshops, and General Workshops. It even has a feedback button so you can give the organizers some helpful suggestions.

The App allows you to check the various workshops and events scheduled, so you can create your very own customized schedule of activities.

You can set the app to set off an alarm 10 minutes or more before the activity, to remind you of it. That way, you won’t be late for any workshop.

3. Prepare your costume for Saturday’s pool party.

The pool party is a great way to meet other writers, let loose and unwind. This year’s theme is Hippie Hop. Go to the nearest Goodwill store or costume shop to rummage around for a groovy 60’s costume.

Hippie costume from

4. Gather all the books you want signed.

The conference features an autograph session at the end of each day.

Print a list of faculty members and speakers and see if you have any of their books.

When you register for the conference, they give you a packet that contains an autograph session schedule for each day. You can bring your books in or even buy the author’s books from the SCBWI bookstore and have them signed.

5. Prepare a list of things to bring to the conference.

Here’s my Conference To Bring List from last year. I’ve added/ removed some stuff based on last year’s experience*.

SCBWI Conference To Bring List


Wallet – Wouldn’t want to miss out on buying amazing books for various authors to sign—nor do I want to drive to the conference without my license.

Cellphone –A useful device for saving contact numbers, addresses and what not of the many new people I’ll get to meet at the conference.  It’s also great for playing games in between breaks.

Keys – yeah, that’s obvious.

Pill Organizer – Filled with medicine I might need for emergencies. Excedrin for the migraines I’m bound to get. And in case I eat something that doesn’t agree with my sensitive stomach—some Zantac or Tums will come in handy. (A few caplets of Immodiums are in there, too) And if I encounter something I’m allergic to, it will be useful to have some Benadryl around.


The conference is all about networking, so it’s always a good idea to look my best in case my dream agent happens to be walking by and we strike up a conversation.

For those who will have rooms at the conference hotel, this shouldn’t be a problem. But for locals like myself, who will be driving 20 miles or more to attend, having these items in our bags might be a lifesaver.

Hairbrush/comb and other hair accessories – hair bands, clips, etc to keep our hair in order

Dental floss – Oh yes, you don’t want to be caught smiling with some salad greens sticking out of your teeth.

Breathmints/ Mint gum – You don’t want to be offending anyone with dragon breath either. A toothbrush will be useful after meals, but who has time to brush their teeth with the many activities going on?

I like to use the Listerine Strips as an instant breath freshener. Be prepared for the really strong (and slightly bitter) minty taste, though.

Hand lotion – Meeting new people usually entails shaking hands. It’s always best not to shock anyone with rough, dry palms.

Hand sanitizer – Best not to pass around germs, or take them home.

Tissue – Well, you know what to do with those.

*Baby Wipes (small pack) – They have a variety of uses. Last year, I found myself needing some to wipe off greasy lunch stains from my hands and jeans.

And for those who use make up, a make up kit. I’m allergic to cosmetic products so the people I meet will have to make do with my actual face.


Business cards – Just because I’m unpublished, doesn’t mean I can’t hand these out. Business cards are a valuable networking tool.

Business card holder – This gadget holds business cards, and has an extra pocket for holding all the other business cards I’ll be collecting. SCBWI Conference veteran Esther Hershenhorn gives this great advice when collecting business cards: Note on the back something personal about the person, to reference if and when you connect post-conference – a book title, a publisher, a subject matter, a hometown.

Manuscript copies & Illustrators portfolio – For those attending the intensives on Monday, as well as the Friday night critiques.


Netbook & Accessories – My handwriting is atrocious so I’ll probably be using this to take notes in the various workshops I’ll be attending.

Notebook & Pens – An essential part of a writers arsenal. It’s going to come in handy for taking notes in case my netbook isn’t accessible.

Camera – I love pictures. I’ll probably be taking tons with old and new friends alike—it’ll be a great way to remember the conference by.

Extra batteries for my camera – I’m not taking chances. I don’t want to miss out on great photo ops with a favorite author just because my camera died on me.

Cellphone charger/USB charger – My smartphone batteries don’t last too long and with a long conference day ahead of me, it’ll be a comfort to know I can recharge it for emergencies.

Extra shirt – you never know when an accident might happen and having an extra shirt to change into can make a big difference.

*Jacket – The main conference halls and some of the rooms have the AC fully blasted. You’ll find yourself too distracted by the cold to take notes, unless  you have a jacket.

*Water bottle – It’s always good to hydrate. Each room has a water dispenser and some cups for the participants. Sometimes, however they run out. It might be a good idea to bring one handy, just in case.

* Lunch – If you want to save up on some time and money, pack your own lunch. Besides, lunch lines can get really long and hotel restaurants might be pricey.

The night before the conference, you might want to do the following things as well:

1. Prepare what you’re wearing the next day in case that alarm clock goes off late, at least you won’t have to worry about your wardrobe for the day. *Wear some comfortable shoes. You’re going to walking all over the hotel to get to the various workshop rooms.

2. Prepare the things you’re going to bring and have them all ready to go.

3. Plug in the hotel address in your GPS if you’re driving, or at least have the address easily accessible somewhere in your car. If you’re staying at the hotel, you’ve probably explored the various conference rooms so you don’t need to worry (lucky you!).

4. Withdraw some cash from the ATM. The cash will come in handy especially for parking fees and books.

*5.  Prepare your lunch and snacks for the next day. If you have gastritis like myself, you’ll want to have something in your belly every three hours to keep away the nasty acids.

6. Get a good night’s sleep. You’ll need all the energy you can get for the next day.

Are you attending the Summer Conference this year? What’s on your To Do/To Bring list?

8,893 total views, no views today

CBW-LA Presents: Myth, Magic & Madness – Writing for the Children’s Market


Whether your project is a novel, short story, or script for film, television or the internet, the Children’s marketplace is an exciting arena for writers.  But once you’ve completed writing your project, what are the next steps you should take before submitting your work to a publisher, editor, agent, producer or studio?

There are a lot of myths out there about how to become successful. One thing we do know is that following the myths can enrich your stories. Everyone agrees that success requires a bit of magic, both in your marketing and in your stories. The madness is just an integral part of the marketing, but if you know what’s ahead you can better navigate the choppy waters of the Children’s marketplace for books, films, tv series, and web series.

Last night, we gathered at Barnes & Noble 3rd Street Promenade for another wonderful workshop facilitated by two of Hollywood’s top screenwriting consultants.

Authors/Speakers Kathie Fong Yoneda and Pamela Jaye Smith

with Barnes & Noble Events Manager Shane

Published authors and veterans of the entertainment industry, Pamela Jaye Smith and Kathie Fong Yoneda presented their individual Top10 challenges that all writers must face in order to successfully conquer the “myth, magic and madness” of writing for children today.

Pamela Jaye Smith discussed the use of myths and symbols as a way to deepen the layers of our stories. She discussed ten important questions for us to ask ourselves as we develop or revise our short stories/novels/scripts:

  1. Have I aligned my story with a universal Mythic Theme?
  2. What is the Archetype for my Protagonist – is it clear and yet unique?
  3. What is the Archetype for my Antagonist – is it clear and yet unique?
  4. Have I aligned both Protagonist and Antagonist with an identifiable but not stereotypical Inner Drive [chakra] and how do they differ from each other?
  5. How does my Protagonist change and grow, as expressed by their arc from one Inner Drive [chakra] to another?
  6. What internal problems does my Protagonist have?
  7. What external dangers must my Protagonist overcome?
  8. Is my main symbol expressing an emotion, a situation, or a concept?
  9. Is there a symbol for the Protagonist and one for the Antagonist?
  10. Have I layered my story with related and age-related symbols?

Author Pamela Jaye Smith

Pamela taught us that symbols are primarily used for three things:

  1. To express emotion (emotional)
  2. To tell us something about the situation (physical/situational), and
  3. To show a concept (if your story about freedom, love, etc)

As humans, we’re built to grasp the meaning of symbols. Symbols are universal, and timeless and if we work them into our stories, we’ll be plugging into that deeper mythical and psychological part of our readers.

Pamela gave us some great examples of how myths and symbols are put to great use in popular children’s books and movies. One of the examples she gave was Harry Potter’s lightning scar. Lightning, linked to mythological gods such as Thor, and Zeus, has long been a symbol of the connection between the deities and humanity, heaven to earth.

JK Rowling’s decision to put a lightning scar on Harry’s forehead implies so much more, and is a more effective symbol of his character than say a circle or a dot on his forehead.

Another example Pamela gave was the use of the mirror symbol in Alice in Wonderland. The mirror symbol represents the concept of duality of the world. On a situational level, it symbolizes that Alice is now in a world where things are in reverse; and on an emotional level, it symbolizes Alice looking into herself to find out who she really is.

Author Kathie Fong Yoneda

Kathie Fong Yoneda posed her own 10 Question Challenge for writers, based on her book THE SCRIPT-SELLING GAME.

  1. Are my characters well-drawn and interesting?
  2. Does my dialogue add to the personality of each character and support the plot points of my story?
  3. Does my story fall within a general 3-act structure?
  4. Does each scene/segment have a distinct purpose for being included?
  5. Have I paid attention to details by doing proper research?
  6. Do I know who my target audience is?
  7. Have I streamlined my storytelling?
  8. Can I summarize my story in one or two sentences?
  9. Is my completed work in professional form?
  10. Is this a story that I love?

Kathie reiterated the importance of well-drawn secondary characters. An editor Kathie spoke with one day, mentioned that the one of the common downfalls of a book is that the secondary characters are weak and not memorable. Where would Luke Skywalker be without Han Solo or Darth Vader, Ariel without Flounder and Sebastian.

Harry Potter had his friends Ron and Hermione. Although all of them went to the same school, they have very different ways of approaching the same problem. Having three different mindsets made a good blend. It  gave the whole story a sense of vitality and energy because of different types of people solving the same problem together.

Kathie also reminded us of the importance of dialogue, and of having each character have their own voice. In Screenwriting, they have this technique were they cover up the names of the characters, and they try to guess who’s speaking to make sure the dialogue is consistent with the personality of the character.

After Kathie’s talk, she joined Pamela at the table and they both talked about the madness of writing, and answered questions from the audience. They discussed the common mistakes writers commit when submitting their queries or manuscripts to agents and editors, and what to do to avoid them.  They even gave us great ideas on how to take our writing to the next level, by using the trans-media approach. They reminded us that novels aren’t the only creative outlet we have. Apps, web series, screenplays and other media are all available for us to use.

CBW-LA Officers with Authors Pamela Jaye Smith & Kathie Fong Yoneda

The workshop was a definite success. Kathie and Pamela did a great job of challenging us to create better stories that will stand the test of time.

2,620 total views, no views today

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 fellow Write On member Sharon Mayhew. She’s the author of that fun blog Random Thoughts.

Welcome, Sharon!


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?

Sharon Mayhew  on her first ever train ride.

I was riding from the North of England to the South of England to see my Grandparents.

I was born in England and immigrated to the United States when I was 8.  I put myself through college (with the help of my husband) and became an elementary school teacher.  I taught third and fourth grade for most of that time.  I did one year as a reading specialist, one summer school with first graders (which was soooo much fun) and I worked with at risk 8th graders one year.

I’m really torn as to my favorite genre to write.  So I write a bit of everything.  I’ve had one fiction story for children published in Knowonder Magazine and two non-fiction articles published in an SCBWI regional newsletter.

My hobbies include; boating, traveling, hiking, photography and taking care of my pets.

My hidden talent is that I can see through walls….well, not really.  I’m really good at predicting if someone who is pregnant is going to have a boy or a girl.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing in my office, but when the weather is nice, you can find me on the patio with either a laptop or a notebook.

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

Nothing exciting about my desk, I got it at Target.  But…I do have my very own office/studio.  I commandeered one of our guest bedrooms about a year ago.  I gave away the furniture that was in it and brought in bookshelves, my rocking chair from when my daughter was a baby, an art table, my desk, a file cabinet and I redid the closet to fit in all my art supplies.

Sharon’s wicked cool supply closet

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

My office does not look like a place you would work.  I have children’s artwork on the walls, bulletin boards covering another wall, I even have some teddy bears poking out of the bookshelves.  I need the get myself in the right mindset to write…so my office is more like a kid’s room.

Sharon’s bulletin boards and rocking chair with her special cp writing blanket

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 the mural I have hanging behind my desk.  I painted it in the early 90’s and couldn’t afford to frame it, so it stayed in the back of a closet for two decades.  Once I framed it, I didn’t have a place to hang it.  But once I got my own office I knew exactly where it belonged.

Sharon’s workspace

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

I love good coffee…but it keeps me up, so I take a flask of half-caf coffee with me when I am going to spend extended time in there.

On Writing

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

When I was a teacher I met my first real live author, Crescent Dragonwagon.  She wrote this amazing picture book called HOMEPLACE.  It made me want to be a writer…I still pull out that book and read it.

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

I don’t really have a typical day…ever…I have a 16 year old and she kind of runs my schedule…But I like to write in the afternoon, after a good nap.   I don’t know what it is about a good nap…but it makes me write better.

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

I wish I wrote every day, but I don’t.  I try to do something related to writing during the work week.  That way I can devote my time to my husband and daughter on the weekend.

Sharon’s two biggest distractions, Macy and Peaches

4. Why do you write?

This is a hard question to answer…In 2008, I was working out and thinking about my Grandmother who had just passed away.  Something that happened during her funeral kept going through my mind.  I got off the treadmill and wrote my first story.  I haven’t been able to stop since then.  If I could just get the same passion for writing query letters. LOL!

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

One of the best things you can do as a writer is be a reader.  Read in your genre, read other genres….just read!

My favorite quote comes from Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up.”  Ironically, the middle grade novel I just finished is about WWII in England.


Thanks, Sharon, 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.

4,675 total views, 1 views today

Done With the 3rd Draft. Now What?

Last week, I finished my 3rd draft.

I made so many plot, character and even setting changes in this draft that it actually feels more like a first draft. It’s become a completely different story from the one I started, so I know I’m still leagues away from a final cut.

I’m dying to work on the next round of revisions, but I know that the more distance I get from my work, the more objective I will be, and the easier it will be for me to kill my darlings—if necessary.

So this whole week, I’ve been doing everything to try and forget about my manuscript for a while.

It helps that I have the usual stuff to do for my blog, writing group and martial arts classes. On top of all these things, I’ve added a few new items to my to do list.

I’ve started watching episodes of Pretty Little Liars. Apparently it’s the show teens are watching nowadays. It’s riveting, to say the least and I totally get why teens love it. It deals with so many of their own issues, but with added bonus of an unsolved murder, a dangerous stalker, and ever deepening mysteries.

I’m also reading SELF-EDITING & REVISION by James Scott Bell. I’m picking up so many helpful nuggets of wisdom and I’ve decided I should write these down so I can easily access them again when I start revising.

Despite being busy with all these wonderful distractions, my mind still wanders back to my manuscript. I haven’t given in to the desire to start revising, but I have let myself think about it at least.

To appease my eager mind, I made a list of things I’d need to do during the revision process, and scheduled each task on my calendar.

This has had the adverse effect of making me even more excited to dive in to my revisions, however. I was thinking of waiting at least 2 weeks before I begin revising. Now I don’t know if I can even wait that long.

So, what do you do once you’ve finished a draft? How long do you wait before you start revising your manuscript? Any good revision tips?

3,454 total views, no views today

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 Misha Gericke, author of that fun blog My First Book.

Welcome, Misha!


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?

Misha Gericke

I’ve been creating stories since before I could read, but I started writing novels when I was thirteen. Genres that I write include fantasy, paranormal, dystopians, historical etc. Yes. Lots of them. Because I have lots of characters telling me what to write.

When I’m not talking to imaginary people, I sing, blog about writing at My First Book and life at Taking Charge of My Life. I’ve also recently started taking guitar lessons. Interests will take a page to list, so I’ll settle for saying: pretty much anything. Hidden talents… I don’t really hide my talents, but I do neglect them, so they get hidden in dust. Two ones I think of would be my knack for languages and visual art.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I write while reclining on my bed. I’d love to have a desk. After all, a bedside table is a terribly small space on which to stack things. But I’ll definitely buy one when I have my own room again. My cousin occupies mine now.

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

My current bedside table is bolted to the bedstead.

Misha’s bedside table

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

Well… actually 80% of the things in the picture are important to me. But writing-wise: My baby name books, maps of my fantasy world, notebooks – most of which are in my drawer. And the two notebooks currently containing the draft of the Doorways sequel (currently unnamed). I always buy pretty notebooks, because I find writing by hand on good quality paper really inspiring. Then there’s the pen. The one in the picture is the Parker fountain pen that I bought after the only shop selling the v-tipped black pens I favor kept letting them go out of stock. Sadly, the Parker and the five refills I got with it contain blue ink. And yes. The fact that it’s blue does make me twitchy. But now it’s motivating me to write more so that I am justified to buy black refills.


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

The fact that I can relax and be comfortable while writing. My favorite writing item on my bedside table at the moment will be my current notebook. It’s also now my blackberry’s background. Yes. It’s geeky. In a pretty way.

Doorways sequel and pen

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

I actually get sucked into writing. So usually my writing beverage is cold rooibos tea that someone in my family brought and that I promptly forgot as soon as the family member left. I have now developed a taste for cold, very strong rooibos tea. Because they always keep the bag in the mug.

On Writing

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

I have too many favorite authors. But C.S. Lewis inspired me to write. Reading Chronicles of Narnia is what had my favorite character appearing in my head.

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

I spend most of my week waking up between 3 and 5 in the morning in order to get writing/editing done before my family wakes up and my work starts. Quirk: My preference for black fountain pens. Bigger Quirk: I almost always rough draft by hand. Especially when the story’s being difficult. And choosing a notebook to write in has becomes a ritual all of its own.

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

I try to write every day. But don’t always succeed. I try for at least two hours a day.

Worst writing distraction would be editing, since I struggle to jump between draft and edit modes. Still, there are worse things that could have proven a distraction.

4. Why do you write?

Remember the many characters who talk to me? They drive me nuts if I don’t get them onto the page.

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

Don’t edit until you’re done with the draft. In fact, don’t edit until you’re done with the rewrite. And try to know how the story ends if you’re a pantser. It really helps.


Thanks, Misha, 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.

10,417 total views, no views today

A Tour of the Tabs: A Site Map of The Writing Nut

Welcome to The Writing!

Well, you’ve been here before. After all, you are awesome bloggy friends. But you might not have noticed the not-so-recent improvements I’ve made around the site, so I thought I’d give you a little tour of the new tabs.

1. About Me

If you’d like to get to know me better, or if you’re curious to see whether we share the same love for baking (yes) or fishing (not really), check out my About Me page. I’ve added pictures tons of slightly entertaining pictures. You’ll even find a couple of my sketches there.

2. Author Interviews

You’ll find interviews with awesome authors such as Cornelia Funke, Lauren Kate, Lissa Price and Alex Cavanaugh—some of them in video form.

3. Blog Awards

If you’re feeling particularly generous, but are unsure if I already have the award you’d like to share with me, you can check this page out.

4. Book Reviews

Every now and then review both Fiction and Writing books. You can find my reviews under this tab.

5. Book Signings

I’m lucky to live in a place where book signings are a weekly occurrence. I try to go whenever I can, as I find it’s a great way of supporting authors and the publishing industry.

I get inspired by these authors and learn new things from them every time. I also make it a point to write about these signings so I can share my experiences and learnings with you. In the Book Signings page, you’ll find a list of the authors I’ve been lucky to meet, as well as links to my posts about them.

6. CBW-LA: Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles

I founded CBW-LA in 2010 with the simple hope of meeting new writer friends. The group has since grown and morphed into a non profit organization with over 200 members.

In the CBW-LA page, you’ll find a link to our group’s meetups and workshops. You’ll find tons of exercises, and techniques that you can use in your own writing, as well as some helpful tips and lessons from us, and our speakers.

7. Helpful Links

I’ve gathered links to some fantasy authors’ blogs, as well as links to literary agents’ and editors’ and publishers’websites and blogs.

I’m always on the lookout for new blogs and websites to add to these lists, so feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anyone or if I need to update some information.

8. My Book Shelf

I love making lists and I love reading books. So when I discovered Shelfari, I immediately set up an account so I could keep track of all the books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read.

Shelfari also has this awesome widget which allows you to share the books you’ve read, along with their books covers, accompanying ratings, and reviews. I’ve made use of this widget on my web page. So if you’re curious to see if we have the same taste in books, or just want to see what’s on a fellow writer’s bookshelf, you can check out My Book Shelf.

9. Novel Writing

I’m still working on adding more articles to this webpage. Currently I have two articles on this tab that you might find helpful:

Step One is Research and Why Word Count Matters

Helpful Books for Character and Plot Development

10. Travel Pieces

I love to travel whenever I can. In this tab, you’ll find a link to all the posts I’ve written about some of the places I’ve visited.

If you ever find yourself planning a trip to Universal Orland’s Wizarding World, as well as England, or Los Angeless, you might find some useful tidbits such as tips on what landmarks to check out, what local foods to try, and what things to expect.

11. Wednesday Writer’s Workspace

Curious to see what other writers’ workspaces look like? Well, you’re in luck! Every Wednesday I feature a fellow writer/blogger and his/her workspace. They share some writing tips, techniques, wisdom and share stories about their writing quirks and habits.

On my Wednesday Writer’s Workspace page, you’ll find links to all the writers I’ve featured so far.

It’s an ongoing series, too, so if you’re interested in being featured here, you can simply leave me a message in the comment box.

12. Writing Resources

This is the newest addition to my website, and the one you might find the most helpful.

In these four pages, you’ll find links to articles that you’ll find useful in your own writing.


I’ve written several posts based on Caroline Myss’s study of archetypes. You might find them particularly useful when you’re developing your characters.

For Fantasy Writers

Here you’ll find links to character name generators, various articles on world-building, mapping your fantasy world,  making up your own language,  writing fight scenes and the craft of fantasy/sci fi writing.

You’ll also find links to medieval history, weapons, mythical creatures, gods, monsters,  and other magical elements such as gemstones, runes, symbols, sigils,

The For All Writers and Writing Contests, Conferences and Conventions pages are still under construction.

13. Writing Tools

I wanted to list down all the tools, instruments and gadgets that might be of use to writers. I’m still working on adding more articles to this page, but for now you might find these three particularly helpful, especially if you’re just starting to write:

Setting Up Shop Part 1: A Writer’s Space

Setting Up Shop Part 2: A Writer’s Desk

Setting Up Shop Part 3: A Writer’s Chair

14. The Writing Nut Store

My sad (but enjoyable) attempt at starting a business. I had way too much fun creating The Writing Nut logo, that I decided to take it one step further. Zazzle allowed me to create various products using my logo (mousepads, buttons, bumper stickers, shirts, etc), so I thought I’d share them here.

Well, there you have it, a tour of the tabs, and map to my website. Feel free to explore the site, and check out the helpful links I’ve provided. I’m also open to comments and suggestions, so if I missed a great article, or a link to another literary agent, feel free to let me know!

6,438 total views, no views today

This week, the Spotlight was on Alex Cavanaugh and his exciting Sci-Fi novels CassaStar and CassaFire.

CassaStar and CassaFire just recently achieved Best Seller status on Amazon US and UK. These two novels continue to be in the top 15,000 and higher overall status on Amazon US, and are in Amazon UK’s  list of top 100 science fiction novels.

If you haven’t heard of CassaStar and CassaFire, you can check out my review.

Also check out my interview with author Alex Cavanaugh.

Now that we’ve come to an end of another Spotlight Week, it’s time for another GIVEAWAY!

I’m giving away a copy of CassaStar and a copy of Cassa Fire!

To win, just Leave a comment below and tell me why you’d like a copy of the book.

I’ll put all your names in my magical drawing bowl and pick the winner.

But wait!

The more creative your answers are, the more chances you have of winning. If your comment/answer tickles my fancy, I’ll add another slip of paper with your name on it to my drawing bowl.

Why? Because I love encouraging people to unleash their imaginative and creative sides.

Also, if you tweet about this giveaway, or share it on Facebook, I’ll add more slips of papers with your name on it.

The contest will end On July 31st. Good luck!

4,483 total views, no views today

I have yet to meet this author in person, but I feel like I’ve known him forever. Probably because he is one of the coolest, nicest, and most supportive bloggers out there.

Alex Cavanaugh is a true ninja captain, able to accomplish great feats. I don’t know how Alex does it, but he manages to comment on every single one of his bloggy friends’ posts, reply to the hundred comments left on his own blog, watch tons of movies, jam on his guitar, spend time with his loved ones, and come up with incredible Sci-Fi stories.

This guy is just plain awesome and I am so pleased that he has agreed to be on this month’s Spotlight Week!

Not only do I get to bug him with questions, I also get to wrangle an author photo from him (my greatest accomplishment to date).  Alex abhors pictures, but since he’s such a nice guy, he couldn’t say no to my earnest pleas.

So without further ado, I present an interview with the talented Mr. Alex Cavanaugh.


Author Bio

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of Amazon Best Sellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

The Amazing Alex Cavanaugh, author of CassaStar and CassaFire

1. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Rock star! I doubt I could’ve handled the lifestyle though.

2. When did you know you were going to be a writer?  What prompted you to take your writing seriously?

I wrote some when I was younger, but I never took it seriously until I rewrote my first full-length story. (Which became CassaStar.) Didn’t know if I’d make it as an author but I had to try.

3. What’s the most unusual job you had before you became a full time writer?

I don’t know about unusual, but the worst was working at a car wash. Have you ever spent eight hours a day washing whitewalls? It’s awful!

4. What were your favorite books growing up?

I enjoyed Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, and I liked Ray Bradbury, Alan Dean Foster, and Tolkien.

5. What inspired you to write CassaStar?

I found the original version (written when I was a teen) and while the story was awful, the characters were strong. I rewrote it from scratch and only one scene survived.

6. Which of your characters, either in CassaStar or CassaFire, can you most relate to?

I guess it would have to be Byron. We’re both perfectionists and loners.

7. Tell us about your path to publication.

I started querying some of the bigger science fiction publishers and then as rejections came in, I worked my way down the list to smaller ones. Took me about eight months before I signed a contract.

8. How has your life changed since you got published?

For one thing, I’m online now! Blogging and online activities take several hours of my day. But the best part is that I’ve made so many friends.

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

I tend to write in the evening after jamming on my guitar for a while. Only ritual is music must be playing while I write. Oh, and I need a box of Hot Tamales!

10. What is it about the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy that draws you in?

The escape, pure and simple. They represent worlds beyond our own daily grind.

11. Where do you get your story ideas?

I credit my avid movie and TV watching. I knew staring at the screen for hours would eventually pay off!

12. Are you currently working on any other projects?

Yes I am working on the first draft of CassaStorm, the final book in the series.

13.  What advice would you like to give to writers on the road to publication?

Be open to any and all ideas.

14. Any writing tips for writers who wish to write in the sci-fi/fantasy genre?

Understand all of the different genres. And get good at world-building!

15. What would you like to say to your young readers? Is there any advice that you would like to give them?

Don’t text and drive, kids! Seriously, believe that you can do anything. You never know unless you give it your all.


Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Alex!

Tune in next Friday for the final installment of this month’s Spotlight Week. I’ll be giving away Alex’s awesome books!

11,187 total views, no views today

This month’s Spotlight Week features Sci Fi novels CassaStar and CassaFire by author and ninja blogger Alex Cavanaugh.


CassaFire by Alex J. Cavanaugh

6×9 Trade paperback, 240 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction – space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5 $15.95
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9 $4.99

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…

Few options remain for Byron. A talented but stubborn young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude, his cockipit skills are his only hope. Slated to train as a Cosbolt fighter pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life as he sets off for the moon base of Guaard.

Much to Byron’s chagrin the toughest instructor in the fleet takes notice of the young pilot. Haunted by a past tragedy, Bassa eventually sees through Byron’s tough exterior and insolence. When a secret talent is revealed during training, Bassa feels compelled to help Byron achieve his full potential.

As war brews on the edge of space, time is running short. Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive and Bassa must make a decision that  could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit?

My Review

Alex Cavanaugh accomplishes a rare feat in his first novel, CassaStar. He has created a character-driven Sci-Fi story that isn’t weighed down by scientific jargon or technological lingo.

The story is set primarily in space and there is no mention of Earth or what galaxy the Cassans live in. The Cassan race appears to be similar to the human race except for the fact that they have mental powers that allow them to communicate through thoughts and even teleport from one place to another.

Alex doesn’t waste time explaining the use of telepathy and mind power to pilot ships. Instead, he incorporates these cool concepts into the plot itself. Trusting his readers to understand these concepts, along with other world building  aspects, Alex focuses on the development of his two main characters, Byron and Bassa.

Byron, the rookie pilot and Bassa, the experienced commander, are very likeable characters. Their own individual journeys and the path that leads them to each other is at the very heart of the story.  Byron has trouble trusting people and Bassa’s regrets constantly haunt him. In the end, Bassa gets his second chance through Byron, and Byron in turn learns to open up his heart through Bassa.

The plot in itself is fast-paced and the battle scenes between the Cassan fleet and the enemy Vindicarn ships are thrilling. Although Alex doesn’t describe the actual fighter ships in detail, it’s easy to picture the powerful Cosbolts and speedy Dartens going up against the invading armada.

The one thing I miss in CassaStar was the presence of female characters. I didn’t miss having a love story, but I did long to see a mention of female pilots at least.

Lack of female characters aside, however, I truly enjoyed reading CassaStar. It’s a fast-paced, thrilling Sci- Fi adventure, but it’s also a heartwarming story about friendship, trust, honor and self-sacrifice.

CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
6×9 Trade paperback, 246 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction – space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9816210-6-7 $15.95
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-3-8 $2.99

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend – to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities.

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

My Review

In this sequel to CassaStar, Alex Cavanaugh proves once again that he is a master of character development.

The story is set primarily in the newly discovered planet of Tgren, and there aren’t as many space battle scenes as there were in CassaStar. However, this doesn’t in any way make the story less exciting.  Alex still manages to thrill his readers through some fast-paced action scenes and key plot points.

CassaFire follows veteran war hero Byron in his new life. Byron has kept his promise to mentor and friend Bassa and has become a pilot on an exploration team. Years ago, Bassa took Byron under his tutelage and became his only friend. Now Byron finds himself befriending an insecure, yet brilliant computer analyst named Mevine. Using the things he’s learned from Bassa, Byron coaxes the young officer out of his shell and becomes both friend and mentor.

In this book, I found what I’d been missing in the first installment of the story: a strong, female character. Athee is independent, free-spirited and just as excellent a pilot as Byron was when he was younger. She’s also a jumper like Byron, capable of teleporting  from one place to another, without the use of a power source. But unlike Byron, she possesses other mental abilities that makes her a valuable asset to both her native land of Tgren, and to the Cassan fleet. I actually loved how she was far more powerful than Byron in terms of mental powers.

I enjoyed witnessing her growth as a character, and seeing her relationship with Byron blossom into something more than friendship. Giving Byron a love connection made the story even more of an emotional aspect than the previous book.

I also liked the fact that the sequel explains the lack of women in the Cassan Navy, and the difference between Cassan men’s and women’s mental abilities.

Alex Cavanaugh continues his wonderful story-telling in CassaFire. It is an exciting and enjoyable read, containing equal measures of action-adventure and drama. It’s definitely a must read for any Sci-Fi fan.

Links to purchase CassaFire:


Tune in this Wednesday for the 2nd installment in this Spotlight series, where I feature an interview with author Alex Cavanaugh!

8,643 total views, no views today

Spreading Some Sunshine

Fellow fantasy lover, Write On member  and blogging buddy Crystal Collier gifted me with the Sunshine Award last June.

The Sunshine Award makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over. Thanks, Crystal!

To pass on the love the recipient must:

1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Write a post about the answers to the questions

3. AND nominate other bloggers and let them know


1. Favorite color:
Blue. You’ll spot this right away if you look in my dresser. Half my shirts are blue.

2. Favorite Animal:
I do love dragons, though I don’t know where I’d get them.

Oops. Muffin and Millie are staring at me icily. I better change my answer. Cats. I love cats.

3. Favorite Number:
3. Third time’s the charm they say!

4. Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink:

Tea. I drink it every day.

5. Facebook or Twitter:
Both or neither. I get to see some cool new pictures or quotes or read some interesting new article whether I’m on Facebook or Twitter. But they’re both great fat distractions from writing.

6. My Passions:

Helping out Family, Writing, Reading, Listening to Music, Watching Movies, Teaching, and—Writing, Writing, Writing.

photo from

7. Getting or Giving Presents:
Giving. I especially enjoy wrapping gifts during Christmas.

8. Favorite Pattern:

I enjoy all sorts of patterns—whether they’re random or repeating.

9. Favorite Flower:
I’m not much for receiving flowers, but I do enjoy looking at them. I love gazing at tulips in particular.

Tulips, photo from

And now I’m passing on this sunny award to the following bloggers, because I’d like to get to know them better, and because their posts always brighten my day:

Christina Lee

T.F Walsh

Stina Lindenblatt

Donna Weaver

Jemi Fraser

Brinda Berry

3,447 total views, no views today