Archive for June, 2013

Kristen Kittscher’s Wig in the Window Book Launch

I’d been waiting for this book launch since I first lay my eyes on Kristen Kittscher’s manuscript 3 years ago.

Kristen and I, along with six other amazing writers, were part of Critique Group 4 at the 2010 Working Writer’s Retreat. There, we were treated to our first sighting of WIG IN THE WINDOW (back then, it was called “Young & Yang”).

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As soon as I read the first few lines, I knew this book was going to be published. And I just love it when my predictions are right!

It was such a thrill to see Kristen in the spotlight last night, to hear her talk about her journey, and her book and thank all the people who helped get her published.

And now, I will attempt to capture, in pictures and a few words, the amazing extravaganza that was the BOOK LAUNCH for Kristen Kittscher’s WIG IN THE WINDOW.


First, there were yummy yin & yang cookies, specially made for the occasion by Kristen’s cousin, owner of Lila’s Bakery.

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Yin & Yang cookies, photo by James Mattson

And there were wigs all over the place.


Wig spotted in the crowd

It was standing room only by the time the event began.

standing room

Standing room only at Vroman’s

Author Kristen Kittscher nervously smiled at the audience, as the bookstore manager for Vroman’s Pasadena introduced her.



Author Kristen Kittscher being introduced


The crowd erupted with cheers when Kristen finally stepped up to make her speech.

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Author Kristen Kittscher delivering her talk



Smiling widely the whole time, Kristen thanked the many people who have helped her in the various stages of writing, including those who helped make her launch a fun event.

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Author Kristen Kittscher thanking everyone

She apologized to the kids in the audience for having too many adults around. She promised to try and make it a fun event, despite that.

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Author Kristen Kittscher delivering some witty comments

After many “thank you’s”, Kristen invited several friends to help her do a fun reading of one of the scenes in the book.

wig in the window reading

Author Kristen Kittscher’s friends and family acting out a scene in WIG IN THE WINDOW

Then she showed us her book trailer.

book trailer

Audience watching Kristen’s book trailer

She also showed us an interview with two kids, who claimed to be the book’s real life counterparts of the book’s main characters Sophie and Grace.


Two kids interviewing author Kristen Kittscher

The two precocious kiddies happened to be present that night. Kristen invited them up on stage to introduce them to the crowd.

young and yang in person

The “real” Sophie and Grace

The audience got to ask Kristen questions about the book, and about writing.


Q & A With Author Kristen Kittscher

Then Kristen gave away prizes and proceeded to sign tons of books.  Some members of Critique Group 4 were present and we reunited briefly for a picture with Kristen.

critique group reunited

 A few members of WWR 2010 Critique Group 4 posing with Author Kristen Kittscher


After getting our books signed, we proceeded to play around at the photo booth nearby.

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Having fun at the photo booth


 The book launch was super amazing. The best part was seeing another writer friend bask in the glow of a writing dream achieved. :)

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Myself with Author Kristen Kittscher

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Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Marcy Hatch


Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Marcy Hatch, author of that fun blog Maine Words.

Welcome Marcy!


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?

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Marcy Hatch

I’m currently looking for work, having lost my job as office manager of almost 15 years last November. Before that I worked as a nurse’s aid, housepainter, and shelf stocker – very exciting stuff! My genres of choice are scifi and fantasy, YA and up, as well as historical romance. I also like to draw and paint, usually bookmarks, maps, and people (often the characters I’m writing about).


On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I do the majority of my writing at my desk.

2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?
I bought my desk from a friend for $15 and then my dad refinished it for me for my birthday. I love my desk – even more now that my dad is gone. It’s nice knowing I have something beautiful he made for me.

marcy desk

Marcy’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 think the most important things are the books, especially my thesaurus and dictionary, but also the other reference books like my name book, Gurp’s Space, The Emotional Thesaurus, North American Wildlife ( I know, weird ), and some foreign language dictionaries.


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

I’m just happy I have a space! I don’t think there’s anything I’d deem favorite – although there is a nice rock my son gave me that says ‘I love mom’ which is pretty sweet :)

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

It depends on what time it is! If it’s in the morning then coffee for sure. I don’t think I could start my day without coffee, preferably strong, sweet, and creamy!

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A few samples of the bookmarks that Marcy creates

On Writing

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

Too many to list! Tolkien, of course, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robin Hobb, Tad Williams, Charles DeLint, Dan Simmons, Peter Hamilton, and Vernor Vinge to name a few.


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

As long as I have coffee I’m good to go.


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 everyday, unless I go away on vacation. Right now with not working I spend a lot of time at my desk, blogging and writing. I recently finished the first draft of my wip, NO REST.  The Internet can be a very distracting. I can easily spend hours looking at real estate, jumping around from blog to blog, checking my email, perusing Amazon…really, there’s no end to the diversions. One thing I don’t have is any good games on my computer, like Skyrim. If I did I’d never get any writing done!

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Marcy’s Skyrim alter-ego Ash


4. Why do you write?

I guess I just have to. I’ve been telling stories ever since I can remember and I don’t think I’ll stop ‘til the fat lady sings


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

I think my only advice to anyone would be to practice as much as possible because that’s the only way you ever get good at anything. The quote I’ll share isn’t a writing quote, but one I saw on a banner during the 2004 World Series where the Red Sox finally won. It said, “You have to believe it to see it.”



Thanks Marcy, 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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Spotlight Week Giveaway Winner & Writing Updates

It’s the last week of June, y’all! Which means a few more days and half the year is already gone. Geez! Time’s been flying at the speed of light lately.

Before I share my writing updates with you, I’d like to announce the winner of this month’s Spotlight Week Giveaway. This month, I’m giving away a SIGNED copy of Pamela Jaye Smith & Reece Michaelson’s THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE VOL. 1: FROM THE SHADOWS.

Petra Volare Scroll 1 book

Congratulations, CARINA OLSEN!

I’ll email you the instructions for claiming your prize soon.



And now for my writing updates.

I finished the latest draft for my MG novel URTH during the first week of June.  I spent the second week re-reading each chapter and making notes for the next rewrite. I also started reading another book on the craft of writing: Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland. Unfortunately, I have yet to finish it.

Last week (3rd week of June, in case you’re wondering), I spent most (if not all) my time preparing for and the CBWLA Writing Day Anthology Workshop, which was held last Saturday, June 22nd. The workshop went well, and I’m already starting preparations for the first ever CBWLA Anthology, which is set to be published in September.

I’ll be spending the rest of this week and the next month working on my (hopefully) final rewrites for my MG novel. I’m hoping to tighten up the storylines further and make sure I get the plot, and other story details right.

And of course, after that—there’s still more work to be done. A YA novel to rewrite and query, other novels to plot and write, preparations for self-publishing my MG series and so on.

Writing is an endless process, it seems.

So what are your writing updates? Working on revisions? Editing? Writing a new draft?

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Brown Belt Test

Last Sunday, June 9th, I took another belt test. It was a very special belt test because I was testing for Brown Belt.  If I pass, it means I’m only three levels away from reaching  Black Belt.

The belt test was doubly special because Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio Canete was in attendance. Supreme Grandmaster Diony Canete is  the president and head of the Doce Pares Escrima schools all over the world and the belt test that weekend was one of the last events he would be attending, as he is planning to retire soon.

Anyway, here’s what happened as told in pictures (and a few words).

1- bowing

 We bowed, signalling the start of our belt test

8 - psyching myself up

I took in a deep breath, trying to psych myself up

2 - disarm

We showed the masters our stickfighting skills

5 - masters

 Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio Canete and Master Erwin Mosqueda watched our every move

3 - more disarm

As we demonstrated our ability to block and disarm

7 - what have i gotten myself into

Halfway through the test, I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into


But there was no time for rest, as we proceeded to the next part of the test: Knife drills

6 - preparing for next round

After showcasing our forms, the masters called us all in to fall back in line. We were invited to ask Supreme Grandmaster Diony Canete and the other masters questions.

Higher Belts were asked to do demonstration. Here’s a demonstration by the Brown 1 Belts – a trio of kick ass girls:

We were finally dismissed, and as usual we all posed for pictures

9 - entire class

The entire Los Angeles Doce Pares group

13 - torrance group

Doce Pares Redondo Beach Group

10 - with the masters

Myself with Masters Gerald Canete, Val Pableo, Erwin Mosqueda

and Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio Canete

Later on I discovered some souvenirs from my belt test: 3 bruised knuckles and a few other bruises on my arms.

12 - bruises

 Belt test souvenirs

 All in all it was an awesome belt test, and I’m happy I survived.

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Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Nicole Flockton, author of RESCUING DAWN.

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He helps save lives, now he wants to save hers.

Dawn Granger has loved and lost and it’s a road she’s not prepared to travel again, that is until her past turns up and has her questioning her resolve.

Andrew Holmes has sailed the globe numerous times, when he almost loses his life, he decides he needs to give something back so he returns home and trains as a paramedic. When he runs into his former sweetheart he is surprised to find an attraction he thought dead come to life. When he sees the sadness in Dawn he knows he will do anything to make her smile again.

Dawn tries to resist Andrew but their past pulls at her in ways she thought long dead. Can she trust a man who’s run out on her once before? Can she risk putting her heart on the line again? Or will it all be taken from her again.


Welcome, Nicole!


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?

Author Nicole Flockton


Romance Author Nicole Flockton

I’m an Australian girl living in Houston Texas with my wonderful husband and two fantastic kids. I work remotely as an Accounts Officer/Bookkeeper for the job I had in Perth, Western Australia, before we moved to Houston. I write contemporary romances either in a medical setting or the boardrooms of high powered businessmen. To relax I like to read, my TBR pile is endless now I have an e-reader. I also watch a lot of sports. I don’t have any hidden talents and you definitely don’t want me to sing to you!

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing in our living room area. I have my desk set up along one wall of the room and the TV is pretty much always on behind me. I’ll sometimes move to the couch to write too.

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

Wow now that’s going to make me think. I think we may have got my desk from Ikea.  Umm well I endeavor to keep it clean but I have my work computer on one part of the desk and my new Apple Mac computer, which I do all my writing on, on the otherside of the desk. And inbetween is piles of paperwork. The picture you have is when I’d just cleaned it. One day I’ll keep it looking like that :)

Nicole Flockton desk

Author Nicole Flockton’s Workspace


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

Well some of the important things on my are: a picture of my first two covers in a glass frame, the coffee mug I got from local Romance Writers of America chapter for my first sale of Masquerade to Crimson Romance. I’ve got a thank you card from my work for 5 years of service to them. And a card my mum made for me. There are no specific things I need on my desk to surround me while I work. I just try and sit down and write!

Favourite Things modified Some of Nicole’s favorite things

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 is that it may be messy but it works for me. I’ve got a glass pen holder which is actually a Mason Jar I got from a steakhouse in Houston – it had a yummy cocktail in it.


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

It’s usually a can of coke but I’m trying to drink more water – trying being the operative word here :)

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Nicole at a book signing

On Writing

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

Oh when I get asked this question I always cringe a little. I don’t have one specific favourite author and not one author inspired me to write. I like lots of authors – some are personal friends. As to who inspired me to write I would say it was a group of girls I met on the community forum. We started a fun group write and well I decided to try my hand at writing a full length novel.


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

I don’t have a typical day. I often try to get into a habit but I can never seem to get it to last. I have found if I get up early I can get some words down before I have to get the kids ready for school. Although here in the States we are heading into our summer break so I’m going to try and get a routine that will work for me and that I can keep using when the kids go back to school in August.

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 everyday. I just handed in a book so I spent close to six hours in one sitting finishing editing it to get it off. I do try and write every day and I’m going to try and do 15 minute blocks throughout the day. I’ve found that’s quite effective for me. As to distractions – social media is a big distraction. Also if I record some tv shows I tend to want to watch them instead of writing – they should be my reward. Other times my dog will come up and nudge me in the leg if I’ve ignored her too long. Or she’ll continually pester me to go outside so I open and the door and then she runs in the opposite direction! Sometimes I’ll even use the housework as a distraction – although if you could see my house, you’d know I don’t use that one often!

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Nicole’s pup Maya, “helping”


4. Why do you write?

I write because I’ve found I love to do it. Once you get that first contract and see your first book out there in the world, you’re hit by the bug. You want more covers with your name on it!

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

Words of wisdom – don’t give up. Take that plunge and hit send on that submission – you never know what’s going to happen.

I quite like this quote from the movie “We Bought A Zoo” it was said by the main character Benjamin Mee. “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” That’s what you need as a writer, 20 seconds of insane courage to hit send. Or sign up for a pitch.



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

To learn more about Nicole, check out her website:

Find out more about her book Rescuing Dawn (Crimson Romance) by clicking on the links below:

Read an Excerpt

Read Reviews

Buy Links:   Crimson Romance         Amazon

 Amazon UK       iTunes          Kobo


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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Siege and Storm Book Launch Party

Rarely anything happens on a Monday night. But last June 3rd, 2013 a hundred or more people gathered at Hemingway’s Lounge in Hollywood, CA. Many folks stayed past their bedtime to celebrate the launch of Siege and Storm (Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone)) , the second book in Leigh Bardugo’s NY Times Bestselling Grisha Trilogy.

A line had formed outside Hemingway’s Lounge by the time I got there. But I barely noticed the wait time, as I had fun chatting with fellow SCBWI member and wonder cook/lawyer Elle Jauffret.

A photo booth was set up right outside the bar’s main entrance. Guests lined up to have their photos taken against a backdrop of Siege & Storm’s amazing book cover. The photographers even provided a trunk full of props for people to use.

I’d never heard of a book launch being held at a bar before, but as soon as we entered Hemingway’s Lounge, I immediately realized how perfect a setting it was. Bookcases filled with thousands of books surrounded the whole area. One wall was even dedicated to old typewriters. It was a writer’s perfect lounge.

hemingways lounge

 Hemingway’s Lounge in Hollywood, CA, photo from their website: Hemingway’s Lounge

The event started around 8 PM, with an introduction from David Peterson, the man who invented the Valerian language for Game of Thrones. He told us of how he had first met Leigh at a Sci-Fi convention, and of how Leigh was possibly the only writer out there with words in Game of Thrones named after her. (Bardugon in valerian means writer)

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 David Peterson, who wrote the language for Game of Thrones, introduces Leigh Bardugo

Leigh was shocked and overwhelmed upon hearing this and couldn’t quite contain her happiness. She thanked everyone for being there and began her inspiring talk.

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Leigh Bardugo, overwhelmed with joy by David Peterson’s introduction

She read an entry from her high school diary, in which she had listed down all the superpowers she wanted to have including flying, invisibility, mind reading (which she could switch off and on, of course), immortality (with an apparent escape clause) and the ability to write a book and get it published.

Leigh reading from her diary

 Leigh Bardugo reading from her high school diary

Leigh had wanted to share with us the entry because in her mind, getting published was just as impossible as having powers of flight or immortality. And yet she had managed to get published, which proves that nothing is impossible. Improbable, maybe, but not impossible.

After her inspiring speech, Leigh read an excerpt from Siege and Storm. Like the Sun Summoner in Leigh’s book, fellow author Margaret Stohl magically produced light (with the aid of her cellphone) so Leigh could read the words on the page.

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 Author Margaret Stohl helping Leigh Bardugo out with a little light

A short Q & A followed Leigh’s reading. She answered many of the audience members questions, and was put on the spot when Margaret Stohl turned villain and goaded the crowd into demanding that Leigh Bardugo sing for us. Like the trooper that she is, Leigh agreed and sang us the theme song to Charles in Charge.

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 Author Leigh Bardugo

Loud cheers and claps reverberated when Leigh finished her song. But the event wasn’t over yet. Leigh pulled out raffle tickets from the bowl and gave away some awesome prizes. One lucky person actually went home with 40 Books!

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 Audience listening to Leigh

Finally, Leigh ended the program and invited everyone to get their books signed. The lines were long and the room was crowded. I spotted several authors in attendance, including Jessica Brody, Lissa Price, Sara Wilson Etienne, Kristen Kittscher, and Jennifer Bosworth and a lot more mingling in the lounge. I ended up being one of the last ones to get my book signed, but it was worth the wait. I even got to chat with author Rachel Searles, whose book is coming out soon.

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 With author Leigh Bardugo, thanks to Rachel Searles for taking the picture

Right before I left I bumped into LEGEND author Marie Lu and we had a nice little chat. It was a perfect way to end an already wonderful night.


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This week, the Spotlight was on PAMELA JAYE SMITH & REECE MICHAELSON and their myth-laden middle grade THE JOURNALS OF  PETRA VOLARE SCROLL 1: FROM THE SHADOWS.

If you want to know what PETRA VOLARE is about, check out my book review.

There’s also an informative and fun interview with authors Pamela Jaye Smith & Reece Michaelson.

It’s the end of another Spotlight Week, which means it’s time for another awesome giveaway.


Petra Volare Scroll 1 book



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 box and pick the winner.

I love encouraging people to unleash their imaginative and creative sides, so 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 (or two) with your name on it to my drawing box.

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

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I was a big fan of author Pamela Jaye Smith long before I met her in person. Her books Power of the Dark Side: Creating Great Villains, Dangerous Situations, & Dramatic Conflict, Inner Drives: How to Write and Create Characters Using the Eight Classic Centers of Motivation, and Symbols * Images * Codes: The Secret Language of Meaning in Film, TV, Games, and Visual Media, have all helped me improve my own craft of writing.

I was thrilled when I met Pamela in person during her Screenwriting 411 Workshop at Barnes & Noble.

with pamela jaye smith


Lena and myself with Author Pamela Jaye Smith

There I also met her friend and colleague Kathie Fong Yoneda.  I invited them to be speakers for CBWLA, and to my great joy they accepted and presented two workshops with CBWLA in 2011 and 2012.

CBWLA workshop with pamela jaye smith kathie fong yoneda


CBWLA Workshop with Pamela Jaye Smith and Kathie Fong Yoneda

I have yet to meet author Reece Michaelson in person, but I have no doubt she will be just as wonderful in person as she is in our various email correspondences.

I’ll have the pleasure of finally meeting Reece and hearing both her and Pamela speak at our CBWLA Workshop this coming August 17th, 2013. These two authors will be discussing Potent World-Making: What’s Myth Got to Do With It? And if you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can register for  Pamela and Reece’s workshop by clicking on this link.

Without further delay, I present Pamela Jaye Smith and Reece Michaelson, authors of The Journals of Petra Volare – Scroll I: From the Shadows.




Pamela Jaye Smith author


Reece Michaelson author



1. Tell us three random, unique, or weird facts about yourselves.

RM:     -Taught myself to ride a unicycle at 12.

-Was a writing teacher at a 17th Century Dutch castle in the Netherlands for 2 semesters.

-Lived for a year with the widow of the metallurgist who helped invent the atom

bomb, gained interesting insights into some of the people responsible for one of the most profoundly impactful inventions of our time (she herself was a notable historian who wrote A Peril and A Hope, a scholarly treatment of the subject).


PJS:    -Have driven an Army tank and an offshore oil rig.

            -Walked on the Arctic Ocean [when there was still sea ice up there].

            -Dove for my own sushi in the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.


2. Where did you get the idea to write THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE?

RM: A successful Hollywood writer told me in an interview that she felt if people didn’t like where their life was, they should change their archetype. When I researched what an archetype was, none of the female ones felt applicable to me, they were somehow very restrictive. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I always had to “translate” my reading experiences of adventures. So I decided to create a new archetype. When I mentioned it to Pamela Jaye, her positive response told me I might be on a worthwhile track. At the time, I was living in the desert, with a relentless, searing sun…and within a month, I heard in my head “Icarus’s Sister” and then Petra’s final lines of Scroll I:  “I was born to fly, and I am not afraid of the sun…Time To Fly…”


PJS: I’ve always liked the things that Reece writes and have worked with her as a consultant on a couple of her projects. So when she said she wanted to create a new archetype for young girls I was immediately on board. From my own studies in comparative mythology I have worked with archetypes in story consulting and in personal myth and image consulting. Having also taught actors how to use the archetypes in their performances and how to align with them in their real lives, I have seen the results of this transformation first hand. So Reece and I were on the same enthusiastic track about using myth to address modern situations.


3. What sets THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE apart from other middle grade fiction books? What did you hope to accomplish by writing Petra’s story?

RM: Firstly, Petra is specifically designed to be a new archetype for girls (and women!), a kid who deliberately and courageously steps out from the shadows, in the way we see women today stepping forward to claim their most creative destinies. The hope is to assist that momentum. As such, we expect our readers will be smart, inquisitive, inventive people who enjoy being challenged, so we’ve maintained a level of complexity that requires a bit of stretching. One of our reviewers, a middle grade teacher from Virginia, spoke to this aspect:  “I have read hundreds of young adult novels over the years and this one is so different from any that I have read.…There are many books out there for young adults that don’t give the reader any credit to do some problem solving and make choices. This journey that Petra goes on allows the reader to be by her side the whole time. At times, I even felt the frustration she was going through and became impatient for her to resolve issues.”  

Another difference is that this is an inventor’s sketchbook as well as a journal, so just as her historical male counterparts (e.g., Leonardo da Vinci) allowed us a window into their thought processes, Petra lets us participate in hers. Women and girls have been inventing tremendously valuable things since the beginning of time, but we don’t tend to hear much about it or see their processes. This is our way of inciting the girls of the 21st Century to grab that torch and run—or fly—toward their most amazing, contributive selves.


PJS: The American education system is a wasteland, with a few oases here and there. I serve on a couple of think tanks [Boeing Workforce Development, Birth to Work, and the Entertainment Industries Council] that are dedicated to bringing science, technology, engineering and math to more young people. The STEM programs are working all across the country to address the need for kids of every age to learn critical thinking skills, to engage their curiosity, to encourage the scientific method, and to inspire them to careers in science. Reece’s ideas for who Petra Volare is and what she does fit perfectly with the goals of STEM.

By creating a fictional character who actually does use her curiosity, her inventiveness and her adventurousness to solve important problems and actually save lives, I hope we inspire more young girls, and boys, to be daring, to think for themselves, and to be visionary.


4. In THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE SCROLL 1: FROM THE SHADOWS, you focus on the mythological story of Icarus and Daedalus. Why did you choose this particular mythology for Petra’s story?

RM: It chose us! Myths operate at a level that intellect can only retroactively explain. That’s why they’re so powerful! But this myth—if you read it carefully and follow the breadcrumbs (like Ariadne’s Thread!)—is actually a remarkably contemporary personal story, a story of quirky family dynamics and choices, flawed people, dreams and ambitions, and (as in the case of Pasiphae, for example) unjust besmirchment of one’s character in the press. The stuff of 21st Century life, and therefore very relatable.


PJS: I think Reece says that well. When I was first exposed to the Iliad and the Odyssey in the 4th grade I thought it was just like what went on in my small Texas town: rigged beauty contests, unfaithful spouses, unruly children, pouting athletes, and a few brave acts. Besides the sociological significance Reece mentions, the whole Minotaur myth is also quite symbolic and mystical. The half-man half-bull Minotaur is symbolic of the constellation Taurus the bull. The warrior hero Theseus is symbolic of the constellation Aries. Theseus slaying the Minotaur symbolizes the precession of the equinoxes as we moved from the zodiacal sign of Taurus into that of Aries. So, too, we crafted Petra Volare to be an agent-of-change in that time and place. There are so many story threads in the complex fabric of Minoan Crete that it seemed a perfect setting from which to reach forward and backward in time.


5. What are some of your other favorite mythological stories?

RM: So many of them seem to be about women who either punish unfairly or come to a bad end after being uppity, I think we need some new ones. (Take note, Petra Volare readers!) But if pressed, I’d say the myth about Tiresias, the Theban seer who got blinded but was then given the gift of second sight, was turned into a woman for 7 years then got turned back to a man, was given 7 lifetimes, and after he died, he became a consultant to Odysseus. Sounds like a shaman/shamaness who ended up having some terrific insights after all that! Ovid’s description of the Phoenix is also very cool.


PJS: My favourite myth is about the Teutonic warrior goddess Brunhilde, one of the Valkyries who rides her horse above the battlefield and picks up the dying warriors to carry them off to Valhalla, where they eat, drink, and tell war stories for eternity. The daughter of king god Wodin, she disobeys his orders to throw a battle in one direction because she knows his heart desires a different outcome. It is an example of being brave enough to do what you know is right, even in the face of power. She of course gets punished, but negotiates a version of punishment that reflects her self-determination, valour and integrity. It’s good myth for women of our time, and has lots of high passion and drama, so it’s fun as well.


6. If you could spend one day with any of the characters in your story, who would you pick? Why?

RM: Phoenicia, hands down – her knowledge is so broad and unabashedly profound as well as extremely practical, I’d love to follow her around and take notes. Also, since she transcends time via lucid dreaming, I’d ask her to teach me the basics of that and help me find out which myths and legends would be best for Petra to encounter for future Scrolls in the series!


PJS: I’d choose Petros the sailor. I like that he is strong and smart, yet soft-spoken. He makes time in his busy days to teach Petra about the sea, sea creatures, winds, and currents. He has a dog Gerlach who he seems to honour quite as much as some of the humans in the story. Petros is wise, perceptive, and kind. I think one would learn an awfully lot of interesting and valuable information spending a day with him. And you know it would be fun.


7. Written in first person, the story of PETRA VOLARE is told in the form of journal entries. How did you go about writing the story? Did you divide chapters or sections of the book, or did you have a different writing process?

RM: Prior to writing, we gathered images and phrases that we associated with the myth, then, with our visionary friend Laura (Petra’s goddessmother) and a potential artist for the book, we had a creative brainstorming session on the sands of Laguna Beach—a mythical-feeling place!  Pamela poured forth an abundance of spot-on story ideas and imagery, and by the end of the meeting we had this 2’x3’ paper with all the ideas, phrases, snippets, and images needed to dive in. I wrote the first draft in about 5 weeks. Very intuitive, no planning, just a lot of listening. My Buddhist practice deeply influenced this part of the work, so the material came out of my life rather than out of my head or a plan/outline. I’d hear entries or “see” them—not necessarily in sequential order— and I wrote like crazy to catch what was unfolding almost literally in front of me. Better than TV!  Brenda Ueland’s book If You Want to Write was helpful for capturing the material and staying true to Petra’s voice. After the first draft, Pamela Jaye (and subsequently also some fantastic readers) asked superb questions that allowed Petra’s replies to zip completely around my predilection for analyzing things to death. It consistently felt as though this story was telling itself and my job was to capture the words and move from the ether to the page.


PJS: I totally enjoyed the brainstorming sessions we had, especially when they were on the beach. We certainly had a number of touch points in incidences and characters as well as what we wanted Petra Volare to learn from each. Reece did an amazing impressive job writing a very rich first draft. It did not need much structure shifting and just some adjustments here and there to keep the plot flowing and the voice consistent. 


8. THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE SCROLL 1: FROM THE SHADOWS is the first in a seven book series. Have you plotted out the other books or the entire series? When is the next book coming out?

RM: So glad you noticed that it’s a series, and thank you for mentioning it! We’ve been busy getting Scroll I into the world, so future books have had to take a back seat for the moment. That said, there are titles for all but the 7th (final) Scroll, and we have been collecting snippets of ideas and amassing tons of research. This summer we’ll be sketching things out; we’ve had some contest winners on our website and at book signings who will be naming characters in future books, which is sure to take us in some interesting and exciting directions. We’ll have to get back to you on when the next Scroll is coming out, although of course we’re thrilled that many of our readers have asked the same question!


PJS: I’m so looking forward to pulling those visions for the next books down into more a solid sense of story. We have an abundance of ideas, concepts, locales, and characters so the real challenge will be how to select the best ones for each Scroll [book]. And how fun it will be to dig deeper into more myths and explore the stories behind them. 


9. What are some of the perks and difficulties of having someone co-author a book with you?

RM: When the Someone who is co-authoring is Pamela Jaye, it’s mostly just perks: exponentially increased creativity, insights that lead to outside-the-box approaches, depth of understanding about myths and potential possibilities and realities, wind beneath the wings, and honestly, SO much fun. Really, the only difficulty:  it’s way too much fun and we have to stop with the ideas at some point so the book gets written!


PJS: Thank you, Reece. My pleasure. I have written with other people for many years, but mostly on screenplays. This was only the second time I was a co-author on a fiction book. The perks were similar to those for scripts: someone to bounce ideas off of, another mind to fill in blanks, a different perspective on scenes and characters, and a check on the tendency to over-write initial drafts. The difficulty is that a fiction book really needs to have a core narrator with a strong identifiable voice. It was not a problem working with Reece because it was always the plan for her to write the actual words of the story. But I can see that if the relationship were different there might be conflicts over who writes what, what stays in, who decides, etc. Happily, it is an easy pleasure to collaborate with Reece.


10. Tell us about your individual paths to publication. What is the coolest thing about being a published author?

RM: This first book in the Petra Volare series was self-published, because friends were clamoring to see it in print, and there’s no longer the major stigma surrounding self- publishing. In fact it’s a great way to build an audience, especially if you take the time and energy to create a strong presence on the web (e.g., we have and a Facebook page as well, which has led to both a global audience and resultant sales). And that leads to the coolest thing: being able to meet and talk with people – especially young people – who share a love of storytelling and reading. It’s the realization of a dream I’ve had since I was 6 years old and realized what “reading” was.


PJS: There are a couple of cool things to me. Seeing your ideas become a reality you can hold in your hands. Being able to hand your book to others as a means of passing on your vision. Hearing that others appreciate your story and the characters. Knowing we are helping young people see the possibilities open to them.


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

RM: When I’m in research mode, I visit used bookstores and see what jumps out at me, and spend hours on etymological treasure hunts on the internet when I should be sleeping. I’ll also leaf through Pamela Jaye’s books to get my creative thinking going because I always find some nugget, some aspect of applied myth that opens new doors. When it’s time to write, I do my Buddhist chanting an extra hour or two to bring forth my best creative courage and ability to listen, then dive into the writing until I don’t ‘hear’ anymore for that day. Don’t know that this is quirky, but when stuck, I visit distant lands via YouTube or I go out for a walk and pay attention to what catches my eye/ear.


PJS: Don’t we all wish that we had all the time in the world just to work on our stories? But most of us have other obligations of work, family, etc. When there is time to write my own fiction it is like stepping out of the busy marketplace and into a calming paradise. Ideally on those writing days I work from 7-ish until about 2pm and then check emails and see what else is going on that I need to take care of. Depending on what’s happening, I go back to writing and do not check in on the outside world again until after 6pm. Incense, candles, and a sense of quiet really help me focus. And I like to play music that reflects the type of story. Once when writing some combat sequences I played Marine marching chants. Another time I used toy spaceships to choreograph a battle [Yep, I have toy space ships. That comes with being a Trekkie and a fan-girl-quasi-geek, doesn’t it?]

My favourite writing situation – which I would love to be able to repeat again and again – is to spend months at a time doing nothing but working on a particular novel or short story every day. In one two month period I wrote a fairly rich first draft of a 400 page novel. Now…to edit it…. Would that we all had regular writers’ retreats, but then I look at how many great stories were written by people working at banks, selling insurance, raising a large family – and am reminded that once the writing bug has bitten you, there seems to be no cure but to write, write, write.


12.  What do you like to do when you’re not writing?  Any hobbies, sports, or crafts you like to spend time on?

RM: Oh, here’s where the quirky thing kicks in. Doing research is my main hobby/sport/craft—that’s where any non-dayjob time goes. I READ about hobbies, sports and crafts, and talk with people about their pursuits and passions. I’m fortunate to know a lot of fascinating people, so simply listening to them is a fun activity in itself! And I either do yard work or go for beach walks to integrate it all. I’ve never understood the need for being well-rounded; hyper focus really works for me. I’m a bit like Petra that way!


PJS: When not writing I am usually reading, keeping up with the media industry (since I’m a story and script consultant and speaker) and visiting with friends at dinner parties or soirees. I also enjoy walking or driving around the narrow winding streets of the Hollywood Hills right behind my apartment. World travel also appeals to me and my passport is always ready.


13.  Are you currently working on any other projects?

RM: Always, although PV trumps. I’m developing a book series with a friend who is an amateur horologist (timekeeping) and am seeking a publisher for a non-fiction book co-written with the former CEO of Volvo, entitled “Your Success GPS,” a how-to about getting great mentors who can help accelerate your career.


PJS: I’ve seen some of the preliminary work on Reece’s “Your Success GPS” and I look forward to it being done as I know it will be very valuable. Currently I am co-writing a book for media-makers with a long-time colleague and friend, Monty Hayes McMillan. Our book is “Show me the Love!” and is about the many different kinds of love you can have in your stories: family, friends, romantic, pets, country, adventure, learning, and many more. It is great fun to do and the research is so interesting as we are including the anthropological and psychological backgrounds for each different category of “love”. I’m also working on getting some of my short stories ready to e-publish, and finishing part four of a five-part novel, “Kurultai”, about a group of people who reincarnate together over the centuries and millennia. That’s really fun as it gives me such a variety of worlds to explore.


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

RM: If you’re considering self-publishing, it’s worth investing both money and time in obtaining superb front cover art and ensuring that the back of the book looks equally inviting and professional. Thanks to our tremendously talented artist Gail Jorden, we’ve had tremendous positive feedback about this aspect of Petra Volare, even to the point where people find the cover art so gorgeous and intriguing that they’re excited to get a copy for that alone. First impressions really do matter:  the book is carried by a number of independent bookstores based on the owners’ first impression— loving the “look and feel” of the book.


PJS: I totally agree with Reece about the covers. Too often it is too obvious that a book is self-published, but a professionally designed cover can make all the difference in how your book is perceived out in the marketplace.

Besides that – edit, edit, edit. Content edit, copy edit, and then copy edit again. Too many books these days have typos, misused words, incorrect grammar, homonyms, and other distracting mistakes. Too many errors can ruin the reading experience and call into question the professionalism of the writer as well as the value of the material itself.


RM: I’d second that! Pamela Jaye is, as always, spot-on – and I’d add that it’s useful to edit your work with different questions in mind each time, so you have different eyes; and if you can afford it, have a professional editor go through it, then check it yourself before it goes out. [We had a prototype of the book made, which is not inexpensive, but it allowed us the chance to edit one last time before lots of copies got made. It was a very valuable investment, though, because there was something none of us caught.]


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

RM: I learned a lot from Petra Volare about what it is to believe in yourself and your talents without being arrogant about it, even if your dreams are huge. Her motivation, almost always, is to use her creativity to contribute to the people in her world, and to be mindful of the long-term consequences of inventions. And she doesn’t back away from hard work, even if it requires more patience than she wants to have. Good lessons for anyone, but especially useful if you are someone who wants to accomplish the best version of your own aspirations. Also be sure to express appreciation to those who help you along the way–it’s not only good manners, it creates positive bridges and good fortune, both of which are critical to success.
PJS: Learn to look for the mysteries behind everything. And to see and seek out the science of everything. Read and watch shows about how stuff is made. Get out into nature and explore: the beach, hills, forests, desert, the city, small towns…where ever you live, find something new to investigate every day. Write about what you found, make drawings or photos, pass on your insights to others. Make your own mind your strongest and best computer. Make your own imagination your richest entertainment device. Stay curious, stay inventive, stay adventurous!


RM & PJS: Thank you so much, Nutschell, for inviting us to interview for your fabulous blog and allowing us to meet your readers. We wish you and all your readers great success in all your creative endeavors!!


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This month’s Spotlight Week features THE JOURNALS OF PETRA VOLARE SCROLL 1: FROM THE SHADOWS by Authors Pamela Jaye Smith & Reece Michaleson.


Petra Volare Scroll 1 book


The Journals of Petra Volare – Scroll I: From the Shadows

117 pages, Kindle

Genre: MG Ages 9 and up

Published on January 31, 2013 by Reece Michaelson


Hardcover copies available via 



A new Inventor Girl heroine is born!
From the Sisters of Perpetual Evolution:
Most people know about Icarus because he flew too close to the sun with the wings his father, Labyrinth inventor Daedalus, created for an escape from the Greek island Crete, in the days when it was inhabited by the Minoans. There was quite a story behind that tragedy, full of twists and turns.
We think there is much to the myth that is relevant to the 21st Century, with its chaotic family dynamics, questionable behavior, and misguided inventiveness. 
But we are of the opinion that there is an even more interesting view of the events which has never before come to light and which now demands telling, and we believe that Petra Volare, whose journal we have fortuitously stumbled upon, is the perfect person to do that telling…

But just who is Petra Volare, and what IS in that journal?

On ancient Minoan Crete, 11 year old Calice, whose existence has been kept secret from her famous inventor father, decides she has learned all she can by watching her father and artist brother from the shadows of the Grand Palace where she lives. 
A budding inventor herself, she renames herself Petra Volare, and ventures forth, recording her observations and invention sketches, her vivid past-life dreams, and her thoughts about the mysterious Cave of the First Ones, where she discovers her true destiny.
Through her journal we follow Petra Volare as she meets people who have clearly been waiting to help her— Phoenicia the herbalist, who is much more than just an old wise woman and who teaches her about the power of dreams and dream tea; Arkalochori, much more than a master sword-maker; Ariadne, not only the ruler’s daughter, but an ally who leads Petra to a life-changing discovery ; and Petros, a sailor who teaches her the Star Stories that will guide her to her greater destiny.
Petra’s thoughts and sketches reveal that, in the true story behind ancient Greek myths of the Labyrinth, no one is who they seem, and in the race to save the lives of her beloved brother and her best friend, an inventor’s best tool is her intuition.

In her own words:

Someone has given me papyrus and the tools to write, so I will record my thoughts, even though common wisdom is that nothing a Palace worker girl who has only seen eleven seasons of the Bull might think about is worth knowing.
Common wisdom could not know that I am born of Naucrate, worker of the palace of Minos, but also of Daedalus, Minos’s personal inventor, and so my stories of straddling two worlds might be worth knowing. Clearly someone has decided it to be so…Mother will not be pleased…


My Review

I’ve always loved Pamela Jaye Smith’s books on writing so when she informed me that she had co-authored a fiction book with Reece Michaelson, I was more than happy to ask for a review copy so I could read their book. I was especially intrigued to find out how these authors would make old greek myths interesting to young children, and how they would retell the story of the Greek inventor Daedalus and his son Icarus, who flew too close to the sun.

I was also curious as to what role a young girl named Petra Volare would play in their story. As I read the story, I discovered that Petra Volare was itself an invention—a name created by a young girl named Calice. Calice is a budding inventor who has decided to rename herself for reasons that become clear as the story progresses. Her relationship with Daedalus and Icarus was a big surprise and I was easily fascinated by the way Calice aka Petra Volare viewed the world and went about her business.

Calice is an intriguing main character. Like most Middle Grade heroines, Calice is brave and willingly takes a risk for the people she cares about. Mature for her age and intelligent beyond her years, she perceives things from the most interesting angles. Although geared toward the middle grade audience, younger children might find it a bit challenging to follow the story as it is told solely from Calice’s first person point of view. She’s an intelligent girl, so her words often sound very adult and since she’s telling the story from her own point of view, she’ll often add her own thoughts and feelings about the situation—which might complicate the reading for younger kids.

If this book were read by parent and child, however, I think both would find the family story and Petra’s adventures exciting. Both adults and kids alike will learn so much about the fascinating world of Greek mythology in the process. They will also enjoy the mystical fantasy elements the authors have sprinkled throughout the novel.  

Petra Volare is more than a retelling of the Greek mythology of Daedalus and Icarus. It is the story about what makes a family, and of a young girl with an inventive, and creative mind who will go to great lengths to discover who she is, and who her family truly is.



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Last May 25th, 2013 CBWLA was fortunate to have one of its own, Author Samantha Combs, as its workshop presenter.

samantha combs


YA Author Samantha Combs


I am a Southern California author with six published books; the Global Ebook Award-winning debut title: SPELLBOUND, EVERSPELL, and GHOSTLY, all YA paranormals. My Middle Grade horror, THE DETENTION DEMON is out, along with two adult horror collections, TEETH AND TALONS and WAY PAST MIDNIGHT.  WATERDANCER, a new YA fantasy, comes out in Sept. I enjoy writing YA paranormal romance and supernatural fantasy, but I also dabble in the horror and sci-fi genres as well, and writing for the Middle Grade audience.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children, and my guilty pleasures include reality television, the Food Network channel and shoes. I truly believe I can accomplish anything if I have the right pair of shoes.

I love writing and I am in awe of the technological advances of our lives. Ereaders and similar gadgets are bringing the written word to a generation that might never have discovered books otherwise and every time I see a kid pick one up to read something it fills me with joy to be a small part of that process. If a child can connect with literature because he or she did so electronically, a connection still was made. I am excited to see what our world has in store for literature and excited to be along for that ride. 

samantha combs audience

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

Samantha’s talked focused on three things which every writer has to write at some point: Queries, Loglines and Blurbs.


She began her workshop by defining what a query was and giving us various techniques that writers can use to formulate their own query, along with very helpful examples to illustrate each technique.

She also shared with us her own tried and tested formula for writing a query, which involves answering the following questions:

1. Who is the protagonist and what is their goal? (Motivation.)

2. What is keeping the protag from achieving that goal? (Conflict.)

3. How will the protagonist overcome this problem? (Plot.)

4. What happens if the protagonist fails/what choice does the protagonist have to make? (Stakes, and why the reader should care.)

samantha combs YA Author1


Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

Samantha broke down the three paragraphs that are essential in a query (the hook, the mini-synopsis and the writer’s bio) and explained what important details to include in each one.

She also gave us a helpful list of the Do’s and Don’ts  of a Query:

-Skip rhetorical questions. No “what ifs?”

-Don’t name too many characters

-Don’t describe your book as a theme (about peace and love)

-Don’t clutter the query. You don’t want to tell the whole story….leave ‘em wanting more

-Spell check, proof, revise and edit. This will be more important than the actual book

-Don’t mention other manuscripts.

-Don’t grovel, beg or plead

-Do research the agent and mention something proving you researched them; Did you meet?

-Do address the query to a specific agent and spell their name correctly. Also get their gender correct

-Do state the title of your book

-Do mention word count and genre of book

-Do advise why you are approaching this particular agent

-Do be professional and respectful

-Do have many, many people read the query before you send it

CBWLA workshop with samantha combs3

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines


When dealing with blurbs, Samantha encouraged us to think of the dust jacket of our favorite book, or the description line for a lifetime movie. From these examples, we can gather that a blurb is designed to entice, tease and ultimately make the audience buy the story.

According to Samantha, a Blurb is used for the following things:

Book cover

Press releases



Publisher’s site

3rd party seller sites: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance, etc.

She gave us examples of blurbs taken from her own books in the Spellbound Series.

samantha combs YA Author2


Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines


When writing a book blurb, she gave us the following reminders:

* A good blurb will only introduce one character in an intimate way.

•Introduce others via the experience of the main protag – always keep focus on MC

•This way, the reader develops a bond and learns to root for your MC. Make the reader care what happens to them.

•Focus on one specific conflict, not theme.

•If your theme is strong, it will shine anyway

* Appeal to universal human emotions, even with less than human protags

•Don’t be flashy; be concise and write with restraint. This impresses publishers

•Subplots need not apply.

•Never give away the ending; coyly suggest with precise, gripping language

•Pick exact verbs instead of spineless ones like “seem” or “being” or “may”


CBWLA workshop with samantha combs2

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines



After condensing 300 our manuscript pages to 3-4 paragraphs, we now have to whittle them down further into two sentences which comprise the logline.

The logline is sometimes called a pitch or a tagline.

Samantha gave us examples of loglines based on popular movies, asking us to guess which movies each described.

Afterward, she gave us another helpful formula for creating loglines:

  1. Give the main character an epithet: vengeful divorcee, bitter amputee, struggling aspiring author
  2. Identify the MC’s main mission and what he stands to lose if he fails
  3. Brainstorm words and phrases that conjur up images of your book
  4. Pick 25-30 that sound the most compelling
  5. Now pick 5-8 that sound even MORE compelling
  6. Now use them to fashion a tight, 25 word pitch

 CBWLA workshop with samantha combs1

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

Samantha wrapped up her workshop by saying that there is no right or wrong way to really write queries, loglines and blurbs. But however we write them, we should put the same passion into our few sentences that we put in our 300+ manuscript pages. Most importantly, we should edit, edit, and edit.

 She ended with these words of wisdom regarding the stories we write: “If you believe in them, someone else will too.”

samantha signing books


Samantha Combs signing books after the workshop

Samantha was a wonderful speaker. She spoke in a fun, engaging manner, sprinkling funny comments and jokes throughout the workshop to keep us all entertained. Her explanations were easy to follow, and the examples she gave were very helpful in understanding the material.

Her workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines was a definite hit, and many of our members left with valuable information, and heaps of inspiration to use in their own writing.



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