Archive for July, 2013



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 Sandra Harris, author of the Sci-Fi Romance ALIEN, MINE.

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Torn from modern day Earth and stranded on the far side of the Galaxy, Sandrea Fairbairn must use every particle of courage she possesses to adjust to her new life and live for tomorrow/a new day.

Eugen Mhartak, a general in the Tri-Race Alliance Army, refuses to bow to the merciless Bluthen. Haunted by the loss of far too many innocent lives he has vowed to drive the ruthless invaders from Alliance space.

The strength and valour of Eugen Mhartak attracts Sandrea as no man ever has, but she struggles to read the enigmatic general’s heart. Determined to help him triumph over the Bluthen she uncovers a diabolical plot against the Alliance.

Drawn by the courage and exotic beauty of Sandrea, Mhartak battles to overcome the barriers of cross-cultural differences that separate them and claim her ardent interest. He must conquer his deepest fears to be the man she needs. When his principles are betrayed by his own government and he is faced with the impossible prospect of taking Sandrea’s life in order to save his home planet, Mhartak desperately searches for a way to keep safe both his world and the magnificent woman who has stolen his heart.

Buy Links

SoulMate Publishing        Amazon      Amazon UK

Welcome Sandra!


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?

AuthorSandra1 modifiedAuthor Sandra Harris

Thank you for hosting me. J I have been bookkeeper, PA and document designer in my working life and for the last couple of years I’ve been able to focus solely on becoming a published writer. I love to write science fiction romance, have always been mad keen on sci-fi and often lamented the fact that romance in a ripping science fiction adventure was scarce as hens’ teeth. The first sci-fi book I discovered that included romance was Anne McCaffrey’s Restoree. Today it is still one of my favourite books.

I have a deep and abiding interest in astronomy. My husband receives email alerts from NASA when the International Space Station is tracking by. Armed with binoculars and with half the kids in the neighbourhood we watch the ISS when its orbit takes it overhead our little piece of paradise. I also like to garden and go boating.

I like to think I have a talent in choosing presents for people (of course others might argue this). :)


On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I write at my desk where my computer is or I take iPad and bluetooth keyboard out into our garden.

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

My husband bought my desk from Harvey Norman for my birthday one year. Lately, with all that has been going on in my life, it’s become something of a disaster area, (as you can see from the picture) though no hazmat suits required. Yet.

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Sandra’s Writing Desk


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

I have just about all I need on my computer—wordprocessor, web browser for research and iTunes for when music is required. The other ‘must have’ usually lies snoring behind my chair. She would be our 10yo Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

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Sandra’s Charles Spaniel

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

My 27” iMac.


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

Coffeeeeee. I have a rather swish coffee maker (another present from my husband—maybe he’s the one with the gift giving talent!) and ice cold water.

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Sandra’s Favorite Picture


On Writing

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

I have a number of favourite authors. Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams (especially his Dirk Gently series), Annie West, Anne McCaffrey. Writing was something a friend suggested we both have a crack at, quite a number of years ago now. I started, life interfered, yet once begun, no matter how little time I had to devote to writing, I could not stop. I will admit to giving up a few dozen times, I believe my longest period was for about half an hour. :)


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

Just the coffee . . . and (I believe this can be attributed to quite a number of writers) during winter I often stay in my PJs until late morning, slaving over a hot keyboard. I haven’t received any complaints yet, so I guess nobody minds. :)


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

My writing style is a bit like stepping-stones across a pond. I’ll have an idea, write madly until I get those scenes down then I stop, do some research for the next section, have a good think about it, tie some themes together then crack on again. This process can be repeated five or six times. It’s what works for me. I’ve tried the ‘must do’ word count and writing times, but it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I am quite a methodical person (despite the evidence of my desk) and I enjoy all aspects of the writing cycle, distraction isn’t usually a problem for me. I do take time out for walking my dog and getting the odd bit of washing done when it piles up too high to climb over. I’m afraid I don’t ‘get’ FB or Twitter, so spending time there isn’t in the running.

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Sandra’s Garden

4. Why do you write?

A good question, the answer to which I can’t quite put my finger upon. Must be something in the blood. I do get great enjoyment from writing, so maybe it feeds part of the soul.


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

Find your writing style and stick with it. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as it’s productive. Award winning Australian Romantic Suspense author Helene Young often quotes Douglas Bader (and I’m misquoting him here) ‘Rules are for fools and the guidance of the wise.’ Yes there are writing rules, but they’re not set in concrete. Learn the rules and learn how to bend, and when to break, them.

And don’t give up on yourself.




Sandra Harris on the web:

Website    Facebook   Twitter   Author Page

Born in the far north of Australia, yearly cyclones, floods and being cut off from civilization for weeks at a time were the norm. An outrageous imagination helped occupy Sandra’s mind.

An abiding interest in astronomy and a deep-seated need to always see the good guys win naturally influences her writing. Not satisfied with the amount of romance in science fiction novels she set out to redress the balance.

She currently lives in sunny South East Queensland, Australia, with her husband and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who doesn’t seem to realize she comes from royalty and should act in a more appropriate manner.


Thanks  for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Sandra!

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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Today, I’m pleased to Helen Lacey, author of the romance novel DATE WITH DESTINY.

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Date With Destiny

Financier Grace Preston did fourteen-hour days in New York City. She didn’t do small towns in Australia. Not since she’d fled almost twenty years ago. But when a personal trauma sent her home-with a secret she couldn’t reveal-the last person she needed was her first love.

Local cop Cameron Jakowski had loved Grace for most of his life. But he wanted marriage and family and she didn’t. He was small town, while she was big city-and lived half a world away. But for now she was right here-a walking, talking temptation. One he managed to avoid…until he made one mistake. He kissed her. And reawakened the passion that could change their lives…forever.

Read Reviews

Buy Links

Mills & Boon UK

Harlequin US


Amazon UK


Powell’s Books




 Helen’s here today to talk about the importance of a having a good critique partner.

Take it away, Helen!


The Importance of a Good Critique Partner

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I wasn’t very good at taking critique. Now, some years and tears later, things are very different. I love sending work out to my crit partner/s, agent, editor etc.

But lets step back a minute – the old me used to shudder at the prospect of discovering what someone else ‘thought’ of my work. Why? Because I couldn’t bear to be criticized. Hmmm. So there lay my problem with critique. I took it to heart. I felt as though I was being criticized. Now, I had a day job and took advice/critique there, I had equestrian training for years and took advice/critique there too. I even took advice/critique from my mother about my ….er… housekeeping.  But the writing…that was personal. Because they were my words, my creativity, my deepest thoughts coming onto the paper. They were me.

When I started sharing things with my writing group many years ago, all I wanted was to be told it was awesome, the best thing ever, ready to be sent out to publishers ASAP. When that didn’t happen I’d sneak back into my turtle shell and suffer in silence.

For those who don’t know, it took 23 yrs from the time of my first submission to Harlequin and close to the same amount of rejections before I sold my first book in 2010. But by the time that happened I had a much tougher outer shell. What happened? A couple of things…I started entering contests and got two critique partners. The contest thing was a great way to build resilience to rejection. It wasn’t a walk in the park though….in the beginning I’d have chewed fingernails waiting for the finalists. No final, then more inner suffering. If I finalled, Yay! When I didn’t….oh well….big sigh and enter something else. I think the anonymity of entering contests helped my critiquing/rejection fears. I didn’t know the other person on the end of the critique/scores, so the reaction was less personal. But my critique partners really helped break the cycle of taking feedback, since I worked with other authors who were at the same place I was. We were peers and then became friends. Trust built and from there it was about honest, helpful feedback that was about getting my stories in the best shape possible. We don’t always agree, and that’s okay. But I never take the critiques personally now. It’s about the work.

So, if you fear feedback or critique, one way to help is to find someone to work with who you trust, keeping in mind that this kind of relationship takes time. Don’t feel overwhelmed if the first critique is not what you expected. And always make it clear what you’d like from the critique and ALWAYS keep that in mind when critiquing someone else’s work. If they’ve asked for you help looking at something like pacing, or character motivation, don’t do a line edit. And if it’s not working, be honest and say so….you may find it’s not working for them too and you just need to re-establish what you both want and need. Having a crit partner can be a richly rewarding relationship, even if it’s only ever on-line.

Do you have a critique partner? Is it something that works for you? I have a copy of my August Harlequin Special Edition release, Date With Destiny to give away to one commenter.



About Helen
Helen Lacey grew up reading Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on The Prairie. These childhood classics inspired her to write her first book when she was seven years old, a story about a girl and her horse. Although, it wasn’t until the age of eleven when she read her first Mills & Boon, that she knew writing romances was what she wanted to do with her life. Her parents’ love of travel meant she saw much of the world in those early years and she feels fortunate to have had a diverse and interesting education over several continents.

She continued to write into her teens and twenties with the dream of one day being a published author. A few years and careers later, including motel operator, florist, strapper, dog washer, and retail manager, she got the call from Harlequin Special Edition. She loves writing about tortured heroes, both cowboys and CEO’s, and heroines who finally get the love of the man of their dreams. She now works part time in her sister’s bridal shop, where she gets to meet fascinating people, some of whom might one day end up being in one of her books.

From Welsh parents and a large family, she lives on the east coast of Australia in a small seaside town at the southern most point of The Great Barrier Reef, with her wonderfully supportive husband, many horses and three spoiled dogs.

 Connect with Helen:

Website    Blog      Facebook    Twitter     Goodreads 



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Last Saturday, July 20th, 2013, CBW-LA had the pleasure of having YA Author Carmen Rodrigues as its workshop facilitator.

Carmen studied creative writing and theater at Florida State University and got her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is the author of Contemporary Young Adult novels NOT ANYTHING and 34 PIECES OF YOU, and is currently working on her next novel CARRY YOU WITH ME, due in the Fall of 2014.

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YA Author and CBWLA Speaker Carmen Rodrigues

Carmen wanted the workshop to be more of a conversation and less of a lecture, so she asked each participant to introduce themselves and share a little bit about the kind of writing they’re working on.

With the ice broken, Carmen then proceeded to the presentation portion of the workshop.

In his book ON WRITING, Stephen King describes watching his uncle drag this big toolbox full of tools to repair a window. His uncle took out one screwdriver from among his many tools and proceeded to do his work. Once he was done, he replaced his screwdriver and hauled the big toolbox back to the shed. Stephen then asked his uncle why he needed to bring such a big toolbox when he just need one tool. His uncle replied that he brought his whole toolbox with him because he wanted to make sure he had everything he needed on hand, in case he found something else that needed fixing along the way.

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YA Author  Carmen Rodrigues at her CBWLA Workshop

Taking her cue from Stephen King, Carmen introduced to us the concept of The Writer’s Toolbox. As writers, we all have our own toolbox. When we start off, our toolboxes are empty, but as we learn more and develop our skills, it becomes filled with our tools.

Along with some of her favorite quotes on writing, Carmen shared the tools that make up her own Writer’s Toolbox:

  1. Your Readers – Find five readers and apply the rule of three. If you take workshops with more readers than you have fingers, then apply the rule of five.
  2. The Delete Button – I have written many 65,000 word novels and yet I have never published one.
  3. The Works of Others – When I’m stumped I read– not for enjoyment but to steal from someone else’s genius.
  4. Workshops – Writing happens alone. Revision happens with readers. Where better to find them than at a workshop?
  5. A Coat of Armor – Writers need to be criticized. They need to be rejected. It’s in this criticism and rejection that you will push forward towards some of your best writing.

And just to inspire us even more, Carmen read from her own book 34 PIECES OF YOU. She also encouraged us to ask her questions that we might have, not just about the writer’s toolbox, but about revision as well. Her answers to all our questions were full of wonderful tips, insights and gems of wisdom.

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YA Author  Carmen Rodrigues with her CBWLA Revision Workshop Class

Once we were done peppering her with questions, Carmen steered us toward the workshop portion of the day. She gave us several writing prompts, actual creative writing exercises that we could use in our own revision process. She asked us to pick one exercise from the list she had given, and gave us 15 minutes to apply it to our own manuscripts.

Time flew, and soon some participants were sharing what exercise they had chosen and how they had applied it to their own works.

To end her presentation, Carmen gave us a list of books that we should read in order to know how elements of writing such as proper exposition, point of view and narrative voice are done correctly.

As she signed copies of her book, Carmen even made it a point to spend a few minutes with us so we could ask her anything we wanted about writing.

Carmen was a wonderful and inspiring speaker, and we were certainly lucky to have her facilitate our workshop.

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YA Author  Carmen Rodrigues with the  CBWLA Officers (Photo by Kate Conrad)

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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 Kimberlee Turley, author of that fun blog Groundwire.

Welcome Kimberlee!


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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 Kimberlee Turley


For my full-time job, I own and manage Kiwi Loco, a self-serve frozen yogurt store similar to Pinkberry, Red Mango, or Menchies.

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 Kiwi Loco


As a part-time hobby, I sew custom costumes for anime conventions and Halloween. I’ve sewed crazy things like a frozen yogurt costume to a cat “Toothless” costume from How to Train You Dragon.  My hidden talent is that I can do over ten backhand springs in a row and I have jumped off of a 10 meter diving platform.





In regards to writing, I enjoy writing/reading YA speculative fiction novels with sassy female characters and a slow-building romance. My favorite stories have princesses, seed-bead gowns, and a magical twist, and I especially love novels written in 3rd person.



On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing on my laptop, which has been purged of all games and non-writing programs or applications. If anyone ever asks to borrow my laptop to check their email quickly, I have been known to snarl and then clutch it to my chest while repeating in litany “My precious.”

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Kimberlee’s Workspace

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

My desk was purchased at Office Depot. It’s one of those particle board crap assemble-it-yourself pieces. My couch however, where I do 65% of my writing, was purchased from American Furniture Warehouse in Colorado Springs, CO. If you are ever in the Midwest area, it is THE place to go for quality, affordable furniture.

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 Kimberlee’s desk


Notable items: The bull and the bear book ends are holding up my husband’s collection of stock trading books. He trades on the Forex as a hobby.

Almost every software program installed on my computer is sitting on the shelf below the books. This includes: Quickbooks, Nero, Space Quest, Dragon’s Lair, Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe Premier, and of course, Microsoft Office. I am also still running Windows XP because I’ve luckily never had any processing problems or viruses that have made it necessary to upgrade it in the 7 years since I bought it.


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

I have a hard time writing when the TV is playing in the background and usually end up drowning out the noise with earbuds and my Itunes playlist. I also insist on writing in a clean workspace. It’s difficult to concentrate when I have unfolded laundry on the couch or unpaid bills cluttering my desk.


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

When I’m on my laptop, I insist on using my chill pad. I have three because I have an irrational fear of having it break and not being able to find a replacement with all the features I like. These features are:  a soft beanbag bottom, USB fans placed beneath the battery, and a small storage compartment for my earbuds/headphones.

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Kimberlee’s chillpads

These were  a gift from my beta readers to commemorate an offer of representation I received for my YA Gaslamp Fantasy. The novel title, NOTE TO SELF, is engraved on the front. In the picture of my desk, this is sitting on top of the left cupboard.

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Favorite Desk Items

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

I try to avoid drinking or eating when I’m writing to prevent crumbs from getting in my keyboard, but I do have a sweet tooth for smoothies.  With access to over 120 frozen yogurt flavors, the cravings have been especially hard to resist.


My favorite recipe:

1 cup frozen strawberries

½ can of Strawberry Banana Nectar (Jumex brand)

8 oz of any fruit or vanilla based frozen yogurt

My after midnight drink is “Choffey”. It’s like coffee, but instead of coffee beans, they grind up cocoa beans. Sugar and creamer are added to taste.

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 My Favorite Photo: I designed this dress for a pageant and did a photo shoot in it afterwards.  

On Writing

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

Favorite author is Diana Wynne Jones. Her CHRESTOMANCI  series (c 1977) is arguably J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Harry Potter.

ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levin, is the book that made me fall in love with reading. I own two copies of this, just so I can loan one out whenever I find someone who hasn’t read it.

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

Fun quirks: I prefer sitting cross-legged in almost any chair/environment and find backrests uncomfortable. (My husband’s chair is the ridiculous piece on the right.)  When I sit on the couch to write, I sit sideways on the middle cushion, cross-legged. When I am sewing on my home-sewing machine, I sit cross-legged on the carpet and operate the foot pedal with my knee.  (As I type this, I am sitting cross-legged on my bed, laptop in front of me…)

Typical day as a writer: Between managing the yogurt store and my household, most evenings I usually only have an hour of free time. However, since I don’t have kids and my husband has a 65% travel schedule with his job, I’ll usually end up with a few nights out of the month that I can write until I fall asleep at my keyboard and thus, squeeze in an extra two to three hours.

My goal per writing session is two paragraphs. On a really good session I’ll write 500 words. Whenever possible, I try to carry a notebook with me so that I can brainstorm or outline the next part of the story so that my session on my laptop is more efficient.


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

My worst writing distraction:

Political News…

I have developed an unhealthy fear that the US government is turning into a socialist nation and that our president is a puppet of the New World Order. For some reason, I can’t stop researching things like food storage, emergency-preparedness, and have spent hours studying the Bill of Rights.

Ironically, I have found conspiracy articles to be an unexpected source of inspiration for my work in progress—a military/ steampunk dystopian.

4. Why do you write?

I write because I love the release of escaping to a fantasy world simply by opening a word document on my computer. I love the feeling of falling in love for the first time, over and over again. The feeling of accomplishment after orchestrating an epic struggle between the hero and villain. I enjoy knowing the ending before anyone else does and the process of deciding just how many clues to leave for the readers to figure it out too. Oh, and having my characters push each other’s buttons is gratifying in a twisted, evil overlord sort of way.

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

As a pantser and a dedicated chronological writer, I’ve found that writing  ideas on paper during the day in a notebook helps me make the most of my time in the evening. Since I can rip out the pages when I don’t like them, it’s easier to feel like I can be more explorative. The pages and ideas I like, I’ll put into a three-ring binder and arrange them in chronological order. One idea per page makes it easier to move them around.

I’m sort of a bad advocate for encouraging people to “write every day” because I have trouble doing it myself. However, when I think about how one hour only represents 4% of my entire day, I find it harder to justify putting it off.

Thank you, Nutschell for having me as a guest!



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

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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Writing Updates

Happy Monday!

Before I share my writing updates with you, I thought I’d remind you that you can still win a SIGNED copy of Marissa Meyer’s awesome book CINDER. Just join my Spotlight Week Giveaway Contest by clicking on this link.


Writing Updates:

I thought I’d be finished with the second draft of my middle grade novel by the end of this month. Of course that’s not happening. At the rate I’m going, I’ll need at least one more month to finish the darn thing.

What’s taking me so long is that sometimes I have to rewrite an entire chapter instead of simply tweaking it a bit. I write anywhere from 1500 – 2600 words a day, but it’s still not enough for me to achieve my goal of finishing my draft this month.

I know I have extra hours in the day when I can be working on my novel. But instead of writing, I find myself catching up on my favorite TV shows or just doing some none-writing related chores. I just don’t have the mental energy or the physical will to keep on writing after a long day of work.

But maybe it’s not a matter of stamina, but of time management. Between work and family and the various other activities that require my attention, I might be spreading myself too thin. Maybe this lack of energy is just my body’s way of telling me to stop and take a break before I work myself to exhaustion. Or maybe I just need a vacation.

On a lighter note, I seem to have reverted back to being a kid. I love all things cute so I’ve been collecting these little guys since they first came out:



I love these minions. I actually wish I had real live ones to help me with my very long to do list. (See what I did there?)

Anywaaaay…How do you make time for your writing? Do you have any special time management tips or tricks? Do you collect minions too?

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One of the reasons I love living in L.A. is that I have the opportunity to attend some of the most wonderful writing events and book signings

Last June 26th I had the opportunity to attend one of these awesome panels. Two of my favorite YA Authors shared a panel with writers from two of my favorite shows.

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Present at this historic panel were Authors Leigh Bardugo (THE GRISHA TRILOGY) and Marie Lu (LEGEND TRILOGY , Seth Hoffman, writer for THE WALKING DEAD and Michael Dante diMartino, co- creator and executive producer of the AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER & THE LEGEND OF KORRA Series.

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Leigh Bardugo, Author of the GRISHA TRILOGY (SHADOW & BONE , SIEGE & STORM)


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Michael Dante Dimartino, co-creator and Executive Producer of the Nick TV Series


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Seth Hoffman, writer for THE WALKING DEAD TV Series

Moderated by LIES & ALIBIS Director Kurt Mattila, the panel talked about fandom and its many aspects.

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Director Kurt Mattila moderates a Panel on Fandom with Writers Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo, Michael Dante Dimartino and Seth Hoffman


The panel was at Barnes & Noble at The Grove, which is a 15-minute drive from where I work (assuming of course, that I don’t get tangled up in the famous L.A. traffic). I made sure I was there an hour and a half before the event so I could snag seats for myself and my friend Tiffani.

Waiting was a breeze because I had my Avatar Airbender graphic novels to keep my busy. It was a good call, too, since the crowd had swelled half an hour before the panel started.

After the bookstore manager introduced the panel, moderator Kurt Mattila got right down to business. Kurt asked a lot of good questions about the various sides of fandom including its social media aspect, “shipping” or when fans pair two characters that might be good in a relationship together. They also talked about the different aspects of creating the stories, and how the fans react to some of their storyline decisions.

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Writers Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo, Michael Dante Dimartino and Seth Hoffman

Here are a few of my favorite snippets from the panel:

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Moderator Kurt Mattila


Kurt Mattila: What is the most expressive form of fandom for you?

Leigh Bardugo: A woman named Elle Jauffret created recipes based on SHADOW & BONE. It was very cool to see. I sort of have a policy: I re-blog fanart if it’s not too racy, and I will not read or re-blog fanfic, but I’m glad it’s there.

Michael Dante Dimartino: We’ve never had Avatar fan food recipes that I know. I did sign a man’s cabbages…Fan art is always awesome but I’m always amazed by cosplays costumes when people come in with costumes that are super detailed and they spend a whole year creating these for comic-con.

Seth Hoffman: I’m relatively new to the Walking Dead series, I’ve been writing for the show for only a year so I’m still dipping my toes in the waters of fandom. One of the writers had a fan tattoo one of the lines that she wrote on her arm and then send her a picture. I was Wow, if someone did that for me, I’d retire.

Marie Lu: The fan casting is always fun. I have seen some cool fan portrayals. One person did this weird thing—she was pretending to be me but she was wearing a bear hat. They did this Saturday Night Live interview thing simulated in a room.

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Michael Dante Dimartino, co-creator and Executive Producer  AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER  &  THE LEGEND OF KORRA 

Kurt Mattila: In your journeys, did you ever decide to alter shift characters and storylines based on the fans’ reactions?

Michael Dante Dimartino: Animation takes forever so by the time you guys get to see it, it’s long past. After Avatar’s Book 2 people got very upset over Zuko’s turning on Aang. We got a fan letter asking how much it would cost to reanimate the whole season.

Marie Lu & Leigh Bardugo

YA Authors Marie Lu & Leigh Bardugo


Kurt Mattila: What long dead TV shows would you like to revive?

Leigh Bardugo: I would pay good money to have them re-do the last episodes of Battlestar Galactica. That and Buffy are my two of my number one favorite shows of all time. I say that despite the conclusion of that series.

Michael Dante Dimartino: The only show recently that made me understand why people would say “well why didn’t they bring that show back? Is Ben & Kate. It’s this amazing rally sweet sitcom. I was watching it thinking: clearly everyone is watching this show.

Seth Hoffman: There’s this animated show on MTV about a decade ago called Clone High. I’m a little biased because I know the guys who created it. But the concept of the show, for those of you, really 98% of you who have never heard of it is: This mad scientist principal has cloned a bunch of famous people throughout history, so there’s Abraham Lincoln the nerd, and Mahatma Gandhi the party animal.

Marie Lu: Now that you mention animation, there’s this one show called S.W.A.T Cats which I’d love to see again. It’s basically like this cat version of Batman. There’s these two cats who got kicked off the police force, so they got assigned to this scrapyard and built their own jets there and they saved the city from monsters every—Thursday.

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YA Author Marie Lu


Kurt Mattila: Confession time. Who here has written fan fiction?

Leigh Bardugo: *points to Marie Lu

Marie Lu: I was 8 or 9, and I clearly have been writing dark stories all my life. And this was my first fictional story.  I wrote a fanfiction about Sonic the Hedgehog running through the forest, and the tree falls on him and cripples him, and he ends up in a wheelchair for the rest of his life


Michael Dante Dimartino & Seth Hoffman

TV Writers Michael Dante Dimartino and Seth Hoffman


Kurt Mattila: There this fantastic 1960 copy of Marvel Comics where George RR Martin writes a passionate letter to Stan Lee. Have you guys ever reached out to other creators? Written a fan letter?

Leigh Bardugo: I wrote a letter to an author when I was a kid. It was to James How who wrote Bunnicula, about a vampire bunny who drains the juice of vegetables. He wrote me back a two page letter on this thin onion skin paper, and he answered all of my ridiculous questions: will there be a sequel? Tell me about Harold’s character development… And it was an incredible experience because before that books came from the land of magic and this was a missive from authors. And every time I saw one of his books in the bookstore, I felt like I had a relationship, I know James Howe—he told me about Harold!

Michael Dante Dimartino: I never wrote a fan letter, but I met George RR Martin at Comic Con. There he was sitting in the bar and I thought I gotta go say hi to him. I was very very nervous. I had to introduce myself so I said I was one of the creators of Avatar, and he said “oh, good, good.” Maybe he’s seen it by now.

Seth Hoffman: I could imagine myself having written to my favorite baseball player. I was more of a sports nerd than a nerd-nerd. But I never did.

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YA Author Leigh Bardugo


Audience Question: What were your day jobs before you became writers?

Marie Lu: I used to work on video games and I was a concept artist for Disney. What I would do to get my writing in, was that I figured out this system where I would write my chapters on emails and people would walk by and think, “wow she’s writing a lot of long emails!”

Leigh Bardugo: I was a copy-writer, I wrote movie trailers, like you know in the land without justice…you are welcome…But then my dad passed away and I thought I needed to get away from computers so I got to work on special effects and make ups. But I think that’s why the book took longer because I would work on copy edits all day and then I would go home and I would want to watch Law & Order reruns—that muscle was exhausted. Whereas I would be on my feet for hours a day, doing a model’s make up and listening to her talk about her latest cleanse and in my head, I’m coming up with ideas. And after those 12 hours, I would still have energy left to write. There are other things that will inspire your activity and other things that would drain it.

Michael Dante Dimartino: King of the Hill was my first job, and then Family Guy so I worked on those for a number of years. Brian and I worked on both those shows and we came up with Avatar ideas.

Seth Hoffman: My first writing job that I got paid for was for a show called Prison Break so I was a writer on season 2, a writer’s assistant on season 1 so it’s just getting your foot in the door and then impressing people and making them hire you.

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Seth Hoffman, writer for THE WALKING DEAD TV Show

Audience Question: What were some of the weird “ships” of your characters that you’ve heard of?

Seth Hoffman: There is one of the writers who sort of came in with the blood drained from his face: he said that there was this kid who was begging him to have Carl and Herschel hook up. That would be the weirdest one.

Leigh Bardugo: I cannot top that. I like ships were people don’t want to give anything up—they just want everybody together. So there’s a character named Mal, there’s a character named The Darkling, and there’s Stormhan and one named Alina so there’s now a ship named Malarklinghan and I guess that’s one way of ending the series.

There were so many more wonderful moments in the Panel–I recall a lot of witty responses from the panelists, as well as a lot of laughter from the audience.  But like most good things, the panel came to an end, and everyone lined up to get their books signed. I was sooo thrilled when I got my books signed by Seth Hoffman and Michael Dante Dimartino, since I’m a big fan of their shows.


book signing

Writers talking with fans and signing books

Seth Hoffman was adorable when I approached him to have my book signed. He said it was his first time signing a book so he didn’t know what to write. He asked me what I wanted him to write on the book cover and I told him to write anything he fancied. In the end, he wrote: “This is the 4th book I’ve signed!” I told him that I got so hooked on the Walking Dead, but I made a mistake of watching it before I went to bed. So for my second book, he wrote: “Don’t watch the show before you go to bed!”

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Myself with WALKING DEAD Writer Seth Hoffman

I was even more excited to get my books signed by Michael Dante Dimartino, (who had the longest book signing line at the event). I thanked him for creating AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER and told him that the show was what had inspired me to write my first novel URTH.

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Myself with AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER Co- Creator Michael Dante Dimartino 


I had such an amazing time at the panel, particularly since I got to see four of my favorite writers in one room–with my good friend and fellow fan Tiffani. 

If you want to watch the full panel on youtube, you click on this link from FTSWPodcast:


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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 Margo Berendsen, author of that fun blog Delusions at High Altitude.

Welcome Margo!


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?


My hidden talent is playing Nerts, the best card game ever. But I’m better known for my delusional belief that mythical creatures are real. They can be sometimes found hiding in maps (my day job is analyzing digital maps, which is almost as much fun as writing).

Besides writing and mapping, my other hobbies are riding horses, hiking in the mountains, and sitting on my back porch watching my kids play. I nearly always have a cup of tea and book near at hand. I read and write primarily young adult and middle grade stories because I love the sense of wonder and discovery that you can find in them.


On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

My day job requires a desk, so when I write I avoid desks at all costs. My writing space changes with the seasons. In the winter, I’ll pull up a comfy chair near our woodstove; in the summer I sit by the window looking out on my garden.  But mostly I work in my bedroom, because it has the least amount of distractions. Just give me my laptop, Lizzie, and lots of pillows.

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

See the picture!

 margo's writing space


On Writing

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

I started writing around age 10 after reading Lassie Come Home – I came up with a near knock-off (with a horse instead of dog). Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Mary O’Hara are my most influential authors, but I have many others too. Most recently I’ve been captivated by the writing of Rachel Hartman in Seraphina.


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

My worst distraction is a good book that just begs me to keep reading it. Over the years I’ve developed all sorts of nifty tricks for getting into writing mode. If I ever remember any of them, I’d be glad to share.


3. Why do you write?

Because of writer’s high:  when I hit my writing stride and the words and ideas start flowing, it’s one of the best  feelings in the world. Writing also helps me sort out my issues and remember my passions. I love moments that make me catch my breath and wonder, things that catch me by surprise and make me scramble for a paper and pen to write them down before I forget.



Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your writing life, Margo!

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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Today I’m pleased to welcome author Christine Rains, author of the paranormal romance series THE 13th FLOOR.




THE GHOST is the sixth and final book in the series.

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Chiharo Black lives with six supernatural tenants in a haunted building’s mysterious thirteenth floor. Of course, no one knows she’s there except the cats. Being a ghost can be a bit frustrating and lonely, but it isn’t as bad as her mother made it out to be.

Until another ghost intrudes on her territory. Jeremy Emerson wants revenge on the vampire that killed him and won’t stop until he has it. To top it off, a nightmarish shade sneaks in and leeches the energy from the building’s residents before setting its sights on Chiharo and the thirteenth floor. She can’t decide which one is more frightening: the one wanting to eat her soul or the one who might win her heart.

Chiharo must convince Jeremy to stand with her against the hellish parasite. If they cannot work together, the greedy fiend will not only drain their energy but everything that supports the thirteenth floor’s existence.

Add to Goodreads:








For THE GHOST BLOG TOUR, Christine is going to share some tips she’s learned while writing the final book in her series.

Take it away Christine!




By Christine Rains

I did it! I wrote an entire series. Six books that can stand alone, but all of them link together. I’m ready to fall over into the mound of notes and sleep for a week straight. Poke me if I snore.

This project was quite the undertaking. I’ve read a lot of articles on writing a series, but when I came to the final book, and I was feeling uneasy about it, I couldn’t find any specific tips to help out. This is the last book in the series. It has to be amazing. How do I make certain I’m ending it in the right place, with the right characters, and the right tone?

Here are six helpful tips I learned while writing the final book in my series:

  1. Make sure you keep all your notes from the entire series. Sometimes a project like this can take years. The notes are everywhere. Be organized. One lost note and you could miss something important that you need to wrap up in the final book.
  2. Give all the plot lines logical closure. Keep track of them and tie them in a neat bow at the end. If you miss something, readers will find it and call you out on it.
  3. The big climax must be longer than a few paragraphs. Your readers have been waiting a long time for this point. Don’t disappoint them with an easily solved mystery or a battle won with a few powerful hits. Add in a twist that they don’t expect too. My favorite example of an epic ending is The Troy Game series by Sara Douglass.
  4. Emotionally move your reader. Try to avoid sappy, but it can be sentimental. It must definitely be satisfying.
  5. The hero(es) must have grown and come out better at the end. It’s been a long journey with a lot of ups and downs, but if the hero is the same as they were in the other books, then this isn’t the place to end it.
  6. Most readers want a Happily Ever After ending. Study your audience and genre. There are the rare books that can support a tragic ending, but chances are it isn’t yours.


What is your favorite series with an ending that blew you away?


Author Bio:

Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood, but make her a great Jeopardy player. When she’s not writing or reading, she having adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She’s a member of Untethered Realms and S.C.I.F.I. The 13th Floor series is her first self-published series. She has eight novellas and twenty-one short stories published.








And speaking of  awesome series, I’m still giving away a copy of the first book in Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES. A SIGNED HARDCOVER of CINDER is still up for grabs, so click on this link to find out how you can win.

Cinder by marissa meyer

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Spotlight Week Giveaway: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This week, the Spotlight was on Marissa Meyer and her thrilling YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy books CINDER & SCARLET, Books 1 & 2 of THE LUNAR CHRONICLES series.

If you want to know more about CINDER & SCARLET (and maybe see the awesome trailers), you can check out my book review here.

Also, check out my fun and informative interview with author Marissa Meyer here.

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

Today, I’m giving away a SIGNED COPY of CINDER (Book 1 of The Lunar Chronicles).

Cinder by marissa meyer



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 2 slips of papers with your name on it.

AND if you FOLLOW ME on Linky OR on Facebook’s networked blogs, I’ll add 6 more entries with your name into the drawing bowl.

Contest runs until July 31st, 2013. 

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Spotlight Week: Author Interview with Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy YA series, so I was thrilled when I saw Marissa Meyer at one of the book signings I attended last year. She was in the audience supporting her fellow authors who were on tour. I was too shy to approach her so I didn’t (plus there were tons of people and I could barely move without tripping over someone).

I emailed Marissa, not really expecting her to respond back to my request for an interview. I was pleasantly surprised when she replied that she’d love to do an interview for my blog. She even sent me her answers months ahead of schedule!  I was totally fangirling when we were emailing back and forth.

I have to say Marissa Meyer is one of the nicest and most encouraging authors out there. I’m an even bigger fan now than I was before.

Without futher ado, I present the wonderful Marissa Meyer.


Author’s Bio from her website

One of my first spoken words was “story” (right along with “bath” and “cookie”), my favorite toy as an infant was a soft, squishable book, and I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first realized such a job existed.

When I was fourteen my best friend introduced me to anime and fanfiction—over the years I would complete over forty Sailor Moon fanfics under the penname Alicia Blade. Those so inclined can still find my first stories at Writing fanfic turned out to be awesome fun and brought me in contact with an amazing group of fanfiction readers and writers. As Alicia Blade, I also had a novelette, “The Phantom of Linkshire Manor,” published in the gothic romance anthology Bound in Skin (CatsCurious Press, 2007).

When I was sixteen I worked at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Tacoma, Washington, affectionately termed “The Spag.” (Random factoid: This is also the restaurant where my parents met some 25 years before.) I attended Pacific Lutheran University where I sorted mail that came to the dorm, carted tables and chairs around campus, and took writing classes, eventually earning a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature. Knowing I wanted a career in books, I would also go on to receive a Master’s degree in Publishing from Pace University (which you can learn more about here). After graduation, I worked as an editor in Seattle for a while before becoming a freelance typesetter and proofreader.

Then, day of days, someone thought it would be a good idea to give me a book deal, so I became a full-time writer. CINDER is my first novel, though I have an adorable collection of unfinished ones lying around too.

I now live with my husband and our three cats (Calexandria Josephine, Stormus Enormous, and Blackland Rockwell III), who go in and out, in and out, about eight hundred times a day. My favorite non-bookish things include Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, re-watching episodes of Firefly, and playing all manners of dress-up.


Marissa Meyer - Cinder


The wonderful Marissa Meyer, Author of CINDER & SCARLET


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

 I drive an orange VW Beetle named “Rampion,” after Captain Thorne’s spaceship.

 When I was in sixth grade I tried to make a real love potion for my crush, but then I couldn’t figure out a way to actually get him to drink it.

 The first movie I saw in theaters (that I remember) was The Little Mermaid, and I’ve loved fairy tales ever since.

2. What books and movies inspired your love for Sci-Fi/Fantasy? Would you ever consider writing in another genre?

 Although I was an avid reader growing up, I don’t think it was until I read The Lord of the Rings in fifth grade that I fell completely in love with fantasy. Those books made me realize for the first time that authors didn’t have to relegate their imaginations to the real world – they could construct entire universes of their own! It was kind of a mind-blowing realization, and I’ve loved high fantasy ever since. As for sci-fi – Star Wars was definitely the catalyst there. Han Solo was my first fictional crush. *swoon*

That said, I would absolutely write in other genres. I have ideas for stories in just about every genre imaginable, and I hope readers will follow me as I tell different stories and introduce them to different worlds and time-periods.

3. What’s the most unusual job you had before you became a full time writer? What prompted you to take your writing seriously?

 In college I was the person that moved chairs and tables around and set them up for events. Not super weird, but that’s about all I’ve got. I became an editorial assistant and, later, an editor right out of college, so I always knew I wanted to work with books. But my dream was always to be a writer, ever since I was a little kid. I started trying to write a novel for publication when I was sixteen, and though it took ten years to finish and sell my first novel, I was always very focused on making that dream a reality.


4. What inspired you to write CINDER? Did you always know it would be part of a series?

I first had the idea for writing a series of sci-fi fairy tales when I wrote a short story for a writing contest that was a futuristic retelling of Puss in Boots. I had a lot of fun with it and couldn’t find that combining these two very different genres had really been done before, so then I started brainstorming different ways I could combine my favorite fairy tales with my favorite sci-fi tropes, which eventually turned into The Lunar Chronicles. Although I did always intend for it to be a series, my original thought was that each book would be a stand-alone, and it wasn’t until I started outlining the books that it became clear to me that they were going to tell one continuous story, with this battle between Cinderella and an evil queen at its center.

5. The world you paint THE LUNAR CHRONICLES is full of fascinating landscapes. In Luna (the moon), people have developed psychic abilities, and Earth itself has been reconfigured into places like New Beijing and the Commonwealth.  What inspired these settings, and how did you go about building this story world?

 Wow, that’s a very complicated question! I wanted this series to have a very global feel to it, as many of the issues facing the characters (a deadly plague, a war…), are things that would impact every person on Earth, so I chose to vary the settings throughout the series. I also liked the idea of combining many different cultures and nationalities into one country, which is why I chose to condense all of Earth down into just six countries. The Eastern Commownealth, where Cinder takes place, therefore has symbolism and traditions associated with China, Japan, Korea, India, and many other Asian countries. It gave me the freedom to play around with language, clothing, etc., while still giving the reader something that was vaguely familiar.

6. THE LUNAR CHRONICLES is an amazing retelling of popular fairytale stories. Book 1: CINDER is your version of Cinderella, and Book 2: SCARLET is Red Riding Hood. What other fairytale characters will your next two books be based on?

Book 3: CRESS, which will be out in February, is based on Rapunzel, in which Rapunzel is a computer hacker stuck in a satellite, instead of the typical tower. Book 4: WINTER will be my Snow White retelling, in which the queen’s stepdaughter is attempting to rally the people of Luna against her stepmother.

7. All of your stories feature very strong female leads. If you could be a fairytale character for one day, who would you be?

This is rather sad, but I have true envy over Rapunzel and being stuck in that tower. Let’s assume it’s a cozy tower filled with books – how much reading time there would be! Plus, I bet it would have an amazing view. I could just sit by the window and write all day. I would love that. Until I went totally stir crazy, at least.


8. Unlike most YA books, your novels are written in the third person POV. Why did you choose this POV?

I knew early on that I was going to have many characters with many subplots happening simultaneously throughout this story, and that to write them in first person would confused the reader. Pretty much every major character – including the evil queen! – will get some POV chapters throughout the series, which is fun for me to write, and I hope readers enjoy getting these different perspectives as well.


The wonderful Marissa Meyer, Author of CINDER & SCARLET

9. If your books were to be made into a movie, which scene would you be most interested in seeing live on the big screen?

Oh gosh, I can’t give specifics because that would be a huge spoiler – but there’s one scene in Book 4 that in my head is super epic and climactic and awesome, and I can envision it with such clarity in my mind. I would love to see it adapted to the big screen. (Hint: the scene is pretty much a face-off between Cinder and Levana, in which Cinder makes a decision that has some pretty dire consequences. Dun dun dun.)

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

Ha! For me, my favorite part is getting to write in my pajamas! I know that’s silly, but it really is such a job perk. I feel lucky every day that I get to do this for a living. I also love meeting readers at book signings and getting to hang out with other authors and “talk shop” at festivals or writing retreat. This job is pretty awesome.

My path to publication wasn’t as fraught with rejection and hardship as a lot of authors face. Though it took me ten years of working on my craft, followed by two years of writing and revising Cinder, once I sent it to agents I ended up signing with the first agent I’d queried. Two weeks later she sent it to publishers. That was a Friday and we had our first offer the following Monday. It was very dizzying!

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

It varies widely depending on what stage of the process I’m in. When I’m working on a first draft, I can spend 8+ hours writing. During revisions it’s closer to 3 or 4 hours. Then when it’s promotion crunch-time, in the month leading up to a book release, I may not get any writing done, as I’m so focused on publicity and marketing.

These days, I’m just starting in on the revisions for Book 4: WINTER, so I’m spending a few hours every day going over my notes and fiddling with the story arcs. Then I probably spend a couple hours answering emails and making the social network rounds, and a couple hours doing promo stuff (like answering this interview!). In the evenings I try to just relax and read or watch TV with my husband.

I’m not much for writing quirks, though. I feel like I can pretty much write anywhere, anytime, when I put my mind to it.

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

I enjoy cooking and going antique shopping, and my husband and I like to go on roadtrips in the summer. I think we’re going to Yellowstone later this year – I’ve never been there, and I’m really looking forward to it!

13.  Are you currently working on any other projects?

We’ve sold two new books to my publisher that will follow the Lunar Chronicles. The first will be a YA fantasy stand-alone. I’m not entirely sure what the second will be yet, but the idea I’m most excited for would be an action/adventure story, with some magic elements.

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

Write as much as you can. Write the story you can’t get out of your head. Read craft guides. Have fun with it. Don’t worry about getting published until you’ve done all you can to write the best book you’re capable of, then research the heck out of the publishing world. Find smart critique partners who will both encourage you and offer good feedback. Read a lot.

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

I can’t think of anything that doesn’t sound super cheesy (Be true to yourself! Follow your dreams!), but if I could go back and give myself advice when I was younger, I would say, “Your life is going to be awesome, so stop freaking out so much about it.”




Thank you for that wonderful interview, Marissa!

Tune in again on Friday. I’ll be giving away a SIGNED copy of Marissa Meyer’s CINDER!



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