Archive for October, 2013

TWN WWW 300

 

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 Meradeth Houston, author of Colors like Memoires and The Chemistry of Fate.

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chemistry of fate

 

WelcomeMeradeth!

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

MeradethHouston

Hi! Thanks so much for hosting me! Let’s see here: by day I’m a professor of anthropology, and often wish I had a cape and super-speed to ensure I got everything done that goes into my work J. I teach at the University of Montana and really enjoy it. By night (or whenever I can sneak it in) I’m a YA/NA writer, who loves a good paranormal/sci-fi story to keep me entertained. As for hobbies and interests, I’m a huge reader, love a good run by the river, and do just about anything I can to get to a beach. I’m afraid I don’t have any hidden talents—well, at least they’re pretty well hidden!

 

 

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing either at my desk, or on my couch with my laptop. If I can get out of the house and work somewhere else, I love a nice café with good hot chocolate and decent music.

 

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

My current desk at home is one I found at this random little furniture store that takes donations from people & businesses and helps abused children get job experience by restoring the piece. I think this is just about the best idea ever, and a lot of my place is furnished from there :). Bonus that they’re really, really affordable, because being a professor pays diddly.

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Meradeth’s Workspace

 

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

My most important things are my speakers—I love music while I write. Other than that, my white-board (not pictured because it’s covered in spoilers) is also pretty essential for me!

 

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

I have several notebooks around to jot stuff down on, and I love my decorations. My pictures are all from good memories, or of things that remind me of something from my stories. I love looking at them while I’m hashing out a scene.

 

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

Hot chocolate for sure! I drink way too much of the stuff, but I love it. I also enjoy a good Italian Soda, or tea if all else fails.

On Writing

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

My favorite author is definitely Madeline L’Engle. She’s been a big inspiration for me, along with JK Rowling. Both women have such great stories in the world that I wish I were better able to emulate.

 

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

I don’t know if I have a “typical” day. Most days squeezing in writing time is a struggle, and it’s often in the evenings when I’ve somehow finished all my grading. This is the first summer where I’m not teaching summer school, too, so hopefully that will change!

 

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

I don’t write every day. I do journal daily, which kind of keeps me going, but I find that most days I’m lucky to get in a half hour to an hour. Weekends often more. My worst distractions: work, and the internet! Wow can I waste time on Pinterest!

 

4. Why do you write?

Because it keeps me sane :). Well, my husband might disagree with that, but I think it does! It helps me escape the real world for a while and relax.

 

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

I’m not sure if this is helpful to anyone else, but I’ve always believed that if you don’t give up, you can make something happen. It may not be soon, and it may not be the way you envisioned, but I definitely believe it’s possible for good things to happen if you just keep at it. That’s how I roll, at least!

 

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

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

Last Monday I had the writing blues and I was complaining about how I hadn’t written anything in 3 months, and about how that was driving me bonkers.

I promised I’d do something about that. So I did. And it worked!

Last week, I wrote one chapter a day.

How did I do that? Well, with lots of help from my writing partner Cassie.

The Sunday before my Writing Blues Monday, Cassie and I had met up to discuss our writing lives. We had the same exact problem: we rarely had time to write because of work and personal lives, and whenever we did have time, we found ourselves feeling either too tired or too uninspired to write. One of the reasons for our writing problem, was that we both put others’ needs above our own.

Because we couldn’t change who we were, I suggested that we use it to our advantage. I proposed that we should write one scene/chapter every day, and once we were done, we would send the chapter to each other for critique. Cassie agreed it was a great idea, so we shook on it and began our “writing contract.”

Last Week, Cassie and I started exchanging chapters and critiquing every day. As soon I finished writing one chapter, I sent it on to Cassie for critique, and she did the same thing.

It was tough at first–like learning how to run again after months of not training. I was nervous, excited and scared but I forced myself to write because I knew Cassie was waiting on the other end. It got easier each day, and the more I worked on my story, the more I rediscovered the joys of writing. I also looked forward to critiquing Cassie’s story because I enjoyed watching (or reading) her story unfold every day.  The writing arrangement was definitely a win-win for both of us. Having a sense of accountability and responsibility, and knowing that we were not alone helped us make time for our writing.

Our goal is to continue with this arrangement until we both finish writing and critiquing each other’s manuscripts. And after that? Well, maybe we’ll develop enough discipline to keep on working on our chapters at our own pace. Or not. Whatever the future we bring, Cassie and I are both grateful we have each other, and that we are both finally writing again.

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The July 2013 release of THE GHOST marked the end of author Christine Rains’ paranormal romance series, the 13th Floor.

But being the marketing genius that she is, Christine has decided to release all six books as part of a collection.

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To celebrate the release of the 13th Floor Collection, author Christine Rains shares with us some tips on writing urban fantasy.

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TIPS FOR WRITING URBAN FANTASY

 Urban fantasy takes the magic and strange creatures from epic fantasy worlds and mashes them into our normal everyday modern lives. Sometimes it’s a ridiculous or inelegant smooshing of different elements, but that’s what makes urban fantasy so much fun. You can go over-the-top and get away with it. In fact, readers love surprises like that.

Even though you can get silly and it’s fantasy, the story still needs to make sense. Magic needs to have rules. There must be reasons why dragons still exist. Here are some tips to help make your urban fantasy universe come alive and make readers wonder if there really is still magic hidden beneath our technological world.

1) Take things we see in our every day lives and make them something more. Your toaster burns cryptic messages on your toast to warn you of danger, or Starbucks is really run by a secret organization of mages putting potions in the coffee so they can rule the world.

2) Twist a point in history and create a world from that change. World War II was won by elves determined to keep the humans from blowing up the planet, or when the Europeans came over to the Americas, they discovered a land of centaurs instead of humans.

3) Mesh magic and technology. There are a few cultures in the world that still do believe technology is magic. What if they’re right?

4) Use common sense when creating magic systems and supernatural beings. Then skew it just a little. Not too much that your readers won’t find it believable, but just enough to make them wonder. Perhaps your magic comes from the elements. You have a whole periodical table to play with instead of just using fire, earth, water, and air.

5) Remember your fantasy world has consequences in the normal world as we know it. If there’s some big magical event, it will have an effect on everything even if mundane humans don’t realize it’s magic. Earthquakes as magical backlashes? Species becoming extinct, diseases, the creation of deserts.

 

What do you like best about urban fantasy? Any tips you’d like to share?

 

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Get yourselves a copy of the 13th Floor Collection now!

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/13th-Floor-Complete-Collection-ebook/dp/B00FF9QF3W

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-13th-floor-complete-collection-christine-rains/1116984997?ean=2940148537786

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-13th-floor-complete-collection

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/360987

 

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Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Ashley Nixon

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.

TWN WWW 300

Today I’m eager to welcome Ashley Nixon, whose book is coming out on April 23rd, 2014!

Welcome Ashley!

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

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Ashley Nixon

I work as a student Library Assistant at the University of Oklahoma. I love to write Fantasy. Mainly my hobby is writing, but I enjoy finding ways to improve my healthy lifestyle whether it be with food or exercise. As far as hidden talents are concerned, my boyfriend says I’m observant and I make delicious food. Lol.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

Two places—my desk and my bed.

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Ashley’s workspace

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

I got my desk from Craigslist. A teacher was selling it for $20 and I needed a corner desk. As for arranging my work area, I have moved it once. The first time, it was in a corner with no windows, the second time, I moved it to the windows. I wanted it to feel peaceful and quaint. I added things to organize my folders and my massive collection of pens and markers. I wanted to display my awards, and I wanted Christmas lights to hang over my head…because I love them.

 

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

Some important things are my pictures—there’s one of my Daddy and me—he’s my motivation. He’s never told me I couldn’t be a writer, and believes that I can do anything. I also have a frame that says “Writer at Work” from a very good friend who always keeps me motivated, and my diplomas and awards from school. I like to have music on and a blanket, too, while I write.

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Important things on Ashley’s desk

 

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

I love where it’s at—near the windows, and I love the lights, especially on dreary days. They always seem to brighten the space. If I am working on my bed, I love my wall of outlines. I tape paper to the walls and use markers to outline my book. I add whatever I want—like pictures and random things to keep my inspiration going. My favorite objects as well as things I use often are my writing journals and my computer.

 

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

Tea! Preferably Earl Gray Green Tea.

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On Writing

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

My favorite authors would have to be J.R.R. Tolkien and Oscar Wilde. J.R.R. Tolkien inspired me to write. I read the Lord of the Rings and wanted to create a world just like that.

 

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

Well, my bed must be made before I wrote, especially if I am sitting on it and writing. I have to work in the evenings after I get off work and finish my workouts. I usually make a cup of tea and sit down with my headphones in. Sometimes, if I am not feeling the story, I go back and edit so when I get to my stopping place, I’m ready 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 write everyday, yes…even if it’s just a few lines in my writing journals. I spend the whole evening writing usually, between distractions like the Internet and the boyfriend (who likes to put his face in my face when I’m writing). I’d say around…5 hours or so?

 

4. Why do you write?

I write because I want to inspire people with my worlds like J.R.R. Tolkien did for me. I’m convinced he changed the course of my life—after I read LOTR, I had goals. I know people in college at the moment who don’t know what they want to do with their life, and I’ve never been that person since I decided I wanted to be a writer. I had a friend who told me once that my motivation inspired her. It was the most gratifying feeling in the world.

 

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

I know everyone says it, but never give up and learn to take constructive criticism. I am a better writer today than I was a year ago and I know it. The criticism I took was tough but I persevered and I’m more in love with my book than ever.

I have always liked: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” –Anton Chekhov

 

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

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 Blues

It’s Monday and I have the blues.

I haven’t worked on my manuscript in months and it is driving me mad!

Mad at myself, that is.

Last August, I took a whole month of blogging with the intention of getting my manuscript finished. But we all know how that turned out. I got sucked into the void of never-ending work (also known as my day job), among other things. The other things being family, martial arts classes, writing group duties—and the anthology (which is now finished and awaiting release. Yay!).

September came and went, and aside from the 5 chapters I had revised for the Working Writers Retreat, I managed to rewrite only 4 chapters.

Now October is halfway done and I’ve only managed one measly chapter. One!

I mean I have an excuse, of course. I’ve been busy putting the final touches on our CBW-LA anthology’s publication, preparing for my Brown 1 belt test (which was last Saturday), helping out family members with various tasks, trying to cut down the amount of paperwork at my day job—AND—I’ve been applying for new jobs.

The latter is what’s been keeping me preoccupied lately. Ideally I’d love to just stay home and write, but that just isn’t possible. The thing is, I’ve been working at the same company for 6 years and the lack of benefits has finally gotten to me. I’m getting older and not having insurance isn’t a good thing, plus my pay isn’t all that competitive.

The one thing I love about my current job is that I have time to work on my own writing as long as I’ve finished my tasks for the day.  And I’m afraid that’s all going to go away once I find a new place to work. I have a feeling I’m going to be even busier, and I won’t have the flexibility of my current job.

I’m deathly afraid my writing career is just going to go down the drain once I start a new job. I’m fairly sure I won’t have the time to write at all. But I can’t afford to stay at my current workplace any longer because of the lack of benefits, and the hit on my finances.

I’m at a crossroads, and I fear I’m leaning toward the more practical approach to life. It saddens me that I have to sacrifice my writing time just to have a decent way of life. But survival always comes first and creative endeavors usually take the back seat in practical world.

 Or does it?

The thing is, if you love something passionately enough, you never ever give up on it. You will find time to write at the expense of hunger or sleep or personal hygiene, the same way you will always make time for the ones you love.  

This is what I tell myself over and over. I will find ways to keep on writing, despite the lack of time or energy because I should never abandon the things that make me happy and whole; because writing is my soul’s purpose; and because a life without writing isn’t a life at all.

I guess that’s why I’m mad at myself. Because I am not treating my writing with the love and respect it deserves.

And now that I’ve made myself aware of this terrible flaw, I will find a way to correct it. Busy or tired, I will make time to write. Because if I don’t, I’ll go crazy. Or be incredibly depressed. Either way, I am not going to love the kind of person I become without writing.  

So cheer me on, wish me luck and keep me in your prayers, and I will do the same for you.

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Spotlight Week Giveaway

This week the Spotlight was on Kristen Kittscher and her exciting middle grade mystery WIG IN THE WINDOW.

If you want to know more about WIG IN THE WINDOW  you can read my book review here or watch the amazing trailer below:

Also, check out my fun interview with author Kristen Kittscher here.

It’s the end of another Spotlight Week, and today, I’m giving away a SIGNED COPY of WIG IN THE WINDOW.

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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.

The contest is international and will run until October 31st, 2013.

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Spotlight Week Author Interview: Kristen Kittscher

Middle Grade Mystery Maven Kristen Kittscher and I met three years ago at the SCBWI Working Writers Retreat, and we’ve been friends since then.

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Kristen’s charming sense of humor was one of the reasons I enjoyed the retreat. We belonged to the same critique group so I was lucky enough to have read WIG IN THE WINDOW before it was published (back then the title was Young & Yang). Just like its author, Kristen’s manuscript oozed with wit and humor and left us clutching our sides with laughter. I was sad whenever the critique session ended because I wanted to read more of her story. Kristen had a natural gift for storytelling. I knew it was just a matter of time before she got published.

And I was right. The year after the retreat, Kristen attended the Big Sur Workshop where she met her agent, Jennifer Laughran from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Jennifer quickly sold Kristen’s manuscript to HarperCollins, and this June, WIG IN THE WINDOW was published.

I love bumping into Kristen at various book signings and SCBWI writing events. I always have such wonderful conversations with her every time we meet, and now I’m excited that I finally get to interview her and introduce her to you.

 

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Author’s Bio from her website:

Kristen Kittscher was a child neighborhood spy but (allegedly) grew up to be an upstanding citizen, seventh grade English teacher, and writing tutor. A graduate of Brown University, she lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, Kai, and their hyperactive lab mix. Her debut novel The Wig in the Window, the first in a new mystery series from HarperCollins Children’s Books, comes out June 18, 2013

Visit kristenkittscher.com to investigate more about her and Young & Yang’s next adventure, The Tiara on the Terrace.

Interview with the Author: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3NHHiX9XHo&list=UUBTeCHmWyv8ro1EkhbaXewg&index=5

Author Page: http://www.kristenkittscher.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kittscher

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/kkittscher

GoodReads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5267305.Kristen_Kittscher

HarperCollins Author Page: http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/books/Wig-Window-Kristen-Kittscher/?isbn13=9780062110503&tctid=100

 

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 The Wonderful Kristen Kittscher

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

  1. I lived in 13 cities before the age of 18
  2. I can touch my tongue to my nose
  3. One summer as a teenager I learned to fly a WWII-era plane!

2. What books and movies inspired your love for mystery?

I loved Nancy Drew and Stephen King as a kid—and I have to admit that The Wig in the Window is basically my attempt to write Murder, She Wrote for kids. Big J.B. Fletcher fan over here! Did you know they have a website just to sell imitations of her fabulous East Coast-y fashions?

3. What day jobs did you have before you became a full time author?

I’m still not a full-time author, though I’d love to be. I run a small tutoring business in Pasadena, California. Before that, I taught seventh grade English at an all girls’ school for a good long while. I’ve had other jobs earlier on: I worked in the film industry in Germany and Hollywood, as well as for a translation company. I love languages!

4. What inspired you to write THE WIG IN THE WINDOW?

For years, I wanted to write fiction, but I lacked the confidence. I’d dabble here and there, jotting down notes for story ideas and writing character sketches. Inevitably, though, I’d put my scribblings aside. I told myself I was not creative enough — that my seventh grade English students needed all my time and attention. One day, though, I stumbled across a free-writing exercise based on my exploits as a middle school “spy” with my best friend in my seaside suburb of Los Angeles. It struck me: why hadn’t I ever thought of writing for kids? That tiny paragraph had all the makings of a story that would entertain the funny, precocious students I taught. I scrawled a note: “Rear Window meets (edgy) Nancy Drew: two savvy, bold girl sleuths exposing adult hypocrisy?”

A little while later, I was making a very messy beet salad and it occurred to me the remnants looked like a murder scene. That’s where the beets came in…

 With my students as my muses, it was so much easier to forge ahead. It’s no surprise I ended up writing a story about a kid who has so much self-doubt to overcome!

5. THE WIG IN THE WINDOW merges action with tons of middle grade humor. How did you go about developing your awesome middle grade voice?

Thank you! It’s my natural immaturity. :)  But, more seriously: I think that my many years as a seventh grade teacher kept me in tune with the perspective of that age. It’s fun for me to amplify my own insecurities and self-consciousness and channel it into middle grade humor.

6. Your main character Sophie Young and her best friend Grace Yang are smart, spunky and very believable characters. Are they based on anyone you personally know?

I’m so glad you think so. Sophie and Grace are both very much fictional, but there’s no doubt I’ve given my own middle school feelings to Sophie Young. She’s an alter ego of sorts, though that’s risky to say – because her flaws are not necessarily my own. And I am not twelve! I did have her curiosity and self-consciousness, though.

I had a childhood neighborhood spy partner, but she bears no resemblance to Grace Yang other than sharing her ethnicity. Grace is purely invented. Of course—all the characters are exaggerated versions of me or sides to myself—even my potential villains, I’m afraid to say!

7. Are you a plotter or pantser? What writing tricks or techniques did you employ for THE WIG IN THE WINDOW?

There are tricks?! People have been holding out on me!! I demand a refund!

I am a plotter, but WIG was originally written in pantser-fashion…which means I threw it out and started over again, basically. I think mysteries can’t really be pantsed. You can certainly be messy and meandering and discover things as you go along in a first draft, but you’ll have to totally rewrite for pacing and weave in the clues. They are delicate machines and pacing is very important. (Still working on that!)

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

I gather that my path to publication was fairly standard, other than the fact I did not write any novels before The Wig in the Window—instead I kept working on this manuscript and tried to learn about the business. What’s the cliché about success and perspiration and inspiration? I don’t remember the percentages, but I agree: perseverance and developing confidence are the main ingredients.

As for the coolest thing about being a published author? Oh, there have been so many wonderful highlights! The coolest thing is connecting with people. There’s nothing like having a stranger far-away read your book and really enjoy it. You find so many kindred spirits. I feel very grateful to have made so many new friends through the process, and I love being able to inspire kids to have more confidence in their own stories.

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

I don’t write full time, so I don’t really have typical writing days – but rather cram it in when I can. Late at night tends to be a nice quiet time when I can think clearly and not be too anxious about how long it’s taking me. I do have quirks – I get very superstitious about energy. If writing went well in one spot one day, I’ll take note of it and make sure to set up my laptop there again. A dear friend gave me a little figurine of a knight that was on her dad’s desk when he was still alive. He was a writer, too, and she wanted me to have it. It means a great deal—and I believe in its energizing powers, so I like to keep it near! On a scale of 1 to 10, how crazy do I sound?

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

Oh, I’m terrible with crafts—I definitely better stick with writing. My main sport is hiking with my dog, if that counts. I have a secret love of golf and kickboxing, though, to. Most of my free time I spend with friends—hanging out is my main hobby!

11. Are you currently working on any other projects?

A sequel to The Wig in the Window is slated: The Tiara on the Terrace. Young & Yang go undercover in their town parade’s “Royal Court” to stop a murderer. It’s set around a fictionalized version of Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses, where I live.

12. What writing tips could you give to writers who wish to write mysteries?

That’s a great question! Obviously, reading a lot of them helps quite a bit. There are some great craft books out there, as well. James Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Mystery is one of them. (And it’s not the James Frey who made up A Million Little Pieces and passed it off as his own – this one just happens to share his name!)

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

I don’t know that I’m seasoned enough to give advice, but if pressed, I’d say: if you love words and telling stories, follow that passion and enjoy! No sense worrying about whether anything will “come of it.” I wasted a lot of time doubting myself and not spending time on my writing because I was too focused on whether it was worthwhile. Writing is worthwhile, period. So is all art.

 

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

I’d advise them to listen to their instincts and not listen to old people like me, unless what they say makes sense for them! I think everything I’ll want to say to young readers is in what I write, so I’ll just give them a big wave – and a thank them for reading!

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Come back this Friday for the final part of the Spotlight Week, where I give away a signed copy of WIG IN THE WINDOW

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This month’s Spotlight Week features THE WIG IN THE WINDOW by MG Author Kristen Kittscher.

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The Wig in the Window

368 pages, Hardcover

Genre: MG, Ages 9 and up

Published on June 18, 2013 by HarperCollins

ISBN-10: 0062110500

ISBN-13: 978-0062110503

 

First Line:

I thought I’d mastered the art of escape.

 

Synopsis:

Best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang have made a game out of spying on their neighbors. On one of their midnight stakeouts, they witness a terrifying, bloody scene at the home of their bizarre middle-school counselor, Dr. Charlotte Agford (aka Dr. Awkward).

At least, they think they do. The truth is that Dr. Agford was only making her famous pickled beets! But when Dr. Agford begins acting even weirder than usual, Sophie and Grace become convinced that she’s hiding something—and they’re determined to find out what it is.

Soon the girls are breaking secret codes, being followed by a strange blue car, and tailing strangers with unibrows and Texas accents. But as their investigation heats up, Sophie and Grace start to crack under the pressure. They might solve their case, but will their friendship survive?

Perfect for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Wig in the Window is a smart, funny middle-grade mystery with a REAR WINDOW twist.

 

 

My Review:

Best friends Young and Yang are seventh grade spies. They sneak out at night to spy on their neighbors. Their missions are mostly harmless, but things quickly get out of hand when they spy on their school counselor Dr. Agford.

As with any good mystery, the story is peppered with false trails and red herrings. The plot has so many twists and turns that just when I think I know who the culprit is and what she’s up to, I find myself utterly mistaken. Author Kristen Kittscher carries the suspense and mystery until the very end of the story—so much that I found myself finishing the book in one sitting.

The author deftly uses the story’s setting to amp up the tension.  The fictional California seaside town of Luna Vista is so serene that one would not expect nefarious events to happen there. And the fact that ugly secrets are uncovered in such a beautiful place makes them all the more surprising.

Plot and setting aside, what I love most about this story  are the main characters themselves, and the friendship between them. Sophie Young and Grace Yang are as different as night and day. Or more precisely, Yin and Yang. The two are complete opposites. Sophie is Caucasian, but loves everything Asian—even using Sun Tzu’s the Art of War to guide her daily life. Chinese-American Grace, on the other hand, seems to disregard her own Chinese heritage in favor of more American sensibilities. Sophie is the quiet, down to earth type, while Grace is the cool girl everybody just naturally likes. But the two somehow click.

I enjoyed witnessing Young and Yang’s friendship evolve throughout the story. At one point their fight gets really nasty and it’s unclear whether they will get past their differences and be friends again. But in the end, the two prove that no matter what happens, best friends always watch out for each other.

Although it is labeled as a middle grade novel, this book transcends all ages.  The themes are universal, the plot is terrific and the main characters are just so well developed. Drew This is one story that even adults will enjoy reading.   Wig in the Window is a funner and funnier version of Nancy and I personally can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

 

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Tune in again on Wednesday for an interview with the wonderful Kristen Kittscher

 

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As part of their Sweet n Steamy Blog Tour, Authors Sharon Kleve and Kara Leigh Miller have decided to share their writing wisdom here.

Take it away, Sharon and Kara!

 

Sweet 'n Steamy Blog Tour modified

Why You Should Have a Blog

By Sharon Kleve and Kara Leigh Miller

The Writing Nut asked Kara and I to write about some writing tips and techniques. We thought blogging would be a great topic.

It’s all the rage nowadays. Everyone is doing it. Are you?

Authors are encouraged, sometimes required by their publishers to have a blog. But, have you ever stopped and wondered, what’s the point? If you have a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, Goodreads profile, Pinterest Account, Google+, Tumblr, and all those other time sucking social media outlets, why add another, right?

Why? Because it’s fun!

Okay, seriously, it is fun, but it’s more than that. For an author, it means exposure—which in today’s publishing world can make or break you. A blog is a place for you to express yourself creatively about things you might not write about in your books. It’s a place for you to share your knowledge and experiences and to promote your books. And it’s a place for you to connect with other authors and readers in a more in-depth, personal way than Facebook or Twitter allows.

So, have I convinced you yet? If not, check out the article below by Andrew Grant published on July 1st 2013 on why you should have a Blog.

http://www.projecteve.com/why-you-should-have-a-blog-10-great-reasons/

Why You Should Have a Blog – 10 Great Reasons

1 – Everybody is interested in something

And doing that favorite something is the quickest path to happiness and fulfillment that I know of. Therefore, it’s logical to conclude that writing a blog about that something is probably the most accessible way to make money around your favorite way of spending time.

2 – A blog will make you friends

The very essence of a blog is that it will attract people who like the same things as you. They may see them very differently and they may well not agree with everything you say, but they will definitely share your interests. Isn’t that the very definition of friendships?

3 – Blogging encourages your creativity

Even if you don’t think of yourself as creative, I am willing to bet that if you set yourself the challenge of writing three short blog posts about something you love, you will be amazed at how creative you can be.

4 – Owning a blog gives you motivation.

Once you begin to see the fruits of your efforts and especially when you start to get positive feedback from people you have never met, you will find that what looked like an onerous task at the outset is suddenly a pleasure to do – you can’t wait to see what your loyal readers will think of your latest post.

5 – Blogging gives you self-discipline

Once you set yourself a schedule to regularly blog, you feel a responsibility to your readers to deliver on your commitment, but it’s a pleasure not a stress, because you know they are enthusiastically waiting for what you give them.

6 – Blogging keeps you sharp.

If you write a how-to blog, like mine, then you will be honing your skills of research and summation. If your blog is more opinion based, then you need to keep abreast of other views and the latest developments in your field so that you can comment on them with authority. You’ll find your thinking skills get keener and your ability to filter good information from bad gets a lot more efficient.

7 – Blogging is rewarding

I guarantee that the best thing you will get from blogging is the satisfaction of making a difference to someone else’s life no matter how minor that difference might be. From a grateful reader telling you how much they enjoyed following one of your patterns to the person making their first few dollars online. The moment when you read their heartfelt email will be one of the high-points of your week.

8 – A blog is a test-bed.

Once you start to build an audience, your blog will become the place where you can try stuff out. You can ask their opinion on your plans and projects, test different offers with them and best of all you can get them to tell you what they need so you can make a product that suits, safe in the knowledge that as soon as you do, they are going to be the first ones to buy it.

9 – You don’t need to be a good writer.

No matter how poor you think your writing skills are, I absolutely encourage you to just get stuck in and start writing immediately. There are some great blogs out there written by people who are nowhere near polished, but they write with an intensity that makes that meaningless. In fact if they improved their writing, their blogs probably wouldn’t be as good. Their passion shines through.

10 – Google loves bloggers

Every post you write, every picture you link and every comment you receive is another little building brick in the great structure of your credibility. The great bloggers out there have built their authority, their popularity and their credibility, by doing one thing well and doing it regularly. Creating stuff that people want to read, watch, listen to and act upon. Ike the movie said, “If you build it they will come,” and that was never more appropriate than when applied to blogging.

Quite simply, a blog is the best and most long-term profitable way to spend your time on the internet, bar none.

This YouTube video is a simple step-by-step instruction on how to set-up a Blog on Blogger.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46OzQukP0Is

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Book Title: Jilted

Author: Kara Leigh Miller

Publisher: Books to Go Now

Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance

Release Date: 9.15.2013

Length: 49K

Heat Rating: Hot

Jilted Cover modified

Book Blurb:

Amy and Brett have been friends since they were kids; and their friendship has withstood the test of time. But can it withstand Brett’s fiancée, Vanessa?

Brett Hudson has often wondered what it would be like to be more than Amy’s friend, but when he’s chosen as the newest professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars, he meets Vanessa, one of the shows costume designers and it’s a whirlwind romance that ends in a wedding proposal. As the big day draws closer, Brett begins to think that marrying Vanessa might be a bad idea. She wants him to give up Amy. Completely. Will he give up his best friend for the woman he’s supposed to marry?

Amy King is heartbroken to learn that Brett is marrying another woman. But, when Brett is jilted at the altar, he begs Amy to go on his honeymoon with him. A week on a tropical island with her best friend, the man she’s fantasized about for years is a dream come true for Amy. But when Brett suggest crossing the line from friends to lovers, Amy is reluctant. Will she risk years of friendship for one night of passion?

 

Excerpt:

“It’s because you go for the wrong type of guy,” Brett said matter-of-factly, pouring a third shot down his throat. “Those muscle bound jocks are all bark and no bite. They look good on the outside, but they’re a mess on the inside.”

Amy threw a piece of ice at him and laughed. “And the goody two shoes, school teacher types you date are much better?”

“Nope.” He grinned. “Which is why we’re both still single.”

She sighed. “Yeah, so much for my dream of having kids.”

“You’re young. I’m sure you’ll find someone.” He drank his last shot and chased it with his beer.

“I’m thirty, Brett. By the time I find a man, date him, and get married, I’ll be an old hag with no viable eggs.”

The thought of Amy finding a man to marry and have kids with didn’t sit well with him. He couldn’t stomach the thought of losing her. “I’ll tell you what.” He leaned across the table and pointed at her. “Three years from now, if neither of us are married, I’ll marry you and give you as many babies as you want.” Brett’s words were slurred. Yup. He was definitely drunk. He wouldn’t have made that proposition otherwise.

“Yeah right.” Amy rolled her eyes. “You and me? That would be like fucking my brother. Thanks, but no thanks.”

He flinched at her words. “You think of me as your brother?” That bothered him a lot more than it should, especially considering he’d never once thought of her as a sister.

She shrugged. “We’re best friends. How else would I think of you?” Amy glanced away, and then set her gaze on him again. “Why? How do you think of me?”

Oh shit! He hadn’t expected the conversation to backfire on him like that. What was he supposed to tell her? That he thought of her as a best friend that he wanted to fuck? No, he definitely couldn’t tell her that. “As a friend, I guess. I don’t know. It’s not like I sit around and think about how I should think of you. You’re Amy.”

“And you’re drunk.”

“Maybe a little.” He grinned. “So, do we have a deal or what?”

 

Author Bio:

Kara is a multi-published romance author who dabbles in young adult, new adult, paranormal, and contemporary romances. However, her genre of choice will always be erotic romance. She’s a member of the CNY Writers Haven and the Romance Writers of America. Writing is her passion and she loves to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with her fellow authors and her fans.

Today, Kara resides in Upstate New York with her husband, five kids, three cats, and two dogs. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with her family and friends.

Nothing excites Kara more than hearing from her fans. So, send her a note. She’ll go total fan girl over it!

Social Media Links:

Website/Blog: www.karaleighmiller.com

Email: karaleighmiller@yahoo.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KaraLeighMiller

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KaraLeighMille1

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/KaraLeighMiller

 

Book Title: Halo’s Wish

Author: Sharon Kleve

Publisher: Books to Go Now

Genre: Sweet Contemporary Christmas Romance

Release Date: 9.15.2013

Length: 11K

Heat Rating: Sweet

 

Halo Wish

 

Book Blurb:

Halo Ann Carlyle wishes for a home, family, and a boat-load of pets. What she gets is a bruised hip, a lump on the head, a broken ankle, and her new yellow Honda Civic is demolished.

Rich McFarland, a sexy veterinarian, keeps showing up in the most unexpected places, promising everything she’s ever wanted.

Halo believes she only has time to pursue her career as a pet detective and must ignore her growing attraction to achieve her dreams.

Will Halo trust her heart, and find a way to get both for Christmas?

 

Excerpt:

She’d just placed another call through to Pemsky’s office, which went straight to his voicemail, when the office door opened. Halo smiled and looked up into dreamy, gold-flecked green eyes, short sandy brown hair, a slight cleft chin, and full lips set in a hard line. Even with the stern look he had on his face, my hormones jumped into overdrive.

Mr. Dreamy cleared his throat—she must’ve been staring. In her most professional voice she said, “Good morning. How may I help you?”

He removed a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and unfolded the sheet.

“I was parked in front of the Beacon Hill Ale House and my driver’s side mirror was sideswiped by one of Pemsky’s Security’s SUV’s Friday night.”

Halo loved the Beacon Hill Ale House. Every Saturday night the Ale House allowed local bands to jam together. That’s where she’d met her last loser boyfriend. She’d had a lot of loser boyfriends. She’s currently on a hiatus from dating, but she wouldn’t mind jumping back into the dating game for this dream-boat.

He handed her the piece of paper.

“I wasn’t able to get a look at the driver, but I got the license plate number of the vehicle that hit my car and drove away.”

He emphasized the last part.

“I’m very sorry about your car. I’m sure Mr. Pemsky will be happy to cover the damage.” Halo checked the company log and Pemsky’s name popped up as the driver—she gulped.

 

Author Bio:

Sharon Kleve was born and raised in Washington and currently lives on the Olympic Peninsula with her husband.

Sharon is a writer of paranormal and contemporary romance. She loves romance. She loves reading romance, living romance, and especially loves writing about romance. She gets no greater feeling than watching her characters come alive in each other’s arms. Most of all, she loves giving her characters the happily ever after they deserve—with a few bumps and bruises along the way.

One of her favorite things to do is picking up a new book and sinking into the story, immersing herself in the emotions between the characters. She hopes to inspire her readers the same way her favorite authors have inspired her.

When not writing, she can usually be found either curled up in her recliner with her cat and a good book, or in the kitchen baking sourdough bread or bagels.

 

Social Media Links:

Email: sharon.kleve@yahoo.com

Website: http://www.sharonkleve.com/

Blog: http://authorsharonkleve.blogspot.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sharonrkleve

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SharonKleve

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5399389.Sharon_Kleve

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sharon-kleve/56/ab/691/

 

 

 

 

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TWN WWW 300

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 ecstatic to welcome the ninja-captain himself, Sci-Fi author and blogger extraordinaire, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Alex is best known for his magical abilities to gather ninja-minions, visit thousands of blogs a day and for his awesome Cassastar Trilogy.  And today, we finally get a peek at his writing cave. His last novel, CassaStormis out in the world so get yourselves a copy.

 Welcome, Alex!

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

Alex J Cavanaugh modified

I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics, and I’m a guitarist in a band. I’m a fan of all things science fiction, books, movies, music, and games. Online I’m the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. My genre is science fiction-space opera and I’m the author of Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire. My third book, CassaStorm, was released September 17, 2013. My hidden talent – the ability to clone myself.

 

 

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I used to write by hand, but NaNo taught me to do it on the computer. So all writing is now done at my desk.

Desk - Alex modified

Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh’s Workspace

 

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

It’s been so long, I don’t know where I purchased my desk! I like my workspace free of clutter. Can’t handle piles of anything.

 

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

I need a bottle of water, some Hot Tamales, and some tunes playing to write. Preferably progressive rock and really loud. And if the television is on, that’s all right as well. (Sound muted of course – that would be overkill.)

 

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

I like the sparse appearance. Clutter is distracting. Favorite objects include my Starcraft figures (best game ever.) and my iPad. Plus Mini Alex is always nearby.

Desk Items - Alex

Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh’s Favorite Writing Companions

 

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

Water. I can’t stand coffee and I don’t drink soda often, so a bottle of water is a necessity.

Mini Alex Rocking modified

Mini-Alex

On Writing

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

Fantasy author Terry Brooks inspired me to write. I wanted to create stories I could read but couldn’t find anywhere else. Other favorite authors include Preston and Child, Timothy Zahn, and Ray Bradbury.

 

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

When I’m writing, it’s two to four hours every night, no matter what. I need to practice my guitar first though. That puts me in the right frame of mind.

Guitars - Alex

Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh’s Guitars

 

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

When I’m working on a book, it’s two to four hours. When I’m not, it’s just blog posts, articles, interviews, and comments, so probably the same amount of time. (I get to blog from work – is that awesome or what?) Television and blogging are probably my worst distractions.

 

4. Why do you write?

To read the stories I can’t find anywhere else.

 

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

Believe in what you are writing. If you don’t, nothing that follows will really matter.

 

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

 

Website – http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/

Twitter – http://twitter.com/AlexJCavanaugh

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4287922.Alex_J_Cavanaugh

CassaStorm by Alex J Cavanaugh modified

 

From the Amazon Best Selling Series!

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

 

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

 

“CassaStorM is a touching and mesmerizing space opera full of action and emotion with strong characters and a cosmic mystery.”  – Edi’s Book Lighhouse


“Cavanaugh has created wonderfully moving moments of great poignancy… CassaStorm could have been a dark story full of hardship and angst, but instead it’s a cleverly balanced story about hope and triumph.”
– Lynda R. Young, author of Make Believe

 

“I thought the revelation was going to be one thing and I was completely wrong … CassaStorm pushes the limits…”
– Tyson Mauermann, Speculative Reviews

 

$16.95 USA, 6×9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.

Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera

Print ISBN 9781939844002 eBook ISBN 9781939844019

$4.99 EBook available in all formats

 

Find CassaStorm:

Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1116848619?ean=9781939844002

Amazon –

http://www.amazon.com/CassaStorm-Alex-J-Cavanaugh/dp/1939844002/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378484337&sr=1-1&keywords=cassastorm

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/CassaStorm-ebook/dp/B00F2O9QMC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1378811366&sr=1-1&keywords=cassastorm

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17670532-cassastorm

Book trailer – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Umm2l0XdHc&feature=youtu.be

 

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

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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