Monday, August 31, 2009

falling for fall & critique mania

Now that August is wrapping up and we’re making the transition into fall, I find myself thinking about organization, setting goals, and clearing my desk for the working months ahead. Maybe it’s the relation of fall to school that always has me thinking autumn is such a great time for working on writing tasks and getting a few big projects from my to-do list accomplished, or maybe it’s just the change in season. But I always feel like fall is the start of something new. A new book; a new collection of poems; a new start….

Summer is such a time of play for me. The workload seems lighter, more playful, and social with readings, festivals, and other events. This change in season brings on a new schedule of events, sure, but it is also one of cracking down and getting to work. I’ve sharpened my pencils, I’ve reorganized my computer files, and I have a nice list of to-dos awaiting my attention as I segue into the next season. What about you? Do you start new projects in the fall? Do you reflect on your progress and set goals for yourself? Do you start drooling at the to-be-read pile, knowing you’ll get around to reading more during the fall than in the busy social months of summer?

Perhaps you’ve been working on something and are eager to receive feedback. If that’s the case, I have to let you know that Aug 31st is the last postmark day to register for the 2009 Critique Mania. This is a fundraiser for Soundings Review, which stems from the Whidbey Island Writers Association. Not only is this a great way to support a fantastic organization for writers, but for a mere $25 a writer can submit 1,000 words of prose or one poem (50 lines max) to be professionally critiqued and reviewed by one of many writers who have volunteered their time to support emerging artists through this fundraiser.

The response is fast – critiques will be returned by October 7th. And, if you have more than one piece you would like critiqued, or wish to have more than one author look at your writing, that’s possible too. So you can pick and choose what you’d like to receive feedback on, select which author(s) you would like to review your work, and all the while you’ll be supporting one of the best writing organizations I have come across.

You can find out more about Critique Mania here and there is detailed info about the participating authors here. Go on, check it out, and if you have something you want critiqued, make sure you get your submission postmarked today!

Also, don’t forget about the upcoming contest! At the end of September, I’ll be randomly selecting a name from the list of blog followers; one lucky winner will receive a personally signed copy of one of my books! So click to follow this blog if you don’t want to miss the latest news, interviews, and guest blogs and snag your chance to win a signed book.

Until next time… happy reading!

Friday, August 28, 2009

guest blog: quit writing

Today’s post is courtesy of Jude Hardin, who blogs at, where this post originated in February 2009. I loved it and wanted to share it with you here. Jude is a hard working writer, keeping the dream alive, and he has some truly outstanding posts on his blog, guest interviews, etc. Be sure to check it out after you read this teaser. Thanks to Jude for contributing!

Top Ten Reasons to Quit Writing
By Jude Hardin

10. The odds of landing a book deal right now are about the same as winning the lottery and being struck by lightning on the same day.

9. Even if you do manage to get a book deal, you can make more money bagging groceries.

8. Blank, white, rectangular thingies with the number 1 in the top right corner make you want to puke.

7. You could never write anything as good as {insert name of favorite author here}, so why even bother?

6. If you add one more rejection letter to the pile, the Earth might actually tilt on its axis.

5. There’s this abstract concept you vaguely remember called “a life,” and you’re starting to think you might need to get one.

4. You’re so preoccupied sometimes, complete strangers tap you on the shoulder and say, “Are you all right?”

3. You plan to make whoever was responsible for getting your order wrong at Hardee’s drive-thru yesterday a victim in your next mystery.

2. You have erotic dreams about the sales clerk at Staples.

And the number one reason to quit writing is...

Screw it. I'm not even going to waste my time posting the number one reason. If you’re really a writer, you’ll just ignore it anyway.

Thanks, Jude! Readers, be sure to visit Jude’s blog and share your feedback with him here or there.

On Monday, we’ll be returning to our usual blog schedule as my life returns to normal (kind of). I wish to send out a BIG thanks to Kiersten White, Erica Orloff, and Jude Hardin for filling in the cracks during this extra busy month for me. It’s been great to share some additional voices in here, and I hope you have all enjoyed the guest blogs.

Until Monday…. Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Q&A with author Kiersten White

You’ve already met Kiersten White from her guest blog postings here, during the past couple of weeks. Now, without further ado, I am pleased to share my interview with Kiersten so you can get to know a bit more about her and her writing.

Hi Kiersten. Can you tell us about Paranormalcy?
Paranormalcy was one of those ideas that strikes out of nowhere and possesses you until you finish. Those always end up being my favorite books--the thrill ride of discovering where it's going.

As far as the story itself, it sometimes takes me longer to come up with a working blurb for a book than to write the book itself, so I'll just plagiarize myself:

Sixteen-year-old Evie's job is bagging and tagging paranormals. Possessing the strange ability to see through their glamours, she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. But when someone--or something--starts taking out the vamps, faeries, and other odd beasties she's worked hard to help become productive members of society, she's got to figure it out before they all disappear and the world becomes utterly normal.

Normal is so overrated.

Of course that thumbnail description leaves out the super-cute love interest, the crazy faerie ex, a prophecy of death and destruction, and her killer wardrobe. Summaries are the bane of my existence.

Okay, but what’s it really about?
Good question. I think at its heart Paranormalcy is about isolation and the deep loneliness that comes with trying to figure out where we belong in a very confused world.

What can you tell us about the Sight series?
Hot boys. REALLY hot boys.

Oh, you mean plot-wise? Sight is my YA action/suspense series. Some women have abilities--powerful abilities. And these abilities attract the notice of powerful corporations who will stop at nothing to use them.

Also, hot boys.

Right now I've got two finished books in this series, Flash and Instinct, that are waiting for edits. I hope to someday sell them so that I can keep writing this world because it's ever so much fun and really satisfies my need to write action. And kissing scenes.

You’re very prolific. How do you choose which project to work on?
Generally the project chooses me. I've had to really focus though, because in the past I tried to juggle all of my finished drafts and keep writing new stuff. I realized I needed to buckle down and take one at a time. So now I try to alternate between editing existing manuscripts and writing new stuff for fun. Right now I'm working on a ghost story; when I finally finish that, I'll probably go back to editing Flash or Instinct.

Unless some sneaky, shiny new idea creeps in and demands my attention. I'm always a fan of following inspiration.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
After my daughter was born I found myself very, very bored. So I wrote my first book, a middle grade novel. It took me over a year. I queried on and off for it for about a year (I'd query one agent at a time--ha!). Then I started writing Flash and completely forgot about it. Poor middle grade novel; it wasn't your fault you were boring. I queried for about three months with Flash, at which point I found my fabulous agent, Michelle Wolfson. I was so excited about it I wrote Instinct in about two weeks. Then Flash went on submission and to distract myself I wrote Paranormalcy.

Sadly, editors passed on Flash because the MC was too old (apparently eighteen is the new eighty!). But that gave me the chance to really buckle down and whip Paranormalcy into shape. In a way it's good--I know that Paranormalcy is a stronger book than Flash. Plus I now have plenty of time to really look at Flash and figure out how to make it a better book.

Right now I'm at that fun, fun stage where I try not to check my email obsessively for news on the Paranormalcy sub.

I've struggled with self-doubt and frustration along the way, but I'm very lucky to have great writer friends, a wonderful agent, and a hot husband. After all, someone has to inspire all of those hot guys I write about.

What have you learned about the publishing industry that may help other writers starting out?
It is sloooooooooow. Slow and sometimes infuriatingly nonsensical. If you pin all of your hopes and happiness on any one thing, you will be disappointed. Getting an agent doesn't magically make everything easier. I suspect neither will getting a book deal, although I'd really like to find out just to make sure.

The point is, write because you love it. Write stories that engage your mind and delight you. There's nothing wrong with wanting to get published--it's a great goal. But don't let it ruin writing for you.

Aside from that, find out everything you can. There are so many great resources for beginning writers. You've already found Lori, so you're well on your way, but I also recommend Nathan Bransford's blog. Read as much as you can on the process of querying beforehand so you don't waste your time.

Additionally, fewer and fewer editors have time to really edit these days, so make sure your manuscript is in the best possible shape before sending it out. I wish I had done another good edit on Flash, but I made sure that Paranormalcy is as pretty as I could make it.

How does social media and technology play a role in how you connect with readers?
I've found such an exciting, supportive community through blogging. Up until now I used it as a way to connect with other writers (I've found all of my critique partners online), but I love what writers like Maureen Johnson and John Green do with their blogs and videos. I think if you can really connect with readers and help them feel like they have a relationship with you, you've got them for life. You can't understimate the value of blogs and online communities in word-of-mouth advertising.

Also, blogs, Twitter, and all that ilk are hands-down the best way to waste time I have ever found. Besides Bejeweled 2.

What’s the one question you want me to ask, that I didn’t, and what’s your response?
"Kiersten, is it true that the ghost in your WIP is named Lori?"

Why yes, Lori, it is! How cool is that?
*Lori’s note: aha! Very cool. ;)

How can readers learn more about you and your writing projects?
I blog like a maniac at You'll learn more than you ever knew you wanted to know! I also twitter under KierstenWhite (creative, I know!). Most of my tweets, however, consist of me whining about my kids throwing up. You've been warned.

Thanks, Kiersten. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about your latest news!

Thanks for the blog space, Lori!

Don’t forget to visit Kiersten’s blog at where you’ll find much more info and entertainment. Also, check back on Friday for a guest blog from writer Jude Hardin.

Until next time… happy reading!

Monday, August 24, 2009

guest blog: how to be a writer

You’ve met the fantastically talented Erica Orloff during the author Q&A on July 22nd. I’m so excited Erica has offered up one of her past blog posts to share with us today. The following was originally posted on Erica’s blog here.

how to be a writer
by Erica Orloff

Despite the title of my post, I really have no idea. I can teach people all sorts of rules of writing. I can mentor, guide, critique, even heavily edit someone's material. But I can't TEACH someone how to be a writer. Not really.

However, I have come to realize the people who succeed, those that I know personally over the years who have gotten contracts, big and small, who are still in the game years later, who seem to have a fan following, all of that . . . they seem to share some common traits. I am sure you notice a few yourself if you read enough blogs and talk to enough writers.

I have come to the conclusion that persistence is overrated. [Before you shriek, wait for the rest of this.] If you persist in sending a steaming pile of meh out, the same steaming pile of meh, a hundred times, you might wear down some poor underling editor at a small house, but I don't think you'll embody success. I have seen bull-headed writers insist they are the next Hemingway or Salinger or Fitzgerald, and no amount of critiquing--gentle or otherwise--seems to stand in the way of their delusion. They are PERSISTENT. Persistence can be learned, but there is also a personality type that simply refuses to give up. Call it delusion. I used to know a woman married to an actor--a singularly unattractive man who could not act his way out of a paper bag, but refused to get a day job lest he miss his "big call" while she slaved away long hours supporting his dream. Nope . . . that is supporting a delusion.

So I think before persistence, there must be a willingness, an incredible OPENNESS to learn craft.

Then persistence.I think writers also have to have an understanding that this isn't easy. That's it's a marathon, not a sprint. That your first novel might sit in a drawer forever because it was like kindergarten and it might be your fifth or sixth or tenth novel that really gels.

The writers I know that I consider successful never stop learning.

Note these are all TRAITS more than "don't overuse adverbs."

So what would you add to the list? So far I have:

A mind open to learning

Maybe it's that there is a difference between learning HOW TO WRITE and learning HOW TO BE A WRITER. What do you want to add to the list?

Be sure to visit Erica’s blog here and don’t be shy. Leave her a note, ask a question, and go ahead and follow her blog. You can also visit Erica’s website at

Friday, August 21, 2009

Q&A with Renee Miller Johnston

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Renee Miller Johnston over at the GoodReads community. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me and I am glad to share her responses with you here. Please welcome Renee as today’s author Q&A guest.

Hi Renee. Can you tell us about your children’s books?
My Courtney Logan Kennedy books began as an exercise of sorts to get me back into writing. I hadn't done it in a long time so I wanted to start with something small. I came up with the idea while brainstorming with my daughters and just began to write. There is so much of their personalities in the characters that it was easy to create. My goal was to make them an easy, fun read for kids that weren't as excited about reading as my kids. Since then I've had several parents tell me they enjoyed reading them too, which is always a bonus.

What inspired you to write for kids?
I have a small daycare that I run out of my home. I've always loved kids, so the first idea obviously had to have something to do with them. I find it easy to relate to them. What that says about me I'm not sure, but children's books are always fun to write, they take me back to being that age, and help to reconnect me with my own children.

You did some booksignings and had really great local press. Can you tell us about how your local community embraced the series?
The residents here in Tweed were fantastic. They supported me 100% when they found out I had published and went out to pick up their copies as soon as they arrived. The local papers I had to contact initially, but after the first conversation they went all out to make sure they gave me a great story. We joke now that I'm Tweed-famous because everyone knows about the books now. I have to say though, it's not much of an accomplishment since everyone knows everyone anyway here. It's just nice to use the word famous.

What plans do you have to continue the series?
I do have plans to continue with one more book, it is outlined and ready to be written. There is an issue holding me back, and I'm working on that. I want them to be more easily obtained here in Canada, and with the current publisher it has been extremely difficult. We'll have to see what happens there.

You also write under a pen name for another genre. What can you tell us about that?
I write under the name R.J. Miller, for the horror genre I love so much. None of these have been published, but we're getting close. I decided to use the pen name because I wish to continue writing in both genres, but I felt using the same name would be confusing. I'd hate to see a parent pick up a horror book somewhere and hand it to their child, unaware that I write in both genres. It's also handy because readers that don't know me (which is nearly every one) don't know if it's a male or female writer, and that's better when reading. I've been shocked to find a writer I thought had to be a woman turned out to be a guy. The writing convinced me that it had to be a woman, I hope that my writing is as good.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.

I have always written, short stories, poems, journals, silly emails and letters. I enjoy writing anything. But I've always had to work, as we all do, and never had the time to do more than 'dabble'. Last spring (March 2008) I decided it was best for my kids for various reasons for me to be home. I stopped working full time and began to take kids into my home for the income we were still needing.

A friend of mine listened to me moan about the boredom, I wasn't used to the home routine day in and day out, and she asked why I didn't try to write seriously. I had never thought about it, it didn't seem to be something that I could ever hope to achieve.

She pointed out I had nothing to lose, so I started. First with Courtney Logan Kennedy and a few weeks into that, I had an idea for a horror story. We have an old desk top computer, not very pretty and slower than a snail, so all of my writing was first by hand, and then I'd transfer it to the computer. That was not fun. I finished the first draft of Happiness Hills (horror) in late November 2008 and began searching for publishers. I didn't realize the editing process would take so long, or that it was so important. Since then I've learned so much, I know now that without that edit, it won't get looked at. Why would they? There are hundreds of others who took the time to clean their work up, so a messy manuscript full of errors is not worth the time.

Now I have three finished manuscripts in horror fiction, and I've written two more children's books as well as started a few other projects. I have found something that I love, I am passionate about it. If I don't write each day, I feel I've forgotten something very important. I love creating the story, character and the fantasy. If I never get another book published, I can't see stopping. It's too much a part of me now. I think an author has to write first because they love it, if that isn't a priority, I don't see how he/she could become successful or keep at it when it seems like such a steep hill to climb.

I hope that all made sense, it's early here still.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as an emerging author?
The first challenge I faced was finding a reputable publisher. Wow, what a sea of confusion out there. I've learned what to look for since and it's become easier. It was nice to find out that rejection didn't have to be a negative thing either. I have had several that have encouraged me to continue writing and to resubmit. That is something a new author needs. Some are even nice enough to tell you what they did and did not like.

I've also had some challenges with agents which I won't get into. I'll just say you must research that agent thoroughly, don't assume they are doing you a favor, you are paying them after all. I haven't found an agent yet, they are as hard to pin down as the elusive publisher. I will use an agent in the future though, it makes it so much easier. So many good publishers don't accept unagented authors, and that's hard. Last, I've learned to trust my gut in everything. If only I'd done that at first, I'd have avoided a lot of setbacks.

How do you connect with other writers?
I have found a great site, Since joining this site I've met authors from all different backgrounds and genres and all have been extremely helpful. There are many other sites for authors out there, but this is the one that worked best for me. It's nice to find a group of people who think like I do and love this writing things as much. I've found I'm not the only one with voices in my head, we're all crazy like that.

Tell us about your current work-in-progress/upcoming projects.
I just finished a manuscript titled Getting Away With It; The Legend of Jackson Murphy. I talk about it all the time now because I am very excited about it. I love this story and this character.

I'm working this minute on a story about a girl from the bayou, I'd say early 19th century. It's still 'in progress' so that may change a bit. Her mother is ill, and sells her to a 'madame' to ensure her daughter's safety once she's gone. It turns out to be a nightmare, the girl is raped and abused and just beaten down. She has a basic knowledge of voo-dodo and begins to seek revenge through this. I'm toying with the spirit she calls having nothing to do with her voodoo gods at all, he's something much worse.

I've also got three other works in various stages, one about a serial killer, another about five friends on a holiday to what turns out to be a haunted cabin, the twist is that one of them has set the rest up out of greed. The other is new yet, I'll stay mum about that one.

As a reader, what are some of your favorite books?
My favorite books? Hmm...such a long list. I'll start with children's authors - Beverly Cleary, Dr. Seuss, and books like the Narnia Chronicles, all of VC Andrews books, the Hungry Caterpillar, Nancy Drew series, Hardy Boy, any Disney story, and seriously, I can't name them all.

Adult fiction authors - Stephen King (of course), Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Belva Plains, Dean Koontz, Carlos J. Cortes, Michael Sullivan, Sherilyn Kenyon, and the list could go on and on.

How can readers learn more about you?
They can check out my website at I hope to have more excited features very soon. They can also find me on Goodreads (, Twitter, Facebook, and I think that's all.

Thanks, Renee! I appreciate you taking the time to talk about your journey as a writer.
Thank you for inviting me to your site…

Be sure to visit Renee over at her website…. And stay tuned for more author Q&As next week.

Until next time….

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Q&A with author Abby McDonald

Please join me in welcoming today’s guest author. Abby McDonald has authored novels for both adults and the YA market, with titles such as Sophomore Switch and The Popularity Rules. She’s worked hard to develop a following and will not only share what’s new for her in the coming months, but also share tips on how writers can stay in the game.

Hi Abby. Can you tell us about The Popularity Rules?
Here's the official blurb: All's fair in love, war and popularity...Kat Elliot is no social butterfly. She's spent her life rebelling against phony schmoozing - and it's led her nowhere. Just as she's ready to give up her dreams and admit defeat, in steps Lauren Anderville. One-time allies against their school bullies, Lauren and Kat had been inseparable. Then one year Lauren returned from summer camp blonde, bubbly, and suddenly popular, and Kat was left to face the world alone.Ten years later, Lauren's back. She wants to make amends by teaching Kat the secret to her success: The Popularity Rules. A decades-old rulebook, its secrets transformed Lauren that fateful summer. And so, tempted by Lauren's promises of glitzy parties and the job she's always dreamed about, Kat reluctantly submits to a total makeover - only to find that life with the in-crowd might have something going for it after all.But while Lauren has sacrificed everything to get ahead, is Kat really ready to accept that popularity is the only prize that counts?

Okay. But what’s it really about?
Many things! It touches on social hierarchies, modern feminism, the every-day compromises we make to our beliefs and ideology, the allure (and truth) of the make-over myth... But, to me, the heart of this book has always been female friendship, specifically, those deep, intense relationships we have in our teens/youth which - however they turn out- affect all the interactions we have after in a profound way. Whenever I got talking to a female friend, they would always mention one of these, and how the end of it shaped the way they see and trust other woman. I wanted to take two women whose teenage friendship had pretty much determined the course of their lives, and highlight how unresolved their emotional issues were; how much they still needed each other, despite what they told themselves.

You’ve already had considerable success with YA. Why the move toward adult novels?
The move actually went the other way: I was writing adult lit for about 3 years before I was inspired to branch out into YA. I thought that the kind of books I love to write (commercial, pop-culture influenced, strong female characters) would work for a teen audience too, and it's been a lot of fun switching between the age groups. My teen books are much lighter, and more fast-paced, so it's a different challenge: making things immediate, and vivid, in a shorter format. With my adult books, the hard work comes with creating more complex relationships and layers to the characters, creating subplots and subtext that make the story rewarding over 100k, 120k words.

Congratulations on your success with Sophomore Switch. It received such great reviews. What was your inspiration in writing it?
Thanks! It actually came to me in a flash-- or rather, a traffic jam. I'd been working on another Oxford-based YA for a while without much success: editors loved the setting, but thought the murder mystery elements were too dark. So, I was joking along with a friend about the lightest, fluffiest Oxford-based concept I could think of, and the framework of Sophomore Switch was born. Of course, being me, I couldn't help but slip in deeper themes about feminism and identity along the way, but it's that balance that readers seem to enjoy, so I'm pleased with how it worked out.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
Long and twisted, like most writers... A lot of people assume that because I'm relatively young, my career has been an overnight success for me, but the reality is far less glamorous. I wrote my first novel at 19 (an adult chick-lit book), signed with an agent, and embarked on years of rewrites and near-misses before finally putting it aside. It was disheartening at the time, but it served as a kind of apprenticeship for me: teaching me not just about the workings of the industry, but also the skills of editing and how to construct a plot. When it came to my next novels, I was much better equipped, and I like to think that I've grown a lot as a writer since that first attempt.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
Perseverance and practice. It can be incredibly frustrating to work on a book for so long that is ultimately rejected, but sometimes you have to look past the goal of publication and remember that all the writing you do is valuable in the long term. So much of the industry is luck and timing, and factors out of your control. For example, that first book of mine not only coincided with a deadly slump in the chick-lit market, but also revolved around a blogging premise, so, once it was no longer a 'hot topic', it was essentially useless-- if I only judged it in terms of publication. But, I learned so much from the process, and hardened myself against rejection, which served me well when it came to my next adult book The Popularity Rules. When I think of all the chances I had to quit, and just walk away, I can't even count them. The saying is an old one, but so true: the only difference between a published author and an unpublished one, is that the published one didn't give up.

How does social media and technology enhance the way you connect with readers?
Since I'm based in England, it's pretty much been my only way of connecting with readers so far. Because teens are so web-based, I set up a dedicated website for the book at, with fun additional content like social network profiles, playlists, and a form for email. I also blog, and try to be prompt getting back to every reader who writes me (I love fan mail!), and I'm a big fan of twitter, which is a way of connecting on a more every-day level.

What else can readers expect from you in the near future?
A lot! In September, Sophomore Switch will be published in the UK (as Life Swap), and The Popularity Rules hits shelves. Then I'm busy writing for a while, before a hectic 2010: Sophomore Switch paperback in Feb (with a cute new cover), my next YA Boys, Bears & A Serious Pair of Hiking Boots published in April, and my next adult book, The Good Girl's Guide to Deception out in May.

How can readers learn more about you and your books?
My website is a good base, and then I blog at, and tweet at

Thanks, Abby! I appreciate you taking the time to talk about your latest news and upcoming releases.

Be sure to visit Abby at her website to learn more about her work.

Until next time….

Monday, August 17, 2009

Guest Blog: Querying Grief

Kiersten White, a fabulous YA author who blogs at, was kind enough to share this previous post of hers with us today. Please welcome our guest blogger and make Kiersten feel at home!

The Five Stages of Querying Grief
By Kiersten White

Stage One: Denial
This can't be happening to me! Novel is so good! I was supposed to get an agent within days of sending out that first query! There must be some sort of mistake--it's already been three weeks. Sure, everyone else has to go through a long, drawn-out querying process, but not me! There's going to be a request for a full in my inbox RIGHT NOW, I just know it.

Stage Two: Anger
What?!? [Insert Author Name Here] got an agent on her first try! And my book is at least as good as hers! And WHY won't anyone get back to me? I personalized and everything! Don't they understand I'm checking my email every twenty minutes? I HATE THIS! QUERYING IS THE WORST THING EVER! JUST READ MY FREAKING BOOK ALREADY!

Stage Three: Bargaining
Okay. It's okay. If I can just get a request for a full, if an agent will just read the whole thing, I'll be happy. No matter what, I'll be happy then. No? A partial. Just read a partial, I swear then I'll be happy, I won't complain or freak out or want to give up. Just a partial? No? Just respond. Anything. Just respond, and I'll be okay, really, I promise. Just a response? Please?

Stage Four: Depression
It's been three weeks. This is it. No one is going to want Novel. They'll never read it, so they'll never know how much fun it is, how well-written it is, how much potential I have as a writer. I'll never get an agent, which means I'll never get published, and there's nothing I can do about it. I suck. I suck, I suck, I suck I suck I suck. And the worst part is that I don't suck, but it doesn't matter, because no one will ever know. I'm never going to be an author. It's over. I'm going to bed. And I'm not getting up again.

Stage Five: Acceptance
Well, it is what it is. I’ve put in the work, I’ll keep at it, and I know I'll be published someday. Maybe an agent will fall in love with Novel. Maybe not. It's more luck than anything else at this point, and I can accept that. Either way, I'll keep writing, and someday, someone will represent me. In the meantime, I’ve got this shiny new idea over here just begging to be written…Of course, eventually you will make it out of this cycle. But that leads us to the stages of agented submission grief and there’s like 87 of them. One step at a time, right?

Thanks to Kiersten for sharing this post with us today. Please check out her blog at for more wisdom and wit.

Until next time… happy reading!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Q&A with Lydia R. LeRoy-Williams

I recently met Lydia on and knew I simply had to interview her and share it with you here on the blog. So, as a special author Q&A during my busy month of much-ado-about-August, I present writer Lydia R. LeRoy-Williams.

You’re a mom, a wife, and a writer. How do you manage to make time for writing?
This is a constant struggle. When days go by and I have not written anything, I feel as though a piece of me has been neglected so it is important to get writing time in.

The other night I worked on a piece, on my laptop, while my daughter was in the bath. Sure, I got a few water drops and bubbles on my screen but it was worth it. I have to MAKE the time, even if it is only at ten minutes intervals.

Also, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything if it weren’t for my husband, who's completely supportive, or my mom, who's there when I need some quiet writing time.

In the perfect world, what would your writing day be like?
That is an interesting question and I am going to take this question and run with it without borders.

I would have a quiet room or office of my own that overlooked the Oregon Coast, (this would require me to move) it’s an inspiring place for me. My space would be Shabby Chic, with candles lit everywhere and a fireplace. I would have a sofa with lots of pillows and throws, as well as a desk. There would have to be a fridge with water and champagne (when I want to feel glamorous) and snacks, for the comfort of it.

My day would start around 9 o’clock (need my sleep) and work until lunch. Spend that with my family and then get back to it. I would write until I knew what I wanted to start with the next day rather than write until I was blocked.

Quite honestly, I think the environment in which I write is what I have dreamt of. Usually I write where there is a moment of quiet i.e. bathroom, bed, car. It would be brilliant if I had that quiet, private, inspirational space, of my own. Virginia Woolf was right when she said every woman needs a room of her own.

You write fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Tell us about your writing.
Poetry was my start. My first poem, that I remember, was titled: ‘Boys.’
Boys are toys/they’re sometimes joys/but be careful/or you could be/a toy to a boy.

I have continued to write poetry, some have been published. I began writing fiction during school. When given an assignment in school all the other kids would sigh with distaste. I, on the other hand, would be so excited to sit down and write.

I decided that I wanted to be a screenwriter when I was in my early twenties. I had a mentor at that time who taught me amazing things in regards to writing. He encouraged me to write the screenplay. I did, I even finished it, knowing it was terrible.

After that reality set in (that screenwriting was not my area of expertise), I decided to try my hand at a novel. This felt more like me. I have also, throughout the years, written some essays and articles; a few, I have had published.

What have you written that you are most proud of?
I would have to say, surprisingly, that my screenplay is what I am the most proud of because I continued, stayed with it, and gave it all I had at the time. When later, after sharing it with my mentor and my family, I was informed how raw and imperfect it was, I was sad, but I was so proud that I had finished it! I worked on it every single day, come rain or shine.

Think of all your favorite authors and books. What book do you wish you had written?
My absolute favorite book is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I admire Plath as a writer because she wrote out her guts, no matter what anyone else thought. Her writing was her life, wrong or right, no one could accuse her of not putting her soul into what she did.

I want to be that kind of writer. With all the responsibilities that one may have, one must give their souls to their work, pour it out, lay it down, raw and with honesty.

What are you working on now?
I am always doing poetry, it’s in my blood. My current work in progress is my first novel. I have been working on it for too long and my main goal is to finish it. I am also working on articles for a new online magazine that I will be freelancing for. I have recently started a blog and have been working on that as well. In addition, I love to journal.

How do you stay connected with other writers?
I have recently been involved with online groups, which has proved to be outstanding and extremely motivating. My favorite online community is

If you could commit to one thing, in the next year, to benefit your writing life what would it be?
To get back to Wellspring House in Massachusetts. I was able to spend a full week there in October 2008. It was the best experience I have had in regards to my personal writing growth. I would also make sure to finish my novel!

What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading: The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, Mommywood by Tori Spelling, and Jodi Picoult’s My Sisters Keeper.

What books are on your to-be-read pile?
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, Time and Again by Jack Finney, I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb, Everyone is Beautiful and The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center.

How can readers learn more about you and your writing?
Well, I have a blog (it is very new so be kind) as well as my profile on I am also on Twitter: lydiaruth77

Be sure to visit Lydia on one (or more) of her web links above. And be sure to come back Monday for another guest blog from author Kiersten White.

Until next time….

Thursday, August 13, 2009

review of stains by AF Stewart

Just a quick note to suggest you check out this review of stains: early poems. Thanks to AF Stewart for taking the time to interview me and share thoughts on my new poetry book!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Q&A with Daphne Uviller

I’m pleased to introduce Daphne Uviller as today’s Q&A guest. An editor, a novelist, and a third-generation West-Villager, Daphne will share the news related to her latest publication, Super in the City.

Hi Daphne. Can you tell us about Super in the City?
Super in the City is a sexy, urban caper about an overeducated young woman who unwillingly becomes the super of her parents’ Greenwich Village building and uncovers unsavory activity among the tenants. (It’s also a shameless love letter to my native neighborhood.)

Okay. But what's it really about?
It’s about the search for professional identity among twenty-somethings, a time in life (for the financially fortunate, to be sure) that David Brooks once generously termed “the odyssey years.” There’s this paralysis that grips many educated people, an inability to pick a profession and stay the course. It’s not laziness, not by any stretch – it’s an overabundance of opportunity, and it struck me as a great battle for a main character. It made me think of one of my favorite short stories, James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which was published in 1939. My heroine is a new millennial, female Walter Mitty – similarly prone to wild occupational fantasies and self-reinvention.

It’s also about real New Yorkers, those of us who don’t stay up til 4am, drinking $20 martinis, wearing $200 Pradas and who still milk the city for all it’s worth.

What sources of inspiration led you to write this novel?
My agent wanted me to write another book for him to sell. Seriously, that was the main fire under my butt. I’d written four screenplays, landed some meetings in Hollywood, but after five years, still had no film agent. Then, when my first book, Only Child, was finished and in stores, I thought, well, hey, now I have a literary agent. Why not write something for him?

It seems you like variety. Have you any other odd jobs worth sharing?
Immediately after college, I worked at a New York City law enforcement agency that investigates crime and corruption in the public school system. They didn’t let me carry a gun, though I sometimes pretended (usually to guys on first dates that were not going well) that I was on the verge of getting my license.

What can you tell us about your contribution to Only Child?
Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo is a collection of 21 original essays by well-known writers on the subject of traveling through life without siblings. I co-edited it with my dear and talented friend Deborah Siegel. She hated being an only, I loved it, so we did a book. My essay, “Dodging Laurie,” imagines the sister I never had, imagines her failing to come through for me in the way my friends and husband did when my dad was dying.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
I’ll skip the syrupy part about being six years old and drawing little books and saying, “I want to be an author.” After my stint in law enforcement, I worked as an unpaid intern at The Paris Review. My parents and I had agreed that in lieu of tuition for an MFA, they would support me for two years. (I think an MFA program is great for making connections and gaining discipline and I was lucky enough to already have both, so I passed and took the money.) At The Paris Review, I read other people’s short stories and realized that mine were like many out there – quite good, but not good enough. I didn’t want to be holed up for ten years working on some opus that might or might not see the light of day. I needed and still need lots of interaction with the real world. So I started writing book reviews for Time Out New York and later became an editor there. I went on to write for Newsday, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and also wrote for Allure and Self, where I had a column in the late ‘90s.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
1) Make sure you love the act of writing (not all the time, of course, but most of the time) and not just a romantic idea of being published. It is not romantic. It is often quite ugly. Do not expect to get rich.
2) Regularly turn off your internet connection. There is no way to dive deep into a story if you’re constantly checking e-mail and Facebook and whether Michael Jackson is still dead. (I promise you he will not Twitter from the grave. RIP).
3) Some writers must have solitude. I am not one of them. I schedule writing dates in busy cafes with other writing friends. We sit, laptop to laptop, working on different things. Do not underestimate the power of having someone expecting you at a certain place at a certain time to complete a certain task. Sometimes I park myself at my husband’s office and write there, to have his company (he’s a biologist). If you’re having trouble, write with someone! (If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of this method, know that Malcolm Gladwell, that bestselling hound, writes at my cafe, too, though he doesn’t know me from Eve.)
4) Hound editors until they read your stuff. Call them again and again and again. Stop calling if they’ve read it and don’t like it. Go call someone else.
5) Read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Right now. Go. Read it.

How has social media and technology changed the way you connect with readers?
I don’t use social technology very well, mostly because I don’t have the time. I joined Facebook to promote my books, but wound up not interested in friending people I don’t know. I have an e-mail list of about 550 people that I call my “books and babies” list – I send them announcements when I deliver either of the above, or am doing a reading. I maintain a website, which is the best way to find out about my work. And I jump at the opportunity to do interviews like this! But, aside from writers who hire people to maintain their reader communication, I don’t understand how they find the time to keep writing. Publicity is a full-time job in itself.

What is your current work-in-progress?
I have a two-book contract with Bantam Dell and I’m writing a continuation of Super in the City.

How can readers learn more about you and your writing?
Visit or email


Thanks to Daphne for joining us here! Remember, there are more interviews and guest blogs coming this week and this whole month of August. If you haven’t yet read the interview with Christina Baker Kline, keep on reading below.

Until next time… happy reading!

Q&A with Christina Baker Kline

This news is just too good not to share. Author Christina Baker Kline has just released a fantastic new book, Bird in Hand, and it’s available… now! So, to help her celebrate her new release and see what the new book is about, what better way than to ask the author herself. Please join me in welcoming our guest for this special author Q&A.

Hi Christina. Can you tell us about Bird in Hand?
Bird in Hand opens with a car accident that sets in motion a series of events that changes the (interconnected) lives of four people. It moves forward in the present day through the alternating perspectives of these four characters, and it also moves back in time through their perspectives to a specific moment in the past.

But what’s it really about?
That's a good (and funny!) question. Well, at one point in the book a character wonders, "Who breaks the thread, the one who pulls or the one who hangs on?" I wanted to write about love and loss and betrayal and renewal. I wanted to write about characters who don't know quite what they want, or how to get it, and are pushed into decisions by circumstances beyond their control. One of my epigraphs is a quote from The Age of Grief, by Jane Smiley: "Confusion is perfect sight and perfect mystery at the same time." This holds true for all of my characters in different ways.

You’re quite prolific and diverse. How did you fall into writing both novels and non-fiction?
I'm not really that prolific. I've just been on the planet for a while! Writing novels is my passion. But writing fiction is a solitary pursuit, and another side of me wants to be out in the world, interacting with people and exchanging ideas. All of my nonfiction books have been, in a sense, collaborations -- I wrote a book about feminist mothers and daughters with my mother; I've edited or co-edited four essay collections. I realized the other day that my blog on writing [note: hyperlink?], A Writing Year: Ideas and Inspiration for Writing Fiction, fulfills this social/intellectual need. I can share my thoughts about writing with other people, and work with guest bloggers on their own ideas. I love doing it.

Tell us about what you do at Fordham University.
As Writer-in-Residence, I teach creative writing to undergraduates and graduate students and oversee creative-writing masters' theses. I serve on the Creative Writing committee and help bring visiting writers to campus; I also facilitate creative-writing events and contests. It's a wonderful job, and I wish I could have it forever, but it's a three-year appointment, sadly!

How do you balance your writing life?
It's hard. I rarely feel that I achieve balance; what I've learned over the years is that sometimes things will be out of balance, and that's okay. Sometimes I don't have time to work on my fiction (like now, while I'm in London teaching and working on nonfiction articles and interviews). And sometimes I'm focused on my family -- my husband and three boys (two teens and a nine-year-old) and just want to be in the moment with them. I'm not sure whether it's my nature or whether I've learned to do this because I have a complicated life, but I'm pretty good at hunkering down and working on my novel when I need to. When I'm completely consumed with writing, other parts of my life suffer -- laundry piles up, for example, and we do a lot of takeout. My family is pretty understanding; they know it's all part of the process, and will be over before long. They all have their own passions as well!

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
In my senior year of college a visiting novelist took my short stories to her literary agency, and a young agent (Beth Vesel, who is still my agent) called me up and said she wanted to represent me. This gave me confidence at an early age -- the idea someone believed in me and cared about my work. Though I know this is pretty unusual, and I was lucky, I always tell my students that what's most important is that they find someone -- a mentor if possible, a friend, even a parent -- who believes in their work and encourages them to move forward. After college I went to graduate school in literature and didn't write a creative word, but this agent called every few months, just checking in: "Are you thinking about your novel yet? How are you going to carve out time to make that happen?" She encouraged me to apply for MFA fellowships so that I'd have two free years to write. And that's what I did -- I went to the University of Virginia, did an MFA in Fiction Writing, and wrote my first novel.

What have been some of the challenges in your career as a writer?
The biggest challenge for me came after I'd written my second novel and was working on a third. A lot of things changed at once -- I moved from New York to the suburbs; I had three children in fairly quick succession, I started a full-time teaching job. As a result, I lost the thread of the novel I was working on and couldn't figure out how to find it. Eventually I abandoned that novel and wrote another very quickly, The Way Life Should Be, which was lighthearted and funny and had recipes. Writing it was a pleasure! After that, I had the clarity to return to the novel that became Bird in Hand. Though it was a long and difficult process, I learned a lot about myself and my writing in those years. And I think that ultimately Bird in Hand is much stronger for it. I truly think it's the best thing I've written.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
Well, as I said before, find someone who encourages your writing. Avoid people who are "toxic," to use an old self-help phrase -- people who are competitive with you or otherwise sabotage your writing. Set clear goals for yourself ("I will write a draft of a novel in one year," "I will write one short story a month") with daily goals as well. When I'm writing a novel I set myself the task of four pages a day. Sometimes I write more, sometimes less, but that's always the goal.

How has social media and technology enabled you to connect with readers?
It's transformed my ability to connect with people. I'm pretty accessible; I have a website and a blog and an email address that's easy to find. As a result I get a lot of mail from readers, which is a terrific way to learn about the impact your work has on others.

What can readers expect from your blog?
I started my blog, A Writing Year, as a way to talk about the creative process. Essentially, I write my blog the way I teach -- with an emphasis on tips and ideas for getting words on the page and turning them into readable prose. I also "commission" pieces from guest bloggers, published authors with specific things to say about craft and the life of a writer. Unlike many blogs, mine is not stream-of-consciousness; it's not a diary of my experience. Though I sometimes talk about my personal life, I'm more interested in talking about ideas and inspiration.

What’s up next for you? What can readers look forward to?
I'm working on a new novel that traces the journey of Vivian Daly, a now-90-year-old woman, from a small village in Ireland to the crowded streets of the Lower East Side to the wide-open expanses of the Midwest to the coast of Maine. In 1929, after a terrible accident in a Lower East Side tenement destroys her family, nine-year-old Vivian is sent on an orphan train to Minnesota. Stripped of her identity, she has to learn how to survive on her own. She never tells anyone the whole story of what happened to her -- until a 17-year-old troubled girl comes into her life when she is an old woman. As Vivian begins to face the truth about what happened long ago, the past becomes more and more present for her.

How can readers learn more about you and your books?
Go to my website,, and my blog, (You can also reach my blog through my website.) Over the next month or so I'll be doing guest blogs and interviews all over the web and linking to them on my blog. Feel free to comment on blog posts -- I love to hear what readers think!

Thanks, Christina! I appreciate you taking the time to talk about Bird in Hand and your latest news.
Thanks so much, Lori


You can pick up Bird in Hand at your local brick & mortar store, or order online from amazon here.

If you love the author Q&As, be sure to see this week’s interview with Daphne Uviller. Remember, too, there are several guest blogs this week and during the rest of August.

Until next time….

Monday, August 10, 2009

Guest Blog: how to write

Kiersten White, a fabulous YA author who blogs at, was kind enough to share this previous post of hers with us today. Please welcome our guest blogger and make Kiersten feel at home!

fool-proof steps for becoming a writer
by Kiersten White

Step One: Decide you're going to write a story.

Step Two: Decide it's going to be brilliant. Imagine the response of your [teacher, classmates, reading group, agent] and how it will completely change the way they look at you.

Step Three: Open up Word.

Step Four: Stare at the blank white screen stretching on into infinity until your eyes begin to burn and your brain hurts from the sheer emptiness of it all.

Step Five: Check your email. If writing a novel, research agents for a couple of hours.

Step Six: Stare at the blank Word document again.

Step Seven: Realize you need music. Spend the next hour finding the perfect "mood" music for what you want to write.

Step Eight: Inspired by [insert perfect music here], click back over to Word document.

Step Nine: Change Facebook status to: [Your name here] is WRITING!!! Realize you aren't on Twitter, and that anyone who is anyone is networking/wasting time on Twitter. Sign up for an account and spend the next two hours figuring out how it works and what the crap # means.

Step Ten: Stare at blank Word document. Decide you need a title. Brainstorm for the next hour.

Step Eleven: Come up with a GENIUS title. Proudly type "The Scent of Green Papayas" at the top of the document, followed by your name. Happily consider how easily a story will come now that you have such an amazing, literary title.

Step Twelve: Take a four hour break for snacks and naptime.

Step Thirteen: Refreshed, sit down and toy around with pen names for a while.

Step Fourteen: Realize to your horror that your genius title is actually the name of a Vietnamese foreign film you saw seven years ago.

Step Fifteen: Erase the title, pressing Backspace much harder than necessary.

Step Sixteen: Stare at the blank Word document until your eyes bleed.

Step Seventeen: Check Facebook. See that fourteen people have commented on your status, asking what you are writing. Feel both guilty and annoyed.

Step Eighteen: Slam your laptop shut and go to the movies. Tomorrow's a better day for writing, anyhow. See? You never knew writing was so easy!

Thanks to Kiersten for sharing her funny – and true – post with us today. Please check out her blog at for more wisdom and wit.

Until next time… happy reading!

Friday, August 7, 2009

rolling out the well-read carpet

You may recall I mentioned August is going to be a particularly busy month for me. Rather than take my chances that I may or may not be able to commit to my thrice-weekly blog posts I am pleased to announce I have recruited some fantastic guest bloggers and interviews for the entire month. Not only does that give you a break from me (ahhhh), but you’ll also have an opportunity to meet and interact with some very cool authors.

You may have noticed Kiersten White in the comment sections before and you’ll certainly notice her now; she’ll be a guest blogger on August 10th and 17th and will also be my interview subject for the author Q&A on August 26th. Perhaps you’ll recall the Q&A with mega-talented Erica Orloff? She’s contributed a guest blog scheduled to appear August 24th. Author Jude Hardin will be guest blogging on August 28th. In addition to these guest posts, the regularly scheduled Q&As will be appearing, featuring interviews with authors Daphne Uviller, Lydia R. LeRoy-Williams, Abby McDonald, and Renee Miller-Johnston. So while I may not be here all the time, you shouldn’t notice an absence in activity this month. Plus, I’ll try my darndest to come by and check on your comments and questions, so don’t feel like you’re being left in the dark!

What the heck is keeping me so busy this month, anyways? Well, I am wrapping up some edits on my work-in-progress. I’m also knee-deep in promoting and marketing my latest book, stains: early poems, which is out now and at a really great discount at Barnes & Noble. There are a few editorial meetings I need to hit out of town in addition to meeting with some venues for future readings and signing events. Plus, I’m doing some behind-the-scenes work that is a bit consuming (but fun!), since I have recently been recruited to act as Managing Editor of Marick Press, a not-for-profit publisher of literary non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. So… it’s a busy month and I want to make sure I take care of what I need to take care of, but not let this blog gather dust. Thus, I hope you will enjoy the bounty of authors I am leaving in your care and I’ll look forward to sharing all sorts of news upon the return to my usual ‘schedule.’

Remember, while I am running around this month, I’m not that far away. So you can still feel free to email me, find me on twitter, leave comments in the blog, or find me on facebook. I’ll be sure to check in any moment I can spare. Oh, and the contest for a personally signed copy of one of my books is still on, so if you haven’t yet clicked to ‘follow this blog’ go ahead and do so now. I’ll be randomly drawing a winner from the list of followers at the end of September.

Until later… happy reading!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Q&A with author Kyra Davis

This summer, the fourth installment of the Sophie Katz series arrived after much anticipation. For today’s Q&A we have the series author, Kyra Davis, here with us to share details about Sophie’s adventures, Kyra’s path to publication, and what’s next for this killer – and comedic – writer.

Hi Kyra. Can you tell us about Lust, Loathing, and A Little Lip Gloss?
Sophie has finally decided that she is ready to make a lifetime commitment to the one she loves…a three bedroom Victorian with a yard. She wants the house so badly she’s willing to deal with her obnoxious ex-husband who is the realtor representing it and she’ll meet all of the seller’s crazy conditions. She’s not dissuaded by the house’s possible dark history or even the accounts by some that it’s haunted. It’s not until people associated with the house start dying that she becomes concerned particularly when she begins to suspect that she might be one of the targets.

What sort of trouble does Sophie come across this time?
Oh, she’s finding more dead bodies and someone seems to want to kill her again. Just another day in the life.

Has it been difficult to sustain the character of Sophie through all her stories?
It’s not hard to sustain the character. Any well-developed character is going to evolve over time. We all have layers and as an author I enjoy exploring different aspects of Sophie’s personality, history and emotional development. The challenge is coming up with new and different ways for her to stumble into a murder investigation.

You have Vendettas And A Little Black Dress up next. What can you tell us about it?
A very important character from the series is going to be shot. Note that I didn’t say they would die (although I didn’t say they wouldn’t either). The point is that lives are going to be turned upside down and Sophie and those around her will be forced to reexamine everything. Anatoly and Sophie’s relationship will also have some twists and turns and the two of them will need to make some pretty big decisions.

You’re very prolific. How do you explain your staying power?
I’m honestly not sure I have a good answer for that. I’ve seen so many amazingly talented authors lose their contracts and their challenges make me appreciate both my good fortune as well as the precariousness of my position. I CAN say that a lot of people relate to Sophie. She’s become a friend to readers all over the world and I think it’s harder to give up on a long term friend (by not passing her up in the bookstore) than resist the temptation to acquaint yourself with a new one (by buying a book with previously unknown characters). In other words it helps that I have an on going series instead of a bunch of unrelated titles.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I started writing the first Sophie book (Sex, Murder And A Double Latte). I was just messing around at the time I started penning that story. It didn’t occur to me that I might want to publish it until I was about fifty pages into it. Now it’s more than an idea… more than a dream. It’s a career. I am so blessed to be able to make a living doing something that I love. For me that’s the definition of success.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
Embrace constructive criticism. It’s hard to hear anything that isn’t 100% positive about a work you have poured your heart and soul into but you have to remember this is a craft. Nothing you ever write will be perfect and if you’re not able to listen when others try to help you improve on your project you're not ready to be published.

How would you say the industry has changed since your debut?
It’s totally and completely different. For one thing half the editors have been laid off as the publishing houses have rushed to downsize in order to survive the recession. Big book tours are becoming increasingly rare even for the most popular authors and bookstores are struggling and are watching their inventories like a hawk. Advances for new authors are down and everybody’s trying to figure out how Kindle is going to play into the equation. Oh, and Chick-Lit has become a dirty word. I realize that none of that sounds good but I have faith that things will work out for the publishing world at the end of the day and so far Sophie still seems to be going strong despite the economic climate and shifting publishing trends so I don’t have a lot to complain about.

How has this impacted your role as a working writer?
As I said, it hasn’t impacted me too much yet. Except for the “Chick Lit” thing. A lot of professional reviewers won’t give my books a second glance because they know that I was part of that whole Chick Lit Mysteries revolution that was “so 2005.” On the other hand I’m one of the few authors who were part of that revolution who has also managed to stay around and remain successful. I actually take pride in that. The funny thing is that because “Chick Lit” is “out” I can explore my characters in more emotional depth with the full approval of my publishing house. It’s okay to be a little “darker” now because they think it helps distance me from the Chick Lit thing. So oddly enough the decline of the very genre I used to champion has allowed me to grow as an author.

How has social media and technology changed the way you connect with readers?
It’s changed it completely. I feel like I know my readers now. I interact with some of them several times a week. I know which of my characters are their favorites and what kind of adventures they hope to see Sophie take part in. It’s really awesome because if you think about it my readers are my employer. They quite literally pay my salary and keep my career afloat. So thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Myspace I can find out what’s going on inside my bosses’ heads. It’s great!

We’ve talked about your upcoming releases. What else can readers expect from you in the near future?
I would really love to write a YA fantasy novel. Hopefully that will happen within the next two years.

How can readers learn more about you and your books?
They can always check out my website:

Thanks, Kyra. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about your latest news and upcoming releases.

You can order Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss from Barnes & Noble here, where you’ll also see links to Kyra’s other books, including the entire Sophie Katz series.

I hope you enjoyed today’s Q&A with Kyra Davis. There are plenty more author interviews on the schedule, so make sure you bookmark the site or follow this blog – and also be entered into the contest for a signed copy of one of my books!

Also, as previously mentioned, the month of August is an especially busy one for me so I have recruited additional authors to make guest appearances, share news in extra Q&As, and offer tips for emerging writers.

With such a jam-packed blog schedule, this month will go by fast but I hope you are able to enjoy the guest appearances and make each author feel at home. Here’s a tip – authors love comments from readers and are generally very happy to answer questions. So, don’t be shy! Leave your comments and questions, as each author is no doubt going to pop over to see what discussions are going on here.

Thanks for stopping in. Until next time… happy reading!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Q&A with Allison Winn Scotch

If you haven’t yet read Time of My Life from Allison Winn Scotch, now’s your opportunity. Today marks the release of the paperback edition and, thus, we have a special author Q&A outside of our regularly scheduled programming. Allison has a great story about her start as a writer and she’s super fun to chat with, so please join me in welcoming today’s featured author…

Hi Allison. Can you tell us about Time of My Life?
Sure. Time of My Life is the story of Jillian Westfield, a contented but not truly fulfilled, stay-at-home mom who has lingering “what ifs” about her past and her happiness. She wakes up one day seven years in her past and has the opportunity, should she so choose it, to rewrite her future.

Okay, but what’s it really about?
I think it’s really about our capability to make our own happiness and our sometimes inability to accept that like it or not, this is the life we have chosen for ourselves. And if you DON’T like it, what can you do to get back on the path that you once envisioned. To me, this isn’t a book about a woman who wonders about an ex-boyfriend and what might have been (though, certainly, there’s that element), rather it’s a book about how small choices in life can accumulate such that sometimes you wake up and say, “How did I get here? Where did my life go off the rails?” And once you ask yourself that, how you find the strength, courage and insight to regain control of the life you once hoped for.

What are some of the “what-ifs” you have encountered in your own life?
Oh gosh, well, I’m mean, of course I’ve entertained those “what ifs” about past loves, like I think nearly every woman has. But I’m the first to say that I think that’s an entirely normal, human emotion...that sometimes, when things get difficult or murky, it’s a lot easier to want to jump off the train and pretend that another path would have been easier. (I should also say that I’m happily married!) I’ve also had the “what if,” of if I hadn’t been in the right place, right time of meeting my husband (we met at the gym! What if one of us hadn’t joined or I hadn’t introduced myself to him!), and what if I hadn’t left Los Angeles, where I was at one point, to move back to NYC, where my whole life changed, including me opting to pursue writing and meeting my husband. I don’t know, I suppose the “what ifs” could be endless, but that said, I have a wonderful and happy and content life, and I really do fall into the mindset that nearly everything works itself out in life as it should.

Tell us a bit about your journey as an author.
Well, as I alluded to above, I wasn’t always determined to be a writer. I was always good at it, and people always told me I should pursue it, but to be honest, when I graduated from college, it simply didn’t seem viable. I mean, how does someone make money as a writer? It seemed ludicrous. I tried on a few different career hats, and one – doing an internet start-up – led to a bunch of freelance writing gigs (I was doing the web copy for the site, as well as the press releases, which led to being hired by a bunch of the site’s partners). From there, I was retained by a leading PR company to ghost-write for celebrities, and from there, on a total fluke, I was hired to ghost-write a wedding book for The Knot. With that under my belt, I landed some national magazine articles, and one thing led to another. (Though I don’t mean to make this sound easy. It was feast or famine for a while, and I worked MY BUTT off to establish myself.) Eventually, I wanted to try my hand at something other than service pieces for mags, so I wrote a novel that landed me an agent but didn’t sell. So then I wrote another novel, which I loved, but said agent did not. We parted ways, I found my current (and fabulous) agent, who sold that book – my debut, The Department of Lost and Found - in a four-way auction. As I said before, sometimes, life works out as it should.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?
Be open to criticism. I say this all the time, but it’s just so imperative. I think one of the biggest mistakes that aspiring (and established) writers can make is assuming that they’re as good as they think they are. I should know: I thought that initial manuscript that never sold was GENIUS. When I went back and reread it several years later, it was HORRID. Just horrid. Thank goodness it never sold! I’ve been fortunate enough along the way in my career to glean some truly constructive criticism, and if I’d never listened to it, I’d never have grown as a writer. Take your ego OUT of the equation, and try to improve yourself with every opportunity.

How does social media and technology play a role in how you connect with readers?
You know, I’m the first to admit that I was a HUGE Twitter skeptic, but I’ve become a total convert. I think what Twitter does is humanizes you to your readers and humanizes your readers to you. You find shared interests (of late, The Bachelorette!), common ground, funny almost insider-y jokes, and for me, personally, it’s been so much fun to put names and faces to people who read my books. Or don’t read them. Plenty of people don’t, and I like them anyway. I don’t know, it’s weird, this concept of connecting with strangers, but I enjoy the hell out of it. I also run a blog for writers, and again, it’s just been a supercool way to connect with people I otherwise wouldn’t have. Truly, some of my good internet friends are people I’ve never actually “met” in real life.

Tell us about The Happiest Days of My Life.
Well, for one, it’s getting a title change! :) Not sure what that will be yet, but no one was quite in love with that title, so, out she goes. But this book sort of turns the concepts of TOML on their heads: it’s about a small-town guidance counselor who thinks that she has everything in her life that she could ever want. But when she’s granted the unwelcome ability to see into the future, she uncovers a mess of secrets that prove that not everything is as it seems, or perhaps, more accurately, not everything is as she’s CHOSEN to see it. I think it gets to the fact that sometimes, we delude ourselves about what’s truly happening, and of course, it also deals with the theme that I get to with all of my books: that of steering yourself toward your own happiness. I’m a big believer in being responsible for yourself and your future and where your life takes you.

What else can readers expect from you in the near future?
Well, I guess just some promotion of my book. :) No, I’m also still doing celebrity interviews and profiles, so if you fly on American Airlines, flip open the mag, and you’ll often still see my byline. And other than that...? The next book in 2010.

What’s the one question you want me to ask, that I didn’t, and what’s your response?
Hmm, how about whom I’d like to see cast in the movie?

I have a lot of different thoughts as to who could and should play Jillian, and the good news is that the producers agree with my thoughts. On the short list? Keri Russell, Reese Witherspoon, Jen Garner, Anne Hathaway, among others. For Henry? Probably Michael Vartan, though I’d be open to plenty of others – Ryan Reynolds, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Affleck, the list goes on. And for Jackson? Any hot late 20s/early 30s guy: Chris Pine, Scott Speedman, John Krasinski, Bradley Cooper...I could do this forever.

How can readers learn more about you and your books?
Drop by my site:

Thanks, Allison. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about your latest news and Time of My Life.

Remember to visit to pick up Allison’s book, or check with your local indie shop to grab a copy of the paperback.

Stay tuned for Wednesday’s regularly scheduled author Q&A since you won’t want to miss Kyra Davis.

If you haven’t noticed, I also added a special post today related to my own news, so read on for more info below about my current newsletter and… the release of stains: early poems!

Until tomorrow… happy reading!

august newsletter: new book!

If you don’t already subscribe to my newsletter, be sure to visit to see the latest news.

Like what? How about the many upcoming events I’ll be participating in this fall including the Midwest Pop Culture Association, Kentucky Women Writers Conference, Rochester Writers Conference, and the launch party for The Ambassador Poetry Project.

Plus, there’s info and links related to my latest book release stains: early poems by Lori A. May – which is available for a nice discount at Barnes & Noble, and also available at, Powell’s Books, and you can even order it from your local indie bookseller or direct from me via email. Find out more about stains and the book release party here.

The newsletter is released about 3 or 4 times per year, and only when there really is news to share. So have a look at the newsletter here or better yet, email me to add your name to the newsletter subscription list.

Monday, August 3, 2009

housekeeping: organization 101

One of the most common questions I am asked is ‘how do you keep up with everything?’ For a writer, it all comes down to time management. While no one ever says it will be easy, I don’t know that anyone ever says it’s this much work either. I have no complaints as a writer, but I do wish I had more than 24 hours in a day. As much as I try my best to manage the time I have wisely, there is just never enough time in a day to get it all done.

So, what’s a writer to do? Prioritize. It’s easier said than done and many days I feel bad for having to move an item from today’s to-do list to tomorrow, but that’s usually the case. A girl can only get so much done in one day, after all. So at the start of each day I run down my list of tasks, designate their order of importance, and get through as much as I can. Whatever is left over at the end of the day moves on to tomorrow’s list, and the cycle continues.

For a writer, it’s not only about writing. That would be pure luxury. In reality, though, there is essentially a whole day’s worth of activities that has little to do with writing – directly at least. It all relates back in some way. A writer has to promote, market, and network in order to stay active in reader’s minds. That means social networks, media releases, bookstore events, and all of those things that involve other people. Then there’s the website updates, submissions to new publications, chats with editors and agents – all very important parts of the business. In order to sell a book, one has to be a sales person in some regard – whether to an agent or editor, or a magazine or store manager. These are necessary tools for success.

How do I keep it all in order? I do. And I don’t. I will admit there is a certain amount of chaos that keeps me working like a frantic person, worried I will never get enough done in a day. In a way, that busy feeling is the adrenaline push I need to make sure I get maximum productivity in for the day. If I were to wake up one morning and only have two things to do, I’d definitely work at a slower pace… and come to think of it, that might actually be nice for a change… but I would likely drag a bit, procrastinate, take my time, and do all kinds of things instead (like watch tv, nap, read horoscopes, etc). Now, I am not saying I am a workhorse, but I think the more I work, the more I work. The more I write, the more I write. That may sound a little silly, but there’s actually some sense to that. If you keep adding fuel to the fire, the fire keeps on burning all through the night, right?

What are some of the tricks I do to keep organized and under control? While it’s demanding to keep up with the social networks, I limit myself to one day a week for posting and responding to my various groups. Maybe that’s not as active as some people, but it keeps me in the loop without sucking up too much time. I clear my email inbox at least every other day; otherwise I’d be drowning in a backlog of replies-to-do. And as much as I am an advocate for attending real live literary events and readings, if I have already been out to three events in one week, I cut myself off so that I don’t spend an entire week away from my desk. The thing about prioritizing is setting limits, saying yes to some things, and – sadly – saying no to other things. Because at the end of the day, I still need to be able to say I did at least one thing – write. Yes, that other big part of being a writer. Making time to write.

Even if it’s a 1,000 word portion of a chapter, even if it’s just a paragraph or a few key sentences, I have to have made time for writing. Or else… why bother with all the other stuff? It’s all too easy for a writer to get caught up in the promotional side or spend a large portion of time networking. These things are important, but only if the writing can back up all the hype. One poem or a paragraph a day will keep you focused and on track. It adds up quickly too. A paragraph here and there soon becomes a chapter. A few chapters later, there’s a book in progress.

No, I have not mastered my time management skills, nor have I figured it all out. I am my own work-in-progress. But I try. I have a silly little to-do list to keep me in check and I strive for balance and aim to have fun in life outside of my working hours. Do I wish I had more time to work each day? Yes, but I also won’t compromise what little sleep I get or the time spent with friends and family. So I do what I can and hope for the best.

What about you? How do you balance your time? Do you make time for play? Do you keep a to-do list or prioritize some tasks over others? I’m curious what works for you and what is a challenge. I hope you’ll share your own plan of attack. It’s always interesting to hear tips from others.

Speaking of tips from writers, there’s a specially scheduled author Q&A on Tuesday, this week, with author Allison Winn Scotch. She’ll be chatting about her novel Time of My Life and share a few tips for emerging writers, her own path to publication, and lots more. So be sure to stop in for this extra Q&A for the week, in addition to the Wednesday feature. You won’t want to miss it!