Friday, February 27, 2009

Reality show – for writers?

Apparently my friend who called the Authonomy web site an American Idol for writers spoke too soon. An email from Long Story Short revealed Shadow Play Entertainment plans to launch "The Write Stuff." Yes – a reality show for writers. Or, as the press release states, “designed to assist individuals in their quest to get their work recognized, as well as network with those who have made it in the industry.”
Show execs will choose fourteen contestants “who have drive, ambition and the willingness to succeed through 14 weeks of challenges to prepare them for the competitive literary world.” Hmm. How, I wonder? Competitive writing? Mud wrestling? Bungee jumping? The release doesn’t say.
What it does say is: “Live auditions began in January 2009 and will take place throughout February 2009. However, online auditions are accepted as well. Details are available at
Thanks for the heads up, since one day remains in the month of February.
It goes on: “At stake is the ultimate prize for those who want to make their mark in the industry: a ONE-BOOK DEAL provided by Hollygrove Publishing!” Who?
“Along with the book deal and recognition of having "The Write Stuff," come a brand new Dell Laptop and a prize package worth over $16,000.” Okay then.
Any and all takers should visit without delay so you, too, can be put “in the faces of those who can make it happen for them in the publishing world and those who can give them the tools they need to be successful.”
Me, I’ll be home writing. I'm not much for reality shows.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another short story contract!

Woo hoo! Wild Child Publishing offered me a contract for my 10k story, Liberation via Pen.
Told to “write what you know,” most authors will turn to the subject near and dear to our hearts: writing. Liberation via Pen follows Krista along her journey of self-discovery, her pen providing the guiding light.
Here’s a short (unofficial) excerpt:
Krista took the advice to heart, literally: for the past two years, she’d known Ethan. She’d let him infiltrate her life, her apartment, her thoughts, herself. Thinking his invasion signaled the laying of groundwork for a future, she’d dated him exclusively, rearranged her life to accommodate his likes and dislikes until she could no longer remember her own.
She wrote to rediscover herself, divine her innermost thoughts and feelings. From their seemingly serendipitous meeting to their breakup, Krista chronicled and dissected her and Ethan’s former relationship, building to the crescendo to the eventual fall.
She copied the first five pages for the critique group the next month. The chick lit writer said: “Your dialogue’s too stiff; make it sound more realistic.” “Make your prose more lyrical, but get rid of the adjectives and adverbs,” said the poet. The mystery writer advised: “Foreshadow your events to build suspense.”
Krista nodded as each spoke, noting their advice for her revision. She spent the next two weeks pouring over each sentence, mercilessly slashing words that were the literary equivalent of flab, constructing setting and scene through description. As she wrote, the cadence of her prose became, as the poet foretold, lyrical. Like music, the words flowed then came staccato as demanded by the scene. They lifted her spirit, excited her neurons in a way that made her hunger for more. She became addicted to the high of writing a well-structured sentence.
As a bonus, certain aspects of her former relationship came clear. Ethan promoted himself as being on the cutting edge of pop culture, always had to have the latest gadget or widget or gizmo or feature. His talents centered on technology. With people, not so much. Had she the foresight to commit his faults to paper earlier, Krista might have been spared much heartache. The exercise allowed her to see, finally, Ethan represented the ultimate ass. By setting her emotions on paper, she not only defined them, but her writing informed her self-definition.
When she handed out edited pages at the next meeting, all but Charlene had positive criticism. She most looked forward to Todd’s reaction. The lower Ethan sank in her estimation, Todd rose. A good guy with interesting traits, who made her want to find out more. Self-absorbed bad boys were so yesterday.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In celebration of e-books

March 8-14 is Read an E-Book Week. More new epresses appear every week, and readers are embracing e-books. While readership has fallen for print books, ebooks have enjoyed a growing number of readers. I have a growing cache of e-stories myself.
Although a little late, I’ll help celebrate Read an E-Book Week on March 19. On that day, The Wild Rose Press will release my short story, Seventh Heaven. I’ll hold a contest and give away one PDF copy.
As a child of the 1960s, I incorporated the music I loved while growing up in the Lambertville/New Hope area, where the story is set. James is named for James Paul McCartney (pardon me, I should say “Sir” these days), my idol as one of the youngest Beatlemaniacs (I was five when they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, and I vividly remember falling in love with him that night). The Music Circus existed until the late Seventies, and Judy Collins did perform there, and makes a cameo appearance in my story. But I won’t give too much away – you’ll have to come back on the 19th to try to win a copy, or go to the Wild Rose Press site and purchase one (only a few dollars – for a good cause, to help a struggling author).
The trailer is below. I took all the photos of New Hope and Lambertville on a trip home last fall. It was nearly sunset, so the light was perfect - rich color hues, deep shadows, brilliant rays of sunshine. My extraordinarily talented son wrote the music. Hope you like it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The perils and pitfalls of publishing

When I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest earlier this month, part of the process called contestants to include a 10k excerpt. The first ten thousand words of the novel would be available for preview by reviewers and anyone who cared to read it. This made me pause. Putting it out there makes me uncomfortable, frankly. And not because I’m afraid someone won’t like it.
Harper Collins recently launched Authonomy, similar to the above, except authors post their entire manuscript there. According to a recent GalleyCat post, HarperCollins purchased three novels “straight from their online manuscript site.” Technically, no, according to the comments that follow the post. One was an agented submission, and the editor didn’t know until after HarperCollins accepted the book for publication that it was one of the novels posted online. Still, good for the other two, right? Absolutely. It’s better than winning the lottery.
But what about all the other manuscripts posted out there, in their nakedness for all the world to see? Will posting the mss on Authonomy make it a pariah in the land of publishing? A leper that no other publisher will touch? An author friend of mine likened the process to the literary version of American Idol. My friend also said the Christian market has a site similar to Authonomy, but charges $90 to host your manuscript for six months. Oh no. No, no, no. Never never never never never pay a fee. Never. Remember that word. When someone holds their hand out, you can shake it but walk away with your money still in your wallet.
Authonomy’s blog includes an interesting peek inside the publishing biz from Louise, HC’s Publishing Operations Director, as well as several authors. Something to watch, I suppose. Look before you leap, my friend.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

To mash or not to mash

Last week, GalleyCat posted a thought-provoking article (for me, at least) about literary mash-ups. You've likely heard of music mash-ups, combos of songs that, blended together, are sometimes interesting, sometimes just a mess. (If you’d like, you can even make your own). I’ll be interested to see which this will be: Quirk Books, a small Philadelphia press, seems to have gained a viral following online, culminating in requests at Comic-Con that led to an advanced publication date of April 1. Check out the video for the full scoop.
Mashups are a jump beyond fan fiction. I haven’t read any fan fiction, I admit. I will say that, as an author, I would not be in favor of someone else writing stories for my characters. Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. Buying that author’s work is. As to quality, I suppose it will be as with any story – only as good as the writer.
The movie to be produced by Rocket Pictures, Elton John’s production company, seems a bit too close for comfort to Quirk Books’ notion. Hope it’s not a blatant rip-off. Then Sir Elton would be in Jane Austen’s class – ripe for ripping apart.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interview with Shadowfire Press

Love Romances and More posted an interview with Shadowfire Press, if you'd like to find out more about this new epress. On October 2, my short urban fantasy, Reflections, will be released with Shadowfire. Can't wait! Tom Petty's right - the waiting's the hardest part.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quick list of submission resources

A recent email from Poets & Writers included a link to their Contest Submission Calendar. Handy, but not all-inclusive – for instance, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (into which I entered my urban fantasy this year) is not listed.
Poets and Writers also provides a database of literary magazines for poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, and a list of small presses.
Another extensive database of publishers is at - 2350 current markets for poetry and fiction – from flash to novel length.
Wikipedia’s list of publishers is alphabetical, and not grouped by genre, so you really have to do your research.
A good way to keep up with latest book deals is through Authorlink or Publishers Marketplace. Sign up for their free daily newsletter – or search for a publisher or agent. Of course, many publishers only accept agented submissions – before contacting any agent, do your homework! Check the Preditors & Editors list for warnings. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America posted guidelines for newbies. Poets & Writers also posted guidelines for choosing a literary agent.
Be leery of any go-between service charging fees such as Publishers and Agents.
Author Gabrielle Luthy has a great list of publishers, agents and related articles and writer resources in general.

Friday, February 13, 2009

2008 P&E Best Publisher Award goes to The Wild Rose Press

Congrats to TWRP! Preditors and Editors named The Wild Rose Press Best Publisher in its 2008 poll.
Not surprising to me. The editors I've worked with so far have been tough but caring, insightful and intelligent, and helped me bring my stories up to a new level. I groaned when they toughened their standards last year, making publication more difficult. But it forces me to be tougher on myself when I submit (a good thing).
Last year, TWRP released Cinderella Dreams (are Tough to Shake) as a free read. In 2009, look for these releases:
March 19 - Seventh Heaven, a Vintage (Sixties era) Rosette (short)
May 6 - Duende and the Muse, a Faery Rosette (short)
July 15 - Going with Gravity, a Champagne (contemporary) Rosebud (short)
I have a few others submitted with TWRP and hope to add more to the list soon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Maddeningly creative?

Yesterday I linked my MissMakeAMovie post to a very humorous and insightful video of Elizabeth Gilbert discussing the effect of creative genius on writers. I’ve often felt that my stories come from somewhere else, The Great Beyond, not necessarily a specific “muse” assigned to me as writers so often ascribe their work. Gilbert described the poet feeling the poem coming toward her, and her sudden urgency in needing to catch it, put it to paper before it went on to find another poet who could translate it. Strange as it sounds, I think it’s not far off the mark. I believe there’s an immense writerly well of thought and ideas that percolates constantly, that sends out its signals and those of us with a particular sensitivity to it can capture it, some more astutely than others. That, I believe, is why similar stories appear at about the same time. There is no original premise; we all put our own particular spin on our stories.
Some stories, I’ve felt, have come through me fully formed, and I wrote as fast as I could to get it all down while its essence was still strong. This happened in August, when I happened across a description of a present-day entertainment that coincided with research I was doing. The idea came together so quickly, I wrote constantly through September, and finished an urban fantasy novel.
Amy Tan’s discussion of creative process touched on the right and left brain function, and the possibility of an abnormal chromosome in creative people’s brains. Could creativity be caused by a physical ailment, such as temporal lobe seizures? If you fail to live up to your potential, blame The Muse Deficit, she jokes. Can you really be said to fail if you’re still trying? As Albert Einstein said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”. I have felt the fortuitous serendipity of The Universe providing timely cues and ideas that I’ve layered into stories. The subconscious plays into it, because it is more well-informed than the conscious brain, and collects all the various necessary pieces, which our conscious brain can then connect into something (hopefully) coherent. Perhaps that explains why I'm such a strong believer in going with your gut. Your gut knows things. Things it will share, if you are open to them.
Likewise with the historical romance novel I only this week finished the first draft. I’d visited a city five years ago whose history captivated my imagination. I spent an entire day in the library, copying old articles and letters and anything I could find. I bought books from the local historical society. I visited two local museums. I actually visualized the story in a very powerful moment while at one of those museums. I packed all the material in my suitcase and brought it home, and it sat. For five years. Why? I think it’s because I had to first discover the romance novel in all its subgenres. It’s a great story, but honestly, I don’t think any publisher would have viewed it as viable in the marketplace unless layered onto a romance.
BTW, I’m so glad Harper Studio featured Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on their blog, or I’d have never discovered Thanks, Harper Studio! We all need a little reminder of why we need to write, and that we’re not so crazy after all. Alternately, we could remember Mark Twain’s apt view: When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hop on over to MissMakeAMovie today

Visit Miss Make A Movie for more Right versus Left Brain musings.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Welcome guest author Don Helin!

Today I have the pleasure of introducing Don Helin, whose military thriller, Thy Kingdom Come, will be released by Medallion Press on March 1.
Don is a retired Army officer. During his career in the military,he spent three tours in the Pentagon. He uses this knowledge to create the top-secret, fictionalized world of Colonel Sam Thorpe. Thorpe is a member of the Pentagon's elite anti-terrorist task force.

Welcome, Don! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what caused you to write Thy Kingdom Come?
During my time in the Pentagon, we would receive periodic reports that white supremacists had inflitrated the ranks and were using their military training to rain terror on minorities.
I did research and found that while most Americans believed the threat from white supremacists ended with the death of Timothy McVeigh, the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a 48% increase in hate crimes since the year 2000. They show 888 hate groups in the U.S., with 33 of these groups in my home state of Pennsylvania.
The threat posed by these groups is real and the threat is now. For example, two white supremacists were arrested this past October for allegedly plotting to go on a national killing spress, shooting and decapitating black people. They planned to then assassinate the then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Tell us a little about Thy Kingdom Come.
Thy Kingdom Come is a suspense/thriller in which a white supremacist militia located in central Pennyslvania plans to steal enough cesium-137 for a local university to make seven dirty bombs. Colonel Sam Thorpe, a member of the Pentagon's anti-terrorist task force goes undercover, and assisted by FBI agent Alex Prescott, must find a way to stop them.

How did you arrive at the title?
The Christian Identity Movement, a religious movement imported to this country from England in the 19th Century, preaches racial discrimination. Quentin Oliver, a disgruntled ex-Marine and advocate of this religion, commands the militia, and wants to create a new kingdom where whites will rule supreme.

Please share your sale story with us.
I read about Medallion Press in the Writers Digest. The first novel I sent to them got turned down. Two years later I forwarded them a query letter on Thy Kingdom Come.. It took about three months before they asked for the entire manuscript. One day at lunch six months later, the phone rang. When I picked it up I heard, “This is the Acsquisitions Editor at Medallion Press..."

What are you working on now?
I'm working on the next novel in the Sam Thorpe series, Sons of My Lai.

What are your favorite books and movies?
I love suspense/thriller books and I guess that's why I write them. Some of my favorite authors are Lee Child, Jon Land, Robert Parker, James Patterson and John Sanford I also enjoy suspense movies, although I'm a sucker for sad movies that end on a happy note.

How can readers keep up with your writing and books?
I'd encourage everyone to check my website periodically, I'd love for readers so send an email and tell me how they enjoyed my books and any ideas on how I can improve. I also am looking for places to make presentations and do signings.

Book Blurb
Most Americans believe the threat from local white supremacists ended with the death of Timothy McVeigh. The Southern Poverty Law Center, however, continues to document significant increases in hate crimes. Most of our most sensitive areas, including nuclear plants, lack adequate security, and the nightmare of an armed militia stealing nuclear materials is real. Enter Colonel Sam Thorpe, a member of the anti-terrorist task force, to go undercover and train “The Patriots,” a homegrown militia in central Pennsylvania.
His job: Get close to self-appointed general Quentin Oliver and uncover the core of evil. And evil is what he finds. Oliver, a disgruntled ex-Marine colonel, plans to steal cesium-187 from a local university and construct seven dirty bombs. During training sessions, Sam also uncovers a link between Oliver and the French Separatist Movement in Quebec.
The world is in trouble, and Sam is isolated with only one person In his corner: FBI covert agent Alex Prescott, a kick-ass woman with spiked blond hair and a personality to match. Will she be enough? Or is the world about to realize its worst nightmare?

"Thy Kingdom Come crackles with authenticity." ~ CJ Lyons, bestselling author of Lifelines

"Thy Kingdom Come is a scary, prescient thriller that confronts us all with the very real possibility of an attack on the U.S. from the inside instead of the out. Don Helin's taut tale of one brave man confronting white supremists with plans to outdo 9/11 is reminiscent of the best work of Stephen Hunter and Vince Flynn. Terrific in all respects." ~Jon Land, best-selling author of A Walk In The Darkness

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Testing 1 2 3

This week the bookbabie blog displayed the Spinning Dancer graphic that fascinated me, although apparently it’s been around for years now, and under heavy debate about its validity. (Sorry, I could not get her to display in animated form but you can see her here.)
Out of curiosity, I took the Intelliscript brain quiz, and scored a 4 for left and 13 for right. No surprise there. Except I couldn’t help but notice that 4 and 13 add up to a pretty random number. 17? Do other people score higher or lower, I wonder? Not that it matters. I yam what I yam, as Popeye always said. (I never truly appreciated Popeye’s Zenlike philosophies until recently.)
When I first looked at the graphic, I could only see her spinning counter clockwise, no matter how much I tried to imagine her spinning the opposite direction.
This morning, though, she surprised me by spinning clockwise for a few moments, then reversing. Does this mean I’m at my most sensible first thing in the morning, then it’s all random from there? Am I most rational while pre-caffeinated? This goes against the laws of nature, and coffee intake. Or maybe it illustrates that, in life, there really are no rules, which is more believable to me. And does the fact that I confuse my left and right (if, while driving, I'm instructed to turn right, I more often than not steer left) play into the Spinning Dancer's direction at all? Or is my brain simply dyslexic?
And now I'm wondering: should I write today? Will it be awful, boring, rational, textbooklike junk? Or will I be able to summon up from my treasured right grey matter the wild ideas in creative language I so love?
While it may not be a huge leap to the following, I haven’t heard a good Elton John song in awhile (probably because his early stuff was his best, but we won’t go there).
Have a totally random Wednesday. Just go with it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

And now for something completely different...

I had to share Fred Bair's new music web site, Fred's been refining his music for years, and I think he's found his sound with these songs. Click on Jukebox on his site to listen. And if you like what you hear, show Fred some love with a comment - artists starve for more than food.