"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick or Treat Blog Adventure

More than 25 authors/bloggers have joined together to organize contests and giveaways for you. It's easy to visit their blog and enter to win their special prizes.

Simply follow the rules:
1) Become a follower of the blog.
2) Each blog host has devised their own unique contest, so:
3) Follow their rules and you'll be entered!

To find a complete list of giveaways, please visit the host Janet Beasley.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tips for New and Seasoned Writers

Authors frequently receive requests for tips from both new and seasoned writers. Below is a list of my responses.
1.      Read and write every day! Read your favorite genres, read books on the craft and read blogs of other authors.  (See the “For Writers” tab at the top.  This page has a list of tips, references, exercises, websites and books I recommend to aspiring as well as seasoned authors. Please also feel free to contact me.)
2.      If you visit www.fundsforwriters.com you can register for a FREE Writing newsletter that will come every week. This newsletter is full of advice, tips and writing opportunities by and for writers.
3.      Check with your local library and bookstores to ask about writing programs. They will also be able to tell you if there are any local Writer's Groups/Guilds or classes.
4.      Writer's Digest is a WONDERFUL place to find information. If you’re not ready for a subscription to the magazine itself, their website and blog offer a lot of free information: http://www.writersdigest.com/
5.      There is a multitude of information and contradictory advice out there. Weed through and find what works for you. Our minds don’t work the same and we all have different interests and strengths. Be willing to learn and find your own process for success. If you really are a writer, you will write! Nothing can stop you.

 What about my fellow writers? Are there any tips, blogs or books you would like to recommend?
P.S. Another question authors frequently receive is “What are you reading?” Feel free to find me on Goodreads to see what my friends and I are reading.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Flash Fiction Contest - 159 Words Max!

Jessica Ferguson, writer for Southern Writers magazine, is hosting a flash fiction contest on her blog. The winner will receive one free copy of the magazine and publication on her blog.
Contest Rules:

1.)    Add yourself as a follower of her blog here..
2.)    Your first line should be the Groucho Marx quote:

"I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it."

3.)    Write a story in 159 words or less. No profanity because she doesn’t like it. No erotica because you need to keep that good time to yourself. Any other genre is acceptable — romance, western, scifi, fantasy, horror, etc.
4.)    Put your name and email address below your story then post your story in the comment section of this post on HER blog.
5.)    There must be a minimum of ten (10) entries or the contest is cancelled.
6.)    Deadline: Midnight, October 31st.

All entries will be judged by selected members of the Bayou Writers Group. Sorry, only one winner will be chosen. The winning entry will be announced and posted on her blog with gushy, flattering comments from the judges by November 4th (or shortly thereafter). The winner will also receive the November issue (print copy) of Southern Writers Magazine.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email her at jessy31writer (at) aol (dot) com.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Author Interview: Stephanie Campbell

Stephanie Campbell is a writer from Utah. Some of her previously published works include the short stories “The Devil’s Chariot” and “Gerard.” She is the author of the novel UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN; and her poems “Child Abuse,” “Mirror, Mirror,” and “The Flame before the Wick” have all won awards.
She now has five books coming out from several different traditional publishers. To learn more about this talented young lady, you may read her interview below or visit her personal blog: http://stephaniecampbellsblog.blogspot.com/ and her writers SOS blog: http://writersos.blogspot.com/

1)    How did you develop an interest in writing? I actually started by writing fan fiction when I was in sixth grade. I was absolutely horrible at first. Bless my reviewers then for making me feel worthwhile. When I looked back at what I did then, I cringe. Not that I didn’t get a nasty review or two; (Probably the only honest reviews there.) After that, I wrote an essay that my sister, an avid reader, looked over. She looked at me and said, “You should write a book.” So I did. At the age of seventeen, I published my first book. Now, I’m twenty and have found my career for life.
2) I see you are working on a MS. Can you please tell me a little about it? I’m always working on a manuscript. In fact, right now I’m working on five. I’m trying to advertise Poacher and manage the publicity, work on Dragon Night (November 18th) with my editors at Musa, edit two manuscripts, write one, and try to find a literary agent for another. That’s just on this pen name. In short, I…I…*Drops dead.*
3) What other styles/genres do you write? I did write articles, but I have trouble with something that doesn’t involve my overactive imagination. I love poetry, and I get the occasional poem published. The problem is getting an entire poetry book published is about as easy as eating a boulder.
4) Is this a hobby or do you plan to make a career from writing? I want to write for the rest of my life. This is definitely my lifetime job. I hope that this year will be the turning point of my career.
5) What authors do you admire? J.K. Rowling for making an entire generation of kids love books again, Eoin Colfer for developing one of the most complex and funny protagonists in his Artemis Fowl series, and Janet Evanovich for making me laugh on bad days.
6) What music, places, people inspire you? It really depends on what mood I’m in. There are days when rock music tickles me, and then the next day I’m listening to Phantom of the Opera. I love nature and historical places the best. I think: What really happened? Is it really as they say? What if we were wrong? That kind of thing makes me feel great inside. Those questions are the beginnings of a great novel. I am touched by people that are strong in the face of adversity. I write about them the most. 
7) What do you do when you have writer's block? I think you’ve got to just “force it out.” Most days I know where I’m going, but if I don’t have an idea and feel really creativity dry, I’ll sit down at my computer anyway. Something always comes out.
8) How long did it take you to write your current MS? Not long! Editing takes me the longest. It’s three months of writing and six months of “cleaning” to make a manuscript.
9) Are you part of a critique group or writer's guild? No, I use my sister. *Light laugh.* Honestly, one of the reasons why I’m a writer is because I like to do the work itself on my own. I can stand in front of a crowd and talk, I can sign books and shoot the breeze all day, but I like to be on my own when it comes to the main event.
10) When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing? Outline! Outline! Outline! Yeah, I really like outlines.
11) What is your writing process like? Certain hours that you find more productive, a routine, a set amount of time or a number of pages you make yourself write every day? I write all day. I do my best to edit for at least two hours and write for at least one. My friends call me a workaholic.
12) Do you have an editor or agent? I have many editors. Craig Schenning is my editor for Poachers and he is fantastic. I love all of my editors. I don’t care if you’re Rowling or Patterson, a good editor is a jewel. I’m currently on the lookout for a great agent, which basically means that I’m tossing out query letters like nothing else.
13) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us? I actually started Poachers with dialogue. Writers aren't supposed to do that, but it worked out for me. Go rebellion.
 "There is something wrong with him," his mother said softly from beyond his door.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: The Doctor's Lady - Jody Hedlund

Jody Hedlund’s newest novel, The Doctor’s Lady, is a must read for any fan of historical fiction.

This fictionalized story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, missionaries to the Nez Perce Indians in the Oregon Territory in 1836, tells the story of their long and difficult journey to reach Oregon and fulfill their calling as missionaries.

Priscilla White knows she'll never be a wife or mother and feels God's call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise funds and awareness for missions to the natives before heading out West once more.

Then, the mission board declares they will no longer send unmarried men and women into the field. 

Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God's leading into the mission field. However, as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the longings of their hearts.

Continually on a deadline to reach their next checkpoint, and several times missing their rendezvous, there is constant stress and lurking danger.

I became so engrossed in the characters lives; this fascinating and gripping tale kept me turning pages in anticipation. Eli’s strong, but gentle ways combined with Priscilla’s patience and determination made for a believable and enjoyable story about the first white woman to cross the western plains.

I thoroughly enjoyed this tale which was even better than her debut novel, The Preacher's Bride. Jody Hedlund is a talented story weaver who cannot create her third book fast enough for me. I highly recommend you read The Doctor’s Lady!

To learn more about Jody Hedlund or her books, please visit her blog.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One Year Anniversary

One year ago today I launched Writing In Wonderland by introducing myself. I began blogging as a way of motivating myself to devote more time to my craft. I already read voraciously, but my writing practices were sporadic at best.

While I still don’t have a set schedule for writing, I am writing and submitting more frequently than I have in the past few years. But, my greatest "gift" from blogging so far has been the overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic feedback and support from fellow writers and bloggers. You’ve listened to my thoughts, read my advice and shared your own learning experiences.

Thank you readers, and especially to those who encourage me by leaving comments and by sharing the links to the posts you find useful. I have so much fun reading them. It’s always a pleasure discussing and sharing with you all. Thank you again. It’s been a great year!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Author Interview: Melissa Goodwin

Melissa Goodwin, author of newly published The Christmas Village, currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. While she says this is a very fun and cool place, she and her husband just sold their home, are in the process of buying an RV, and plan to travel in it most of the time over the next year or two.  For more information about Melissa, you can find her on her personal blog: http://writeryogini.blogspot.com

1) How did you develop an interest in writing? I was a kid who loved to read, and I very much lived inside my head. I was always mentally narrating my life, as though I was telling it to someone as a story. Yes, I was an odd little duck! Then somewhere around the age of ten, I had this sudden “knowing” that I wanted to be a writer. I actually think of that realization as being a little like when the character Hermey, in the old holiday movie Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, declares, “I want to beeeeeee a dentist.” There was a moment, when I had just read The House at Pooh Corner, when I thought, I want to beeeeeee a writer. I distinctly remember thinking; I want to write books like this.
2) Tell me a little about your blog. My blog is called writeryogini, because I am a writer and a yoga teacher. I started the blog several years ago when I was going through yoga teacher training. It was a place where I wrote essays that related the principles of yoga to our daily lives. Then, when I finished writing The Christmas Village, the blog evolved to being more about the process of writing and getting published. Since then it’s evolved to be about whatever I feel like writing about in the moment – sometimes it’s about the book, but just as often, it’s about life.
3) I see you are working on a MS. Can you please tell me a little about it? I’ve just published The Christmas Village, which is a middle-grade novel. It takes place at Christmas-time, but it’s as much an adventure as it is a Christmas story. The idea came to me a few years ago, when I was gazing at our miniature Christmas village set out on a table, and I began to wonder, Who lives in that cottage? And that one? What do they look like? What are they having for supper? And it took off from there.
I’ve already started my next book, which will be young-adult historical fiction.  The story is inspired by my mother’s real life experience as a 14-year-old evacuee to Wales at the start of World War II.  I really don’t know much about her experience – only what she wrote about it later in an essay for her high school newspaper. I think she talked about it when we were younger, but then later she got Alzheimer’s and my chance to ask her about it was lost. Writing this story is my way of imagining “what might have happened,” and of keeping her memory close to me.

4) What other styles do you write - genre novels, poetry, articles, memoirs etc.? My early writing career was focused at two odd extremes – I wrote perhaps 40 or 50 pieces for children’s magazines, and I wrote just as many magazine articles on aging and care giving. In between, I’ve also had memoir pieces published in newspapers and in magazines like Guideposts’ Angels on Earth. I don’t write poetry that often, but last year, one of my poems won 10th prize in the Writer’s Digest Annual Poetry Competition. Everything interests me, and I don’t like to be boxed in. So I write what comes to me, and I don’t worry about sticking to a particular genre.
 5) What authors do you admire? There are so many brilliant authors past and present and so many books that I have loved. My all-time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love Mary Stewart books, and have been re-reading them because they put me in the right mood for the YA book I’m working on next. I very much admire J.K. Rowling for her ability to weave the threads of her story through seven books and so many years. And this year, I really enjoyed the book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. I love it when a writer can take a true story and make it read like an exciting adventure.
6) What do you do when you have writer's block? I don’t really get writer’s block anymore – not since I learned to let it be okay to just sit down and write whatever comes to me. I have learned to trust that once I start pecking away, something will come. And I’ve learned to let it be okay that it doesn’t have to brilliant or even very good – there will always be something that is worth keeping, a seed of a new idea or a new direction. When I stopped expecting my writing to be good the first time it comes out of me, and to accept that most of writing is actually revising, I no longer felt blocked.
 7) How long did it take you to write your current MS? It took me about three years to write The Christmas Village. During that time, both my parents were failing, and I went through periods of sadness that made it hard for me to write. At other times though, the sadness fueled the emotion of my writing. But it was very stop-and-start. Also during this time, I trained to become a yoga teacher, and invested a lot of time and energy in that. I think it was actually a way for me to process my grief.  After my dad died, I suddenly felt ready to commit to finishing the book. In April of 2010, after two years, I was only about a third of the way finished. I set a goal to finish writing it by October 1st, and I did. I sent the manuscript to agents in October. By mid-November, I had two agents request the full manuscript, and in December, both offered to represent me. So in a way, the book took several years to write, but once I focused on it, everything actually happened quite fast.
8) Are you part of a critique group or writer's guild? I am a very solitary writer. I know that many people find critique groups helpful, but I find that I must listen to my own voice. I have a few people with whom I share my work once it’s well underway, and I trust them to give me honest feedback and to call me on anything that isn’t quite right.
 9) What is your writing process like? Certain hours that you find more productive, a routine, a set amount of time or a number of pages you make yourself write ever day etc.? To finish writing The Christmas Village, I set aside certain days of the week to write as much as I could. I tend to write in spurts and then have to rest. I need time for the creative juices to build up and for new ideas to creep in. I don’t go by a set amount of time or number of words or pages, I write until I get tired. I’m pretty self-motivated, so I don’t feel that I have to set strict goals around numbers of words or pages. I want to write the story, and I trust myself to do the work, but I also believe in giving the mind time to rest and rejuvenate.
 10) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us? Sure! Here is the first paragraph from The Christmas Village:
The rain just made everything worse. Jamie pressed his nose against the passenger window and peered into the darkness. The car whizzed past house after house decorated with colorful Christmas lights, but on this dismal night, the scene only reminded him of those sidewalk chalk drawings that look blurry and sad after a rainstorm.

The link to the Book Blog page: http://thechristmasvillagebook.blogspot.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Writing Through Adversity

Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes. Again, I apologize if you had a scheduled interview, guest post or book review. I will get with you individually as things continue to return to normal.

My daughter is doing better and we are all home now. A couple of weeks ago she got a staph infection and the antibiotics they put her on were too much for her. She went into acute kidney stress. We spent a week in two different hospitals since we eventually transferred to a specialist. About the time they released her, I developed an ear and throat infection (something I think I caught in the hospital and am still fighting). Now, we are all exhausted and trying to find a way back into a comfortable routine.

As writers, we are constantly interrupted by life’s ups and downs and are forced to adjust our timelines and projects. Some circumstances knock us down longer than others and we lose irreplaceable writing time. These past few weeks have left me exhausted (thanks to little sleep and lots of stress) and the last thing I felt like doing was writing. A few years ago, I lost everything we owned in a hurricane induced flood. Life happens whether we are ready or not.

So how do we move past the interruptions, regain focus and continue writing?

1.   Take care of yourself. Most of us are so busy taking care of other people and projects that we neglect ourselves. Take time to heal and become whole again.

2.   If you can’t write, then read about the craft. Read books and magazines, meet with other writers online or in person to keep a writing connection or critique someone’s work and it will strengthen your writing.

3. Make realistic goals. If you can’t write a chapter, try to write 100 words. This might be the next scene in your WIP or you may simply develop a new character – make a list of his/her goals, motivations and conflicts.

4. If you’re published or have accepted an assignment, communicate with your editor or agent about your situation. Don’t wait until you’ve missed a deadline.

5. Look for joy and inspiration in unexpected places. A fresh outlook or new location for writing can restore energy and the creative muse.

How have you written through adversity?

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Apologies...

My youngest daughter has been in the hospital for the last week. I apologize if you had a scheduled interview, guest post or book review. I will get with you individually when things return to normal. Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes. They are greatly appreciated!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Damyanti Interview

A special thank you to Damyanti for the interview and host over at Daily (w)rite today. If you have a chance, please stop by to comment and review this great blog.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Scary Reads to Terrify Your Inner Child

October is national book month. It’s also the time of year we start planning family and school Halloween parties, get-togethers and festivals. We think of orange decorations, kids are asking “What can I dress up like?” and a larger number of scary films appear on screen. However, Halloween isn’t just for kids. While children are bobbing for apples and trick-or-treating, adults are enjoying haunted houses, costume parties or staying home with a good book.
In honor of the disturbing and sleepless nights ahead, I have compiled a list of ten favorite horror stories for adults. All of these tales have been made into movies, and while they are thrillers in their own right, they can’t beat the sheer terror of the descriptive originals. These books are guaranteed to leave frightening images in your mind long after returning them to their shelf.
1.      Dracula – Written by Bram Stoker and published in 1897, this epistolary novel – told from letters, diary entries and ships logs – focuses on the sinister vampire Dracula. The reader follows him on a terrifyingly bloody campaign from his Transylvanian castle to the English countryside and back again. The ancient Dracula exhibits amazing powers of control over both humans and other vampires. While this is not the first vampire novel written, it is arguably the most frightening. “My revenge is just begun! I spread it over centuries, and time is on my side. Your girls that you all love are mine already; and through them you and others shall yet be mine – my creatures, to do my bidding and to be my jackals when I want to feed.” 
2.      Frankenstein – Mary Shelley wrote this horror novel at the age of 18 after learning about galvanism. The title refers to the main character, Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who learns to create life (not the monster he creates). The result is a monster more powerful and violent than any mere human could become. A timeless tale of an intelligent and ruthless monster. “For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”
3.      Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe – This single volume brings together Poe’s genius of diverse creations. His terrifying tales and dark poems have inspired many horror writers. Short stories like “The Tell Tale Heart” and “Fall of the House of Usher” as well as poems like “The Raven” mark this author as one of the greatest chillers of all time. Poe has also been a source of inspiration for many detective story writers. “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
4.      Salem’s Lot – This is the first Stephen King novel I read. Writer Ben Mears returns to his hometown Jerusalem’s Lot to discover a horde of vampires have overrun the town. All signs indicate the new town antique dealer, Kurt Barlow, has unleashed this unimaginable terror upon the community. The vampire Barlow is a modern day Dracula. “They’re in those houses. Right now, in all those houses. Behind the shades. In beds and closets and cellars. Under the floors. Hiding.”
5.      The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris spins this beauty and the beast tale with a na├»ve FBI agent who enters a monster’s lair, prison, in order to free a woman held prisoner by another villain. Together, they must discover the location of the evil man making clothes from the skin of his victims, but can she trust the aid of the cannibalistic beast?  This seductively scary tale will hook you until the last page. “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”
6.      The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson’s tale plays on the psyche of her main characters, and the reader, by the ghost of a terrible house. Her four main characters as well as several secondary witness disturbing scenes including writing on the wall, strange sounds and unseen spirits. One main character seems to have a special connection to the house and experiences many things the others do not. This novel is a truly great haunted house story. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”
7.      The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty’s disturbing tale about a young girl possessed by the Devil and the priest sent to exorcise the demons. This story scared me as a child, but absolutely terrified me as an adult with children of my own. The image of a daughter tied to a bed screaming in a demonic language, spewing green bile with the ability to spin her head around 360 degrees mortifies the reader and hinders any attempt at sleep after putting the book down.  Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon…He is a liar…He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, and powerful. So don't listen to him. Remember that - do not listen.”
8.      The Amityville Horror – This controversial book by Jay Anson is said to be based on true events. The Lutz family moves into a home on Long Island. More than a year before this, a man name Defeo shot and killed six members of his family in this home. Less than a month after moving in, the Lutzes leave the home claiming they have been terrorized by paranormal phenomena including swarming insects, voices, red eyes and slime. The true story of the Amityville murders can be read online. “Your house scares me Mrs. Lutz. Get you out of it now.”
9.      Hell House – Regarded as the most haunted home in the world, a small group of psychic investigators attempt to decipher the power of the Belasco House in Maine. Richard Matheson’s haunted house is made more terrifying by the fact the home seems able to uniquely corrupt and destroy each individual who enters its doors using their personal weaknesses. This is a vividly terrifying haunted house story. “It's occurred to me that the evil in this house is so intensely concentrated that it might be a constant lure to earthbound spirits everywhere. In other words, the house might be acting like a giant magnet for degraded souls."
10.  The Shining – Stephen King gives us another tragic tale of a home possessed and attacking the innocent and not so innocent alike. This tragic tale earns the great horror writer a second spot on my top ten scary books for the season. Danny’s clairvoyant abilities or “Shining” allow him to see, experience and even influence things most humans cannot. His abilities help him to avoid being possessed at the same time they give the home more power. Subsequently, the house possesses his father Jack, a recovering alcoholic, in an attempt to kill Danny. Jack breaks free of the possession briefly to warn his son. "Run away. Quick. And remember how much I love you."
What are your favorites?