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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I recently received an email about edits and then the same topic came up with a student I am tutoring. I realized this is a common issue and wanted to share. Here is an excerpt:
Dear Sylvia,
I've been working on edits from my publisher…It's hard for me to argue word usage, when they've changed a word to something else, because I'm not always sure about it. But I'm pretty sure I've been using the word PASSED correctly, and they've been changing it to the word PAST.
Here's an example: ...she couldn't come passed a certain point to my house…So, is the word PASSED, or PAST?

This is actually a common problem and I'll do my best to explain the difference.
Passed - refers to a physical location or object in the past tense. ex. "The weeks passed quickly", "I passed my exams" or " "I just passed Elm St."
Past - refers to a location in time or space. ex. "My house is the one just past the church", "The ball sped past me" or "In the past, standards were higher".
So, ... ”she couldn't come passed a certain point to my house” should be PAST. However, you might consider switching the sentence around to make it more active.... "I would not allow her to pass..." or some such. Of course since I'm seeing this out of context, you will know best what works for your text. I hope this helps
Have you found yourself facing this problem? What other words or usage gives you pause when writing?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review: The Christmas Village - By Melissa Ann Goodwin

If you’ve ever wished to escape to simpler times when villagers gathered in the town square on Christmas Eve for celebration and companionship then The Christmas Village is the book for you. Combining traditional storytelling with the excitement and suspense of a sci-fi parallel universe, Melissa Ann Goodwin provides a children’s book the entire family can enjoy.
After his father abandons them, 12 year-old Jamie Reynolds and his mother leave home to visit his grandmother in Bell’s Crossing for Christmas. The town only provides minimal respite as the terrible rumors about his father follow him there.
One night, Jamie’s mother shares the story of his grandmother’s Christmas Village; a town named Canterbury where it is 1932. Later alone, Jamie is drawn to the village when he hears voices coming from it. He is soon catapulted into the village where he must face trials and the dangers of both nature and men.
Goodwin creatively fills the reader’s senses with the heartwarming sights, sounds and smells of a traditional Christmas; pine trees, burning wood in the fire place and apple pie. These are later replaced with disturbing images from a musty, dark, cold warehouse where danger waits. 
A surprise ending left me satisfied and smiling. I highly recommend this book and look forward to other tales by this talented author.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Author Interview: Jenni Merritt

Jenni Merritt, originally from a tiny island called San Juan off the coast of Washington state, now lives in Oregon on the outskirts of Portland. Her book Prison Nation will be released this December.
Prison Nation is a YA dystopian, about a young girl who was born and raised inside a city sized prison. On her 18th birthday she is released, only to find the promises she had always believed in are far from what she thought they would be.
To learn more about Jenni, please read the interview below or visit her blog http://jennimerritt.blogspot.com/ you can find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennimerrittwriting and Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JMWriting
1)  How did you develop an interest in writing? I can’t remember a time I didn’t write. My mom told me that when I was three I would sit at the dining room table and make up stories. I would ask how to spell a word, like “cat,” then proceed to ask what a ‘c’ looks like. I have been lucky enough to always be surrounded by people who support my writing mania. I guess I never had a choice. Writing chose me.
 2) Please tell me a little about your blog. I have been blogging for almost two years now (JenniMerritt.blogspot.com) though I didn’t actively make regular posts until a year ago.  Now I am on a three-post a week schedule, and addicted to it!
 3)  Please tell me a little about this MS. There are many things that helped grow this idea (Prison Nation). The main source of inspiration though comes from a close friend, who was put through a very hard time in his life and is still dealing with the outcome. It made me think. And thinking makes me write.
 4) What other styles do you write - genre novels, poetry, articles, memoirs etc.? I have a first draft of a YA paranormal hiding in a “drawer” right now, waiting its chance to be edited. Along with that, I am working on a YA Fantasy… about shadows. I used to write poetry, and keep meaning to get back to it, if these book muses ever give me a chance.
 5) Is this a hobby or do you plan to make a career from writing? I absolutely love writing. If I could make this a career, it would be my dream come true. Right now I am writing for the sole love of it, and can’t wait to see where it takes me.
 6) What authors do you admire? So many - Terry Goodkind and Orson Scott Card take the cake. I also admire JK Rowling, Stephen King, and a close friend of mine who is a self-publishing maniac, Keary Taylor.
 7) What music, places, people inspire you? I normally listen to groups such as Dashboard Confessional, Linkin Park, and Dave Matthews Band. Yet the book I am currently writing for NaNoWriMo 2011 is all instrumental music. Each book demands its own soundtrack, and I just have to bend to its will. As for places… my desk. I live in a small apartment, and have claimed our dining room as my writing den. Above my desk I have letters that spell “WRITE” and framed certificates of my NaNoWriMo wins. How can I not write when I see that?
 8) What do you do when you have writer's block? I whine to my husband, surf Facebook, Tumblr and bang my head on the desk. No really, this is one of my hardest struggles. Lately I have found the best trick is to just skip the section that is blocking me and move onto something, anything, that will let me write it. The great thing about editing is you can always go back to add things. But you have to write something first!
 9) Have you submitted anything yet? Even a letter to an editor, written for high school publications, other blogs etc? I went the query route with Prison Nation for a bit. Got some good responses, but no line and sinkers. Thank goodness for the great creation of CreateSpace. I am looking forward to self-publishing, but still plan to attempt the agent world with future novels.
As for other submissions… back in high school I always submitted works to our literary magazine.  But that was some time ago. Oh, and there was the small piece I submitted to your blog Lost Warmth..
10) How long did it take you to write your current MS? 30 days. No, really. I wrote Prison Nation as part of the NaNoWriMo 2010 challenge. I hit the 50k word count on November 14th, then finished the first very rough draft by the end of that month. Then spent a year editing the bajeebers out of it.
 11) When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing? I am a major pantser. I got the rough idea, jotted down my opening sentence, then let the novel write itself. This works pretty well for me, though sometimes I do have to stop and have a serious conversation with my characters about where they are taking me.
 12) What is your writing process like? I am a stay at home mom of two very energetic little boys. I would love to spend all day writing, but that is just impossible. Normally I try to squeeze in some words when the younger of the two is napping. Most times I write after they are put to bed. My husband seems to like this arrangement: it gets him his guilt free video gaming time. My main drive is doing word wars and write shoves with friends. I need a little fire under my butt.
 16) Do you have an editor or agent? My editor is me, myself, and I. Oh, and my awesome beta readers. I am currently un-agented, but look forward to the day that that changes!
 17) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us?
My name is Millie 942B.
Next week is my eighteenth birthday. And I dread it with every fiber of my body.
I guess my name might seem pretty strange to someone who doesn’t know the world I live in. ‘942’ is the cell number I was born and raised in. ‘B’ is the floor level of which my little cubicle resides. It is a symbol of my existence. I have no brothers. No sisters. Only a silent father and a state-proclaimed unstable mother. And it is because of them that I am here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's the week of Thanksgiving in the United States. I'll be spending the next few days with friends, family and finishing several projects. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful holiday full of good times.

Here are ten reasons I'm thankful to be a writer.

What will you be doing this week?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Golden Sky - Giveaways and Book Review

The Golden Sky, a memoir by Elisa Hirsch, will be released tomorrow and is a must read.
Published under the name EC Stilson, this book is a journal she began at the age of nineteen when she had a baby and another on the way. Told she carried an infant with extreme defects, Elisa began to research all avenues open to her and her child.
The author takes us on a heart wrenching journey as her second child struggled to overcome many health obstacles. Elisa openly shares the raw emotions of losing both this child and her husband in the grief that follows.
This journal is an honest look at how one woman struggled with her faith, family and the strength to continue after extreme loss. Now the mother of four, she has decided to share this tale. Her message of hope through the length and depth of the mourning process will certainly aid any family struggling with similar experiences.
I highly recommend this book not only to fans of nonfiction, but as a healing balm to anyone struggling with any type of loss.
For more information about this book or the author, please read the previous post.

Congratulations to Jenni Merritt who has won a copy of this moving tale!
For an opportunity to win a free ipad2, please visit the author blog before November 20th.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Author Interview: Elisa Hirsch

Elisa Hirsch, author of The Golden Sky which releases this week, has graciously agreed to give away a copy. This book is a journal she began at the age on nineteen when she had a baby and another on the way. Her second child struggled to overcome many health obstacles. Elisa lost this child and soon after separated from her husband. This journal is an honest look at how one woman struggled with her faith, family and the strength to continue after extreme loss.
To enter for a chance to win a copy of this extremely moving tale:
A)    Become a follower of this blog if you are not already.
B)    Leave a comment with your email.
C)    Check back on November 17 to read my review of this tale and see if you’ve won.

1) How did you develop an interest in writing? I first started writing in fifth grade. My hamster, Harriet Hop-n-stop, got stuck in the ventilation system, and after my brother saved her, I decided it was an epic tale of love and hope.  Being the little rascal I was, I named it “A Daring Tail.”  (Not the most original--I know--but still a fun memory.)
2) Please tell me a little about your blog. I’ve been blogging at www.ecwrites.com since January 2011.  I started blogging on a dare because one of my best friends didn’t think I’d be able to write an entertaining, funny, embarrassing, or sad story each day for a year straight.  So far, she’s lost the bet, and I might get a free lunch next year; all I can say is it better be Mexican.
3) What styles or genres do you write? I write non-fiction (memoirs) as well as YA and MG fantasy.  Two of my short stories will be published in a Christmas book called “Christmas Lites” that is coming out this December. 
4) Is this a hobby or do you plan to make a career of writing? Writing started out as a hobby eight years ago, but now I’ve quit my clothing business (which I owned and operated for five years).  I have since decided to pursue a career in writing, and try helping families who have suffered from the loss of a loved one.
5) What do you do when you have writer's block? When I have writer’s block, I drink strong coffee, listen to loud music and read the part of my memoirs that were hardest to share.  Somehow reliving the good times (or the bad times) brings my emotions to the surface and I find it easy to write again.
6) How long did it take you to write your current MS? “The Golden Sky” is my journal from nine years ago.  It was the hardest time of my life.  It took me six years to re-read it and two more years to revise.  But the novel is raw and real; it came from my soul and I think that’s part of what makes it priceless to me. I was a nineteen-year-old with a baby and another child on the way.  When my son died, I started the journey of a lifetime and that shows through every page.
7) What is your writing process like? I write every morning. I make sure to get up at 5 am, otherwise my four kids make it impossible to write. My son hides papers in the vents and my girls try dancing in my peripheral vision.
8) Do you have an editor or agent? I have two editors and they are absolutely amazing. One helps with plots and the other helps with grammar. I am so thankful to know both of them.
9) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us?
Being pregnant isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread. On the days I don't feel like I have Alzheimer's, I'm like Hercules journeying from Hell. Here I am at the age of nineteen, with a seven-month-old girl and another kid on the way.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Bridge to Publication – BWG Conference

I had the opportunity to attend the Bayou Writers Group conference yesterday. What an amazing shot of adrenaline to the writing muse!
I arrived early and gave a pitch to literary assistant Anita Mumm. She was incredibly encouraging, asked questions about my MS and requested the first 30 pages. I’m so excited!
I know how difficult it is to get published. She told the conference members her agency received roughly 35,000 queries last year and only signed six! She also shared some very helpful tips about writing queries and proposals. She is the gatekeeper at Nelson Literary Agency. Poorly written queries or manuscripts do not get through her to the agents. While some complained it was impossible to summarize a complete book in only two or three paragraphs, she replied: “Even War and Peace has a blurb.” She encouragess you read the blurbs on the back of books to practice.
D.B. Grady, correspondent for The Atlantic, is an inspiring speaker with a talent for sharing the serious side of the business and then making you laugh. “To write is a sacrifice. When you write, you write alone…Don’t wait for inspiration to come to you, you make it.” He suggests writers must be both an artist and a businessman. "Very rarely does an author write, format, publish, design the cover and market a book all alone. You need a partner."
He is the co-author of Secrets: What You Need to Know About What You’re Not Supposed to Know with Marc Ambinder of National Journal (John Wiley & Sons) which will be released in 2012. His debut novel, Red Planet Noir, won the 2010 Indie Book Award for Science Fiction.

Mark Harris, columnist for Entertainment Weekly, has been writing about pop culture since 1985.  “No one likes a writer who says the same thing. Look for subjects that have the potential to surprise you and the reader.” He went on to explain that if you write about something you wouldn’t normally, you will learn a lot about your critical thinking and how you judge. “Don’t be afraid to risk being wrong.”
All three speakers agreed the most important thing a writer can do, besides write, is to read – not just what interests you, but a wide array of popular as well as literary fiction and nonfiction. Grady suggested reading John Updike and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Mumm suggested Jeffrey Eugenides and Robin McKinley. Harris recommends Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, Anee Lamott, Sue Grafton, Raymond Chandler and Michael Chabon.
Meeting all three of these individual was a true pleasure. They were gracious, engaging and very willing to share of themselves.
What have you enjoyed most about the writing conferences you have attended? If you feel you don’t have the time or money to attend one, please check out my “For Writers” page at the top – there is a list of FREE writing conference opportunities.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Author Interview: Dr. Niamh Clune

Born in Dublin and now living on a boat on the River Thames, author Niamh Clune earned a PhD in 2002 from Surrey University, UK, in "Acquiring Wisdom through the Imagination." She is a writer, teacher, spiritual psychologist, award-winning social entrepreneur, environmental campaigner and award-winning writer of songs. She is the author of The Coming of the Feminine Christ. Her latest publication, Orange Petals in a Storm, is the first in the Skyla McFee series.

To learn more about this talented individual, please read the interview below or visit: Orange Petals in a Storm in Paperback: http://on.fb.me/rE1B8g or http://www.amazon.com/Orange-Petals-Storm-Skyla-ebook/dp/B0055DVQEG. You can find her on facebook: www.facebook.com/niamhclunesbooks, twitter: http://twitter.com/NiamhClune, she was
A loveahappyending.com featured Author http://orangeberrybooks.com, she two blogs: http://niamhclunewrites.blogspot.com/ and  http://theobblog.com or you visit her on You Tube: http://bit.ly/pV9qQk.

1) How did you develop an interest in writing? I have been writing since I was 12. I remember being so sad because of childhood circumstances that I needed to express that sadness in some way. I discovered that writing down how I felt in the form of poetry was healing.

2) Please tell me a little about your blog. I have started a blog called Unsung Inspirational Women because there are a lot of them out there that live wonderful lives. I have only just started this blog, but have an array of people I would love to feature from writers to wonderful women who work overseas in Aid and Development. All my stories will be of those who triumph against all the odds. I guess, I identify very strongly with this theme.

3) I see you have just published a MS. Can you please tell me a little about it? The title of my newly published manuscript is: Orange Petals in a Storm. I am about to change the genre from metaphysical to Magic Realism which is a sub-category of Fantasy. It is a spiritually inspirational story of transformation about a wonderful child, eleven-year-old Skyla McFee, who endures great suffering at the hands of her step-family. Skyla’s reality is harsh. But she evolves spiritually despite, or perhaps because of the hurt she suffers. She transcends her unbearable life through the power of her beautiful spirit and through the power of her imagination. In magic realism, the magical and the ordinary coexist; the supernatural is part of tangible reality. In Skyla’s reality, colours can speak in ways she can understand, and the beauty inherent in the world becomes her teacher. We see as Skyla sees: a world in which we find shelter from every hazard and outlive the longest night. Telling you that Skyla triumphs over her situation, is not a spoiler – because as you get to know her, you realise there is no other way. She must triumph because of who she is.

4) What authors do you admire? I love Tolkien, Jane Austen and the Philosophical writers such as Sartre and Paolo Coelho.

5) What music, places, people inspire you? I used to be a singer in London back in the 1970’s. I have written many songs and sung with some very famous people. I guess I am influenced by people such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. But I also love classical music such as Chopin and Schubert. I love Architecture, especially Tudor and Victorian. I have lived in many countries, but think I was most inspired by my time living and working in Africa for Oxfam, UNICEF and World Food Programme. I have never seen such modesty and gratitude for the simple things that most of us take for granted. One day, I will write about how the nomadic pastoralists, the Massais, Turkanas and Samburu I met in Kenya touched my heart so deeply.

6) How long did it take you to write your current book? Two years. I am meticulous. I edit, edit, edit. I aspire to write beautiful prose that by its very nature uplifts and allows soul into life. I like writing that is simple, uncluttered by adverbs and adjectives. I play with words and defiantly re-arrange them to paint pictures of light as well as dark. I aspire to have good grammar, consistency of metaphor and three-dimensional depth to character. I want my readers to cry, to feel all sorts of emotions. I want my readers to be able to identify with the intimacies, and private inner world of my characters as though they speak directly from one heart directly to another. I write musically, to be read aloud.

7) When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing? I always just start writing and see where the story leads.

8) 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 everyday etc. My writing process is intense. Once I start, I find it very difficult to leave the world I have entered and come back to mundane reality.

9) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us?

Not until she reached Kingsland Road did she relax her pace to a brisk walk. Some might have thought it strange to see a young girl walking with pace and determination along East London’s drenched streets at such a time of night. She wore no coat. Dressed in her grey school skirt and blue jumper, only the local school she attended defined her. Those in the warm safety of their cars or huddled under umbrellas might indeed have given her a passing glance and wondered what she was doing there mud-stained and alone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

7 Free eBooks for Writers

Now through November 12, writers can download seven ebooks for free. They may be downloaded to Kindle, Nook, Google, Sony eReader, iTunes, and Kobo.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Status Seekers vs. Storytellers

I’ve reached about 16,200 words on my NaNoWriMo project and have an additional several thousand in notes and outline material that have not been typed. While this puts me ahead of schedule (you should have roughly 11,667 if you are setting an equal daily word count to reach the 50,000 word mark) I feel dispirited by my story so far. It’s starting to feel flat.
In an effort to rejuvenate my muse, today I picked up a copy of The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass.  In the introduction he says: The more I see, the more I feel that novelists fall into two broad categories: those whose desire is to be published, and those whose passion is to spin stories.” He says he thinks of them as status seekers and storytellers.
He then goes on to give examples from his more than thirty years experience as an agent and workshop director. I felt myself questioning my own motives. Of course I have a deep desire to see my work published, to see my craft validated by editors and readers…does that mean I’m a status seeker? If so, aren’t we all? I believe the difference is in the actions taken by the writer: how you analyze, edit and redirect yourself.
Maass goes on to show us exactly what he feels the difference is between the status seekers and storytellers. I encourage all serious writers to read this book. In addition to giving you a realistic grasp of the industry, he provides great examples from modern literature and exercises at the end of each section.
Which type of writer are you? Have you read this book?

Friday, November 4, 2011

7 Tips for Overcoming Writer's Block

This guest post is brought to us by Amy Reynolds, author of articles about online dating for Free Dating Sites for Women.

If you’re a writer, there’s no doubt that you’ve been there before…sitting at your laptop and staring deep into a blank screen that is the Word document waiting to be filled with your most brilliant and eloquent literature. But you’ve got the block. So now what?
Next time you have the overwhelming feeling of being stuck in an uninspired pit of a writer’s block that has you teetering on the ledge of setting fire to your journalism degree, check out the following tips for getting past it:
Tip #1: Make a schedule. When you set a schedule and stick to it, your mind will follow your body. Carve out some time each day to write…even if you set aside one hour, that is a great start. Just make sure you pick a time when you are relaxed and can easily focus on the task at hand. In creating a schedule, be sure to implement deadlines. When you have a certain goal and a date to work towards, you will better manage your time and get into a good habit.
Tip #2: Go easy on yourself. Any writer knows that writer’s block is a very real and very frustrating thing, but you can’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone experiences it—even the greats—so you’ve got to trust that the block will pass. Hold off on the criticism until the editing portion of the process comes into play.
Tip #3: Don’t succumb to panic. Although you may feel the fear setting in that you won’t be able to meet a deadline or get the job done, panicking will only worsen the situation. Eliminate your anxiety by sticking to your schedule. Force yourself to write and you will find that you will bypass the worry — because you’re already writing.
Tip #4: Take a breather. Anytime you’re really focused on your work and finding it difficult to go on…take a step back. When you’ve been writing non-stop for a while your mind just needs to take some time off to regroup. Partake in other activities that you enjoy or just get some rest. Afterwards, you will be refreshed with new ideas and inspiration and will be ready to get writing again!
Tip #5: Examine any self-issues. Sometimes if you have things going on in your personal life, it can have a huge effect on your writing, hampering you from expelling the creativity within. If you’re going through a tough time, try taking to pen and paper about the issues that are troubling you. Through some creative writing, you may find that you can release any pent up feelings that have brought on the writer’s block. If this doesn’t work, try talking to a friend or even seeking the help of a counselor.
Tip #6: Pick a good writing environment. What is your writing space like? Is it someplace where you feel comfortable to be your most creative self? If not, pick a positive atmosphere that encourages you to work hard. Avoid a place that is distracting. To minimize distractions even more, don’t get on the internet while writing. Also if you write in the same place every single day, another good idea is to switch it up from time to time so you don’t get bored of the same space and routine.
Tip #7: Remember why you write. Examine the reasons and goals behind your work. Are you writing what you love? Does it feel like play…or does it feel forced? Try to focus on the parts of writing that you are passionate about and you will be able to reconnect with it on more of an artistic level rather than a work level.

For more advice about how to deal with this issue, check out what bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins says: https://jerryjenkins.com/writers-block/

How about you? Do you struggle with writer's block? Do you have any additional tips? Are you a fan of Jerry B Jenkins?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

And the Race is On!

I've decided to accept the NaNoWriMo challenge. If you've never heard of it, November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to begin with an idea on November 1 and finish a 50,000 word novel by midnight November 30. Obviously, the manuscript won't be error free on December 1, but your complete story line will be set down.
I know several of you have accepted this challenge as well and I look forward to reading your work. This will be my second year to participate. I have my idea ready. You will be my accountability partners in seeing where it leads. Hopefully, this won't land in the dust pile with all of my other unfinished or unsubmitted works. I'm simultaneously trying to meet a few other deadlines. Best of luck to all of the participants!
Are you or someone you know participating this year?