Sunday, November 10, 2019

NaNoWriMo Really Works For Me by Sydney Salter

My secret: writing fast in the month of November really works for me. I love how I get immersed in my characters' stories as I push through to that 1,666 word count each day. I like forcing myself to get those words written even when I'm making a Thanksgiving feast or have lots of other things to do.

My first published manuscript MY BIG NOSE AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS was a NaNoWriMo novel. So was SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK.

I thought I didn't need NaNoWriMo anymore. I was still completing manuscripts, albeit slowly.


After eight years I will be emerging from a publishing slump when my science-fiction sports novel SPONSORED is published by ChiZine Publications in September 2020. I sold the novel to the press more than three years ago, after a two year wait to hear about my initial submission, so it still felt like a big old slump until I finally got my editorial letter a few weeks ago.

Pushing myself through the slump has been hard at times. It's been so easy to read someone else's published book through my writing time. Easy to say - I'll write tomorrow. I added a few words. That's good enough for today.

But it's so much harder to pick up a story that's been sitting for a few days and get back into the voice, not to mention the plot! I always used prime writing time to reread what I'd written so I could simply remember things.

I wasn't using my time efficiently by writing so sporadically. Writing that way felt like something I was avoiding rather than embracing. If I could have stopped writing, I would have stopped. So many of my partners in writing have stopped - leaving our once thriving writing group with just two of us.

In spite of feeling like a slumpy loser, I kept finishing one manuscript and planning the next one.

Working on my edits for SPONSORED reminded me how much John Truby's The Anatomy Of Story helped me plot an interesting story. So I decided to postpone drafting my next WIP and dived into more thorough preparation. I worked through Truby's book - and found myself with better developed characters and a long list of scenes as Halloween approached.


I logged onto the NaNoWriMo website - just to poke around. Turns out my last NaNoWriMo was in 2011. I'd written 50,000 words of a novel called SPONSORED.

That was enough to convince me. I signed up my new WIP and got ready to write! I'm 15,205 words into my new story, and I'm loving my characters and loving the rush of writing fast.

No time to doubt. No time to question. No time to procrastinate. Writing feels fun again! I'm ready to add another 1,666 right now!

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Secret to My Amazing Writing Life by Kimberly Sabatini

Deep breath...

     This might not be
        what you expect.

            I kinda didn't expect it either.

                  But its the truth--or at least it's my truth.

It's been SEVEN years since I published TOUCHING THE SURFACE.

And like most neurotic creatives, there was a period where I was a little freaked out by the passage of time between my first book and my second book. There were voices in my head and on my shoulders and maybe even in my shoes, that were whispering all the worst things I could dream up and piping them directly into my brain and my heart.

It sometimes felt scary and sad.

My self-doubt and insecurity had a way of creating more self-doubt and insecurity.

    But I kept writing,
because I couldn't imagine life without it.
And the longer I kept writing,
the more something wonderful happened...

I fell deeper in love with muy creativity than ever before.
I'm aware I didn't hit that traditional measuring stick at the "optimal" time.
And just so you know, it wasn't that I didn't try to hit it.
I really did.
Somedays I had a stick in each hand
and I was swinging like mad.

In fact, since that first novel published, I've written two full YA novels and I'm almost done with #3.
     I've written a young Middle-Grade Novel.
          And I've also written multiple Picture Books. 
                I'm one of the SCBWI Eastern NY Hudson Valley Shop Talk Coordinators.
                    I attend several conferences a year.
                         I constantly immerse myself in books on craft.
                              I  take online classes. 
                                    And I volunteer my time to help both writers and readers whenever I can.
                                         I'm also all those other things in my life that aren't directly related to craft.

And all these things bring great joy and satisfaction to my life.
So, guess what?


How could I be? 
I'm making art every day and it makes me so freaking happy and proud of myself. 

And I'm good at it and getting better all the time.

That feels like success. 
It tastes like chocolate and smells like fall.

I'm also confident that my second book will arrive for me when it's supposed to. 
And I suspect I will be glad that I took the time to get it right.
Because who really wants to write one--wrong?

Do I wish I was prolific enough to put out publishable novels a couple times a year? 
Not gonna lie--that would be amazing.

But that's not where I've been standing. 

My secret is...

I'm just a person who thinks very deeply about the things she writes and takes her time mining her inner self and the world around her in order to try and create something meaningful--first and foremost for her own growth and well being. 

  And I deeply believe that if I write and create with curiosity and purpose, 
my work will connect with others because like attracts like. 

Can I get faster?
Become a better writer?
Brush up on marketing?
Make more connections? 
Improve in a variety of ways that will progress me on my journey?

Yes, I can and I'm always working on it!

But while I do, I can also remind myself that the secret to my amazing writing life is...ME.

What's the secret to your amazing life?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Secrets, Truths, and Lies (Mary Strand)

This month, I’m supposed to blog about the SECRETS of my writing/publishing life, even though on Facebook I pretend that my life is an open book.

1. My life is not an open book. Not even remotely.  J

2. This shouldn’t be a secret, but authors are DESPERATE for reviews. (I am one of them.) Amazon reviews help the most, but BookBub and Goodreads and anywhere else your little heart is willing to post a review is great. A short, quick, and honest review is totally fine: you don’t need to gush and give me 5 stars if my book wasn’t (in your opinion) the greatest thing since Hugh Jackman. Amazon and BookBub are primarily fixated on the NUMBER of reviews a book has, and authors can’t get any traction without reviews.

Hugh Jackman loves this blog, I'm quite sure.

 3. For the record, my books ARE the greatest thing since Hugh Jackman.

Chris Hemsworth may also be the greatest thing since Hugh Jackman. I try to be flexible.

4. Actual writing time includes staring out windows, at cobwebs (unfortunately), and (if I’m writing in public, like at Sebastian Joe’s in Minneapolis) at people. I pretend I’m not staring at them, but I am.  I’m also listening to them.  Their conversations sometimes wind up on Facebook or in my books.

5. Everything I see or hear, and all the people I know, might wind up in my books.  No one ever recognizes themselves, though, so I can write pretty much anything.  People THINK they recognize themselves in my books if the character in question is the coolest thing since, well, Hugh Jackman.  They are almost always wrong.  Two different women (including my mother-in-law) absolutely KNEW that the utterly epic matriarch of a family I wrote about was really them. It was, in fact, a tribute to someone else.

6. None of my characters are based on a single person, so quit speculating already. They’re a composite of all the people I know, thrown into a blender in my mind and poured out as a character.

7. Item 6 isn’t completely true. One horrid character in a book I wrote was based pretty entirely on someone I know who’s awful. In the first several drafts, I killed her off in a fiery car crash.  I was advised that killing her off was too easy, so I instead left her with significant injuries from a fiery car crash.

8. Almost every author dreams of doing what I did in item 7.  But I dislike very few people on this planet, so I’m guessing that item 7 will remain my one and done.

9. I hope (a) you’re still reading this and (b) you’ll consider writing a review of one of my books. (Pretty please with sugar on top.)  If you break down and write a review (you ADORABLE person, you!!), the first book in a series is often the most helpful to an author.  For me, that would be Pride,Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras, because I would love to offer it as a “deal” with BookBub, but BookBub cares nothing for me if I don’t have enough reviews.  Yes, that’s a link to the book’s Amazon page.  I am clever (and desperate, yet charming) that way.

10. Writing is solitary, and that’s okay for a lot of writers because most are introverts.  But I’m a huge extrovert, and it is HARD.  So I do everything possible to get out and about with other human beings.  Even one day that’s entirely alone is difficult for me.

11. Major knee issues kept me from writing new stuff for the last year, because I didn’t feel funny enough to write funny stuff, and I write funny stuff.  So I spent much of that time either in considerable pain or working on revisions to existing manuscripts or playing guitar or writing songs, the last of which is something I discovered I could do even with painful knees.  Today, for the first time since June 2018, I wrote new words (on a book, not this blog post).

12. Tomorrow, when this blog post is actually published (as opposed to today, when it’s being written), I’m headed to Sebastian Joe’s.  To write.


Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Secrets of My Writing Life

by Fae Rowen
Most people think a writer's life is glamorous, exciting, and filled with celebrity.

When I was offered my first contract, my husband made an appointmentwith a boat broker for a sea trial. (He didn't tell me.) After a wonderful afternoon at sea, he was asked about needing a loan. My wonderful, supportive spouse told the broker that his wife had just sold a book and that we'd be paying cash.

Well, he didn't buy that boat, and I had to explain the business side of a
writing career to him. All he'd seen up until then was a closed door for hours, for days, for months, with occasional visits to my local writing group, my critique partners, or a big conference. Then, voila, a finished book! This is very unusual, but when I pitched my first book at a conference, I was asked for the partial (which I sent), was asked for the full (which I sent), was asked for some edits (cutting 85 pages and a story-line, which I did), then I was offered a contract. I have to tell you, this is not the way the industry works these days.

Probably the biggest secrets are about contracts with New York publishers.

When I began writing there was a category of writers called midlist. Midlist writers were able to make a modest living with their books. The midlist writer is a thing of the past, gone as the publishing houses dwindled in number. Also gone for non-blockbuster best-sellers are covers with the author's name in gold foil, great book covers made from oil paintings of special photo shoots from scenes in the book, publicity—including book tours—set up by the publishing house, a case of free books to give away as promo material, an editor who dedicates his/her time to the structure and polishing the words in your book, and more.

Now, my biggest single secret as a writer has to do not with writing, selling or marketing my book, but with my time when I'm not writing, selling, or marketing my book. I have to admit that I have declined social invitations with the excuse that I'm writing on deadline when I'm actually taking a day off from writing. My friends know when I'm writing on deadline. They know when I hope to be finished so we can go out to lunch, see a movie, take a trip. They expect me to be writing every waking second of every day until that deadline.

But, sometimes my brain dries up, ideas take a vacation, or rearranging blocks of text just isn't working the way it should. Those days I need alone time to do mindless tasks. Brain research shows that repetitive non-brain intense tasks can unlock the creative mind with new ideas. As supportive as my friends and family are, a day of making greeting cards when I'm on deadline is frowned upon. (You can do that when you are finished with work!)

Now, as an Indie Published author, I wear all the hats. I contract and pay my editor and my cover designer. I work with someone on my website and social media. I set up opportunities to promote my newest books. I give myself pep talks when I think the book I'm working on isn't going to be better than my last book.

As an aside, this is a HUGE thing with me. If every book isn't better than the last, I'm not growing in my craft; I'm not growing as an author. If I stagnate, how can I expect readers to be excited about a new book? So I travel, take classes, learn new hobbies (one of my favorite scenes came about because of a belly-dancing class I took) to enrich the experiences I deliver to my readers.

Other than these things, I'm just an ordinary person, sharing my thoughts, experiences, and feelings with others. As a writer, maybe I ask more questions about what I see—my walking buddy can attest to this—but my life isn't that different from anyone else's. The secrets of my profession aren't that different from the secrets that all professions have.

Of course, I haven't hit it BIG yet. When that happens, well, I don't expect the supermarket checker to know my name or recognize me. Disneyland isn't going to close the park for me. I probably still won't get that airline upgrade—but maybe I'll be able to pay for it.

P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, sacrifice, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Fae's second book in the series will be available for pre-order on Thanksgiving, 2019.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Author Interview: Stacey O'Neale

Today, we're breaking from regular blogging in order to take part in the blog tour for Stacy O'Neale's Shadow Prince:

Give us the elevator pitch of The Shadow Prince.

An exiled elemental fire prince has to decide if he’s willing to kill the air court princess to save his court.

What were the challenges of writing a novella?

The Shadow Prince is the only novella I’ve written. The rest of the books in the series are full-length novels. The only challenge is that you have to create an interesting story within a smaller amount of space. Writing, in general, is difficult.

Rowan faces quite a dilemma in The Shadow Prince. (Kill and take over as king, or stand up to his mother.) How did you come to this idea? What was the spark of inspiration?

In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Aragorn wants to hide his true identity. He creates an alter-ego called Strider. As I was watching the movie version, I started to wonder what Strider would be like if he were a person separate from Aragorn. That one question eventually helped me create Rowan. I built the story around him.

How did you manage to balance inner conflict with outer action scenes?

They go hand-in-hand. Rowan’s inner conflict is played out through his relationship with his mother. You see early on that he has issues with abandonment, and a need to belong. The outer action scenes bring all of that conflict to the surface. The attempted escape scene is particularly compelling. All of the pain he’s worked so hard to bury comes spilling out. It was hard to write.

This book is intense! How does the tone, action level, etc. compare to the rest of the series?

The events in The Shadow Prince laid the foundation for the rest of the series. But the rest of the series is written in multiple POV, and are also full-length novels. I’d say the action level remains the same, but the story is spread out between two lead characters.

What was your journey to being an author?

Long. 😊 I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t start writing until I was pregnant with my daughter. Motherhood changed my life in a lot of ways. I eventually became a book blogger, which led to an internship with Entangled Publishing. I worked my way up through the ranks and left as a senior publicist. I was writing throughout those years and eventually realized that I wouldn’t be happy unless I wrote my own books.

What's your writing process? Pantser? Plotter? Something in-between? Any writing tips you can share?

Hardcore plotter. I write outlines, chapter-by-chapter breakdowns, and character charts before I write my first word. I’m a type-A personality. Plotting is the only way I can work.

What's your favorite passage or portion of The Shadow Prince?

The last few pages of the novella are my favorite (I’m excluding the epilogue). I don’t want to put them in the interview because it ruins the ending, but those last few paragraphs are my favorite.

What are you working on now?

The Mortal Enchantment Box Set releases on October 28th. I’m working on a new YA fantasy series. I’ve written the first book, but I need to work through the edits. I also have a couple of ideas bouncing around in my head. I need to outline them and figure out which one I’m going to write.

Where can we find you online?

Everywhere. is probably the easiest way to find me. I’m also active on social media. All of those links are on the top right corner of my website. I also have my own book group on Facebook called Book Slayers. We mostly discuss fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction books in both YA and adult.

***The 2019 updated edition of The Shadow Prince is available on Amazon for free. You can get your copy by clicking here:     


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

State of Misery (Brian Katcher)

They say that when Stephen King was ready to write his third novel, he was ready to set it somewhere other than Maine. So his publisher sent him to Colorado, where he wrote The Shining.

My publisher does not send me anywhere. Therefore, most of my books are set in my home state of Missouri. In Playing With Matches, I based the fictional setting of St. Christopher on my hometown of St. Peters (suburb of St. Louis).

So why not just use the real name of the town? Because I like to play God. If I want to move a few streets or set up imaginary businesses, I can do that.

In Almost Perfect, the town of Baylor was based on my current city of Centralia. Though honestly, it's not difficult to create a small Missouri town.

Everyone Dies in the End takes place at my alma mater, the University of Missouri, Columbia. Also, the result of reading entirely too much Lovecraft in college.

When I signed the contract for The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak, my editor told me it was going to take place in Seattle. When I asked why, she replied 'Because it's not Missouri.' Fortunately, almost all the book takes place in an imaginary convention center, so it required little research.

My last book, Deacon Locke Went to Prom, took place in south Missouri, or as they like to call it, Arkansas.

I write contemporary fiction, so I'm not forced to create worlds. On the other hand, I don't get to create worlds.

My newest book is really stretching my talents: it takes place in Kansas.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Setting (Things Potentially on Fire) by Dean Gloster

            This morning broke cool and briefly calm, which was nice, because here in Berkeley we’re bracketed by wind-driven fires and the smoky aroma of incinerated brush and homes.

I’m typing this from a tiny table Cactus Taqueria, a few blocks from my house, because our power at home has been out for two days. For the cost of a delicious burrito, they have power outlets here and WiFi access from the Noah’s Bagels next door. Every time I look up from the laptop screen, though, it’s at the wind-agitated red-gold leaves and waving arms of a scrawny maple. Behind that, there’s the disturbing, almost apocalyptic sky--washed out, with too harsh sun filtered through too much haze.

            This month, we’re supposed to post about setting. Considering the circumstances, this may be a bumpy ride. There are some parts of writing I’m good at—dialogue, humor—but setting isn’t any of them. (Even, apparently, when the world is on fire.)

            At its best, setting is a character, helping to shape a story. It pushes on the characters, affecting their choices. Even the description of setting is filtered through the point of view character or narrator, passing along attitude and emotion.

            Like so many other parts of writing, setting conveyed well is a combination of familiarization—let me show you this thing, and you’ll recognize it because it’s close to what you already know—and defamiliarization: Let me show you a new way to see, to experience this thing. That’s one reason synesthesia works so well in vivid description—using one sense to describe a completely different sense: The “dry squeak” of cold snow under boots.

            I wish rain was on the way, bringing snow to our mountains.

            Two days ago here, Saturday, hot winds started swirling from the land side, which always unsettles me in October, our powder keg month. It’s the tinder dry end of the fire season in California before the winter rains. The ominous messages piled up over the weekend—from PG&E that there might be power outages and then news of the spreading Kincade fire in Sonoma—where 185,000 people have evacuated—and the Tick fire in Southern California. Followed by the Glen Cove fire in Vallejo, the Getty fire in L.A., the Grizzly Island fire near Suisun, the Sky fire in Crockett, and the Highway 24 fires near Lafayette, and nameless fires, well, everywhere. California’s governor just announced that firefighters have responded to 330 new fires in the state in the last 24 hours.

            In October when the swirling winds come from the land side, I always remember the hungry licking of the forty-foot-high wall of flame blazing through the ridge top homes in the Oakland Hills fire, 28 years ago this month, while I was driving to pick up my wife and daughter who were stranded in Tilden Park, and trying to eyeball how far North the fire had spread—if it had gotten to them already. (It had not. I picked them up safely, after being rear-ended on the way by another driver who was similarly looking over at the flames—I told him not to worry about the rear-ender. Perspective.)

Other writers—and their characters—would no doubt have a different set of associations with these gusts. Here is Raymond Chandler, in his Philip Marlowe short story “Red Wind”:

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

            That isn’t just setting. It’s voice, attitude, and world view carried on that hot wind. Chandler tells us more about Philip Marlowe and how he thinks than he does about the wind.

Where I’m typing this, the wall of windows on the street at Cactus shows that foot traffic is way down from usual, because of poor air quality, but what traffic there is looks normal—almost no one with a respirator mask, with pedestrians of all ages and their array of small dogs.

We’re just a few dozen miles from the mandatory evacuations and still-growing Kincade fire, but we’re safe. For now. There are renewed red flag warnings for tomorrow and the next day, though, with more high winds and low humidity in California.

The world is burning, friends,
and wind makes smoke a wall.
Hug those you love and speak your truth,
for one day that is all.

The world is on fire. Things are mostly normal. Both of those statements are true, and in my neighborhood of downed trees and crazy-quilt power outages, we wait patiently for our turns at the four way stops that three days ago were functioning traffic lights. For now.

This is the new normal, but it will soon be worse. Global temperatures have risen steadily since 1880 by a total of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and the rate of change since 1981 has doubled. In the face of this threat, effective a week from today, the current occupant of the White House has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord—the one significant international agreement to reduce the rate of man-made emissions that contribute to global warming.

You can imagine I have an attitude about that.

This morning, I started my day by driving 13 miles to the shoulder clinic in Lafayette where I do Pilates work for my back, not sure if it was still standing. I got an error message when I tried calling them, and I knew there’d been two fires in Lafayette yesterday. Fortunately, they were still un-incinerated, just suffering through another power outage, so I did my exercises in the semi dark, with only the dim light from the windows. We adjust. We persist. We engage in self care. And we respond to our changing setting. Right now, hundreds of firefighters are trying to get these fires under control before the winds come again tomorrow, trying to save tens of thousands of threatened homes—including homes of people I know.

Last night, at a World Series Game, 45,000 fans who had paid $2000 a seat booed the man who is pulling us out of the Paris Climate Agreement next week. They spontaneously started chanting, “Lock him up!”

Because of the power outage, I wasn’t able to watch the game on TV, but I did watch videos of the boos and chants on Twitter, entranced by them on the tiny screen of my solar-charged phone. It was glorious.

This wasn’t a political leader leading a chant calling for retaliation against his rivals. It was a spontaneous act of resistance by the relatively well off, who'd had more than enough.

The world is on fire. Thing are not entirely normal.

Our setting is becoming more extreme.

Perhaps it is time we all became protagonists and did something about it.

Good luck to us all, especially those near the fire.

Dean Gloster is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. He has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has all the usual Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and a slightly off-kilter sensibility. Also a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 74 percent of his soul.

When Dean is not writing, studying Aikido, or downhill ski racing, he’s on Twitter: @deangloster

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Joys of World-Building (by Brenda Hiatt)

I’ll confess right upfront that I love world-building. In fact, it’s probably my very favorite procrastination technique. Nothing will make me pause in the act of writing like realizing I need to get some detail or other straight—whether it be my timeline (what happened when, stretching back several books now), calculating how much antimatter it would take to blow up a small town, researching online when a typical high school football season begin and ends these days…you get the idea. 

Lucky for me (though not for my writing speed) my Starstruck series has multiple settings I get to play with. First, there’s my whole little (fictional) town of Jewel, Indiana, with all its landmarks, shops, cafes and other quirky places in its tiny downtown. Then within Jewel, there’s my main heroine’s house, where a lot of story happens, a couple of other important characters’ houses where more action takes place, and of course the local high school where all the teens come together for learning, fun, angst and adventure. Each of those settings needs enough depth and detail to support the various ways my cast of characters interact with it and each other. 

But I don’t have to stop there! Sometimes the story moves beyond Jewel to much more exotic settings I’ve created for my world-building pleasure. The most extensive of these is the secret, underground colony of Nuath, on Mars. Since it developed independently of Earth for nearly three millennia, it has its own culture, complex social hierarchy, governmental structure, and technology (modes of transport, communication, etc). Back on Earth, I’ve also got my main Martian enclaves of Bailerealta in Ireland and Dun Cloch in Montana, each with its unique mix of Martian tech and Earth culture. Nor am I ruling out more settings in the future! 

For each setting and my story world at large, I’ve created complex histories, maps, lists of important secondary characters and their roles, government charts, royal lineages and more. By now I have tons of setting, history and character notes I can keep checking as I write the next book in the series—one reason I love writing in Scrivener, which lets me drag my whole “story bible” from one book to the next for easy reference. It’s super important to me (probably way more than it is to any of my readers) that all of my story “facts” are consistent from book to book and particularly within a given book. (I get particularly obsessive about my timelines, some of which overlap!) 

Needless to say, only a fraction of all this research/world-creation actually makes its way into the pages of my books, but I still appreciate having all that material available for myself while writing. I need to know as much as possible about the world my characters live in before I can make them live and breathe for me as I spin their tales. 

As a reader, I’ve always felt that thorough and detailed world-building that surrounds the characters with a fully fleshed-out world makes their journeys that much more believable. As a writer, my number one goal is to draw readers into my stories so deeply that they’ll remember them long after they finish the book. To do that, I strive to create characters and stories that will feel real to my readers—as real as they feel to me. A big part of that (and definitely one of my favorite parts) is constructing realistically rich settings for my characters and stories to inhabit.