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:     


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