Thursday, December 23, 2010

Something new is coming & you could win a copy of Paranormalcy & Blood Countess by being a part of it!

DJ is a proud writer of young adult paranormal-romance who suffers from Sexy New Idea Syndrome and currently writes from his bedroom. His novel HUNTED will be published by Pendrell Publishing in 2011. In addition to novel-writing, he is also a singer/songwriter and book blogger. His reviews and songs can be found on his site, DJ's Life in Fiction. As he continues to grow as a person and a reader, DJ hopes to continue growing as a writer and can't wait to see where his stories take him. Find HUNTED on Facebook and GoodReads!



Leigh was born in South Africa, raised in Dublin, Ireland and moved to Cork in her 20s. While living in beautiful Kinsale, Co Cork she discovered a love of writing. When Ireland's rich history and magical tales combined with Leigh's convent school upbringing, her brain became a breeding ground for inspiration. She writes mainly for the young adult market. Her debut novel, CARRIER OF THE MARK, is being published by HarperTeen and will be released in September 2011. You can check it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.

Leigh has another two books in the Carrier series and a few other projects she's working on. She can be found lurking in cyberspace on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Inkpop, and many more. On the odd occasion when she steps back into reality, she spends her time with her husband and four children, sharing her time between her homes in Massachusetts and Ireland. You can find out more about Leigh at

Represented by: Tina Wexler - ICM (International Creative Management), New York.


Chanelle Gray is a 23-year-old from London who enjoys a multitude of things, including reading, writing, shopping, and eating! Currently, she works for the Ministry of Justice, where she is the deputy manager of her team. There are no kiddies in her life yet, but she does have two naughty dogs and one adorable nephew, who she dotes on. Her current literary preferences include paranormal romances and all contemporary works. She has completed over eight novels, and spends any free time she has on completing more or reviewing any book she gets her hands on.

Her debut novel MY HEART BE DAMNED will be published in Fall 2012 by kNight Romance publishers. Add it to Goodreads here.

Chanelle blogs over at Beyond Words and also uses twitter, where she tweets about not only writing related matters, but anything that randomly comes to mind. She is represented by Victoria Marini of the Gelfman and Schneider Lit agency.



Wendy Higgins is a former high school English teacher turned on-the-go mom. She lives with her husband, two children, and their mutt in Northern Virginia. Wendy earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University. An avid day-dreamer, she prefers to safely shake-up her stable life by escaping into literature and her own active imagination.

SWEET EVIL, Wendy's debut novel, is being published by HarperTeen in 2012. It came to her in a rush of inspiration when she was feeling disheartened about no longer teaching. Writing for Young Adults has given her the opportunity to delve into the ambiguities of those pivotal years before adulthood. You can follow her writing journey on her personal blog and Twitter.



Sharon is a corporate communication manager and a former journalist from Australia who writes in her spare time. SLEEPER is Sharon's first novel that she is currently querying. Although she normally writes about the strange and the weird, her first publication will be a general fiction short story call GROWTH as part of The Australian Literary Review's anthology THE BASICS OF LIFE.

Sharon loves YA, science-fiction, speculative fiction, paranormal and anything that comes from the deepest darkest parts of someone's mind. She draws inspiration from local writers who have made it in the tough Australian publishing industry such as Tara Moss, Kerri Arthurs, Karen Brooks and Emily Rodda.

Well-known for her fantastic taste in shoes, Sharon has actually been stalked by women wanting to know where she got her high heels from. She invites you to read her personal blog and she is a Twitter fiend so follow her @S_M_Johnston.


Sarah is a twenty-something who currently lives in the Florida Keys with her family, four chihuahuas and one 50-lb wannabe chihuahua. Fantasy and Sci-Fi are her favorite genres, but she loves all YA - especially anything written by Laurie Halse Anderson. Sarah believes that some boys are worth trusting, all girls have power, and dragons are people too.

Sarah’s a proud member of the Gator Nation and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering (That’s a “BS ME” for those of you keeping track) with a minor in Sales. Volunteering and non-profit work is important to her and she's always raising money for one cause or another. She interns with a small publisher, reading manuscripts.

She also blogs at and is obsessed with Twitter, so she'd love for you to follow her @sarah_nicolas. Tumblr is her newest favorite distraction. Sarah and her sister, Kayelee, can be seen vlogging every Saturday at the YA Rebels.


Kelley Vitollo was one of those girls who dreamed of growing up and writing stories. Young at heart, her passion has always been writing about teens. Now, in her early thirties (shh, don’t tell), she’s finally working on making that dream come true. Her YA novel, LET'S GET PHYSICAL is currently on submission. She recently finished FREEING CARTER, a book that is extremely close to her heart.

She has a passion for character-driven stories and is a total romantic at heart. In her books, she adores exploring the whole journey of falling in love; from stolen glances, to innocent touches, and ultimately falling head-over-heels in love.

When not writing or devouring books by some of her favorite authors like Sarah Ockler, Cassandra Clare, and Jenny Han (amongst others), you can find her online at her personal blog or on twitter at @KelleyVitollo. Kelley lives in sunny Southern California with her incredible husband and two beautiful daughters.


Kelley York has been a writer and artist for as long as she can remember, and she has a goofy-looking trophy from a first grade story contest to attest to that. She has always been fascinated with character creation and story-telling, leaning toward the dark and slightly morbid side of things in her writing. She's married to a fantastic wife who puts up with all her craziness.

Within young adult, she enjoys writing and reading a variety of genres. The darker, the better. Give her tragic characters and sympathetic villains all the way. Romance is super, but it takes the back-burner to great character development and growth. Kelley likes chasing her characters up trees and pelting them with rocks (and small explosives) before giving them their happily ever afters.

Kelley's dark YA thriller, HUSHED, is now available from Entangled Publishing.

Kelley keeps her own blog at Flowers for Ghosts, and you can follow her on Twitter, @elixing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A ten point Harry Potter 7 Review with no Spoilers

Well I went got to see Harry Potter 7 five days after it came out. Managed to avoid most spoilers, except for one on Twitter (gggrrrrr TWITTER!). So I decided to do some fun observations with no spoilers:

  1. This was the best adaption from the book series so far.
  2. Where the heck did they hide Ralph Fiennes nose?!
  3. Dobby should have been in more of the movies. He got heaps of laughs and was in Harry's words "brilliant."
  4. Daniel Radcliffe at times appears to have a small mouth in proportion to the rest of his face.
  5. I lost track of how many times I teared up.
  6. I kept thinking how grown up Daniel Radcliffe looked, and then taller men would be in scenes and he looked so young again.
  7. Emma Watson nailed it.
  8. The scenery was amazingly gorgeous!
  9. There is a scene that I thought "I don't remember THAT in the book." (You'll know it when you see it)
  10. I discovered what a fan I am as I went 2 1/2 hours without taking a pee!

So there you have it - no telling you what you already know from the book, and the fantastic interpretation that you don't know about.

So if you are going to comment - respect the no spoilers rule. =P

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Riding on a wave of inspiration

I love Saturdays. I ride out to Eimeo Beach, thinking about the story I'm currently writing. Scenes flash through my head, dialogue goes round and around in my mind, continuity issues get identified and sometimes new ideas poke their way in. I daydream and somehow manage not to get run over (and I've learnt the trick to avoid getting swooped by the magpies without wearing those antenna looking things from my helmet).

When I finally coast into the carpark, hubby is normally already there setting up the beach (yes I'm a crazy woman who does a 30 minute ride when the rest of her family take a 10 minute drive). I jump in the beach buggy as he sets up the flags, still letting the thoughts from the ride roll around in my head.

We do the stinger drags, throwing back the fish we inadvertently catch and checking for any deadly box jellyfish and irukandji jellyfish (we hae a month hopefully before they hit our beaches). Then I usually get to go off by myself, settle into a chair with a view of the ocean and write for a solid hour - a luxury that I don't get very often at home unless I stay up into the wee hours of the morning.

Then I go get lunch from Nemos Fish Bar. They make the best fish burgers, according to my husband and eldest son and I can honestly say I do not ever remember having a nicer piece of takeaway fish.

After feasting on fish and salad, I laze around with family (also prodding my youngest to finish his lunch, which can be a 30 minute job). This then brings me to an important junction, another hour of writing or reading on the beach. Either way, the lapping waves and idyllic beach setting are a great backdrop. Today is was overcast and my writing groove was on so I opted to keep writing. Once my writing/reading hour is up it's more family time.

When it's time for hubby to start packing up the beach, I get back on the bike for the ride home, which is always quicker than the ride there. Again the stories rolls through my head, along with the occasional blog post,

Next week I'm changing up my routine a bit as I am going outrigging. There's a social out rigging group that is out when we turn up in the mornings so I'm taking advantage of trying something new. Hopefully being out on the water will provide a different inspirational experience (I feel an ocean story brewing) and it doesn't just leave me too exhausted that I end up drooling on my laptop.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Life after NaNoWriMo: A guide for aspiring writers

How are YOUR NaNoWriMo stories going? I see a lot of my writing friends and acquaintances are powering through for the “win” and will no doubt have a great first draft come the end of the month. But then what?

What ever you do – DO NOT QUERY!

I’ve seen the agents on Twitter bracing for the onslaught in December of “I’ve just finished my NaNoWriMo project and I thought I’d query you…”

AHHHHH! When did competing in NaNoWriMo give people a licence to throw query etiquette out the window?

So inspired by a tweet from agent Suzie Townsend here are a few things for you to remember for November and the upcoming months:

November: Don’t forget this is also NaNoAlphaMo. Send it to your alpha reader for feedback and inspiration as you write (I have already done this and it doubled my word count).

December: NaNoReviseMo (love ya work Suzie). Go through your first draft with a fine tooth comb looking for improvements, not just for copy editing but also characters, plot and dialogue. Note December is also NaAgentsBusyMo and not a good time to query in general.

January: NaNoBetaMo. Get your second draft to your Beta Editor for some friendly editing and feedback. I am blessed with a couple of Beta Editors – who I love to bits.

February: NaNo2ndReviseMo. Go through your Beta Editors comments and rework your story into a third draft. Depending on how you work this may be enough revision to have a great novel. But you can keep bouncing back with your Beta & Alpha editors if you think can refine your work even more.

March: NaNoQueryMo! Time to query, but only if you think your novel is in the BEST condition it can be. Realistically it may be many more months into the year before you are ready.

On a personal note from me: my NaNoWriMo went out the window with a phone call – the worst phone call of my life. My friends and blog followers know my dad was ill with terminal cancer. On 1 November at 1.30pm (& 400 words into my NaNoWriMo project) my dad passed away and I basically stopped writing. I dropped everything to race to my mother’s side, some 900km away. While I was away I did write a flash fiction, The first night without you here, to help me deal with the fall out of Dad’s death.

I have started back on my NaNoWriMo project Dirty Rainbow; even though I know I am in no position to “win” this year. I’m rather excited because it’s a Utopian story, something I’ve never tried before.

I want to thank all my virtual friends on Twitter, Facebook and Inkpop who have given me support in the months after we found out about Dad’s cancer and since his passing. It is easy to feel alone at times like this but you all made sure I felt anything but alone.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dreaming of words

I love dreaming - especially in that moment just before slumber takes you. That is when my mind runs free and ideas flow. Sometimes I have had to stir from my dreams to capture the ideas so they do not escape into the night.

Daydreams too.Oh how I love them. Driving in the car to and from work - with the music cranked up normally. Lying on the beach I have dozed and the daydreams come.

Last night I dreamed about my NaNoWriMo story. I think in part this was because I had emailed the basic plot to my Alpha editor yesterday and she came back with a myriad of questions. Which was great as I am setting it in the future and there are a lot of different things to consider.

I let the story consume me, trying to not be distracted by the other ideas bouncing around in my head. It's happened before where I've been focused on story and other ideas creep in. I thought I had made
great ground on my NaNoWriMo story a few days ago and then realised it was a different story I had set in the future. Doh!

Embrace your dreams and strange ideas, you never know how much someone else will enjoy reading what your mind can create.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NaNoWriMo - getting my writing groove back

I had been banging my head against a brick wall with writer's block in October. The story I had been writing like a fiend I had to take a break from as I need to do some serious research and consultation on. I had other story ideas but getting the words out of my head and onto paper (or into my computer) has been like pulling teeth.

Partly it's because I've been distracted by what's going on with Dad and his cancer. Ever since I saw him last, so withered and frail, I've been able to thing of little else. I managed to write a short story in June after seeing him, but I think that's because he still looked liked Dad rather than someone who is about to die.

So lots of my writing friends are doing NaNoWriMo and I thought I'd check it out. Looking through the website I figured it was just what I needed. The story I really wanted to work on is already underway - and I was not going to do this half-arsed. I had a couple of other stories with small bits already written but my Utopian concept, Dirty Rainbow, was still just in my mind.

Then the images started flowing. I read a bit of The Ideas Factory, aimed at helping writers get their groove on, and it said to live your idea. I've been thinking about Dirty Rainbow before I go to sleep at night and while driving in the car, and the story keeps getting further developed in my mind.

I've made some brief notes on characters (surnames are particularly important - I wonder if anyone will notice why) and started to develop the "world". But I am hanging out to get the prose flowing. Hopefully this will get me back in my writing groove.

Dirty Rainbow
Humans have evolved and the world is perfect, or is it. Women took control of world politics, ended war, disease and hunger. With this came an adaption of the human race - men died out and women learnt to procreate without men. They also evolved to be perfect in every way, no one is ugly, everyone is healthy The population is smaller, more manageable and peaceful.

Jenna should be happy, like everyone else. But she's bored and longs for adventure. Then a mysterious family moves in next door. Their daughter is home schooled, and rebuffs Jenna's attempts at friendship. What starts as an innocent investigation into mysterious neighbours unravels an international secret.

 Your NaNoWriMo
So what are you doing? Got a story figured out? Something you've wanted to write for years? A brand new idea?

My NaNoWriMo Page (from here you can get in and sign up)

Other Blog Posts on NaNoWriMo

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you!

A shadow of his former self

This is not a writing post today; this is a personal post.

I have just gotten home from a long and hard journey and wanted to share the experience. People who have read my earlier post Drawing Inspiration From Death know that my family have been affected by cancer. What I didn't share in my previous post was that it is my father.

A few moths ago my grandmother died. About two weeks after she passed away we found out my dad had stomach cancer, and it was not a good outlook. Our only hope was chemo. Dad had to undergo a short stint to chemo and if that worked he would continue on it for six months. If not, then there was nothing that could be done.

The chemo didn't work; it kept growing.

Since we found out we have tried to make the most of the time that we have. Initially the doctor said we could have 12 months, but now it's clear that's not the case.

I'm glad that in the mid-year holidays we chose to stay with my parents on the coast and commute to Brisbane for my son's rugby league carnival. I'm glad I convinced Dad to come and see my son play at that carnival. I'm glad that my parents came up to visit us after Dad's chemo treatment finished. I'm glad I visited Dad for Father's Day. And I'm glad that I just took my boys to see him for the last time this weekend.

It had been six weeks since I had last seen Dad, and he was no longer the same person. His body has been ravaged by the cancer. He is so thin and weak. He actually looked alien to me. But he also wasn't all there mentally. I'm not sure if that was because of the opium patches that they have him on or whether the cancer has gotten to his mind too. Dad kept forgetting things, getting confused and not really paying attention to what was going on around him. The biggest change was his sleep patterns. He needed to sleep a lot.  Watching him I wanted to cry.

But I didn't cry around Dad. He's not into mushy stuff. We spent time watching my son's man-of-the-match grandfinal performance, talking about how well both the boys are going at school, karate and nippers and how my quest to get my novel published is progressing (for the first time ever he didn't say to me "don't quit your day job"). I tried to spend every moment he was a wake with him as I knew this may be the last time I see him alive.

Originally I wanted to work out of my parents' home in his last days, but it was clear this visit that if I did that it wouldn't be respecting his wishes. He doesn't like being seen like this and just wants Mum. I understand that and will respect that.

The morning we were leaving Dad went back to bed before everyone was up and I hugged him and told him I loved him in case it was the last time I saw him. I'm not sure if it even registered for him. Then I went out the back and cried. Mum joined me not long after and for the first time since we found out about Dad's cancer we held each other and just let it all out.

Dad is Mum's soul mate. They have been together forty years. Mum knew when she say him that he was the man she would marry. They had so many plans for their retirement, they were going to grow really old together. Now Mum has to be alone.

I was so glad Dad did wake up again before we left and my husband and sons also got to say goodbye. And I got to say goodbye again.I'm so glad we took the time to make the trip down to see them as I think Dad really enjoyed seeing the boys, and I know Mum enjoyed watching Dad with the boys.

This disease really plays havoc on families. But if you are strong together you can pull through it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to get a date with a fireman

Sex in YA stories - what YA readers & writers have to say on it

Earlier this week my friend and I were discussing sex in YA and whether or not teens expect sex to be included in a novel.

 I'm not for arbitrary censorship personally, (believe everything has it's place in the right context), but I have seen first hand that not all YA readers are comfortable reading about sex.

Sex should be plot driven for me when in stories (obviously erotica is another kettle of fish cause sex is kinda the point of the book). There are times when the story simply can't occur without sex. I decided to test her theory on members of the YA Writer's community I'm part of. So let's find out (please respect people's right to opinions in comments):

Age 15
Writer and Reader of YA

It's honestly a matter of opinion as to whether or not you could bring yourself to read, or write, a 'sex' scene in a YA novel. Naturally, sex scenes can only be implicated in YA novels, you're not allowed to go into any detail. My parents aren't married and have been together for seventeen years and have two children. Being brought up I don't mind sex outside of marriage.

But I don't think that means you should 'jump around' so to speak. Naturally with what I’ve been brought up I don’t mind implied sex scenes in novels; as long as they have some major contribution to the story. In YA novels today you do see a lot of casual sex, and I don’t agree with that part of it.

For me, if it means something to the characters and adds to the plot (sub or main) then I don’t mind reading about it. But there's a responsibility of the reader as well when taking on novels with implied sex scenes, or even adult sex scenes.

Age 13
Reader of YA

I don't think that there should be any sex scenes in YA books. And I agree with Nana_Hassan that we have to consider that your book will be out there for the world to read. Some people may be comfortable with it, and some might not. To me, kissing and romance are fine, but having sex in books make me feel squeamish. Also, it's not right, especially pre-marital sex. It wouldn't be teaching any morals in the YA. That's what I truthfully think. And being a Christian... well, it just adds to the fact that sex in books for the YA should not be allowed.

Age 14
Reader of YA

I believe that sex shouldn't be allowed in YA, because it is just not right. This is my opinion. I mean, you have to consider that your book will be out there for the world to read, and some younger people coould stumble across it by mistake. You can imagine the consequences. Romance, is fine, kisses too, but sex shouldn't be described in full detail or otherwise. I'm not critiscizing anyone here. Just my opinion.

Age 20
Writer and reader of YA

Sex in YA is always controversial. In fact, I had some Texan told me I was going to hell because of the sex in my book (which, by the way, is non-existent, I think she had more of a problem with the language). Generally, I don’t always want to read it. I think some it can be absolutely ridiculous (AKA House of the Night) but then also there’s a place for it. Take Twilight, three and a half books of pure sexual tension and then ‘I woke up’ and the deed is done? That’s a cop out by the author not being able to write appropriately for teenagers.

Ariel Marie
Age 19
Writer and reader of YA and comic book obsessed
The controversy of sex in YA novels comes most likely because of age. Even if premarital sex is introduced in a novel, that does not necessarily make it a bad thing. Once I heard somebody complain about how sex in such novels is a disgrace, it makes sex look awesome and corrupts the youth.

But at the same time, my dad wanted to introduce me to such a situations to make sure I wasn’t naive in middle school. He started to show me such movies as Revenge of the Nerds, explaining that I had to understand the way that boys thought. Meanwhile, my mom told me to read a book called Forever by Judy Blume because it explained what happened to a girl after she lost her virginity.

By portraying such scenes in a certain way can help people in the future instead of hiding sex completely creating a surprise in the real world. Not only boys but girls take advantage over those who may be sheltered, not understanding such words or questions that involve sex creating a problem. Even though it’s not a novel, a great example is a teen movie, Mean Girls. A boy asks the main character if her ‘muffin has been buttered’ but she has no understanding of what this means. If sex or even the language in general is allowed more in YA novels, it can be used to help avoid such events.

Age 17
Writer and reader of YA

Sex in interesting and touch subject. There seem to be two extremes for it - a) it's fine, teens have it, or b) it's wrong and shouldn't be discussed. Personally, I don't at all think it should be in any form of public entertainment, as I believe that sex is to be saved for marriage, and kept secret. People aren't designed to have sex before marriage.

To have it in a YA book is often an encouragement of young adults to have it, even if it's against their parent's wishes. And, it's simply not an image that one should have presented in their head often because they read it in a book. Sex is like dessert. If you have before marriage (dinner) your appetite is spoiled.
Age 19

Writer and reader of YA

Sex is part of life. It happens every day, whether we like it or not. Here's a secret. Are you ready? Let me whisper it for you. Censoring Sex isn't going to stop it from happening. Teenagers are still going to do it. We need to stop feeding them this sparkly vampire (oh yeah, by the way - SEX in Twilight. Spoiler right there.), fantasy crap and give teens the TRUTH about the world.

Guess what? It's not a pretty place all the time. I got told off by someone because my latest project talks about sexual abuse. Guess what? It happens. Don't like it? Too dang bad, we don't live in a perfect world. People turn a blind eye and don't want to believe the evils of the world.

Frankly, I'm sick of it. I'll pick up Ellen Hopkins books (she talks about Prostitution in one of her books, incest and sexual abuse in another) or the book Speak (talks about Rape) over this stupid fantasy crap any day. I understand hating books that are like "oh everyone go have sex at fifteen!" But I do support those trying to show people what to avoid. As a YA reader and author, I don't think we need to censor this stuff at all.

Age 23
Senior Creative Writing Major & YA Writer and Reader

I see nothing wrong with sex in YA, whether it's a tasteful scene or dialogue on the subject, if it's within context of the characters and story. The more teenagers are informed and exposed to sexual subjects in other mediums, the less likely they will go off and do something foolish. Am I saying all YA books must have sex? Of course not, but having characters talk about sex is more realistic than if the issue is skirted altogether. The heroine in the book series I'm working on has sex towards the end of book one, but it's something in context with her character, where she is at that point in the story, and something she knows she wants to do.

I always reference the Judy Blume classic FOREVER when discussing sex in YA, which is perhaps the most realistic view of teen love and sex. Blume wrote the book for her teenage daughter who, "...asked me for a story about two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die. She had read several novels about teenagers in love. If they had sex, the girl was always punished - an unplanned pregnancy, a hasty trip to a relative in another state, a grisly abortion, sometimes even death. Lies. Secrets. Girls in these books had no sexual feelings and boys had no feelings other than sexual."

FOREVER has been a challenged since perhaps the 1980's for its suggestive nature, detailed (but not gratuitous) sex scenes, and the fact the protagonist, Katherine, goes on the pill, and, well, let me just quote the wonderful Ms. Blume again, "The 70s was a much more open decade in America. Forever was used in several school programmes then, helping to spur discussions of sexual responsibility. This would never happen today. How are young people supposed to make thoughtful decisions if they don't have information and no one is willing to talk with them? Girls and boys have to learn to say 'no' or 'not without a condom' without fear."

Age 13
Writer and Reader of YA

I think that within a certain boundary, it’s fine to put sex scenes in YA fiction. People are people, and generally people are going to do it. As long as it isn’t overdone, I don’t think it’s an issue. I also don’t think that authors should go into extreme detail about it. These are teens that are reading, teens that may still be virgins, and it maybe a bit jarring, even for the most jaded of us.

I’ve read a few books where sex scenes were inserted, and they all seemed to have the same reason why they fit and seemed appropriate: none of them went into detail.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people get worked up when there are these sorts of scenes in YA novels, saying that they’re inappropriate. A lot of the time, these people are adults. I know that they may be parents and might not want their kids exposed to that sort of thing, but as for if younger teens mind, I doubt that many do. Also, if used the way that I already talked about, it would be completely non-scarring.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I hope that's Batman

Hello Mary Sue, have you met Gary Stu?

Mary Sue was a nice young girl, dancing around in the world of Star Trek fanfiction with her boyfriend Gary Stu, but slowly she started drifting out of the world of fanfiction and into author pages.

So who is Mary Sue? A Mary Sue character is something you want to avoid as a writer. They are characters who are just too perfect with everything turning up roses for them. She has the Midas touch, gets all the guys, does nothing wrong and is the author's pet. And readers spot her a mile away and go running for the hills.

Nowadays a Mary Sue/Gary Stu can also include a character that acts as an author surrogate - a character that inflicts the creators personal beliefs onto the reader - or a cliched character in desperate need of a make over.

It doesn't matter if you are writing about aliens, paranormal creatures or 'regular folk', characters need to have flaws. If a character overcomes every obstacle put before them with ease, how is that entertaining the reader? Ho hum, he beat that troll with his his bare hands - boring. Oh now she has five guys chasing after her. She's so beautiful, but doesn't know it. Gah! How are we meant to like this chick?

People want variety, they want originality. They don't want to have a stock standard girl/guy pop up in every book they read. It's important to not follow 'trends' for your heroes or villains. It can be hard as there is only a set number of hair colours and eye colours to choose from, however all the best friends' characters don't have to have red hair. Nor does the MC have to have green eyes.

Make your characters original, make them pop from the pages for your writers. Give them someone new and refreshing to fall in love with.

If you want to know if you have written a Mary Sue/Gary Stu in your story try this test (I passed!!):

More info on Mary Sues and how to avoid them:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Query-go-rounding respectfully

I recently finalised my manuscript and am jumping on the query-go-round (let's see how dizzy I get) so I am doing A LOT of research into agents. So I've been compiling information on potential agents through a number of sources (check out at the bottom of the blog), stalking agents and authors on Twitter and have pitches going through my brain like crazy.

On one agent I follow made a tweet that indicated they had received a query addressed to "Dear so and so" and I was like SERIOUSLY?! And it got me thinking about form queries.

You might get lucky with a stock standard query, but for the most part I think agents will see through it. If you have nothing in there that shows why you want them specifically as an agent then why would they want you as a client?

For me I'm not just querying every single agent who has represented YA.  Just because I write it and they represent it doesn't mean we'll be a good match. My field is speculative fiction and there are a lot of YA agents who aren't into that. I am wasting my time and the agent's time if I query them and they don't want speculative fiction.

For the query letters I have been drafting, it has been a really slow process because I don't just want to show the agent why I want to be their client specifically, I want to show them why they would be interested in my story and myself specifically. What is it about Mishca that would attract them the most? For some it's the romance as that is their focus, for others it's the darker elements of the story and for some it's the fact that I have a unique hook that is not currently in the YA market.

Although it can take LOTS of queries to get a deal, you don't want to query 100 agents at once. Word could get around town and you don't want to get a bad reputation as a serial pest. Most agents understand that you are going to query a fair few agents but stagger it rather than bombard everyone at once.

While I am not signed yet, I have scored a manuscript requests from a really good publisher after I was fortunate enough to meet with an editor a month ago. The editor at the publisher specifically mentioned how great my pitch was. Here's hoping agents can see the potential the publisher has seen so far.  AND here's hoping it leads to more!

In the meantime here's some tips for researching and writing a great query letter:

  1. Look for websites that have agents listed in your genre well before you want to query.
  2. Make a list of potential agents and look for social networking opportunities (Twitter, Facebook) and set up a query tracker spreadsheet.
  3. Take note of their social networking posts (conferences they are attending, online chat/question sessions opportunities, pet query peeves, what they are looking for).
  4. Look for agent interviews with them - it will show you if you are a good fit for them as a client AND if they are a good fit for you (do you want an editorial agent, are you looking for a long-term career as a writer and want an agent who is interested in developing you as a writer, do they take debut writers).
  5. Take note of some information that would help personalize (but try not to be stalkerish about it).
  6. Think about what in your story would be specifically attractive to that agent.
  7. Look for query letter examples that won the agent over.
  8. Proof read your letter as well as your story.
  9. DON'T send a query until your story is ready.  Preferably have a Beta Editor who really knows what their doing or even pay a professional to check your work. There are lots of online critique opportunities nowadays as well.
  10. Check if the agent's response time frame or if they don't respond at all. Some agents tweet/blog where they are up to time wise for queries. This can help.
  11. Don't send a narky response if you get rejected or ask for feedback if the agent haven't supplied any.
I once read that it's good to send out about 10 - 15 queries at first then send out a new query for every rejection that comes in.

Aspiring writers should all know that this is a tough gig. Nothing happens over night, there's a huge amount of waiting involved and not everyone wants to take you on as a client - sad but true fact. But let's not forget that agents are people too. They're not robots at the end of an email waiting to make your life hard. They're looking for a story that they feel passionate about enough to take it to a publisher and say "you need to make this into a book - it will sell."

Here's some great links to help find agents and for more query advice (primarily I look at sites for YA but some are universal):

Agents Listings:

If you write YA this is one of the best sources of information:
Fantastic site. Subscribe for alerts on new agents and tips:
A massive database to help you find agents that may be a fit for you:

For Industry and Query Advice:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Signature styling

What's your signature styling? Have you given your characters a signature style?

I'm not talking about signing your name - but the clothes they wear, how they where their hair or any other factoid that they may be "known" for. 

Seriously get stalked when I wear these shoes

For me, I am known for my taste in shoes.  Seriously! I have been stalked by women who are either admiring my shoes or trying to catch up to ask me where I got them from. The ladies where I buy my lunch love to check out my shoes and hang out for when I wear new ones. My love of shoes may have something to do with the fact I worked at a shoe shop when I was a teenager.

This topic might seem like an excuse to show off my shoe collection, but there is more too it than that for your writing. If you want to make a character memorable then it's a good idea to give them some signature character traits, something that makes them stand out from other characters. It doesn't have to be simply clothing, it could be hairstyles, things that collect or personality traits.

People watching is a good way to ascertain traits that make people stand out. There is a work colleague of mine who regularly changes her hair colour.  Every time I visit her office I'm always interested to see what "new hairdo" she will be sporting.

Sometimes people have catch phrases that they use over and over again. My brother-law continually says "indeed" in conversations. A guy a work with greets me on the phone with "Hey what's happening." Dialogue can be a good place to differentiate your characters.

Personal habits can be another defining feature. A woman I know has a habit of pursing her lips then twitching her mouth from side to side. Other people chew their nails, fiddle with their hair, tap their feet, wrinkle their noses or bit their lip when nervous or worried.

These little idiosyncrasies are part of what creates a complete persona for characters and we need to consider these types of things when writing.

And to finish off on, my hybrid boots
that get lots of attention
 It's not surprising that I've made the title character from my first novel Mishca, a lover of shoes.  Most writers have a bit of author insertion in their debut novel. My second novel's main character Leena is not so fussed about footwear but lives in drill pants and work shirts with her job as an environmental consultant. She also likes her personal spaces and has a bit of a potty mouth.

Sometimes you can plan your characters' traits by creating bios for them. Other times they just evolve as you write. Just make sure you don't have flat Mary-Sues or Gary Stus. Make a rich character with a unique voice and qualities that set them apart.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You can Beta me up all you want

A lot of writers starting out think "Hmmm I know I'll write a story," bang out some words and "Hey presto, done."

The truth is there's not many people that can write a kick-ass first draft that needs very little work, but for a complete novel that's even more unlikely. The phrase has been tossed around a bit about it taking a village to raise a child being the same as for writers. Well folks, they're not lying.

Writers use various review/revision techniques based on what works for them. Here's my process:

Alpha Reader: My muse, my cheerleader and "She-who-must-not-be-named" is also my Alpha reader. She reads my work as I write, badgers me for more chapters, helps pick up issues early on and offers ideas for plots and storylines.

My Alpha reader is one of my closest friends, who is also so painfully shy that I am never allowed to name her. She is a lover of books, a devourer of the written work, a bit of a grammar dork and a very interesting subject who has inspired two characters in two of the book's I'm currently working on. She has loved my work from the beginning - before I seriously thought I could be a published author for a career.  In fact, she was the one who insisted I try to get Mishca published. Up until then I wrote to get the ideas out of my head.

Friends & Family Beta Readers:
How lucky am I that my sister is a high school English teacher?! My sister, my mum and another close friend also read my work after my first draft is done. For me this is a very light copy edit and some directional advice, but mainly cheer leading to encourage me.

Critique Groups:
I'm part of what could be considered an on-line critique group through a YA writers' community called Inkpop. It's great to get some feedback from some fellow writers.  But they don't normally go through the full manuscript with you, just more a feel for the plot and some general feedback.

Serious Writers Beta Readers:
Man, how did I get so lucky again?! I ended up with three Beta Readers for Mishca who all brought something different to the table. I once read how important it is to have a Beta Editor who is a writer.  How in the world do you manage that. Well I have two through Inkpop. Wendy, who has formal writing qualifications, helped me pick up on where I needed to expand and gave me great encouragement.  Evie - who is self-taught, gave me a direct line into the mind of an American teen, which allowed me to make Mishca more universal. Katrina - who is formally qualified and a former academic in literature, helped me pull my manuscript apart and put it back together, in a much improved version.

Copy/sub Editor:
Often we just can't see our own mistakes. But if you want to send your manuscript to an agent or an editor and be taken seriously then you need your work to be the best it can be.  I was lucky that Katrina doubled as my copy editor, but if you don't know someone who is professionally trained and has the time and dedication then there are lots of firms that copy edit novels.

I know that this may seem like a scary process to some, having your work go through so many sets of hands, but the fact is that it will go through lots of hands with agents and publishers as well.

So I hope that was helpful, but in case you are a devourer of blogs and want more, here are some other sites with some great info on the process:

And one for Beta Readers themselves -

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pre-publishing promotions for aspiring writers

I've just read the latest post on Rachelle Gardner's blog Rants and Ramblings: Life of a Literary Agent with guest blogger Sue Harrison and it inspired this post.

Promoting before your published
I've seen how much work so many established and debut authors put into promotion for their upcoming book. Even the best selling authors who don't have to push anymore to make sales still understand the importance of connecting with readers and are active in social networking. Cassandra Clare is a good example of this -

For me personally, I'm not at the stage of selling my work to the public, I'm still at the stage where I'm promoting my work to agents and publishers in the hope of establishing myself as a writer and getting Mishca into stores. It can be hard for Australian writers as our local market is so small. Our bookstore shelves are often dominated by international bestsellers and a high profile editor confirmed for me that we are producing less local books nowadays. But as an Aussie writer I still have a good chance of securing a publishing deal before I get a local agent (as long as my writing resonates with an editor) because:
  1. Our small market means that most local agents have a full list of clients already.
  2. Publishers in Australia have begun to open up for direct submissions, including two of the biggest publishers in Australia.
While good writing will always speak for itself, showing agents and publishers that you have the willingness and drive to promote yourself and your work can help you get a foot in the door. With just a few clicks they can research you on any web-based forum and see how you promote yourself.

Something I have done to help promote my work has been the use of a YA writer's community to promote my work. Having 700 or so positive comments from your target audience and being voted as one of the most popular stories out of thousands of pieces of work on a YA site is great market research to present to a potential agent or publisher. Especially for agents and publishers in Australia as I can show there is international interest in purchasing my work.

It's been a pretty good marketing tool for me in some respects as it has helped me attract the interest of one of the biggest publishers in Australia, who have asked me to bypass the regular submission process and send my full manuscript when I've finished my revisions (almost done - thank you Beta Readers!). However I am still on the lookout for an agent, but that is on hold until I complete my latest revisions. I'd prefer to have an agent before I submit because I know that then there is someone in the industry who believes in my work and can guide me through the process. But considered I will be querying at the same time I submitting to the publisher I can't see it happening.

I believe the promotion aspect of the business is just as important before you "make it". Blogs, Facebook and Twitter have helped a lot of people make connections. I have read of a number of cases where people's online presence has lead success outside of the virtual realm. Hello - Juno! Get you're self out into cyberspace in a positive way, cause you never know who's lurking.

Knowing how hard the industry is I haven't gotten ahead of myself to start planning Mishca's launch party yet. But I hope to emulate Paranormalcy's author Keirsten White, who has come up with some unique promotional ideas that have helped create book buzz before she even hit the shelves.

So while my strategy of collecting market research for a fiction novel before publication has gotten me a foot in a door for a publisher, I know it will be my writing that must ultimately clinch the deal so - back to revisions I go (well to bed actually as it's 1am in The Land Down Under).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Importance of writers conferences

Last weekend I went to my first writer's conference.  I have been to a truckload of conferences on communications and consultation, but never a creative writing conference.  I'll get into specifics of what I learnt in follow-up blogs but this post looks more generally at benefits for writers in attending conferences.

My first conference was the CYA (Children's & Young Adult) Conference in Brisbane as part of the Brisbane Writers Festival -

Immediately I noticed the comradeship - "Hey you write for kids or YA, me too, give us a hug." Okay it wasn't a big hug fest but you get the idea.  The writers there have formed a great community and they support one another.  It was great to feel part of the community.

Then the different sessions were amazing.  So much to choose from, so much variety.  There was always a session that was useful for further yourself as a writer. I have a stackload of notes to share in upcoming blogs.

The next bit is networking.  How many times have you heard it said that in the publishing world it can come down to who you know.  Agents and publishers attend conferences like this to ferret out new talent.  There are quite often pitch sessions as well where you can pay a bit extra to have one-on-one time with an editor or agent.  That can be like striking gold.  But you also get to see these professionals socially throughout the day.

So if you can get to a conference as you will get the opportunity to:
Hone your writing skills
  • Meet some kick-ass industry people
  • Make awesome connections
  • Become part of a community
  • Get your face and work out there.
There are lots of conferences and writers festivals all year round, so hopefully you can find one near you.  Check out your local writers centre as they keep details on upcoming event.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tweetering on the edge of success

Social networking media is hyped as one of the best ways to promote yourself and your work today. But think before you tweet, blog and post. This is a VERY public arena you’re playing in.

I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying think about your content before you post. On Twitter I follow some very influential people in the publishing industry international and I have already seen a couple of instances where people have been offended – rightly or wrongly.  People get unfollowed or blocked for spoilers, causing offence or stalker behaviour.

As outlined in my interview with Angela Slatter,, the publishing world is quite small and the last thing you want to do is put your wrong foot forward.

Controversy can help people get traffic their way, but make sure it’s not controversy that will kill your publishing dream.

Part of the problem is it is so easy to misunderstand intent online. There is no body language, tone or emotions that help us decode messages.

In the same way, be careful about how you interact with industry professionals on these sites. The last thing you want is to be branded a stalker or gain a poor reputation amongst agents and publishers.

Here are some helpful sites to guide you through social networking for writers:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Angela Slatter: Australian Short Story Queen

Angela Slatter (photo by David Pollitt)
Angela Slatter is the Australian Queen of short stories with more than 70 published titles to her name.  Her hard work and university studies have led to an initial collection 'Black-Winged Angel' and two 2010 releases 'The Girl With No Hands & Other Tales' and 'Sourdough and Other Stories'

Tell us a bit about your current University Studies.

I’m doing a PhD at QUT in creative writing. It’s a practice-led PhD, so the idea is that your creative work is your contribution to new knowledge – mine is the Sourdough Collection of interlinked fairytales, or ‘mosaic novel’. I’m now working on the exegesis, which explores how you use the form of the mosaic novel to ‘unpick’ the remembrancer in traditional fairytales; how you write a coherent story if you take away the old woman or man who in traditional tales inevitably holds a lost child’s history for them until they are ‘of age’. It’s also an exploration of memory and what happens when we are cut adrift from the collective memory of a family.

Tell us about what influenced you to pursue a career as a writer?

I’ve always been a voracious reader and I guess eventually it just morphed into a desire to tell the stories as well as read them. Writing is as much telling myself a story in the first place – keeping myself interested in where the story is going to go as much as the reader.

I scribbled for a lot of years without finishing anything, all the teenage years of writing angsty poetry and ghostly romances. Finally in 2003 I decided it was time to get serious and I sold my first story in 2005 and it was published in 2006.

Share with us your journey to getting your first short story published?
The first stories I had published came out of my MA creative work. I was lucky in that my supervisor encouraged me to send my work out – actively encouraging me to seek publication of my fiction, rather than just be an academic. My first two sales were to Shimmer and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.

You have two anthology of short stories released in 2010, 'The Girl With No Hands & Other Tales' and 'Sourdough and Other Stories', and you have the 'Black-winged Angel' collection of reloaded fairytales – how does it differ for you to have a whole book dedicated to you when you more often than not share the pages with other authors?
It’s quite daunting. If you’re in an anthology you’ve got a few buffers around you! You’re not the only one in the spotlight. But a single author collection means it’s just you out there on stage, trying to tap dance. The awesome thing about it is that you get to make it your very own thing. It’s what you want it to be – so you get to sink or swim all on your own!

You are currently working on two novels, tell us a bit about those?
The first one is Well of Souls, and it’s about a young witch, Zira, who flees an arranged marriage and a lute-maker called Beatriz. They end up having to try to find the legendary well of souls to locate an artefact that restores the health of the ailing. The second book is Gate of the Dead, which follows them into the well of souls and their adventure trying to save the ruler of the land they’ve ended up seeking refuge in. Publication? Will occur when I finish them and if a publisher takes up them! I do have offers to read from three publishers – I just need to carve out the time to finish the duopoly.

What has been the most surreal moment for you on your writing journey?
Going to Orbtial in 2008 and meeting China Mieville! He’s very nice, but not so surreal. Actually, I think it was at Conflux in 2008, when we launched the Jack Dann edited anthology Dreaming Again. It was quite strange sitting down signing with all the other authors and having people line up for my chicken scrawl! And then a couple of people hunted me up later for book signing – it was rather weird.

The Australian Literary Market is quite hard for local writers to break into, what advice would you give an aspiring author?
We are a bit hampered by the fact we’ve got a small population (although a comparatively large book-buying public), so the kind of market share an author gets in the US is very much larger than here. We’re competing for piece of a smaller market. Also, we only have about 20 working literary agents in Australia – not a lot for the number of writers seeking representation – and they don’t seem to be making any more!

Best advice: if you can, start with short stories, get them published in magazines and journals – don’t just focus on the Australian market, be brave and submit overseas. A publication list can help lift you out of the slush pile of an agent or a publisher, but it shows you’ve managed to finish something and you’ve got a record of achievement. Be polite to everyone you meet – it’s a small community and everyone talks. A bad reputation will travel even faster than a good one. Always research your markets, send the right stuff to the right place. Don’t be a prima donna. Join a writers centre and learn everything you can from them about the writing and publishing industry, because your job doesn’t end when you finish writing the book.

You can purchase Angela's anthologies below:
Sourdough and Other Stories

To find out EVEN MORE about Angela then check out her website:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

From the horse's mouth: What the YA's are saying about Mishca!

Originally I wrote basically to get things out of my head. Sometimes to deal with life, sometimes because an idea just kept nagging at me.  A friend of mine started reading my work and when she read Mishca I was told "You have to try and get this published!"

Then I found Inkpop and posted a portion of Mishca on the site, making Top Picks in June out of more than 25,000 pieces of work.  It was the feedback from there that made me confident that Mishca should get published.  It is these comments are straight from the horses mouth - my target market and potential buyers of Mishca - if I can get an agent and a publisher. The feedback also helps if I am feeling self doubt it is comments like these that will lift me up so please indulge my ego boosting session:

Barbie Jones: Amazing work. I didn't want to comment until I had finished the book and I must say I can't wait to see it published. It is definitely a page turner and your writing is amazing, it is like your with Mischa every step of the way. Good Luck! I wish you all the best!

Aikawarazu: First off: I adore the name Mischa, and your cover is absolutely beautiful! You are an amazing writer--if this were a book, I would definitely buy it. Everything about the writing is so real, and I feel as though I could get lost in it. Not once did I want to simply speed-read or glance over a part due to a loss of interest. Already I feel as though I can identify with Mischa in a lot of ways. It's a very interesting situation she's in, and she's a unique character. That little twist at the end of the first chapter definitely caught me by surprise, and further demanded my attention--it really changes the mood of the whole story! I'm excited to see what's in store for Mischa. This is going straight to the top of my reading list, and has definitely earned my pick! If I could reasonably read all of it tonight, I probably would! This is simply amazing--something to be proud of.

Lauren Ashley: Oh my gosh. You have such a way with words! Incredible. I love the setting, your characters, and everything! I also love how you left me wondering after each section what was going to happen....very unpredictable, and i like that. there are so many authors who leave me always figuring out what happens in the book, but you have a unique talent with that. I picked it! :) ... It's a great book! I can't wait to read it all over again when it is published! Let me know when it is, I will buy it! :) Very excellent job, again.

ShekinahGlory: Oh wow! I can see why this is number one in the Picks category! I just read chapter one, and already I'm captivated! First off, I LOVE LOVE LOVE how Mishca is adopted and doesn't know her historyAlso I love how you describe everything with a personal eye and use words and phrases that were very unique, yet such an obvious choice for success! I liked how you said her adoptive father was disappointed that he couldn't solve her heart problem with his physical prowess. Also, I like to see that Mishca and her mom are so close---my favorite line was: "Despite having very different blood flowing through our veins, we always seemed to be on the same wavelength." I want to know more about Wirth and Othilia so I can't wait to read chapter 2!!!! It was very intriguing how you said Wirth should be tired from jumping onto her roof, but he's you implied he's not human. So what is he? The suspense is killing me! lol And he is fascinated with Mishca---is it love? or does he want her to join them and become one of them? And what process will she go through? Very good cliffhangers! I'm not going to stop reading but I figured I should comment on chapter one! Very good work and I hope your book gets published!

Sunnytragix: I was just going to read the first chapter, but I ended up reading straight through to fifteen. The writing is so engaging! And this is wondrously...different. I love that it's set in Australia. That's refreshing... Mishca's not the typical white main character (don't get me wrong, my whole family's paler than's just a nice change; again, refreshing). I love the unpredictability. I've read many books, so many that they fail to surprise me these days, but let me tell you, completely unexpected in this one. There were some fantastic twists. Can't tell you how much I appreciate that in a story. I didn't even realize there would be a fantasy/paranormal edge to it at first, so when that hit, I was stunned.

Bookbaby100: Fantastic job. You gave real feeling and personality to the scenes, characters and statements made. The loneliness that lurks in Mishca because of her lack of real friendship is conflicted beautifully with the love and care her family has for her. This story had some fantastic- very unexpected- twists in it! It gave the story an unique intrigue and captivation. I love Ryder, -he is definitely SWOON WORTHY(oops did i just admit that?)- and how blatant he is with his feelings for Mishca...(Can't wait for more!!!!!)

Aceforlife: Ah! No! Why?! It stopped right with Colin. Agh. Must. read. more. Yaa.. I think I might be a smidge addicted to this story.

Sammy_ashwrote: This is really, really good! I like the detail you write with, totally makes it easy for me to picture it all. And I love Mischa's character, too. And like sunnytragix said, it's really cool that it's set in Australia! It really deserves to be #1. =)

Katherine187: I seriously love this! You are an awesome writer and this story is seriously addicting. I love how it is in Australian first off because it is so different from anything else I have read. Mishca is definitely one of those characters that readers can relate to, minus the heart transplant aspect of course. This is great and I am so glad that I read it! Keep up the good work!

dellafiora3395: Like so many other people that have commented on this, I had the intention of reading the first chapter... Yeah, that didn't happen. I made it through the entire thing. I'm pretty much in love with this! The characters are so interesting, the plot's quite different from what I've read on the rest of InkPop, and there are plot twists and turns to keep it exciting. I surely see why this is the current rank 1. Great job!

Glo: WOW! I absolutely love it! I mean not like I was expecting to NOT love it, but I mean I REALLY LOVE it!!! =D I was originally going to read only 2 chapters then maybe go practice some guitar, but I couldn't stop!! I can SO see this one on the shelves and I'm so happy that it made it to the top of the top 5, Congrats! And it is SO hilarious!! Mind you I only made it to chapter 6 (10:20pm on a stinking school night. grrrrr.) I laughed until the abs hurt and the tears started to flow at the beginning of chapter 6 when you said "he moved towards me and slashed at my face with... a feather duster?" it was so intense and epic and it turned into a really hilarious joke. I love it! I also love how Trista just invited herself to the party. Too funny! XD I think this book can really make it places with the right advertising. Thank you SO much for sharing it! ... I, like sunnytragix, also love the fact that it's placed in Australia. I love Australia. Never been, but I still love it. Their accents are to DIE for! I have to say, I am completely in love with the book. <3
Alex R: I wish that I had read this when you first asked to me way back when. You're plot is so real for me and I can actually feel mad or sad about your characters doing something. I must admit that "Ded" threw me when i first read it, but I really like it now. And Australia, how many books are set there? I love it. This is by far my favorite story I've read on this website. Amazing job.

In a daze: Wow. I love this already. Brilliant that it's set in Australia. I haven't read many books that take place there, though I'm not really sure why. It's a beautiful country. I also like that Mischa herself is a rather, hmm, special of sorts. She's not your typical YA MC.(I mean that in a nice way =D) This is so unique, though quite sad from her point of view. Her poor 'parents', I can't imagine having to go through such a thing. Mischa is very strong for being able to relax them from their worries and being able to reassure herself as well. =) The end of the first chapter is very mysterious as well, interesting... I shall now read more. I will pick ASAP, probably after I finish and can comment once again. Awesome job. No wonder it's Ranked 1.
Why, Mischa, why?! D= Uh, uh,---- aah!!! Sorry for the outburst, but I just finished it, and don't want to ruin it for whoever else wants to read it, but, how coul you? D= It's a twist, I love eet, but AHHHH!!!!!!!!!! AWESOME story.  You better write more. ^.^

ForensicPathology: That was astonishing. Your writing is incredible, and your premise is very fresh, which is a rare thing to come by nowadays. Your flow is wonderful as well. You left me hanging on the last word, and I definitely plan on reading further. I'm not sure what I can tell you that others have yet to, but it seems you definitely deserve your rank.

ShoSHNAZZYdood: oh, my gosh this book is flipping incredible! i saw it on the top 5 and the name alone drew me in (i'm a stickler for cool book titles) so i started to read it and i can safely say, "DANG!" like, surely. your book was, like, flipping amazing and i couldn't help but read more and more! so i read more and more. and more. innyhoo, this is the first thing i read from you and i can only hope there's more to come in the future! BIG WOOP, DOOD! (:

And if you made it to the end of all that - thanks! When I am reaching my YA market and they give me feedback like this it just makes me want to strive harder, writer better and write more.  I hope that soon an agent will have the belief in my story as so many members of Inkpop did and work with me to get Mishca onto the shelves.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My laziest blog ever!

A young writer friend of mine emailed me to bounce ideas.  When I wrote back to her I thought to myself "Hey - that would be good for my blog".  So here is my laziest blog post ever - borrowed from an email to a friend.

MF - I can't seem to focus long enough on one idea. I know that I have a short attention span (when it comes to writing, anyways), but this is almost getting of hand. What do you get when you are plagued with so many ideas? How did you stick with one and finish it?

ME - That's natural for some people - I am the same way. That was why I predominately wrote short stories before Mishca.

So how I deal with it - I let the stories decide, I write whatever storyline is banging the loudest in my head. So at the moment I have a couple of chapters on Mishca's follow-up story Ryder done, 8 Chapters of Leena Barclay done, two short-stories that I want to submit to anthologies underway and only the first chapter and prologue of Conquest done and a couple of other ideas in my head. At the moment I haven't had a lot of writing time because of my family circumstances, but I am hoping that will change soon.

I found that if I at least captured my ideas for stories, not necessarily write them out, that it helped me get back and work on Mishca. Because I am querying with Mishca I am happy to write whatever comes to mind, but I am trying to focus on the short stories so I can get something published under my belt.

MF - How did you figure out that you wanted to write paranormal? Did the idea for "Mischa" just come to you?

ME - What helped me finish Mishca was:

1) Research - researching her heart transplant recovery information helped drive the early plot and added so much to bits along the way.

2) Sending it to a friend who was passionate about my writing - her nagging me for the next chapter helped me to finish it

3) Time away from the Internet. I have a laptop and I often write at the beach. Over Christmas holidays I had an hour a day or so at the beach and I could write about 1,000 words per hour.

4) Daydreaming time - this is so important, but carry a note book with you! I let Mishca's story consume me, I would think about it before I went to bed at night, I would go for walks and think about it, I would play inspirational music in the car and think about it, I would think about it while I was at the gym... the women in the shower room must have thought I was crazy scribbling in a note pad after a work out.

Before Mishca I had written a bunch of short stories that were more general fiction, though one was speculative, and a couple of plays. I had started on a sci-fi novel and a general fiction novel that I hadn't gotten far with. Mishca isn't actual strict paranormal, it is Speculative Fiction - combining Paranormal, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Horror together - I intentionally threw out the paranormal flavour though for a specific reason.

I found speculative/paranormal easier to write as I have a weird imagination. The concept of Mishca came to me like a "What if" scenario, like "What if you time travelled and met yourself?" (though that is not the scenario that came to me btw). So I had the ending first and worked backwards. A lot of characters weren't even in the original concept. it was also a one-off story until I started thinking about why the scenario would exist - then it became a series.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I have a problem

My name is Sharon and I am addicted to online social networking.  It has been 5 minutes since my last log in on Facebook, 2 minutes since my last look at Inkpop and one second since my last Tweet.  I am usually on my iPhone on either Facebook, Inkpop or email last thing before I go to sleep at night and the first thing when I wake in the morning.

My husband has scandalous suggested that my self promotion skills are at a par with my writing... I know I would way prefer to be cracking my head opening and catching the ideas that pour out by transposing them into written words that marketing for someone else.  But I tell you what, if I get published I will have a ball with an agent and the publisher coming up with marketing for myself.

Somehow my Facebook page has ballooned to 2,400 people!  I have a strong profile on the YA writer's community Inkpop with more than 1,000 friends, Top Pick Star book status (my story Mishca was picked as one of the best five books in June out of more than 25,000 pieces on the site), been Inkpopper of the Week and am now a Top Trendsetter.  Hmmm but my Blog and Tweets needs more traffic (note to self - start promoting these more).

Well it seems my husband is right - I love promoting, marketing and networking.  And in the current competitive book market it makes sense to have a strong online presence. Many debut authors already have followers before they even have a book on the shelf.  This is great, as long as you strike the balance between promoting yourself and spending time writing.  Just don't get caught up in your own hype and neglect your writing.

For newbie writers, there are also great ways to network and promote yourself offline too.  Joining writer's centres, attending conferences and participating in workshops gets your face out and about in the writing community.  Even if you are geographically challenged like me (a regional Aussie), you can make these things happen. 

Your writing can always speak for itself, but a little self promotion can go a long way.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Remember the name Jeyn Roberts

Remember the name Jeyn Roberts as her debut novel 'The Dark Inside' will be hitting shelves in Fall (U.S.) 2011 and with mass interest from publishers you can be assured it will be a hit. Some lucky people got a sneak peak at the story on HarperCollins Young Adult writer's community Inkpop and where impressed.  Here is her first interview.

So Jeyn, all of Inkpop is abuzz with the fact that a book posted on the site is being published and Inkies would love to pick your brain on your writing life. Tell us, how did your love of writing start?

I’ve always had an intense love for the written word. I remember writing my first book when I was eleven. It was about a runaway named Ricky and it was pretty much a rip off of everything I'd seen on television that season.

The Dark Inside, aka Baggers, was climbing the Inkpop charts before you had to take it down when you were signed by an agent. For the Inkies and non-Inkies who didn’t get to read it while it was posted, tell us what it is about?
Freaky eyes US Cover!

The story concept came to me from a series of dreams I had as a teenager. It’s about the end of the world. Four strangers will journey across North America where they will band together in a final attempt to save both humanity and themselves.

In the moments before a worldwide disaster—the Baggers are awakened.

On the first day Mason’s mother dies. Then the earthquakes shatter the West Coast. The Baggers stir and the killings begin. In just three weeks, mankind is on the edge of extinction and the last remaining survivors are still being hunted.

Mason learns quickly there are no friends in this new world. In an attempt to escape his guilt, he travels across the country where he meets Aries, Clementine, and Michael. He knows he shouldn’t trust them but he’s drawn into their circle. Together in an abandoned tenement they will do whatever it takes to stay alive. But someone will betray them, a friend who doesn’t want to kill but can’t ignore the darkness inside.

Now you are trained creative writing, what are some of the most important things you learnt about writing and yourself through your studies?
Be open to criticism. Don’t take things personally. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. To be able to look at your work with a critical eye is very important. We don’t always catch our own mistakes because we’re too invested in our own characters.

Having an agent is such a vital step on the way to being published. What tips would you like to share with aspiring authors on finding the perfect agent for them?
Patience! This is not something that will happen overnight. It can take years to find a good agent. Don’t take it personally when you get turned down because you will get turned down. It happens to all writers. There can be a thousand reasons why an agent might turn you down and it’s not just about your writing. Remember, all it takes is one yes.

People often think authors are an overnight success, but that isn’t always the case. Tell us about your journey to being published?
It’s mostly a waiting game. Just because your book is sent off to publishers doesn’t mean they’re going to read it right away. I found the hardest part was just waiting.

You have signed a two book deal with Macmillian in the UK and with Simon and Schuster in the US What are you plans for the second book?
I’ll be starting the next book in the next few months. I’m very excited about it. The new ideas have been gnawing away inside my brain for a while now. Can’t wait to get it down on paper!

Rocking UK Cover!
What final words of wisdom would you like to share with people wanting to make it in publishing?
Be patient! There’s a reason why we’re called ‘starving’ artists. It’s a long journey to get there but it’s worth the ride! Love every moment of it! And remember, there’s always a first time for every author.

Thanks so much for your time Jeyn.  Looking forward to being one of the first to purchase 'The Dark Inside' when it hits the shelves in late 2011 (UK release) and 2012 (US release).

Want to know some more:
Jeyn's Profile