Saturday, July 28, 2012

What Do You Do?

Kristin Bair O'Keeffe
I've recently spoken at two writers' conferences where I had the privilege of hearing Kristin Bair O'Keeffe (that's her picture above) speak. She's the published author of Thirsty and helps authors get connected to social media. If you're still struggling to navigate the online world, head to her blog or other social media (links below), connect with her, and start learning. Even more importantly, one of Kristin's goals is to get authors into Writerhead--the zone. You know what that is... Ideas dance through your brain. The words flow magically from your fingers. Hours fly by like minutes.

So here's a guest post from Kristin. Is your life hectic? What do you say to this question Kristin's posed?

What Do You Do?
by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

Writers, what do you say when someone asks, “What do you do?”

Lately, it seems that every day, someone asks me that question—“What do you do?” If the interested party looks like she has the time, interest, and attention span for the delicate minutiae of my professional life, I take a deep breath and spill it:
  •  I’m an author. (Run out and buy my novel Thirsty right now. Yep, yep. I’ll wait.)
  •  I’m a speaker. (I was speaking at the spectacular 2011 Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh when I first met Laurie Edwards, my generous host at Downtown YA.)   
  •  I’m a cultural spelunker (one who explores culture).
  • I’m a writerhead passionista. (What? You don’t know what writerhead is? Writerhead = the magic that goes on in our writerly heads when we’re caught up in those beautiful—sometimes excruciating—sh, sh, sh, ssssssshhhhhh, I’ve got to get this down moments. Those moments when words are bubbling, popping, zinging, and swinging. The ones when the “real” world disappears behind a gauzy cloud—insert sucking sound here…sssshhhhpppttt—and the imaginative world takes on firmer lines and brighter hues.
  • I run 38Write, a monthly series of online, kick-ass writing workshops designed for place-passionate, culture junkies around the world. (The July workshop had 16 writers in 9 countries. It rocked!)
  • I’m a social media maven. (For the first time, I incorporated Pinterest into the July 38Write, and wowza, what a way for writers to become a cohesive group, despite the fact that they’re separated by landmasses, bodies of water, and cultural differences.)
  • I’m Mom to an awesome 4.5-year-old kiddo, who tells breathless stories that usually begin with “Let’s pretend I’m a gorilla/inch-high person/birthday cake/etc. and the biggest giant in the whole universe is chasing me….”
  • I’m Mom to a new pup named Gumper, who is losing his razor-sharp puppy teeth (yay!), but is attempting to use my knee as a chew toy while doing so (boo!).
  • I have a part-time “day job” (a part-time day job that is only part-time on a part-time basis; sometimes it’s a full-time part-time job). 

But when someone asks, “What do you do?” on the fly and the interested party is tapping her toe even before she’s finished asking the question, I say, “I’m a storyteller who loves—and who is pretty damn good at—getting others to tell stories, too.”

Sometimes, when the mood is right, I simply say, “I’m a tightrope walker.” (Or magician. Or juggler. Or mind reader. Or stunt woman. Or…)

How about you? What do you say when someone asks, “What do you do?”


If you’d like to know more, bless you. Grab a cup of coffee and pop on over to my website and blog WRITERHEAD, where I orchestrate all (or much of) the above. Check out the archives for the Writerhead Wednesday interviews (a weekly feature in which I interview an author about her/his writerhead). Check out the descriptions of the 38Write workshops. (August workshop to be announced soon.)

If you Tweet, give me a holler on Twitter (@kbairokeeffe). If you Facebook, I’m there, too. And if you Pinterest, check out my 38Write | Structure group workshop board.

·         Writerhead (blog & website)

·         38Write workshops

·         Thirsty(Amazon link)

·         Facebook

·         Twitter

·         Pinterest

So get thee to Writerhead...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Author sued for misuse of images on her blog...

Wow - when this topic hit my screen courtesy of another author recently, I was gobsmacked. I mean, we of all people, are aware of the pain of someone indiscriminately using material that is our own work. This is our intellectual property and it takes a lot of blood, sweat and literal tears to create that work. And so yeah - we are mightily miffed if others don't respect that.

So, we get it. That's why this post rocked me. Because we know it, we think  we're doing the right thing... We think we're being diligent and fair...

Roni Loren discovered otherwise.

Like Roni ,  I too have used pics from the net. I always, always try to use those that are in the public domain -i.e. free ones. And I also always try to credit the creator where I can (if that info's available.) And in fact, that's what this author did. She credited the photographer, complied with his request that she remove the photograph from her site - and still got sued and had to fork over a truckload of cash.

Thankfully, we authors are a caring bunch and she's posted her story here to warn the rest of us about the lurking dangers. As she points out - being ignorant isn't a defense. Especially in a court of law.

Other news on this front isn't anywhere near as helpful, but it will explain the images I've chosen to enhance this blog. They're mine - as in 'I own them', and were taken while I was away on a writing retreat to complete my latest novel. A precious friend, seeing that I was in a state of near panic, loaned me her penthouse unit, complete with private rooftop terrace featuring a hot tub, 5 balconies on the main level, and each of them with a spectacular water view. I was indeed blessed and the book is now done. These images are a couple of what I woke to each morning...

Happy reading and happy writing everyone! 
And careful what piccies you post!! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

YARWA Event Recap

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the YARWA Event at the RWA National Conference.  For those unfamiliar with the group, YARWA is the YA division of Romance Writers of America.  I'm not a member of RWA, but since the conference is so close to me this year, I decided to take advantage.

The room was broken up into circular tables, with one industry professional at each table.  I LOVE it when conferences do that!  The whole point of a conference is to mingle with editors, agents and big-time authors, and it really annoys and frustrates me when conferences keep the industry professional separated from the attendees.  So big kudos to YARWA for bringing everyone together.

The first event of the day was a lively panel of agents and editors.    The panel consisted of Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, Kevan Lyon from the Marsal Lyon Agency, Laurie McLean of  Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents, Alicia Condon, editor at Kensington Books, and Whitney Ross, editor at Tor.  Topics discussed included the agent-author-editor relationship (communication is key!) and what sorts of books they're hot for (thrillers and mysteries, magic and fantasy).  Across the board, they said good writing trumps any high concept.

I sat at Lucienne Diver's table for lunch and she was extremely personable.  Most of the writers at our table were already agented and/or published, so it took a lot of the pressure off of her!  It was great to hear other authors' publishing stories and know that I'm not the only one who has had a twisted path in this crazy writing journey!

After lunch, we were treated to a two-hour workshop with Alexandra Sokoloff based on her Screenwriting Tricks for Writers.  Using The Hunger Games movie as a guide, we broke it down into the 3-Act Structure.  This is an incredibly useful tool, and Alexandra made it very easy to understand.  You can read all about this method on her blog.

The last event of the day was a talk with best-selling author Simone Elkeles.  She was hilarious and inspiring.  She talked about how she started out by getting 4-figure advances, did a lot of her own promotion, and worked her way up (inspiring).  She also talked about balancing motherhood and writing (hilarious).  Overall, she was incredibly positive and encouraging, and it was the perfect note to end the day on!

Next year's conference is being held in Atlanta, so if you're a YA author in the area, I definitely recommend attending the YARWA Event!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tip of the Day: Start Backwards

Last week I sat down to write a new chapter for my work-in-progress but couldn’t figure out where to start. One of the downsides of being a pantser. I stared at the white page and stuck out my tongue in disgust. Then I told the computer what I thought. “I have plenty of other things to do. You’re boring. I’m out of here.”  

I grabbed my to-do list and headed out the door. Somehow having my day outlined felt comforting. At least I knew I would accomplish something. My feeling of triumph was quickly dashed when I hit a road closure on the way to the first stop on the list.  I told myself, “No biggie, I’m off to number two.” On the drive to stop number two, I realized I had forgotten the reason I was headed to the store. Oops, hard to return a non-existent item. My luck seemed to be failing me again. Then I thought what if I start at the bottom of the list instead?

From that moment on my day flew by. I checked five things off the list and felt great. When I got home I jogged up the stairs to the office and plopped myself down in the chair. The white page still stared back at me—but not for long. I knew how I wanted to end the chapter. So I scrolled down to the bottom of the page and wrote backwards. I never felt so free. The words poured out of me and after an hour I had the whole chapter blocked out—like magic.

The blank page will never haunt me again. I learned an important lesson. Sometimes you need to do things backwards to move forward.    


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Guest Author

Greetings All! 
Today I thought I'd do a guest blog for a new YA author who just happens to be my college-aged daughter. This is her first novella she self-published to Kindle. Enjoy!

Author-Katharine R. Allen
91 pages-ebook format
Definition: 1) Teenager 2) Girlfriend 3)... Who are you when you only feel what comes out of the hearts of others? Who are you when the only love and hate you feel come from someone else's mind? Beck looks in a mirror and the only one she can't identify is herself.

1.Tell us about the novella: 

MIRROR is my second novella and the first one I’ve published. The main character is a teen named Beck and she is barren. No, like you’re thinking, not physically but emotionally. Never in her whole life has she felt a single emotion that was her own. She never had the opportunity to feel the joy of meeting the perfect man or the anguish of having a mother that blames her for her father’s death. Instead, she feels her boyfriend’s love and her mother’s hate. She feels everyone’s emotions but her own. The story told in her own voice explores what it means to be her, a mere reflection of everyone else around her.

2. Do you have other stories you are planning on publishing?

At the moment I am not planning on publishing another book. This is the first piece that I’ve published and I would definitely do it again but I’m going to have to wait to self-publish again until I’ve got another novel polished enough for public eyes. I’ve got a novel in the works but just thinking about revising it right now is enough to convince me never to touch my computer again.

3. Tell us about yourself:

I’m an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan studying history and museum studies. I have a passion for writing but am keeping my options open for the future. Other than that I am an animal lover, book reader, and TV addict/sucker for any one season SciFi show from the last ten years. Why one season? I love the underdog!

4. What is your favourite book?

I’d like to say that I’ve read so many books recently that I can’t think of a favorite. But, what can I say, college! If anything gets someone tired of reading that’s it. Although I still do find a few minutes to read I found my favorite book while I was still in middle school/ high school: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. There’s a reason it’s a classic!

5. If you could be any character in any book, who would you be?

1.      If I could be any character in any book it would definitely be Alexia Tarabotti in The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger. Alexia is deliciously witty, drinks lots of tea, is married to a Scottish werewolf, and lives in Victorian England. Love, werewolves, and a historical setting, what could be better?

6. What book do you wish you had written?

1.      Other than the books of the Parasol Protectorate Series I wish I had written any number of books: Harry Potter or The Hunger Games so that I’d be rich; White is for Magic by Laura Faria Stolarz or the Sweep series by Cate Tiernan because I connected deeply with these books, falling in love with the characters almost instantly. I would love to write a book that draws the reader so far into the story that reading it becomes like breathing, something they have to do until they are at last release and left gasping at the cliff hanger on the last page as all of the books listed above do to some degree.

7. What advice would you give other YA writers who are planning on publishing to Kindle/Createspace?

My only advice is do it! There is no down side. It’s relatively easy. Both Kindle and Createspace instruct you every step of the way so it's relatively easy. Any trouble you have is worth it. Whether or not you become a best seller you’ll have rescued your creation from the depths of your computer’s memory and given millions of people a chance to reach it. Half of the fun of writing, I find, is in showing it to others and seeing how they connect with your story and characters. By self-publishing you’re inviting millions of people to share the love you have of your own creation.

8. Why did you decide to self-publish your novella?

1.      I decided to self-publish for a few reasons. First, my mom had done it and she offered to show me how it was done. Two, I was sick of seeing the file that contained my novella sitting on my computer screen, invisible to anyone but me. Rather than spend months or years getting it published while going to school and writing a thesis I thought that I’d just put it up on the Internet myself and wait to see what happened.

9. What are you working on now (WIP)?

Remember that novel I was talking about? Yeah, I finished a novel last November as part of NaNoWrMo [National Novel Writing Month] and have looked at it only briefly since. It is a dystopian novel, my first piece of writing in the adult genre and it is dear to my heart but I can’t face looking at it again, not right now. It’s not that I don’t like the story or character but, after writing it in one whirlwind month, I’m a bit afraid of what I’ll find.

10. If you could invite any character from a favourite book over for dinner, who would it be and what would you serve?

If I could invite any character to tea it would be the Alexia Tarabotti as mentioned above. If I can’t be her, dining with her would be second best. I would serve Earl Grey tea and I would introduce her to the confusion of cake pops.

Take Care, Until Next Time,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Okay, I have to admit that I got the inspiration for this post from reading the TV listings about "Bowdlerization". Apparently this is a means of making things less offensive, named after an 18th century gentleman who decided to tone down Shakespeare's plays--and the Bible!--so they wouldn't offend people.

There are more cases of books being censored than I could include in one blog post. Or in a year's worth. Reasons have ranged from swear words to sexual content to "This might encourage kids/teenagers to do the same thing."

I've seen a few authors ask whether they should tone down their young adult books. Some have even asked whether it's acceptable to say the word "sex" in a YA novel, never mind depicting sexual content. One author I encountered on a message board was horrified to hear that there are YA novels out there that include sex, drugs, drinking, and swearing. "But that isn't acceptable for teens!" said this person, who aspired to be a published YA author.

The problem with censorship is that it's often a case of a minority--sometimes a very small minority, as in one or two people--trying to make decisions for EVERYONE about what is and isn't appropriate. Not everyone has the same moral standards, and not everyone agrees on what's acceptable. I've told teenagers I know about books being censored or banned because they contained "the 's' word", or because a character in the book was sexually active. The teens I spoke to found those instances completely hilarious. One told me that she'd read one of the books in question and "It was nothing compared to what my friends and I do."

Does the fact that some teens swear, have sex, etc. mean that all YA should include that content? Of course not. But it does mean that some teens expect to see characters behaving the way that real teens do. Just as there's a huge range in the way real-life teenagers behave, there can and should be a range in how characters in books behave.

And in my opinion, no one person or group should be given control of what the general public reads. Feel free to make decisions for your own teenagers. Give me credit for being intelligent enough to make decisions for my kids without your help.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Self-publish In Paper

Some of my books are self-pubbed. Vampire Bay is one of them. Just recently I went through Create Space to put it in paper. It took me awhile to wrap my head around the fact that they weren't going to charge me for this process.But, unless you choose a different package, it's free.

Here's a brief rundown, in case you've been thinking about turning your e into paper.

Create Space is offered by Amazon @

Covers: You can purchase a cover, use your own or use Amazon's free cover creator. Amazon supplies several different cover formats and pictures to choose from.  I tried to use my original cover. The problem I encountered was that my name and the title leaked over the edge.  See how close it is in the picture? Since I hadn't built the cover myself, I had no way to correct it, so I looked through what was available and chose a cover.

Interior: Your manuscript is downloaded in doc.docx or rtf. Amazon provides the resources for formatting. I used the recommended, 6 x9 size, but next time around I'm going to try something a bit smaller. I blush to admit, I spent a day on formatting trying to get my margins lined up. Its really not as difficult as I made it.

Proof: Your interior and exterior are both proofed. I got snagged by--as previously mentioned--the bleeding of my name over the allowable edge, and on the left margin on the interior. Once these items were corrected, and the book reviewed, I could choose to do a PDF proof or have a paper proof sent to me.

 The cost of a paper proof is your cost of the book, plus postage. I went the paper route. After I proofed and made my corrections, I once again sent the book through for review. After it passed review, I proofed again, this time with a PDF copy. Shortly, thereafter my book was ready for release.

I've purchased my books through several different publishers and Create Space's cost to the author for book and postage is the cheapest Ive ever encountered. All in all an interesting experience. Will I do it again? Probably.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Creating from Flaws

As I head into the final weeks of my grad study in Children's Literature, I've been thinking a lot about wabi-sabi. I blogged a bit about the concept as it applies to life and art, but I see it as relevant to writing too.

If you aren't familiar with the Japanese terms, they don't translate well into English, but one meaning is finding simple and ordinary objects interesting, fascinating, and beautiful. As writers we often find meaning in the ordinary and turn it into compelling stories.

Wabi-sabi also means seeing beauty in imperfection. True artists are drawn to imperfection. It's what makes paintings interesting and poetry ring true; it also provides conflict for novels. Perfect heroes or heroines are boring. They have no flaws, no character arc for overcoming their problems. Every author who wants a compelling plot finds a way to include imperfections in the protagonist's personality and life.

And wabi-sabi includes an appreciation for the ancient, the used, the cracked or broken. It gives an object character, a life story, and makes it fascinating. Here, for example, is a baseball.
It's obviously weathered many games &/or practices. So what can you learn by studying it? Doesn't this ball hold more stories than a clean, new ball?

Look again at the cracked window above. It could be the impetus for many different tales: a shooting, kidnapping, accident. Maybe it triggers a tale of domestic violence or a murder mystery. Perhaps it's the result of an innocent mistake--kids with a BB gun, a rescue attempt gone wrong. What kind of vehicle is it? Would that have a bearing on the story you choose to tell?

As people grow older, they become more interesting and beautiful Authors look deep into the soul and work up a character's history. For example, these two women are sharing a secret. What is it?

Pretend they've been friends for since first grade. What secret wishes and desires do they harbor? What things have happened to them in the past that no one knows but the two of them? What sorrows have they passed through in their lives? What shame and embarrassments have they kept hidden? Try to picture them as teenagers. What would their lives have been like? This could be the starter for historical fiction. Or mine for stories from people you know and love. How can you take the essence of those stories and create a contemporary teen story with those same problems and challenges in a modern environment?

For the writer, wabi-sabi can be the start of stories. Look at the cracks, the flaws, the imperfections. Then give your imagination free rein.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Falling In Love

Love's Passing by Evelyn Morgan
Every time I start a new novel, I feel it.  The butterflies in my stomach, the fluttery feeling in my chest, the heat in my cheeks and on the back of my neck...all the telltale signs of a crush.  I get excited to open my computer just so I can spend time with the object of my desire.  I find myself daydreaming...fantasizing...totally infatuated...

...with my characters.

The great thing about being a writer is that you get to fall in love over and over again, even if you've been married for nearly eleven years like I have.  The even greater thing is you get to orchestrate the entire love affair.  How often in real life does that happen?

Right now, I'm plotting out a new story and as the characters' arcs deepen and strengthen, so does my love for them.  That's how I know I'm on the right track.  I'm obsessing over their every little move, their emotions, what they're eating for breakfast.  It's a very good sign.

Because the thing is, you can't write about people you're not totally in love with.  If you're not in love with them, how can you expect your readers to be?

I fall in love with all my characters, not just the cute guys and bad boys.  I love my heroines like I'm their mother (which I am, in a way, I guess).  I worry about them.  I fear for them when they get into trouble.  I cry when they're in pain, and I laugh when they're happy.   When you have that deep of a connection to your characters, your readers will care about them deeply, too.

So, have a crush.  Meet in secret.  Exchange notes at the back of the classroom.  Fall in love with your characters.  Open your heart, and let them in. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Geekalegal: Social Media Legally Speaking

GEEKALEGAL: Social Media, heard enough yet?

I am seeing all sorts of articles and webinars in the legal stream about Social Media. Much of it focuses on what employers and employees need to know about it. Which essentially is a lot like what happened when fax machines got so popular for photos of posteriors and really bad jokes.

If you are an employee, you need to realize that when you are at work, everything you use belongs to the employer. If they have a social media policy (i.e. they've been paying attention to the legal advice abounding for a few years now) then you also know that some things are accepted, some not. Don't use your work email for personal missives. Just don't. And if you use the office computer for social media, well be sure to check that employee manual. Most problems come from either using the company computer to say nasty things about the job, employer, or customers. Or from using company time past any policy allowance to do things like blog.

Now some employers may not care, yet when there is some nebulous reason they want to exit employee, they may use infractions in social media to support that decision. I've had a case where someone took a photo of a boss, and posted on FaceBook about it. I suppose he thought it was ok since it was just to his 500 Plus “friends”. Unfortunately many of those friends were other employees, and they reported him. He got time off to think about why that was not a good idea.

Many employers give out smart phones & iPads to their employees. It is still their equipment, so be careful what you use it for, and how you use it. The cases are mixed. One recent decision however said that an employee who used her work computer and email to send a message to her attorney did NOT have any right to attorney client privilege. So if you have a work email, keep it to work issues. If you can use another email on the work computer and it is allowed by policy, then keep it to a minimum time wise. If you have a smartphone, don't be using it so much that the employer can come back and accuse you of not working enough. They can track you, and some places even have ways to see what is sent out via personal phones. Balance, it is all about balance.

We get so accustomed to using the web to vent, to say things out loud that perhaps are best left mum. So where does that leave us authors? I say this by and by, as someone who had to learn the lessons of what is written can be badly misinterpreted- by me, those who read my responses, and thank goodness this was before social media took place.

I read an article that talked about the publishing wars (let me know if you want the link). It was along this line that got me thinking of the topic of this blog a few days ago. The author of the blog said that perhaps we spend too much time on social media and not on the work to be done. He also mentioned how things said on social media can come back to bite someone later. I saw another post observing how an author was killing herself on a book review site, with comments she was making about an unflattering review of her work. Not the first or last time we'll see that one.

It brings to mind an old saying: “When in doubt, don't”. Take a big breath, and if you are reacting to something and it isn't a warm fuzzy reaction, stop and take another breath. Or five. Write what you want in your word processor. Edit it. Then sit on it. Let someone read it before we hit send. Often we say things in reaction to something that was not meant the way we took it, or even if it was, is just that other person's opinion. Hard to do with unflattering reviews, but lashing out is not a good thing.

Who's going to notice? The publishing world, like most other professions, is very small when it is said and done. If you snob someone, ignore or say something catty, they will remember it, along with those who heard and their friends and.... It is true in the legal profession as well, those you step on the way up, remember it when you are coming down off those highs. If you are rude to a judge, it gets to the other judges so fast it can make your head swim.

Does it matter? As someone who has counseled authors, I've found that their employers (publishers, and this includes agents) often scan the social media of that author to see what they've said, not just to groups, but to their pals, their attitude towards life and work ethic. Employers are doing that all the time now, and if you post something that depicts you as someone who may potentially be a high risk or not likable to readers (and let's face it, authors are part of the package in marketing their books) then they may not want to deal with you as much as one of the many other authors out there. I did a search for YA authors the other day, and whew there are a lot of writers in the YA field now. Yeah for us readers, but it makes competition tougher for every new author in the sidelines.

Guess what this boils down to is that when you are seeking publication, or to extend a contract, your employer (publisher) might do what they are advised in social media classes: check out the track record of Facebook and Twitter. What's up on Pinterest? Does your contract talk about what is expected of you as a public persona? Are you an author that can make them money or turn fans away? Are you dependable? I'm sort of surprised at what authors say on social media, or even what they don't say. Ever retweet or reply to an author and get nothing back? The authors I remember are the ones that said a simple thank you. Or replied to something, even if not to my comment but to someone else's. Social media requires balance, and remembering that what we say should always be able to be blasted across the roads in mega billboard style, without having legal issues.

So when you are geeking on the social media train, remember that as an author you are a public person now, or you will be soon. You should be yourself, but never at the expense of someone else, and with tact as a forethought. When angry or upset, take those breaths, take a walk, and talk to someone before responding. With more and more companies taking social media policy positions, it is not far off that this could enter contract negotiations, or possibly chill a deal. Of course if you are writing edgy type material, you adjust, but being polite is vital in any sort of public arena, and the internet is about as public as it gets.

Hope this helps you as you try to do all you can as authors, and soon to be authors. I want you all to succeed. Doing damage control is always possible, but how much easier to remember that everything you say on the internet is part of your public resume. Employers are using these as ways to find out what they are really getting, not just what is in your pitch. Anyone can be great for 15 minutes, but with so many authors competing for very few slots, why ruin the chance by showing your dark side? Darth Vader can be dastardly but when we write for young adults, it is a much higher bar.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Movie Review: We Need to Talk about Kevin

Today’s post will be a review of the movie, We Need to Talk about Kevin, which has relevance here as it involves a child who progresses to late adolescence with serious personality problems. Stylistically, the movie is excellent, and is told in a series of flashbacks which get across the mother’s state of mind and emotional turmoil as she tries to parent her difficult son and deals with the aftermath of the tragedy he has wreaked. I liked the way in which the movie conveyed how the mother’s experience is so different, and much more challenging, compared to that of the physicians she consults and her husband’s. Mothers are typically the ones to bear the brunt of their children’s difficulties. Even though I don’t like feeling depressed, I have to give credit to a movie that is able to evoke that mood in me. From a mental health standpoint, the portrayal of Kevin’s affliction, which is never named in the movie, is a bit off center. One can assume that when Kevin reaches young adulthood, he could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and possibly conduct disorder when he was younger. But as a young child, there should have been more anger problems evident to include temper tantrums and possibly hitting the mother, in order to fit the pattern of a person who ends up committing the kind of violent act he does. However, Kevin’s defiance against being toilet trained until a late age was a nice touch. One last issue I had with the mental health portrayal was the lack of mention of therapists. For an upper-class family and with the kind of problems Kevin had (even taking into account the father’s denial), there still would have been some discussion of psychological treatment and psychotherapy. We Need to Talk about Kevin possessed some other jarring notes. Why is the mother, this British woman, in the United States? This is left unexplained. She is also never shown working until her son is a teenager, and there is a sign on a bookstore window with a gigantic picture of her, announcing a booksigning. Kevin looks bi-racial Asian, and his parents are white, even though he is supposed to be their natural child. Further (and here is a big spoiler alert), Kevin’s method of killing involves archery. I could see maybe one person getting hurt and possibly dying this way, but after the first shot, couldn’t a person outrun him in a school or tackle him? Archery just doesn’t have the same lethality that gun violence does, and isn’t able to translate into the large-scale violence that Kevin supposedly causes. However, and despite its many flaws, I found We Need to Talk about Kevin cleverly done and well worth my attention.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Inspiration Comes from Everywhere: People Doing Unexpected Things

You ever have one of those days when you wish people would be a little more discreet? I had one on Thursday. I swear some days have themes (my next series) and Thursday was all about the bodily functions of strangers. Everywhere I turned people acted like they were in their own homes instead of out in the world.  My morning walk turned into a way too up close and personal exchange with one woman. She literally yawned in my face as I stopped to get a drink at the water fountain. So what’s the big deal you might think? Well, not only did she eat something disgusting for breakfast, but I really didn’t need to know that she had four cavities and a tongue piercing.

But things got worse when I ventured out of the house to go grocery shopping.  How could I know that turning down the snack aisle would be the biggest mistake of the day. I entered into a farting contest of epic proportions. And no, it wasn’t a battle between two teenage boys, it was to grown women passing gas and acting like nothing happened. Reach for a bag of corn chips, “toot” grab a box of cookies “toot, toot.” I couldn’t move my shopping cart fast enough.

I enjoyed the rest of my day relatively body function free until I headed out to meet my writer friends for dinner.  The nightmare started all over again.  As I approached the restaurant, a pleasant woman opened the door for me. How nice I thought and thanked her. Instead of saying anything back, she burped in my face. Not a little petite burp, no, a foghorn belch that could compete with any lighthouse. She smiled at me like this behavior was perfectly normal. I know in certain cultures belching after a meal is considered polite, but the woman looked like a typical Barbie doll Encino housewife.

The upside of the day was when I joined my writer friends for dinner.  I told them about my crazy experiences. We had a fun filled dinner conversation about our various up close and personal encounters with strangers. The great thing about being a writer is that a day like Thursday is perfect fodder for making my writing more believable and real. So I have to thank the various ladies that made the day one to remember—and one to write about!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Querying Agents

Greetings All!
I am still at the querying letters stage. I have sent out over 75 letters between the five novels I am querying. I decided to publish two of them on Kindle myself. I also recently put up two novellas, and a short story all on Kindle. MOON PRINCESS is here:

I won a query letter critique and beefed up one of my query letters which has gotten several requests for partials and a couple of full manuscripts. I am still keeping my fingers crossed.

So, what makes a good query letter? The opening should start out with a pitch for the book. The "hook" if you will. The second paragraph should say something about the plot but don't reveal all the plot details. You want the agent to want to read the manuscript pages to learn more. Your third paragraph should contain details about you as a writer. Do you have an advanced degree? Have you been previously published? And so on. Resist the temptation to tell the agent how your book will be the next bestseller or that it's better than [insert name of author here] books. My queries are no more than 250 words long. Agents don't have time to read a long letter. Hook 'em and reel 'em in. Make sure you include sample pages of your manuscript in the body of your email, not as an attachment, most agents will not open an attachment unless they requested more material from you. Be sure to follow their agency guidelines regarding sample pages, don't send the entire manuscript unless they ask for it. I include at least the first five pages if they don't specify how many to send.
Good luck and if you have any questions, let me know!
Take Care, Until Next Time,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Feel Creepy...

Writing as a YA author, it can be difficult to reach my target audience. Obviously my books are written for teenagers, but how do I get teens to know my books exist without being creepy?

I had someone suggest recently that I find chat rooms, etc. online that are frequented by teenagers, and hang out there to talk about my books. That bothered me on a couple levels. First of all, places like that aren't really promo venues, and some outright prohibit any type of selling, including authors trying to pimp their books. Second, I'm old. Like, I have teenage kids old. So the idea of hanging out on a site where teenagers gather just seems wrong to me. I'm not a predator, but adults who hang out in teen chat rooms have gained that reputation.

Even just talking to my daughters' friends about my books makes me feel creepy sometimes. After all, they're my *daughters'* friends, not mine. They aren't here to listen to me ramble about the books I've written. They usually reassure me that they like hearing about my books, but they might just be humoring me.

So trying to let teenagers know my books exist isn't as easy as I wish it was, and it especially isn't easy to do without feeling creepy about it. That's something I have to learn, though, because readers aren't going to find my books by magic...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012 YAs

Besides the great stories written by our own Downtowners that include:
Demon Whisperer by Tawny Stokes
Faerie Folk by Kathleen Allen
Flow by H.C. Lawrence
If I could Be Like Jennifer Taylor by Barbara Ehrentreu
Minder by Sandra Cox
Secrets Revealed by Nick Giannaras
Summer Lovin by Laurie Edward
Taking Control by Jo Ramsey
Time Witch by Jacqueline Corcoran
Zach's Amazing Dream Machine by Pat Dale,
there's also a huge assortment out there on just about every current topic or fantasy a reader could desire.
Here's some that are out and some that are still to come.