Monday, January 28, 2013

If you aren't familiar with The Brown Bookshelf, you should be. They do a fantastic job of promoting African American authors and illustrators for children and teens. And with Black History Month beginning in a few days, I thought this would be a great time to note their special initiative for February.

 Beginning in 2008 they created a list for Black History month of 28 outstanding authors and illustrators. Each day a new children's book creator is featured on their blog. For more information about the authors and their latest creations, check out 28 Days Later every day in February. You may be familiar with some of the names on the list, but others may be new to you. It's a great way to discover talented debut authors and see some of the latest releases from your favorites.

The 2013 list has been selected and these authors and illustrators will be featured during February: 

Feb. 1 – Malaika Rose Stanley (MG)

Feb. 2 – Christian Robinson– (Illustrator)

Feb. 3 – Alaya Dawn Johnson – (YA)

Feb. 4 – Glenda Armand – (PB)

Feb. 5 – Glennette Tilley Turner – (MG)

Feb. 6 – Traci L. Jones – (YA)

Feb. 7 – Brynne Barnes – (PB)

Feb. 8 – Brian F. Walker – (YA)

Feb. 9 – Veronica Chambers – (MG)

Feb. 10 – B.A. Binns (YA)

Feb. 11 – Donna Washington – (PB)

Feb. 12 – Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams – (MG)

Feb. 13 – Octavia Butler – (YA )

Feb. 14 – Ann Tanksley – (Illustrator)

Feb. 15 – Lyah Beth LeFlore – (YA)

Feb. 16 – Tololwa M. Mollel – (PB)

Feb. 17 – Arna Bontemps – (MG)

Feb. 18 – Jasmine Richards – (MG)

Feb. 19 – James Ransome – (PB)

Feb. 20 – Ashley Bryan – (Illustrator)

Feb. 21 – Nalo Hopkinson – (YA)

Feb. 22- Daniel Minter – (Illustrator)

Feb. 23 – Angela Shelf Medearis – (PB)

Feb. 24 – Linda Tarrant-Reid – (MG)

Feb. 25 – Willie Perdomo – (PB)

Feb. 26 – Chudney Ross – (MG)

Feb. 27 – Becky Birtha – (PB)

Feb. 28 – Jaime Reed – (YA)
 The Brown Bookshelf was founded to raise awareness of wonderful and exciting African American voices in children's literature. You can read more about the founders of The Brown Bookshelf here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The One-Inch Picture Frame

One of my favorite books on writing is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.  If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it, both for writing tips and inspiration.

In one of the chapters, Lamott talks about "the one-inch picture frame."  Sometimes when you look at your whole manuscript, it just feels completely overwhelming, doesn't it?  Or if you're tackling a Big Scene and don't know how to begin.  Or you've finished the first draft and now need to edit it.

So what Lamott suggests is breaking down the scene or chapter or manuscript into a series of one-inch picture frames.  Have you ever seen those pictures that are made of up a hundred tiny little pictures?  It's like that.  Just pluck out one tiny little empty picture frame from the larger whole and fill it.  Once it's done, move on to the next one.

Working in this way, it's easier to face the task.  One-inch picture frames are small.  They're manageable.  It's a lot less daunting to sit down and face a one-inch picture frame than a huge blank canvas.

Right now, I'm faced with the daunting task of editing my just-finished first draft.  When I look at all I need to accomplish in the next draft, I feel overwhelmed.  But if I take just one small one-inch picture frame and focus only on that, it's not so bad.

So the next time you have to tackle a big scene or chapter or an entire manuscript, remember to take it just one inch at a time.

Nicole Maggi writes YA - paranormal, historical, and beyond.  Her debut novel WINTER FALLS will be released in 2014 from Medallion Press.  She's represented by the fabulous Irene Goodman of The Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband Chris, their daughter Emilia (after the Shakespeare character), and two cats Sawyer & Hurley (after the LOST characters - yeah, she's a geek).  Check out her website and follow her on Twitter!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Words to Write By!

 Here's one of my favorite author quotes. Words to write by! 

If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.

Somerset Maugham



Monday, January 21, 2013

Serendipity and It's Uses in Your Writing

This Thursday I accompanied my daughter to New Haven, CT, since she had to be in court there. We started out early and missed having breakfast, so by the time we got to her destination we were both starved. Across the street and also mentioned as one of the best places to have breakfast in New Haven, was a little old restaurant. When we opened the door the aroma drew us into the place. It wasn't crowded, but it was past 9:00AM. In front of us was a case of donuts. Only they were not the usual kind. These were square and definitely twice the size of ordinary donuts. We ordered breakfast and shared an apple fritter that seemed like cooked apples wrapped in a sweet cloud. So in love were we with these donuts that we bought them to bring home with us. As we were having our breakfast I noticed the toast was not ordinary bread. I thought the place had baked it, but they answered that they got their bread from a local place. When we found the bakery, a place where they only sold a few kinds of bread and were making that bread right behind the shop with a view into the bakery, we bought a loaf of their white bread. As an afterthought we asked if they baked cakes, but they didn't. However, a customer heard us and told us he knew a place very close that did bake cakes and cupcakes where we could get a birthday cake for my younger daughter. It was her birthday that day. We drove a few miles and sure enough there it was Sugar, the bakers who had won Cupcake Wars. They did have a cake and they decorated it for us in a few minutes even throwing on edible glitter. We watched their win on the TV that had it on a loop. We also found a replica of the original Hostess cupcake as another gift for my daughter.

After we got home I thought about how special a day this was. Really the whole morning was fueled by serendipity. Serendipity is the way events happen by chance to bring about a happy result. We were strung along by a series of serendipitous events. None of it was planned. We came to a town about which we knew very little and because of our choice for breakfast we embarked on a series of events that made us both very happy. I am a big fan girl of Cupcake Wars and in the process I was able to talk about my book, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor and give out a bookmark and a postcard. And when we had the cake it more than lived up to the best cake we had all ever had.:)

How does this relate to your writing? I always feel that the only way to write is to put the words down on the screen or on paper. Writing is a journey that usually begins with an idea and moves at its own pace and its own plan. For me a first draft really has no plan. You continue writing as a series of serendipitous sentences move you along. You aren't conscious of the serendipity of writing, but it is there. As you write each sentence that makes you happy it brings you to another and then another and soon you have a whole paragraph. The paragraphs add up and you have a story. The writing has a flow that comes from satisfaction with what you are writing. Serendipity is leading the way to your being satisfied with your writing.

People who plan out their writing might not understand this feeling. However, many writers who don't plan will know what I mean. For instance, I started out this blog post knowing I was going to talk about serendipity in writing, but I had no idea how I was going to pair it with the amazing morning of serendipity I experienced. Yet as I wrote and the sentences accumulated I realized how to do it.

Of course, you can't plan serendipity. It is a chance series of events and if you orchestrate it then it will not be true serendipity. When you are in the midst of serendipity you are unsure of what will come next, but if you get a great idea you just follow it. That leads to another great idea and so forth. It could be a little scary to someone who is used to knowing exactly where they are going and what they are going to do there, but sometimes it's good to take chances. Serendipity has to find you and if you have never experienced it, this is a very powerful experience. I hope you will all let a little serendipity happen to you in your writing!:) That is how I write most of my poetry.:)

Please leave me a comment and let me know if you have ever experienced serendipity either in life or in your writing and how it made you feel. Until next month I'll back on February 7th.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

I was planning to post something particularly useful and philosophical this week.

It isn't happening.

Every once in a while, as a published author, you get caught in a logjam of deadlines, edits, and revisions. That's where I'm at right now. Between my young adult writing and the erotic romance I write under a pen name, I have deadlines galore right now, two sets of edits in my inbox, and a novel I need to revise before the end of the week so my beta reader can have a look at it in between her own projects.

I didn't want to completely miss my week here, but the useful, philosophical post will have to wait until February 3. Assuming I don't get caught in another logjam.

Hope everyone's having a good start to their new year, and I'll see you again in a few weeks.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The New Kid in Town

“Psst! Have you seen the new girl?”

“No, what’s she like?”

“Don’t know, but I heard…”

Being the new kid at school is never easy. You’re meeting new people who make judgments about you based on how you’re dressed, how you look, how you speak—they’re judging everything about you the minute you step into the room.

It’s scary business, whether you’re ten, fourteen, or a lot older.

Kind of getting the drift of where I’m going aren’t you?

Yelp! I’m the new kid (smiles and waves)! I’m Annie Rachel Cole and I write young adult paranormal, fantasy and horror—basically I write the stories that live in my head. For as long as I can remember I was either reading a book, writing something down on paper, or daydreaming about the characters in my head.

Over the years, nothing has changed much.

I still have books everywhere. I’ve always got pens and paper with me. I’m constantly jotting down ideas, outlining, or writing something, and I’m still daydreaming about the characters in my head. I live in Texas with my husband and son and two cats who think they run the house. I also teach junior high kids. My first book, Guardian of Atlantis (The Children of Atlantis) and my most recent book, Wrath of Hades (book 2 in The Children of Atlantis series) are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. Currently I’m writing a middle grade zombie book and outlining book 3 in The Children of Atlantis series. You can find out more about my books at my blog or you can follow me on Twitter.

I’ll be back on the 2nd and the 16th of each month so you can get a peek into my world and my thoughts. I hope you’ll stop by too.

Thanks Sandra and everyone at Downtown YA blog for letting me come by to play and write!!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Today's Trends in Trilogies

I've always enjoyed trilogies and/or series. I like the continuity of the characters. But today's trends are driving me crazy.
 Since I got the Kindle for Christmas I've been lapping up the freebies like--if you're a cat--milk or--if you prefer adult beverages--champagne. The first one I read was by a well-known author. The first in the series was free, the second was 2.99 and the third was 8.99. I  liked it enough to download the second. I was reading along and it just ended. I kept clicking thinking there was another chapter. Nope. Book over.
I didn't buy the third.
I just finished another that's a first in the series. The last page, same thing, only it ends with a: To Be Continued. Again. What's that about?
When I read, I want all the loose ends tied up at the end of the story. If you want to throw out something to tantalize me to buy the next in the series I'm fine with that, but I want the story I'm reading to have some kind of closure, even if its just that segment of the series.
I got a little of that from Hunger Games but I was well and truly hooked so I kept buying the books. But if I'm not hooked, I'll walk away from it instead of buying the next in the series. It's just a little too blatant for me. I read to escape life's frustrations. Not to be more frustrated when I finish a book.What about you? Have you had more success in the trilogies you've read or have you ran into this also?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Students Making Sense of the World

Students Making Sense of the World book coverJust received word that my combination artwork/6-word bio is being published by Smith Magazine in the book Things Don't Have to Be Complicated. As a grad student, I was eligible for the competition. I'm amazed at the profound insights from students of all ages. Their wisdom (and accompanying artwork) is well worth the purchase price. You can grab a copy at the Smith website or at iTunes or Amazon.

Here's the blurb for the book:

"What would you say if you had just six words to define your life? That’s the challenge Larry Smith presented to his online community, SMITH Magazine, in 2006. His quest was inspired by the legend that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a novel in just six words. His heartbreaking result: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  

Giving the form a personal twist, Smith reimagined the six-word novel idea as the Six-Word Memoir, challenging contributors to create a half-dozen words of self-reflection. The constraint, it turned out, fueled rather than inhibited creativity: “Sometimes lonely in a crowded bed.” “My life made my therapist laugh.” “Wasn’t born a redhead — fixed that.” “I still make coffee for two.” 

 Inspired by Six Words’ popularity in English classes and art classes alike, Smith recently called for submissions for illustrated Six-Word Memoirs, in which he asked students, whether in grade school or grad school, to create a piece of artwork that enhanced their memoirs. The voices in Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated are younger than those of previous memoirists, but no less profound: “Said he loved me, he lied.” “Two girls, both of them me.” “Big dreams, big heart, big mouth.” “I’m a Muslim, not a terrorist.” “Life is better with headphones on.” This book contains dozens more. At its core, the Six-Word Memoir offers a simple way for anyone of any age to try to answer the question that defines us all: Who am I?"

If you wrote a 6-word memoir, what would it say?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Done! Now What?

The Finish Line at the original Olympic Stadium/Photo by Blucolt for Wikipedia Commons
Happy New Year!  A new year means new beginnings...and in my case, new endings.  In my last post at the end of 2012, I wrote that I was still writing my WIP and had set a goal of finishing it by January 15th.  Well, I'm happy to report that I not only met that goal, I met it a week early!

The day I finished the book, my husband took me out to our favorite local bar for a celebratory beer.  "So now what?" he asked.  "Do you send it off to your agent?"

"Oh, no," I said.  "I have to edit it first."

"Oh," he said.  "So you're not actually done."

Yeah, thanks for bursting my bubble there, darling husband o' mine.*

But, sadly, he's right.  I finished the first draft - which, don't get me wrong - is an accomplishment.  But it's just the first big step in a long process.

Everybody has their own process after they finish a first draft.  Here's mine.  I like to take a break from the book and get some distance.  That way, when I come back in for edits, I've had some time to become a little more impartial about it.  Impartiality is important during edits.  It allows me to be able to cut a character who needs to be cut, even if I love them.

This time around I'm only taking a week off because I've set a goal to get an edited draft to my agent by mid-March.  But in the past I've taken as long as a month away.  Every book is different.  I think the longer you spend writing the first draft, the longer the break will need to be.

Taking that break also allows me to come up with a plan for edits.  Formulate a plan of attack, so to speak.  Like a road map that I can refer to as I move through the manuscript. 

And then, I sit down to edit.

Editing requires a different muscle than writing.  Sometimes it just feels like an absolute chore.  Other times, I'll make a discovery in a second draft that is totally revelatory and brings back the feeling of when I was writing the first draft, that feeling of magic and exploration.  In the past I've found that there are many more peaks and valleys in the editing process than in the initial writing.  The highs can feel like flying, while the lows are like the depths of despair. 

And you lucky readers of the Downtown YA blog will get to experience it all with me!  Stay tuned over the next couple of months as I detail the editing process, including some of my favorite editing tricks and tools.  Let the revising begin!

*He really is an amazing and supportive darling!

Nicole Maggi writes YA - paranormal, historical, and beyond.  Her debut novel WINTER FALLS will be released in 2014 from Medallion Press.  She's represented by the fabulous Irene Goodman of The Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband Chris, their daughter Emilia (after the Shakespeare character), and two cats Sawyer & Hurley (after the LOST characters - yeah, she's a geek).  Check out her website and follow her on Twitter!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sometimes Life Has Other Plans

I’m going to have to take a part time hiatus from blogging twice a month due to an illness in the family. Sometimes writing has to take a back seat to life. Unfortunately for a member in my family, life is nearing its end. When faced with moments like this you have to step back and take a look at your priorities.

So for a little while I’ll be posting my favorite quotes on the 8th and the 22nd.  I hope my faithful readers will understand.


Monday, January 7, 2013

How Have You Been Doing with Your Writing Resolutions?

So how successful so far have you been with your writing resolutions? It's still the beginning of January and the shine hasn't worn off from the new year. There are lots of things you want to do this year and they seem daunting to you. What you have to remember is this is just the start of the year. What you have set out to do for yourself might take more than this year to do. The trick is to fool yourself into thinking you only have one thing you need to write and forget about the other things.

I always like to prioritize my writing. So, of course, if the writing is a weekly blog or a bi-weekly blog such as this one I write for DowntownYA, then it needs to be done on schedule. However, if you're like me, this kind of writing is like going for a jog around the block. You just put one word after another and the blog gets done. I'm talking about wading through an already finished ms and seeing if it all goes together. Or working on a WIP on which you have been working for a couple of years. Or submitting your short stories or poetry to the places you found. Those are more difficult, because they require more thinking.

I have a ms of a novel that I have been polishing for a couple of years. Each year I saly I am going to send it to a publisher and like with my first novel which took me five years to publish, it seems to be pushed to the wayside. This year on January 2, I took out my ms and actually read a few chapters thinking this would be done much faster than I thought. Then my real life crept into my writing and now I'm still finding time to go back to this. I know that if I just keep my nose to the grindstone that this novel will get finished. I'm pretty sure I could submit it now, but the editor in me says to go back over it and make sure everything is perfect. Knowing how publishing works now, I'm sure I will be changing things, but at least it should make sense and be perfect for grammar and spelling.

As far as my WIP's are concerned, I have one that I finished two years ago, but with the critiques I got on it I felt I needed to go back and work in another component. This component is a supernatural one and since I have never written about this, it is a little daunting for me. Yet when I add it in and tell people about it they are very excited to read this novel. I have yet to work on this WIP and hope to be doing it as soon as I get my second novel read all the way through and sent to my publisher. I know some people can work on different pieces of writing at the same time, but for me that is a little difficult. I need to concentrate on my writing and think about it. Mainly I think about it before I go to sleep. There in my head I rewrite parts of the story that have given me trouble. For this second novel there was one chapter that gave me so much trouble each night I enacted a different scenario until finally I was able to pull it all together. Do any of you ever have this problem? Do you see your characters in your head and re-enact scenes before you go to sleep?

So this creates a big problem, since I get so deeply into a story, it is hard to have two of them in my head. Therefore, the WIP with its ghostly character has to wait until I finish going over my second novel. I also have a WIP that is a little bit different for me, since it is for adults. I rarely write for adults and so this was done for a NaNo project and I finished it then. When I went back over it I realized I needed to do some research and now I need to go back and update all the research I did. The story takes place in a small formerly Russian country and a lot has happened since then.

What I am happy about is how many of my poems have been accepted for publication and I plan to submit some more when I get a chance to write them.:) Writing poetry doesn't just happen for me. I need to be inspired and I used to write for Poetic Asides and use the prompts Robert Brewer gave us. Now I find that I can't keep up so I rarely write and the poems I submitted were for specific anthologies. I am happy to say that my poem "Rebirth" has been chosen to be in the anthology, Storm Cycle, The Best Poems of 2012 published by Amy Huffman, which is not available yet. I also have two poems she accepted for her anthology Backlit Barbell.

I'm interested in how many of you have been able to keep your writing resolutions so far. I posted all of mine on my blog, Barbara's Meanderings, if you are interested. Also I spoke a little about them in my last post here. Actually, it was my last post for the old year.:) This is my first post for the New Year and I hope that we can all inspire each other to pursue our writing dreams! Because, really, the only place where I am truly happy is in front of a blank screen with my fingers happily tapping on the keyboard getting out my thoughts. See right now I have a big smile on my face!! How many of you feel the same way?

Happy writing for the New Year!! May all your writing resolutions come true!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wrestling Your Inner Monster

Greetings All!
This is my first blog of 2013 and I have to say it’s been a mixed year already.

Here are the things I don’t like so far:
-getting rejections as soon as agents got back into their offices Jan. 2.
-the cold, deep freeze we are getting here in SE Michigan
-No Doctor Who until April
Okay, so it’s only three.

Here are the things I like about 2013:
-my YA historical novel, FITZROY: THE BOY WHO WOULD BE KING hit the top 100 paid best selling books in the UK! It’s #84 and even if it doesn’t get any higher, I am thrilled beyond measure. I danced around my living room last night when I saw it and scared my cats (they scare easily), squealed like the fangirl I am and did a fist pump in the air (don’t you wish you had a video of that?) I’d say it tops the “bad” things about 2013.

-starting a new story. I gave up on the angel/demon one, it wasn’t going anywhere so it’s been shelved for now. The new WIP is a YA contemporary with historical elements.

-I had a dream that I’m going to turn into a story as soon as I finish the current WIP. I love it when I dream about something that might make a good story.

-I am teaching Children’s Literature at a local community college. It’s what my Master’s degree is in and this will be SO MUCH FUN. 
One of my goals for 2012 was to get a full-time job teaching creative writing at a community college, this isn’t full-time (YET) but it’s in an area I love so that goal is partially achieved.

-Rachel Gardner, agent writes a great blog I follow and her last one was about choosing a focus for the new year instead of doing New Year’s Resolutions, something you could use to help you focus for the year (see her blog here:  ) and I chose the word SILENCE as my focus.  I meant it two ways. 
First, I need silence in order to access my creative energies. I know some people like to write in coffeeshops, bookstores, with music, etc. but I need quiet. So for me that means, no TV until 8 or 9pm when I am too tired to do any more writing anyway. My best writing time in early morning but with a day job, hard to do. Still, since I know I need quiet, I intend to keep the noise at a minimum so I can hear what my muse is whispering to me. 

Speaking of the muse, I also have an inner critic/editor that I want to SILENCE. This is my second reason I chose the word. This is one of my hardest things to do and why I chose the word in the first place. I tend to come up with ideas, start writing them then I get bogged down with the inner critic who tells me all my writing is *bleep* and I will never get anywhere with it. I usually can ignore it but if I’m tired or stressed or hungry, I can’t. I have half-finished novels all over the place (well, in a folder on my laptop) that started out good but went nowhere fast. Does this mean they were actually good? Not necessarily. 

Someone once said (I think it was Chuck Wendig, if you don’t follow his blog you should, he is hilarious although not PC at all so if profanity offends you, don’t go there. Here’s a link to his blog: ) anyway he once said you have to write a lot of *bleep* to get one good thing out. My problem is I’m not a good judge of what is *bleep* because I think ALL OF IT IS. Or rather my inner critic does. 

So, my goal this year is to SHUT THE INNER CRITIC UP and just write. Doing NaNoWriMo taught me that you just have to keep writing, even if you don’t like what you’re writing and writing is like learning to play the piano, you have to practice, practice, practice. So, let’s all gag our inner editors/critics and shove them in a deep, dark crawlspace and only let them out when they are needed like after a story is done not during. And if you have any ideas on how to wrestle your monster, let me know in the comments.

Happy New Year!
Take Care, Until Next Time,

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2 Holiday Stories!

When I did my December posts, I didn't have release dates set for either of these stories yet. But both stories released the week before Christmas, so now I'm going to brag about them :)

Accepting Me is set in the same universe as my YA contemporary novel Cluing In. It's actually a direct follow-up to Opening Up, the sequel to Cluing In which should be released in 2013. Sixteen-year-old Shane's friends are constantly talking about their boyfriends or girlfriends, and about sex. His parents keep asking him why he doesn't date. Shane isn't interested in romantic relationships at all and can't see what the fuss is all about. All he wants is for his family and friends to understand and accept him the way he is. You can find Accepting Me at third-party e-book vendors or on the Featherweight Press website.

Listening Skills is a sequel to my short story Life Skills. For a while now, Brian Monahan's girlfriend Trista has been unhappy with their relationship. And Brian's boyfriend Javier hasn't seemed too pleased with their relationship either. Although they're both free to see other people as well, neither of them is doing so. When Trista asks to break up and Javier asks Brian to meet his family, Brian realizes he isn't being fair to either of them. It's time to listen to what they both have to say, even if he doesn't like what he hears. Listening Skills is also available at third-party e-vendors or on the Featherweight Press website.

Hope everyone had great holidays, and happy new year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Resolutions From A Writer's Perspective

1. Write a 1000 words a night
2. Don't procrastinate
3. Keep up with blogs
4. Keep up with blogging buddies
5. Keep in mind that not everyone likes my work and that's okay. It doesn't make me a bad writer.
6. As long as I move forward, I'm not moving backward
7. Always use spell check
8. Rejoin RWA
9. Rejoin my local chapter
10. Tighten, tighten, tighten
11. Always use a grabber opener
12. Don't let the middle sag
13. Keep suspense in every chapter
14. Even if I hate it...advertise, advertise, advertise
15. Make sure my stories have a destination and don't wander too far off the path
16. Make my characters become so real, they'll talk to me
17. Build a world the reader can tumble into effortlessly
18. Keep things in perspective
19. Watch out for over-used words and ly(s).
 20. Make 2013 the best year ever

Here's hoping YOUR 2013 is wondrous.