Monthly Archives: March 2012

Journal Prompt

Today’s prompt is designed to be a journal entry. Sometimes fascinating things come out when we focus on ourselves. Whether it be inspiration for another story, a story in itself, or just the chance to examine ourselves on a deeper level, journalling is good for us. It doesn’t have to be constant. My notebook doubles as an occasional journal, but I’ve never been able to sit down each day and write something about my life.

Instead, I use simple prompts and questions to bring the focus back to myself. I use a place where I’ve been, a year, a question, an emotion–and I free write. This is the most cathartic writing, and sometimes, it even turns out to be entertaining.

So, without further ado, I will send you to your weekend writing with a question:

What do you fear?

Please share your first sentence.

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Guest Post: The Submission Game–Overcoming Rejection

By Stephanie Campbell

The submission game is one of the toughest things that writers have to face. You pour your life into your book—hours and hours of time spent to tweak the words into submission. You find a literary agent or a publisher and you send the manuscript in, waiting with bated breath. You feel like you are going mad, waiting for the reply. Then you get it. It goes something like this:

Dear Writer,

Thank you so much for taking your time to submit to publisher XYZ. While we appreciate your submission, it is not a good fit for us at this time. Best of luck to you and your writing endeavors.

Sincerely,

Editor X

Heartbreak. Instant shattering. No, I am not just writing that to be poetic. I know because I understand. It’s your baby, rejected. It’s like watching your daughter get turned down for the prom. I have had enough of these letters to wallpaper my house with. I got my first one at sixteen from a literary agent. I still remember that moment. (Though I don’t blame the agent. I look back now and cringe at the state of that manuscript.)

Even as an accomplished writer, I get emails like that. Sometimes the manuscripts I submit are simply not up to par. It’s easy to say, “Grit your teeth and bear with it.” That doesn’t make the hurt go away. Yet now, as a more experienced writer, I have to say that I support the tough-as-nails system.

1) It sorts the men from the boys. I started submitting at sixteen. I didn’t get accepted by a traditional publisher until I was twenty. Now I work with many publishers and editors. The people that want it and will be successful are the ones that find a right fit for their stories and are willing to revise.

2) You develop thick skin. When you become a novelist, you will get bad reviews. I know I do. I don’t check them because if I did, then I would go crazy. Occasionally, though, one sneaks up on you and “Wham!” instant pain. But look at Sherlock Homes and The Scarlet Letter. They are some of the most treasured literary gems. They have one star reviews on Amazon. Edgar Allen Poe got bad reviews. Being a writer means being a warrior. You’re going to get stabbed.

3) Rejection can show important personality traits to editors. An inexperienced writer might say, “They aren’t looking at me, they’re looking at my book.” Wrong. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a good book. You will have to work with your editors on a constant basis. You talk back and forth. You will have to make major revisions. I have worked as an acquisitions editor before. There may or may not be a DNP (Do Not Publish) list, but trust me, we remember the writers that treat us badly and won’t go out of our way to get you published.

What I learned from my “travels:”

Find Pre-editors and Editors and use their lists to find the best publishers. If it doesn’t say “no simultaneous submissions” on the publisher’s guidelines, then trust me, submit to others. Lots of others, in fact. Holding your breath for one publisher is like laying all your eggs in a basket that has a hole in the bottom of it.

*Note on simultaneous submissions

Keep track of who you do submit to. Even if simultaneous submissions are allowed, editors appreciate an email if the manuscript gets accepted elsewhere. It’s about respect. They have a lot of submissions. If your book is already spoken for, even if it is incredible, then it wastes their time.

Walk before you run. I’ve seen some writers get a literary agent straight away in their career, but honestly, not many do. Just a note to remember.

Do nudge. Really, if it’s been two months and their submissions say “two months,” then ask them about it. I once thought I got a rejection after two months and went on to work with another publisher who wanted my book. Four months later I got a contract letter. It was embarrassing.

Lastly, don’t give up! Persistence always wins!

Author Bio: Stephanie Campbell has been writing since she was twelve and had her first novel, Until We Meet Again, published at seventeen. Since then she’s published four more books and she hopes to publish many more. You can learn more about Stephanie by reading my interview with her here or visiting her website here.

Lucky 7 Meme

Last Wednesday the wonderful Mindy Hardwick tagged me in something called the Lucky 7 Meme. It looked like fun so I thought I’d give it a try.

Here are the rules:

1. Go thou to page 77 of your current MS
2. Get thee hence to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating!
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let each and every one of them know

With the state my manuscript’s in(limbo between edits), who knows if this will ever make it to the final draft? Either way, here are 7 lines, starting with line 7 on page 77 from my current draft of Moonshadow’s Guardian, the fantasy novel I’m hoping to finally whip into shape this year:

“One is a Telar who claims to have the knowledge we seek,” I said. “The other is a woman born to a Telar with no powers of her own-”
“Jacob, who is it?” Andre asked, gesturing to the robes.
“Isabella,” he said. “She died yesterday. The funeral will be in a week, to give the cousins time to travel. If you four will come with me, we must press on in our mission.”
Jacob’s office was now a mess. Servants brought in extra chairs and we sat around the desk. A foot of paperwork had collected there.

A hopefully tantalizing taste of my novel–which I hope you will give me your opinions on.

And now I pass the torch on to seven people I like:

1. L. K. Mitchell
2. Emma Newman
3. Karen Dales
4. Patricia Yager Delagrange
5. Tatra
6. Krazikrys
7. Joan Y. Edwards

Once again, thanks to Mindy for tagging me. And to the rest of you ladies, let’s see your page 77.

Markets Looking for Weird Fiction

Today’s publications are all a little bit off the beaten track. They’re looking for weird stories–stories that just don’t fit anywhere else. One of them is even looking for pieces of stories. For those of us who struggle to work within the normal confines of fiction–length, story arch, those who refuse to write in plain language–these are markets to remember.

It can be quite hard to find a home for our work sometimes. When stories get past a certain length it becomes harder to find markets for them. When stories are half prose, half poem, it becomes harder to find a market for them. I’ve been known to sit for hours looking for a good market to submit to. Other times, markets have just fallen into my lap.

I hope these markets will help you get some of your weirder stories out into the public eye.

Jabberwocky Magazine–This magazine is looking for your mythpunk–something I’ve never heard of before but which you can find out more about here–and your purple prose. If you like to play around with pretty words, this is the magazine for you. They pay $0.01/word for fiction and $10.00 per poem.

Miscellanea–This is one of the cooler projects I’ve encountered recently. Inspired by concepts such as the library in the Unseen University of Pratchett’s world, Miscellanea hopes to be a library of books from all dimensions. They want snippets of no more than 300 words of any sort–memoirs, fiction, poetry, even dedication. The stories should be alluring and should make people want to read more. Think of each story as being a random page in a random book. They pay $10.00/story.

Mad Scientist Journal–I just found this magazine and I love the concept. They’re looking for “scientific” papers written by mad scientists–or at least fiction that resembles such papers. They’ll accept pretty much every genre, so long as it fits their qualifications. Some things they might be interested in are fictional newspaper articles, first-person accounts of mad scientists or witnesses of strange scientific experiments. Upon acceptance, they’d also like you to write a fictional author bio to keep with the feel of a “scientific journal”. They’re currently a token paying market–$10/short story–but they sound like a lot of fun to write for and work with.

Of course these aren’t the only places looking for strange fiction. There are magazines which expect you to work in a world that they’ve created, other magazines which want Lovecraftian fiction, and still others which specifically ask for weird fiction in the guidelines. On top of that, new markets are coming out all the time, so if you’ve written something you can’t find a market for now, stash it on your computer and maybe one will appear later.

Happy hunting!

What is the weirdest piece of fiction you’ve ever written?

Musa Author Interview: Karen Kennedy Samoranos


Today I’m pleased to introduce Karen Kennedy Samoranos, author of two books with Musa Publishing, Road Apples and The Curious Number, the latter of which came out just a couple of weeks ago. I could give you blurbs and talk for a while about her work, but I think I’d rather let her speak for herself.

There is one thing I have to say though: the main male character in Road Apples happens to share a name with my nephew, Wyatt.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Road Apples?

As a love story, Road Apples is a strange mix of age discrepancy, differing races, and incongruent religions. However, the message behind Road Apples’ story line of two people (who begin a lasting relationship, oddly enough, through a casual sexual encounter), is that life, with its obstacles, somehow finds a mystic alignment when fate overcomes free will.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a career instead of a hobby?

I have always wanted to write – it’s a passion of mine. There’s a complete alternate reality inside of my head; small town and suburbs populated with people whom I know intimately. Fortunately, as a self-employed partner in a music education business, I am able to balance my passion for writing, with a steady income.

3. How did you get the idea for Road Apples?

Road Apples focuses on the differences between people, and what draws them toward love and sexual attraction. Being the product of a multi-ethnic lineage, and in an interracial marriage, I understand the drive in such an attraction, but also the elements of blindness that create enduring love.

4. How much do you plan before starting a novel?

There’s always an outline to a story, but I admit the characters have a way of surprising me, no matter how much I plan. Sometimes I find myself channeling their story. There have been times when I’ve disagreed with a certain turn of events in a story initiated by a character, and yet I’ve been unable to change the outcome.

5. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you, and how do you make it easier for yourself?

Uninterrupted writing is extremely difficult. I cope by learning to keep the story line alive in my head, so I can pick up and continue once I’m back on my laptop.

6. How do you develop your characters?

I draw from basic human behaviors to create my characters. Sometimes they are modeled after people I know or have known. Usually the outlining process and a basic synopsis help me build characters.

7. How do you edit your novels?

Editing can be tedious, but I’ve acquired certain tools, such as Word for Mac, and then my faithful reader, the voice called “Victoria” on my computer, who can read anything aloud from my laptop. That trick is extremely helpful, as often my internal voice will miss doubled words, while Victoria, the external voice, corrects what my eyes and brain previously missed.

8. Can you tell us a bit about the process of preparing the submission package for Road Apples?

Most of that comes from experience. For a synopsis, I write, in 150 words or less, as though I’m creating the blurb for a book jacket. You have to have a hook, something to grab the reader’s attention. Sex and mayhem seem to be excellent hooks.

9. What do you think is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring writers to remember?

Keep it simple. There’s a certain ease and flow you have to adhere to. Write what you know, and what you don’t know, be sure you do your research thoroughly.

10. What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?
I have a novel, The Curious Number—released on March 9th with Musa Publishing on March 9th, 2012—about an eccentric family dealing with their matriarch’s dementia, complicated by a brutal double murder and a graphic extramarital affair. Back to sex and mayhem again. Additionally, I have a collection of short stories about contemporary Red Power in northeastern California, Death By Bitter Waters, which will be released with Musa on June 22nd.

Bio: A native Californian, Karen Kennedy Samoranos co-manages a music education business with her husband, Clifford, focusing on jazz theory, and live stage performance for children ages 5 through 18. She has four adult children, and two young grandchildren. When not writing, she runs 3+ miles daily, hikes, fishes, ride motorcycles (dirt and street), and is an advocate for daily exercise, red wine and whole foods.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of either Road Apples or The Curious Numbers, you can find Karen’s Musa page here.

Following Your Dreams

An email newsletter I got a few days ago was discussing how many writers–and other artists, of course–sacrifice their whole outside lives for their dream. The person who wrote the article believes that we shouldn’t sacrifice our lives for our dreams.

I agree with him. To an extent.

Sometimes sacrifices have to be made so we can follow our dreams. Of course it’s important to be conscious of those sacrifices, to choose them rather than make them idly. We just have to have our priorities straight. If you’ve always dreamed of being a writer, then you have to be willing to make sacrifices for that dream. Rather than trying to pursue writing more seriously without changing anything in your life, sit down and figure out what you are willing to sacrifice for your dream.

Odds are, you can sacrifice some T.V. time or some internet surfing rather than sacrificing your relationship. You can sacrifice the occasional social event without sacrificing them all.

If you’re anything like me, writing is a fundamental part of who you are. That’s never going to change. People grow and change and learn and love, but something like that, something fundamental to your very essence, is never going to go away. It’s important to surround yourself with people who understand that passion. They don’t have to be writers or artists themselves: they just have to respect you for who you are and understand that sometimes you’re going to miss a gathering so you can stay home and work on what you love.

A lot of people won’t believe in you. Some of them will probably be your friends, even your family. But there are over 7 billion people in this world, and for every person who will think you can’t do it or that your dream is ridiculous, there’s another person who will believe in you and always cheer you on. You might not want to let go of old friends completely, but no man is an island. You need to find at least one person who will be your champion and who will support you in your every endeavour–and that’s the kind of person you want in a partner.

There has to be a balance between life and your dreams. You can start by writing for just fifteen minutes of time you would have devoted to something or someone else. You can devote one evening–or even a whole day–each week completely to your partner in exchange for an hour or two on the computer every other night of the week. You can give up TV in exchange for more computer time. Some people even wake up half an hour earlier to write, but I’m not a morning person and that would never work for me.

The trick is to find a balance that works for you and your loved ones. I know people who work all day and late into the night on weekdays but devote weekends entirely to their families. I usually claim three hours on the computer after school and ask my boyfriend to come over later–or sometimes not at all if I’m working too hard. He might not be a writer and he might never fully understand what I do or why I work so hard, but he knows not to take offence and I try to make up for it when he does come over.

And if you really can’t compromise with your partner or your friends, maybe it’s time to go out and get new ones.

Prompt Time March 16th

Last summer I participated in twelve weeks of Acting for the Camera workshops. Each workshop we were given cards on which we anonymously wrote some of our more private moments. Dom, the workshop leader, then took the most interesting pieces and had us improvise them. Eventually, we turned some of these moments into scripts and created short films.

Those short films premiered last Saturday. It was pretty awesome seeing how everything came together and how well the films were edited. Today’s prompt is based off of one of those stories:

Write a scene about an awful first date.

As usual, please post the first sentence of your response in the comments.

Musa Author Interview: Mindy Hardwick

Today I’m pleased to introduce Mindy Hardwick, author of YA novel Stained Glass Summer and a facilitator of poetry workshops for youth in juvenile detention centres. She’s just another one of the amazing souls I’ve met working for Musa.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Stained Glass Summer?

Stained Glass Summer is the story of artistic mentorship. Twelve-year-old Jasmine adores her
photographer Father and wants to be an artist just like him. But when Dad abandons the family, Jasmine
is sent to spend the summer with her Uncle on a Pacific Northwest Island. Soon, Jasmine is learning
stained glass from island glass artist, Opal, and thinking she might just be developing a crush on Island
boy, Cole. But, Jasmine can let go of her Father and call herself an artist by her own terms.

Readers can find out more about Stained Glass Summer, including a free study/discussion guide on my
website page at: http://www.mindyhardwick.com/books/stained-glass-summer/

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

The first time I realized I wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby was while working on my MFA
in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College . One of the best pieces of advice I heard
was stories come in many different containers. There are YA, MG, Picture Books, Chapter Books, short
stories, articles, non-fiction books, and novellas. I realized I didn’t have to be only a YA writer or a MG
writer. I could be a Children’s Writer and write stories for many different ages. At that point, I realized
writing was something I could pursue as more than a hobby.

3. What inspired you to write Stained Glass Summer?

An artist friend gave me two pieces of broken glass she found in an art supply dumpster. That night,
main character, Jasmine, showed up in my blue chair and said, “Hello, my name is Jasmine. I am an
artist, and it’s time to tell my story.”

4. YA is technically a newer genre, but I’d argue that YA books are as old as any other books. Can you think of any YA authors you love who wrote before the genre actually existed?

I don’t think YA officially existed when I was reading books in the 80’s. My favorite author is Cynthia
Voigt. Homecoming and Dicey’s Song are my two favorites by Cynthia Voigt. I often feel that Jasmine
would be very good friends with Dicey. Both of them are characters who survive after a parent
abandons them.

5. Do you find it challenging to get into the point of view of a character younger than yourself? What tricks do you use to get into the right point of view?

I’ve never found it challenging to get into the point of view of a child character. I think this is how I
intuitively know that I am a children’s writer. After I graduated with my BA in Creative Writing, I applied
for MFA Creative Writing Programs where the focus was on writing adult stories. I didn’t get in to the
programs. However, ten years later, when I found the Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children
Program, I knew that was exactly the right fit for my writing voice! By that point, I’d been a seventh
and eighth grade teacher for six years and I read a lot of YA and MG. It was easy to bring the voices and
stories from the classroom into my writing.

6. You facilitate poetry workshops with the teens at Denney Youth Juvenile Justice Center. Can you tell us a bit about how you came into this job and why you continue to work with them?

I started volunteering with the teens at Denney after a writer friend of mine told me about a program
in Seattle called Pongo Writing Project. The Seattle Detention Center was too far away for me to make
a weekly commitment, but she encouraged me to contact the detention center in my area. I did and
the program director was thrilled to have me volunteer. Coincidentally, the first day, I ran into a man
who I used to teach with. He was the Detention Center School Principal. Eventually, we have moved the
program to be part of the school day, and now we obtain grants for me to run the program.

I continue to work with the teens at Denney because they inspire my stories. My upcoming book,
WEAVING MAGIC, is directly inspired by the kids in detention. There is even a scene where main
character, Christopher, is in detention and participates in a poetry workshop.

If your readers would like to know more about the Denney Poetry Program, please visit our blog at:
http://www.denneypoetry.com The kids’ poems are posted on the blog and there is a list of resources I use in
the poetry project including YA and memoirs.

7. It’s hard to make a living as a poet, more so than with other types of writing. Do you have any advice specifically for poets trying to find their way?

I give a Creative Writing Scholarship at our local high school and what I tell all of the Creative Writing
Scholarship recipients is to be sure to have a practical skill to go along with the writing. My skill of
teaching has worked great as a combination with writing.

8. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your writing career?

To be focused on the things that you can control–writing the best story you can. Study your craft.
Participate in a writer’s critique group. Read current books published in your genre. There is a lot
of change in the publishing industry, and a lot of things that are out of a writer’s hands. The most
important thing a writer can do is keep writing.

9. As a multi-published author, do you think you make enough money from your writing to survive without a day job? (Please talk a bit about the challenges of taking the plunge/why you would or would not)

Writing income is very inconsistent. I think the most important element of building a writing career is
what I said above, make sure you have a practical skill which goes along with your writing. One of the
things I do is teach educators distance learning classes through Seattle Pacific University. I love that
work. It keeps me connected to teachers who love children’s and YA books. I am, also, a frequent school
and library workshop presenter which keeps me connected to the kids. I’ve always loved teaching, and
combining both is a natural fit.

10. What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?

WEAVING MAGIC, a young adult romance is forthcoming on April 27, 2012.

Here’s a blurb: He loves magic. She loves romance. But the biggest illusion is the one Shantel and
Christopher perform together. Sixteen- year- old Christopher fights to stay sober while fifteen-year-old
Shantel struggles in the aftermath of her mother’s death and seeks refuge in a fantasy world. But the
unacknowledged roots of their problems refuse to stay buried and soon, the two are headed toward a
deadly magic trick. Can Shantel and Christopher move beyond magical illusions to find love?

I just got my cover art for WEAVING MAGIC and I absolutely love it!

When the book is available, readers will be able to purchase both print and e-books. Readers can visit
WEAVING MAGIC’s page on my website for the buy link as well as to download a free study guide.

I always love to hear from readers and teachers!

Bio: Mindy Hardwick is a published children’s writer whose books include: Stained Glass Summer (Musa Publishing/Euterpe Imprint) and Weaving Magic (Forthcoming April 27, 2012. MuseItup Publishing). She facilitates a poetry workshop with teens at Denney Youth Juvenile Justice Center. Mindy is the co-editor of four anthologies, written by the youth at Denney, as well as their blog at http://www.denneypoetry.com. Mindy is included on the Washington State Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster and worked with the youth of the Tulalip Tribe in the 2011 New Directions Music and Art Prevention Program. She is one of the teaching artists included in the Reclaiming Futures Artist Mentor Program at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. Mindy holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and is a member of Seattle SCBWI.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of Stained Glass Summer, you can do so for $3.99 here.

Remembering to Write for Yourself

Many of us dream of writing for a living. Some of us have gotten paid for our work before, some of us haven’t. Some of us write during our day jobs. Others are lucky enough to have writing as their day job.

Right now, I’m sitting somewhere in the middle. I spend a lot of time working on assignments for other people: school, Penumbra and a couple things in the works that I don’t really want to talk about yet. Each of these assignments carves hours at a time out of my schedule. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve also spent hours of each day looking for writing jobs and examining markets.

A few days ago, I got an email from the lovely folks over at WriYe saying that they missed me and updating me on what’s going on there. I realized with some guilt that I’d neglected the site since late last year and went over there to pop my head in. After checking a few threads and making my guilty online confession and a list of my goals for the year, I stumbled upon a site called 750 words.

The idea behind 750words.com is that everyone should write three pages, or 750 words, a day to clear their heads. Originally intended to be a journalling tool, the website has a simple text editor where you can write, distraction free. The word counter sits in the bottom right hand corner, and when you hit 750 words, the counter turns from red to green. If you manage to write 750 words on this website several days in a row, you can get all kinds of badges which I’m sure will only increase with time.

This tool is great for any writer, especially the one who finds themselves spending all their time working on writing for other people. Your 750 words can be a journal entry, a character exercise, a synopsis for your novel, or anything else you want it to be. I’ve decided that only my most personal writing–my own sparse journalling mixed with character journals and probably a few exercises in flash fiction–is to be done on the 750 Words website. Since I’ve also set it up so that the website will email me reminders every day, I’ve put myself in an ideal position to write for myself every day.

Money and fame can often cloud our heads. We might spend seventy hours a week on a project that is earning us lots of money and forget to write for ourselves. Forgetting to write for ourselves can only lead to dissatisfaction with life and failure to meet the goals we set for ourselves. It’s important to remind ourselves every day that we got into this because we love to write, and that our long term goals of being novelists are just as important as the short-term goal of paying the bills.

Tonight, I’m going to use 750words.com to write a synopsis for my paranormal romance/fantasy story, tentatively named Birth of a Vampire. I’m planning to shop Birth of a Vampire around to the ebook publishers because of its awkward length at a little bit over 10, 000 words. I’ve been sitting on a two-paragraph rough draft of a synopsis for three weeks and it’s time to cut the crap. I need to make sure I honour my fiction as much as my non-fiction, even though non-fiction is more likely to pay the bills in the near future.

Always remember to write for yourself. Write because you love writing. Paying the bills, important as it might be, needs to be balanced with doing what you love.

Do you ever forget to write for yourself?

Blogs that Pay for Guest Posts

Today, as I’ve spent the last week and a half frantically looking for freelance writing jobs in light of a recent decision to move in with my boyfriend, I’ve decided to break from the norm and mention three blogs that pay for guest posts. Most of the blogs I’ve found that pay for guest posts are in the computer programming/website design/gadgetry fields. Here are three that aren’t:

Make a Living Writing pays $50 per guest post and is looking for posts about writing.

Read Learn Write also pays $50/post and is looking for blogs on the topics of reading, writing and learning.

Writers’ Weekly pays $60/post. When writing a blog post, think ‘is this blog post going to help writers make money’? If the answer is yes, odds are that they want it.

Hopefully this post will help you think up some new ways to make money with your writing. I know I’ll be sending posts out to these sites when I’ve got good ideas for them.

If you know of any other blogs that pay for guest posts, please let me know so I can feature them next time.