Category Archives: Who is Writing What?

Book Release Day! Lisa Manterfield’s new novel The Smallest Thing

One of the most exciting parts of living a creative life is finding kindred souls along the journey. I had the good fortune of meeting author Lisa Manterfield several years ago at the UCLA Writer’s Studio, and I quickly discovered I’d found a both a talented writer and cherished friend. Lisa’s writing is a marriage of science and emotion. An accomplished writer of both fiction and nonfiction, Lisa is unafraid to venture along the dark and curving paths of human experience (or climb onto high, precarious ledges). She invites her readers to the call of the wild while awakening a sense of timelessness and gravity, united with both the earth and beyond. Wherever Lisa takes her reader, you can be certain it’s new territory and you wouldn’t want to be there without her as a guide.

Lisa Manterfield is the award-winning author of A Strange Companion and I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. Her work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Los Angeles Times, and Psychology Today. Originally from northern England, she now lives in Southern California with her husband and over-indulged cat.

Her newest book releases today! I’m honored to be among the first to announce Lisa Manterfield’s latest novel, The Smallest Thing. In celebration, you can ENTER TO WIN a lovely swag box that includes a signed copy of The Smallest Thing and some fabulous gifts. We chatted about her experience researching and writing the story, and why her protagonists’ fathers tend to figure so prominently. I got the inside scoop on how published authors can find effective book marketing techniques that work for their readerships.

Ok, let’s begin! First, tell us what The Smallest Thing is about.

lisa manterfield authorpic

LM: When 17-year-old Emmott finds herself trapped in her tiny English village by a government-imposed quarantine, she must choose between saving herself at all costs or doing what’s right for the people she loves the most.

RL: What is the category and genre? Did you plan to write for this audience, or did the story dictate its own voice?

LM: The book is contemporary YA with a strong cross-over into Adult. I didn’t set out to write YA. I tend to write for a slightly older reader, but I needed to tell this story and my main character dictated the category. She was pretty adamant about telling it her way.

RL: This has been a very big year for you as an author! You’ve released not one, but two books, A Strange Companion and The Smallest Thing. How are they similar, and how are they different?

LM: They are both stories that demanded to be told and stuck with me until I wrote them. They’re both set in Northern England, in surroundings that are very familiar to me, and they both have young female protagonists who don’t always behave well. Both Kat and Em make some poor choices in their stories and don’t always treat people as well as they know they should, but in the process, they both learn a lot about who they really are. In both stories, there is a romance element, a struggle with family dynamics, and of course, death. Love, loss, and family always seem to crop up in my work.

Beyond that, my first novel, A Strange Companion, is a coming-of-age love story with paranormal elements. The Smallest Thing is a big mash-up of adventure, thriller, sci-fi, and romance. At their cores, though, they are still stories of young women figuring out who they are in the world.

RL: The Smallest Thing is loosely based on a true story about Eyam, “The Plague Village,” in Derbyshire, England. Can you tell us a little about the historical facts that inspired your novel?

LM: I grew up not far from Eyam and have always been fascinated by the story of self-sacrifice. The Great Plague was raging in London in 1665 and found its way to Eyam, some 150 miles away, when a local tailor brought in a bolt of cloth containing fleas (probably not unusual at that time.) When people in Eyam began succumbing to the plague, the villagers, led by the local vicar, made the decision to quarantine their village to prevent the spread of the disease to surrounding villages and to the thriving market town of Sheffield, my hometown. That decision saved untold thousands of lives, but cost the village dearly. All told, 260 of the 350 villagers lost their lives.

One of the personal stories that stayed with me is that of Emmott Syddall, a young woman whose fiancé lived outside the quarantine zone. It’s rumored they continued their courtship at a safe distance across the village boundary. Rowland Torre was reportedly one of the first to enter the village when the quarantine was lifted. Only then did he learn that Emmott had not survived. I took a great many liberties with the facts in my contemporary version, but the themes of love, self-sacrifice, and community are still what drives the story.

RL: You and I share the trait of writing young characters with dead or absent fathers. What is the significance of this in your stories?

LM: Ah yes. My dad died suddenly when I was 15. Thirty years later, I am still trying to work my way through that in my fiction. While neither of my novels is a fictionalized version of my personal story, there are elements of me in there. Like Kat, I was not prepared for the loss of my dad and, also like Kat, it took me a long time to work through my grief and move on. I suppose with Em, I was exploring what it might have been like to try to break away from my dad’s expectations for me, and be my own person. I imagine it would have been just as contentious as Em’s battle for independence, but hopefully not in such a terrible environment.

RL: Your protagonist Emmott is separated from her boyfriend when her village is quarantined. Under the same circumstances, how do you think you’d fare if your wonderful husband Mr. Fab and your devoted kitty Felicity were across Cucklett Delf?

LM: Astute readers will notice that there are no pets in the village. I made a deliberate choice to exclude them. I had no trouble writing terrible deaths for people, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it to the pets.

But, as you’re forcing me to imagine this scenario, I think I would be very grateful that Felicity and Mr. Fab were out of harm’s way. And then I would get down to the business of self-preservation. I’d like to think that I would also be a good citizen and try to be helpful to those trapped with me. We never really know how we’ll respond in crisis until it happens. Generally, I’m pretty cool under pressure, but who knows how I’d act if my life were truly in danger.

RL: Your biweekly inspiring blog posts have attracted a wonderful community of newsletter subscribers. Do you have any book marketing advice for indie authors?

LM: There are mountains of really solid information out there from authors who are insanely successful and have more information than I could offer. The problem is, there is SO much information and much of it is conflicting. It can be completely overwhelming for a new author. So my advice would be to read voraciously, gather information from several sources, and then walk away and think about what kind of author you are and what exactly you want from your career. Then pick the tools that will support that, take a deep breath, and do something that feels right. It may take some trial and error to find your groove, but it will end up being a lot more effective than hurling yourself into someone else’s best practice only to find it’s a poor fit.

RL: Do you maintain complete control over your characters or do they ever take the proverbial wheel?

LM: I tend to let them run wild and free in the first draft. I have an idea of what I’d like to happen, but I try to stay open to possibilities. The “mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit” in this novel was not in my original idea. He came out of a writing prompt, but the second he appeared, I knew he had to stay. His creation dramatically changed the course of the novel for the better.

RL: Do you miss the company of your characters when you finish writing a book?

LM: It took me ten years to write my first novel, A Strange Companion, largely because I couldn’t let go and call the book finished. Perhaps one of the hardest skills to master is finding that sweet spot between revising a book until it’s as good as it can be and knowing you’ve reached a point that there’s nothing more you can do and that more twiddling will only make the book worse. At that point, it’s time to move on.

When I’m working on a book, I am in that world with those characters. I wake up thinking about them and I talk to other people, not about the book as a whole, but about the characters by name. Once a book is finally finished, though, I go through a brief period of mourning, and then I let it go. And I’m a fickle lover; I’m already deep in a relationship with a whole new set of characters.

RL: Thank you, Lisa! I look forward to meeting your new characters and continuing our travels together on the journey of writing. Best of luck, wherever your creativity takes you.

The Smallest Thing is available now! (non-affiliate links)

 

Enter to WIN 

a lovely swag box that includes a signed copy of The Smallest Thing and some fabulous gifts! 

Click HERE to enter.

More about the book…

The Smallest Thing

By Lisa Manterfield

thesmallestthing coverThe very last thing 17-year-old Emmott Syddall wants is to turn out like her dad. She’s descended from ten generations who never left their dull English village, and there’s no way she’s going to waste a perfectly good life that way. She’s moving to London and she swears she is never coming back.

But when the unexplained deaths of her neighbors force the government to quarantine the village, Em learns what it truly means to be trapped. Now, she must choose. Will she pursue her desire for freedom, at all costs, or do what’s best for the people she loves: her dad, her best friend Deb, and, to her surprise, the mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit?

Inspired by the historical story of the plague village of Eyam, this contemporary tale of friendship, community, and impossible love weaves the horrors of recent news headlines with the intimate details of how it feels to become an adult—and fall in love—in the midst of tragedy.

ISBN:           978-0-9986969-2-8
Category:      Upper Young Adult Fiction
Publication:   July 18, 2017
Pages:          286
Size:             5.25 x 8.00 in.
Price:            $15.95
Binding:        Perfect Bound
Publisher:     Steel Rose Press

Stay in touch with Lisa Manterfield!

http://www.LisaManterfield.com

Facebook: AuthorLisaManterfield

Instagram: @lmanterfield

Twitter: @lisamanterfield

Goodreads: LisaManterfield

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The 2017 Newbery Medal Winner – Read the Opening!

The Newbery awards (both the Medal and the Honor Books) are an obsession at my house. With two Middle Grade-aged readers, and the recent completion of my first MG novel, over Book cover image: The Girl Who Drank the Moon the years we have read the Newbery winners with passion, admiration, studious examination (reading good books is how we learn to become better writers!), and pleasure. Selected by the American Library Association, we are excited to learn more about the 2017 Medal Winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by  bestselling author, Kelly Barnhill. Check out the opening pages, courtesy of Workman Publishing. This book looks absolutely delightful–congratulations, Kelly Barnhill!
After the book sample, read on to learn about the 2017 Honor Books and their wonderful authors. Congratulations to you all!!

The following passage is excerpted from Kelly Barnhill’s 2017 Newbery Medal winner The Girl Who Drank the Moon

For as long as Xan could remember, every year at about the same time, a mother from the Protectorate left her baby in the forest, presumably to die. Xan had no idea why. Nor did she judge. But she wasn’t going to let the poor little thing perish, either. And so, every year, she traveled to that circle of sycamores and she gathered the abandoned infant in her arms, carrying the child to the other side of the forest, to one of the Free Cities on the other side of the Road. These were happy places. And they loved children.

When Xan arrived at the grove, there was no baby to be seen, but it was still early. And she was tired. She went to one of the craggy trees and leaned against it, taking in the loamy scent of its bark through the soft beak of her nose.

“A little sleep might do me good,” she said out loud. And it was true, too. The journey she’d been on was long and taxing, and the journey she was about to begin was longer. And more taxing. Best to dig in and rest a while. And so, as she often did when she wanted some peace and quiet away from home, the Witch Xan transformed herself into a tree—a craggy thing of leaf and lichen and deep-grooved bark, similar in shape and texture to the other ancient sycamores standing guard over the small grove. And as a tree she slept.

She didn’t hear the procession.

She didn’t hear the protestations of Antain or the embarrassed silence of the Council or the gruff pontifications of Grand-Elder Gherland.

She didn’t even hear the baby when it cooed. Or when it whimpered. Or when it cried.

But when the child opened its throat into a full-fledged wail, Xan woke up with a start.

“Oh my precious stars!” she said in her craggy, barky, leafy voice, for she had not yet un-transformed. “I did not see you lying there!”

The baby was not impressed. She continued to kick and flail and howl and weep. Her face was ruddy and rageful and her tiny hands curled into fists. The birthmark on her forehead darkened dangerously.

“Just give us a second, my darling. Auntie Xan is going as fast as she is able.”

And she was. Transformation is tricky business, even for one as skilled as Xan. Her branches needed to wind back into her spine, one by one, and the folds of bark devoured, bit by bit, by the folds of her wrinkles.

Xan leaned on her staff and rolled back her shoulders a few times to release the kinks in her neck—one side and then the other. She looked down at the child who had quieted some, and was now staring at the witch in the same way that she stared at the Grand-Elder—with a calm, probing, unsettling gaze. It was the sort of gaze that reached into the tight strings of the soul and plucked, like the strings of a harp.

“Bottle,” Xan said, trying to ignore the harmonics ringing in her bones. “You need a bottle.” And she searched her many pockets to find a bottle of goat’s milk, ready and waiting for a hungry belly.

With a flick of her ankle, Xan allowed a mushroom to enlarge itself enough to make a fine stool to sit upon. She let the child’s warm weight rest against the soft lump of her midsection and waited. The crescent moon on the child’s forehead dimmed to a pleasant shade of pink, and her dark curls framed her darker eyes. She was calm and content with the milk, but her gaze still bore into Xan—like tree roots hooking into the ground. Xan grunted.

“Well,” she said. “There’s no use looking at me like that. I can’t bring you back to where you were. That’s all gone now, so you might as well forget about it. Oh hush now,” for the child began to whimper. “Don’t cry. You’ll love the place where we are going. Once I decide which city to bring you to. They are all perfectly nice. And you’ll love your new family too. I’ll see to that.”

But just saying so made an ache in Xan’s old heart. And she was, all at once, unaccountably sad. The child pulled away from the bottle and gave Xan a curious expression. The Witch shrugged.

“Well, don’t ask me,” she said. “I have no idea why you were left in the middle of the woods. I don’t know why people do half the things they do, and I shake my head at the other half. But I am certainly not going to leave you here on the ground to feed some common stoat. You’ve got better things ahead of you, precious child.”

The word precious caught strangely in Xan’s throat. She couldn’t understand it. She cleared the debris from her old lungs and gave the girl a smile. She leaned toward the baby’s face and pressed her lips against the child’s brow. She always gave the babies a kiss. At least, she was pretty sure she did. The child’s scalp smelled like bread dough and clabbering milk. Xan closed her eyes, only for a moment, and shook her head. “Come now,” she said, her voice thick. “Let’s go see the world, shall we?”

And wrapping the baby securely in a sling, Xan marched into the woods, whistling as she walked.

And she would have gone straight to the Free Cities. She certainly intended to.

But there was a waterfall that the baby would like. And there was a rocky outcropping with a particularly fine view. And she noticed herself wanting to tell the baby stories. And sing her songs. And as she told and as she sang, Xan’s step grew slower and slower and slower. Xan blamed the onset of old age and the crick in her back and the fussiness of the child, but none of those things was true.

And Xan found herself stopping again and again just to take yet another opportunity to unsling the baby and stare into those deep, black eyes.

Each day, Xan’s path wandered farther afield. It looped, doubled back, and wiggled. Her traverse through the forest, normally almost as straight as the Road itself, was a twisty, windy mess. At night, once the goat’s milk was exhausted, Xan gathered the gossamer threads of starlight on her fingers, and the child ate gratefully. And each mouthful of starlight deepened the darkness in the child’s gaze. Whole universes burned in those eyes,—galaxies upon galaxies.

After the tenth night, the journey that usually only took three and a half days was less than a quarter done. The waxing moon rose earlier each night, though Xan did not pay it much mind. She reached up and gathered her starlight and didn’t heed the moon.

There is magic in starlight, of course. This is well known. But because the light travels such a long distance, the magic in it is fragile and diffused, stretched into the most delicate of threads. There is enough magic in starlight to content a baby and in large enough quantities to reveal the best in itself. It is enough to bless, but not to enmagic.

Moonlight, however. That is a different story.

Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like.

Xan couldn’t take her eyes off the baby’s eyes. Suns and stars and meteors. The dust of nebulae. Big bangs and black holes and endless, endless Space. The moon rose, big and fat and shining.

Xan reached up. She didn’t look at the sky.

(Did she notice how heavy the light felt on her fingers? Did she notice how sticky it was? How sweet?)

She waved her fingers above her head. She pulled her hand down when she couldn’t hold it up anymore.

(Did she notice the weight of magic swinging from her wrist? She told herself she didn’t. She said it over and over and over until it felt true.)

And the baby ate. And ate. And ate. And suddenly she shuddered and buckled in Xan’s arms. And she cried out—once. And very loud. And then she gave a contented sigh, falling instantly asleep, pressing herself into the softness of the witch’s belly.

Xan looked up at the sky, feeling the light of the moon falling across her face. “Oh dear me,” she whispered. The moon had grown full without her noticing. And powerfully magic. One sip would have done it and the baby had had—well. More than a sip.

Greedy little thing.

In any case, the facts of the matter were as clear as the moon sitting brightly on the tops of the trees. The child had become enmagicked. There was no doubt about it. And now things were more complicated than they had been before.

Xan settled herself cross-legged on the ground and laid the sleeping child in the crook of her knee. There would be no waking her. Not for hours. Xan ran her fingers through the girl’s black curls. Even now, she could feel the magic pulsing under her skin, each filament insinuating itself between cells, through tissues, filling up her bones. In time, she’d become unstable—not forever, of course. But Xan remembered enough from the magicians who raised her long ago that rearing a magic baby is no easy matter. Her teachers were quick to tell her as much. And her Keeper, Zosimos, mentioned it endlessly. “Infusing magic into a child is akin to putting a sword in the hand of a toddler—so much power and so little sense. Can’t you see how you age me so, girl?” he said over and over.

And it was true. Magical children were dangerous. She certainly couldn’t leave the child with just anyone.

“Well, my love,” she said. “Aren’t you more troublesome by half?”

The baby breathed deeply through her nose. A tiny smile quivered in the center of her rosebud mouth. Xan felt her heart leap within her and she cuddled the baby close.

“Luna,” she said. “Your name will be Luna. And I will be your grandmother. And we will be a family.”

And just by saying so, Xan knew it was true. The words hummed in the air between them, stronger than any magic.

She stood, slid the baby back into the sling and began the long journey toward home, wondering how on earth she’d explain it to Glerk.

2017 Honor Books

Book cover image: Freedom Over MeFreedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan, written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.
 “Using real documents from an estate appraisal dated July 5, 1828, Bryan has created beautiful portrait paintings for 11 people who were named and priced as property on the Fairchildses’ estate. Bryan gives voice to their history, their longing for freedom, and their skills as artisans, cooks, musicians, carpenters, etc. Each person has two visual portraits, with each accompanied by a poem (on the opposite page). Collaged historical documents of slave auctions fill the negative space of the first portrait frame. The second portrait depicts that person in a private dream, often a dream for safety, family, community, or the freedom to create. A significant contribution to U.S. and African American history that will elicit compassion and understanding while instilling tremendous pride. A must-purchase for all collections.” — School Library Journal

Book cover image: The Inquisitor's TaleThe Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, written by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly and published by Dutton Children’s Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

The Inquisitor’s Tale is one of the most celebrated children’s books of 2016! New York Times Bestseller; A New York Times Editor’s Choice; A New York Times Notable Children’s Book; A People Magazine Kid Pick; A Washington Post Best Children’s Book, A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book; An Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book; A Booklist Best Book; A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book; A Kirkus Reviews Best Book; A Publishers Weekly Best Book; A School Library Journal Best Book 

Book cover image: Wolf HollowWolf Hollow, written by Lauren Wolk and published by Dutton Children’s Books, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
“Eleven-year-old Annabelle lives in a rural Pennsylvania community in 1943. The continued fighting of World War II haunts everyone, but life is mostly peaceful—until Betty Glengarry’s arrival. Betty is cruel and threatening and thrives on inflicting pain. Thematically, this book raises some of the same issues as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with social status rather than racism as the basis for injustice. Vicious bullying is also a highly relevant topic, and this aspect is sure to spark important conversations. Highly recommended for purchase; a truly moving debut.” — School Library Journal

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Author Interview: Lisette Brodey & her multi-genre adventures

If you’ve spent much time mingling with indie writers on Twitter, you’ve likely crossed paths with my good friend Lisette Brodey, author of six novels. She been an inspiration to many of us on our writing journey. Lisette has a huge circle of reader and writer friends who she cheers on, educates, and promotes. Lisette has lived a bi-coastal life, working in the entertainment industry in New York City, and Los Angeles. She studied drama at Pace University, so you know she knows a thing or two about creating dynamic scenes and characters. Lisette hosts guest bloggers and interview fellow authors on a weekly basis at her Writer’s Chateau. (I am among the lucky ones! Read all about my visit to the Writer’s Chateau here.)

Now, the tables have turned. Let’s shine the spotlight on Lisette Brodey to learn more about her books, get tips on using social media to promote books, the ins and outs of e-book pricing, and the lowdown on what she’s working on!

Rebecca: Wow, you’ve written several books in a variety of genres, including Literary Fiction, Young Adult, Womens Fiction, and YA Paranormal. Can you tell us about this diverse approach to writing?

LisetteBrodeywriterLisette: I never set out to try multiple genres for the sake of it; I simply had stories I wanted to tell that fell into different genres. If pressed to claim a genre, I would choose literary fiction, as that is likely to describe what I plan to write in the future. For now.

No matter what the genre or no matter how serious the story, humor has and always will be a part of my writing. So, for that reason, I had to write at least one romantic comedy. Molly Hacker Is Too Picky! was a great deal of fun to write and has been well-received by readers, but I probably won’t write another book like it.

I wrote the Desert Series because I’ve had a lifelong interest in the paranormal. Not having written about any of it when I was a teen, as the saying goes: better late than never.

R: Is there a genre – or category – you’re curious about, but have never tried?

L: I would love to write a psychological thriller. If I ever find an idea that I’m passionate about, I just might do that, but I don’t foresee it in the near future.

R: I understand you have some news to share!

L: Yes, I do. From February 15th until the end of the month, The Desert Series ($4.99 for all three novels) will be reduced to the low price of $2.99 for the entire set. For members of Kindle Unlimited, you can read The Desert Series (and all of my novels) for free. Where to buy The Desert Series boxed set

R: Can you tell me about your latest boxed set, The Desert Series?

Desert_Series_Box_NB.pngL: The Desert Series is comprised of three novels: Mystical High, Desert Star, and Drawn Apart. A YA paranormal trilogy, this coming-of-age series takes place over a span of six years in a dying town called Mystekal in the Southern California desert.

While this is a paranormal series, I think of it more as “realistic paranormal.” There are no werewolves, vampires, or shapeshifters. There are teens, their families, and teachers who are all going through very real problems of their own when the paranormal steps in and complicates matters.

The books can be read as standalone novels. There are no cliffhangers at the end of the first two novels. However, because it is a series, a reader will derive the most insight and satisfaction by reading all three books, as some of the stories do go on.

Many issues and themes are covered in the books such as: abandonment, bullying, mental illness, loss, divorce, dating, jealousy, miracles, friendship, soul mates, true love, and much more. There are also different paranormal elements in each book.

That’s the very short version. For readers interested in knowing more, a full synopsis of each novel (or the series as a whole) is available on Amazon.com.

R: I’d like to learn more about the characters in The Desert Series, and why you like them.

L: River Dalworth has been a favorite to write and a favorite of readers. We first meet him in Mystical High when he is fourteen. While he derives great pleasure in the role of obnoxious little brother to Jessie, he’s much more than that. Having read the entire dictionary at a young age, his vocabulary is far more advanced than most (only when he wants it to be), and he’s knowledgeable about subjects that many people don’t even know exist. River is a talented artist who possesses paranormal gifts. He’s witty and funny, but he’s not as great being on the receiving end of all that he dishes out.

Larsen Davis, a gay black teen who is bullied at home by his alcoholic single mother, is another favorite. In Desert Star, he and River become the best of friends. Also introduced in Desert Star is the Martelli family from Jersey City, NJ. They come from a very different culture yet they experience things in Mystekal that rival all of the craziness they’ve known in Jersey City. Avalon Martelli, a vintage clothing freak and an artist with the gift of sight, has learned to be tough, but she’s an honest and compassionate friend.

In the last book, Drawn Apart, all of the characters I’ve mentioned play a role. A new character, Stephanie Lambert, is Avalon’s best friend. A self-described hopeless romantic, poetry geek, and a true believer in soul mates and past lives, Stephanie is in an accident and falls into a coma only weeks before graduation.

Those are just a few of the characters that I really love. Now that the series is published, I miss spending time with each and every one of them.

 Where to buy The Desert Series boxed set

R: What else have you written?

L: I have written Squalor, New Mexico (a 1970s coming-of-age novel shrouded in family secrets), Crooked Moon (a story about two childhood friends coming together after 23 years, having lived very different lives), and Molly Hacker Is Too Picky! (a romantic comedy). I have two short stories published in an anthology: Triptychs (Mind’s Eye Series, Book 3).

R: We have something in common: we both prefer writing scenes in order. Not everyone does. Can you tell why you prefer to write this way, and any benefits other writers may gain from trying it?

L: For me, it’s pretty simple. Today affects tomorrow but tomorrow can’t affect today. When you think about life, even the little things that happen each day often become a part of what happens the next day. So, for me, writing scenes out of order throws my brain out of order. While I don’t micro-plot my books, I do have a basic outline and I know what revelations will be made and how things will come together in the end. However, as each novel or story unfolds, I discover new nuances and new directions. Even the smallest of details often have a major impact on what comes next. For that reason, I can’t write the middle or the end before the beginning.

If I had a brilliant idea for a scene, it’s possible that I might write it out just to get it down before I lost my inspiration, but that would be the exception.

R: Writing books is clearly your passion! What do you enjoy the most about writing a novel? The least?

L: I always enjoy writing the second half of the book more than the first. I suppose that is because after carefully laying the foundation, it’s great fun to tie up the stories, let the readers know where the “bodies are buried,” and all of that good stuff. But really, my favorite part is writing any scene where I can slip into that creative zone, and like magic, the book feels like it is writing itself, and I’m merely a transcriptionist. My least favorite part is getting edits back and wanting to bang my head against a wall of nails. 

R: I’ve learned that I have to know my book’s ending before I begin, or I’ll write myself into a corner. Is it important for you to know the ending before you write a new novel? How about the title?

L: Yes! I need to know the ending, but as I mentioned earlier, that doesn’t mean that the ending can’t change or evolve as I go along. Despite the fact that I write in multiple genres, my books have one thing in common: I always have multiple story arcs that tie together in unexpected ways. That kind of book is pretty much impossible to write if I fly by the seat of my pants. And yes, I really like to know the title of the book. I didn’t figure out the title of Crooked Moon until I had written Chapter 4, but that is rare for me. Very.

R: Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

L: I hate the idea of a true “rough draft.” I really hate it. I strive to make my book as clean and error-free as possible when I type “The End.” That said, that’s impossible to do. But I strive for it all the same. Other authors have advised, “Don’t stop to edit; it ruins creativity!” My response is that I can do both. Naturally, if I’m writing a scene that is really working, no, I’m not going to stop and edit it. I’ll keep the creativity and the passion flowing until I’ve gotten it all down. But eventually, I’ll be ready to move on. And before I do so, that’s when I’ll go back and edit what I’ve already written.

R: When you read books for pleasure, what aspects do you like best? The least?

L: I don’t do well reading books with an excessive number of characters. I like reading stories that really grab me and that I don’t have to struggle to keep the characters or plot together in my head. I said earlier that I’d like to write a psychological thriller. I love reading them, too. But really, good writing draws me in no matter what the genre.

R: You’ve interviewed dozens of fellow authors on your fabulous website, Lisette’s Writer’s Chateau, including me! It was an exciting experience, and I especially enjoyed how much I bonded with other authors you’d invited to the chateau. Are your writing and creativity methods similar or dissimilar to your visiting authors?

L: I find it fascinating how some authors write with no outline, or, conversely, how some will micro plot a book. That said, the former is far more prevalent. If I were writing a book about a character who abandoned her life, jumped in a car, and took off for places unknown, who knows, I might experience life as that character does and not plot my book. There is no right or wrong, but decisions that writers make often depend on what they are writing.

Sometimes authors write about their experiences putting their work out there for public consumption before it is finished. Again, not the wrong thing to do, but not something I would do in a million years.

R: As authors, we often hear conflicting opinions about marketing as it relates to publishing. How did you figure out what works for you? Any advice about e-book pricing, book promotion, and social media usage?

L: Let me first tackle the subject of e-book pricing. I have spoken to countless authors about this and read numerous blogs by authors who have set out to find the answer once and for all. I don’t think there is any one answer. The millions of free books out there help to make it a very tough market for indie authors. As we all know, people are far more likely to pay for a good cup of coffee that took minutes to make, than to pay for a book that took a year or more to write and edit. For most writers, this is maddening. As well it should be.

Frustration aside, I have chosen to go for lower price points than some other people because I want to gain readers. What I do not care to do is give my book away for free. I often have promotions for 0.99, but that’s as low as I go. I work very hard on every book I write.

I’m often shocked when I see a fellow author’s book for a price tag I know that few people are going to pay. Usually, in these cases, it’s because they’re with a small publisher who wants to make money. But putting high prices on books is usually just a lose-lose proposition for both parties. Books need to find readers.

As for book promotion, I usually research the companies that have dedicated mailing lists for readers who are looking for deals in certain genres. I don’t care about companies who have purchased mailing lists, but companies who have had individual people sign up for a list because they actively read books and are looking for deals. I will not pay any promotion company based on their social media following. I am not condemning any company who offers this service; I’m strictly stating my own preferences.

As for using social media for promotion, I make sure that no more than 20% of what I post is about my work. For the most part, 90% of my social media efforts are on Twitter. I not only promote other authors when I can, but I also post content of interest on many subjects. And lastly, I interact with people. I can’t get to know everyone, but I do enjoy trading words with other human beings. What I will never do to promote is send anyone a direct message about my work or ask a new follower for any kind of favor. I will never spam another person by sending an unsolicited tweet with a link to my work. Needless to say, I don’t respond well when others do that to me. It’s not a good way to make oneself known. Just sayin’.

R: We hear you’re working on some juicy projects you haven’t told anyone about. Our ears are burning!

L: I want to share that I am currently working on my seventh novel which is literary fiction. I developed these characters when I was only seventeen years old in the form of an unfinished short story. Later, that unfinished story became a one-act play, then a two-act play. The time has come to turn it into a novel. It’s really interesting for me to write characters that I have known my entire adult life. Simultaneously, I’m working on a short story collection. I have four finished stories and write each one as I am inspired to do so.

Last, but not least, Rebecca, I would like to thank you for graciously hosting me on your site. Also, I would like to thank all of your visitors for reading my interview. To all who write: write on!

Lisette Brodey was born and raised in Pennsylvania. After high school, she moved to New York City where she attended Pace University and studied drama. After ten years in New York, several of them working in the radio industry, she moved to Los Angeles where she held various positions at Paramount Studios and CBS Studio Center. Back on the East Coast, she worked for many years as a freelance writer, specializing in PR and the entertainment industry. In 2010, she returned permanently to the Los Angeles area. Lisette hosts guest bloggers and interviews fellow authors on a weekly basis at her Writer’s Chateau.

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Where to buy The Desert Series boxed set

 

 

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Cover Reveal! Book 4 of Between Series is HERE!

At last! The awaited cover reveal of the much-anticipated fourth book in Cyndi Tefft’s BETWEEN series has arrived! Sacrifice of Greatest Price will soon be in our hot little hands. (Well hello again, Mr. MacRae;) Until then, have a peek at this teaser and follow Cyndi for word on the book’s release date. Enjoy!

Three in one, forward and back

Here and gone, to deepest black

Silver blooms, swollen with child

Birth crimson globes, untethered wild

Life meets death where the sun meets the sea

Blood sacrifice, for you and for me.

It has all come down to this.

Sacrifice of Greatest PriceA prophecy, passed down through generations of MacRaes, tells of a blood sacrifice. A simple stone placed in an ancient dagger unleashes an army of hell transporters with glowing red eyes who have now come to exact that price.

In the epic finale of the Between series, Aiden and Lindsey will be tested in ways they could never have imagined. Visions of the past, from thousands of years ago when the Broch of Gurness in Orkney was whole, provide more questions than answers. But every secret will be revealed as the MacKinnons and MacRaes join forces to fight a battle they cannot hope to win.

Follow fabulous Cyndi on Twitter @CyndiTefft, or here on  Facebook, or click on Ask the Author with all your Qs at 
Learn more about author Cyndi Tefft at cynditefft.com. I recommend you check out this page to see book trailers and goodies created by Aiden’s Angels, uber-fans of the BETWEEN series. 

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One Last Song – A New Book by Author S.K. Falls

Exciting news! The pub date for One Last Song, a brand-new book by S.K. Falls, has been announced! Falls is the award-winning author of the popular Fevered Souls and Glimpsing Stars book series. For those of us who love books and writing, it is our pleasure (nay, duty) to support and encourage one another. Every time we do one book-positive act (and a simple click of “Want To Read” on Goodreads is more powerful than you know!) our industry becomes stronger. (10 Simple Ways to Support Authors You Love, and Love the Readers Who Support You)

Readers and writers, Ms. Falls’ announcement comes at a particularly special time in my life. With her new book on the horizon, S.K.’s plate is full to say the least. Nonetheless, she chose to support our craft and industry by lending her expertise this fall for Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars 2014, a contest where published and agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer to mentor from over 1,000 manuscript submissions.

This is no small task. Mentors read their chosen writer’s entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents, as well a pitch critique. Pitch Wars then hosts an agent round with over a dozen agents making requests. It was my surprise and honor when S.K. Falls chose to work with me on my manuscript, Radio Head.

As Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova says, “There is something quite wonderful about witnessing one human being selflessly bolster the creative achievement of another, especially in a culture where it’s easier to be a critic than a a celebrator or collaborator.” I agree. I think it’s inspiring and admirable that, in the course of writing and publishing her own books, S.K. committed her time and experience to an unpublished author. I am so thankful to her. And I’m excited to share this excerpt from S.K. Falls’ new book, One Last Song!

 

One Last Song, by S.K. Falls

One Last Song, by S.K. Falls

I was seven when I swallowed my first needle.

My mom freaked out and rushed me to the emergency room.

She stayed by my side all night.

I never wanted it to end.

When you spend your whole life feeling invisible-when your parents care more about deals and deadlines than they do about you-you find ways of making people take notice. Little things at first. Then bigger. It’s scary how fast it grows. Then one day something happens that makes you want to stop. To get better. To be better. And for the first time, you understand what it’s like to feel whole, happy . . . loved. For the first time, you love someone back.

For me, that someone was Drew.

Look for One Last Song on January 13th, 2015! For now, you can add it on Goodreads. (I did!)

SkfallsS.K. Falls likes to believe a degree in psychology qualifies her to emotionally torture her characters in an authentic fashion. Her books have won the gold medal in the 2014 IPPY awards, been featured on USA Today’s book blog, and regularly appear on Amazon’s various bestselling lists. When she isn’t writing her twisted love stories, she can be found gallivanting around Charleston, SC with her family.

Visit her on the web at www.skfalls.com.

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Sell More Books: Good Writing vs. Creating Urgency

Writing “well” should be good enough. Good enough to score an agent and a publishing contract. Good enough to entice a potential reader to move past page one, and keep reading, breaking only for food and the uncontrollable urge to refer your book to everyone with an inbox.

Author and mighty story expert and deconstructrix Lisa Cron (read her bio below–be prepared to be impressed) says the goal of learning to write well is a myth. A myth! Phew. (Does that mean I can produce a dungheap and watch it skyrocket to the top of the New York Times bestseller list? Assuming I publish it under an anonymous pen name, that is.)

Ms. Cron points out how the myth of “good writing” is perpetuated: “Everyone says it – writing books, professors, writing groups, editors, agents, even readers. It sounds so logical, who’d argue?”

Makes sense to me. However, as Cron states, “The first goal of any story is to anesthetize the part of the reader’s brain that knows it is a story. When we get lost in a good story, it feels like reality–literally. Recent research has shown that when we read about an action, the same areas of the brain light up as when we actually experience that action. We really are there. As a result, the last thing a reader is able to do (or wants to do for that matter) is analyze how, exactly, the story is creating such a perfect rendition of reality. And so when asked what it is that grabs us about a great story, we say it was the luscious language, the intriguingly complex characters, the witty dialogue, the fresh voice. In other words, we say it’s well written when what we really mean is that it felt like life.”

Doesn’t that sound like good writing?

“Writing well is the handmaiden of story,” Cron says. “The real goal of every writer is to learn to create that sense of urgency that makes the reader want to know what happens next. This is not triggered by dazzling wordsmithing, but by mastering story itself, and understanding what people are wired to crave from every story they hear.”

To put it more plainly, “We turn to story to shed light on the thorny internal problems we face. Stories teach us how to make sense of ourselves, others and the world at large by allowing us to vicariously experience myriad “what ifs.” After all, life is tricky and rife with risk, so what better way to prepare to navigate the one place we’re all headed — the future — than story?”

Lisa Cron’s top three tips for creating a sense of urgency:

1. Make sure you know how your story ends; ask yourself, how
does my protagonist’s world view have to shift in order for her to achieve her goal?
What does she have to realize that, most likely, she’s spent her whole
life avoiding? Then don’t hold back — sew this internal conflict into the
story, beginning on the first page, if possible, in the first sentence.

2. Always remember, what draws people into a story is that sense that all is not as it seems. The reader is all too familiar with “business as
usual” (read: ho hum), a story is about what happens when something out of the ordinary bursts through that predictable pattern and forces your protagonist to deal with it or else – even if it begins with something as seemingly mundane as the mail arriving a half hour late.

3. Let us know that something specific is at stake, and don’t be shy about telling us what it is, and how it’s affecting your protagonist. Make us feel it by letting us know what it forces your protagonist to confront. How does it differ from her expectations? What action does it trigger?

After all, stories are about how the unexpected forces us to confront our beliefs about ourselves, the world and others – and find out what we’re really made of.

What’s the last book that swept you away? What did it teach you about life, or better yet, yourself?

Lisa Cron spent a decade in publishing, first at W.W. Norton in New York, then at John Muir Publications in Santa Fe, NM, before turning to TV. She’s worked on shows for Fox, Bravo and Miramax, and has been supervising producer on shows for Court TV and Showtime. She’s been a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency in NYC, and for Village Roadshow, Icon, The Don Buchwald Agency and others in LA. She’s featured in Final Draft’s book, Ask The Pros: Screenwriting. Her personal essays have appeared on Freshyarn.com and the Huffington Post, and she has performed them at the 78th Street Playhouse in NYC, and in LA at Sit ‘n Spin, Spark!, Word-A-Rama, Word Nerd and Melt in Your Mout (a monthly personal essay series she co-produced). For years she’s worked one-on-one with writers, producers and agents developing book and movie projects. Lisa has also been a literary agent and for the past five years, an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, where she currently teaches. Her book, Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence, will be published by Ten Speed Press, Summer 2012.

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10 Simple Ways to Support Authors You Love, and Love the Readers Who Support You

I’ll admit it, I’m a fangirl.

When an author’s amazing book inspires awe, when an agent teaches a class with the intention of improving and inspiring our burgeoning manuscripts, or either write a blogpost containing encouragement and advice for other writers–well, I want to return the favor of their generosity and give them a (virtual) hug.

I can’t get enough of author Jody Hedlund‘s blog, a vast compendium of rational, well-thought-out, organized and helpful advice on the craft of fiction writing. (She MUST teach a writing class. She must.) Her advice is so thorough, so intelligent, and in many cases so refreshing, that I began reading her books–I wanted to witness the application of Hedlund’s fascinating writing theories.

It is in the spirit of gratitude that today’s guest-post features excerpts from Jody Hedlund’s 10 Simple Ways to Support Authors You Love. “Before I was published,” says Hedlund, “I didn’t realize how much authors appreciated readers taking the time to publicly support them. In fact, I didn’t know my support was important. And even if I had known, I wouldn’t have had a clue what kinds of things would help my favorite authors the most.”

What kinds of action can we fans take to lend support? “Yes, THE best support is actually reading the author’s book,” contends Hedlund, “But, if you enjoyed the book, you’ll do the author a big favor by taking the support one step further. That one step can make a huge difference.”

Here are Hedlund’s ideas for choosing which “one step” feels right for you:

1. Write a book review and post it on Amazon. If you’ve ever ordered on Amazon then you’re eligible to post a review. It’s very simple to do and incredibly helpful (if it’s a good review!). Jody’s book, The Preacher’s Bride, has garnered several #1 slots on Amazon’s Kindle store due to the positive ratings readers have taken the time to write. [Side Note: If you’re a writer, use your author name when writing reviews. This can give your name extra exposure. For example, Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont, put the first review for The Preacher’s Bride on Amazon (and she did a fantastic job with the review!). Now her name and book are the first that people see when they visit the Amazon page for The Preacher’s Bride.]

2. Copy and paste your review onto other online bookstores. There’s nothing wrong with copying your Amazon review and using it on other sites, like GoodReads, Shelfari, Barnes&Noble.com or CBD.com.

3. Click the “Like” button on a book’s Amazon page. (You’ll find it near the top of your fave book’s page.)

4. Click on the “Tags People Associate With This Product” on Amazon. If you scroll down on The Preacher’s Bride Amazon page, you’ll see approximately 32 tags. The more tags and the more clicks, the better a book will come up in search results.

5. Tweet about the book. Recently Pamela Trawick tweeted a noteworthy tweet about The Preacher’s Bride. In 140 characters she managed to capture the essence of her reading experience: The Preacher’s Bride is outstanding. Great tension, good pace, fabulous plot. Read it.

6. Make a short comment of praise about the book on Facebook (or copy the one from Twitter). Twitter streams move quickly, and so tweets come and go. But on facebook, news has the ability to stick around a bit longer.

7. Pass along the book to a friend or to family. And ask them to pass it along when they’re done.

8. Buy the book as a gift for friends and family. Publishing houses keep track of every book sale. And each purchase is important to an author.

9. Ask your local library to carry the book. First check if they have the book (you can usually look it up online). And if they don’t, next time you’re at your library, personally request the book.

10. Make an effort to pass on your love of the book. Somehow, someway tell someone how much you liked the book. Word-of-mouth is the best way to help support an author! The more times a person hears about or sees a book, the greater the chances that they’ll pick it up and read it.

What other practical ideas have you done to help support authors? Have you taken the time to publicly support a book or author you’ve liked? Or haven’t you given it much thought before now?

Marketing is part of the job description of the modern author. Whether we’ve gone with self-publishing, small indie press, or the traditional route, all authors must market. However, writers tend to be happier working quietly, alone.

How can we avoid turning our marketing and promotion efforts into a litany to ourselves? Here are Jody Hedlund’s three ways:

1. Connect With Readers: Pay attention to what they’re saying on our blogs, facebook, and twitter. Be available. Make sure do the best we can to answer personal emails and messages.

2. Engage Readers: Don’t stand on the sidelines. Instead jump into social media conversations. Ask questions on Facebook or Twitter. Discover what people think or how they feel about issues.

3. Care For Readers: Find ways to let them know we appreciate them. Offer encouragement. Be real and open so they feel comfortable sharing their concerns and problems with us.

In one word: LOVE. Yes, love your readers.

If you love your readers, they’ll promote the heck out of you.

I’m sure we can all think of an author we’ve met online (or in person), one we’ve grown to admire and respect because of how personable and kind they are. I know it makes a huge impact on me when an author is down-to-earth, chats with me, retweets something I say, leaves a comment on my blog, etc.

I may have already liked that particular author. But my admiration rises even higher when they take the extra effort to connect with me.

On the reverse side, our admiration for authors diminishes when they act too busy for us, don’t respond to something we say, or only chat within a certain circle of author friends.

My point is that if we as writers grow to appreciate other writers/authors who connect with us, imagine how much that means to our readers when we make an effort to relate to them.

Marketing 101: Start by loving the readers we already have (including followers on social media sites). We may want more. But first we have learn to take care of those that are already sitting in our stadium. We need to figure out ways to bless and encourage the audience that’s before us.

When we’re loving and taking care of the readers and followers we have, they’ll WANT to support us. They may even go out of their way to help us and shout out the news about our books. They’ll be excited to promote for us, essentially taking a large part of “self” out of self-promotion.

We won’t need to toot our own horns so loudly because our readers will do the tooting for us.

What do you think? Have you supported authors because you’ve learned to like and appreciate them? Is “loving your readers” a good strategy? Or do you think it’s lame? If so, what do you think can work better?

Isn’t Jody Hedlund fantastic? If you would like to read more of her ideas, I’ve posted Hedlund‘s 5 Transformational Story Elements here. She offers a goldmine of excellent advice for polishing your WIP until story shines.

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