Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Perseverance and Conquering Fears: Lisa Gail Green's Journey to Publication


Guys, today I'm totally excited to have Lisa Gail Green here! She's one of my closest writing buddies and beta readers, and I'm so proud to announce the release of her YA novel, Soul Crossed. I've read Soul Crossed. It's amazing, and creepy, and thrilling. Check out this summary...

Josh lived a reckless, selfish life, so upon his death, escaping the eternal torments of Hell by assuming the role of a powerful, soul-corrupting demon is an easy choice. His first soul assignment doesn't seem too hard: the mortal Camden is already obsessed with weapons, pain, and torture. If only Josh wasn't distracted by Cam's beautiful friend, Grace.

Grace never expected to die violently at age sixteen, but now she's an Angel, responsible for saving a soul. She can already see past Camden's earthly flaws, so the job should be easy. If only that handsome, playboy Josh would stop getting in the way.

It's forbidden for an Angel to be with a Demon, so if Josh and Grace stop resisting each other, the results would be disastrous.

So, how did Lisa go from Super Mom to Super Mom plus published author? Let's find out!

Julie: Your YA novel “Soul Crossed” releases today (yay!). Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the story idea? How much has it changed throughout revisions?

Lisa: Squeeeeeeee! Sorry had to get that out first. *ahem* The story started because I wanted a forbidden romance, so I thought, ‘what is the worst situation I can put my characters in?’ You can’t get much worse than an Angel and a Demon falling in love. Those are the kind of problems that I think make a good books. The rest kind of fell into place from there. In fact, one of my characters (I’m looking at you, Josh) did something I wasn’t expecting, which kind of saved the rest of the book for me plot wise. I love it when that happens!

Julie: You’ve persevered through a change in literary agents, and your publishing journey has definitely been a long and winding road. Can you give us a brief summary of your path?

Lisa: Hahaha! Yes, like many other authors I know I have changed agents. However, my current agent, Melissa Nasson works with my previous agent, Rubin Pfeffer! I have nothing against Rubin - he’s an awesome guy. We just didn’t make the best match for several reasons, things like my need/desire for an editorial agent and the type of books I write. I can say that it’s been quite the emotional roller coaster since I started though! And it continues to be. :D But now I embrace that. I love that you never know what’s coming and take delight in all the “small” accomplishments along the way, whether a kind tweet from someone or a nice review. I love seeing that my work made readers feel. That’s what it’s all about in the end, right?

But you wanted a summary of my path so here goes: Start writing with no clue, made the usual mistakes like querying before I was ready, joined SCBWI and learned as much as humanly possible about the industry, read, met great people like Julie Musil, read more, got an offer from Rubin and hit the ceiling/walked on air for several days straight (maybe weeks), started blogging and Twitter, met more awesome people, read more, went on submission, started getting rejections, got close, got more rejections, read, separated from agent, read, had a baby (#3 much younger than my others), was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and almost quit and — got a good doctor, got an offer from Melissa and THE OFFER from Samantha at FFF!!! Whew. Does that sum it up??

Julie: Soul Crossed was published by Full Fathom Five Digital. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with a digital only publisher?

Lisa: They’ve been AMAZING. I can’t stress enough how happy I am. They’ve made me one of their lead titles and have not skimped on the marketing, which any published author can tell you is beyond incredible. It’s all been electronic, but pretty much the same process as with any other publisher. I did edits with my awesome editor, then line edits, then copy edits with the copy editor, looked over the ARC, etc. I also love the particular way they handle the relationship contractually, but I won’t go into all that here. AND here’s the kicker — with FFF, since they have many arms, there are possibilities for more and in fact, we are doing a print version as well. I just don’t know the date of release yet. OH and one really cool thing with the digital publisher? They move so much faster than traditional ones. My sequel is due out July 1st!

Julie: What writing advice has resonated with you the most, and why?

Lisa: It has always been and continues to be: Write what scares you, which I first heard from my hero, Libba Bray. It hit me like an anvil. I had to keep improving and moving forward and the best way to do that, to challenge yourself and keep it fresh, is to go where you’re uncomfortable going. You can always revise later.

Julie: If there’s an author out there who’s doubting their writing abilities and is ready to throw in the towel, what “flick to the forehead” advice would you give them?

Lisa: Don’t do it!! If you quit, it is 100% certain it will never happen. If you keep trying, there’s always that chance. Also, that chance improves exponentially the more you improve your craft and continue writing. Look at me! I was about to finally give in, despite my habit of always encouraging others to never do that same and then IT happened. :D

Cool, right? Lisa, thanks so much for sharing your experience. We wish you the very best with your new series!

Friends, has your writing journey been a long and winding road? What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received? Please share!

Lisa Gail Green lives with her husband the rocket scientist and their three junior mad scientists in Southern California. She writes books so she can have an excuse to live in the fantasy world in her head. She likes to share these with readers so she's represented by the lovely Melissa Nasson of Rubin Pfeffer Content. She has a parrot but would most definitely get a werewolf for a pet if she weren't allergic.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Flight to Success: What's Your Own Inciting Incident?



Friends, today Karlene Petitt is here to share with us about her own personal journey to become a pilot and author. Her book Flight to Success: Be the Captain of Your Own Life is available now. Enjoy the inspiration!

Flight To Success is a journey we all experience. My journey began when I was nine-years-old and a friend said, “You can’t be a pilot. Girls can’t do that.” I stood with hands on hips and said, “Yes I can!” We argued. Game over, and I kicked my friends out of the house. But the challenge was on. I did not understand until years later, but that moment was my inciting incident. I faced the choice to take that challenge, or not. Fear, logistics, and many additional reasons as to why becoming a pilot was impossible sprouted their ugly heads.

Just like the protagonists in our stories we are all faced with those moments of decision—our call to adventure. These choices may present themselves in a challenge, health issues, a moment of inspiration, or perhaps dissatisfaction with the way life is and we want more. Something will happen in your life and you will be faced with the decision to accept the calling, or not.   

Then obstacles and challenges arrive—the time when the hero of any story must confirm their commitment. When the protagonists’ journey becomes difficult, do they quit or dig deep and press on? We all know that the greatest struggles, answered with dedication and perseverance, followed by success make the best stories. Isn’t life the same? 

You are writing your story—it’s called life and you are the hero. There will be challenges along the way—will you quit? You might get on the wrong plane—will you enjoy the journey and reschedule another destination at a later date, or complain? You might face a thunderstorm that will delay your trip—will you wait it out or give up? And when you achieve success and write that first book, will you quit or write another? 

Julie was gracious enough to enable me to share my most recent work with you—Flight To Success, Be the Captain of Your Life. What is this book about? It’s about taking control of your life and mastering steps to reach success. One reader said…

This is not book about flying; it is a story about life, and living life, and making the right (and difficult) choices. Flight to Success is entertaining, engaging, thought provoking, and not an easy book to put down. The highest compliment I can make is that I will buy another copy to give to my wife, mostly because I don’t want to share my only copy.” Jeffrey L. Roehr 

That little girl became an airline pilot. I’m also a mother, grandmother, wife, have earned two masters degrees, published two novels, and currently pursuing a PhD. Have there been struggles along the way? Of course—experience teenage daughters and you can check off the challenge box. I have also started over eight times; seven of my previous airlines are now out of business. The most recent challenge was bringing my passion to market while attending a doctorate program, and working. This book was essential. 

Flight To Success, Be the Captain of Your Life came about because I wanted something age appropriate for those students I speak to about fulfilling their dreams. (My aviation thrillers are of adult content.) I want to help and support our future generations to get on the right flight path for their lives. Thus, stories of my life and others’ lives found their way into the pages with real, inspiring, and motivational lessons. Included are secrets to success such as flight planning your life, listening and learning, and how to deal with fear, plus so much more. There are lessons that can help anyone from young to old achieve their dreams. 

Success is about how we live today, not what we did yesterday. It’s about living in the moment with purpose, integrity, and commitment. It’s about the journey, and extending a helping hand to lift another up; sharing lessons to help them reach their dreams. Success is about the Flight:

Fulfillment * Love * Integrity * Gratitude * Happiness * Truth. 

Dream. Believe. Achieve. 
Anything is possible. 

Enjoy the Journey! 

XO Karlene 

Karlene Petitt is currently an A330 international airline pilot living in Seattle. She is type-rated on the B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727 and A330 aircraft. She holds MBA and MHS degrees, and is currently working on her PhD at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Aviation, with a focus on safety. She has flown for Coastal Airways, Evergreen, Braniff, Guyana and Tower Air. She has instructed at America West Airlines, Premair, Guyana, and has also flown and instructed for a northwest airline on the 747-400 and 747-200. She has spent 21 years training pilots, and has been instrumental in training program development at multiple airlines. She is a mother of three grown daughters and grandmother of seven. 

Aviation thrillers: Flight For Control and Flight For Safety


Thanks so much, Karlene! You're truly an inspiration.

Friends, do you remember your own inciting incident? Were there obstacles on your personal journey? How did you handle them? Please share!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Writing lessons learned from SHARP OBJECTS



I recently plowed through SHARP OBJECTS, by Gillian Flynn. After Flynn's Gone Girl shot to the top of my list of favorite books, I realized I not only love inspirational romances. Apparently I also like dark, twisted dramas. Sharp Objects is definitely dark and twisted, but sooo good.

As always, I learned several important writing lessons from this book. Before I get to that, here's a little bit about Sharp Objects:

Fresh from her brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille Preaker's first assignment at her second-rate daily paper takes her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. As she works to uncover the truth, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims--a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

And now for my writing lessons learned. (Warning! If you haven't yet read "Sharp Objects," and don't want to know any plot points, STOP!)

  • When writing a murder mystery, add an unforgettable detail. Without giving too much away, let  me just say that there was a strange detail that included teeth. I swear, I keep thinking about those darn teeth. The author did a great job of embedding a disturbing detail in my mind.
  • Mystery solved? Not so fast! Just when I thought the mystery was solved, BAM! It so wasn't solved. The author messed with my head, including one last glorious surprise. This was a great reminder to me to not rest on a good ending. Consider a major twist in those final pages.
  • Downer of a main character? Show the reader why. In the opening pages, I could tell that Camille was a cynical downer. I didn't love her and I didn't hate her. I felt sorry for her, and was intrigued by her story. Once I met her mother, and other residents of her small town, I understood why she was who she was. The author made me curious about the backstory, but threaded it in slowly.
  • Paint the setting with "showing" details. The author never said Wind Gap, Missouri was a place worth running from. She showed us through the in-a-rut townspeople, the depressing bars, and the nasty gossip. I understood why Camille fled her hometown as soon as she could. (A quick Google search tells me Wind Gap, Missouri isn't a real place. True? Does anyone know for sure?)
  • Find a unique way to show your character's inner turmoil. Again, without giving too much away, I'll just say that Flynn used words in a unique, disturbing way to show Camille's turbulent past.
  • Consider an unhappy ending. However, genre really matters here. I've been frustrated with endings to Nicholas Sparks' novels before, because I want my romances to end happily. In a dark drama like this, and in Gone Girl, the unhappily ever after works.
Footnote: Gillian Flynn is also a master at metaphors.

Have you read Sharp Objects? How about Gone Girl? What are your impressions of these lessons learned? Any you've tackled in your own fiction? Please share!


Wait! Before you go...here's an announcement from Janice Hardy:

Looking for a Fun Kidlit Writers' Conference? Give Springmingle a Try. Springmingle '15 Writers' and Illustrators' Conference will take place on March 13-15, 2015 in Decatur, GA. 
This year's conference faculty includes: Giuseppe Castellano, Art Director at Penguin Young Readers Group; Karen Grencik, Literary Agent/Co-Founder of Red Fox Literary, LLC.; Elise Howard, Editor, Algonquin Young Readers; Bill Mayer, Award-winning Illustrator; Meg Medina, Award-winning Author; and Neal Porter, Publisher, Neal Porter Books, imprint of Macmillan Children’s Book Group. 
Visit their website for a complete listing of workshops.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Insecure About Queries? #IWSG



Welcome, Insecure Writers! If you haven't yet joined this wonderful group--created by Alex J. Cavanaugh--jump over here and fix that!

Are you feeling insecure about writing a query? Me too!

Two of my books were released last year, and when I go back and read the queries, I'm so proud that I wrote them. The query for The Boy Who Loved Fire helped me sign with an agent. It's perfect for that book.

As I entered the "new query" stage for another project, I was frozen. I couldn't snatch the words floating in my head and put them in a logical sequence that captured an entire story--even though I'd drafted a query pitch before I wrote the book. Was I losing my skills? Had I taken a step back?

No. It felt this way before I wrote the query for The Boy Who Loved Fire, and before I wrote the query for The Summer of Crossing Lines.

The trick for me is to do the following:
  1. Research "how to write a query," to remind me what works and what doesn't.
  2. Dive in.
Diving in can be the hardest. But once the crappy words are written, they can be deleted, replaced, and shaped. We can't do that with a blank page. So my crappy words are written, and I'm in the pruning stage. I'll get it right--with time and hard work.

If you're insecure about the query, like me, here are some links that may help: Writing a Query Letter, by Elana Johnson; articles about writing a query by Janice Hardy; and How to Write a Query Letter over at AgentQuery.com.

How about you, fellow writers? Do you struggle with writing queries? Have you nailed it? Any tips you can share with the rest of us?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reflections on a Year of Indie Publishing



Hard to believe, but it's already been a year since I took the indie plunge. Since then, I've published two books: The Boy Who Loved Fire and The Summer of Crossing Lines.

I thought it would be fun to reflect on the past year--what I've learned, what I've loved, and what I'm thankful for. Here are some thoughts as I round out year one.

  • Indie publishing is fun. Yes, it's also hard. And yes, it keeps authors very busy. But it sure is fun. The creative control is intoxicating. Editing the manuscript until it's ready for readers is such a worthy challenge. And cover design? Such a thrilling, collaborative experience. Heck, I even loved formatting the manuscripts and uploading them to distributors. For me, the whole process is fun, fun, fun.
  • Zero pressure (except the pressure we place on ourselves). No pressure to sell a certain number of copies before the book is yanked off the shelves. No pressure to become a media darling. Sure, I placed pressure on myself to create quality books with eye-catching covers, and I pressured myself to hit deadlines, but those were self imposed. 
  • I'm not a bestselling author...yet! (and that's ok). I've experienced so much joy from simply writing stories and preparing them for market. This may sound crazy, but I don't check sales numbers, rank, or lists. Maybe some day I will, but not right now. I'm just busy preparing the next book.
  • Time management is a constant battle. I'm a slow writer. For me, my best work comes through time and reflection--not a meat grinder. Other indies release several books a year, but I can't focus on their timelines or I'd be tempted to release my books before they're ready. I do what I can when I can, in a way that makes me proud. You can't ask for much more than that.
  • I'm grateful. For every single reader, for every single review, and for every kind word. I'm grateful for Amazon, and Apple, and every distributor who made indie publishing so darn easy. Each time someone downloads my book or orders a print copy, they're placing faith in me. I'm truly thankful for that. These books were labors of love, and it's satisfying to see them out in the world.
  • The indie community rocks. I've been blown away by the amount of resources out there. Podcasts, blog posts and resources shared by Joanna Penn, Susan Kaye Quinn, Simon Whistler, and more. Everyone shares what they've learned, which helps other indies. It's awesome.
It's been a fun, exciting year. I've conquered massive fears and learned a heck of a lot. Moving forward, I will continue to write books, improve my craft, and send stories into the world. Indie life suits me!

Have you taken the indie plunge? What was 2014 like for you as a writer? Did you achieve goals? Surpass them? Re-align your priorities? Please share!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Writing lessons learned from COMPULSION


I read a lot over the Christmas break, so I'll share another post about writing lessons learned from great fiction! I had the pleasure of reading COMPULSION by Martina Boone, who just happens to be a friend and wonderful blogger. If you haven't stopped by Adventures in YA Publishing, you should. Martina's blog is packed with advice, giveaways, and workshops.

Before we get to the lessons, here's a bit about Compulsion:

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison in her aunt's South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn't what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

This book was beautifully written, with a setting authentic enough to be its own character. Here are my writing lessons learned from Compulsion (Alert! If you haven't yet read Compulsion, and don't want to know any plot points, stop! But please come back after you've read the book):

  • Show early signs of a special gift: if the story is paranormal, it's a great idea to show the reader the unexplained. If the story isn't paranormal, the author can still show qualities like the gift for gab, or a knack for not following directions. In Barrie's case, she's in a taxi early in the story when we learn she has a gift for finding lost things.
  • Introduce the love interest early, even if it's only for a moment: a staple for fans of romances, but even for YA readers who swoon over the adorable guy. Barrie meets Eight Beaufort soon after she arrives at her aunt's plantation. He lives in the neighboring mansion, and also has gifts of his own.
  • Leave a trail of unanswered questions: as questions are answered, new questions pop up, which kept me curious. For example, Barrie's mom was burned in a fire, and she allowed her family to believe she was dead. Why?
  • Just when the reader has it all figured out, change things up: just when I thought I had all these characters figured out, Boone added a new surprise about the curse, the feud, or a twist on mythology. It kept me on my toes.
  • Weave mythology in organically: I don't usually gravitate toward stories with mythology, but in this case, it was woven in the story in an interesting way after I'd already gotten to know the characters. The story first introduces a girl who's lost her mother, and then moves on to the boy, and the curse, and a family feud. Mythology wasn't dumped in like a textbook. It was woven in naturally through story events.
  • Make each scene work overtime: with each scene, there were multiple plates spinning. It wasn't just the main character going somewhere or doing something. There were interactions with other characters--real or not--as well as inner dialog and forward movement. Compulsion provides excellent examples of scenes earning their keep and working overtime.
Have you visited Martina's blog? Have you read Compulsion yet? Any thoughts you'd like to add? Please share!



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Writing lessons learned from LOVE UNEXPECTED


I recently finished another wonderful book by Jody Hedlund--Love Unexpected. In my opinion, there are so many great writing lessons to learn from Hedlund's fiction. I'll share some of them below. But first, about Love Unexpected (from Amazon.com):

All Emma Chambers ever wanted was a home, but when her steamboat sinks just outside Presque Isle, she's left destitute and with no place to stay.

An unlikely solution arises when the lighthouse keeper arrives in town. He's just lost his wife and is having a difficult time caring for his child. So a traveling preacher gets the idea that the keeper and Emma might be the answer to each other's dilemma. After a hasty marriage, she finds herself heading to the lighthouse with this handsome but quiet stranger. Nothing in her aimless life, though, has prepared her for parenting a rambunctious toddler, as well as managing a household. 

Emma soon suspects Patrick may be hiding something from her, and then she hears a disturbing rumor about the circumstances surrounding his late wife's death. It seems as if her wish for a home and family of her own could end up leading her once more into turbulent waters.

Here are some writing lessons I learned from this inspirational romance (Alert! If you haven't yet read this story, and don't want to know any plot points, come back to this post once you've finished the book):

  • Open with action: we hear this all the time, right? But Hedlund does this so well. The opening pages include pirates, a shipwreck, and a rescue at sea. Bam! It also reveals the bond between Emma and her brother, as well as the greed and cruelty of pirates.
  • Bring on the desperation: both Emma and Patrick are desperate. She's desperate for a home. He's desperate for a helping hand. Their desperation pushes them together and makes them consider a hasty wedding, even though they've just met.
  • Shady past adds intrigue: Patrick admits he has a criminal past, but the reader isn't aware of what he's done. Emma once turned a blind eye to her late father's wrongdoings. Both characters have something to hide. It adds a layer of darkness and intrigue that make the characters more interesting.
  • Play up the inner demons: Patrick carries a lot of baggage and is now trying to live a Godly life. Story circumstances add conflict and dredge up the past, which create a reformed man we can root for.
  • Hurt the ones they love: betrayal is so much more powerful when it's between people who love and trust each other. Emma doesn't intend to betray Patrick, but she does. This hurts him deeply--much more than if the villain had betrayed him. This betrayal adds another layer of emotion to the story.
  • Decisive moment that shows character: at one point in the story, Patrick must decide whether or not to help a bad person. He weighs this decision carefully in a "What would Jesus do?" moment. His decision sets up series of harmful events, and shows his true character.
Have you seen these writing lessons in books you've read? Have you used them in your own fiction? Have you read Love Unexpected? Anything you'd like to add? Please share!