Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Release, Day 2! Buy a book, help a great cause

Friends, thanks SO much to all of you who bought The Boy Who Loved Fire yesterday. All proceeds from day one will be donated to the Grossman Burn Center. Click here to learn more about the amazing work they do for burn survivors.

It's day two! All of today's proceeds will be donated to Carousel Ranch, where they provide equestrian therapy for disabled children. Wanna be inspired? Click here and watch the slide show. You'll be glad you did. (Fun fact: I went to high school with the organization's executive director, Denise Tomey-Redmond)

In The Boy Who Loved Fire, Abigail—the love interest—is a burn victim. Part of her healing process takes place at an equestrian ranch that was loosely modeled after Carousel Ranch.

Again, here's the short description and buy links. 
I'm so grateful for your support!

Manny, a modern teen Scrooge, faces three ghosts as he outruns arson charges, falls for his fire victim, and battles for redemption.

If you buy a copy, I'd love it if you sent me a photo of you holding the book. I'd proudly post the photos here, on Pinterest, and on my author Facebook page. Please send your photos to julie at juliemusil dot com. I sincerely hope you enjoy the book, and again, thanks from the bottom of my heart. 

Have you ever heard of equestrian therapy for disabled children? Did you click on the link and watch photos of the amazing kids?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Release Day! Buy a book, help a great cause

Friends, it's book release day! I humbly offer my YA novel, The Boy Who Loved Fire. Yes, I'm excited. Yes, I'm nervous as heck. But most of all, I'm proud. I truly hope readers will love Manny's story.

This isn't an ordinary release day. All proceeds from today's sales will be donated to the Grossman Burn Center via Firefighters Quest for Burn Survivors. The burn center holds a special place in my heart, because they took excellent care of our son when he had third degree burns. Abigail, the love interest in The Boy Who Loved Fire, is also a burn victim. I drew on our personal experience when writing her character.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the book. If you buy a copy, I'd love it if you sent me a photo of you holding the book. I'd proudly post the photos here, on Pinterest, and on my author Facebook page. Please send your photos to julie at juliemusil dot com.

Here's the short description and buy links. Thanks so much for your support!

Manny, a modern teen Scrooge, faces three ghosts as he outruns arson charges, falls for his fire victim, and battles for redemption.

All of tomorrow's proceeds will be donated to Carousel Ranch, where they provide equestrian therapy for disabled kids. Check in again tomorrow, when I'll share details of why I chose this amazing charity for day two.

thank you*thank  you* thank you* thank you

If you've released a book, how did you handle release day? Were you nervous? Excited? Scared as heck? Any advice you can give a newbie?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to Choose a Freelance Editor

Six days until the release of The Boy Who Loved Fire! All proceeds from the first day will be donated to the Grossman Burn Center. Proceeds from the second day will be donated to Carousel Ranch. More details to follow!

When I decided to self publish my YA novel, The Boy Who Loved Fire, I knew I'd hire a freelance editor. Yes, the book had been through rounds of editing. Yes, it was clean. But I knew it wasn't ready for people to plunk down hard-earned money for it.

Stay tuned until the end to see who I picked! (No scrolling…I can see you!)

How should we choose a freelance editor? Opinions may vary, but here's what I looked for:
  • Happy clients: I wanted to be sure the editor had a trail of happy writers. I put out feelers to other authors who had paid for professional editing. I asked for their honest opinions about the quality of work.
  • Sample edits: Most editors offer a free sample edit, which I took advantage of. I thought of it as an audition. After receiving the samples back, I compared editing style and mood. Style and mood were unidentifiable things to capture, but once I read the samples, I knew for sure who I'd hire.
  • Someone who "got" my story: I wanted an editor who got my genre, got my story, and cared about the outcome as much as I did. My editor was invested in the story.
  • Knowledge: I'm an avid reader, as most of you are, and I can catch some details that need to be tweaked or corrected. But I'm not good enough to catch the all-encompassing story issues or nitty gritty details. That's not where my strengths lie. Or lay. See? That's what I mean.
  • Balanced editing: I didn't want to pay someone to pump up my ego, nor did I want to pay someone to be mean. I looked for an honest editor who'd tell me the truth when my story was funky, and who'd also tell me when I'd done something right.
  • Informative comments: My editor didn't just make a change or tell me what didn't work. She told me why. If a certain word seemed weak or out of place, she offered alternatives. It was my choice to make, but I appreciated the options.
  • Reasonable response times: Some editors took a loooong time to respond to my inquiries, or never responded at all. That's not a good fit for me. I didn't expect a super fast turnaround with the edit, but I appreciated how quickly my editor did the work and how quickly she responded to my questions.
So, who did I choose to edit my novel?

Drumroll please….

Bethany at A Little Red, Inc., who did a wonderful job for a fair price. She was truly my partner through the editing process. And the bonus of all bonuses? She's funny as heck. Their motto is "We're funny. We're tactful. And we're fast." True story.

The editing sisters, Bethany and Erynn, are offering a free 5-page edit to one lucky commenter! I'll choose a winner on January 26th.

Have you ever hired a freelance editor? What did you look for before making the choice? Any tips you can share?

(photo credit)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing lessons learned from REBELLIOUS HEART

I'm counting down to the release of The Boy Who Loved Fire on January 28th! You can mark it as Want To Read on Goodreads here. Please stay tuned to this blog and on my Facebook Author Page for updates :)

And now, on to the writing lessons I learned from Rebellious Heart. I'm a big fan of bestselling author Jody Hedlund's books, and I can honestly say this story was my fave. Danger, petticoats, and romance, oh my! Here's a brief description of the book from Jody's website:

In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she's ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she's a female, higher learning has been closed to her but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She's determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Ben Ross grew up a farmer's son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn't see how he'll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he's drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna's decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben's growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.

And now the writing lessons I learned from this amazing inspirational romance (Alert! Read no further if you don't want to know any plot points!):

  • Opening scenes can do triple duty: In this case, 1) a man is found guilty of murder, 2) character reveal—Susanna shows compassion for the convicted man, and 3) introduces love interest, Benjamin Ross (Hedlund is great at introducing the love interest early). There's lots going in in the opening pages; no word is wasted.
  • Layered conflict: this story takes place pre-revolutionary war. We have a murderer on the loose, British soldiers roaming the countryside looking for traitors, a love interest involved in the forbidden Caucus Club, and we have the temptation to break the law in order to help a poor, indentured servant girl. Layers and layers here, which keeps the reader on her toes.
  • Character conflict from the start: Susanna is a well-bred lady from a prominent family. Benjamin Ross is the son of a farmer who sold land to pay for Ben's Harvard education. There's no way this couple can be together. Which leads me to…
  • Bind the couple together: Susanna and Ben share a love of books. They also conspire to help an indentured servant. Even though they can't be "together," they're forced together by circumstances. It's organic because of who these characters are.
  • Write in scenes: I've mentioned in previous posts that Hedlund is an expert at this, but it bears repeating. Scenes are not written as this happened, then this happened the next day, etc. Hedlund jumps ahead to the scene that matters. Any necessary details from the lapse in time are filled in.
  • Use setting details to set the mood: Rebellious Heart takes place in a Massachusetts seaside village. It's warm and sunny during a lighter moment between Susanna and Ben. It grows gloomy and cold as the story tension mounts. Hedlund also uses wonderful analogies that refer to the sea, which further solidifies the story world.
Fun fact: Rebellious Heart was based on the love story between John Adams—the first vice president and second president of the United States—and his wife Abigail. I adored this story before knowing that, and loved it even more once I learned that little nugget of truth. If you love love, and if you love historical novels, I'd highly recommend this book.

What do you think of these lessons learned? Do you use any of these devices when writing your own books? Anything you'd like to add? Please share!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Calm the Chatter in Your Head #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writer's Support Group friends! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. If you'd like to join this super supportive group, please clicky clicky here.

Also, I wanted to let everyone know that my YA novel, The Boy Who Loved Fire, releases on January 28th. Stay tuned here and on my Facebook Author Page for news!

Today we have a guest post from fellow blogger and author Tracey Barnes Priestly, who shares tips on how to quiet the negative chatter that battles for attention in our writer brains. Tracey's book, Duck Pond Epiphany, is on sale now.

Take it away, Tracey!

Show me someone free from negative thoughts and, pardon me for being so blunt, but we’ll both be looking at someone without a pulse! How do I know? Because as a therapist, I’ve worked with countless people struggling to move around and beyond the cacophony of "chatter" they live with. 

You know what I mean ... those pesky, negative messages that alternately whisper and scream inside of your head. Sadly, negative self-talk can feel as natural as breathing in and breathing out ... in a gasping, suffocating kind of way. And here’s the thing. No one is immune, including yours truly.

Admittedly, in the early days of my career as a writer, I managed my negative self-talk well enough. After all, I rationalized, a Q&A column for working parents wasn’t exactly writing. No, it was merely an extension of what I already did - teach people skills to improve the quality of their lives.

But then I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. Ha! I quickly discovered a flash mob of negativity living inside of my head. They were a loud, screaming, mass of criticism. One blared: “Write a novel? You? You’re not a real writer.” Or how about this? “Get real. You have no training for something so demanding.” And then there was this gem. “Ha! Even if you managed to write a novel, you’d never get it published.” The chatter was endless and, it was absolutely deafening. 

And so ... I had to put myself on my own couch, so to speak. I knew if I wanted to pursue my dream I needed to wrangle my chatter into submission. 

My first task? To remember that even though my negative messages felt like the absolute truth, they were not. No, all of that chatter was just little old me, giving voice to my insecurities, in a feeble, yet potentially powerful attempt to protect me from failure. How? If I allowed the chatter to be in charge, I would never risk writing a novel, which in turn, would spare me disappointment, hurt, failure, embarrassment, etc. (Please, feel free to fill in your personal favorite!) 

Next, I began the rewriting process. It went something like this:

Chatter:“Write a novel? You? You’re not a real writer.”
Me: “Actually, I’ve managed to successfully communicate, in writing, for the last twenty years. Apparently, I write well enough by some standards.” 

Or ...
Chatter: “Get real. You have no training for something so demanding.”
Me: “Okay, I may have to learn some things along the way but I’m reasonably intelligent. I can do this.” 

Chatter: “Ha! Even if you managed to write a novel, you’d never get it published.”
Me: “I just want to experience writing in a different format. It’s far too soon to even begin to think about publishing!”

Did my flash mob go quietly into the night? Most of the time. But predictably, at different times throughout the process, they’d pop up. I’d wrangle them back into submission, put my head down, and continue on, determined not to let me stop myself

So please, the next time it gets noisy inside of your head, talk a deep breath, give the chatter some well thought out sass, and carry on. Your dream is waiting! 

Oy, the chatter in my head is constant! How about you, fellow writers? How do you calm the negative noise? Please share!

Tracey Barnes Priestley holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and spent many years as a therapist before moving into the field of personal coaching. She currently specializes in working with both writers and performers. An award winning syndicated columnist for 14 years (Juggling Jobs and Kids), Tracey now writes and blogs about issues she, and countless others face in the second half of life. ( As an educator and consultant, she has offered workshops, seminars, and trainings throughout her entire career.

An amateur singer and performer, Tracey finally earned a percentage of the box office when, inspired by her print column, she co-wrote, produced, and starred in a one act musical, “The Second Half: A Lively Look at Life after Fifty.” Married for 36 years, and the mother of three, Tracey lives among the redwoods of northern California with her recently retired husband and their loyal mutt, Bella von Doodle.