Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bane of 5-Star Reviews, Redux

A few months ago the uber- wonderful KM Weiland published my piece on 5-Star Reviews. Humbled today that top journalist and Fellow at the National Critics Institute, Porter Anderson, included prominent references to that piece in a terrific article he penned. Enjoy!



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Write Around the Corner: Literary Agents



As always some great stuff percolating in the Blogosphere. The Great Debate rages on regarding Traditional v Self-Pub/Indie etc., but for all those like me who haven’t decided for sure and at any rate are querying agents, this installment focuses on that process. I found these pieces to be very insightful, and hope you do too!

*How I Got My Literary Agent by guest author Jessica Arnold, author of The Looking Glass. Part of the terrific “how I got my literary agent” series, this piece really provides a sense of the process in a very relatable way with good detail and insight. Jessica relays her story in a raw and honest way, including challenges she faced and dealing with the unexpected. A very interesting article.

*Have you checked out the Literary Ramble site? You should, really good stuff, including great agent spotlight features, and myriad tips and tidbits on all things literary, with a particular focus on children’s books.

*Gotta love Miss Snark. Here is an assortment of posts about agent protocol and they grabbed my attention with their candor and insights.

*I’m a big Rachelle Gardner fan. Here is a simple, user-friendly but very instructive piece on finding a literary agent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Hardest Loss (indeterminate genre)



The hardest loss is not that precious thing you lose today, or that cherished thing you lose tomorrow as a result. It is that once sacred thing called yesterday which, now false, had led you to believe in both. 


(Flash fiction? microfiction? Poem? Not sure this constitutes any of those. Just call it musings on a melancholy evening.)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Author Interview: Rachel Thompson, The Bad Redhead~

Oh goodness I'm beyond thrilled to have gotten the chance to connect with and interview the Bad Redhead herself, the inimitable Rachel Thompson. As you'll see, Rachel does not consider herself a celeb , but she has garnered a well-earned healthy following. Folks--if you didn't yet know her, you'll be glad you do now...


*Rachel thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, I am humbled to get the chance to connect with you. In fact, let me start there. You have a considerable following—around 175,000 on Twitter alone—are busy as can be (we’ll get into that)—but you have taken the time (here and behind the scenes) to engage with someone hardly as well-known as you, and you have been kind and supportive throughout. This may seem a simple matter of courtesy to you, but as someone who has connected with many great authors, I have to be honest and say that not everyone conducts themselves in this manner. As your success and celebrity have grown, how important has it been to you to stay grounded, as it were, to stay you, and have there been challenges to this along the way?

 

Wow, too kind Daryl! I suppose it’s my introverted nature, but I don’t look at myself as a celeb at ALL. I’m not a household name, most people have never heard of me – frankly, I’m still shocked when someone tells me they’ve read my work or blog posts, I look around and make sure they’re talking about me…really?

 

It’s not false modesty. A friend of mine gets upset with me because I just can’t get my mind around that some people know me or my book. I suppose it comes down to this: everyone has to make their own path, and if I can help share ways I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, I’ve done my job. Anything else is just gravy.

 

As for challenges, every day is a challenge! Like anyone, it’s difficult to find and dedicate writing time, mostly because of owning my own business and being a mother. It’s all about balance. Okay, and late nights and lots of coffee.

 

*It seems you dived into the writing and blogging in 2008, after 15 years in pharma sales (I love how you say you’re ‘recovered now). You say you took to it like a “dog to a bone.”  This really interests me—and I hear from folks in similar situations—because I am someone who after many years in another career, am finally diving into my writing and blogging too. In my case, I’ve known all along, deep down, that writing is what I am meant to do. Did you harbor a similar passion throughout your life, or did it indeed more so crystallize back in ’08?

 

I’ve been a writer since I was 10 years old, actually. My dream of being a grown up was sitting at a desk and writing (remember back before computers? LOL). That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Being in pharma sales gave me a wonderful background in marketing, so I’m thankful for that, but I hated it. Hard to be creative with the prime directive – resistance is futile.

 

I quit in 2004, had my second child, and discovered blogging as an outlet, a release, really. It really just steamrolled from there and I embraced tech and social and more writing and blogging.

 

*I want people to visit your sites—Rachel in the OC and Badredheadmedia  --they are both terrific.  If they visit they can distinguish for themselves but can you take a moment here and describe the primary distinction and what compelled you to create two sites?


Sure! My author site is RachelintheOC.com and the focus, or branding if you will, is in line with my own books: real-life experiences and how they have changed a person. My guests typically handle heavy topics like depression, rape, sexual abuse, divorce, miscarriage, and more. If you’re looking for a ‘light’ read, do not go to that blog!

 

As for BadRedheadMedia.com, the focus is what I do in my business: social media, marketing, and branding for authors. I love it because I can help others who can’t afford my services, and still provide real life advice via the blog and various tips around the site.

 

*Let’s talk about your writing: three bestsellers—Broken Pieces, The Mancode Exposed and A Walk in the Snark (very jealous I didn’t think of that title). The latter two are humorous but the first is a collection of very personal, life-inspired essays. Again, folks can read about the books on your site(or better yet, read the books), but it is clear you draw upon some powerful life experiences in all you do and all you write. Broken Pieces obviously reflects this but have you found that even the most traumatic or difficult of life experiences has inspired and found expression through your humor as well, and if so, what can you share about this process?

 

I definitely feel strongly that we all have a right to tell our own stories, regardless of the topic or tone. Here’s what I tell folks: nobody is standing over our shoulder saying, ‘You can’t write that!’ and if they are, tell them to go write their own damn book.

 

Ultimately, a writer has to sit down, butt in chair, and write. Every day. Not all of it will be amazing, but somewhere in each sentence is a jewel. That jewel is what you keep.

 

*You really focus and have great expertise on social media and author marketing/branding. As you allude to, perhaps your sales background influenced that, but what else has stirred those embers? And what would you say to the plethora of authors (I was and occasionally still am among them) who harbor various degrees of trepidation about social media, building their author platform, and sometimes technology itself?

 

I’m not really sure why I love social media, to be honest. It’s something that comes very easily to me – maybe it’s the writer in me combined with the former sales/marketing person. I embrace it and enjoy it – most of the time. When I don’t, I walk away for a bit.

 

As for authors, it’s important to realize that social media is fabulous for making connections, interactions, and building relationships. It’s questionable if you will SELL using it, which is why I recommend people don’t spam links (which is against the various social media guidelines anyway), or do the hard sell….and just TALK with people. Remember, even though the communication is virtual, the person behind the keyboard is not.

 

*I actually first learned of you when someone introduced me to Monday Blogs, the amazing meme you created in 2012which enables bloggers to easily share their posts and connect with other bloggers. I can tell you that it has been wonderful to participate in, and that countless other writers agree—easy and fantastic way to get your name and your work out there and also to support other writers by sharing and retweeting their work too. It has really caught fire and I am convinced one of the main reasons in fact is that whole spirit of giving back, mutual support, literary community, which fuels it. Would you agree? What inspired you to start Monday Blogs?

 

Awesome, I’m so glad! Thousands participate every Monday and I couldn’t be happier.

 

Really, I simply built on an idea that kinda sorta already existed. Memes (rhymes with themes) have been around on the Internet forever, including on Twitter. I found that other memes that already existed for bloggers didn’t really make it obvious what people should do, so I extrapolated the call to action (blog) and made it one particular day (Monday),right in the meme itself.

 

It’s pretty simple: share blog posts on Mondays. Retweet others. That’s basically it. Many people will share on other days using that hashtag, but because it’s got Monday right in the title, I kindly remind them that WE only share on Mondays. Share your posts any day you want, just reserve the hashtag only for Mondays!

 

 

 *You have an advocacy page, where people can find help and support and even a HopeLine if they are survivors of sexual or domestic violence. And you clearly have a place in in your heart and are very supportive of our troops. Again, folks can learn more on your sites but is there anything you’d like to share about these causes here?

 

I think it’s important that people find resources so they don’t feel alone, especially women in sexual assault or domestic violence situations, where they feel dependent on the abuser for survival. I’ve always been an advocate for women and children, but I decided to use my social media platform to help as much as I can, so people will know where to find help and resources.

 

*I know you are a mom. I have 3 kids--my only daughter is named Rachel—she is 9, and a passionate reader and writer (she’ll be debuting her corner on my site soon). As someone who has known since about her age that I’ve wanted to write, yet for any number of life reasons only got serious about in these last few years, I am endeavoring to walk a fine line between supporting/pushing her. I don’t want her dream to languish long as mine did, yet I am try to remember it is her dream, and she is a kid, and I want to support her and I don’t want to push, I just want to support her in her journey, however it shall play out. What advice would you have for parents of those young, literary souls, and what one thing would you tell the young Rachels of the world, as their fledgling literary embers are just beginning to simmer?

 

I am a mom – two children, a girl (15) and a boy (8). It’s important to encourage our children in whatever endeavor they gravitate toward, whether that’s art, sports, or a subject like math or science. My teenaged daughter is a talented artist and is looking at art schools for college – that’s all her. My son puts together Legos for big kids and adults – he has the mind of an engineer.

 

I think there’s a fine line between encouraging and supporting, and pushing. I’m not that kind of mom who pushes, because I’ve seen to many kids become resentful and bitter. However, it certainly is on us, as parents, to help our kids seek opportunities and help them learn how best to mine those.

 

*You offer an impressive and eclectic range of services—blogging, consulting, Twitter management, branding, marketing and much more. Folks can check it all out on your services page of Bad Redhead Media. Is there anything in particular about what you offer that you’d like to mention here?

 

Thank you! I do offer many tips and tricks to manage marketing with writing time. That’s the ultimate struggle for any writer.

 

Also, I’m a strong believer, as I mentioned earlier, in writing what scares us. Too many writers don’t dig deep because they’re terrified of what their parents, kids, spouse, friends, etc., will say. And believe me, I understand that fear! It took me many years to allow myself to write about my own experiences, particularly the childhood sexual abuse.

 

So, I’m developing a new course for writers: Writing What Scares You. Four sessions (once weekly) with me, covering how to go about uncovering and putting to paper what holds us up. I’m not a teacher of ‘craft,’ because I feel that writers have to find their own way of writing. I’d never tell someone how to write because it’s so personal.

 

However, giving people practical tips and exercises to find that inner scary – that’s what I’m all about. I give writersthe permission they seek – which seems funny, since thatpermission, that choice, is already in them on what to write anyway! But I can so relate, having been (and still going) through it all as I write my next ‘Broken’ book, Broken Places (due Fall, 2014 from Booktrope).

 

 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Author Interview: Holly Hinton


I had the pleasure of connecting with author and actor Holly Hinton a few months back, and the pleasure of reading her book The Summer Sacrifice, discussed in this interview Holly was gracious enough to grant. It's a great read, and I hope you'll check it out and that you enjoy getting to know Holly as much as I have.






*Holly it has been a joy getting to know you a bit—thanks for taking the time to be interviewed, so that even more folks can get to know you too. Your book The Summer Sacrifice just launched on June 21, the Summer Solstice. Congratulations! Why did you pick that date?



I am delighted that my first author interview is with you, Daryl. Thank you for hosting this interview and for introducing me to your readers!

The Summer Sacrifice did indeed have its official launch on June the 21st. From the moment I completed the first draft of the book, I had that date in mind for the release. The day of the Summer Solstice has a particular significance for the Islanders in my world. And there is something inherently magical about a midsummer night.



*Your website tells a bit of the story about Dancing Ledge, but what was the most compelling thing about that vacation five years ago which inspired your story idea? What are some of the most compelling aspects of this book’s journey these last five years, from those incipient moments of inspiration, to the exciting and aforementioned launch a few days ago?

That family holiday in Swanage wasn't any different from all the other times we'd holidayed there. And the trip to Dancing Ledge was in no way unusual: it involved my mother boldly dragging her children across beautiful terrain with little regard for the close proximity of bulls! I would like to say that the image that started this whole journey fell into my head while I was at Dancing Ledge—that would be rather poetic—but it actually happened a few hours later. I wasn't thinking about anything at the time, I'm pretty sure my head was just filled with white noise, when a hundred or so dancing teenagers sprang into my head. They were on Dancing Ledge and having the most incredible time, only in their midst some of their friends (who looked very much like zombies) were throwing themselves into the sea and drowning. That's how it all began.
After the initial idea, I actually had a couple of years where I was out of the country, at first touring a staged show of Gulliver’s Travels which involved a lot of knee pads and stilts, and then playing Desdemona in Othello. The Summer Sacrifice story was still whirring in my mind though, and it wouldn't let go. So I would write notes here and there, make doodles on paper, and write down conversations. The scene in Blue Wood, which is now part of Chapter Four—Stormy Weather, was actually the first scene I wrote. There is something fitting about Jamie, Seveny, George, Max and Ella, who I first met in Blue Wood, being together on the cover—which was designed with meticulous care by the excellent artist David Revoy.
I would say that one of the most compelling—and at the time awfully disturbing—aspects of the book’s journey was my repeated compulsion to throw my computer out the window just before I had a breakthrough. I didn't know I was about to have a breakthrough during the “I want to throw my computer out of the window” phases, which made those times rather difficult. On many occasions my partner had to peel me off the ceiling or mop me off the floor! Another momentous moment was completing my first draft—which in hindsight was not much more than a passing nod to the book it would eventually become. But when I finished that first draft, it felt like the last five years had culminated in something tangible and solid. It was a real high for me, which put me in a great place to start the copious revisions!


 
*The Summer Sacrifice is the inaugural tale in The Master Game series. Did you know right away that this would be a series? What can fans expect in future books—and when?

I knew straight away that the book would be the first of a series, and I knew this from the very moment that the first image popped into my head. I know it sounds weird that, on the strength of something as miniature as a moving mental GIF, I felt like I had a big story to tell! But that's what happened, and I chose to listen to that feeling.
In terms of future books, readers can expect a similar level of adventure and discovery, less dystopia, and more magic. As the friendship group grow up they'll battle more outer and inner demons, and there will be some emotional fallout from decisions they make—and decisions others have made that involve them. Their world, which grew considerably broader over the course of the first book’s events, will continue to be explored. The series will continue to be dark, yet laced with humour.

In terms of the timing of the books, there should be around a year and a quarter between each book release. Don't hold me to that. As my mum said recently to me, “life is what happens when you're busy making plans.” But I really would like the next few books to come out without too much space between them.
 
*I love your protagonist, Jamie Tuff. I know our protagonists are sometimes based on a specific individual, often a bit of an amalgam of several people, and sometimes just a creation all our own. What and/or whom inspired Jamie?

The way Jamie looks is very similar to a girl who lived across the road from me when I was a child. The way Jamie acts wasn't based on anyone in particular. She has a quiet strength, and she is sensitive. I am not afraid to say that Jamie and I have similarities. When I have nightmares, I often experience the nightmare as Jamie: I'm at school, I'm in her clothes, and I'm being abandoned. As an actor, you must get close to the characters whom you inhabit. As a writer, it appears that I have got close to a character of my own imagination.

*I have also heard you reference how, at times, Jamie guided you. I have a sense of what this might mean and what it means to me when I write, but can you share what you meant?

Jamie was the first character who found life in my imagination, though when she first appeared she was not fully formed. As the story grew, so did Jamie's personality. And Jamie's actions in turn often moved the story forward.  For example, I would hear a conversation from her point of view and then write down the dialogue. Or I would see something from out of her eyes and what I saw would then become a written scene. Jamie is affected by events in a profound way, but she is also effective because she has the ability to bring about great change. Those personal qualities helped me to write the book. Jamie really was there from the beginning.


*I enjoyed this book immensely. Your writing is really tight, and you’ve pulled off something I’m working on in my own WIP, and of which I’m a touch envious—that elusive YA voice which—like Rowling—simultaneously resonates with YA but also with adults. It is all at once smart and will challenge young readers, but won’t bedraggle them into running for the dictionary every second. At the same time it is elevated and biting enough for adults, not dumbed-down, so to speak, plus it has wonderfully dark elements and is just plain fun. Do you find this a difficult voice/balance to achieve, and what are some of your secrets?

Oh my goodness, thank you for those compliments! I didn't write with a particular voice in mind. I knew the age-range of the readers I was aiming the book at, but I don't remember being too conscious about what vocabulary I was using. I did make a couple of revisions to the final draft, as I'd used a couple of words that were unnecessarily overcomplicated. I remember being a child reading The Hobbit and not understanding everything, but enjoying it as a whole. The Summer Sacrifice is possibly a book that children could revisit as adults, glean more things from it, and enjoy it in a different way. 
The balance of light and dark in the story came quite naturally, though I worried about the light parts diluting the dark. There are some chapters and characters to which I gave free reign, and I like that the book can breathe in this way. I figured that if those bits were a release for me and made me smile, they might have the same effect on the reader, giving them some respite before the down-slide of the roller-coaster! 
A bit of advice I found useful was to choose a paragraph that encapsulates your style, and keep that in mind while writing the book so that you don't veer too far off course.
I'm sure that my love of the dark, funny and surreal grew from my reading writers such as Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Mervyn Peake and Roald Dahl, and that in turn would have influenced my writing. 
 
*You are also an actor—I’ve seen some clips—you are terrific. Anything in the pipeline on the acting front, and what is the best way for fans to keep up with you there?

I am pleased to say that I have an international tour coming up which will take up the majority of next year. I will be playing Jessica in a TNT production of The Merchant of Venice. Can't wait to get stuck into some more Shakespeare! An indie “romantic dramedy” called Occupying Ed, in which I play one half of the romantic pairing, will be doing the film festival circuit shortly. To keep up with my film work please visit: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4490638/ To keep up with next year's Shakespeare tour, Twitter is your best bet: @HollyHinton1

*Now that the book is launched I know the strength of the story and the writing will carry it, but every writer today needs to be their own best advocate and marketer. What are some of the marketing and social media strategies you are engaging, and recommend for others?

You've hit the nail on the head when you talk about today's writer needing to be their own best advocate. Early on in my acting career I realised that the person who cared most about my career was me. I am not one of life's natural schmoozers, and I really have to psych myself up to push myself forward. But expressing confidence in your own abilities is a really necessary part of representing yourself well, and that relates to the writing world, too. In order to create a ripple in the broad book market, I must start splashing!
On the lead up to the launch, I made sure that I had a website for people to look at, and I started writing a blog. I threw myself into making connections on Twitter, and I looked out for articles that would help me on this journey (such as your own post Building a Literary Community: Why And How which I found on The Creative Penn).
In terms of recommending strategies, I still consider myself a baby in the realms of social media. I've made great strides, but I'm continuously learning. Now, marketing and publicising my book is not something I'm afraid of, whereas just a few months ago that idea filled me with dread. The key thing for me was throwing off the shackles of my own fear. If you write a boring tweet, the world is not going to implode. If you don't get a thousand followers overnight, this does not make you a failure. People hold great stock in the numbers, but what you really need to appreciate is people genuinely engaging with you and your product. I focus my social media efforts on bringing the book to the attention of people who might love it, and making lasting connections. The potentials of social media far outweigh the negatives, and I am excited about sharing The Summer Sacrifice with others. I wrote it to be read!

Ways to connect with Holly:









 



 



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Requiem for a Mouse, flash fiction

Flash fiction is a very abbreviated form of short story, typically fewer than 1000 words, often fewer than 500. For this mag--The Hoot, they do some great work and even send flash fiction via postcard--had to be 150 or fewer.

This tale based on an actual interaction with my two youngest kiddos. Hope you enjoy!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Redemption: Literary & Life Lessons from the Spurs' Championship Quest

Nothing like a little redemption.
 
I’m speaking ostensibly of my favorite hoops team—the San Antonio Spurs—who claimed their 5th championship last night, and in so doing exorcised the demons of the title which slipped agonizingly through their fingers one year ago. It was a loss which haunted them throughout the offseason, and then drove and inspired them from the start of training camp, through the regular season and playoffs and finally to the promised land. Yes, I’m speaking ostensibly of them but I’ll confess here and now to having lived with unabashed vicariousness through their quest for the last year, and so I am also claiming at least a modicum of redemption for myself. I’ve been a Spurs fan a long, long time, and though they are in contention every year, it had been seven years since their last title, and 15 since their first. A long time coming, but a testament to their class organization and class leaders, coach Greg Popovich and Hall of Famer Tim Duncan. The Spurs are the epitome of team basketball and of team, a motley crew of American and international players who to  a man put team and one another over themselves, and Commissioner Silver was right in saying—as he presented their championship trophy last night, “You’ve shown the world how beautiful our game really is.”
 
The commissioner might have said that to any team who had won, but I’m not so sure. The Spurs demolished their opponents, the arguably more talented Miami Heat, with inarguably superior team play—setting all sorts of records for victory  margin, field goal percentage and passing and assists(the field goal% a direct function of the passing). If you agree that basketball at its best is a team game then you had to love the way the Spurs played, for they played the game the way it was meant to be played. And through it all they demonstrated the class and humility for which they’ve become renown, and which can be sadly all too rare these days. They routinely made the extra pass and then another extra pass until they found not a good shot but a great shot, the best shot, and no one cared who took it, as long as it was good for the team. And in every interview and media session they passed the credit like they passed the ball, selflessly and beautifully and when their venerable, ageless leader Duncan held his children in his arms on this most exquisite of Father’s Days, confetti raining down upon them, you couldn’t be sure but it seemed more than a few tears may have been raining down from their eyes and those of his teammates and I’ve no shame admitting I couldn’t be sure because of my own tears too. This meant a lot to them, and it meant a lot to me too.
 
It meant a lot in the same way it meant a lot when my original favorite team—the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics, won their first title in 1981, having stormed back from a seemingly impossible 3 games to 1 deficit in the eastern finals against the vaunted arch-enemy 76ers. Bird wouldn’t let them die, and every teammate of his will tell you it was this spirit, tenacity but also team-first approach which fueled their quest. I remember writing about it in my college essays5 or 6 years later and even discussing it in a college interview, and maudlin though it may seem, one of the admission counselors said it made a difference in my acceptance. I didn’t focus upon the “hey my favorite team won, cool,” aspect, but rather, they ARE my favorite team because of how they play, and how they play is a metaphor for so many other areas of life. Teamwork, cooperation, one for all and all for one, making those around you better, taking responsibly but giving credit to others. It resonated with how I’d been raised—not always how I’d lived, mind you, but how I’d been taught—and so when around 15 years ago I realized the Spurs were the closest thing to the Celtics I’d seen in a long time—not necessarily the best team but the best TEAM—I was hooked. They have won five championships—Duncan being only the second player in history to win titles in 3 decades(his consistency, longevity and class are unrivaled)—but they will tell you this one was sweetest of all. For at least 6-7 years pundits have been writing them off as too old, the window closing, and they not only silenced those critics, they did so with a virtuoso performance that may not be replicated for a long, long time(except, perhaps, by them, though it’ll be tough).
 
And just like with Bird’s Celtics, this victory for Duncan’s Spurs was about more to me than just basketball. Right around the time Bird was winning his first ring, the first embers of my literary dreams were stirring within me. Not long thereafter, I KNEW I wanted to be a writer, but here I am some 3 DECADES later and only now have I really begun to take strides toward fulfilling that dream. I’m older than the ageless Duncan (he’s 38, old in basketball terms), but what he has done—and he’ll remind you it’s what his TEAM has done—has inspired me to remember that it’s never too late. That if you do what you love and work hard and believe, anything is possible. Sure, writing at first blush is a more solitary endeavor but in many ways it’s a team game too. You do the writing but you have your friends who offer feedback and support, maybe an agent and publisher with whom you work, a broader literary community with whom you connect, and of course hopefully a readership with whom you share your words and your dream. And it’s okay if you write for you—to some extent we must do that—but in the end we want to be heard, and there’s nothing more beautiful than singing our words out into the world—reading the words of others, sharing our words with them, being part of something bigger than ourselves.
 
So even if you’re not a sports fan or hoops fan or Spurs fan, take heart: you must never lose faith in your  dream. So what if you’re starting a bit late(three decades, here) like me? So what if you haven’t found an agent yet(like me)? Keep at it. Keep writing. Keep dreaming. Turn failures or frustration into fuel. Hold your head high  but keep your nose to the grindstone(with my nose that’s actually easy)—either way, you get what I mean. It is never too late.
 
Nothing like a little redemption.