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YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart

Month

November 2015

Playwriting

Written by Paul Briggs

Playwriting opens up new audiences for your writing and new avenues for success. Many community theaters are looking for local playwrights to showcase. This generally means writing for “exposure” rather than money, but unlike certain Web sites I could name, it gives you the chance to actually meet the people who like your writing.

 

If your story doesn’t have too many characters and takes place within one or two specific locations (preferably indoors) it might be a good subject for a play. Writing a play isn’t any harder than writing a novel, but it is a little less forgiving. Unless there’s a narrator or Greek chorus, the audience knows nothing about the characters except what’s revealed through their words and actions. In fact, that’s really all there is to your characters. The actors who portray them will give them not only their faces, but their inner lives.

 

My advice to anyone starting out in playwriting is to keep set description simple and not worry too much about the blocking. Let the director deal with that stuff. Concentrate on the real meat of the play — the lines.

 

We’ve all had moments, reading books or watching movies, where we were suddenly yanked out of the story by the thought “that’s not how the character would talk,” or possibly “that’s not how anybody talks.” In a play, more than anywhere else, your dialogue should sound spontaneous — even accidental. It should flow naturally from the characters and the situation. Spencer Tracy said to never let them catch you acting. If you’re a playwright, never let them catch you writing. If you have one perfect line you just have to get in (and I know you do) take the time to guide the conversation to where it becomes a natural response.

 

The usual rule is that one page of script equals one minute of performance, but don’t count on this. As you write, try acting the parts, and time yourself as you do. This will give you an idea how long your play is.

 

Also, don’t flex your vocabulary too much. I’ve seen even skilled young actors struggle to pronounce words like “omnipotent,” “peculiarly” or “trimethylaminuria.” (If you’re wondering what fool put that word in a play, I give you one guess.)

 

If your play is chosen for performance, it will escape your control and take on a life of its own. The director and actors will change it, and don’t be surprised if they improve it. They know what works onstage better than you do.

 

The biggest surprise of all will come if you take characters from a novel you wrote and put them in a play. These people you can picture so clearly you could spot them on a crowded subway will have not only different faces and forms, but reinterpreted personalities. Aspects of them that you thought no one knew about but you will suddenly be on proud display. You’ll learn new things about your own creations.

 

In short, I love playwriting.

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Top Ten Competitions for Young Adult Authors

finalistWritten by Melissa Craven

Not all Young Adult books are the same. It’s a vast genre with sub-genres ranging from Contemporary YA to Dystopian, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal. When I first ventured into the world of writing competitions, I automatically entered my Urban Fantasy in the Young Adult categories. It seemed like a no brainer to me since I’m a YA author. My first competition was with the International Book Awards and I placed as a finalist in the YA category. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait for the next one.

Nada… for the next three competitions—which I entered exclusively in the Young Adult categories. When I placed in the International Book Awards, I was given a free entry into a second category (as a thank you for creating a Listopia list of all the fiction IBA winners) in the finalist 1USA Best Book Awards. So I chose the Fantasy genre in addition to the general YA category I’d already entered. When announcements were made, I was surprised to place in the Fantasy category but not in the Young Adult genre.

Then things started to click for me. I was entering the wrong categories. The Young Adult genre is an enormous field of competition and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of thousands of entries. So rather than enter every competition I could find, I started researching competitions more carefully, choosing those with the widest range of categories and YA friendly sub-genres. These are my top ten competitions for Young Adult authors. Look for the best fit for your book, and remember, it might not be general YA. (And some of these offer cash prizes too!)

 

1.) The Dante Rossetti Awards by Chanticleer Book Reviews – This is my top pick as a competition exclusively for Young Adult authors. Here you will find YA categories for: Contemporary, Fantasy, Steampunk, Sci-Fi, Romance, Historical, Inspirational, Dystopian, Edgy, Urban, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Lighthearted-Humorous, New Adult and Tweens. The 2015 awards will be announced soon and I have my fingers and toes crossed for this one. This is also the lowest entry fee of any competition I’ve found.

2.) Readers’ Favorite didn’t work out for me this year, but they do offer a huge selection of YA and other YA friendly sub-genres. I plan to enter again next year, and I will be much more careful about which genres I select this time around.

3.) Global ebook awards has quite a diverse selection of genres and sub-genres, and the award seal is beautiful. I plan to check this one out for next year.

4.) USA Best Book Awards has a great selection of categories and an affordable entry fee. I do wish the award seal was a bit more jazzy, but as a very happy finalist, I won’t complain!

5.) International Book Awards is associated with the USA Best Book Awards with similar categories and affordable entry fees. Both USA BBA and IBA offer a competition category for Cross Genre books, which is not widely offered and very difficult to find.

6.) National Indie Excellence awards is on my radar for next year, with over 150 categories to choose from and a lovely medal for winners (I’m seduced by the bling).

7.) Indie Book Awards – Lots of bling here with medals and trophies for winners in over 70 genre categories.

8.) IPPY Awards Independent Publisher Book Awards is probably the most prestigious award for indie authors. The genre category is not as diverse, but if you win, it’s a big deal.

9.) IBPA Ben Franklin Awards is also a more prestigious award, but the entry fee is pretty pricey if you are not already a member of Independent Book Publishers Association. The genre categories are YA friendly, but I like this competition for the addition of categories like: Best Cover design, Best Interior Design and Best First Book to name a few.

10.) Reader Views Literary Awards, like the Ben Franklin Awards, has a diverse selection of YA friendly genres, with the addition of categories like: Best Teen Book of the Year and Best Book by an Author Under Eighteen.

 

Author Spotlight: Lauren Mayhew

laurenmayhew-page1 (1)Written by

L J  Higgins and Michelle Lynn

 

It’s that time again where you get to meet another one of YA Author Rendezvous amazing authors. Lauren Mayhew is the author of Reality is in a Dream and we can’t wait for you to learn more about her and her book.

 

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

My first book is called ‘Reality is in a Dream’ and it’s part of the Liliana trilogy. I am currently writing the second book in the series called ‘Mourning Memories’.

Reality is in a Dream follows a girl called Liliana who we meet on her 16th birthday. From the moment that she wakes up, strange things start to happen in her life. Not only does she start dreaming about family members that don’t exist in the waking world, she realises that she has powers she never knew about. We follow her over a year, as she tries to figure out what is real and who she can trust.

 

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

Initially, Reality is in a Dream was going to end without the epilogue. I was going to use the epilogue as the beginning of Mourning Memories, but it wouldn’t have worked. It would have made the beginning of Book 2 drag a little.

 

What age were you when you started writing?

Whenever we were asked to write a story or a poem at school, I remember getting really excited, so I know I was interested in writing from a really young age. I don’t think I came up with a big story line for a novel until I was about 15 and I started writing properly when I was about 17 or 18 I think.

 

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I have had writer’s block for most of this year. I think I got so caught up in trying to promote my first book, as well as going to work full time, that I struggled to find the time to write. That meant I wasn’t in the writing head space I was in for writing my first book, so I’m still struggling to get back into it.

 

Lauren Mayhew - Reality is in a Dream PlanDo you work with an outline, or just write?

I usually havea beginning and an ending in my head, so I start writing straight away. Then I get to a point when I realise that I have no idea what happens in the middle of the book, so I then write a plan. It’s basically a bullet point list of the book in sections. I end up writing notes on it everywhere when I think up something that needs to be added in. It ends up being quite a mess, but I understand it.

 

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

I would definitely take my time and not rush into it the way I did. I got so excited about it all, I didn’t do any research. Now I know about beta readers, so my second book will be done a lot more professionally!

 

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

It’s hard to talk about without giving away the twist at the end of the first one! All I can say is that Liliana’s parents kept a big secret from her about herself. She finally begins to understand the true reason why Duana wants her above all others with powers.

 

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

On the first book that I ever started writing (a love story which may never be completed!) someone read the first three or four chapters and basically slated the whole thing. They said that I should delete everything that had been written so far and start the story from then on. I would have accepted their comments had it not been for the way they ended it – “Hope this helps!” I cannot begin to explain how angry this made me!

 

The biggest compliment would be from my boss’ 11 year old daughter, Sophie. The first time I met her she got very excited at the fact that I was writing a book. When it was released, she read it in one sitting, loved it and started telling all her school friends that she personally knew an author.

 

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I write everything by hand, some might think that’s strange nowadays considering the amount of electronic devices we have to type things up, but I really struggle to write straight to a computer.

 

I also write down the date each time I start writing. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea!

 

Dreams can be difficult to write. In Reality is in a Dream, you’ve managed to make the dreams a major part of the story without breaking the action or boring the reader. What made you want to tackle such a big challenge?

Firstly, thank you!

 

For me, the dreams were basically half of the story. Without them, I would have had to do a lot of information dumping on the reader and long explanations between Liliana and Justin, as she started to remember more and more about Samson and Asher. That would have slowed the story down a lot more.

 

It just made more sense to write it as dreams so that the reader was finding out this information at the same time as Liliana. That way the reader is more involved.

 

I also tried to make sure that the dreams added significance to the story and gave important information. So many dreams in books are pointless page fillers and I wanted to avoid that!

 

If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

I’d love to be able to have the power to tell if someone was telling the truth or lie. It might not sound like a great power, but I know of a few politicians who would be quaking in their boots! I think the obvious choice for a name would be Truthsayer. I’m not a big fan of dressing up, so I’d probably just try and blend in with everyone else.

 

What people are saying about Lauren Mayhew and Reality is in a Dream:

 

“Telling a story like this requires an expert hand. When you have to use your mind to know the points when we’re in the “real world” and when we’re not, and Lauren Mayhew did a very good job of this. The characters were well-developed, and Liliana herself was a good lead character, a typical teenage girl trying to solve an unsolvable puzzle.”

“The writing kept me enthralled and wanting to read more which is all I can ask of any book. At its heart, this book was romantic- about people trying to find their way back to each other. What better story is there than that? I can’t wait to read more.”

 

Check out Lauren Mayhew’s page on YAAR to learn more!

 

 

 

Characters

12226885_1674434429437572_2084173535_nWritten by Cammie Conn

As in real life, books contain casts of characters as unique as winter snowflakes. If they didn’t, they’d lose their magic and compassion. People find immense joy in reading when they stumble across three-dimensional characters that remind them of themselves — or someone that they know.

In my books (or drafts), I tried to include a wide array of personalities that would serve to broaden the story line as well as provide some thought-provoking questions about the inception of their traits. How would these characters interact? What is her favorite pastime? Why does he walk like that? Readers are inquisitive creatures, which makes writing all the more enjoyable.

A few stock characters can usually be found in most fictional novels, if not all of them. But whether there’s a courageous hero, a powerful heroine, a cunning villain, or a plucky sidekick, the most exciting character (to me, at least) is the wounded anti-hero. This character is often defined by a pain-ridden past, a fierce internal struggle, and the capacity to be a hero. Make no mistake: villains and anti-heroes are NOT always the same. Villains are openly evil, complete with evil laughs and evil hand rubs and evil armies at their command. Anti-heroes are struggling against their nature and against what they know to be right at the same time.

Do they win? Not necessarily. In fact, not usually. At least, they don’t “win” according to our connotation of the term.

Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series is a perfect example of an anti-hero. Throughout the series, you find yourself alternating between rooting for and against him. In the end, you realize his great internal struggle. While some fans continue to vilify him, many argue that his life was, indeed, heroic. It’s all about perspective. Another example of an anti-hero would be Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars saga. (My nerdy is showing, I know!) In Star Wars, we watch as Anakin turns from a young, powerful person with good intentions to a bitter, broken monster because of his life experiences. But also, like Severus Snape, he ultimately redeems himself.

And that leaves us at redemption, one of the most touching and awe-inspiring qualities of an anti-hero. In my dystopian trilogy-in-progress, the heroine — Enna Price — finds herself fighting against several enemies, the most of which is herself. (No spoilers here … *whistle innocently*)
After all, the best heroes are often anti-heroes who win the battle against their dark nature.

A Sit Down with Melissa Craven

a sit down withInterview By:  T.D. Shields

 

What are the titles of your books? How did you choose your titles?

Emerge: The Awakening and Emerge: The Edge.

The first book was originally titled, “The Awakening” after the transformation Allie experiences on her sixteenth birthday. But that was a title I was seeing everywhere and it never felt quite right. I eventually settled on “Emerge” as the series title because I think that word embodies this period of time in the lives of Allie and her friends. “The Edge was a no brainer for me. I didn’t even have to think about it. The book is a prequel that takes place in the months before The Awakening. During this time, both Allie and Aidan are truly on the edge of a big change in their lives. For Aidan, the title holds a little more significance. This is not a pleasant time in his life. He is a powerful Immortal just beginning to learn how to control that power. He is literally on the edge of what he can handle and Allie’s arrival changes that for him.

 

We all need a hero! Tell us about your protagonist(s). Was there a real-life inspiration behind him or her?

Allie’s character was created as a response to everything I did not want to see in female leads. Some might call me a feminist, but I’m really a hard-core equalist. I wanted Allie to be that strong independent young woman, but I still wanted her to be a genuine, believable girl who doesn’t always make the right choices. Throughout Emerge, Allie is introduced to many strong relationships of equality, most evident in her deep friendship with Aidan who is also her “equal” in power.

In many ways, Allie is much like myself. Her insecurities and some of her experiences come from my own experiences. How she handles herself and the obstacles life throws at here are based on how I wished I handled things when I was her age.

 

What was your favorite part to write and why?

In the second half of the book, as Allie’s powers continue to develop, one emerges that also affects Aidan. The two experience A LOT of growing pains over this shared gift and it creates some awkward moments for both of them. The way this gift works really presents a challenge to me as a writer, but these moments (that will continue to develop throughout the series), are my most favorite to write.

 

When you sit down to write a story, do you already have the end in mind? Or do you discover the plot as you work?

Although I do some general planning with outlines and notes (and voice memos of me talking to myself while I’m driving), I am most definitely a “pantser.” I never really know what’s going to happen until I’m in the moment and actually feeling it. So I bounce from one part of the book to another. Right now I’m elbow deep in my current Emerge project and I have a hodge-podge of chapters and scenes that probably only make sense to me. Eventually it all comes together, but I always begin with a solid, but extremely general plan. I don’t like to commit to anything until I really get in there and see how it goes because it never goes according to plan! My characters are too stubborn for that!

 

What authors have inspired you to write?

My inspiration to write came from a place of an unsatisfied reader, so I don’t want to name names here, but several really bad YA reading experiences in the post Harry Potter years, led me to pick up my pen. My hope was that I could do a better job creating a story with strong role models and a believable fantasy world set within our own. Whether or not I’ve accomplished that is to be decided by my readers, but throughout my experiences as a novice writer, I did learn that writing a book is A LOT harder than I ever dreamed.

 

Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you cope?

I don’t often struggle with staring at a blank screen. There is always something bouncing around in my head that needs writing. And there is almost always something I’m excited to write about. But if I’m not sure what direction I need to go in, or if I’m not happy with the way things are coming along with current chapters and scenes, I’ll just start writing something that I know will probably never make the cut for the book. Those exercises help me get to know my characters better. Most of the time, I will write myself out of whatever issue I’m having. Honestly, that’s how The Edge was born. Years ago, I was struggling with the beginning of The Awakening. I didn’t really know the “before” Allie and Aidan well enough yet. So I wrote about their experiences before they met just to help me get the beginning of The Awakening where it needed to be. I wasn’t certain I’d ever do anything with that material, but it never went away and it eventually morphed into the prequel.

But sometimes I have to get away from the computer and just think. I do some of my best planning on a long drive!

 

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of writing your novel or getting it published that you would change?

If I could have a conversation with myself five years ago, I would tell past Melissa to go find some other authors to give herself a much needed support system. I would also tell her to hire an editor about two years before she finally did and to not be afraid of using beta readers.

 

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Make sure you love what you’re writing. If you have a message you want your readers to get, even better. You need something driving you to keep you motivated to finish. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Looking back now, I should have sought the advice of other writers and readers long before I finally did. I wish I had the kind of support system I’ve found with YA Authors Rendezvous way back when I first started writing.

Writing a book is like building a house. It takes a team of skilled individuals to create a set of construction documents and see it though from the foundation to placing the very last window. No one person can do it all. It’s the same with a book. It takes more than just one author with a good idea to tell a great story, and editing is the most vital part of that process. Educate yourself on what the editing process actually entails because it’s so much more than fixing typos and using correct grammar.

And don’t listen to all the noise. This is a weird time in the world of publishing and everyone has an opinion about how and when authors should promote their books. Some of it is great advice, but take it all with a grain of salt. Keep your head down and write a good book because nothing else matters if your product isn’t the best it can be. Write a good book and all that other stuff will fall into place.

 

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I don’t know if this is “strange” but I cannot write without music. I also can’t listen to anything that I could potentially sing along with if I ever expect to get anything done. Several years ago, I discovered Classical crossover music was my muse. The music is often contemporary played by a full orchestra or quartet, but sometimes it goes the other way, as classical music arranged to sound more like contemporary music. It’s upbeat and keeps me focused.

 

What toppings do you like on your pizza?

I’m obsessed with feta cheese on pizza these days. It’s dangerous.

 

Dogs or Cats?

Cats

 

What does your writing process look like?

I usually have a certain scene rolling around in my mind for a few days before I sit down to write it. When I do, I just jump into the moment and let it flow to see what happens. I will inevitably end up with a bunch of disjointed scenes and chapters that I will spend months arranging into the right order. I’m a stickler for content editing, so I’m never happy with the first several drafts. I strongly feel that a story needs time to evolve beyond the initial drafts. I will spend a lot of time revising, rewriting and rearranging, letting characters develop further along the way. I will typically redraft a novel at least five times before I will even think about sending it to my editor or beta readers. The story will always hit its stride during the editing process and isn’t something that should be rushed.

 

Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I’ve sworn off reading reviews pretty much every day since I got my first bad review, but I can’t seem to stop stalking myself. I’ve struggled with some harsh comments from the rare few readers who just don’t like Emerge, but I have to remind myself that the other 98% of my readers love my books. I thought I was prepared for the criticism, but I’ve had a few moments that have been difficult and I’ve had to grow a tough skin. I’m finally getting to the point where I don’t have a panic attack when I see I’ve received a new review (good or bad). I never respond to reviewers unless they are a blogger and we’ve been in touch or I’m doing a blog tour.

 

What is your best marketing tip?

Don’t be afraid to give your book away for free. And don’t be afraid to spend a little money on advertising even when sales are not immediate. In the months and even years after releasing your first book, it is important to think about LONG TERM success rather than short term sales. Get your book in as many hands as possible. When marketing, think about how many people will see you book. They might not buy it the first time they see it, maybe not even the second or third time they see it, but when they see it often enough, they will start thinking “hey, I need to check this out, it looks good!” Eventually you will start seeing results as more and more readers discover your books.

 

What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.

This is immaculate for me… but on a normal day…

My desk manufactures junk. I clean it up and I turn around and someone has piled books and papers and crap all over my desk! There will always be an iced coffee sitting on my coaster and there are to-do lists everywhere–and there is usually a furry creature snoring under my desk (or sitting on it.)

 

What’s the worst job you’ve had?

There was a time after college when I was really focused on getting my book done. I worked extremely part time as an interior design assistant, which was much needed experience, but I got paid in peanuts. I didn’t want to sacrifice the writing time I finally had, so I worked for my sister who was a property manager for several apartment buildings. I cleaned apartments after someone had moved out. I scrubbed toilets and nasty bathrooms and cleaned ovens that had probably never been cleaned before! It was the worst job ever! But I could do it on my own schedule and I worked alone so I could “talk out” plot points to myself using a voice recorder. I made great strides in developing the Emerge series during that time, but the work was … humbling. I have great respect for anyone who does that kind of work full time.

 

 

Help us bond with you a little… do you have a funny or embarrassing story about yourself to share?

My father really enjoys embarrassing us. He’s been known to chase us around the Wal-Mart parking lot with a lampshade on his head, like you do.

 

What question were you hoping to answer… but I didn’t ask?

This was a recent question from another interview that I would love to share with my YAAR community.

Tell us something quirky about the characters of Emerge that the reader might not grasp.

I have a ridiculously complicated method for giving supernatural gifts to my Immortal characters. I do not just hand them a supernatural ability to suit the situation. So much effort and research goes into deciding which gifts a character will possess. Aidan and his sister, Sasha are a great example of my process. Most of my characters are loosely based on historical figures and mythological characters. Aidan and Sasha are a reflection of the Greek gods, Apollo and Artemis, who were twins.

Artemis was slightly older than Apollo (by a few hours). Sasha is about two weeks older than Aidan. Artemis was goddess of the hunt, protector of animals. Sasha has an affinity with nature and can talk to and heal animals. Artemis was armed with a bow and arrow and was known to never miss her target. She was also fast on her feet. Sasha never misses her target and is the fastest runner of all the Immortals on Kelleys Island.

Apollo was known as the sun god and the god of music. Aidan’s “sun” gift eventually manifested as a gift with fire and heat. Aidan plays the violin and has a deep love for music. Apollo could heal injured mortals and animals. Aidan is a healer of mortals, while Sasha is a healer of animals.

Allie is also based on the god, Apollo and the mortal, Daphne whom Apollo was desperately in love with in Ovid’s, Metamorphosis. The details are endless, so I could talk about this all day!

 

 

How can readers find you? (Internet, social media, booksellers…)

Twitter

Facebook

Website http://www.melissaacraven.com

Pinterest

GoodReads

Amazon

 

Anything else you want to tell us?

Earlier this year, Emerge: The Awakening placed as a finalist in the 2015 International Book Awards, and just this month, was honored as a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards!

 

Writing for the Reluctant Reader

Writing for Reluctant Readers

Written by Cynthia Port

Enticing the Reluctant Reader

Dear children’s author, please write for the kid who would rather trim her toenails for the third time than open a book.  Please write books that are better than video games and snow days and pizza. Please write books that make you feel as good as when your brother admits that you will always be better than him at video games and snow days and pizza.

A daunting request, but think about it: if you can hook reluctant readers, you’re pretty much guaranteed that the avid ones will be gaga over them. It’s kind of like broccoli; find a recipe to please the most finicky eater, and you’ve found your family’s new go-to dish.

 

I HATE reading

A reluctant reader is anyone who does not show a natural interest in reading.   This definition is very broad, encompassing children with learning disabilities and visual or psychomotor issues. But even when medical and development issues are absent, a child may still treat reading like a chore, and I would know.  Though we read equal numbers of books together, I have one child who did and one who did not experience an early love of reading. For the latter, just about any other activity brought her more pleasure, including staring at a television screen that I had turned off over an hour previously.

Reluctant Reader

A Picture Leads to a Thousand Words

With my reluctant reader, the key to getting her into reading, the gateway drug, so to speak, of literature, was Graphic Novels.  The books she initially chose were glorified picture books – goofy, simple drawings with fewer than 20 words to a page – and even then I wasn’t entirely sure she was reading any of the words.  I did not care.  She was holding a book in her hands willingly. She was taking them to bed at night and then propping them up against the cereal box in the morning.  She was letting me know when it was time to go back to the library.  She even wanted to read parts to me. And whether or not I found them entertaining, I pretended to be enthralled.

Slowly, over several years, she increased both her reading speed and her word to page ratio.  By the time she was paging backwards through manga graphic novels as thick as bricks, she was devouring them the way I polish off a bag of potato chips – I mean carrot sticks.  Today she is starting the third in the Fablehaven series.

After looking into the subject, I suspect the drawings in the graphic novels solved a problem many Reading Specialists identify among reluctant readers: connecting text to meaning.  Simply put, some children experience reading as an exercise in tracking words on a page, aka DRUDGERY. The drawings help make the connection between the words and the story because, while she might get the general gist just by looking at the pictures, bothering to read even a smattering of words made the pictures more alive.  The more she read, the more alive it became. Ta daaa!  Reading!

For many children this process happens during the traditional picture book years, but my child needed an extension.  She needed a way to be “held back” to picture book and early reader level without feeling punished or embarrassed by plots like “the puppy played in the mud and needed a bath.”  And though I’m not personally a fan of Graphic Novels, for giving my daughter this second chance, I have undying respect and gratitude toward the genre.

A Day in the Life of a Writer Part One: Life style changes for better production

become a more productive writer

Written By

Korey Ward

Now let me begin with saying that I know everyone has their own particular way of doing things, but this is the routine that works best for me.

  1. Once I made the decision of being a published author, I knew that I had to make some changes to my lifestyle, so I may be more productive. I knew from the start I wasn’t ready to quit my day job so I dedicate my days off to my writing. When I’m not working at the hospital, I usually begin my day by waking up in the morning and drinking me a 16oz bottle of room temp water. I do this to rehydrate after hours of dehydrating throughout the night from being asleep. Your brain is made up of 75% water and when you’re dehydrated your brain gives you the sensation of feeling tired and fatigued. So drink water, my friends, it’s the first step in lubricating the “gears” so they can move at their full potential.
  1. Your body and mind are one machine, and like any machine, it needs to be taken care of and maintained properly to work at its very best. After my bottle of water and bathroom duties, I stretch for a few minutes and head to the kitchen for some hot herbal tea and oatmeal. As I eat my breakfast at the kitchen table, I look out the window and observe the coming day while collecting my thoughts and prioritizing my goals for the day. I find that having many small goals propels me forward toward the ultimate big goal. Most of us writers need to feel accomplishment and with the smaller goals it’s easier to get them done, giving you the awesome feeling of completion.
  1. I will then head to my desk where my laptop sits, waiting, mocking me, daring me to turn it on. Once on, I will go through and check my E-mails, Sales stats, and my various social media sites. I try to limit the internet time to 10 mins before unplugging my router.
  1. I find that it always helps to hit the day head-on with a plan. I usually have a set time that I want to write and then plan my day around that. For example, after my morning ritual for prepping my mind and body for the tasks ahead, I will usually write for a predetermined amount of time, and then when I feel a need for a break, I’ll set aside some time to take care of bills and other priorities I may have. Once everything is done I will head back to writing for a while until it is time to stop, rest my mind and spend some time with loved ones and doing the other things I enjoy doing.
  1. Sometimes as writers, we forget to take care of ourselves. Most of us have kids, we work, and we all have bills and household chores that all needs to be taken care of. I’m not going to lie, it can be downright stressful at times, but that’s life, and none of it is going away until we die. The good news is if you start your day off right with a plan, then you will be more prepared for the day ahead. While in EMT school I was told something by my instructor that made a lot of sense to me and sticks with me to this day. He said, “You have to take care of yourself so you’re able enough to take care of others.” I believe that applies with writing as well. You’re creative. You’re imagination exceeds far beyond the norm. That’s is why you’re a writer. You need to take care of you so you’re able to do what you do best.
  1. As Writers and even heavy readers, we are mostly introverts. A rare breed that likes to stay indoors and keep to ourselves, while only expressing our feelings through our stories. While I believe there is nothing wrong with that, I also believe it is good to get out and do a little exploring in the real world to recharge the batteries. I try to go on long walks or even hikes as often as I can. It helps me think, clears my head, and often times if I’m stuck on a problem or situation, the solution comes to me on those walks.
  1. Well guys and gals, that’s the Day in the life of me after I became a writer. Being a writer isn’t something that we do, it’s a part of who we are. It’s a life style, and we are all unique in our styles. What are some of your routines? How do you deal with stressors and responsibilities that tries to get in the way of your writing? Let me know down in the comments section. I would love to hear your story. Until next blog….Write on!

Literary Illusions: Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

YA Author Rendezvous Literary Illusion

Written By

Beth Rodgers

Writers’ block can be a real issue. Luckily, there are tons of techniques to help move past this pesky problem. Divining inspiration is not an easy task, especially when you’re eager to move forward with whatever it is you’re working on. Even if you’re just a reader, not a writer, readers’ block is something that can strike at any time as well – you just don’t feel like reading, or you don’t know what your next read should be.

It is times like these that call for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Finding stories in everyday occurrences is easier than one may think. Basically, it involves keeping your eyes open and knowing how to observe effectively.

Consider literary illusions. Yes, you read that right – illusions, not allusions. Illusions are a unique way to see the world through a different lens. Think of an oasis in the desert. In your mind’s eye, you see it. It relies on the concept of possibility, and the adaptability of your mind to function in such a way that you believe what you’re seeing, hearing, or for our purposes, writing and reading.

You may be thinking that it’s impossible to write with illusions. You’ve only ever seen illusions happen. I’m going to give you the tools to write with literary illusions and to know how to pinpoint them in your reading.

TV shows and movies use illusions which help with the persuasive writing styles they are trying to convey. They are trying to persuade you to believe their storylines. They must use illusions to help do this. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The camera adds ten pounds.” It’s also true that the camera adds depth and width to a set.

In person, the set of Central Perk, the coffee house on Friends, is much smaller than the cameramen would have you believe. Their camera angles add substance and enlarge the area that your mind’s eye sees. The same goes with the set of Jeopardy. On TV, the cameramen would have you believe that the audience is twice the size it truly is. These examples illustrate just how important the concept of illusion is in good writing. If the Friends cast was picking up their coffee everyday from a shop no larger than your bedroom, the hustle and bustle of people on a busy New York street coming in and out while ordering skim lattes and scones wouldn’t be nearly as believable and enjoyable to watch. The same goes for the set of Jeopardy. If the audience looked like it had only about 50 people in it, it wouldn’t seem the show has nearly the amount of fans it truly does. They add depth to make viewers perceive things in such a way that they are engaged and curious about just what will happen in any given scene. If the cameramen do their job, the illusion is captured, and you, the captivated audience, don’t even realize what is at work before you.

So, I’ve discussed how to more aptly notice it, but now your question probably is just how to do this in writing. I’m here to tell you that just because TV and movie writers have the visual medium to help craft their illusions, writers are just as capable through their words. Showing and telling are powerful tools that can help.

In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, she creates the literary illusion of a fantasy world where wizardry is cool, and young children can win out over evil forces and dark powers. The question of whether Snape was good or evil throughout the books is one that I will not reveal here, in case you haven’t had the pleasure of reading these tales, but the concept of whether he was good or bad throughout the stories was an illusion in itself. Rowling created instances in which Snape would seemingly be doing something threatening and with ill will toward Harry, and then she would turn around in the next chapter and have Dumbledore singing Snape’s praises and telling Harry that Professor Snape was a trusted friend and teacher, and there was no chance he worked for the darkest wizard.

So, which was it? Rowling’s ability to make us see Snape in both good and bad ways make his character as poignant a one as can be found throughout her stories. He is a character whom people love to hate, or maybe just plain hate, but if it wasn’t for Rowling’s writing, the glorious illusion that she spun out through those seven books wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining to read. She made us question ourselves as well as the character.

That is the mark of truly good and persuasive writing. Readers must ask questions. However, they must also have their questions answered. Open-ended questions might be fun to keep readers on the edges of their seats, but if they are not answered, you will have a broken link that didn’t connect the parts of the story. Curiosity must be satisfied. Create illusions, but help readers along. Make them see, hear, and feel. Write (and read) in such a way that allows you to do just these things, and your literary illusions will be dutifully crafted and created for your audience.

YAAR Official Online Launch Party

Written by
Sarah Wathen

This weekend, the members of YAAR enjoyed our first Facebook Launch Party! I say “first” because I think that everyone involved would agree the event was a smashing success and we need to have another one very soon—especially for our members and readers in the UK and Europe, who were largely unable to attend in the dead of the night in their time zones.

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The success of our launch was due to careful planning, generosity in contributing to giveaways, plenty of hard work, and the commitment of so many great members who showed up and kept the party rolling for three hours. One of my favorite parts of the night were the conversation starters, like “Which leading man makes you drool?” Many people nominated leading men from YAAR books! When asked where everyone was hailing from that night, it was amazing to see all the different places around the world, all of us coming together for a party!

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Members who tweeted, invited followers and friends, and helped get the word out did an excellent job! Over 130 people were logged to attend—I have no idea how many actually did, but the whole night was a flurry of activity it was hard to keep up with. The games never stopped and prizes were given away constantly. Our prize stash was impressive! Bundles of ebooks in every genre, signed books, swag and Amazon gift cards.

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In order to get the grand prize, there was so much liking and sharing, I think we made a pretty good splash that night!

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For everyone who was able to be a part of the launch, authors and readers—book lovers—thank you!

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Where Does A Story Line Come From?

Writers find inspiration all around.
Writers find inspiration all around.

Written by

Lauren Mayhew

The answer to that question is anywhere and everywhere. You can take inspiration from everything.

 

You know when you have an argument with someone and once it’s over, you think of all great things you could have said. In your head you are creating a story. That argument in your head could turn into anything you want it to… even murder!

 

Don’t look at me like that! Everyone’s had thoughts like that. Haven’t they?

 

Have you ever been walking home in the dark? Ever get the feeling that there’s someone behind you, but every time you look behind, there’s no one there? When you’re scared, your mind automatically goes into protection mode and you’ll start thinking about escape routes and how to get away if someone really is there. That could be an opening to an action packed thriller.

 

It’s not just scenario’s like this that can inspire you though. A few words spoken can start the wheels of your brain turning, as can a simple image. You just have to ask yourself the questions: What does it mean? Where is it? Why am I here? Am I with anyone? How do I feel?Answer those questions and you’re ready to begin!

 

I have personally taken inspiration from dreams that I’ve had – trust me when I say you wouldn’t want my dreams – and tragic events that have happened in the world.

 

You simply have to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes. Think about how their life is going to change after this event. You don’t have to keep it completely realistic, it’s fiction after all. Has this tragic event altered reality in some way? How many people have been affected?

 

A story line can come from absolutely anything. You just have to ask yourself the right questions to turn it into something incredible. Once you have your characters, they’ll tell you the story, from then on, you just have to keep up with them!

 

Here’s a little exercise to end this blog. Here’s a made up book title: The Secret of Darling Forest.

 

Now, tell me what this book is about. You can leave a comment below! I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Suspension of Disbelief

How far will a reader stretch their imaginationWritten By

Jeffrey Collyer

For most of us, the suspension of our disbelief is quite natural when we’re reading works of fiction. That’s not necessarily true for all genres and all books, of course, but certainly within the fictional world I inhabit, it is. And for a large number of YA books it’s certainly true.

 

Whether it’s paranormal, urban fantasy, dystopian, or my own genre of traditional fantasy, there are core elements of the story that revolve around things we just wouldn’t believe in ‘real life’. After all, whether it be dragons or powerful magic; whether the story includes traditional dwarves and elves or whether it tells of more original strange races; these are all the stuff of imagination. We don’t expect to see trolls walking down the local shopping centre, but we’re quite happy to belief they’re real on the written page.

 

It’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved the fantastical in books – within the pages of a mythical story I can retreat from the cares and worries of life. I can transport myself to another world and pretend I am soaring with powerful dragons, or use magic to protect those I love. In short, fantasy requires me to allow the impossible – welcome it even.

 

But our suspension of disbelief only goes so far. We often expect the characters we’re reading about to be in mortal danger. Thus, a sword through the heart will still kill the hero. After all, what’s at stake if the characters we love are invulnerable? What do they really overcome if the outcome is a foregone conclusion?

 

For me, there are other limits to my suspension of disbelief, too. For example, take the guy on the image above. Now I’m sure he’s a lovely chap, and I really hope he finds love. Really, I do.

 

But if the story I’m reading finds a twenty-year old supermodel gorgeous woman falling for him, I’ll probably snort and put the book down. Why? Because that sort of thing just doesn’t happen in real life; at least not sufficiently often to make it believable. I’m happy to suspend my disbelief for magic, but not so much for relationships: I expect those to be realistic.

 

The limits of your suspension of disbelief may be different from mine, but I’m sure there are things – maybe small nuances of daily life – you just couldn’t accept much change to. While all the while you’ll happily accept the werewolves, or the zombies, or whatever the ‘magic’ of your story involves.

 

So our willingness to go along with the fantastical has its limits. Within the parameters of the world that has been built (even if it’s a twist on our modern world), we expect normality to rule, and if we read something that seems contrary to that normality, then a part of us rebels against what we’re reading: our satisfaction levels with the story fall.

 

All of that said, there are some elements of fantasy stories that would still struggle under scrutiny, but which as a reader (and, yes, as a writer) I’m happy to gloss over. This is true especially within portal fantasies, like my own – where the protagonist is transported from one world (usually our modern world) into the fantasy setting.

 

For example:

 

  • So main boy/girl suddenly ends up in strange world and, hey, everyone speaks a form of modern English. Wow, what a coincidence! Okay, sometimes in fantasy the characters of the magical realm will use a more formal version of English, but basically it’s English from the last couple of hundred years. Amazing.

 

  • The writer has two choices here. First, they can have foods within their fantasy world that are all familiar to those of planet earth – again we have the same issue as above. Really?! Alternatively, they can come up with all new foods, or some kind of hybrid between the two. If it’s a portal fantasy, then the new foods option has the problem of our recently transported heroes suddenly hit with a diet unlike anything they’ve come across before. What would that do to their digestion? Well, we’ll just ignore it. It’s for the best really. No, really it is.

 

  • Every magical realm in pretty much every book has horses. They’re convenient to get places quickly. They may have other strange animals, because – well evolution has happened differently in this other world of course. Except for horses, which weren’t even global on planet earth until people started transporting them across the seas.

 

  • I sometimes think it would be amusing for a main character, in the middle of an extended scene where the fate of the world hangs in the balance to say, ‘Sorry villain, but can we take five minutes please? I need a pee.’  What about body odour and bad breath? Our unwitting hero can come from a comfy 21st century home and not be remotely bothered with completely different standards of hygiene. Two months trekking through wilderness, interspersed with sweaty battles. No problem – won’t even notice. Good looking girl; she wants to kiss you. Won’t even notice the fact that she hasn’t brushed her teeth, well, ever.

 

I’ve thought about these issues myself in my own stories, but with a couple of exceptions have mostly decided to ignore them. While I could come up with something to explain the fact that everyone speaks English within the story, I decided it would be pretty tedious for the reader, and overall would do more harm than good. It’s something readers are used to and will accept, so despite the fact that it’s not believable I’ve left it alone. Hey, it’s a story. People will suspend their disbelief.

 

What about you? Anything you’ve read, and gone “Hey, I can do the suspension of disbelief, but this is taking it too far”?

November – New Releases

by Patrick Hodges

Several great books to tell you about this month! A couple of these books are already out, and I am mentioning them now because I neglected to mention them last month.  Enjoy!

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9/29 – Emerge: The Edge: A Prequel Novella by Melissa A. Craven

The Edge Alienated by everything that sets him apart, Aidan McBrien suffers in silence. He is the most powerful Immortal of his generation, but he chooses to live behind a mask to protect himself, even from those he loves. Allie Carmichael is dying inside and she doesn’t even realize it. Half a world away, she endures the same isolation Aidan experiences, but in complete ignorance of her true nature. As she forges a hesitant friendship for the first time in years, Allie sees a tiny glimmer of the life she wants, and the person she wants to be, but her instincts tell her the timing is all wrong.
Allie and Aidan’s paths are about to converge.

Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal

To go to Ms. Craven’s Amazon Author Page, click HERE

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10/13 – Ascension (New Bloods Trilogy Book 2) by Michelle Bryan

Ascension

Tara is coming into her power…but she has to keep fighting tooth and nail. She must train herself to use her strange new powers and enter a mad tyrant’s domain to save the people she loves. The quest that began in New Bloods 1: Awaken continues!

Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian

To order the book on Amazon, click HERE

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11/1 – The Last First Game by Gina Azzi

The Last First GameWhen Lila Avers accepts a medical internship through Astor University in California for the fall semester of her senior year, she doesn’t expect much. In fact, she’d rather work on her tan and meet a surfer instead of logging long hours at the hospital and studying. But before she even boards her flight to LA, she meets Astor University wide receiver Cade Wilkins. When Cade turns out to be so much more than just muscle, Lila is smitten. Maybe a semester away from her friends won’t be so bad after all.

When Cade is sidelined by an unexpected injury, he’s devastated to learn of more serious health concerns. As his world implodes, Lila holds him together. As their own insecurities and doubts emerge, their new, fragile relationship is tested. Can Cade and Lila handle the ugly truths of falling in love when tensions flare, boundaries are violated, and uncertainty looms over the future of their relationship?

Genre: New Adult/Contemporary/Romance

To order/borrow the book on Amazon, click HERE

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11/23 – From Parts Unknown: The Complete Five-Part Serial by George Sirois

From Parts UnknownAbduction. Betrayal. Conspiracies. Murder. Welcome to the future of Sports Entertainment!

Out of work. Out of insurance. Out of options. All Stephen Barker wants is to provide a better life for his wife and child, and his only answer is to become a star in the last remaining sport in America, the Gladiatorial Combat League. But while Stephen’s intentions are noble, he has no idea that the GCL is becoming more and more corrupt behind the scenes. The current World Champion, Kyle Flyte, is forced to deal with constant rule changes proposed by the head booker Vornakai, including the use of weapons in the ring. But Vornakai is keeping his latest plan to usurp the championship a secret from everyone. If it works, it will turn an ordinary man into a weapon to tear through the GCL ranks. All he needs is a test subject. Someone like Stephen..

Genre: Science Fiction

Word Count and Why It’s Important

The importance of word count in writingWritten By

Jerusha Nelson 

Words. You can mince them, mark them, eat them, and be at a loss for them. You can keep, break give and be true to your word. Something you might not do with words is count them; unless you’re a writer. But why? Why bother to count them at all? Isn’t the story done when it’s done? Word count be damned!

Word count actually is important on a very basic level – words equal space.

If you’re publishing an article in a magazine and have been given twenty inches of real estate on the page, you wouldn’t want to submit an article that clocks in at 350 words because you’ll barely fill have the allotted space. When you’re considering publishing your 450,000 word epic fantasy masterpiece you might not consider the word count, until you realize that a paperback copy is going to measure about three inches thick and weigh about 2.8 pounds. While it’s been done before and successfully, that’s a little hefty to lug around and it’s gonna take a lot more space on the shelf than 3 shorter novels. Fewer units on the shelf equal fewer units sold often too. If you self-publish you might not care, but if you’re shopping your work to agents and publishers, they’ll care so it’s another thing to keep in mind.

In other words, word count counts.

Sometimes writers struggle with the word count. Some writers struggle to increase their total word count because their completed story falls short of the goal. Other writers blow well past their aim and have to trim down their word count. We struggle to try to hit our goals of writing a certain number of words every day to reach our goals. This is especially true every November when writers across the world try to reach the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days (an average of 1667 words per day)

Luckily, word on the street is there is an easy way to get help for these struggles. All over the internet there are articles about word count; how to add, subtract, and multiply your word count. I’ve taken the liberty to scour Pinterest to find what I think are some of the best articles about word count. But don’t take my word for it, check them out yourself.

If your story is complete and you need to increase your word count, you might consider adding a subplot. If you do, just make sure it’s meaningful. Here are some tip on how to successfully add a subplot.

Want to trim down your word count? Check out this article on concise writing.

Writing for a deadline and watching your word count crawl across the page? Here’s an article about how to boost your daily word count.

Maybe you’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo this year and you’re looking for fun ways to boost your writing while socializing with your fellow crazies -um, I mean writers. Here’s a great source for word wars, sprints and crawls.

If you like these articles and want a single source to get to them all, I’ve created a pin board with all of them. Feel free to reference it and if you find other articles you’re welcome to add to it.

One final word about word count- while it’s important to pay attention to word count, the more important thing is to write the story that’s inside you and if your story is good enough, you’ll find an audience for it.

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