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YA Author Rendezvous

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

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Author Advice

How I got past Writer’s Block

How to avoid writer's block - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

At some point in every writer’s life, writer’s block kicks in, and when it does, I think you can agree it’s the absolute worst. Even though you know you’re capable of writing the story in your head, the words just won’t come out.

What I’m about to say is by no means the only way to defeat writer’s block, but this is what worked for me, so hopefully I can help a few of you out if you’re struggling too.

My writer’s block began after I’d published my first book, ‘Reality is in a Dream’. I had a short break before beginning the writing process of book 2, ‘Mourning Memories’, and when I started to write book 2, I was very enthusiastic that the process would be swift. However, about 20,000 words in, I began to hate everything that I’d written up to that point, and then I re-wrote the whole lot.

This put a massive spanner in the works. I’d completely lost my flow, and although I had a very descriptive plan, I just couldn’t find the motivation or inspiration to do any writing. At this point, I was also hand writing everything, and then typing it up later. It was a slow process, and in the end, it took me 18 months to write book 2. That didn’t include the edits, and formatting time.

Because of this extremely long process, I kept putting off the writing of book 3. I couldn’t even bring myself to write a plan out, because without this, I couldn’t start writing, or that’s what I told myself anyway. But then NaNoWriMo came around, and with the encouragement of a few others in this group, I decided to give it a go.

I didn’t write book 3 of my trilogy for NaNo, as I was still procrastinating about that one, but I did manage to write 50,000 words of a different book, the fastest I’d ever written a book in my entire life. I was no longer hand writing, simply typing directly onto Microsoft Word, and the words just kept flowing. I had a plan for this book, but I think I only looked at it once. The story ran away with itself, and turned into something I’m extremely proud of.

50K50Days - Day 50 - Lauren Mayhew Author - Young Adult Author RendezvousSo, when I finally decided to write the third book in my trilogy, I took inspiration from NaNo. I set myself a new challenge, to write 50,000 words in 50 days. I posted every day on my social media accounts, letting my followers know about my progress, and that pretty much forced me not to give up. I still hadn’t finished the plan for the book, but once I’d started, the characters took over, and before I knew it, the story was written.

Having less of a structured plan to follow, a daily target to reach, and followers on social media expecting updates, I managed to overcome my writer’s block. In the space of four months, I managed to write two books. Neither of them are close to being finished, but the story is there to be edited, and that’s sometimes the hardest part for me. I’ve given myself a break from both of them, but I’ll be going back to the third book in my trilogy soon, and hope to have it published by the end of summer.

Set yourself a challenge, and you may be surprised what you’re capable of!

Indie Author Life and Other Forms of Torture

Indie Authors - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

Last night I had an epiphany.

One would think it would have been obvious to ME for a while now, but it wasn’t.

You see, I am a self-published author, though I refer to myself as an “Indie” mainly because I operate like a business – like a small press. I am also a professional writer, and I don’t say that off the cuff or because I’ve written two novels.

I’m LITERALLY a traditional working writer, so I will admit that gives me a bit of a leg-up in some aspects. And I’ve been a professional writer for nearly two decades – a paid, published, prolific, oh-crap-I’m-on-a-deadline, writer.

Because of my professional background, I WAS a publishing snob – I believed that to be a legitimate success, you needed an editor to praise your work and a Big Six publisher to fork over the dough. I thought you needed the stamp of approval from the publishing gods and a few lines about the deal on Publishers Marketplace.

And even after I decided to jettison my brain and self-publish UNDERTOW (mainly because I wanted to write the story I wanted to write for the first time in my life . . . and I may have been nuts), I was still seeking “traditional” approval. I wanted an agent or a publishing house to suddenly fall on me and say, “Oh YEAH – we want a piece of the action!”

I wanted their approval because I thought I needed it.

I thought I needed their watermark to designate a book as worthy — as great. The reality is that it is still a total gamble. I’ve read AWESOME traditionally published books and ones that are total junk. I’ve read lots of terrible self-pubbed stuff too, while others are phenomenal . . .  although the kicker is I look AFTERWARDS for a pub imprint on the fabulous books. I know . . . the irony is sick.

Indie Author Struggle - Young Adult Author RendezvousAnd it’s true – to get reviewed in the big newspapers, you DO need such a mark. Many places will scoff at you and ignore you if you say you are self published because in their head, all that matters is a traditional publishing deal. The comments of fans, the rave reviews from book bloggers, means nothing. I take comfort in the fact that so many books come out constantly, that I find book sellers also don’t have a solid grasp on who an author is, even if the author has signed a huge deal and is a screaming success among fans. Seriously – if this describes you, don’t take offense by their lack of knowledge – they are hurled books and press releases all day long. Those writers with the biggest marketing buck are the ones they finally stock.

I am blessed that the UNDERTOW series gets a LOT of action. I owe that almost entirely from the one group of people who I had never really aimed for before as a journalist: fans. I started earning fabulous, dedicated fans and more importantly, they were buying Eila’s story, posting pictures to Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram. They were talking about it, writing fan fiction on it, shooting my crazy story to the top of the Amazon bestseller heap. Teens even started recognizing me IN THE MALL, which was waaaayyyy out of the norm for me.

Yes – I wrote UNDERTOW for those teenagers of the Cape (I used to be one when dinosaurs still wandered the earth). I wrote for Cape Cod, but the professional writer in me also sought that “publishing deal” even though I KNEW I had taken myself out of contention the second I self published the book.

So last night, as I was cranking out pages for CRUEL SUMMER, my professional brain kicked in and I started thinking if I should query the manuscript (send it to literary agents). I started wondering if I should throw my hat into the ring with the publishing gods, even though CRUEL SUMMER is a spin off of my books.

But then a message popped up on my author page on Facebook.

It was from a fan. Someone I had never met who lived in Ireland and was head over heels for the series. She said she went to her local bookstore, who refused to order STORMFRONT because I didn’t have a snazzy imprint from the Pub gods. But to her – this random fan who was strolling the streets of a foreign country — it didn’t matter, because she went online and bought it anyway.

And THAT is when I finally realized that those publishing imprints mean nothing to readers. My background as a professional writer, means nothing. The fact that my name is not in Publisher’s Marketplace, means nothing to readers. Hell, sometimes MY NAME means nothing because they never looked at who wrote UNDERTOW.

To the industry, however, those things mean everything.

It was then that I realized, that while my professional self wanted to stay in the professional pat-on-the-back track, it was my READERS who made my day. It was their reviews and their thoughts, that counted. They PAID me, and paid me well (thanks BTW!). UNDERTOW will eventually make the same amount as an average publishing advance, not because one person from the right business said, “yes,” but because thousands of readers said, “HELL YEAH!”

For me, that knowledge is humbling. My readers have entrusted me to not let them down and to focus, not on my professional past, but on my rebellious Indie future. They want characters that they scream for, stories that keep them awake at night, and a crazy author that will aim to always please them.

Yes, it is true that I would like an agent someday and I offer outrageous applause to those awesome friends and writers who DO have publishing deals (and I will push your books into the spotlight as much as possible). But for UNDERTOW and all the books that live inside that world, I will write for my fans and keep it in my control.

My readers may not be from the Big Six publishing houses, but they gave me their stamp of approval . . . by the thousands.

What more could a storyteller ask for?

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Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!

5 Steps to Getting Published

5 Steps to Getting Published - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Christopher Morgan

Whether it’s skydiving, visiting the Taj Mahal, riding an elephant or learning to play the piano, everyone has that bucket list they’re trying to work through before they die. Having done all of these things myself already, my own bucket list is much smaller nowadays but one of the last remaining entries was to publish a novel.

This year, however, I was successful at putting a check into that box with the release of Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies. If you’ve ever wanted to put a check into that box, here are the 5 things you’ll need to do.

Step 1 – Turn intention into action

It might sound straightforward enough but the truth is that the vast majority of people that intend to write a novel never actually start. Sadly, the majority of people that start don’t even finish it either, and many of those that do get that far never cross the final hurdle of actually getting their book published. Overcoming this mental hurdle and believing in yourself is the very first, all-important step towards your goal of seeing your book in print.

Step 2 – Write something

Whether there’s something that you’ve always wanted to write or whether you are inventive enough to conjure up something on the spot, your book content is your next hurdle. Many people think that this is the hardest past of the process but that’s not necessarily the case. Don’t worry about making it perfect – just get something down first. You can always go back and make improvements.

Step 3 – Editing

There will be lots of opportunity along your journey to try to scrimp and save and do things on the cheap. This isn’t one of those. Don’t try to do this yourself! Get a professional to assist. Once you have finished your last chapter, the real work begins and it should start with you going over everything yourself – repeatedly – to make changes, corrections, tweaks, adjustments, etc. Then, solicit some beta readers to give you an honest assessment. These should be strangers that have no investment in wanting to spare your feelings. Your Mum will love your work and your friends and family will probably tell you it’s terrific. Ignore them all and get total strangers to give you the honest feedback you’ll need at this point. When you’ve done all of this, engage a professional editor to go over it all. You’ll be surprised at just how much better a good editor can make your manuscript.

Step 4 – Book cover

People do judge a book by its cover, so make sure it’s a good one. Yes, you can make a book cover cheaply and with readily available software programs like Microsoft Word but this is another area where money could be very well spent. The right book cover can make or break a book, so it’s worth spending a lot of attention on this. Engaging with a book cover designer is likely to be money very well spent.

Step 5 – Getting published

Sounds easy, right? Well, the truth is that it can be – depending on which route you take. When it comes to publishing, authors fall into two broad categories: Traditional (trad) or Independent (indie). The trad publishing route typically involves engaging with an agent, who then sells your idea to a publishing house, or at least tries to. This can and does work well for a lot of people. The catch is that you have to pay a percentage to the agent and also to the publisher. But, if all goes well, your book will be marketed far and wide. The downside is that you lose a percentage of your book sales, as the agent and publisher each take their cut. If you publish the book yourself, which is quite easily done nowadays, you’ll retain more of the profits for yourself, although it can be hard work competing against the traditional publishing marketing machines and will definitely require a lot more work on your part.

Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!

Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness

Burnt Leaves and Other Weirdness - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway

My mother is a wise soul.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s kooky and crazy and lives out loud, but she’s got this inner Zen thing going on that makes her come out with some true treasures of insight every once in a while.

One such gem was pretty simple: she said real writers, WRITE. They don’t perseverate, they don’t make up excuses. They just write – nose to the keyboarded, possible drink in their hand (hello, Hemmingway), and a brilliant fire in their belly that demands they tell the story.

I didn’t have that drive to write when I first messed around with UNDERTOW, but once I got really rolling inside Eila’s world, I loved it – the feel of the abused keys under my fingers and how the voices and scenes washed away the world as I worked. I mean, literally – the house could catch fire and I may not realize it.

So anytime I try to excuse myself from my keyboard, I remember my mother’s words (and the fact that my readers will get on my case if I don’t finish my next novel) and I get back down to business.

But I like to think that I’m actually a storyteller first, a writer second. The tough thing about being an obsessive storyteller is that you have a MILLION stories to tell. And because the new characters and tales are screaming to come out, I sometimes think I can weave them ALL into a current WIP (work in progress). Sometimes I do, but sometimes I control the urge and tell myself they deserve their own novels. Most of the time I spin so many stories in my head, that they all jockey for attention at once, which literally melts my brain.

At night I go running for a few miles, music blaring in my ears, seeking the muse within. While I pound the pavement, those stories that are whispered in my mind suddenly come vividly to life. I no longer see the road, but rather an entire scene playing before me like a ghostly movie screen. Literally, I no longer have any sense of where I am, only that I SEE the scene in front of me. The stories that win the right to be the next one written, are the ones that build scene after scene, night after night as I run.

Tonight I went walking with Kalli, and while we strolled she suddenly asked me why I was feeling the leaves.

I didn’t even know I was doing it.

I was walking under a low slung oak branch and my fingers were trailing through the tips of the leaves above me. But in my mind, I wasn’t touching them – my character was and the leaves weren’t soft and green, but curled and windburnt.

I turned to my daughter and simply replied, “I’m writing,” as I dropped my hands and shrugged.

Of course, she thought I wasn’t normal and commented as such. A minute or two of silence sat between the two of us as we walked in the near darkness. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye as she fiddled with her phone, seeming flustered, but then she finally huffed in aggravation and halted. “DAMN IT! Now I’m gonna obsess about what you’re writing!”

I smiled like the cat who ingested Tweety and pointed to the tree, sitting content and deep green in the night air, and said, “The leaves, in my mind, are burnt and the damage isn’t from nature. I see it every night when I run.”

Kalli looked at me, a stone-still stare that she has perfected over the years, and only her lips moved. “You are so weird.”

Yup. That’s me. The weird one.

I am my mother’s daughter. Apple. Tree.

My daughter is totally doomed to inherit that gene.

Don’t forget to check out our awesome giveaway here!

In Defense of Insta-Love

In Defense of Insta-Love - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway.

I do three things when I’m trolling the aisles of heaven (re: bookstore), searching for a few new books to burn my paycheck on:

  1. Seek out a kick-ass cover.
  2. Read the back jacket.
  3. Read the first page . . . and maybe the Goodreads reviews.

Let me tell ya – I’ve learned one thing about Goodreads and that’s that many readers apparently hate any novels with “insta-love,” but I’m calling out their whining as “bullshit.”

Why?

Because they’ve done it themselves. Repeatedly.

Let’s face it – novels have plenty of this “insta-love” thing going on, BUT I find that it’s (usually) not actually insta-love. It’s insta-LUST and lemme tell ya – we’ve ALL been there.

And lust . . . is dangerous. Forbidden.

Yet we don’t care, ’cause, baby,  we LOVE to lust.

We’ve drooled over the movie star, licked the Abercrombie bag (well, I have), and mentally stripped the barista hottie who’s serving Starbucks (yes, we females are just as guilty of doing it as the males, but we’re sneakier about it). Fellow writer Trisha Leaver would no doubt shove me from her car and haul butt for her TV if she realized the new season of Outlander had suddenly appeared because, well . . . hot Scot in a kilt! (FYI – it’s not on yet, damn it).

Adam Driver - Kylo Ren

Adam Driver is “Kylo Ren” in Star Wars, The Force Awakens

And Lust can corrupt your sanity and your morals. Take, for horrifying instance, my teen daughter: she’s totally in love with Kylo Ren from Star Wars. The second that jerk took his helmet off on the big screen and tried to suck the brain cells out of Rey, my daughter was drooling. DROOLING. Hello? RESIST THE DARKSIDE, GIRL! That’s lust.

And honestly, I’ve never known love-at-first-sight, but I’ve totally known LUST at first sight. Sometimes it evolves into love, other times . . . meh. More importantly, if you go back and really read all those book which have been labeled as “insta-love,” you’ll realize that they are actually insta-lust, which happens every second of every day.

I guess my point is that you can’t bash insta-love because it’s a truth of life (just sorta misnamed by readers). I tried to cover every variation of love in my books because I’ve known all the variations through my friends, family, and my own life.

For many, MANY people, lust usually comes first (Eila for Raef). If you’re lucky, it evolves into love (Raef for Eila). And sometimes hate comes first, then a slow “like,” then love (Ana and Kian). And sometimes lust comes first, but eventually burns both people out and they end up loathing one another while plotting one another’s murders (Collette and Kian).

And other times, a cautious friendship starts first, then love, then lust (Christian and Elizabeth).

But you can’t bash insta-love / lust because you think it’s cliché.

It’s not and we all know you’ve done the insta-love / lust thing with the movies, TV, books, and the Chris Helmsworth lookalike working on the roof next door. Even freakin’ love triangles are real (what a nightmare, FYI – in real life, it’s a major pain in the ass).

So, if I have no issue with insta-love / lust and love triangles in books, then what do I loathe in a novel? That’s easy: dumb heroines and crappy characters. Bad writing and thin storylines.

So, yeah – I’m calling out all you insta-love haters because we all know you’ve done it, multiple times, and lust is good for ya. If you’re gonna whine and protest about something, protest bad writing. Protest shallow characters, boring stories, and weak females, but not the lust.

Because, quite frankly, lust makes the world go round.

You can see Kate’s original Blog Post here.

Book Review and Rating Myths

Book Reviews - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by L. J. Higgins

The book review. Something every author needs and wants. They can simultaneously drive them crazy and make them want to cry and have them smiling from ear to ear. But while reviews are important to authors, I don’t think readers realise how vital they are to not only authors but also themselves. Reading reviews and ratings can help you gauge if a book is worth your money and time, and if it’s the right book for you.

Reasons you should leave a review:

  • For your fellow readers – Reviews are a way for readers to help other readers. By reading through them or glancing over a books star rating you can decide if it is a book you are interested in or not. If every reader gave a quick star rating and review of each book they read, then it would make it much easier for others to find their next favourite book.
  • Meet other book lovers – Through sites such as Goodreads, reviewing books and sharing your love for them can help you meet readers and authors who enjoy the same books you do.
  • To thank the Author who wrote it – Authors not only need reviews, they love hearing what you honestly thought about the story they put so many hours, weeks, months, even years into.

Myths about Reviews:

  • They have to be long and detailed – No they don’t. The only thing they NEED to be is honest. Even one to two lines can be enough to let people know what you thought of a book. Yes, you are more than welcome to write a review that breaks down characters, plot etc. But you don’t have to. It’s your choice.
  • Reviews have to be nice – Reviews are the one time you can ignore the saying ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are there to not only help readers decide if it is the book for them, but also to help authors learn what their audience loves and dislikes about their books. This helps them grow and learn as writers, so really your HONEST review is helping your favourite authors become the best they can be.
  • You can be mean in reviews – Okay, now I have to take back my words and remind you of the saying, ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are meant to be honest, not mean. There is no need to personally attack the author or the morals you don’t agree with in the story. Remember, just because the author wrote it, doesn’t mean it is their opinion. Stories are made up, as are the characters, and sometimes characters do or say things that we don’t necessarily approve of as an author, but feel it helps the story in some way.
  • 3 Stars mean a book is bad – For many authors, anything over 2 stars is great. Accompanied with an honest review a 3 star rating can show an author that although you liked their book there were a few things that could be worked on. Here is a rough idea of what star ratings mean on Amazon.

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So there you have it. Writing reviews and rating books isn’t as scary as many people think. You don’t need to be a writer yourself to leave one that is helpful, and you are not only helping an author when you leave one, your helping other readers like yourself. So next time you read a book take ten minutes to head to Amazon or Goodreads to let them know what you honestly thought about their book. You will make an authors and possibly a readers day!

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Keeping Cheese out of Romance Novels

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 3 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Michelle Lynn.

Cheese. Oh glorious cheese, how we love you so; on our pizzas, over our pasta, just basically in our bellies any and every way. Don’t stop coming. Never quit melting. You are beautiful and wonderful and oh so very tasty.

On our plates you shall stay and from our brains you’ll keep away. Ok, so I’m terrible at rhyming. I’m a fiction writer not a poet and it’ll stay that way. Hey! Another one! Stopping now. I promise. Back to the fiction writing thing, one of the series I write is romance. Don’t laugh at me, or do as long as you buy my books. That was a joke – if anyone out there is a little humor challenged.

Romance gets a bad rep and sadly, a lot of what is said is true. Some people don’t like the steamy aspects that seem to be creeping in to more books than not. Mine tend to be on the cleaner side- I mean, come on, my DAD reads them so I only write what I’m comfortable with him seeing. Some people hate the predictability of romance books- well, sorry folks, most of the time the characters are going to end up together. If they didn’t, there’d be hell to pay from angry hordes of romance readers.

But, forget all of that for a moment. It doesn’t matter, at least to me. When I read a romance book, I stop at the nauseating, eye-roll worthy, puke inducing cheesiness. I firmly believe that every romance has its cheesy moments, but COME ON!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWhen you read a book, or write one for that matter, you’re imagining yourself in that story. Book boyfriends/girlfriends are real things in the genre because people fall in love with the things the character says or does. Just picture it, the leading man comes to you- all hooded eyes, wicked smile, and chiseled physique- he opens his mouth to pour his heart out and says “You’re the light to my darkness.” Or “I’ve loved you since the moment I met you, I just didn’t know it yet.” I don’t know about you, but I’d probably do one of two things- Laugh despite trying to hold it back or make tiny little gagging sounds.

I’m a realist, sometimes a cynic, and I tend to write like one. That isn’t to say that extreme cheesiness doesn’t occasionally creep in, but it’s usually caught before publication. I just sent my new book, Confessions, off to the editor after a couple rounds of beta readers. Wanna know some of the stuff one of them caught? I actually said “The truth will set him free”. I didn’t catch that while I was editing. See, even us anti-cheesers do it sometimes. Anti-cheeser- I like that word!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWords can be cheesy too. It doesn’t have to be full sentences or ideas. Some people have visceral reactions to certain terms. I know at least five people who cringe when someone says “moist” but that’s different. I’m talking about the cutesy poo, lovey dovey words or phrases. Some books make my eyes hurt from all the rolling they do when they use the terms “snuggle” or “cuddle”. I picture my two-year-old niece looking up at me and saying “Wanna snuggle?”

I have the same reaction to certain words in steamier romances, but I’ll leave those to your imagination. I know, I know. You want to hear them, but this is a blog for people who read YA and clean romances. Jeeze, guys, cool your jets!

Anyway, it’s simple. This is my no-cheese policy – or just the ramblings of an incoherent, brain jumbled writer. Your pick.

YAAR Does NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo Experience - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, challenges people to write 50,000 words in 30 days, that’s an average of 1667 words per day. I’ve struggled to write that many words this whole year, let alone one day. You can read more about NaNoWriMo here.

I went into this challenge very pessimistically. Both of my published novels are around the 50,000 word mark, and they each took me around a year to write. Doing this in 30 days wasn’t just going to be exhausting, but mentally challenging too. However, I did it, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

I haven’t finished the book yet, which is encouraging, as this may turn out to be the longest book I’ve ever written! Chapter six is completely missing, and I haven’t written the ending yet, so I’d hope there’s at least another 5,000 words to add, not including all of the edits I’ve already made in my head!

NaNoWriMo challenged me to write in a way I’ve never written before, and I think I’ll continue in this way from now on. I wrote everything straight into Microsoft Word. Normally, I write by hand and type everything up later. There was no way I’d have the time to do that with NaNoWriMo, and it’s helped me to write quicker which can only be a good thing.

But I’m not the only one who took this challenge head on! Quite a few of us here at YAAR decided to give it a go, here’s what they have to say about their experience, seven days after it’s over.

NaNoWriMo Winner's Certificate - Young Adult Author RendezvousThis was my fifth NaNoWrMo and my fifth win. I love November. It’s the only month of the year that I truly write every day. My challenge now is to keep going until I finish this book … oh and to have fun with my local NaNo peeps at our “Thank Goodness It’s Over Party!” on Saturday. – Debbie Manber Kupfer

Every November I get excited. Not only because it’s the holiday season, but the creative juices around the world start reeving up and it’s addictive. Especially in the book world. And it’s all because of NaNoWriMo This is my second year to join the movement, my first year to “win”, and it was such a wonderful experience. Yes, I have mega bags under my eyes and I’m seriously sleep deprived, but the words that flowed, the relationships that were built (both literal and fictional, the stories that will come of it… EPIC.)Lili Mahoney

For the first time in my writing career, NaNoWriMo actually coincided with a time when I was able to get a lot of writing done. It really truly motivated me to write every day, which is something I rarely do. In the span of only 30 days, I was able to get 50,000 words written AND plan out the rest of the book (which will likely be over 100,000 words). Having others do this at the same time was awesome!Patrick Hodges

I had grand intentions for NaNoWriMo… I was going to finally get back in the habit of writing every day! I was going to finish my book! I was going to remember that I love writing and it’s something I do for fun, not as another chore! In the end, I didn’t write every day. I didn’t finish my book. I eked out my 50,000 words by the skin of my teeth on the last day. But I did it and most of all I rediscovered my love of writing, even in the midst of my crazy life!!T.D. Shields

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for four years, but this was the first year I ever made it to 50,000 words. My secret was getting up to speed by writing 1,000 words a day during the previous month. You really discover which parts of a book you’ve thought through and which parts you haven’t when you have to produce three to five pages a day on it.Paul Briggs

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I finished my book with 60,000 chaotic, raw, heartfelt words. I’m not sure what I’ll discover when it comes to editing, but having that rough draft done feels amazing! I’d say overall my experience was overwhelming, intense, beneficial, and gratifying. I’ll be ready to do it again next year…or in 2025.Tenille Berezay

Nanowrimo was like going on a literary bender, but with not nearly enough booze.K.R. Conway

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I completed my first draft of a novel that I first had the idea for over ten years ago. The challenge gave me the opportunity and the excuse to write it, and I am absolutely in love with the manuscript. Keep an eye out for my novel, Paranormal Painless.Shannon Rieger

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Keeping Reading in the Joy Column

Love Reading - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Cynthia Port.

Academic year 2016-2017 is officially ON!  Bring on the new friends! Sign up for  afterschool clubs! Meet some inspiring teachers! Start documenting every single page you read and every single minute you spend reading!  Wait . . . whut?

Sadly, often yes.

And I get why, I really do—not all kids are avid readers, and teachers need to insure that a minimum is happening for everybody.  For lots of kids, though, setting a “minimum” amount can make it feel like a maximum, as in, “Reading any more than the 20 pages my teacher assigned for tonight just makes me a sucker.”

Even worse, assigned reading can shift the whole experience of reading from the “joy” column in a young person’s life to the “chore” column. We definitely don’t want that.

Luckily, there are lots of way to keep reading in the joy column all year, and all life, long.  Here are a handful of ideas:

1. Make an after school or weekend library visit a regular thing, tempting your child or teen with more fun choices than she or he can handle.  You might take turns picking out books to read aloud to each other, or invent a library game.  A fun one that helps kids broaden their reading interests is “Reading Roulette,” where you walk down an aisle of books with your eyes closed, pull out 3-5 books sight unseen and select at least one of them to read.

2. Create a family reading time. This can be a family ‘read aloud’ or a family ‘read together,’ where everybody gets cozy on the couch with their own book in their hands. Either option can be 15 minutes a night, or a longer, once a week gathering—whatever works with your family’s schedule.

3. Read books for fun yourself, and do it at a time when your child or teen sees you reading.  It’s tempting to read only after the kids are tucked in, or only when they’re at school or sports, but as with most everything else in a child’s life, if they see YOU enjoying reading, they will forever associate reading with something fun and pleasurable.

4. Movies that have been made from books can also be a great incentive.  Right now my daughter wants to watch the Lord of the Rings movies.  We’ll make each one a special movie night just as soon as we finish each book.

5. You know I’ve gotta say it—check out the great books for children and teens at YAAR!  We’ve got so many amazing titles, and there’s always some on sale. Plus, every YAAR author LOVES to hear from readers.  Nothing sets reading more firmly in the joy column than the chance to make friends with the author of a book that inspires, delights, makes you weep, or gives you the shivers.

What ideas do YOU have for keeping reading in the joy column?

Learning Through Books For All Ages

Rita Goldner - Learning - Young Adult Auhor RendezvousWritten by Rita Goldner.

A friend recently shared with me this quote, from T. H. White, The Once and Future King:  “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds.  There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

My friend meant it as a general “life-advice” thing, but since I am an obsessed author/illustrator I interpret it in the context of my writing, reading, researching, publishing and marketing world. My current opportunity, shared with all my fellow authors, is to present that remedy for “being sad”, the “thing that never fails” to our reading audience. Before anyone assumes that the learning has to be sophisticated and profound, be aware that in my case, the audience is 5-8 years old. This group, usually with an adult reading to them, seems fascinated with dinosaurs, construction equipment, and underpants.  I recently bought the trifecta to read to my grandson: a picture book about dinosaurs, in their underpants, operating cranes and bulldozers. Needless to say, a big hit.

In my own reading escapes, I’m only looking for entertainment, but the unintended byproduct is learning “why the world wags and what wags it”. I never liked history or geography presented academically in school, but since I’m a fan of James A Michener, I couldn’t help but learn about Hawaii, Texas, Colorado (Centennial) Chesapeake Bay (Chesapeake) and Israel (The Source).

Since I’m now immersed in researching children’s literature, I’ve come to realize that for the little ones,  the learning isn’t just about the subject matter, it’s about the power of communication, the whole palette of adventures they can explore, how the world works, and even their own self-worth.  It’s a humbling and very exciting challenge for me!


Rita’s blog and website can be found here.

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Kickstarter for Authors

Rita Goldner - Kickstarter - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Rita Goldner.

At a recent meetup for Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing, a few people were interested in my experience with Kickstarter, a crowdfunding company I used to fund printing for the children’s picture book I wrote and illustrated, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. I’m blogging my own personal journey here, not the framework of Kickstarter, because that can be easily researched at https://www.kickstarter.com/

My publisher suggested Kickstarter to me at an early planning meeting. Dancing Dakini Press, a small but well-established entity, had used this method previously to fund printing of their award-winning books, and promised to guide me through their steps. I was reticent, not fully understanding the “how”.

My only exposure to crowdfunding had been a few projects I had seen online, for GoFundMe. I later learned the agenda of GoFundMe, as explained on their website, is to help raise money for  “medical expenses, education costs, volunteer programs, youth sports, funerals & memorials – even animals & pets.”  It’s obviously not appropriate for us in the book business.

The perfect fit for authors is Kickstarter. Their mission statement welcomes entrepreneurs in the fields of art, music, theater, journalism, publishing and technology. Their rules exclude any charity, focusing instead on projects for “creating something and sharing it with the world”. In my opinion, an author must think of the work as bigger than him/herself, and that it will make the world a little better, raising the bar for literary excellence, and/or showcasing an important concept, which in my case was an endangered species.  My biggest supporter was my son-in-law, who owns a search engine optimization business, and knows a lot more about marketing than I do. He endorsed my plan, saying that it was vital to have followers sharing the adventure and being part of the success.

My publisher recommended that I build my followers list to a minimum of 1 person for every $10 (800 followers for $8000). For me the list comprised Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest, and a business Facebook page I started, named after the book title. On the business page, one can’t “friend” people, so I increased my list by posting the book illustrations on non-profit organizations’ pages about rainforests, orangutan rescue, etc. Then I asked people to “like” my business page to see more illustrations. I also occasionally posted a short question on these pages, to elicit a response, and then asked the responders to “like” my business page. One of my questions was “Do you think education or penalties are more effective in stopping wildlife habitat destruction?” I was thrilled to see I got a response from Jane Goodall (my hero) on that one. I started this follower-building two months before the Kickstarter launch. I posted an illustration and/or a comment every other day on the business page, and shared it with all the other social media. I also bought two ads, for 6 days each, $5.00 per day, but I have no way of knowing if the followers were coming from the ads or the posts. Once I launched the campaign, I emailed almost everyone I knew, and posted frequent updates on social media.

The prizes for backers have to be something personal, from you. The obvious prize is an autographed book, but I also used notecards and color print enlargements, too. Some authors give lessons for prizes, on plot or character development, pacing, climax, conflict resolution, or any tricks of the trade they’ve learned along the way. It was an exciting (although sometimes bumpy) ride, and I have not only the money to show for it, but a group of interested followers who share my passion.

You can see Rita’s campaign here.


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Characters from History

Written by Paul Briggs

Sometimes I notice certain patterns in my work. Protagonists who are smart, but not too smart and with a very practical bent to their intelligence. Geniuses who are given a choice between trying to save the entire world — and possibly failing — or trying to save only a small part of it and being more certain of success. Strong female characters with medical conditions that cause them to dominate whatever room they’re in whether they want to or not.

When I start to worry that I’m starting to create the same characters over and over again, I work on historical fiction. Specifically, alternate history, which is usually classified as science fiction, but which I like to think of as historical fiction that’s broken its chains. Suddenly you aren’t confined by actual events any more — you can kill Hitler if you feel like it, or have St. Petersburg overrun by zombies and vampires.

Up to a point, that is. Just as in regular historical fiction, if you’re going to put historical figures in your writing you have to read about them enough to get your facts straight. More than that, you have to consider their life experiences and what they learned from them in order to figure out what they would do in a given situation.

Doing this for my own timeline at alternatehistory.com (called “The Dead Skunk” — don’t ask) has meant studying all sorts of people, including James Madison, Lord Liverpool, the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon, Lord Castlereagh, Joachim Murat, John Quincy Adams… and these were just the beginning. When I started writing my version of the Caroline Affair, I was exposed to a whole galaxy of wonderful and horrible personalities I never could have invented on my own, most of whom I had never heard of.

But the biggest challenge I’ve faced in getting inside the head a historical character was in writing a monologue about John F. Kennedy. It was about his struggles with Addison’s disease — a thing Kennedy never spoke of in real life and in fact took pains to conceal, inventing other stories to account for his stays in the hospital. I called the monologue “The Picture of Health,” because that was what JFK tried so hard to present to the world.

Wrapping my mind around the contradictions of the man was one of the hardest writing tasks I’ve ever done. When healthy, he was strong enough to swim three and a half miles towing a wounded sailor — when sick, he could barely stand. He was brave enough to attack Japanese warships in pitch darkness, but not to join in the vote censuring Joe McCarthy. (The Boston Irish had a certain loyalty to McCarthy.)

So… writing historical fiction is a great challenge. By forcing yourself to get inside the heads of real people who were very different from you, you expand your ability as a writer to invent your own characters and make them more real.

5 Things All Authors Should Include on Their Blogs

5 Things All Authors Should Include on Their Blogs via YA Author RendezvousWritten by Kim Bongiorno

Whether you are just starting your first novel or have had various publications over the years, most writers now know that it’s a good idea to have a blog as their own little slice of the internet that reflects who they are, what they do, and where fans should go to find thier work. The only problem with this is that many authors and writers aren’t bloggers, so they don’t quite know what to do once they have one! Luckily, there are no rules as to what kind of content needs to be there. Some writers simply update their blog with new publications a few times a year. Others blog about their personal lives almost every day, and even more do something in the middle.

No matter how frequently a writer decides to put new content on his or her blog, I do believe there are certain things that should be put in place to make it as fruitful as possible, both for the writers and their fans.

 

  1. Your full name (and blog name, if you have one), front and center.

This sounds obvious, but a lot of people forget! Make sure this is at the very top, so people know exactly where they are and whose words they are reading upon arrival.

 

  1. Who you are and what you do.

An “About” page should include your full name, a little about yourself, any accolades/awards you have received for your writing, a list of your books, other places you write/have written, and how to contact you. Make it easy for people to email you. You never know what opportunities could find you, if you just made it possible for people to email them to you! A photo of you and photos of your book covers are great, as well.

 

  1. A way for people to follow you everywhere.

Put social media “Follow” buttons and the blog subscription email opt-in as close to the top of your blog as possible, either in the blog’s header or at the top of the sidebar.

I highly recommend you have a separate fan newsletter sign-up, too. Fans can get emails from you when you have a new book coming out, you can give them insider scoop, announce upcoming events they can attend to meet you, invite them to join your street team, etc. Look at a few of the email marketing services available, like MailChimp, ConstantContact, and others. Lots of detailed reviews are out there to help you choose which is the right one for your needs.

 

  1. A square(ish) graphic with your name and your blog name or logo.

Put this in your sidebar, footer, or header, so it appears on every blog post and page, automatically. When you save the graphic to your computer, make sure to name it as your name, and possibly your blog tagline (if it is short). This way, when people share different posts or pages from your blog, there will always be an image with the share. This is especially important for when people share your blog on Pinterest: the name of the graphic/image will populate the Pinterest pin description box automatically.

Ideally, you will also create a graphic/image to include in each blog post and page with the title of that post/page to make everything a lot more shareable. You can create these with free resources such as PicMonkey or Canva. Just remember to never grab images blindly from the internet to use on them: either buy stock images or find free stock images (there are countless sites out there with them, each with their own instructions on how to credit the photos), or use photos you take.

I made the image for this blog post with PicMonkey in only a few minutes, using a stock image I purchased. Go ahead and Pin it on Pinterest right now on your Writing Tips or Blogging boards (all writers should have both—there are so many great resources on Pinterest for us). Doesn’t it look nice?

 

  1. A signature at the end of each blog post that has a purpose.

Close out with a call to action to read your books and share that post! Add social media sharing buttons so readers can share your post on Facebook, Tweet it out, pin it on Pinterest, email it to their writer friends, etc. You can see many options to do exactly that below this blog post, and I encourage you to use them to see exactly how easy it is to help other people share your work with their friends and fans.

I also recommend linking to your book(s), whether by embedding images of each cover that are linked to where they can buy them, or simply write, “You can see all of my books here” and link to one place they are all listed (such as your Amazon Author page).

 

With these five simple things set up on your blog, you will absolutely make yourself easier to read, find, hire, and get your work shared.

Now, wasn’t that easy?

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For a Good Time, call an Indie!

Indie AuthorWritten by Cynthia Port

Dear Reader,

 

Writers are reputed to be a bit standoffish, a bit inside their own wonky, tortured heads.  We’re either alcoholics, or suicidal, or just plain don’t like our fellow human beings.  By logical extension then, authors, as a group, must not want to be bothered by the “little people” who are lucky enough to read their books, right?  They must find such extra-literary contact irksome, sycophantic, even stalky.  Now listen carefully because I’m only going to write this the one time:

 

NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!

 

I cannot speak for the Rowlings, the Kings or the Kingsolvers of this world because I don’t know any of them, but I know a lot (as in many, many hundreds) of indie authors, and to a person they revel in hearing from readers.  I know this because the briefest note left on their FB author page, the slightest comment made in the grocery store, an email, a tweet, a blurry instagram pic (tinted to look like a Polaroid from 1963), anything that indicates someone out there likes their writing—sends that author trumpeting joy all over social media like a happiness t-shirt cannon.  Hearing from readers makes indie authors giddily, unreasonably, even stalkily, happy.

 

So please, Readers, don’t be shy.  Don’t be sitting there all on your lonesome as you turn the last page of a cool indie novel, thinking, “Gee willickers, I loved this book.  I wonder if the author is going to write a sequel?  I wonder if any of it is biographical?  I wonder if the centaur knew the chewing gum was inside that marshmallow before he gave it to the toothless guinea pig?  Oh, well, I guess I’ll never know, because surely this author wouldn’t want to hear from the likes of me.”

 

NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! (Yes, I wrote it twice in case you weren’t listening the first time.)

 

Trust me—hearing from you is her/his lifeblood and will make his/her day. You don’t even have to say anything brilliant, pithy or insightful.  On the contrary, it would be impossible for you to make a comment or ask a question about an indie book that the author of said book does not want to receive.  To prove my point, here are some questions that might, on the surface, seem unwelcome, followed by a typical indie author’s response:

 

Did you hire a two-year-old to write this drivel?

“Thank you so much for contacting me.  Funny you should ask, because my two year old did give me the idea about the marshmallow and the gum!”

 

 

Why do you bother getting up in the morning if this is the result?

“So nice to hear from you. I do most of my writing in the evening.”

 

 

Can I pay you to stop writing books?

“That is so sweet. You mean like a Kickstarter?”

 

 

See?  No harm no foul.  Though if you ask questions like this, you may find yourself written into a novel only to be gummed to death by a toothless guinea pig.  But hey, that could be adorable!

 

I’m nearing the end of my word count, but let me add one more thing.  If you are a parent, grandparent or teacher, please encourage and help (as needed) a young person to contact a favorite indie author.  I often hear from young readers, and it makes me even more unreasonably giddy than when I hear from adult readers, because adding to the pleasure a child experiences through reading is, well, one of the highest accomplishments I can think of.

 

So take it from an Indie: we understand. You’ve been hurt before in your attempts to form meaningful relationships with traditionally published authors.  But give us a try—we’re easy, and we’ll love you right back.

You Deserve Your Own “Renegade Version”

Written by
George Sirois

In 1991, the first of three theatrical Highlander sequels opened in theaters, and it was looked at as a massive failure. The bonding company responsible for the film’s completion stepped in and took it away from the filmmakers, resulting in a 90-minute movie that made absolutely no sense. A few years later, the producers and director had an opportunity to re-visit the movie and they fixed what went wrong and streamlined the story in a much , the bonding company’s interference was a blessing in disguise, since the film’s failure allowed director Russell Mulcahy and producers Bill Panzer & Peter Davis to look back at the entire film, remove what went wrong (including their own storytelling issues), add what was left on the cutting room floor and basically re-invent Highlander II to such a degree that they took an abominable film and made it work.

To differentiate this version from the one that was in theaters (that was called Highlander II: The Quickening), this new cut was known as Highlander II: Renegade Version.

With that in mind, allow me to introduce myself. My name’s George Sirois, and I want to take a second to thank the good people of YA Author Rendezvous for giving me this brand new platform to speak to you each month. Now, why did I start my first blog post here with a random piece of film trivia? To prove a point, and that point is that no matter where you are in life, everyone deserves their own “Renegade Version.”

Back in 2002, I self-published my first novel. It was called “From Parts Unknown” and it was based on a screenplay I had written over ten drafts of between 1999 and 2001. It was a fun story to write, but when I tried to sell it, it went nowhere. So I thought that my chances of success were greater if it were a novel. A year-and-a-half later, I was finished and an acquaintance thought I should self-publish it since it catered to a niche market.  After finding a great deal from iUniverse, the novel was released in November of 2002.

And once again, it went nowhere.

I thought that I would just have to move on from this story, and eight years later, I did with the release of my second novel “Excelsior.” But by the time this one came out, the landscape had changed dramatically from what it was back in 2002. The Kindle was born, eBooks followed, and the self-publishing boom began. When I was asked by a veteran self-published author about “From Parts Unknown,” she told me flat out, “You gotta get those rights back. Get them back and re-publish the book yourself as an eBook.”

So I did, and when I re-read the book, I realized that it didn’t hold up. The quality wasn’t there anymore. (Maybe it was never there.) I still believed in the story, but I no longer liked the execution. Therefore, I decided to take the steps that led to what was going to be my very own “Renegade Version.”

These are the steps I took for this journey that officially began on September 4, 2011 and ended on January 19, 2015.

First thing I did was make sure the original novel was pulled. If you self-published, this is a pretty easy thing to do. Just go to KDP Select, click on your book, and hit the “Unpublish” option. If you worked with a company such as iUniverse, then you have to contact them and let them know you wish to discontinue your title with them. You’ll have to send an email or snail mail letter to the company, and unless your work is bringing in a lot of money, they’ll likely let you go without any problems. But you have to make sure you have the rights before you start. There’s no point in going on this adventure if you can’t.

Once iUniverse gave back the rights (it wasn’t selling, and they already had my setup fees, so why not?), I re-read the book and took notes. Like I said before, I still believed in the story, and so I made sure it held up. For the most part, it did. But when I looked deeper, here’s what I spotted, so when you’re looking at your own manuscript, keep these in mind:

Outdated Technology: For some reason, I still had characters using VHS tapes. That HAD to go, along with many other items that made my future look more like the 23rd century from the 1966 Star Trek point of view than the 2009 one.

Updated History: A lot happened between 2002 and 2011, so it all had to be considered for addition, whether as a specific moment being mentioned or people or events inspiring elements in the story.

Thin Characters: Several characters had just a couple of scenes and then dropped out or were killed off. If this new version was going to work, then I had to introduce readers to people they’d want to follow.

Blank Canvas: This is what I call a world without description. If your characters are to properly interact, they need a world in which to do so, and I only now realized how little description I had in the original story. Some color was desperately needed for this canvas.

I also asked my friends for their opinion on the book. If there were any logic problems that I missed the first time around, they let me know. If something needed further explanation, they let me know. And when I was in the editing stages and working with my beta readers, I listened to their suggestions as well.

As the story grew and grew, and my enjoyment of this new iteration grew along with it, I realized something very interesting. My characters were moving in a very different direction than they did back in ’02. And so I let them, and this is the biggest tip I can possibly give to anyone: If your characters are moving in a specific direction, follow them. Don’t pull them back and tell them to stay on the path you had mapped out.

This was especially true with two characters, the Gladiatorial Combat League Champion Kyle Flyte, and my main character’s wrestling teacher Verne Dappy. Originally, Kyle drops out of the story at the halfway point and Verne only has a few scenes. Early on in the new version, Kyle and Verne are old friends and share a long conversation that I absolutely loved writing. I wanted more of them both, and so I kept them around. Their roles in the second half allowed them to be heavily involved in the subplot I had come up with in early 2011, the subplot that made me want to write this Renegade Version more than anything else.

Fast forward to 2015 (maybe I should have just said “skip ahead,” there I am with the VHS references again), and the final version of “From Parts Unknown” is finished, it has a home with a publisher, and it’s now available on eBook with a paperback version coming soon. I’m thrilled to say that I’m happier with this story now than I ever was before, and I hope that you’ll want to go on a similar journey with your own work. But keep in mind that I’m not suggesting you go back and tinker with a story that already works just fine. At some point, you have to move on. But because of the freedom that the digital age allows us, we no longer have to dwell upon what might have been. And if you know what missed the spot the first time around, and if you know how to make it right, then go for it! Get your story right, because if you’re happy with it, your readers will be too.

No matter who you are, everyone deserves a “Renegade Version.”

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