Inspired

A few have asked me if I’m still writing. I’ll admit life has been very chaotic since I published my last book. Moving to France has been more intense than I imagined, and although we’ve had some amazing moments, it is still a lot of work to create a whole new life overseas.

But, the really incredible thing is this: Northern France is the dream world I always wanted to live in. I am surrounded by things that inspire me at every turn. A wall of ivy, a set of ruins, a moss-covered pathway, fog creeping through the trees, a chateau peeking above the forest in the distance, ancient stones with faded markings… there is something new to discover every day.

And there are funny things, too, that stick in my head. For instance, the way someone looks at you when you try to explain you are moving here…on purpose. The way some words sound the same, but mean something VERY different. The odd little social rules that no one seems to realize are actual rules, but you seem to be breaking every single one. We weren’t here a week before I began to imagine myself as a character in a story that was equal parts ridiculous and adventurous. This lead me to invent other characters, people I could send off into the woods the way I wanted to be able to roam, or into a chateau where some local can embarass her and woo her all at the same time. I was writing stories in my head every day for weeks before I finally had the time to sit down and write a single word. Then, one day, my husband said, “I think it’s time for you to write. Tonight, I want you to sit down and write for a few hours. If you do that every night before we leave, you’ll have a rough draft of your next book finished.”

Okay, first of all, how lucky am I to have a guy who sees the story inside of me itching to get out and helps me prioritize that passion? I am so blessed! Secondly, I really thought I would be writing one of the two books I have slated to finish next. Instead, I found myself pouring out the first few chapters of a new contemporary romantic comedy. It’s fun to let the story take over and see where it goes. It’s so much fun to write characters who are desperate to be heard. I can’t wait for you to see a little of what life is like here in France through the eyes of my main character.

There are other stories to be told here, too. The village, the chateau, the medieval fortress, they all are fabulous settings. I can imagine Merrilyn and Justan here as I walk through the forest, and I’m eager to return to their journey with all of these beautiful scenes to help make it come alive. My mind is full of ideas to bring a troupe here to eastern France and see how the world I’ve created in the Soul Ties series takes on new dimension with the added cultures and history of Europe. I mean, just imagine a troupe of gypsies, or a scene that included the gargoyles of Notre Dame! Wouldn’t that be amazing?

There is so much writing to do here, and I’m only just getting started. So, don’t give up on me, friends. If you want to see me writing more, then share my books with your friends. Introduce them to one of my series. You can start them all for FREE! Here’s how:

The Light of Loian Series: A Light in the Darkness

The Wanderer Series: Seen

The Soul Ties Series: A Familiar Darkness

 

It’s a Tag Party – And You’re It!

Happy Monday! This week we’re starting off with a fun way to support your favorite authors from the site – A Tag Party. All you have to do is follow the links below to each book. Be sure to sign in with your amazon account before you go any farther. Scroll down to where it says, “Tags Customers Associate with This Product.” Now you have an option to “Agree with all tags” or to add your own. Try to think of all the words or phrases you might use to describe the book or to search for it. This will help others find the book when they are looking for a “teen fantasy” or a book about “teen secret agents.” Even if you haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, you can still hit “Agree with all tags”.

How does this help the authors? It gets their book moved up higher on search lists. This helps them to sell more books. It’s an easy way to make a big difference for an author you love. So, now that you know the game, get busy tagging because YOU’RE IT!

Heather Sutherlin    A Light In The Darkness (Light Series Book 1)

Joshua Unruh          TEEN Agents in The Plundered Parent Protocol 

Jessie Sanders          Into The Flames (Grover Cleveland Academy Book 1)

Keith Robinson       Island of Fog (Book 1)

S.M. Boyce              The Grimoire: Lichgates

Roger Eschbacher    Dragonfriend (Leonard the Great)

Brian Clopper          Graham the Gargoyle (Cascade)

Christine Locke       Open Door (The Legacy Series)

S.R. Johannes          Untraceable (The Nature of Grace, Book 1)

 

And since it’s a party, there must be treats, right? So, to celebrate our first Tag Party, I’m giving away a free ebook! You can choose either A Light In the Darkness or its sequel which is coming soon (I still haven’t released its name!) To win, tag all the books on the list and leave me a comment here letting me know you’re a Tag Party pro. Bonus points if you tweet about it or give us a shout out on facebook. Don’t forget to include the link when you share, that way your friends can find us and I’ll know who to watch for the win!  The more taggers we have playing, the easier it will be for our friends to find these fabulous books on Amazon next time they’re hunting for a great book. I will choose one winner at the end of the week. Let the games begin!

>Freebie Friday Goes Hip-Hop

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I am thrilled to share today’s freebie with all of you.  It is not a book this week, but as a writing teacher, I am super excited about this one, guys, and I know you are going to love it.

Earlier this week I was discussing tools for teaching kids how to write really great stuff with my pal, Joshua Unruh.  He suggested I check out Flocabulary, a company that uses hip hop to help kids learn academic material.  I’m honestly the least “hip-hop” person I know, except for maybe my mother in law, but that’s why Flocabulary is so fabulous.  Kids love hip-hop and Flocabulary brings that fun and creativity that they naturally connect with and uses its power to introduce great material, including writing techniques.  You get to be the cool teacher, just by sharing Flocabulary with your kids!

Well, naturally I explored their website and I loved their recent post about 5 ways to teach writing with Flocabulary.   That’s when I went to find my 12 year old to drag her into the middle of this.  We don’t listen to a lot of rap music in our house (if you don’t count the rapping on Electric Company, that total goes down to “none”) so I wasn’t sure how she would respond to this idea.  What an idiot I am sometimes.  Of course she loved it!  We watched a few of their free videos and she was asking me to play them again and again.  Then, she wanted me to print off the lyrics to the Transitions song.  I asked her why.  “So I can memorize them.  I didn’t know this stuff and I think it would be fun to learn the rap so I can remember it.”  That’s the whole point of Flocabulary.  She got it!  It grabs their attention and makes them want more.

I contacted Flocabulary and asked permission to blog about them.  They were excited to share their hard work with all of us.  If you go to they’re website, you’ll find Flocabulary’s great products are accessible without signing up for a trial. But thanks to the awesome people over at Flocabulary, we have an incredible opportunity to share the fun of hip-hop learning with our students this spring.

When you visit Flocabulary’s website, you’ll see that they offer everyone a free trial which provides unlimited access to all of their songs and videos for 14 days. 

But wait, there’s more!  Just for you, the good people at Flocabulary have created a special code that will allow you to swim in the Flocabulary fun for a whole 30 free days! 
Just use this link: http://flocabulary.com/kidsgottawrite30/ or enter the code “kidsgottawrite30” when you sign up for a free trial and the 30 days of Flocabulary awesomeness are yours!  

Now don’t be stingy. Share this great deal with all of your teacher friends and the great parents you know. We could all use a little help when it comes to enticing our students to learn. And don’t forget to check out Flocabulary’s other fabulous products, too! I know a certain girl in this house who is going to be begging me for the Flocabulary Shakespeare.  


Thank you, Flocabulary for sharing your genius with all of us and making us the coolest teachers on the block!

>Friendly Free Book Friday

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Happy Friday, Friends!  This week we have a special guest among us.  On Wednesday I shared with you one of my new favorite books, Into the Flames.  Today we are delighted to welcome the author, Jessie Sanders, as our guest.  In addition to writing, Jessie is an editor who shares her special skills with new authors to help them improve their fabulous work before it meets the world.

Today she shares her thoughts on how to build a better fantasy world.  Thanks, Jessie!

You might have heard it said that your story is like an iceberg. Well, it’s true. The tiny

tip that you see at the top is the story that your readers get to read in book form. The rest,
hidden under the surface, is everything that you, the author, know about your world and
your characters. Without the bottom of your iceberg, the tip of it will just float away,
baseless. Scary, right?

The core of every fantasy novel is a well-established fantasy world. Remember the
detailed inner workings of JK Rowling’s Ministry of Magic? How about all they ways
that Meyers’s vampires differ from the original legend? Both these authors took the time
to develop their worlds in such a way that you could step into it and really live it.

There is a very simple question that you need to ask yourself every time you begin
working on creating a world: What makes my world special? Even if you have a lot of
similarities to other fantasy novels (and it’s something that will be inevitable), you need
to have your own special take for your story and build from that. After you’ve deduced
what is special about your world, you can build it up into something that everyone will
want to enter with you.

If your story is set in a completely different universe, then Patricia Wrede, author
of Dealing with Dragons, has created a great checklist to get you thinking about
everything you will need to know about your world. The questions include things like
your country’s climate and geography, the rules of your magic system, and the type of
currency your characters will use.

The rules of your magic system are important whether you’re in a galaxy far, far, away
or just under some subway tunnels in London (that’s a reference to Neil Gaiman’s
Neverwhere, in case you want to check it out). High fantasy author Brandon Sanderson
has some great rules to consider when working through your magic system: Sandersons-First-Law. In my novel, Into the Flames, one of the characters mentions the rules that govern their superpowers. Rahab, the main character, expresses disbelief that there is such a thing. But even though Rahab doesn’t know it, I’ve been running her and her friends’ lives by a set of rules that
governs what they can and can’t do. In the end, the restrictions to their superpowers raise
the stakes and make the ending more exciting.

Even if your characters use magic sparingly or never at all, you still need to know what
would happen if your bad guy suddenly decides to use your version of the cruciatus curse
to torture your hero. Take your main character through a typical day in his life. What
types of magic might he encounter, and what would happen if something went totally
awry? Why is that what happens? In every scenario, what could possibly go wrong?
Figuring out alternate paths for your story to take ultimately makes the path you choose
much stronger.

Remember whenever you’re creating a new world that it’s great to let others’ works
inspire you, but you should never mimic anyone else’s ideas. If you love the idea of a
magical train that has a secret train station, then put one in your story! But make sure to
make it your own. This world already has a Platform 9 ¾, and we don’t need another. But
we do need whatever your imagination can bring us! Take the time before you delve into your
plot to sit down and really hash out what your world will look like and how it will work.
Your readers will thank you, and it’s actually a lot of fun!

* * * * * * *

Did you think I forgot the free book for Friday?  Well, to celebrate the release of Jessie Sanders’ first book, her publisher, Consortium Books, is offering one special reader a free copy of Into the Flames.  Leave a comment below for a chance to win.  Then, on Monday, we’ll announce the lucky reader that gets to take home Into the Flames.

Gotta Write,
Heather

>Free Book Fridays

>Fridays at Kids Gotta Write are reserved for free books and good friends of the writerly persuasion.  I have some really fabulous writers lined up for the next few weeks, so be sure you come back on Fridays and see what they have to say about writing.  There might even be a free book in it for some of you!

This week I wanted to share one of my new found loves: PubIt! books on Nook.

In my search for new authors to read and, above all, free books, I discovered this fabulous section of the Barnes and Noble website.  PubIt! allows authors to share their self-published books with the world through the B&N website.  This means you can discover new authors at incredibly low prices!

The Barnes and Noble Nook section of their website is wonderful and you should go explore as soon as you finish reading this.  Why?  Because they make it easy for you to find exactly what you are looking for whether it is a digital book for a certain age group, a particular genre you enjoy, or a specific price point.  I go straight to the PubIt! section and search for juvenile fiction, my favorite is fantasy.  I usually browse through a few pages of free books first.  Sometimes I get distracted by some suggestion of a book and I end up paying a dollar or two, but I’ve read dozens of books now from their site and never paid more than $2.99 for a book.

Some people, mostly people in the traditional publishing industry, complain that these sorts of sites are a disservice to the public because they don’t control what is sent out into the world.  Any person, even my youngest child if she wanted, could publish their work through PubIt (or any of the other venues that are similar) and you, the reading public, could pay money to read the unedited, mediocre work of a child.  Well, I say, is that really so bad?  Who among us hasn’t paid actual good money ($15 or more) for a book somewhere along the way that was written, edited, published and marketed by the big publishing companies, placed in a big important looking bookstore and then into our eager hands only to find that the overpriced book we just bought was rubbish?!  I have!!! More times than I want to admit.  Honestly, that kind of scenario is exactly how I ended up convincing myself that maybe someday I really could be an author.  If someone else can get their horrible no good, very bad book published and read by millions, then maybe I could dare to do the same.  (Only with a slightly flawed book instead of horrible, no good… well, you get the picture.)

I suggest you explore, take a chance on a new up and coming author who will sit at home rejoicing in that one sale because it was one more than he/she had yesterday.  Take pride in helping some fledgling out and I hope you choose well.  If you do, come back and tell us about the wonderful new book you found and enjoyed.

Don’t forget, next week I’ll start sharing some of my favorite books and authors I’ve discovered.  They are all either self-published or working with indie publishers, so you will be seeing some of the great new authors our world is only just now getting to know.  I can hardly wait to share them with you!  See you next Friday!

Gotta Read,
Heather

P.S. – Here’s a sneak peak: Click on Me!