Friday, Indie Authors, YA Society

Thanks for Giving Me a Read

contestdescHappy Thanksgiving!

Here in the states we set aside a day each fall to be thankful for all we have been given. This year I’m celebrating at home with a table full of good food and a my lovely family. And while I’m counting my blessings, I’ll be thinking of you, dear reader. I want to say thank you to all of you who have cheered me on and supported me through my first year as an indie author. I’m thrilled to have such loyal fans and dear friends. Thank you!

This Friday, when you begin the hunt for the perfect gifts for your family and friends, please consider supporting an indie author. My gals over at the YA StoryTellers Society are sharing a few suggestions with their readers to help you narrow down the perfect gift for the book lovers in your life. You can even win a $25 Amazon gift card to make shopping easier. Just take a pic of yourself holding one of our books and you could win!

You can check out what the other Society members listed as their favorite indie author deals for the year by clicking HERE. Meanwhile, here are a few of my favorites to add to your Kindle this season:

BAITAt sixteen, Bay-Lee is not your typical girl. The last thing she wants is to be popular, to be noticed, so she never raises her hand in class. She doesn’t participate in extra-curricular activities and purposely puts the wrong answers on tests in order to keep her solid C point average. Her classmates have no clue who she really is, Van Helsing’s daughter. They don’t know she’s on the run, hiding from monsters that want to kill her before she can turn into a great hunter. They’re afraid of her… and they should be because she plans to be the best hunter the world has ever seen. As soon as she is finished with her training, she’s going to track and kill the werewolf pack responsible for tearing her mother to shreds, and nothing is going to get in her way.

FREE on Amazon!

Of sun and moon

Teens are disappearing in a small river town in southern Ohio as Keira Ryan begins her freshman year. Kidnappings aside, her worries mount as she crushes on an older guy, her best friend starts dating a spoiled cheerleader, and the parents that abandoned her at birth arrive at her doorstep. And, oh yeah, she’s a tooth fairy destined to kick some butt and bring about the end of a royal line of vicious, blood-sucking tyrants.

Just 99 cents on Amazon!

Lichgates cover

Kara, a college student still reeling from her mother’s recent death, has no idea the hidden world of Ourea even exists until a freak storm traps her in a sunken library. With nothing to do, she opens an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire and unwittingly becomes its master, which means Kara now wields the cursed book’s untamed power. Discovered by Ourea’s royalty, she becomes an unwilling pawn in a generations-old conflict – a war intensified by her arrival. In this world of chilling creatures and betrayal, Kara shouldn’t trust anyone… but she’s being hunted and can’t survive on her own. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn’t know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing.

FREE on Amazon!

New Cover for Open Door

Carin exposes the true reason she was asked to summer on the Mallace Mansion estate.  Will she be strong enough to recognize love and redeem her family legacy?  Or will the temptations of power and control lure her to the same dark places where others lost themselves?

Just 99 cents on Amazon!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000030_00039]

Merrilyn’s life is quiet and predictable. An apprentice to the royal healer, she spends her days helping in the village or up to mischief with her best friend who happens to be the handsome younger son of the king. But when a mysterious archer shows up in the forest and shoots their escort, Merrilyn’s life is forever changed. Caught in a battle between two forgotten gods, she must embrace her destiny and fight the very powers of darkness before it’s too late.

Just 99 cents on Amazon!

Don’t forget to stop by The Society and enter to win.

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Brian Clopper, elementary, Friday, Indie Authors, inspiration, writing exercise, writing games

Brainstorming Tips with author Brian Clopper

I was delighted to discover Brian Clopper, an author I shared with you earlier this week in my review of his book, Graham the Gargoyle.  Brian astounds me with his clever writing, but my kids are even more impressed with his artwork.  Brian is also a teacher and I bet his 5th grade students are just about the luckiest kids I know.  How cool to have a teacher who is also a writer and comic book artist!  Today, Brian shares with us some fun tips and tricks for creating new story ideas.  Enjoy!

* * * * * * *

Coming up with story ideas has never been a problem for me. There are three techniques I teach my students to help them gain confidence in brainstorming. All three are quick, fun and easy to do.

Odd Pairings: Take two or three ideas that are wildly different from each other and put them together. For example, I created MONSTERS IN BOXERS, a book about kids who put on magical boxer shorts and transform into superhuman monsters ready to do battle with evil, by pairing monsters with boxers. How can you go wrong with that?

Here are other examples:
MY BIG TOE TALKS TO ME
MY SOAP, THE COMEDIAN
SNOWMAN SHOPPING TRIP
THE CAFETERIA COW
UNDERGROUND ASTRONAUT

Changing Expectations: this technique has some overlap with Odd Pairings. When brainstorming Changing Expectations, you use animal, professions, and objects and think of where you’d expect to find them or how they would act and turn the expectation upside down. Most of us assume an elephant would be large, clumsy and prone to stampeding first and asking questions second. But what if you change the expectation and imagine an elephant that is graceful and delicate. You have yourself an elephant ballerina and world of story possibilities.

Here are some more:
A gargoyle afraid of heights (sorry, already taken in my series GRAHAM THE GARGOYLE)
A noisy Bigfoot
An angry butterfly
A very well-spoken caveman
A vampire who wants to be a lifeguard (Sorry again, already used that in NORTON THE VAMPIRE)
A mummy who flies

The final idea generator is Randomizing. This was shared with me by a couple of cartoonists who like to get together and use Pictionary cards to help them generate story ideas. That’s exactly what you do. You randomly draw three Pictionary cards and select three or four ideas and string them together to form a story. It’s a lot of fun and is actually another use for Pictionary at parties, especially among the younger set who really love this.

Here’s how it works:
I select scarecrow, race cars and trophy from the Pictionary cards in front of me. Inspiration strikes and I whip up the story of a scarecrow that races cars, but has a natural problem in that when the car goes too fast, he loses his straw due to the excessive winds. He has to win back a trophy to save his farm from going belly up. All the other farm animals don’t have faith in him, and he must dig deep to solve his dilemma.

You can see changing expectations and odd pairings at work in the summary of my word play novel written to inspire young writers, STOMPER REX.

WITH THE OPENING OF A HATCH that appears on his ceiling, a troubled mortal boy, Stomper, is enlisted to save the fractured land of Crawlspace and reunite the magic. Trouble comes from all directions once he sets foot in the magical world of the written word. If Stomper can master alliterations, homophones, rhymes, similes and idioms before they do him in, Crawlspace might just have a fighting chance.

STOMPER REX is a romp through a magical world of dangerous word play. In the vein of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, this whimsical fantasy is a tale with lethal homophones, alliteration gone acutely awry and a host of hideous puns let loose that will disgust and confound.

Brian Clopper is a 5th grade teacher who dreams of a day when he too can set foot on a magic ladder and ride his way into a world where when hens fly to turn back time, skewer cougars hunt for unsuspecting children to shish kabob and boxing slugs engage in the rowdy gentleman’s sport of slimy fisticuffs.

Skewer cougars and boxing slugs are odd pairings, while when hens are a changing expectation. Who would think that riding atop a flock of harmless-looking birds would allow you to travel back in time? It’s all part of the magic that makes the world of Crawlspace come alive.

Odd pairings, Changing Expectations and randomizing are excellent ways to fill up your idea journal with tons of story possibilities. So what are you waiting for, get off your tuckus and get creating. There’s a zebra plumber or an ornery unicorn waiting for you to bring them to life.

Just so you know, I loaded a new book, STOMPER REX, onto the Kindle and Nook. It’s a perfect book to engage young writers with how to improve their writing using a variety of narrative techniques. Piers Anthony sung its praises, as he has all five books I’ve sent him over the years, in his most recent newsletter. I’m so proud of what he said, I just feel compelled to share it with you.

“I read Stomper Rex, by Brian Clopper. Bradford, nicknamed Stomper, is a fifth grader who has issues at school. He lives with his mother, his father having walked out. His mother is understanding but firm about his need to shape up. She gets him a tutor, Wanda, a teen girl he has a crush on, so he does pay attention as she reviews the material. This setting is competent, as the author is a fifth grade teacher; the secondary characters are well rounded. Then two odd men descend from his bedroom ceiling to take him to a fantasy land where he is needed. They are Ruffloon and Strivelwunk, who put him on a ladder which then flies into the land of Crawlspace, where there are many monsters, and much of the magic is made by figures of speech. Yes, the very thing he is having trouble with in school. I suspect this novel was a female dog to write, because coming up with relevant figures of speech when you need them can be a challenge, as I have found in my own writing. For example, when he is threatened by multiple snakes, he says “Fake snake!” and they merge into one pretend snake. That’s pretty simple, but others aren’t, such as “Try knocking loose those lox.” That’s homophone magic to make locks give way. It seems he has been summoned to defeat the cruel mistress of this realm, Stigma, a girl who visited but then decided to stay and rule, and they need to be rid of her. They have many adventures, requiring different figures of speech. Naturally there’s a climactic showdown, and strange things happen as they fight with whatever figures of speech they can think of under pressure. This novel represents a kind of course in figures of speech, and fifth graders who read it will surely develop a better understanding and possibly become better students. That may be the hidden agenda. This author continues to be a writer who deserves better attention in the literary world; this novel is anything but mindless.”

 

Friday, Indie Authors, Roger Eschbacher, Writing, writing advice

Ask an Author: Roger Eschbacher

Ask an Author by Roger Eschbacher

Hey you guys! My name is Roger Eschbacher and I write cartoons for a living. These days I’m working on two shows – The Littlest Pet Shop and Scooby Doo, Mystery Incorporated. I have a lot of fun writing animation, but I have even more fun writing books for kids. I’m a published picture book author and just this past fall I published my first middle-grade fantasy novel, Dragonfriend.

Over the years I’ve been asked to do signings and readings at book fairs, book stores, and in classrooms. When I’m finished reading from my books, I’ll take questions from kids in the audience. Here are three of the more popular ones –

Q: I want to be an author. How do I get started?

A: Before you become a writer, you need to be a reader; a hardcore reader. Reading needs to become one of the things you like to do as much as playing video games, riding your bike, or baking cookies. I call this kind of reading “pleasure reading” as opposed to the kind of reading you have to do in school. When I was a kid, I was seldom seen without a book. I loved reading then and I love reading now. Without exception, every author that I’ve ever met or read about is an avid reader who both loves books and reads for fun. They’ve been this way ever since they were kids, too.

Why is it important to be a hardcore reader before you’re a writer? Because you learn how to write your stories by reading how skilled authors write their stories. You learn what good dialogue looks like because you read books where you like what the characters are saying and how they are saying it. You learn how to describe a location or an action sequence because you read books that do this so well it’s almost like having a movie playing in your head. You learn what you like to read and why you like to read it and after a while you develop the confidence necessary to give writing a try yourself. It’s as simple as that. Not all readers become authors, but all authors are readers.

Q: Do you make a lot of money writing books?

A: Some authors make a lot of money, most do not. While I would certainly like to have the kind of success that J.K. Rowling has experienced, that’s not the reason why I write books. I do it because I have no choice. My head is full of all kinds of stories and the only way I can get them out of there is to write them down. I love to write and I love the idea that people out there, total strangers, will read my stories and, hopefully, enjoy them. That’s what keeps me writing despite the fact that I can’t afford a castle in Scotland. Not yet, anyway.

Q: Books (novels) are long! I don’t think I could ever write anything that big. How do you do it?

A: You’re right. Books, especially novels, can be very long. The way I handle the writing of a novel is to be organized and disciplined. Once I come up with an idea that sounds fun, I write a one or two page outline. I don’t go crazy into detail, just some descriptive paragraphs that help me figure out the beginning, middle, and end of the story. I list characters that come to mind and interesting settings in these paragraphs, too. These are notes to myself about what I want to write.

Then, I divide the outline up into chapters (usually 20-25). I’ll have a paragraph or so of description in each of these chapters. If this is sounding complicated to you, it really isn’t. By breaking a big thing like a novel into smaller, manageable bits, it makes it easier to give yourself permission to start writing. Writing little bits at a time isn’t as scary as the idea of writing a full novel. Everyone can write little bits.

When you’re first starting out, you don’t need to know everything about being an author or how to write a book. You just need to be brave and start writing. You’ll learn by doing, by figuring out what works and what doesn’t work as you go along. It’s okay to make mistakes. If you learn from them, mistakes help you to get better.

Then, I start writing. The way I motivate myself is by setting word count goals. My every day, non-deadline goal is 1000 words a day. This sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. A thousand words usually works out to around four double-spaced pages (I use MS Word). You could choose a smaller goal of fifty or one hundred words a day and still make some very good progress.

In a recent interview with famous author Stephen King, famous author Neil Gaiman summed it up nicely:
“I think the most important thing I learned from Stephen King I learned as a teenager, reading King’s book of essays on horror and on writing, Danse Macabre. In there he points out that if you just write a page a day, just 300 words, at the end of a year you’d have a novel. It was immensely reassuring – suddenly something huge and impossible became strangely easy. As an adult, it’s how I’ve written books I haven’t had the time to write, like my children’s novel Coraline.”

In short, if you write enough little bits, you can eventually string them all together and end up with a big old honkin’ book. That’s how I tricked myself into writing my first novel.

You can find out more about Roger Eschbacher and his books at his website, TheNovelProject.com

 

Free book giveaway, Friday, Indie Authors, inspiration, new authors, S.M. Boyce, writing advice

Free Book Friday with S.M. Boyce

>   ***We are sharing this post again for the first time since so many of our friends couldn’t comment on it over on the Blogger site.  If you want to win a free ebook copy of The Grimoire: Lichgates, then leave a comment.  Help us test our new site’s comment abilities and you may win this awesome debut novel!***

S. M. Boyce is sarcastic, gooey, and laughs too much, but her friends seem to hang out with her anyway. She’s also a fantasy author and novel editor who recently published her debut novel, The Grimoire: Lichgates. It’s the first in a young adult fantasy adventure series called The Grimoire Trilogy.
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Hey gang! Thanks for having me today. I wanted to talk about two important factors in any writer’s life: writer’s block and story ideas.
I’ve hit road blocks plenty of times while writing. Over the years, I tried writing through writer’s block, writing stream-of-consciousness journals to get the gunk out, and watching TV instead of writing anything at all. None of these techniques really worked—for me.
The thing with writer’s block is that it’s different for each person. How you overcome it is all going to depend on your creative style. That’s exactly what you wanted to hear, right? Haha. Well, the good news is that I have some ideas for helping you figure out how to overcome writer’s block.
All you have to do to get some ideas of your own is to Google “overcome writer’s block.” Every writer I’ve ever met has encountered it at some point, and it’s a popular subject. The downside is that sorting through the endless pages can actually add stress, instead of easing your worry.
So let me tell you what works for me.
Before I even write a chapter, I plot it out. Sometimes, I go so far as to add dialogue, which gives me an idea of the characters and how they will interact in this particular chapter. That way, even if I don’t feel like writing or don’t know what to write, I at least have a place to start. Often, the inspiration comes back to me if I re-read the plot outline I made.
Other times, I have to get out of the house. I spend a lot of time in my office, and spending too much time in your creative place can actually stifle creativity. So I’ll walk the dog in the nearby woods, or go for a short drive. Getting some fresh air can get those creative juices flowing again.
A very popular method of getting over writer’s block is actually to start a writing journal. There are two kinds I’ve heard of.
The first writing journal is a daily journal. Every morning, as soon as you wake up, you write non-stop for ten minutes. Just go. Whatever you want. You can even write “um, um” until you come up with something. The point is that you’re writing and “cleaning out the cobwebs” so to speak. This one doesn’t work for me, but it has helped many writers I know.
The second writing journal is the one I keep. It’s a whenever-journal, one I keep close for when I get spurts of inspiration. Sometimes I just write a character sketch, or a line of dialogue. Other times, it’s an entire story idea. That’s how the Grimoire Trilogy came to be.
Whatever you do, keep a pen and paper with you at all times. You never know when inspiration is going to strike.
I heard once that you become a master at something after practicing the art for 3 hours over ten years. So never stop writing! It just takes time, practice, and a bit of patience.
What’s your favorite way of overcoming writer’s block? Share in the comments!  One lucky reader will win a FREE ebook copy of The Gimoire: Lichgates.  Don’t forget to share this link with your literate friends.  Just click one of the buttons below the post.

Grab Your Copy of Lichgates

Connect with Boyce

Free book giveaway, Friday, Indie Authors, Sarah Treu, writing advice

>Free Book Friday

>This week I was delighted to share with all of you one of my youngest daughter’s favorite books, Investigator Anne.  Today we have the pleasure of hearing from the author and illustrator, Sarah Treu.   

Hi everyone!

I’m so glad I have the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you about writing. I am an author and illustrator of children’s books. I do all of the writing and create all of the pictures for my books. I have written and illustrated a variety of books, from preschool picture books to the early level chapter book series that my husband and I are currently working on. The series, “Investigator Anne,” is about a young girl who solves mysteries around her town. She enlists the help of her siblings and friends who are known as the Gumshoe Crew. In each mystery, the crew makes discoveries about the world around them and learns scientific principles. With a little creativity and team work, they solve exciting mysteries in their own neighborhood.

My husband, Mark, and I both love to write. We write for fun and draw our inspiration
from the experiences we have in our own world. We have five amazing young kids and
they provide us with a lot of inspiration and ideas. They even give us feedback from time
to time. Feedback from kids is important when you are writing for children!

My husband and I started daydreaming about this series a few years ago when our oldest daughter, Anne, became very interested in science, learning and discovery. She was always the one we would ask to help when a ballet slipper needed to be found, or when someone wanted to know what kind of animal prints were in the backyard.

Mark and I love to travel and take family road trips. Many times we will brainstorm story ideas while we drive, and I’ll jot down notes. Later we’ll organize the plot development and begin the first draft of writing. I usually do that. Once the first draft is written, Mark will go through it and write, rewrite, and refine. One of the most important things to know about writing is this simple rule: There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting. So we rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite. Once the
story is at a good finishing point, I create the illustrations and format the book. We’ll
then send it to an editor for a final look. Once the book is complete, we self-publish it
through our publishing name, Angel Street Kids Books. You can find all of our books on
Barnes&Noble.com.

Investigator Anne continues to be in the Barnes & Noble top 10 for its age category. I’m
honored to have it be featured right next to the Magic Tree house and the Flat Stanley
books. I am so thrilled when kids write to me to say how much they have enjoyed my
books. I hope you enjoy them too!

Writing and illustrating a book is a big project, but the key is to just do it. Sometimes the
hardest part is just getting started because maybe you’re not sure exactly where to begin.
My recommendation is to just start writing down all of your ideas and then organize
them. Write some more, then write and rewrite. It will come together, just keep going.

Another thing I’ve found is that writing doesn’t just happen at the computer. I write from
what I observe in the world around me. I write in my head and I draw in my head too.
I begin to see things as stories and pictures and pages in a book inside my head before
they are ever in a real book. The ideas form in my head while I’m watching my kids at
the park, when I’m on a bike ride, or when I’m doing anything else. Keep writing even
when you don’t have a pencil, and then when you do get a hold of a pencil write down
everything! My own daughter loves to write in her head too. Once when I told her to
practice the piano, she replied in third person: “Okay, she said sighing.” LOL! Now
that’s a girl who’s always writing a story.

Writing is fun! If it gets stressful, take a break and go for a run or go dig in the sandbox
for a while. But whatever you do, don’t give up, go back to your writing again. You will
feel great satisfaction by completing a writing piece and making it the very best that you
can. Happy writing!

Your friend,
Sarah Treu

***Want to win Sarah’s books for FREE?  Just leave a comment below.  The winner will be announced on Monday and will recieve a $10 gift card to Barnes & Noble.  If you are coming to us from Facebook, you will have to leave the Facebook app and come back to us from your browser in order to post a comment.  Be a good friend and share this with your book-loving pals.***

free book, Friday, Writing

>Freebie Friday Goes Hip-Hop

>

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!

fantasy, Free book giveaway, Friday, Indie Authors, Keith Robinson

>Free Book Friday (the Thirteenth)

>It’s Friday the 13th, people!  I’m not very superstitious, but when I saw that we had a Friday the 13th coming up, I set out to find a good book to share with all of you who love the creepier tales.  Unfortunately, I don’t read a lot of creepy tales these days.  I’ve outgrown them, I suppose.  So, when I mentioned this dilemma to my daughter, she pointed out the book I had been telling her about recently, Island of Fog.  “It sounds pretty creepy, Mom.”  Well, I wouldn’t have put it that way, but there are certainly a lot of secrets hiding on the Island of Fog.  So, grab a copy and dig in.  Or, better yet, leave a comment and win a free copy of this exciting book!  We’ll announce the winner on Monday.

Today I have the honor of introducing you to the fabulous author, Keith Robinson.  He’s working diligently on the second half of this series and has made quite an impression on fans, even catching the attention of the fabulous Piers Anthony.  Today he shares with us the process of building his series from the ground up.  So, take a peek into how it all began with Keith Robinson.

I moved to the USA from England in 2001 and started writing ISLAND OF FOG the following year.  It was a long process writing bits here and there, honing my skills, and also switching from British English to US English (which I felt was necessary if I ever planned to submit a manuscript to a US publisher.)  In 2008 I made a concerted effort to finish the novel, then sent it to a professional editor.  This was the first time anyone other than myself had read it, so I was nervous. But she loved it.
I had one copy printed by CreateSpace just because I wanted to see what it “felt” like, but once I held it in my grubby hands, I decided to go ahead with self-publishing. This was in April 2009. Somehow I ended up being “discovered” by the local library (by word of mouth) and from there I did book talks, signings, interviews, and so on, all in the local area. My books are in three public libraries, several middle schools, and on the shelves at the local Barnes & Noble (next to J. K. Rowling!). Meanwhile, bestselling fantasy author Piers Anthony favorably reviewed ISLAND OF FOG in his July 2009 newsletter, and because of that I was contacted by an agent who wanted to represent the book as a potential TV/movie property.
The book started out as a single novel, but even before I finished writing it, I’d decided to make it into a trilogy. So the second book, LABYRINTH OF FIRE, came along in November 2009. This was a six-month turnaround from start to finish, a vast improvement over six years! Clearly I had figured out what I was doing. The third book, MOUNTAIN OF WHISPERS, rounded off the trilogy in August 2010.
But as I was finishing that third book, I decided I wanted to continue the story further. Even though the trilogy had ended, I saw no reason not to start another 3-book arc. LAKE OF SPIRITS continues the story but also starts a new arcing subplot. Naturally the series is now intended to be six books (possibly more); I’m currently writing the fifth, ROADS OF MADNESS, and will start on the sixth later in the year. There seems to be an endless number of angles I can explore in this series; my only dilemma is which I should choose.
Writing a series has many benefits. The characters are established in the first book, and the rest of the series is spent expanding on their personalities. It’s a cliche, but when you write/read other books in a series, there’s a sense of “putting on a comfortable sweater.” You can be with old friends again and join them on a new adventure. And from a purely business point of view, once you sell readers on that first book, they’re going to want to get the rest in the series. It’s a no-brainer in terms of “cashing in.”
I often use a single point of view in my writing. The entire FOG series is seen through the eyes of twelve-year-old Hal Franklin. I’ve been very careful to ensure that every word of narrative is from his POV and doesn’t temporarily jump into someone else’s head. This approach works well for me, and I think it draws readers deeper into the story. For one thing, they’re not continually jumping from character to character where one subplot might, unfortunately, be less interesting than another. Also, it helps convey a greater sense of mystery; when you read a chapter about a villain plotting his Great Scheme early in the book, the reader is then more knowledgeable than the main protagonist, and it can be frustrating waiting for him to catch up. Being firmly inside the main character’s head throughout means we know only what he knows, thus heightening the mystery.
But this approach does present limitations. Occasionally a scene will take place that I would love to describe but can’t because the main character is not there. He can’t be everywhere all the time, and it would seem forced if he was. So, sadly, once in a while that scene happens “off-camera,” which itself can be a challenge. Careful plotting is needed in these instances.
Then again, careful plotting is ALWAYS needed, so nothing new there. I wrote my first book organically and ended up rewriting or deleting entire chapters when I realized I was going in the wrong direction. Writing a chapter summary beforehand means I go through that same plotting/thinking process early and can therefore avoid writing chapters I don’t need!

Want to win a free copy of Island of Fog?  Leave a comment below and you are entered to win!  The winner will be announced Monday.  *** If you are visiting us from Facebook, you need to leave Facebook and come back to us through your browser in order to leave a comment. ***

Free book giveaway, Friday, Indie Authors, inspiration, Joshua Unruh, TEEN Agents

>Friendly Free Book Friday

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****Comment below to win a copy of TEEN Agents in the Plundered Parent Protocol.****
This week we are excited to introduce you to Joshua Unruh, author of the fabulously fun TEEN Agents series.  Today he shares with us how his childhood interests influenced the writing of The Plundered Parent Protocol.  (This is my daughter’s new favorite book!  And she is “totally a huge fan of Mr. Unruh.  He’s so cool!”  Well, there you go.  I can’t top that as an introduction.  Here’s Mr. Totally Cool himself, Joshua Unruh.

Sausage Innards
Heather asked me to talk a little bit about how the things I liked when I was a pre-teen and teenager (I’m old enough that there wasn’t a questionable label like tween when it would have fit me) fed into my fevered brain and came out as TEEN Agents in the Plundered Parent Protocol.
Well, this ought to be easy. A lot of the stuff I liked then is stuff I still like now!
I like it in a different, more grown-up way (or so I’ve convinced myself). But it’s still a lot of the same stuff from back in the day. That age is when I started to discover things other than superheroes that were going to gnaw into my brain like a worm and stay there forever. The second most important of those discoveries was espionage fiction. More specifically, it was Spy-fi.
For ease, I’m going to use the Wikipedia entry’s definition of Spy-Fi:
It often uses a secret agent (solo or in a team) or superspy whose mission is a showcase of science fiction elements such as technology and ideas used for extortion, plots for world domination or world destruction, futuristic weapons, gadgets and fast vehicles that can travel on land, fly, or sail on or under the sea.
My dad was a HUGE Man from U.N.C.L.E. fan when he was a kid. He got me watching it and, for some reason I still can’t understand, whatever channel ran it had Avengers afterward. No, not the superheroes with Iron Man and Captain America. Rather, a British male and female duo calmly and coolly handling all of Britain’s weird scientists and would-be worldbeaters. The godawful movie Wild Wild West, a Western Spy-fi, also came out around this time and, thank goodness, my dad was there for me on that one too. He let me know the seed was a television show that was not godawful.
Spy-fi felt to me like spies, which I loved, married with superheroes, which I loved EVEN MORE. The final nail in the coffin was discovering Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD. This was superspies set in a comic book universe with existing superheroes and supervillains. Peanut butter meet chocolate.
My favorite Young Adult literature will always be superheroes. But when I decided to have female protagonists, I had to deal with the fact that the ladies don’t really dig on superheroes. But heroines have always had a strong place in Spy-fi. Emma Peel was at least as popular as John Steed. Contessa was a supporting character for Nick Fury, but she still managed to get a lot of solo stories. There was even a Girl from U.N.C.L.E. spin-off that I liked as much as the Man.
In the modern era, you have Bond girl Wai Linn (Michelle Yeoh) showing up the titular character. You’ve got Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) leading an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink Spy-fi show called Alias for five seasons. There was a La Femme Nikita remake starring Maggie Q. Batwoman is the best Bat-Family book on the shelves. ABC Family, of all places, gave us Natalie Morales in The Middle Man, which feels like TEEN Agents after it graduated from college.
Clearly if I wanted to write a book with female protagonists that would appeal to young ladies as well as 12-year-old-me, it had to be a Spy-fi book. And that’s a biggest part of how TEEN Agents was born.
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fantasy, free book, Friday, Indie Authors, Jessie Sanders, world building

>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, Friday, new authors, PubIt

>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!