"Then Future Unborn" was awarded runner-up at last night's 2017 RONE Award ceremony at the InD'Scribe Con and Book Festival in Burbank, California. The book nomination happened through the InD'Tale Magazine, independently; I did not enter any contest to win this award. What a great feeling!
This week, I was invited to visit the Creative Writing Magnet class at Lee High School to talk about my journey as a writer, the classes I took in college, my process, self-publishing, tips & tricks, and whatever else might come up. Fifteen poetry and prose students—including some budding YA authors—asked me various questions about how to create characters and build plots. They quickly put me at ease with their genuine interest and curiosity, and the hour flew.
As I told them the story of how I started writing in elementary school and how I wanted to be a writer in high school, like them, I realized what a full-circle moment I was experiencing. Who would have thought that I’d become a visiting author at a high school writing class or that other students might want to listen to anything about my experience along the road to publication? But I told them that writers were artists and that it was okay to make mistakes. I described the bad novels I’d written along the way to learning how to write the ones I’d finally published. I talked about dreaming big and not listening to the voices of other people who didn’t believe in my writing.
They nodded. They had people like that in their lives too.
But I had good people in my life growing up, too—people like Aunt Penny and Mr. Greene, who encouraged me to write and keep writing. All it really takes is a little encouragement to make the seeds sprout and thrive.
I’m so happy that programs like that one exist, and I’m thankful to the teachers and administrators who support the students. It seems like a wonderful place to nourish the new voices of tomorrow and help them grow strong and confident. I wonder what beautiful things they will write.
The sun was brutal today at the Sparkman High School Arts Festival. Yesterday may have been the first officially day of fall, but it sure felt like summer is still here.
The highlight of my day was meeting two separate readers who'd read my books and met me at events in past years. They stopped by my table to say that they'd enjoyed the books they'd read. One person even purchased another book today.
"We were blessed by your books," the second woman said. She and her daughter had both read them.
I'm compelled to write. I can't help it. I've been doing it my whole life. But it's moments like those, when someone tells me that they liked something that I read, that always give me a little glow. I'm sending words into the abyss... and someone read them. And was blessed.
And that blesses me.
The Sparkman Arts Festival is coming next weekend. Organizers expect hundreds of visitors to the event and great weather. I'm looking forward to it!
I met several new authors at the Southern Author Expo at the Downtown Huntsville Library yesterday, including Annie M. Cole, a southern fiction and inspirational writer. I’m always encouraged by the other writers in the community; they are so generous with their advice, kindness, and humor about this shared obsession we have with the written word. Annie is definitely one of those people!
“I love words,” Toya Poplar said to me. She was my table neighbor, and her book, Stop Write There, is an interactive journal with prompts to help people to write. Meeting her was such a gift.
Betty Bolte, the author to my right, is a prolific romance writer in multiple genres and one of the panel speakers of the day. Having such wonderful writers around me made the hours pass quickly, and as usual, I left with a list of ideas for things to try.
Thanks to all the library patrons, fellow authors, book fans, and everyone else who came out and made the day such a success!
I'm getting ready for the Southern Author's Expo this weekend at the Downtown Huntsville Library, August 19, from 10 - 4 PM. This year, there is a nice lineup of speakers, panel discussions, food trucks, and vendors lined up to make the event fun and interesting. I'll be there with my fellow authors, Amber D. Tran, Ashley Chappell-Peeples, and Angela Blount. I hope we have a great turnout!
I’m sitting on two unpublished YA novels. You haven’t seen anything new from me since “The Future Unborn” in 2016, but I’m not blocked in the traditional sense.
I’m trying to make the switch from indie to traditional publishing.
I’ve weighed the pros and cons of this move. For me and my audience of YA readers, I feel that a traditional publisher is the best way to place my print books into the brick-and-mortar stores where teens are more likely to buy them. I also want to put my books into school libraries.
Plus, it’s pretty hard to get a major motion picture made of your book as an indie. :)
The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency signed with me in December, 2016. I wrote another book while waiting for the first one to sell. Now there are two in the queue, and I’m 20,000 words into a third. “Writer’s block” isn’t the problem.
Jennifer reassures me about the slow pace. Things pick up in the fall; the publishing business works at a different pace. I’m just used to fast in indie. My editor is fast. The cover designers I’ve worked with are fast. Write, edit, proof, assemble, and publish. I’m in control of my schedule, and I like getting things done.
So for my readers out there who might be wondering, yes I’m blocked—but not by writing. The books are here. Just waiting. They’re coming. I promise.
Please be patient.
A little late perhaps, but I finally had some business cards designed and printed to hand out at events. They turned out pretty nice.
I’m an oddball among the other vendors selling art, jewelry, and handmade crafts—the only author. People stop and ask, “Did you write these?” or “Are you local?” Others want to know about how they’re published because they are thinking about writing a book of their own. I tell them to write. Just do it. See what you can do.
For the four hours that I stood there last night, a menagerie of people and their pets paraded past my table. Dogs of every size, color, and coat came through. Somewhere in the park, face painting was happening, so children passed with colorful cheeks. Actual dialog I overheard between a mother and son:
Mother: What do you need?
Son: I need a sword.
Mother: You do not need a sword.
(The vendor beside me happens to sell them.)
I noticed one man holding a pair of rubber duckies in his hand and tried to imagine what sort of story could be behind a situation like that. Surely I could use that in a future scene in one of my books…
Curiosity works both ways. :)
I enjoyed the YA panel discussion at the Catfish Literary Festival today. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the moderator brought some questions that I hadn’t answered before.
What is your favorite childhood book?
I was one of those kids who loved horses. I’d have to say The Black Stallion. I had a whole series of black stallion books in paperback.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block? (What do you not like to read?)
I’m not a big fan of mystery or fantasy books.
Since we’re in a library, what kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a new book?
I research all the time using Google. People would find my search engine queries peculiar, like “what sound does a shotgun make?” I don’t do a lot of up-front research before beginning a new book but instead research all along the way.
How many hours a day do you write?
An hour and a half a day during weekdays. On weekends, it depends—sometimes more, sometimes less.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Writing conflict is challenging for me. I’m an introvert by nature, and that means that conflict is hard, even on the page. Sometimes I have to go multiple times before I can get it right.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Amber D. Tran is another writer that I’m friends with. We have lunch together every month or so and share about our writing. She’s taught me about social media and things to do with Twitter. She’s so much more extroverted than me, and she’s helped me with self-promotion in my writing.
What did you do with your first writing paycheck?
I took a photocopy of it. Then I put it into the bank.
What’s the best way to market your books?
Face-to-face events work well. I’ve had good success with the book clubs, library events, and festivals. I do not think buying ads does a lot, and I’m not sure what social media does.
What did you or your editor cut out of a book?
In Hollow Beauty, I had some sections where the character started self-harming, and my editor thought that didn’t belong in the book. I took it out. She was right.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read all my book reviews. The good ones make me feel really happy and full of joy, but the bad ones, don’t have the same effect on the negative side. It’s just feedback.
As an author, having an opportunity to meet and talk with YA readers in a comfortable setting like the Athens-Limestone Public Library's Catfish Literary Festival is a wonderful experience. This is my second year participating on the panel discussion, and I'm looking forward to it.
Yeah, my novel is done and off to my editor for review! I am basking in that post-writing glow. After seven months of immersion, I’m up for air again. This place is a restless one for me. I’m always writing, but I don’t want to start the next project until I’ve put the final bow on this one. I need to stay in this book-dream just a little while longer in case there are suggestions for scenes to add or major shuffles…
But a new idea is already beginning to take seed. I’m happy about that. It’s just a little one, but it will grow.
Monsters, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Curios George came out for the first ever Reader Riot this weekend, as well as tons of readers and authors.
I spent time talking with some young people who wanted to be writers and had lots of questions about that, and fellow authors shared their experiences in publishing. What a great day.
My colleague and fellow author Amber Tran carpooled to the event. Here’s Amber’s booth. She had the corner post and did an excellent job calling people into the vendor’s alley to browse for books.
Thanks to everyone at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library for hosting this great event and everyone who came out and made the day a success!
I met several new authors at the Downtown Huntsville Library’s Authors Market today. Getting to meet young readers and sign books is always fun. Thanks to everyone who came out and made the day a success!