Dez Yourself

An exciting new trend is sweeping the nation!

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but we can change that! Forget planking, selfies, and photo bombs (and whatever else you crazy kids are doing these days), the cool new trend is Dezing yourself!

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Move over, duck face!

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So grab your copy of Life, A.D. (Don’t have one yet? Click these AMAZON and B&N links), CLICK HERE to head on over to my Facebook page, and share your Dezing yourself pics!

Big thanks to Joy and Marsha for sharing your photos!

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And I Tweet!

It’s day two of being a published author, and I have to tell you, it’s pretty cool! It’s still hard to believe this has really happened, but I’m loving it! The blog tour continues here, here, and here. Check it out!

Join me tonight for a Twitter chat with my fellow Very Superstitious anthology authors, hosted by YA Lit Chat. Just follow along with #yalitchat, and you can ask questions, learn more about the anthology authors and our stories, and win some cool stuff! The chat starts at 9:00 PM EST.

And send me good vibes for swift fingers!

T-Minus One!

One week from today, I will be a published author! My short story, Midhalla, is part of this year’s Month9Books annual charity anthology, which releases October 15th. Proceeds from this year’s anthology, Very Superstitious: Myths, Legends and Tales of Superstition, will benefit SPCA International. 

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Head on over to Chapter by Chapter to check out the blog tour schedule! You can find it here.

One more week! And two more months until my debut novel, Life, A.D. hits the shelves!

 

 

Teaching and Learning

I’ve discovered a great new way to learn about writing and the craft of storytelling: teach it to fourth graders.

I recently volunteered to lead an afterschool club at my son’s school, and when they learned I am a soon-to-be-published author, they asked me to run a “storytelling” club.

Fun!

I jumped in with both feet, enthusiastic to share my love of writing with eager kids.

And then I realized I’d have to be organized, and detailed, submit a lesson plan each week, and find a way to keep a group of fourth graders occupied and engaged for an hour and a half, after a long day of school.

Gulp.

I started planning. Where to begin? What goes into storytelling? What are the fundamentals? I was all set to go with analyzing Harry Potter using Freytag’s five-part narrative structure. My husband (a few credits shy of his Master’s in education) felt I might have set my expectations a teensy bit too high.

So Aristotle’s beginning, middle, and end it would be. I was banking on all the kids being familiar with Harry Potter. I came up with games we could play, trying to discover ways to make my club as fun and relatable as possible. I had plenty of material to cover for my first session, I figured, so in I happily went in yesterday afternoon, ready to run my club like a pro!

Hitch in the road number one hit me before we even got started. All of the children gathered in the cafeteria for snack and recess before we were to go off to our clubs, and when my son (age five) realized he was not in my club…well, it got a bit ugly. Tears, wailing, begging to go home.

“But you’re in the Sports All-Stars Club!” I told him with great enthusiasm. “You get to play soccer!”

“Why don’t you want me in your club?” he wailed.

“We talked about this last night, and this morning, too,” I tried to explain. “My club is for older kids.”

“Don’t you want to be with me?” he sobbed.

Oh, boy.

Fortunately, his Kindergarten teacher is an absolute gem, and stayed with him until he calmed down, after I promised he only had to try his club just this once, and if he didn’t like it, he wouldn’t have to go again. “Because we made a commitment,” I told him as I left to sit across the cafeteria with my club.

Fast forward to club time. We get in our classroom, my eager students ready to go. And by eager, I mean…mostly. One boy was clearly there as a time-filler. “Do we have to do all this stuff?” he moaned as I asked them to circle up the chairs so we could have a group discussion. “This is dumb.”

I smiled and promised he’d have fun if he just gave it a try, and began to launch into my prepared speech about the fundamentals of storytelling. Not a complete sentence had passed my lips when four hands shot into the air.

“Are we going to be published?” asked one boy, beaming with excitement, practically bouncing out of his seat.

“Um, well, getting published is a long, complex process.” I told him. “We could self-publish our short stories in an anthology, if you’d like,” I offered.

Frowns.

“You mean we’re not going to get a publisher to put our stories in the bookstores?” he said.

“Well…”

You got a publisher, right?” asked the girl sitting next to him.

“I did. But it took a very long time.”

“How long?” she asked.

I thought for a moment. “I started writing my book in 2008, and worked on it off and on for a few years before really committing to writing it. I got my publishing offer last year. So that was four years.”

“That’s a long time,” chimed in another girl.

“It is,” I said with a nod. “Since you guys were in Kindergarten, right?”

This back and forth went on for a good half-hour before I got us back on track. We talked about Harry Potter; we discussed protagonists (main characters!), we talked about antagonists (Voldemort!) And they loved it. Hooray! I gave them Paul Bunyan stories I had printed out and cut up, and had them try and put the stories back together in the right order.

We played seven-word sentence in which we picked seven random letters and formed sentences. My favorite? GWRHAFC: George Washington rides horses and fights crocodiles.

And guess what?  Mister “this is dumb” had the most fun of all.

With the time we had left after games, I had the kids start to work on their short stories. I asked them to come up with their protagonist. Who is he or she? What do they like to do? Where do they live? What are their favorite foods? Who are their friends?

One of the girls asked me the name of my book, and the name of the anthology my short story is in. She ran off to a corner and began to work. When our time was up, she handed me this:

Image And my heart completely melted.

Yesterday I learned a lot, the most important point being this: if you can’t explain a subject to fourth graders, you probably don’t really understand it yourself. And if you talk to kids in a fun, relatable way, they will listen. What a great exercise in reflection and comprehension this was for me. I can safely say I got as much, probably more, out of our first club day as the kids did. I can’t wait for our next meeting.

You want to get better as a writer? Find an opportunity like this. You’ll learn so much.

And you might even get yourself a fan.

The Pressure’s On

The road to publication is long, to be sure. From inspiration to printed page, the journey can span years. For me, the goal is growing nearer, no longer a dot on the horizon. What began as a glimmer of an idea that came to me in 2006 is now an actual book, just a few short months from hitting the shelves.

It seems I learn something new about publishing on a near-daily basis.

What I’ve just learned is that the going is slow until it isn’t.

Huh?

What I mean is, the time seems to crawl along, until one day when it hits you: I will be published, soon. Everything seems to speed up, and your brain (if you’re anything like me) goes into super freak-out mode.

In less than one month, the short story I wrote for my publisher’s annual charity anthology will be out, and come December 10th, my debut novel, Life, A.D. will hit the shelves!

This. Is. Awesome.

And a bit scary.

Review copies of Very Superstitious are going out, bringing me to freak-out point number one: People I don’t know are/will very soon be reading my short story.

I know.

You’re thinking, but isn’t that the POINT of publishing?

Yes, it is.

But now that it’s actually happening, it’s a bit intimidating.

I’ve always written for more than just myself. From the start, I’ve written with an audience in mind, picturing the reader following along, and, hopefully, getting swept up in the worlds I’ve created.

And now I will actually have an audience. Large or small, a multitude or a few, people will be reading what I’ve written.

And all I can do is wait and hope. Hope that the work I’ve put in will pay off, and that the words I’ve written are satisfying and engaging. Hope that I did enough, that I won’t let my readers down, that they will fall in love with my characters like I have. Hope that my publisher was right to put their faith in me.

No pressure like the kind that’s self-inflicted, right?

But I know how lucky I am. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I’m Baaaaack!

Hello!

My absence from blogging (let’s call it a sabbatical, shall we? It sounds more dignified that way) might give the impression that I’ve vanished, but, in fact, I’m just a soon-to-be published author who is…not so great…at taking on all that encompasses. You see, getting a publishing deal, especially a multi-book deal, doesn’t mean you can just kick back and say “Whew! Done!” It’s more like “And now the real work begins!” There are rewrites, edits, sequels to write…the list goes on. And on. It’s awesome. And scary. And nerve-wracking. And awesome.

Not that I’m complaining, because wouldn’t that be obnoxious? I count my lucky stars every day, and as my release now makes its rapid approach, I find myself still in awe of how incredibly fortunate I am to have this opportunity.

So now I’m gearing up for the “What the heck do I do now?” phase of my publishing journey. I have to get myself out there. Schedule signings and appearances, start helping with the promotion of my book, figure out how many ARCs I’ll actually need, come up with contests and giveaways…

And blog. My poor, neglected blog.

So here I am, with a promise that I will, starting now, get back into the swing of things.

There are lots of exciting things to come, so I hope you’ll join me!

Collaboration

I’m pretty terrible at keeping up with my blog. I go in fits and starts, blogging consistently and then disappearing for weeks—even months. Successful bloggers fill their pages with consistent content, often built on regular columns or installments. So I’ve set to work coming up with ideas. For starters, I will be bringing back my Way Back Wednesdays reviews, because I, for one, found them to be lots of fun. And that box of books from my childhood isn’t reading itself…

 Today, I’m test-running a new piece, one which may or may not work as a regular thing, as it is dependent on the cooperation of a child. So…we’ll see how it goes. The idea came to me yesterday as I was driving my just-turned-five-year-old home from school. We began to make up a story together, and I thought it would be fun to blog our results. When we got home, we sat down to hash out our tale. He did most of the storytelling, and proved to have great resolve in the tone and theme of the story he wanted to tell. What follows is the results of our collaboration. I have changed his name and “kingdom” to preserve his privacy. Our story begins:

 

Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Wisconsin there lived a young prince named James. James spent his days adventuring with his trusty dog, Sully.

One sunny day while out on a particularly grand adventure, James and Sully came upon a bridge crossing a roaring river. The bridge was made of polished wood from the tallest Chocolate Tree in all the land. It smelled delicious.

Just as our hero James and his dog Sully were about to cross the bridge, they heard a mighty roar. The ground shook. James and Sully spotted an enormous dragon on the other side of the bridge. The dragon was a deep, shimmering green with red polka dots.

His booming voice called out, “Who dares cross my chocolate bridge?”

“It is I, Prince James of the Kingdom of Wisconsin!” James said boldly.

“Woof!” said Sully.

The dragon charged across the bridge toward the fearless duo. James raised his fist, and with the dragon’s breath hot on his face, he bopped the dragon on the nose.

“Woof!” said Sully.

The dragon reared back on his hind legs and drew in a deep breath. With all his might, he breathed a fiery breath upon the prince and his dog. But instead of fire, the dragon breathed jellybeans! The sweet beans piled high on the ground, covering James and Sully’s feet.

James reached into the pile and grabbed a strawberry jellybean—his favorite! He ate the jellybean, and the dragon began to cry.

“Cheer up!” said James. “Have a jellybean! There are plenty.” James took a handful of the jellybeans and offered them to the dragon.

The dragon wiped away his tears and smiled. “For me?” he said. “Nobody has ever shared jellybeans with me before.” The dragon smiled and ate the jellybeans.

“Woof!” said Sully.

And the duo became a trio. James, Sully, and their new friend the dragon lived out their days sharing many adventures together.

THE END

 

Hello, World. I’ve Missed You. Also, I Have a Cover!

So, I’ve been…a bit busy. But I’m back!

How was your summer? Your autumn? Was the holiday season resplendent?

Yeah, I’ve been gone a while. A long while.

This publishing process has taught me many things. Chief among them, I’ve learned that publishing is very time consuming, and I am less good at multitasking than I had believed. Having two deadlines to contend with (a short story for an anthology, and the rewrites for Life, A.D.) while being a stay at home mom has been far more challenging than I’d ever imagined. So that’s my excuse. Pretty good, right? I mean, I’d accept that as a proper excuse.

Now that things have settled a bit, I hope to get back to regular blogging.

And on to exciting news- my cover has been revealed in this amazing video from my publisher, Month9Books. Please click the link below and check it out! I’d love to hear what you think, and I would super-duper love for you to share the video.

Meet Month9Books

Interview Mondays- Dorothy Dreyer

Welcome to my second installment of Interview Mondays! Today I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with another fellow Month9Books author, Dorothy Dreyer. Dorothy’s debut novel, My Sister’s Reaper, will hit the shelves in May 2013.

 

Thank you for joining us today, Dorothy! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m an American living in Germany, married to a wonderful German man for 18 years, and together we have a pre-teen son and a teenage daughter. I’m also an English teacher at a private multi-lingual nursery school.

Are you a lifelong writer, or did the passion for writing spring up more recently?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember—back before word processing programs even existed. I wrote stories and plays on paper. But I never set out to get published until after my kids were born. It was then I decided to achieve some of my life-long goals.

Congratulations on your publishing deal! Can you tell us about your debut urban fantasy novel, My Sister’s Reaper?

Sure! Here’s the pitch:

Sixteen-year-old Zadie’s first mistake was telling the boy she liked she could bring her dead sister back to life. Her second mistake was actually doing it.

When Zadie accidentally messes with the Reaper’s Rite that should have claimed her sister Mara, things go horribly wrong. Mara isn’t the same anymore—Zadie isn’t even sure she’s completely human. To top it off, a Reaper is determined to take Mara’s soul. Now Zadie must figure out how to defeat her sister’s Reaper or let Mara die … this time for good.

As a first time author, breaking in to the publishing world is tough work. Do you think living in Germany and selling to the U.S. market made it even harder? What unique challenges did/do you face living overseas?

It’s funny, I always felt like putting my German address at the end of a query letter would make agents and publishers skeptical. Even if agency websites stated they represented writers from all over the world, I wondered if they might tag it as a nuisance to take on yet another author living overseas. I can’t say for sure if that’s why I got rejected from some agents or not. I guess I really just had to rely on my writing being strong enough that the details didn’t matter.

What drew you to write for the young adult market?

When I was a teenager, my stories were always based on teenagers. As I got older I did write a few adult-world stories, but I wasn’t glued to them. My first real pull into the young adult literature world, although it’s technically a children’s book, was Harry Potter. I was inspired not only to write to a younger audience, but to bring magic into my stories.

I think readers are often confused by the wide variety of genres and sub-genres (heck, it even confuses some of us writers). What are some of the characteristics that define the urban fantasy novel?

Add me to the confused list, lol. There’s been a lot of debate about paranormal versus urban fantasy, and to tell you the truth, my book fits into both categories. Here’s what a group on Goodreads defines urban fantasy as:

“Urban fantasy is a subset of contemporary fantasy, consisting of magical novels and stories set in contemporary, real-world, urban settings–as opposed to ‘traditional’ fantasy set in wholly imaginary landscapes. The urban fantasy protagonist faces extraordinary circumstances as plots unfold in either open (where magic or paranormal events are commonly accepted to exist) or closed (where magical powers or creatures are concealed) worlds. A romantic subplot may or may not exist within the context of the story.”

My story has these elements, but could also be considered a paranormal fantasy, magical realism, paranormal romance, a thriller, or a horror novel. It’s got a little bit of everything, I guess.

How did you come to join the Month9Books family? Can you tell us a little about your submission process?

 

In January I entered the Pitch Slam contest on YALitChat. My pitch made the top ten, but I was not named one of the three winners. Not giving it another thought, I was surprised when I found an email in my inbox from Georgia McBride’s assistant asking to see the first chapter. It wasn’t long before I received another email asking to see the full. Then one morning a couple weeks later, as I was checking my email over breakfast, I got the offer for a two-book contract. I was completely blown away.

You have a sequel in the works. Any other irons in the fire, or are you focused on one project at a time?

At the moment I’m concentrating on edits for MY SISTER’S REAPER as well as fleshing out what I have of the sequel. There are a couple stories kicking around in my head that I hope I’ll have time to write soon, as well as a couple of my shelved stories I’d love to rework, but too many at once would probably send me over the edge.

Tell us a bit about your writing process. Are you an outliner, or do you just sit down and write? Do you do any needed research as you go, or get it all done at the start?

I’m a plotter, for sure. I’m a big fan of the storyboard process, laying out scene by scene to get an overview of how my story should go. Of course, when I’m writing, my pantser evil twin tends to pop in and throw the story a curve, but usually it’s a good curve. As for research, I do some before I start my stories, just so I have a general idea of what I’m dealing with, but I do research as I go along too.

What are some of the benefits of publishing through an indie press like Month9Books?

 

I think small presses are more open and willing to take chances on new authors. They’re probably also more willing to ignore the trends. One thing that made me nervous whenever I queried was the buzz on the web that paranormal was a dying genre. That the big six weren’t going to even consider them anymore. I don’t know if that’s entirely true or not, but I think indie presses look past what’s hot or not and just focus on publishing great stories.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

 

Read, read, read! It’s vital. And there are so many good books out there, how could one possibly pass that up? But also, never give up. If you have a dream, and you’re determined make it come true, you cannot stop pursuing it. Make it happen!

 

Thanks again for joining us, Dorothy!

Thanks for having me, Michelle! And I wish everyone luck on their publishing journeys!

You can find Dorothy on the web:

Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorDorothyDreyer

Dorothy on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5815423.Dorothy_Dreyer

My Sister’s Reaper on Goodreads (cover reveal coming this winter): http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13597733-my-sister-s-reaper

Dorothy’s blog, We Do Write: http://we-do-write.blogspot.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DorothyDreyer

Interview Mondays!

I have had the recent great fortune to sign a two-book publishing deal with Georgia McBride’s new imprint, Month9Books, and today I’m rolling out the very first installment of my weekly series, in which I will be interviewing my fabulous fellow Month9 authors. Let me brush off the cobwebs and spiff up the place a bit so we can all give a warm welcome to my first victim—erm, guest—Lisa M. Basso!

From Goodreads.com:

Lisa M. Basso was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She is a lover of books, video games, animals, and baking (not baking with animals though). As a child she would crawl into worlds of her own creation and get lost for hours. Her love for YA fiction started with a simple school reading assignment: S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. When not reading or writing she can usually be found at home with The Best Boyfriend that Ever Lived ™ and her two darling (and sometimes evil) cats, Kitties A and B.

A compelling and spirited debut from Lisa M. Basso in which sixteen-year-old Rayna Evans has spent the last three years locked away in a mental institution for seeing angels. Intent on remaining free, she ignores signs that she may be slipping into the world she has tried so hard to climb out of. But when her hallucinations begin showing up at school, can Rayna keep her job, her sanity and keep students from dying at the hand of angels she can’t admit to seeing?

Psychiatry, fantasy and real life come together in A Shimmer of Angels, as a young girl struggles with identity, secrets and confronting her greatest fears. A Shimmer of Angels is a wonderful read for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider, or perhaps has felt like giving up entirely. It touches on themes of suicide, ostracism and emotional pain. The author, personally exposed to suicide through the death of her beloved brother, will donate a percentage of sales of this novel to a local suicide prevention and outreach program in San Francisco, California.

A Shimmer of Angels is slated for release on November 12, 2012.

Thank you for joining us, today, Lisa! How long have you been writing?

I’ve written on an off for most of my life, but decided I wanted to become a writer almost five years ago. And I never looked back.

Tell us a little about your book, A Shimmer of Angels.

A SHIMMER OF ANGELS is about a sixteen-year-old girl, Rayna, who was sent to a mental health facility for seeing angels. After three years of in-and-out treatment, she is released. She believes her angel sightings are in remission, until she starts to slip, seeing things that can’t possibly be real. I don’t want to give too much away, so that’ll have to be the teaser.

How does your writing process work? Do you outline, take notes, or just sit down and write?

For every book I write, the process is different. Sometimes I outline then write, sometimes I write then outline. Most of the time I begin with an idea. I start by making as many notes as I can. From there I decided whether if this is what I really want to write, is the idea substantial enough to encompass an entire book or is this more short story material? Once I’ve decided this is it, I ask myself if I want to outline or just write. If I outline, will it be super detailed or just the main plot points and character arcs? If I write, how far will I get before I realize I need to know the ending? I try to outline, but a lot of times the characters take over and things change. That’s one of my favorite parts about writing, realizing the ten pages you just wrote were nothing like the outline, but they work better!

What was your inspiration for A Shimmer of Angels? How did the idea come to you?

I started with the idea of angels (obviously, right?). I knew it would be YA. It had to be YA. The book had to have wings in it. The more I thought about it, the idea of colors came to me. Not just wings, white wings and black wings. Which led me to good versus evil. Sort of. I let it simmer and the idea continued to grow. I didn’t want just good and evil, I wanted gray. So I wrote in a lot of gray areas, morally and mentally, infusing a lot of “in between” with the characters and the plot.

How did you come to Month9Books? Tell us a little about the process of scoring your publishing deal.

I submitted to YALitChat’s Submission Mailbox. Not much later Month9Books requested a partial, the first 25 pages. A few days later, they asked to see the full. About two weeks after that, I had an offer for a three book deal in my inbox!

What made you choose to write young adult novels? Or did YA choose you?

The  first two books I wrote were straight up adult urban fantasy. After completing both books, I started reading more YA. A lot more. After I’d      absorbed somewhere between twenty and thirty, the idea just came to me. YA. You need to be writing this amazing genre. My first idea, a teeny tiny plot thread for A SHIMMER OF ANGELS. The rest is history.

One of the great things about Month9 is the input we authors get to have. Can you tell us about the cover design process?

The cover process was surprising. The original cover was very similar to the final product. We went through a few rounds, tweaking minor things until we were all happy. I love that Month9Books gave me the opportunity to voice my opinions. They may have regretted it in the beginning, though. After the first cover option, I sent off a long email, super detailed explaining what I liked and what I hoped we could work on. And instantly regretted it. I mean, what had I done? They couldn’t really want my feedback, they probably just wanted me to approve or deny it. I freaked, until I got a reply. Not only did they take my feedback seriously, but they thanked me for my candor. This was when I knew there was something very different about what Month9Books is doing. When the final product arrived, I felt like I had a little something to do with it, rather than just having it handed to me.

It must have been exciting to see your finished cover for the first time. What was that like?

 The finished cover blew me away. I stopped, stared, then stared some more. It’s colorful, shimmery (teehee), and so different from anything else out there. I still stare at it (when I have the time).

Try not to stare. I dare you.

What is next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?

Books two and three of the A SHIMMER OF ANGELS trilogy are slated for release in November of 2013 and 2014.

What has been the most surprising thing about becoming a (soon to be) published author? Is the reality different from your expectations?

After having this dream for many, many years, I knew it would take time and a lot of hard work. The really surprising part about this whole journey so far is the timing. I’ve heard that publishing moves at a snail’s pace. I signed with Month9Books in February and my book is releasing less than a year later.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Read as much as you can and write even more. Work hard, don’t give up, and dream big.

 

You can find Lisa online: goodreads.com/LisaMBasso

twitter: @LisaMBasso

Lisa-Basso.blogspot.com

And be sure to mark your calendars for November!

You can check out our fabulous publisher, here: month9books.com and on twitter: @Month9Books.