Sunday, October 28, 2012

The In Between Drift

Now that I have finished writing and editing Dodge the Sun, I’ve been thrown into a strange twilight zone of in between writing. It’s a dark land full of indecision and hesitation. The fact that I concentrate on a single project at a time instead of working on multiple ones makes the move harder. After spending an entire year inside one manuscript, living in the characters’ heads, it’s difficult to jump forward. There’s a strange reluctance to put aside these very real people you’ve created, and put all your energies into something new. I tend to drift and do no writing. It’s almost like a grieving process.

So I’ve given myself two months, and it’s time to get back into the swing. I miss creating. But do I go back and work on an unfinished project? Maybe try a short story to stop the drift until I’m ready for a full novel. Keep drifting by continuing to concentrate on querying while entering agent contests and not write at all? Start a sequel? Jumping into something large and totally new? It’s not an easy decision, especially with upcoming edits to Kindar which will interrupt anything I start.

I guess I’m trying to say that there will probably be a blog slowdown as I find my way. For now I’m trying to write a prequel short story to Kindar. It’s not really flowing yet. My word counts wouldn’t make me a NaNoWrite star. It is progress. A hundred words at a time is good enough for a start.

Does anyone else go through the twilight zone in between projects? How do you handle it and how long does it last for you?  


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Location, Location, Location

My family was recently in Chicago to take our daughter to visit an art college located right in the heart of downtown. We were surrounded by somber-colored sky touching buildings set against the brilliant blue color contrast of Lake Michigan. The nearby parks and sidewalks boasted hordes of strangers, many of them tourists just like us. And always the sounds of ceaseless traffic. So much to see, so much variety.

We didn't get to see much of the city because of our business at the college kept us inside, but we did make a stop at Millenium Park to visit a Chicago landmark. The parking garage where we left our car was actually directly below Cloud Gate or as it is better known, 'The Bean'. This shiny bean-shaped sculpture reflects the skyline of the city. It's been in several movies and is really a beautiful sight. 

I did get in a little writing research on our day of fun and adventure. Our path took us to within blocks of where I set the ending of my latest novel, Dodge the Sun. Not far from 'The Bean' (just to the right in the picture below) is a spot where the skyscrapers almost meet Lake Michigan. It's a place with the narrowest gap between buildings and water, and that's where I set my finale. Of course when I wrote those chapters I was miles away in Indiana. I got a chance to see whether my memory from dozens of daytrips to see Cubs games or visit the Field Museum and Aquarium matched the actual scenery. I think I came pretty close. A successful trip all around.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Getting the Call: Danielle Ackley-McPhail

This week we have a special Getting the Call from someone who knows all sides of the publishing business. Danielle Ackley-McPhail is an accomplished writer who also happens to be the project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books. (I do believe I had a partial with them before my novel got placed elsewhere. That makes us family, just like a visit to Olive Garden.) Thanks so much for sharing your story and your colorful cover art, Danielle. Perhaps if readers have some questions for you in the comments, you might shed some light from the publisher's perspective. Tips for promoting new books being high in my own thoughts.

Getting Making the Call: Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Sheer. Dumb. Luck.

Yes, those three words say it all. Way back in my misspent youth I volunteered on the AOL message board The Amazing Instant Novelist. The board was as a support group for aspiring writers. They held two weekly contests and had many discussion boards where people could post their writing for feedback from the site’s dedicated staff, as well as fellow posters.

Eventually I showed up—and commented—often enough I was asked to become official. NOVL tGift was born. This meant that in addition to doing what I was already doing, I also “hung” out with the staff in private chat rooms. The primary topic, of course, was writing.

I can’t tell you how many ideas came from my participating in this site.

No, really…if you asked, I couldn’t do it.

What I can tell you is that without those private chat sessions my first novel never would have been published. Yesterday’s Dreams started out as a story. Just a basic idea of a pawnshop specializing in items linked to a person’s soul. One story turned into a couple of chapters, and so on. The feedback was great, the story fun, but I didn’t realize for a long time that I was writing a novel. Initially I was posting the chapters on line as I wrote them with hokey little animated gifs and everything. See, at that time AOL was just starting to offer free home pages to their members. I wasn’t very good at it, but I had fun playing with their set-up software.

Let me tell you, though…You can put as many links as you want to email the author, but it virtually never happens. I think for the three years it was posted I received maybe five emails commenting on the story and site. But you know…that was all it took.

See, one of those emails…It was someone claiming to be an agent. They wanted to see the story when I was done because “they knew a couple of publishers who might be interested”.

All of a sudden I was writing a novel.

Now you might think that would be motivation for me to get it done.

You would be wrong. Oh, not because I didn’t want to. No. Because I had no friggin’ idea what I was doing! It took me another two years to finish that novel. When I was done it was, as they say, a hot mess. But you know, that guy was still around, so I figured what the heck. I emailed him and very quickly got a response. “Great! Email it to me and I’ll take a look.”

Oh! No no no! (That was what went through my head.) See, email submissions were less formal and less common then. I had all kinds of nightmares of having finished this thing and having it stolen out from under me. Of course, I wasn’t going to turn away from the opportunity either. The first thing I did was print out a copyright registration form and fill it out, print the manuscript, and package it up for UPS. Then I went hunting. I checked out the guy’s member profile and found a link to a publishing website. I visited that site and did some digging. Eventually I found a phone number and I called.

Most of the time you hear dead silence it’s a bad thing, right?

Nope. Not this time the receptionist answers and I ask if the person emailing me is connected with the company. She goes quiet for all of about a minute and then says. “He’s the publisher.”

I immediately hit send (and mailed my package) and then proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually I received a very apologetic email and an offer.

Now before you start to hate me for having it too easy this was the smallest of small presses and about all they officially did for me was get my foot in the door and give me a rather shaky credibility that I had to build up considerably over the years. Unofficially? They showed me the possibilities…and I ran with them.

You want to know how? Please do visit my official website,, and take a look at what I have accomplished over the last ten years based on recognizing possibilities.

Bio: Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over seventeen years. Her works include the urban fantasies, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, Today’s Promise, and The Halfling’s Court, and the writers guide, The Literary Handyman. She edits the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies and Dragon’s Lure, and has contributed to numerous other anthologies.
She is a member of the New Jersey Authors Network and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, lit_handyman), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). Learn more at

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ding, Round Two: Hook, Line and Sinker

Today begins the second round of the Hook, Line and Sinker contest run by the super kind and energetic Summer Heacock, Kat Ellis, and Dee 'Writes for Apples'. Our Hooks and Lines were judged on whether they might appeal to the needs of the invited agents. Thirty YA entrants were chosen from seventy-five. Also twenty middle grade and twenty adult made the second round.

The exact time the winners of round one would be announced had been leaked on twitter, but I had no way of getting to a computer. As it's Tuesday, and Tuesday is our no special (gym, art, library, music) day, there was no way to escape twenty needy six-year-olds to look over the listings. 1:30 came and went, and I couldn't stop wondering. Curiosity is a terrible thing. It eats at your nerve. I sweated it out and was astonished to see my name. I'm very grateful and relieved to have made the second round. There were many fabulous entries submitted by talented writers. I'm glad to be among them.

Now we get to include our first 250 words from our manuscripts as our Sinkers. Then we'll be re-scrutinized and further cut down to groups of ten per genre with ten extra favorites. That makes a total of forty entries which go into the third round. Then the wonderful and intelligent agents will ... But that's wishful thinking and getting ahead of myself. First things first. The Sinker.

I wanted the Sinker to end with a hook. Something to make readers want to see what happens next. I picked the best hook sentence in my opening page, then pruned a bit until the block of paragraphs fit into the required 250 word limit. My finished rough draft landed on exactly 250. That seems like a good omen.

I call it a rough draft because I'm hoping for suggestions and ways to improve. Please shout out if you there are any typos. If you see a way to tighten the flow, let me know. (Ha, a rhyme ) Anyway, here it is, my Sinker:

Edit: Some changes made.

The magic anklet jangled against Little Bit’s leg with every step, an irritation she couldn’t scratch at the moment. The over-full laundry basket occupied one hand while her other gripped the railing. The wicker handle balanced against her right hip, digging in with each stride. Creaks and shifts came from the wooden stair which wound in a spiral around the outside of the tower. She shuddered and kept her eyes fixed on the treads, careful not to look at the twenty foot drop through the gaps. Why did the tower have to be so high?

At last, she reached the square landing of oak planks. Hidden from prying eyes by the tower, she set down the basket and knelt to hike up her cotton skirt, embroidered with clover and their purple blossoms. A wink of gold glittered in the morning sun. The chain of delicate gold links clasped around her ankle, mocking her with its fragile appearance. Little Bit reached for the anklet, then chewed her lip, but like a sore tooth, she couldn’t resist probing.

She squared her shoulders before taking the chain in either hand, feeling its strange heat burn her fingers. A sting as though a thousand nettles increased with each pulse of her heart.

“Come off!”

The tiny links refused to part.

With a gasp, she released it. Hateful thing. New burns crisscrossed over faded scars to cover her hands. She put sore fingers in her mouth. His magic would never let her go.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pitch Woes

So I've been trying to come up with a snappy pitch for a contest this weekend. (See the official Hook, Line, and Sinker Contest announcement here.) It's been a struggle to put it mildly. I started by taking bits and pieces from my query letter, half a sentence here, a phrase here. Ugh, that got me nowhere. Why was I torturing myself? I had the query letter, done, finished, complete. It had produced results. Why did I need a pitch? I wasn't planning to use one. I'm not one to attend writer's conferences. Too shy. Can't take time out to travel. They are kinda rare in Indiana. So why?

Well, it's good practice for one. When those well-intentioned people ask 'what's your book about' a pitch would give me something to spew out. Plus, truthfully, it was a challenge. I wanted to see if I come up with something. I do love a challenge.

Back to the drawing board. A change of direction and help from a beta reader (You know who you are, thanks tons!), several more revisions, and I might have something I can live with. Still, I'll take any suggestions I can get. If you dear readers have better thoughts, please put them in the comments. Whether I make the contest window or press send a second too late, now I'll have a pitch.

Hook for my YA fantasy, Dodge the SunThey didn’t have nursery-rhyming cannibals or super-sized possums on her farm—only cows. A deteriorating shield forces Little Bit to evade lethal radiation from the sun while she searches for New Chicago. Oh, and the mage back home forgot to mention she isn’t a hero, or even human—she started life as a rabbit.

The contest also requires one super stand alone sentence. So far I'm torn between two possibilities, which I  must decide soon because the contest is tomorrow morning.

Line 1: Better to be a corpse brought back to life, a Frankenstein monster of bits and pieces.
Line 2: If Markus didn’t comprehend whether she was woman or beast, soulless or filled with grace, no one could.

Edit: I made it into the contest and I used Line 1 with the correction of Frankenstein's monster. (Thanks, Lori!) The results of the first round judging will be Tuesday afternoon--October 16th.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Getting the Call: Lynda Williams

Today I'm happy to bring you an author who actually wrote a short about the despair she felt trying to break into publishing. Now she has not one, but seven books published. That's quite an accomplishment. Here's proof that it can be done and there is a market for a well-developed fantasy series. Welcome to Lynda Williams.

Michelle, I would love to share my "Getting the Call" story with you and your readers and to include the link to my story Going Back Out which I wrote when I was feeling despair about ever being a real writer because I couldn't see how I'd ever compete with the "big guys". The writer-analogy is about Gadar, a Reetion pilot who is depressed to discover Sevolites really do fly harder than she can. But, as Ann reminds her, they don't fly for her reasons and the people she flies for need HER. When you focus on what you are doing, and why, then fears about how loudly you can do it fade away.

Easier said than done, of course, but I have often re-read Going Back Out myself, particularly when I felt angry about some very loud success that jarred me emotionally for the sake of the implied messages about immoral behavior being okay so long as you win. My own "Getting the Call" message has to be when Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy bought Throne Price. I had sold a couple short stories before but the Okal Rel Saga was my big dream. Alison Sinclair and I sold Throne Price to Edge late in the last millenium. At the time, the "buzz" in the writerly world was all in favor of "shorter, meaner, harder", or at least so it seemed to me. A ten novel saga about the struggle to find the common sense to stop destroying the world, and brutalizing people, in the fight between cultures for dominance, felt like a dark horse. But I had lived and labored in the Okal Rel Universe for thirty years. I wasn't interested in doing "something else". 

Now, a mere 30,000 words shy of completing a ten-novel project, with Part 8: Gathering Storm due soon, I am glad I had the courage to keep flying for my own reasons. And this is what really makes it worthwhile -- so are the readers who love my characters.

Lynda Williams, author (Reality Skimming with Michelle Carraway, Tegan Lott,Richard Bartrop) (with David Lott)Opus 6 (with editor Paula Johanson)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cover Reveal for Grave Intentions

Who wants some eye candy, ladies? I'm so happy to share with you the cover of my friend Lori Sjoberg's debut romance novel, Grave Intentions. This one is on my wish list for Christmas. Aside from holding the first royalty check or the first hard copy in your very own hands, I'd imagine getting the cover art has to be the biggest thrill of a writer's life. This is when it actually starts to feel real, when the truth sinks in--I'm about to be published. So here it is with Lori's words of what the experience was like:

A lot of thought goes into cover art. Not only must it appeal to potential buyers perusing bookstore shelves, but it also has to catch the eye of anyone scrolling through books via online merchants. In a matter of seconds, the cover needs to convey genre and mood in a way that makes the reader think "MUST. BUY. NOW!" 

In general, authors have little say about what goes onto their covers. That was the case with Grave Intentions, and I was a little anxious when I finally received the artwork from my publisher . Would I be saddled with a butt ugly cover? Would I be embarrassed if my friends or family found it on Amazon? (As you can see, I'm a glass half empty kind of gal.) I clicked the jpeg with trepidation…and was pleasantly surprised!

All of the necessary elements were present: the scythe to indicate the book is about reapers, the bare-chested man candy to show the novel is a romance, the dark blue background to accentuate said bare-chested man candy, and the vivid text to highlight the title and author. It catches the eye in both full and thumbnail sizes. And most important of all, my name was on the cover of a book! The thrill of seeing that for the first time was indescribable.

Grave Intentions:

He’s handsome, reliable, and punctual—the perfect gentleman when you want him to be. But this dream man is Death’s best agent—and now he’s got more than his soul to lose…

One act of mercy before dying was all it took to turn soldier David Anderson into a reaper—an immortal who guides souls-of-untimely-death into the afterlife. But the closer he gets to atoning for his mortal sin and finally escaping merciless Fate, the more he feels his own humanity slipping away for good. Until he encounters Sarah Griffith. This skeptical scientist can’t be influenced by his powers—even though she has an unsuspected talent for sensing the dead. Her honesty and irreverent sense of humor reignite his reason for living—and a passion he can’t afford to feel. Now Fate has summoned David to make a devastating last harvest. And he’ll break every hellishly-strict netherworld rule to save Sarah…and gamble on a choice even an immortal can’t win.

The youngest of three girls, Lori never had control of the remote. (Not that she’s bitter about that. Really. Okay, maybe a little, but it’s not like she’s scarred for life or anything.) That meant a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy. Star Trek, Star Wars, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits – you name it, she watched it. It fed her imagination, and that came in handy when the hormones kicked in and she needed a creative excuse for being out past curfew.
After completing her first manuscript, Lori joined the Romance Writers of America and Central Florida Romance Writers. Now she exercises the analytical half of her brain at her day job, and the creative half writing paranormal romance. When she’s not doing either one of those, she’s usually spending time with her husband and children of the four-legged variety.
Her contact info is:
@Lori_Sjoberg (Twitter). 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Getting the Call: Linda Hays-Gibbs

Great news! I'm able to bring back these inspirational stories. I want to send out thanks to Terri Bruce for using her connections to bring new authors forward to share how they got published or landed agents. Allow me to introduce Linda Hays-Gibbs. I just met her and already I admire her determination.

When I saw the email that offered writers to write about how they got the call, I thought this would be very interesting.  I think I always had the call.  I made up poems and songs when I was three and wrote stories as young as six.  No one seemed interested in them as my mom was very sick and died when I was young.  My father didn’t believe a girl needed education.  I did have some teachers that tried to encourage me a little.  I was told to bring my imagination under control. I always made good grades so I did what I was told.
I was told by my Latin instructor that my translations were so interesting, I made his teaching career and made his class the most exciting he ever had.  All I know was I tried to translate but my imagination got in the way every time.

I started writing poetry in a journal for my daughter some years back because I was throwing away my poems.  Bea said, “Mom make a book of them and send them off to be published.”  “I said, no one will publish this mess.”  I did send them off and they were published.  I was amazed.  “Sailing in My Sunshine” was my first published book.

You see, I went back to school and got a degree in Anthropology.  Not what I wanted but what the school pigeon holed me into.  It was a mistake but I got a BA.  I wanted creative writing.  I did have a minor in it but all my professors, again said, I was too imaginative.  I didn’t have any order about me. In other words, I had no talent.

I was an older student.  I was Disabled and a widow.  I did not get any scholarships and finally felt like I was not wanted.  I went for my Master’s in Secondary Education after being turned down three times by the Creative Writing department.  It was simply I had no talent. I did get 28 credits in Graduate work as a teacher and taught for a while at local schools but it was not what I wanted.  I became too ill and could not walk to their classes and quit.

A light finally went off in my little brain.  I could write if I wanted to. There was no one to stop me.

Suddenly, I said, to heck with this.  I want to write so I will write.  I don’t need their permission.  I started writing novels. “He Would Make Her Pay” was my first novel and it was very painful.  It had my life intertwined in it and the 1960s were painful. I wrote “Escape into Magic” to escape.  I did not want any real life.  I wanted dreams.  Next I decided I wanted to write about Regency England.  It was all I read.  I love Romances in Regency times.  I wrote “My Angel, My Light As Darkness Falls” it was so much more fun but the publisher I had was not helping me.  I looked for another publisher.  I sent off my work and still had little confidence.  All the battering I had over my writing still hurt.  Eternal Press took “My Angel, My Light As Darkness Falls.”  Then I waited for reviews.  I chewed my nails and pulled my hair. 

The first review I got was not that great but wasn’t really bad.  I thought well there you are.  You aren’t that good but then I got seven more reviews and they were all great.  The first great review by Marilyn Rondeau made me cry. I was so happy.  I ate up each word and knew that I should never let anyone keep me from my dream.  Her review made my call real.  It became real to me.  I had two publishers and four books published but it wasn’t real until that review.  It made an old woman’s heart sing.  I now have another book coming out November 1, 2012. It is called “Angel in My Heart, Devil in My Soul.” 

I am writing the third in my angel series, “Morovani, The Guardian Angel”. I also have a novel almost finished called, “The Crazies”. It’s a little bit of a clean satire on “Fifty Shades of Gray.” I am afraid I have stories coming out of my ears but it’s still a scary time because these stories need to sell so I am told.  I only know that when Marilyn said my stories were worth something I believed her.  I came out to play, and I have been earnestly playing ever since.  I love it.  Writing is so much fun but you do need verification.  Marilyn was my verification.  I want to thank her again for my review that made my call official.

Linda D. Hays-Gibbs was born in Mississippi and lives in Alabama. She went back to school late in life, graduated with a BA in Anthropology from University of Alabama.  Reading is like nectar from the Gods to Linda and writing is just plain fun. Her great, great grandfather is Daniel Boone and she found that out by researching her family herself.
       Her fourth book, “My Angel, My Light As Darkness Falls” really meant more to her because she worked on it for such a long time and because Linda was determined to make her writing much better than it had been.  Kim Richards and Sally Odgers from Eternal Press are inspirations for her. Barbara Metzger, one of her favorite authors gave Linda encouragement too.  Linda loves writing and hopes to continue to do it for the rest of her life along with anything she can do for her God and children.

Blurb for Angel in My Heart, Devil in My Soul: He was a killer, a merciless, emotionless, machine for death.  She was and angel of love and hope and the woman of his dreams.  She could not be around evil, it would kill her and he was all that was evil and foul.  How could she dream of a man like that?
     When he held her in his arms and kissed her she felt her heart stutter and start and moaned when her dream dissipated into the night air.  He caressed boneless pillows of angel dust and silently cried when he awoke.  How could he live without her?