Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blog Hop

Hi all

Well, here are the promised blog hop questions. I was tagged by Nancy Tupper Ling to participate. Please visit her blog and her answers:

I am now tagging two others to participate:

Click the links above to check out their blogs,  and watch for their answers to the blog hop questions soon.

Now, here are my answers:

–What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on two middle grade novels. Oliver and the Underlings is a fantasy which is complete and is currently out to agents right now. I may do edits if I get some really good feedback from agents or from my critique partners. The Vanilla Wafer Chronicles: The Case of the Missing Pin is a mystery in its final stages of editing. I have plenty of folders with other novel and short story ideas that I'll pull out from time to time to work on, but those two are the main focus right now.

–How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Oliver and the Underlings:

I like to think Oliver and the Underlings is a new look at the whole "monster in the closet" meme. I've seen plenty of stories that take popular myths and put a new spin on them, but for my story I wanted to create a brand new mythology. Also, its uniqueness comes not just from the high concepts involved but the characters, with their own personal problems and stories, that populate the novel.

The Vanilla Wafer Chronicles: The Case of the Missing Pin:

First of all, I don't know too many people who have written stories with a main character with a head injury. The  ones I have seen are all adult mystery stories, usually involving main characters who are trying to solve a murder in which they are the main suspects. What I did was try to write to take this concept and apply it to someone who is in elementary school. Yes, the main character is the prime suspect in a crime, although it's not anything as serious as a murder. But in addition to this, I also explore other concepts that hit home to kids of that age: concepts of acceptance, building friendships, dealing with bullies, trying to make it in school when you're disadvantaged somehow, dealing with the death of a parent, etc. 

–Why do I write what I write?
I basically write what I love to read. Which is: anything that's a little off beat. I tend to read a lot of horror and fantasy stories for adults and children, because, let's face it, you can't get any more off beat than those genres. I write for both adults and children, but mostly for children. The reason for this is that I loved to read as a child, and I would love to give that love of reading to other children as well. Also, I've been finding that fantasy and horror stories written for children seem to be a lot more interesting to me. I find the concepts explored to be more experimental. There are just certain things that just don't happen often in adult novels. You don't see many adult novels with adult characters attending wizard school, or interacting with technologically advanced fairies, for example. There's a lot more risk-taking in children's fiction. Adult characters, like real adults, can be too skeptical, too unbelieving, too rational. But children still have that sense of wonder, so when fantastic things start to happen, fantastic things start to happen to THEM. 

–How does my individual writing process work?
My writing process is a little bizarre. Mainly because I just don't have the time to devote to writing like most people do. I have a full-time day job as a software engineer, and when I get home, I have responsibilities to my wife, four kids, three cats, and a dog. So when do I find time to write? Whenever I can. Most of the time, I spend about three days during my work week doing some writing during my lunch breaks. Other than that, I squeeze writing in while I'm sitting at the karate dojo while my kids take karate, or the few minutes before their soccer games start, or while I'm waiting for my wife while she's in the store. Lately it's been a big help to me to put all my documents in Google Docs. That way I have 24/7 access to them with any device (laptop, tablet, phone) I happen to have with me at the time. 

I get my ideas from walking down this particular street in my town. They come from the sky, WHAM, in burlap sacks, except instead of dollar signs printed on the sides, they have story titles... Okay, I'm kidding. Who really knows where ideas come from? But when they come, and they stick in my brain a while, I make sure to create a new folder on my computer and jot it down. I may never get to it again, but it's there, and when I get stuck on current projects, I like to pull out those ideas and play around with them to see if I can get a story to form.

As for how I write, my first drafts pretty much are off the cuff. Most things I write I don't plan ahead of time. They just come out and I write them down exactly as I first see them in my mind. I never go back and edit during this process. If I do that, I find it kills my momentum to get my stories written down and finished. As I said above, I don't have a lot of time to write. Going back and tinkering with anything will seriously kill what little time I have.

Once the first draft is complete, I start the editing process. I don't have a set number of passes that I go through when I edit. Maybe I should. I just go through the document enough times so that I'm comfortable with showing it to people. At that point, I'll start bringing these later drafts to my critique groups for their opinions. And then I go through multiple edits after that until I have addressed everything I feel needs addressing. 

Then, it's subbing time! And while I do that, I write something else. Otherwise, I'd go mad.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coming Up Next...

Hi all

Sorry for my absence. Real life has been pretty hectic lately. I just wanted to announce a few things that are coming up on the blog, as well as tie up a couple loose ends.

First, I don't know if I explicitly announced this or not, but the winner was revealed related to the Blog Critique Tour contest on Miss Snark's First Victim's blog, here:

Congratulations to J K Wise, and thank you to all who participated and especially those who were kind enough to leave me feedback on my own writing sample. Those comments are still being digested, and I know my writing will be better for them.

Second, I was tagged a little who ago by my good writer friend, Kim Curley, to do an interview on her blog. In case anyone missed it, you can read the interview here:

Feel free to wander around her blog and check out what else she's up to. Soon I'll be interviewing her as well, so stay tuned for that!

Third, I have a bunch of new reviews coming soon:

1. Thumbprint, a graphic novel by Joe Hill (son of the famous Stephen King and an incredible writer in his own right). I finished this one a while back but haven't written the review yet.
2. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black. Again, finished this one some time ago but haven't written a review yet. This was one of the books I got from BEA 2013.
3. Altered, by Gennifer Albin. This is the second book in her Crewel World series. I'm about 3/4 of the way through reading this one. This was another book I got from BEA 2013.
4. Flawed, by J. L. Spelbring. This is the second book in her Perfection series. I should be starting to read this one soon. The review will be part of a blog tour she is doing during the month of August.
5. Blackfin Sky, by Kat Ellis. This is her debut novel, and I should also be starting to read this one soon. I'm shooting to have a review for it up by the time the book debuts here in the U.S. in September.

Finally, I've been tagged to answer a few questions by fellow author and friend Nancy Tupper Ling for a blog hop she's participating in. I'll be posting the answers to the blog hop questions on my blog soon, as well as tagging two others to participate. In the meantime, you can check out what the questions are and her answers to them here on her blog, and check out other exciting things this talented author is up to:

That's all for now. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Check out Weird Al's New Song: Word Crimes

Hi all

I'm taking time out of my normal blog writing to promote what I consider to be an absolutely brilliant song and video by Weird Al Yankovic. All writers or anyone who has ever taught English in school will love and relate to this.

Check it out!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Miss Snark's First Victim #BLOGPITCH Contest

UPDATE 7/15/14

I was away on vacation for the weekend but wanted to pop back in here and say thank you again to everyone who left comments about my story. Your comments will be extremely helpful. Thank you also to Authoress for her kindness and generosity, always! :-)

UPDATE: 7/11/14 

First, thank you ALL for your AWESOME feedback! I'm very impressed with the level of critiques I've received, and I'm sure all of it will be very helpful getting this book into publishable shape.

Second, if you would still like to leave critiques on any of the entries for Miss Snark's First Victim's Blog Critique Tour and have your critique count as an entry into Authoress's contest, you must leave your critiques before midnight EDT! I won't be blocking any further comments after that time, and you're free to leave comments, but be aware your critique will not be eligible for the contest.

UPDATE: 7/9/14

Today the Blog Critique Tour portion of the contest goes live. If you want to take part, feel free to leave me critiques in the COMMENTS section of my blog. Make sure if you're leaving critique to post under a name other than Anonymous, otherwise you won't be entered for a chance to win. I'm including a link at the bottom of my original blog post to Miss Snark's First Victim's blog which explains the rules and also has all the other amazing authors' blogs so you can critique all 10 of our writing samples.

Enjoy, and thanks!!


Hi all.

So I have some exciting news. I've just been selected to take part in Miss Snark's First Victim's #BLOGPITCH contest!

Round one of the contest has already passed. Contestants entered their Twitter pitches with the hashtag #BLOGPITCH on Twitter, and 10 pitches were selected by Authoress, the anonymous but amazing author behind the Miss Snark's First Victim blog. For the next phase, each of the 10 winners will post loglines and the first 250 words of their books on their blogs for critique. For every critique given to one of the 10 winners, the critiquer is entered into another contest to win a 15-page critique by Authoress. All loglines and writing samples will be posted on the winners' blogs by Wednesday, July 9, where critiquing will begin and end by midnight Friday, July 11.

For more details on this contest, and for other writing related resources, tips, and contests, visit Miss Snark's First Victim: a blog for aspiring authors.

I'm excited to be part of this for a bunch of different reasons:
    - I get to receive valuable feedback on my logline and writing sample
    - I get to help other authors out there by providing the same feedback for them
    - I get to connect with more authors who are hoping to be published someday like I am
    - I get to give my readers a glimpse of one of the many things I'm up to these days with my writing

And finally:
    - I get to turn you all on to Miss Snark's First Victim's website, a valuable resource for writers.

So, without further ado, here is my logline for my middle-grade mystery novel I'm working on, The Vanilla Wafer Chronicles: The Case of the Missing Pin:

Brain-injured Jason becomes a detective to solve the case of the school bully's missing pin. Why? Jason is the number one suspect.

Here is a 250-word excerpt from Chapter 1:

Jason Roberts slumped in his seat, lost in his usual fog. Ms. Iafrate strutted around the room, lost in her lecture on electricity, but all the important points seemed to blow away before his ears could trap them and deliver them to his brain.

Jason rummaged through his backpack and pulled out a pad to take notes. A tap on his shoulder startled him.

"Hey, weird kid," a boy sitting behind him said. "What's with the notebook?"

Jason looked around. None of the other kids in the class had notebooks. Apparently, they had photographic memories. Unlike him, who had no memory at all. "Nothing," Jason mumbled and put the notebook away.

As Ms. Iafrate rambled on, Jason sighed. Why couldn't she slow down for a minute? He rolled his eyes up into his head, as if somehow the ideas had made it to his brain anyway and all he had to do was look for them.

Ms. Iafrate's voice broke through his thoughts. "Who would like to volunteer for The Experiment?"

Jason shuddered. He pictured the capital "T" and "E" in his mind when he thought of Ms. Iafrate's evil experiments. She clearly designed them to embarrass the students. Two days ago, The Experiment dealt with static electricity. Ms. Iafrate had instructed Jason to rub a balloon on a piece of carpet and then touch it to his head. For the rest of the day, he couldn’t seem to comb his hair back into place. A bunch of kids called him Porcu-Jay all that afternoon.

I'll be putting up a quick post when all the other winners from the first round of the contest have been posted on Miss Snark's First Victim's blog (which should be on Wednesday, July 9). At that time, you can go check out all the loglines and writing samples based on the other winning Twitter pitches and leave your critique for a chance to win the 15-page critique.

Enjoy, and let the critiques fly!



Monday, July 7, 2014

My First Author Interview

Hi all.

Just a quick note to let you know that I just had my first author interview posted on someone else's blog today!

Go check out my author friend Kim Curley's blog where I answer all her questions and tell everyone a little more about myself and what makes this writer's mind tick. I suggest you check out the rest of her blog once you're done reading my interview.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Doing the Write Thing in Summer

Hi all.

First, thank you everyone for following along and for the flurry of activity on this blog lately. It's been great to be able to do this on a (sort of) regular basis now.

Second, I wanted to talk about things you as writers might be interested in to keep that pen, or those fingers, moving during the summer. There are an assortment of writing-related activities that you can do during the summer, and I just want to touch on a few of them for those who might not be aware of them or who might be a little stuck.

I'm also going to go with a C theme here, since there are lots of C's in summer: cookouts, clambakes, camping, (World) Cups... you get the idea.


Yes, there are a bunch of writing contests going on, even during the summer. Contests are a great way to kick start your creativity. Many of them are themed, so they may force you to write something new or out of your comfort zone.  Also, a little direction can keep you focused as you write.

Doing a search on Google will produce lots of results on writing contests. Here's one site I found when I searched recently that has a list of many contests you can get involved in:

When you are considering writing contests, always remember to go with the ones with no entry fee if you can. If you have to choose one with an entry fee, make sure the amount for the fee is a good proportion to what you'd win. I wouldn't be entering a writing contest if the entry fee is $50 and you're only going to win $100 maximum, for example. Also, prizes are nice to win, but you also want your story published. Look for contests that give you and your writing lots of exposure as well.

Maybe you want to work on something more challenging or ambitious during the summer. Most contests are focused on writing shorter stories, but you've always wanted to write a book. In that case, I'd look for novel writing month events, events that challenge you to write an entire novel in a month. The most common event is called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but that one is in November, which is a long way away. However, another that's affiliated with them is called Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a fun summer variation on the idea where you get to join up with other "campers", who will be your support team while you work on your novel during the month of July. (Wait, it IS July... go sign up NOW and get in on the fun!)


Most people don't like taking courses during the summer. I definitely get that. Who wants to sit in a hot, stuffy classroom all summer listening to instructors drone on and on while you fight off sleep and dream about lounging at the beach? But these days you don't even have to leave the comforts of your own house to take a writing course. You don't even need to get out of your PJs. There are plenty of online or correspondence writing course options available to you.

The two I've been involved with are the Gotham Writers Workshop and the Institute of Children's Literature (or the Long Ridge Writers' Group if you're a writer for adults). Both work very differently from each other, so it depends on what type of environment you're looking for.

If you're looking for more one-on-one instruction, then Institute of Children's Literature or Long Ridge Writers' Group courses may be more your style. You work on assignments at your own pace, submit them to your instructor, and the instructor returns the assignments to you with plenty of comments, suggestions, and helpful hints related to how you may be able to submit your work for publication. Most instructors correspond with you via email. You may also be able to receive continuing education credits for the course.

If you're looking for something a little closer to an actual classroom environment, then the Gotham Writers' Workshop courses might be better suited for you. Once a week, you log into a "virtual classroom", where the instructor will lecture and you can ask questions and get assistance. There are also other students taking the course at the same time as you. Your coursework not only involves you submitting your own writing for instructor critique, but you are required to critique the work of the other students taking the course with you. It functions very much like a critique group (which I'll get into momentarily), with the added bonus of having a writing professional overseeing everything and providing valuable insight. Again, as with the Institute of Children's Literature and Long Ridge Writers' Group, your courses may count as continuing education credits.


I don't know about you, but many times when I'm writing I feel like I'm working in a vacuum. It can be a very lonely profession. Plus, sometimes you just can't seem to find the resources or support you need to know how you're doing with your writing.

That's where critique groups come in. They're groups of people with one thing in common - they love to writing. They're your support group. Your cheerleaders. They can also knock you off your high horse with some much-needed realistic commentary on your work. For all these reasons, they are a valuable resource I feel no writer should be without.

Now that you have some free time during those lazy days of summer, maybe now is a good time to start looking around for a critique group. To get started looking for one, you can hit Google again and search for some. Your best bet is to narrow your search if possible. If you like to write only sci-fi and fantasy, look for a group that has similar interests. If you can't travel to participate in a critique group or you don't feel comfortable meeting people face-to-face, then maybe an online critique group is best for you.

In closing, I'll leave you with one more C word: CONTINUE.

Continue to write throughout the summer. Keep up your momentum. Writing during the summer can be a fun time, especially because it's a more relaxed time for most people. If you do find you're having a tough time keeping up with it, try some of my suggestions above. Enter some contests, take a course, or join a critique group.

Let me know what your plans are to keep writing this summer in the comments. I'll check back with everyone near the end of the summer to see if anyone's tried any of my suggestions. Feel free to write about those experiences as well.