Saturday, 28 January 2017

How to Break Your Resolutions and Live to Tell About It


 It’s still January (just barely) and everyone’s talking about goals. Making goals, keeping goals, how to write your goals and Blah, Blah, Blah!

Actually, I’m a very goal oriented person. I love goals. I make goals to shatter them, not just reach them. BUT 2016 was a bit of a different story.

Shortly after finalizing the edits for my first book, I hit a huge snag. A snag that ripped right through my writing mojo and into all other aspects of my life.

·      I didn’t achieve my Good Reads goal of 60 books (Holy Crap!!! I was reading 100-200 books a year for the past 5 years! In 2016 I couldn’t even manage 1 a week!!!)  
·      I wasted spent 8 months trudging through drafts and scribbles of a second manuscript only to agree with my agent that we needed to put it aside and start on another.
·      I failed my NaNoWriMo attempt. I wasn’t even motivated by the chart this year! Usually that rising bar graph is what gets me out of bed in November.
·      I got 0 writing done from mid-November till my kids started their new year on the 3rd of January.

Sure, I could have forced in some writing, but sometimes you just know it’s going to be crap. So I threw myself into some embroidery projects and my girls got me hooked to Dance Moms (don’t judge because all those episodes actually sparked a thread in my incomplete NaNo project).

As you review the month of January or even all of 2016 as you get ready for 2017, it’s really important to remember a few things as you create and/or break your resolutions:

1.     Analyze your situation: Are you lacking the motivation or desire to write? Are you being lazy or in a funk? These are important distinctions to make. Sometimes I’m too scared to sit down and write because I know I set up a bunch of question marks for the next day and I’m avoiding rolling up my sleeves and writing through it. Other times, I’m truly, truly in a funk and everything feels stupid and worthless and hopeless.
2.     Don’t make excuses: It’s okay to give yourself a break and pull back when something isn’t working or go make that 20th cup of coffee or meet that friend you haven’t seen in months for lunch, BUT be sure you’re not just giving yourself any old excuse not to get your butt in the chair.
3.     Take the kind of advice you give: Ask yourself, what would I tell my friend to do in this situation and do that. Don’t give in to the funk!
4.     Find people who motivate you and push you: There are too many downward spiraling moments in anyone’s writing journey not to have people to share it with. Writing people are everywhere! Find them!
5.     Don’t take yourself or your goals too seriously: Part of the creative process is the down time it takes to work problems, plots, themes, etc. out. You need to have an end goal. You need to get your butt in the chair, but also: life happens.

So, as you break into 2017 and possibly break a few resolutions, remember it’s okay to fail. View your setbacks as learning opportunities. Take a break, but don’t make excuses.

Happy 2017!

*I originally posted this at thewingedpen.com 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Karma's Real!

It's been way too long since I've posted on my blog, but it's about time I do and I have the perfect reason to blog:
MY BOOK HAS A COVER!!!

A wonderful critique partner of mine was kind enough to interview me over at The Winged Pen. Please check out the interview. I share my experience and some of my writing journey with her there.

In the meantime, feel free to enjoy the cover! 


Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Kiddos Weigh In...

This was originally posted on thewingedpen.com blog where I'm a contributing member:

Today I’ve teamed up with my eldest daughter, Sylvia , because it’s her 11thbirthday. And anyone who knows me knows if it’s your birthday (or any holiday) you’re getting a book from me.
In her earlier days, Sylvia was an easy girl to buy books for. She loved whatever I picked out. Now…. Well, it’s much more difficult. I seriously think it’s easier to buy her clothes than it is to pick out a book that she’ll actually read.
Sylvia nods her head vigorously here. 
So, I’ve decided to interview her and find out what she looks for in a book and how she decides what to read. And because we did this interview at home, one of her sisters, Surjee (9), joined in the conversation.
I’ll give her a chance to describe the books I’ve selected for her in her own words:
Surjee jumping in straight away: Boring.
Sylvia: Boooring! I don’t care. I just act like, “oh wow”, but I never read it. Then when you say, “I read this when I was your age,” I’m like “Yeah right, I’m not reading it now.” 
How do you choose a book at the library or bookstore?
Surjee: I judge a book by its cover.
Sylvia: Yes, the cover is important, but it’s mostly the colors I look at.
Surjee: Like Falling In, boring. I mean come on—it’s boots. I never read past the 1st page.
Sylvia: Be glad you didn’t. It didn’t get any better. I read 3 pages.
So what makes you want to read a book?
Sylvia: If a lot of people have read it.
Surjee: If my friends like it.
Sylvia: The size of the words—if it’s too big it looks like a baby book, if it’s too little it just looks like you have to read the whole thing and it’ll take forever.
Surjee: I’ll only read it if it’s medium-sized words AND thickness.
Sylvia: And the last 3 pages better be interesting or I don’t read them. I’m just like, “Oh, I finished reading this.”
But if you’re in the bookstore or the library, how do you know you want to get that book?
Sylvia: I read the 1st page.
Surjee: Sometimes the 1st chapter.
Sylvia: It has to be funny. That’s most important. But also colorful, but not like pink. Not many kids like pink. And it should have an interesting title. Something cool like Dork Diaries because it sounds funny.
What about KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE? Is that a good title? (that’s my book btw…)
Sylvia: It sounds okaaaay…. Mustaches are getting old. People will be like that’s so two years ago. Maybe Karma Khullar’s Instagram Account might be better.
Would you read a book your:
Teacher suggested: NO! (both girls in unison)
Mom suggested: NO! (both girls in unison)
Sylvia: The only thing you suggested that was good was Wonder.
Surjee: Harry Potter is the only book I liked you told me to read.
Yia yia suggested: Depends
Aunts suggested:
Sylvia: Might be weird because our cousins like some weird books… I would just look at the cover and decide. Usually if I don’t like it I just read while they’re there and then hide it on bookshelf like I did when Auntie Erica gave me Anne of Green Gables.
I’m going to email this blog post to the family I hope you know…
What’s your advice to adults buying books for a kid?
Sylvia: -The cover should match the personality of the kids.
-Read the 1st page- shouldn’t sound too formal. Diaries are more interesting.
-What’s going to happen must not be like these fairies are on a mission to find something.
-It can be outrageous or real, as long as it’s funny and interesting.
Surjee: Stick to graphic novels only.
You girls have definitely given me a lot to think about. I’m not sure you’ve really made my shopping any easier, but my take aways from this are:
  1. Before you buy a “classic” (Sylvia deems this any book you read as a kid and are trying to get your own child to read), ask yourself: Have I reread the book in the last 2 years? (you might be surprised how much of the book you didn’t really remember or even like any more.)
  1. The best sellers list is an excellent benchmark, but not the books with awards—those are liken to teacher/parent chosen books. Yes, New York Times Bestseller is MUCH more meaningful to your reader than a Caldecott Medal or Printz Award or a Newbery.
  1. Get the child in your life a gift card from the bookstore and save yourself the stress!
FullSizeRenderSylvia is flawless and can be found reading Dork Diaries when not taking selfies or eating tacos or taking selfies while eating tacos.
IMG_1099 Surjee never leaves home without her wand. When she’s not reading or watching Harry Potter she can be found reading Amulet or Zita the Spacegirl.
Photo on 3-19-15 at 1.23 PM #2 (1)


Kristi, their mom, endures the tireless mission of putting good books into their hands.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Author Ami Allen-Vath is here talking Liars and Losers Like Us

In a past post I talked about Twitter and how even a social media hermit like me has found Twitter not only useful, but essential to getting out there and known in the writing community. 

It wasn’t Twitter exactly that brought Ami Allen-Vath and I together, it was the wonderful Sun Versus Snow contest held by Michelle Hauk and Amy Trueblood. Ami was my mentor and helped me polish my query and first 250 words of my manuscript. Not only was Ami helpful in getting me 3 full requests and 1 partial (which all eventually led to a polished entry in Pitch Madness that landed me my agent), she has continued to be supportive of me on Twitter and by coming on this blog for an interview.

So, let’s begin.

It’s wonderful of you to agree to answer some questions for us, Ami. Just from my interactions with you on Twitter and during Sun Vs. Snow, I’m sure we’re in for some hilarious insight into your writing mind.

Image

Kristi! Thanks so much for having me, I’m flattered and excited to be here. I’m also wearing my fancy hoodie today so you’re in for a professional and classy interview. Hilarious? Ack, the pressure! Hold your disappointment and courtesy applause until the end, please.

Your fancy hoodie is better than my pajamas, so this is definitely going to be classy! I don’t know much about your book Liars and Losers Like Us, which is just how I like it. Seriously. I usually close my eyes until I flip the first page so I don’t even get a peek at the book jacket blurbs. But I’ll let you give us a little teaser here.

I think it’s awesome that you don’t read jacket blurbs so I’ll keep the teaser simple. Liars and Losers Like Us is dark and light, funny and sad. And hopefully people will be cool with that kind of mash-up. Oh yeah—there will prom dresses and a hot guy who plays guitar. If that’s not your thing, there’ll also be half a bottle of wine.


Something for everyone! Want to share your prom experience with us? I have to live vicariously through books like this because I went to a small Christian high school and we had a “Junior/Senior Banquet”. I watched Pretty in Pink a lot to get over it…

Oh man. A banquet? Somebody up there owes you a re-do! I guess I’m pretty lucky. My boyfriend was great, the friends we went with were super fun, and I wore a pair of cute black platform heels. My only “regret” is that I had so many insecurities and so much anxiety during that time, that I didn’t really stay present or live in the moment as much as I should’ve. But hey, I guess that’s high school.

When did you start to take your writing seriously—as in, when did you start your road to publication?

Does the time I got really drunk and did slam poetry count? No? Okay.
In 2008 I started a memoir-based novel and then tried to turn it into a YA novel. It was too intense to write so a couple years ago, my friend Laura had the idea to ditch the serious stuff and just write something fun. So, I opened up a new document and called it Prom B*tch. (Of course it ended up getting dark and sad but I still tried to keep it fun too. Also, yes, it’s true–the original title for LaLLU was Prom B*tch). When I started in 2008, I had no idea how intense and complex the publishing industry is, but the more I learned about it while writing, the more I wanted to be a part of it. After many rejections and revisions (unsolicited advice time: REVISE & USE CPs!), I queried and signed with my awesome agent, Victoria Lowes.

I love it when authors share their stats and I know that you recently compiled a very thorough list of stats for the FallFifteeners’sblog. But, for you, how many queries, rejections, requests did you receive before landing an agent? And once you were agented, how long until you sold the manuscript?

As I implied above, I sent a lot of queries. About 94. Yes, I definitely think perseverance is a great thing but I strongly believe that I should have revised a lot more and used CPs before I started querying. I’m glad it ended up how it did, because I love my agent, but I don’t recommend querying until you’re ready. I think PB had 20 requests.

After signing, Victoria and I did two more rounds of revisions and then she sent my book out into the hands of editors. Five months later we received an offer on it!

Did you know you wanted to go the traditional route or did you have a plan B in mind—like a deadline, “If I’m not agented in 3 years, I’m going to…”?

I knew I wasn’t going to give up anytime soon. My only plan B was the book I was working on while querying. I really felt strongly about it and had already started a list of agents I’d be sending it to.

Was Liars and Losers Like Us the first book you wrote?

Yes, it’s my first completed novel.

Do you still run your ideas by your critique partners before showing it to your agent or do you like to get your agents input before you run with it?

Both! CPs are so valuable in this way. As much as I hate to subject my CPs to first draft material or snippets of ideas, it’s been done! I do the same with my agent. Once, I met with her and told her a few ideas and I remember her asking “But what’s it about? What’s the story?” Now, I always have that in the back of my head. It’s a good thing to remember when jotting down ideas and creating outlines or a synopsis. And since I am agented, I think that unless I get this idea I MUST WRITE NO MATTER WHAT, I’ll be bouncing story ideas off my CPs and especially my agent before writing the whole thing. These days, I just don’t have that kind of time to kill. ; )

Speaking of critique partners, how and where did you find yours?

I met my main CP through AgentQueryConnect. I recommend AQC highly. It’s an awesome site full of knowledge and writerly support.

Also, I’d love to know how you got involved in Sun Versus Snow and if you mentor or host any other competitions?

I met Michelle Hauck and Amy Trueblood through AQC and Twitter. I’ve been a mentor for SvS twice and I believe I helped with another contest of Michelle’s.

Do you have a funny/embarrassing/borderline psycho writing routine or habit? (If I’m asking you for one, I’d better share mine, right? I have a file saved as Acknowledgement Pages. Yes, yes I do. I drafted it last year and I add little things and people to it as time goes on. It reminds me of having an Oscar speech, just in case…)

Oooooh that’s an awesome idea. I’ve been reciting snippets of my acknowledgments in my head here and there for some time now. I should probably start drafting this, right? I don’t have any set-in-stone embarrassing writing habits but I do have one weird writing related thing. Judy Blume was my first writing idol and I’ve never met her, but whenever I really think about meeting her, I get teary eyed. I’m thinking of trying to meet her as she tours this summer, but am honestly scared I’m going to be an awkward crying mess.

Awww! Judy Blume. I think so many of us idolize her. I just listened to an episode of First Draft the other day with Libba Bray saying she got to use Judy Blume's lipstick during a writer's conference!

Thanks again for having me Kristi! It’s been a fun interview and I hope someday you’ll let me come back. I’ll try to bring more jokes next time.

Ami, it has been such a pleasure to have you here and I’m so excited for the release of Liars and Losers Like Us in March of 2016.

So, mark it on your Goodreads “To Be Read” list

and pre-order your copy here, here and here.

And please visit Ami on her blog or on Twitter.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Shelley Sly on Self-Publishing (and a free E-book giveaway!)

Some of you may remember Shelley Sly from my interview last year when she released her debut novel, Wishing for Washington. Well, she’s at it again and about to release her second book One Hundred and Thirty Stars. 

Here’s the back cover summary:

Eleven-year-old Kelly “Birdie” Knotts has the perfect summer vacation planned: she’s finally going to visit her dad, Arthur. Birdie hardly knows him, but she has high hopes that he’ll be the one family member who understands her.

Too bad her vacation is nothing like she imagined it would be.

Arthur’s plans for their father-daughter visit revolve around a video game convention, where he dresses head-to-toe in costume and makes a boisterous scene every chance he gets. When he isn’t shouting gleefully in the hallways, he’s belting out off-pitch tunes in the karaoke room. Birdie’s new plan? Hide under a rock for life.

It’s impossible for Birdie to get to know Arthur when he insists that he’s a video game character. And if he doesn’t step up and start acting like a dad, it might be game over.

Shelley Sly lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area with her husband and their chocolate lab mix. She writes middle grade novels about friendship, family, and figuring out where you fit in.

In our last interview I focused more on Shelley’s writing and the reasons she chose to self-publish. Even though her new book is amazing and I love the characters and find the premise of her story equally hilarious and amazing (a Cosplay convention—come on, that’s hilarious!), I want to talk more about her journey as a self-published author and get some answers to the questions that plague many writers in the query trenches and the reasons many have hesitations when it comes to self-publication.

Now, the first thing I want to say is, Shelley, your book covers are AH-maze-ING! When you first revealed the cover for Wishing for Washington, I was floored. It was gorgeous (still is!) and the quality was beautiful. I really didn’t know if you could pull it off again, but all I could say when I saw it was, Wow! Really.

Here, take a look at these gorgeous covers:

One Hundred Thirty StarsWishing for Washington




See what I mean?????








So, because you’re self-publishing, you obviously have a lot of say in what the end product looks like. I’d like to ask how and where you found the cover design artist for both of your books? And how much information did you give him/her and how much leeway did you give him/her to design the covers?

First of all, thank you for having me here today, Kristi, and thank you for the compliments on my covers! Even though I have all creative control, I still attribute both of my books’ gorgeous looks to the talented cover artist, Steven Novak (www.novakillustration.com). He is absolutely awesome to work with. I found him via word of mouth, after hearing that other self-published authors had him create their covers and loved what he came up with. Overall, word of mouth is a powerful thing for an indie author. It’s how we find our best resources, and it’s how our own books are discovered.

For my covers, I shared all my ideas with Steven, but told him truthfully that I wasn’t particularly attached to them. I just wanted to try things out and see how they’d look. He designed everything exactly as I asked (and came up with some good ideas of his own), and he was super patient when I kept changing my mind about whether I wanted a retro video game-themed cover, or a more girly looking-up-at-the-stars cover for One Hundred Thirty Stars. (I went with the latter.) It’s one of the most exciting parts of publishing.

Speaking of the end product, have you hired a professional editor or do you do all your own editing?

For Wishing for Washington, I hired an editor in addition to having a bunch of critique partners read through it. I recommend hiring an editor, but when it came time to prepare One Hundred Thirty Stars for publication, I couldn’t afford an editor. So, I just found even more critique partners, all of whom I trust and fully believe have given me the perspectives I needed in order to make edits. What’s funny is that both books went through the same number of drafts (10) before being published.

The other worrying issue when considering self-publishing is marketing. We touched on this briefly in our last interview, but I’m wondering how you get your book out there. Especially now that you are in the middle of a big move—how do get your book out into the world? Can you get it in libraries? How? Do you walk into an independent bookshop and hand them a stack? (See, I’m na├»ve… I have no idea. These are just the things I imagine in my head.)

Ah, well, my moving situation (relocating from east coast U.S. to the southwest) makes marketing a challenge for me, because I’m no longer living in my hometown, but haven’t yet moved to my new city. But, assuming other writers aren’t in this situation, my biggest marketing suggestion is to physically get yourself out there. Talk to people in your community who may have an interest in your book. Librarians, teachers, small bookstore owners, even contacting your local paper. My old town featured self-published authors in the paper all the time. I happened to be lucky enough to have connections to an elementary school, where I’ve done a bunch of presentations.

I admit that I fell behind when Wishing for Washington was first released. Marketing just didn’t happen. I got too involved in other things. But in the eight or so months that it’s been out, I’ve started catching up. I contacted my (former) county library, and they did order a stack of copies of my book for circulation. (It was a process that took many months, though, because self-publishing is complicated like that.) I did a Goodreads giveaway, and did more school visits after WFW was released. And I’m already making a list of bookstores and libraries to visit once I move to my new city.

How have you utilized social media to aide in getting attention for your book?

I’m very active on Twitter. I’ve also been blogging for five years. I took frequent breaks from blogging in the past, but lately, I’ve been making a good effort to blog regularly. Visiting other writers’ blogs is a lot of fun. I also have a Facebook page and a Goodreads profile. The key is to use social media the way it’s intended (to be social) instead of spamming people about your books. I’ve gotten a lot of support and promotion from people I’ve become friends with online.

This is book 2! Do you feel like you know what you’re doing or are there different issues with each book?

Hmm… for the most part, it was easier with the second book. Print formatting was a much quicker process the second time. E-book formatting was still a challenge, but mostly because I added images to my second book (the first book didn’t have any besides the cover), which presented more challenges. For the second book, I had a clearer idea of the time frame—how long it takes to publish, and how many months in advance I want to begin promotion, etc. I’m predicting that with every book, it becomes easier overall.

One last question, when you tell people that you’re an author how do they react? How do they react when they hear you’re self-published? I kind of image that people who know anything about publishing might be kind of snobs about this, but a person not privy to the confusion of agents and the publishing process—traditional or self—might think your situation is quite the norm.

Good question. I get mostly positive reactions, actually. Family, friends, former co-workers, and friendly acquaintances have all been very supportive. Even the ones that are familiar with traditional versus self-publishing haven’t really been snobby about my choice. Kids have treated me like a celebrity, which is adorable. But, sure, I’ve encountered a few people who have made not-so-supportive comments about my choice in publishing path, but it hasn’t affected any of my decisions. They’re entitled to their opinion, right? What matters most is that you enjoy what you’re doing—whether you traditionally publish (or are aiming for it), self-publish, or just write for fun. And I can honestly say, I love my job the way it is.

Thank you so much, Shelley, for sharing all these great tidbits with us. Good luck with the launch of this book. If you are interested in buying either or both of Shelley’s books here are the links to find her and her amazing books: www.shelleysly.com (for all things Shelley Sly-related), and to learn more about WISHING FOR WASHINGTON and ONE HUNDRED THIRTY STARS, check out her Goodreads page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8217048.Shelley_Sly

Now, for the exciting bit—
Shelley has graciously agreed to give away a free e-book.
You want it? Well, here’s how you can get your hands on it:
Add a comment below with the name of the video game character you would dress up as 
if you were headed to a Cosplay convention.
A winner will be selected randomly using Rafflecopter.

Here’s an example from both Shelley and myself:

Me: Yoshi. The only game I ever really got into was Super Mario Kart
and I was always Yoshi.


Shelley: Medli, from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. She’s an adorable bird-girl, so cute that I named my dog after her.