Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Five Star Review of Strange Luck By J.D. Estrada!

Yesterday, author J.D. Estrada left a fantastic review of Strange Luck. He told me he finished the book in three days. How cool! He also gave the wonderful suggestion that I write some Nedder Fedder short stories. What a lovely idea! I'm definitely going to explore that. In the meantime, here's the full review:
Memories are a powerful thing and to a certain degree our greatest treasures. Think about it, what is life but an accumulation of experiences. That first kiss, that warm summer day where everything flowed perfectly, that candy that takes you directly to the brightest spot in your trail in this life.

Within the pages of the book of the same title, Strange Luck is a lovely antique shop of oddities that gives home to a variety of haunted (or at least reportedly haunted) pieces to entice people who want to invite a little oddity and a little bit of luck into their lives, even if it is of the strange kind. Wallace is the owner of the store and Daisy is his daughter. She dreams of traveling and writing although her immediate future has her inheriting Strange Luck, which isn't exactly the most wonderful outcome in her books.

Among the countless fascinating objects within the store, there is a particular envelope that brings much attention... especially since it was supposed to be given to a Mr. Farnsworth and has been passing from generation to generation for the last century... until an odd looking man comes claiming said letter as his own.

That's when things start getting interesting and where Strange Luck takes you headfirst into an adventure that feels a bit like the Neverending Story and Alice in Wonderland while exploring a lot of new territory in the Nameless, a world sold as Utopia and which is far from it. As beautiful as it is frightening a concept, the idea does tantalize the mind.

Amie Irene Winters does a wonderful job of keeping you interested in seeing what happens next until the book is over, and you're wondering if you didn't just lose a memory along the way. Daisy is a likable character as well as Roger, her best friend, but where this book shines is in the details, the could have beens, the side stories, and the rich foundation of a place called the Nameless. I felt myself standing in an area that was the fantasy equivalent of the vast caverns in Journey to the Center of the Earth.

It is a beautiful book that made me smile and often surprised me with so many wonderful premises I can't help but wonder what a collection of side stories would be like. What are fairies really like?

Definitely recommend this book to any and all who love a good slice of fiction that leaves you wondering what if, over and over again, which is the sign of a story that sticks with you and would no doubt be a memory worth being stolen.

I love the last line of the review and how it ties into the whole story. If you’ve read Strange Luck, please post a review or share your thoughts below. I'd love to hear from you.

And, don't forget to check out J.D. Estrada's awesome books. Next on my list to read is Only Human. I can't wait!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How To Start A Book Club

Looking for like-minded book lovers? An excuse to geek out over cocktails? Whatever the reason, starting a book club is very rewarding. I recently decided to start my own, but had no idea where to begin. If you're in the same boat, check out these tips to get started:

Pick A Theme: Go with the genre(s) you are most excited about. Can't decide? Have your book club read the classics or the top books of the year. If you really want to do something different, try a blind date with a book. Books are wrapped in brown paper so you can't judge a book by its cover.

Spread the Word: Shoot for 5-15 people to join. Ask friends and coworkers and anyone else you think might be interested. Post a flyer at your local bookstore, library, or cafe. Also, check out Goodreads, Meetup, and Reader's Circle. As soon as someone expresses interest, ask them the best day/time to meet and if they have any book suggestions related to your theme.

Arrange It: Evenings tend to be the popular choice to meet. Poll the group to determine how often and where you'll meet. If convening in your home, will you serve snacks/refreshments or make it a potluck? If you're meeting in public (cafe or library), do they allow outside food/drinks? Could you snag a discount? There's also the option for membership dues which can go towards purchasing snacks, etc.

Send Guidelines in Advance: Give people an idea of what to expect. Include how often you'll meet (once a month is typical), how long the meetings will be (usually two hours), what they need to bring, what the level of participation will be, and any other need-to-knows.

The First Meeting: Depending on the seriousness of the group, your first get-together can be a simple meet-and-greet where you can discuss and poll book suggestions and the order in which you'll be reading them. Or, if you want to dive right into the discussion, be sure to give the title ahead of time and do a bit of research on the author, time period, and any interesting tidbits. You'll also need to determine who will be moderating. As the group gets going, every member should have a voice. It's also nice for the moderator to send a reminder a few days before the next meeting.

Keep It Interesting: If your club is reading Harry Potter, have members dress up as their favorite character. Not into dressing up? Themed food is also fun. If you're reading a popular book turned movie, arrange to see the movie after you finish the book and then discuss the similarities/differences. Don't forget that there are a zillion book club Q&A spreadsheets out there if you're having trouble coming up with questions or getting the convo going.

Engage and Track Online: Consider joining a communal site like bigtent.com or Real Simple's No-Obligation Book Club. Members can post thoughts/questions and you'll save time by eliminating  group emails.

Happy reading...and don't forget to sign up for my newsletter. You'll be the first to learn about giveaways, events, and other cool stuff!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Importance of Rewriting

The words poured effortlessly from my fingertips and onto the page completely free of grammatical errors and typos, forming a perfect, succinct, and intriguing story that everyone in the world wanted to read…said no author ever. Rewriting and editing comes with the job and there’s absolutely no way around it, but luckily there are ways to make it less painful. 

Since finishing The Nightmare Birds, I’ve already re-read the entire thing a half dozen times on my laptop, then another two times printed out, then passed it off to a few beta readers, re-read it again, and then sent it off to my editors for a final polish. When I get it back, I'll have more editing, more rewriting. Then, there will be another reading or two printed out and then a final arc read through. It takes forever and is incredibly tedious, but it’s well worth it, especially if you compare what you originally wrote to the final thing. Just take a look at this massacred page from one of my Strange Luck edits.

My first drafts are terrible. They’re slow and peppered with lots of unnecessary scenes and words. I also have a tendency to think a particular word, but type a similar sounding word with a completely different meaning instead. It's super fun going back and finding those (*eye roll). The worst is when you think you’ve finally tamed the beast, but you open the Word doc to find it covered in red. 
If there’s one piece of solid gold advice I’ve learned from rewriting and editing over the years it’s this: TAKE BREAKS FROM YOUR STORY. As soon as it starts to feel like “work,” becomes boring, you stop looking forward to working on it, things stop making sense, and/or you begin losing track of important details (dates, ages, hair color, etc.), then it’s time to put the manuscript down and walk away. I know it may seem counter-intuitive because you’re in “the zone,” but trust me, you’ll end up doing more harm than good. I’ve had to force myself to walk away from The Nightmare Birds probably a dozen times to recollect myself. Sometimes it was for a few days, other times a few weeks. This has meant pushing back my launch date, which has really sucked, but I'd rather have a well-written book that comes out a little later than a garbled, incoherent story.

Even if you're not experiencing any of the symptoms above, YOU STILL NEED TO TAKE BREAKS from your work. Only you will know when and for how long. Just make sure it's at least a few times.

This is totally me. :P
Why get up and walk away? Because you'll be able to look at your story with fresh eyes. Taking a break also rekindles the passion for your story and characters. It took me a long time to implement this practice, even after I had read Neil Gaiman’s quote when I first started writing seriously:

“The best advice I can give on this is, once it's done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you're ready, pick it up and read it, as if you've never read it before. If there are things you aren't satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that's revision.”
Walking away is one of the most critical things you can do as a writer, but it's not to say that you shouldn't write at all, just go write something else. Anything else. Your characters will still be there when you return. Your lumpy desk chair will still be there when you return. Your keyboard peppered with food crumbs will still there. I promise. The point is that you need to clear your head so that when you return you'll be at your absolute best.

How do you handle edits? How painful is rewriting for you? Share your tips, tricks, and advice below.

Have you subscribed yet??? It seriously makes my day when I get a new subscriber. :)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Why I Root for the Villain - My Interview With Ben Starling

Today I had the privilege of being interviewed by the awesome Ben Starling! He interviewed me about my writing life, Strange Luck, and my upcoming book. You probably already know that I'm a chocoholic, but do you know what I wear when I write, or why I always root for the villain? Check out the interview here.

While you're on his website, be sure to sign up for Ben's mailing list because you'll get a FREE e-copy of Something in the Air. Happy reading!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

TBT Writer - A Sparkling Dog Named Millie

It's Throw Back Thursday (TBT)! If you're a writer, I invite you to share something you wrote way back when and/or a pic of yourself. Whether you wrote a bad story, silly story, or something really promising when you were eight or thirty eight, share it. It's all part of the journey to becoming a better writer. It's also a really awesome feeling when you can look back and see how far you've come. Don't forget to use #tbtwriter when you post. If you're a reader looking for some laughs, you've come to the right place. So without further ado...

Growing up, my house was like something out of Dr. Doolittle. There were a zillion different animals running around, and yes, we had birthday parties for all of them.

Here's Elmer the iguana celebrating his birthday with a delectable fruit salad.
I especially loved our little duckies.

My brother and I feeding the ducks in our pajamas.
So when I got my first dog, Millie, I was beyond thrilled.

Meet Millie.
Millie was a part of every family event from the very beginning.

Have you ever seen a more enthusiastic dog watching someone open an Xmas present?

I guess it was inevitable that I wrote a story about her when I was in elementary school:

When I first got my dog I was very happy and I got to name her Millie. I took her to a park and saw her long ears fly and her beautiful skin sparkle.

Millie come back. Millie is my new dog. She is a Shaffordshire Bull Terrier. She has golden orange fur mixed with white. I like taking her for walks at the park. She's really fast. I love to watch her golden ears fly back when she runs. She is a very strong dog, fun, and lovable. I enjoy taking here wherever I go.

I've loved MANY animals since Millie, but since she was my first dog, she'll always have a special place in my heart.

Bertha the cat. I think I have more hair here than head. :P
My grandparents dog, Matty.
Gomer the pug in his Christmas sweater.
My brother, Bo, and I.
My puppy, Loki, and me.
I hope you enjoyed my writing throwback. I can't wait to post again next month.

Don't forget to check out my other #TBTWriter stories and pics:

Friday, May 6, 2016

My Writing Room

Welcome to my writing room! There's super cute music boxes here that perfectly compliment all of the doomsy existential books behind it :)

There's a cozy reading nook with a bookshelf filled with random knickknacks. But, unless you make a reservation, it might be occupied.

More books...Yes, that's Hermione's wand thank you very much.

And this is where I sit. A lot. 

These little notes keep me going on hard days.

When I'm ready for a break, I turn around and bang on some more keys.

If you don't know who or what Cthulhu is then you're seriously missing out. Go forth and read some H.P. Lovecraft stat!

My day always ends by looking at this adorably funny pic next to my door.

That's all! I hope you enjoyed a tour of my writing space.