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1. Writer Wednesday: The Line Between MG and YA

Today's topic comes from Sheena-Kay, who asked how to keep the line between your MG and YA works separate, especially when it comes to knowing to what extent you can go with MG vs. YA.

Okay, so we all know the age difference for MG vs. YA. YA is targeted at teens and the characters tend to be fifteen to eighteen. MG is targeted at the nine to twelve age group with the characters typically around the age of eleven to fourteen. (Keep in mind there are exceptions to every rule, but this is a good rule of thumb to go by.) Voice and content are the other two big distinctions.

One of the biggest differences I see is that middle grade is typically more hopeful with happy endings while young adult tends to have a lot of angst. While it's true that many middle grade readers might be cursing and doing things we ourselves didn't do at that age, you don't typically see that in MG books. The stories focus more on the adventures and the character's immediate surroundings—their relationships with family and friends. YA is more about finding your place in the world. There's a lot more self-reflection by the characters, and profanity and even sex can have a place in the story.

I like to think of middle grade as more innocent. A time when you believe the world consists of you, your friends, and your family. YA, on the other hand, is more realistic. You know there's this big world out there and you are struggling to fit into it.

Sheena-Kay, I hope that answers your question. If anyone has any tips for distinguishing between MG and YA, please feel free to leave them in the comments.  

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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2. Monday Mishmash 6/20/16

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. After Loving You  I'm getting my Ashelyn Drake NA contemporary romance ready for it's early October release. I've gone through edits and now I'm proofing. 
  2. Visions of Mockingbird Point  The final installment of the Curse of the Granville Fortune series is now available. Find out if J.B. and the gang find the fortune and break the curse. Grab your copy here
  3. Father's Day  I hope all the dads had a great Father's Day!
  4. Exercise  I've been running, walking, playing tennis, and swimming. I love that I'm getting so much exercise, but my bedtime has gotten out of hand. I can barely stay awake until nine because I'm exhausted!
  5. The Secret Sister  My daughter is hard at work on her book, The Secret Sister. She's on chapter sixteen now and already has a cover! I can't wait to see the finished product.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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3. Writer Wednesday: Revising Through Difficult Times

I've been quieter than usual online for the past few days because my great-uncle passed away. While the death of a loved one is never easy, it came at a peculiar time for me. I've been proofing the print ARC of Visions of Mockingbird Point, and while I was doing this, I realized my uncle is all over this book.

The grandparents' house in the story is actually my uncle's old house in Maryland (though in the book, the location is not Maryland). The details of the long driveway and the house with a sitting room in back that looks out over the sloping backyard leading to the dock… They're all from my memories of visiting my uncle. I have a lot of great memories of him, and I was able to get some comfort in rereading my book that was full of those good times. I had forgotten how many things from my time with him slipped into this story.

It wasn't easy to proofread through tears, but they were tears of joy. Happy memories that I'll allow to help me through this difficult time. He will live on in my heart, my memories, and this book. So thank you, Uncle Jerry. This book wouldn't be what it is without you and neither would I.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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4. Elliot S! Maggin and Richard E. Hughes to receive the Bill Finger Award

The winners of the 2015 Bill Finger award have been announced and they are Elliot S! Maggin and Richard E. Hughes. The award is presented annually to two writers, one living, one dead, in order to recognize writers who have not previously received proper recognition for their work. The award is named after Bill Finger, the ghost writer for the early Batman stories who invented much of the Caped Crusader's mythos.

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5. My article published yesterday

I don't always write about books and libraries.  I like to ponder things that I find curious or interesting, and sometimes I write about them as well. 

BonBon Break, "an online magazine for modern moms," has purchased my article "If It Doesn’t Have a Face, Will They Eat It?" It began appearing on their site yesterday.

The article is a satirical commentary on the current marketing trend of anthropomorphizing common fruits and vegetables with comic representations and new names, e.g., Mighties, Halos.  

Sadly, it doesn't include my photos (I admit to being an amateur in photography), so I will include them here.  

The article has nothing to do with libraries, but you might get a chuckle from it, and I hope you read it.

Bonbon Break
If you missed my last article on BonBon Break, "Five Things You Didn't Know about Librarians," it's linked here and in the sidebar.

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6. Monday Mishmash 6/13/16

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. My Grandfather's 95th Birthday  Today I'm celebrating my grandfather's 95th birthday!
  2. Editing  I'm editing for clients again this week.
  3. Proofing Visions of Mockingbird Point  Book three in the Curse of the Granville Fortune series is almost ready. I'm proofing the ARC right now.
  4. Summer  I'm still getting used to my summer schedule. I'm not getting as much work done as usual, but I'm exercising like crazy.
  5. Orlando  My heart goes out to all those affected by the shooting in Orlando. 
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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7. Guest post: From News to Novels: A Journalist Turns to Fiction

Hi all, Julie here! Today, my guest is R.J. Koreto. R.J.’s debut novel, Death on the Sapphire, releases tomorrow! Today, he’s here as our guest to talk about how he made the transition from journalism to fiction. Take it away, R.J.!

I spent a quarter-century as a journalist writing about SEC regulations, mutual funds, tax rules and Death on the Sapphire coverother glamorous topics before getting a contract for my first novel. The obvious assumption, among my friends and journalism colleagues, was that historical mysteries were a world apart from articles on active vs. passive investing. But now that I look backward, technical articles and novels aren’t so different after all. Some of my work as a financial journalist helped me write about Lady Frances, an aristocratic suffragist solving mysteries in Edwardian England.

Do It On Time

When you write for a magazine, you do it on time. My editor said, “Please submit this article by Friday.” Not when I was inspired. Not when I had time to mull over it. Friday. You had to figure out how to get it done on Friday, because that was your deadline. With a novel, of course, I didn’t have someone breathing down my neck every day, but I told myself I had to get it done. Would Agatha Christie form a tighter plot? Would George Simenon draw more beautiful scenes? Would Rex Stout write livelier dialogue? Don’t waste time worrying about measuring up. I set goals and continued to write, so I’d have a novel in a year, not just a few chapters after a decade. Each evening I just sat down and started typing, following Lady Frances as she traveled through London’s most elegant drawing rooms and lowest taverns. And often, she pleasantly surprised me.

Know Your Audience

I’ve written articles for the most sophisticated financial advisors, for serious investors, for people who barely knew what the stock market was, and everyone in between. If I assumed too much knowledge from my audience, the article wouldn’t be understandable.

It’s easy to say loftily: “My novel is for everyone.” But that’s not true. In Death on the Sapphire, Lady Frances investigates a tragedy whose roots are in the Boer War. I couldn’t assume that modern American readers would know about a war fought more than a century ago between British troops and the descendants of European immigrants in South Africa. And yet, the pain and suffering that came out of the Boer War was central to understanding my characters’ motivations. Without any knowledge of the war, readers would be lost, so I made sure the necessary information was subtly slipped in.

Get It Right

As a journalist, accuracy was the most important aspect of the job. Why should anyone read your publication if you don’t correctly explain a new tax reg? But fiction lets you do whatever you want, right? No, it doesn’t. Even when I write my novels, accuracy is key: What kind of guns were available in turn-of-the-century London? (Characters brandish revolvers, not semi-automatics.) Did they travel in carriages or automobiles back then? (Lady Frances enjoys riding in the first car Mr. Rolls and Mr. Royce produce together.)

Also, I had to look into what kind of education different characters in different classes would have. Lady Frances’ brother, an aristocrat who serves in government, would have gone to Eton and then Oxford. But an old soldier from a rural district, on the other hand, might be barely literate. It’s easy to say, “Oh, only historians would catch any errors,” but in fact, as inconsistencies and anachronisms pile up, the book becomes less cohesive, and the characters less believable.

So I was off to a good start. However, when I first put aside my articles to write my first novel, I found there were some things was a lot I had to learn.

Writing Dialogue

If only writing dialogue were as easy as listening to people talk. (If only jury duty were as interesting as an episode of Law & Order.) I had to make the dialogue streamlined and engaging, and pages of narration with little talking bogged down the action. There was no magic solution here. I had to alternate between rewriting my dialogue again and again, and reading books written by people who were good at dialogue.

Crafting a Effective Plot

Having a story in my head turned out to be very different from getting it on paper. Some parts of the story I wanted to tell just zipped along page after page. Others seemed to drag. The bottom line was that I had to keep readers interested. Did the action move along, and was it in tune with the characters I had created? An editor told me that clues in a mystery had to come from tension in the plot. So on my second draft, a scene that didn’t pass the “tension test” got redlined. But a scene where Frances extracted crucial information from a seriously ill – but still cunning – political powerbroker ratcheted up the tension. I polished it and left it in.

Staying Organized

Arthur Conan Doyle couldn’t remember where Watson was wounded. He once even got Watson’s first name wrong. I sympathized. Lady Frances’ shy suitor had green eyes when she met him, and blue eyes when he confessed his love in a chapter I wrote three months later. A telephone in a stately Elizabethan home migrated over several chapters from a closet off the entranceway to the morning room where the lady of the manor held sway. Problems like this are easily manageable in a 4,000-word story, but not an 85,000-word novel. Part of what I do is write little biographies for my characters upfront that I can refer to later, but you don’t catch every error without constant re-reading–which you should be doing anyway!

Thank you for being our guest here on PubCrawl today, R.J., and congrats on your debut! Readers, what do you think about the relationship between business writing and fiction writing? Do you have any thoughts to add? Please share them in the comments!

richard-koreto-author photoAbout R.J. Koreto:

R.J. Koreto is the author of DEATH ON THE SAPPHIRE (June 14, 2016) and DEATH AMONG RUBIES (October 11, 2016), both from Crooked Lane Books. Like his heroine, Frances Ffolkes, he is a graduate of Vassar College. He has spent most of his career as a financial journalist, holding senior editorial positions at the Journal of Accountancy and Financial Planning magazine, among others. Richard has also been a freelance writer and PR consultant. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, and his work has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Visit him at https://ladyfrancesffolkes.com


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8. Writer Wednesday: Guest Blogger Ayla Hashway Talks About Writing Her First Novel

It gives me great pleasure to introduce my guest blogger today. She's writing her first novel and she happens to be my nine-year-old daughter, Ayla. Please welcome her!

Hi, I'm Ayla and I am proud to say that I am in the middle of writing my first novel! I found out that you should do the book on paper first so it's mostly copying off of the paper. It also helps to write notes so it goes faster. I think picking out a cover once you have most of it planned is easier so you can describe it better. Also, add in a lot of detail to make it more interesting. You also do the cover ahead of time because then it will motivate you to do your best and work on it more. 

I had writers block right in the one part of my book, so my mom and I went on a walk and talked it through. It literally took an hour, so don't rush on the book. It will not do you any good. Writing is a lot of fun if you don't rush, plan it through, and do your best! Another thing is don't always pick out the title first because as I went on I realized that the original name didn't go along any more.

I hope you all have fun writing, so keep calm and write on! I hope you enjoy reading and writing your own books.

Thank you for sharing your experience with everyone, Ayla. I can't wait to see your book once it's finished! <3 span="">

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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9. Dropping Threads

I’ve worked with a few manuscripts recently where the writers established and then promptly forgot about important threads. In my book, I talk about shining a spotlight. If something is important, it’s your job as a writer to shine the spotlight on it. You pick where to aim that light, and how bright it is.

What do I mean about dropping threads? Well, let’s say that your character is a musician. They speak in musical metaphors and seem to see the world through a Beautiful Mind-esque musical lens. Until this fades from the manuscript about a third of the way through. And music doesn’t really factor into the plot itself.

I often see this in manuscripts. Just like voice sometimes fades in and out (the writer is focusing on voice when they’re writing certain passages, then they shift focus to something else and the narrative tone changes), so do various other elements of novel craft.

Character attributes (musicality), secondary characters (a supposed best friend disappears for 50 pages and nobody thinks anything of it), world-building elements (the world is on the brink of war and yet there’s no danger or news of danger in the middle of a story), and plot points (the character says their objective is to seek something, then they get wrapped up in a romance and the desired object seems to fade into the background) can all be lost in the shuffle.

Your job as a writer is to analyze your story and see if you’re dropping any threads. Are you swearing up and down that something is important, then abandoning it? Does everything that’s vital to the story and introduced at the beginning wrap up by the end? Do all of the important elements get some kind of closure?

This is a common note that I give. “Whatever happened to XYZ?” Make sure your story feels cohesive from beginning to end, leaving nothing/nobody of note behind.

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10. Sending Out Your Book Baby

Hi All! As many of you know, I just finished a series on the building blocks of a novel, which dove deep into a metaphor comparing a novel to a city. We compared words to bricks, sentences to walls, paragraphs to buildings, scenes to streets, and chapters to neighborhoods.

Today, I want to acknowledge that sometimes a novel is not like a city at all.

I think most regular readers of this blog know that my debut novel, Ivory and Bone, releases Ivory and Bonetomorrow, June 7. These last few months leading up to the on-sale date have been a very exciting, sometimes terrifying, often exhausting time. Over the past few days—and especially today, on the eve of the launch—I’ve been forced to admit that there is another apt metaphor for a novel. In many ways—at least from my personal perspective—I’d have to admit that a novel is a lot like a child you’re sending out into the world.

We’ve all heard novels referred to as “book babies.” Here are three reasons I have to agree that writers’ books are like their children.

First, like a child, a novel has a mind of its own. If it doesn’t want to conform to your expectations of it, it simply won’t. You may want it to grow up to be a fast-paced thriller, when it might instead become a quiet psychological drama. Some things are within the author’s control, of course, (you can simply start over if things aren’t going well,) but just like with children, you  may find that letting them choose their own path can lead to amazing results. It can be maddening when things don’t go the way we intended them to with a manuscript, but just like kids, books tend to find the path they were meant to be on all along. (The author—like a parent—just needs to keep up!)

Second, when your book baby meets with rejection, it feels a little like someone has insulted your child. Every author receives a certain amount of rejection, but knowing that rejection is unavoidable and generally not personal doesn’t make it any easier to process. It hurts, even when you know it’s a part of publishing. When the book I wrote right before Ivory and Bone failed to find a publisher, I took it very hard. The characters in that book were incredibly real to me after I’d worked on the book for so long, and I felt like I’d let them down. Of course, the opposite holds true, too. Now that Ivory and Bone is almost here, I feel so happy and proud for my characters.

Third, when your book receives praise, it feels (at least to me,) like the praise is for this separate entity, rather than for you yourself. This is another way that a book is like a child. As a mother, I’m always proud and flattered when someone praises my child, and I feel like I can accept the praise graciously because it’s not really directed at me. In the same way, even though a good review of your book feels personal, it still feels separate and distinct from a direct compliment. You may have brought your book baby into the world, but it’s got a life of its own.

I’m extremely excited to be posting this on the eve of my book baby’s birth! Though I’ve said it here before, I can’t say it enough—thank you all so much for your support on my path to publication. I joined PubCrawl in early 2010, when it was still Let the Words Flow. This has been a long pregnancy—book babies take a long time to gestate—but it’s been amazing. Thank you all so much, and please check the acknowledgements at the back of Ivory and Bone for a special shout-out to all the readers of this blog!

What do you think? Are your books and manuscripts like your babies? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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11. Monday Mishmash 6/6/16

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Visions of Mockingbird Point Cover  In case you missed the cover of the third and final installment of my Curse of the Granville Fortune series, here's Visions of Mockingbird Point (designed by True Poison): 
  2. Edits  I'm working on final edits for Visions of Mockingbird Point. I'm so lucky to work with one of my favorite editors on this series.
  3. Another Author in the Family  My nine-year-old daughter decided to write a book this summer. She's been working on it every day. I'm really excited for her.
  4. Exercise, Exercise, and More Exercise!  After taking two month off from running due to breathing issues, I'm back to it. My daughter also has me walking for an hour each day and swimming all afternoon. I'm exhausted!
  5. Reading  I'm so happy to be reading for enjoyment again. I read all the time because I edit so much, but reading a book without having to edit it is very relaxing.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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12. Kill Your Darlings

We've all heard the advice to "kill your darlings," but what are some common ones that can go?


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13. Basic Tips

If you're new to writing children's books, here are some tips to get you started on the right path.


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14. Writer Wednesday: Summer Reading/Writing

My daughter starts summer break today, so we're selecting books to read together in our own little book club. I love reading with her (we take turns reading aloud to each other) because she has such great insights. It also means I get to read some good middle grade books.

In addition to reading this summer, I need to get my Ashelyn Drake contemporary romance, After Loving You, ready for its September release. This story is very special to me because I'm a firm believer that you don't ever stop loving someone, but you can change the way you love them. If you're not sure what I mean, you'll have to read the book in September to find out. ;)

So my summer will consist of lots of reading and writing, because they go hand in hand. Learning from great authors is my favorite form of research, not to mention the most enjoyable way to improve your craft.

Have you selected your summer reads? Feel free to share them in the comments.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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15. Scaffolding in Scene

There are two types of writers when it comes to scene, I’ve found. One type takes a minimal approach to the stuff around the dialogue. One uses dialogue tags, adverbs, and narrative to construct scaffolding. If you’ve ever worked with me no a manuscript, you know that I don’t take kindly to a lot of scaffolding. I feel that it distracts from the dialogue, which is the rightful star of scene. It’s usually totally unnecessary. When I see a lot of scaffolding, I often remind writers to trust themselves and their readers. Trust themselves to come across as intended, and trust their readers to pick up on what’s being conveyed.

The point is, if you can’t be clear using dialogue alone, you need to look twice at what’s within the quotation marks, not what’s around them. Take a look at the following examples. The first is dialogue with no scaffolding. I’ve only used dialogue tags twice, one for each character at the beginning:

“Hey,” Sara said.
“What’s up?” Zach asked.
“Oh, you know.”
“The usual?”
“The usual.”

I would say that there’s not enough here. We don’t know enough about the characters, what they’re feeling, or why they’re talking in the moment. So I would say that something needs to be added. But how much something? Let’s say that you want to really convey what’s going on with Zach and Sara. How might you achieve that? Well, let’s add some emotions, tags, fancy “said” synonyms, and choreography. The simple scene can easily become:

“Hey,” Sara snarled.
“What’s up?” Zach said, icily.
She waved her hand in the air, as if dismissing him. “Oh, you know.”
“The usual?” He made sure to roll his eyes.
Quite annoyed, she dropped her voice to a near-whisper. “The usual.”

Well, I would say it’s quite clear now how Zach and Sara are feeling. The dialogue is exactly the same, but now I’ve festooned the scene with all sorts of little extras that clearly tell the reader that Zach and Sara are having some kind of fight. Maybe they’re avoiding one another. Maybe Zach has come into Sara’s coffee shop and she has to serve him but she doesn’t want to.

There’s tension in the scene, I’ll admit. But maybe it’s also a bit of overkill? After all, after reading this, my head is almost ringing from being hit too many times. The writer here (me) is explaining the emotions way too much. “Snarled” conveys anger. Waving a hand in the air is a cliché gesture for dismissing. If that wasn’t enough, the dismissal is also explained (“as if dismissing him”). Eye rolls are another cliché gesture. Then the emotion of annoyance is named, and a tone of voice is introduced that further underscores the tension between the two. We usually only whisper things if we’re trying to be quiet or if we’ve tightened our throats in anger.

The second scene would have too much “scaffolding,” as I call it. Whereas the first scene has not enough. If Zach and Sara were really fighting with one another, there would be no way to tell without some help. You might think that I’m playing the scaffolding up to provide an example, and while that was my objective, I am not lying when I say that I’ve seen scaffolding that thick in manuscripts. And sometimes even thicker scaffolding.

Oftentimes, writers don’t trust themselves to be clear about what they’re saying. And they (subconsciously) don’t trust readers to “get it.” So they go overboard. You will know if you put up a lot of scaffolding because you’ll see that almost none of your dialogue exists “naked” on the page (without any tags or narration).

So what’s the solution? Pare way down. And let the dialogue itself do the emotional talking for you, instead of putting everything in the scaffolding. I’ve changed the dialogue itself to have more emotional energy. You can also use interiority to convey feelings, like I do with a peek into Zach’s head here. This would be my ideal third example, a sort of middle ground:

Sara looked up from the register. “Oh. Hey.”
“Oh.” Zach fumbled with his wallet. He should’ve known her schedule better. Maybe she swapped shifts? This was the last thing he needed. “Um, what’s up?”
“What’s up? What’s up. Really? You know.”
“The usual?”
“Yeah, let’s go with that. The usual.”

There’s a sense of tension here between Zach and Sara, but it’s not hammered home. There’s some breathing room for the reader to wonder what they might be thinking or going through, and it opens the door for more of an interaction than “I HATE YOU”/”WELL I HATE YOU MORE!!!” That’s sort of the tone of the middle example, and you can definitely find more nuance.

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16. Monday Mishmash 5/30/16

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Memorial Day  Take time today to remember what the holiday is really about. 
  2. Book Signing At Blairstown Elementary  Last Monday I signed close to 100 books at Blairstown Elementary School. It was such a great day. This school has been so incredibly supportive, reading all of my picture books and my MG, Curse of the Granville Fortune, so I donated a copy of Mystery of Majestic Cave to the library so the student could continue reading the series.
  3. Editing  I'm finishing up one client edit and getting ready for the next this week.
  4. Revising  I've been working through my latest Ashelyn Drake NA contemporary romance. So far I've been pleasantly surprised by the first draft. It's not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I swear when I draft I go through periods where I think I'm writing nothing usable, but then I revise and surprise myself.
  5. End of the School Year  My daughter has a half day on Tuesday and then she's off for the summer. I can't believe another school year is finished.
  6. Visions of Mockingbird Point  True Poison, my cover designer for the Curse of the Granville Fortune series, sent me the draft of the cover for book three. As usual, it blew me away. Can't wait until it's finalized so I can share it with you all.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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17. Writing with All the Feelings by Liz Garton Scanlon

Author Liz Garton Scanlon implores us to let "you be you" in today's Author Spotlight post.

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18. Writer Wednesday: Protecting Yourself as an Author

Over the past several months, this industry has seen many publishers go south. I'm referring to them closing for various reasons and/or getting exposed for not paying their authors. First, let's be clear that I'm not going to name any publishers or speak ill of any either. The intent of this post is to simply inform authors and help them in seeking a publisher for their work.

One question that seems to pop up a lot in writer forums is how to know if you're signing with a "good" publisher. To be honest, sometimes you can sign with a great publisher and then that publisher is bought out, which changes everything. Other times you sign with a publisher that has good intentions but winds up going under. And other times still, things look great on the surface but there's another world happening behind the scenes and it's not good in the least. 

So what's an author to do? The best advice I can give you is to find out which authors are with the publisher you're interested in and then contact those authors to hear what their experiences have been like. I have people do this with me all the time, and I'm very honest about my experiences, both good and bad (and yes, there have been bad ones). Also, if you notice an author has left that publisher, find out why. Keep in mind that nondisclosure agreements might keep some authors from dishing the gory details, but that should also send up a red flag. Nondisclosure agreements are set in place for a reason. As a writer, you should question that reason.

Please, research and contact authors to find out what's really going on outside of the public eye. Protect yourself and your work.  

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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19. Writer Wednesday: How to Annoy An Author

The other day I got a message on one of my social media accounts that began with the words "I don't mean to be rude…" Right away, I knew the message was going to be rude. The guy just told me as much. It was yet another person telling me I should give away paperbacks for free. Not ebooks. Paperbacks.

AHHHHHH!!!! I'm sure you can hear me screaming wherever you are. I REALLY wanted to respond, "I don't mean to be rude, but I think you should send me your paychecks from now on." Because seriously, that's what he's asking me to do for him. What's fair is fair, right?

Here's why this irks me so much: 
  • I give away a lot of free books, both in ebook and paperback formats. I tend to reserve paperbacks for newsletter subscribers because I feel your loyal fans should be rewarded. Giveaway opportunities are definitely there and I pay for the cost of the printed books and the postage, which is insanely high when the winner is international.
  • Whenever I have a new release, I provide interested reviewers with e-ARCs. 
  • I also have a bunch of perma free books that anyone can go ahead and download at no charge. They're all listed on my website.

So telling me I should giveaway paperbacks for free… Yeah, I'm annoyed. In the end, I deleted the message, and should I get another, I'll block the sender. I really think if you have to preface a statement with "I don't mean to be rude" you know full and well that you are absolutely being rude. Plain and simple, writers are entitled to being paid for their hard work just like everyone else. 

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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20. Do you know of any writing groups in New Jersey?

      fawg_icon_for_blog    NJ Writing groups - compressed

I'm always looking to add some more New Jersey writing groups.

Scroll down for a list of the New Jersey Writing groups I currently have on file, with links to websites where available.

WOMEN WHO WRITE (open to ladies only)
Various groups (see their groups link for full details)

Various Groups in Burlington, Camden and Salem Counties (see website for details)
Contact: Dr. MaryAnn Diorio: drmaryann@njscw.org

Various meetings (see Meetup page for more details)


Bergen County Poets and Fictionaires
Where? See Meetup page
When? See Meetup page
Contact: See Meetup page

Mahwah Writer's Collective
Where? 100 Ridge Road Mahwah, NJ 07430
When? Tuesdays: 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Contact: Mahwah Library (201) 529 2183

Science Fiction Association of Bergen County
Where? Bergen Highlands United Methodist Church,316 West Saddle River Road, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458
When? 2nd Saturday of the month (see www.sfabc.org for more info)
Contact: sfabc@gmail.com

Juliette Writer's Group
Where? Barnes & Noble, Eastgate Square, 1311 Nixon Drive, Moorestown, NJ 08057
When? Every third Thursday, 7:30pm
Contact: Run by Dawn Byrne. Call store for details: (856) 608 1622

Writing Group
Barnes & Noble, Towne Place, 911 Haddonfield Rd, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
When? Every second Tuesday, 7:30pm
Contact: Run by Susan Pitcher. Call store for details: (856) 486 1492

Garden State Writers
Where? South County Regional Branch Library, 35 Cooper Folly Road, Atco, NJ 08004
When? 3rd Tuesday of each month, 7pm-9pm
Contact: See website

Montclair Editors and Writers
Where? See Meetup page
When? See Meetup page
Contact: See Meetup page


Princeton Writing Group
Where? Various Meet-ups (see the group's webpage for details)
Contact: See website

New Jersey Romance Writers
Where? Mercer County Public Library, Hopewell Branch, 245 Pennington-Titusville Road, Pennington, NJ 08534
When? 4th Tuesday of each month, 6 - 8:30pm
Contact: See website

The Garden State Speculative FictionWriters (GSSW)
Where? Old Bridge Public Library,1 Old Bridge Plaza, Municipal Center,Old Bridge, NJ 08857
When? First Saturday of each month - see website for details
Contact: See website

Liberty States Fiction Writers
Where? Edison Library, 340 Plainfield Avenue, Edison, New Jersey 08817
When? 2nd Saturday of the month 10-10:30am (business) 10:45-11:45am (workshop) Noon-1:15 (roundtable sessions)
Contact: See website

The Princeton Writing Group
Where? See Meetup page
When? See Meetup page
Contact: See Meetup page

The Woodbridge Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers
Where? See Meetup page
When? See Meetup page
Contact: See Meetup page

Writing Group
ASBURY PARK Public Library, Children's Room500 First Ave - Asbury Park, NJ
When? 3rd WEDNESDAY of Each Month (5.30-7.30pm)
Contact: Neville - njansii_nj@yahoo.com

Writing Group
Barnes & Noble, Lanes Mill Marketplace, 4831 US Hwy 9, Howell, NJ 07731
When? 3rd Thursday of every month
Contact store for more info: (732) 730-2838

BelmarArts Creative Writing Group
Where? The Boatworks, 608 River Road, Belmar, NJ 07719
When? 4th Thursday, 7pm - 9pm
Contact: See website

Monmouth Creative Writing Group
Where? Monmouth County Library (HQ), 125 Symmes Drive, Manalapan, NJ 07726
When? 3rd Thursday of the month (7pm)
Contact: ?

Monmouth Writers
Where? Howell Library, Howell Library, 318 Old Tavern Road, Howell, NJ 07731
When? 2nd Saturday of each month
Contact: Rick Kelsten See website

Writing Group
NEPTUNE Public Library, Meeting Rm #225 Neptune Blvd - Neptune, NJ
When? 2nd Saturday of each month (1pm - 3pm) (NB: Please check library's calendar before turning up.)
Contact: - (732) 775-8241

The Noble Writers
Where? Middletown Library, 55 New Monmouth Road, Middletown, NJ 07748
When? Wednesdays ((10am - 11:30am) (NB: Please check library's calendar before turning up.)
Contact: TBA

Writing Critique group
Where? Middletown Library, 55 New Monmouth Road, Middletown, NJ 07748
When? Wednesdays (7pm) (NB: Please check library's calendar before turning up.)
Contact: TBA

Manchester (NJ) Writers' Circle
Where? Manchester Library, 21Colonial Drive, Manchester, NJ 08759
When? 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month (2pm-4pm)
Contact: See website

Berkeley Adult Writers' group
Where? OCL (Berkeley Branch), 30 Station Road, Bayville, NJ 08721
When? Last Monday of the month - 6:30pm start
Contact: (Library) 732 269 2144

The Jackson Writers' Group
Where? Jackson branch of the Ocean County Library, 2 Jackson Drive Jackson, NJ 08527
When? See website
Contact: See website

New Jersey Writers' Critique Group
Where? Barnes & Noble (Somerset Shopping Center, 319 Route 202/206, Bridgewater, NJ 08807)
When? First Wednesday of the month, 7pm - check B&N website for latest info
Contact: (B&N) 908 526-7425

New Jersey Writers' Society
Where? Franklin Township Library (Historical Room), 485 Dermott Lane, Somerset, NJ 08873
When? Third Thursday of the month, 7pm - 9pm
Contact: (Library) 732 873 8700

New Providence Writers
Where? Waterlilies Restaurant, 33 Union Place, Summit, NJ (parking free on Sundays)
When? 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month, 2pm.
Contact: Join and RSVP for meetings through Meetup group

Want me to add your group?
If you know of any statewide or local writing groups in New Jersey which aren't listed above, please let me have contact details and/or a website link, if possible. Also, if your group is listed, but I've got the information wrong, please let me know.

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21. Interview: Kimberly Reid, author of PERFECT LIARS

kimberly reidSometimes to save the day, a good girl’s gotta be bad.

White Collar meets Oceans 11 in our new YA novel, Perfect Liars. We interviewed author Kimberly Reid on how to craft the perfect heist novel, her writing tips, and breaking stereotypes.

Why was it important to you to depict an interracial relationship in your story?

In the real world, interracial relationships exist. I’ve been in one with my Korean husband since college. Teen readers may not think this is a big deal, but when we met in the late 1980s, long before K-pop, K-dramas, and Korean fusion food trucks made the culture more accessible to Americans, it was kind of a big deal. Back then, as Koreans immigrated and settled into traditionally black neighborhoods of large cities, relations between our communities were tense. I wasn’t quite as young as the characters in Perfect Liars, but I remember what it was like to be young and in a relationship for which I had no model, one that was seen as “exotic” at best and flat-out wrong at worst. The world has shifted a lot in thirty years, and kids have more models now but it’s still important to me that my books reflect the real world. And unfortunately, we’re often reminded how little shift there has been. Just last week, people lost their minds over an interracial Old Navy ad.

What research did you do to create a convincing heist novel?

That aspect of the book probably took the least research since the heist isn’t a huge player in the story, though I had to do a lot of Googling on the high-end antiques business. I didn’t want the target of the thieves to be the usual things—money, jewelry, art—though that’s in there, too. So I decided to go with fine antiques. The legal aspects took up most of my research time. Luckily, I come from a law enforcement family so it was fairly easy to ask any question that popped into my head. When I was writing the book, my much younger sister had recently passed the bar exam and she’d also been an English major in undergrad, so she was the perfect person to help. The law was really fresh for her, and she didn’t get bored with all my writerly talk of plot and motivation.

Who are your favorite heist writers? What are some of your favorite heist movies or shows? pull quote 1

I don’t really have a favorite heist writer, but I have watched many heist movies, like The Italian Job and Ocean’s Eleven (the original and the newer versions), Rififi, The Score, and Inside Man. But it was actually a TV show called Leverage that gave me part of the inspiration for Perfect Liars. The main premise came from an alternative school in my town that is run by a juvie court judge and was once housed in our city’s justice center, along with courtrooms and the sheriff’s office. But I needed to turn that into a story and decided to have former juvie kids use their criminal skills for good. In Leverage, a band of criminals, led by a former investigator, use their various talents to help people in need.

How is writing fiction different than writing a memoir (No Place Safe)?

The biggest difference is telling the truth versus making stuff up. With fiction, you can make the story go the way you want. Writing memoir is all about the truth and sometimes the truth hurts. No Place Safe is the story of growing up during the two-year-long Atlanta Missing and Murdered Children investigation, on which my mother was a lead investigator. I was thirteen when the murders began, and I wrote the story from my thirteen-year-old’s perspective, but with the insight of an adult looking back on that time. It was my first published book, and writing it helped me figure out what I wanted to do from that point on. I like writing from a teen point of view (but I find it more difficult than writing for adults!). Though I write crime fiction, I prefer using humor in my stories rather than a darker voice. Most importantly, I’d much rather invent stories than tell the truth.

What advice would you give to writers that want to write heist novels?

In a heist novel, the entire book is about the planning and execution of a heist, and then how the characters deal with the fallout. There is some of that in Perfect Liars, but it isn’t really a heist novel. Publishers Weekly calls it “a socially conscious crime thriller” and I like that description. The heist more or less sets up the story; it isn’t the story. If I had to give it a subgenre, it’s probably more con artist than heist. But I’d give the same advice I’d give a writer of any genre: do your research. I do lots of research and still miss something every time. And your readers will call you on it every time. I can be a little Type A and used to think, “Oh, no! How did I miss that?” Now, I realize I can’t change the book once it is out in the world, so I view it as, “I have some really smart and observant readers. They’ll keep me on my toes as I research the next book.”

A few months ago, LEE & LOW released the Diversity Baseline Survey, which revealed that a significant percentage of publishing staff is comprised of white women. Were you shocked by these numbers? What is a way publishing might be able to improve these numbers?

pull quote 2I’ve been black all my life, and a traditionally published writer for nearly a decade, so no, I wasn’t surprised. More surprising—and heartening—was the response to the survey from the participants. I was glad to see Big Five publishers participate. As sad as the numbers are, I think being truthful about them and willing to contribute honest data is a good start. As far as improving the numbers, I think decision-makers need to make an aggressive effort to recruit diverse employees. I don’t mean run job ads on sites focused on minorities or maybe participate in diversity job fairs for new college grads. I mean start early, show marginalized high school students the possibility of publishing as a career through education and internships. The science disciplines are doing this through STEM program education and recruitment as early as middle school. Another suggestion is to let go of the idea that everyone must work in Manhattan, which puts a publishing career out of economic reach for most. The film industry has figured that out. While Hollywood may always be the headquarters, lots of movies are being made in studios in lower cost cities like Atlanta and Vancouver, and using local production talent. Maybe have self-contained imprints, from acquisitions to sales reps, as field offices. I think this would also help publishing become less New York-centric and keep publishers in closer touch with what’s going on in the rest of the country in terms of demographics, cultural trends, and social movements. And to loop back to my first suggestion, publishing needs more decision-makers from marginalized backgrounds. It’s hard to acknowledge there’s a problem when you’ve never experienced the problem, and you can’t fix what you don’t perceive as broken, or at least, fully understand how broken the thing is.

Many of the juvenile delinquents that Drea works with challenge her assumptions about what they are truly like. Why is it important to challenge Drea’s (and the reader’s) assumptions about these characters?

I won’t lie—I can be judgey. A big part of being a writer is watching the world and trying to understand people, and hopefully, attempting to empathize with some of what we see. It’s hard to do that if you aren’t willing to see there’s more than one perspective. So I brought a lot of that to Drea’s character. I also wanted to show that we are not monolithic. Of the relatively few books that are published with brown or black leads, the odds favor us being depicted as broke, oppressed, undereducated, and in need of salvation. Drea is the opposite of these things despite being a racial minority. And also despite that, she views the world from a place of privilege. Part of her evolution is seeing that she has obtained her privilege in a questionable way, and also that, when it comes down to it, some people will always see her the way they want, no matter her money, class, or education. She learns this by seeing how others like her are treated and eventually realizes she has the means to help correct some of that.

The push for more diverse books has increased in the past two years. What do you hope to see from forthcoming books?

I’d like to see more fun books with racially marginalized characters. While these things are huge aspects of our past and, unfortunately, what still lies ahead, we aren’t always trying to throw off the yoke of oppression, dealing with the legacy of slavery or the marginalization that comes with being immigrants. Books from white writers with white leads don’t carry this burden. They can be fun for entertainment’s sake, and that’s just fine. Historically, publishing hasn’t given the same freedom to writers of color. We have had to come with the deep and profound, or not come at all. Kids of color should have a variety to choose from, should be able to walk into a library or store and pick the thing they’re dying to read, not the thing an adult (publishers, teachers, librarians, parents) has deemed they should read because of what they look like or where they came from. That choice can include a history of their people, but let them also have a fun mystery, an interracial romance, a fantasy in which a kid who looks like them is the slayer of dragons. Every young reader deserves that.

What’s one of your favorite sentences, either from your own writing or from someone else’s?

Can I give a few? I love this description of a season’s change from Toni Morrison’s Sula:

“Then summer came. A summer limp with the weight of blossomed things. Heavy sunflowers weeping over fences; iris curling and browning at the edges far away from their purple hearts; ears of corn letting their auburn hair wind down to their stalks. And the boys. The beautiful, beautiful boys who dotted the landscape like jewels, split the air with their shouts in the field, and thickened the river with their shining wet backs. Even their footsteps left a smell of smoke behind.”

I bow to Ms. Morrison.

If you were putting together your own team to pull off a heist, who would be on it and why?

I’d need a computer genius. I once worked in the tech world—which is increasingly becoming the world—and computer geeks make it go round. I’d want a great con artists or two because I wouldn’t want to use brute force. If I’m going to be a criminal, I’d rather manipulate people into giving me what I want rather than physically hurting them into doing it. They’re both bad, but for some reason, the con seems less bad than the violence. Certainly I’d want someone who could break into anything, probably two thieves—one high tech, one old school because you never know if you’re going to run into an antique safe or something. Those would be the minimal requirements. Nice-to-have additions would be a chemist, physicist, and an engineer. They are like the MacGyvers of the world. Between them, when all else fails, they could probably figure a way out of any jam.

Perfect Liars releases next week!

perfect liars cover

0 Comments on Interview: Kimberly Reid, author of PERFECT LIARS as of 5/13/2016 10:32:00 AM
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22. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e May 13th, 2016


Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:

Royalty Clauses in Publishing Deals (Susan Spann)

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Writer (Margaret Dilloway)

How Important Is Talent to You as a Writer? (Jerry Jenkins)

Don’t Accidentally Give Your Characters a Time Out (Lisa Cron)

The Option Clause (Contracts/Dealbreakers) (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)

How to Avoid Self-Publishing Regrets (Alicia Rades)

Building Your Professional Author Website (Jane Friedman)

Lean in to Your Fears (Rachelle Gardner)

Writing When It’s Not Like a Movie (Jo Eberhardt)

If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2015, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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23. Monday Mishmash 5/16/16

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Ashelyn Drake is merging with Kelly Hashway  Last week I made the decision to fully merge my Ashelyn Drake accounts with my Kelly accounts. That means pretty soon the Ashelyn FB, Twitter, and blog will all be deleted. My Kelly accounts will be for both names now. If you follow Ashelyn, make sure to follow the Kelly accounts to stay updated on Ashelyn's work. Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter. (You already know this blog, and might have noticed it has both names on it now.)
  2. Drafting  I'm working on an Ashelyn Drake contemporary romance right now. I'm going to call this adult, but the characters are in their mid-twenties so it's teetering the line of NA/Adult.
  3. Balance  I'm really proud of myself because I've been balancing my days with editing in the mornings and writing in the afternoons. I'm so much happier! Balance is good, guys. :)
  4. Field Trip  I'm chaperoning my daughter's field trip to the Adventure Aquarium tomorrow. I'm dreading the two and a half hour bus ride (each way!!!) but I love aquariums.
  5. Cover reveal for MORE by Keren Hughes Check out this gorgeous cover for Keren's July 19th release, More. I love it.
Drake Anderson is all the man Annalise Duncan ever wanted…

Annalise has it all. The perfect husband. The perfect son. The perfect life. After the father of her son Ayden abandoned her to be a single parent, she finally felt like she hit the romance jackpot. Her boss, Drake Anderson, turned out to be more than just a friend. He’s the love of her life, and an amazing stepfather to her son.

But the picture perfect marriage is merely an illusion…

After seven wonderful years, Drake leaves. He doesn’t give her a reason, or even the courtesy of a return phone call. Six months go by without even a single acknowledgement. Annalise is devastated. Her heart and soul belonged to Drake, and he was the only father Ayden ever knew. She’d dedicated her life to him and the family they built together, and she isn’t willing to let that dream go easily.

When Annalise spots Drake out at a café with a woman, her heart shatters all over again. But it’s not what Annalise thinks. He isn’t cheating on her. There are things about leaving that Drake just can’t or won’t explain. Some things should remain a secret. 

He wants his old life back, but Annalise won’t accept anything but the truth…

Drake has to find a way to convince his wife, his Cariad, to take him back, but it may mean facing a truth he wanted to keep hidden. He must prove to Annalise that despite his past, he wants her…

Add it on Goodreads.

That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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24. Writer Wednesday: Two Become One

In my Monday Mishmash and all over social media last week, I announced that I'm merging Ashelyn Drake and Kelly Hashway. Why you ask?

When I initially launched the pen name, Ashelyn Drake, I wanted to make sure I could stand on my own two feet as a romance author, separate from Kelly Hashway. Once I did that, I revealed Ashelyn Drake and Kelly Hashway are the same person. And since then, I've been using this banner to show that I'm still one person even though I write under two names: 

The problem is, I wasn't acting like one person. I have separate Facebook pages, Twitter handles, and blogs for Kelly and Ashelyn. Why? My website, newsletter, and Instagram are for both names, so why aren't my other social media accounts?

From now on, they will be. I'm moving Ashelyn over to Kelly. You'll notice my Facebook page now has both names listed. As does my blog. Twitter won't allow enough characters to display both names, but you'll see this banner and Ashelyn's name appear in my bio.

Very soon, Ashelyn's accounts will disappear, so make sure you're following the new links below to stay up to date on my Ashelyn Drake romance books as well as my Kelly paranormal and upcoming mystery/suspense/thrillers (Yes, I'm branching out!):


Look at that. Kelly and Ashelyn are truly merging into one author with two names, just like the slogan says. :)

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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25. Monday Mishmash 5/23/16

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Book Signing at Blairstown Elementary  I'm returning to Blairstown Elementary today. You may remember I had a school visit there in March. Well, the students had the opportunity to order my books and I'm returning today to sign them. I was amazed at how many ordered books. I'm doing hand exercises to get ready for all the signing. ;) 
  2. Drafting  Drafting at half my usual pace is going well. It's hard for me to not fully jump in and let the manuscript consume me, but I'm forcing myself to only write half the day to keep balance between editing and drafting. So far so good. Or so I keep telling myself.
  3. Editing  I'm managing to stay on pace with edits even though I'm cutting my day's in half. The key is I'm staying sane and healthy. No stress. I'm calling it a win.
  4. Summer Schedule  This is my daughter's last full week of school, which means my summer schedule will be in full effect beginning June 1. My work hours will be early mornings and late evenings so I can spend the bulk of my day being Mom (my favorite job of all).
  5. Visions of Mockingbird Point  I should be getting edits back on the third book in the Curse of the Granville Fortune series in early June. This is the final installment and while I'm sad to see the characters go, I'm happy with how the series ends. Expect the book sometime in July.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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