Saturday, December 15, 2012

Great writing advice from Fantasy author Janet Beasley

Only one more day until Authors in the Park, an event taking place this Sunday, December 16th, in Mount Dora, Florida, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. at the Mount Dora Community Center. Janet Beasley, along with Mark Miller, are two writers who organized the event and have worked their tails off to promote it. I invited them to visit my blog to talk about their writing. You can read Mark's interview here, and below, Janet's. Enjoy!

Julie: What's the title of your most recent book?

Janet: Tough question - crazy right? But here's how it shakes down: Hidden Earth Series Volume 1 Maycly the Trilogy, is accompanied by two companion books - a full color illustration book titled The Chukkons Say, 'Ye Need ta Be a-Seein' Maycly, and a cookbook featuring restaurants, menus, and recipes from Maycly (all fully pre-parable and edible right here on Earth) titled More Than Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup.

What's it about? 

Maycly Volume 1 the Trilogy of the six-volume series Hidden Earth, is an inspirational epic fantasy that takes you on the journey of Iona, a girl in her twenties on Earth, who “has it all” and “loses it all,” nearly giving up on life altogether. She has never questioned her trust in the Grand Wizard, SUL, but when she develops multiple chronic illnesses, loses her wealth, and is forced to deal with the mysterious disappearance of her last three living family members, she chooses to believe that SUL no longer exists. Refusing to ask SUL for guidance, Iona is determined to find her family on her own; however, SUL has other plans for her. When a very special puppy shows up on Iona’s doorstep, things begin to change. The story explodes, taking you to the captivating world of Maycly 100 years prior, setting the stage for their queen’s hopeful arrival. The trilogy is full of twists and turns, monumental battles, and illustrations of never before seen flora and fauna. Tag along with Iona and her band of new-found friends as she discovers her destiny, faces a myriad of dangers, and continues searching for her family. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, maybe even say “aww.” But best of all, no matter your age, you’ll find characters, Earthly and/or Mayclysian, with whom you can relate.
Who do you see as your audience? 

The quickest and easiest way to describe my audience would be from a review I received (one of my favorite reviews I might add). They described Maycly like this, "...a delightful combination of Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz," two of my favorites! Families, kids of all ages, and even your dog will love the Hidden Earth Series Volume 1 Maycly the Trilogy.

Why do you write?

I write because it allows me to escape to fantasy worlds, and forget my hectic, stressful, totally crazy days. I also write because if I were to bottle up all my creative genius I would explode. . .I came really close once, but thankfully I discovered writing was the perfect diffusion and have stuck with it sense.

What is the most important piece of advice you'd give other writers, particularly those who might just be starting to write? 

If you've got a story to tell, tell it. Write it (your first draft will be "junk" - so just expect that - this does NOT make you a lousy writer by any means) HINT: Do a search on Ernest Hemingway's quotes and you'll see what I mean. Have your story professionally edited, publish it - either on your own or through a publisher, market the heck out of it, and never...NEVER...listen to anyone who puts you down because of your passion for writing. Stay strong, persevere, remain dedicated, and surround yourself with other authors who understand your creativity and talent are worth something in to this world.

Julie's note: You can connect with Janet on Facebook or visit her website to learn more:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

All in the Family: Mark Miller talks about writing with his daughter

Author Mark Miller graciously invited me to participate in Authors in the Park, an event taking place this Sunday, December 16th, in lovely Mount Dora, Florida. He and another author, Janet Beasley, organized it and have been working tirelessly to promote it. I invited them to visit my blog to talk about their writing. I hope you enjoy this short interview with Mark. Next up, Janet.

Julie: What's the title of your most recent book?

Mark: I’ve got so much going on right now, it’s almost hard to pick. From my epic fantasy series, The Empyrical Tales, Book III: The Secret Queen is the most recent. I also wrote an eBook adaptation of a  Christian-themed movie called Daniel’s Lot. The paperback is coming out this month. Probably the one that is most special to me is the novel I completed with my 10-year-old daughter. We started writing it together when she was eight and it is called Sons of the King. It is a science-fiction/fantasy story about three brothers finding their destiny.

Tell us more about Sons of the Kings?

Sons of the King tells of three brothers on the planet Kaskaya. They lose their father, the King, under mysterious circumstances and are forced to go their separate ways. The story has strong Christian elements and is about their growth and change over five years. They eventually have to return home to face their destiny. While I did the majority of the writing, my daughter Olivia was responsible for all of the creativity. She named the characters and places. She helped with plotting. At her age, she already has a strong voice. Much of what she wrote went in unchanged. She has a unique sense for word choice and I wanted that to poke through as much as possible. I sometimes found myself adapting my style to match hers.

Who do you see as your audience?

I think Sons of the King does well at spanning the age groups. It is clean with a positive message for younger people, but mature enough for an adult audience. There is a Christian message to it, but it is not heavy-handed or “preachy,” so anybody who enjoys a good adventure will like this. I would say it falls somewhere between Star Wars and Chronicles of Narnia.

Why do you write?

Why? I have a passion for it. Like a baseball player gets in the zone, I can spend hours at the keyboard. My imagination is on 24 hours a day. I have done quite a few different things in my life. Aside from being a husband and father, nothing else gives me the joy and satisfaction of writing. A close second is working with kids. The time I spent in the classroom was some of my best spent time. I love the response I get from kids when I share my stories. So, I guess I write for them mostly. I write for my own children. I try to have a positive message and create good role models. When I say I write for kids, I am also including the kid-at-heart variety, too!

What is the most important piece of advice you'd give other writers, particularly those who might just be starting to write?

I used to tell people to keep writing. I feel that practice every day, like the athlete or musician, is important. Now, I also say learn patience. Everything takes time and you will only improve with age and experience. So, keep at it, but don’t rush it.

Thank you for having me on your blog today! I appreciate the opportunity and would love to hear any feedback from your readers.

Julie's note: You can connect with Mark on Facebook or visit his website to learn more:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

From Teaching Literature to Writing It: Lynnette Hallberg (aka Lynnette Austin)

I first met author Lynnette Hallberg several years ago at SleuthFest, the annual mystery writer's conference put on by the Florida Chapter of MWA. This past March, I saw her again at SleuthFest, where she had just learned from her agent that the rights to her latest novel, Somebody Like You, (written as Lynnette Austin) had been sold to Grand Central (a Hachette Book Group imprint). I found her publishing journey so interesting and inspiring, and I hope you'll feel the same.

Julie: Would you explain a bit about your publishing journey? How did you go from unpublished, to published by small presses, to landing an agent and then a contract with one of the big boys? And how did you find your agent? At a conference? By written query?

Lynnette: Where do I begin? :-) I’m certainly no overnight success, but then very few authors are. We read stories about the ones who send in a manuscript and are bought the next day for six figures. But the reason we read about them is because they are, indeed, the exception.

I have so many unpublished “practice” manuscripts that I could wallpaper my home with them. My first “break” came when I finaled in the Golden Heart contest, which is RWA’s worldwide contest for unpublished authors. I signed with an agent—not the one I’m with now—when that was announced. Does entering contests help? I’d say yes, it certainly can.

I sold my first book, Enchanted Evening, to Kensington, and it was released in 2000. (By the way, this was not the book I finaled with in the GH.) I was ecstatic and certain that I was on my way. I had an agent and a book out. What more could I want? A second sale maybe? Before that could happen, the line I was writing for closed, and I was without a publishing home. It took me nine very, very long years to sell that second book—and then I sold three in one year—to The Wild Rose Press—Moonlight, Motorcycles, and Bad Boys, Night Shadows, and Chantilly Lace and a Pretty Face. They have excellent editors and I learned so much! I sold my next book, Just A Little White Lie, to Carina Press, the digital arm of Harlequin Publishing, one of the biggies. So I was taking small steps, slowly advancing. It’s like eating an elephant—one bite at a time.

I met Nicole Resciniti, my agent, through Southwest Florida Romance Writers. She was writing at the time and joined our group. So we actually were friends first, which is unusual but not unheard of in the writing world. She’s with The Seymour Agency and is an absolutely fantastic agent! When I finished Somebody Like You, the first in my Maverick Junction series, she sent it off—and I crossed my fingers. We heard back amazingly fast and had two offers, one from Grand Central. Can you say happy dance?

To make it even more special, when I found out about the offer from Grand Central, I was at my agent’s house and three editors were there for SWFRW’s conference—which I was chairing. What could be better than that? To have a great offer and to be congratulated by three editors whom I admire (none of them, by the way, was the editor who bought my book). Oh, what a night, as Billy Joel would say.

Julie: Your new series with Grand Central will be published under a pen name, Lynnette Austin. What made you decide to use a pen name for this series?

Lynnette: Actually, the use of a pen name was the publisher’s decision. New publisher, new series—this was a rebirth almost, so we wanted to start fresh with a name they could brand. My editor, Lauren Plude, and I brainstormed to come up with one that would work. Since this series takes place in Maverick Junction, Texas, we wanted something with a Western sound. She and I threw the name Austin on the table at the same time. We decided fate had intervened and ran with it. I have to say that it seems rather strange to suddenly have a new name!

Julie: The first time I read your bio, I was struck by some similarities between us (a "motorcycle" book, a love of Wyoming (you actually stayed!), two children, giving up our "real" jobs to spend the day hanging with our characters in our PJ's, "writing" in the car and in the shower . . .). I once had that happen with another writer; we found so many parallels, we decided we were sisters separated at birth. So now I'm curious, do you like the Dave Matthews Band? ;-) Seriously, though, are you a panster or a plotter? Can you tell me a little bit about your process? And is it influenced by your experience as a literature teacher?

Lynnette: We do have a lot in common, Julie! And, yes, I do like the Dave Matthews Band. “So Damn Lucky”—what a great song! But my true love in music is country-western. I earned my master’s degree at the University of Wyoming. Go Cowboys! :-) Gotta love’em.

I drive my two critique partners crazy with my “shower” writing. Although we live in Florida, one of us has a second home in South Carolina and I have one in the Georgia mountains. We run away to one or the other several times a year for a week of intense writing and critiquing. My books tend to come to me in out-of-order scenes and, when they do, I’ve learned to grab them and write them down. It’s not unusual for me to head into the shower and, by the time I’m finished, have four to six pages written. Tape recorders work well, too, there and in the car.

The scenes come fully fleshed-out. I see them in my head. My characters come to me that way, too. I keep a three-ring notebook and compile all my scenes, my notes, pictures, name charts, whatever comes along. Then I go through the mad mess, put the scenes in order, and I’m ready to start writing my book. I add to this WIP notebook as I go. So I probably fall somewhere between a panster and a plotter on the writing food chain.

Everything we’ve ever done or experienced helps to make us who we are. This is reflected in our writing. I taught eighth grade gifted language arts for more years than I can count! I’ve always loved to read and this was almost an extension of that. I had a chance to share great literature with my students and hopefully some of those authors’ expertise rubbed off on me, even in the tiniest way. And I know that some day I’ll see my students’ work in the bookstores. What incredible talent is coming along.

Julie: What have you found most surprising about the writing/publishing business? What misconceptions did you have when you first started?

Lynnette: When I first got serious about writing, I thought of the publishing world as this enormous unknown. There was so much to learn and I really felt as though everyone else had the secret code, and I didn’t. That’s so not true. There is, unfortunately, no secret code.

However, there is a great support system—other authors who have been there, done that. By belonging to FWA, members have already accessed a wealth of knowledge. If you’re just starting out in the business, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Writers are a wonderfully sharing group of people.

One of the best pieces of advice anyone ever gave me? Someone told me early on to keep in mind that the writing community is actually quite small. Editors and agents move around a lot. Don’t burn your bridges—ever. Always remember that this is a profession and behave accordingly. Don’t let your emotions rule.

Julie: We first met several years ago at the SleuthFest conference. Do you attend a lot of conferences? Which ones? And what do you find valuable about them? What advice would you give writers to help them get the most from a conference?

Lynnette: I do go to conferences. They’re invaluable for the networking and the information. They pump you up and get those creative juices flowing. It’s also a great way to stay current. A word of caution, though. Don’t write to trends. By the time you finish that WIP about the time-traveling vampire set in Bermuda because an editor said she’d like to see one, the market for that will be on the downside and you’ll be frustrated and will have wasted a lot of valuable time. Now if you’ve always had your heart set on writing about a time-traveling vampire who lives in the Caribbean . . . :-)

Don’t be afraid to volunteer. I met my former agent, Deidre Knight, at a conference when I acted as timekeeper for her agent/editor appointments. You make valuable contacts. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to people. Most writers are introverts. We enjoy sitting by ourselves in a room all day. It’s hard to step out of that comfort zone. But do it. You’ll gain so much. The knowledge and expertise at these conferences is mind blowing.

Julie: Any words of wisdom about writing in general you'd like to share?

Lynnette: Writing is a habit, kind of like exercise. Train yourself to grab spare minutes rather than waiting for those huge blocks of time. When I was still teaching, I’d get up at four-thirty or five in the morning so I could write for an hour or so before getting ready for school. When I came home, I’d write for half an hour before starting dinner. It’s often about making time. Setting expectations.

Keep writing—every day—and keep your story moving forward. Don’t worry about getting every word, every scene perfect the first time through. You won’t. So many new writers work and rework those first few chapters, polishing them until they shine. That won’t get the book finished. Chances are, by the time you do finish, you’ll have to go back and edit those first chapters again anyway because by then you’ll know your characters inside and out. You’ll know what they’d do and how they’d react so much better than you did when you started that manuscript. Don’t waste time striving for perfection on that first draft.

Also, perseverance truly is the keystone of getting and staying published. Yes, your manuscript is your baby. Yes, you’ve poured your heart and soul into it. Yes, you’re deathly afraid an agent or editor might say something bad about that baby. If you don’t submit, though, you won’t sell. That’s one of the few guarantees in this business.

Wishing everyone great success with your writing!

A final note from Julie: Lynnette's new novel, Somebody Like You, was just released on December 4! To peek inside the novel at Amazon, click here. To learn more about Lynnette and her writing in general, visit her website at

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Meeting One of My Writer Rock Stars

Meeting author Elaine Viets for the first time was, for me, like meeting a rock star.

When I was young and growing up in my native St. Louis, my favorite morning activity was reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the city's major daily newspapers. (We also had the Globe-Democrat back then—imagine, two daily papers!) I'd sit down at the kitchen table with my coffee (cream and lots of sugar at that age) and ask my dad to pass the "Everyday" section. My dad probably thought I wanted the "Everyday" section for the funnies, but if so, he would have been wrong. Instead, I hoped to find my favorite columnist: Elaine Viets. Elaine was my writing idol. She was funny, she was self-deprecating, she was young and hip and had her own column in a major daily newspaper.

I eventually moved away from St. Louis and began reading other major newspapers wherever I lived–the Boston Globe, the Philadelphia Inquirer and now, the Orlando Sentinel. There were other columnists I enjoyed, but I never found another one who inspired my morning newspaper addiction the way Elaine did.

So imagine my surprise when I learned, sometime around the time my first novel was being released, that Elaine now lived in Florida and was a bestselling novelist! How can that be? I wondered. How did I not know this? My excitement about attending my first SleuthFest writers' conference in South Florida grew even more when I found out Elaine would be there, too.

I sat near the rear of the room in a workshop session for which Elaine was a panelist. At the end, I got up the nerve to introduce myself to her. I don't know what I said, exactly—something along the lines of being from St. Louis and being a huge fan of her column—but I do remember this: Elaine was gracious and funny and everything I imagined she would be in person.

But the coolest thing of all? Since that day, Elaine has treated me as a peer and mentored me more than I think she realizes. She's introduced me to some key people in the book business, she's connected me with promotional and marketing opportunities, and she's recommended me for some high level positions in writing organizations, among other things. More than anything, she's welcomed me into the writing community.

My first real "event" with Elaine - Lake County Festival of Reading

So I was thrilled and honored when Elaine recently asked me to participate in "The Next Big Thing"—a fun blog hop where authors help each other get the word out about their writing and books. It's sort of a promotional "round robin"—I won't bother trying to explain how it works here. The important thing is that we're all helping to get the word out about writers whom readers might not have otherwise known about.

To learn more about Elaine Viets and her hilarious, bestselling and critically-acclaimed novels, check out her "Next Big Thing" post over at the Femme Fatales blog.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The "2012" Post - Yes, I'm Still Here

Those who follow my blog (I've been so remiss in posting, there may not be any left!) will be among the first to get the word regarding Keep No Secrets, the long-awaited sequel to Tell No Lies. The announcement is coming very, very soon, so stay tuned! Signing up for my mailing list is a surefire way of hearing the latest news about the release, too.

But for now, I wanted to let my Central Florida friends know about an upcoming event in Mount Dora: Authors in the Park. The details are below, but suffice it to say, Mount Dora is not to be missed during the holiday season. It's an incredibly quaint town with fabulous Christmas lights, great shopping, and delicious dining. Oh, and it's built on a hill! You don't see those too often in Florida!

So come support local authors while you cross off names on your holiday shopping list! You can find out more information about the event and all the authors participating at this link.

Happy Holidays and all that jazz!