The Dawn of a New Year

Last year, I had the pleasure of hosting Jamie Raintree here on the blog.  When it came time to do another year end post, I knew I’d love to have her back.  She shared a wonderful writing tracking worksheet for 2014, and she’s back now with tips on being a professional writer as well as an updated tracking worksheet for 2015!


6 Ways to Be a Professional Writer Right Now

blog pic

They say the most important job of an aspiring published author is to write, and it’s true for obvious reasons. You can’t publish a work that isn’t complete, and the only way to become a better writer is to do it consistently, to study the craft, and to keep your nose the the grindstone. But often times, as the years pass and there seems to be little tangible evidence to show for all your blood, sweat, and tears, it can be difficult to remember what all the hard work is for. When it feels like there’s no one in the world but you who cares whether you complete your book or not, it’s easy to skip a day or a few months or to stop trying altogether. After all, it’s just a “hobby” right?

But you and I both know it’s a not a hobby, or a flighty dream. In fact, it’s often the most real thing in our lives–the part of ourselves that makes us feel like the people we’re meant to be. It’s what gives our lives purpose and keeps us going when we feel lost.

So then why does our writing life often feel like a dirty secret we fit in between all our other responsibilities? Why do we talk about it sheepishly with the people in our lives, if we talk about it at all?

As someone who does a lot of reading on personal growth and who spends a lot of time around entrepreneurs, the phrase “act as if” is one I’ve heard a thousand times. Then idea is that when you act as if the person you want to be, you will make choices like that person, and draw opportunities to you like that person, and eventually, you will become that person. This mindset has worked magic in my life many, many times and that’s what I’m sharing with you today–six ways to “act as if” you are a published author in order to get yourself in the right mindset to become one.

 1. Create a Consistent Message and Active Routine on Social Media.

We already know marketing is a big part of being a writer today and while you may not have a product to promote yet, it’s never too early to start creating a fan base for yourself. What’s better for a writer than having fans? Who are your fans before you have a novel to share? The people who understand your struggle to make your dreams come true and who want to be a part of your journey. There are more of them out there than you might think.

 2. Create a Blogging Schedule and Stick to It.

One of the hardest parts about writing books is that you complete projects so infrequently. I’m lucky if I finish a book a year. Other writers can finish one every few months, while others still take several years. No matter how long it takes you, it never seems to be fast enough, and it’s hard to stay motivated without having regular accomplishments under your belt. A blog is a great way to hold yourself accountable, to put your writing out in the world consistently, and to chalk up regular writing accomplishments.

3. Create a Website.

Writers are notorious for writing in our pajamas, curled up on the couch, our hair pinned up into a bird’s nest, a cup of coffee within reach, and Hershey Kisses wrappers littered around us in every direction. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a professional presence. Creating a simple WordPress website and blog is easy, it’s free, and it’s your professional face to the world. Once you have one, visit it every day to remind yourself that no matter what you are currently wearing, you look like a pro.

4. Join a Critique Group.

Or create one. Either way, talking regularly with people about the industry, asking questions, getting feedback on your work, and creating accountability can make it feel like you have colleagues around you working toward a shared goal. They are the ones waiting to read your next work when the publishing industry hasn’t quite caught up yet.

5. Join and Volunteer for Writing Organizations.

Being a part of writing organizations gives you the opportunity to attend events wearing your author hat–not your parent hat, or your day job hat, or your laundry-folder hat. It gives you the chance to look like and feel like the writer you know you are. Even better, volunteering is so appreciated by the people who run these organizations and it’s a fun way to be a part of the industry before you’re a part of the industry. There are lots of opportunities to meet and make connections with people who are further along the path than you and who are more than happy to share their expertise.

6. Submit Short Stories and Articles to Magazines.

What makes you feel more like a writer than submitting your work, and potentially getting paid for it? Even if you typically only write novels, there are many opportunities out there to get your work published now. It also gets you used to writing to a deadline and getting feedback from industry professionals. Plus, it’s a great way to build your portfolio for when it’s time to start querying or to publish your book.

Yes, it can take many years of practice to get good enough at writing to catch the attention of the industry, but it also takes years of practice to be a professional. Just like you put in the words each day, it helps to train your mind on a daily basis to live like the success that you already are and that you strive to be. As they say, dress for the job you want, not the job you have.


I want to send a big thank you to Erin R. Britt for having me on her blog today. Thank you, Erin! Also, as we start the new year, be sure to check out my 2015 Writing Progress Spreadsheet to help you track your writing and revisions progress each day, week, month, and for the year. I wish you all a very productive and successful new year!

Jamie Raintree


Jamie Raintree writes women’s fiction about women searching for truth in life and love. She is currently working on revisions of her first novel in preparation for submission to publishers. In the meantime, she blogs about her journey toward a well-balanced life and a career in publishing–her struggles and successes along the way. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two young daughters and is a Workshop Coordinator for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Subscribe to her newsletter for more blogs, book news, and writer tools and other free downloads for dreamers. To find out more, visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or subscribe to her newsletter.

Guest Post–Brenda Corey Dunne

Yesterday, Brenda Corey Dunne stopped by the blog to talk about her new book, Dependence.  Today, she’s here to talk about military moves.

Finding the Adventure in a Military Move

 As I write this I’m sitting on a covered porch in British Columbia, listening to the wuff of horses and enjoying a hot cup of coffee. I’m three time zones away from my house and have been staying in hotels or bed and breakfasts for eleven days. It will be seven more days before I sleep in my own bed.  Our truck is broken, delaying our departure by at least eight hours.

And wow, life is good.

Military moves are not easy. There are certainly some disadvantages to spending day after day on the road crammed in a pick up truck with three teens and sporadic air-conditioning.  The cab of our truck is getting a bit rank after eight days of summer heat. And we are a little tired of restaurant food. Our horse (yes, we’re towing a horse) is not happy with his can on wheels (A.K.A. horse trailer).

The upheaval of relocating every few years is not for the faint of heart. Leaving friends and a house you crafted into a home is hard. We move every two to three years and I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase “I don’t think I could do that!” Yeah, there are times when even I wonder how we do it.  There are a lot of lemons in a move year.

But I’m generally a lemonade kind of gal. And wow, when you drive across a continent, you have a whole lot of opportunities to fill your glasses.

We have played frisbee on the Canadian prairie beside never-ending canola fields. We’ve hiked a mile and a half up into a canyon to see a huge waterfall. We’ve taken a gondola to the top of a mountain. We’ve seen a real live moose in a swamp. We’ve stayed in interesting places and met many, many wonderful people (and I’m an introvert).

Would we have done any of that this summer without military posting orders? Maybe…but unlikely.  We certainly wouldn’t have crossed the prairies. Nor would we have hiked in the Rockies. And a 3000 mile road trip would not have been on the agenda.

So right now, as my hubby sits in a service station waiting for our broken pick-up to get fixed, I’m sitting on a porch with a view that goes for miles, with a gentle breeze and my daughter beside me.  Yes, engine troubles are an inconvenience. But I think the view from here is close to the top of my list of ‘best places to write’.  And without that posting message I would never have known it existed.

When life hands you lemons?  You can make lemonade…Or even better, make lemon meringue pie.



Guest Post–Angela Hartley

Breaking Through Brick Walls

by Angela Hartley

A few years ago when I decided to become a writer, I came across the biggest obstacle I had ever seen.  I was moving right along, feeling pretty good about my progress and BAM!  A brick wall called the publishing industry popped up out of nowhere. A little gate with a Do Not Enter sign sat in front of me with guards turning away anyone without an invitation.  Facing the mighty gatekeepers was a daunting task involving a lot of growth.  It’s been a long road, and at its end, I wanted to share something profound—a single thought that would change the very fabric of our existence, but I decided our world isn’t ready for that kind knowledge yet.  So, I came up with this stuff instead.

  1. A writer needs to be committed (the definition can be taken either way).

I can’t tell you how many times I considered quitting, but then I would ask some tough questions like how important was it to share my work?  Was the payoff sufficient to scale an insurmountable mountain of “I can’t’s” and “I’m not good enough’s”? I guess it was, because walking away felt like the death of my happiness.  Giving up was far more painful than a million rejection letters.   So, I was committed… to my craft, of course. Not a mental health facility, but there are days when I wonder if it should’ve been the other way around.

  1. There are no shortcuts.

This is probably the hardest lesson for any new writer and the most embarrassing.  I spent two years developing my style and another year on the first draft.  Of course it was time to share with the world, land on the best seller list, gain a movie deal and have everybody love me, right?  WRONG!  Writing the novel is only 25%.  Two more years were wasted submitting to companies before I realized my book wasn’t publishable.  Rejections came in fast and I didn’t understand, but then I read through the chapters again and I wanted to write my own rebuttal.  How could this happen?  Someone must have snuck in overnight and replaced my best seller with a crappy novel nobody in their right mind would read on purpose. I’m not the only writer who’s experienced this phenomenon.  The first draft is like a chunk of clay needing to be molded into shape.  An artist can see the figure perfectly in their mind, but the rest of the world just sees a lump.  Step back for a while and you’ll understand.  This is where I say the dreaded word “revision.”  Revise, revise again and when it’s finally reading right, revise once more—not just the book, but the query letter too.  My novel was finally ready for submission when the last revision took only five days.  Don’t try to cut corners.  A fast and easy path can cost years in this business and taint a writer’s image for even longer.

  1. Self-publish vs. traditional.

This is a choice every writer must make for whatever reasons they decide.  I thought about self-publishing.  I thought about it a lot.  It seemed like everybody was doing it.  They were jumping the wall to greener pastures, but I have this saying that fits this scenario perfectly: “If the grass is greener on the other side, it’s usually because the people over there are full of… manure.”  I didn’t want to jump the fence.  I wanted an invitation, anything less felt like cheating.  If the gatekeepers weren’t opening the door for me, then I wasn’t ready. It felt rude to push past anyways, and if I was serious about a career in the industry, I needed to show proper manners.

  1. “Poor me” parties are pointless.

A dramatic person like myself reaches a moment, where they stand in the middle of a rain storm, drop to their knees and cries to the heavens, “Why?!”  I was in the midst of one of these torrid moments of wallowing when I realized I was being counter-productive.  Whining didn’t change anything, neither did feeling picked on.  Our challenges do not define us, but how we face those challenges do. Each time I feel like falling into the “poor me” frame of mind, I try to remember these words:

 “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

–Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

This is one of my favorite quotes.  If you haven’t read The Last Lecture, I highly recommend it.  Handed a death sentence when doctors diagnosed him with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch delivered one of the most profound and moving speeches I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to when   Carnegie Mellon University asked him to deliver the last lecture, not knowing the circumstances.  Instead of wallowing over his rotten luck, Randy decided to write a tribute to his children, so they could carry a piece of his wisdom after he was gone.  Because of his selflessness, these words have reached millions of people and touched countless lives.  “Brick walls are not there to keep us out…”

  1. Gaining admittance.

Thanks to Randy, I discovered I wanted to be writer bad enough to face the challenges of the gatekeepers.  It took time and many years of hard work, but I am happy to say the invitation has finally arrived. My debut novel, Copper Descent was released on May 25th.   I’ve been on the other side for over a month and I can honestly say the grass is greener here, but I can also see the effort so many of my predecessors have put behind these manicured lawns.  With the help of my publisher, I’ve started to cultivate my own garden and no one has tried to escort me out—at least not yet.


536188_2465020840214_854053515_nAngela Hartley, Author of The Sentient Chronicles

Angela Hartley spent much of her childhood being shuffled from house to house with only a book for companionship. The magic she found in the written word saved her in many ways, transporting her into worlds far more enjoyable than the one she resided in. Literature became a passion and the idea of writing carried her through years of uncertainty.

After high school, she met and married her own Prince Charming. They rode off into the sunset in his blue Toyota and a whole new world full of hope and happiness opened up. He claimed they could move mountains together, and they did.

While facing the painful realization that sometimes there are no tomorrows following her father’s tragic death in 2005, she decided it was time to follow her dreams. With the love and support of her family, she dove into another world, full of procreating angels and demon rock stars.

Her debut new adult horror novel, Copper Descent will be released on Amazon May 2014. Angela currently resides in Midway, Utah with her three children and husband. You can find her on her blog, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.


Guest Post–Johnny Worthen

Yesterday, Johnny stopped by the blog to discuss his latest novel, The Unseen, Eleanor.   Today he stops by to give authors some advice about what to do when your work-in-progress stops being “in progress” and starts being “your work.”


Some advice for authors

I’ve been a writer my entire life, keeping journals, making newsletters, blogging and creating, but it was until recently I decided that I would be an author.

Writing is easy. It is a solitary experience, it’s creative and personal. Authoring however, needs the involvement of lots of people and people require compromise. This is the hardest part of the being an author. You need alpha readers, beta-readers, publishers, content editors, line editors, cover designers, reviewers and of course, readers. All of these people will pass judgment upon your work.

Even before it’s for sale, the work is out of your hands. If you’re lucky, you’ll work closely with your editor. If you’re not, you’ll be lucky if they tell you what changes they made. If the stars are aligned properly, you might have a say in the cover design, but probably not. All this makes a creative person cringe. Too many cooks. Too many critics.

I knew all this before I got my first my book picked up. I braced myself for the worse, feeling helpless and defensive as if my own child were on trial. I’ve been lucky though. My experiences with Omnium Gatherum and Jolly Fish Press, my two publishers so far have been awesome. However, just in case they weren’t before I sent out a single query letter, I formulated a plan.

Fellow writers and authors, let me tell you my secret plan for handling all this meddling in your work. A way to get past the trolls who give you one star. Let me tell you the only remedy you have, the only part of your career that you truly control, the answer to the question of what now:

Write another book.

That’s it. Make it better than your last one. That’s really all you can do. Give yourself another swing at the ball. Take your experience and your talent and go again. Look ahead as much as possible, not back. Write another book.

Check out my new book, ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN.

“A riveting supernatural character study wrought with the pains of first love and the struggles of self-acceptance.”

— Kirkus Reviews   ELEANOR (THE UNSEEN)

ELEANOR on Amazon


And to see love made real with Magick, do not miss  BEATRYSEL

— Unsatisfied with the ancient grimoires, the Magus made his own. Unsatisfied with the ancient demons, the Magus made Beatrysel. She was a creature of love, but there is no love without hate, no light without darkness, no loyalty without betrayal. And demons covet flesh.




Guest Post–Monique Snyman

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Monique Snyman, author of the Charming Incantations series.





As a writer, I’ve learned to live with my outlandish imagination where fairies play in the bottom of the garden, where ghosts haunt graveyards at night, and where monsters live underneath your bed. I’ve become accustomed to the idea that I really wouldn’t mind an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse and I’ve embraced the possibility that humans have become oblivious to the magic that surrounds them.

What if we really weren’t alone in the world? What if humans co-existed with supernatural creatures without even realising it?

Personally, I don’t think it’s such a farfetched theory. Statistically, humans have explored less than 5% of the oceans; there are far too many unexplored caves all around the world, not to mention that space is a really big, mysterious place that’s still pretty much uncharted territory.

But if we take a closer look at our own lives, how many of us even know who our neighbours are? How do you know that the guy downstairs – you know the one that’s always playing his music so loudly, you can’t even hear yourself think – isn’t a werewolf? How do you know that the woman who lives next door to you – the one that you only see at night – isn’t really a vampire? How do you know there isn’t a supernatural war going on right this second?

I’ve always been deemed a little weird, so I don’t feel bad about saying that I believe it’s possible…

Other examples, which make the theory of ‘not being alone’ more plausible, are found in the written and oral histories from different cultures around the world. The legend of bloodsucking creatures – commonly referred to as vampires – have existed for millennia. From ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and India, tales of these demonic entities exist to excite and entertain audiences. Werewolves go back to the story of Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, who were suckled by a she-wolf that found the babies stranded on a riverbank. Even in Africa, tales of shape shifters are common in oral histories that have been passed down from around that same time.

So, why don’t we believe anymore? Why are these stories simply classified as being mythology?

I think it’s because people don’t want to believe in things they can’t see or touch anymore. They don’t want to take your word for it. People want to have the facts, wrapped up in a pretty bow by scientists, but as every author in the world will tell you, explaining magic is not simple. You can describe magic, yes, but you can’t explain the way it works or why it exists. You just know it’s there.

Mythology is magic and magic is mythology. It’s an on-going circle that moves through time, and it grows all the while, leaving us with more questions than answers.

Magic is magic.

These creatures, who we have all brushed aside as being stories, legends, omens and fairy-tales, they are magic. And who doesn’t want a bit of magic in their lives? Who doesn’t want a werewolf for a downstairs neighbour (I mean, come on, you’d have the best guard dog in the world)? Who doesn’t want a vampire living next door to you (you’ll never have to worry about blood clots, right)? Who wouldn’t enjoy the thrill of fighting in a supernatural war, where the only thing that makes sense is what’s right and wrong?

As a writer, I’ve learned to live with an outlandish imagination where everything is possible, but as a human being, I’ve always believed there are things we’ll never be able to explain as being anything other than magic.


Guest Post–Jamie Raintree

Happy New Year, and welcome back!  Hope you all had a safe and festive holiday season.  I got Charlie a kitten for Christmas, so this may or may not end well.  The kitten’s name is Smeagol…mostly because he’s small, he’s grey, and I’m reasonably certain he’s plotting to kill me once I go to sleep.  While I was taking a much needed break, I came across a blog post by Jamie Raintree where she explained a set of spreadsheets she created to track writing progress.  I was intrigued, so I sent her an email and asked her for the spreadsheets.  I have to tell you, they’re kinda cool.  She graciously agreed to guest post for the blog, so I’ll let her get to it.


Dream with Purpose
As you start the new year and think about your goals, it can be easy to make sweeping and unenthusiastic generalizations about what you’d like to accomplish. Lose weight, work harder, make more money, write a novel. Maybe. We’ll see. It’s an entire year, after all. How could you possibly know what life will throw your way months from now, or weeks, or even tomorrow? The answer? You don’t. No one ever knows, and yet we dream anyway. Because that’s what makes life worth living. It’s what gives life meaning. It’s why we bother to make resolutions each year at all.

 So, no, you can’t know the direction life will lead you and you can’t stress over the things you have no control over, but you do have your own two hands, your mind, and your imagination. So as you dream big dreams and strive toward your goals, here are a few ways to do it on purpose.

1. Make it the first thing you think about in the morning. When my alarm clock goes off in the morning, the message on my iPad says, “Time to do what you love!” The song is I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas, which has special meaning to me. Write a message on your bathroom mirror. Read your favorite inspirational blog or listen to an motivational YouTube video. Make each and every day count because it’s the little things that add up to the big things.

2. And the last thing you think about at night. As I lay in bed I go over my schedule for the next day and think about how to make my next scene come together so I have something to start with in the morning. Don’t wait for inspiration to come to you. Put your mind to it at night and let your subconscious do the work. Fill your literal dreams with ideas that will fuel your metaphorical ones.

3. Set SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Risky, Timely. Don’t try to plan for your whole year. It will feel unrealistic and frustrating. Instead, set a big goal or two for the year, and then break it up into several SMART goals that push your boundaries but are still within reach. Keep breaking them into smaller chunks until they become something you can get excited about, until you believe, “I can do this.”

4. Track your progress. I’m motivated by getting things done. The more I see the little dial leaning closer and closer to success, the more pumped I am to push myself harder. A few years ago I created a Writing Progress Spreadsheet to log my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly word count achievements for that exact reason and I have been updating it and sharing it with writers ever since (which is how I had the pleasure to meet Erin!). You can get a copy on my website but however you do it, keep track so that on the days you lose hope, you can look back and see how far you’ve already come. If you’ve made it this far, you can make it all the way.

5. Take time to appreciate your achievements. I have a bad habit of checking one thing off my list and moving right onto the next. But just like tracking progress, it’s important to relish in what you’re doing right. Celebrate in whatever way makes you feel like a rockstar. Just like with children and pets, you want to do more of what rewards you. Reward yourself in a way that makes you want to do it again. And again.

So if you’re struggling with setting your goals for the new year, have decided not to do them at all, or fear you won’t make it past January without falling off the wagon, remember that this isn’t just about a new year, this is about your life. Wake up each morning and live it with purpose.

Link to Writing Progress Spreadsheet:


Jamie Raintree writes Romantic Women’s Fiction about women searching for truth in life and love. She has completed her first novel and is seeking publication. In the meantime, she posts original fiction online, as well as motivational messages for all the other dreamers out there. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two young daughters.  You can reach her on her website.

Guest Post–Kim Williams-Justesen

Some of you may recall the name from past interviews and book reviews.  Kim’s book, The Deepest Blue, is set to launch, so she stopped by to tell us a little about the backstory.


The Story Behind the Story

One of the most common questions any writer gets is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

The most common answer to that question for most writers is, “Everywhere.”

That’s really not a copout answer. A lot of the writers I know, myself included, were the kinds of kids who were looking out the window wondering what would happen if dinosaurs suddenly interrupted their math class. They were the kinds of kids who got together with friends and came up with inventive ways to turn the slide into an underwater escape hatch or the short-cut that led to the medieval castle.

My newest novel, The Deepest Blue, was actually inspired by real events experienced by my own kids. Their bravery and determination to do something they knew was right for them proved to be an amazing source for a story.

When my oldest daughter M was 10, her biological dad married his second wife. I had remarried several years before, so she was used to having a step-parent in her life. Her new step-mom had two daughters, so she also got two sisters, and a few years later, a new brother. By the time she was 15, though, her relationship with her step-mom and her dad had gone from difficult, to strained, to almost intolerable. It was classic fairytale material. There were different rules for her when she visited the house than the rules for her step-sisters. For example, while her two step-sisters could eat anything they wanted, enjoy a can of soda, and play video games, M was told she could not have soda and was only allowed fruits and vegetables as snacks. The message, though never spoken, was clear: we think your weight is a problem and, therefore, you are restricted to choices we think are appropriate.

Let’s be clear here – M was not overweight. She was built differently than her step-sisters, but she was by no means obese. Her self-esteem plummeted, and she was constantly being unfavorably compared to the sister who was her age. After several episodes of being told how she didn’t measure up, M came to her step-dad, my husband, and asked if he would adopt her. It was entirely her idea, but we pursued it, and ultimately, despite the loud protests and accusations of my ex-husband and his wife, the adoption went through.

It was around this time that my husband’s ex-wife had a second baby. My step-son, almost 13 at that time, was delighted to have a new baby sister, and he wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. While we had had issues with his biological mom in the past due to a mental health condition known as Borderline Personality Disorder, she seemed to have leveled off and become more stable.

Fast forward a few years. My step-son, R, was almost 16 years old. His biological mom was so busy with a toddler that she often contacted him and said he couldn’t visit for the weekend because she just couldn’t handle two kids. R was struggling with school and making poor choices about friends, and we wanted to keep his mother in the loop and ask for her support. When she came to pick him up for a visit, my husband and I asked if we could talk to her about R’s situation. Rather unexpectedly, she launched into a verbal assault on the two of us, but also on R. The following visit, R indicated that his mom had been verbally abusive and had accused him of trying to steal from her. A few months later, she had stopped calling him at all.

It was shortly after the new year, when his mom hadn’t even sent him a Christmas card, that R asked if I would adopt him. I don’t think I spent more than 1/100th of a second to consider it before I said, “Yes!”

It took nine months of hassling with his biological mom, but eventually, our court date arrived, and I became R’s legal mom.

Both of these experiences led to the creation of The Deepest Blue. While not exactly the story of my kids’ experiences, I did draw upon their strength, their courage, and their belief in doing what was best for them. I drew from actual events, but made the main character, Mike, his own person with his own, unique issues.

Every book is close to my heart, but this one came from my heart in a way I’d never experienced before. I’m as proud of Mike as I am of my kids, and I hope readers will come away from this story feeling empowered in their own way.


The Deepest Blue launches in a few days, so be sure to get your copy.  I’m not just saying that because Kim is the Louise to my Thelma, or the chocolate to my tequila (you can ask, but I’m not sure you want to know).  It’s a fantastic story, and you’ll be glad you read it.


Guest Post–Ian Thomas Healy

It’s almost that time of year, again.  No, not Halloween and pumpkin flavored everything.  It’s almost November, which means it’s another exciting round of National Novel Writing Month.  Today’s guest post comes from an active NaNoWriMo participant.  As a side note, Enraptured was started as an attempt at NaNoWriMo.  One of these years, I’ll have a November when I”m not a college student.


Broadening the Universe

The story of how Deep Six came to be isn’t nearly as interesting as how Just Cause originally came about, but it does have a certain cachet all its own. Deep Six was the second book I wrote for the Just Cause Universe. I had originally started right in on The Archmage after completing Just Cause, but after a year of submissions for Just Cause and over 140 rejections, I decided that maybe I needed to take the JCU in a different direction. I’d done NaNoWriMo twice, resulting in The Milkman, which you can buy, and Propane Jockeys, which you can’t. I felt like I was becoming a better writer, and so I decided to do my own version of NaNoWriMo, which I called the Hundred Day Novel. I felt that 50,000 words was too short for any serious novel, but 80,000 was reasonable. I decided a daily writing goal of 800 words and a hundred days would suffice for such a challenge. Over the summer of 2006, I did just that, and thus Deep Six was born.


Following the usual round of beta reads and revision, I sent around Deep Six, and this time I actually got a couple of nibbles. Most prevalent was one agent who requested a revise-and-resend. I did, and the agent came back with a new request: Remove the superpowers and make it a straight thriller. I politely declined and there I was, with no prospects yet again. I had written Jackrabbit in 2006 and was about to embark upon Pariah’s Moon in 2007 when I heard about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest for the first time. With nothing to lose, I took what I felt was my best completed project, Deep Six, and entered it.

It made the first round cuts and wound up as only one of four science fiction novels in the Top 100 Semifinalists. That was freakin’ exciting, let me tell you. Suddenly I felt like maybe I really did have something there, and I began to approach new ideas in the Just Cause Universe. My tales didn’t all have to be about the primary team of Just Cause. I’d created a lot of other organizations, some of which are mentioned in Just Cause itself like the New Guard, the Lucky Seven, and Divine Right. Why couldn’t some of them be featured in JCU novels? Or some of the other things I’d created like Deep Six or the Institute for Parahuman Medicine and Research in Paris? ABNA helped to rekindle my interest in the universe I’d created, and even though I didn’t make it to the finals, I can credit it with helping the development of the JCU.

Deep Six releases worldwide in print and ebook formats on November 29, 2013. Preorders are available here. Check out the book trailer. Ian is on Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to visit scenic Ian Healy for more information!
Ian Thomas Healy is a prolific writer who dabbles in many different speculative genres. He’s a nine-time participant and winner of National Novel Writing Month where he’s tackled such diverse subjects as sentient alien farts, competitive forklift racing, a religion-powered rabbit-themed superhero, cyberpunk mercenaries, cowboy elves, and an unlikely combination of vampires with minor league hockey. He is also the creator of the Writing Better Action Through Cinematic Techniques workshop, which helps writers to improve their action scenes.

Ian also created the longest-running superhero webcomic done in LEGO, The Adventures of the S-Team, which ran from 2006-2012.

When not writing, which is rare, he enjoys watching hockey, reading comic books (and serious books, too), and living in the great state of Colorado, which he shares with his wife, children, house-pets, and approximately five million other people.

Guest Post–Lehua Parker

Author Lehua Parker stopped by today to talk about her Middle Grade/Young Adult series, The Niuhi Shark Saga.  You can find her previous interview on the blog here.


When Pidgin Doesn’t Fly

It should’ve been obvious that when I intentionally wrote a series set in Hawaii with  dialogue in colloquial Hawaiian Pidgin English for MG/YA boys who don’t like to read, it was going to be a tough sell. Not only does my target audience not know I exist, they aren’t even looking.

It’s enough to make publishers and publicists resort to chucking bottles of gin and cases of cigarettes into volcanos as bribes to temperamental fire goddesses to help a sister out.

Sometimes it’s hard to get noticed.

The Niuhi Shark Saga was acquired by Jolly Fish Press (JFP) as a five book arc with the understanding that a new title would emerge from the womb ready to publish every nine months to a year. JFP is a brand-spanking-new traditional publisher ready to play midwife to the next blockbuster. Book 1, One Boy, No Water, was published in September 2012, the last of the three titles in JFP’s debut year. 2014, year three, will see eighteen.


Like most beginnings, it’s been a journey filled with growing pains. Based in Utah, JFP did get a few books stocked at local Barnes & Noble bookstores, hosted a few book signings, set-up a blog tour, created a book trailer, submitted One Boy, No Water for an American Book Award, and technically, the Niuhi Shark Saga is available world-wide. But inherently magical promises of catalog distribution aside, my core target audience is still in the middle of the Pacific ocean several thousands of miles away.

It all looked easier on paper.

On my own the best I could do was send a few copies to Hawaiian school libraries and folks back home that I thought might like it enough to recommend it to friends. Overworked, underappreciated,  and focused on their next titles, JFP’s attention was elsewhere. To be fair, this kind of debut author/publisher experience isn’t unusual regardless of whether you’re with a new small press or NY Big 6. Go forth and harness the power of social marketing, I was told.

Like a good soldier, I spent almost two years social media marketing like mad, building relationships with readers with smart phones and Facebook accounts, blogging about Hawaiian culture, books, and how I often felt like a fish out of water living so far from my island home. I met a lot of amazing people and had a few opportunities come my way, but it was soon painfully obvious that while having a social media platform is an essential connection with fans, if you’re unknown it’s not the mechanism for creating an MG/YA fanbase. Any school interest I raised left educators scratching their heads because outside of Hawaii, Pidgin has no place to roost.

When I heard from other ex-pat Hawaiians that their kids asked parents and grandparents to read the Pidgin parts to them, that kids stumbled over common Pidgin words and phrases, and worse, that some gave up, I knew I had to make a change. Adults who didn’t speak Pidgin had no problem; they easily got into Pidgin’s rhythms and figured out meaning from context. The kids who were stronger readers stuck with it, liking the characters and plot, eagerly begging me for the next in the series.

It wasn’t the story. It was the language.

When I wrote book 2, One Shark, No Swim, I cut most of the Pidgin. There’re a few words and phrases sprinkled throughout the dialogue, but nothing like what was in One Boy, No Water. JFP is publishing One Shark, No Swim on September 21, 2013. Early reviewers like it; almost no one misses the Pidgin.


I do, a little. After all, it was the I-hate-reading kid who seldom saw his authentic island lifestyle or characters like himself in the media that I was reaching out to with the series. But while I dream for a living, I’m pretty practical at my core.

While I was beating the bushes trying to figure out how to market the Niuhi Shark Saga on a shoestring, JFP was busily working like beavers in a log jam to even out the kinks in their distribution channels. They recently inked a deal with IPG, leading to new and improved marketing plans that include re-launching their backlist starting in January 2014.

You gotta love the can-do attitude of start-ups. Never underestimate the transformative power of espresso and interns.

With new distribution in place, JFP is giving me another chance to get it right. One Boy, No Water is getting a second edition make-over with English that sparkles with propriety and nary a da kine or get plenny fish in sight.

After its Pidgin-ectomy, the Niuhi Shark Saga will still be a series set in authentic Hawaii with people who do more than tend bars and wear something other than Hollywood’s coconut bras and cellophane grass skirts. Perhaps unburdened by Pidgin the story of a boy who’s allergic to water and sharks that walk among men will finally soar high enough that reluctant readers surfing at Waimea Bay will notice. As any fisherman will tell you, it’s all about the bait.


Lehua Parker is originally from Hawaii and a graduate of The Kamehameha Schools and Brigham Young University. In addition to writing award-winning short fiction, poetry, and plays, she is the author of the Pacific literature MG/YA series the Niuhi Shark Saga published by Jolly Fish Press. One Boy, No Water and One Shark, No Swim are available now, book 3, One Fight, No Fist will be published in 2014.

So far Lehua has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a playwright, a web designer, a book editor, a mother, and a wife. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.

You can find Lehua on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or on the Niuhi Shark Saga website.