Friday, August 24, 2012

Author Interview with Writer-Mom, Lisa Ard

Lisa Ard leads a dream life in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children. Her first book, Fright Flight, Dream Seekers Book One received the FlamingNet Top Choice award.
In addition to writing, she loves visiting schools and hearing from readers.

For school visits, book information, contests, games, puzzles, or just to chat, you may contact Lisa via her website: or email:

Follow Lisa on her blog: Adventures in Writing & Publishing
Find her, like her, follow what she reads on:

Q: Fright Flight, the first in your Dream Seekers series fills needs of children who are looking for something a bit more fanciful than Jack and Annie's Magic Tree House adventures. In it, we read about Patrick, a Dream Seeker - someone whose dreams can have real consequences. Dreaming about eating too much ice-cream would give him a real stomachache, too much sun could result in a real sunburn. It's a fun concept. What inspired you to write Patrick's story? Where did the idea come from?

 A: During a writing class I was brainstorming ideas for a story. My own kids read Magic Tree House, Geronimo Stilton, Secrets of Droon and many other early reader series. I thought about the trigger by which kids in these series have adventures -- a magical tree house, a secret door..., and came up with the idea of dreams as a vehicle to fantastical adventure.

Q: Dream Seekers is a series. Care to give us any hints about what kind of further adventures are in store for Patrick and his family?

A: Perhaps by the time this interview posts, I'll have released Dream Team, Dream Seekers Book Two. In Dream Team, Patrick plays a magical baseball game with some of the greatest players of all time, in a rather unusual setting. I'm working on book three, which delves into more of the history of dream seeking within Patrick's family. I already have some rough idea of the following book; a friend and reader in Australia suggested one about lava.

(Note from Heidi: Book Two is out now! Click link above to purchase from Amazon, or see Lisa's blog to find out how you can get a free copy.)

Q: In addition to the second Dream Seekers, you have a completely new story, Saving Halloween, releasing soon. Can you tell us more about your new book?

A: Saving Halloween is a spellbinding tale of a girl who finds the true meaning of friendship and family amongst characters who are not always what they seem. It's my tribute to Roald Dahl, who was a master writer of bad parents. Think Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach - most of the family figures are horrible! My main character Anne has some awful parents -- awful in a very modern way. There is also a lot of deception in this book - in how the characters appear, what they say, how they are named..., well, I can't say anymore or I'll give it away. Suffice it to say, I'm very excited to share this book with readers and hoping for a successful launch this September.

Q: For Dream Seekers, you published with a with a small press publisher. Saving Halloween will be self-published. What factors went into making that decision? What new skills have you had to develop?

A: Puddletown Publishing released my first book, Fright Flight, Dream Seekers Book One. They handled all the editing, ebook set up, illustrations, cover design, isbn, distribution, etc., which was great. Those were all things I was not prepared to do. But now, I feel a little more savvy and more importantly, very opinionated about this project. For Saving Halloween, I have a vision of what the illustrations should look like, how they will appear in the book, what the cover should convey. By self publishing I retain control of all of that. Plus I can bring it to market quickly, in time for the Halloween season.

Q: Can you share a little bit about your writing process?

A: I'd like to say I have a regular schedule, but I don't. I snatch hours here and there. However, I am motivated to submit every two weeks to my critique group. That's probably the number one instigator to write..., and that's a good thing.

Q: Do you also work outside the home or are you a stay-at-home mom? How do you balance your writing life with your other responsibilities?

A: I am a stay-at-home mom. I have quite a few volunteer commitments - the library, schools, and church. Now that my kids are 10 and almost 12, I have more school hours and some weekend hours to squeeze in my author tasks.

Q: You have done several school author visits. Any advice for someone considering doing the same?

A: Do it! Author visits are a blast. It's so much fun to connect with young readers. My advice would be to think about the content of the presentation and make sure that it's a value add for the class (and teacher) that you plan to visit. For example, last year I visited a lot of 4th graders, who were learning about editing. My workshop reinforced the teacher's efforts by discussing what is editing, why we do it and how we do it. It included an exercise so that my visit would be interactive. I talked to the teacher (thru e-mail) to confirm the language used around the topic (i.e. review, revise, edit).

Secondly, getting in to see classes is not as easy as I thought, even when the visits are offered for free (like mine are). Try to get personal introductions through friends. Remember that teachers are busy. They may not be able to squeeze in an author visit.

Q: What was your favorite childhood book?
A: Gosh, that's a hard one. It would be something by Roald Dahl. I'll say Danny the Champion of the World. It's a sweet adventure story with a strong relationship between father and son.

Q: If you could have tea and cookies with any fictional character, who would you choose? What would be on the menu?
A: Professor McGonagall and we would definitely drink some pumpkin juice.

Thanks so much for being here with us today, Lisa, and good luck with your new releases!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How To Write

I'm taking a page out of the Huffington Posts's book this morning. Using a provocative title to get you to read on. ;) Am I actually going to tell you how to write? Probably not. I'm going to give you a lot of contradictory advice on getting your writing done. Follow it all. Do what works. (See? That's sort of how this whole post is going to be.)

1. Write Every Day
As writers we hear this advice every day. That's because it's good advice. In their parting words at the end of WriteOnCon, more than a few authors encouraged writers to write every day. In an article in Writer's Digest a best selling author insisted that making a goal and sticking to it made you a better writer. So true. So, to be absolutely redundant, pick a word count (even if it's 100) and do it. Every day.

2. Write When You Can
I'm such a hypocrite. With my *new* responsibilities as a contract editor, some days writing just doesn't happen. I refuse to guilt myself over this considering I have so many other things to feel guilty about. I think about my writing with longing on those days, but I don't worry over it. There's no point. I can't do anything about it. Neither can you.

3. Write Through Writer's Block
If that scene, that page, that sentence, THAT WHOLE FREAKIN' NOVEL is holding you back -- sit your butt down in a chair and write through it. Even if you hate every word. You can go back and machete it all later. Just write. 

4. Don't Force Yourself To Write Through Writer's Block
Are you sure I'm crazy? I am. Don't worry. Sometimes writing through it just doesn't happen. Get up. Take a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie. Clean your kitchenThen come back and write. But do write through it at some point. Seriously.

5. Have a Word War or Something
One of my writer friends on twitter and I often compete for virtual chocolate. We sit down for half and hour and race to see who gets the most words. It makes us accountable. It makes me write stupid words just to get words on the page and beat her because I'm competitive like that. Sometimes I go back, laugh at those stupid words, and revise. Sometimes I really like it. So have word wars. Have someone who holds you accountable. It really does help.

And with that valuable, super helpful advice, go forth and write.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dream the dream......

Valerie J. Steimle

The reality for many people who want to finish their first book is that many times their writings and writing time gets pushed to the way side.  Over the last several years I have been taught the value of dreaming.  Day dreaming is necessary for everyone who wants to fill a goal; an idea that has been thought about for many years.

As a young mother, I day dreamed a lot  about getting my own books published or finding myself on many by-lines for syndicated articles and here I am, 20 years later realizing I have accomplished just that. I have written and published four books and have over 300 articles published in newspapers and online websites with many syndicated all over the world and it all started with a dream.

The book, Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to help you see it and Seize It, by John C. Maxell has incredible power.  If you have ever read his writings ---they are always motivational and uplifting.

Start by answering these ten questions about your writing dream:
1. Is my Dream really my dream?
2. Do I clearly see my dream?
3. Am I depending on factors within my control to achieve my dream?
4. Does my dream compel me to follow it?
5. Do I have a strategy to reach my dream?
6. Have I included the people I need to realize my dream?
7. Am I willing to pay the price for my dream?
8. Am I moving closer to my dream?
9. Does working toward my dream bring satisfaction?
10. Does my dream benefit others?

We are writers with creative ideas and answering question four would help us realize that most of us are compelled to write.

  He discusses the fact that if we have a dream, (for example to write a novel or non-fiction book) then we should have a strategy which refers to question five.
After answering the above ten questions you have a solid concept of what your dream really.  Review and answer the rest of the questions which follow:

1.      Find your present position: Ask yourself where you are now in your plans to fore fill this writing adventure.

2.      Discover your future position:  Where do you want to go?  What will my dream look like when I have achieved it?

3.      See the positions in between:  Find the pathway that lies between the first two.  What steps must I take to get from my present position to my future one?

Examine all your Actions:
            A.   Do something: start the process by doing something today, right now, immediately. Do something today that relates to your dream. Do something every day that relates to your dream

           B.  Consider all your options: Once you figure out a plan for reaching your dream there is danger that you will become inflexible and try to stick to your plan no matter what.  Sometimes it’s wiser to explore other options.

C. Utilize all your options:  This is what really caught my eye:   John Maxwell himself had written a dozen or so books and realized he wasn’t making an impact with his writing.   That is unbelievable to me.  How could someone write a dozen books and think they hadn’t made an impact on anyone?  But he did and he feels other authors or creative people do the same thing.  They write a book, they send it to a publisher and then they hope for the best.  But as Mr. Maxwell says “hope is not strategy”.  So he came up with a plan.

1. Come up with an idea for a really good book. Make an outline of your ideas.

2. Find a team of people who will help you (like ANWA or other writing groups)

3. Make a deadline for yourself. To do great and important tasks two things are necessary:  a plan and not quite enough time.  Meaning the plan will be set and not having quite enough time makes you work a little bit harder.
4. Creativity: brain storm with your team to come up with ideas
5. Opportunity: Thinking up ideas is great but you still have to get people interested enough in your book so they will read it.  Mr. Maxwell taught seminars from his book and sold copies. (The book he wrote after this whole experience is called Twenty-One Irrefutable Laws of Leadership which has been used for many motivational seminars and workshops.)

So dream, dream, dream all that you want to accomplish and then take note and get busy. There are many dreams to dream here on earth and not enough time. We can accomplish much with our actions and our plans.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Day 30: The Final Obstacle

I'll admit that I debated even creating this "final obstacle" post, despite it being one of the 30 days in Victoria Lynn Schmidt's Book In a Month.  It doesn't seem like a necessary part of story structure; I'm not saying it's not useful, but it has a much more "take it or leave it" feel than any of the other elements I've posted about.
Photo Credit:  Pete Holmes
That being said, let's take a look at a few of the functions this final obstacle can preform.  For starters it's important that you realize this final obstacle is NOT the climax.  Whereas the climax is the final showdown between the protagonist and her antagonist, the final obstacle is a chance for your heroine to flex her recently discovered muscles.  

Recall the way the protagonist's experience in The Threshold changed her perspective on herself and the difficult circumstances surrounding her?  She's accepted her own part in her continual inability to come off conqueror, and she's ready to change - to be the better person she knows she can be.  The trick is, people often make crazy promises when they are in dire circumstances; (and recall, our heroine has just come through the lowest point in her life thus far, The Reversal).  When a person has dug themselves out of the mire do they still recall the promises they made in their time of hardship?  Will your protagonist?

This is the purpose of the final obstacle.  The protagonist is put into a situation in which she has the choice to continue doing exactly as she's done throughout her life, or to make that difficult change - as she said she would - and become a more powerful foe for the antagonist.

Martha Alderson says it best (Martha Alderson ALWAYS says it best) in her YouTube series, How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay.
"In the scenes that lead up to the climax you want the protagonist to still face hurdles, obstacles, dilemmas - things that she has to overcome - only now she'll overcome them with the new sense of herself that was created because of what happened at the crisis (aka Reversal).  She was awakened at the crisis and came to terms with what was going on in her back story, or all the different elements that contributed to her not living her perfect life, and she sort of does that in the threshold.  Now she's going to still meet up with obstacles, you have to throw even more intense obstacles in her way because now she's more powerful.  She knows who she is, and as flawed as she may be, she's much more aware of what she brings and what her strengths are.  That means she can't prevail until the climax; or she can in small ways, but you want to make sure that the obstacles are formidable enough that it allows us to see what the character does now that she's conscious and awake and aware of who she is as a character,"  (Step 24)

Do you plan to have a final obstacle scene?  Do you think such a scene is a necessary element to typical story structure?

MY DAY 30:  I'm embarrassed to admit it, particularly because I was trained as a runner to sprint to the finish line, but I did not write one word on day 30.  I was mentally exhausted and knew no amount of writing would get me anywhere near the end of the manuscript, so I just gave up.  Don't follow my bad example!  Sprint to the finish line!  It's only a few more days of work and then you can take a break and be done for a bit!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My First Manuscript

After a few months on the shelf, I dusted off my query letter for my YA fantasy novel BLOOM. With my novel, KISSING A SUPERHERO, under major renovations, I needed to start re-querying my only other polished novel. BLOOM also happens to be my first completed novel. I wrote it in 2008 during NaNo WriMo, and it's been through ten major revisions. So it got me thinking about those first peer critiques I got on BLOOM and the mistakes I made -- which I want to share with you so you can avoid it!

1. TELLING way too much. 
It's true. As writers we are storyTELLERS, right? Well, you've heard it a thousand times, I'm sure. "Show don't tell." Good storytellers actually show the action, and that's what makes them good. The hard part is to recognize when you're telling instead of showing. There's a few words to watch out for; they frequently indicate the action is being told about instead of shown. Any form of the verb "to be," forms of has, to feel.

2. Incorrect speech attribution punctionation.
This is actually a common mistake I see in a lot of manuscripts I edit as well. And it's easier to show examples than explain. This is the proper punctuation:
"I am going to the store," she said.
"You are going to the store?" he asked.
"We will go to the store!" they yelled.
We said, "Let's go to the store."
**Whenever an attribution word like said, asked, shouted, yelled, etc., it acts as one sentence. Consider this. If you took out the quotations and treated it like a normal sentence, would this make sense: I'm going to the store. She said.
No, of course not. That seems silly. You'd say: I'm going to the store, she said.
The puctuation changes when you attribute speeches with actions. This is the proper punctation:
"I'm going to the store." She picked up her purse.
He raised his eyebrows. "You're going to the store?"
"We will go to the store." They jumped up and down.
We hugged each other. "Let's go to the store."

3. Assuming too much, assuming too little.
We all know what they say about assuming, right? Well, in writing, you walk a fine line. You have to trust your readers to understand what's going on without you having to explain every detail. It's hard. I still struggle with these things, and usually only my critiquers pick out when I insert too much or not enough. So ... don't go overboard. AND, don't forget, don't make readers guess.

What were the mistakes you made in your first manuscript?

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Remains of a Technological Day

Valerie J. Steimle

The frustration is incredible.  How can I function when my computer has blitzed out on my emails. I can’t open any hotmail from my computer!!!  Yikes. My internet server is going off every five minutes!!!  Technology problems!!!  I am going to throw this computer out the window!!!

I’m sure those statements sound familiar to everyone.  We all have to deal with modern technology, unless we are still working in the dark ages with pen and paper and an old clunker type writer.

I remember those days. I had my own portable typewriter back in my college days of 1977 to 82.  All of my papers were typed on this typewriter which I loved. I whizzed through papers like nobody’s business and was an ace at submitting all of my papers in top form just from this portable typewriter.  But now we are in the 21st Century and we are all dependent on our laptops, tablets and even desk top computers which I still use every day.  It would probably take double or even triple the time to do what I did on my old portable not to mention the inability to send off queries to agents quickly through emails.  It’s just not that world anymore.

As writers we are expected to be computer savvy enough to know our way around the programs we use to write on and store our precious finished products. It is another world for the average writer as we are more interested in grammar and storyline than the techie stuff of a computer. But it is in our best interest to keep ourselves updated in computer literacy and learn all that we can about blog designs, email attachments and other such necessities. Attending a class in computer literacy has helped me understand all of the technological insides.

Learning my way around the computer helped me tremendously to be independent on retrieving lost manuscripts, making back up copies and even converting files to other forms so I can publish my books in Kindle and Nook. It is an incredible world and writers need to be abreast of computer abilities.

In the mean time, it’s back to my email problems and trying to fix my account.