Monday, July 21, 2014

WRITERLY WISDOM: Jennifer Novotney

(Part Three of my series 5 COMMON MYTHS ABOUT GETTING PUBLISHED will return next week but Jennifer Novotney's debut novel, WINTER IN THE SOUL, was released by Anaiah Press last week and she was kind enough to write a guest post for my blog. Take it away, Jennifer!)

How to Handle Pressure: Writing Under Deadlines

When thinking about deadlines, there are really two types in my book. The first are self-imposed deadlines and the second are external deadlines.

Self-imposed deadlines are those that I’ve created for myself. For example, if I want to get to ten thousand words by the end of the week, then I’ll make that a deadline for myself. I am intrinsically motivated to complete these. That means that there is something inside motivating me to complete it. There is no outside consequence if I don’t reach my goal.

External deadlines are real, hard deadlines from an outside source. For example, my edits are due back to my publisher by the end of the week. I am extrinsically motivated to reach these types of deadlines. That means there is a force from outside myself pushing me to reach my goal of completion.

The best way to handle any type of deadline, self-imposed or external, is to prioritize. My life is extremely busy and I have a number of things I’m juggling at any given moment, so when a new deadline is thrown into the mix, it can be easy to panic. I have to admit that sometimes I do this! Then, I calm down and prioritize what I have to do and make a schedule.

Procrastinating makes me anxious, so for me, it’s best not to leave a large chunk of work for the night before a deadline. I like to work in small increments, even if it’s every day. I’ve been doing this since college, and it’s worked well for me in my writing process. I actually end up reaching deadlines early in most cases.

Here’s my step-by-step approach to handling deadlines under pressure:

Step 1: Take a deep breath and assess the amount of work. 

It can be easy to let your anxiety take over when you look at a large project. Don’t let this happen! Any project, no matter how large, can be tackled by breaking it up into smaller pieces.

Step 2: Take inventory of the project as a whole. 

How long will this take? How many hours a day will you have to dedicate to this project to meet your goal? Can you work on it every day? Will you need some flex time? Will you need breaks? Can you work straight through and still keep your sanity? These are questions to ask yourself when assessing the project as a whole.

Step 3: Look at the timeline and the deadline date. 

Do you have a week? A month? Three months? This is important in assessing how much time you need to dedicate to your project every day or every week. A shorter deadline will dictate more time each day while you may have some wiggle room with a longer deadline. Whatever you do, don’t procrastinate!

Step 4: Break the large project up into smaller pieces based on how many days until the deadline. 

So, it’s simple math. If you have five days to write ten thousand words, you will have to write two thousand words a day. Apply this idea to your project and deadline. I like to have the same amount of work each day spread across my time with no days off. FInd out what works for you.

Step 5: Stick to the schedule. 

Once you’ve figured out what it will take to complete your project, stick to your outline. If you have to write two thousand words a day to reach your goal, then do it. Don’t fall into the habit of grouping two days worth of work together. It can be a slippery slope, which might be hard to master.

Step 6: Work ahead when you can. 

Let’s say you’re on a roll. Don’t just stop at two thousand words if you have more in your head. Go to two thousand five hundred for the day. Then, you’ll have a positive outlook for your deadline the next day knowing you are a quarter of the way there already. Positive thinking works wonders.


In a world divided by power and greed, seventeen-year-old Lilika harbors an intense desire to return to Winter in the Soul, the place her family left to escape the darkness that was manifesting from a coldness of the soul.

When she meets Talon, their connection is evident right from the start, and together they travel through the Black Kingdom to recover Lilika’s stolen locket. And in search of an answer to the mystery behind Winter in the Soul.

Lilika holds the key to stopping the darkness from spreading. The fate of their world lies in her hands. Will she stop the Black Kingdom before its darkness overtakes them all, or will they succumb to the darkness that is spreading across the land?

Release Date: July 15, 2014

Author Bio:

Jennifer Novotney was born in Burbank, California and lived in Los Angeles for most of her life until settling in North Eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and daughter. She attended California State University, earning a bachelors degree in journalism, and Northern Arizona University, earning a masters degree in English. After college, she spent several years writing and teaching, including at Pennsylvania State University.



Includes 5 autographed posters and 5 keychains 


Friday, July 18, 2014

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Just A Little Sleepwalking...

Sleep for me is a commodity hard to come by. Summers have me working with my students 12 to 14 hours each day and then coming home to work on my writing for another 3-4 hours before going to bed. Doesn't leave much time for resting. But when I was growing up, maybe I shouldn't have tried to sleep so much.

I was a sleepwalker.

Not exactly the kind that roamed the streets at night but the kind my siblings could get to do funny things when I was asleep. 

I remember one time I was napping during a hot Saturday afternoon and I later discovered my sister came into the room while I was sleeping. Did I mention I was also prone to talk in my sleep?  I can't remember if she tried to get me talking but the one thing I DO remember is suddenly waking up inside my closet where I decided I needed to change my clothes instead of finishing my nap.

Then there was the time I was SURE it was time to get ready for school and I sleepwalked into the kitchen so I could make myself a fried egg sandwich. I woke up with the frying pan in my hand and Janet smiling at me.  My sister would typically watch out for me...sometimes laughing at my antics...but always playing the big sister to make sure I didn't get into too much trouble.

I eventually outgrew the urge to wander in my sleep but unfortunately it was replaced with nightmares and night terrors until I graduated high school. With THAT kind of vivid imagination, maybe instead of writing children's stories, I should have followed in the footsteps of Stephen King and focused on thrillers instead?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


***My summer camp kids are having such fun reading all these great picture books...140 since June 1st and counting...I've decided to expand beyond the fabulous authors who have generously donated to my FREE AUTHOR PROMOTION and shine some of the spotlight on other great children's books as well.***

Title:  Dream Dog
Author:  Lou Berger
Illustrator: David Catrow
Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade Books
Ages: 4 to 8

Synopsis:  Harry wanted a real, live dog but Dad's nose was too twitchy to have one around. Instead of being disappointed, one day Harry had a wonderful idea. He put on his X-35 Infra-Rocket Imagination Helmet to create a dog from deep within his own brain and soon the fun begins in one little boy's world.

Why you should read it:  This is another example of whimsical illustrations capturing my attention and a delightful story playing out on the pages of this fun read. Mr. Berger not only writes for children, but is also the former head writer for Sesame Street and a ten-time Emmy Award winner. With credentials like that, this book is sure to be a hit!

Like-O-Meter Rating: 5 out of 5...grab it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

5 Common Myths About Getting Published, Part Two

***This is PART TWO of a five part series to uncover some myths about becoming a published author.  Make sure to come back next week and find out more insider secrets about the writing industry!***

Last week I talked about the first myth in this series where some new writers think you need to have a college degree in children's literature or writing before you can actually call yourself a writer. If you missed last week's post you can go here to check it out.

Now I'd like to talk about the next myth some new writers think is necessary to become a published author.


I worked hard my first year as a "professional" writer to strengthen my writing skills. I also started setting goals for my writing career and one of those goals was to land an agent. I thought the ONLY way to become an author was to find an agent willing to represent me and then THEY would magically get my stories published. 

I was wrong.

There are many larger publishing houses that won't consider an unagented submission, but there are still ways for writers today to get their work in front of a publisher. Here are some of the opportunities I have come across over the years where writers don't need an agent to get noticed by a publishing house...

1) WRITE ON CON ( FREE, week long writers conference usually held in August and including things like critique forums, guest speakers, twitter pitches, editor chats and chances to pitch to publishing houses. 

2) PITCHMAS ( pitch forum under #Pitchmas usually held twice a year in July and December. Agents and publishers requests manuscripts pitched during a one day pitch party and even publishing houses not normally open to unagented submissions will occasionally sign on to read the pitches.

3) PITMAD ( pitch party held four times a year under #Pitmad and hosted by author Brenda Drake where writers pitch their completed manuscripts to agents and editors. This is where I met my editor, Jessica Schmeidler, from Anaiah Press and where my story went from a twitter pitch to a book contract in SIX DAYS!

4) #MSWL ( forum where agents and publishers list their manuscript "wish lists".  Just do a search for #MSWL and the wish lists will pop up. Just make sure to research any agents or publishing houses before submitting and ALWAYS follow the publishing house's guidelines to make sure your manuscript has the best chance at being considered.

For those of you interested in pursuing agency representation, here are a couple of ways to bypass the slush pile as well as some agents looking to add to their client list...

1) JULIE HEDLUND'S 12 X 12 FORUM ( my humble opinion, probably one of THE best pipelines to get your work into the hands of agents. Registration is closed for this year but any writer serious about their career and interested in finding an agent should definitely check this forum out! 

2) RATE YOUR STORY ( only can you receive FREE professional critique ratings on your picture book stories up to 2000 words, creator Miranda Paul also provides membership levels where writers can receive special newsletters loaded with contests and insider links to agent opportunities.

3) AGENT WHITLEY ABELL ( agent looking for Middle Grade, Young Adult and select Upmarket Women's fiction. She loves mythology, heartbreaking contemporary novels, historical suspense, and cute romantic comedies.

4) AGENT ALEXANDER SLATER ( agent looking for children's, middle grade, and young adult fiction and nonfiction. 

5) AGENT RENEE NYEN ( agent looking for Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. She is interested in YA historical fition, mystery, science fiction, and thrillers.

For myself, I am searching for agent to partner with because it is right decision for my future writing career. However, I encourage every writer out there looking to become published to do their due diligence and research the market. Maybe you aren't looking for agent representation. While a writer can still become a published author without one, like I did, there are still huge advantages to being represented by an agent so make the decision that is right for YOU and remember no matter what path you choose...agented or free STILL all starts with a great story!

What other opportunities, publishing houses open to unagented submissions, or agents looking for new clients have I missed? Add to my list by commenting below...

Friday, July 11, 2014

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: In The Land Of Mythology

I knew I wanted to be a writer from a very young age. I started out with poetry around age eight and completed two volumes of poetry...including some collaborations with my the time I reached my teenage years.

Growing up in such a strict environment didn't always allow me to blossom and by the time I was a teenager I had become an extremely shy, introverted girl. While I excelled in anything academic, socially I was invisible in the hallways of my school. I spent a lot of time in the library and poured over books like I had uncovered some long lost treasure.

This was about the same time I discovered mythology and would spent my lunch time pouring over the adventures of Hercules and the power of Zeus. My favorite stories came from the Greeks and the Romans so it was no surprise to me when I decided one day to start researching those ancient tales. I wanted to contrast and compare the different mythological characters I came across. I even thought about writing a children's book where you could look up one hero's name and discover if they were called something different in another culture.

After months of research I had managed to fill up several notebooks with information and I was quite proud of my fledgling efforts to become a nonfiction writer.  I thought my mother would be proud as well because she was known for her extensive research of country and western artists. My mother had several notebooks filled with the words of her favorite songs and tidbits of information on the top country performers of her generation so I felt she knew what it meant to love the thrill of the hunt for knowledge.

Sadly, I was wrong.

I can remember one hot summer day when Mother was rocking on the front porch swing. I was about thirteen at the time and decided to share my love of mythology with Mother by showing her my research notebooks. To say my mother wasn't happy with what she considered a waste of paper and a good pencil would be an understatement. She thought it was a foolish endeavor and forced me to stand in front of her while I tore up every page of my notebooks. No amount of begging or tears could save all my hard work and I left my dreams of becoming a nonfiction writer on the floor that day.

But over the years I have discovered many surprising things about myself. One thing I've discovered is that while I thought my dream of writing nonfiction was shattered, it was just lying dormant until the day I felt strong enough to pick up my pencil again and write. Last year I even began researching an idea my sister told me about and that nudge of encouragement from her has blossomed into a story recently submitted to my publisher. My editor is very excited about it so I will cross my fingers and hope for the best. 

Either way, I feel like I have taught my younger self a valuable lesson. There will always be people in the world...even those closest to you...who might strive to shatter your dreams and laugh as those dreams lie in shards upon the floor. But it's what you do in those low moments which gives the world a glimpse of the writer you have yet to become. I could have let my mother's indifference destroy my love of writing.

I chose to follow a different path...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Title:  Murder, Madness, & Love
Author:  Yolanda Renee
Publisher:  Whampa, LLC
Genre: Adult Murder Mystery

Synopsis:  A killer plays cat and mouse with a young widow against the snowy backdrop of an Alaskan winter. Branded a black widow after the suspicious death of her millionaire husband, Sarah Palmer flees Seattle for Anchorage. But the peace and quiet she hoped to enjoy in her hometown is soon shattered: The killer is murdering Sarah look-alikes on the 14th of each month, taunting Sarah with a valentine of evidence. After her experiences in Seattle, Sarah is slow to go to the police. When she finally does, she finds Detective Steven Quaid, who is called on to protect the beautiful widow from a stalker intent on her destruction. Steven is not entirely sure she is not behind the scheme herself, and before long Sarah has him wound up tighter than barbed wire. Is Sarah a victim or a very skilled manipulator? With a killer on the loose and a climbing body count, Steven can't afford to hedge his bets-or his life.

Why you should read it:  I'm a sucker for a love story...and a good whodunit mystery in the flair of Jessica Fletcher's Murder She Wrote series. when I saw the cover of Ms Renee's book, I had the feeling I was going to like this story. It doesn't hurt to throw in the Alaskan backdrop and a cute cowboy named Steven into the mix. Ms. Renee has others in this series but this stand alone creation was certainly a good effort at keeping my attention on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Like-O-Meter Rating: 4 out of 5...give it a try!

Monday, July 7, 2014

5 Common Myths About Getting Published, Part One

***This is PART ONE of a five part series to uncover some myths about becoming a published author.  Make sure to come back next week and find out more insider secrets about the writing industry!***

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around beginner writers about just what it takes to become a published author. If you are a new writer just starting out you might even think there is only one set formula guaranteeing your success at capturing the attention of a publisher.

You would be wrong.

Since 2010 I have dedicated my efforts to becoming a professional writer. It hasn't been easy and I've made my fair share of mistakes. Below you'll find the first common writing myth I uncovered along the way to publication. 


When I first decided to become more serious about my writing I actually thought I would have to go back to school and get a degree in writing before I could call myself a writer. I began looking at different colleges offering courses in writing and quickly realized I didn't have the money to pursue a degree. Then I checked out other workshops, seminars, conferences, and classes offered to help improve my writing skills...only to realize I couldn't afford them either. Did that mean I had to give up my dream of becoming published?


It just meant I had to become creative. The first thing I did was go the library and check out all the writing books they had. Then I went to local bookstores and added to my collection. Finally I trolled the Internet, researching different websites and blogs until I had a number of free or inexpensive resources at my fingertips. Finally I actually took the time to read and study what the experts were already showing me about what's necessary to become a serious writer.

The more I read, the more I began to understand and the stronger my stories became. I learned every story needs an engaging hook to begin with, a strong middle foundation to pull the audience along, and an unexpected ending to surprise, delight, or connect with the reader so it will leave them wanting more. I also learned no matter how good you think you are as a writer, there is always someone better. There will always be opportunities to learn something new and always others generous enough to share their writerly wisdom with you. Your job is to get out there and find them.

Here are just some of the books I have collected over the years...

Author 101: Best Selling Nonfiction by Rick Fristman & Robyn reedman Spizman

On Writing by Stephen King

The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen

20 Master Plots and How To Build Them by ronald B Tobias

The Writer's Book of Wisdom: 101 rules For Mastering Your Craft by Steven Taylor Goldsberry

You Can Write Children's Books by Tracey E Dils

Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Writing For Young Adults by Sherry Garland

What are some of the books or websites you have used in your writing career? Comment below and be sure to come back next week as I uncover another writing myth!