Wednesday, July 27, 2016

OUR SONG by Ashley Bodette

I met Ashley at last year's Utopiacon, and this year, I watched her work miracles as a conference volunteer. Her book OUR SONG explores what happens when people lose their identity within a relationship, and it's a story that will keep readers turning pages.

I broke up with Trip four months ago. But with the exception of my parents, I haven’t told anyone why. Not my friends, not my little sister, not even Asher.

I’ve been missing my best friend every day for the last nine months. Even though Becca broke up with Trip months ago, she’s still been distant, even when we’re in the same room.

She thinks she can break up with me and then go on a “family” vacation with him? I’m going to prove to both of them that she never should have left me.

OUR SONG is your first self-published novel. What did you learn from the process of self-publishing, and what recommendations do you have for people who might be interested in doing it?

I learned SO much during the process of self-publishing OUR SONG. I learned there are a million decisions you have to make along the way that most people don't tell you about until you start asking questions, especially when it comes to using Createspace. I learned a ton about formatting during the process, both paperbacks and ebooks. I also got to learn what it was like to be on the other end of working with others on my book. I've helped a number of authors with editing, proofreading, etc. But having to be the author, and work with a cover designer, and an editor, was very different.

My recommendations for people who might be interested in doing it...don't be afraid to do it! And don't be afraid to ask questions. There are so many amazing authors out there who are so willing to help however they can. (Including me!) And (within reason, of course) write/publish it the way you want to. Some people were really skeptical of my choice to use a sans serif font in my paperback, because I wanted to make it more dyslexia friendly, but it turned out fantastic. Also, PLEASE, if you are selling your book as a paperback, order the proof copy before you approve it for printing. You'll be amazed how all of a sudden something will stand out to you when you're holding the paperback, when it didn't on screen.

I didn't know sans serif was dyslexia friendly...what a wonderful idea. I love the premise of OUR SONG, and how Becca's character develops throughout. What was the most challenging aspect of writing her story?

For me, the most challenging aspect of writing Becca's story was using my own experiences with abuse to help guide her story, but to also not literally use my experience, and make it her own. Becca and I are not the same person, and didn't go through the same experiences, not matter how many things seem to be similar between us.

Abuse happens in many forms--and I'm sure your story will be helpful in more ways than you know. You are also published in the anthology Hostile Takeover. What do you love most about writing short stories, and in what ways, if any, does your process differ from novel-writing?

Great question. What I enjoy about writing short stories is that you're really working on making one moment in time into an entire world for the reader, or to take an entire lifetime of experience and turning into one powerful moment. I would say that for me, novel-writing is a bit like writing a bunch of short stories, and putting them together to form one much longer story. But the process is still quite different. When writing a novel, I'm a total pantser (I don't usually outline, or write in order, etc.). But when I write a short story, I write it basically as an outline first, and start fleshing out more and more detail with each pass.

Interesting that you are both a pantser and a plotter! What are some of your current projects?

Ooh, shall I share my secret projects? :) Well, it's not really a secret that I'm working on a giant, 4 season dystopian/sci-fi serial, that's actually based on the short story I wrote in the Hostile Takeover anthology. I'm having so much fun creating a futuristic world...but I also HAVE to plan and outline this one, as there are so many things I have to decide about what the world looks like 150-200 years from now.

I'm also working on books 2 and 3 after Becca's story. They don't have titles yet, but Becca's younger sister, Olivia, will be the main point of view in book 2, and someone Olivia goes to school with will be the main point of view for book 3. These will also deal with sociopolitical issues.

I also have two contemporary standalone novels started, one NA, and one adult. I'm REALLY excited about these. Their inspiration came from songs that break my heart. And I can't wait to dig deeper into writing them.

Sounds like you have a lot of stories in you! Thanks for sharing yours with us.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, July 25, 2016

Harry Potter: it's not just for kids

This post will be brief, since I just completed a long drive from Southern California. The reason? I went to place I'd always wanted to go--The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

It was an amazing day. The butterbeer was perfect. All three of us got chosen for wand fittings (*gasp*) and we learned a password that got us to the front of the line on a ride with an 80 minute wait time.

I am very grateful for all these experiences, believe me. But something struck me about the way the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is being marketed--and I'm not sure I agree with all the choices.

For starters--no bookstore. No. Books. Well, except for a teeny tiny shelf in Filch's Emporium (perhaps they should re-think that name?).

The only thing resembling a bookstore was a false front, with nothing on the inside. The people at Universal Studios could make a *killing* on book sales this way. And speaking of false fronts...

There were way too many--the externals were fantastic...but the stores were Tom Thumb tiny on the inside. Especially Zonko's--I've had cubicles with more width.

And then I realized why--they are marketing this land to kids, without remembering the whole slew of adults that read these books too. I mean, there's the Hog's Head and the Three Broomsticks, which were great...but most everything else was reserved for those 12 and under.

I'm not saying that it wasn't worth it, by any means--it was a beautiful day, especially at Ollivander's (which really is something to see). But with the technology at their disposal, I'm wondering why Universal isn't pulling all the stops with their Harry Potter experience regarding Hogsmeade. Hogwarts, by comparison, was completely majestic and even had some hologram technology to make the figures in the paintings move:

Perhaps it is a money thing--the best sights and experiences are reserved for those willing to fork over the most cash. I don't know. Regardless, it is a wonderful experience, and despite all the above, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Video Interview! ALPHA GODDESS and The Riven Chronicles Series by Amalie Howard

I met Amalie Howard at this year's UtopiaCon, and she was kind enough to grant me my first video interview. She discusses her wonderful books, in addition to her experience with agents and marketing. Have a look!

For more on Amalie and her books (including her Aquarthi series), you can visit her website,

Alpha Goddess:

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

The Riven Chronicles:

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, July 18, 2016

Make Yourself: Gaining Tolerance for Vulnerability

I think Kevin Smith is one of the most inspirational people on the planet. You can like Kevin Smith, or dislike him, but you can't deny that he has made himself. He demonstrates that you can put yourself out there, in whatever iteration you want, and say what you think about the world. (Language NSFW.)

Which made me think.

For many years, I was taught that I was defined by what I made money at. This week, watching Kevin Smith talking about building yourself from nothing, I realized I could be more than just the source of my income. That I already was. I had already made myself. There was an Incubus song that told me this years ago, but it didn't really register:

I've been self-employed for almost nine years, writing full-time while working a day job. The only difference now is that I have one career instead of two. I'm unemployed, according to my current paycheck--but I'm technically self-employed. My in-laws asked my husband if I was enjoying my "time off," and my husband said, truthfully, "She hasn't really taken any."

And it's true. Since my temporary reprieve with librarianship, which started at the end of April, I've published at least one blog post a week, most of which have been author interviews, finished the first draft of my sixth novel, written a few short stories, one of which that got published in this book, submitted a script to ABC discovers, have almost completed a novella, and am almost done with revisions on the sixth draft of my fourth novel. At a recent book festival, describing this to one author, she said, "Okay, none of this 'aspiring' garbage. You are doing things. You're a writer." And it's true. I've published, both in fiction and non-fiction now.

It took me losing my librarian job to figure out how much of a writer I already was.

And there was a reason why I was hesitant to take this step. Making yourself also opens you up to failure. And failure is scary as hell. I was determined to keep my librarian job as long as possible so that I wouldn't be labeled as a "failure." It took everything I had to try and keep that job, and losing it to realize that even if I try to put the fuzzy bumpers into my life to save myself pain, the inevitable will happen.

I don't blame anyone at my former job--the best word I can come up for it is "circumstanced." There were a lot of circumstances that went in to me getting that job in the first place and a lot of circumstances that led to me losing it. I think it was all inevitable--regardless if I had taken that job, I was at a place of being burned out and something would have given, eventually.

That was what had to happen to give me the courage to pursue the unknown. Because making yourself involves a high tolerance for vulnerability, and by practicing gratitude, two things I'm still working with, day after day. Brene Brown says it best here:

So. Make yourself in the way only you can. I dare you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

SINKING by Sarah Armstrong-Garner

I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at Barnes and Noble's B-Fest, and the way she pitched her novel SINKING made me want to read it immediately:

Jocelyn washes up on the shore of eighteenth century Ireland, alone, naked, and missing all of her memories. Taken in by a lonely old woman full of plots and schemes for the lovely yet enigmatic creature, Jocelyn knows only one thing. She longs for the sea with every ounce of her being. Yet it tried to kill her.

Aidan Boyd loves two things. His ship and the sea. When Jocelyn is thrust upon his vessel in the midst of his superstitious crew, he finds himself intoxicated by her--willing to give up everything for her. He soon finds he cannot live without her.

But something holds Jocelyn back. The whisper of another's love. The embrace of water. Does she belong to this world? Or could Jocelyn possibly be from the sea?

Sarah also answered some interview questions:

In addition to novels, you also write screenplays. What do you like most about each medium and why?

They are both amazing and both their own animal. With a screenplay it is all visual and the blueprint to a movie, which I love. I know when writing a screenplay that one-day many people will have a part of making my story come to life. With screenplays the less description the better and with novels you want all of your senses alive. With novel writing I am able to dig deep into my character’s mind and feelings and describe them on the page and with screenplays I am not. I find it refreshing to switch between both mediums. It’s like turning a picture upside down. I see something new in my stories every time.

And I'm betting that's why SINKING has such a delightfully complex premise. At the beginning, Jocelyn is left with no memories. In what ways did her character grow as you wrote her, and were there times she surprised you?

There were many times when she surprised me. At more than one time Jocelyn was writing her story and I was just reading it. This story is about self-discovery and origins. It is about pushing to the limit and not breaking. And that’s was Jocelyn does. She pushes past her fears and leaps into the unknown, hoping she will find answers. With every leap and struggle, Jocelyn finds a piece of what she’s lost and also what she will have to give up.

Very well put. I can't wait to watch her journey within the world you've created for her, and I love the way you pitched her story. What advice, if any, do you have for authors looking to spruce up their pitching skills?

Make it simple. If you can’t grab someone’s attention in one sentence then rework your pitch. If they are interested in your story then tell them more, but keep it simple and short.

Great advice. What are some of your current projects?

Right now I’m working on DRIFTING and RISING, the next two books in the Sinking Trilogy. When they are done I’ll be writing their screenplays to go with them.

Wonderful! I can't wait to see how the intricate story-building in SINKING will continue to grow and change.

You can learn more about Sarah by following her on Facebook and Twitter, @SarahTwyla, to get faster updates on her novels, screenplays, and projects.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, July 11, 2016

Conveyance of an idea vs. what that idea conveys

Many aspiring authors are afraid of putting their ideas out there, in case their concepts might be stolen by others. I used to have this fear too, but eventually, the more I wrote, I realized that concepts in and of themselves can be familiar, and all we do is put our unique twists on them. If I wrote a vampire story, for example, it would probably look very different than something from Twilight. Mine would probably be more along the lines of a vampire who has dreadful allergies, or something, because I'm fascinated by the mundane within the fantastic.

"Damned pollen--my eyes are so red I can't see. And look at this rash!"
(photo from

But even this concept, or idea, is welcome to be stolen from someone else. I don't mind. Because, I learned something else even more important from reading Neil Gaiman's The View From the Cheap Seats, something he said during his speech at the fortieth anniversary of the Nebula awards:

"The challenge now is to go forward and to keep going forward: to tell stories that have weight and meaning. It's saying things that mean things, and using the literature of the imagination to do it."

The full speech can be viewed here.

Neil Gaiman has always been a fountain of wisdom for me--probably why I was so excited to meet him in 2013. His quote reminds me that it doesn't matter if I come up with a cool concept--if that idea doesn't have some way to universally resonate with someone else, it probably won't translate in the way I intend anyway. It's all about the "why." Why is this cool element so important for the story, and why does it affect my character?

 In thinking about this, my vampire with allergies might get some traction. After all, it's not about the allergies in and of themselves, but how people's lives are affected by them. Are they not able to own cats, for example, even if they might really want one? Do they want to go for a walk during spring, but can't? And how does it affect a person's motivation and well-being to be constantly drowsy from allergy medication?

As authors, we don't only convey ideas, but we create experiences for people. So the next time you're afraid that your idea might be "stolen," think about the universal concepts within that idea--have they been done before? Are they relatable to someone else besides you? And if not, where might you find the universality within your story?

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

EVERLAND by Wendy Spinale

I had the fortune of meeting Wendy and getting to know her new book at this year's Bay Area Book Festival. Needless to say, I bought EVERLAND immediately, and was instantly drawn in:

London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived are children, among them Gwen Darling and her siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the ruthless Marauders -- the German army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.

Unsure if the virus has spread past England's borders but desperate to leave, Captain Hook hunts for a cure, which he thinks can be found in one of the survivors. He and his Marauders stalk the streets snatching children for experimentation. None ever return. Until the day they grab Joanna. As Gwen sets out to save her, she meets a daredevil boy named Pete. Pete offers the assistance of his gang of Lost Boys and the fierce sharpshooter Bella, who have all been living in a city hidden underground. But in a place where help has a steep price and every promise is bound by blood, it will cost Gwen. And are she, Pete, the Lost Boys, and Bella enough to outsmart Captain Hook?

You've had quite the journey, from Disney, to Kinesiology to freelance writing. Which parts of your journey taught you the most, and what did you do to keep motivated through it all?

I've had a phenomenal life and every part of it has contributed to who I am today. I am so grateful for the experiences I've had and for the people I've met along the way. I'm highly motivated by the people I surround myself with. They are driven, inspirational, and remind me that life is precious and to never take for granted the great things I've been given.

Which makes you inspirational to others too! I loved the world-building in EVERLAND. What did you enjoy most about writing it, and what part was the most challenging? 

My favorite scenes to write were the chapters within the Lost City. I ended up have to cut about two chapters of the original manuscript because we decided that it wasn't YA enough. But those Lost Boys are charming and the city they built is magnificent. Hook was the most challenging character to wrap my head around. I knew he was my villain, but that he wasn't your traditional bad guy. He's complex, confused, and I wanted the reader to almost be sympathetic. In order to do that, I had to create this tragic backstory. As a mother, it was difficult to get in touch with that horrible, wicked mother of his. I adore kids and Hook's childhood was awful.

That depth is what sets this story apart--in addition to your flawless world-building. Speaking of creative spaces, I love the design of your website. What advice, if any, do you have for authors looking to expand their online platforms? 

Thanks! I found an amazing website designer through I think finding ways to put your work out in the world is important. I was blogger for a short time and also worked as a online news journalist before I started writing books. There are a lot of online writing communities such as Wattpad that allow you to upload your writing. Also, social media plays a huge part in getting your name out in the world. I've found Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to be excellent avenues to reach out the readers, writers, librarians, and book bloggers. The writing community is such a positive group of people and a great resource when it comes to promoting. They are like virtual cheerleaders, marketers, and publicists. Engage with others who love to read and write books.

It's a beautiful community--and I love how you encourage writers to get rid of that word 'aspiring'! What are some of your current projects? 

I'm currently under contract with Scholastic for two more books in the EVERLAND series as well as two e-shorts. I've just turned in my latest revision for book two to my editor and am currently working on the first e-short. The e-short is tentatively set to come out either late this year or early next year. It will be a short read about the backstory of one of the EVERLAND characters. Book two is expected out early summer 2017.

Thanks again for having me stop in. Those were great questions and I appreciate you and your readers for taking the time to get to me and my little world of EVERLAND a bit more.

Thank you! EVERLAND is gorgeous and I hope lots of people will experience it!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound