Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Welcome Michelle Kopra!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Michelle Kopra!
Michelle was one of the first people at met in my RWA Chapter (NTRWA). I am very excited to have her visiting today. Michelle's book Major Mischief is now available through Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.

Let's Get to know Michelle!

  Do you have a writing routine? What does it look like? Where do you usually write?

 I do! I pack the kids off to school (or summer camp). Then I make myself tea, light some candles, listen to some meditational music, and then get started at my dining room table. If I’m feeling particularly lazy I’ll sit on the couch in front of the fireplace. I’ll write 1k to 2 k words depending on how inspired or blocked I’m feeling that day.

Tell us about your e-book. Where can we get it? How did you make the decision to e-pub?

My brother offered to paint the book cover for me. I knew if I submitted the story to a publisher, the chance of me having control of what the cover looked like would be slim. So, I hooked up with an editor, the rest fell into place. I published with Smashwords and have the story available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well.

   Do you have any special time management tricks for working in writing time and living a normal life?

Not really except I try to write when my children are at school. . This gives me time to be with them, and I don’t burn out on writing.

What is the best advice you have received about this journey? Read, read, read! Write, write, write!

  What sources do you use for inspiration? ( Music, movies, people watching)

Types of music will inspire me to write certain stories. For example when I was writing Major Mischief I listened to alot of steampunk music. Also, watching Doctor Who has also helped along the current project.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?
 I day dream about my current story, as well as stories I plan to work on.

   Tell us a bit about your work in progress.

Currently working on a sequel of sorts from Major Mischief, Ruby has landed herself in a spot of trouble on a far away planet. I’m also working on a short story about a pink fairy, and another steampunk about belly dancing.

Here is a little blurb for you about Major Mischief:
Ellie is trying to prove to the world and to her mother she is more than just a woman to be dragged to the altar, and forced to bear children. Even though she feels an attraction for the strange man that helped her escape her maman, she fights it, determined not to give up her freedom.
But the attraction only grows as they go in search of her uncle and his partner, who have been kidnapped by a very naughty Troll determined to take over the world with Uncle René’s invention, a portal machine that not only opens the door to other parts of the world, but to other dimensions.
As they adventure across the world, can Major Grey Caudle convince Ellie Hawke that they belong together? Even if he is an elf from a highly advanced world and she is a human from Victorian earth. Will he make her understand that she does not have to give up her work, her teaching, or her inventions to be a wife? 
You can find out more about Michelle and Major Mischief on her Facebook Page. 

So, anything else you want to know about Michelle? Or Steampunk? Am I the only person left on the plant who hasn't see Dr. Who?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

California Dreaming

Thinking about Thursday

In honor the first week of school, this is a re-post from January. It just still seemed appropriate. 
 California Dreaming
(Or is it gray? Did you know there is actually a website devoted to answering that question?   

             I am not really dreaming about California, but I felt like giving  a nod to The Mamas and The Papas anyway. Today, like most days when I am flat tired from my day job, I am dreaming about the life of a full time writer.
           I picture it like this :
  1. I send the kids off to school with a smile because I haven't spent the morning yelling things like,    "When you are late, then I am late! I don't care the socks don't match. Put them on and let's go!"                 
  2. I walk an hour on my treadmill while analyzing my plot points, constructing my character arcs and composing witty, believable dialogue. Added benefit: I lose 20-75 pounds while  working.                                                                                                                                                        
  3. I walk through my clean house with no dishes in the sink and no mound o' laundry poised to avalanche on to the kitchen floor to my computer.
  4. I write uninterrupted for hours as the words flow freely in the silent buzz of the empty house. I pause only to smile at my four legged companion who likes to sleep on my feet. Several thousands words a day grace my work in progress.  
  5. I have a quiet, peaceful lunch with my husband without having to remind someone not eat with her face in the plate like she is a dog. We also discuss sensitive topics without converting the conversation into "hide -the- true -meaning- from- the- kids" code which neither one of us can understand, but the kids can decipher with little effort. 
  6. I go back to writing for hours when he returns to work. Then easily shut down the computer when my children arrive home. Confident I have written my best and expended my creativity for the day.
  7. I spend the evening guilt-free. I cheerfully help with homework and prepare dinner instead of trying to write, microwave chicken strips and recite spelling words.
  8. I check homework, make the costume for the school play and remember snacks for the Girl Scout meeting because I am focused and organized without the added responsibilities of teaching
  9.  I check my email, converse with my friends on twitter, and prepare my blogs.
  10. I climb into bed at a decent hour, knowing all my ideas will wait. I have all day tomorrow to write. There is no need to stay up until all hours of the night.
*SIGH* So that is my dream. I know nothing is ever like you think it will be and my dream probably needs a reality check.

So tell me, what do you picture being a full-time writer to be like? If you are a full-timer, what is your day like?
( Be gentle. It is the only bubble I've got, don't burst it too harshly)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Author Feature: Paul Shortt

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


Paul is from Ireland and has the distinction of being the first male author featured on Tell Me Your Story Tuesday. His first novel will be released in 2012 by WiDo Publishing.

Let's get to know Paul!

What made you decide to write? What did you do before becoming a writer?

Paul: I've wanted to be a writer since I was a child. I can't say any one event make me think "Yeah, that's what I want to be!" but I always read, much more frequently than I do now, and knew from about the age of twelve that it was what I wanted to do. I grew up loving stories, whether they be books, movies, or theatre. Having parents interested in theatre and music definitely helped expose me to the different ways a story can be told.

I've been working in office administration for an internet company for the last five years. Landing that book deal doesn't mean I get to quit my day job, I'm afraid! (I get disappointed every time I hear this!)

 Do you have a writing routine? What does it look like? Where do you usually write?

Paul: I do, but it's not very structured, and it has required bending at times. Monday to Friday, I get into my office early and write before work starts, then again during my lunch hour. Google Documents is my friend. Got to love it. Then in the evenings I'll often set aside more time to write.

On weekends I get up early, usually between 8 and 8:30, and go to our front room where we have our books, my computer and my wife's piano. It's a sort of combination study, writing room, music room and games room. This is my favourite spot to write, because I've got my office chair and my music. I'll work there until my wife gets up, then make us breakfast before going back and working away until about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, depending on our plans for the day.

Aside from that, I also work from a netbook whenever I have a spare moment or there's nothing good on tv. Of course, I'm not just writing for all of that time. I also use this time to research places and mythology that I can use in my books.

 Is the life of a writer what you thought it be? What is different?

Paul: You mean different from what 12 year-old me expected? Oh, definitely. When I was a kid I thought one book deal would mean I'd be rich and never have to work a day in my life again. I had no idea the amount of work involved in just getting a book written, let alone getting one ready for publication. I think the most surprising difference though is how prepared you have to be for criticism. I never expected, when I was younger, that I would have to consider, and be able to accept, the amount that my work would have to adapt in order to be published. Even when you've got that deal, or decided to self-publish, you need a thick skin and no small amount of humility in order to make sure your stuff is the best it can be. 

Tell us about the contest that led to your publishing contract. How did that all fall into place?

Paul: Back at the beginning of the year, Karen Jones announced that WiDo Publishing were holding a contest. It was simple enough. Anyone could send in a covering letter and the first three chapters of their novel. Up to three finalists would have their full manuscripts considered for publication. It was actually a friend and fellow writer, Ellen Brickley, who pointed out the contest to me, so I really owe her a lot!

I was contacted by Allie, WiDo's acquisitions officer, in April to let me know I had won and that they were going to offer me a contract for my book. I have the e-mail framed, hanging over my desk at home.

  What is the best advice you have received about this journey?

Paul: One of my favourite authors, Jim Butcher, once said the only different between a wannabe author and a published author is that the published author kept trying. The fact is, you don't need to be the best new writer on the scene. You don't have to be better than Stephen King, or beat J.K. Rowling's sales figures. All you have to do is hold on long enough even while the others around you give up. Most aspiring writers don't even manage to finish that first novel. Keep writing. Keep querying. There is simply no other way to get there.

 What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were starting out?

Paul: That it's okay for your early work to suck! Though to be honest, I doubt I would have listened at the time. So maybe I'd rather wish that I'd been more open to receiving advice and criticism.

 What do you do to fight burnout? Do you ever worry about "running out of stories"? How do combat that?

Paul: I'm terrible for pushing myself to exhaustion. My wife and friends have often had to order me to take a night or two off writing just to uwind and re-charge my batteries. I'm the kind of person who has a need to be writing. Not writing feels wrong to me, and I'm often quite hard on myself if I'm having trouble. The best thing for me then is to turn off the computer, have a glass of wine and watch a movie.

I try not to think about "running out of ideas." I think it helps to accept that there is no such thing as an original plot. Every possible story has already been told, it's just the set dressings that change. So focus on telling whatever stories you find fun to write, and you'll do fine.

 What kind of scenes do you have a hard time writing?

Paul: Any scenes where one character is explaining something to another. I'm very prone to infodumps so I have to watch myself like a hawk for using too much exposition and not integrating the details into the story.

 Do you ever write material based on your close relationships, such as a best friend?, and how do you balance that material with the need to tell an interesting story?

Paul: In all honesty, I try not to. Sometimes I find it easier to write a certain character or scene if I draw on emotions from my own relationships, but it's much more generalised, not specifically basing a character on someone I really know. But for high-emotion scenes, it's difficult to ignore when I've experienced similar feelings in the past.

What sources do you use for inspiration? ( Music, movies, people watching)

Paul: Music is my primary source of inspiration. I listen to music a lot, especially film scores, and I'll often be walking along and an idea for a scene that matches the music I'm listening to will grow in my mind. You'd be amazed how much of my writing is based on "this would be great in a movie with this music in the background!" Though I do also draw inspiration from movies, books, theatre and mythology.

 What do you do when you aren’t writing?

Paul: What little time I let myself off from either writing or researching I usually spend reading, watching movies, or with my tabletop roleplaying group.

Tell us a bit about your work in progress.

Paul: It's an urban fantasy set in New York. My hero, Nathan Shepherd, remembers past lives and uses the knowledge from those memories to track down a creature which has been preying on people for over a hundred years. Along the way he learns about the hidden supernatural society of New York and how his previous incarnations have been involved with it, while at the same time trying to hold onto his job and his relationships with his friends and girlfriend.

Naturally the book deals with questions of life after death; the idea of a natural cycle of death and rebirth. Whether we're still the same people whose memories we have, with the same potential and responsibilities, or each life is a blank slate, with the person you were before, and all the things you achieved, meaning nothing once you die. The book also looks at the choices we make, the sacrifices we're willing to accept for the things we believe in. The primary question running throughout is just how much Nathan is willing to risk to stop this monster, and what, if anything, will he have left in the end?

The book is currently undergoing edits and will be released as part of WiDo's 2012 lineup.

 What is next for you?

Paul: Well I'm currently working on two novels. One is a sequel to my first book, continuing Nathan's story, currently titled Silent Oath, though that's likely to change. I've almost finished the first draft on that. The other is a Young Adult book called Nightfall, about a boy who turns into a bird-like monster after the sun sets. I've been enjoying both. Each one is a different experience and I can't wait to see where they go.

How can we find out more about you? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter?

Paul: I have a blog at I'm also on Facebook under both a personal profile and an Author page, and my Twitter username is PAShortt.

Thanks for having me on your blog! It's been fun
It was a pleasure having you, Paul. I look forward to reading your book when it comes out! Thanks for stopping by!

Anyone else have questions for Paul?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Plot Swap~Free for All

Friday Plot Swap

Dawn's Plot Swap
Have a plot? Leave one
Need a plot ? Take one

This lack of an organized Friday Plot Swap is brought to you by Dawn's day job. Unfortunately, Dawn's day job recently ate her. Please feel free to swap amongst yourselves until Dawn is able to claw and dig her way out of the belly of the beast.

In the meantime, please consider visiting some of our previous plot swaps:

The First Ever Plot Swap
Musical Style
Text from Last Night Style
End of the World Style

Thank you for your patience and have a great day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Thinking about Thursday

As I mentioned on  Tuesday, today I am revisiting the goals I set for myself  here. 
Let's see how I did.

Dawn's Goals for Summer 2011
1. Finish revisions on Story #1 (with help of wonderful crit partners Teri Anne Stanley and Genevieve Wilson) I did finish the revisions. More than one set of revisions actually. In fact, I revised myself right out of the story. No matter how much I tweaked it. I just couldn't get it right. So, I guess this goal is a success?

2. QUERY, QUERY, QUERY. I am going to do it! You heard. I wrote it down. HOLD ME TO IT! Don't hold me to it. Or, don't hold it against me that I didn't do it. The story I had been working on wasn't ready. You can read about that decision here.

3. Complete the writing boot camp I am currently enrolled in, but have not had time to read the first lesson for yet. I did complete the class, well, I sort of completed the class. I didn't take advantage of the option to pitch to the teacher ( The Fabulous Candace Havens.  She is awesome. You should take classes from her!) 

I haven't decided how I feel about my semi-successful summer. I am definitely in a better place than when I wrote this about the end of last summer. 

So, what about you? Did you have goals for the summer? Writing or otherwise? Did you meet them? Kind of meet them? Remember you wrote them down? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sunset of Summer

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

                            I officially returned to work yesterday. In reality, I have been back since last Monday.  But, yesterday marked the true end of my summer.

                           Thursday, I will be revisiting the summer goals I set for myself here. Today, I want to reflect on the highlights.

Dawn's Best Moments of Summer: 

  • Two successful birthday parties

  • One great night remembering what it was like to be fourteen years old.

  •     Lots of time hanging out with these two. Just like this.

  • And even a few moments with this guy. 

That was my summer. No relaxing vacation. No exciting adventure. Just my life and you know what? That was okay.

So, tell me your story. What was your summer like? Did you have a grand adventure? Did you just enjoy the sunshine? Is your summer coming to a close like mine? Or do you have a few precious weeks left?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friday Plot Swap~World of Weirdness

Friday Plot Swap

Dawn's Plot Swap
Have a plot? Leave one
Need a plot ? Take one
This week, we are entering the World of Weirdness. Some of these stories have interesting characters to inspire you. Some of them have plots that will make you shake your head and said, "Huh?".  Some of them have both. 
Like this one:
An Upper East Side couple grieving over the loss of a stuffed toy monkey they’ve raised like a son the past decade went bananas with joy Saturday night after being reunited with their beloved Beanie Baby. 
(Really, you need to read the whole story to grasp the, um, originality of these people)
Three people in Beatrice, Neb., were charged after a woman allegedly asked her friends to stab her so she could avoid a probation hearing, 
(I have some great friends. Amazingly enough, I don't see any of them doing this for me.)

Doctors were baffled when a British man told them, "I can hear my eyeballs moving." But they finally diagnosed that Stephen Mabbutt had a rare ear condition in which sounds inside the body are heard very loudly, 
(I have no comment on this one.)

So, swap with me! What kind of weirdness is going on in your world *real or imaginary*?


What's on your list?

Thinking about Thursday
Last week on Facebook , I asked this question:
"If you were going to do something, just to prove to yourself you could, what would you do? Feel free to add why."
I got two responses: Run a Marathon and hike through the wilderness of Alaska. ( Thank you, Teri~ critique partner extraordinaire and Scott, my best friend's brother-in-law) 

That tells me either a.) the rest of you have no hopes and dreams or b.) you were ignoring me. I am going to go with A. You would never ignore me, right? 

In a few weeks, I will be reviewing this book: 

*My first book review! I am so excited!*

The first part of the book talks about Dreams. What do you wish you could accomplish. Kathi suggest writing down 50. I am having trouble coming up with more than 5.

Now, these are dreams, not goals. They don't have to be something attainable or even doable.  
Here is what I have come up with:

1. See a stranger reading my published book. ( That would  mean. Not only is it published, but someone actually paid for it!)
2. Go to Hawaii
3. Learn how to shoot a gun. (Yes, honey, I know this one makes you proud.)
4. Drive a car more than 100 mph (in a safe controlled environment~ not on I-35.)
5. Have a great relationship with my daughters even through their teens. (Yes, I know. DREAMS, remember? I said, DREAMS.)
So, what's on your list?
Not necessarily a "Bucket List". But more a "I-am-proving-I-can-do-this" list.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Like It Hot

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday.

First of all, let me say I LOVE TEXAS.
I have to, right? Only someone crazy in love would tolerate this kind of behavior. 

Want to hear something sad? The above graphic represents  a "cool down" from last week. That's right, folks. 106 degrees is considered a "cool down". Just shoot me. 

In case you haven't noticed, I am slightly delirious from the heat and struggling with coherency today. Partially because this wonderful song has been stuck in my head all day!

Eddie Murphy before 
he was the voice of Donkey.
What else could you ask for?

Okay, enough about the heat.
The truth is I love Texas because I hate snow.

Of course, my beloved betrayed me this year. The whole state basically shut down for a week because of a snowstorm. Those of you who live in places where it snows all the time and think we might have overreacted. Remember: Snow in Texas is always proceeded by a layer of ice. We don't have chains for our tires. We don't own parkas  and we only dress in layers if it is fashionable.

I will suffer through the heat and the occasional blizzard. (Trust me, in our world, it was a blizzard!) for wearing short sleeves into October and the beautiful spring days of March and April. 

So, tell me your story. What is it like where you live? What do you love about it? What do you hate about it?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Plot Swap~ Alternate Endings

Friday Plot Swap

Dawn's Plot Swap
Have a plot? Leave one
Need a plot ? Take one
Let's talk alternate endings
I love watching the special features of DVDs that have alternate endings and I have read a few books that I wish I could rewrite the ending because "That was not how things were supposed to turn out!" 
I'm using movies as examples today, but feel free to swap books endings too.
In the examples, the original endings will be revealed so if you don't want to know. Don't click!
First of all,
Mostly I found this movie too true to be funny, but I did enjoy it until this scene. Yes, this is a scene most of us have experienced at one time or another, but I don't go to the movies for reality! 
How would you rewrite this? They don't have to end up together, but this was just awkward! 
First, I will freely admit: I did not enjoy this movie.  It is one of my husband's favorites and we have frequently debated its merit. Anyway, after sitting through the FOREVER longness of  him being on the island, off the island, whatever, the ending left me beyond frustrated. He didn't have to end up with Helen Hunt, but HELLO, I NEED SOME CLOSURE!

Sorry, it is huge. I can't make it smaller.

And last, but not least.  One of my absolute favorite movies:

 I LOVE this movie. Love, Love, LOVE this movie. But the ending, while understandable, always leaves me wanting more. Does Claire use Bender to get back at her parents? Does Allison secret hook up with Andrew? Does Brian become ruler of the nerd world? I NEED to know!
I couldn't find video with just the goodbye scenes. So, here is The Breakfast Club in Four Minutes.

So, Swap with me! What endings would you rewrite? 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Knowing when to let go

Thinking about Thursday

Everyone shelves their first novel, right? That is what I hear from most of writer friends. "Oh, my first novel? It's under my bed (in a file cabinet, locked in my mother's attic, a pile of ashes that were washed down the kitchen sink). Never to see the light of day."
That is what I am thinking about today. The manuscript I have been working on (and working on and working on) is far from my first novel. I have been writing most of my life, so I have completed several others. You want to talk about "never meant to see the light of day"? These would make your heart ache and not in a good way. But, they were all steps in the process.

I suppose this one is, too. I have never put so much work into a manuscript before. I have never had such great beta readers and critique partners before. (Shout out to the terrific Teri Anne Stanley and my NTRWA chaptermate, Genevieve Wilson.) Of course, I have never been this educated about the publishing process before.

Despite all of the crits, all the revisions, all the heart, soul and tears. I think it is time to put this one the shelf. Sadly, not the one in the bookstore I have dreamed of seeing it grace.

I had high hopes of querying it this summer, but it's not ready. I know that and right now, I am too close to it to get it any closer to being ready. We need a break. Some time apart. Maybe I will come back with fresh eyes and all the parts I can't seem to work out will magically fall into place.

So, what do you think? Where is your first novel? How do you know when it is time to just let it go?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Golden Heart winner Anne Barton

Tell My Your Story Tuesday


Anne is a historical romance writer represented by Helen Breitwieser at Cornerstone Literary Agency. Anne has had an excited summer. She won the RWA Golden Heart Award for her regency historical,  The Proper Miss's Guide to Bad Behavior. A short time later, she announced her first sale.

Let's get to know Anne!
  What made you decide to write?  What did you do before becoming a writer?

I think I’m driven to write because I’m a really bad singer.  Deplorable.  I used to envy people with beautiful voices (oh, who am I kidding, I still do!) because of the way they make people feel when they sing.  A moving song makes people laugh, cry, or gives them goosebumps.  An emotional scene in a story can do the same thing—that’s what I’m always trying for.

In school, if I had a choice between a five minute speech and a ten page research paper, I’d take the paper every time.  (By the way, it’s not easy to induce goosebumps with a physics paper.)  My friends thought I was crazy, but there’s something so satisfying about writing.  It gives you time to think and craft the perfect response.  If you’ve ever come up with a clever retort about five minutes too late, you know what I mean.

Tell us about winning the Golden Heart.

It was a moment I’d dreamed about, though I should point out that in my dreams my acceptance speech was wittier and I was more poised.  Also I was taller and looked a lot like Jennifer Aniston.  But it felt wonderful.  I mean, we’ve already established that I can’t sing, so American Idol wasn’t a viable dream for me.  I’ve never been much of an athlete (my brothers are rolling on the floor at this gross understatement), so it wasn’t like I had a shot at the Olympics.  Not even curling, for crying out loud.  The Golden Heart was my dream, and thanks to many hours at the computer—and a healthy dose of luck!—it came true.

 You also just announced your first sale. How exciting! Give us some details on that.

The deal started coming together while I was attending the Romance Writers of America’s national conference in New York City.  The whole week seemed magical . . . if we don’t count the rat that almost scampered over my toes and the guy on the train who tried to steal my luggage.  Honestly, Nationals is the most fun a writer can have: workshops, parties, sightseeing, and hanging out with fellow writers.  I met my editor at a retreat, and a few days after I returned home I received the official offer. Celebration ensued!  Here’s the blurb that ran in Publishers Marketplace:

2011 Golden Heart winner in the Regency Historical category Anne Barton's THE PROPER MISS'S GUIDE TO BAD BEHAVIOR, pitched as Project Runway meets Downton Abbey, to Selina McLemore of Forever, in a two-book deal, by Helen Breitwieser at Cornerstone Literary (World).

   Do you have any special time management tricks for working in writing time and living a normal life?

I make daily goals for myself.  When I’m drafting, I write 1,000 words each day.  My family knows I’m not allowed to play until my words are done.  If my day job is going to be especially hectic one week, I plan ahead and write more the weekend before.  Every Monday, I write my word count on my desk calendar.  It’s motivating to see the words add up in a few months.

Oh, and my best friend is my DVR.  I record my favorite TV shows (and there are so, so many!) to use as rewards after I meet my daily word count.

   What is the best advice you have received about this journey?

I can’t remember where I read this advice, but I’d just finished my first manuscript, and it was exactly what I needed.  I’m paraphrasing, but it goes something like: When you start a story, don’t hold anything back—don’t save the good bits for later.  Put all your best stuff into the opening chapter . . . and then make sure the rest of the story delivers on that promise.

 How can we find out more about you? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter?

I have a website:
and a blog. 
I’ve also finally gotten a grasp on Twitter (@_AnneBarton), which no doubt means it’s on the verge of becoming obsolete.  In the meantime I’d love to see you there!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Anne.
So, what do you want to know about Anne?