Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This year has been a busy one. I have learned a lot about myself as a writer, mother and wife.  Juggling the different aspects of my life has been harder than I thought.  I am very lucky to have family and friends who are so supportive.  
I have been a traveling fool this year and we still have one more trip to go on.  I was blessed enough to have my husband take me to Marblehead, Massachusetts, in August.  Marblehead is the place where SECRET DOIRES is set.  I learned so much and was inspired more than I could have ever imagined.  I cannot wait to go back. We both fell in love with the town and its surrounding areas.  
With all of the traveling and family balance, I have not been writing as much as I would have hoped.  To help jumpstart my next project, I am going to do NaNoWriMo.  National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 on November 30.
NaNoWriMo is going to keep me busy in November and I plan on continuing to query SECRET DOIRES. That plus paying attention to the family will leave me zero time for my wonderful blog.  So I am taking a blogcation. A long one, sadly.  I will come back January 1st, 2012, ready to blog and tell everyone how NaNoWriMo went . . . and hopefully have some good news on SECRET DOIRES.
Last, I want to leave you with some great news.  I entered a contest a couple months ago with an independent publishing house.  Not only did I make it to the top 20 and then the top 5, but I actually won second place.  The first place prize was the ultimate prize, a publishing contract—but I am beyond happy with my second-place finish. (When I entered the contest I hadn’t changed the title yet, so it is titled FLIGHT on the contest page.) This was the push I needed. It reminded me that I am great writer and my book is good, and I know one day it will be published. And boy, I can’t wait for that day.  
I hope you all have a great Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I will talk to you all soon.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Parenting to Publishing: Inara Scott

This month we have the amazingly talented Inara Scott telling us her Parenting to Publishing journey.

CW: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
IS: I grew up in winter wonderland of Buffalo, NY. Consequently, I spent much of my childhood complaining about being cold. To spare the world my whining, I fled the cold climate and eventually wound up in the Pacific NW. I love it here — we get occasional snow, tons of rain in the winter, and lots of sun in the summer. The forests are huge, and the old Douglas Fir trees and thick ferns make you think you’ve wandered into a fairy tale. I would be surprised if there weren’t fairies and elves living here. Seriously.
I love to hike, canoe, and play outside. I am addicted to yoga. I have a deep affinity for water (I used to believe I could learn to breathe underwater, if I stayed down there long enough).
I’m a geek through and through. I fear deep, intellectual books and love romance and fantasies. I listen to cheesy, happy music. When I was in high school, my friends considered having a clothing intervention for me because I insisted on making my own clothes and shopping at thrift stores. Somehow, I survived.

CW: When did you start writing? 
IS: I started writing in 2005. At the time, I was working full-time as an attorney, and I had two little ones at home. I think writing became my happy place -- an escape where no one needed me, the women were beautiful, the men were sexy, and there was ALWAYS a happily ever after.

CW: What genre do you write? What are your books about?
IS: I started writing adult historical romance. I wrote two books that weren’t published, and then tried my hand at young adult fiction. That YA book (Delcroix Academy: The Candidates) became my first published novel.

CW: Tell us a little bit about your journey to getting your agent. What were your query stats? What is the most memorable feedback (good or bad) you have received about your book?
IS: Oh lord, I think I had well over 150 rejections before I found an agent. I queried relentlessly for my first two novels, but always kept writing. I queried about 50 agents for my YA novel, and 49 of them said no. But as the saying goes, you only need one! There really wasn’t one piece of feedback that stood out for me. It was a series of “you’re almost there” type of statements that were simultaneously soul-crushing and uplifting. (Gosh, that kind of describes most of publishing, don’t you think?)

CW: Most writers dream about getting published. Tell us how it works. How did it feel to hold your book in your hands?
IS: Oh, I cried and cried. It’s hard to put it into words. You look at that book and wonder how it could possibly have happened to you. I still tend to believe it was an accident. ;-)

CW: Can you describe your writing routine? Any certain music, food, smells or atmosphere that get you in the mood to write?
IS: I write best early in the morning, and when I was working full time, I’d often get up at 5 to get some writing time in before work and kids demanded my attention. I love sitting down with the computer and a cup of steaming hot coffee. Coffee definitely gets my writerly-brain working.

CW: What is your favorite writer’s resource?
IS: My friends! I need the reassurance of other human beings telling me to keep going. Writing is a lonely business. Having human contact is a very good thing.

CW: How do you feel about conferences? Have you been to any? Do you have any suggestions as to which conferences are good?
IS: I highly recommend that aspiring writers join the Romance Writers of America and start attending their annual national conference (if you can swing it) or local conference. They are loaded with resources, from classes and workshops to agent information, and they help you build communities, which I believe are essential to writers.

CW: What are you currently working on?
IS: I’ve got about five projects going right now. It’s not a particularly healthy state of being! I’m hoping my brain will settle down soon.

CW: What kind of support do you have from friends and family when it comes to writing?
IS: My husband is truly remarkable. He has always supported my writing in every way possible. I’m not one of those women who has to work the second -- or third -- shift when it comes to housework and childcare. My husband has always been an equal partner in all of that.

CW: How do you balance writing and family life?
IS: I believe it’s crucial to be honest with yourself and prioritize all the things you want to do. Whether it’s spending time with family, writing, or exercising, you’ve got to make it a priority or it will never happen. I tend to block out discretionary things like TV, movies, even reading, when I’m on a roll with my writing. It’s the only way I know to get it all done.

Thanks so much to Inara Scott for sharing her Parenting to Publishing journey with us. For even more on Inara, follow her on Twitter (@inarascott), Facebook and at

And if you didn’t already know how awesome Inara is, she wants to send you guys a little swag pack for her latest adult book, Radiant Desire -- bookmarks, stickers, and an adorable little faerie tattoo! Comment below with your email address and we will get your info! 


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Parenting to Publishing: Bethany Crandell

This month’s Parenting to Publishing is with Bethany Crandell . . . . Let’s hear how she’s trying to balance it all.

CW: Tell us a little about yourself.
BC: I recently turned 36 which means I’ve been married for…EVER. I have two amazing little girls (9 and 6) and a chocolate Labrador who has no regard for personal space. I work full-time, write whenever I can steal a moment (which is typically courtesy of a helpful Grandma or a new iCarly episode), and quite often stress about life situations that I have absolutely no control over.

CW: When did you start writing? 
BC: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. As a kid I wrote several books for school projects--one I still have (complete with horrible illustrations), is all about how certain events in my life made me feel. The distain for beef stew page is my favorite.
Since then I’ve always tinkered with poems, short stories, etc., but about two and a half years ago I realized that my nightly My Little Pony productions weren’t filling the creative void in my life. After reconnecting with a good friend and creative coach, I started doing some focused writing. Small bits at first; five minutes every morning just to establish a routine, then gradually build on that.  Before I knew it I was writing at every opportunity, and was well on my way to completing my first novel.

CW: What genre do you write? What is your book about?

BC: I write YA. SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS, the book I received representation for, is the story of seventeen-year-old Cricket Montgomery and what happens to her the summer she’s forced to work at a camp for disabled teenagers. It’s funny, bordering on irreverent, but is an honest and sincere look how Cricket’s upbringing (silver spoons & credit cards) has shaped her into the person that she is. What she discovers with the help of some unexpected friends, and a Zac Efron look-a-like who steals her heart, is that changing how she views the world doesn’t mean she has to say goodbye to the person she’s always been, but rather embrace the person she’s always wanted to be.

CW: Tell us a little bit about your journey to getting your agent? What were your query stats? What is the most memorable feedback (good or bad) you have received about your book?
BC: I queried SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS for about six months (taking a break half-way through for some edits) before I got THE CALL from my dream agent Rachel Dugas. 90 queries sounds about right, with a dozen full requests and about as many partials.

CW: Most writers dream about getting published. Tell us how it works.
BC: My dream version involves Bradley Cooper, a six-pack of beer and a huge royalty check. The reality version has yet to happen. I’ll report back when it does.

CW: Can you describe your writing routine? Any certain music, food, smells or atmosphere that get you in the mood to write? 
BC: I like it quiet. No music. No TV. No kids. Just me, the computer and a lot of peppermint Orbit gum.

CW: What is your favorite writer’s resource?
BC: Query Tracker is a pretty incredible tool. I admit that congregating with so many like-minded folks was a little intimidating at first, but once I dove in and started connecting with other writers, reading their experiences, sharing my own--it proved to be invaluable. (It’s also where I met one of my dearest friends. For that reason alone I will always sing its praises.)

I’m also a junkie. Synonyms make my toes curl.

CW: How do you feel about conferences? Have you been to any? Do you have any suggestions as to which conferences are good?
BC: I have only attended one conference, the SDSU Writer’s Conference in San Diego, but it was such an incredible experience I’m dying to go again. The participating agents were friendly and encouraging, and the breakout sessions were so informative, I actually left feeling like I needed a heavy dose of Xanax—so much to take in, but really good stuff.

I must confess; I was terrified before I went to the conference. I was sure that every other participant would be a best-selling author and I was the one token idiot. Boy was I wrong. Not only were the other attendees at various stages in their careers, but everyone was supportive and encouraging of everyone else.

CW: What are you currently working on?
BC: My current WIP is a very light paranormal YA, which is sort of scary because my comfort zone is my favorite place to hang out. It’s about an ornery angel whose trying to earn her wings.

CW: What are you reading now? What is your favorite book? What is your favorite movie?
BC: Right now I’m finishing up FOREVER, the third in the Maggie Stiefvater trilogy, but may have to set it aside before I’m done. I have a good pal’s WIP on deck and I’m pretty eager to start in on that.  My all-time favorite book is BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES. I love animals that do people things. As for my favorite movie…Oh I could go on for days. Since we all either need to vacuum, change a diaper or get to soccer practice, I will give you just a handful (in no particular order): Sixteen Candles, The Shawshank Redemption, The Goonies, Pride & Prejudice (Keira’s version), Sound of Music, Breakfast Club.

CW: Tell us a little about your kids, husband and home life. 
BC: I’m married to the boy I met when I was a senior in high school and he was a PFC in the Marine Corps. We were just friends until we started corresponding through letters during his deployment to Somalia, (for the record: I wrote hundreds, he wrote 5) but the friend status changed shortly after he returned home. He’s incredibly supportive of my writing though would rather cut off his own hands then do any writing himself.

My girls are quite simply the coolest kids on the planet. The oldest, nearly 9, has an ear for words, both written and spoken. (She does a killer Spanish accent). She’s dramatic, sensitive, hysterically funny and, oh yeah…highly-emotional. The little one is extra special, and not just because she’s so cute you could eat her with a spoon. Just before her first birthday she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. While she’s definitely behind the curve of other first graders, she makes fans everywhere she goes. I liken her to a spring flower. While her petals are wrapped up tighter than most, the beauty of watching them unfold is like having a front row ticket to a slow motion miracle.

As far as my home life: Last year my dad paid me one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received. He said that he enjoyed visiting our home because it was peaceful. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for a home environment—and for my kids. I want them to know that no matter what happens out in the big, bad world they can always return home to a safe and peaceful place. (Side note: My dad made that comment before we adopted our current dog)

CW: What kind of support do you have from friends and family when it comes to writing?
BC: Endless. I couldn’t do any of this without them.

CW: How do you balance writing and family life?
BC: *sigh* There are days when I actually manage to cook a meal, unload the dishwasher AND give the kids a bath. Those days I feel like Super Woman. Then there are the days when we have cereal for dinner and bath time involves little more than a scrub with a baby wipe. Those days I feel like a complete failure. I think as moms and wives we feel like we have to be everything to everybody all the time. While it’s important to put the needs of our family first, we need to remember sometimes the best thing for our family is for mom to have some time to write by herself. I try and do that—but it’s hard.

CW: What has been your biggest challenge in writing so far? Any solutions?
BC: I have ridiculously high expectations for myself. If I don’t reach a particular word count on a given day, I’m a failure. If I get another rejection…failure. I haven’t figured out a permanent solution, but prayer, venting to friends, and the occasional alcoholic beverage definitely help.

CW: What is your guilty pleasure? Tell me something people wouldn’t guess about you.
BC: I’ve watched the last episode of Glee (1st season) about 1,000 times. Noah Puckerman (Mark Salling) scan turn me into a puddle with one raise of his eyebrow.

CW: Any advice you can give to writers? Also, any helpful tips, tricks or websites? 
BC: It was a little scary when I first started to put myself out there with other writers, but that has turned out to be the most valuable support system I could have asked for. From critiquing, to advice—your writer friends will support you like no one else can.

Thank you so much to Bethany Crandell for telling us about her journey in Parenting to Publishing. We wish Bethany much success and can’t wait to be able to get her book at our local bookstore.  Visit Bethany’s website and blog, and stop by and say “Hi” on Twitter, @rookieriter


Monday, August 1, 2011

Parenting to Publishing: Abbi Glines

Let’s see how Abbi is doing it all.     

CW: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
AG: When I am being forced up a mountainside with a backpack weighing me down and the fear of bears hammering in my head or when I am being hauled out into choppy waters holding on for dear life afraid I will be pitched over at any moment, I wonder why it was exactly I married my crazy husband. Then again having an adventurous if somewhat insane spouse has been the best muse a writer could ask for. My debut novel BREATHE was released May,17, 2011 by Wild Child Publishing  and it was thanks to one of those spur of the moment boat trips that sparked the idea for Breathe. I've been writing all my life but it wasn't until I tried my hand at YA fiction that I found my groove. Apparently I never really grew up, which may explain my marriage to a dare devil. I've recently signed the contract on my second YA novel Existence and I am currently writing my third novel. I am a Twitter junkie and I am now on Google +

CW: When did you start writing? 
AG: Well, I began writing actual stories when I was nine. I knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved making stories up.  I wrote for a county wide newspaper when I graduated from high school and quickly realized I didn’t much care for the real world. However, I continued to write freelance for parenting, travel, and family magazines. I tried writing chic lit but it didn’t really go anywhere. Something wasn’t clicking. Then the idea for my current novel Breathe hit me and before I knew it, I had a YA novel on my hands.

CW: What genre do you write? What is your book about?
AG: I write YA fiction. Breathe is about a young girl, who hasn’t been handed an easy path in life, finding herself immersed in the private world of America’s favorite teenage rock star. Sadie has a pregnant irresponsible single mom who relies on her to fix all their problems. Jax Stone is the golden boy of the music industry who has escaped for the summer to the coastal southern town of Sea Breeze, Alabama. Jax knows Sadie will never fit into the life he leads but he can’t seem to stay away from her. When his fame splashes their “summer fling” all over the media, Jax leaves in hopes of saving Sadie from the harsh spotlight. Broken hearted Sadie’s life spirals out of control. However, she holds the rock star’s heart in her hands and he soon realizes without Sadie he can’t breathe.

CW: Tell us a little bit about your journey to getting your agent. What were your query stats? What is the most memorable feedback (good or bad) you have received about your book?
AG: I didn’t have a very long journey looking for an agent. I sent out twenty query letter to agents and three to smaller publishing houses that didn’t require agents. I received seven partial request from agents and a contract from two publishing houses. The first publishing house wanted me to promise to buy a certain number of my books. I didn’t want to pay anything to get Breathe published. Wild Child Publishing would send Breathe to ebook and then to paperback later. I had to make no promises to buy anything. It felt more legit to me. So, instead of dealing with agents and rejections I chose Wild Child. They had several successful authors and I really like working with their editor in chief Marci Baun. Most memorable feedback would have to be the first review I received from someone I did not know at the time. Debbie from I HEART YA reviewed Breathe on her blog and gave it an excellent review. I think I went back and reread her review a thousand times that week.

CW: Most writers dream about getting published. Tell us how it works? How amazing did it feel to hold your book for the first time? 
BreatheAG: You edit A LOT! Once you sign the contract edits begin. You edit and edit and edit. It is grueling. Not my favorite part of the writing process. Designing the cover is the fun part. Wild Child assigned me an artist to work with and I absolutely loved deciding on the perfect cover for Breathe. As for holding the book I haven’t done that just yet. I am waiting on Breathe to go to print. However, it does feel pretty darn good to hold my Nook with my book opened up on it.

CW: Can you describe your writing routine? Any certain music, food, smells or atmosphere that get you in the mood to write? 
AG: I spend at least five hours a day writing. I require silence and a large bag of tropical flavored Twizzlers. Nothing really gets me in the mood. Somedays I don’t feel like writing but once I force myself to start I quickly find my groove.

CW: What is your favorite writers’ resource?
AG: My favorite author’s blogs. I read them daily. I follow their tweets. Soaking up knowledge from a writer you admire is the best resource out there. Thanks to the world of blogging it is very easy to do.

CW: How do you feel about conferences? Have you been to any? Do you have any suggestions as to which conferences are good? 
AG: I have never been to a conference. I have three kids and their social lives and activities don’t leave me room to go to conferences. I do hope to attend them someday.

CW: What are you currently working on?
AG: After I finished Breathe I had a paranormal idea running through my head and immediately wrote my next novel Existence. I began writing my second paranormal around the time Breathe was released. However that was soon put to a halt after the influx of readers requesting a story for “Marcus” the other guy in Breathe began to pile in. So, right now I am writing Marcus’s story.

CW: What are you reading now? What is your favorite book? What is your favorite movie? 
AG: I am currently reading The Peachville High Demons series by Sarra Cannon. My favorite book ah... that is a hard one. My favorite classic is Pride and Prejudice. I can’t pick out just one book out of my current reads. Favorite movie would have to be Sweet Home Alabama.

CW: Tell us a little about your kids, husband and home life. 
AG: I have three kids. Austin is 12 and obsessed with football. I thought he was going to be my book lover because he was a complete Harry Potter fanatic but football entered his life and it became his first love. Annabelle is 10 and my dancer. I’d like to say she is a graceful ballerina but she is all hip hop. Where the child got her moves I have no idea because her father nor I can dance. Ava is 6 and my gymnast. She can flip and bend in ways that should be illegal. At any given moment the child will flip and land in the splits. My husband is a photographer. He has had his work published in the Wall Street Journal. He also is an amazing videographer. Check out my rocking book trailer ;)  We live in Fairhope, AL but spend a good portion of our summer in Orange Beach, Alabama. My kids are water rats. They learned to swim in the Mobile Bay instead of a swimming pool.

CW: What kind of support do you have from friends and family when it comes to writing?
AG: If my family didn’t support me then I wouldn’t be able to write. My kids and husband deal with the messy house and fast meals during writing intervals. They don’t complain and understand. My friends also are great about not taking offense when I don’t answer their phone calls and become a recluse when writing. They make up an awesome support group.

CW: How do you balance writing and family life?
AG: During the school year this is easy. All three of my kids are in school so I get them off then spend  five hours writing, an hour or so cleaning and then I’m ready to help them with their homework or take them to their after school activities. Summer is a whole new ball game. I do most of my writing at night when they are asleep. I work during the day on my social media which is a must for writers. That is something you can get interrupted and then come back to without a problem. I don’t get as much writing done in the summer as I do during the school year. Remembering you are Mom first can be hard to balance.

CW: What has been your biggest challenge in writing so far? Any solutions?
AG: Lack of sleep. When a story is in my head I can’t seem to stop writing. It keeps me awake. And a sleepy Mom is a grouchy Mom. I have found keeping a notebook by my bed to jot down ideas is  a way to ease my active brain.

CW: What is your guilty pleasure? Tell me something people wouldn’t guess about you.
AG: Planning Disney World trips. Weird, I know. I literally plan trips I know I can’t take. When I have a trip in the future I will plan that sucker to death. When I don’t a a trip in the future I plan one anyway. I’m obsessed with the place. I could go five times a year.

CW: Any advice you can give to writers? Also, any helpful tips, tricks or websites? 
AG: If you plan to ever be published then make a name for yourself online NOW. Blog regularly, get involved in the Goodreads community, TWITTER OMG I can NOT stress this enough. Twitter is invaluable. Make friends, make connections, get to know blog reviewers, get to know readers who read your genre. I can not tell you the connections I’ve made that have made all the difference in getting word out about Breathe. Being published by a big dog in the publishing field means nothing if you don’t know how to market yourself. Online presence is absolutely a must. You can’t ignore it. Did I get my point across? LOL!

Abbi, thank you so much for this great interview.  I personally could relate to this interview, being a Disney over-planner myself. I also find it hard to write in the summer while my kids are out of school.  I loved reading about your road to publication and cannot wait to see more from you.

Follow Abbi Glines on Twitter, visit her website, watch her awesome book trailer and check her out on Google+.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another contest...really? YEP

An awesome contest from Brenda Drake.  Her book club, a group of young adults, will be reading our 35 word pitch and the first 250 words of our novel.  They will choose which one they would pick in a book store.  How awesome is that? oh wait, it gets better.  The winner gets a 10 page critique plus synopsis critique from Cassandra Marshall.  Wow, right? Well, wish me luck and as always thanks for you
r feed back.

Keeping the secret of becoming a faery warrior wasn’t helping Liz get what she wanted: new friends, a boyfriend and her first kiss.
First Page:
Title: “In Irons”
Genre/Wordcount: YA Fantasy 60,000 words
In the coolness of the summer night, Liz Kavanagh crossed her backyard, trailing uncertainly behind her mother. Her heart beat faster with each step. Sure, it was her thirteenth birthday, and she was excited to hear that a surprise was waiting for her. But the party and the presents had been more than enough, and she found it strange that her mom had stopped her just as she was going to bed and led her outside. What kind of surprise would be out here, anyway, near the tree-lined edge of their property?
Her mother’s ivory skin seemed to glow faintly in the moonlight. Liz’s confusion grew as they drew closer to the cliff’s edge, and she concentrated on the comforting sound of the waves rolling onto the shore below. Her mom offered a gentle, reassuring smile as she stopped beside the largest oak, the one Liz’s little sister loved to climb.
Liz watched, wide-eyed, as the tree began to sway, and then shudder. The bark sank inward in spots, forming a rectangular seam. Then a section of the trunk just...swung open. The blackness inside looked dense and impenetrable. Instinctively, Liz reached for her mom. But her shock was so intense that, by the time her arm obeyed her brain’s command, her mother had already stepped through this bizarre doorway and was signaling for Liz to follow.
“Come now, love, and don’t be afraid, ” her mother whispered. “They’re all waiting for you.”

Don't forget to go to the other participants and give them your feedback. 
Thanks Everyone

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kaya's Korner: Goodbye...

I should have written this a long time ago, but life catches up sometimes. Anyways, I wanted to let yall know I'm leaving this blog and going to another one, Lit & Lagniappe.
Lit & Lagniappe is a collaboration between Jessica and I that will involve not only aspects of reading and writing, but our daily lives too. Please visit me there for book and movie reviews, along with other fun things.
It was a pleasure posting for yall and I hope to see your comments again soon!
P.S. Stay tuned to Closet Writer for more things from Jessica.

Agent Contest with Vickie Motter

Another amazing contest opportunity has been given to writer's on YAtopia.

You must go and check it out.  It is a 3 line pitch contest judged by the awesome Vickie Motter.

Here is my 3 line pitch.....

Have her first kiss, get a boyfriend and make new friends was what Liz Kavanagh hoped would happen this year. But when she finds out her family’s secret, that she comes from a family of faery warriors, she realizes this year will not go as she hoped. And when her two world’s almost collide she fears that to protect the people she cares about, Liz may have to give up the things she wanted most.

Well wish me luck! Now go check out the other entries... GO..Go

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Hook Contest

Thank you to everyone who spoke with Christa; the response was wonderful.  The winner for the signed copy of The Edge of Grace is Jeannie Campbell.  
Let’s get to Contest #2!
Book Hook
“Sometimes you only have seconds for your query to catch interest, and a great opening line can do that.” - From A Guide to Literary Agents
That’s why this contest will help us all perfect that first line of the dreaded query.  How can we help?
Email me at with your name, genre, title and 140-character hook. I will post the responses on Friday, July 8th, allowing anyone to give you feedback.  Then on Monday, July 11th, I will post the official entry. In the comment section, you will need to put your name, email address, genre, title and hook.  Christa will then look over them and decide who gets the 10-page manuscript critique.
Here are some tips from around the internet to help you with your hook.
Here are Christa’s hooks for her two books.  (She makes it look easy.)
The Edge of Grace: When her brother announces he’s leaving for vacation with another man, Caryn is forced to confront her own hypocrisy and learn how to redefine love.
Walking on Broken Glass: Leah admits herself to treatment for her alcoholism, but discovers the road to sobriety is still under construction.
Reminder: Email me at
Include in email: Your name
your email
140-character hook
The only rules are to promote the contest in order to get as many people to give feedback as possible. Also, if you enter the contest, you must participate in the feedback process.  
Let’s get those hooks perfect so that we can grab an agent’s attention.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Parenting to Publishing: Christa Allan


Christa Allan is the mother of five adult children, a grandmother of three, and a teacher of high school English. She and her husband Ken live with their three cats in Abita Springs, Louisiana, where they enjoy their time playing golf, dreaming about retirement and dodging hurricanes.
A true Southern woman who knows that any cook worth her gumbo always starts with a roux and who never wears white after Labor Day, Christa is a writer of somewhat unusual Christian Fiction. She weaves stories of unscripted grace and redemption with threads of hope, humor, and heart.
Let’s see how she’s doing it all:

CW:  When did you start writing? 
 CA:  I started writing in high school when I realized that I couldn’t sing [at least not anything anyone would want to listen to], I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t draw or paint anything beyond stick figures, and as for sports…well, let’s just say I was the kid everyone wanted on the other team.  Many years later and married, I wrote for a newspaper when I had two children and two on the way, then—when four of my five children were out of the house, I decided to start writing a novel.  Actually, I started because my precious husband had more faith in me than I had in myself. He guilted me into getting started by buying me a laptop!   
CW:  What genre do you write?
CA:  I think the genre chose me! At first, I tried writing romance, but my characters fell in love too quickly or not at all. And while I loved reading books by Robert Ludlum, I knew my brain would twist itself into a soggy pretzel attempting to figure out a plot.  Teaching teens for over twenty years, I was naturally drawn to Young Adult. I even have half of a YA novel, and perhaps may return to it in the future. But, for now, I’m focused on women’s fiction (or contemporary fiction) and writing stories of challenges women face in their lives.
CW:  What is your book about?
CA:  My debut novel, Walking on Broken Glass, tells the story of Leah Thornton, a woman whose life looks pretty from the outside; she seems to “have it all.” But appearances can be deceiving because she’s a mess. She drinks to numb her pain and, until her friend confronts her with the truth, she thinks no one else has noticed. Leah admits herself to rehab, and the novel-told from Leah’s point of view-follows her through her recovery as she attempts to discover who she really is and what she’s willing to sacrifice to find out.

CW:  Tell us a little bit about your journey to getting your agent. What were your query stats? What is the most memorable feedback (good or bad) you have received about your book?
CA:  The same day the agent received my sample chapters and proposal, she emailed me asking for the full. After I picked myself up off the floor, I sent it and then tied myself in an emotional knot. 
A few weeks later, she sent another email asking when she could call (that instant would’ve been great!). I opened that email and my third hour class walked in wondering how I could be in tears when they’d not yet sat in their desks! Kidding, of course, they were so excited with and for me. The week between that email and the call didn’t seem to pass as quickly as I’d hoped! When you and 145 other people (a day later, all my students knew about the call) are waiting.  Finally, at 3:00 on January 30,, 2008, she and I spoke, and the celebration began a few minutes later!
I didn’t keep query stats…for the same reason I don’t keep score when I play golf. It was simply depressing and counterproductive for me. Let’s just say that the good news/bad news about being able to query online is that you don’t have to wait long for your rejections!
Generally, agents don’t provide feedback with rejections, which I understand because some receive hundreds of queries a week. But, the most memorable actually did come as one of the nicest rejection letters I’d ever received from Beth Jusino, an agent-at the time-with Alive Communications. She and I had met at a conference a few months earlier. Then, she’d given me suggestions how to strengthen one of my characters. Later, even though she didn’t extend representation, she did so in the kindest way possible. And though it may have been a “stock” letter, it didn’t come through that way. By the way—      Beth is now doing marketing help for writers and she is AMAZING.

CW:  Most writers dream about getting published. Tell us how it works. How amazing did it feel to hold your book for the first time?
CA:  About four months after I signed with her, my agent started shopping the novel. I was sure that at least one publisher out of that long list she’d sent it to would leap at the opportunity. 
Not so much. One month later, she called to tell me that the editors thought the novel was “too issue-driven.”  And my being a first-time novelist didn’t help either. She said she’d continue to look for a home for it, but I may want to start considering some ideas for another book.
I spent my summer working on proposals for my editor appointments at the September American Christian Fiction Writers conference. As much as I loved WOBG, I understood that the subject matter being outside of the usual boundaries of Christian fiction and my being a new writer were risks for publishers But, my agent believed in the novel, and I believed in her, so I prayed that God would teach me to “let go.” 
Then, two months later, my agent met Barbara Scott, the then-fiction editor of Abingdon Press, a Methodist publishing house launching fiction for the first time. She pitched my novel, and Barbara asked to see it. A few weeks later, Barbara said she was interested. My agent called at 11:43 am on October 30, 2008 to tell me Abingdon bought my novel.
Holding it over a year later was, and still is, one of the most surreal experiences of my life!

CW: What are you working on now?

CA:  “Edge of Grace”  

An early morning call shatters Caryn Becker's world. Unable to cope with her brother’s news that he is gay, Caryn rejects him and disappears into her own turbulent life as a young widow and single mom. But when David is attacked and nearly killed, Caryn is forced to make hard choices about family, faith, and her own future; choices that take her to the very edge of grace.

I'm so proud of Abingdon Press for publishing this novel, which is rooted in my own experiences coming to a relationship with my gay brother.
“Edge of Grace” comes out August 1st but you can purchase it now on Amazon.

CW:  Can you describe your writing routine? Do any certain types of music, food, smells or atmosphere get you in the mood to write?
CA:  I don’t do music, or scents…unless you count popcorn, chocolate, Coke Zero and coffee. Knowing I have to get to deadline puts me in the mood to write!
CW:  Tell us a little about your kids, husband and home life. 
CA:  I have five children, two boys and three girls, ranging in age from 34 to 26. One of my daughters, who is one of my 28-year-old twins, was born with Down Syndrome.  I have two precious grandgirls, ages 6 and 4, who live in Houston. In fact, all of my children except Sarah live in Houston. Sarah lives at The Mustard Seed, a Christian community for special needs adults outside of Jackson, MS. She’s been there two years, and loves being “on her own” like her siblings.
My husband is stepdad to the gang, and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary.
We have three neurotic cats.
CW:  How do you balance writing and family life?
CA:  Balance? Only when the seesaw pauses for those almost immeasurable seconds between up and down. Of the over twenty years I’ve spent teaching high school, I’d only call myself a writer for the past six or so. I suppose if I didn’t feel compelled to “reinvent the wheel every year,” I might have more emotional energy to devote to writing during the school year.  I’m constantly searching for more effective ways to engage my students, and it’s time intensive, especially when I’m already drowning in a sea of papers.
Adding writing to that is like, in the words of my grandmother, “trying to squeeze California into Rhode Island.”  I realized early on that I don’t have the emotional capacity to handle it all during the course of a school week.  So, I focus on taking advantage of my summers, holidays, and weekends for writing.  And, like that seesaw, sometimes, I’m down when I should be up. But I know that I can push myself where I need to be. 
I know many writers advocate daily or weekly word or page goals. At this point in my life, I haven’t found that works for me. What’s important is to determine what works in your life, with your obligations and your family. Perhaps the greatest consolation for me was discovering life, regardless of our career, is never truly balanced. Sometimes our families require more of our attention, so we yank ourselves out of the orbit of work or school or whatever, to devote time to them. Other days, it might be work. I remind myself that asking God for direction here should come first.

CW:  What is your guilty pleasure? 
CA:  A spa day. 
CW:  Tell me something people wouldn’t guess about you.
CA:  Weeding the garden is stress 
CW:  Any advice you can give to writers? Also, any helpful tips, tricks or websites? 
CA:  Read books that make you wish you’d have written them. Be teachable. Read books about the craft. Joining American Christian Fiction Writers and attending their conferences opened doors to writing and publishing that I didn’t even know existed. 
Don’t be afraid to write awful stuff. The awful is far easier to rewrite or edit than a blank page. 
And as for that adage about writing what you know…Well, I don’t think Stephen King personally knew a high school girl with telekinetic power who wreaked a bloody revenge. But he did know high school girls who were bullied and teased, who had weird mothers, and he wondered, “what if…” Stephenie Meyer had no personal experience with vampire love. Write what you know doesn’t mean you’re limited to the 21st century and characters who look like your siblings and live in Tallahassee or Tickfaw.  You know about betrayal and envy and joy and hope and fear. You know how your mother bites her lower lip when she’s thinking or your daughter twirls her hair when she’s nervous. 

Christa suggests these BOOKS for writers: 
Any writing books by James Scott Bell, but especially Plot and Structure
Stephen King’s On Writing
Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird
Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down the Bones
Mary DeMuth: The 11 Secrets of Getting Published (e-book)
Donald Maass: Writing the Breakout Novel (get the workbook too!)

I am reading Walking on Broken Glass right now, and it is my first ever Christian Fiction book read. All I can say is, WOW. The writing is beautiful and the storyline is very touching. I advise everyone to go and read it; it’s a great look at dealing with some touchy subjects. 
Her new book Edge of Grace comes out August 2011, but is available to purchase on Amazon now.
Christa is represented by Sandra Bishop of the MacGregor Literary Agency.
Thank you so much to Christa for her wonderful interview. We cannot wait to read more. Check Christa out on her website and follow her on Twitter @ChristaAllan.
Christa Allan is awesome—she believes in paying it forward to her fellow writers and she is offering up two contests!  Here are the details:
Contest 1: Be a follower of this blog and comment below with a question or comment for Christa.  Don’t forget to leave your email address so that you can be entered in a drawing to receive Christa’s new book Edge of Grace.

Contest 2:  Hook us on your book in 140 characters and win a 10-page critique of your manuscript. There will be time to get feedback before the official contest day. Come back next week for the details and rules. Hook Day will be Friday, July 8th.