Monday, May 30, 2011

Let's try this again...

Made of Awesome Contest

I appreciate everyone’s comments and I wanted to get your opinions on a big debate with this first chapter. I originally had a different first chapter but I later changed it trying to have more character development.  Well, I am starting to think my first one was better, based on your wonderful and helpful comments.  Let me know what you think? Thanks!

My Made of Awesome Contest Entry:
“In Irons” YA Fantasy 55,000 words

       Liz Kavanagh sat on her living room sofa as her younger sister Anne dozed beside her. Liz lifted her 

snoozing younger sister Anne’s head and placed it gently on her lap. It was nearly ten o’clock, and she was wiped out from the festivities. As she ran her fingers through Anne’s hair, she thought to herself that her birthday had been fun, but that it was nice to have some peace and quiet to end the day. 

       Liz Kavanagh wasn’t quite sure when she had decided that today was going to be life-changing for her . . . but she had. No more being the shy bookworm, she resolved.  She was a teenager now, and she wanted to enjoy it. Liz fidgeted with the chain of her new necklace while she thought about her interaction with Christian at the party, blushing as she remembered their awkward hug goodbye.

       Liz twisted her hair and secured it with a clip, letting a few of her long orange tendrils hang free.  Much better, she thought as she felt the cool air hit the back of her damp neck.  Even though she was more comfortable, she still had an uneasy feeling in her stomach that made it almost impossible for her to either drift off to sleep or focus on the buzzing of the television. It wasn’t just what happened with Christian earlier, she realized. Liz glanced at the ornate harp, the heavy old blank book, and the necklace box on the coffee table, all presents from her family. 

Thank you all for your comments. This is all so helpful. Don't forget to go to Shelley Watters Blog and help the other writers.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Made of Awesome Contest Entry

I am so lucky to follow many great writers on Twitter.  I have gained a great community that helps me tremendously in my writing.  I have gotten many opportunities from social networking and I need some help from you guys.  
Shelley Watters is a young adult and adult author who has a wonderful blog and she does incredible contests.  This month she is doing a first page contest (250 words).
We sign up on her blog and post our first page on our blog, then we let everyone help out to critique, give suggestions and whatever they can to help us perfect it before the judging day.  
Judging day will be May 30th and will be judged by Judith Engarcia of Liza Dawson and Associates. Judith will read all the first pages and select one for a ten-page critique, which, if she finds the winner's entry intriguing enough, could extend into a full manuscript critique!
I ask all of you to, of course, leave me some great comments, but go to Shelley Watter’s blog and then hop around to the other writer’s blogs to help them out.  
My Made of Awesome Contest Entry:

“In Irons” YA Fantasy 55,000 words
Liz Kavanagh wasn’t quite sure when she had decided today was going to be life changing for her..... but it was. No more being a wallflower, no more being the shy bookworm, Liz was determined to be more social, after all she was now a teenager. 

Liz pulled out the small vanity chair and looked at herself in the mirror. She grabbed a clip off the dresser, twisted her hair, securing it, letting her long orange tendrils hang over the clip.  Liz cocked her head, pursed her lips together and studied herself, seeing if her hairdo made her look any older. “Nope nothing,” Liz said under her breath. I hope this year is different, Liz told herself.

“Get out of bed! We have so much to do today!” Liz sang loudly to her younger sister who was snoring in the twin bed next to her. Eleven year old Anne tried to ignore both the sunlight that had made its way into the sisters’ room and her abnormally bubbly sister being normally bossy. Anne stubbornly shoved her head under her pillow with a groan. 

  Finally her head emerged from under her pillow to see her sister staring at herself. She rolled her eyes and smiled knowing what was eating Liz, “do you think he will come,” Anne asked teasingly. “I don’t know, I haven’t even thought about that.” Liz answered trying to sound indifferent. Both girls new that was a lie. Liz shrugged off Anne’s banter not letting anything spoil her special day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Kaya's Korner: "Thor" Review

Click to visit movie site
“Thor” directed by Kenneth Branagh with writing credits to Ashley Miller, Zach Stentz, Don Payne, J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Protosevich, Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby
The other night my friend and I went to see Thor in 3D.  I can’t even remember the last time I saw a movie in 3D, but I do know it was when the glasses were those white paper ones with the blue and red lenses.  Anyways, on to the movie review... 
Just like my last movie review, the title says it all - this movie is about Thor, the god of Thunder.  Thor is an ambitious, head strong young man who is about to be crowned king of Asgard.  However, just moments before his father, Odin, can crown him king, their enemy, the Frost Giants break into one of their most valuable vaults.  Thor wants to bring vengeance to himself and his kingdom by attacking the Frost Giants on their land.  His father forbids him to do this, but Thor goes anyway with his brother Loki and warrior friends. 
While Thor and his companions’ efforts were valiant against the Frost Giants, Thor couldn’t completely save them and Odin had to instead.  Odin punishes Thor for his recklessness and bans him to Midgard (Earth,) taking away his powers and cursing Mjölnir, Thor’s hammer.  Odin curses the hammer saying that the only one who can possess the hammer is the one who is worthy of its powers. 
When Thor is banished to Earth, he meets or rather falls into Jane, an astrophysicist, and her fellow scientists.  He also discovers that his hammer made it to Earth as well; Thor realizes after trying to pull his hammer from the ground that he is a mere mortal.  While on Earth, Thor receives a visit from his brother Loki, who has discovered that he is actually the son of the Frost Giant king and not the son of Odin.  Loki however, does not tell Thor this and begins to develop his own deceitful plan to become king.    
A battle ensues for the kingdom of Asgard.  Who becomes king - Thor or Loki?  And what happens to Jane and the developing relationship between her and Thor?  The ending is certainly bittersweet. 
I love movies like “Thor” with brawny men and battle scenes, so it’s not shocking that I liked this movie.  I wish there would have been a bit more battling, but overall I was satisfied and have no doubt that I’ll be buying this DVD when it comes out.  I do think though, that it was unnecessary to see it in 3D and I may see it again in regular-D just because. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kaya's Korner: "Prom" Review

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“Prom” directed by Joe Nussbaum & written by Katie Wech
So last night I was in the mood to see a silly, feel good movie, and I did – Prom.  If you haven’t seen the previews for it, I’m sure you know by the title what it’s about.  Prom is of course the point of the movie, but there’s some other stuff going on too.
Nova, the shining student and lead prom coordinator, couldn’t be more excited about the dance.  She’s been looking forward to this day for years and it all comes crashing down on her when the decorations get destroyed in an accidental fire.  Jesse, the rebel student who thinks prom is a joke, has been assigned to help Nova – a punishment to him by the school principle, designed to keep him out of trouble.  However, he might not be the rebel everyone thinks is he and Nova starts to see him differently.  The question is – will they go to prom together?
There are other story lines happening as well.  Most of the students involved are seniors but a few sophomores are included in the dynamics as well.  Will Mei and Justin’s relationship make it through to  prom?  Will Tyler and Jordan, the perfect couple, be crowned prom king and queen?  Will the sophomore Lucas get his girl?  And will Lloyd ever find a date to the prom?  Prom is a movie that will make you laugh and you’ll identify with one or more of these characters.  This movie is reminiscent of a John Hughes’ film with every stereotype filled and for the most part ever guy gets his girl. 
I thought the movie was light-hearted and fun and thankfully it didn’t go overboard on anything.  There are a bunch of potential new stars.  Of course, there’s been talk on the Internet and people seem to be very excited about the possibilities of this young cast, particularly Thomas McDonell, who’s been dubbed the new Johnny Depp.  But, the truth is, the casting was done well and everyone played their part perfectly. 
Prom may be over, but you can easily pick this one up and watch it during the summer.  It’s perfect for days at the beach or lazy days at home.      

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kaya's Korner: "Water for Elephants" Review

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“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen

Note: there are some spoilers in this review

Oh my... many of you are not going to be happy with this review (or with me for that matter.) This book has been the bane of my existence for a long time. *gasp* I know, I know - everyone loves this book and after reading it, I should’ve too. However, I didn’t for the most part; but more on that later.
“Water for Elephants” tells the story of a young man named Jacob. A terrible tragedy occurs early in his life and he’s left with nothing and by chance he jumps a circus train. It’s because of this train that he meets Marlena, a beautiful woman who performs with the circus. He instantly falls in love with her and together they form an unbreakable bond with each while interacting with the animals. Marlena is married though and her husband is the kind who doesn’t like to be crossed. In fact, there’s really only one way to get rid of him so the two can be together. But, it’s the circus, and the show must go on...
I repeat, I really should have liked this book. All of my friends enjoyed it and assumed I would too and when they heard that I was having trouble reading it and hadn’t breezed through it, they were all a bit surprised. I finally finished the book on the third try and that took some effort on my part. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t connect with the characters. I liked the story in general, but I couldn’t connect.
I will say this though - towards the very end I was enjoying the book and was starting to read ahead; but that was at the very very end. It was after the last of August’s rants (the one with Rosie in the tent, which I couldn’t take seriously, in fact, I actually laughed out loud.) And I did tear up when no one came for the old Jacob at the nursing home and thought the ending, when he ran away with the circus was sweet and fitting.
I did have two favorite things about the book. The first was all the old circus pictures; I thought they were a lot of fun. The second was a line from the book on page 280. Jacob considers his relationship with Marlena and thinks, “it seems to me that the bonds between us must be visible.” I want to have a love like that and I wish it for everyone in the world.       
Click to visit movie site
Grade: My grade is an E-Reader, but considering the entire population’s opinion on this book, I’ll bump it up to Paperback.
Now on to “Water for Elephants” the movie: again, I didn’t fall in love with the movie, but I didn’t think it was bad either. I thought the movie stayed with the story, which is always appreciated, but I would have liked to have seen one more scene between Jacob and Marlena so we could understand their romance a bit better; one more scene to see the tension building between them. And while I knew August is bad, I thought he was out of control in the movie and I didn’t envision him to be that crazy while reading. Or maybe I just couldn’t see the craziness being acted out, but in reality August would really be that way I suppose. I think the RPatz haters are going to have to admit that “yes, maybe the boy can act” after seeing this movie. And again, my feelings are a bit skewed about the movie because of the book; I can’t gush about it because of those feelings, but after talking to my friends who enjoyed the book, the general consensus was that they all enjoyed the movie, liked the casting, and would watch this movie again and most likely buy the DVD when it comes out.
What are your thoughts about the book, movie, or both?

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's Awards Time

Mother’s Day is my favorite holiday.  Why, you ask?  Not Christmas, Halloween, Valentine ’s Day.  No, because this day celebrates me and only me.  Let me explain myself.  My job is a stay at home mom.  This day celebrates what I do, what all moms do.  We juggle life; sometime we crash and burn, sometimes we do it with grace, but WE DO IT.  It is the best job in the world, but it is also, in my opinion, the hardest.  It is the day I celebrate myself and all other woman that I have a connection with around the world for sharing the most rewarding job a person can ask for - being a parent.  So in honor of my favorite holiday I am going to give out some awards to my fellow bloggers.  People who help me on the other part of my life, the writer part.  They might not know it, but they help me balance being a writer and being a mother.  Thank you to all!

Ok, this started out as my blog but part of the balance I needed was to bring someone in to help and Kaya has helped tremendously.  These awards are given out by the both of us. 
Kaya and I both want to thank A. G. Howard and Ashley Graham for our stylish award.  We love you guys and appreciate not only the award but your constant participation on our blog.

   And we pass on The Stylish Awards to:

   And we pass on The Versatile Blogger Award to:

Here are the rules for both awards:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2. Share seven random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to five buddies whose blogs epitomize said theme.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

Okay, now here are my and Kaya’s seven random things...
1.       Jessica: When I was in 8th grade I was obsessed with Jonathan Taylor Thomas, crazy obsessed.  I actually thought that if he met me he would fall in love with me, and well of course we would live happily ever after.  I loved him so much that “Santa” brought me a life size framed poster of him and yes, I actually hung it in my room.  I was the future Mrs. J.T.T.  Well, my loves changed in high school and they changed so much I just kept a manila folder of pictures I tore out of teen magazines.  Some examples were Hanson Brothers, N’Sync members, Backstreet Boys and some professional skateboarders found their way in when I went through my “bad boy” phase.  So my very embarrassing random thing is, I was a typically teenage girl and I was BOY crazy!
2.      Kaya:  I was boy crazy too when I was younger and I’m boy crazy now over Daniel Cudmore.  I “liked” him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and follow other people who are obsessed with him.  I know he’s filming a movie right now in Slidell and that he almost fell asleep at the park and I tweeted back to him secretly hoping he would tweet back and tell me which New Orleans park he was at so I could run over like a crazy obsessed person.  (Please note – I am not a stalker, just a crazy obsessed person.  I feel that sounds better because I’m still a person.  :D)  Why do I do this?  NO clue, but a teeny part of me thinks it’s fun and thank goodness I have a friend who is obsessed with Robert Pattinson and we talk about these things like it’s normal.  But honestly, you can’t look at this picture and tell me he’s not hot!     
3.      Jessica:  I always wanted to marry someone rich, so that if I had kids I wouldn’t have to take care of them, I could have a nanny.  I never dreamed of my wedding or having a family.  I went to college, was a college cheerleader and was all about myself.  That all changed when I met my husband and fell in love with him.  After 3 months we were inseparable; we got married almost 2 years later and then had our first daughter.  Your life hardly ever turns out the way you imagine it, but in my case, I am so glad it didn’t.
4.      Kaya:  I have mild OCD.  It’s mostly in my car.  For example, after rolling the windows up, I have to push the button between 3-5 times to make sure the windows are actually rolled up; same with my sun roof.  Sometimes I check my back windows (I have buttons in the front) even if I didn’t roll them down.  Occasionally, I push the lock button on my keychain twice when I’m walking away even though I hear the car horn honk and know it’s locking.  At home, after I unplug the coffee pot, I’ll go back later and physically pick up the plug to double check it’s not plugged in, as if the plug could re-plug itself.  Don’t ask me why I do this, I just do. 
5.      Jessica:  My family and I are Disney freaks.  We love everything about Disney.  Disney television shows, Disney Movies, Disney toys, Disney Clothes and of course Disney World.  My husband and I went to Disney on our Honeymoon. My 7 year old has been 3 times and my 18 month old has already been once.  We always say we are not going to back for a while, and then we always seem to go back anywhere from a year to 2 years later.  My favorite Disney Character is Eeyore.  Four years ago in Disney World my husband and daughter surprised me with a charm bracelet they bought in one of the stores: it had a Mickey charm, a Tinkerbelle charm, a Belle charm, a J charm and of course an Eeyore charm.  I wear it all the time, like a piece of fine jewelry.  And on my last trip my husband and daughter surprised me with a big Eeyore stuffed animal.  And yes I sleep with it, but I can quit anytime I want.
6.      Kaya:  I love covers!  I love when I can get into my bed and burrow under blankets.  In fact, I love it so much I generally sleep with pajama pants and a sweatshirt.  On top of my comforter, I keep a small faux fur blanket and burrow like a bear in hibernation.  Usually I don’t sleep with the fan on, but even when I do I usually wake up in the middle of the night in a small sweat, take off the sweatshirt, and go right back to my blankets and burrow.  I feel sorry for my potential husband – we might have to have separate beds.   
7.      Jessica and Kaya:  We became friends in high school.  After school we went to a coffee shop with 2 guy friends of ours.  We went almost every single day after school, after tennis practice for me, and stayed for hours, usually till closing time which was 10 pm.  We went there to do homework, but only about half the work got done and the other half was spent goofing off.  We called ourselves the Caffe Caffe Club (after the place.)  Every once in a while our different friends would stop by for the afternoon/evening.  Before long the original 4 grew to 5, then 8, and before we knew it, night after night there were about 15-20 of us there and the majority of them (not us) didn’t buy anything.  We did this for months and months and for some reason we stopped – the school year must have ended and we never resumed the tradition again.  Well, years later I heard there was a sign up at the coffee shop that read no one was allowed to study, etc. so I decided to check it out for myself and sure enough there was the sign and I knew instantly that that sign was there because of us. 

WOW this blog seems to be never ending.  It’s almost finished I promise.  My awards to my fellow bloggers go way beyond than just stylish and versatile.  These bloggers have become my friends, my support system.  And I am very thankful for each of you.  I am adding a new rule if you have already received one of these awards recently the rules are null and void for you.  (These awards could get very repetitive if not)

And my blog awards would not be complete without a MOTHER’S DAY award.  This blogger is not a “writer” in the same sense as my other blogger awards are, but she is a beautiful writer.  The reason why she writes so beautifully is because what she writes about is her love, her passion, her life…. Her son.  Please check out Courtney Roth’s Blog about her journey.
   "EB"ing a Mommy                                

All of the Blog Award winners work hard on their posts to give us informative and entertaining reads.  I personally get excited when I see a new post up by all of you, I enjoy reading them.  To all my fellow mom’s out there, I hope your mother’s day is wonderful.  And, again Thank You to everyone for your great Blogs.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Parenting to Publishing

Karen Stivali got her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from NYU in film and television production and a Master's degree from Rutgers in clinical social work. She worked in both industries in varying roles until she got married and had kids.  She lives in New England, and for the past 15 years Karen Stivali has been a stay-at-home mom of two boys. She does all sorts of volunteer work at her sons' schools and in her community. She also bakes custom cakes/desserts and is known for her party planning and fundraising expertise. For the past 5 years she has been writing about the TV show The Bachelor for several forums on the topic. She also has a great blog where she ties in the topic of The Bachelor, her love of cooking and her novel. Sounds tasty!
Let’s see how she’s doing it:

Karen, my blog is titled “Closet Writer”. I only recently "came out” about my writing. When did you come out of the closet?
We’re supposed to come out? Uh oh.Seriously, although it’s no secret to anyone in my life that I write (blogs, forum posts, letters, newsletters, recommendations, meeting minutes, storyline/scripts for birthday parties) there are very few people who know that I am (and have for years been) a fiction writer. I like to keep my writing life separate from my personal life in a lot of ways. A lot of people don’t like the pressure of reading their friend’s writing. They may not like it, or it may not be a genre they find interesting. Plus (my personal pet peeve) a lot of people assume that the people in a novel are “real people” who they “know” and there’s nothing I hate more than the question “so, am I in the book?” It’s easier for everyone if I only tell people about my writing on a need-to-know basis.
What genre do you write? What is your book about?
I write women’s fiction with strong romantic overtones. Contemporary love stories. “Letting Go” (formerly titled Meant to Be), the novel that I currently have on submission, is about what happens when you’re already committed to the wrong person when fate finally brings you the right one. My two main characters, Daniel (a handsome British expatriate who’s a professor at NYU) and Marienne (a talented artist and awesome cook who’s about to become a mom) are both trapped in marriages that are, for a variety of reasons, unfulfilling. When Daniel and Marienne meet as neighbors they discover their paths have crossed several times before; they lived in the same town briefly as children, attended the same college. A penchant for good books, bad movies and Marienne’s to-die for homemade brownies creates a powerful bond between them. Their friendship helps them weather every hardship from Daniel’s divorce to Marienne’s unexpected widowhood, now they’re both secretly wondering if it can survive a first kiss.
Are you actively seeking an agent? What are your query stats? What is the most memorable feedback (good or bad) you have received about your book?
Yes, I’m actively seeking an agent. My query stats are all over the map. I’ve had a dozen requests for partial and full manuscripts, multiple form rejections, and a lot of non-responders. I currently have several submissions out, so we’ll see what happens. The most memorable feedback I’ve received came from an agent who requested enough pages that he clearly read through the first significant sex scene. The feedback I received was that “although there were certain elements that I truly enjoyed… this isn’t what I’m looking for at the moment.” It made me laugh because I’m guessing the sex scene was the enjoyable element. I can live with that.
Have any websites or articles helped with the query/synopsis process?
Yes. Nathan Bransford’s blog and  forums have helped me tremendously. I can’t even tell you how many versions of my query I had critiqued on that site and I’m incredibly grateful to Nathan and all his forum-goers for all the help and feedback they provide. It’s invaluable. Some agents who have not been in the market for my type of novel have taken the time to tell me that my query is well written and I know that wouldn’t have been the case if it hadn’t gone through the review process at Bransford’s forums first.
How do you feel about conferences? Have you been to any? Do you have any suggestions as to which conferences are good?
I have attended one conference, so far---Writer's Digest Conference in NYC this past January. It’s a pretty famous (or infamous) conference because it offers the well-known “pitch slam”, a mind-blowingly nerve-wracking two hour event where every writer in attendance gets the opportunity to pitch a roomful of fifty top agents, in 90-second pitch sessions---agent speed dating. Insane, wild, but a great way to meet agents, fellow writers, and get your pitch heard. I’ve heard great things about Grub Street’s Muse and the Marketplace, held in Boston annually, and I’d hoped to go to the one this spring, but that’s not working out schedule-wise. I also know some writers who swear by the Backspace Conference in NYC. I hope to attend one of those some day soon.
Can you describe your writing routine? Any certain music, food, smells or atmosphere that get you in the mood to write?
Routine? There’s supposed to be a routine? No one tells me anything. My routine is that I write whenever I possibly can. Sometimes it’s on the backs of receipts I’ve pulled out of my purse because there’s no other paper handy while I’m in the car waiting for basketball practice to be over because it’s my turn to drive carpool. Other times it’s leaning against the bathroom wall writing notes on a tissue with eyeliner because I’m afraid I’ll forget the idea if I have to trek downstairs at 3am and wait for my computer to restart. Most times it’s me, at my laptop in the kitchen, for as many of the 24 hours of each day as humanly possible. I probably get the most solid writing accomplished late at night, when everyone else is asleep, but there are days when I manage to write thousands of words while I’m cooking dinner, helping with homework, fielding phonecalls, and stopping the cats from killing each other. I’m good at multi-tasking. And I almost never sleep. That helps a lot.
What are you currently working on?
I recently completed the first draft of my second novel, “Holding On”. It’s a sequel to my first novel, but it is a completely stand-alone story. I’m letting that sit for a week or two before I do a cover to cover edit. In the meantime I’ve churned out a novella that, with any luck, I’ll finish tonight after I complete this interview.
What are you reading now? What is your favorite book? What is your favorite movie?
I am currently reading about a half dozen books I’ve recently downloaded from a variety of publishers while I research the crossover between contemporary romance and women’s fiction. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the current market for both of those genres. My all time favorite book is Anton Myrer’s “The Last Convertible”. I read it for the first time when I was 14 and I don’t think I’ve gone more than a year without re-reading it since. It’s one of those sweeping sagas where you come away feeling like you’ve known the characters forever; that’s always my favorite kind of book, one where you feel like the characters are people you actually know. My favorite movie? There is no single answer to that question. I love movies, always have. There are many that I consider favorites for different reasons. Good Will Hunting and Keeping the Faith, because I love the dialogue and the characters. Titanic, because no matter how many times I watch it I always still hope Rose will scoot over and make room for Jack on that damned door. Chocolat, because the combination of Johnny Depp and all that chocolate is just irresistible. Remember Me, because that movie transported me back to my college days in New York City and was a touching tribute to all those impacted by 9/11. Jerry Maguire, because he had me at hello. Cousins, because it’s a beautiful love story. A Fish Called Wanda, What About Bob?, Sleeper and Anger Management, because no matter how many times I watch them they always make me laugh. The Notebook, The Way We Were, and Running On Empty because they always make me cry. (I warned you, I’m a movie-girl. I’ll stop now.)
What is your favorite writer’s resource?
Query Tracker has been incredibly helpful for keeping track of the dozens (and dozens) of queries I’ve sent and has helped me to sort through agents in a very efficient manner. And Nathan Bransford’s blog and forums. Not only are Nathan’s posts great, but he runs his forum in a manner that is conducive to learning and making friends. He insists on posters being respectful to one another, something that is sorely lacking on so many other forums, and it creates a very safe and unique atmosphere. I’ve made several friends there including, most notably, my critique partner Karen Balcom. There’s no question in my mind that if I hadn’t met Karen and had her support I’d have given up and stopped querying ages ago. She was also a great roommate when we attended the Writer’s Digest Conference. She’s a sounding board for every idea and we swap everything we write; there’s no such thing as a draft that’s too early for her to see. I can’t imagine getting through all of this without her.
Tell us about your blog. Any blog advice you can give?
My blog is a glimpse at things that are important to me. I think it accurately depicts my humor, my writing style, my passion for food, and it all ties into my book in ways that may not be obvious to everyone (yet) but are to those who know me and have read my novel. I don’t think I’m qualified to give blog advice other than keep it real and just do it (if any other cliché’s come to mind I’ll let you know).
What blog do you keep up with the most? Why?
The blog I read the most often is Nathan Bransford’s, because I enjoy his posts, find them incredibly informative, and I think he’s an all-around great guy.
Is there an article you have read recently that helped in your writing?
Right now the most helpful articles are the ones that talk about how you can’t give up. That’s definitely an important message that writers need to hear over and over again, because it’s not easy to keep going when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, and everyone in the submission process has days where they feel that way.
Tell us about blogging about The Bachelor. How did you get started? Any perks? Got any juicy scoop?
I started watching The Bachelor several years ago at the beginning of Andy Baldwin’s season. My father had just passed away from pancreatic cancer and when I tuned into the show one of the first things Andy talked about was how he’d started a charity in memory of his uncle who had recently died of pancreatic cancer. I googled the charity, wound up finding links to forum sites about The Bachelor, started posting on them, and rediscovered how much I loved writing. I’ve posted on the boards for several years and my posts have had in incredibly big impact on my life. I’ve made several online friends who I’ve gone on to meet in real life. I’ve also met several contestants, many of whom I now consider to be good friends. As far as perks go, that’s a double-edged sword. I tend to know how the season plays out before it airs, whether I want to or not. Some seasons I’ve had inside information about contestants that has made me very unpopular with that person’s “fans”. I try to stay away from the “scoop” as much as possible these days and enjoy the show for what it is; a glimpse into the intense, bizarre experience of a group of people who agree to have their lives filmed for eight wacky weeks. I enjoy analyzing the edit, and I love doing my sarcastic commentary, but I never lose sight of the fact that these are real people and that what we see on TV is what the producers choose to show us, and that doesn’t make what we see “real”. Commenting on a reality TVshow should never be used as a free chance to take cruel pot-shots at the personal lives of people you don’t really know. It’s a TV show, it’s for entertainment purposes only.
Tell me a little about your kids, husband and home life.
I have two sons, one husband, two cats and two African dwarf frogs. There’s an abundance of testosterone in my home. All the residents keep me busy in their own special ways. My life is hectic, but I love it. Most days.
When it comes to writing, what kind of support do you have from friends and family?
I have a few friends who know all about my writing endeavors and they are incredibly supportive. I wouldn’t have even completed my first novel without them, let alone survived the query process or made it through book two. I also have a local critique group whose members have been a great source of support and encouragement. I keep writing very separate from my family life. Writing is my time. The rest of my life is family time. Kids and family always come first and as long as they know that I feel like I’m doing my job well.
How do you balance event planning, baking, volunteering, being a good mother/wife and pursuing your writing dream?
I’m supposed to be balanced? Holy crap. These questions are freaking me out. Baking calms me, the product of baking makes everyone around me happy (and I’m a bit of a people pleaser so that works for me). The same goes for event planning. I love to do things that make other people happy, it brings me pleasure. Volunteering is a bit of a compulsion---I’ve only recently learned to say the word “no” and I’m still not very good at it (though there are a few ex-boyfriends who would argue that I’ve always managed to say “no” pretty effectively….but that’s another answer to a different question). I always make sure my family is my top priority, so I know they’re never being neglected. Writing I make time for because I have to do it. It’s like breathing, not doing it is simply not an option.
What has been your biggest challenge in writing so far? Any solutions?
My biggest challenge has been staying sane through the query process. I’ve never been an “oh look at me, look how great my stuff is” person and that doesn’t make it easy when you need to sell yourself and your book to people. Also, rejection is not my favorite thing, but it’s a huge part of the process of trying to publish a book. My solution? I whine to other people who are going through the same thing, and I listen when they whine to me, and we make each other feel better. Misery loves company. And we send each other chocolate, which helps quite a bit.
What is your guilty pleasure? Tell me something people wouldn’t guess about you.
My guilty pleasures are trashy novels, goofy bad movies that I can’t help but watch over and over again, and chocolate, ridiculously high volumes of chocolates---it’s not a snack, it’s not a food group, chocolate (for me) is a way of life. There are a lot of things people wouldn’t guess about me, those things just vary depending on who the people are. I’m actually a very open person and will tell most people anything they ask, but different people ask different questions, so they all know different things. People who didn’t know me in college probably wouldn’t guess that I went through a phase where I dressed like a punk rocker, complete with the combat boots and safety pinned clothes…though maybe they would, I still dress on the quirky side. I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t guess that I’m a novelist and would be surprised to learn that I not only write loves stories but ones with significant sexual content. Most people wouldn’t guess that I worked as a freelance hand-drawn animator for a while…I worked on a few TV commercials and some segments of the show PeeWee's Playhouse (no, I never met PeeWee).
Any advice you can give to writers? Also, any helpful tips, tricks or websites?
My advice to writers is this: If there is something else you can see yourself being happy doing, do that. If you simply have to write, accept that it’s a necessity, it’s part of who you are, stop fighting it and do it. That’s really all there is. Oh, and make sure you get people to critique your writing. No matter how good you are or how thoroughly you go over your own work there are elements of your own writing that you simply can’t see. Everyone needs feedback and editing. Everyone. You are editing these answers for me before you post them, right?

To learn more about Karen Stivali check out her blog and also follower her on twitter.
Thanks again, Karen, for a great interview. You are very funny and a talented writer, and I am sure we will see your books one day in our local bookstores. Good luck in your writing and agent search, and please keep us posted.