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.