I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blogging Tips: Link your blog to your user profile

I thought I'd do a series giving some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your blogging. I'm focusing mainly on Blogger rather than WordPress or LiveJournal, though some of my tips might help users of these other blogging platforms as well.

Today I'm talking about linking your blog to your user profile. During my travels around the blogosphere, I've noticed that a number of bloggers haven't actually linked their blogs in this way. What this means in practice is that, although I can see their name and some personal details when I click on their avatar (either in my Followers widget or on my Dashboard or when they leave me a comment), I can't follow them back to their blog.

To put this another way, it means that those who don't have their blog linked to their user profile are missing out on followers and possible comments for their blog. So you should check this to make sure.

Here's how to do it:

Checking your user profile - is your blog linked up?

(1) Open your blog

(2) Click on "View My Complete Profile" if you have an "About Me" sidebar gadget


(3) Click on "View Profile" in your Blogger Dashboard

(4) This takes you to your user profile

(5) Look down the bottom of your profile, under the heading "My Blogs"

(6) Is your blog name listed below "My Blogs"? (NB, you can have multiple blogs linked here)

(7) If "Yes," that's great, you're all good. If "No," keep on reading.

Linking your blog to your user profile

(1) In your user profile, click on "Edit Profile"

(2) Next to the heading "Show my blogs," click on "Select Blogs to Display"

(3) Check the box next to your blog name (that's "Rach Writes..." for me, the other blog is my old blog which is no longer operational)

(4) Click "Save Settings"

(5) And that's it. So relax, have a cookie, and enjoy!!! (Though I'd probably pop back to your user profile and make sure the link has gone through, just in case)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review in 20 Words: The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind

I won this book in Marieke’s How to Write Contemporary YA interview with Kirstin Cronn-Mills and I wanted to share it with you. The writer in me loves a challenge so I thought I’d see if I can convey my impressions of this book in 20 carefully-chosen words (excluding the book deets and some headings I’ve inserted for clarity). Must say, this was quite a challenge!


Tone of Story: Gritty, Honest, Intense, Humorous

Writing Style: Earthy, Economic

Main Character (Morgan): Sassy, Searching, Passionate, Witty

Themes: Sexual identity, Life choices, Family

Keep an Eye out For: Fortunes, Post-Its, Prom

My Reaction: Loved it


Author: Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Published: 2009 by Flux

Genre: Contemporary YA

Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Morgan lives in a hick town in the middle of Nebraska. College is two years away. Her mom was killed in a car accident when she was three, her dad drinks, and her stepmom is a non-entity. Her boyfriend Derek is boring and her coworker Rob has a very cute butt that she can't stop staring at. Then there's the kiss she shared with her classmate Tessa...

But when Morgan discovers that the one person in the world she trusted most has kept a devastating secret from her, Morgan must redefine her life and herself.

Have you read this book? What did you think???

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Something is Coming...

It is a dark and stormy night. The wind on the moors is wuthering. A dark stirs in the East. Over the horizon, in the distance, something approaches fast.


Can you see it?

Something is coming...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Twitter Tip Thursday (Thanksgiving Special)

Dessert anyone?
Here are some of the tips and useful links I've come across on Twitter this week (I’m @RachaelHarrie if you want to follow me):


"Writing to Trends" A guest post by @sarablarson on Carol's Prints. http://bit.ly/ahy6Zb @cvaldezmiller


If You Can't Define Your Genre - How do you expect us to market it?: Is it something an agent can sell? http://bit.ly/a76NRR @4KidLit


Agent Terry Burns On: When NOT To Stand Out From the Crowd: Follow submission guidelines. http://bit.ly/9EmSz1 @4KidLit

DOs and DON'Ts of submissions http://bit.ly/fWS9AY @juliemusil


How about some cookies?
Publishing — The Synopsis: How to craft yours using Stuart's powerful process. http://bit.ly/94rnce @4KidLit

How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis: Fill in the blank worksheet!!!! http://bit.ly/eJfY1o @4KidLit

On writing:

Jotting down notes about my MC's. Love this phase of getting to know them. Here's my character worksheet: http://bit.ly/cObBNT @JodyHedlund

If you aren't fluent in another language, it's best not to include it in your manuscript. At least have someone check it. @SammyBina

RT @WritersDigest: PLOT VS CHARACTER author Jeff Gerke discusses conflict: http://ow.ly/3cHKW @juliemusil

Thoughts on references in your mss. and dating yourself http://ow.ly/3ctBZ @Kid_Lit

How to avoid the research distraction trap: An excellent tip for writing now and researching later. http://bit.ly/bHiRag @4KidLit

Find Your Plot Fridays: At the Core: The Premise and How it Ties it all Together: Interesting way to ... http://bit.ly/h2wSYG @4KidLit

Wine perhaps?
Are you writing every day? If not, here are 5 tips to help you write daily more easily. http://budurl.com/2g35 @WritingSpirit

The Pathway to Showing Emotion: In the book Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: techniques and exercises for craft... http://bit.ly/hlr4GZ @StinaLL


Chapter Titles vs. Chapter Numbers http://bit.ly/aX03vI via @Dear_Editor @juliemusil


Revisions Week - Characters: Beginning a character collage. http://bit.ly/foch57 @4KidLit

Letting Action Define Your Characters: Five tips for improving your novel. http://bit.ly/e4tQsq @4KidLit

The Right Ending: Eight great questions to ask yourself. http://bit.ly/hQkIwY @4KidLit

Hilarious post about Revision Makeovers by @amyholderbooks http://bit.ly/cB32YD @juliemusil


Desperately needed: Distance: Important reminder about critiquing, editing, and putting your work in ... http://bit.ly/bZhlWw @4KidLit


Agent Spotlight on Victoria Marini (@tor_intheory) of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents: http://bit.ly/95YER1 @Casey_McCormick

Best Literary Agents on Twitter: Work in progress. http://bit.ly/hWShSm @4KidLit


Correct link! --> PW article for writers - realities of advances, sales expectations, and smaller presses: http://bit.ly/b9iA5M @Natalie_Fischer

Dealing with Rejection:

What, you just want to rest?
Making the Most of Media Exposure: Don't give up when you've got requests, you're getting closer. http://bit.ly/9yEgnm @4KidLit


Why you should not use the same passwords for Social Media and your Critical Accounts http://j.mp/fzW1EM /via @ej_butler


Take key points from a post and tweet them as questions: title alone may not entice readers or call to action @aeringuy


#PiBoldMo another word of advice- http://coreyschwartz.blogspot.com/2010/11/piboidmo-another-word-of-advice.html @scubacor


@verlakey on how to survive tough times in the publishing industry: http://bit.ly/9JNSWj @CynLeitichSmith

What's THE most important characteristic a writer needs in order to reach publication? http://bit.ly/bjnyKD @JodyHedlund


The #pblitchat transcipt is up with lots of information about the contract mystery/monster thanks to @alexadsett. http://bit.ly/cbyNeb @KatApel

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Challenge: How Many Have You Read

I wasn't planning to post today, but when I saw this challenge up on Jodi Henry's blog I had to give it a go.

The challenge is: Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

• Copy this list.
• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
• Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.
• Tag other book nerds.

I'm going to add another instruction (why not!): underline those books you plan to read in 2011. So here goes:

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The King James Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell [I've been meaning to read this one for ages]
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Emma - Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold [I ordered this from The Book Depository last week actually]
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding [Does the movie count? LOL]
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
??? (Hmm, the list does appear to be missing book no. 100!)
So here's my addition to the list, to fill in missing #100 – The Illiad, Homer

Woot, 35 (I think I added it up right)!!!

Too many tags to be made. Take the list if you'd like to have a go at the challenge. Can't wait to see what you've read!

And, in the interests of furthering my literacy-ness (anyone else find the humor in making up a word when talking about whether or not you're well-read?), are there any books you'd recommend I read from the non-italicized, non-bolded, non-underlined books above?

Happy Reading. Happier Writing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Random Factoids About...Writing

The longest one syllable word is screeched

11% of the people in the world are left-handed

No word in the English language rhymes with month


The word "queue" is the only word in the English language that is still pronounced the same way when the last four letters are removed

Of all the words in the English language, the word 'set' has the most definitions

"Almost" is the longest word in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order


Monday, November 22, 2010

End of the Inaugural Writers' Platform-Building Crusade (*sad face*)

I feel sad writing this post, but the Inaugural Writers' Platform-Building Crusade has now come to an end.

I'll be calling a new Crusade (the Second Writers' Platform-Building Crusade) early next year, and I'd love all the original Crusaders, plus anyone else who is interested, to sign on again. Until my next Crusade post, though, we won't be taking on any new Crusaders or doing any new Crusader Challenges or organized activities.

What this means for Crusaders

Not a whole lot will change for you, to be honest. If you intend to join up again, by all means continue to call yourselves Crusaders in the gap between this Crusade and the next Crusade (kind of like a continuous Crusade, really). I'd love you to keep supporting your fellow Crusaders, and to get to know the people who signed on later in the Crusade a bit better as well. The List of Crusaders is still up, and will stay up until our next Crusade officially starts.
I'm really looking forward to the new Crusade, and to reconnecting with all the current Crusaders who want to continue our journey together (and meeting a whole new bunch of Crusaders as well). Plus having heaps more fun! It's been so fantastic to see everyone's blogs grow and develop over the last few months.

And if you've got any ideas or suggestions for making our next Crusade even better, I'd love to hear from you.

Rach xx

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Do you think big???

The other day, I looked up to see my 3-year-old daughter dragging my 5-month-old daughter on her back along the floor. By her hands! Of course, I quickly put a stop to that, but I also (perhaps foolishly) asked the perpetrator what she thought she was doing.
The answer, delivered in an isn't-it-obvious voice: "I'm taking my sister for a walk."

Needless to say, it's pretty hard to get cranky at your child when you're struggling not to laugh. And baby was fine, thank goodness...

That little incident got me thinking though. My oldest girl was thinking big, seeing possibilities rather than improbabilities. She knew my youngest couldn't even crawl yet, let alone walk, but she still dared to reach for the stars. In a manner of speaking.

That's what I'm doing as well. Reaching for the stars in my dream of becoming a published author. Hopefully, though, my dream won't be as impossible to achieve as a 5-month-old baby going for a walk with her sister!

Do you think big? What's your dream? Have you set concrete goals or milestones to keep you on track, or do you prefer to look at the big picture rather than the smaller details?

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Question for Crusaders...

Guys, with NaNo-November still ongoing and busy-December coming up, I'm planning to call an end to my Crusade fairly soon (don't worry, I'll be calling the Second Crusade early next year for anyone who wants to join!).

So, my question is, do you want another Crusader Challenge before we call it a wrap, or shall I save it up for the next Crusade???

***Check out my comment below for more information on the plan. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Top Tip Thursday - Make E-Querying Easier

My life has been pretty hectic this past week, so I'm skipping my regular Twitter Tip Thursday - hopefully I'll bring that back next week in all it's glory.

Today I wanted to share a tip I've come across in my internet travels. I can't recall where I read it, but it's stuck with me ever since.

A question for you: How many of you query by email?

I imagine, as for me, that it's the first port of call for many queriers these days.

A follow-up question then: Do you have a separate email account for querying?

And that's my top tip. Set up a separate email account from which to send all your e-queries and correspond with agents/editors. There are quite a few reasons to do this, and I'll list some of these below:
  1. that way you won't make a mistake and send an embarrassing email to an agent when you meant it to go to your critique partner/friend/significant other. You know, the type of email where you either gush about something an agent said or did (perhaps they requested a partial or a full manuscript and made your dreams come true) or, even worse, you complain about something to do with an agent, and that damn predictive text in the email "To" bar inserts the agent's name instead of the person meant to receive the email. Thankfully, this hasn't happened to me, but I've heard horror stories...;
  2. there's less chance you'll miss an important email amid the 20, 50, or 100 emails you get a day from friends, relatives, critique partners, and your various blogging activities;
  3. it's easier to keep stress levels down during the query/submission cycle when you aren't checking your email every two seconds to see if something has come in. I've found it works really well to give myself strict times when I can check my querying email address. Because it's closed all other times, I can push the "waiting tension" further back in my mind.
So that you come across professionally, consider making the email address some variant of your name. Your real name, of course, not your blogging/pen name. Whatever you do, don't send queries to an agent under your email address of hotchick18 or sexrulz69. That would be plain embarrassing, and won't do you any favors when it comes to impressing those within the industry.

Hope this tip helps you as it helped me.

Happy querying!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Insider Scoop - Interview with Josh Weed, Aspiring Writer

For The Insider Scoop today I’m pleased to introduce Josh Weed, otherwise known as The Weed.

Take it away Josh...

Question 1: What are the three most important things we should know about you.

Hmmmm. The three most important things. That's a tall order.

Well, I guess the first thing I'd like to communicate is how serious I am about writing. So, yeah, even though approximately 86% of what I talk about at The Weed could be represented symbolically by a monkey on a unicycle wearing a tuxedo and wielding a flame-thrower, I certainly don't want to mislead people into thinking that I'm just messing around and having a little fun. I really am attacking my writing career with great intensity, and with a tenacity known mainly to Olympic athletes and serial killers. (BTW, I refer in that comparison only to the really successful serial killers who kill plenty of people and don't get caught for a long time because they're so tenacious that they migrate into various legal jurisdictions and such. Like Ted Bundy. And Hannibal Lecter. Except I'm not sure if Lecter ever crossed state lines. And he's fictional. But I think you know what I mean. That's how seriously I take writing. As seriously as murder and death.)

In all honesty, I am proactively engaged in writing in as many ways as I can be. I am constantly doing something to improve. I just got back from a four hour meeting with a co-author of a screenplay I'm writing, for example. I love writing a lot and really believe in its potential to have positive impact.

Second important thing? I'm 30, have three kids, and plan to have even more. Not surprisingly, I'm Mormon.

(Did you see that slick move? That was like four important things about me right there in one. Man, I'm good.)

Third? I may or may not be insane.

Rach: LOL, I'm not going to comment on the insane part!

Question 2: Tell us about your writing style and your preferred genre.

The novel I'm currently pimping out is a mystery/suspense piece. It is very, very serious--nigh unto a heart attack or a funeral--and actually deals with some very sensitive issues like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a response to childhood sexual abuse. There is very little humor or silliness (which readers of my blog might be surprised by) though I do have one character who is my outlet for that stuff.

The truth is, I don't know what my preferred genre is mostly because I've only written one book. I taught junior high for several years and would love to write something for that age group. For having a degree in English and having taught it, I am disturbingly not-well-read. My ADHD (which is asked about later) prevented me from finishing most of the books I started in school. The books finished were written by authors that could grab my attention from page one and keep me hooked and reading quickly. I strive to be that kind of writer.

Rach: Congrats on finishing your first book, that's such an achievement!

Question 3: So what's the go with all the body deformity stuff on your blog?

Ha! I don't even know exactly why that started--one day I just got the urge to write about my legally blind eye which makes me look vaguely like a serial killer (wow, why is serial murder emerging as a theme for me during this interview? Is this a sign?) and then I started chronicling my other body aberrations (an arachnoid cyst in my brain, a polyp in my face). Then, one day, I noticed that someone got to my blog doing a Google search for "body deformities" and when I clicked on it, I was #4 for that random phrase. Becoming #1 immediately became imperative, because who WOULDN'T want an extra four readers a month going to their blog in search of pictures of deformed kittens? Since then I've become #4 and #5, but I haven't moved up the rankings yet. It's very distressing, but I have a lot of confidence moving forward. I did, however, get the only counselor in the world (according to her) who specializes in emetephobia (which is a phobia of throwing up) to visit and comment on my blog when I wrote a post about what a wussy I am in this regard. So, there's that.

Rach: Only a little bit strange :)

Question 4: Care to give us some deets on your current project(s)?

Sure. As I mentioned before, I'm working on a screenplay with my good friend Chad Perkins (of Lynda.com fame). He and I both have several other projects we're working on, but our movie together is coming together really nicely and I'm starting to write the actual screenplay (as opposed to beat sheet, etc.) this week. (Since I didn't do nanowrimo, I've considered making a nascrewrihalfmo for myself. You know, because there are quite enough variations of the concept just yet.) But yeah, that's one of the most prominent dishes at the moment.

Then, there's my novel which I avoid revising like gangbusters because I find it incredibly difficult to do so. First attempt at queries? 6 rejections and a partial request from Writer's House which ended in the agent never writing me back. Not a great feeling. In a subsequent question I talk more about revisions and crap like that if you're interested and are still reading by that point but I won't be offended if you're not because holy crap I'm waxing long-winded.

Then, there's poetry. I love poetry even though it's probably the nerdiest (except maybe fanfic?) and most pretentious (except maybe scholarly journals?) of all writing ventures. I've had several poems published and even won a Young Artist award. It's a completely different game than novels or screenplays, with different objectives, but it's something I really love.

Then, the blog in and of itself is one of my projects. Right now I spend many hours a week on it, trying to get each post perfect. It's probably the most enjoyable writing project I've ever engaged in. I hope to spend many more years with it.

Rach: Phew, you sound pretty busy. And nascrewrihalfmo sounds intriguing!

Question 5: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

For a minute I thought I was a pantser, but the reality is, before I ever sat down to write my book, I had already written down various plot sequences, had come up with many of the characters, had ideas for certain scenes, etc. At the same time, things (not surprisingly) ended up being way different (and cooler--at least to me) than I could have ever planned. I think both concepts are very important--or at least they are to me.

When it comes to screenwriting, I'm finding that plotting is a truly essential element.

Question 6: What's the best writing tip you've ever come across?

Maybe this is really famous or something, but I've always loved (and still need to apply in very strict way), this quote:

Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don't talk about doing it. Do it. Finish. E. L. Konigsburg

Question 7: You work as a mental health counsellor, and have been diagnosed with ADHD, how do these things influence your writing?

They each impact my writing in very different ways.

Working as a mental health counselor has given me access to a lot of amazing human beings and their stories, which is amazing.

While I will never, ever write about a client or anything a client tells me because of ethics laws and common decency, sitting in a room and listening to people talk about their deepest darkest family secrets (my degree is actually in marriage and family therapy), and then watching as healing takes place in relationships, or sometimes as things unravel so dramatically that they never come back to my office, gives me real insight into my own characters and some of the motivations that drive their most obscene and seemingly treacherous actions. I get to hear lots of people talk--the cadence and inflection of voice, and the way they share intimate and very personal things that they simply don't talk about outside of my office. It's really quite a privilege to see humanity in this way. Also, I now know family systems and multi-generational transmission (which is a theoretical construct developed by a boring science guy named Murray Bowen) all of which I think has direct translatability (made up word? Probably.) to writing about people and how they fit into families.

The ADHD is not quite as advantageous.

I have the inattentive subtype of ADHD which means that I can be in a room with no windows and no noise and basically no external distractions, and still not be able to focus on what I'm supposed to focus on. It also means I misplace crap A LOT, and that I'm late for lots and lots of meetings (though I work very hard not to let that be the case) and that things like paperwork or other organizational tasks are really, really, really, really hard for me. The disorder was actually the impetus to my blog--I started it as a place to track everything I did online because I was tired of not getting anything done. But instead I ended up writing a bunch of posts about my childhood and some of my experiences as a kid who was labeled as "the laziest student I have ever met" (I was actually kicked out of my school's gifted program, which I had gotten into through intelligence testing, because of that label).

After four months of talking about it on The Weed (which was then called My Inattentive Life), I finally got up the courage to get my official diagnosis and start Ritalin. In some ways this has revolutionized my life.

Anyway, the ADHD has had some really negative ramifications on my writing at times, even post-Ritalin. This is seen primarily in the revisions phase, which requires extreme amounts of focus and organization. Not easy to come by. I talk about all of this here.

Speaking of which:

Question 8: I understand you're neck-deep in revisions at the moment - what's your game plan?

A little bit a day. That's the game plan. You know, like when I'm not working full-time as a therapist, going to school half-time for my chemical dependency license, applying to PhD programs, raising my three little girls, being with my wife, running, writing in my blog, writing my screenplay, eating or sleeping. So, yeah. Should be a piece of cake!

No, the truth is I do all of those things because I function best when my schedule is cram-packed with stuff to do, and in all honesty I have a couple of hours every day reserved for writing. I need to be more stringent with that time, I suppose. It needs to be more sacred, and less infringed upon. But I often get my time in. So... goooooo revisions!

Wish me luck. (This is probably the most awkward end to an interview in history. But thanks so much Rachael for the opportunity to blather on. I really appreciate it!)

Rach: Good luck with it all, I'm right there with you!


Well, that wraps up this interview with The Weed. It's been most fun (and only a teensy bit surreal) getting to know him a bit better.

A final word from Josh (and I take no responsibility for any potential serial killer references)…

If you want to be writing friends for life with me you can follow me on Twitter, or contact me at joshua(dot)weed(at)gmail(dot) com. If you want to read my funny but only-sometimes-writing-related posts that deal occasionally with body deformities, follow me up at The Weed. (You won't be sorry, I promise. Unless I do become a serial killer after all and then murder you.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dealing with "Blah Days"...

Ever had one of those days where you just don't? You know, don't want to write, don't want to be bothered, don't want to do anything other than stay in bed and eat chocolate all day... Hmm, I think I'm having one of those days right now.

I'm not feeling 100%, you see, and that always takes its toll. But in addition to that, I'm trying to wrap my head around a rather large change in direction for my manuscript, thanks to all the fantastic feedback I've had lately from my critique partners and you guys in the posts where I've shared bits of my wip.

It's so hard. I know it will ultimately make FROM THE OTHER SIDE much stronger, and give a much better idea of the characters behind the events. But I've gotten used to my wip being one way, and it kind of throws you for a loop to turn in another direction.

So...in an effort to kick-start my writing, I thought I'd turn to blogging instead (I'm sure there's some logic in there somewhere). I gave myself the length of 3 paragraphs to have my teensy whinge, and now I'm telling myself sternly to snap out of it.

Wait for it...


You know, I think it might even be working. Just getting these thoughts out on paper (ahem, the computer) seems to be doing the trick.

Woohoo!!! I'm even starting to feel a little more motivated again. Next stop, revising the manuscript, baby!

What do you do to snap yourself out of a Blah Day? (I might try that next time)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Twitter Tip Thursday (and a sex tip...)

Here are some of the tips and useful links I've come across on Twitter this week (I’m @RachaelHarrie if you want to follow me):


Is contemporary YA a difficult market? http://ow.ly/367Rw @Kid_Lit


An unbalanced query = 2 sentences on the book, three paragraphs on the writer @DaphneUn

Smart querying for unagented writers: http://bit.ly/hJVmK @Georgia_McBride


When is Close, Too Close?: When a CP's work is reading a little bit too much like your own. http://bit.ly/9ULcAS @4KidLit

On writing:

Finding a Writing Schedule That Works: http://bit.ly/aR4B8Y @JodyHedlund

What should writers do when they get contradictory feedback? A few tips: http://bit.ly/ahKN5v @JodyHedlund

A Personal Glimpse into Character Emotional Development: 10 questions to create a profile for your protag. http://bit.ly/ddItep @4Kid_Lit

A post on plotting (by a panster!) http://brookenomicon.blogspot.com/2010/11/plotting-your-story.html @gracefuldoe

There's a reason they call it scenes...: Before, on this blog, I've talked about writing in scenes (rather than ... http://bit.ly/aI7ZXt @ClarissaDraper

Thanks to @Heather_Hansen for this: Beating Your Muse Into Submission - http://bit.ly/btKUzE @Casey_McCormick

Wise advice here: Between Fact and Fiction: What I Really Want To Say To New Writers: http://bit.ly/daAoBQ @jafhedlund

10 Writing Pests: Hilarious- diagnose your writing's ailments. http://bit.ly/9AeoP1 @4KidLit

Five Writing Tips From Reading J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER: From crafting dialogue to characters, les... http://bit.ly/aISk0D @4KidLit

5 writing tips I learned from reading HARRY POTTER blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/11/five-w… @NathanBransford

Agent Joanna Volpe On: Why Realistic Teen Dialogue Isn't Necessarily a Good Thing (and a Free Book Gi... http://bit.ly/bAWVg8 @4KidLit

When is Close, Too Close?: When a CP's work is reading a little bit too much like your own. http://bit.ly/9ULcAS @4KidLit

7 things your characters do too much of: http://dld.bz/5MBP @elizabethscraig


Tip Tuesday #62: Coping with printing out your ms for your crit partners. http://bit.ly/bja0lY @4KidLit

Finding the Writing Groove: 8 tips for getting inspired. http://bit.ly/dostz7 @4KidLit

Checking for Plot Holes: Does Your Story Add Up?: Four last questions to ponder in revision. http://bit.ly/98Udor @4KidLit

From the archives: when to cut something out of your manuscript http://ow.ly/36MJF @Kid_Lit

Writing Resources:

RESOURCES: AN EXHAUSTING LIST: Must-see treasure trove! http://bit.ly/abUpeO @4KidLit

Picture Books/Early Readers/Chapter Books:

Querying and breaking in as an author/illustrator http://ow.ly/351h4 @Kid_Lit


Believe it or not, I don't like sending rejections any more than writers like receiving them. My post: http://bit.ly/aZ2Knn @RachelleGardner

Ever wondered what clauses in a publishing contract are most often negotiated by agents? Here: http://bit.ly/cP0CI7 @RachelleGardner

The agent-client relationship: http://dld.bz/5AzP @RachelleGardner


4 Tips on What NOT to Say (or Pitch or Do) to Get Your Book Reviewed: Don't burn bridges and take the... http://bit.ly/dbhdwu @4Kid_Lit


Interesting post on the need for a blog by @hopeclark here: http://bit.ly/9N1FCa @KathleenIsaac

Six Guaranteed Ways to Boost Your Sex Hits (Oops, I meant site hits) http://t.co/s4nX03Y @DL_H


Check out this post about writers seeing the unseen http://bit.ly/b4nzCF @KathleenIsaac

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #25

TITLE: Lost in a Heartbeat
GENRE: YA romantic suspense


After a stalker assaulted seventeen-year-old Calleigh, she’s forced to keep silent about what happened—screwing up her chance to heal—or else the psycho will kill her BFF. But as she falls for her new friend, Aaron, she discovers they’re linked in a way she could never have imagined—a connection that could be deadly for Calleigh.


After a stalker assaults seventeen-year-old Calleigh and threatens to kill her best friend if she tells anyone, she struggles to feel normal again so she can hide the truth. The new boy she meets just might help her do that—or he may be a direct link to the very thing she wants to forget.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #23

TITLE: Adventures of a Teenage Demigoddess
GENRE: MG Fantasy


Ninth-grader Morgaina England learns she's a demigoddess and must fly through time and space on a magical horse to the sky palace of Odin, "The Terrible One," Father of the Gods, to save his most precious possession; if she fails, she loses all her new-found powers and her father will be tortured for a thousand years.


It's spooky when your mother's ghost sends you on a mission through time and space to Valhalla to help the Norse god of War and Death with only a magical horse and her sword and brooch for
protection, because now I have to masquerade as a blood-thirsty Valkyrie to win admission to the Palace of Dead Warriors in the sky. If I fail to rescue the god's daughter from kidnappers, he'll rampage Earth for them, and I, Morgaina Fearghille, will have to cook and wash
all the dishes at the orphanage for five years until I turn eighteen.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #22

TITLE: Shorty
GENRE: Middle Grade


When seventh-grader Tom Sullivan’s growth plan (think green drinks and medieval torture racks) is plastered all over the school by class tough guy Pete Willowby, Tom snaps and embarks on a scheme to take the bully down. The consequences of Tom’s transformation from nice to nasty force him to choose who he really wants to be by executing his “Do or Die” plan—or what he suspects might really be “Do and Die”.


When seventh-grader Tom Sullivan’s growth plan (think green drinks and medieval torture racks) is plastered all over the school by class tough guy Pete Willowby, Tom snaps and embarks on a scheme to take the bully down. Things go wildly out of control and more than just the bully get hurt, convincing Tom that reversing his shocking transformation from nice to nasty requires the thing he fears the most—a face-to-face showdown with Willowby.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #19

TITLE: Johnny Steam
GENRE: YA Steampunk


When Johnny takes his steam bike for a midnight ride, his only goal is to escape the workhouse and his apprenticeship to the Dark Horse Mines. When he fires his coilgun to rescue Araminta from slavers, he thinks he's lost his escape, because her wounds require that she return to the workhouse. He doesn't know he's about to make a vow to rescue her little sister from the slavers. He doesn't know there's a war coming. And he certainly doesn't know that soon he'll have to choose between saving that girl, and his new life in the Clockwork Resistance.


Johnny may be a 16 year old workhouse orphan, but when makes a vow, he keeps it. And when he vows to find a little girl taken by slavers, he intends to find her even though he's been recruited to the Clockwork Resistance, even though there's a civil war coming, and even though the heads of both nations of England try to stand in his way.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #18

TITLE: Hidden in Shadows
GENRE: Urban fantasy with romance elements


As assassin Lorna hunts for her father's murderer, she struggles to master her newfound shadow power. But enacting her revenge would destroy any chance Lorna has of living a happy life when she falls for a target, leaving Lorna torn between murder and love.


As a paranorm with the ability to create and hide in shadows, assassin Lorna grows closer to avenging her father's death but is torn between duty and love when she falls for her latest target.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #11

TITLE: Across Two Universes
GENRE: Science Fiction


When aspiring actor Paul discovers after his mother's murder he's the clone of a TwenCen rock star, he fears his mother was killed to force him into music. To trick the murderer into confessing, Paul must travel to an alternate universe to learn how to impersonate the rock star, even if he risks not only his own identity, but his life.


Paul discovers his obsessed great-uncle had him cloned from their Twen-Cen rock star ancestor, then had his mother was killed to make Paul's life follow the rock star's. To achieve justice, Paul must confront his great-uncle disguised as their ancestor before he attacks someone else Paul loves, but he must first travel to an alternate universe to save his ancestor from assassination.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #8

TITLE: Bird Brain
GENRE: Contemporary Middle-Grade


Simon, a great birder and not-so-good baseball player, makes a deal to play catcher in the big tournament in exchange for his teammates joining his bird-a-thon team, but misplaces his birding zen as he becomes obsessed with winning the bird-a-thon.


Bird-lover Simon wants to win the bird-a-thon competition for his hospitalized mentor but as his last-minute team struggles to tell the difference between chickadees and turkey vultures, he gets an inside tip on a rare bird sighting. Simon must decide whether to publicize the information or use it to his team's advantage as he sorts through what it means to be a winner and how to best honor his mentor.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #7

TITLE: The Magic Withheld
GENRE: Urban Fantasy


Justus is an expert at hiding in plain sight. He is a Wilder, an unrestrained mage, and the Imperium, a secret guild of wizards wants all of them leashed. Hiring a troubled adept linked to the guild is his first mistake. Falling in love with her is the second.


After the guild of wizards discovers his clandestine magical talent, Justus must choose between surrendering his freedom to them or use his magic to fight. Either way, he will lose what he values most and gain a power he did not want.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #6

TITLE: Ghost River
GENRE: Paranormal Mystery


Suddenly unemployed, Veronica jumps at the chance to save money and grab some R & R by house-sitting a home on a peaceful country river, but she soon finds out nature isn't as quiet as it seems when ghosts start to appear in her bedroom, the wrong man sets her hormones on fire, and a body floats in with the tide. Convinced her friend is being framed for the murder, Veronica uses clues from the ghosts and help from the hot guy to search for the real killer, completely unaware he wants to find her first.


When the ghost of a nun tells Veronica she signed an agreement in a former life to help lost souls earn their way to the next spiritual level, Veronica must use clues from the ghosts to prove a friend is innocent of murder and find a missing girl, all while fighting her feelings for an engaged man and running from a possible killer.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #5

TITLE: The Persephone Paradox
GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy


When 17-year-old Zoe attempts suicide to escape her stepfather's abuse, The Fates send a demi-angel to lead her to her true destiny. But if she can't discover her own worth and learn to wield the powers she inherited as a daughter of the goddess Persephone, then the evil Greek god who has targeted her soul will use Zoe to conquer humankind.


When seventeen-year-old Zoe learns that an evil Greek god and The Fates have been playing tug-of-war with her life—and that she's not just some freakish gardening prodigy but a daughter of the goddess of spring—she must master her powers over plant-life to win her independence or else become a weapon in her enemy’s plot against humankind

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #4

TITLE: From The Other Side
GENRE: YA Horror


When misfit Verity is brutally murdered by the boy she loves, she awakens to find herself filled with uncontrollable rages and an unquenchable desire for vengeance. And if she doesn’t find a way to harness her hatred and her deadly new powers---soon---she won’t be able to stop killing, not even the one person who may save her.


When seventeen-year-old Verity is murdered by the boy she loves, she becomes a ghost whose ability to burn her victims seems purpose-made for her mission of vengeance. However, the search for her killer and an increasing body-count stretch Verity’s sanity to the limits, and unless she finds a way to regain control more innocent people will die, including the one person with the power to save her from herself.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #3

TITLE: Gombay Dust
GENRE: Fantasy-Allegorical tale


When a principal Wind-God is given a crucial order, which will save his rapidly deteriorating Community, he struggles with whether to obey at once, or follow his conscience and manipulate the command to help his three young daughters gain immortality. If he chooses the latter, he will have to, among other things, sabotage his only son, and accept deadly consequences.


Torn between a vow and duty, a love-struck Wind-God chooses to help his daughters gain power instead of following an order by The Source. His decision to disobey could mean interfering with the evolution of his community and risks sabotaging his only son’s legacy.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #2

TITLE: Crossing Dark Water
GENRE: YA paranormal thriller


When a Jeep loving girl who's hooked on off-roading sets out to free her sister from a mountaintop mental hospital, she collides with a secret cartel that deals in magic--and must risk her own sanity to save her sister's.


Risking her own sanity, a Jeep-loving girl puts the pedal to the metal to free her sister from a mountaintop mental hospital, where a secret cartel run by doctors deals in magic and patients are more likely to leave brain damaged than sane.

Logline Critique Session Two Revisited #1

TITLE: All's Fair
GENRE: YA Fantasy


All seventeen-year-old Princess Fawn of Savara wants is to avenge her betrothed, but refusing to marry the son of the king responsible for his death could lead to a war that devastates both their countries.


Seventeen-year-old Princess Fawn craves revenge after she is tortured and her betrothed killed by a neighboring king, but her plans are delayed when her father falls ill and her unmarried status leaves her ineligible to assume the throne---and though finding her betrothed alive should provide an easy solution, her mother's insistence that a royal wedding could prevent a devastating war forces Fawn to decide between her only love, whose loyalty is questionable after two years in the enemy's clutches, and the king's son, whose desire for peace runs as deep as her hatred of him and his country.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Logline Critiques, What Fun (And a Contest)!!!

I got such great input on my logline during the Second Logline Critique Session over at Miss Snark's First Victim that I've offered up my blog for those 25 entrants to have another go, in preparation for the December Baker's Dozen Auction (woot!). And to all my fabulous followers, keep reading 'cause I'm throwing in a little logline bonus prize of my own as well...

Second Logline Critique Session 

Anyone who entered Authoress's Second Logline Critique Session is welcome to submit their revised logline on Rach Writes... for another round of critiquing. To my followers, feel free to review and comment if you wish, though please don't feel obliged to do so.

Those original entrants who would like their revised loglines posted for critique should email me at rachael[dot]harrie[at]gmail[dot]com by Wednesday, November 10, 2010. Please include in the email your title, genre, and number as assigned by Authoress PLUS your original logline AND your revised logline. That way we can easily see the changes you've made.

I'll post the critiques by their original numbers, each in a separate post, on Thursday, November 11, 2010. Original entrants, please comment on and critique as many of the revised loglines as you can, so everyone gets input on their revisions.

Can't wait to see what everyone has come up with!

A little logline critiquing contest for my fantastic followers

I know some of you tried out for Authoress's logline critiquing sessions but didn't get in. And others of you may have a few sentences lying in your computer folders that haven't yet seen the light of day. So, cause you all rock, I'm going to give away 3 logline critiques to 3 of you awesome peeps.

For this contest, loglines can be either one or two sentences (though keep in mind they are most often required to be one sentence). They can be for completed work or WIP. You don't need to be planning to enter the Baker's Dozen Auction either - it often helps to draft your logline soon after you start your WIP, so you can refer to it and keep yourself on track.

This contest is open to anyone who is a follower on Rach Writes... (ie your avatar appears under Followers on my sidebar). I'll pick the winners on Saturday, November 13, 2010. Leave me a comment in this post to enter, including your points and links. +2 for old followers, +1 for new followers, +3 for Tweeting, +5 for blogging about this contest.

Can't wait to see who wins!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What a Week (and a Contest Heads-up...)

It's been a big week and a half for me in the blogosphere. I've been keeping busy to avoid NaNo-envy (*grins*). Here are some of the things that have happened:

I entered Brenda Drake's Never-ending Scene (or cliffhanger--whatever) Blogfest, and was chosen as a semi-finalist for my entry. I received an honorable mention thanks to your votes, with the prize being a first 250-words critique from C.A. Marshall (woot!).

I interviewed Rachel Morgan, one of our Crusaders, for The Insider Scoop. It was wonderful getting to know her better.

We had a cool time with our Second Crusader Challenge, and congratulations go to The Weed (one of the newest Crusaders) for the winning entry. Well done for a seamless insertion of Kartofflepuffer into your post, plus the other random Challenge words! Look our for The Weed's Insider Scoop interview coming soon. And one of these days I'll manage to design that winner's badge, promise.

In my own entry in the Second Crusader Challenge, I revealed 13 things you may not know about me. Actually, I think I'm going to make an "About Me" page on Rach Writes..., so I'll be asking you what kind of things you want to know about me over the coming weeks.

Would you believe it, there are 49 Crusaders! Wow, so close to the big 5-0, and an amazing response considering I only started the Writers' Platform-Building Crusade at the end of September. I've had such a great time getting to know you all, and I'm looking forward to getting to know our newest Crusaders much better as well.

I went in the Second Logline Critique Session over at Miss Snark's First Victim, and received some fantastic feedback on my From The Other Side logline. That's in preparation for the Baker's Dozen Auction (more on that a little later).

Then I entered Steena Holmes's Logline Blogfest with my Evolution of a Logline post, had heaps of fun helping everyone with their loglines AND got some more fabulous feedback from all of you on my logline.

Thanks so much to Quinn over at Seeing, Dreaming...Writing for giving me The Versatile Blogger Award, and to J.C. Martin at J.C. Martin, Fighter Writer for my Beautiful Blogger Award. Squeeee!!!

What else...oh yes, I interviewed Hart Johnson for The Insider Scoop, and did my bit for the Naked World Domination Tour. It was great reading some of Hart's blogging tips as well!

And I did another Twitter Tip Thursday (ok, ok, it was on Saturday - will try to do better next week (*hangs head*))

Amongst all of that, some fantastic followers have come on board (*waves*). I can't wait to get to know you better, and I hope to get around and follow all those I've missed as soon as possible. Drop me a comment and say hi sometime, I love chatting with you all.

And, I'm taking a pick-axe to my manuscript with all the revising I'm doing (tee hee, I think V just got another idea - remind me to tell you about my "other" main character in From The Other Side some time... (*chortles*).

That's not to even mention all the busy-ness at home - I'll be moving cities in two months, and there's so much cleaning and throwing-out to do before then (ugh!). And my baby girl is only about a week off crawling, so I can see my life getting so much more hectic as I chase her around the house (aaargh!).

FYI, I've had so much fun playing with loglines this week that I've volunteered Rach Writes... for a re-critique for the 25 entrants who took part in the Second Logline Critique Session over at Miss Snark's First Victim. So don't be surprised if you see a lot of short posts from me this coming Thursday (watch out for mine, #4). I'll be posting more on that tomorrow...

So as to not leave you out of all the fun though, I'm having a little logline critique CONTEST all of my own, so make sure you check out tomorrow's post (woot!!!).

Phew, I think that pretty much takes care of everything, for now... What have you done this week? I hope it was something relaxing!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Twitter Tip Thurs...uh...Saturday (oops!)

Ok, I'm only a couple of days late (haven't been well the last couple of days, sorry). Anyway, here are some of the tips and useful links I've come across on Twitter this week (I’m @RachaelHarrie if you want to follow me):

"take your hook (1st sentence) and your consequence (last sentence) & delete everything in between. That's ur two-sentence pitch." Fm @ElanaJ @jafhedlund

Agent Dan Lazar On: Query Dos and Don'ts: 6 tips to tighten your query. http://bit.ly/aPgeMc @4KidLit

If you're looking for a crit partner/beta reader, tweet your genre & what you're looking for with the #betamatch hashtag! @yaHighway

Better At BETAing: Growing as a writer and a reader. http://bit.ly/cF4Ljg @4KidLit

A Lot of Critique is GREAT! If it all is in sync...: Stop and think about all the input. http://bit.ly/asXk8X @4KidLit

On Writing:
T3 - Facets of Grief: Cognitions: Realistic responses to a character receiving bad news. http://bit.ly/bXXVsE @4KidLit

The Great Semi-Colon Debate: The semi-colon as a period slumming. :D http://bit.ly/952Ysz @4KidLit

How High Are the Stakes? Building Better Conflict and Dilemma into Your Book: The greater goal, the more... http://bit.ly/bDcLHH @4KidLit

Some tips for adding backstory: "Use an eyedropper not a shovel" http://bit.ly/dh7iVn (via @paulgreci) @JodyHedlund

The Difference Between the Inciting Incident and the Catalyst: Superb explanation, guidelines, and reaso... http://bit.ly/b0UiaG @4KidLit

Flashbacks and Back-Story: Nice rules of thumb. http://bit.ly/cebaAe @4KidLit

Writing the Story Premise: The five elements you must have. http://bit.ly/b62hK0 @4KidLit

3 Mistakes Writers Make in the Quest for Publication: http://bit.ly/dzYLfM @JodyHedlund

Problems with your perspective? Scott recommends changing persepctive. http://bit.ly/bRurO2 @LiteraryLab

Want to stay out of the slush pile and impress an agent? Learn THIS key skill http://bit.ly/6VZVZ @KristenLambTX

Putting on my Reader Hat to Revise: Make your story flow and make sure that it is logical. http://bit.ly/ctKPXK @4KidLit

From the archives: Should I send a revision to an agent considering my work? http://ow.ly/2VOY6 @Kid_Lit

Writing Resources
Twitterific: Last week's writing links by @ElizabethCraig http://bit.ly/9owpWA @4KidLit

Picture Books/Early Readers/Chapter Books
What do I see, think, wonder? Encouraging visual literacy - reading the illustrations via @deystudio http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/669 @jothompsonillos

Want to get struck by lightning - I mean, inspiration? Check out my pre-#PiBoldMo post on @taralazar's blog http://wp.me/p7jVE-A2 @KarenCollum

Agent Spotlight: Pat White: She's seeking children's fiction and non-fiction. http://bit.ly/9Epmvb @4KidLit

39 Kid/YA Agents on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/mitaliperkins/agents/members @mitaliperkins

What if you have an offer from a publisher but you don't have an agent? http://bit.ly/d0JNim @RachelleGardner

Starting TODAY I'm accepting queries from the following: http://tinyurl.com/2u4zpyl @KOrtizzle

NaNo Checklist: Are you on track? http://bit.ly/cUG8bp @4KidLit

Helpful writing sites http://thegracefuldoe.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/helpful-writing-sites-and-blog-posts-october-2010-edition/ @thegracefuldoe

Great round-up of posts relating to #NaNoWriMo http://thebluestockingblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/resource-roundup-nanowrimo-edition.html @thegracefuldoe

People are discussing how to organize #PiBoldMo ideas in the comments. Come share your strategy! http://wp.me/pIkHt-Uu @jafhedlund

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Insider Scoop – Interview with Hart Johnson (soon-to-be-published author and hilariously witty blogger)

Welcome to The Insider Scoop, where I’ll be bringing you interviews, useful tips and tricks, and all sorts of insightful information from those deep within the children's book industry.

Today I’m interviewing Hart Johnson, blogger extraordinaire over at Confessions of a Watery Tart and fan of all things naked (including Naked World Domination!). 

So take it away Hart!!!

First, I want to thank Rachael for hosting me! This Blogger Crusade she has going on, has really taken off, and it’s exciting to see. I’m also honored to be asked for an interview… not sure if Rach knew what she was getting herself into, as y’all will probably be naked by the time I’m done, but that is a risk she took... Okay… so you were asking…

Question 1: What are the five most important things we should know about you?

1) I suffer from FOMS (fear of missing something) so pretty much participate in everything… I really participate though, not just on paper, so it’s all good, 2) I am a Harry Potter nut, 5) I am a Monty Python nut! Ha! Got you! Counting Brother Maynard style! *cough* But seriously… okay, all the above are true and sort of at the core of pulling my delusional world together, but also… erm… I’m Naked and leading a quest called the Naked World Domination Tour…

I’m not altogether sure that stuff classifies as IMPORTANT, but it is sort of the quintessential me… Say… quint means five and quintessential starts with quint… is that where you got the number 5?

Rach: Tee hee, I'll never tell!

Question 2: Your blog is called "Confessions of a Watery Tart," how on earth did you come up with that name and that spin on branding?

As mentioned, I am a Monty Python nut. And a Harry Potter nut… My first dive online was in Harry Potter forums (HPANA) discussing predictions for what would happen in first the 6th, then the 7th book, and under our screen names (Gnargles&Snorkaks) was a ‘status’ based on how many points you had (earned by posting comments and reading news articles) There is muggle, student, prefect, head girl… witch, professor, auror… you get the point… but when you got to 2400 you got to pick your OWN title… That was where I first dibbed myself the Watery Tart.

In the Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, this comes from the argument between Arthur and the peasant, Dennis. Dennis says, “You don’t become supreme ruler just because a Watery Tart lobs a scimitar at you!” But actually… you DO. See, if I want to rule the world, I only want to CHOOSE who is in charge, because if I were actually in charge, it would be a lot of WORK WORK WORK. But if I get to PICK who is in charge, I get all the glory and none of the effort!

The ‘Confessions of’ part was me thinking I was being clever at the time and I’m not entirely happy with it anymore. Lots of blogs claim to do a lot of confessing… I mean… I do a fair amount, but that part isn’t as much me as the Watery Tart part…

Rach: LOVE your reasoning...Don't get me started on Monty Python quotes :)

Question 3: Tell us about the brand of your blog. What's it all about? Do you find people really support the idea?

I guess I didn’t really set out to brand (oh, I know… you can lecture me… I’d heard). But you see I was under the illusion that my BOOKS and my personality were sort of contradictory. I was writing suspense and doing rotten things to my characters (I’d only finished one book, but the other ideas were as bad or worse). But I tried to think of what I had to say… what I COULD say day in and day out, and realized I can only be me. My very first blog quotes the Dread Pirate Wesley: “Then why didn’t you list that among our assets?” Because honestly—what I am GOOD AT is engaging people in play. When I am giving people blogging advice I always say, “You either need to be helpful or entertaining, and I’m not a utility model.”

I am not for everybody. I don’t hide my outrageousness, and I know some people see me as loud and obnoxious, but I figure people who think that are going to be offended by me eventually anyway, so best they know up front and make an informed decision.

I think though, that it works. By just being me, nobody is shocked later to find something different. And it really IS the only thing I could sustain. And I think as BRANDING, people can tell this couldn’t be faked and I’m the only ME there is. There are some other people who are as nutty (it seems we all label ourselves wenches, sluts and tarts—except the males—they usually go with titles with cheese in them), but my particular breed of insanity is fairly unique, so I think I definitely don’t get mixed up in the heap.

Rach: That's such a good point about being yourself, and being able to sustain it through your blogging...

Question 4: What advice would you give to beginner bloggers and aspiring writers about starting their journey through the blogosphere?

You know, I have written a couple fairly lengthy blogs on this, if you’ll indulge me to link:

Be a Blog Slut

Why Blog?

But I can also summarize. WRITE as yourself. That doesn’t mean you need to tell all your personal secrets (I only get away with it because my husband isn’t really online). But you NEED to choose content you are excited about and talk about that. Blog regularly, so people who find you can see you are worth following and adding to their blog rolls. I think anywhere between three and seven times a week is ideal—predictable timing is ideal. But the BIGGIE, if this is networking, is to get out there and READ and COMMENT on other peoples’ blogs. Bloggers know the deal: tit for tat. Someone comes into my blog ONCE, it’s possible I miss following them back to their blog because I’m easily distracted—two or three times though—I’m all over it. I OWE them a check back.

Now that isn’t to say I follow all or read all regularly. In fact that FIRST time, I follow if the content or bio is appealing, because that is just a click but the blogroll takes a little longer to make (mostly because my memory is bad so I need the reminder of seeing people several more times). If there is something that seems canned or dull, I probably won’t follow, and there are a few content area I just know I won’t get back to—it isn’t that I don’t support the bloggers, but I’m not particularly interested in religious blogs, blogs that are strictly craft stuff, straight political blogs (once in a while, yes, but not as key content), technology? Product reviews? Just some things I’m not following. But MOSTLY, I am open-minded.

Rach: That's such great advice.

Question 5: Do you have any branding tips you can share? How do we make our own blogs stand out among the hundreds of others?

Erm. No? Seriously, I am so unintentional on how I go about it. I really do think a little self-analysis might help, though. Who is your favorite person? Who brings out the very best in you? How are you WITH THEM? At least for me—I’ve got some friends with whom I ALWAYS laugh, and totally enjoy myself. Some of it is because of history and inside jokes, but actually, I’ve tried to pull in my readers—that is where the Naked World Domination Tour came from—a plot I have been joking with several of my online buddies about for years.

But some people feel their best when they are helpful, or nurturing, or taking care of kids or animals, taking great photographs… writing (the OTHER angle to my own blog)—what YOU do you feel happiest with? I really think it is a bit of an organic process, so letting it change when you get comfortable—allowing you to grow into yourself as a blogger—that’s probably what I’d recommend. I know we are all supposed to have platforms, but I think if you force it, it is boring or unsustainable. My platform is I’m a nut, and I might just give you a laugh when you need a coffee break. That’s it. Not very cohesive.

Question 6: Tell us about your book deal (and your book, of course).

Aha! And oddly, here we get to the success of just being yourself. I am one of the rarities that came into my book deal through my blogging voice. One of my first blog readers said very early that I had a perfect voice for Cozy Mystery. At the time I’d never HEARD of Cozy Mystery (you know… light hearted little murders, with crafts and zaniness, where nobody is too sad to have the victim gone). Turns out I’d read some—just hadn’t known it had a name. I resisted, mostly because I thought MYSTERY was too complicated… erm… and they seemed sort of perky (remember, I am wanting to be dark and mysterious!—oh, contradictory me). She planted the idea though, and it is the PROCEEDURAL I was really too terrified to address—I didn’t want to learn forensics. And it is a rare PI that I can get in their head. Cozies have an amateur sleuth. Anyway, last February her agent asked her if she had time for another series and she didn’t but she passed on to ME what they were looking for and I auditioned.

See, several highly selling genres do series that way—editor has an idea and then seeks a writer to fill it out and write the series. I had to write the first 50 pages, then REVISE (because the editor really liked my voice, but there was too much of this and not enough of that), so I did THAT, and then I was offered a three book contract. It is all under a pen name (after my two grandmas)—I think because they want to make sure the authors don’t then go on to write something contradictory to cozy mystery (though it makes sense for me, too—my other stuff is all a lot darker).

My first book is due to the editor December 31. At the moment, I am at the ‘read out loud’ polish stage and plan to send it to my agent Monday for her feedback. It’s been a GREAT experience. Mystery has more structure than suspense and I think I’ve learned a ton about plotting and pacing—stuff I can apply to my other writing. Plus, there really IS something to writing in a voice that so closely matches what I sound like when I PLAY. I managed to fit the phrase, “I’m naked!”, a boxers versus briefs debate, and a cross dressed man all into one book without straining the plot.

My OTHER persona has written 6 suspense books—I am currently polishing the 2nd I ever finished and am excited about it. It’s possible I will try to get it ready for the Amazon Contest this January… unless I jump the gun and query it (which means I will probably do both—you know… the FOMS)…


Thanks so much for sharing with us, Hart. It’s great to get to know you much better. And can I say, I’ve managed to work in more than a few “naked” references into my WIP in honor of you (*chortles*).

Make sure you all pop over to Confessions of a Watery Tart and leave Hart a comment or seven and say hi from me.
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