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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Winners - Second Crusader Challenge (plus a heads-up on my Third Crusader Challenge)

I'm amazed at the entries in this Second Crusader Challenge - they were so creative!!! 100 words, flash fiction piece, each piece to start with the phrase "The goldfish bowl teetered," and out of that we got humans in goldfish bowls, killer goldfish, goldfish killers, were-goldfish, love scenes, magic scenes, aliens, and killer goldfish bowls! And that's only a few of them.

A huge thanks goes to these legendary people who helped me judge entries:

Deniz Bevan
Catherine Johnson
Misha Gericke
Michelle Merrill
Kerri Cuev
Callie Leuck

FYI, Callie isn't a Crusader, but she had so much fun doing the Challenge she volunteered to help. Thanks so much Callie! Make sure you visit her blog and follow along if you haven't already.

None of the judges were responsible for judging their own entries, and because of this they were able to take part in the Challenge too. I asked each judge to prepare a list of their five favorite entries, then narrow it down to two finalists in the judging round. Here are the names they gave me (in no particular order), and congratulations to all these entrants for such stand-out posts:

Alison Stevens
Jeanne Kraus
Brooke R. Busse
Cally Jackson
Margo Kelly
Bess Weatherby
LA Colvin
Charity Bradford
Lisa Potts
Rebecca Dupree
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

As you can imagine, it was SOOOO hard to pick one winner and one runner-up out of these awesome entries! I managed to do it in the end - I just couldn't go past the originality and creativity of these two in particular. Though I wish I could give more prizes, 'cause there were some seriously fabulous entries out there.

Here are the final results...

Runner-up: Sandra Ulbrich Almazan (Prize: interview on Rach Writes... OR a $35 gift certificate from C.A. Marshall, depending on the winner's choice)

Winner: Bess Weatherby (Prize: choice of interview on Rach Writes... OR a $35 gift certificate from C.A. Marshall PLUS the winner's badge in your color choice)

A huge congratulations to both of you!!! Email me at rachael[dot]harrie[at]gmail[dot]com to claim your prize :)

But...I haven't finished yet. I had a chat with Mr. Random.org, and he picked two awesome Crusaders from the list of Challenge entrants to win a query critique from yours truly. So congratulations go to:

J.C. Martin


Nicole Ducleroir

Woot! Shoot me an email J.C. and Nicole, and we'll talk deets :)

Third Crusader Challenge

I'll be holding my Third (and final) Crusader Challenge on Friday, April 22nd. The theme of the Challenge will be related to the letter S, so A-Z Challenge entrants can combine both posts together if they wish to enter my Third Crusader Challenge as well.

I'll post the Challenge on Friday, April 15th, and you'll have a week to come up with your entry. All entries should be posted on Friday, April 22. As soon as you've posted your entry, pop back to Rach Writes and leave the direct link to your entry in the Linky Link tool, which I'll include in my April 22nd post.

Can't wait to see what you come up with.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Write Hope - 見ぬが花

Over the weekend, Marieke wrote an incredibly moving post for Write Hope - I wanted to share it with you today. I must admit, it brought a tear to my eye when I read her words...

There is a Japanese saying that reads 見ぬが花 (みぬがはな). Minu ga hana. Not seeing is a flower. It means something along the lines of reality being unable to compete with imagination.

These last few weeks I've lived and breathed Write Hope. I was so nervous when the first auction went up, and I saw it grow beyond our imaginations. We've raised a couple of thousand dollars already and we are fast on our way to raise more. As I said in the wrap-up post, there's a lot of fun to be had with the bidding, but at the same time I'm sure no one forgets who we're doing it for.

At this halfway point, I can't help but feel a little reflective. Watching this grow from the wings has taught me a lot. About hope. About how imagination can beat reality and how sometimes reality rises up to meet the challenge. About humility. About life. And invariably, about writing.

Some things - like raising a book - take a village, but when we come together as a community we can move mountains. This community is amazing, with extra glitter, in doing so and I'm honored to be part of that. Speaking for myself, organizing isn't the hard part, it's only the logical thing to do. But almost all of you have replied immediately wanting to help out, and you are all so generous with time, donations, bids, promotion. Reading all the mails coming in is a rollercoaster of emotions, as I keep bouncing between grinning like mad and tears in my eyes.

One day, when I'm no longer in the dreaded query trenches, but further down the road to my dream goal, I hope to be able to pay that feeling forward from the other side. Although it would be even better if it was never necessary again, but it's a comfort to know there'll always be hope.

Not seeing is a flower. As a writer, most of the time I agree. This week, however, I think our bubble of reality turned out to be a garden.

Here's to next week being even more magnificent!

I do so agree. I've mentioned it before, but it can never be said too many times. I think this writing community of ours is AWESOME!!! And I'm so glad to be a part of it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Interview with Alberta Ross (Alberta's Sefuty Chronicles)

Today I'm interview Alberta Ross from Alberta's Sefuty Chronicles. Take it away Alberta...

Q: I understand you’ve published three books. That’s really impressive! Can you tell us about them? And where we can find them of course

Well two of them, Ellen’s Tale and The Storyteller’s Tale, are part one and two of a dystopian series The Sefuty Chronicles.

In the mid 22nd century two archivists, Ris and Maia, are trying to piece together the events of fifty years previously when Ellen, a sheltered young girl from the City, meets and falls in love with Bix who is a genetically altered soldier. As a result of the genetic changes he is supposed to be infertile but Ellen does get pregnant. Because he cannot live inside the walls and she cannot live outside them they see no future together. Ellen’s Tale, the first of the Chronicles, is how she finds a way. In itself this might not appear all that important but the archivists looking back recognise it as a pivotal moment in the country’s history. Information is gathered from letters, diaries and transcripts of recordings taken at the time. ‘The Storyteller’s Tale’ continues the story.

In the course of these investigations we learn through their correspondence of Ris and Maia’s deepening regard for each other. The events they are researching during 2111 have to be considered within the context of events in the mid twenty first century, about 2060, when the catastrophic results of climate change had led to mass migrations, with whole nations fleeing rising seas and desertification. The world tore itself apart in war over land, water and diminishing resources. The survivors had split, most scrambling to purpose-built cities the others fortifying their settlements behind the false security of rings of landmines.

Because of the trauma of these events, the leaders and scientists in the cities had begun a course of genetic manipulations on the populations to free mankind from greed and violence to try to create a peaceful world. But this has resulted in the destruction of the drive which made the human race so successful. The other survivors, unable to escape the rings of mines, had been deprived of resources for fifty years; they have been fighting famine, natural disasters and despair. Most had not survived.

I call it an historical romance in the future, with three time periods and two love stories set against a background of climate change, child soldiers, landmines, genetic engineering and eugenics!

I also published a collection of short stories, A Patchwork of Perspectives, tales one side of normal, just before Christmas at my friend’s (editor) request and they have surprised me by being well received so it pays to listen to one’s editor!

My books can be found on my official website where extracts and readers’ comments on all my books can be found.

The e-book editions of Ellen’s Tale and The Storyteller’s Tale and any moment A Patchwork of Perspectives can be found on Smashwords.

Q: What did your journey to publication involve? Do you have an agent? Have you published ‘traditionally’ or ‘electronically’? Looking back is there you would have done differently?
I started off thinking of traditional ways of publication and, along with the usual rejection slips, I did have a nibble of interest – enough to give me confidence in Ellen’s Tale. Then I was diagnosed with cancer which put everything on hold and, although I am fine now, left me feeling distinctly vulnerable and with a feeling that in my 60’s I couldn’t take lengthy time frames for granted so I decided to go it alone. On a very limited budget I had to do everything myself. Pat, my friend from forever (over 50 years) became my editor and did sterling work on the manuscript. I learnt all about DTP and designed a cover, found a printer. I funded the printing costs with advance orders so I wasn’t out of pocket at the end of the process. Then, and I know it is the wrong order!, I set about learning about marketing on the web and after a year with the second in the series published I started down the e-book path. I should have started the marketing first but I am catching up now.

Q: What is your current WIP about, and what are your plans regarding timing and publication?

WIP at the moment is the third in the Sefuty Chronicles, Jack’s Tale, which still follows the archival route but is more complicated in its structure than The Storytellers Tale and involves many subjects outside my comfort zone such as army training, battles, mind control and torture, so a great deal of research. I am hoping to finish in time for a late summer print but I haven’t tied myself up with any dates this time. Pat wants me to bring out another short story collection later this year. We will see.

Q: You mentioned to me you have dyspraxia. What is it, and how does it affect your writing?

Well it’s a collection of symptoms really, a neurological problem that impairs the organization of motor movement (when I was young it was called clumsy child syndrome) but along with these problems comes an immaturity in the neurone development of the brain. This affects the way the brain processes information, particularly when it involves thought, perception and language. Children with this problem are often called stupid, but we are as intelligent and as creative as anyone else. We can understand information but our brains are unreliable in regurgitating it. There is no brain damage as such and it is thought to happen after birth when, for some reason, the maturing of those pathways which usually happen after birth doesn’t.

My main problem now is the ordering of words, (I don’t talk in public because of this, I once managed to insult a visiting judge at our local photographic contest, I still don’t know how I managed to mangle up ‘Thank You’ but I did!) and spelling and punctuation. Pat and I have long . . . er . . . ‘discussions’ on my use of words. I tend to go with her take on it when blogging and fight a bit harder in my novels where I consider a bit of ‘creativity’ in my style is allowed.

She struggles to knock my manuscripts into shape and, although I can see an improvement in myself since I started writing seriously, I’m not sure how much she would agree! I can still read a whole page of words and not realise there is no punctuation. Drives her to distraction. Especially as I make the same mistakes over and over again, as if I wasn’t paying attention, which she knows I am. It is a problem with Dyspraxia, and unless people understand it there can be some scathing comment! It does take some of the spontaneity away from such as blogging, and commenting. I will attempt the shorter ones but it takes hours of agonizing over. Does it make sense? Is there a full stop anywhere? Have I offended anyone? I think sometimes it comes over as sounding a bit abrupt as a consequence. Also I find I will often use a word that doesn’t exactly fit what I want to say because of the spelling difficulty, such as vanish instead of disappear. Slightly different meanings. I have a dictionary of course but one does need to know how the word starts to be able to look it up.

It just means really that everything takes longer. Manuscripts and longer blogs have to be e-mailed to Pat and then corrections returned. The computer has been a godsend for people like me – oh I know the limitations of the spellchecker but it has helped alert me to some of the mistakes. And the background colour can be changed, for instance I can pick up lack of punctuation better on a primrose background and by magnifying the print more still can be found.

No cures, but repetition does work and, over the course of a lifetime, and by finding alternative ways of doing things, most of us get along. But self-confidence takes a huge knock in the early years. Nowadays treatment is all about building confidence and skills. I was very lucky with my parents who by instinct did the same and they always believed if you want a thing enough you can do it. So this was what I wanted to do. Find a way. Without my Pat though it might have proved very expensive buying in the services of professional editors!

Q: Do you have any advice for those of us on our writing journeys?

Have confidence in your work. Don’t hide behind imagined limitations, just go out and try. We are more capable than we know. Be up front about any difficulties you have, it’s amazing how many others are in the same boat, or know about the problems. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, the community of writers on the web are an amazing bunch of generous-hearted, knowledgeable folk. I have found that by joining in groups, challenges and the blogging world my confidence has been boosted and I have learnt so much. And along the way found new friends.

I also blog here and here

Thanks for spending time with us today Alberta. And if you haven't visited Alberta's blog, pop over and say hi.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wrapping up Week 1 - Write Hope

Then again, wrapping things up sounds like we can, and we're actually still in the middle of SO MANY fantastic auctions.

What do you think of a query critique from literary agent Tina Wexler? A critique from the mysterious Authoress? A marketing consulting session from Shelli Johannes? Signed and personalized copies of Maria V. Snyder's Insider series? A collection of picture books? And Tessa Gratton is offering a first chapter critique to bidders for every $50 bid and signed copy of Blood Magic.

So far you've all come through in an amazing way. We've had bidding wars, twitter taunting, upped offers and we're raising a lot of money for Save The Children. Because in the end that's the most important thing. On the Save The Children Blog stories about how the Japan disaster is affecting the children in Japan are heart wrenching. Just have a look at Seina's story. This nine-year-old boy has been living with his mother in an evacuation center. He's lost his sister to the tsunami.

This auction is an amazing experience so far, but it's children like Seina that are the heart of it. If you can help in any way, please do.

We have so much more to come too. Signed copies or ARCs of One Hundred Candles, Eon, Riva, Moonglass, Across The Universe, Mistwood, Imaginary Girls, and many more. A partial critique and phone call with literary agent Kathleen Ortiz. A full critique by Debra Driza, followed by a full read from her agent Taylor Martindale. A story in the Kat, Incorrigible universe written especially for you. A critique by the one and only Maggie Stiefvater.

And our mystery box, which goes live on Sunday.

So bid high, bid often, and thank you, thank you, thank you. :-)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Second Crusader Challenge Wrap-up, Crusader Notice-Board, and a Question for Crusaders

Challenge Wrap-up

What an awesome Challenge! And 87 entrants, woot! I'm amazed at the different approaches people used for their flash fiction - we've had killer goldfish, goldfish killers, were-goldfish, humans as goldfish, love scenes, magic scenes, and a whole lot more. And all in 100 words!!!

Judging of your entries will get under way soon, and I'll be announcing the winners in next Thursday's post (given the A-Z Challenge starts on Friday). Thanks to everyone who volunteered to be judges, I do appreciate it - as before, you'll still be eligible to win the prizes. We'll be letting people know if they've made it to the final judging round as the week goes by.

Crusader Notice-Board

Check out these great blogfests, contests, and other announcements:
  • don't forget to drop by Write Hope and bid on some of the fabulous auction items, with all money raised going to the Save the Children emergency relief fund for Japan
  • J.C. Martin is calling for submissions for her STORIES FOR SENDAI anthology, edited by herself and Michelle Davidson Argyle. Stories for Sendai is in aid of victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami, and all proceeds of its sale will go to charity. The deadline for submissions is May 15th, so make sure you submit your stories and help with this great idea
  • Karen (Kar_Took) is calling for submissions for stories and poems for the short fiction anthology she edits called New Writing Dundee. Check here for the official call for submissions. The deadline is 2nd April, so there is still some time to submit for the chance to be published in their anthology
  • Michael is holding a Harry Potter blogfest ... WHO would be your Mates? on March 30th. Make sure you pop over and check it out
  • Katherine Owens is running the I Dig Reading Challenge, where you can pledge to give any amount you like to any charity you like, for every book you read in the year
  • Chenoa Fawn is running a collaborative story based on the surrealist game Cadavre Exquis. Visit her blog until March 31
  • Adriana Kraft is giving away a $10 gift certificate to All Romance E-Books. To enter, leave a comment on any blog post in March

A Question for Crusaders

I know a lot of you are doing the A-Z Challenge, and I'll be doing it myself. Given that, do you want a Crusader Challenge in April, or should we give it a miss??? At this stage I'm thinking I probably won't do one, but I can easily be persuaded otherwise if heaps of you do want another Challenge :) To make it easier (hopefully) to decide, if there is an April Challenge I'll make sure to theme it according to the corresponding alphabet letter for that day, so A-Z Challenge participants can do the one post for both.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Interview with Luna (Project Fraeya)

Today I'm interviewing Luna from Project Fraeya, a Crusader and a lovely lady who I'm glad to call a friend (except when she calls me nasty names that are completely undeserved! :P). I thought I'd ask her some questions so you can all get to know her better. And keep an eye out for the artwork in this post, she drew it all herself!!!

1. Tell us who you are (let's make this challenging, I'll give you ten words exactly *grins*)

I strive to be peculiar, loyal, book obsessive and honest.

2. Your blog name is "Project Fraeya" - does it have any meaning?

*evil grin* yup and that's a secret between me and myself and will be revealed...

3. What are your passions in life?

This is hard, books are obvious but I am *cough* slightly obsessed with dance. I can't actually dance but it doesn't stop me watching it: Ballet, Ballroom, Hip Hop, Jazz I don't really care what. I flew to Philadelphia in 09 to see the DWTS tour, only to top that by flying 5000 miles to Las Vegas to see the SYTYCD* tour last year. (On both occasions I ended up in the same hotel as the cast – that was freaky.)

Before that I spent almost an entire year travelling to London every month to watch Musicals, over and over. I still try to see as many as possible but can't afford London very often. :( I love concerts... you know I think the best answer is that my passion is making memories. I'll pick those over stuff any time. When I'm old and grey I can look on these years and I will always always smile.

*We were going to Vegas anyway, we just flew 3 days earlier... 

4. Tell us about your current WIP(s)

I've got two on the go:

One which I carefully planned and storyboarded called Quarantined. A post apocalyptic / dystopian story about a young media intern called Troy who unlocks an SOS originating from Blackpool, a coastal town that has been quarantined for the last 5 years and according to every official report has no survivors.

My other WIP doesn't really have a title as its MC only started haunting me this month, her name is Bree and she's got a ghost on her shoulder which happens to be a Shinigami (death spirit) that uses Bree to do her work. I haven't even tried to storyboard it as I'm writing as I go (which is scary) but had 5000 words within the first 3 days. I haven't really had the chance to work on it since then.

5. I'm absolutely amazed at how well you draw! You drew these gorgeous pictures of Nozomi we're using for Write Hope, and so much else (*gazes around this blog post*). However did you learn to draw like that???

*blushes* why thank you. I think of them as doodles... I never learned it anywhere, I just have this tendency to draw on notepads at work while being stuck on phones. Manga/Anime was a big thing while I was growing up so I copied and then started doing my own thing. I struggle drawing “real” people and I haven't really been doing a lot of drawing since the last time I did something for charity.

6. What piece of writing advice do you think is the most important?

Get the right kind of help... the amount of stuff I've learned from my writing buddy and critique partners is invaluable. The thing is, you need to pick people who either match or complement you. There is no point in having a crit-partner who doesn't read the stories you write. While my writing buddy has a different style we have enough similarities to be able to help each other. And the differences there are, are what also brings a new viewpoint when crit-ing each other.

Yes you are the one writing and editing and re-writing but without help I think it's a lot harder because you can't always see that needs to be seen. (I'm channelling my inner philosopher here >.<)

7. Chocolate or cupcakes?

Chocolate, always chocolate. I don't actually like cake all that much... I'll eat it to be polite but even when I was little I never got excited about birthday cakes. I was more excited about the my mum making quiche LOL.

8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Write Hope
Yes please, please, pretty please with sugar and icing and a cherry on top visit Write Hope. All of us there have been working hard to get everything organised for the charity auctions starting today and there is some awesome stuff in there; signed copies of If I Stay/Where She Went (ARC), first chapter critique by Tessa Gratton (increasing to additional chapters) plus a signed copy of Blood Magic, signed ARC of Memento Nora, Haven prize pack, a critique of your first twenty pages by Carrie Harris and the mystery box plus so much more....

Rach: And it's for such a good cause - Save the Children emergency disaster relief in Japan

I loved finding out more about you Luna, thanks so much for stopping by!

If you haven't popped over to Project Fraeya yet, hie thee over and meet Luna where she usually hangs out :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Write Hope for Japan, Second Crusader Challenge, Crusader Notice-Board

Happy Friday everyone! Today's the start of the Second Crusader Challenge, woot (and wait 'til you see the awesome prizes)! But before I get into that, have you followed our Write Hope blog yet? We'll be auctioning off books, swag, and critiques and donating the money raised to the relief fund of our chosen charity, Save the Children, to help with the Japan Disaster. Auctions will start Monday, so spread the word if you can, and make sure you come and bid. Not convinced yet? Here's five reasons why you need to take part in the auction:
  1. 30 minute Skype chat (on any subject whatsoever - your choice!) with Meredith Barnes of FinePrint Literary Management!!!
  2. 50 page critique (in a genre she's looking for as per her blog) plus a 20 minute phone call to answer any questions the winner may have about the critique - with Kathleen Ortiz of Lowenstein Associates, Inc, woot!!!
  3. critique of a full manuscript, YA or fantasy (and any fantasy subgenres), up to 100,000 words from author Jodi Meadows
  4. First chapter critique by Tessa Gratton (increasing to additional chapters) plus a signed copy of Blood Magic
  5. critique of your first twenty pages by author Carrie Harris
And there's much, much more!!! So pop over to Write Hope, follow along, then come right back to see what the Second Crusader Challenge is all about below :)


Crusader Notice-Board

Check out these great blogfests, contests, and other announcements:
  • Crystal Collier is holding a most unusual contest on her blog until March 22. Give her ideas for her music video, and the winner will receive: (if their idea is used) their name in the credits, plus a free download of the current soundtrack for Immortal the Musical (which isn't out yet), plus one free book from Amazon (up to $20 value)
  • Margo Benson is holding a 200 followers giveaway, with some awesome books as prizes - better hurry, not much longer until she reaches 200 and the prize is drawn
  • Sarah Ketley (The precocious scribe) is having a competition to celebrate reaching 200 Followers. Prize is currently a $10 Amazon Kindle Voucher. Entries will close the weekend after she gets to 200 followers
  • Tony Benson is also having a 200 followers giveaway, with 2 books as the prize. Check out the details here
  • Kelsey Sutton is giving away an ARC of The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong on March 26. Check it out here
  • Chenoa Fawn is running a collaborative story based on the surrealist game Cadavre Exquis. Visit her blog until March 31
  • Adriana Kraft is giving away a $10 gift certificate to All Romance E-Books. To enter, leave a comment on any blog post in March
  • LB Diamond (and Tessa Conte) are holding their The Nature of Magic blogfest on March 26
  • Alison Miller is inviting all writers to join the Write Brained Network, a writing group which is free to writers at any stage of development. Check out her invitation here. The group is also hosting its first conference this year in Harrisonburg, Virginia
Cruasders, if you have a blogfest, a contest, or a something-or-other you want me to let people know about, drop me an email and I'll run it in the following Friday's post. Please include all the relevant details in your email, including links, name, and when it runs/ends, so I don't have to chase them down.

Second Crusader Challenge

Before I tell you what the Challenge is about *grins* does anyone want to help me with judging the Challenge? Shoot me an email if you do: rachael[dot]harrie[at]gmail[dot]com. I'd really appreciate it :)

The Challenge:

Write a flash fiction story (in any format) in 100 words or less, excluding the title. Begin the story with the words, “The goldfish bowl teetered” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional, and not part of the judging criteria), see if you can write the story in your own genre (eg if you’re a horror writer, write a horror story; a romance writer, a romance story, etc).

Once you’ve posted your Challenge post on your blog, pop back here and link directly to it in the linky tool below (make sure you include the direct link to that post, not just the link to your blog!).

Entries in the Second Crusader Challenge will close next Friday, March 25th (at 11.59pm EST), so make sure you get your post in the linky link before then! 

And the prizes:
  • C.A. Marshall, freelance editor, YA writer, and literary agent intern will be contributing a $35 gift certificate. That $35 can be used towards a ten page critique, a four-page synopsis critique, a submission package prize (a look at the writer's query and first ten pages), or used towards a full edit. Thanks heaps Cassandra. Awesome prize, yes!!!
  • An interview for the runner-up (or the winner if they'd prefer) on Rach Writes...
  • A Crusader winner's badge
  • And I may throw in a little something extra as well :)
Here's Cassandra's bio: C.A. Marshall is a freelance editor, lit agent intern, YA writer, and loves to play with her dog Mollie. She dreams of one day owning a small house near the water, preferably in England, with a shelf full of books she has written and has helped others to write. She can be found in Emmett, MI and at camarshall.com for writing, editorcassandra.com for editing, and on twitter @CA_Marshall. 
Everyone is very welcome to take part, though only Crusaders will be eligible for the prizes. Entries over 100 words will not be considered. Entries will be judged on various criteria, including originality, word count, and entertainment value.
Have fun! Can’t wait to see what you come up with (and sorry for the goldfish bowl thingy, tee hee).

Please make sure you include the direct link to that post, not just the link to your blog (I can't edit your entries on the Linky Link!)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WRITE HOPE for Japan

I think by now it’s impossible not to have heard about Japan and everything that’s been happening there. The devastation is overwhelming with so many people dead or missing, entire villages wiped away and the ongoing problems in the nuclear plants. I lived in Japan for a year, and studied the country, culture, and language for nine years, so the tragedy has hit very close to home for me.

With some of the most amazing people in the world (Marieke, Luna (Project Fraeya), Tessa Quin, and Amanda Milner) we formed Write Hope. Right now we’re working hard to set up a charity auction, auctioning off all things kidlit. ARCs, books, critiques, swag. Donations are stacking up and we’ve only just started!

Visit WRITE HOPE and meet our fantastic mascot Nozomi:

Over the next couple of days we’ll post details of the auction on the blog: the when, the how, the what.

Write Hope is a very proud sponsor of the Save the Children emergency relief fund for Japan.

Please, please help. Spread the word. Follow along at Write Hope. Take part in the auction. Spread the word.

As we said on Write Hope: Together we can move mountains.

Thank you!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Seven writing tips I can't live without

  1. Write first, edit later (the only thing you can't edit is a blank page!)
  2. Stop listening to everyone, instead choose one person to help you go a step further
  3. BICHOK. Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard
  4. Rules aren't a formula for getting published, they're guidelines. Use them when it benefits your writing
  5. Never believe you'll know everything there is to know about writing. Every day will bring a new learning experience, so be open to these experiences and always seek to improve as a writer
  6. Know the rules before you break them
  7. "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass..." ~ Anton Chekhov 
How about you: what are the writing tips you can't live without?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Crusade Biz(ness) - Crusader Notice-Board + Catch-up

Crusader Notice-Board

Check out these great blogfests, contests, and other announcements:
  • Alison Miller is inviting all writers to join the Write Brained Network, a writing group which is free to writers at any stage of development. Check out her invitation here. The group is also hosting its first conference this year in Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Chenoa Fawn is running a collaborative story based on the surrealist game Cadavre Exquis. Visit her blog until March 31
  • Adriana Kraft is giving away a $10 gift certificate to All Romance E-Books. To enter, leave a comment on any blog post in March
  • Sari Webb is holding her Share The Birthday Love Blogfest from March 11-13
  • Hart Johnson (The Naked Tart) is holding her Delusional Doom Blogfest on March 15
  • LB Diamond (and Tessa Conte) are holding their The Nature of Magic blogfest on March 26 
Cruasders, if you have a blogfest, a contest, or a something-or-other you want me to let people know about, drop me an email and I'll run it in the following Friday's post. Please include all the relevant details in your email, including links, name, and when it runs/ends, so I don't have to chase them down.


There's been a fantastic amount of networking amongst Crusaders to date. I've seen Group activities organized, shout-outs to Group members, interviews, heaps of comments, and a lot of other stuff. So I just thought I'd check, how's the Crusade going for you? Shoot me an email or a comment and fill me in *grins*

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blogging tips: tips for increasing your followers and/or subscribers (Part 2)

If you haven't already, have a squiz at Part 1 of this post, my tips on following blogs and making sure you can be followed.

I'll be writing a post in the future which suggests ways to increase your blog following. One of those tips is to make following your blog as quick and as easy as possible. Many bloggers only have limited time, and will close out of your blog rather than hunting for a way to follow you or subscribe to your feeds. That's if they can find your blog to start with! (More on this below).

Below are some ways you can make following/subscribing easier:
  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have your blog linked up to your profile page. I've highlighted this because it's SO important! When you leave a comment, odds are that other bloggers will want to follow you back to your blog. Many, many bloggers out there don't have their blog listed on their profile page, and are losing out on dozens, if not hundreds, of followers!!! If you haven't done this, or aren't sure what I mean, check out my earlier post here. It includes a step-by-step instruction (including screen-shots) on how to do it. Actually, this is so important, you should check to make sure you've correctly linked up even if you think you've already done it!
  • if you have more than one blog, make sure it's obvious in your profile which is your writing blog. Most bloggers won't have the time or the inclination to click on two or three or seven different links in the search for the elusive blog related to your writing!
  • include a Followers Gadget on your blog if at all possible. This is a great way to build up your blog’s following. Place the gadget high up on your blog and in an obvious place, so bloggers don’t have to hunt for it
  • for WordPress users who can’t include a Followers Gadget, add the Networked Blogs widget to your blog
  • always include an RSS button, particularly if you have a WordPress blog. Make sure it’s at the top of your blog, or in a place that’s readily identifiable. Many bloggers will not spend the time hunting for a button if it’s difficult to find, nor do they want to scroll right down to the bottom of your blog to find it. Some blogs have tiny RSS buttons that are hidden amongst dozens of other widgets/gadgets - I'd hate to think about how many bloggers have exited without subscribing
  • label your RSS button. Consider including the word “free” in the title. To many beginner bloggers, “subscription” implies something you pay for, so they're reluctant to click it. Here's how I've labelled mine:
Note that a problem often arises when bloggers don't add RSS subscription buttons, and instead rely on “Subscribe by email” applications. Many bloggers don’t like to have their inbox cluttered by emails of this nature, and will close out of your blog without subscribing. And some bloggers forget to include any of these subscription links/gadgets/buttons at all, which makes them impossible to follow unless you know how to “Add a Subscription” in Google Reader (or some other nifty trick).
  • check that your RSS button is correctly linked (by clicking on it). When I changed my blog URL (a whole ‘nother post in itself!), I had heaps of Feedburner issues, and didn’t realize my RSS button didn’t work until someone told me about it months later
  • as I said above, don’t force people to subscribe by email! Most bloggers will simply close out of your blog without subscribing, and you’ll lose out. Include the Followers Gadget (or Networked Blogs widget) or an RSS button at a minimum. 

How about you: do you have any other tips for increasing your followers or subscribers by making following/subscribing easier?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Random Factoids About...Moi

Last week for my followers celebration I asked whether you had any questions for me, whether there was anything you wanted to know. I had heaps of lovely comments and questions, thanks so much! The questions fell into five different categories (yep, I'm being organized again!): personal, blogging-related, writing-related, Crusade-related, and those relating to time-management. I thought I would do a few different posts to answer most of your questions; today I'll give you some random factoids about me.
  1. Alleged Author asked "Do you have a favorite YA horror book?" - I don't really have a favorite, though anything by Stephen King would have to be pretty high up on my list. And I recently read The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff and also Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves, and loved both of those!
  2. Aun-Juli asked "Do you have a favorite dessert?" - Ooh, that's easy. Pavlova for sure!!! Do you guys have pavlova where you are? 
  3. (Source)
  4. Lisa Potts asked "What song do you secretly love but won't admit it to anyone due to the humiliation it would cause?" - LOL, if I told you I'd have to kill you! I'll give you a little hint, it's an oldie but a goodie. Another hint: I love male/female duets :) 
  5. PK Hrezo said "I wanna know where you live? What part of the world?" - Yep, I'm an Aussie. I lived in Sydney until January of this year, when I moved to Canberra (the capital of Australia but A LOT smaller!). Check out my Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, we'll pack, we'll clean, we'll go... post if you're interested
  6. (Source)
  7. Colene Murphy asked "Favorite book? Favorite writing spot? Favorite writing hour?" - Hmm, favorite book (I have too many to even pick half a dozen, let alone one!). Favorite writing spot (these days I usually write at the dining room table. I used to sit on the couch in the lounge room, but my new lounge room is rather small and dark and cramped!). Favorite writing hour (I get the most writing done mid-morning, and ideally another bit done after lunch. I do most of my blogging in the evenings)
  8. Su asked "What is your earliest memory?" - This may freak some of you out (sorry!), though it's rather a typical scene from the Australian bush. I was 4ish at the time, and was playing on the swing set outside. I looked over to see a huge goanna run across the lawn and climb up a nearby tree. I screamed for my mother to come running, and kept swinging frantically (oops, adverb!!!) until she came to rescue me! Hmm, I've got another early memory involving a snake, though I might save that one until later *grins*

Friday, March 4, 2011

Crusade Biz(ness) - Winners of the First Crusader Challenge + Crusader Notice-Board

Crusader Notice-Board

Check out these great blogfests, contests, and other announcements:
  1. If you haven't already visited, we have a Yahoo Group for Crusaders to chat, network, critique, and get to know each other. Simply go to the link and click on "Join the Group". If you aren't a Crusader and want to join a writing group, check out the Writers on Writing group in (2) below
  2. Lynnette Labelle's writing group "Writers on Writing" would welcome anyone (Crusader or not) who is interested in writing and getting to know other writers. Simply go to the link and click on "Join the Group"
  3. J.C. Martin is holding her Race to 200 Blog Contest from March 4 to March 6
  4. Rachele Alpine is giving away an ARC of Divergent, ending March 6
  5. Susannah Leonard Hill is holding a "guess the picture book" contest, from now until 5pm EST on March 6
  6. Elizabeth Twist is holding a Buffy Season 8 Give-away, ending March 6
  7. Kristina Fugate is holding her Catch Me If You Can blogfest on March 7 & 8
  8. Megan Bickel is holding her My Favorite Picture Book blogfest on March 10
  9. Sari Webb is holding her Share The Birthday Love Blogfest from March 11-13
  10. Hart Johnson (The Naked Tart) is holding her Delusional Doom Blogfest on March 15
  11. LB Diamond (and Tessa Conte) are holding their The Nature of Magic blogfest on March 26
I'm going to be running this as a regular Friday feature during my Crusade. So if you have a blogfest, a contest, or a something-or-other you want me to let people know about, drop me an email and I'll run it in the following Friday's post. Please include all the relevant details in your email, including links, name, and when it runs/ends, so I don't have to chase them down.  

First Crusader Challenge - The Winners (woot!!!)

Wow, that was such a fantastic First Crusader Challenge!!! We had a total of 126 entries (awesome!), which means 504 random words were used, somewhere under 37,800 words were written, and 126 lies were told *grins*.

I didn't manage to make it around to all your posts, though I wish I could have, but I loved reading the ones I did. And I had a posse of fabulous judges who did a splendid job judging all your entries. So a huge thanks goes to:

None of the judges were responsible for judging their own entries, and because of this they were able to take part in the Challenge. The judges also didn't know who the other judges were. I asked each judge to prepare a list of their five favorite entries, and then narrow it down to two finalists in the judging round. Here are the names they gave me (in no particular order), and congratulations to all these Crusaders for such stand-out posts:

Susan Fields
Donna Hole
Brian H
Amanda Milner
LA Colvin
Susannah Leonard Hill
The Blogger Formally Known As
Cherie Reich
Donea Lee
Margo Benson
Alberta's Sefuty Chronicles
Project Fraeya
Aimee L. Slater
Zan Marie
Shannon O'Donnell

As you can imagine, I had a terribly hard time picking one winner and one runner-up out of these fabulous entries! But...*pauses*...I've managed to do it! Well, almost. See, I ended up with two runners-up in the end. But that's all-right *grins*

Here are the final results...

Runner-up: Alberta Ross (interview on Rach Writes...)

Runner-up: Cherie Reich (interview on Rach Writes... OR Lynnette Labelle's critique, depending on the winner's choice)

Winner: Project Fraeya (choice of: interview on Rach Writes... OR Lynnette Labelle's 500 words/query critique PLUS the winner's badge in your color choice)

A huge congratulations to all three of you!!! Email me to claim your prize :)

But...I haven't finished yet. Just 'cause I love you guys, I had a chat with Mr. Random.org, and he picked one awesome Crusader from the list of Challenge entrants to win a first chapter critique from yours truly. So congratulations go to:

Michelle Merrill

Woot! Shoot me an email Michelle, and we'll talk deets :)

Second Crusader Challenge

I'm counting down the days to the Second Crusader Challenge! The post will go up on Friday, March 18, and you'll have a week to post your entry and add it to the link, just like this last time. Can't wait to see you all there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blogging tips: following blogs and making sure you can be followed (Part 1)

During the first part of my Crusade, a number of people mentioned how difficult they found it to follow some blogs. This issue came up so many times, I thought it would be useful to write a post to:
  • help you make sure people can follow or subscribe to your blog (and give you a few tips on ways to increase your followers in this respect); and 
  • give you ways to follow other peoples' blogs, particularly where there's no “Followers Gadget".
In this Part 1, I'll be concentrating on helping you make sure others can follow or subscribe to your blog, and giving you ways to follow other peoples' blogs. In Part 2, I'll give you some tips on ways to increase your followers by making it easier for people to follow and/or subscribe to your blog.

Because technology and I are not the best of friends, I’ll be using pretty general language (so forgive me if I make any mistakes in terminology etc). I’ll be focusing on Blogger, WordPress, and personal web pages in this post.


To a lot of people, “following” and "subscribing" means pressing the “Follow” button on this gadget:

But it’s a little more than that, so bear with me.

Following or subscribing is basically a way for you to mark the location of a blog and read new blog content as it is posted. Unless there was some way for you to do this, you’d never remember which blogs you visited, or find the blogs you wish to return to again and again. You’d also spend hours physically checking blogs to find out if they’ve posted anything new since your last visit.

Followers Gadget

The Followers Gadget was introduced by Blogger as a means of social networking, and was later merged with Google Friend Connect (I’ll just call it the Followers Gadget here). It’s a pretty handy gadget, because:
  • for followers - by clicking on the “Follow” button, you can be identified as a follower of a particular blog AND automatically subscribe to blog updates through the blog’s feed. See my previous post about Google Reader, which is a fantastic way to read the feed you’ve subscribed to as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • for blog owners - you can see which (and how many) other bloggers are interested in your blog and what you have to say. It’s also a means of adding subscribers to your blog feed, which means more people are reading your posts.
If you use a Blogger platform (eg, if your URL is http://yourblogname.blogspot.com), you have the option to add the Followers Gadget (go to “Design”, then “Add a gadget” then scroll down the list until you can select the Followers gadget). I have seen some Blogger users who choose not to add the Followers Gadget, but by far the majority of Blogger blogs do have this.

Many WordPress users (eg, if your URL is http://yourblogname.wordpress.com/) are not able to add a Followers Gadget to their blogs. If that is the case, you need to include other links/gadgets/buttons on your blog that allow people to subscribe to your feed (I discuss this more below).

Bloggers who use personal web pages are able to add Google Friend Connect to their sites.

What if a blog does not have a Follower’s Gadget?

If a blog doesn't have a Follower’s Gadget, there are other ways you can subscribe to that blog so you can read its posts:

(1) subscribe using RSS
  • click on an RSS button (I’ve included the following button on my site). It usually has this orange square symbol and may be very tiny, so you might have to look around for it. In some blogs, the button is not actually labelled “RSS”.

    • You’ll then be directed to a page similar to this one – click on the correct button depending on which reader you use (“Google” if you use Google Reader)

    • Some WordPress blogs have both a “RSS – posts” link and a “RSS – comments” link, so click on “RSS – posts”
    • Many WordPress blogs don’t have the orange square symbol, so look for this instead:

    Then click on “entries RSS”


    (2) click on Posts (Atom) at the very bottom of all the posts on the blog’s home page (for Blogger). This will usually take you to the same Feedburner page as clicking on the RSS button

    (3) click on the Networked Blogs widget (if you have a Facebook account). I don’t use this myself at the moment, but I believe it’s fairly similar in operation to Google Friend Connect though with a Facebook interface

    (4) if you have Google Reader, copy the URL of the blog you wish to subscribe to, open your Reader, click on “Add a Subscription” on the top left, and paste the URL. This subscribes you to the blog's feed in the same way as if you subscribed by RSS

    (5) subscribe by email (you’ll receive an email every time a new post is posted on the blog you’ve subscribed to, which may not suit some people. However, if you wish to read every post a person publishes, this can be a useful tool)

    (6) on some WordPress blogs, when you make a comment you can tick the “subscribe to this site by email” button, which has the same effect as the dot point above this

    And there you have it, a number of different ways you can follow a blog.

    Making sure your blog can be followed

    If you want to make sure your blog can be followed, add a Followers Gadget (preferable, if possible), a Networked Blogs widget (optional), an RSS button or link (essential), and a "Subscribe by email" gadget (preferable).

    And keep an eye out for Part 2 of these Blogging Tips, which will give you further tips for increasing your followers/subscribers in this respect.

    How about you: do you have any following or subscribing tips, or additional ways to follow/subscribe other than those I’ve listed above?
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