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

Monday, January 30, 2012

How do you deal with a case of the Bleh???

Only a short post today in anticipation of the kick-off of my Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign next Monday, yay! Make sure you all come back then and sign up, so you don't miss out on joining. Instructions will be in my post next Monday.

I've been struck down with a bad case of the Bleh over the last few weeks. You all know the symptoms I'm sure: general lethargy, inability to write much, the beloved manuscript you've worked on for months (years?) looks like it has a bad case of Spotty Needsmorerevision-itis and you simply don't know where to start, shiny new ideas start creeping around the house and whispering to you that you should drop everything and work on them, emails get backed up because you haven't responded, you're behind on visiting all the places your friends hang out on the interweb, etc etc etc.


Do you all have these days as well? What do you do when (if?) you get like this? Is there a magic potion I can take to cure myself, or do I just have to keep pushing through? Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winner of THE CLOCKWORK GIANT (and a reminder about the Write Dreams charity auction)

Guys, I've had a little chat with Mr. Random.org, and he's whispered in my ear that Kelley (commentor #1) is the winner of Brooke Johnson's THE CLOCKWORK GIANT. Congratulations to Kelley, and thanks again to everyone who stopped by to read Brooke's interview.

A reminder not to forget to visit Write Dreams, the online charity auction being run by my good friends Marieke, Luna, and Amanda. There's critiques (partial and full), ARCs, books, mystery boxes, and a huge swag of other prizes to bid on, and days yet to run on the auction. And all proceeds will be donated to Donna's Dream House. Can't wait to see you all over there - and watch out, cause I'm bidding too :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign - Announcement

Thanks heaps to all of you who voted on the question of whether we should have one Campaign or two this year (and an even bigger thanks to those who volunteered to help out!). The results were so close (50% each way) and many of you were so keen to go ahead, that I've decided to do the following:

I'll be having two Campaigns this year, one beginning in February and the other in August (after WriteOnCon). However, this coming Campaign in February will be a mini-Campaign and will only run until mid-March (one month). I'll be setting up a List of Campaigners so you can meet each other, and I'll run one or two Campaigner Challenges and a Campaigner Notice-Board. That will be about it. Then the main Campaign will be in August.

Sounds good, I hope :)

The Fourth Campaign will begin on Monday, February 6th, so make sure you come back then and sign up. Can't wait to see you all on board!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Writing Process: guest post by Brooke Johnson (and a contest!)

Guys, today Brooke Johnson, author of The Clockwork Giant, has come along to give us some insight into her writing process. I hope you all enjoy her comments, and find some useful things that you may be able to apply to your own writing. Make sure you read to the end for a chance to win a copy of The Clockwork Giant (paperback or ebook).

Take it away Brooke :)


Hi people, Brooke Johnson here, debut author of The Clockwork Giant, a young adult steampunk novel. You can find more about me and my writing at my website. As part of this guest post, I’m also giving away a copy of my book—ebook or paperback, whichever is preferred—so be sure to comment!

When I sit down to write a new story, I have the basic idea in mind, a loose sort of mental collage. But before I can start writing, I have to figure out what my characters—what they want, and how far they’re willing to go to get it. That says a lot about a person, more than their eye color or current occupation. It’s also important to know their fatal flaw. In the case of Petra, the main character of The Clockwork Giant, her biggest flaw is the compulsion to prove herself.

Once I have my characters, I have to figure out the theme, or the meaning behind the story. It has to be something that syncs with the characters’ goals and what I have in mind for the plot. For The Clockwork Giant, I wanted to tell a story about a girl who despite her current situation isn’t afraid to follow her dreams, even if she has to fight the entire way.

When I know the theme, I can start plotting. I aim to plot at least two subplots in addition to the main plot, but ideally, the subplots are so integral to the main plot, it all sort of meshes together. At this point, I take that mental collage of images that I associate with my story, and I start jotting scenes down. A scene description could be anywhere from a short sentence to a quarter of a page. I don’t try to plot chronologically. I think of the big scenes first, the ones that are so important that without them, the story wouldn’t exist. Then I brainstorm on the less exciting scenes and the subplots, trying to get about thirty scenes total. Once I’ve done that, I shuffle the scenes around until I find the order I like best.

And when that’s done, I can start writing. I try to get at least 1500 words a day, but sometimes I can write twice that. I research while I write, looking up things as I go along, but if there is a bunch of stuff to research, I’ll put aside a day or a week to get it all straightened out. I also edit as I go, reading over the previous day’s work before putting any new words down. It helps me remember where I left off, and I can fix any typos or awkward phrasing I might find. Oftentimes, I’ll discover within the first chapter or two that my outline isn’t going to work, and I have to adjust. For The Clockwork Giant, I had written three-quarters of the book when I realized that I would have to change the ending. Thankfully, I’m not that stubborn. The ending is better for it.

After I finish the first draft, I send it to my beta-readers. Once they respond, next are the rounds and rounds of revision and editing and proofreading until finally, the book is finished. It’s a long, arduous process, but totally worth it.


Thanks so much to Brooke for taking the time to talk to us today. Here's her bio:
Ever since she was a little girl, Brooke had a love of building long-forgotten, fantastical worlds, and as she grew up, and the worlds became more complex and the characters came to life, she found that she didn't have enough Legos to do them justice. Convinced it was her destiny to create, she delved into writing.

Now married and living in Northwest Arkansas with her husband and dog, she spends her days scrambling around the vast landscape of her imagination, the fantastical worlds of princes and wizards on one side and the towering, brass cities of automatons and engineers on the other.
You can purchase The Clockwork Giant at most online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Lulu. The Book Trailer is here if you want to check it out.

The Clockwork Giant description

It's 1881, the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Chroniker City, the global hub of technological advancement in the modern world. Based off the British coast, the city is home to the most prestigious polytechnic university worldwide, a center of mechanical ingenuity teaching everything from clockwork mechanics and thermodynamics to electromagnetism and electricity.

Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, dreams of one day becoming a member of the Guild, an elite group of inventors and innovators who envision a future fueled by technology, but her ambitions will only come to fruition if she can find a way into the illustrious university—an institution reserved for men only. When she meets Emmerich Goss, an accomplished engineer newly recruited into the Guild, Petra discovers that he needs help building a top-secret, government-sanctioned automaton, and she is just the girl to help him.

Together, they craft the clockwork giant, and as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra finds that she can love more than gears and mainsprings.


If you would like the chance to win a copy of The Clockwork Giant (paperback or ebook), please follow both myself and Brooke if you're not already, and leave a comment below. The winner will be drawn by Random.org and will be announced next Monday, so make sure you pop back then. We'll try to contact the winner but if we can't (if their email address is not linked up to their blogging profile for example), we may have to re-draw.

Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

Thanks so much to everyone who voted and gave me their comments on my question last week: one Campaign or two per year. You've all been an awesome help and have made some comments that really touched me. And a huge thank you to everyone who volunteered to assist me - I'll be getting in touch with you soon to discuss. I've nearly got my plans in place for what I'll be doing, and I'll be making the grand announcement next Monday. So stay tuned :)

Hope everyone has a great week!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Introducing Write Dreams, a writers' charity auction coming soon, and Luna!

Today I'm interviewing Luna, one of my CPs and friends. She's going to tell you all about Write Dreams, a writers' charity auction that's following on in the footsteps of Write Hope. The auction begins on January 16, so make sure you check it out and follow along - there's heaps of cool stuff to bid on.

Take it away Luna.

We’ve been talking a lot lately about Write Dreams, would you care to tell us what it is and what it aims to do?

Write Dreams is a kidlit auction we (Marieke, Amanda & me) have set up to raise money for Donna’s Dream House in order to help them with restoration costs following an arson attack on the 23rd December 2011.

In the middle of the night, arsonists broke into the office building and adjacent health centre. They stole essential computer equipment and damaged the suite, before setting fire to the furniture. When the fire was discovered, it was almost too late. The building was so badly damaged that it may have to be rebuilt completely, with total damages estimated in excess of £80,000/$125,000. More importantly, the fire destroyed photographs and mementoes of Donna - and hope.

What is the cause behind Write Dreams?

Donna Curtis died New Year’s Day in 1996, she was only 20. Having spent her last four years fighting cancer Donna saw the suffering of many terminally ill children and vowed her legacy would help them live a little more happily in the time they had left.

Donna’s Dream House is a holiday home for children and teenagers with life-threatening or terminal illnesses. The Dream House is run completely by volunteers and encourages the imagination. It’s how any child would imagine the perfect holiday to be. It’s full of light and laughter, fun and - most importantly - life. Since its start, Donna's Dream House has hosted and helped almost 380 families. 300 of those children have now sadly passed away, but the families who are left behind will always cherish the memories from Donna’s Dream House.

Why is this so important to you and Amanda and Marieke?

I’ve been sitting here for 20mins trying to decide how best to answer this… my mum died of lung-cancer when I was 11. She was ill for months and spent her last Christmas in a hospice. My father tried to explain this to me but I just thought she’d get better. The last time I saw her I was too occupied with playing with my nephew that I barely said hello. She died on the 2nd January and I didn’t tell her I loved her when I went home the day before.

Just over a year and a half later my father was in hospital to have his foot amputated. And I hadn’t learned, too excited about going into town I was only there for a short while. (To be fair to my younger self, it was supposed to be routine surgery.) When I came home from school the next day the doctor was on the phone to explain he had died during the night.

If I tried, I could maybe scrape together 10 memories of my mother, sadly even less of my father. I can’t even fill a photo album with what I have… while it’s not the same as watching your own child suffer from a life-threatening illness, making memories, having something to hold on, is why this is SO important.

My Mum & me.
I don’t remember this but it’s worth more to me
than my entire book collection. 
(And that’s saying something!) 
Donna’s Dream House offers that dream holiday to children who may very well never get the chance to have one otherwise. It understands and supports the families of these children – it gives them a chance to build memories. Memories that will be vital to those left behind, because no matter what they say, time doesn’t heal that kind of loss. You learn to deal with it and remembering the people you love happy helps more than you can imagine.

Marieke spent a large part of her childhood in hospitals with doctors not always convinced she’d come out again. Making memories then and continuing to do so is the same lesson I learned.

Memories can be little things. One of my favourite memories is playing hide-and-seek with Marieke and two other friends in Covent Garden. If was cold, very confusing to the people around us (this was two years ago) BUT so much fun.

Amanda has the mom’s view in this, the fear of your child having a terminal illness, the feeling of helplessness. Donna’s Dream House can’t cure the illness but it can help support children and parents.

So what’s the plan with the auction? When will it start and what can people who want to help do?

We have a (still) growing list of awesome donations from writers, publishers, etc.

Starting on Monday the 16th January we will be opening the auction, posting several items per day. Among other things, we have a full signed set of Tabitha Suzuma's books, all of Alyson Noël's Immortals series with some awesome swag, Waterstone's Children's Book Award-winning Artichoke Hearts, ARCs, critiques, and many more.

The event will last two weeks.

Where can we find Write Dreams and follow along?

The auction will be held here: Write Dreams and is starting on Monday the 16th January. You can also find us on Twitter where we will be posting info about specific auctions as well as general updates, etc…

Any other comments you want to make about Write Dreams or Donna’s Dream House?

Just that it’s a really worthy cause and the donations are awesome, so you need to check it out!


Thanks so much to Luna for taking the time to appear on Rach Writes... Make sure you all head on over to Write Dreams and follow along, then turn up on January 16 to bid on their awesome items.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dreams and Campaigns, oh my! (And please vote in my Campaign question below)

Hi all, it's great to be back in blogland once again, and thanks for your lovely messages in my December post. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and got in lots of eating, sleeping, reading, writing, playing, and present opening! I'm gearing up for a busy year ahead, with querying FROM THE OTHER SIDE, working on my new manuscript KASANDAI, and carrying out one or two Campaigns, plus of course the usual reading heaps of new books (yay!), writing heaps, working with my critique partners, and a bunch of other stuff.

My Writers' Platform-Building Campaigns - The question of timing

A big question arises with regards to my Campaigns: Should I hold one Campaign a year or two? Obviously, Campaigns require a HUGE amount of organizing and administering, but I'm happy to do it twice a year if people want it. If it was twice a year, the next Campaign would begin on Monday, February 6, 2012. Otherwise, I could just do one massive Campaign starting in August every year. Thoughts? I'd love to hear what you think - could you please vote in the poll below.

Should we hold 1 Campaign per year or 2 (Feb and August)?
1 only
2 please

pollcode.com free polls 

Help needed for my Campaigns (do you want to join my team?)

As to the Campaign question, I find myself in the place where I can no longer run them on my own. There are just too many tasks involved in each Campaign, and I've only lately realized I'm not superwoman *snorts*. So I'm going to need some volunteers to join my team, whether it's just for one Campaign or on an ongoing basis. Just as a quick summary, I need people to compile lists of prizes and follow up with donors, administer the judging (three people probably, one for each Challenge), type up my prize award posts with linkage etc, compile the Friday Campaigner Notice-Board posts, plus a bunch of other stuff.

I can't give any payment of course, but I'll be popping you in the list of people to be followed as a Campaigner, and I might even try to do a blog interview as well so people can get to know you. Any of you interested? Somebody? Anybody...?

Write Dreams

Remember last year how I participated in Write Hope, a writers' charity fundraising auction to benefit the Japan Disaster appeal? Well this time Marieke, Luna, and Amanda are running a new charity auction called Write Dreams, to benefit Donna's Dream House, where Christmas was cancelled this year due to arson.

Write Dreams features Nozomi again, of course, and bidding opens on a stack of awesome prizes on January 16th. So make sure you pop over and follow along so you hear all their news. On Thursday I'll be interviewing Luna, so we can find out more about the cause behind Write Dreams, something particularly dear to Luna's heart - can't wait to see you back here then.

Interview with Brooke Johnson

Next Monday I'll be conducting an interview with Brooke Johnson, debut author of THE CLOCKWORK GIANT, a YA Steampunk novel. And there'll be a CONTEST for commentors too, yay! So make sure you pop back on Monday as well.

I think that's it for now. It's so great to be back with you all. Can't wait to hear what you got up to on your holidays.


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