Thursday, September 22, 2016

Writing a Book Series: Q & A with Ian Quicksilver author Alyson Peterson

Last week, I reviewed The Cursed Dagger, book II in Alyson Peterson's YA series featuring geeky alien prince Ian Quicksilver.

This week, Alyson kindly agreed to an interview in which she discusses the special challenges of writing a book series.

Q. What things must a writer keep in mind when writing Book I of a series, as opposed to a stand-alone book?

A. It's good to remember that whatever you put into one book has the potential to spill over into other books. One thing I struggle with when starting a new series is planning out what is key to future books. Half the time I don't know where a certain element is going until I am nearly done writing. I keep careful notes on where I want my characters to go so I don't end up putting a scene or a character in that doesn't fit the series as a whole.

Q. What challenges must be addressed when writing additional books in a series?

A
. My biggest fear is that I will write a sequel that is boring. I'm always having to top the previous book, make it more exciting, more interesting etc. What I absolutely DON'T want to do is repeat the exact same story line over and over again. Keeping the story fresh while not sacrificing the personalities of my characters is my biggest hurdle.

Q. What are some tips for avoiding an info-dump in books that fall later in a series while bringing readers up to speed on what happened in earlier books?

A.
I HATE info dump.  It makes stories sluggish. I read a lot of YA series. I take a highlighter pen to the books that don't info dump and study what the author did to keep the reader interested at the same time as they bring the reader up to speed. Bringing up past experiences in dialogue both internal and verbal help the reader know what's going on without a page an a half of super boring backstory.

Q. What advice do you have for keeping a character fresh and growing through a series of books?

A.
Characters learn and grow much like their real life counterparts. I compile a list of characteristics and then order them by importance to the character. Minor characteristics can change, but the major ones can not. Ian's loyalty, snarkiness, bravery and deep sense of mercy is key to his story. Minor flaws can be altered, like Ian's awkwardness, immaturity and willingness to ignore difficult situations. 

Writing young adult characters are my favorite because their personalities are not fully developed at 14, 15, and 16 and giving them experience and growth keeps them fresh on the page.

Q. How can you know if that book you are writing has series potential?

A.
My brain rarely works in stand alone novels. I wish it would, but once I get cranking on a book, plans for future books start sneaking in. I am defective that way. If writing a character keeps me up at night and all day I'm thinking about what I want to do in book two, three and four, I've got a solid series on my hands.

Q. What suggestions do you have for writers who are pitching what they hope is the first in a series?

A.
Make sure book one grabs your reader's attention. Not just grabs, but holds and makes them beg for more. You've got to have a solid hook so that when you pitch book two, you generate more excitement.

It's hard to sell certain publishers and agents on series, but good pubs and agents know the value of a well written series and can sell it as such. Pitch to your friends, hash out story line with an experienced writer or someone who understands and loves a good storyline and bounce ideas off them. You can tell a lot about how well your story is developed by the level of excitement you receive from honest reviews.

Q. As you worked on Books II and III, did anything about your characters or your story surprise you?

A.
Ari went through the biggest change with her personality. She was pretty quiet in book one, but the more I got to know her she really blossomed on the page. Marvin had a lot more to say in book two that I enjoyed writing. Corbin is still Corbin and he is a stick in the mud when it comes to his personality, but I also found in him a core of genuine loyalty that I was happy to see. The story exploded in my face as I was writing book three. I thought I had firm idea on who my warriors were going to be and the type of fighters they were, but I was so very wrong. As I wrote the story and re-read passages from books one and two, book three became harsher and more absolute. That was very unintentional.

****
The Cursed Dagger is newly released from Cedar Fort. Be sure to watch for Book III of the adventures of Ian Quicksilver in 2017!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Review: Eating Wildly by Ava Chin

"My grandfather, a former Toisanese village boy turned Chinese restaurant worker, taught me how to eat. Grandpa spoke an English so informed by the cadence of his dialect that he didn't talk so much as bark, so that he often sounded like he was yelling from across a muddy field rather than just across the kitchen table. He had learned to saute, braise, and sear from the cooks at the various Manhattan restaurants in which he worked. His palate was so diversified that he could make almost anything well. Sometimes it was a whole fish from head to tail -- first steamed, then drizzled with a piping-hot medley of ginger, scallions, garlic, and sesame oil. Soy sauce chicken wings dripping in a brown sugar glaze. American fried chicken dipped in a garlic-ginger batter that had my friends sighing with delight -- even the ones with hard-core Southern roots often asked from seconds."
 --Excerpted from Eating Wildly

Part memoir, part foraging guide, occasional cookbook, Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love, and the Perfect Meal is a delight. Eating Wildly received the 2015 MFK Fischer Book Award. Library Journal chose it as one of the Best Books of 2014. If you haven't yet read Ava Chin's delightful book - newly available in paperback -- you're in for a treat.

The book chronicles Chin's relationships with food and with her family. It follows her as she forages delicious edibles in the unlikeliest of places in New York City. I live in the middle of the rural Midwest, and I was pleasantly surprised to recognize the plants Chin mentioned; I realized that if I ended up in NYC, I might encounter a few familiar (green) friends.

I'm a sucker for non-cookbooks that include recipes. I like the idea that these are "tried and true" favorites that had to be included because the narrative insisted. Chin doesn't disappoint: Of the several recipes in Eating Wildly, the Blackberry-Buckwheat Pancakes and Wild Morel Linguini are especially worthy. Omnomnom...

One thing that could make the book even better would be photos or illustrations of the plants Chin finds. (I mean -- if you're going to pick and eat a novel sprig of something growing out of the ground, you want to be pretty darn sure you're noshing on the right thing.) To that end, Chin has posted a few of The Plants & Mushrooms of Eating Wildly on her blog. Though even more pictures would be welcome, Eating Wildly is more than a mere field guide.

Much of the book's charm is in its exploration of Chin's life. Her fractured relationship with her mother, her attempts to connect with her absentee father, her lessons in cuisine and culture from her grandparents, and her forays into the wilderness of adult relationships all add flavor to the book.

I found myself repeatedly rooting for Chin, whether she was hunting an elusive morsel or searching for her soulmate. When she throws a foraging Wild Foods Brunch, only to have someone question one of her ingredients, I'm pulling for her to be right -- and not just so her guests survive the event. When she tries again and again to forge a relationship with her flighty mother, I'm there, hoping that this time, she succeeds.

Full disclosure: I met Ava Chin when she came to a booksigning at the little independent bookstore here in Southwestern Michigan. She is friends with Kim Jorgensen Gane, who co-facilitates the #Write2TheEnd writer's workshops with me. Ava dubbed us "The Thelma and Louise of writing coaching." (I'm Louise. No doubt about it.) So -- yeah, I know her. And, yeah, I'd still recommend the book even if we'd never met. Check out the book for yourself. See if you agree with me...

YA Book Review: The Cursed Dagger (Book II of the Ian Quicksilver series)

It's official! The Cursed Dagger, the second book in Alyson Peterson's snarkily brilliant YA sci-fi / fantasy series, is now available. I can finally publicly tell people about it.

Peterson's Ian Quicksilver fans will be glad to know that The Cursed Dagger picks up right where The Warrior's Return left off: Geeky foster kid Ian, heir to the throne of Banhir, but exiled to live on Earth, has a quest. He must convince beautiful, popular, but slightly spacey Ari -- a Garfelian princess carrying a curse of her own -- to permanently join him in order to thwart the plans of evil magician Silivus and save the galaxy.

Ari wants to, but she has... issues. Many of which even she doesn't understand.

And time is running out.

Those who have not yet read The Warrior's Return get to know Ian and Ari in a hurry as The Cursed Dagger opens with an early morning swordfight, a sick princess, and an epically craptastic first date.

Then things really heat up. Silivus, the magician responsible for Ian's and Ari's woes -- not to mention the woes of both of their home planets -- arrives in all his oily smarm. He makes Ian an offer: trade the Quest for a Challenge. Winner take all. No holds barred.

Ian knows Silivus can't be trusted, so he initially refuses to rise to the bait. But as his chances of completing the Quest grow bleaker and bleaker, Silivus ups the ante and tragedy strikes. Against the advice of his friends and mentors, and against his own better judgment, Ian agrees to the Challenge.

... Enter the dragon. And the cursed dagger, which links the dragon's life and Ari's fate to Ian far more closely than any of them realizes.

My 13 year old, dragon-obsessed daughter, adored this book. She devoured it in a weekend. (For comp reference, her other favorite series include Wings of Fire, Redwall, The Unwanteds, Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, Erin Hunter's Warriors, and, of course, Harry Potter.)

While the first Ian Quicksilver book was all about the hero's discovery of who he is, in The Cursed Dagger, Ian must determine who he wants to be. What things are worth living -- and dying -- for?

A short excerpt from Chapter 2:

“I guess I’ll pick you up at six then?”
“At my house? With my parents?” She began panic breathing in short gasps. Her eyes were wide and miniature bolts of lightning shot between her fingers. Any second and she was going to pass out. I shielded the arcs of magic from the view of a group of girls down the hall staring at us.
“Breathe,” I coaxed, tapping her shoulder a few times to release the excess energy. “It’s not that big of a deal.”
“Right,” she panted. “Not at all.”
“I can totally handle introducing myself to your parents . . .” I should have stopped at telling her it wasn’t a big deal. Ari bent double and grabbed her knees.
She sucked in air in great wheezing gulps. Whenever she freaked out like this, my ego took a beating. Regardless, I patted her on the back. Every time my hand made contact, bolts of electricity shot up my arm and numbed my fingers.
Farther down the hall, I could hear Corbin grumble in irritation. I looked up, found him through the sea of heads in the hall and shrugged. How was I supposed to know that the mention of a date would throw her into cardiac arrest?
It took a while, but her panic attack eased. When she stood upright, she was almost back to normal. Only a few red blotches on her neck remained.
“Sorry,” she said. “That was totally unexpected. I don’t know what hit me.”
“I hear chest pain and shortness of breath are totally normal in dating situations.”
“I’m probably just nervous. I have a feeling it’s not going to go so great when you meet my parents. How am I supposed to introduce you? ‘Hey, mom and dad, this is Ian. He’s an alien from another planet.’”
“You could say that I am a warrior for the galaxy. It kind of has a cool ring to it.”
“Yeah, that’ll go over great.”
Equal parts action, adventure, fantasy, and sass, with enough sarcasm to power a small-town high school, The Cursed Dagger is a ton of fun. Read it, and let me know what you think of my recommendation in the comments below.

[Full disclosure: I was a beta reader for IQ books 1 & 2. While it's true that Alyson & I are friends, and that the Cursed Dagger includes this gem in its Acknowledgements ~blush~...

...it's also true that the book rocks. Intrigue! Magic! Icky evil Bad Guy! Awkward first dates! Sentient horses! Plus -- and this is key -- a dragon! I might be a little biased, but I won't steer ya wrong.]


Sunday, July 24, 2016

WunderGuy vs. the Brain Tumor

I know. I know:

I haven't posted in forever.

I know. I know:

According to conventional wisdom - as well as a few friends in the publishing industry - prospective agents and editors worth their salt will Google my name and see that I fell off the interweb's radar at the end of 2015. (Except for Twitter. My sweet obsession. Ah: Twitter. I wish I could quit you...) My radio silence could cause them to question my commitment to building my platform. And this would be bad! Maintain platform! Must brand! Blahty-blahty blah.

I've been meaning to write. For months. Really. But, well-- things this year have been... complicated.

It didn't seem right to post writing-related stuff because 1.) I spent the first half of the year working on a Top Sekret project for one of my VIP clients, which I can't talk about, and 2.) I've been dealing with the day-to-day of life-and-death and that makes practically everything else pale in comparison.

As for the whole life-and-death thing -- I just didn't have the energy to post about that. Back in January, too many things were up in the air, with too many unanswered questions. Writing about it seemed opportunistic, somehow. And too damned depressing.

However...

I started blogging in 2005 as a way to keep friends and family in the loop about a Major Medical Adventure that necessitated, among other things, a drive from Michigan to California and back again.

Now, 7 months into 2016's Major Medical Adventure Redux, though many questions still remain, perhaps the time has come to revisit my blogging roots. So many people have asked about WunderGuy and his continuing battle with the Brain Tumor of Doom (I call it "Fred"), so, without further ado, heeeeere's the update:

The Backstory:

Last year, WunderGuy had not one, but 2 brain surgeries. The first was to remove an atypical, fast-growing meningioma on the surface of his brain. (Likely caused by radiation in 2011 and 2012 to keep his original oligodendroglioma in check. Oh that man! Dealing with not one, but TWO brain tumors. It's like winning the lottery, only much much much suckier.) The second was six weeks later to relieve pressure and drain fluid in the surgery site.

Stereotactic radiation followed, last May, which would have been enough to make most brain tumors shrivel and die. Not Fred. Nope. Instead of sending Fred into cranial raisin-hood, the radiation made him go super-nova like a monster in a bad sci-fi movie.

Last December, right before Christmas, WunderGuy suddenly lost the use of his right side. Overnight, he went from being a little fatigued and needing a nap during the day to being unable to sit up on his own.

The tumor was back in a big way, growing so quickly that it was causing the brain to swell. Massive doses of steroids followed to get the swelling down enough for surgery.

January 26. 3 days before surgery. How I remember him.
On January 29, WunderGuy had his 4th -- and likely final -- brain surgery.

This one didn't go like all the others. In the past, he's been up and walking on his own within a day. In 2015, he was baking bread within a week of being discharged from the hospital. This year: he hasn't walked on his own since.

See, meningiomas are supposed to stay on the top of the brain, which generally makes them fairly dull, as far as brain tumors go. But Fred never got that message. Fred grows so fast and so aggressively that he followed the scar tissue from the original surgery back in 1996, infiltrating deep into WunderGuy's brain, causing all sorts of carnage.

WG's right side was unresponsive. Though he regained some use of his right hand, his right leg is still not functioning. He spent all of February in U of MI hospital, convalescing and learning to walk again. Most of March was spent in a sub-acute facility closer to home. (It's a 3 hour trip one way from our house to U of MI -- more in winter. I have named every crack in that stretch of I-94.)

He came home at the end of March able to do some minimal walking with assistance, requiring 24 / 7 round the clock care. He was making slow, but steady progress, until the end of April --

That's when we discovered that Fred was back. With a vengeance.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

WG spent May spent back in the hospital at U of MI. But this time was different. He's no longer a candidate for surgery. Or for radiation. The only thing that keeps Fred in check is massive doses of steroids. Which you can't do for very long.

So, now, we are into the wonderful world of experimental chemotherapy. Which no one -- not even the most optimistic of docs -- is suggesting will get rid of Fred, or even cause Fred to shrink. At this point, they're simply hoping to slow Fred's growth spurt down.

After spending over 100 days in the hospital this year, WG is home now. He's done all the Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy Medicare thinks is worthwhile. He requires constant, vigilant round-the-clock care. I am his caregiver. He literally has to be told how to hold his toothbrush, or his spoon, and how to use it.  He can still feed himself, sort of. He drinks from a straw. He cannot sit up on his own, let alone stand, or walk, or use the bathroom, or take a shower. And he remains fuzzily unaware of his limitations -- so he'll roll himself out of bed, or launch himself out of his wheelchair in an unguarded instant.

Happy Anniversary.
On June 12, we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary. We had a big party, complete with food and family and friends. And while it was our anniversary, the real underlying reason for the shindig was for people who know and love Robert to see him and talk to him while they still can.

He is in no pain, which is a blessing. And he's pleasant and agreeable to everyone except our 13 year old daughter, who he relates to as a 5 year old boy would relate to an older sister, constantly trying -- for some reason -- to one-up her and get her in trouble.

We've all made huge adjustments. What was the office / den, is now a downstairs bathroom. I sleep on the couch in the living room, a few feet from WG's hospital bed. A 24-foot ramp now affords wheelchair access to our home. Our daughter keeps the upstairs clean, helps with the cooking and the house maintenance. She mourns the loss of her father and I miss my husband terribly, though we both see him every day.

And that is why this is my first blog update of the year. Hug the ones you love. Tell them what they mean to you while you still can. Life is fleeting and fragile. And it's way more important than maintaining a platform or building your brand.

Monday, December 21, 2015

10 Free Gifts for Everyone on Santa's "Nice" List

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! Season's greetings and other exclamatory messages of cheer!

I don't know about you, but for me and the denizens of Hendrickson house, 2015 is a year that I will be more than happy to see in my rear-view mirror. (Case in point: as if two brain surgeries and subsequent radiation weren't enough for WunderGuy, we spent this weekend in the ER to discover that his poor grey matter has some unexplained inflammation that is not only causing some issues with his right side, but is also going to bear some close watching in the near future. Fa-la-la-la-la...)

So, to send the year off with a bang, I figured I'd fill this final post with presents for everyone. Because I might not be the only person happy to smack 2015 on the butt as it slouches out the door. And because, no matter what kind of year you've had, there is no such thing as too many presents.

In the spirit of the season, here are 10 gifts for you, including a fabulous, original Celtic horse adult coloring mandala I had specially made for you by the fearsomely talented Karina Dale. To quote Douglas Adams' infamous Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Complaints Division (the only part of the Corporation to show a consistent profit): "Share and Enjoy."

1. The Best Knock-Knock Joke Ever:
Knock-Knock.
Who's there?
Moonlight Sonata.
Moonlight sonata who?
Moonlight sonata lotta light to read by.

2. (Gag gift) The Best Literary Christmas Joke Ever:
Q: How did Ebeneezer Scrooge's team win the football game?
A: The Ghost of Christmas... Past.
(Say it out loud. Yeah. ::groan::)

3. Best Shopping-with-a-Toddler Life Hack:
Doesn't matter whether or not you're a parent. At some point in your life, you're going to have to go shopping with a kid who's not yet in school. Not yet potty trained. Not yet ready for prime time. And you will discover that this kid is all mouth and fast feet and grabby hands and is amped up like you can only hope to be after two double espressos (see Gift #9). Here's a tried-and-true way to get your shopping done without losing your mind or being escorted out of the store by a grumpy security guard.

Give the little imp cherub two pennies: one for each hand.

Say: "Hold these tight for me. If you don't lose them by the time I'm done in here, I'll put them with some others and use them to buy you a [insert cheap toy or non-sugar-loading treat here].

Works like a charm. Especially when combined with Gift #4...

4. Best Basic Math Experience:
If you're with a kid, and that kid misbehaves, and you feel compelled to issue the "I'm going to count to three" ultimatum, by all that's holy, COUNT TO FRIGGING THREE!!

Here's how, for those who are a bit iffy:

1... 2... 3! (Immediate threatened consequences ensue. No excuses. Period.)

Far too many kids think that the way to count to three is something like:

1... 2... 2 and a half... 2 and three-quarters... I mean it. You're not going to get any ice cream. Is that what you want?

No wonder our kids have difficulties in mathematics. For the love of God, and for the good of society, count to three. You know you want to. Do it!

5. Instant IQ Boost:
If you find yourself surrounded by a bunch of brainy egghead types and you need a quick 20-digit prime number, here's a gift that will help you hold your head up high(er). Just say:
"1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1"

If they ask you to repeat the stunt, hit them with:
"1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1"

Bask in the glow...

6. Fast, Painless Headache and Stress Relief:
If holiday stress triggers a headache, this may be as good as popping two aspirin:

Place your two index fingers in line with your pupils at your hairline. Trace small inward circles for a full minute.

Move your fingers down your forehead, halfway between your eyebrows and your hairline, remaining in line with your pupils. Again, trace small inward circles for a full minute or more.

Press hard enough to feel it, but not so hard that you hurt yourself. Breathe deeply while rubbing your fingers in circles. Drink a full glass of water when you are finished. Aaaaahhhhh....

7. Best Extended Pun Ever:
Read "The Death of a Foy," From Isaac Asimov, the master of so many ways of putting words together. Originally published in 1986, as one of 28 short stories in "The Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov," this has got to rank as the most wickedly groan-worthy sci-fi pun of all time.

8. Read a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Adventure:
Before Doyle wrote about Sherlock Holmes, he was a medical student who signed on as a surgeon aboard an Arctic whaler. The University of Chicago Press has published his diary: Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure. During the month of December, it's available as a free download. Riveting stuff -- and, best of all, it's a Doyle you've never read!

9.  DIY Spiced Mocha Better-Than-Coffeehouse Coffee:
I love to give decadently good gifts and -- OMG -- this one is so addicting. If you like those overpriced coffeehouse mochas, you'll love this. It's ridiculously easy:

MuseInks Mocha

Whisk together 3/4 C hot water and 3/4 C sugar (or do what I do and use one of those big, plastic shakers for making protein shakes... or gravy). When well blended, add 1 heaping 1/2 tsp. allspice or cloves and 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa. Whisk or shake until syrupy smooth. Taste, adding small amounts of maple syrup until mixture reaches desired sweetness.

Put 2 tablespoons of the mocha syrup into a cup (or just glop it in till it fills the bottom), pull a double espresso into the cup and mix thoroughly. Steam milk for a latte and add to coffee mocha. (Cheat: Milk, schmilk... Pour regularly brewed strong coffee over 2 Tbsp. of the mocha syrup, stir, and mmmmmm.)

10. Celtic Knot Horse Coloring Mandala:
Thank you for following this blog. Click to print.
Finally, dear reader, the piece de resistance -- akin to that big gift with your name on it crammed under the tree. Please accept this original adult coloring mandala, including all those gorgeous horses and all that intricate knotwork, with my blessing. I asked Karina Dale to make something awesome: something worthy of my clients and my readers, and she came through in spades (as always). I love it. I trust you will, too.

Here's hoping you have the time, soon, to grab your pens or pencils, curl up someplace comfortable (maybe with a delish' mocha--? Or in front of a fire? Or with a favorite 4-footed furry critter nearby), and color your way to relaxation. If you like this coloring page, there's another nifty Karina Dale mandala creation on Thanks Giving.

Wishing you every good thing this holiday season. And here's hoping that 2016 is your best year yet!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanks Giving

It's that time of year: time to give thanks for all the things that we have. (Or don't have: I'm thankful that I do not have Ebola... or malaria... or scrofungulus... or a host of other real or fabricated ailments. We've dealt with brain tumors this year -- and I'm very thankful that the whole brain-surgery-thing is in the rear-view mirror. I'm thankful that there are some things we didn't have to deal with.)

Since it's been a helluva year I've tried to make it a daily (sometimes hourly) practice to articulate all the things I'm thankful for when life appears to be driving straight for disaster with its foot on the gas and its eyes squinched shut. Sometimes, finding stuff to be overtly thankful for means starting small and maintaining a running inner commentary:

I'm thankful that I can see. And that the sky is an amazing shade of blue today. And I can smell. Mmmmm: coffee. Thankful for coffee. Oh yes: thankful for coffee.

Am I thankful for my fabulous husband undergoing not one, but two brain surgeries and subsequent radiation? Well, no... But, if that surgery results in him living a longer, healthier, happier life, then yes.

Am I thankful for the publisher who optioned 4 of my titles who then axed their children's imprint, resulting in them returning the rights to 2 of the projects? Am I grateful that the same publisher had such a different vision for the remaining books that both my agent and I agreed asking for the rights back was the best possible decision? After climbing out of the pit of disappointment (which can be deep; I won't lie), I can say "yes." Because working with that publisher showed me my agent's true stripes. And she's aces. And for that I am thankful -- every day.

KNIGHT FALL's Benjamin & Katrine.
In the spirit of the day, I wanted to say 'Thank You" to those who have graced my life this year. I'd like to give you a reason to give thanks as well. So, to thank you for stopping by, at the end of this post is a gorgeous, original, adult coloring mandala made by the endlessly talented Karina Dale. Enjoy!

(Incidentally, Karina [@xkxdx] is one of the people I am eternally thankful for. When I'm working on a new project, I describe my characters to her, and she brings them to life. I totally mean it when I say that her art inspires me. See what I mean in the pic at the left.)

I am so thankful for my family. My daughter will be a teenager in a matter of weeks. I'm grateful that she's still young enough to think I'm cool. And, on the occasions that adolescence and hormones combine in a mucky emotional mix, I'm grateful that she's growing up and becoming her own person.

I'm thankful, too, for my husband. After more than a quarter century together, he still thinks I'm fascinating and funny. He's my biggest fan. I am grateful for every day that we have together.

I am daily grateful for all of my clients.

I am humbled at the trust placed in me by those who retain me as their writing coach. They regularly inspire me both with their creativity and their perseverance. They give me their manuscripts to tear to shreds edit, then, armed with my comments, they wade back into the fray, working tirelessly to make their stories better, stronger, deeper. And no one is more thankful than I when they succeed.

I am also honored at the faith my private clients have in my writing abilities. This year, it has been a pleasure to work with the U.S. Polo Association and the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association on various projects.

http://pics.amihendrickson.com/Mandala2.jpg
Please follow this blog. Click to print.
I am thankful to the many talented people who were willing to give of their time and talents to help me with a book launch -- and who were uber-gracious when they learned that their efforts were going to be put on hold indefinitely. This includes the amazing book cover artist S. P. McConnell, the brilliant piano improv musician Stan Stewart, and my longsuffering director friend Paul Martin, among others.

My gratitude for the critters who share my life -- horses, dogs, chickens (and the scrumptious eggs they lay), and parrots -- knows no bounds. I am grateful for the freedoms we still have in this country. I am grateful for Greek Yogurt, dark chocolate, cinnamon Red Hots, fresh-baked bread, and hot coffee. The more I consider the things in my life, the more I have to be grateful for.

That gratitude includes you. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to spend it giving thanks with me. I'm sure you have your own list of things for which you are thankful. If you've posted it somewhere on line, link to it in the Comments below, and I'll be sure to share your gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 16, 2015

How a New Writer Can Rock Twitter (Without Seeming Like a Creeper)

Thanks to @MJKellySmith, I was dragged to Twitter kicking & screaming in 2010. Within a few weeks, I went from skeptic to fan. Instead of the timewaster I had envisioned, I discovered that Twitter provided me with direct access to publishing industry pros all over the world.

Here are eight practically painless, creeper-free suggestions for those new to the wonderful world of writing who want to connect with Tweeple who have already colonized that planet.

1. Crash the #amwriting party.

[Here's a primer and suggestions for how to make the most of the #amwriting hashtag without being the SM equivalent of a Summer's Eve product.]

Type "#amwriting" in the search box at the top of your Twitter toolbar. That will take you to the hashtag (the brainchild of the wonderfully altruistic @JohannaHarness). Click on "LIVE" to see the most current writing-related tweets as they happen. Scroll through -- ignoring the Promoted tweets, and the tweets of shameless self-promotion -- and see what others who are currently writing have to say.

Other writing-related hashtags include #amediting, #querytip, #writingtips, and #writingprompts.

Oh -- and if you want to tap into one of the most supportive groups of writers in the known multiverse, ya gotta check out #NaNoWriMo.

Regardless of what writerly hashtag you choose, go there and lurk at first. Don't be in a hurry to talk. Just listen. Then...

2. Follow those who say things you find interesting.

(ProTip: Immediately unfollow those bags containing Summer's Eve products who send you auto-DMs. Following someone does not mean you want to friend them on Facebook or buy their book or subscribe to their blog. Sheesh.)

3. Favorites are your friend.
Recent favorites: query fails, coffee, & Corgis!

When someone tweets something you find interesting / funny / useful / pithy / relevant, give him or her a gold star. Favorites in Twitter are the equivalent to Likes on FB. They let people know that their voices have been heard.

A few non-creeper caveats on Favoriting:

Caveat I: Unless you know someone and have formed an online relationship, don't favorite more than one or two of their tweets a day. Favoriting everything a person posts is the hallmark of a sycophant. Don't be that person.

Caveat II: The rules are different for Twitter pitch parties, such as #PitMad or #AdPit: Favoriting is only for agents and editors who are interested in the project. (For pitch party etiquette - which is constantly evolving - see @BrendaDrake's #PitMad article.)

4. Retweet to repeat.

If someone says something you wish you had said, or if you read something you think your followers will find interesting, retweet it by clicking the box made of two arrows. Include a comment if you wish to add your two cents' worth to the original.

Though things you favorite won't show up in your followers' timelines, your retweets will. Be selective.

5. Be willing to help.

One of the best ways to strike up a conversation is to make yourself useful. If someone asks a question that you know the answer to, hit "Reply" (the arrow that looks like "Turn Left Here!") and answer it. Likewise, Reply to commiserate, to empathize, to cheerlead, to offer support, or to proffer virtual chocolate or cupcakes.

(ProTip: Remember - if you send a tweet that begins with another person's Twitter name, only that person and people who follow both of you will see it. If you want everyone who follows you to see what you have to say, your tweet cannot begin with a user name.)

6. Let Lists Filter the Noise.

Every list is a separate party.
If you only hang out with writers, Twitter can be a very cloistered place. Just as you (probably) frequent more than one restaurant and (again, probably) hang out with more than one friend, don't limit yourself to only Tweeting with publishing people.

Frankly, though those in the publishing trenches can help you with your craft and provide much-needed support through the inevitable rejections that accompany the writer's life, those who will get most excited about your book when it finally releases are the ones who aren't obsessed with word count and query letters and character arcs and story beats. In short: Real Live Actual Readers.

Lists can help you keep tabs on different groups of people. Think of each list as a separate cocktail party. I keep a list of agents, one of editors, a few for writers, one for horse tweeps, one for people who are especially cool...

You get the idea.

Curate your own list or follow others'. Either way, jumping onto the timeline of a list can help you focus on a particular topic without getting distracted by the constant stream of random Twitter chatter.

7. Notice your Notifications.

Pay attention to the people who are paying attention to you. Click on your Notifications to see who has mentioned you, or retweeted or favorited something you've posted. 

Of course, you don't have to respond to them all -- just as you don't need to follow everyone who follows you -- but keeping an eye on your Notifications can be a good way to find out who is listening to what you have to say, and building a rapport with them.

8. Talk About Things That Interest You.

If you find something interesting, say so. If you see something interesting, post it. If something cracks you up, share it. If something infuriates you, fling it out there. Let your voice shine through on your Twitter feed as in your other writing.

Don't whine. Don't mope. Don't endlessly self-promote.

Don't post anything you wouldn't want a prospective agent or editor to read because -- I promise -- if they're considering you as a client, they will do their research.

I've met editors with whom I've made publishing deals on Twitter. Thanks to Twitter, I've made solid, lifelong writing friends (@crzywritergrl & @gooddirt: this means you). I've met amazing artists (@xkxdx and @SP_McConnell, fer instance) and musicians (@muz4now). I've learned a ton from the writers, editors, and publishers who selflessly share what they know.

So get out there! As with any party, you'll run into people you like and people you don't. Follow those you do; don't follow those you don't. And if you want to chat about writing or movies or geek stuff or horses or dogs or the ever-delectable Christian Kane, I'm @Museinks. Come and say "hey!"

(Oh, and if you found this post useful and/or interesting, I'd love it if you became a blog follower. All followers get my undying gratitude, figurative gold stars, and all the virtual cinnamon Red Hots they can eat!)