NaPiBoWriWee: A Week of Picture Book Creation

I love creative challenges. I find they help kick-start my motivation and send it into hyper-drive. As a children's book author and illustrator I was jumping for joy when I came across National Picture Book Writing Week AKA NaPiBoWriWee. 

The next NAPIBOWRIWEE will take place May 1-7, 2014

I take part in the idea challenge PiBoIdMo every November and so have hundreds of ideas for books listed. The problem is that I'm usually too busy to turn most of them into anything more. This is why I'm so excited to be taking part in NaPiBoWriWee this year. 

The challenge runs from 1st-7th May and the goal is to write 7 first drafts in 7 days (one a day). They don't have to be perfect but they do need to be a complete story. You can find out more about the challenge and how to take part at

Will you be doing NaPiBoWriWee this year? Do you like creative challenges like this one? 

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Interview with Tina Traverse

What genre do you write and why?

I have trouble with this question usually because I find it hard to narrow down the genre for the stories I write because it varies for each story.  For example, my current work is a vampire story.  My last published work was an erotic suspense thriller while my first published book was a non-fiction work about my experiences with my son's autism diagnosis. If I had to pin down one particular type of genre, I would say that I always wrote drama, but with sprinkling of humour to ease seriousness of the subject.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.

My current work in progress is a vampire trilogy called Scarlet Desire. Scarlet Desire started out as a series that already had book one published and available to readers since 2012, with book two and three  already completed with book covers and everything underneath the name Destiny of the Vampire, ready to be published. Late last year, I felt in my heart of hearts that the story and its characters didn't work and I didn't like where their story was going, so I scrapped the works to start fresh. I've grown as an author since then, learning some new things that I'm applying to this new series. The characters are the same but the plot is different and I'm writing in my true voice. I'm finally more comfortable and content by how this novel is progressing.

Scarlet Desire centres around three main characters, twin siblings Declynn and Sebastian Sinclair and Hope Winters. During a fishing trip with their father, they encounter a huge storm that capsizes their boat. Their father drowns but they are sent adrift and wash ashore on a rugged deserted island. For months brother and sister work together to survive on the island, but a confrontation between them ends with their deaths. They 'wake' up from this fight to discover that they were transformed into vampires by the island's secret vampire coven leader. When Declynn breaks one of the leader's rules, she and her brother are exiled. They manage to escape by stowing away on a boat which brings them to England. It's here that the Sinclairs struggle to blend into their new home and meet the sister of a cherished friend they met on the island. As they become better acquainted, Declynn and Sebastian discover that there is more to their new companion than meets the eye.

Who is you favorite character in your book and why?

My favourite character in this WIP has to be Declynn Sinclair. She is a bold, unapologetic, carefree party girl who is into one night stands. Declynn is a lesbian and is damn proud of it, often showing her affections in public.  She is a extrovert in every sense of the word, flamboyant and blunt but she has a hidden soft side. Declynn often quarrels with her brother, Sebastian, teasing and insulting  him, but she is fiercely protective and has a deep desire to become a mother. Her intellect, skill and charm has made her a force to be reckoned with in and out of the boardroom. I enjoy her because Declynn is not afraid of what people think of her and I wish I could be more like that.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?

Though Scarlet Desire is currently in first draft, I'm already learning many things from writing it. This book is teaching me to slow down and really pay attention to every detail of each scene, making sure it works and makes sense. In the past, I was content with the story in my head and now I'm finding that I'm questioning some of the scenes, the characters and plot and thinking of better ways to improve upon it.

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book? 

I use social networking as my main means of marketing my books through such sites as Facebook  Twitter and Goodreads. I have my a blog that features my work as well the work of other authors. I also do word of mouth locally as the opportunities for book fairs, book signings and other events aren't available where I live. Even if they were available, I wouldn't be able to partake due to transportation and child care issues.
Who are your favourite authors?
I have many authors I enjoy, but I have to say that my favourite authors are, Stephen King, Lauren Kate, Dan Brown, L.J. Smith and any author of the suspense, thriller, paranormal/vampire genres. I'm also a huge fan of indie authors.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Out of the list above, I have to say the one author that has influenced my life is Stephen King. Stephen King influenced me not so much for the books he wrote, but more for his life story. I remember not long after giving birth to my eldest son, I fell into a deep depression where I gave up everything I loved, including writing. After seeing a documentary on his life, seeing the struggles that he went through in his early years as a writer, it inspired me to return to my first love. Stephen King suffered through a lot of hardships and rejections and went on to be a very successful and well loved author. Maybe someday I could do the same. He showed me there was still hope.
Tina Traverse
What's the best thing about being a writer?
I always had all these stories and dialogue dancing around in my head with no outlet. Writing is the outlet that lets those crazy people running around in my head a chance to tell their story. That's one thing. Another thing that is the best is that I was blessed with the privilege to create worlds people can escape to and get lost in, characters they can relate to and cheer and jeer and a story that can evoke real emotion in the reader. Nothing inspires me to keep me writing more than to hear from a reader that said that my story made them experience a wide range of emotions and that the story will stay with them for a long time to come. That's what makes all this worth it. 
Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
Yes, my family supports my writing career tremendously. My husband supports me by taking over the parental duties so I can take some quiet time to write. My parents also have been a huge support from the very beginning when having my work published was nothing more than a dream. They are wonderful, they spread the word about my novels. I know my family are very proud of me and I will never be able to thank them enough.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
People are welcome to pop by my blog, Writers on the Wharf all are welcome.
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The Cursed Query Hook: “If at First You Don’t Succeed…”

It took six months to write the first draft of the manuscript of my novel, The Code of the Hills: An Ozarks Mystery. Once it was done, I heaved a sigh and readied myself for the next step: pitching it to literary agents.

Should I have devoted time and effort to revision at that point? Oh, yeah—but that’s another story.

When planning my query, I did some homework. Because I had no publishing contacts whatsoever and lived in (you might say) the middle of nowhere, I needed inspiration. But I’d heard of a recent literary sensation that rose like the phoenix from an unlikely place: Stephenie Meyer.

My daughter was a fan of the Twilight series, and so I checked out Stephenie Meyer’s history. She shared her road to success on her author page:  after seeing her characters in a dream, she wrote a book and sent a query letter to 16 agents. One of the agents was Jodi Reamer at writers House. Jodi fell in love with the manuscript and sold it to a Big Six publisher a month or so later. Oh, I thought, so that’s how it works.

Not my experience. I sent out a batch of hard-copy queries. Every query was rejected. (Save your postage, btw. Email those query letters.)

So I went back to work on the letter. My research said that the first sentence of a query letter was crucial; they called it “the hook” and said it had to grab the agent’s attention. I gave it some thought, and for my hook—my first sentence—I said, “Every young attorney who longs for the case of the century learns a hard lesson: be careful what you wish for.”

It wasn’t bad, I got a couple of nibbles. But I eventually decided that my hook was not a sufficient “grabber” to separate me from the pack. So I changed it. I had read somewhere that it’s wise to compare your book to another appealing book, so I did that. New hook: “If two of your favorite books are To Kill a Mockingbird and Valley of the Dolls, then you should read The Code of the Hills.”

Did I get a response? Yes. But when you liken your work to a Pulitzer-prize winning classic of American literature crossed with a cult classic, it can be tough to deliver. (Note to self: if the comparison makes you blush, don’t use it.)

When I adapted the hook again, fate was on my side. Dan Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone had been a literary sensation, and the indie film version of Winter’s Bone was the black horse nominee for Best  Picture at the Academy Awards.  Like Woodrell, I’m an author from the Missouri Ozark hills, and the Ozarks is my setting. Did I seize the moment?

Hell, yeah. New hook: “If you were intrigued by the “hillbilly noir” world depicted in Winter’s Bone, then you should read The Code of the Hills.”
It was like magic. Requests came pouring in. I snagged an agent; and another agent after that. And ultimately, my Ozarks tale was sold to HarperCollins.
And the moral of my story? It was partly luck (thank you, Dan Woodrell), no doubt about it. But when crafting and sending that query letter, you must remain flexible. Change it out. Mix it up. I truly believe that some agents read only the first sentence; and I believe, as well, that the industry is driven by what’s happening now. So if you have sent out the query letter for your novel and you aren’t getting the reception you’d like: if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Nancy Allen
Nancy Allen is a member of the law faculty in the College of Business at Missouri State University. She practiced law for 15 years, serving as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and as Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. When Nancy began her term as prosecutor, she was only the second woman in Southwest Missouri to serve in that capacity. During her years in prosecution, she tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and she served on the Rape Crisis Board and the child protection team of the Child Advocacy Council. THE CODE OF THE HILLS is her first novel. 

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Exercising Your Imaginations

For many years, I wrote non-fiction because that’s what I could get paid for. When I could afford to gamble on writing fiction, I realized my creativity was not what it had once been. I needed to find classes or teachers who could help me loosen up, get away from facts, and into my imagination.

The classes I chose were those in which the teacher assigned short essays on a specific topic. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercises, the wake-up stretches, and I soon rediscovered my creativity. Since then I’ve tried to keep those gray cells exercised by attending classes and writers’ conferences where the panels offer wonderful tips on writing. If asked, I urge other writers to do everything they can to keep learning and exercising their imaginations.

Why did I decide to write mysteries? Because they are my favorite reading. I advise all authors to write the kind of books he or she loves to read—such choices mean the writer has fun writing. Why did I choose two female protagonists? I enjoyed the Cagney & Lacey TV show, where two women with very different backgrounds put their heads together to solve crimes. I wanted my characters to jointly solve crimes, using their own individual viewpoints and talents. (Incidentally, several male agents/publishers tried to talk me out of two women—wanted a man/woman couple; I ignored them.)

I love taking classes. I recently took and enjoyed a three session class on writing the memoir. I don’t plan to write my own memoir, but one of my characters will! She needs to know how.

My favorite kind of marketing is the book party hosted by a friend or friends. These are great fun, and typically sell a lot of books. I’ve been fortunate in that a number of friends have hosted book parties, where I’ve talked about the book, and where the book was sold. I’ve really enjoyed them.

I not only enjoy attending writers’ conference, I am very flattered when I am invited to sit on a panel at a conference. I also enjoy listening to the experts. At the Left Coast Crime conference I recently attended, Sue Grafton was wonderful, as was Louise Penny. Words of wisdom I wrote down: Stop and figure out what your book is about! Sounds elementary but the ability to describe what your book is about may help you sell it. Another lesson learned at a conference: most writers have a favorite letter of the alphabet and tend to use that one letter too often in a book: like naming characters Daisy, Dorothy, Donald and Drake in a single book. I check every book I write to see if I’ve overdone a letter, and I advise other writers to do likewise.

Here’s another bit of advice I picked up from a teacher: always keep a list of the senses nearby (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch), and check them off as you’ve used them in your book or story. Using them greatly enriches the writing. And finally, the greatest compliment I’ve recently received was from an Australian woman who congratulated me on not using my book Restrike to “info dump.” It’s an expression I’d never heard, but I’ve certainly encountered “info dumps” in a book. They slow down the pace and exhaust the reader. I try to check every book to make sure I haven’t overdone the “info.” I recommend that check-up to all writers.

Reba White Williams
Reba White Williams worked for more than thirty years in business and finance—in research at McKinsey & Co., as a securities analyst on Wall Street, and as a senior executive at an investment management firm. 

Williams graduated from Duke with a BA in English, earned an MBA at Harvard, a PhD in Art History at CUNY, and an MA in Writing at Antioch. She has written numerous articles for art and financial journals. She is a past president of the New York City Art Commission and served on the New York State Council for the Arts. 

She and her husband built what was thought to be the largest private collection of fine art prints by American artists. They created seventeen exhibitions from their collection that circulated to more than one hundred museums worldwide, Williams writing most of the exhibition catalogues. She has been a member of the print committees of several leading museums. 

Williams grew up in North Carolina, and lives in New York, Connecticut and Southern California with her husband and Maltese, Muffin. She is the author of two novels featuring Coleman and Dinah Greene, Restrike and Fatal Impressions, along with the story of Coleman and Dinah when they were children, Angels. She is currently working on her third Coleman and Dinah mystery. 

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Interview with Alina Popescu

What genre do you write and why?
I don’t write in just one genre, although I seem to be drawn to fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi. I get an idea for a story and whatever genre fits, that’s it!

Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is also my debut novel. The Edge of Hope (Bad Blood) is the first book of the Bad Blood trilogy and it’s got vampires, love stories, quite a few conflicts, and many trials for my characters. It’s my first baby and I’ve been working on it for a few years now.

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book? 
I mostly use social media marketing for my books. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, even Google+. I’ve tried a bit of advertising in the past to increase my page’s audience, but I found donating to giveaways is sometimes just as effective. Book groups have been great in getting the word out and meeting reviewers and hanging out with other authors and reviewing their books has helped me learn a lot.

What formats is the book available in?
The book is available in all major ebook formats (mobi, epub, pdf) and in paperback. I wanted to make sure people could read it without making changes in their habits.

Who are your favourite authors?
I am a total failure at picking favourites. Other than my favourite color and my favourite season, I’m a lost cause. Music, movies, books, there are way too many favourites to come up with at least a top ten. I tend to read books from all genres and written by authors from all continents, so talking about favourites usually takes half a day.

What advice do you have for other writers?
My top advice for any writer out there is to start taking themselves seriously. If you’re a writer, think of yourself as one, stop diminishing it. Introduce yourself to the world as a writer, interact with your readers and other authors, work on your stories and don’t give up. You’ll learn everything else you need or find people who can help you with it, but unless you see yourself as more than an amateur, other’s won’t get a chance to discover you.

What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
It’s not exactly a quote, it’s more of a social media meme... It basically made fun of all the very strange things you can find in a writer’s browsing history, from illnesses, and killing methods, to history and mythology, to photos of hot models to help you with visuals for your characters. We are our own kind of crazy, if you asked me, just think of all the voices in our head!

What's the best thing about being a writer?
Getting the stories in my head on paper and sharing them with the world. I can’t imagine life without that.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
The best place to start is my website and blog ( It’s where you can get to know me a bit, explore my books and what I’m currently working on, read my author interviews and reviews for everything I read. I’m also quite active on Facebook ( and and Twitter ( 

Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
There are favorites in this book and favorites in the trilogy :) Alexa would always be close to my heart because we’re very much alike up to a point. I know many of you won’t agree with me, well, not yet, but Anthony is one of my favorites. Yes, I know he’s the baddie, but you’ll have to trust me on this one!

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
I think Alexa’s experience is very relatable. This is not your traditional paranormal romance, they don’t meet, fall in love, and get to a HEA. There are so many times when Alexa just doesn’t seem to make it work, but the main idea is to never give up. Life does go on and we need to keep on fighting. There are also sexy vampires and interesting twists, but basically, it’s a story about persevering, taking life full on, and accepting others as they are.

How long did it take you to write your book?
Alexa as a character has been around for about 6 years, but this variant of the story has been in the making for over three years. It also was the first ever book I worked on during a NaNoWriMo (back in 2010).

Who designed the cover?
The cover is the work of the very talented Patricia Revita ( I used one of her drawings for a short story I published for the fans of my Facebook page and later asked her to design the one for The Edge of Hope. She actually took the time to read my draft and come up with ideas. She was absolutely spot on and her version of Anthony was so close to what I’ve imagined he’d be like, I suspected her of being a mind reader. 

Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
Yes, I learned that sometimes the story takes you where you need to go, that you have to stop and listen to your characters and trust them enough to follow their lead.

Where can a reader purchase your book?                    
The book can be purchased pretty much everywhere, Amazon, Createspace, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, Sony, All Romance… Wherever you prefer to buy your books, they probably have it.
What are you doing to market the book? 
Promoting the book is an ongoing adventure. It started long before having it published and it’s not something that is ever done. I have had a huge release day party, I’m now knee deep in my blog tour, there are some book signings in my future. I also spend a lot of time attending online author events, interacting with my readers on social media, and getting the word out. I have a brilliant street team that’s been helping me with this and I’m thankful for them every minute of every day.

Who inspires you?
Friends, family, people I momentarily crossed paths with, mythical beings, fictional characters, a certain song at times, or maybe a certain mood. It can be a big event or something almost insignificant that triggers a story. For example, I got an idea for a book during a spinning class at the gym.

How do you research your books?
It depends on the books. For The Edge of Hope and the Bad Blood Trilogy, I did very little research. That’s because I have been in love with vampire books and movies all my life, I’ve read a lot on the topic and I actually worked on a paper on people who consider themselves vampires while in college. It also happens to take place in places I’ve visited quite a few times, or that I’ve researched for other purposes. In other cases, I spend hours looking for the information I need. Online, libraries, books, documentaries, wherever I can find the resources, I’m there.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
There are several, actually. The Bad Blood trilogy is almost entirely drafted, so I am working on a werewolf story, a sci-fi novel, a few romances. I work on multiple books at the same time, depending on my inspiration. It’s also a great way to avoid a writer’s block and keep writing all the time.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
I think everyone should choose what best suits them. I actually had initially signed a contract with a small publisher, but after considering it further, I decided self-publishing was better for me. I am a PR and marketing consultant, so I had the knowledge and means to promote my own work, I found an amazing editor and a great designer, so I didn’t find it quite so challenging. I like being in control of what happens when.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always loved books. My parents used to always read and I pestered them till they taught me. I started reading when I was about five and I’ve been writing my own stories since I was ten. Making up stories and telling/writing them was my favorite thing in the world and now it’s a part of me and my life. I can’t imagine ever giving it up.

Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
They’ve always supported me. I switched to writing in English years ago, so they can’t really read my books, but they love hearing about them. They’ve always encouraged me to pursue it and my dad actually said he’s buying 25 paperbacks just for himself. I’m supposed to sign them all :D

My friends have been amazing. They’ve stuck by me, beta reading, listening to me rant, cheering me on, it’s made me feel really blessed.

What are you currently reading?
While answering these questions I am reading Susan Mac Nicol’s Double Alchemy. I read a few books every week, so it will most definitely be something else by the time the interview is published.

What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Fram, the Polar Bear by Cezar Petrescu ( is the first book I’ve ever read. It was huge, it had great illustration, and a very interesting and touching storyline. It’s what got me hooked on books, so I’d say it’s influenced me more than anything else.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Work and taking care of my dog tend to take up whatever’s left of my time. I should however say that I include promoting my books into my writing activities. That’s usually a few hours every day. Whatever time is left I use to read, go out with my friends, see my family, travel, go to the gym listen to my music, maybe even catch a movie.

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Review: Perfecting Plot: Charting the Hero's Journey by William Bernhardt

Author: William Bernhardt 
  • ASIN: B00D7JW6ZI

Reviewed by Jo Linsdell

"Even the most unique and interesting characters will not engage readers if their journey-the plot-fails. In this book, bestselling author William Bernhardt reveals the secrets that will keep readers riveted to the page. He explains the importance of matching character to plot and the key distinction between surprise and coincidence. Bernhardt discusses how to enrich your story by layering three levels of conflict and, in the final chapter, analyzes the primary plot structures that have delighted readers since the first story was told. The book also includes exercises designed to help writers apply these ideas to their own writing. William Bernhardt is the bestselling author of more than thirty books, including the blockbuster Ben Kincaid novels. Bernhardt is also one of the most sought-after writing instructors in the nation. He is the only person to have received the Southern Writers Gold Medal Award, the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award (U Penn) and the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award (OSU), which is given "in recognition of an outstanding body of work that has profoundly influenced the way in which we understand ourselves and American society at large." The Red Sneaker Writing Center is dedicated to helping writers achieve their literary goals. What is a red sneaker writer? A committed writer seeking useful instruction and guidance rather than obfuscation and attitude. Red sneakers get the job done and so do red sneaker writers, by paying close attention to their art and craft, committing to hard work, and never quitting. Are you a red sneaker writer? If so, this book is for you."

One of the best books I've read. All writers should read this. Excellent advice presented in a clear and easy to follow manner. Examples to back up each point made, and helpful lists at the end. I loved this book and will be looking for others in this series. 

The only negative comment I can make about it is that there is nothing in this book about the plot system known as "the hero's journey" and so the title could be seen as misleading.

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Get Ready to Promote, Network, and Learn!

On Saturday 31st May thousands of people will gather together for the annual online event Promo Day. This is not your usual writers conference. Promo Day isn't about learning how to write. It's about what to do after you've written. 

Many writers struggle with marketing and don't feel comfortable with the promotional side of things. Even those that are comfortable with it can benefit from some new strategies and ideas. That's why Promo Day is perfect for everyone in the industry. A whole day dedicated to promoting, networking and learning!

There are loads of opportunities to promote during the event (both via the event forums and in social media activities) that all attendees are welcome to join. Be interviewed, join in the panel discussions, and more...

Networking is super easy too. Just use the hashtag #PD14 on social media and you'll be connected with all the other attendees and presenters. Not to mention all the networking fun that happens in the forums themselves!

You'll have the chance to learn from industry experts in the free presentations that are available throughout the day. 14+ presenters sharing info, tips, and strategies for free!

Testimonial from last years event
This year there will also be live pitch sessions with publishers during the event. This is HUGE as you have the opportunity to skip ahead of the query piles and pitch them directly one-on-one. No waiting for months to hear if they might be interested. No need for agents or even query letters. 

You can find answers to all the FAQ's at 

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Register now for free at

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