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5 REASONS WHY WRITERS SHOULD ATTEND CONVENTIONS

Happy Thor’s Day, everyone! Casey here.

Hard to believe, but a whole year has gone by since I attended my first convention. During the past year, I did manage to complete two novels – Mystic Hero (and sold it!) and Lachlan’s Curse (still editing it). And I’m in the home stretch of my first contemporary romance – Over Easy.

IMG_4786And while I wasn’t always sure I’d get any of these novel completed, I knew with certainty that I’d be going to ConnectiCon 2014. So this year we pre-purchased weekend passes so we could come and go as we please. This year’s roster includes amazing voice actors from shows my family enjoys: Pinky & the Brain! Legend of Korra! Fullmetal Alchemist just to name few.

In May, me and my guys attended the first ever Hartford Comic Con. While not as big in scale and scope as ConnectiCon, it has the makings of a bigger event in the future.

As a writer, nothing beats attending an event loaded with other fantasy/anime/gaming/sci-fi/you name it/ enthusiasts. Even if you don’t love any of these things, consider attending at least one convention in your area at least once. Here are some reasons why:

1. They’re fun! The crowd alone is worth the price of admission. At last year’s ConnectiCon the vibe was one of pure fun. People were there to have a good time and celebrate the love of things fantastical and fun. Writers tend to be people watchers (and if you aren’t observing, consider doing so). And if you just want to get in tune with your inner geek, this is the place to do it. ConnectiCon also has a squillion different panels and workshops (and, yes, some are for writers).

2. Costumes! The costumes are incredible. Thanks to SyFy’s Heroes of Cosplay, I’ve gained a new appreciation for how much work goes into Cosplay. As someone who can only stitch straight lines on a sewing machine, I am in double-awe of all the hand fabrication and planning that goes into the costumes.

3. Networking! It’s a chance to meet other authors and artists. Last year, I was able to meet and spend time with Michael J. Sullivan and I also met Dan Dos Santos. He’s the cover artist for Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thomas books and Diana Rowland’s White

It's the dude who draws Archer!!
It’s the dude who draws Archer!!

Trash Zombie series. He was generous with his time and was happy to answer my questions. He also asked to see one of my book covers (unprompted). He liked  Mystic Ink so much he kept my post card. While standing there talking to Dan, I realized I was rubbing elbows with none other than Brandon Sanderson. Total geek out moment!

4. Vendors! There are so many types of artists: web, comics, graphic novels, television. At Hartford ComiCon – we even saw the lead artist for Archer. If you are a fan of merchandise, you won’t be disappointed. Hartford ComicCon had TeeTurtle on sight (love their shirts) and numerous vendors selling everything from unique dolls to long-lost action figures.

5. Inspiration! Last summer, I was writing Mystic Hero and fell into a bit of a creative rut. As a result of attending ConnectiCon 2013, I was inspired to locate a scene during a convention. Devlin and his cohorts find themselves in hot water with a bunch of goblin baddies, and what better place to have a showdown, then a convention filled with costume wearing mortals. Am I right? Yeah. Trust me. I am.

So who else has attended a local convention? And if you haven’t, what’s holding you back?

 

Bad movie, but awesome car!!
Bad movie, but awesome car!!

The Research Quagmire

 

Happiest of Scribe Days to you! What’s Scribe Day? July 7, of course. Seventh day of the seventh month. Seems like a good day to celebrate!

Fireworks

The Scribes have come a long way since that fateful day in 2011 when we launched this blog. We are all now published or, in my case, about to be published–FETA ATTRACTION releases January 6! Cover reveal coming soon, I promise. Yeah, I’m the caboose on the Publication Train, but I hope it’ll be worth the wait.

One problem I never thought I’d have three years ago was being on deadline. Oh, of course I’d heard of other writers being in a mad race to finish and turn in a manuscript to an editor–I just never really considered that someday I’d have a pony in that race.

So here I am, in the middle of the third book of my series, which is due in a couple of months, and I’ve found myself bogged down. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been researching. Ah, research. My Strange Addiction. I keep waiting for the producers of that television show to call me.

I’ll say it now. I. Love. Research. Love it. Give me a computer with an internet connection and I’ll happily research anything, for hours on end. Genealogy and local history are my two danger zones. And both of those topics feature heavily in my Greek To  Me Mysteries, set in the Thousand Islands, situated between New York State and Canada in the St. Lawrence River.

Kraft%20Thousand%20Island[1] My latest research obsession? Don’t laugh. Salad Dressing. Thousand Island salad dressing, to be exact. Next time you open a bottle of that pink creamy stuff to pour over your greens, you might be interested to know that the origins of this dressing are shrouded in mystery. There are three competing versions of its Creation Myth, all with a northern New York connection. And based on my hours of poring over old cookbooks at Project Gutenberg and Archive.org and some more obscure digitized public domain materials, I think I’ve come to a decision about which of those myths is the most likely to be true. Not that I can reveal it just yet, LOL! But if you’re interested in a summary, click here.

But for a book to feel authentic, a writer needs to do her research, right? So the hours were necessary. Well, yes, but only up to a point. My story only needed a minimum amount on this topic–and yet my investigative journalist-like nature overtook me and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. See, I’d like to be the one to break a story like that. Someday, I just might do it.

Research can enhance your storytelling. Or it can be a huge timesuck-slash-avoidance behavior.  The research doesn’t mean much if you don’t get the words down on paper and out the door to a waiting editor.

So, I am allowing myself one more hour of research on this topic–for now, until book 3 is finished. I ordered a DVD of a local PBS documentary which claims to have found the smoking gun in the Thousand Island dressing and when that comes, I will watch it. But no more hundred-year-old cookbooks. No more searching the Internet for contemporary accounts of salads. Pinky swear!

Do you do research for your writing? Can you stop anytime you want or do you get obsessive? What’s your favorite salad dressing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Watch?

It’s late, it’s raining, thundering and lightning. The house is dark except for the TV and the pendant lights in the kitchen. It’s kind of eerie — the silence, the TV, the dark, the sudden crack of thunder now and again, the flick of a brown-out.

I’m watching the news for want of something to watch since none of my favorite shows are on tonight. I wonder what other people are watching in this summer season when we are being peppered with a barrage of next-new-must-see TV shows. I wonder what our choices say about us, and especially because we’re writers, I think it’s necessary we do watch TV for all these shows can teach us about story, arcs and characterization.

I get teased in my house for watching Pretty Little Liars, but I’m fascinated by the continuing mystery and the peeling away layer after layer as the Liars cope with all the consequences of their lies. Vampire Diaries lost me after a while. I’m watching Arrow, The Hundred, The Last Ship, The Leftovers, Under the Dome. I will watch Extant, and Newsroom, Downtown Abbey and Homeland (when they return).

I wish I’d watched Revolution and Falling Skies. I will catch up on NY Med and Turn. Ongoing favorites include Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Criminal Minds. I peek into Undercover Boss now and again. We don’t subscribe to Netflix. Yet.

I love shows whose characters are “family” — you could argue most shows have a core “family,” even if there is no family. I love mystery and suspense. I love ghost stories and gothics, but most of all, I love romance. So you can find me on weekends glued to the Hallmark Channel (especially during Christmas).

You will notice I’m not watching comedies (exception: Big Bang Theory). Or any of the major reality shows. Dramas are enough reality for me these days. And my own life. I’m just excited there are so many good new shows with such terrific writing. It takes nothing away from my own
writing to spend time watching these. I constantly look to find lessons there for us all.

What do you watch on TV? Do you think it reflects who you are? Any guilty pleasures?

Thea Devine is the author of more than two dozen novels. Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart, will be published October 2014 as a Pocket Star eBook.

Interview with PJ Sharon about her Latest Release

Suze here, posting outside our regular schedule. But PJ Sharon’s new novel, PIECES OF LOVE, has just released and I couldn’t wait to ask her some questions about it. PJ will be in and out today to answer your questions too!

She’s got a heck of a schedule planned for her blog tour where she’ll be giving away some neat prizes like signed books and a nifty beach bag!

1.  Okay PJ, tell us a little about PIECES OF LOVE.

So cool being on this side of the interview questions, Suze! Thanks for being here with me to celebrate and chat about the book.

PJSharon_PiecesOfLove_800pxIn PIECES of LOVE, a Contemporary YA Romance, sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to play her guitar and get high, hoping to escape the pain of losing her sister. But when her second arrest for pot possession leads to her mother’s breakdown, Lexi is sent to stay with her grandmother for the summer. While embarking on a Mediterranean cruise hardly sounds like punishment, being forced to face her demons and falling for a guy she may never see again gives Lexi a chance to discover what it means to love someone—even when you have to let them go.

2. A trip to the Mediterranean inspired the setting for this novel. What was the most beautiful or memorable place you saw on your trip?

An impossible question to answer—mainly because they were ALL beautiful. But honestly, it was such a whirlwind trip, the days and ports kind of melted together, LOL. I remember LOVING Barcelona and thinking I had to go back to see more of Gaudi’s amazing work and the passionate artistry that infused every part of the city. I also remember not having a good impression of Cannes, France, but that’s because of a bad allergic reaction to the perfumes! The Greek Islands are heavenly, but I’d have to say Dubrovnik Croatia was one of the loveliest, most interesting locations. Old Town is a spot not to be missed! I have to go back just to walk the mile long, 19-foot thick wall surrounding the village.

3. A little birdie told me that there’s some extra special companion content that goes along with PIECES. Want to tell us about it?

Um…you must be referring to the PIECES of LOVE theme song. This came about because my character, Lexi, is a song writer and singer. In an effort to get readers into her head, I decided to write a song for her sister in the book. In spite of the fact that I’ve never written lyrics before and don’t write music, the words flowed onto the page and a tune popped into my head to go with them. Funny how those creative little miracles happen. So I downloaded a recording app onto my phone and sang the song so I wouldn’t forget the tune. With four years of voice lessons behind me, it didn’t sound half bad. I approached my neighbor and good friend, Ozone Pete, who is a professional musician. Once he saw I was serious, he helped me with the arrangement. He happened to “know a guy” who runs a recording studio in Westfield, MA. A month later, I had recorded the theme song for POL. I was pleased enough with the outcome to put it up on i-Tunes for sale and used part of the song for the book trailer.

4. So, what was it like being in a recording studio? How long did it take to get the final version of the song and what’s the process?

Jim Fogarty of Bing Studios is awesome to work with and he gave me a great deal on studio time! Adding his piano skills as well as his sound engineering expertise, Jim spent ten hours with me and Pete the first day and another five hours two weeks later for the finish work and editing. He hooked me up with a mike and headphones, and played Pete’s instrumental version in the background for me to sing with. He gave me a few tips along the way, but essentially, it was just singing take after take and then editing the best pieces together. It’s really an amazing process, especially when he starts manipulating things with auto-tune and adding background and harmony. He was able to take out any excess vibrato in my voice (opera training has its downside), and clear up any pitchiness. As he put it, “It’s still you. We just accentuated the excellence and removed the suckage.” To keep things fun, and not drive himself totally crazy listening to the song a thousand times, he would change the words once in a while, singing “Pizzas of love, pizzas of looove…” That’s when I knew it was time for a lunch break. I won’t even tell you some of the other lines he added. When it all got to be too much, he’d flip over to Three Stooges movies for a short giggle break.

5. The cover for PIECES OF LOVE is just gorgeous! Can you give us an idea of how you work with a cover artist to get just the right look for your book?

That is a challenge, Suze. I start with gathering stock photos that I like to represent the characters. Some cover artists will do this for you and give you some choices, but I generally know what I want and it saves time. I pay anywhere from $10-20 for a high resolution stock photo from Big Stock Photos. Cover artists usually have a form for you to fill out, asking you to detail the tone of the book, genre, color preferences, story concept, etc. Once they have all that information, they will work up several covers to choose from. It takes a few times going back and forth to decide which font works best, and to make necessary adjustments until I’m satisfied. It’s a relatively quick process if you have a good cover artist and you know what you want. If you’re picky like me—or unsure of your vision, it can take a little longer. Kim Killion from The Killion Group, made this cover for me in only a few days. Granted, she had a design concept already made because I had original hired someone else who came up with the basic design but just got too busy and wasn’t able to make the changes I wanted. It was a bummer starting all over with someone new, but I’m so pleased with the results of working with Kim, I’m planning to re-brand my Lily Carmichael covers this summer.

6. What are you working on now? What’s your next book and when can we expect it?

Gulp! Isn’t that always the question? I’m working on HEALING WATERS, book three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, and hoping to have it done later this year.

Thanks, PJ! Can’t wait to read (and review!) PIECES OF LOVE.

Readers, until June 30th, PJ has her book on sale for only $2.99 for Kindle, Nook, and i-Tunes e-readers. The price goes up to $4.99 on July 1st, so don’t miss out!

Thank you, Suze, for taking time out to set up this interview. The support and generosity of my Scribe sisters is what keeps me going some days. In case I haven’t told you lately…you’re awesome!

Questions, comments? Any good books on your vacation TBR pile?

 

Chapter 2

Sugar here, calling myself out for not posting this morning like I was supposed to. But I had 2 good reasons. I thought next Monday was my day.  AND today was my last day at work. I have worked in the same place for seven years. My very first job out of college. I love my coworkers and my building, but I don’t love the job anymore.  I was finding myself so exhausted, so stressed out that I couldn’t write.  My brain just couldn’t handle another thing and there were times when I was so overwhelmed by it all that I just didn’t want to get out of bed.  I know they call it work for a reason, but I knew I couldn’t go on like that. So I made the decision to leave.  I’m not going to be able to survive on writing alone. I’m going to work but at job that won’t suck the life out of me.

I need to write. Some people do it as a hobby. They can pick  it up and put it down when they want. But I need to write and when I can’t do it I feel bad, like I’m depriving myself of some sort of essential nutrient. And that job was making it hard for me to do what I love. So today was my last day and while I have very good memories of that place I don’t for one moment regret  saying goodbye.  I have two books coming out this fall. I’m under contract for three more. I am lucky. I know it’s a blessing to have these things when so many writers are dying to get where I am. So I am going to take this opportunity now, because I don’t I’ll always wish I had.

I feel like I started chapter one of my adult life there. Now it’s time for me to start working on chapter 2.

Sandra Orchard’s Latest Mystery in the Port Aster Series is Out

Hello Readers, Katy Lee here with a heads-up on Sandra Orchard’s Blind_Trustlatest mystery, Blind Trust.  And let me tell you she really stepped up the suspense with this second book in the series.  Back in November I brought you my thoughts on the first book Deadly Devotion. Click here to read A Great Whodunit, Sandra Orchard Style.  A great, well-developed beginning to the series that laid the foundation for the three books so well that I cracked open Blind Trust and jumped right into the excitement without a moment of delay.

Kate Adams, amateur sleuth is  caught in the middle of a case again that has nothing to do with her…or does it?   She’s about to find out.  Blind Trust ends with a great cliffhanger leading into the third and final book.  The back of the book gives the reader a taste of what’s to come, but it’s not enough, I say.  Looking forward to it, Sandra!

And here’s a bit about Blind Trust:

Kate Adams had no idea she was carrying counterfeit money, and she can’t believe that it came from her sweet neighbor. Or that it lands her in the middle of another one of Detective Tom Parker’s investigations. Determined to prove her neighbor’s innocence, Kate stumbles into a pit of intrigue that is far deeper than a two-bit counterfeit operation–and strikes too close to home for comfort. As family secrets come to light, her world–and her budding romance with Tom–begin to crumble. To Kate, it’s clear that she won’t be safe until she uncovers all of Port Aster’s secrets. But is it too late for her and Tom?

Award-winning author Sandra Orchard draws readers into a world of rogues, red herrings, and romance as she unfolds the continuing story of amateur sleuth Kate Adams.

Amazon Buy link: Amazon

Summer Vacation in 3 Weeks

Hello World!  Remember way back when you were an elementary student?  For me, those years were…cough…some 30 year ago, but I remember summer vacation being one LOOOOOOOOONG stretch of time spent entertaining myself outside until I was actually bored enough to be looking forward to school.  NOT so these days, at least not in my household. 

My kids’ summer vacation this year, real vacation with nothing planned, no place to be, etc, last exactly 3 weeks – two weeks at the beginning and one week at the end. 

That 3 weeks is really “veg-time”.  By that, I don’t mean sit around and watch TV all day, but rather, go-outside-and-entertain-yourself time.  Play soccer or baseball in the yard.  Climb a tree.  Play in the sandbox.  Ride your bike.  Swim.  Huddle next to the air conditioner and eat popsicles on 100 degree days.   Okay – that one’s inside, but hey, it get’s hot here in CT. 

Funny aside – I got an email from Romance Writers of America about he national conference I’m attending this summer in Texas.  It informed me that it get’s hot in Texas in July, like between 70 and 90 degrees.  Seriously?  70-90 degrees?  That’s amazingly pleasant compared to the 90-100 degrees with 90% humidity we usually enjoy here in Connecticut in July.   Maybe I’ll pack a jacket…

For the rest of the summer out-of-school time, my kids will be at various summer camps, having a blast for sure, but not likely getting bored enough to look forward to school.  Hmmm.  Maybe that’s something for me to think about for next year.

What does your family do during the summer?

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