Category Archives: travel

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?

 

A poet and I didn’t know it!

PJ here. I’ve just returned from a week in Nashville, Tennessee, home of some of the most amazing song writers and musicians of our time. My husband and I had a lovely time there, celebrating the wedding of my eldest step-son and seeing the sights, but I’m always happy to come back to new England, especially with this amazing stretch of weather we’ve had.
Pond pic in the fall In fact, if it gets any prettier up here in the hills, I’ll never want to leave home again.

One of the awesome parts of being in Nashville was hanging out with all of the talented musicians who play in all the Honkey Tonk bars on Broadway. it made me wonder if I’d missed my calling.

Like many writers, I started when I was young, just learning the nuts and bolts of the English language and exploring the intricacies of stringing words together to tell a story. My first efforts were very elementary, and I soon lost interest to more physical pursuits, but once I hit my teens and turned to expressing myself through poetry, my writing blossomed. I had more than one revelation about myself and my world view from re-reading those angst-filled sonnets I wrote about my broken heart and my relatively tragic teenage life. I continued to keep journals and write poems through my twenties, pouring my heart onto the page in an effort to understand myself better, to free my chaotic emotions, and to cope with the challenges of life as a single parent. I used my writing as a way to tell my story in bits and pieces of lyrical prose, snapshots of my spiritual and emotional growth. I haven’t written poetry in years, but I still remember the cathartic power of the exercise.

I want to be clear here; I don’t read much poetry, and never did, although reading the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran changed my life and probably saved my soul at a critical point in my young life. I occasionally pick up a romantic poem by Pablo Neruda and find inspiration in his impassioned writing.

I find poetry to be a bit like bourbon—it’s a lot of work to enjoy it. You have to take it in, swirl it around, ruminate on it, and then decide if you enjoy it enough to swallow it. Usually if you can get past the taste of it on your palette and the burn on your throat as it goes down, you might decide it’s worth trying again. You might even grow to love it passionately, every experience superior to the last.

I could still pass on the bourbon, but writing poetry hooked me in, even if the likes of Tennyson and Dickinson left behind a bit of a funky aftertaste. The interesting thing about writing poetry from my teenage perspective was that it was a safe place for me to express painful emotions, dark thoughts, and deeply rooted beliefs that I was constantly questioning. The cool thing was that being a music lover, I saw how popular music trends seemed to follow suit. It’s no wonder that the angst of a heart rending ballad always resonated with me. Music, as with poetry, enables you to tell a complete story in very few words—including a happy ending if you so choose.

When I began writing PIECES OF LOVE, my next to be released contemporary YA romance, I decided my main character, Ali, was going to sing and play guitar. Of course, being sixteen, she hesitates to share her talents with others for fear of not being good enough—a circumstance we can all relate to, I’m sure. In writing Ali’s story, it dawned on me that I would have to give her an opportunity to explore her feelings through her music.

opry land guitarSo on my lunch break at work one day, I wrote a poem for Ali. Once I wrote the poem—a desperate and emotionally charged anthem to a lost loved one—I then decided the words needed to be set to music. Those of you who know me, know that I love to sing. I don’t play an instrument and I can’t read or write music, but I can carry a tune. So I started trying to put the words to music in my head. After a few short minutes, a tune came to me. I got so excited, I downloaded a recording app onto my phone and recorded the song so I wouldn’t forget the tune. In about a half hours’ time, I’d written my very first song, called Pieces of Love. I also had a new title for my book!

Lucky for me, I have a neighbor who is an awesome guitarist. He has agreed to help me record the song and use it as a theme song, which will be accessible from a link within the e-book. Pretty cool, huh?

So what about you all? Do you like poetry? Hate it? Do you read it often? Who’s your favorite poet? Or are you like me—preferring to write it instead of read it?

Blogs to Help Enhance your Work by Katy Lee

Writing fiction is more than getting your character from point A to point B. Your characterpics needs to experience the world and everything in it just as we do in our everyday lives. Our days are filled with intrusions like weather and sickness, but there are also things in the world that have the ability to cultivate us like the arts and architecture around us…most times when we’re not even looking for it.

Now I could spend a lifetime reading and studying the things in our world just so I can write them into my stories, but if I did I’d never get anything written. As much as I would love to spend my days at the library, or better yet, traveling the world to experience everything in it, it’s just not possible. But I also can’t neglect the fact that these things exist in my life and in the lives of my characters. So what do I do?

Well, while I wait for my cruise tickets to come in the mail, I have found a group of blogs that offer little tidbits of information a little at a time. Ideas and information that I can file away to use in moments where my stories are flat and are in need of some excitement or detail.

So today I wanted to share some of these go-to blogs that help enhance my work. I hope there is something in here for you, too!

1)      http://www.redwoodsmedicaledge.com/

stethsThe Redwood’s Medical Edge Blog is medical facts for your fiction. Jordyn Redwood, a nurse by day, author by night, designed her site to help both historical and contemporary authors learn methods to write medically accurate fiction. She fields medical questions from followers, analyzes medical scenes, and posts on topics that can increase the tension and conflict in any story. No one person can be an expert in all things so she also hosts medical experts in other areas: EMS and obstetrics to name a few. Historical authors who have done research in a particular medical area such as civil war medicine are also featured. You want to know the protocol of an accident with injuries, or an illness a baby could have but go undetected? Jordyn is your woman.

2)      http://gailingis.com/wordpress/

Gail Ingis is known as a “Renaissance Woman” for her varied accomplishments. She is a professor of history of architecture & interior design, photographer, artist juror, writer, design critic, and founder of the nationally accredited Interior Design Institute. On any given day, her blog can be about how lighting affects a room, drinking coffee in a café in Portugal, or a description of a Victorian era chair. You never know when your character might need to sit in one. Whatever the topic may be, Gail’s information can bring a flare for the exotic into your stories.

3)      http://www.dailywritingtips.com/

Not just for writers. Whether you are an attorney, manager or student, writing skills are essential to your success. The rise of the information age – with the proliferation of e-mails, blogs and social networks – makes the ability to write clear, correct English more important than ever. (See my blog from last week about good writing here.) Daily Writing Tips is about that. Every day they send out a grammar, spelling, punctuation or vocabulary tip. And we can all use extra tips.

4)      http://www.romancingthepalate.com/

Finding a passion for food in every love story is R.L. Syme’s motto for her blog. I took a heart applefood class with Rebecca Lynn last year and she helped me learn how to use food like another character in my stories. She brought life to cooking and eating and encouraged us to incorporate the feelings we experienced into our books, so our readers could feel them, too.  *This blog is in the process of being changed, so not much is going on there these days. I’m looking forward to her updated site soon.

Until then, I recently found this one and it has the same premise:

5)      http://platedromance.wordpress.com/

Romance on the Plate: Taste the Emotions…Feel the Food. Here is a quote from the site to show how food helps to bring your character to life:

“He could not control his curiosity; he could smell the delicious aroma of caramelizing onions wafting from the copper vessel that was fired up on the stove. He stood upon a chair in the kitchen and watched as his mother evoked the magic of food……”

I feel like I am standing on that chair and inhaling right along with the child. Which is what we want to do for our readers, so they can get a taste, too.

The Unlocked Secret: Experience is key, but if you can’t experience it yourself, find a source that has. It will make your writing authentic. Check these sites out for ways to enhance your writing. If not these, I’m sure you can search for sites that meet your genre and style.

Question: Do you have a go-to blog or website for expertise or vicarious experience? Please share in the comments below.

And as always, thank you for your Tweets and Shares.

How to Choose a Writer’s Conference

PJ here, happy to be on the East coast and back in my own bed…ahhhh. After doing this writing thing for a while, I’ve been to quite a few writer’s conferences, and I wanted to share my experience on how to choose the “right” conference for you. If you belong to RWA or a similar writer’s organization, you probably get inundated with lots of options. Here are a few things to think about.

Location/Accommodations: Check out the hotel venue and make sure the location is some place you’d like to stay for a few days. A bad night’s sleep, disappointing food, or poor quality hospitality can really put a damper on your stay. It’s worth visiting the hotel’s website and checking out their reviews. Make plans for car rental and recreational activities ahead of time so you don’t get there with hopes of visiting a locale on your “down time” only to find that you can’t get a car rental on short notice or the place you want to visit is closed. Although you are going for business, one of the perks of traveling is enjoying the sights along the way. Also, check to see what is around your hotel. Are there local restaurants and shopping within walking distance? Is there a gym? An indoor pool? Are you next to a train yard, airport, or in a bad section of the city? Some of these things may not be important to you, but if they are, make sure you know what you are paying for ahead of time. Scope out your hotel and surrounding area on Google maps.

Price: Is it affordable and worth the money for what you are getting? Are meals included? Are the speakers well known and knowledgeable? Is it worth your time, money, and effort? Remember to consider your loss of income while you’re away from your day job, and factor in any accrued costs such as wardrobe, entertainment, and additional travel fees (taxis, trains, buses etc.). Remember to save all receipts for tax purposes.

Focus of conference: Does the conference offer workshops that will help you further your career goals? If you are a newer writer, make sure there are craft workshops geared to what you’d like to learn. If you are seeking publication, are there opportunities to meet with agents and editors to pitch your story? Agent and editor panels offer a great opportunity to ask questions, find out what they are looking for, and hear the latest about the industry from publishing professionals. If you are a published author, do they offer promotion, marketing, and business oriented workshops? Interested in self-pubbing? Do they offer the most updated information available in this rapidly growing and changing aspect of the industry? If you are participating in a book signing, how successful have previous years been and how many readers can you expect to see? Shipping books is expensive, so ask for clear answers about realistic expectations. My experience is that print books don’t sell all that well at conferences and I rarely recoup the cost of shipping. I can see e-books being the way to go for future signings.

Networking: Conferences are a wonderful place to meet like-minded individuals and make professional contacts that you might never have the chance to meet otherwise. Don’t stalk the agents and editors but research them and know who you’d like to make a connection with. Make the effort to sit next to them at lunch or dinner (or in the bar). Be ready to talk intelligently about your work. Be prepared with a SHORT pitch of your WIP. Create a one or two sentence summary (log line) of what your story is about. The most common question asked at conferences is “What do you write?” The second most common question is “What is your story about?” Have an answer memorized and ready, and confidently smile as you give them your brief spiel. Don’t monopolize their time, but use the time wisely. If you get tongue tied and start rambling or their eyes begin to glaze over, stop talking and ask them a question about something unrelated. Where are you from? Are you a writer, too? Do you love baseball, zumba, pole dancing? Something that will put you at ease and take the heat off of you until you can collect yourself and get comfortable enough not to sound like an idiot. These are just people, but they are professionals and are there to FIND YOU! Respect their time, but don’t let your fear stop you from putting yourself out there.

Quality Speakers: I cannot stress this enough. Do some research on the speakers. What are their publishing/professional credentials? Just because they are there, doesn’t mean they are interesting, entertaining, or an expert in their field. Have they done this workshop before? How many times? Ask around to other writers and check out the websites of your presenters. If they don’t have a professional website that is engaging and informative, it might be an indicator that they aren’t all that well organized.

Organization: If you’ve ever participated in organizing a conference, you know about the gazillion moving parts and the army of people it takes to put on a seamless production. Of course there are always things that go wrong or details that get missed, but overall, organizers want it to be a good experience for everyone and they want attendees to return year after year to support the effort. If they don’t return e-mails, or answer your questions clearly up front, chances are the conference won’t be much better organized than the individuals running it. Conferences are generally a way for organizations to make money to support writers and their endeavors, so organizers (who are all volunteers, so be patient and kind to these people) are invested in making your conference experience successful. If there are suggestions you have for improvements, be sure to share them with conference organizers.

And last but not least, Food: You might have to contact the conference organizers for this information, but it’s worth asking about the menu ahead of time. If you have dietary restrictions or just want to make sure that some healthy selections are available, it’s worth the added effort to ensure that your needs are known ahead of time. You also have the option of doing a bit of shopping when you get settled in and stocking your hotel room refrigerator (make sure one is available in your room when you book your reservation) with fruit, yogurt, water, etc. so you can avoid the breakfast buffets that offer all those yummy bagels, pastries, muffins, and such. Will there be adequate chocolate selection at breaks? Just sayin’.

Unlocked Secret: Do your research, guys. There are enough choices for quality conferences around the country and your educational dollars are valuable, so make them count and get the most of your experience.

I hope to see you all at the RWA National convention in Atlanta this summer. It’s shaping up to be a fabulous time!

Any other tips for our readers to help them find a quality conference? What has been your favorite conference experience? Any funny experiences you’d like to share from the “trenches”?

Oh, the Places I Haven’t Been

Hello, Scribelings! Suze here. Over the last few weeks I’ve shared photos and commentary about my recent road trip vacation. There will be more to come (yes, I saw a lot during that week and a half), but today I thought I’d mix it up and talk about places I’d like to go. It’s part of my travel bucket list, in no particular order.

Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru. This Unesco World Heritage Site (click here and here for more information) has it all for me: stunning mountaintop setting, archaeological ruins, and a mysterious origin. I know someone who trained for months to be able to hike up the mountain to get there; on some level this appeals to me, but realistically I’m thinking I might need to import a couple of Sherpas to get my sorry butt up that high without mechanical assistance. Once I do make it, one way or another, I feel sure I will find Suze’s New Groove.

Photo courtesy of http://www.copyright-free-pictures.org.uk
Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, England.  I’ve been to England a couple of times. My first trip was with my BFF, Laurie, on a backpacking European tour after college. We were eventually destined for Greece, so we only spent a couple of days in London and then left for Germany. My second was a trip I took with my boyfriend (he proposed to me later on this voyage, and we are still married 20 years later). We went as far as Yorkshire to visit friends, but we never made it to Stonehenge. Standing rocks of unknown significance out in the middle of a flat plain? Sign me up. Click here if you want to read more about current theories and research. Honestly, I cannot get enough of this stuff!

Angkor Wat, Cambodia. What can I say? I have a thing for sacred places and lost cities. Click here , history nerds/nerdettes, for more information. Look at those gorgeous carvings, will ya? Seeing this location, reclaimed from the jungle, would satisfy my inner Indiana Jones. Adventure would be sure to follow!

This list isn’t exhaustive. There are plenty more places I’d like to go before I croak. Now I just need to find a way to make that year off for traveling the world a reality. Ideas? How about you, readers? What places are on your bucket list?