Thursday, February 26, 2009

Interview with Saundra Mitchell

It's here and it's amazing. SHADOWED SUMMER by SAUNDRA MITCHELL has to be on your wish list after you read this short summary.

Nothing ever happened in Ondine, Louisiana, not even the summer Elijah Landry disappeared. His mother knew he ascended to heaven, the police believed he ran away, and his girlfriend thought he was murdered.

Decades later, certain she saw his ghost in the town cemetery, fourteen-year-old Iris Rhame is determined to find out the truth behind "The Incident With the Landry Boy."

Enlisting the help of her best friend Collette, and forced to endure the company of Collette's latest crush, Ben, Iris spends a summer digging into the past and stirring old ghosts, in search of a boy she never knew.

What she doesn't realize is that in a town as small as Ondine, every secret is a family secret.

Saundra Mitchell is a screenwriter and author. She penned the screenplays for the Fresh Films and Girls in the Director's Chair short film series. Her short story "Ready to Wear" was nominated for a
Pushcart Prize, and her first feature film, Revenge Ends, debuted on the festival circuit in 2008. In her "free time," she enjoys ghost hunting, papermaking, and spending time with her husband and her two children.

Hi Saundra and welcome to The Write Game. From your bio I'm guessing you moved around a lot. And I'm guessing you landed in Louisana at some point. (Correct me on this assumption if I'm wrong.) So what is it about LA that brought this ghostly tale to the page? Could Elijah have disappeared as mysteriously in, say, Oklahoma or California? What does your setting bring to this story that other settings couldn't.

I haven't actually moved at all! Except for my time in the military-
which was spent entirely on bases, I've lived in Indiana all my life. I
haven't even traveled that much, and I've never been to Louisiana. But I
do love language, and more than that, I love history. And Louisiana has
a spirit all its own-not only do Spanish, French, African,
Native-American and Western European cultures come together here, with
their disparate and beautiful mythologies, faiths and traditions- they
come together on an incredibly unusual piece of land.

You can't bury a body in the ground in southern Louisiana- it will float
back to the surface. Haunt lights flicker in swamp gasses, alleys of
oaks lean over walks as if weeping for four hundred years of suffering
and victory. Shadowed Summer couldn't have happened anywhere but
Louisiana, and that made trying to write about a place I've never seen a
challenge well worth attempting.

I had a friend from Louisiana and they had a family gathering every year to re-bury relatives. I hadn’t thought about that until now. Hmmm. Guess I have to call her and tell her about your book.

So let’s get to another personal question. What part(s) of Iris are you?

All of them. And it's not just Iris. All the characters are me, even the
awful ones. Maybe especially the awful ones. When I write, it's an act
of asking a question from every angle, what I think is right, what I
think is wrong-to try to find the truth in all the middle of it.

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

Perhaps Anneli Rufus' The Farewell Chronicles. She moves me.

What fictional character do you wish you could be?

Han Solo. He's awesome.

Now this is a very serious question. After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away? I ask this of every writer. I’m on a search here for the perfect food remedy. Forgive me.

Actually, I clean to make it go away. Turns out most of the time, my brain would rather write than scrub toilets, so this works for me!

Oh dear. I’ll have to keep asking about the food thing. But, hey, I haven’t tried the toilet route yet. I’ll get back you on how that works.

Thanks so much for having me, C. Lee! :)

It’s me that pleased, Saundra. Your book fascinates me and I know others will find it a great read.

There will be more about Saundra Mitchell and Shadowed Summer on March 3. Visit R.J. Anderson for more.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Interview with Gayle Jacobson-Huset, Fiction and Poetry Editor at Stories for Children

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I’m so excited to have GAYLE JACOBSON-HUSET here today. If you don’t already know, she’s the Fiction and Poetry Editor at STORIES FOR CHILDREN MAGAZINE. This fantastic E-zine has received accolades and awards by some of the top-ranking writers and critics in the field of children’s writing.

When I asked Gayle if she would answer some questions for an interview she was back the same day with, “fire away.” So here goes.

First, I have to ask, when do you sleep, Gayle? You write, you edit, you review books and interview award-winning authors.

I used to NOT sleep very much until we got some more staff on board at Stories for Children Magazine to help us out. I just tried to stay as organized as I could and use every spare minute to stay afloat. Ms. Grenier, our Founder and Editor-In-Chief, is the "little engine that could"…do everything! She puts me to shame. I'm too ancient to be a multi-tasker like she is. So now I get lots of naps in, too.

Can you tell us a little bit about the submission/acceptance process at SFC? What does a story or article go through before it’s accepted or not accepted?

Basically, each fiction, nonfiction and poetry submission goes through three editors.

When a submission comes in, the first thing that is checked is: Have the Guidelines been met to the "t'? If they haven't, then the submission is automatically discarded. I cannot believe the number of people that don't read our Guidelines before submitting. Any editor will tell you over and over, "FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES". It sounds like common sense, but so many DON'T do this. Never second-guess a publisher. Their Guidelines are put together with much thought and are primarily geared for the way they do business. If you leave something off--for example, your third person biography--it hoses up the system and causes delays. We are much more likely to push forward a "professionally-submitted" submission than one with problems. We are just too busy and growing too fast to deal with problem submissions. They are pushed off to the side until we can email the author and get the information we need from them.

In fiction submissions, the first editor looks for a strong manuscript. Is there a HOOK beginning that starts right off with action? Is the middle plot full of conflict for the MC and does the MC solve his/her own problem? Is the ending a strong one, or does it just leave you flat?

If the first editor feels that with a few suggestions, we can get the story to work, then we invest the time to help that author. The second editor oftentimes suggests/makes adjustments because she is trying to help you, the author, get published in our magazine. When I get a manuscript, I know from just my experience working at SFC Magazine what kind of stories will work and not work for us. If the submission is really close, but not quite there, I make my suggestions to the author. Whether you are a new or a seasoned author, please realize that we editors are here to help YOU to get published in SFC Magazine. Our suggestions are well thought out as to what works for OUR magazine. Our suggestions may not work elsewhere, so it is up to you, the author, to decide if you want to continue further with SFC Magazine or not. Most authors do.

The biggest advantage you can have when submitting to SFC Magazine is an "open mind" when changes are requested. We also do this to "train" new writers about working with an editor. Every book-published author has worked with editors at the big publishing houses – it's the same thing with us. They are there to help you get your book/manuscript in publishable form for their particular publication.

The third editor is the one who makes the final decision on whether your submission is a "go" for publication or not. By the time it gets to this editor, everything has to be in top condition – all the guidelines have been met, everything such as a bio or bibliography are attached, and the actual copy of the manuscript is as clean and edited as can be. This will aid in the swiftness in which your manuscript is evaluated – the better the shape it is in, the quicker it can be read through and a decision can be made.

I don't handle the nonfiction submissions coming in anymore, but I will tell you that we are very strict about checking all the items in your bibliography, and the sources you use must be from 3 separate entities – ex: Internet, published adult books (not children's) and an interview with an expert in the field you are writing about. If 3 different sources aren't used, you will most likely be turned down unless our nonfiction editor gives you a second chance to get more sources if she really loves your article.

I am very strict about the poetry. Sixteen lines with a short count of syllables, and rhyming poetry is best. I am willing to work with authors if I like the idea of their poem and they are just not "quite there". The poems should be FUN and imaginative. Our readership loves the simplistic poems with short lines and fun rhymes. We don't want flowery poems that appeal to adults. The best way to write a poem for us is to
1) Make up a little story about your idea.

2) Go through your story and try to make each sentence the same set of

Syllables or "beats".
3) THEN write the poem with rhymes. You may find that your lines will entirely change from your original idea when you find just the right rhyming word. A good place to look for rhyming words is: There are many other rhyming sites out there that you can use, but this one is my favorite.
4) Write a poem like you talk. Ex – Don't write "The Eve of Christmas" but DO write "Christmas Eve" instead.

Our Founder and Editor-In-Chief, VS Grenier, sends the authors their acceptance, or rejection, or a request for more changes. This is the final step of the submission process for Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry.

The premise behind Stories for Children Magazine is FUN for our readership of children. No death, no drugs, no teenage-type issues. Just FUN. We feel that our magazine gives children a chance to be free of the pressures from the outside world; that they can read everything we have to offer with a giggle in their heart.

Thanks so much,Gayle. You've given writers a lot of help here about the submission process and the kind of stories, articles and poems SFC is looking for.

This isn't all Gayle has shared, so next month there will be more. Come back and read about what readers and contributors can expect to see in SFC's near future.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Erin Dionne Interview

MODELS DON'T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES by ERIN DIONNEis here and ready to treat you to a great story about thirteen-year-old Celeste Harris. This girl is no string bean, but comfy sweatpants and a daily chocolate cookie suit her just fine. Her under-the-radar lifestyle could have continued too, if her aunt hadn’t entered her in the HuskyPeach Modeling Challenge. To get out of it, she’s forced to launch Operation Skinny Celeste—because, after all, a thin girl can’t be a fat model! What Celeste never imagined was that losing weight would help her gain a backbone . . . or that all she needed to shine was a spotlight.

Our author in the spotlight has lived on two coasts and in four states. Her debut novel, MODELS DON’T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES, was inspired by events that occurred in seventh grade, when she wore a scary peach bridesmaid dress in her cousin’s wedding and threw up on her gym teacher’s shoes (not at the same event). Although humiliating at the time, these experiences are working for her now.

Now Erin lives outside of Boston with her husband and daughter, and a very insistent dog named Grafton. She roots for the Red Sox, teaches English at an art college, and sometimes eats chocolate cookies.

Hi, Erin and welcome. It's always fun to talk to writers and let their readers get a better idea of who they are. Hope my questions will give people a brief glimpse of the person behind the "pen."

Of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

So many choices...ummm...I'll have to say THE GIVER, by Lois Lowry. That book is simply amazing. AMAZING. I use it nearly every semester when I teach.

The story of Jonah is amazing. I remember how beautifully Lois Lowry revealed the truth to him. I can see why you chose this book.

What fictional character do you wish you could be?

I love villains, and was kind of a "good girl" growing I'd like to be someone bad. Like Bellatrix LeStrange. Bad and crazy!

That's very revealing, Erin. Now your readers have something to think about when they see your name on that book cover--a writer with an interesting "bad" side to her. My next question is kind of silly, but what writer hasn't had THE BLOCK?" We have to talk about that.

After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer's-block pain go away?

Chocolate chip cookies, a little chocolate in my baked goodness.

Now I have to ask this. What if anything about Celeste Harris, your overweight eighth grader, comes from personal experience? I feel I can ask this question because if anyone could have won the Miss HuskyPeach beauty pageant in high school, it would have been me.

So much of Celeste comes from me, in varying degrees. Like her, I was an outcast in junior high. Like her, at different times I've been "chubby." Like her, I seek refuge in books and had celebrity crushes growing up (okay, maybe as an adult, too!). Like her, I've had to learn how to assert myself. The list could go on...

Some of the situations she finds herself in are also familiar to me, too, including the whole "puking on the gym teacher's shoes" things.

I'd love to talk to your former gym teacher after she reads your book.

If there was one piece of advice you'd give to a "chubby" teen, what would it be?

Here goes...
I'd tell the teen to embrace what they like about themselves, and focus on those positive elements. What makes you feel good about yourself? THAT'S what's most important.

Ignore other kids who are teasing or bullying you, but make sure to tell a trusted adult about their behavior. They need to be stopped. And never, EVER resort to drastic measures, crash diets, etc, to lose weight. They don't work, they're not safe, and the weight is just going to come back. Instead, if you're after weight loss, be smart and make little changes that you can sustain for a long time.

Amen to all that you've said. I hope readers drop in here and have a look at this answer.

Great Questions, Lee!!

Thanks, Erin. Great answers too. Thanks so much.

And readers, you can findMODELS DON'T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES near you. Or look at Amazon.

Erin's tour doesn't end here. You can catch more about her and MODELS DON'T EAT CHOCOLATE COOKIES atR.J. Anderson's Blog next week.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chandler Marie Craig

Chandler Craig has a great website for authors. I was lucky to have this interview. Thanks for the great questions, Chandler.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jenny Moss Interview

Today The Write Game is excited to welcome JENNY MOSS, the debut author of WINNIE'S WAR.

Jenny has a fascinating background. A former NASA engineer, she seemed always to be writing stories while dreaming of a life among writers. At the same time she loved numbers and that love and talent took her into a very different career--engineering. Still she didn't give up her dream of becoming a writer, and, after earning a master's degree in literature and teaching writing as an adjunct at University of Houston-Clear Lake, she catapulted into a full-time writing career. Winnie's War, her debut novel, is set against the backdrop of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.

Here's a quick peek at what's in store for you when you turn that first page.

Set in a sleepy town of Coward Creek, Texas, a place that suits Winnie just fine. Although her troubled mother's distant behavior has always worried Winnie, she's plenty busy caring for her younger sisters, going to school, playing chess with Mr. Levy, and avoiding her testy grandmother. Plus, her sweetheart Nolan is always there to make her smile when she's feeling low. But when the Spanish Influenza claims its first victim, lives are suddenly at stake, and Winnie has never felt so helpless. She must find a way to save the people she loves most, even if doing so means putting her own life at risk.

I'm a real fan of historical fiction, so interviewing Jenny is a special treat. I hope my questions are half as interesting as Jenny's career and her book. Let's see.

Jenny, of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly.

What fictional character do you wish you could be?

I'd like to jump from book to book.

Now that's an interesting answer and a great idea. But let's get to a truly important issue for writers. After chocolate what do you eat to make the writer-block pain go away?

Not chocolate? *sobs*

Sorry, Jenny. Now let's see if I can come up with some questions that are a tad more scintillating for you.

What drew you to write about the Spanish Influenza? Are there other pandemics that you might tackle with your gift for historical novels?

I've always had an interest in books about epidemics and natural disasters -- particularly ones that explore how people in small communities react to these tragedies. Some of us do respond with a skepticism that's fascinating, like a stubborn optimism that won't be let go of despite very real threats. Some are paralyzed, some overworry, some isolate themselves, some show extraordinary courage. I am unfortunately intrigued by the human loss and property damage
aspects of these terrible events, as well, but most of my interest is with the human reaction.

Are there other pandemics that you might tackle with your gift for historical novels?

Yes, many others, actually! For example, yellow fever hit Galveston in the 1800s, with a terrible impact. I think it would be interesting to research Galveston during that time and to find a character's story there.

So it looks like we'll be reading more compelling history fiction from Jenny Moss. Is there a better way to learn history than to read a story with people experiencing the events of the past? Not in my mind.

Thanks so much for putting in an appearance here and giving us a glimpse of who you are and what your book is about.

Look for WINNIE'S WAR on your bookstore shelves or at Amazon and order your copy now.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Season is here!

THE SEASON by SARAH MACLEAN takes the reader back to the elegance of the great balls, fine dresses, and aristocratic excesses of the Regency period in England. Into this setting she brings seventeen-year-old Lady Alexandra Stafford who doesn't fit— she's strong-willed, sharp-tongued, and she absolutely loathes dress fittings. Unfortunately, her mother has been waiting for years for Alex to be old enough to take part in the social whirlwind of a London Season so she can be married off to someone safe, respectable, wealthy, and almost certainly boring. But Alex is much more interested in adventure than romance.

Between sumptuous balls, lavish dinner parties and country weekends, Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, manages to get entangled in her biggest scrape yet. When the Earl of Blackmoor is killed in a puzzling accident, Alex decides to help his son, the brooding and devilishly handsome Gavin, uncover the truth. It's a mystery brimming with espionage, murder, and suspicion. As she and Gavin grow closer, will Alex's heart be stolen in the process?

Romance and danger fill the air, as this year's Season begins!

Sarah Maclean grew up in Rhode Island, where she spent much of her free time bemoaning the fact that she was more than a century too late for own Season. Her unabashed addiction to historical fiction helped to earn her a degree in European History from Smith College before she moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. After receiving a Masters in Education from Harvard University, Sarah returned to New York, where she lives with her husband, their dog, and a ridiculously large collection of romance novels. She is currently working on a series of regency-set romances to be released in 2010 from Avon/HarperCollins.

Here's what the author had to say in answer to a few of my questions:

Sarah, of all your favorite books, which one do you wish you had written?

Oh, that's easy! Pride & Prejudice. Austen's voice is AMAZING--her ability to write sentences as a narrator that also sound like they're from the mind of the character is unparalleled. She knows her characters so well, she can speak as author and subject all at the same time. It's completely incredible.

After I asked this question, I kind of had a "duh" moment. What other possible answer could you give?

What fictional character do you wish you could be? To save me from another "duh," I wouldn't let her say Elizabeth Bennet. As it turned out she hadn't planned to.

Eloise Kelly from Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series. She's a cute little American Ph.D. student studying Jacobian spies in London. And falling for a gorgeous Lord. Yes, please.

Love that answer, Sarah. Love the period you write about and love your book.

It's out and it's ready, so order your copy now.



Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stacey Jay . . . a bit more

Just in case anybody doesn't know what a zombie is here's a quick definition: somebody who dies and is brought back to life. We might have gotten the word from "zonbi," a Bantu word that means a sort of re-constituted human.

These creepy, Halloweeny monsters walk among the stories we love to read and be scared by. They draw us into the story as surely as ghosts and goblins and witches.

Stacey Jay's main character, Megan Berry, in You Are So Undead to Me offers a slight twist on the traditional zombi, but she is no less compelling AND she's cute!. Hey, that's an interesting combo. Give it a read. Get your copy today.