Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Summer. Let's Read with Debut Author Carla Mooney

I'm such a sucker for dragons, and CARLA MOONEY has certainly given us one super dragon, hasn't she?

Carla is the author of more than 20 books for kids and teens, but  OWEN AND THE DRAGON is her first fiction trade book and, therefore, officially her debut book.

The books she's written for the educational market include: AMAZING AFRICA PROJECTS YOU CAN BUILD YOURSELF, and the upcoming SAMSON”S STORY (Fall 2010) AND GREAT GEORGE WASHINGTON PROJECTS YOU CAN BUILD YOURSELF (November 2010). As long as she can remember, she has been in love with reading and writing. She is thrilled to create adventures and explore new worlds in each of her books and hopes that readers enjoy the journey as much as she has. Carla lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. When not reading and writing, Carla volunteers as the Pittsburgh Chapter Director for Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization that photographs children with cancer and other life-threatening conditions. Be sure to visit Carla at her WEBSITE to find out more about her and her work.

About Owen and the Dragon
Owen is a ten-year old boy who has just moved to a new town and left behind his best friend and everything familiar to him. Unable to face unpacking his room, Owen decides to explore the woods behind his new home. He is stunned to discover a dragon named Phineas. Owen soon gains the dragon’s trust and learns that Phineas has lost the ability to fly. As he struggles to find a way for the dragon to return home, Owen learns friendship can be found in unexpected places.

I'm always curious and ask writers about the book(s) that inspired them as young readers and encouraged them to read and perhaps later led them into writing in their genre. Can you share what book or books did that for you?

I loved all different types of books as a young reader but some of my favorites included the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon series, Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie mysteries, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I can remember going every Thursday night to our local library and spending hours browsing through book after book, until I found just the right one to take home.

Are you working on another or other books? If so, can you give us a peek at what you're creating?

I have several projects in the works right now. Later this year, my first picture book, Samson's Story, is scheduled to be released from a new independent publisher, Earth Day Publishing. I've heard that the illustrations have just been completed and I'm very excited to see them!

I'm also working on the final edits for a nonfiction book about George Washington from Nomad Press that will be coming out in November 2010. It was engrossing to work on that one - I loved all the new details I learned about Washington, that I never learned in school. He truly was a great man, one that we as a nation were very lucky to have in the right place at the right time.

What's the best advice you have for writers?

The best advice I can give is to believe in yourself and your story. Never stop trying to make yourself a better writer through practice, critiquing, classes, reading or whatever works for you.

. . .  And now the CONTEST!

Carla has been so generous to offer a signed copy of Owen and the Dragon. Here's all you have to do to win. Leave a comment telling what type of mythical creature you would like to discover behind your home just like Owen discovered Phineas.

Be sure to check out Carla Mooney's Facebook or follow her Tweets @carlawrites to stay current with this author.

Owen and the Dragon is available through Soto Publishing or on  Amazon.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing Owen with us, Carla.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's Summer. Let's Read with Debut Author Mindi Scott

WINNER ALERT: Shari Larsen gets the SWAG! Mindi had a hard time deciding and even considered sending her super bookmarks out to everyone, then common sense prevailed. (Smiling Face here.) Congrats to Shari.

Isn't this an eye-catching cover? And here's Mindi Scott our Debut author of the week. She's offering some super swag for the best comment, so be sure to check out her contest below.

Welcome, Mindi and tell us about your novel, FREEFALL.

How do you come back from the point of no return?

Seth McCoy was the last person to see his best friend Isaac alive, and the first to find him dead. It was just another night, just another party, just another time where Isaac drank too much and passed out on the lawn. Only this time, Isaac didn’t wake up.

Convinced that his own actions led to his friend’s death, Seth is torn between turning his life around . . . or losing himself completely.

Then he meets Rosetta: so beautiful and so different from everything and everyone he's ever known. But Rosetta has secrets of her own, and Seth will soon realize he isn’t the only one who needs saving . . .

The book sounds intriguing, Mindi. How did you start writing for young readers?

Almost everything I’ve ever written would be classified as “Young Adult.”  In 2004, when I decided that a big focus in my life would be writing and trying to get published, it just felt like the obvious and best fit.  One of my writing instructors that year told me, “The YA market is really hot right now!”

I was like, “Oh, is it?  Well, that’s cool.”

Which, of course, it is cool. But it had nothing whatsoever to do with my decision.  I’m just lucky that what I love to write happens to be in a market that’s selling!

Is there anything you've learned in writing this story, selling it, seeing it published that you'll share and perhaps help aspiring writers reach their goal of publication? (Some things to do or avoid or surprises, good and not so good, that you can share?)

I’ve always been told that my writing has that mystical thing called “voice.”  Looking back, though, I think I used to rely too much on my own voice and point of view when writing female narrators.  In Freefall, my protagonist is a sixteen-year-old guy, and writing him really forced me to stretch.  I could never take the easy way out—not for one page, one paragraph, one sentence, one word.  Everything had to be about how Seth would see it/think it/say it, otherwise the slip in voice was obvious and jarring.  I feel that writing him flipped a switch for me and has permanently changed my approach to voice and point of view for all of my characters moving forward.

Now, I don’t think that the answer for everyone is to write a different gender or anything like that!  But I do think that finding ways to challenge yourself in your writing can help you improve your craft in unexpected ways and make your work stand out.  :-)

Thanks, Mindi.

NOW HERE'S A CONTEST FOR SOME SUPER SWAG: Describe one moment in your life -- literal, emotional, or otherwise -- when you experienced a freefall and  . . . win a FREEFALL mouse pad, magnet, and signed bookmark prize pack.

And don't forget to pre-order your copy of FREEFALL from AMAZON today.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It's Summer. Let's Read with Debut Author Naheed Hasnet

I could hardly wait for NAHEED HASNET to be here. Her book sounds fabulous and when I read her bio I knew you'd find her incredibly interesting. (Be sure to check out her advice and the contest below.)

Welcome, Naheed. It's great to finally learn more about you and your debut novel  SHOOTING KABUL, which I can't wait to read.

Here's a bit about our featured debut novelist.

N.H. Senzai grew up speaking two languages, balancing a life lived on the edge of two cultures. She got on a plane for the first time at two months in Chicago, where she was born, and has been travelling ever since. She grew up in San Francisco, Jubail, Saudi Arabia, and attended boarding school in London, England where she was voted “most likely to lead a literary revolution” due to her ability to get away with reading comic books in class. She’s hiked across the Alps, road-tripped through Mexico, swum with barracudas in the Red Sea, taken a train across the Soviet Union, floated down the Nile, and sat in contemplation at the Taj Mahal. Somewhere along the way she attended UC Berkeley and Columbia University and has landed back home in San Francisco where she lives with her husband, a professor of political science, son, and a cat who owns them. During the day she can be found working for a consulting firm that helps companies with their inventions and patents.

AND HERE'S THE BOOK. Fadi never imagined he’d start middle school in Fremont, California, thousands of miles away from home in Kabul.  But, here he was, half a world apart from his missing six year old sister who’d been lost because of him, as they'd fled Afghanistan. Adjusting to life in the United States isn’t easy for Fadi’s family and as the events of September 11th unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in a war torn Afghanistan seem slim -- impossible. Desperate, Fadi tries every hare-brained scheme he can think of to find her. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister.  But can one photo really bring Mariam home?

Based in part on Ms. Senzai’s husband’s experience fleeing Soviet controlled Afghanistan in 1979, Shooting Kabul is a powerful story of hope, love, and perseverance.

How did you come to write Shooting Kabul?

I wrote in my author’s note that I didn’t want to write SHOOTING KABUL, really, I didn’t. I resisted writing it for many years because it deals with many sensitive and personal issues—  9/11, Islam, the Taliban, Afghan culture and politics, coupled with my husband’s family history and escape from Kabul. For thousands of years, Afghanistan has been a battle­ground for outsiders. Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan came with their armies, as did the British and the Soviets. All attempted to conquer and occupy, yet failed. There are lessons to be learned as the United States currently contemplates its role in this war-torn country. It is a land still ravaged by war and ethnic tensions, but despite these facts, Afghans remain a strong and proud people.

But, at the urging of my agent, I decided to take the plunge - I felt that I had an interesting story to share, coupled with the opportunity to introduce readers to a new world. So, as I began to write, I made sure that I relayed these subjects with as much accuracy as I could since there is tremendous complexity in explaining things like terrorism, Afghan culture, Islamic practices etc. and I wanted to do it in a nuanced, truthful way that could be understood by young and old alike. It is my hope that the reader, having walked in my protagonist, Fadi’s, shoes, they learn that Fadi and his family are similar to their own; that their hopes, dreams and desires mirror theirs.

Is there anything you've learned in writing this story, selling it, seeing it published that you'll share and perhaps help aspiring writers reach their goal of publication? (Some things to do or avoid or surprises, good and not so good, that you can share?)

I really feel that writers should dig within themselves and write what they know, from their unique perspective. An easy trap some writers fall into is following trends – who hasn’t seen the tremendous success of vampire books and its multiple spin offs? Instead of following, you should think outside the proverbial box and create a unique tale that only you can tell, based on your personal experiences. I was able to write SHOOTING KABUL because I have first-hand knowledge into the Afghan community and feel honored to share some of their experiences. Once I set my mind to write it, I wrote SHOOTING KABUL in short period of time – about six months. Because I feel that it relays an “authentic” voice, the book got noticed by a few different publishing houses and my agent, Michael Bourret @Dystel & Goderich sold it at auction. We decided to go with the talented Alexandra Penfold at Simon & Schuster and my editorial journey was truly collaborative. Alexandra pulled the best out of me, while allowing space to maintain my voice and keep the book’s integrity. So I would say, be true to yourself and share your unique story in a way that only you can!

There's not much better advice than that, writers. 


Now go and buy SHOOTING KABUL at your local Indie or order it from Amazon.  And be sure to visit the AUTHOR'S BLOG. It's worth dropping in and once you do, you'll stay.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's Summer. Let's Read with Debut Writer Susan Kaye Quinn


Wow, ladies (and gentleman), I can’t possibly pick between your amazing stories. I will have to let Lady Luck decide for me (my oldest son is in possession of an eight-sided-dice)! Thank you all for sharing and to C. Lee for hosting and asking such a wonderful question!

And the winner is ... Ann Best!

Ann, I will email you shortly to get your physical address. Thanks again!

Susan and I met over at YALitChat and have been sharing some emails and discussions. Her book caught my attention and her debutness qualified her for this series. Check out how to win her book below.

I'm really pleased you agreed to come and let my readers find out about you and your book. So, Susan, tell us about you. 

I grew up in California, where I wrote snippets of stories and passed them to my friends during class. My teachers pretended not to notice and only confiscated my stories a couple times. I left writing behind to pursue a bunch of engineering degrees, but I was drawn back to writing by an irresistible urge to share my stories with my niece, my kids, and all the wonderful friends I've met along the way.
I don't have to sneak my notes anymore, which is too bad. I write from the Chicago suburbs with my three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as a much as I can handle.

I always like to know the answer to this question when I talk to authors. What would you be doing if you didn't write?

If I hadn’t discovered the joy and addiction that is writing in my life, I would probably be looking for a flexible job that would allow me time with my kids. Part-time engineering geek? Small-business woman? Professional cake decorator? Those were all on the list before writing captured my heart. Now that I’ve found writing, I intend to be one of those people who dies with unfinished work, keeling over at their desk as they write into their final years of life. 
I loved your title. What can the readers expect to find inside this great cover?

Life, Liberty, and Pursuit is a teen love story about a college-bound girl who falls in a pool, the Navy recruit who saves her, and their struggles to choose between following their dreams and daring to love. I originally wrote this story for my fourteen-year-old niece, and never intended to publish it. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you planned! I blogged about my adventures in publishing and choosing a small press for this novel.

Okay, readers, isn't this a perfect book for your summer reading? Here are the places you can find it.

Life, Liberty, and Pursuit is available as in e-book, Kindle and print.

Be sure to check out this website for Life, Liberty, and Pursuit  and visit Susan at Ink Spells blog where she talks about writing and reading middle grade books: 

Susan also invites you join her on Twitter: @susankayequinn

Her advice is as sound as it gets:

The best advice I can give to aspiring writers is to simply sit down and write – write as much as you can, and write an entire novel to completion before you decide whether this writing business is for you. Then pair up with other writers to swap critiques and get feedback about your writing. Critiquing other people’s work is a fantastic way for you to improve your own craft. And keep at it! Perseverance is everything.

So would you like win a signed copy of her book? Here's how. 
Post your comment with a real life dilemma . . . just like the one Susan's characters must face . . . Be sure to tell us the choice you made. Susan will pick the winner and send you your prize. 

Be sure to leave your contact info in your comment just in case your Google Bio fails to deliver the info and you WIN.  

Next week Carla Mooney will join us to talk about her book and share her debut experience.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's Summer. Let's Read with Debut Author Heidi Kling

It's great to have you here, Heidi. I enjoyed meeting you at your book signing earlier this month and I loved your book.

Does this look familiar, Heidi?

"I'm sitting alone on the other side of the world talking to a sea turtle that might be my mom." For those who haven't read Sea yet, isn't that a great beginning? I had to enter it into Page Turner's list.

So let's find out who this author is.

Heidi R. Kling likes people, stories and blue things, necessarily in that order. A native Californian, she relocated briefly to NYC where she earned her MFA in Writing for Children from the New School. Heidi resides with her family in Northern California just over the coastal mountains from the sea, where she alternately wears flip-flops and Ugg Boots. And is quite happy.

I know readers will be interested in what inspired SEA.

Sea was inspired by my husband’s real life volunteer trip to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami disaster.

Do you by any chance have a favorite character in SEA?

A three way tie: Sienna, Deni and Spider.  

The songs are interesting. What are some of your favorite songs from SEA’s playlist?

“Hey There, Delilah” from Plain White T’s (though none of my story takes place in New York City), “Only You” by Yaz, “Details in the Fabric” by Jason Mraz, “Tidal Waves” by Eddie Vedder/Pearl Jam, “Lucky” by Jason Mraz, “Disappearing,” “Made to Fly” & “Sand Castles” by Coastal Sage*; “Undone” by Cori Najarian*

(*Fun fact: These original songs were written and performed by alumni of our Santa Cruz Children’s Theatre!)

What are you working on now?

A modern fantasy trilogy about estranged witches and warlocks. Imagine setting Romeo & Juliet in a funky beach town, adding a ton of magic and mischief and you got Jade.

Be sure to visit Heidi's blog for breaking news and announcements. You can also follow her on Twitter: @heidirkling She says it's her favorite internet hangout!

Now The Write Game wants to add one more comment about On Being Published, The Process. Sarah-Jane covered a lot of excellent areas in her post last week, so here's my contribution. Read the award winning writers in your genre, connect with them, follow them online.  This will pay off in many ways: you'll read some excellent books, you'll become more familiar with who publishes what, you'll learn a lot about writing, and when you do publish you'll know who to ask for blurbs. Okay, that's my tip. Do you have others that you'd like to add? Please do. cleemckenzie