Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Taking the Road Less Traveled Redux

I was going to repost Taking the Road Less Traveled, because I've got a crazy busy week and it's one of my more popular posts ... but then I realized my head isn't quite in that same space anymore.

In the four months since that post, I've grown less worried about my children's forays into the creative arts and more concerned about all the children that don't. I've become less anxious that my risk-taking - in choosing to write children's novels rather than get a job with a paycheck - is some kind of foolhardiness that I will regret.

In fact, in these mere four months, I've grown in my confidence that not only is taking the road less traveled a wise choice for me, it may in fact be the only real choice.  There's a feeling of rightness, an intuition-approval bliss-feeling, that comes when you've made a choice that's right for you. I believe it has something to do with integrity, in the sense that all the disparate pieces of you are integrated and heading in the same direction. 

Where did this come from?

Sampling the Cloud
I've been reading a lot of blogs, talking to a lot of people, and reading books about changes in the publishing industry. I've been examining people that are successful, trying to discern what makes them unique. I think of the knowledge base of human experience like an amorphous cloud, shifting and gusting around, changing from minute to minute. You can easily get lost in the cloud, and it can drive you a bit crazy. But I've been trying to take large snapshots to find patterns and learn from them. 

From this I've discerned a couple things: 1) people that are successful aren't successful because they've divined the secret code. They're successful because they made their own code, and 2) Their own code is an expression of the type of person they are, fully embraced and carried forward into the world with confidence.


John Locke is a savvy sales guy who made a bucket load of money selling books the same way he sold insurance. Could I possibly succeed this way? No more than I could sell insurance (which is to say NO).

HP Mallory is enthusiastic, cute, and fun, and has sold a lot of books by being ... enthusiastic, cute, and fun. And attracting readers who enjoy that (and her). Could I be that cute and whimsical? I have my moments, but that's not the main thing that drives me.

My path to success will be different from theirs, and only by embracing who I am, making up my own code for success, will I find it. This is the very definition of traveling your own road, but like the Room of Requirement, you will only find it when you go forward with confidence in what you need.

Confidence as a Writer
At the same time, I've been working this summer on a side project (not listed on my WiP page) that's been kept under wraps, mainly because I wasn't sure what would become of it. Still not sure, but my part is done and it's launched off. We'll see if that baby bird can fly or not (I'll be sure to let you know if it does). But in the process, I collaborated with some excellent writers and gained some serious insights into my writing: what I do well, how far I can stretch, where my weaknesses are. Knowing your weaknesses makes you stronger, not weaker, and all that self-knowledge has helped me gain confidence in my writerly skills.

Confidence to tromp down that path, even if I'm the first one to travel it in exactly my way. Confidence that my path is not only an acceptable way to go about things, it is probably the best way for me.

Because that's the kind of person I am.

So, Mighty Mite is not only taking Hip Hop, we've added Voice lessons to his creative outlets (he also wants to take acting classes). Dark Omen is hard at work on the sequel of his novel, and Worm Burner has decided that he's a fan of both C++ programming and Shakespeare.

I'm not worried about these explorations anymore. I know they are following their own paths, ones that are expressions of who they are, and I'm grateful that they feel free to tell me, "Mom, I want to try this."

After all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

p.s. No Friday Post. Because I really am busy getting ready for a big announcement on Monday. :)

p.p.s. It's the Thursday Omnific Publishing Author Blog Hop...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Last Chance to Buy the Anthology

One of the cool things about having a book out? Getting to participate in things like this:
Baskets full of Omnific author's books in a raffle for MS

There's a special bond between authors at a small press, as we all have a common shared experience. My publisher, Omnific Publishing, encourages their authors to share ideas and support each other, and they lead by example in giving back. In July Omnific  partnered with the Save the Ta-Tas Foundation to release an anthology of romantic short stories for young adults: Summer Breeze All proceeds will be donated to Save the Ta-Tas to support breast cancer research!  Which is awesome, but the anthology is only offered through September 30th (after which, Omnific will be making their donation).

My short fiction in the anthology, Full Speed Ahead, is a light-hearted romantic read and a fun afterstory with the crew from Life, Liberty, and Pursuit. If you enjoyed Life, Liberty, and Pursuit, then Full Speed Ahead will be a tasty dessert of Navy men and romance. If you haven't read Life, Liberty, and Pursuit, consider it an appetizer. :)
Full Speed Ahead
When Teagan's Navy linguist boyfriend pulls extra duties a thousand miles away at the Great Lakes Naval Station, she suspects he's stepping out on her. Or worse, the Navy is acting like a demanding mistress again, something she can't compete with. But when a charity fashion show turns her suspicions upside down, she has to face whether she's cut out to be a Navy wife.
Summer Breeze includes stories from six other Omnific authors. You'll find "breezy" romantic reading in Carol Oates’ Irish mythical storytelling, Jennifer Lane’s sassy swimmer, and Hannah Downing’s second chance at first love. Nicki Elson spins a beautiful tale of remembered love, Killian McRae employs a modern twist with her technology-based romance, and Sarah Glover tells the story of best friends’ summer discovery.

Summer Breeze Anthology
Thank you for supporting Save the Ta-Tas!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Notes from the E-Revolution

Why You Pick Books...
Thanks to everyone who shared their book picking habits! The results (in my very non-scientific assessment) are:

  1. Author Rep/Signing/Series (25%)
  2. Personal Rec/Gift/Book Clubs (20%)
  3. Cover/Blurb (11%)
  4. Blogs (11%)
  5. Friend's Book (11%)
  6. Read to Review/Research/Writing (7%)
  7. Goodreads (5%)
  8. Price/Borders Sale (4%)
  9. Publisher (4%)
  10. Book Reviews (1%)

We clearly are a bunch who like to buy our friends' books, read blogs, and review books, things the general public probably doesn't do on a regular basis. And some of us may even have a favorite publisher (I'm looking at you Bryan Russell). But even so, the majority of our picks come from author rep and personal recommendation, just like Kathryn Rusch found for the general public.

I guess authors are normal people after all. :)

Christmas is Right Around the Corner...
The big question this fall is not so much how books will be picked (I think that Word of Mouth and Author Rep will still be King for a long time), but what format readers will choose? Will this Christmas be a replay of last year, where there was a fundamental shift toward more e-readers in more hands (kids as well as adults)? Or will the e-book surge flatten out and hold steady? The traditional pub and self-pub industries alike are watching with anticipation.

 No one is predicting the demise of e-books as a force to be reckoned with.

Scholastic is betting on more e-readers for kids with plans to unveil a new app for kids. Meanwhile iPad is already ahead of the game with multi-lingual apps for kids books, where you can read "The Three Pandas" (i.e. Goldilocks) in English and Chinese, bringing a multi-cultural (as well as multi-lingual) experience to kids. How do you say, very cool in French? Tres chic, iPad.

I picture a future world (10 years hence) where kids are sitting in a class during silent reading time, sharing a dozen iPads and reading in a dozen different languages - not necessarily their native language, either. Exposing kids to different cultures and languages is a fantastic way to broaden their minds and help them become ready learners in a global society.

And Self-Published Authors are Getting Ready ...
The amazing potential growth of e-readers, added to the increasing ease of digital and print publishing, continues to make self-publishing the biggest news of the day. More and more authors are saying the stigma is waning and being a self-pub author is the new trendy cool thing. Judging by the number of definitely cool authors I know hopping on the self-pub trend (or at least seriously considering it), I think there may be something to that. And self-publishing is definitely still "new," meaning that the E-Revolution is far from over. Already I see friends dusting off their editing credentials and graphic design experience and hanging out a shingle to serve authors making a foray into self-publishing - this is an industry that's just starting to reveal itself.

There are some (agents) that say self-publishing is the new query, but I think this is slightly wide of the mark. I get the analogy: self-publishing your novel and demonstrating that it has a market means that agents and editors may come knocking on your door (rather than the other way around). And traditional publishers still have the print market cornered, so if being on the B&N (real life) shelves is your goal, getting your book traditionally published is the way to go. But trying to make the new paradigm of self-publishing fit into the old paradigm of traditional publishing misses the key point that things have changed. I believe that authors who self-pub are taking an ownership over their careers and their creative work in a way that was not previously a viable career option.

And now it is.

So here is where you get to predict the future! Do you think e-book sales will surge in the Christmas season ahead, or do you think we've reached an equilibrium or saturation point in the e-book market?

My crystal ball is broken, so I'll rely on the collective wisdom of my erudite commenters.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Goodreads Meets Netflix

It appears that Goodreads will now make book recommendations (based on your previous ratings and selected genres), much like Netflix. Goodreads doesn't (apparently) pull in other reader's interests, but can a "friends also read" category much like Amazon's "customers also bought" be far behind?

Which brings me to the topic of "How do you find your next book?"

If you're like me, you have a TBR list a mile long and I could pull books from there for the rest of my life. But that doesn't always determine what I read next. Laura Pauling had a good post about picking books from the "slush pile" to read, and I have to admit that the last few books I bought/selected to read weren't from my TBR but ones where 1) the authors were coming to town for a signing (The Familiars, Book 2 Secrets of the Crown), 2) it was a sequel I wanted to read (Hunchback Series, Book 3), or 3) another sequel that I still have a signed copy on order (Goliath).

Those are firmly in the "author reputation" column, but I also buy books based on personal recommendations, price, and occasionally cover.

According to Kathryn Rusch, people buy books because:

1. Author reputation (52%)
2. Personal recommendation (49%)
3. Price (45%)
4. Book Reviews (37%)
5. Cover/Blurb (22%)
6. Advertising (including online) 14%

Now that I've hopelessly muddled the data by pre-feeding you answers, how did YOU decide to buy your last three books? (I tried to make a form, but it's clearly too early in the morning for my brain to figure that out!)

p.s. Thursday is author blog hop day with my publisher, Omnific Publishing. Join the hop or link along ...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Four (Nasty) Lies We Tell Ourselves About Writing

Inspired by Lynda Young's 14 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Writing, which has the positive lies that we tell ourselves to make life easier (we think), I'd like to add the four negative lies that keep us from accomplishing what we could.

1. The Lie: I'm a talentless hack who will never be able to write anything worth reading.
The Truth: You have great taste and you have great aspirations for creating wonderful works. But you're early in your writing career and still have much to learn. Even if you've got a few novels under your belt, you have much to learn. It's the nature of the craft that you will always be learning and improving - otherwise you will stagnate as a writer.

If you've told yourself this lie, watch this Ira Glass inspirational video:

2. The Lie: I'll never be as great as {insert famous author's name here}; I might as well quit now.
The Truth: This is a lie we often tell ourselves after reading a fantastic book. It's important to note that you will never be {insert famous author's name here} - you can only be YOURSELF. And that self has a unique perspective to share with the world. But in terms of writing as brilliantly as your writerly heroes, it's important to remember the great equalizing forces of the writing process. Every writer starts with a blank sheet of paper. Every writer struggles with plot points and character arcs. Every writer has to work hard to get the words on the page to reflect the ideas in their heads. Accomplished writers wrestle with this as much, or more, than beginning writers. Because they must always be as good as, or better than, their last book - and this is relatively easier to do when you are starting out.

If you tell yourself this lie, read this article about the writing processes of great writers.

3. The Lie: If I keep writing this one chapter/paragraph/sentence over and over, eventually it will be perfect.
The Truth: There is no perfect, there is only finished. And only authors who finish will be successful, no matter how you measure that. There is a difference between rewriting to improve and rewriting to endlessly fiddle because you're not sure what should change (if anything). If you're not in pain or euphoria during the edit process, you're not learning anything and should move on. It will never be perfect, and besides, the perfect is the enemy of the good. And of the writer.

If you tell yourself this lie, read the Six Steps to Writing Success, and commit to getting through Step 2 (finishing). It will set you free.

4. The Lie: (via Carol Riggs' comment) I am not a writer unless I'm published.
The Truth: If you write, you are a writer. When someone is willing to publish your work, it means that they think they can make money off your writing. This is not a bad thing! But you were a writer before that happened, and you will be a writer afterwards (unless the publishing process drives you around the bend, which is entirely possible). Self-publishing means that you think you can invest your own money in your writing and make a profit, or at least have a shot at it. Even 7 in 10 traditionally published novels don't out-earn their advance, breaking even or losing money, so there are no guarantees with any of the paths. The real difference between self-pub, small-pub, and large-pub is the size of the bet made on the future success of your book and who the people are making the bet. Before, during, and after those publishing adventures, you are always a writer.

If you tell yourself this lie, read my post about Owning the Writer Title.

And be nice to yourself and lie no more.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ten Things I Believe

I listened to an inspirational TED talk by Simon Sinek (via Robin Sullivan) and it's changed the way I think (seriously, it's that good).

Simon endorses a Why-How-What perspective of explaining who you are (as an author, company, movement). Most organizations (and people) start with What they do, then explain How they do it, and (maybe) get around to explaining Why. Simon gives compelling reasons (and examples!) of how leading with Why allows you to connect with people in a profound way.

At the same time, I've been the happy recipient of several blog awards (thank you Cherie, Gail, and Elizabeth) as well as being tagged a couple times (thank you Scott and Crystal), all of which require me to divulge some number of random facts about myself.

I could talk about the NASA work I've done, or how I ran for public office and served for four years, but that feels more like a resume and not what drives me today. Instead, I'm taking Simon's advice, which he boiled down to this: What you do proves what you believe.

So here are Ten Things I Believe.

10) I believe that authors should take risks in their craft and their careers.
9) I believe in making your own luck.
8) I believe failure is what happens when you're trying and success is what happens when you try again.
7) I believe every child has the ability to learn and is a special gift in the world.
6) I believe adults are responsible for guiding children into meaningful lives.
5) I believe the human mind is the most important resource on earth and the human spirit is the most precious treasure we have to protect.
4) I believe technology is as good or evil as the hands that hold it.
3) I believe the forces of good are more powerful than the forces of evil.
2) I believe one passionate person can make difference in the world.
1) I believe writing is an act of courage that shows the world who you are.
I strive to make everything I do prove these things that I believe.

Consider yourselves awarded with banners of awesome and tagged with magic tagger sticks. Please tell me in the comments what you believe. Because that's what I want to know most about you!

The lovely Cherie Colyer is spotlighting my novel, Life, Liberty, and Pursuit on her blog today (thank you, Cherie!), as well as interviewing me with a few (much less serious) questions. And today is Omnific's Author Hop (thus the linky at the bottom).

p.s. no Friday post this week, as I've already reached my posting quota. :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Untangle Your Theme

I stumbled on this post (via Natasha Hanova) by Donald Maass, Scott Bell and Richard Volger about Story Structure (which is filled with awesome and you should read the whole thing), but this part leapt out for me:
Q: You three Story Masters each teach universal principles but also singular techniques.  What dimension of storytelling is most important to you?
Donald Maass: "... there’s another consideration that I’ll pick as my most important dimension: Whatever it is that the author wants to say, or wants us to see, understand or get.  You can call it theme.  I call it what matters to the author. I’m amazed that many authors can’t answer that basic question about their stories, or if they can the answer isn’t an emotional one. 
What in the world of the story makes you the angriest? What’s the greatest injustice? What’s the principle at stake?  What in the story is closest to your own heart? What’s the most painful parallel to your own life?  Answers those questions and you’re getting close to what matters. When you know what that is, you can use it more deliberately to build a story with meaning."
I'm struggling with my theme right now (I'm plotting out my next novel), but theme has always been difficult for me (in spite of knowing its importance). I seem to know, in a generic sense, what my story is about, and I can certainly narrow it down in terms of plot, but succinctly describing the theme has often challenged me. It's there, I just can't seem to put it in words. And I'm a writer. #sad

I already knew Donald Maass was brilliant (read his Writing the Breakout Novel and you'll see what I mean), but this simple paragraph was exactly the tool I needed to nail down my theme.

What makes me angriest in my novel? Well that was easy.


Suddenly, I had my theme in one word, without even trying. And I could see how all the threads of my story, that I thought were an amorphous tangle of plot and character arcs, were actually a multitude of expressions of  my theme: the impact of intolerance on my character, on the people she loved, on the society as a whole. It crystallized the plotting I'm doing on the next book, because I can more easily see where it needs to go and why.


Do you struggle with theme? Do you know it intuitively but struggle to put it into words? Or is it there from the beginning, like a guiding light for your story?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meeting a Giant

My library put on a local author event over the weekend. Which is all kinds of awesome on their part, not least because they invited me to come sign books:

I always love signing books and all the friends and family that come out to support me! But the most amazing part of this event was my chance to meet science fiction legend, Frederik Pohl, who happens to live in Palatine as well:
Mr. Pohl was one of the pioneers of the science fiction genre, and I was reading his books when I was still a kid Dark Omen's age (12), peddling my bike to the local indie book store and using my allowance to buy paper backs. Which I still have! And which I brought! And which Mr. Pohl graciously signed!

I felt bad asking this kind, elderly man to sign a stack of dog-eared paperbacks, but he was incredibly sweet and insisted it was no problem. And he had just re-issued one of the books I had brought with a new cover (which naturally I bought), so he even signed two copies of the same book.

Mr. Pohl spoke in an author panel before the signing, and was just as insightful and witty as you would expect a seasoned science fiction legend to be. Don't let the frail body fool you - this guy is sharp and current and even has a blog (in which he tilts the coolness factor into infinity)! He fielded my question about the future of science fiction with aplomb, saying he knew the field when it was just a handful of guys doing strange things (you know, like him, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov), and now that its gone mainstream, he feels it has lost a bit of something. But he expects that, at some point, a bunch of guys will get together and do more strange things (presumably with writing!) and innovate the field into something new. 

It was an honor to meet this legendary writer and even cooler to introduce him to my son, who has also been reading his books. I'll never attain the status that Frederik Pohl has in the field, but I hope to be like him at that age - still writing, still current, able to entertain and enlighten a roomful of people with his words. 

It may be shooting for the stars, but I think Mr. Pohl would approve.

Mr. Pohl's latest books include The Last Theorem (in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke) and All The Lives He Led. Dark Omen is immersed in The Last Theorem and I would heartily recommend it for young teens looking for a great book from two of science fiction's most celebrated authors.

p.s. Ack! I completely forgot to announce the winner of Secrets of the Crown! It is ... Diane C! Thanks to everyone who commented/entered!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Random Acts of Publicity: Sequels I Crave

I'm squeaking in on the Random Acts of Publicity meme put together by Darcy Pattinson and championed by the lovely Elana Johnson. We're supposed to BLLuRT (Blog, Link, Like, Review, Talk) about our favorite books, but I'm putting a twist in and talking about all the sequels that have recently landed on my Nook and bookshelf, waiting to be read. Series are all the rage in YA and MG, but some literally make me drool in anticipation.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld comes out September 20th, and I'm already drooling. This steampunk adventure with Prince Alex and girl-disguised-as-a-boy Deryn completely captured my imagination in  Leviathan (Book 1) and Behemoth (Book 2). I bought hardcovers (true book love) and fangirled over Westerfeld at a signing. I mean, just look at the art I am not kidding when I say Goliath is as eagerly anticipated (for me) as Mockingjay (and my Hunger Games fangirling really has no bounds). I just about cried when I found out his tour stops will not include Chicago this time. I'll just have to console myself with Alex and Deryn Kissing Fan Art. LeSigh.

Preorder Goliath and follow Westerfeld. If you live in any of his tour-stop cities, get thee to the signing! He gives an amazing talk as well. Also, send me pictures. :)

(Thanks to JJHoutman for the link to get SIGNED COPIES! Yes!)

Ahem. Moving on ...

Rip Tide by Kat Falls is the eagerly anticipated (by me) sequel to Dark Life, which is a futuristic tale where the seas have risen, life is crowded on land, and the new frontier is the ocean floor.  I gave a huge cheer for Kat when I read Dark Life, because she has injected a wonderful new life into science fiction for middle grade. I've talked about the dearth of science fiction in middle grade, and the few authors who excel and get those books on the shelves...well, my hat is off to you. This sequel to the original fish tale looks to be filled with more exotic creatures and frenzied action (and danger)!

I borrowed mine from the library, but you can buy Kat's book here and check out her website. Kat is a fellow Illinois author and led me to the Write by the Lake workshops in Wisconsin. I expect many more awesome books from her in the future!

Empire of Ruins: Hunchback Assignments 3 by Arthur Slade is the next MG/YA steampunkery fun I can't wait to get my hands on.  When I recommended The Dark Deeps, (Book 2 of Hunchback Assignments) I fell in love with Modo, the courageous boy who hides his hideous face from an intolerant world and shifts his features to serve as a spy for the Permanent Association in defense of Victorian Britain. Only later did I find that Arthur Slade has a slew of other books, for adults and children, a cool writerly blog and was just an all-around nice guy. He's forayed into e-publishing his back list, so check out the great finds there.

You can buy the Hunchback series here as well as visit Arthur's website and  blog.

Last, but definitely not least, the sequel to The Familiars has arrived!

The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

I was so excited for this book to come out, I accidentally bought it twice! (Don't ask how these things happen; sometimes I think only half my brain is actually powered at any given time.)

Book 1 of The Familiars charmed my socks off with the delightful adventure of three animal companions (familiars) and the young wizards they belong to. Aldwyn, the alley cat that's passing as a familiar, goes on one mis-adventure after another with a bird named Skylar and a frog named Gilbert. Andrew & Adam are blog touring right now to promote their book(s), including a hilarious video interview with the characters.

You can buy Secrets of the Crown or like The Familiars FB page to see all the latest news, interviews, and sundry fun.
AND ...

As I find myself in possession of an extra copy of Secrets of the Crown, I'm hosting a giveaway! 

1) Leave a comment
2) Be a follower
3) Tweet/FB/spread the word (optional but always appreciated)

Drawing will be held on Monday September 12th!

Happy Weekend and Happy Reading!

UPDATE: And the winner is ... Diane C!! Thanks to everyone who entered!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ten Ways to Get Kids to Write

Getting my kids to write was slightly less painful than delivering them into the world, but a lot more frustrating. Because it goes on for years and years and years ...

When I tell people that Dark Omen wrote a novel and is now working on the sequel, they give me this knowing look, like, Well, of course! What did you expect? You're a writer!

If they only knew.

None of my boys (ages 8, 10, 12) enjoyed writing when they were younger (in the case of Mighty Mite, we're still in that nooooooo stage of the writing experience). But I'm a patient mom (er, sometimes), and in the spirit of my Twelve Tips for Reluctant Readers post, I've pulled together Ten Ways to Get Kids to Write:

When the boys were little, we had a mini-easel that was chalk on one side and marker on the other. It spread chalk dust like crazy and we were always having to clean it, but having writing materials easily available (Way #1) meant we could stop and draw letters or cats (lots of cats) at any time. Later, when they were in school, there was lots of writing time during the year, but during breaks and summer, I stapled together pages of writing paper with a construction paper "cover." This "book" was theirs to decorate, but they had to write a sentence (or paragraph or page, depending on the age) in it every morning, setting a regular time for writing (Way #2) - interestingly, Dark Omen still does most of his writing in the morning. Sometimes I gave writing themes (Way #3), like Christmas lights or going to the pool, but mostly I let them write whatever they wanted (Way #4), even if it was only "I hate writing." (They thought this was the height of funny.)

When they were older and could write longer passages, I enlisted the help of writing workbooks (Way #5) - get the good ones, they're worth it - with worksheets on grammar as well as narrative writing. To mix it up a little, I also gave them assignments (Way #6): write a letter (from a list of our relatives), write a poem, write a song, write a recipe. Here it helped to have a variety of writing supplies (Way #7), from index cards to fancy stationary. The most inspiring writing materials were consistently any notebook or writing material of an odd shape or texture or origin (Way #8), whether tiny spiral bound notebooks or giant sized, cardboard-latched binders. My boys even spent one hilarious night writing secret notes on the backs of fortune cookie slips.

As long as they were writing, I was happy.

Note: most of the time I was not happy because they were not writing. I tried to give them a journal (Way #9) - not a diary - but that was met with scorn. My final Way is not really a technique, but an attitude: cultivate patience and don't give up (Way #10). Kids all develop at their own rates and it may take time (a lot of time, years worth of time) before they reach the milestones you want. But just like reading, writing is an essential skill that will wither if not actively encouraged.

Now, I have to pull Dark Omen away from his spiral notebook that he relentlessly fills with words and characters and stories. I have to tell him to eat breakfast before writing, to make sure it gets in him before he has to run to the bus and Junior High. And if I had told my younger-parent self  that my oldest son would some day be a novelist, I would have had a good laugh.

And I probably needed it, too.

If that's not enough ideas to keep you from tearing out your hair, Imagination Soup has ten more writing activities for kids.

May the Odds be Always in Your Favor.*

*Getting kids to write isn't quite as brutal as the Hunger Games, but somehow the analogy seems apt.

What Ways have worked for you?

p.s. Thursday is Blog Hop Day on the Omnific site (open to non-Omni authors as well). Join or Hop, as you wish!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Great Contest for a Great Cause

I wasn't planning on blogging today, but when I learned about the great contest being held by The Charis Project to fund a land purchase for their orphanage in Thailand, I had to spread the word.
I've been supporting The Charis Project for a while because what they're doing resonates so strongly with me. Not only are they helping orphaned children who otherwise would face lives of horrific abuse and poverty, but they are going about it in a tremendously intelligent and forward-thinking way. Their goal is not just to rescue these kids, but to build a self-sustaining orphanage that can secure these children's education and future, as well as help more children as these grow into beautiful, productive people.

"Charis" means "gift" and Aaron and Carrien Blue are certainly a gift in the world with all they do for these kids and their community. They take an entrepreneurial approach to building a life for these kids, which means that they need capital to get started. That is what this fundraising campaign is about - raising the capital to buy the land for the orphanage - land they will not only live on, but work to provide a source of food and income. This can bring economic freedom, not only to the children, but to their whole community.

Do you see why this resonates with me?

You can read all about their work here, but in short they are giving away a donated iPod Nano in hopes of raising enough capital to fund their powerful dream. I know times are tough, but even a small donation will make a huge difference.

Plus there's the iPod. :) I still treasure the fish trap and machete I won last year.

Contest ends September 10th.

And thank you for being a light in these kids lives!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Notes from the E-Revolution

The E-Revolution continues to bring dramatic changes. Ideas are coming fast and furious about ways that e-books will reach and change the children's book market. Nook has introduced the free Nook Study for e-textbooks and touts e-textbooks as a way to save money. Reading on cell-phones may be the cure for the digital divide, and people can now highlight passages on their Kindles to share with other readers.

But the real changes are within the industry itself. Buckle up, here we go ...

The New Deal
With John Locke negotiating a print-only deal with a traditional publisher (because his e-rights were too valuable to bargain away), another seismic shift is rippling through the industry and knocking over some chairs. Many people (like the great Nate B.) are taking a good, hard look at what traditional publishers bring to the table (small and large, as the choice is quickly becoming publisher vs. self-publish with the dramatic surge in e-books sales happening last Christmas). As Nathan rightly points out, there's a slew of services that publishers provide: editing, copyediting, design, printing and distribution, publicity and marketing, advances and cachet. But self-publishers point out many of those services can be purchased for a one-time fee, and with a digital distribution available to all and authors expected to do most of their own publicity and marketing regardless of how they publish, that leaves advances, cachet, and print distribution. The John Locke deal shows that, for established writers, traditional publishers are still at an advantage in print distribution (he's certainly not doing it for the advance or cachet).

What does this mean?

Maybe that e-book royalties will soon change? Maybe the traditional publishing contract will become more a la carte? Advances are already dwindling and the cachet of self-publishing is on the rise, with more quality authors choosing that route (and then there's the whole Pottermore phenomenon).

Are publishers on a one way ticket ride to extinction? I don't think so. But there could well be a major shift in the way publishers operate. Times of change mean some things will fall away and others will take their place. While I feel for anyone caught in the squeeze, overall I think change is good, as we are forced to innovate and be creative.

Taking Out the Middleman
Every industry that digitalization has touched has reduced the middleman, bringing producer and consumers closer together. I think further conversion to e-book platforms will accelerate the direct connection between writers and readers. Publishers have for a while advocated that writers connect directly with readers (hence the emphasis on social media and building your tribe). With the rise of self-publishing, even more of the layers between the writer producing literature and the reader consuming it are falling away.

Amazon has launched a new feature called @author, which directly connects writers and readers: 
Readers can ask questions directly from their Kindles, or post them to Amazon Author Pages. Anyone who has purchased items from can reply to an existing question or ask a new one, and all visitors to can read any current question or response.
I think this is a fascinating leap forward and can't wait to check it out when Amazon releases it from beta-testing (you can try it now with select authors). (Also: more here via Nathan Bransford.)

It's easy to get overwhelmed with all the crazy changes going on, and to be fearful of the future - either what it will bring, or that you will make a wrong "choice" in trying to navigate it. The best advice I've heard recently about this came from Jane Friedman: "Just have fun with it. Be creative. Because you can't be afraid of making a mistake, since no one knows what the right answer is anymore."

Now that's a philosophy I can get behind!

p.s. no post Monday, as I will be sipping a tall glass of iced tea and enjoying the last of summer.