Monday, July 30, 2012

Write As If Your Life Depends On It--Excellent advice


Today I'm hosting a beautiful author--and a college alum of mine (Go Augie!)--on Open Mic Monday. Lisa Sellman has been on a journey to change the world for animals everywhere. As the owner of The Good Dog Handling and Training, she uses her unique training skills to make sure animals are treasured and treated with care.  Now, Sellman is using her compassion and unique skills to highlight another cause she cares deeply about—community service.  She feels so deeply about serving others that she contributes to several community projects.  Sellman’s passion for service led her to publish, The Legend of the Wolves of Gunflint Lake.  This children's story encourages  parents and children to look at what they can do to live a life of compassion and service. 


Write As If Your Life Depends On It – Because It Does!
by Lisa Sellman

I have often heard that people learn from their pain.  I don’t find this to be true for me.  Confusion is my ultimate teacher.  I have been in an intensive study program in confusion for most of this year and I have decided it is time that I graduate.  I want to help other writers avoid some of the frustration that I have experienced.  With no syllabus, course description, or even a clear faculty list, I hope the following rules may help you navigate the murky waters should you unexpectedly find yourself in this course of study.
Rule #1 -  It is better to be confused than dazed!  Many people never get accepted into the degree program of confusion.  Students in this program have a deep sense of integrity.  They understand who they are, the preliminary basic rules of society, and also the intangible elements of the human spirit.  Confused people look at the world with eyes that see beauty and possibilities all around.  We have experienced sadness and joy but prefer the latter.  We want our lives to be of value – not for anyone else but just for us.  To ponder the mysteries of life and dive deep with all of your heart takes courage of which the dazed are lacking.    
Rule #2 – Make friends with confusion!  You may recall having to do this in the past such as when you were assigned a weird college roommate.  You now are sleeping with a stranger that may snore and keep you up at night.  Also, it likes to talk a lot and has no respect for your life.  On the upside, your new bosom buddy keeps you really busy so you don’t have to worry about your future, you only have time to debate your past.  You can’t remember what your life was like before it took up residence but all you know is this is less than ideal.  Take my advice and save yourself a lot of frustration.  My main goal was the elimination of confusion so I went to spiritual classes, retreats, studied yoga, meditation, exercised, spent time in nature, changed my diet, church and asked for guidance from angels to spirits in nature.  You don’t really get a say of when confusion arrives on your doorstep and no matter how badly you want it gone, it is here until you give up the struggle.  Once I decided I had done everything I possibly could do to alleviate my symptoms, I gave up and the confusion gave up at that exact moment, too.  
Rule #3 -  Confusion runs in the face of intuition!  The word intuition comes from the Latin word 'intueri', which is roughly translated as meaning 'to look inside'’ or 'to contemplate'.  Intuition provides us with guidance that we cannot necessarily justify.  Confusion happens when we decide others are more knowledgeable than ourselves.  With so much information at our fingertips via the internet and books written about self help to spiritual awakening, we think the path out of confusion must be mapped some where.  Unfortunately when we ignore our own guidance, we have ultimately taken away our power.  The still small voice within can lead you away from confusion and into clarity.
Rule #4 – Confusion transforms into wisdom!  While in the midst of this agonizing past year, I could not see myself in a growth phase.  I see now that I was letting go of the insecurities that perhaps were true for me at a younger time but no longer fit.  I began to feel whole when I decided that I had the answers for myself.  This is a natural progression in life.  In traditional cultures, rituals designate when boys and girls become adults.  This past year served as my time to create my own rituals to delve deep into who I am.  I had many mornings and nights journaling my past and making peace with the human experience.
Rule #5 – Confusion and self acceptance are incompatible.  Each time we think there is something wrong with us, we separate from our natural state of being.  This separate identity that we try to eliminate is a master at hiding.  There is always an underlying problem that keeps you away from the peace that was there before confusion moved in.  All techniques that you may try to fix yourself that are outside of you are traps.  Once I began to accept myself, I stopped trying to fight against who I am and I was back in the flow of loving life, this precious life.
Writing was my path to healing.  Some days I wrote poetry, some days blog entries, posted inspirational tidbits on Facebook and often had interesting insights that I would later find were shared by others.  I found myself to be less interested in other people’s journey and began to become once again interested in my own.  I allowed myself to honor this life and to experience its brilliant unfolding.  Confusion is merely a thought – a thought that leads us on a quest for answers and then with grace, wisdom and self acceptance, we come home.

What people are saying about Wolves of Gunflint Lake:  

"The Legend of the Wolves of Gunfl int Lake is a story about relationships. Whenever we hear the howl of a Wolf, a tingling up the spine tells us this is a very special voice in Mother Earth’s symphony. Legends from around the world speak of the close bond between Wolf and Human. Wherever they are both found, so are stories like the one in this book. The Ojibwe people of the Gunflint Lake area tell a story of the time when Wolf and Human first came to be. They regarded each other as sister and brother – Wolf people and Human people – and they hunted and raised their children together. Let the inspiring and beautifully-rendered The Legend of the Wolves of Gunfl int Lake take you back to that time of honoring. See the ways that Wolf and Human cared for each other, and how that can be a metaphor for the kindness we can extend to all of life. And see especially how each of our children has a special talent for serving the people – just as Wolf does for us."
TAMARACK SONG, author of Becoming Wolf and Whispers of the Ancients, which tell more of the Wolf-Human story



“With this writing, Lisa has shared with readers a bit of the heritage and culture of the Native American

community in the Gunflint area. These values and ways of life are vanishing from our current lifestyles.

Some of these beliefs are like lessons of life, and could be just as relevant today as they have been to the

generations of residents who have orally passed them on to us.”

—Bruce Kerfoot, a seventy-plus-year resident of Gunflint Lake


—Bruce Kerfoot, a seventy-plus-year resident of Gunflint Lake,

The book can be purchased on Amazon or the publisher's website at Balboa Press  Sellman can also personalize a book by ordering a copy directly through her at her website,www.lisasellman.com She is also a freelance writer and poet and makes her home in Minneapolis.

                        With Joy, Lisa Sellman



Monday, July 23, 2012

"Open Mic Monday" presents author Sands Hetherington


Today I'm thrilled and honored to host YA author, Sands Hetherington, as he discusses his views on the writing craft.  Enjoy and please comment below.  We'd love to hear your thoughts as well. Welcome, Sands! 

Hi Amber, good of you to have me.  I'm glad you call it a craft, because that's a more useful term for this discussion than "art."  In English anyway.  You probably know the Greeks made no distinction and used the same term (techne) for poetry, cooking and lamp-making.  Be that as it may, craft is an easier term to handle, and a craft by definition can be learned if you have the aptitude.  Not everyone has the aptitude for writing, of course.  Not everyone has the aptitude to be a chef or a professional athlete either.  But if you do have it, there's a lot of stuff out there to pick up on.
I think the biggest thing is to read.  You can't write good books unless you know good books.  Read them all twice, and read mediocre ones too so you know the difference.  You can't get something out of nothing, and nothing is what you've got unless you dive into the literature.  Who was it that said, "Good writers borrow; great writers steal?"
The second biggest thing is scheduling and dedication.  Writing is a lonely and often tedious business and you've got to want it and go after it.  Make a writing schedule and stick to it no matter what happens and how rotten you feel that day.  Don't try for eight hours.  No successful writers I know work eight hours.  (Or unsuccessful ones either.)  It's just too exhausting, and if you try it you will probably quit.  Two, maybe three hours should be enough.  Never stint your two or three hours, though.  Mark Twain said it: "I hate writing.  I love having written."
And while we're leaning on authority, I like something Hemingway said also.  He said stop for the day at a spot that will be easy to start from tomorrow.  And read everything you've got tomorrow before starting so everything will be of a piece.
I like to do about five hundred words a day and do it straight through.  I get in trouble when I start trying to do a line at a time, that is, getting the line just-so before going on to the next one.  This hurts my flow (from the reader's point-of-view) and wastes time.  I try to do my five hundred words without looking back, and then take fifteen or twenty minutes to clean things up.
Finish the piece and then rewrite and rewrite.  You need to stop this at some point, but err on overdoing it.  Get lots of criticism from good people (they don't need to be pros).  Have a thick skin because you're going to take a lot of flak, some of it undeserved.  When you get stuck, get a little notepad or recorder and go for a walk.  Dickens used to do this late at night in London.  I know it loosens my thoughts up.  Keep your antenna out at all times.  You never know where good material might be coming from.  I got the idea for my present book while putting my little son to bed.
But, hey, who on earth am I to say?
And thanks again for having me.
Sands Hetherington  
Sands Hetherington's books are available in paperback, kindle and nook.  For more information visit www.nightbuddiesadventures.com  

Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare by Sands Hetherington is an after lights-out adventure story that will delight young readers and middle graders who relish roller coaster fantasy and fun, filled with unforgettable characters and an astonishing and inventive collection of magical whatchamacallits.
The book is all about the nighttime adventures of a young boy named John, who is not ready to go to sleep, and his friend, a bright red crocodile named Crosley who turns up under John’s bed. 
They sneak out of John’s house using Crosley’s “I-ain’t-here-doodad” which makes them invisible to John’s parents. They then embark on an adventure chasing down enemies and cleaning up one mess after another as they solve the earthshaking mystery: who stole all the pineapple cheesecakes from the only factory in the world that makes them! 
  
John, Crosley, and the amazing get-anything-free card. 
The investigation starts out fine but things get a little crazy when Crosley, who is allergic to water, gets wet.  Hilarious things happen when Crosley’s allergy to water kicks in, and when they get to the pineapple cheesecake factory and meet Big Foot Mae, the investigation gets more complicated and zany than either of them bargained for.
Night Buddies is an astonishing and inventive adventure with unforgettable cast of characters that will make you laugh and win over your heart. The book has lots of thoughtful, multi-layered twists, giggles, and perils -- things kids can relate to and enjoy.  
More about the author:

Sands Hetherington credits his son John for being his principal motivator. Sands raised his son as a single parent from the time John was six. He read to him every night during those formative years. He and young John developed the Crosley crocodile character in the series during months of bedtime story give-and-take. Sands majored in history at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and has an M.F.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in English from UNC-Greensboro. He lives in Greensboro.




Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lauren Biltmore--Riptide's leading lady

Like I promised, I'm highlighting the main characters up until Riptide's release day, August 1.  Today I'm introducing Lauren Biltmore.
Don't let appearances fool you.  Lauren may look camera ready, but her scars are both physical and emotional.  A stalker--someone she'd trusted like a younger brother--nearly murdered her one violent night and shattered life as she'd known it.  Forced to kill him to save herself, she can't quite justify that in her mind so she buries the memories deep.  As an anchorwoman, she's accustomed to reporting the news rather than being the lead story.  She flees to her brother's home on Grand Cayman to escape the spotlight, to figure out how to start over and to distract herself from the nightmares that torment her.

When she meets sexy screenwriter and dive master Noah Reynolds, she feels "normal" for the first time in months.  He looks at her with desire rather than judgment.  He's easy to be with...and to flirt with.  He makes her laugh, which is an accomplishment after all she's survived.  In Noah, she senses a kindred spirit, someone who's as alone as she is, who's had more than his fair share of sorrow, someone who accepts her as is--scars, baggage and all.  He's the distraction she's been needing.

But she doesn't know that Noah's not all that he seems.  His laid back island demeanor hides a past he'd thought he left years ago.  He has a stalker of his own, someone either pretending to be his dead fiancee...or maybe a fiancee who isn't as deceased as everyone had assumed.  Either way, there's a woman on the island who doesn't want Noah to live happily ever after and Lauren's caught in the middle.

Lauren doubts herself...is the paranoia she's experiencing justified or a carryover from her past?  Has she finally lost it?  Is she strong enough to stand with Noah or will she run again?

Trust isn't easy for her.  She'd trusted the guy in Atlanta, too.  Now, more than ever, she needs to trust herself first and foremost.  To do that, she needs to finally face the buried memories and confront the here and now regardless of how unpleasant that might be.

Excerpt from Riptide:


Heart thudding in her chest like steel drums, she jolted awake, and blinked at the stars glaring at her from the open hole in the ceiling. She froze with fear, every limb paralyzed, breathing labored. Someone watched her from the foot of the bed. She could feel their gaze on her...on them. 
Noah slept next to her, completely unconscious judging by the steady rise and fall of his chest and the weight of his arm over her abdomen. 
Look. It’s my imagination. No one’s there. I double-checked—no, triple-checked—all the locks before bed. 
Her thoughts immediately went to the morning before...the blackout, the pictures, the fear. She exhaled slowly and raised her head. 
A woman stood at the foot of the bed, hair hidden by a yellow scarf, face in shadow, dressed in a baggy sweatshirt and jeans. Real. 
“Who are you?” She bolted upright, eyes wide as the woman turned and ran from the room. 
Pushing Noah’s arm aside, she bolted from the bed. Anger replaced fear in an instant. Unable to control the emotions raging through her bloodstream, she ran into the living room. No one. She’d left all the lights on before going to the bedroom. She turned in a circle, plastic from the still unfinished kitchen crunching beneath her feet. 
The deck door remained closed and locked. Nothing appeared disturbed. 
Heart still slamming against her ribcage, she walked to the top of the stairs leading down to the laundry room. She took one step...and then another...slowly...unable to breathe until she reached the bottom. All the deadbolts remained locked. 
No one had left. 
She flattened her back against the wall and looked over her shoulder toward the top of the stairs. If no one had left, then the woman had to still be inside. 
Ali? Alicia? Someone pretending? Questions rattled her mind as she ascended the stairs with her back kept firmly against the wall. She wanted to call out to Noah, but her voice lodged in her throat. 
Once in the living room, she again checked the lock on the sliding glass door before staring down the hall toward the spare room she’d never entered. Fear battled anger until she thought her head would explode from the pressure of the two heated emotions. 
As she passed the bathroom, she flicked on the light to make sure it was empty inside. It was. She pushed open the door to the spare room with her foot as she kept her back pressed against the door. 
Dark. She slid into the room, her hand moving along the wall for a switch of some kind. 
Then she heard footsteps behind her. Slow. Creeping. 
“What’re you doing?” Noah asked from where he stood in the open doorway. 
He flicked on the light, showing the room to be empty except for piles of boxes and tools. She stared at the open window at the far side of the space. 
Without answering him, she walked over the mess and leaned out the window. Palm trees swayed with the night wind. Shadows danced in the darkness, black on black. In a moonless sky, stars fell toward the dark void where the ocean lay. 
“Lauren? Are you sleepwalking or something?” Noah’s hand dropped against her shoulder. 
The truth of what she was seeing warred with the knowledge in her heart that someone had been standing at the foot of the bed. The intruder could have escaped out this window. It wasn’t a long drop for an athletic person. 
I’m not going crazy, I’m not. God, I hope I’m not. 
She shoved the window closed with more force than necessary and latched it. When she finally faced Noah, she felt like someone dancing on the edge of a cliff in the darkness, someone about to take a free fall into the abyss. 
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” she said, her voice husky with emotion. 
“You look terrified.” He smoothed her hair back from her face, his thumbs caressing her cheekbones. “Did something happen that scared you?”
“You look better.” She flattened her hands against his chest and forced a grin. “How do you feel?”
“Hungry.” His grin reassured her that all was well in the world. “Want an omelet?” 
She smiled and let her hands trail down his chest. Maybe she’d been dreaming, after all. Yesterday had been more than a little stressful. 
“I hear you make the best omelets on the island—”
“In the world, actually.” He winked. “World famous omelet.”
“World famous, yes, of course, how could I resist?” She exhaled the nervous energy that still zapped through her system and leaned into him. The man had a way about him. There was no denying it. 
“You can’t resist me. I’m like a drug.” He glanced behind her toward the window she’d forcefully closed. “Want to tell me why every light in the house is on and why you’re in here closing windows at three a.m.?” 
“Not really.” She linked her hands behind his waist and looked up at him. “I like being here with you in the middle of the night, think I’ll make it a habit.”
He squinted at her, obviously curious about the reason behind her madness. Again, he glanced toward the window but said nothing. 
Habit? Had she actually said that word? There’s no way she could stay here again, probably shouldn’t be here now, not when she was having blackouts, chatting it up with creepy redheads and hallucinating women standing at the foot of the bed. She’d successfully gone from one nightmare into the next and could no longer distinguish reality from fantasy. 
She cringed when he looked away and turned off the light. She was such a liar, a dirty, rotten liar. A hypocrite. A fraud. She needed to control herself and slow this down before they both got in too deep. 
Riptide--Available AT A DISCOUNT for pre-order now in all ebook formats directly from Bookstrand.com. Official release dayAugust, 1, 2012 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Google+ Mysteries Unveiled by Author Jo Linsdell

Today I'm thrilled to host author Jo Linsdell who's breaking down Google+ for writers like me who simply don't "get it".  

Google Plus for Writers
By Jo Linsdell
Google+ launched in June 2011 and became the fastest growing social network in history when it reached 25 million users in less than 30 days. It's continuing to grow at a rate of about 600,000 users a day and is estimated to reach over 400 million users by the end of 2012. 
Whilst you're probably thinking "great ANOTHER social network, isn't Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc... enough?" Google+ has some great features that make it ideal for writers.
Circles
Google+ doesn't have friend lists like the other social networks but instead allows you to create and be added to circles. You can add people to more than one circle and have as many as you like. This means to can easily sort people into different circles e.g. bloggers, book reviewers, freelance writers, authors, publishers etc...
When you post or share something you can then decide which circles will be able to see it (or make it public- which can be viewed by everyone on Google+ where they're in your circles or not). This means you can create specific content for each audience and really target your interactions.
You can also follow circles that other people have created which makes following topics and industry leaders easy.
Hangouts
Easily the most powerful feature on Google+, hangouts are LIVE video chats. This simple video conferencing feature means you can start an event with just a few clicks and invite people to join you.
The potential of hangouts is huge especially as you can sync your event to upload directly to your YouTube account meaning you can broadcast in real-time both on google+ and YouTube and share on other sites. You can even embed the video of your hangout onto your website or blog.
You can create a hangout to connect with your readers, for video author interviews, for a face-to-face with your editor or for a chat with your critic group. The options are endless. 
On 31st July I'm going to be doing a hangout as part of my promotional tour for my book 'Out and About at the Zoo'. You can find more information about it here.
Sharing
Unlike it's competitors, Google+ doesn't seem to have a limit when it comes to update length which means you can add a simple one sentence update or a full length article including images. This means you have much more flexibility over your updates which combined with the ability to target circles makes it a very powerful and useful feature.
Google+ is also strongly linked to Google search results and having an account offers several benefits including being able to add Author tags to your blog.
If you haven't already, it's definitely worth checking out. Feel free to add me to your circles ;)

Jo Linsdell is the author and illustrator of the rhyming children's picture book OUT AND ABOUT AT THE ZOO. Find out more about her at www.JoLinsdell.com



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Noah Reynolds--the hero of Riptide

Riptide is being released August 1 so I thought it'd be fun to highlight the main characters over the next few weeks.  (Available for pre-order in all ebook formats NOW directly from Bookstrand.com)

Noah Reynolds--screenwriter, dive master, borderline recluse--moved to Grand Cayman two years ago after the death of his fiancee.  He owns a dive boat operation with his long time friend, Larry Gibbon, who moved with him from Los Angeles.  Both thought they'd left the past dead and buried, but someone's on the island who wants them to remember every sordid detail.

Noah's dead fiancee's dress appears in his bedroom, clippings from tabloids are taped to the door of his house, sex tapes from his scandalous past show up at work, notes blaming him for his fiancee's suicide appear in the mail sans envelope, and threats intensify as a redhead lurks at a distance but always disappears before he can reach her--a redhead who looks remarkably like his dead ex.

When Lauren Biltmore, a former anchorwoman from Atlanta, shows up on Grand Cayman, he knows he should stay away from her.  She's on Grand Cayman to stay with his best friend Austin, who happens to be her brother.  Lauren's recovering from a near death experience from a stalker of her own, an encounter that ended with her killing the man in self-defense. She doesn't need Noah's kind of trouble in her life. No, if he had any morals of any kind, he'd avoid her at all costs, especially since her real life trauma shattered his writer's block.

Noah has a firm set of rules that have served him well for the past two years.  Rule 1: stay busy. Rule 2: avoid relationships with women.  Rule 3: confide in no one.  Rule 4: remember rule #2.

But he can't stay away from her.  In Lauren, he senses a kindred spirit, someone who understands what it's like to be in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.  When he's with her, he feels a crack in the numbness that's surrounded him for years.

Excerpt of Riptide:
Noah knew people who played with fire always got burned, yet he couldn’t help it. Lauren’s kind of heat was magnetic. He heard her switch the music in the living room and start humming. He grabbed the dress that had been left, stuffed it in with his laundry, and walked past her cleaning the kitchen counters. 
He indulged in looking at her long legs as she unloaded the dishwasher. Damn, what he would give to have those legs wrapped around him right now. Bad idea. He reminded himself of rule number two, avoid relationships with women, and then added, especially sisters of best friends. 
He jogged down the steps leading to his laundry slash storage room located beneath the stilts of his house. Tired from being awake for nearly twenty-four hours, he took a moment to shove the clothes in the washing machine before stepping out the front door with the red dress in hand. He stopped in mid-step at the sight of a tall redhead standing at the end of the driveway...watching him. The sunlight glistened off of her hair like an emergency siren. 
No one walked along that highway. Not regularly anyway. The way she stood there...that figure...he knew her, recognized the long body, the hair that billowed behind her like a cape, the confrontational stance. Alicia. 
Impossible. 
The cold fist of fear punched him in the gut. Frozen, he stared at the woman. It couldn’t be his dead fiancĂ©. The key word here was “dead.” He didn’t believe in ghosts or miracles. He did, however, believe in assholes with nothing better to do with their lives than mess with him. 
Clenching his teeth, he shoved the dress into the trash without looking away from the redhead. When he took a step toward her, the woman darted to the left and out of sight. Definitely not an apparition. 
Determined to get to the bottom of this, he jogged toward the road. No one walked there. He looked in both directions...only a few cars, a van or two and a bus lined the highway. No tall redheads. Frustrated, he kicked at the gravel with his bare feet. Someone wanted to get inside his head and was doing a damn good job of it. 
He shoved his hands through his hair and looked back toward his house built on stilts to protect itself from hurricanes. He couldn’t help but wonder what kind of storm brewed beyond his control. With every step toward his house, he knew he should wrap this breakfast up as soon as possible and stay the hell away from Lauren Biltmore with her long legs, big eyes and a laugh that made him forget common sense. Being within a few feet of her was as intense as being dragged under by a riptide.
Before closing the front door, he looked toward the driveway again. Maybe he wasn’t a genius, but he could play connect the dots. The redhead plus the dress equaled trouble. 
He leaned his back against the closed door and listened to Lauren’s humming. He needed to end this before it began, go upstairs, thank her for joining him for breakfast, make an excuse about how tired he was, and then avoid The Lazy Turtle for at least a month. Maybe he’d return to Los Angeles, finish his screenplay far away from the psychotic redhead and beautiful blonde. For once in his life, he wanted to do the right thing. 
Women equaled trouble, especially those who looked like Lauren with endless legs, curves made for his hands, and a smile that melted his insides. 
He closed his eyes and smiled as the humming turned to singing. Great. She could actually carry a tune. Damn, she was bad news. 
His smile faded as he reminded himself of right versus wrong. Not only was he writing about her stalker, he feared he suddenly had one of his own. Karma was most definitely a bitch. 
Riptide--Available now for a 10% pre-order discount directly from Bookstrand.com.  
Official release day is August 1, 2012. 

Follow me on Twitter as @MtnMoxieGirl 
or my Facebook author page to stay informed about the release date.