September 28, 2012

The Ebb & Flow of Being a Writer

It's resurrection Friday. You know, where I mine my old posts and re-use one. Earlier this week I wrote a short story with a seaside setting, so I chuckled when I came upon this old writerly post. I must have a thing for the ocean. I admit, I miss it.  Plus, I'm a bit clairvoyant, predicting the lit agent harassment and all. Enjoy!


Being a writer is a lot like playing in the ocean.

Some people just take a run at the surf and dive in head first, knowing full well they may end up paralyzed from a neck injury, but the rest of us enter writing timidly. We stand just at the edge of the tide line, toes first. When the cold water laps up over our feet, goose bumps rise on our legs and arms. We step forward cautiously and slowly, getting used to the temperature as we advance.

The journey onward is unstable. Dips and unexpected rises have us hitching forward as unsteadily as personalized rejections and unanswered emails. Once we’ve been writing long enough to be in waist deep, we feel the tide pushing and pulling us in different directions. We bury our feet into the sandy bottom and try to decipher which advice is valid and which should be left to wash ashore.

Chest deep into the water, we watch the approaching tide carefully. Like good researchers, we gauge the distance and the height of the swell like we balance the benefits of small vs large publishing houses. We apply the knowledge of our previous ocean swims as well as knowledge gained from blog posts of our friends to determine, “Is this a swell I jump over or is this so big I need to dive under?”

No amount of research can dispel the distraction disaster. Perhaps a surfing writer has a spectacular wipe-out and his wayward board comes inches from slamming you out of your Amazon ranking. Or perhaps a google alert that “children’s author (insert your name here) was charged with harassing a literary agent after receiving a nasty rejection letter” turned your attention away from the wave that slammed you into the ocean floor, giving you a mouthful of salt water and a bikini bottom full of sand. Disasters happen.

But eventually you make it past the breakwaters and into the smooth ocean. With a sigh of contentment you relax into the dead man’s float and stare up at the clouds, figuring out which one could play your main character in a movie and which one looks like writing freedom. Your body rises and falls smoothly over the swells as they get ready to crest toward the beach. You watch the newbie writers battling through the tumultuous tide and you call out as many suggestions as you can from your cushy sun baked spot on the other side.

Then you decide it’s time to head back in and you scan the beach for your red polka dot beach umbrella. Is that it way, way up the beach? That thing that looks like a tiny spot of blood? Riptide.

There is no rest for the weary in the publishing industry. And this analogy has only one happy ending. Another swim in the ocean. Or, perhaps like signing another book contract that might just be a frantic new beginning…?

Happy writing. Don’t forget your floaties.

September 26, 2012

Three Times A Charm with Jack Kent

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters or COMICS! from the publishing industry.

This week artist/writer, Jack Kent, joins us. I met Jack and his wife, Verity at the Northwest Author Fair. I’m so excited that he’s visiting because he does COMICS. Just knowing him makes me feel a little cooler!

Okay, I’ll cool it with the fangirl attitude.

Welcome, Jack. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Gulls Comic is about a rag tag group of shorebirds and their daily adventures. This is a daily comic strip created by Jack Kent who grew up on the Oregon Coast. Gulls Comic is all ages, they mind their language and are here, like you, for a good time. Join the zaniness with these wacky Gulls and their buddies every day. Book mark the website and join the flock!

Daily! That must be so hard to keep up with. But I remember the books you were selling at the author fair. What’s your latest?

RAWK is the third Gulls book. The collection has comics from March of 2011 - December of 2011. The book is black and white, 94 pages, and can be purchased through the gulls website.

The Gulls are so cool! You guys have to check them out.

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

Play Music
I love a lot of music. Over the years I’ve played in many a band. Ranging from heavy metal to acoustic pop and just about anywhere inbetween. I’ve played bass, a little Piano but currently I am a lead singer and lead guitarist. Music is my first passion. I like art because it’s a one man band. I can pick it up and take it anywhere I want to go.

Dungeons and Dragons
My nerd side is in full effect. D and D is a great place to hang out with all my buddies and goof off. It’s a great mind set of creativity. It really helps my writing skills. My wife is more into D and D than I am which keeps me even more into it. We usally BBQ and make a day of it. It’s a lot of fun.

I am a jock at heart. I love Basketball and am a huge Trailblazers fan. On the side I write a Blazer blog called I Bleed Blazers. I snowboard, skateboard, play kickball, bowl and to mix the D and D fantasay with sports, I also just got into fantasay football.

  • Top 3 illustrators.

Charles Addams.
His most famous work being the creation of the Addams Family. His macabre humor throughout his artwork is what draws me to his style. His water color/ink wash style was so complete and detailed but always held the cartoon element along the way. A great mix of subtle but genius writing. Not one to be overlooked.

Gary Larson
Less is more with art of Larson’s The Far Side. This one off comic strip is probably my all time favorite. Gary’s zany humor matched with his simple ‘sketch’ line drawings are a perfect match.

Warner Bros. / Looney Tunes
My all time favorite cartoon character is Bugs Bunny. I feel this is a great blend of Gary Larson’s zaniness matched with a similar style to Charles Addams. Looney Tunes taught me a lot of cartoons as well as history. Amazing colors and episodes poured out of the Warner Bros. camp over the years. They stand the test of time.

  • Top 3 songs on your play list.

Kimble Dyes His Hair – James Newton Howard – The Fugitive Soundtrack
I know this selection seems really hoitey toitey but I love this soundtrack. When this song gets around the minute thirty mark it really begins. It’d make a most awesome piece of music to sample and rap over, truly it would. As for me, I’ll just draw to it.

Queensryche – Take Hold of the Flame
I am a metal fan. I nerd out about this genre of music. Queensryche (from Seattle) are one of my favs. This song is my motivational anthem. When I get tired of doing Gulls Comic I put this tune on and I am back at it. It’s a clichéd theme of seizing the opportunity but it works for me.

Adam Carolla podcast
I know this isn’t a song, but it’s what I listen to every day while I draw Gulls Comic. Adam has great guests and segments. His zany humor reminds me that no matter how old you are, don’t lose your childhood inside. He’s crass, crotchity and crude, just what I need to start my day.

Jack, your answers are making it really hard for me to supress my inner fangirl. If you drew supers (villains/heroes) I’d be a goner.

Where can our readers find you online?

I Bleed Blazers Blog:

Thank you for joining us on Three Times A Charm, this week. It’s been great getting to know you. Continued success with your work!


I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

September 21, 2012

After 1700 miles I Finally Get One

My exercise of choice is walking. Aggressively, mind you, I maintain a speed of 4 mph. I’m not sauntering down the road stopping to admire the bunnies. Okay, I’ll stop or slow down to snap a picture of something really pretty or of wildlife that I happen upon. I may as well enjoy myself while torturing myself, right?

This year I’ve been averaging 80 miles per month, which is a big step up from last year’s 40 mpm. I really only meant to increase my distance in January to kick start my New Year program, but I must’ve liked it because I’ve kept it up all year.

Anyway, in the 1700 miles I’ve tracked through my Nike+ app over the past 3 years, this week something new happened.

I’ve been completing interviews for my upcoming virtual book tour. I’d just completed one interview in which I was asked what I’d want people to say about me/my books/my writing when they write my obituary. I said I hoped it would say that I’d inspired people to do certain things and one of those things is to be a cheerleader, even when you don’t know the person you are cheering for.

I finished answering the questions and then laced up and went on my daily walk. It was a nice day; a bit smoky, but not too hard on the lungs. I had my ear buds in, Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari to entertained me. I was about ¾ of the way through my walk, crossing an intersection at a traffic circle when a car approached. She could have continued on and been past before I got to that side of the street, but she stopped and waited, so I kicked up into a jog. She rolled down her window and said something. I pulled the buds out of my ears and said, “Huh?” She said, “Way to go! Keep it up.” She gave me a thumbs-up.

1700 miles and no stranger has ever done that. It made me grin and added bounce back into my step for the rest of my walk. I cheer for people I don’t know all the time. I compliment people I don’t know all the time. Because it makes people feel good.

Was it Kismet that caused it at that particular time? Was it because I’d included it in an interview that will go out into the blogospere over the next couple months? Was it simply coincidence? I don’t know. But I do know it made me feel really good. Now I’m doubling my efforts to cheer for others and can I suggest, that you do the same? It can feel pretty darn great when your words make a person grin, you know. So, there is benefit on both sides of the compliment. When you are out in the big wide world today or tomorrow, or everyday, find a way to say, “Great job” to a stranger and give them the encouragement to keep going.

September 19, 2012

Three Times A Charm with Kathy Sattem Rygg

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry.

This week author and editor, Kathy Sattem Rygg joins us. Since she is the Editor-in-Chief at and I’m a staff writer there, I feel like she’s kind of my boss. So if you see a couple ‘yes ma’ams’ you’ll understand why.

Mrs. Rygg – or can I call you Kathy, tell us a little about yourself.

I am children’s author and freelance writer/editor. I earned a degree in magazine journalism from Iowa State University and worked for several Fortune 500 companies in Marketing/Public Relations. I also worked at the McGraw-Hill Companies’ Business Publications Division in New York City and was the Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Edition magazine in Denver, CO. I am currently the Editor- in-Chief of the children’s online magazine knowonder! and live in Omaha, NE., with my husband and two children.

Author and editor? You sound busy! Tell us about your latest book?

My young middle grade book, ANIMAL ANDY, was recently published by Muse It Up Publishing. Targeted for kids ages 7-10, ANIMAL ANDY is about a zoo keeper’s son who discovers a magic carousel and must use it to save the animals and the zoo.

Back Cover: Ten-year-old Andy Ohman is spending his summer working at the Aksarben City Zoo where his dad is curator. There are rumors that the city might close the zoo due to budget cuts. An anonymous donor has given the zoo an antique animal carousel, and Andy’s dad is hopeful it will help boost attendance. Andy’s doubtful that an old kiddie ride will make a difference. He doesn’t see what’s so special about it. But when he takes it for a spin, he unlocks the magic that will help save the zoo.

Book Excerpt:

Andy’s knees wobbled and buckled as he stumbled off the carousel’s platform. He thrust forward, collapsing into a heap on the ground. Shaking his head a few times, he flinched when a snort escaped his mouth.
A flash of turquoise caught his eye. He scrambled up as a skinny-necked bird with short legs and a long, plump body strutted over. It stopped a few inches away and let out an ear-splitting squawk. Only a peacock could make that sound.
“What are you doing over here?” the bird asked. “Are you out of your mind? Don’t you know this is the kind of thing that gets all of us into trouble?”
Andy froze. He was sure the peacock had just spoken to him.
“Well, don’t just sit there, zebra, we need to get you back to the pen,” the bird snapped.
Andy whipped his head from side to side. Nobody was around, and he didn’t see a zebra.
“Did you just talk?”
"Don't get all high and mighty on me," the peacock said. "It's socially acceptable for a peacock to speak to a zebra."
"Why do you keep calling me a zebra?" Andy narrowed his eyes at the bird.
“Well, I don’t see any other escaped animal standing in front of me,” the peacock said. Andy lowered his gaze and saw four black and white striped legs beneath him. He craned his neck and saw a thin, black tail swishing behind him. Puzzled, he glanced at the carousel and saw an empty brass pole where the zebra had been.
He stumbled backward. "No, no, no,” he said, shaking his head. "How…it can’t be,” he

breathed. “There’s just no way. I…I…I’m a zebra!”

Where to find ANIMAL ANDY:

The ebook is published by Muse It Up Publishing and is available online at the Muse Bookstore. A print version is available on Amazon. Here’s a neat video trailer for it, too.

Great excerpt! I’m looking forward to reading Animal Andy. Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 tools of the trade you couldn’t live without.

The first tool I couldn’t live without is a good old fashioned spiral notebook and a pen (not a pencil). I write a lot of ideas, scenes, and notes by hand. It’s not pretty, and it’s not organized, but the physical connection between my brain and the paper just “feels” right.

The second tool I couldn’t live without is my netbook laptop. My day job is spent on the main PC, so being able to pick up my little netbook and sit down in a comfortable chair to write my books is a necessary luxury.

The third tool I couldn’t live without is my e-reader. I’ve had it less than a year, but I’m already hooked. There are so many talented authors whose books are only available as ebooks, and I love that I can now discover them. It’s also so convenient to slip it into my purse and read when I have a few extra minutes. 

  • Top 3 professions you wanted to be when you grew up.

My earliest memory is around age four, and after going to the circus I wanted to be a flying trapeze artist. I love taking my kids to the circus and would jump at the chance to try the trapeze (connected to a harness, of course!)

In grade school I wanted to own my own clothing store. I spent hours pretending my bedroom was a retail shop. I’d pull clothes from my closet and put outfits together for my pretend “customers” to try on. I even devised a cash register. My first job in high school was at a clothing store, but all I got to do was fold and steam-iron clothes. I was so bored I only lasted one summer!

As a senior in high school I wanted to work in some type of advertising/marketing job for a large corporation. I did that for ten years after college. It was invaluable experience, and I learned so much—mostly that working for a large company is incredibly stressful, and I’m much happier now as a freelance writer/editor working for myself!

  • Top 3 authors.

My favorite author as a child was Beverly Clearly. I had every single one of her books on my shelf. I couldn’t read them fast enough, and I give her a lot of credit for turning me into an avid reader.

In my twenties, my favorite author was Candace Bushnell. I really related to her female characters and their quest for love and success. The “Sex in the City” HBO series was one of my all-time favorite shows.

In my thirties, my favorite author has been Tracy Chevalier (author of Girl with a Pearl Earring). I have all of her books and am amazed at her talent for writing historical fiction. Her ability to take an obscure moment in history and craft an entire story around it is inspiring. I’d love to write a middle grade historical fiction book using that same concept.

Contact Information:

Follow me on Facebook under KSR Writer
Follow me on Twitter @kathyrygg

Thanks, Kathy, for talking with us on Three Times A Charm. It has been so much fun getting to know you better. Best of luck with Animal Andy.

September 17, 2012

Spotlight on Latitudes by Anthony Caplan

Inspiration for Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home

The idea for this book first came to me two years ago after completing my second novel. For my third story, I thought I was ready to use personal material, the story of my own childhood. Although not a memoir, the characters are largely based on my own family. Writing it as fiction gave me enough distance to be able to make it real and compelling.

I would not have been able to write this book without the support of my own family today, my wife and three children. The absolute foundation of my life, they give me love and provide me with inspiration every day. Without them, especially my wife of over twenty years, Susan Caplan, I really have nothing.

About Latitudes: A Story of Coming Home
LATITUDES – A story of one boy overcoming dysfuntion, dislocation and distance…
When Father and Mother, a highflying young American lawyer and his party-hard bride, fall prey to the self-destructive lure of alcohol and sexual liberation, Will and his sisters pay the price in divorce and kidnappings that take them back and forth between the rain forest hideaways of coastal Latin America and the placid suburbs of Long Island. Will identifies with the oppressed workers laboring in his father’s fast food restaurant and longs for American freedom. Father remarries the daughter of a local aristocrat, and Will is sent off to the hothouse world of a New England boarding school.
Swimming in a sea of Fair Isle sweaters and LL Bean boots, Will discovers a core of resilience in himself that allows him to survive, thrive, and ultimately embrace the flawed and varied worlds he inhabits. Will reconnects with his Mother, sinking into a New York City world of Irish bars and one night stands he cannot save her from. With a little help from friends, and a high school Shakespeare class taught by the school’s closeted gay athletic trainer, Will begins to see the possibility of finding his true path. Latitudes charts the birth pangs of a quest for self and soul — from a tropical childhood to a coming of age on the road.
You can purchase the book in kindle or book format at Amazon.
Follow along on the Latitudes Virtual Book Tour at Pump Up Your Book
Read the blog at The New Remembrance
View the video here

About Anthony Caplan

Anthony Caplan is an independent writer, teacher and homesteader in northern New England. He has worked at various times as a shrimp fisherman, environmental activist, journalist, taxi-driver, builder, window-washer, and telemarketer. Currently, Caplan is working on restoring a 150 year old farmstead where he and his family tend sheep and chickens, grow most of their own vegetables, and have started a small apple orchard from scratch.

September 14, 2012

RAP on Liking and Tagging - Just Do It

I tried to do some Random Act of Publicity during the September event, but I fell off. So I'm gonna make up for it now.

I've talked before about easy ways to help your favorite authors sell their books. There is no denying that the current hot spot online for book buying is Amazon and Amazon makes it easy for readers to support their favorite books and authors.

First you can click the like button on the author's page and also on the book's page. The more likes an author or book has, the more confident a browsing reader is in making the investment on a book they are interested in. When clicking like on a book, be sure to get all the versions, hardcover, paperback and kindle editions. One like does not like all.

Also, you can tag a book with related words and phrases. The more times a book is tagged with that word or phrase, the more it will come up when a browsing reader is doing a search for books related to those tagged words. As an example, my Weaver Tales books both have the word gnome tagged. If a person is browsing for books with gnomes, my book will come up in the search IF the word has been tagged enough. Tagging isn't as hard as it sounds. Most books already have a list of related words that you can simply agree with. However, if you feel there is a key search option missing, by all means add it!

Last but not least, post a review. It can be short. Here's one on Save the Lemmings that is short, but gives a rating, goes straight to the point and let's the browsing reader know the book was enjoyed by someone else. IT ALL HELPS! Trust me.

Now for the random act of publicity part of my post. I've recently liked and tagged these books. If you've read them, please take the time to do the same.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin
Open Minds and Life Liberty & Pursuit by Susan Kaye Quinn
Dolphin Girl and Winging It! by Shel Delisle
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Like me, tag me, review me

Here are the links to my books. I'd LOVE you to help my books by visiting, liking and tagging them, as well as liking my author page. Thanks for your support!

Save the Lemmings
The Wishing Well: Another Weaver Tale (hardcover)
The Wishing Well: Another Weaver Tale (paperback) for some reason, they aren't joined like they should be (?)
The Weaver
My Author Page on Amazon

If I enjoyed a book, I go straight to the Amazon page as soon as I finish reading so that I remember to click that like button and agree with the list of tags. Make it a habit. Your turn. Do you have absolute favorite books/authors that you want to help promote? Add the links in the comments. You can never promote your favorites enough.

September 12, 2012

Three Times A Charm with Sheri Larsen

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry. It is back from a short hiatus while I caught my breath after two book launches. Exciting, but BUSY!

This week author, Sheri Larsen, joins us with all sorts of exciting news. First, Sheri, tell us about you.

Growing up, one might have categorized me as having duel-personalities. On one hand, I was tomboyish, wearing baseball caps on backwards and ripped jeans, and majorly in love with sports—primarily ice hockey and football; it’s not like I had a choice with my dad being an ice hockey coach. On the other, I had a serious passion, which eventually defined me as a person—the art of dance. At the age of seventeen, I was invited to study under a NYC Rockette. And as thrilling as that was for a small town girl, I turned the invite down to stay home and help care for my mother who’d been recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Time moved on. I married and became a stay-at-home mom, redirecting my creative juices toward my children.

Shortly after my youngest child turned three, I felt those creative juices nagging me, urging me to do something more. I’d always loved to write, but that gift had taken a backseat to my dancing. So I began to write. That was four years ago. Today, I’m the author of young adult and middle grade literature repped by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary. I am a lover of all paranormal and the not-so-average teen/tween, facing insurmountable odds while trying to fit into a world I dream up; I also write picture books. My freelance and short story work can be found in Daily Flash Fiction Anthology 2012, Martial Arts Magazine, and numerous Maine publications.

I am a member of the SCBWI, the Maine Publisher & Writers Alliance, and, where I’m the moderator of their MG Lair. I also am the founder of Writer Support 4 U, an online writing support group. My creative endeavors continue into my personal life through mural painting and I continue to dance with a group of ladies ranging in ages from 23 to 61. My most precious time away from writing is spent with my four children, probably at some sports field or ice rink, or enjoying a kiss from my favorite werewolf—my husband of twenty years. Jamming to rock music in the car, dancing in the rain, and declaring myself a chocoholic are just a few of my silly quirks.  

Congratulations on securing an agent. How exciting for both of you. But you’ve been racking up the good news lately, haven’t you? Tell us about your writing.

My YA paranormal fantasy, MARKED BEAUTY, has recently received multiple offers of publication—all which I am currently considering. So look for it soon! The tale is about Ana Tate, a reluctant empath, who’s been hiding her ability to see life energy and decipher emotions threaded within them for most of her sixteen years. When she encounters Viktor Castle and an eerie connection is made between their auras, Ana is sure he’s the one to save her from her isolation. But beneath Viktor’s alluring façade lurks a psychic curse that will lay claim to Ana’s sanity. And when he disappears, revealing his true identity, Ana must decide what to believe, whom to trust, and if an emotion as fickle as love is worth the cost … of her heart, her mind, or her life. 
Writers Ally is my writing site and home to the famous Graffiti Wall, where authors, freelancers, illustrators, editors, publishers, and agents share their experiences and journeys within the publishing realm. It’s lavished with book spotlights and publisher requested reviews, interviews, docs for authors to promote themselves, their books, or their characters, and posts on the writing life as well as motherhood.
You just upgraded your site to include submission forms authors can use for that promotion process. Readers, be sure to check it out. Also, Sheri is having a HUMONGOUS giveaway right now, so when you are finished reading her awesome THREE’s head over to her site to find out more about that.

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 tools of the trade you couldn’t live without.

My laptop, a corkboard with a file of endless images to use for inspiration, & my small pink copy of Pride and Prejudice—my forever writing inspiration!

  • Top 3 skills to hone for people just starting in your business.

Organization – for without it, too much time is wasted.
Goal Setting – with direction, one will forge ahead and conquer.
Personal approachability and charisma – writing is a networking business.

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days.

Be true to yourself.
Choose your friends wisely, before the wrong ones choose you.
Make every moment count & be grateful.

I love Pride and Prejudice, too, and those a really great suggestions on skills to hone.

Sheri, where can our readers go to keep up with you and your writing?

Website: currently under construction
Blog: (ß Where you’ll find her Bigger Than A Shopping Mall Giveaway)
Twitter: @SA_Larsen

Thank you, Sheri, for visiting Strands of Thought and sharing all of your exciting news with us. I expect we’ll be hearing more from you very soon!


September 8, 2012

Up To My Wrists In Mire

As my fingers tap the keys, they seem to sink deeper and deeper into the mire of the story until finally my hands are buried wrist deep in it. But still I type. Words pour into the story. Clever words, of course, so clever that when I finally finish this first draft, I’ll hardly have any editing to do at all.

*Excuse me while I un-stick that exaggeration from my throat before I pass out from lack of oxygen*

I’m not even in the middle of the story, the usual slogging spot of a story. I’m past it and revving up to the exciting conclusion. Yet, even though the words are flowing and the tap-tap-tapping resounds through the house, I don’t seem to be making progress in the story. Or not the progress I’d expect.

Perhaps it is because the story has already played out in my head and the tedious task of typing it out takes so much longer than I have the patience for. Maybe there is more story than I expected when the movie reel spun to empty inside my brain.

All I know is that I’m so anxious to type the final words of the first draft. I’m longing to announce that the story is complete. For the first time in my life I’m looking forward to editing!

My fellow writers, I’m sure you can commiserate with me. Now it's your turn. I’d love to hear how you keep yourself focused on the end goal. Do you reward yourself? Do you threaten yourself? How do you keep yourself from becoming the lazy writer that doesn’t vet out the story near the end? HOW? Because right now the ending my kids used to use sounds good.

Then everybody died - the end.

Back to the mire…