Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Monday, December 31, 2012

What a Wonderful Year It's Been!

Let's take a look back!
At this time, I'd like to thank each of you for the best first year a blog could have.  What an amazing year it's been. From the first-ever flash fiction contest (Spring Into Action)

to interviews with both rockstar authors
Roger Smith, author of DUST DEVILS and many other international best-selling thrillers

and authors we'll soon find at the top.

There have been giveaways and contests, but above all, I hope that my love for the art of writing has given you great inspiration.

And I'm looking forward to 2013, because it's the year my evil little manuscript will hopefully sprout wings and fly!  Sometime in January, my itchy-trigger-finger will hit 'send' on the keyboard and the first batch of my queries will go whizzing through the internets, so that hopefully the THE DEATH BROKERS and I can find the perfect agent.
2013~the year of THE DEATH BROKERS!  Thanks to my friend, Revo Boulanger, for 
bringing my story to life in this design he made.  Awesome writer and c.p.  Thanks Revo!

I hope you'll stick around to find out what happens, but that won't be the only fun we'll have, for in spring there will be another flash fiction contest for you to enter! I gave it quite a bit of thought, and while I won't divulge the deets just yet, I will tell you the name of the contest, which I'm calling "Rock-N-Write" and  it'll be even more fun than the first contest.

There will also be more author interviews and next week I'll kick off 2013 with a piece on what I love to call info-faux-mation, and I'll give you the scoop on what it is and when to insert into your manuscript.

But before 2013 rolls around, I'd like to leave you with a few giggles and a song.  First, the giggles courtesy of the "You May Be A Thriller Writer" segment we did a few weeks ago.

Now if you will, please sit back with me and imagine my Georgia neighbor Jeff Foxworthy reading these hilarious responses, and of course mega-props to these scintillating scribes for the end of the year giggles.  I tip my New Year party hat to you.

~You might be a thriller writer... if you stake out Goodwill boxes as possible body stash places.

I'm not weird, I just write. (Michelle4laughs)

~You might be a thriller writer if you...1. Buy furniture that looks like the ones Agatha Christie described in her novels and sit on it for inspiration.2. Write letters to Sherlock Holmes even though you know he is not a real person to ask how he does "it". 3.Attend all James Bond movies on premier night without failure for inspiration.4. Read all of Ian Fleming's novels and waited impatiently for him to resume writing.5. Find yourself quoting James Bond's onscreen and in-the-novel sayings in normal, everyday conversations.6. Are in love with Alex Cross, the first Alex Cross--his height, build, and mannerisms--and wish you had created the character first. (Frances Ohanenye)

From my family to yours, we wish you love and happiness in the coming year.  

And now,  I'll leave you with a song perfect for our New Years' Eve.  Look out 2013, here we come!

"Wonders Never Cease" by Morcheeba

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

A Christmas Card to you~

Thank you for your support and friendship this year.  We will have an end-of-year Friday Funnies next week to start off 2013 with a smile.  Please hold the families of Newtown, CT in your hearts and prayers on Christmas and throughout the new year, and remember those in need as we celebrate tomorrow with our families and count our blessings.

Together we'll have more exciting adventures in 2013, and I hope you'll join me as I begin a new journey this January moving closer to my goal of becoming a published author.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Nefarious plots, villains & heroes & the suspension of disbelief!

Okay, I had to write this post after just watching The Dark Knight Rises.

And yea, I know it's a superhero movie, which means we're to check our suspension of disbelief as a viewer at the door as soon as we walk into the theater or open the book, but seriously, at some point your brain wakes up and screams, "This simply can't be happening!  I've paid good money for this and you want me to believe this load of bull-puckey?"

Then that same little nagging voice says to you that although this is pretty good, that although the character arcs are decent, the plot can simply never ever really happen in real life, and it is at that precise moment that the viewer or reader is forever lost.

For me, that particular moment came when Bane, the super-villain revealed his over-reaching goals and takes over Gotham City and holds its citizens hostage.  Now I understand Gotham is supposed to be part of the U.S.A., but seriously, would America let a massive city the size of New York fall to a crappy terrorist wearing a stupid mask?  I think not.

Suspension of disbelief is the norm in fantasy worlds where evil overlords like Darth rule the galaxy.
And from that moment forward I began to look for more flaws and the movie meant less to me.  Granted the ending was decent, with the self-sacrifice of the m.c., but the absolute best part was the insertion of an excerpt from a truly great novel and old film (A TALE OF TWO CITIES) during Batman's funeral scene.  Only then could the emotion flow, and it was due to borrowed words .

You see, my thoughts on suspension of disbelief are subtle.  I want to believe throughout the whole film or book that the plot could happen.  Could is the operative word here folks.  This imho, applies to almost every genre except perhaps high fantasy where the story world is completely fictional (think DUNE).

But the whole story concept actually exposed to me an even bigger flaw and another error that I must recognize as a writer, and that was the fact the main character, the dark dude himself~ Batman, is confined to Gotham City.  It's like a prison without walls for the masked marauder who rarely leaves Gotham (except in this film where he really leaves Gotham and is sent to a prison.)

However I hope that the screenwriters will realize this flaw and have him break out of his little Gotham-cocoon and interact with the rest of the world, because if Batman is released into  the world, then the wilder plots can be embraced, thus giving suspension of disbelief a little nod.  A small token of writerly respect, if you will, and maybe a tip from a Bond villain might exemplify this concept.

I always wanted to rename Blofeld "CrazyEye".
So if you've got a dastardly dude, the ultimate bad guy, and he wants to take over the world, then what do you do with your main character?  Give the main character the world (or even the universe perhaps) as their playground!

But know how far to take things...or else you end up with this kind of scene.  Know where to draw the line between fact, fiction.

So what did we learn today?  

  1. We must artistically harness the power of the suspension of disbelief, but respect that power in knowing where to draw the line. Don't take the power for granted. 
  2. Create characters who can move about freely in a story world.  Freeing the character gives the writer more wiggle room and larger scope.  Allows us more leniency in the area of suspension of disbelief.
  3. When we give the aura to our readers that the plot could indeed happen somehow, we give them room for thought and for discussion.  That creates fans and readers.  We want both.
So in wrapping up, remember when people leave a theater or read the last paragraph of a book, we want them to be talking about the subject matter of the book.   We want them to be in awe of the experience they just had.  We don't want them to feel cheated out of the cost of a movie ticket or Kindle download.  We want them to be telling their friends how amazing their experience was, and that it could happen in the real world.  In the end, this creates what is known as a fan or a reader.

A good book or film that respects the notion of suspense of disbelief will be the one that's talked about nonstop around thousands of water coolers the next Monday morning after it's release.

Respect this subtle power and we create art.

It's the simple stuff that we must keep in mind when writing, and while I'm guilty of this, I definitely plan to learn from my mistakes.

So take it from a friend, when writing we need to keep that simple concept of suspension of disbelief carefully in check.  But don't give up hope if your manuscript's antagonist, an evil villain that plans on taking over the world, that can be okay.  He or she need not be written out or the entire story scrapped, but what it does mean is you should weave in ways the plot could actually happen.

Later on here we'll talk about the insertion of info-fauxmation (what I like to call fake but plausible information) to make your subtle twists in plot blur the line between fact and fiction to make your story plausible, but for now we're just going to respect suspension of disbelief.

 Let's hear from you:

What elements in your manuscript make the reader/audience engage in suspension of disbelief?  But be careful in answering this last question folks, because it's the most disgusting, jagged little pill as a writer you'll ever swallow, but tell me how and why your reader be able to move past the point of no return in the plot, where they must decide if they can truly believe what you've written and keep turning pages?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Find Time to Write During the Holidays

Dear Santa, 

All I want for Christmas is to finish this darn manuscript. Can you swing that?  

I've been a good writer this year, and maybe if you're not too busy, could you also arrange for me to sign with a great agent after I finish it? Pleeeze?  

But if you can't swing either the finished manuscript or the agent, then could you share the secret of how you fly around the world in one night with me?  I need to make more time to write and could use some holiday magic.

Did I mention I'm leaving you some fresh-baked cookies? I may be a starving artist, but I'm not above offering you a sugary bribe.  I'll even throw in a glass of milk.

A Frustrated Writer

Yes Virginia, you can find time to write during the holidays!
We rush around to and from work and have (happy) obligations at home, but when you add into the mix shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating, and holiday gatherings, the time we once used for writing has *poof* disappeared.

And we're left shaking our heads, wondering how we'll get to re-work that last chapter or write the ending.

What's the answer?

We MUST get more creative.  And as writers, we're a pretty creative bunch.  Below I'll give you my tips on how to create more time to write and revise during the happiest yet busiest time of year and you can submit yours too!

Tip #1:  Get up earlier than usual on the weekend, but not crazy-early.  Make coffee or hot tea and say good morning to your laptop.  Now I love this time and feel early weekend mornings are magical, quiet, and peaceful.    While everyone's still asleep with sugarplums dancing in their heads, I wake a little earlier than usual to enjoy my favorite Christmas coffee (Barney's Santa's White Christmas) and the silence.  I've done some of my best work on weekend mornings.

Tip #2:  Lunch break!  During your lunch break at work, re-read your manuscript online or look at a hard copy.  Great time to use to take a look at the flow and the pacing.

Tip #3:  Bring along a composition book no matter where you go!  I purchased a few of them back when an office supply store had them for a dollar each.  These are great to carry around with you and you can jot down plot ideas or outline.  After all, when the creative muse taps us on the shoulder, we need to pay attention.  How many times has a great idea dawned upon you, only to forget about it later?  The ol' trusty composition book is the cure for all of that!  There's always a composition book in my s.u.v.  That's how I roll.

Tip #4:  The television is your friend.  A secret and sneaky friend (insert evil laugh).  If you've spent the afternoon searching for the perfect gift for your hubby or wife and now you can't find the time to write, just excuse yourself gently from the time you spend with them watching their favorite show on t.v.  Give them a hug and maybe a warm blanket, and sneak off to your computer and type away!  I do this while my hubs and my sonwatches NFL games.  Now as a family, we love to watch S.E.C. football games together, but I let them have a little male bonding time and go write.

These are a few of my favorite tips to create more time to write.  What super-secrets do you have?  If you share them with us, I'll bet you won't end up on the naughty list this year (wink).

Happy Holidays~

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Send In Your Merriest for Friday Funnies!

Why?  Because we all need a chuckle during the holidays.  The first holiday edition of Friday Funnies will come to you in one more week!

Therefore I now proclaim, since it's officially two days past Thanksgiving, time for our first-ever Friday Funnies, Holiday 2013 edition of "You MIGHT be a Writer"!  Due to the Thanksgiving holidays, I decided to pass on yesterday's Friday Funnies, and instead gear up for the next Friday, and I need your help.

While originally I was going to call this segment simply "You MIGHT be a Thriller Writer", I realized the many wonderful, friendly scribes I know don't all write in the same genre, so I'm opening the door wide for all genres, but with only one caveat~

So tweet or send it to me.  You just might see yours featured!

Now on with the merry.  Deck your halls.  Dance at the office party.
George Costanza:  "Sweet, fancy Moses!"

Strut around proudly in that reindeer sweater!

It's the merriest time of the year, and time to push aside those troubling thoughts of looming tax-hikes and something called a Mayan prophecy.
It's holiday time!

Now drink that egg nog and send me your holiday-inspired versions of "You MIGHT be a Writer"!

DO NOT post it as a comment on this post (because hey, that'd be giving half the fun away), but instead tweet or email me your ho-ho-holiday musings and you might find your words featured on the blog!

Btw, on twitter, I am JoeynGA.

Wishing you and your family all things merry and bright~

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving~

Look deeper.  Give Thanks.

Back as a pre-med major in college, I listened to many professors, most of whom were atheists. And there's nothing wrong with that, it's perfectly fine by me to believe what you wish.

 I heard so many concepts during my first year in college, that eventually my faith began to chip away little by little each day with every lecture in science classes or in anthropology that I doubted some of the principles that had clearly defined my life.

Eventually by sophomore year, I had tossed my faith aside.

Until one fateful day.

I had to write a paper in a certain class about the proverbial meaning of life.  Didn't know what to write.  I didn't know what the meaning of life was.  After all, we were just a bunch of mindless ants, almost drone-like trying to make our little corner of the universe better for a short and finite time, right?

While contemplating this matter, I'd decided to go outside and sit on one of the picnic tables behind my dormitory.  It was early fall, and the trees were ablaze in their splendor, so I decided to lie down on top of a picnic table to take a better look at them, when suddenly a gust of cool wind set their limbs in motion, sending leaves falling down all around me, and one particular giant leaf fell on top of my nose.

I picked it up, remembering what I'd learned in my botany classes, began to examine it and held it up to the sunshine.  I marveled at the miniscule structures and bright burnt-orange color, but something else happened that very moment.

While admiring the very structure of that leaf I felt an interconnected-ness to it.  Immediately I sat up and looked all around at the trees, the students walking around, the sky, the clouds, and whatever remnant of my abandoned faith that remained, grew and filled my heart in that quiet moment,  making me wonder if maybe,   just maybe, everything on earth WASN'T an accident.  In that moment I saw beauty, I saw connected-ness, I saw life, and more hope inside than I'd felt in such a long time.

So today I am thankful.  I am blessed to have a beautiful family and wonderful friends and also, I'm thankful for that leaf that fell twenty some-odd years ago onto my nose.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and no matter what you believe, find the beauty in this day and open your heart  and feel the love that surrounds you.

Oh, and almost forgot, during this holiday season give to someone in need.  Help others find more reasons to fill their hearts with thanksgiving.  It's a beautiful feeling.

And remember to give thanks for our liberty and for the men and women of our armed forces who protect our freedom.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A JACK of All Trades~Meet Calista Taylor and Win Copies of JACK, Plus Free Book Download!

We'll be giving away two copies of JACK in a really fun contest, plus
I'll link you to a free download with Calista's latest release!   Read on to find out the deets~
Her books are selling in three different genres.  She has designed the book covers for NYT bestsellers, and somewhere in her short life, has found the time to achieve an M.S. in wood technology/building materials, be a science teacher, earn a B.S. in animal science, and is now pursuing an additional degree in biotech.

Oh and did I forget, she's been a pastry chef, pottery teacher, and has fletched her own wooden arrows (take THAT Katniss!), created jewelry, engaged in stone sculpting and designing medieval outfits, and created silk paintings?

But if you take all of these diverse elements and mold them into one person, the end result is Calista Taylor, an amazing writer, and one I also call a friend.

Recently I asked her to stop by for a cup of tea, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, and give away two copies of JACK.  Plus at the end of our interview, she'll give us a link so that you can download her latest work under her pen name of Cali MacKay!  After all, what's better after indulging in scrumptious holiday treats than settling in beside a roaring fire with a good book?

Joey:   Come on in Calista, I'm glad you stopped by for a visit.  Now I'm not sure if I already told you this, but a few weeks ago, I attended my son's football game, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Two rows over,  a friend of mine was in the stands wearing a gorgeous cape with leather fasteners on it, and I wondered to myself, where I had seen that style before?  So I leaned over and asked her where she got her cape.  She told me where she bought it, and my eyes bugged out of my head when she said how expensive it was.  However, what actually stuck out in my mind at that moment, was the fact I'd seen an almost identical cape on the cover of your book, STEAMPUNK YOUR WARDROBE, where you teach how to re-purpose an old winter coat and create a new cape that will have fashionistas drooling and wishing they hadn't opened their wallets.

Calista:  Thank you!! I'd have to say that my favorite is probably the mini-top hat made from a cereal box. It was fun figuring out how to put it all together in a way that would not only work but look good.
Both cape and caplet on the cover caught my eye!  Want to make your own?
Joey:  I fell in love with the premise of your latest novel, JACK and it's unusual main character, who is a gorgeous grim reaper. It's a romance, but to me it also has elements of mystery as well.  Can you tell our readers a little more about the plot?

Calista:  JACK is a new twist on Jack the Ripper. Jack is a grim reaper whose suspected of going rogue and killing women before their time to die. Mason and Lilly are also reapers who are investigating the murders and trying to find Jack, though Lilly is also Jack's ex and involved with Mason, which puts them at odds during the investigation, especially when not everything is as it seems. 

Joey:  I've noticed many of your books are written during the Victorian era. It was such an elegant age. What draws you as a writer and as a designer to that time period?

Calista:  I've always been drawn to the past, but like the Victorian era, in part because of the aesthetics of the period. I also like setting novels in that time period because of the struggles and inequalities that were present. My writing tries to explore some of those darker aspects.

Joey:  What authors are your literary inspiration, and what fashion designers give you flights of fancy?

Calista:  My favorite authors are Diana Gabaldon, Anne Perry and Elizabeth Peters. As for fashion designers, I really like Alexander McQueen.

Joey: You are also a successful book cover designer, and have designed your own book covers, as well as those of some NYT bestsellers. What do you think is the secret to creating an eye-catching book cover?  You create amazing designs, and I know our readers, many of whom self-publish will love to know more.

Calista:  I think it's a combination of using eye-catching stock, and fonts that feel current, in addition to a composition that will stand out.

One of Calista's amazing book cover designs!
Need a custom cover?  Check out Covers by Cali
Joey:  Could you tell our readers a little more about yourself?  I'm sure after reading our interview they're very curious to get to know you.

Calista:  I'm a mom of two girls, have a crazy dog, and I'm married to an Irishman, accent and all. Which is kind of funny, since I usually write Scotsmen into my stories. 

Joey:  Speaking of Scotsmen and Irishmen, I'm going to tell our readers about your latest endeavor!  You've written two romance novels under the pen name of Cali MacKay, and I have to say that THE HIGHLANDER'S HOPE seems quite tantalizing.  Again, I love my thrillers, but beneath this romance novel, at least from the pages I've read, lies a thrilling adventure.  

But I'm even more excited to link our readers up to the free book giveaway you're doing for THE HIGHLANDER'S HOPE, and for the free e-book giveaway you're giving two lucky readers so they can enter the thrilling world of JACK and the grim reapers!  Thank you for doing this for the readers of Soul and Sweet Tea.

Calista:  Thank you.  

And now for our little contest.  This one's especially fun, and I hope it will heat up your Thanksgiving holidays.  All you have to do is answer the question below.  We'll open up the contest from today, November 18, 2012 until midnight on November 25th.

What movie do you think is the coolest steampunk-influenced movie ever and why (keep it short)?

Calista and I will pick two winners who will each receive the free e-book, JACK!  If you enter, make sure to include how to contact you via email.

Happy Thanksgiving to the greatest blog readers (and their families) in the world. Wishing you a holiday filled with both fun and fellowship as you gather together with those you love to give thanks for life's blessings.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Funnies: You MIGHT Be a Thriller Writer!

If your significant other paints her fingernails in a shade called, "The Spy Who Loved Me"...

She MIGHT be a thriller writer!
Yea, I really did that!  Have I mentioned how much I love Ian Fleming?
Happy 50th Birthday James Bond~

Send me some funny thoughts for another segment of "You Might Be a Thriller Writer", by either commenting here or sending me an email!  And yea, for those who aren't thriller writers, you can send me chuckles regarding your genre as well.  Let's have some Friday fun!  I can only imagine what suggestions I'll get from sci-fi or fantasy writers, and I'll highlight them in future Friday Funnies.

Happy Friday y'all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop (Week 24)

I've been tagged by my friend Sean Jenan for the week 24 installment of "The Next Big Thing".

Personally, I feel his latest edgy thriller, CIPHER, will definitely become one of the next big things you'll want to read, and wish him well.  Not that I'm psychic or anything like that, but I seriously see great things on the horizon for both Sean and for CIPHER.

By the way, you gotta check out the musings and mayhem on his blog~Read the Sloshpile!

And in case you've been wondering, what I've been working on on since finishing THE DEATH BROKERS, it's this:

Cover inspiration for my manuscript created by the very talented
Calista Taylor ( And psst!  We'll be interviewing her next week on the blog!
1- What is the working title of your book?  TWO TALISMANS

2- Where did the idea come from for the book? My summer vacation to the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas and St. John. 

After hopping off the ferry on St. John, I wandered around an area near the port and found a great little jewelry shop. 

While I was looking inside a glass showcase for an item engraved with the ancient symbol of St. John, the salesman behind the counter walked over and began staring at the pendant on my gold chain.

him:  "What's that hanging from your necklace?"
me:    "A coin."
him:  "I can tell it's very old.  What wreck was it from?
me:  "The Atocha, off the coast of south Florida."

And then we had quite an interesting conversation about the wreck.  The coin I have which was made into a pendant, was from the wreck of the Atocha, a Spanish ship which went down over 200 years ago, and the man told me that there has always been a rumor that the gold and silver coins that were found by Mel Fisher (the man who discovered the wreck and brought up the treasure) were cursed (he suffered personal tragedy after discovering the wreck).

Now of course I thought this was terribly tantalizing,  as I love a good tale or legend, and the talk with the man from the jewerly store provided me with all kinds of wild inspiration.

A few days later, I was enjoying a quiet moment off of Hawksnest Beach, just floating in the windex-blue water, and the premise for TWO TALISMANS came to me as clear as the water surrounding me.  I thought of my coin pendant,  and I thought of the lore surrounding the cursed gold and silver coins, and the result was TWO TALISMANS.

3- What genre does your book fall under? paranormal thriller.

4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  If I had to pick two actresses to play Eleana (short for Eleanor) and Abbie Syler (direct descendents of Amelia Carlysle), it would probably be Claire Danes and Reece Witherspoon.  Without a doubt, I would want Halle Berry to play Sophie DuBois, and possibly Amanda Seyfried to be Amelia Carlysle.

5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?  It's not really a sentence, but a little poem I wrote while floating on my back in the ocean.  Here goes:

All that glitters isn't gold,
But coins of silver, very old.
Forged into chains with hanging talismans,
And when they touch, chaos begins.

6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  Right now I'm gearing up to send out more queries for my thriller, THE DEATH BROKERS, and have had a good response thus far.

So it's safe to say I'm in search of the perfect agent .  

7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  I'm not totally finished as of yet. It is actually my Nanowrimo project, but it's moving along quickly.  Like I've told my crit partners, this one is as if it's almost writing itself.  It's too darned easy, this one!

8- What other books would you compare this to to within your genre?  I would compare my w.i.p.  to the feel of THE WITCHING HOUR  by Anne Rice, but mine has more thriller in it, and also some elements from  the 2011 movie, Chronicle.

9- Who or What inspired you to write this book?  A series of personal losses, combined with a love for the beautifully wild Georgia coast and the south, and my trip to the islands of St. John and St. Thomas.

This manuscript will be dedicated to two very important women in my life.  One of whom, I miss very very much.  Miss you D.V.H.  Gone but never forgotten.

10- What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?  Personally, I think that most women who wear any type of jewelry feel some sort of an emotional attachment to a special piece.  As for me, when I put on a certain ring, or when I put on the silver coin pendant I wrote about earlier in this blog post, it makes me feel connected to certain places, people, and events in my life.  The premise of this manuscript draws upon those exact types of feelings you may feel when holding something of value or sentimentality, or of historical value in your hand.  

If you wear an engagement or wedding ring,  you'll know what I mean.  You look down at your hand, and you're brought back to that once-in-a-lifetime moment.  Like that feeling.  My glittering band on my left hand may be new, but the solitaire inside of the ring is the same one that I was given on the 9th of December by my husband.   Every time I look at it,  I remember his proposal under the Christmas tree.

Now on a totally different level, I think anyone who believes in karma, or the notion that you reap what you sow, will also want to read this manuscript.  It's the unleashing of the secret desire to see bad things finally happen to very bad people. But in the end, revenge can't really fix your soul or your problems.  It'll eat you alive from the inside out if you let it, and TWO TALISMANS also shows the beauty in forgiveness, and also celebrates the tight-knit bonds of family and friendship.

Tagged for next week (Week 25) is my AQC friend Vicki (also known as the elusive LucidDreamer, and a very talented writer (do check out her incredible poem on the blog too!). Check out her blog next Wednesday, November 21st, when it's her turn to post answers to these same questions about her manuscript!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

So You Want to Write a Query, Eh?

Cartoon by  W. Pollard

Well you're not alone.

Utter frustration can be avoided by learning the fine art of query writing!
Thousands of writers wishing to obtain literary representation are trying to do the very same thing, but would you like to have an edge?  Want to quit bashing your head against the desk and stop getting crappy form rejections?

Want to see what I think works, and also find some links that can help you peer into the fantastical minds of lit agents, who read thousands of these (mostly doomed) queries every year, and find a writer's site that is amazing and totally craft-oriented?  You do?  Awesomesauce.

Now if it makes you feel better, understand that I am in this struggle right along with you, as I am seeking representation for my thriller, THE DEATH BROKERS, and soon will be offering up a second thriller (paranormal thriller) TWO TALISMANS as well.

Here's how to get started.  First of all realize a query isn't a mini-novel.  Nah, it's a brief teaser to make someone want to read your manuscript and love it.  What I am going to offer you today are some ideas followed up by actions you can take in order to write a great query.

Roll up your sleeves, it's time to get to work.

First, let's define what a successful query is.  And there's one sure-fire way to do that.  Go take a shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed, because we're going to take a field trip.  Grab your car keys, and let's go!

Action 1:  Drive to your local bookstore and find books written in your genre.  Go get a latte or expresso before entering, because you're gonna be here a while and have some serious work to do.

A bookstore I've got to visit!  Bound To Be Read Books,  in East Atlanta Village!
Now go scour the shelves and pick up some of the best sellers and read the back cover blurb.  Read it, absorb it, and feel the words.  This short blurb should make you want to read that book, right?  Well this is your first hint as to how to go about writing your own query.  Make it just like the back cover of the best seller in your hand, see how the action and the word-usage and notice the struggle of the main character(s).

Step two, take a hard look at your manuscript and identify the main character and his/her goals and the conflict that is the meat of your story.  Get out a notebook or open up a Word doc.  Hammer those ideas down into a few sentences, and then create in 350 words or less (I know, I know, one of the agent sites I will send you to in a few will say 250 words or less, but I have heard otherwise on this rule) your query.  Pack in as much action and stumbling blocks that show the struggle of your character and how your plot is unique.  Draw in the reader!

Close your query with a kind thank-you to the agent for reading, and also a sentence or two about yourself, your writing experience or relevant life experience that adds to your credibility as a writer, and maybe a few words about similar works that have broken all kinds of book sales records.  But above all, never, ever ever forget to thank the agent for reading your query because they are bombarded by thousands of them and deserve some of genuine, heart-felt thanks.  Show appreciation and a little literary love to them for taking the time out of their busy day to read your query.

Action 2:  Want some feedback and great wisdom on the art of query writing?  Want to take my few ideas to the next level?  Then join the site I adore (and am a member of), AgentQueryConnect!  It's a helpful place, all about craft and will truly inspire you.  I can attest that today I am a better writer because of the inspiration I've gleaned and the friendships I've made there.

Go now! Check out AgentQueryConnect!

Step three:  Still don't believe these two ideas are great?  Then see what the agents are saying about the elements of a good query.  Check out these two sites and read for yourself.  Get into the mind of some top agents and see what makes them sit up and take notice of a manuscript!

Action 3:  Visit these sites to see what works and what doesn't:

Without proper preparation, your query may be eaten alive!

Don't get chewed up & spit out because you don't do your query homework.  Go check this amazing agent's sites out!
Jump in the Water With the Query Shark!

Janet Reid, Awesome Literary Agent & Home of the Chum Bucket!

Step Four:  Still want query writing inspiration? Then watch this short video that my son showed me this morning for a video game to be released next week.  If you could take the actions in this short video and put them into words, along with a few key sentences that are spoken/heard in the video, you'd have an incredible, action-packed query.  So imagine your manuscript in film-format.  See it in your minds' eye on the silver screen and ponder how you'd convey it to the masses in 350 words or less.

Action 4:  Not everyone's a thriller writer, and although I am one, I do not write military thrillers.  Well at least not yet.  But you'll get the idea of how to condense action and pique interest by watching this video for the upcoming release next week of Call of Duty, Black Ops II.

Now get to it soldier!  You've got a query to create.  The life of your manuscript is on the line.

And do not forget today is Veteran's Day.  If you love your freedom, and cherish our American flag, go find and thank a Vet. Never, ever forget how much they sacrificed, and remember what it is you take for granted.

Today I'm missing one especially, my father.  Miss you dad.  And thank you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Conquer Nanowrimo and Create Something Special!

Are you in or out?

So you want to write a book?  Join Nanowrimo! 

As for me, I'm in.

And I'm using this month during Nanowrimo to get a head start on my next project, a supernatural thriller, and to jump-starting the novel writing process I'll use my secret weapon~outlining!

Yep, yours truly is a huge fan of outlining.  But I do not just outline the plot, I also outline the characters at the outset.

As I've discussed before, some writers are "pantsers" who fly by the seat of their pants when writing, and you never know where they're going to end up.  It's all writing on-the-fly and spontaneous for them, and while that's cool, it's not for me, as I prefer the structure of the outline.  Plus, I also like to keep manuscript notes which also helps me refer back to earlier scenes and also keeps me from accidentally leaving out important clues or nuances I'll need at the end of my manuscript.

For me, writing with an outline is like going on a road trip with a good, detailed map.  Sure, I know the basic driving directions, but if per se, I decided to drive to Disney World and head due south, I might get lost along the way.  Now that in itself would be an adventure, but goodness knows where I'd end up if I didn't have my map with me.

So if you're like me, you want to plot the right course for your Nanowrimo journey.  And here's how I do it.  I jot down in a composition book (which helps me squeeze in writing time no matter where I'm at) the names of the main characters and I begin to develop them. Where were they born, what are their likes and dislikes, how are they integral to the plot, and what are their goals and desires.  I carefully and painstakingly go through this process before writing the manuscript outline.

For me, doing a deep character analysis makes the whole process much easier.  Once you know who your characters are, it's much easier to write about them in the story world you've created.

Next I outline the entire manuscript and once finished,  break it down further into sub-sections (which become my chapters).  All of this is important, and if done correctly, you can refer to these notes once you're ready to query your manuscript, and it will come in handy for the synopsis you'll have to write.

There you have it!  You know who your characters are, and you know where the journey will take you.  But as with all travels, there are unexpected pleasures and mishaps along the way, but don't give up!  Use your time this month before the holidays to create something beautiful.

Squeeze in some time to write, and jot down some words when you have your morning cup of coffee or during lunch.

Best writing wishes!

Friday, November 2, 2012

And the Winners Are...

It was a tough decision trying to decide which entry was the scariest, so I asked writing champ, Revo Boulanger, to pick our winner.  He packs a punch within the suspense/thriller/and paranormal genres, and is both a writer to be reckoned with, as well as a really nice guy.
Want to read the musings of our judge?  It's a fun blog.
Check it out! 

"My selection from the Soul and Sweet Tea contest goes to....
Shocking vision, screams, clutching in fear, and a rational yet disturbing explanation."~R.B.

Fierce female scribe, Terri Bruce, author of HEREAFTER 
Congratulations Amber!  You win a copy of HEREAFTER by Terri Bruce (Incidentally, Terri and Revo both were chosen winners and tied for the 2012 Soul and Sweet Tea Flash Fiction Contest and both recently made it through Superstorm Sandy!), and a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble.

The hat is in the right corner!  We like to have fun during the holidays at our house.
Can you tell? 

And now I shall draw out of my fabulous feathered non-costume, the name of the lucky reader who also wins a copy of HEREAFTER!

Kaci Verdun

*winners will be contacted via email

Thanks for entering and I hope everyone had a great time taking part in both this blog contest and in the 2012 Spooktacular Holiday Blog Hop.  Stay tuned for more literary musings and fun.   

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Win Giftcard & HEREAFTER, Plus Author Interview With Terri Bruce

Update:  The Contest is CLOSED.  No more entries will be accepted.  

Two winners will be announced on Friday evening, November 2nd!  One wins the gift card & book (for the scariest entry) and the other winner wins the book (drawn from my fabulous and feathery witch hat!). !

Winner of scariest entry will be chosen by the past winner of our 2012 Flash Fiction Writing Contest, someone who also survived a harrowing Halloween Week (courtesy of Superstorm Sandy).

Are you brooms gassed up and ready to go?  Well get ready to kickoff and soar, because the wildest and wackiest holiday blog hop has begun, and Soul and Sweet Tea is a part of it!

Today across the web, there are contests galore beginning today, and we’re proud to be among over four hundred fantastically freaky book blogging and writing sites participating in the Spooktacular Halloween Blog Hop!

Click this link below to find over 400 blog contests:

And here's what to do!  Click on the link I've placed above, and check out the over 400 sites that will have their giveaway/contests go live beginning both today and tomorrow!  The blog contests will all end at the stroke of midnight on Halloween (October 31st, Eastern Standard Time)!

But now, it's time to fly into our contest and interview with my friend Terri Bruce, author of the deliciously fun paranormal adventure, HEREAFTER.

After reading the interview, enter the contest for a chance to win hereafter, and a $20 Barnes & Noble Giftcard!

Thirty-six-year-old Irene Dunphy didn't plan on dying any time soon, but that’s exactly what happens when she makes the mistake of getting behind the wheel after a night bar-hopping with friends. 

She finds herself stranded on earth as a ghost, and to make matters worse, the only person who can see her—courtesy of a book he found in his school library—is a fourteen-year-old boy genius obsessed with the afterlife. 

This sounds suspiciously like hell to Irene, so she prepares to strike out for the Great Beyond. The only problem is that, while this side has exorcism, ghost repellents, and soul devouring demons, the other side has three-headed hell hounds, final judgment, and eternal torment. If only there was a third option...

JF:  Welcome to Soul and Sweet Tea, Terri.  Would care for a cup of hot tea or cocoa on this chilly October afternoon?

TB:  I guess I have to go with the hot tea.  You see, lately I've started a ritual of making myself a formal afternoon tea every Sunday. I get out the china teapot, one of my china teacups from my collection, and one of my special teas ("Oasis" from Tea Forte is a favorite at the moment).

JF:  That sounds yummy!  

JF:  By the way, our readers are eager to get to know you, so do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

TB:  That'd be great (sips tea).

JF:  How long have you been writing?

TB:  I’ve always written; in grade school, they had us write a story every year, which we then made into a book – we printed it neatly on nice paper, drew pictures to accompany the story, and then sewed it all together with cardboard wrapped in wall paper for covers. I think that was my favorite thing we did all year and I still have those stories (thanks Mom for keeping them!). It wasn’t until 2001, however, that I really set out to write a novel “for real,” and that’s when I started working steadily toward becoming a professional author.

JF:  Who are your favorite authors?

TB:  This is a toughie because I tend to like particular books, rather than particular authors; that is to say, I don’t always read or like everything a particular author writes. However, I own a lot of books by Alexander Dumas, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Jan Karon, Lisa See, and Terry Pratchett. In general, I tend to like classics—Ivanhoe, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Idylls of the King; young adult fantasy—Philip Pullman, Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, Madeline L’Engle; and “Asian” fiction (especially Asian women’s fiction)—The Secrets of Jin-Shei, Peony in Love, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Tea House Fire.

JF:  Tell us a little about yourself.

TB:  Currently, I work full time, as a grant writer for a non-profit, and fiction writing is a second full time job on top of that, so there isn’t a lot of free time right now. When there is, I love horseback riding, hiking, quilting, and gardening. Now ask me the last time I did any of those things! However, if Hereafter does well, my husband has agreed to let me buy a horse, so hopefully there will be more horseback riding in my future. My secret wish is to someday own a horse and move to Bar Harbor, Maine. I’ll ride my horse in Acadia National Park every day and spend my winters snowed in, writing novels and spinning wool into yarn (which I will then crochet into beautiful garments). 

JF:  Since HEREAFTER is a paranormal tale, do you believe in ghosts or the afterlife?  Have you ever had a paranormal experience?

TB:  Have I had a paranormal experience?! J I’ve blogged about the odd occurrences at my house and about the spirit of one of my cats that hung around after she died. That’s all just the tip of the iceberg, but many of my other experiences are too personal to share. I can definitely say that I think there are things in this world that we can’t explain yet!

JF:  Halloween is just around the corner.  Are you or your family doing anything special to celebrate?

TB:  I wish—I love Halloween and when I was a kid, my mom would go all out (see this guest post about the costumes she used to make us and later in the week I’ll be blogging about the pumpkins she used to carve). Then later, as an adult, I lived in Salem, Massachusetts—which is a WILD place to be on Halloween. I loved it! Unfortunately, now I live in a different place, in a neighborhood where we don’t get any trick-or-treaters so we really never do anything. 

On a side note, while Halloween is cool and one of my favorite holidays, I’m actually really looking forward to the Day of the Dead (November 1st and 2nd). Halloween is more about warding off ghosts and ghouls and the negative side of death, and Day of the Dead is about commemorating departed loved ones. I’ve never celebrated Day of the Dead.

JF:  Thanks so much Terri, and I can’t wait to read the rest.  I’ve read the first few chapters myself, and can say I love the feel, your writer’s voice,  and the unique plot of this book.  

So you wanna win HERAFTER?  
You do?  Great!
Now let me lay down the rules:

1)Entries will be accepted from today until midnight eastern standard time on 
October 31st, 2012.

2)Either join my blog, or sign into Google or Wordpress, because I will need your screen name (if you win).

3)If you are a winner, I will need your contact information so you can receive your prize.

4)Everyone who enters must write in 100 words or less, a short account of their scariest, spookiest moment ever!  Be creative and have fun with this.  One winner will be chosen from among all entrants for their spookiest, scariest moment.  

No wrongs, just fright!

5)So you’re not a writer but a reader?  Never fear!  Another winner will be chosen from among all entrants, as I place every entrant’s screen name into my fabulous feathered witch’s hat and draw out the screen name of the lucky winner.

6)Make sure to enter by the deadline, as there will be no exceptions.
You snooze, you lose.

7) Terri's also kind enough to throw in MORE books as prizes!  There will be 2 winners awarded the book if there are 20 entrants or less, but the prizes multiply by the number of entrants.   So if there's 40, we'll have 3 winners, etc.  Potentially there can be up to 5 books given away, but that's based on an estimate of 100 entrants.  One overall winner (who has scariest answer) wins the gift card.

Good luck and Happy Halloween!  Also, a special thank you to my readers for making the first year of my blog such a success.