Friday, July 30, 2010

"Frugal & Focused Tweeting For Retailers": A Great Book For Authors, Too!

Before Carolyn Howard-Johnson became an acclaimed author, she spent nearly three decades in the retail industry, as founder and manager of her own chain of stores, a retail consultant and a New York publicist. The latest book in her "Survive and Thrive" series is Frugal & Focused Tweeting for Retailers, and it is a great read for not just people in the retail industry, but for those in the publishing industry as well. After all, being a writer is in many ways similar to running your very own small business. Not only must you strive to make your writing the best it can be -- if you want to expand your readership, it is also imperative to learn how to be successful at marketing yourself and your work.

That is where Howard-Johnson comes in. Her goal in this book is to help those with businesses (or books!) use Twitter in ways they never imagined by "doing it right" and integrating their efforts with all the other marketing they do.

Are you clueless at social networking? Frugal & Focused Tweeting for Retailers walks you through the basics of setting up a Twitter account and demystifies the jargon of Twitter lingo.

Do you already have a Twitter account set up but want to gain a bigger audience of followers and learn how to add clout to your online presence? This is a great book for you, too!

Twitter is indeed a frugal way to promote yourself and your books -- it's free to join and use! Howard-Johnson gives advice on ways to build connections with potential customers through Twitter, integrate your advertising, and even give a Twitter party.

I'll end with a quote from the beginning of the book by Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks: "People get information in all kinds of ways now, and companies can no longer talk at the consumer. You have to engage in a discussion and let people create, discover, and share information and not just try to sell them things." Whether you're selling coffee or selling books, I couldn't agree more. In Frugal & Focused Tweeting for Retailers, Howard-Johnson helps show you how to start a discussion with consumers -- or readers!

She also keeps a blog called "Sharing With Writers and Readers."

You can also connect with her on Twitter (of course!) and Facebook

While you're there, connect with me on Twitter, too! :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interview with Gina Holmes, author of "Crossing Oceans"

Today I am thrilled to have Gina Holmes as a guest to talk about her debut novel Crossing Oceans. In 1998, Gina began her career penning articles and short stories. In 2005 she founded the influential literary blog, Novel Journey. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her husband and children in Southern Virginia. Her debut novel, Crossing Oceans released April/May 2010 with Tyndale House Publishers. To learn more about her, visit: or

Your blog,, grew out of your own journey to become a published author How many books had you written before Crossing Oceans? How long has your "novel journey" taken?

Thanks for mentioning Novel Journey. It has been a labor of love, not just for me, but for the whole Novel Journey team. It's a great place for readers to discover new authors and for writers to connect and learn. And unlike most things in life, it's a completely free resource. It really is the Novel Journey team's desire to spread the word about the tremendous choices and talent available today in the realm of Christian fiction, so forgive us if we unashamedly plug it. We'd love the whole world to discover the great Christian novelists there are to choose from -- Francine Rivers, Charles Martin, Lisa Samson, Claudia Mair Burney, Frank Peretti, and on and on.

But to answer the question you actually asked, I've written four books that haven't been published before this one, Crossing Oceans, was contracted.

I've been writing toward the goal of publication for something like ten years. I've had lots of rejections and near misses along the way, but I'm so grateful for all of it. Crossing Oceans is my best piece of writing to date and a story I'm so very proud to debut with.

How much of the character Jenny did you draw from yourself?

Friends could probably be more objective in answering this question than I am. The honest answer would be maybe a little, maybe a lot. Each of the characters is drawn from parts of me, the good guys and the bad. I've got enough attributes and flaws to go around! Mostly the characters are their own creation though. They borrow a little from me, a little from others, and each takes on their own persona as well. It's a combination.

Probably the character most based on myself is Bella. She's the glue that brings the two families together. I've always been a mediator type of person. I think most middle children probably are. However, I was more like Eeyore as a child than Isabella's sunshiny self.

As you reviewed novels and talked to a lot of novelists who have had varying degrees of commercial success, was there ever a "dark night of the soul" where you decided this just wasn't worth pursuing?

Not worth pursuing? No way! There are so many worthy stories to tell, and it's my burning desire to do that. Not to say that I didn't have fleeting moments of despair along the way, particularly when I came close to getting a contract, only to see it fall through at the last minute. But those moments really were fleeting, and I knew God's timing would be perfect … and it was.

You have written several as-yet-unpublished novels, all of them in a completely different genre: thriller/suspense. Crossing Oceans is quite a departure. Do you prefer or find your voice more easily in one or the other?

I grew up reading suspense, so naturally that's what I thought I should write. I did okay with it and got some recognition in a contest and came close to getting contracted, but ultimately none of those suspense novels ever sold. Then I started reading some really amazing novels outside the suspense genre, and it was like another world opened up to me. It was no longer a thriller I longed to write, but a story that would change lives the way the books I read had changed mine. When I started Crossing Oceans, I presented it along with a suspense novel I was working on to my agent, Chip MacGregor. I asked which one he thought suited me better. He told me both were good, but that Crossing Oceans seemed more like my true voice, or something to that effect. It turned out to be a turning point and absolutely the right advice. I'm now writing what comes naturally and absolutely loving it. Chip's a genius.

How did the idea for Crossing Oceans come to you?

I'm not exactly sure where the idea came from, but when I write, I'm usually working out something in my personal life, past or present. Often it's not until the story is done that I figure out exactly what. I think with Crossing Oceans it probably was my relationship with my parents. They divorced when I was a baby. For the first years of my life, I was with my mother, and then when I was in second grade, I went to live with my father. I know what it's like to be torn, like Isabella, between two families who don't always like each other but who all love the child they share. Then again, maybe I wasn’t working out anything! Maybe I just fell asleep watching something about a dying mother, and woke up thinking I had a brilliant idea.

King Solomon wrote, "My child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). What's your perspective on the flood of new books you see each season?

Honestly, I'd rather see two books released that are fantastic than a hundred that are just okay. There are great books that often don't get the attention they deserve because they're buried in an avalanche of new releases. Of course, tastes in literature are as different as in clothing, food, and anything else. One of my dearest friends has raved about books I thought were just okay and vice versa. So, who's to say which two books are the "great" ones?

Finish this sentence: "I will know that I have totally arrived as a novelist when..."

I don't think any of us ever "totally arrive" at anything. I'm a good mom, but have I arrived as a mother? No, I'm still learning and growing and trying to do better. It's the same with being a novelist. If I win a Pulitzer, that would be great -- okay, really, really, really great! -- but that still won't mean I've arrived. I'd still need to be learning and trying my best to improve with each book. I think once people start telling themselves they've "arrived," they start getting lazy and proud. Ultimately they become less than what they could have been had they remained hungry to improve.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Markets for Young Writers

* Sweet Designs Magazine is an online magazine with articles and features for teen girls, including fashion, beauty, advice, real life, health, teen issues, entertainment, DIY, crafts, polls, humor, contests, and other fun stuff. Learn more and submit your work at

* PLAYS: The Drama Magazine for Young People publishes approximately 75 wholesome, one-act plays each year (in seven issues, October through May, with a combined issue for January/February). Editors are looking for good scripts to be performed by young people in junior and senior high, middle grades, and lower grades. Of particular interest are comedies, farces, dramas, mysteries, and melodramas for year-round use, as well as plays for such holidays and special occasions as Halloween, Book Week, Black History Month, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Washington's Birthday, etc. They use only secular plays for Christmas and other religious holidays, and publish no plays on religious themes. Find full writers guidelines at

* A+ Research and Writing: stuck on a homework assignment? This website gives tips on writing essays and papers, with step-by-step writing and research info.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Yann Martel on "Combating Indifference" Through the Arts

There is wonderful interview in Writer's Digest with Yann Martel, author of the Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi and most recently Beatrice and Virgil. One of the final questions the interviewer asked was, "Through your actions as well as the themes of your stories, it's clearly very important to you to combat indifference. Can you explain why?"

Here is Martel's beautiful response:

I think indifference in itself is not a good thing, in any field really, but especially in the arts. Art is the greatest tool for thinking about your life, for examining your life. It's a whole-person thing. And it permeates our life. People who say they don't care about the arts, it's not true. The way you dress, the way you eat, the language you speak, these are all cultural emanations. To be indifferent to the arts, to never read a book, never see a play, never read a poem, never see a movie that isn't a conventional Hollywood blockbuster, all that basically means you're shutting down your appreciation of the human experience.

Art is partly to entertain, but partly also to upset. You need those two. That's vital to keep our society alive. As a writer I'm just part of that, and I think every writer does the same. I think every writer, in one way or another, is trying to just push people a little bit and say, "Hey, have you thought about this, or have you realized this, or have you felt this?"

You can read the entire interview in the July/August 2010
issue of Writer's Digest.

Yann Martel's books are available in major bookstores everywhere.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"Bang The Keys": A Fabulous Video by Jill Dearman

I came across this YouTube video by Jill Dearman, author of Bang The Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice. After watching the 9-minute video, I felt like I was dunked in a cool, refreshing bath of inspiration. Jill is chock-full of advice and motivation for any writer, artist, musician, or simply someone looking to add more creativity to his or her life.

Jill also got me thinking about some of my own "bang the keys" writing tenets that I've gathered from teachers and from my own experience over the years:

*Write every day, even if only for fifteen or twenty minutes.
*Keep a writing pad with you at all times to jot down ideas and notes and scraps of information.
*When writing a first draft of fiction, don't even think about the market or future readers -- focus on your instincts, on the characters, on the story.
*Exercise is an amazing cure for writer's block.
*So is travel, people-watching, or doing something else creative, like painting or cooking or playing a musical instrument.
*First, please yourself. (That's from Elizabeth Berg.)
*Drink deeply from good books. (That's from John Wooden's 7-Point Creed.)
*Don't forget time to play -- in life as in your writing. Remind yourself why you fell in love with writing in the first place.

Jill's website is and you can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Her book Bang The Keys is available at bookstores nationwide and on

Friday, July 16, 2010

Interview with Kristin Andress: Part 2

I am delighted to feature Kristin Andress on my blog! She is the author of Imagine Being In a Life You Love, available NOW at Exciting plans are underway to celebrate its Summer Book Launch.

Kristin says: "Please order 1, 2 (or more copies) on July 15 and 16th as part of our bestseller campaign! Even if you have your copy, Imagine Being In a Life You Love makes a great gift for friends, family or as a differentiator in offering it to your clients. Also, please feel free to forward this info to those in your network and we would love it if you would add the Amazon link to Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for 'Being a Light' for us! We are certainly grateful for your help."

FREE giveaway! For the first 10 buyers who sign up for the newsletter at and send their receipt number and contact information to, she will offer a free 45-minute consulting session and 25% off her 5-part Teleseminar series (available Aug 15). The first 100 who sign up and send Kristin an email will be put into a drawing for an iPod Nano!

Kristin was kind enough to answer some questions about her writing journey. Read Part One of our interview here.

How did you first discover your love for writing?

I have loved to write for as long as I have been able to hold a pen. I began filling spiral notebooks in first grade - stories of cowboys and horses! Also, my mom was a children's librarian for 23 years. I grew up around books and reading was my favorite hobby. I knew I could tell stories in my head and began translating them to paper. In second grade I wrote a play on Betsy Ross sewing the United States flag. In 7th grade I won an award for a poem. The love of writing and the response that it could reap from people kept me so passionate about continuing - and still does!

What is your writing routine? Do you write every day? Do you have a certain time or place you write?

I don't have a precise routine, though I keep a notepad by my bed and am often awake in the wee hours jotting down ideas. I probably write best on weekends when my phone isn't ringing and I can step away from emails. I love to Blog, and my co-author calls me the "Carrie Bradshaw of Imagine Being." I sit quietly on my patio (in the sunshine, of course!) and the ideas just flow. I enjoy writing fiction and non-fiction and eventually will have an Imagine Being series -- and a great American novel -- to my credit!

Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self about your life? What is your biggest advice for kids and teens just starting out?

What a great question! I would tell my younger self to soak in all that I'm experiencing -- good and bad -- because it is causing me to become a person of depth, empathy and contribution in the world. In our book, we talk about the "Pings" of life -- the stuff that happens to us, which is often outside of our control. I'm been Pinged many times -- divorce, death of a brother and stepfather, my mom's breast cancer, an abusive relationship -- and as odd as it may sound, I would not change any of it. It has given me a perspective about how to best proceed in life and serve others, and it has provided an unshakeable belief system that I will be okay through all and ensure that I use life experience positively. My advice is to realize that YOU are the constant in your life, and you may not be able to control some circumstances you encounter, but you can control your response. Utilize what you learn to be a light in the life of another -- pay it forward.

In Imagine Being, you share many stories from your own personal life. What was that experience like for you? Would you recommend that others delve into their own lives in their writing?

Sharing my very raw and real story was fantastic, and a little nerve racking. It was great to "get it out" and it was daunting because I checked in with myself regarding how I felt about others knowing my "stuff." In asking others to share their stories in Imagine Being In a Life You Love, we came to realize that many people do not want others to know their life experiences, and even want to hide them. However, the telling of our stories connects us as people, and helps us realize that we are more similar than different. At, we initiated a global community inviting people to share their stories so that we can participate together in the trials and triumphs! Please write us! It is refreshing to know that someone else has gone through what you have -- and survived and thrived through it! It is important to be the authentic you.

What do you think is the biggest obstacle people face in creating lives they love?

I think a primary obstacle includes the excuses that we tell ourselves. Typically, these excuses revolve around time, money, energy and people. We call these the TEMP excuses, and they truly are temporary if you exercise your creativity and put in the work. Designing the life you love is not a one-stop shot -- it is a journey that you need to be conscious of along the way. You will need to declare your intentions, create your plan, reach out to your lifelines and make course corrections along the way. In Imagine Being In A Life You Love we offer within a very specific planning guide. No excuses now for not knowing how to get started -- or whether to continue!

You mention the importance of "paying forward" (something I am very passionate about as well!) Can you expand on that?

There is no greater gift that you can give than helping and serving another person. As you live and learn through life, reach out to others and share your wisdom, your knowledge or even your smile. Paying it forward and being a light in the lives of others has a ripple effect. You will encourage others to do the same and as members of humanity, we need to be there for each other.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you, Dallas, for this opportunity!! I am so passionate about helping people to imagine living a life they love! I hope all readers will join our community at And, please pick up your copy and even a gift copy of Imagine Being In a Life You Love at Enjoy your life!!

Connect with Kristin on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Interview with Kristin Andress: Part 1

Kristin Andress is the CEO of Andress Consulting, a Solana Beach, California-based firm that offers strategic planning, marketing and communications solutions. For nearly two decades, she has helped major corporations, start-up companies, and entrepreneurs, streamline business operations, promote and differentiate their products and services, and improve company and individual performance.

Kristin's new book, Imagine Being In a Life You Love ( provides an invitation and rally cry for people to design their lives by choice rather than leave it to chance. She says, "Along with my co-author Jaqui Jeanes-Lowry, I want people to know they are the cause and the opportunity maker in their own lives!"

Exciting plans are underway to celebrate the July 15 Summer Book Launch of Imagine Being In a Life You Love!

Kristin says: "Please order 1, 2 (or more copies) on July 15 and 16th as part of our bestseller campaign! Even if you have your copy, Imagine Being In a Life You Love makes a great gift for friends, family or as a differentiator in offering it to your clients. Also, please feel free to forward this info to those in your network and we would love it if you would add the Amazon link to Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for 'Being a Light' for us! We are certainly grateful for your help."

FREE giveaway! For the first 10 buyers who sign up for the newsletter at and send their receipt number and contact information to, she will offer a free 45-minute consulting session and 25% off her 5-part Teleseminar series (available Aug 15). The first 100 who sign up and send Kristin an email will be put into a drawing for an iPod Nano!

Kristin was kind enough to stop by and answer some questions about the path that led to the publication of Imagine Being. Part 2 of the interview will be posted tomorrow, so be sure to check back!

Tell us about your childhood and life leading up to Imagine Being In a Life You Love.

I enjoyed growing up in the small town of Pittsfield, Illinois and I return often to visit family and friends. In the winter months it is great fun to rub in the San Diego weather and the ocean air and golf courses of Solana Beach, CA where I live.

Prior to launching Andress Consulting, I had a ten-year career with Arthur Andersen, serving as the Director of Tax and Legal–Performance and Learning. I led global operations of a fifty-two person team in the United States and had coordination oversight of twenty-five people in Cambridge, England and Asia/Pacific, with responsibility for a multi-million dollar budget. (Now, I am SO glad to be an entrepreneur and in business for myself!)

Most people are interested in knowing that one of my clients is Stedman Graham, Oprah’s beau, who I have worked with over 6 years to develop new business, manage client relationships, and manage aspects of media relations and book tours. It has been a whirlwind of new experiences.

Tell us about your book Imagine Being In a Life You Love.

Imagine Being In a Life You Love provides the guidance for people to consciously participate in authoring their life’s design and not leave it to chance. We get but one go around, and we want to help people make the most of it. Imagine Being is an invitation and a rally cry for people to take the reins of life in hand. If you are intentional in your life, you can change the trajectory of it. We provide the guidance for:

• You, being the cause of designing your life
• You, being the opportunity maker in your life
• You, being the reason for momentum in your life
• You, being the energy responsible for your life
• You, being the light that guides the way for others

We want to change perceptions about what is possible in a lifetime.

What was the impetus to write this book?

The reason for writing Imagine Being In a Life You Love came to me on December 31, 2007 -- New Year’s Eve day. I always utilize that day to write my goals and intentions and since I'd recently moved to San Diego and instigated a lot of chaos in my life, I found myself struggling. I thought to myself, "I've taken so many personal development courses and read many books on the subject -- basically been there, done that, got the T-shirt - so, if I am having difficulty, there must be millions of others experiencing this uncertainty." I decided to use my voice and my experience to create a product that alleviated this uncertainty and helped people imagine being in a life they love -- and then take the action to achieve it. It is my way of giving back, and leaving an imprint by helping others.

Your book seems especially relevant in today's crazy-busy society in which many people feel empty and dissatisfied. What topics does your book address that help people discover their own personal happiness?

Imagine Being does arrive at a time when people around the world are seeking opportunities to take control of their lives amid the myriad setbacks facing them, what we call the PINGs of life. Whether it is job loss, weight loss, or clarity of life's purpose, Imagine Being provides an invitation, direction, and a swift kick in the behind for people to take the reins of life in hand.

When it comes to what we want and need, we are long on good intentions and short on action. Many people feel that life just happens to them, and it will, unless we choose to own the responsibility to cause the events, the situations, the opportunities, and the miraculous we wish to manifest. Imagine Being is a navigation tool for learning about who you are, defining and creating a purposeful life you imagine living, and managing the setbacks that arise through the "ah but's" and "if onlys." It is a myth that life should or will be problem-free. Imagine Being gives people the fuel -- the courage, the conviction -- to carry on.

We include the following unique concepts for creating a life you love:

• Lifelines – Identifying those people who will help with the intentions for your life.
• Box In/Box Out – Ensuring that you put yourself in the position of having to accomplish your intentions by getting leverage on yourself.
• PINGs – Realizing that "stuff" will happen in life, and that you must adapt, move on, and utilize what you learn to empower yourself and others.
• The Change Equation – Developing a system for managing and thriving through change.
• Super Champions – Seeking those people you may not personally know (yet), but who are doing and being what you wish to be up to - then modeling them!.
• Passive Hostility – Recognizing the behavior that arises when you want something you are not getting.
• LIP Service – Changing the original definition of lip service from talk only to expanding to the associated possibilities and acting on them—Living In Possibility.
• Choice Cards – Acknowledging that you have infinite choices available to you, as well as their results and consequences.
• Unshakeable Belief System – Accepting that you will have challenges in life and develop a belief system that will sustain your dreams and hold you accountable to them.
• TEMP Excuses – Leaving behind your excuses regarding time, energy, money, and people.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of my interview with Kristin!

You can also connect with Kristin on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Interview with Mary Ann Hutchison, Author of "Moochi's Mariachis"

Mary Ann Hutchison is the author of the YA novel Moochi's Mariachis, a wonderful coming-of-age tale that will make you want to get up and dance! She was born in Wisconsin but now calls Tucson, Arizona home. She loves the mountains and the sea and says, "I would be happiest living in a log cabin in the mountains if I could open the front door and have ocean waves lapping at the front porch." A voracious reader, as a pre-teen one of her favorite books was Lorna Doone; now she can't get enough of Harry Potter. She also loves to travel and has been to nine foreign countries and 38 U.S. states by train, plane, automobile and ship. 

Moochi's Mariachis is Hutchison's first YA novel. She has also completed a suspense western that is looking for a publisher and has another suspense novel half-written. In addition, she writes short stories – mystery and suspense – and children's picture books. 

This busy and multi-talented authoress was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions. She says, "So much to do, so few hours in a day, especially if you have to sleep now and then!"

Tell us about Moochi's Mariachis. What was the impetus to write this book?

Although I like ALL kinds of music, mariachi just may be my favorite. The word mariachi can refer to the music, the musician and a culture. I can't think of another word that does all of that. I wanted teens of all cultures to love and understand it as much as I do. The music tells stories about the birth of a culture, is played for all things happy (love, weddings, births) and sad (funerals, the breaking up of love affairs, war.) When the trumpet soars to its highest notes it can make me cry with joy; the violins and vihuelas can sound so sad, I also cry. Does music do that to you, too?

What was the journey to publication like for you?

It took seven years to write Moochi. It began as a children's picture book about insects in the southwest desert who wanted to form a mariachi band, and then morphed into what it is today, when an "almost" teen I'd given the story to asked me, "Does it have to be about bugs? Can't it be about kids my age?" As soon as I answered the question with "Yes," my research began.

It's one thing to want to write about something you think you know or love; it's quite another to be credible about it. I'm lucky: I love to research. A big thing with me, and other writers, is the importance of being credible. If your readers catch you making something up (unless it's fantasy, then all bets are off) and your writing becomes unreliable, you lose your readers, and that's something you never want to do.

I wanted to interview a real mariachi, so I went to a local high school and was lucky enough to choose a day when they were having their mariachi weekend. The principal asked me and my husband to be guests and listen to their mariachi band play. The next day I got onto the school's "Bulletin Board," mentioned I was a writer, and asked to speak with anyone in the band who would like to be interviewed. A Senior by the name of Roxy answered and helped me make Moochi real. Roxy and Moochi are a lot alike (go figure) and to this day, she and I are great friends. We email a lot, and go to lunch a lot. I couldn't have done it without her.

When the book was finally written, I had to decide whether or not I wanted an agent. (I don't have one yet.) It took me four years to find a publisher and I'm lucky to have found a good one. I have a great editor who fixes my grammar and punctuation. (I've always been a good speller -- that's important -- but I'm lousy at punctuation.)

How did you first discover your love for writing?

When I was in first grade, I wrote a poem and it was printed in the school newspaper and I was hooked. I liked seeing my thoughts in print. I still do. How else can we reach one another?

What is your writing routine? Do you write every day? Do you have a certain time or place you write?

I write best in the morning and try to write at least something every day; even answering email is a form of "writing". It's a great way to build strong, believable dialogue for your stories, incidentally. You want your characters to sound believable.

My spoiled Norwegian Forest cat, five-year-old Matilda, keeps me company on her perch that sits over the copier/fax machine. She stays there until I finish for the day. Fourteen-year-old Bud, an orange tabby, comes by now and again to say "hi" but mostly just sleeps in "his" room -- my old craft room.

I usually begin to write seriously at 8am, in my office on my PC, and will keep at it until about 2pm. By that time, my mind is fried, especially when I'm working on a book. I have a set of wind chimes that play softly in the background, and I don't answer the phone until I'm finished for the day. My friends and family know they can't call me during that time because I won't answer. If there's an emergency, they can reach me on my cell.

But I also write -- mentally -- when I'm watching TV or reading, or riding in a car. If I'm having an especially tough time with a paragraph or advancing the plot, I think about it all the time. I write all kinds of notes on little scraps of paper and always carry a small notebook in my purse, for those times when brilliant ideas come to me. I write down plots for future stories, words that strike me funny, or lines of dialogue I come up with.

What is your biggest advice for kids and teens just starting out?

Read, read, read (and read some more). Be observant, and listen. (The best characters in your stories are all around you. You can use mannerisms, style of speech, personalities, etc.)

Enter your writing in contests -- there are lots of them out there. You are not going to become famous overnight; you are going to have to have several birthdays before you gain the experience you'll need. If you think you're going to become rich by being a writer, then you might want to do something else for a living.

Writing is not only something you want to do, it is something you have to do. Stories will nag at you to be finished; characters will call out to you and will become real to you. Listen to those voices; answer the call to write.

What do you hope readers take away from Moochi's Mariachis?

No matter what culture you are a part of, no matter where you live, teens are all the same. You share the same problems, the same joys, the same sadnesses. The only difference may be in the language you speak.

But most of all, follow your dream. Do what is necessary to make it come true. If you can share your dream with a friend or friends, all the better. Good friends are very important. "Best" friends may come and go; the really real "best" friends will be with you for years and years. Yes, it's true: to have a friend, be a friend.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Moochi has changed my life. She and her friends have introduced me to a whole new world, filled not only with the music I love, but with people I would never would have met without them.

Yes, I created them, but they are as real to me as any flesh and blood friends are. I would like to find the little town I created for them, Desert Wells, Arizona -- I'll know it when I see it. Moochi will answer you if you write her -- or any of her friends -- at

I'm trying to decide whether to begin the sequel (they have lots of adventures to have, and some growing up to do) or to finish the suspense novel I began. I'll do whichever one calls out the loudest.

Visit Mary Ann's website at She is also a member of "Gecko Gals Ink," a group of five authors who write in different genres and support one another:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book I LOVED: "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

A few nights ago, around 10 pm, I picked up Garth Stein's best-selling novel The Art of Racing in the Rain and began to read.

I didn't stop until THE END, 250+ pages later. It didn't matter that it was nearly 4 a.m. When I began reading, my eyelids had felt droopy and I had thought I would maybe be up reading for twenty minutes ... but, within the first few pages, I was drawn into the story and I lost all track of time. I could not stop turning the pages. The characters felt real. The narrator (a dog named Enzo) felt like a part of myself.

At the book's end, tears streamed down my face -- the good kind of tears, the best kind. I was reminded why I want to be a writer, the magic that good storytelling brings to our lives. I strive to write a book that touches people the way The Art of Racing in the Rain touched me.

If you want a fantastic summer read, read this book. If you are a dog person, read this book. If you want to fall in love anew with reading, read this book.

Have you read any books lately that have knocked your socks off? Please share!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Guest Post by Jill Shure: Always a Reader

There was no single reason why I became a writer. There were several avenues that interested me. Acting was one of them. However there were several important elements which helped me decide to write: a vivid imagination and a love of reading.

For me, a vivid imagination helped me overcome a difficult childhood. The pictures and stories in my mind took me away from my problems. Many writers have experienced a challenging youth when a good imagination transformed their lives into something manageable. My parents separated when I was young, and my life was never the same after that. I escaped through reading. And later on, writing.

During my years in elementary school, I fell in love with those old Nancy Drew books, the original ones written before 1959. After them, I never stopped reading. By the time I was twelve, I was reading sexy adult paperbacks as well as books by Rudyard Kipling. I believe my passion for reading and an endless imagination became the basis for my desire to write. In high school, I took creative writing courses, receiving excellent feedback from my teachers.

Today, many people write. I hope they read a great deal, too, because both endeavors provide satisfying entertainment. When I'm involved in a good book or in the middle of writing a book, I am completely absorbed and deliciously content. The act of writing is a passion for me, something impossible to give up. I see my characters, hear their voices, and understand their desires and conflicts.

To anyone who believes they are meant to write, I suggest you read as much as you can. Both go hand-in-hand.

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Jill Shure is the Benjamin Franklin Award-winning author of Night Jazz, Night Glitter, Night Caps, and the upcoming A Clause for Murder. When she's not reading or writing, Jill enjoys spending time at home and with her dogs. To learn more about Jill and her books, visit