Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Interview with Margo Candela

I am so delighted to have the fantastic writer Margo Candela as our guest today! She is the author of The Brenda Diaries (SugarMissile, Oct. '11) Good-bye To All That (Touchstone, July '10), More Than This (Touchstone, Aug '08), Life Over Easy (Kensington, Oct '07), Underneath It All (Kensington, Jan '07) and the short story and essay collection, Life Observed (June '11). More Than This was a Target stores Breakout Book and an American Association of Publishers national book club selection at Borders Books. Good-bye To All That was the only novel picked by Los Angeles Magazine for its 2010 Best of L.A. list.

I have been an avid Twitter follower of Margo for quite a while now -- she is always full of great advice and inspiration! If you are on Twitter, I would definitely recommend following Margo @MargoCandela and @BrendaDiaries.  Read on for Margo's insights about filling the idea well, venturing into e-book publishing, and the merits of creating an outline for your book.

What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?

I write novels that feature funny, smart, decent but flawed characters because I find those kinds of people interesting. I usually write with the radio or a movie playing in the background because I grew up in a big, noisy family and it helps me focus rather than distracts me. When I’m stuck on a plot point or not feeling inspired, I do something that is as far away from writing as possible like vacuuming.

Tell us about The Brenda Diaries. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book?

I have a real fascination with work and how people identify with what they do for a living. When I was writing The Brenda Diaries I wanted to explore a character whose genuinely enjoys working, but isn’t ready to settle into a career.

What has it been like to venture into e-book publishing? Any advice for other authors?

It’s essential that the final product to be as professional looking as possible. I work with cover designer, ask for feedback on the last draft and, most importantly, hire a copy editor because I know I can’t and shouldn’t copy edit my own work. It’s a lot of work, but there’s also a lot of freedom that comes with e-book publishing.

How did you get started writing?

I’ve always been a voracious reader, but never imagined writing would be something I’d do professionally. As a teen, I’d write short stories just for fun, but it wasn’t until I joined the staff of community college newspaper that I saw that writing as a career was a real option for me to pursue.

What is your writing process like? 

Once I have an idea that I believe has real potential, I commit to writing a chapter-by-chapter outline. It makes the process of actually writing the novel much more manageable.  Plus, it forces me to see if there’s enough to idea to turn it into a story that has a beginning, middle and end.

I always write on a computer, my penmanship is atrocious, and write my first draft knowing there will be at least three others before I get to a final polish. I set word count goals and deadlines to keep myself on track.

How do you get ideas for what you write?

I get most of my ideas when I’m not forcing myself to come up with them. I read tons of magazines and am always keeping an ear and eye out for quirky things. The rest is just having a good imagination and the willingness to do the work to turn that idea into a novel.

What are some of your favorite books?

My all-time favorite book is Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. I read it at least once a year just for fun. Anne Tyler has written more than a few books that I love including Celestial Navigations.

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?

There’s no way of getting out of doing the actual hard work to achieve a goal. It takes time, discipline and perseverance to achieve anything in life.

Visit Margo's website at

Follow Margo on Twitter @MargoCandela and @BrendaDiaries

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Interview with Aaron L.

Aaron L might be a newcomer to the creation of fiction but is not one when it comes to the arts and all things creative. Growing up in places from Seattle to South Africa, he spent a lot of his time drawing. Aaron always knew that his future lay in a creative field. In 2010, he graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in graphic design. Although the usual application of this degree is in the creation of different types of art and design, Aaron chose instead to focus his creative skills on the task of storytelling. He lives near Chicago, Illinois. 

What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction? 

When I began my journey into creating my novel Light Under the House, I only had a germ of a plot and not much else. I was a college drop out at the time and didnt have much going for me. I had also sown a lot of seeds into endeavors that turned out to be useless. I had a mountain of wasted opportunity and regrets piled up. I wasnt a trained expert in any field. What did I know? Then again, I did know a few things I knew about rejection. I knew about the loss of friendship. I knew about living with frustration, anger, and fear. I knew what it was like to struggle with addiction. I knew those things. I knew I had a story to tell.

Tell us about Light Under the House. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book? 

I feel very stongly about the breakdown of the family and how there is much dysfunction and despair because of it. I wanted to tell a story to shed some light on the situations that many face and hopefully bring some type of reversal to the current dynamic in whatever small way I could. I also wanted to do this while providing a fantastic read. I wanted to challenge men, fathers especially, to be who they were created to be....its certainly a challenge I face myself daily. A challenge that I often fail at but keep picking myself up to start again. So I asked myself, what does it look like to fail and come back again? What does faith in action look like? As I started to ask myself these questions, the novel grew and so did I.

What have you learned through writing this book? 

 If you want to challenge the reader, you have to challenge yourself. Light Under the House is a novel about character. I knew I wanted to be better. A better brother, son, friend, a better man. If I didnt find it challenging, I was certain no one else would. Dont be afraid to be open and generous. Ive learned not be afraid to talk about issues through my story and its characters that are personal me and my struggles. Our scars are just proof that we're still alive; we can show them.

How did you get started writing? 

I'm not so much of a writer as I am a storyteller. I had lots of help from my co-author in the writing of this novel but its my story.

What is your writing process like? How do you get the ideas for what you write? 

 I start with a problem that thats been on my mind or an issue i want to address and spend a great deal of time thinking about how I can address it in story form. I use drawings and a notebook to write down what I come up with and try to look at the problem from a unique point of view. I think that the best stories always relate in some way back to real life..if not, its just entertainment. Even fantasy stories where the hero fights the dragon should make you think about the dragons in your own life and how to overcome them. I want people to able to take away something when they have finished reading.

What is your biggest advice for other writers and young people reaching for their dreams? 

Everyone has a strength; let yours shine. Dont get me wrong; its not all pain. Ive lived a very blessed life. While it was true that I didnt have much technical expertise, I did have life experience. By the time fifteen I had lived in numerous places in the U.S. and abroad. I had been around the world. I had diverse experiences to draw upon in dealing with people and life. It also helped to hone a unique perspective which I hope can be a resource to others. What can you use?

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

 I used many things to model the characters: people I know, other literary figures, actors, biblical characters, celebrities ... the characters are a combination of all of these. I wanted them to be new and familiar, and at the same time universal.

Order Light Under the House on Amazon:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Some of my Favorite Quotes for Graduation

It's graduation season, and I was honored to attend my younger brother Greg's graduation from USC last week. I was so inspired by all the good works, brilliance, determination, and giving spirit I witnessed in the graduates I met. The energy in the air was contagious, and I left feeling inspired to dream bigger, reach higher, give more and do more every day to make this world a better place.

Here are some of my favorite quotes to inspire you to do the same!

"Make each day your masterpiece." -- Coach John Wooden

"Hitch your wagon to a star." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Wherever you go, go with all your heart." -- Confucius

"Believe & achieve!" -- Deena Kastor

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

"Try not to become a [person] of success, but rather try to become a [person] of value." -- Albert Einstein

"Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine." -- Anthony J. D'Angelo

"Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures." -- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

"Patience is a bitter seed that bears sweet fruit." -- Greg Woodburn

"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." -- e.e. cummings

"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the guy who'll decide where to go."
-- Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interview with YA author Melissa Conway

Today I am honored to feature Melissa Conway on the blog! She is the author of four young adult ebooks, the latest of which, Xenofreak Nation, she'll be discussing here today. Melissa is the founder of the book review site Booksquawk. Her website is here, her YouTube channel here, she blogs at Whimsilly and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks so much for taking the time to be here today! What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?
I’d like my readers to know how much I appreciate that they chose my book. Beginning any book is not only a time commitment; it’s an investment that the reader hopes will pay off emotionally. I strive to produce work that will take them on a satisfying journey, and it’s especially gratifying when they take the extra time to give me feedback.

Tell us about Xenofreak Nation. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book?
The story alternates between the two central characters, Bryn Vega, the daughter of the head of the Pure Human Society, and Scott Harding, an Xbestia gang member who is really an undercover agent for the XIA. At its heart, Xenofreak Nation is both a love story and an exploration of ethics set in the near future in a world mired in a deep economic depression where government decision-making has ground to a halt. Authorities have failed to regulate the medical practice of bioengineering animals to be compatible with humans for organ transplantation. Rogue xenosurgeons are responsible for the development of an underground sub-culture derogatorily referred to as Xenofreaks, who have replaced tattoos with grafts of bioengineered animal skin, teeth, horns and even tails and wings. When Bryn is kidnapped as retaliation for her father’s anti-xeno activities, she’s thrust into this frightening world. Scott is torn between his duty and his developing feelings for innocent Bryn.

What have you learned through writing this book?
I don’t know that I learned anything exactly...but certainly the story opened up a way for me to communicate a concept we are all familiar with: that there are two sides to every story. Given the state of the world, it can’t hurt to emphasize cultural tolerance!
How did you get started writing?
My family was poor, so the library was a big source of entertainment. And since I was shy, writing was one way for me to express myself. I wrote a silly poem in the fourth grade that my teacher submitted to a contest in the local paper. When I won, it was the first time I felt as if my writing had merit. I admire teachers in general, but good teachers, the ones who take that extra step to encourage children to flourish, they are my heroes.

What is your writing process like?
I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I find it hard to write unless the house is clean and all chores attended to. But I have this great set-up in the living room -- I sit in a La-Z-Boy with my PC discreetly hidden in a cabinet next to it. My monitor is mounted on a swing arm so I don’t have to turn my head, I set my wireless keyboard in my lap, and my wireless mouse rests on the arm of the chair. Very comfy!
I do like to see my characters not just in my mind's eye, so I use DAZ Studio to create them. Then I can put them in my book trailers, too, like the one I made for XN, here.
How do you get ideas for what you write?
My young son, with his limitless imagination, is constantly beginning his sentences with, “What if..?” The other day, I realized that’s how my ideas start, too. A little spark of curiosity about something -- almost anything -- will set my mind on that “What if..?” path, and the next thing I know, I’m actively plotting.

What are some of your favorite books?
I’ve made an effort to give new authors a chance this year and have discovered some great new voices: Rebecca Lochlann’s Child of the Erinyes series and J.S. Colley’s debut novel, The Halo Revelations, to name just a few. 
What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?
First of all, I wouldn’t restrict my advice to young people! Whatever your age, it’s good to have dreams. Learn your craft, set goals, and follow through. Try not to let criticism slow you down too much. Filter the useful from the not-so-much. My personal mantra is: “You can’t please everyone.”

Monday, May 7, 2012

Guest Post by Nadia Jones

Please try again: A call for writers to brave rejection

I may be preaching to the choir here when I say this, but writers don’t have it easy. Sure, it’s a job that requires little to no physical exertion and pop culture has a knack for glamorizing the profession to look like a dream gig, but any real writer will tell you that it’s no picnic to do what we do. All day we try to make something from nothing, not only putting thousands of words to paper (or word document), but also combining those words in such a way so as to elicit specific responses from a potential reader. We inform, we entertain, and we (aspire to) provoke the most inspiring thoughts with our writing.

For all the work and effort put into it, writing is an enterprise fraught with rejection and drawbacks, mostly when writers want to get their work published. Countless novels, manuscripts, articles, and essays get rejected from publishing houses, magazines, and production companies every day—the pieces rejected daily could fill whole houses. Hundreds of hours might go into an author’s construction of a piece of writing, and most understand that their work has a better chance of getting rejected than any other outcome.

Yet writers continue to write, pressing on because there’s always a chance that the next submission will be the one that gives them their big break. This is the best advice I can give you on the subject of rejection: please try again. If you don’t, then you’ll never allow yourself the chance of getting published.

The stories of famous writers continuing to submit their work despite constant rejections are legion. When trying the initial volume of her now infamous Harry Potter series published, J.K. Rowling was famously rejected on multiple occasions by big-wig publishing companies like Harper Collins before landing with the relatively small and quiet Bloomsbury publishing house. Stephen King was similarly rejected by numerous publishing companies when he first began submitting manuscripts, and now he is one of the most prolific and well respected writers in his genre. Even the literary darling of a novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was roundly rejected for its controversial content, only to become a great success later.

If there’s anything to learn from these authors, it’s that they persevered to get their work published despite the chorus of naysayers. It’s easy to see how these giants of fiction were published now that we know there work, but it’s not as easy to imagine them as destitute writers just looking for a way to share their stories with a wider audience. I try to keep things in perspective whenever my work faces rejection; I tell myself that (probably) every writer in the history of the craft has experienced rejection and even ridicule at one point or another. Rejection is merely an opportunity to hone your craft and try again.

So I challenge you, my dear fellow writer, to think of the failed starts and drawbacks of your predecessors whenever you experience rejection. I challenge you to not think of it as the end of the world, but as a temporary detour from a grand future that could happen if you persist.

Author Bio: This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at accredited online colleges about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Guest Post by Sarah Rexman

How to Have a Productive Writing Summer!

Guest Post by Sarah Rexman

Get Your Writing Flowing

One of the most difficult aspects of becoming and staying a writer is finding a way to produce writing on a consistent basis. There are many different ideas and theories about mastering the craft of writing, but the one thing that ones through them is the need to write consistently. In On Writing, Stephen King advises, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” If you are struggling to fit writing into your everyday schedule or if you do not feel that you are making enough progress on your current project you may want to pump up the amount of time you devote to your writing each day.

Schedule Your Writing Time 

Some people say that you should schedule the same block of time to write each day. It gets your body and mind ready to write and it makes it easier to get the words down on paper, because you have conditioned your mind and body to respond to be creative at the same time every day. However, that may not work for some people, who do not have a consistent schedule or who may work odd hours. It doesn’t matter if you set aside the same chunk of time each day or if you schedule your writing at a different time each day of the week as long as your are consistently scheduling it and spending time writing. Decide how long you want to write each day or how many hours you want to log a week and stick to it.

Write During Your Writing Time 

It is also important to remove all distractions when you are writing. If you write on your laptop, it is so easy to get on your Internet browser and start looking for details on the sword you need for your next plot point, or to quickly check in at the writer’s forum you visit to get inspiration and feedback. Or you may need to tweak your writing playlist just a little bit so that it better fits the mood of your chapter - you get the basic idea. Once you sit down to write, make sure that you actually write. Type words out and do what you have to in order to avoid distractions. Turn your wireless Internet off. Go somewhere without Internet access or set up a program that won’t let you log back on for a set amount of time. If you can eliminate your distractions you will be able to focus and get your story out on paper.

Avoid Interruptions 

This may be the most difficult aspect of all for many writers. You can turn off your cell phone, but you cannot stop family, friends or roommates from interrupting you. You will need to work to “train” your family and friends not to bother you when you are writing. My college creative writing instructor had a signal worked out with her children. If the office door was shut, they were not to enter unless someone was actually dying. They were old enough to fend for themselves at that point. If you have young children you may be writing around nap and bed times. Set up a signal for your family and then stick to it. Don’t answer the phone, or the door when you are writing. Getting the time in is worth the extra effort.

Bio: Sarah Rexman is the main researcher and writer for Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Florida State, with a degree in environmental science. Her current focus for the site about bed bugs which includes descriptions and bed bug pictures.