Tag Archives: fiction writing

Interview with Valerie Tate

BBT: Hi, Valerie, Thank you for joining me for this interview. Please take a minute to introduce yourself and your books that are currently available.

Valerie: Thanks so much for inviting me, Trista! The past year has been quite exciting. My first book, CATNIP, was published in July, 2012, by That Right Publishing. CATNIP is a cozy mystery set in the fictitious town of Dunbarton, Ontario. Amanda Dunbar, matriarch of the Dunbar family the town is named after, flies in the face of reason and leaves the family fortune to her cat, Marmalade. The fur starts to fly when Christopher Mallory, lawyer and trustee to the cat, has to break the news to the rest of the family. The terms of the will state that if the family remains in the house and takes care of the feline heir, the money will ultimately pass to Amanda’s grand-daughter, Alicia. However, should anything happen to Marmalade that even hints at foul play, the estate will pass to the local animal shelter. When Maramalade disappears it is a race to locate him before Christopher and the family lose everything. The stakes are raised even higher when a murder occurs and they find themselves the prime suspects.

BBT: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Valerie: I always loved books and started writing when I was twelve. It was mysteries even then.

BBT: Is fiction the only genre you write in?

Valerie: At the present time, it is.

BBT: Do you have a specific writing style?

Valerie: I write cozy mysteries that have a touch of humour.

BBT: What are your current projects?

Valerie: I just sent my second novel to my publisher. It is called HORSE SENSE and it’s the second in the Dunbarton Mystery Series. Chris and Alicia travel to King Township to help their friend, dressage rider Alex Craig, who has just discovered she has been the victim of fraud and theft.

The third novel in the series, FROG LEGS, is in the planning stage.

BBT: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Valerie: Starting a new book is the hardest part. It isn’t getting the idea. I have lots of those. It is the knowledge of how all-consuming it is once it is begun. I have to keep pen and paper beside my bed and in the car because something will come to me and if it doesn’t get written down right away it can be lost.

BBT: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Valerie: Trying to get published can be a long and frustrating experience. Even the most successful of authors received many rejections before finding a publisher. The closing of submissions by most of the larger houses has increased the difficulty and finding an agent is a time-consuming and often fruitless pursuit. Despite all of this, it is possible to find a publisher. Make your manuscript the best it can possibly be and then get it out there. There are many new indie publishers who are accepting submissions without an agent. Don’t give up.

BBT: What genre do you most often read?

Valerie: As you can tell from my own books, I love mysteries. Some of my favourite mystery authors are Louise Penny, Kathy Reichs, Elizabeth Peters and Alan Bradley.

BBT: What book are you reading now?

Valerie: I’m reading Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs. It is a fascinating story involving archaeology and the discovery of Biblical era bones in Israel.

BBT: What would you say has had the most influence on your writing? (books, experiences, etc.)

Valerie: I believe that all of the books I have read over the years have influenced my writing style. While my books are fiction, many places and incidents that occur in the stories are based on things that have happened in my life.

BBT: Do you have a blog or website?

Valerie: I have a website. It is www.valerietate.weebly.com

BBT: Anything you’d like to say to your readers?

Valerie: I love hearing that someone has enjoyed my book. It is a thrill for me every time someone takes the time to write a review.

BBT:  Thank you so much again, Valerie! I read most of CATNIP and really enjoyed it.  I look forward to finishing reading it as well as to reading your other books.  Readers, I highly recommend Miss Tate’s work. If you like to  cozy up with a good, page turning mystery, you won’t want to miss CATNIP.  You’ll find a link to purchase it, as well as an excerpt from the book on Valerie’s website, where you can also learn more about her and keep up with her upcoming novels.


Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction Writing, interview

Interview with Joshua Jacobs

I may have mentioned earlier that I’m a member of the Authonomy community.  For those of you unfamiliar with Authonomy, it’s a site created by Harper Collins (HC) editors where authors can post their work and get valuable feedback and ratings from fellow authors as well as readers.  Each Authonomite (a term given to the site’s members) has his or her own virtual bookshelf to shelve five books that they support.  Every book on the site is ranked by popularity.  If your book is highly rated and shelved by many throughout the month, your book will work its way to one of the top five spots, and if it holds that spot, come the first of the month, it will be reviewed by HC.  If you’re lucky, you may end up with a contract.  If you’re not as lucky, it’s still an honor to have your work reviewed by a real live editor who gives you tips to make your story better.  And there’s also a chance that your work may be discovered by a literary agent willing to represent your work, or perhaps some other publisher browsing the site.

There are some amazing books on this site that I’ve had the pleasure to read. I will be showcasing some of these lovely books and interviewing their authors from time to time on my blog.

This week, I am privileged to interview one of Authonomy’s top rated authors, Mr. Joshua Jacobs.   If you’ve never heard of him, I’m sure you will soon.  He’s the author of The Words of Adriel and The Withering.

The Words of Adriel is a YA fiction at its finest.  Blake, a young and extremely unlucky teen has a change of luck—or so it seems—when he finds a book that grants wishes.   But he doesn’t realize that a demon inhabits its pages, putting him in grave danger.  You won’t want to take your eyes from the pages of this book from start to finish.

The Withering is a post-apocalyptic YA novel.  I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’ve loved what I’ve read so far.  Here’s an excerpt from the short pitch on authonomy.com:

“Everyone who catches the Withering bears the mark. Everyone who bears the mark dies. Everyone except Alice. And now the Clan is coming for her.

The world balances on the brink of destruction. A plague threatens to destroy life on earth. What the Withering doesn’t destroy, the remaining sects of men kill, cleansing the countryside of those they hold responsible: Witches.”

booksbytrista: Hi Josh. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How did you get into writing?

Josh: I have loved creating stories ever since I was a kid. Even before I started writing, my best friend and I would turn off the lights, hide in my closet, and take turns telling each other scary stories. By the time middle school rolled around I began putting my ideas to paper. My writing ability, if you can call it that, was disastrous. Many years and several outstanding teachers later, I decided to write my first novel.

Btb: Both your books skyrocketed to the top on authonomy.  Were you surprised?

Josh: Absolutely. Not many people had read my work before I joined authonomy. I had a few beta readers, and I had entered a couple of contests, but I had never put my manuscripts in such a position to be scrutinized by the public. When The Words of Adriel sprinted to the top, I was flattered. Then when The Withering, which wasn’t edited or even complete, followed at an even faster pace without any promotion on my part, I couldn’t believe it.

Bbt: How has authonomy affected your writing?

Josh: Authonomy has affected my writing in three ways. First, it gave me confidence. I knew my writing wasn’t awful, but I didn’t know it would garner such a vast audience and gain such extensive praise. Second, I met several friends who helped me polish a couple of scenes (in both my books) that I had struggled with since draft #1. Finally, it helped me take a major leap toward a career in writing, which I’ll share in a later answer.

Bbt: Let’s talk a little about The Words of Adriel. Is this your first attempt at writing? What inspired you to write this story?

Josh: The Words of Adriel was actually book #6 for me. There were many failed attempts that occurred prior to writing it. The inspiration for the story actually came from a book I’d already written. I took the setting and general premise of that book and injected it with a stronger plot, better characters, and scarier moments. Ultimately, my goal as a writer is to encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book. So, as a teacher, I analyzed the type of books my students were reading. What interested them? They wanted funny, scary, and exciting. That’s why I wrote The Words of Adriel.

Bbt:  Were you anything like your main character, Blake, when you were a kid?

Josh: Is it that obvious? Yes. I was a nervous wreck around girls and the maker of my own bad luck. Blake’s voice was so easy to write because, well, it’s pretty much my voice.

Bbt: Can you tell me a little bit about your writing process?

Josh: I could try. It’s quite a jumbled mess. It begins with brainstorming, which lasts the entire process, even after the millionth draft. Once I have a general idea, I start outlining the basic plot. I highlight the main events in the story to make sure I have a coherent plot on my hands. Once I’ve established that, I create a 2-4 paragraph blurb that could serve as a pitch. If my story isn’t compelling in that form, then I will never be able to sell the book. If that’s the case, I go back to, you guessed it, brainstorming. This is an important step for me. I thought my fifth novel might land me an agent, but it just didn’t sell itself well in pitch format. I had fewer requests on that book than any book prior to it.

After constructing the pitch, I write. And write. And write. After each chapter, I go back and read it again two or three times to polish it. This allows me to check for consistency between chapters and keeps me from having to rewrite the whole book when I’m finished.

After my first draft, I go back and edit the entire thing several more times. Each time I edit, I follow a different process. At least once or twice I read the book aloud to make sure it sounds right. It’s amazing how much this helps improve sentence fluency. I also do at least one or two drafts in a single sitting to check for continuity. Once I’ve done about a dozen drafts, I send it to at least ten beta readers. Based on their diverse feedback, I complete a couple more drafts. Really, as you can see, it’s a long, arduous process, but there’s no greater feeling than seeing your work take shape.

Bbt: I’ve never attempted a novel before, but I hear it’s tough to write one.   Have you worked on your novels for a long time? Do you find it challenging or does it come easy to you?

Josh: Writing middle grade comes easy for me. I wrote the first draft of The Words of Adriel in three weeks. The third novel I wrote was finished in just seven days. If you take the time to prepare and know where you’re going—at least roughly—the novel is actually quite easy to piece together. Writing young adult is a greater challenge for me. It took more than two years to find the inspiration to finish The Withering. Most of the time, though, it is the editing process that takes longer.

Bbt: Growing up, I loved to read books like The Words of Adriel and I still do.  What authors have inspired your work?

Josh: As a kid, I loved R.L. Stine. His books were my first taste of the horror genre and largely responsible for me wanting to write scary stories. As far as writing goes, though, I’m inspired by some of my favorite authors such as Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Rick Riordan, James Rollins, George R.R. Martin, Catherine Fisher, Suzanne Collins, J.K. Rowling, and Jonathan Stroud. Really, these authors have helped shape me into the writer I am today. You write what you read. Depending on what type of book I’m writing, I make sure I’m reading a book that contains a similar voice/mood to what I want to accomplish. If I’m not careful, my voice changes. For example, I was reading The Game of Thrones while writing The Withering, hence its dark tone. On the other hand, I was reading The Percy Jackson series while writing The Words of Adriel which helped at the light-hearted humor.

Bbt:  I hear you have some exciting news.  Want to share?

Josh: As referenced above, my greatest use of authonomy came from receiving a glowing review from a HarperCollins editor. I quoted my review in my query letter to agents and received many requests. In April, I was offered representation by the lovely Courtney Miller-Callihan of Sanford J. Greenburger. I, of course, accepted her offer. We just finished revisions and are preparing to submit The Words of Adriel to publishers.

Bbt: Do you have any more future best sellers in the works?

Josh: That’s the hope. My summer officially started on Saturday. On Monday, I’m beginning a new middle grade novel. You’ll have to wait for more details.

Bbt: How exciting! Can’t wait to hear about it! What advice would you give to young aspiring authors?

Josh: There are two pieces of advice I find myself offering to my students who want to become authors.

#1: Be patient. Learn your craft. Write every day. Polish your work. Most writers pitch their work to agents before it is ready (I did with my first novel). Chances are you won’t even sell your first novel. When they don’t find success, they quit. Instead, take the time to learn how to write a compelling, well-plotted story. Then when it’s written take the time to make it as good as you can, even if that means bringing in others to help you. If you don’t succeed with that novel, write another. Then another. Consider each novel practice for the one that will finally sell. Don’t make writing a one or two year affair. It took me seven years and six novels, not counting the two I wrote after The Words of Adriel, before I finally found a literary agent. If you really expect to sell your work, be patient and plan for ten years, or even more.

#2: Write what you love. While it is important to know what will sell in the current market, don’t jump on the bandwagon and write what everyone else is writing. Your work will likely end up buried beneath the hundreds of other manuscripts just like yours. Instead, consider what you want to read. If you could pick up any book right now, about any topic, what would it be? Write that story.

Bbt: That’s great advice. I think I need to work on patience myself. 🙂 Thanks, Josh for agreeing to do this interview. I really appreciate it.  Anything else you’d like to say?

Josh: Thank you for inviting me to your blog for an interview. It was fun!

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction Writing, interview

Mandaloriangirl Interview

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll appreciate my first interview.  Ladies and Gentlemen, the one, the only… Mandalorian Girl!  Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you should check out her blog.  I may be a little biased, but it’s pretty awesome. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.

Bbt: Hi Mandaloriangirl.  Thank you for taking time to do this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

There really isn’t much to tell.  I am just a country girl who loves sci-fi, Star Wars and writing stories. There is constantly some sort of story rattling around in my head; I have a vivid imagination.  I am just your average geek girl and avid gamer.  My head is always in a book or a game. When I am not doing that, I like to be with my husband and my animals. I have 5 cats, 2 dogs, 6 ducks and 11 chickens.

Bbt: You write non-cannon Star Wars fan fiction, can you explain that for any readers that may be unfamiliar with the terminology and tell us a little about your blog?

Non-cannon fan fiction is when a fan takes a specific story or fictionalized universe and adds their own twist. They may just add their own characters to the already made story or they may create a whole new story based on the already created universe or storyline. It is a testament to the love we have for the fiction we are writing about and shows our desire to be a part of it in our own way.  In my blog, I write about a Mandalorian girl in the Old Republic era of The Star Wars universe named Na’sha Tal-i. I am very passionate about Star Wars and I love that particular era.  It is about seeing the galaxy from her point of view and following her through her adventures. She is on an important mission, not only to save the galaxy, but to find her true self.   I try to keep the story cannon in that I stick to what is happening in the era. I make sure to get things accurate for the time she is in.  I am creating the story and most of the characters, while adding cannon characters and staying as true to the original timeline as possible.

Bbt: How did you first get involved in with blogging? What inspired you to start your blog?

I was just sitting at my computer and I wanted to create a twitter account. I saw all of the star wars fanson there, roll playing and thought that it would be fun to get to know people who share my love of Star Wars.  Once I got on there, I decided to give the persona I had created on twitter a backstory. I figured that the best way to do that was a blog.  I have a habit of not taking time to write but I thought if I were to do this story where others could read it, it would force me to make the time.

Bbt: Do you have a strategy or process for writing?

Truthfully, no.  I usually sit down and just write.  I attempt at times to do an outline, but the characters always have a way of doing something totally different once I sit down to write. I don’t know what is going to happen from one entry to the next. It keeps things interesting.

Bbt: Would you say you and Na’sha are a lot alike?

Probably more than I would like to admit. She is a little more outgoing than I am, for the most part, I think we share a lot of the same qualities, especially being stubborn and fighting for what we believe in.

Bbt: What is the most challenging moment in your blog content development process and why?

Stopping.  Each time I make a new entry I have to find the perfect place to end it.  There always has to be a what is coming next moment. I want the readers to want to come back. Each piece needs to leaving them wanting to read the next part. Sometimes I start writing and can’t really find that point.

Bbt: What’s the best thing that’s come from your blogging?

Getting to interact with so many different people whom I would never have gotten in touch with otherwise. I have gotten connected with Star Wars actors, amazing artists in the community, authors and just all around amazing people.  The Old Republic community and the SW community as a whole, is filled with some amazing people, people I am privileged and honored to know.

Bbt: Do you like to read a lot? What genres do you prefer?

I love to read! I enjoy all types of books but my favorites are Science fiction and Fantasy stories.  I love space operas and you can find me on many evenings curled up with a good zombie book. I love zombies!

Bbt: What authors have inspired your writing?

I am inspired by so many authors.  I would have to say that when it comes to Star Wars though, I am most inspired by Karen Traviss, Arron Allston and Paul S. Kemp. They are awesome writers and their stories grab your attention. They make you want to be part of their tales.

Bbt: If you could be any Star Wars character from the original trilogy,  who would you be and why?

There are so many to choose; I love them all, but I think that from the original, it would be fun to be R2D2.  He has been present during a lot of pivotal  instances in the lives of some very important characters.  He has seen and heard some pretty awesome things. His being a droid allows him to get in places and not be noticed. He just observes. I bet he has some great stories to tell and I think it would be interesting to see things from his perspective.

Bbt: How do you keep coming up with content for your blog?

I treat it like a video game. In a game, you have missions and you meet new companions. I am playing out a game in my head and writing it out.  I try to make the characters very deep though. I want them to have real emotions and real conversations.  Finding content to write about is easy enough, but making it flow smoothly, is a bit harder.

Bbt: What has been your strategy for creating visibility to yourself and your blog?

I haven’t really done much for creating visibility.  I have been lucky to have been noticed by a great group of people, the founders of  TORSyndicate. Their website allows Star Wars fans to come together and share info. We help each other. They feature me reading sections of my blog on their weekly podcast that is downloaded by thousands of people on iTunes.  Other members of the community have featured me and my blog in countless interviews and they are good about sharing my website with their fan bases. Bioware, the creates of the MMO Star Wars the Old republic, even mentioned my blog in an interview they did for video podcast in the SW community. Without the wonderful Star Wars fans embracing my story, I would never be able to share this story like I have.

Bbt: Besides blogging, what other roles does writing play in your life? Are you working on any other projects?

I have started a young adult novel and I have a couple of ideas in my head for another.  I am also in the process for compiling a book of my poetry.

Bbt: That’s great! Can’t wait to read them.

Bbt: With 689 subscribed followers and 18410 hits, averaging at just under a thousand hits a month, your blog has caused a big stir in the Star Wars fan fiction community over the past year. Did you ever think you would have so many followers?

Never! I am so pleasantly shocked. I hadn’t even counted on having a hundred and now,  I have well over a thousand on twitter and both my Facebook and Google+  fan base is growing by leaps and bounds.  I love all of them. I have found so many great people and made some life long friendships. They are so great and so supportive.  They encourage me to keep going.  They are the reason I write.

Bbt: If someone was interested in blogging, what would be a few things you would suggest?

Pick a topic that you are passionate about.  People write better when it is about something they love.  Once you get started, stick to it.  Don’t get discouraged if you don’t have thousands or even hundreds of readers. It isn’t about numbers, it is about writing about what you want and sharing your views and opinions.  Also, don’t let people’s comments bother you. Not everyone will like your blog or your views, but so what!? Just write and enjoy it.

Thanks again, Mandaloriangirl! To my readers, I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did 🙂 Mandaloriangirl is also a fellow authonomite and if you’re interested, you can check out a sample of one of her books here.  I’ll be doing more interviews with various authors, published and unpublished, so be sure to subscribe or check back here often! I usually post on Wednesday or Thursday. Y’all take care, now. Bye!

Leave a comment

Filed under blogging, Fiction Writing, interview


An important aspect of writing is proofreading. I’m no expert, but I’ve learned a few things. I got a lot of good advice when I was a newbie to writing, so I try to pass it along when I can. Here’s some advice to get you on the right track.

It really helps if you know the proofreading correction symbols. You can find them by googling them online, or find them in your trusty gramar and punctuation handbook (Every writer needs one! I recommend Writer’s Inc.: A Student Handbook for Writing and Learning, or The Blue Book of Gramar and Punctuation, but any will do.) I borrowed the chart above from http://www.ramonausd.net. I like to print a copy of my work to make corrections on.

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with your wordprocessor’s functions. You can read about them online and some places even offer classes to teach you more about them.

Sometimes I proofread as I go, checking for typos and errors, but more often I wait until I’ve completed the first draft. I check back through my outlines and chapter goals to insure I didn’t leave anything out. I search for strengths and weaknesses in my literary elements and structure (e. g. plot, conflict, theme, characters, setting, dialogue, POV, denoument)* If there is anything I’m unsure of, such as punctuation or gramar, I do a bit of research before continuing on. Be sure you have a good dictionary and thesaurus on hand.

Once my second draft is complete, my work goes to the first link in my chain of editors, my husband. He reads it over to check for mistakes and to make suggestions. That’s when I make my third draft. Then it continues on to my sister and then one of my best buds for the same process. After my fifth draft, I go over it one more time to tie up any loose ends. I actually go through this process with every chapter. I’m very lucky to have such amazing people that love me and put up with me. 🙂 I guess some people might think this a bit overkill, but I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

If you don’t have your own personal editors available or even if you do, it’s a good idea to join a writing group. The feedback you get from fellow authors is invaluable. You can check with your library or look online for groups in your area. If there aren’t any, why not start one?

There are also online communities such as Authonomy, Wattpad,  and Goodreads , where you can post your work and get reviews from other authors, as well as readers; an amazing opportunity. It’s priceless to be able to get perspectives from both sides. You’ll also make good friends you might not otherwise know. Who knows, you might even land a publishing contract.

As with almost everything, there’s more than one way to go about your proofreading routine. Find whatever process works for you and stick with it. You’ll want to have your book in it’s best form before you submit it to publishers and even more so if you decide to self publish.

*For more on story elements check out this site: absolutewrite.com

1 Comment

Filed under Fiction Writing

Writer’s Block

Ever have writer’s block? Happens to the best of us. Whether you’re just sitting down to begin a new story or trying to finish one up, writer’s block can be a real pain in the butt. Luckily there are ways to overcome this. I use to sit for hours staring at that blinking cursor on my otherwise blank screen. My method for writing consisted of waiting for the words to come to me.  This method works for some people, it just wasn’t for me.  Although much of the words seemed to fly from my fingertips,  they sometimes took their dear sweet time; hours, days, months. Then I took a creative writing class and learned some new techniques. If you can afford it, I suggest enrolling in a creative writing class, but if not here’s some of the best advice that I got from mine.

  • When you’re looking for inspiration, take some time to look and listen to the people and things around you.  Keep a small notebook handy so you can jot down ideas and things that interest you.  Later, when you’re having trouble coming up with things to write, look back through your notebook to see if there’s something you can use.  It also doesn’t hurt if you check out some books that are in the same genre you are writing. They may spark some ideas, too. Just be careful not to plagiarize.
  • It really helps if you ask yourself a few questions to begin with. Who is this story about? What happens to them? Why? What do they do about it? Then what? You get the picture. Keep going until you’ve decided how your story is going to end. (Find out more about this in Elements of Fiction Writing: Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card)
  • Use the answers to these questions to make an outline for your entire story.
  • When that task is complete, you can break it down into sections, say chapters or scenes, and make a new mini outline for each one. On a piece of paper or note card start with your first section and set a goal for your main character in this section. Decide what the conflict will be, who it will be with, where it takes place, and how long it will last in the story.  Jack M. Bickham, author of Elements of Fiction Writitng: Scene & Structure, also suggests four or more twists and turns for your conflict to take during its playing out.
  • After this is done, I like to take a minute and make a list of the major and minor characters.  Beside their names, I add a short background for each of them and how they connect to my main character.  I also write details about the setting.  (If you’re having trouble coming up with character or place names, there are tons of sites with lists of baby names and even sites that have name generators.)

Once this is done, all that is left is to connect the dots.  If you’re still having some blockage, don’t worry.  Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery or a short break before you’re back on track.  There are a lot of books out there to help you, too.  Here is a list of some of the books and websites that I found useful:

  • The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 Excercises to Liberate Your Writing
  • Elements of Writing series: Scene & Structure,  Jack M. Bickham  Characters & Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card  Beginnings, Middles, & Ends, Nancy Kress  Plot, Ansen Dibell
  • http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction Writing