Friday, October 29, 2010

Interview with author Lea Schizas

Today, my guest is multi-talented writer, editor, and publisher, Lea Schizas.  Lea is well known in the writing community for her MuseItUp Club, Apollo's Lyre newsletter, the annual free MuseItUp Online Writers Conference, and most recently her newly launched publishing houses, MuseItUp Publishing and MuseItHot Publishing.

Lea is here today as the author of the middle grade novel, The Halloween Dino Trip. This great story for kids has mystery, fun, and interesting facts about dinosaurs.

Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.

I joke that I began writing in my mom’s womb when I mistook the umbilical cord for a neat writing implement. But in all seriousness, I began as a child, in elementary school, and won a contest in grade six for the best horror story that scared the beegeebees out of my fellow students. They were the ones voting so it was a really big honor.

Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?

I’m a full-time publisher now but continue to be a full-time writer. When the passion is in you, a writer will always find time to write. The only problem now is that I don’t get to write as often as I’d like but concentrate more on my authors and getting their work out there.

What influences your writing?

Can’t really pinpoint any one particular influence other than the need to entertain readers. Nothing can be as gratifying knowing readers enjoy your penned words.

Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

The Halloween Dino Trip isn’t my first published book. I’ve written two Young Adult books, and have three children’s picture books to be published this year and 2011:

Doorman’s Creek with eTreasures is a Paranormal YA Mystery

Bubba and Giganto: Odds Against Us with 4RV Publishing is a YA book dealing with bullying

I Don’t Want A Haircut coming out with Guardian Angel Publishing deals with a child’s fear of their first haircut. As a children’s stylist for close to 20 years I’ve actually used some of my own little client’s interpretations of what they believed were happening to them, like a bee buzzing around their ears when I used the clippers. Real cute.

Robbie and Katie’s Adventures coming out with Guardian Angel Publishing is about twins and how they perceive the world. Think of Dennis the Menace but they don’t get into trouble. It’s their point of view on the world that’s hilarious.

Lizzy the Odd Squirrel coming out with 4RV Publishing is a children’s picture book once again dealing with bullies but having one particular squirrel relate her dilemma.

Why did you choose to write a children's story?

Because writer’s have the opportunity to instill a love of reading and writing to children at a young age, to continue offering them interesting tales of adventure, mystery, historical, and everything else that can only further the continuance of them reading at an older age. Books educate them in some ways and enhances their vocabulary.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?

Children aren’t too keen in learning history unless it’s made in a way that’s a fun read for them. This is the intend with the Mystery Adventures of Jillian Waylan. Each book will touch upon a time in the past--a historical figure or period—where the characters always end up. These particular characters hate history so traveling back in time begins to aid them down the line. The twist in this series is that in each book a clue is offered for the young readers to try and figure out who is the culprit transporting them back in time.

As the name suggests, The Halloween Dino Trip, the first book introduces three distinct times: when dinosaurs roamed our planet, their extinction, and the ice age. At the end of each book there’s a small fact sheet and a hint as to what the next adventure will be.

What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

I’m a big supporter of self-publishing, but with a warning: make sure it’s the best you can offer to a reader. Many writers are eager to see their books in print and self-publish and when the reviews come in negatively they are mortified. Any book, whether traditional or self-published, should only have the best of what a writer can offer.

Traditional publishing has its editors that guide a writer and helps them perfect their work. Although the royalty might be less than going on your own, you have several things to consider as a self-published author:

Cover design

I don’t mention promoting only because this is a given no matter where you are published.

What is your marketing strategy?

Blast the title everywhere. GRIN. Online promotion is huge nowadays. So many readers find authors online so it’s smart to use the internet for your promotional efforts.

What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?

Having an agent means more time for you to write and not worry about having to research and find publishers suitable for your book. However, unless you are targeting a major publisher, there are so many children’s publishers out there now that a writer can submit on their own.

An agent facilitates the process by avoiding the backlog piled on a publisher’s desk.

But getting an agent also takes time and effort. Agents are very choosy and unless they have a publishing house suitable for your work, you will end up with tons of rejections. Be prepared.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

I am guilty of not having updated my website because of other commitments but they can find out more about me at: or at

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?

One biggie: read and study popular children authors. See what pulls you into the book, how does the character flesh out his characters to make them memorable to a reader, what storylines are out there. By reading you begin to pick up on the best selling author’s methods which can only help you down the line.

Please give us a brief synopsis about your current book and when and where it will be available.

Sure. The title of book one in the Jillian Waylan Mystery Adventures is The Halloween Dino Trip, releasing October 1 by MuseItUp Publishing. I have to jump in here and mention that when I submitted this story to the acquisition editors I used a pseudonym so they wouldn’t know it’s me. Like everyone else I was biting my fingernails waiting for their response. \

Jillian is planning her first big Halloween party and hopes the weather holds out.

Well, the weather does...but after Jillian, in her witch's outfit playfully chants the following from a prop witch's spell book:

“Changes are due…
Not many but a few
To meet your history
And see it’s not misery
Ghosts will abound
Trekking all around
For you will now travel
In a land full of marvel”

everyone is in for the surprise of their life. Her backyard is gone. In its place greenery filled with tall trees, a variety of bushes, and...DINOSAURS?

The Mystery Adventures of Jillian Waylan will be a series of books for grades 4 - 6 where a witch's spell book ends up in Jillian's hands all the time, no matter how much she tries to get rid of that book. Exciting adventures to other times and interesting historical figures are in store for all of her friends. But the mystery is...who keeps placing that book in Jillian's hands? A clue is placed in each book for the readers to try and figure it out.

Order your copy today at

Lea, thank you so much for visiting my blog and sharing your expertise.  You have offered some wonderful insights into the world of children's writing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Listen to the Ghost, Beverly Stowe Mcclure

Keeping with the ghost theme as we near Halloween, my guest today is Beverly Stowe McClure. We're talking about her teen novel,  Listen To the Ghost.

Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

Listen to the Ghost is my first book in print. My writing ranges from contemporary to historical for teen and middle grade readers, as well as a forthcoming picture book and chapter book.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?

On a visit with our son and daughter-in-law in Charleston, SC, we took a twilight ghost tour of the historic district. Our guide told such fascinating stories about some of the old Victorian houses where ghosts supposedly lived that I knew I had to write a story about a ghost. So I read books about the spirit world and learned all I could about reasons ghosts are caught between this world and the next. Soon my ghost introduced herself and told me why she could not rest. The protagonist popped up, too, and said she wanted to help the ghost, though at first she was skeptical about spirits really existing. My story began to take shape, and a couple years later Listen to the Ghost was complete. Then the task of finding a publisher started. When I discovered Twilight Times Books, I’d found the perfect place for my story. Lida Quillen, along with Ardy M. Scott, the cover illustrator, and Anne K. Edwards, editor, turned my manuscript into a lovely novel.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

Please give us a brief synopsis about Listen to the Ghost and when and where it is available.

    Listen to the Ghost
    Twilight Times Books
    ISBN: 1-933353-51-1
    ISBN: 758-1-933353-51-7
    Copyright: 2003
    First Paperback Printing: Nov. 2005
    YA Trade Paperback


All Jade Dalton wants to do is show her paintings at Charleston, South Carolina’s, annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival, forget her ex-boyfriend with his lying lips, and prove she’s as perfect as her brother, David, though she knows that last is impossible. So how does she end up with a mischievous ghost who doesn’t want to be a ghost, a gorgeous musician who changes her opinion about guys, and a one-hundred-year old neighbor who talks in riddles?


Chapter 1

    Jade heard it again, the same musical sound that had kept her awake half the night. Someone was singing. The light, airy tune reminded her of wind chimes, blowing in a gentle breeze.
    But that cannot be, she thought. I’m alone. Elaine is in her room across the hall. David is in his. Last night, I thought it a dream, but I’m awake now, and the voice seems real, as real as my own.
    “I’m hallucinating,” she said aloud, the sound of her own voice comforting. “Nobody here, but me and my wild imagination.”
    To prove her point, Jade sat up in bed and skimmed a quick look around the room. Early morning light shimmered through the open window. White lace curtains floated lazily over the window seat. Her luggage sat at the foot of her canopy bed where she had piled it last night. She’d been too tired after the long drive from Texas to Charleston to unpack. She made a mental note to do so after she returned from the festival.
    Her paintings were stacked against the wall, next to the fireplace. The singing had ceased now. Everything appeared normal. She tapped her ear lightly. “Maybe I should have my hearing checked.”
    She swallowed nervously. “And what should I do about the prickly feeling on the back of my neck, as if eyes are watching me? Ignore it? Right. I probably ate something yesterday that caused a chemical imbalance in my system. Result--temporary insanity. So stop worrying, Jade Dalton. The festival awaits you.”

Listen to the Ghost is available at Twilight Times Books,, at Amazon,, or your favorite bookstore can order it for you. It’s also available in the Nook at Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ghosts and More Ghosts

I'm quite excited.  Over ten years ago, I wrote my first middle grade novel, Ghost for Rent.  At the time, I submitted it to regular print publishers, with no success.  I am, after all, not a well-known writer.  I felt fortunate to find a home for my manuscript with Hard Shell Word Factory, an electronic publisher.  Not only was the book released as an eBook,but it was also published in a trade paperback edition as a print on demand book.  Unfortunately, Hard Shell has changed owners, and Ghost for Rent is no longer available as a POD.  Still, with the increase in eReaders, and the ability to read books on computers, Ghost for Rent is still selling.

While I have to admit, sales haven't been overwhelming, I continue to reach a small audience of middle grade readers. I was thrilled last spring when I made a presentation to a local fourth grade class, and one of the girls raised her hand and told me she read my book.  This is why I write.  I want to share my stories. 

Ghost for Rent has received many wonderful reviews by reviewers such as Chris Speakman, Deb Hockenberry, Joyce Anthony, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nancy Sharpe and others. 

Now, I'm thrilled to say the sequel, Ghost for Lunch,  has found a home with a small independent print publisher, 4RV Publishing.  While Ghost for Lunch won't be available until September 2013, it's good to know that Wendy's story isn't finished.

Wendy is your average eleven year old girl, who enjoys writing poetry, reading Sylvia Plath, and communicating with ghosts.  It's scary, but someone has to do it.  With Halloween just around the corner, maybe it's time to download your copy to your eReader and share this fun, haunting story with your third, fourth, fifth or sixth grader.  Check it out at Amazon, or Fictionwise,

Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Interview with Judith B. Glad, senior editor at Uncial Press

Today my special guest is Judith B. Glad, Senior Editor at Uncial Press.  Judith has agreed to share some information about her publishing house.  She is actively seeking submissions, so if you write romance, check this out.

1.     Tell me about your publishing house, Uncial Press. For example, how long have you been established? Who are your editors?  How did Uncial come into being?

We opened our doors in June 2006, and released our first titles in October 2006. My partner had been a bookseller for a number of years, and had website experience. My background included both technical and fiction writing, as well as converting books to ebook formats and creating bookblocks for print. After whining and complaining for years that too many ebooks were poorly edited, we decided to see if we couldn't do better. I hope we are.

Just in case your readers aren't aware of this, we publish only ebooks. We sell seven formats, so they are readable by pretty much anything out there. We distribute widely, too, through most major and many minor ebook retailers.

2.    What types of manuscripts are you actively seeking?

Pretty much all fiction genres except erotica, horror and inspirational. Right now we're long on fantasy and short of contemporary romance, but that could change at any time. We love Regencies, but are really picky about them being historically accurate and written in a strong Regency voice. We also take on the occasional humorous or light self-help nonfiction, and once in a very great while, a poetry collection.

3.    What types of stories do you feel your readers want?

Well-written stories about interesting people. Isn't that what we all want? Both of us are voracious readers, but really choosy about what we read for pleasure. We try to apply the same standards to submissions. Too many we get are heavy on narrative, take pages and pages to get into the story, and don't make us fall in love (or in hate) with the protagonist/hero/heroine/villain. If I can't care about the main characters in a book, why should I waste my all-too-scant leisure time reading it? We figure our readers feel the same way.

4.    Are there any genres which you feel are overdone and why?

Isn't it more a matter of the market being saturated? Right now Erotica seems to be holding strong, and fantasy is very popular. That could change next month. We recently received a steampunk submission and expect a Cthulu offering any day now. Trying to guess what the market will be in six to nine months (which is how long it takes us to go from submission to release) is a real challenge. We have found that there is always a market for a good story. Some of ours keep surprising us, with no sales one quarter, then a whole bunch the next.

5.    What do you look for in a manuscript?

I'll give you my stock answer here, because I haven't figured out a way to say it better: What grabs us is a story that within the first three pages makes us want to know what will happen next, that introduces us to a character we can love or hate, someone whom we'll be rooting for as hero or hoping for his comeuppance as villain. We want to live the story through the senses and emotions of the characters (that old show, don't tell thing), and we want to be emotionally involved with them. Most of all we want a story that will keep us guessing right up until the last page. Of course we know that the hero will get the girl, the villain will be vanquished, the mystery will be solved, but we want to wonder HOW until the last possible moment.

6.    What would cause you to reject a manuscript?

In order of where in our submission queue we'd reject it:
(1) a submission that clearly shows the author didn't bother to visit our website. Our guidelines are simple. There is no reason for someone not to follow them. We set guidelines for several very good reasons, and we really appreciate authors who take the time to read and follow them.
(2) a story that starts with five or ten pages of narrative backstory. We see all too many of these, unfortunately
(3)wordiness , e.g., using two or ten words when one would do, over-describing simple actions (it doesn't take a paragraph to park a car), strings of prepositional phrases instead of succinct wording
(4) bad grammar, incorrect punctuation, spelling errors
(5) and then there are those stories that simply don't appeal to us. We try to set our likes and dislikes aside and look at commercial potential, but once in a while something will come along that just pushes our buttons. We can't publish something we don't like.

7.    What is the relationship between your authors and your editorial staff?

We hope our authors like us, but we don't require it. The publisher-author relationship must be, first and foremost, professional. We like our authors, but the same principle applies. Sometimes we have to be strict, harsh, or critical. We always try to be encouraging.

We only have one editor other than myself, and she and I get along quite well, We even agree on most stuff.
I'd like to add here that we have deliberately stayed small. We feel that we can do our best with two titles a month (or three, if two are short), because that lets use give each the attention and care it deserves. The quality of our books is very important to us.

8.    How are your covers created, and do your authors have a say in the cover art?

I create most of our covers right now, because it's how I relax from editing. Love playing with graphics! I use royalty-free stock photos for the most part, although occasionally I will draw something or use a graphics program to create something non-objective. We've won a number of awards for our covers.

Our authors have the option of filling out a cover art questionnaire. If they do, we try our best to follow it. The final say, though, comes from the cover committee, three non-artists who look at how well a cover catches the eye, how appealing it is, how good it looks in a small size on a computer screen, if the title and author's name is readable in the small sizes, and just how well they like it. They're pretty picky. I often have to send a concept to them several times before they're happy.

Very rarely we will accept an author's cover, if it meets our specs and passes the cover committee.

9.    What type of marketing assistance do you offer your authors?

We attempt to obtain reviews for all titles, sending out ARCs about three months before release. At release, we announce widely, offer one copy in a drawing on The Romance Studio, and send out a newsletter to a large subscription list. We also announce on Facebook and Twitter. When we hear of a good promo op, we share it with everyone.

Otherwise, we market our entire booklist.

We do expect our authors to market actively. Our contract requires that they have a website or other strong web presence, linked to their book pages at our website. Occasionally we've waived the website in favor of an active blog or other strong web presence, but we consider a website essential in most cases.

10.    Where can authors find out more about Uncial Press as well as your submission guidelines?

Our website is at and our submission guidelines at . There are links on the main page with more about the staff, what an uncial is, and of course, introductions to our talented authors and samples of their wonderful books.

Thank you for being my guest today and giving me this useful information about Uncial Press.

Thank you for inviting me. It was a pleasure.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Interview with author Lizzie T Leaf

Today, my guest is author Lizzie T. Leaf.  Lizzie has agreed to chat about her writing and her latest book.

Penny, thank you so much for inviting me today.  I hope your readers learn a little about me and I welcome their comments or questions.

Tell me a little about your book.
DEAD Memory is the 4th in the DEAD vampire series at Aspen Mountain Press.  In addition to the new H/H, a lot of the characters from prior books make appearances to support Tawny and David fight the battle against evil that once again raises its ugly head. 

Discovery of a nude male sprawled in her neighbor’s yard by werewolf Tawny Howls starts her life on a new path.  Her patient doesn’t carry the scent of human, but he wears a cross and his wounds are slow to heal which rules out vampire…right?

David Madison awakes to find a beautiful woman leaning over him, but he has a problem when she asks his name…he doesn’t know it.  Flashes of snarling, ugly creatures haunt his dreams and he can quote bible verses and words to the song Tawny hums, but nothing about his life.

What gave you the idea for this particular story?
As with several of the stories in this series, a “what if question” from a reader took me down the path of creating a story around it.  In this case it was, “What if a vampire can’t remember he’s a vampire?”

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I’m a full-time writer, or at least strive to be.  Unfortunately, I allow things to distract far too often, but am becoming better as saying “NO” to family, friends and those who want a piece of my time for various reasons.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be hard core with family though, but don’t tell them.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
As a child, I made up stories in my head to create playmates.  In school came the discovery I could put those stories on paper and earn A’s in English.  A win-win situation since I was very shy…get the character voices out of my head and positive comments from teachers…woohoo!

Becoming the next Hemingway or Steinbeck was my goal, but then life happened.  A couple of kids, a couple of marriages, jobs…you know the drill, and I became someone I didn’t know and the stories died too.  It time alone after the death of my second husband for me to reconnect with the girl/woman of my past and my stories returned with that knowledge.

What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
With the current ones, I hope readers take away enjoyment; a smile to lift their day.  In some of the future books planned in a new genre, I hope to touch their hearts and give hope.

Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
Currently, I write Paranormal Romance and Contemporary Erotic Romance.  I really have fun with the paranormal.  One I finish the next my current obligations, I plan to tackle one of the mainstream projects from my ‘ideas’ list.  It’s exciting to branch out into another genre that offers the opportunity to create more layers.

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
In addition to my website, I’m on a several social sites.
And I love to hear from readers.  My email is

Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
As with any genre, a writer needs to write.  The putting of fingers on the keyboard or pen to paper is the way one improves.  And keep the faith in yourself.  Shut out the voice of ‘nay sayers’ and work on your craft and tell the stories you want to tell.  Also, join a writers group to help with the craft and the support.  No one understands like your passion like other writers.

Lizzie, thank you for sharing a few moments of your writing life with me and my readers.  It's been a pleasure having you as my guest.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Interview with the authors of Draculas

Today, my guests are Blake Crouch, Jeff Strand, F. Paul Wilson and Joe Konrath, writing as Jack Kilborn, authors of the intriguing book, Draculas.

By Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand, & F. Paul Wilson
Exclusively on Amazon Kindle
October 19, 2010
Price: $2.99; Ebook

For interview requests, advanced reader copies, or more information please contact

1) Tell me about your book.

A vampire outbreak at a rural, isolated hospital, told over a four-hour timespan by four horror authors.

Here's a little more about Draculas:
Mortimer Moorecook, retired Wall Street raider, avid collector, is losing his fight against cancer. With weeks to live, a package arrives at the door of his hillside mansion—an artifact he paid millions for…a hominoid skull with elongated teeth, discovered in a farmer’s field in the Romanian countryside. With Shanna, his beautiful research assistant looking on, he sinks the skull’s razor sharp fangs into his neck, and immediately goes into convulsions.

A rural hospital. A slow night in the ER. Until Moorecook arrives strapped to a gurney, where he promptly codes and dies.

Four well-known horror authors pool their penchants for scares and thrills, and tackle one of the greatest of all legends, with each writer creating a unique character and following them through a vampire outbreak in a secluded hospital.

The goal was simple: write the most intense book they possibly could.  

Which they did.

A word of warning:

Within these pages, you will find no black capes, no satin-lined coffins, no brooding heartthrobs who want to talk about your feelings. Forget sunlight and stakes. Throw out your garlic and your crosses. This is the Anti-TWILIGHT.

2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?

Joe Konrath came up with the title, and Blake and Joe started brainstorming potential characters. Once Paul and Jeff were on board, we knew we just wanted to each follow a set of characters for the duration of the book, and hoped we could tie it all up in the end in a way that was thrilling and logical.

3) Please explain the process you four authors used to create this unique type of work.

We used Dropbox software and pretty much tried to all be writing on a timeline. We were constantly reading each other’s sections, so we could get a sense of what the others were doing and write scenes that complimented the overall arc of the story and moved it toward the conclusion.

4) What were the difficulties of doing a joint work?  The advantages and disadvantages?

Advantages were the speed of creation, instant editorial feedback on new scenes, and four brains working toward a common goal. I can’t really cite any disadvantages. There were arguments, but the disagreements only made the book stronger.  The last feature in the book is a collection of over 40,000 words worth of our emails back and forth to each other while we were writing the book, a kind of behind-the-scenes look at our collaboration process, for those who might be interested.

5) What do you hope readers will take from this story?

The resilience of everyday people under the worst possible circumstances. Also that vampires don’t care about your feelings.

6) You all write in different genres.  How hard was it to write a horror story?

Honestly, this was one of the best, easiest writing experiences we’ve ever had. We’re all horror-lovers at heart.

7) What kind of research did you do for this type of story?

Because this is set in a hospital, the bulk of the research involved medical terminology, equipment, etc.

8) Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
Apparently, none of us are bothered by writing violent scenes.

9) What is your marketing plan?

We are attempting to generate a sizeable number of pre-publication reviews which will all (or most) go live the day before the book goes live in the Kindle store.

10) Where can people learn more about all of you and your work?

11) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?

Read constantly and grow a thick skin.

Here's a bit of info about Draculas:


F. PAUL WILSON is an award-winning, NY Times bestselling novelist whose work spans horror, adventure, medical thrillers, science fiction, young adult, and virtually everything between.  He is best known as the author of THE KEEP and creator of the urban mercenary Repairman Jack. (

JACK KILBORN is a pen name of J.A. Konrath, who has written six Jack Daniels thrillers. The seventh, SHAKEN, will be available this October.  Kilborn is the author of AFRAID, ENDURANCE, TRAPPED, and SERIAL UNCUT, (written with Blake Crouch) which has been downloaded more than 250,000 times. (

JEFF STRAND is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of such novels as PRESSURE, DWELLER, GRAVEROBBERS WANTED (NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY), BENJAMIN'S PARASITE, and THE SINISTER MR. CORPSE. His secret shame is SUCKERS, co-written with J.A. Konrath.  (

BLAKE CROUCH is the author of four thrillers, DESERT PLACES, LOCKED DOORS, ABANDON, and SNOWBOUND, all published by St. Martin’s Press. His short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen, THRILLER 2, and other anthologies. (

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Muse Online Writers Conference

 Today, I'd like to share an article which appeared in Apollo's Lyre in 2007. The statements made by participants in the Muse Conference are as valid today as they were in 2007.

    One of the most overlooked and neglected ways to hone your craft is to network with other writers.  Getting together with other writers at a writers’ conference allows you to brainstorm new marketing and story ideas.  It also is an opportunity to talk to editors, publishers, and agents.
    For many of us, however, there are obstacles.  Conferences may be located too far from home with registration, travel and lodging expenses. Lack of time is also a factor.  We have “day” jobs and family obligations making it difficult to be away. Some of us may have physical limitations which complicate attendance. 
    Welcome to the innovative world of the on-line writers’ conference.   The MuseItUp Conference occurs twenty-four hours a day, in the privacy of each participant’s own home.  This conference was the
brain-child of author/editor, Lea Schizas.
    The idea for the conference came to Lea a few years ago. She asked MuseItUp Club members how many had attended a “real” conference.  “Their answers fueled that set up an on-line writers conference... too expensive to attend, too far away..., have some sort of a disability...”
    Lea immediately prepared the conference site and contacted her friend, Carolyn Howard-Johnson. Together they promoted the conference and enlisted the aid of presenters.  Those chosen “had to send a proposal on what their workshop would be, what and if any lesson handouts were to be given out....We wanted to offer published and non-published presenters equal opportunity to join our panel...the important part for us was to base their expertise on their workshop.”
    Lea made up flyers and pamphlets which were given to the presenters to pass out at writing events approximately six months before the event.  Both Lea and Carolyn posted notices in several groups and their own newsletters.  Most of the presenters had a link with a write up in their own newsletters and sites.  After six months of almost non-stop work, the Conference was ready to open its doors.
    Arranged in two parts, the first was the Interactive Chat Lounge scheduled for various times during the week-long conference, where participants could chat live with the presenters, asking questions and receiving immediate responses.  The second part was a twenty-four hour a day Virtual Conference Hall.  The Hall was set up so participants could ask questions and a thread of informational responses would follow.
    The list of presenters was impressive considering that all of them volunteered their time.  Included were publishers, editors, fiction and non-fiction authors, poets, and marketing experts.   Some hold sessions on more than one day on different topics as well as participating in the Virtual Hall where other experts answered questions.
    Over one thousand people from Canada, the United States, Greenland, New Zealand, Africa, United Kingdom, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Taiwan and Mexico have registered for the conference.
    Included for free were Conference entrance, workshops and handouts, random daily door prizes, excerpts of presenters’ workshops, and other donated articles. The conference continues for participants with an ongoing private Conference Board  plus workshops and chats scheduled all year.
    Hope Clark has presented information on grants and generating writing income.  While Hope made herself available both in the Lounge and the Hall, she preferred the Chat.  She received appropriate questions and “can’t remember a question that drew me off topic or seemed too specialized to be useful to all.”
    Patricia Harrington introduced techniques of mystery writing in her Chat.  Pat felt “it was an opportunity to share a passion...and to network.  Networking, improving skills, meeting folks and doing promotion/publicity are part of being a successful, published author.”
    Karina Fabian participated as a panelist in a chat about faith in fiction and as an attendee. She also initiated an impromptu chat on world-building when she saw people asking questions on this subject. Karina now holds a week long forum on world building. Karina said “While I found many of the writing workshops pretty basic in their advice given my own reading and experience, I was a novice at marketing and learned so much. I got a lot of practical tips, had a few of my works critiqued, and garnered a lot of ideas...”
    People who attended the conference responded positively about their experiences. Agata Antonow had “always wanted to go to a conference, but taking the time off work always seemed a bother and traveling to the US...can be a hassle.  The on-line conference took care of the long-distance travel issue...”
    Sharon Schafer had never attended a writing conference and wanted to learn what it was all about.  Sharon says “As a writer, you never stop learning, and I knew a conference would be a great learning experience.”  She found each presenter helpful, and once she figured out the system, she found the instructions easy and navigated each of the conference areas.
    Peggy Fieland visited the Virtual Conference Hall. She sent poems to one of the presenters for evaluation and asked questions about publication. She networked with other participants and joined a writer’s group.  Next time, she plans to attend some of the chats and found she was “interested in far more than I thought I would.”
    Barbara Ehrentreu usually “attends at least one writing conference during the year, but this year being unemployed, I knew I probably wouldn’t have the money to attend. So I decided to go to this one since it was Free!!”  Barbara was able to attend almost all of the chats, and in the Hall, asked questions of people she didn’t meet in the chat lounge.  While Barbara liked both formats, she “ preferred the virtual conference because you could go there at any time and the presenters were very good.” 
    Kathryn Anzak attended a number of chats, but didn’t realize at first that she could sign up for more than one chat at a time. Once she found she could sign into several chat rooms at one time she had “up to four presentations going at once.  One chat tends to move slowly, two is a little more lively, but the best...The chats that included handouts for discussion were very helpful and good for reference later.” 
    According to Lea participants were “wowed because they not only had the privilege of asking questions to our Presenters all week and via our real time chat workshops, but they got to keep...amazing writing reference ebooks to refer back to over and over again.” 
    For some, this was a first time writer’s conference while others had attended “live” conferences before.   Pat Harrington has done both and she “thought the virtual conference was outstanding.  The price was certainly right; and I think that it was possible to learn as much and have as much fun meeting new people as the in-person conferences.”  Hope Clark has also done both.  “For the number of people involved, this one ran very well...The rules established up front made this conference experience pleasant and seamless.” Barbara Ehrentreu feels “one thing both (types of) conferences had in common was exposure to authors, editors and publishers. At live conferences you could speak in person to these people, but you didn’t have their full attention.  Here there were no distractions, and you could ask follow up questions if you needed to do that.”
    For Kathrn Anzak, who has never attended a live conference, “the on-line conference allowed me to rub elbows with fellow writers without having to fight with anxiety or even have to dress. Often I attended the chats in ‘jammies’ and slippers, with cat on lap and coffee in hand.” Neophyte, Agata Antonow is now determined to attend a live conference.  “Having attended the virtual conference, I think I have gained some confidence about conferences and have seen that it really can be a friendly atmosphere.”  Virginia Grenier found herself “inspired.  I have others opinions on how to market my stories. I have different points of view on character sketches, how to build settings, etc.  I believe all writers grow just from talking to one another.”
    Lea, herself, “couldn’t attend a ‘real’ conference because of lack of funding and too far to travel, so this was an experience...along with the rest of them who registered and attended. The networking and mingling...made me proud to be a writer.  Everyone was very helpful, informative, but more than that, they displayed the same qualities I pride myself of possessing: honesty, integrity, and willing to help a fellow writer.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Muse Online Writers Conference

This week, is the annual free Muse Online Conference.  This extraordinary writers conference is the brainchild of Lea Schizas and her co-founder, Carolyn Howard Johnson.  Since its inception, this conference has grown in popularity and the number of presenters has grown along with it.  In addition to week long forums where writers can interact with other writers, get feedback from professionals, and input from their peers, writers can participate in live chats with agents, publishers, and published writers.

In recent years, pitch sessions have been added where authors can pitch their works in progress to both agents and publishers.  The list of agents and publishers participating grows each year. 

Forum offerings include English grammar review, creating a web site, creating a trailer, perfecting your blog, how to write for children, writing for the horror market, editing and book design, blogging, and overcoming writers block.  Needless to say, this is just a sampling of the wonderful workshops available.

This has been voted the best writers workshop two years running in the Preditors and Editors poll. It is also one of Writers Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers. If you missed signing up for this year's conference, be sure to watch for registration information for 2011.

Check out the website at

Friday, October 8, 2010

Interview with author Katharina Kolata

Today my guest is author Katharina Kolata.  Katharina has done something unusual with her book, The witches of Greenwitch.  She is offering it free in a serialized version.  Currently, you can access about half of the story.

1) Tell me a little about your book.
Well, The Witches of Greenwitch, is not a book yet but it will be, soon. It's a free, online, serialized fantasy novel with beautiful pictures by the very talented, sixteen-year old Eszti from Hungary. It is aimed at Fantasy-lovers of all ages. So far, nearly half of the story is available.
In it, a mysterious stone magics book-rat Melissa to the world of Greenwitch where she meets fairy tale creatures that are not at all what she expected. Desperately, she looks for a way home and tries to ignore her past which pops up at the most inappropriate moments. At the same time, dangerous pursuers are at her heels getting closer by the minute.

2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?
A few years back a small independent publisher in Germany asked for stories that revolved around a magical stone that takes its wearers to other (fairy tale kind of) worlds. When I read the submission guidelines, Melissa suddenly spoke up, requesting that story as hers. Of course, I obeyed. Unfortunately, the publisher folded before the story was published. So I shelved it for a while. In April 2010, I decided to build a platform so that readers can get to know ( and maybe to like) my writing style.

3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I am a work-at-home mother of three from Germany and I'm lucky enough to be able to write in the mornings. I sit at my PC 8am every morning and write till noon. The rest of the day, I need for my kids, the house, the husband etc.

4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I never consciously decided to be a writer. I wrote and told stories all my life but when a friend of mine discovered her family archive in the attic (dating back to the 16th century), I decided to become more serious. My first novel (historical) is based on facts from this discovery. Later, I turned to my secret love: Fantasy.

5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?
I hope they will be entertained. In my historical novels, I also aim to make them understand the time they are in. I am always satisfied when a reader tells me that (s)he learned something.

6) Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?
I love Fantasy and History. Lately, I write more and more stories that combine the two. Although I enjoy writing for grown-ups and teens (generally I write all age), I prefer to write for younger children because they see the world through different eyes. My great-granny once told me that children have a third eye in their foreheads that look for truths, and I was determined never to close mine. I hope that I succeeded.

7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
It's the waiting; waiting for agents to get back to you, waiting for the publishers to come to a decision, waiting for the copy-editor to contact you. It's sooooo annoying. The only thing I can do in that case is keep writing.

8) Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell me about it.
Not in this one.

9) How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
This is a really difficult question. I do believe that all my characters have traits that resemble me, or I couldn't write them. But they also have their own individualities and it's hard to separate the two. Ask a mother how much her child is like her and she couldn't tell you more. I do believe that being a writer is the only socially acceptable way to be schizophrenic. *grin*

10) What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
People often believe that stories set in an imaginary place do not require research but they are wrong. It's just a different kind of research but it has to be just as thorough as for a historical novel. I always do a lot of world-building before I start writing. It just wouldn't do to have - for example - a magic that draws on individual strength in one scene and on Mother Earth's the next. Or a world with two moons and neither of them has any consequences, neither on the ecosystem nor on the social aspects of the story. We've only got one moon and look how many believes/superstitions/religions are connected to it, and how it influences our tides and much more. Inconsistencies or illogical word-building always make me throw a perfectly good story aside.

11) Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
I write whatever the story requires, but sometimes it hurts. It's another plus of writing for children, kid's books are often less violent.

12) What about your book makes it special?
The story has many surprising twists which made it much better suited for serialization that I had anticipated. Also, the illustrations by Eszti are stunning. She is only sixteen but her pictures are absolutely great. It's worth reading the story for the pictures alone.

13) What is your marketing plan?
I am always happy to give an interview or talk or whatever on blogs of interested readers/writers. Also, I keep gaining followers on my own blog. I have a website with a lot of information on the books I have written (many) and those that were published (a lot less).

14) Where can people learn more about you and your work?
Read the online story The Witches of Greenwitch, visit my Blog, and my Homepage.

15) Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?
On one hand, getting published is hard these days, on the other, publishers are always looking for the next great xx (insert author of your choice here). Learn the basics, keep improving, revise, revise, revise, and if you are persistent enough you might hit gold one day.

Here's a little more about Witches of Greenwitch:

A mysterious stone magics book-rat Melissa to the world of Greenwitch where she meets fairy tale creatures that are not at all what she expected. Desperately, she looks for a way home and tries to ignore her past which pops up at the most inappropriate moments. At the same time, dangerous pursuers are at her heels getting closer by the minute.