Monday, December 26, 2011

Petroglyph of the Battle

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A warrior's shield defines the warrior, just as the woman's dress defines her. Native American shields and dresses are not made in haste, but take form over time, developing into the works of art that they are. The shield on the far right tells the tale of this warrior's life. In this petroglyph there are three spirals pointing up. This means to look above for the secret or private story of the battle, when the enemies of the Fremont Indians raided their fortress. Since the rocks were blanketed with snow, the story of the hardship will have to come in Spring when it is safer to climb.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Evil Spirit Petroglyph at Fremont Indian State Park

Posted by PicasaThe Old Ones whose spirits protect the Fremont Indian State Park, have passed the story of this panel down to their descendants. The spirit depicted is a little devil. There is only one evil spirit in the park, and from time-to-time he causes a nasty stir.

My teacher, Peyu, shared a story with me. She found a sacred place protected by the little devil with her children. There they saw secret petroglyphs left by their ancestors and their hearts were filled with joy and understanding.

When she returned to the site with the archaeologist, (a person who did not understand their way, who did not have a good heart) they were attacked by birds and a dust devil sprang from the site and crushed Peyu's tee pee. For weeks after a dust devil would arise from their fire pit and knock down her tee pee. Running out of poles, the Old Ones told her to take an offering of tobacco into the dust devil and run into it, saying ENOUGH - Leave the offering and tell the spirit you will never take a person there again unless s/he has a good heart.

Visit the Fremont Indian State Park Web Site:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Writing BOY MAN CHIEF- Native American Fiction with Young Adult Appeal

A friend of mine encouraged me to write a post about how I got my inspiration to write Boy Man Chief. It seems like I've really hyped it up over the past few weeks, but he said I should share the spiritual motivation that moved me to write:

I moved to Cedar City, Utah in February of 2010, and on one of my first jaunts out of town, I went to the Parowan Gap to see the ancient petroglyphs. As a descendant of the Cherokee tribe, I have always been interested in Native American culture and studied as much as I could get my hands on as a child.

Driving up to the Gap, I saw an array of rock faces carved with many stories, which I knew must contain a wealth of information. The plaque at the site said these petroglyphs were left by the Fremont Indians 1000 years ago. I wondered. At that stage I had never heard of the Fremont Indians (ridiculously named after the US explorer John C. Fremont, 1813-1890).

As I stood in front of the Zipper Glyph (picture below), the spirit of the creator moved me. I could feel my heart thudding against my chest and a tingling up my spine, almost a floating sensation. I could not believe that something this magnificent rested in our own backyard, and yet the Fremont remained obscure. I had to tell the world about this place, and I had to do it with a story that expressed respect and honor of their culture and intelligence. I felt it was my responsibility to bring to life their mystical religion and love of Mother Earth.

I couldn't understand how a gift from our ancestors would be allowed to slough off in the sun, only protected by a five-foot chain-link fence on one side of the road, and exposed to the public on another. At the time I did not understand the interpretation of the panels, but the spirit told me that they were critically important to our ancestors, and the ground at Parowan Gap was sacred.

I shot photographs of every panel of petroglyphs I could find, and went back to Cedar and purchased books about petroglyphs, especially The Parowan Gap by V. Garth Norman, archaeologist. I traveled to the Fremont Indian State Park, visiting the glorious walls of petroglyphs and their lovely museum, and got to climb down into a pit house, which helped me envision what it would be like to live in one.

All along I was dreaming about a boy named Koicto, and though he had no idea, his life was on a precipice of greatness. Studying about the descendant tribes, I created his vision quest and led him to his first meeting with his spirit cougar, Kitchi. It is is a coming-of-age historical novel where Koicto must overcome and conquer the harsh realities of life in 885 A.D.

....His village burned, his father murdered, his woman taken. If  he fails, the Nahchee will be no more.

Boy Man Chief won the Utah League of Writers Award for Best Manuscript (2011), and the St. George Book Festival's Spark Book Award (2011). I want to share it with the world.

The Zipper Glyph - Parowan Gap, Utah

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Interview with Author and Blog Fest Winner, Roh Morgon

Today my author spotlight is on, Roh Morgon, who was a co-winner of the blog fest competition celebrating the launch of Koicto. To win wrote a story with a Native American theme and post it on her blog.

Hi Roh!

First tell us a little about yourself and your current projects:

Like Kevin Lazarus - the other blogfest winner! -  I'm originally from southern California, though my stomping grounds were a somewhat wild (as in wilderness) canyon rather than the beach. I had a horse instead of a surfboard, and when I wasn't riding, I was deeply involved in a book. I did have a few crazy adventures as a young adult, which included hitchhiking halfway across the U.S. (warning – do not attempt this stupid stunt nowadays!)

I spent a few years in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado and a few more in the high plains of Wyoming, then eventually made my way to Central California. I currently live in the Sierra Nevada foothills with three mustang horses, two crazy herding dogs, and an extremely patient husband.

My favorite stories to read are fantasy, and have been since I read Lord of The Rings as a teenager. I love epic, historical, urban, and dark fantasies. Lately I've been into combinations of those, especially the blending of historical and dark fantasy.

In fact, a novella I've just finished writing is just that, and an excerpt from it is what I entered into Amy's Blogfest. The Last Trace is primarily set in 1842 Montana, and is the story of a half-Cree mountain man and his encounter with a blood-drinking demon. I've done quite a bit of research to be sure I've portrayed the historical aspects correctly, including having an expert on the era 'vet' it for me to ensure it hasn't strayed too far from reality. The Last Trace, which is part of The Chosen series, will be out as an ebook sometime in December.

My other projects include a YA novel series about shapeshifters, a novella for an upcoming anthology, and of course, the sequel to Watcher: Book I of The Chosen.

When did you start writing, and how long have you been writing?

Though I've done a little marketing and technical writing over the years, I didn't start writing fiction until January 2009. I work full-time, but in the intervening three years I've finished a novel (the aforementioned Watcher: Book I of The Chosen), written two novellas, seven short stories, and have two novels (in two separate series) that are 50-65% complete. My focus is fantasy and horror for middle-grade, young adult, and adult readers.

Could you tell us about the road to publication of your new novel, Watcher?

I wrote Watcher in five months, then spent the next year or so revising and editing. When I looked into submitting it to agents, I kept running into statements on their websites like "We love paranormal, but please, no more vampires." After receiving rejections from several agents, I decided to shelve it for awhile. I started work on a young adult shapeshifter novel that evolved from a short story, and was happily buried in that until February of this past year.

In February, I attended a large writers' conference that I had also attended in 2010. Self-publishing was a hot topic both years, but in 2010, the industry response toward it was pretty negative.

In 2011, the attitude had shifted 180 degrees, and now the same folks who'd been preaching against self-publishing were encouraging writers to check it out. I came home, and after much research, decided to publish Watcher myself.

My husband and I started a small publishing company, Dark Dreams Publishing, then attended a self-publishing workshop in Oregon conducted by Dean Wesley Smith. I hired two editors to go through Watcher, did a final edit myself, and dove into learning book design.

Six months after deciding to self-publish, we published Watcher: Book I of The Chosen, in both trade paperback and ebook formats.

Of course this is a good time to give us a blurb about your book and let us know where we can buy it:

I'm happy to! Here ya go…

Predator. Killer. Monster.

The words echo in Sunny Martin’s head each time she looks in the mirror. Since the night she was torn from her car and drained of her blood, Sunny’s fear of the hungry beast within her is rivaled only by the fear of exposure.

Her lonely struggle to survive on the edge of the human world leads Sunny to the mountain peaks of Colorado where she meets Nicolas, the 500-year-old leader of a hidden society.

Their passion, tainted by betrayal, violence, and murder, reveals a shocking truth behind Sunny's complex nature and drives her toward an agonizing Choice between her heart and the last remnant of her human soul.

~ ~ ~

Watcher: Book I of The Chosen is available in ebook and trade paperback editions from Dark Dreams Publishing. Autographed copies are available upon request.

How did you come up with the story for Watcher?

I woke up one morning in mid-December 2008 with a vision of this lonely vampire woman in my mind. I thought about her, wondering what her story was, and she started showing me. I wrote one page that captured the essence of who she was, then decided to wait until after the holidays to continue. In January 2009, I started writing, and her story unfolded, like watching a movie. She and, later on Nicolas, were relentless in wanting their story told, and so whenever I wasn't working, I wrote non-stop, including nights and weekends, until the first book was done.

What scene did you have the most fun with?

I can't say I had fun with any of the scenes, because I didn't really think about them. The events in the story just played like a movie in my head, and I almost couldn't type fast enough to capture everything. I do remember sitting back after significant scenes were written, completely blown away by what had happened in them.

There were several that really surprised me, though. One was a scene where Sunny discovers a new topiary statue in Nicolas's garden, and I remember feeling as shocked seeing it as she was. I looked up over my shoulder, asking 'where the heck did THAT come from?'

What advice do you have for aspiring authors who want to go the self-pub route?

First of all, do your homework to be sure that route is the best for you. Small presses are a great alternative to self-pubbing and should be considered as part of your decision.

Then prepare yourself for a lot of work. You won't get much writing done while you're in the publishing phase.

Find beta readers who will give you honest feedback to fine-tune your story. Then when you think it's as good as you can make it, hire editors to go through it. There are many types: developmental/content editors, line editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. Some will advise you on the storyline and scenes, others will focus strictly on grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Research them carefully. You can check other writers' blogs for their recommendations – my proofreader was recommended on Joe Konrath's blog.

Once the story is ready, you need to decide if you will design the cover and interior yourself or hire those services. I'm not an artist, so had opted to hire a cover artist. But things fell through at the last minute and I chose to release Watcher with the Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) cover that I'd designed. I'm not that happy with it, and am still looking for a cover artist.

I designed the interior myself, which is much more work than it appears at first glance. There are many decisions involved, such as fonts, headers, chapter beginnings, spacing, etc – it can be a bit overwhelming. It took me six weeks to design Watcher using over a dozen traditionally-published trade paperbacks as my guide. I'm pleased with how it came out, and expect my next book will look even better.

Self-publishing requires paying attention to detail, both in the crafting of your story and in the presentation of it. The most important thing is to produce a book that is as professional as you can make it.

You recently went to World Fantasy Convention. What was that like and what did you enjoy the most about it?

World Fantasy Convention is a convention for writers, agents, publishers, and other professionals in the publishing industry. Since it's not a fan-driven convention, authors are more relaxed and much more accessible for a conversation. I enjoyed listening to well-known authors such as Neil Gaiman do readings and talk about their writing. Hanging out with other fantasy writers was my favorite part.

Would you be willing to name one thing readers would be surprised to know about you?

Hmm. Let me see. As much as I love animals and the outdoors, I also love machines. I've driven cars, motorcycles, jet skis, boats, and even a train (yeah, a real train). Haven't snowmobiled or flown a plane yet – those are next on my list.

Thanks for spending your time on my blog!  Best wishes for your continued success.  Where can readers find you on the Web?
Twitter: @rohmorgon
Facebook: Roh Morgon

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Who Should Play KOICTO?

If KOICTO becomes a movie, who would you choose to play the part of Koicto? He must appear Native American, pass for a seventeen, but be built like a real man. My first thought was Taylor Lautner from the Twilight Series, but then I thought of Rodney Grant from Dances With Wolves. Remember him - the fearless warrior? That is one character I'd like to see in the KOICTO role. Who else is out there who could handle the part?
This is what I could find online for my ideal.
Koicto is available at major book stores. Check it out on Amazon:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kevin Lazarus, Author, Blogfest Winner

Today my author spotlight is on, Kevin Lazarus, who won the blog fest competition celebrating the launch of my novel, Koicto. To win he had to write a story with a Native American theme and post it on his blog.

Hi Kevin!

First tell us a little about yourself and your current projects:
Well, I’m an L.A. kid, that’s where I grew up, and it was a blast! We did the beach thing all the time. In fact, that’s where my wife and I had our first real date. We did the whole nine yards and dined on the beach; china, classy silverware and candelabra. She cooked me a steak with shrimp over an open fire and I was done like dinner.

The one thing people will realize about me right away is—I’m like a lighting rod for unusual experiences. I have seen things and experienced things that most people have never experienced. Trust me its true—and I plan to use every single one of them in my stories--thus the scary tales. I have no idea why. If I listed everything most people wouldn’t believe me—heck I don’t believe me.

My current projects are: Bone Stalker, which is pretty much done and The Dark Side of Carthage Falls, the Anthology (a play on my book Shadow Followers) which I am sharing on my blog. My next book, which is under construction, is Eye of the Blood Moon, which I’m sure Zombie fans are going to like.

When did you start writing, and how long have you been writing?

I started writing when I was in high school. I loved writing poetry, which is weird for a boy. So I didn’t let anybody know about it. Unfortunately, I doubted myself so much that I never really pursued it until I went to college, where I learned how to write screenplays. That was a wonderful experience for me and pumping out that first 120 page manuscript didn’t hurt either. Unfortunately, I was blessed with a mild form of dyslexia that gets worse when I’m stressed or tired and that has complicated my dreams of writing. All the while I was writing screenplays, though; I secretly wanted to write books. But I still didn’t believe I could do it. It’s a whole different world when it comes to writing books. So it took me nearly thirty-five years to finally convince myself to give it a shot. And that’s when I wrote Shadow Followers; an idea for a screenplay that I had had for nearly twenty years.

You have the coolest background on your blog (BTW, Kevin writes horror *chills*) Where did you find the background, and how did you get that spooky picture of you in it?

Well that’s the handy work of my PR guru Jesse Fisher and my daughters. I told the girls that I wanted to take my press pictures in a cemetery and they kind of went crazy with that. Next thing I know I’m wearing a black suit and a black shirt standing in the middle of this old decrepit cemetery out in the middle of nowhere. After that I gave some of the photos to Jesse and he used some of his magic on them and created this fantasy cemetery that looks like it could be right out of old New Orleans. Then he put me in it leaning against a headstone. Kind of fun I think.

I understand you have a book that you are just about to release. Can you tempt us with a blurb?

Yes, Bone Stalker. Okay, a blurb…

“Something stood directly behind him! The odious smell of death quickly enveloped the air—far more overwhelming than earlier. More revealing were the eyes of Rick and Kara—they were wide and full of terror.
Something was now breathing on him!
The trooper slowly turned to face rows of jagged ivory that appeared numerous and infinite; some broken and sheared off. They were like sharks teeth—saw-toothed razors—rows of them—layer upon layer. Mike was mesmerized. He could see little chunks of pink stuck between crevasses. Instantly, he realized that they were bits of meat—flesh—and blood! Out of the corner of his eye, he became faintly aware of—bones—dangling and clanking against each other—a human skull! The cavernous opening began to expand, widening to a greater view and then just as quickly—it snapped shut…”
Cool, Kevin, Thanks for sharing!!

How did you come up with the story for Bone Stalker?

Of all things to happen on Sunday—I know weird, right? But my sons and I were on our way to a Sunday meeting and—I don’t why—this image of these two newlyweds leaving on their honeymoon popped into my head. The whole thing played out in my imagination; as they get to the carwash and then get trapped in a cemetery. I have things like that popping into my head all of the time. If they’re really good, I write them down in my list of story ideas. Funny thing is—they almost always come with a title.  

What scene did you have the most fun with?

Oh man…the carwash where Kara first experiences the Black Beast (the creepy box-truck) and what’s crawling around in the back of the cargo container. I tried my very best to suck my readers into the experience. I wanted them to hear the chains clanking and to see the bloody water pouring out of the back of it. Oh yeah, and the smell. It’s hard to draw upon all of those sensory emotions. But the moment was so visual to me that I deeply wanted to share it with everyone.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors who want to go the self-pub route?

Do it! I think there is a great deal of opportunity available for fledgling writers now. But prepare for it and write well. You always hear writers say, read a lot! I would agree, but I would also say, write a lot. But, the most significant thing you can do is to pay attention to the world around you; experience as much of it as you can. There is no substitute for experience. You could have the best imagination on the face of the planet, but without first hand experience with all of the subtleties and nuances of this world, the characters you create will more than likely lack depth. Of course, that being said, you should embrace life anyway. If you have a pretty good attitude about it, it can be pretty sweet!

You have an interesting background in film. Can you tell us how that has helped you with your online platform?

Yes, I grew up dabbling in the world of Hollywood. I had family there and they would invite me to come out and spend time around the set. When I was sixteen I snuck onto the set of Rich Man Poor Man. Surprisingly, they didn’t kick me out. So I got to spend the day watching Robert Reed (Father on the Brady Bunch) and Peter Strauss act—a lot of fun for a kid. Later I would work stage in L.A. and then I went to film school at Brigham Young University. I spent a lot of years after that working around television. Later I did a little producing—very little. But as to how it has all influenced my online platform? I would have to say that my experiences with the business side of the industry and that showmanship mentality, which was so deeply embedded in me as a kid is having the greatest effect of all.

Would you be willing to name one thing readers would be surprised to know about you?

I think with all of the scary visual themes from my website and the creepy books and blogs, the one thing some might be surprised to learn is that I am a devout Christian. During Halloween I was invited to a Satanic gathering online. I was a little shocked by that. But, of course, my wife reminded me that I write stories with dark overtones, so that is to be expected. She’s right. But the truth is—you can say a lot about good and evil in scary tale. Besides, they’re fun!

Thanks for spending your time on my blog!  Best wishes for your continued success.  Where can readers find you on the Web?

Twitter: Kevin_Lazarus
Facebook: Kevin Lazarus

Monday, November 21, 2011

Research on the High Seas

I just returned from a wonderful (but brief) vacation, sailing the high seas with Carnival Cruise Lines. There I met to wonderful ladies, Nikola and Kelsie-Rae, who are dancers on the ship, and were kind enough to allow me to interview them for my current work in progress (yes, the secret novel that shall not be named). Both Nikola and Kelsie-Rae are from England, and have been dancing all their lives, and what interesting lives they are having! Both had to travel to London several times to audition for a role the fiercely competitive cruise-show business, but Carnival got it right when they hired them. They are absolutely charming, talented, and friendly!

I got to see Nikola and Kelsie-Rae perform and they were fabulous and energetic. Actually, the entire show was very professional and well done.

Have you had a chance to cruise? I definitely recommend it, and Carnival is great value -

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two Winners Announced for the Koicto Launch Blog Fest!

Congratulations to the two people who tied in my Native American blog fest competition!

Read Roh Morgon's The Last Trace on her blog:


Read Kevin Lazarus' Treasure of the Ghost Dancers on his blog:

Both authors infused a sense of mysticism, applying Native American overtones to more conventional themes. Look for interviews with Roh and Kevin in the coming weeks - right here on Amy's blog!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Last Day for Blog Fest!

Today is the last day to enter the blog fest (see details below) in celebration of the launch of my Native American adventuure, Koicto!

I'm doing the happy dance! Get your copy today at

Thursday, October 27, 2011


This is actually where I go to work everyday. We make injection molded plastics products, and I'm responsible for the safety, quality, productivity and profitability of the facility. I suppose you could call me the big cheese, the place where the buck stops. But I mostly think of myself as the enforcer, the voice of reason, the referee.

Now I want to draw your attention to that Southern Utah sky. How many places in this world can boast clear blue skies like that? Also, not in this picture are the beautiful red-rock mountains that surround the city. The setting makes this one of the best places to live on the planet.

Setting is so important to writing, it should actually be incorporated into your writing as a character. I participated in an excercise this summer where we took a setting and described it as if it were alive. It worked so well, I put the excerpt in my book. And since? I've been using that technique to bring out the beauty and uniqueness of scenes as I write...Definitely an excellent tool for the writers closet.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Contest Judging - Even Bad Critiques Can Be Put To Good Use!

Not long ago I received word that my entry was a finalist in a contest that will remain anonymous for the purpose of this post. The entry rules were to submit only 25 pages with no pitch or synopsis. My piece made it to the final round. They gave the finalists a week to incorporate the judge's suggestions, which will be judged by an impressive list of editors and agents.

Anyway, I received two critiques - the first judge said s/he wouldn't change a thing - s/he absolutely loved my submission...I got 156 points out of a total of 165 - Wow, I thought...until I looked at the second judge's remarks. First, s/he said that she would not read beyond the first page, then s/he made a comment that s/he couldn't tell the story was a romance, and proceeded to say that s/he would take out the sub-plot which is the reason the protagonist and hero meet. I just stared at her comments for about ten minutes.

Then, taking a deep breath, I reread the critique. I realized that my pages were not understood by that judge, nor would that person ever find enjoyment in my writing. Actually, some of his/her comments seemed just plain stupid to me, and the only high marks I received were on my mechanics.

So, I forced myself to look at every comment seriously and pulled out anything that I thought had merit, and I actually was able to make some improvements.

The moral of the story? Firstly, not everyone is going to like your work - EVER. Secondly, even if you get a critique where the judge clearly has no idea what you're trying to do with the story, it's still worth reviewing the comments. Even bad critiques will have something that you can pull out to make your story better.

Happy writing!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I just finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I don't read a lot of YA, unless my daughter suggests a book, but I went to the Heart of the West Romance Writers Conference where author, Dan Brown, gave a keynote talk about the book and how, through the course of the novel, it built the world and defined the characters. I downloaded it to my Kindle and couldn't put it down.

Normally, a post apocalyptic world does not attract my interest, but this world, though completely horrendous, kept me turning the pages from one awful, unthinkable scene to another.

Normally, I don't care to read a story in first person present. It's not the first person that bothers me, but I have difficulty with present tense. Collins pulled off the present tense so well that after the first few pages, I fell right into step with her style.

So - five of five stars to Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games! It's gripping and well written, and a best-seller. You can order it at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Juggling Work and Writing

Do you have a "day job" that pays the bills? I do - in fact I have a day career. My husband and I are putting four kids through college. I'm thrilled that KOICTO is coming out soon, but I'm not holding my breath for the first royalty check. Bottom line - I have to work to make ends meet, just like so many other authors out there.

So, if you have to work and ABSOLUTELY MUST WRITE (like me), how do you juggle  your time? I live by a strict schedule. I'm at my "day job" at 7 a.m. and I leave by 5 p.m. whenever possible. I go home, take care of the dogs, eat something simple - like a peanut-butter sandwich, and I'm writing by 6:30 p.m. and I hit it hard until about 9. I get up early on weekends and write before anyone wakes up. With this plan I get about 5k words in per week, and sometimes a blog post or two.

What is your writing routine like? How do you juggle family, work and play?

I never write on Friday nights, because that is time with my husband. Also, we plan things together on the weekends, so my writing is limited to early mornings. It's tough, but I believe with discipline, it works.

Happy writing, friends!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Story Endings

Writers talk a lot about the opening hook and the first five pages of a story. There isn't a lot of hype out there on endings, so I thought today's post could talk a little about that. Basically, there are four ways the story can end:

1.       Hero fails completely - generally, this is not satisfying for the reader, but may be a set up for a second book or a series.
2.       Hero succeeds – this can be hard to pull off, but your protagonist needs to end up in a better place than where she started. Usually this follows a pattern of three try/fail cycles where the hero fails in the first two, and has a huge win in the last cycle.
3.       The protagonist is struggling to gain something and discovers that she wants something else more – discovers something more important.
4.       The protagonist gets what she wants but has to give something else in return…she takes her beating – This gives the writer a lot of opportunity to develop conflict, and often works the best.

In romance novels there are a few rules, one of which is that there has to be a happy ending. This doesn't mean it can't have a lot of confilct and twists (on the contrary) but does mean that the protagonist has to get the guy in the end.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I'd Rather Get a Rejection than Nothing

The trend I've noticed recently is that many agents are no longer sending out rejections. I'm a logical person so I can understand their point that rejections, even form letters, take time. However, I'm one of those authors who spends a lot of time researching agents. If I've sent an agent a query, I've spent a lot of time researching that person to determine if that agent might be a good match for my manuscript, and genre. I even have a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace at $20 per month to research agents in my genre.

As a result, I'd rather have a form rejection than a non response, or an automatic "if you don't receive a response in 4-8 weeks, consider it a pass." I received a rejection from an agent today whom I researched, looked up her clients on Amazon, Twitter stalked, and insured I had everything in the submission that her web site requested. The rejection was e-mailed and addressed to "Dear Author." Honestly, aside from a pang of disappointment, I thought, Thank you...Thank you for taking a few seconds and letting me know that I can cross you off my list, and therefore I will not need to bother sending a followup (ahem, by the way, here I am, little 'ole Amy, wondering if you got my query two months ago).

What would you prefer?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

RWA Online Synopsis Class

I recently joined RWA Online since I don't live near an Romance Writers of America chapter. They offer some pretty good writing classes. A few weeks ago I took a class on voice by Jeannie Lin, and thought it was very helpful. In addition, you can pay a small fee of $15 through Paypal to take one of their classes without joining RWA and RWA Online. 

Anyway, On October 3rd - 14th, Susan Palmquist is teaching a class for those of us who need to work on our synopsis writing skills:

About the Class:
  1. Learn why a good synopsis is like giving a great job interview
  2. Learn why it's a must have skill for every writer
  3. Learn what makes a good synopsis
  4. Learn what should always be included
  5. Learn what tense a synopsis should be written in and how it should be formatted
  6. Learn to write both a short and long synopsis
  7. There will be mini exercises after each lesson and two major exercises at the end of each week.

 If you are interested into signing up go to Click on "Forums" on the right panel.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I went to David Wolverton's (pen name David Farland) Professional Writers Workshop in St. George Utah. Above is the class photo. I'm the one in the pink shirt, front row, second from the end on the right. David is wearing the black T-shirt in hte middle. It was a blast!
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Watching Willow Watts Book Launch

Ok, I'm a little late for the blog fest, but it's still Wednesday in Utah! I'm promoting Talli Roland's book launch of Watching Willow Watts, and Talli asked us to answer the question, if you could be anyone, who would it be. I think I'd like to be Jane Austin. How auspicious to be a brilliant woman in her day, and publish books under her own name no less!

Go to Talli's blog to learn  more about her wonderful book!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Writer's Voice

I took my writing teacher to lunch one day and asked him if he thought my writing was any good. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "You have a wonderful voice." That made me happy, of course, but I had a lot of questions. What, exactly, is a writer's voice? How do you get it? How can you make it better?

Active writing - using the five senses, a riveting opening, showing rather than telling, good grammar - are all mechanics of writing and are necessary to be taken seriously, but your voice tells a story like no one else can. How do you learn to make it shine? A writer, like a singer, must learn how to amplify her natural voice, and make it stand out as if no other person could have possibly written it.

Deep editing can help you discover it. Some tips for the revision process:

  1. Find the sentences that stand out. What makes them unique?
  2. Mark-up phrases that are cliche or dull writing. How can you change your language to be more like #1?
  3. Rearrange sentences or words for a stronger impact.
  4. Run your ideas past a critique partner. Do they see a difference?
#amwriting everyone!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Editing Tips

Once you've completed your manuscript (I should probably refer to it as a draft), editing is the most important thing you can do. I follow David Farland - if you're not signed up to receive his daily kicks, I highly recommend it (, and a lot of my editing knowledge has come from his advice. This post will focus on editing out specific words:

  1. Edit for passive voice. Look for every "was" in your MS and ask if you can reword it. I must admit, I've never been able to remove all my was words, but in a focused edit, I can usually get rid of 60 - 70% of them. For example, think about "He was sitting" versus "He sat" - there's only a slight difference here, but you get into the action in fewer syllables, and the verb in the second passage is "sat" the verb in the first passage is "was". The second passage puts the reader in the action and this is an easy edit that will strengthen your writing.
  2. Edit out suddenly. If something is suddenly happening, show it. Put the reader in the action. For example "he suddenly felt fear" vs. "Looking up, his heart flew up to his throat, his mouth dry..." The second passage puts the reader in the scene. They can feel the fear themselves.
  3. Avoid finally. Using the word finally indicates that you might be using a lot of words to describe how the character did something, which could be unnecessary.
  4. Using the word "then" might indicate that you're telling the events in a chronological sequence that could be on the nose. Edit for "this happened then that."
  5.  Last thing I'll mention in this post is to avoid word/sound replications. I do this all the time when I'm writing a draft, and it's easy to edit out - just keep a good thesaurus on hand!
  6. Last week Blogger, Colby Marshall, suggested editing out her crutch words, get and just...definitely a good idea. You can follow Colby at
I hope this tip helps...Oh, and I'm trying to sell my new MS, Chihuahua Momma. I've got a couple pictures of my Chi's at the bottom of my blog, but I thought I'd start adding them to my posts...they're a big part of my life!

Poco, Austin, Tut and Maya

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Word Count and Contemporary Romance

After finishing my contemporary romance manuscript, CHIHUAHUA MOMMA, I researched word count through the RWA and Harlequin web sites. Though I was in the ball park, I thought I might be a little shy. A single-title romance should be 90,000 - 110,000 words (generally speaking).

So how can you beef it up?
  1. Ensure you have enough description. This doesn't mean bore your audience, but ensure that the reader gets a good picture of the setting. After all, setting should be a "character" in your manuscript.
  2. Look for places where you're telling - maybe trying to move the story along too fast, and change your scene to showing.
  3. Look at pacing - as above, does your writing appear rushed (or too drawn out)? Do you have cliff hangers at the end of each scene?
  4. Are your characters fully developed? Do you know their innermost worries, their desires, their fears? Knowing your characters will ensure they have thoughts that define them, speak words from their hearts. Spending time understanding your characters will take a good novel to a great novel.
What other ways do you enhance your writing? Comments welcomed.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Join the Labor Day Weekend BBQ Blog!

Coming Down the Mountain: A Writer's Blog: It is NOW! Come to KarenG's Labor Day BBQ and Find...: Come on over! Bring your food and your friends and join the fun-- It is time for the second annual KarenG's Labor Day Blog BBQ! Last year's ...
I'm bringing Wisconsin brats (bratwurst)! What will you bring to the Labor Day weekend BBQ?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

LUW Extended Sign-up for 2011 Roundup

The League of Utah Writers has extended the deadline to sign up for this year's Roundup. To see what it's about, go to The agenda is posted. I'll be there - Hope to see you too!

~ Amy

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Outlining Worksheet

Below is the spreadsheet I use to outline and plot my scenes. I thought I'd share it, as outlining is always a hot topic at writing workshops. I like using Excel because I get a lot of scenes on one page, and can see more of the overall story. I start by outlining the first third of the book, write about seven chapters, to see if the story goes where I think it will, then I go back and finish the outline. This helps me keep organized. With my hectic schedule, I have to work as efficiently as possible.

Sect. # from # to # Character With/Against Scene Conflict/Emotion Fail/Rational New Goal/Reaction
10 N/A 30 Zoe Dance Troupe Theater - Scuzzy Zoe is auditioning with a room of people. Max is the arrogant producer. Troup adjudicating. Meets Emma. Jayden making eyes. Jackie scowling.  Zoe and Emma are the two that get offered jobs (Tom the stage mgr). Zoe lacks self confidence/ doesn't know how good she is. They are to report in one week. Will have 1 week to learn the show. Will fly to Miami to meet ship (2 weeks time)
15 10 30 Zoe Jayden/Emma Theater Jayden flirting with Zoe - not so much Emma Zoe has to go. She's got a three hour drive She's over the moon. Can't wait until training starts
20 N/A 50 Gabriel Diego/Tribe Belize Cave Ritual. Sacrifice of a goat. Gabriel does not approve. Clashes with Diego. They fight. Gabirel has a black eye. Gabe has two weeks to get over the eye. He's starting a new job (Diego on the ship too, but don't reveal it here).

Sorry it's scrunched. I had to narrow the columns to get it to fit on the blog. :-)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rach Writes...: Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

Rach Writes...: Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign: There are so many of us out there. Aspiring authors, bloggers (whether established or beginning), industry peeps, even published authors -
Rachael Harrie is sponsoring her third writing campaign. It's a wonderful opportunity to meet and connect with other writers of all levels.  JOIN THE AUTHOR'S CAMPAIGN!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Interview with Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

Esteemed Author and MFA, Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, agreed to an interview on my blog. Wendy has written a number of novels, is a freelance editor, and teaches writing classes. She was my substantive editor for Koicto, which will be released in December – I definitely recommend her if you’re looking for an editor.

Hi Wendy!

I know you went through quite a long process getting your first book contract. Can you tell us a little about your experience?

Yes, it took me a long time to get my first novel published. My “debut” novel was actually the fifth manuscript I’d written. I made lots of mistakes in the process and it was quite a learning experience. But now there’s so much info on the Internet and blogs from agents and editors telling writers clearly what they need to do in their query letters and manuscripts and I advise people to do their homework. I also feel that novelists should have their manuscripts looked at by a developmental editor or manuscript consultant who will look at things like plot, pacing, structure, character development, style, voice, etc. Critique groups are helpful to a point, but I think having your entire ms read by a qualified editor with fresh eyes will do wonders. I know this helped me!

Could you tell us about your current projects?

My agent is in the midst of shopping my current novel (not about Japan!) to publishers, but I’m already beginning work on some new projects, including a young adult novel with a Japan theme and an adult novel that might turn into some kind of thriller. :-) I’m also excited to have my work published in several forthcoming anthologies: an essay in Madonna and Me [] coming next March by Soft Skull Press; a piece in Essays for a New Generation, to be published by Macmillan and a short story in an upcoming book of Japan-related fiction to be published next year by Stone Bridge Press.

~Amy – Wow! It sounds like you’ve been busy!

I read your amazing book, Love in Translation. How did you come up with the story, and decide to write about Celeste’s experiences in Japan?

Thanks! Love in Translation is my cockeyed valentine to Japan, a place I’ve both loved and loathed for different reasons. I wanted to write this to reflect some of my experiences in Japan of being a foreigner (gaijin) but within a completely fictional story. Celeste finds herself unexpectedly in Japan looking for a long lost relative who may hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew. She finds herself falling in love with a Japanese man, another unexpected development and the book asks the question whether love can transcend culture.

Presently you have a self-published e-book out, Marriage in Translation. Would you tell us about your book, and share with us what persuaded you to take the e-book route?

Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband consists of 14 candid interviews of Western women married to Japanese men. It started out as a series of interviews on my Japan-themed blog, which generated a lot of interest and I did look into publishing it “traditionally.” But it seemed prudent to just put out the book as soon as possible because of the demand and a traditional publisher would have taken about a year. I also wanted to keep the book relatively short and I’m not sure if a traditional publisher would have done with that. In addition, I wanted to include photographs of the interviewees and their husbands and that would have made it expensive to reproduce in print. So an e-book seemed like the best way to go and I’ve been happy with the experience. The book is currently available for Kindle (either on the Kindle e-reader or on various Kindle apps for smart phones, iPads, PCs, etc.), but hope to have it available on other digital platforms soon.

How can writers rise above the “white noise” when marketing e-books?

I self-published a novel in 2000 called No Kidding through iUniverse, which won the Mainstream/Literary Fiction category in the Writer’s Digest’s Best Self-Published Book Awards. So I was somewhat experienced with online marketing. But things are so different now and, in my opinion, there are many more opportunities now. Yes, there is a lot of white noise and competition and it’s challenging to get heard about the fray. The key is to create a platform for yourself and to not just promote your book 100% of the time. Establish who you are and offer people interesting content and information on Facebook and Twitter—not just what you ate for breakfast or how much you love your cat. :-)

What are your upcoming writing workshops?

For those people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m doing my workshop for novelists on Strong Beginnings at Book Passage in Corte Madera on September 17 []. I’m also teaching a workshop at Harbor Books in Half Moon Bay on October 15. And I hope to be teaching again next year through Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Online Writer’s Studio.

Now for the fun stuff.  Do you have any guilty pleasures or fun interests?

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures—I have no guilt about anything I enjoy doing! I love to watch Househunters International and see how people live all over the world and I also enjoy old films on Turner Classic Movies. In another life I was a musician and I enjoy singing Japanese karaoke when I have time and singing jazz standards with my husband accompanying me on piano. I also love trying new restaurants and spending time in the wine country.

Where can readers find you on the Web?

The San Francisco Chronicle called my debut novel, Midori by Moonlight, a “terrific first novel.” Now I’m back with my second book, Love in Translation, which again explores the themes of Japan and Japanese culture and being a stranger in a strange land, which have played a major role in my life and writing.

For anyone who’s ever dreamt of finding love and family in an unexpected place...

After receiving a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysteries, 33-year-old fledgling singer Celeste Duncan is off to Japan to search for a long, lost relative who could hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew. This overwhelming place where nothing is quite as it seems changes Celeste in ways she never expected, leading her to ask: What is the true meaning of family? And what does it mean to discover your own voice?  

“A delightful novel about love, identity, and what it means to be adrift in a strange land. This story of a search has an Alice in Wonderland vibe; when Celeste climbs down the rabbit hole, one can't help but follow along.”—Michelle Richmond, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Fog 

“An amusing story of one woman's quest for her father and the improbable path of love.” —Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters

"Tokunaga... describe[s] Japanese culture in absorbing detail."--Publishers Weekly

"A delightful plot with wonderful characterizations."—Affair de Coeur Magazine 

"Four stars!" —RT Book Reviews Magazine

"Witty, lighthearted and charming story of finding love in an unexpected place."—Fresh Fiction 

Many thanks, Wendy, for spending your time on my blog! Best wishes for your continued success. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Interview With Author Liz Fichera

Today author, Liz Fichera, has agreed to an interview on my blog.  I’ve read both her novels, Craving Perfect and Captive Spirit published by Carina Press. Her next novel, Hooked, represented by agent, Holly Root, will be published by Harlequin Teen in 2013.  Liz has well developed characters and a strong voice, and I’m a big fan!

Hi Liz – Thank you for being here!

When did you start writing, and how long have you been writing?

I wrote my first story when I was 10 years old.  I wrote short stories and bits of novels for years, never thinking about it being anything more than a hobby until six years ago.

Could you tell us about the road to publication through Carina Press?

About two years ago, I saw a tweet from Executive Editor Angela James.  She tweeted about this new Harlequin imprint called Carina Press.  She also tweeted that the editors at Carina Press were hungry for historical romance novels.  I had just finished writing CAPTIVE SPIRIT and decided to query her about it.  One month later, she called to tell me they were interested in publishing it.

How about your upcoming novel, Hooked – How did you find your agent? Did you have to send out a lot of queries?

Yes, I sent out enough queries to wallpaper my office, I’m sure. J

My agent and I connected when I queried her about CRAVING PERFECT, a contemporary romance novel that I wrote before CAPTIVE SPIRIT.  While it was my first novel, it was not the first novel to sell.  That’s how things go sometimes—usually never as you expect them to go!  HOOKED is my debut Young Adult Novel with Harlequin Teen and it will become my third published novel in 2013. 

Could you tell us about your current project(s)?

I am currently working on my second contemporary young adult novel for Harlequin Teen.  I also recently completed a Young Adult paranormal fantasy with historical elements based on the life of the Apache Kid. I loved writing that novel!  It’s very different from anything I’ve written so far.
Ooo - sounds intriguing! ~ Amy

I found you because I was looking for Native American fiction. I read your amazing book, Captive Spirit. How did you come up with the story?

One of the first things I learned about the history of Phoenix, Arizona, after I moved here from Chicago was about the Hohokam Indians.  I always found it interesting that the Hohokam, a very advanced people for the time period, vanished from the Phoenix area around 1500 AD and no one really knows why, even to this day.  That little tidbit of history has always fascinated me and it’s what motivated to me write CAPTIVE SPIRIT.  The main characters in that story are Hohokam.

What scene did you have the most fun with in your new novel, Craving Perfect?

 All of them! I got the idea for CRAVING PERFECT while jogging on a treadmill at my local gym.  I guess that I’m particularly fond of writing action scenes, though.  I love writing scenes where people are forced to make decisions under less than stellar circumstances.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

 Keep writing.  Even as you consider your publishing options or slog through the painful query stage, always start writing your next book.  And your next.

Now for the fun stuff.  Do you have any guilty pleasures or fun interests?

I do love to hike and run in the desert around my house.  Most people call me crazy for doing that, especially the running part.  Sometimes I call myself crazy for doing that, especially when the temperatures soar above 100 degrees.

Name one thing readers would be surprised to know about you.

I love old Westerns and movies in black and white. 

If someone hasn't read any of your work, what book would you recommend they start with and why?

I have this habit of writing across genres, so that is a difficult question.  I would suggest starting with my first novel, CAPTIVE SPIRIT.  It’s always best to start at the beginning, right?

Liz is an author from the American Southwest.  She writes commercial fiction and young adult novels but mostly she writes stories about ordinary people who do extraordinary things.  Her latest novel CRAVING PERFECT released on July 25 from Carina Press. She is also the author of CAPTIVE SPIRIT (2010) and the upcoming HOOKED (Harlequin Teen, 2013).  Don't hesitate to drop by her web site or blog to connect!
Thanks for being a guest, Liz! 
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