Monday, December 26, 2016

Looking Back on 2016....

As 2016 comes to an end and the world prepares to welcome 2017, it's once again time to look back on the year and see what I accomplished, what I didn't, and what big changes I faced in 2016. To read my full 2016 goals post, click HERE!

My 2016 Goals Included:

1. Finish writing books 2 and 3 of The Hayden Falls Saga 


My thoughts: When I set this goal, I knew it was a long shot. Not because I couldn't write them, but because this series was / is low on my priority list. The contract for book 1 will be expiring very soon, so for the time being. this series is on hold until I decide whether I want to renew the current contract or ask for rights back and find it a new home.

2. Finish writing book 3 of The Georgia Corbins


My thoughts: Originally, I was planning to self-publish the entire series this year, but then an opportunity presented itself, and I submitted book one to a publisher I would love to work with. While the editor loved the characters and the overall story idea, she felt the writing and execution still needed some work and offered me an R&R (revise and resubmit). So, while I didn't meet the goal I set, I'm counting this as a win. I have her notes and I will be working on this in the new year.

3. Finish writing Savage Passion and send it to my agent.


My thoughts: I have a notebook full of ideas for this new book/series, but other things have kept me from diving in (see below), but I'm really excited to jump into this new world.

4. Finish Warped Remains--A YA thriller I co-wrote with David Jemal.

Status: GOAL MET!

My thoughts: We finished the book and started sending it out. We currently have an R&R from an awesome publisher. We're days away from finishing the revision and will be sending it back to the editor in early January!

5. Finish Hallowed Ground (Graves Barren, Book 1)--A YA paranormal romance


My thoughts: The book isn't 100% finished, but I'm a lot closer than I was last year at this time. I'm now at 70K of an estimated 90K. I also managed to work through some road blocks, plot holes, and outline the ending.

6. Finish Eternally Bound--an adult paranormal romance


My thoughts: I'm admittedly bummed I didn't get this one finished. I've heard paranormal is set to make a comeback, and I really wanted to get this one done and sent out. *sigh* Maybe next year.

7. Finish The First Snowfall--an erotic thriller.


My thoughts: I'm on the fence with this book. I'm not sure my heart is into it, so I think for the time being, I'm going to shelve it.

8. Finish Resistance, the sequel to Inferno that I co-wrote with David Jemal.


My thoughts: This series is currently in limbo, so until we get it worked out, I won't be working on it.

9. Get creative and come up with some new adult book ideas.


My thoughts: As I mentioned in my 2016 Goals post, my agent signed me for adult books, and all of my ideas as of late seem to be young adult. I'd like to say I've come up with a whole list of new ideas, but I haven't. At least, not any that aren't YA. lol. BUT, I do have a new romantic suspense series I'm planning to write, and possibly some more NA books (which my agent does rep. YAY!)

10. Beg people to like me-- This included doing more daily promo and meeting other writers in-person.

Status: GOAL MET!

My thoughts: I started a newsletter and am steadily building my list of subscribers. I created and am in the process of launching a new pen name (Lexi Lawton). I met a group of local writers via NaNoWriMo and we'll be organizing a writing/critique group in early 2017.

11. Keep on blogging.


My thoughts: I completely dropped the ball on this one. I have no excuses.

Out of 11 goals, I fully achieved two and kinda achieved two. Those aren't very good numbers, huh. So, at this point, you're probably wondering: What the heck did you do all year, Kara? I'm glad you asked. I did a LOT! Honestly! Take a look...

  • I've written a total of 382,282 words on my personal projects this past year. 
  • I've edited a total of 6 manuscripts for freelance clients.
  • I've edited a total of 7 manuscripts for Anaiah Press.
  • My New Adult contemporary romance, Tempting Tanner, sold to Entangled Publishing in a three-book deal. It's the Collins Brothers Series and will be releasing throughout 2017. I've spent months editing, rewriting, and editing some more. 
  • I wrote the Collins Brothers Book 2--Chasing Xander.
  • I wrote a large chunk of the Collins Brothers Book 3--Resisting Ryder.
  • I wrote a big chunk of Hallowed Ground (Graves Barren, Book 1).
  • I wrote 25k of a brand new New Adult romance that's pushing the boundaries in some fun ways.
  • I co-mentored not one but TWO authors for PitchWars. And I'm beyond thrilled to say they are both now agented. 
  • I started a new young adult romance. 
  • I won NaNoWriMo!!
  • I outlined a book proposal for a spin-off to my Collins Brothers Series.
  • Jody Holford and I released Jaded Love
  • I visited Washington, DC with my daughter and her 5th grade class. 
  • I made several trips back to NY to visit my parents and my two older daughters.
  • My parents visited Michigan for the first time ever, and I had a blast showing them around. 

Even though I didn't meet many of my original goals, I still accomplished a lot. The sale of my series changed my focus, and that's okay. In my mind, 2016 was an overall win!

What did you get done this past year?

Friday, August 26, 2016

#PitchWars -- By the Numbers

Every year after the #PitchWars picks are announced, a lot of people wonder how many subs there were, what was the dominating category and genre, why one MS / author got picked over another... While we're not tech savvy enough to make a bunch of cool graphs and charts, or mathematically inclined enough to give you impressive stats and figures and percentages, we can break down our inbox for you.

First, let's take a look at the numbers....

Total number of submissions received: 38*

*This is a low number compared to what other mentors received. But we are not complaining! We will take quality over quantity any day. Not to mention, our wish list was very specific, so naturally our submissions would be lower.

~ Submissions by Category ~

Total number of Adult: 27
Total number of New Adult : 11

~ Submissions by Genre ~

Contemporary Romance: 16
Erotic Romance: 1
Women's Fiction: 10
Mystery: 2
Thriller: 2
Romantic Suspense: 3
Fantasy: 1
Sci-Fi: 2
Memoir: 1

~ Requests ~

We made a total of 11 official requests, and 1 unofficial request. The unofficial request was done behind-the-scenes. One of the benefits of the submission form is that we can see which other mentors an author subbed to, so we could reach out to those other mentors, discuss the sub and share requested pages. Yes, we know. Sneaky! But that's just part of the fun of #PitchWars.

Fulls: 6
Synopses: 5 

~ Common Reasons We Passed ~

There was a TON of talent in our inbox this year, and we could've made the argument to work with any single one of them. But, alas, we can't. Some really tough decisions needed to be made, and here are our top reasons for ultimately passing on a submission.

1. Info Dumping / Backstory / Too Much Narrative -- An opening chapter that has too much narrative packed full of back story and info dumps didn't grab our attention. Yes, this is something that can be easily fixed by cutting all or most of it and /or starting the story in a new place. However, with a limited amount of time to read, we needed to be sucked in from page one. If we weren't, we passed. In some instances, we were intrigued enough by the premise / query that we requested the synopsis to see where the story was going.

2. Nothing Happens -- This goes hand-in-hand with number one above. We wanted to have something exciting happening in that first chapter, something that piques our interest. It didn't necessarily have to be some big plot revelation, but there needed to be something to keep us reading. A majority of the submissions we passed on for this reason is simply a matter of not starting the story in the right place. The good news is that this is an easy fix.

3. Unlikable Characters -- If we didn't connect with the characters, found their actions / reactions unbelievable, or didn't get enough information about them to care, we passed. Especially with romance and WF, the characters are so super important that we need to love them.

4. Wrong Genre -- We were very specific with our wish list. We clearly stated what we did and did not want. Any submissions we received that didn't match our list were often marked DNR (Did Not Read). This is why research is so very important. Whether you're submitting to a contest mentor, agent, or editor, you absolutely have to pay attention to what they want and don't want. Don't waste your time or theirs by sending them something they probably won't read. It leads to hurt feelings all around. (Trust me, it wasn't easy for us to DNR a submission.)

5. POV & Tense -- This seemed to be a big one this year. With the genres we requested, there are some rather clear "rules" about what is and isn't acceptable in regards to POV. We saw a whole range of weird things: an omniscient romance; a contemporary with multiple POVS (more than 3) that shifted from first to third, etc. POV is easy to teach, but hard to implement, especially if several POVs need to be cut and/or rewritten. With only a two month mentoring period, we had to weight the amount of revisions against what we could reasonably do.

6. No Unique Hook -- Like it or not, publishing is a crowded place. In order to get noticed, you need to have that something special, a unique hook that separates your book from all the others vying for attention. What makes your book different? Why should we read your book instead of someone else's?

7. Subjectivity -- Yes, the dreaded, "We just didn't connect with it." We all hate hearing that, but sadly, it's a reality. There were some fantastic submissions that didn't have any real issues, but we weren't drawn into it. This is purely simple preference and personal tastes.

8. Poor / Inaccurate Representation -- We were very vocal about our desire for diversity and #ownvoices; and you guys delivered! (Thank you for that!!) This can be a very delicate subject, and we really took our time and treated it as such. If a marginalized voice was represented in a manner we felt was offensive or inaccurate, we passed. If we were presented with something that wasn't #ownvoices and we knew very little about the topic, we passed. We're big advocates of ensuring that not only are these stories told, but that they're told accurately.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

#PitchWars Mentor Bio and Wishlist

Welcome to PitchWars 2016!!!

I cannot tell you how excited I am to be a mentor again. There are so many fun, NEW things happening this year, too, so pull up a chair, sit down, and prepare to be thrilled :)

Let's start with the most important announcement of all, shall we?


That's right. I have teamed up with the super lovely, highly talented, and uber-fun Meredith Ireland! We are seriously so damn happy we can't stand it. We're all like....


This means y'all get a two-for-one! A tag team of awesomeness! A duo of delightful fun! 

So, who the hell are we and what do we know? We're glad you asked. Allow us to introduce ourselves and tell you why we're qualified to be your mentors...


Hello! I'm Kara. I'm a multi-published romance author represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. I currently live in Michigan, but was born and raised in a very small Central New York town. As Kara, I've written and published a variety of things ranging from erotic romance to young adult to Christian romantic suspense -- most of which have since gone out of publication.  My alter-ego, Lexi Lawton, recently signed a three-book deal with Entangled Embrace for a series of contemporary NA romances. 

  • I've worked as a professional acquisitions editor for a little over three years now. Until just recently, I was the Editorial Director for Anaiah Press, LLC. I had to temporarily step down due to some massive writing deadlines, but I'm still on-staff as a Senior Editor where I work with a small list of authors. Additionally, I'm a freelance editor and part-time ghostwriter. 
  • I have two college degrees: one in Criminal Justice and another in Paralegal Studies.
  • I did a very short stint as an Agent Apprentice with Corvisiero Literary Agency last year. Sadly, family issues prevented me from continuing on with them, but that doesn't mean I won't return to the agenting side of things in the future. Never say never!
  • I'm a huge Pit bull lover and advocate! Really, who wouldn't love these sad, pathetic, squishy faces??

  • I'm NOT a coffee drinker, but I can't go a day without a Pepsi. I also have a killer sweet tooth, and I have a constant supply of Hershey's and tootsie rolls on hand. 


Hi there! I’m Meredith, the second half of this power duo. I recently signed with Lauren Abramo of Dystel & Goderich for my Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance novel SCATTERED thanks to #DVPit. You can read about my agent journey HERE. I also have an erotic romance short story called Ink & Ocean coming out in 2017 in the kINKED anthology. 

  • As a 2016 Writing in the Margins mentee, I have a good feel for what you’re currently and about to go through.
  • I have a law degree I use some of the time.
  • I went to law school at U Miami (Go CANES!), and college at Rollins in Orlando, but I grew up in NYC.
  • I’m adopted. I was born in Seoul, Korea, but raised in an Italian American family.
  • Unlike Kara, I’m allergic to cats, but I have a goldfish named Emo that has lived for a freakishly long time.

  • Like any good writer, I love coffee and bourbon (just kidding… sort of)
  • I love to travel but I have two tiny people who rather like me here
And now, here are a few of our favorite things....

Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Renegade (Lora Leigh)
Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo)
Wait for You (J. Lynn / Jennifer Armentrout)
The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
Taming Darkness (Kat Daemon)
Bared to You (Sylvia Day)
The Saint (Tiffany Reisz)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Napolean Dynamite
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Minion Movie
The Godfather
Anything w/ Mark Wahlberg
Gone with the Wind (a problematic favorite)
Spy (w/ Melissa McCarthy)
Mad Men (I know, it’s not on anymore, but it still counts)
The Big Bang Theory
Modern Family
The Last Ship
Korean BBQ
Chicken Alfredo w/ broccoli
Soft pretzels with lots of salt
Chopped salads from Subway!
Peruvian chicken w/ every available side
A thick, tender, medium-cooked steak
Before children: rock climbing, cross-stitching, traveling, lifting

After children: missing my hobbies!
Scrapbooking, reading, going to the gym

Now that you know a bit more about us, we'll (finally) tell you what you really want to know...

What categories are we mentoring? 


What are we looking for? 



More specifically, we want...

  • Contemporaries with romance at the center of the plot
  • Romantic suspense a la Lora Leigh, Julie Ann Walker, etc.
  • New Adult stories that have the potential to be aged-up to the adult market. (College-set contemporary NA stories are a very, very hard sell right now, so while we are open to NA, if your book has the potential to be aged-up, your chances with us just got a lot better!) 
  • Contemporary-ish romances set in the 70s, 80s, or 90s.
  • Erotic romance. (If 50 Shades of Grey is one of your comp titles, please move along. We are not the mentors for you.) We would love to see something new and fresh. A female domme, perhaps. And please be sure there's an actual romance in your story and not just pages and pages of sex.
  • We love us some alpha males! Tough as nails on the outside with a sensitive heart. 
  • Characters over the age of 25-30 a la Something's Gotta Give.
  • Love triangles! Give us some heartbreaking angst with an impossible choice.
  • Taboo stories -- We love the dichotomy of, "We want each other, but we can't /shouldn't." Absolutely NO incest (step-sibling romances are okay) bestiality, pedophilia, or rape. 
  • Women's fiction with STRONG romantic elements.
  • Thriller & mysteries with STRONG romantic elements.
  • Very, very light sci-fic a la Station Eleven with STRONG romantic elements
  • Friends to lovers.
  • Exotic locales. Make us fall in love with places we've never been before!
  • DIVERSITY! We openly welcome and are excited for your diverse stories, so give us your LGBT, persons of color, and all your diverse characters. Remember... 


...And as long as you make us fall in love with your characters, we'll be happy!

  • At the end of the day, we want a strong, compelling voice that makes us want to follow along with a hero/heroine who has tension we fall in love with. 

Things that are firmly on our NO list...

  • Horror
  • Paranormal -- this means everything from vampires to ghosts to shifters to witches, fairies, dragons, etc. We're not looking for anything supernatural. 
  • Hard core sci-fi / fantasy or anything with a strong magic system. (There are better mentors out there for this type of stuff.)
  • Weak, whiney heroines
  • Virgins -- No. Just no. We want heroes and heroines who know what they're doing in the bedroom!
  • Rape. We absolutely do NOT want a story that deals with rape, has rape as a major or minor plot point, or has a character that dealt with a rape in their backstory that is then used as a character flaw. 
  • Historical anything. 
  • Cozy mysteries
  • Literary fiction
  • Dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic
  • Small towns in romance. We'll gladly take a look at WF, thrillers, etc. that take place in a small town. No "city girl moves to small town and falls in love with small town boy." No "character whose life falls apart and so returns home to small town and falls in love with past boyfriend/high school sweetheart." 
  • WF that centers around a Bed & Breakfast remodeling. 

N is for NO!
It's also the scavenger hunt letter you need ;)

Don't forget -- PitchWars Needs Your Help!!


Please, please don't forget to support PitchWars! Doing so not only ensures the continuation of a fantastic writing contest, it will also earn you a few extra entries. READ ABOUT IT HERE!

So, what's next? Check out the other mentors' bios and wishlists, and then hop on over to Brenda Drake's Blog for a complete list of participating agents and details on how to enter


Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Re-branding and Book Updates

Last week, I shared some important updates with my newsletter subscribers. (Not signed up? Do so now!) And now, I'm going to share them with all of you...

Back when I started writing in 2010, I created the Kara Leigh Miller pen name, under which I wrote and published some rather steamy erotic romances. But then I had an idea for a young adult romance, (formerly known as The Georgia Corbins) which I also wrote and published as Kara. During that time, I was asked a lot about why I didn't create a new pen name for my YA stuff. And my answer was always -- Because I don't have the time or patience to create and maintain multiple social media accounts, and because I'd already built a following as Kara and I wanted -- no, needed -- to cash in on that from a sales standpoint. And I really didn't have any issues. 

Until I signed on with Anaiah Press, which is a Christian fiction publisher. For the record, I do NOT regret my time or my books with Anaiah. It's been such an amazing experience that I wouldn't ever change :) 

But clearly I couldn't continue to use the same pen name to write across a variety of genres like I had been. And so, it's come time to re-brand myself as an author. 

From this point forward, Kara Leigh Miller will ONLY publish young adult books. My alter-ego, Lexi Lawton, will publish the steamier New Adult and Adult books. If that's your thing, please feel free to follow Lexi on her website, Twitter, and Facebook. Also, sign up for her newsletter and get a FREE digital copy of Christmas Confessions -- an exclusive short story not available anywhere else!

Due to various reasons -- issues with the publisher, contract expiration, etc. -- FOUR of my books will no longer be available for purchase after the end of August....

Love and Other Games
Love by Number (Aurora Island Resort #1)
Love on the Rocks (Aurora Island Resort #2)
Love at the Edge (Aurora Island Resort #3)

I know this might not sound like a good thing, but it is! Because I'm in the middle of a major re-branding, having these steamier titles removed helps me achieve that goal. Plus, this now gives me the opportunity to revisit these books, re-edit, maybe even re-write portions and then re-release them as Lexi. Be on the look out for those sometime next year :-) 

If you follow me on social media, you'll remember that back in March, I was on the fast-track to having this book ready to release in early May. However, in a weird but exciting turn of events, the book landed in the hands of an editor at a publisher that I would love to sign with!

As a result, all of my carefully laid plans came to a screeching halt. I've recently heard back from this editor, and while she's interested in the series, there are some rewrites she feels need to be done before it's ready for publication. And after taking some time to really think about it and discuss it with her, I've decided to do it. All of her suggestions are spot-on and will only make the series stronger. I can't tell you how excited I am to dive back into this story!

Unfortunately, that means this series won't be published any time soon. I'm really hoping for sometime in 2017, but no guarantees. I do promise that this series WILL be back in the world at some point, though. I love it too much to just let it go.

While I've been busy working on the Collins Brother Series, I do have a lot of projects in the works and hope to have a new Kara book out sometime next year. In the meantime, this is what I'm working on....

Warped Remains -- A YA romantic thriller that's LOST meets AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. This is a co-written project that will be in front of an editor by the end of the month. 

Hallowed Ground (Graves Barren, Book 1) -- A YA paranormal romance series. It has the same tone and style and epic-ness of the Twilight Saga but without any vampires or werewolves. 

Untitled -- A contemporary YA romance that has a dual timeline (one told in present time and the other told via journal entries). It's a heartbreaking love story. 

Thanks for sticking with me, and until next time...


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Evolution of my Writing Process

Yesterday, when I was supposed to be writing but was wasting time on Facebook instead, I happened upon THIS BLOG POST by Emmie Mears. (Language warning for those who are sensitive to cursing.) Go on. Read it. I'll wait...



Done? Good.

Great post, right? It really spoke to me, too, and I realized, "Hey, I've struggled with this very thing!" For me, Emmie's post freed me. It showed me that I'm not the only one who struggles to keep writing or with understanding HOW to write. I always see other authors talking about plotting and character GMCs and beat sheets and series bibles and I'm over here like....


Is there something wrong with me? How come I can't do all that stuff? Is my way the wrong way? Are my books bad because I don't have all that fancy plannin' and stuff early on?

Am I a fraud?

I'm totally a fraud, right? I mean, all the great authors plot, don't they?

In many ways, writing my very first book was the easiest. I wrote for the simple joy of writing. And then I wrote some more. And then more. And then I learned stuff, and well, writing became harder. There's a common misconception that the more books you write, the easier it is; and I suppose on certain levels, it is. But at the same time, it's not.

So, I figured it might be fun to show the evolution of my writing process, and maybe it would help some of you like Emmie's post helped me.

2011 - Word Vomit Master 
JANUARY --  I decided to write my first book. A contemporary romance. Turns out it's considered New Adult. That wasn't a thing way back then, so I called it an adult romance. The characters are in college. But I digress...

This book was 76,364 words of glorious word vomit! Yep. That's right. It was pure word vomit. The words poured out of me within a short 4 weeks. No, that's not a typo. This baby came out hard and fast. There was a prologue, 54 chapters, and an epilogue. I was rockin' the whole writing thing!

I had no idea what plotting even was or how to do it. I mean, I had a basic idea of what I wanted to happen within the story, but it was very weak and loose. I literally wrote whatever came to my mind. It was 90% dialogue. I had, wait, SIX different POVs, sometimes all within the same chapter. It. Was. Bad.

But you know what? I had FUN writing it!

MARCH-- I wasn't anywhere close to being done yet. I dove straight in to the sequel. This one was even better, y'all. I banged out another prologue, 89 chapters, and an epilogue for a total of 163,550 words in a matter of 6 weeks.

MAY -- I started reading craft books. I also joined a critique group. I very quickly learned everything I was doing wrong -- which was a LOT -- but I also learned how to fix those things and write a tighter, more believable story with characters who were more like real people. I still wasn't a plotter though!

JUNE / JULY -- I began work on a new book, which I still refused to plot. But I could see the improvement in myself.

2012 -- The More the Merrier
The best part of my critique group was that I could submit my work to the group. They would read it and then give me advice on how to make it better. I. Was. Addicted! I craved the feedback, and I overused it, too. I began to implement every single change they suggested until my work was no longer mine but a joint effort by everyone who read it. Even though the quality of my writing had increased exponentially, I wasn't really having any fun anymore.

So, I wrote a couple (four to be exact) short novellas. All by myself. Without any feedback from my critique group. And you know what?

THEY WERE PUBLISHED!!! Not just one, but several.

I was reinvigorated.

I wrote another book. This one a young adult romance.

2013 -- Hardcore Pantser
I started on another book. And then another. And another. Again, no plotting or outlining, but my end product was much better than anything I'd written up to this point. I was learning, growing, becoming an even better writer. Everything I had written was ALWAYS written in a linear fashion -- I started with chapter one and progressed through the story chapter-by-chapter, in order. But I noticed something: I was having a really hard time writing anything else. I'd start a lot of things but never finish them. I didn't complete a single book or novella during this year.

2014 -- Parading as a Plotter
I ventured into the co-authoring arena, not once but twice, with two different authors. Because of the nature of writing with someone else, I HAD to plot. There was no way around it. I needed to make sure I was on the same page with my co-authors at all times. The plotting we did was very loose though. It was basically:

Chapter 1: All this stuff happens.
Chapter 2: Then all this stuff happens.

It wasn't intricate or groundbreaking, but it served the purpose. And I realized something: The words and the writing came easier to me. I knew what was coming and therefore, I didn't have any trouble writing it.

I'd found a new process! With my two co-authors, I worked on and finished two full-length books in 2014. I was going to take this new writing process and run with it!

2015 -- IDK WTF I'm Doing Anymore
I completely outlined a brand new adult romance. I wrote almost 25K and then I hit a road block. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't finish it. After some serious soul searching I realized it was because I had outlined. I knew exactly what was going to happen and so I wasn't excited to write it. I felt like the story had already been told.

Then something strange happened... I had a dream. A very vivid dream about a girl who kissed a boy; a boy who didn't kiss her back. All sorts of questions raced through my mind as I tried to figure out the why, who, what, when of the scenario. I sat down later that morning and just started writing that scene I'd dreamed about. I knew it wouldn't be the start of the story, but that was okay.

I wrote the entire middle section of the book.

Then I wrote the big black moment and the resulting fallout.

After all that, I went back and wrote the beginning; and then I filled in any remaining holes.

For the first time in more than year, I had finished a book ALL ON MY OWN!

2016 -- Faking It Until I Make It
Do I still feel like a fraud? You betcha! Almost daily.

I still can't, don't, and won't plot. Writing out of order and then filling in the gaps still seems to be working for me. And so that's what I'm going to stick with until it no longer works. What will I do then? Who knows. But I'll adapt and find something new that works. In the meantime, I'm close to finishing my first full-length novel of the year, and I have plans to write a second one by October -- actually, I'm contractually obligated, so....

But at the end of the day, there's no one correct way to write a book. Everyone has their own process and methods. And that's okay! As Emmie so eloquently put it in her post: YOU DO YOU! Who cares how everyone else does it? You're not them. You're you. Go be you!


Thursday, April 7, 2016

{Editorial Interview}: Giovanni Valentino

I'm excited to welcome my personal friend, CP, and fellow editor to the blog today! Giovanni Valentino is Editor-in-Chief of Strange Musings Press, and he's making the rounds to spread the word about his newest project, ONE STAR REVIEWS OF THE AFTERLIFE.

1.   Welcome, Giovanni. The name of this anthology certainly is unique. Where did the idea for One Star Reviews of the Afterlife come from?

The title “One Star Reviews of the Afterlife” came from a crazy comment I made during a dinner party. For some reason, one of my guests felt the need to cross that line of discussing ‘money, politics or religion’ in mixed company. Said guest made the mistake of taking a strong stance against organized religion to defend their choice of being an atheist and it was really bringing the party down. I tried to steer the conversation back to something lighter but they wanted to dig in. After a minute long diatribe about people betting so much on an afterlife they had no proof of, I said, “Too bad they don’t have an app for that. Like Yelp! For the hereafter! That would be the best selling app ever.” Everyone laughed and the discussion turned to just what kinds of afterlives might get a one star review. From there, a theme was born. FYI, about almost all of the ideas from the party were submitted by someone during the reading period.

2.   What's the hardest part of putting together an anthology like this?

Reading bad submissions. I’m a little more forgiving about proofing than most editors, having lived half my life with an undiagnosed learning disability, but bad stories and unlikable characters are unforgivable.

And then there are the unfunny stories. I try not to take the unfunny ones poorly. I understand humor is a subjective thing and what makes one person laugh might offend someone else. Still, if the story just doesn’t seem like it was even trying to be funny or it’s just a 5000 word lead up to a bad punch line, I get a little miffed.

3.   What's the best part of putting together an anthology like this?

I love working with new authors. Finding a great story by an unpublished author and helping them get their name in print is very satisfying.

I’ve also been known to work with them if the story is close to ready.

4.   I understand you have a couple of stories included in this anthology. Can you tell us a bit about them?

I have two stories in each anthology, the first one and the last one. Not that my ego is out of control by being the alpha and the omega of each collection.

My first story in this one is The Accidental Rapture. It was very fun to write because I got to work out my frustrations from my long career in I.T with that one. I hope I was fair by mocking the end users and the IT people evenly. My biggest struggle with the story was keeping the tech references in check. I wanted them to be difficult to follow for a laymen but not impossible.

The other one is called Tort Reform for the Devil. This one grew out of my love of the classic deal with the devil story. I’ve seen a few recently that have tried to update it and bring the concept into the modern era but I’m always stuck on all of the things they don’t address like how modern technologies fit into the process or how things like depression or pharmaceutical fit into the signing process. If someone signs a contract in the real world with an undiagnosed mental condition, a lawyer can have that contract invalidated because the signer was mentally incapable at the time of the signing. Does the Devil have trouble with this? You think it would come up, right? Who in their right mind would sign a deal with the Devil anyway?

5.   What's next for Strange Musings Press?

Of course, we’ll be putting out another Alternate Hilarities edition next year. I haven’t decided on a theme just yet. I’m leaning towards the Apocalypse/Dystopia. I have the sub-title “Not your Mama’s Apocalypse!” stuck in my head but there’s still time for that to change. I have a few ideas for an “end of days” story myself and I’m looking forward to seeing submitters take shots at the Hunger Games or Divergent. Plus, I have a story to reprint from the old series called “The Last Man Alive”, so it will fit the theme.

Beyond that, I would love to get a line of humorous speculative fiction novels underway. It was part of the plan when I started Strange Musings Press. I’ve been holding off because I just don’t have the funding to be sure I can do it right.

6.   Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I am working on a full length novel now. It’s a humorous science fiction epic called Happy Birthday to the Galaxy. It’s about a high level government bureaucrat that gets thrown to the wolves during a global coup. He’s forced to live by his wits and the apps on his smart phone to avoid taking the fall for the gross corruption in his government. I’ve finished the first draft of that and I’ll be working on the second next month. I hope to be sending that out by July or August. I should be shopping it around later this year. If no one is interested, it might turn into Strange Musings Press’ debut novel.

As you shuffle off this mortal coil, many things will go through your mind. Will you be remembered well? Did you live the best life you could? Did you leave the iron on? And most importantly, did you remember to delete your browser history recently? But the big question that will finally hit you full on, is there something after all of this? And if so, will it suck? If only Yelp! had a category for the afterlife.

Here is a collection of humorous tales of the afterlife that covers the I.T. woes of Heaven, the dangers involved in using out-of-date occult tools, the perils of not saving appropriately for the hereafter, the shock of finding out that not every good deed will get you through the pearly gates and the cold hard fact that paradise just isn’t for everyone.

So go to the light at your own peril.

It could be life everlasting, or it could be an oncoming train.

List of Authors involved: 


Giovanni Francesco Valentino has struggled at the art of writing for four decades against many demons like self-doubt, chronic depression, OCD and severe dyslexia. He has written a few memoir pieces about his struggles going undiagnosed for more than half his life as well as almost a dozen humorous speculative fiction short stories. His long-term goal is to become such a famous science fiction and fantasy author that other people want to write fan fiction in his worlds.

You can find more Giovanni on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

To follow along with the blog tour, click here for more stops!

Monday, April 4, 2016

{GUEST POST}: 10 Things You Don't Know about Connie Ann Michael

Today I'm pleased to welcome my friend and fellow Anaiah author, Connie Ann Michael, to the blog. The second book in her Thousand Moments series, 1000 SILENT MOMENTS released a few weeks back, and so I thought it would be fun have her tell us a bit more about herself. So, here's Connie :-)

The biggest thing you probably don’t know about me is that I have been an author for about eight years. At one time I had three books out on Amazon and was busy promoting myself and then my publisher disappeared. Yep she disappeared and the authors had to scramble to get our rights back. I think in the long run it was for the best. It gave me a chance to look over the books and rewrite them. You see as you write more, you write better. So I hope they are better.  A Thousand Silent Moments is the second in the Thousand Moments series.  Now here are a few more things you may not know about me.

1. I have two college seniors
2. My son just registered for the NFL draft, he plays college football
3. I love to hike, kayak, or do anything outdoors
4. I love going to the movies
5. My secret talent is I can name a movie after only seeing a few seconds of it.  I have seen way too many movies
6. Reading is my favorite thing to do
7. I am a runner, a slow one but still a runner none the less
8. I have set a goal to climb three 14ers this summer in Colorado
9. I have a dog that looks like a gremlin after it gets wet
10. I write because I can’t sit still

Thanks so much for sharing all of that with us, Connie! Now, tell us about 1000 SILENT MOMENTS. (I had the pleasure of editing this book for her, and whoa! Have some tissues handy because this is one heck of an emotional rollercoaster!)

Only weeks back from the war, Emme “Doogie” Sawyer is in trouble. She struggles to fight the war in her head while also trying to build a relationship with Raven – who has recently returned from Afghanistan and taken up temporary residence in her house. Unfortunately, it’s hard to lock down the bad without cutting off the good. Soon, Sawyer begins to slip deeper into the darkness of the war she thought she left behind.

Running from his own mistakes, Raven tries to be the support Sawyer needs to move forward, but he soon discovers that in order to heal, they must rely on their faith more than they rely on each other. Raven takes Sawyer back to his childhood home, to where he hopes they both can find themselves and the faith they left behind.

Will they be able to find their way back to each other, or will the horrors of war and past mistakes destroy them for good?

BUY NOW: Amazon / Smashwords / Banes & Noble  

About the Author:
Connie grew up in Seattle but moved to Central Washington to be closer to all things outdoors. Married, with two college boys, she keeps busy kayaking, mountain biking, skiing, and hiking through the beautiful hills of the Wenatchee Valley. Growing up with a love of reading, the transition into writing seemed natural, and she can be found on summer days writing under the tree in her front yard, surrounded by her three dogs.

You can find more of Connie on her website, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

{TEASER TUESDAY}: Torn, Chapter One

In celebration of an awesome cover reveal yesterday (a huge thank you to everyone who posted, shared and tweeted. Your support means the world to me!) and because today is Teaser Tuesday.... I give you the complete first chapter of TORN: THE GEORGIA CORBINS, Book 1

~ Chapter 1~

Levi Corbin
I sat at the lab table directly behind Ali Philips and Brody Nash. My jaw clenched as I listened to them beg Mrs. Dolgen to let them be lab partners. Were they dating? The thought made my stomach sink to the floor. So much had changed since I’d last been in Haldeen, almost three years ago now.
I looked around the room without making eye contact with anyone. Immediately, I noticed Shelby Blake. My heart ached with guilt at the thought of poor Ali fending for herself against the likes of Shelby. Although, if Ali was in fact dating Brody, then I had to assume Shelby was leaving Ali alone. Everyone always bowed to Brody and what he wanted. He was the type of guy every other guy wanted to be friends with and every girl wanted to date. I just never thought Ali would be one of those girls.
My gaze settled back on Ali. Her golden blonde hair stopped in the middle of her back. When I’d left, her hair had been short, a pixie cut she’d called it. I definitely liked it better now. Her long, tanned legs were showcased by the denim skirt that hugged her hips. A fitted, short-sleeved shirt clung to her torso, and brown cowboy boots came up to the bottom of her calves. I let my gaze rake up her body and down again, lingering on the spot where the hem of her skirt met her bare legs. She shifted, leaned forward on the lab table, and I fought to stifle a groan. 
“I must be going blind. Is that Levi Corbin I see sitting back there?”
I looked toward the sound of my name. Jimmie Allen walked toward me. He hadn’t changed a bit since I’d last seen him. His large head was still covered with jet black hair, and his eyes were still a size too small for his face.
“Hey Jimmie,” I said. And then, all at once, all eyes were on me. Perfect.
“Mr. Vincent, you’re late. Please take a seat and stop disrupting my class,” Mrs. Dolgen said.
“Yes, ma’am.” Jimmie Allen took the seat next to me. “So, what dragged you back to little ‘ole Haldeen?”
“Stuff.” I shifted my gaze back to Ali, hoping Jimmie Allen would get the hint I didn’t want to talk. She had turned around. One hand was propped on the lab table and the other on her cocked hip. Against my better instincts, I met her stare and swallowed the lump in my throat. “Hey, Al.”
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was stunning. Al had gone and grown up on me. She turned around without saying anything, and I knew she was angry. I couldn’t blame her.
Mrs. Dolgen closed the classroom door and cleared her throat. She wrote an equation on the board and then turned to face the class. “Page two seventy of your lab books, problems seven through fifteen.”
A collective groan rippled through the room.
“I could give you a few more problems to work on if you’d like.” The room quieted, and the only sound was of Mrs. Dolgen’s heels clicking against the tiled floor as she made her way toward the back of the room. “Mr. Corbin, please come get a book.”
I stood and retrieved the lab book Mrs. Dolgen held out to me. When I turned to go back to my seat, I caught Ali staring at me. I smiled, hoping maybe she would finally talk to me, but she quickly averted her gaze. I sat down next to Jimmie Allen, opened the book, and looked over the assigned problems.
“Shut up.” Ali giggled and bumped her hip against Brody’s.
The sound of her laugh drew my attention, and I scowled at the sight of them whispering, of Brody putting his arm around Ali’s waist and drawing her closer to him.
“I’ll do the first half of these if you want to do the second half,” Jimmie Allen said.
I tore my gaze from Ali and gave my attention to the task at hand, but concentration was difficult when every so often, she would laugh. And I swore if Brody touched her one more time…
“Brody, don’t you dare!” Ali said.
“Ali and Brody, do we have a problem?” Mrs. Dolgen’s shrill voice cut through the room.
“No, ma’am,” they chimed in unison.
“Good. Let’s keep it that way.”
I refocused my attention back on the problems in front of me and breezed through them rather easily, but my thoughts once again drifted to Ali. I had to talk to her, try to make her understand. If she would just let me apologize, things could go back to the way they used to be.
“So, Levi,” Brody turned to face me, “is Tucker back, too?”
What kind of dumbass question was that? “Of course he is.” I noticed the way Ali hung her head, and her shoulders slumped. Talk about an odd reaction. I thought for sure she’d be happy to see us again.
The bell rang, and Ali was out of the room before I could even close my book. I rushed out after her, but by the time I made my way into the hallway, it was crowded and hard to find her. When I finally did spot her, I didn’t waste any time going to her. 
I cautiously approached where she stood at her locker. I reached out to touch her, but thought better of it and clenched my hand into a fist, dropping it to my side. “Hey, Al, got a minute?”
She spun around and faced me, anger blazing behind her blue eyes. “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
Ouch, that was harsh. “I guess I deserved that.”
Ali looked away, refusing to acknowledge my presence.
“Look, Al, I’m real sorry. Can you please let me explain?” My heart thundered in my ears. I had no idea what I’d do if she didn’t let me explain.
“I’ve been waiting two years. This had best be good.” She clutched her books to her chest and tapped her foot, the rhythm of her impatience spurring me on.
I took a deep, shaky breath and licked my lips. “Dad wouldn’t let us visit. He said he didn’t want to worry about cleaning up after our trouble making ways.”
“And your Momma wouldn’t let you use the phone? Or did you just forget how?”
I cringed. Had she always been this feisty? “I have no excuse for that.” I shoved my hands in my pockets so I wouldn’t be tempted to touch her and stared at the ground. “I’m sorry, Al.” God, I was royally messing this up.
“And what’s Tucker’s excuse?” She shifted her weight, her eyebrows drawing together in a scowl.
“He doesn’t have one either.”
“I gotta get to class.” She turned her back on me again and proceeded to walk away.
She stopped cold and stood there with her head down and her back still to me. Everything felt like it was in slow motion, the sounds of students going to class dulled to a barely audible hum.  I’d never called her Ali before. For as long as I’d known her, she had always been just Al, one of the boys. But now, standing there, staring at the back of her, she was no longer one of the boys. It was a hard truth for me to swallow, but one I couldn’t deny. Slowly, she lifted her head and continued to walk away. I watched until she disappeared into the crowd.
Well, that hadn’t gone as I’d hoped. I’d give her some time to adjust to the shock of seeing me, and then I’d try to talk to her again. She couldn’t stay mad at me forever, could she? I checked my schedule and realized my next class was English Lit. It wasn’t my favorite, but if I got lucky, Ali would be in class with me again.
I made my way toward room one sixteen. The room was full when I arrived, and the only empty seat was next to Shelby Blake. She was the last person I wanted to spend an hour and forty-five minutes with. Just the sight of her sleek black hair, dark eyes, and oblong face made me sick. She was single handedly responsible for so much trouble and drama. I looked around to make sure I hadn’t missed another empty seat. No such luck. I sighed and took the seat beside her.
“Hey there, Levi.” Shelby turned in her seat and crossed her legs.
“Your return is the talk of the school ya know?”
“Yup.” Did she think I didn’t know? Or that I cared? There was only one thing on my mind: Ali. I had to make things right with her. Even though I’d missed her every minute of every day I’d been in California, I had liked living there. Ali was the only reason returning to Haldeen was bearable. And now she wouldn’t even speak to me.
“So, why did y’all come back?” Shelby snapped her gum.
“Wanted to.”
“I noticed Ali ain’t talking to you. That’s a switch.” She blew a large bubble and popped it loudly.
I really just wanted her to shut up. Then a thought struck me. If Ali wouldn’t talk to me, Shelby would. “Is she dating Brody Nash?”
Shelby flung her head back and laughed. “No, but it ain’t for a lack of trying on Brody’s part. That boy has been chasing her since the day she dumped him.”
Relief washed through me until the rest of Shelby’s answer settled in my mind. So, Ali and Brody had dated, but no longer were. Interesting. Why had Ali broken up with Brody? The question was on the tip of my tongue, but I didn’t want to talk to Shelby any longer. I knew how she operated. I’d ask a few innocent questions, and she’d twist my words around and start a nasty rumor. She’d done it to Ali more than once, and I wasn’t about to give her an opportunity to do it again.
“I heard she hooked up with Jimmie Allen over spring break, though.”
I glared at Shelby. Ali and Jimmie Allen? Was Shelby lying? I didn’t know if she was telling the truth or not, but on the slim chance she was being honest, I was going to make a point to have a chat with Jimmie Allen. The second bell rang, and I sighed with relief. At least I wouldn’t have to listen to Shelby run her mouth anymore.

Copyright 2015, Kara Leigh Miller

* ~ * ~ * ~ *

Want an exclusive peek at an alternate first chapter that didn't make it into the final version? Sign up for my newsletter HERE and I'll send it your way :-) If you're already subscribed, you'll be getting this alternate chapter in the April newsletter!