Sunday, January 31, 2016

GOALS CHECK: January 2016

Last year, I wrote out all my goals and then didn't look back on them until it was time to write new ones. This year, I want to hold myself more accountable, so the last day of each month, I'm going to do a Goals Check post to see how I'm doing. I'm pretty sure no one but me actually cares about this, but writing it down publicly makes me more likely to follow through with what I said I was going to do. So, here goes...

Goal: Finish Book 2 of The Hayden Falls Saga (the sequel to Death of a Waterfall)
Status: Still Unfinished

Goal: Finish Book 3 of The Hayden Falls Saga
Status: Still Unfinished

Goal: Finish Tainted: The Georgia Corbins, Book 3
Status: Still Unfinished

Goal: Finish Savage Passion
Status: On Hold -- This was originally a planned book 2 of a series that I was rewriting to become book 1 of a new series. However, I recently had rights reverted to book 1 so now I'm going to revert Savage Passion back to book 2 IF book 1 sells. I'm happy to say the full of book 1 is with another editor at a publisher that I would love to work with. So, fingers crossed!! As soon as I get word on book 1, I'll revisit this goal an see what I want / need to do with Savage Passion.

Goal: Finish Warped Remains
Status: On Hold -- Due to my co-authors current schedule, we've decided to wait on this project until we're both ready to give it the time it deserves. He's very busy with college classes, which is super important so I'm really okay with this choice.

Goal: Finish Hallowed Ground (Graves Barren, Book 1)
Status: Half-Finished -- When I added this to my goals list, I was sitting at 35k words. I'm now at 57k words :) I also: outlined the rest of the book so I know exactly where it's going, created an agent query list, wrote the query letter and synopsis.

Goal: Finish Eternally Bound (The Restani Clan, Book 1)
Status: Still Unfinished

Goal: Finish The First Snowfall
Status: Still Unfinished

Goal: Finish Resistance (the sequel to Inferno)
Status: Still Unfinished

Goal: Get Creative and come up with some new ideas for my agent
Status: On-going -- I have come up with TWO new ideas. One is a romantic suspense series that will follow the same couple through two (maybe three) books and deals with WITSEC (the federal witness protection program). The other idea is a collaboration with Jody Holford (my co-author of Dangerous Love and Jaded Love).  This is a contemporary romance that I'm SO excited about. I promise more details will come soon.

Goal: Do one or more things every day to promote me and my books.
Status: On-going -- I haven't done something every single day, but I have been much better about sharing my books. Plus, with a new release on the horizon, I am getting out there more.

Goal: Find and join a new writers group.
Status: Half-finished! I located a local writers group that meets once a month. I have not attended a meeting yet. My daughter has been visiting from NY, so my time has been better spent with her. But I will check things out in February.

Goal: Keep bloggin'
Status: On-going -- I have been pretty good about posting weekly this month, and I hope I can continue throughout the year. In an effort to motivate myself, I even joined the A to Z Blogging Challenge!

I know it seems as though I haven't done much work toward my goals, but I have been busy. I completed two freelance jobs this month, read three manuscripts for developmental edits, along with helping fellow writer, Tiffany Hoffman, get her new writing contest organized and running. Unfortunately, due to personal reasons (good reasons), I am no longer involved with the contest.

Here's to wishing everyone a successful and productive February! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Writing when Life Throws you a Curveball

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions." 

I'm not sure who originally said this, but I think it holds true in all things, especially in writing. The start of a New Year often brings forth a plethora of good intentions. I know I have a lot of them, mostly to finish half-started manuscripts. But what happens when life gets in the way? What happens when life throws you a major curve ball that you weren't expecting? It can be difficult, no matter how good your intentions are, to keep moving forward with your goals.

Honestly, I'm no stranger to this. Two years ago, I had a pretty major life event that blindsided me. I'm not about to get into all the dirty details, but I will say it involved my ex-husband and the custody of our two daughters. Everything I wanted to do came to a screeching halt. I couldn't focus on anything.

Leading up to the Christmas holiday, I was blogging and creating newsletters and promoting and writing new words. I was in the zone. Then the holiday came and I was busy with shopping and cleaning and decorating and baking. The day after Christmas, I drove to NY to pick up my daughter. She spent a week here in Michigan with us then I drove her home.

And now that everything is done and life is returning to normal, I'm struggling to get back in the groove. All of my good intentions and goals are now looming over my head, and I'm sitting here feeling guilty because I'm not working on one of my many manuscripts. So, what am I doing about it?

1. Reading -- Every time I read a book that I like, I get this surge of excitement to want to create something that will inspire others the same way I'd just been inspired. That often gives me the kick in the pants I need to get back to my own writing.

2. Blogging -- Sometimes taking the pressure off myself and blogging helps tremendously. There's no pressure and no "rules" when it comes to blogging. I can say whatever I want, and it really helps get the creative juices flowing.

3. Going Old School -- When all else fails, I get out a pen and a notebook. I don't always write a story, but just outlining or creating character sketches helps.

4. Giving Myself Permission to Take a Break -- We're all only human, and sometimes we need a break. And you know what? It's okay to take one. If you need a day or a week off, take it! Recharge your batteries. Do something else you enjoy.

5. Exercising -- I know, I know. This a dirty, dirty word. lol. I'm not suggesting you run out and join a gym or start an intensive workout routine. But get out of the house and take a walk. Go for a jog. Take your kids to the park (if applicable). There's nothing like endorphins to get your creativity flowing!

So, whether you're dealing with work-related stress, family drama, or something completely different.... like overwhelming pregnancy hormones, try employing the above methods. Is there anything I've missed? Any other tips and tricks that you use when you're trying to stay on track with your writing? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, January 11, 2016

{GUEST POST}: Ten Tips for Writing Middle Grade by Jackie Minniti

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Jackie Minniti. Her book, JACQUELINE, is a fantastic, historical middle grade, and so she's going to share her Ten Tips for Writing Middle Grade Fiction.

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In my former life as a middle school reading teacher, I got an “up close and personal” look at what middle graders like in a book. This came in handy when I decided to pursue a second career as a writer.

My dad, a WWII veteran, only shared one war story with our family – the tale of Jacqueline, a little girl who stole his heart while he was stationed in France. When I started writing, Dad asked me to write a book about her.  Jacqueline was about 11 years-old when she met my father, so I decided to write her story as a middle grade novel.  Since writing for this age group presents some unique challenges, I used what I knew about middle school students to craft a novel that would appeal to even the most reluctant readers. I’d like to share ten middle grade writing tips.

1. DO familiarize yourself with your audience
If it’s been a while since you been around 8 to 12 year old kids, find some and spend time with them. Talk to them about the books they like (and the ones they don’t.) Ask them what makes them choose one book over another, and what genres and topics they’re interested in.

2. DO plunge right into the action
Once they pick up your book, you’ve got one chance to hook them. Your first sentence may that chance. For my book, Jacqueline, I spent more time on the first sentence than on the entire first chapter. I finally came up with this: “Her mother’s scream was followed by the crash of shattering glass.”  My 10-year-old beta reader said it made her want to keep reading, so I knew I had a winner.

3. DO make your protagonist age-appropriate
Your main character will make or break your novel. Middle schoolers like to read about kids a little older than they are, so your protagonist should be between 10 and 13 years old.  Your main character should be someone your readers can identify with and care about; a kid with strong opinions and beliefs. Be sure your character has a few flaws though – middle graders have lived long enough to know there are no perfect children.

4. DO use authentic dialogue
Middle school students like to talk, and they like books with lots of dialogue. Listen to middle grade kids, get the sound of their dialogue into your head so your character will sound realistic. Make sure all your characters don’t sound the same. Steer clear of coarse or vulgar language – remember that your book will have to be pre-approved by parents and teachers (the actual buyers.)

5. DO focus on friends and school
Middle school students are straddling the worlds of childhood and adulthood trying to figure out where they fit in. Their focus is shifting from home and family to school and friends, and your story should reflect this. Keep parents, teachers and other adults in the background, with most of the action centered on the main character’s interaction with the outside world. Keep introspection to a minimum. Middle schoolers don’t do a lot of self-analysis.

6. DO center the story around a problem the main character can solve independently
There should be a single inciting element in the story – something that sets the main character’s life askew. In Jacqueline, it was her father’s plane being shot down by the Germans. The central problem should be one that the protagonist can eventually solve without adult intervention, so keep this in mind when you plot your story.

7. DO edit out anything that doesn’t propel the plot
Be relentless in your editing. Your final word count should fall between 30,000 and 60,000 words. Avoid excess adjectives and adverbs. Eliminate everything that doesn’t move the plot forward, no matter how much you may love the sound of it.  While you should definitely include descriptions and sensory details, make this about 10 percent of the total text.  My students steered clear of thick books, so keep that in mind when you have to cut a favorite paragraph.

8. DO challenge them
Just because your readers are young, there’s no reason to “write down” to them. They can deal with difficult subjects if presented appropriately.  Use language that makes them stretch a bit, but include context clues so they can figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words. I used several French words in Jacqueline, and my beta reader was able to mentally translate them using clues I embedded into the text. (She was very proud of herself!)

9. DO keep the momentum going
Middle graders have no qualms about abandoning a book that gets “boring.” If you want them to make it to the end, you have to keep them flipping pages. Don’t use too many abstract concepts.  Stick to the “Show, don’t tell” rule so that there’s a steady flow of action. Try to end each chapter with a cliffhanger. Don’t let up on them until the last page.

10. DO end on a positive note
Be sure that your ending is positive and satisfying. Middle grade readers don’t react well to open endings. I’ve seen kids throw a book across the room because the ending left them hanging.  In Jacqueline, I decided to end with an epilogue that showed what happened to the characters as grown-ups.  My beta reader really liked that.

Most of all, DO enjoy the process. Middle grade readers can be profoundly influenced by the books they read, and that’s what makes writing for them so much fun,

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Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing these tips with us, Jackie! Now, tell us a bit about your book :-)

When ten-year-old Jacqueline Falna hears her mother's scream, she is unaware that the axis of her world is about to tilt. Her father's plane has been shot down by German fighters. In the midst of poverty, food shortages, air raids, and the grinding hardship of daily life under Nazi rule, she forms an unlikely alliance with David Bergier, a twelve-year-old Jewish neighbor who poses as her cousin after his family is "relocated" by the Nazis. When Rennes is liberated, Jacqueline meets an American soldier and becomes convinced that he has been sent to reunite her with her father.

Based on a true story, "Jacqueline" is a tale of family, faith, unusual friendships, and the resiliency of the human spirit set against the backdrop of occupied Rennes in 1944. With the drama of fiction and the authenticity of personal history, "Jacqueline" is both a story about family and a family's story.

BUY NOW: Amazon / B&N  

About the Author:

Jackie Minniti was born and raised in the heart of New Jersey. She spent 25 years as a classroom teacher and was an education writer for the Courier Post. After retiring from teaching, she moved to a small beach town on the west coast of Florida and began writing full-time. She is currently a columnist for The Island Reporter in St. Petersburg. Her first novel, Project June Bug, the story of a young teacher's efforts to help a student with ADHD won several awards including Premier Book Awards "Book of the Year." A number of her stories have been included in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections.

Jackie lives on Treasure Island with her husband and two rather noisy macaws, but she frequently travels back to New Jersey to visit her three children and six grandkids.

You can learn more about Jackie and her books by visiting her on her website, blog, and Facebook.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Goals: 2016

It's that time of year again! GOALS TIME! I actually really look forward to this every year. I love setting goals. It gives me direction and keeps me accountable. I'm declaring 2016 the year of finishing unfinished projects. And I don't necessarily mean writing subsequent books to complete a series, but rather finishing books that are only half-finished. Trust me, I have a LOT of them!

So, without further ado, here are my 2016 goals...


1.  Finish writing book 2 of The Hayden Falls Saga (the sequel to Death of a Waterfall) -- I'm currently 30k into this, and I'm aiming for a word count of 75 or 80k. Then I'm going to send it to my publisher and hopefully release it sometime in 2016.

2.  Finish writing book 3 of The Hayden Falls Saga -- I have a very rough draft of this that's about 20k. It needs a lot of work, but I'm confident once I get book 2 finished, book 3 will come easily. Then I'll send it to my publisher and hopefully release it sometime in 2016.

3. Finish Tainted: The Georgia Corbins, Book 3 -- At this point, my plan is to self-publish this series, but as with even the best laid plans, things happen. However, I'm intent on finishing this series and getting it back out into the world. 

4. Finish Savage Passion and get it sent to my agent -- This is the first in a new planned series. It's an intense, highly erotic romantic suspense that's my personal nod to a couple of my favorite authors: Lora Leigh and Julie Ann Walker. I should add that I have a complete 60k draft of this book. So I only need to smooth out the edges and write the ending. 

5. Finish Warped Remains -- a YA thriller that I'm co-writing with David Jemal. We have less than 10k to finish this up, and then we plan to begin querying agents with it. 

6. Finish Hallowed Ground (Graves Barren, Book 1) -- This is a paranormal YA that currently has 35k words. Once finished, I *think* I'm going to try querying agents with it. My lovely agent, sadly, doesn't sell much YA. I would love to place it with her as I trust her, but I'm grateful she was honest with me about her abilities to sell or not sell certain genres. 

7. Finish Eternally Bound (The Restani Clan, Book 1) -- This is an adult paranormal (vampires) that has 29k words. 

8. Finish The First Snowfall -- This is an erotic thriller / horror novella that currently has 19k words.

9. Finish Resistance (the sequel to Inferno) -- Considering Inferno and its prequel, Dominick, are due out later in 2016, David and I really need to get crackin' on finishing book 2. Thankfully, we've already got a good start on it. 

**SIDE NOTE** You're probably wondering why I've got so many unfinished projects. I often wonder the same thing myself. Here's the reason: I come up with an idea and I get really excited and immediately start writing it. I get anywhere between 25 - 35K written, and then I'm hit with a new idea that won't get out of my head. So, I put one project aside and start in on the new one. And then the process repeats itself. It's a viscous cycle. lol. 

You're also probably wondering how on earth I'm going to finish all of these in a mere 12 months. Honestly, I'm wondering the same thing! Just seeing this list is daunting, but if I can even accomplish half this list, I'll be more than happy. 


I want to come up with some new book ideas. (I know, like I need anymore. lol) Lately, a majority of my ideas seem to be within the YA category, which is great. I love writing YA. Unfortunately, my agent signed me for ADULT books, and therefore I'd like to brainstorm some ideas for a few new adult romances that I can write for her eventually. 


Okay, so I'm not going to actually beg people to like me or be my friend, but I do need to work on my self promotion....

1. Do one (or more) things every single day to promote myself and my books, both in person and online. 

2.  Find and join a local writers group. I have a fantastic online support group, but there's nothing like being able to meet real people in real life and talk writing with them, to exchange work and ideas. 


I swear, this is on my goals list every year. This year, my goal is one quality blog post a month, probably on Mondays so I can utilize the #MondayBlogs hashtag on Twitter. (That's a great tag. You should really check it out!) I would also like to do a #TeaserTuesday every week. With all those half finished books I'll be working on, I'll certainly have enough material to share!

What are your goals for 2016? Share in the comments or link to your own blog post about it! I love to see what everyone is aiming to accomplish :)