Thursday, March 19, 2015

Confessions of a #ghostwriter! Meet happily-hidden talent, Lynn Wolf.

My guest today is Lynn Wolf, an award-winning poet and a published editor and author. She has also written, produced, and acted for the independent filmmaking community. But, of all her talents, I'm most intrigued by Lynn's ghostwriting. She kindly agreed to share some insight into that field. 

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The Writer Behind the Curtain
by Lynn Ellen Wolf

If you've ever seen the movie Singin' in the Rain, you know all about ghostwriting. The performer is on stage, entertaining the audience while the singer is behind the curtains providing the voice.

Hello, I'm Lynn Wolf, and I'm the voice behind the curtain. I'm a professional ghostwriter, and I'm able to fulfill my love of writing by helping writers fulfill their love of storytelling. While some people consider it 'cheating' to have someone else write their book, that's not what ghostwriting is about. At least, that's not what professional ghostwriting is. What we do is help people who have great stories to tell, but might not have all the writing tools to tell it. Quite a few times I've also been approached by a storyteller whose native language is not English, and they just need someone to write their story in English. Either way, it's a win-win situation for both of us.

I wasn't always a ghostwriter; I've done my fair share of writing in my own name, in various pen names, and have gone through the same submission and rejection process as every true aspiring writer. I've studied, practiced, and I continue to refine my craft with workshops and daily writing exercises. When I started editing for other writers, I found that I loved coaching, teaching, and showing other writers how to develop their own writing, and from time to time, a few people asked me to write for them. They had a story, but they didn't have the confidence or the time to study the craft. Well, I had the time and the craft, so my services evolved to include ghostwriting.

The best gig for me is when I'm approached by an author who knows their characters, knows their story, and has a good idea of where it begins and where it ends. My job, then, is to flesh out these characters and tell that story in such a way as to please the readers. So far, my collaborations have been both pleasant and successful. It's not important to me that my name be on the cover; I'm just proud to do the best I can and to see a smile on the face of the storyteller who created the world inside.

Being a ghostwriter isn't for everyone; it's difficult sometimes to quench the ego, or to write a story as someone else sees it when I see it differently. I must maintain an open mind at all times and remember that the story isn't mine; I'm just painting by numbers – the picture my client drew needs color, and I wield the brush.

One of the best payoffs for me, though, is that I am deeply inspired by the people I work for. I find myself driven to write more for myself and finish some of those dusty WIPs I set aside long ago. I'm happier about writing and don't see it as a job so much as I appreciate it as a gift.

When I first started studying the craft of writing, I couldn't have predicted that I'd end up as a writing coach and ghostwriter – and loving it –but that's exactly where I am. I love my clients, love their stories, and I'm grateful that they trust me with the brilliant expressions of their imaginations.

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Want to hire Lynn Wolf? Inquiries may be sent via email to lew[at]lynnellenwolf[dot]com. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Supernatural London from a Blind POV: The wonders of Elizabeth Watasin's MEDUSA

Today's guest author was determined to see her fictional world through her character's eyes, or, more accurately, through her character's other four senses. Elizabeth Watasin's Medusa features the romantic adventures of a blind woman in an alternative Victorian London. Intrigued? Read on!

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I would like to thank Anne for the opportunity to talk about my latest release, Medusa:
A Dark Victorian Penny Dread. Set in an alternate 1880, mechanical and supernatural London, I'm excited about this story because not only is it my first full romance (I usually write paranormal mystery and adventure with romance on the side), it features blind people as principle characters, having adventures and falling in love. Writing with the perspective in mind of a protagonist blind nearly all her life was (dare I say it?) quite an eye-opener, leading me to rely on our auditory, olfactory, and haptic senses to convey the story. The result was a very sensual experience, especially when I introduce that Elvie Chaisty, my heroine in MEDUSA, likes exploring the marble antiquities in the British Museum by touch.

I also like my characters empowered, in that Elvie should not feel deficit as a blind person (she has no longing to be sighted), desires to be accepted by sighted people (she certainly has an opinion on the sighted's lack of understanding of her world), and doesn't need to be the “facilitator”, shall we say, of a sighted person's personal heroic journey. Elvie gets to be the adventuresome heroine, which, not too much to my surprise, emulates a real life sightless adventurer I was happy to discover during my research: James Holman (1786-1857), who set out to travel the world. With only enough money to travel “native”, and often alone, Holman managed to journey through (per the title of his book), Africa, Asia, Australasia, and America.

Now I don't have Elvie travel beyond London, but just experiencing messy, noisy, smelly, and sometimes astounding Victorian London itself, beyond the doors of the Institute of the Blind (where she resides with her friend and stick for hire, Ellie Hench), is adventuresome enough. To boat for the first time down the Thames, hear Westminster Clock chime, or enjoy the air and sunlight in bucolic Brompton via electric horseless carriage can be singular experiences to a blind person's senses.

I didn't give Elvie super abilities, but the virtues and fallacies of haptic perception in a sighted world. At least, I tried my best to do so, and it was a rewarding experience being in her world. Frankly, I was reluctant to leave it once I typed “the end”. As a reader, you will join her in adventures as one blind, fall in love as one blind, and thus experience more about our world than we sighted can know. I hope you enjoy MEDUSA: A Dark Victorian Penny Dread.

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Learn more about Elizabeth Watasin on her website.
Purchase Medusa on Amazon and B&N.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Stephanie Burkhart on the inspiration for her #picturebook BRADY'S LOST BLANKET

Oh, those early childhood memories! Like it or not, they inform who we are as adults. Stephanie Burkhart takes us back to our toddler years in her picture book Brady's Lost Blanket. I'll admit up front: yes, I had a blankie. Pale blue, like Linus'. Please excuse me while I go suck my thumb...

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Inspiration comes in small packages
By Stephanie Burkhart

One of my husband's relatives told me a story about her grandchild who was attached to his blankie.  He left it behind when he was visiting relatives and was having a hard time without it. That brought back memories of the time when I was a young girl and had a blankie.  My blankie was soft blue with silk blue trim.  I loved to rub it against my face. It was very soothing. My blankie was my security net. It was always there for me. I could count on it to relax my ruffled feelings or frustration – until it mysteriously disappeared. One day, when I was five, my blankie turned up missing.  I had no idea what happened to it. I felt "out of sorts," "uncomfortable," and "anxious." (My mother hid it on me.  She decided it was time for me to learn how to get along without it.)

Those first couple of days without blankie were rough, but I soon learned other age appropriate coping stragedies. I played with Barbie and her Beach van. I picked up a book. I began coloring. I loved playing with Matchbox cars. Soon my imagination grew and I didn't need blankie anymore.

Giving up blankie was my first step to growing up.

Brady's Lost Blanket is about taking that first step. It's a great message for children. Growing up isn't easy. There are all kinds of challenges, but learning how to get along without a blankie is usually the first one a child faces. In the story, Brady has a lot of support from his parents who offer him other ways to deal with the anxiety of losing his blanket.  I hope that when other children read the story they realize that while it may be upsetting at first, letting go of blankie and embracing new things can be fun and they'll be all right.

Question for you: Did you have a blankie growing up?  Did you know someone who had a blankie? 

COVER BLURB FOR Brady's Lost Blanket:

Brady is a sensitive young boy who takes his blankie wherever he goes. After traveling with his parents to visit his new cousin, Brady accidently leaves his blanket behind. Can Brady learn to get by without his blankie?

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You can learn more about Stephanie Burkhart on her website. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

You can purchase Brady's Lost Blanket at the 4RV Publishing store, on Amazon, or on B&N.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

#Writer & #artist Laura Wilbourn takes us on a #picturebook journey with Asterion's Elixer

When I met Laura Wilbourn at a SCBWI conference a few years back, I was immediately struck, not just by her intelligence and humor, but by the unusual, etherial quality of the picture book she had brought to show everyone she met. When I learned that she was about to publish a new book, Asterion's Elixir, I jumped to invite her to join us here and talk about her process. And look at these wonderful illustrations, which Laura does herself!

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Creating Asterion's Elixir
by Laura Wilbourn

I have always been a fan of imagination. As far back as I can remember, daydreaming has taken precedence over anything that required academic attention. In one recurring daydream that I recall vividly, I had the ability to magically transform myself into a flying unicorn. At the time, I was in first grade at the International School of Bangkok, and in this fantasy, the classroom was on fire. I transformed into a mystical creature that flew through the window and saved my class from the flames. Even though it occurred at such a young age, I feel this daydream was very telling of who I would become as a person and planted a seed from which my children’s books would originate. 

In second grade, my family and I moved back to California. With the option of choosing my own wallpaper for my room, of course I chose unicorns. Between the daydreams and the wallpaper, it may not come as a surprise that my children’s book, Asterion’s Elixir, includes a unicorn! 

Not only is there a unicorn, but a lot of color as well! My ultimate favorite color is blue (with red a very close second). What better place than space to fulfill this color scheme? An interesting fact about another influence in my life at the time I was writing this book: I was taking an astronomy class at Texas State about the stars and galaxies. Reading all that material and seeing all those pictures definitely sparked my mind's adventure into the unknown. This book is unique in that it contains many bright and engaging colored images, but there is an abundance of text as well. This is exactly what I wished for as a ten-year-old girl. I was never satisfied with the illustration-text ratio. It was either a lot of text and few pictures, or it was very little text and so many pictures. How do you solve this dilemma? Make your own children’s book! Make it exactly how you wanted it as a child, so that every part of the inner-child in you is fulfilled. 

Though the influences of this story are easy to distinguish, my process is harder to explain. I don’t have a clear-cut path when I create a book. I do both the writing and the sketching at the same time. However, what is consistent is that the seed of a story begins with a drawing that eventually blossoms into character development. From here, a few more sketches are made which make room for plot development. It is a back and forth movement between the graphic and the literary art, and somehow I end up with a book and illustrations in the end. 

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Learn more about Laura Wilbourn and purchase Asterion's Elixir on her website. Follow her on Facebook.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dionne Lorae Holly's CAMP BIRDSONG tells of the Girl Scouts' legacy for Black History Month

Happy Black History Month! We celebrate with a wonderful guest, author Dionne Lorae Holly, who shares with us the fascinating history behind her new book.

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CAMP BIRDSONG: A Night Under The Stars
When it’s darkest, the stars shine the brightest

By Dionne Lorae Holly

I began my adventure in researching for Camp Birdsong: A Night Under The Stars as a Girl Scout Troop Leader. I created a Black History Month badge activity for my troop about the first campgrounds for African American Girls.  The activity presented 1940’s vintage uniforms, handbooks, and photographs.  The presentation became popular thorough out my Girl Scout Service Unit.

What peeked my interest to do research is the famous Girl Scout quote by the founder, Juliette Low. Low called her friend describing a program she has for girls, "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!”  The Girl Scouts began in 1912 in Savannah, Georgia. Then, there is a rumored quote by Martin Luther King Jr. dated in 1956, which describes the Girl Scouts as a force in desegregation. I had to learn what happened in between those two quotes.

I made inquiries online and learned about Girl Scout Volunteer, Josephine Holloway. She donated not only her time, but also bought land in Tennessee for a Girl Scout camp for African American girls.  The Jim Crow laws prevented her troop from a true camping experience.  The girls could not sleep overnight. Eventually, the local Girl Scout council purchased the campgrounds from Holloway.  Later the council integrated the campgrounds. 

Prior to Holloway purchasing the land, her troop traveled to Indiana to camp overnight.  
After reading about Holloway, I called the Tennessee Girl Scout Historian; I asked if there were any photographs. She replied no.  In my disbelief that there were not any photographs, I said, “You know what I’m coming up there.” The local council gave me permission to explore Camp Holloway for my research.  I drove four hundred miles across state lines to visit. Once there I toured the grounds and walked through the Holloway homestead. I saw the photographs!  I thought maybe that the historian had not visited the camp…

In order to tell this historical fiction authentically, I interviewed my mom.  As a Girl Scout from the 1950’s, she shared how she made a bed roll (sleeping bag) and cooked meals over an open fire. Foremost, she described how she felt many times like a spectator and not a participant at the annual Girl Scout gathering called Camporee.  My story uses a fictional scouting group called Girl Rangers. I studied orienteering for my research as well. The story tells how the Girl Rangers learn about the sun and the stars. The most shocking discovery I made was to learn the idea of introducing girls into scouting; was when the Boys Scouts founder, British General Powell observed African Zulu women’s resourcefulness while their tribesmen were away at war. 

Camp Birdsong: A Night Under The Stars is considered a children’s Black History Month book, but it is an inspirational story for any age, any gender or any skin color. The story shows how to overcome challenges and make your dreams come true. 

Blurb for Camp Birdsong: A Night Under The Stars:

In the 1940’s Joalee Olingsworth is frustrated when the local Jim Crow laws prevents her daughter from becoming Girl Ranger. Growing up a preacher’s kid, she’s fearless to give her daughter and the girls in her community the equal opportunity to enjoy a camping experience. She travels near and far for freedom to have “A Night Under The Stars.”

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Purchase Camp Birdsong: A Night Under The Stars on Amazon and Barnes & Noble; if you live the metro Atlanta area visit the Greater Atlanta Girl Scout Shop, 5601 Allen Rd. Mableton, GA 30126.
To learn about the author visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fun #SciFi #Kidlit from Rob Sanders: OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE

Science fiction for children? Yes, please. We definitely need more of that. Today Rob Sanders talks about the big adventure he wrote in a little book called Outer Space Bedtime Race. (Seriously, can you pack any more fun into a title?!) 

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Tucking Kids into the Whole Solar System
by Rob Sanders

I am so pleased to share the story behind the creation of my new book OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE, illustrated by Brian Won. Our book was recently released by Random House Children’s Books. Brian and I are both grateful to our editor, Maria Modugno, and our art director, John Sazaklis, for their incredible work and support.

My vision for this book began when I had the idea to create a bedtime story that my great nieces AND great nephews would love and wanted to have read over and over again. I wanted to create something that wasn’t pink and sweet and butterfly-filled. I wanted something edgy and active and maybe even a tad creepy. Something different, but something that would still get kids ready for bed.

Honestly, my great nieces (like many girl readers) are easy to please and just love books in general. But my great-nephew, Jack, well that’s a different story. I knew if I could come up with something that Jack liked, his sisters would like it, too. I made a quick list of topics with boy-appeal: robots, monsters, dinosaurs, aliens. Aliens! Immediately the idea of an alien getting ready for bed stood out, and as I researched the market I couldn’t find any bedtime books with or about aliens. Now I don’t want you to think this was a long, drawn out process. This whole process occurred in an hour or so. Then the real work began.

My first stab at a manuscript followed one alien through his bedtime routine. As I explored that idea I couldn’t decide if Jupiter or Mars or Saturn or another planet might provide the most story and illustration possibilities. When I couldn’t decide which planet to focus on, I did what any reasonable person would do—I decided to use all the planets and explore a different bedtime activity on each planet. Since my story was focusing on earth kids going to bed, I knew I wanted to start the story on earth and circle back around—or orbit—back to earth.

I soon decided that rhyming was the best mode for telling the story since it would add to the bedtime appeal of the manuscript. I started listing planets, bedtime routines, and words and phrases that would add life to my crew of bedtime aliens. I also started researching non-fiction facts about the planets that I could write into back matter for the book. As a teacher, I know how parents, teachers, librarians, and kids love those tidbits of fact that often accompany a story.

After a few drafts and taking the manuscript to my critique groups, I fired it off to my agent, Rubin Pfeffer. Rubin gave some suggestions for revisions and we worked back and forth a bit. Rubin decide to submit exclusively to Maria Modugno. She quickly took the manuscript to acquisitions and within a few weeks we had a deal. Brian Won was soon brought on as the illustrator. Maria and I worked for several weeks via phone and email examining and revising the manuscript line-by-line. From ideation to research to writing, revising, editing, illustrating, and printing the entire process has taken right at two years.

OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE has been released and is soaring out of book stores! Brian and I are enjoying launching our book in book stores and libraries, creating resources to support the book, and promoting our book in various ways. As a matter of fact, you can view our book trailer to get a taste of outer space bedtime adventure. 

Now all that I have left to do is to give Jack, Madi, Libby and their new brother, Lincoln, their copy of OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE!

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Learn more about Rob Sanders on his website and his blog.

Purchase Outer Space Bedtime Race on Amazon, BN, and other retailers.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

007 - License to Tell Stories: How Licensing Services Can Breathe New Life into Your #Writing

I admit it, I'm proud of my publishing credits for short works. On my website, there's a complete list of my stories for kids and another list for adults. Adding new works to those lists gives me a great sense of accomplishment.

But once a story is published, then what? Most fade into obscurity, if they don't actually go out of print (or get taken down from a website).

"Sell them again as reprints!" you're saying. Sure, that's a possibility for grown-up sci-fi. But have you ever tried to sell kidlit reprints? Mighty tricky.

Enter the licensing service, a new concept in my authorial life. Alfie Dog Fiction and Schoolwide Inc. both take already-published children's stories, so long as you hold the right to reprint them. They take new stories too, of course. I've decided to offer new stories to Schoolwide and reprints to Alfie Dog. The latter has a spectacular response rate of under a week! This is definitely not so for Schoolwide: expect to wait a few months. Both sites accept book-length works, too, and Alfie Dog takes fiction for adults as well as children.

From the consumer's point of view, licensing services work sort of like iTunes. The reader picks the story she wants and pays to download it. On the author's end, there are royalties paid per download, with no advance. I am not far enough into my relationship with Schoolwide to comment on their actual payment practices, but Alfie Dog's royalty statements are prompt and transparent, occurring quarterly. There is a minimum that must be met before a payout, but that's not uncommon for a small press.

I don't say you'll get rich parking your reprints on licensing sites. However, even a few cents per story is more that the big fat ZERO your pre-used story is making just sitting in an old website database or anthology. I've decided to feed Alfie Dog as many reprinted stories as it's hungry for. Here's my collection there so far.

Have you used licensing services? What has been your experience? Are there others I should try?