Monday 30 January 2012

Legacy Can-Do Kids: Mattie Stepanek

mattieSince I’m writing a time travel series, I would be remiss to not include children, tweens, and teens from history that have made a significant impact or a difference to this present world. In THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS stories, my characters travel back in time and meet kids their own age. These kids grow up to become legends in some way for the generations that followed. My first post in this special series is about Mattie Stepanek.

The first time I saw Mattie I was sucked into his life. It was on the Oprah show. Mattie was born on July 17, 1990, with a rare form of muscular dystrophy that resulted in his death on June 22, 2004— a month before his 14th birthday. His sister and two brothers also died from the disease during early childhood, and his mother has the adult form, diagnosed only after all four of her children were born.

A New York Times bestselling author, with six books of poetry and one book of essays, Mattie also became a peace advocate and motivational speaker. He lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of peace, people with disabilities, and children with life-threatening conditions. At the age of three, Stepanek started to write poetry to cope with the death of his older brother. Mattie’s first five books are: Heartsongs, Journey Through Heartsongs, Hope Through Heartsongs, Celebrate Through Heartsongs and Loving Through Heartsongs. All five works made the bestsellers list. He wrote that a "'Heartsong' is a person's special gift to be shared with others ... or a person's 'reason for being.'" Mattie’s philosophy for life was “Remember to play after every storm!” and he wanted to be remembered as “a poet, a peacemaker, and a philosopher who played.”

Since Mattie’s death, numerous parks, libraries, peace programs, and awards have been named in his honor, and many schools are using Mattie’s writings and his message of hope and peace as an educational and motivational tool for teaching students. The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is a volunteer-run not-for-profit organization established in 2005 to continue spreading the message of hope and peace offered by late poet Mattie J.T. Stepanek.
If you'd like to find out more about Mattie and his amazing legacy, please click the link below:

Thursday 26 January 2012

Author's Comfort Zone

This post could have also been dubbed "Balance 101". Just a little over three months and my debut novel THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS AND THE ARCH OF ATLANTIS will hit the cyber bookshelves. Sooo much to do, sooo little time. I need a time portal just to get all my marketing and promoting put in place. Plus there’s the website. Ordering promotional giveaways. Setting up blog hops. Joining the appropriate social media networks. The lists—well, they go on and on.

Wait. Stop. Breath.
Authors need to learn to structure their writing life, or their writing will take a nose dive. We need to learn to create balance so that the task of being a writer plus a marketer plus a promoter doesn’t ware us down. So how do we do this? When so much is expected of a writer nowadays?

Simple. Find your comfort zone. Find your personal comfort level with promotion or marketing, do that and do no more. That’s it. Do it. Or you’ll get burned. If you don’t heed my advice, then sure as shooting, negativity will leach into your writing. And that’s the last thing a writer wants! So, stop pushing the zone.
That doesn’t mean writers shouldn’t learn or try new things. By all means learn and try. But don’t hurt yourself doing it. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you collapse into a quivering mass of writer goo. As writers we must protect our work—and ourselves. It takes time to build an on-line marketing presence in the book world. Learn this, cut yourself some slack, and prosper.

Image: Stock photo5310009

Monday 23 January 2012

Why Not Me?

I have a friend who’s in for the battle of her life. In 2010 she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. After bouts of chemo and radiation, she seemed fine up until this past November. Seems the cancer had spread. The doctor didn’t give her or her family much hope. She wanted to go home. Her wish was to make it to Christmas. She did, and has felt better and stronger as each day passes. She is truly a miracle in the making.

I talked with her briefly before Christmas. She seemed upbeat and cheery, and though still bedridden, the girl manages to get around. With tons of love and support, I can see where she found the needed strength and stamina to carry on. She told me she started writing her autobiography last year. She calls it, Why Not Me? Her story begins as she’s sitting in chair number 13 while receiving her first round of chemo treatments. As of this post, my friend, who I’ll dub as Wonder Woman, went out to a restaurant for the first time in months.
This made me suddenly take stock. When something bad happens to us, our natural reaction is to say, “Why me?” When someone wins a lottery, they’re more inclined to say, “Why not me?” When we’re met with the most challenging situations in our lives, we tend to hide, whine or complain until it passes. And yes, it does pass.

Wonder Woman taught me that in life, we must learn to take the positive with the negative. It builds strength and stamina, humility and gratitude. We’re in this life together and learn from one another. After all, this is why I started writing in the first place—to make a difference by sharing my experiences with others through the trials and triumphs of my characters—one story a time.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Going to the Mattresses!

Meaning: Prepare for a battle or adopt a warlike stance.
In times of war or siege, Italian families would vacate their homes and rent apartments in safer areas. In order to protect themselves they would hire soldiers to sleep on the floor in shifts.
The phrase wasn't well known outside of the USA and Italy prior to the Godfather movies. It was used there, and later in The Sopranos television series, to mean “preparing for battle”.
Meaning for Authors: Prepare to revise an entire manuscript.
Oh yeah, I’ve been battling words and characters since I signed my contract with Musa Publishing last September. I went to the mattresses, so to speak, killed those darlings I held dear in my heart, stomped and crushed adverbs and weak words that filled up white space. Pummeled and pounded point of views, until only one character’s voice was left standing. Was there blood on my hands? Hell, yes! Did I feel like a murderer? Nope. After the smoke cleared and my fingers unfurled, I stepped back and looked at my manuscript with fresh eyes. Then, I smiled.
Going to the mattresses, for me as an author, was probably the best thing I could have done for my book. And my readers. I was too heavily invested in all five of my young characters and let them all have a say. In doing so, although my idea was good, the story was lackluster and needed a dust and clean. By giving Amanda Sault the nod, I gave my book a new life.
In my next THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS book, Jordan Jensen is tagged for the point of view. And trust me this fourteen-year-old has plenty to say.

Monday 16 January 2012

Authors in the Limelight: L. K. Mitchell

Shakes Island Tribal House

Keeper of DirectionsI want to thank and welcome author, L. K. Mitchell for sharing her personal writing journey with us on my blog today. Her book, Keeper of Directions, can be purchased from Musa Publishing, Amazon, and other on-line bookstores.   

While on a vacation from the U.S., ten-year-old Lance learns that a raven named Rose has been stolen from the Tower of London. The Ravens kept at the Tower are a clan of shape-shifters entrusted with keeping the natural world from the chaos of global warming, floods, and earthquakes. Their shape-shifting capabilities depend on the earth's magnetic field, but the magnetic poles are shifting. A transfer in power occurs when the poles shift. The Ravens' control is maintained through war with the ancient DiLong: the Komodo people. Back home in Seattle, Lance and his teenage sister Vivi are caught up with the searchfor Rose and the warring shape-shifters heading to battle for control over the Directions. Lance is chosen as the apprentice Keeper of Directions but have the Ravens made a wise choice? Lance has Asperger's Syndrome. Can a ten-year-old Aspie and his smart-mouthed, teenage sister help set the natural world in order?

How long have you been writing, L. K.?

I started writing when I was in the 6th grade. I wrote my first poem and then started writing short stories a few years after that. By the time I was in the 8th grade I was known throughout my school for being a poet/writer. I also had my own middle-school band called the "Planets." I wrote songs too.

Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write Keeper of Directions?

My idea for shape-shifting ravens came from the research I was doing on a poetry collection that I was writing for my Master of Fine Arts. I was researching raven the trickster in other cultures. I started with the question: What if the ravens kept at the Tower of London aren't your normal average birds but a clan of shape-shifting ravens? Hmmmm.  Also, I live in culture that considers ravens all the time. My children are Tlingit from the Raven moiety. A moiety is the way in which the Tlingit Nation is organized (into two divisions). One group is Eagle/Wolf and the other is Raven.

What sets Keeper of Directions apart from other books in the same genre?

The main character in Keeper of Directions has Asperger's Syndrome which is now considered a type of autism. I have a few family members with Asperger's so I was familiar with some of the characteristics. Typically, the main character in a novel will "overcome" something in order to achieve his/her goal. In this case, Asperger's syndrome is not overcome because the character still has Asperger's in the end of the novel. There are a few books out there with characters that have Asperger's but those are not in the fantasy genre. Also the character in my novel, Lance, is only ten years old, so he's still trying to learn about Asperger's and how he's going to navigate the adult world.

As an author, L. K., what is your writing process?

I write full-time. To get started I usually just sit in the chair. I write longhand sometimes and then take that work to the computer. Sometimes I start on the computer. I write for a few hours every morning, take a lunch break, and then write a few hours until dinner time. I usually write on weekends too, except in the summer. I live in Alaska so summers are spent fishing for halibut and salmon. Fishing competes with my writing. But then I take a notebook with me. I have salmon scales on my journals. Usually I get in 5-8 hours of writing a day. I like to write in my office with a view of whatever is going on outside.

How long did it take for you to start and finish Keeper of Directions?

It took me three weeks, working many hours a day, to get a rough draft of Keeper of Directions. Then I put it away for a few months then took it out and began the editing process. I found two teenagers who were avid readers to give me feedback when the novel was in a readable stage. We discussed the scenes, character arc, and Asperger's Syndrome. They provided some great feedback. All in all, it took 2 1/2 years and about 20 plus drafts before I submitted it to a publisher, Musa Publishing.

Do you have any advice for other writers, L. K.?

My advice for writes is to read voraciously and write with a passion. Set time aside every day to work on your craft. Also if you're going to write for young adults then I'd suggest hanging out with them. I started a middle grade writers group for ages 8-12 and then started another one for teens. What a kick! I was very surprised by the different dynamics in each group. You can work with you that a teen center, or help out at a church youth group, or participate in something like Big Brothers, Big Sisters. There are a ton of opportunities out there when it comes to working with youth.

Sounds like you’ve found the secret to staying young! What’s next for L. K. Mitchell the author?

I've got two young adult novels in the early editing stages: The Mermaid Cafe and the Room of Tears. Also, I have outlines for three other young adult novels.

Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series – If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

If I could time travel I'd head back a thousand years to the Scandinavia region before colonization. I'd go visit my Sáami ancestors in order to learn our traditional knowledge. I'd want to learn traditional medicines, the yoik, how to make a shaman's drum, how to build a laavu (teepee-like structure). So much of my heritage has been lost so I'd go back and re-learn it. I don't have a romantic idea about what it would be like though. I'm sure I'd miss indoor plumbing and my microwave.

L.K. Mitchell website:

Twitter: @pocketfulcharms

Amazon link:

Musa link:

Thursday 12 January 2012

Can-Do Kids: Hailey Scott

Along with my bits and pieces on what I’ve learnt as a writer (what works for me and how this can help other authors), and my ‘Authors in the Limelight’ interviews, I want to start up a blog post series on kids who make a difference. Since I’m writing young adult fiction, my target audience is made up of tweens and teens (and hopefully a mix of adults), so I wanted to shine the light on those kids who make this world a little more brilliant. So grab a pair of sunglasses – you just might need them!
Meet Hailey Scott. She is better known as the teddy bear girl. In 2005, Hailey Scott sat on Santa’s knee and asked him for something. No toy or treat for her would suffice – instead, Hailey asked Santa Claus to remember the less fortunate children in the world who didn’t have a teddy bear to love or call their own. But rather than wait for Santa’s help, Hailey jumped into action and started Hailey’s Wish – collecting stuffed bears and animals to give to children who aren’t fortunate enough to have their own.
Now eleven years old, Hailey Scott is one busy young girl. Going into its sixth annual teddy bear campaign, Hailey’s Wish has collected and donated over 3,000 stuffed toys. That’s 3000 hugs and smiles! Some of Hailey’s bears have made their way overseas to children in war torn countries. Although she doesn’t get to meet the children who receive the bears she collects, Hailey has heard plenty of stories about them that have touched her heart. One child – who received a teddy bear in the hospital – still sleeps with it to this day. Another child who had cancer received a big fluffy bear. He had it with him throughout his treatments, and was buried with it.  Although this news made Hailey cry, it made her realize that something so small can make such a big difference in the lives of others.
Now that is true magic. And that is the spirit of giving. If you’d like to help out Hailey with her teddy bear cause, please check out her facebook page:                     
Photo credit: 

Monday 9 January 2012

Lessons From Kilroy

Kilroy was here. You’ve probably heard or seen that catchphrase scrawled on something (bathroom walls were a favorite) or mentioned somewhere growing up. So where’d the phrase come from? I knew it was fairly old, but not sure how old. So I did some checking and found out that the author of this catchphrase became the most widely ‘published’ man since Shakespeare.

How? Read on, my reader. ‘Kilroy was here’ first appeared on walls and every other available surface during World War II. A man named James J. Kilroy, a politician and an inspector in a Quincy, Massachusetts shipyard, coined the slogan. Kilroy chalked the words on ships and crates of equipment to indicate that he had inspected them. From Quincy those words traveled on ships and crates all over the world, copied by GIs wherever it went.

Now, if Facebook or Twitter was around then, could you imagine the possibilities James J. Kilroy would have now? Perhaps writers could learn a little something-something from Mr. Kilroy on how to spread the word about their books and products. Coming up with a little catchphrase to bring awareness may be the answer we’ve all been looking for to make it in the publishing industry. Branding is the new ‘Kilroy was here’, so writers must choose their tag words wisely or be swept away in the babble of internet clutter.

BTW – James J. Kilroy died in Boston in 1962 at the age of 60. And I’m sure he never got a penny in royalties.
Image: 123rf Stock Photo 5191745

Thursday 5 January 2012

Authors In The Limelight: Mindy Hardwick

I want to thank and welcome author, Mindy Hardwick for sharing her personal writing journey with us on my blog today. Her book, STAINED GLASS SUMMER, is the story of twelve-year old Jasmine who adores her photographer Father and wants to be an artist just like him. But when Dad abandons the family, Jasmine is sent to spend the summer with her Uncle on a Pacific Northwest Island. Soon, Jasmine is learning stained glass from island glass artist, Opal, mentoring five-year-old Sammy, and thinking she might just be developing a crush on Island boy, Cole. But, can Jasmine truly let go of her Father and call herself an artist by her own terms? The book can be purchased from Musa Publishing, Amazon, and other on-line bookstores.

How long have you been writing, Mindy?
I have been writing professionally for eight years. But, I’ve been making up stories since I was little. I used to be a seventh grade teacher and I would take some of my students to a Young Author’s Conference. I always felt like I’d found my home when I heard the authors speak. But, it took earning an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College before I had the courage to call myself a children’s writer.

Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write Stained Glass Summer?

An artist friend of mine gave me a couple pieces of broken glass that she found in a dumpster at the back of an art supply store. That night, a teenage girl character popped into my blue and white striped chair in the bedroom and said, “Hello, my name is Jasmine. It’s time to tell my story.” A few weeks before STAINED GLASS SUMMER was released, I attended a teen art glass workshop held at a hot glass shop. During the workshop, broken pieces of glass ended up on the floor from the teen’s projects. They looked exactly like the broken glass pieces my friend had given me all those years ago.  There are pictures of the teens and the hot glass workshop on the STAINED GLASS SUMMER Facebook Page at:

As an author, Mindy, what is your writing process?

Long! I write many, many, many drafts.  During my Vermont College work, I was told by Sharon Darrow that the writing is in the revision. That’s exactly right! The story I set out to tell is often very different than the story that emerges on paper. STAINED GLASS SUMMER was originally an edgy YA novel called Jewels from the Dumpster! During the many, many revisions the story changed to be a middle grade story with a tough girl character who has been deeply hurt when her Father leaves. I’m always glad for the many versions of a story because I think it does take quite a bit of writing to get to the heart of a novel.

Very true! How long did it take for you to start and finish Stained Glass Summer?

It took ten years from the time I started writing STAINED GLASS SUMMER to the acceptance e-mail from Musa—almost to the day!  But, I wasn’t working on the novel the entire time. I also write and publish articles and short stories, and I think doing so, keeps my momentum going for my novels which seem to take much longer.

Do you have any advice for other writers, Mindy?

Persistence and patience.  Sometimes it just takes a long time for a story to move out into the world. As writers, we work on a story and think everyone needs to read it now. But, I believe there is a time for stories, and sometimes now is just not the time. Then, we need to set the story aside and go work on other things. Sometimes it’s us, the authors, that aren’t ready to carry the story forward into publication with all that entails, and sometimes it is just not time for the story to be in the world. I came close to selling STAINED GLASS SUMMER a couple times, and it didn’t happen. In the last couple years, some of those publishers who I “almost” sold the story to have gone out of business. Sometimes there are forces at work that are beyond us, and we have to believe in the story enough to hold on. I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of e-publishing with Musa! It was the exact right home for this story.

I believe there’s a time for everything too. What’s next for Mindy Harwick the author?

I will be working on revisions and getting another book ready to release. This one is called WEAVING MAGIC and is a contemporary romance for teens. WEAVING MAGIC will release on April 27, 2012 from MuseItUP Publishing. You can read an excerpt here.

Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series – If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

That’s easy! I have always felt very connected to the early 1900’s in upstate New York. I think, in another life, I was one of the women who worked with Susan B. Anthony to fight for Women’s Voting Rights. One day, I’d like to write a historical fiction story about that time in history.
If readers would like to contact me, you can find me here:

Twitter: @mindyhardwick