Sunday, February 28, 2010

Welcome Debut Author Linda Kage

It is my pleasure to host debut author Linda Kage on my blog this week. Linda's Young Adult book, The Stillburrow Crush released last Friday in electronic form and can be found in paperback at The Wild Rose Press,, and
When Linda and I talked about doing this blog we decided it would be fun to interview her heroine, sixteen-year-old, Carrie Paxton and let her tell you a bit about her story. Here's Carrie:
Hi Carrie, welcome to my blog.

Thank you so much! It's an honor to be here. And between you and me, I'm glad you chose to interview me instead of Luke (unlike that traitorous author of mine, Linda Kage who interview HIM on her February 25th blog) because, honestly, it was MY story, not his.

Why don't you start by telling us a little something about yourself?

Sure. My name is Carrie Paxton. I'm a junior in high school and live in the very small, very unknown (okay, okay. It's fictional) town of Stillburrow, Kansas with my parents and---until very recently--my older brother, Marty. I'm the editor of the school's newspaper and very proud of that fact. My best friend is the biggest geek a body could meet. And up until a few weeks ago, I'd never been kissed (blushes). But I can't say that anymore!

You write for the school paper. What do you love about it? What do you hate? What would you change about it, if you could?

The Central Record. Ahh (that's me sighing with delight). I love pretty much everything about the school paper. I like being in control of where each article is placed (well, mostly in control. The townspeople would flip if I moved their precious sports section). I love writing every article--even the sports section. And I love the smell of the paper fresh off the press. Heck, I even love going around and passing out each edition. The most annoying part of the paper is some of the people I write it for. But come on, who really cares where the sports section goes, especially if nothing is happening in sports that week. Geesh. I agree with E.T. on that count.

Want to tell me about your brother Marty? I mean, you care about him, don't you? Even though he teases you something horrible. What would you wish for him if you could give him a wish?

A year ago--heck, a MONTH ago--I would've answered, "Marty's an idiot. It's practically mandatory to give back to him as good as he gives me in the teasing department. But since he's my brother, I guess I gotta love him." But these days, I'm more in the mind to say, "I love Marty, but since we're brother and sister, we simply MUST pick on each other from time to time--more often than not!" You see, everything changed that day in the cemetery when he turned to me and my parents for support. It made me realize how much I really did care for my big bro. And the fact that he was still worried about me being with Luke, even though he was suffering through his own crisis, was really very sweet, even if it was totally unnecessary. If I could give him anything right now, I would take away all his pain and suffering.

Stillburrow is a very small town with what you see as an obvious social order. How do you feel about that? Do you think it will ever change?

I'm gonna feel like I'm repeating myself, but....a month ago, I would've said, "Nope. This place will never progress into the twenty-first century." But, like in my Marty answer, things have really changed around here, or maybe I've just changed my perspective on things. I would've thought me being seen walking hand in hand with Luke Carter down the school hallways would cause a national scandal. But, honestly, no one flipped out. And now, after everything that went down with my brother and his tragedy, I think the entire town has been shaken up. Maybe the good citizens of Stillburrow will surprise me and band together, kind of like my family has done in the face of such heartbreak. We'll see.

Now the big question--Luke Carter, football quarterback, secret poet, crush worthy hunk--what's really going on there? And why, oh, why do you feel as if he is "above" you in status. I mean, you are a smart, sassy, strong young lady, Editor of the what is in essence the town's newspaper. Why is it so hard to believe he might find you interesting and attractive?

Ha! Thank you so much for the poet comment. He'll just LOVE that being exposed...again. I'm going to have so much fun teasing him. I just love teasing that boy. I think that's why we like each other so much. We both have a secret obsession with getting a rise out of other people, or maybe just getting out of each other. Whatever it is, it's pretty serious and I think it's pretty permanent too. Now that we're together, I can't imagine being away from him.

And onto the "I'm not worthy" question: Thank you so much for all your compliments about me. I've never seen myself the way you described me, and I probably never will. I'm just plain ol' me. But it's entirely too easy to see Luke as amazing. Maybe you just have to get within five feet of him to experience the sensation, but something about him simply takes your breath away. Even when I thought he was merely a pretty face, and I hadn't seen any of his hidden depths yet, he made my heart pound and my skin tingle. It's just easier to look past his faults than it is to look past my own.
Oh and between us- weren't you just a little jealous of his gift for poetry?

A little?! (SNORT). Try a lot. I still think it's totally not fair.

What do you feel about Linda Kage your author? If given the chance would you want to write her story?

Other than the fact that I'm still miffed she interviewed Luke and not me on her blog, I gotta like the woman. She honestly tried to keep herself out of MY story. She let me tell it my way, giving me the opportunity to spill my own opinions--not hers--and react however I pleased to everything. As a fellow writer, I respect that. And of course, I'd love to write her story. I'd love to write YOUR story, Ms. Parra. But that's just me. I like to write people's stories and find that hidden part inside them that makes them unique from everyone else.

Now for a few easy questions:
What is your favorite color?

Blue, like the color of Luke's eyes (SIGH).

Favorite hobby?

Writing. Wow, you really meant it when you said easy questions.

And most importantly, your favorite flavor of Lip Smackers?

Yikes. Hmm. I've never much been into lip smackers until recently, so I'm pretty new to all the flavors. But I heard there was a Dr. Pepper brand. Since that's my favorite soda pop, I'll go with that for now. But I'd still like to experience all of them before making my final decision!

Thanks for coming by and talking with us.

Thank you so much for having me here. This was really fun.

I had the opportunity to read The Stillburrow Crush and while I'm not a reviewer I would like to say it was a fun story. I grew up in a small Kansas town and boy did this bring back memories. Kage captures small town characters and teen emotions perfectly. The story will take you back to another place and time when all that mattered was what grade you got on your math test and who did or did not see you with the most popular boy in school.

Feel free to leave a comment-the blog will be up most of the week. On Friday I will put all the commenter's names in Gracie Boo-boo's dish and she will draw a winning name. The winner will receive a prize package that includes a paperback copy of the book, a Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker, and a cocoa hand lotion. Cheers~

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Deciding on Contests and Conferences

It's the time of year when writers are entering contests and registering for conferences. Contests and conferences can be good ways to improve your craft, to network and to gain recognition. They can also be a huge money pit and time suck. The key is to make your decisions thoughtfully. When entering contests ask yourself, what is it I hope to gain from this contest? If you hope to win a contest, (which in most cases is like buying a lotto ticket-no matter how good your entry is) then what is it you hope to get out of winning? Look at the end prize. Is $50 and a gift certificate plus bragging rights worth the time, money and postage of entering? Or do finalists get in front of your dream agent or ideal editor? People have been known to sell from finaling because an editor requested a full and then bought the book. But, be sure the editor who may read your work if you final is actually an editor who can buy your work.
What if all you want it a critique? Contests are good for this, but remember, judging is subjective and judges have been known to be wrong. A friend had a published judge tell her her mystery would make a good series romance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All she could do was ignore this advice. Instead she sent the story into a mystery agent who sold it to a mystery publisher. Lesson learned: just because a judge is published doesn't mean what they say about the work is accurate. (This works both ways--they might tell you the work is perfect while everyone else mentions things that need strengthening. Don't be tempted to dismiss all the rest and cling to the published author's words. It might make you feel better but it won't help you get published.)
Conferences are the same way. There are many, many conferences a writer can attend. You need to look at them thoughtfully. Ask yourself, what is it I hope to get out of this conference? If you hope to learn about craft--pick a conference with a reputation for good craft workshops. If you hope to meet editors and agents, skip the big national conferences. Instead investigate the smaller regional conferences. Pick the ones with editors or agents you want to see. Trust me, you'll get more face time at a local conference than one with over 1,000 attendees. Maybe you want to network with your friends and other writers from across the country- then a big national conferences may be best. Or maybe you want to be able to write off a weekend at a nice sunny location. Pick a conference in Florida in the middle of winter.
The key to conferences and contests to to know what you want to get out of the experience. Know your budget. Pick the ones that are going to help your work.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Researching St. Valentine's Day

I thought it would be fun to dig up some unknown facts about Saint Valentine's Day. As a kid we were told it celebrated the martyr St. Valentine who sent messages of hope and love to the early Christians from his jail cell. Here is what Wikipedia says: "Saint Valentine's Day (commonly shortened to Valentine's Day)[1][2][3] is an annual holiday held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions.[1][3] The holiday is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496. ...The holiday first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished."
And interestingly, "Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine.[7] The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae).[8] Valentine of Rome[9] was a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 269...Valentine of Terni[11] became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him.[13] No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the fourteenth century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.[14] The Early Medieval acta of either Saint Valentine were expounded briefly in Legenda Aurea.[16] According to that version, St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. Legenda Aurea still providing no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. In an embellishment to The Golden Legend provided by American Greetings, Inc. to and widely repeated, on the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first "valentine" himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his beloved,[17] as the jailer's daughter whom he had befriended and healed,[18] or both. It was a note that read "From your Valentine.""av"

Still more research tells us that there are several pagan celebrations of marriage and fertility during February and it is speculated that St. Valentine's Day was a way for Christians to celebrate love and marriage incorporating old pagan celebrations into their new faith. Oh, I could spend hours digging around researching this wonderfully old and lost tradition, but I won't bore you. :) For me it is a celebration of love and friendship. So, Happy Valentine's Day my friends. I am grateful to have you in my life. Much love always.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Resolution Read- check-in

It's been a little over a month since I blogged about my New Year's resolution. That was to read more and to rediscover the joy of reading. (I'm talking about novels here not blogs or how-to books.) Now, I've heard that the first thirty days of any resolution are the most important. If you can be consistent for thirty days you are most likely to make a lifestyle change. I asked you to join in with this little project and so today I thought would be a good time to check in and see how it's going.
Have you made time to read? If so, how much reading have you accomplished? (Any reading at all is an accomplishment in this info overloaded world.) What have you discovered?
I have read two books since I started this project and am halfway through a third. I was hoping to have had four books read but two is twice as much as last year. I completed a fun YA and a great scifi. I'm halfway through a mystery. I've learned I have to make time to read. That having the book with me when I go somewhere creates the opportunity to read. Creating opportunities is the only way to increase the reading in my life. By doing this, I've enjoyed other author voices and making time to read has helped me to put away the internal editor and instead search out the fun in mine own work.
I'll be checking in periodically this year (not monthly) to see how you are doing and to let you know how I'm doing with the resolution and what I've learned.
So, please leave a comment and tell me what you're reading right now. Cheers~