Monday, October 31, 2011



Yes, once again I'm going to attempt this. I think this is my fourth year. I've never actually finished. However, I've always had a really good excuse :D The first two years I ended up moving right in the middle of November and last year I was in the middle of final edits and book release prep for Homework Helpers. This year though, I don't have any such excuse. So I'd better not botch it :D

I've got my Nano calendar wallpaper up, my potato word count guy all ready to go

my projects outlined and ready (yes, I said projectS. I'm cheating a little. I'm halfway through 2 WIPs and the plan is to finish them both by Nov 30th :D  )

Are you doing Nano? If so, come be my buddy! I'm michellemclean over on the site :) I'm also posting over on Pots & Pens today with a fun interview with Sandra Ulbrich Almazan and one of my favorite recipes, Chocolate Cake in a Cup - a perfect Nano treat :D


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Interview with Lyon's Legacy Author Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

I had the pleasure recently of reading Sandra's novella, Lyon's Legacy. I posted a review of it at Operation Awesome yesterday, so go check that out if you haven't yet. For today, the lovely Sandra was kind enough to answer some questions for me :)

Sometimes being a geneticist isn’t enough to understand your family.... 

When scientist-in-training Joanna Lyon learns her rich uncle plans to have their rock legend ancestor, Sean Lyon, cloned, she’s disgusted. Uncle Jack pushed her into music when she was younger, and she hated it. So it’s particularly galling that he wants her to travel through a wormhole to an alternate universe and sample Sean’s DNA. She only agrees to go so she can secretly sabotage the project. But meeting Sean forces her to re-examine her feelings about her family, including her estranged father. Can she protect the unborn clone from her uncle, and will she have to sacrifice her career and new-found love to do so? 

MM: Give us the Twitter pitch :) What’s your book about in 140 characters or less?

SUA: A geneticist is sent by her uncle to an alternate TwenCen universe to clone the rock star she hates—her ancestor.

MM: What inspired the story behind Lyon’s Legacy

SUA: It was inspired by a friend’s story about a woman who heard the Beatles perform in the Cavern, a club in Liverpool where they performed many times before they became famous. I wanted to add a science-fiction twist to that, so I came up with the idea of a time traveler going back to the past to listen to a concert by a famous musician. I asked myself who she was, why she was there, and how she got there, and eventually I came up with Joanna, sent on a mission to get DNA and clone the musician. Instead of using the Beatles, I created a single musician who lived in Chicago in the early sixites to be Joanna’s great-grandfather, the man she’s supposed to help clone.

MM: What was the hardest part about writing this book?

SUA: The overall plot has been pretty much the same from draft to draft, but I did wind up changing some of the characters and the settings. Probably one of the more difficult things about writing this book was making sure the changes were consistent throughout the story. Another tough thing was figuring out what to do with this story. The story felt complete at novella length, but it’s tough finding markets for novellas. For a long time, I packaged this story with the sequel, which is a full-length novel in itself, but that was then too long. Publishing this as an e-book was a great solution for me, since word count isn’t so critical.

MM: What were the challenges you faced in writing this book?

SUA: I had to research many different things for this book, including plausible methods for time travel, spaceship design, 1960s Chicago, and fertility treatments.

MM: What books have influenced you the most in your life and writing?

SUA: In life, I would have to say Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. On one level, it’s the story of a man on a cross-country trip with his son, but on another level it examines the philosophy of science and the importance of Quality and gumption. For writing, it would be the Writers Digest series of books. They cover everything from Characters and Viewpoint to Plot to Scene and Structure.

MM: What is next for you? Can you share a bit about current and/or future projects?

SUA: I’m currently juggling several projects. I have two projects in the revision stage: a fantasy standalone novella called “The Fighting Roses of Sharon” and Twinned Universes, the sequel to Lyon’s Legacy. I’m currently drafting a fantasy novel called Scattered Seasons.

MM: Fast Fun Five:

  • Sweet or salty? Sweet! 
  • Panster or plotter? More of a panster, but working on my plotting. 
  • Ocean or mountains? Mountains. 
  • Morning person or night owl? Night owl. 
  • Shoes or bare feet? Shoes for medical reasons, unfortunately.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Sandra!

For more information on Sandra or to purchase her book, check out the links below :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blog Chain - Monster Mash

Matt got to choose this round's topic, and he came up with a fun one :D

What is your all-time favorite monster?

At first glance, this seems like an easy question. But it really wasn't LOL See, I have different favorite monsters for all occasions. If I'm going to go with what has scared me the most for the longest amount of time, I'd probably have to say ghosts.

I reserve the right to change my mind should something more terrifying show up, but I tend to be really freaked out by things that I can't see. I mean, a big ol' yeti or something might scare my hair white, but at least I can see it coming at me. Plus, I'm pretty sure the other monsters don't exist (or if they do, they aren't bugging me). But I live in a very, very old house next to a 200 yr old cemetery and sometimes....well, let's just say weird things happen. And weird things have happened to other people I know. So...yeah...*shudder*

The monster to scare me most recently - Skinwalkers. This one is courtesy of the lovely Bethany Wiggins who regaled me with tales of these terrifying creatures while she was writing her book Shifting. Add to that the fact that we lived in the region where these creatures live, there were many locals who claimed to have seen them (and not just superstitious grannies...I'm talking big, burly oil workers who refused to drive down certain stretches of road because the last time they did something they thought was a man dropped to all fours and loped along beside their car...that was doing 40+ miles an hour), and the fact that I lived out in the middle of nowhere and my husband was frequently out of town for work (and Bethany liked to tell me that every noise I heard was probably a skinwalker LOL) - and yeah....*shudder*

Then there are the monsters of the cute, cuddly variety. The ones that make you say awwww more often than AHHH!!! Like these two:

But, I guess if I'm going to pick my all time favorite, my "go-to" monster, the one I've got dozens of books and movies on, I'm going to have to go with the vampire. I even took a class on vampires in grad school (and wrote a paper called "From Van Helsing to Buffy". It rocked, if I do say so myself) ;-) It was so much fun :D Vampires are seriously cool though. I mean they run the gambit from terrifying undead monsters to these handsome hotties:

Gotta love the versatility. Just sayin' ;-)

What is your favorite monster?

Be sure to head over to PK's blog to see what creature she most loves and stay tuned tomorrow to find out what's hiding in Tere's closet :D

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Funnies

Nanowrimo jokes were found on Danyelle Ferguson's blog - they were written by her husband. To check out her blog and/or see the original post, Click HERE.

"Knock Knock"
"Who's there?"
"Write who?"
"Uhm, yeah. You already said that. Write who?"
"Exactly, write whatever."

 A salesman walked up to a Nanowrimo participant's house and rang the doorbell. No one answered.

A Nanowrimo participant and her daughter were out trick or treating. A man opened the door and said to the little girl, "What are you supposed to be?"
"A ballerina," she said as she twirled in a circle. He dropped a piece of candy in her bag.
"And what are you supposed to be?" he asked the older woman who was wearing vampire teeth, had quotes pinned to her shirt, and was carrying a dictionary.
"I'm the Word Count," the woman said with a thick, fake accent.
 "Aren't you a little old to be trick or treating?"
"Probably, but I'm going to need all the chocolate I can get."

Question: Three people were sitting at the library with their laptops. The first was typing away furiously the screen filling with words, many of them with red, squiggly lines underneath them. The second glared at a mostly blank screen with bloodshot eyes. The third typed a few words, then got up and browsed the shelves for a long time before returning and typing a few more words. Which one is the true Nano participant? 

Answer: All of them.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coolest Punctuation Marks EVER

I saw this link on Facebook and had to share. Some of these are really the interrobang, and the question comma and exclamation comma - seriously, I LOVE these, I'd use them all the time :D Someone needs to add them to a keyboard lol

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Internal Editor Needs to Shush

So yesterday I clicked on my blog only to discover that I hadn't posted since Friday. Somehow I had completely forgotten to post on Monday. Not sure how that happened *oops* I hope everyone has been happy, healthy and productive in the meantime :D

Yesterday I also realized that Nano is in 6 days. S.I.X. DAYS. How did that happen? Where did October go?!

I had a pretty lofty goal for October. I was going to finish my current WIP so when Nano hit I could work on a new one. If I could pull it off, it would mean two finished books by the end of the year. I've done pretty well...but my current WIP is nowhere close to being finished.

However, before October 1st, it wasn't even started. I hadn't worked on new material in a very long time so I am proud of the work I've accomplished.

Here's my problem...I can't shut off my internal editor. And it's driving me nuts :)

I know this book has issues. It's complicated. It's partial verse and the genre has morphed from urban fantasy into what I can really only call Sci Fi (maybe light SciFi, but still). It's a genre I haven't written before and it's something that requires research (which I'm more than happy to do) but all of that combines to make that pesky editor in me sit up and scream about every 5 seconds because I know there are sections that need to be rearranged or expanded or researched better or cut or any number of combinations of the above.

The poems in the story also take quite a bit of time as I'm trying to fit the story I need each of these poems to tell into the story as a whole and still stay within the structure and rules of each form.'s complicated LOL But what I need to do, and what I am trying VERY hard to do, it just to write. Just to get that basic first draft story OUT. And then I can go back and fix what needs fixing.

Anyone have an internal editor muzzle? :D Does your internal editor slow down your first draft writage? And who's doing Nano?! :D I'm getting ready to break out my little potato guy word counter. I love that spud :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Funnies

There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges. 
— Ernest Hemingway 

 How do I know what I think, until I see what I say?
 — WH Auden

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blog Chain - People I Couldn't Write Without

This topic was chosen by the lovely Sarah who wanted to know:

Do you work with critique partners? How did you find your crit pals, and what influence have they had on your work?

Oh yes. I have crit partners. Probably too many LOL but I've met so many awesome writers over the years and we pretty much all exchange manuscripts at least once in a while.

My very first group I found by googling. I met some great people on there, learned a TON. I was a very VERY newbie writer. Had finished one book, paid an editor to go through it, gotten a few good suggestions from him, but it wasn't until this group (and one awesome lady in particular, Jeannie Ruesch) got a hold of it that I actually started pulling that poor manuscript together.

I can't believe how much she taught me. Stuff I'd never heard before. The adverb rule, POV tricks/rules/no-nos, ways to show different sides to my character - for all those who have read Treasured Lies, the pea scene was suggested by Jeannie. If she hadn't taken me under her wing, I don't know where I would be right now. I think I've mentioned before that I once wrote a scene where I had FOUR povs going on in ONE paragraph. Yeah...Jeannie was the one who explained why that was bad LOL

My other critters I met through QueryTracker. Toni Wilson (we are often called the eTwins by our QT friends) - I send everything to her. I mean literally everything. She often crits my emails before I send them LOL

Kristal Shaff and Cole Gibsen - again, these amazing women read pretty much everything I write. And I've learned so much from each of them. They are all awesome with things like plot flow, word choice, motivations, plot holes (and Kristal and Toni in particular are great at pointing out when I'm going overboard on the romance LOL). These women ready all my stuff and they are so incredibly sweet about reading my pages over and over again. I think they know my stories more than I do sometimes LOL

I met Elana Johnson through QT and joined a crit group with her and the absolutely wonderful Christine Fonseca. Elana is amazing - she will tell you how it is and she doesn't let you get away with anything. I usually get my pages back thinking "yeah, I knew she'd mark that." :D I'm slowly learning to just remove it before she has to mark it up LOL

Christine is amazing with emotions - I can go way overboard with them sometimes...and sometimes I don't have enough. She keeps me on track with my plot and characters and their motivations and personalities. She is also a fellow Non-fiction writer and is my main critter for all things NF (though Toni reads some of that stuff for me as well) :) It's so wonderful to have someone I can send those pages too. I don't know what I'd do without her.

And I also have my amazing Operation Awesome gals. I joined their group not too long ago (actually...I think it's been a year or so now!) It's been wonderful having a fresh group of eyes and learning from each of them - both from their crits of my work and from my crits of their work. They are an incredible group of women and I am so lucky to be a part of their group.

When I lived in Utah I was very privileged to be part of a live group with Bethany Wiggins and Bonny Anderson. I still send them pages and am always thrilled to read theirs, though I miss seeing them face-to-face :)

I have several other friends and readers that I send my pages too. They are all priceless to me. I would never be able to make it down this road without them.

Who are your critters and how did you meet them?

Be sure to see who PK shreds paper with and stop by Tere's tomorrow to find out about her crit pals :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

And the winner of Shifting is....

Shoot me an email at authormichellemclean (at) yahoo (dot) com and I will get your SIGNED copy of Shifting sent out :D

Congrats and thanks for entering everyone!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

WIP Wednesday

First off - Happy Birthday to my awesome stepson!! He's 21 today, which is blowing my mind. When I married his father he was this adorable freckle-faced little 10 year old :) Now he towers above all of us and has turned into a wonderful young man. :) writing news - things went wonky LOL I'm rewriting a novel I wrote a few years ago (as I've told you before). Revisions have been going very well. Then I realized that while they were going well for the OLD storyline, I was getting way off track for the NEW storyline. Not that anything was horrible, and I'd added quite a few new tidbits. But I was 100 pages in and the real crux of the new stuff hadn't really started yet and was bogged down in all this stuff that, while I liked it and it worked well for the other story, was pretty irrelevant to the new story.

I always block out my scenes on post its and put them up on my cork board during revisions, so I can see what I have and more easily determine what needs to change. But for this problem, those didn't really help.

So...I typed up a little mini synopsis for each chapter, printed it out, put it on my cork board, and started rearranging and cutting. It was kind of fun. I had my tape, scissors, red pen, and push pins all laid out. I cut one entire chapter and took another one, cut a few bits out of it and taped them into the synopsi (?) for 2 other chapters...and got rid of the rest of that one. Then I moved a few chapters around so their content fit the flow of the story better.

And then I took all that, made a new little synopsis for each chapter on a post it (one for each chapter), put those on my main cork board, opened my files and went to town. It probably sounds more complicated than it was LOL But it worked great! I'm a very visual and hands-on person. If I can see it and DO it (as opposed to just reading it) I can work things out much quicker.

So, I am now well on my way to getting this puppy where it needs to be :)

Do you have any special little tricks like this that help you when it comes to revisions?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kick A** 2011 Debut Author Spotlight - Bethany Wiggins and Shifting!

When the fabulous Christina Lee approached me to participate in today's Kick A** 2011 Debut Author Spotlight day I jumped at the chance. There are so many incredible books out this year, but of course, the timing was just perfect for me to spotlight my amazing friend Bethany Wiggins and her book Shifting.

Now, I already told you all the details on it and I'll repost the blurb and cover for you here, but what I really wanted to do today was have a little of that FUN that I promised you :) And what could be more fun than winning a COPY OF SHIFTING!!!

Yep, that's right, one lucky commenter will get their very own copy of this wonderful book. All you have to do is leave a comment below and I will choose a random winner. Good luck and congrats Bethany!!!

For a full list of everyone participating in today's Spotlight Extravaganza, head to Christina's blog!

After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Magdalene Mae is transferred to what should be her last foster home in the tiny town of Silver City, New Mexico. Now that she's eighteen and has only a year left in high school, she's determined to stay out of trouble and just be normal. Agreeing to go to the prom with Bridger O'Connell is a good first step. Fitting in has never been her strong suit, but it's not for the reasons most people would expect-it all has to do with the deep secret that she is a shape shifter. 

But even in her new home danger lurks, waiting in the shadows to pounce. They are the Skinwalkers of Navajo legend, who have traded their souls to become the animal whose skin they wear-and Maggie is their next target. Full of romance, mysticism, and intrigue, this dark take on Navajo legend will haunt readers to the final page.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Funnies - Happy Birthday to Christine!!

Today's Friday Funnies are in honor of my dear friend Christine Fonseca's birthday :D Happy Birthday Christine!!! I hope you have a fabulous day and that all your wishes come true this year :)

"Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese." 
Billie Burke

"Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest." 
Father Larry Lorenzoni

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

WIP Wednesday

Well, I actually managed to stop procrastinating and start working on my WIP :D My goal is to revise a chapter a day (I'm rewriting the book but salvaging what I can so some of these "revisions" are really totally gutting and rewriting but keeping track by chapter is still much easier than by word count) and so far I am a chapter ahead. So I'm pretty happy with myself for the moment.

This is a partial verse novel and I am having a blast writing it. I just hope other people will like it LOL

How are you all doing on your projects?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Action - Motivation and Background = Massive Edits

I was commenting on the awesome Elana Johnson's post this morning and realized my comment was turning into a post of its own LOL So I copied and pasted it over here and left a shortened version over there :D (Definitely go read her post though if you haven't yet - great editing tips!)

Elana was talking about the things she'd learned from her editors, and asked what we had learned.

I think my biggest one (so far) was trying to jump right into the action without giving my readers enough about my MC to make them care about the action. When I started doing revisions with my agent I ended up adding a whole new first chapter just so I could set things up better, add some background on my character and why she's in the situation she's in, so by the time you got to my old first chapter you actually care about why she's doing what she's doing.

So often we hear that you have to hook people right away and in YA especially, I think that often translates into jumping right into the action. But if the reader doesn't know enough about the world, the characters, and the situation, they probably won't care about that awesome action you are putting right up front.

For my book, my MC is on the hunt for a treasure because she thinks finding it will save her family. And in my old beginning, I opened with her impatiently waiting for what she hopes will be a big clue - then in walks potential love interest who totally freaks her out and then a whole bunch of other stuff happens.

There's nothing wrong with what I had going on (in fact, it's still in the book...just not as the first chapter), but I hadn't spent nearly enough time setting up my character's backstory, who she is and what her motivation was for doing what she was doing. That didn't mean I had to write her entire backstory into the book, but without knowing a bit more about my character, her actions didn't make a lot of sense to my readers. And they certainly weren't as gripping and intense as I'd hoped they'd be.

With those motivations, characterizations, and background bits in place, the action I'd tried to create in the beginning worked much better. There is still action going on - she's still actively doing something, there is still mystery being created - I'm not just spelling out her life story - but I think I did a much better job of setting up the story before really diving into the heart of the matter.

What I learned - It's great to jump right into the action. But you've still got to give your reader a reason to care about what's going on or they won't be hooked, no matter how great that action may be.

What editing tips have you learned?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blog Chain - Worth It In The End

This round of the blog chain was started by the amazing Shaun, who wants to know:

What are three books you would tell people that they need to keep reading even if they aren't immediately sucked in by the first page?

I love this question :D And it's been very interesting reading the others' answers. Twilight and The Host by Stephanie Meyers were two that immediately popped to mind and it was interesting to see that several other people on the chain felt the same. I ended up loving both books (and didn't have a problem with the rest of the Twilight books) but those were two that took me a bit to get into.

I'm not always a very patient reader and I'm definitely more apt to stick with a book if it is A) recommended by a friend or B) written by a friend (case in point - The Hollow by Jessica Verday. It took me a while to get into this book but once I did I couldn't put it down. And I devoured the other two in the trilogy).

But, most of the time, if I care about the main character and the storyline is one that I want to follow, I'll stick with it for a good 100 pages, sometimes more, just in the hopes things will get better. So, here is my list (although yes, I cheated a little bit and mentioned a few more above) :D

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone - Once he hit Hogwarts I was glued to Mr. Potter through all seven books. I think I read them all in just under a week and I've reread them all several times. But the beginning DRAGGED for me. However, everyone was raving so much about them I stuck with it, and I'm very glad I did.

2. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander - I originally chose this book because I needed something to read on a plane ride and it was really long, had nothing embarrassing on the cover, and was conveniently placed in my grocery store checkout line. I struggled through the first little bit, but I was stuck on a plane with nothing else to do. Once Claire went through the stones and ended up in 1700s Scotland, I was completely hooked. I finished that 800 or so page book that night (totally ignoring my cousins whom I'd gone to visit in the process. Luckily, they understood...and I even got my cousin's wife hooked on the series before I left) :D

I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction although I always caution them to stick with it until she gets through the stones. And I do tend to skim her rather long and rambling descriptions. But other than that, these books are AMAZING.

3. Anything by Anne Rice - I love most of her books. Her vampire series especially. Louis and Lestat were my first vampire loves. But I think it takes a good 1 to 3 chapters (sometimes more) for me to get into her books, until the day came where I picked one up and just couldn't get through it at all. But...up until then, once I'd pushed past the first few chapters, I'd be hooked. And after reading a couple books, I knew this would be the case so it was easy to keep going, knowing it would eventually get better.

What books make your list? Why did you stick with them?

Check out Eric's list HERE and be sure to stop by Tere's blog tomorrow and see who made her list.