Category Archives: On Writing

Looking for new CPs!

Hi all!

I’m on the hunt.

raptor

Okay. Not for food (well, a little bit for food), but for new crit partners! DING! DING! DING! I’m going to be finished editing my latest manuscript, DOCKSIDE soon, and I need fresh eyes. My wonderful and long-suffering crit partners MA, JD and JH are fabulous, obviously, but I need MORE.

Kind of like chocolate. Never enough.

WonkaFalls

Okay if you don’t know what this image is of, we can’t be friends. Anyway, DOCKSIDE is a dark, NYGoodHealth upper YA (or adult, let’s talk after you read it) thriller or dystopic manuscript. My last manuscript, HEART OF ASH, is still out in the query realm. Feel free to read the first chapter here. But this new one is fresh and shiny and ready for you to tear apart!

If you, or anyone you know, is interested, please leave a comment! Of course, I’d be happy to trade and read chapters/whole manuscripts from new partners.

Thanks!

The Monsterland Blog Tour is Here!

Monsterland Blog Tour Header ImageThe time for the Monsterland Blog tour has arrived! Today I’m joined by Michael Phillip Cash, author of Monsterland and a host of other books. Be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of the post for your chance to win a free prize pack, including a book, mug and more!

But first, let’s learn about the book itself:

Welcome to Monsterland – the scariest place on Earth. All guests can interact with real vampires in Vampire Village, be chased by an actual werewolf on the River Run, and walk among the dead in Zombieville. Wyatt Baldwin, a high school student and life-long movie buff is staring bleakly at a future of flipping burgers. Due to a fortuitous circumstance, Wyatt and his friends are invited to the star-studded opening of Monsterland. In a theme park full of real vampires, werewolves and zombies, what could possibly go wrong?

Monsterland contains solid ingredients for a horror feast: stupid teens, smart teens, a little challenged romance, family dynamics, action, blood and gore. Will civilization ever be normal again? You’ll have to read it to find out. We dare you!”—The Children’s Book Review

And now for the author interview!

Hi, Michael!

Michael-Phillip-Cash

What inspired you to write Monsterland? Was it a movie, books, concept or current social movement? 

I was searching for a new idea on the classic monster-in-the-house story. My son and I were watching Jurassic Park and I wondered why there hasn’t been a movie or book about werewolves, vampires and zombies in a theme park.  I started writing that night.  A couple months later, Monsterland is a best seller on Amazon.

When writing, are you a pantster or outliner, or a mixture of both? You’re a prolific author, between books and screenplays. Tell us about your writing process and your secret to being so productive!

I am a crazy outliner.  I always write a screenplay first for several reasons.  One, screenplays allow me to beat out my story and set up a tight structure.  I have to hit certain beats by certain pages, so it creates a nice even flow when writing.  Once I have my blueprint—which is really what a screenplay is—I can then add the meat and spices to my novel.  From 9am to 4pm, my day consists of research and development.  I dive into the world of my subject and read anything I can get my hands on so I can familiarize myself with that world.  Google and Amazon … love ‘em.  Then I take a break and cook my family dinner.  Give the kids the baths, spend time with my wife, and when everyone goes to sleep (between 8pm and 8:30pm) I begin to write. I write until my eyes go, which is around midnight.

What was the most interesting or exciting part of the book for you?

I loved the first time the teens go on the werewolf river run.  I felt like a Disney imagineer!  I was able to write the ride and attraction any way I wanted.  Reading it over again, makes me want to be chased on the Werewolf River Run!

Which character do you identify with most, and why? (In this book or any other of your books or screenplays.)

That’s a great question. I identified most with Wyatt, Melvin and Howard Drucker. In a sense, they are a part of me. I wanted to reflect how I felt growing up, lost and insecure in high school. Wyatt wants to date the unattainable Jade. I, just like many movie geeks in high school, could never imagine dating a cheerleader—who was dating the football quarterback nonetheless.  Melvin was an outcast, interested in the things that are not “cool” by today’s standards.  Again, I felt the same way.  What interested me in high school was not the norm.  I played this up with Melvin and really made him into a freaky kid, with his love of werewolves and 50s horror movies.  Howard Drucker is simply uncomfortable in his own skin. He has this wonderful girl named Keisha who is clearly attracted to him, but he can’t see the cues.  I’ve been there, dozens of times.

Was there anything in this book that was based on your own life experiences?

One movie I tried emulating over and over again as a kid was The Goonies. I wanted to direct that movie.  I once invited a group of kids over to my house and made a home video of Mikey and the Goonies.  Writing Monsterland was my outtake on that movie.  It was my fantasy to go on an adventure, with my friends, and end up being the hero and saving the day (and the world).

What is the toughest criticism and best compliment you’ve received as a writer?

There was one really nasty critic on Goodreads who completely slaughtered one of my books.  I was elated they hated it so much because it gave me another direction to take with my writing.  Best compliment I ever received was from the head of a major studio production company. She said I am the new Stephen King, and my writing will be the next big thing. That was really cool to hear.

Can you tell us your favorite book or series that is not your own? What’s in your TBR pile?

My favorite book is not from the fiction aisle, but from the nonfiction section. “Save the Cat,” by Blake Snyder, was the one book that changed the way I tell stories.  Every writer should pick it up.  I actually just went to the bookstore on Saturday with my wife and kids.  I picked up “Joss Whedon – the Autobiography”, “How to Tame a Wild Elephant”, “The Shawshank Redemption: The Final Shooting Script” and a Star Wars book that my son and I are going to read together.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

The best moments in writing are the ones you can barely remember. It’s like they happened in a dream. But the only way to earn them is to write every single day.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

My wife and kids are at the center of my life—as well as my niece and nephew.  I play with them all the time. My son and I have a special love for video games and we’re currently in the middle of playing the original Legend of Zelda on Nintendo. I also love to cook.

What is your favorite writing or inspirational quote?

“The Coen brothers, Charlie Kaufman, Quentin Tarantino never tried to guess what Hollywood would make. They wrote their obsessions and so should you.” – Brian Koppelman

 That was an awesome interview! Thanks Michael! We really appreciate it. Now, be sure to enter below for your chance to win this exciting prize pack!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

#Amwriting

Image result for velociraptor writing

Hey, that’s me! Typing in the jungle, you know.

I’ve been writing a new book, letting SALEM float around in the cosmic sea of requests (thank you, agents!) and generally trying not to freak out.

Speaking of which, if you haven’t read the first chapter of SALEM, you should. I’d love to hear what you think of it!

This new book is set in ancient Egypt, 18th dynasty. For you non-history buffs (read: cool people) that was the golden age of Egypt. Think of Nefertiti, Tutankhamen, and Hatshepsut.

Hatshepsut’s court (say Hatch-ep-sut) is where my novel takes place, exploring the life and times of this fascinating female Pharoah. Oh, and plenty of dark magic. Like, a walking, talking Anubis who eats human prey and some other creepy crawly goodies that will give me nightmares until I’m done. You know, the usual. If Salem taught me anything, it’s that I’m a weird, weird writer. It’s probably best to just go with it.

Other than that I’ve been doing book reviews over at The Children’s Book Review, as well as here on my site. I’ll have an author interview and giveaway coming soon, so make sure to check back for that!

Make sure to talk to me on Twitter, tweeps! Tweet with me!

 

PNWA 2015!

Winning

The fantastic PNWA Conference just finished, and I’m exhausted. I attended with my two FABULOUS crit group partners, J and M. We all had great success at the pitch appointments, reveled in the copious amounts of free coffee, and suitably obsessed over every tiny little thing every agent and editor said like ninth graders.

Not in a creepy way, of course. Be cool, man. Be cool.

Overall, it was the best conference I’ve attended! The panels were informative and interesting, especially the ones about craft. I love me a good discussion on dialog. 😉

My favorite part was the “First Page,” where agents and editors rip apart your page in front of a live audience. It’s anonymous.

As long as you don’t burst into tears.

I did not.

So a win for all! Thanks for nailing it for me, Picard.  Really, though, our whole group had a great first page experience. Lots of helpful and positive feedback, which is so great when you have been working on something in a black hole that you call your office for the last few months. An agent even asked me to talk to him after the session, so I tried not to bounce out of my seat. It was a Charlie Sheen-worthy win!

Now we are all preparing to head to New York for the Writer’s Digest Conference. I’ll be pitching Salem there as well. I’ve sent out all my requests for this conference – 9! – so now I can finally breathe. Finger’s crossed for me, y’all.

And a bonus pic because I found this while searching for the pic up top. You’re welcome.

Engage

#AmReading

DCCMealy reading a book.

Hey everyone! What are you reading this week? Is it time for Beach Reads yet, or are you still ensconced in fantasy or thriller reads from Winter? Re-reading Harry Potter?

It’s okay. I won’t tell. Right now I’m reading The Winner’s Crime, book two in that series. So good! Read my review of book one here.  And on CD I’m listening to Independent Study, book two in The Testing series. Also, totally amazing. Read my review here of book one. I can’t wait to finish them and get reviews up! They are both amazing.

I’ve recently started and stopped reading two very famous books. Does that ever happen to you? Everyone goes nuts over them, they make movies about them, and you go out and buy it. Then you get five chapters in and you’re like, “Soooo is anything GOING TO HAPPEN HERE?”

Now I understand I might not be the target audience here, but sometimes I just don’t get books where nothing happens.

Unless it was a book just following character’s around from HP. That would be alright. Molly Weasley grocery shopping, anyone?  I can see it now…

Okay I’m back. Sorry, I imagined her levitating oranges into her shopping basket. Heh.

So what are you all reading? How do you feel about starting and stopping books? Yes or no?

Revised – MY NAME IS 13

a-ha-ha-wr-be-a-writer-funny1

Hi internet! It’s good to see you again. Have you lost weight? Well, whatever you’re doing, you look great.

I know, I know. It’s been a long time since I posted. I was just so darn busy with writing/editing/outlining for my work and my critique partner’s work, that I haven’t had a chance to talk with you. But, the wait is worth it! I’ve added the revised first chapters of MY NAME IS 13 right there in the top right corner of your screen. Read it! Tell me what you think! I need feedback before I head back out into the query world!

I’ve worked a lot on voice during the past few months, so I am especially interested to hear thoughts on 13’s point of view. Thank you for your feedback in advance!

Writing/Editing/Reading/Reviewing

 

Hey all, here’s my weekly update. I’ve (FINALLY) started outlining a new book! If you haven’t heard, I’ve started and stopped two novels in the past few months. Nothing more frustrating than writing 20K or more words and then getting bored with the MS.

But, we have to keep going! I’m starting a new one and I’m very excited about that. Details to come soon. Also, I’m editing MY NAME IS 13 and BLEACHED after some wonderful agent feedback. My critique group has gone through 13 already with the edits, and I’ll be working on those. I’ve also spent time editing their manuscripts. Plus, I’m working on my usual Book Reviews for this site and TCBR. So, needless to say, I’m pretty busy.

And when I finish the edits to the last two manuscripts, I’ll be resending them to the agents. I’m not sure if they’ll look at them,but hey – I might as well try! We’ve got a long seven months until the PNWA conference next year and all of the agent awesomeness that it brings.

Happy writing, all!

 

Writing!

 

Hey all! I’ve finished my latest round of edits for MY NAME IS 13. Go ahead, click on it. I dare you!

I received some wonderful feedback from an awesome agent, and I’ve tried to apply her suggestions here. You’ll notice the voice is a lot stronger here. Let me know what you think! And, as always, check out my latest book reviews!

PNWA Conference 2014!

Hi all-

So the PNWA 2014 Conference is all over. I’ve swapped my dresses for yoga pants and pitch sessions for dirty diapers. Let me tell you, my feet are killing me! Stupid heels. But I’m so glad I went.

I think it went really well. Five (FIVE!) people asked to read either my full MS or a partial. It was incredibly exciting to send those off, even when I realized I sent the wrong version to a few and had to resend like a big ol’ lunatic. Hopefully that doesn’t count against me! What can I say, I’m over eager at this stage in the game.

The most exciting part was getting to know the agents between sessions. I sat next to an agent and editor for dessert on Thursday night, and not only were they ridiculously friendly, but they also had wonderful insights on the industry. Jennifer and I found that incredibly helpful! On Saturday we were able to speak with another agent and her client, who had a lot of input on the YA market. It was really interesting and she was so nice! Sprinkled throughout the conference were little interactions with an agent here, an editor there. Every single one was friendly, helpful and genuine. Who knew?

I think as writers we assume that agents and editors are these superhuman rock stars who don’t have time to interact with us little people. But the truth is, if you just offer a smile and say “hi,” they’ll probably respond in kind. Just don’t crawl under the bathroom stall to pitch them.

No. Really. I’m looking at you!

I did have one hilarious interaction with an agent that I just have to share. I had only a few minutes left in my pitch block and decided to pitch to [Name withheld to protect the hilarious]. I already had four people ask for pages, so I was pretty confident. I plunk down with a big smile, introduced myself, and dove in. “MY NAME IS 13 is best described as a cross between ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and THE LYING GAME. 13 is a slave…”

I get about three sentences in before he holds his hand up.

“Stop. That was terrible.”

“Oh. Okay. Would you like me to-”

“No. I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know those books, and I think you need to breathe. Here’s how you should pitch me-”

Let’s just say he was right about the breathing! I smiled and nodded, took notes on how I should properly pitch him, and then was promptly dismissed. I thanked him and walked away, smiling dazedly.

“Did it go well?” the guy in line behind me asked.

“No! It was terrible!” I said, smiling. His face fell. Oops. Good luck, dude!

Needless to say, that’s not what I wanted to hear, but I was smiling because he was honest and he tried to help me improve my pitch for next time. Really, he made some valid points about the pitch. And I kept smiling all day because I had a hilarious story, and you know what? After as many rejections as I have had between FIVE manuscripts, I have reached that point where it no longer matters. It’s disappointing, but you know what? You just have to keep going and take the constructive criticism. Any help from a real live agent is great!

So the lesson, kids, is that you can’t get mad if someone rejects you. Especially when he’s hilarious and makes you do the walk of shame halfway through a pitch session.

So all of my fingers and toes are crossed that someone will love MY NAME IS 13 as much as I do. I’m happy to be home and back to writing my next YA manuscript.