Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Meet Author C. Lee McKenzie

Today, I have another author visiting my little blog.

C. Lee McKenzie

*Squeals of joy and praise.*

I met C. Lee McKenzie through Yalitchat. Followed her on her twitter and then her blog

Poor Ms. McKenzie, I'm such a stalker.

C. Lee McKenzie writes both MG and YA novels http://www.cleemckenziebooks.com/.

Let's meet C. Lee McKenzie....

Tell us a little about yourself...

Hmm. A "little" means selecting through decades of experiences for the important highlights. Let me see . . . I'm married. That's important. I'm a native Californian who has traveled a lot but keep coming back. Every place I visited or lived was lovely, but California was and always will be home. I hike and practice yoga as much as I can and still write. Since I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains I have a lot of places I hike by simply walking out my door and onto a trail. I also have Santa Cruz beach very near, so what could be better than all of that? I'm not a city person. I can take a city for about a day, then I get the jitters.

What is your favorite book of all time?

I have to say it was Alice in Wonderland. That was the first book I ever read where I totally lost myself inside the story. I was with Alice all the way and I fell in love with the Cheshire Cat. I've obviously had many favorites since then, but whenever someone asks me this question that's the one that pops into my head.

Why did you decided you wanted to write?

I didn't. That's the only answer I can think of. I've always written something. When I was in grade school I wrote plays and conscripted the kids in my neighborhood to play the parts. We would put on plays in my grandfather's garage and charge a nickel. No overhead. No capital investment. All profit. Maybe all that early financial success is what kept me engaged in writing. Probably not. I just liked doing it.

Who is your favorite author that has inspired you the most?

Only one? That's impossible. I'm a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates. Love her darkness and her depth. I really wish I had that talent. Barbara Kingsolver never leaves me untouched by her ability to tell a story and then there's Margaret Atwood who is brilliant. I'll stop there, but I have others I've been inspired by.

How long have you been an author?

I sort of think I called myself a writer before I sold my first book, then I started saying I was an author, so 2009 is when I became an author.

Can you tell us about the first novel you wrote? Did you query it?

Yes. I queried and sent sample chapters to about six publishers. They all turned me down. The seventh didn't, so that gave me some hope. Then that editor asked me for a full and a week later made me an offer.

You write both middle grade and young adult, which do you like writing the most?

They are really different genres, so I can't say I like to write one more than the other. I find I'm really interested in writing about what young adult experience in today's world when I'm working in YA, so all of that writing is realistic fiction--sometimes with a hint of magic--can't help myself. However, it's so much fun to play with dragons and witches and fantasy worlds when I'm writing MG. We're children such a short time that I like writing about all the wonderful "what if" worlds for that age group. Besides, I still wish I could dive into a rabbit hole and meet the Cheshire Cat. Maybe one day.

You have a new book coming out soon. YAY!! Can you give us a teaser about PRINCESS OF LAS PULGAS?

The Princess is a girl of privilege with lots of ideas about status and class and how things should be in this world. I take everything away from her and she has to take a look at the world differently. My background is intercultural communication and one area that always interests me is cultural stereotypes. I love to hold those up to the light and reveal how false they are.

For PRINCESS OF LAS PULGAS, can you tell us what inspired you?

The truth is I needed something to present at a conference. I'd signed up for a session where everyone was to share her opening pages, meet an agent or editor, and get a critique. The problem was that the day before I left for that conference I sold the manuscript I'd intended to hand out. It didn't make much sense to have people critique something that didn't need critiquing. I guess Princess was panic inspired because tin my hotel room he night before the session I hammered out the opening pages of the book. Ironically, after I started Princess, the economic downtown was real, so while I didn't mean the story to be topical, it became so.

This is for either of your middle grade or young adult books. Can you tell us something strange or funny about how you came up with the characters of one of the books?

Shawna, my MC from Sliding on the Edge, came from two sources: a newspaper article about girls who cut themselves and from someone I knew who was distressed enough to self-mutilate. Okay, that's neither strange or funny, but once I had that girl in my head she wouldn't let me be. I swear she talked to me every night until I got up (a lot of times at 4 a.m.) and put down what she had to say. She was such a sassy creature.

You also have a new book your working on, THE THIEF.

Can you give us a teaser of that? Here's the opening as it reads now. I'm never sure the opening is done until I'm ready to sub the manuscript, so be kind.

Kranski’s office is my second home. I spend more time with the principal than I do with DD, but the principal’s friendlier. For this visit I already cleared out my locker and my backpack’s crammed with books I didn’t plan to see till the end of the semester when I turned them in. Maybe Kranski’ll be impressed.

“This makes seven times this year you’ve cut Mr. Diakos’ class.” Kranski opens a thick file and writes something at the bottom of a page. When he finishes, he looks up. “Did I miss any?”

I shake my head. “Nope.”

“Since we’ve had this talk six other times I won’t waste my energy repeating what I’ve already said.” He jabs his pen into a World’s Best Dad cup and leans back with his hands behind his head.

Sentencing. Detention? Probably not this time. Totally dumped from old Larkston High? Not yet.

What stage are you on with your draft?

I'm on the first draft stage. Oh, that is so not where I like to be. That means hours, days, weeks, months of work ahead. But what else would I do while loving to do it?

How did you find your critique circle?

I started in a small online group called Middle Critters. That's when I was only ready to show my MG stuff. Then L.K. Madigan who was also a member of that group asked me join her in a new group that would be critiquing YA as well as MG. I accepted her invitation and have been with that group ever since. L.K is a super writer and editor.

First thing that pops into your mind time...

Favorite food? Prawns. LOL!! I never expected that.

Dessert? My Gram's apple pie.

Best kiss you ever received? Gawd! Second grade. Bobby something. He was a hunk.


First thing you notice on a male? Hands

An embarrassing moment that happened to you? I fell on my butt during a dance competition.

Best vampire story? Dracula

Favorite movie? Matrix

Okay, now to what unpublished writers want to know....

You don't have an agent, who is your publisher?

WestSide Books

What made you decide to use this process?

It happened first.

Can you tell us a little how this process works?

You sub. They buy. You work directly with an editor, no middlemen.

What about the editing process? How does that work?

For me, I sub the manuscript. My editor comes back with "What do you think you're doing?" and I rewrite. Then I sub again and this time she says, "Mo betta, girlfriend," but . . . ." I rewrite. This time when I sub she

What sources do you use to advertise your books?

Mostly it's online. This time since I'm totally swamped I hired a publicist to help me out. I don't know a thing about using a publicist, but I'm learning.

For someone who wants to go this route, what would be the best piece of advice you can give them?

I hate giving advice. If you've read my first book, even my characters in an advice-giving position hate giving advice. But here's the best I can come up with: Be prepared for a bumpy ride. Don't think that because you sold one book means you are a "shoe in." Put as much effort into #2 as you did to #1. If you're thinking of a long term career keep trying for an agent because s/he will have a better overview of the business than you ever will.

Since already publishing your books with your publisher WestSide Books, have you ever thought about querying again?

Oh, I'll query again. I still haven't sold any of my MG books. They've been buried on my C drive for a long time, so I'll probably query those.

Any other advice you'd like to share for us aspiring writers?

Think of what you do as a business. There's a bottom line in all businesses. If your book is marketable, you'll be able to sell it. If you sell it be prepared to promote it.

And there you have, right from a talented author. I highly suggest you click on the link provide to visit C. Lee McKenzie website. For those of you who don't want to scroll up, I'll provide it again http://cleemckenziebooks.com. You can read her middle grade short stories, which are great. I loved STRING BEAN.

Thank you so very much for visiting my little blog. I hope you can visit us again when your novel, PRINCESS OF LAS PULGAS, is released.

Thanks, Ebyss. That would be great. Loved your questions and appreciate your hosting me here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interview with A.E. Rought

Today, I have another author visiting my little blog.

*21-Gun Salute*

A.E. Rought

*Applause and balloons released into the air.*

I met A.E. Rought through YALITCHAT and on Oasis for YA. And of course I started to follow her on her blog, Love, Light and Shadows. And we know I'm stalkerish, *Insert evil laugh*, so I follow her on twitter.

A.E. Rought has published paranormal romances. Here is her webpage http://www.aerought.com/index.html.

But we are going to concentrate on her YA book career. She is represented by Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary Services. And she and Gina are hard at work shopping around FORESIGHT, which is sitting on some editors desks, and they are about to start shopping RESONANCE--on proposal.

Squee! For her.

I've had the pleasure of reading FORESIGHT, and it is a great read. Her MC, Echo, is not a just-lay-down and take it type of person. And I like that....Alot. It adds a nice edge to the story. A definite addition to my shelves when it is published.

I've also had the privileged of reading the first part of RESONANCE, and this one should have no problem hitting the shelves either. The story is new and fres,h and certainly to add a thrill to its readers. I'm in love with her character River.

Yeah. I can love a character if I want to.

Let's meet A.E. Rought

Tell us a little about yourself...

Let’s see… I’m married to a real life sword-swinging, gun-toting, martial-arts master of a hero. Our kids are too pretty and smart for my mental health. In college a psych proff once told me I’m so extremely right-brained I should be handicapped. Hence, I write and craft (jewelry, baskets, quilts, Renaissance dresses) compulsively and suck rocks when it comes to anything logical, like math or reordering prescriptions for my Rheumatoid Arthritis.

What is your favorite genre to read?

I’m a paranormal and dystopian junkie. I like the edge, the hint of darkness, the threat of death or at least teeth, fur and claws in the shadows. My favorite series right now is Lili St. Crows Strange Angels. I <3>

Within the last year, what was a title of a book that completely whisked you away and you just couldn't put down?

Paranormalcy ruled my world for a day and a half. Hush, Hush was addictive while reading. I love love LOVED Beautiful Creatures for the total immersion aspect.

We know you write in the romance genre, what made you turn your creativity toward YA?

I love the feel of an ‘at first blush’ romance, and all the different aspects you can put in a YA plot and not have to deal with “adult” situations, etc. Hell, I am an adult, when I write I don’t want to write about that. >_<>

Do you prefer writing one over the other?

They both have their benefits. Right now I’m really loving the YA genre HARD.

Can you give us a teaser of both books?


Echo Miller sees dead people. Well, they're not dead yet. She sees how people are going to die, by means of what she calls 'deatholograms', draped like a ghostly second skin over their bodies. Gun shots, stab wounds, burst aorta. Which might seem weird if Echo weren't the daughter of a Fate, one of the Moerae, and Daddy Darkest weren't Hades himself. Echo's just trying to make it as a normal teen flying under the radar, but that's getting harder and harder every day. Daddy's just Branded Echo as an Oracle, basically a 'pointer' for Reapers hunting for newly-departing souls. And the two Reapers planted in Echo's school just happen to be two of the hottest, most alluring guys she's ever encountered. Which might be amusing if all the signs didn't suddenly start to point to something very, very bad happening in the school with Echo at the center.


When an epidemic grips Harmony Ridge, and “hearing things” drives local teens to the local psych ward, Faith Summers is sure her swan song is next. After all, Faith sees things no one else can—music dancing in visual light, misty faces stalking her friends, and River, a gorgeous boy who appears out of thin air and uses music as magick, playing her emotions like a finely tuned instrument.

Everything Faith knows about sight, sound, dimensions, and her own heritage are thrown into question, and suddenly, “seeing things” is the least of her worries. The Harmony Ridge attacks are not random—they are points in a search pattern that is moving closer and closer to her. With her life in jeopardy, Faith has no one but the mysterious River to turn to.

River tells her she is the “Balance” Resonants like him fight to protect, but if Faith can’t connect with the music she feels inside, both of their dimensions will fall to the Dissonants.

BONUS! I have a blurb for the as-yet-untitled dystopian I’m playing with: YAY!!!

The shift in human evolution finally happened. It didn’t create mutants with super powers, but heightened the psychic powers that some humans have. The Speakers, Seers, Movers, and Manipulators are in power, though their numbers are small. The vast majority did not evolve and are now ruled by the unforgiving iron fist of the Mentalist Guild.

I’m a Shifter capable of transferring a Mentalist’s powers to a Commoner…or to myself. In essence I can change the shape of our entire society.

I am an outlaw by birth.

I am the hunted.

I love that blurb. Sounds awesome!!!!

If either book was turned into a movie, who would play the heroes?

Oy! The characters are so solidly who they are to me, it’s hard to pick people. Let me see…

Echo: a young Jessica Biel

Chael: a young Channing Tatum, like in Step Up

Daddy Darkest: Morton Downy, Jr.

For RESONANCE, I’m thinking maybe the lead pair in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief:

Faith: Alexandra Daddario

River: Logan Lerman, but bigger, more muscled, with some tattoos :D

Quick but Oh, so satisfying. First thing that pops into your mind...

Favorite food?

I’m a chicken strip dipped in sour cream addict. I order it everywhere we go. Or a steak from Texas Roadhouse.


Pumpkin crisp with vanilla ice cream (recipe available on request *wink*)

Um... you know I want it.

Hayden Christiansen or Robert Pattinson?

Neither. Taylor Lautner! :P Hoooowl Good grief, you're not even kidding there. Nice!!!!

Favorite paranormal being?

In literature and film now…the werewolf. However, I am very fond of my Resonant Warriors… just sayin. And as I said above, <3>

First thing you notice on a male?


An embarrassing moment that happened to you.

Once, when I was a teen at a pool party, my friend and I giggle our butts off about people walking into the screen door. Fine mesh screen from top to bottom, and with the evening light, it looked like an open door. That’s my story about why, after giggling about others, I feel prey to the same damn mistake of believing my eyes instead of the door handle. BANG. No giggle. *_*

Okay, now to what unpublished writers want to know....

What did you do to make sure FORESIGHT was the best that it could be before you started to submit to agents?

I already had my agent by the time I started Foresight. I sent her the first couple chapters, then the synopsis. She was on board enough to go with that.

Did you compose a list of dream agents?

At one point in my life I sure did. The Knight Agency, Colleen Lindsey, The Greenberg whoseywhatsits. Gina is attentive, gives great input and is enthusiastic, that’s what sold me.

When did you know your query was as perfect as it was going to get and decided to send it out?

When I wrote my very first YA, which I decided to take back to the mattresses for another round, I actually posted the query on my blog on the YAlitchat Ning group. There was so much feedback that I started the Query Kick-Around Group there. Sadly, that particularly book is still waiting revisions.

I have to ask you… What did it feel like to find an agent? What was the feeling when Ms. Gina Panettieri offered you representation?

I was squeeing all over myself. I think I burned up the phone lines calling everyone. But, most of all, I have to say I felt validation, that deep seated feeling that Yes, someone does think my work is good enough.

Can you tell us what happened after you and Gina decided to work together?

We batted a couple adult books around for a while. I realize now that my writing needed to mature, and I needed to give her better books to work with. Years later, we are sitting on four request from big house to review Foresight. It’ll be interesting to see how things go with Resonance going out.

How many revisions before your book was ready for submission to a publisher?

Um… hard to say, I write a chapter, then revise, then write a chapter, etc. Then, I send 50-ish page chunks to Gina to review, and I revise those. It’s not like I write the entire thing, then revise. I do have betas and CPs who tell me mine are the cleanest manuscripts they get. I think that comes from being edited, and learning what works and doesn’t, and applying that as I write.

Any advice you'd like to share for us aspiring writers?

First of all, separate yourself from your work--don’t take anything personal, especially the rejections that come. Find a good critique group. Join YAlitchat. Stalk…er, I mean follow writers like Alyson Noel, Michelle Zink, etc on Twitter, follow agents and editors--you can learn a lot by what they say. Stay out of the way of your characters--let them speak, don’t speak for them. Most of all, never stop believing in yourself and your story.

And there you have it, right from an agented author.

Thank you so very much for visiting my little blog, A.E. Rought. I hope you'll let me interview you again when your book hits the shelf.

I’m yours anytime you want me!

The Bookshelf Muse Contest

Today I would like to mention a pretty cool contest located here

Angela Ackerman represented by Jill Corcoran of The Herman Agency is giving away critiques and a three month mentorship where she'll help with blog, improve your query, and read your entire manuscript.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

Be sure to click above and enter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Meet Nikki Katz

Today, I have another author visiting my little blog.

*Trumpets blaring.* Nikki Katz!

*Applause and shouts of praise.*

I met Nikki through Oasis for YA. And of course I started to follow her on her blog Nikki Katz. And being the stalkerish type of person I am, I started to follow her on twitter.

Nikki is a freelance writer and has published books on all sorts of topics: from entertainment to games and puzzles.

For her fiction dreams, she is represented by Bree Ogden of Martin Literary Management and is currently shopping her book, SHORELINE, to publishers.

Let's meet Nikki now....

Tell us a little about yourself.....

Um, let’s see… I’m a writer, blogger, mom of 3, wife, and rocket scientist. Yes, I always throw that in my bio – because that’s about all my aerospace engineering degree was good for. That and a plaque on the wall as proof.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Right now it’s dystopian. I absolutely love it! I think it all stems from the Matrix. That movie freaks me out, mostly because I think one day it could easily become reality.

Who is your favorite author that has inspired you the most?

As much as Twilight gets knocked by a lot of authors, I have to say that Stephenie Meyer inspired me to start writing again. I had written a YA novel several years ago (I call it my learning novel, because it will never see the light of day and I made every mistake possible) but then I got swamped with parenting, working, and I stopped writing altogether. In fact, I stopped reading for almost a year.

I picked up Twilight when our family friends, who are really good friends with Taylor Lautner’s parents , mentioned that he was in this new Twilight movie coming out. I started reading Twilight at the gym and devoured all four books in about two weeks. It got me interested in writing YA again. And here we are.

Have to say.. that is ultra cool.

Within the last year, what was the title of a book that completely whisked you away and you just couldn't put down?

The entire Hunger Games series. Over and over and over again.

So we know you write, when did this passion bloom?

When I was three and wrote poetry, when I was in third grade writing plays, when I was in junior high writing love stories … you get the picture J

Can you tell us about the first novel you wrote? Did you query it? What do you think about it now?

The first complete novel I wrote was a 40k YA contemporary novel. It started when I couldn’t sell my nonfiction prom planning book. I had written several chapters and I thought “well, what if a fictional girl picked up this book and used it to help her go to prom!” The story went from there. Yes, I queried it. Yes, it’s absolutely horrible. No, it will never see the light of day.

You have an eclectic array of books you have written and published. What started you on this road?

I used to freelance write for About.com and several of the Guides there had the same nonfiction agent. I queried her for some nonfiction projects and with my mathematical background she found that they wanted me to work with puzzles and games for the most part!

What made you go from writing game and puzzle books to fiction?

Fiction has always been my passion. In my own head, I’m not really an author until my fictional piece is published.

Can you give us a teaser about SHORELINE?

Sixteen-year-old Maya Georgiou is a beautiful ocean nymph faced with an impossible decision. She must choose between sacrificing Nate, the only boy she’s ever cared about, to a Greek Goddess with insane demands - or take his place instead.


Seventeen-year-old Trinity thinks nothing of her dead grandmother’s gold locket — until she slips it around her neck and dreams of the mysterious, dark haired boy whose picture is held within.

I'm going to change things up a little. You have to tell us the first thing that pops into your mind...

Favorite food?



Carrot cake

Best kiss you ever received?

On my wedding day from my husband (I have to go with that one, right?)

The one guy that makes you drool?

Robert Pattinson

Favorite paranormal being?

Well I’ll probably have to go with an ocean nymph, although they are mythological and I’m always a little confused about what constitutes paranormal!

First thing you notice on a male?

Hair. Wait. No, eyes. No, hair.

An embarrassing moment that happened to you.

My wrap skirt came untied during the middle of a theater performance in high school. I danced around the stage, blissfully unaware that my classmates could see the hip of my underwear. Now I’d laugh it off, but back then I was mortified!!

Your dream vacation.

Hawaii. I’ve never been!

Okay, now to what unpublished writers want to know....

What sources did you use to write the winning query letter?

Oh gosh, what haven’t I used! I’ve Googled every agent blog, I’ve entered query contests on both Nathan Bransford’s site, and Miss Snark’s First Victim … and then I ran it past my critique partners ad nauseum!

Did you compose a list of dream agents?

Yes and no.

Did you get several requests from your query?

Yes, but my query morphed and changed, so the queries varied.

You snatched Bree Ogden...or maybe she snatched you...what made you think, she is the perfect agent for me?

She’s still relatively new to the industry but she’s willing to work hard, extremely hard for her clients. My big “requirements” in my dream agent were wanting someone who looked for a career client, and someone I could bounce ideas off of – and Bree does both those.

Can you tell us how many revisions you had to do before your books were ready for submission?

After Bree took me on as a client I’ve only done one major revision.

While your book is being shopped around, what are you doing with your time?

Writing another novel of course!

Any advice you'd like to share for us aspiring writers?

Grow a thick skin and learn to take criticism. This is not an industry for the faint of heart. And landing an agent certainly doesn’t mean that things get better! There are still editors out there to reject you, book reviewers out there to dislike your book, readers to judge your contents. Do your best work – your VERY best work – and be proud of yourself.

And there you have, right from an agented author.

Thank you so very much for visiting my little blog, Nikki. I hope you'll let me interview you again when your book hits the shelf.