Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Interview with Lila Guzman, author of Lorenzo and the Pirate

Lila Guzmán is the award-winning author of Lorenzo and the Pirate (Blooming Tree Press), the 4th novel in the Lorenzo series about Spanish participation in the American Revolution. It is available in audio book from Colonial Radio. Her series of biographies from Enslow Publishing features George Lopez, Cesar Chavez, Ellen Ochoa, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Roberto Clemente. She lives in Austin , Texas , with her co-author husband.

"Lorenzo and the Pirate" was a finalist for Children's/YA Book with the Oklahoma Writers Federation. The first chapter of a YA time travel novel garnered first place in its category.

Visit www.lilaguzman.com to read first chapters of her books.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Lila! Do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

Yes, this is what I was born to do. Every experience I’ve had—from being an officer in the U.S. Navy to getting a Ph.D. in Spanish has prepared me for this. Luck and persistence play a role in this business, but a natural talent for writing and an active imagination are crucial.

Did you always want to be a writer?

As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write. When I was a little girl sitting under the apple tree, I dreamed up stories.

Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

Lorenzo and the Pirate is the 4th book in a young adult series set in the American Revolution. Lorenzo is fictional, but all the events surrounding him actually happened. For example, he gets caught in a storm surge during the 1779 New Orleans hurricane in Lorenzo and the Turncoat. There was a Katrina-style hurricane that went through New Orleans in August of that year.

Tell us about your other children's books.

I write both fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. My non-fiction books include the Famous Latinos series for Enslow. The subjects are George Lopez, Cesar Chavez, Frida Kahlo, Ellen Ochoa, Diego Rivera, and Roberto Clemente.

In fiction, I write about the role of the Spanish in the American Revolution, from a flatboat flotilla delivering supplies from New Orleans to Fort Pitt (Lorenzo’s Secret Mission) to the Battle of Baton Rouge in 1779 (Lorenzo and the Turncoat).

Kichi in Jungle Jeopardy is a historical fantasy set among the ancient Mayan. Kichi is a chihuahua.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

I suppose we’ve all had writer’s block at some point. For me, it usually happens when, subconsciously, I realize something is wrong. I always write with an outline, but sometimes a concept that sounded good when I thought it up goes awry when it goes onto paper. Walking a mile or so on the walking track or swimming usually breaks me free of writer’s block. I’m not sure what exactly is going on in my head, but something mindless like cutting the yard or going to the grocery will usually solve the problem. The lifeguard at the pool probably thinks I’m a slacker. Often, I’ll swim a couple of laps and then get out, scribble something on my note pad, then get back in the water.

Just today, I paused on lap three to write down the following note: Petra remembers her last night in the house. Pursued by two guys, saved by a franklin. (Maybe the head franklin?)

That probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but it plugs up a hole that was causing me trouble.

Some writers go on long walks, others keep a journal, write at a café, or listen to music. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity?

All the things you mention are things that I’ve used at one time or another. Exercise inspires me. Writing down ideas in a notebook helps a lot. Moving to a new place to write often gives me the setting for a scene I’m working on. Listening to music can really get the words flowing, especially if the music matches the scene I’m writing. The 1812 Overture is great to listen to when writing a battle scene.

Describe your working environment.

Where I work changes according to what’s going on in my life. I recently inherited my brother’s house and have spent a lot of time there getting it ready for the market. If I’m on the road for a school visit, I stay in a motel with wi-fi. I can get a lot of writing done there when there are no incoming calls and no housework to distract me. Today, I took my computer to the dentist’s office and got a lot of writing done while my daughter was at her appointment.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

I’ll admit that my website is the last thing I get around to and I don’t have the time right now to blog. That’s on my list of things to do.

Where are your books available?

Because I write for multiple publishers, the best place to find my books is at amazon.com.

Who are your favorite authors?

My absolute favorite is Bernard Cornwell. I loved his Sharpe series and the way he brings history to life.

Thanks, Lila! www.tips-fb.com

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My interview at Write On Online

Hi all,

I was interviewed yesterday by Debra Eckerling on Write On Online.

You may read the interview HERE.

Thanks! www.tips-fb.com

Monday, May 10, 2010

Guest blogger Karen Cioffi on the "Final Stages of Self-Editing"

There is so much involved in self-editing; the lists and checkpoints can fill a book. But, in this article we’ll look at how to do a final once over. These are steps to be taken after you’ve proofread and self-edited the manuscript and had it critiqued, checked for grammar, storyline, punctuation, showing, etc.

1. Read you manuscript

Read it again. Try to read it slow and watch for all the self-editing tips you’ve learned and think you’ve applied. Spotting one’s one errors is difficult since we know what we wrote and intended. Some of the other tips here will help with this problem.

2. Change the font and read it again.

Surprisingly, you will spot errors you just glazed over before. You won’t run through it the same way you did with the original font.

3. Read each paragraph from the last sentence to the first

This is an interesting method for an additional self-edit. It’s helpful because your brain won’t be on auto-pilot. You will spot glitches within sentences that you would glaze over when reading normally.

Note: I don’t mean reading each sentence backward; read each sentence as you would normally, but read the last sentence first and work your way to the beginning of the paragraph.

5. Print your manuscript

Okay, I know what you environmentalists are thinking . . . I’m one also. I try very hard not to waste paper and protect our trees. But, there is a difference between reading on a computer and reading paper copy. I’ll be honest, I don’t know why our brain perceives it differently, it just does.

As you’re reading your manuscript, use a colored pen or pencil and mark the text you find errors in. Once you’re finished go back to your computer document and correct the errors.

The other practical aspect of this process is it’s a good idea to have a hard copy of your manuscript near its final stage. Unless you have an offsite backup, you can’t be too careful (I’d be skeptical of this also – you never know with any online system). I’ve lost a number of files when my computer broke. And, I’ve even lost files on zip drives when the drives failed. So, from experience I’m cautious when it comes to saving my work.

Another step to take, if you print this copy of the manuscript, is to recycle it. I reuse paper I print by using the back for notes; when it can be discarded, I recycle! You can either rip it into pieces or shred it so your valuable content isn't usable to others.

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter-for-hire, freelance writer, and reviewer. She is also the founder and manager of VBT Writers on the Move, and co-moderator of a children’s writing critique group. You can learn more about Karen at: http://karencioffi.com/media-page/ and be sure to sign up for her FREE monthly newsletter, A Writer’s World, at: http://karenandrobyn.blogspot.com. You’ll get a free e-book for doing so!


Friday, May 7, 2010

New releases from Guardian Angel Publishing

ANDY & SPIRIT MEET THE RODEO QUEEN- Academic Wings by Mary Jean Kelso,
art by KC Snider. Andy and Spirit meet the rodeo queen who teaches Andy cowboy skills.

KLUTZY KANTOR-Littlest Angels, by J. Aday Kennedy, art by Jack Foster. Klutzy Kantor Pegasus tickles the funny bone while teaching the lesson that practice makes perfect.

THE SOGGY TOWN OF HILLTOP-Littlest Angels by Kevin McNamee, artist Eugene Ruble. This fun, rhyming picture book teaches more than just a new way to drink water.

NANA'S MAGIC TEA BERRIES- Chapbook for Tweens by Marlys A Rold. Kimberly drinks the extra two cups of tea her brothers reject, and finds herself falling into a totally new adventure in Scotland at Loch Ness.

COMING SOON! off to the printers this week!
THE POTTY TRAIN- Guardian Angel Health & Hygiene by Nikki Schaefer. Teach little ones about potty training with a train and conductor!
www.guardianangelpublishing.com/potty-train.htm www.tips-fb.com

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Interview with Jennifer Cervantes, author of Tortilla Sun

A native of San Diego, California, Jennifer Cervantes is the author of the soon-to-be-released middle grade novel, Tortilla Sun. Although Jennifer has a Spanish and Mexican heritage, she's also a blend of German, English, French and Irish. That's quite an interesting mix!

The author is here today to talk about her novel, the publishing process and the advantages and disadvantages of critique groups, among other things.

Thanks for this interview, Jennifer! Tell us, what was your inspiration for Tortilla Sun?

So many people, places, and experiences served as inspiration. But perhaps the biggest inspiration for getting started was my youngest daughter Jules who asked me to write her a short story about her favorite bear (who still sleeps in her bed). So I started writing this silly story about a selfless bear. As I wrote, I became addicted. More ideas sprouted and I needed a place to put them all. I began to think about the kinds of books I would love for my daughters to read, ones where they were reflected in the pages. Before I knew it, I started writing Tortilla Sun. The first draft went rather quickly, but oh those revisions were often painful.

I understand Tortilla Sun is your first book. Tell us a little about the publishing process. How was it for you?

I love reading the answers to these questions because we all have such different stories to tell. For me, it was a sequential process. When I began writing Tortilla Sun, I thought, “If I can write an entire book, that will be enough.” Then I finished the manuscript and stuck it in a drawer. A few weeks later I thought, “If someone read it and liked it, that would be enough.” So I found the courage to share my work with a critique group. They encouraged me to find an agent, so I began that quest always thinking in the back of my mind. “OK, if an industry professional likes it and I get an agent, that will be enough.” I submitted my work to Laurie McLean and was so fortunate to get an offer within a few days.

You can imagine my next thought: “If she sells it and I publish a book, that will be enough.” It took over a year for that to happen and it was worth the wait because I got to work with Julie Romeis of Chronicle; she taught me so much and I will always be grateful. I now realize that as artists we are always growing and evolving and that we should strive to continue to do so regardless of how we define that growth. For me, it’s not about “being enough” anymore, as much as it‘s about contributing to the body of children’s literature in some way that touches the lives of my readers, if even for one moment.

Did you plot the chapters before you sat down to write the story?

Nope. I just let the characters and story take me where they will. Sometimes it’s hard to trust that process, but so far it has worked. Although, I often times will have an idea of where I want to go.

How was your writing schedule like during the creation of this book?

I was a bit obsessed. Even when I wasn’t writing, I was thinking. I really don’t like to keep a “Schedule” because if I don’t feel like writing one day, then I don’t feel unaccomplished. Some days I wrote for seven to eight hours and other days I wrote for thirty minutes. It really depended on what my daughters were up to that day or if I was feeling creative or not.

Izzy, your protagonist, comes across as a very genuine character? Was it hard getting inside the mind of a 12-year old?

Not really. I have vivid memories of what it felt like to be that age and younger. Plus, having my daughters and their friends around always helps, too.

Did you do character sketches?

I did not and still don’t. I really don’t do that kind of planning because it makes me feel boxed in. But sometimes, I will spend months living with a character in my head before committing him or her to paper.

Are you a member of a critique group?

I did work with a critique group during the process of Tortilla Sun and was so grateful to work with such creative people. But then I found I needed more frequent feedback than a group can often give, so I sought out critique partners who can look at a chapter or even three on any given day.

Do you think critique groups are important for writers?

Let me premise this answer with saying that a “good” critique group is critical whereas a “poor fitting” group can be disastrous. Whether a writer uses a group or a partner, getting a reader response is so important to the process because we are so close to the work. There is no way I could polish a manuscript before submitting it to my agent without the valuable feedback of generous readers.

What are you planning for the book’s release this summer?

I am going to have a few book meet and greets in my hometown. I’m also participating in a blog tour which is going to be fun. Plus, I will be presenting (fellow authors Christina Gonzalez and Guadalupe Garcia-McCall) at NCTE, SCBWI, and ALAN all this year. I’m really looking forward to meeting readers, teachers, librarians, and authors at these conferences.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

Thank you for your interest in Tortilla Sun. It really has been a labor of love and I feel so grateful to share it with you. And for the writers reading this, surround yourself with positive people who will lift your spirits when the road gets tough. For those of you who are readers, I hope you enjoy the magic between the pages. Please write me (jen@jennifercervantes.com) and tell me what you think of the book. I always write back! www.tips-fb.com