REPOST: How to: When writers want authors to Guest Blog…

While speaking at the wonderful Whidbey Island Writers Conference this past weekend, I was asked a question: “If you’re not a literary agent, how do you get an author to agree to appear on your blog?” Oooohhhh. It struck me that it must seem MUCH harder than it actually is to interview an author for your blog or to have them guest blog for you. So raise your sword because I swear by the power of Grayskull…you can do this.

…and here is how, aka, follow the pictures.

Pick an author. For our purposes, we will choose an author that has appeared on This Literary Life: Gitty Daneshvari. Author of the School of Fear series.

Now, there is a reason I chose Gitty. It wasn’t a random choice. I KNOW my readers. They are writers and they write children’s books. This was a calculated choice. You do not want to feature an author whom none of your readers will identify with. Plus, Gitty is just absolutely fantastic.

So, I’ve selected my author. The next thing you will want to do is get in contact with your author. Sometimes you will not be able to do this, and that’s just a fact. But for every author who does not put contact info on their Web site, there is an author that does. So I head on over here:

Then I went here:

Can you feel it? We’re getting closer…

VOILA! So the truth is, the easy part is over. Now you write an EXTREMELY polite and informative email to the author and…WAIT. DO NOT PESTER. I don’t think I can stress that enough. Write once, and wait. If they never get back to you, move on.

So this was my next step:

It took her a few days to respond, and we found a time that worked for HER (do not make this about yourself, they are doing you a huge favor. You work on their time schedule).

A word about blogs: Always tag and use categories on your blog!!! When tagging or using categories, use “hot words” like Gitty Daneshvari and School of Fear and Middle Grade Books, etc. “Hot words” are words that people use in a Google search. You do this so that your blog has a higher chance of appearing when someone searches these words. Advice: Look through your entire blog post after you have finished writing it and think to yourself: what key words or ideas are used in this post that people would Google search? Then tag them or use them in the categories.

Also, use images. Not only does it make reading a blog post much more exciting, but when people Google Image Search for Gitty Daneshvari, the image I used of Gitty will appear with the many others, and will drive traffic to my blog.

ALWAYS feed your blog link through other social media sites: Twitter, Facebook, etc.

**It’s important to remember that authors are people too. Which means a few things: They love to promote their books, as well they should. It also means that they have crazy hectic lives just like all of us, and “no” is very much a reasonable answer. So, be patient, choose wisely, and remember that “if you never ask, you’ll never get.”

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July Issue of Underneath The Juniper Tree!

Happy July! The July Issue of Underneath The Juniper Tree online magazine has dropped and it is gruesome!

Go here to download it. Read it. Love it. Share it. And be inspired by it.

Sneak Peek:

 

February Hot Blogger (a bit unorthodox) Kate Grace AND Bree Ogden

Kate= Purple, Bree= Blue

Let’s get this started…this is some intense stuff we are talking about today…

Don’t Fear the Reaper… or Commitment.

(Visit Kate’s site at www.abitofgrace.com, and watch the trailer for Burden of the Soul here.)

I stepped off the backline and took the seat next to my improv comedy teammate, mirroring the small, intricate motion he was doing with his hand as the scene started. Between two fingers I mimed holding a small, rounded object while my other hand twisted another small object over and over as if screwing a nut onto its bolt. Or, as my mind saw it, making bullets.

I wasn’t so far off because the scene started around us with dialogue from two other team members. With comedic measures, our scene was the meeting of a murder club, a completely ridiculous spoof on Fight Club.

The creative collaboration of the scene took shape and I was the simpleton member who answered only by nodding her head yes or no (and still got it wrong) and just loved making her bullets and lining them up in neat rows.

But then the scene was made even more ridiculous when the conflict was introduced. The newest member was told he had to “kill” the next person that walked in the door or he would be out of Murder Club. Enter another teammate pretending to be a cute girl scout selling Samoas.

The scene continued from there and I could feel my simpleton character breaking. I could feel the laughs coming and the desire to be an audience member taking over. But I caught myself by internally stating, “You will stay here. Stay right here.”

Literally. My inner voice became the inner drill sergeant. “You chose to be the creator and not the viewer so commit. You WILL stay here.”

Commitment: it’s something stressed in every improvisational theater school and needed in any creative process. It’s also something guys say they’re afraid of, but I’m convinced it really means, “Your toothbrush doesn’t belong there, it belongs way far away in your apartment.” But that’s for another day.

Commitment in your creative writing process is huge, and so important, because as you fall deeper into the writing coma you feel as if you shift from writer to transcriber. The story is taking place in your mind like a movie and you’re just kicking back going along for the ride, watching your characters’ lives play out…

…and sometimes end.

Your fingers freeze and the silence in your room is overpoweringly loud now that the clickity clackity of keyboard keys has called it quits. Your brain stops for a moment and you think, “NO!” For so many “reasons” such as: “It’s so early, what if I need her/him later?” or “I could be shooting myself in the foot here,” or “That’s way too dark.”

But mostly, those are just excuses because what you can’t necessarily admit is somewhere along the way you went from writer to reader and became emotionally attached to your characters. You can’t let them go emotionally.

I’m working on the additional books in the Burden of the Soul series and I’ve come up against this wall a number of times already. I gave over fully to the writer’s coma and trusted the story completely. So when I had a hunch to visit a shooting range for research, I didn’t question it. When I felt a hunch to start asking car specialist about the mechanics of car chases and crashes, I didn’t question it. When I started Googling “Krav Maga classes” near me, I didn’t question it.

I gave over completely to my sense of creative process. I became that same simpleton just lining up the bullets, never piecing it together where those bullets would go.

So then the moment came where the story and my subconscious actually put it on the page. My fingers froze and the silence in my kitchen became overpoweringly loud when the clickity clackity of keyboard keys called it quits. My brain stopped for a moment and I thought, “NO!” Then, “Oh shit, Bree is gonna kill me,” because Bree is emotionally attached to these characters too.

But then another voice kicked in, stern and convincing. “You will stay here. Stay right here. Commit.”

Still I didn’t budge. Then a softer voice: “Trust.”

Slowly, the clickity clackity returned.

It’s such a difficult balance to strike as a writer, trusting your inner storyteller and your inner reader and hoping they agree at least majority of the time. As the moments piled and got bigger, darker or more tragic, I finally had to take it to someone. The doubt was setting in.

Sitting on the grass along the Missouri River in St. Charles, I told the darkest of these moments to Bree Ogden in great, vivid detail. She sat really quiet looking out over the river.

She. Didn’t. Say. A. Word.

I panicked and started the rewrite in my mind immediately and continued it on the flight back to Michigan through the night and into the next day.

But then came the Facebook message, the email, the text. Her reaction was… Well, I’ll let her tell you.

Bree?

I’m going to take a step back for a moment. There are several authors whose words stick with you long after you read them. For me, one of those authors is Chuck Palahniuk. Often times I’ll read something he has written, completely unaware of the impact it will have on me later that week.  And then, I’ll be going about my life and POW, this insanely strong emotion will set in and I won’t recognize its source. This happens often with Chuck. And it happened with Kate.

I read Kate’s manuscript, the one I currently represent, Burden of the Soul a few times, and was emotionally involved with the characters. And that day, sitting by the river, I learned of the absolutely gut wrenching, and I mean absolutely rip-your-heart-out-of-your-chest-with-a-fist, complete story of a few of these characters.

I was heartbroken. It wasn’t necessarily the loss of the characters. It was the way I had to watch them fade out of my life. But life went on. It’s just a book right? They’re just words. Right?

Weeks later, I felt sad. Really sad. I felt like something was missing in my life but I couldn’t place it. It was the same feeling I had after I read Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk. And when I recognized that feeling, all of a sudden a bloody, tear-streaked montage played through my head. Blood drenched hands. Chains. Anger. Tears. Passions and admissions—I remembered what Kate had told me in Missouri.

I felt genuine pain for her characters. And I knew that as much as I hurt for them, Kate must hurt for them ten-fold. Still, weeks passed and at random times of random days, I would feel the loss.

As an author, this is the type of devotion you want your readers to feel towards your characters. And it’s okay to take them away from the reader. Rip them away from us, smash them to bits, tear them into pieces, splatter the reader with their blood and guts if you must. But make sure that your reader has had the chance to develop some sort of emotional connection with these characters before you do so. You want your reader to be wiping tears from their face along with the blood and guts of your characters.

In Invisible Monsters when I’m mentally watching a character write haunting words on the wall in her own blood—I’m crying, and I’m re-reading, and I’m unsure—but I’m hooked.

Kate?

The doubt faded and the inner artist smirked with an “I told you so, you idiot” gloating air.

Because if we trust and commit, and give over fully to that artist living inside those chunks of meat in our chests, then something amazingly powerful will come out of it. You must trust. And you must commit.

This isn’t dating advice, but it is relationship advice for you and your Work in Progress. Trust it. Don’t give up on it the moment it shows its less attractive, gritty, dark side. It’s never going to be all bubble gum and roses. What may strike you as “too far” and difficult to accept may just end up being your most haunting plot turns or the moments in your story that the characters pull at your readers’ emotions and ignite empathy.

Your characters have a story to tell. Your characters are chomping at the bit to connect with your readers, so step aside and let them. Think of yourself as the conduit.

And as for Murder Club? I did stay there and the scene continued to wonderfully absurd heights where the Girl Scout revealed she was an orphan, could sing and dance, and saw nothing but the beauty of endless possibility and rainbows outside the window. The newest member struggled and eventually got kicked out of Murder Club, unable to make the kill.

Admit it. At first read you cringed at the thought of “Murder Club”, and now you want to see that scene where a sweet little Girl Scout outsmarts a room of trained killers.

And BLACKOUT!

Thriller! Halloween Tree Ch. 18…HC STILL hasn’t gotten his girl outta there!!

You know, at first I’m thinking, “Wow, this HC guy is a really selfish boyfriend. Forcing his hot model girlfriend to stay at a scary movie. Even the Late MJ left the movie for his girlfriend.” And If I remember correctly, MJ was IN the movie. But then I saw the end of the reading, and realized HC’s not so bad at all. And it appears her date with HC is going to end better than her date with MJ…

 

The Halloween Tree Ch 17-Addison and Avery Sign-off!

Aunt Kate gets a massage while she reads the Halloween Tree Chapter 17.

Addison and Avery do their best to simultaneously make Kate’s life difficult and make her life bliss while she reads. I’m going to miss these girls, their incredible cuteness, and their commentary “It’s impossibly impossible!”

The Suns’ Mascot reads to us…The Halloween Tree Ch. 16

LOVING the voice and body language of this Halloween Tree reading. FEARING the gorilla mask.

Let’s just say, I grew up in Phoenix, AZ and was once traumatized as a young girl by the Suns mascot…

…that sounds a lot darker than it should. I just physically ran into him in a dark room of the arena and he grabbed me to steady me… TRAUMATIZED. So thanks for opening up old wounds, Peter!

The Halloween Tree Chapter 13! (Try not to be jealous of this kid’s locks!)

The Landau Kids!

If you follow Peter Landau on Twitter, you know that his children are ridiculously clever, funny, witty, and intelligent.

And now, here they are to entertain us while Peter reads The Halloween Tree Chapter 13! BOO!

(Ada’s sound effects are super fitting!)