Meet the Winners of the “What’s Going On Here?!” Contest

Moriah Densley has selected the winner and runner-ups for the “What’s Going On Here?!” Caption Contest.

The Second runner up, and winner of Reid Lance Rosenthal’s book, Threads West, is M.V. Freeman, with the following entry:

“Hey, you said brush your teeth, you didn’t tell us *how* we had to do it.”

The First runner up, and winner of a critique from Moriah of their first 10 pages of their novel,  AND a copy of her e-book, Song for Sophia, is Florence Fois, with the following entry: 

“Hey mom, don’t blame me. It was her idea.”

The Grand Prize winner, and winner of a critique from Moriah of their first 15 pages of their novel, AND and a copy of her e-book, Song for Sophia, AND, a package of writing goodies from me is Talynn Lynn, with the following entry:

“Come back here, bro! You got toilet paper stuck to your foot!”

Congratulations to all the winners!


Contest News, and a Fun Look at the Publishing Process

I’ve shipped off all the entries to the “What’s Going On Here?!” contest to the judge,  Moriah Densley.

While we wait for her to decide the winners, please enjoy this HILARIOUS presentation from Nathan Bransford about the Publishing Process.

Happy Writing Everyone!

“What’s Going on Here?!” Caption Contest Open for Submissions

Yesterday, I introduced author Moriah Densley. Moriah has generously agreed to act as the sole judge for the “What’s Going on Here?!” Contest!

Contest details…

Leave a caption for the following picture of Moriah’s ADORABLE children in the comments section of this post.

Contest deadline is 11:59pm PDT on August 24, 2012.

Humor is appreciated, but not required. (Let’s keep it clean though)

Winners will be announced when Moriah is done judging :)

Prizes are amazing, and as follows…

Grand Prize Winner will receive a critique from Moriah of their first 15 pages of their novel, AND and a copy of her e-book, Song for Sophia, AND, a package of writing goodies (chosen by me and I always include great stuff!)

First Runner Up will receive a critique from Moriah of their first 10 pages of their novel,  AND a copy of her e-book, Song for Sophia.

Second Runner Up will receive book one of Reid Lance Rosenthal’s Threads West, An American Saga, series…Threads West. (I had a leftover book from Reid’s contest) 

The Soapster Award! If you read yesterday’s interview with Moriah you’ll know that she bribes her children in order to get time to write. This award goes to first person who figures out what happens when you microwave a bar of soap. (Prize is a copy of Moriah’s e-book, Song for Sophia)

Best wishes!

Meet Guest Host (and Contest Judge) Moriah Densley

Tomorrow begins another fun writing contest here on the blog. I’ve rounded up great prizes which include books, a gift package especially designed for writers, and best of all, TWO critiques!

Today’s guest host (and the judge of my next contest which starts tomorrow) is Moriah Densley.

Moriah Densley sees nothing odd at all about keeping both a violin case and a range bag stuffed with pistols in the back seat of her car. They hold up the stack of books in the middle, of course. She enjoys writing about Victorians, assassins, and geeks. Her muses are summoned by the smell of chocolate, usually at odd hours of the night. By day her alter ego is your friendly neighborhood music teacher. Moriah lives in Las Vegas with her husband and four children.


And now, without further ado, here’s Moriah…

Tell us about your path to publication. What led you to pursue writing as a career?
For my day job I’m a musician. I never thought I’d want to be a commercial fiction author until last year. The last writing project I’d done was a research paper on violin pedagogy, so the first time I sat down to write a scene for what I didn’t realize was a historical romance, it felt really weird – almost guilty. Like a Weight Watchers reject hiding in the closet with a bag of Cheetos.
Once I started, I couldn’t stop. In a few weeks, I had a first draft finished, a 140K-word behemoth. It was terrible. Then I got to work. As I fed my reading addiction, I also learned craft, got an agent, and joined RWA and critique groups . . . all while producing manuscripts like the zombie apocalypse was coming tomorrow. I think I wrote five full-length books that year.
The “big six” just weren’t buying from debut authors, especially historical romance. The rejections piled in, and the “digital revolution” had everyone freaking out. (Are we still freaking out? I don’t know.) I’d exhausted every option available and hadn’t made a sale. I had three choices: quit, switch genres, or try the e-book market. After amicably parting ways with my agent, I queried e-book publishers big and small. What a contrast! Digital publishers work fast, and they’re more flexible in what they’ll accept. The artistic freedom and fast pacing appealed to me. In March 2012 I signed a historical and paranormal with Crimson Romance and also got news that my historical was a finalist in the RWA Golden Heart contest.
It seems a lot of romance writers are starting with a small publisher, a digital publisher, or even self-publishing to break in. You have to build your backlist anyway, right? It’s being said the backlist is the new query letter for the bigger publishers, meaning they want authors who have proven they know the process and are committed to their writing careers. The publishing industry changes before the ink dries on the latest manual, but that’s what I’m hearing lately. 
What was the inspiration behind your book, Song for Sophia? 
Oh, it’s so clichéd, I’m embarrassed to tell. I saw the library scene between Wilhelm and Sophia in a dream so vivid I felt like a voyeur. A sardonic lord taunted his so-called housemaid with the subliminal message that he knows she’s hiding her true identity. The chemistry between the two characters stayed with me, tempting me with the allure of making my own story. I couldn’t resist.
The loads of research were this geek’s dream come true. They say you should “write what you know,” so I made the hero and heroine musicians. Almost right away I knew Wilhelm was damaged – a washed-up war hero − but it took a while for me to realize he had all the symptoms of an autistic savant. His character evolved more than any other, and the finished Wilhelm Montegue was a beautiful disaster. Think Rain Man in Jude Law’s body with “X-Men” Wolverine’s attitude. An unconventional hero to say the least.
What about The Valkyrie’s Guardian?
I love superheroes! Brooding, complex creatures with a big secret. Even better than the infallible Superman types are the screw-ups and wannabes. The Valkyrie’s Guardian features a berserker who has devoted his life to what he believes is a lost cause, and the heroine thinks she’s a dud among the annoying sparkly heroes she lives with. I love that what-the-hell reckless attitude from characters who think they have nothing to lose.
I got hooked on Navy SEAL memoirs. Those elite soldiers are real life superheroes, and I knew they would get along great with my misfit paranormal characters. The SEAL Team joins forces with the berserkers, and they all take it in stride. It’s one big party for them.
The mythological roots of berserker warriors also needed a place in the story, and from that came Kinmylies, a crumbling Scottish castle housing a family of berserkers. Everyone is in everyone else’s business – a traditional close-knit family, yet Jack is not welcome . . .
Superheroes, Navy SEALs, and Highlander warriors: the trifecta! Writing Valkyrie’s Guardian was sheer enjoyment. Bliss. 

What advice do you have for other authors wanting to write in different genres?
Do your thing. Do what you love. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find the time to put in the necessary work to make it shine. So many authors published in multiple genres are wildly successful; Nora Roberts, Karen Marie Moning, and Linda Howard to name only a few. Who says you can’t do it? It’s already been done!
Can you tell us, does it get easier now that you’re a published author, or do you still have the same anxieties that you had before you were published?
Honestly, I’m a mess. Those who say not to worry about rejections, don’t obsess about climbing, don’t be jealous of more successful authors . . . I’m convinced they’re all either overdosed on Prozac or lying. If you care − if you’re aware, involved, invested − then you can’t help it. That’s our industry; take it or leave it. We’re all so eager to appear magnanimous, not many will admit that’s the way it is. I’ll come out and say it!
I still don’t feel like I’ve arrived. It’s often daunting to worry about how competitive our field is and what it takes to break out. Fundamentally, I love everything about writing, and that’s what keeps me plugging away. I don’t know if I’ll ever sigh and think, “Yay! I made it.” My idea of success evolves, so it feels elusive. The carrot-on-a-stick thing. Forgive me for quoting “It’s the journey that matters.”
Are you a Plotter or Pantser?
Total pantser here. I admire those smug, serene plotters and their shiny well-crafted plots. I seem to think that if I begin a story with plotting, the magic will disappear and I won’t be able to write a word. I begin a new story because the characters talking in my head want out. I just start taking dictation, and the story takes care of itself. Not to mention the massive amount of editing that follows, which I love. So I’m a true-blue pantser who has OCD about revisions. Weird, I know.
What was your VERY first thought upon hearing you were selected as a Golden Heart 2012 finalist in 2012? (No cheating, your ABSOLUTE FIRST thought)
I thought it was a mistake. Even after I got “the call,” I watched the results post on the RWA website, still waiting for someone to say it was an error. My historical romance is unconventional and a bit controversial, so I had no expectations with the contest.

What an honor to be a finalist! I learned a lot from the other authors, who are very friendly and helpful. I thoroughly adore Elisa Beatty, the winner in my category. I can honestly say I am happy for her, and only a little jealous.
How do you do your research?  
The internet is a great place to start, then I rely on good old-fashioned libraries when I’m ready to dive in. Documentaries and memoirs are my favorite for finding details which will make the story lifelike, and I interview experts whenever I can. Recently I’ve researched quantum physics, brewing poison for assassination, Pre-Raphaelite art, post WWI economy in Austria, and Harley Davidson motorcycles vs. Ducati. I’m in nerd heaven! 
What advice do you have for writers trying to break into the business?
Don’t let the thrill and pride of creating seduce you into thinking your first draft is rose-scented 24k gold. Yes, bringing your world and characters to life is a high, but it’s one step in a long process. Authors build success with patience and hard work.
Read everything you can get your hands on by authors who are doing what you want to do. Learn craft, find skilled critique partners and honest beta readers, and glean the truth from their criticism. Join online forums such as, follow agent and editor blogs, and become involved in local or online writer groups to understand the industry.
Be prepared for the vulnerability of baring your soul (or presenting your manuscript − same thing). Expect to wait on pins and needles for weeks only to get a rejection. Keep writing, keep improving, waiting for the one time you’ll get a YES. This line of work is not for the faint of heart! Why do we do it? Because we love writing, and we love books. 
Twitter, Facebook, Blogging—valuable networking tools or an unbelievable time suck?
Both. Authors are expected to interact with readers and the writing community, yet must produce new material and meet deadlines. I’m still trying to figure out the right balance. It seems the writers who stay sane follow a schedule, allotting time for social media, blogging, research, revisions, and writing. Pantser me, I’m resistant to that kind of structure, but I’m starting to admit it’s necessary. 
Tell us about the “Mean Mom” moniker you’ve given yourself.

I didn’t invent the title, it was bestowed. And I proudly own it. Apparently the threat of calling me is enough to keep my kids in line at school. That’s not to say they always behave. “What were you thinking, climbing the flag pole / streaking in the lunch room / surfing on the bus seats?” I might be strict, but in my defense, they’re certifiably crazy.
To get the time to put together these questions, I allowed one of my twins to roller skate through the house and the other one to ride a scooter. As a fellow mom of young twins, how do you eke out time to write? 
Who else is a night owl? I do my best thinking at odd hours of the night, probably because I don’t have kids tugging on my sleeve calling “Mom! Mom? Hey Mom…” When I write during the day, I resign myself to interruptions. With four kids and a part time job, someone always needs something. I’ve learned how to write for 15 minutes, put out a fire, then pick up where I left off. Ideal? No. Good for balancing my chi? Definitely not. I totally understand your indoor roller rink, Christi. If I’m desperate I’ll resort to outright bribery. “Give me one hour to work, then I’ll let you microwave a bar of soap / fingerpaint the bathtub / make a stop-motion playdough video.” Sometimes I just let them play videogames and eat cold cereal while I feel guilty, typing away. Oh well.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Hard to choose between mind reading, flying, and invisibility.
If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do? 
Ha. Probably take tickets and envy the acrobats. I’m terminally clumsy. In a fantasy world, I’d be a sexy firedancer. 
If you could have one current writer write your biography, who would you pick?
Either Laura Kinsale or Linda Howard, and I’d ask her to embellish. A lot.

Thanks to Moriah for such a great interview! Here’s more information about her books (I met Moriah when I won Song of Sophia in a contest and can assure you it’s a wonderful read!)

If she truly knows her business, a woman has the mind of a diplomat, a general, and Cleopatra, all in one.” Anne-Sophia Duncombe is ruined, a victim of her father’s high-stakes gambling. Stolen moments at the piano are her boon. Wilhelm Montegue is a washed up war hero, rumored insane. His “condition”–modern diagnosis: savant autism–is the source of his gift for composing music. Anne-Sophia and Wilhelm thought they had missed their chance for love, but anything can happen in the music room.

Song for Sophia is available now wherever e-books are sold. Click HERE for the Amazon link.

Visit for teasers and sample chapters, and humorous blog articles on life as a writer. See reader reviews on Connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. I love hearing from readers!


Now that you’ve met the judge for tomorrow’s contest, get ready!

This contest will consist of entrants submitting their witty, fun, true-to-life caption to a picture/video (yeah, haven’t decided yet). The winner and first runner-up receive (among other great prizes) critiques from Moriah Densley herself, so make sure your captions are hiliarious!

The contest opens for entries Wednesday, August 15th at 1:00 am PDT. Deadline for entries will be 11:59 pm PDT on August 24th.

Check back tomorrow for more details.

Caption Contest Winners!

Dan Krokos has made his picks for the Caption Contest!

The runner-up, and recipient of a prize pack of “writing goodies”, is Penny

Hollywood has not been kind to Babe. Piglet stars, child stars, they are one in the same, once the cameras stop rolling. After an unsuccessful stint in the swine porn industry, he became severely addicted to alcohol, and now he wanders aimlessly from yard to yard, searching trash cans, hoping to find dregs inside of empty cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, his preferred beer.

The winner, and recipient of a copy of “The Future of Us”, by Jay Archer and Carolyn Mackler,  is Eric Satchwill

“This isn’t the market,” thought Terrance, unsure if he was relieved or disappointed.

Congratulations to Penny and Eric. Be sure to drop me an email so we can figure out how to get your prizes out to you.

And finally, Dan has a new website/blog. Check it out…he’s giving away lots of books!

Dan Krokos Interview and Caption Contest!

I’d like to introduce you to the judge of today’s Caption Contest, Dan Krokos.

Dan shot to urban legend status when his query letter won over on Query Shark.

On the first try.

Then the Query Shark, literary agent Janet Reid, did an interview with BBC Radio about query letters. After the host read Dan’s letter on the air she gave the following response:

“That’s essentially a perfect query letter. And in fact…Dan Krokos wrote that and I signed him as a client about twenty-five seconds after I read the novel.”

Yeah, that made us writers still licking the condensation from the outside of the writing pool just to keep our parched dreams alive sit up and take notice.  

So, without further ado, here’s Dan…


Tell us about Dan Krokos 

I’m 25, living in a suburb of Cleveland(for now), and writing full time. Before that, I worked at a gas station for NINE YEARS. I went to school part time, toying with Law Enforcement, then English. During that time, I plowed through many manuscripts and read agent blogs feverishly and ruined several relationships. Once my book sold, I quit the gas station, and decided school was for losers. I’m hoping that decision doesn’t bite me in the ass one day, but chasing my dream isn’t a bad way to live.

What is one piece of advice you have for writers trying to break into the business? 

Put writing first.

I wrote casually for six months, then went for a two week stretch where I didn’t write anything. It was scary. I asked myself if this was what I really wanted to do, all the way, no looking back. It was. So I put writing first. I worked 54 hours a week and went to school part time, but I put myself on the pace to write three manuscripts a year. I was getting better with each one—I could see it—so I thought eventually I HAD to become publishable.

I skipped many social engagements in my early twenties. I skipped seeing my family. I alienated people. Because I had to succeed. Having a terrible job helped. But really, swallow all that self-doubt and just sit down and write something. It’s going to suck. Put it in a drawer. Don’t become attached to stuff. Keep moving forward. If your momentum is high you can outrun that doubt.

Wow, this is turning into like seventeen pieces of advice.

But I guess the main idea is, Put writing first.

Twitter—a valuable networking tool or an unbelievable time suck? 

Time suck. Here’s another piece of advice. Shut your mouth. Stop talking about writing and write. You don’t need to network. If you get an agent and maybe want to make some author friends on twitter, fine. Otherwise shut up about writing and write. Read agent blogs, not authors’ shitty, self-absorbed timelines. Unless you don’t have a job, time management is key, and every free moment should be spent learning your craft. I sometimes wish I never got on twitter, even though I’ve met some great real life friends there.

What are your thoughts on the recent rise in authors, both established and new, going the self-publishing route? 

I don’t like it. We need gatekeepers. We need agents and editors to make us shine. Here’s a cool thing: without my agent and editor, I would not be publishable. Unless someone reads my stuff and gives me notes, it’s just a first draft, or a second draft, or a third. It’s not final. There will always be problems I can’t see on my own, especially the closer I am to the manuscript. And I’m not the only one. Some writers turn in real train wrecks and expect everyone to make it better.

The point is, unless these self-published works are going through the same hurdles as published works, I don’t want to have anything to do with them. I like knowing that when I pick up a book, the author didn’t just have their mom proofread it before slapping it up on Amazon. If your book doesn’t snag an agent, write another one. It’ll be better, anyway.

What was your absolute last thought before you pushed “send” on your query letter for Query Shark? 

Probably a combination of “I got this” and “Oh, shit.” I knew it would be okay because I spent months on it, while writing the first draft. I spent time reading agent blogs and knew what to do, and what not to do. And I tweaked each sentence and reordered things until I didn’t even want to look at it anymore. If you aren’t reading about queries when you’re not writing, you’re hamstringing yourself. Study it. It’s just a few paragraphs.

What was your absolute first thought when you heard you’d “won” over at Query Shark? 

Maybe I’m good enough to do this after all. And at the very least, a professional in the industry has given me a nod of approval.

What do you visualize yourself doing one second after you hold your ARC for the first time? 

Maybe rubbing it all over my face. Probably taking it around town to show my friends and family that, yes, this is really happening. 

Who gets the first copy of your debut novel? 


Is your agent, Janet Reid, every bit as amazing as she comes across on her blog? 

And more. Some writers need their agent to hold their hand, to tell them everything will be okay. To sugarcoat things. Janet doesn’t feed me BS, and she doesn’t take any from me. But she also knows when to give a confidence boost. 

Not to mention her line edits make my sentences sing. She cut two thousand superfluous words from my latest novel without batting an eye or spilling her scotch. 

Tell us more about your upcoming novel* so we’ll know what we’re buying when we all converge on Amazon the day pre-orders become available. 

(*False Memory, the first in a trilogy, coming from Disney•Hyperion in 2012.)

It’s about a girl who loses all her memories, and has to rediscover her old life and the people in it. Turns out she’s a weapon of mass destruction, along with her friends, intended to be sold as ready-made super soldiers to foreign nations. The more she discovers about herself, the better armed she is to fight back against the people who created her. It is safe to say there will be some false memories. 

Think of Jason Bourne, with teens, and a few heavy splashes of futurism. Most of all, it’s a thriller.

Writers Everywhere Want to Know…

If you could occupy the world described in a novel, which would you choose? 

This is insanely difficult and hinges on too many conditions. If I was just going to be ME, I’d say (and this counts, because there are a ton of novels in this universe) Buffy. I’d want to fight evil with the gang. But instead of being a dumbass like Xander, I’d actually train so I wasn’t getting beat down all the time.

Now if I could be like the characters in a world, that changes things. Being a wizard in Harry Potter sounds fun. 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

Flight. I think it’s best to fight crime with. Super strength and invincibility could still lead to my containment. Super speed would be good, but who doesn’t want to fly? 

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do? 

Something with tigers. I love tigers. Real hard.

If you could have one current writer write your biography, who would you pick? 

Josh Bazell, just because he’s my favorite, and maybe he’d interview me and we could hang out and be best buds. Or Charlie Huston for all the same reasons. 

And now, to the eternal question. The one everyone wants to know…

Plotter or Pantster? 

Both. I don’t sit down with NO IDEA of what happens next. I outline maybe 10-30, sometimes 50 pages in advance. It’s really just basic stuff like “Miranda goes here, does this.” Maybe a snippet of dialogue. Writing that down gives me a few days to work out any kinks, and it allows me to sit down and be productive. I think that’s called the headlight method. It works. Try it. 

There’s nothing worse (besides rabies, maybe) than sitting down and not knowing where to go. Because when that happens, I check twitter. Or, or funny cat pictures. Or do anything but write. 

Keeping the outline sparse means I can still experience that wonderful discovery only writers can have. When you’re in the middle of a scene and genius strikes. And I don’t even always follow the outline. I’ve found the more I write, the easier it is to let go. The outline is a safety net. If I remind myself to stay loose, I have a lot more fun. 

It also helps to have a vague idea of the ending, just so you know what you’re building towards. Right now I’m “plotting” the third False Memory book. I know how it ends, and how it begins, and once I have a few more ideas on the middle, I’ll sit down and start drafting.


Thanks to Dan for an informative, fun interview!

Now, on to the Caption Contest!

Entrants shall write a caption for the following picture…

(Yes, this is a pig. Yes, it’s in my yard. A story for another day :D)

Enter your caption in the comments section of this post.

Humor is appreciated, but not required.

Entry deadline is Saturday, July 2nd at 11:59pm (Pacific Standard Time)

Winner and runner-up will be announced when Dan completes judging.   

Winner receives the book, The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. (Thanks to Dan for offering up such a great prize!)

Runner-up receives a prize pack of writing goodies from me.

Kountdown to Krokos (and another Contest!)

Two weeks from today, on June 29th, I’m hosting a very special guest on my blog.

Dan Krokos has agreed to do an interview and judge a caption contest!

I’ve got some special interview questions of my own, but in the meantime check out his interview over at The Novel Road . He tells all about his amazing story regarding Query Shark, his thoughts about his agent (Janet Reid), and shows his sense of humor.

I’ve got a prize package for the winner of the caption contest so mark the date on your calendars!