Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guest Post by Mikey Brooks!

Hi! I am so incredibly lucky to have Mikey Brooks, author/illustrator extraordinare, visit this week with awesome information on storyboards. I am not a plotter, but I desperately needed something because "pantsing" wasn't working for me. Storyboards are perfect for the way my mind works! Mikey has also just released one picture book and the next one comes out in January 2013 - more information below! And you should totally check out his blog. I've been stalking it forever. It has a ton of helpful advice!
Using Storyboards to Write your Book
By: author/illustrator: Mikey Brooks

            As an author/illustrator I use storyboards all the time to create my books. With picture books the story is related in both pictures and words. When the words fail to show what’s going on in the story, the pictures will pick up and lead the story onward. Unfortunately with novels there’s just not any room for a fully illustrated book, so it’s up to the author to make sure the story is being driven solely by the text. This can be a challenge for some writers. Because they are using just text to keep their story moving, sometimes they fizzle out—some even stop, and on comes the dreaded writer’s block. But Storyboarding can help.
            Try an experiment. Take 4 sheets of paper and fold them in quarters. In each quarter you are going to draw (now don’t be too fancy, just stick figures) out a story line. It needs to be one you are familiar with in order to know the main action sequences. Try something simple like, Little Red Riding Hood, or The Three Little Pigs, if you’re ambitious try a fairytale like Cinderella. Each of these stories have basic plot structures that can help you to pin point the action that should take place on the storyboard. In a basic plot the story should have 3 acts, or parts to the story. So on every 9th square write act 1, act 2, act 3, up at the top. This will help you determine the shifts in the story. There are lots of plots, let’s just keep it simple for now.
            Within act 1 of the Three Little Pigs the three pig brothers leave their parents’ home and set out on their own. They each build a house. This is the only stuff that should happen between pages 1-9. In act 2 the wolf goes about trying to eat the pigs. He destroys the first 2 pigs’ houses and they run to safety at their brother’s home. In act 3 the wolf makes a final attempt on the pigs and the pigs succeed in defeating the wolf. A story as simple as the three little pigs can be shared in a children’s book where there are roughly 26-32 pages. Your story is a little more complicated, but the principle is the same.
            Take another 4 sheets of paper and quarter them. On every 9th square write act 1, act2, act3, up at the top. Think about your story. What are the main turning points in your plot? In Cinderella act 1 ends after Cinderella has been established as a slave in her own house and the arrival of an invitation for all the ladies of the home to go to a ball. How does your story start? What is the turning point? Act 2 is where a midpoint happens, where your characters start to move from reaction to action. In Cinderella, she makes every attempt to make it to the ball but is thwarted by her stepsisters. And finally at the end of act 2 she arrives at the ball and the prince falls in love with her only to have the magic spell be broken by the chime of midnight. Act 3 is where the resolution of your story comes into play. In Cinderella, she is finally found by the prince and is lead away to the castle to live happily ever after.
            Now you’re asking, what if I haven’t thought that far ahead yet? No problem. There are a lot of writers that don’t do any sort of outlining at all (and storyboarding is just basically visually outlining). Maybe you don’t know what is going to happen in act three of your book. That’s okay for now. You can story board out scenes, Make it visual. If you can draw out your book by moving action sequences from one page to another then you will be able to write out the action as well. Storyboarding can be a great way to help you plot as well as visualize your book. Techniques like this have helped studios like Pixar for years. Have you ever watched the making of films and they show you crude drawings of each scene before it’s actually made into a scene? That’s right—it’s storyboarding. Try it out. I am sure you will find it useful. You can get a FREE layout of a storyboard by going to

            Thank you Wendy for allowing me to share some space on your blog. If you have found this helpful and you’d like more tips on writing, illustrating, and more please visit: or catch me on my blog at You can also find me on Good Reads at: on Twitter: @writtenbymikey  on Pinterest at: and on Facebook: as Mikey Brooks, or email me at: insidemikeysworld(at)
        I’d also like to share that I have two picture books that have just been released: Bean’s Dragons and ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures. There is a GIVEWAY going on right now at for both of these books. I invite you to enter the giveaway. It ends on January 26th. Click here for BEAN’S DRAGONS and here for ABC ADVENTURES: MAGICAL CREATURES.

About the Books:
Bean’s Dragons. 

Have you ever had a dragon in your house? How about a dozen? Bean is a little girl with an imagination that is creating quite a mess. Although Bean loves each of her dragons, she forgets how untidy they can be when having so much fun. When Bean's parents discover what's happened in their short absence, Bean finds herself the blame of the dragons' giant mess.
You can find more about Bean’s Dragons at:

ABS Adventures: Magical Creatures.

This is the first installment in a series of ABC adventures featuring Professor Vontriponmybottom, a heroic explorer determined to share with children the alphabet through exciting and fantastical means. In Magical Creatures you will find all sorts of enchanting beings such as: B is for Bigfoot, M is for Mermaid, and O id for Ogre. The professor shares fun facts about each creature he encounters and never shies away from getting a picture with them.  This book is sure to educate and entertain young readers and their parents.
You can find more about ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures at:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Why I go to Writers Conferences

Before two years ago, I had no idea what a writers conference even was, let alone why I should go to one. I can't remember how I stumbled across LDStorymakers, but it was right when I was getting serious about trying to publish Feudlings, so I was understandably thrilled when I signed up.

I have since been to LDStorymakers twice, and the League of Utah Writers Roundup Twice. I have also been to smaller conferences a couple of times. Is it worth it to keep going? Do I learn new things? Most conferences are kinda costly, so, yeah, if I'm going to continue going, I want it to be worth my money!

My answer is yes. For a couple of reasons.

1) The first is, of course, all the learning opportunities from writers who have been there, done that and already have all the expertise I'm lacking. There are all kinds of classes and different teachers, and yeah, I've gone to some classes just because my favorite author was teaching it. I don't even remember what she taught but I loved every second of it. Others, I had no idea who the teacher was when I went in, but I learned so much, I've been an avid follower ever since.

2) The chance to pitch to agents and editors. Most conferences offer this chance, usually for a fee, but you get ten or so minutes of undivided attention. I got two full requests this way. It was scary -- I almost threw up the first time, but it was a good learning experience.

3) Maybe the most overlooked but possibly the most important is the networking. Before I started going to conferences, I had ZERO other writing friends. I thought I was alone in the world (cue rain cloud over my head). Now I have lots of writing friends, and having others stuck in the trenches with you makes all the difference in the world. I write more now, I have friends to brainstorm with when I'm stuck, and there's always someone to kick me into writing when I'm feeling lazy.

So. Conferences are expensive, yes, but in my opinion, totally worth it. Plus, I've even heard they can be a tax write-off!

And what about you? Are there other reasons I missed?

Monday, November 19, 2012

AP Press Thanksgiving Blog Hop!

*********** WINNER - Amy Cavenaugh!!!********* Send me your address and I'll mail this out!

Hey! So this year some of my Astraea Press author friends are doing a Thanksgiving blog hop. If you want to hop backward, Nell is sending everyone my way. How fun is that? And I wanted in. So...tada! Here it is!

Five things I'm thankful for: 
  • My awesome family. My kids are amazing, my parents, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, in-laws -- They're all incredible. I'd be lost without them. 
  • My husband - Yes, he's part of my family, but he gets his own category because he's literally the best husband ever. He works ten hours a day, makes dinner, and does all the grocery shopping, as well as help with the kids and put up with my....strangeness. There's no other word for it. 
  • My insane imagination - K this one is a mixed blessing. I love how I can daydream about anything, anytime. This can also be a bad thing, if, say, I'm supposed to be paying attention to something else. Also, thanks to my insane imagination I have some of the most terrifying nightmares ever. BUT - terrifying nightmares can make great stories (after I stop shaking like a small dog)!
  •  Facebook - Before you think I'm completely insane, hear me out. I have daily conversations with cousins I haven't seen since we were kids. I know friends' kids names and what they look like even if they live clear across the country. Facebook allows me to develop deeper relationships with so many more people that I would have otherwise lost.
  • Writing - It truly is my escape. All those daydreams I was telling you about? They bounce around in my head til I write them down. When I'm upset or angry or so happy I'm bordering on obnoxious, I write. I love to let others read my work and them into my worlds. I love to create characters that I would love to be and situations I'd love to read about. 
Which neatly leads me into why I'm so grateful for my readers. Yes, I could write my stories. Yes, I could read my own stories, but they don't truly come to life until I can share them with others. And when I want to quit, when doubt completely takes over and I'm positive I'm the worst writer on the planet, it's my readers who remind me of what writing is really about - sharing stories with those I love. And also, they remind me that quitting isn't an option, which I am also grateful for. 

I am also grateful for Astraea Press, for offering me the contract for Feudlings, a story about two magical teenagers, Ari and Shane.Ari has been hunting Shane since she could throw her first spell. Now she’s falling in love with the nemesis she is prophesied to kill – until Shane tries to kill her first. It comes out in March 2013!!!

NOW - leave a comment below AND follow my blog and I'll let rafflecopter choose one winner of a signed copy of Shadowcry by Jenna Burtenshaw and a matching bookmark!The contest ends November 23rd.

AND THEN hop on to the next stop -   Lindsay Down's Murders and Mysteries

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Chain

So this is basically about a WIP, but since my WIP is the sequel to the book I have coming out in March, I decided to write about that one. It will make much more sense. SO. Here we go!

Where did you get the idea for your book?

I have no idea where the idea came from. I remember when it came - my third baby believed sleep was for the weak, so we didn't sleep for the first nine months of her life. I remember sitting awake with her at night, the house was silent, I couldn't watch t.v. cuz she would wake up, so I daydreamed this really awesome story. After she started sleeping on a schedule, I started writing (not on a schedule. But I tried).

What's the genre of your book?

It's Young Adult Urban Fantasy. Young Adult because I think there's still so much potential as a teenager. Your life still has so many directions it can take. And Urban Fantasy because I love the modern world but it would be better with magic in it.

Which actors would you choose to play the characters in your movie?

Ari would be Victoria Justice, except taller and more formidable.
Shane would be Matt Long - like from the Jack and Bobby series
Hunter would be the Pittsburgh Steelers Tight End - Heath Miller (oh, he's not an actor, you say? Well he should be)

My elevator pitch:

Arianna has been hunting Shane since she could throw her first spell. Now she’s falling in love with the nemesis she is prophesied to kill – until Shane tries to kill her first. 

Will your book be represented by a publisher or self-published?

Feudlings will come out with Astraea Press in March of 2013. (I say so calmly while bouncing like a small child)

How long did it take you to write the first draft?

It took me over a year. 

What other books compare in your genre?

I would like to think Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instrument series is comparable. 

Who or what inspired your book?
I kinda did - in a backward sort of way. I am small, shy, and sickly. I wanted to daydream about a character that was big, tough, and powerful. Ari is the exact opposite of me - always says what she thinks, is afraid of nothing, and is uber-tough. When I would put her in a situation, I would think, "hmm. What would I do?" And then I'd have her do the exact opposite.

What else about the book might pique the readers' interest?

It's a love story, but it's also a story about friendship and and loyalty and learning to love the person you are -flaws and all.  It's also got a bit of a Romeo and Juliet thing going on.

Now, my tags!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Big News!

If you read my last couple of posts, you know the story. I was about to quit, but fate had other plans...well, here are the details, now that THE CONTRACT IS SIGNED!! *passes out*

Hubs had been sick all day. It was 10:30 pm, and I was so tired, I was just playing a Facebook game, waiting until I was tired enough to sleep (sleep and I...have our issues). I saw that I had an email, so I clicked over. It was Stephanie Taylor from Astraea Press, saying that they loved my book. The contract was attached. I thought, hmm. Cool, and went back to playing my game.
About ten minutes later, it hit me. Wait, WHAT?! I fell out of my chair. I climbed back into my chair and re-read the email, getting shakier by the second. And Hubs was unconscious, completely un-wakeupable (yes, that's a word). Luckily, I had Facebook and my iwritenetwork friends, so I told all of them. And then I didn't sleep.
Fast forward a few days, and I'm doing all my research, comparing royalty rates and company reviews, stalking authors that write for each company  (I had a second publisher offer, after I told them Astraea had offered...ya know what, it's a long story. Just see here), and I kept telling my Hubs, I know I need to weigh pros and cons, but I really just like Astraea. That's who I feel I should go with. Part of it was that the emails to Stephanie were super-fun, more like I was talking to a friend than a potential holder-of-my-life-in-her-hands.
Hubs, of course, agreed that I should do whatever I felt was right. But I did more research, more stalking, more praying and weighing. And on Monday, October 1, I signed my contract, and my first book, Feudlings, is slated to come out in March 2013!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Eeeep! and Stuff

Okay so you know that conundrum (totally love that word. LOVE IT) I had about whether I should quit or not, and the inadvertent guilt trip my nine-year-old sent me on?
It seems that I may not quit after all.
I promised my hubs that I would try to get Feudlings published for a  year. After that, I could quit and not feel bad (9-year-old missed that memo). So that year was up this past weekend, on my birthday. I had been trying for a year, and being rejected and miserable and, let's be honest, pretty dang grumpy. I was ready to give up.
The Monday before my birthday, I got an email from a small publisher I had pitched to only a week or so before. She said they loved my book and offered me a contract.
I fell out of my chair. Literally.
I was so excited, and she was so super nice. So I sent an email to the other publishers and agents that had my manuscript, because it's the polite thing to do.
A few days later, a second publisher said they also wanted Feudlings. That night, an agent wrote to say she would upgrade from the partial I sent her only a couple days before to a full. By then, I was not breathing. I nearly passed out.
Now I have a decision to make. I'm doing my research, asking lots of questions, squeeing lots and lots. I guess this was the universe's way of telling me I wasn't supposed to give up.
Thanks, universe :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Meet & Greet

So.  For the GUTGAA, we're supposed to answer questions and give a brief bio. Here's mine :) 

I'm a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom. I've loved to write for as long as I've been able to write. Right now I'm querying a YA Urban Fantasy about star-crossed sorcerers, and I'm also just finishing my first draft on the sequel. 

Questions for the Meet and Greet

-Where do you write? At my desk, in my once-was-an-office-and-is-now-a-playroom. So I'm usually getting bombarded by toys while I'm trying to focus.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see? A couch. Way more comfortable than my office chair, by the way.

-Favorite time to write? Any time I have enough energy and quiet. Usually mid-morning, if kids will let me!

-Drink of choice while writing? Pepsi! Drink of choice ALL the time.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? For battle scenes, I've gotta have music. For everything else, complete silence.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it? I spent nine months awake all night long (and all day long. We didn't sleep) with a new baby. I had absolutely nothing to do but daydream, and that daydream eventually became Feudlings.

-What's your most valuable writing tip? Have writer friends. For so long, I was the only writer I know. It was lonely and if I ever got stuck, I was on my own. Now, I have an amazing chat room with amazing writer friends, and I have an awesome critique group.  I've learned so much, and they push me to write even when I don't feel like it (I'm lazy, so this is often.)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gearing Up To Get An Agent Bloghop

 Deana Barnhart
This is my first time doing anything like this - but it sounds so fun! Gearing up to get an agent, or GUTGAA, is a month long contest with all sorts of fun events and prizes that Deana Barnhart hosts on her blog. Week 1 starts tomorrow, Sept. 3. Here's the schedule:

WEEK 1 (Monday, Sept 3rd - Friday, Sept 7th)

GUTGAA Meet and Greet - We're starting off with a little get to know you action. On your blog, post a mini bio about yourself along with answers to the questions I posted on my blog (see above if your confused). Don't like those questions all that much? That's fine. Make up your own. Either way, we just want to get to know you!

BETA/Critique Group Connect - Anyone interested in making some serious writer connections can come to my blog and post in the comments section what they're looking for and I will try my best to make a writer connection for you.

Call for Pitch Polish Entries - Are you looking for some pitch help? The Pitch Polish may be what you're looking for. I will start taking pitches Friday, at 11AM  and you will have until Saturday, Sept 8th at 11:59 PM EDT to get your pitch sent to deanabarnhart(at)gmail(dot)com. I will take the first 100 entries I get (if I get that many). To enter the pitch polish you will need to email your query and first 150 words to deanabarnhart(at)gmail(dot)com. Go HERE for details about what I mean by query and first 150 words as well as the format for entries.

Giveaway Winner Announced - Every Friday I will be randomly drawing a participants name and giving them a prize just for being cool:)

Doesn't that sound awesome? Have you signed up yet?

Tools of the Querying Kind -

I remember, long ago (like last year), when I started querying. I was sooo overwhelmed. I didn't know how to find an agent to query. I started stalking all my favorite authors and trying their agents, but it was a time consuming process.
And then I found Writers Market. Writers Market publishes a book every year that weighs as much as my youngest child. It has lists and lists of agents, publishers, contests, ect. But going through it takes forever, especially in the newer versions that don't separate it into genres.

And then I had to make a spreadsheet to keep track of the agents I did query. I like spreadsheets, so this wasn't a huge deal, but I kept thinking, there has GOT to be a better way.

There is.

I don't remember how, but I stumbled across It made everything so easy that at first I was thinking, this has got to be some sort of scam.

It isn't.

What it is is a database that has nearly every agent out there. You can search by name, agency, or genre. It keeps track of everyone you have queried, when and how they responded. It has a comment section where others who have queried can post genre, when they queried, and when they got a response, and any other comments they might think helpful to others. And it generates a report on each agent showing their number of responses - like whether they requested fulls or partial. There is also a forum to chat with other members, and a resource for writers section. And this is all for free.

There is a membership, that gives it's premium members additional, more in-depth reports and other benefits. I haven't used it, but I've heard lots of people say it's totally worth the $35 a month.

My only regret with querytracker is that I didn't find it sooner!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

To Quit or Not to Quit...

I'm not big on rejection. Apparently, my extremely sheltered life led me to have an extremely not-thick skin. So you can understand why querying the story that holds most of my soul is so hard. Lots of rejections.
I told myself that I would try for a year and a half. I could quit on my birthday, and then no one could tell me I didn't try, right? Right.

My birthday is a month away. Only one more month of trying. And I'm scared that the month will be over and I'll have failed, but I'm also kinda relieved. Or at least, I was.

Cue conversation with my daughter on the way to school today:

She was telling me all the things she wanted to be when she grows up. And then she stops, mid-sentence: "Mom, what did you want to be when you were little?" "A writer." I smile. "Me too. I want to be a writer just like you when I grow up."


And then, "How do you get to be a writer?" I answer what every parent is supposed to answer when kids ask how to chase their dreams, "You can be anything you want to be. Just work hard and never give up."


So now I'm at an impasse. How on earth can I quit in a month and still tell my daughter to chase her dreams?    

Monday, August 6, 2012

That Feeling when You've Eaten the Whole Elephant

You know the saying, "What's the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time." That is also how you write a novel. One word at a time. 
I have been writing my whole life. And I love it. Absolutely love it, in fact. 
Until two years ago I had started probably over a hundred stories, but I had never finished one. Yes, I was slacking. But then I had a lot of free time on my hands when all I could do was sit and think (so actually, NOT free time.) Baby #3 didn't like to sleep for the first nine months of life, so we spent a lot of time in the dark, by ourselves, when I could do nothing but daydream.
I came up with such a fantastic story. I loved it. I loved all the characters. I had the whole thing, from start to finish, in my head. And I thought, "Hey, now that baby is sleeping for an hour a night so I'm not totally zombie-ish, I should write this down." 
Just a side note - starting a story when you have a brand new baby is not really a brilliant idea. 
I started it. Then I quit because I was too tired. And then I picked it up again. And then I quit because I just didn't think I could really finish it. I mean, really? Who did that?
But I had a writer friend who dragged me to her critique group, and in order to have stuff to critique every month I had to keep writing. 
And then I realized: I was almost done. 
So then I really picked it up. I wrote every time anyone would leave me alone for even two seconds. The day I finished it I sat there in shock for like fifteen minutes, and then I wandered around wanting to tell everyone and make everyone read it right away. It was such an incredible feeling. 
The reason I was able to write it and finish it, when I had never finished anything else, was because I believed in the story. I loved the story. The characters would bounce around in my head telling me to write their story if I tried to quit. 
And the way I finished it? One bite at a time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Staying on My Feet in Query Trenches

I have loved to write since I could write, and before that I just passed stories on to my stuffed animal friends by word of mouth, like my ancestors (the word of mouth part, not the stuffed animal part).
So because I have been writing so long, I thought I was a good writer. I won awards in high school, I did amazingly well in English classes (you'd never guess, now, judging by my spelling capabilities). I majored in English and even worked at a publishing company for four years.
And then I wrote Feudlings. After being awake for nine months straight with my new baby, and spending a lot of time in my own head, I had the whole story bouncing around my brain. I wrote it because the story was in my head and I loved to write. I did NOT write it with any intention of getting it published. 
And then I let family read it. And I let friends read it. And they loved it. They encouraged me, because they are good friends and family. And I decided, after much terror and tears and whining, that I would try to get it published.
It was exciting, at first, before I knew what I was doing. I went to conferences and there was so much to learn.
But now I've been at it for a while. I don't like rejections, I never have, but especially rejections on my writing, which is the only thing I'm good at! I'm tired of querying and being told no. I'm becoming jaded. I see bitterness in the future.
The worst thing is that, for a while, I didn't want to write. I didn't see the point, if I couldn't get Feudlings published, why keep writing? It took my nine-year-old to remind me that I write because I love it, and not because someone else should love it.
So. I took a deep breath. I started writing again. I started to feel better. I kept querying, but I sought professional opinions on my work (I was going to say professional help, but I know what ya'll would be thinking).
I still don't love querying. Of course I still long to have someone say yes, to say they love my writing as much as, say, my sisters or niece or husband do. But I think the most important thing when querying is to remember that all those "no's" do NOT define your writing or who you are. When you start writing for someone else, you lose miss out on the true gift of writing, which is the ability to bring to life the stories in your head. Whether or not the world ever sees those words, it's a gift you give to yourself.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Brilliant Story about Unicorns

Today is the second day of my 15 minutes a day challenge. I realized last night that 15 minutes is nothing. I have a group of friends that I sprint with and we write in 30 minute increments. Of course, I usually spend at least half those thirty minutes staring dejectedly at my MS while I try to figure out how to write myself out of the corner that I've, um, written myself into. 
No, 15 minutes is okay. It's the every day bit that is hard for me. My brain gets tired. It needs a break. Clearly, my brain needs serious weight training.
My 15 minutes today has been spent free-writing. I want to write a story about unicorns. I love unicorns. I have always loved unicorns and I have so many little unicorn figurines that they creep my husband out and he mumbles in his sleep about unicorn eyes always watching. 
My problem is that I like to write urban fantasy. And I can't, for the life of me, come up with a storyline that includes unicorns in an urban fantasy. 
So I have two options. One - keep searching for an idea. This isn't going so well.
Two - write outside my comfort zone. Write an epic fantasy or a high fantasy. This, you think, sounds like good character building for me. But I don't wanna do it, and one thing I've learned about me is that if I don't wanna do it, I probably won't (I was the youngest child. I'm very spoiled. This is just the way things are). 
If anyone has any brilliant story ideas about unicorns, PLEASE share. I'm getting desperate, and no one wants to see the spoiled youngest child desperate now, do we?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August 15 Minute-a-day Writing Challenge

I have this weird thing. If I know I'm going to be bothered at all, I can't write. My mind will only work if I think I'm going to have the next hour or two open, no interruptions, no kids, no dogs, cats, neighbors...needless to say, I don't get to write much because that kind of time block just doesn't happen. So when I stumbled across Laurie Halse Anderson's blog about fifteen minutes a day for a month, I thought, hmm. Interesting. (
So I'm gonna try it. Also and conveniently, I am also participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this August. 
Every day, I will write for fifteen minutes. AND. It might be about nothing.
It might be about something important. 
Today, I am writing a blog post. Also, I'm working on my story, which is much more fun than blog posts. No offense.

If you think this is so much fun and want to join me, mention it in the comments! We can compare notes every day and see how we're doing. You can push me forward when I get lazy. I'll sweetly suggest you get your butt in gear if you fall behind. See how that works?