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Friday, July 14, 2017

Q & A With Author Camilla Isley

Hi Camilla. Welcome back for your second interview here! What is your book NOT about?

Murder. Tragedy. Evil witches. Dragons.

What is your book about?

Finding love. Learning to love again. Moving beyond stereotypes of how life should be. The love of a pet. Crazy funny situations. Starting over. A journey to learn what matters and what doesn’t. A bit of office romance. Friendship. Happily ever afters…

What is your favorite line from your book?

“Live and embarrass yourself the most you can.”

To put it into context it goes like this…

“…So what’s your plan for the weekend?”
I shrug. “Survive without embarrassing myself too much?”
“That sounds like an awful plan.”
“You have a better suggestion?”
“Live and embarrass yourself the most you can.”

What celebrities would play your main characters if it were a movie?

Blair: Emma Stone
Richard: Ashton Kutcher

I love Ashton! Take me through a day in your life.

It’s not that exciting… working at home means I basically walk down the stairs and am in the office. With my laptop in front of me I run through a cycle of networking, writing, editing… Then there are those amiable house chores to take care of and in the rare days I’m motivated enough, some writer-ass fighting exercising.

Show me a picture of your writing spot. 

So this is not my usual writing spot. We’re staying in a country house right now for the summer and I made the living room table my spot. I’m glad I don’t have to show you a pic of my writing nook at home, you’d cringe. It’s so messy. A disaster. I should probably clear it out, join the de-cluttering movement. The minimalism of this new, bare space is helping me focus.

I have met very few writers with organized writing space. I think it has to do with being a creative mind. If you could spend the day with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you do?

My grandmother. I miss her so much and I would love to have just another day with her. We’d probably spend the day cooking. She’d teach me one of her recipes for handmade pasta and we’d spend the day in a simple way like that: making a meal and chatting. Like she used to do when she was young. When you couldn’t buy everything at a store. When there was no internet, no TV, no smartphones and people spent time talking and making things together.

What is the weirdest thing you have had to research for writing purposes?

Probably what use a pack of condoms would have in the wild (besides the obvious)… For my novel A Sudden Crush.

Too funny! What was your favorite book as a child, and what is your favorite book now?

I had phases. So in early childhood my favorite was The Night of Wishes by Michael Ende. Early teen, The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Then I discovered Harry Potter… Dug into some classics, Jane Austen, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Mark Twain… Now I’d say those plus most of Sophie Kinsella’s novels, Game of Thrones, the Throne of Glass series… Oh, I’m rambling… As you can see I can’t just pick one. I love too many books, authors, and genres to choose.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

Lately, I’ve been in a Fantasy mojo. I’ve found this new (for me, books have been published a while) series I like Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan. I’m at the end of book 1 and will keep reading.

What is the strangest fact about you? 

Mmm, perhaps that I’m a Mechanical Engineer by training and I would’ve never thought I’d end up being a writer.

What writers inspire you?

In my genre, Romantic Comedy, the absolute queen for me is Sophie Kinsella. Her new book, My Not So Perfect Life, was one of my favorites this year. I also love Meg Cabot, with her Boy Series. Mhairi McFarlane is another favorite.

Why do you write?

I guess it all started with me having a story to tell… Since publishing my first book, it’s been amazing to see the positive responses from readers and it has kept me wanting to tell all the stories that swirl in my head. Books have always been a huge part of my life, I love to read… and a pretty common side-effect is getting this overly active imagination that makes your brain pulse with ideas and possible plots.

And you can write books pretty fast! It must come naturally. What are you working on right now?

The third book in my new adult series, Just Friends. The title is My Best Friend’s Boyfriend and it’s very early days… But as you can imagine from the title, I explore what happens when two best friends love the same guy. I always try to put a spin on stories so don’t expect any boyfriend-stealing scenarios. I will dig deep into the pain it is to see the man you love with another person, but also loving this other person so much you’d never wish for them to break up. My new adult novels have a bit more drama than the romcoms.

How can readers learn more about you and your work?

My newsletter is the best way, I write monthly updates on my works in progress and share news before any other outlet. And when readers sign up they receive a free eBook. Here’s the sign-up linkOr find out more info on my website. I also enjoy Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I share visual inspirations for my books on Pinterest… This is the board for I Have Never. And I’m on Goodreads, I always post news about upcoming books and share what I’m reading.

As always, it was great to have you! I’m sure you will have another book launch soon!

Monday, July 3, 2017

It's a Writer Thing -- Preparing for Pitch Wars


This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 

As a former Pitch2Publication success story, I KNOW what it feels like to be short-listed. I KNOW how amazing it is to read the words: And the next mentee is (YOUR NAME HERE). I want you to have that too. So please, do everything you can to help yourself before the submission window begins. 

Make it impossible for us to not choose your submission. 

I also know all the negative thoughts that go through the authors’ minds during this process. P2P wasn’t the only competition I entered. I entered several over the years that I was not chosen for, so I know that feeling too. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but I firmly believe that we MUST put ourselves out there, and I also believe the stress is totally worth it. 

So, in the spirit of combating those negative thoughts now, I’ve listed out the ones that I had back in the day in the hopes that they will help you.

I won’t get chosen, so there’s no point in doing ___________ (insert phrase as applicable: writing a synopsis, reading through my manuscript one more time, writing a 35-word pitch, etc.)

Get your submission materials ready NOW. What do you need?: 
1) Query letter and 
2) First chapter (please see Brenda Drake’s blog for more guidelines on short chapters & prologues). 

You should also prepare: 
1) A 1-3 page synopsis and 
2) A 35-word short pitch. These are things a mentor may ask for to help with their decision. 

Yes, synopsis. I know. They’re evil and torture, but they’re the only way to get a feel for the full plot of your book without actually reading the whole book. And I’ll be honest with you, when I entered FicFest, I did not follow this advice. Why didn’t I have a synopsis ready? Because I didn’t think there was any chance in hell that I’d get chosen, and yet one of the mentors loved my submission and wanted to read my synopsis. Oops.


Don’t be like me. Get your materials ready now and you won’t have to frantically throw it together at 11:45PM on a Thursday while trying to scoop frozen cookie dough out of a container. (Don’t judge. I needed something to strengthen me.)

They’re just going to have me revise it anyway.

Please be sure your MS is ready. Yes, your whole manuscript. Listen, I know you’re busy. Believe me, I get it. You’ve got lots of obligations, and you may be saying: Why bother killing myself? I won’t get picked. I’ll just get the first few chapters ready to go and call it a day. 

My response to that, a strangled GAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! The mentors you submit to may want more chapters to help them decide. If your first chapter rocks, but the rest are super rough, they may determine that, though they love your concept, your book as a whole needs too much work to get it ready in time for the Agent Showcase. 

Not to mention, no one wants to get a request for the first 50 pages and come to realize they never wrote X, Y, or Z pivotal scene. (Clears throat.) That’s a surefire way to find yourself frantically writing away at 11:45PM on a Thursday trying to jam a spoon into a frozen container of cookie dough.

So do that work UP FRONT and make it easy for us to pick you. 

We want to pick YOU.

And yes, your mentor will ask you to revise it, but the better a MS is when we start working, the better we can make it by the end. Worst case scenario: your MS isn’t selected, but you have a newly-revised MS that will blow the agents away when you query.

I don’t need a frozen container of cookie dough because I’ll get all my materials totally set to go. BOO-ya!

Listen, cookie dough comes in handy for many life situations. I highly recommend everyone keep some. Just in case. (For example, it’s a great way to celebrate when you get that request for a synopsis.)

I don’t know who to pick as a prospective mentor. There are so many. I can’t do it. Eenie-meenie-miney-mo.

Do your research on the mentors. The number of writers who donate their time is astounding (it sort of makes my heart glow &  my eyes get all watery). While they’re all great, there will definitely be some who are better matched for you and your work than others. 

The Blog Hop starts on July 19th, which gives you two whole weeks to check out all the mentors’ bios, wish lists, and info on their approach to mentoring. Brenda and the other organizers of the competition have made it super easy for you to jump from blog-to-blog. At the bottom of each mentor’s Pitch Wars Bio post, we’ll include links to all the other mentors’ pages (for that age category). They’re numbered with our pictures so it will be easy for you to keep track.

Seriously, give your MS the BEST chance of getting chosen by really taking the time to visit each mentors’ blog. Not only that, but come and say hi on Twitter. We want to get to know you. That’s a huge part of the fun. You can join the #PimpMyBio Blog hop and tell us all about yourself. (Do it! It’s fun!) Also, check out the #pitchwars hashtag and look out for the live chats (July 17th through August 1st).

There’s no way THAT AMAZING MENTOR will want to work with ME. 

But we do! We do!

There are some seriously talented and successful writers in this mix. And, I can tell you from experience getting to know them over the last few months, they’re all wonderful, down-to-earth people. We’re just as excited and nervous as you are. 

Your submission will literally make our day. 

If I don’t get chosen, that means I’m not good enough. 

Not at all! Please don’t self-label. If your MS doesn’t get chosen, that means nothing about YOU. Maybe your MS wasn’t ready, but you—as a person and writer—are good enough. Even if you still have room to grow (and who doesn’t?) as long you keep working, practicing, and getting better, then you ARE good enough.

If I don’t get chosen, that means my MS isn’t good enough.

My agent recently did a Twitter Poll, asking the worst news a writer can get from their agent. I selected the option Being Told a MS is Truly Bad. But I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve changed my mind. 

No MS is truly bad. Why? Because a MS that’s not ready NOW can always be improved. Some writers go so far as to literally open a new doc or Scrivener file and rewrite the whole thing. (I’m not saying you should do that!) My point is, no MS is beyond hope if an author is committed to their concept and is willing to do the hard work to make it awesome.

So, maybe your MS isn’t ready YET, but it still may be “good enough” with more work. It may take longer than we have in this competition to get it ready for the agent showcase, though. Or, the mentor may just not be confident they understand what your MS needs to bring it to the next level.

Sometimes manuscripts aren’t chosen for other reasons. 

It may not be quite right for the mentors you sub’d to. You know, that whole subjectivity thing. Sometimes mentors pass on a submission because they happen to know something about trends in publishing at the moment, and they worry that concept might have a rough time in the Agent Showcase. Trends change all the time, though, so a book that might be a tough sell today can be an easy sell in 6 months. I’ve also seen cases where a mentor feels the book is ready now. Remember, this competition is about mentorship; if your MS can’t be improved upon, then go query.

Finally, the mentors you sub to may LOVE your book, but they may love another MS too, and at the end of the day, they can only pick one. (That said, it’s not unheard of for a mentor to be so undecided, they opt to take TWO mentees. I’m not saying it will happen, but you never know.)

If my MS isn’t chosen, there’s no point in keeping up on what’s going on with Pitch Wars.


Submitting to Pitch Wars isn’t just about a chance at nabbing a slot, it’s also about learning and building your community. Even if your MS isn’t selected, you still come away with something from being here.

Mentors will post on the #tenqueries hashtag, giving tips and suggestions based on the submissions they receive (anonymous, of course). 

I met a bunch of authors every time I entered a competition. I followed the mentors even when I wasn’t selected. Connecting with other writers is literally the thing that helped me progress. There are so many opportunities I wouldn’t have known about (calls for submissions, competitions, resources to become a better writer). Pitch Wars is also hosting a webinar series with tons of different topics on writing.

And, don’t forget, if you aren’t selected for Pitch Wars 2017, you can participate in PitMad, a Twitter pitch party, on September 7th.

So, your mission (if you choose to accept it):

1) Get those materials ready.
2) Create a kick-ass affirmation for this process. Need some help? Here’s one you can use: My MS has just as much chance of being selected as anyone else. I will approach this as if I know my MS will be chosen. Pitch Wars Mentors, here I come!
3) Come say hi on the #pitchwars hashtag, hang with us during the Live Chats, maybe join a webinar or two. And don’t forget the #PimpMyBio Blog Hop!
4) Buy some frozen cookie dough OR make some cookie dough and stick that bad boy in the freezer.
5) Eat said cookie dough.
6) Repeat Steps 4 & 5 as necessary.

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand. 

Check out Jessica's other posts:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Q & A With Author Lisa Daily

Hi, Lisa! Thanks for joining me today. Let's get started! What is your book NOT about?

Great question! My book is not about eighteenth-century poets. Or fisherwomen. Or a secret society of rogue weavers.

So, what is your book about?

It's about putting your life back together again after other people sometimes screw up your big plans for how things are going to be. And best girlfriends. And the weirdness of dating. And the absolute deliciousness of truly connecting with someone on every conceivable level. And first kisses. And first more than kisses. And pot-smoking octogenarians. And laughing until your sides hurt.

Sounds fun! What is your favorite line from your book?

"Botox is as common as seagulls in Sarasota, but most of the women I know who use the dermatologist's little helper still have full range of expression. Except squinting, of course."

What celebrities would play your main characters if it were a movie?

I love this question because whenever I'm writing a book, I always sort of cast it in my head.

For Alex, my dream actress would be Kerry Washington.  I love her, I'm a huge fan of Scandal -- I think she has incredible depth for the feely parts and spectacular comedic timing. She's much funnier than people generally give her credit for -- and I think that's because she's such a strong dramatic actress. She's definitely a writers' actress -- she has a great range.

Also, I love the fact that she often plays characters who can be extraordinarily vulnerable at times, and then scrape themselves off the pavement, take a deep breath, and live to fight another day.

I always love Drew Barrymore for many of the same reasons.  So if Kerry Washington isn't available...

For Daniel: Henry Caville. Here's why:  Imagine Henry Caville. Now imagine Henry Caville cooking for you. Magic, right?  Now add in Henry Caville being insightful and charming and surprisingly romantic while cooking for you.  Also, he has a sexy accent and I'm pretty sure he does the dishes. 

I could also see Ryan Gosling playing Daniel. I'm pretty sure he does the dishes also.

For Michael, Darcy's former husband -- Neil Patrick Harris

For Darcy, the smart, funny best friend who always tells it like it is, I always have Judy Greer or Kat Dennings in mind -- sassy and hilarious.

For Nate, the hunky tool belt supermodel, I couldn't get Jonathan Scott from the Property Brothers out of my head -- Liam Hemsworth with a tool belt would do, however. Yes, yes he would. 

I am glad you have given this so much thought! Now, take me through a day in your life. 

I get up, get the kids off to school and either meet a friend for breakfast or head over to Siesta Key to write for a few hours. I cool off in the Gulf when I get too warm or need time to think.  I eat lunch and write some more.  In the afternoon I hang out with my sweetie and the kids. We crack each other up, make a little dinner (and maybe whip up a batch of margaritas) and read or see a movie.

On Saturday night (known at my house as "date night") we head over to our favorite pizza joint for dinner, followed by custard at a local hangout, and then head to the bookstore to browse.

I'm lucky to have so much in my life that I love.

That sounds like a dream day! Show me a picture of your writing spot. 

Ah! Don't get your computer wet! If you could spend the day with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you do?

It would be my Grandma Vernie, who passed away when I was eight, but is still one of my favorite people in the Universe. We'd play Yahtzee for dimes, which is one of my most beloved memories with her. And then we'd go to the bookstore and I'd show her all the books I've written -- she always wanted a writer in the family, and I feel incredibly proud that I was able to fulfill that for her.  

So sweet! What is the weirdest thing you have had to research for writing purposes?

Like most authors, my Google search history probably has my on about 15 different Homeland Security watch lists. I always feel really bad for the mystery writers.

Weirdest things to research -- for Single-Minded, I did a lot of research on environmental and spatial psychologists, which is what my main character, Alex does for a living. I think it's cool that these psychologists can influence our everyday behavior with scents, color and lighting choices, chair thickness, and weirdly, images of pandas. Did you know that people can be primed to give more money at charity events if they see images of cute animals? Or that for women, spending time outdoors can help to alleviate low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety symptoms? Or that if you stand at the corner or the bar, rather than the flat side, the bartender will take your drink order faster, and strangers will be more likely to strike up a conversation with you?

The all-time strangest thing I've ever researched for a book is the recipe for special effects vomit: Tapioca and maple syrup mixed with frozen peas and carrots. Now you know.

So interesting!! What was your favorite book as a child, and what is your favorite book now?

My favorite book as a child was How Fletcher Was Hatched, about a dog who thinks he would be more loveable if he was more like a chicken.  My favorite book now is Nora Ephron's Heartburn. It's honest, it's heartbreaking, it's hilarious. And at the end, the main character gets to be Nora Ephron.

What book are you currently reading? 

I just finished Sophie Kinsella's My Not So Perfect Life, which I loved.  My work is compared to hers a lot, which I find incredibly flattering because she's one of my very favorite authors.

What is the strangest fact about you? 

I once walked a high wire for charity in front of a crowd of 250 people.  It was terrifying and completely thrilling.

Scary! What writers inspire you?

Nora Ephron, Dave Barry, Sophie Kinsella, Jane Austen, Jane Green, Colleen Hoover, and Eileen Cook

I love Colleen Hoover too! Why do you write?

It's who I am, I've written all my life.  I've literally wanted to be an author since I was a little kid. I remember when I was 7 or 8, sitting on the sofa in the family room, looking at my reflection in the glass fireplace screen and pretending I was being interviewed by Johnny Carson about my new novel. I wrote a serial when I was in the 4th grade about our hunky science teacher, Mr. Gemeinhart. Every day at recess a huge crowd of girls would gather under the slide to listen to the latest installment.

What are you working on right now?

I'm just beginning to plot a new YA series -- it's my first series so I'm both excited and terrified.  I'm also working on another summer romantic comedy, because those are pretty much my favorite books these days. 

Awesome! How can readers learn more about you and your work?

Thanks for asking! I'm always on Goodreads, Twitter @LisaDaily and Instagram @AuthorByTheSea, and probably the easiest way to keep up with me is on my website

Good luck with your writing and thanks again for being a part of Judging More Than Just The Cover!