Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group, One Year Webiversary and Upcoming eBook

It's the first Wednesday of the month and time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. A big shout out to our fearless leader, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh for starting this amazing online collaboration. If you're an insecure writer or just looking to give some support to others, check us out!

Today is a very special day for the IWSG -- it's the one year anniversary of the launch of our amazing website (just click here for the link). If you haven't visited before, it's a wonderful tool for writers with all manner of tips for finding agents, publication, etc. And of course, a way for us to connect with one another and offer up advice or reach out for a little support.

In honor of our one year webiversary, IWSG is putting together an ebook benefitting writers, inviting all it's members and followers to contribute. So if you have any advice to offer on writing, publishing or marketing, get blogging! (See more details on how to participate here.)

On that note, here's my own contribution . . .

How to Find a Literary Agent

Writing is hard work, but getting published is infinitely harder. They say the first step to getting published is finding a literary agent, but how is a first time author supposed to get their attention? Smoke signals? Fireworks? Kidnapping and extortion? 

While I've certainly given all three some serious thought, there are a few more "official" options to consider:

The first is the loathsome and dreaded query letter. Write them well, send them in droves, and pray to whatever deity you believe in that they get the job done. If you choose this option, may the good fortune of J. K. Rowling be with you. And if you need any advice, check out former literary agent and bestselling author Nathan Bransford's How to Write a Query Letter

The second option is writing conferences.

Writing conferences are critical tools for first time authors looking to network and build contacts in the writing world. From keynote speeches on how to get published to workshops on writing query letters or understanding the changing nature of the publishing industry, these conferences are a wealth of untapped knowledge. Furthermore, they supply unpublished authors with a golden opportunity -- a chance to pitch their work to agents in one-on-one sessions. 

I've found personal success through these pitch sessions, as it allowed me to discuss my work in greater and more personal depth than any query letter I might send. In fact, it was through a writing conference pitch session that I landed my own literary agent to represent my work. So write a query, sign yourself up for writing conferences, and most importantly, keep at it!


S. L. Hennessy, Middle Grade author and blogger at Pensuasion 
Category: Publishing 
I hereby give my permission to use this piece in the IWSG ebook. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Banned Book Week 2014

Banned Book Week is an annual event centered celebrating the freedom to read without restriction. We sometimes think of censorship as a thing of the past, but every year the American Library Association reports hundreds of books being challenged in libraries and schools across the nation. In 2013, there were challenges to everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to Captain Underpants (Seriously? Captain Underpants?). 

Every year when Banned Book Week rolls around I can't help but picture the events Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (which is, poetically, one of the many banned books). I picture peoples' houses being raided, novels ripped from secret shelves, the smoke from the book bonfires ripping through the night sky. Dramatic though that image may be, it's what my mind conjures up every time I hear of another attempt at book censorship. 

Here's just a few of some of our most beloved stories that have been previously challenged: 
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury 
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins 
Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell 
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald 
Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling 
The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne 
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 

Imagine what life would be like without some of these amazing classics. So read a banned book, check out the Banned Book Week calendar of events here, blog, tweet #FreetoRead14 or find some small way to help fight censorship this week (September 21-27)!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Underrated Treasures Blogfest

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book that you simply loved, but no one else has ever heard of? Well, today Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting a the Underrated Treasures Bloghop to help get the word out! So if you haven't already, sign up and tell us about your favorite book, movie, TV show or band that no one has ever heard of.

Gosford Park
With all the fans of Downton Abbey out there, I would assume that Gosford Park would have reached greater notoriety. After all, it shares a similar premise, time period, and even the phenomenal Maggie Smith. But for all my love of this spectacular movie, few of my friends and acquaintances have ever heard of it, let alone seen it. If you like whodunnit films starring British all-star casts, this is a must not miss.

The Man in the High Castle
My second book entrant (I couldn't limit myself to just one) is by a similarly well known author, Philip K. Dick. Most often associated with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (aka. Blade Runner), Minority Report and Total Recall, people rarely read the lesser known The Man in the High Castle. However, it's definitely a work worth reading. In fact, it was recently optioned by Amazon Studios and a TV series is currently in the works. If your a sci fi or alternative history fan, check this read out. 

Taken
This may not count as a TV show, but I've been a big fan of the Sci-Fi Channel mini series Taken since it first aired in 2002. It takes place over the span of five decades with interwoven plots all surrounding alien encounters. It's phenomenally well written and features a terrific cast, including a very young Dakota Fanning and Anton Yelchin. 

Well, those are just a few of my underrated treasures. What about you? Any books, movies, or TV shows I've never heard of that you'd recommend? 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Premiere Week is Almost Here . . .

I love this time of year. The air starts to get a little crisper, pumpkins start appearing in grocery stores, and the new and returning TV shows finally get their premiere dates. Of the wide array of new series premiering every fall, I generally only stick with a few (I'm fairly picky about what I tune in to watch every week). But I like to think of the last few weeks in September as my opportunity to "window shop" for new shows. I set my DVR to record all the new potentials, pop some popcorn and take them out for a test drive. Only a few will make it past the first cut, but it's fun nevertheless. 

With the in mind, I took some time this week to look over the upcoming series and see which ones look like something that might interest me. Let's check out a few of the candidates: 

Z Nation (SyFy Channel)
It looks a little like the poor man's version of The Walking Dead, but certainly has some appeal. Unlike the uber-popular AMC series, Z Nation looks like a slightly more hopeful series, with a potential "cure" for the devastating zombie virus. My hopes aren't high on this one, but it's worth a look. 

Gotham (Fox) 
I've been anticipating this show for months now. A look at the streets of Gotham City before The Dark Knight became it's dark, avenging angel, this new series sheds new light on some of Batman's most notorious villains. And of course the young Commissioner Gordon, one of my favorite characters from the comic book series. I'm definitely keeping my fingers crossed for this one. 

Scorpion (CBS)
I'm a sucker for a good computer hacker story (oh Alec Hardison of TNT's Leverage, how I miss thee), and this one looks like a lot of fun. Teaming up a bunch of genius computer techs in order to solve global crises . . . count me in. 
Forever (ABC)
I'm a little more hesitant about this series. It has the potential for a cool story - immortality, always an interesting plot device - but could possibly border on maudlin. Still, I approve of the casting choices so I'll at least give it an episode to see if it impresses me. 

How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)
Though I absolutely love the title of this new series, I'm always a little weary of Shonda Rhimes's work. It's a little on the dramatic side for my taste. But I'm a big fan of Viola Davis, and again . . . that title. And I'm a sucker for a good murder mystery, so I'll probably tune in just to see what it's all about. 

Stalker (CBS)
This show looks super creepy. It's sort of like watching every woman's (and I'd guess most men as well) nightmare, wrapped up in into one series. Though I'm sure it'll terrify me to the core, I love a good crime drama. I guess I gotta check this one out. 

Gracepoint (Fox) 
I love mini series. They have the episodic appeal of a TV show, but a the finite nature of a film. If I could make every new show a mini series, I absolutely would. This one in particular has some great things going for it: 1) A terrific murder mystery plot. 2) A picturesque setting that hints of something seething beneath its quiet surface. And 3) David Tennant. I am so there. 

Constantine (NBC)
I liked the movie Constantine, and loved the comic book series Hellblazer. So good or bad, I have to give this new TV series a look. I haven't seen any previews for it, so I have no idea if it shows any promise. But oh well, it'll have a least one more viewer for opening night.  

Well, I think that's all of them. I suspect that I'll only watch a few of them more than once, but hey, you never know. And with the return of some of my more established favorites - Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Sleepy Hollow - it should be a good September. 

Any other cool shows I haven't mentioned that look good? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Special e-Book News

First I'd like to take a second to say a special thank you to everyone who helped make Sunflowers for Tina Downey #LifeisGood a success. I'm sure it would have meant the world to Tina to see so many beautiful sunflowers lighting up the blogging world in her honor.

In further news, Samantha Redstreake Geary made the announcement that a special ebook will be launched this Friday, September 12th. It features the collaborative works of 26 amazing authors, including Tina Downey and Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, and is set to premiere on Amazon. The stunning book cover was created by incredible graphic artist and composer, Ryo Ishido

All the proceeds from this collaborative effort will go to the Downey Education Fund set up for Tina's two sons (see the badge on my sidebar to contribute further). So please check out audiomachine's TREE OF LIFE: Branching Out this Friday!

In addition to TREE OF LIFE, the Insecure Writer's Support Group Team is putting together an eBook benefiting all writers, The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond. And what's better, they are inviting all IWSG members and followers to contribute!! If you're interested in this exciting opportunity, here are the details: 

The three topics will be writing, publishing, and marketing. 


Each contribution needs to be between 200 and 1000 words. Focus on one of those three aspects and give us your best tip or procedure. The essay can include bullet points, top ten lists, and recommendations. (Websites, software, books, etc.) 


You can either post it for your October 1 IWSG post or email it directly. TheIWSGATgmail.com or alexjcavanaughATearthlink.net (Since the length can go over the standard IWSG post length.) Include a one sentence byline and a link to your site. Also state that you give us permission to use it in the book and which topic it falls under. (We will only edit for misspellings and grammar mistakes.) 

All submissions need to be sent or posted by October 2, 2014. We will compile them into an eBook and aim for an early December release. The book will be free and available for all eReaders. 


So check out the Insecure Writer's Support Group is you're interested in participating in the eBook, or if you're just looking for a group of amazing writers and bloggers to offer you a little support. 
       - Insecure Writer's Support Group link 
       - Insecure Writer's Support Group Facebook page 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sunflowers for Tina #LifeIsGood

Many of you knew Tina Downey, a devoted mother, wife, friend and blogger. She was a huge part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and had her own blog, Life is Good. She was a kind, zany, wonderful woman who touched the lives of many while she was here on earth, and the world is a little darker without her shining presence.

In honor of her recent passing, we'd like to light up the blog-o-sphere with her favorite flower. So please join us today in our special bloghop, Sunflowers for Tina, and post a picture of a sunflower dedicated to Tina's memory.

Tina Downey, these sunflowers are for you . . .



I hope Heaven is brightened by your spirit, and I hope you see these sunflowers as you smile down at us.

We also wanted to spread the word about the fund set up in Tina's honor - the Downey Education Fund. Tina was a devoted mother, and all proceeds go to her family. If you'd like to contribute, please check out the Downey Education Fund badge on my sidebar or simply click the link below:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group

It's the first Wednesday of the month and time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. If you're an insecure writer or just looking to give out support to other writers, check us out here. And a huge shout out to our fearless Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh for starting this group and being the greatest support of all.

First of all, happy three year anniversary to the IWSG! It's helped so many, and made a real difference to many insecure writers, myself included. 

For my IWSG post this month, I'm not going to talk about an insecurity. Instead, I want to discuss loss, and how writing can help us cope. Many of us are dealing with loss this month, mourning the death of blogger Tina Downey. In the past year I've also dealt with the loss of an old friend, murdered long before her time. Sometimes these kinds of tragedies can affect our writing, making it harder to focus on the day to day aspects of our craft. I certainly struggled with that these past two years.  

But sometimes writing can be a solace to us, can comfort us and help us deal with the pain of loss. A journal, a story honoring the people missing from our lives, even a blog post -- writing gives us an outlet for our grief. And perhaps it can even help us move on. 


Also, for anyone who knew Tina Downey, please take a look at the Blogging from A to Z Challenge website for a tribute to her memory.