Friday, September 26, 2014

Quick! Name Your Favorite Book

I am honored to welcome author Sydney Avey to the blog today, as part of her WOW! Blog Tour for The Lyre and the Lambs. Sydney has written some fantastic guest posts throughout the tour so today I thought I'd go a little easier on her and ask her to name a few of her favorite genres to read. But for those of us who love books, that's not always an easy task!

About Sydney Avey:
Sydney Avey is an author of historical and women’s fiction set in California. The Lyre and the Lambs is the sequel to her first novel, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, which won an honorable mention from the Center for Basque Studies (University of Nevada, Reno) in their Basque Literary Contest. Both novels were published by HopeSprings Books, a small publishing house that promotes realistic Christian fiction. 
Sydney and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work is has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley and has studied writing at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She lives with her husband Joel the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
Visit Sydney at and sign up to receive her monthly News for Readers and Writers.

The Lyre and the Lambs:
It’s the Sixties. Modernity and tradition clash as two newlywed couples set up house together. Dee and her daughter Valerie move with their husbands into a modern glass house Valerie built in a proudly rural Los Altos, California neighborhood. When their young relatives start showing up and moving in, the neighbors get suspicious. Then a body is found in the backyard and the life they are trying to build comes undone.

Father Mike is back to guide Dee through a difficult time with humor and grace, even as his own life is unraveling. Now he’s going to have to take some of his own advice about love.

The Lyre and the Lambs explores the passions that draw people together and the faith it takes to overcome trauma.

Quick! Name Your Favorite Book
By Sydney Avey

The one question I am never prepared to answer is, “What is your favorite book?” Worse yet, being challenged to list my ten all time faves on Facebook and tag ten friends to tender their lists? Well, that makes me break out in hives.

When I was a child, choice was easy; Cheerios or Rice Krispies? Now that I have lived several lives, the information I am trying to access is not so easily retrieved. It is filed away somewhere in my brain, labeled with an obscure association. The conversation in my head goes like this:

Favorite book? My eyes dart to a corner of the room.

Hmmmmm. I like edgy characters. Olive Kitteridge! Who wrote Olive Kitteridge? My chin drops to my chest, feigning concentration, masking shame.

I know! I like beautiful words, spiritual insights, literary fiction; John Updike! Didn’t read the Rabbit series; what was the name of that obscure novel he wrote that I loved?

I am so impressed with my erudite friends who can pop out a list that demonstrates their impeccable literary taste, vast world awareness, and self-deprecating sense of humor. Their lists include books like War and Peace, Love in the Time of Cholera, and The Cat in the Hat. Bottom line, composing this list makes me feel like I’m overthinking SAT questions.

Along comes the lovely Renee Roberson who asks me simply to list a few genres I enjoy and give an example of a favorite book. I can do that!

I like books that make me think and feel. I love Edward Rutherford’s brand of Historical Fiction. Reading Rutherford is like taking a survey of world civilization class from a cast of characters who enfold you in their lives. My favorites are Sarum, Russka, and Paris.

Fiction like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with quotes that put my feelings into words: …if one cares deeply about someone or something new one throws a kind of energy out into the world, and “fruitfulness” is drawn in. Exactly!

I love engaging literary fiction. I was thoroughly drawn into the marital drama of John Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius and came away with a new understanding of Hamlet.

Sometimes a memoir captures my imagination. I am always curious to know how people survive threatening situations and thrive because of the experience. Best sellers like Jeannette Walls’ devastating The Glass Castle and more obscure books like the humorous The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife by Janna Cawrse Esarey give me faith in the resilience of the human spirit, a refreshing antidote to the evening news.

Thanks for asking, Renee! 

What are some of your favorite genres to read?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Own Your Accomplishments

© Freds | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I'm back from a full weekend at the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators Conference, where I learned some great tips for enhancing and improving my writing and got some great feedback on the first 10 pages of my contemporary YA novel with paranormal elements from both a YA novelist and a literary agent. In fact, I was so pumped I already worked on revisions yesterday. My goal is to be ready to start submitting to agents in the next two months, just in time to dive into National Novel Writing Month in November with a new contemporary YA idea.

I came away from the conference after an awe-inspiring closing keynote speech by New York Times bestselling YA novelist, Carrie Ryan. The thing that hit me hardest was when she told the audience,
"Own the things you've accomplished, not the things you haven't."

That was so what I needed to hear after a pretty rough past week. I often belittle myself when talking to other people about what I do by saying things like "I'm a writer and editor but I don't make enough money to support my family. The money I make basically pays for our groceries, and that's only on a month where we don't eat a lot!"

Why do I say things like that? Why do I put myself down? Why don't I mention that I've published hundreds of articles in both print and online publications, including the Walt Disney Internet Group, and that I've won awards for both non-fiction and flash fiction?

Why do I say I'm an "aspiring" children's book writer and not that I have MG and YA manuscripts that are almost ready for submission?

I walked away from Ryan's speech telling myself that I'm done putting myself down. Every word I've written, every piece I've had published, every blog post that's been retweeted on Twitter or repinned on Pinterest and every messy rough draft I've waded through are all going to help me build the platform I need when I do publish a book.

When I do publish a book, not if I publish a book. There's a big difference.

What accomplishments are you going to "own" today? Share in the comments! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Business Cards!

I have a confession to make. I've been using the same business card since I started up my freelance writing business about seven or eight years ago. At the time, I used a simple design that featured the same color and font style as my website. It had earthy tones and included my name, e-mail, phone numbers and website. I still have almost a whole box of them because, let's face it, I just don't pass out business cards as much as I should. A lot of times I just use the signature in my e-mail in lieu of an actual card, and I don't follow up with clients by sending them an actual card. (Shame on me!)

Last year, when I attended the SCBWI Carolinas annual writing conference in Charlotte, I exchanged business cards with a few writers and illustrators I met there. When I pulled out my trusty old card, I was embarrassed. I hadn't even thought about ordering new cards before the conference. But when I saw the fun, fresh and colorful designs the other attendees were using, I felt a little silly. What did my card say about me? It said I was boring. It said I didn't have enough confidence in myself to add a little flair to my card.

So a few weeks ago, I contacted a local friend, Jeanette Charlet of Jeanette Charlet Photography, who's also a fabulous photographer. Even though I feel incredibly awkward having my photo taken, she took the time to get tons of fabulous shots I can now use for my website and a great new card, which I'll be proud to take to this year's SCBWI Conference on Sept. 19. These are just a few great shots she captured:

And who knows? Maybe I'll enjoy this card so much that I'll pass it out to more people, and bring in some new assignments!

Signature Business Cards by Vistaprint

Now about the card. I struggled with what title to put as my occupation. My old card read "freelance writer." I have another business card for my contract job as a magazine editor. My husband suggested "professional writer," and I scoffed. That's fine and everything, but I don't want to feel like I have to tell people that I am a professional. Part of me wanted to put "Contemporary Middle Grade and Young Adult Author," but since I have yet to publish any of my books, I didn't feel confident enough to do that. I finally settled on "Writer," and hope that will cover my freelance magazine writing, blogging and fiction writing, no matter what the future holds for me.

Do you have a business card? What does it have on it? Did you struggle with images and your title?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

From Blog to Book: 100 Days of Real Food

It's not very often that I get excited about a cookbook. Sure, I enjoy cooking and learning new recipes, but I typically google recipes, print them out, and stick them in the cookbook I use the most, Fix-It and Forget-it-Lightly, which isn't very organized.

A few years ago I read about a local Charlotte family who took on the challenge of eating clean (no processed foods whatsoever) for 100 days. I thought it sounded interesting (and hard!) since my own family was struggling to eat better and more nutritiously. The 100 Days of Real Food pledge the Leake family took turned into a way of life, birthed a blog, then a brand, and now its very own cookbook. It's been exciting to see the progression.

I follow the blog on Facebook so I've gotten tons of great ideas for packing my kids' lunches (they don't have a cafeteria at their school) and learned some great real-food substitutes for things such as salad dressings, taco seasoning, onion dip, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, etc. When I told my husband I wanted the recently-released 100 Days of Real Food cookbook for my birthday, he looked at me a little skeptically at first. I had a friend ask me if it was just recipes from the blog, so I thought I'd give an overview of what's in 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy Wholesome Recipes.

The first part of the book includes an introduction on the types of food Lisa Leake and her husband Jason grew up eating, and how she first became interested in overhauling their eating habits. She defines the concept of what "real food" is and guides readers through an easy plan to begin making changes. This section also features food budgeting tips and seasonal meal plans, complete with accompanying shopping lists, which I love.

The second part of the book is recipes, broken out into breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and appetizers, salads and sides, simple dinners, treats, and homemade staples. Are you hungry yet? I like the format of the book because everything is all put together in one place. Don't get me wrong--the blog is very organized, too, but unless I know exactly what recipe I'm searching for I can get overwhelmed scrolling the recipe index. I've noticed there are some recipes on the blog that aren't in the book, and vice versa.

I've already been shopping this week armed with a few different recipes from the book and can't wait to try them out with my family. I have dusted off the food processor I never use and bought a new set of sieves to aid me in my new cooking adventure. I'll keep you posted on how it goes!

P.S. Also, as a writer, I was fascinated by this real-life example of how someone turned a blog into a book. It's no easy task, and you can read all about Lisa's journey to getting a book deal in this post.