Monday, August 29, 2011

Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to GAIL ROUGHTON BRANAN, who won the MuseItUp Bookstore Gift certificate!

It is on it's way via email!

Thanks everyone for dropping by this weekend to meet Lea!
:) Lisa

Friday, August 26, 2011

"I've Got Company!" Lea Schizas Publisher at MuseItUp Publishing visits my blog Today!

“I’ve Got Company!” I’m thrilled to introduce, author and MuseItUp Publisher, Lea Schizas.
Lea Schizas has been around the writing world for over twelve years, edited for several publishing houses, founded the Muse Online Writers Conference - an annual FREE conference hosted in October each year - and founder of Apollo's Lyre - an online ezine loaded with writing articles, poetry, flash fiction, interviews, and more...for writers and readers of every caliber and genre. Her websites have been mentioned in Writer's Digest top 101 writing sites, and won several awards in various categories in the Predators and Editors annual voting polls.

Lea is the author of The Halloween Dino Trip (Historical Fantasy Adventure) and The Rock of Realm (Fantasy Adventure) both for MuseItYoung an imprint of MuseItUp Publishing

Writers have referred to her as Mother Hen because of her caring nature to help and mentor writers around the world. She is thrilled to offer another way to help writers with MuseItUp Publishing.

I’ve invited Lea to give us a little insight in the roles she plays in today’s book publishing industry.

LF: Lea, welcome!

LS: Thank you for having me here today, Lisa. Truly an honor.

LF: The honor is all mine. I’m thrilled you were able to take some time out of your very busy schedule to share with us today.

Before we get started, I'd like to invite our blog visitors to comment after this interview for a chance to win a MuseItUp Bookstore Gift Certificate. I'll draw the name of the lucky winner on Monday August 29th at 8 am Eastern.

Lea, I’d love to know where you’re from.

LS: I was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, and still here. There’s nothing like Montreal with its vast ethnic flavoring.

LF: As a Montrealer myself, I have to agree. Could you tell us a bit about your family?

LS: Well, my parents were both born in Greece and came to Canada in the early 1950s. Dad started off as a mechanic for Air Canada and then moved on to own his own BP garage station for many years before he retired. He’s always been my mentor and motivator. He passed away April 16, 2007 but his teachings and immense love instilled in all of his children has never ebbed.

LF: Parents play such an important role, with their words often everlasting. And from what I’ve heard, you have quite an entourage.

LS: Sure do! I am a mommy of five, kids ranging from 18 to 33, and of course a mommy to two doggies, Daisy (Shi Tsu) and Phiona (Bull Terrier). Dare I say I have a kid hubby? No? Yeah, you’re right, let’s just keep that out. Hehe!

LF: Oh no, we can leave that in, especially when one is in the arts, it’s wonderful when your partner is a kid at heart. It can make all the difference.

And what about you Lea, as a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

LS: I always knew I wanted to write, there’s no doubt about that. I had won several elementary writing contests and also an essay contest in high school. But there was always that ‘teacher’ side in me, wanting to teach elementary students. The closest I got was teaching my Barbies and Kens, teddy bears, and other stuffed creatures the art of compositions. LOL! They all passed…with flying colors, naturally.

LF: Well of course!

LS: And now, in some way, I am teaching…teaching writers the art of how to build that outer tough shell to make it as a writer.

LF: It didn’t take me long to figure out that about you. You really are nurturing and pass on wonderful, constructive advice. When you’re not busy mentoring authors, managing your hectic schedule and caring for your own children, what do you do to unwind and relax?

LS: I love to go to the movies or sit with the kids and either watch a movie together or watch them play a Play Station Game. But most of the time it’s editing, writing, or reading that truly relaxes me the most.

LF: I’d love to know what inspired you to start MuseItUp Publishing.

LS: There were several factors:

One being that it was in my long goal plan as the second to last thing to accomplish in my career. The other is to open up a bookstore, one that’s different, but I won’t go into details since I’m still mapping this last goal to achieve.

But the main reason, I have to admit is my desire to open a house where authors did not feel like authors but partners, helping shape and build our house, one we can all be proud of.
There have been way too many disgruntled authors who have emailed me at one point in their careers to let out their angst about how their publisher hasn’t responded, how their publisher is ignoring their emails, how their publisher this or that… Unfortunately, many of these authors have put away their writing pens for good because they have been disillusioned by small presses. These are the authors I want to help to show them small presses aren’t all molded from the same press…there are several who actually do care about the writers, who don’t see them as $$ signs, who respect their craft and understand that without these or any writer, a publishing house would not survive.

LF: I’m reminded of your motto: Building the team to achieve the dream! How long has MIU been in business?

LS: We officially registered February 2010, opened up for business end of February, opened up our bookstore October 2010 officially…so we’re shy almost two months of our first year anniversary when our bookstore opened up.

LF: Congratulations! You have quite an impressive list of creative talent at MIU. How did you gather them?

LS: I have to admit we were certainly blessed to have had the staff currently with us. I initially asked Delilah K. Stephans if she’d like to be our cover artist because I knew Delilah’s work. When she said yes, I do believe I jumped several feet high.  With the very first cover she designed for our first Young Adult novel, Fallon O’Reilly and the Ice Queen’s Lair, I knew we were on the right path.

All of our editors had to do an editing test, and from about 20 initial registrations I believe there were 6-8 who passed and have been with us since the beginning. There are things on that editing test I look at specifically to evaluate. Other things can be missed but these elements must be caught before the editor is given a contract.

I also knew that we needed editors who were specifically knowledgeable in certain genres, for example, my partner, Litsa Kamateros, and I knew that we needed editors who were versed in sci-fi, some in thriller/mysteries, others in young adult, and so forth. If we had editors all knowledgeable in romance then I am sure these same editors would have done a great job, but not in the same fashion say an editor who knows exactly what makes a good mystery ‘a mystery.’

And our tech gal, Margaret Fisk, has been a great help teaching me what I needed to know to maintain our websites.

And last, and not least, our authors also have played a big part in shaping our house. It’s their stories that have captivated our editors and readers. So if there’s a round of applause that needs to go out, I would say it needs to go out to everyone involved in MuseItUp, from staff to authors.

LF: Wonderful! You know, every time I visit the MUI website, your roster seems to be getting bigger. How many authors do you have at this time?

LS: Oh my, I believe we have 180 currently.

LF: That’s amazing! Where are your authors based?

LS: They come from all over the world: Canada, United States, Greece, England, New Zealand…

LF: Lea, I have to know, how many hats do you wear at MIU?

LS: Well, some call me nuts and rightly so, but I’m from the old school that believes the beginning of any enterprise/business the ‘boss’ needs to ‘show by example’ so currently:

I edit, format, respond to submissions but I get tons of help from the editors who read and assess and send me their assessments, I promote online whereas my partner has begun to promote our print books to various businesses, I update and maintain our blogs, websites and bookstore. I will be dropping accepting editing in order to have more time to do the other stuff on my TO DO list, which by now reaches – if placed on the floor in a straight line – from Montreal to Toronto, for sure. But what motivates me? Passion-without a passion for what one does nothing would ever get accomplished.

LF: You certainly are not lacking in the Passion department. You’re gifted with it in spades. Tell me, what is your typical day like?

LS: I take the fifth on that in case I accidentally drive any of your readers as nutso as me. LOL! My day normally begins around 7a.m. and may finish anywhere between midnight to 2a.m.

LF: Incredible! Passion, dedication and stamina! You’re amazing! Where do you do all this work?

LS: I now have my own office my husband, son, and a friend of ours help built off my kitchen. Has its own separate entrance from outside, from the kitchen, and also a door to enter the garden. Lots of sunshine from these openings and two large windows. And the size is really nice: 11.5 by 19 feet. Before that it would be in my living room or kitchen, no privacy.

LF: Sounds terrific! I love to ask this question of my guests, I guess it’s so when I finally meet them I can prepare their favourite. When you’re reaching for something to quench your thirst, is it doffee or tea?

LS: Oh, coffee for sure…double double…until the kids put a guilt trip on me about all that sugar then I’ll have a tea…double double. LOL!

LF: Good to know, seeing as I’m also privy to one of your favourite desserts—cheesecake—I’ll know what to order when we meet…for coffee!

Lea, along with everything else you do, you also run an e-zine, can you tell us a little about it?

LS: Apollo’s Lyre was launched in 2003, has been a top 101 writing site in Writer’s Digest several years, won several Preditors and Editors awards since then and each year. It was founded by Bret Wright, Dr. Patricia Ferguson who has since passed on, and ‘moi’. When Bret had to take a leave of absence I just couldn’t let the ezine fall to the wayside so along with several excellent editors, Apollo’s Lyre is still around and going strong.

LF: Congratulations! I’m wondering, with all media offered today—from the internet to television and everything in between—do you think North Americans are reading less than they have before?

LS: I don’t believe so. Reading takes on various elements, from novels, short stories, comic books, magazines, etc. Each entity has their dedicated reader who continues to support the writers penning these formats. And since the Potter series, I believe many of our middle grade children were introduced once again to the love of reading. Writers just need to pen stories that will hook readers, and not rehash the same ol’ storyline hundreds of books already host.

LF: Very good point. There’s competition for the attention of readers of all ages out there, but with great ideas, hard work and learning to execute their stories, with someone like you guiding the way, I think writers can meet that challenge.

What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?

LS: Research your intended house. Contact several of their authors who have emails posted in their author pages and ask them questions about the publishing house, their satisfaction, and anything else before they contact the publisher.

LF: I found MUI listed on Duotrope and once I researched you, I knew I wanted to be part of Muse. Especially, since you’re Canadian. The possibility of being published by a house based in my own province made me immediately submitted a piece to you. So, I definitely agree with this point.

LS: Well, another important bit of advice would be to never get discouraged by rejections. Use the rejections as a motivating board to push off from and show everyone you can do it. With each rejection MIU sends out we make sure to offer the writers our reasons for passing on the manuscript in order to help them see areas that may need further exploring and reworking.

LF: LOL! I know first-hand of that being true. At first Deathly Quiet was not accepted. You and two other editors gave me feed-back and encouraged me to resubmit – which I did. The second time around you accepted it with heart-felt praise. It was like I knew you yet I hadn’t even met you! As I said, you’ve a nurturing spirit. Anything else that can help?

LS: Definitely…it’s last, but not least; don’t allow naysayers to put you down. Always keep the passion you feel while writing close by. A non-writer does not understand the long and tedious hours we put in, they don’t understand that it’s not always about the money but the love to entertain readers that pushes us forward, to know that our words have touched a few.

LF: Well said. Thank you, Lea.

Are there any exciting MIU projects that you would like to share with us?

LS: Well, come the fall MIU will be introducing our Bundle Series, and Bundle Genres, meaning several books will be bundled together where the reader will save 15% if bought separately. We’ll be hosting several treasure hunts, blog themes with door prizes, a one day One Year Anniversary Special, Christmas Online Party with a special prize for one lucky reader, and more.

LF: That’s great! Sounds like lots of fun and savings ahead!

As I mentioned in the intro, you’re also a published author. What inspired you to write your first book?

LS: I always had a love for reading and writing. I joke that I began writing from my mom’s womb when I mistook the umbilical cord for a neat writing implement. But it was comic books that motivated me to write. I loved the hook about having cliff hangers, pushing me to go back and find the second in the new series and continue the saga. And I’ve used that method in all of my chapter endings to make sure a reader is glued to their seat and my book.

LF: What genre are you most comfortable writing?

LS: I love writing for the middle grade and young adult audience because this age is so unpredictable. My characters always surprise even me as to which direction they move a story. There’s always a slight hint of the paranormal/mystery in the books.

LF: What books have influenced your life most?

LS: Please don’t laugh but it’s been comic books:
Archie, Superman, Batman, The Fantastic Four, Spiderman

These books influenced my writing life mostly, not my ‘life’ but without these comics I don’t think my ‘life’ would be as fulfilled as it is now.

LF: I think it’s something to celebrate. Comic books show up on many successful authors’ lists of inspirations and have influenced the entertainment industry in general.

So, what are you reading right now?

LS: I used to read Ludlum, King, Roberts, Le Carre, Steele, Winspeare, but now there’s no time to read because I have Muse best sellers (they aren’t there yet but their writing is pure best sellers if you ask me.) My time is divided now reading new submissions and our released books.

LF: With 180 authors on your roster and many submissions coming in daily, it makes for quite a bit of reading! I can understand putting the others aside for the time being.

I’m curious, as a writer, are you an outliner or a pantster?

LS: Oh, Pantser, all the way. Characters pull my hair, grab my writing arm, and direct me where they want to go. They invade my dreams forcing me to see them typing away a new storyline that I must pen the next day or immediately lest I forget and then the characters will have my hide.

LF: Led by the seat of your pants, even when you’re sleeping!

LS: LOL! Well, I tried to outline a story once and let’s just say that story never made it past The Beginning.

LF: So how do you start?

LS: The most important thing for me, strange as it may sound, is the title. I must have a title for my book before even one word is penned. Once the title is born, then the whole storyline is there before me and I know exactly where I need to go, who my main character will be, and the race is on.

LF: Sounds like an interesting way to work. One might call even call it a writing quirk.

LS: Oh yes! Without a title I just can’t begin writing. Or if you think the mugs and ashtray crowding my desk is a quirk, well, okay, I confess, I smoke and drink coffee.

LF: Hmmm…while I’m forcing confessions from you (lol) I may as well ask - what was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself in writing your books?

LS: That I AM a writer. When we all begin writing we question that ability because we are surrounded by family and friends who have no understanding what passion, dedication, and perseverance is involved to finalize a writing project. So when we do finish a project and gleefully announce it to them, they turn around and say, “Wow, that’s great…so, do you wanna go for coffee? Are we still meeting up later on? Are you still going to lock yourself up and write some more?” In some way, I owe a ton of gratitude to these negative forces in my life who have helped me open my eyes and see and state openly with pride: I AM A WRITER.

LF: It’s a form of artistic expression to be proud of! Have any dreams been realized as a result of your writing?

LS: Besides the publishing house…having helped hundreds of writers, offering them any know-how I had in my head, any doors opened to me…there is nothing better besides the birth of my children, that comes close to knowing I have somehow been there for a writer and helped in some small way to make his or her dream come true. That is truly a most gratifying feeling.
LF: You’ve done that for so many writers, me included. With your personal communications, the online writers’ conferences you’ve organized and hosted, in the sharing of your knowledge and in the way your authors are offered so much support once their work has been accepted, you are a dream-maker. In my mind, you’ve set the bar pretty high.

Now Lea, I’ve come to the part of the interview that I find to be an interesting exercise. In a way, I’m turning the tables on you here.

If you were the subject of a book, what would the 20-word tagline of your story be?

LS: Haha! “Mother of five fits through slim window bars in order to escape the entity known as NEGATIVITY…but they’re watching her.”

LS: Ooh…I love it! A best-seller!!!

Thank you so much Lea for sharing all these wonderful memories, thoughts, advice and chuckles. You’re a dynamic person and I’m thrilled that our writing paths have crossed.

Everyone, please drop by and peruse the MuseItUp Bookstore and encourage the authors you’ll find there. Check back often as there are always new releases and weekly specials.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the blog-hoppers around the world who have joined me this month to meet my wonderful guests, Maryse Dupuy, Emily Murphy, Alison Armstrong, Frayne McCarthy and Lea Schizas who so generously participated in my summer blog series “I’ve Got Company!”

I had a blast, I hope you enjoyed dropping by.

Don't forget to leave a comment after this interview for a chance to win a MuseItUp Bookstore Gift Certificate. Winner announced here on Monday August 29th at 8 am Eastern.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"I've Got Company!" Multi-talented Frayne McCarthy joins me today!

Hi Everyone! Welcome to “I’ve Got Company!” I’m thrilled to introduce my dear friend, Frayne McCarthy. Singer, Actor, Director, Set Designer, Painter, Writer, and the list goes on…

LF: First of all, welcome Frayne. I’m so happy you’re here. You’ve just finished a run at the Theatre St. Denis in Montreal, working on Le Petit Roy. You can be seen performing in many places around Canada but where are you from originally?

FM: Ah-ha! I was born in Ottawa, but I was raised in Hull, Quebec (now Gatineau).
I point out to folks we were the only English family on our block…

LF: Oh really…tell us a little about it.

FM: The darned 70s were not such a lovely time to be an Anglo in a Francophone community in Quebec. I hated growing up where we lived, but I’m also thankful for the experience perhaps making me a little more resilient in the face of adversity… make that bullying. I went to French school, spoke French, was as good or better in language arts as any other kid in my class, and I got used to the teasing and shoving. School, at least had teachers whose job it was to keep some kind of school-yard peace, but the real challenge was to get along in our actual neighborhood. I know, dramatic fellow that I am, I’m making it sound like I grew up in an inner-city ghetto instead of the quiet “burbs” of Hull… but it was a very hateful time. It sometimes surprises me my most important and enjoyable work as a performer has almost all been in French or bilingual productions. I love to work in French.

LF: Some wise person once said, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” We take these experiences from our youth and learn from them, or we hope to—you obviously did. As a child, what did you want hope to be when you grew up?

FM: Well, at one point I wanted to be a sailor because the idea of traveling was very romantic to me, and I liked the idea of a whole world being contained on a single vessel. But then I wanted to be an artist because I found satisfaction in my drawings. Then I wanted to be an actor because I loved Walt Disney movies. Then the Love Boat came to prime time and I wanted to work on a boat again! As I grew older, I knew I needed to consider something “practical”… and I really had ability in art back then. I have a good eye, decent draftsmanship, a fairly good sense of design… so I took art electives in High School, and then studied Studio Fine Arts in College and University. I was a mediocre painter for most of my school career. It took a long time for me to figure out what I really wanted to be. Being a performer never seemed possible, until I realized I had to make it possible for myself. So I changed focus, changed cities (moved to Toronto), and went after my crazy dreams!
(Frayne as Marius in Les Miserables. Montreal Production.)

LF: And the creative world is better for it! Your many fans are grateful you took the leap. So now writing musicals…what inspired you to pen your first and when did this happen?

FM: That’s the agent story. Susan Glenn, who was repping me at the time, appreciated that I felt frustrated, as I was not getting much work. I was stuck in the casting cracks, you might say. I didn’t look my age for the longest time. I was “boyish” on camera. So, in my thirties, I couldn’t get cast as a young husband or father to save my soul! And while I didn’t look my actual age, casting directors were scared to try to pass me off as younger. So, just physically, I was in an actor’s no-man’s land. Plus, I think I’ve also had to fight the stigma that I’m a “singer”, which presumably precludes or even excludes me from being a real actor. Anyway, I’m not bitter! Back to Susan, we were talking about how so many people make their own work when they can’t get the work they want… so she suggested I write a play. The “singer” wanted to write a musical. I wrote “AutoPortrait”.

LF: And how did you come up with the subjects of your works? Their titles?

FM: Well, Lisa, I’ve written several shows for young people, and those have usually been tailored to my performers, but I think you’re asking about my two “serious” musicals.

LF: Yes, I am. Why don’t you start with “AutoPortrait”

FM: It’s based on the life and art of Tamara de Lempicka, who rose to prominence in the art world during the Deco Period of the mid-twenties. I was always interested in her because she was so rudely dismissed by a very pompous art history teacher I had at the University of Ottawa. The teacher grudgingly had to recognize the period (loved especially for its design innovations), and so she showed Tamara’s most famous painting a self-portrait in which the subject sits in a green Bugatti automobile. It was her Auto Portrait... yes, a pun.

LF: We all appreciate a good pun…

FM: Well, the teacher dismissed the work as merely being that of a rich socialite, a baroness who painted portraits of her lovers, both men and women. She was deemed unimportant and visually uninteresting. Needless to say, I was immediately enthralled!
(Tamara de Lempicka)

LF: Naturally! How did she affect you?

FM: Tamara de Lempicka instantly became one of my favourite painters, and over the years I discovered a brilliant, complex woman at the centre of domestic and diplomatic and global chaos. Her love life was turbulent and sad, but also beautiful. Tamara was a musical theatre heroine if ever there was one! I took a friend’s advice though, and fictionalized liberally.

LF: Why was that?

FM: Real-life, I was warned, can be very boring… and if we love our subject matter too much, we can find the boring bits much more interesting than an audience ever will.

LF: Yes, I understand. It happens in novels, too! LOL! So what happened next?

FM: The show was commissioned by the National Arts Centre of Canada, and its workshop was partly funded by a good friend of mine in the States, Andrew Burroughs. I was delighted to be able to help cast some of the finest musical theatre performers in the country for a solid two weeks of bringing the show to its feet. Danny Boulerice, the show’s composer, and I hardly slept at night, as we madly made daily changes… and I was determined to take all the advice I could from my actors who were breathing life into my dialogue and lyrics.

LF: I’ve heard that actors can sometimes have good ideas... :)

FM: (ha-ha!) Yes and in the end, the show was incredibly exciting to watch, alive at last on stage. It worked! People understood and appreciated the intimate family tragedy I was purposely setting against the sweeping backdrop of the Russian Revolution and two World Wars!

LF: What a thrill!

FM: But, I was told I had written an “American Musical”… that my show, which requited a cast of seventeen actors, was just too big to be considered for production; I was informed that a single gown for a party scene, would cost $2000.00 (why? I asked, I could costume the show myself at a Goodwill store!); and that a car on stage was ridiculous to dream of in a Canadian show. Could I cut it way back, maybe? Would I consider broadening a sliver of the story and cutting the cast down to six, max eight actors?

LF: Oh no…it always comes down to money. What was your reaction?

FM: At the time, I was just crushed. I spent four years writing the show, witnessed what I thought was its birth on stage… and it was shelved. I didn’t want to put myself through that kind of heartache again, so I just didn’t bother trying to take another kick at the can.

LF: Ah, but you did. Can you tell us how you went from disheartened, to motivated enough to write “The Virgin Courtesan”?

FM: I met Blair Thomson when I was cast in a workshop production of a show called “Is Paris Burning?” for which he was the musical director. One day I made a flip remark about a particularly badly-written lyric… I think I said “why didn’t he just find a rhyme?” and Blair laughed out loud, pointed to me and said “one day, I’m going to work with you!”

Years passed. Seriously, it was years, Lisa… and then Blair phoned me, out the blue to remind me about the statement he made that day. He wanted to write an original musical… what ideas did I have?

LF: I guess the stars where aligned, it was time for you two to join forces. How did things go?

FM: We had a few creative meetings during which I basically pitched concepts for shows I’d like to see. Some of these ideas were based on movies or classic books. One of the stories was about a Renaissance poetess and courtesan… but we discovered that a musical about her life was already in the works, so we decided to steer clear of that subject matter.

LF: Argh, yes subject matter seems to rise in waves sometimes, and then everyone’s riding them! So what did you do?

FM: Blair and I had moved on to another show idea, already writing songs for a children’s play I’d written some years earlier, when Blair admitted he pined for the visions I’d proposed of Venetian Courtesans singing and dancing through a provocative tale of treachery and romance.

“I want to go back to Venice,” Blair said. I was only too happy to oblige.

LF: Treachery and romance, delicious!

FM: Well, the real-life story of Veronica Franco was off-limits, but I went in a slightly different direction with a new entirely fictional heroine for our new story—and the oxymoron nature of the show’s title is pivotal to the story line—but I don’t want to give it away!

LF: No, no, don’t. We’ll flock to see the story unfold when the show’s finally mounted in its splendor! Frayne, your works are collaborations. You write the lyrics, others write the music. What comes first?

FM: Story comes before everything. Then the lyrics must inform the music. The words inspire the composers and help them to find the right musical setting for the scene. Then there can be a bit of a dance between collaborators as we go back and forth adjusting both words and music until we find the right song to serve the drama.

Blair is wonderfully considerate of every word I write, while Danny was much more liberal and sometimes needed to be reminded that a text existed in the first place. Both composers told me in advance they wanted the words before they considered their musical phrases.

LF: So your words influence and inspire composers. Hmmm…how much of your own life influences your work?

FM: A great deal… Sometimes more than I expect. For example, one evening I had a very disappointing discussion with some people who are very close to me about their personal views on gay relationships. That night I wrote “Too Few People”, and it’s one of my favourite songs in our show. Blair wrote that beautiful music as a special gift… and whenever I hear it, I’m taken back to the source… and that source is my own life.

LF: In your experience, what is the hardest part of creating a musical?

FM: Struggling to have someone just read it; having to accept an Artistic Director saying something like “it’s just not for me”; fearing it will end up on the shelf. The hardest part of creating a musical is seeing to its ultimate creation on stage.

LF: Sounds familiar. The same thing goes for writing novels. Speaking of which, how does writing the book for a musical differ from writing a novel?

FM: I’ve never written a novel so I can’t really compare the experiences from a technical point of view with any great authority. I only imagine they are very similar. I research my period, I create character sketches, I sketch out a story line, I plot out each character’s through-line… and I pray it all comes together in a satisfying climax!

LF: I agree. It sounds mighty similar. And what, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

FM: The writer has to love his own story and characters. The writer should be swept up in the story himself. If the story isn’t ringing your own bells, chances are it’s not going to appeal to a broader audience. But if you can re-read a scene you’ve written, and you cry unexpectedly, or find yourself laughing out loud at a character’s saucy humour… then carry on. If you’re honestly enjoying those words on the page, so will others.

LF: Or we hope, anyway! LOL! Where is your favourite place to write?

FM: I tend to write at night. I just need a quiet place and a laptop. Distractions like television, dogs barking, the phone, etc, can take me out of the flow of my story. I need to get engrossed in what’s coming through those fingers. It’s actually like reading someone else’s book… except it’s your own, that you’re creating as you go. So my favourite place to write, then, would be a fave place for most people to read.

LF: And what kind of books do you love to read? Who is your favorite author?

FM: Oh boy. Honestly, I’m not the voracious reader I was in my youth! I used to read Ann Rice’s stuff. I was very faithful to her, hoping she’d somehow manage to take on the same kind of thrilling ride I enjoyed while reading “Interview with the Vampire” and “The Vampire Lestat”. She never topped those, but I can appreciate why she’s a successful author.

LF: you and so many others…

FM: Stephen King was also a fave. One of my dreams is to musicalize one of his novels. I tried to get the rights to the book I want, but someone in England had the theatrical rights at the time! You don’t know him, do you Lisa?

LF: I wish I did. I’d be putting you both in touch! Any more?

FM: I don’t tend to read any one author any more. I pick up books almost randomly, attracted to their subject matter or the period they present, often depending on what I might be trying to write myself. While working on “The Virgin Courtesan”, I read several historical romantic thrillers set during the Renaissance and quite loved them. I always enjoy the ride of a good story, but honestly, I’m also very interested in soaking up the authors’ research!

LF: Authors everywhere would be happy to hear their research helps other creative folk! How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

FM: Yikes… formula?

LF: LOL! Nevermind…Who or what influenced your writing?

FM: Lisa, the influences are many! Every show I’ve ever been in has influenced me in some way, but as you know, dear friend, many of the shows on my resume are original works! Talk about amazing learning experiences! I’ve watched other writers and composers struggle to see their visions realized on stage... several with multi-million dollar budgets! I’ve witnessed these people’s brilliance, their arrogance, their compromises, their steadfastness, their victories and their failings. I’ve had incredible opportunities to see, first-hand, what works, what doesn’t, and as a performer working on someone else’s piece, I’ve often looked those individuals in the eye and thought to myself “this is not the stance I will take” or “I hope I have this conviction one day”. Every new author I’ve worked with has provided new revelations to the creative process. Especially now, in retrospect, I have great admiration for them all.

LF: Conviction, dedication, passion…you have those qualities, in spades. You’re also patient—they say it’s a virtue—how long does it take you to write a musical?

FM: Years. I think it’s a Canadian thing, in part. I mean, in other countries, I know writers who’ve been produced within months of a first draft. Some writers are hired after the show has already found backers and been booked! I know a team that was brought together by a producer, told they had six months to write a show, were given funding… and they wrote a show which was immediately mounted!! But the Canadian scene is very cautious (well, musical theatre production is big risky business, so it’s a wise thing to be cautious!). We Canucks tend to tread very carefully, we write and re-write, workshop and workshop again. And we pray to be seen on a main stage some day!

LF: Writing, rewriting….what is your work schedule like when you're working?

FM: In my experience, I wrote the book and lyrics on my own over a period of several months, working mostly at night. I can’t say I had a set schedule when I was working on those first drafts.

LF: What was it like working with Danny?

FM: Once it was time to work on music, I basically moved into Danny’s tiny house in Laval, sleeping on his living room love-seat (I’m 6’1”… it was a sight to behold), waking up at 5:00 am to be on a downtown courier route by 7:00 am so we could be done by noon, and work on our show later in the day. The job schedule was tough, and those afternoon work sessions were often interrupted by other things… but it was how we were able to accomplish stuff.

LF: And with Blair?

FM: I am never involved when he’s composing. We get together much more sporadically because of his many commissions for new works and orchestral arrangements. Blair’s just in demand by everyone! But when we do find the time, it’s always very focused and exciting for me to hear the world of the show I’ve written take shape musically.

LF: What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing musicals?

FM: I have been part of wonderful groups of people who come together to share the most basic dream of seeing the show take shape. You, Lisa, have been part of a dream coming true. Your vocals are always so amazing, and your energy is always so nurturing. Thanks for that!

LF: Frayne, you’re very kind and sweet. Two of the many reasons why I love to work with you. Now, what was one of the most surprising things you learned about yourself in writing your works?

FM: As a painter I was always very impatient to get the work finished. But, in part because of the collaborative nature of writing a musical, I’ve had to be patient with myself and the process. I always feel if you’re going to put energy into doing anything, you should do it well, so I do try to go the extra mile with my part. For my work on “The Virgin Courtesan” especially, I have tried to be a real wordsmith in my lyric writing. I pay close attention to rhyming schemes and scan, I try for perfect rhymes, I try for internal rhymes… I try my best, and I don’t lose patience with the process. There is light at the end of the tunnel! And a few good tunes too!

LF: If you had to pick one favourite song from each of the musicals you’ve written, which ones would they be?

FM: From “AutoPortrait” I would probably have to say “Young Again”. Carmen Ferlan sang it so heartbreakingly in the National Arts Centre workshop… there was so much truth in that moment…

And from “The Virgin Courtesan”, I’ve already mentioned “Too Few People” and how it moves me. But maybe because it is very personal, I don’t listen to it as much as I listen to “The Measure of a Man”! Lisa… you amazing songstress you, that is the song I listen to the most.

LF: Did I mention you are also generous?? The lyrics and the music are beautiful. It’s one of my favourite musical theatre songs. Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?

FM: I am currently “between engagements”! But I’m actively working at getting production people to give “The Virgin Courtesan” a decent listen and their kind consideration.

LF: Well, we can help with spreading the word about the show and by encouraging everyone to take a listen to demo recordings of the new musical "The Virgin Courtesan" by Frayne McCarthy and Blair Thomson.

I’ve got this little thing going where create a tagline to sell my guests’ story. The exercise is to use 20 words but no matter how you and I tried we could only get it down to 25. So folks, here it is:
Would-be international star, Frayne McCarthy finds fulfillment as a creative jack-of-all-trades, with writing endeavors exemplifying his love for the dramatically wild world of Musical Theatre.

Frayne, it’s been such a wonderful visit. I loved having you drop by. I wish you good fortune with all your musical and theatrical endeavours, and may “The Virgin Courtesan” find her wings and soar on the sweet wind of success!

Thank you everyone for stopping by to meet my dear friend Frayne. Please join me next week when my guest will be Lea Schizas - Author and Publisher at MuseItUp Publishing.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"I've Got Company!" Alison Armstrong - Personal Assistant to New York Times Best Selling Author Kelley Armstrong Joins me today!

Hello and welcome to “I’ve Got Company!” my Summer Guest Series. I’m thrilled to introduce, Alison Armstrong, personal assistant to New York Times Best-Selling author, Kelley Armstrong.

LF: Alison, welcome! I just want to say how happy I am that you agreed to drop by to talk about your career. I guess my first question should be when and why did you become a personal assistant?

AA: I'm happy to be here. Well, I was on mat leave and dreading the thought of going back to my 9 – 5. Kelley (who is my older sister) heard that I wasn’t happy and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve been doing it for almost 5 years now and I truly couldn’t be happier.

LF: Wow, that’s great! Is it anything like what you thought, as a child, you’d do when you grew up?

AA: No. I wanted to be a pediatrics nurse. My dolls and stuffed animals were always in good hands when they had a boo-boo :)

LF: And now, Kelley’s the lucky one in those good hands of yours. Is she the only one or do you assist other authors as well?

AA: No, just Kelley.

LF: The idea of working with and for your sister seems an added bonus to me, what tasks do you manage for her?

AA: proof-reading (books, newsletters, short stories, webpages), email correspondence, monitoring Kelley’s discussion board, edit transcriptions, contest mailings, etc = anything Kelley asks of me :)

LF: Hmmm, now there’s another bonus – proof-reading Kelley’s work. Do you share an office with her, where she can just lean over and hand you the files, or are you “virtual”?

AA: Virtual. I work 100% out of my home.

LF: Working from home is great, but it can be a little challenging when “life” pulls at your sleeve. Where is your favourite, most productive place to work?

AA: In my office—which also happens to be half of my eat-in kitchen. It allows me to work and still be involved with what’s going on in the house at the same time. I love that I can work away and hear laughter and happy screeches. It doesn’t get much better than that.

LF: I can’t imagine how it could. And while you’re hard at work in your office, surrounded by the comforts of home—inquiring minds want to know—are you sipping on a cup of tea or coffee?

AA: Definitely coffee. Love my coffee in the morning.

LF: LOL! There’s no better way to start the day!

Now Alison, in your opinion, how large a part does an assistant play in an author’s writing career?

AA: I’m just a helper. Whatever Kelley needs to make her life a little easier or less hectic, I’m there.

LF: And when you’re not assisting Kelley, what do you do to unwind and relax?

AA: In my downtime you can always find me hanging out with my kids. They‘re always good for a laugh—which is a huge de-stressor for me.

LF: You're children are adorable! Well, laughter is the best medicine. I think wonderful memories are too. Do you have any unforgettable moments related to what you do?

AA: The dedication in Personal Demon. When Kelley received her copies, she handed me one and asked me to read the dedication. Needless to say I shed a few tears and I was the proudest assistant in the entire world.

LF: That’s very sweet, Alison. I’ve got a copy in my hand right now and judging by her heart-felt words regarding your unwavering support, I think Kelley might say you’re more than just a helper when it comes to her career.

Speaking of career, what’s your favourite part of what you do?

AA: I have many but one would definitely be the edit transcription part. It’s so cool to be one of the first people to “read”—it’s more of a skim at this point—one of Kelley’s books. The hard part then becomes not being able to tell anyone what’s going to happen :)

LF: I can imagine how exciting and difficult that perk would be. I won’t tempt you with chocolate for any juicy tidbits, I promise….lol! Aside from self-restraint, what tools do you feel are must-haves for assistants?

AA: Laptop and collection of your boss’s books for reference.

LF: No doubt! In your line of work, is there anything you find particularly challenging?

AA: Honestly it would have to be nasty, ignorant emails. If someone is rude and totally out of line, I get my back up and it puts me in a mood. I understand that not everyone is going to be happy with the way a series is going or a particular book has gone, but some people can get personal and that’s just not cool.

LF: In the words of the young of today – that sucks! Are there happy things that help you forget those negative moments, for example, do you plan events or launch parties?

AA: I haven’t yet. I’m actually going to my first event this October in New Orleans. It’s for the Anne Rice Vampire Ball & Undead Con. I’m totally stoked—a vampire ball in New Orleans—can’t get much better than that.

LF: I saw that on Kelley’s Appearances page. A Vampire Ball! That’s amazing! (We’ll have to talk later about what you plan to wear—I’m thinking black, red, fishnet stockings, killer shoes…oops! Okay, back to the interview…) When you’re not planning out-of-town events, what’s your work schedule like on an average day?

AA: I don’t have one. With two small ones running around—I work when I can. Usually it’s when my husband is home or late at night when everyone is asleep.

LF: The best time, when everything’s quiet. I did the same when my girls were younger. When you're close to promo time, does your schedule change?

AA: For me, it’s no different. The busiest time for me is a year to a year and a half before the book release. That is when the transcription edits and proofing deadlines start coming in.

LF: Wow, I hadn’t realized it could take up to 18 months before a book was released. So what’s next on the agenda?

AA: Any day now I’ll be receiving the proof copy for The Calling. Can’t wait!

LF: Really?? I’m envious! Who wouldn’t want your job!! Tell me, have any of your dreams been realized as a result of your work?

AA: I can have a job that I’m truly content with. I used to be stuck in a job that made me very unhappy. It was good for bringing home a pay cheque but that’s about it. I never realized that I would be able to wake up and look forward to working. It’s a dream come true.

LF: Truly. So, what does your family think of your career?

AA: They love it. Whenever I “go” to work, it’s only a 5 – 25 step commute so they always know I’m there if they need me. It’s wonderful. Also, I’m a much more jovial person. I’m at a job that I love and it comes through in my day to day state of mind.

LF: Whenever we’ve communicated, I’ve noticed that you’re always so positive and friendly. It’s definitely a win-win situation all around. Do you hear from readers much?

AA: Yes. Many of Kelley’s readers are very generous and gracious with their thank you emails. It’s so nice to have someone take time out of their day to thank me for answering their questions or to thank me for responding back to their child’s email. It’s a special feeling to be appreciated.

I’ve also corresponded with some of Kelley’s readers over the years. It’s always nice to see a familiar name pop up.

LF: There might be some readers out there that would love to do what you do. What advice would you give to them?

AA: Just to be there for your author. Whatever they need, get it done right and on time. You are there to give your author time to write, time for business and time for family. It’s a great gig if you can get it, so make sure you do everything in your power to keep it.

LF: Great advice. I’m curious. Do you write?

AA: No, Kelley’s the one with the writing talent in our family.

LF: Do you have a talent you’d like to share with us?

AA: Not really—I am very artistically challenged—I can’t draw, write or play an instrument. I’m very good at organizing though—a bit of a fanatic actually—which drives my hubby a little crazy ;)

LF: And by the sound of it, very dedicated to your work. Are there any special projects you’re working on?

AA: If I’m done with my to-do list for the day, I’m usually working on the series bible.

LF: With so many books in Kelley’s series, that’s quite a task!
Speaking of books, I’d love to discuss what’s on your bedside table at the moment.

AA: I’m between books right now but I’m just about to jump into Melissa Marr’s, Wicked Lovely.

LF: Ooh yes, I’ve heard good things about it. It’s on my TBR list. What are your favourite kinds of books?

AA: I’m an action nut. I like fast-paced books with good/sarcastic/smart/dark humour. If I come across a book that takes two pages to describe a leaf on a street, I’m done. I just don’t have the patience, I guess :)

LF: LOL! Who’s your favourite author?

AA: Without sounding like a complete kiss a** it’s Kelley. I completely fell in love with her writing voice in Bitten.

LF: Fantastic story—I just love Elena!

AA: It was the first book that I remember ever forsaking food and sleep for.

LF: Isn’t it just amazing how some authors have the talent to do that to their readers?? Totally understandable your being a fan…millions are, me included!

With all the options available these days, do you prefer traditional, printed books or e-books?

AA: I love my Kindle. Love, love it! The only books I buy in print now are Kelley’s. I find ebooks easier to read and the convenience of always having my TBR pile with me is fantastic.

LF: A whole bookshelf in your purse has definite appeal. I gotta get me one of those!

As you know Alison, in the publishing industry books have a tagline. If you were the subject of a book, what would the 20-word tagline of your story be?

AA: Wow…that’s not easy.

LF: And unfair of me to ask you on the spot like this. Could I offer one?

AA: Please.

LF: Okay, here goes.

“Landing herself a dream job, master-organizer and personal assistant Alison Armstrong gives her author time for writing, business and family.”

AA: LOL, that about says it all!

LF: Well as much as we can squeeze into 20 words! Is there anything else you’d like to say?

AA: Only that I’d like to thank you for the opportunity and I hope I didn’t gloat about my occupation too much :)

LF: Are you kidding?? Your enthusiasm for both your work and your “boss” are a wonderful change from the norm. I’m so happy you felt comfortable to share all of this with us. I was tickled pink when you agreed to be a guest on my blog, giving us an opportunity to get to know you better.
Thanks so much for being here Alison.

AA: I’m very happy that I was able to participate in your summer guest series.

LF: Me too! I hope one day our paths cross. It would be my pleasure to treat you to a steaming cup of our favourite beverage!

Thanks to everyone who joined me today to meet the lovely Alision Armstrong!

Please join me next week when I welcome Frayne McCarthy
Actor, singer, director, musical theatre lyricist/creator, set designer, longtime friend and colleague (he represents the crossover of my two creative worlds - music and writing) as we discuss the art of writing musicals.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"I'VE GOT COMPANY!" Tomorrow it's Alison Armstrong Personal Assistant to New York Times Best-Selling Author Kelley Armstrong

Drop by and find out how Alison assists New York Times Best-Selling author Kelley Armstrong, what she loves about her job, and how she feels about the successful Canadian author, who just happens to be her older sister!

I've got some mighty fine company tomorrow and I hope you'll join me!


Friday, August 5, 2011

"I'VE GOT COMPANY" Teen Writers Maryse Dupuy & Emily Murphy

Hello and welcome to “I’ve Got Company!” My Summer Guest Blog Series.

I’m thrilled to introduce my first two guests, teen writers Maryse Dupuy and Emily Murphy.

LF: Welcome Maryse and Emily. It’s great to have you here!

Before we start, let me tell those joining us today that if they leave a comment at the end of today's blog, their name will be entered into a draw for “Project Clove” an anthology of works written by young writers. I’ll draw the name tomorrow morning (Saturday August 6th 10am – Montreal Quebec time)

Now, let’s get right to it!

Maryse, I’ll start with you. You’re seventeen, and you’re headed to CEGEP (college) in the fall, where you’ll be studying Language Arts. It’s going to be a very exciting time, for sure. However, last year you took on quite an interesting assignment while attending your high school, in le Programme d’études internationales. Would you please tell us about it?

MD: I’d love to. Well, at my high school, as part of the IB program, all Secondary 5 students must choose a personal project they’ll work on for the whole year. We were required to plan, set goals and document the year-long progress in a report and at the end of the year we had to present the completed project and hand in the detailed report. We were graded on both the report and the end result of our project. At graduation, we would receive a special certificate for this project along with our IB certificate and diploma.

LF: What did you decide to do for your personal project?

MD: It was on our trip to France, that the crazy idea to write a novel came to me. Once I got back home, I got to work.

LF: A novel? That’s quite an undertaking. Can you tell us about it?

MD: First of all, it’s written in French, because my first language is French. My story is called "Isolés" and the best way to describe it is by sharing the blurb at the back of the book and I’ll translate it:
Incitée à voyager par sa grand-mère, une adolescente se rend dans une ville française presque inconnue. Son séjour prend toutefois une direction inattendue…
(Encouraged by her grandmother to travel, a young girl arrives in a little known town in France where her stay takes an unexpected turn....)

LF: What inspired you to write your story?

MD: When I was in France, Piriac-Sur-Mer really inspired me. In my story, I decided to drop this town on an island not far from the French coast. I won’t say in what year this story happens, because it’s the whole point of the book.

LF: What were the guidelines for this project?

MD: Since everyone had a different project theme/subject, the report was the one thing that we all had in common. It had to be at least 5000 words. When it came to my novel, by the end of the writing process it was 110 pages, totaling over 27,000 words.

LF: How long did it take to write it?

MD: 3 months. The rest of the school year I researched and gathered
information for my story and also learned how to write a book.

LF: Did you have help?

MD: My father helped me with the editing and my mother helped with formatting the book and getting it printed. A writer I know also helped me by sharing some writing tips.

LF: That’s wonderful that your parents got involved. So tell me, now that you’ve seen your work in limited print, what plans do you have for this story in the future?

MD: It needs to be expanded before I’d consider submitting it to a publisher. There's much more story to tell.

LF: Spoken like a true writer! Was it the first time you’d ever attempted to write?

MD: No, the interest has been there since I was about 12 years old.

LF: What inspired you to start writing at that age?

MD: A friend of mine loaned me a book. It was a rougher style than I usually read but it impressed me. I wanted to write something as powerful and so I started to jot down ideas. I tried to write for years after that but wasn’t organized enough to finish anything I started. I always had lots of ideas for beginnings, some plot points, but never the complete story. My thought process wasn’t thorough but it gave me the opportunity to try different styles and to see what suited me best. When we had to decide on the subject of our personal project, I thought it was time to challenge myself to do what I always wanted to do—write a complete story.

LF: I think it was a fabulous idea. I loved the story. It was engaging and well written.

Now, I’ll introduce Emily Murphy and get her in on this conversation. Emily, you’re fourteen and in high school. In the fall you’re heading to secondary three. You also had a school-related event that took an interesting turn. Would you tell us about it?

EM: Sure mom. LOL!

LF: Em…

EM: Don’t tell me your blog visitors haven’t already figured out I’m your
daughter and Maryse is your niece! Why are you looking at me that way? LOL! Okay, okay. In secondary two I was in Enriched English. Sometimes that class does more than the required curriculum. One of those extra things we did last year was write Slam Poetry.

LF: What’s Slam Poetry?

EM: It’s a poem using strong words and emotional reaction. It’s animated, dramatic. To prepare us, our teacher Mrs. Barrons had us read lots of slam poetry and watch videos of writers “performing” their poems. Actually writing Slam Poetry was hard to do.

LF: In what way was it difficult?

EM: I felt like my life experiences didn’t suit Slam. All my ideas drifted to sports, that’s a happy place for me, so my emotions didn’t make me feel angry enough to scream and yell like I saw the writers do on the videos in class.

LF: What did you do?

EM: Well, we had a month to hand in the assignment. After three weeks I had seven drafts and not one was powerful enough. Then one night, I woke up with an idea. I wrote it down. The words flowed easily. The next day I formatted it. It was the one.

LF: Really? Could you share that idea with us?

EM: It was about friends distancing themselves from each other because of choices they’ve made and the different paths they’ve taken. I’d been thinking about how I missed someone I’d been close friends with. I didn’t know how much missing that person affected me until I tapped into my memories. The idea came from those feelings.

LF: What happened next?

EM: The class presented their slam poetry the following week. The teacher was really impressed with the results from the class, how committed they were to their work and their presentation. People were crying and screaming…it was pretty intense. Anyway, the teacher felt the poems should be shared. She had us present our poems to the other classes and then she contacted someone she knew that was planning to have an anthology published. She forwarded everyone’s poems to her and after the woman read them, she wanted to use them all. We had to resubmit our work on our own. My slam poem is entitled "I Can't Put a Title to This" and it appears on page 82 in the anthology published by Youth Fusion and Concordia University called “Project Clove”.

LF: Wow. That’s impressive. How long have you been interested in writing?

EM: Since the third grade. My teacher Mrs. Pavonetti made writing fun. It was in her class that I knew I liked to write.

LF: This question is for both of you. Did you enjoy composition homework/writing assignments?

EM: I’m happy when we have to write compositions it gives me the opportunity to work on new ideas.

MD: Same for me. I’m only frustrated by the cap on word count. Once I had to delete 14 pages because I wrote too much.

LF: That’s a lot of words. I guess you were in your groove.

MD: I think I work best with structured guidelines and deadlines, my thoughts are more focused and the words come easier.

LF: Would you say that was true for you too, Emily?

EM: Yup. When I sit down to write, I’m focused only on my story or poem.

LF: What do you do when an idea pops into your head, how do you work it out on paper?

MD: I like to structure my story. I write plot points one-by-one and number them in the order I want them to play out in my story. I find it easier to get the story written with this kind of guide. For Isolés I had 5 pages of plot points.

EM: I plot my stories in my head. The sub-plots, too.

LF: How much of your own life makes its way into your stories?

MD: Descriptions of favourite places, I love descriptions. Les faits vécu. Real-life reactions.

EM: For me it’s mostly they way people react. It’s not planned, it’s sub-conscious.

LF: I’m interested in your tastes in books.

MD: All the French classics, especially “le style romantique du 19ieme siècle”, Victor Hugo, Maupassant. But the series that ignited my love for reading was “Les Baudelaires” in English it’s called, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events.

EM: I love that series. I’m reading the tenth book right now. Of course, I also love Harry Potter, Edgar & Ellen, The Hunger Games and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The series I enjoyed in elementary school was The Magic Treehouse, Mrs. Pavonetti had the complete series. It was amazing!

LF: I’m curious to know how important book cover art is in making your decision to buy a book.

MD/EM: Not important.

LF: You both answered at the same time! Oops, cover artists everywhere are
going to hunt you down!

MD: LOL! No, I love the artwork but what I usually do is pull out a book of an author I’m interested in, flip it open and read a random page. If I like the author’s writing style, I’ll buy it.

EM: I have posters of book cover art plastered all over my bedroom wall, so I do appreciate it a lot but when we go to a bookstore I scan the spines, pull out a book that sparks my interest, and then flip to the back cover to read the blurb. If I like it, I make you buy it for me.

LF: I know, you usually walk over to me with a stack of at least 10.

MM: Excuse me, can I say something?

LF: Sure, everyone, this is Megan Murphy, Emily’s 12 year old sister. (By the way, we’re doing this interview in the car on our way to spend the day at the lake. I’m taking notes while sitting in the passenger seat. Megan’s been quiet and listening to this interview.)

MM: If the cover art is fake-looking, I won’t buy the book. It’s all about the artwork for me.

LF: Thank you Megan.

MM: No problem, I just wanted to make sure my voice was heard.

LF: It was and speaking of voices, it leads me to my next question for our teen writers, what Points of View do you like?

MD: Third person

EM: First person but third’s my favorite.

MD/EM: Lemony Snickets POV – a witness account of events.

LF: Interesting…What do you look for in a book?

MD: I want my books to take me to other places in another time. I’m not
interested in reading contemporary issues about my peers. There’s enough of that in school.

EM: A story with well developed characters. I like it when I can connect to them, so I can feel their emotion and feel as if I know them, like a friend, best friend. I also like stories with very fictional plots; things that would never be able to happen to me. I don't want to read books that basically have the same story line as my life; I want to explore a new and crazy world, like the Harry Potter books for example.

LF: What books are you reading right now?

MD: The duology, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources by Marcel Pagnol

EM: I’ve got a couple going, #10 of Unfortunate Events and Tweak by Nic Sheff.

LF: I have to say you both have very interesting and varied tastes in literature. I’ve really enjoyed discussing writing and books with you.

EM: This was fun, mom.

MD: Yeah, the time went by so fast!

LF: I'm glad. I just want to do one more thing. In the book biz there’s something called a tagline –a twenty word line used in marketing a book. After speaking with you and touching upon the surface of your many passions here’s how I’d summarize you both using a tagline:

With “le style romantique” as inspiration, Maryse Dupuy dances and pens her way with commitment and a flurry of creativity.

Emily Murphy approaches her love of writing and reading with a passion fierce and true to her competitive, athletic spirit.

I hope you continue to write and share your ideas with the world. I wish you the best in your writing and other endeavors. And ladies… keep buying books!

Thank you so much for visiting my blog today. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of “Project Clove” can contact the project coordinator of Journalism/Media, Cindy Elston at

Please join me next week when my guest will be Alison Armstrong
- personal assistant to New York Times Best Selling Author Kelley Armstrong.

Photo credits: Teen writers - Rae-Anne Smith and Christine Forget

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"I've Got Company" August 5th Come and Meet Teen Writers Maryse Dupuy & Emily Murphy

Please join me Friday, August 5th when teen writers, Maryse Dupuy and Emily Murphy drop by to discuss writing, their love for books and what they look for when browsing the bookstore shelves.

Maryse Dupuy - Author of "Isolés"
Emily Murphy - Author of "I Can't Put a Title to This"

Drop by on August 5th, comment, and your name will be entered in a draw to win a copy of the "PROJECT CLOVE" Anthology.

On August 5th, "I'VE GOT COMPANY" and I hope you'll join us!

Photo Credit: Rae-Anne Smith, Christine Forget

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guest List for "I've Got Company!" The Summer Guest Series

I’m thrilled to announce my guests for "I've Got Company!" The Summer Guest Series scheduled Fridays from August 5th to 26th.

Maryse Dupuy and Emily Murphy—teen writers and avid readers—talk about writing, their recognized work and what they look for when browsing their local bookstore.

Alison Armstrong—personal assistant to New York Times Best-Selling author Kelley Armstrong—gives us an insight on how PA's help authors focus on their writing

Lea Schizas—award-winning author and MuseItUp publisher—tells us a little about the many roles she plays in today’s book publishing industry.

Frayne McCarthy - Actor, singer, director, musical theatre lyricist/creator, longtime friend and colleague (he represents the crossover of my two creative worlds - music and writing) talks about writing musicals.

I've Got Company coming and I hope you'll join us!