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Guest post by Cassie Stocks: Nurturing Your Inner Accountant

2 Jul

I want to thank Cassie so much for talking about her editing process. I am still in the process of learning how I edit, so I am always looking to other writers to see how they manage the beast.

Most of my family is creative but my father is defiantly an accountant. When I’m editing, I unleash my latent accountant genes. Editing is a skill distinct from writing. All writers have to enter the editing process to turn a beautiful creative mess into something publishable.

When I’m in the creative process, I don’t let the editing hat anywhere near my head. I keep a document in my project folder titled Editing Notes. When I’m writing creatively and notice something that needs checking, I open the editing document, make a note, and go back to writing.

When a first draft is done, I do the happy writer’s chair dance for a minute, then take a deep breath – it’s time to go into editing mode. There are layers of editing; when doing one, I try not to worry about the others. The first is a substantive edit, checking for theme, continuity, the overall arc, and effectiveness of the story, then chapter, scene, paragraph, sentence, and word. Last comes proofreading for clarity and copy-editing for grammar and punctuation.

I start big and work my way down to the small. There’s no use spending hours polishing grammar and punctuation in a section I might end up cutting completely. After dealing with the entire story, I break up the editing chores into manageable pieces. I’d go mad at the thought of checking for commas for three hundred pages straight, but I can manage a few pages at a time.

When dealing with multiple characters, time frames, and story lines, my inner accountant/editor gets very happy and I use spreadsheets. I had a spreadsheet for the time frame, spacing, and organization of each of the story lines in Dance, Gladys, Dance (Frieda’s normal life issues, Ginny’s fork troubles, Gladys’ story from the 1900s, the flashbacks to Frieda’s past, and for each of the other characters). I also use spreadsheets for editing lists. I love to put a little checkmark in each box for a completed edit.

I think people with unfinished works often have gone into editing mode or into the lower levels of editing too soon. Editing the small (adding and removing commas) imparts a feeling of control over the beast but it’s easy to get addicted to that feeling of authority. At some point, you have to wrestle the alligator, complete the work, and deal with the larger issues of the narrative as a whole.

After the alligator has been subdued and the accountant has all the boxes pleasingly ticked, another set of eyes is essential. I let go of the misunderstood genius schtick (not that I’m very good at it anyway) and listen carefully to what my early readers tell me.

Thanks so much Cassie! Guys, pop back tomorrow for my review of Cassie’s wonderful book, Dance, Gladys, Dance and a giveaway for my fellow Canucks.



1 Jun

I LOVE Hélène Boudreau’s Real Mermaids series. Love, love, LOOOOOOOOVE! So I’m over-the-moon-so-giddy-I-can’t-breath happy to be hosting her today as part of The Summer Essentials blog tour! Hélène is from my neck of the woods (I’m on a different Island, but still a Maritimer) so I was beyond curious to find out about Hélène’s childhood.  AND, I have one copy of Hélène’s Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath along with Stacey Graham’s The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide (Both amazing summer reads).

Summer Island Breeze: Find out what it was like for Hélène to grow up on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! Salty sea smells every day? I’ll take it!

Okay, so not exactly in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean but I grew up on a very small island off the coast of Canada and it may as well have been the middle of nowhere because looking back, it sure felt like a different world.

First, you have to take a causeway, then a drawbridge, then another bridge before finally arriving to my little slice of island paradise called Petit de Grat. Petit de Grat is not a tropical utopia but it was a pretty unique place to grow up in that:

1. My friends and I used to have sleepovers on my dad’s fishing boat while it was moored in the middle of our harbour.
2. The island only had a few hundred inhabitants but was full of kind-hearted, colourful characters.
3. Wild cows roamed the east end of our island and were known to chase us through forest paths.

So how did my childhood affect my process of writing the Real Mermaids series?

1. My dad took us for boat rides to a town on the mainland called St. Peters. We sailed up a canal from the ocean to a fresh water lake. That canal inspired the setting of my fictional town of Port Toulouse. I often wondered if the purple jellyfish in the ocean knew about the white jellyfish in the lake. It amazed me that two totally different underwater worlds could be separated by just a mile-long canal. That was the inspiration for the mer-world in these books.
2. I wanted my fictional town of Port Toulouse to be small and quaint, with a strong sense of community and full of fun characters like where I grew up.
3. It was a bit harder to work in the wild cows so mermaids seemed like a good alternative. 😉

You can find Hélène on Twitter, Facebook and on her Website.

Thanks so much for stopping by Hélène! And now on to the giveaway!


Like I said, I have a copy of Hélène’s Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath and Stacey Graham’s The Girls’ Ghost Hunting Guide to one lucky American or Canadian reader. All you have to do is comment below and tell me of a favorite childhood summer activity or a ghosty experience you’ve had. I’ll choose the winner on June 6th.

The Soul Savers Tour

30 May

I love it when a character has the time to stop by and chat for a bit, especially when it’s a fave character from a fave series. I’ve enjoyed watching Alexis come into her own in Kristie Cook’s Soul Saver series, so I’m super excited that Alexis stopped by on the Soul Savers tour to talk a bit about trust and betrayal.

LL: You have a hard time trusting people. Why is that? What betrayals have you experienced in the past?

Alexis: Heh. Let me count the ways. First there was the guy who had been the closest thing I’d ever had to a father. He abandoned me. At least, for a five-year-old, that’s how it had felt at the time. Then there were the girls who had supposedly been my friends in the fourth grade…then others in the fifth grade…and more at another school in the sixth grade…and seventh…you get the picture. They were all the same. Pretended to be my friends until they had something to use against me, which isn’t hard to find, and stabbed me in the back. Made me the joke of the school every single time. Why are girls so mean to each other? Ugh. Then there were the guys throughout junior high and high school. I thought James was different when I met him, but he turned out to be a Grade A asshat, too. That was about the time I just said “screw you” to the rest of the world and solidified my role as loner. My only friends ever, until I met Tristan, were fictional characters in the books I read and the stories I wrote. They never turned on me. So, yeah, I’m pretty used to betrayal. Thank God Tristan is so patient with me. The poor guy’s suffered the brunt of my heartbreaks.

LL: Yups, Tristan is an amazing guy. Just…..amazing. *Pauses and stares off into the distance* Um, what was I saying? Anyway, I want to thank Alexis for popping in I know how busy she is. And if I had Tristan? Well, I’d probably never leave the house.

Blog Tour Giveaway

So, along with getting the chance to chat with Alexis, I also get to tell you guys about the awesome giveaway Kristie is hosting for the blog tour. Here’s a run down of the prizes:

Grand Prize(US only) – Nook Simple Touch
1st Prize (US only) — Paperbacks of all 4 of Kristie’s books signed
2nd Prize(US only) — Soul Savers Swag bag
International Prize — All 4 books as ebooks

How to enter:
Just leave a comment below with your email and whether you are in the US or international. And each comment left during the blog is an entry, so hop on over to Kristie’s website to find out who else is on the tour. I’ll also be giveaway an eBook of Devotion to one lucky person who comments.

About Kristie Cook:

Kristie Cook is a lifelong writer in various genres, from marketing communications to fantasy fiction. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling and riding on the back of a motorcycle. She has lived in ten states, but currently calls Southwest Florida home with her husband, three teenage sons, a beagle and a puggle. She can be found at

Guest post by Barbara J. King

18 Apr

Books aren’t my only love in life. As some of you may know I am also an animal lover and have rescued/adopted enough animals in need to start my own petting zoo. Seriously. Animals seem to know and basically just show up in our yard. So I was tickled pink that Barbara J. King, author of Being with Animals could stop by the blog and talk a bit about the rescue work she does with cats.

Sometimes, the work of cat rescue is emotionally searing. Last year, a family friend called to say she’d found a newborn kitten on a boat near her house—curled up in a crab pot. The mom cat had moved her litter off the boat and hadn’t returned. What to do?

We collected the kitten and named her Marin. Because she needed round-the-clock feedings, we handed her off to a kitten fosterer. (We work hard for our rescued cats, but we need to sleep, too.) When she’d matured a little, Marin went into the “adoptable cats” program at a PetCo store. Unexpectedly, she refused to be handled, and bit people, marking her as unadoptable.

We weren’t ready to give up. Moving Marin into my study, I spent many hours playing with and socializing her, an endeavor that takes patience and a certain immunity to scratches and bites.

She and I bonded intensely. Still, the biting continued. Would giving her the run of the house help? Wham! Seven rescued cats went into feline overdrive at the sight of this small newcomer! The usual comical sequences resulted: stiffened-back stand-offs, low moans, hissing fits—but no serious conflicts.

Then one morning (and not for the first time), Marin bit me hard. We finally faced reality, and transferred her into our backyard pen– a spacious enclosure my husband built that houses 11 (now 12) ex-feral cats, all too shy or feisty for adoption.

These cats enjoy a two-story “house”; sun-dozing opportunities beneath bushes and on a picnic table, good food and our daily love. Marin will do fine there, but still, it was a hard decision.

More often, cat rescue is exhilarating. A while back, we took in John and Michael, kittens with medical problems and 24 hours away from euthanasia. Within a short period, John’s eye troubles cleared up; we adopted him to a young couple, thrilled with his exuberance.

Michael, we kept. He’s the most endearing, ear-tufted, big-pawed Maine Coon you’d ever want to meet. We treated his corneal ulcers, and love him for himself, with his harelip and a certain cognitive slowness. He is HIV-positive, and prone to secondary infections; we watch him closely and begin antibiotics quickly as needed.

Every morning, Michael rushes up onto a table near when I eat breakfast, to request “the ribbon game.” Deliberately, he bats at a favored red ribbon as we play together. Michael proceeds at a different speed than most cats, contacting a toy with his not-quite-right-eyes and a slow paw. But daily, he purrs, and purrs.

What does it take to be a cat rescuer? My husband (retired, he does most of the work) and I are fortunate to be able to pay bills for food, spay-neuter surgeries, and medical care for numerous cats. We bring to the task a high tolerance for those weeks when there’s one too many litterbox change, hairball, or hour spent at the vet.

Most of all, we’re primed to enjoy our cats as cherished individuals, with distinct personalities and needs. With this perspective, helping cats brings us happiness every single day.

Aw, rescued cats are the best! I should know, I have 9 living in the house and one on my sun porch roof!

Make sure to pop back in tomorrow for my review of Being with Animals and a giveaway.

MAX-imum Exposure interview and giveaway!

11 Feb

Welcome to the MAX-imum Exposure Tour for the 13 to Life Series!

Each site throughout the tour will have swag and an individualized interview with either Pietr, Max or both! Shannon has also included an audio download for each interview so you can hear the Rusakova boys!

And make sure you join us live at 11 am EST on 2/12 for a Blog Talk Radio event with host Barry Eva, Pietr, Max and Shannon! Go here:

Can’t make the live BTR event? Join us instead on 2/17 at 9pm EST for an exclusive chatroom chat with the boys over at the Mundie Moms (

I’m soo freaking happy to be today’s stop! The chance to ask hunky Max a couple of  burning questions? Oh, I was so there! Below is a transcript of my short but very, very sweet interview with Max. Wanna hear the sexy Russian for yourself? No worries, since I also have the audio version!

Hi Max! First off, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and have a little chat with me.

Happy to be hanging out with you, Colleen.

So, I’m going to start with the question that I’m sure is on all of my readers’ minds: boxers or briefs? LOL I’m just joking, no need to pretend to be embarrassed.

Hold on, Colleen. I am all about giving the girls what they want… Boxers or briefs? As an oborot I need to be a master of the quick change. So–commando.

Wow. Well, thank you for your honesty. With Christmas barely over and Valentine’s Day around the corner, I was actually wondering which holiday you prefer?

Christmas is great but I have an even bigger appreciation for Valentine’s Day. I have…a lot of love to share and there are a lot of girls that are more than happy to share some love with me. Valentine’s Day is a day to remember I’m a lover, not a fighter. I am a fighter, too, but I would rather spend my time–loving.

The giveaway!

Okay guys, Shannon was super nice and sent some cool swag my way to give to you guys. Up for grabs? An autographed mini Secrets and Shadows poster and an autographed 13 to Life postcard. I debated keeping these for myself, but I couldn’t do that to you guys. 😛

As always, if you want to enter to win one of these, you just have to answer a teeny, tiny question: if you could interview one YA lit guy, who would it be? Comment below before the 25nd to enter. Winner gets their choice and then I’ll draw another name for the remaining swag. Oh and it’s international. 🙂

Some info about Shannon:

Shannon Delany is the winner of the first-ever cell phone novel contest in the western world and the author of the 13 to Life series through St. Martin’s Press. 13 to Life is already available and Secrets and Shadows hits stores 2/15/11 with Bargains and Betrayals landing on shelves 8/16/11 (already available for pre-order!)and two more as of yet unnamed novels coming out in 2012.

For more about Shannon, visit her author website: or her series website: You can also find Shannon on Facebook and on Twitter at

Want a fun freebie you can print out and use with a web-cam to make a bookmark much more than a bookmark? Go here and check out the Augmented Reality bookmark:

Banned Book Week guest post

25 Sep

When Cait over at Escape through the Pages asked me to do a guest post for Banned Book Week I was totally into it. I was going to do a Very Serious Post but then realized that wasn’t really my shtick. So, in typical Colleen form, my post is very much tongue-in-check. Pop over to her blog and give it a read.

Guest post: Alice Kuipers

3 Aug

If you’ve read  Alice Kuipers’  Life on the Refrigerator Door or her latest  book, The Worst Thing She Ever Did , then you know she is not an author who shies away from difficult subject matter. I am always curious about not only why an author chooses to write about a topic that is both emotionally charged and at times difficult to read about, but how they go about getting the words down on paper. I’m very happy that I got a change to ask Alice exactly that as part of her blog tour for The Worst Thing She Ever Did.

Hi Colleen,

It’s good to be guest blogging for your site today.  Thanks!  I’ve been admiring your book purging – something I should be doing, perhaps – and reading your flash fiction, all of which has been distracting me from blogging on the topic of why (and how) I write about difficult and topical subjects.  It’s a hard topic but it’s time to stop procrastinating.  Time for me to ask myself the same thing and figure out why I do chose such difficult subjects to write about.

As a writer, I’m interested in characters in their teens.  I think the decisions people make and the things people do then define the adults they become.  I like to put teenage characters into situations that are extremely challenging and see how they react.

For example, Claire in Life on the Refrigerator Door is coping with her mother getting breast cancer.  She could handle it many different ways.  The way she deals with this will impact her not just in the pages of the book but for the rest of her life.  I find that fascinating.

I chose the topics based on the story I want to tell.  So, Claire’s story is about running out of time.  Sophie’s story, in The Worst Thing She Ever Did, is about using writing to explain the world.  Breast cancer and the London bombings were, and are, background to the emotional growth of the two characters.  But as topics they both took over my life for a while.  I had to do lots of research and I learnt things that were hard to understand sometimes.  I got pretty weepy writing both books, which always makes me feel like I’m crazy (sobbing in my office!)  But I suppose writing about difficult things helps me better understand a crazy world.  And maybe it helps me understand myself better too.

As for how I do it, well, I research lots both before and during the writing process.  I talk to people who have gone through similar situations, I read books by survivors, I watch films and look over newspaper articles.  At one point, I have to let go of the research and trust that I know enough to get the right tone.  Sometimes I’m able to get the words down.  Sometimes I have to do more research because a bit of information is missing.

I hope that gives you an idea of how and why I write the things I do.  Time for me to go and purge some books…

Thank  you so much for stopping by, Alice! Oh, you guys should really check out her website. Not only can you find out more about Alice and her books, but she also gives great writing tips and challenges to get your creative juices flowing.