Monday, December 31, 2012

WIP Madness December Check-in: Week 5

Week FIVE! Looks like we can squeeze in one more before January strikes!

On that note . . .


Any New Year's resolutions going around the WIPsters? I admit I don't do resolutions, but I do plan on attacking small presses this year, and starting my battle with agents and publishers anew. I've got [almost] two books waiting for edits, so I'll hopefully be sending out double-duty queries by April!

(Though I feel I should confess here that I haven't written for three days. I usually pride myself on writing EVERY DAY, but Christmas/Family/Hunger Games birthday party has been eating up all my time. Getting back on the wagon now, though!)

ANYWAY, we have a winner for Juliet Marillier's AMAZING book, Daughter of the Forest.

Denise Jaden.

Denise, email me your mailing address at CNHolmberg (at) gmail (dot) com and I will ship your copy of the book! Hope you enjoy it (and you will. Because it's amazing).

Best of luck for 2013!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Christmas Writing Haul

(Don't forget to check-in for WIPmadness and enter to win Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier! And no, you don't have to be on Twitter to enter!)

How was Christmas for you guys? Great for me. :) Absolutely love being back home with family! I think my gifts went over well, especially the Batman skirt I made for my youngest sister:

As for writing, I got three things that will greatly benefit me over the next year.

First, I got Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. I wanted this SO BADLY!

Courtesy of Husband. Win, Babe.
(He also got me stainless steel straws :D)

Second, I got the 2013 Writer's Market. This will be especially helpful for bothering small presses.

Courtesy of my parents.

And lastly, I FINALLY got a new office chair. No more sitting on three pillow just so comfortably reach my keyboard!

Not actual brand, I don't think. Courtesy of my in-laws.
Image source

Things that will definitely not be conducive to writing: Netflix subscription. XD

How did your haul turn out this year?

Monday, December 24, 2012

WIP Madness December Check-in: Week 4

Merry Christmas Eve! Congrats on time management if you're actually checking in today!

Santa Clause is comin' to town, and he's bringing with him a copy of an amazing fantasy novel called Daughter of the Forest.

I know, I talk about this book too much.

For those who don't know, Daughter of the Forest is a retelling of an often neglected seven-swans fairytale. Amazing storyline, gorgeous use of a curse, and a love story that flips on you and makes you (or at least me) cry.

I'll ship a copy of this juicy specimen to one commenter. Not in time for Christmas, of course, but it will be a nice January read. :)

Have the holidays crashed anyone's writing yet? I'm pushing to get my novel done quickly, but I want to do it right, and I also want to actually see my family during this vacation, so we'll see. :) At least I'm keeping up with my daily word count!

Best wishes and holiday cheer to all you WIPsters!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Link Blitz

So I'm seeing Breaking Dawn Part 2 today. ;) My sister promised me many peanut-gallery moments. I heard it diverts from the book, so I'm actually a bit excited. That, and I get to spend time with 2 out of 3 sisters!

(Also, happy end-of-the-world.)

Writer's Potpourri:

The Lies Novels Tell Us

How Do We Handle Rejection and Keep on Pressing?

How to Structure a Killer Novel Ending

Why Having a Bad Agent is Worse Than Having No Agent

When Others Define You

Other [Writing-related] Babble:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


My baby sister is turning 18 on the 30th, and she wants a Hunger Games-themed birthday party.

My other younger sister and I are in charge of it.

I've been able to find a lot of ideas, especially on Pinterest (You can see my board here.) The party will probably be about five hours, and we have to decorate a church gymnasium to look something like a forest. (I'm using paper. Lots and lots of paper.)

The BEST idea I found via my online search was a tracker-jacker pinata:


There's also an official Hunger Games cookbook, so we might be pulling some recipes from that.

Overall, we'll have "training" tables for archery, fire-building, and camouflage, followed by the actual "Hunger Games," where the party guests will scramble for supplies (which will save them from random events that could cause death, such as hypothermia), play at an edible food wheel, shoot down parachutes from sponsors, locate a hiding person/object to "kill" them (Not your grandma's birthday party...), swing at the tracker jacker nest, and then have the "final battle" for anyone who hasn't metaphorically died during the party. (We're going to play a game where guests tuck a cloth into their back pockets and have to try to steal the cloth from others before their own is taken. The last one standing wins the Hunger Games and the grand prize, which MIGHT be a paperback copy of the trilogy. I'm not sure yet.)

ANYWAY, any ideas, thoughts, or tips for the party are greatly appreciated. It will be slightly on the extravagant side, so please wish us luck!

Monday, December 17, 2012

WIP Madness Week 3: December Check-in

Eight days 'til Christmas! WHO IS EXCITED?

Today I'm posting from Salt Lake City! A twelve-hour drive in the cold and snow certainly makes me appreciate home all the more. Unfortunately, home=distractions, but I refuse to let that slow me down. I WILL HAVE THIS DRAFT DONE BY JANUARY. (There, I said it, now all of you need to hold me to it!)

If I fail in this goal, maybe I'll do another giveaway. ;) (But I shan't fail...)

Speaking of giveaways, please stop by my interview with Kristy Stewart to enter the giveaway for a great new Christmas anthology, just in time for the holidays. She's giving away four copies!

With most agencies and publishers closing down until January, it's time to put a hold on the queries and focus on pushing through those drafts, getting nitpicky with edits, and honing those pitches. The days are getting busier, but let's make writing a gift to ourselves, eh? ;)

So WIPsters, what are your goals for this week, and how did you fair over the last seven days?

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Familius Christmas Anthology 2012 (+GIVEAWAY)

Forget Link Blitz! Let's hit up a Christmas giveaway before the holiday takes us by storm!

Kristy Stewart, co-author and editor of The Familius Christmas Anthology, is giving away FOUR FREE e-copies of the book to  commenters chosen at random. (It's just the month of giveaways on this blog, ain't it?) Just leave some form of contact information and what format you would like the book in (.mobi for Kindle and .epub for everything else).

Kristy is a brilliant everything and a dear friend of mine, so I'm excited to showcase her on the blog today! So without further adieu...

Tell me a little about yourself.

Probably the most interesting factoid about me, for this audience, is that I’m a freelance editor. Outside of that, I’m a new mom (my husband and I just had our first child last month), a graduate student (I just went back for my master's degree starting this semester), and a huge fan of meddling around in my kitchen. I was born and raised in Utah, but I’ve lived a couple other places: Wales (for a few months of study abroad) and a very isolated town in Texas (for several months of military training for my husband).

Random facts: I enjoy the word heinous, I played rugby as a flanker for a few semesters in college, I love the smell of chlorine, and I wear my Chaco sandals year round (swimming and playing water polo in high school spawned those last two).

When did you start writing?
I started very young. I still have little stapled books from when I was in first grade. One is about a unicorn and a squirrel who become friends and the other is about a blue-footed booby. Of course, being a naive animal enthusiast in the first grade, I didn’t realize how strange it was that I was writing about boobies.

Since then I’ve done a lot of writing, but a little while ago I decided that editing was more important to me, so I started focusing on that instead of trying to make time for both. I became interested in the idea of editing collections of short stories or other works. Although I’ve been told that editing collections isn’t the most financially rewarding career path, I love the idea of being able to see and arrange a group of pieces that all speak to the same theme.

The Familius Christmas Anthology was a project I came to late in the process. My co-conspirator, Rick Walton, had several projects running for Familius, a relatively new press focusing on family-centered books. The Christmas anthology—which includes short stories, poems & songs, recipes, and activities—had a seasonal deadline, and with all the projects he had in the air, Rick wasn’t sure he could finish in time, so he sent out a call for a collaborator. I love Christmas, I’m rather fond of my family, I already have aspirations of putting together anthologies, and I know a thing or two about ebooks. (The anthology is available as an ebook-only special for this year. Future years might see it in print depending on demand. As for the ebook knowledge, I can do basic ebook formatting, and I’m learning more about it every day.) So I jumped on the project.

Originally the collection was supposed to be a compilation of classic incarnations of items in the four categories. However, when I looked at the material Rick had already collected, I decided that using recipes from the 1800s wasn’t going to appeal to a modern audience (stories from the 1800s and early 1900s, however, are still pretty entertaining). So I wrote up original recipes for all sorts of things and invented a few of the activities.

Did the anthology present any special challenges?
There were a few. The first was that testing Christmas recipes in September (and some in October) was a little strange, and I had to improvise on some of the ingredients. For example, crushed candy canes, which I use in my meringue Snowcap Cookies, were not happening. Instead I used those round peppermint breath mints (I think they were harder to crush, honestly). Also, finding people willing to drink hot chocolate when it’s 80+ degrees outside can be tricky.

The second tricky thing for me was that I needed to get it done in time to make any revisions or changes before I had my baby. You see, the book and the baby were due around the same time. However, “before my baby is born” is a really sucky deadline. Who knows when he’s going to decide to come? So when I started having really bad contractions three weeks early, I freaked out a little bit. But the little guy held off, and the only thing I had to do from the hospital was send in my author bio. (Hence, my author bio is about two sentences long, and I can't remember what I said.)

The last challenge was purely technical. Instead of setting up the ebook files in a way that felt natural for me, I needed to use tags that matched Familius’s in-house style because a designer was going to significantly enhance the text once I turned it in. But it wasn’t a particularly difficult thing to do. Christopher Robbins (Pater Familius, i.e., the head of the publisher) sent me a very helpful style guide.

Where do you plan to go from here?
As far as publishing goes? I’m not sure. I know what I want to do in many other aspects of life—raising my son, conquering grad school, and filling my client list with people I love working for—but I’m not sure of my path with publishing. I’d like to work with Familius again if the opportunity presented itself; working with them has been a relatively smooth process. I’ve also thought about working to put together more anthologies, only now that I’ve done a seasonal one, I think I’d move on to some other theme. Who knows?

What advice can you give to other writers?
Do what you love and own what you do. That applies to your writing as well as your publishing path. When authors claim they don’t have time to write, or they can’t handle X, Y, or Z about their publishing path (traditional or self), I get a touch annoyed. You may not have time, but it’s because you’ve chosen to value other things more than writing (and sometimes this is a very good thing). Own that choice and either love it or change it. If you can’t handle something, change or adjust your path. Just own it and love it. Don’t yield control of your choices to “your circumstances.” Acknowledging, owning, and loving your choices is empowering, and it makes everything easier.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Someday Stars: Meet Alex James

Today Alex is giving away free e-copies of his self-published book, The Antpod Faction, on Amazon!

What’s your name, and where are you from?
 My name is Alex James. I am a self-published science fiction and fantasy author from the United Kingdom.

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I was 21, which is about three years. I never used to have an interest in writing when I was younger. Literature used to bore me, and I never imagined becoming a writer. And then I became absorbed by the science fiction and fantasy genre. Since then, I felt I had the ideas and passion to write something.

What genre(s) do you write?
 I usually only write science-fiction and fantasy, but that is a catch-all term for a lot of sub-genres that I write about. Some of the genres that appear frequently in my writing are the spy, superhero, political, military, and medieval genres—mainly anything that speaks power. I would say a lot of my writing features common themes of alienation and empowerment. 

What’s your current WIP? Can you tell us about it?
 I don’t actually have a current WIP. A few months back I started to write a spy/political short story based in an alternate world that resembled the divide present in the Cold War. However, I tend to write when the inspiration comes. But I do enjoy the process as well!

What’s your current day job? How does it help or hinder your writing?
 I don’t currently have a day job aside from my writing. Self-publishing my book is my day job. That does it get in the way of writing because I spend a lot of time doing hundreds of other tasks to make sure my book becomes as much of a success as possible. Sometimes the prospect of writing new works is forgotten about or delayed, unfortunately.

Who is your favorite author?
I don’t really have a favorite. But I tend to enjoy reading Philip K. Dick, R. Scott Bakker, and George R. R. Martin.

Favorite book?
It’s difficult to say what my favorite book is . . . maybe Frank Herbert’s Dune. The first Dune book is a science-fiction epic, and I would recommend the book to anyone.
What other hobbies or activities do you do outside of writing?
Outside of writing I don’t really do much, which sounds boring. I tend to spend the majority of my time trying to self-publish, and to work on my website. But I do a lot of proofreading of my work and once did a course in it.

In my spare time I read a lot, watch films, play stereotypically male video games, and occasionally watch anime.

What is something unique about yourself?
I tend to write rather unusual stories I think, where the protagonists possess problems most people don’t have. This could be attributed to a condition called Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism, which my characters sometimes display.

Do you have a blog, Twitter, and/or Web site we can link to?
I have a new Facebook page:

My website is progressively being updated:

I have yet to create a twitter account. But when I do, typing in “The Antpod Faction” or “Antpod Faction” should yield some results.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 10, 2012

WIP Madness Week 2: December Check-in

Welcome to yet another week of WIP Madness! Did you conquer your goals over the last seven days?

I've been keeping very busy with freelance work, so my word count isn't as high as I would like it to be, plus I sidetracked one day to make some edits on a past MS so I could query yet another agent...

Ah, queries. Don't we them? :) Are any of you querying right now? How many rejection letters have you accrued? (I used to print mine out and staple them to my cubicle walls before I ran out of space/moved. I wonder how many I have now...)

An author at one of David Farland's workshops once told me that you can't stop querying a book until you've hit the triple-digits with query letters. I've taken that to heart, but I'm fairly convinced that there aren't 100+ agents/open publishers who accept epic fantasy (at least not in America alone, ha!)

Yes yes, I know. Stop rambling and get onto the giveaways.

We have two separate winners, one for Poison Study, and one for the Annwyn's Blood giveaway that posted last Wednesday.

The winner of Poison Study is...

Amy Beck!

Amy, shoot me an email at CNHolmberg (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and I'll ship you your prize!

The winner of Annwyn's Blood is...

Shannon Lawrence!

Shannon, my friend Michelle Eging will be contacting you with your e-copy of the book. :)

Keep writing WIPsters! I for one am asking Santa for a publishing contract!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Link Blitz

I'm planning a Hunger Games birthday party for my sister, who's turning 18 on December 30th (I still think she's ten. This is a little weird for me. I'm still convinced she doesn't drive).

I've started a Pinterest board for it and have found lots of ideas (I LOVE the tracker-jacker nest pinata), but any creativity y'all want to throw my way is muchos appreciated. :)

Writer's Potpourri:

From Debut to Multi-published: What I've Learned in My 1st Year as a Published Author

How to Choose a Story to Write

What I Learned Writing Dreamlander: Why Non-writers Give the Best Critiques

Keys to Writing Worth Stealing

Write On @ Your Library: 5 Questions to a Great Story--

Other Babble:

Extinction Need Not Be Forever

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Interview with the Authors of ANNWYN’S BLOOD (+Giveaway)

I’m super excited for today’s post! I’ve had the privilege of interviewing authors Michael Eging and Steve Arnold, who have just released their first novel, Annwyn’s Blood (PALADIN OF SHADOW #1). Despite day jobs and saturated markets, these two family-men show what aspiring authors can accomplish when they refuse to give up.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Steve Arnold and his family
Steve: Big question. How much detail do you want? I'm middle aged and have seven kids. My wife and I go to church regularly, worry about our family and the future of this country. I worked a lot of years in factories before I got fed up with it and went back to college. I've wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, haven't sold anything before Annwyn's Blood, but then I wasn't really trying. My real artistic bent is in drawing, but I never seriously thought about a career as an artist because it's too uncertain to support a family on. I've been enlisted in the Army and an officer in the Navy and am happy to be settling into my new job back home in Ohio (just got out of the military this past summer).

Mike: We currently live and work in the Washington, DC area. I work in the policy arena, having many years ago begun my career with Senator Hatch while attending graduate school at the University of Maryland. I have five children, two dogs and two guinea pigs! I’ve been writing screenplays for the past few years. My first option was a script entitled Song of Roland.

When did you start writing?

Steve: I guess you could say I started writing in some sense when I was about twelve. I was the Dungeon Master of our little group (and Mike was my first player) and wrote up dungeons with backstories and histories.

Mike: When I was in 6th grade, I began to jot down stories and illustrations in a notebook. I've been writing ever since—and still have the old beat up notebooks!

Tell me about ANNWYN’S BLOOD.

Mike: Annwyn's Blood is a journey of discovery and redemption. While Erik, the young knight who reluctantly embarks on a quest to save his soul, seems the most likely in need of redemption, all the characters of the story will struggle and grow through the story arc that will encompass the shores of Briton to the City of Constantinople and realms beyond this world. I do believe that Aldonzo, the prince from Southern Gaul, will provide some of the biggest surprises of the series. So stay tuned!

Steve: Basically it's a Dark Ages vampire story, but you'd probably be better off seeing the blurb:

When Marianna was spirited away by unknown raiders, everyone expected a ransom demand to soon follow. Such was the peril of everyday royal life in the chaotic times following abandonment of the misty isles of Albion by indifferent Rome. But when weeks went by without word her father, High King Mattheus, dispatched teams of trusted warriors to find her and bring her assailants to account.

Young Erik, Scion of the House of Birkenshire, was one of these. Separated from his comrades and alone in hostile territories, he plunged headlong into forgotten vales and desolate coasts in pursuit, driven onward by precious memories of stolen tender moments. Then he stood before the grim fortress – wherein he found, not the innocent damsel of his youthful desires, but a terrifying beauty borne of an ancient evil that bound his soul to an even more primal force bent on regaining its place in the halls of human exaltation.

Now caught between two worlds, he must resist the temptations of his beloved-turned-succubus while protecting his family, his people and his world from the encroaching grasp of Arawn, Lord of Annwyn, Ruler of the Dead, Elder God of the Mabinogion. In this journey to regain his soul, the knight must find a way to strike the fatal blow against a resurgent primal darkness.

Where did the idea for Annwyn's Blood come from, and how long did it take to finish?

Mike: Well, it started with an assignment in a creative writing class at BYU during the fall of 1985. Doc Smith gave the class an assignment to write a short story that focused on setting. The chapter one, Dark Knight, was the result of that class. Steve and I took up sketching out and writing a novel that integrated that story as a chapter sometime in 1990.

Steve: Mike has always been more of a writer than me. I like to draw more than anything, so I'm not really sure how this all came about. About 25 years ago Mike wrote a short story about a knight saving a damsel in distress. It was inspired by some trouble he felt he was having with his (then) fiancee's ex-boyfriend. (Yes, they ended up getting married and have been ever since). A few years later (I forget exactly when, I guess it would be around 1990) he pulled this story out of his pile and decided he wanted to make a full-length book out of it, but had no idea what to do with it. He sent it to me and asked me to take a stab at it. I've no idea why he thought I would be of any help, because, like I said, he was the writer, I was the artist.

Anyway, I thought about it, came up with a very raw idea and wrote a couple chapters and sent them back. He loved it, said it opened up a whole range of possibilities, and off we went. His original story is pretty well preserved in Chapter Four, and the two I wrote are chapters Two and Three. It took about five years to finish the whole book because we were taking care of life, raising kids, and so forth.

Mike: We actually produced a draft of the novel somewhere around 1993 and shopped it around. The feedback at the time was, wow—we like your writing, but not so sure a vampire story is the way to go. Send us your next novel!

What was it like working with a co-author? What benefits and challenges arose during the writing and editing process?

Steve (left) and Michael (right) collaborating
Steve: I have found it extremely useful to work with Mike. I really don't think I could do this on my own. Whenever I get stuck on a plot element, story arc, motivation, or whatever, he always has fresh ideas that get things moving again. Of course, sometimes we don't agree on things and there's a good bit of discussion that follows, but I think we always come out with a better product at the end because we have to think that much harder about what we're doing and why.

Mike: I write by myself and with a partner. Each is very different. What I like the best is that I can call Steve, and we can bounce ideas off of each other for hours. Some of our discussions range from Dark Ages Albion to worlds light years from Earth. We have known each other since the sixth grade. So when challenges come up, we can work through them and usually find something we didn't anticipate on the other side, from a creative perspective. Also, Steve brings a much more analytical perspective to our work. I like to see how he puts the pieces of the puzzle together when my continual brainstorming creates more questions than answers (sometimes)!

What made you decide to self-publish?

Mike: Annwyn's Blood remained on a hard drive as we continued writing. We just completed a feature film script entitled The Feast of St. Nicholas. We found the old manuscript taking up space and thought it would be terrific to get that work in readers' hands while we continue to focus on other projects. We already have the outlines for books two and three in the series, so in the world of e-readers, it gives us a chance to share a something that we spent so much time creating and would love to revisit in the sequels.

Steve: Once we finished the book we tried to find an agent and get it published by the traditional route, and it just wasn't going anywhere. The project sat on our shelves for most of the last fifteen or twenty years until with the explosion of online publishing, print-on-demand, and so forth. Mike pulled it off the pile again, dusted it off, and suggested we go this route.

What has been your inspiration for writing?

Steve: As far as why, I guess you could say a love of the game. I always liked to read and naturally wanted to emulate my favorite writers. Plus I was always picking apart plots (maybe I should have been a critic?) As far as content, at first it was simply adventure. I wanted to break out of the quiet country/modern life and experience the worlds of Conan, John Carter, and so forth. Now that I'm older, I find inspiration in the struggles I see people around me facing, and what I can see are solutions to those struggles.

Michael Eging
Mike: When I was young, my father introduced me to heroic fantasy. I read the covers off the John Carter of Mars series, anything by Michael Moorcock, and over time decided I wanted to be like them. When I was attending school at BYU, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Alan Dean Foster. As I shuttled him to events and drove him around Provo in my old 66 Mustang, I was totally awestruck by his personality, his understanding of the world, and his willingness to share that with me. That and he had just published Maori, which was an incredible journey through New Zealand of the 19th century. I know it sounds cliché, but I wanted to be like him. However, as I've journeyed through life, I also find I write more because it keeps me sane and I have stories rummaging through my brain that I feel just need told.

What advice can you offer to unpublished authors, or those considering self-publishing?

Steve: Stick with it. Write whatever and don't lock yourself into a particular format unless you have a natural bent for it. Sooner or later something will break for you.

Mike: Be aware that your work will be part of the deluge of newly empowered writers flooding the channels. Find ways to stand out. We have been fortunate to have a social media expert working with us. She is navigating the sea of voices to help us find our audience.

Where can we find your book?

Annwyn’s Blood is currently on Smashwords, Amazon, and Kobo Books.

Check out the Facebook Page for additional announcements, or find Michael and Steve on Twitter at @MichaelEging and @StevnJamsArnold.

Steve and Michael are giving away a free e-copy of Annwyn's Blood to a random commenter! Please leave your email with your comment to enter (so I don't have to track you down, and yes, I will!).

Monday, December 3, 2012

WIP Madness Week 1: December Check-in

Happy December everyone! I don't know about you, but I've already got my holiday (AKA CHRISTMAS) treats set and ready to go! I'm making my favorite microwave fudge and magic popcorn (popcorn, almond bark, and M&Ms. So simple. So delicious).

The upcoming holidays have me thinking a lot about world-building. What holidays or festivities are your characters celebrating in your WIP, if any? Something traditional, or something made-up? (Holla to all my fellow fantasy writers on the latter.)

Anyway, let's strive to get our writing goals in now before the holidays consume our lives!

And, since this is the season of giving, we certainly should have a giveaway, right? What should it be, what should it be...

Ah, yes.

I recently read this book and really enjoyed it. So let's give away that.

Look! I found a good version of the cover!*

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear...

Poison Study will go to a commenter chosen at random. :)

So, what are you working on this week?

*Unfortunately, the winner will be receiving the much lamer cover version.