Category Archives: Get Published

5 prompt Friday

         Here we go again…

  1. The empty feeling in my stomach spread to my chest and head, threatening to pull me inside out.
  2. How do I say this to you?
  3. On her wrist was a bracelet made from multi-colored paperclips.
  4. His voice crackled through the walkie-talkie, “The Eagle Has Landed.”
  5. Are you ready to do this?

Have a story or prompt to share? Post it here : ) Happy writing!


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Filed under 5 Prompt Friday, Advice, Author Interviews, Believe, books, characters, Commit to 3, contests, Creative Essays, Deadlines, Education, emotion, Events, Fiction, Friday Finds, Fun Stuff, Get Published, Give Aways, goals, Inspiration, Little Things, Lost Things, Markets, NaNoWriMo, Non Fiction, Novels, Organization, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, procrastination, Queries, Reader Wednesdays, Rest, teaching, Thankful Thursday, The Motherhood Muse, Uncategorized, Voice, writer markets, writers, writers block, writing inspiration, Writing prompts, Writing Space, Young Adults

Horror at Hawkin’s Forest (via Story Writing Express)

{Courtesy of}

Tuesdays With…

Is a weekly series of author interviews, guest posts by agents, editors, freelance writers and now – my very own Young Writing Students!

I teach Young Writers and LOVE to publicize their work. If you are  a current or former student of mine, email me and we’ll schedule a guest post featuring one of your short stories, or a link to your own blog! mjcwriter”at”

And now, courtesy of my son, David’s, new writing blog…

This is a story I wrote a long while ago for school, so there will be no gore or blood in this one.

Horror at Hawkins Forest

Yet another suspense brilliantly written by: David Campbell III

Snow and frozen leaves crackled underneath Jim’s steel-toe work boots. “Great!  Now it’s 6:00!  Cheri’s going to kill me!  This is the second time this darn car has run out of gas on me.  Maybe I could just call her on my- darn it!  Forgot my cell phone back at … Read More

via Story Writing Express

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Filed under Get Published, Inspiration, teaching, Young Adults

Young Writers Workshop: Jump In!

     FRoG (Friends of the Gifted & Talented) has opened registration for Super Saturdays!

Young Writers (grades 3-8):  Come out to ONeill Middle School in Downers Grove, IL to learn and write with an award-wining author – Me!

Workshops are filling fast – REGISTER TODAY!!


Writing Workshop I  Grades: 3-8,  50 min classes: 10 am

Five weeks: Jan 29-Feb 26, 2011 $45

Do you love making up stories? Learn how to bring out the stories within you in this exciting class. Improve your writing skills by using the same process and style strategies used by professional writers to bring your creative ideas to life. Through reading and working together with other students, your inner author will emerge! This is also a perfect opportunity to prepare for the PTA’s Reflections program.


Writing Workshop II  Grades: 4-8, 50 min classes: 11 am

Five weeks: Jan 29-Feb 26, 2011 $45

Are you ready to take your writing to the next level? Young writers will learn advanced techniques to improve their craft: how and when to use symbolism, subplots, transitions, figurative language and more.  We will learn how to give and receive constructive criticism in a workshop setting. Come prepared with a first draft of a short story or several chapters of a novel-in-progress and we’ll help you make it shine!  This is the class you need if publication is your goal.

Prerequisite: Writing Workshop I or Writing Sample submitted to Instructor


“Thank you for being a great teacher to Grace. Her love of writing has grown because of you!” ~ Katie, Downers Grove Parent

“Mariah had such a great time learning from a pro.” ~ Reyna, Downers Grove Parent

“Thank you for all your help! I couldn’t have gotten this far without you!” ~Melissa, 8th Grade Student

“Garrett wishes your class was everyday, now that’s exciting!!!” ~ Shari, Downers Grove Parent of two writing students

“Yemi and her mother have nothing but great things to say about your workshops. ” ~ Reyna, Bolingbrook Parent

“You’re like the Dear Abby of Writing! U Rock!” ~Kate, 7th Grade student

“Every time I would pick up Jay after the workshop he was almost hysterical.  If you know my son, he is very composed most of the time.  But he would drop all his inhibitions and brainstorm through the workshop.  He really ENJOYED the writing classes with you.  The classes prompted him to take his journal with him while travelling rather than a hand held video game.” ~ Rupa, Downers Grove Parent

“Thanks again for including Anika – she had a blast. ” ~ Newenka, Darien Parent

 “Allison was very excited about writing the whole week.  Your “what if…” exercise gave her a fun way to think about things to write about (at home, for fun, when she only has 15 mins or so to do some writing).” ~Betsy, Downers Grove Parent

 “YOU ARE THE BEST! Never before have I had such a fabulous writing teacher. I want to write books that get published and turned into movies, like my uncle’s. I want to do this for my passion and my future fame. You rock Mary Jo!” ~ Katie, 5th grade student

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Filed under Education, Events, Get Published, Young Adults

Stephen King Gave Me Permission

created by Mark A. Hicks, illustrator.

I just finished reading On Writing, by The King of Suspense & Horror. Gleaned many little tidbits from his experienced words. I’ll share them with you, sprinkled here and there.

But the statement that stuck with me, giving me back my (writing) mojo was this: King asks

Are you waiting for someone to give you permission to take time for reading and writing all you want?

Well, here it is. Your official permission to do it!

I’m taking that permission and running with it! How?

“Reading” via audio books every day on my commute to and from work (about a 2hr round trip ordeal)

Writing down ideas as they hit me – in the car, walking, lounging with family. I simply excuse myself or pull out my mini notebook and pen and jot images, situations, what if’s, quirky snippets of dialogue.  I also need to put my portable audio recorder to use again ; )

RE-Writing my novel draft – one scene at a time. I’m currently on week 3 of a 6-week course REVISE FOR PUBLICATION, taught by Jordan Rosenfeld. So far – I’ve learned tons on the process of breaking down the novel and how to search for and fill the holes, how to dislodge and dump the extraneous details (and even characters!) and how to make backstory work by weaving in threads instead of quilting on big gaudy patches.

Reading a few books every time I get a few minutes alone (before bed, before morning shower, etc.) I’m reading in the genre I’m writing: YA Fiction, as well as Rosenfeld’s writing reference book: Make a Scene

The result of this permission granted time? I am super psyched about my novel again, ideas are ramming into me left and right and I’m dreaming nightly and waking up with vivid pictures to record. I feel alive again. I feel like a writer again.

Are you waiting for permission?

By the power vested in me (ala’ Stephen King) I hear by grant you permission to WRITE! READ! and WRITE some more!


Would you like receive inspiration for other creative ventures? SUBSCRIBE to this blog – you never know when the inspiration will stirke me, and when it does – it’ll strike your inbox 🙂


Filed under Advice, Get Published, Inspiration

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: The Espressologist

Surprise readers! Today we have a local YA author, Kristina Springer, in a Writers Inspired exclusive interview (and book giveaway!) Doesn’t that just sound tweet-worthy? Well, go ahead and Tweet it, baby! But be sure to add your comments or questions here – one lucky winner will be randomly selected to win Kristina’s hot YA book The Espressologist.

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

  • On YA themes:  What are your thoughts on relationships and issues teens face today and how do you incorporate theses themes into your books?

I think they are similar to the relationships and issues I had as a teen only a lot more intense. It’s way harder to be a teen now with all of the technology we have. When I was a teen no one carried cell phones and the Internet wasn’t as big as it is now. Geez, I could only make one phone call a day for a max of 30 min (sounds like prison huh? J ). But now if you’re having any trouble at school it follows you home on facebook and twitter and texting etc. It seems a whole lot harder to navigate through the teen years today. I try to stay really aware to what teens are dealing with now and reflect it in my writing.

  • On YA Characters: How do you research and stay current on teen-speak, dress and gestures when writing a realistic teen character?

I never grew up and I watch way too much reality TV (I love The Hills and can’t believe it’s over.) and teen dramas. I obsessively read magazines like STAR and I’m online constantly so it’s easy to research what’s hot right now. Oh, and since I do most of my writing in coffee shops I occasionally eavesdrop so beware! J

  • On YA feedback: What has been the response from your readers on your books (any ARC’s out on My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours?) How do your readers relate to your stories? What about parents/teachers?

It’s been really great! Reviews are rolling in now on My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours and so far it’s been all good. So I’m very happy about that! And there have been lots of awesome reviews of The Espressologist and I’ve gotten really great letters from readers (both teens and adults). Most fans tell me about their coffee drink preferences and how they match up with their boyfriends/husbands. There are a lot of Espressology believers!

  • On Writing: Your website says you drafted your first book in FOUR MONTHS, not to mention your role as wife and mother of four!) Did your experience as a technical writer prepare you for writing quickly? Can you tell us about your writing process from idea stage through rough draft, revision and querying agents?

Wow, great question! No, technical writing is pretty different from fiction writing. Although, I learned to type really fast as a technical writer. And all of my great grammar skills came from that time in my life. Of course, I’ve since learned my grammar skills aren’t quite as awesome as I thought they were. J Actually I think being a mom has helped me to write so quickly. Lots of writers work full-time at writing and my kids are little so I’m with them full-time. So whenever I do get a break, like late in the evening or someone else is taking care of the kids for a bit, I need to make the most of my time.

As for my writing process, I love to just sit down and let the book fly out of me without any hesitation or worrying about structure etc. With The Espressologist I wrote the entire book from the same table at my local Starbucks. Then I revised it as much as possible and sent it off to my critique partners. Then I revised more based on their notes and when I felt the book was ready I started querying agents to see if they wanted to read it.

  • On Deals: Tell us how you got a two-book deal! Are the two books related? Was the second book drafted or completed when the first book went to auction?

My agent sent out the submission to a bunch of publishers. Four publishers wanted The Espressologist so my agent then set up an auction and each publisher offered their best deal. I went with Farrar, Straus, and Giroux and they bought The Espressologist and a second unnamed book. I had no idea what the book would be at the time of sale so no, they weren’t related. I wrote My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours last year and that became the second book in the deal.

  • On Experience: What has been the best part of this whole writing, publishing, promoting experience for you so far and why?

Oooh, that’s hard. It’s been a lot of good! It might be a tie between first selling the books and seeing my first book on a shelf in a bookstore. As for why they’re the best, well, both were dreams that seemed so far out there and reaching them was amazing.

  • On Teaching: Can you offer some tips for young writers starting out?

Don’t give up! There will be a lot of rejection but you have to keep plowing ahead. And get critique partners who write in the same genre as you. You want people who will tell you the truth and rip your stuff apart and offer advice. Not the kind that say “oh it’s so good, you’re brilliant!” That’s your mom’s job. J

  • On Tomorrow & Beyond: Tell us what’s next for you and your books!

I’m busily promoting My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours (release 8/31/10) and finishing edits on my Fall 2011 book, Pumpkin Princess.

THE ESPRESSOLOGIST, *In stores now* from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

MY FAKE BOYFRIEND IS BETTER THAN YOURS, 8/31/10, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

PUMPKIN PRINCESS, Fall 2011, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Leave a comment or question to be entered! (Winner announced tomorrow, Aug 3. US residents only, please.)


Are YOU local? Sign up for the Young Writers’ Summer Studio-  workshops begin August 9th! Kristina Springer is making a special guest appearance to discuss writing and publishing with young writers. Email me for info today!


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Get Published, Give Aways, writers, Young Adults

Exciting News for Young Writers


St. Charles, Illinois—July 7, 2010—Medallion Press Inc. is pleased to announce the opening of its
new Ya-Ya line, which will be added to its family of fiction and nonfiction imprints, including
the Medallion Masterpiece Collection and the new Young Adult and Christian Literature lines.
Ya-Ya, which stands for “Young Adults writing for Young Adults,” will showcase aspiring
authors between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. The Ya-Ya line will be comprised of a
variety of fiction genres to be released in print and e-book formats.
Medallion Press is thrilled to provide young and aspiring authors with access to a broad
reading audience. The editors are currently seeking Ya-Ya submissions, and guidelines are
available on the company Web site,
Be sure to check back often for news and updates on the Ya-Ya imprint and the many
innovative developments at Medallion Press. Learn More…

About Medallion Press:
Medallion Press, Inc. is a genre fiction and nonfiction publisher dedicated to creating the
highest quality product, both inside and out. For more information, visit

Do you have a manuscript ready to submit? How about a query? Not sure where to begin? REGISTER TODAY for my one-week Summer Writing Studio.

Young writers entering 4th-8th grade

Downers Grove, IL

Monday-Friday: August 9-13, 2010

9am-noon everyday

email me for more info: mjcwriter”at”comcast”dot”net


Filed under Education, Get Published, Young Adults

An Interview with Christina Katz About Author Mama

April 2010

Why would you do an e-book after two traditionally published books?

Like most traditionally published authors, who blog, teach and speak, I have a backlog of quality content to draw on and some of it, though not all of it, will lend itself to the e-book format. So I plan to write several e-books over time and Author Mama is the first. I have old sketchbooks full of ideas I’ve had over the years, which will lend themselves well to e-formats. Equal opportunity access to e-publishing technology offers all of us writers a lot more creative leeway than we have traditionally had, which can lead to exciting and fun possibilities.

Besides being in e-book format, how is Author Mama different from Writer Mama and Get Known Before the Book Deal?

Author Mama is the story behind how I landed my book deal for Writer Mama and then wrote the book. I wanted to describe in play-by-play form what writing a non-fiction book is like for the benefit of moms considering the possibility with the lessons I learned along the way. One of my students who is on the verge of querying agents with a nonfiction book proposal says that Author Mama “goes there.” In other words, it deals squarely with the rollercoaster ride that most first-time authors experience. The format of my traditionally published books is not as driven by my personal experience, even though it informs them both. In Author Mama, I include all of the books that I recommend first-time authors read before, during, and after the book deal, so they can become as informed and empowered as possible.

Who are the intended readers for Author Mama?

Well, my two traditionally published books don’t target the same exact audience and neither does Author Mama. When I wrote Author Mama, I had my Writer Mama readers in mind, but of those readers, I was specifically focused on anyone seriously considering writing a book someday. Not every writer mama wants to write a book someday. Some are perfectly happy writing and publishing articles. So Author Mama is a slice (a writing book), of a slice (for moms), of a slice (who are considering becoming an author some day), and therefore too small of an audience for a traditional publisher. But many of my students and fans have this question and would like to answer it for themselves. Author Mama is for them.

Did you have any hesitations about self-publishing?

Considering how much content I have sitting around languishing on my hard drives, I am sorry that it’s taken me this long. The person I had the hardest time convincing was myself. I’ve had some hang-ups about e-books that I’ve had to get over in order to move forward. As long as my work continues to serve the best interests of my readers, why wouldn’t I self-publish? I certainly have a lot more to offer than I would just letting it sit around collecting virtual dust. At this point in time, I feel like it would be foolish not to e-publish, even as I continue to write traditional books.

Are publishers anxious about traditional authors self-publishing? Doesn’t this undermine their business?

I think, when it comes to self-publishing the opportunity always exists to take the enlightened view or the fearful view. I have heard people in publishing make comments that authors self-publishing is terrible news, which is absurd. The fearful attitude is, “Oh no, if that author can self-publish, then we lose.” The enlightened view is that when the people you partner with are more successful it’s good for you too because it raises all boats. Besides, when all the folks involved in a partnership are empowered and come together because they want to be there, that’s good for the relationship. It’s important to have good boundaries and communication in business and know the difference between what’s yours, what’s not yours, and what is joint ownership. When you keep these things in mind, and communicate clearly, there is really nothing to fear but fear itself.

How do you keep people from “stealing” your e-book?

I can’t stop people from stealing my e-book. I am completely powerless over that aspect of e-publishing, as most of us are. However, my target audience is not teenage boys and young men, who are supposedly the folks who do most of the pirating, according to the experts who study these trends. So I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. Also I don’t plan on giving my e-books away to avoid the impression that they are “freebies,” whereas with a traditional book I always do a lot of giveaways to get the content out into circulation. E-books are a lot easier to circulate. I can send one to you in seconds. So at this time, I don’t see the point in giving them away and encouraging others to share them without permission. I’d prefer to sell them to a smaller, more exclusive audience, who will see the value and, hopefully, respect my copyright.

What are three major points you hope aspiring writers learn from reading Author Mama?

That landing a traditional book deal and delivering a well-written book is possible but not easy by any means.

That someone else has survived the rollercoaster of emotions that come part and parcel with a first traditional book deal and you can too.

That some writers actually give up along the way and don’t succeed at delivering their first book but this won’t happen to the writers who read Author Mama because forewarned is forearmed.

Is this book only for nonfiction writers or can fiction writers benefit from it too?

Author Mama is specifically about my nonfiction book writing process, which is different from the process for other genres like fiction or memoir. However, a lot of my readers, who write in other genres, have said over the years that they find a lot of takeaways in my nonfiction experience. Also, I fully expect Author Mama to convince a few readers to try writing a nonfiction book, who might have only considered themselves other types of writers or not even writers at all.

Can I order a print copy of Author Mama?

When the book comes out in the final version in May, I will make it available for purchase in print-on-demand format, as well as all the other e-formats. During April, while it’s in beta, Author Mama is available in PDF format, which means you can print it out and put it in a binder yourself, if you prefer a hard copy. I’ve invited the first readers to participate in the process, so I’ve included a feedback form with the e-book but participation is voluntary. However to sweeten the deal, I will provide those who share feedback on the beta version with the final version for free, after it’s updated in PDF form.

How can I order this e-book for someone as a gift?

Sure you can. When you place your order, simply submit their e-mail address in the notes section and I will e-mail the copy to them instead of to you.

Thanks for your questions about Author Mama. If you’d like to learn more, please visit

About Christina Katz, The Author Mama

{Christina Katz}

Christina Katz has been teaching writers to cultivate thriving careers for the past decade. Many of her students start by writing short articles and work hard and long until they eventually succeed in landing traditional book deals. Christina is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise A Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, both from Writer’s Digest Books.

In addition to writing books and articles, Christina publishes a weekly e-zine, The Prosperous Writer, hosts The Northwest Author Series, travels to writing conferences and literary events, and coaches a hundred writers a year. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA from Dartmouth College. She lives in an idyllic cottage in Wilsonville, Oregon with her husband, daughter and far too many pets.

Keep up with Christina, if you can, at

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Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Get Published

Guest Post: Chicago-based author, Lee Williams (In His Blood)

Lee Williams

I am honored to be hosting today, my friend and published author, Lee Williams.  Lee and I attend the Downers Grove Writers’ Group and I have to say, when one of your group members makes it, it just gives fuel to your own writing passions!

Here, Lee speaks about his writing process, how he used his career as a federal agent to develop stories and characters, his decision to self publish and what he has planned next.

You can win a copy of his first novel, In His Blood. Just leave a comment or a question for Lee before the clock strikes twelve tonight! I’ll use to select a lucky winner…

Guest post by Lee Williams

How a Chicago-based Federal Agent became a novelist:

I always had an interest in the written word.  It just seems that like most of us, there was never enough time to pursue it.  Several times during my career as a federal agent I tried to start working on a novel and then a major trial would come up which would take most of my waking hours for a few months preparing the case and sometimes as much time completing the trial.  But, I never lost the desire.

The one thing that I learned in my initial attempts was that I needed some formal training.  The last two years I worked as a special agent I took five courses in creative writing at a local community college.  I developed a friendship with a fellow in one of the classes, who was a member of a writer’s group and I was invited to join.  This was one of the best things I did in terms of developing my writing.  I had to have a piece to submit every two weeks.

After I retired, I turned down any offers to work and focused on writing for two years.  I had completed my first draft of what was to become In His Blood and having a sense of satisfaction about completing the novel, I began accepting some cases working for defense attorneys while I continued writing on my second novel.  I ended up again with several cases that took extended periods of time in terms of preparation and the actual trial.  One of the trials lasted six months.  To make up for lost time I joined a second writer’s group so I was meeting four times a month with something to be critiqued at most sessions.  I also attended numerous writing seminars and attended the University of Iowa’s summer writing festival twice.

On his decision to self-publish:

I had been told of the difficulty of getting a literary agent and the depression of amassing rejection letters.  To my surprise, five of the first eight query letters I sent out came back as interested; they wanted to see at least some sample of my work, varying from three chapters to the entire manuscript.  I thought this wasn’t so hard.  Then reality set in and I went something like zero for twenty.  I thought for sure that there was a conspiracy and all these agents had put me on a blacklist.  However, I kept at it and finished the first draft of my second novel, then went back to rewrite In His Blood and started a sequel.

Then I was blessed.  Ellie Searl gave a presentation at a writer’s group meeting about self-publishing and I immediately knew it was for me.  Together, we investigated several print-on-demand companies.  Truthfully, she did most of the work! She designed my website ( and also designed the cover for In His Blood. I can’t thank her enough and if anyone is looking for someone to help them, at a reasonable fee, I highly recommend her.  I hope Mary Jo doesn’t mind me giving Ellie a plug.  Ellie can be reached at

Self-publishing has been a great experience.  I guess I’m the kind of person that would rather do it myself than leave it up to someone else.  I have friends that have contracts with publishers and agents and from what they say if you’re not one of the big names you’re not going to get much help from a publisher.  You’re still going to have to set up book signings and put forth a substantial effort in marketing your novel.  I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had several book signings.  Some of them have been set by friends, others by independent bookstores that have added my book to their shelves, and some by referrals of third parties that I hadn’t met until they contacted me.  I never say no to an opportunity to step in front of a group and talk about In His Blood.  I also have blurbs about the book mentioned in fraternal newsletters.

And there is one last outlet for your book sales.  Another self-published author friend of mine calls it shameless marketing.  You always keep a few books in the trunk of your car.  People I have met at the health club, church, shopping, the village hall and many other places have purchased my novel.

On his experience as a federal agent:

Without a doubt, being a federal agent gave me ready source for stories and characters.  I was very fortunate to blindly walk into a job that I loved. I had kept in touch with a friend who graduated a year ahead of me and became a special agent.  He was executing search warrants, making arrests, and conducting electronic monitors.  I pleaded with him to send me an application.  Three months later, I was on board but after the first week I was ready to quit.  One of the senior agents had a case on a subject that was allegedly a front man for a mob owned liquor store.  For the first week I sat in a windowless room feeding a microfilm machine with every document the store had generated for four years.

As time went on things did get better.  I spent most of my career working cases on dope dealers, money launderers, and corrupt policemen.  The cases took me from Chicago’s housing projects to mansions in Beverly Hills, California.  It put me on the front line of the war on drugs.  We worked cases on drug dealers in the Chicago area and an international drug organization that we were able to tie into the largest cocaine seizure in Chicago’s history.  During the years I learned to develop, investigate, and prosecute cases.  Many of these cases were complex multi-defendant drug cases.  I had to deal with people from all walks of life, learned how to develop informants, conduct surveillances, and testified for hours while being cross examined by a cast of defense attorneys.

On preparing his mind and heart to write:

One tool I find beneficial to my writing, that I don’t hear much about is meditation.  It’s something I’ve done long before I started writing.  I found that it centered me and renewed my strength.  The job of a special agent can be very demanding on one’s time and energy.  There were times when I went a couple of months without a day off.  I find that when I meditate before I write it takes me to a place deeper within me.  I come up with ideas I haven’t thought of before.  It might be a keener incite into a character, a new idea for a subplot, or an improvement in dialog in a scene.

On the writing and revising process:

Some of my fellow authors believe it is best to write your novel straight through.  This makes a lot of sense to get those characters and your plot down as quickly as possible.  But for me I can’t resist the urge to edit as I go.  I normally write a chapter and let it sit for a day or two before I read it again and make some revisions.  Once the project is completed I’ll review it in its entirety.  Don’t forget I’ve also had the advantage of having each chapter critiqued by my writer’s group.  The value of their suggestions cannot be underestimated.  I was also fortunate enough to have proof copies of In His Blood reviewed by two friends before the final version was printed.  Most print on demand companies will allow you to buy one proof copy before your final draft.

The big question Mary Jo asked was how do you know when it’s DONE? When you have that final copy in print or if you have an editor and they tell you it’s time to let it roll.

What’s Next for Lee Williams?

I’m hoping to have my second book, with the working title of The Pact, out by June 2010.  It’s been a different journey than writing In His Blood, which was based on many of the cases I worked.  The Pact is historical fiction and evolves around the racial unrest of the 1960’s.  It involves some of the major historical events of that time.  I traveled to Mississippi and Memphis to do research.  From there the story comes home to Chicago and a federal investigation.  As an agent and a writer you can’t beat Chicago as a fertile ground for a story.

I have also started a sequel to In His Blood, which of course involves Scott Garity and the protagonist from The Pact.  I’m hoping to have this complete by November 2011.

I have book signings set for 2010 on January 24th at Centuries and Sleuth bookstore in Forest Park, Illinois at 2:00PM.  This is a joint book signing with Don Heinzmann, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who has authored a suspense thriller that takes place in Chicago.  The next signing is with the Westmont Auxiliary Police at the Westmont Police Department on February 8th at 7:00PM.  Any other activities will be posted to my website:

In His Blood is available on

Lee will be popping in all day to answer your questions or comments. One lucky commenter will be randomly selected to win a copy of In His Blood. (US residents only, please.)


Filed under Author Interviews, books, contests, Get Published, Novels

Blog Book Tour & Giveaway: Elisa Lorello, Author of “Faking It”


Today, please welcome first-time novelist, Elisa Lorello in her book blog tour for Faking It.

Originally from Long Island, NY, Elisa is a full-time instructor of academic writing at NC State University and a member of the Raleigh Write2Publish group. She has appeared on *The Artist’s Craft*, a local Raleigh television show, and is currently on a blog tour for her first novel, FAKING IT. In addition to writing and teaching, Elisa’s passions include reading, music, chocolate chip cookies, and reciting lines from *This is Spinal Tap* with her siblings.

Elisa is giving away a copy of her book Faking It to one random winner!  You must leave a comment or question (following the interview) by 12 midnight tonight for a chance to win!  Winner will be posted tomorrow!  So, kick back with your notepad, cause you’ll want to jot these tips down, then pick up a copy of Faking It for a fun summer read!

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

Tell us about Faking It.faking it cover 2

Thank you so much for hosting me today—it’s an honor to be here!

Faking It is a romantic comedy. Andi, a 30-something writing professor, meets Devin, a handsome, charming escort (is there another kind?) who catches her attention. She proposes an unusual arrangement: lessons in writing in exchange for lessons in how to be a better lover. When the two break the rules of their contract that forbids each other from seeing each other socially and become friends, problems ensue. I always pitch the novel as *When Harry Met Sally* meets *Sex and the City*. It’s witty and fun, but also poignant at times. The perfect summer read!

What made you decide to go the self-publishing route with your book, Faking It?

I had queried about sixty agents, and even though I received and responded to several requests for manuscripts, I wound up with all rejections, albeit encouraging ones. Looking back, I made a lot of mistakes with the querying process, including not doing enough research about prospective agents and writing queries to a specific audience as opposed to a form letter, to name two examples.

I listened to the feedback that these agents had, however, and made the necessary revisions. I always believed that the novel was worthy of publication, and I knew I had access to an audience in terms of networking, so after doing some research and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to self-publish. I was also very fortunate to catch the wave of social networking (such as Facebook and Twitter), which has been instrumental in Faking It’s success.

What steps did you take to find the “right fit” with a self-publishing vendor?

I attended many panel discussions organized by author Stacey Cochran through the Raleigh Write2Publish group about self-publishing, and did some internet research as well. I probably didn’t do as much research as I should have at the onset (mainly because I didn’t know where to look or what to look for), and know a lot more now than I did then. There’s a lot more information available now (at least it seems that way), and a lot more competition, so you have to be careful.

I chose because they allowed me to maintain creative control as well as the rights to my book, the technical support was very helpful (especially for a first-timer like myself), and I liked that it was a local company (they’re currently located in Raleigh, NC). And while I’m not disappointed with Lulu, some of my criteria has changed, so I’m not sure if I’ll stick with them for my second book. As I said before, I’m in a better position now to make a more informed decision.

Can you tell us about the steps of self-publishing, i.e. do they offer editing services? Marketing? Book cover design?

Great question. Lulu offers all of the above services, and has especially kicked up its services in terms of marketing and cover design. Another nice thing about Lulu is that you can pick and choose which services you want or need. If you want to hire a graphic designer outside of Lulu, for example, you can, and use your own cover art. I edit my own novels, but some people may have neither the time nor ability to do so.  Keep in mind, however, that these services cost extra, so you need to determine what’s feasible for you. But, also keep in mind that all of the above elements are crucial to the success of a book—the more professional your finished product is, the better.

Was there anything that surprised you about the writing and/or publishing process of this novel?

It took me five years before I even started writing this novel because I kept telling myself that I wasn’t a fiction writer. All of my previous attempts at writing fiction (namely short stories) were horrid, so I just kept trying to push the idea for Faking It in the back of my mind. But the idea wouldn’t go away—it needed to be born. So I finally sat down to write it and told myself that I was the only one who had to read it—thus, if it was garbage, no one would ever know! My mantra while writing it was “I wrote the book I wanted to read.” And lo and behold, it wasn’t coming out like garbage—quite the contrary, and when I showed it to people, they responded positively. Then the dam broke, and now I can’t see myself as anything but a fiction writer (or, a fiction writer who occasionally writes nonfiction essays).

The writing process can be slow and tedious at times, but I like those times because it gives me time to listen to the characters’ voices and to do a lot of mental composing.

What has surprised me about the publishing process is how time-consuming it is, especially when it comes to promotion—it never stops. Everything takes longer than I think it will take. And I’m not the most organized person (I blame this on being Italian), so I’m sure that doesn’t help.

What happens if a big publishing house now comes a-callin’ for Faking It?

Hello! Bring ‘em on! Seriously, since I own the rights to my book, that’s not a problem. If the right agent and the right publisher/publishing deal come along for Faking It, then I’ll go with it. I’m still on the lookout for a literary agent and/or a traditional publisher mainly because they have the resources to reach a much bigger audience than I do, and because, unfortunately, self-publishing still carries the stigma of being an outlet that produces poor quality works. That is perhaps the greatest obstacle to overcome. But I stand behind the integrity of my novel.

I also have more confidence now than I did when I started this whole process of getting published three years ago. I’ve learned a lot, especially from my mistakes. When my next manuscript is ready to be queried, I feel quite confident that I’ll have more success finding an agent. If not, then I’ll continue to self-publish.

Have you experienced any back-lash from authors who are “traditionally” published?  If so, can you offer any tips on how to counter these attacks.

The majority of authors and independent booksellers I’ve personally encountered have been nothing but supportive, be they traditionally published or independently published. And yet, I’ve attended panel discussions in which traditionally-published authors insist that that’s the only route to go if I want to be taken seriously. I also recently read and participated in some discussion forums in which readers were downright mean and discriminatory against indie authors. And I already know that know major retail chain booksellers won’t touch my book with a ten-foot-pole because of the aforementioned stigma (and because they don’t really make money from self-published books unless it really breaks out).

Here’s the best and worst thing about self-publishing: anyone can do it. With digital technology and POD companies like Lulu, anyone who wants to write and publish a book can do so, and make it available to the masses. That means there’s a lot of poor quality work out there and, as a result, readers are going to have to sift through all that sand to find the gold.

The best piece of advice I can give is to maintain integrity about your work and yourself as an author. If you want to be taken seriously as an author, then treat yourself like a professional, as if you’re drawing a monthly or weekly salary. Treat your work professionally. That means get feedback and be willing to accept criticism. Form a writers group so that you maintain accountability. Get an editor if you need one. Hire a graphic designer or a publishing consultant if you need to. Be a go-getter, but also know what’s appropriate and inappropriate in terms of approaching an independent bookseller or scheduling a reading or a blog tour. Know the protocols.

As for those who continue to slam all indie authors as hacks, well, they’re not people I want reading my book. Don’t waste your breath trying to convince them otherwise.

Tell us about any of your current writing and marketing events/tours/appearances and what is on the horizon for future writing projects!

Gladly! I’m currently in the middle of a 30-day blog tour for Faking It and would like to do at least one more reading at an independent bookstore to wrap up the promotional tour. I’m also in the process of getting Faking It into at least two more independent stores: one on Long Island (where I’m from), and another one in MA (where I lived for eleven years).


If you have a book club, I’m offering a special: order four or more copies of Faking It from me directly (you can email me at, subject: book club) and not only will I discount the order price, but also sign the books. What’s more, if your book club is local to Raleigh, NC, I’ll attend your discussion meeting. If you have speakerphone, I’ll participate in the fun that way.

I’m also preparing to release Ordinary World, the sequel to Faking It. I was originally planning an end-of-summer release, but now I think it’s going to take longer than that. I’d like to get more of a buzz going about it first (enlist previewers, possibly give away sample chapters as teasers, etc.). Meanwhile, I’m working on a third manuscript, this time with a writing partner, which has been a fantastic experience. When that novel is finished, have us back because that is a great story! I don’t think I could collaborate with anyone else.

Faking It is currently available at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh, NC; Baker Books in N. Dartmouth, MA;; and on Amazon Kindle. For more information about Elisa’s blog tour and other events, go to her blog “I’ll Have What She’s Having” or

Thanks again!

Be sure to leave a comment or question for Elisa for a chance to win!


Filed under Author Interviews, books, Fiction, Get Published, Novels, Platform/Marketing, writing inspiration

Contests: Entering or Judging – which is harder?

As we wrap up this week of Father’s Day essays,  I thought I’d reflect on my experience as a judge vs. a contest entrant.

I have submitted entries to scads of writing competitions: short fiction, genre fiction, essays, first chapter of a novel, 3 sentence contests, 100 Words or Fewer* contest and even a contest to win a free on-line writing course (Which I won. On my second try…)

However, the essay writing contest I judged here was my first opportunity at wearing the hat of a “judge.”  Both experiences are challenging and rewarding.

When entering a submission to a contest, I’ve learned a few things to help gain some control over how my piece will place.

First, I note the deadline. If I won’t have enough time to do my research on the contest and the writing and revision of an entry, I will most likely pass on the contest.

Second, I notice the entry fee. Free is always acceptable! : ) But, I’m not opposed to paying an entry fee under these circumstances: if the prize(s) justify the fee (fee is 10% or less of the first place prize); if  I will receive a critique of my entry or a subscription to a writing newsletter or magazine at no additional cost.

Third, I reviewthe site, blog or publication hosting the contest. Is it reputable? Would I be proud to have my work published there? Would it fit my writer platform? In other words, I wouldn’t want my work to appear in a magazine or site that doesn’t produce the best (spell-checked and grammar-checked) writing.

Also, while reviewing the site, I read and study the previous winning entries. If the judge gave comments, I take those to heart, as well. Compare the winning entry with the guidelines and see how closely they were followed: the word count, the genre or topic, the pacing and flow of language and the overall take-away effect on the reader.

Last, but certainly not least, I will study the judge’s profile(their background, their blog and/or website) AND the contest guidelines. If the word count is 1,000 max, I stay under 1,000 words. If the instructions say No Attachments, I don’t send attachments, even as a back-up to the entry I typed in the body of an email.  When the judge sees that electronic paperclip, they might not even open my email!

Which brings me to my role as contest judge.  The basics of judging were easy. One entry I received was over 700 words, it was immediately disqualified.  One entry was submitted as song lyrics. As original and fun as that was, it was not an essay, therefore, also disqualified.

Some entries were submitted with poor grammar or spelling. I’m sorry, but Microsoft Word can correct that with one click of a button.  If English is your second language, be sure to have your piece reviewed by someone who speaks perfect English to point out any small errors in sentence structure or word choice.

The entries that made it past the basic review, were well written, but some missed the mark on the take-away feeling I was looking for.  I wanted to know how your dad shaped the person you are today. Some pieces were beautiful and showed a great portrait of Dad, but didn’t tie back to a central theme, they just kind of petered off.

I admit it was difficult judging, knowing what writers put into their work and the pins and needles feeling while waiting for that announcement.  You don’t know, as a judge, how your decision has affected those writers. It could have been their final straw at writing.

Though, I hope, those entering writing contests learn from their losses, gain confidence and endurance to trek a little longer on this path of creativity.  And submit their work (and their hearts) again and again.

*P.S. Come back tomorrow for the link to the official announcement of the winners of the 100 Words or Fewer Writing Contest. I won First Place! : )


Filed under Advice, Believe, contests, emotion, Fiction, Get Published, Inspiration, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, Voice, writing inspiration