Monday, June 29, 2015

10 things to never, ever, ever do in your query

A post by Mary Fan
If you're an aspiring writer, then chances are, you're going to find yourself querying literary agents at some point (unless you're planning on going indie). I spent a few years in this state of writerly limbo, reading everything and anything I could find about how to write a letter that could hook one of those elusive gatekeepers to the Big Five publishers. And along the way, I discovered a few exclamations of query frustration from agents on their Twitter feeds and blogs.

Below are ten agent peeves to avoid. Many may seem like common sense, but you'd be surprised what some people will stick in a query...

10. Send an attachment (unless one is requested)

Agents get dozens (if not hundreds) of emails a day from total randos. Most are legit aspiring authors hoping to hook their interest. Some may be jerks sending out viruses disguised as manuscripts. For this reason, most (if not all) agents who accept email queries will explicitly state NO ATTACHMENTS in their query guidelines. So unless their guidelines specifically say otherwise, assume that they want everything in the body of the email.

9. Copy a crap ton of other agents

Even though sending basically the same letter to multiple people may feel tedious and tiresome, copying a crap ton of agents on one email (even if you BCC them) is a bad idea. When you query an agent, you're asking for a business partnership, and business partners should be chosen for a reason. Personalizing each query (even if 98% of them are identical) shows that you at least took the time to email that agent individually.

8. Get the agent's name wrong

Because duh.

7. Waffle about your audience

Examples of what not to do:

This book could appeal to adults or teens or even younger children, depending on their level of maturity...
I suppose you could call my book science fiction, though it really is more like women's fiction in a lot of ways...

Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business. You've got to know who your target audience is. Even though a wide range of people with all kinds of tastes read all kinds of books, marketing folks love to segment. And so do readers. So do a bit of research into what books like yours are being called these days and zero in on the appropriate audience. Also, be sure it's the right audience. If you pitch your book as a romance when it's actually a graphic thriller, the agent will not be impressed.

6. Bloviate about how amazing your book is and how many copies you'll sell

Examples of what not to do:

This is a guaranteed bestseller that will make Stephen King's sales numbers look like pocket change! It will sell at least 10 million copies in the U.S. alone!
My book is the Great American Novel and will put the so-called classics to shame.

This kind of overconfidence makes you sound like an oily used car salesman. In other words, a jackass.

5. Attempt to be "clever" 

Examples of what not to do:

Greetings, Monsieur Agent! Please call me Jaques. I am the charmingly Parisian protagonist of...

I dare you to just read the damn thing.

Sure, some back-of-book blurbs or jacket copy might be written in the voice of the main character, but when it comes to queries, it's a bad idea. Don't get cute with your query... just follow the damn guidelines.

4. Forget the query part

Some people, for whatever reason, just send pages without the cover letter. Maybe they don't know any better (in which case, you're ahead of them because you're reading this blog and picking up tips), but in any case... don't forget the query part of querying.

3. Badmouth another book

Examples of what not to do:

All the thrillers put out by the big publishers these days are total crap, but my book is different because...
Unlike filth such as [title of bestseller], my book...

Yeah, Ms. Agent might rep one of those, and she won't appreciate you insulting her clients...

2. Whine about your lack of success

Examples of what not to do:

I know you'll probably delete this query before reading it, but...
If you've made it this far into my query, then I'm impressed, because I'm pretty sure no one has actually read my pitch...

That ain't being clever or irreverent. That's just whiny and irritating.

1. Insult the agent and his/her industry

Examples of what not to do:

You gatekeepers will do anything for money and can't appreciate true art, so I don't expect you to appreciate the work of genius before you...
I've been working on this novel for thirteen years and none of the idiots in the publishing industry seem able to see its true worth, but I'm hoping you'll be different...

That's like saying "your face is hideous, now go stake your career on my stuff."

BONUS: Don't forget to finish the book before query. Querying an unfinished manuscript hoping the agent will love your idea and voice and sign you before it's done is just silly. Sure, maybe some authors get contracts on spec (though usually with publishers, rather than agents), but that's because they have established careers and relationships. For the rest of us, all the agent's got to go on is the strength of the book you're pitching (unless you're a celebrity. In which case, why are you reading this post? Your name alone will get you an agent!)

Hard to tell what to do when it comes to writing a good query - so much about the whole thing is subjective - but I can pretty much guarantee that if you do any of the above, then the form rejection you receive will be the last you'll hear from the person you queried.

As in, you are never, ever, ever getting back together...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Blank Canva

A few days ago, Carrie wrote this kick-butt post on why authors need graphics (and can make them in Canva) and I'm going to piggy back off that post and talk about how I made a short story cover using Canva.

I'm not as tech-savvy as I should be for being in my mid-30s (And I don't care what my husband says, iPhones are not intuitive). I don't know how to use Photoshop or GIMP and I get frustrated with technology easily. So when I wanted to publish my short story on Amazon, I had every intention of buying a premade cover, even knowing I wouldn't make a return-on-investment for a 99-cent short story for a long time. But then I discovered Canva and saw that they had an option to create a kindle book cover. So I thought, what the hell, I'll give it a shot. Check out the cover below.

The short story is a spooky YA romance and I think this cover conveys the genre.

Not bad, right? I got the image from Canva (it cost a dollar) and I used one of their book cover templates. I played around with font color, trying white to see if it stood out better against the image. It did for my name, but the color didn't work for the title. You can see my surname isn't totally visible in black. I even played around with filters, adjusting the light for various effects. I think this cover works because of its simplicity. One compelling image and simple fonts. Is it perfect? No. But no one who has reviewed the story has complained of the cover art, so I put this in the success column.

Now, I'm going to be totally honest when I say I don't really recommend authors make book covers for full-length novels using Canva because I think the features are too limiting. However, if you want to publish a short story on Amazon or Wattpad, then Canva is a great site to use.

The cover art cost $1. You can't beat that. And I did make back my ROI. The entire short cost $21 to produce (I paid for a copy edit). It's now free on Amazon, iTunes, BN, and Kobo. And it will stay free. One Night Is All You Need was a beloved piece of writing that was just taking up space on my hard drive. A copy edit, a cheap cover and I was able to publish this immediately. It's a nice sample of my work.

In fairness to Canva, this cover is the best I can do with my limited skills. I'm super curious to see what better designers can do with the program. In fact, if you have designed a book cover with Canva, please link to it in the comments. Show off your stuff.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Why Authors Need Graphics

While by nature authors are creative, many are more comfortable with stringing together words rather than images. If you’re not currently using graphics to help promote your writing, you should. Here are three primary reasons why.

Graphics Are Quicker

Let’s face it, these days everyone is busy. Well, maybe not the lady I see walking her dog past my window at least four times a day, but everyone else is very busy. Unfortunately, many of us are also addicted to social media, which can suck up time faster than a universal sized Hoover (anyone else thinking about Spaceballs when you read that line??)

Using graphics is a great way to solve this issue. Readers know they can stop to look at your graphic post because all the information is right there. They know it will only take them seconds to look at it, rather than the unknown minutes it would take to read a post with only text.

Graphics Stand Out

Building on our society’s heavy dependence on social media, graphics have a major advantage over text posts. When someone is scrolling through one of their social media sites, an image is much more likely to grab their attention. I know on my personal Facebook page, I often quickly scroll down my newsfeed and it’s the graphics that grab my attention the most.

Graphics Are More Likely to be Shared

Because graphics are quicker and stand out, people are much more likely to share them over a text post. And that’s what you want—people sharing your information.

In addition to the fact that graphics make it easier to share a post, it’s also more likely that a graphics post will reach more of your Facebook readers than some of your text posts, especially those that have links.

Here’s a real example from my own experience. Around spring break time, I posted to my Facebook page about my new novel Shattered Angel with a link to Amazon. It showed the book cover as an image, however it was through a link. I did something similar at the start of summer, but with only a graphic and some text—no link. The graphic below shows you how different my numbers were for reach, likes and shares. I’ve done enough experimenting and research to feel confident it was the Amazon link that kept my first post from reaching more people. In addition, I believe the graphic was shared more because it felt less like a sales push and more like a fun graphic to share.

I can tell that I've convinced you of the need to use graphics (at least those of you who weren’t there before). Now you might be wondering how you should use them, and how to create them.

I create my graphics in a few different ways. For one, I have Photoshop and use it to create some of them (the graphic above was created in Photoshop). I know many of you don’t have Photoshop, or similar software, so my recommendation is to use

If you haven’t used Canva, well I’ll just say that you’re missing out. You can create some very good graphics for free, and others for just a few bucks. And better yet, it's very easy to use! You don't need high-tech skills to create an awesome graphic in Canva.

Here are some graphics I’ve created, where I created them, and how I used them.

This image was created using Canva. It cost me a total of $1, simply because I wanted a more custom image as the background. I could have used a plain background and it would have been free. As you saw in my earlier graphic, I used this on my Facebook page.

This image was created using Photoshop. I used a custom photograph that my cousin took just for this purpose. I then took a quote from my novel and added it to the image. I posted it on my different social media sites prior to the release of Shattered Angel. I’ll continue to post it periodically to generate awareness.

I created this graphic using Canva, and it was free. I uploaded the image of my book cover and the necklace, then added the text. I used this on my social media sites to promote my launch giveaway.

I actually created this image through a different software I have (a scrapbooking software I sometimes use to create graphics), but it could easily be done using Photoshop or Canva. I used this for a Facebook ad (Canva even has an option for a Facebook ad, which means it's already sized appropriately for the task). I simply cropped a section of a the book cover, enlarged it and changed the opacity for the background. I then placed the cover in the center, with a back frame to set the cover off from the background image.

This image was created using Canva. It also cost me $1 because I wanted a custom background. I haven’t used this one yet, but I will use it to promote awareness of my 4th book since this quote sums up the theme of the book very well.

This image was created using Canva, and it was free. I uploaded an image that I created (using Photoshop) for the background, changed the opacity and then added the text. Now, this is for a site I just launched that is not related to my author business, but I wanted to show you this because I used the Facebook cover option to create it—awesome! It even had a grayed out box in the template showing where the profile picture would be located so I was able to design around it. The only thing it didn’t show were the locations of the Like and Message buttons that appear in the bottom right side of the cover photo. I did have to go back in and shift the text up, but that was the only complication. There is also a Twitter cover option and I created a similar image for our Twitter account.

This image was created using Canva, and it was free. I uploaded an image from Death to the Stock Photo (another site you should use if you’re not), sized it the way I wanted, and then added my text. I used this as a header for one of my blog posts.

I could show you more, but I think you get the idea. With the availability of Canva, you really have no excuse to not be using graphics as much as possible.

Later this week, Kimberly is going to expand on this post by telling you how she used Canva to create a cover for her short-story. That’s right, a cover! And personally I think it looks better than many covers I’ve seen from some ‘professional’ designers.

Have you used Canva? Any other easy to use graphic sites out there we should know about?


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cue River Song

As a reader who is passionate about her fandoms, characters, books, worlds, and authors, spoilers drive me nuts. Like make me Incredible Hulk angry until I crash and stare at a wall while crying drive me nuts. From a reading standpoint, spoilers are right up there with ebook pirates as far as reading peeves go (both are worse than love triangles and I’m sure all my reading friends know just how much I loathe those).

Why do spoilers bother me so much? Well, first you have to understand how wonderful a reading experience can be. I imagine I don’t have to explain that too much to our audience here at Across the Board, but it’s another life to be lived. When a character hurts, I hurt. When a character falls in love, so do I. The emotions and feelings, triumphs and tribulations are just as much a part of me as they are for the characters involved, following me long after I’ve closed the book. So when someone spoils something, it’s like a punch through the gut, robbing me of the raw emotions of experiencing it myself while reading. Often times I’m more devastated at the loss of that experience than I am over whatever the spoiler was.

I am currently reading Game of Thrones, book one of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. [Insert understanding for why I’ve chosen this particular topic to blog about.] I am not currently watching the show, though I have seen the first few episodes of season one. I am nowhere near where the show currently is, but I’ve seen spoilers posted in plain sight with no warning whatsoever of the impending spoiler (thank you, Facebookers). Not only does that have the potential to ruin the show for people, but it also has the potential to ruin the book experience for readers, whether or not the show directly follows the book. Now, if you’ve read A Song of Ice and Fire, you know that George R.R. Martin takes you on quite the rollercoaster ride, thus creating one hell of an emotional experience (the Baron is a few books ahead of me and I can’t even put into words the agonizing sounds he makes while reading). This just makes Game of Thrones spoilers doubly rough with two very different experiences being ruined.

I can also say there are books I haven’t read at all because they were spoiled and I have yet to get over being robbed of the emotional value behind the book. For example, Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I was looking up something that was posted a few years ago when Divergent came out and BAM! Someone had gone back and commented the ending RIGHT THERE. I swear I almost threw up and it had nothing to do with the actual spoiler. It was because, well, what’s the point of reading it now that I know what happens? The whole experience would be ruined. I’d no longer be biting my nails, feverishly devouring every word while hanging on the edge of my seat, needing to know what happened next. Because I already knew. *sigh*

Because my reading friends know me so well, one of my best friends shared this video with me. It’s a fantastic conclusion to my spoiler post.

Do spoilers bother you? Have any books been ruined for you because of spoilers and did you read/finish reading the book? I’m sure this goes without saying, but please, no spoilers in the comments ;)

Monday, June 15, 2015

English is English, Right?

Hi, my name is Brenda St John Brown and I'm thrilled to be part of Across the Board. Since this is my intro post, I'm going to babble a bit by way of introduction because normally I'd ask you about your earrings or something so I don't have to talk about myself, but I'm not even sure you're wearing earrings, so I can't really ask you where you got them. (Are you? Wearing earrings? Because if you are, I bet they look fabulous.)

I'm the resident romance writer here, writing kissing scenes across the board from YA to adult fiction. My New Adult contemporary romance, SWIMMING TO TOKYO, published with Spencer Hill Contemporary last July and my self-published adult romantic suspense, LIES WE LIVE, comes out June 22. (More in a future post about this self-publishing journey. It's a ride and a half, no?) 

Other things to know about me:

  • I have a life-long love affair with Doritos.
  • Climate change alarms me and I've been known to stay up at night obsessing over water supply.
  • I have a boy who just turned 10. He's super English, although he still calls me "mom", which makes me happy.
  • And, right...I'm a native New Yorker, living in a tiny village in Northwest England.
About that - my husband I moved to London nearly 8 years ago for what was supposed to be an 18-month move and here we are. When we were offered the chance to move back to New York or to The North (as it's referred to on the road signs), we chose The North.

Living in the UK has been amazing, although the weather is crap. Summer here is about 72 degrees tops and I've never been swimming outside in this country. However, the thing that's surprised me the most is how British English has crept into my English. As Brianna Lebrecht, who copyedited LIES WE LIVE, can testify -- it's more often than I think!

So, here's a little quiz for you. Below is the British English word...can you name the American equivalent?

The Plough

I'll pop the answers into the comments, but talk about two countries divided by a common language. And then there's the slang! I still don't have the hang of the slang in The North. Tea = your evening meal. Dinner = lunch? What?? I thought tea was a drink (milk and one sugar, please) and dinner was, well, dinner. I pledge allegiance...Long live the Queen.

The Boy is learning British spelling and I'm not, but I've assimilated and this is your warning that the occasional phrase might slip past my internal editor. Feel free to call me on it -- or anything else. (I mean, don't actually call me. Like most writers, I hate talking on the phone and texting is a glorious thing.) Phone phobias aside, though, I'm super excited to be here and talk writing, romance and other random things. If there's anything YOU want to know, let me know, too!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hello! My name is Tara and I have a reading addiction.

Being a “reader” doesn’t seem like an active choice that one makes in his or her lifetime. It’s something that most people, I suspect, become naturally and gradually. Not me. I remember the exact moment I knew I wanted to be a reader. There were actually four very important books in my life that solidified my love of books and love of getting lost in them.

The very first time was while I was reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Looking back on it, this is the first book that I remember getting the “feels” during. I was in fifth grade and we were learning about the Holocaust. To make it more relatable for our young minds our teacher had us read Number the Stars and write an essay about whether or not we would help a Jewish family during this terrifying time. This was also the first and only time I’ve ever “stolen” a book (from a school no less). I was so in love with this story that I had to have it for myself. (I was unaware of bookstores at the time and thought the library was my only option.) At the end of the year I did return the book after I got a copy for my birthday.

The next book, or series rather, was the Animorphs series. These were the books that started my love of series and of science fiction. I remember waiting anxiously for my dad to get home on the first Tuesday of every month with the newest book in his hands for me. I was amazed that a book could turn into multiple books (I think 54 was the last one I read) and that storylines and characters could develop over time, that people and plot lines could be resolved and new ones created. These were also the books that introduced me to the concept (and lie) that was “just one more chapter”.

The third book that blew my mind was The Giver by Lois Lowry. The ending of this book completely turned reading on its head for me. Because I was a reading nerd by this point I read ahead and finished the book a good week before most of my classmates. When I got to the end and the story just ended I was devastated. I thought that my copy must be missing pages. I went to my teacher and asked for a different copy so that I could find out what happened; the anticipation was killing me. When she told me that that was the ending, that there was no resolution, I was outraged. Why would she pick such a book?! What author wouldn’t tell the reader exactly what happened to the characters? There were so many questions going through my young head at this point that I spent my entire lunch period in her classroom discussing the book. At the end of our talk she told me to do something unimaginable. Write my own ending. (I did and she gave me extra credit, not that I needed it. I passed seventh grade English with a 107. Yes, I was that girl.)

I won’t go into the last book in detail because I’m sure many of you already know this story. I was in seventh grade and I met a boy. His name was Harry Potter.

So why am I boring you all with this? (I hope I’m not boring you! This is only my first post!) To demonstrate my love, addiction, and obsession with books and reading. Having succumbed to this addiction at a youngish age I was able to cultivate and nurture my love of learning everything I could from books. Books had the answers to almost every question I had even the ones my parents and teachers didn’t have the answers too. (This was also before the internet and the instantaneous answers one could get from Google. I had to actually work at finding the answers and I’m so grateful that I had this opportunity to live in a time where the internet wasn’t there to be used as a crutch.) Not only was I exposed to facts about the world but I also learned about other cultures, other parts of the world, about situations I hadn’t been exposed to yet, about people I hadn’t heard of, etc. It was a way of exploring the world without leaving my house.

So as your newest resident reader I hope to be able to recommend books to you that you’ll like and find interesting. I read just about everything with a noticeable bias towards fiction (as opposed to non-fiction) and will try any genre at least once. And even though it’s early in my blog writing days I have a feeling that most of my posts will be about reading (as opposed to writing) and things going on in the book world. (I am currently in my 10th year of being a bookseller, so I feel like I know my stuff.)

Here’s a VERY SHORT list of some of my favorite books, in no particular order. I hope this gives you some insight into what I enjoy and that it opens the door for some conversations. I’m always happy to give recommendations!

  • Wool (series) by Hugh Howey
  • The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
  • Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin
  • The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • Lexicon by Max Barry
  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • 1984 by George Orwell

Monday, June 8, 2015

Getting Your Writing Mojo Back


A Post By Jonathan

Help! Someone's stolen my mojo! I was just chillin' in what could be described as my own version of a writer's cryofreeze --aka, first-time dad zone-- and when I thawed out, and finished taking a hideously long pee, all my writing mojo was gone.

The culprit looked a little like this:


or maybe a little more like this:

My 5-month old mini me, notice the resemblance?

Either way, it's gone. But I've got a plan to get it back (feel free to follow these steps if you too have had your writing mojo stolen):

Step 1: Write Something New

As it probably is for many writers (first-time novelists, especially), this is a huge decision for me. I've spent nearly ten years working on the same story, writing the same characters, living in the same world. I never started a new project because it always felt like I would be quitting, like I would be walking away from all that hard work. But after consulting some of my trusted writerly friends over at (if you haven't visited the forums on this site, you need to check them out), and those here at Across the Board of course, I learned that moving on to a different project doesn't necessarily mean you're throwing in the towel. It also doesn't mean that you will never return to that first novel. It just means that you are growing as a writer, that you recognize when, creatively, you need a new challenge. For me, it's either write something new or not write at all (at least that's how it feels).

Strangely enough, just giving myself permission to go down this path has greatly improved my outlook on the whole writing process. No one writes well when they're dreading even sitting down at the keyboard. Whether I end up starting a new project or not --or just keep slogging away on my current WIP-- just giving myself the okay has done wonders. I can feel my mojo coming back already!

Do I make you randy, baby, yeah! Where'd that come from?

Step 2: Take A Trip

My wife and I are talking about taking a vacation soon, which should be a good mojo booster in and of itself. Coincidentally, the drive to our potential vacation spot takes us right past Space Camp, which is where some of my current MG Sci-Fi WIP takes place. I have never actually been there, but we're planning on stopping by (thirteen hours in the car with a five-month old will make you plan out your stops very, very carefully).

I have mixed feelings about the visit... I'm excited and apprehensive all at the same time. This could be the big boost I've needed to fall back in love with my WIP. I've got to think that actually seeing the place I've been writing about for the last decade will send my creative juices soaring into stratosphere. To the shag wagon, baby!

But what if it has the opposite effect? What if just seeing the place reminds me how much work I've got to do? How many revisions there are? How wrong I've been about the place all along!!!

Okay, while I'm busy hyperventilating feel free to check out this cool article I read recently about how travel can improve your writing skills: The simple, super-sexy, science backed way to improve your writing skills

Step 3: Be Patient

This is a big one.

You hear about writers like former Across the Board member, Beth Ellyn Summer, getting book deals (Congrats, again, Beth! We are super happy for you!:) and you can't help but wonder when it will be your time. Well, getting published means having a work to publish, and having a work to publish means having words in a book, and having words in a book takes writing them down, and writing takes mojo! So it's just not my time. What I need to do now is focus on me, and where I am in the writing process. Just set a few small goals for myself. Jot a few sentences down. Do a little outlining, maybe (though I'm more of a pantser myself...). Even thinking about writing is something, right?

Well wish me luck, dear reader, as I try to get my writing mojo back. If there are other things I should/could be doing, feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section below. I can use all the help I can get.

Yeah baby yeah!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

No Money Involved (Interview with Marianne Cushing, Author of MAHALAS LANE)

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Welcome to the Thursday installment of your favorite blog, everybody!  Today we have a very special guest, good friend of our own contributor Carrie and author of the mystery/crime novel MAHALAS LANEMarianne Cushing!  Rather than tease you any longer, let's just jump right in with the interview!


SK:  Hello, Marianne, and welcome to Across the Board! Obviously, we'd love to make a spot for you as a permanent blogger, so my first question is: if you had to get Carrie "out of the picture" to free up a slot, how would you go about it?

MC:  I would never try to get Carrie out of the way. Ever. Wait...there's no money involved, right?

SK:  If there is, I haven't seen dime one yet.  Did you end up publishing MAHALAS LANE indie, small pub, or traditional? What was that experience like?

MC:  I published my novel through CreateSpace after a long and futile attempt at finding a publisher or an agent. I found self publishing to be pretty simple and, in the end, rewarding. I hired a wonderful editor who made me feel confident about the content. It felt good to have control over the process and I love the way the book turned out. Using my experience in marketing, I've promoted the novel myself and planned my own author events. It's been a labor of love and I am grateful to have met many generous and helpful people along the way.

SK:  I think we can all sympathize with that story.  Speaking of marketing, how much of advertising is like "Mad Men?"

MC:  Believe it or not, I've never watched Mad Men, but I can imagine it has some truths as well as myths about life in advertising. I guess I don't see the attraction of coming home to watch a reenactment of my day on TV. I live the madness! ;) My husband spends his days in court and won't watch courtroom dramas at home either, which I happen to find fascinating.

SK: Ah, yes, like the proverbial pizza maker who can't stand pizza.  If you had to describe yourself as a writer of one genre, what genre would that be? And what's been your experience with that literary community?

MC:  If I had to commit to one genre, I would go with mystery/crime since my second book also falls into that category. I feel like I've been pretty isolated as an author thus far, mostly because my full time job leaves me little time to network or to read other authors' works. Inevitably I have to choose between writing, reading or marketing myself.

SK: Oh, that's no good!  Hopefully we'll get you less isolated with some interviews like this and so forth.  Florida is quite a sea change from New England. Do you ever have/had any culture shock?

MC:  I grew up in the suburbs of New York and spent every summer of my childhood on the Jersey shore; so I suppose it was no surprise that I fell in love with the beaches of Florida on my honeymoon, where my husband and I have resided since 1988. In 2008, we rented a summer cottage on the coast of Maine, the setting of MAHALAS LANE. I was fascinated by the culture and the unique topography of the region. I'd written for many destinations over the years in my specialty field of tourism marketing and yet, of all places, I was compelled to write a novel based on this location.

SK: Very cool.  So what's next for Marianne Cushing?

MC:  As I mentioned, I am currently working on my second novel. It will be a sequel to MAHALAS LANE, taking the main characters to Charleston, South Carolina, where they will find themselves in the midst of a horrific crime that will either shatter their once perfect world or help them discover their true destinies.

SK: Well, thanks for being with us today, Marianne. I usually like to leave the last question an open forum for you to give a shout-out to your fans or say something we didn't get to cover in the interview but you'd like to put out there.

MC:  Thank you so much for inviting me on Across The Board. I've enjoyed answering your questions. I have found that the most fun part of being an author is the opportunity to meet new people who love to read! I hope your readers will stop by my Facebook page and say hello.


Exhausted and dismayed, Madi Lyons arrives on the rocky shores of Maine, hoping for a relaxing respite from Madison Avenue’s relentless grind. Twelve-hour days and the sudden news of her best friend’s engagement have the aspiring creative director’s head spinning. Shortly after settling in at the quaint rental cottage, she is awoken by the local sheriff with startling news: A woman has been murdered on her private beach. A violent encounter next door and an elusive stranger draw Madi deeper into Mahalas Lane’s mysterious past, while a magnetic attraction propels her into the sheriff’s welcoming arms. Will she find the solace she seeks, or will a small town’s dark secrets cost her the ultimate sacrifice—the love of her life?

About Marianne Cushing

Marianne’s career as a professional writer has spanned more than 25 years, 15 of those at the helm of her award winning advertising agency. She currently serves as copy director for the women’s intimate apparel brand, Soma, a division of Chico’s FAS. Her debut novel, MAHALAS LANE, was inspired by her real life 2008 stay in the Maine cottage on the lane that bears the novel’s name. She resides in Fort Myers, Florida, with her husband, daughter and their four fur babies.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Resident nerd reporting for duty!

Hey everyone! Since this is my first post, let me introduce myself. I'm Mary, and I've been coerced... errrr... persuaded... I mean... I've volunteered.... to join Across the Board as a sci-fi/fantasy blogger. Why me? Well, because I am a huge nerd. Not only do I consume sci-fi/fantasy like nobody's business, I also write it.

Why sci-fi/fantasy? Because it takes you out of this world and shows you wonders. It lets you explore new universes and see things unbounded by the rules of this world. And I want magic. I want spaceships, and fairy dust, and swordfights, and alien technology... I want the things I can't find in my humdrum life.

Fantasy is arguably the oldest of all genres, since the most ancient of tales we have all involve the supernatural. Gods and creatures and wizards... From the dawn of time, humans have been spinning stories about things that, rationally speaking, could never happen. Sci-fi, meanwhile, asks the question of "what if" and looks to the future, daring to speculate about tomorrow.

Sci-fi/fantasy also allows people to explore grander concepts - of good and evil, of what makes one human, of true love's power - through tales unbounded by the fences of what's "realistic." In a way, it elevates its characters. They can be heroes in a grand sense, saving the world from the wicked, or proving the power of loyalty, or falling to the temptations of power. The real world is restrained by what's feasible. And it's full of annoying "nos." No, you can't wave your hand and open a portal to another dimension. No, unicorns don't exist, and you certainly can't ride one. It would take you a half a lifetime to reach the edges of our star system - not that you could get funding for it - let alone find alien planets. Which are star-baked rocks of death. So no, you can't meet aliens. No, no, no.

Well, to the Underworld with no. That's what sci-fi/fantasy says. Anything is possible, and as long as it follows its own set of rules within its universe, anything is believable. The really great world-builders make their stories come to life because it feels real, even when physics and biology and whatnot say it can't be. Okay, so Einstein said we can't travel faster than light. Sci-fi writers send their spaceships across galaxies anyway - without time dilation - because it makes for a hella exciting ride. In a way, sci-fi/fantasy is an act of defiance.

Perhaps someday, I'll decide I want to write something that could plausibly happen, here on earth, in actuality, but for now, I'm sticking with my dreamworlds. In fact, at this point in time, I can't imagine not writing something that involves magics or technologies beyond this world. I love to come up with far-fetched ideas and look for ways to make them believable. Hence why everything I've ever written has taken place either in the far future or a distant fantasyland.

Anyway, you can look forward to a lot more nerdy posts from yours truly - about writing, about books, about sci-fi/fantasy stuff in general. And I hope you'll find it entertaining and/or helpful.

So live long and prosper. And may the Force be with you. Meanwhile, I aim to misbehave.

I am an elf.
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