Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Writer's Block: Week 4 Wrap-Up

In case you missed it, here is a run-down of the authors who visited The Writer's Block this week.

On Monday, Gail E. Hedrick was our guest blogger who offered an original piece entitled "Poised".

On Tuesday, we were joined by children's book author/illustrator Nancy Carlson who shared her latest work, I Like Me.

On Wednesday, Braxton Cosby introduced his Star-Crossed Saga series and its first installment, Protostar.

Then on Thursday, we were introduced to Inda Lauryn and the many contributions she is making to the world of literature--including the Black Swan Artist Collective.

Rounding out the week on Friday, Maranda Russell shared how she broke into the children's picture book market with Ode to Icky.

Please stop by and read these author's stories. Feel free to leave a comment, visit their websites, or buy their books. I hope that you learned something new this week! I always do.

If you are an author looking to share your work and build your platform, consider interviewing with The Writer's Block!

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Maranda Russell

1) Describe your journey as an author/writer.
I have been writing for many years, and although I have had some success over the years getting poems, essays and short stories published in adult publications, I had the hardest time breaking into the children's market.  Finally, Mirror Publishing accepted my submission for my picture book Ode to Icky last year, which seemed to open the floodgates so to say.  Since then I have signed contracts with two other publishers for picture books, so I'm finally starting to see some of my hard work pay off!  I have also self-published two ebooks entitled In Memory of Dad and Weezie, the Elephant with Allergies.  These two stories would probably have been hard to sell to a traditional publisher, but I felt that both stories really needed to be told, so I took the plunge and self-published them.   

2) Do you specialize in any particular genre(s)?  
I tend to either write children's books that are funny or ones that address important social, emotional and personal issues.  Ode to Icky is really just a fun, silly story.  In Memory of Dad deals with the subject of grief and loss, and Weezie, the Elephant with Allergies is about adoption, acceptance and unconditional love.

3) Who are your favorite authors? How do they inspire your work?  
Edgar Allan Poe is my all-time favorite.  I think his lyrical prose style influenced me greatly, plus I just love psychological horror stories, even though I don't really write those myself.  Other authors I really like include JK Rowling, Mo Willems, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Frances Hodgson Burnett and Emily Dickinson.  As you can see, I love the classics!

4) Tell us about your most current project. 

Most recently released is my picture book Ode to Icky, a picture book about a cat with some terrible hygiene issues and his owner, Candy, a clever little girl who finds a way to make her pet's problems work for her.  

My work in progress is about two abandoned kittens, it is loosely based on two cats that we found sick and abandoned in our church parking lot.  I am hoping that the story will maybe make people think twice about just dumping their pets when they don't want them anymore. 

5) How did you choose your publisher? Describe that process.
I chose Mirror mainly because they were the first to offer to publish one of my picture books.  The other two publishers that I have signed contracts with (4RV and Wandering Sage Publications) were publishers that my fellow author friends had used, so I decided to give them a try!

6) How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most successful?
I do online promotion, especially for my ebooks, but I find that personal contact is key in selling physical books.  I've sold far more copies of "Ode to Icky" personally than I have online.  I think people just want that personal interaction with authors and they love to get signed copies.

7) What else have you written/published?
Besides Ode to Icky, In Memory of Dad and Weezie, the Elephant with Allergies, I have only been published in literary magazines and online publications geared more for adults.  I did recently sell a children's poem to Stories for Children Magazine.

8) What do you plan to accomplish in 2012?  
I would love to see sales of all my books rise (what author wouldn't lol).  I would really like to win an award, but we'll see how that goes.  I guess I need to figure out which ones I should apply for first!  I also plan on self-publishing another ebook or two and will hopefully find homes for my other picture book manuscripts.

9) What advice would you give to budding writers?
Never give up.  That is the most important thing.  Know that it will take a lot of work, but you can make your dreams come true.  Secondly, never skimp on quality.  Make sure everything that you put out there for the public to see is your absolute best.    

10) What is your definition of success as a writer?
Being able to make a living doing it.  Not sure I'm really there quite yet, but I'm certainly on my way!  

Author Bio

 Maranda Russell now resides near Dayton, Ohio. She is a children's author and book reviewer, a foster parent, a part-time substitute teacher and an enthusiastic lover of cereal and ice cream. She currently writes stories for children based on the experience she has gained as a teacher, foster parent and former child. Of course, the "former" part is questionable since this author still enjoys indulging her "inner child" on a regular basis.

To find out more about this author, her books and the daily challenges of being a writer and a foster parent, please visit her website,

Twitter Handle: @Shojobeatgirl
 Facebook Link:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Inda Lauryn

1)      Describe your journey as an author/writer.
The journey for me has been more spiritual than a process for me. I
have always loved books and I always liked to write. It never
occurred to me to write fiction before a few years ago after I left
graduate school even though I started writing short stories and
screenplays while still in my studies.  However, once I started
getting stories onto paper, I could not stop. I felt as if I found my
calling. I have lots of stories that are waiting to get out, so I just take them one at a time.

2)      Do you specialize in any particular genre(s)?

I write in any and all genres, so I don't specialize in any one.  I
have written straight literature and suspense as well as fantasy and
paranormal fiction.  The genre depends on the story that needs to be
told and even that may change in the process of writing it.

3)      Who are your favorite authors? How do they inspire your work?

My favorite authors are Gayl Jones and Zora Neale Hurston. My favorite
book of all time is Octavia Butler's Kindred.  The one thing all these
writers have in common is that they all tell incredible stories about
black women.  Also, I love their writing style.  Other than that they
dare to portray black women in ways we do not typically see in the
media, I cannot say they have a direct effect on my work.  They
inspire me to aspire to a higher level of storytelling and character
development in my own work, but I try to maintain my own style and try
to stay true to my voice and vision with the characters I create.

4)      Tell us about your most current project, The Innocence of Others.
Is this your first published work?

The Innocence of Others is not my first work, but the fourth.  In Time
is literary fiction, The People in My Head is a collection of short
stories and One Last Dance, Little Sister? is a work of suspense.  My
current work is a collection of three novellas with crime as a common
theme.  However, as with all my work, the focus turns to
relationships, family and trust, which I notice are themes in most of
my work.  With this book, I explored friendship and romantic
relationships and considered women who get caught up with crime on
both sides of the law.

5)      How did you choose your publisher? Describe that process.

I am self-published. I thought about going through the more
"traditional" route, but I am something of a control freak. I decided
the best way I could remain true to my vision and establish a
relationship with readers was to go directly to them.  One of the
benefits of this process is that I am learning a lot about what
readers want and how they respond to newer writers on the market.
Otherwise, there is not a lot I can say about that process since I am
still learning.

6)      How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most
So far I have done most of my promotion through social networking such
as Facebook and Twitter.  I have also gotten back into blogging
through Tumblr where I primarily promote my project The Black Swan
Collective.  Sometimes offering free samples and even free full books
can generate some interest.  I have found submitting to book clubs for
reviews to be useful as well as they consist of avid readers willing
to give honest reviews on the books they read whether or not you are
an "established" writer.

7)      Tell us about

Conceding to Kismet is not only my website but the under which I
publish all my work and pursue all my endeavors.  While the primary
focus right now is promoting my writing, I do hope to get back into
independent scholarship and create a space for black women and girls
to not only consume alternative images in media but also learn more
about analyzing and criticizing them.  This is one of the long term
goals I have for the website.  Also, I have gotten a project I have
been working on called the Black Swan Artist Collective underway in
which I promote all kinds of artists who do not receive the kind of
mainstream attention they deserve.  I am hoping to spend the year on
this project and if something comes of it, I hope to continue it
beyond the end of the year.

8)      What do you plan to accomplish in 2012?
I am hoping to see more interest in my writing.  I am working on
creating more ways to promote my work since my resources have
previously been limited.  I have another manuscript already finished
and plan to have another completed by the end of February, so I will
spend a lot of time editing and proofreading these works.  Of course,
I will continue growing the Collective and make new connections with
all kinds of artists.

9)      What advice would you give to budding writers?

Don't ever get the flu.  You'll be miserable.  As for writing advice,
I would not give anything definite because no matter how many books
you read or whatever kind of degree you get in writing, you will still
need to create your own voice and no one can teach you how to do that.

10)   What is your definition of success as a writer?

I think success will depend individually upon everyone.  If your goal
is to write something true to yourself, then your measure of success
is completely subjective.  As for me, I plan to keep pushing myself,
so my bar of success will probably continue to move along with it.

Author Bio

Inda Lauryn is constantly changing the soundtrack of her life. She is
the author of three books In Time, The People in My Head and One Last
Dance, Little Sister?
with the latest novella collection The Innocence
of Others
. She will be releasing her next novel, the paranormal tale
Blood Tastes Sweet very soon. Although she has been writing since her
childhood, she only recently decided to pursue her first love as a
professional endeavor. A lifelong music and movie lover, she
frequently cites her favorite artists and films in her work, drawing
inspiration as well as exploring their effect on society. She is
currently working on a an afro-gothic novel, two fantasy series, a
screenplay and two sequels featuring characters found in the work In
Time, hoping to contribute to the ever-expanding representations of
African-American women in literature.

Feel free to visit the website and to find samples of her work, leave
feedback and get to know the Kismet experience.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Braxton Cosby

1)  Describe your journey as an author/writer

It has been a straight whirlwind. I’m having a hard time keeping dates and times in order. It all began on an unassuming Sunday back in the fall of 2010. I was sitting in the church listening to the Bishop preach and he said that God was telling him that he wanted someone to do something but no one was asking for the vision. I began to start praying what God may want me to do and I immediately heard a voice in my head say, “Write a book.” I began sketching out the plot to Protostar right there in church on the back of the church handout. I went home and researched how this author thing works and began to create the outline for the first book of The Star-Crossed Saga series. After that, I started writing and three months later I had a 99 thousand word manuscript to start editing and submitting to agents. After a few submissions, I decided to submit my work directly to Firefly (a local publisher here in Atlanta, GA). I sent the first five chapters and they loved it. One year later, Protostar was released and I’ve just been humbled by the overall response to it.

2)  Do you specialize in any particular genre(s)? 

Um, I am a big fan of Young Adult. I feel that young people love to sink their teeth into a good, fresh, inventive story. They are not afraid to believe in fictional characters that exist in imaginary worlds. They don’t ask the silly questions that some adults do, but they explore the stories and just enjoy the ride.

3)  What is The Star-Crossed Saga: Protostar about? 

At its heart, Protostar is the beginning of a story that encompasses the ideal of pure love. It’s the kind of love that happens between two people that ordinarily have no reason at all to fall in love. Out of pure chaos and impracticability, love is created. Once it is, these two people (William and Sydney) find themselves plunged into a place of fatalistic decisions and scientific mayhem. It’s the birth of a story that is a new spin on the doomed love made famous by Romeo and Juliet, but with modern teen themes and real-life scientific applications. It will introduce the main and secondary characters of the series and the reader will get a sense of the setting, timeline and depth and impact of the decisions they make going forward.

4)  What else can we expect in the future from The Star-Crossed Saga book series? 

You can expect the next book to pick right up where the first one (Protostar- cliffhanger ending) left off. There will be more characters introduced, back stories revealed, new worlds explored, story arcs connected, and even more twists than the first novel. The sequel is going to be bigger because the detail the surrounds the characters has to be explained in order to set up the third book. Fans of the first will not be disappointed. Also, William’s story really opens up and we get to see him in both of his roles of a bounty hunter and a prince.

5)  Where do you find inspiration for your novels?  

Straight from God. I usually create outlines for my books that have maybe one or two lines of story. Then, as I start writing, the inspiration comes and before you know it, I’ve written 10-15 pages of text. I also love to watch movies. I write with a level of rich detail, so that the images in my mind come off the page for the reader.

6  )How has your uncle, the legendary Bill Cosby, influenced you as an author?  

He is an amazing storyteller. All of his standup routines and creative ideals have matriculated down into my genes as well. He is also very supportive of my work and has always encouraged me to set goals and press towards meeting them. He has really gotten behind Protostar and we are currently planning co-book signings for his new book and my novel.

7)  How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most successful?

I do a lot of book signings, public speaking engagements, radio interviews, social media outlets (Twitter), press releases, blog tours, and book reviews.

8)  What advice would you give to budding writers? 

DO three things: Find the vision, receive the inspiration and believe in it no matter what. A few bad reviews do not spoil the entire bunch. Staying with what you stand behind is an amazing place to be.

9)  What is your definition of success as a writer? 

Seeing my book get reviews from people that never knew anything about me and just love every word I put into text. Those people who don’t have anything to gain from liking or disliking my work and just really getting excited about it and telling me they can’t wait for the next book. Of course, a big publishing book deal wouldn’t hurt either. I would love to do this exclusively one day so that I can get the many stories I already have locked away into the hands of the public.

10)  What can we expect from you in 2012? 

 BIG THINGS! Starting with the co-book signings and then working through my new series (secret) that I started on while The Star-Crossed Saga continues to gain momentum. God is going to make this a fabulous year.

Author Bio

Braxton A. Cosby is a dreamer with a vision of continuously evolving and maximizing the untapped potential of the human spirit. Braxton received a lot of his inspiration from watching the accomplishments and exploits of his famous uncle, comedic legend Bill Cosby. A physical therapist by background, Braxton received his Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate from the University of Miami. Braxton’s fascination of science grew into an obsession of Sci-fi and on one unassuming Sunday, this self-proclaimed romantic decided to pursue a “calling” to create a new genre of writing; Sci-Fance- mixing science fiction and romance. Braxton lives in Georgia with his wife and two children. He believes that everyone should pursue joy that surpasses understanding and live each day as if it were the last.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Nancy Carlson

1)     Describe your journey as a children’s author/illustrator.

I started as an illustrator but after two books was encouraged by my editor to try and write my own.

2)     Are you a writer who illustrates or an illustrator who writes?

I am an illustrator who writes.

3)     Tell us about your first published children’s book. What was the inspiration for it?

My first published book was HARRIET'S RECITAL It was inspired by a my own childhood recital.

4)     How did you go about getting it published?

In 1978, I showed my artwork to Carolrhda Books. They hired me to illustrate my first book which was on the history of Halloween.

5)     Describe your body of work as an author.

The majority of my 61 published books are written and illustrated by me. Most have a positive message most solve a simple problem, I also have many theme books out like my best seller I LIKE ME.

6)     How have you promoted your books and artwork? What strategies have been the most effective?

In the old days by speaking all over! Now I speak all over, post a daily drawing on my blog and Facebook. I also tweet and post  news on my Facebook page. I also send send out 5 or 6 mass emails to my list. You have to do all to be effective!

7)     Do you think that eBooks are a viable format for children’s picture books?

No, but they might become viable in the future. Who knows how it will all evolve?

8)     What advice would you give to budding author/illustrators?

Draw everyday, write everyday!  Do free things like school posters and stuff for churches, etc. Join The Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators.

9)     What is your definition of success?

That kids think my books are awesome!

10)  What is next for you in 2012?

Trying to get a book published and working on my artwork!

Author Bio

Nancy Carlson is an accomplished children's book author and illustrator who has published more than 60 books. She is one of the few people who knew even back in kindergarten what she wanted to do for a living: "Make pictures and tell stories!"

Nancy is a life-long Minnesotan. Born and raised in Edina, Minnesota, Nancy had a happy and fulfilling childhood surrounded by an outgoing family. Her parents read to her and her brother and sister every night. The comic books she loved to read as a child have influenced her style of drawing and use of color. Many of Nancy's stories are taken from her own childhood experiences.

Nancy graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a major in printmaking, and shortly afterward became fascinated with children's books while working at Minneapolis's Walker Art Center. Nancy began to write her own stories and created accompanying drawings. It wasn't long before she found herself approaching publishers with her own ideas for children's books. She had numerous art exhibitions before getting into the publishing world and her artwork is held in many private and public collections. Recognition for her published work includes several Reading Rainbow selections, the Children's Choice Award from the International Reading Association and Children's Book Council, the Minnesota Children's Museum Great Friends to Kids Award and several others.

Nancy believes that life should be fun for everyone, but especially for children. This optimistic message permeates her picture books and provides a positive counterpoint to much of what children are influenced by in today's society. Her characters aren't always perfect. They often have fears, anxieties, and disabilities. Through her books, kids learn to cope with different challenges. They can learn that they don't have to be perfect to be a good person. Her characters also convey positive messages without being "preachy". They gently remind children what is right.

Nancy is also a guest author and illustrator at over 150 school classrooms each year, and has touched the lives of thousands of children across the country.

Today, Nancy lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children, and her dog named Lily. Nancy's entire family is into sports and enjoys the outdoors. Nancy herself enjoys running, hiking, biking, swimming, skiing and golf.



Twitter @drawstuff

Monday, January 30, 2012

Guest Blogger: "Poised" by Gail E. Hedrick

Poising over a blank piece of paper is like standing on a mountain rock. If I move will I land on something solid or just keep falling until I destroy myself on the shaft of a pine tree? Should I write what I’m thinking of like boy, this has been a day to remember? Invent something or vent frustration at an unjust problem? Or, close the notebook and say no one was home today.

Of course, there’s always someone home, but sometimes I’m not a very willing resident. Thoughts speed around like miniature missiles too fast to capture so they never get saved. Thoughts get buried like the favorite old sweater stuffed in the cedar chest. They are well-worth the trouble of pulling out if I only take the time and energy. Thoughts need to simmer like a good stew on a back burner, but I shouldn’t ignore them or they could dry up.

                        Sometimes, it takes silence to shake a thought loose. When I’m driving the car, they want to spring out like a child’s Jack in the Box.  A walk, alone, comes close to a sure success for bringing my thoughts to the surface, but then when I write them down they sometimes take on a life of their own. Like a pinball slamming off a side rail, my idea can take on a new slant or travel a better path than I initially imagined. Perhaps the first step is the biggie; committing to actively move forward. I’ll place my foot on that smooth rock and see if my grip holds. So join me. We’ll grab tight to our pencils and our thoughts will land safely.
Gail lives with her husband in Florida.  She collects seashells and sometimes a rock from every place they visit.  She likes to walk, swim, bicycle, exercise, kayak, and read, of course!  

Books by Gail:
Danger at Baird’s Den
Solstice Publishing
Find her at:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

You'll Never Guess Who's on the Writer's Block This Week!

Monday, January 30, 2012: Our second guest-blogger on The Writer's Block is Gail E. Hedrick, author of Danger at Baird's Den. This is Gail's second appearance on The Writer's Block!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012: Nancy Carlson reveals how she transitioned from illustrator to author/illustrator of over 60 children's books!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012: Braxton Cosby, nephew of the legendary Bill Cosby and creator of a new genre "Sci-fance" (science fiction and romance), shares his journey to becoming an author.

Thursday, February 2, 2012: Inda Lauryn is expanding the contributions of African-American women in literature one genre at a time. Explore the many projects she has in the works.

Friday, February 3,2012: Maranda Russell  is "a children's author and book reviewer, a foster parent, a part-time substitute teacher and an enthusiastic lover of cereal and ice cream."

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...