Friday, June 18, 2010

FAN-tastic Friday: Shannon Whitney Messenger

GLM: Hello, I’m Gina Leigh Maxwell and you’re listening to Passions on Paper on WPOP, the blogosphere’s hit station for paranormal romance and beyond.

The theme of today’s show is FAN-tastic Friday and I’m very excited to have one of my favorite fans with us in the studio today. She’s the Cat Girl from Southern Cal and a fellow triple-namer. She hates blogging and loves vlogging…please welcome Shannon Whitney Messenger to the show! *recorded track plays of applause and cheers*

Thanks so much for being here today, Shannon! It’s so great to have you with us.

SWM: Aw, thanks for having me Gina, it’s great to be here. Oh, but one tiny thing—I don’t actually love vlogging. It terrifies me. Like, a lot. And I love blogging. Reading comments from my followers is always one of the highlights of my day.

GLM: *exaggerated sigh* I’m so sorry, Shannon. I’m working with a new production assistant and he seems to have copied my notes wrong. *knocks on the glass of the studio* DL! Shannon hates vlogging. Not loves. Hates. *DL shrugs his shoulders and gives apologetic grin*

Okay, moving on, let’s start at the beginning. We actually have something in common, you and I. Although you studied art and film in college out in Hollywood, I studied musical theatre and dance in college in the hopes of one day making it to Hollywood. It wasn’t until halfway through my college career when I realized I was a terrible actress and abandoned that dream for another.

What was the deciding factor in changing from chasing the stars to writing about your own? And as a follow-up question, why don’t you have a studio filled with your artwork? The portrait sketches you feature on your blog are so amazing!

SWM: Oh boy, you start with the big guns right away, don’t you? :)

GLM: *DL flexes biceps proudly and waggles his eyebrows at Shannon* No, DL, she wasn’t referring to your guns. Sorry, Shannon. Go on.

SWM: Well…there were a lot of reasons why I left Hollywood, but I guess the major one was that I came to realize that I just didn’t love it enough. Hollywood has to be your LIFE if you want to be a success, and I wanted more than that. I didn’t want to spend 18 hours a day on set—and yes, the screenwriter is required to be on set most of the time. And I hated how all consuming the stress was. My poor boss—who was VP of Production for a television production company—used to leave himself voicemail messages at all hours of the night, because he’d wake up and realize there was something he needed to do and he needed a way to remember it. One of my first tasks every day was to try and decipher his half asleep mumblings. I didn’t want my life to become that way. I knew I couldn’t take the stress. So I walked away.

And aw, thank you for the compliment on my drawings. I actually did sell prints of my portraits for a while, but if there’s any business tougher to break into than publishing, it’s art. Plus I’d rather dedicate more time to writing.

GLM: Your super awesome blog, Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe, is so much fun to read. Not only do you have great posts about all-things-writing, you have tons of other great things on there as well. Some of my favorite posts are what you like to call Shannon Shame. Can you give our listeners the history of how Shannon Shame came about and some examples?

SWM: Ah, Shannon Shame, how do I hate thee? You know, it actually happened very gradually. I started to notice that the posts my followers seemed to enjoy the most were the ones where I’d relate some horrible, humiliating experience I’d had. So I created the label as a way to keep track of those posts. Then my followers started pushing for it and it just sort of became a thing, like, ‘how can we make Shannon humiliate herself this time?’

For example, I made the mistake of posting about the time I went on a game show and lost—horribly. After reading it, my followers made me promise that I would post a clip of it on my blog when my book sells, as a way of balancing the Universe for the success I’ve found. It almost makes me hope my book doesn’t sell. I’ve already endured the horrible vlog they made me make after I signed with my agent, and the game show clip is going to be so much worse. I mean, I have bangs in it. BANGS!

GLM: *LOL* Holy funny shite! I’ve never heard someone so distraught over bangs before. Now I have one more reason as to why I can’t wait for your book to sell!

You recently had a guest post on the Guide to Literary Agents blog on how you acquired your agent, Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Can you give us a brief synopsis of how it all went down and you ended up being the super agented author you now are?

SWM: Ooo—you said the “s” word. Don’t you know that word strikes fear into the heart of writers everywhere? It even sounds evil. Synopsisssssssss *shudders*

*DL yelps and hides under his desk.*

No, but seriously, it was a whirlwind process that I still have a hard time wrapping my head around. I met Laura at a conference and pretty much fell in love with her—even before I pitched my project and she requested a partial. She was just so sweet and approachable, which amazed me because she’s LAURA RENNERT—uber agent extraordinaire. I’d expected her to act more like she knew it.

But even though she’d been so awesome, I was still terrified to send her the pages she’d requested. I kept thinking there was no way someone like her would want to rep me (um…self confidence isn’t one of my strong-suits—just ask my CPs) and I wasn’t sure I could bear her rejection (given that I’d become such a Laura fangirl at the conference). So my friends had to kick my butt into gear on Twitter, with a #hitsend campaign that somehow got about forty people—including one of my favorite writers—pressuring me to send out my queries. Took about half an hour to convince me (and #hitsend came very close to trending) but I finally caved in and sent the emails.

Two weeks later I had an offer of rep from Laura in my inbox and even three months later I still have a hard time believing it.

GLM: That’s amazing! A couple of years ago who would’ve ever thought a sentence like, “And I owe it all to Twitter” would actually make sense! *recorded track plays of applause and cheers* Uh, DL, that wasn’t really needed right there, but thanks anyway.

Shannon, you write Middle Grade Fantasy. I know your current book is super hush-hush until it sells, so instead can you give us a description of the genre itself and some generic examples of what one might find in a Middle Grade Fantasy?

SWM: Well, it’s probably one of the most well known categories out there, thanks to a little series called Harry Potter—maybe you’ve heard of it? And there are a lot of different approaches to the genre, but my favorite are the books where you follow a kid who finds out about a secret world within our world, where magic and fairytales all come together. My project *hopefully* puts its own spin on that, but you’ll have to decide when you can finally read it.

GLM: I have to admit I’m really excited that my kids are at the perfect age for that genre. I can’t wait to buy your book and say, “Here’s a book you’ll love! It was written by Mommy’s friend.” :) My daughter already thinks she’s a celebrity because she made friends with a Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher who lives next to us.

As I mentioned in your introduction, you’re a fellow “triple-namer”. A lot of writers (including myself) struggled with their author names, or even whether or not to use a pen name. Did you consider using other names before settling on your full name? Was there a specific reason for going with a triple-decker?

SWM: LOL. Funny thing: I actually haven’t decided on my publishing name yet—which is why I’m a triple-decker. I’ve had a few people tell me that Shannon Messenger doesn’t have the right ‘ring’ to it (yeah, I know. I always try not to be insulted by that). I have no idea if a publisher will feel that way too, but if they do, I always figured I’d go with Shannon Whitney. So I use my middle name in my profile so everyone’s used to seeing it—just to cover my bases.

GLM: That was good thinking! When you sell your book (which, seriously, should be any day now) and you’re officially a published author, will you change the name of your blog since you’ll no longer be in the “wannabe” category?

SWM: Ha! I’ve wondered about that myself. When I started the blog I never thought I’d make it out of the ‘wannabe’ stage, so I didn’t really consider that I might run into problems someday. But honestly, I think I’ll always feel like a wannabe. Whenever I read other people’s writing it makes me want to throw rocks at my own (or delete my draft and flee to Mexico to start a new life as a maraca player.) So I think I’ll probably keep the name. It’ll remind me of my roots--that once upon a time I was just a rambling nobody telling the stories in my head and hoping that somebody would read them someday.

GLM: Wow, it’s no wonder you didn’t feel comfortable in Hollywood. You’re way too sweet and grounded for a dog-pit like that.

You and several other bloggers recently announced a breakthrough idea called WriteOnCon. For those who don’t yet know about it, tell us what that is exactly and how it’s going to work.

SWM: The seven of us are all about paying it forward—and we all had friends tell us they wished they could go to writer’s conferences, but simply couldn’t afford it. So we decided to create our own, a totally, 100% free writer’s conference, held online so everyone can attend.

GLM: *recorded track plays of applause and cheers* Thanks, DL! That was actually really appropriate. A totally free online conference – that’s such a phenomenal idea, Shannon! Do you think the founding group will branch out to hosting other genres as well? And if not, would you be terribly upset (like have you patented this idea and can I expect to hear from your attorney) if other genre-like-minded got together and did their own version? *strokes chin and looks off into space as the wheels begin to turn…then slaps self as a reminder that self is busy enough as it is!*

SWM: It sort of depends on the success of the first conference—though it’s looking like it’s going to be AWESOME. We have some amazing things happening, but we’re waiting to announce until it’s been finalized a bit more. *smiles mysteriously*

And sure, the more free online conferences, the better. Though I warn you, this project is not for the feint of heart. I knew it would be a lot of work, but WOW is it ever. We’ve all pretty much planned on not having lives until the conference is over—but that’s okay. Seeing everyone’s enthusiasm, and knowing that we’re creating something that will help so many writers is definitely worth the effort.

GLM: Let’s play a quick little game I like to call “Tomato-Tomahto”. Ready? Here we go.

I say: Dark Cherry Mocha from Starbucks (favorite drink)
You say: Pepsi. I can’t drink coffee, so it’s my primary source of caffeine.
I say: Chocolate Devotion from Cold Stone Creamery (favorite treat)
You say: Cupcakes. Any flavor. Any time. Preferably with extra frosting.
I say: Gena Showalter (favorite published author)
You say: Rick Riordan
I say: The Sweetest Thing (favorite movie)
You say: Pirates of the Caribbean (um, hello, Johnny Depp AND Orlando Bloom?)
I say: Shannon Whitney Messenger (favorite unpublished author)
You say: Gina Leigh Maxwell. Obviously! :)

GLM: Fantastic! I haven’t had that much fun since I laughed at all of the Pittsburghers trying to drive in the snow!

Well, folks, I’m getting the “wrap it up” signal from DL – oh, wait…no, sorry, he’s just got himself tangled up in a roll of packaging tape. At any rate, it’s time for all of you who aren’t already one of the hundreds of Shannon followers to head on over to her blog and click that button. I guarantee you, you won’t regret adding her to your blog roll (if only for the frequent viewings of Shannon Shame *stage-wink*).

Thank you so much, Shannon, for joining us here at Passions on Paper. It was an honor having you with us and I hope you’ll come back to visit when you’re finally allowed to tell us all about your super-awesome book!

SWM: Definitely! And thank you so much for having me. I hope I haven’t lulled all your followers to sleep with my rambling answers.

GLM: You’re right. We need to work on your self-esteem, girl. Get with the program - you so totally rock!

Until the next episode of Passions on Paper where I’ll be featuring another lucky fan (and most likely another production assistant), this is Gina Leigh Maxwell saying, “May all your passions be paranormal ones. Good night, everyone.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wee-Bit Wednesday

Welcome to the 5th installment of

Wee-Bit Wednesday!

Today is the beginning tidbit from Chapter 13. This is a dream (hence the use of italics to differentiate it from the rest of the chapter) that Angelica is having, which she discovers a little later is actually more of a telepathic communication than a dream. Jenni is one of her leukemia patients at the hospital, and the one she feels most bonded with by far.

As always, honest feedback is appreciated!


Angelica walked through a summer field of lush green grass that brushed against the fabric at her knees. She looked down at her blue hospital scrubs and white doctor’s coat. That was strange, she thought. Why would she be dressed for work while taking a leisurely stroll through a field?

The tinkling laughter of a child danced faintly in the breeze past her ears. She turned in a slow circle, but tall blades of grass sprinkled with wildflowers swaying gently on their thin stalks were the only ones that greeted her.

Just then the sun’s rays seemed to intensify, distracting her easily from her search. She closed her eyes, lifted her face to the azure sky and drank in its warmth as it spilled onto her skin. The delicate scents of the utopian flora swept through her body, leaving her more relaxed with every breath she took. Angelica could not remember a time when she had been more at peace.

Again she heard the peels of delight like an echo in the sky. Then a tiny voice called from behind her.

“Hello, Dr. Hart!”

Angelica spun around to see her favorite patient skipping waist deep in the tall emerald blades, wearing a beautiful yellow sun dress. Her golden brown curls danced around her face, her form had filled out with a healthy dose of baby fat and her amber eyes twinkled with the cherubic mischief of a happy child.

“Jenni!” she gasped in disbelief. “What happened to you? What’s going on?”

Jenni giggled as she gave Angelica’s hips a fierce hug. “I knew you would come. He told me that you might not, but I knew you would. You always come when I need you. And now here you are!” she exclaimed in an innocent matter-of-fact manner.

Angelica knelt down in front of the little girl and lightly held her shoulders. “Where is here, Jenni? I don’t understand.”

She smiled a baby-toothed grin that pushed her chubby cheeks up higher onto her face. “This is where I come when I sleep. Isn’t it pretty? Look, Dr. Hart, I’m not sick here.”

“No, sweetie, you’re not. You’re absolutely beautiful,” she agreed with a beaming smile, lifting a hand to finger some of her curls. “Jenni, who told you that I might not come?”

“The nice man that’s been talking to me today. I think he’s like your friend. I like him a lot, but he doesn’t talk to me very much. Not like you, Dr. Hart. You come talk to me even when you don’t have to. And I like that very, very much.”

Water rippled over the child’s eyes and spilled onto her cheeks, framing the smile that refused to diminish in this place of tranquility for Jenni.

Angelica swiftly pulled her into a loving embrace. This child had touched her in more ways than she would ever know. She didn’t understand why Jenni was meant to suffer so much in her short little life and sometimes it infuriated Angelica’s Mortal half, even as her Angelic half accepted He had a reason for everything.

“I’ll always be here for you, Jenni. I swear it to you.”

Jenni pulled away slightly to look into Angelica’s eyes. With a small smile that threatened to falter she pleaded softly, “Then wake up, Dr. Hart. I need you. Wake up…”


And there you have it. That segues into Dominic gently waking her up with the same verbal encouragement. She wakes up slightly discombobulated and then feels at a loss on how to act in the “awkward morning after” situation, not to mention she’s appalled that he’s there before she can correct her morning breath and shove a comb through her hair. It’s a super cute scene between them. One I really enjoyed writing. :)

Just as a small update about my WIP, I'm currently revising Chapter 14 out of 30. That's almost the half way point!!! I had hoped to be done with my revisions by the end of July, but it looks like I might be on track to finish sooner than that. I hope, I hope, I hope! I'm SO eager to get this puppy in the hands of my Betas.

Anyhoo – I know I may be letting you all down with this next announcement, but I’ve become a victim of my own success, so to speak. My FAN-tastic Fridays have gotten pretty popular and somehow I’ve managed to entertain all of you while promoting some of the greatest people in my blogosphere. Unfortunately, in an attempt to keep them fresh and individually tailored for each of my guests, they take a significant amount of time to put together.

I know I promised you an interview with the amazing and fabu, Shannon Whitney Messenger, but I’m pushing it back a week. She’ll be here next Friday, June 18th – I swear! And then, moving forward, I’ll be doing my FAN-tastic Fridays every other week to ensure each of my guests gets my utmost attention.

I can’t tell you how much I love that you all stop by my little ol' blog. And reading your comments make my day more than you can imagine. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Have a great rest of the week!

Friday, June 4, 2010

FAN-tastic Friday: Elana Johnson, Super-Author

More quick-witted than a comedian on speed…busier than a bee in a field of poppies…smarter than the average bear in the literary forest it’s…it’s…


*Elana flies into the studio, cape flapping behind her, and lands gracefully despite her skin-tight super-suit*

GL: Wow! I can’t tell you how excited I am that you’ve taken time out of your busy novice-aiding schedule to be with us today at Passions on Paper. I am a HUGE fan. Love the suit, by the way.

EJ: Well, I look my best in capes.

GL: I can’t disagree with that. Considering where you are now, it’s hard to believe you never set out to be a writer. Instead, you discovered your authorial love and talent through chronicling your life’s story. How did you make the transition from personal memoir to fiction and what made you desire publication?

EJ: The transition was pretty easy. I was basically an emotional mess, and writing helped get those things out. And when I was done, the angst in my real life had translated into a teenage girl (and what creature is more angsty than that? Uh…no one).

As for the quest for publication, let’s just say that I’m like a pitbull. Once I get a grip on something, I don’t let go—ever. So publication came naturally after finishing a novel.

GL: Well, that vice-like super jaw of yours definitely paid off in the end. How long did you query before you signed with your Super-Agent, Michelle Andelman?

EJ: 8 (very long) months.

GL: I’m sure that period of time wasn’t the most fun for you, but the rest of us get to benefit from it. You have an ebook called From the Query to the Call available on your Query Ninja blog, which has garnered excellent reviews as an inexpensive and invaluable tool for writers – not to mention each purchase comes with a FREE QUERY CRITIQUE from the one and only Query Ninja…YOU! When did you decide to moonlight as a ninja and how did that book come about?

EJ: Well, if you have to moonlight as something, a ninja is the way to go. When I decided to query my first novel for the second time, I needed a new query. And that’s when my quest for “the perfect query” began. About six months later, I started writing for the QueryTracker blog, and I shared what I’d learned about query letters. And that snowballed into the whole ebook, which discusses how to write a query letter, how to research agents, how to submit to them (electronically and snail mail), how to handle The Call, all of it. The ebook is based on my own experience and the experience of authors who’ve been through it all.

GL: What is the most common mistake you see when new writers create their queries?

EJ: Including too much information and forgetting to state the consequence.

GL: Hmm…too much information? I haven’t started writing any queries yet, but I’m pretty sure I won’t have a hard time with that particular issue. As you can tell, I’m not long-winded in the least. (Crap crap crap!!!)

Simon & Schuster is publishing your debut novel Control Issues in the summer of 2011! What did you do when you heard the news?

EJ: Well, I was still on the phone with my agent when my husband came home (he knew she was calling that day) and I wrote on one of my beloved sticky notes “Simon Pulse offered!” and held it up to him. Chaos ensued, silently, until we went to dinner that night. Guess what I ordered with my pot roast? A side of bacon. Yum.

GL: Mmmm, bacon – the food with which you gain all of your Super Strength, I’m told. If I had to guess, I’d say bran muffins would probably be your equivalent to kryptonite. I know they’re mine! Now that I’m on the whole yummy food kick, can you give us a tasty blurb about Control Issues and your super delicious main character, Jag Barque?

EJ: Control Issues is set in a world where Thinkers control the population and Rules aren’t meant to be broken. But one fifteen-year-old girl decides to shatter them all.

And to get a taste of Jag you can read his character interview from my blog. It starts with me being flustered and ends with him using mind control to stop me from talking any more! 

GL: That interview totally rocked! (Mental Note: bribe Super Villain to extract Jag Barque from Elana’s mind and keep him as mine…ALL MINE! Muuuaahahahahaaa!...)

*notices the weird look Elana’s giving me, clears throat*

Control Issues sounds amazing (and so does Jag) and I can’t wait to (read about Jag) snag a copy next summer (so Jag can live in MY head)!

Along with your Super-Author blog and the Query Ninja blog, you also contribute to The League of Extraordinary Writers, What Writers Read, the Query Tracker Blog AND maintain Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts! All of that is ON TOP of writing, critiquing queries and keeping up appearances with your alter ego as a regular human with a regular life. (Did I leave anything out, like saving stranded kittens in trees?) How on EARTH do you do it?!? Give us the rundown of a typical day in the super life of Elana Johnson, Super-Author.

EJ: Ha! Well, here’s my 24-hour schedule. We’ll start with sleep, since I enjoy sleeping more than anything.

11 PM – 7:00 (okay, 7:30) AM: sleep
7:30 – 8:30: get ready for work, kids for school
8:30 – 9:00: travel to work
9:00 – 2:15: work. Sometimes this means actual typing instruction. This is where I read most of my blogs. I hardly do any blog reading at home, so if it doesn’t get done at work, it doesn’t get done.
3:00: home with kidlet. Reading hour.
4:00: Boy kidlet home from school. I write/read/make dinner/get on forums, facebook, twitter, etc.
5:00 – 9:00: Family time. TV. Some more writing-related activities, usually answering emails or writing blog posts or doing a quick query crit. That kind of stuff.
9:00: Kids in bed, husband asleep on the couch – me, writing. Or chatting. Or whatever.
11:00: Bed.

That’s a weekday. Saturday – Monday, I don’t work, and that’s when I write all my blog posts, keep up with housecleaning, and get my Super-Suit repaired.

And I only saved that kitten that one time…

GL: That’s an unbelievable schedule! Mine is just like that…with the exception of the organization and the times and the fact that yours apparently works. Otherwise, totally identical. *sheepish grin*

Last, but not least, if you could choose any pre-published Paranormal Romance author to be your sidekick-in-training – based purely on writing talent and blogging charisma (and whether or not you want to leave this interview with a new nemesis) – who would it be?

EJ: Well, duh, Gina. You have the coolest cape on the planet. And I’ve heard rumor of some sweet shock spit, so yeah. The choice is pretty easy – you!

GL: Woo Hoo! My grandma will be so happy to hear you like the cape she crocheted for me! And I do have some pretty wicked shock spit. It puts a damper on kissing my husband, but comes in really handy when smiting one’s enemies.

Thanks so much for being here today, Elana. Your drive and success are beacons of hope against the gloomy clouds of doubt for all of us here in Pre-Published Metropolis.

EJ: Well, Batman has a cape too, so it’s pretty cool to be a beacon—right? Right.

GL: That’s all the time we have for today, but I’d like to remind everyone of where our blogosphere Super-Author can be found:

• Her Super-Hideout where you can find “all things Elana”

• A forum where she mingles with her followers

• Her Ninja School of Queries where she helps karate chop your query into top ninja shape

• The location which she helps track the queries

• Her Super-Space

• The book her face is on

• The place from which she perches and tweets to the masses

• Where she posts her literary treasures

• The Super-Headquarters of the literary faction she belongs to, The League of Extraordinary Writers

If you haven’t already, head on over to her sites and click as many follow buttons as you can find! And if you’re new to Passions on Paper, make sure you click MY Follow button over in the sidebar! (don’t make me beg people, just click on the button already, okay?)

Tune in next week – same PoP time, same PoP channel – for another episode of FAN-tastic Friday when I interview the lovely, agented Shannon Whitney Messenger!

We’ll return to your regularly scheduled blog-hopping after your brief messages in the comments section...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It's My Birthday & I'll Cry If I Want To

That's right, Blogosphere, you heard right...
against my better judgement, I'm informing you it's my birthday today.

Happy 33rd Birthday to me!

I don't normally advertise it, but I sprang up out of bed this morning (okay, more like my alarm would NOT shut up and I dragged my sorry butt out of bed from annoyance) and thought, "What the heck? I'll shout it to the world before anyone else has the opportunity. That way I'M in control! Muuaahahahahaaaa." Well, maybe that's not exactly what I thought, but we'll go with it for now.

So for my birthday demands wish I'd like to hear birthday stories from all of you!

What's your favorite or funniest or worst or craziest birthday story?