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Featured Writer Friday: Angi Black

Angi Black

This week’s featured writer is Angi Black, who is also a freelance editor for Wise Owl Words and a literary intern.  She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about her craft!

About Angi (in her own words): Originally a Mid-westerner and professional dancer-singer-actress, I now teach dance and theater in Southern Louisiana at a Performing Arts school. I volunteer way too much and make treats for people to bribe them into loving me. I’m quite good at it, so it has a great success rate. I also mom and wife and write words as often as I can squeeze them in.

About Angi’s writing: Angi writes both New Adult and Adult fiction.  She loves a slow burn romance and writes in a very realistic style. Especially important are the little daily details that make up relationships (not just romantic ones).  She explores what happens after the traditional happily ever after moment. You’ll never find insta-love in her books and there’s always a best friend. And usually, you’ll find her characters loving coffee or cupcakes.


Diana: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Angi: I’ve always written, but I was a dancer. I was that girl with a notebook and pencil at all times. Scraps of paper with things jotted down in every pocket and bag. The collector of quotes and words. When I was 21 I suffered a serious injury in the show I was doing. While I was laid up healing, words like ‘never dance again’ got tossed around. Obviously, I did dance, but in the lag time was the first time I considered being a writer. I didn’t really think about it again as a profession until I chose to stay home with my kids after they were born. I sat down and put a bunch of words and ideas into a story. After that, I couldn’t stop. I knew it’s what I wanted to do.

Diana: What drew you to write New Adult Fiction?

Angi: It’s what I’ve always written, it just didn’t ‘exist.’ haha. It’s such a funny thing to me that plenty of books were on the shelves about high school and plenty about adults but there wasn’t anything about the college years, the in-between. It was almost like the literary missing link. That age has so many firsts. It might not be your first love, but it’s usually the first love that could last. You live on your own. Maybe your first house even. Buying a car without your parents. The laundromat, grocery store, trusting yourself to make it to school and work. For some, paying your bills.

It’s a time where so much of what you’ve been exposed to growing up takes hold and shapes you into the adult you’re going to be. I love it. I wasn’t a fan of high school, and though I do love YA fiction, I really love that time in your life after Prom. And I love living those moments over and again.

Diana: What do you like to do for fun when you aren’t writing?

Angi: Create things. I love to craft and paint and draw and dance. I read. I watch certain TV shows and movies. And music. Music is my happy place. And baking!!

Diana: What do you find to be the hardest/easiest part about writing?

Angi: The hardest part about writing is letting go of my characters once the story is done. I get really attached. Because of that, sometimes I have a hard time moving on to the next book because I’m still stuck in the last one.  The easiest? The easiest part of writing for me is the drafting. I hate revision (although I see its value and I do it willingly) with a passion. The next new shiny is always there, waving at me to come write it. But I can draft like the wind and I love it.

Diana: Based on your experience, what advice would you give other writers?

Angi: Three things. 1)Don’t quit. And if you’ve revised ten times and someone says “It’s almost there”, don’t think “I suck!” Get in there and revise again. 2) Don’t rush. This industry is one of patience. 3) Don’t write to make money. Write because you must, because you need the words, because you love it.

Diana: If you could spend the day with a fictional character, who would it be and why? And what would you do?

Angi: I have two, because you know, reasons. The first is Lestat. I want to pick his brain because he’s seen so much and experienced everything. plus, for a vampire that will rip your throat out, he’s still pretty dreamy.  What would we do? I’d probably spend part of the time convincing him not to kill me, but after that, walk around NOLA or Paris and let him tell me how it was back in the day. Then I’d ask him to sing to me.

The second is Turtle Wexler from The Westing Game. She’d be all grown up now. I’d like to see what she did with her money from Westing and how life had been since then. I’d like to think we’d hang out at the old Westing place talking about the mystery she lived through and I’ve read a hundred times. It just seems like a great day.

Diana: Do you plan out your stories, or do you sit down at your computer and see where your story takes you? 

Angi: Yes. haha. I’m a pantser, but I’ve been plotting more and more. And I admit, the plotting does help alleviate plot holes. But sometimes I just sit down and let the words fall out of my head. I feel like the story needs to be organic and I have trouble achieving that at times with a plot in front of me. Too much of a rigid outline makes it hard to move where the story takes me. So that answer was clear as mud. I do what the story calls for. (pantser!)
Diana: Thanks so much for the interview, Angi!  Lots of great advice for writers out there.  And I loved your take on the New Adult genre.
Angi: Thanks so much for interviewing me!
You can learn more about Angi Black and her work on the web:
Angi is also a member of The Writer Diaries, a leader for #Writeclub with @FriNightWrites and a blogger at All The Write Notes.
Links to  Writer Diaries: http://thewriterdiaries.com/
All the write notes: http://allthewritenotes.com/


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Featured Writer Friday: Abby Cavenaugh

Even though I typically don’t read romance novels, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview fellow NC writer Abby Cavenaugh.  Before I get to my chat with Abby, here’s a quick look at her book Going Home Again (published by Swoon Romance).

Review: It’s not every day a girl gets a second chance with a high school crush.  But that day finally arrives for Alyssa Jones twenty years after she first set eyes on Michael Day, who went from popular guy in school to pop star sensation.  He’s returned to Wrightsville Beach, NC, and Alyssa is assigned to interview him for Wrightsville Magazine.  The old feelings bubble back to the surface when she lays eyes on Mike, and Alyssa is surprised to find she’s still carrying a torch for him after all these years.  But there’s one big obstacle standing in her way: Michael Day is married.

After an awkward meet-cute, the sparks begin to fly between Mike and Alyssa.  During his interview Mike admits he’s escaped to Wrightsville Beach to get some space from his marriage.  Alyssa learns that things aren’t always what they seem and finds out the truth behind Mike’s career and marriage to Tina.  The two bond over failed relationships (Alyssa is divorced), and while Alyssa tries to help Mike navigate his way through his crumbling marriage, she finds it impossible to keep her own feelings out of the equation.

The story is told from both Alyssa and Mike’s point of view, and takes place partly in Wrightsville Beach and in New York.  By telling both sides of the story, the reader is able to see exactly how Alyssa and Mike feel about each other, and how their decision to be together will impact their lives.

Interview with Abby:

Diana: What made you pick the setting of Wrightsville Beach for your novel?

Abby: I grew up about half an hour from Wilmington, which neighbors Wrightsville Beach, so when I went “out” as a teenager, I’d often go to Wilmington, and when I went to the beach, I’d go to Wrightsville sometimes. Plus, I worked at the newspaper and magazine in Wrightsville Beach from 2004-2007, and it was such a positive experience for me. I loved going to work at the beach! All of my stories are set in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. It’s just such a beautiful, interesting area.

Diana: What’s the story behind your story?

Abbby: I know it may sound kind of crazy, but in all honesty, my first encounter with my favorite New Kid, Jordan Knight, inspired the story. I am a huge New Kids on the Block fan, or Blockhead. In October 2008, there was an insane “mutual attack” between fans and Jordan Knight and Donnie Wahlberg after the concert in Charlotte. Somehow during the madness, I happened to get a quick hug from Jordan, and I remember how he looked me right in the eyes and said “Hey!” and I was just amazed because back in the day, I could never get his attention at concerts or anything. After that, I got to thinking how awesome it was that Jordan finally knew I was alive (at least for those few seconds) after 20 years of me crushing on him. I never even got close to meeting any of the New Kids back in the day. And then I thought wouldn’t it be amazing if that unattainable guy you crushed on in high school was suddenly attainable 20 years later? From there, the idea just grew.

Diana: Tell me a little about Going Home Again‘s journey from your imagination to publication.

Abby: Wow. It’s definitely been a journey! I’ve been working on this manuscript since late 2008. I finished the first draft late in 2011, and it was WAY too long. After more rejections than I’d like to admit, I decided it was best to cut a lot of the story. There’s an epilogue that readers will never see, and a lot more detail to Alyssa’s history of crushing on Michael, but I had to delete those things in order to make the story stronger. Several agents were interested, but ultimately passed on it. I was ready to give up, and I shelved Going Home Again for a few months while I wrote a new, completely different story– a YA paranormal. I happened to see on Twitter one day that Swoon Romance was taking pitches, so I thought, “What the hell? I’ll give it a shot.” I pitched this: “Reporter Alyssa always dreamed of pop star Michael Day. But is he worth her name in the headlines rather than the byline? #PitchSwoon” Swoon requested a partial and just a few hours later, asked for the full manuscript. After that, things went fairly quickly and I received an offer. Next thing I knew, Going Home Again was being published and my dream finally came true!!

Diana: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Abby: I think I was about 12 years old. I read a book by Dean Koontz, and I wanted to create characters as wonderful as his. Although, obviously, I ended up writing a completely different genre from the man who inspired me to become a writer!

Diana: What do you find to be the hardest part about writing?  The easiest?

Abby: The hardest thing for me is not to use adverbs and passive voice. I’m an adverb addict but it’s something I’m working on. 😉 For me, creating realistic characters and dialogue comes easily. It’s the story part that I sometimes struggle with.

Diana: Based on your experience, what advice would you give other writers?

Abby: Do not EVER give up. I often quote legendary N.C. State basketball coach Jim Valvano, who said, “Never, ever, ever give up!” Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Their success isn’t yours. Your success will be different; it just might not come as quickly as you’d like. Believe me, I know. I’m one of the most impatient people on the planet.

Diana: If you could spend the day with a fictional character, who would it be and why?  And what would you do?

Abby: I think it would be Michael Day in Going Home Again, because I created him and I know he’s awesome. 😀 I think I’d spend the day at his house on Wrightsville Beach!

Diana: Do you plan out your stories, or do you sit down at your computer and see where your story takes you? 

Abby: I am a total pantser!!! I wish sometimes I could be more of a planner, but I just can’t work that way. I sit in front of my laptop and figure it out from there. I may know what’s going to happen in the middle or the end, but I hardly ever know the in between until I write it.

Thanks so much for the interview, Abby!  You can learn more about Abby by following her on Twitter (@abswrites) and checking out her blog: http://abswritesalot.wordpress.com/

And if you want to get your own copy of Going Home Again, you can find it at the following places:

And be sure to check out what others are saying about it on Goodreads!  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18242120-going-home-again

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Featured Writer Friday: Caitlin Greer

I’m excited to launch my new series: Featured Writer Friday!  And Caitlin Greer was kind enough to volunteer as my guinea pig.
Caitlin Greer

About Caitlin (in her own words): I write Young Adult and New Adult stories that range from sci-fi and fantasy (because I love making worlds and things up), to contemporary (because I kind of sort of fell into it and discovered I’m not half bad). I read voraciously as a kid, and still do whenever I can. I drive a Jeep, love the outdoors, take pictures of everything I can, and write every chance I get. I’m also a member of the YA Misfits.

Eyre House cover

About EYRE HOUSE:  When eighteen-year-old orphan Evan Richardson signed up to work at Eyre House, on the sleepy tourist getaway of Edisto Island, SC, he never expected to find himself dodging ghosts. But Eyre House seems to have more than its fair share of things that go bump in the night, and most of them surround his employer’s daughter.

Back from her freshman year of college, Ginny Eyre is dangerous from word one. She’s a bad girl with ghosts of her own, and trouble seems to follow her everywhere she goes. But living or dead, trouble isn’t just stalking Ginny. When her ex-boyfriend is found murdered in the pool, Evan knows he’s got two choices – figure out what’s going on, or become the next ghost to haunt Ginny Eyre.


Diana: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Caitlin: About ten years ago. I’d written a lot as a kid, and then kind of let it fall away. I’m not sure what prompted the renewal of my writing desires, but I just realized one day that I wanted to craft the kinds of stories I read all the time. So I did.

Diana: What’s the story behind your story (which sounds like a really cool concept, by the way!)?

Caitlin: Ah, well, Eyre House is a retelling of Jane Eyre. I’m not sure what sparked the original idea, or what really spark any of my ideas (which are all brilliant, of course). But I was talking over the beginnings of the idea (which, if I remember right, involved an old house on the beach with a lot of secret passages, and some crazy person using them to do all sorts of things) with one of my CPs (Kat Ellis), and she made an off-hand comment that it could even be a Jane Eyre retelling. Obviously I told her she was the most brilliant and smart person in the world, and immediately started working it out.

Diana: Why did you choose Edisto Island as the setting for your story?

Caitlin: When I first got the story idea, I knew it would be in the South, on a beach. I spent a long time on Google maps looking at coastal towns and islands. Growing up in Virginia, I have a real soft spot for the Charleston/Savannah areas. Edisto is right outside Charleston, and the more research I did on it, the more perfect it became. Quiet island town, the tourism is laid back, and a very rich history. It really just fit the story I wanted to tell.

Diana: What drew you to write New Adult Fiction?

Caitlin: When I first started writing, I LOVED YA (still do), but I wanted the same feel with an older protagonist. Which, at the time, was pretty much a no-go. So when NA came along, I jumped at the chance. The college years are just as confusing and formative a time as the high school years, and the added dimension of a time where you’re supposed to be an adult, but you’re not really, and you’re struggling to figure out how all that works is something that really speaks to me.

Diana: Tell me a little about Eyre House’s journey from your imagination to publication.

Caitlin: Oof. Hahaha. It had an interesting one. Eyre House was originally written as YA. I wrote it in 3 weeks, which is probably the fastest I’ve ever drafted anything. I also plotted, for the first time in my life, but I realized to do a redux, I had to. After months of revisions, I queried it widely (as you do), and got a lot of requests, even a few R&Rs, but they all came back as no’s in the end. It was a really rough road, until Leigh Ann Kopans suggested I try self pubbing it as NA. I’ll confess I fought the idea for a while, until I realized that NA would fit the story so well.

Diana: What do you like to do for fun when you aren’t writing?

Caitlin: Wait, you mean there are things to do other than writing?? o_O I’m actually an outdoor nut and a photographer.

Diana: What do you find to be the hardest part about writing?  The easiest?

Caitlin: All of it. No, seriously. Some days it’s all so easy. Some days just opening a manuscript is the hardest thing in the world.

Diana: Based on your experience, what advice would you give other writers?

Caitlin: Don’t give up. Writing is something I live for, and I haven’t really met a serious writer who doesn’t feel the same. It can be hard and heartbreaking, but it’s always, always worth it, even when it seems like it would be so much better to quit.

Thanks so much for the interview, Caitlin, and for being my guinea pig for the first edition of Featured Writer Friday!

You can find out more about Caitlin on the web:

Blog: http://writerswanderings.blogspot.comhttp://www.yamisfits.com


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Listen to your broccoli (and other writing advice)

During my hiatus I did a lot of reading on writing.  And a lot of thinking about writing, about just what a commitment it is and if I am completely crazy for wanting to continue.  But then the voices in my head grew louder (which might prove the whole “completely crazy” theory).  The fictional characters of my imagination begged me to tell their stories.  And I finally caved and gave in to them.  Because I know that by writing about them, I will also learn more about myself.

Here are a few pearls of wisdom I’ve gleaned from my reading and thinking about writing.  Some came from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, some from Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel (both of which I highly recommend to writers).  There’s also Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King which I found extremely helpful as well.

1. There’s no room for perfectionism when you are writing.  You have no idea how hard it is for me to write those words.  A perfectionist by nature, this concept is completely foreign to me and one I really have to struggle with.  But I’ve learned that perfectionism gets in the way of the creative process.  If you stop to analyze every single sentence, the self-doubt creature that lurks in the shadows of every writer’s mind will pounce and you will soon start babbling to your best friend or spouse that you are a horrible writer and you should give up the charade now before you embarrass yourself.  You have to allow yourself to make mistakes, to push forward, get the words on the page.  Flow with the characters and the plot, and hold the perfectionism off until the editing phase.

2. Let your characters be your guide.  It is their story after all, let them tell it.  You might have your plot all mapped out, and know exactly what you want the climax to be, and then suddenly one of your characters does something crazy you didn’t expect.  Go with it.  Don’t keep them tethered to the outline you created.  Let your characters guide you, and they may take you down some unexpected paths that enrich your story in ways you never knew were possible.

3. Listen to your broccoli.  Advice straight from the great Anne Lamott.  It’s so easy to be distracted by all the other stuff going on in your head.  Shopping lists, work tasks, what to scrounge up for dinner, weekend chore plans (wait–not everyone plans out their weekend chores?).  All that stuff drowns out the subconscious.  Your intuition.  Your broccoli (or however you want to see it–I think of mine as a spectacle-clad elephant with a typewriter in its lap, clumsily pressing the keys with its enormous feet).  If you can tune in to your broccoli, that  little intuitive decision-making voice inside your head, you can throw out the conventional rules that you’ve been taught since you were a kid and all sorts of fantastic things start to happen.  Characters start speaking to you, acting out scenes, and your fingers fly across the keyboard as you try to get it all down before the other stuff pushes back in and you are once again composing grocery lists rather than your novel.  It’s a way to put a bit of yourself, that elusive “voice,” into your story.

4. Let your characters break some rules.  So you listen to your intuition and it decides that your character should have a complete meltdown at work.   He runs from desk to desk, throwing papers into the air and breaking pencils left and right, all the while spouting off the annoying habits of each co-worker that he just can’t stand for one more second.  “Wait, wait!” your rational brain yells.  “What are you doing?  He can’t do that.  Nobody would behave that way in this economy.  He could get fired!”  Well, let’s say he does.  And he gets fired in front of everyone in the office.  And rather than tucking his tail between his legs like a scolded puppy and leaving, he yells at the boss and has to be escorted off the property by police.  Makes for a much more exciting scene than a guy having a crummy day at work who mumbles to himself about how much he hates his co-workers while sitting in his tiny cubicle, doesn’t it?  And it opens up a lot more plot possibilities.  What’s going to happen to your character now that he’s lost his job?  What’s his next move?  Listen to your broccoli.  It’ll tell you.

5. Complicate things.  Good, page-turning fiction is all about conflict.  Donald Maass’s book discusses this in detail.  You should take a look at every scene in your story, and see if there is some way to up the stakes.  Let’s go back to the guy who lost his job.  Give him a family he’s got to support.  He goes home and tells his wife what happened.  But rather than being understanding, she can’t believe he put his temper before his family, packs up the kids and leaves him.  Now your character has to figure out how to get his life on track.  Not just because he wants his family back, but also because he has an aging father to care for.  And now that he’s lost his job he can’t afford for his father to live in a separate apartment.  So your character has to move his dad in with him, and they’ve never gotten along.  I think you get the point here.  Put your character in a situation, and see how many roadblocks you can put in his path.  You know, complicate things.

And finally…

6. Write for writing’s sake.  Sure, writers want to get published, see our names in print, have a front-and-center cardboard display of our bestseller at Barnes & Noble.  But that should not be the main motivation that drives you to sit in front of the computer and string words into sentences.  You have to do it because you love it.  Because your imagination won’t leave you alone and keeps creating new characters you can’t wait to write about.  And while the process can be frustrating, and there’s a pretty decent chance that your work will never be found on shelves of major booksellers, there is so much that can be gained by being a writer.  You become more observant of the world around you.  All these observations get filtered through your lens as you construct ways to describe what you see, and you go home and sit at the computer and write it all down.  And as you do that, you begin to see yourself reflected on the page.  Because you can’t help but put a little piece of yourself in everything you write.  And by doing so, you learn more about who you are, neuroses and all.


I could go on (and on, and on and on) with other writing advice I’ve absorbed.  And maybe I will in future posts.  But right now, these 6 nuggets of wisdom are constantly on my mind when I sit down to write.  And they work (for me at least).  What about you other writers out there?  What’s some great writing tips you’ve picked up over the years?

I can’t end this post without giving a shout out to my fabulous critique partner Amber, who recommended the wonderful books where I gathered most of this advice.  Thanks, Amber!


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Writing Advice from Fitzgerald

As writers, we have a lot of advice thrown our way.  Some of it’s helpful, some not so much–writing fiction is, after all, a very subjective business.

What if you had the opportunity to have one of the great American authors read your writing and offer feedback?  That’s what Radcliffe sophomore Frances Turnbull hoped for when she sent F. Scott Fitzgerald (who was a friend of the family) her latest literary effort.  What she received in return was some rather blunt but very honest advice, which I think all aspiring novelists can learn from.

November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories “In Our Time” went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In “This Side of Paradise” I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is “nice” is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the “works.” You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

I would love to know what Ms. Turnbull’s reaction was to this letter.  At least, if nothing else, he gave her a little bit of hope in the postscript.
Great advice from one of the greats.  Mr. Fitzgerald, you inspire me yet again.

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