Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Fountain Pen, February 2008

In this Issue...

From Mayra's Desk
Author Interviews:

Kristy Kiernan, author of Catching Genius (literary)
Cynthia Reeg, Christian author of children's books
Deborah Woehr, author of Prosperity (ghost/paranormal)
Aaron Lazar, author of Tremolo (YA mystery)
Corinne Demas, author & violinist (children's, adult)
Nancy Minnis Damato, author of Separate Worlds (historical)
James Clifford, author of Double Daggers (historical mystery)
Roberta Isleib, mystery author and president of Sisters in Crime
Kim Baccellia, author of Earrings of Ixtumea (YA, ethnic)
Beverly McClure, author of YA novels
Publisher Interviews:
Lida Quillen, Twilight Times Books
"On the Author/Illustrator Relationship," by Mayra Calvani
"Improving Your Writing," by Cynthia Reeg
Short Fiction
"Deja Vu," by Mayra Calvani
Book Club Selection
Mayra's Reviews

Press Releases


From Mayra's Desk...

Dear Subscribers,

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. You may have noticed that there was no January issue this year. I apologize, but the hecticness of Christmas and the New Year made it impossible. January was a turbulence of family illnesses and small accidents, so I wasn't able to spend a lot of time at the computer. Also, I don't know about you, but it's always hard for me to get back to the old routine after the holidays. This February issue, however, is really hefty with lots of interviews, two articles, and a Christmas story I wrote during the holidays. I've also added two new sections to the newsletter: Book Club Selection and Press Releases.

I hope you'll enjoy the issue. Happy reading!

Mayra Calvani



*My supernatural thriller, Dark Lullaby, continues to garner great reviews. Read the latest ones:

Review of Dark Lullaby by Cheryl Malandrinos, The Book Connection

Review of Dark Lullaby by Patricia Altner, Patricia's Vampire Notes

*The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, my nonfiction book co-authored with Anne K. Edwards, is scheduled for release this June 2008. Read all about it here.

*My second children's picture book, CRASH! will be released in March by Guardian Angel Publishing. More details next month.

*Don't miss the Valentine's Day Blog Tour. Five Latina authors, five stories, five prizes! From February 10 to February 14.

February 10 – “I Hate Chocolate” by Mary Castillo,, a $10 Starbucks gift card

February 11 – “The Painting” by Mayra Calvani,, a box of Belgian chocolate

February 12 – “A Box of Valentines” by Jamie Martinez Wood,, a one pound bag of homemade toffee

February 13 – “Missed Connections” by Margo Candela Prize: B&N Gift Card

February 14- “Dream Catch Me” by Barbara Caridad Ferrer, An iTunes gift card

Author Interviews:

Interview with Kristy Kiernan

Interview with Cynthia Reeg

Interview with Deborah Woehr

Interview with Aaron Lazar

Interview with Corinne Demas

Interview with Nancy Minnis Damato

Interview with James Clifford

Interview with Roberta Isleib

Interview with Kim Baccellia

Interview with Beverly McClure

Publisher Interviews:

My publisher, Lida Quillen, recently appeared on the front page of Publisher's Weekly. Read the interview here:
Interview with Lida Quillen



by Cynthia Reeg,

Begin with a great start. Grab the reader from the first sentence. You have an editor's attention for a matter of minutes (maybe) before she moves on to the next slush pile story.
Start with gusto. Bam! Wham! Kapowy! Just like in the old Batman TV show make sure your audiences can feel, see, and hear the action. Start with a problem or intriguing dialogue. Read some of the opening lines or first pages of stories that you like or stories that have become children's classics or best sellers. Study and perfect the art of a good beginning.

Let your characters do the talking. Provide them with realistic voices. Interesting voices. Voices that the reader wants to hear more of. Voices that move the story along. Voices that reveal the character.
Don't dilly-dally around with small talk. That's for everyday stuff in the real world but not in fiction. Create drama with dialogue. Show the characters’ emotions and opinions.
Mix the dialogue with action, creating rhythm in your story, and using body language to further reveal your character. People are more likely to form their opinions of someone from what they do rather than what they say. The same applies to your story characters.
Visualize each scene as though the characters are performing on a stage before you. Simply take down notes as they move and speak. Watch closely for their facial expressions, shoulder shrugs, sighs, raised eyebrows, glares, tapping foot. Write these into your story to create an amazing mix of dialogue and action. Think of creating a symphony. You must orchestrate all the various mix of instruments.

Revel in the tension. Don't rush through the really exciting parts of your story. And for the reverse, don't drag out less thrilling but substantial sections. Make them as tight and thoughtful as possible; then move on to the fun stuff.
Slow down the important scenes. Pretend you've pushed the slow-motion button on your recorder. Study each action in great detail and write it down in clipped, fast-paced sentences. Power-packed with emotion. Strong verbs and nouns, few adjectives and adverbs. Make the scene even more suspenseful by compacting the time frame needed for the hero to accomplish the goal. Hear the clock ticking in your head. Feel the tension down into your fingers. Then let them type away.

Write in a rush. Initially, while the idea is hot and the scene is flowing, write without looking back. Feel the need to rush on. To reach the finish line. Take deep breaths. Listen to some mind-enhancing alpha brainwave music like Mozart selections. Don't let your inner critic come out to play during this writing phase.
I find it's helpful to let this story concoction rest for a while before coming back for serious editing. Depending on the length and complexity of the story, the down time may vary from a day or two to perhaps weeks or even longer.

Edit with determination. Believe in the story that you've written. But believe that it can always be better. Read it out loud. Listen to the music of it. If you can't hear a beat, then you haven't written it in yet.
Look for the strong foundation of story elements: plot, setting, characters. Beef them up with subtle word shifts and tight editing. Paint colorful character strokes, especially with the main character and supporting characters. Expand your palette and your painting techniques for each new story. The reader should feel he knows enough about each character to like or dislike them. The characters should be real enough that the reader almost feels as though he is a part of the story, too.
Then read your work like a copy editor. Line by line. Letter by letter. Correct the typos and punctuation errors. The more professional looking your story is the more believable it is for an editor.

Read! Read! Read! Probably the most important thing you can do to improve your writing is to read. Read great stories like you want to write. Read some stories that aren't that good. Study the differences. Why did one work and not the other?
Read a variety of works by a variety of authors. Expose yourself to different writing styles and genres. Reading poems is a great way for me to loosen my writing and help generate ideas. Reading nonfiction often leads to ideas for fiction stories as well. Read the newspaper and adult magazines for a wealth of ideas.
Keep a record of what you read and who publishes it. This way you can refer back to your notes when trying to remember which publishing house likes romantic picture books or which one walks the line with edgy stories. Is there a pattern to what they like to print or what a particular editor likes to work on? Or which writer crosses the boundaries between picture books and young adult. How does she do it?
Read. Study. Read. The only way to be a writer is to be a reader first.


Short Fiction:

"Deja Vu," by Mayra Calvani (two versions, English and Spanish)


Book Club Selection for March:

Tremolo: Cry of the Loon, by Aaron Lazar

The Last to Fall, by Anne K. Edwards

Catching Genius, by Kristy Kiernan

(Review of this book by Terez Rose is in the author interview)

Along the Templar Trail, by Brandon Wilson

Joy the Jellyfish, by Kristen and Kevin Collier


Mayra's Reviews:





*Virtual book tours with Pump Up Your Book Promotion continues! All authors on tour in February will be giving away FREE copies of their books to a few lucky people who comment on their blog stops. Winners will be announced at on Feb. 29!

*Children's author Christine Norris is running a contest on her website. Visit her Contests page for details on how to get a free copy of her book and gift certificate!

*Author Jamie Wood is having a contest! In her own words, these are the details:

"I am having a contest this month. My first ever! I've asked my teen readers to write an essay about why magic is so popular these days. I will choose winners based on how much thought and consideration they put into what they write. Spelling counts, too. Winners choose either The Teen Spell Book: Magick for Young Witches or The Enchanted Diary: A Teen's Guide to Magick and Life, signed by me. There will be two entries. One for people ages 11-14, essays must be 150 words. Another entry for people, ages 15-18, essays must be 250 words. Send essays to, with "writing contest" in the subject line. Contest begins Tuesday, February 12 and ends Tuesday, February 26. More information can be found on"
*In 2008, Karen Wiesner is giving away an autographed trade paperback every month to subscribers of her newsletter, Karen's Quill! Subscribe to Karen's Quill by visiting her website at or by sending a blank e-mail to!

*Everything is coming up romantic! Join Jewels of the Quill for our annual Valentine's Day Giveaway throughout February by visiting our website at for a full list of prizes and giveaway details. In February, Liz Hunter (Dame Garnet) is our featured author at Jewels of the Quill. Liz is giving away an autographed trade paperback or a download. We're also giving away an official Jewels of the Quill desk calendar this month. To be eligible to win this month's giveaways, visit our website and subscribe to the Fans of Jewels of the Quill newsletter by sending a blank e-mail to
*To celebrate the release of Joust in Time one lucky reader will win two one day passes to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin on the Wisconsin/Illinois border (or to a renaissance faire near you). All you have to do is send me an email at with the words "Ren Faire" in the subject line along your name, mailing and email addresses. The lucky winner will be drawn on May 1. Deadline to enter is April 15, 2008.


Press Releases:

Valentines Day
February 14, 2008

February 4, 2008
Contact: Hill Kemp

LOVING COUNTY, TEXAS. Do you remember that friend you haven’t talked to all year? You know, that person you were so close to but somehow drifted apart. Well, thanks to today’s marvelous technology, you can easily reach out to your friend, rekindle the warmth and light up their Valentine's Day.

There’s a new book out – in electronic format – which you can send to them. Lucky Penny is a book that explores and embraces friends and friendship. Fourth graders can read it, teenagers can grow from it and grown-ups can be reminded of the special importance friendship is to our lives. And how it takes some investment from us to sustain this treasure. The little book is a quick read. And for about the price of a nice Valentine's card plus postage, you can really let your friend know how much you value them.

So, go to . There you can get Lucky Penny and send it to your friend with your personal Valentines message. It only takes a few minutes. It will be good for you and for that person out there waiting to hear from you.


Reviewer praise for Lucky Penny:

"Hill & Siena Kemp's story shows young girls that they can solve their problems with each other. Such friendships are the "True Prize" in anything. Best, these girls solve their friendship problem without intrusive advice from the adults in their lives."--Deborah K. Frontiera, Golden Spur Award Winner, North Texas Children's Book Festival, 2007

Hill Kemp has five works published including his thriller novel, Capitol Offense. He is a writer, lyricist, inventor and former member of the Texas House of Representatives. Siena, Kemp’s granddaughter and co-author, is in the 7th grade gifted program, an avid reader and Neopets author. More at .