Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blog Comments

Michelle, wondering if I know what I'm talking about.

Michelle Fayard is interviewing ME !

Please stop by to read and COMMENT on "Getting Blog Comments to Work for You".

These interviews about blogging and comments and platform have crystallized how and why I blog so much, that I’ve actually pitched the workshop “Blogging as Platform” for a future conference.

Don't discount the power of the comment!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beatlemania vs. Pottermania

A few months ago, I had a conversation with an ELA student teacher:

He said, “I read the first few books but didn’t get why the series was so popular until I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”
I said, “It felt like that listening to The Beatles. Their early works were good and I could see the appeal, but they didn’t start showing what they were capable of until Revolver.”
He nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, Goblet of Fire is like Revolver!”
“And Order of the Phoenix is like Sergeant Pepper! And Half Blood Prince is like The White Album!”
“Wait. Which album came out first?”
“I don’t know. I guess that makes The Deathly Hallows like Abbey Road.”

Okay, we got a little carried away.

It got me thinking, How else are the Harry Potter books and The Beatles alike and how are they different? Alas, this informative post. I’d argue our two British imports have more in common than you’d think.

How do you reconcile The Beatles having 4 members while Harry and friends only make 3?
True the numbers seem off, but if you throw in Neville, who’s key a couple of times, I think you see the similarities. I would’ve said, Ginny but then I’d have to count the twins and it would muddle this up. So, Neville is Ringo.

How can you compare the Beatles to a literary trio that doesn’t sing?
Also true that Harry, Ron, and Hermione don’t sing, but let’s not discount the warblings of Celestina Warbeck. And the movie theme music is pretty kickass.

Who is Harry’s Yoko?
Not Ginny. No way. She’s so cool and un-Yoko, it’s not even funny. Don’t hit me, but I might have to say Dobby. He does muck things up in Book 2. And that whole boring S.P.E.W. side plot in Book 4 is really annoying, but that’s Hermione’s fault. I’ll have to go with Colin Creevey. I know, he doesn’t actually break them up or anything, but he’s annoying. (Though maybe he’s more like Oliver in The Brady Bunch. Wait, how did The Brady Bunch even factor into this?)
Maybe since Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione were all important characters, it avoided a touchy Yoko situation. The only way a Yoko-type could interfere with the trio is if Harry fell in love with a Death Eater. Or imagine if he hooked up with Bella from Twilight? Her whining and lack of ambition would ruin everything.

If The Beatles did drugs and Harry Potter books are drug-free, how can you compare the two?
I agree there are no hardcore drugs, but don’t forget a few odd items floating around: butterbeer, love potions hidden in chocolates, filex felicis, polyjuice potion, and didn’t Ron get poisoned and need to take a Bezoar?
And don’t forget Hagrid had a periodic problem with alcohol consumption as evidenced by winning an illegal dragon and passing out after Aragog’s funeral.

Do The Beatles have antagonists like Harry and Co.?
Absolutely. While there aren’t clear villains like Lucius and Draco Malfoy, The Dark Lord/He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named/Voldemort, and Is he/Isn’t he? Snape - The Rolling Stones were some fierce competition for The Beatles. And more recently, the band Public Enemy sampled “A Day in the Life” and “Getting Better” by The Beatles in their song, “Who Stole the Soul?” Sounds like Dementors are involved.

What about movies?
Good question. The Beatles made 5 movies, if you don’t count side projects. There are 8 Harry Potter movies, which is genius when you consider there are only 7 books. And just like The Beatles’ music is better than their movies, the Harry Potter books are better than their movies. (But the movies are pretty darn close.)

Do Harry and Ron excite female fans as much as John and Paul?
Umm… yeah! Neville got cute over time. See, he is Ringo. Or maybe he’s George Harrison. I secretly think George was the cutest. George looks a little like Sirius. Now I’m confusing myself. And if I think about the fact that there are two people named George, I’ll be even more lost. I love those Weasley twins.

Does being British play a role here?
Absolutely. The British have been known to invade the United States ever since 1776. However, the British Invasion in the 1960s was most welcome. And I like this Harry Potter import too.
And don't forget those sexy British accents!

What are their respective career lengths?
The Beatles released their first album in 1963 and their last in 1970 – 7 years. The Harry Potter series spanned from 1997-2007 – 10 years. Of course, both have continued on past their recordings/publications.

Were The Beatles or Harry Potter more productive?
In the 7 years, The Beatles released 12 albums in the UK. In the 10 years, J.K. Rowling published 7 books. But I’d argue Rowling’s books had more words than The Beatles’s songs. You can’t argue they were both prolific.

Is Pottermore akin to former Beatles’ solo albums?

Will both The Beatles and Harry Potter have long legacies?
The Beatles have already proven their longevity. As for Harry Potter, I have no doubt my grandchildren will read these books too.

How about you?
Spot any uncanny similarities between
The Beatles and Harry Potter?

If you tolerated loved this post, please scroll down to my PREVIOUS POST "Reverence for Rowling".

Think Hermione is the unsung hero of Harry and co? Me too. Read this SPOT-ON POST. (If you can handle the f-word.)

Please return on 07/28 for my interview at Michelle’s BLOG.

Happy weekend! xo

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reverence for Rowling

Yes, I am waiting for this lovely pendant in the mail.

"Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."

Stephen King

Thank you to The Writing Nut for inspiring this post. Sometime ago, I wrote a post about Harry Potter entitled Homage to Harry. But I have more to write about the series and author.

Every writer gets asked the question, “How long have you been writing?”

Most writers say something like, “Since I could hold a pencil,” or “Since I knew may alphabet,” or “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing,” or even “I wrote my first manuscript at age ten, which was 50,000 words. It was terrible, but my next manuscript had multiple offers.”

Or something like that.

That was NOT me.

Those of you have been bored by followed my blog for any length of time know that I didn’t let myself write until I was *cough* older. I thought you had to be BORN as a great writer. Since I wasn’t a prodigy, I wasn’t meant to be a writer.

I just had to ignore the story ideas.

And I did, for the most part.

I’ve mentioned before that I HATE bandwagons. I still haven’t seen Titanic.

Anyway, when I heard grown men and women were reading a series of children’s books with the name Harry Potter – not only reading them, but actually anticipating the next one – I felt sorry for them.

Then my first-grade son wanted me to read the books.

Fine. If I must. (I’m a judgmental good mother.)

Sometimes my husband read instead of me. I’d grill ask my husband what I’d missed. Then my son went through a streak of having my husband read.

I started picking the book up to read on my own. (Hypocrite.)

Then I hit a roadblock. I had to wait for the rest of the series to be written with everyone else.

For the midnight sale of the last book, my son dressed up. My son wore his Gryffindor costume. I saw adults dress too. With a pang, I wished I’d dressed.

Didn't I swear I'd never be one of those people?

Who had I become?

I’m not going to analyze J.K. Rowling’s series for what she does right. It’s the best series I’ve ever read. Few books leave me as satisfied as they do. No other book or books makes me wish I lived in the fictional world as much as the Harry Potter books do.

“Turned 11. Didn’t get Hogwarts letter.” – PickleTail12 in Six Word Memoirs.

And no other author made me grab my laptop and write an entire book in 6 weeks.

It was a Harry Potter rip off valiant first attempt. But it got me reading more. It got me interested in fantasy. And it got me writing children’s books.

Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. I’ve been writing for 5 years. When I’m not writing, I’m often obsessing thinking about writing. If I’m in the midst of a manuscript, I can’t even listen to people talking to me because of the voices in my head carry on like normal. And I never slept so badly because these same voices demand to be heard in the middle of the night well once I began writing.

So, thank you J.K. Rowling. Without you, I wouldn’t be the well-adjusted writer I am today.

And thank you for letting this practical person believe in magic.

As for the last movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, I haven’t seen it yet. It has something to do with traveling and forgetting costumes. I don’t want to talk about it.

Maybe I don’t want it all to end.

Writers, which author(s) inspired you and why?

P.S. Contest Winners:

Medeia Sharif Bestest. Ramadan. Ever bookmarkShari!

Personal Demons temporary tattoos – Wanton Redhead Writing!

Angelfire Bookmark – Margo Berendsen!

A Touch Mortal signed bookmark – JL Campbell!

Original Sin signed book – Jemi Fraser!

Winners, please e-mail me your address at tmilstein at gmail dot com


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tiny Dancers and Fascinating Females

“Looking on she sings the songs

The words she knows the tune she hums”

- Taupin, Bernie. Song “Tiny Dancer”, Elton John

I have 2 tiny bits of happy news.

1) My short story “My Moment” is going to be included in a Tiny Dancer anthology published by Literary Mix Tapes.

To make it even more exciting, I’m going to be in good company with authors Jessica Bell and Len Lambert . (Psssst, Len has a book giveaway on her BLOG.)

Tiny Dancer is scheduled to print in October so STAY TUNED!

2) I’ve been trying to participate in writing opportunities as they come up. While I write YA Fantasy, I love writing my blog posts as well. Len Lambert told me about a "Fascinating Females" book project. Basically, I could write a post about what made me fascinating.

This opportunity came up during my lowest point in June.

My response: “Me? Fascinating female? HA!”

But then I thought I could write about me trying to take control of my professional life. Perhaps the dichotomy between the personal and professional could be fascinating. Maybe?

My piece was accepted. YaY!

Are you interested in writing a piece for the project too? Here’s the info:

I'm now inviting anyone who has a fascinating story or article to share, to send it to

You may write it as a mini-biography, a snapshot, or a vignette. You can write about your adventures (or misadventures) in Mensa, Rotary, Toastmasters, the Red Cross, WOVI, ASTD, SHRM, IAC, the military, or any organization/s (or movements) you belong to. You can write about your life as a wife, a mom, a sister, a girlfriend, a daughter, a student, etc., or you can write about a single defining moment in your life, and so on.

Note that fascination, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, so what you may consider as a humdrum, boring life may be fascinating for others.

You will retain full copyright to whatever gets published, and can have your articles published again anywhere.

Articles can be anywhere from 1-4 pages of letter size (8-1/2 x 11), double-spaced, font 12, Times New Roman.

You may write in first person or third person (whichever you prefer). You may opt to use a pseudonym if you wish.

Please email me at if you have any questions or suggestions.

Looking forward to seeing some fascinating articles in my inbox very soon!

Michelle Alba-Lim

Your essay should be around 1k words. I hope you consider submitting a piece.

You can also find Michelle on Facebook.

Love, Theresa xo

Friday, July 8, 2011

Angels and Authors

Courtney Allison Moulton, Leah Belson, and Lisa Desrochers (and me).

"No, I haven't heard that, but I'll keep it in mind. Thanks for the proverbial insight, my stalker friend."

- Courtney Allison Moulton (Angelfire)

"Yeah, go ahead and get the forbidden garden comment out of your system. And no matter what witty snake joke you're considering? Trust me, I've heard it."

- Leah Clifford (A Touch Mortal)

"If there's a Hell on Earth, it's high school."

- Lisa Desrochers (Personal Demons)

Wednesday night I drove underneath a sunny sky to Burlington, MA (home of the mall where Mall Cop was filmed.) so I could attend the book signing of Courtney Allison Moulton, Leah Clifford, and Lisa Desrochers.

3 YA authors

3 angel books

3 trilogies

After each author read an excerpt of their books, it was time for Q&A.

This is what I learned:

Lisa and Leah are pansters, while Courtney is a plotter. But all 3 had to come up with some sort of outlines for their other two books when they shopped the first manuscript. The pansters admitted their outlines were vague.

All 3 of them got their 2nd books they’d ever written published. (I’m green with envy.)

They believed YA was a void that needed to be filled, and that’s why it’s so popular. Leah and Courtney wrote the books they wanted to read. They discussed YA having a crossover market. Teen and adult readers appreciate the romance. Although the majority of the marketing is aimed at teens, YA books are reviewed in “Entertainment Weekly” too. Because of the crossover, YA is one of the few genres making $.

YA has changed greatly since they were teens. Books are more sophisticated now. They thank J.K. Rowling for upping the complexity with her 5 middle-grade and 2 young adult books in the Harry Potter series.

How did they come together for a 3-book tour? Courtney and Leah were friends before their books sold. At some point they joked they should go on a “Hot boys with wings tour”. Later, Courtney said, “You should come with us,” to Lisa.

This is what else I learned:

1. When you are the author at the table and someone asks a question that’s really a long-winded ramble, you can’t roll your eyes, even when an audience member (me) does.

2. When an author mentions a certain wildly popular series that is either scorned or celebrated, you need to be tactful, even when there are derisive chuckles in the audience (me) regarding the weakness of a certain protagonist.

3. When writing YA fantasy, it’s better to have a trilogy up your sleeve because it’s difficult to sell a stand-alone novel. (Okay, now I’m hyperventilating. Can I make my novel have series potential?)

Because of my two awesome questions (about how many manuscripts they’d written and how they came up with the idea for a 3-author book tour), I got a free Personal Demons tank top:

I got a lovely photo (on top) of the three authors after the poor woman at Barnes and Noble tried to take the picture a bunch of times before she realized I’d stupidly left the camera on video when I’d recorded fireworks on July 4th.

When I exited the bookstore, I was greeted with an ominous cloud, reminding me of the dark themes in each of their books. As I entered my car, lightning flashed in the sky. I sped drove safely down the highway to beat the storm. Luckily, only a few drops of rain plopped on my windshield. I’d beaten the demons storm.

I’ve got some stuff for you… if you enter the contest:

1 SIGNED copy of Original Sin (2nd in the Personal Demons trilogy)

1 SIGNED A Touch Mortal bookmark

1 Angelfire bookmark

2 Personal Demons temporary tattoos (Team Gabe and Team Luc)

All you have to do is comment, leave your e-mail, and SHARE THIS POST. Earn 1 point for each place you share! (Open internationally. Ends 07/15)

Good luck.

Love, Theresa xo

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Contests, Comments, and Cloaks

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.”

- Mark Twain

Sometimes I wonder if I put too much out there. I don’t mean sharing my personal life. I mean sharing my work.

I’m not concerned someone will steal my brilliant ideas.

I’m concerned about the value of sharing queries and snippets of pieces.

Do you worry about this?

I’ve read the advice to enter contests. Success stories float around as proof. I even won a Secret Agent contest last spring. (Although said agent later rejected the pages she requested.)

If I’ve benefited, why am I now wary of putting my work out there?

1) The more I blab titles and plots and first lines, the less anonymous I am when I post on other blogs.

If I didn’t talk specifics of my work and decided to enter an agent contest, it would be okay. But I have this blog, and 2nd blog, and Facebook. While I don’t talk about my work all the time, I’ve mentioned it enough.

2) Anyone can comment. Last March, someone was so mean, I cried. (She seemed to be a serial negative commenter.) But it’s more than worrying about hurt feelings. When we choose people to read our manuscripts, we do so with care. We need to respect the critiquer in order to respect the comments. I do think most people comment to help. But if there’s no filter over who comments, how much weight should we assign to their comments?

Stephen King has 3 people read his manuscripts. That’s it. Yes, I know, he’s Stephen King. But there’s logic behind his method. Too many critiquers mean a variety of opinions. The “correct” answer becomes muddled. So if 1 out of 3 tell him to change something, he knows it’s an opinion. He leaves it. If 2 out of 3 tells him to change it, he knows it’s a flaw. He changes it.

3) I feel less professional. Those with 2nd and 3rd books coming out probably don’t enter contests. Maybe it’s good for someone trying to get an agent for a 1st book to hold back a little.

4) What am I supposed to do with all this conflicting advice? Most of these agents are secret until after the comments from the agent have been given. A recent comment I received from an agent made me question the agent’s familiarity with my genre.

The next comments about my query were all over the place. This was after I’d just tightened it based on recommendations from a well-known query expert and a NYT Bestselling author. Those two respected individuals warned me against subplots and bringing up too many characters. Everyone at the contest wanted me to add subplots and characters.

How can I be objective about subjective comments?

It made me regret the few contests I’ve recently entered.

Let me say, none of the comments were mean-spirited. The advice suggested minor tweaking. I’m not reacting over bad critiques -- just baffling ones.

It makes me ask,

What am I getting out of this?

From now on, I’m going to be less forthright about the content of my writing. This way, if I want to enter a contest, I’ve got an invisibility cloak.

And I’m going to be choosy about the contests I enter. I may not enter a secret agent contest on a blog that doesn’t do this consistently. When I do, I will have to give less weight to the comments. While I think they’ve sometimes been helpful in the past, sometimes the multitude of advice makes my brain buzz like a bee.

I’ll concentrate my energies for my critique partners and beta buddies. They’re the ones I trust. They’re the ones who help me make my manuscript shine. They’re the ones I’ll put in my acknowledgements one day.

The more choices in front of me, the more I struggle to make a choice.

To keep my instinct sharp, I need to limit the voices.

I need to take back control.

Writers, do you share your work on the Internet?

If you haven’t, why not?

If you have, has it helped you?

P.S. Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.

by Medeia Sharif is available on Amazon NOW!

To celebrate, anyone who comments on this post

has a chance to win a signed bookmark

from Medeia Sharif. Good luck!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fighter Writer

JC Martin, Fighter Writer has put together a book called, Stories for Sendai to raise $ for victims of the Japanese disaster. I’m fascinated by her passion for martial arts and writing.So decided to ask her about both.

When did your fascination for martial arts begin?

My fascination with the martial arts began from a very young age, when I used to watch Chinese martial arts epics alongside my Disney movies. My favourite actors were (and still are!) kung fu stars like Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, and more recently, Po! (“I love Kung Fu-uuu-uuu...!!”). Whilst most girls my age dreamt of being a fairy princess and meeting their prince charming, I daydreamt that I was a badass kung fu chick/secret agent/spy type!

What kind of martial arts have you practiced?

I started practising out of a book, which was as thick as two telephone directories! Can’t remember where I got it from, but it looked like one of those mystical kung fu tomes in the movies that bestowed on the reader some profound kung fu knowledge or magical kickass powers. However, after months of practising, I still couldn’t put out a candle flame with my Chi Finger of Doom, much less kill someone with the supposed death touch.

Thankfully, around the time I gave up on the book, a karate club started up at school. I became the only female member. Three years in, I managed to get my purple belt, which is one grade away from the advanced brown and black belts. However, being a largely strength-based martial art, I couldn’t really advance any further, not unless I could do 50 push-ups in a minute—on my fists!

For the next five years or so, martial arts took backstage to exams and other school clubs. As a university student in metropolitan London, I did try one class of Aikido, but didn’t like the overly complicated locks and throws. I mean, why all these fancy moves to trap an attacker, when you could put him out of action with one simple well-placed punch? Also, as I was still relying on funds from my parents at the time, I didn’t feel right getting them to pay for lessons, which can be quite pricey.

When I graduated and started work for myself, I decided it was time to re-visit my passion, and to invest in some martial arts classes. After trying out the generally harder and more militaristic Japanese arts, I decided I’d like to try out the fluidity of the Chinese martial arts. I found a Wing Chun class near where I lived, tried it out, loved it, and nearly eight years on, have never looked back! J

What are your martial arts qualifications?

Aside from my purple belt in karate ages ago, I currently hold a second-degree black belt in Wing Chun, and am a qualified instructor.

Tell us about the martial art you’re currently practising.

Wing Chun is a Chinese kung fu which traces its roots all the way back to the Southern Shaolin Temple, over a thousand years ago. There is a romantic legend that the art was named after a woman, Wing Chun, the first student of the Shaolin nun who developed it. Wing Chun would fight off would-be suitors, and only married the man who could take her on in a fight. More recently, the most famous student of Wing Chun was the late Bruce Lee. His master, Ip Man, has found recent popularity when a series of biographical movies came out based on HIS LIFE .

Wing Chun is a simple, effective art form based on short, fast movements, and on redirecting an opponent’s force and using it against him. It is perfect for the smaller ladies, and the potential for brutality appeals to me. J Its principles follow very Taoist philosophies—embodied in Bruce Lee’s famous quote: “Be like water.”—and that appealed to me, too.

How have martial arts influenced your writing?

Apart from the fact that my protagonist in my WiP, Oracle, is also a Wing Chun practitioner? J

I’d like to think that I’m better equipped for writing fight scenes than most people. I can picture the movements and actions in my head, and be able to decide whether it is feasible or not. I wrote a post about writing action scenes HERE .

On a more psychological level, a good workout helps unblock my mind whenever I’m stuck on a particular part of my WiP.

How have martial arts influenced your life?

I would never have predicted this ten years ago, but kung fu is now a major part of my life. Being a martial arts instructor is fulfilling, sociable, and it allows me more time for writing than I’ve ever had before! I find my confidence in dealing with people has also improved drastically, and though I would never go round searching for trouble, I’d never feel paralysed with fear when I find myself in a darkened alley. Fortunately, I’ve never had to put what I learned into practise in a real-life situation, but I’d like to think that should I ever have to, I’m capable of holding my own. J

Quick writing questions:

Plotter or panster?

Obsessive-compulsive plotter! I have a chapter-by-chapter rundown of the entire novel before I start!

Quiet or music?

Quiet. Preferably dead silence!

Laptop or desktop?

Laptop. I use a tiny notebook that slows down whenever I have too many functions going—keeps me from getting distracted by blogging/Twitter/Facebook/etc.!

Mac or PC?


Coffee or tea?

Neither, usually. Chinese tea when it’s especially cold in the winter.

Wine or other?

Other: water or ice-cold diet Coke.

Day or night?


Please support the Japanese survivors

and buy Stories for Sendai.