Nancy's Books

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Theme/Call for Submissions

You’ve polished the character, the plot has twists and turns, and the dialog is snappy. When it seems that everything in the manuscript has come together in perfect harmony, it’s time to focus on the theme. Check your story for the broad message. Aim for a universal message with which many, maybe all, readers can identify. Writing about the loss of a pet, moving, fighting with a best friend, and controlling anger are themes that stand out and help young reader learn to cope. A story without an overall theme is considered to be too slight for publication by many editors.

The theme is not intended to sound preachy or teachy, nor is it presented directly to the reader, as in Jill learned to be nice to her friend. The theme is the underlying truth that evolves from the character and plot and recurs throughout the story. If the readers identifies with the theme, a stronger emotional connection is made with the story.

Is your story stronger because you have an identifiable theme or themes? If not, the manuscript needs more work.

Call for Submissions for adult writers:
Big Muddy, a literary journal, seeks new poetry, fiction, articles, photos (reproduced in b&w; high contrast is preferred) for its upcoming issue. Any topic, any style. Send unpublished work, cover letter, and SASE to Susan Swartwout, Big Muddy, One University Plaza, MS 2650, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701 .
Details at

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

What Sea Creature Is This?/Call for Submissions

My latest picture book, What Sea Creature Is This?, is hot off the press. For this nonfiction title I focused on unusual or little-known ocean animals. In conferences, writers are often told that nonfiction is difficult to sell in today’s market, especially picture books. The key is to write with a different slant than other books or about a subject that has little written about it. I focused on the latter for this book. One of the animals has only recently been discovered; others are so unusual they’ll capture the attention of the reader and hold onto it. A parrotfish makes a sleeping bag out of slime—for protection, and another sea creature ties its three-feet-long body in a knot and moves the knot from head to tail. It’s no circus act, it’s a yellow-bellied sea snake.

Editors are interested in books that appeal to boys. Weird and wonderful creatures of the sea offer enough strangeness to capture boys’—and girls’—attention. If the creature’s behavior isn’t enough to offer reader appeal, the strange and curious appearance of the animal will do the trick. The flashlight fish does both: provides its own light with bacterial pouches in inky deep-sea travel.

When you’re considering your next manuscript, think about what will interest your target audience. Aim for a subject that has not been overly marketed or present the information in a new and appealing format. Have fun with the subject and turn your words into a book.

Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:

The Whistling Fire’s July Guest Editor is accepting submissions. Guest Editor Athena Lark wants to read your stories about the African-American experience. Stories where African-Americans love, grow, despair, desire, and endure. Although African-American literature is generally defined as literature by African-Americans – all races are welcome to submit. Accepting fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Please send your submissions to Include the words “July Editor” in your subject line. No more than two submissions per author, each under 3000 words.

Deadline: Submission Deadline: June 23rd, 2012
Details at

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Author Interview: Ann Harth, part II/Call for Submissions

Ann Harth is back this week to share her favorite writing tips. Ann is the author of the upcoming children’s middle grade mystery book, The Art of Magic, that takes place in Australia, where Ann calls home. This book is a crossover that appeals to young adults and adults, as well.

NKA: Ann, I love your tip of thinking like a child. That’s a great mindset for developing plot and dialog. What other tips do you have?

AH: Observe. Live like a writer. Keep your mind open to story ideas. They can be lurking in the most unexpected places. Maybe that child at the bus stop carries an umbrella because it connects her to another world. Maybe that dog racing down the street is escaping from a dognapper who wants to use him for experiments. The cranky shopkeeper? Could he be a frustrated astronaut who builds rockets in his basement? Story ideas are everywhere.

Pay attention to your senses. While you’re living like a writer, don’t forget to use your senses. Sight is wonderful, but don’t forget smell, sound, touch and taste. Wherever you are, take the time to close your eyes and experience. Can you smell the burned toast from breakfast? The lilacs outside the window? Is your seat hot and sticky or cold against your skin? Can you hear cars? Horns? A ticking clock? Can you taste anything? The remnants of a peppermint? The need of a peppermint? The more you pay attention to your senses, the easier it will be to use these in your writing to build believable and three-dimensional settings.

Carry a notebook. If you’re anything like me, brilliant snippets of best-selling ideas whizz into your mind and then out again, never to be rediscovered. Carrying a notebook won’t capture them all, but it will possibly snare one or two. The trick is to remember to use it. No matter how unformed, if an idea pops into your head and you find yourself exploring it, even a little, write it down. You can also use your notebook for recording interesting character traits - eyebrows that flutter like moths, crooked lips, a thunderous voice booming from a tiny woman. These could all be possible inclusions in one of your stories. But the best thing about your ever-present notebook is that, the next time you get stuck for an idea, riffle through it. It might trigger your next story.

NKA: I love your examples. The senses of smelling and tasting are closely related and can make the scene seem so real. As far as a notebook goes, I need one because great ideas seem to whiz out of my mind faster than they enter. Last week, you told us that your children’s mystery, The Art of Magic, will be available later this year from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, FictionWise, SmashWords and Solstice Publishing. You have another book writers will be interested in. Tell us about it.

AH: I also have an ebook available from the beginning of June (Kindle Edition) on Amazon. Writing for Children: In the Beginning is the book I wish I’d had when I started as a children’s writer. It covers finding ideas, viewpoint, dialogue, character development, some tips to get you started in the publishing world and, as they say, much more.

NKA: I’m certainly looking forward to reading both of your latest books. Ann, thanks so much for visiting my blog and sharing your ideas and inspiration. I wish you much success with your writing career.

To learn more about Ann and her books, visit her website at

Call for Submissions for adult writers:

We are looking for stories that will appeal to science
fiction and fantasy readers. The SF element may be slight,
but it should be present. We prefer character-oriented
stories. We receive a lot of fantasy fiction, but never
enough science fiction or humor. Do not query for fiction;
send the entire manuscript. We publish fiction up to 25,000
words in length. We buy first North American and foreign serial rights and an
option on anthology rights. All other rights are retained by
the author.
Details at

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Author Interview: Ann Harth, part I/Contest

Today, I’m thrilled to have children’s book author, Ann Harth, visit this blog and provide her insight into writing a contract-grabbing manuscript. Ann lives in Australia but has contracts with U.S. publishers.

NKA: Ann, for your middle-grade novel, The Art of Magic, how did you get the idea to write the story?

AH: When my children were young we spent a couple of months in Hobart, Tasmania in Australia. Hobart was a penal colony in the 1800s and was built largely with convict labor. The streets are still lined with 19th century homes and, if you can erase the cars from the driveways, a walk down the street in Hobart feels like a stroll through the last century. While wandering the streets one day, I met an elderly woman who took me on a walk I’ll never forget. She pointed out houses and was able to give me the details of the people and families who lived in each over a hundred years before. I was completely charmed and a small thrill of mystery crept up my spine as I wondered how she knew about these people in such detail.

Her stories, and the feel of Hobart, never left me. An idea about a young boy who meets an aging, eccentric artist formed and grew. The Art of Magic was born.

NKA: I love the story behind the story, and I’m looking forward to reading your book. Not only are you taking us back in time but to a region of the world most of us only dream of seeing. Plus, the cover is beautiful. The house seems to be in motion as if my magic.

Where can readers purchase your latest book?

AH: The Art of Magic will be available later this year from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, FictionWise, SmashWords and Solstice Publishing.

NKA: I’m always fascinated with how authors create and develop ideas for books. We’d love for you to share some tips for writing children’s books.

AH: Read. One of the most critical tips I could give a children’s writer is to read. This is a popular suggestion given by writers, but it’s offered for a reason. Reading is imperative. Read in the genre you want to write, but don’t stop there. Explore different kinds of writing for different ages. You never know when an idea will strike. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t and try to figure out why. Soak up different styles and get a feeling for the current trends. When you find a book you love, check out the author’s website and delve even more deeply into the creation of the book and its creator. Immerse yourself in the world of children’s books.

Think like a child. There are plenty of ways to get into the mind of a child – watch them, play with them, let go of grown-up confines and recall your own childhood. Try to remember what it was like when each and every inanimate object had a face and feelings or when 30 minutes until dinner seemed a lifetime. Children live in the moment. Try it. It will open the door to a world filled with possibilities.

NKA: Great tips, Ann. Thanks. Next week, part II of Ann’s interview will reveal more writing tips.

Contest for adult writers:
Would you like to share your travel experiences from a fantastic (or not so fantastic) trip or vacation you are currently on or took in the past? Do you live in a popular (or not so popular) travel destination and would like to share what makes your town or city special with other travelers? Contest Winners will be selected in 3 categories. At the end of the contest, CruiseTrust staff will determine the winners of the CruiseTrust Vacations' Traveling for Fun, Adventure and Relaxation Blogs Contest. Contest is open to any individual age 18 or older as of March 2, 2012 who is a legal resident of the United States or over the age of majority and a legal resident of Canada.

First Place Winner in the category "Best Travel Blog" - $500.
First Place Winner in the category "My Favorite Trip or Vacation" - $250.
First Place Winner in the category "My Hometown / Destination
Business is a Great Travel Destination Because..." will receive $250.
Deadline August 31, 2012.
Details at

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