Friday, July 29, 2011

Author Spotlight: Of Cherry Stems & Connie Keller

Today marks the inaugural Author Spotlight post on my blog. I have some super-fabulous authors lined up for every Friday, so I'm so excited that I could start right away. Thanks to all the commenters for contributing some kick-ass and perfectly bizarre questions for the authors.

Interestingly, the questions lent themselves to a few obvious categories, so I've had the authors pick a question from each (yes, there is a food category, there were THAT many questions).

This week, I bring you the lovely Connie Keller! (*crowd cheers*)
Let's go straight to some Q & A, shall we?

The Writing Process: How do you develop a mental picture of your characters?

I’m a very visual person. When I read, books are movies in my head. When I write, it’s the same. The characters come into my head fully developed. And their physical attributes (height, weight, etc.) are set as well. However, since I am face-blind, I have no idea what my characters’ faces look like. To combat this, I either cut out a photograph from a magazine that fits my idea of the character, or I keep a detailed list of my characters’ facial characteristics.

The Publishing Process: If you decided to self-publish, what was the final push that allowed that decision?

I’m not a particularly brave person, so I wasn’t one who eagerly embraced independent e-publishing. And my previous writing experience has been more traditional. I have an English degree with a concentration in writing, and I worked as a writer for Harcourt, etc.

When my novel was finished, I went through all the traditional channels. And a lot of literary agents were interested. One of my dream agents sent me a glowing email, telling me how much she loved my book. I thought it was my big break, and I was euphoric. But a few days later, she declined to sign the book because another book with a similar plot element just sold. She explained that because of the market, publishers wouldn’t sign a book with an element similar to one that had already been sold. Apparently, she wasn’t the only agent who thought it would be a problem. I was so discouraged that I put my novel “on the shelf.”

Months later, my daughter and my writing friends began to push me to e-publish. Plus, more and more traditionally published writers that I know began to e-publish. Another friend who is a very successful author told me to do it. She said, “It’s the way of the future.” Still, I waffled. Then I bought a Kindle. I’d never thought that I could forget about paper. But I did. Quickly. I fell in love with Kindle and realized everyone was right. E-readers are the way of the future, and self-publishing gave me an entrance into that market.

Writing and Food: Does chocolate help with the writing process?

Chocolate, being one of the essential writing food groups, is a great boon to writing. I’m a firm believer in the tush-in-the-chair-for-at-least-fifteen-minutes-a-day school of writing. A square of Lindt dark chocolate (either sea salt, black currant or intense orange) is my bribe.

Weird or Random Questions: What is your stupid human trick?

I can take a cherry stem and tie it into a knot with my tongue. While this may not be an especially marketable talent, it will keep children occupied for hours as they try to do it themselves.

(I'm going to interject here and say DUUUUUDE! That was MY stupid human trick and Connie, you totally stole if from me (not really of course), but I forgive you. There is room in the world for all the gifted people who have achieved the cherry-stem-tying-in-the-mouth trick.)

Thanks Connie!

Her book, Screwing Up Time, is now available! (Isn't that an awesome cover, btw?)

Buy at Barnes and Noble and Amazon!

For more details on her book, check out her Screwing Up Time Blog. Connie's also on Twitter too. :)

Happy Friday everyone, and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why Being Impatient is Good

Impatience is a terrible trait to have, they say.

After all, patience is a virtue, right?

And the publishing industry is snail-paced, so we must be patient.

But I'll tell you why impatience isn't a four letter word.

I have a friend who's suffering from an illness. And she's impatient to get better. I wasn't sure what to say to make her feel better. This is what came out:

"But impatience means you have a goal. And you want that goal to happen, soon. And it means you'll keep working towards that goal, that you haven't given up. That's good right?"

And it is.

I mean, I'm not saying if you're patient, you don't care. But impatience is proof positive that you have a passion for a goal.

So cheers to all you impatient people out there, like myself. Revel in it.

I'm raising my glass to you!

Also, please take a moment to visit Deb Salisbury's blog on how to deal with the waiting that comes with querying. Check out previous posts from Laura, myself, and Sarah!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Medical Mondays: Broken Heart Syndrome

Hey there! Hope you all had a great weekend.

Today's question comes from Charli Mac. She had a bunch of great questions about a motor vehicle accident that causes all sorts of chaos, but I wanted to focus on this particular question:

"I also have a character suffering for blunt force trauma to the chest. After surgery he is wonky but speaking to his kids. When he hears his wife passes he cries and and basically dies of a broken heart (literally). Is this remotely possible?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes. People can truly die of broken hearts.

Here's the science behind it. Broken Heart Syndrome (also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning cardiomyopathy) is a known entity in the medical world. (FYI cardio=heart; myo=muscle; -pathy=disease)

The Japanese name for it (takotsubo) comes from the Japanese word for the octopus trap that the left ventricle resembles as it balloons outward.

The majority of the cases are in women, though it's not unheard of in men. It can occur after a major physical or emotional stress (think sudden death of a family member; devastating news or sudden illness; natural disaster).

The symptoms can be similar to those of a sudden heart attack, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting. The sufferer can have heart failure (including fluid build-up in the lungs and low blood pressure). Shock (dangerously low blood pressure), stroke, and dangerous or fatal heart rhythms can also occur.

Though death can occur (the range of reports span 0-8% death rate in the hospital), many who do survive are lucky enough to see their heart function recover quite a bit.

Thanks Charli for a great question and an extremely fascinating topic. Sadly, broken hearts aren't just figurative in our world.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Author Spotlight

I've been thinking for a long time now that I'd like to showcase those of you who have a book out there.

Not a book review, but just a little snapshot of the author and a blurb on the book. After all, what good is a nice social network if I can't share it with the very people who support me? :)

But I want it to be a little different.

Are there any quirky questions you'd really like to know about your author friends?

Please dish!

And, if you would like to be featured on my blog, please let me know in the comments or email me at LydiaYKang (at) gmail (dot) com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Procrastination results in Shiny New Website!

I have my MG outlined and am ready to start writing it, but I have major fear of writing the first page.

Pathetic, I know.

So what did I do instead?

I made myself a shiny, new website. In one day. About 8 hours, actually.

Here it is!

People have been asking me questions about it, so I'll answer them as best as I can.

1. What website-maker did you use? It was Elana Johnson's and Christine Fonseca's, and I loved them both. So, enough said. But I came close to using one with GoDaddy, which had a huge selection of templates. There are a LOT of sites out there. I was just lazy, I guess. I picked Blogger for the same reason. It seemed easy and people I trusted used it, so that was that.

2. Was it hard? It was pretty straightforward. I'm still tweaking it. I must admit that messing around with Blogger this past year made it easy for me. The hardest part was finding all my publication deets to put in. Also, on the connect page, all those cute little square icons for Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, etc? I hunted down those images on Google, resized them and added my links because I didn't like the automatic Wix ones that came with the program. Me = Picky.

3. Are those your photographs? No, they're stock photos from Wix, but you can upload your own. I did the little Oyster one on the blog tab all by my little self, but you guys probably figured that out.

4. How much did it cost? Wix allows you to make it for free, but I upgraded. I'm paying about $8 a month so I can use my own domain (they give you one for free, but it's like http://wix_allthisstuffthatpeoplewon' so I used one from With the upgrade, it removes all the Wix advertising, and I wanted my site to look really clean.
Also, there is the cost of my domain from, which is like $7/year.

5. Any complains so far? It's Flash only, so anyone without Flashplayer can't look at it. Another somewhat huge problem is the iPad/iPhone is Flash-free, so Wix won't work on it. It's fine on a Mac, though. I'm still trying to figure out if I'll end up ditching my site for a site that's HTML.

6. Why is the Fiction page still blank? Because I'm not sure yet if I want to put all my projects out there to be seen as yet. I've been very secretive about my writing up until now. (I know, I know. Duh, then why did you make a website, silly? Baby steps, I guess.) But still, I wanted to put my other publishing credentials out there, and it never felt right to put them on my blog for some reason.

7. What else did you do with it? I did put a Statcounter widget on it to look at hits, though I don't expect a ton. I also registered it with Google, Bing, and Yahoo so it'll show up on searches. I linked my FB page and blog to it. I also linked it up so I can do Google Analytics on it. Oh, and I added it to my email and forum signatures.

Do you have a website? Please share if you like, and any other advice about making a website. Thanks!

Also, please stop by Sarah Fine's blog today and check out here answer to how to deal with waiting when querying. Check out last week's post by myself, and Laura's answer from the week before. Deb's up next week!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Medical Mondays: AVM, not ATM, not ATV

A few weeks ago I did a post on aneurysms, and I got several comments wondering if an AVM could also cause serious damage in the brain. And also, what the heck was an AVM?

An AVM is an arteriovenous malformation. Before I explain what an AVM is, first we start with the normal way things go in that body of yours.

Usually blood, rich with oxygen from the lungs, is pumped from your heart and delivered to your body parts via strong, thick-walled vessels. They have to be thick to withstand the pressure needed to push the blood everywhere.

They divide into smaller vessels (eventually to tiny capillaries), drop off their oxygen, pick up the carbon dioxide, and regroup into larger, thin-walled vessels of your veins.

Then back to the right side of the heart, a pump to the lungs to pick up more oxygen, back again now to the left side of the heart, and a huge pump to start it all over again.

An AVM is a malformation where the artery goes directly to a vein and bypasses all the smaller vessels. It can be a tangle of vessels, and can be found in the brain or other organs.

Who gets them? Usually they're congenital, meaning you're born with them. They occur in 0.1% of the population, about 1/10 the number of people with brain aneurysms. People between the age of 10-40 are the ones who usually experience a problem with them.

Why are they bad? Well, they tend to bleed easily. Veins aren't used to withstanding the pressure directly from arteries. Even unruptured, they can cause seizures, headaches, and neurological problems.

How are they treated? By surgery, radiation, or embolization (something is put inside the AVM to block it off).

Now you all know about AVMs. And you can use have your characters suffer from them.

(Poor characters!)

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

Friday, July 15, 2011

S.M.O.D. (Social Media Overdose)

Until recently, my social media life involved Facebook, my blog, two email accounts, and two writing forums. They all kept me busy. I had it all under reasonable control.

Then Twitter came along.

It was like living in a house for a year and suddenly discovering a room you didn't know existed. You open the door to this new room, and it's full of people. And they're all talking simultaneously and you're sure it's all about stuff that will prevent the end of the world as you know it.


The symptoms of SMOD?
  • headache
  • irritability
  • inability to focus
  • random shouting at laptop to go faster
  • time blackouts (looking at clock and realizing hours have vanished into thin air)
  • inability to reach any goals
  • fits of inhuman growling
My prescription?

I'm going to try to limit visiting forums to once a day. Emails, twice a day. I've surgically removed my Blackberry from my hand (no anesthesia required!). I'll keep my usual schedule of checking and writing blogs. And I'm going to try hard to limit hardcore TwitterTime to select times of the day.

The most important? I'll turn it all off when I'm writing.

(Well. Most of it. #amwriting)

How many social media outlets are you involved in? Do you suffer from SMOD? How do you treat it?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Killing Time and Bunnies

This week's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question comes from Laura, who posted last week.

If you’re querying now, or have in the past, how do you develop patience to wait for responses?

Er, what's patience?

I'll be honest. I try to write a new WIP to take my mind off things and catch up on beta reads.

But this most recent querying episode has been particularly hard for me. I resolved to clean my house to take my mind off things. As in, reorganize every drawer, cabinet, room, and I've gathered up about 20 ginormous bags of donation stuff and have fought the dust bunnies TO THE DEATH.

(I think I won. But the dust bunny zombies are probably coming to get me soon.)

Does it help with the stress of waiting? Not really. But my house is sparkling. :)

Stay tuned for next week's post by Sarah Fine!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Medical Mondays: Sucking the Life Out of Your Character

Hi all! Hope you all had a good week. I'm back from vacation and procrastinating like a champ.
(I'm writing this in the wee hours of the morning, so forgive me if I'm punchy.)

I've got a great question from Michelle Simkins (check out her blog, Greenwoman). She asked:

I have a character who suffers from a lot of blood loss.
1. How much blood can someone lose and still survive if they're brought to the ER in time?
2. What happens to someone who has lost almost, but not quite, enough blood to die?
3. What does the recovery process look like? How long would you feel like crap? In what ways would you feel like crap?

Ah, good old exsanguination. Yet another method we have in our fictional arsenal to be mean to our characters.

The average human has about 5 liters of blood in their body. Of that, red blood cells account for about 45% of that volume, and the rest is mostly liquid plasma and a tiny percentage some white cells and platelets.

Assuming the character is healthy, they can lose about one full liter (20% of their total blood) before they feel bad; at a two liter blood loss, or 40%, they'll go into shock (that is, too little blood to fill the blood vessels properly and deliver oxygen to vital organs, such as the brain and heart). At that point, they'd pass out and their other organs would suffer from the lack of blood supply (heart attacks, arrhythmia, kidney failure, stroke, stuff like that).

BUT...if they got to the ER in time? Say, after losing more than a liter and a half (30%-40%)? The first thing the ER would do would stick some huge IVs into the person and pour in some fluids (to get the blood pressure up) and blood products (red cells, platelets) as quickly as possible. During this time, the character would be:
  • short of breath
  • dizzy
  • having palpitations (their heartrate would be very fast)
  • going in and out of fainting spells
  • possibly confused and anxious
  • extremely weak
  • cold and sweaty.

Assuming that the reason for the blood loss has passed (I won't give away any spoilers...some day you'll just have to read Michelle's book!), the character would get enough transfusions to bring the blood levels (hemoglobin or hematocrit) to a safe level. They won't replace all the blood lost, just enough.

Because of that, the person will still have some lingering anemia. Plus, coming so close to death would be pretty exhausting. So I'd guess that that person would be really fatigued, short of breath, dizzy when standing, thirsty, and, well, just plain awful for a few days after.

Hope that answers it for you, Michelle!

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Target Audience Crits

Hey guys.

Up until recently, I always had my YA writing beta-ed and critted by fellow writers, ones that usually read a lot of YA and were deep into the writing process themselves.

This past week, I had my YA manuscript beta-ed by three teens. My 13 year-old nephew, and two teenage girls, aged (I think) 15 and 14.

When their emails showed up in my box, I was just as nervous as when an agent's email shows up.

Will they hate it? Will they think my writing is stinkier than a dead fish? Oh, the stress!

Luckily, the feedback was positive, and I was thrilled. It was an entirely different kind of validation than what I've received from my writing peers.

How about you? Have you had your work read by non-writing members of your target audience?

And on one last note, I'll be on a blogging vacation all of next week. Have a great 4th of July, and see you later!