Spindle Booktube Video

September 23, 2016

We are two weeks out from the October 4th pub date for Spindle. Enter the Goodreads Giveaway for your chance to win a copy!

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Olympic rings and motivational slogan. Olimpic rings. Olympic card. Eps 10. Vector illustration

In this week’s Creative Penn podcast Joanna Penn challenged her listeners to review their past career leaps based on the four-year Olympic cycles, then project our goals into the future. What a fun challenge! Year to year changes seem small, but when you look at a four-year leap, you can see the gains better. I stopped everything and started sorting through my vague memories to see just how far I’ve come.

2008 Beijing

In 2008 I was a homeschool mom by day, aspiring writer whenever I had time.

I was working on a blog called Routines for Writers with two of my writing friends. We were learning how to do all the things online while we worked on our fiction projects. I had no social media presence, and the internet seemed a bit of a scary place for someone who is quite private.

Back then I was getting ready to query a middle-grade fairy tale. I’d been a professional writer before having kids, but took time away to raise my children. (I worked full time as a technical writer and wrote freelance teen articles.)

That spring I took a (now defunct) course for authors called Author MBA. We covered branding and goal setting, ultimately coming up with a personalized business plan. Over these next few years I took classes from Margie Lawson and focused a lot of my time on learning how to write and revise.

November 2008 is the NaNoWriMo when I wrote the first draft of my YA novel Cinderella’s Dress, which would go on to become my first traditionally published book.

Twitter was my first social media account.

2012 London

Four years later and nothing measurable on the writing career front. That middle-grade fairy tale was met with limited success (requests for fulls and partials—including a full request at a publisher I would have been thrilled to sign with—but no contracts.) And then I’d started querying the Cinderella book.

In the fall I went to a local SCBWI conference and learned about a new publishing house, Entangled Publishing. The publisher, Liz Pelletier was speaking, but I hadn’t planned on going to any of her sessions. Until I heard her first pitch. After all the panelists gave their spiel, I changed all my plans and went to all of Liz’s sessions. This was a new company doing publishing in a new way and I wanted to learn more.

I submitted Cinderella’s Dress that November, got the “call” or in this case, email in June 2013. By January 2014 we were in edits and the book came out June 2014.

I created my own website and signed up for social media accounts like crazy, along with every webinar on social media marketing I could get my hands on. I even started a YouTube channel. (Never expected to do that!) AND joined Toastmasters for a few months to break that fear of public speaking (Can’t I just write the books? Do I have to TALK about the books, too?)

Fun events: being on two panels at Phoenix Comicon, getting rock-star treatment at ALA Last Vegas (American Library Association conference), local book signings, and the Yallapalooza event at the famous Changing Hands Bookstore, plus several school visits in front of creative writing classes, English classes, and, surprise (!) an assembly.

2016 Rio

By 2016 I had two traditionally published books out, and a third set to launch in October. I’d been listening to Joanna’s podcasts for a several months as my interest in self publishing had been piqued after watching several friends put out their own books, and I was curious if the grass was greener on the other side.

I had a project that I loved, but was a hard sell for traditional publishing as it didn’t fit into any neat category. It was the perfect book to try to do on my own. I published Liz and Nellie, a historical retelling of Nellie Bly’s race around the world, and learned the grass wasn’t greener, it was purple. Self-publishing is quite different from traditional publishing in many ways (need another blog post for this), but personally rewarding.

In another surprise turn of events I took a summer job as the writer in residence at Mesa Public Library. I taught four classes and held one-on-one appointments with aspiring authors. I grew a lot professionally as I helped aspiring authors further their careers. That job wrapped up yesterday, leaving me more time and energy to focus on writing my next historical fairy tale this fall.

Along with a group of three other writing friends, we decided to put together a writing retreat this summer. After all our planning we sold all the available slots, and thirteen local authors went up to Pine, AZ to escape the heat and focus on writing and networking (AKA eating, laughing, and general tomfoolery–read the series of tweets regarding the uninvited centipede one night!)

And lastly, in a twist of irony over my almost-conquered-fear of public speaking, I’m one of the moms in charge of Speech and Debate club for school this year. How did THAT happen?

2020 Tokyo

What could change in another four years? Well, my job as homeschool mom will be coming to a close. One child will be out of the house with the other soon to follow. I’m not going to dwell on the empty nest feelings here, but when it happens, I want to be ready to take a big leap in my writing career. What will that be? I have a few more years to figure that out. I did enjoy the one-on-one mentoring during my residency at the library, so maybe I’ll look into doing more of that.

I’d also like to continue the one-book-a-year path I’m on. This year it was two books and that was a stretch given all my other responsibilities. However, I do have more ideas for self published projects, so once in a while a bonus book will get tossed in the mix, I think.

I’d also like to see my middle-grade books find homes with publishers. I suppose if several more years go by and they remain unsold, I can publish them myself. Middle grade is a harder sell for self-pub, but better than having these stories I love hide out on my computer with no readers at all.

To sum: since 2008 I’ve had three books published, another on the way, both traditionally and self-published. I’ve been a panelist at several events, the largest being Phoenix Comicon. I’ve had a stint as a writer-in-residence and helped plan/create a writer’s retreat weekend that will likely turn into an annual event.

I couldn’t have done any of this without a willingness to try. Especially a willingness to get out of my comfort zone and just say yes when an opportunity came up. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 Tokyo has in store. Thanks Joanna for the challenge!

Writer in Residence

July 13, 2016

Writer in residenceFor the rest of July and August, I’ll be the writer in residence at the Mesa Public Library. I’ll be teaching four workshops and holding one-on-one appointments with other writers. I’ve added a tab to the menu above (one on one appointment) where you can sign up for a 30 minute slot to talk about writing, or have me look over your work and offer some advice.

I’m really excited about this opportunity. Writing is one of my favorite things to talk about and my family gets tired of my enthusiasm sometimes (!)

When I’m not conducting workshops or taking appointments, I’ll be working on my own projects. I’m at the beginning stages of a new idea, so I’m researching and getting started on a first draft of a new historical fairy tale.

More information is here: Mesa Public Library.

And this is my workshop schedule:

Tues | July 19 | 6-7:30pm | MEL
Retellings are hot right now. Learn tips and tricks to put a new spin on a classic story. Perfect for writers who love retellings, and also those who need help coming up with plots. Leave class with a fresh start on a new tale. Skills addressed: developing ideas, brainstorming, help with plotting. Open to all skill levels.

I’ve written a first draft—now what?
July 20 | 6-7:30pm | DR
Children’s author Shannon Hale once said she was “writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” Learn editing techniques to help you shape your castle—er—manuscript. Skills addressed: three-pass edit system; overview of macro and micro editing. Bring sample chapters and a pack of colored highlighters to fully experience the class. Open to all skill levels.

Level Up!
Sat | Aug 13 | 1-2:30pm | RM
Interested in taking a step up the publishing ladder? Learn some basic routines of published authors to see what you can do to improve your speed and your writing skills. Skills addressed: creating writing routines, finding information about the industry, and more. Open to all skill levels, but beginners, hold onto your hats!

Tools of the Modern Writer
Wed | Aug 24 | 6-7:30pm | MN
Curious about the day in the life of a writer? Learn about writing software, author communities, social media, and more. Skills addressed: networking, self-help, websites.

This project is supported by the Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State, with federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

My publisher is giving away a series starter kit. Here some info on what they’ve got planned these next few weeks:

Have you had your eye on at least one – if not many – of our TEEN series? Why not put your steaming TV and movie nights on hold and, instead, binge read through one (or many) of or completed TEEN series with Entangled TEEN as we YA Series & Chill.


Well between Monday, June 20, 2016 and Sunday, July 3, 2016, we have several first books in a series on sale for the sweet price of $0.99, which makes diving into a new-to-you series so much easier. Best of all, we’ve got something for everyone with some YA Fantasy, some YA Sci-Fi, some YA Contemporary Romance, and even some awesome MG Fantasy on sale over the next two weeks.
From now until Sunday, June 26th, you can pick up the following books at a great price:
Shea Berkley‘s The Marked Son, the first book in the Keepers of Life Trilogy. (Check out the killer new covers for this YA fantasy series populated by a fae-like race!)

Cate Cameron‘s Center Ice, the first book in the Corrigan Falls Raiders series. It’s perfect for YA contemporary romance lovers who like sports romance, especially of the hockey variety. Each book follows a different couple, including one guy who plays semi-pro hockey on the Corrigan Falls Raiders team. (We’d highly recommend it – and the other two books in the series – for fans of Elle Kennedy’s The Deal.)

Tracy Clark‘s Scintillate, the first book in the Light Key Trilogy series is a YA fantasy that is full of dark secrets that people who do anything to keep hidden. (Just like The Marked Son this one has a brand new cover that we love!)

Pintip Dunn‘s Forget Tomorrow, the first book in a YA Sci-Fi / Dystopian about a world where teens receive a future memory to mark their adulthood, which determines the kind of life they’re meant to lead, but unfortunately, Callie’s memory suggests that she’s going to kill her little sister, who she’d do anything to protect, and sets in motion a fast-paced story.
Come back here next week to find out what other books are on sale from June 27 to July 3!

To help celebrate these awesome YA steals, we’ve got a bunch of fun events planned for the next two weeks, including a blog series about YA series, some Facebook takeovers from some of our fave YA series authors, a live Twitter Chat, and an amazing YA giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I loved today’s Google Doodle so much I had to share it here so I’ll remember it!

and the behind the scenes:

I’ve recently wrapped up an editing marathon and my right hand/wrist ended up pretty sore. My friend Melody made this video this weekend so I’m posting it for future reference and to help anyone else who has this same problem:

The Idea

MediumLiz and Nellie, the historical retelling of the dramatic race around the world in the late 1800s started out as a research rabbit trail. I was working on a YA novel set in the 1890s, and while I was studying this time period, I read about a young woman named Nellie Bly who went around the world to try to beat Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days record.

I had never heard of this woman and was immediately drawn to her story. I stopped working on the one novel and dove into Nellie Bly’s world. Why had I never heard of her? Wouldn’t teens love this story? So I thought I would write a novel based on Nellie’s trip. After more research, I learned there was a second young woman who set out going in the opposite direction to race Nellie back to New York. This story kept getting better and better! I had to share it with today’s teens.

The Source Material

Nellie blys bookBoth these women were writers and wrote newspaper and magazine articles telling their story; these were each compiled into books. Nellie’s account, Around the World in Seventy-two Days, while dated to the times, was pretty easy to follow, and was a pleasurable read. Elizabeth Bisland’s account, Elizabeth Bisland in Seven Stages. was much more literary in style, with multiple references to poetry and paintings and was less accessible to a teen reader today.

Because these accounts were written in the 1800s, these books are now in the public domain. I got the idea to combine them, alternating chapters to tell both stories at one time, then transforming the articles into a novel, and modernizing the language a little bit.

The First Draft

I alternated the text, trying to spread the story out evenly. Nellie wrote a lot more than Elizabeth did, so it was a challenge to find the breaks in the text to give Elizabeth’s accounts enough for a full chapter, yet keep the two on pace with one another.

Then I created scenes, added characters, turned the text into dialogue or made up my own. I fictionalized their accounts, trying to keep as close to the original as possible, as I do love history and journals, and these were very much their journals of their trip. I could have left well enough alone and directed readers to the original texts, but since I had missed out on the originals, I was convinced there were others out there who would enjoy the story as a novel, especially the YA audience I love to write for.

Eighty Days

eighty daysWhile I was working through this first draft I learned that Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman was coming out. Oh no! He had the same idea I did, but years before me! I had that panic that authors do when they think they might have to ditch a project and move on to something else. But, taking the advice that authors always give–you might have the same idea, but your approach will be different, I decided to keep on to the end. My goal was now to finish the first draft before Eighty Days published. I didn’t make that goal, so I had to wait a few weeks after the book came out, but finally, I got to see how Goodman approached the Nellie Bly story….and it was different. Whew.

Eighty Days is a narrative nonfiction approach this amazing story. I’ll write a review of it soon, but as a summary here, note that Eighty Days covers a much broader sweep of history than my novel. It is a richly detailed account of the times, as well as Bly and Bisland’s backgrounds, their respective trips, and their lives after their tour around the world. In short, the book is a fantastic study of these two women and the times they lived in. I highly recommend it. Goodman was able to dig up so much more historical material than I was and he includes a huge source list at the back, which I took advantage of to help me fill in some blanks and solve some of the puzzles I needed to track down.


This was my side project on and off through the months when I wasn’t working on my historical fairy tales. I’d get a break in my schedule and give it another round of edits.

The Liz and Nellie story is not a romance, so it wasn’t a good fit for my publisher. I don’t have an agent, so I sent out a few queries to see if any were interested in picking up this historical retelling. None were. I finally found an agent who was an editor on a similar project, so I figured if anyone thought this would make a good fit for a publisher, it would be her. She was to be the final agent I queried before I set out on my own, bravely (!) like Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland.

My friend Kitty Bucholtz has been indie publishing for years and she keeps telling me how straightforward it is to do. Nothing to be afraid of!

So, I took the plunge. I started to learn what I needed to do to put this book out into the world myself. The initial steps are the same as what I do for EntangledTEEN–the writing, the editing etc. What I had to learn were all the parts my publisher normally does for me–ant it’s a lot! I have a much greater regard for the team behind my traditionally published books after this venture. From purchasing ISBNs to buying ad space, whew. There is a lot to stay on top of.


I am so pleased with this little book. Without any inflated sense of pride I can tell you how great the story is because it’s not my story, it’s Liz and Nellie’s. They actually lived it, and I hope this novelized version shines more light on these (almost) three months of history.

Would I self publish again? Yes. Even though I was tearing my hair out at times, it was kind of fun. It was so much fun it deserves a post all on its own. Stay tuned.


In April 2016 I participated in the Blogging from A to Z challenge and wrote the A to Zs of the 1800s. The list will give you some background of the Liz and Nellie story and has several interesting photos. You can also check out my Pinterest board here. And my video:

A2Z-BADGE [2016]

This was my third year blogging A to Z.

Year 1: Learned about the challenge a few days before it started and thought it would be fun. I blogged each day with no real plan other than to make it to the end. My theme was random.

Year 2: From my first year, I’d learned about themes and planning ahead! So the second year I picked the 1940s, and in many ways it made the challenge much easier to do. I hadn’t decided all the letters by the time the challenge began, but it was close. I think I was still blogging every day (usually posting late that night for the next day’s post.) I learned to compile all the blogs in one place (on my top menu) to make it easier for people to browse through the letters, and I learned about including a signature with your link.

Year 3: This year. I went with a theme again, this time the race around the world in the 1800s between Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland. I wrote the first few week’s posts early, doing my planning in Scrivener software. This allowed me to spend those early days visiting other blogs instead of writing my own posts. I took advantage of that extra time and visited extra blogs, knowing that later in the month I’d be busy (2nd pass edits on SPINDLE, a sleeping beauty tale) and not able to keep up with the visits as much. I was excited to come across a blog I’d been to last year–I thought there would be more, but the list was huge this year! It was also fun to come across a friend I know in real life 🙂  Oh, and I picked up a delicious-looking recipe along the way.

Also this year, I had a guest blogger! Rosemary J. Brown, a fellow Nellie Bly enthusiast who actually took the trip around the world just as Nellie did (minus the steamships), popped in for L, V and W. That was fun.

So there you go. Another challenge complete. Once I’m finished with my editing, I’ll have more time to go back and visit some more to see what else people were blogging about. Big thanks to the organizers for continuing to offer this challenge!

I didn’t think to do a giveaway until it was almost too late. I think Year 2 I was much more organized than this year! So here is my Goodreads giveaway if you are interested:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Liz and Nellie by Shonna Slayton

Liz and Nellie

by Shonna Slayton

Giveaway ends May 27, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Z is for Zero Sum

April 30, 2016

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Liz and Nellie by Shonna Slayton

Liz and Nellie

by Shonna Slayton

Giveaway ends May 27, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

A zero-sum competition is one where the sum of the gains equals the sum of the losses. When Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland went around the world attempting to beat Jules Verne’s fictional 80 days, only one could be the winner. The other the loser.

Nellie didn’t begin her trip around the world racing against Elizabeth Bisland. She was always racing against the clock. She didn’t even know another female reporter was racing against her until she was halfway around the world. No one from her newspaper told her. She had to find out from a ticket agent in Hong Kong who told her she was going to lose the other girl. What other girl?!?

“You are going to lose it,” he said with an air of conviction.

“Lose it? I don’t understand. What do you mean?” I demanded, beginning to think he was mad.

“Aren’t you having a race around the world?” he asked, as if he thought I was not Nellie Bly.

“Yes; quite right. I am running a race with Time,” I replied.

“Time? I don’t think that’s her name.”

“Her! Her!!” I repeated, thinking, “Poor fellow, he is quite unbalanced,” and wondering if I dared wink at the doctor to suggest to him the advisability of our making good our escape.

“Yes, the other woman; she is going to win. She left here three days ago.”

–Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days


Elizabeth Bisland, however, was racing against Nellie from day one. And only one could win. Zero-sum.

This year for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I’m writing about the 1800s in celebration of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s race around the world in 1889, the subject of my new novel based on this adventure: Liz and Nellie.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Liz and Nellie by Shonna Slayton

Liz and Nellie

by Shonna Slayton

Giveaway ends May 27, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Japan opened up to foreigners in 1854, just thirty-five years before Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland set out on their race around the world. They both loved Japan, having wonderful things to say about the country. They stayed in the port city of Yokohama, on the English side, at the Grand Hotel. Elizabeth went shopping, curious at how the shops opened right out onto the street, and thrilled at the array of silks.



Silk Merchant By Unknown – Popular Science Monthly Volume 43, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12783669

We sit on the edge of the little platform that forms the floor of the shop, and, in the baby talk that is called pigeon-English, bargain with the amiable shopkeeper seated on his own heels and within easy reach of all his goods….In the silk-shops we find the very poetry of fabrics: . . . crapes like milky opals, with the pale iris hues of rainbows; crapes with the faint purple and rose of clear sunset skies, embroidered with wheeling flights of white storks….fairy garments all, woven of rainbows and moonbeams!  –Elizabeth Bisland, In Seven Stages


The One Hundred Steps

In Yokohama, I went to Hundred Steps, at the top of which lives a Japanese belle, Oyuchisan, who is the theme for artist and poet, and the admiration of tourists. –Nellie Bly, Around the World in 72 Days

For more check out: Popular Science Monthly Volume 43, May 1893