Monday, October 28, 2013

A Full Circle Moment With Jodi Meadows

First—if you want to see some of my favorite/dream costumes—check out this guest post of mine. It was fun to put together and I don't want anyone to miss it!

Today I get to share a blurb that means a lot to me, because it comes from a person who has seen some of the worst examples of my writing. That person? The lovely Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate series. Here's what she said about HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW:

Heartwarming, dangerous, and enchanting: Natalie Whipple's HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW offers a delicious tale filled with sacrifice, a terrifying villain, and so many people I'd love to call friends. It's better than pudding! 

Way, way back, like 2008, I was querying my second project. My first project hadn't gotten any requests, and I decided to move on to my Zombie Romance Novel (yes, for reals). I wasn't a good writer yet, but I didn't know how to get better and hoped that someone out there might see my potential anyway.

Querying the Zombie Romance Novel didn't go much better than my first attempt. I was getting a lot of rejections, BUT I did get one little request of the 25 queries I sent on that project before I gave up yet again.

And that request was from Jodi.

Jodi was an agent's assistant at the time, and she became The Very First Person In Publishing To Request My Work. Suffice it to say, that's not something I ever forgot. That first request is a big deal—it's the small thing that gives an author hope that maybe, just maybe, I do have some talent. It kept me going, as all requests do during that hard query road.

Of course, Jodi and her agent did ultimately pass on the Zombie Romance Novel, but when I came at them with my Dragon Novel Jodi requested again. And in the end rejected again. The same happened with The Ninjas. But clearly there was something in my writing/ideas that she got, even if my writing was still not there.

So Jodi and I kinda got to know each other. We're not crit partners, but I think we've been following each other's journeys closely through the years. I remember when she sold INCARNATE, and how happy I was for her. I feel really privileged to know that she read and liked my words—that I finally figured out this writing thing enough for Jodi to give her Stamp Of Approval. It's definitely a full circle moment for me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

7-Word Pitch Winners!

Thank you, friends, for the awesome pitches you sent in! My favorite thing about this contest is seeing how creative you guys get. And your stories! I get so excited to crit when I see how much talent is out there. I'm really looking forward to how these pitches translate into the pages I will be reading.

Now, I picked winners solely based on my personal preferences and what I wanted to read. If I didn't pick your pitch, it has no bearing on the quality of your work or its potential to attract an agent/publisher. There were many great pitches and I just had to go with what grabbed me the most.

Shall we get on with it? I will share the first 6 winners and why I chose them, and then I will end with the GRAND PRIZE winner, who will also receive an ARC of HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW.

Beth Smith "Faithless girl meet town of true believers." — I loved the inherent conflict in this pitch, and the many possible directions this could be taken. I immediately wanted to see how this played out.

Kara "Shakespeare Festival road trip leads to LOVE!" — This caught my eye because of the topics involved. I was a techie in high school, so the idea of a Shakespeare Fest road trip warms the cockles of my heart.

Jenny "Zombie disease causes anxiety for germaphobic teenager." — This grabbed me because it was both funny with a hint of creepy, which reminds me of the awesome Carrie Harris. I'm a wuss when it comes to horror, but when there's humor fused with it I can totally get on board.

Leandra Wallace "Grieving teen fights gargoyles in 1777 Boston." — I liked the historical aspect of this, and am interested to see how the implied paranormal elements play in. Maybe because I'm in love with Sleepy Hollow, but 1777 Boston sounds like a cool time period to showcase.

Nicki "Reluctant princess betrothed to father's murderer." — The potential for conflict in these 7 words is just fabulous. And hey, I like princesses. Who doesn't like princesses now and then?

Steph Sessa "Framed for treason, synesthete fights for freedom." — Synesthesia is something I've always found very interesting, so that immediately caught my eye. I want to see how that pov is handled. It's sure to be a unique take on a "framed for treason" story.


Stephanie Lynn Smith "Teen girl science prodigy resurrects dead boyfriend." — I just...this has "recipe for disaster" written all over it, which is golden. Also, I'm feeling like it may have a Mary Shelly connection, because of the Frankenstein themes. Either way, it sounds like good fun to me.

Winners! Please email me at so that we can work out the details of the prizes. If you MS isn't ready, please still email me so that I know to delay your crit (which is totally okay).

Thanks to all who entered! This will be a yearly thing, so I hope to see some of you next time!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

House Of Ivy & Sorrow! Six Months!

I know I just had a contest for BLINDSIDED, but now it's six months until HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW releases and I find this very exciting!

Also, on October 10th, I passed my seven years of blogging mark, which begs to be celebrated. So part of this contest with also feature a chance to win a query and 10-page crit of your novel from yours truly. This is the only time in the year I offer this prize, just so you know.

AND, as if that's not enough to celebrate, I have a BLURB to share! Let's do that first:

"I can sum up this book in one word: COST. Everything in Natalie Whipple's HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW has a price. Every spell requires a sacrifice. But that's not where the price tags end. What is the price of a relationship? A friendship? A friend's life? And secrets. Secrets have the highest cost of all. A wonderful, dark tale of witches who feel all too human. Loved it!" 

Aprilynne Pike, bestselling author of awesomeness, creator of the Wings series, along with Life After Theft, the Earthbound series, and the upcoming Sleep No More
Awesome, right? I have to admit I love hearing Good Things about HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW, because it's pretty much my pet book. Yes, my favorite of the things I've written to date (except for maybe the thing I have on sub, but it's close). I really hope people enjoy it, and I feel like now is also a good time to share a teaser, yes? Because six months! And prizes! And today is a party! (I feel like I should have cupcakes now...)


I slam the door behind me and lean against it. My heart pounds, though I’m not quite sure why. He didn’t seem like a bad person, but there was something evil with him. It was wrong for him to be here, to see me.
After I bolt the door, I head back to Nana. “Here are your spiders.”
Her white eyebrows furrow over her impossibly dark eyes. “What’s wrong?”
So much for hiding my panic. “Nothing. There was just a man at the gate. I sent him away.”
She goes to the window and pulls the green velvet curtain back, as if he’d still be there. “He didn’t come for a spell?”
I shake my head. “He . . . asked for Carmina.”
Her eyes snap to mine.
“He didn’t know she was dead.”
She shuts the curtain with far more force than necessary. “You are not to go out there again.”
“Wha . . . wait, what?” I didn’t expect her to be happy about the stranger, but this is harsh, even for her. “Why?”
“Not safe . . . not safe . . .” She goes to her cabinets, grabbing all sorts of eyes. Eyes—for which to see. Magic can be rather literal at times. “No good can come from those who seek the dead.”
“Would you mind explaining?”
No answer. She’s already in full incantation mode, the small cauldron heating on a Bunsen burner and all. Nana is an incredible witch. I watch in amazement as she goes through each phase at lightning speed, and by memory. I still have so much to learn from her. The liquid is almost finished by the time I realize what she’s doing.
I groan. “Do I have to?”
“Yes, child, before it’s too late.” She motions for me to come over.
I grab the small knife on her desk as I go. Payment. Always. I hold my finger over the bubbling liquid and cut. It doesn’t sting until the blood is already dripping. I watch, only because I have to know when to stop the flow. The concoction turns from green to autumn orange. I pull my hand back and search for a tissue.
“That’s it. . . .” Nana waves her hands over the baby cauldron. In an instant a ghostlike figure appears—the man, with his sad eyes and nice suit, right from my fresh memories.

Cool, right? Okay, on to the PRIZES and how to win them. Admittedly, this contest is for The Writers out there, but I will have more contests! I still have a handful of ARCs to give away before HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW releases.


How To Enter: It's simple, really. You have a novel? I want to hear your pitch in seven words (To honor  seven years blogging, of course. Last year it was a six-word pitch, so no complaining you get a whole extra word!).

You may give that pitch here in comments, on Twitter (@nataliewhipple), or on my FB page. I will pick SEVEN favorites as the winners. And so you know, my winners have had shockingly good success in querying—three of the six winners last year emailed me to let me know they got agents, and one of them even sold their novel! (Yes, I'm totally proud of them and so excited.)

Prizes: The seven winners will all receive a query and 10-page crit of their novel. My favorite entry will also get an ARC of HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW plus swag.

Deadline: You have one week to enter! That means all entries are due October 22, 2013, at midnight Mountain Time. I will post winners October 23rd.

Good luck if you enter! This was one of my favorite things I did last year, so I can't wait to see how you pitch your novels in seven words!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

BLINDSIDED Contest Winners!

Hullo! Today is the day I get to tell five lovely people that they won BLINDSIDED! This means it's a good day. I like good days. And I hope these people will now have good days because they won. So without further ado:

1. Jenni King (@jenniewrites)
2. Skye (@skyelyte)
3. Fly To The Sky (@Read_LiveGreen)
4. Isabel (@parksseu)
5. Janci Patterson (@jancipatterson)

Congratulations, winners! And thanks so much for sharing your fun glasses pics with me—they kept me smiling all week. You will receive not only a copy of BLINDSIDED, but bookmarks and the ever-coveted Pop Tart Charm Necklace Of Awesome. Please email me at so that we can work out details.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

For The Bad Days

Cloudy February day at Swami's Beach in Encinitas, CA.
Yes, those dots in the ocean are surfers.
I have a lot of bad days. It's something that comes with the territory of being both a person with anxiety and a person who writes. Some days all I have to do is wake up and feel the crushing anxiety to know there will be major struggles in coping all my waking hours.

Which makes it hard to get out of bed sometimes. But I try to do that anyway.

Lately I've been having tons of really bad days. It happens—I've kind of accepted that I will have these anxiety-ridden times and that they don't often have logical reasons to go with them. I try to take care of myself when they come, because I know if I don't I'll be facing depression as well as the usual anxiety. Which is something I'm very close to at the moment. It's exhausting and also annoying.

So I want to talk about what you do when you're having a bad day. Or maybe even several bad days in a row. Or a whole month. Or even more.

Because if you're a writer, chances are you'll have bad days even if you aren't diagnosed with something like anxiety or depression. Writing is special like that—able to bring both the greatest joy and deepest sorrow. Not to mention a heavy helping of frustration.

I posted this pic I took while I was in CA because that day was a big deal for me in a lot of ways. But in reference to this topic, it greatly inspired me to see these surfers head out into the ocean on a cold, rainy day. I thought, "They must really love what they do if they're willing to get in that frigid water. That's dedication."

My friends, sometimes writing is like this. Cold, hard, unforgiving. Do we only get in the water when it's nice? Or do we still go out when the rain is falling and it doesn't look like much fun? With that, here's my advice:

Do What You Can
Bad days are days that it's easy to give up and do no work. I admit to falling prey to this more than once. It even happened last week. I didn't write for days because I was just plain sad and that made me tired and both of those made me wonder if I should keep doing this writing thing.

I had no excuses. I just didn't write because I didn't want to. I hate when I do that, when I let the bad thoughts win. They can be quite persuasive at times.

But, for the most part, I try to do what I can even when I'm down. It's usually not a lot, but it's something. A page written. A chapter edited. An important email sent. Something.

Because something is better than nothing. Moving forward, be it the tiniest of steps, is moving. And moving is better than standing still. When I stand still, that's when I dig the hole I'm in even deeper. That's when the dark thoughts come out to play—and they bring all their friends. The longer you do nothing, the easier it will be for you to beat yourself up. This brings me to my next point:

Be Gentle With Yourself
Bad days happen to everyone. It's normal. While it's important to keep going as best as you can, it's also vital to cut yourself some slack on the days when the words just aren't happening or you get a particularly stinging rejection or you find out B&N isn't stocking your novel. Whatever it may be—it's okay to ease up on yourself and allow yourself a day to feel like crap.

Be honest with how you feel and face it now, rather than putting it off. You can't stop emotions from happening, though you can delay them. Which usually leads to them getting worse.

On a bad day, don't beat yourself up for not hitting your goal. Praise yourself for trying in the first place. Recognize that trying is an accomplishment in and of itself. Lots of people don't even get that far.

And sometimes, let's face it, you just need a break. Breaks are okay. You know when you need one, and sometimes that will rejuvenate you if the pushing forward doesn't.

Do Non-Writer Things You Love
Relax. Take that nap. Watch a favorite show. Eat something you love. Go for a run. Play a game. Blast some music. Cuddle an animal. Bathe in chocolate. Whatever.

When I get down about my writing, it's really easy to feel like writing is my whole world and because that sucks then everything else must suck, too. If I can manage to get myself away from my work, it gives me perspective. I remember, "Oh hey, I'm more than a writer and my life is more than what's happening in publishing. Other things are good and I'm not as sucky as I think."

It's important to put things in perspective. When I stare at this screen too much it seems like it's the world—but the world is outside. It's a lot more than the internet and a Word doc.

Doing non-writer things I enjoy, ironically enough, also tends to inspire me. When I'm away from my work suddenly I might find something new to excite me about it again. Burn out is a real thing, and having hobbies is a good way to combat it.

Reach Out To Loved Ones
When I'm feeling bad about myself and my work, my first instinct is to hole up and have a big ol' pity party of one. I don't want to burden other people with my whining or what I feel are stupid problems. It's hard for me to tell people I'm struggling.

But I've learned it makes me feel a whole lot better.

You don't have to profess your struggles to everyone in the world, but I find a huge amount of help just by reaching out to one person. Be it a friend, my husband, or my mother. Talking about it, having someone there to offer understanding—that makes a huge difference in how I feel. So while it can sometimes be uncomfortable, I have people I trust who I know will listen until I talk out my angst and get over myself.

Stay Away From The Internet
The internet is poison when you're having a bad day. Because sometimes even the smallest good news from another person will set you down a horrible path of comparison. You don't need to add envy to your life when you're already feeling insecure and down on yourself or your work. And if not envy, you could just get flat out angry, which leads to the tendency to rant. And if not those, you'll find hopelessness, and maybe serious thoughts of giving up because it all feels impossible. Perhaps you'll feel all of that at once.

That is an icky emotional cocktail—I say that from way too much experience.

So the internet, back away slowly. And if you can't seem to stop the impulsive checking, I highly recommend blocking it in other ways. There's Mac Freedom, turning off your internet, or if you have a savvy husband like me I have him block social media sites. That way I can still use the internet for research but can't go places that make me feel worse on my bad days.

If It's Really Bad, Seek Professional Help
There are bad days, and then there are BAD DAYS. I went for a long time not understanding just how bad my days were getting, and it wasn't until it got dangerous for myself and my family that I realized I needed more help than a break and some chocolate could provide.

If you're starting to find that you're having more bad days than good. If these feelings are impeding you from performing normal, daily tasks. If they are interfering with your relationships. If they are causing you to consider hurting yourself or others. Please, please seek help. You might not think you need it, but I promise you it doesn't hurt. It wasn't until after I got help that I realized just how bad a place I was in. And while I still have bad days, it's nothing like it was before.

There's nothing wrong with getting the help you might need. Don't let the bad days get out of control.

Bad Days Can Turn Around
When I think of those surfers who have the dedication to get out there on the cold days, I realize they know something other people might not—things aren't always as they appear. Sometimes once you get in the water and start moving, things aren't as bad as they look. You get used to the cold water, and hey, the waves are pretty good. You can have fun on rainy days just as much as the sunny ones.

There are days where the last thing I want to do is work. But somehow I find the strength to just get in the water, and by the time I get going I realize I'm having a lot more fun writing than I thought I would that day. And then I write a whole chapter, grateful I decided to just do it even if it didn't look like it'd be fun.

Good luck on your bad days. Hope this helps.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

BLINDSIDED Is Coming! You Could Get One!

Three months from today, BLINDSIDED will officially be out in the world! Can you believe it? I hardly can. It's not often that a book you started writing this year comes out almost exactly a year after—I'm honestly still getting used to the fact that it's done, and here people will be able to READ IT.

I think the weirdest thing of all is that BLINDSIDED hasn't had the whole ARC process like my other books. Not even many of my writer friends have read it! So I haven't seen much feedback about whether on not people like it, and that's a bit scary but also kinda cool because I don't get slammed with the random tweeted @ me bad review or what not.



Things are about to change. Because I will soon have FINISHED COPIES of the mysterious BLINDSIDED, sequel to TRANSPARENT, that I'm pretending you are all dying for. In fact, Hot Key told me just today that they are packing up my author copies to send across the pond—and they are including FIVE extra copies for you guys.

Yes, you read that right.

I have super early finished copies of BLINDSIDED, and I am giving FIVE of them away to you lovely people.

How You Enter To Possibly Win BLINDSIDED (and swag): 
Fiona, leading lady of the TRANSPARENT series, loves funky glasses and shades because wearing them helps people know where her invisible face is. So in honor of her, I want you to take a picture in the coolest glasses/shades you have or can find—then post that picture to My Author Facebook Page OR post it on Twitter with the hashtag #BLINDSIDEDcontest (you could even @ me if you want to be sure I don't miss it). 

I will take the names of the entries as they come in, and then five will be drawn as winners.

You have until October 9th, midnight Mountain Time, to enter.

Also, yes, the contest is international, since there just won't be that many chances to win an early copy! I may be able to do one or two more giveaways, but if you want BLINDSIDED before it comes out don't miss this chance to get it!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Self-Publishing: The Business License

You guys asked for it—so I'm gonna talk here and there about my journey through the self-publishing world. I am still a major newbie here, so all veterans are welcome to add their advice to those thinking about this path or those just starting out like me. 

Today it's all about the business license. 

There were so many questions I had starting out, and I kind of struggled finding the "nuts and bolts" information on self-publishing amongst all the "should I do it or not?" discussions. So this post gets into the practical, slightly dry information. I will provide the questions I've asked and the answers I've found thus far. If I find more answers or you ask more questions, I'll update this post with those.

Do I Need A Business License To Self-Publish?
My personal answer is YES—you should get a business license if you plan on self-publishing long term and for, ideally, significant profit.

Technically, though, if you are doing business under your given name, you do NOT need a business license as long as you report your income from self-publishing in your taxes. 

But still, I'd get one. In fact, I did.

If you want to do business under a "company name" or if you want to incorporate, if you want to sell hard copies by hand or have legal protection—you might want to consider going through the tedious-but-not-that-difficult process.

What Are The Benefits Of Having A Business License?
I'd say the first benefit is being "legit." At least in your state and country's eyes. We all know taxes can be a nightmare as writers, and it's important to have the right documents to make sure it all turns out well. There are lots of ID numbers that are good to have as you report state and federal taxes.

Also, if you plan on carrying stock of your book (as in paperbacks or hardbacks) to sell personally, you'll need a business license in your state to do so. Ebooks are sold through online distributors so it's not as necessary if you're only doing online, but still a good idea.

There are many types of business licenses, but the two most people consider are "sole proprietorship" and an "LLC or incorporated thing-a-ma-bob (official term, okay not really)."

If you have a sole proprietorship, that basically means you are the only owner and likely only employee—you are responsible for all the things. It doesn't give much legal benefit, but it does provide you with a license that other businesses recognize. There are some POD (print-on-demand) distributors that you can't register with unless you have a business license number. 

If you incorporate, there are more legal advantages. Mainly in the "protection" vein. It means if the IRS decides to audit your business gets audited, not you personally. It means if someone wants to sue you for stealing their idea or defamation or whatever, your business gets sued and not you personally. 

There's other stuff, of course, but that's the basics from this newb.

How The Crap Do I Get One?
Oh, this is where the fun begins! Because every city and state is slightly different, so it's hard to say what, exactly, you might need to do to acquire your license. But I think I can give you a skeleton of the process that should help you start. 

First, while there is information online, I found a lot of it confusing as a newbie. It was hard to know if I was doing it right or not. If you want the exact details on how to get a business license in your city, I highly recommend going to your city hall. Mine had a sweet lady who was solely in charge of business licenses, and she filled in all the gaps of my understanding easily. She confirmed I had some things right and gave me the rest of the forms I needed to fill out—plus she explained why I needed them. It was lovely in comparison to trying to wade through the online stuff.

But here is a digest of what I ran around trying to learn:

Phase One: Acquiring The ID NumbersBefore you can get a business license from your city, there are a lot of numbers you have to get first. They are: 1) Federal Tax ID 2) State Tax ID and a 3) Business Entity Number (if you are DBA [Doing Business As] another name than your own—if you are not, you likely don't need to register your given name as an entity). 

I was able to acquire my Federal and State Tax IDs free of charge, and I say this because I almost got swindled by a website that looked like the Federal site but then asked me to pay a fee for registering. I assume this website was a scam. So be careful! The government is apparently happy to issue tax numbers for free—they want you to pay taxes, of course.

The Business Entity Number, at least in Utah, requires a fee to register. It has to be a name that hasn't been taken yet, of course. I think you can check with your state's registry to find out if your potential business name is already in use.

Phase Two: Meeting City RequirementsThis is where I can't tell you exactly what you need to do, as it varies city to city. But I can tell you there will likely be a few additional forms you have to fill out. Since I am doing business from my home, I had to fill out a "home occupancy" form. There was also a fire inspection form I had to fill out and sign in front of a notary. 

Of course, there is a fee for the city business license, and it's something you have to renew every year. So once you get through all the tedious forms and waiting for stuff to show up, you're done! Unless you move...then you'd have to go through more forms, I'm sure.
Once you turn in your city papers, you'll get an official paper that is your business license, and then you will dance and rejoice for having survived the forms. At least I did.

And those are the basics! If you have questions, you may ask in comments. But I'll be honest and say I can't guarantee a good answer, since I'm just learning myself. Maybe there will be smarter people amongst my readers who can. My readers are pretty dang intelligent, after all.