Saturday, 12 January 2013

#OBBigBang Orangeberry Big Bang - Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories by Mike Kalmbach

Updated on 28th December 2012

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? I once heard an unattributed quote that said, “It’s every teacher’s dream to see a student surpass his or her own skill.”
While I’ve written several books (and published two), I’m a teacher at heart. I love sharing my knowledge with others as a freelance editor, critique partner, and beta reader. There’s nothing that makes me more proud than seeing friends and people I mentor find success. I’ve helped others with both traditional and self-publishing, and it’s a wonderful experience to see them find success.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world? My favorite place is sitting with my eighteen-month-old son and treating him like there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. In truth, that’s the way I feel.
For my second-favorite place (usually after he goes to bed), I love sitting at my desk and creating new worlds. As a writer, I can imagine myself anywhere, even places that don’t exist. That’s the closest thing to real magic I can experience.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I’ve always loved stories. My parents tell me I was reading by the age of three, and I remember reading chapter books (The Boxcar Children) in kindergarten. My first novel attempt came at age 8; it concerned four orphans who discovered an abandoned caboose near an old spring. I’d tentatively titled the manuscript The Kaboose Kids. Soon after that, my parents had to teach me the words “copyright infringement” and explain why I couldn’t publish that particular story.
When did you first know you could be a writer? Writing is something I always knew I could do. I wrote all through high school, but then things kept getting in the way of creating stories: college, my first real job, getting married. I’d always believed I’d come back to writing “someday.”
The real change came while I was studying for my master’s degree. I looked at my future and saw kids, their activities, and other general “life stuff” that would keep me busy for decades to come. At that moment, I experienced an epiphany: there would always be some reason not to write. I needed to decide at that moment: was I going to write, or was I going to let it go?
Even though I was studying for a master’s degree while working sixty to seventy hours per week at a full-time job, I decided I needed to carve out some time to write. I started with fifteen minute chunks at lunch, and that quickly grew to an hour or more every day. Fifteen months later, I published my first novel, The Caldarian Conflict. Six months after that, my second book, Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories, also became available for purchase.
If you’re going to write, get started today. Stop waiting. Write now.
What inspires you to write and why? I’ve found that my inspiration has changed. At first, it was my own desire to create. Now, I want to set an example for my son. When he gets older, I want to encourage him to pursue his dreams. If I can’t point to a few examples where I’ve pursued my own dreams, how will he know that it’s okay to take healthy risks? I like to lead by example, and I hope he takes that lesson to heart.
What genre are you most comfortable writing? I’ve surprised myself with every genre I explore. I used to love writing science fiction and fantasy, but recently I’ve dabbled in romance, non-fiction, and humor. My writing voice adapts appropriately, and I’ve found every genre has its own quirks. I’ve found that when I stop worrying about genres and start focusing on the story, the words flow the way they should.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? The hardest thing is getting my butt in the chair. Once I realized that even just fifteen minutes a day allowed me to make regular progress, I felt a lot less pressure to do writing marathon sessions. I still occasionally write for three hours when I get the opportunity, but if I get fifteen minutes each day, I’ve fulfilled my writing obligation.
The second biggest challenge is editing your own work. No matter how good your rough drafts are, there are always issues that need to be resolved. Critique partners, beta readers, and even potentially a freelance editor (if you can afford it) are necessary to help take a rough draft to a polished product.
Do you intend to make writing a career? Yes. I take my writing career very seriously. Every decision I make is a business decision, from the projects I’m working on to the amount of marketing I do. I spend only a few hours a month marketing—my time is better spent in creating new stories.  With each new book I write, I’ll see a multiplier effect. For anyone who buys and likes one book, he or she will likely look to see what else I’ve written. The more titles I have, the more likely it is that someone will find something they’d like.
Who designed the cover? Chris Osman, perhaps the most talented and versatile cover designers I’ve met. He and I worked together to capture the act of creative writing while establishing an easily customized style for the other books in the series.
What makes Chris awesome compared with the other artists I’ve worked with? He can do photo covers or illustrations with seemingly equal ease, responds promptly with exactly what I ask for, and walks on water.
That last one may be an exaggeration. Unless it’s winter in the northern part of the country.
Chris also helped me redesign the cover to my first novel, The Caldarian Conflict, as well as several unpublished stories that are undergoing revisions.  The redesigned cover captures the sense of action, mystery, and suspense that the story contains. I also saw a significant increase in the number of sales once I uploaded the new cover.
I plan to work with Chris on all my future covers. He’s just that good.
Why did you choose to write this particular book? While promoting my debut novel, I taught several seminars to teen writers about how to generate good story ideas. I knew that the short sixty- to ninety-minute sessions would only give them a few small ideas and a temporary surge in inspiration.
I wanted more for them. I wanted a bigger impact.
Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories was written so students could have something to take home and study. The advice is actually good for any new writer, but with the teen focus, I could better hone in on examples that were short and familiar to that demographic. I was careful to pick examples that would last for the foreseeable future, though it may need an update in another decade or so.
What was the hardest part about writing this book? As with anything else, it’s largely a factor of time. Much of the material had been written over a decade of dispensing advice to others, so I sorted through thousands of old emails and other notes. I soon realized that my “book” was actually a series of at least seven titles, and I aim to release one of those a year.
Once I focused on the “Creating Stories” theme, I wrote, edited, found beta readers for, and published that book in only four months. The next book in the series, “Editing Fiction”, is taking a little more time because there are many more things to consider, plus I’m working two other fiction projects at the same time.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it? I’ve found that my own writing has improved significantly as I spent the time to crystallize how I create stories. That said, unlike other writing advice books, I didn’t want readers to think that my way is the only way. The stories I’ve written since this book was released are much higher quality initial drafts according to everyone who’s read them. That said, I expect I’ll continue to learn throughout the rest of my life.
How important do you think villains are in a story? Vital! Conflict is what turns a day at the supermarket into a budding romance in the vegetable aisle, a tense hostage situation, or an incognito meeting for two spies.
Villains aren’t just people like Voldemort, Sauron, or Cruella de Vil. They don’t have to be obviously evil. In some cases, the villain is actually a natural process like the weather (many survival tales use this strategy).
The best villains have realistic thoughts, motivations, and desires. No person on this planet believes he or she is evil—no matter how heinous the action, the person still believes he or she is doing the “right” thing. Part of the reason The Hunger Games is so popular is that President Snow is so realistically focused on control. As the leader of the government, he needs to prevent uprisings any way he can, and the Games are an effective method to control the population. With that goal, his actions become realistic and believable even while they’re deplorable.
To keep readers engaged, writers need to take the time to closely examine a villain’s motivation. Why do they act the way they do? What happened in their childhood? Sprinkle some of that detail throughout the story. Let your readers figure out how someone who was once a baby made decisions that led them down the path of evil.
What are your goals as a writer? As long as I’m able to put a pen to paper or type on a computer, I don’t believe I’ll ever stop writing. I just want to finish as many of my planned projects (as of this moment, over twenty-five) as possible. I’d love to get to the point where we live entirely on my writing income, but that’s likely still several years away.
Like most other authors, I want to write stories people love to read, discuss, and share. I want them to question their own beliefs and consider whether it’s time for a change.
Even more than that, I want to encourage more people to create. Human imagination is a powerful tool, and I’d love to see what happens when millions of minds share their experiences.
What are your current writing projects now? I have three projects that I’m focusing most of my efforts on now, all expected to release within the next two years. The working titles are:
  • Into the Land of Iowah – (humorous, contemporary fantasy): A wizard is banished to the most evil land his enemy can imagine: a corn field in the center of modern-day Iowa. Can the wizard find his way home in time to save his friends and family?
  • Dhavani – (a mixture of romance, mystery, and suspense): Tony, married and back at school for his master’s degree, meets Dhavani, an exotic Indian international student in the same degree program. However, Tony is not the only one attracted to this Middle Eastern beauty—and the other guy has darker, more sinister desires. Will Tony find a way to rescue her? Will he resist temptation or ruin his marriage?
  • Writing Advice for Teens: Editing Fiction – (non-fiction): The second book in the Writing Advice for Teens series, this book focuses on eliminating common issues within fictional stories. It also offers suggestions for uncovering story problems through the use of beta readers and critique partners.
It’s tough to juggle three projects, but the key here is that each one is significantly different. When one isn’t flowing, one of the others usually will.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I’m currently enjoying Peter and the Monsters, a middle-grade series of books by Darren Pillsbury. It’s a fun series about pre-adolescent boys as they face dead men, vampires, and swamp monsters. A very fun read.
The next book on my to-read list is an ARC of Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, a dystopian science fiction novel about an alien race who has built a space elevator and turned most of the human race into mindless savages. I was fortunate enough to read one of the earliest versions of this story, so I’m excited to see where Jason took the story next.
Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why? Indeed! After becoming an author myself, I have met several wonderful new authors and enjoyed their works: Michael Langlois, Jason Hough, and Brigid Kemmerer, to name a few.  It’s usually their talent that first draws me to them, but it’s their positive personalities that keep me coming back.
What contributes to making a writer successful? 1. Write every day. 2. Connect personally with readers. 3. Believe in yourself, even if it feels like no one else does.
Don’t worry about the money. Don’t worry about the fame. Don’t worry about whether people will like your book. These are just distractions. Stay focused and write, write, write.
Do you have any advice for writers? (Laughing) I have a whole book on it! (Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories)
Seriously, if you want to be an author someday, get started today. Stop waiting. Write now.
There will be those who question your decision or ask how you’re ever going to make a living just from books. Ignore them. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, and make time to pursue your dream. Failure is part of the business—take it in stride, vent when necessary, and keep moving on. You’ll get there one day. Just find the right people to help keep you motivated.
Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us? I will be signing books at the Writers’ Festival and Book Fair at the Bloomington Theater and Arts Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 23, 2013. If you’re in the area, feel free to stop by for a free gift—just mention this interview (limited to the first 25 people).
If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be? If you like something an author has written, recommend it to another reader (and write a review). The book business is all about connecting authors with readers, so please help others find a good match.
Buy at Amazon
Genre – Non-Fiction (G)
Connect with Mike Kalmbach on Facebook & Twitter


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Books Sold - 6 Nov 2011 to 31 May 2012

Some of you have asked me for my total number of books sold to evaluate KDP Select so here it is. Bear in mind, that results will vary based on genre and author. Good luck and remember, Keep Moving Forward.

Total - 120,836

1. Excuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out
Amazon Kindle - 42,559
Paperback -
Smashwords -

2. Frequent Traveller
Amazon Kindle - 35277
Paperback -
Smashwords -

3. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 1
Amazon Kindle - 462
Smashwords -

4. Mirror Me Martha (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 281
Smashwords -

5. Drive On Hope (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle - 190
Smashwords -

6. Blog-A-Licious Directory 2012
Amazon Kindle - 1
Smashwords -

7. Pandora's Reading Room 1
Amazon Kindle -
Paperback - N/A

8. The Cat That Barked (Short Story)
Amazon Kindle -

9. Dora's Essentials - Examining Anxiety
Amazon Kindle -

10. Dora's Essentials - Books, Blogs & Smiles 2
Amazon Kindle -

11. Elevenses from Around the World
Amazon Kindle -

12. Genetically Modified Foods vs. Sustainability
Amazon Kindle -

Blog-A-Licius - Sherbet Blossom



Dealightfully Frugal

Blog-A-Licious - The Few, The Proud, The Wife


My Soul Slippers

Blog-A-Licous - Textbook Mommy

Blog-A-Licious - Blue Frogs Legs

Blog-A-Licious - Pretty All True

Pretty All True

Blog-A-Licious - tbaoo



Powered by

Blog-A-Licious - The Invisible Art

Blog-A-Licious - Rediscovering Domesticity

Rediscovering Domesticity

Blog-A-Licious - Quiver Full

Blog-A-Licious - Cori's Big Mouth

Blog-A-Licious - Great Fun


Blog-A-Licious - Busy Wife

Blog-A-Licious - Steps To Happiness

Powered by

Blog-A-Licious - Toby & Max

Blog-A-Licious - Amelie

Raising Amelie

Blog-A-Licious - Peas In A Pod

Blog-A-Licious - Riley

Blognostics - Poetry


My Awards - September 2010

My Awards - September 2010
Awarded By Jo Frances

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded By Alejandro Guzman

My Awards - May 2011

My Awards - May 2011
Awarded by Kriti Mukherjee

My Awards - April 2011

My Awards - April 2011
Awarded By Roy Durham

My Awards - June 2011

My Awards - June 2011
Awarded By Sulekha Rawat

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