Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest Blogger Barbie Jo Mahoney (Author of Angel Academy: Halo 101)

Please give a warm welcome to our guest bloggoer for today, author Barbie Jo Mahoney


I’m thrilled to be a part of Mysteries and Margaritas, and always ready to help my deadline crazed CP/partner in crime! Congrats on the debut of the Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused! I’m still grinning like an idiot just knowing it’s finally out!
Today I’m going to teach you all BINGO! (and it’s not your Aunt Mabel’s Bingo, either) This is what I like to call Building In the Next Great Opportunity. Yup, that’s right, we authors have to keep thinking ahead. While I’m still unpublished in the Mystery realm, I recently made my first sale in Middle Grade fiction.

My ANGEL ACADEMY series will debut in the fall of 2011. HALO 101 is the first book in the series about a twelve year old girl who dies while selflessly saving someone. When she gets to Heaven, she finds out it wasn’t her time to die, yet she has to go back to school in order to earn her angel wings. Armed with her angelic agenda and her book of “Ten Demandments”, she’s about to learn getting her wings can sometimes be anything but heavenly. (How’s that for a shameless plug?)

But let’s get back to BINGO. As we all know, agents and editors are always looking for that unique idea. But it isn’t always about the unique idea, now is it? You can have a great idea, but if it doesn’t have a good hook it’s not going to get far. So what if you have the great idea, found a fantastic hook, and it’s in the perfect editor’s hands?

You start working on the next big thing! (BINGO)

Now, it might mean stepping out of your comfort zone. Case in point, I’d written several tween/teen stories which I thought were interesting, and all the feedback I received was positive. My writing was there, it just wasn’t the “right” story. So I started doing some research, and seeing what was currently in demand. Not that I was writing for the market, but I was taking the market interest and attaching that “unique” hook. I also took another look at the past stories I’d written to see if there was a way to shake them up a bit and give them a different hook. Could I take an adult romance and make it YA? Was it possible to turn that YA into an adult trilogy? Some worked, and some didn’t, but I kept trying.

While I was doing all of this, my CP suggested I write a cozy mystery. I’ve always loved a good mystery. But write one? Me? I’m a YA kinda girl. I wasn’t even sure I could pull it off.
Again, I did more research and found an angle that seemed to fit my writing style. It took me a while to fine tune it, but the end result was a fun, cute mystery complete with dead guy! I’d done it! No sooner did I finish and it was in an editor’s hands…then I sold my Angel Academy series (and captured Hollywood interest)!


I guess what I’m saying, in my round-about way, is you have to take your original idea and build on it. Don’t stop until you’ve uncovered that uniqueness, even if it takes you to a genre you’re not too familiar with. If it’s good – no, great – the story will write itself. And we all love when that happens (editors and agents included!) Just keep building, add a paranormal element even if it doesn’t seem to “fit” at first. A dead body smack in the middle of your time travel. Or take those contemporary romances and throw in something totally out of the blue! Remakes on the Classics are HUGE right now. Find your favorite and make it your own (duh…another BINGO!)

Sometimes with a little brainstorming you can get past your own “block” about it and see that it pulls in a uniqueness you hadn’t considered. And you keep going! You don’t stop until something sticks (and it will).

Do you think Aunt Mabel gave up just because Cousin Tillie won the jackpot? No. She went out and got more smelly bingo markers and plunked herself right next to her nemesis!
Believe me, this works. It’s not a fluke – it’s a formula (and that’s a plug too, for a workshop Kari and I are putting together!) J

Now that I’ve sold…am I sitting idle? Hell No! I’m already thinking about the next great opportunity (books 3 & 4 in the Angel Academy and maybe even a NEW series)!
So have any of you stepped out of your comfort zone? Do I have you thinking about tweaking and building on some of your backlist stories?

Better yet….Do I hear a BINGO?!


Cassy Pickard said...

Barbie Jo! How great to have you here on M&M. I think you are SO on target with your approach. BINGO.

Do you find yourself working on more than one project at a time, or do you work through one and then think about what comes next?

I can't wait to read Halo 101 and all that follows!!

Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

Thanks Cassy! Funny you should ask that (LOL). I have EVERY intention of seeing a project through, and before I sold, I had two completed books so editors knew I could pull a story off. Halo 101 sold off a partial. I think at the time it was submitted, I actually had several other partials out. I was so determinted to get a story to "stick", I just kept cranking out the ideas. I honestly think that's what it takes in today's market. You have to let that passion drive you, and you don't stop until you get a BINGO!

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Barbie Jo works harder than anyone I know, and I'm soooo thrilled for her on making her first sale!

Her BINGO approach really does work. I can't wait to hear about her next sale, which I KNOW will be coming soon.

How do you juggle writing and working and running 3 kids around? That has got to be hard.

Tonya Kappes said...

Hi Barbie Jo! Definitely putting Halo 101 on my list. Yes! I'm actually ping-ponging an old story in the back of my head. It's a great concept, but it was years ago when my writing was in the preschool stages. We'll see. . .

Cassy Pickard said...

So, we have BINGO and now Tonya's PingPong. I'm wondering what other games we all know so well that will enter the discussion. There are times that I feel as though I spend long moments with a hoola-hoop

Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

Awww..thanks Kari! Sometimes I wonder how I do it, myself! 3 very busy kids (h.s./jr. high/middle school), a husband that travels and my day job of 30 hrs a week....yeah, it gets a little tricky sometimes, and I'm learning about "scheduling" my writing time in so I don't end up spazzing out to finish and staying up all hours of the night (like I'm prone to do). Since selling, I've really had to analyze my day and factor in any possible situation so I can realistically know what I'm capable of and how long it will take me to finish a book. And trust me, that has helped me a lot!

Cassy, you crack me up! This is the wild world of sports (and margaritas!) I could maybe brainstorm while hula-hooping. Pingpong....I'm too competitive!

Tonya, keep working that great concept! And I LOVE the "preschool stages" of writing. :-) Let me tell you, my original baby was a time travel (adult). I left it alone for years then pulled it out and revamped it for YA. Then I changed it up, back to adult, added a paranormal element and with the help of my CP's...formulated the most awesome trilogy! So don't stop thinking of the possibilities!! And when you get your BINGO...I want to hear about it!

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Barbie Jo. I love your BINGO approach. Halo 101 sounds great. I can't wait to read it and I'm so thrilled that all your hard work has paid off.

As far as changing a story. When I sold my Scottish paranormal series, it occured to me that a romantic suspense I'd written could really work with this paranormal series, with some tweaking. So my PI hero became one of the secret warriors, and my heroine became one as well, although she doesn't know it. I had to change the motivations, what the demon was after, and some plot points, but a lot of the story was already there. And it was SO MUCH BETTER as a paranormal. So it definitely works, but it was a lot of work.

Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

Thanks Anita! Your series sounds fantastic, and demons to boot! NICE!! Oh, I totally agree, sometimes taking an already completed story and re-working ALL of the new elements can be daunting. But the struggle and frustration is totally worth it in the end when it all comes together (and you are proof of that with your 3 book deal!). You believed in that story, and you wanted to make it work. It's all about the persistence and the passion. You have it, and you got your BINGO!

Jason Barret said...

Hi Barbie Jo,

Great advice with your BINGO concept. One of the hardest things for me is stepping out of my comfort zone. I’ll have to start spreading my wings. (Pun intended!) Congratulations on your sale of Angel Academy and the first installment, Halo 101. You’re a great writer and keep those books coming!

Liz Lipperman said...

On my way out to the door for the airport and Crime Bake. I'll read this blog on the plane.

I did want to say how much I love the concept of Halo 101 and I know how hard you worked to come up with a marketable one that finally stuck.

Good job, chica.

Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

Jason - thanks for the kind words! And trust me, once you talk yourself through it and step out of the won't regret it! I know how hard it is, but it's all about believing (deep down I think that's why I write about angels) "Believing is Achieving" - I'm sure that was on a commercial at some point, and it's true. YOU are a talented writer, you know your you just have to find the right story and you will have your BINGO!

Liz - I adore you!!! Have fun at Crime Bake, and with a little luck from the Mystery Gods, I will get another BINGO and be joining you guys next year! (I swear, those double shooters in Orlando did the trick)

Donna Cummings said...

Barbie Jo -- congrats on your sale! This sounds like a great philosophy. I try a lot of different things with my writing, and my brain is always bouncing ideas off each other to see which ones go together. LOL

I like your idea that the double shooters did the trick for your sales tho. LOL I'm excited to meet Christine for the first time tomorrow at Crime Bake--along with fellow BC Babes Cassy, Rochelle, Liz and Pete. So maybe I'll see if the double shooters help my manuscripts that are out there!

Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

Thanks Donna! Keep those ideas bouncing because one just might stick where you least expect it!

And you will have a blast at Crime Bake with the BC Peeps! And not that I promote drinking or anything (but this IS Mysteries & Margaritas!) but so far the shooters theory is working. Call it superstition, or dumb luck, but those who do celebratory shooters (tequila, no less) at Nationals tend to sell within a year (or at least a good handful of us).

Now go forth and BINGO!

Tiffinie Helmer said...

Okay, I recently finished a romantic thriller where my hero was a graphic novelist. His graphic novel kind of paralleled what was going on in his life but with a paranormal/legendary twist (this book was set in Alaska and I played on legends. Well, ever since then, I've been thinking the subject my hero's graphic novels were about would make an awesome YA series. I'm actually thinking of writing a YA series. Me! I know shocking. Either that or jump into the paranormal romance or sci/fi market. Depends on if I can keep the sex out of it. :)

Nina Pietrafesa said...

Hey Barbie Jo--That is a great system! Sometimes I'll think of what (to me) seems a brilliant idea, then I just run out of steam and think "now what?" Your system shows me that sticking to something and being willing to "play" with it can bring success. Congratulations on all your success!

Personalized Pens said...

Don't be Hoola Hoopin Cassy. :)al

Marilyn said...

Barbie Jo--can't wait to read your Angel Academy--what a fun idea!


Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

Tiffinie - wow! great idea to have the worlds of the graphic novelist and his novel parellel like that! niiice!!!! And what an awesome idea to connect a YA book to that too. And yeah, there are diffferences in YA, some you can get away with sex and others it's a bit fat no-no. Personally, I think romantic suspense is always hot. :-) keep twirling those ideas and the right ones will stick together!

NINA!!!!!! Thanks sooo much for stopping by!! And YES - keep playing with the ideas even though you get stuck. Honestly, it's like working through writer's block. Once you get through it (even if you think it's crap)you'd be surprised what you'll find - and it very well might be YOUR next great opportunity! Believe in it, I sure did. Thanks for the congrats. I've waited a very long time for all of this. ;-)

Marilyn - Thanks sooo much. I'm so excited for this series and I can't wait to grow it and the characters! Stay tuned!!