Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Candace Ganger: Choosing Which Idea to Focus On And Write

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Candace Ganger, a mother, blogger, and contributing writer for sites like Teen Vogue, TWLOHA, Bustle, Romper, XO Jane & Hello Giggles. She’s also an obsessive marathoner and continual worrier (yay!). Her debut YA novel, THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH, will be out via St. Martin’s Griffin July 25th, 2017. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst* vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

I did. The inciting incident is loosely based on a tragedy that struck my family in 1979. There’s a newspaper clipping of the accident that’s always haunted me so I knew I had to re-write this story in a way that honors those affected by the tragedy. There came a day the idea wouldn’t leave me alone so I started tracking the skeletal bits of information and finally, sat down and with the opening line and a clear visual of the person speaking it, I sat down and wrote. That line will be in the book.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

Surprisingly, I had no trouble with this story even in the early draft. And though things changed a bit from that draft, the characters came to me fully developed in a flash. They already had these nuances I couldn’t ignore so really, I tried to listen to what they told me. I’ve never had this happen before or since with any other story. I attribute this to the core of the story burning a hole in my soul. Like if I didn’t write it in this way, my family could maybe never heal.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Yes. In fact, I had to cut a whole thread after a reader (an agent, actually) pointed out some things to strengthen it. I revised the entire book in 3 days and have barely touched it since (aside from a few editorial fixes). The biggest thing for me to let go of, though, is the changing of my ending. I felt it should go one way, while the end result will have something different. Perhaps that will be released separately at some point ☺

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Oh, gosh. This is a running joke with everyone who works with me. I always have a million ideas going on at once but because of my OCD and anxiety, I have difficulty making decisions so I need someone to step in and say “listen—you’re going to work on this now, and this next.” Otherwise, I’ll start several projects that may or may not make it to the end. Like right now, I have 5 projects happening. I like to stay busy to keep up with my brain and writing helps me calm the voices.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Again, I basically have to have someone tell me which one to focus on. Sometimes there’s a story eating at me for some time. Maybe it’s only a general idea or a piece of the puzzle so I’ll stew about it for days, weeks, months even, until I feel it complete enough to sit down and devote my full attention to. I write a wide range of things so I’m never lacking for a subject (just the ability to commit)!

I always, always, always empty my bladder before I start writing. Nothing stops short a burst creativity like a burst of urine. Do you have any “musts” before you sit down to write? 

I like The Food Network on TV as background noise. A latte is preferred and my water. Other than that, if my youngest (4 yo) is napping or at pre-k and my eldest (9 yo) is keeping busy, I’m good to go.

Monday, July 24, 2017

This Week In My World & 23 Signed Books Giveaway!

I started a new jigsaw puzzle.

Honestly, there are actually a lot of really exciting things going on in my world but... I can't necessarily talk about them right now. I'll have news for you when I'm able to share!

And seriously, I did start a new jigsaw puzzle.

I've started to use Tumblr as a dream journal. People are always asking me what it's like inside my head. I always say it's the soundtrack to Beetlejuice in there, but if you'd like more insight, follow my Tumblr.

There's a new podcast episode for you to listen to. It's the roundup episode for the month of July, as well as an explanation of H.R. 1695 - the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act. If you're a writer, you should probably be aware of what it is, why it's happening, and what it means for you. As always, if you find the podcast or this blog helpful, please consider becoming a supporter.

The podcast will be taking a break for the month of August, but there are 21 episodes with writers from all walks and genres - YA, MG, memoir, historical, adult - there's an ep for you.



In the meantime, definitely checkout this humongous giveaway. Win a signed GIVEN TO THE SEA and A MADNESS SO DISCREET plus 21 other books!



And, because I have a few ARCs of THIS DARKNESS MINE that landed in my lap recently, I suppose I will do a giveaway. 



Want to help me with mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Talk & Giveaway: HOW TO DISAPPEAR by Sharon Huss Roat

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

Want to help me with mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

PitchWars! What To Know About Me As A Mentor


Yes, it's true. I'm going to be co-mentoring again this year with Kate Karyus Quinn for PitchWars!

What is PitchWars? For those who don't know, check out this post on Brenda Drake's site. It's got all the info you need.

If you're interested in having me for a mentor, there are some things you need to be aware of. First off, I'm not here to make you feel good about yourself. You have friends for that, and probably a mom too. I'm a tough love mentor. I believe that my job is to make you better, and compliments don't make you improve. Criticism does. And I've got that in spades.

I will say nice things to you when you deserve them.

But for every kind word there will be three to five points that I think need work, and I won't hesitate to point them out. Be ready for that. Be cool with it. Embrace the monster that is having me for a mentor.

What am I looking for?

Kate and I both write dark, edgy YA. We also both write across genres, so neither one of us is looking or any specific genre to mentor. We want that ever-elusive element called voice. We're okay with sex. We're okay with violence. We're okay with language. However, none of those things can exist only for shock value. Do it well, do it right, and we'll notice you.

However, any eroticism of rape is completely off the table.

Kate and I will also be offering query and first page critiques to those who apply for us as mentors, but are not chosen. These will be posted on our blogs, so you must be okay with the criticism being out there, online, if you agree to the query and first page critique.

And THERE'S MORE -- if you'd like a first 500 word critique from me, I'm happy to do that. Comment on this blog post and I'll randomly choose a winner one week from this post going live. Be sure to leave your email address in the comment so that I can get a hold of you if you win.

A great way to learn more about Kate and I as writers and people is to listen to the debut episode of my podcast, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. Kate was my first guest, and you can easily garner a lot about us from listening in. The podcast is for aspiring and established writers, so if you like that first episode, keep on listening. It's free, and you can learn a lot.



And WHAT ELSE?! I am doing a giveaway below for an ARC of my October release, THIS DARKNESS MINE. Enter to win, and be sure to check out ALL of the #PitchWars Mentors below!

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Jennifer Fenn On Finding Inspiration In Real Life

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Jennifer Fenn, author of FLIGHT RISK. She is a graduate of Lycoming College and Rosemont College's MFA program.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

My book was inspired by a true story, that of Colton Harris Moore, aka “The Barefoot Bandit.” When I first became aware of Harris Moore’s story in 2010, he was still on the run from law enforcement after stealing several planes. I was fascinated by this story immediately. While I knew what he was doing was dangerous and illegal, a large part of me did not want to see him caught. I’m a mom, a former teacher and a law-abiding citizen, so I was very interested in exploring what about Harris Moore made me so sympathetic toward him. I first wrote a fictional piece inspired by his story in the form of a flash fiction piece. A year or so later, I was teaching “Maniac Magee” in my 7th grade classroom. The rhyme Jerry Spinelli created about his main character on the first page of that book gave a new layer of meaning to the story I already had percolating in my mind: how are legends and folk heroes created in our media-saturated society? Both the appeal of the anti-hero and that question drove the creation of my novel “Flight Risk.”  

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I’m a “pantser,” but I nearly always write my endings first, and that was the case with “Flight Risk.” I had a particular image, that of a giant, “lollipop” moon as seen from the pilot’s seat of a stolen plane. I knew I wanted to end with that and wrote it first. I also knew I wanted to work with multiple points of view, so I began writing scenes in several different voices. Basically, if there’s a scene I’m pumped to write, I write it, no matter where it exists in the story chronologically. Then I have to work to connect my scenes to create a coherent structure.  

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Yes, particularly as someone who rarely outlines. I find that to be the most satisfying, magical part of writing—when suddenly I’m typing a scene that I didn’t know was coming!!  

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Story ideas come to me often enough, but unless I can envision an ending, I rarely pursue them further. As I’ve said, I don’t outline, but I need a destination on the map!  

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Usually, one story starts to interest me more than another. Another thing I always do is ‘soundtrack’ my stories. Creating a playlist to go with a work in progress helps me determine the story’s mood and really inspires me. If a playlist starts to emerge for a particular idea, that’s become, for me, a sign that it could be a keeper.  

I always, always, always empty my bladder before I start writing. Nothing stops short a burst creativity like a burst of urine. Do you have any “musts” before you sit down to write? 

As the mother of a small child, I’ve learned to not be as choosey about the conditions under which I write. I’ve written with my newborn daughter napping on top of me, in the car on family vacations, and recently knocked out 19 pages in a Target cafĂ©. Flexibility has become a part of my style!

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Thing Or Two In My Life

Last week I stayed in a dome in the middle of nowhere that had been built in preparation for the fallout of Y2K (which didn't happen, but they still got a pretty cool second home out of the deal). Staying there with no cell service, no wi-fi, and no TV was a good experience. I recommend being unplugged to anyone that might need a mental reset.

I'm back in the land of the busy this week, and wanted to keep everyone up to date on what's going on with me.

I got advance copies of GIVEN TO THE EARTH! They are gorgeous... and I'll be sharing a sneak peek of the cover for anyone who supports me on Patreon on the $5 dollar level this month.

At that level you get a monthly update video in which I'll share what's been up with me lately, and know in advance what ARCs I'll be giving away on the blog (I've got some really awesome ones lined up for August), and also who my upcoming podcast guests will be. You can also feel free to ask me any questions that you might like to have answered - about publishing, writing, my books, or whatever you'd like - and I'll answer them in the video.


In other news, I will be appearing at the WizardWorld ComicCon in Columbus August 4-6. I have two panels and will be selling and signing GIVEN TO THE SEA at the con all three days. I don't know where my table is, but if you're there and curious shoot me a tweet and I should know once I'm on the floor where my table will be located.


Last week I was the guest on the podcast About The Author with Kristen Flowers from 96.5 KOIT out in the Bay area. I talked about my publishing journey, the research methods I used while writing A MADNESS SO DISCREET, and a little bit about my writing process. 



My own podcast, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire, was featured on Podbean last week. I've got lots of new followers, and if it's led you here to the blog - awesome! Today's ep features guest Jody Casella, author of the YA novel THIN SPACE, and regional director of the Central/Southern Ohio chapter of SCBWI. Jody joined me to talk about MFA’s, querying as an already published writer, the benefits of joining SCBWI - the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators - and how attending book festivals geared for readers can also be beneficial to writers.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Everyone wants to control the most powerful magical being alive. Too bad she's escaped her universe, Coronam, and spent the past eight years pretending to be human. Until she's caught. Hmm... I feel like I need to know who caught her, and why?

Now, sixteen year old Selena Bennet is living in her former palace once again, this time as a prisoner. Her only chance of getting out: convincing her captors they've found the wrong girl. To do that, she must pretend her memory's been erased – something that could only happen to a human. I think I need to know why she left in the first place, and why it's so important to have her back. Also, is the memory erasing thing a common tact used by the citizens / soldiers of Coronam? It seems like an odd plan otherwise. 

Back in Coronam, Selena learns a lot has changed since she was still the princess. She's spent the last eight years trying to disassociate herself with the homeland that now hates her, but what she discovers may no longer make going back an option. Selena is the only one strong enough to start another war, and it might just be time to fight. Again, we need to know her motivation for leaving, and why they hate her now. Also, I'm not sure I'd put so much emphasis on the plan being try to convince people she's the wrong person, if she then has to turn around and convince people to follow her into a war. Seems like really shaky logic, and a very abrupt change of heart, which will make agents wonder if the text suffers because of the flip-flop.

Coronam's Lost is a YA fantasy completed at 92,000 words, and is available upon request. It will appeal to lovers of strong, female characters, political and moral issues, as well as readers who enjoyed Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Young Elites by Marie Lu and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. I've attended creative writing classes, and am a member of SCBWI.

So you say it has these things - strong female characters, political and moral issues - but I don't see them in the query. I see a girl who ran away from responsibility (why?) then flip-flops on what she wants (stay or go?) and a war against... ? and for... ? I have no idea. Get those things in the query.