Saturday, April 30, 2011

Steppin' Off of Slumber Parties With a BOA

My original intention for the series of interviews I do here was to focus on agents (BBCHAT) and successful authors (SAT). In the course of internet wanderings though, I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, my readers, I give you the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA.

Today's guest for the BOA is Jen Daiker, who has a phenomenal, constantly fresh blog over at unedited. She’s going to talk to us today about her success – check out her followers! – her time balancing techniques, and also defend slumber parties.

BBC: So you run an excellent blog over at unedited. What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?
JD: *Blushes* Buttering up the visitor I see… keep it up, it works. I am myself. I know sounds too simple but I don’t know how to be anyone else. I like my blog to be happy like me. I have bad days but those don’t belong on my blog because it’s my happy place!

BBC: It looks like a chick lit slumber party blew up over there. Are you intimidated by my masculine backdrop?
JD: On the contrary, I adore the attitude, design, and feel of the different blogs I visit. It’s important to be unique and stand out. Again it all comes back to being you. Plus I love cats so you keep me coming back. PS – Slumber parties rock.

BBC: How do you get all these awesome agents and writers to agree to the interviews you do?
JD: It’s a secret… I kid, I kid. Simple, I asked. I knew I had nothing to lose and in fact I gained so much. Some of my best buds come from emailing them to ask for an interview.

BBC: I know a lot of aspiring writers who are intimidated by the idea of blogging. They want to, but they are worried it will cut into their (already precious) writing time. You're a prolific blogger - how do you recommend one be both a successful blogger and writer?
JD: It’s not for the faint of heart. I really have to ration my time. I’m a scheduled blogger; I’ll sit down on Sunday mornings and spend 2 hours compiling my M-F posts. It allows more commenting throughout the week, less mess. I comment in the mornings and in the evenings I write. Saturdays is dedicated to writing alone if it’s what I desire. Sometimes you just have decide what to give up and blogging is the first to go but I must say if you are looking for comments or followers the key is to be religious about doing the posts. Also make mention on your blog (where people can see it) how often you blog, if people don’t see you or when you’re on they won’t keep coming back). I also have a post guide if I’m stuck, a template of sorts:
My Secret Weapon: Monday – Writing on the Wall; Tuesday – Tuesdsay Twist; Wednesday – Writing; Thursday – Truth Thursday; Friday – Friday Fun

BBC: You also do a lot of posting about books on unedited. You're a big reader - do you set aside time for that?
JD: That’s a fit in sort of thing. I type as fast as I read. For me reading is a feeling I get. When I know I need something of substance I’ll walk upstairs and pick up one to two stories and sit on my comfy chair and curl up with my kitties. Reading is such a wonderful hobby.

BBC: Let's talk about your writing for a little bit. What's your genre, or do you jump around? What led you to this genre?
JD: I’m a genre hopper. YA fantasy, Adult Horror, and Adult Women’s Fiction. Depends on my mood.

BBC: What's your process? Is your muse fickle, or does she love you long time?
JD: My muse is Julie Andrews and Ms. Andrews is never fickle. She’s adorable and when I’m down she can sing “My favorite things,” and the world is right again.
Truth: I have off days I just try and forget them.

BBC: Do you use beta readers, and if so, where do you find them?
JD: They’re mine! You can’t have them! Actually they’re some of my best blog buddies. I just emailed them to see what they were working on and if they were down. I also have a friend who I live near who helps out when needed. That one you most certainly cannot have. She’s gold.

BBC: What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?
JD: It really depends on what a writer is looking for. I turn to books for writers, they are gold. Stephen King’s On Writing being my absolute favorite. I spend enough time on the computer with blogging, my job, and my email that I prefer books. If you want querying advice Agent Query, Query Tracker and just blogs who have Agent links will rock your socks off.

BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers that aren't clich├ęd like the ones I give?
JD: Writing is like sour patch kids, some moments are sweet, and others sour, all delicious, so keep pushing.
Blank pages are for adrenaline junkies the first words give you the ride of your life – skydiving no longer necessary.

Friday, April 29, 2011

An Award and A Joke From My Head

It's Friday and it's not raining in the Midwest!  These two things converging at the same time have me in a good mood, plus I won a Versatile Blogger award from Cherie over at Ready Write Go!  So here's me showing off a bit.

And while my anal-retentive side really enjoys shelving books, there is a certain monotony to it that can grate.  Especially when it's Friday and I've got a date with the awesome b/f.

So, combination of upcoming-date-joy and lack-of-rain plus the blogging award has me feeling giddy whilst shelving.  I'm knocking around in the 600 section, shelving Small Arms of the World and all I can think of is this:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quick Contest Update - Red Sofa BBCHAT Winner

Just a quick post to tell you that we have a winner from the BBCHAT with Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary.  The LIE of the three was that her alma mater's mascot was an elephant.  The first person to email me with the correct answer was Layinda!  For her Googling efforts she wins a copy of THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield.  If you haven't read that book - you are missing out, my friends!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Interview With Authoress & The Introduction of the BOA

My man is a good & patient man.
My original intention for the series of interviews I do here was to focus on agents (BBCHAT) and successful authors (SAT). In the course of internet wanderings though, I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, my readers, I give you the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA. (This way my female guests get a feathery scarf, and my males get a big, long snake to represent them…and since we’re writers, we understand symbolism, yes?)

Krista from Mother. Write. (Repeat) unknowingly broke the ice on the BOA – heck I didn’t even know she was doing it – so she now has a post-belated-boa posted on her post. Right? Sure.

I'm very excited to have an interview today with Authoress - the faceless wonder behind an excellent blog that brings inspiration to aspiring authors. Authoress' monthly Secret Agent contests have helped more than a few hopeful writers find an agent.  She's a recently agented YA author herself, and I wanted to give her some blog space to give us a peek behind the scenes at her awesome blog, her own writing process, and her agent journey.

BBC: You run an excellent blog for aspiring writers over at Miss Snark's First Victim . What made you decide to take this approach on your blog? How do you get all these awesome agents to agree to the Secret Agent contests you do there?
AU: Thank you! You may not believe me, but it was a whirlwind, spur-of-the-moment idea I had one day. I envisioned a blog for aspiring writers, created it, and decided to remain anonymous. That'll be 3 years ago in April!
Shortly after the blog was born, I came up with the Secret Agent idea. We were already having some successful, in-house critique sessions, but I thought it would be more exciting if a real agent showed up and offered feedback. Holly Root was the first one to say yes (and only the third one I asked, which is a pretty good start!), and it moved on from there. And honestly? There's no magic formula. I introduced myself and my blog and invited the agents, one at a time. One sign of the blog's growing success happened when agents started to ask me if they could participate! Makes things a little easier. :)

BBC: Just so that everyone can be even more appreciative of you than we already are, how much time do you put into you blog, weekly?
AU: I treat the blog as though it's part of my professional life (which it is, really). So I don't allow myself to go near it on weekends, for starters. During the week, I will spend anywhere from 5 to 10 hours a week on "blog work," which includes posting, dealing with email and comments, and running contests. Of course I put more time into it during Secret Agent weeks, which is why we only have those once a month.

BBC: What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers out on the agent hunt?
AU: OOOO, that's easy!
1. The Verla Kay Blueboards
2. AgentQuery
3. QueryTracker
4. Jodi Meadows (she dissects queries and she's great at it!)

Also, there is a growing number of agent blogs out there, so as you research agents, be sure to check for blogging activity.
Some really informative ones:
1. Kathleen Ortiz
2. Jennifer Laughran
3. Kristin Nelson
4. Rachelle Gardner

BBC: Tell us a little bit about your own agent, and how you landed him?
AU: I love my agent! The short version is: Josh Getzler was one of my Secret Agents in 2009, when he was still with Writer's House. He was a joy to work with--pleasant, funny, and completely ego-free. When I was in the midst of querying my YA dystopian in 2010, I discovered he'd moved to Russell and Volkening and was interested in YA, so I queried him. He seemed delighted to know my "real identity" and, more importantly, he was interested in my story, and asked for the full the day after I sent the query. The full request led to a phone conversation and revision request, which led to fairly sweeping revisions, which led to his ultimate offer of representation the week before Christmas.
You can read our full he-said/she-said version of the story here

BBC: Let's talk about your writing, since you donate so much of your own blog space to the writing of others. What genre do you write, and is there any one particular thing that led you to it?
AU: I write MG and YA fantasy and sci/fi. I'm admittedly leaning more in the YA direction and will probably concentrate on it. My novel currently on submission is a YA dystopian, and my WIP is a YA urban fantasy. I grew up ADORING fantasy (I started reading Katherine Kurtz when I was in seventh grade), and I'm a huge Star Trek: TNG and Voyager geek. There. I've admitted it.
What's funny about the fact that I write novels at all is that I declared a long time ago that I could "never write a novel." I had self-published a collection of humorous anecdotes and labeled myself an essayist (how boring is that?). Then, one night, I was curled in bed reading The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. I know that novel is beloved by many, but I didn't like it! It was predictable and its heroine was propelled by obvious, leading circumstances at every turn, and I found myself thinking, "I could write a better story than this!" Thus began my first labor of love--the worst YA fantasy novel you can possibly imagine.
But hey. It was a start! Now, six novels later, I can safely say that, yes, I am a novelist. And there isn't anything else I'd rather be writing!

BBC: Where do you find your inspiration, typically?
AU: Story-wise, I'd have to say that I'm a thinker and a dreamer, and that's where my ideas come from. (I was the girl in school whose margins were crammed with doodles.) Not to mention my love for things fantastical, things otherworldly, things uber-geeky but still believable. And happily ever afters. I love those.
Writing-wise, I am inspired by those who have gone before me as well as those who walk by my side. The online writing community is AMAZING. When I first began this journey, I was pretty isolated. Looking back, I don't know how I survived. And truthfully? My writing didn't begin to mature until I "plugged in" to the wonderful resources on the internet.

BBC: Are you a pantster or a planner? Tell us a little about your process.
AU: Pantser all the way!
Actually, I prefer the term "organic writer," because, really, it's more about allowing the story to unfold organically than it is about "flying by the seat of one's pants," which has a pejorative ring. That, and it just sounds cool. ;P
I'm definitely planning more than I used to, though. The downside of pantsing is the proverbial writing-oneself-into-a-corner, and I've gotten thoroughly tired of doing that. So I'm much more about inciting events and plot points than I was before. Right now I'm in the middle of the push-to-the-end in my WIP, and I've happily done enough pre-planning (read: staring, angsting, and teeth-gnashing) to make this process feel almost effortless.
(Emphasis on "almost." I have a lot of trouble shutting down my internal editor, so drafting tends to go more slowly than it should.)

BBC: Do you use beta readers, and if so, where do you find them?
AU: I have wonderful readers! My primary reader is and always has been my dear husband, who reads, takes notes, and then talks through every chapter with me over glasses of wine. He's been a huge part of my journey--awesome sounding board, constant source of encouragement, and incredibly adept at picking out Really Bad Dialogue and reading it out loud in stupid voices until I'm practically peeing myself.
Then there's my small gaggle of online writing buddies, who read for me and for whom I read in return. Jodi Meadows was the first person who ever offered to read for me, and sending that first manuscript was nothing short of terrifying (the gal is ruthless and wonderful!). She's made more of an impact on my writing that I can effectively express to her, despite my constant bowing and scraping. (Okay. I'm not the bowing and scraping sort. But I do adore her!)
The question of how to find readers is actually a frequent topic of emails I receive from my blog readers. "Can you suggest someone?" "Is there some way we can hook up with readers on your blog?"
Thing is, swapping manuscripts is a very personal and unique process. Each person who reads for me (and for whom I read) has come to that place over time and the development of our relationship, as friends and as fellow authors. It may sound infuriatingly like the way people respond when you ask them how they knew their spouse was the "right one," but really, you usually just "know." And even if, in the end, the reader doesn't connect with your genre or writing style, it's a good experience, anyway, because it goes back to your relationship with one another, and the strengths you each bring to the table as writers/critters.

BBC: Between writing and maintaining your blog do you ever get time to read? What are you reading now? What books coming out are you most looking forward to?
AU: Doesn't it always seem that reading is last on our list of things-we-have-time-for? And yet I ADORE reading, and would happily curl up for hours on end with books and chocolate.
My two most recent reads are THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, which was long overdue, and PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow, which was a rich and beautiful feast of words and imagery, and the most awesome talking cat you will ever meet.
Of course I read mostly YA, since that's what I write (and love!). Within that genre, I am drawn to SFF, since that's what I write (and love!). But I also adore Jane Austen. And of course, Tolkien gets a reread every few years, because...well, it's Tolkien!
As for what I'm looking forward to? What a fun question!
First and foremost, I'm excited for the release of Jodi Meadow's INCARNATE from Katherine Tegen Books, in early 2012.
I'm also looking forward to Beth Revis's next book, the second of a trilogy which began with ACROSS THE UNIVERSE from Penguin/Razorbill.
Then there's Elana Johnson's POSSESSION, which is out in June from Simon/Pulse, and several books that are already out but haven't made their way to my itchy little hands yet, like LOSING FAITH by Denise Jaden and LEARNING TO SWIM by Sara J Henry (the only non-YA on my wish list!).
I'm sure I'm forgetting some. I have a never-ending "I wanna read that next!" list.

BBC: Hey, how DO you have time to write? :)
AU: Hey, I don't know!
Actually, that's not true. I'm pretty anal retentive about my writing time. It's my career, so the time I sink into it is sacred. I refuse to schedule appointments, meet friends, or do anything else EXCEPT WRITE each day during the designated time. Six days a week. (I choose either Saturday or Sunday to take off.)
Well, I'm completely divergent, so naturally I'm checking email and tweeting in between sentences. But that's how my brain seems to work.

BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers that aren't cliched like the ones I give?
AU: They all seem cliched after a while, don't you think? But for me, it always comes back to Never Give Up. I go through these private phases of "I'm really going to quit this time, and I'm not going to tell anyone because they'll try to talk me out of it." No, really. It happened as recently as two weeks ago, when I was stuck on my WIP. Somehow, I always move past it. Somehow, I remember my own motto of Never Give Up. Sometimes it happens without my even realizing it. Suddenly I'm writing again, and things are okay.
Because, really. How could any of us STOP WRITING? Might as well remove our lungs.

BBC: And finally, will you be "outing" yourself when you are published?  Will we finally know the name that goes with "Authoress?"
AU: Yes, I will be outing myself once the book sells. Josh and I are going to have fun, I think, deciding how to do the "unveiling," how to time it, etc.  In the meantime, I'll just keep hiding under my hat!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Meet the Muse and A New Series of Interviews!

We all have our processes when it comes to writing, and we all find inspiration in different places.  Some of us like to drink tea while we write, some of us can't have that distraction.  There are writers who have to wear the same shirt every time they sit down in front of the laptop or blank journal pad.

Me - I don't need much. An empty bladder, some free time, and my bed is about it. I'm a dedicated librocubicularist - Latin for someone who reads in bed - and I find that it's true of my writing as well.  Often, I write best with my man at my side - the inspiration for my screenname and the guy who sleeps on my head.  My cat.

The b/f is my b/f, but my cat is my man.  He wandered into my life as a hand me down from the ex-husband's co-worker.  He's been with me through two moves and some major life changes.  He's got paws the size of a Ritz cracker and weighs about 20lbs.  He also shows no signs of aging even though he was an adult when I got him and has been with me for a decade.  I don't know if vampirism is rampant in cats, but I have my suspicions about this guy.

In any case, being a writer I should have a totally awesome, really creative, literary-inspired name for my man, right?  Something like Lovecraft, or Prufrock. No.  His name is - Big Cat.  And to add insult to injury, I usually just call him BC.

So when people started calling me BBC over at AQ I had to laugh a little at how much more intwined my man has now become in my writing process and life.  I've had quite a few people ask me why bigblackcat97?  I thought I'd take a moment today to clear that up, plus my man will be helping introduce a new series of interviews starting Wednesday - so stay tuned!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Black Cat on the Red Sofa - BBCHAT with Dawn Frederick

Today BBCHAT continues! Bigblackcat's Humane Agent Talk: In Which A Particularly Agreeable Agent Answers a Series of Questions that Have Nothing to do with Queries or Submission Guidelines. Yeah, don't try to make an acronym out of that last bit.

The BBCHAT is designed to get the personality of the agent in the spotlight, and an enterprising querier can use this information to figure out if the agent is a good fit for them, rather than just another agent who happens to cover their genre.

The last question involves something that oddly resembles a contest, and ties in with the blog name. Note the rules: to participate you need to follow the blog (so include your screenname in the email so that I can identify you), and your answer must come in an email to me, not a post in the comments section. First person to email me with the correct answer wins. You'll notice the "email me" link above my followers box to the right. Or maybe you won't notice it. In which case, you'll be totally flummoxed.

Today’s guest is Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary Agency.  Check out Red Sofa’s blog for Dawn's genres, submission guidelines, industry info, interviews and other pertinent posts!

The Red Sofa BBCHAT:
BBC: What are you reading right now and why do you like it? (excluding slush, full requests and client mss, of course)
RS: Million Little Questions by Heather McNamara (a choose-your-own-adventure for the “big” kids)
The Social Animal by David Brooks (everyone should read this book)

BBC: Paper or plastic? (a book or an e-reader?)
RS: Both. I love the advantages of an e-reader, as it makes an agent’s job much smoother (especially when reading so many manuscripts and partials). But my heart will always be with paper books.

BBC: What's on your bucket list?
RS: I’ve already accomplished quite a few goals on my bucket list, including being involved with roller derby in since 2007. Other items I’d love to accomplish? Living abroad (semi-permanently) at some point – and getting a motorcycle license.

BBC: Have you ever ridden a mechanical bull?
RS: No, have never been interested. But my league has a mechanical bull at our final after-party every year. Does this count at least?

BBC: What type of agent are you?
a) Cheerleader
b) Therapist
c) Bushwhacking Guide
d) Red Ink Saturation Committee Member
RS: Cheerleader and Bushwhacking Guide, with a side of Red Ink. I’m definitely not a Therapist, nor am I looking to be one. So 3 out of 4?

BBC: If you had a guaranteed sell, what type of story would you like to represent?
RS: My obsession (for some time) has been finding a Choose Your Own Adventure graphic novel. I can’t emphasize how badly I’d like to see a book of this nature get published.

BBC: Tell me three things about yourself, one of them being a LIE! First person to email me with the correct guess as to the lie gets... something awesome. –
1. My favorite food at the Minnesota State Fair is chocolate-covered bacon on a stick.
2. My youngest cat recently swallowed an inanimate object,that had to be surgically removed. It was a sewing needle.
3. My alma mater’s mascot is an Elephant.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tag - I'm IT! Blog Tag Friday

Ok so yeah...  so even though I'm late to the fun it IS still Friday.  Regardless of the fact that I woke up thinking it was Saturday due to no work today, and dropped my kid off at an Easter party.  Ahem.  On the wrong day.

So my blogger buddy Anita over at A Still and Quiet Madness started up a fun game this morning - blog tag.  She posted Seven Things You Don't Know About Her and dared her followers to come up with their own.  I'm all about telling you guys random things about myself, so here's my contribution -

1) I passed out in the London tube one time.  Totally awesome.  I was about three months pregnant and suddenly, I was just... down.  British men are very chivalrous!

2) The house I lived in before this one was quite haunted.  I could tell you some stories, but I'll save those for Halloween time blog posts.

3) I double majored in English Literature and also Religion (as in the study of), and minored in History.  The result is that I am not qualified to do much in the work field, but I am your go-to person for decoding LOST.

4) My yard is five acres.  Seriously.  I've written novels in my head while mowing.  Cover to cover.

5) The b/f (who btw is AWESOME) was one of my best friends in high school.  He was an urban import (we were highly rural) my sophomore year.  We were bf's for three years and never so much as held hands.  I hadn't talked to or seen him for over a dozen years (he moved to Pittsburgh) when I got a divorce, and was hanging out with old friends and said, "Does anyone know whatever happened to ______?"  Turns out he'd moved back home, somebody had his number and gave him a call.  He dropped by and it was like this - SHA-ZAM!  As teens it just wasn't there, as adults we both looked at each other and said, "Uh... Hi."  : )

6) I'm an intensely practical person - if I haven't worn, used it, or touched it in a year - it's gone.  (This does not apply to books).

7) I'm insane with the hobbies and need to back off them - I'm a knitter, a cross stitcher and an amateur genealogist.  I've traced my German lines to the 16th century, my Irish I'm still stuck in Pennsylvania around 1775.  I did unearth an honest-to-goodness axe murderer in that Irish line - no shit.  I can get a blog post out of that, and I will :)

Who else wants to play?  Even if you don't get that blog post up until tomorrow, I think the challenge is on going!  Tell us 7 Things About Yourself!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

In Which I Do Not Endorse Pitching Yourself Down Staircases

It's time for another, extra-special glimpse into MindyLand - a fascinating place in which the reliable narrator appears to be protected by a higher power, cause really, I shoulda died.

Ignore the old-house-in-renovation-look
And I promise, it ties into writing. Eventually. Bear with me.

I live in a big old, rambling farmhouse, with a big old takes-forever-to-climb, built-at-an-alarming-angle staircase.  I love my big old house, and the staircase was a serious motivating factor when I bought the house. Then it tried to kill me this past winter.

*Pause for world-building info dump*

My bedroom is on the second floor; a bathroom in the process of renovation is conveniently, right next door.  If one were (and, one often does) to walk out of the bathroom, you take a hard left to get to the bedroom.  Then there's a Misleading Bit O'Wall (reason for being thus dubbed to follow) and, immediately following, also on the left, the Staircase of Fate.  Said stairs are made out of real dead trees, not pressed and hardened cardboard.  And there used to be carpet on them.  I took it off.  Very.  Very. Smart.

So late one night - technically, it was very early, cause I'm a stay-upper like that - last December I found myself in need of the potty.  I make that trip, and flip off the light in the bathroom as I exit - cause who needs the lights on to make a hard left turn into their own bedroom? But it's late, and I'm tired, so when I put my hand out and feel the Misleading Bit O'Wall ending, I think oh good - bedroom - and commenced to step out into nothingness.  I was already leaning forward a bit, reaching for the light switch inside the bedroom, so I don't do one of those slippity, land on your butt things.  I fell completely forward and went end over end so that the very first thing that HIT was literally the crown of my head.  On a step.  A hard one.  With no carpet.  I heard the *CRUNCH* inside my head as my neck impacted.

Thought process went like this, as I stepped into nothingness, surrounded by pitch blackness:

1) Where the hell did my bedroom floor go?
2) *CRUNCH* Oh shit, I'm falling down the stairs, and I think my neck just got shorter.
3) Wow, this is really taking a long time to get to the bottom
4) *still falling down the stairs* Do these stairs end?  It would be really terrifying if I just kept falling.
5) *MEATY SMACK as I hit the bottom* (cause she never really slowed down) Oh good, I'm done falling, the perpetual stairs theory is false.
6) Ouch
7) I appear to be alright
8) *attempts to stand, immediate vomit reaction, curls into fetal position* Should I call the squad?  I can either crawl the length of the house to the security panel and do that, or crawl back up the stairs to my cell phone.
9) Well, I'm butt ass naked so I don't think I will go for option one.  (Inside track - BBC sleeps in the nude. Yeah, cause that's how I roll - and let me tell you, the bruises were interesting).

So I crawl back up the stairs, to call my Mommy and Daddy - cause that's also how I roll.  And an interesting conversation follows:

Mindy: (after a few dials cause it's like, 3 AM) Hi Mom - first of all, I think I'm OK, but I fell down my stairs and I want you to come and make sure I don't fall asleep and not wake up, or vomit and choke on it and die in my sleep.
MOM: (long sigh) How did you manage to do that?
Mindy: Does it matter?  I just DID!
MOM: Hold on.
*I overhear MOM waking up DAD*
MOM: Here - keep your daughter talking on the phone while I drive over there to make sure she's OK.
DAD: What happened?
MOM:  She fell down the stairs.
DAD: How did she manage to do that?

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, shortly after the Staircase of Fate escapade, I began analyzing the thought process I had while in the act of getting shorter.  When something alarming, sudden, and traumatizing happens to our characters, we tend to make them aware of what's going on.  But the truth is, when something like that occurs in real life, we are so disoriented we have no CLUE what is happening - hence my wondering why my bedroom floor had evaporated.

True, it's hard to write a realistic, sudden scene where your character doesn't know what's going on without confusing or losing your reader.  I was able to think of one example (and my apologies to Sue Grafton, because I'm not able to quote her word for word here).  In one of the earlier Kinsey Milhone stories (I believe it was somewhere in the D-F range) Kinsey is walking out of a house where she just conducted an interview to have a very attractive blonde assassin take a shot at her.  She meets his eyes, and smiles and says "Hi," cause he's that cute, and then a bee flies past her ear and the wooden post beside her face randomly explodes.   He took a shot at her - we know that - but she doesn't, and the casual, realistic description of the scene was such an awesomely fresh take on writing that it stuck with me a long time - I read those books in junior high.

So, chew on that - and by all means let me know if you can think of other examples.  Better yet, if you can tip me off on which Grafton novel that was, I'd appreciate it - I want a re-read!

I'll leave you with a related conversation, that has no bearing on writing.  A week after my Fateful Fall Forward I was still dizzy at random moments, and slightly sluggish.  So I thought - Hey!  Maybe I should go to the Dr!  *dials phone*

Mindy: Yeah I need to get an appt.
Receptionist: And what do we need to see you for today?
Mindy: I fell down my stairs and I think I have a concussion.
Recept: Ma'am? Would you like us to call the squad for you?
Mindy: Oh no, this was like a week ago.
Recept: (long pause) What are your symptoms?
Mindy: I'm dizzy and nauseous, plus I want to sleep a lot.
Recept: For a week now?
Mindy: Yeah
Recept: OK - be here in the office in 15 minutes. I'm taking the liberty of scheduling you for an MRI as well, cause they're going to want to do that.
Mindy: Well, it'll have to be in half an hour, it'll take me that long to drive there.
Recept: You're driving yourself around?
Mindy: Uh... nooooo, no, of course not.

MRI said that my brain is just fine :)  Do you trust modern medicine?

If I can find a way to fit into a writing-themed blog post, I'll share a picture of my superfluous banister!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An Interview with Kendare Blake - SAT Freestyle!

Today I've got something a bit different for you.  An agency mate of mine, Kendare Blake, author of ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, offered to do an SAT (Successful Author Talk) for me.  Once we'd exchanged a few emails we realized that we were interviewing each other, and decided to do a little freestylin'.  So you get a little back and forth here today, Q&A with both Kendare and I sharing our experiences of writing, queries, agent hunting and publishing.

BBC: How long have you been writing? And why this genre?
KB: I wrote my first novel-length work of fiction in the 7th grade. It was about a boy and his horse, sort of a My Friend Flicka rip-off. I called it Master of the Mustangs. Of course the other kids at school called it, Masturbator of the Mustangs, so the title was obviously a problem. As far as genre goes, I try not to genre-lize. After ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, I might be called a "horror writer" and that's okay. There are worse things to be called. But I write the genre that wants to be written.

KB: What about you? Did you consciously choose YA? And when was that moment when you decided, well, this is it, I'm going to try to get published?
BBC: I've been writing for about ten years, and no I started out writing adult fiction. Serendipity landed me a job as a YA librarian in a high school and I thought - well, I'm immersed in the market and spending 40 a week with the target audience... guess I'll try YA! Publication was always the goal, from the beginning. I've never said I just write for myself - I wanted that validation of being published. So yeah, I've been sending out queries for ten years.

BBC: How long have you been agent hunting? At any point where you like, "Yeah apparently I suck and should give up and die?"
KB: I almost can't remember. Sure, there's a spreadsheet documenting part of the sub process, but I know there was more. But it fades. I definitely remember that it sucked at times. Oh, it sucks. Being on sub for anything sucks. I used to give myself ultimatums, and then welch on them. I think looking back that submitting to literary magazines was more soul-crushing than looking for an agent. There were so many times when I thought, well shit, I'm never going to get this just right. I'll never have the right project, at the right time, for the right person. And then, after messing up and commiting the typical flubs of subbing too soon, addressing a sub to the wrong Sara, etc., I all of a sudden did have the right project. This whole thing is 70% blood, sweat and talent, 30% out of your control. Those percentages might be off, but you get the drift.
After finding the spreadsheet, I can tell you that actual sub numbers for ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD were low. Six sent. Three rejections outright. Three fulls. Two offers.

KB: So Mindy, speaking of flubs, any you'd care to share? Ever hit that send button and then scream, "Balls!" when you realized you sent it to the wrong place/wrong attachment, etc? And how did you go about compiling your sub list? Everyone has different preferences, but what about an agent really caught your eye?
BBC: Ha, yeah. I had a request for the full and attached the wrong manuscript one time. I didn't even know it until I went back to my "Sent" folder to move it into my "God I Hope this Works Out For Me Someday" folder and I just went, "Really? Really, Mindy - you did that?! DUMBASS!" Luckily, agents are people too, so I just sent a following email saying, "Uh, sorry. Don't read that one. It sucks." Or something along those lines. I also didn't realize that once you get the "Your Message Has Been Sent" screen, if you hit refresh (which I was doing for some reason) it sends your email AGAIN. So whoops. Sorry to those twenty or so agents that I bombarded with double queries. I emailed them again and told them to feel free to reject me twice. They all settled for once, though.
For my query list I used sites like QueryTracker, AgentQuery and also two great blogs that do agent interviews and contests - Mother. Write. (Repeat) and Miss Snark's First Victim. Unlike you (jealous, jealous, can you smell us?) I sent out a crap ton of queries before finding my agent. I definitely look for an interest in both humor and grit - which is a hard mix. The ms I snagged my agent with is very dark and bleak, but I've got one loaded with snark up my sleeve too, so I had to be sure to find someone who was going to fit me for the duration, not just the project at hand.

BBC: So you submitted to lit magazines at one point your career? Did you get any takers? Do you think that was an important part of your journey as a writer and did it seem to carry weight in your query letters to agents?
KB: First of all, thanks for the heads up about the resending if you hit refresh. I did not know that. I wonder if I ever did it by accident. Anyway, I don't know if the magazine credits carried weight with agents. I know that it generally does if you write literary. And lots of writers have entire careers of short stories. I have a special fondness for those writers and it sort of bugs me when people rag on them to write novels, as if what they're doing isn't awesome enough. But I digress. I placed second in one literary competition. But I had better luck with dark fantasy and horror. I do think it was important. I know I enjoyed it, and I hope to get back to some short fiction soon. But it's absolutely not necessary! If all your tales turn out to be novels, more power to you!

KB: You said you've got another manuscript up your sleeve already. Is this one you had previously written, or is it new? I know everyone has different pacing and process, but can you describe yours? How fast or slow do you like to go?
BBC: I do have another ms up my sleeve, or rather, hiding in my closet. It's a previously written YA, that took a few beatings from betas and was knocked unconscious once or twice during the querying process. It's a child of my heart, and I'm in love with it, so hopefully I can breathe new life into it now that I don't feel the crush of the agent hunt and can focus more.
Pacing and process? I've done a "word vomit" and coughed up a novel in as short as three months, but others, like the ms that landed my agent, was more of a nine month regurgitation period. My process varies according to what the project is telling me to do - some novels I've got all planned out in my head (although I never have a physical outline), and others I've honestly sat down at the laptop and said, "Ok book, what happens now?" I've also had characters do or say things I wasn't planning on. A supporting character the ms I'm revising for Adriann right now did something shocking at a pivotal moment - and I was like, "Awesome move, lady!! I did not see that coming but you totally just created the perfect motivation for my other characters...." So, there are times when I feel like I'm not necessary - I'm just channeling my character's stories.

BBC: What's your process? And do you feel an affinity for certain projects that differs from the next? My first YA is my baby, the ms I'm revising is my red headed stepchild.
KB: Like you, I've been known to word vomit. I think my record is a novel in 17 days, but it was stilted and crappy. But I think that was less about the time it took than just having the wrong story. Six months later I found the right way to tell it and now it's the lead-in to the series I want to write after ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD and the sequel.  Lately though, books have taken me about four to five months to write. I don't plot, so I can never be sure. When I started writing Anna's sequel, it was mid-October and I gave myself a deadline for sometime in February. As I started, I wasn't sure where it was going; I was definitely glad I hadn't signed on for a trilogy. But by the end, I wanted to write a third.
I've heard there are people who can write a book in days and come out with publishable material. I know there are people out there who consistently write for years. And some differ from book to book. The important thing for every writer to remember is to be true to their own process. It's hard to hear about fast, successful writers and not think, "Oh shit! They're going to put out ten books a year and I'm only going to do one every three! They'll take all the publishing spots and leave none for me!" But don't think that. They won't.
As far as affinity for certain projects? Now that my time with Cas is over, I miss him. I think all writers get that. But we are human after all, and there's always another shiny ball to chase. I guess I remember them all with equal fondness, but the real writing drive is reserved for the project of the moment, which is, I suppose, the best place for it.

On Looking Good & Writing Well

To my male followers - this one is kind of a girl-centric post, which won't happen often.  I'm a meat-and-potatoes kind of chick, but this bears relating.  So bear with me for a moment of pink saturation :).

Ladies: We talked before a little bit about self-esteem as writers and as people.  In the earlier post I talked about how we manage our households and juggle our time. Today, I've got a relevant Glimpse-Into-BBCLand (oh, it's a fascinating place) that I think will resonate with my readers.

I've got a friend & co-worker who is the blunt type, the one that calls you out on your shit - and really, we all need at least one of those to keep us honest.  She's also my Mary Kay lady.  So when she brought me down some new makeup the other day and showed me how to use it (BBC freely admits her ineffectual makeup use) a conversation went thus:

BBC: Yeah I know I haven't been doing my face a lot lately for work.

Friend: Or your hair.

BBC: Right, I know.  I really need some new clothes, but don't have the extra cash to buy some.  So when I wake up in the morning I look in my closet and think, all these clothes look dumpy, so why bother doing my face and my hair when my clothes look like this?  Then I bought some new clothes, but when I put them on they looked bad cause I gained some weight, which made me feel crappy, so when I woke up the next day I felt even crappier, and thought why do my hair and my face if my body looks bad?  Internal thought: Wow.  I didn't know all that was in there.  I just totally dumped on Friend.

Friend: *cocks her head and looks at me like I'm stupid* You know that's a completely self destructive thought cycle, right?

And for whatever reason - this happened :

So sometimes we need that friend who says - "Guess what?  You're totally screwing yourself right now."

And I think this applies in our writing too.  We get down on ourselves.  We re-read last night's work and say, "That is horrible, that is crap, why did I ever think I could be a writer?" And we stop trying.  We read a best seller and think, "This is incredible, this is what it takes to be a writer, I cannot do that."

And isn't that kind of thinking tantamount to comparing ourselves to the models on the magazine covers, or actresses with free time to go the gym everyday and the money to go the salon before they go out?  These writers (some of them) have been doing this for years; their skills are honed, they've had professional feedback from other writers and editors.  Some of them have the ability to make a living off their writing, instead of in those stolen moments.

This same Friend said to me one time, "You know, you could be a 10 but you treat yourself like 5."  So tell yourself today when you sit in front of that laptop / notebook / desktop / blank piece of paper - I'm a 10 dammit!  And I'm going to write like one!

A little something to look forward to: tomorrow we've got an extra special Freestyle, Freewheelin' SAT in which myself and an equally cheeky YA author let our personalities run rampant.  Oh, there will be giggles.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Interview with Lisa & Laura Roecker - SAT WoW!

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. Even more special - this is a WoW! Edition of the SAT - We're Ohio Writers! Yeah - cause we grow 'em here.
Even cooler, today brings us something unfathomable to me: a sister-writer team! As such, they get an extra special SAT question at the end of the interview.
SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!
Lisa and Laura Roecker are sisters and co-authors of THE LIAR SOCIETY, which was released in paperback last month.

Writing Process:
BBC: Are you Planners or Pantsters?
L&L: We are most definitely planners. Because we write together, we have to have some idea as to where the book is headed. Granted, this changes quite a bit as we get deeper into the story, but it makes us feel better to have a jumping off point.

BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
L&L: If we really buckle down, we can complete a novel within a couple of months. This does not include the massive revisions we inevitably end up doing. We do prefer to write this way--NaNoWriMo style--our families, however, do not.

BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi taskers?
L&L: We are one project at a time kind of writers. We can read a lot of books simultaneously, but writing is much more personal. One world at a time, please.

BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
L&L: We have many fears as writers now compared to when we first started out. We completely miss our naivete of the early days. We just wrote and though it was AMAZING. Now we know better.

BBC: How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?
L&L: We have one trunked book from before and one from after.

BBC: Have you ever quit on a ms, and how did you know it was time?
L&L: YES. We've quit on a few! It's usually a joint decision and most often because the plot is too complicated or the characters aren't flowing.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
L&L: Catherine Drayton. She plucked us out of the slush pile, baby! It was super-exciting because she was one of our top agents for the first trunked manuscript, but we got the big fat 'R.' The second time around went much better!

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent?
L&L: We sent out 10 queries to our top agent choices for THE LIAR SOCIETY, which was then called FINDING GRACE.

BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
L&L: Believe it or not, there are days when we miss querying. There was so much possibility and excitement involved in the process! Will we get a request? Will an agent want to see more? Will they offer? Will they email? We kind of loved every second. I think our main piece of advice would be to query in small chunks. If you aren't getting a good response, perhaps your query needs a makeover. If you're getting requests that turn into rejections, perhaps your book isn't quite ready. Testing the waters is kind of a nice way to test out your query and/or manuscript.

On Being Published:
BBC: How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
L&L: So exciting! It felt like all of our hard work had finally paid off. It was also surreal at the same time.

BBC: How much input do you have on cover art?
L&L: Not much at all. We have a whole cover art drama story. Basically, Kate did not have pink hair until we had to go back in and change it based on final cover art. It all worked out in the end, but not without a few tears along the way.

BBC: What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
L&L: We learned that a lot of publishing is out of your control. No one can predict what kids will buy or what they'll love or which cover will call to them. We are not the target market, but we try our best!

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog? Twitter?
L&L: We do pretty much all of our marketing. We have an incredible publicist who supports us, but marketing the book is kind of our baby. We've come up with contests, organized our blog tour and have attempted to spread the word using social networking. Jury's still out on whether or not it worked!

Lisa & Laura’s Blog
Lisa & Laura on Twitter
Lisa & Laura on Facebook
Lisa & Laura’s Site

BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
L&L: As soon as you begin writing, if you feel comfortable, plug yourself into the community. Not only is it great for networking, but you'll make valuable friends along the way. The business is tough so if you have trusted friends who will support you, you're golden!

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?
L&L: Yes. At least we hope so! We work very hard to spread the word online, so it'd be a shame if it didn't contribute to sales. BUT, we've made friends who are incredible, so really, it doesn't really matter!

And the Extra Special Sister-Writer Duo Question:
BBC: How the heck did you manage to work together to write? My older sister chairs the English Dept. in the school where I work. We love each other, but there’s that “Stop touching the stuff on my desk!” and “Are you really eating that?” factor to working together that makes me think if we wrote a book together it would be carnage!!
L&L: HA! You'd be surprised how much fun it is to write a book with someone else! The whole two brains thing totally works to our advantage. Basically, we just switch off chapter by chapter--Lisa writes one, Laura edits and writes the next, Lisa edits hers and writes the following. Until finally, we have a finished book and have had the chance to be both readers and writers. We don't know how people write books ALONE!

Extra Special Fun - L&L Share Their Winning Query!!

Kate Lowry didn't think dead best friends could send e-mails. Not even on the anniversary of their disappearance. Of course, that was before this message from Grace appeared in her inbox:

I'm here…
sort of.
Find Christian.
He knows.
I shouldn't be writing.
Don't tell.
They'll hurt you.

Most girls would ignore the warning and go straight to the police.

But Kate isn’t most girls.

Instead, she decides to channel Nancy Drew, pearls and all. Of course, Kate’s pearls are faux, her skirts are way shorter and she’d take everyone's favorite teen detective in a girl fight, but you get the idea.

The e-mails continue and Kate’s quest to solve the mystery takes a dangerous turn when her confrontation with Christian, Grace’s addict brother, almost gets her killed. Good thing she finds a couple of knights-in-(not so)-shining armor in sexy bad boy, Liam, and her awkward neighbor, Seth.. Armed with her newfound sidekicks, the investigation continues, uncovering a secret lurking in the halls of their elite private school that threatens to destroy them all.

Kate knew finding Grace wasn’t going to be easy, but figuring out who to trust is more difficult than she ever could have imagined.

After all, everyone’s a suspect.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Clean House is One in Which No Writing is Being Done (Unless You Have A Maid, But That’s Cheating)

For those of you who follow us over on From The Write Angle, you'll notice this is a re-post for me.  Hey, it's Friday :)

Also - our big winner from the GK BBCHAT was MarcyKate!  Congrats!  She won a copy of THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST by Rick Yancey by being the first to correctly guess that GK does NOT collect squeezy cupcakes, despite that misleading linky.  Sly little GK, sly :)

And I hit 100 followers on Twitter (ahem @bigblackcat97 cough) and as promised, I used a random number generator - a small child - and our winner for that was... RC Lewis!  Yes, yes I know, my AQ'ers you're thinking - hey!  No way!  BBC's AQ buddies won??  Yeah, I know, seriously right?  I even picked a BIG small child, thinking that they would guess a higher number in the 1 - 100 range.  Nope.  She said 3.  RC was my #3 follower on Twitter - and she gets a copy of LIPS TOUCH THREE TIMES by Laini Taylor!

Thanks to everyone who participated and... there's another BBCHAT coming down the pipe real soon-like... like, real soon-like.  So... baby don't lose my number!  or hope!  Or I hope you don't lose my number, anyway....  And not to mention, I'm 1/10th of the way to having 200 followers on Twitter, and when that happens - we're gonna play the same game!  With a bigger child!

And the Housecleaning Post:
I’ve got to admit that I’m often torn between the demands of real life, and the demands of the fake people who live in my head.  Sure, there are certain responsibilities that must be attended to—cats don’t feed themselves, dog vomit doesn’t magically disappear—but is it imperative that my dresser be dusted off?  Who sees it anyway?  Me.  And do I care?

Technically, no.  I don’t.  Most of the dust in my bedroom is comprised of my own dead skin cells anyway, right?  So why do I care if part of me now resides on top of my dresser?  It makes its own kind of sense, really.  But—even practical me gets a dragging sense of inadequacy when I see that layer of dust.  I’ve failed as a housekeeper.

Then the flip side asks me—what if I fail as a writer?  What if the fake people in my head die and I walk around smelling bad because of it?  OK that last bit isn’t going to happen, but cutting off the circulation to my imagination will in fact kill my characters, and nothing cuts off the blood flow to the brain like housework.

And hey fellas—this applies across the board.  I know plenty of awesome dudes and single fathers who work their butts off, so don’t think that this is a female-centric philosophy. 

I was recently reading the excellent book Women Who Run With the Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and came upon this excellent quote:

“I've seen women work long, long hours at jobs they despise in order to buy very expensive items for their houses, mates, or children, and putting their considerable talents on the back burner. I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write... and you know, it's a funny thing about house cleaning... it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow overresponsibility (or overrespectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, rifts, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

Think on that for a bit, the last sentence particularly.  It resonated with me, and I’m betting it will with you, too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Mysterious Guest and The Introduction of BBCHAT

I am thrilled to introduce my new series of interviews - the BBCHAT - Bigblackcat's Humane Agent Talk: In Which A Particularly Agreeable Agent Answers a Series of Questions that Have Nothing to do with Queries or Submission Guidelines.  Yeah, don't try to make an acronym out of that last bit.

The BBCHAT is designed to get the personality of the agent in the spotlight, and an enterprising querier can use this information to figure out if the agent is a good fit for them, rather than just another agent who happens to cover their genre.

The last question involves something that oddly resembles a contest, and ties in with the blog name.  Note the rules: to participate you need to follow the blog (so include your screenname in the email so that I can identify you), and your answer must come in an email to me, not a post in the comments section.  First person to email me with the correct answer wins.  You'll notice the "email me" link above my followers box to the right.  Or maybe you won't notice it.  In which case, you'll be totally flummoxed.

Today's guest is an agent who maintains a particularly successful blog over at Getting Past the Gatekeeper. Part of the Gatekeeper's allure is her anonymity, so I won't be identifying her in this post other than as GK.

The BBCHAT with Agency Gatekeeper:
BBC: What are you reading right now and why do you like it?
GK: I’m on a nonfiction kick right now: I’ve just read Cinderella Ate My Daughter (hilarious, worrisome, and very, very smart) and Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage and Dirty Dishes (though I’m terrible with the dishes, and have literally hidden 2/3 of mine or I’ll just keep using them until they all pile up). I’m about halfway through American Bloomsbury, which has me looking up travel fare to Concord, MA, it’s so good. And I just started Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children In An Age of Environmental Crisis. I like it very much so far.
I like all of these works because they have excellent narrative components—the narrators of the aforementioned works are witty, pleasant, likable. They present readily available information in innovative ways: if my high school history classes had, like American Bloomsbury, presented Thoreau, Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Margaret Fuller through their love triangles—I would have paid a lot more attention!

BBC: Paper or plastic? (a book or an e-reader?)
GK: Paper all the way. But I do use plastic for manuscripts. It’s much better than lugging around a suitcase of them. My bag is heavy enough already.

BBC: What's on your bucket list?
GK: Goodness. Many things. I seem to think I’ll live forever. But my “next ten years” bucket list includes taking a boat trip down the Amazon, getting over my (considerable) fear of sharks and getting into SCUBA diving, living in Manhattan once (it may kill me with its intensity, but I’m curious), getting involved in the theatre again, working with an environmental and/or women’s health organization, and becoming someone’s favorite aunt. I have a seven-year-old niece who is very much like me. I’m hopeful.

BBC: Have you ever ridden a mechanical bull?
GK: I have not. I’m not generally good at things that require balance, strength, or athletic ability. I’d be willing to try, though. (Does that require a helmet? Perhaps one in the shape of a cowboy hat? That sounds like a good idea.) At a recent conference, I was offered a trip to a honky-tonk bar with a mechanical bull. I was totally up for it—until I nearly fell asleep (from too much travel, not boredom!) at the 7pm cocktail party just before.

BBC: What type of agent are you?
 a) Cheerleader
 b) Therapist
 c) Bushwhacking Guide
 d) Red Ink Saturation Committee Member
GK: Wow. I’d say A and B, mostly. If by D you mean I go through gallons of red ink with editing, that too. I’m happy to. I love watching a work take shape. And I’d say C, but I don’t think of Publishing as hostile territory.

BBC: If you had a guaranteed sell, what type of story would you like to represent?
GK: Right now, I’m really interested in historical fiction with strong female protagonists. I’ve noticed that I tend to fall in love with works about young characters who bravely change the world around them. But if I could have one magical “take it on and know it will sell” project—I’d love an Aimee Bender-style project. I simply love work like that, but it’s difficult to place.

BBC:  Do you write?  How good are you? ; )
GK: Yes, I write. As you can imagine, though, my internal editor gets quite the workout during the day. I think very few people can judge their own work objectively. So, I will say that I write well enough for my writing group to not throw me out (though they may keep me because of the snacks I make). And I’ve been known to bribe people with lattes as a trade for reading my stories. That works well, too.

BBC: Tell me three things about yourself, one of them being a LIE! First person to email me with the correct guess as to the lie gets... something awesome.
GK: 1) I’ve flown a plane. My dad used to fly small planes as a hobby. One day, he let me take the controls. Scary stuff. Probably ill-advised. But we lived, obviously.
2) I have a small but growing collection of plush sweet things (see here).  They’re totally useless, but I like to squish them.
3) There are a lot of weeks where I eat like a nine-year-old with one of those moms who say things like, “Of COURSE fruit snacks are good for you! The box says ‘fruit,’ doesn’t it?” There’s a box of spiral macaroni and cheese in my cabinet at all times.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sex in YA - You Know You Want It

"... and you know you want me to give it to you." Biff's words to Lorraine in Back to the Future had me totally flummoxed for a looong time. What was it? How could Biff give it to her? And why was he trying to touch her panties in the front seat of the car during the dance? Why was Lorriane talking about Marty's Calvin Klein's in their meeting scene? What's the fixation with underwear?

I remained in the dark about these topics for awhile. I knew sex existed, but I didn't have the whole Tab A, Slot B mechanics of the dance figured out until er... well... later. Not so today's teens. Blame it on the media, blame it on the culture, blame on parenting, blame it on the rain (how many 80's references can I get in here?) Let's just set blame aside and focus on the fact that it simply IS. My opinion - kids aren't having more sex, or earlier than before - it's simply no longer a taboo subject.

So, because it's not taboo, because they do know the mechanics - what do we write about it? Do we write about it?

It's up to you. I've read some really graphic sex scenes in YA. I don't find them offensive. I have a hard time believing there's anything in there that the average teen hasn't already been exposed to. However, I do monitor content in the books that I give out to junior high students - not necessarily because I think they're about to have their minds deflowered - but because their parents DO believe that, and they might have my ass in a sling. And I need my ass. I use it everyday.

My own philosophy runs thus; I have always believed that less is more. Why does Jaws work? 'Cause you don't see the shark. I typically refrain from physically describing my characters because I want my readers to fill in their hot guy, their hallway bitch, themselves as the MC. So when it comes to those backseat moments, or when my MC invites a guy over to "watch a movie," (yeah right, I have yet to see the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off), I want them to fill in slot B on their own. Something happened. Unless it's imperative to the plot, does it matter what? Do they need the description? Do they need to see that shark?

Here's a great example from Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix: (I know you're saying "What!  An HP makeout scene?") Oh yeah... it's there. A meeting of Dumbledore's Army has just ended. Everyone has filed out except for Cho and Harry, who are kinda hanging out there in the Room of Requirement... and who didn't guess that thing had multiple uses? pg. 456-457:

"I really like you Harry."
He could not think.  A tingling sensation was spreading throughout him, paralyzing his arms, legs and brain.
She was much too close.  He could see every tear clinging to her eyelashes...
He returned to the common room half an hour later to find Hermione and Ron..."

Hey! Wait a second!! Half an hour later? Gee... what were they doing? Now, obviously Rowling had a duty to her young readers to keep it clean, and to her older readers to keep it interesting. Not so for all writers, certainly. But I think it's a good example of letting the reader take it to their own level - of comfort, of familiarity, without being told what happened.

My own writing gives a little more detail than this highly gratuitous page break, but you get the idea.

One last thought - what do you want your readers to take away from your book? I haven't read Breaking Dawn, but I know that Edward and Bella break the headboard, cause that's all anyone wanted to talk about. Other than that - zero clue what the plot is about.

I'd love some feedback! What are your thoughts? Show the shark, or keep him underwater?  :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Contest Announcement and Then Another Contest Announcement

A little Monday evening blog post here, because there are announcements to be made.  And then some more, and possibly another one to follow.

I tweeted yesterday that my 100th follower would get a book giveaway - which was met with a monumental follower glut of one person.  I imagine that the next twelve or so (that's how close I am) are waiting in the wings for that number to get to 99, and then there will be a Follow Frenzy.  That's a tactical error on my part.  Sooo... updating that to upon REACHING 100 followers, I'll use a random number generator to pick the follower number who gets the book.  Make sense?  Oh good.

And the next announcement (which hopefully is met with a little more enthusiasm and less weeping and gnashing of teeth) is that on Wednesday I will have an interview with an agent here on the blog.  The author interview (SAT's) have been well received and so I'm starting a series of interviews involving literary agents.  Buried within those interviews is a little contest, keeping in the theme of the blog.

And that's really it, no more announcements.  Unless I think of something, in which case I'll let you know.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

With A Little Help From My Friends

Because Joe Cocker doesn't have the shout out rate he deserves.  Not in this decade, anyway.

I'm sure most of my excellent followers know that I serve as a moderator over at AgentQueryConnect. For those of you who aren't members, lurkers, or even aware of what I'm talking about, I definitely advise you to get your e-ass over there.  AQ is solely responsible for my growth in the craft, success as a querier, and sense of self-worth as a writer.  The community there is exactly that - a web of unparalleled support.

I used to mock the idea of having "friends" that you met online.  Now I don't.

A group of like - minded friends and I have started a new blog - From the Write Angle - which offers multiple perspectives on all aspects of the craft, as well as industry coverage.  We've got everything from an MG author to a corset maker, screenwriting to non-fiction, math teachers and lawyers whose combined brain power can fuel generators, and me, periodically making an ass of myself.

I just used the word "ass" twice in one post.  Apologies to the censor.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Collection of Friday Thoughts on Futility

It's Friday - Spring Break Friday - so it's one of those bittersweet days where I take stock of all the things that I didn't accomplish on this week off.  There's also quite a bit I DID do, but I'm neurotic so we're focusing on my failings today :)

I've discovered that if I take all the knitting projects I've got piled up, the books waiting for me to read them, the genealogy data I need to slog through.... my life is essentially claimed.  I mean the whole thing - no time for sleeping, eating, bathing, parenting, working or writing.  What this means is that I will die poor and stinky of exhaustion, but my friends will have hats for their babies, I will die well read, and I'll be able to say "Hey, I know you!" to my ancestors when I arrive in the afterlife.

So how do we balance these things, not only as writers, but as human beings?

Hobbies are awesome until we're no longer doing them for pleasure.  It's the process that's supposed to be enjoyable, not the end result.  Do I want to hate every stitch I make, but love the sweater?  Do I resent the time I put into reading, just to be able to say "I read that?"  Obviously no, if that's the approach, we've missed the point.

I think the same is true of writing.  If I sit down and I'm hating every word, or writing them only to fill in blank spaces, or hit that goal for the day - I don't think I'm accomplishing anything.  Sure, it's not just a hobby now, it's my career.  But it's a career by choice.  I do it because I'm incapable of NOT doing it, if that makes sense.  In other words, if the muse isn't talking today, I'm OK with that.

She'll be back :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mother Who Writes, Repeats, and Graciously Answers My Burning Questions

I snared KristaV, (or KristaG to QueryTracker users) for a guest interview today. Krista runs an excellent site for aspiring writers over at Mother. Write. (Repeat) where she posts periodic Interactive Agent Interviews that you do not want to miss. Krista provides this incredible resource in her spare time, and donates so much of her own blog space to help out others, that I wanted to give her a chance to talk about something else she does – write!
Krista's belated-post BOA :)

BBC: So you run an excellent blog for aspiring writers over at Mother. Write. (Repeat). What made you decide to take this approach on your blog, and how do you get all these awesome agents to agree to the interviews you do there?
KV: I knew I wanted to blog about mothering and writing, since that’s pretty much what my life is about. I tend to blog a lot more about writing than I do about mothering, but I figure the writing stuff is (marginally) more interesting than the mothering stuff. I mean, how many times can you tell people your potty-training son peed on the floor AGAIN before it starts getting a little old?
As for the interviews, a blogging friend, Bailey Clement, once interviewed Lisa McMann on her blog, which, obviously, I found quite cool. I asked Bailey how she’d gotten the interview, if she happened to know Ms. McMann, and she said something like, “Heavens, no! I just e-mailed her publicist and asked if she wanted to answer my questions.” At which point I thought, “Hmm, I could be brazen bold enough to pull that off. But who would I interview …?” It took me all of ten seconds to come up with my answer: agents!

BBC: What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers out on the agent hunt?
KV: I’ve found QueryTracker and Agent Query to be extremely useful in generating large lists of agents. I also frequent Absolute Write’s Bewares, Recommendations, and Background Checks forum to see what other writers have to say about response times--and to make sure the agents I plan to query haven’t been behaving badly.

BBC: Let's talk about your writing for a little bit. I see that you name your WIPS and MS's - now that's an interesting thought - what brought that on, and why those names?
KV: I started calling my current manuscript Bob when I couldn’t come up with a title for him. (I actually held a “Help! Bob Needs a Title” blog contest last August because I couldn’t come up with anything I liked. The winning entry from that contest, WHOSE TEETH ARE AS SWORDS, is now Bob’s official title.)
The nicknames themselves are pretty arbitrary. Bob is easy to say, easy to type, and easy to remember. I’m all for easy.

BBC: What genre do you write, and is there any one particular thing that led you to it?
KV: I write YA and MG, and I tend to gravitate toward more plot-driven genres, like urban fantasy, science fiction, and thriller. I’m definitely a commercial girl, and not ashamed to say it:)

BBC: Where do you find your inspiration, typically?
KV: Anywhere. Everywhere. Bob’s first seed of inspiration came when I was walking across my college campus one day and noticed someone talking on a Bluetooth headset. “What would happen if communication technology became even more invasive?” I wondered. “What if we actually started getting implants?”
This was before I’d ever heard of M.T. Anderson’s FEED, mind you (and maybe even before FEED was originally published), so it seemed like an original idea at the time:) And like I said, since my tastes run more commercial, Bob takes the idea in a completely different direction.

BBC: Do you use beta readers, and if so, where do you find them?
KV: Yes, yes, YES! Bob is actually the first manuscript I’ve written that I’ve exchanged with beta readers, and I think that’s one of the major reasons he’s done so well in the querying arena.
I found all my beta readers by networking through the blogsophere. That was one of the main reasons I started blogging: to find a few like-minded writers I’d feel comfortable exchanging manuscripts with. The other writers I’ve found have been terrific!

BBC: Between raising your children, taking care of the dog, managing your blog and writing, do you ever get time to read? What are you reading now? What books coming out are you most looking forward to?
KV: I love to read. In fact, in many ways, I think of myself as a reader first, a writer second. (I was a reader before I was a writer, after all.) At the moment, I’m reading Robin McKinley’s PEGASUS, and I’m finding that it walks that thin line between literary and commercial fiction quite well.

BBC: Hey, how DO you have time to write?
KV: Writing is important to me—really important to me—so important that I carve out several hours almost every day to write. I typically write while my kids are sleeping, so from about two to four in the afternoon and eight to ten at night.

BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers that aren't cliched like the ones I give?
KV: I had a thought the other day that I’ve kind of latched on to. One of my biggest vices is comparing myself to others, seeing what they have and wishing it were mine. But my journey is my journey, and I need to learn to own that. It’s so much easier to be happy for people who have good news and sad for people who have bad news when I’m not worried about what I have or don’t have and how they compare to me. And isn’t that what life is all about, learning to love and serve each other?
*steps down off her soapbox*
Sorry to get all preachy on you, but I do feel pretty strongly about this subject. This big, bad publishing race isn’t against each other, but ourselves. As long as we’re steadily improving, that’s all that really matters.