Sunday, July 31, 2011

BBC's HoWM - Wall Mounted Light & Partner In Crime, the Register

Note the nefarious
shadow it casts
As mentioned before, there is a fixture trying to kill me in the Bathroom of Self-Loathing. And no, it's not the usual case of BBC being overly dramatic. This lovely little piece of business is a fan of being manually turned on, and its devastatingly understated buddy, Mr. Metal Register, is fond of just lying there and waiting for you to step on him. Together, they create an electric partnership that can quite literally, shock you.

Yeah, I know, there's definitely something not quite right going on there, and I should do the normal thing and call an electrician. Somehow it's more fun to explain to unsuspecting visitors the proper way to use the bathroom without being injured.

Also, when I first discovered this dynamic duo I didn't quite understand what had happened. In order for the circuit to be complete, I had to be barefoot, standing on the register, and touching the light switch. Some wild test runs that had me fearing I was crazy (and had the b/f totally convinced) proved that all factors had to be present.

Inspiration can be like that - fast, unexpected, and hard to recreate later. If you're lucky enough to have figured out exactly where your foot needs to be, what you should be wearing, and where to put your hands in order to get that imaginative electric shock, then you are one lucky individual.

Do you have an inspiration process? Is there a routine you keep to with your writing that helps?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

BBC's HoWM - Pretty Possibilities Hidden in the Barn

Once upon a time, I found a clawfoot tub in a barn. Yes, really. One of those cast iron babies that makes you wonder how one thing could be so impossibly heavy. I'm not exactly a butterfly, and even I could only raise one end off the floor about two inches, then the curled edge felt like it was going to take my finger down to the bone.

So I had a debacle. Leave this possibly awesome, yet horribly disfigured and grotesquely heavy thing in the barn? Or, make it what it's supposed to be. I chose the hard route (I'm funny like that), and coughed up the money to have it refinished, then a coalition of kindly farmers came over and moved it into the house and up the Staircase of Fate for me. It was a struggle (on their part - not mine, I had firm instructions to just stand there), and three very big men said very bad words by the time it was said and done.

But now it's upstairs, in the newly redecorated bathroom (and I mean down to the studs) that is right around the corner from the Superfluous Banister. I don't have the money for the plumbing parts yet, but I know that once this baby is finished it'll be worth the investment of time and money, and other people's physical strength.

Ignore the bits that aren't done, k?
As writers, there are ideas in our heads like that. We've got ideas that we keep re-shelving, telling ourselves we're not good enough writers to tackle that one yet, or it's too sprawling we don't know where to begin. For me, it's a piece of historical fiction that I'm not sure I've got the research cajones to do right, or the time to invest to do that research in the first place.

But I think we need to face those big projects head on, tell ourselves it's worth the time, the effort, and the heavy lifting. We might get something beautiful out of it in the end.

What's your big project? Have you got something you don't trust yourself to write just yet?

Friday, July 29, 2011

BBC's HoWM - Hell's Chimney

I'm really glad I can finally
show you a finished room
Part of the charm of having an old house is chimneys. Real brick chimneys that shoot straight through two floors of house, right out of the roof. But I've got one in particular that doesn't seem to end. This bugger has a locatable top (predictably, on the roof), but the bottom seems to keep on going... straight down to, uh, whatever is down there. Also, there's not a fire*place*, just a chimney. Yes, BBC's HoWM really is a quirky place.

As a writer, how often are you asked this question: "Where do you get your ideas?"

It just keeps on going down
That's a tough one, 'cause hell - I don't know! Sometimes I can trace the origin back to a dream, or something I observed in my people watching that bloomed into a story. But usually I have no idea, and I don't question it. Inspiration is so fleeting that I don't search for the source, I'm grateful that it's there, and to whatever muse feels like I'm the right person to drop it on.

Much like Hell's Chimney, I don't ask. I just go with it, decorate around it, and watch what unfolds.

What's your source of inspiration?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

BBC's HoWM - The Prophetic Rot of A Leaky Toilet

One of the more endearing aspects of the Bathroom of Self-Loathing is the seashell shaped toilet seat. We all need to think about sitting on brittle pieces of dead mollusks in order to feel like going to the bathroom. How else to explain the popularity of such an unsightly object?

Not only is the seat a blight upon the eye, the actual potty part doesn't function all that well. Actually, it functions too well, constantly circulating water and not always doing the right thing with it. For example, it likes to take a fair amount of it and drip it down through the basement beams, which luckily have held for a century and might be able to take it until I do something radical, like call a plumber.

Our brains are like that, as writers. We're constantly circulating little ideas, drops of dialogue, splashes of scenes, and the occasional wave of a freshwater WIP. But do we do the right thing with it? Do we take that one second to jot it down on a piece of paper or email ourselves? Or do we let it slip away, drip down into our brain stem where it'll rot a hole in our spine and our heads fall off?

OK so that last bit might be a tad melodramatic, but it's important to write those flashes of inspiration down, because they are only brief flashes. And when they're gone, you're left in the dark basement searching for words, while cold potty water drips on your noggin.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wrahm! Bomb! Thank You Mom!

I've got the Wednesday WOLF up, for those of you who are just as nerdy as I am (man I wish there was a meter for that). For non-nerds, or just people who like to listen to things I have to say, I'm guest posting today over at Gennifer Albin's wonderful blog, Authorize.

Genn has started a wonderful series called WrAHM - Write At Home Moms - and asked fellow WrAHMer's, "How do you do it?"

Head on over to Genn's blog for my helpful tips on writing while still, ya know, living.

BBC's HoWM (House of Writing Metaphors) will continue tomorrow -with a picture of my potty!  I know everyone is totally going YES! right now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

BBC's HoWM - Ugly Bathroom of Self-Loathing

Today on BBC's HoWM (House of Writing Metaphors) my series continues with self-editing, and why my bathtub needs a serious Find+Replace run on it for "soap scum" and "scrubbing bubbles."

When I moved into my new HoWM I felt a little awkward using the bathroom. It wasn't my house yet, and I felt like I was intruding on somebody else's space when I took a bath. I got over it, but I still despise the downstairs bathroom for one very simple reason.

It's ugly.

Also, one of the light fixtures in there is trying to kill me, but we'll get to that later this week.

One trick about loving old farmhouses is that most of them had plaster walls originally, and when that plaster began to crumble, owners tossed up wood paneling. It paints up pretty nice, but I won't waste paint on that bathroom.

It's ugly.

I admit to not cleaning it often. Which truly, what am I thinking that will accomplish? Because dirty ugly is way better than clean ugly? Yet, I can't bring myself to get down on hands and knees and scrub that tub because...

It'll still be ugly.

So I shower in there, look at the rings on the sides and hate myself a little bit. Very productive.

The rough draft of an ms is like that - ugly. Sometimes we look at it and it doesn't seem to belong to us. That's why self-editing is critical, and like all important things in life, very difficult. It's easy to read that first draft and declare that you hate it. It's ugly. Give up on it.

Being ugly is exactly the job of a first draft. It's a basic framework telling you what your story IS, down in the bare bones. My ugly bathroom is for bathing and I can do that in there just fine, but it's not going to look good until I make it look good, and that means effort on my part.

So stop hating your first run-through for being ugly. Take out the steel wool and clean it up. 'Cause no one else is going to.

How do you deal with first-draft hatred? Do you take a breather before returning to the story for the edits? Or do you go back to page one with your red pencil right after typing THE END?

Monday, July 25, 2011

BBC's HoWM - The Superfluous Banister

Yup. Totally superfluous.
Today on BBC's HoWM - (House of Writing Metaphors) we're going to talk about plot. And my superfluous banister.

I'm not really sure where this guy came from. I'm guessing there's a staircase behind this wall, but I haven't gotten around to tearing it down yet, because unlike the banister the wall is not superfluous. So it's just a bit of my quirky house that I've become accustomed to, not really noticing it anymore until someone new comes over and says, "Uh???"

Even though it's not attached to stairs, my banister does serve a purpose. I'm a Pantster writer - the kind who sits down in front of the WIP and says, "OK brain, what happens today?" Usually the brain has a pretty good idea, or at least enough bullshit sitting in there for my hands to process before the real words start flowing.

But sometimes... sometimes the brain just looks at me and says, "What? You haven't been taking your vitamins and now you want me to fix this massive plot stuck? Sorry, lady." And then I'm left wondering what the internet has to say to me today, and we all know what a massive time-suck that is.

Being a Pantster is great because it allows you total freedom. Wanna kill someone? Go ahead! She's pregnant? Who knew! But there are times when I envy the Planner's nice outline that always tells them where the staircase is, and how many steps are in it. Namely, when I grab on tight to that plot and it runs me straight into a wall.

The Superfluous Banister reminds me that not planning means my plot might not always take me down the right path, but if I can break through that wall, there's bound to be some stairs behind it.

Are you a Planner or a Pantster? Do you envy the other side?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The House of Writing Metaphors - Mindy's HoWM & The Staircase of Fate

Welcome to my HoWM - that's Mindy's House of Writing Metaphors. This week I'm going to share with you more of my rambling old farmhouse, and how it provides me with writing metaphors on a daily basis, in just about every room. We're starting off today with a repost of a story about me cracking my head open.

Yes, technically this first Mindy''s HoWM post is completely lacking in metaphors, but it is a great example of how amusing a concussion can be. Check in all this week for real metaphors, and a picture of my potty!

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 hits 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.

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.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

WoCoMoMo Results - Week 3

July is how far gone? Geez. Summer. I've been a bit of a slacker this week - it was ballpark week in my household, wrapping up this weekend with tournaments. Excuses, excuses.

Lanette - 10,204
Suzanne - 7,687
BBC - 4,874 (ouch - it's officially the least I've written all summer)
RC - 3,704 (her words = "even *you* beat me this week." :)

My other WoCo'ers - check in and I'll update this post!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Talk - ACCOMPLICE by Eireann Corrigan

I typically don't care for contemporary YA, maybe because I live contemporary YA for the 40 a week. Eireann Corrigan's ACCOMPLICE was recommended to me so many times, by adults and students alike that I thought I'd give it a chance and some of my time.

It didn't take long - my time was as good as lost before I'd finished the first page. Corrigan's voice is a polished, yet authentic representation of youth. Her narrator is Finn, a farm-town teen whose best friend, Chloe, may have moved to the country when they were in elementary, but still has a bit of "city" about her. Chloe's mother won't have her daughter attending any college that doesn't have Ivy attached to it, and Finn is determined to follow her rich alpha-friend anywhere.

When the two attend a school assembly where the speaker informs each and every audience member that good grades aren't enough anymore - you've got to be unique to be competitive in the buyer's market of modern college applications - Chloe hatches a grand scheme to throw the two of them into the spotlight at the national level.

They engineer a kidnapping - Chloe's, because she's the better looking one and her attractive head shots will get more press. Chloe camps out in Finn's grandma's house while grandma is away on a cruise, and the shock waves radiate through the small town, quickly ramping into CNN exposure once Chloe's blonde, blue-eyed, innocent face hits the airwaves.

Finn is left with the job of lying - to her own family, to Chloe's grief-stricken parents, the cops, the press, friends, teachers, and eventually even herself as the plan they had formulated together begins to unravel. Finn gets cropped out of their pictures when aired on the news, her farm-girl looks not quite making the cut. When it's clear she doesn't have the star-power, Chloe decides against Finn being the hero who saves the day by finding her friend. Instead, Chloe will save herself, and come to her best friend's doorstep, who will "still get to be the one to call 911."

When a hometown boy is accused of Chloe's kidnapping, and a bloody pair of jeans and underwear is found in his truck, Finn has to ask herself - how well does she truly know Chloe? And what is she willing to sacrifice on behalf of the friend who already has so much?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

I have a roving mind. I'm sure that's a shock to everyone. Through the course of each week I tend to accumulate random wonderings in my mind, most of which never evolve into anything other than a niggling question that's going to bother me until I 1) ask someone who knows or 2) go find the answer myself.

Thoughts lately:

1) Aren't our bodies amazing? When we crave something it's not because we have promiscuous taste buds. Our bodies are telling us we are missing something we need. How does that work? How does my body know for example, that I need protein and so I crave peanut butter? Or I need potassium, so I want a banana? 

2) Plants are smart. They know when to start growing and when to store their food, to turn towards the sunlight and curl up their leaves to preserve water in the heat. So why do some plants grow so high they can't support themselves anymore, and fall over? Are these the dunce individuals in the plant world?

3) How did windmills work a long time ago? Today they make energy and electricity, but a long time ago I'm pretty sure they were used for moving water. How though? Most old farmsteads had one, and I kinda doubt people who had to spend every second scratching a living took the time to build a massive lawn ornament.

What are your Thursday Thoughts? Email them to me, and if you're weird enough, I'll share them!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Contest and A Burning Question

So we just talked about Elana Johnson, and now we're gonna do it again. She's running a fantastic week of giveaways over at her blog, the prize today being a SIGNED ARC of FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater!

How exciting is that?!?!

Get on over there, leave a comment on her post for your entry - it's that simple!  Oh... except that you have to answer the question, what book would you re-read forever? Sure... that's, uh... easy, right?

Elana Johnson FOREVER giveaway!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

SAT with POSSESSION Author Elana Johnson

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk.  Elana Johnson’s debut novel, POSSESSION, came out on June 7 from Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster). Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for download. School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or her website. She is a co-organizer of the popular online children's conference WriteOnCon, a founding author of the Query Tracker blog and a contributing author of the League of Extraordinary Writers.

SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!

Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?
EJ: Pantser, through and through. Though I like the term “discovery writer” over pantser. ☺

BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
EJ: Less than 30 days for the first draft. Once I’m drafting, I’m DRAFTING, you know? It’s the revising/editing process that takes months.

BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
EJ: One project at a time. In my younger writing days, I could write one project and edit another. Now, I focus on one thing at a time. I don’t have enough hours in the day to do more than that.

BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
EJ: Are you kidding? Absolutely! I still have to overcome the I-Suck Monster every single time I sit down to write. I don’t think that ever goes away, and if it does, I need the secret!

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
EJ: Well, depends on what you mean by “trunked.” I had queried and shelved one novel. Possession was my third novel, but my second one was so bad, I didn’t even try to fix it and query. Same for #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9 and #10. I was finishing my 11th novel when I signed with my agent. By the way, novels #4-10 all stink.

BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
EJ: Yes, see answer above. For my queried novel, I knew it wasn’t the one, but it was my first novel, and I managed to push that feeling away. I queried a lot of agents, and basically had no choice but to shelve it.
For the other novels (#4-10), some of them have potential, but would need to be completely rewritten from blank pages. Some of them are finished, but with huge holes and fatal flaws. I do have about 3 partially finished novels. As a discovery writers, sometimes you find yourself in a corner you can’t get out of…

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
EJ: My agent is Michelle Andelman at Regal Literary, and I cold queried her with my query letter + ten pages. She requested the full, and things progressed from there. So I’m a slush pile success story!

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent?
EJ: I queried my first book for 8 months. I queried Possession for 8 months. I sent 189 queries for POSSESSION, and over 50 partials/fulls.

BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
EJ: Don your thick skin, find someone who can (hold your hand) cheer you on, and go for it.

On Being Published:
BBC: How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
EJ: Amazing! Utterly amazing! I literally couldn’t stop smiling.

BBC: How much input do you have on cover art?
EJ: Not much, as is pretty typical. It’s a good thing I loved it!

BBC: What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
EJ: Things happen much slower than I would like, but they DO happen! I mean, we all know publishing is notorious for being slow. But I never actually thought things would happen, and THEY DID. That was surprising.

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter?
EJ: I’d like to think I do a lot of marketing. I have a blog, where I post five days a week. I also blog once a week for The League of Extraordinary Writers, a debut dystopian/science fiction blog.
I also organize WriteOnCon, a free online writer’s conference, and I started out blogging for QueryTracker in late 2008. So I’ve been doing the whole platform-social-media thing for a while now.
I tweet too, and I have a Facebook fanpage that I maintain.

BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
EJ: I definitely think before. Like I said, I started with QT in late 2008, and I didn’t sign with my agent until November 2009, and my book didn’t come out until mid-2011. But no matter when you start, just start!

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?
EJ: Definitely! You never know who’s going to retweet something you said, or blog about something you said, or whatever. And that goes out to their readership, and theirs, and theirs… So yeah. Cast your net wide, and don’t burn bridges.

Elana was kind enough to share her winning query for POSSESSION, below:

I used different versions. Sometimes shorter and sometimes longer. Sometimes I compared it to THE GIVER and sometimes to UGLIES. But here’s the one I sent to Ms. Andelman, who later offered representation:

I believe you would be interested in my young adult novel, POSSESSION.
In a world where Thinkers brainwash the population and Rules are not meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces.
After committing her eighth crime (walking in the park after dark with a boy, gasp!), Vi is taken to the Green, a group of Thinkers who control the Goodgrounds. She’s found unrehabilitatable (yeah, she doesn’t think it’s a word either) and exiled to the Badlands—until she demonstrates her brainwashing abilities. That earns her a one-way trip to appear before the Association of Directors.
Yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen. She busts out of prison with sexy Bad boy Jag Barque, who also has no intention of fulfilling his lame sentence.
Dodging Greenies and hovercopters, dealing with absent-father issues, and coming to terms with feelings for an ex-boyfriend—and Jag as a possible new one—leave Vi little time for much else. Which is too damn bad, because she’s more important than she realizes. When secrets about her “dead” sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled.
A dystopian novel for young adults, POSSESSION is complete at 75,000 words. Fans of Michael Grant’s GONE and Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES will enjoy similar elements, and a strong teen voice.
I am an elementary school teacher by day and a contributing author to the QueryTracker blog by night. If you would like to consider POSSESSION, I’d be happy to forward the complete manuscript to you. I have included the first ten pages of the manuscript in the body of this email.
Thank you for your time,
Elana Johnson

Saturday, July 16, 2011

WoCoMoMo Results - Week 2

Rolling into week 2 of WoCoMoMo (Word Count Motivational Month).  I'm posting totals for this week, not cumulative for the month. Also, I've been very busy scratching myself, so don't judge.

Suzanne - 14,818
RC Lewis - 11,620
Lanette - 10,241
BBC - 6,455
MarcyK - 3,915
Marin - 0, but she's my cousin, so it's cool.

Leaves of Three, Let it Be

Any country girl knows what poison ivy looks like, and we've got handy-dandy, rhyming, old-world adages to remind us if we forget.

But there are a few things that most people don't know about poison ivy:
1) It can think, it can plot, and it is smarter than you
2) It has zombie qualities; if you kill it, it will still infect you
3) It wants to reproduce with human women, to make human ivy babies
4) If you let a goat graze on poison ivy in the spring, and you drink the goat's milk, you won't get poison ivy that season.

I don't have goats anymore, so I have yet to try out that last bit of country wisdom, but the first three I can attest to.

BBC's big old farmhouse clocks in at around a century old, and I've got a couple azaleas in the front yard that might be able to claim the same. They're big. Bigger than me. Bigger than my car. So I thought, hey, I'll cut those back a bit, and clean out the poison ivy creeping all through it. Good thought.

While wearing shorts. Bad thought.

I cut it down, tossed the little wilted, poisonous remnants, and then (it appears) proceeded to sit on them at some point during the day as I circumvented the azalea. Oops.  Long story short, those leafy little buggers have a heck of a reach on them, and I've got poison ivy in places that it's not kosher to scratch in public.

So, does anyone have a goat that grazed on poison ivy in the spring?  That would be really helpful.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A BOA WoW! with Musings from the Slush Pile

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. Even more special - this is a WoW! Edition of the BOA - We're Ohio Writers! Yeah - cause we grow 'em here.

Today's guest is Julie Anne Lindsey, whose blog offers great advice, tips, and tricks for aspiring writers at all stages.  As an only child she always had plenty of time to people watch and make things up. When she didn’t think she could make a living at the latter, her love of people led her to a BA in Psychology instead. A few years and three kids later, she discovered the thrill of writing. Writing lets her harness her seemingly endless supply of energy and enthusiasm and create something of value in the wake.

BBC:  You run an excellent blog over at Musings From the Slush Pile.  What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?
JL: I give all credit to my Hubsy. I started blogging last year to help me establish a web presence, but I had no idea what to talk about. I planned to use the blog to document my trials, successes and failures on the quest for publication, but who wants to read that? Hubsy said I spent so much time reading about the publishing industry and the craft of writing, I should blog about that stuff. I wasn’t sold on the idea. I thought it was pretty pretentious, but as it turns out, it’s convenient for others to find all that random writing information in one place. So, I crawl the net in search of writing wisdom, then I blog my brains out. It keeps me learning and accountable, plus I get to have fun, show my personality and talk about something I love. WINNING LOL

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.  How do you recommend one be both a successful blogger and writer?
JL: Hmm. My approach is: Consume vats of coffee and stop sleeping. I mean sleeping? What’s THAT about? How am I supposed to get anything done if I’m sleeping? Psh. Right? Alright, that is what I do, but I don’t recommend it. I’ve lost serious brainpower this way.
Blogging takes 30 minutes or less per day if you stick to a basic 500 word post. If you have a couple hours once a week, say 9 or 10 pm till you faceplant on the keyboard for example, you can write up a week worth of posts and schedule them. OR post once a week. You don’t have to do it every day. There are no rules…that I know if you get a ticket or something, I plead blonde-at-heart.

BBC: You also do a lot of posting about books.  You're a big reader - do you set aside time for that?
JL: For me reading and writing go in binges. I’ve spent months on end with my nose in a book, promising to definitely get back to writing as soon as I read one more title. Then there are times like now when I’m in writer mode and it’s going to take something really delish to pull me out. Actually, I can tell you what will do it. I saw a tweeter say she was reading the ARC of Sophie Jordan’s Vanish. Holy smokes I fell off the couch. I devoured the first in that series Firelight. I tweeted how jealous I was and she said she’d put it in the mail when she finished. SQUEEE! So it’s in the mail now and when it arrives, all word counts will halt until further notice. I am a greedy YA reader. I want it all and if I get the opportunity to read an awesome YA, my life stops. Wow, that sounds just super sad, but it’s still true. Ha!

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?
JL: Hmm. I am a genre jumper. I know how amateurish that sounds to some agents and editors, but again-true anyway. For example, I have a contemporary YA mystery with an agent now. I also have two short sweet romance novellas coming in 2012. The first title, Bloom, will launch a new imprint from the Turquoise Morning Press. I’m hoping to turn those into a series for the line. *We shall see.* LOL Then I also have contracted a three book saga with kNight Romance Publishing. The Killer Confections Saga is a humorous women’s fiction series. The first book, Death by Chocolate, will be on shelves in August 2012. I write the stories who demand the most attention, I guess.

BBC: Do you use beta readers, and if so, where do you find them?
JL: Absolutely! I always use beta readers. I run things a few chapters at a time through my critique group – which btw is made of awesome. I also have a few writer friends I met online who I trade pages with, plus I print things sometimes and give to my mother in law. She and her girlfriends love to read and they pass my pages around. Believe me, by the time I’m ready to submit something it’s been combed over. These guys catch every dot and tittle, and they will not allow any funny business in the plot. If something doesn’t line up or they don’t think it fits a character’s personality to do or say it…I will hear about it.  

BBC: What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?
JL: Twitter! I love twitter so much. I met my critique group on twitter. I met some of my closest friends on twitter. There are amazing hashtags I follow like #amwriting to see what other writers are up to or to pose a question to writers. I jump in on #askeditor anytime I see it happening. I love #YAlitchat to get the latest scoop on the YA biz. Hashtags are awesome. I tweet with some of my favorite YA authors and watch what publishers are saying. Also I tweet for the sake of tweeting. I love talking with people, especially people as excited about reading, writing and blogging as I am. I’ve even met betas like this by tweeting  a shout out to say “Hey, I have this manuscript. Anyone want to read it?” Twitter is an incredible resource for writers at any stage. Seriously, I could go on and on about all the ways twitter has improved my life as a writer J

BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers that aren't clichéd like the ones I give?
JL: Oh, I’m definitely from the school of  “grab the bull by the horns.” If it is your dream to write, then DO IT. Do it do it do it DO IT! No one is ever going to chase your dreams for you. Never-ever-never. My grandma used to tell me “Can’t never could do anything.” It used to tick me off, but I get it now and I go for it. You should go for it, whatever “it” is to you. It’s yours to claim. But I guarantee you can’t claim it without a little effort.

Now, here’s a trick I use to keep me motivated and to put my crazy energy to good use. The toughest part of writing can be the waiting and the rejections. Believe me, both will never end. Even if you become the next Stephenie Meyer, you’re going to get rejected by someone, readers, other writers, reporters. Rejections keep coming. That’s life, crumbling cookie and all that. Also, the waaaaiting. Oh the waiting kiiiiillllls me. You wait to get an agent, wait for agent to edit, wait for agent to get requests by editors, wait for editors to accept, wait for your turn to work with the editor, wait for your cover art, wait for your release date, wait wait wait wait wait.

My advice for this is: keep writing. Instead of checking your email 10,000 times a day, write. Plot a new work. Start a new work. Enter shorts in contests, or anthologies. Write a novella for a small press. Guest blog around the web. Stay busy and the rejections don’t sting as much because there are all those positive things coming in, and the time will fly because you’re busy! Stay busy. Busy busy busy = good.

Thanks so much for having me today! I had a blast talking about my blog and writing and hopefully someone smiled. Thank you Mindy!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A BBC BOA with Just Jemi

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 is Jemi Fraser an aspiring writer of both YA steampunk & romantic mysteries (or whatever she's working on at the time). Jemi's blog is a great example of how to get yourself out there without making everyone very, very sick of you. Check it out!

BBC:  So you run an excellent blog over at Just Jemi.  What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?
Jemi: Aww –you’re such a sweetie! Thank you. As a teacher, I’m an observer of people. I love finding out how their brains work, why they make the decisions they do, how they approach each task. This makes for a fun classroom with all kinds of risk taking. I decided I wanted to find out how other writers approach things too. I’ve learned so much this way!!

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 run a successful personal blog and also contribute at From the Write Angle.  How do you recommend one be both a successful blogger and writer?
Jemi: It’s tough. Time is limited for everyone. My job takes up a minimum of 50 hours a week and I’ve got my family here at home as well. Thankfully I’m a pretty good multi-tasker. I tend to blog, respond to comments and visit other blogs when I’m hanging out with the family or in spurts when I’m cooking dinner, doing laundry and all the other fun stuff. I can do blog stuff in chunks of a few minutes at a time. When I know I’ll have 30 minutes or more at a time, I tend to write/revise/edit rather than blog. So far so good!

BBC: One thing that stands out about your blog is the amount of comments your posts get.  Any tips for other bloggers about how to inspire a vocal following?
Jemi: I do have a ton of awesome blog buddies! I’m not really sure, but I think I get a lot of comments because I try to visit a lot of blogs. I definitely try to visit the blog of each person who comments on my blog. Then I’ve got my Google Reader divided into folders for each day of the week & some other folders too. I visit as many as I can each day – although it’s never everyone in the folder.

BBC: When do you recommend building a platform? After an agent?  Or should you be working before?
Jemi: Publishing is slooooow! I think it’s probably best to start building when you’re at the stage when you’re ready to query. I think I started way too early (I had NO idea what I was doing!!!) but I blog because it’s fun so it all balances out.

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?
Jemi: If I ever get a book out there, I’ll let you know! :)
I do know that I’ve bought several dozen books written by my blog buddies, so I do think it works at least a little bit!

BBC: Let's talk about your writing for a little bit.  What's your genre, and what led you to it?
Jemi: I’m kind of all over the place as a writer (and as a reader). Currently I’m in the middle of a rewrite for a YA Steampunk novel. Fellow FTWAer Calista Taylor introduced me to the concept a while back. Then I realized I loved some earlier steampunk like Philip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS. I was totally drawn to the unique settings, tinkerings and possibilities of the genre. I’ve also got a romantic suspense for adults sitting and marinating. And there’s this idea knocking really loudly on my skull – it’s a MG sci-fi fantasy adventure. See? All over the place!

BBC: What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?
Jemi: Query Tracker is awesome for when you’re querying! Also Elana Johnson’s From the Query to the Call is invaluable when you’re writing that query. Plus there a huge number of brilliant bloggers who have very helpful & instructional blogs. I’ve learned SO much from my friends!

BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers that aren't clichéd?
Jemi: That’s a tough one. Who am I to inspire anyone? I’m just climbing on the writing roller coaster ride. So how about… Hold on tight, keep your eyes wide open, hang on until the end and enjoy the ride!

Thanks so much for having me visit. This was a blast BBC!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Those Little Moments

So I saw Super 8 (and yes, it's quite good, don't read further if you don't want it SPOILED).

The end scene, when our heroic little boy grabs his floating locket and it opens so he can see his dead mother's face, get his closure, and move on to bond with his father?.......

Yeah, well, amid all the snuffling and weeping in the theatre I turned to my equally dry-eyed boyfriend and said, "There's like whole cars being sucked up by the power of that magnet. Shouldn't that have ripped his arm right out of the socket?"

To which the b/f patted me on the head and said, "You're so easy to love."

Lesson: Don't take Mindy out in public.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

SAT with Jenny Martin & The Massive Glory of the Internet

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk.  Jenny Martin and I crossed paths on the massive glory that is the internet because we have kinda similar interests (ahem - YA librarians and writers) - and then we lost each other.  Some time passed.  I got an agent.  She got an agent.  I signed up for Twitter and pretty soon somebody named Jenny Martin followed me.  I twiddled my thumbs for a bit, cause being named Jenny Martin isn't exactly like being named Paolo Bacigalupi.  It could be her, it could not be her.  I finally bit the bullet and sent a DM that said something like, "Hey - I think I know you, right? Didn't we talk to each other about library stuff? Or are you reading this thinking, uh... UNFOLLOW the creepy chick."

And Hooray! It was indeed the right Jenny Martin, who agreed to do an SAT that I have tweaked a bit to cover the oh-so-important topic of critiquing.  In addition to writing novels, Jenny’s a librarian, a baker, and a certified Beatle-maniac. She sometimes answers to the name SCARLET WHISPER, Librarian/Rockstar/International Jewel Thief. As a librarian, Jenny is a member of the ALA, TLA, and AASL. As a writer, she’s a member of DFW Writers’ Workshop. As a Beatle-maniac Baker, she belongs to the imaginary Fab Four Stickybuns Society.

Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?
JM: Oh, I’m definitely a planner. Now, I don’t do a bunch of character studies or charts or outlines. I just free write basic plot and character ideas before I start a book. It’s just a messy word document that evolves as the book grows. I call it a story skeleton. It is the skariest skeleton you’ll ever meet, actually.

BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
JM: Since I have a super busy day job in the library, I really only have to time write on evenings and weekends. And I don’t write every single day. I write in bursts, a few pages or a few chapters here and there. If I start a book in August, I can easily finish it by April. In the summer, I have way more time and can write faster.

BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
JM: I pretty much work on one project at a time. Although I do jot down ideas for other books. I do that all the time. Sheesh. I don’t know how people can bounce back and forth between books. I suspect my pistachio sized brain couldn’t handle a day job plus more than one book at a time.

BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
JM: Yes. Call me Eeyore. Really. I am my own worst critic. I have NEVER had a moment when I felt absolutely confident about my writing. I’m always plagued by self-doubt. But maybe that’s not such a terrible thing. The angst drives me to improve. I’m always trying to learn and get better.

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
JM: Um, none? Sorta? I guess? Although I signed with my agent for my second book, at least one offer of representation was for both my first and second book. (But seriously, I must disclose that my first book is TERRIBLE. I shall never let anyone this side of Antarctica read it. Ever.)

BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
JM: I quit on revising my first book when I began to query my second. Although I had gotten a lot of requests for it, and a lot of detailed agent feedback, I finally realized it just wasn’t good enough. I was (and am still) an emerging writer. I needed to let that book go. My advice? It takes time and practice to develop your writing voice. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a project that’s not working. Just write the next book and keep working at getting better. I see many a writer who won’t let go of his or her first novel.  These scribblers are too close a project to see that it’s just. not. working.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Jenny Martin's Very Accurate Query Thoughts:
With both my books, I wore out google during the search for an agent. I research agent interviews and blogs. No way was I going to toilet paper Manhattan with my query. I was very targeted in approaching agents and I queried in small batches. With my first book, there were a LOT of small batches. With my second book, I only sent a few.
My advice? If you’ve sent out sixty or more queries and you’re not getting a lot of requests and a lot of feedback, then you need to seriously re-evaluate your project and/or your query. It very well may be a sign you need to move on and grow by writing something new.

BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
JM: My agent is Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger Agency.
I queried Sara after reading her blog. I had originally noticed that she represented Lisa Schroeder and I’d read I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME a really poignant novel in verse. Since I loved Lisa’s book so much, I suspected I might like the agent behind the project, too. As luck would have it, I was right! I cold queried Sara, and she requested my second book.
I feel very fortunate to have Sara as my agent. Although I’d worked with another agent before (a terrific professional and a super cool friend, I might add), Sara was one of the first agents to show interest in my work. I’m so glad she took me on! My journey as a writer has taken a few unexpected twists and turns, but everything has worked out so well.
A “just right” fit with an agent is priceless. And Sara is that “just right” agent for me. She’s terrific--a true pro with an amazing track record. She always seems to know just the right thing to say to encourage and spur me on. I can’t say enough about how hard she works. Her commitment and industry savvy are unmatched.

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent?
JM: For my first book, I queried for months and months. I e-mailed queried lots of agents, but I realize now that my first book was…icky. With my second book, I sent about two dozen queries. Out of that number, I had eleven full and partial requests which led to a few offers within a month’s time period.

BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
JM: Stop worrying so much about that blasted query and start focusing on your writing! I know, I know, I can see you rolling your eyes out there. I hear you groaning. But listen up: no amount of query magic will conjure an offer if your book isn’t amazing. With my first book, I had an amazing query, but my novel was absolute rubbish.
But you know what? I didn’t rewrite the same query three thousand times. Instead, I started writing something new. I started reading ON WRITING by Stephen King, WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass,SECOND SIGHT by Cheryl Klein, WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Regina Brooks. And I also joined a local writers’ group called DFW Workshop. All those things helped shape my work. All those things helped me to develop my writing voice and conquer the query process.
And here’s the thing….if I had just kept beating the dead horse that was my first novel, I’d still be…well, I’d be sitting in the corner mumbling and weeping. And I’d still be a terrible writer. But look at me now! Now I’m only semi-terrible. Ish.

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you?
JM: I have a blog. It’s semi-pathetic, so feel free to stop by and heckle!

BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
JM: I began blogging and reviewing as a librarian before I finished my first book. I also started tweeting as @jmartinlibrary. Twitter works really well for me.

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?
JM: Yes…but I think every writer should choose what’s most comfortable for them. I tweet and blog, but that’s just what I enjoy. If you try to blog, but you don’t really write about anything but your 100% organic cat hair knitting projects, it’s just not going to work. If you’re not comfortable with blogging or tumblr or twitter, then don’t do it. Find what works for you.
Another thing, for the love of Foo Fighters, *don’t* call yourself a “social media expert.” And don’t just tweet and post about yourself. “Hey, for the sixth time today, let me tweet and link you to my new kindle e-book, A Series of Unpleasant, Eye Stabbing Adverbs! PLEEZ RT!”
DUDE. Don’t be THAT GUY. Just interact and be a nice, interesting person. Be real. That’s what builds a platform and develops connections.

On Finding Beta Readers and Processing Their Criticism:
BBC: Do you use betas and if so, how did you find them?
JM: I actually don’t use a lot of betas. I only have a few regular critique partners and I found them through writers’ workshop. I know a lot of people who really get a lot out of online critique groups, but I trust my crit buddies at workshop more than anything. They rock!
From my agent sibling Jeff Hirsh, here’s the world’s best blog post on giving and getting critique. It’s a must read.

BBC: What’s your process when digesting the crits?
JM: First I do nothing. For three days, I do not pass go, I do not open that word document. I just let the crits sink in. After three days, I get to work. Also, if the crits come from my agent, I pretty much go with it. If they come from a trusted crit partner, I almost always seriously consider them. If they are from some random McCrazypants bystander, I run far, far away.

BBC: Do you run your ms past betas before taking it to your agent, even though you’re already repped?
JM: Not really. I mean, I let my husband and my best friend read it. But other than that, I pretty much just send it to Sara. I trust her. If something needs work, she’ll have good advice.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

WoCoMoMo Results - Week 1

Almost everyone has their numbers in, so I'll go ahead and post. If you haven't gotten back to me with your totals for Week 1 yet, don't worry. There's a handy-dandy "Edit Post" feature.

Suzanne - 17,514
Lanette - 10,248
RC- 9,713
BBC - 6,622
Marin - 3,918
MK - 3,667
Matt - 1,597
Tansy - negative, she's editing! Back off!! :)

Looks like I need to stop going on dates in the evenings.....

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Little YA Departure - Noir Style

Yeah, like Le Chat Noir. OK, not really, but I'm such a big fan of tie-ins that I had to do it.

A couple buddies of mine have been doing some really great work, and I wanted to call attention to it both to commend them, and also to expose my followers to a palette cleanser.

When I'm writing YA, I try not to read YA. Although I love writing it, I think it's an area in which it's easy to pick up another's voice - especially if what you're reading is strong. So, I tend to read non-fiction, or something adult contemporary to avoid what I call "voice bleeding."

I recommend this approach for a brain kick-start as well. Sometimes being mired in our own market, and our audience's needs / wants (and they are voracious), can make us forget that WE are adults. Really? BBC forgets she's an adult sometimes? Shocking, right?

So here's a breather for you, two puffs of fresh, dark air from some fellow AQC'ers who are making a name for themselves, Pete Morin and Robert K. Lewis, who are also fellow contributors at From the Write Angle.

Pete has recently published UNEASY LIVING on Smashwords, a collection of short stories involving abandonment, grief, loss, and betrayal. My review can be found here. If you have tried, or want to try, your hand at short stories, take a look at Pete's collection to learn how to build a world, deliver backstory, and make your reader care about someone who doesn't exist within a low word count.

Robert has been publishing his short noir fiction at Criminal Element, a community website featuring daily content for fans of the crime and mystery genres in all of their forms. The site features original short stories and excerpts from upcoming crime and mystery novels along with daily blog articles. Again, if you want examples of how to cram a lot of voice into a small amount of words, look no farther. You can find his stories here.

SAT - Newly Agented Author Gennifer Albin Shares Her Query That Worked

Massive update on this SAT - Genn's book has SOLD! For the story on that check out her blog.

So I've got a success story here that is going to make you soooo jealous.  But don't hate Genn because she's beautiful; hate her cause she gained her agent after querying for less than a week! :)  BUT - she's also the kind of success-awesome that spreads the love.  Genn has graciously agreed to share this Query of Rockin', which can be found at the bottom of the SAT.  But don't read ahead, cause there's lots of great advice crammed between here and there.

Gennfer had a misspent youth in theatre and the National Forensic League, where she developed a penchant for the dramatic. In college, she studied literature and vowed to write a book in grad school (and before she had kids). A couple years of teaching and two babies later, things clicked and writing became a way of life.

Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?
GA: Both. I like to run with the first draft, but I'm more organized with revisions.

BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
GA: CREWEL is my first finished novel, and it took 6 months writing 3 hours a day 5 days a week. I'm hoping the sequels will come faster since I have a better sense of the world and characters. I'm aiming to have both sequels done by next May.

BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
GA: I may scribble ideas for a new project, but I need to stay focused so I can get the most out of my writing time. It can be hard when a new shiny idea comes along, but its worth it when you're looking at the finished draft.

BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
GA: I think I was scared I wouldn't finish or that the book would suck, but the excitement overcame any real fear I felt. Plus my husband had started teasing me about not finishing, and I'm super competitive.

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
GA: None. I'd jotted down notes for several books and written a couple first chapters, but never finished another book.

BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
GA: Like I said I started a lot of books but was never serious enough to devote the time to writing they needed. I did have one book I really tried to write before I started CREWEL, and I just had no idea where it was going. I like to think of it as a warm-up project.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
GA: I'm represented by Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary + Media. I nudged Mollie after I got an offer of representation. I had just started querying the week before, and I wanted to let my list know. Mollie got my email, found my query in her inbox, and called me based on the sample pages. She wanted to feel me out and ask to send the full. We spoke for a while. I sent her my full, and three hours later she asked for a phone call in the morning. We spoke for an hour and a half and then she asked to fly out and meet me. She came in to Kansas City and we spent the afternoon getting to know one another and talking about my book. I had six other enthusiastic offers, but Mollie's passion won me over.

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent?
GA: I queried for a little less than a week before my first offer. I tried to reach every agent when I got my offer, but I'm still getting responses asking for fulls or rejecting me.

BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
GA: Don't get caught up trying to summarize your whole book in your query. Stick to the first 30 pages or inciting incident. Read a lot of jacket copy. Write a query that makes people want to read more, even if it breaks some rules. And once you start querying, its a great time to exercise. It's hard to obsessively check your email while lifting weights.

BBC: How much input do you have on cover art?
GA: One of the reasons I chose Mollie is because she's successfully fought for better covers, more PR, and just knows her stuff all around

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog / site / Twitter?
GA: I am on Twitter and I have a website & blog that I built.

BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
GA: I started dabbling in blogging before my agent, but writing came first. Now that I have an agent, I plan to get my ass in gear and blog more.

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?
GA: Absolutely. Social media is modernized word-of-mouth. I think some of the most successful authors today built their readerships by being "available" to fans online.

Genn's Query That Worked (Big Time - Like, In a Week):
Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.

Complete at 78,000 words, CREWEL is a YA dystopian novel that follows Adelice's fight for autonomy and redemption in a world of femme fatales, steel looms, and towered compounds. It can be described as J.J. Abrams meets Mad Men.

I hold a Masters in English Literature from the University of Missouri. I also served as a student editor for Pleaides and The Missouri Review and did some time teaching literature to college students.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

There's A Forum For That - Guest Post by AM Supinger

I'm madly writing the sequel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK, so some of my ultra-helpful talented e-friends over at AgentQuery took me up on an invitation to guest post here on the blog.  Hit up Ashlee's blog, and check out my post today on From the Write Angle, regarding Darkness in YA.

My guest today is Ashlee Supinger (A.M.Supinger to AQ'ers), who runs an adorable blog over at Inner Owlet and tweets from @AMSupinger.  You should follow her.  She RT's me. :)  Ashlee debated about topics for her guest post, and asked me what I thought.  I know I push AQ a LOT - I'm a veteran, plus a Mod over there.  So I asked her to write about being a "guppy" at AQ (a new fish in the pond), in the hopes that my readers will understand the awesome feeling of community over there extends to all.

I’m a guppy. If you’ve never been to the site AgentQuery Connect that probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but it’s a title I claim proudly.

It takes courage to write. I’ve never been lion-hearted, but I accepted the NaNoWriMo challenge last year and ended up with a 50,000 word manuscript and no idea what to do next. My attempts at editing were well-intentioned and heartfelt, but my first draft was a disaster. Still, I hoped to polish my novel and get published – and I recognized that I needed help.

I searched for weeks and found several cut-throat forums for writers, but I always left them feeling like a naïve idiot. Every critique was a stab at my talent, a crushing blow to my inky ego. In despair, on the brink of tossing out everything I’d ever written, I went back to the NaNoWriMo website. I browsed and felt my hopeful heart sink when I found a page devoted to published WriMos. That will never be me, I thought.

That depressing thought led to a dumb idea and one of those lucky instances when a dumb idea turns out to be inspired. I arbitrarily picked a name and emailed the former WriMo (I really did! Me, an unrepentant chicken!). Against all odds, a day later I actually got an email back. In that email, bless this woman’s kind heart, were links to Miss Snark, Query Shark, and AgentQuery Connect. My sheer good fortune is almost unbelievable in retrospect.

I spent a whole night – from three in the afternoon until five the next morning – on Miss Snark’s blog. It was funny, scary, and completely overwhelming. Query Shark was the same. It was AgentQuery Connect that kept me from falling to pieces. I went to the site and peered into the forums, looking for a hint of the mean-spiritedness found on other websites…but nothing punched me, bit me, or asked for a credit card number. I created a free account, made up a username, and (figuratively) dove in.

I’m a lucky guppy. Not only is AQC a nice place for newbies like me, but they have agented writers willing to answer questions, critique groups for all genres, and forums that I’ve yet to fully explore. Oh, and weekly chats discussing everything an inexperienced guppy needs to know about the business side of writing.

It sounded too good to be true at first. My novel had almost been garbage-fodder and because of this one website I had hope again. I may have wept ink; I know I did cry. After a week of no hidden charges and no rude, snide, or degrading comments, I settled in. With my natural optimism bubbling, I found critique partners for my novel, wrote several terrible queries, and entered the forums with my humble opinions.

To be honest, the only problem I had with AQC was that I felt so welcomed I didn’t write for a week. I just lurked in forums and chatted. Fortunately, AQC moderators are omniscient. ‘The Odometer’ is a new forum where daily, weekly, or long-term writing goals are posted – a place where your word count is scrutinized by friendly AQCers.

I’m not agented or published – I may never be – but I am a writer. AgentQuery Connect helped me recognize the value of my words, and, in honor of their awesomeness, the tattoo GUPPY is forever emblazoned on my forehead (ha, ha-ha. Not really, but I dreamed about doing it).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Some YA Romance - 80's Paperback Style

My family grew up without air conditioning. (What? Call children's services!!) We also lived in a brick house, which kind of doubled as a gigantic oven for humans during the dog days of summer. My sister and I found relief in the basement. No, not like we climbed down into a dirty hole and hid from the sun - although I have days where that sounds kinda attractive. We had a finished basement, and it was our sanctuary for July and August afternoons, to which we usually retreated with books in our hands.

There was a stretch of time in the 80's when a line of romance books from Scholastic - called the Sunfire series - was wildly popular in our household. Each book was written by a different author, focused on a historic event in US history, was titled with the female MC's first name, and inevitably the cover featured our MC and the two dashing young men she would have to choose between. Yes, there was always a triangle. Every. Single. Book. It's not exactly fresh material.

In any case, Sister and I blew through the series, checking off the little boxes in those handy order forms they printed in the back showing you which titles you didn't have. Together, we completed the series. When we each got married and moved out neither one of us wanted to bust up the series, but we didn't want to part with our own books either.  So industrious me got on Ebay and bought up Sunfire books like mad, managing to put together two complete series.

Yes, they're that addictive. To this day I can look at the covers and tell you which guy she picked.

Recently my college roommate came over to hang out (and boy, have we got some stories). She tripped over My Little Ponies in the upstairs hallway, brainstormed the names of the JEM dolls with me, then went to the bathroom to find a Rub A Dub Doggy hanging out in the tub. She said, "Mindy, the '80s aren't over; they're at your house."

And guess what followers? I've got an extra copy of VICTORIA by Willo Davis Roberts, to renew your love for the Sunfire series. First person who emails me gets it! And no, I won't ruin it by telling you which fella Victoria chooses.

Did you love the Sunfire series? Do you remember it? Am I delusional to think someone else out there might care? If you DO care tell me which was your favorite - I'm partial to SABRINA, the Revolutionary War title.

Friday, July 1, 2011

An SAT with Jeyn Roberts & A Query That Worked

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk.  Jeyn Roberts (pronounced Jen - the Y is silent) grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and started writing at an early age, having her first story published when she was 16 in a middle-grade anthology called LET ME TELL YOU.
When she was 21, she moved to Vancouver with dreams of being a rock star, graduating from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Writing and Psychology. For the next few years she played in an alternative/punk band called Missing Mile before moving to England where she received her MA from the prestigious Creative Writing graduate course at Bath Spa University. Jeyn is a former singer, songwriter, actress, bicycle courier and tree planter.
An avid traveler, she’s been around the world, most recently, teaching high school in South Korea.
A lover of animals, Jeyn volunteers regularly with helping abandoned and abused animals, especially cats.

Jeyn's YA title DARK INSIDE will be released by Simon & Schuster 1 Nov 2011.

SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em!

Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?
JR: I just go with the flow. Usually my idea starts tiny and grows from there.  I almost never know the ending of my stories when I start writing them.

BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
JR: Three to five months.

BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker? JR: I try to stick to writing one project at a time but it’s rare that I’m thinking about just one project. With my last novel, I had three other ideas competing with my brain at all times. It gets a little crowded inside the brain sometimes.

BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
JR: Not usually.  But recently, since working on my sequel to DARK INSIDE, I’ve been having a lot of nagging doubts that this book will be terrible compared to the first one. But I think that could just be the paranoia of the ‘second book’ syndrome.

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
JR: Four. Two of which I’m still working on, two of which I’ve chalked up as learning experience.

BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
JR: Not since I’ve started taking writing seriously. When I was a teenager, I started new books every day.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
JR: My agent is Julia Churchill from The Greenhouse Literary Agency. I got her the old fashioned way, I queried her.  A year ago she had turned me down after requesting a full on another novel. Although she gave me a no then, she left enough of an impression that I queried her again with DARK INSIDE.

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent?
JR: Julia was the first person I queried. She requested to read the book and signed me within twenty-four hours.

BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
JR: Always get advice on your query before you send it out. There are a lot of great websites that offer query help so take advantage of them. The query letter is harder than writing the novel; don’t be afraid to take advice. Be open-minded. Most writers query before they are ready. Be patient. Expect rejection. Don’t give up. All it takes it that one ‘yes’.

On Being Published:
BBC: How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
JR: The book isn’t out until September (UK) and November (USA/Canada) but I’ve had some pre-sales so far. It was pretty amazing to see that Amazon rank go up.

BBC: How much input do you have on cover art?
JR: To be honest, when they sent me the cover art, I was so blown away by how amazing it was, there was no need to ask for any changes. But if I had truly hated it, they would have worked with me to find something more suitable.

BBC: What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
JR: I’d learned a lot about the publishing industry when I did my MA in England so I knew a lot about the process. But I do think a lot of writers are surprised at how long it takes to get a book out into the public.

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you?
JR: I’m on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. And my UK website has just launched.

BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
JR: That’s a tough question. I’ve seen people with options all across the board. With me, I waited until the book deal was announced.  I wanted to wait until I felt I had something that was good enough to push to an audience.

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?
JR: Absolutely. But it doesn’t have to come from the author. It’s really the fans that matter. They’re the ones who are the most important and no writer should ever forget that.

Jeyn was awesome enough to share her Query That Worked with me.  Read it and you'll know why she was signed within 24 hrs. of sending it.

In the moments before a worldwide disaster—the Baggers are awakened. 
On the first day Mason’s mother dies. Then the earthquakes shatter the West Coast. The Baggers stir and the killings begin. In just three weeks, mankind is on the edge of extinction and the last remaining survivors are still being hunted. 
Mason learns quickly there are no friends in this new world. In an attempt to escape his guilt, he travels across the country where he meets Aries, Clementine, and Michael. He knows he shouldn’t trust them but he’s drawn into their circle. Together in an abandoned tenement they will do whatever it takes to stay alive. But someone will betray them, a friend who doesn’t want to kill but can’t ignore the darkness inside.