Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wednesday WOLF

A quick heads up my friends!  I'm still looking for a winner on the Joanna Volpe interview - no correct guessers yet!! Email me (the link is above my tweet icon, above the followers) with the correct guess, be a follower, and you can win a book!  Yes! A Book!!

I'm a nerd. No really, stop, BBC! You!?! Yes, I'm in fact such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF (oh, how clever is she? She made an acronym out of her agency's name!) Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Today I've got something a little off the beaten track of cat-related idioms. Anybody who plays Wheel of Fortune knows that this little character - & - is called an "ampersand." But why? What the hell does that mean? Me being me, I used to think it was actually called an "and for stand" meaning, "it stands for and." But, uh, no, that's too easy, and much too sensible to be the real answer.

It appears that back in the day when few people could write, and monks were doing most of the transcribing, they got really, really tired of writing "and" all the time, so they came up with a little symbol that was the equivalent of the letters from the Latin "and"(et) mashed together, which explains why it looks the way it does, but not why it would be called an ampersand.
Evolution of the ampersand, jpeg from
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ampersand
That bit comes from the education of children in the Middle Ages, when they were taught their alphabet and the distinction between the letter "a" and the word "a," as in A-B-C as opposed to "A boy and dog." The Latin term per se meaning "by itself," when the teacher wanted the children to understand the difference between "A" the letter and "A" the word, they said "a-per-se-a," meaning, "A (the letter) by itself means a (the word)." The pronoun "I" and the letter "i" were distinguished from each other in the same manner.

Subsequently, the children were taught the symbol & to mean "and" by saying "and-per-se-and," and we went ahead and bastardized that a little bit and got the word "ampersand."

A couple interesting points here. I find it intriguing that monks were using the equivalent of text speak hundreds of years ahead of modern teenagers. And also, why they heck didn't they come up for a great "the" symbol?

Sigh. Guess it's up to me.

What's your favorite word origin? Tell me, or ask one you've always been curious about - I'll do my best to find the answer and get back to you in a future WOLF!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A BBCHAT with Kathleen Ortiz

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.

A trio of lovely ladies over at Nancy Coffey Literary have agreed to do the BBCHAT, so you'll want to stay tuned in the days to come to learn more about these great agents and chances to win books!

Today's guest is Kathleen Ortiz. As a former online editor and interactive designer, Kathleen uses her experience in online marketing to help authors build their communities and promote themselves and their books. She looks past the pages of a story and thinks of ways to help authors reach more readers so they can interact with the characters and their world.

She is currently looking for YA (especially cyberpunk, thrillers and anything dark/edgy), older middle grade, romance (paranormal, urban fantasy, only), and some non-fiction (pop culture, technology, women’s issues). She's not looking for chapter books, picture books, screenplays, poetry (this includes novels in verse), erotica, regency romance, inspirational, adult thrillers, adult horror or women’s fiction.

You can follow Kathleen on Twitter, and check out her blog too!


BBC: What are you reading right now and why do you like it? 
KO: I’ve been reading a lot of romance lately, but in the YA realm – I’m sifting through my ARCs of A Beautiful Dark, The Scorpio Races, and The Name of the Star.
I just recently opened back up to queries, so most of my reading consists of submissions.

BBC: Paper or plastic? 
KO: Doesn’t matter. I like reading. Period.

BBC: What's on your bucket list? 
KO: Too many things to list, but the big one is to visit 30 countries before I turn 30 (17 down…13 more to go…)

BBC: Have you ever ridden a mechanical bull?
KO: Three words: Dear. God. No.  Haha…

BBC: What type of agent are you?
     a) Cheerleader
     b) Therapist
     c) Bushwhacking Guide
     d) Red Ink Saturation Committee Member
KO: e) all of the above.

BBC: If you had a guaranteed sell, what type of story would you like to represent?
KO: A well-written, heart-wrenching story about something that actually happens but not many people are aware of (customs, lifestyles, etc).

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. 
KO: 1. I can speak Gaelic.
        2. I raised a pig as part of FFA.
        3. I’m a huge fan of poetry.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A BBCHAT with Joanna Volpe

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.

A trio of lovely ladies over at Nancy Coffey Literary have agreed to do the BBCHAT, so you'll want to stay tuned in the days to come to learn more about these great agents and chances to win books!

Today's guest is Joanna Volpe. Joanna has been a bookseller at Barnes & Noble, an editorial assistant with independent publisher, Blue Martin Publications, and has worked as an assistant and junior agent at FinePrint Literary Management before accepting a full-time agent position with Nancy Coffey Literary in January of 2008. Since then she has sold a number of exciting projects, including Kody Keplinger's The DUFF, Allan Woodrow's The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless, Lee Nichols' Haunting Emma novels, Veronica Roth's Divergent, and Erica O'Rourke's Torn series.

BBC: What are you reading right now and why do you like it?
JB: I recently read IMAGINARY GIRLS and it was *wonderful* - Nova Ren Suma is a gorgeous, gorgeous writer. She has a way of describing something that makes you stop and savor it.  This particular story of hers is haunting.  I highly recommend it!

BBC: Paper or plastic?
JB: I read all of my work on an e-reader and all for pleasure as books.  I think I’ve equated my e-reader with work now because I have a hard time getting into purchased books on it.

BBC: What's on your bucket list?
JV: Live in Europe, even if it’s only for a year. And visit Hobbiton!

BBC: Have you ever ridden a mechanical bull?
JV: Yes. More than once. And I always get thrown off within 30 seconds.

BBC: What type of agent are you?
     a) Cheerleader
     b) Therapist
     c) Bushwhacking Guide
     d) Red Ink Saturation Committee Member
JV: All of the above.  I don’t know of a single agent who doesn’t do a little bit of all of that.

BBC: If you had a guaranteed sell, what type of story would you like to represent?
JV: Well, if there is anything I’ve learned in this business, it’s that nothing is guaranteed, which is why I sign authors because I love the writing and the story and because I’ve corresponded with the author and feel that we could work together. I know, I know… that’s the boring answer!

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.
JV: 1) I grew up in a movie theater.
       2) My mom is an author.
       3) Baboons created over $500 in damage to my car.

That's right followers - we've now discovered TWO mechanical bull riding agents. Seems like Nancy Coffey Literary is probably a pretty fun place to work!





Saturday, August 27, 2011

A BBCHAT with Sara Kendall

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.

A trio of lovely ladies over at Nancy Coffey Literary have agreed to do the BBCHAT, so you'll want to stay tuned in the days to come to learn more about these great agents and chances to win books!

Our guest today is Sara Kendall. Sara is a literary assistant and junior associate at Nancy Coffey Literary. She is interested in MG, YA, fantasy, and sci-fi.

BBC: What are you reading right now and why do you like it? 
SK: I’m reading a non-fiction book called Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality. Generally, I take an interest in any book about the way we see the world/universe. Throw in some Einstein history, and it becomes irresistible. Because apparently I am a huge geek.
 I also just finished Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I am warning you in advance: when this book comes out, buy it immediately, and then clear your schedule for the day. It’s creepy, romantic, and richly imaginative.

BBC: Paper or plastic? 
SK: Both! I like to pleasure read on paper, but all work manuscripts go on the e-reader so I can have them all at the same time.

BBC: What's on your bucket list?
SK: Meet Leonard Nimoy. Exchange “Live Long and Prosper” hand gestures and own a yurt in Scotland.

BBC: Have you ever ridden a mechanical bull? 
SK: Once. At a bat mitzvah. I was awesome at it. Which is sad because I am awesome at very few things that require coordination, and I never get to show this one off because, shockingly, mechanical bulls are not just out and about on the street.

BBC: What type of agent are you? 
       a) Cheerleader
       b) Therapist
       c) Bushwhacking Guide
       d) Red Ink Saturation Committee Member

SK: A little bit of all of those!

BBC: If you had a guaranteed sell, what type of story would you like to represent?
SK: How to Grow Your Own Dinosaur: The Layman’s Guide to Understanding Genetics and Cloning, and Using Them to Bring Back a Terrifying, Ginormous Lizard.
I’d also really like a dark, action-packed YA with a large cast of characters and lots of witty dialog—guaranteed sale or no!

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. 
SK: 1)As a child, I thought Power Ranger was an actual career.
       2)I am the youngest of nine, all girls.
       3)I have double-jointed fingers.

A big thanks to Sara for being a guest on the BBCHAT - and YES everyone I did find an agent who has ridden a mechanical bull. You want to query her right now, don't you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

What's That, Black Cat?

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. Or, as I like to say NF is stranger that F. In that vein, I thought I'd start a new little something. Everytime I learn something shocking but true, I'll share it with you. And that might be quite often, because my life is kinda funny that way. Information loves me.

This might not be fresh news to those of us who have gone through pregnancies, as we're warned about all kinds of random things. After buying one of my kittens a Hermione Granger styled wand at the new Harry Potter park at Universal I was then cursed to "Eat Slugs." Repeatedly.

Which reminded me of a little something I came across awhile ago - an eating disorder called pica, in which the sufferer craves and eats non-nutritious substances (which is putting it nicely). Dirt, chalk, feces, paper... well, anything other than food.

Here's the kicker - eating dirt isn't necessarily a bad idea. Apparently it could possibly protect you from toxins, parasites and pathogens. On the other hand, you could be ingesting bacteria and / or worms at the same time.

I'm going to stick to taking vitamins.

Thursday, August 25, 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) Harry Potter world at Universal is pretty incredible. You can drink Butterbeer, buy a wand from Olivander, and eat at the Three Broomsticks. It made me think that NOT A DROP TO DRINK would make a pretty crappy theme park: It's 98 degrees today, there are 15,000 visitors in the park, and one water source. Here's your gun. Have a nice day!

2) I admit to being a bit of a gamer, but there's something that bothers me about most video games. You earn perks like bigger weapons or unlock cooler stunts and spells the better you get. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Why don't we start with the awesome stuff and prove our mastery by still prevailing over opponents when the cool stuff has been taken away?

3) In Ohio, you have to jump through many hoops to buy a gun (not trying to start a gun control conversation, btw). If I found a way to grow a gun tree I'd be in big trouble. But if I had acres of the highly poisonous Lily of the Valley, people would drive by and say, "Awwwww, pretty!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Is It Dark In Here, Or Is It Just the YA?


If you follow us over on From the Write Angle, you'll notice this is a repost for me. But you should know that it's very difficult to hold a flashlight and take a picture at the same time, so I thought it was worth another look.

By now I'm sure anyone remotely involved in the YA market has heard of this article published in the Wall Street Journal, which lamented the prevalence of dark material available for teens. There were reactions aplenty, one of which involved the hashtag #YAsaves on Twitter, as well as a plethora of blog posts from writers, readers and agents alike.

A lot of the reaction involved people addressing the obvious—hey, there's plenty of lighter material as well. And I don't have a lot of add to that other than ... uh, yeah. Instead, I want to agree (to a point)—there IS a lot of dark stuff going on in YA these days. And you know what? Good.

I admit, when I first started my job as a YA librarian I was more than a little taken aback by what I could find in the pages of the books I was processing. Then I took a look at my patrons and began to understand. My best readers are what people would term "troubled kids." They need to escape from God knows what is going on in their lives, and part of that escape involves relating to what's going on in the pages. So they connect with that first, dark story that mirrors their own lives and (in my experience) a few things come from this.

1) They find out that reading isn't all dry Victorian classics or kiddo stories about hiding a puppy in your basement and hoping your mom doesn't find out. No—there are books about sex, drugs, & rock n' roll. There are also books about sexual abuse, addiction, and getting wasted way too often with your band. If my librarian senses ring true (and they often do) the kid who said, "I hate reading. Books suck," will come back a little shame-faced and ask, "You got any more like that one?" Yeah, baby. Sometimes that dark material is a gateway drug—to a new habit called reading.

2) They find out that whatever is going on in their life—be it abuse, addiction, depression, questioning their sexuality, or self-harm—it is NOT unspeakable. There are books about it. People talk about it. I can't tell you how often "dark" books have opened a door for kids, a door that leads to a room where they can TALK.

One of my jobs involves inventory. At the end of the year, I tally up what's on the shelves, what's checked out and what's ... "walked off." Without fail we've lost a few really popular series books here and there, and many, many titles of a darker nature.

Books like IDENTICAL by Ellen Hopkins and SUCH A PRETTY GIRL by Laura Weiss, which deal with parental sexual abuse, or SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson, SAFE by Susan Shaw, STOLEN by Lucy Christopher and LIVING DEAD GIRL by Elizabeth Scott, all books that center around rape victims. Gutsy authors like Brian James and Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson deal with the still-taboo subject of male rape with their titles DIRTY LIAR and TARGET, respectively.

Lauren Myracle's KISSING KATE and KEEPING YOU A SECRET by Julie Anne Peters, as well as David Levithan and John Green's WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON deal with teens who are questioning their sexuality.

HANGING ONTO MAX by Margaret Bechard, THE FIRST PART LAST by Angela Johnson, and AFTER by Amy Efaw all deal with teen pregnancy—go walk down a high school hallway and tell me those aren't necessary.

Drugs? Yeah, we've got those (or rather, by the end of the year, we usually don't) in the form of SMACK by Melvin Burgess, CRANK & GLASS by Ellen Hopkins, SHOOTING STAR by Frederick McKissack, BOOST by Cathy Mackel—the last two dealing with teen athletes looking for an edge.

SCARS by Cheryl Rainfield and CUT by Patricia McCormick address the very real problem of self-harm among teens.

BLACK BOX by Julie Schumacher and the now famous autobiography of Susanna Kaysen—GIRL, INTERRUPTED, deal with depression, and apparently kleptomania is a side-effect because I keep having to mark them "Lost" in inventory.

And that's alright. If a kid is too ashamed or embarrassed to check a book out because of the topic, it's okay. Go ahead and steal it.

I'll buy another one.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Talk - FOUNDLING by D.M. Cornish

I'm in the habit of telling people about awesome books right after I finish them - I kinda get paid to do it, so that works out nicely. Lately I've been doing a lot of what I call "catchup reading," which means that the title I'm reviewing isn't necessarily a brand new book, but that it's something that caught my eye awhile ago and I've been meaning to get to. I've had the opportunity to whittle away at the catchup pile this summer, and FOUNDLING the first in the Monster Blood Tattoo series by D.M. Cornish was on that pile - and am I ever glad I got around to it.

Rossamund is the unlikely name of our boy hero, a resident of Madam Opera's Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls, who is chosen to become a Lamplighter, a dangerous and esteemed job in the world of Half-Continent, where large city-states are the only civilized areas and the criss-crossing roads in between are filled with monstrosities.

Rossamund is a foundling, and counts himself lucky to have found a position as a Lamplighter - one who travels the roads to light the lamps for those who would attempt to travel. Exactly how perilous such journeys are quickly become evident to the reader; the entire first book is about Rossamund's journey to the city-state in which he will begin his Lamplighter training, and the misadventures that come along with it.

He is immediately set upon by an evil boat captain who coerces him onto the wrong ship, one which dabbles in the dark trades, such as transporting re-animated dead monster parts that have been pasted together in a Frankenstein-esque manner. Guile saves Rossamund, but chance crosses his path with Europe, a famous female monster slayer - a profession which our boy hero has always had an interest.

Europe herself is a somewhat dubious character - she has had elective surgery that makes her able to produce and direct her own electric energy, and the first kill that Rossamund witnesses her make is to dispatch of a confused ogre on the road who is more guilty of stupidity than fiendishness.  Her factotum - a monster killer's servant - is a leer, someone washes their eyes in a chemical that allows them to see into and through things. Unfortunately, in addition to the chemicals the leer also needs to wear a box over the face that is comprised of monster organs, and this particular leer wore his box to long and the internal organs have grown into his own face, causing Europe to nickname him "Boxface."

The book is filled with world-building, but it is so deftly inserted into the text that only a reader who writes would notice all the touches. It's a well-contrived, beautifully layered story that I've only touched upon here. Maps, character sketches and a glossary in the back that includes character backgrounds left me lost in the story a good two hours after I finished the book itself.

Books two and three are already out LAMPLIGHTER and FACTOTUM, respectively. If you're going through Harry Potter withdrawal, I definitely recommend this series!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back to the Stacks!

Tomorrow is back to work for me, more roaming in the stacks and accidentally overhearing the super-private high school conversations in the aisle next to me.

I'm usually not ready, and I think anyone who shares in the three-month long break of summer knows the feeling. Sleeping in is a hard thing to relinquish, and my internal clock takes awhile to reset. Right around Thanksgiving it adjusts, and then we get a break and it acts like someone just ripped it's AA's out. But this year, I'm optimistic. And I've got a mega-nerd reason why.

Yeah, it's books.

There are literally a ton of series coming out that I know my kids are excited about. Books have been trickling into my office over the summer months, waiting for me to bind 'em, stamp 'em, and give them away to kids that are going to spill crap on them and make them stink like cigarettes.

But I have to say I don't care, because they're always apologetic about the stains and one of them even has a special dance for when *his* series gets a new title.

And FYI - a dryer sheet in between the pages will get that stink right out.

What series are you most excited about this fall?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Necessity of Fresh Eyes

I'm giving in to the idea of self-sufficiency.

Yes, I know I can buy my own pickles cheaply. Yes, it does make my kitchen hot and steamy when I'm canning. Yes, sometimes things go wrong and shit explodes everywhere and you end up with welts. But I'm still very into the idea of making my own food, and its not because I want everything organic or that I'm afraid of chemicals and preservatives.

It's because I want to look smug when the end of civilization comes and I'm doing alright :)

Recently I decided it was time to expand from vegetables and canning into an herb garden. I had a nice spot picked out in the side yard and was waiting to borrow my mother's tiller to make the dream a reality, when ugly necessity reared its head.

I have a stone path following the fence around my pond. The area immediately to the left of the path has been a weedy, troublesome problem for three years, mostly because the rocks themselves sat there for a good long while and encouraged all kinds of weed growth and simultaneously discouraged mower blades.

So I got the tiller, and prioritized. The weeds were an eyesore, a shoulder-height testament to my inabilities as a lawn owner. The combined energies of my wrath, a mower and a Mantis took the smirk off their little green faces, but by then I had realized that I didn't have any grass seed and wouldn't have time to get any until the weeds had recouped and mounted their second assault. Meanwhile, my herbs were setting on the back porch, drooping dejectedly as they waited for their home away from Lowe's.

I got all pouty, drank some ice tea, and my mom came over to see how the herb garden was coming. I told her all my problems - the feisty weeds, the depressed herbs, the unbroken lawn waiting to become a garden, my lack of grass seed. She looked at me and said:

"So why don't you just put your herb garden in the ground you tilled up instead of grass?"

And the clouds parted, the Hallelujah Chorus played, and I saw all the advantages: I could harvest my herbs from my little stone path, I had much easier access to water than in the side yard, converting that ground to garden meant less mowing around the steeply sloped banks of the pond, and... (BONUS) it was already tilled, I wouldn't have to buy grass seed, and my herbs would be happy.

The only addition my mom had was, "Well, duh."

I needed mom's fresh eyes to alert me to the lack of common sense I was displaying, and sometimes we need that in writing too. As writers, we'll have our heart set on certain actions, dialogue, even events, that simply aren't what's best for the story itself in the big picture.

We need our beta readers and crit buddies to say to us, "Hey, why not try this?"

And, if they tack on, "Well, duh," try to remember you love them for a reason.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A BOA with Once Upon A Time...

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, the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA.

The BOA guest today is Cristina Dos Santos whose blog, Once Upon A Time, is a great place to visit for writing musings, tips, and lots of great book reviews. Cristina is a writer living in CT with her husband and their two boys.  She suffers from a serious book addiction, and when she's not reading she is busy drinking coffee and working on her first novel.

BBC:  So you run an excellent blog over at Once Upon A Time. What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?
CDS: Aw, thank you for having me.  My first blog was a mommy blog and it was super fun. But soon after starting it, I realized what I really craved was a space of my own; I mean I love my children and all, but I already spend 24/7 with them,  so writing about their antics, funny as they may be... well, it was overload.
So I created Once Upon a Time, where I get to explore my passion for  books and writing.  Sometimes my children and husband might weasel themselves in, but for the most part, it's about me and my writing.

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?
CDS: It's definitely a challenge.  I started with posting whenever inspiration struck, but that only led to inconsistency. I also used to spend countless hours reading blogs, because they are so addicting. As you can imagine, not much time was left for actual writing.
So, for me, it's about time management and scheduling. I now post twice a week (or try to), and allow myself an hour a day to read blogs and comment.

BBC: It looks like you’re a big reader - do you set aside time for that?
CDS: Honestly, finding time to read is the one thing that comes easy, and maybe it's because I don't think I could live without it. 
I read 2-4 hours a day. And now that my little devils are a bit older and don't require my undivided attention all day long, some days I get more time in. 
I watch little TV and... well I think this is a big one...
I don't have internet access on my phone, gasp! What?! I know, I know.. but hear me out.. I see it everywhere, people are glued to their phones; at check out lines, at the playground, during dinner at a restaurant, while walking down the street, on the train ride home. People are addicted, and I would be too if I had such easy access;  and you might not notice it, but time adds up. So,  instead of the internet, I choose to carry a book and a notebook with me.

BBC: You do a lot of reviews. Have you ever given a bad review? Why or why not?
CDS: No. I don't post bad reviews. It's all so subjective, so I'd rather spend my time sharing my favorite reads. At the end of each month I post my favorite for the month and encourage my readers to share theirs with me. 

BBC: Do you think blogging is a helpful self-marketing tool?
CDS: Yes, it can be. There's definitely the potential to reach a large audience, but you have to do the work and reach out.

BBC: What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?
CDS: One of my top favorite blogs is http://blog.janicehardy.com/. It is full of amazing articles on the craft of writing, and she posts every single day. 
My other recommendation for anyone who aspires to become a better writer are the collection of writing books from Writer's Digest. They cover everything, from how to write dialogue, to description, point of view... they are truly a great resource.

BBC: What is your genre, and what led you to it? Does your genre influence the style of your blog?
CDS: I love reading YA and I write YA, so that's what you'll find on my blog. There's a sense of freedom, a sense of 'anything can happen' in YA that I often find missing in adult fiction. Adults have replaced endless and imaginable possibilities with rules and boundaries. YA on the other hand, are still willing to go there with you, you just have to make sure that you treat them with the same level of respect you would an adult audience.

BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?
CDS: Well, not that I'm an expert, far from it actually.. but if writing is what you want to do, then writing is what you need to do. Writing isn't easy, at least for most writers, and it's easy to give in to the inner voices that tell you you suck.. tell them to shut it. Push through the hard days, put in the work and you'll see yourself grow as a writer.

A question for my followers: Is it hard for you tell the inner voices to shut it? Or can you block them out pretty easily, and make the ink flow?

Thursday, August 18, 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) We've talked before about outdated universal hand signals, which fired another synapse in the BBC brain. When we want to silently signal to someone to stop what they're doing (talking on the phone, misbehaving, irritating us, etc) we tell them to cut it out by drawing our hand across our throat in a slashing motion. What we're actually saying to them is, "I'm going to kill you."

2) If you walk on the beach long enough, you get a free pedicure. Just an FYI, everybody.

3) The ride inside the Epcot ball ends with a view of Earth from space and a fantastic array of stars. On my second spin I was trying to figure out if they were accurately placed. Hard to do since I've never seen the night sky from a non-Earth angle. However, since Epcot is a science based place, it'd be pretty damn ironic if they weren't.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An SAT with CLEAN author Amy Reed

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk.


Amy Reed was born and raised in and around Seattle, where she attended a total of eight schools by the time she was eighteen. She eventually graduated from film school, promptly decided she wanted nothing to do with filmmaking, returned to her original and impractical love of writing, and earned her MFA from New College of California. Her short work has been published in journals such as Kitchen Sink, Contrary, and Fiction. Her Young Adult novel CLEAN has been described as “The Breakfast Club in rehab." You can read my review of CLEAN here.

  Writing Process:
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
BEAUTIFUL took me about two years, CLEAN and my third book, CRAZY (coming out next summer), took me one year each. I think the next one will take closer to two years.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I focus on one project at a time, but new ideas are always popping in my head and I’ll write a lot of notes to follow up on later.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
The fear of failure is always there. I’ve gotten better at turning it off, but sometimes it’s still really hard.

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
BEAUTIFUL was my first attempt at a novel, but I have a few short stories that never got published.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I’ve quit on short stories plenty of times. I knew it was time when I stopped caring about my characters.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 
My agent is the wonderful Amy Tipton at Signature Literary Agency. I sent her a traditional blind query and she responded really quickly with a request for a full manuscript. I think I got such a quick response because I mentioned in the first sentence that we went to the same MFA program. It was a very small and unique program (Writing & Consciousness MFA, now at California Institute of Integral Studies) and I was pretty sure we’d be soul mates based on the fact that we both went there.

How long did you query before landing your agent?
In retrospect, I think I got really lucky and got to avoid a long depressing experience for the most part. I sent around a dozen queries to adult lit agents before I realized my manuscript was YA (an agent kindly informed me of this--I honestly had no idea!) Then I queried a total of two YA agents, and received interest from both of them pretty quickly.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
Do A LOT of research. It’s a waste of time to query agents who aren’t interested in the kind of work you do, and it can be demoralizing to keep receiving those rejections. Find out who represents the writers you admire (and hopefully resemble) the most. A great way to do this is by checking out the acknowledgments in your favorite books. Each agent has very specific guidelines; follow them perfectly. Don’t assume you’ll be sending each agent the same letter or packet. And finally, be patient. They get really annoyed when you start calling after a week asking if they’ve read your manuscript.

On Being Published:
How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
It was surreal. It’s still surreal. It’s hard to believe I have achieved a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid.

How much input do you have on cover art?
Very little. My editor sends me drafts and give feedback, but ultimately it is always up to the publisher. I work in publishing too, and authors meddling in their cover design is kind of a running joke in the industry. Cover designers are professionals who understand how to combine design and marketing. Authors do not often have this expertise.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
How kind, supportive, and generous the YA community is, how humble and down to earth YA authors are. I feel very lucky to be in their company.

Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you? 
A lot. I’ve done a lot to build relationships with bloggers, and I’m active on Facebook and Twitter. I also have a website/blog that I update mostly with news about my books, etc. I tried blogging for a while, but decided I’d rather spend my precious writing time actually writing books.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?
Absolutely! Since my main audience is teenagers, it makes sense that I would reach them where they are: online. YA is totally centered around the social media community, especially bloggers. I think bloggers do more for YA books than probably any traditional media outlet. It’s such an incredible grassroots community that has been built by readers themselves. I really credit bloggers for spreading the word about BEAUTIFUL and CLEAN. I absolutely love them! I can’t thank bloggers enough for their support.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Talk - CLEAN by Amy Reed

In the very cluttered arena of teen issues and the YA books that delve into them, Amy Reed's new novel, CLEAN definitely stands out.

The story takes place inside a rehab clinic for teens, and has multiple POV's from each of our characters:

Olivia - the girl from the perfect life who somehow can't live up to her family's idea of what she should be, and gives herself a heart attack from diet pills.

Kelly - a coke addict who has been trying to erase the memory of rape, but will now give herself over to anyone in order to score another hit.

Christopher - the home-schooled church-boy, whose obese mother can't climb to his second floor bedroom to catch him smoking meth.

Jason - a boy trying to fill the image of the man his father thinks he should be, giving him a beer to chug at age nine and buying him a hooker for his twelfth birthday.

Eva - the kind-hearted Goth who has been trying to piece the shattered bits of her life back together with new friends after her mother's death, and whose father can't be distracted from his own grief by the fact that his daughter is an alcoholic.

The story follows the teens from their arrival at rehab to their exit day, through sharing bits of their personal essays, narrative chunks with different POV's, and Group meetings typed as screenplays. The teen's views of themselves in contrast to how the other characters see them is very telling, and the reader learns about each person from different angles that cover both their past and present.

This unlikely cast of characters with widely varying voices chisel their way into your heart, until you can't help but understand why they are the way they are. Teen readers will undoubtedly see family members, friends, and themselves in the pages of CLEAN.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Critique Group Case Study - The Critecta

Finding the special someone(s) who can complete your writing life is a lot like finding the special someone in your love life - damn hard. Where can you find these excellent people? How do you know when it's a good fit? What should you look for in a critique buddy? And what do you have to offer?

Our little trio met when we serendipitously crossed paths over at AgentQuery Connect, and we quickly discovered that ours was the kind of chemical balance you only find in a room full of professionals wearing white coats. We may all three end up in a room very much like that one day, but that's besides the point. Together, we're going to triple-team the concept of our Critecta—the guest poster here on my blog today is RC Lewis, sharing her approach to our trio.  You can read my post on From the Write Angle, and Caroline is on RC's blog, Crossing the Helix.


My Plan of Attack:

Whenever I read (even published books), there are certain things that make me pause, and in a critiquing situation, leave a comment.

Positives:
(1) It makes me laugh.
(2) It makes me cry.
(3) It makes me think, “Sheesh, why can’t I write like that?”
(4) It surprises me (in a good way).
(5) It makes me think, “MUST TURN PAGE. READ MORE NOW!”

Not-So-Positives:
(1) I’m confused.
(2) I’m annoyed/frustrated.
(3) I’m bored.
(4) I’m jarred out of the story.

#4 in the Not-So’s is an interesting one. It can come from style/voice issues, structure choices, or—thanks to my OCD—technical nitpicks. Depending on the critiquing situation, I may not point out every technical boo-boo, especially if they’re rampant. (Those situations usually get a broad statement of, “Be careful with your commas,” or similar.)

With the Critecta, though, I’ll point out anything I find. Often teasing them about it. (I only wish I’d been the one to first spot Mindy’s “lip floss.”) If it’s clearly a typo and not a tricky grammatical concept they might struggle with, I’ll just offer an “Oops!” and a smile. I know they’re not idiots, and they don’t really need me to belabor the difference between its and it’s.

Occasionally I’ll offer suggestions, but mostly point out what throws me, and (if possible) why. They’ll find a way to fix it with their voice and style, and if they’re not sure, we spitball some ideas.

My Co-Conspirators:

I’ve also gotten awesome feedback and help from larger critique groups and random beta readers. So why are these two my go-to gals? We’re huge fans of each other’s work, yet are able to be blunt and honest with each other, without hurting anyone’s feelings. More specifically, we feel like we’re roughly at the same level of know-how, but with different strengths and weaknesses to complement each other.

Caroline is our queen of Contemporary YA. The characters’ emotions radiate off the page, and she can vividly describe a setting without droning on. She won’t let me skimp on my own characters’ emotional reactions, and she brings a very human element to writing that my analytical brain doesn’t always come to naturally. Since she’s not big into science, she can also call me out when I go too heavy on the geek.

Mindy is mega-versatile. One novel is full of funny, while another is a gritty, stark dystopian. Being a school librarian, she reads like some people breathe, and she’s more of an intellectual than she might let on. She’ll catch subtexts and themes, letting me know if my threads are weaving together properly. She also wields the Hatchet of Excess Wordage Death. (I’ve renamed that hatchet at least five times.)

And that’s why it works. Mindy can put in comments about killing my excessive eyebrow-raising with a sniper rifle, and instead of thinking I’m a crap writer, I’m laughing as I make changes. I don’t recommend highlighting phrases and noting “Kill it!” over and over with someone you haven’t established a rapport with yet.

We're no longer limited by geography, and while some people do prefer a "physical" critique group to meet with, there are wonderful online resources where you can perhaps cross paths with that perfect partner. AgentQueryConnect offers a friendly, open forum where you can talk out your fears, discuss the market, and get query reviews. QueryTracker is a free service you can use to track your query rates, and read other user's comments regarding agent response time. Ladies Who Critique is a new service that operates much like Match.com, but for women looking for women to read their stuff. And as always, industry and book blogs are great grounds for meeting like-minded individuals.

Do have your own Critecta? (Or duo, or quartet, or whatever...) How did you find them? What’s your process, and why does it work for you?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book Talk- BAD GIRLS DON'T DIE by Katie Alender

The rise of paranormal romance and urban fantasy has made the classic, turn-your-ceiling-light-on-not-just-the-reading-lamp ghost story fairly hard to find these days, especially among YA literature. Katie Alender's BAD GIRLS DON'T DIE is a excellent example of why these stories have been around since... since people used lanterns to read I suppose, and literally burnt the midnight oil keeping the creepies at bay.

Alexis has the bad luck to not quite fit in anywhere. Her Goth friends - The Doom Squad - are a little too dark for her tastes, but she isn't exactly cheerleader material either. In fact, Pepper - one of the resident Alpha Cheerleaders - has been giving her the evil eye ever since her little sister broke her arm playing at Alexis' house with Kasey, Alexis' own little sis. Pepper goes so far as to claim that Kasey broke her sister's arm on purpose, after she made the mistake of touching one of Kasey's precious dolls.

Alexis tries to ignore Pepper's claim, but Kasey hasn't been herself lately. She spends too much time in the basement by herself, protects her dolls with an almost feral attitude, and makes demands far too childish for a thirteen-year-old, like asking Alexis to tell her bedtime stories.

Alexis is a photographer, not a story-teller, but one night a tale bubbles out of her without much effort. The story tells itself, and Alexis is shocked as her voice shares details about events surrounding their house, in a time long past. She speaks of a little girl, bullied for her oddness, who is chased to her home by a gang of stone-throwing girls. The victim climbs a tree to escape her attackers, but the last stone thrown is fateful - she falls to her death.

As Kasey's behavior grows more odd, and even violent, Alexis begins looking for clues about their house and the girl who was killed. She finds tragedies spanning decades, and a vengeful ghost whose deepest wish is to avenge herself upon generations of those attached to her death. The small town has a large family tree, and if the ghost is able to use Kasey to her full intent, no family will be left untouched.

The sequel, FROM BAD TO CURSED was released this summer from Hyperion. Go grab 'em both for some fantastic beach reads that will cool you down, even in the sun.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What's That, Black Cat?

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. Or, as I like to say NF is stranger that F. In that vein, I thought I'd start a new little something. Everytime I learn something shocking but true, I'll share it with you. And that might be quite often, because my life is kinda funny that way. Information loves me.

The last person to be executed by the Guillotine was Hamida Djandoubi on September 10th.... 1977!!

Yep, really.  Proof can be found here, and no, it's not a Wikipedia link.

Thursday, August 11, 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) I keep my house at 70 degrees, either through heating or cooling. So why, during wintertime do I wear pants and sweatshirts inside, but during summer I have shorts and tank tops on? It's the same temperature inside... but my body feels that heat or cold outside.... 

2) Who was the first person to think, "Hey, I wonder what the white stuff coming out of a cow tastes like?" And why cows? Why not horses, or - cats! There's tons of cats in the world, with tons of nipples on them - why don't we milk cats?

3) The universal sign when we want someone to roll their car window down is a fist and a circular motion, like we're turning an invisible handle. But there aren't handles to roll down windows anymore - will this little dash of ASL hang on, or will we soon be making little REDRUM finger motions at each other when we want to talk to someone in a car?

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Debut Author Anna Banks on the Submission Process

Yes, yes my friends. I have a new interview series for you, as the BBC brain is always boiling. If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different.

I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's SHIT guest is Anna Banks, whose debut novel THE GIFT OF POSEIDON is coming from Fiewel & Friends, Spring 2012. Anna is represented by Lucy Carson of the Friedrich Agency.

Anna grew up in a Florida town called Niceville (Seriously. Google it.). The youngest of 7 children, you can believe she was spoiled rottener-than-most. She now lives with her husband and nine year old daughter in the Florida Panhandle, not far from where she was spoiled. In her spare time Anna likes to write, eat Reese cups, or both. She would rather give birth to a stingray than exercise, and if you put chocolate in front of her then you must not have wanted it in the first place.
BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
AB: Honestly, not much. Lucy (my 007 agent) and I had a phone conversation in which she tried, bless her wittle heart, to prep me for what was to come. She asked me if I was familiar with the Big Six, and I was, but I said, “Uh, no,” because what if the Big Six had changed since last time I checked, right? That would make me look pretty stinking stupid to my shiny new agent. 
Then she said things like “first round” and “second round” and it started to occur to me that even though I have an agent, she might not be able to sell the book (but uh, I’ll have to see that to believe it). Sure, we all KNOW this in the back of our minds, but we don’t really believe it until our agent says, “Now, if no one from our first round picks it up, these are the second round choices I have in mind. But don’t worry, I’m very confident we won’t make it to round two.” 
This gives you a taste of reality, because up until this point, you’re still completely stoked that you got an offer of rep, and because of said offer of rep, you kinda sorta think you’ve already made it. You haven’t. There is more agony waiting for you.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
AB: Yes. The bigger houses have smaller imprints which specialize in certain genres like sci-fi, YA, mystery, etc. (I already knew this part, thankyouverymuch) BUT they are not necessarily all on the same team. I mean, they are in the end, but some houses allow an agent to submit to all their imprints, and if they all want it, they allow their imprints to fight over your manuscript! Some houses don’t allow it, but some do! It’s like allowing a food fight at the dinner table, for crying out loud. Not that it wouldn’t be fun… 

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
AB: No, I didn’t research any of them. Okay, yes I did. We’re all in the habit of researching agents to put on our submission wish-list, right? It seemed natural to research editors too. 
I’m not sure I’d recommend it though, because it doesn’t help a cotton-picking thing—and it makes you more anxious, as if that were possible. Your agent knows who would be right for your book, and it’s your agent’s job to talk it up and sell it. Your agent knows this business better than any Google session, so trust her to do her job. In the meantime, do YOUR job—which is write!  

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
AB: I don’t know, and I think it’s partly because if the MS was rejected, Lucy didn’t tell me. It seems counter-intuitive to not want to know every little detail about what’s going on in NYC, but I think this is a good strategy on her part. I remember how I felt with each rejection on just my query letter. Rejection would have eaten me alive at that point in the game and I think if there were rejections, Lucy must have kept them to herself. I know that if there were too many, or if the rejections came back with the same reasons for passing, she would have wanted to have a pow wow about it to re-group and possibly suggest some revisions. 
That said, and please do not throw tomatoes at me, we received an offer within two weeks of being on submission. The editor wanted to preempt it, which means that she wanted to know what it would take to get the MS off the table at other houses, without having to go to auction.  
Yes, I realize how crazy that is. I still say, “Did that really just happen?” quite often.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
AB: Write, of course! And eat fried things. Lots of them, so you’re so grossly sick that you don’t think about being on submission, or you succumb to scrumptious sleep.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
AB: I was at work when Lucy emailed me the offer (my email goes straight to my cell phone). I sat there with my mouth hanging open until my boss became aware of an eerie, non-productive silence coming from the vicinity of my desk. Then I told her “Ohmygod!” I must have also told her about the offer, but I don’t remember any coherent sentences in there anywhere... 
Then Lucy was suddenly calling my cell. She was all like, “Did you get my email?” I say, “Uh huh.” She laughs, which was generous of her, because I really should have called her right away.  Then she delves right into explaining all the neat things I need to know in order to make an informed decision. (Which, with Jean Feiwel being the offering editor, was a no brainer, people. Ever heard of The Babysitter’s Club series? Yup, that was her. Jean Feiwel practically raised me, no wonder she loved my writing!). 

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
AB: I only had to wait a day until I was absolutely sure Lucy had notified Feiwel and Friends of our acceptance. Lucy had already ironed out the details prior to emailing me with the offer. (You see how she operates? Nothing…nothing…nothing…BAM! Fully negotiated offer.) Then you couldn’t shut me up. Still can’t, actually…

Sunday, August 7, 2011

And the Muse Says, "Feh!"

The muse, musing.
So - I'm going on vacation. Yep. The kind where you get on a plane and fly away and go somewhere other than home. I won't be writing during this vacation, so the muse is going to take his own break. It's been terribly hot in Ohio lately, and muggy like a kitchen when you're canning tomatoes. So both the muse and I have kind of said, "Feh," and taken a few afternoon naps, spent time reading, and doing other non-writing things, as my WoCoMoMo results showed.

Nevertheless, I have managed to write 3/4 of the WIP in the past two months. I'm taking this vacation as a regroup and revive, then come back to knock off that last quarter.

And never fear - I've got new posts front-loaded all through vacation, so you can still enjoy my company, even if the muse can't.

To tide you over for today - I'm being interviewed over at Dawn Sparrow's blog. Check it out!

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Interview Series on Submissions! Submission Hell - It's True

Yes, yes my friends. I have a new interview series for you, as the BBC brain is always boiling. If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different.

I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Kicking off the SHIT for us today is Erin Jade Lange, whose debut novel BUTTER will be released by Bloomsbury in 2012.  Erin writes facts by day and fiction by night. As a journalist, she is inspired by current events and real-world issues and uses her writing to explore how those issues impact teenagers. Erin is represented by Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.


BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
EL: Not as much as I thought I did. Ha!
I knew a little about acquisitions (the mysterious team of people who give an editor final approval to buy a manuscript), but I sort of naively thought – if an editor likes it, they get the thumbs up, make the offer, one phone call, done. The actual process is a bit more complicated, which is why I say it’s SO IMPORTANT to have an agent who knows the ropes.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
EL: Many things.
Despite what I thought I knew about the acquisitions process, I learned there was a lot more to it. First, an editor has to like your book. Then, likely, they’ll need a second read from one or two people in the department. If those folks like it, they’ll discuss it at an editorial meeting and decide whether to take it to acquisitions. The acquisitions team is a whole new group of people who may or may not be more into the business side of books (who decide whether they can market and sell your story). It was sort of overwhelming to realize how many people have to like your book/idea before you actually get an offer.

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
EL: I did, and I do.
Just like when you’re searching for an agent, you want to know which authors and which types of books editors work with. You want to know if they have a good reputation, etc… So I spent a lot of time on Google and on publishing houses’ websites.

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
EL: Well, here is the part where I confess my “submission hell” was not so hellish at all. I was extremely fortunate to have interest in the first few weeks. This is HIGHLY UNUSUAL, so it may have been a case of good timing. Maybe my manuscript landed on an editor’s desk at just the right moment when he or she had time to read submissions and was in the mood for an edgy contemporary YA. The stars aligned; the editor liked the story; the ball got rolling.
Just like when you’re querying agents, once an offer is on the table, it’s time to nudge all queried parties, and people respond faster than they might have without that initial interest. So we got answers very quickly after that – some more interest, some rejections, and some editors letting us know they wouldn’t be able to speed up the acquisitions process enough to compete on our now-rushed timeline.
It all went very fast, but if it hadn’t been for that first offer, who knows? I might have been on sub for months or years.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
EL: Write. Something. New.
This is my advice during ANY part of the publishing process that requires waiting. Waiting on agents who have your query, waiting on submission, waiting for the book to be published… it can all be maddening, so go to the place we writers always go to escape – crawl inside a manuscript and forget your worries. Build something new.

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
EL: I was so lucky to have interest in BUTTER right out of the gate, because it really cushioned the blow of the rejections that followed.
I will say this much, though: I was prepared for MORE rejections on sub than during the agent search. I think of the path to publishing like a cone that gets narrower as you try to squeeze through it. Tons of people write, many of them get agents, some get published and a lucky few get famous. I prepped myself from the very beginning to fail at every step but not give up.
Expect the worst. Be pleasantly surprised if it all works out for the best.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
EL: My big “moment” was less YES! And more MAYBE!
I had just stepped off a plane in my home town, where I was visiting my family, and I turned on my cell phone to discover a string of messages from my agent basically saying, “GAH! WTF? WHERE ARE YOU? I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!”  haha. ☺ She let me know there was an editor interested, and I remember I sort of froze in place right there in the parking lot of the airport, and my parents are trying to hug me and take my bags, and I’m all, “Shh! Shh! I’m busy!” with my face buried in the phone, furiously text messaging.
I got super excited, but that excitement was tempered quickly by my agent explaining that the editor still had to get through acquisitions and that interest does not always equal “offer.”
But that was the most memorable moment – the moment when it felt like it might really happen.

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
EL: Again, I was unusually fortunate. I got more than one offer, so yes, there was a period of time when I kept quiet while my agent communicated with everyone and discussed the offers with me and such. I think, between that moment at the airport and the formal first offer, it was at least a few days. Then I think it was another week before we had a deal to announce. I learned so much in that time period, that it passed very quickly. And, I confess, I shared my news with my parents, my boyfriend and my two closest crit partners. Telling them felt like telling the world, because they all mean the world to ME.
But I was still bursting with excitement when I could finally post the deal on my blog. The online writing community is so supportive, and I was blown away by the kind words from fellow bloggers and writers after I shared the news. Writing can be a solitary pursuit, so it’s wonderful to have so many people to share the ups and downs with. It’s during those extreme highs and lows when you realize writing’s not so lonely after all.

Thursday, August 4, 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:

This is Mo, she is alright, despite having
accidentally licked her own intestine.
1) If you follow my Twitter feed you know there was a kitty emergency last week. I took a kitty (Mo) to be spayed, then the next day she burst her stitches and suddenly some of her inside parts were on the outside. I found a vet who would see me at 8 o'clock at night and fix her up for me. I've never seen a cat go under, but when Mo took the shot in the muscle her eyes dilated to the size of a quarter. Turns out what they give them is part hallucinogen. Which left me wondering - what do cats hallucinate about?

2) Who decided which plants are weeds and which are flowers? I have some fairly attractive weeds that grow in my area, why can't I call them flowers and let them do as they please?

3) I can't claim this wonderful thought as my own, this gem comes from an old college buddy. Why do our hair and nails suddenly become repulsive when they're no longer attached to our bodies? While we've got 'em we style them, brush them, dye them, paint them, use them as flirtation devices. Once off we're all "No! No! Get it away from me! Burn it! Compost it! Make it die!"

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wednesday WOLF

I'm a nerd. No really, stop, BBC! You!?! Yes, I'm in fact such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF (oh, how clever is she? She made an acronym out of her agency's name!) Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

So today I thought I'd tackle the origin of the word "cathouse" as a nickname for a house of prostitution, because, surely there's a great colorful story behind that, right? I found many and sundry an answer to my question, and am a bit unsure of where to attribute the real origin.

My favorite answer combines history and awesomeness because it attributes the term to a story involving the crazy little town of Deadwood, SD. According to the tale, the flourishing business involving ladies of the night also suffered from smaller, less sex-interested mammals who would overrun buildings and... er... distract people. And despite their constant flow of customers, it seems said ladies often felt lonely, so an enterprising businessman thought, "Hey, I'll round up some stray cats and sell them to hookers!" (I'm still waiting for my big money making idea.)

However, the 2nd edition of the Oxford English Dictionary claims that the word "cat" was slang for "prostitute"as early as 1401, when it was used as such in the Middle English poem, Friar Daw's Reply. I'll add that the usage in this poem is somewhat debatable.

I found a more likely culprit in the pages of Folk-Etymology: A Dictionary of Verbal Corruptions or Words Perverted In Form or Meaning, by False Derivation or Mistaken Analogy by Abram Smythe Palmer. It seems the word "cat-house" was the term for an old species of battering ram, originally pronounced "cattus" because of its "crafty approach to the walls."

So, er, with all the battering ram and crafty approaching of walls imagery, I'm a little more likely to go for that last explanation, though I love me a good Deadwood story!

What's your favorite word origin? Tell me, or ask one you've always been curious about - I'll do my best to find the answer and get back to you in a future WOLF!