Friday, September 30, 2011

A Launch Party For My Fellow AQ'er & A Query Crit Giveaway!

I'm on the other end of the interview today over at Forever Rewrighting! Check it out for a chance to win a query crit from me and also get a double dose of AQ love.

I think by now it should be pretty clear how in love I am with AgentQuery Connect. If you are a writer, you need to check out this community. Yeah, I spout about it because I'm a moderator, but it's volunteered time - hours of it in a week - so that in itself should say how tied I feel to that community. I can honestly say that without the support and advice of my fellow AQ'ers I would never have landed an agent.

I've mentioned AQ'er Pete Morin before, in my post about YA departures and reading across genres.  And today I'm giving Pete the spotlight again, as his novel DIARY OF A SMALL FISH is launching this week. If you want a nice palette cleanser in between YA reads, give Pete a shot. You'll be glad.

Pete Morin has been a trial attorney, a politician, a bureaucrat, a lobbyist, and a witness (voluntary and subpoenaed) to countless outrages. He combines them all in this debut novel. Pete’s short fiction has appeared in NEEDLE, A Magazine of Noir, Words With Jam, 100 Stories for Haiti, and Words to Music. He published many of them in a collection titled Uneasy Living, available on Amazon and Smashwords. When he is not writing crime fiction or legal mumbo jumbo, Pete plays blues guitar in Boston bars, enjoys the beach, food and wine with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two adult children, and on rare occasion, punches a fade wedge to a tight pin surrounded by sand or water. He lives in a money pit on the seacoast south of Boston, in an area once known as the Irish Riviera. Pete is represented by Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency.

DIARY OF A SMALL FISH focuses on Paul Forte, who is already dealing with the death of his parents and divorce from a woman he still loves. Now, with the support of an alluring grand juror, Paul must expose the vindictive prosecutor’s own corruption before the jury renders a verdict on his Osso Buco.

When Paul is indicted by a federal grand jury, everyone suspects prosecutor Bernard (don’t call him “Bernie”) Kilroy has more on his mind than justice. Then the FBI agent in charge of Paul’s case gives him a clue to the mystery: Kilroy is bent on settling an old family score, and he’s not above breaking the law to do it.

You can find DIARY OF A SMALL FISH on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, September 29, 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 aren't necessarily anything I expect my followers to have an answer to, it's more about the thought processes of BBC as a child. NOT A DROP TO DRINK has a young character in it, and writing her was particularly challenging, as I haven't been five years old in... well, awhile. While mining for those child-thoughts I dug up some gems from my past that I don't want to slip away:

1) When I was just a kitten I didn't understand the connection between eating and going to the bathroom. I thought we spent our lives chewing up our food and depositing it inside ourselves, and that death occurred when we were finally full. I thought if I chewed up my food really well, I could extend my life. Too bad I didn't have the book EVERYONE POOPS to clear that up for me. Someone explained the error in my beliefs at some point and so I came up with the new death theory -

2) Quite a few of the elderly ladies in my church had osteoporosis. Since food couldn't kill you I figured out that once you hit a certain age you started shrinking, and eventually faded off into nothing. I don't recall how that little fallacy was rooted out, but I think there was pointing and laughing involved (thanks, big sis).

3) When I was little bathing, eating and sleeping were three things that took up way too much of my time and pulled me out of whatever I was doing. Think about it - when you were kid, and super involved with your playtime you inevitably heard: "Bathtime! Dinner! Bedtime!" As an adult, bathtime, dinner and bedtime are like the most awesome points of the day.

Wednesday, September 28, 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.

Today we're going to talk about horses. I've been learning a lot about horses as I work on the sequel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK. I've not been in many saddles, but I'm told I "sit a horse well," which makes me feel accomplished.

So you've probably heard the phrase "form the horse's mouth," meant to indicate that the information being shared is definitely true. This saying came about because a horse's age can be accurately judged by looking at its teeth. If you were buying a horse you'd go straight to the horse's mouth to determine it's age, rather than rely on the honesty of the seller.

Now you know! However, I do not advise this approach on humans. It is both misleading and socially unacceptable.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Unagented Successful Submission Story!

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.

Cory Putman Oakes was born in Basel, Switzerland, but grew up in Novato, California. She graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 2001 with a B.A. in Psychology.  In 2004, Cory graduated from Cornell Law School with a Juris Doctorate Degree and her husband, Mark (the first was the intended consequence of attending the school, the second was a bonus).  Since then, she has been an associate at a big law firm, taught business law to undergraduates at Texas State University and written several books for young people.

Her book, THE VEIL is about seventeen-year-old Addison Russell who is in for a shock when she discovers that she can see the invisible world of the Annorasi. And when this strange new world forces Addy to answer for a crime that was committed long ago, by parents she has never known, she has no choice but to trust Luc, the mysterious Annorasi who has been sent to protect her.  Or so he says . .


BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs 
yourself?
CPO: I came to publishing from an entirely different world (I was a lawyer before I became a writer), so I knew nothing at all! I had a copy of Publisher’s Marketplace and that’s where I learned what a query letter was, how to submit to agents, etc. I learned as I went, like a lot of people do, I suspect.

BBC: You were agented at one time, but you ended up selling your manuscript directly to a publishing house yourself. What’s the story there?
CPO:I had the good fortune to work with a wonderful agent for about two years on a Middle Grade project, which unfortunately never ended up with a publisher. I didn’t have an agent for THE VEIL. I took a break from submission process around the time my daughter was born and once I was ready to re-enter the publishing world, I was determined to self-publish. I asked Lee Klancher, the owner of Octane Press, for advice on how to go about this. Octane had never published a YA title, so I never thought about them as being a potential publisher for THE VEIL. Lee was an absolute fountain of knowledge about publishing. At some point he actually read THE VEIL, and not long after that he surprised me with the news that Octane wanted to make it their first YA title! So that’s the story – it was a rather unusual way of ending up with a publisher, but I am so grateful it happened the way it did, because my book could not have found a better home!

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
CPO: You know those cupcakes they sell at Randalls/Safeway? The ones that have about twice as much frosting as cake? Every time I got a rejection (and I got many of them) I’d buy a large container of those cupcakes and eat them while I wallowed. I actually think it’s very important to let yourself feel sad for a while when something you hope for doesn’t pan out. Eventually I would start to feel better and/or guilty about all of the calories I had just eaten, and I would go on a long, sugar-fueled run while I planned my next move (the running also helped to off-set the cupcake weight-gain!). That was seriously my process – if you don’t believe me, ask one of my many, many friends who I have forced to wallow in rejection-letter-cupcake-misery with me! And whether you use cupcakes or running or whatever, the important thing is to always focus on planning your next move. There is no giving up – there is only where you will go from here.

BBC: If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?
CPO: f someone takes the time to give me feedback, even if it’s in the context of a rejection, I pay very close attention to it. Particularly when I hear the same thing more than once. My beta readers were all friends, so I knew I had to take their feedback with a grain of salt (in that, I was pretty sure none of them were going to tell me they hated it). Editors are more inclined to be honest. But friends who know you, and who know your weaknesses, may also catch things editors don’t. My best friend, for example, caught a mistake in THE VEIL where I had the characters driving in the wrong direction on the freeway (south instead of north). An editor who knew I was writing about my hometown might have just assumed I had the direction right. But my best friend, who is well aware of how directionally-challenged I am, knew to check it on a map (thank you, Tara!). So I think a good combination of feedback from friends and editors is probably the best way to go.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
CPO: My YES came via email, but I don’t think I actually processed it until I realized that this meant we could actually open the bottle of champagne that had been sitting in our fridge for the last 5 years! That night, my husband and I had champagne and a box of the aforementioned cupcakes which, for the first time, were being eaten in celebration instead of misery!

BBC: How much input do you have on cover art?
CPO: THE VEIL cover art was actually finished before I signed with Octane – luckily, Octane loved it as much as I did so I got to keep it! It was done by my friend David Brady, who is a graphic designer. I knew there was a certain scene in the book that I wanted to base the cover art on, so I sent it to David along with a very rambling explanation of the vision I had in my head. He was able to sort out my ramblings and incorporate the passage from the book in order to create an absolutely perfect cover (in my humble opinion!). The lettering is actually photographs of woodcuts – isn’t that cool? The book’s designer, Tom Heffron, was able to incorporate that same look throughout the chapter headings on the inside, which I think really pulled the book together nicely.

BBC: When do you thing writers should start building their platform? Do you think social media helps build your readership?
CPO: I don’t think it’s ever too early to start building a platform. I started seriously delving into the social media thing about 3 months ago, and I wish I’d done it sooner! The more people you can connect with and talk to, the more you learn. Social media has been a huge help for me in getting THE VEIL off the ground! Twitter especially has been great – I was very intimidated by it at first, but I’ve found that if you take the time to actually get to know your Twitter followers (as people, as opposed to just “what-can-you-do-for-me-bookwise,”) you end up with a network of people who you actually care about and who actually care about you. At least that’s been my experience! I’ve learned a ton just by talking to people and seeing what they’re doing on Twitter.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Little Library Humor

So recently I read a really awesome collection of short stories by an Ohioian - KNOCKEMSTIFF by Donald Ray Pollock. If you want something short, dark, poetic and damn near immobilizing, pick this up.

The humor comes in when I attempted to renew my copy of KNOCKEMSTIFF and the public library was experiencing some computer issues. The librarian was slightly flustered, and talking a little more loudly than necessary (which is totally fine, as you can imagine I do that all the time - flustered or not). She glanced up at her screen in passing and said, "So you want to renew... what was it? Your book... Uh, Oh Okay, you wanted to renew your knockers?"

To which I immediately said: "I better, they get checked out a lot."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Voice Bleeding Remedy: Staunch it With Some NF!

A quick announcement to promote an SAT'er! If you ever followed my link to Hilary Graham's interview over at From the Write Angle you'll recall her book REUNITED, which now has a cover. It's pretty darn eye-catching, check it out!

Earlier I talked to you guys about the newly-minted BBC term, voice bleeding. It exists. It's a nasty little burrowing virus that will slide inside your brain and infect the gray matter with the voice of whatever writer you may be reading at the time. The voice bleeding virus thrives on creative minds, reducing us to a toxic replica of whoever we happen to be reading at the moment, especially if they hail from the same genre as our own.

How do you combat this virus? Is it something you will never be free of, like herpes? Is this a long-term infection requiring dose after dose of antibiotics? Should you lie quivering in fear under your blanket whenever a tasty looking bit of fiction tempts you?

Don't worry, my friends. There is an answer.

You CAN read while you're writing. You CAN free yourself from the scourge of voice bleeding. You CAN indulge in some published pages while whaling on the WIP.

It's called non-fiction.

Now don't get me wrong, non-fiction requires voice as well. But the chances of a well-styled narrative NF voice sliding into your YA paranormal are significantly less than if your brain is munching on the latest urban fantasy beach candy.

I hear your cries of pain. But non-fiction!!! It's so.... true and... boring!!

Not so my friends. Hit up some of these titles if you want to learn more about why we're alive, what happens when you're not, and how to avoid people, places and diseases that might make you that way:

WATER: THE EPIC STRUGGLE FOR WEALTH, POWER & CIVILIZATION by Steven Solomon - So you're aware that we need water, but do you know the ins and outs of the political maneuvering, wars, and untold deaths of millions that is intertwined with the story of water? Prolly not.

STIFF by Mary Roach - You're dead! Great - now what? You'd be surprised how many options you've got. Mary Roach explores the myriad of choices your corpse has. Me? I'm going with composting.

THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larsen - Wanna know more about America's first serial killer, and how he used the World's Fair to his advantage? Sure you do.

THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL by Daniel Stashower - Mary Roger's murder in 1841 was the first instance of a media frenzy, and it had the makings of a blockbuster. A renowned cigar-peddling beauty with a checkered past winds up dead... and nobody knows who did it. The murder got under the skin of New Yorkers, including one troubled genius named Edgar Allan Poe, who was inspired to write "The Mystery of Marie Roget."

THE LOST CITY OF Z by David Grann - A mysterious city in the jungle, explorers disappearing into thin air, obsession and madness. You're interested, right?

THE SPECKLED MONSTER by Jennifer Lee Carrell - Read this history of smallpox and the people who willingly infected themselves with it in order to create a vaccine and you'll never be more thankful for the CDC.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Note to Self

Exhibit A
You see that?

That's a hastily jotted down outline for a short story that I vomited up over a decade ago. I recently remembered it existed and dug it out only to find that the coded scribbles of a college senior don't translate well to a thirty-something momma. Even if they are the same person.

Handwriting is kind of an issue for me. I was supposed to be left-handed, but being the littlest in my entirely right-pawed family meant that I was mimicking my parents and older sister in order to learn simple motor functions - holding a crayon, cutting with a scissors, even picking up my cup. Learning to tie my shoes was tantamount to torture until my sharp-eyed first grade teacher explained to my parents that I was naturally left-handed, but conditioned to be right. My lefty Grandma showed me a handy-dandy approach to shoelaces and I've pretty much got that down these days. But the handwriting continues to suffer (see Exhibit A).

There are other elements working against me in resurrecting the short story from BBC-Of-The-Past. I often write to myself in a sort of code. It's not about protecting my creative babies from wandering eyes intent on stealing my stuff, or even a time-saving attempt at my own private shorthand. It's an Irish self-defense mechanism, I suppose, a physical way of keeping anyone from getting too close to something very important to me - my mind.

Which sounds kind of cool until I find a sentence like this:

Hsb. sys to w the "nitrogen line" and then the "miasma of life" idea of steering whl. and heat.

And thirty-something momma says, WTF?!?

Thursday, September 22, 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) Life's pretty unfair sometimes. Loud music hurts your ears, food that tastes awesome is bad for you, really good looking guys tend to be poison. Sometimes I feel like I'm stuck in a massive didactic video game.

2) Why are credits always FIRST in feature length kid's cartoons? What the heck kind of hook is that?

3) When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is wash my face. I can't stand to have the "dirty face" feel. But why is the skin on our face so sensitive? I don't wake up and think, "Oh man, I've got to wash my forearm, it's soooo bothering me right now." Biologically it would make more sense to have rough, scaly face skin, because it's always exposed to the elements. We should have feet skin on our faces. Not attractive, but practical!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday WOLF

The winner of the MONSTRUMOLOGIST book giveaway was Masako Moonshade! Everyone else has to... you know... use your local library!

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.

Ever knock on wood? It's getting harder and harder to do these days, as most furniture doesn't have a bit of tree in it. Fortunately for me I've got an old house so full of trees I'm able to get crazy and knock on wood with my head, if I feel it's appropriate.

But why do we do that? What's the origin of that phrase and action?

Many ancient cultures believed in nature spirits, and most agree that tree spirits are the bomb. Even Germans (and hey, we're kind of a dark people - ever read the REAL Cinderella?) have a kind tree spirit - the Waldgeist. In moments of fear or trepidation, people would knock on trees to wake up the good spirits for protection or good luck.

So now you know. Next time you're feeling beset, hit the beech.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Taking A SHIT With Jay Kristoff

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 Jay Kristoff, who is 6'7, has approximately 13,870 days to live, and is frequently mistaken for Dave Grohl in smoky, stinky clubs with poor lighting. He does not believe in happy endings. His book, STORMDANCER is a dystopian fantasy set in steampunk feudal Japan. In a steampunk shogunate decimated by clockwork mechanization, sixteen-year-old Yukiko befriends the last griffin left alive, pitting herself against the authorities in the hope of seeing her homeland saved, her family freed and the crippled griffin fly again. STORMDANCER will be coming Spring 2012 from St Martin's Press & Tor UK. Jay is represented by Matt Bialer of Sanford J. Greenburg & Associates.

BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
JK: Next to nothing. I knew there was something called ‘the big six’ and that’s where we were headed first. I knew Thanksgiving is traditionally a very quiet time in publishing, and I shouldn’t expect anything until the New Year. I knew my expectations were being managed early by my agent, because, despite what anyone will tell you, luck is a huge factor at this end of the equation. But at that stage, I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I had an agent at all, or that people were returning my emails with something other than boilerplate kicks to the baby-maker.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
JK: Yeah, how quickly it all started cascading. We got one offer within three weeks. A week later we had another, and a couple of weeks after that we had a third. And call the president, I was suddenly at auction! 0.o
I always imagined book auctions would be these swanky affairs. Like, an actual physical event, where publishers would stand around in eveningwear and snark at each other and occasionally glass each other in the face with dry martinis. Turns out it’s just a bunch of emails flying back and forth, with me in the middle trying not to lose my tiny little mind.

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
JK: Not until we started getting offers, nope. I don’t recommend it up until that point – you’re just torturing yourself. You should be writing your next book instead of hoping to win the lottery.
If you’re lucky enough to get multiple offers, yes, you should research them just to feel comfortable and informed. But hopefully your agent is going to be weighing in heavily with advice at this point. All the research in the world won’t help you beyond a certain point. Read all the Cosmo you like, you’re still going to be terrible the first time you sleep with someone.
Your agent does this stuff for a living. You need to place a degree of trust in your advocate.

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
JK: About a month? But I was on sub over the Thanksgiving break as I said, which is dead as Dillinger a notoriously slow time.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
JK: Write your next book. Drink bourbon. Read lots of Cosmo.

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
JK: We had rejections, but only after the news of the first offer came through. So they were all blunted by the knowledge that someone already wanted it. It’s pretty hard to get disappointed in that situation. Every House was just another potential yes. The ‘no’s’ kinda ceased to matter. I think I was very lucky in that regard.
Hell, let’s be honest – I completely lucked out during this whole process.

BBC: If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?
JK: We got no feedback that I’m aware of. Just offers and “no thank you’s”.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
JK: Completely surreal. It still feels surreal, sitting here thinking about it. You work at this thing for so long, give up so much pursuing it, that when you finally catch it, it’s difficult to process. I felt like a dog who actually caught the car he was chasing.
“Now what the hell do I do?”
I found out via email – in the late stages of the auction, the bids and counter-bids were coming in sometimes two or three per day. So being kept abreast of that via phone would’ve been crazy. When the 2nd last house said they couldn’t go any higher, I had a chat to my agent on the phone, we talked over the possibilities and then decided where we’d go. Even after the bidding was done, the decision wasn’t just about money.

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
JK: Being the pessimistic jerk that I am, I intended to wait until I’d signed the contract before I told anyone (I had no idea at this stage that contract usually get drawn up and signed months later). I could just imagine myself running about shouting I’d landed a deal, only to have it all collapse when the Publishers found out about that time I shoplifted a Mars Bar when I was twelve.
So I dropped some hints on my blog about it, but said nothing concrete. And then a friend of mine told me the details of my deal had already gone up at Publishers Marketplace, so I should start yelling about it.
So yeah, I started yelling ☺

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Extraneous "That" Execution

I'm going to say a dirty word.

As a librarian I'm accustomed to ignoring "a," "and," & "the." It's part of the Dewey rationale. As a writer, I'd love to add "that" to the list of words we just don't need.

Self-editing is not easy. If you haven't heard the phrase "kill your darlings" in connection to it, allow me to remedy the situation:

Kill

Your

Darlings

All those words your brain birthed onto the page during hours of torturous imagination-vomit will now be exposed to intense scrutiny under the harsh light of your red pen. Or at least, they should be. And guess what you gave birth to multiple times without even knowing, in groups of octuplets that then spawned on their own, creating a massive word count weight that will sink your ms into the depths? A nasty, four-letter word called THAT.

You don't need it. Some spur of the moment examples:

She thought that pink was a good color.

He knew that there was no way Sharon would go out with him.

Now check out these sentences:

She thought that pink was a good color.

He knew that there was no way Sharon would go out with him.

When I self-edited my first ms I kept a tally of my kills. I use it as a reference now when doing edits on other ms's, and it's proven priceless. How many extraneous "that's" did I execute on that first ms?

639

Yup. Literally a page and a half of useless words - without paragraph breaks or tabs. 639 pointless words clogging up my ms and showing any agent or editor exactly how inept I am at using the English language efficiently.

Arm yourself with red ink, exercise your delete key finger, and jump in with blood on your mind. That's the best way to hunt them down. They can be sneaky, your darlings.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

YA Author A.G. Howard's Submission Journey

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 guest is A.G. Howard, who writes YA and adult literary fantasies with a romantic slant. She is represented by Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency. A.G.’s debut YA fantasy, SPLINTERED, is an urbanized gothic spinoff of ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, in which a sixteen-year-old descendant of Alice Liddell (real life inspiration for the Lewis Carroll novel), realizes the fairy tale was true when the darker side of Wonderland lures her through the rabbit hole to fix the things her great-great-great grandmother Alice put wrong. SPLINTERED slated to be published by Amulet in Spring 2013. For a more in-depth peek, visit A.G.’s online haunts: website, twitter, and blog.

BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself? 
AH: I’d already been through the sub process before with a prior book and a prior agent, so I had a good idea how it worked. The big difference was the way my new agent (aka Agent Goddess Jenny Bent) handled the passes / news. She got back to me immediately upon hearing something w/out me having to nudge her. My first agent would let the passes build up then when I nudged, she’d send my way. I definitely prefer Jenny’s way of doing things. I never felt in the dark.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you? 
AH: I think what surprised me most this time around was how fast we were hearing back on the fulls. My book is a twisted version of a classic which gives it a large demographic, and that had them reading it very quickly. With my first book, it took a LONG time to hear back from editors. In fact, when I left Agent One, we still had the MS out with an editor who had been holding onto it almost a year and a half after we sent it. Agent One gracefully withdrew the MS from them and handed the rights back to me. Now I can try to sell it again w/Jenny and a whole different set of publishers.

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that? 
AH: Heck yeah, I researched them. I looked for online interviews so I’d know what their likes/dislikes were. Do I recommend it? Not exactly. You can drive yourself crazy trying to surmise if the book they’re describing in their interview, the one they’re dying to find, is yours or not. In the end, knowing a lot about them isn’t going to change how they feel about your MS. I suggest waiting until you get real interest from a publisher, then research that one (or if you go into auction, research each publisher involved). Because you’ll be ending up with one of them, and that way, when the intro phone call comes, you’ll already feel like you “know” things about them, and it makes the conversation flow easier.

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors? 
AH: The longest we had to wait was eight weeks. If I had to average it out, I would say probably three-four weeks.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
AH: Stay busy. Write up a few short blurbs for upcoming book ideas. When considering taking on a new author, one of the things an editor looks for is the broad scope. They'd like to know (especially if it's a standalone novel) what else that author might be working on, in case they’re considering offering a two book deal. The first editor who offered actually asked what else I had in mind for future books before she made her offer. So it sure paid off having those worked up and on hand. Also, work on your next book, if you can. That’s what I did my first time on submission. I wrote two more books during that year. But this time around, I was too nervous and couldn’t make myself write. So instead, I concentrated on my platform. I started blogging and tweeting regularly, made a book trailer, created a website (still under construction but looking better by the minute thanks to my webmaster hubbie). Just keep yourself busy with something productive that ties into your writing career and will reap instant gratification, because you have enough waiting going on w/the subs. ;)

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
AH: First of all, getting passes from editors when you have an agent in your corner is completely different. You might think I’m going to say it hurts less. It doesn’t. The rejections you got while querying agents is boot camp compared to this. But there’s comfort in the fact that this time around you’ve already earned your stripes and have a true blue publishing pro on your side. That goes a long way in easing the bite, especially if said agent is supportive and optimistic and encouraging like Jenny is. Still, for me, since this was my second time through the sub process, every time I got a pass, I felt like I was letting Jenny down. That was my own personal hang up. I’m sure it’s different for each writer.
How I got through it emotionally? I crashed and burned a few times. LOL. But I have the most AMAZING support group: wonderful friends/critters/agent (and my super encouraging family) who held my hand and kept me from becoming a lemming. Yes, leaping off of cliffs to a watery grave did cross the mind a time or two. My fabulous support group kept me afloat through it all.

BBC: If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?
AH: I wanted to have any comments on hand in case we needed to refer to them later. I had a document where I pasted all of the feedback, positive and negative. But to suppress any bad vibes, I colored the negative stuff with uber light font, and bolded the positive as the focal point, so when I opened the doc to paste a new comment in, I would only see the positive. For me, these comments were very similar to comments from beta readers, because you have to weigh everything against your gut. It’s still mostly subjectivity, as proven by how often one editor’s likes/dislikes would contradict another’s.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
AH: HAHA! I may be a writer, but words just can’t do it justice. I did my best to express my emotions in the announcement posted on my blog. As for how I found out about the first offer, an email from Jenny sent by way of her cell (because as luck would have it she was on vacation when it all started to play out—LOL) and then she called me later that day so we could SQUEE in person. Hee.

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
AH: Yes, I did have to wait about two weeks, because we had the MSS out with more than one editor and once the first offer was made, Jenny had to contact everyone else who had it and give them time to read it. We ended up going to auction, which stretched it out a little longer. It was SO HARD to wait!! Fortunately, the friends and family in my inner circle were my sounding board. Lots of giddy screams and joyful laughter traversing through the phone line and email during those two weeks. ;)

Thanks again so much for having me, Mindy. This was a blast! J


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Book Talk - The Monstrumologist Series by Rick Yancey

Ok seriously now - 

THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST by Rick Yancey is one of the best books I've read in a long time - and by that I'm including books written for people my age :) 

This book is a must read, but it's also amust-be-able-to-stomach-gruesome-violence read. It's the most original creature-feature YA book I've read. There should be a hoard of crazed readers following Rick Yancey around - I volunteer to be the first. And the critical acclaim is wonderful (the first book won the Michael L. Printz award from the ALA).

Our narrator is Will Henry, a young boy who has been apprenticed to a monstrumologist (one who studies monsters) Dr. Pellinore Warthrop. The Dr. himself was very Holmesian to me - removed, unable to understand why his assistant needs sleep / food / etc., yet his affection for the boy comes out at odd moments, and in weird, incredibly touching ways. The creature involved here is the Anthropophagi, human-like creatures with no heads whose mouths are located in their torsos - sounds silly, right? Um, it's not. I won't try to explain why it's terrifying - the author does a good enough job on his own, and I don't want to insult his talent. 

I will say when a roving pack of Anthrophphagi attack the home of a minister, his wife, and their children I had to put the book down and gather myself for a moment before continuing. The last book I did that with was Joyce Carol Oates' ZOMBIE so I'm not prone to swooning. 



The style of this book is also quite remarkable- the language is nearly Dickensian, yet still navigable by a young reader. I wouldn't recommend it for a reluctant reader, it's more for the avid YA teen who is going to be able to use context. A less involved teen is going to give up, although I'd still hand it to a "creature reader" just to see if they'll slog through the vocabulary for the sake of the story - I think they might! 




THE CURSE OF THE WENDIGO is the absolutely stellar sequel. I devoured this book in about four hours. Dr. Warthrop's old mentor (Von Helrung) has more or less "jumped on the vampire wagon," (and I got a chuckle out of that, let me tell you) and is insisting that the creatures are real, after having been hired by a writer (he thinks his name was Stroker) to prove that the creatures exist.

The brand of vampire being hunted here is the Canadian backwoods variant - a Wendigo, who feeds only on human flesh and becomes hungrier the more it eats. Like a vampire, the Wendigo can infect a human with a bite and turn them into a Wendigo in turn. Warthrop dismisses all talk of mythological creatures such as vampires and werewolves as being detrimental to the cause of monstrumology, as he believes they do not exist and that a failed mission to locate one will only undermine their credibility.

He is pulled into the case however, when he is visited by his former fiancee - the super hot Muriel - whose husband (previously Warthrop's best friend and contemporary) has disappeared in the north Canadian wilds while on a hunt for the Wendigo to appease their old mentor, von Helrung.

There are intense themes - parallels of love and death, choices made for good or bad and their finality - extraordinary violence, and (!) the monstrumologist gets to have sex. However, as in the first book, we see everything through the eyes of a naive Will Henry, so unless you can read between the lines, you wouldn't know it :)

Also, I usually find it jarring when authors attempt to weave famous personages into their plot. But Yancey does it well, and with names that aren't necessarily going to hit you like a lightning bolt - Algernon Blackwood, Jacob Riis, and Bram Stoker to name a few - all appear within the pages of this book, and are woven in well.

The third and final installation in the series, THE ISLE OF BLOOD will be available September 13, 2011 from Simon & Schuster. But I got my grubby little paws on a galley (well, it's an e-galley, so it's my e-grubby paws, but you get the point).

Wanna read 'em? I bet so - and guess what? One of my lucky followers won't have to buy them, or even go to the library. I'll send both THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST and CURSE OF THE WENDIGO to your front door. All you have to do is be a follower, leave a comment below, and tweet the giveaway - make sure to use my handle @bigblackcat97, so that I know you tweeted.  I'll pick one random winner that gets to be jealous of someone else's writing talent & be grossed out - for FREE!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Brief Note On the Application of Mascara

So, I mentioned earlier that it seems we're unable to put mascara on without opening our mouths. Being the way I am, I had to know why. I asked someone who knows more about makeup than I do (which isn't saying much) and she had the skinny!

It turns out that your eye muscles actually relax when you open your mouth. Try it. Focus on your eye muscles and then open your mouth. You can feel everything go slack up there in eye-land. Pretty interesting stuff.

Turns out it IS a biological imperative! I love it when I say idiotic things that turn out to be correct!

Revolution! Chaos! Anarchy!

Most of us are very aware of the shaky ground that the publishing industry now stands on. But shaky ground means earthquakes, and earthquakes means shifting tectonic plates (check out that 7th grade science fact) and shifting tectonic plates means - something new.

New earth! We're not living in Pangaea anymore, my friends. And hey... that was a good thing that happened, right? Breaking apart a supercontinent meant that the homogenous land mass divided people (that sounds familiar...) but it also created diversity, gave us new cultures, and opened up pathways for the development of things like the wheel and fire, which proved quite useful.

And at the time, it was probably freaky as hell. Shockwaves, volcanoes, goats falling over, seas rushing in... in fact, I bet it felt kinda like the end of the world, when really it was part of a new beginning.

I fully admit to the digital age scaring the crap out of me in terms of how the publishing industry will evolve. I always pictured shiny stacks of my books, not new downloads. I like to hold a book in my hands and see the right hand side of pages getting smaller as I go, not watch the number in the right hand corner getting bigger.

But then I think about those goats falling over and the seas rushing in... and there are still goats around today. Not the same goats, but goats nonetheless.

Footnote - I fully realize that Pangaea breaking up wasn't directly responsible for the wheel and fire. Just clarifying.

Thursday, September 15, 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 get a lot of reactions to my Tweets and FB posts. People seem to think my life is interesting - it's really not, I just make it sound that way. For instance last week I chased the Goodyear blimp and dropped my cell into a vat of boiling water. All true. Is it amazing or interesting? No, not really. I think it's human nature to chase blimps, and dropping things is a constant. The boiling water comes as a by-blow of canning tomatoes. It's the dichotomy of the two things when placed side by side that makes me sound fun :)

2) So in today's world we've got genetically modified foods like tomatoes that ripen more quickly and stay firm longer and corn that can defend itself against pests. So why hasn't anyone made lawn grass that only grows to a certain length?

3) Hey ladies - why the hell do we open our mouths while we put mascara on? What's up with that? Have you ever tried NOT to open your mouth when putting mascara on? Not possible. It's like a biological imperative.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday WOLF

I'm up over on From the Write Angle with a little insight on how being a bitch can be bad for you. So check that out, because we all need to learn how to wrangle with Inner Bitch and come out on top.

Also - my AgentQueryConnect buddy Michele Simkins is offering a free service to you writerly types that happen to be botanically challenged. Got a plant question? Need something poisonous but pretty? Does lavender grow in the woods, no matter how badly your plot needs it to? Ask her, she knows!

And - another AQ buddy is running a contest on her blog. A.M. Supinger who has guest posted before, has a fun challenge for you on her blog: write a 1k or less story that takes place entirely underwater. Characters can't break the surface or come up for air. If you can do this, and do it well, you might just win yourself a nice ol' stack of books. Check it out!

I've got another fun idiom for you today. Ever tell someone who is getting overly excited or irritated to keep their shirt on? If you're like me, you then instantly wondered why the hell you just said that, because obviously they're not going to start spontaneously disrobing.

Turns out, "Keep your shirt on," is an American saying used to tell someone to calm down, stemming from the fact that a long time ago people only had a few changes of clothes, if any at all. When a man was about to get into a fight, he would take off his shirt so that it wouldn't be ripped or stained. If someone was trying to stop a fight in the hopes that it could be still be settled with words, they told the would-be fighters to "keep their shirts on."

So my brawlers, remain decent. Remember, we're writers. Surely we've got something to say that can settle it before we strip down.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kendare Blake's SHIT!

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.

Are you jealous of this cover?
I am.
Todays guest is my agency sister - Kendare Blake! Kendare (like me) is represented by Adrianna Ranta of Wolf Literary. Her book, ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD features Cas Lowood a teen who has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead. When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life. 

BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
KB: I knew a lot, and a little. I’d been out after agents for what seemed like forever, and I’d also been on sub to editors with my small press novel, SLEEPWALK SOCIETY, so I had an inkling what I was in for. But it wasn’t until I was on sub with ANNA that I started hanging out in the editor submission boards and really blog-stalking submission posts. 

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
KB: It surprised me just how many people are involved in the process. It makes sense and everything, but at the start you still have this vision in your head of an editor in a three-piece chewing a cigar, reading and saying something like, “hot dog!” and getting right on the phone to your agent. But there are committees. And meetings. And sometimes more committees and more meetings.

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
KB: Oh I stalked like mad. As much as was legal. I was the silent shadow. In fact, I really challenge anyone out on sub to restrain themselves from taking even a tiny peek. It’s not a bad idea, after all. It can give you an idea about what kind of books they like, make you even more excited to work with them. But it’s an individual choice.

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
KB: Gad, I think I’ve blocked this out. It feels like it all happened in no time, but I think it was at least a month before we started getting interest and then another few weeks of the manuscript being in meetings and such.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
KB: The best way? I don’t even know of A way. But hanging with friends doesn’t hurt. Talking about it moderately and then shoving it completely into a dark corner! I made ridiculous bargains with myself. I said if the book sold, then I had to do something that I really didn’t want to do. That way, if the book didn’t sell, I could say, “well, at least I don’t have to do that really unpleasant thing.” But that wouldn’t have eased the blow. Not really. I hear booze and chocolate helps, if you’re of age.

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
KB: I’d gotten used to query rejections, so editorial rejections hurt worse at that point. Like the query rejections hurt at the start. There was a definite feeling of, “I’m going to get just this close, and no closer. Not ever. I’m such a raging loser! What do I have to do? Curses! Why, god?! WHY?!!” Okay, not so dramatic as the end there.
But rejections always suck. No matter what stage of the game you’re at. I’m sure I’m going to get a lot more rejections, on a lot more projects. And they’ll all suck just as bad as the first. If not worse. Ah yes, the SHIT doesn’t go away.

BBC: If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?
KB: We waited to see if the feedback was consistent. If it was, we’d consider revising. But as it happened, it really wasn’t, so I got to skirt that part. Didn’t process it at all.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
KB: If only Adriann would communicate via smoke signal. We should ask her. But no, she called, and it was…great. Amazing. All the yay words in the world don’t describe it. It lasted about an hour before the worry set in. But then it came back several times after that.

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
KB: I didn’t have to wait. But I can’t imagine those who have to. That would be hard! But, sort of a giddy, wonderful kind of hard.

A HUGE thanks from me to Kendare for doing the SHIT for me today - ANNA was *just* released so she's in a whirlwind. I've got my copy, but I'm not giving it away. Sorry my friends, you're going to have to get your own! :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

A BOA with Deirdre from A Storybook World

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.

Today's guest is Deirdra Eden Coppel from A Storybook World. Deirdra's specialty is paranormal that delves into documented historical phenomenon and natural disasters of biblical proportions. Her goal in writing is to saturate her books with intrigue, mystery, romance and plot twists that will keep her readers in suspense. She wants to see fingerprints on the front and back covers where readers have gripped the novel with white knuckles. Deirdra also creates e-book animation and other enhanced multi-media content for digital books.


BBC:  So you run an excellent blog over at A Storybook World. What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?
DEC: I love helping authors and I figured if I was going to invest the amount of time I needed to in a blog I was going to blog about something I like.

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?
DEC: They go hand in hand. It doesn’t matter how good of a book you write, if you can’t market or have an online presence you are not going to be as successful.

BBC: You seem to work on many projects at a time, both writing and art-related. How do you balance your To-Do list?
DEC: When I organize my To-Do list I separate the bad from the good, and then I separate the good from the best. I only worry about the best and everything falls into place.

BBC: Do you think blogging is a helpful self-marketing tool?
DEC: Yes, but you really have to work on it and you have to use other tools of promotion as well.

BBC: What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?
DEC: Get with a writer’s group. Learn to be a public speaker and get out there. Go to schools, church groups or any where your target audience is and get to work.

BBC: What is your genre, and what led you to it? Does your genre influence the style of your blog?
DEC: I write fantasy. Fantasy is a great teaching tool. It can be so allegoric in nature that the story can apply to many types of people and appeal to their situation.

BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?
DEC: Fight for your dreams! You can do it! Roll up your sleeves and get to work. And remember, if we are going to be successful we must help each other.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

So What Do You Do?

It's a fair question, and one that comes up often in the social world.

As writers, we're forced into an awkward corner when this inevitable moment comes. Some less than stellar snippets from BBC's life:

Person: So what do you do?
BBC: I'm a writer.
Person: Oh really? What have you written? Anything I'd know?
BBC: No, I'm not published yet.
Person: Okay, so you sorta just write on the side.
BBC: Uh... yeah, sure.
Person: Well good for you, it's nice to have a goal.
*awkward moment where we each stare at our drinks and then pretend to see someone we know*

Person #2: So what do you do?
BBC: I'm a writer *recalls former conversation* And a librarian.
Person #2: I've never been a reader.
*apparently this makes me a person of no consequence whatsoever to them*

Person #3: So what do you do?
BBC: I'm a writer and-
Person #3: *clutches BBC madly* OMG! Me TOO!!! We should totally get together sometime, I'd love to read your stuff, maybe we should meet in a coffeehouse, we can drink coffee and read and write together! That would be soooo much fun. I write erotic gay vampire epic poetry - what do you write?
BBC: Uh... I'm working on a non-fiction book about blue whales.

Person #4: So what do you do?
BBC: I kill people for money.

Anyway, you get the point, and we've all been there. Telling someone you're a writer means opening yourself up to the inevitable question of whether or not you are published. And somehow, not being published demotes your dream career to a hobby.

Being met with total disinterest is almost preferable to the OMG! response, depending on varying factors. I find myself more verbally capable of handling the non-reader as opposed to the overly-effusive fellow writer, who (in all honesty) may or may not suck. You never know. I could've just dissed the next James Joyce.

How do you answer the question?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A BBCHAT Follow-Up With Joanna Volpe and Insane Baboons

I've had more than a few followers contact me about the Joanna Volpe BBCHAT, wanting to know the story behind the true fact that baboons created over $500 in damage to her car. Luckily for everyone, Joanna's a sport and agreed to share the tale!

So, it was about 8 years ago, at Six Flags, NJ. I went with a big group of friends from college--we had at least 6 cars with us. And we had gotten one of those specials where the Safari comes with the package for free. So we decided to drive through. At the time I drove an old, 1993 Grand Marquis. Pretty sturdy car, no?

The safari was going great--our windshield got licked by a giraffe, the ostriches ran along side us. All fun and good. Then we came to the baboon territory. Now, in the essence of full disclosure, there was a sign that gave us the option to by-pass this section. It also warned us not to enter if you had a convertible top. That is all I remember as far as warnings go. And I had a Grand Marquis. It was practically a police car, and those cars are built well. Plus, I am one for adventure. So I entered.

And so did the other 5 cars in my group.

I must admit. I did not get the brunt of the damage. One of our friend's cars literally got STRIPPED. I'm talking headlights bashed out. Siding stripped off. Antennae's yanked out and tossed to the ground.  These baboons were INSANE.

On my car, I thought they were so freaking cute, hanging from my mirrors...that is...until they RIPPED THE MIRROR off. And then the other. And then went after the antennae.

I didn't even see it coming.

I was in the car with one other girl, and we actually started crying because baboons were all over the car.  In front of it, on the hood and trunk. Hanging from the sides. I was afraid of running one over, and I sat there as they tore my car apart. One mother baboon even strategically placed her BABY on the ground just a couple of yards in front of me. It was like she KNEW it would stop me from driving.

Damn the baboons.

In the car next to us was a group of guy friends, and they watched it happen. Then one brave and chivalrous fellow jumped out of his car and attempted to salvage one of my mirrors. (Which, as I look back, was *seriously* dangerous.) Right before the baboon let it up, it punched the mirror right in the center, forming that star-effect on the glass. So much for that.

Then, very suddenly, they were gone. We looked behind us and they were attacking a minivan with a poor family inside. But the baby baboon had been picked up (and probably strategically placed in front of the minivan), and we knew it was then or never. So we floored it.

And I heard this deep, hollow sound from top of my car to the trunk like Da-dun, da-dun, da-dun. Two freaking baboons were still there and had rolled off. And they were fine. They just jumped right up and joined the mini-van frenzy behind us.

When we left the safari, all 6 cars pulled up next to one another in the parking lot. We all got out, and looked slightly pale, with mouths hanging open. We surveyed the damage. And there was a LOT.  Then someone ran and got a Six Flags employee. He came over and advised that we "Check that pile over there."

We looked "over there" and there was indeed a pile. In fact, there were 3 or 4 piles. Of car parts.

They gave us each a couple for 10% off to return.

Moral of the Story: Baboons are not to be trusted with cars.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Debut Author Anne Brown's Submission Journey

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 guest is Anne Brown who is represented by Jacqueline Flynn of JoĆ«lle Delbourgo Associates, Inc. Her debut YA novel focuses on Calder White, the only brother in a dysfunctional family of murderous mermaids beneath the waters of Lake Superior. The sisters are obsessed with killing Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death. To lure Hancock onto the lake, the mermaids charge Calder with the task of seducing the man's daughter, seventeen-year-old Lily. LIES BENEATH will be published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, in June 2012.

BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
AB: Very little. I had been all consumed with the process of getting an agent and never allowed myself to think too far ahead. Getting an agent took me a couple years to accomplish. Part of my problem was that I have a MG/YA voice, and I was trying to write adult, literary fiction. Once I figured out what I was best at, it didn’t take too much longer to find an agent who liked a MG manuscript I wrote (my third novel). I felt like “Mission Accomplished!” Once an agent liked me, getting a publishing house to buy the book had to be a piece of cake, right? Not so much.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
AB: I was pretty surprised by how slow the publishing process works in general. Actually, I’m still surprised by it. I’m a “get it done yesterday” kind of person. So it was hard for me to get used to the weeks (if not months) that would go by between submission and response.

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
AB: I had no idea who had my manuscript. I suppose I could have asked my agent, but honestly it never occurred to me. Even if I knew who they were, and researched them, I’m not sure what I would have done with that information. It probably would have turned me into a cyber stalker--checking their tweets to see if they mentioned any good manuscripts they were reading... Seriously, I’m neurotic enough. It’s a good thing I stayed in the dark.

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
AB: We started submitting my MG manuscript in September or October 2010 to maybe 15 different editors. Everyone weighed in by January 2011. Of course, a whole bunch of holidays fell during that time period, so it might not have taken so long if, say, I’d been submitting in the spring.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
AB: Write something new! (More on that below!)

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
AB: I absolutely had rejections. I was not prepared for that. I was not prepared for every single editor to reject my MG manuscript! Without exception, the response was “I love this, but...” But it’s too character driven for the audience; But it’s too “quiet;” But the economy. My agent said, “I disagree with them, but that and a dollar won’t get you a cup of coffee.”
I think rejections of your manuscript are (emotionally) way worse than rejections of your query. With a query you can always say, “So I’m terrible at writing queries. If they only took the time to read my story, they’d know what they were missing.” But when they read your novel and still say no...ouch. You’ve pretty much run out of excuses. It’s like being a proud new parent and someone telling you your baby’s ugly.

BBC: If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?
AB: I didn’t get a lot of detailed feedback (other than that mentioned above), but whatever it is, you have to take an editor’s feedback seriously. Beta readers will react the way a reader will, but editors understand the market. At the end of the day, you’re selling a product and the only thing that matters is whether the market will support it. Writing is an art when you’re at your keyboard. It’s a business once the manuscript leaves your hands.
By the time I’d received the last feedback (and rejection) on my MG manuscript (January 25, 2011), I was ready to submit my fourth novel--this time a YA novel about a dysfunctional family of murderous mermaids in Lake Superior.
That novel, LIES BENEATH, sold on February 1, 2011 (just six days later), to Random House (Delacorte Press) in a two book deal--interestingly, to an editor who had rejected my previous MG manuscript. So you see, you just have to keep pushing forward regardless of what happens.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
AB: My agent, Jacquie Flynn of Joelle Delbourgo, called me. I was at work and trying not to freak out on the phone. I felt like I was under water, trying to take notes on something I could barely hear. Because Delacorte acted so quickly, Jacquie and I talked a few times over the course of the day about the other editors who were rushing to read it and see if they could bid in. There was more talk with Delacorte, too, about the advance. All in all, my memory of that day is kind of blurry.

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: No. Jacquie told me I could announce it that same day. I called my critique partner first. Then my husband and my parents. Then I announced it on Twitter and Facebook. That night I took the family out for dinner and proceeded to call everyone I’d ever met in my entire life. Now, seven months later, I still feel a little giddy--like I’m riding through my day in a soap bubble, hoping it doesn’t pop.
Oh...and working on something new. Always working on something new!