Monday, October 31, 2011

Fantastic Contests Alert and Me, Located Elsewhere

Steph from Maybe Genius is holding a fantastic contest this month! If you're interested in awesome YA books that are signed by the authors that is...

AND you get a critique from Steph herself if you're a winner!

Plus, if you feel like mosey-ing over to Authoress' blog today, she's got the details up for submitting to her totally awesome Baker's Dozen agent contest. Definitely check that out - I was a Baker's Dozen contestant last year, and while it wasn't what landed me an agent, I did get requests out of it and more importantly - a much needed writer's-self-esteem boost.

And I'm blogging over in Kelsey Sutton's territory today. It's well thought-out territory, the kind where messy paws such as mine should fear to tread. She's a more organized kitty than me, so definitely hit up her writing process posts, and while you're there check out my thoughts on the query process and how to keep from being stuck as long as I was.

Lost In Translation

Hello, Halloween. I'm glad you're here.

There's nothing better than a holiday that allows you to dress up and play pretend. Everyone else is doing it, so it's the one day of the year that you can be a kook and it's socially acceptable. Try putting on your costume any other time.

No seriously, try it.

Anyway, the chintzy decorations and random table toppers are out full force at chez-BBC and this year brought an extra something special to the table. Literally.


What the hell does this even mean? Without starting a conversation about outsourcing, I'll tell you that I got smart and flipped over the plate. It's made in China, and I'm guessing it's supposed to say "Boo!"

I find this kind of thing happens in writing as well, and I don't mean in the linguistic sense.

A lot of the time, we writers know what we're trying to say, but it's not getting across in our text. Sure, we might think our character is a suave ladies-man because we see him that way, but every one of our beta readers is saying, "Ewww, he's a creep."

Your brain might be saying "Boo!" but your book says "Scare!"

Listen to your betas, they are wise. Even if you don't particularly like your betas, or have respect for their writing skills, remember what they primarily are - readers. They are a prototype of the average person you want to put your book in front of.

And if the betas are scratching their heads, your reader will be too.

As a side note, I've been running around yelling "Scare!" at people after jumping out from corners all day. Trust me, not the same effect.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Getting To Know You, Getting To Hope You Like Me

I have quite a few new followers so I thought I'd do one of those pathetic ice-breaker things that most social gatherings require in order to loosen the tension.

Except that when BBC answers them, it actually tends to ratchet up the tension as those in my close proximity quickly realize that I'm not quite right.

The questions:

Q: What one book would you take with you to a deserted island?
A: I choose to eat puffer fish and die.

Q: What three historical figures living or dead do you want to have dinner with?
A: 1) Jack the Ripper, 'cause I wanna know who the bastard is.
     2) Julius Caesar. He was ridiculously intelligent and charismatic, a reader, a writer, a soldier, and by all accounts, pretty damn hot. Those guys only come along once in a millenia, and I was born in the wrong one.
     3) One of my ancestors, Delilah. In 1825 her father appointed her the executor of his will, even though he had two adult sons and she was a young, unmarried woman. That alone tells me she must've been something. But on top of that, her son later become one of only eight people to have ever been lynched in Ohio. What'd he do?

He was an axe murderer :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Saturday Slash

So, I opened up myself to critiquing queries, and quite a few of you said - "Yes! Me! I love it when other people jam their grimy fingers into my carefully polished words!"

OK - my hands aren't actually grimy, but I don't make any promises about the cleanliness of my editing tool. Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

And a little bit of BBC literary info. We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox. Also, at the end, I'm going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author's brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for our third brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in purple.

Clementine Marvel, age sixteen, would give almost anything for a shot at life in Sector One. Overall, good hook. Right off we know our genre (YA SF) and that there is an ever-present threat in C's life. The only nits I have are some very minor rephrasing. I would write, "Sixteen year old Clementine..." and I'd also strike "almost." No real reason for either of those other than pacing and beat.

In this far-underground strike "far" as unnecessary. Also the word "this" is very specific yet we don't have a name for her colony other than "far-underground." I see that the generic name (Sector Five) comes up later, but here you have a chance for better phrasing and a quick information drop that would suit query writing. My take: "It is possible to escape the underground colony of Section Five and become more than..." colony of her planet, there is a chance to be more than an identification number. There is technology in development like liquid nutrition to keep Clementine from ever feeling hunger. I'm assuming these awesome new technologies are only available to Sector One inhabitants? I'd make that clear, as the way the query is arranged I feel like we're still in Sector Five. There are serum injections to keep her illness-free, if she ignores the side effects. Give me a side effect example here, and you can probably drop the word "serum." Not strictly necessary, just an observation. Also, the repetitive "There is, there are," may be a stylistic choice, but it feels echo-y. I'd find a better way to intro your sentences with smoother re-phrasing.

Most importantly, there is safety. Nice transition. Safety from Security Officials who roam Sector Five's streets with metal sticks drop the "with metal sticks" for phrasing and beat, like the one who gave Clementine her scar. Safety from a poisonous substance secreted by the moon that floats too strike "too"near the planet should this be planet's? surface. A shield keeps most of it out, but every now and then some Moonshine gets through and people die. Nice - I feel like the stylistic echo here of "safety" works well, but I wouldn't use it in tandem with the "there is / are" echoes from the first para. I'd go with the "safety" echoes, as I feel they are stronger, and work on re-writing that first para. I also would like to know how they die. How does Moonshine kill? Do they die from some kind of ultraviolet ray or is this more traditional and they slip into an alcoholic coma?

When Clementine wins a spot as an Extraction to Sector One, she saves herself from that life. From Moonshine. I want to know how she managed that. Even a small sentence will do it, such as, "...wins an Extraction spot by proving she can spit forty feet..." I'd strike the "From Moonshine."

She doesn't realize it will cost her her mind. Nice sinker. BBC like.

Overall, this is pretty strong. We know we're in a SF world where the very environment is threatening it's inhabitants and our MC has a chance to get out - but I'd like to know what she has to do to get there. Once she gets to this "haven" of Sector One she discovers it's not all she had hoped and is faced with a new threat. I like it! Some minor rephrasing and I think you're ready to get out there!

How about it, friends? Let our valiant Slash victim know what you think!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Book Talk - DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor is, quite simply, an incredibly talented writer. If she wrote a short story about someone eating a ham sandwich I would read it. I became hooked on Laini Taylor after picking up LIPS TOUCH THREE TIMES and my fascination continues. DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE is riveting in a way that makes you forget that you have to pee by page 25, and ignore the warm puddle around you on page 200.

It is primarily a love story, which isn't up BBC's alley. But good writing is. Our main character, Karou, whose tresses are naturally an unlikely shade of peacock blue, is an art student in Prague who keeps the truth of her family from her fellow students. She was raised by a group of chimaera - creatures formed by an amalgamation of animal (and occasionally human) parts. Her monster family is kind and gentle, though imposing, and she was raised in a dusty shop where the aptly named hunters come to trade the teeth of their victims for wishes. Karou is an experienced teeth-gatherer, and she runs errands for her monstrous family in the real world, collecting 300lb elephant tusks at underground auctions in Paris, and returning home to her flat in Prague the same evening by way of the magical door of the shop that can take her wherever she needs to be - as long as someone is on the other side to open it.

Although entirely acclimated and terribly attached to her non-human family, Karou has struggled with a pervading sense of wrongness her entire life, as if she were meant to be leading another life somewhere else. But the ethereal feelings slip away from her whenever she tries to pin them down. Despite her yearning to know the truth of her origins and the mysterious hamsa tattoos on her palms, her chimaera family will forever remain silent on both topics.

But Karou is not the oddest creature prowling the streets of Prague. Alarmingly beautiful people are appearing all over the world, marking doorways with black handprints and then disappearing. The news is ablaze with talk of angels, and when Karou crosses paths with a particularly handsome one, her past begins to unravel.

Thursday, October 27, 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) Doesn't the phrase "trained assassin" imply that there is such a thing as an "untrained assassin?"

2) If humans didn't need sleep, we could be vastly more productive. I'm cheated of hours and hours of accomplishments because of a biological imperative. I don't mind blinking and breathing, but sleeping... man, you I've got issues with.

3) I seem to only have impulse control Monday through Wednesday. Everything else is a crapshoot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

So What Do You Do (All Day)?

I'm a librarian.

When I share that a lot of people are like, "Wow! I would love to just sit in the peace and quiet and read all day!" Well hell, I would too! But guess what - that has zero bearing on what I actually do. Just like when I posted earlier about answering the question "So what do you do?" as a writer, I often fend off misconceptions about my 40/wk, usually posed in the slightly offensive, "So what do you do... all day?" I thought I'd share a little bit more of BBCLand and let you in on what I do - all day. And please bear in mind, I'm not complaining. I love my job, and I thrive on chaos.

Technically, we're not librarians anymore - we're Media Specialists (but I much prefer librarian, even if the term is misleading). Why is it misleading? Because we're not just in charge of books. I also have four mobile labs full of laptops (roughly 60 iBooks and 50 Macbooks) and an adjoining physical computer lab (25 eMacs) that the District Librarian and myself are in charge of. Also cameras, projectors, SMARTboards, overheads... anything technology related for the classroom is under our umbrella.

Earlier I showed you my desk. Now I need to process those books, i.e. turn them into library books, which means they need to be stamped, barcoded, date due slipped, spine call stickered, spine genre stickered (if appropriate) covered (dustjackets for hardcovers, Contac paper for paperbacks) and entered into our circulation system. Also, because of the vast age difference between our patrons we have some books that are totally appropriate for 18 year olds that the parents of 7th graders might not want their wee ones reading. So I do a visual check on all our new books for sex, drugs and language, and let the DL (District Librarian) in on what titles we need to be cautious with and which ones are cool across the board.

Yes. I spend my days searching for sex and drugs.

This is supposed to be my whole morning - getting the new books into the hands of the kids who keep peeking their heads into my office because they spotted the big shiny stacks of new books and they want them, they want them NOW! And that's awesome. I'll get those done fast as I can so that I can fulfill what I believe to be my primary duty as a librarian - giving books to children.

The class schedule shows that we don't have any full classes scheduled to come down so I should be able to get that done, right? First, I've got to get technology into the hands of the teachers who have signed up for it in their classrooms for the day. Check.

Now I've got a few kids who have wandered in to do some work and apparently someone thought it would be really, really funny to take Microsoft Word off of one of the Macbooks. So I need to address that. Another student is having a Word issue (there's no cursor), so I need to put Word on the first laptop and reinstall on the second. OK - create pile of Macbooks that need assistance, give new computers that are hopefully issue free to kids who are desperately trying to get their work done.

Phone rings. I can't find it behind my pile of to-be-processed books and I accidentally knock about 30 hardcovers onto the floor. It makes a loud noise. Everyone in the library comes over to see what BBC did this time. I find the phone and a teacher needs some tech assistance. I put on my tech-cape and let the DL know I'm leaving to fix a problem. Before I leave, I start the reinstall on Word so that it's working while I'm gone. A kid stops me on the way out the door because someone has saved their typed paper as the template on Word so that when a different user wants to open a new blank document, they get someone else's paper. Very funny. Fix that.

Almost out the door and another student stops me because someone changed the color scheme on a laptop to White on Black instead of Black on White. Very funny. Fix that.

Address classroom issue, get back to library and have a kid who needs help because they wrote their paper at home on a PC and we only have Macs here. I show them the NeoOffice program on the laptop that can read it anyway. Check back in on the reinstalled Word and... nope, still no cursor. Put it on pile to go to IT guy.

Phone rings. I narrowly avoid knocking over second pile of hardcovers (have yet to pick up the 30 still on the floor). The office needs my list of library fines for the grading period. I'll get to that.

Set down to check work email before printing those fines, turns out we had some kids slip out of the library early in order to get to lunch first yesterday. Doesn't help that our library is built so that the circ desk is not in direct visual line with either of our two entrances and exits. Also, circ desk is bolted to the floor, just FYI. Check - let the DL know that we need to be more vigilant with our hungrier patrons.

Pick hardcovers up off floor of office, hoping to process at least one of them sometime soon. A kid calling for "Hey Miss Liberry Lady" apparently needs me. He's looking for a specific series that he read a few years ago and wants to get back into but can't remember the name, author, or even what the cover looks like. I sympathize, so he gives me a 60 second plot overview and I pull out THE LAST APPRENTICE series. Kid gets excited and makes exclamations.

This is why I do my job.

Back to office, attempt to process books. Make a call sticker for EVERY BONE TELLS A STORY, put down the Dewey number and last three letters of the primary author’s last name (930 Rub), then look at the cover and say under my breath, “Aye, there’s the rub.” Yell out to DL at circ desk, “Hey I just made a Shakespeare joke!”

Phone rings. DL gets it (note - she knocks nothing over). A class needs to use a specific online program in our adjoining lab that can only be run using Firefox. Of course, the lab doesn't have Firefox. Make note: download Firebox to the entire lab. Will do that... sometime. Reminder to self - still need to print fines and fees list for office. Also need to get non-functioning laptops to IT guy.

Suddenly it's the daily free period time and we have 55 students in the library. Yes, I counted. There are three different projects due today and everyone is panicked, because of course, they aren't finished. Fending off questions in a flurry while both the DL and I are moving around the room attempting to help people:

Q: This won't read my file! A: Try using NeoOffice
Q: This laptop won't print! A: Turn on the airport.
Q: Do you have the sign out sheets from last Wednesday? I don't know which laptop I used. A: Yes, here you go.
Q: What's the next title in this series? A: (Insert title answer here).
Q: Has the sequel to this come out yet? A: No, it comes out (insert release date here)
Q: Has your book been published yet? A: No. Very funny.
Q: What's for lunch today? A: I'm Miss Liberry Lady, not Miss Cafeteria Person.
Q: Do I have a fine? A: Ask the office - no WAIT! I didn't do that yet.....
Q: The printer's out of paper. A: OK. Check.
Q: The printer's out of toner. A: Well, crap.
Q: *lots of jumping from five different people* OMG! What're we gonna do!?? What're we gonna do?!?! My paper is due like NEXT PERIOD!!! A: I will go get toner, everyone chill.

Walking past a table full of boys who suddenly exclaim, "Dude!! OMG!!" I say, "When guys do that either someone farted or you're looking at porn, so do I need to come over there or not?" T-shirts go up over noses but there's also blushing involved so I'm unclear on which it is and need to go get the toner anyway. Get the toner. Returning to library, walk in the door, gaggle of kids still jumping up and down next to the printer. I'm almost to them when a sweet kid asks:

Q: Can you recommend a good book?"
A: I'd love to. In fact, I think that's my primary job, but I just can't right now. I'll be with you like ASAP, k?

Attend to toner, quick visual check - all 55 people seem to be working. Assist nice kid finding good book, help the DL manage stream of check in / check out traffic, noise level is rising, glances up at clock see that the bell is about to ring for lunch. I tear myself away from circ desk and hear the door creaking, so I scream, "Don't leave yet! HEY! The bell didn't RING!!"

Doors opens and closes. Bell rings. Very funny.

50 or so people mass exit, still have a handful wanting books, book recommendations, needing checked out. I have to pee, but that doesn't matter.

I eat in my office for lunch, check email. No, my book is not published yet. Very funny.

DL leaves the library for the day to fulfill her other duties - teaching English classes. I am now cemented at the circ desk to manage traffic and won't be back in my office until the next morning to process books. Phone rings. A teacher needs good books about Egyptian history pulled. Check.

Student comes in with note from teacher who needs career assessment materials. Check.

Print fees and fines list. Check.

Attempt to download Firefox on 24 computers in lab but am constantly interrupted by circulation desk traffic flow. Quite alright, I like giving books to people.

Begin shelving some of the nearly 100 books on the cart. Find note left on fiction stack (H - Mc) that informs me "Reading Boks is Gay." Very funny. No idea what a "bok" is or how it can compel you to become a homosexual.

Save note for entertainment value, tape it to my wall above my desk, wistfully touching stack of yet unprocessed books as I walk back out to circ desk.

Go through the 25 Macbooks in the cart that is open to make sure they're 1) turned off 2) in the right slot 3) plugged in. Approximately five of them are all three. Very funny. Attend to that.

Afternoon announcements come on. The day is pretty much over. I check our stats on the circ computer and we had 369 individual transactions today. That's pure library traffic - check ins/outs, renewals and hold requests. Keep in mind that traffic was continually in and out while everything else that I enumerated was going on. Also realize that throughout this entire day the DL was distributing her time between the circ desk and her own office while she attempted to place a huge new book order, attend to the individual needs of kids I never got to, plus communicate with and manage the other two libraries in our district.

I did a lot of different things today - but you'll notice there's one thing I didn't do:

Sit in the peace and quiet and read.

Oh, I never did pee, either.

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 the other day I referred to someone as my chum. Yeah, it's not a word that gets tossed out there a lot, but I enjoy my oddness and kind of revel in my vocabulary. After that had slipped out, my random brain said, "Hey, wait a minute - isn't that also what you call...."

And yes, it is. So here my friends are two standard definitions of chum:

1. A close friend
2. Chopped fish, fish fluids, and other material thrown overboard as angling bait

Assuming that you would never substitute one for the other, I did a little digging.

The word chum as used in the first instance popped up in the 17th century, as slang for a roommate. It's a clipped form of "chamber mate."

The origin of the second instance (use of dead small fish and fish parts to attract larger fish) is most likely from the use of a specific type of Pacific Northwest salmon called chum Salmon.

But the two are not related at all, alas. I was so hoping for some great story about someone chopping up their roommate and making them sleep with the fishes.

How about it? Got something you want to know more about? Ask me!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Heart My Job

And it's not just because it's the only thing between me and actually enacting my survival skills.

This is what my desk looks like today:

Book Talk - BETWEEN THE SEA & SKY by Jaclyn Dolamore

I freely admit that I am not the biggest fan of romances. The kids in my library know the drill: if you want a romance recommendation ask the District Librarian, if you're looking for the latest SF with scenes that *might* make you vomit, ask BBC.

That being said, I'll read anything Jaclyn Dolamore writes, and I was lucky enough to get an ARC of BETWEEN THE SEA & SKY. While romance might not be my thing, good writing, character development, and a deft touch are definitely in my realm, and I snuggled in rather happily for the one sitting breeze-through that was this book.

Esmerine is a mermaid who is about to be inducted as a siren - the highest honor that can be bestowed upon their kind. Her older sister, Dosinia took the siren plunge a few years before, and proudly wears her gold belt as proof. It is a siren's duty to collect the merpeople's due from trading ships, and they spend their days on the surface rocks. Only certain mermaids have the calling to be a siren, but with it comes the curse of curiosity. Sirens have a history of being lured by human men to the shore, where their belts are stolen from them and they are lost to the sea forever, chained to the land by the man who possesses their belt. Despite many horror stories of human treachery, and a strict pledge all sirens take upon their induction, sirens have a habit of disappearing.

Esmerine is determined to be a good siren, despite the misgivings she feels as she says the words of her vow. Her childhood friendship with the boy Alandare - one of the winged Fandarsee people - is still a source of amusement among her fellow mermaids, as are her interests that go beyond combing her hair. Though Alandare and their long conversations still haunt her dreams, Esmerine takes the siren vow.

The next morning Dosinia is gone, and Esmerine fears that curiosity has led her sister to be entrapped by a human. Esmerine leaves the ocean behind her, trading her fins for legs in order to find her sister. If Dosinia's belt can recovered, they can return to the sea and remain sirens together - forever.  But there are more people in the city than Esmerine dreamed, and every step is the torturous price that mermaids pay for splitting their fin.

When she finds Alandare's bookstore and he offers his assistance, Esmerine is drawn deeper into her questioning of the mermaid life. As her week ashore passes quickly, Esmerine wonders if she'll have the heart to take Dosinia from her human husband, and if she'll have the willpower to return herself.

Monday, October 24, 2011

An SAT with AUDITION Author Stasia Kehoe

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. Today's guest is Stasia Kehoe, author of AUDITION which was released by Viking on October 12, 2011.

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

Writing Process
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?
SK: Both!  I don’t write formal outlines but I do tend to keep a lot of notes.  I jot character descriptions, snippets of dialogue, ideas for backstory or plot twists in notebooks or on scraps of paper.  Then, I write very much pantster-style, constantly asking “and then what happens?” Still, I am very informed by my notes and all the thinking I’ve been doing.

BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
SK: Oh gosh.  It depends on how you look at it.  The idea-marinating, note-keeping phase can last for ages.  The first-draft probably takes several months.  Revision is unpredictable.  Sometimes it’s quick; other times I pretty much rewrite the whole novel.

BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
SK: As much as I feel drawn to the “slutty new idea” when in the throes of revision or the mushy middle of a manuscript, I have learned that working through one project at a time yields the best results!

BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
SK: I started writing in eighth grade and I was so concerned about getting my angsty problems onto paper that I didn’t really think of it as writing—so no fears.  The fears come later—thinking about whether your next book should be similar and totally different and, honestly (even though you try not to look too much), there are moments when you feel yourself kind of influenced by how readers respond to your work.

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
SK: Oooh.  Not telling.  Let’s just say, a lot.

BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
SK: I think the more you write, the more you have a sense of your style and if you’re on the right track.  I recently heard author Blake Nelson say that one of the joys of being a full-time writer was having the luxury of scrapping things you’ve started.  Plenty of time to say “this doesn’t work, I’ll go another way.”

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 
SK: My agent is the lovely Catherine Drayton who requested my full manuscript from a query letter I sent her.  I should mention that, before querying agents, I had gotten some interest from a fabulous editor.  Another agent I met at a conference advised that I note this in my queries, which I did.

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent? 
SK: Okay, you’re going to hate me.  I sent eight queries and landed an agent in a week, selecting from multiple offers of representation.  THEN AGAIN, I am 44 years old and this is my first published novel.  So, I guess you could say the whole agent-landing process took me thirty years plus seven days.

BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
SK: Go to conferences.  Take writing classes.  Study the art of query-writing but remember that the most important thing is the manuscript.  Some agents don’t even look at queries because they feel that the work should sell itself.  So, if you’re a lousy query-writer, seek out agents who don’t really care that much (you’ll probably connect with them better anyway) and then write a quick, clean query and get going!

On Being Published:
BBC: How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
SK: The book is on sale in two days but people have been Tweeting me pix of it on shelves at Books-a-Million or emailing to tell me that Amazon has said it’s on the way.  It feels surreal.

BBC: How much input do you have on cover art?
SK: Probably about as much as most debut authors ☺

BBC: What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
SK: About the publishing process? Well, I’ve worked in publishing for a long time—for Random House, Simon & Schuster, and others—so I had a pretty clear picture of the game before we started.  I guess the thing that has surprised me the most is that I’m not as tough as I thought I was, personally.

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter?
SK: I do a TON of my own marketing.  I have a blog www.swardkehoe.blogspot.com; a website www.stasiawardkehoe.com; a book tour website www.stagesonpages.com; a Facebook page Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe; and I’m on Twitter @swkehoe.  I’m doing a month-long blog tour and organizing a live book tour for a group of 12 authors who write about the performing arts.

BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
SK: Ahhh, that inimitable word: platform.  Not sure what it even means.  I mean, technically, I do but how to translate that into what writers should do…?  I started my blog years before my book deal and I’m grateful that I had some time to kind of find my blogging stride.  I think that before you are published the best thing to do is to develop a virtual presence that feels comfortable, natural.  If you love Dr. Who, or eating out, or writing silly haikus, blog about that and some book stuff, too.  Be yourself because when the journey from deal to publication gets rolling, you’ll have to answer so many questions, write so much content, that it’s really nice if you’ve already found an identity comfort zone for your virtual life.

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?
SK: Yes, I definitely think that social media has helped build awareness about AUDITION.  It’s also connected me to lots of amazing writers and bloggers with such passion for YA literature.  Both great things!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Saturday Slash

So, I opened up myself to critiquing queries, and quite a few of you said - "Yes! Me! I love it when other people jam their grimy fingers into my carefully polished words!"

OK - my hands aren't actually grimy, but I don't make any promises about the cleanliness of my editing tool. Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

And a little bit of BBC literary info. We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox. Also, at the end, I'm going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author's brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for our second brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in purple.

Taken to the hall of the dark wizard Feldon – Taken by who? Is this a situation where she has some sort of special power and Feldon needs it? Is she special? Also, the dash here before our MC's name isn't working. The whole dynamic of this hook sentence is a bit off. The hook itself is decent, but you need to restructure for more punch. Lyni comes face to face with an evil more powerful than her human will. Broken into submission by Feldon’s relentless torture which he calls training, You have my interest here, also, put "training" in quotes Lyni falls under his shadow. What do you mean by this? Sexually? Emotionally? Is this a twisted romance or simple Stockholm syndrome? Feldon orders Lyni to use her special ability to manipulate stone Aha! Here's our "why her" answer, use it sooner. I'd manipulate it into the hook. to destroy an enemy What kind of enemy? Human? fortress. Lyni must obey and kills hundreds in the process. Shocked out of a drug induced haze, The drugs complicate things for the purposes of the query. I was already getting that our MC has a weird bonding thing going on with Feldon, and I thought that was his control point for her, not drugs.  Lyni flees to the mountains seeking to escape the dark wizards Need an apostrophe here (wizard's) reach.

After hiding in the mountains for several years, Lyni is found. Garren, the second son of a King A king or The King? has sought her out to elicit her aid. A bit redundant, I think, to say he both "seeks her out" and needs to "elicit her aid." His father and brother have fallen under Feldon’s power and his kingdom is at risk. Their only hope Probably just me, but any time I hear the phrase "only hope" I always think, "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi." It's a bit cliched, I'd find something else to use here. is to destroy Feldon. Though Lyni lacks confidence in her ability to defeat Feldon she knows she must help Garren in his quest. Why must she? Guilt? What's her motivation here?

Together they travel far in search of allies and then return to the site of the decimated fortress. There Lyni faces Feldon and with Garren’s aid "aid" echo from earlier para succeeds in finally banishing the dark wizard’s shadow. I definitely would strike this. What you have here is a generic wrap-up of your story. You want to pique the agent's interest, not deliver the whole story. This is fine for a short synop, but what you want in a query would be more like this: "Together G and L embark to gather an army of allies bent on banishing the dark wizard's shadow." Also, I feel like you need more punch here for your sinker.

So my overview is that we're in a high fantasy world where a girl with special rock powers is used against her will to destroy people, escapes, is then recruited again and goes back to kill the bad guy. But that's all I got. I don't have a lot of emotion or layering going on here, nothing to really connect me to your MC. Here are some questions that immediately come to mind whose answers might really help boost the query:

Lyni helped destroy the decimated fortress, isn't gathering allies going to be a bit difficult if people know she's worked for Feldon in the past? And what about a romance? Is there one? Is Garren cute or just there for "aid?" And how does Lyni actually feel about this whole debacle? Does she still have any lingering feelings / loyalty to Feldon, or does she hate him right down to his dandruff? And what about this rock ability? It's only mentioned briefly and then exits the query - is she squelching it out of guilt? And what is it anyway? Can she crush them? Throw them with her mind? Make them implode? Will it be used to help destroy Feldon? Who are these "enemy" people in the decimated fortress? Is everything in this world human, or are there odd creatures? I ask because in high-fantasy I tend to hear "enemy" and think "different."

Dig deep into these questions and get the details that make your ms different from the hundreds of others that landed in the agent's inbox that same day.


Followers, what do you say?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Talk - A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness

Stories are the wildest things of all. Stories chase and bite and hunt.

So says the monster that shows up at Conor's window every night at 12:07, but it's not the monster from his nightmare, the one Conor has been dreading. This monster has assumed the familiar shape of the yew tree that stands in the graveyard across from his home, an object that his mother has become fixated upon as cancer devours her body.

The yew monster claims that Conor has called him, and that he will share three stories of truth. In exchange, Conor must tell the fourth tale himself.

This doesn't seem terribly intimidating to Conor, as he's got much larger worries in life than being told stories by a tree in the middle of the night. His mother's health has degraded to a point that their Grandma, whom he despises, has come to stay with him. His absentee father has taken to calling him, "Sport" and "Champ," and a group of bullies at school keep bloodying him at the playground.

So the idea of stories doesn't rattle Conor... until the monster starts telling them. Stories where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil blend into one another and the outcome is not always what one expects. Stories that aren't about justice, stories that glorify destruction, stories that turn Conor on his head and bring him to the fourth tale - his tale - where the truth of the monster he has been expecting comes to light.

A MONSTER CALLS is based on an idea from Siobhan Dowd, who was posthumously awarded the Carnegie Medal in 2009, and written by Patrick Ness, author of THE CHAOS WALKING trilogy. It is illustrated by Jim Kay, and I cannot say enough about how deeply the images in this book will resonate with the reader.

It's a quick read, but don't be deceived - these waters run deep.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Self- Image in THE HUNGER GAMES

If you follow me over on From the Write Angle you know that this is a re-post for me. If you're here looking for my usual transcendent Thursday Thoughts I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I just haven't been thinking a lot this week.

So instead we're going to talk about self-image in THE HUNGER GAMES.

Yeah, you read that right.

Since publication, Suzanne Collins' THE HUNGER GAMES has been the subject of more than one parental tirade against the violence depicted therein. While this post isn't focused on that topic, the one thing I do want to say is that whenever I hear an adult ranting about any book my first question is, "Have you read it?" Haven't had a "yes" answer to that one yet.

Instead, I want to focus on something THE HUNGER GAMES gives teens without being preachy, without talking down to them, and possibly without them even knowing they've learned a powerful lesson.

How tired are you of effortlessly gorgeous female teen characters? How about the rich one with the designer everything who is torn between two ultra hot guys? Or the girl from the wrong side of the tracks that's hitting an 11 on the 10 scale and the guy on the right side of the tracks who falls for her? Are you sick of perfect skin, glossy hair and full lips? 'Cause I sure as hell am.

Katniss kicks ass across the board. Sure, she can kill people in fun and imaginative ways, but the first time we see her she's using her skills to fill the fundamental need of feeding her family, alongside longtime guy friend Gayle. Her love for her little sister sends her to the stage to take Prim's place in a contest where she knows the odds are against her and her life is at stake.

And what does Katniss look like? Well ... we're really not sure. She's got dark hair, and it's usually in a braid. Due to the fact that she's from the poorest area of a poor district and has to hunt her food we can assume she's probably not terribly clean all the time and might even *gasp* smell bad occasionally.

Once a handful of professionals get a hold of her Katniss cleans up and gains attention from the world, but guess what? Ultra-hunky Gayle and super-sweet Peeta were already in love with her, before she got a dress that caught on fire and became the de facto spokeswoman for world peace.

Hmmm ... what could have possibly attracted them to her in the first place? Could it be ... her personality!?!?

One of my favorite lines from the entire series comes from a scene in MOCKINGJAY when Katniss goes to see Peeta after he has been conditioned to despise the polished and public version of her persona, and he says, "You're not very big, are you? Or particularly pretty?" (p. 230).

Katniss even points out her physical shortcomings, in a refreshing non-self-pitying manner: "With my acid-damaged hair, sunburned skin, and ugly scars, the prep team has to make me pretty and then damage, burn, and scar me in a more attractive way." (p. 59).

Katniss has been through battles, bested her enemies, won over the world and had a guy on each arm the whole time.

And she's not "particularly pretty."

Good for her.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hey You - Have You Read This Book?



So yeah, Kendare is my agency-sister and all (we're both repped by Adriann Ranta), but I'm not promoting her for that reason. I'm telling everyone about ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD because I'm a librarian, and I shove new books I love down people's throats until they've got paper cuts in their trachea. And I mean that in a nice way.

And guess what?!?! I just learned that ANNA has been nominated for the Cybil! Congrats, Kendare!

Your friend and mine, The Gatekeeper, loves ANNA too, and - in case you missed it - the sequel GIRL OF NIGHTMARES has a cover as drool-worthy as the first. Check it out!

How do we feel about free books? Do we like them? How about really good free books? My AgentQuery Connect buddy and From the Write Angle partner Calista Taylor's new steampunk title VIRIDIS is available for free download on Amazon. Yeah, fuh-ree.

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 let's talk about me. OK, not really, but at least the form of me you're probably most familiar with - my feline self. The word cat has undergone some serious transformation over time, and I see it popping back up in my teens these days as they (unknowingly) are exhibiting Beat identity.

Obviously we're aware of cat in the feline sense, and probably quite a few of you associate it with jazz slang, but did you know it was first used as a derogatory term for migrant workers and hobos? It was a not so nice allusion to the homelessness of both populations.

Only after that did the jazz culture pick up the term, originally only using it to refer to jazz musicians themselves. Louis Armstrong referred to himself and other musicians as "cats" as early as 1922. By the early 1940's, cat had shifted towards a general term for anyone who liked jazz, swing or jive music. The hipsters, Beats, and New Bohemians of the 1950's adopted the term and used it to describe an average, run-of-the-mill person.

How do I know all this? This is not off the top of my head, believe it or not. My own curiosity from overhearing teen-speak drove me to this little gem of a book: Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang by Tom Dalzell. Check it out, or you're in danger of being a square cat, instead of a hep cat.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Whirlwind Submission Success with Debut Author Claire Legrand

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 Claire LeGrand, author of THE CAVENDISH SCHOOL FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, which features 12-year-old Victoria Wright. Everything about her gleams, from her perfect grades to her perfect blond curls to her spotless bedroom. But when her best friend Lawrence disappears, Victoria must learn how to lie, sneak, and break the rules to save her beloved hometown from the evil clutches of Mrs. Cavendish, who runs the local orphanage.

BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?
CL: I knew virtually nothing. I had to ask my agent, Diana Fox, a lot of questions! All I knew was the general idea: We send the manuscript to a handful of editors based on who we think would be the best fit for my book, and they either like it and make an offer or don’t like it and pass—much like querying for agents! I’ve learned a lot about this process, and I’m still learning. I don’t think that, as an author, you ever stop learning!

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
CL: Not really. I mean, based on the general idea I had about how this was supposed to work, it all unfolded as I expected. Looking back, I’m surprised about how quickly it happened, but at the time, I really didn’t know how long it could take, so that didn’t seem especially noteworthy to me.

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?
CL: I did a little bit, just because I was curious—but, again, it happened so fast that I didn’t have time to do a lot of research or get obsessive about it. I was working at the same time, too, so that kept me distracted. I did speak with Diana before the MS went out, and she explained her reasoning in selecting these editors, which was nice. Just as a general rule, I don’t see anything wrong with researching editors! I figure it’s best to know as much as possible about the industry and the people in it.

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?
CL: If I remember correctly, we started hearing back from people the very next day. Diana kept me updated every step of the way, which was exactly how I wanted it. We got our first offer in three days, and it went to auction a few days after that!

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?
CL: Let’s say that, for me, this process had taken longer. I know I would have started experiencing anxiety, much in the same way that I experienced “waiting anxiety” while querying agents. The best thing you can do, in either of these situations, is stay busy—keep writing on other projects, focus on work/home life, read, and KEEP WRITING. Nothing keeps your brain occupied more effectively (and productively!) than diving into the next project while you’re waiting on something to do with the current project.

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
CL: Again—and I’m sorry I keep saying this!—it all happened really quickly for me, so there wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on rejections. I did receive them, but they were nice and complimentary, so that helped soothe the sting. One rejection was because the imprint felt they already had a title with a similar tone, so that wasn’t a reflection on the quality of my work at all. These rejections didn’t hurt nearly as much as agent rejections, mainly because at this point, I had someone on my side. I had an agent, someone who believed in me and my work, and that’s a level of validation most writers don’t have while querying.

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?
CL Any feedback I received, Diana relayed to me over the phone. We discussed any specific ¬items and made note of them for later. Some of these items actually turned up in the editorial notes of my eventual editor, Zareen Jaffery! But, just like with beta readers or, beyond that, general readers in the public, everyone’s tastes differ. Whenever I received feedback on this project—whether it was from an editor during the submission stage or from a beta reader during drafting—I considered the suggestion carefully and decided whether or not it was worth incorporating. Obviously, an editor’s feedback carries more weight, simply because…well, they’re professional editors! But I always thoughtfully consider every bit of feedback, no matter the source. I even kept the feedback of the passing editors in mind as I went into revisions!

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?
CL: Because this happened so quickly, I was in this perpetual state of numbness, as though watching it happen to someone else from a distance. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening! Each time we got an offer, Diana told me over the phone, and I was of course elated—but I don’t remember jumping around and squealing or anything. I was just too overwhelmed! I remember saying, “WOW” a lot. And staring at the phone in disbelief. And calling my mom to say, “Okay, I think this actually just happened, but…I’M GONNA NEED YOU TO PINCH ME.”

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?
CL: I did have to wait for…maybe a couple of weeks? A few days? Gosh, I don’t remember! This really was such a crazy whirlwind! But no, I didn’t have to wait long. It was difficult waiting even those couple of weeks, though. I felt like I was about to burst any second, and when the announcement did finally go live, the release of anticipation made me shake and sweat for like an hour straight, like I had just completed the most awesome marathon in the universe or something.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Nice Rejection vs. The Honest Rejection

Hooray! A rejection!

OK, so that might not be realistic. Every now and then I used to get rejections that had the inevitable initial sting, but after that I would get past my despair and actually read the rejection and it would say something like:

After careful consideration I decided that while your concept is fresh and interesting, I just wasn't as pulled into those first few critical pages as I would've liked to be. Understand that this is a subjective business, and another agent may feel differently.

Ouch - my first few pages aren't that great. Hooray - I've got a fresh and interesting concept! That's a seriously big hurdle cleared! So I get my e-self over to QueryTracker to record my latest failure and see that another user has posted their rejection in full and it reads:

After careful consideration I decided that while your concept is fresh and interesting, I just wasn't as pulled into those first few critical pages as I would've liked to be. Understand that this is a subjective business, and another agent may feel differently.

Oh... so my concept isn't fresh and interesting. And maybe this means my first few pages aren't that bad... So what do I do?

If you're me (and I know you're not, but let's play) you obsess about it for a bit. So, somebody that sent a query about a girl torn between her love for a vampire and her buddy a werewolf would've had the same "fresh concept" form rejection I did. It also means that someone who sent a badly written query for a 500 page biography of a field mouse named TukkaBobba did too.

What do I deduce from this? The very real possibility that I suck, and no one has bothered to tell me yet.

I'm not saying that agents need to tell every single author exactly why they are rejecting them - that's an impossibility. But I do wish agents used a "You really need to do more work on your sentence structure and grammar use before considering being a writer," and a, "Hey nice try, keep working at it - you might have something here," form rejection.

Do you obsess over every word in the query, like I do? Or do you just notch the bedpost and keep going?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Saturday Slash

Here we go, friends.

So, I opened up myself to critiquing queries, and quite a few of you said - "Yes! Me! I love it when other people jam their grimy fingers into my carefully polished words!"

OK - my hands aren't actually grimy, but I don't make any promises about the cleanliness of my editing tool. Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

And a little bit of BBC literary info. We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox. Also, at the end, I'm going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author's brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

And now for our first brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in purple.

Sixteen-year-old Chicago’s stumbled into a secret: her castle home isn’t meant to keep monsters out. It’s meant to keep them in. Not a bad hook, not bad at all. My nitty-nit picks: I'd say "Chicago has." Since our MC's proper name is also a city, it helps for clarity. I almost want to say shorten up the hook by combining with the second stand-alone sentence here (... meant to keep monsters out, but to keep them in). But on a re-read I changed my mind. I like the stand-alone for weight and cadence.

The world outside the castle is barren, heaped high with skeletons, and ravaged by genetically engineered monsters. Years ago they scoured the world with the plague they carried, leaving behind only a handful of survivors living inside a refurbished castle. Venturing into the wilderness means certain death— after all, that’s how her friend Babylon died seven years ago.

Great thoughts and good imagery here in this second section, but I feel like you need to do some re-arranging. I'd start with the idea that Babylon died outside the castle walls, and that's why Chicago is thankful for their presence. Then you roll into the the how and why of Babylon's death and combine some of your ideas here for word count. For example: "... her friend Babylon died at the hands of the monsters who carry the plague that made their land barren." And there you've got all the ideas in one sentence, which will leave you more room to explain some of the things I'm going to talk about next.

At least, that’s what Chicago’s been told. Nice, but extraneous. The hook has already implied that Chicago is being duped.

Yesterday she found a body in the woods, Did she now? That's interesting because I was under the impression she couldn't leave the castle. I'd also drop the "yesterday" it feels like a tense jump within a query. recently killed and unearthed by rain. It’s the right size and shape to be Babylon, Err... but Babylon's been dead seven years... I realize that's not necessarily TRUE, it's what Chicago's been TOLD, but it still makes the query unnecessarily murky. but the people in charge these "people in charge" is very vague. Is this her family? Other survivors? Some kind of provisional government? won’t let her get close enough to learn for certain who it was — or the cause of death. I think the idea of the body is interesting enough to make the query reader follow that the body is what's going to bring Chicago into the questioning phase, not necessarily her suspicion that Babylon is still alive - you can cover that later, and not have to over explain in this already murky paragraph.

Chicago’s determined to learn what really happened. She's warned not to investigate, but that means ignoring fifteen years of lies and the last guy on earth who officially counts as tall, dark and handsome. Unsure of who this "last guy" is. Is it someone from the woods? One of the people in charge? Maybe she should have listened, because now Chicago is blacking out, having seizures, and finding things that shouldn’t even exist. Hmmm... like what? Lighter fluid? Plasma TV's? I'm OK with this sentence until that little tease there. The people who raised her are using machine guns and monkey wrenches when a stern talking-to used to work just fine. This is great - in fact, I like it so much I'd consider using this after "Maybe she should have listened..." because it's got more punch than the line currently there.

Because Chicago knows that Babylon isn’t dead. In fact, he’s standing in her bedroom right now. Here's the thing - I thought Babylon was a chick right up until this sentence. Also, the "right now" brings up more tense issues, as "yesterday" did, which pulls the reader out of the place you want them to be. As a sinker, I think you want something stronger. 

My thoughts: We're in a post-industrial apocalyptic setting that feels slightly medieval with a parental / adult structure that is keeping our MC in the dark. The monsters on the outside are the icky type, but the monsters inside are the emotionally unstable lying kind. Babylon is actually a dude (get that across sooner) and he likes to hang out in our MC's bedroom so there's a romance going on too. What I'm not getting is - what's our MC's goal? What's the main conflict here? Find the truth? We know that it's not to save Babylon, because he's alive. Is he still in some kind of danger because of the truth?


Jump in my fellow readers. Do you think I'm right, wrong or living in the gray areas in between? Our first willing victim threw herself out there - let's help her!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Talk - THE NAME OF THE STAR by Maureen Johnson

How do you catch a killer who's already dead?

In modern day London, Louisiana native Rory Deveaux finds herself not quite fitting in at her British boarding school. Her studies demand every free second, she never seems to beat the morning rush to the showers, and she's covered in bruises from unsuccessfully attempting to avoid the ball during field hockey - which is the exact opposite of her duties as goalie.

In a misguided attempt to impress her classmates at breakfast she does an impression of her aunt channeling spirits, and accidentally inhales her sausage. Yeah, our heroine is smooth like that, bless her. Nearly choking to death in front of the whole school might not win any popularity contests, but she does get a prize. Her near death experience awakens a dormant gene that allows her to see the dead.

Unaware of her new ability, she follows uber-cute prefect Jerome on a tour of his newest obsession - the site of the most recent Ripper murder. Someone is brutally re-enacting the murders of 1888, someone who manages to avoid detection of both the police and street cameras. Even though police can predict the time and approximate location of the next murder, this new and improved Ripper keeps getting away - and taking parts of his victims with him.

Rippermania isn't exactly Rory's idea of a good time, but impressing Jerome and pulling introverted roommate Jazza out of her shell is. At the site, she bumps into an oddly dressed man who seems surprised when she looks at him to apologize. He pops up again on the night of the next murder, chiding Rory and Jazza for evading campus security and slipping out of their dorm. Except, Jazza doesn't see him, and Rory's report to the police sets off alarm bells that bring in a newly formed group of British ghost fighters - the Shades of London.

As the Ripper's fascination with Rory increases, so do the stakes. Torn between self-preservation and using her ability to protect the next innocent victim, it takes all of Rory's Southern charm and fortitude to unravel the mystery of who London's new Ripper is.

Heads Up For An Awesome Contest!

My buddy Krista V. runs an awesome blog over at Mother, Write, Repeat. She's running An Agent's Inbox contest that will be starting on Oct. 17. Details can be found here. Check it out for a great opportunity!

Query Advice From Yours Truly

So last week I asked if there would be any interest in my hosting a query review here on the blog. It seems like quite a few of you are interested in feline assistance with that squirmy little letter, so I'm offering up my paws.

If you would like me to look at your query you must:
1) Be a follower of the blog
2) Be totally cool with me posting your query and my review on the blog

If you're up for some BBC scrutiny send your query to bigblackcat97(at)gmail(dot)com. I'll email you back letting you know what day my crit of your query will be going up.

Should be fun!

Or incredibly painful!

Thursday Thoughts

Before you get to be exposed to my brain, I wanted to re-direct everyone to one heck of an awesome opportunity waiting for you over at Miss Snark's First Victim. If you haven't checked out her Baker's Dozen challenge, you really ought to consider it.

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) What's up with #2 pencils?  What happened to #1 pencils? Why do we bother to differentiate them as #2 anymore - is there another kind?

2) My car drove to McDonald's the other day. I was in it. It was tragic. So while I was hanging out in line I watched some feathered scavengers picking up their free lunch, and I had to wonder - Do birds that hang out in McD's parking lot have high cholesterol?

3) It seems like most geniuses were under-appreciated in their time, or thought to be insane. If I had a lot of money, I might pick up some "insane" people and be their patron. It's a long shot, but that could be my contribution to humanity.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday WOLF

Before your little dose of word trivia, I want to redirect your attention to my post today over at From The Write Angle on Self-Image in THE HUNGER GAMES. Yeah, that's right. Self-image, not violence.

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.

OK, big fat confession time. I didn't know the origin of the word "blog." Yeah, really. Apparently it comes from the phrase "web log," being shortened. 'Cause really, it takes so freakin' long to say "web log."

A brief history of the evolution, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The short form, "blog," was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May 1999. Shortly thereafter, Evan Williams at Pyra Labs used "blog" as both a noun and verb ("to blog," meaning "to edit one's weblog or to post to one's weblog") and devised the term "blogger" in connection with Pyra Labs' Blogger product, leading to the popularization of the terms.


So 'fess up. Did you know that's where we got "blog?" Can you think of a better name? How about self-talker... or stalker? No... that's not quite what I want...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Talk with YA Author Ryan Graudin on the Submission Process


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 Ryan Graudin. When she’s not writing and drifting around the globe, she enjoys hunting through thrift stores and taking pictures of her native Charleston, SC. Her novel LUMINANCE HOUR, the story of a Faery Godmother who falls in love with the prince she’s forced to guard, is due out with HarperTeen in 2013. You can learn about all of these things and more at her blog, and you can find her on Twitter @ryangraudin.

BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself? 
RG: I actually knew more than I thought I did, looking back on the whole thing. I made a point to look up interviews such as this one and read about other author’s experiences so I could emotionally prepare myself. The thing is, everyone’s experiences are so varied and different. What one author goes through probably isn’t what will happen to you.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?
RG: I was actually surprised to learn that an agent has to send out pitches to the editors—much like we have to send an initial query to an agent before getting asked for the manuscript. It makes sense, now that I think about it. Editors are far too busy to read manuscripts they don’t specifically ask for!

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that? 
RG: I did. I followed them on Twitter. I read interviews they gave through various sites. I googled them every day. Honestly, I didn’t get too much out of it. It was only feeding my paranoia at the time. And I hardly needed it fed.

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors? 
RG: I got my first feedback the day after my agent sent out all of my submissions. Apparently when editors are really excited about a certain pitch and they start reading it and fall in love with the first few pages, it’s common for them to check back in with the agent and say that they “love what they’ve read so far.” It was a great way to start off the wait. Overall it took about two weeks to hear back from all of the editors since my MS had such serious interest straight off the bat.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety? 
RG: Work on other things. Be productive. It’s impossible to rule out the anxiety altogether (at least, it was for me, because I’m not a master of Zen). I buckled down and finished the rough draft of another novel I was working on. It helped me with the idea that, even if novel on submission didn’t sell, I would have something else to work on with my agent and put out there.

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?
RG: I did get some rejections. I think the fact that there was an editor who was loving it and getting second reads, etc. really helped to soften the blow for these. At the same time it put a lot of weight on the expectation that this editor’s enthusiasm would turn into an offer. The anxiety became really, really bad toward the end of things. Another thing that softened the blow of the rejections was that they were all very complimentary of my writing and the storyline—many of the rejections were due to the fact that the editors didn’t see this title fitting into their imprint.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal? 
RG: The funny twist in my story is that I knew the day I would hear about HarperCollins final decision. The final acquisitions meeting took place an entire week after I knew it was going to happen! That meant for seven days I was burdened with this terrible knowledge. As the day drew closer I felt more and more like throwing up every time I thought about it (which was a lot). On day zero I begged one of my friends to spend the entire day thrift store shopping with me. This was, in part, to keep me from obsessively checking my email at every single 30 second interval. The acquisitions meeting was in the morning, and I figured that if a deal was going to be made my agent would call me. Noon rolled around. Then 1 o’clock. 2 o’clock. My nerves grew and I figured that the silence of my phone could only mean terrible things. Finally, close to 3 o’clock, I couldn’t take not knowing anymore, and I asked my friend if I could use her smartphone to check my email. Lo and behold, there was an email from my agent, saying that HarperCollins was going to be making me an offer for not one but TWO books. I felt more relieved than anything else. I was staring at the phone screen in silence while my friend was dancing wildly around the shopping center. Then, of course, I couldn’t stop smiling.

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult? 
RG: I had to wait two months to shout it to the world! Funny you should ask this because I addressed the issue with this video on my blog.

Thanks Ryan for being here with us today!