Friday, November 30, 2012

Fun on Friday

I promise to only bring you the best from YouTube:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Setting up a Christmas tree is just annoying as hell. If I *don't* set one up, I feel guilty and unsociable. If I *do* set one up it hangs out too long after the fact and I feel guilty for not putting it away sooner. My record for taking down tree late? Mid-March, 2004.

2) I'm sure Jesus loves that this is what I'm focusing on at Christmastime.

3) On the other hand, there's a lot of debate among biblical scholars about when Jesus was actually born. Some push for as late as April. Technically, Jesus might be totally thrilled with me for having that tree up in the spring.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Cover Reveal Talk with J.R. Johansson, author of INSOMNIA - and an ARC Giveaway!

Todays guest for the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) is my fellow Friday the Thirteener J.R. Johansson, author of INSOMNIA. Jenn is offering up an awesome prize pack to go along with her insomnia theme, as well as an ARC once they're available!

It’s been four years since I slept, and I suspect it is killing me.

Instead of sleeping, Parker Chipp enters the dream of the last person he’s had eye contact with. He spends his nights crushed by other people’s fear and pain, by their disturbing secrets—and Parker can never have dreams of his own. The severe exhaustion is crippling him. If nothing changes, Parker could soon be facing psychosis and even death.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that is utterly addictive. Parker starts going to bizarre lengths to catch Mia’s eye every day. Everyone at school thinks he’s gone over the edge, even his best friend. And when Mia is threatened by a true stalker, everyone thinks it’s Parker.

Suffering blackouts, Parker begins to wonder if he is turning into someone dangerous. What if the monster stalking Mia is him after all?

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

Not really. It was more of a feel that I wanted. I wanted it to look creepy, but still cool/compelling/interesting. I wanted something that would convey the feel of the book and draw people in at the same time. I think they did a great job with accomplishing that.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

It was in July, so about 11 months before my pub date.

Did you have any input on your cover?

A little, but not much. On the first version, his face had much smoother skin and I asked for them to make him a little more masculine and rough. They did a great job with that.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Haha, my editor sent me an email with the subject line, “OK, brace yourself” I think the cover is a little shocking at first glance, so it was oddly appropriate.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

No, my editor told me that once I had my final copy I could set up the reveal when/how I wanted. He doesn’t know yet that I can’t be trusted with that kind of freedom. ;-)

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

I just saw the first version of it near the end of October, so I guess almost eight and a half months.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

Yes and no. It’s been fun to show family and close friends, but I kind of liked keeping it private for a bit. Now I’m really excited to have it out there for everyone to see. I love it and am happy to have it out there representing me and my book.

What surprised you most about the process?

How fast it went from the first version to the final product. I know it isn’t that way with every author/publisher, but for me it was super fast. The publisher had a meeting first. I guess they had a few different cover options to consider, but their vote was unanimous on this one so I never saw the others. Once they gave it to me, I gave some feedback, they made a couple of changes and got the final back to me less than a week later.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

My advice is to realize that every cover has people who love it and people who hate it. Yours won’t be any different, so don’t expect it to be. It won’t (hopefully) be the last cover you have, so learn from the experience. The author doesn’t have a lot of control or power most of the time, so make sure your opinion is known, your voice is heard, and then sit back and try to enjoy the ride.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Heroes Have Always Been Anti-Heroes

If you've been following my tweets you know that I'm re-watching LOST and because of that I've now lost interest in the real world. LOST is one of those shows that is so well written, acted, paced, plotted and executed that it worms into your brain and eats away that part of you that allows you to be entertained by mediocrity. Now I want nothing except LOST.

That being said, The Walking Dead is on tonight, and you can bet your ass I'll be watching.

And those two things side by side brought me to a realization. As a writer, reader and overall storyaholic, I love the anti-heroes - those complex, warped fellows that find themselves unable to fit into social situations. They'd rather make up insulting nicknames for people or throw squirrels at them than actually participate in a helpful way.

The first thing we see Sawyer do in LOST is smoke a cigarette and glare at people. When he finally does get social it's to accuse Sayid of being a terrorist and get into a fistfight with him. And thank God Jack broke that up early because it would've been a shame if Sayid had to break Sawyer's neck with his ankles.

Our first exposure to Daryl is when he comes lunging out of the brush, completely filthy and armed to the teeth, pissed off that a zombie got the deer he's been tracking... and then he throws dead squirrels at people and makes racist comments.

Yes, these are my heroes. Aggressive rednecks.

So why are they so much more compelling than the real heroes?

Because Jack and Rick are good, clean-cut people thrown into bad situations where they begin to deteriorate. Rick is killing the living and getting phone calls from heaven, Jack ends up strung out and makes a pretty crappy husband / boyfriend. These transformations happen after they go down the rabbit hole and their personalities get a reality check. My anti-heroes grow after the world falls apart.

In "Two for the Road" (LOST S2 E20) after Libby dies, Kate is crouching on a bench in the hatch attempting to hide her tears. Sawyer more or less forces his comfort on her with a sweet man-friend chest-pillow hug and I'm like "DEAR GOD I WISH YOU REALLY EXISTED TAKE ME HOME." And Sawyer just gets better from there. He reads (YA, no less), he plays ping-pong, and he threatens people who threaten Kate. Also, he sports a half-ponytail every now and then and it's super hot.

And then he backslides. I've never been so upset as when Sawyer stockpiled weapons and declared there was a new sheriff in town. OK, I have been, but you know what I mean.

Daryl is like Sawyer (minus aggressive sexual manipulation of every attractive female he meets) in that the worst possible situation is bringing out the best in him. He's stopped throwing squirrels at people. Now he's feeding everyone with his bow. He's a team player and Rick's right hand man, (although I'd argue that Daryl is more important to their survival than Rick but *anyway*) he may even have feelings for Carol down under that filthy skin. And the equivalent of Sawyer's man-friend chest-pillow hug was the cuddling and christening of Baby Kickass. Yeah, even my tin can of a heart rattled around a little.

But I sense a backslide coming as his path converges with his brother's. I'm actually worried about this and have a feeling I'm going to be shouting obscenities at my TV sometime soon.

And these are the kind of characters that I love - the ones that you worry about. Creating a character that keeps people waiting for the next episode or forcing themselves to stay awake for just one more chapter because they need to know what's going to happen to him/her is a true art.

We're writers. Our job is to make readers care about things that never happened to people that don't exist. It's not easy, but it's doable.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to make characters as compelling and complex as Sawyer and Daryl, but I promise you I'll try.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately -

1) When I was little I used to think that the world ended when we ran out of space to bury people. Think about it - there's a lot of people and only so much soil. Surely there's a formula to mathematically figure out when the entire earth will be tombstones. And yes, I'm aware you can be cremated. But you can also be composted, if you live in Scandinavia. Yep.

2) But you can't be buried on your own property, that's illegal because of water tables and such. Gone are the good old days of being hauled out to the family plot. This is odd to me. It's my body, but I don't get to say where I want it to go when I'm done with it. I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to do the thing where you are stuck up on a plank in a tree and the birdies get you. Will check on that.

3) It makes me think about placentas. You don't get to keep yours. Yep - that's right. You grew it inside of yourself, you expelled it out of your vagina but it does not belong to you. Because there's a .0000001 chance I might take it home and do stem cell experiments.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An SAT with Laura Barnes & Querying Without Fear

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Laura Barnes, a great person who definitely deserves the light at the end of the slog tunnel. Laura's story is one of those that makes you say, "Yes, I can do this! Good stuff happens to regular people too, not just the insane ones like Mindy!"

I call this SAT "Querying Without Fear" because Laura queried an agent who only accepts new clients through referrals. She knew the odds, but she also knew she wanted this guy and that the worst he could tell her was "no." And we grow immune to that. So she did it... and boy is she glad she did.

Here's to no fear.

Writing Process:
Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I like to pretend I’m a Planster because I admire people who write on the fly and I think Planners are boring, but I’m really a Planner. I like to call it mulling. I mull and mull and mull – as I’m driving, as I’m falling asleep, in the shower – and then when I sit at the computer it’s ready to go. I also generally write an outline near the beginning of writing.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

About four months. I’m hoping to finish my current W.I.P. in three months though. Fingers crossed.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

One at a time. I have a feeling I’m going to have to learn to multi-task since I have a lot of material on submission/getting ready for submission. I’m not looking forward to it.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Not really. I say that because I can’t remember the first time I sat down to write – I’ve always been a writer. I do have recurrent doubts though. Days when I think everything is shit, and not in a submission hell way, but in a why does everything I write make me want a puke kind of way.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

When I got my agent, I had three complete books and had considered at least one of those to be trunked (my first one). However, it appears that all three of my books will be put out on submission after some revisions.

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I’ve started a few that are waiting for me to return. Does that count as quitting? The ms that I had considered trunked I gave up on because I had queried, like, 150 agents and though I had a lot of requests, no one took me up on it. I quit querying it when my next book was finished, mostly because I was more excited about the new one then the old one.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

My agent is Bob Diforio at D4EO literary agency. He usually only accepts referrals, but I queried him anyway since I love his agency. He asked for the full the same day I queried him and offered representation the next morning. I’m also working with Kristin Miller, another agent at D4EO, for my MG novels.

How long did you query before landing your agent?

I’d queried my first two books for over a year, but I’d only been querying the book that landed me an agent for one week.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Ha ha. I laugh because every bit of advice I read when querying made me bitter. But that’s probably just me. So I’ll say this: querying sucks. It sucks mostly because we let the results of querying tell us how good our writing is, which is total bull crap. A lot of getting an agent is being in the right place at the right time when whatever particular agent was in the right mood. Don’t let rejection tell you you’re not good.

Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you?  

I have a blog that has been ignored a lot this last year. I was hard core blogging for a long time. Then more real life responsibilities (ie: working more) forced me to have to back down. I have a Twitter account but I really don’t use it much.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

Before! Before, before, before because after you get your agent you’re busy. If you’ve got things in place before, it will be much better to maintain.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I do. I’m not sure if it’s enough to counter the amount of time spent on it, but I believe the relationships built through social media are valuable for other reasons as well.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Comfy Corner In My Brain

I know some writers who say that when the ideas are coming they come so hard and fast they can't type quick enough. I have those experiences at times, and I'm very grateful for them when they come - except for those 2 AM diatribes. My muse could stand some Lunesta.

But my experience when I'm actually writing, or even just daydreaming (I call that plotting) is that my brain actually feels s-l-o-w-e-d d-o-w-n. I'm sure that my eyes glaze over and a little white fade-out effect takes over whatever room I happen to be in at the time, as well.

There's a literal feeling of settling in a corner of my brain, like the WIP's ass just found an awesome chair with a perfect-fit buttmark and tossed itself down. It gets settled, curls up (don't quote me on this, but it might be purring) and that's when the real act of writing starts happening.

It's typically about two pages in to that day's work, those two pages will need a lot of assistance and a Crap Removal Team when the time comes. I feel like the idea is walking around my head, testing different areas while I toss out the requisite two pages of drivel, trying out chairs and dismissing them.

But once it finds that buttmark chair... we're in business.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet my 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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
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, 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!

Seventeen-year-old Mason Greer wasn’t always stoked about becoming a Waker—a protector of those who can change the future with their dreams. This isn't quite working because you're trying to jam the information about what a Waker is in here. Plus, we've got the whole "he wasn't always stoked," which says that *now* he is, but we don't know what changed that feeling until the end of this para It was something he was born into. But six years ago Also, I feel like this change to being "stoked" should be relatively recent, the way you're phrasing it in your hook. But it was actually an event six years ago that changed his mind Mason received mysterious boxes random information: I read this as "mysterious boxers" which really had me wondering at his father’s work place. Inside Mason found things he will never forget—body parts of a Dreamer. Ba BA BUM - here's your hook. Down here. Get these body parts in the first sentence. Who? He’ll never know, but he’ll be damned if it happens again. Nice - these body parts gave him the conviction. Great! Get that up there. He used to be so-so on the topic? So what? That's not a hook. 

Now on assignment for the first time, Mason knows what he has to do: find the Dreamer wait - what Dreamer? Surely not the one whose body parts he got in a box six years ago? Because that wouldn't quite make sense..., save the world, become a hero. Easy, right? Sure, until he meets seventeen-year-old Avery Carmichael, who, according to his records, should be a boy. Nice -  I like the twist here.

Avery makes Mason’s job anything but simple. Haunted by her past, she lives in fear that the people who took her parents will come for her next. So the body parts were / was one of her parents? So when Mason shows up and tells her she’s not crazy I'd strike this , that her dreams really are coming to life, she’s not sure what to believe. But her inability to control her gift brings the Dream Catchers closer and the duo must learn to work together—despite their growing feeling why would that be a block? I would think growing feelings for each other would make it easier to work together—to avoid them. If this group catches a Dreamer like Avery, or as legends call her a Chavez—one who can completely control their dreams— I'd strike the information here after "Avery" it's making everything choppy. I like the idea of a "living nightmare," great sinker they’ll use her power to change the world into a living nightmare.

Narrated alternately by Mason and Avery, DREAM MAKER, a YA speculative fiction novel, is complete at 60,000 words and on multiple submission. I wouldn't worry about specifying multiple submission - they assume that.

Overall this is looking pretty good. You're trying overly hard to get your world building jammed into parenthetical phrases here and it's not absolutely necessary. Cut out some of your excess and get that body box into the first line and you're looking much better.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fun on Friday

It looks like I'm making it a habit of not reading and writing Book Talks to share with you guys, and instead I'm posting YouTube videos. At least this one is of a writerly bent.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

They're late, but they're here. Thoughts lately...

1) I've been wondering if there's such a thing as an alcoholic Vegan.

2) I've been playing with the idea of being a vegetarian (or possibly a Vegan) so I bought a frozen Vegan cake. The amount of calories in one slice is about 1/3 the calories in a piece of regular cake. So this means I get to eat three pieces, right? Who said this was about self-restraint?

3) I don't think I'll ever be able to cut meat out. I love it. I've probably eaten a herd of cows every year of my life. And chickens? Chickens fear me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Submission Talk with Elsie Chapman, author of DUALED

Today's guest for the SHIT (Submission Hell - It's True) is fellow Friday the Thirteener Elsie Chapman, author of DUALED (Feb. 26, 2013 / Random House) featuring West Grayer, a fifteen year old assassin who lives in a gated city where everyone has a double, a virtual twin, an Alternate. Within this oasis of safety from the wars without, where there is limited space and even less resources, only one Alt is allowed to survive. When it’s time to kill her own Alt before her Alt kills her, West has to face the hardest Assignment of all–herself.

How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

Enough to know I was signing up for some serious torture. I spent a lot of time online and on Absolute Write just reading and researching and learning from others’ experiences. Especially those who ended up not selling. I think, deep down, I was trying to prepare myself for that very real possibility.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

The very real emotional whipping you go through. Not that it’s ever a personal rejection—only of that particular work, at that particular time, with that particular editor. Having read so much about that, you think you’re set to go, that you can handle it. But it doesn’t make it easier. You don’t really have a choice but to develop a super thick skin and realize it’s just one more part of it.

Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

I did do some research, actually. Just a quick google to see what else they’d acquired in the past, or what they were currently looking for. I don’t know if I’d recommend it, to be honest. At that point, your book is completely out of your hands. An online search will either drive you nuts with worry or give you an inflated sense of hope. At the same time, I think it’s almost impossible not to look them up. I guess it come down to knowing yourself and what you can deal with.

What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

It varied from a few days to a few weeks.

What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

I think you’ll get the same answer from every writer because it’s absolutely true: start writing something else. You need to just immerse yourself in something brand new and get your mind off what is no longer under your control. It’s good incentive to just keep at it.

If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

Rejections are tough, but at the same time, they help you build that thick skin. That’s the only way you can really look at it and be able to bounce back. They differ from query rejections because they can mean the end of the line for your book with a certain editor or house. It means maybe coming so very close but falling just short. It can be incredibly disheartening.

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?

Feedback is the one bright side to rejection. And coming from an editor’s perspective, it can mean the difference between your book selling or not selling. But reactions are also very subjective, so I’d talk everything over with my agent before deciding how to approach any suggestions. In terms of beta readers, I’ve never used one before. Eeps. `

When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

It was the most amazing feeling in the world! I don’t think I stopped grinning all day! I’m on the west coast, so I got an email from my agent one morning to wake up and call him right away. I knew things had been in the works, so I was pretty sure it was good news. He told me over the phone, and it was an absolutely fantastic moment! Then I had to go make breakfast for the kids before they went to school, just like any morning. Except I was also going to be a published author, so it really was a crazy, surreal day.

Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

I waited until I got the okay from my agent, and that was it. I think it was just a matter of days. I was so happy I didn’t have to wait any longer than that. I kept running up to my husband and just poking and squealing at him, so he was probably going a bit insane.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's the End of the World As We Know It... And I Feel Pretty OK

I know! I know! NOT A DROP TO DRINK doesn't come out for a while yet! Ugh... right?

But you don't have to suffer. You can get your Mindy-Needs filled (or as RC Lewis calls it, "A Fresh McGinnis") by checking out the newest offering from the Indie pub Elephant's Bookshelf Press. Along with some other fine authors such as Ryan Graudin (ALL THAT GLOWS, Harper Teen, 2013) and RC Lewis (STITCHING SNOW Hyperion, 2014), I've got a short story in it. So check out my vision for the end of the world - Mindy style.

THE FALL is available on Kindle and in print. And if you like what you see there, you can also download SPRING FEVERS, the first of the seasonal anthologies series, also from Elephant's Bookshelf Press, in which you'll find my short story "First Kiss." SPRING FEVERS is free on Kindle and in print. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Saturday Slash

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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
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, 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 the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in this color. Because nobody liked the yellow :)

The Beckoning is a deep and low I feel like "deep" and "low" are pretty much saying the same thing here. Plus "low" has an almost-echo going on with "bellow" bellow that is often regarded with disgust by those who hear it as it lures the unsuspecting from where they shall never return. Not a bad hook. I'm definitely interested in what The Beckoning is and what it means, however I think the last phrase you have here doesn't technically make sense. I've re-read it a couple times and I want it to say "someplace" they never return, or "somewhere." 

On a planet similar to ours and in an era which has long passed on this earth so it's *not* our planet, but one similar? And do you mean it's long passed on "our" earth... like it's a Stone Age thing?, Aziza hears this Beckoning. As it calls to her very soul, We already get from the hook that it's not something you can resist, so I'd chop the first part of this sentence and blend what's left with the one before. it compels her to leave her beloved Valley.

Although leaving the Valley is not as easy as Aziza tells herself. Did she really tell herself it would be easy if she loves it?

She is sacrificing her family, her friends, the acceptance of her people and most of all her marriage to follow a sound, I think this comma is misplaced, I'd put it after "marriage" which fills an unknown technically the void can't be unknown since she's aware of it void in her life. Every step Aziza takes to fulfill the Beckoning is a step she takes away from what she loves most and is a step closer to finding out the truth about not only herself but her family as well. I like the parallel "step" thing you're doing here, but I'd use "toward" instead of closer.

A guardian is sent from a distant land to guide Aziza and ensure her survival in the wilderness of her world. He is the Barer of the Beckoning, as the horn he presses to his lips sets the bellow free. Great mention here, but what's the purpose? Is he just a dude with a horn? If the horn calls to her soul, is the horn magical, or is he magical? This is the only mention of him here in the query, what's his purpose? Is  there a romance here?

Unbeknownst to Aziza, an army is gathering. The merciless Strace leads this army and his quest is to dominate the world. The prophecy of an Oracle reveals there is only one who can destroy Strace... insert a space hereAziza. If she does not, shadows and ashes will be left of all that she loves.

To her relief she will not fight Strace alone and I'd start with a new sentence here. with the ingress of a voice, which speaks to her in her dreams, she will prepare for a war foretold of long ago that will echo through the ages. What good is the voice to her? Does it give her power? Wisdom? Strength? 

I think you've got an interesting premise here, but there needs to be some background laid in order for the agent to have any idea how they'd pitch this. Right now I'm reading it as a CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR with magical elements. Be a little more clear about the where / when. If the planet has a name, use it. If the era has a name (real or imagined) use that, or find a way to give a few more hints about setting within the query. Right now it's decent - we've got wilderness and horn bearers, so I'm guessing we're at a rather primitive stage here. But there's also large armies and a desire to dominate the world, which hints at a later time (I'm speaking in terms of *our* ages here, so that might not apply to your fictional world, but the images I'm drawing on are the same ones an agent will too, so you need to make sure you're clear on setting).

I need more on this MC and what's going on here. At first it feels like this is some kind of individualized self-awakening story, but then it becomes a grand scheme with the world and fates of thousands at stake. I think that transition needs to happen a little more easily within the query. It feels very micro, then goes macro on me. 

And tell me about this Horn Bearer dude. It seems like he should be a big deal but he just gets a couple lines. Is he along for the ride? Does he fight by her side? Do they fall in love? And how is MC supposed to fight evil with just a voice? Does she get an army too? Is it just her people at stake or has the Bearer led her to another tribe (his?) that need her help?

You've got a decent premise here, but you need to be more clear about what you're selling. Good luck!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fun on Friday

So I don't usually post YouTube videos all over the place, but this one is gorgeous.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

1) If you follow me on Twitter you know that I Ohio Voting. What the hell does that mean? Nothing really because "Ohio" isn't a verb.

2) My life would be a lot easier if the bottoms of my feet were actually vacuums that I could turn on and off at my will. I could clean my floors while hauling laundry. Is it weird? Yeah, totally - but it's also kinda practical.

3) Yesterday while attempting to explain my theories regarding quantum physics, the big bang theory and the event horizon to a friend, my enthusiastic motion meant to embody the constantly expanding universe was abruptly stopped short by a cheap plaster wall. I think this is the universe telling me to STFU. Also, it hurt.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Successful Author Talk with Tara Sullivan, Author of GOLDEN BOY

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is fellow Class of 2k13 member Tara Sullivan. Tara's debut, GOLDEN BOY will be available from G.P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin) June, 2013.

Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different— light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. Only his sister Asu loves him well. But even Asu can’t take the sting away when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village.

Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt Albinos in Mwanza because Albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. 

Writing Process:
Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Kind of a bit of both… I start with an idea and try to plan it out, but I always hit a wall I can’t figure out. It’s only when I start actually putting words on paper that the story unfolds around previously-impossible problems.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

My debut, GOLDEN BOY, took me two years… though really the publication process has involved so much editing that I would count this year too.

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

I’m rep’d by the phenomenal Caryn Wiseman of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Here’s the story of how I got her interested in my work: I am a member of a writer’s group and, as such, we were able to get a grant from our local chapter of SCBWI for writer’s group development. We decided that, since we were all just starting to think about querying our work, the best use of this money would be to get an agent to talk to us. We sent a proposal to Caryn (as she expressed an interest in her online profile for work that fit the descriptions of what each of us was working on at the time) for a Skype video-conference and she agreed to talk to us about querying and the market in general. As part of the presentation she agreed to critique a query letter and 10-page submission from each of us to help us perfect our pitch. The evening was a phenomenal success: we all learned a lot about querying from an agent’s perspective, got to ask very specific questions, and heard a professional critique our submissions.

Thought it wasn’t officially a “query,” Caryn asked to see the full manuscript of GOLDEN BOY as soon as I had it ready. Luckily for me, she liked it when she got it and I have been able to benefit from her tireless, wonderful representation.

I like to tell this story to people because I think it’s a valuable lesson: think outside the box! Try to cultivate relationships with professionals in the field without asking for something back right away. Use resources available to you (especially ones that lend you professional credibility, like the SCBWI) to learn more about agents, your craft, and querying. If you don’t come through the regular channels, you never know what might happen: with a little extra careful reading, you too may get selected by your dream agent!

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

Find a way to de-couple your personal sense of self-worth from your query. This is really, really hard to do, but if you *can* find a way to not take it emotionally when someone (your writer’s group members, an agent, a well-meaning friend) critiques the way you wrote it, your query will slowly evolve into something better.

On Being Published:
How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

Hasn’t happened yet… I can wait until June 27th, 2013!!

How much input do you have on cover art?

Let me first squee about my cover: Jesse Joshua Watson did a phenomenal job of putting a compelling portrait of Habo, my main character on it. Yay, Jesse!

To answer your question: some. Though I didn’t get to have much say in the overall design choices, I was actually amazed how much the people at Putnam/Penguin took my input into consideration. For example, in an early draft Habo’s face floated more and I was concerned that it didn't show clearly enough that he was albino. Jesse went back and added in the sunspots, the hair, and gave Habo that hauntingly vulnerable look. I was even allowed input into the choice of text. All in all, I feel very listened-to.

Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you? 

So far, all of it! I’ve been told I will get to meet my in-house (As opposed to out-house? I’ve always wanted ask, but can’t quite find the gumption.) publicist about six months before my release date… so SOON, perhaps, I will have someone to help me with it. For now, though, you can come find me at my blog and Twitter. Also, GOLDEN BOY can be pre-ordered on Amazon & marked as to-read on Goodreads!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Swag Explosion

A little over a month ago I attended a conference where I spoke about writing YA, and I offered to my fellow authors at The Lucky 13s, Class of 2k13, Book Pregnant and Friday the Thirteeners to take some of their swag to pass out. And wow - did I ever get a great response! So much so in fact, I've got some left over and I thought a great way to reward my followers (as I creep ever so close to the 500 follower mark) is to give it away.

So that's what I'm doing. Below is a big old picture letting you know what you're getting, the Rafflecopter for the giveaway, and a list, in case you have something against looking at pictures.

The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot - tassled bookmark
Hooked by Liz Fichera - postcard and bracelet
The Flame & The Mist by Kit Grindstaff - postcard
Vengeance Bound by Justina Ireland - stickers, bookmark & bracelet
Pretty Girl - 13 by Liz Coley - bookmark
Prophecy by Ellen Oh - SIGNED bookmark and charm bracelet
Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger - SIGNED bookmark
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger - SIGNED art plate
The Key & The Flame by Claire M. Caterer - bookmark
Blaze by Laurie Boyle Crompton - bookmark and pin
The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett - bookmark
The Exceptionals by Erin Cashma - SIGNED postcard
Level 2 by Lenore Applehans - SIGNED postcard
Rump by Liesl Shurtliff - bookmark
Hand me Down by Melanie Thorne - postcard
Canary by Rachele Alpine - postcard
The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke - charm necklace
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters - SIGNED bookmark and bookplate
The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell - bookmark and bracelet

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Saturday Slash

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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
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, 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 the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in this color. Because nobody liked the yellow :)

"Feeling down? Unhappy with life? Then we have a solution for you! Try our newest over-the-counter drug—Happy Pills. Comes in several different emotive-inducing flavors, such as happiness, motivation, and even love! That's right folks, only $799.99 a box. Hurry and get yours today!" Hmm... well, I know that this is kind of a rule-breaker shot at a hook, but honestly it doesn't work for me. I can't stand infomericals, period. So having one tossed at me as an attempt to get my attention (even if it is tongue in cheek) just makes me want to turn off the TV, or put down the query. 

Sixteen-year-old Creed Gable has it all: the car, the looks, the cash, and even his own commercial where he gets to advertises the newest over the counter hottest? most demanded? something like that drug on the market—Happy Pills. It's all thanks to his neurotic parents who came up with the formula as their gift to a dying U.S. population. I definitely think this has more elements of a strong hook. You need to shave it down (suggestions above) and clarify why people are "dying." Do you mean physical, actual death? Metaphorical death of the soul? What does the parents being neurotic have to do with anything? And what do Happy Pills actually do? Literally make you happy?

But when can't-touch-this Raven Shaw transfers to his private school, claiming the drugs he's been selling on-the-sly to his friends for cheap are adversely affecting their brains, gossip spreads through the halls. Why does it matter if the drugs he's selling cheaply to friends are adversely affecting people? Even if that's the actual plot point, you don't need the little element that it's the sidelines sales that she's mentioning -- wouldn't it matter more if she's claiming Happy Pills are bad, period? I'd drop the mention of backhalls deals because it's making your sentence overly long. Even though Happy Pills went through vigorous clinical trials to make sure it was safe for the general public, Creed can't help but take her claims personally, especially when she snubs his advances and denies his bribes to shut up.

And then the worst happens: she tips off the principal and his cache is confiscated. OK - now I get that you need the offsides sales for this plot point, but it's still not quite working for me. If Happy Pills are being sold to the general public, then they have to be mass-produced, so I'm not sure why it would matter. Also, why would his cache be confiscated? Happy Pills aren't illegal - they're over the counter and he's the owner of the formula, so I don't see any reason why they'd take it from him. Techncially he's not doing anything wrong. With disposable dough drying up quicker than his popularity, Creed's only recourse is to quiet that screeching Raven once and for all. But how is shutting her up going to fix the problem? If the problem is that the drugs were taken from him, (and conceivably, if that's the true problem and he can't get anymore, what does making her be quiet help?) Trouble is, he's never killed (poisoned, punched?) Is this you playing with word choice, or how you actually want the query to read? a girl, If you do decide to go with "killed," you have to deal with the unspoken implication here that he *has* killed boys. let alone one he thinks he's in love with. Now, if only he could figure out how to ignore her lovely eyes and smart mouth, he'd be back to the top of his game.

I think the plot sounds run, and original. What you need to do here is plug the holes. I don't know if the holes are present in the ms itself or just the query, but you definitely need to make it clear what kind of "dying" is going on in the US. What are Happy Pills actually treating? Depression? That's part of the issue, but I think the biggest question is why is having his stash taken away feasible if it's a legal drug? And why would it matter if his personal stash is taken if they're being mass produced and he owns the company? And how does making her be quiet solve his problems, if the actual problem is that his drugs were taken?

Like I said, I think there's a great base here, but the holes need plugged.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Talk - JASPER JONES by Craig Silvey

There's been a bit of talk lately about YA being easier to read and (the thinking goes) therefore easier to write. Obviously I don't think that's the case, and I don't believe anyone who reads JASPER JONES by Craig Silvey would claim that either.

JASPER JONES reads like an Australian TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD during the Vietnam war. Charlie, a 13 year old who finds more to relate to in Charles Dickens than the local cricket matches - even if the matches do mean catching fleeting glimpses of Eliza Wishart in the crowd - is reading into the dark hours of the summer night when he hears a voice at his window.

It's Jasper Jones, the town bad boy, the person who all mothers warn their children about - and he needs Charlie's help. Deep in the brush Jasper has found a body, Laura Wishart, his secret love who had planned to run away with him. Jasper thinks he knows who the killer is, but he also knows that going to the police himself will only mean cuffs on his hands to go along with the weight of the community's scorn on his shoulders.

Charlie is a good kid, a smart kid. The kind whose word people will listen to, and so his good reputation lands him side by side with Jasper Jones, under the swaying body of Laura Wishart. Their cover up of the crime and subsequent investigation on their own time leads Charlie down paths he doesn't think even Mark Twain could have imagined a way out of.

As the townspeople search for the missing girl, Charlie and Jasper's covert investigation begins to supply answers to questions Charlie wasn't ready to ask yet. Why do people do bad things? What could possibly drive someone to delight in hurting another human being? And what goes on behind the closed doors of his small town... even the one on his own house?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

So, I've been watching (and enjoying, for the most part) Revolution on NBC. I just caught up this past week though, having lost interest in the pilot about twenty minutes in. A student and fellow LOST fanatic talked me back into it, so I've been catching up by streaming online. Thoughts for this week are centered around the show, so sorry if you don't watch. Hopefully you're still entertained.

1) The premise is fun. We lost all our electricity for some random reason and the ensuing panic caused the vast majority of the human race to kill each other and / or die because of a general lack of survival skills. OK cool - yet, uh... the entire plot is revolving around getting the power back on. It's like saying, "Alright, we've learned how to make it without something that pretty much crippled us when taken away the first time. We're making it our priority to get it back so that we can become dependent again and lose all the skills we've learned - sound good?"

2) Like I said, I'm streaming the show online so I get 30 second ads at intervals. And all the ads are for... Revolution. Seriously? I'm already watching it. You'd think my iPad would be smart enough to know that I've been lying here for three hours straight doing exactly that. A better ad would be for adult diapers.

3) I'd love to see an ad with a voiceover running this: "In a world where millions once lived, the handful of attractive female survivors struggle to find clothes that cover their well-muscled torsos. The less attractive female extras manage just fine."