Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Submission Process Talk with THE CROWN Author Nancy Bilyeau

How awesome is it to read a good book? Very awesome. How much more awesome when you have finished the book to jump on Facebook and tell your friend you loved the book? Very much more awesome. Yeah. That's my phrase, don't take it.

Today is a special day because I'm welcoming fellow Book Pregnant member Nancy Bilyeau to the blog! I may write YA and be covered in it up to my neck in the 40/wk, but I read everything. Historical fiction is one of my fallbacks when I need a good read, and I'm fortunate enough to have quite a few writers of that genre in the Preggers group.

Nancy Bilyeau is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, and Ladies’ Home Journal. Her debut novel, The Crown, is set in Tudor England. It took her five years to research and write her historical thriller before selling it in an auction to Touchstone/Simon&Schuster. She was born in Chicago and grew up in Michigan. Now she lives in New York City with her husband and two children and heads to The Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art whenever humanly possible. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and her web site.

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

NB: I’ve worked as a magazine editor for years, and at two of them—InStyle and Ladies’ Home Journal—I was the books editor, buying excerpts and selecting books for coverage. So I knew something of the business, but I did not know essential facts about it. I didn’t know that a book could not be bought without the approval of an entire editorial board, for example. I was under the impression it was up to the editor. Nope.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?

NB: A lot of things surprised me. I think what startled me the most was when I read some of the “passes” that my agent filtered to me. Even at that phase, it's still very much whether or not the reader is connecting with your material.

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

NB: I did a little Googling but book editors don’t give many interviews so it’s hard to get a feel for them through research. I think it’s fine to give it a shot but the agents are the ones who know the editors and if you don’t trust your agent’s ideas of who to send the book to, then you are not in a good writer/editor partnership.

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

NB: About three weeks. My agent had early interest so he called people back and gave them a deadline. There was an auction for The Crown.

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

NB: Gosh, I wish I knew. I find any kind of waiting difficult. But I tried to remember a phrase a screenwriting teacher had for us—“Stay frosty.” That was my motto.

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

NB: I felt hurt and defensive but tried not to dwell on it. One editor said, “I want to like this more than I am liking it.” Ugh. The people who did respond well to the book said very nice things so I focused on the positive. I found a rejection from an editor more painful than when trying to get an agent.

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?

NB: My agent said if we see the same criticism a lot then it is something that must be paid attention to. But we didn’t. Some loved the opening and disliked the middle. Others weren’t crazy about the opening but liked it when the thriller plot kicked in more.

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

NB: I had three “yes’es” so there was an auction. When my agent emailed me that Trish Todd got the book, I was ecstatic. I jumped up and down; I called my husband and friends. I walked the street that day in a daze.

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

NB: I had to wait maybe a week. That is when the news went out of Publishers Marketplace and everybody was in the know.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Magic Under Stone Releases Today!

Hey readers! I just wanted to let all my followers know that Jackie Dolamore's MAGIC UNDER STONE sequel to the fantastic MAGIC UNDER GLASS was released today!

For star-crossed lovers Nimira and Erris, there can be no happily ever after until Erris is freed from the clockwork form in which his soul is trapped. And so they go in search of the sorcerer Ordorio Valdana, hoping he will know how to grant Erris real life again. When they learn that Valdana has mysteriously vanished, it's not long before Nimira decides to take matters into her own hands—and begins to study the sorcerer's spell books in secret. Yet even as she begins to understand the power and limitations of sorcery, it becomes clear that freeing Erris will bring danger—if not out-and-out war—as factions within the faerie world are prepared to stop at nothing to prevent him from regaining the throne.

Read my review of the first book, MAGIC UNDER GLASS, and check out this fantastic interview with Jackie where she talks her process and querying experience - great info for aspiring writers from someone who knows!

Monday, February 27, 2012

What You've Always Wanted - Me, For Free.

I've had some fantastic compliments from friends and strangers alike telling me they can't wait to read NOT A DROP TO DRINK. And that's awesome.

But you still have to wait 'til Fall 2013.

In the meantime, I've got a short story in a newly published anthology. Spring Fevers is an exploration of relationships in their varied states: love -- requited and unrequited -- friendships discovered and lost, family in its many guises, and the myriad places in between. Created by Cat Woods and Matt Sinclair, Spring Fevers arose from their work with the Agent Query Connect online writing community, and while membership in the free site was not necessary for inclusion in the anthology, the ten writers whose stories appear are all members. Authors include MarcyKate Connolly, S.Q. Eries, Robb Grindstaff, J. Lea Lopez, Mindy McGinnis, R.S. Mellette, Yvonne Osborne, Matt Sinclair, A.M. Supinger, and Cat Woods. The debut publication of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, Spring Fevers was edited by the team of Robb Grindstaff, Matt Sinclair, and Cat Woods, with cover design by Calista Taylor, and book design by R.C. Lewis. A new anthology is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2012.

Calista does some excellent work designing e-book covers, has won awards for her own titles, and can make yours too, if you'd like!

And the best part - our collection is free. So enjoy a short from myself and the other talented writers in this collection.

It's on us.

*Spring Fevers is also available for Kindle on Amazon. It'll cost you a whopping 0.99 there, all of which is going to charity.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Talk - THE SISTER QUEENS by Sophie Perinot

Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence both have the famed beauty of the Savoyard family, and the connections to win them crowns.

Marguerite's comes first, when she is married to Louis IX, the King of France. The two sisters, still very much children, tearfully part from each other in the shared bedroom of their father's castle on the night before Marguerite's departure, destined not to meet again for twenty years.

But their letters to each other bridge the distance between them, even when Eleanor becomes the bride of Henry III, King of England. Though the two Kings clash over land, the sisters continue to send missives as family members rather than Queens of rival countries.

The letters may be able to bridge the gap between their homes, but the dichotomies of their lives are not so easily conquered. Marguerite finds Louis to be a capable and admirable King, yet he is domineered by his mother, and his passion for God far outweighs any interest in his wife.

Henry III is a compassionate and loving husband, a true father to his children and companion to his wife. Yet his kingship leaves much to be desired, and Eleanor can't help but compare his shortcomings with those of Marguerite's husband, especially when Louis takes the cross to go on Crusade.

As the years pass the sisters learn to set aside their rivalry and learn from each other instead, as Marguerite borrows Eleanor's fiery fortitude in an attempt to win back her husband's affection... and ends up falling into the arms of another man instead. Meanwhile, after a political clash with Henry, Eleanor adopts Marguerite's calmer demeanor and sets aside her pride in order to restore her marriage to what it had been.

Spanning twenty years and an array of countries, THE SISTER QUEENS takes the reader to the courts of England and France, the warm and welcoming countryside of Provence, and the bloody crush of the Crusades. Politics and family, Kingly ambitions and sibling rivalry, love and lust all come into play between the pages, unfolding in a mesmerizing story about two Queens who were sisters above all else.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fellow Agent Query Connect Member Sophie Perinot Dishes on the Submission Process

How awesome is it to read a good book? Very awesome. How much more awesome when you have finished the book to jump on Facebook and tell the author (your friend) that you loved it? Very much more awesome. Yeah. That's my phrase, don't take it.

Today is an exciting day for me here as I get to pick the brain of our my fellow Agent Query Connect moderator Sophie Perinot about her submission process. Sophie has graciously agreed to pull double duty and tell us about her writing process, agent hunt, and publication journey, over on the group blog we contribute to together, From the Write Angle. Sophie's SAT (Successful Author Talk) will be posting over on FTWA tomorrow.

Sophie Perinot writes historical fiction. Ms. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. She left the practice of law to pursue artistic interests, including writing. As someone who studied French abroad and a devotee of Alexandre Dumas, French history was a logical starting point. Her debut novel, The Sister Queens, will be released by NAL on March 6th 2012. Set in 13th century France and England, The Sister Queens weaves the captivating story of medieval sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, who both became queens - their lifelong friendship, their rivalry, and their reigns

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

SP: I felt very well informed up front and for that I am extremely grateful.

First, one of my critique partners was on submission before I was, so I had some idea of the stress involved in the process.

In addition to learning about the general process from my friend, my agent did a very thorough job of explaining his personal process – who he would be calling to talk about my book and why; what he would be sending to them if they responded favorably to his call – before shopping my first manuscript.

Once I was on submission, my agent also did an absolutely marvelous job of keeping me updated on the process. If you are getting the impression that I love my agent, you are right.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?

SP: I was surprised that several editors were interested enough in my work and my professional development to have lunch with my agent and I and discuss their likes and reservations about my manuscripts.

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

SP: In several cases I knew who the editors were because I’d attended conferences in my genre and made a substantial effort to find out about the business of publishing as it related to historical fiction. In cases where I was not familiar with the editor, my agent gave me a bit of background. But yes, I did do a little googling and searching of author acknowledgements for the editors on my manuscript’s submission list.

I recommend doing ANYTHING that puts you, as an author, more in touch with the industry. So yes, learn what you can about the editors considering your manuscript. Even if a particular editor doesn’t buy your book he/she is still a piece in the industry-puzzle and you may run into him/her later in your career.

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

SP: I am not trying to cop out here but I honestly don’t remember and I didn’t keep records (as opposed to when I was querying agents and kept elaborate charts).

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

SP: You mean other than binge chocolate eating? Try to do the impossible—not think about it. Writing actually helped me quite a bit. You can’t be in somebody else’s head (your main character’s) and still be thinking “wonder if my agent will hear anything today?”

Hopefully the process of querying agents has already taught you how futile “tea leaf reading” (in the form of trying to figure out what it means the longer you don’t hear) is, and what a waste of energy.  Remind yourself of that (while eating chocolate, and/or writing), and if all else fails a glass of wine works wonders.

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

SP: If I had any rejections? I’ve been on submission twice. The first time did not result in a sale, so I got a full dose of rejection. I am not going to lie, not selling that first manuscript (which my agent and I were both crazy about) was crushing.  It didn’t help that it almost sold – in fact that may have made it worse because I kept thinking, “so close.”

One of the reasons that editor rejections are worse than query rejections is the heightened external pressure. When you sign with an agent the great mass of “uninitiated” (non-writing friends, and even some writer friends who think agent = sale) assume that in just a couple of months your book will be on shelves.  They start asking (pretty much the day you acquire representation), “so when is your book out?” The truth is (and it’s a truth many writers don’t learn until they sign with an agent) getting an agent is like going far enough up a mountain to establish a base-camp. It is not the summit and for the first time you realize just how high that darn summit is and how much climbing you still have to do to get there.

The key to dealing with submission rejection, imo, is viewing yourself as in this business for the long haul. Hey, wait a minute, that’s also the key to dealing with the writing and query process. Each time anyone asked me (and there were many), “what are you going to do if this book doesn’t sell?” I always gave the same answer – “write another one, and another one, until I sell one or I get tired of writing.” Bottom line, if you require instant-self-gratification and you can’t stomach struggle do NOT hire the Sherpa and do not attempt the climb.

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?

SP: Editor’s feedback – at least pre book contract – tends to be more “big picture” and “market focused.” That’s why it is so valuable. Your beta’s (and even your critique partners) can’t place your novel into the context of the market the way an editor can. And often an editor isn’t merely giving you feedback on a particular manuscript, but also on your voice as an author and the potential audience for that voice.

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

SP: When you get a “yes” from an editor – as when you get an offer from an agent – there are still important things to consider. Just because an agent, or later a publisher, offers doesn’t mean you are going to (or should) accept. Think marriage proposal – you don’t accept someone just because he asks.

The great thing about fielding an offer from an editor is that, unlike earlier in the process, you have a veteran at your side (your agent) whose job it is to analyze the situation and advise you.

I am a pretty controlled person. So I was excited to have a “yes,” but I tried not to let myself get silly or irrationally exuberant until I (with my trusty agent) had decided, “this is the right offer for me – the right imprint, the right market position, the right editorial vision.” I believe that choosing the wrong agent or publisher in the flush of “oh my god someone said yes” can be a long-term career disaster. Whereas choosing the right agent and publisher for your particular work provides a solid start towards a successfully and fulfilling publishing experience.

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

SP: I only had to wait a very short time to be able to announce my deal. While I was waiting I was able to tell my immediate family (husband, kids, parents) so I didn’t suffer, lol.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hooray! I Flashed You!

A little dose of BBC flash for everyone today. I entered a short in a blog contest and won - I'm up today in Dawn Sparrow's blog, if you'd like another foray into my mind. If not we can talk about how Downton Abbey may actually be softening my cold, cold heart.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Talk - AFTER THE SNOW by S.D. Crockett

Willo's world is a frozen place where barest hints of life before the oceans broke are bound between the pages of a book. His father raised him to be the light, a beacon of hope and self-sufficiency in a place where people are easily controlled by the promises of food and warmth. The cities teem with the grog-addicted masses who are unable to care for themselves, while the efficient people who eek out a quiet life in the country are considered outlaws who will not conform.

Willo has heard his father's lessons of hope and peace his whole life, but a stronger voice overrides them. The wild dogs of the icy countryside look after themselves and Willo's survival instinct speaks in their terms, telling him to remain number one in his own mind at all costs. The dog-voice has saved Willo more than once in the wilderness, but when Willo's father and siblings are taken away in a raid, he has to decide whether self-preservation super-cedes their bonds.

AFTER THE SNOW is an incredible debut about survival and human relationships, the choices we make that define who we are, and the internal struggles that we all face, whether we acknowledge it as dog-voice or Ego. Willo's voice is deceptively simple, a refreshing POV in which to question the murky depths of human nature.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

I've had some random ones this week. Synapses are firing that perhaps I should question twice before admitting. But you know me...

1) If the powers that be want us to exit the building in a calm and orderly fashion during an emergency, why are fire alarms designed to induce panic?

2) Self-editing is kind of like flossing. You've got some extra stuff in there. You put it there, and it's your job to get it out. It's rotting the good stuff all around it.

3) I have the sudden urge to have a character named Madame Tunguska. I've got no plot line or anything.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An SAT with Sophie Crockett, Author of AFTER THE SNOW

Before you get to today's super exciting SAT, check out my first post over on my new group blogging endeavor. Book Pregnant is a group of 30 debut authors who want to share our experience of delivering that first book baby into the publishing world. I'm up today blogging about my anti-climactic Book Deal Day.

I have a fantastic addiction to the SAT (Successful Author Talk) here with us today. Born in 1969, SD Crockett was brought up on a yacht as her parents circumnavigated the globe. After graduating from London University’s Royal Holloway and Bedford New College with a degree in Drama and Theatre Studies, she spent time living in Russia, Turkey, Eastern Europe - and in Armenia as a timber buyer. Yeah, that's right. And she's one hell of a writer too. Her debut novel AFTER THE SNOW is set in 2059, the new Ice Age. Born after the snows, fifteen-year-old straggler kid, Willo Blake, has never known a life outside hunting and trapping in the hills.  When his family mysteriously disappears, leaving him alone on a freezing mountain, Willo sets off into the unknown to find them. AFTER THE SNOW will be available March 27th, 2012 from Feiwel & Friends



Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?

SC: I wouldn’t say I’m a planner, no. I have tried it, plotting out 3-6 chapters at a time, but in every case it has meant the future culling of thousands and thousands of words. I like the story to unravel in a fictional version of ‘real-time.' Each to their own. But I do think a lot about where the grand story arc is going, getting inspiration from so many things outside of the work I’m doing. That’s the real planning for me.

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

SC: About a year. I’ve got a two-year-old child around, so that probably influences the time it takes.

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

SC: See above!  One project at a time for me. The other projects I might think of are shelved fairly brutally for a future date.

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

SC: Yes. Fear of having no direction in life. Fear of running out of money. Fear of wasting my time with this writing lark. I carried a proverbial bucket of sand around and stuck my head in it regularly.

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

SC: Two. One was a learning curve of editing, and the other not ‘big’ enough for me to really try punting it around.

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

SC: Yes. The first book. I finished it, but quit on it after 14 rejections. But I had two requests for a full, and that gave me the confidence to carry on. I was pragmatic.

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

SC: My agent is Julia Churchill of The Greenhouse Literary Agency, which has a base in the UK and the US. I sent my query to Julia, and she responded in three weeks asking for a full submission; she took me on after reading it. It was a traditional query: letter, synopsis and first chapter.

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

SC: I think you have to be pragmatic. Work on those first few chapters until your fingers bleed. If you think they’re good, do the same for every block of three chapters in the book. Treat each block like you’re sending only that out, because if someone does request a full, it will be very disappointing if they don’t take you on because you haven’t carried on the spark that interested them in the first place.
Most agents have a massive workload, they don’t have time to hold your hand. And I also think that having angry vitriol for agents and the publishing industry if/when you get rejected, is a very negative and unattractive thing. They have a business to run, and your part of that business is writing well and solidly and crossing your fingers that what you’ve done is what is needed. Don’t chase a dollar, chase a dream of perfection in your work and don’t be lazy. There are a lot of writers out there who aren’t.
But remember. Agents and publishers need great books. If no one likes your baby after a number of queries (your call on what that number is) then accept the inevitable and write something new. And then send that out, learning from your mistakes.

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

SC: Pretty humbling and emotional but the beginning of a new mountain to climb.

BBC: How much input do you have on cover art?

SC: Zero. But if you have a good suggestion - make it but don’t push it.

BBC: What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

SC: That I was more patient than I thought, and that I was capable of writing a book.

Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? 

SC: I’m a bit of a luddite (google it!) I didn’t have a website until very recently. And now I have a blog too. Which has been more fun than I thought. I’m very lucky that my publisher has arranged a lot of the marketing for my book and I try to do everything I can to help them and make myself available.

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

SC: I think you should write and think about that after someone likes your work. But as I said I’m a luddite, and you have writers like Amanda Hocking who give that sentiment a good kick up the …!

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?

SC: Probably.  Undoubtedly.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Social Networking

Facebook. Twitter. Pinterest. Tumblr. Blogging.

You just stabbed yourself in the face, didn't you?

It's OK, I wanted to do that at one point in my life too. Luckily, I did not. I learned that I was looking at the entire experience of social networking in the wrong light. I thought I didn't have anything to say. I thought nobody would care. I thought my follower list would be small and that would be embarrassing.

Here's the thing. If you want to make a big bang, it takes time. Building relationships in the e-world is no different than in the real world. You can't be pushy. You can't always talk about yourself. You have to make it clear you're interested in the actual person, and what they have to say. There's a great way to learn about social networking, and have a built in follower base before you even jump into the larger world of social networking.

Join a writer's forum.

Oh yeah, sure, one more thing I have do to, right? I'll tell you flat out I wouldn't have a decent query, an agent, or a deal, without the spectacular community over at AgentQuery Connect. No, really. I wouldn't. I learned so much over there, I can't even begin to break it down. These are the people that helped make my query better as a group. This is where I met my crit partners who helped mold my novel into something attractive to an agent. This is where someone finally said, "Dude, start a blog already."

My first followers on my Twitter and my blog are from AQC. And I think that says a lot.

I admit that I love social networking. Love it so much that I am now contributing to three group blogs. The fantastic From the Write Angle - a blog that offers multiple perspectives on writing and publishing industry, The Lucky 13's - a group of MG and YA authors who are debuting in 2013, and launching TODAY is the newest group endeavor of which I am a part. Book Pregnant - a group of 30 debut authors who are dedicated to helping you understand what to expect as you bring that first book baby into the world.

And THEN you know what I went and did? I'm on Pinterest now.

I know, I'm insane. But I do love that bomb.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Non-Fiction Fridays: SPOOK by Mary Roach

I joined an excellent reading challenge over on Goodreads - the Dusty Bookshelf. The idea is to make it your goal to read those books that have been setting on your shelf for... well, for however long they've been there. I've got one on my list that I bought in 1995.

This week I made the first dent in that list, with the non-fiction title SPOOK by Mary Roach. 

SPOOK is a critical, science-based journey through the world of the supernatural. Mediums, ectoplasm, EVP, apparitions, Near Death Experiences, and things that go bump in the night all fall under the discerning eye of the author.

If you're hoping to emerge with proof of the supernatural, you'll be disappointed. But what you will find here are some dedicated, respected people involved in hard science who DO believe, and think they can prove it. Their efforts so far may have been futile, but they haven't given up.

Weighing dead mice, searching for extra stomachs inside of ectoplasm emitters, and asking the age old question of whether or not a woman's vagina has room in there for a picnic table size of cloth - you'll find all kinds of interesting experiments with assorted goals inside these pages.

And you'll be entertained. For sure.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Debut YA Author April Tucholke - The Pantster Who Doesn't Quit

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured another author to the blog for an SAT (Successful Author Talk). April Tucholke is a fellow Lucky13'er - a group of MG and YA authors who will be debuting in 2013. Her debut novel BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA will be released from Dial in 2013.

Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?

AT: Pantster. Utterly. I like having the merest shadow of a structure before I start--because the best ideas tend to come to me as I go along. I'll get about a third of the way through a manuscript, and then decide that this or that character needs to be an a liar, or secretly evil, or violent, or arrogant, or annoyingly wholesome, or dead. It helps keep things interesting for me along the way.

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

AT: I'm pretty slow. Six months for a rough first draft, a year when all is said and done, maybe. I'm not a writer that enjoys the process--all that time spent in my own head. Ugh. I mean, I dig my characters and love the worlds they live in, but those worlds are usually pretty dark. This is fine short term, but hour after hour of it, every day for months, makes me moody.

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

AT: I prefer to do one thing at a time.  But I'll start a new WIP, and get all caught up in it, and then switch focus to do edits on the old ms, and back and forth.  I'm the kind of person who reads six books at once, though, so I've had practice at holding several plotlines in my head.

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

AT: Oh, heck yeah. I studied writing in college (in the Midwest), and in my program genre writing was scoffed at. Tender, coming-of-age farm stories were the thing--not really my cup of tea. That put me off writing for awhile. And then, when I thought about getting back into it, I was worried it would ruin reading for me--that I would learn too much about publishing, that I would start to notice things I didn't want to notice, like lazy rule-breaking, and too many adverbs, and unnecessary dialogue tags.  I worried that I would never be swept up in a story again. And that did happen, for awhile.  But I got over it.

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

AT: None. I just kept working on the same manuscript until it was good enough, completely rewriting sections until it morphed into something else entirely. Something better.

BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms?

AT: No, I guess not. I hate to give up on things.

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

AT: Joanna Volpe at Nancy Coffey. Traditional query process.

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent?

AT: I sent out nine queries for BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, and queried for two days--Joanna offered less than 24 hours after I sent her my full. That was pretty cool.

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

AT: I've been working on this writing thing for four solid years (not counting my college days). I was repped before, and had two manuscripts not sell. This caused some of the darkest moments in my life--and I'm kind of an optimist by nature. Make sure you really want to do it before you begin. Bad. Because, unless you're very, very, very lucky, writing will make you bleed.

Hmmm…that wasn't very inspiring. OK, how about this:  do whatever it takes to find the best critique partner you can. Because you will need them. You will need them to edit your manuscript, of course, but also just to have someone to talk to about the ups and downs of the querying/publishing world. Your non-writing family and friends probably aren't going to cut it--there's a good chance they'll view writing as an artistic luxury, not a job. That's fine, but really unhelpful when things get tough. I found a brilliant CP, and I couldn't live without her.

And if all else fails, get a dog.  But this is my advice for most things.

On Being Published:
BBC: How much input do you have on cover art?

AT: I've yet to hear any word on my cover.  But hopefully I'll have some input on it.  I worked in a bookstore for four years and, despite the saying, people happily judge books by their cover, consistently and without hesitation.

BBC: What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

AT: 1. How many people want to be writers. I wanted to be an artist, actually. I used to hang around the art studio in college, lurking in corners and watching the painter kids slap oil onto canvases.  They seemed very exotic to me.

2. How much revising goes into a book, and how wicked hard it is. I went to the new Mission Impossible movie recently, and was sitting there, watching them try to plan an impossible mission, and I thought to myself, yo, try revising a manuscript some time. Absurd, I know. But yeah, that's what ran through my head.

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you do?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? 

AT :I have a basic website, and have joined the very supportive Lucky 13s. I was on twitter for a few months, and then quit because it sucked a dangerous amount of time--I'm not sure I have the discipline to both write and be on twitter. It's funny, even four years ago when I started writing, there were very, very few YA author blogs (were there any?)…and I don't think twitter even existed.

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

AT: Personal preference, I think. A lot of the authors I know started a blog before they were agented. I still don't have one. How much do you have to say? How much time do you want to spend saying it?

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?

AT: I think social media helps writers connect to other writers, which is great. Readership? Maybe. A bit. I think goodreads does what it can.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Advice? Make Shit Happen

Before you indulge yourself in learning how to make shit happen, I'm thrilled to be visiting over at Lenore Appelhans' excellent blog, Presenting Lenore. I'm talking about dystopians in general, and NOT A DROP TO DRINK in particular.

People sometimes ask me if I have a certain routine I go through before I write, something to put my mind in the right place. I've been to conferences where speakers advise a few moments of meditation, lighting the same scent of candle, or listening to some music that you find inspirational before you put your fingers to the keyboard. I have a slightly more straightforward approach.

I plop myself in front of the laptop and say, "Ok, Mindy. Make shit happen."

And honestly, isn't that what we're doing when we write? Making shit happen to people that don't exist? But forcing the fecal matter to flow isn't only restricted to the word count output for the day. When I give myself that one sentence pep-talk it covers all my bases.

Blog not ready to go for the next week?
Haven't tweeted for awhile?
Need to get on the crits for my partners?
Running out of interviewees?

Make all that shit happen.

More importantly, when I was still on the agent hunt I'd hit those stagnant pools of time. Queries are out wandering to people who may or may not be non-responders. Five out of my ten came back form rejections. I've got partials and fulls out but everyone knows that's not a guarantee and I shouldn't just twiddle my thumbs hoping they love me. So what did I do?

Made shit happen.

If I knew my query was ready and I didn't have a lot hanging in the wind, I sent out more. There's no hope in getting that YES email if that special person waiting to read my query doesn't know I exist yet.

So next time you feel like forward progress isn't on your side, ask yourself:

Did I make shit happen today?

Friday, February 3, 2012

An SAT with Debut YA Author Erin Cashman

Before we get to today's interview, I'm up on From the Write Angle today, talking self-promotion. If you want to know how to aggressively promote yourself without being an ass, check it out!

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured another author onto the blog for an SAT. Today guest is Erin Cashman author of THE EXCEPTIONALS. A teenage girl must use her long-ignored ability to communicate with animals to unravel the mystery behind the disappearances of the most talented students at Cambial Academy, a school for teens with special abilities. Along the way she uncovers a chilling prophecy and meets a gorgeous but secretive boy – who may know more than he’s letting on.

Writing Process:
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?

EC: I’m a hybrid for sure. Once I come up with an idea, I jot down some ideas, and then I let it swirl around in my head for several days, especially when I’m out walking my dog. I usually know how it will end, and how it will begin. For everything in between, I prefer to just write, and see where the story – and more importantly, the characters – takes me. But then I have a tendency to lose my way. Now I write a very loose book outline – like a half a page to a page, and then start jotting down notes -- character descriptions, settings, ideas, etc. And then I roughly outline a few chapters, and take it from there. I don’t outline the whole book in detail, because then I think it’s hard to change it. It becomes like a roadmap to the book, instead of the book. (At least for me). A thing that really helped me, is if I’m dying to write a scene, even if it’s the last scene, I write it right away. So with The Exceptionals the very first thing I wrote was the last scene with Claire and Dylan. Otherwise, I rush to write the part I want to the most!

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

EC: Anywhere from six months to a year, depending on how extensive the re-writes need to be!

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

EC: I work on one project at a time, and I try to work on it every day if I can, so that I stay with the characters and the flow in my head.

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

EC: No. I guess I figure, just get something down, you can always go back and change it. And if it’s terrible, chalk it up to a learning experience and move on.

BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

EC: Two.

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

EC: I quit on my first novel, a vampire middle grade story that I finished just as Twilight came out. I worked on it and sent it out for three years until an agent finally said: we are only interested in vampire romance, and even that is getting saturated, but I love your writing, so if you write anything else send it to me requested. I had an epiphany right then and there. My novel just wasn’t going to sell, so I needed to put it away and move on. I started something else within a week, and 6 months later finished. But as I sent it out, I began writing The Exceptionals, and 6 months later I finished that, and luckily, I got an agent and an offer right away. (Finally!)

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

EC: My agent is Erica Silverman from Trident Media Group. I actually read online that she represented YA, which, at the time she didn’t! I sent her an email query, and she agreed to have her assistant at the time, Alexandra Bicks, read it. Alexandra liked it, so Erica told me she would read it. A few days later she called to tell me she loved it. (I was absolutely ecstatic!) I became her first YA client.

BBC: How long did you query before landing your agent?  

EC: For The Exceptionals I only sent out a few queries, but with the other two novels I sent out dozens!

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

EC: I absolutely hated writing query letters, and as an attorney I am terrible at them. I write them too professionally! My only advice is to be sincere, and to tell – in a couple of sentences – what makes your book special. What I did learn is that when you’re rejected, it’s usually not your writing that the agent is rejecting; it’s simply that the agent doesn’t think your story will sell. So keep writing, and keep trying!

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

EC: Just today I saw The Exceptionals in a bookstore. It was surreal! To see a dream come true in such a tangible way is amazing.

BBC: How much input do you have on cover art?

EC: My incredible editor, Pam Glauber and I talked about it several times. We both did not want an illustration, or a photograph. Pam chose Richard Tuschman, who is a very talented artist. He combines drawing and photography in his work. I love the dreamy quality to the cover, and the light between Claire and Ferana, the hawk in the story. But I did not have final approval or say in the cover.

BBC: What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

EC: I was surprised by how important a good editor is. Pam was very thorough and thoughtful. She never told me what to write, but she pointed things out like: I know you need Charlotte for the plot, but she’s kind of boring. Charlotte is a minor character, and I had never given her much thought. Once I thought about her, and her place in the family and at Cambial, she became the annoying, bragging, tattle-tale that she is now. Pam helped me write a far better novel.

Social Networking and Marketing:
BBC: How much of your own marketing do you?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter?

EC: I have a website, and a facebook fan page. I go on them often, and love interacting with readers!

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

EC: I think you should focus first and foremost on the writing. Then, look to join some author groups. I am amazed at how kind and generous other authors are. They are so free with their time, advice, help and encouragement. It is a wonderful community, and I am so happy to be a part of it. They will help you figure it out!

BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I am very new to social media – about a month into it – so I’m not sure. I think it will. I would have loved it if my favorite author in high school, J.R.R. Tolkein, (and still one of my favorites, now) had a fan page and website! I would have emailed him all the time!

Book Talk - RED SPIKES by Margo Lanagan

RED SPIKES is a collection of short stories from Margo Lanagan, author of TENDER MORSELS, that can teach any writer a lot about how to concoct a bizarre world, deliver a plot, build characters you care about, then take it all away in few short pages that make the reader want more.

These ten short stories mostly take place in worlds just different enough from ours to put the reader outside the comfort zone, yet forces them to relate to the cares, worries, and very real dangers that the characters face. Young Dylan, whose recurring childhood nightmare might have not been only in his mind, and the fierce warrior Queen from that shadowy world who seeks an exchange for the years she's been protecting him. A group of wandering souls stranded in the never-ending apathy of Limbo, collecting "brownie points" for escorting Miscreant Souls to the gates of Hell in the hopes of finally gaining admittance to heaven. A needy girl caught up in the streets late at night by a giant in search of eyelids, whose nightdress is sewn together from the gowns of missing children. Cerise, a child in our world who never fit the mold her mother had laid out for her, because she is a child of clay and her flesh soul-twin is stuck in the world of earth.

The stories are brief, haunting, and immensely powerful. Even better, in the acknowledgements Lanagan talks about the inspiration for each story, which as a writer I find illuminating. If you want to learn how to grab a reader, entrance and release them while being economical with words, definitely check this collection out!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

It's been another week of me thinking random things. I do enjoy rambling around in my own brain sometimes. Thursday Thoughts is a great dumping ground for all those little snippets that aren't intelligent enough to make their own blog post about, and certainly don't merit a short story or (God forbid) a novel. For example:

1) I can crack my back by flexing my thighs. I've discovered this about myself, and it's one of those ridiculous personal quirks that I'm oddly proud of.

2) Nathan Fillion has a READ poster. It's already been bought and hung up in my library. I can now say I put mounting tabs on Nathan Fillion.

3) I kind of have a READ poster addiction. I've got a few on my wish list. I'd love to see Edward Norton reading FIGHT CLUB or Norman Reedus with THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE.

It's kind of a librarian thing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Writing

So often I come across quotes from writers and I think "Yeah! You totally get me!" Too bad most of them are already dead and we can't have a good long sit-down. Today's quote:

I have often thought that the best mode of life for me would be to sit in the innermost room of a spacious locked cellar with my writing things and a lamp. Food would be brought and always put down far away from my room, outside the cellar's outermost door. The walk to my food, in my dressing gown, through the vaulted cellars, would be my only exercise. I would then return to my table, eat slowly and with deliberation, then start writing again at once. And how I would write! From what depths I would drag it up! - Franz Kafka

In other words: Leave me alone, bring me food. I'm fine.