Saturday, June 30, 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.

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

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

And now for the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

It's been over sixty years since Lucy last killed. The only difference is now instead of taking lives, she's taking souls. Very nice, I like the hook.

When contract killer Lucy Hamilton was murdered in 1951, she never thought her day job would transition into the afterlife. Her superiors call her Lucy, her friends call her Contract Killer, but everyone else calls her Death. Nice, I like the whole plot setup, especially the idea of a female assassin in the 50's. The one thing I would say here is that it seems like you need something snazzier for what her friends call her. Everything so far is nice and snappy so it seems repetitive to use the phrase "contract killer" twice. Give her something more clever for a nickname. And I don't know the voice of course, but it seems like her superiors would call her Ms Hamilton?

After countless years of training in Limbo on how to do her trade I'd strike the phrase after "Limbo." Training implies she's learning how to do her trade. Also, the phrase "countless years" makes me wonder when the story is actually set? Present day? If so, make it "50 odd years" or something like that here in the query. Otherwise it raises the question of "when" we are, Lucy sets out to reap her first soul. Even though she knows humans can see and interact with her, she figures being a reaper is no different than being an assassin - all it takes is a little skill I feel like you don't need the "even though" to start the sentence. More like "Since" or "Because." However, when memories from her death interfere with work, she gets caught reaping an old man, Slightly clunky phrasing here, scale back the beginning phrase of this sentence turning her into a wanted felon the phrase "wanted felon" is a little redundant - how about "turning her into a felon wanted" by the San Jose Police Department. Her mugshot becomes local news at eight, but she knows she must continue reaping the names of those on her list or their spirits will find a way to exact revenge for their deaths. I'd put a para break here. Lucy was just doing her job; she didn't know the old man she got caught reaping was the grandfather of one seriously pissed off lunatic. And for him, this is personal. David Clark I'd put a rank in front of this so we know he's police launches a statewide manhunt for Lucy and ends up getting a hold of her list. Really? That seems a little far-fetched. You definitely need to tell us how. After figuring out what he holds "hold / holds" echo in his hands is Death's List, he understands he's been granted access to the names of those who are next in line to die. And he knows just what to do with it.

Given no choice, Lucy must find a way to keep David from selling her list to the highest bidder or risk having it land in the hands of someone powerful enough to cheat Death. Very confused on what this last sentence is implying - when you said he knows just what to do with it, I assumed that meant he was going to go to the places were the people on the list lived so that he could catch Lucy. But now he's selling it? And what good would that do, knowing someone is scheduled to die? How would that information be lucrative? And who is the person powerful enough to cheat Death?

Overall you've got a great premise and most of this query is fantastic. But little problems are popping up at the end. You mention the psycho guy, but then he's dropped in favor of David the cop, whose motivations I'm not understanding. I also am not clear on how someone (anyone) having the list would really matter all that much, and I'm very lost on who the person is who would be powerful enough to cheat Death.

Iron out the kinks, don't let the psycho just go wandering off the page, and be clear about the ramifications of the list and you're in a good place.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Crits For Water

Myself and seven of the other quite amazing members of Friday the Thirteeners are offering crits for water! Bidding closes today - go here to see what you need to do. If you've ever wanted me to look at something more than just your query, this is how to get it done. Otherwise RC Lewis has my hands full, as she writes a novel every month or so :)


Thursday, June 28, 2012

A BOA with Presenting Lenore

My original intention for the series of interviews I do here was to focus on agents (BBCHAT) and successful authors (SAT). In the course of internet wanderings though, I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA.


Today's guest is Lenore Applehans of Presenting Lenore, who runs an absolutely stunning book review blog, as well as being a debut author herself! Her book, LEVEL 2, will be available from Simon & Schuster, January 15, 2013. For her fantastic cover reveal and trailer, check out this post on her blog. And to make her even cooler, she's a cat person.

BBC: So you run an excellent blog over at Presenting Lenore What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?

LA: Originally I envisioned PL as a place to talk about my work in advertising (hence the title), but after attending the SCBWI pre-Bologna conference in 2008, I repurposed the blog to discuss books. In the early years, my reading was a lot more eclectic, but gradually my focus narrowed to YA since that’s what I mainly write.

BBC: I know a lot of aspiring writers who are intimidated by the idea of blogging. They want to, but they are worried it will cut into their (already precious) writing time. You're a prolific blogger - how do you recommend one be both a successful blogger and writer?

LA: Blogs are a ton of work, no question. In 2009, at the height of my blogging, I wrote and published a post every day – with probably about half being book reviews. These days, most of that creative energy goes into writing fiction, so I’m lucky to have time for one or two posts a week.

One thing I think helps keep a balance is having specific goals. For 2012, for example, my two main goals are to stage my two dystopian/post-apocalyptic theme months (February and August) and to promote my fellow debut authors in the Apocalypsies via my Apoc Love! feature. I also have the very reliable Cat Tuesdays as an easy filler post.

I used to accept more blog tours and scheduled events, but I’ve drastically cut back on anything that has a firm deadline. It’s just too stressful. Having a calendar really helps though!

BBC: It looks like you’re a big reader - do you set aside time for that?

LA: I have to set aside time for reading and I consider it part of my job as a writer. It’s essential not only to know what’s out there but also in terms of improving craft. I have learned so much about how to pace and plot YA from reading hundreds of YA novels over the past couple of years.

BBC: You do a lot of reviews. Have you ever given a bad review? Why or why not?

LA: I’ve written critical reviews, yes. Book reviews are for readers and if they’re not honest, they are worthless. What I think a lot of authors don’t really get is that vaguely positive reviews pass from a reader’s consciousness in a matter of seconds while an in-depth, thoughtful review, even if it has its criticisms, forces a reader to engage with the material and really consider reading it.

Despite my firm belief in the value of critical reviews, my Apoc Love! book reviews are a bit different. Since these debut authors are essentially part of my support community, I use this feature to accentuate the positive, only talking about what I love about a book and not bringing up what I don’t. I’m still being honest, but my readers know that I’m only discussing the good aspects of the book.

BBC: Do you think blogging is a helpful self-marketing tool?

LA: It can be, for sure. When I asked, in a recent survey attached to a contest, where visitors had first heard about LEVEL 2, I’d say 70% answered that they’d heard about it via my blog. Granted I was a blogger long before I was an author, but the contacts I’ve made just by being an active part of the blogosphere all these years (leaving comments on other blogs, engaging people on twitter, joining in events like read-a-thons, etc) are so valuable. At Book Expo America this year, I couldn’t walk two feet without running into someone I knew.

BBC: What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?

LA: I’m a huge fan of the link round-ups at YA Highway and Cynsations and I check in at least once a week at Verla Kay’s blue boards. I also subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace and the free newsletters from Publisher’s Weekly and Shelf Awareness. I find myself clicking on a lot of links from authors, agents and editors on twitter. Always lots of wisdom to be found there!

It can also be very educational to follow some of the more critical reviewers in the blogosphere to get an idea of what type of story element resonates and what repels. A few of my favorites are: Forever Young Adult, The Book Smugglers, GalleySmith, StephSuReads, and Stacked Books.

BBC: What is your genre, and what led you to it? Does your genre influence the style of your blog?

LA: I’d say LEVEL 2 falls mainly into the thriller genre, though it does have some dystopian elements.  My blog isn’t dystopian most of the year – just in February and August! But I am also blogging on the group blog The League of Extraordinary Writers, which focuses on sci-fi.

BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?

LA: Hard work pays off. Maybe not today, but someday! Hopefully soon :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cover Reveal Interview with Shannon Messenger, Author of LET THE SKY FALL



I love talking to debut authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest is my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Shannon Messenger, to talk about her awesome cover for LET THE SKY FALL, available from Simon Pulse in March, 2013.

Vane Weston should have died in the category five tornado that killed his parents. Instead, he woke up in a pile of rubble with no memories of his past—except one: a beautiful, dark-haired girl standing in the winds. She's swept through his dreams ever since, and he clings to the hope that she's real.

Audra is real, but she isn't human. She's a sylph, an air elemental who can walk on the wind, translate its alluring songs, even twist it into a weapon. She's also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect him at all costs. 

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra has just days to help Vane unlock his memories. And as the storm winds gather, they start to realize the greatest danger might not be the warriors coming to destroy them, but the forbidden romance growing between them. 

Set amongst the desert airstreams of Coachella Valley in California, LET THE SKY FALL is about two teenagers broken by their pasts, divided by their futures, and bound by love.

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

SM: Honestly? Not really. I had a much stronger sense of what I DIDN’T want it to look like than what I wanted, so mostly I sent a lot of silent, “please don’t let it have _____” wishes into the void and danced for joy when I saw the final cover.

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

SM: Pretty early, actually. Even in my first round of edits there were notes in the margins of certain scenes marking them for possible cover ideas. And during The Great and Never-Ending Title Debate (LET THE SKY FALL was VERY hard to title) my editor gave me some information on what they were thinking for the cover to try and help inspire some title ideas.

BBC: Did you have any input on your cover?

SM: Yes and no. My editor and I are (fortunately) very much on the same page, so mostly she told me what they were doing and I said brilliant things like, “Ooo, that’s going to be awesome!” I did get to see headshots of the models they’d selected for the photo shoot ahead of time, and offer some suggestions on how I’d preferred them to be styled (all of which were met with: yep, that’s what we’re planning!), but on the whole it was all the amazing team at S&S doing what they do best.

BBC: How was your cover revealed to you?

SM: In an email from my editor where she gushed and gushed about how amazing it was for several paragraphs and I did my best to be a good author and read all of that despite the fact that all I really wanted to do was DOWNLOAD THE ATTACHMENT AND SEE IT.

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

SM: Yes, though it was a bit of a rushed scramble. Within a couple of weeks of finalizing the art I found out that LET THE SKY FALL was going to be featured at a special S&S event the week of BEA and that ARCs would be given out. Which—while AWESOME—meant we needed to do the reveal before that event, and there wasn’t a lot of time to organize. So we settled on revealing May 30th, which gave me a couple of weeks to prepare, but was still before everyone would start traveling for BEA and be too distracted to be checking blogs.

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

SML Only about three weeks. Like I said, it was a bit of a last minute scramble.

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

SM: YES! Keeping secrets is never easy for me. And since we were scrambling to prepare for that event, I kept getting exciting things I couldn’t share. Like, they sent me my ARCs, but I couldn’t post the obligatory Shannon-Hugging-Her-Book photo (what? It HAS to be done!) because the cover was still secret. Same with when the bookmarks I’d ordered came in, I *almost* forgot and posted a picture of them on Twitter. Thank goodness I remembered at the last minute and stopped.

BBC: What surprised you most about the process?

SM: How MUCH I loved the final cover. It was SO MUCH BETTER than what my imagination had come up with.

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

SM: Yes, two things. One: try not to panic until you actually SEE the cover, because nine times out of ten authors end up loving what their publisher sends them. And if you do happen to fall into the category of not liking your cover, trust your agent to help guide you through. There’s a lot that can still be done and I know many authors who started out with something that wasn’t right and ended up with something awesome!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Do You Like Me? Circle Yes Or No.

Because Facebook doesn't have a "maybe" option. I'm a commitment kind of girl.

Yes, it's true. What all this actually means is that I finally have a Facebook author page. This is your chance to prove that you like me, because as we all know Facebook is emotionally binding.

Also, I know *exactly* who I like, and to find out who (and just how much), pop on over to Cupid's Literary Connection.

And if you want to check out an awesome interview with my pub housemate Liz Coley interviewing my other pub housemate Veronica Roth, you should probably check out The Lucky 13's today.

Saturday, June 23, 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.

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

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

And now for the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

When a chair lift accident leaves seventeen year-old Lauren Peterson in a coma, she can’t imagine anything worse than being trapped in her body with no way to communicate. Until, she’s trapped in someone else’s. Rockin'. This is solid.

After hospital employee Dave Cooper rips Lauren’s soul from her unconscious body, no one even knows she’s missing. Her monitors continue to beep and the oxygen still whistles; but she is now inside of Dave. I'm totally hooked.

Lauren watches helplessly as her captor continues to take souls one by one. But when his other victims begin to control his behavior in odd and sometimes dangerous ways, she thinks it may be the key to her freedom. How so?

As she fights to get through to someone on the outside, she knows she’s running out of time. Not only are the other souls disappearing, Lauren’s starting to question everything. Because when you have a front row seat to someone’s life, it’s easy to see that everyone has two sides. Very nice.

SUSPENDED STATE is a young adult paranormal thriller complete at 50,000 words.

As you can see by my lack of comments, I'm not sure how much you need me here ; ) I do have some overall suggestions though.

The writing here is sparse and tight, perfect for a query. But there are some broader things that I need as a reader to understand the story. What is Dave's motivation for stealing souls? What does he gain by doing this? He can't be living vicariously through comatose people. Also, it sound like they control him occasionally, so perhaps it's not always to his benefit?

Also I made a note about how is that fact the possible key to her escape? And what do you mean by the other souls are disappearing? Is this why she's running out of time? I very much like the idea that she's questioning everything. That line, along with your sinker implies that our bad guy Dave isn't horrible through and through. Unless that's not what you're going for, it's pitch perfect.

Get those larger ideas out there and you're ready to query. Great job, and fantastic concept - I'd buy it!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

You Just Can't Make This Shit Up

My life really is a never ending stream of ridiculousness. Last night an All-Family-Distress-Call went out when my mom's Scottish Terrier got herself stuck under the driveway.

Ahem, yes - under the driveway. For those of you who are unaware of what a culvert is, you might want to click here. For everyone else, I'll just keep going.

My sister and I are aware of the minor miracle that made us able to pass through our German mother's care without becoming morbidly obese. We're not sure how we escaped the fate of every single family pet, but I think it was being athletic and also the fact that it was the 80s and most of us wore spandex whenever possible.

For those of you who don't know,
this is a Scottish Terrier.
In any case, Abby (named after Aberdeen) is the most recent in a long line of Scottish Terriers. As a breed, they are incredibly intelligent and ferocious little shits. Individual results may vary.

Yesterday Abby got it into her head to dive into a culvert and investigate tight spaces that her very large arse had no hope of fitting into.

Or back out of.

And so, Abby was in fact, stuck under the driveway.

Individual results may vary
I got the call around 9 PM because I'm the owner of a very nice Mag lite and my mother had managed to turn my dad's on at some point during the afternoon and never ever turn it back off. So I drove over to my parent's house to find the neighbor, my brother-in-law, my cousin, and my dad all standing in a hole up to their waists and pounding on the drainpipe to see if the dog was in that particular pipe or the next one.

Note - it's very difficult to see a black dog inside a pitch-black pipe after 9 PM.

For those of you who don't know,
this is a backhoe.

Abby wasn't in that pipe, so the next element came into effect - the backhoe. Yep. We dug up the driveway, cut the phone line and continued beating on the pipe in the hopes that one very fat Scottish Terrier would get up the gumption to push herself on out. But she didn't, so the backhoe was implemented into Plan C, which involved pulling the entire culvert pipe up and getting it vertical so that her fat butt just fell out one end.

And she then proceeded to go up to the front porch and beg for a treat.

She got it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'm Being Interviewed on Chasing the Crazies

And I thought I had the market on awesome blog titles cornered...

I've got an interview up on Chasing the Crazies today about my slog through the query trenches, where it's wet, cold, muddy, and you don't think anyone loves you.

Plus you feel like your hair always looks bad.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Cover Reveal Interview with Elsie Chapman, Author of DUALED


I love talking to debut authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest is my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Elsie Chapman, to talk about her awesome cover for DUALED, available from Random House February 26, 2013.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Elsie Chapman's suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.  

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

EC: Not at all, actually. A lot of the time, I have a hard time pin-pointing why I like or don’t like something, only that I do or don’t. I was just hoping that when I saw what my publisher came up with, I would simply fall in love with it.

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

EC: Over a year in advance. Which seemed early at the time, but looking back, I’m so glad they got a head start on it. So many people are involved with the cover process, and there’s a lot of back-and-forthing which takes time.

BBC: Did you have any input on your cover?

EC: My editor and DUALED’s art director presented me with concepts and ideas and asked for feedback. I really appreciated being asked for my opinion, and it was great that they were interested to hear my thoughts on everything!

BBC: How was your cover revealed to you?

EC: Step by step, in that they’d tweak, come back to me, we’d all talk, then they would tweak some more. By the time I actually saw it, I already had a good idea what it was going to look like. But seeing it all actually finalized—with the title on it, my name and picture, the tagline and blurbs—it was an overwhelming moment. It just hit me that this was how DUALED was going to be presented to the world.

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

EC: Not really, but my editor gave me the heads up about when my publisher would be releasing it online, so I could plan my own reveal ahead of time if I wanted to go that route.

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

EC: With the finalized version, about a week or two, I think.

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

EC: It was! I really wanted to share it, but I’ve learned to be a much more patient person now, with the publishing process being what it is. So I try to keep in mind that all good things take time.

BBC: What surprised you most about the process?

EC: How involved it is, and how much thought is put into every single detail. From the font to title placement to whether or not any special effects such as gloss or foil will be used. And as much as it is an art and a super creative process to put together a cover, it does make sense that the sales and marketing department also has a say in the final product.

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

EC: To always remember that your publisher wants nothing but the best for your book, and for it to succeed. And that they know more than we do about what works for a cover. So trust that they’re going to do an awesome job, just as they trust you to do the same when it comes to filling the pages in between!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Round Robin Blogvel - BLOOM Chapter 3

Today you get something a little different. I'm participating in a Round Robin Blogvel which is the brainchild of my buddy Michelle over at Greenwoman. My lot fell to Chapter Three. If you'd like to read Chapter One and Chapter Two (which you probably should or you'll be lost) click on the links.

BLOOM - Chapter Three

I woke to the sound of windchimes. My first thought was to be thankful for the breeze, my second was that we didn't have any windchimes anymore because my brother tore them down to fight off his recurring migraines.

I opened my eyes and instantly regretted it. My room had become a pinball machine for sunlight, and it bounced off of everything, searing my vision and leaving crazy patterns on the backs of my eyelids. I shaded my eyes before opening them again. Grandma always said being prepared was half the battle.

My closet door hung open. Metallic vines had pushed their way out, then snaked up the walls and intertwined on the ceiling while I slept. Copper and silver petals dangled against each other with the breeze from my window in a song that I would've found gorgeous if it weren't so terrifying.

I jumped out of bed, racing downstairs with the childish hope that if I found an adult and told them everything would be better. "Gran!" I yelled, busting through the downstairs rooms one at a time. "Gran!" The last place I looked was the sunroom, where Grandma started her seeds in the spring.

The ceiling was a mass of metal roots that had punched through the floor of my closet. They inched their way down the wall as I watched, so stunned I seemed to have grown roots of my own. When they reached a vase and curled around it, smashing the crystal into a thousand shards it broke my paralysis.

"Gran!" I screamed as I blew out the backdoor and down to the stream. "Gran, where are you?" There was no answer, and I sprinted down the path away from the house, back to where I had found the flowers, as if there might be some answer there for me. I don't know if I wash hoping for some kind of corrosive metal version of Roundup, but what I found took what little breath I had left in my lungs right out of them.

The massive oak that the flowers had been going under was almost impossible to look at. The vein I'd noticed the night before sneaking up the trunk had taken over the entire living system. Where the sun broke through the canopy and dappled it's trunk, tiny explosions of light shimmered. The ground around the base was littered with branches and leaves, too heavy to hold their own weight now that they flowers had infected them.

I dropped to my knees beside one branch and plucked a leaf away. It came away with a metallic snick that reminded me of clipping wires with Jamie when he showed me how to steal the nearest neighbor's cable. But the leaf in my hand was much heavier than any cord I'd ever held, my hand bowed under it's weight and it fell, hitting my sandaled feet and making my toes curl up in response.

It was gold. Solid gold. The entire oak that I'd spent so much of my childhood under spinning dreams and fairy tales had just turned into one of its own. I gathered up as many leaves as I could carry and shuffled back home under their weight. Wherever Grandma had gone, once she got home I'd have a lot of explaining to do, but the fact that I was now carrying more money than her house was worth might make the explanation go down a little easier.

"Gran," I called as I pushed through the back door. "Are you home?"

"In here, child," came her voice, sounding much weaker than usual. I went into the sunroom to find her in a rocker, deflated and half the size I usually thought her to be, staring at the ceiling.

"Gran?" I said softly. "I need to tell you something."

She sighed. "No, no you don't. What I see in front of me tells me all there is to know." She finally looked at me, the resignation in her eyes so dead that not even the glittering spots from the gold leaves I carried were reflected there.

She reached for my hand. "But what is this?"

"Gold, gran. The old oak in the woods it's - "

"No, girl," she said, turning my hand over and snaking her finger along the molten line that trailed from the leaf cut. "What is this?"


Check out J. Lea Lopez's blog, Jello World next week for Chapter Four.

Saturday, June 16, 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.

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

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

And now for our next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

All it took was one bomb to incinerate her life… "All it took" implies that normally the following object wouldn't be so life-changing. But a bomb incinerating something is pretty much what they're supposed to do, so I'd definitely rework this hook. And kill the ellipses.

As seventeen-year-old Sadie James celebrates the hundred year anniversary of the South’s liberation from the North, I like this idea, but because of the "what if" twist, it almost has me wondering if we're actually in America, or if this is set in another world entirely. I usually say to put the genre and word count on the bottom (as you have) but in this case it might make more sense at the top - unless you can do a little rephrasing to make the setting clear, an explosion rocks her town square. Escaping the chaos, Sadie follows a young rebel soldier into hiding. What she discovers is a safe house and the identity of the uprising’s leader – her presumed dead mother – very much alive. That's cool, I like having Mom in the mix, but... why are there rebels in the first place? What are they uprising against? If the entire "what if" of the novel is what if the South had liberated itself from the North, it feels like any more rebellion is kinda overkill - we need a good reason.

Sadie’s first instinct is to turn her in as a traitor. Why? Does she even know her mother? How long has mom been presumed dead? Is Sadie really that much of a government believer? But as she listens to the rebel’s plan, and accusations of her government’s crimes, she doesn’t know what to believe. Then the government sends her a deadly warning: tell what she knows or everyone she loves will die. I definitely need more here - a rebel plan (to do what?) government crimes (like what?), a deadly warning (how did they send her a message if she's still with the rebels?) This para makes it feel like she's "with" the rebels, "listening" to their plan, etc., but if the gov't is sending her messages asking what she knows, she must not be.

With nowhere else to turn, Sadie reaches out to her mother. Together they infiltrate a government compound where they find evidence (like what?) that will devastate the nation and trigger a second civil war. OK - here's something, maybe even the crux of the novel and the best optionfor a hook But before the truth can be revealed, an unforeseen betrayal Aren't all betrayals unforeseen? cuts out the heart of the rebellion. Now on the run, and the rebellion looking to her for guidance, Sadie will have to let go of the past if she expects to have a future. Really? Why? It's a good line but it's actualy saying anything. If "letting go of the past" is a reference to her mother, you need to capitalize on their relationship in the query if you want this pack a punch.

RESISTANCE is complete at 68,000 words. It is a YA fantasy sounds more like dystopian that re-imagines a modern day America with a “what if” twist, contemplating what life would be like if the United States weren’t united at all. It will appeal to readers who enjoyed the social injustice and military rebellion themes found in Ally Condie’s MATCHED and Marie Lu’s LEGEND.

Great comp titles, and I really like the premise, so don't be disappointed by my reaction to the query. You need more here - why are people rebelling? What does the fact that the South succeded in seceding have to do with the overall plot? What's the relationship with Mom like? Her first reaction is to turn her in, but how does she feel about the fact that she's alive at all? It sounds like Mom is removed later on in the story, and Sadie (love the name, btw) will have to fill her shoes - awesome. But if that's actually what happens, don't be afraid to just throw it out there. You need the emotional tension of the mother-daughter relationship (which sounds like the heart of the book / character identity crisis) to underlie the action here, or else it feels empty.

And lastly, it sounds very much like you're just asking the agent to accept what  you're saying, without making it really clear what's at stake. There's a rebellion, there's a bad government, the whole crux of the action revolves around the fact that you need the reader / agent to be sold on the rebel cause in the first place - but we don't even know what they're rebelling against.

It sounds like a great story, but also very generic the way it's presented in the query. What makes your rebellion worthy, and different from all the other YA rebellions? What makes your government bad, worse than all the other YA dsytopian governments? If you can get those details in there, and find a way to get that 'what if" premise into your hook, you've definitely got something to sell.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Talk - DAEMONS IN THE MIST by Alicia Kat Dillman

Patrick has been infatuated with Nualla for years, but always from a distance. He's a normal guy with normal friends, and she's... she's Nualla. Gorgeous, rich, and seemingly unaware he exists. That is, until the day he steps in between her and an outraged ex, and suddenly she's very interested in him for no reason that he can think of - but he's not questioning it too hard. After a crazy weekend in Vegas with Nualla's friends, Patrick wakes up married to her.

This would pose problems for even the most normal teenager, but marrying Nualla carries its own set of risks. The fog and mist of San Francisco conceals more than just buildings. Nualla is a daemon, and not just any demon. She's next in line to inherit leadership of the realm and while marrying a human doesn't necessarily disqualify her, it does pose unique problems. Patrick has to turn daemon within a year, something he wasn't quite counting on when he hopped a plane to Vegas.

And it turns out there was a good reason why Patrick always felt like he was invisible to Nualla... a very good reason.

From debut Indie author Alicia Kat Dillman, DAEMONS IN THE MIST takes the reader away from the expected cliches of paranormal romance and delivers a sweet love against the odds tale with a twist you won't see coming.

Don't miss my interview with Alicia from earlier this week!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Call for Submissions

I'm in the editing cave, friends. No Thursday Thoughts today because my mind is kind of on a circuit right now that involves taking out all the double spaces after a period that was ingrained in me at college.

Instead I want to talk to you about a writing opportunity with an Indie press, The Elephant's Bookshelf. My short story "First Kiss" was the anchor story for their first anthology offering, SPRING FEVERS - which by the way, is available for free now on Kindle.

Elephant's Bookshelf is now accepting submissions for their next anthology, titled THE FALL. The theme is apocalyptic, dystopian, or otherwise end-of-the-world related fun. Guidelines for submissions can found here.

So come play with us! I've submitted mine.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Indie SAT with Alicia Kat Dillman

We all know there are many different routes to success in this industry. Today on the blog I have someone who not only said, "Hmm... I think I'll go Indie," but, "Hmm... I think I'll just go ahead and start my own Indie business." That kind of spirit and determination is an amazing thing to see, and I've made room twice-over this week on the blog for Alicia Kat Dillman for that reason. Today you get an interview with her, on Friday I'll be reviewing her book DAEMONS IN THE MIST for the BBC Book talk.

Indie author & illustrator Alicia Kat Dillman is a lifelong resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. Kat illustrates and designs book covers & computer game art by day and writes teen fiction by night. Her first book, DAEMONS IN THE MIST, features seventeen year old Patrick Connolly who has been hopelessly infatuated with Nualla for years, though he is all but invisible to her. Until, that is, he rescues her from a confrontation with her ex. Little does Patrick know he’s just set off a dangerous chain reaction that will thrust him into a world of life altering secrets and things that shouldn’t exist, because the fog and mist of San Francisco is concealing more than just buildings.

BBC: What made you decide to become an Indie publisher?

AKD: Most little girls play house or with dolls, I played store. I think I’ve wanted to own my own business since I was five. I come from a long line of people with that entrepreneurial spirit, so it was inevitable, really. I have nothing against traditional publishing, I have a lot of friends who work in the industry. But for me, it was more important that I do this myself, than hand my project over to someone else. I really like the idea that this is mine; that I made this. My words, my art, my design, my drive, moving it forward. That my readers get one complete vision, one story, one voice. Pure, the way it was meant to be.

BBC: Did you do a lot of research? What resources do you recommend?

AKD: I do a lot of research before I do anything, but yes, I did a lot of research before I decided to open my own indie publishing company. I joined a few online groups. Read a ton of articles, blogs and books. I started going to two twitter chats each week geared toward indie publishers. I researched and learned a few new computer programs. I studied books, not the stories in them, but the books themselves. The way they were constructed, the way they were laid-out, the way digital books are formatted, to make sure I could make something just as well put together as the big guys.

Books that were helpful:
Self Printed: A sane person’s Guide to Self publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard
Smart Self Publishing by Zoe Winters
The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by J.A. Konrath

Twitter chats:
#IndieChat
#MBPA

BBC: The cover art for DAEMONS IN THE MIST is fantastic - and you did it yourself! What's your process?

AKD: I hit the books, analyzing what’s out there. Trying to design something that’s true to the story while at the same time something that will stand out from the pack of other new releases.

For the base of Daemons in the Mist’s cover, stock photography was used as part of a newer art form called enhanced photo-imagery. I head on over to the stock photography sites and browse for what I need. I then download their mock images and jump into InDesign to start mocking up a cover based on the template generated by the book printers. Because Daemons in the Mist is part of a trilogy, all 3 books were mocked up at the same time. When I get the cover design the way I like, I purchase the chosen images and head on over to Painter.

I then use my custom designed brushes and go to town. I tend to use what they call  “illustrative color” even though my process with the cover was a departure from my norm, my signature style and use of vibrant color and dramatic lighting is still present. Once the painting is complete, I head back over to InDesign and import the final art before exporting the file and sending it off to the printer. And that’s how my covers are born.

You want to know a secret? The photo-enhanced cover I did for Daemons in the Mist is only the second one I’ve ever done.

BBC: Your trailer is also very nicely done, and again - you did it yourself! You're so useful! :) What made you decide to take the approach that you did with it?

AKD: Daemons in the Mist is told in first person so I figured the trailer should be as well. I decided the trailer would be Patrick’s story, told from his point of view, so I chose two scenes from Daemons in the Mist as the base of the trailer. Why those two scenes? Because really, the whole story pivots on the decisions he makes in those chapters.

The Words
Most of the lines in the trailer were lifted from actual passages in the book and then edited to fit the format of the trailer. It gives you a taste of what you’ll get in the story and a look into the way Patrick thinks; his voice. The few lines he says speak volumes to all the conflict he’s going through in the story without giving too much away and spoiling the story like our modern movie trailers do.

The Music
I wanted a song that was quiet and dramatic like the rain because it is in those small moments we hear ourselves the loudest. Or at least I do anyways.

The Visuals
I wanted it to look like you were one of the people on the street watching Patrick and Nualla through a mix of passing cars, fog and rain. And I wanted that beautiful and dreamlike quality of mist and fog. It’s a metaphor for the whole story. Like fog, the things in it are never as they seem. The farther you go into it, the more you see, the more you realize that everything you thought you knew, was wrong.



BBC: What's your marketing strategy? How do you plan to raise awareness of yourself as an author and DAEMONS IN THE MIST as a title?

AKD: I’m easing into it so I don’t get overwhelmed. I’m new to indie publishing and I don’t want to take on too much and get burned out. That being said, I use all the digital tools at my disposal. If it’s high-tech and social media based there’s a good chance I’m there.

I have a FB page for my studio, my writing, and for the Marked Ones Trilogy. As well, I have a Google+ for me and a page for the books. A lot of authors are on FB but they completely ignore Google+ I don’t, in fact the tour wrap party will be on the DITM Google+ page on June 23rd.

I’m also a regular on Goodreads, Deviant Art, Pinterest, Tumblr and I participate in 5 twitter chats a week. Part of it is about being where my audience is, but mostly it’s because I spend 90% of my day working alone in the studio and I’m a very social person.

This year most of my marketing is internet focused. I’m only attending half the events I normally do because I’m getting married later this year. But that doesn’t mean I ignore the outside world completely. It’s all about a good balance of both. Aside from all the social media, I also exhibit at conventions and festivals and do events and signings at my local indies.

On top of all this I’m doing a two week 30 blog virtual book tour. Which of course you know because you’re on it.

BBC: Any last tips for those considering going Indie?

AKD: Learn to do as much as you can yourself and hire pros for the rest. I for example, am dyslexic, so editing and copyediting just isn’t in my skill set. So I hired people to fill those positions at Korat Publishing. You can skimp on a lot of things when it comes to running your own indie company but editing and a top-notch cover design should never be the place where you make your cuts.

Lastly, if you’re not willing to put in the work to deliver a professional product, then don’t even try to go it your own. There are plenty of publishers and indie presses out there still looking for talent. Do yourself a huge favor and work with one of them.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

CADET OF TILDOR Cover Reveal & Giveaway!

I'm excited because today I'm hosting my first ever official cover reveal! Unlike the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) interviews, which feature interviews with the author about covers that have already been revealed, today I'm one of the bloggers that gets to show you the cover for fellow Lucky13'er Alex Lidell's THE CADET OF TILDOR for the very first time!


Having already survived six years at the Tildor's top military academy, sixteen-year-old Renee De Winter is determined to graduate, training day and night to compete with her male classmates. When the boys overpower her parries, she works harder. When a bully sabotages her gear, she fights without it. But when an underground crime group captures her mentor for its illegal gladiatorial games, she must choose between her career and her conscience. Determined to penetrate the group's inner circles, Renee will leap from academia to the crime filled streets, pick up a sword, and weigh law against loyalty.

THE CADET OF TILDOR will be available January 10, 2013 from Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin). Add it to your Goodreads shelf, or pre-order on Amazon today!

Not only do you get to have a close encounter with great cover art, but the author is also giving away two fantastic swag kits. Giveaways are limited to US addresses only, the author will contact the winner. Giveaways end Friday, June 15.  

The First Swag Pack: (For Readers and Fans!)


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The Second Swag Pack (For Educators): Laminated vocabulary words scratch-off cards. All vocabulary are SAT words that appear in CADET. Includes a teacher's guide for using cards in higher-level thinking classroom activities. 25 of each - laminated words cards, definition cards, scratch-off cards. 75 total.




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Saturday, June 9, 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.

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

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

And now for our next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

Superpowers have not changed the one thing Jimmy Ranfaz hates; he is still average. Congratulations, I love the hook. Well done.

Jimmy, a daydreaming teenager from Earth, has always been ordinary at everything. When the tree-descendant I think you mean "descended" super-powered people from Ulfitron pick him to be their new saviour, he believes he finally has a chance to be special. Apparently being the doppelganger of their previous hero makes him powerful enough to stop a returning nemesis, Enshreto, who wants to annihilate the Ulfitronians. Okay, the first thing I'm noticing is that there are a lot of names being tossed around. Yes, I get that you need some of them but you might not need all. Basic query rule is that you don't name a character in the query unless you mention them at least twice. You can get away with "returning nemesis" without throwing the "Enshreto" out there and gumming up the brainlines.

He begins training in psionic abilities on Ulfitron only to discover that he is average at handling them as well. Is there any reason why he should be better at them than anyone else? So he's the previous hero's doppelganger, but does that actually *mean* anything other than physical appearance? An attack wipes out almost everyone he knows on the planet and his frustration mounts when he is forced to team up with the only other survivor, Juvall Spelding. A powerful Ulfitronian, his disdain of Jimmy's limited abilities is only outstripped by his determination to save his people. Um, does he have any left?

When they learn of an even bigger invasion Wait - there's a bigger invasion than the one that wiped out the entire planet except for two people? looming, their only hope of saving Ulfitron lies in tracking down the legendary trees, I'm assuming these are not normal trees? Like, if they popped down onto Earth they wouldn't be totally mesmerized by a bunch of saplings, right? which hold unparalleled knowledge of the universe. Cool, this is how they're better than average trees, got it. But how does having knowledge of the universe help them against the bad guys? But within the journey lies a deep deception; one which reveals Jimmy’s own true origins and forces him to question his loyalties. With time running out, Jimmy must decide where his priorities lie; the heroism in attempting to save countless people or pursuing limitless power to finally rise above mediocrity. Oh, nice sinker.

EVOLUTION: THREADS OF CONTROL is a 90,000 word YA high fantasy novel with a scientific flavour and is stand-alone with series potential.

I think you've got the hard part done - your hook and sinker are awesome. But you definitely need to iron out what you're going to put in the middle. Lots of questions are raised here, and you've got to convince the agent that you know the answers and aren't just relying on authorial convenience.

First - so Jimmy is the previous hero's doppelganger and that's why the tree-people pick him. Is there a deeper power at work here? (I'm assuming yes, because of his "true origins). Otherwise, this feels a little farcical, almost King Ralph-esque. I feel like we're going to get a lot of good giggles during a slightly goofy adventure. But it doesn't look like that's how you want this to play, so I'd reconsider the phrasing of how you introduce the idea of Jimmy. Sure, so maybe they DID pick him because he's the previous guy's doppelganger, but the way it's phrased right now it feels like the opening to a comical MG Sci-Fi.

Second - Jimmy is their hero because he's the old hero's doppelganger. Got it. But... if simply by being the doppelganger he's automatically powerful enough to destroy the tree-people nemesis, how has he 1) never discovered this? 2) been so average his whole life? Are his powers only activated when he's not on Earth? Clarify this.

I'm assuming that there is more than one planet with the tree-people, or a whole universe full, or something like that, because it looks like all but the Juvall fella get wiped out in one swipe, yet he still wants to save "his people." Clarify that.

And finally - the big atomic bomb at the end of the tunnel is cosmic knowledge. Cool. But how is that going to help them win their big battle?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Talk: DROWNING INSTINCT by Ilsa J. Bick

Here's the thing, folks. Ilsa J. Bick is awesome. I would read a book about ham sandwiches if she wrote it. She's not afraid to look at the hard topics, the questions of right and wrong and the places in between. She converted me to a zombie fan with ASHES and had me up all night with DRAW THE DARK. But DROWNING INSTINCT is a different kind of story, like the flap says, it's a story where it’s hard to be sure who’s a prince and who’s a monster, who is a victim and who should live happily ever after. (These are the most interesting stories of all.)

Jenna Lord has no one she can count on - not her drunk mother, her absent father, or the older brother who has been shipped to Afghanistan. For so long the only thing that has given her any relief from reality is the slip of a sharp object against her already-scarred skin, the rise of blood to the surface. But that habit landed her somewhere her doctor father doesn't like to talk about, and her move to a new school is supposed to have all the answers.

New school. New friends. Goodbye old problems.

Instead she loads herself up with new problems, immediately (and accidentally) making an enemy out of Danielle, a girl she immediately knows is just as "broken" as she is. Danielle's jealousy flares when Mr. Anderson - the chemistry teacher and girl's cross-country coach - makes Jenna his TA instead of her. Even though she likes Mr. Anderson, Jenna resists joining the team because of the ill-will she feels pouring out of Danielle.

Mr. Anderson insists she run with him to stay in shape, and as their runs become longer and more private he unearths Jenna's secrets; truths buried so deep inside she hasn't acknowledged them herself. Memories of the grandfather who touched her too often and the fire that killed him, the same fire that covered her body in the burns she hides from others in the locker room. The truth about why her brother never responds to her emails, and the frailty of her family situation are all drawn out by Mr. Anderson, who becomes Jenna's only friend and confidant.

And then more...

DROWNING INSTINCT takes the reader down paths they aren't expecting, and looks straight into the gray area between the black and white, where no one is truly bad or good. There are simply people.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

I know you're all dying for my Thursday Thoughts, but before you jump into me talking about body parts that I wish I didn't have (yes, really), hop on over to the Book Pregnant blog to read my post about my first time... at a romance convention.

Sigh, friends. I've been sick this week. It's my first week of freedom from work, the first week when I was planning on jumping headlong into the edits. And of course, the first editor phone call took place on Monday when I sounded like a 75 year old Midwestern male who'd been smoking unfiltered cigarettes in the womb. Fortunately, my editor did not hang up and run away screaming. So my thoughts this week focus on body parts we don't need, and why we should just go ahead and get rid of them.

1) Tonsils. Yeah, I've still got mine. They make me miserable. Everyone tells me that having them out as an adult is tantamount to torture, but I'm tempted to call their bluff.

2) Appendix. Yeah, I've still got mine. Everytime I have midsection pain (or mittelschmerz, as we Germans call it) I have to wonder if it's about to blow and poison all my properly functioning innards.

3) Little toes. Yeah, I've still got mine... oh wait, you probably do too. In any case, I'm always stubbing the damn things, and no, we don't really need them. I checked.

4) Eyebrows. Yeah, I've still got mine... despite lots of waxing and tweezing. (And yes, you get four thoughts this week). Ostensibly, our eyebrows are supposed to keep sweat from running directly into our eyes. And yeah, they probably are pretty useful once you think about it. But did you know you're not the only person (uh, thing) benefitting from that? Yep. Something lives up there.

And yes, that last thought was just a random something I've been carrying around in my weird brain for awhile. I just had to back up it with a link.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A BOA with Mindy of Magical Urban Fantasy Reads

My original intention for the series of interviews I do here was to focus on agents (BBCHAT) and successful authors (SAT). In the course of internet wanderings though, I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA.

Today's guest is Mindy (AWESOME name, right?) from Magical Urban Fantasy Reads. Mindy is an obsessive reader. She primarily reads YA, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Dystopia, Post-apocalyptic & Sci-Fi. She has a serious problem with falling in love with fictional characters.

BBC: So you run an excellent blog over at Magical Urban Fantasy Reads. What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?

Mindy: I was already a little obsessed with writing my opinions about books on Goodreads. Then, one day after reading Nightshade, I saw that Andrea Cremer was hosting a twitter giveaway of Wolfsbane so I thought I would enter! Well, that giveaway opened me up to the world of book bloggers and I immediately jumped in.

BBC: You're a prolific blogger! How do you recommend fledgling bloggers become seasoned pros like yourself?

Mindy: I wouldn’t say that I’m seasoned because I still feel like I’m a newbie. I think one of the most important things is to make sure you do it for fun, and to do it because you like to do it. Book blogging can be and IS a lot of work. It was overwhelming in the beginning, but now…well now, it actually isn’t any easier now than it was in the beginning! I thought in the beginning it would be the hardest, but it doesn’t really get any easier! You just have to find a balance about what’s important to you and what’s not.

I think the most important thing is to get yourself out there! Make sure you are involved in all of the social media websites. Interact with other bloggers and authors. Get to know bloggers who live near you and meet up with them at book events.

BBC: You’re a huge reader. How do you find the time? And because I love a challenge – how many books do you think you read in a year?

Mindy: I mostly read when everyone else in my house is asleep, and I read until way into the late hours of the night…and, sometimes, into the wee hours of the morning! Last year I almost read 60 books and this year my goal is 80. At first I was shooting for 100 but I was dreaming a little too big.

BBC: Have you ever given a bad review? Why or why not?

Mindy: Yes, and it sucks! I very rarely need to do that anymore because if a book isn’t holding my interest, I’ll stop and move on to the next book. I always try to be as honest as I can be for each and every review, and I mainly speak about my feelings from reading the book, so if I have emotions of dislike, you will hear it in the review.

BBC: How do you decide what you’re going to read next?

Mindy: Usually, it’s between a book that’s been staring at me FOREVER or a book that I have to hit at last minute in order to complete a review.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for readers to be exposed to debut authors?

Mindy: Definitely, it’s through social media. There are quite a few authors who I’ve first chatted with on Twitter, sometimes for over a year, not even knowing whether they will have a book releasing soon. And then when I see the upcoming releases, and their name is on the book, I jump all over it!

BBC: As a book blogger, what’s your advice to writers on getting themselves out there?

Mindy: Twitter! I can honestly say that Twitter is the best place to get yourself out there. Find bloggers who read your genre, follow their blog and follow them on Twitter! Through them, you will be able to find more bloggers who read your genre as well. Blog tours, and fun giveaways, are always good ways to get yourself out there too, and giveaways don’t even need to be books. I know an author who gives out knitted stuff she makes, and people love it!

BBC: You have an INCREDIBLE first name. I mean, it’s just GLORIOUS. How much do you love it?

Mindy: I absolutely LOVE my name!!! Whenever an author is asking for suggestions for a character name in a book, I always say, “MINDY” because the name Mindy totally rocks! I’m glad that you agree! LOL

Monday, June 4, 2012

2012 Lori Foster Reader & Author Get Together

This past weekend I had the fantastic experience of meeting quite a few of my fellow Ohioan YA authors.  A group of us were on the "Why YA?" panel for the 2012 Lori Foster Reader & Author Get Together in Cinncinnati. Not only did I get to see the lovely Julie Anne Lindsay again, I also met quite a few of my fellow Lucky 13'ers (Melissa Landers & Jennifer McGowan)  as well as Carey Corp and Lori Langdon, co-authors and members of the Honestly YA blog, and the uber-cool Leanna Renee Hieber. The cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake was meeting my fellow Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins imprint-sister Liz Coley.

I love meeting people in real life... yeah that might sound funny when you say it aloud and without context, but I think most people understand what I mean. Not only did we get the initial AAAAAA!!!! commiserate with jumping up and down when we spotted each other's nametags, but we also got to talk to each other in real time.

Yeah. Real time. Much like real life, it doesn't require an internet hookup or the patience of waiting for a response to load. I don't get the chance to talk industry with anyone in real life, unless I intend to spend over 3/4 of the conversation explaining terms like WIP, CP, word count, beta, edit letter, query or having to quickly backtrack when using the word "submission."

It was truly lovely to just be able to talk to real writers as opposed to typing to them. After having crashed on RC Lewis' couch last month, and warmed up a few chairs with friends in the corner (by the buffet tables, ahem) I highly recommend to anyone who hasn't already made that personal leap to go out of their way to meet the people on the other end of the keyboard.

They have good hair.

Saturday, June 2, 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.

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

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

And now for our next brave soul. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

Written in the vein of the PENDRAGON series, AMELIA AND THE MANY WORLDS is a middle grade fantasy, complete at 60,000 words. It's very true that some agents like to see the comp titles, genre, and word count up front. I personally like to see the hook out there, but hey, I'm not an agent.

Twelve-year old Amelia is able to travel between parallel worlds using a pendant given to her by an alternate version of herself. See? That's awesome! Throw *that* out there instead of dry facts! But others may disagree. At first, she is only interested in visiting her dog, who is still alive in the reality of the “Amelia” who provided her with the pendant. This is definitely a tricky query to write, as you have to be clear which "Amelia" you're talking about all the time, yet the extra wordage is tripping me up - I'd stick with the more succinct phrase "alternate self" here, even though technically it's an echo, it's better than extra verbiage. Curious, she eventually visits other realms, including one where people live in underground cities to preserve the earth’s surface and another where her middle school’s motto is “all fun all the time.” I'd make it clear that all these "alternate realities" are taking place in the same time period. "Underground cities" immediately makes me think "future" and I picture a very Sci-Fi type environment, even though *technically* she's in the same time... just a different *now*. She discovers catastrophic events are killing people Wait - kill people where? In which alternate universe? And what kind of catastrophic event? That phrase is usually used in conjunction with natural disasters, so why would she "investigate?" and investigates, knowing if she can’t find the cause of the disasters, the next realm destroyed may be her own. Oh I like this a LOT - makes me think of "The Nothing" from Neverending Story - but... I need to *what* is happening and why she thinks it's spreading?  But how is she supposed to do that when every time she travels to a parallel world, an alternate “Amelia” takes her place in her home reality, causing problems, getting her grounded, and telling her mom she’ll try out for the cheer team?  Nice, I like it, but I feel like we need more on what alternate Amelia is doing at home, and how it ties in to her saving alternate realities. Complicating everything is her friendship with Seb, a boy she keeps meeting in the parallel worlds. And maybe has a little bit of a crush on. And woah! A love interest... yeah you definitely want to give this more than two sentences.

As is the typical path after receiving a degree in literature, I enlisted in the U.S. Army to learn psychological operations, study Korean, and to jump out of airplanes. Now a school librarian, I am certain most kids are indeed from a parallel world. I am a member of SCBWI. Like the bio, it's fun, and you include you're a librarian (UNITE!), and that's a foot in the door.

My overall thoughts on this is that you need to take your middle para and make it two - one that's dedicated to alternate worlds, and one that talks about what's going on at home, and why that matters at all, or has an impact on her actions in the alternate worlds. 

So what's the deal with alternate Amelia? Is she a trouble-maker? Sounds that way... so what was her motivation for giving Amelia the pendant in the first place? She just wants to wreck her home life? Or is there more going on here? Expand on alternate Amelia and what her overarching role in the story is.

If you can find away to neatly slip Seb into the parallel realities paragraph, do so. And how does he play in to the larger plot? Is he in danger? Does he know alternate Amelia? Can he travel back and forth as well? You don't have to answer those questions specifically, but definitely tell me why he matters, other than as a propped-up love interest.