Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

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

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

Pizza, Juice Box, Lemon Chiffon, Waffle and Cupcake (Cake for short) spring to life with the promise of a warm summer day, the excitement of the first day of school, and the anticipation of a snow day that’s just begging for sledding. I like the voice here, and the peppy tone. The only thing that's throwing me off here is the mention of summer, the jump to school, and then we're in winter. It feels a little all over the place. The offer to be a best friend in exchange for winning a race, fashion criticism on the first day of school and Cake’s boisterous arrival nearly destroying a lemonade stand, are just some of the adventures Pizza and his band and face together. This here seems like a much better attention-getter. Any kid's book is going to feature first-day-of school excitement, but fashion criticism tells us exactly where yours is coming from, the same is true with the lemonade stand comment giving us more insight other than just - YAY! Summer is fun!! that we get in the first line. Summer s fun in all kid's books - the second line does the job of telling us what happens in yours, specifically. 

Always present in a child’s world, these favorite kid foods of pizzas, juice boxes, waffles and cupcakes become more than just food. Although typically thought of as delicious and tasty, my characters must learn to face and overcome the challenges of friendship on the playground and in the neighborhood, just as their young readers do.  NIce, this is good. I don't know a lot about writing chapter book queries, but I'm sure that you need to communicate what the lesson is here, and you've done that well.

For nearly three years, I have written for MyVeronaNJ.com, an online media site where I publish weekly food stories with recipes, book reviews, new business features, and day trips for families. Additionally, I have contributed to the NY Times Motherlode, NJ Family magazine and Ploughshares literary magazine. Good - great bio that shows why you're the person to write the book.

I think the 2nd para and your bio is really solid, what you need to get polished is the first, book-specific one. Your second line is great, but it's really just giving you the specifics that the first one provided the generalities for. Why don't you aim for sharing what quality or trait each character represents instead, and use the 2nd line as your opening hook?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Talk - PERSONAL EFFECTS by E.M. Kokie

E.M. Kokie's debut PERSONAL EFFECTS opens with her main character pulverizing the school's resident pacifist for wearing an anti-war t-shirt that lists his dead brother's name as a casualty. But the reader soon learns that for Matt, the hits keep coming whether he's the one throwing the punches or not.

When his older brother T.J. was killed in Iraq, all semblance of a normalcy was lost in the household that already had one ghost. Now without a mother or a brother, Matt has only the spotty affection of his dominant father, and pride that only surfaces at the mention of Matt joining the military when he turns 18 - something Matt has never wanted to do.

The only person who truly cares for Matt and knows him is his best friend Shuana, but that relationships has become strained as they grow up together, and his feelings bloom into something he doesn't think she'll ever return.

Lost and lonely, Matt waits for the day that T.J.'s personal effects will be returned to their home, hoping that he can find the guidance there that T.J. provided while still alive. But when they come, his dad locks them away, refusing to acknowledge T.J.'s death in the same way he refuses to read the condolence cards that still come in the mail.

When Matt finally gets up the courage to sneak a look inside the crates he discovers a different T.J., a person he never knew existed, with secrets that Matt was never meant to find out.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

This week I'm focused on phrases that don't make any sense, and how we should start a cultural revolution to change that.

1) People are always saying that they're "trying to lose weight." But it's really hard, believe me I know. I think that's because it's the only thing we actually try to lose. No one ever says they wish they could shed ten more sets of car keys. Maybe we if we condition our brains that losing is a positive thing, it would be easier to skim the fat off.

2) Regardless of where you live, people use the phrase "out of town" to ask if you're not going to be home for a period of time. But I live in the country. So when people ask me if I'm going to be "out of town," I always say, "Yes." I am in a perpetual state of being out of town.

3) The phrase, "I could care less," actually indicates that you do care a little bit. Technically, if you really, really don't give a crap you "couldn't care less."


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mindy on Marketing

So yeah, I pretty much suck at thinking outside the box when it comes to marketing.

I can have fun with acronyms on the blog, but in the end I don't think anybody wants a bracelet that says - "Support Writer, Writer - Take a SHIT!" (Ahem, that stands for the Submission Hell - It's True interview series, for those who are new to the blog).

I'm posting on two of my group blogs about marketing and swag today. Check out From the Write Angle for my take on why the business card is immortal, and Book Pregnant for my thoughts on how to not feel like a used car salesman when pushing your book.

I'll be back tomorrow with some really deep Thursday Thoughts.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Rambling BOA with Wannabe Scribe Shannon Messenger, Author of KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES & LET THE SKY FALL

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 BOA guest is my fellow Lucky13 and Friday the Thirteeners member Shannon Messenger! Shannon has not one but TWO books coming out soon... as in, one week for her MG title KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES. Her YA paranormal romance, LET THE SKY FALL, will be coming March 5, 2013. I've had the luck to read LTSF, and those of you with heart strings are in for it!

BBC: So you run an excellent blog over at Ramblings of A Wannabe Scribe. What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?

SM: Aw. *blush* THANK YOU! And honestly, it’s funny. I don’t know that I have an “approach” to my blog. I’m just me. Whether that’s rambling about cupcakes, confessing to recent writing struggles, whining about deadlines, or gushing about books/authors I love, I’m just 100% Shannon, because that’s the only way I know how to be.

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?

SM: Well, first I want to say that I don’t think anyone should blog because they feel like they “should.” If you don’t enjoy it—or are too busy for it—don’t do it. People will be able to tell by your posts that you aren’t having fun. I happen to really enjoy blogging, so I don’t mind the time that it takes. Plus, I’ve learned that if deadlines are piling up or life is getting crazy, it’s okay to miss some posts until I catch up. My followers will still be there when I come back. The rest of the time I try to keep my posts as short as I possibly can and write them the day before, so I can schedule them to post in the morning without having to get up early.

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

SM: Um… I’m not entirely sure what you mean by genre (sorry, I am SO jet-lagged right now!) My blog itself doesn’t really have a genre. It’s pretty much just there for whatever I want to post about though I TRY to keep it mostly books/writing related. And part of the reason I keep it more generic like that is because I write two very different series in two very different age categories, so my posts need to appeal to readers of either.

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

SM: YES—I think it’s absolutely essential for any writer to be a prolific reader, and I do my best to keep up with the new releases so that I stay current with what’s “out there.” When I’m not on deadline I aim to read 1-2 books per week. And when I am on deadline I’ll still sneak a few chapters here and there—but I’ll only read books in the age category I’m working on, otherwise it messes with my head as I write.

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

SM: Personally I feel that—as an author—it’s not my place to negatively criticize the work of my colleagues. So no, I’ve never given a bad review. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have review standards. My review policy always has and always will be: if I love a book I will gush and rave and champion it to the world. If I don’t love it, I quietly set it aside and say nothing. So there are many books I read that don’t end up getting featured. I only feature something if I genuinely recommend it.

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

SM: Yes and no. I do think it helps—but I don’t know that it helps as much as we’d all like it to. And what I mean by that is, I have over 2000 followers, and almost as many subscribers—but I would never expect that to lead to a comparable number of book sales. I think the real value of blogging comes from the connections you can make from it. I found my critique partners and most of my closest writing friends through the blogosphere, and having people to turn to when I’m buried with deadlines or have questions about publishing or need someone to talk me off the ledge is absolutely priceless.

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

SM: Eek, that’s hard because there are so many amazing ones. But I still think the best is Nathan Bransford. As an author and a former literary agent he’s seen publishing from all sides and has some truly amazing advice. It’s the best place for any newbie to start.

BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?

SM: KEEP WRITING! Rejections and discouragement happen to everyone in this business, and I firmly, firmly believe that the only differences between an aspiring writer and a published author are time and perseverance. Keep going and you will get there eventually—I promise.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Writing Ritual (Which Kind of Sucks)

A lot of people ask me how I write, or even how does one start writing. Unfortunately the answer to that last question is incredibly simple and horribly difficult at the same time.

You just sit your ass down and do it.

Beyond that, I know a lot of writers have different rituals that they go through before they dive in for the day. Some like to have music playing. Some must have a cup of tea or a particular kind of snack before they begin. Others light the same kind of scented candle, or write in the same room at the same time of every day.

But the pain in the butt thing about writing is that no one trick works for everyone. It's not like your baseball swing where someone can say to you, "Look, you've got your feet set wrong," or, "Your not turning your hips." Writing doesn't work that way. Every one of us has to find our own set of rules or rituals that can turn us into successful authors.

Too often I hear aspiring authors asking those with agents or deals how they do it. And that particular person's trick probably isn't going to work for you... because it's theirs. For example. I'm going to share with you my tips and tricks for writing success, and you'll probably see right off the bat that my ritual is not for you. Or probably really anybody besides myself.

1) Nap often. Once you get sleepy there's no point trying to write anymore. I don't care if it's 1 PM or 1 AM. You need your sleep. Take a break.

2) When you reach a critical scene, make a random phone call or check your email because you're absolutely certain that you can't deliver this time.

3) Write in your bed, right before bed. Ignore the clock. It's 3 AM and you have to work tomorrow - screw it. You had a nap earlier.

4) Don't name your characters right up until the moment you have to type their names for the first time. Then just sit back and say, "Hi, what's your name?" They'll tell you.

5) Let your cat sleep right on top of your chest while you're writing, so that you have to peer over his fuzzy ass to see the laptop screen. It keeps you warm and builds harmony. Also, it will sharpen your typing skills.

6) Pretend other people don't exist for long periods of time. They actually don't, because you're in fantasy land now. You can text them later. This won't build friendships or strengthen family ties, but it will make your ms longer.

7) Resist getting up to pee right up until the moment when you damn well better. Some people don't like the distraction of a full bladder. I call it inspiration.

8) Make sure you drink a lot of water before you lie down to write, so that you won't make the excuse of having to get up later because you're thirsty. Sure, it leads to the bladder problem mentioned in number 7, but the bathroom is closer than the kitchen. Think time management.

9) Randomly check your Twitter feed every now and then. If you hit a dead spot, or aren't sure how to bridge to the next scene, pop in on your Twitter buds. If you follow a lot of fellow writers, chances are someone else is having the same problem, or else has become convinced that they suck. Return to your ms knowing that you're not alone in this. We all suck sometimes. It's OK.

10) Read back over the last 3 or 4 pages that you wrote the night before to place yourself, but don't edit as you go. This is your first draft, your "word vomit," as I call it. Get all that out of your stomach -- apply your brain to it later.

That's it, friends. That's how I write. It's a collection of anti-social, UTI-inspiring, sleepy logic, but somehow... it seems to work for me!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

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

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

For six months now, ten-year-old Ionikus Reaves has lived with a jaw of iron. Great hook. Strike the "now" for flow but otherwise this is a fantastic attention grabber.

It’s heavy, kill the comma and cold, and the only use it seems to have is attracting a lot of unwanted attention. Ionikus hates his jaw only a little bit word choice: "slightly?") less than he hates the gods of Olympus. The day they ordered the draft that took Father, kill the comma again was the day Father frantically attached the metal to Ion’s jaw--with a little bit of magic, but without an explanation. And ever since, (word choice: "since then?") he’s been the Iron-Jawed Boy. A monster even on Atlantis. Some minor rephrasing here and there on this and it's a solid middle para. Use your words a little more economically here for greatest impact.

But soon Ionikus discovers he’s a lot weirder than he thought...in fact, he’s weird enough to be a reincarnated god. And not just any reincarnated god. Oh no --he’s a reincarnated god bound to serve and protect the Olympians--the same beings who stripped him of everything he once loved. again, be a little more concise with your wording. 

In the blink of a cyclops’ eye nice and without much of a choice, Ion’s rushed off to the Achaean Academy, where his godly training begins. But the more he watches and learns, the more he sees the Olympians aren’t what he thought they’d be. Turns out, not all the Olympians favored the draft. Some are so old they can’t even remember their own names. And others are obsessed with macaroons. Hilarious.

Ever since Ion became the Iron-Jawed Boy, he’s never been sure who he really is. This sentence feels like a step backward, narratively speaking. Kill it and you lose nothing as far as this last para is concerned. But when he stumbles upon a forgotten hall in the academy, where he and meets the spirit of his fallen mother, he’s given a potentially deadly mission that could uncover the truth behind his jaw: betray the gods and free Father from the war. This was great until this last sentence here - is this mission itself a betrayal of the gods? Or are you saying he will have to betray the gods *in order* to free Father? I don't necessarily need to know exactly what the mission is, but I do need to know what he stands to gain and / or lose by it in a very specific way.

Overall this is a well written query with an excellent hook. Your biggest downfall is that you're ever so slightly more words than you need to in order to convey your point. In a 300 word query you've got to make sure every word is necessary. Excessive word use also might make an agent wonder if your ms is as tight as it possibly can be. Otherwise, good work!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Talk - THIS DARK ENDEAVOR by Kenneth Oppel

I had to giggle when I looked for this book on Goodreads and accidentally put "This Darn Endeavor" into the search box. That was pretty much the last laugh I had while reading this book.

And that's a major compliment. It takes a lot to stop me from making fun of things. THIS DARK ENDEAVOR is a YA retelling at its best, a Gothic masterpiece that filled the void left empty while waiting for another MONSTRUMOLOGIST title from Rick Yancey.

Viktor and Konrad Frankenstein are twins in every way, yet Viktor feels constantly outstripped by his more charismatic twin. When Konrad falls ill and Viktor discovers his ancient family's Dark Library of alchemy, he's determined to make the Elixir of Life... although whether he's doing it to save Konrad's life or for his own glory isn't clear even to himself.

The Elixir requires odd ingredients that come at a high price. A wheelchair-bound hermit (Dr. Polidori, who by the way, lives in Wollstonekraft Alley) helps Viktor translate what those might be and his long-time friend and adopted sister Elizabeth come along for the harrowing, nearly-fatal adventures required to gather them.

But the trips to Polidori's underground lab and their nighttime adventures together have given more than forbidden knowledge to Viktor. He discovers his own secret feelings for Elizabeth, who is in love with Konrad. If Viktor does manage to create the Elixir, will he use it?

Viktor is as complicated a teen as Mary Shelley imagined him as an adult, and THIS DARK ENDEAVOR gives fantastic insight in what might have created the living monster we meet in her classic tale. The sequel SUCH WICKED INTENT is available now from Simon & Schuster.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cover Reveal - ABANDON by Elana Johnson & A Chance to Win A $50 Amazon Gift Card

I'm excited to be part of the cover reveal blog tour for Elana Johnson's ABANDON, and thanks to AToMR for hosting and including me!


seduced by power,
broken by control,
and consumed by love...

Vi has made her choice between Jag and Zenn, and the Resistance may have suffered for it. But with the Thinkers as strong as ever, the rebels still have a job to do. Vi knows better than anyone that there's more at stake than a few broken hearts. 

But there is a traitor among them...and the choices he makes could lead to the total destruction of everything Vi has fought for.

Vi, Jag, and Zenn must set their problems aside for the Resistance to have any hope of ending the Thinkers' reign. Their success means everything...and their failure means death.

ALSO:
Elana is running a Pinterest contest for the cover. She wants to get 500 pins (or repins) over the next two days. If we can get that many, she'll pick someone who pinned the cover to win a $50 Amazon gift card. 

It's so easy to do this. All you have to do is click this PIN IT button and select one of your boards to pin the cover to. Elana has done everything else!



Don't have a Pinterest board yet? Put it on your Tumblr page. Your Facebook page. Your twitter stream. Elana will count those too! Just be sure to tag her (@ElanaJ on twitter, Possession by Elana Johnson on Facebook).

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

YA Author Jenny Martin Talks Submission Process & Cussing Out Your Self-Doubts

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different.

I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's guest has been in the mire along with me for the past few years. Jenny Martin and I met on writerly sites such as AgentQueryConnect and QueryTracker, and I can tell you that this girl has put her dues in. I'm thrilled to tell you that her Sci-Fi TRACKED will be available from Penguin/Dial in 2014.

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

JM: I knew a little bit about it. I’d watched quite a few comrades-in-arms go through the process. My friends always talked about it in hushed tones, as if the experience was nothing less than a confrontations with Dementors, something they’d narrowly survived. And you know, I totally get that now. That’s pretty much what it feels like--a risky Azkaban prison break.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?

JM: Yes. I didn’t know how many variables factor into editorial response. Not only must your book be semi-coherent, but it must find the right editor at the right time. Has the editor recently acquired something similar? Do they hate Sci Fi? Are they looking for MG or contemporary YA? Have they bought comparable titles in the past that didn’t sell through? Will sales and marketing get behind a book about a girl Han Solo-type who races cars on another planet two hundred years in the future?

The other thing that surprised me? How varied the responses are. You might get a really kind rejection. You might get a phone call (and make a new friend!). You might get a quick line. But then again, you might get nothing but soul sucking silence for the longest time. I suspect Sara, my wonderful agent, shielded me from some of the toughest rejections, but I’ve learned that you just can’t take it personally. Everyone has their own needs and tastes. Most editors and agents are nice, cool people--they really want to fall in love with a book, but sometimes they can’t. It’s the same with readers. I’ve made peace with that.

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

JM: Yes. Again, I give props to Sara. She is very open about the process and even asked me if I had any suggestions or concerns. It was fun to be included submission strategy. Often, my MS went out to people I really admired. And I do admit to googling and twitter watching. You can’t control the process, but scouring for info made me feel less angst-y. I know that sounds backward, but with my Eeyore imagination, the unknown is always worse than reality. But I recommend doing what’s best for you. Even if that means closing your eyes and ears.

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

JM: Based on the (limited) totally of my previous experiences, responses can come in any range, from after just a few days to after months and months and months! With TRACKED, we did seem to get some responses fairly quickly, but even then, things didn’t start to happen right away.

True confession, comrades: Before TRACKED, I’d been on sub with other books. (I’ve even been agented before, when I wasn’t quite mature enough as a writer.) I am all too familiar with the slow death of a project. It happens. And you cannot dwell on it. You have to keep writing and growing and developing your voice. The game isn’t over unless you quit.

And if you’re on sub right now, I want you to know that things can move very slowly and still turn out beautifully. After all the waiting, the week my book sold was very hectic--the glacial pace of submission melted into a stream of phone calls, e-mail and interest.

Another true confession: I had the pleasure of getting to know my future editor a bit before the book sold. Getting editorial feedback beforehand can be very scary, but in retrospect, I actually feel quite lucky! I don’t have to nail-bite over my first editorial letter or phone call. I’ve gotten a taste of my editor’s vision, and I know for sure that I’m in fabulous, capable hands. I mean it, the first time we talked, something just clicked. And now she’s my friend and partner in bringing the book into the world. At the end of the day, I landed at a dream house with the ideal editor for my work. All the those setbacks? They just sweetened the outcome.

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

Can I get maudlin and corny? I don’t know how else to say this: Writer friends, I really, really want you to know something. Going on submission is hard, but you can do it. You are brave enough. And I want you to know that your path--your particular journey--is normal and okay and that you are not alone. You might sell in a week. You might sell after years. You might self-publish to great acclaim. There are an infinite number of paths to success.

I wish I’d fully processed that along the way. So many times, I read about three day auctions and big deals and ‘overnight’ success stories and thought, “Something is wrong with me. I haven’t heard anything, so I must be a dreadful, terrible, loser-pants-wearing writer. Maybe I am wasting my time. I should quit.”

If you’re feeling that way, stop it. Cuss out those feelings of self-doubt. When you feel like you've got nothing left, when you can't believe anymore, hold on to the person in your life who won't let you quit.

That’s the best advice I can give about going on submission. Surrender. Recognize you can’t control the process and don’t stop writing. Open a blank word document or scrivener file and start something new. It helps.

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

JM: Even though I’m an Eeyore and a self-doubter, rejections don’t hurt much. In fact, sometimes they are a relief, lending a sense of closure. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never gotten any mean-spirited ones. When I was querying or on submission, I just let my heart pound for a minute, and then I let the rejection go. That’s all I could do.

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?

JM: I weighted editorial feedback very seriously, and I relied on my agent to help me decide what to do. (Thank heavens for Sara. You don’t even know how crazy special she is.) But honestly, most of the feedback conveyed the book just wasn’t what the particular editor was looking for--this business is very subjective. Yes, there’s always room to improve, and you should improve, but so much depends on the MS landing in the right hands at the right moment.

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

JM: I think Sara knew an offer might be coming beforehand, but she didn’t want my hopes getting dashed. When she was more certain, she e-mailed to prepare me. I was watching TV (Dexter, Season Five) with my husband and my best friend. I started sobbing. It was this hideous, silent bawl-fest and at first, I couldn’t even speak at all. My husband thought someone had died or something. I passed the phone to him, and then we all just rejoiced. In the next few days, there were many more e-mails and phone calls about details, interest, etc. I may or may not have gotten choked up when Sara told me the final outcome. Okay, yeah. I did. I’m corny and ridiculous. So sue me.

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

JML I knew I was a Penguin(!!!!!) on Wednesday, but we wanted to wait until the PM announcement went live. I had to wait a few days. Felt like the longest days of my life. When I posted the news to Twitter, my iPhone exploded, sending rainbows through the prism of my heart. I know, I’m such a freaking Care Bear. I’m probably losing all my credibility here. My protagonist is a BAMF, I swear.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Vlog That Will Make You Go...

Well, honestly it might make you go "hmmm..." or possibly, "WTF?" Either way, this past week my group blog Friday the Thirteeners was challenged by another group blog - the EMU's - to see who could put together the gutsiest group dares. I'm always up for a challenge, and I like to win. So, I just went ahead and put my guts out there.

The dare:
Read something that you wrote when you were young in a deadly serious tone.

Me being me, I had to take it a step further and dress up in character.

Enjoy.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

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

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

When Anna Wilson not sure last name is necessary, not a big deal at all, just a rhythm thing. took on the daunting task of restoring Matt to a state of sobriety and happiness I'd strike. Sobriety is hard enough. Sobriety "and happiness" makes it sound a little too goody-goody, she never expected to fall in love; and she certainly wouldn’t have guessed the object of her desire would be Matt's father. Yeah that's an awesome hook.

Before falling to the floor passed out drunk, Matt Hayes declares his love for Anna. Wishing she could tell him she loves him back, she just can’t do it. Instead, she decides to search for someone who can. This paragraph here is telling exactly what the next para is showing. You can strike the whole thing, and find somewhere to insert the idea that Matt is in love with Anna, but it's not returned, elsewhere.

When she discovers a journal that Matt’s father Tom had kept, she believes she has found a way to save Matt from his downward spiral of depression. Despite the fact that everyone believes Tom is dead, this journal gives her reason to believe otherwise. Do some rephrasing here to get all your ideas together into more cohesion. Matt' loves Anna - Matt is depressed - Tom should be dead - Anna thinks he's not - Anna thinks Tom could be the key to saving Matt.  That's the order you should address the issues in. You've got everything here but the logical order is mishmashed. Embarking on a search through shark infested waters, strike the comma to a hellish island in the middle of nowhere, she discovers that the man she is looking for is indeed alive.

However, a wrench is thrown into her plans when she finds herself falling for Tom. Now the man who is supposed to be Matt’s saviour, strike the comma could be the man who ends up bringing him more pain and heartbreak.

When she discovers that Tom isn’t Matt’s real father, she only finds herself lost in more confusion. Sure this would make it more acceptable for her to feel the way she feels about him, but if she is even going to consider pursuing the flutterings of love that are developing between them, she has to find a way out of the spotlight of Matt’s desires. Again, you've got two paras that are doing the same work for you. The good news is that you've got a great sinker -- on the end of the para above this one :) The only new information we have her is that Tom isn't Matt's biological father, and that's not really necessary query info.

There are two paras that can be stricken entirely and you're not losing anything within the query - and that's a good thing! Get the middle para hammered out so that it's falling in a logical order and you'll be in much better shape. 

Also there are a couple of cliches here that aren't necessarily horrible things that are going to sink you, but consider finding better phrasing than "downward spiral of depression" and "a wrench thrown into her plans." They aren't horrible writing sins, but your query needs to shine with originality, so see if you can do some inventive rephrasing.

On the whole it sounds like a tear-jerker! Polish up your query, I bet you get some bites!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Talk - CINDER by Marissa Meyer PLUS Listen to Chapter One from Macmillan Audio For FREE!

Before you jump into this week's Book Talk, check out the blog to blog dare over at Friday the Thirteeners today. But only do that if you want to see me dressed as an overly dramatic carrot reading a piece of self-important flash I wrote in 8th grade. If you don't want to see that, you probably shouldn't go there.

In a New Beijing where cyborgs can be farmed out as test subjects to battle the spreading plague, 36.4% cyborg and renowned mechanic CINDER has to be on her best behavior if she wants to survive. But even her best behavior isn't enough for her stepmother once Cinder accidentally exposes one of her stepsisters to the plague. The medibots come for her in moments, and Cinder is as good as dead.

Or not... the Dr. at the testing center is fascinated by her, and Cinder finds herself on the fast-track to possibly being the answer to the plague that has burned through thousands already, a plague that is rumored to come with escaping Lunars - people from the original colony on the moon who are attempting to escape the tyrannical reign of their power-hungry Queen.

Cinder is willing to trade her immune blood if her ill stepsister is the first to receive the treatment. But a chance meeting with Prince Kai lands his favorite bot in her shop, along with secret information about the whereabouts of the long-lost Lunar princess, who is the rightful heir to the throne. Soon the plague isn't her main worry anymore as universal secrets and long-unanswered questions about her past are firing through Cinder's wires... along with forbidden feelings for Prince Kai.

Why would Prince Kai look twice at her - a cyborg mechanic in cargo pants whose foot doesn't fit anymore - when he could have the gorgeous and irresistible Lunar Queen?

Sounds excellent, right? No, really - it actually *sounds* excellent! CINDER is also available from Macmillan Audio, and you can listen to Chapter One right here, right now!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A BOA with Mandy Buehrlen of YABC Books

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 BOA is a little different than usual, as the site I'm focusing on is more of a community of readers and reviewers, with a blog on the side. But YABooksCentral has a lot to offer, and I jumped at the chance to Mandy Buehrlen. Catch up with all the YABC news and reviews on Twitter at @yabookscentral and @YABCkids


BBC: So, you run an excellent site over at YABooksCentral.com  What made you decide to take the approach you do there?

MB: Thank you! Author Kimberly Pauley founded the site back in 1998 as one of the first review sites focusing on teen books. It grew by leaps and bounds until we had a staff of volunteer book reviewers, reviewing ARCs for major trade publishers. Then Kimberly thought it would be a great idea for readers to share their reviews on the site too. That’s where the YABC community started. When I took over the site a few years ago, I developed the social network a bit further to incorporate not only reviews, but the ability to start book clubs on the site, host discussions, enter giveaways, host blog tours, have live author chats, and more. YABC just keeps growing!

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

MB: We certainly do have a lot going on at YABC at all times. In addition to posting our staff reviews, we host blog tours, live author chats, book club chats, tons of giveaways, cover reveals and lots more.

My advice to fledgling bloggers is this: Don’t worry about having to post something everyday. Just focus on making quality content. If that means you can only post once a week, then do that. Don’t post mediocre content just to fill the gaps. It can be tempting to compare your blog to someone else’s and feel like you have to do SO MUCH MORE. But try to keep your eyes on your own path. Even if your goal is to make a living running your blog one day, remember: Slow and steady wins the race.

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?

MB: Oh wow, I haven’t found much time to read lately at all! My staff reviewers read a TON though. YABC wouldn’t be as awesome as it is without them! Most of them read several books a week. They are super human, I’m sure of it. I’m constantly in awe of their reading skills.

I, on the other hand, spend most of my time keeping YABC running, which is a full-time job. But I generally sneak in about two books a month. One for pleasure reading, and one for our monthly Book Club Chats. I’m always wishing I could find more time to read, especially since I see all these amazing books cross my desk each week!

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

MB: Oh yes, we don’t shy away from bad reviews. BUT we have a strict no-bash policy. YABC is a fun community, and we want readers to find the books that are right for them. With that in mind, we always find positive things to say about each book we review. We believe every book is someone’s favorite book, so why discourage readers just because it wasn’t our personal taste? Also, another unique thing about having a staff of reviewers is that not all of us agree. One of our staffers might absolutely love a book, while another might not get the appeal at all. I think there’s a certain beauty in that. We each have our own opinions, and I think it’s valuable to know how to express those opinions in a respectful and helpful way.

I always try to remind reviewers that the Internet is a very public place. Don’t write anything in your review you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to someone’s face. Leave that to private discussions with your BFF over coffee. :)

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

MB: YABC has a pretty unique way of deciding which staffers review which book and when. First, I put together a Book Haul video each month, showcasing all the books we received from publishers. From the video, my staff picks out the books they’d like to review. If there are any left over, I’ll send them to the reviewer I think they’ll fit with best. Then we schedule to read books in order of release date. We know how important it is for publishers that we post our reviews the week of release, so that’s what we strive for.

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

MB: I think Internet savvy readers, or readers who engage in social media, have the biggest advantage here. Debut authors are all over the Interwebz, especially Twitter and Facebook. Publishers do a lot of promotion for debut authors on social media, so they’re easy to find. But I know a lot of readers who don’t do social media. It’s much harder for them to know who the next up-and-coming authors are, because they have to rely on word of mouth. For them, I would suggest asking a local librarian or school librarian. They are a wealth of author knowledge!

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

MG: Above all, be professional. Develop meaningful connections and friendships in the business. Have real conversations with book bloggers, don’t just self-promote. There is an endless sea of self-promotion on the Internet, and most people tune it out. It just doesn’t work. So be real with people and form relationships. If you’re the real deal, you’ll stand out. I firmly believe that growing a fierce and loyal readership slowly, from the ground up, is the best way to go. Quick hype fades, but loyal readers never say die.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What Did You Call Me?

Horror.

As a YA librarian you've gotta be careful how you say that word. Also you must enunciate when recommending SHIP BREAKER by Pablo Bacigalupi.

A couple of weeks ago in a guest post on Chasing the Crazies, I shared my non-psychic librarian abilities and said that I thought Sci-Fi might be the next big thing happening in YA. I've had some time to think about it since then, and I believe that there might be another fish in the sea who has the capability of reaching Leviathan proportions in the near future.

Yeah, it's horror. Books like Kendare Blake's ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD are starting to reclaim shelf space in the stores. I think ghosts might be getting the upper hand back over the beasties. And I'm totally ready for that. A good ghost story, be it a slow-paced nail biter or a cringe-inducing gore splurge is always something I'm up for.

What about you? Are you ready for some good old-fashioned ghost stories?


Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

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

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

Only one person knew Chloe was gay, and his one thing I'd consider is changing the possessive pronoun here to "their" for flow - we get the gender of the person in question at the end of the sentence. love and support disappeared when he hung himself. Great hook, I'm totally there.

Eighteen-year-old I think you can drop the age tag b/c of the college reference, although it's not hurting to have it there if you want it. Chloe continues to hide her sexuality her first year at college, afraid it may affect her friendships and jeopardize her mother’s job. Curious as to why it would jeopardize her mother's job? Unable to deal with the loss of her brother Brock, she tells nobody of his suicide. There's a bit of mash up going on here - we start with the idea of her being at college and how it will affect friendships, as well as mom's job, which kind of implies mom might work at the school. And why would Chloe tell people about her brother's suicide anyway? It's not great ice-breaker material. I would instead tie into the idea of his suicide being internalized *along with* hiding her sexuality. It'll make for smoother transitions.

Chloe is stunned to learn her crush, and graduate teaching assistant I think you can safely use the shorter version - TA. Most people know the term, and it's a mouthful spelled out. Sasha, knew Brock. As their relationship deepens, Sasha reveals the reason behind Brock’s suicide, that he was sexually abused as a child. Well shit. This book is chock full of issues (and I mean that in a good way). Chloe refuses to believe it, until she reads Brock’s journals. But even they don’t explain what pushed him over the edge. I would take away this last line here - it kind of turns the focus off of Chloe's self-acceptance and into her searching for his reasons. Unless of course that *is* a major focus in the book and if that's the case it needs to be clarified.

She continues to lead a double life, ignoring that her own secrets are hurting the ones she loves most. Her girlfriend Sasha, whom she keeps hidden. So Sasha is gay? I wasn't getting that earlier. And Murphy—the boy she’s pretending to date who is becoming her best friend yet doesn’t know she is gay. Hmmm ... I'm not sure you need this para at all. It's lending word count to an already lengthy query, and isn't informing us on major plot points. OK Chloe is with Sasha, Sasha is gay, Chloe is continuing to pretend... but we got all that already (minus Sasha is gay, which doesn't seem important enough to mention in a query).

After finding Brock’s last journal, she is consumed with his plan to take revenge on his molester. As in what? She's going to do it herself? But Chloe’s obsession comes at a cost, What's that? and she might have to give up everything she’s ever wanted, her girlfriend, her best friend, and her sanity, in order to discover Brock’s final secret. A HA - OK so the focus of the book *is* a combined self-discovery along with the need to know what made her brother kill himself. This definitely needs to be clarified sooner. 

There's definitely a dual-focus here - Chloe's sexuality and Brock's motivations. While your hook is awesome, it conveys more of a "I'm gay and ashamed" feel and the sinker says "I need to know why he did that, no matter what." Get that second aspect out there sooner. A simple "and she'll never know why" (or something better than that) tacked onto the end of the hook will clear the waters considerably, IMO.

The Proper Way to Say Goodbye is contemporary young adult novel complete at 72,000 words.

This is a well-written query for what sounds like a fantastic story. I would totally request this if I were an agent. Also I LOVE the title. And I don't love much.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Talk - SHINE SHINE SHINE by Lydia Netzer

Sunny is the ultimate suburban housewife, well-coifed, drives a mini-van, consoles her friends, leads neighborhood craft shows, and always makes sure that her autistic son is wearing his helmet and gets his medicine on time. Her genius husband Maxon makes the $18,000 dollar rug in the dining room a possibility, even if his job is destined to take him out of their sphere - literally.

Sunny's perfect life begins to unravel when Maxon's spaceship to the moon malfunctions and her minivan is T-boned by a fellow suburbanite. In the melee, Sunny's wig flies off. Sunny has never had hair in her life, even her eyebrows are pasted on. She's spent the last decade pretending to be a perfect person she isn't, and it's driven a wedge between herself and her husband, as she's begun to resent exactly what makes him a genius in the first place - his own autism.

Sunny leaves the wig behind, skips her son's meds that evening and hopes for one last chance to tell the man she loves that she's sorry.

SHINE SHINE SHINE is narrated by Sunny and Maxon, their two voices blending to encompass their childhood together, their unique differences that brought them to each other, and the present that has altered their relationship. It's a stunning debut that questions who we really are under our veneer, and whether that person might be the better option of the two.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Yes, they're back. I know you missed them - three random thoughts from my week. Each week. Every week.

But before the inanity of my life takes over yours, check out this post from The League of Extraordinary Writers where I was a guest last week. I'm talking about why the characters in dystopian and post-apocs are so refined, yet gritty - and what that says about the human race. I sound much more intelligent over there than I will on this post here.

Thoughts lately are of a medical nature...

1) We need some kind of sonogram / UltraSound app for our smart phones. I woke up for the first day of work in incredible mid-section pain. I thought, "Well, I either have appendicitis, an ovarian cyst, or I just need to take a big crap." Not calling off work for a big crap.

2) Kid's vitamins taste good. Kid's medicine tastes good. Just because we're adults why do we get horse pills and throw-it-back-fast liquids? Is this the pharmaceutical companies way of telling us that the best years are behind us?

3) If we took everything out of our bodies we aren't technically using we could lose a lot of weight. My uterus, one kidney, appendix, tonsils, adnoids, little toes... that's gotta be like a quick ten pounds right there.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Justina Ireland, Author of VENGEANCE BOUND Talks Submission Process

Before you get to the latest SHIT (Submission Hell - It's True) interview here on Writer, Writer - check out what my non-psychic librarian's intuition is telling me will pop next in YA over on Chasing the Crazies.

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different.

I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's guest is fellow Lucky13er Justina Ireland, author of VENGEANCE BOUND.

Cory Graff is not alone in her head. Bound to a deal of desperation made when she was a child, Cory’s mind houses the Furies—the hawk and the serpent—lingering always, waiting for her to satisfy their bloodlust. After escaping the asylum where she was trapped for years, Cory knows how to keep the Furies quiet. By day, she lives a normal life, but by night, she tracks down targets the Furies send her way. And she brings down Justice upon them.

Cory’s perfected her system of survival, but when she meets a mysterious boy named Niko at her new school, she can’t figure out how she feels about him. For the first time, the Furies are quiet in her head around a guy. But does this mean that Cory’s finally found someone who she can trust, or are there greater factors at work? As Cory’s mind becomes a battlefield, with the Furies fighting for control, Cory will have to put everything on the line to hold on to what she’s worked so hard to build.

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

JI: VENGEANCE BOUND was my second book to go on submission…my first one didn’t sell *cue sad trumpet.* So for the second book I was kind of an old pro at the process.

For my first book I researched the submission process by reading author blogs and just about everything Google had to offer. And then I tried to estimate where I was at each point. It honestly just made me a little crazy. Okay, it made me more than a little crazy. It made me the Mayor of Crazytown.

Since that one didn’t sell (and my husband threaten to ship me off to a cabin in the woods for the next time), I decided to just close my eyes and pretend I wasn’t on submission for the second book. Instead, I read all of the books I’d been putting off for the past few months (after I opened my eyes, of course), and just enjoyed a self declared writing hiatus. I was only on submission for a month before I got an offer, and the time seemed to go quickly because I was focused on something else.

Okay, that’s a total lie. I was still obsessively checking my email and the days went by so s-l-o-w-l-y. But I did get a lot of reading done and I didn’t obsess like I did the first go round.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?

JI: How hard it is to wait, and how little feedback I got on rejections. For the most part, my agent prefers to keep the rejections to herself unless I ask for them. Beyond a “Yeah, so-and-so passed,” I never got anything back.

And after asking for and reading the three pages of rejections from the first book, I can tell you I much prefer it that way. For me, rejections didn’t do anything but make me question my writing. Not all readers are going to love your book. But it’s hard to remember that someone liking a book is a matter of taste when the someone in question is an editor.

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

JI: I did for the first book. I didn’t for the second. Now, I trust my agent to be able to figure out where my book would be a good fit. It’s part of her job.

Plus, it was a little weird Googling people the first go round. It made me feel a little like a stalker. And agent/editor stalking may be the unhealthiest form of addiction, ever.

So I don’t really recommend researching editors. It will just make you crazy when they acquire a manuscript that’s just like yours except with fairies and a prep school and set in Pennsylvania instead of Antarctica.

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

JI: On the first book I didn’t hear anything back for about two months (even though my agent may have gotten passes before that). With my second I heard back pretty quickly, about a month after everyone got everything. And I think everyone came back at about the same time.

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

Psychotropic drugs.

Kidding!

Sort of.

Stay busy. I always try to work on my next idea, or catch up on reading, or even just watch that season of TV I missed. Since I miss a lot of TV and my TBR pile is huge (I work full time so writing time is also everything else time), those are usually my default.

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

JI: My editor rejections were about the same as my query rejections. Bland, polite and vague, with one or two sometimes offering some helpful advice. But usually not helpful at all. I wouldn’t look for much help in editor suggestions.

But even though they were vague, they were still a little demoralizing. I didn’t really think I’d internalized the rejections from the first book until I was revising my second book. I started to doubt my writing, doubt the stories I had to tell.

But finally I had to put all of that aside and just try to be zen about it. My stories might still suck, but they’re my sucky stories. And I don’t really think they suck. I think they’re awesome. But it’s taken me a long time to silence that inner editor and learn to write again.

So editor rejections? Yeah, generally a bad idea to read them.

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?

JI: In the first submission go round I tried to synthesize editor rejection into some kind of a rewrite. Unlike a beta reader’s suggestions, which are pointed and specific, most of the rejecting editor’s suggestions weren’t so much rejections as “this is why I didn’t really care for it.” Looking back, rewriting the manuscript just made it worse. After all, it was like taking an entire critique groups input and applying it wily nily. Not a good idea, and not something I will do again.

I guess I should clarify that there are exceptions to the above rules. If it’s a revise and resubmit or done after a long discussion with your agent, then go for using some editorial feedback. But for everything else I would just move on to the next manuscript. No sense in banging your head against the wall.

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

JI: Carrier pigeon ☺ It felt pretty cool, but mostly surreal. I had a call from my agent that an editor was interested, and that turned into three editors being interested. The feeling was unreal after NOBODY wanted my first book (yes, I still have some residual grief over my unsold darling). We ended up going to auction, and when I found out that Simon and Schuster were the best bid, I was a little giddy. I never really thought my debut would be with a big house.

I think I’m still getting used to the idea that I’m going to have a real book. With pages! And typeface! And an ISBN!

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

JI: Nope, we shared the news almost as soon as we sold, and it was probably for the best. I have a huge mouth, and I always tell people not to tell me their secrets, because I will inevitably blab it to the wrong person. The internet is probably the worst thing to ever happen to someone like me.

Thank goodness it was on Publisher’s Marketplace a few days after it sold. I never would’ve been able to keep such exciting news a secret.

VENGEANCE BOUND will be available April 2nd, 2013 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Genre Bending

I'm lazy. So today you get a re-post from my appearance last week at From the Write Angle. :)

There are certain questions that make writers of all stripes both frustrated and frightened at the same time. What is it about your book that's so special? What distinguishes you from the rest of the crowd, either in the slush pile or on the store bookshelf? Is the market for your WIP over?

To my mind all of these questions are related, and boil down to the same word—genre. More specifically—your genre and how you've taken a small corner of it to claim as your own.

I recently had three separate but related online interactions that spawned this post. I'll tackle them each one at a time and draw them back together for the firework-inducing full-circle conclusion. Or at least a steepled-fingers-move from my reader and a thoughtful monosyllabic grunt.

Interaction #1—A Goodreads reviewer commented that Not a Drop to Drink sounds more like a post-apocalyptic Western than a dystopian, which is both astute of her and also very gratifying to me, as that's how I felt about it from the beginning.

Interaction #2—One of my Saturday Slash participants (a query critique on my personal blog, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire) asked if they should change the genre for their query project from "dystopian" to "post-apocalyptic," as they were afraid that dystopian was "over." My response was that I didn't think it made a difference. Agents and readers know that the terms can (for the most part) be swapped for each other fairly easily. To my thinking it's no more different than calling chick-lit "women's literature." I told the Slash participant to go whichever way they liked, but it didn't matter. A rose by another name, and all that.

Interaction #3—Instead of re-hashing it I'm posting a screen-cap below of a Twitter exchange between myself, my fellow Friday the Thirteeners member Elsie Chapman, my critique partner R.C. Lewis and her fellow Hyperion author Tess Sharpe.


Tess's reaction to the simple re-phrasing of my genre spoke volumes to me. Even though she already felt like DRINK had a new angle for the dystopian genre, the idea of it being more akin to a neo-western than its dystopian brothers and sisters were the equivalent of "magic words" to her.

And this reaction had me re-thinking my answer to the Saturday Slash participant.

She's not the first person to mention to me they think the dystopian ship has quite sailed, left the harbor, and perhaps already sunk. And if this is the case I'm going to cry a lot when next fall comes around, and that would be a very bad thing. I am not fond of crying.

So what if I do start referring to DRINK as a neo-western? Will that appeal to more people? Will it lift the ever-present curse of it's-been-done?

Quite a few people in my Book Pregnant group of debut authors write what's referred to as Women's Literature. And they write it well. If their mss were marketed as Chick-Lit would they have died in their agent's inbox?

And what if my Slash volunteer chose the phrase "post-apocalyptic" to describe her ms instead of "dystopian?" Would the D-word close doors whereas "post-apoc" might leave room for a foot in the door?

I don't have the best answer to these questions, and I'm willing to bet that the answer changes depending on who you ask.

So what's your opinion?