Monday, September 23, 2013

Not A Drop to Drink Release Week!

I signed my contract for NOT A DROP TO DRINK a little over two years ago. My heart was in my mouth at the time, but I found out it has a funny aftertaste so I've tried to keep it in my chest cavity since then.

Starting tomorrow evening I'll be on the Dark Days tour with fellow Harper authors Rae Carson, Michelle Gagnon, Madeleine Roux and Sherry Thomas! I'll try my best to post pics, updates, and funny little anecdotes as the week progresses. For now, enjoy my trailer, designed by Jennie Bates Bozic and an original song inspired by the book from musician Jack Korbel.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Why do we instinctively cover our mouths when frightened / astonished / scared? When I was watching Breaking Bad last week my hand went to my mouth in the first ten minutes and half an hour later it was still up there, making my lips sweat. Boyfriend's theory is that it's a primitive self-defense "shush myself so predators don't hear me" move.

2) Is there such a thing as a fat bat? There are so many bugs this fall that I wonder if there are any bats sitting around with bloated bellies, unable to achieve flight.

3) I accidentally shut a frog in my door the other day. I can't say for sure when this happened because I didn't notice until a few days after the fact. Me being me, I had to investigate. It looks like he was trying to come inside the house, which made me yell at his corpse, "What were you thinking?!?! Now I have guilt!!"

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday WOLF

Lots going on for me today, beyond the usual interest in the English language. I'm being interviewed on the fabulous Fiction Freak blog for Get Your Debut On. Writers, if you want to know how I feel about procrastination and each unique scene that dies every time you indulge yourself in it, check out this post. Arts and entertainment writer Bethany Hensel also has me on her site today for an interview about my journey to publication, from query to finished copy!

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF (oh, how clever is she? She made an acronym out of her agency's name!) Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Our interesting word origin for today comes complete with a legend, and kings, and swine! We all know that being bull-headed means that you're a very stubborn person, but being pig-headed means that you're.... well, kind of a jerk and always want to get your own way. I'm totally fine with being bull-headed (and freely admit to being so), however, being pig-headed is a different story.

So where does it come from? Interestingly, I thought this one would be fairly simple but I had to do some digging, and I'm not entirely confident on the sources for this one. But like a true writer I like the story so much I just feel like sharing it.

My research led me to two different references to a legend from the Middle Ages set in Indonesia. The story goes that there was a king who could enter a meditative state so deep, that his head could be lopped off with a sword, then placed back on his neck without any detriment to himself. It was kind of his thing, and he like to show off a bit.

So, one day, his servant lopped his head off, but it rolled rather far away and could not be found. Apparently there's a time limit on unconscious-head-reattachment, so the servant quickly decapitated a pig and tossed that on the body so that the king could reanimate himself.

But when he did he was totally pissed.

He had the servant killed, but he was stuck with the pig head, and spent the rest of his life kind of being a pretentious jerk about it. So - lesson learned - don't encourage people to chop your head off.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Cover Conversation with Debut Author Vivi Barnes

Today's guest for the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) is Vivi Barnes, author of OLIVIA TWISTED (Entangled Teen), a contemporary re-imagining of Oliver Twist, debuting November 5.

Tossed from foster home to foster home, Olivia’s seen a lot in her sixteen years. She’s hardened, sure, though mostly just wants to fly under the radar until graduation. But her natural ability with computers catches the eye of Z, a mysterious guy at her new school. Soon, Z has brought Liv into his team of hacker elite—break into a few bank accounts, and voila, he drives a motorcycle. Follow his lead, and Olivia might even be able to escape from her oppressive foster parents. As Olivia and Z grow closer, though, so does the watchful eye of Bill Sykes, Z’s boss. And he’s got bigger plans for Liv…

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

Yes. I’m not exactly a graphic designer, though, so what I had in my head would probably make designers roll their eyes. My friend Jen suggested the binary code in the background, since the Monroe Street kids are hackers, and that kind of stuck with me (and ended up on the cover). I originally thought I wanted just to have the image of the girl on the front, maybe with the house on Monroe Street in the background or something. Maybe with a backpack next to her. And a set of school lockers. And a laptop. And a locket. And…

Okay, see? I don’t have the eye for this. At least I didn’t wish for Comic Sans font, so maybe there’s some hope for me.

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

As soon as I signed, I received a lovely welcome packet from the publisher, and part of that was a form for cover art. It was rather lengthy, asking not only what I envisioned, but other covers I admired, books I’d compare my book to, things I definitely didn’t want (I think I pretty much asked for no naked people). I was surprised at how lengthy the form was.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Definitely! One of the wonderful things about Entangled is that they ask for author input on the cover design. Besides the extensive cover art form I filled out, they sent me the draft of the cover from the designer. That was my opportunity to request changes or approve. And I loved it! It had the look and feel of Olivia Twisted. There was a change to the guy model on the cover (and believe me, the guy we landed on is totally Z), but Kelley York (multi-talented designer) completely exceeded my expectations.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Via e-mail. I was so nervous, and I had just finished lunch with a friend when I got the cover. I spent the next minutes on the phone with my agent discussing it. Then my agent gave mine and her feedback to the publisher. It was a pretty amazing, surreal experience.

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

Oh, yes! We had so many wonderful bloggers sign up to do the big reveal in March, and we did iTunes gift card giveaways, too.

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

I received my cover “draft” about a month before my reveal date. They went through tweaks and such, then set up the cover reveal with bloggers, so it took about a month. But they had it to me about nine months before the book debut, so I thought that was really fast.

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

Um…yes. A printout of my cover might’ve accidentally landed on my desk at work. You know, so I could stare at it all the time (which is kind of what I did). And my husband and closest friends had to endure me showing them over and over and over.
I hate keeping my own secrets!

What surprised you most about the process?

That they actually listened to what I wanted. I had heard horror stories about authors and their covers, but Entangled really works with their authors to give them covers that make them proud.

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

Sometimes you have in your head exactly what your cover is going to look like (whether you realize it or not), and when you first see the cover, your first thought might be to criticize (“This isn’t the guy in my book!” “The colors are too bright!” “I wanted red font instead of gray!”).

The best way to handle it is to look at it, then step back, wait a little while, open it up and look again, rinse and repeat. Let it soak in. Give yourself a day or two, then gather your thoughts and provide them to your agent/editor/cover designer. And trust that the publisher knows what kinds of covers sell.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A PSA on Water-Witching* *Witch Not Included

Very soon Not A Drop to Drink will be finding its way to bookstores and libraries, but before that happens I wanted to talk a little bit about a quality that one of my characters possess - the ability to find water underground by using a forked stick that reacts to the presence of the water.

It's been called dousing, and also water-witching. In the world of Not A Drop to Drink, where clean water is rare and fiercely protected, those with the ability to find water are valuable people. I chose to use the term water-witching for the skill, in an attempt to draw a parallel between the well-known witch hunts of early America and it's European predecessors. 

Well... that might have been a mistake.

Some of my early reviewers seemed a little baffled that I threw a paranormal angle into a very stark and realistic survival tale. The honest truth is that I didn't intend it that way, as I personally don't view dousing as a paranormal activity. 

I live in a very rural part of Ohio. The vast majority of us have our own wells, and most of us had a douser find it for us. I've always viewed dousing as an ability that some people have, no different than a double-jointed elbow or being ambidextrous. To me, being able to douse water was part of being closely tied to the earth and nature. Water witching is about being connected to this world, not a different one.

I'm also aware that the efficacy of dousing is something that's debatable, which doesn't surprise me. However, for what it's worth, I do think it's an effective way of finding water, and recent events in Africa back me up on that. Even more interesting, the article I link to here from Popular Mechanics includes a scientific theory that successful dousers are perhaps reacting to subtle electromagnetic gradients that result when natural fissures and water flows create changes in the electrical properties of rock and soil.

And while I'm as big of a fan as the paranormal as the next X-Files fan, it's that kind of science-based thinking that makes me buy into dousing as a skill, and consequently that's the angle I approached it from when writing Not A Drop to Drink.

Good Lord, the number on that counter over there is down to single digits! I seriously have no idea what to do with myself. Oh wait... yeah I do. I'm revising for my 2014 release...

Multilingual Not A Drop to Drink Blog Tours!

I'll be posting a longer, more verbose, and incredibly intelligent post soon (ahem), but for now I just wanted to toss some information out there as we get closer to the release of Not A Drop to Drink!

We're under the 10 day countdown now and the official Not A Drop to Drink blog tour is on a roll. Click below for all the places I'll be in the upcoming days.

I'm also doing a Spanish language blog tour for Not A Drop to Drink! Click below for those dates, topics, and locations.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Saturday Slash

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

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.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Kelsey thinks déjà vu is normal. Just like everyone else. Slightly confusing here - but only a bit - as in, everyone else also thinks it's norma, or she thinks everyone else has it, too?It's a tiny, tiny nitpick, on my part.

But she’s wrong. Her déjà vu is the sign of a terrible problem. Hmm... deja vu definitely has me interested, but a terrible problem and a possible paranormal link isn't that original in the query box of YA agents. What about yours makes it unique? Get it in the hook!

As soon as Kelsey turns 18 she will be shot and killed by two assassins from the future. But there’s one glitch—one of the assassins can’t be born if Kelsey dies. A paradox is created and time loops. Until a man named James contacts Kelsey. Man, or boy? What's his age? Very interesting. I'm a time-travel fan so this has my attention, but the first thing that makes me go "Huh?" is - why is an assassin coming to kill and 18 year old girl? If it's because she's going to give birth to someone important, then this is straying pretty deeply into Terminator territory. If it's because she herself is the target, I need to know why in order to believe that there's an inter-time hit out on her.

Claiming to be from the future, James explains the loop to Kelsey and says he has been sent to save her and resolve the paradox. Despite her many doubts, wait - wouldn't it be to her benefit to stop the assassins anyway? I mean... Kelsey cooperates with James to stop the assassins. But soon it becomes clear that James is hiding something from her: His real mission. Well, right... because if he DOES save her, then the loop is closed, her assassin is born... and... she dies? Gah - OK you definitely have my attention. 

WHEN TIME ENDS is a 73,000 word YA science-fiction thriller.

I think this could work if you get your essential problem into the hook- she needs to live in order to die, right? Get that out there, front and center! You've got an interesting plot here, but make the hook work for you and clear up the question of why her death needs to happen in the first place (beyond the space-time continuum issue). Lastly, is there a romantic angle with James and Kelsey? If so, make that clear.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thursday Thoughts... And A Not A Drop to Drink Giveaway!

So, I've got a box of finished hardcovers of NOT A DROP TO DRINK - I thought someone might like one.

I'll sign it for you, if you want.

Thoughts lately:

1) Why is a breezeway called a breezeway when it's reason for existence is, in fact, to stop the breeze?

2) If you follow me on Twitter you know that I lost my checkbook. There are a variety of places it could be, one option being that I burnt it with my trash earlier this week. Or I might have shipped it to one of my weekly winners, or I left it at a bakery. When I checked the bakery's Facebook page to get a number to call and check, I found out they'd been robbed the night before. Oddly, my first thought was, "Gee, I hope my checkbook didn't do that."

3) I'm getting ready to go on the Dark Days tour and I really ought to consider buying some makeup. Also shaving would be a plus.

Here's the Rafflecopter for the signed hardcover of NOT A DROP TO DRINK! I tried to provide lots of different options for entering, since I know not everyone uses every kind of social media imaginable. That's just for the crazy ones, like me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF (oh, how clever is she? She made an acronym out of her agency's name!) Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Writer, CP and all around useful lady RC Lewis asked me the origin of "the works," as an indication of everything. Now, I hate it when this happens... but I didn't know! And ugh... I haven't been able to figure it either. However, I have an idea, and during my search I unearthed a little something else I found interesting.

You've probably heard the phrase everything but the kitchen sink, but did you ever wonder where it came from? Even though the phrase gained a lot of popularity post WWII, it was in use before that as a common enough idiom to be referenced in newspapers. That particular phrase originally referred to when people moved to a different household, often stripping down their current residence, taking any and everything with them they could carry. Doors and carpets often walked out the door, but kitchen sinks were made of porcelain then - heavy, awkward, and not to mention hooked up to the pipes. Therefore, the phrase came to be used as a reference to a very thorough, wall-to-wall, all-encompassing, no holds barred brand of everything.

So... because I'm a bit of a geek (OK, a huge bit of a geek), my geek-brain worked away at this and came out of it thinking thus -- plumbing is often called waterworks, so what if "the works" came about in connection with the kitchen sink reference to mean everything?

Eh? What say you?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Agency-Mate & 2015 Debut Author Lee Kelly Pulls Double Duty - Pregnant and On Submission!

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 on the blog is a fellow client of Adriann Ranta, debut author Lee Kelly. Lee is also a lawyer and a brand new mommy, so she kind of has a lot going on right now. Basically, she's smarter than me, and possibly even more stressed. Lee's debut, MANHATTAN SAVAGES, is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster in 2015. Follow Lee on Twitter  @leeykelly

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

Nothing, essentially. At the time, I didn’t know too many writers who had gone through this process to ask, so most of what I knew was from Adriann. The rest I kind of gleaned by fumbling around on the web, and scouring authors’ websites who were kind enough to share their stories.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

Absolutely! If there’s anything I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that there is no “typical” submission process. It can take days, months, years. And once I started reading sub stories on the web and connecting with other writers going through this process, I found that stories were all over the map. One writer sold her MS in a week. Another, two years. Another was shopping one book and was offered three books, and another was given one book when they’d pitched a trilogy. So I think going in with an open mind and a good attitude is key.

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

I think in today’s age, it’s almost impossible not to. I would be checking the editors’ twitter accounts near weekly (daily?). And I remember at one point, one of our pitched editors tweeted something like, “Writers: If I read one more manuscript where an MC’s heart is in their throat, I’m going to scream.”  I panicked – was that my story? How many hearts are in throats in my manuscript?! So I’d love to advise writers to relax and let the chips fall where they may, but information is so accessible these days, you actually have to WORK to stay in the dark. 

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

Again, all over the map. I think the quickest response was 36 hours (36 hours)! The crazy thing was, it was a fairly detailed response… I guess the editor got excited about Adriann’s pitch, read the first 50 pages and decided it wasn’t for her, then shot back a rejection all in the span of a weekend. The longest? Maybe months. The average response though I’d guess was 3-4 weeks.

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

 I was 8 ½ months pregnant when we went out on sub, had my son a few days after my first editor’s call, and was trying to sneak in a first draft on my new WIP here and there before my extended maternity leave ended.  So while this is an extreme example, I think staying busy with things you love and are excited about is really important.  If you’re not going to have a kid ;), have a new WIP baby.  I’ve heard a lot of writers say the same thing: a new story creates excitement, helps you fall in love with writing again (especially when a bumpy or frustrating submission process can suck some of the joy out of it) and helps assure you that you’re not a one-book pony.

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

Rejections, from an editor or agent, are always tough. But during my sub process, editors were by and large super-supportive, and there is something totally magical about hearing people that buy books talking about your characters like they’re real people. Sure, a Yes would be better than a No, but I tried to remember how lucky I was to be going through this at all.

That said, there was one rejection that absolutely crushed me. I’d spoken to this editor pretty early on in the process, who had big picture suggestions and wanted a revised draft before she could present it to her acquisitions team. I cranked on that draft like I’ve never cranked before, with a newborn at home, poured everything I had into that revision… and then Adriann and I waited. The editor came back with an extremely encouraging email a few months later saying she was so sorry and disappointed, but couldn’t sell her team. I mean, I was crushed. But we went out on another round, connected with the amazing Navah Wolfe and her incredible team at Simon & Schuster, and we got our happy ending. 

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?

I think I naturally put more stock in an editor’s feedback, especially at the beginning (the MS is broken!  We need to fix it!). But this is where your agent can play a huge role in keeping you grounded, and Adriann kept me sane. Editors are people too, with their own reading preferences, and not everyone’s going to be in love with everything. The further we got into the submission process, the more I truly started to internalize that. Now if a couple of them are saying the same thing… then you start paying close attention, and perhaps there is something to “fix”.

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

I knew we were going to auction the day I got “The Call”, but I didn’t hear from Adriann until that evening, after she’d gotten all the responses and offers. I was at my in-law’s house with my husband and son for a long weekend. I’d been fine at 10 a.m., nervous at noon, visibly sweating by 3 p.m…. and completely ignoring my mother-in-law by 4 p.m.! I flipped out when I saw Adriann’s number on my screen.

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

I only had to wait a week to shout the news from the hilltops, so it wasn’t too torturous. I honestly think it was tougher for my husband to stay quiet… I think he sent a 200-person announcement email after the news posted in PM.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Big Day for Not A Drop to Drink! Read the First 50 & Enter to Win a Signed Hardcover AND See the Trailer!

We are SO close!

Two weeks to debut of NOT A DROP TO DRINK and the people at HarperCollins are knocking my socks off!

If you haven't yet, you should definitely get over to Pitch Dark, where you can read the first 50 pages for free! Get a glimpse into my mind (well, the rather bleak part, not the happy-go-lucky-Mindy you get here) and see if it whets your appetite for more.

Enter to win a signed hardcover, download DRINK quote graphics and checkout this YouTube video of Lauren Oliver introducing me to the Dark Days tour!

After that, scroll down for the Official Not a Drop to Drink trailer, put together by the visual effects genius Jennie Bates Bozic.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Return of the Slash

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

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.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

A terrible past  has haunted a twenty-four year old young really confusing phrasing here - read it aloud to yourself. Old and young right next to each other doesn't work, even if it is technically a correct statement lady named Alice Platinum for nearly six years, but when she moved far away from where? to shut away all the lies and gossips, her worst nightmare arose from the blue. A terrible past isn't a great hook. Tons of novels start out with someone running from something in their past. What makes yours different? 

A horrifying death of a young go-go dancer was witnessed by Alice’s eyes awkward phrasing - what other body part would it be witnessed by? Also, the way this is phrased is very passive. If this death is really horrifying, we need active phrasing here, but the guy who killed her was no other than, you don't need the comma Jason Hampton; a past high school rival. A rival of the victim, or of Alice's? It's hard to tell with the phrasing used here He had figured out who saw him, before everything becomes exposed he kidnapped Alice and kept her hostage for a month. With the past tense usage here it takes a lot of the drama and tension away Now to prevent her from exposing echo with "exposed" him, Alice was again the past tense pulls us out of any sense of urgency forced to join Jason on his dreadful mission what mission? So Alice is being taken with Jason somewhere against her will? without turning back. Not only is the truth of Jason’s deadly murder being exposed, but his luck and faith lies with Alice. Why would his luck and faith lie with her? It just sounds like she's an unwilling prisoner? Why would he believe she was lucky, or have any faith in her in the first place?

While the whole world assumes she knows a top secret code; a seven letter word which would open a safe that contains one tiny piece of paper, Very confused as to what the code, the safe, and the paper has to do with anything - this seemed like a crime of passion witnessed by Alice, committed by a normal dude. Now it sounds like a spy novel? multiple criminals are after it, Why would they be after it? What's in the safe? but one in particular is only after her; Mr. Stollen a massive criminal.

Now that her past stopped haunting her, Alice’s future lies under Jason’s hand. Alice tries to force her mind to trust him, Why would she trust him at all? She saw him murder someone and then he kidnapped her but all the evidence provided provided by who? proved her wrong Wrong about what? because she is afraid of--- finding out the truth. While an ugly secret becomes exposed, not only about Stollen and Jason’s past rival, Past rival, as in an additional character? Or past "rivalry?" but about Alice’s disappearance Unsure which disappearance we're talking about - the one where she was kidnapped by Jason? Or is there another one that we know nothing about? and taunting past. Why would her being kidnapped be taunting? Now to stop her past from taking over her future, Alice has to figure out what to do, all alone and to listen to all the unbarring truth which has to be revealed.

I have to admit to being really confused about the relationship between the two characters Alice and Jason. It sounds like she witnessed a murder, and is trying to get away from that, along with the memory of being kidnapped. Then suddenly there's a safe, and multiple criminals, and she's trying to make herself trust the guy who formally abducted her? I'm very confused about motivation and relationships on this one, as well as the linear plot.

You open with her moving far away to try to forget something traumatic, but then it sounds like she is still involved with Jason in some manner in the present tense. You'll need to iron out these progression kinks and character motivations before querying agents.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Book Talk - PROJECT CAIN by Geoffrey Girard

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Everyone knows that crime rates soar in the summer, and this one is no different. Except this summer's most gruesome murders are being committed by The Son of Sam, The Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy and Geoffrey Dahmer... all at the same time. These teen versions are killing machines bred by the government in a cloning experiment, then set free by the geneticist who created them, who himself believes that he is descended from Jack the Ripper.

Only Jeff Jacobson knows the truth of what happened. Raised by the geneticist who released the other killers, and completely ignorant of the fact that he himself is a Dahmer clone, Jeff discovers the truth when he finds a grisly token in his father's closet. Now, his peaceful nature is at war with the questions of his genetic makeup. Is he an infamous cannibal-killer, or is he just Jeff, a confused and orphaned boy suddenly tossed into the middle of a violent game?

The clones want Jeff with them, fulfilling his dark destiny. The government wants the clones silenced, their deeds done, and an agent is sent to eliminate them before their existence is discovered. As the government killer hits the road with Jeff to track down the most heinous criminals of all time, he isn't sure which side of Jeff will win out... and neither is Jeff.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Whenever I say, "I apologize," I say it like Andy from DEADWOOD as he's dying in the woods from smallpox. This makes people not take the apology seriously. And if you have a problem with the eff word don't watch the explanatory snippet below.

2) As I tried in vain to get the front of my car clean yesterday, I wondered why glue is made from horses and not bug guts.

3) Everyone complains about carpet. Keeping it clean, how much it costs to maintain, the color fading out, etc. So I asked myself, why do people even have carpet then? And shortly thereafter I realized all these same things are true about hair.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF (oh, how clever is she? She made an acronym out of her agency's name!) Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Writer, CP and all around useful lady RC Lewis asked me the origin of brouhaha last week. Great question -- with a very interesting answer!

So, my English speaking friends are probably aware that pigs say "oink," sheep go "baa," and horses are known for their "neigh." But did you know that animals sound different in other languages? In French, for example, the dog says, "Ouaf! Ouaf!" and the pig says, "Groin! Groin!" (I'm resisting a VMA joke, b/c my mom wants me to work on being nicer).

What does this have to do with brouhaha? Well, a brouhaha is generally used to describe a noisy and / or angry situation, not to be confused with hubbub, because the latter can be positive. A brouhaha is a bad thing, and well... so's the Devil, right? The best explanation for brouhaha that I was able to run down is that it was often used as a noise that the devil made in French stage-dramas. As in "brou, ha ha!" Apparently this was a French version of an evil laugh.

And here's a great video for you of animal noises from around the world. Just because it exists.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

YA Debut Geoffrey Girard Talks PROJECT CAIN

I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. Even more special - this is a WoW! Edition of the SAT - We're Ohio Writers! Yeah - cause we grow 'em here.

Today's guest is Geoffrey Girard, fellow Class of 2k13 member, Ohioan, and author of the YA debut PROJECT CAIN. Geoff's debut is narrated by a young Jeffrey Dahmer cloned as part of a government experiment where serial killers were re-made in an attempt to make killing machines. Our narrator fights against his urges, hoping to help capture some of the other monsters who have escape their facility - people like The Son of Sam, The Boston Strangler and Ted Bundy. Interestingly, PROJECT CAIN is coming out alongside an adult thriller written from the perspective of an adult in the story. CAIN'S BLOOD releases alongside PROJECT CAIN today!

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’ve almost always got a formal or scribbled outline with the plot and most scenes worked out and go from that. As I go along, new scenes/events will come to mind and I’ll work those in. I still, I think, bully my characters too much and am working toward letting them do their own thing more. Writing in first person for Project Cain helped me further down that path. It was Jeff’s story to tell, not mine.  

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

It takes me a year to research and think about things, but I’m usually doing that while writing some other project. Once I’m ready to go, six months is the fairest answer. I’ve done three, I’ve also done a year. Ongoing, to sustain some kind of writing career, I’ll be holding myself to every six months.

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

As far as writing writing, one at a time. At Writers of the Future, ten years ago, the sci-fi writer Jay Lake (a fellow student at the time) gave me the advice that he was so prolific because he never started a new project until he’d finished the one he was working on. Too many writers (and I was one of them) start projects that never finish, because “I already know how it will end” or “I have another great idea” etc. And you can finish very little for years using those lines. You may NOT start a new project until you’ve finished the last. It’s good advice.

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

No fears. I love books so damn much, so it was a very natural “sit.” I do still self-edit too much, but that’s more from being an English major and writing under the false pretense that someone will be studying my craft a hundred years from now.

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

I have a big fantasy novel laying around. It got some faint nibbles from publishers and I might be able to do something with it, but epic fantasy is not a strength. Other writers do those much much better than I ever would. I may rework into a more urban fantasy story someday.

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

I was 20k into a novel about several strangers who wake up in a booby-trapped house. Some unseen evil guy speaking through little speakers in the house is forcing them through this bloody maze as they atone for their various sins and make life decisions, etc. etc. This was about 2003/04. Yeah, so this movie called Saw comes out… and I knew it was time.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

For Project Cain, it’s Stephen Barbara at Foundry Lit & Media in New York. It was as traditional a query as you get: I made a list of agents I wanted to work with, and Stephe was first choice. I sent in my proposal and sample chaps (as per Writers Guide). He said send the rest. I sent the rest. He said would you consider doing X and Y? I did X and Y. he said “welcome to Foundry.”

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

Kinda fast. Foundry/Stephen was excellent about getting back to me quickly. It was a couple weeks (max) between first contact and “Would you try rewriting this as an adult thriller” (which later became “would you try writing another as a YA first-person thriller”). I went away for a couple months to rewrite the book. After I sent that, they were back with a YES in a few weeks.

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

(A) I have a folder stuffed with rejection letters from the last decade. Hundreds. MOST publishers have told me, “This isn’t for me.” Yet, I’ve sold seven books and twenty-plus short stories over that same time. 200 people can say NO and you still just need a couple (or one!) to say YES. Collect all your NOs happily. You WILL find your publisher and audience eventually. It really is a numbers game.

(B) The agent helped. A lot. I probably waited too long to get one. I’ve sent manuscripts into publishers who STILL (years later) haven’t gotten back to me in any fashion. My agent made a short list of publishers to talk to, talked to them directly on my behalf, and put together two nice book deals in about a month.

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

I’ll know Sept. 3. I’m kinda numb to the whole process right now, honestly. It’s a lot of work (work a solid year old now) to reach a point where you have almost 0.0 control over the book: distribution, sales, criticism, etc. The book belongs to others now, so I’ve spent the last couple months distancing myself some and working on my next projects.   

How much input do you have on cover art?

Very little. My agency asked for some simple font stuff to make Project Cain match Cain’s Blood a bit more. But I scored so big on Project Cain -- the cover is amazing -- so not really ever a concern. It was my job to write a book. Other people more qualified than I are in charge of promoting and packaging it. 

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

The amount of hats an editor wears is really quite staggering. I don’t know how people do that job. I figured an editor edits your book, the end. No. They shepherd the thing from beginning to end. From acquisition through legal and layout and marketing and printing and…etc. There were a dozen times my editor contacted me about something and I was: “YOU do that??!” 

How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? 

I’ve got a website and Twitter. Just enough to have them, not much more. Blogging, I suck at. I take too long and usually end up saying something that bothers someone. Some authors are great at social networking; I will not be one of them. I’m a teacher and best delivered face-to-face.

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

I always assumed it was very important to have my website all up to date and this and that for my agents and potential publishers, etc. Psychotically checking my web logs to see if NY had been on recently, etc. None of them cared. At all. My agents took me on and Simon & Schuster bought two books. They didn’t even know what I looked like. Had never been to my site. So, I say: just write your book. You could have no website at all and look like Frankenstein’s monster. If they like your book, they’ll be in contact. As far as adding potential readers, it usually takes two-full years for a first book to come out after purchase. You’ll have time… 

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Sure. Discovering a hundred (or even ten) new readers makes social media worth it. I’ll manage to lose some readers, also, through social media, but that’s part of “finding your audience.”  You’re never gonna win over everyone. No author has ever done that (Dr. Seuss maybe?) and social media is just another way to connect with those readers who might like your work.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Get to Know Mindy... Come See My Fridge!

It's almost here... NOT A DROP TO DRINK is about to release and subsequently I've been fielding a lot of interview requests, which is totally cool. I'm more accustomed to only my immediate family really caring that I exist.

Normally my Monday posts are writing related, but because it's Labor Day and I've been answering a lot of get-to-know-you type questions lately, I thought I might just put some information about me out there. It's always amusing to me that people want to get to know "Mindy McGinnis," because she's honestly a very boring person who can't quite get up the energy to put on makeup most days.

But, since there seems to be an interest in who I am, I thought I'd share with some pics that I think represent me pretty well.

This is what my fridge looks like right now. I could almost go Vegan if not for my dairy fixation. I eat so much yogurt I think I could conceivably digest the Empire State Building.

Of course the best way to get know someone is by looking at their bookshelves. Here are mine, including one that doesn't exist so I just pile everything on the floor.

And another great way to get to know someone is to peek into their video collection. I'm a huge de-clutter-er though, so instead you'll have to settle for a screen-cap of my Netflix Queue.

And because I believe that scrolling through someone else's iTunes is the modern equivalent of peeking into their medicine cabinet, here's a random screenshot of my iTunes.

Hopefully that's some entertaining lazy blogging for you today!!