Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) All stairs should be made out of a spongy material. That way when you fall you won't get hurt, and you have the added benefit of struggling to go up them all the time to create great calf muscles.

2) Women spend a lot of time on our hair and fingernails to make people believe we are beautiful. Technically speaking both of these body parts are dead, which makes us all necrophiliacs.

3) Migraines really suck. Mine tend to pounce unexpectedly, and I've come to envision them as the Eye of Sauron suddenly spotting me and saying I SEE YOU!!!

Wednesday, January 30, 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.

Here's an interesting little bit of language history that I happened upon the other day, involving silent letters.

I've always been kind of amused at the fact that you don't pronounce the "h" in ghost. It's kind of funny, if you think about it. It's there... but you never hear it, and no one dare say it... Oooooo. Anyway, why is that pesky letter there?

People were writing long before the dictionary existed. Mostly it was the monks who did the copying and writing of books, and pretty much everyone wrote words however they felt they should be spelled. Likewise, the printing press existed before the dictionary, and we ended up in the same situation. Lots of people from all different kinds of backgrounds were printing in the English language, but bits of their own heritage were filtering in to the mix.

The word ghost was originally spelled without the "h," nice and phonetically. But printers from Holland tossed an "h" in there because that's how they spelled it, and for some reason, it stuck.

Interestingly enough, the printers weren't only tossing in letters because of cultural differences. They also liked nice straight lines (who can blame them?) and so if they had to knock an extra letter off of a word or two in order to get a nice, tidy justification, they'd go for it. Words like, logic, magic, and music used to have a "k" at the end, but they got nicked.

In 1755 Samuel Johnson had enough of arbitrary spelling, and made the first English Dictionary. Shortly after the American Revolution, Noah Webster waged his own kind of war against the English by writing an American Dictionary, in which he knocked the "u" out of words like color, flavor and honor.

How do I know all this? Well, it's because I read books. Most of this stuff was news to me, I learned it from THE WORD SNOOP by Ursula Duborsarsky. If you're as big of a nerd as I am, you might want to check it out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Debut YA Author Stephanie Diaz Talks About the Submission Process

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 quite awhile. Stephanie Diaz and I met on AgentQueryConnect and I knew as soon as I read the first few chapters of her work that she was going to make it. I'm thrilled to tell you that her YA Sci-Fi title EXTRACTION will be available from St. Martin's in 2014.

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

SD: I'm one of those people who devoured interviews about writers and submission (many of them found on this blog) before (and while) I was out on sub, so I went into the process feeling fairly knowledgeable. And my agent did a great job keeping me in the loop.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

SD: Even though I knew a lot about the process, I was still surprised by how difficult it was to deal with on an emotional level. Yes, I was mostly okay, but there were a number of times when I kept imagining people reading my book and hating it to the point where they wanted to throw their computer at a wall. I also couldn't stop comparing my book to other books on the market. (Don't do that.)

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

SD: I'm 100% guilty of researching editors. Twitter and google were my homeboys. It definitely made me more on edge. Once you look up a twitter account once, it's easy to end up checking it obsessively. I'd recommend steering clear of research if you can.

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

SD: It's hard for me to say because my agent sent me batch responses as opposed to individual ones. Two weeks in, we hadn't heard from anyone. Four weeks in, we had a fair number of rejections but also some interest from a major press. About two and a half weeks later, we had an offer. There were still a couple editors we hadn't heard from by the time we accepted.

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

SD: Hundreds of people have said this before me, but it's simple: write, write, write, and keep on writing. The only reason I stayed (relatively) sane through the process was because I had a new novel to focus on, a new world and new characters I believed it. I was also lucky that NaNoWriMo happened during my submission time, so I had encouragement to work on said novel. You can also take the time to read more books and hang out with people IRL. That will also help.

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

SD: I'm not gonna lie, the rejections were tough. In my case I was lucky because I found out about interest at the same time as the rejections, but I was very aware that “interest” did not automatically lead to “pub deal.” The rejections still made me worried, perhaps even more so than query rejections. Querying a pub is a one-time gig for a particular novel. You don't usually get a second chance, whereas when querying agents you can sometimes revise the novel and send it out again. So, that gave me quite a bit of anxiety during the process.

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?

SD: The majority of my submission responses cited the same reason for rejection: the market. My book has dystopian vibes that made editors wary, but most of them had lovely things to say about my writing. In this case, the feedback was easier to process than beta reader's because it came down to a lack of passion for the story. My agent and I still thought the story was strong and where it needed to be. Thankfully an editor ended up agreeing!

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

SD: It felt AMAZING. My agent had set a closing date for offers during the week of Thanksgiving, so I knew I was going to find out on a particular day. It was also a school day. I was on my way out the door when I received an email that the phones were out of commission in my agent's office, but we had an offer. I squealed a bit and quickly arranged to call my agent as soon as I got to campus. The twenty-five minute car drive was full of smiles and blasting music out my windows. I got to school, called my agent, and we went through all the details. I called my mom right afterward, and then I had to go to class and pretend to be focused. I stayed silent about it that whole day, but the news was bursting out of my chest.

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

SD: We accepted the offer the next day, and then I had to wait about a week to spill the beans. It was difficult because this week fell right during Thanksgiving Break, when I didn't have as much to keep me busy. But I told my family, as well as my closest friends and writing buddies, so I didn't have to stay completely silent. When the news went up on Publisher's Marketplace I was ecstatic, though.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Narrative Needle & Other Revision Stories

Doing a major revision is a lot like surgery.

I recently finished a massive revision on a book that I wrote eight years ago. Yep - eight years. It's actually the first YA book I tried writing, after trunking two finished adult mss and a third adult ms that was about a quarter finished. This YA title was a total watershed moment for me, as I sat in my office at work and said to myself, "Mindy, you're a librarian for teens. You're around your target audience forty hours a week and completely immersed in the market. You're kind of an idiot for not writing YA."

And yes, I really was kind of an idiot. So I scribbled down a few ideas and wrote my first YA novel over a period of about eight months. And I've put in a year of editing for every month that I spent writing it.

A lot of that is my own fault. I was practicing another sort of idiocy in not having any crit partners or joining any writer's forums before gleefully sending off queries into the ether for a sub-par ms that was about 30k longer than necessary. But beyond that, I wasn't doing the right thing with pacing, and I was very vague about things that I thought my reader should fill in on their own.

Oh, and also it was written in the wrong tense for the voice I was using. Ahem.

So, like a I said. There's been a year of revising for each month that I wrote it.

This last revision was the most invasive- the equivalent of triple bypass surgery. Typically I revise on the laptop, but this was such a huge undertaking that I printed it out (sorry, trees) and jumped in with my hatchet and red pen.

I ripped the skin off.
I peeled back the muscle.
I found the heart.

And guess what? It was in the wrong place.

Yeah. A major reveal moment that answered a massive question and is the crux of the story was happening about 100 pages too late. You read that right - 100 pages.

So I tore the heart out and moved it to another location. And that meant I had to rewire the entire circulatory system, didn't it? Everything in every scene following that moment had to be re-investigated, as the pivotal moment occurred much earlier now than it had before. Characters knew a vital piece of information much earlier now than they had before- it changed everything.

Circulatory system safely pumping, I got critical with the skeleton. It only makes sense that if you move the heart, the ribcage probably ought to get a little re-arranging as well. And it did. The Crux Moment Movement changed a lot of things, for a lot of characters, and their individual stories needed some tweaking for continuity. There were some bone grafts involved. Some scenes were literally jutting out, saying -- "HEY! I don't fit here anymore!! CONTINUITY ISSUES!! DANGER!! DANGER!!"

Some of those I had to push back into place and graft onto the scenes nearby. Some of them I pulled out entirely and tossed into a bio-waste container. Some were transplanted elsewhere.

I laid the muscle back on, checking to be sure it was attaching to the bones in the right places, not pulling anything out of joint. The skin went back on last, a re-insertion of everything that worked nicely and just had to be the cohesive covering that held everything together.

And with everything in place I whipped out what I call The Narrative Needle. I had squished everything back into a package that was working, but there were still holes, little places where things hadn't grown together quite yet. Things like scene jumps that could conceivably be melded together for flow, or a nice fact-delivering organic bit of dialogue that moved my characters from one scene to the next seamlessly, even if one scene was written eight years ago and the next one was eight minutes old.

With everything tied off, the end result is a much different looking creature than what I made eight years ago.

But everything inside is pumping much more effectively.

Saturday, January 26, 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.

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!

Thirteen-year-old Parker Ward never believed his little sister's stories about monsters, not until he was mistaken as one. I'm digging the hook, I'd cut "not" for flow and phrasing, and also separate it from the next para physically to give it a little more impact visually. Other than that, good job.
After Parker discovers the body of his little sister, he is inadvertently I think the fact that he's "sucked" kind of implies the "inadvertently" part, but that could just be me. sucked through a portal into a world humans are forbidden. Possible phrasing problem here - are you missing a "where" so that it reads "where humans are forbidden" or is it a world humans are forbidden to enter? It could technically work without the "where" but it tripped me up, and could be read as a mistake. He ends up "ends up" implies that the Academy wasn't his original, or intended destination, might need to rephrase. Also a lingering question - if humans are forbidden, why is he there? I realize that may be the crux of the story, but it raises the question. at Underlake Academy, a quirky, supernatural refuge from his grief, but unlike his classmates, his body parts don’t grow back. This felt kind of out of left field - do all his classmates body parts grow back? Now that everyone thinks he’s a vampire This feels like a jump from body parts growing back to vampires, hemophobic Parker must keep his identity a secret if he is to survive. Why? So he truly isn't a monster? Now he has to pretend to be one to keep from being killed? Also, is he attempting to find his way back into our world, or just rolling with the punches? And what's with dead sister? Is her body still just... lying there?

Parker adapts to this new world where valkyries blow things up for fun, Cupid’s arrows have real barbs, and the school’s favorite sport has rules against unnecessary decapitation. Awesome sentence here. Just as he starts to fit in, his sister begins to haunt him, warning him of an ancient evil threatening Underlake, determined to destroy the supernatural. Parker must choose between sacrificing himself or once again being the only survivor among all he has grown to care about. This para is great, and I love it. 

Shortly after receiving my BFA and MBA, the last of my immediate family passed away. I then left for Baghdad, Iraq to work as a government contractor. These experiences were the inspiration for the parallel challenges and dangers my protagonist must overcome. I am a member of SCBWI and attended the 2012 Backspace Conference. Good bio here, not sure all the information is relevant, but I think it could fly as is.

My biggest questions are already covered in the first para above. I think you need to get the answers to my questions into that first para, which will be doable with some clever phrasing. There's some good visuals here, but get the main conflict out front - does Parker even want to go home? And is he actually human and in danger simply because of that fact?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Talk - SHADOWS by Ilsa J. Bick

I don't make any secret of the fact that I kind of have a talent crush on Ilsa J. Bick. And I'm OK with that. SHADOWS is the sequel to ASHES, so if you haven't read it, you might want to skip out on the Book Talk today for fear of being exposed to many-a-spoiler. Also, if you haven't, check out my Book Talk on ASHES from last year to see if the series is for you. If you're not weak-stomached, I think you should try it out. For those of you who aren't so sure how you feel about zombies... well, this book is gutsy in more ways that one.

ASHES left Alex outside of Rule, faced with a pile of bone and gristle. Tom was lost, Ellie taken. SHADOWS finds Tom being cared for by an elderly couple who discovered his bleeding body back at the gas station, and nursed him back to health. Now his only motivation is to find Alex, and save her from whatever fate she's facing. His PTSD from Afghanistan is only exacerbated by the grisly present though, and he has to deal with his past before he can try to guarantee himself - or Alex - any kind of future.

But Alex is fending for herself as she fights her way - literally tooth and nail - through a group of Changed determined to claim her as their own. Wounded and loosing her own precarious grip on reality, Alex is kept with a group of adults to be bound, and herded together toward an unknown destination, while the Changed pick one at random to be each evening's meal.

Alex's concerns go beyond being the next snack. Her tumor may have saved her from the first wave that turned normal teens into Change, but it seems the Changed are still changing. As they evolve into  cohesive groups that plan, execute, and torture, Alex feels her own brain wavering between being a human being... something else.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Does anyone else think it's weird that we have major retail sales to celebrate things like MLK Day and President's Day? I'm really not sure this is what civil rights leaders and presidents were aiming for.

2) I have completely lost faith in the statement "Studies Have Shown..." As far as I can tell, This Week's Studies have shown that Last Week's Studies were utter hogwash. We anxiously await Next Week's Studies to show us This Week's Studies are bollocks.

3) Reality is slowly turning into a Ray Bradbury short story.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PAPfest Update!

Hello everyone!

The PAPfest email is OPEN papfest(at)gmail(dot)com

If you attempted to send an email and received an auto-response that the window was closed that was due to a bot-timing issue.

I responded to every email that made it in to the inbox with confirmation that your entry was received. So if you did *not* receive a confirmation response please re-send!

There are still spots, so keep sending those entries!

Wednesday WOLF & A PAPfest Reminder!

Before you move on to today's WOLF, remember that the first window for PAPfest opens today at 8AM EST! Email your entries to PAPfest(at)gmail(dot)com For complete rules and regulations, click here.

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.

Sure, word origins are fascinating when you're a big nerd (like me), but you can even dive down past the words into the letters themselves and get some interesting stories.

You guys probably know that the first writing forms we had were actually pictures like cuneiform and hieroglyphs. The first writing form used where the symbols actually represented spoken sounds was created by the Phoenicians. It had 22 symbols, all consonants. Tht's rght, n vwls.

The first two letters in the Phoenician writing system were called aleph and beth.

Yep - that's where we get alphabet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A BOA with Agency-Mate Michelle Krys, Author of HEXED

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 agency mate Michelle Krys. Her debut, HEXED, features snarky sixteen-year-old cheerleader Indigo Blackwood, who is forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers only to discover the first of many dark truths about her life. Also, it has boys and kissing. HEXED is coming from Delacorte Press/Random House Children's Books, Spring 2014


MM: You’ve got a fun and straightforward blog. What made you decide to take that approach?

There was never this big decision over which approach I would take to blogging, though I did consciously decide not to try to imitate other author blogs that I admired.  The explanation being that there were (and still are!) so many awesome blogs out there that it was a bit intimidating to give it a try. I worried I wouldn’t have anything to add to the conversation or that no one would want to hear what I had to say because I wasn’t as intelligent or funny as XYZ author, etc. Finally, I told my inner critic to shove it and decided to just be myself, which is apparently fun, so yay (and thanks)!

MM: 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. How do you keep a balance between blogging and writing?

Right, that was another of the worries I had before I started a blog. Only now that I’ve been doing it for quite a while and have fallen into a routine, it really isn’t that time consuming. I can usually get out a post in less than an hour. Less than an hour once or twice a week isn’t so much of a time commitment (especially when you kill two birds with one stone and watch TV at the same time ☺ )

MM: Like me, you do query critiques. What made you decide to offer that to your readers?

I’ve always loved critiquing query letters (writing them too, but I’m told that makes me weird). I’m a huge fan of the Query Shark blog and shamelessly decided to offer the same service on my blog, which in retrospect contradicts my earlier mantra that I wouldn’t imitate blogs I admired. Gah!  In any case, I’m so honored that anyone would want to hear my thoughts on their letters.

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

Definitely, blogging can be helpful for self-marketing. Having said that, it’s probably not a good idea to blog solely about yourself and your book, as you run the risk of boring and/or annoying your readers. Which is to say, don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.

MM: Sometimes social media feels like a do-or-die. How do you approach Twitter or Facebook on days when you really don’t feel like you have much to say?

This question is easy, because I always have something to say. Literally, always. It’s a challenge to shut me up. Just ask my husband (or anyone else who’s ever met me).

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

As I’ve mentioned before, I think the Query Shark blog is an awesome resource for querying writers. I also really loved QueryTracker for keeping track of the agents I queried, and the Literary Rambles blog for researching agents accepting YA. And I highly recommend Mindy’s SHIT series (Submission Hell It’s True) for authors on submission.

MM: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?

I’ve said this a bunch before but I’ll say it again because it’s still true and helped me a lot during particularly down moments (of which there are many in the writing business): The odds of making it out of the slush pile really aren’t as terrible as writers are often led to believe. The slush pile can be full of less than stellar projects, to put it nicely, and if you’re a good writer, do your research, work hard, and keep at it, then your odds are much, much better of succeeding. Don’t let the statistics scare you!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Lucky13s Twitter Chats Starting This Week!

We've got a wonderful group of MG and YA debut writers over at The Lucky 13s. As our debut year takes off, we will be hosting a Lucky 13s Tweetchat once a month so that we can talk about a variety of things with anyone who wants to tune in!

The chats will be guided from the moderator behind the Lucky13s Twitter. It's an Oz-type thing.

Stay tuned to The Luckies on Twitter or follow the hashtag #Lucky13s during the scheduled times to participate in what's sure to be an informative and fun time! All chats will begin at 8 PM EST (with the exception of the two Saturday chats) and last for one hour.

The Lucky 13s Tweetchat Schedule and Topics:

January 24th: Meet the Luckies!
February 21st: The Boys and Girls We Lurrve: Love Interests and BFFs in our books
March 21st: Mostly Middle-Grade (Yay! MG!)
April 18th: Science! And Fiction! Science Fiction!!!: SF and the science in our fiction
May 18th (Saturday Chat, special 3PM EST Start): Worlds Apart: Wordbuilding and our Fictional Worlds
June 20th: Paranormally Yours: The Strange, Creepy and Otherworldly
July 18th: Cheers for Contemps: Contemporary Books
August 22nd: Kicking It Old School: Historicals
September 19th: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Antagonists and Protagonists
October 19th (Saturday Chat, special 3PM EST Start): Before “Once Upon a Time”: Character’s Backstories
November 21st: Ask Us Anything!
December 19th: Year in Review and What’s Up Next

Saturday, January 19, 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.

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!

Twelve-year-old Haley has the worst life ever—stuck for the third summer in a row at her mom’s work, a stinking old folks’ home. Yeah, an old folks' home is definitely not the cool summer hang out, but I feel like your hook here starts out a little cliche. Every 12 year old thinks they have the worst life ever. Get the old folks home out there front and center. Also, I'm confused as to why Haley is even there at all? Clearly she's not working at 12 years old, so I assume Mom doesn't have childcare, etc. Obviously that's a lot of info for me to ask you to jam in the first sentence, but even if you just use the phrase "stuck tagging along" it would help. Also, I don't think the fact that it's the third summer in a row is relevant in the hook. At least she has plenty of time to figure out a way to make enough cash to buy a cell phone and smuggling contraband in is just the ticket. It turns out old people have a sweet tooth and selling snacks to the residents is a real money-maker. Nice - that's awesome and hilarious. Get that hook spruced up just a little bit and your first para is definitely intriguing.

Things turn less lame when Haley gets to watch her favorite show, Cajun Pawn Stars, with the General need some clarity here. I thought upon first read that The General was the host of the show. On second read I think he's a patient., and it only costs her a few Oreos an episode. Also my first thought here was that the TV she's watching on is in some kind of common room. If she's watching with a patient whom she's sneaking Oreos to, that makes more sense - but we need clarity here. And when she discovers that one of the new residents is sixteen-year-old Rachel very confusing phrasing here - I feel like the way Rachel is introduced paired with the Cajun Pawn Stars makes me believe there's some kind of connection between Rachel and the show - but that doesn't pan out here who’s in a coma thanks to the driver of a getaway car, things really get interesting. And why is a 16 year old in an old folks' home? That doesn't make sense to me. Rachel’s roommate is 80-something Miss Essie whose best day is remembering where she put her teeth and worst day is over-hearing the strange visitors who just might be bank robbers and now want to hurt the only witness.

If a kid who’s stranded for the summer, a retired Marine who’s given up on life, and an old lady with Alzheimer’s can solve a bank robbery and prevent a murder, it’s possible Haley will have the best How I Spent My Summer essay in the history of middle school. This is a great sinker here - it helps clarify some of the things that are hazy in the middle, but that doesn't mean the middle should stand as is.

THE SUMMER I STARTED A BUSINESS, SOLVED A BANK ROBBERY, AND SHOWED UP ON CAJUN PAWN STARS is a 31k middle grade novel. It’s a modern day Nancy Drew with some humor thrown in. I’ve been a teacher and school counselor for over twenty years. Currently, I’m a middle school counselor with the largest school system in the Southeast. I'm also a member of SCBWI. Great concise bio that explains who you are, and why you are qualified to write this book.

I think my biggest issue here is why a 16 year old is in a nursing home in the first place? Also, I get that you need to name the TV show she's watching in order for your catchy title (it is good, btw) to work, but the way that sentence is phrased makes it sound like Cajun Pawn Stars is going to be the bid deal here, but really the focus (and prime mover of the plot) is the fact that the victim of the getaway vehicle is in the building, and in danger. I get that CPS might play into the overall plot of the robbery and Rachel's injury, but it's confusing when placed the way it is in the hierarchy of the middle para as far as the book's focus.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Talk - PROPHECY by Ellen Oh

Before you jump into today's Book Talk, check out my interview featured yesterday on Marilyn Almodovar's blog, Writing on the Sunny Side of the Street. If you want to know what my writing routine is like, what my inspiration was for NOT A DROP TO DRINK, or who I'd like to have dinner with, check out my interview!

Kira has always known what it's like to be hated.

Since her birth, her yellow eyes have marked her. Even though she is royally born, the taint of demons follows her. The villagers call her kumiho - nine-tailed fox demon. Little do they know that far from being a demon herself, her eyes give her the ability to see demons writhing under the skin of the people they've possessed. And she is their only protection.

Scorned by common people and court ladies alike, Kira is accustomed to a lonely life. When the King is murdered in a demonic plot to pitch the Seven Kingdoms into chaos and war, Kira vows to stay by the young prince's side, and protect him always.

Her young cousin the Prince is supposed to be the savior predicted by the Dragon King Prophecy. His courage and nobility all attest that he could be the one. But according to the bloodlines dictated by the prophecy, Kira's brothers could be the Dragon King as well. 

Or it could be Kira.

Only mythical treasures, long missing, can reveal the identity of the true Dragon King. Kira's family must evade predators both demonic and human as the race across the wilderness in search of a ruby that can control the tides - and reveal which one of them can fulfill the prophecy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday Thoughts & PAPfest Update!

Before you jump into your weekly dose of random crap from my head, check out my recent post over at Book Pregnant, where I give revision tips and tell you how to get the crap out of your book. It's actually a useful post, and Thursday Thoughts, while entertaining... may not be, you know, useful.

AND a quick PAPfest update. The PAP Team of myself, RC Lewis and MarcyKate Connolly, decided to be far to the West Coasters that the second submission window should open at a different time than the first, so that people don't have to crawl out of bed in the morning to send an email. I don't like to crawl out of bed in the morning for anything at all, so I totally get it.

NEW submission window times ARE:

There will be two windows for you to send your entry to PAPfest(at)gmail(dot)com 
The first window will open Wednesday, Jan 23 at 8 AM EST 
The second window will open Friday, Jan 25 at 6 PM EST
Each window will allow 50 email entries

Thoughts lately...

1) I recently joined Tumblr. I like it. I have fun there. But I don't understand it. It seems like the vast majority of the content is re-tumbled. When I put something original out there, it just kind of sits. When I reblog someone else's something awesome, I'm rewarded with re-blogging and new followers.

2) Now I'm a trained rat as much as the next guy, so I learned pretty quick that pushing the Tumblr recycle button gave me kibble faster than putting effort into it. But how is this the case? MINDY!?!? You pushed a button on something you didn't create that was lifted off of someone else's blog!! I love you for that!! I'm going to follow you!!! (??)

3) Gifs are really big over on Tumblr. And yes, I admit to looking at them fairly often. But when I'm looking I'm thinking - "Wow, this is a movie without sound lifted off a movie that already exists with sound... isn't that technically a step backward?"

Wednesday, January 16, 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.

I know I'm probably not the only person out there watching Downton Abbey, and I'm probably also not the only one who wonders what the word dowager means whenever it comes up. It makes people sound rather grand, don't you think? Yes, I'm the Dowager Librarian, what were you looking for?

And, exactly because I am a librarian I went ahead and looked it up.

Dowager means a woman who holds the property and/or title of her deceased husband. The word comes from the Middle French douage, meaning a woman's marriage-portion.

It's not a huge hop, skip, or jump to see how the word dowry comes into play, then, is it?

And while it does indeed make one sound rather grand to use the word in reference to oneself, there's also the rather unfortunate (though, I assume, outdated) reference to dowager's hump, which is an outward curvature of the upper back due to osteoporosis.

I'll just take the money and title, please.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Return of the BBCHAT With Rachael Dugas of Talcott Notch Literary

Today BBCHAT returns! For my new followers, this is an acronym for BigBlackCat's Humane Agent Talk: In Which A Particularly Agreeable Agent Answers a Series of Questions that Have Nothing to do with Queries or Submission Guidelines. Yeah, don't try to make an acronym out of that last bit.

The BBCHAT is designed to get the personality of the agent in the spotlight, and an enterprising querier can use this information to figure out if the agent is a good fit for them, rather than just another agent who happens to cover their genre.

The last question involves something that oddly resembles a contest, and ties in with the blog name.

Today's guest for the BBCHAT is Rachael Dugas of Talcott Notch Literary, which she joined in 2011. During her tenure as associate agent, Rachael has judged contests and attended conferences in New York and beyond, working with groups such as Writer's Digest, ASJA, YA Lit Chat, the National Publicity Summit, and the Hampton Roads Writers. Recent sales include titles in young adult and romance to imprints at Hachette, Perseus, and Month 9 Books. Rachael is a former Sourcebooks editorial intern and a proud Ithaca College graduate.

She welcomes fiction submissions in the following categories: YA, MG, women's fiction, contemporary and historical romance, historical fiction, and general commercial fiction. Her non-fiction wishlist includes memoir with an amazing voice and cookbooks or performing arts-related books with outstanding platforms.

BBCHAT - BBC's Humanitarian Agent Talk

1. What are you reading right now and why do you like it? 

I have been insanely busy between manuscripts and contests, so I’m sort of between books right now, but I am slowly working my way through the December issue of Food Network Magazine. The last two books I read were The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees and Capital Girls by Ella Monroe. (Reading YA novels is totally market research, right?)

I loved the first book because Little Women has always been one of my favorite books and it was fun to read this account of Louisa May Alcott’s fictitious summer romance and to get to know the real-life characters that inspired the novel. Capital Girls was a really fun read. I admit that watching Pretty Little Liars is one of my guilty pleasures and this novel shared many of the same elements that make the PLL franchise successful.

2. Paper or plastic?

Paper all the way! I refuse to go e-reader. (Though I acknowledge it’s a great invention—there’s just nothing like a physical book, to me!)

3. What's on your bucket list?
  • To visit as many other countries as I can manage. (Italy and Spain are at the top of my list.)
  • Attend a major entertainment awards ceremony.
  • Meet Andrew McMahon, front man of Something Corporate/Jack’s Mannequin. (I was obsessed with him as a teenager and it would retroactively make my teenage life to have a conversation with him.)
  • Have a nerdy food conversation with Alton Brown.
  • Learn how to cook authentic Mexican food.
  • Learn to speak French and have a Julia Child-esc foodie excursion in Paris/Provence. (And learn to make authentic French bread while there.)
  • Play any of the leading female roles in a community theater production of Les Miserables
  • Grow and maintain (and manage not to kill) a big herb, fruit, and vegetable garden.
  • Acquire an amazing debut or early-career author that becomes mega-successful and has a long career. (Not just saying this to kiss up to you authors—it’s definitely at the top of my professional bucket list!)
4. Have you ever ridden a mechanical bull? (It’s on MY bucket list, so that's why it's here).

I can’t say I have! I’m way too uncoordinated for that!

6. If you had a guaranteed sell, what type of story would you like to represent?

My pet genre is contemporary realistic YA, so I’d probably go with that—an amazing voice/character driven YA that makes me relive all my teenage angst. (But in a good way!)

Rachel has shared three facts about herself, but... one of them is a LIE! See if you can figure out which one is false in the Rafflecopter below. The winner will be chosen next week and announced here on the blog. I will also email you separately. You can only enter once, and if you enter twice... I'll know. Smart kitty. Winner gets a copy of SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard. SPLINTERED  is available on Kindle starting today, but if you're lucky you can get a physical copy from me!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thank you to Rachael for participating in the BBCHAT! The winner and prize will be announced next week here on the blog. Remember you must be a follower of Writer, Writer to win!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Announcing Participating Agents for the 2013 PAPfest!

I won't sugar-coat it- pitching is hard. I'm a YA librarian, so I pitch other people's books all day long. When I knew that my critique partners MarcyKate Connolly and RC Lewis would be published in 2014, I was already mentally pitching their books to my students, and I thought... hey - EVERYONE should practice pitching by pitching other people's stuff! And so my contest idea was born.

Last month I announced an upcoming agent-judged contest here on Writer, Writer called the PAPfest (Pitch-A-Partner Festival). As always, the PAP is sneaking up on you quicker than you thought. MarcyKate and RC will be co-hosting the PAPfest on their blogs, because that's only fitting. 

In our model, writers will pitch their critique partner’s project, and our team will decide whose pitching abilities are so strong that we’re interested in seeing their own project

The blogging team will narrow the final hopefuls down to 30 entries, at which point we’ll ask our participating agents to cruise our blogs to bid on projects that catch their eye. 

What Are the Rules?
  • The PAPfest is open to completed MG & YA projects of any genre
  • Be sure to have your CP's permission before pitching them
  • If CP-X successfully pitches CP-Y, we will ask to see the query and first 5 pages of CP-X's ms to use in determining who moves on to agent judging
  • 100 initial entries accepted
  • 30 finalists move on to agent judging
  • Finalists will provide query & first 200 words for agent judging. Their partner CP-Y has the option of requesting a query critique from the PAP team of myself, MarcyKate and RC.



Are you confused? That's OK. We're here to walk you through this contest, hold your hands, wipe your brow, bring you ice chips and breathe right along with you. All kinds of fun things are in store to clarify your questions. I mean that. I intend to amuse the hell out of you while explaining this contest.

What's the Timeline?

There will be two windows for you to send your entry to PAPfest(at)gmail(dot)com 
The first window will open Wednesday, Jan 23 at 8 AM EST 
The second window will open Friday, Jan 25 at 6 PM EST
Each window will allow 50 email entries 

The PAP team of Myself, MarcyKate and RC Lewis will be reading the entries between Jan 29 - Feb 8. If you are one of the 30 finalists you will be notified by Feb 8 via email. If you are chosen you will provide your query & first 200 words for agent judging. If you are chosen, your CP who graciously allowed you to use their project as pitching material, will have the option of requesting a query critique from the PAP team.

February 14th from 9 AM EST to 9 PM EST (Hooray! V-DAY! The agents will be invited to browse the entries and make requests. The agents will vote for their favorites with a partial or full request. Voting will stay open for twelve hours (9AM EST to 9PM EST). Everyone who received requests will be able to submit their materials to all the agents who voted for them.

Can Guys Get a PAP?

Why yes, yes they can. In fact, we'd love to see that.

Who are the Agents?

Agents participating in the PAPfest are:

Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary
Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary 
Pooja Menon of Kimberley Cameron
Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary
Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary
Tina Wexler of ICM


















































Isn't that spectacular? Aren't we so glad that we have them? Yes, we are. In fact, we're so glad that we commissioned some original art from Lynn Phillips to immortalize them. And it'll also help explain the contest. Enjoy!

If you have any questions at all about how to proceed feel free to email me at bigblackcat97(at)gmail(dot)com or contact me on Twitter - use the #PAPfest hashtag to get input from any of the three PAP team members - we'll be on alert for questions from now until contest time!





Saturday, January 12, 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.

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!

In my YA urban fantasy BECOMING JINN, wishing doesn’t make it so, Azra does.

I think that this is a great hook, but without the first phrase. If the second half of this stood alone, it would pack a punch. The first phrase distances us from the second.

Azra has always known who she is. I think this should be a dash instead of a new sentence here A Jinn. But Azra has also always known who she doesn’t want to be. A Jinn. Combine these two thoughts into one sentence, right now you're pushing the limit on word count so you need to economize On her sixteenth birthday, Azra’s genie magic kicks in. For the rest of her life, she’ll go where she’s told, perform on command, and do it all without question. That's a crappy fate, for anyone, but I can see a teen hating it especially! Screw that. She tosses the Jinn rulebook under her bed. Her powers, curiously strong for a new genie, fuel her ability to wing it. Suddenly we're actually *in a scene* - the query needs to read like the back of a book almost, not show us specific scenes from within. Also I'm confused about the phrase "wing it" - do you mean she can throw things really hard, or that's going to "wing it" - make up her own rules as she goes along? But when she inadvertently skips a vital step, step towards what? she not only risks exposing Jinn magic to the world but puts a human’s life in danger. Either one would be enough to draw the attention of the Afrit, the Jinn’s ruling class, but the combination lands her on probation. Little do the Afrit know they’ve granted Azra’s wish by forbidding her to use magic. Nice - the idea here is a solid one but you need to economize your word use and shave down. Get the little book-tossing mini-scene out here and instead give us the overview. Also, I really need to know what this vital step is - is this her "winging it" towards something else? Undoing her magic? Getting rid of her jinn powers for good? As it stands I have no idea what this step was working towards.

Lying about who she is has always made friendships difficult. This respite from her destiny frees Azra to find a best friend in the boy across the street and a romantic lead in the lifeguard from work. But Azra learns wishes do come with a price as her feelings for the two boys become intertwined. Struggling with normal teen angst for the first time, Azra sneaks a peek at her mother’s teenage diary, searching for advice. The secrets about the father she has never met, the source of her strong magic, and why the Afrit have been watching her so closely reveal as many answers as they do questions about who Azra really is and who she wants to be. When her probation is lifted, Azra must figure out how to grant the most important wish she has ever been asked — one that challenges the most fundamental rules of the Jinn — without losing those she loves most. Yeah this second para is good, you're telling us what is going on in a nice overview here, but I'm confused about why she would be allowed to mix with normal humans since she's only on probation. My assumption of probation means that she will still *become* a Jinn eventually and therefore why would she be allowed to mix? Also, this "most important wish" sounds like the crux of the book - I need to know what it is. What's at risk for our character if she fulfills the wish, or doesn't? And whose wish is it? I need to know that to be drawn in.

See, when genies are involved, there’s always a trick. Great sinker, like it a lot.

With fantasy elements set in the contemporary world, BECOMING JINN has the ability to appeal to readers of John Green as well as Kristin Cashore and Cassandra Clare. Nice comp titles.

A professional editor and writer for more than seventeen years, I have a B.A. in journalism. Nice concise bio.

I think your biggest challenge here is getting the fundamental rules of her existence out there so that it's going to make sense to the reader w/out being an info dump. What does probation actually mean? Does she have powers now at all? Or is she a regular human who then becomes a Jinn whether she wants to or not? When you mention "on her sixteenth birthday, her magic kicks in" but I don't know with the phrasing if this is something that will happen, or something that already has happened? On my first read through I thought it hadn't happened yet, and that her missed "vital step" was something she was undertaking to keep it from happening. Now, I'm wondering if what you're saying is that it had already happened, and her missed step was her trying to undo it.

So - those details need to be made very clear. It's easy to know exactly what you mean when you know your own story, which is why having fresh eyes is a good thing. Get those basic plot points clarified and I think you have an original premise, and a good hook and sinker.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Talk - THE CADET OF TILDOR by Alex Lidell

Renee de Winter stands out at the Academy of Tildor. She's the only female soldier, and she is of high birth as well. A sense of morality and duty drove her from her family seat and a crime-lined inheritance to enter the grueling training to become a Cadet of Tildor - the country's elite soldiers who are the only force not tainted with blood during the ongoing struggle between two crime families who are attempting to oust the young king from the throne, and assume power of their own.

Renee struggles with the training. Her spirit is willing, but her body barely manages to keep up with her larger, stronger male counterparts during brutal sword training that leaves her bruised and bloody. When Savoy, an infamous young commander is called away from active duty to train the young cadets, he teaches Renee to rely on her speed and agility rather than try to match her male counterparts with strength.

Political unrest and the taint of illegal drugs reach even into the hallowed walls of the Academy, and Savoy - whom Renee admires fiercely, is kidnapped and sold into gladiator slavery. Along with her best friend Alec, Renee must free Savoy not only to save his life, but to expose the truth as well.

CADET OF TILDOR is a relief from the stereotypes in so many ways. Renee is not gorgeous, she does not have superhuman strength or an unbelievable reserve of strength. She struggles. She bleeds. She sweats. She questions herself. While she is loyal to Savoy and admires him, she is not in love with him, (although she's not above admitting that he's attractive), and he's not in love with her. Even more refreshing - boys and girls can be friends without unrequited love tossed into the mix.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I've been watching Planet Earth in the background while revising. As a result, whenever I'm about to kill a character I hear "Wolf Takes Down Baby Caribou" music.

2) The Deep Sea episode had me gaping. I think I would be a lot of fun in a submersible. There would be numerous sound bytes of me going, "WTF IS THAT?!?!"

3) Now, no matter what is going on, Richard Attenborough narrates it in my head. It can be damn funny when applied to a high school library.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Return of the WOLF & Dissecting the Eff Word

Those of you who have been following me for awhile may remember the Wednesday WOLF (Word Origins from Left Field). I'm ushering it back in... with a bang.

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.

Most of us say it every now and then. I know I did when I stepped on a rake and hit myself in the face (yes, really). The "F word" is a very satisfying way to get all that crap out of your head and into the atmosphere. There are two common misconceptions about the origin of that particular four-letter word, as luck would have it for the WOLF, they both involve acronyms.

Fornication                                                              For
Under                                    OR                             Unlawful
Consent of the                                                         Carnal
King                                                                        Knowledge

The 1st incorrect acronym has been tied to a variety of different logic-based arguments, from the concept that invading soldiers needed "permission" to rape women (because it was considered sex out of wedlock, not because, you know, it's rape) and the king could grant them this. Whether or not it was called a Writ of F#$& is unclear. Another take on this is that wedded couples had to have the permission of the king to have a baby, and so would apply for permission to f@#$. Because kings took the time to do that kind of thing, you know.

The 2nd incorrect acronym is usually referred to as a means of judicial punishment for adulterers and rapists (yes, in this version rape is actually a bad thing). It has also been said that soldiers were accused of the crime of f%#ing when they were caught with each other.

And while all this carries just enough glimmer of truth to be generally accepted as true, it simply isn't.

But that doesn't mean there weren't people tossing out the F bomb back in the middle ages. They were. And they used it the same way we do. The eff word is actually a very old word, so when you think you're being all cutting edge and pushing the envelope when you use it, really you're just rehashing something one of your 15th century ancestors might have said.

Apparently it does the trick pretty well because we've been using it since then.

The Random House Dictionary of Historical Slang cites Middle Dutch fokken = "to thrust; copulate with" (say it with a Dutch accent and you'll see), Norwegian dialect fukka = "to copulate with," Swedish dialect focka = "to strike, push; copulate with."

So amaze your friends at your next party by whipping out the Random House Dictionary of Historical Slang. I know that's how I roll.

Are there any words or phrases you want to know the origin of? Ask me! If I don't know, I'll find out. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Slush Pile Success Story with Tristina Wright

Today we've got a success story from the slush pile as Tristina Wright joins us for an SAT (Successful Author Talk).  Tristina recently landed Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary for an agent. How'd she do that? Let's ask her.

Writing Process:
Are you a Planner or Pantster?

TW: Pantser. A ridiculously out of order pantser. My first drafts are a crazy puzzle of out of order scenes and horrible transitions. Thank god for Scrivener. I have a weakness – I have to write all the good stuff first like kissing and The Sexytimes. Oh, and fights. I have a thing about writing a good and dirty brawl.

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

TW: A few months? Maybe 4 or 5? I have a toddler and, recently, a newborn so my writing speed has slowed considerably as a result.

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

TW: Normally, one project at a time, but now that I may be writing in two categories (YA and Adult Romance), I’ll probably always be working on multiple projects at once. And, let me tell you, keeping my head straight from a YA manuscript to an Adult Romance manuscript is difficult. The delete key is my friend. “You can’t say that in YA, Tristina.”

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

TW: Yes. I had a professor in college tell me that fantasy and science fiction are cop out genres and the writers who write them are sellouts. Then I had another professor tell me that I would never be capable of writing a book. I actually quit writing for 8 years because of those experiences. And, even though I conquered the insecurities enough to start writing again, I battle them every day. It’s hard.

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

TW: I have plans to rewrite it someday when I have “free time” but, for now, it’s languishing on my hard drive.

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

TW: My agent is the fabulous Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary. I love her. She found me in the slush pile, actually. Slush works, yo! I sent her my query, and she requested a full about three weeks later. A few weeks after that, I was ninjaed from a contest by another agent who read my manuscript in 50 page increments over about 4 days. That agent offered rep which (after the excessive flailing and shrieking) prompted me to nudge all the agents that had my manuscript. Danielle responded immediately saying she had actually already finished my manuscript and had been planning on emailing me to offer rep. She told me later she was actually a little jealous that another agent got to me first! She asked for The Call for the next night and I pretty much fell in love with her on the phone. We talked for over an hour about my story and books we love and pretty much every subject under the sun. I waited a week to let the other agents get back to me with yea or nay, but, in my gut, I knew I was going to go with Danielle.

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

TW: I started querying this manuscript beginning of September. Danielle offered middle of October. Yes, I know that is ridiculously fast, but I’d also spent the year prior querying another manuscript that got oh so close but no.

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

TW: Querying blows many objects that are probably inappropriate for me to name. Honest truth. It’s a lot of agonizing over making The Perfect Query and then doubting your perfect query when you get rejection after rejection. Oh, and having an intense hatred for the word subjective. My advice to you? Never forget that only you are the one who can tell your story. And your story deserves to be told. So, draft your query letter, rewrite it about eleventy million times, and send it out without looking back. Then surround yourself with people who are doing the same thing because you need each other. Seriously, I could not have gotten through the depressing rejections without the support of my critique partners and writer friends. Plus, WHEN you get that elusive request followed by The Call, you’ll have a ridiculoton of people to celebrate with.

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

TW: I have social media! I’m probably far too addicted to it. (Don’t tell my agent)

I have a website, I'm on Twitter and there’s a whole stalking section on my site for links to Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr, and Pinterest

Yes, addicted.

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

TW: I strongly believe in before if you can. There’s an AMAZING community on Twitter of established authors, new authors, writers in the querying trenches, writers on submission, agents, editors, and publishers. You can find people at the same stage of the game as you, writing the same category/genre, and your age group. And the support is incredible. When I announced my agent, I had so many people congratulating me and spreading my news to their followers and so on and so forth. It seriously makes you feel ten feet tall.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

TW: Yes, but you have to be careful with it. If all you do is spam links of where to buy your book or quotes from reviews, then people will tune it out pretty fast. I enjoy authors that actually talk to you about normal things like crazy kid antics or what stupid thing the dog did now or sharing pictures of shoes or hot guys. Those are the authors that I look up online and put their books on my Christmas wish list. Those authors I call friends and, when my time comes to flail all over social media because my book is published, they will be the ones to virtually tackle hug me and shoot virtual confetti canons and tell everyone to go buy my book. 

Hopefully.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Social Media Just For Writers by Frances Caballo - Review and Giveaway!

We all know that the days of a writer simply writing are pretty much over. Personally, I'm okay with that. But I've always been more outgoing than is technically healthy, and am comfortable enough with technology to play a bit.

I know that not everyone feels that way. The great news about social media is that it can be a great way to be outgoing even when you are sitting at home alone and look like crap. The not so great news is that you might feel intimidated by all the ins and outs, not to mention the plethora of social networking sites - with new ones popping up constantly.

I received a copy of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips For Selling Your Books by Frances Caballo as a review copy. Whether you've got the marketing backing of a Big Six or you're self-pubbed and looking for way to raise awareness of your book, there's a lot of information in here that can help you out.

Facebook: Great step-by-step info here on how to setup and maintain an author or book page. Tips for setting privacy, adding tabs, building traffic and analyzing that data are all here. The one inaccuracy that I found is that the author claims you must have the privacy settings for your personal page the author page is linked to set to public (i.e. - if your private page is marked "Private" only people who are your friends will be able to see your author page). That may have been true at one time, however that is not the case now. I tested this with multiple people who are and who are not listed as friends on my private FB page and everyone could see my public page, regardless of the settings on my private one. There is also a pretty extensive chapter about using Apps on FB that are specifically designed for writers / marketing that is quite helpful, as I find FB Apps rather discombobulating, myself.

Twitter: Oh no! You have to be interesting in 140 characters or less on a regular basis!! Don't worry, it's not that bad. The Twitter chapter explains handles, hashtags, and a helpful Twitter vocabulary lesson, along with some great hashtags just for writers. Again there was an inaccuracy here - the author claimed that when you DM someone on Twitter it will show up in their timeline that they received a DM from you. As far as I'm aware, that's not the case. There's also a *great* chapter here about Twitter apps that will help you organize and make sense of your data - both free and paid.

LinkedIn: I can't speak to the accuracy of the LinkedIn chapter because I don't use it. I'm also not convinced that LinkedIn is a social media must for writers  - but that's just my opinion. If you want to use it, and think it could boost you there's a step-by-step chapter here for you.

Google+: I was really pleased to see G+ included here. I started using G+ actively about a month ago and I like it - a lot. This chapter provides a comparison of how G+ features function in the same way as FB features, and how they're different, along with the step-by-step and vocab to get you started. Unfortunately, G+ very recently added their Communities function, which is not covered here so this chapter is already slightly dated. It does however, give a great rundown of how Circles and Hangouts work in G+ which is probably the platform's most confusing feature.

Pinterest: This chapter walks you through setting up your account, boards and pins. How to re-pin and generally use the site is all covered here. It also includes a great explanation of how to improve your SEO on this platform. However, it completely skips the very real problem of copyright and Pinterest. If you're curious about whether or not your pretty boards might get you sued, you might want to read this.

Blogging: Yes, blogging can be scary. Yes, blogging can be hard. Yes, it takes away from you writing time. OK let's move past that now and focus on the fact that it's also an amazing tool for connecting with your readership. There's a great chapter here that doesn't necessarily give you a step-by-step for setting up a blog on any one platform, but rather walks you through identifying your audience, writing captivating post titles, and tips on where to find good free photos for your blog.

Offline: Finally, there's a great chapter on how to promote yourself... you know, in reality. Tips on bookmarks, business cards, tours and bookstore visits.

Overall, this is a very thorough book. The one large criticism I have is that Tumblr is not covered, and I think it's the growing social media of the moment. However, as I'm a YA author and Tumblr appears to be a "younger set" thing, it's quite possible that I'm wrong in my assessment of it.

In any case, if you think this book sounds like something you might benefit from (ahem, we all can) you're in luck, because I'm giving away my copy! And just to accentuate how important social media is to writers, I'm including all my links in the 'copter. Yes, I'm everywhere :)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 5, 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.

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!

As the virus spreads so does their power. I definitely like the hook, but it does leave me wondering "who" b/c I'm kind of picturing tiny power-crazed amoebas. However, since that's literally cleared up three words later I think it's OK. Prince Anton’s family has long dominated their disease-ravaged planet. Blessed with genetic immunity, the treatments derived from their blood gives them control over a desperate public. But the rules Prince Anton made to protect the homeland of his estranged wife, Tia, now condemn her. Quite good. I think you can kill mention of Tia by name here though. It makes your last sentence clunky.

Guilt over a deadly accident they’ve kept secret for a decade took Tia and here we get her name and it's inferred that she's the estranged wife, so I think you can safely cut proper name insertion in first para and Anton down divergent paths; Tia becomes a leader in the liberation movement, and Anton head of the Unity Defense Forces. Now Anton’s obsession with saving Tia’s war-torn homeland from the disease has thrown both their lives into chaos. So -- Tia's homeland and Anton's are different? Just curious, b/c the idea that she's all Liberation makes me think of an internal revolt movement, and his government position sets them at odds. But if she's from a different place altogether I think it takes away from the mention of their political affiliations.

As eradication of the virus comes within reach, Anton’s vicious uncle, the Tsar Regent, cuts off delivery of all treatment kill the word "treatment" here doses to protect his political interests. Left with only the limited doses echo with "doses" - how about "supplies?" his own blood can provide, Anton continues to deport the infected, forced to dispose of rather than save them the last clause here makes for a long-winded sentence and is a tell after a show. When Tia uncovers the truth, and the local militias she’s funded fight back, Anton faces a choice clunky- rephrase . Fight his own nation for more doses, or continue with the protocols that now leave Tia ineligible for a dose. Hey mister - that's a question. You need a question mark. :)

Overall I think this is great. Highly interesting and unique premise. The major thing that's tweaking me here is the geographical confusion. Why would Tia care if Anton is deporting people from his country if it's not her country as well? Clear that up. I think you're looking good.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Talk - SPLINTERED by A.G. Howard

Alyssa knows that her life will end in the insane asylum. Her grandmother died in one, and now her mother has been officially institutionalized, insisting that she can hear the private whisperings of bugs and flowers. The curse of insanity stretches through the female line all the way back to Alice Liddell - the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Alyssa has dealt with the teasing about her ancestor her whole life, and visits to the asylum are nothing new to her. But when she can no longer ignore the voices filling the air around her, reality begins to fray in ways she could have never imagined. Things are happening to her that she can't explain - and it's more frightening to think she might not be insane.

The real Wonderland is a frightening place, one that the childish Alice Liddell was unable to put into words. The lighter brush strokes of fiction had delivered a tale for the ages years ago, but Alyssa has landed in a vicious world populated with grotesque creatures - and she didn't come alone.

Her best friend Jeb followed her through a shattered mirror to protect her, but now she's the one coming to his aide in a world that her ancestor accidentally altered years ago. Cursed to fix Wonderland or die crazy on the other side, Alyssa's family has suffered since then. Now, Alyssa has the chance to save Wonderland, her mother, Jeb... and herself.

But it's hard to know what the right thing to do is in Wonderland - or who to trust. Should she listen to Jeb, her lifelong friend who wants only to keep her safe? Or Morpheus, the dark, chimeric figure who has followed the women in her family for generations, and has plans for her she might not want to be a part of?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) We're taught that certain tastes in candy are the equivalent to a "natural" flavor. But it's simply not true. Next time you taste anything candy-style that claims to be Banana or Watermelon, actually stop and think about it. It bears no resemblance to either one of those real tastes, but if you taste it you immediately say, "Oh yes, that's banana / watermelon." Um... actually, it's not.

Unsure what to do with this philosophical conundrum.

2) Despite the fact that I live with two dogs (Australian Shepherd & German Shepherd) and two cats (one a Turkish Angora), it's MY hair that breaks the vacuum. Yes. A Dyson, nonetheless. One day my hair will rule the world, I swear it. Just ask the drain. Or the headrest in my car.

3) Once it's lower than 15 or so degrees you really can't tell the difference. You just walk outside and think, "Wow, it's really cold." The difference between 15 and -15 doesn't really register. Until you die more quickly. Then it probably matters quite a bit.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I Am Still Here

Well, it's 2013. We made it through the Mayan Apocalypse just fine, and New Year's Eve found me dancing to some Michael Jackson music.

So really, it *does* kind of seem like a part of the world might have ended. The part where Mindy has some modicum of self-respect and her friends have not been exposed to what amounts to a lot of awkward jerking while standing up.

But I digress -

I'm still here! I've had a lot of guest bloggers during the month of December, as I was tearing apart a particularly mean-tempered ms in the attempt to flog it into shape. This book baby is my red-headed stepchild, the one you secretly love for being so irascible but that doesn't mean you haven't considered shoving it in the closet and throwing away the key once or twice.

This particular ms has been 8 years in the meat grinder, and it may end up as puree yet. But it's currently testing the palates of a couple fresh crit partners, so we'll see what kind of feedback I get.

In the meantime - 2013 is looking pretty interesting. I'm here. It's here. We have met.

And this blog is back with Mindy at the helm.

I come bearing a question. How do you feel about word clouds? Annoying? Bulky? Useful? Can anyone think of a better way for readers to access older material on a blog? I'm open to suggestions, as the blog is going to be seeing face-lift in the coming weeks.

For those of you who missed it, in the interim I was featured along with my fellow Class of 2k13 mates over at the librarian blog Stacked! Check out my short Twitterview, where I answer questions about NOT A DROP TO DRINK in 140 characters.