Monday, June 30, 2014

The Thin Line Between Fiction & Reality

I'm working - hard - on my book for 2015. It's a Gothic historical, and as I am the nit-picky research-loving librarian that I am, I refuse to leave any stone unturned. The other day someone needed to call the cops in this book, and I didn't finish the sentence because I first had to go find out what cops were called in 1890's Boston. Are they policeman? Coppers? Constables? Fifteen minutes of research went into finding the right word to end that one sentence with. I also got distracted by the origin of the word "cops" - policeman's badges were originally made out of copper, so they were reffered to as "Coppers" which became shortened to cops. Now you know. I do too, and I just lost another ten minutes where I should've been writing.

I bought a map of the real town where my novel is set ($25.00 gone) from the right time period so that I could look at street names, locations of shops vs. residential areas, the locations where bridges crossed the river, etc.

Then I came to a line of dialogue where my main character and her partner in fighting crime are bemoaning the size of the population and their inability to catch a killer within such a large group. So I checked the 1900 census data for this city so that my line of dialogue was completely accurate... and hit a huge roadblock.

The city was much smaller than I had expected, population wise. In fact, it was so small that finding a killer within it would actually be a fairly easy proposition, given that his method of operation definitely points to a man of a certain occupation. I was wretched. Truly wretched. I'd built my entire plot around this city, researched for a year before even starting the book and literally have a map of it in my head so that when I visited a few weekends ago I could guide the boyfriend as he drove.

And now it was too damn small during the time period my book is set.

I seriously felt like puking. I shut the laptop, stomped downstairs and the boyfriend takes one look at me and says, "What's wrong?"

I tell my horrible story. All the wasted work and knowledge that now means nothing, the restructuring of the plot that's going to have to happen if I switch to a more metropolitan area. And the boyfriend leans back on the counter, looking horribly confused and says, "Well, this is fiction right? Just make the city bigger in 1900."

And this tiny fact that should have in no way been a revelation pretty much turned me on my head. I was ridiculously happy to realize, that yes, if I wanted to inflate the population of a city in the 1900's to serve my purposes I can, in fact, do that, because it's fiction.

Sometimes writers need to realize that while the research and dedication that goes into our writing is admirable, we can't let it dictate to us the parameters of our world - because it is, in fact, a fictional one. My 2015 release is my first historical novel, and I've been doing my damndest to keep it as accurate as possible. But the truth is that even with years of research poured into this thing, I'm going to have to tilt the mirror a little to make the picture fit the plot, and I'm also going to get some things flat wrong that I thought were right. And, of course, there are probably going to be points that I know I'm right about that people will think are wrong.

And that's okay - because it's fiction.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

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.

I saw on your agency's website that you are currently seeking new young adult stories, and I thought you might enjoy my young adult novel, THE CHANGE. This novel is complete at 65,000 words and was a finalist in the LUW (League of Utah Writers) Oquirrh Chapter Selection Contest 2013. Normally I say put this information at the end, but you've done a good job of introducing the basics and then also your finalist info is good. So I say leave it :)

In Piper Dashton’s world, who you are is defined by the color of your eyes. And this is a great hook. I love the idea, original concept. No unusual eye colors were your tense changes here with "were" expected to appear at the Copperfield Orphanage during the week of the change, just the colors that were prevalent in the area: orange, pink, and silver, to name a few. I'd dash your last hang-on here in this sentence.

But Piper’s world flips upside down when her dull, grey eyes, the color of the unchanged, turn gold, a rare color that thrusts her into the crosshairs of warring sects that want to use her newfound psychic abilities. Hunted down by rebels, Piper’s on shifting ground, questioning everything she’s ever known about the world and the people within. I feel like we need to know more about the sects and their goals here - are there good guys? bad guys? Where to the rebels fall in this? What are their goals? And her just questioning everything is very vague - what is she questioning? Did she used to think rebels were good and now they're bad? Vice versa?

Among the country’s elite, why is she among the elite now? Is this part of the warring sects? Piper desperately searches for the truth about the power she holds, the family she has never known, and her heart’s true desire. Meaning which side to choose, or is there a love interest? She is torn, not only by the corrupt capitol officials who have taken her in, but also by the rebels bent on capturing her and all other gifted individuals. Aha - so they "took her in" - as in, she's a prisoner? Or a guest? Or under house arrest? With lies surrounding her, Piper needs to choose a side before she becomes a pawn in the hands of those that want to control her and her power.

This novel will appeal to fans of Alexandra Bracken’s THE DARKEST MINDS trilogy or Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT. I’m currently working full-time on my next young adult novel. As per your guidelines, I have enclosed my query letter for your review. The full manuscript is available upon request. Be careful about using big titles for your comps - everyone wants to be like something huge. And they probably see 100 queries a day that use DIVERGENT as a comp title.

You have all the right information in here, but in the wrong order. You'll see that I ask questions early on that you then answer later. The second paragraph isn't really necessary, as most of what you say there is reiterated in the third, using different language. Also, it's really important to know more about Piper - how does she feel, other than torn and confused? Is she thrilled to have a power? Scared? Give us some feel for her personality, and also more of an indication of why these sects are fighting and what they want to use her power for, specifically. Being psychic is cool, sure, but how are they going to use it?

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Place for Purple Prose

It was a dark and stormy night...

No really, it was. This was last week, and as things got a little nasty outside my mind turned to that much maligned phrase. We all know it. Even people won't don't move in literary circles will toss it out every now and then, and they know it's supposed to be said in a melodramatic, self-effacing tone.

But for whatever reason I suddenly became curious as to why? And who said it in the first place, other than Snoopy?

So a little bit of searching and I landed on the Wikipedia entry for the British novelist Edward Bulwer- Lytton, who coined this phrase with the opening line of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. So, it is real. It's not just a joke that someone made up to mock purple prose and is now found in the mouths of just about any wiseass on the eve of a storm. It is, in fact, the beginning of a real book.

But wait - there's more. Here's the whole sentence:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Now, let me be the first to admit that if the wiseass I referred to earlier were to quote this entire sentence rather than just the first seven words I'd be impressed.

Secondly, I admit to kind of liking it. Yes, I do. I like this sentence. But I like Victorian literature, and I know I'm not alone in that. Would this sentence work today? Should the opening line of my next YA novel make use of semicolons, dashes, and parentheses all in one go? No, it shouldn't. No agent would sign off on it and no editor would buy it.

But does that necessarily make this bad writing? Is this sentence worthy of being mocked by every person who has a TV but has never read a book nearly 200 years after it was penned?

I don't think so. Yes, it's over the top. Yes, it's flowery and more than a little self-important. But, take a moment to divorce yourself from the choppy, single-serving easily digestible content of my blog post that surrounds this little snippet and picture a slow pan to the right on this scene and Vincent Price doing the voice over.

Not quite so funny now, is it?

Sometimes I think we've lost our connection to what is or is not good writing. Social norms define what is in or out at any given moment. And right now, Bulwer-Lytton is most definitely out, and probably will never come back in. But I don't think it necessarily means that there is no time or place for this style of writing.

And for the record, even though you may not know his name Bulwer-Lytton also coined the phrases, "the great unwashed," "the pen is mightier than the sword," and "the almighty dollar."

So let's cut the guy a break.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

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.

Just before her seventeenth birthday, when Lottie thinks that she’ll never figure out what her stress-induced synesthesia and the telepathic connection to a member of another planet called Karnock are really meant for, she meets a boy named Charlie. There's a LOT going on here, I'd say too much. For one thing, I have no idea what synesthesia is - and I'm guessing most agents won't either, so you're going to have to find a way to work an explanation into the query. Right now your hook sentence is too long and has way too many elements jammed into it. She doesn't sound all that alarmed about having this telepathic connection with an alien. He has similar powers as her, and he can maybe give Lottie the answers that she's been searching for. As they explore the truth behind their powers, they discover that it is up to them to save Earth from a malevolent enchantress that threatens utter destruction and slavery upon humankind. Technically, utter destruction and slavery are two different things. However, they also must save Karnock and its inhabitants, whose fate has been forever linked to Earth’s. This definitely needs explaining - why are their fates linked? And how do these kids actually feel about their powers, being the chosen ones, and each other?

Transported to Karnock, Lottie and Charlie see how the atomic bomb, Chernobyl, and global warming have all affected Karnock's population and landscape even more severely than they have affected Earth. How are they transported? What does this have to do with synesthesia and who is the alien she has a connection to?

Can Lottie figure out how Earth’s past ecological disasters fit into her current reality, gain control of her powers before she loses them completely why would she lose the completely?, and embrace her destiny on Karnock why does she have to embrace it? Is she resisting it? to defeat the enchantress, before the enchantress seizes power over both worlds? Definitely don't end a query with a question. I'm guessing that Lottie CAN in fact do all these things, or else it wouldn't be a very compelling story :) 

I am currently seeking representation since you're querying, this is assumed for my completed that it's completely is also assumed 90,000 word YA science fiction/urban fantasy. Twice Affected is A Wrinkle in Time with a dash of An Inconvenient Truth. Either all caps or italicize your comp titles, and these sound like good choices. 

I worked on this manuscript during the Fall 2013 semester at Simmons College with Amy Cherrix of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as a project toward the completion of my Writing for Children Master of Fine Arts degree, which I received on May 9, 2014. Great bio here - you've done a good job of showing that you're serious about writing and have already made some connections.

Definitely work on getting this query boiled down to what's important - this sounds like SF with an environmental twist, which is pretty interesting. But right now there's so much information in your query that it's making the query look messy, and an agent will assume that the ms is messy too. Pare down what's necessary to whip the query into shape, and get your human elements into it - how do the kids feel about each other? About their destinies? Does Charlie even matter? He's mentioned once, but hardly seems necessary to the query, let alone the book. Boil down your book to it's most basic elements, then use those to reconstruct the query.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) It's obvious I'm getting older because the parts that bother me now in horror movies are when people fall down stairs or get tossed about a room.

2) I did an Indian Mound tour last week and it got me wondering - what if all the Appalachian foothills are actually massive Indian Mounds?

3) When I'm shopping in a grocery store other than my usual one, I get confused and easily flustered. Apparently I need lettuce to be in the same place consistently in order for me to find it. Clearly I would be one shitty gatherer. I could hunt though.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A BOA With The Daily Dahlia

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

Today's guest for the BOA is Dahlia Adler, a very multi-talented lady. Dahlia is an Assistant Editor of mathematics by day, a copyeditor by night, and a YA author and blogger (she also blogs for YA Misfits  and Barnes & Noble Book Blog) every spare moment in between. Dahlia's debut novel, BEHIND THE SCENES, will be published by Spencer Hill Contemporary on June 24, 2014

So you run an excellent blog over at The Daily Dahlia. What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?

Why thank you! What I wanted was for my blog to be a one-stop shop for new writers to be able to find the information they need when they start out on the publishing journey. There’s so much out there, scattered all over the place, and it’s so impossible to tell what’s good advice and what’s bad, what was once good but no longer applies, etc. I’ve been in the publishing industry for a while, and I’ve been on the writing side for a while as well, and I wanted to apply all of that in order to make as comprehensive and useful (and honest!) a blog as possible.

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.  I’ve heard a lot of people claim that blogging is dead. I admit that I kind of agree – unless you have an already established reader base. What do you think about this? Should new writers even start a blog?

I think there are two really important things to consider: 1) Do you like blogging, and find it relatively easy? 2) Do you really have anything new to say? The problem is, a lot of writers feel pushed into blogging as some sort of promotional necessity, and to me, that’s kind of absurd—if you don’t find it easy and enjoyable, it’s an incredible suck of both time and writing energy. And if you’re not saying anything new, then what kind of audience are you really going to get?

I don’t think that blogging is dead, per se; it’s hard for me to think so when my audience keeps growing. But I think a lot of new blogs start up that don’t really contribute to the conversation in new ways, and they’re there just to be there; it’s going to be very difficult to get off the ground that way. I also think the fact that commenting on blogs has gone down is misleading as to those blogs’ actual viewership. A lot of people read on their phones, where it’s almost impossible to comment, or they react and discuss on Twitter instead of the blog itself. I find particularly on interviews, I’ll have at least a hundred views but maybe 1-2 comments to show for it.

You contribute to a group blog as well. Do you approach it differently than you do your group blog?

I do, for sure. For one thing, almost all of our posts are at least somewhat themed, whereas very few of my personal ones are. (Though lately I’ve been tackling more series, and I very much enjoy them.) The bigger thing, though, is that even though my name is on each post, the greater blog still has twelve names on it. As a group, we’ve really embraced all different publishing paths, which is really cool, but also means I don’t necessarily want to weigh it down with a lot of stuff on traditional print publishing. And, of course, it’s a YA blog, so anything I want to write on another category is going to be for my blog alone.

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

Ehhhh, I think it really depends how you do it. The truth is that I think it has been for me, because I take a very personal and conversational approach to blogging, and I know people have ordered my book because they think if they like my voice on my blog, they’ll like it in my book, too. And they might—I have a tendency to sound like myself everywhere, for better or for worse. But that’s pretty specific. On the whole, I think that unless you’re a non-fiction author blogging about your platform, or maybe if you’re an issue book author blogging about the issue, maybe maybe. But I don’t think any fiction author will get out of a blog what (s)he puts into it, from a self-marketing perspective.

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?

At the risk of sounding openly ridiculous here…I never feel like I don’t have much to say. There’s a reason I have an embarrassing number of tweets. I’ve actually been working on taking the opposite approach these days, and not jumping onto Twitter with every single thought that comes to mind. It messes with your head some, convincing yourself the world needs to hear your every thought. They don’t. If you don’t have much to say, just don’t say it. You won’t feel good about faking it. If you feel you need to put in your social media time, use it to promote others’ good books. It’s some of the best stuff you can do on social media anyway.

What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?

For websites, I’d probably recommend Pub Crawl above all—it’s full of the kinds of posts every writer should be bookmarking, and its contributors have experience spread throughout the industry, rather than being strictly comprised of authors. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Absolute Write forums, which I do recommend, but with a whole shaker of salt—there’s a lot to learn, but it can be a tricky place to keep your head. As far as author blogs for writers go, I quite like Ava Jae’s, and if you’re pursuing traditional publishing, there are a few blogs that have great agent interview series, like Dee Romito’s “Query.Sign.Submit” and Michelle Hauck’s “Query Questions.” Amy Trueblood’s blog, Chasing the Crazies, is a great mix of stuff about both authors and agents; she’s kind of a master of blog series.

A few other things I highly recommend: Good critique partners/betas, which you can find on Twitter, through pitch contests, or at CPseek.com; the Evernote app, which you can download on both a smartphone and your computer, so that anything you write on one syncs to the other (which is incredible for writing on the go); and Dropbox, for backing up your work (which also helps if you’re writing on different devices).

Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?

If this is what you really want, don’t quit—not at any stage. Because when you stop, you make it impossible to succeed. But every new book you write becomes another new chance at success, another chance to get an agent or book deal or whatever it is you really want. And things will come along that make you think it’s time to give up. Those things have happened to almost every author, whether you know it or not. But sometimes, third time’s the charm. Or ninth. Or seventeenth. That’s just life. Or at least life in publishing.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Going On A Bear Hunt

Well, not really.

What I am doing is getting in my canoe for the first time, which is just as exciting and hopefully less dangerous. Also, there really aren't any bears around here. Just a fact check moment.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I outdoor-geeked out over acquiring a canoe a few weeks ago. As of yesterday, the canoe arrived at my house and I immediately stuck it in the pond and went for a float. I say float because, much like Lynn's, the pond isn't very big and a few paddle strokes would bring me to a rather abrupt halt.

But the float was fun, and it got under my skin. So I'm taking the canoe down to the creek in a few minutes and paddling off into the sunset. I'm actually paddling off into a rainstorm, but I want to canoe, so damn it, I'm going to.

Anyway, I know I haven't been blog-loyal lately. The summer has me in it's claws and the outdoors is my spirit animal. I've been gardening and hiking, fishing and saving errant turtles on highways, wading and searching for hellbenders. I also scared the shit out of a raccoon last week who mistook my sitting very still for being inanimate, apparently.

I'm also writing like a fiend, whipping out the last half of the WIP and hoping that it's up to par. I don't know how much info I can share about it, but I will say that I'm headed to southeast Ohio this coming weekend to a historical landmark to do some last minute research.

So go outside guys. It's nice out there.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

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.

I’m seeking representation for my middle-grade novel, Miss Everything. Because of the fact that you wrote a query, the agent assumes you are seeking representation. Given your interest in contemporary, realistic fiction with an authentic voice, I thought it might prove a good fit for your list. This is a good way to personalize it - this little statement shows that you've done your research and are querying this agent for a specific reason, not just because they are an agent and you are a writer searching for an agent. The one thing I'll say is that I think this sentence / paragraph works better at the end of the query. It's a personal opinion, but I think starting with the hook is the best approach. 

For twelve-year-old sculptor Amy Dow, seventh grade is one big torture-fest served up by the spectacularly evil Megan and Emily. Interesting. It's not a stellar hook, but an MG sculptor is something new. Humiliated and frozen out, she’s Miss Victim until the arrival of Sonia, the new girl. Seizing her chance to be popular – or at least not picked on – she feeds Sonia to the bullies and lets them smell the blood. Suddenly she’s Miss Popularity, and she’ll do anything to stay there, even if it means sacrificing her art, her family – and Sonia. I definitely need more details here - why would simply replacing the victim suddenly make Amy popular? And why would she have to sacrifice her art and her family to remain popular? It also sounds like she already sacrificed Sonia, so it's not much of a loss to state it again. When their bullying goes too far, Amy risks her newfound status in a supreme act of defiance. Yep, get the details in here. How does it go too far? What is her act of defiance? Shifting from victim to bully and back again, Amy discovers that she just can’t be Miss Everything. Now she must make a terrible choice – and she knows they’ll eat her alive either way. I don't understand what the choice is if she's already shifted, and shifted again. The sinker line here is good, but the overall vagueness isn't working in your favor. Get the details in there. Make it clear what distinguishes your MG from every other bullying book out there right now.

A graduate of the Humber School for Creative Writing and a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, my short fiction has appeared in Jelly Bucket, Stone Highway Review, Double Reed, the Four-Cornered Universe, the Toronto Star, the National Post, Marketing, Upbeat, Mind, Body & Spirit and the Beach-Riverdale Mirror. My credits also include Nigeria: the Land, People and Culture educational series. Great bio here, it definitely shows that you know your stuff.

Miss Everything is complete at 25,000 words. Per the instructions on your website, I’m attaching a synopsis and the first twenty-five pages of Miss Everything. You don't need to state that it's complete - the agent will assume it is since you are at querying stage. Again you've done a good job here of showing that you have done your research by stating that you are following the instructions on their site. I'd take the earlier sentence from your beginning para and stick it here to drive that "I've done my research" point home.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Successful Author Talk With YA Author Kelly Loy Gilbert

Today's guest for the SAT (Succesful Author Talk) is Kelly Loy Gilbert, author of CONVICTION coming in 2015 from Disney-Hyperion. Kelly has an overly-active Twitter feed. She serves on the NaNoWriMo Associate Board, is a fan of diverse books, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I am an aspiring Planner. I always set out to write a story a certain way, and sometimes I even write outlines for it—and then inevitably it ends up somewhere wildly different than I originally planned.

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

For a solid, submittable draft, I’d say anywhere from nine months to three years. Hopefully I’m getting faster!

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

I used to be a die-hard one-project-at-a-time writer. But with the way publishing works, there’s a lot of down time when you’re waiting for revisions, etc., so it’s not totally practical to put a project completely to rest before embarking on another. At heart, though, I love working on thing at a time––I like to inhabit that world as fully as possible.

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

This will sound silly, but––running out of notebook space! It was before computers were really a thing, and I had this one totally pristine notebook I would write in really cramped small writing to try to fit as much as possible before running out.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

Six or seven.  I was an overly-ambitious teenager. One, my sophomore year, was about a boy band.  (Weird it didn’t sell….)  

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

When a project isn’t working and I lose all sight of where it might be going I shelve things, locking them away in drawers where they can’t see the light of day, but I often come back to things even years later. Once you bring a character to life, it’s hard to erase him from existence completely––I always find them hovering somewhere in the periphery of my consciousness, waiting to be invited back in.

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

My agent is the utterly fabulous Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary, whom I snagged through the traditional query process.  

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

Actually, it took me nearly a decade; I queried two previous books, once in college and once in high school (when you still sent everything via hard copy directly to publishers). Thank goodness those books never went anywhere, though of course it was totally crushing at the time.  

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

Querying’s awful (although it’s sort of exciting knowing at any moment you could get an email or call that changes everything), so you should probably keep lots of ice cream and gummy candies on hand to soothe you.

Also, if you get a ton of rejections and you hate life, go on Goodreads and read one-star reviews of some of your very favorite books, and remind yourself that reading is subjective as all get-out. A no from any one particular agent just means they weren’t right for your project.

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

I was surprised by the strength and vibrancy of the YA community. I’m lucky to live in an area (what up SF Bay Area!!) where there’s a great group of women debuting in 2015 along with me, and we meet up regularly and serve as a support network of sorts for one another. And I’ve met amazing people through Twitter and email and some writer forums, and it’s hard to remember what it was like when it was just me and my computer alone! I wouldn’t have guessed that other writers would be so open and accessible and eager to connect.

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

I blog (sporadically) and tweet (compulsively).

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I guess the jury’s out on that one, although I would strongly, strongly encourage any aspiring authors to get on social media just because the writing community is so totally terrific––people volunteering to CP for others, discussing the need for diverse books, pointing out interesting industry news.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

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.

Nadine Harper has an attitude problem. She also has a caffeine addiction not sure if the caffeine addiction is important to the plot or here for the query phrasing?, half a heart, and a guardian angel. The angel happens to be her grandfather who died from her same heart condition. Awkward phrasing here, I'd try to find a way to fit in these details in the preceding and following sentences. Problem is, she only sees him when she’s comatose. So it’s up to her to listen to the signs he sends, remember their discussions from her last heart attack and adhere to his advice. This is an interesting concept. I feel like the hook needs to be slightly stronger, but I like the idea.

When Nadine realizes her stank-face glare isn’t making her any memories and her heart is close to failing, she decides it’s time to take his counsel and start living. I feel like we need to know what her relationship is like with the grandpa - how does she feel about his presence? She allows the new open mic contestant at Blackbird CafĂ© to play his way right into her life. James Backer's swagger casts him as the perfect summer fling. His onyx eyes, disheveled hair and leather jacket stop every double X chromosome in their tracks. But his brooding ways do more than make her heart beat fast. They threaten to break it- for good.

While deciphering James’s mixed signals and fearing her own last breath, Nadine learns that living like a four-chamber teenager isn’t as easy as Hollywood conveys in their rom coms. With help from her Pa, she must decide between dying with an empty diary and risking  her heart to fill it with a life worth leaving behind. Nice. I love all the phrasing here at the end.

I am a graduate of Purdue University with a Bachelor’s in Literature and am a relative of a hypo-plastic left heart survivor. Great way to show how you're qualified to write the book. In my debut novel I wouldn't call it that yet, as it's unpublished. Refer to it by the title, or as a manuscript, I convey the difficulties of a bed ridden heart-warrior refusing to let a disease define her. Thank you for your time and consideration. You definitely need a genre and word count indication. It feels like it could be women's lit, or even romance, but then you've got a fairly heavy description of it here in the ending para. Definitely indicate where you feel it falls in genre-speak.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

YA Author Kelly Fiore On Writing the Second Novel

Welcome to another of my fabulous acronym-based interviews. The second novel is no easy feat, and with that in mind I put together a series of questions for debuts who are tackling the second obstacle in their career path. I call it the SNOB - Second Novel Omnipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. 

Today's guest is Kelly Fiore. Kelly has a BA in English from Salisbury University and an MFA in Small Spiral Notebook, Samzidada, Mid Atlantic Review, Connotation Press, and the Grolier Annual Review. Her first young adult novel, Taste Test, was released in August 2013 from Bloomsbury USA. Forthcoming books include Just Like the Movies, again from Bloomsbury, in 2014 and The People Vs. Cecelia Price from HarperTeen in 2015.
Poetry from West Virginia University. She received an Individual Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council in 2005 and 2009. Kelly’s poetry has appeared in

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

Um, no. Not at all.

I always thought I’d want Taste Test to be a trilogy or a series but, frankly, I think I do better with starting fresh. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t write a sequel – I would. But I don’t miss the characters or feel like I’ve left anything unfinished. Part of that is because my lovely editor (Mary Kate Castellani, Bloomsbury USA) helped me tie up the loose ends. I feel satisfied with the ending and that makes it easier to move on.

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

My second book was due to my editor about 3 months before my first book was even released, so I can’t really answer that question. However, I can say that I’m in a weird limbo now between promoting Taste Test (out last summer) and promoting Just Like the Movies (out this summer.) I’m trying to balance my focus. For example, my in-person events are usually Taste Test focused because that is the book that is currently available, but my giveaways are all Just Like the Movies focused to drum up interest in the book.

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

This is a great question. I would say that I wrote Just Like the Movies for a combination of people. First, for my 16 year-old self. I was just like my main character, Marijke, in high school. I believed in true love and the “movie-like” happily ever after’s. I also wrote JLTM for my best girl friends, two of whom have been my BFFs since childhood. 

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author? 

Absolutely. I think the reason I’m able to write as much and as often as I do is because I am methodical in my plotting and drafting. I do long synopses and chapter by chapter layouts for myself before I ever start the actual writing. I think that sort of organization allows for me plan and then work more efficiently.

I will say, however, that when I left my teaching job to write full time, I thought it would be so that I could write during the day and spend nights and weekends with my family. But I’ve been writing for nights and weekends for so long that I’ve had a really hard time kicking the working at night habit.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I would say that I’m far less nervous about things I can’t control. I’m also trying to only do things I really enjoy – I like blog posts and interviews and such, so I’m certainly doing those. But I’m trying not to stress about logistics, like sales. The truth is that whatever happens is what is going to happen. I will do everything in my power to pimp my book, but my power is limited. It is important for any artist not to equate their talent or skill to money or sales figures. (I know, it’s easier said than done.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

YA Highway Web Awards

YA Highway is running their 2014 Web Awards and this blog been nominated in a few categories!

I'm thrilled about this, as the blog doesn't pay a penny. Everything I do here is a work of the heart, so knowing that my readers returned the love by nominating the blog makes me feel like it's worth it.

If you feel like voting, definitely head over to YA Highway!