Saturday, November 29, 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.

There is no such thing as true immortality. Eternity is a long time to make enemies, and Carla Dubrov knows that sooner or later, everyone gets killed. I think your second line is a good, voice-filled hook. Maybe consider putting your first one last?

To survive, Carla has taken the lives of many immortals, but the one that will forever haunt her was not taken—it was given. "taken" echo -- rephrase and you'll be fine. Anthony, the man she loved, Calling Anthony a "man" and Jason a "boy" makes me wonder about Carla's own age since it's not stated. And that's fine.. but the fact that she was in love with a "man" and this is YA makes me feel a little icky sacrificed himself for her. Now, two hundred years later, she can finally repay the debt by saving his brother, Jason. The boy’s reckless search for Anthony’s awk. phrasing here with the possessives killers has attracted attention that is certain to turn deadly. No one knew Anthony had a living brother—not even Carla—and for Jason’s own sake, that secret should have never been revealed.

When two of Jason’s friends are compelled to commit suicide, it becomes clear that Carla’s enemies—the same enemies who killed Anthony I think that's assumed—have found them. Carla’s plans to keep him alive are frustrated by the fact that Jason wants nothing to do with her; he is convinced she was involved in Anthony’s death, and he accuses her of luring the killer to his hometown. All Carla can do to protect him is try to find and stop the killer before he or she try "they" gets to Jason. Despite all of her efforts, her adversary is always one step ahead. As the deadly game unfolds, it becomes clear that Carla is the ultimate target. Jason is simply the means to making her suffer.

The instincts that have kept her alive for so long are telling her to run, but she has no guarantees that the killer won’t stop to finish Jason off before following her. She can’t leave him behind. But staying also has consequences, one of which could very well be her own death.

SHADES OF DARKNESS: THE LIGHT is a young adult contemporary fantasy novel, complete at 83,000 words.

Not bad at all, but you should clear up the ages here. You don't necessarily have to state them flat-out, but you call Jason a "boy" and then make no allusion whatsoever to a romance b/w himself and Carla... which is totally fine. But it definitely makes me wonder if he's a child, or if he's a teen - and if so, is there a romance that isn't made clear in the query?

Also, the colon in your title makes this look like the first in a series. If that's the case, you need to state that here.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Talk: MORTAL DANGER by Ann Aguirre

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

Edie is the girl that everyone picks on- to the point where she finds herself standing on a bridge, ready to jump. Until she's stopped by the best looking boy she's ever seen who offers a Faustian bargain. He can make her beautiful - devastatingly so - and the timing is perfect. A summer makeover and weight-loss can be explained away when she returns to school. The price seems worth it, when revenge could be at her fingertips.

Suddenly gorgeous and with the power to bring her enemies to heel, Edie returns to school ready to make the It Crowd pay. Except, once she wanders into their circle she discovers some of them aren't the evil caricature she'd thought they were. In fact, they might even become decent friends. But the wheels of her agreement have begun turning, and they're not the only ones paying the price.

With her future and freedom in question, Edie has to figure out exactly what kind of problem the bargain has landed her in. Because the playing board seems to reach far beyond petty high school squabbles, and Kian - the enigmatic boy who gave her the marks on her wrists - was only the messenger, paying his own dues.

As the players tumble and Kian puts himself at risk to shield Edie, she tries to find a way out of a deal with the devil that might possibly save them both.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Successful Author Talk With Vicki Leigh & Fear Of Failure

Todays guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Vicki Leigh. Adopted at three-days-old by a construction worker and a stay-at-home mom, Vicki Leigh grew up in a small suburb of Akron, Ohio where she learned to read by the age of four and considered being sent to her room for punishment as an opportunity to dive into another book. Vicki's debut, CATCH ME WHEN I FALL is available from Curiosity Quills Press.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m in the middle. I need some sort of backbone to know where my plot is headed, but when I write, I let my characters drive the story. And, more times than not, the story changes as I write. My favorite planning tools are the 7 Point Plot and Save the Cat. Then I pants my way through each plot point!

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

Now that I have a few manuscripts under my belt, it usually only takes me about 2 months to write a first draft. Then I do my revisions, send to my first-round CPs, revise again, send to my second-round CPs, and revise one final time. Then it’s off to my agent, and I revise again! So, when all’s said and done, from the moment I type the first word to when my agent tells me we’re ready to go…it’s about 4 to 5 months.

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

I only work on one project at a time. I personally believe that writers would do well to take an acting class, because you really have to become your characters when you write. And I find that if I jump from manuscript to manuscript, I lose my characters’ voices. So, if I am bombarded by an evil plot bunny -- a character or a plot line screaming to be written -- I’ll take a second to jot down the idea in a document, but then I get back to the story I’m working on and try to set the other one aside for later.

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

Failure. I’m a perfectionist by nature, so failure has always been my biggest fear. Even now, when I sit down to work on something new, I have to fight the desire to give up before I begin – because it’s easier to give up than put 150% into something and see it fail. But, I remind myself that giving up, by default, is failing – because I failed to write a book. And so, that keeps me going.

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

Just one, thank god. I’ve heard horror stories of authors who have, like, ten or fifteen manuscripts stuffed under their beds. I have to give those authors some serious kudos for not giving up, because I totally would have. But yes, I have one that will never see the light of day. It’s super, super awful; I cringe every time I read it. It deserved every rejection it got!

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

My agent is Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency. I got a “yes” out of her via a traditional query; however, I did already have a publishing contract in hand! So, a little a-typical. But Sarah did still pull me out of the slush, read my manuscript quickly, loved it, and within just a few days, we were having “The Call.” In talking to her, I knew she was the agent for me, and a few days later, I wrote her to let her know I wanted to be on Team Negovetich! ☺

How many queries did you send?

Altogether, I think I sent out twenty queries. Five resulted in full requests. Three of those ended up passing, and I respectfully pulled my manuscript from the other after I signed with Sarah.

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

Don’t give up. I know everyone’s heard how subjective the business is, but it’s seriously true. Just compare your own reading likes to your friends. My bet is: they’re very different. It’s the same with agents. They have their likes and dislikes, just like the rest of us. So, one agent might not enjoy your manuscript, and another will adore it.

Exhaust your spreadsheet of agents before you decide to shelve your novel – though, send out your queries in small waves (like, send to five agents at a time) and pay close attention to the reasons your manuscript is getting rejected. If you have five to ten agents all saying your plot line doesn’t flow, odds are you probably need to look at your plot again. Fix it, then send to your next group of five agents.

How much input do you have on cover art?

Because I’m with a smaller house, I got to work a little closer with my cover artist. I sent an original cover idea to both him and my marketing team (what I’d hope to see on the cover, what emotions I’d like people to feel when they saw it, etc.), and then I okayed the stock photo before he immersed it in the full design. I then saw two in-progress versions, gave my input, and then he finalized it. That being said, I still didn’t have final say – that went to the marketing team – but I was still grateful I got as much input as I did!

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

That publishers really are approachable. To be honest, when I started this process, I kind of pictured publishers as these “big bosses” that you only came in contact with a few times – kind of like a corporate CEO that you saw maybe once every few months when they wanted to check up on their investments. But they’re really not like that, at least, not from my experience. I became good friends with my editor and my marketing director, I chatted regularly with the production guy who oversaw my book from the beginning stages to print, and I was in regular communication with the managing director of my publishing house who ensured the entire process ran smoothly.

In reality, your publisher wants your book to succeed as much as you do. And I was happily surprised that I wasn’t just “another author” on their roster.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

Because I’m with a small publisher, a lot of the marketing falls on my shoulders. The unfortunate reality is: small publishers don’t make the kind of money that the big publishers do; therefore, they don’t have the budget to assign a PR person to every author. We have a small marketing team of maybe three to four people who oversee all of us authors. So, while they do some things, like call stubborn book stores on our behalf to flash their publisher cards, we authors have to do most of it. But, if I’m being honest, I’m a control freak, so I’m okay with that. ;)

I do have a website and am on Twitter, and Facebook. You can also find me at Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, G+ and Goodreads.

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

In my opinion: before. Although it’s not necessary if you write fiction (non-fiction’s a different story), it’s still good to build up a following so that when a publisher does acquire your book, you have people already excited to read it. And while an agent will still sign you if your book is good, they do look for authors who have already established a platform, because in this day of social media and e-books, your readership is global, and it’s important to market yourself and your books on the internet.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely! Social media gives authors a chance to connect with their readers in ways that could never happen before. For me, I love when I’m able to talk to my favorite authors and feel like I know them as a person, not just a name on a book cover.



Monday, November 24, 2014

The Stuff Of Dreams

If you visit this blog or read any of my interviews you know that the concept for NOT A DROP TO DRINK came from a dream that I had. Sometimes inspiration comes like that, in a bolt from the sky that you can't ignore. The words pour out, and anywhere from a weeks to a few months after that lightning strike you've got a finished (messy, but finished) first draft in your hands.

And... then there are the other times.

There are the times you sit in front of the laptop and nothing happens. The screen glows accusingly, and there's not nearly enough black streaking across all that white. There are the times when people ask what you're working on right now and you have to answer honestly... nothing.

I don't believe in writer's block. I honestly don't. I think writer's block is what happens when you're too scared to sit down and force it, resulting in procrastination that is rooted in our self-esteem, not our capabilities.

But I do think that concepts can't be forced. They have to happen organically, like that storm in your head that suddenly delivers a story you can't stop spinning, or a dream that delivers your next novel, gift-wrapped.

Here in Ohio we had a short blizzard, followed by an ice storm this weekend followed by... thunderstorms today. Let's hope all the meteorological dust up sinks into my mind.

A lightning strike would be much welcomed :)

Saturday, November 22, 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.

Nerine O’Shay has two goals in life. Goal one: qualify for the U.S. Olympic dive team. Goal I don't think you need to use the word "Goal" in either of these places two: finally I think the use of "finally" and "life-long" are both implying the same thing, that it's been going on for awhile. For the purposes of a query you should practice a little more word economy. However, the premise is coming across strong and it definitely has an interesting, fresh, idea persuade her father that his life-long search for the lost Spanish Galleon, the Dama de Oro, has failed. The search has cost them everything – her mother, his reputation,  and now the family’s marine salvage business. Then there's the Curse that has stolen a life from her family whenever treasure is found. Nerine is convinced the next big find will kill one of them, and she'd  like to actually have a life before she dies…preferably one in which fellow diver, Jason Fernandez, plays a huge part.

On the day Nerine qualifies to compete at Junior Nationals, her father finds a reef made of silver like the actually reef is made of silver? or is covered in it? If the former, what does that have to do with the ship? The wording here is a little confusing. in the waters of the Florida Keys. And there’s a lot more. Turns out the tales of the fabled Dama de Oro are true: it really was carrying a king’s ransom of gold bound for the New World. The treasure soon attracts a storm of media attention and her mother, who shows up for her share of the loot. Then the Curse strikes, sending Nerine’s carefully ordered plans into chaos, and making her realize the things money can’t buy are what she wants most.

This is a good query, overall. You've got your plot front and center, with its uniqueness in the spotlight. The one thing I would say is that if it's a straight-up contemp the idea of a Curse might raise questions about whether there's a paranormal element at work here. Other than that, clear up some word usage and phrasing in that second para and you're looking pretty good.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Talk: VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD by Lauren Sabel & Giveaway!

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

Six months after losing her mother to a brutal murder, Hollywood teen-star Vivian Divine is trying to piece her life back together amid paparazzi, an absentee father, and a cheating boyfriend. When a mysterious package arrives with a death threat, Vivian's bodyguard trusts no one. With a new haircut and no makeup, Vivian jumps on a bus for the border,

But Hollywood sets never prepared her for real life, and Mexico is more than she bargained for. When her bag with her passport, money, and instructions for meeting her next handler disappear after the bus breakdown, Vivan has no choice but to attach herself to the only English speaking person she can find. Not that she minds. Nick has a better body than her movie star boyfriend, and even though he mocks her American princess ways, she can't help but notice he's sneaking looks at her ass every once in awhile.

With a mysterious scarred stranger on her heels, and a dead FBI agent in her wake, Vivian tries to keep a low profile while she makes her way across the Mexican desert to reach her cemetery meet-up point by The Day of the Dead.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I have a recurring nightmare that there's something growing behind my ear and I don't discover it until it's fairly large.

2) Hair smells funny.

3) I think everyone who complains about long flights or car trips should try traveling in a Conestoga.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lauren Sabel Talks Second Novels & VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD Giveaway

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. How to deal?

Today's guest is Lauren Sabel, author of VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD. Lauren learned to mind dig while getting her MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa, a Buddhist college in Boulder, Colorado. Before Naropa, Lauren studied film in Rome, where she developed her love of crypts and other beautiful creepy things. She also worked in the film industry in New York and San Francisco, focusing mainly on film festivals, as she can never pass up a good party. In San Francisco she worked for Chronicle Books, where she was inducted into the fascinating world of book publishing. Most recently, Lauren lived in London, where she helped plan social events for the London Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s International’s UK Branch.

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

My second novel came pouring out of me in a few months. It was like a fever. I was reading about this group of psychics who worked for the government during the Cold War, and the main character just appeared; poof! After several years of working on Vivian Divine, I was happy to move on at that point.

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

I actually didn’t do much promoting of my debut. I was so caught up in writing my second book that I completely forgot my debut book was coming out. My husband organized a book release party for me, and when I showed up, I had forgotten to even choose a passage to read from the book. When I get obsessed with a writing project, it’s all I can think about – and I could only think about OUT OF MY MIND (out in 2015). I’m just now doing the promoting of VIVIAN DIVINE IS DEAD with any real seriousness. Wish me luck.

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

Definitely for me. I wrote most of the book without showing it to anyone, so I had no idea if anyone would even like it.  But now that I’m getting a lot of positive responses to VIVIAN, I can’t wait to see what people think about OUT OF MY MIND. I think they’ll like it even more!

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

Yes. I have to learn how to wear two hats at once: I can do writer, and I can do promoter, but I have trouble doing both.  But in our current society, I need to push the book that is out in the world already into people’s attention, and, at the same time, also write the one in my head into being.  I suppose it’s like having a baby and taking care of a toddler all at once.

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

I wrote an outline and tried to follow it. I came up with a solid writing schedule, and stuck to it. I saw revision as a chance to improve the manuscript, not a criticism of how badly written it was. I almost woke up to reality, but luckily, I caught myself just in time.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Donate to Cavalcade of Authors West & Mindy Will Love You, Always

So, I mentioned last week that I'm going to be crawling into my cave to write now that winter has arrived (and boy did it arrive - I'm off school today, the big, fat, flakes are falling, and the plow hasn't even touched my road yet). One of the first things I'll be emerging from my cave for is Cavalcade of Authors West, a young writers workshop that will bring teens in touch with the writers they read.

COA West is in their first year, and they could use a boost. 17 authors - including myself - will be there to share our love of literacy and writing. If you can share the same in your own way, COA West would appreciate it - and so would I!

What is a Cavalcade of Authors?

Cavalcade of Authors is a conference for students made up of two components: 1) students reading novels from 17 featured authors, and 2) a writer's conference led by these authors to be held on May 2nd, 2015. We are collaborating with Pacific Lutheran University to present a literary/writing conference for 450 middle level and high school students in Pierce County, Washington. COA West is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Cavalcade of Authors West is in its first year, modeled after the Cavalcade of Authors established in the Tri Cities of Washington in 2009.  We want to bring the rich experience of working with authors practically one-on-one to western Washington students.

Adolescent literacy is a significant need in our community and this program promotes reading and writing skills in an engaging and unique way. The response from students, teachers, and authors has been positive and encouraging. It is our hope that the program will grow and expand to become a truly regional event that draws students from all around Pierce County.

Our five founding board members have a vast amount of teaching and literacy experience as classroom teachers and librarians. We have each contributed to a number of boards, conferences and events of various sizes and scope. Above all, we all have a passion for students, authors and literacy; this conference will allow us to combine all of those pieces to deliver a unique and meaningful experience to the students of our own community.


Saturday, November 15, 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.

For N, there are rules that keep the world straight, rules to explain what’s normal, and rules of riding shotgun in Triss’ car. When you break a rule, you get thrown away, and all N wants is to stay with Triss. This is definitely interesting. I'm unsure of exactly what's going on, but intrigued enough to keep reading.

That’s far more important than a corpse in the trunk. Oh, nice. Cool.

N’s not sure which rules got broken, but six weeks ago there was a party, there was a game, and there was a bet. It was supposed to be fun. Something to kill the boredom, but people aren’t like cards or poker chips. They have baggage. They get angry. They want revenge. I'm getting a feeling here like N is autistic, or something to that effect. If that's not correct you might need to revisit. Also I have no idea if N is male or female, and maybe that is on purpose.

When Triss’ betting partner, Jackson, ends up on the wrong side of dead, the laws that hold N’s world together collapse like a wet deck of cards. When you use the term "betting partner" it makes it sound like playing cards might be something that happens a lot, like this is part of their routine, etc. If this is a one night thing that just kind of came together you might want to rephrase. Also I think it might help to clarify what game specifically they're playing, if it's something you can put a common name to, like poker.

The driver is supposed to hold all power and responsibility, but something’s off with Triss. Last night when Jackson died, she was fine. Bagging the corpse and loading it into the trunk, she was fine. But today, she’s not fine. Somewhere between her broken down car, dealing with her crazy divorced parents, and figuring out what to do with the corpse, Triss has slipped out of control.

And there are no rules for that.

Really, the body in the trunk isn’t important, but it still has to be dumped. Fast. I was definitely tracking until this line. It makes me wonder how a body in the trunk could NOT be important? Unless this is a further indication of the unreliable narrator - but honestly I think you've established that and this line feels off.

With Triss not in control, N finally has to stop riding shotgun, take the wheel, and figure out what rules will keep them safe, but more importantly, what will keep them together. Nice, I like this a LOT.

THE RULES OF RIDING SHOTGUN is a 65,000 word YA Contemporary with a non-linear timeline, similar to Justine Larbalestier’s LIAR. The quiet, complex, internal tension of the story may appeal to readers of Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK.

Good comp titles. I think this is well done and highly interesting. The tweaks I mention above are just phrasing tweaks. Also I'm unsure if this is a friend relationship or possibly romantic, which again might be on purpose. Overall this is very well done.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE ORPHAN QUEEN by Jodi Meadows & ARC Giveaway!

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

When her kingdom fell, child Princess Wilhelmina and handful of children were saved only to pass into obscurity. A decade later the older survivors steal for food, care for the younger ones, and carry out the smallest insurrections in the hopes that one day they will be strong enough to topple their conquerers - the Indigo Kingdom.

Chance offers Will the opportunity to infiltrate the Indigo court with an assumed identity, her best friend Melanie at her side. With practice manners and hidden maps, they chip away at the stronghold of their enemy. But a growing force - Wraith, the toxic byproduct of magic use - threatens everyone, no matter what their allegiance, and Wil has to daily hide her own magical abilities in order to escape persecution.

Keeping magic a secret is not so hard until she meets Black Knife, a hooded bandit who stalks the streets at night, meting out vigilante justice. With Melanie's actions under suspicion and court manners wearing her thin, Wil finds an outlet in meeting Black Knife and working beside him in the streets at night.

But Black Knife's identity could be her undoing, and the Wraith grows ever stronger.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Why did we domesticate cats and not squirrels? Squirrels would bring us nuts.

2) We always talk about tech becoming self-aware, but I think it would be way worse if Scotch tape became self-aware.

3) I've become slightly obsessed with the idea that if FROZEN were called SHITSTORM and was actually about a girl who goes ape and throws poo at people when emotional, it could totally work.

Arendell's in deep, deep, deep, deep... shit.
The smell never bothered her anyway.
Can't hold it back anymore.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Getting Ready To Crawl Into The Cave

The Cave is beckoning me. The one that I go into when it's time to write, research, edit, or just ignore reality in general. I'm fortunate because there's a physical cave (my bedroom), but there's also one in my head that I can dive into every now and then in public and no one has any idea that I'm just not really there anymore.

Writing is a funny business, because I'd say most of the writing that I do has nothing to do with actually writing. Most of it is me taking little brain day-trips into the cave while my body keeps doing important things (like work) and my brain is like, "Hey, what if this happened? Ohh... or then this? And what about THAT?"

A lot of the real work is just me, staring into space, putting people that don't exist through things that never actually happened. Usually I end up pulling them back out and making them do it again, seeing if we get a different result the next time. These poor people. Sometimes I imagine my characters are probably like -- "Really, we got this girl? Why can't I end up in a nice rom-com?"

And the answer to that is - Mindy's cave art is not conducive to rom-coms.

Saturday, November 8, 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.

TESS it looks like you're a little confused about capitalization of character names. You definitely do this in a synopsis or a proposal the first time a character is mentioned, but you don't do it in a query is hated. She’s a scholarship charity case in a school with a half million dollar gymnasium. She’s best friends with YELENA, who seduced the boys’ basketball coach and got him fired days before the start of the state tournament. She supports Yelena’s cousin PETR, who doesn’t hide his sexual orientation in a high school that thrives on fakeness and posers. And worse, the trio is Russian. Why would being Russian be a problem? 

Despite her high school social status, Tess wants to experience a normal American teenage romance and naively crushes on ELLIOT, an upperclassman basketball player. Elliot struggles with his own feelings for Petr, which complicates the strained tensions between the Russians and the basketball team. Again, the Russian aspect isn't quite coming clear to me, unless this is set during the Cold War? When WADE, the basketball team captain, follows Tess down a deserted road, the simmering hate explodes into violence. Tess is torn between trusting Elliot why would her trusting Elliot one way or another matter? What is she trusting him about?—whose teammates pressure him to participate in a hate crime against the Russian Orthodox Church—or her fellow Russians who want to plant a bomb at the basketball gymnasium in retaliation. Wow, that seems... like an overreaction. Whatever her choice, someone will die if Tess learns the lessons of forgiveness too late.

Inspired by THE OUTSIDERS, FORGIVENESS depicts the fine line between love, hate, and self-loathing that is prevalent in Sara Zarr’s STORY OF A GIRL. A YA Contemporary, FORGIVENESS is a simultaneous submission complete at 50,000 words.

In May I won the Young Adult Review Network’s Random Word Contest.  In November, my writing will appear in the military anthology PROUD TO BE: WRITING BY AMERICAN WARRIORS, Volume 3. This fall, I continue my education with a MFA for Children and Young Adults from Spalding University.

Great bio. If this is contemp, I think you need to be very clear about why specifically the Russians are so hated on this campus. Is this an entirely white school and they are the only ethnic group? I find it hard to believe that if there are other ethnic groups present, that the Russians would be the ones to be the focus of all the racial hatred. Be clear about the motivations here, since it's the impetus of the entire story.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Talk & Giveaway: SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY by Julie Murphy & Giveaway!

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

When Alice is diagnosed with leukemia at the age of sixteen, her anger boils over, making her strike out at those who have wronged her. Settling scores with her ex-boyfriend through public humiliation and grinding her arch nemesis into the ground is not something she can do alone. Well aware that her lifelong friend Harvey has always had romantic feelings for her, Alice talks him into helping execute her plans. Harvey goes along for awhile, wanting to do anything that might bring weakening Alice some peace before she's gone.

But when her cancer goes into remission, Alice gets a second chance at life... a life that she's ruined on purpose. Alienated from her friends, isolated from her family, and finally having pushed Harvey too far, Alice realizes that getting even might not have been the best way to spend what she thought would be her last days.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

YA Author Skylar Dorset: Waiting For The Phone Call That Will Change Your Life

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 for the SHIT is Skylar Dorset. Skylar’s first story was a tale of romantic intrigue involving two feuding factions of squirrels. Think “Romeo & Juliet” but with bushy tails and added espionage. She was seven. Since that time, Skylar’s head has been filled with lots of characters and lots of drama. She is delighted to be able to share some of it with all of you now, because, honestly, it was getting pretty loud and crowded in there. Skylar is a born-and-bred New Englander, which is why Boston was a natural setting for her debut novel, THE GIRL WHO NEVER WAS.

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

Absolutely nothing. Less than nothing.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

I think two things surprised me: (1) How long it ended up taking just to hear back from people; and (2) How helpless I felt during it. Like, frequently the feedback would be very nebulous and subjective and it was so frustrating to think that I had no idea what to do in response, that it just was a “this isn’t for me” thing. It’s like when you just don’t click on a first date or something, you know?

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

I didn’t research them, and I’m not sure I’d recommend that. Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much *I* could do, one way or the other, at that particular point. I’m not sure if knowing stuff about the editors would have helped or would have just fed an unhealthy obsession with stuff that was going on that I couldn’t control.

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

Hmm. This is a good question. I think a few weeks?

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

I kind of tried to ignore it. Like, it’s the kind of thing where the first day you’re like, “OMG! Maybe soon there’ll be a call that will change my life!” And then the second day you’re like, “Hmm, maybe soon there’ll be a call that will change my life.” And then by the third day I decided I had to stop thinking about it or I would go insane.

So I did other stuff. I know people say to write something new, and I did write new stuff, but I also just kind of enjoyed myself. I decided to try to learn to play the harp (still in process), I watched a lot of television, I taught myself how to use Tumblr. Really, anything that kept my head busy and not dwelling on the submission process. The querying process to get an agent is stressful in and of itself, so I feel like it’s possible my brain just really needed me to give it a break at that point.

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

I found the rejections at this point harder to deal with that than query rejections, I must confess. When you’re querying, everyone talks to you a lot about how many rejections you’re going to get, and so you go in bracing yourself. And then, once I got an agent, I think I thought it would be all smooth sailing from there. When it wasn’t, it took me a while to kind of digest it. I felt like I wasn’t well-prepared for it, so I will do my part and try to prepare all of you: There’ll be more rejection. It’ll hurt.

But, just like looking for an agent (or a significant other, I guess), you really only need one to click, and eventually it came. And I guess the way I dealt with it was to try to distract myself (see above). I kept telling myself that at least one person in the universe really believed in my writing—my agent—so we would find another one, too.

If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

I always take all feedback seriously but I admit that sometimes I got editor’s feedback that I didn’t really know what to do with. With a beta reader, you’ve usually got a long-standing relationship with that person, so I think the feedback is easier for you to understand and digest and then incorporate. With feedback from editors, it’s often a one-time thing, so you just can’t get as good a feel for what it actually *means* for your book, you can’t probe into it.

That said, I eventually did edit my book pretty thoroughly in response to editor feedback, and I did have a better book afterward, so in the end I found the editor feedback really useful. Although I think I had to wait a little and synthesize the feedback together to get a clearer picture of it all.

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

This is actually a good question, but I feel like it’s all a blur now! I think it was an e-mail telling me there’d be a telephone call. But I really wish there had been a smoke signal! Now I feel it was all anticlimactic!

I was super-excited to get the YES! But I’m a lawyer by training so I have a tendency to not trust anything until the contract is signed. So I took a long time to actually *celebrate.* Then I went out for champagne.

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

I did have to wait a bit, but it wasn’t so difficult because, well, I cheated and told my family and closest friends, and that was really who I wanted to tell in the first place!

Saturday, November 1, 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.

In SUFFER THE CHILDREN, Alex, a recovering alcoholic, is slowly regaining horrific lost memories, memories that could expose a decades old ring of human trafficking. Cool. I'd rephrase slightly to get rid of the "memories" echo, but this is a succinct, straight-forward hook with interest.

Thaddeus Cahill lured thousands of Mexican immigrants onto his land, promising them a better life, and then betrayed them by using their bodies as fodder to create a formula, which could clone humans to anyone’s liking. If in the wrong hands, this formula which enables the cloning of humans of any gender, age, or level of intelligence, could be used to create an army of evil in a greedy bid for power, encompassing sexual trafficking and human experimentation. Thaddeus Cahill’s grandnephew is seeking the formula, and his intentions are vile and nefarious; and he’ll destroy and annihilate anyone who attempts to thwart him in his quest. You definitely need to revisit some of these sentences and trim them down. There's some excessive comma use and unnecessary phrases at work here that make for run-ons that might provide more detail than necessary. I'm also confused about who Cahill is, exactly. The fact that he's a land owner in Texas (I'm assuming) automatically makes me think "rancher" but then he's cloning people. So now I've got this picture in my mind of a dude in a white lab coat wearing a Stetson. Probably inaccurate.

Alex must find the formula and destroy it before Cahill’s grandnephew does. If Alex fails, the consequences will be disastrous. You've got the plot out here, but I don't know jack about our main character other than 1) he knows things 2) he drinks. How does he know things? Did he work for Cahill? Was he a coyote? Was he a victim? Is he a clone? I definitely need to know more about who this person is and what's at stake for them personally -- is this revenge? retribution? contrition? 

Get more character into this query, for both the good and bad guys. Thaddeus Cahill's rancher/scientist character is present, along with motives- but since his grand-nephew is actually the bad guy in the book we should be talking about him... and we don't even know his name.