Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Chewbecca carries a crossbow, but we never see him use it.

2) We know what an aftertaste is. An afterburn on the eyes would be an aftersee. An echo would be an afterhear. So what is an afterfeel?

3) My b/f gives me a hard time about how deeply and how long I can sleep. He won't think it's so funny when we all have to go into stasis.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

NEARLY GONE Author Elle Cosimano On Subjectivity & 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 for the SHIT is Elle Cosimano. Elle sometimes writes in a tree house on the edge of the jungle on the Caribbean Sea. The rest of the time she finds inspiration in her very normal life in smalltown, Virginia. She writes stories about creepy, dark (and sometimes sexy) things that go bump in the night. Her debut, NEARLY GONE is available now, and the sequel NEARLY FOUND will release June 1.

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

I had a pretty solid understanding of the process and what to expect. My agent, Sarah Davies, is a consummate professional. Once she was confident my manuscript was in top shape, we discussed the upcoming steps, reviewed her recommended submission list together, and discussed the likely timing of any potential replies. She was up front with me about what she perceived to be the benefits and challenges of the manuscript, taking into account the strength of our pitch as well as market conditions. Sarah was careful to ask about my comfort level with transparency during the process. Did I want to know the details of every bite and rejection as they came in, or would I be more comfortable with weekly updates with feedback boiled down to its most important points? When the manuscript was ushered off into submission land, I felt 100% comfortable that both my story and I were in the very best possible hands.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

YES! Something did surprise me, though in hindsight, I’m not really sure why. Reading a book, and connecting with it (or not connecting with it) is a very subjective experience. We see this all the time in reviews. Look up your very favorite books on Goodreads and check out the wide range of reactions. No two readers experience a book exactly the same way. And yet, I always manage to find myself surprised by the same broad range of reactions from editors when I’m on submission. One editor connects with the voice. Another may not connect with it strongly enough. One loves the pacing, another might feel it’s too slow. One likes the grittiness of the setting. Another might feel it’s too dark for his tastes. One loves the manuscript with reckless abandon and absolutely must have it for reasons she can’t quite articulate, where another likes it for many good points, but can’t find a compelling enough reason to bite. With every round of feedback, I am reminded that at their heart, editors are readers too, and not every book is a fit for every one.

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

I did. And I do. I tend to be very analytical (I come from a long career in business, sales and marketing) and I felt more comfortable knowing the names on my submission list up front. I trusted my agent to put the list together based on her many years of experience and her established relationships within the industry, but I wanted to familiarize myself with the people who would be reading my book, so that I could be prepared in the event of a phone call. If an editor is keen on a project, it’s not unusual for them to request a phone call with the author. Often, this is a “feeling out” call to determine if the editor and author share similar thoughts with regard to potential revisions, the direction of the marketing, and how compatible they might be working together toward those goals. I wanted to have a grasp on each editor’s list, the kinds of books they put into the world, and how those books are presented into the market. I wanted a chance to formulate my questions in advance.

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

My debut, NEARLY GONE, went on submission the week before Thanksgiving in 2011. Sarah warned me that this was a challenging time. With the holidays upon us, we might not expect prompt replies. She’d prepared me for the possibility that editors might be done reading new submissions, in order to wrap up existing deals and clear projects off their desks in time for winter vacations, and that even if they did read, many key decision makers might be unavailable. I knew we might not begin hearing back from editors until after the New Year. And in fact, the holiday period was quite slow. But as soon as offices opened in January, we received several enthusiastic replies, and a subsequent preempt from Kathy Dawson at Penguin.

With my next contract (HOLDING SMOKE, 2016), we went on submission with a full manuscript in mid-May 2014, and had our first of several offers by early June. By the end of June, I had accepted an offer with Emily Meehan at Disney*Hyperion. I’m very fortunate, and very grateful to my agent, that both of my submission experiences were quick and painless. I credit this entirely to my agent’s hands-on editorial guidance, the strength of her marketing and relationship skills, and the respect she has earned within the industry.

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

Write something else. I know this is hard to do. I know how hard it is not to spend hours in front of the computer, clicking the refresh key. I’m guilty too. And if you’re like me, and it’s too hard to resist that temptation, then get up out of that chair and go do something else! I hit the beach with a good book, or go somewhere fun with my kids, or marathon Netflix shows I’m behind on.

I also lean heavily on my trusted critique partners, who are my most trusted friends. We can’t really talk openly while we’re on submission, (if you’re tweeting or blogging about the woes of your submission process, stop it right now! You’re shooting yourself in the foot, and probably making your agent wring his/her hands) but I think it’s important to have one or two close friends to bolster you through the waiting period.

Also, eat ice cream. Ice cream is okay, and I endorse it as a safe and trusted coping mechanism for the submission blues.

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

I was actually okay with the manuscript rejections I received early on in the process. It’s understandable to me that not every editor would connect with the pitch (or even with my book). After all, they all have different preferences. I think the hardest rejections were the ones that happened during the acquisitions stage, when an editor loved the book, but wasn’t able to get the support of their publishing team. This happens for all kinds of reasons – often these are budget or market-driven – and nothing I or my agent could have controlled or done differently. It can be hard to be so close to the finishing line and have the hope ripped out from under you. But in the end, you need more than an editor as your champion. You also need the entire publishing house to be fully behind your book, to give it its best possible chance at success.

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 try to process all feedback the same way… take away the useful bits, and the pieces that will help me write a better book. Leave the things that feel like they come from a place of personal preference. Again, we all have different tastes, but I look for patterns in the feedback. If one person doesn’t like something, it doesn’t mean I should change the way I’m writing, or revise the book based on one person’s feedback. But if I start to see a pattern – if two or three editors or betas seem to be identifying similar issues – then I know it’s time to take a step back and look at my work more objectively.

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

I feel like any YES in this business is reason for celebration. But an offer to buy your book is a YES of a whole different magnitude. It’s the culmination of so many dreams, and sleepless nights, and tears, and sacrifices. It’s overcoming a million possible NOs. It is the greatest feeling imaginable. My agent calls when we have the official YES, and I am not ashamed to say I’ve cried every time.

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

Yes, we had to wait a bit, but not terribly long. We managed to have details ironed within a few days of accepting an offer. I was able to share my news with the world within a few weeks after, once the announcement was listed in PW.

And YES! The waiting is so hard! But that’s pretty much the answer to any question about publishing, isn’t it?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Talk: SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch & ICE LIKE FIRE 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.

Meira's people - the Winterians - have been enslaved since she was a child. She lives in a world where each kingdom is trapped in a perpetual season, her own people of Winter distinctive because of their white hair. But there are only eight of them living free, a small band including the disinherited King, her best friend, Mather.

The rest of their people are servants and slaves, their magic lost when their ancient locket was stolen from them in the fall of Winter. Now, scouts think they know where it is, and Meira has a chance to finally participate in the resurgence of her people - even if it means endangering the only eight of them that still live free.

Enter to win an ARC of the sequel ICE LIKE FIRE!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Lobotomy Lesson & How I Met My Historical Boyfriend

I researched for an entire year before writing a word of A MADNESS SO DISCREET. There was so much I needed to learn - how insane asylums were run in the late 19th century, how criminal profiling operated at the same time (both the accuracy and the inaccuracies), not to mention the dress, food, transportation, and speech patterns of the time. It was kind of exhausting.

Luckily for me, a lot of the research was also wildly interesting - that is, if you're a sick twist like me. I already made a vlog about different kinds of treatment that I learned about while writing MADNESS. Today I'm focusing on one in particular, and how researching it brought me to the realization that my historical boyfriend is someone I wasn't expecting.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

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.

Sixteen-year-old Leah Woodlake gets sweaty palms and her stomach flips whenever she sees her classmate, Olivia. At first, she tries to tell herself that the bubbly feeling in her body is nerves. Olivia is a confident, pretty math whiz, so of course she'd make Leah nervous. Not sure how that translates into making someone nervous? Jealous, maybe. But when Leah notices how Olivia smells like strawberries and wonders how soft her lips are, Leah realizes her feelings are something she is too afraid to name. Doing so would surely upset her conservative father and just thinking about being gay terrifies Leah.

The only person Leah can turn to is her sister, twenty-seven-year-old Brooke. Leah doesn't have any friends? Or are they all of the same conservative cloth as her father? Leah is hesitant to turn to her repeated phrase at first, considering Brooke’s history of drug use when things get stressful. Yet, Brooke showers Leah with the support she needs to admit her feelings to Olivia. Brooke talks to Dad on Leah’s behalf, but the conversation backfires. Dad admits he blames Brooke for Mom’s death years ago This feels like a curve ball - how would Brooke be responsible for their mother's death? and refuses to accept Leah’s sexuality. The guilt over Mom’s death and failing to help Leah sends Brooke voraciously back to her pills. I feel like the character focus is shifting here - we start out with a hook that features Leah, a teenager questioning her sexuality, and now we're looking at Brooke, and adult with a pill problem. 

Brooke struggles to keep herself together, if only for Leah’s sake. However, there is no more hiding the truth when Leah and Olivia So are they a couple? make a surprise trip to Brooke's apartment, and find Brooke unconscious on the bathroom floor. Leah must stand up for the sister she admires and the girl she loves, or lose them both. The focus shifted again here - this para started out focused on Brooke then shifted back to Leah. 

All The Signs We Missed is Young Adult Contemporary at 71,000 words. It is told from Leah and Brooke’s point of view. I have been published in several literary magazines, including Moon Magazine, ALiteration, Mauvaise Graine, Beyond Imagination, FiftyWordStories and more. Thank you for your time and consideration. Good bio!

I'm not sure if you'll be able to sell a YA title with a split POV where one of the characters is twenty-seven years old. You can definitely try, but I can see it being a turn off for agents.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: DOON by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon

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.

Veronica hasn't had an easy life, but it hasn't been enough for her to go crazy... she doesn't think. But how else can she explain the voice she keeps hearing, a boy with a Scottish brogue asking her to come to him? She's seen him too - in the school parking lot, around town - all kinds of places where a good looking guy in a kilt really doesn't belong.

So when her best friend MacKenna offers to take her along to Scotland to investigate the cottage she inherited from her grandmother, Veronica jumps at the chance. There she learns about the legend of the bridge of Doon, a mysterious portal that supposedly opens up once every hundred years, admitting those who hear the call into the kingdom of Doon.

When a heavy fog turns them around one night the girls end up crossing the bridge, and find themselves in a world they don't belong in - except, maybe the do. The older prince is the boy Veronica has been seeing, and the younger brother has eyes only for MacKenna. But the fairy tale world has a dark side too - one with witches and curses, and a prophecy that seems to point to the friends being the ones who will bring about the end of the kingdom.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Author Karen Ann Hopkins On Balancing Promotion & Writing

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent 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. How to deal?

Today's guest is Karen Ann Hopkins. Karen resides in northern Kentucky with her family on a farm that boasts a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats. Karen's main job is home schooling the kids, but she finds time to give riding lessons, coach a youth equestrian drill team, and of course, write. She was inspired to create her first book, TEMPTATION, by the Amish community she lived in. The experiential knowledge she gained through her interactions with her neighbors drove her to create the story of the star-crossed lovers, Rose and Noah.

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

Thank you for having me! I’m so happy to be here today. I’ve written three second books, two third books, and one fourth book in a series. I guess you can say I’m kind of an old hat at it now. To answer your question, no, writing the second book was always very exciting for me. With each of my series, I ended the first book on a bit of cliff hanger, with a definite lead into the next book. So I was already thinking about the second installment. It’s actually the third book that really gets me. By that point, you have expectations from your readers. And sometimes it’s difficult to write your own story without taking into account how your fans will react. Also, by the time the third book rolls around, the deadlines seem to be tighter, and your writing may be a little forced in places.

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

That’s a great question. It’s a never ending game of writing, editing, and promoting. I wasn’t very savvy about self-promoting when I wrote TEMPTATION and BELONGING, and it affected my sales. By the time I began FOREVER, I’d finally figured out that I needed to set aside a block of time each day, usually two hours, to promote my books. When I changed my mindset about how important the promotion part of being an author is, I saw immediate results in sales and my fan base grew exponentially.

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

When I wrote BELONGING, I was still very much writing for myself and the story itself. I had so many ideas swirling around in my head about what was going to happen to Rose and Noah. He was Amish. She wasn’t. There were so many aspects of the relationship creating turmoil and so many issues to sort out. I guess you can say that I was a little over stimulated in the creative process for that book. FOREVER was the third book in their story and the one that was going to sort everything out.  I was half way through FOREVER before I even decided how to wrap up Rose and Noah’s love affair. And with that book, I was definitely thinking about how my fans would react, what they wanted, and what was really best for the story and characters. It’s much easier to write the beginning of a story than the closure of one, in my opinion. When I began book four in the series, RACHEL'S DECEPTION, which will release on May 19th of this year, it was like going home for me.  Fresh story lines and new faces mixed in with much loved characters and an amazing setting, taking the series to higher heights than I ever imagined. And in this case, I had more fun writing RACHEL'S DECEPTION than I did any of the previous books.

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

Unfortunately, there’s a lot less time to work with nowadays. I have three series going simultaneously at this point, and it seems that the more books I write, the harder it gets to manage my time. But I won’t complain though. It’s far better to be too busy than the alternative.

What did you do differently post-debut, with the perspective of a published author?

As I said above, I didn’t catch on to the expectations of self-promoting until I reached the third book in the TEMPTATION series. I really wish I’d taken more time to promote TEMPTATION and the ongoing series straight from the beginning. I’ve managed to make up for that time lost, but it was a real uphill battle. My advice to other writers, is to realize that being an author is as much about promotion as it is about writing. It’s imperative to block that time off in your schedule, and just do it.  It will make a huge difference in your career.

I love to connect with readers and I’d be happy to answer questions about the Amish way of life or writing in general. Please contact me at my website or you can message me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Happy Reading!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A MADNESS SO DISCREET Goodreads Giveaway & A Few Reasons You Might Be Crazy

My lovely publisher, HarperCollins, has posted 10 copies of A MADNESS SO DISCREET for giveaway on Goodreads! Definitely check that out if you're interested.

Likewise, I discovered a list of reasons for incarceration in an insane asylum from the log books of the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, spanning the years 1864 to 1889. It's easy to see that you didn't necessarily have to be truly insane in order to be whisked away. In a lot of cases, an insane asylum was a convenient location for inconvenient people.

See if you spot yourself in here.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

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.

When Violet Gloom and her brokenhearted dad pack everything up and move to the dreary town of Downcast, she’s pretty sure that she’s left the happiness of her old life behind in the dust. Sightly mixed metaphors here with "dreary" and "dust," plus the hook is a little long in the tooth - but it's not bad. But when she finds a ghost lurking in her new house, she discovers a secret: Downcast is cursed. The "but" here implies that the sentence will be at odds with what came before, however leaving the happiness of her old life behind and finding out the town she moved to is cursed aren't disagreeing with each other. Three hundred years before, a young witch cursed Downcast to eternal sadness and eventual doom, why? and now on the anniversary of the curse, that doom is nigh. Violet has just three days to get the ghosts to the Great Beyond What does this mean and how would she do that? and stop the curse, or she, her dad and the entire populace of Downcast will be destroyed by ghosts-gone-bad, otherwise known as shadows.

With the help of Henry Fair-Weather (a boy who’s allergic to magic) how does that impact the plot and what is his role? and her cat Dusk how does she fit in? , Violet sets out to break the curse how? , find a home thought she had a new one?, defeat an evil ghost-obsessed inventor this sounds like an important plot point that we need to hear more about in the body and cure her family’s sadness. VIOLET GLOOM AND THE CURSE OF DOWNCAST is complete at 48,000 words.

Right now this reads like any other haunted house / town story. We've got a hero whose responsibility it is to save her home / family / town, with a (possible love interest?) boy. But I have don't know how she would do this, and I only have tiny hints about why this story is different from all the others. I feel like the inventor could be the answer to that, but I know nothing about him. And what about the cat? How is it helping? Can it talk? You need to elaborate on your cast of supporting characters, and you also need to clarify your age range here. I'm assuming by the word count that it's an MG, but you don't specifically say that.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES (99% TRUE!) by Alison DeCamp

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.

Stan always assumed his "departed" father was dead, until a letter shows up at his house... one that his mom and Evil Granny (her percentage of evilness operates on a sliding scale) viciously guard. Times are tough in 1895 and the trio pull stakes to work in a lumber camp, mom and granny helping with meals, and Stan to hit himself in the head with axes, make up imaginary vile pasts for all of the lumberjacks courting his mom, and try to avoid all the diseases his (definitely evil) cousin Geri insists he has on a rotating basis.

Life as an almost-lumberjack is hard on eleven year old Stanley, so he imagines a life where his father writes him letters from his varied life as a cowboy/hero/outlaw, all of them painstakingly kept in Stanley's scrapbook, featuring ads from the newspaper - augmented by Stanley's own thoughts on the products and how the people in his life might benefit from them.

All Stan wants to do is prove to his mom that she doesn't need a man in her life, because he already is one. The only way to do that is to participate on the river drive, a dangerous adventure complete with bank-to-bank logs going down the river. But the only person who thinks Stanley is capable is one of his mom's suitors - of course the one he assumes is a cold-blooded murderer.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) When I meet someone named Underhill I assume it's a false name.

2) Whenever I use a can of Barbasol I think maybe fetal dinosaurs are in there, and being near water may activate them like those foam capsules I had when I was a kid.

3) The amount of emails I respond to with a simple "boom" is kind of alarming, but also a very concise rendition of my feelings on the matter in question.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Natasha Sinel On Taking Feedback From Rejections

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 Natasha Sinel, author of THE FIX, which is about the fixes we rely on to cope with our most shameful secrets and the hope and fear that comes with meeting someone who challenges us to come clean. Natasha writes from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon but in her head, she’s still in high school and hopes no one near her can read minds. You can find her on Twitter or Facebook. THE FIX is her first novel.

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

I’d never realized that an editor goes through so many approvals in order to make an offer. I thought if an editor loved a manuscript, then she could make an offer right away. It makes sense, then, that an editor has to really fall in love with a manuscript to want to go through all those hoops.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

It surprised me that a few editors never responded to my agent, even though they’d expressed interest and had requested the manuscript. Even a one-sentence “no thank you” or “not for me” would have been better than crickets.

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

I’ll admit to Googling, reading interviews, Twitter-stalking. On the one hand, I learned so much about the publishing world by reading up on editors, and found some new favorite authors this way. On the other hand, it was not useful to see cryptic tweets, read into every word, and wonder if they were talking about my manuscript.

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

A couple of passes came within a couple of weeks. Some never responded—one of these crushed me since I’d had a conference critique with him and I thought he seemed to connect with the manuscript. But, I’d say the average response time was six weeks.

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

At first I wanted every answer that came in as soon as my agent got it. But I found that a pass popping up in my inbox at random times was a surefire way to ruin a perfectly good day. So, I asked my agent to let me know only if there was something positive. A couple of times, I caved and asked her if she’d gotten any news, and then she’d forward a pass if she’d received one. But at least that way I was prepared.

Everyone says that diving into a new project is the best way to deal with anxiety while on sub. I agree—if you can do that. I wasn’t particularly successful at it. I did a lot of reading, though. And errands.

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

At first the rejections were kind of exciting! It was amazing that an editor at a real publishing house had read my manuscript (or part of it, at least), considered it seriously, and had taken the time to compose a thoughtful response. After a while, though, the thrill faded a bit and the passes would start to break my heart—particularly if it was an editor who I thought would be a great fit or if the comments were so incredibly positive and then would end with a BUT…(for example, “I was enthralled and it reminds me of Eleanor & Park but…” —that one resulted in some tears and chocolate consumption).

The editor passes were much easier to handle than query rejections, though, because I had my agent on my team.

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 really appreciated feedback from editors when they offered solid ways to improve the manuscript. One editor passed because she had a book coming out with a similar theme (this is why I prefer to call them passes, because it doesn’t always feel like a rejection), but she went on to give a few suggestions on plot and character that were so helpful, I ended up revising the manuscript based on her comments.

In general, when I receive feedback, whether from an editor or from a beta reader, I appreciate the time they’ve taken, and then try to take a step back to consider what resonates with me and what doesn’t. When an editor (or beta reader) points something out that isn’t working or could be improved upon and I agree, then I have no choice but to change it. If I don’t feel like I would’ve written it that way, though, then I won’t do it. I made that mistake in another manuscript, and I cringed when I re-read it. It felt like someone else had written those parts (and not in a good way). Now, I make sure that there is not a single sentence or scene or character trait that could make me cringe on a read-through.

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

I had some heads up from my agent that stuff was happening—the editor loved my manuscript but needed to bring it to the editorial meeting, and after that, the publisher. I had no idea how long that would take. Knowing the business, I was prepared to wait months. And there was always that chance she wouldn’t get the okay to make an offer. But she did! My agent called the day before my birthday, while I was feeling sorry for myself that I’d have to spend yet another birthday with no book deal. When I saw my agent’s name on my phone, I told myself, she might be calling to say it was a no. But when I answered, she said “This is the call!” I was sort of in shock. It’s overwhelming to get what you’ve always wanted. And then I called family and friends, and with each call it felt more real, and then I was ecstatic.

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

From the time I got the offer to the time I announced was about six weeks, which is actually pretty fast. Once the contract was signed, the Publishers Marketplace announcement came out a few days later. Before that, I was allowed to tell people close to me, I just couldn’t put it on the Internet until the PM announcement came out. That part of the waiting was so much less difficult than any other period of the process. I had a signed contract, and I knew it was happening!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Finally I Vlog Again! An Insane Asylum Primer From Yours Truly

I know it's been awhile since I made a vlog... I've been busy, you know, writing. But today I thought I'd educate you a little on how insane asylums operated in the 19th century. So don't try this at home.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

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.

An electronic device was implanted into Grey Wayward’s brain when she was three-years-old. It was programmed with two tasks: Modify her DNA to add gills so she can blend in with the Tridens on their tiny planet, and send a signal that allows everything she sees and says to be monitored light years away on Earth. Transforming her into an unknowing spy. Great hook - you've done a good job of setting up genre and giving plot hints while providing an engaging first line. The one thing I'll say is that you've got an incomplete sentence dangling there at the end.

Abandoned on Triden, Grey was adopted by a loving family and raised unaware of her origin. When Earth suddenly appears in the sky Hmm... how would Earth suddenly appear? and a security checkpoint is set up outside her small town, sixteen-year-old Grey gets an unusual reading on the scanner and is sent running as in she runs away b/c she's in danger b/c of the reading? Or like they actually send her to discover things? to discover who she really is and how she got the scars that have always marked her as different.

Eighteen-year-old, witty and fierce human, Rebel, finds Grey and informs her there are two different groups of Humans on Triden. The Patriots who are planning to kill the Tridens and take the planet for themselves and the Resistance who are working with some of the Tridens to bring a peaceful union to both species. Rebel claims Grey’s parents are working with the Resistance, but admits that she knows nothing about Grey’s origin.

Before Grey can decide if she trusts Rebel she’s captured by Triden soldiers, including the first-born-prince-of-Triden, Easton Phillips. The journey across the planet to have her origin tested takes several weeks. Along the way, she needs to decipher the cryptic messages left by her mom and decide who she’s loyal to. Meanwhile, she must navigate her conflicting emotions toward Easton, who has just-enough-tragic-baggage to allow Grey to fall for him despite his faults. (The love of Easton’s life was murdered, leaving him bent on revenge.) I'd axe the parenthetical here. We don't need to know the origin of his baggage.

The only advantage the Tridens have over the Humans is their gills. Why is this an advantage? Are battles waged underwater?  Grey’s origin test proves she’s human, making her the ultimate threat. Unclear on why her shared parentage would make her the ultimate threat? Easton will do anything to protect her from the leaders of Triden, including selling his birthright in exchange for her safe passage to Earth.

This is a pretty good query, with the exceptions pointed out above. We need to know why having gills is an advantage, and why it makes her a threat. Also - why wouldn't the people who placed her there in the first place be reclaiming her now that they've come to the planet? It seems like they could gather more information from her as an implanted spy. 

OXYGEN is a 63,000 word YA science fiction/romance novel and the first in a planned trilogy. You would definitely improve your chances here by stating that it could standalone but has series potential -- only if that's actually true though. I am a thirty-seven-year-old mother of two girls from Shelby Twp. Mi. with no previous publications. Don't worry about a bio since you don't have any publishing credits of a bio that ties in with your subject matter -- not having a bio won't hurt you.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: DOROTHY MUST DIE by Danielle Paige

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.

Amy doesn't have it easy. She spends her days at school avoiding the bullies who call her Salvation Amy, and her time at home hiding her mom's pill stash in their trailer to keep them from her. Everything changes when a tornado rips through their Kansas town, taking Amy's trailer to Oz - somewhere that should be better than home... but it's not.

Oz is not the place Amy thought it would be, and Dorothy is not the girl everyone knows from the stories. Magic has made her greedy, and the former Kansas farm girl has destroyed Oz in order to mine magic, enslaving the munchkins and monkeys. Glinda the Good Witch is anything but, the Tin Man a horrifying mechanical solider, the Scarecrow a mad scientist, and the Lion a true predator.

With everything turned on its head, Amy learns that the Order of the Wicked are actually the good guys in this new Oz - and they want to kill Dorothy, which only another girl from Kansas can do. With the differences between good and bad more than a little fuzzy, Amy has to decide which side she's on, and how far she's willing to go to join them.

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