Friday, December 26, 2014

Ohio Signings With Lauren Oliver In 2015!

I'm excited to announce that I have been invited to take part in Lauren Oliver's VANISHING GIRLS tour in March of 2015!

There are two Ohio signing dates with Lauren, myself, and Jasmine Warga (MY HEART & OTHER BLACK HOLES) - one in Cincinnati at Joseph-Beth Booksellers (which will also feature an Epic Reads meet up with the fantastic Margot Wood) and a second signing at Fundamentals in Delaware, OH!

Visit Lauren's Tumblr for more details!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Melissa Landers, ALIENATED Author With A Free E-Short!

UNTIL MIDNIGHT is here…and it’s FREE!



Happy Holidays, everyone! I’m Melissa Landers, author of the Alienated series, and I have a present for you—a brand new e-short from Disney Hyperion!

UNTIL MIDNIGHT takes place onboard an intergalactic transport, soon after ALIENATED ends and before the sequel INVADED begins. The story details Aelyx and Cara’s last day together before he returns to Earth to mend the alliance and she continues to his home planet. It’s sweet and romantic, and as a bonus, it includes a four-chapter preview of the sequel, which releases February 3rd.

Oh, and did I mention the best part? IT’S FREE!

You can download UNTIL MIDNIGHT from the following e-tailers:

Kindle: http://amzn.to/1walSLX
Nook: http://bit.ly/1zshdpx
iBooks: http://bit.ly/1sT4CnM
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1AIb45a
Google Play: http://bit.ly/1v06kVd

*If you live outside the USA, no worries. I’ve uploaded the story to Scribd for you. (The only downside is it doesn’t include the bonus preview chapters, due to technical reasons from the publisher.) Link: http://www.scribd.com/AuthorMelissaLanders

To celebrate this new release, I’m offering TWO lucky winners an autographed swag pack complete with a personalized bookplate, mini-poster, bookmarks, and stickers—open internationally! Just fill out the rafflecopter form below.

Best of luck, and happy reading!

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Saturday, December 20, 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.

All it takes is one run-away beagle and a mysterious cave to ignite twelve-year-old Molly’s thirst for adventure and turn her world upside down. That is when everything she never believed in changes her world. This is a good hook, but I think the last line is almost repetitive and unnecessary.

From a fantastical waterfall to the sinister Minions of the Dark Forever and a boy named Ethan, Molly experiences one adventure after another and falls into more trouble than any country girl could imagine. This is vague, but it does a good job of painting the genre. Plot details need to come in effect soon so that the reader gets an idea of what is actually happening in the book instead of these big brush strokes. To make matters even more difficult, her help is desperately needed to bring two cave worlds into balance. What does this mean? What are these cave worlds? Why do they need to be brought into balance? What does that even mean? And why her? With the assistance of her dog, Rip, and a singing sword, Molly overcomes her fears and becomes “Warrior” Molly within the cave walls. But battling the forces of evil can wear a girl out, not to mention get her grounded. Will Molly and Rip be able to conquer evil, and keep her parents from finding out the truth? This has great voice, and I can definitely see it getting requests, but I think in order for it to be a true homeroom you need to get more plot specific. Addressing the questions I outlined above would help. You've left yourself plenty of room in terms of word count to whip this into shape without going over. Also, you mention Ethan only once, but the dog gets three mentions. Is Ethan important enough to mention at all or more important than the query implies?

I am currently working on Book Two,“Molly McBean and the Battle for Chaos.” If that's the case you need to state whether or not this is a series, or a standalone with series potential. I am a member of both Ohio Valley Writers Group and Pennwriters. My short story, Adagio, was published by Scarlett River Press in the anthology “Scarlet Whispers” in May 2012. This is my debut novel. You can scratch the "debut" - it's assumed if you don't have a stated pubbed novel to your credit. Overall this looks good, though!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Talk & Giveaway: SOLITAIRE by Alice Oseman

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.

Tori really likes to sleep and blog, and that's about it. With high school nearly over, A-levels on the horizon and university applications hovering, Tori knows she needs to wake up. Snap out of it. Get moving. Maybe try caring a little. Talking to people is hard now, people who used to be her friends are distant, and she's more than aware that it's partially her own fault.

Then Michael Holden comes back to school, and Solitaire happens. Post-It's directing Tori pop up in the hallways, leading her to computers with cryptic messages she doesn't understand. And it spreads - messages are coming over the announcments that the staff can't override, patrols in the halls can't catch Solitaire at work, and posters can't come down fast enough before a new one goes up.

Something has finally penetrated Tori's depression. Something has perked her interest and made her care. But maybe it's the wrong thing.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

YA Author Amy Nichols On Plotting, Agent Hunting, & Writing A Book Over The Weekend

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Amy K. Nichols. Amy lives on the edge of the Phoenix desert with her husband and children. In the evenings, she enjoys sitting outside, counting bats and naming stars. Sometimes she names the bats. Her first novel, YA sci-fi thrillerNow That You’re Here, will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on December 9, 2014.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I started out a total pantser, but after starting a few manuscripts and fizzling out around page fifty, I knew I needed to try a different approach. I read a blog post by YA author Elana Johnson about plotting, and she recommended Save the Cat, Blake Snyder’s book on screenwriting. I decided to give plotting a try, and lo and behold, it worked! Since then, I’ve developed my own planning/pantsing hybrid, creating a loose outline while remaining sensitive and flexible with what the story wants and needs. I should say, I still pants short stories, but anything longer, I need a road map.

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

I can really crank out the words when needed. One of my first forays into writing was the 3-Day Novel Contest, a crazy writing marathon that takes place over Labor Day weekend, in which participants try to write a novel in a weekend, beginning on Friday at midnight and ending Monday at midnight. It’s insane, but so much fun. (The first year I participated was 2004, and I won third place, which I took as a sign that this writing gig was, in fact, for me.) Anyway, it taught me on how to get words down fast and worry about revising later. When I’m in a groove, first drafts typically take me a month or two. Revising, however, takes me much longer, at least when I’m not on deadline. I revised Now That You’re Here for a couple of years before querying agents. The sequel, While You Were Gone, took less than a year, though, since I was working with my editor and on deadline. I would love to get proficient enough to write and revise a novel every six months.

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

When I’m working on deadline, the contracted book takes priority and everything else has to wait. (I’m obsessive about hitting deadlines.) If I’m between deadlines, though, my writing is a bit like a horse race. I work on a number of projects, writing a little here and a little there depending on which story has me most intrigued. Typically one “horse” will gather momentum and pull away from the pack. Once that happens, I put all my money on that one and cross my fingers it makes it across the finish line.

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

I have to overcome fears every time I sit down to write. Looking back, I put off writing for years because I was afraid. A while ago I found some notes I’d scribbled down in college about what I would need to do to switch to the creative writing program. I never made the switch, though, because that would mean facing critique and rejection. Years later, it took a brush with death and a bout of depression to convince me to finally give writing a try. Sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Now when I sit down to write, those same fears of critique and rejection are still there, but I’ve learned that the magic happens in revision, and I can survive rejection. I don’t think I can survive not writing.

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

I wrote two complete manuscripts before selling Now That You’re Here (and started a number of others). One of the completed manuscripts will remain in the trunk (though two of the characters ended up in NTYH). The other I’m hoping to spiffy up to show my agent. Fingers crossed.

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

Yes, too many times to count. I can think of at least five manuscripts that completely fizzled out as I was writing them. It wasn’t a matter of me quitting them, but them quitting me. They probably got annoyed with me and went to find a better writer. Seriously, though, if I’m working on something and it begins to falter or I start to lose interest, I try to go back to the last place where the story was interesting and start over from there, making different choices. Sometimes that feeling that a story is failing comes when I’ve made a wrong turn and led the story in a direction it didn’t want to go. Then it’s usually a matter of backing up and trying something else.

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

I’m with Adams Literary, and Josh Adams is my agent. They do things a little differently than other agencies: rather than send a query letter, you submit your manuscript via a form on their website. So I sent my manuscript off to them and received a confirmation that said if I hadn’t heard from them in six weeks, it was a pass. This was around May of 2012. When I left for the SCBWI conference in August, I hadn’t heard from them, so I’d crossed them off the list. The night before the conference started, however, I got an email from them asking me to meet with Josh during the conference. It was such a surprise. We had a chat in that awesome lobby (if you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about), and he told me they were interested in my work. Hearing him say that was surreal, to say the least. A week later, I signed with them, and I couldn’t be happier.

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

I don’t remember how many queries I sent, but I do know the process went relatively quickly. I started querying in late April/early May and signed with Adams in August.

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

I once heard someone compare querying to dating. Having been through it, I can say it’s a fair comparison. You’re looking for a partner in this process, someone who will walk along side you, hopefully for your whole career. Yes, you want to get signed so bad you can’t see straight, but you don’t want to end up in a relationship that doesn’t work. You want to find the right partner, and that can take patience. It’s worth it, though, to take your time and make sure it’s a good fit. And for the record, this dating metaphor applies to taking a manuscript out on submission. You want to make sure you’re a good fit with your editor, too, that you share the same vision for the book.

How much input do you have on cover art?

Not a lot, but so far that hasn’t been a problem. I love the covers of both Now That You’re Here and While You Were Gone so much. The designers did an incredible job.

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

One surprising thing I learned was how much fun revising can be. I’d always heard “magic happens in revisions”, but I hadn’t experienced it to such an extent before. There’s nothing like seeing the pieces click together. When I wrote Now That You’re Here, there was a journal that showed up a couple of times. I wasn’t sure why it was there, so I just kind of left it alone. Then, during a round of revisions, I suddenly realized why it was there, and it ended up being a pretty significant part of the book. I love those moments. Revising may be difficult, but it really is magical.

How much of your own marketing do you? 

I try to do as much marketing as I can, though being new to this I’m not sure what’s effective and what isn’t. My original publicist quit a few months before my publication date, which left me a little panicked, and I ended up setting up a lot of guest blog appearances (such as this one!) on my own. My publisher did assign me a new publicist, who has been great, so I don’t feel as much pressure to make thing happen on my own. Still, I do what I can to partner with my publisher and make it a team effort. I’m on Twitter, and I blog at my own blog as well as my writers’ group blog, The Parking Lot Confessional. We also do a writing podcast called Curb Chat, which is so much fun! You should check out.

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

I began blogging and tweeting before I had an agent, mostly as a means of connecting with other authors. I think getting (somewhat) established online before I got my agent was beneficial, not only because it showed them I was willing to network and promote, but also because it gave them a sense of who I was before they reached out to me.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

It’s still a little early to say yet, but I really hope so! Regardless, I like being on Twitter and blogging, so I’ll continue doing it even if it doesn’t increase my readership. I also like being on Tumblr, though I confess I’m mostly reblogging photos of Benedict Cumberbatch over there. Maybe that will help grow my readership!



Monday, December 15, 2014

Blogging For Writers

We all know by now that the days of an author writing novels in an ivory tower are long gone. Sure, we can still do that - my ivory tower is a bed with a broken footboard (long story) - but we're also creating content that we disseminate through the ever-growing cloud. Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, G+ *, and any other number of social media sites that have yet to really explode are patiently waiting for writers to figure out how to maximize their potential. 

Hey - remember blogging?

Yeah, it was that thing where we wrote words that people read. 

Some time ago I questioned whether or not blogging was still a valid outlet for authors in a world with an ever-shortening attention span. People want 140 character snippets. People want pictures. People want an easily digestible glimpse of you.

But here's the thing - I'm a writer. And I'd like to think that most of my audience is comprised of readers. So I blog. I do all the others things too (boy, do I ever), but blogging remains my focus. I've questioned that. I've asked myself if I'm wasting my time creating blocks of text when people really want one sentence and a picture of my cat. 

And then I was contacted by Robin Houghton, who was writing a book for Writer's Digest called Blogging For Writers: How Authors & Writers Build Successful Blogs. She wanted to talk to me about my blog and social media outreach. It was kind of amazing to get that kind of recognition, and I was even more flattered when she sent me a copy, which I devoured.

Yes, the fulfillment was totally awesome and then... I got sucked in by the book. It reaffirmed to me that blogging is still a useful and valuable tool for writers to reach our audience. In some ways, I'd argue that it's the best tool for us to use. Any personality can use the other social media outlets, and use them effectively. 

But can they write?

I've been blogging for years, and this book still taught me a thing or two. Even better, it walks the uninitiated through starting a blog from scratch on either Blogger or Wordpress, and explains the pros and cons of each. Worried about content? This books walks you through how to create engaging posts, and make them visually attractive as well. It even has a breakdown of how to use various social media outlets to get your blog noticed, and drive traffic. (Ahem, look for some screen caps of me in there).

So... I thought maybe you might want to check it out. Yes, the giveaway I've got marked below has a TON of entries, but there's a reason for that. It should give you a little tour of what's out there in social media, and how to use it. I'm pretty much everywhere, so you can go take a glance at me and see what I'm doing in all those places, then decide if it's the kind of thing that you might want to do to  up your exposure as well.

And if you're not sure, I bet this book will help you figure it out :)

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*Did you follow the asterisk to the footnote? Good. So G+... I kind of thought of it as the graveyard of social media until I read this article about how it's actually the most useful social media tool in an author's tool belt for establishing online authority. Check it out.

Saturday, December 13, 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.

Sixteen year-old high-society girl Gwendolyn Darling is only trying to keep the delightfully dull Humphrey Redford—and marriage—at bay. Interesting. Not a bad hook although 16 seems very young for marriage. It makes me wonder the time setting of the novel, and I'm not seeing that indicated elsewhere in the query either. A hint wouldn't hurt. And to her pleasant surprise, it seems to be working fairly well. So what if she has to miss out on parties, balls, and social events of the year by pretending she’s sick? It is well worth the cause. It is also how Gwen ends up alive instead of dead like her parents on the disastrous night of the Jolly Roger ship malfunction. Raises the question of what kind of illness she's faking since it sounds long term? Also, does "malfunction" work in this sentence? I feel like a ship "wrecks." "Malfunction" makes me think of an amusement park ride... but maybe that's what this is? A little bit more of a hint (or different word choice) could clarify easily.

With only her brother to comfort her, Gwen mourns the death of her parents when she starts hearing whispers, rumors… I'd cut the ellipses use and work with full sentences here because it could raise style questions about the ms itself - unless that is in keeping with the style of the ms. There is gossip going around that the Jolly Roger accident wasn’t an accident… Which means, maybe, just maybe, her parents aren’t dead after all. Wait... why? If it wasn't an accident then I would assume instead that it was maliciously intended... not that the supposed victims were actually alive. Hopeful and intrigued, Gwen begins an investigation of her own.

And it turns out she’s not the only one curious about that night.

With the help of her new acquaintances, adventurous Miss Penelope Panberly and her friends (plus one mechanical crocodile), Gwen embarks on a mission to find out what actually happened on the night of her parents’ “death”. Period goes inside quotations. Also what's the story with Humphrey? He's fallen off the map. You're doing a good job of getting the voice and snark in here with the names and voice, though.

Because too many strange things have been happening, and stranger things are happening still. There are reports of dangerous shadows coming to life, attacking people; girls are disappearing—not to mention Gwen’s constant run-ins with a too-dashing-for-his-own-good thief, which may be the strangest thing yet…. This just took a turn. We went from slightly snarky upper-class mystery to paranormal, disappearing girls, and a thief?

Is it Bernard Clifton? The only survivor of the Jolly Roger accident? Is it the thief, whose criminal behaviors raise eyebrows? Gwen must find out who is responsible before she herself is kidnapped. Because, it’s for certain: whoever it is, they are not stopping and they will do anything to stop her.

I'm definitely confused about what your genre would be on this. The voice of the query starts out light and offbeat humor with mystery, then there's a paranormal element tossed in, that honestly, I think is going to be a turn off. Then we veer back into mystery elements with the closing "Whodunit" para. I'm also confused about motivations. Why is Gwen even running into this thief? What is he stealing? Where is he stealing these things and why are they crossing paths? How does he fit into the story? How does the element of missing girls have anything to do with the accident? Why does the MC feel that she's being targeted? Your voice and writing in this query is decent, but you'll need to draw lines between all these different plot points to illustrate how they're a cohesive whole.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Talk: SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS by Bethany Crandell & 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.

Cricket's version of roughing it would be wearing last season's Prada. So when her father decides an attitude adjustment is in order and ships her off to be a counselor at a summer camp for disabled kids, she's way outside her comfort zone. Also cell reception zone. With no private river or personal pilot to come rescue her, Cricket's stuck.

Stuck doesn't seem quite so bad when she finds out one of the male counselors could be a stand-in for Zac Efron, but he's going to have to look past her shiny exterior - not to mention some majorly insulting things she's said by accident. Pretty soon just pretending to like her campers to get on his good side morphs into actually liking them, and Cricket discovers that living in a world where what you look like on the outside isn't the final judgement call is actually... kind of awesome.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) You can walk up to a girl and say, "Hey girlfriend," but if you walk up to a boy and say, "Hey boyfriend," it kind of freaks him out.

2) I have reached the age where other women who don't know me but need to say something to me get my attention say, dear or ma'am. No more chica or sweetie for me.

3) I've also reached the age where apparently you're not supposed to laugh when other people fall down. I'm not sure when that transition happens, but I guess I passed that and no one told me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

When Your Muse Is A Talker: Monica Garry Shares On Sorting Out Ideas

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewee's mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest is Monica Garry. Her newest title is a middle grade titled THE SCARIEST HALLOWEEN EVER.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

Yes, I did. I was babysitting my nieces and nephews when I overheard my nephew Dontae, tell his sister Patricia that if she ate another cupcake she was going to turn into one. I laughed thinking she couldn’t possibly believe him. But then he began to tell her that he heard of this happening to a little boy in his class. My nephew created this elaborate tale and my niece believed him. Of course I had to tell him to stop telling his sister lies, but from that lie, a story was born. ☺

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I knew I wanted to make the story fun and give it a moral. The moral of the story is to always be nice to your little sister and never take her for granted. But the story ended up being so much more than that. Dontae learns the importance of family and friendship. He also learns how to be brave even during the darkest times. I gave my main character an adventure to go on and the rest just fell into place.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

My plots always change. I sit down with a story in my head, but my characters take me on an entirely different journey. It’s fun and exciting when your characters takeover.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

I seem to come up with a new idea every week. Since I can’t write thirty books at one time, I give each idea its own journal. By the time I’m done writing one book, I already have another story plotted and ready to be written.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

That’s the hard part. My muse is constantly feeding me ideas and if I’m not careful I’ll have two or three books going at one time. I have to calm myself down, because I get so excited when I get a new idea. I usually focus on the story that I am most excited about.

Can a vegetarian tip cows with a clean conscience?

Of course, as long as they don’t eat it they’re good. ☺ 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mining The #BadFirstNovel & Acknowledging My Failure

So I'm resurrecting the concept of the first novel I ever wrote, which would have been around 1999. The reason why I started writing was because I read a book for a college class that I thought was just awful (no, I won't say what) and I threw it across the room upon finishing it, self-declared myself a better writer than that person and immediately sat down in front of my computer to prove it.

Guess what? I totally was not a better writer than that person.

And I can see that now.

In the past week I opened up that document and started looking at it for concept because I can see it working as a YA with a ton of restructuring - and by restructuring I mean I'm taking a 3rd person omni adult literary (or so I flattered myself) and making it a 1st person present multiple POV YA. This also means that I'm not using any of the original content. Not a single line. And it's not only the restructuring that makes this a necessity.

It's the fact that my first novel really, really sucks.

And the version that I'm looking at has gone through multiple revisions, been re-written from scratch at least once, and then seen more revisions. It's had a lot of work, and it's still painful to look at. And I mean that. This isn't me throwing out false modesty.

I found a paragraph that consisted entirely of character movement, had a head hop, plus someone able to see something in a pitch black room. And that was within four lines.

I'm sharing this because I think it's important for aspiring writers to know that it's perfectly okay to suck. Published writers don't spring forth from the womb holding polished manuscripts.

I started tweeting about my first ms under the hashtag #BadFirstNovel, so if you're interested in seeing my thoughts on my own first work as I barge forward, feel free to see what I'm up to on Twitter.

Saturday, December 6, 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.

Elliott Waverly is thrown into a world that shouldn't exist; a world with supernatural weapons, angel feathers, and what seems like everybody out to get her. This is awkward phrasing her in the last part of the sentence. Also any kind of paranormal is hard to pitch without a really, really fresh angle. Right now your hook doesn't have anything fresh about it - just people and supernaturals co-existing. Everyone she thought she knew, even her parents, have lied to her. About what? The only person that seems to be real is Joel, an angel warrior sworn to protect her, but nothing can ever happen between them; it is strictly forbidden. Why? Elliott was soon to discover she was not the ordinary girl she thought she was. Why is this last sentence in past tense? 

Seventeen-year-old Elliott Waverly just wants to forget the past and the three bullets who ruined her life. This phrase sounds like another opener. This is a first paragraph sentence. That being said, it's a stronger hook with the bullets, however it has no paranormal elements. She wants to forget her parents were taken away from her, killed by a man in a mask. Every time she comes home she's reminded that the man she was left to, a distant cousin who's always drunk, will never replace her parents. So she hides away in books leaving real life to others. When she comes home one night, she finds her cousin drunk just like he always is, and his hurtful words really push her over the edge. This is becoming a step-by-step walk through that feels more like a synopsis than a query. Elliott finds herself in the middle of nowhere broken down, alone, on the side of the road with no hope in sight. That's when a mysterious boy named Joel enters her life and changes everything. Yes, this definitely feels like two opening paragraphs that have such a different feel about them that they could be for two completely different books. 

Her cousin is unexpectedly murdered, just like her parents, by mysterious entities. Just as her demise is emanate imminent , Joel steps out of the darkness to save her. It has always been Joel's mission to deliver Elliott safely to the Elders. Nothing in Elliott's world will ever be the same.

Complete with 60,000 words, ANGEL WITH A SHOTGUN is a young adult science fiction novel that will draw readers in and make them beg for more as they turn the last page.

A lot of things -- first of all -- it's not science fiction, it's urban fantasy or straight up paranormal. 

You really need to clarify your plot. Right now all I see is that there's a girl with parents who lied to her about something (no idea what) and have been mysteriously murdered (no idea why) by a bad guy (no idea who). And then a cute angel boy who she can't be with shows up to protect her from... something. 

This could be the plot of hundreds of paranormals -- why is it different from them? What makes your book better than or distinct from the hundreds of books exactly like this that already exist and the hundreds that are trying to get published? Figure out what makes it pop and get that in the query.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Talk: GIRLS LIKE US by Gail Giles

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.

Quincy and Biddie know how other people look at them. As Special-Ed kids (Speddies) they are something less than human. As graduates of their high school program, they are expected to help each other transition into the real world. Sharing an apartment with overweight, constantly frightened Biddie is the last thing Quincy wants hanging around her neck as she tries to move onto this new phase.

Always ready for a fight, Quincy pitches her fit, but nobody listens. She's stuck with a roomie who's more Speddie than she is, one who can't hardly walk out the front door unless someone is with her. But when Quincy mouths off to the wrong person at her new job, she finds out that there are good reasons why Biddie is scared of the real world. And having a friend beside her to face people that don't understand them might be a better survival tactic than always having her fists up.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I get migraines from looking at backlit screens. I'm considering writing with sunglasses on, and this will be my new thing. I am too cool for my laptop.

2) I was at the gym for two hours the other day and now I cannot lift my arms above my head. That's okay though, because I don't actually use that motion in real life.

3) On the other hand, I pulled a muscle in my ass and you don't realize how much you use your ass everyday.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

YA Author Patty Blount On Pinning Down Those Ideas Through Plotting

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT? (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always included in the WHAT? is one random question to really dig down into the interviewee’s mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT? is Patty Blount author of SEND, TMI and SOME BOYS, all available from Sourcebooks Fire. Fueled by a serious chocolate obsession, a love of bad science-fiction movies, and a weird attraction to exclamation points, Patty looks for ways to mix business with pleasure, mining her day job for ideas to use in her fiction.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

For me, it’s much like a Perfect Storm, where several factors converge into The Idea. Sometimes, it’s a conversation or a song lyric that worms into my brain, or a news article, or watching a movie. My brain starts trying to organize all these vastly different inputs and the result is usually a character whose story I have to tell. “Some Boys” was conceived after I saw way too many news reports expressing sympathy or the perpetrators rather than the victim in the Stuebenville rape case. A lyric from the Eminem/Rhianna song “Love the Way You Lie” combined with that and with this question I kept asking myself, “What if I refuse to back down?” I loved the idea of exploring a kick-ass character like this. 

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I’m a dedicated plotter, mostly because I have a poor memory. I work full time in addition to my writing career and I have lost track of how many great ideas came to me during a conference only to be distant echoes by the time I get back to my manuscript. I use a variety of techniques to plot like corkboards and index cards, Post-it notes, Excel spreadsheets and so on. Technique really doesn’t matter; it’s the meat attached to those hooks. I like to come up with two or three crucial scenes, including the end point, and build out – or build back – from there. 

For Grace in Some Boys, I knew this girl had been raped. I knew no one believed her. I wanted her to emerge at the end of the story still standing, no matter what was thrown her way. While I was mulling over Grace’s journey, I stepped onto the elevator at work with a woman wearing a hijab, the traditional Muslim veil. That led to one of my favorite scenes in Some Boys, where Grace wears a burqa to school to protest everyone blaming her assault on what she usually wears. 

I don’t plot every little thing. I like to get the big set pieces fixed in my mind and build from there.  

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Yes, the plots always shift and I’ve learned to shift with them. My first novel, SEND, was about a guy named Dan who did a terrible thing that resulted in a classmate’s suicide. His grief and guilt were so profound, they were practically a new life form. That single thought ended up evoking a whole new character I called Kenny, who was actually Dan’s younger self (much like Fight Club). When I first conceived Kenny, he was an irritant, a construct that showed how much Dan hates himself for what he did. But as I wrote, it became clear I had that completely wrong. The story wasn’t about Dan’s guilt; it was about his forgiveness – specifically how he learned to forgive Kenny, i.e., himself. 

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Fresh material is hard to come by for me. I don’t have binders full of ideas waiting for time or anything like that. In fact, I often fear my last idea will be my last idea. I spend a good deal of time dreaming up ideas I can take from seed to fully-realized book. As I said earlier, it’s usually a convergence of things that becomes a book. It’s not enough for me to say “Oh, I’ll write a book about rape culture today.” I have to work at it, really exercise the story muscles. “What about it? Why is this important? What do I want readers to walk away from this book feeling?”  

Last summer, a writer friend of mine said “We should write Christmas romances.” I just blinked and shrugged. I had absolutely no ideas for a good holiday romance I hadn’t already read. A little while later, my son and I were discussing the September 11th Memorial and planning a trip to Manhattan to see it. I began browsing the website, absorbing details, reliving the horror that was that day. And then, my friend called me again and said, “What about a Christmas in New York romance?” and BAM! I had an idea for a story about two people who’d actually met back in 2001 when they were still kids grieving for the person they each lost. The convergence of ideas – Christmas, New York, and September 11th -- became Goodness and Light, my first grown-up romance that just came out on November 11th. 

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

That depends on which character is talking loudest in my head. He or she gets written first, just to shut them up! When the characters have something to say, their stories just flow out of me. I wrote Some Boys in about six or seven weeks. In fact, when I feel blocked with a story, I know it’s usually because I haven’t yet figured out what its characters need to say. 

Meat is bad for you, grains are bad for you, vegetables have e.coli. What’s left?

Chocolate. 

In a perfect world, chocolate would be all I ever ate. ☺

Monday, December 1, 2014

I'm Doing That Writing Thing Again

So... I hit File>New Document over the weekend.

It was really scary.

There's nothing quite like a white surface to truly make a writer feel inadequate and terrified. But it also stands as a challenge, and my brain was ready to churn out the words.

My last foray into writing a novel is all nicely packaged up, ready for you to get curious about it when September of 2015 rolls around. That one is a Gothic historical thriller set in an insane asylum - very cheery. It was a ton of work to write, research, double-checking, caution with dialogue, moody ambience and tip-toe phrasing.

Kind of like torture with your own brain and a laptop.

So this new thing... it's pretty different. It's the kind of story that might actually pull an Athena and just pop out of my frontal lobe fully formed. Writing a story that wants to be written is a rush, but it's also terrifying in it's own way.

Am I writing this too quickly?
Am I deluding myself that this is decent?
Is it coming too easily to actually be worthwhile?
Is it coming so quickly that I'm not able to capture everything in time?

Answer to all the above is: I don't know.

I'm just going to keep writing. We'll see about the rest.

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!