Friday, April 18, 2014

The Writing Project Love Quadrangle

I'm a committed woman right now. What with the end-of-the-school-year crunch at my day job, the precious few hours I have for writing have to go towards one project, and that project is currently elbow-deep in revisions. Until I get this manuscript polished to go out into the universe, in other words, it's going to have my full attention.

Once it does go out into the universe, however, I'm going to have a fight on my hands. There are currently three other projects trying to seduce me.

There's the project that waited: the one that I started a little fling with last summer, that has patiently waited for me to wrap up my current MS. There's the wildly ambitious project: a sexy genre-blender that I'm really excited about... if I can pull it off right. And there's the dark horse: a thoroughly random idea that came out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. How's a girl to choose?

I know people who can juggle multiple manuscripts at the same time, and I'd very much love for those people to teach me their secrets one of these days. But until they do, I will have to contend with the writing project love quadrangles. True, it's an excellent problem to have, and you can always come back to a project next time. It'll probably be better for the extra time it spent steeping in your head. But it's so hard to take a world and characters you're already in love with and say, "Sorry, not yet."

If you've found yourself caught in a love quadrangle, maybe you've found a way to consider the pros and cons: whether you weigh market concerns, write a little of each project to see what shakes out, or imagine each of your love interests wrestling in jello. But one way or another, you have to choose eventually.

Best of luck. ;)

How about you? What's your strategy?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Can I Use That Picture?

First of all, I must preface this by saying that this post in no way constitutes legal advice in any way, shape or form. I'm just passing along some hopefully helpful information that I've come across :-)

I write a lot of blog posts. In addition to this blog, I'm also a part of 3 other group blogs (Scene 13, Embracing Romance, and The Naked Hero), as well as my personal blogs (my author blog, and Oven Mitts and Other Bits). And as we all know, a good picture spruces up a post very nicely.

But how do you know if it's okay to use a particular picture?

I always try to use pics that I know for sure are free to use. I carefully read the licensing agreements on the sites where I find my pictures and I always try to link to the source of picture, even if it's free to use and doesn't require a link. And for the most part, if I can't find a picture on a site that I know for sure is free and safe to use, or that I've purchased the rights to, I won't use a picture for that post.

Occasionally I'll write a post like the one I just did for The Naked Hero on Comic Book Heroes, that really could use a good picture. But using one nowadays when you don't own the copyright is scary. So I did some googling and found this post on Navigating Copyright and Fair Use Online. Be sure to visit the site and read the post in its entirety; it's got some great info.

But this is the gist I gleaned from it:

  • If you are using the photo as part of a discussion or review on the item/person pictured - for instance, if you are reviewing a product and include a picture of that product - that is most likely okay.
  • If you are using the picture in an abstract way (the post used the example of using a portion of the Dumb and Dumber movie poster to discuss dumb actions, but nothing in the post was actually discussing the movie) then that is not okay.

In other words, if you are using the image to physically identify what you are discussing in your post, you are probably okay. Again, can't stress this enough, this is just my understanding and I'm sure there are instances when this is not true.

So, for my post on Comic Book Heroes, in which I discussed various heroes from the current comic book movies, I used pictures of those heroes. To further cover my butt, I used the promotional movie posters instead of stills from the movie, my thinking being that since those are created to promote the movies, there would be less objection of them being spread around. Kind of like sharing a book cover. I'd love to see my covers plastered all over the place ;-)

Am I certain I'm in the clear? No...which is why I very, very rarely use pictures like this :-) I also keep a few credits going on sites like 123rf.com, shutterstock.com, istockphoto.com, etc. I can usually find a great photo for one credit and then I know for sure I am okay because I've purchased the right to use the picture.

Bottom line, if you want to be sure you are safe to use a picture, don't use one unless there is express written permission specifically giving others the right to use the picture, or unless you've contacted the artist to gain permission.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Query Sushi


Since it's the Easter school holidays, I'm spending the day with my gorgeous niece (we're making Easter baskets and cards and Easter nests filled with chocolate eggs. Yum). Being rushed off my feet means I'm revisiting a post today. 

I love Sushi. There's always something yummy going around on the conveyor belt at Yo! Sushi.

For anyone who hasn't been before the idea is you sit in front of a conveyor belt and choose what you like from a selection of dishes. Each dish is colour/price coded. And you can order off a menu if you want something in particular.

(Image: Voucher Mum)

So I'm sat watching all the yummy dishes going round, waiting to be chosen and enjoyed, and I realised that this is the same as querying.

I imagine an agent is pretty much sat at the table looking at all these dishes going around. We know they have a huge number to choose from depending on their preferences, but they only have a short moment to make up their mind before they pass. What they choose could be different on any given day. 

Just like what you pick from the sushi bar.

Some days all you see are California roll/urban fantasy and you want Katsu curry/dystopian YA.

But the agent could still pick your California roll query out if it looks appetising.

The job of the chef/writer is to make our dish/query stand out from all the others on offer.

So next time that 'I'm afraid this isn't a good fit for me' email pings in your inbox it just means the agent wanted a different dish that day.

One day an agent will pick your yummy California Roll/query off the conveyor belt.

It's just a matter of appetite.

*No sushi was harmed during the writing of this post. It did make me hungry though. :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon

(Reuters/Marcos Brindicci)
If you're living in the United States and haven't figured out filed your taxes yet—you'd better get on that. Today's the day!

Did anything exciting happen during the big Blood Moon event last night? I set my alarm to see it, but the clouds sort of ruined any chance of visibility, so I went back to bed and used my imagination to create all sorts of paranormal mayhem. I mean...all those unsuspecting, vulnerable people gathering in parks in large numbers. At night. And not just any night with any ol' full moon, but the night of a BLOOD Moon! (Surely a Blood Moon has more potential for danger than a BLUE Moon.)

And I wonder how many babies were born (or conceived!) across the world during last night's eclipse, if they are now bonded by some (evil?) force that will become apparent on the night of the next Blood Moon. Actually, since there are four more Blood Moons this year, we'd better change the age to 16 or 18 — since Baby Blood Moon Zombies probably won't go over very well. Also, why do these things never happen when a kid turns 17?

It's no wonder I can't sleep.  :-)

All I can say is, in light of the Blood Moon, none of my pets turned "corrupt" like they do in the game Terraria, and I'm pretty darn happy about that. :-) Although, I haven't checked the rabbit and chickens yet this morning. :-)

If you missed seeing the Blood Moon last night, here's video and article at CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/15/tech/innovation/blood-moon/

Great information for writers!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sold: Angelica R. Jackson's Crow's Rest, to Spencer Hill Press

Yay, I finally get to announce that my book, Crow's Rest, and I are joining the Spencer Hill Press family!

And the release date is May 12, 2015!

(Illustration by Arthur Rackham for the fable, The Crow & The Pitcher)
That image for The Crow and The Pitcher is particularly fitting--this deal has been in the works for a while, but so many things cropped up in the meantime (some in my control, some not--I guess it would have been quicker to type "life happens") that it wasn't until last week that I signed the contract. Took awhile to be able to get a drink of that water! Even so, that May 2015 date seems like it's coming up awfully fast!

One thing that's helping with the timeline is that I did a lot of the "homework" ahead of time. Especially since this was a book that I got very close to starting the self-publishing process on, I had an entire list of things ready to go. Some publishers want more or less of this info, but Spencer Hill Press has a pretty exhaustive Author Information sheet to fill out. I provided links to cover art and artists that I like, elements that I want to include or don't want to see in a cover for Crow's Rest, and some choices for back copy and loglines.

That back cover copy is especially important--all the research I had done said to keep it below 200 words. I managed to do that--and then I learned that it may need to be as short as 500 characters. Yes, that's characters-- as in barely longer than 3 tweets!

So I encourage you all to put thought into this kind of thing before you get that deal (or while you're sitting on the news, waiting for permission to announce). You may not use your draft of the back copy on the final cover, but having several different ways to sum up your book helps with promotional opportunities down the road.

Here's the draft I've been using on my blog, so check back for the cover reveal and see how much it changed (or didn't):

Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers—and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all.

Or if someone—some thing—has taken his place.

Her quest to find the real Daniel—and get him back—plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings.

Where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.


So excited to join our other Operatives at Operation Awesome who have also chosen to go with Spencer Hill--do we have a group signing in our future, Kell Andrews and Angela Townsend?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lunchbox Lit: The Stories We Carry

The other day my daughter asked if she could take my old thermos in her lunch. And when I say old, I mean old -- I got it in first grade. Here it is:


 And this is what I carried it in:


I posted the pics on Facebook, and some friends commented on what THEY carried -- Star Trek, Emergency, Scooby Doy, Hardy Boys. It occurred to me that the lunchboxes they carried held more than lunch -- they carried stories that those kids chose then, and that the writers were still carrying in the stories they wrote and read. Maybe that's a stretch, but we're all the sum of our influences. 

So what does my lunch kit say about me? I like to mix genre. I write about everyday childhood, with an imaginative twist. And I still can't resist a princess or a happy ending.


Who was on your lunchbox? What does it say about you then and now? What stories did you carry?


About Kell Andrews:  Kell Andrews writes picture books and middle grade novels. Deadwood, her middle-grade contemporary fantasy about a cursed tree, comes out from Spencer Hill Middle Grade in June 2014.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Adaptations and Loose Interpretations: Frozen vs. The Snow Queen



Like any literature buff, I was excited to see at the end of Disney's FROZEN that the movie was based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen called The Snow Queen. So, like any good literature buff, I looked up the story in my copy of his collected works and read it, searching for the root of the story that had managed to inspire the movie FROZEN.

I got nothing.

I mean, I got something, but it was buried very deep down in what Disney had done. The names had all changed completely, the good witches who helped and hindered Gerda on her journey had been replaced with trolls that look like rocks and sing a lot about love, and in the end there were only four things the original story had in common with Disney's supposed retelling:

  • the setting
  • the randomly placed sauna in the middle of the woods (yep, really in the original story)
  • the shards that struck Anna in the heart and head (though they actually struck Gerda's friend Kay, a boy, whom the Snow Queen kidnapped and kept as a pet, and they weren't ice but pieces of a shattered demonic mirror that reflected all things beautiful as if they were ugly)
  • a queen with icy powers (though the actual Snow Queen was an elemental creature who traveled in the snow and had no compassion)
This is Hans Christian Andersen learning that they renamed the Snow Queen 'Elsa' and made her look like a lounge singer in an ice castle.

So, Saving Mr. Banks wasn't the only example of Disney taking so many artistic liberties as to make a story unrecognizable. And I know you can offer me many more in the comments. (Please, do.) 

At the end of the day, I still enjoyed watching Frozen, though not as much as my husband and four-year-old who think Olaf is HIL-arious and can't stop singing the songs. I was a little disappointed to learn that the original story, mentioned in the end credits, was so far warped in their animated adaptation. 

With all that said, I'm looking forward to reading THIS this week:


Thyra Winther's seventeen, the Snow Queen, and immortal, but if she can't reassemble a shattered enchanted mirror by her eighteenth birthday she's doomed to spend eternity as a wraith. 
Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal. 
A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai's childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles. Thyra's willing to do anything – venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts -- to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous adversary lies within her breast. Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup's devotion and the fire of a young man's desire, the thawing of Thyra's frozen heart could be her ultimate undoing. 
CROWN OF ICE is a YA Fantasy that reinvents Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen" from the perspective of a young woman who discovers that the greatest threat to her survival may be her own humanity.

Just look at how many similarities there are already to the original story: The shattered, enchanted mirror, Gerda, Kay (okay, she renamed him Kai), and the fact that the Snow Queen has a frozen heart. And yet, it's fresh and different, and packaged for a YA crowd. It releases December of this year, so I'm very excited to get to read it early. 

Happy Friday, everybody! What's on your reading list this weekend?