Monday, July 30, 2012

On Marketing: You vs. Your Book

So. Marketing. It's a side of the publishing world that both excites and mystifies me. Sometimes authors have the full support of their pub house in their marketing campaign. Sometimes they don't. But authors are always on the lookout for awesomesauce ways of promoting their work, right? They want their books to reach as many readers as possible. This post won't delve into the whole good/bad reviews discussion, nor will it tackle self-published vs. traditionally published authors. 

No, folks. This post is about Kristen Stewart.

You see, Kristen Stewart--the actress who plays Bella Swan in the Twilight film adaptations--isn't an author. But she's well acquainted with promoting a product. In her case, it's the movies, with the final installment hitting theaters in November. Last week, Kristen's personal life (which she's kept under wraps for years) suffered due to a mistake on her behalf. Not only did she feel compelled to do damage control in her personal life, but she also took it upon herself to address the situation publicly. 

Now back to marketing: when Kristen goes out to promote Breaking Dawn Part 2, she'll have to answer question upon question about the movie/book/her character in both mediums. But since she addressed her personal life in a public statement, I'm sure a few reporters will want to sneak in some questions aimed at her mistake. Kristen will either refuse to answer personal questions, or she'll tackle them head-on. But at the end of the day, she's not selling herself, she's selling a movie.  

Or is she? 

As far as I'm concerned, Kristen isn't Bella. Authors aren't their books. Bella is part of Kristen's life. Your book is part of your life. But how do we speak of one without referring to the other?

I'm curious: What's your take on this whole you vs. your book marketing beast-creature-thing? Promote the product? Promote yourself? Both? Any tips for those who're struggling to choose/find the balance between them?


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Evaluating Ideas

I'm trying to decide which new novel to write, and it's a hard decision. Some writers only follow their muse -- pursuing their Shiny New Ideas wherever they go. My problem is that I can't decide which ideas are truly shiny and which are fool's gold. Which ones will fizzle out by page 50, which will languish in my trunk of broken dreams, which will sell?

I wish there were a better way to evaluate new ideas before writing a book. Lately I've watched some very talented writer friends query gorgeous novels that they'd carefully crafted over periods of years, only to meet utter thudding indifference at the query stage. If the pitch, premise, or query can't get an agent to request, the beauty of pages 11 through 400 does not matter. The novel is DOA. Yet agents and editors only consider completed novels -- the only way to get them to even consider the pitch is to write the whole dang thing.

Of course, established writers are able to test their ideas earlier, not only by running them past their agents, but by selling books on pitch or proposal. Of course, it seems a tremendous luxury to write a book that is sold, but that understates the pressure of writing a half dozen pitches before one hits with the acquisition team -- and then rushing to complete the contracted novel in six weeks.

So what should the rest of us do?

I've been thinking about a model for evaluating ideas used by Karl Ulrich, Vice Dean of Innovation at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He teaches his courses on new product development in a tournament format. At the beginning of the course, students bring in their ideas. The class votes, knocking out the weak ideas at each stage and joining teams around the strongest projects. In the end, the most promising products emerge -- a cage match, if you will.

Ulrich hopes that the tournament teaches students that deciding not to pursue an idea should be considered a success, not a failure. It saves the resources that would have been spent on a doomed idea and redirects them towards a better one.

That's the principle behind sites like Authonomy, but those sites were devised more as a slushkiller to help publishers identify good stories, not for writers to find the most successful concepts in their own idea files. The site comes too late in the development cycle to help a writer gauge the appeal of his or her own ideas, and the judging system is questionable. And who wants to put their best ideas out in the public sphere before they've even written them?

One of the main problems in vetting ideas is that nobody really knows a book will sell until it does. Not even agents know, or they wouldn't have so many unsold client manuscripts gathering digital dust. Chasing trends only works if you're fast enough to catch them. Trying for high concept is no guarantee -- one of my friends had a manuscript rejected because it was "too commercial" to sell. Say again? We are still puzzling over that one.

So how do you identify which projects to work on? Do you think about the idea you're most passionate about, or do commercial considerations come into play?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Character Ouchies

I read my first postpartum novel the other day. This:

Read my Afterglow Review here
I'd forgotten how much fun it is to read all night and get that awesome emotional pay-off at 3:00 in the morning! 

I'd also forgotten how painful it is to see your favorite main character get hurt, possibly irreversibly. It reminded me about my own personal struggle with conflict and pain when I'm writing. 

Conflict drives story, but it kills me to put my characters in any kind of permanent pain. Killing off characters is almost impossible (unless there's some magical afterlife in the story). The severing of limbs, blinding, or developing terminal illness all make me queasy, and have been the stuff of my childhood nightmares. 

My characters live the easy life. It's something I really need to work on.

The meanest thing I've ever done to a character is zap him with artificial lightning, which is pretty mean, I think. I've also shot my characters with bullets, but never in a way to cause permanent damage. 

me <--- wuss

How about you? Any reservations about knocking your characters down, cutting off toes, or giving them a terminal disease?

What's the meanest thing you've ever done to a character?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cover Reveal: DEADWOOD by Kell Andrews

I am often excited about cover reveals, but this is the first one I'm nervous about -- my own MG debut, DEADWOOD! Instead of biting my nails, I'll get right to it:


How gorgeous is that? The amazing cover artist, Shawna Tenney, captured the characters and scene perfectly -- just as I pictured it but a thousand times more vivid. 

DEADWOOD is coming from Pugalicious Press in late 2012. Here's what it's about:

There’s something evil in Deadwood Park.

Twelve-year-old Army brat Martin Cruz hates his rotten new town. Then he gets a message from a tree telling him it’s cursed — and so is he. It’s not just any tree. It’s the Spirit Tree, the ancient beech the high school football team carves to commemorate the home opener. And every year they lose.

But the curse is no game, and it gets worse. Businesses fail. Trees topple like dominos. Sinkholes open up in the streets, swallowing cars and buildings. Even people begin to fade, drained of life.

Martin teams up with know-it-all soccer star Hannah Vaughan. Together they must heal the tree, or be stuck in Deadwood Park at the mercy of the psycho who cursed it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the DEADWOOD cover! And I'd really love it if you added it to your "to-read" list on Goodreads. Thanks so much!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

August Mystery Agent Contest Reminder

Don't forget to get those one-sentence pitches ready for August 1st! Why? Because we have an awesome Mystery Agent waiting in the Operation Awesome agent greenroom. 

Our August Mystery Agent is looking for any sub genre of MG and YA fiction only (though the M.A rarely takes on high fantasy). 


  • Pitches should be for completed manuscripts only.
  • You can enter one pitch for one novel - if you make a mistake, just delete your entry and repost.
  • Yes, you are eligible to enter even if you've won MA contests in the past.
  • The first 50 qualifying pitches will be accepted - don't pay attention to the comment numbers. We will close the contest when we've reached our limit.
  • If the rules (which will be posted on August 1st) are not followed, your pitch will be disqualified. Please carefully read the guidelines and follow them
  • Pitches should be one-line pitches - try not to push the boundaries on this one - Four sentences separated by semi-colons will NOT count as a one line pitch. ;)
  • Anyone can enter as long as your novel falls under the genres our MA is looking for. If this particular MA doesn't rep your genre, no worries - we hold these contests often and try to find agents with diverse tastes so there will be a contest in the future for your particular genre
The contest will go live at 10 am ET/9 CT / 8 MT/ 7 PT on AUGUST 1st

Please don't enter the August Mystery Agent contest via this post. Our M.A contests can be entered via a post that goes live the day of the contest (1st of each month). Thank you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Launch of Month 9 Books!

Yesterday, Month 9 Books (my publisher) launched on the Bookalicious Blog, and then today another post on Mundie Moms.

They revealed some great new covers and are giving away some great stuff, too.

Stop on over and check them out to learn more about Month 9 Books!

Blog Tour Schedule:
Be sure to follow each stop, as each blog will be revealing a different book(s)/series, as well as hosting a different blog tour at each stop. 
July 24-Mundie Moms

Monday, July 23, 2012

Awesome Book Reviews: MAGIC UNDER GLASS By Jaclyn Dolamore

Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act--singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton--Nimira believes it is the start of a new life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets stir.

Unsettling below-stairs rumors abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry's involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton's stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril. 

Review: Magic Under Glass was published in 2009, and since then, I've been wondering whether I should read it or not. Why? After reading the book's summary, I thought, "This just sounds too up my alley to be true", and I got scared. Would it disappoint me after enticing me with its awesome premise? Would I expect too much from its promised awesomeness? Then I read this review from one of my favorite authors, Maggie Stiefvater, and I thought, "Holy whoa, Maggie loved it. Which means I'll most likely love it, too."

Still, I didn't read Magic Under Glass. I was too, too scared of being duped.

Cut to Saturday night. I'd bought the book for my Kindle months before, but I was too chicken to read it back then. I let the book hang around until Saturday night. I said to myself, "WHAT IS YOUR MALFUNCTION?? Read it already!!!"

So I read Magic Under Glass. And I have one word to describe the experience: delightful.

The main character, Nimira, is my long lost friend. She's a nice mix of sweet and tough, a determined yet fearful heroine. She grew up as the daughter of a lord who fell out of favor in their homeland's court. As a result, her father shipped Nim off to Lorinar, where she becomes a "trouser girl" who must dance for money. Nim's voice and her attention to detail are refreshing to the point where I wanted to make out with my Kindle--I felt like I was right there with her in Lorinar, in Hollin Parry's estate, next to the piano with Erris, the automaton. 

And ERRIS. What can I say about this poor, poor creature? He's a boy stuck inside a machine, for the love of Jensen Ackles! I understood (and agreed) with Nim's attitude toward him--at first, she's wary of the fact that he makes noises in the failed attempt to speak, but soon after, all she wants is to find out how she can help him. She even devises a system of communication between them: each note of the piano represents a letter in the alphabet, and Erris spells out what he wants to say by playing her music. It killed me to see Erris struggle to explain his side of the story, why he's in the position he's in, and how he could be freed. But it warmed my heart to see Nim stand by him, even though she doesn't know who he is, and even more dire, she's not in Parry's estate to do anything but sing.

As a writer, I couldn't help but notice some writer-ly brilliance on Dolamore's part. She is a master at raising the stakes with each chapter, and even a greater master at showing you how those stakes will affect Nim's story. No choice is an easy one in this book, and even though I predicted some of the outcomes, I was pleasantly surprised by how well Dolamore crafted a logical, seamless plot. Also, the cast of characters complemented each other really well for me. Tension was high even in the more quiet scenes, which I find difficult to pull off in my writing. Dolamore not only entertains me with a compelling plot, she also schools me in the art of writing a compelling plot.

Don't make the same mistake I made, folks. If you enjoy a little steampunk with your fantasy, a little adventure with your romance, check out Magic Under Glass, which is available in bookstores now! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Winning the Bronze Medal

The other day some writer friends posed the question, "How will you know when you've made it?"

Only partly joking, I said, "What do you mean? I haven't made it yet???"

I was only partly joking because I know at one point, I said to myself that I'd be happy if only I could sell one book. And I have a book contracted with a small press! And yes, I'm really happy about it.

Some of the writers asking the question are objectively more successful than I am -- multiple books published by big presses. To me, they seem to have made it. It doesn't feel that way to them -- there are literary, personal, and financial goals they haven't accomplished yet, and many other writers are achieving greater success. 

This reminded me of a study I read of Olympic medal winners that found that bronze medalists tend  to be happier than silver medalists. It turns out that bronze medalists focused on the alternative of winning no medal, whereas silver medalists focused on the alternative of winning a gold medal (Medvec, Madey, & Gilovich, 1995). It turns out that the expression is partly true: You don't win silver. You lose goal. But you win bronze.

So I'm a bronze medalist!  Yay!

I'm realistic about what being published means: my book will have an opportunity to reach readers. I also know what it doesn't mean: I'll be in the major chains, bestseller lists, mobbed by fans at cons. Maybe next time!

Because yes, goal posts move. I'm still writing, still trying to sell more books. The idea that I'd be happy with one contract ever wasn't true. But I'm right now, I'm standing on a podium, smiling and waving with a bronze medal around my neck.

How will you know when you've made it? What are your goal posts and milestone markers?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Proposal Pros and Cons and the Amazing Time Suck that is Glee

So...I have been a TERRIBLE little blogger the last few weeks. My personal blog is a ghost town, and I missed my post on this blog last week.

The reason: I've been working on several proposals to send off to my publisher and with my kids at home for the summer (and my newfound and totally sidetracking obsession with Glee) work on the proposals is sometimes slow going.

Now there are many good and bad things about being able to sub on proposal.

Pro: I can sell a book based on a few chapters and the synopsis

Con: Those chapters need to rock. And I have to know how things are going to play out so I can do the synopsis. This is not easy for me.

Pro: Only needing to do a few chapters up front means I can focus my time on projects that have found a home, rather than on projects I just hope will find a home.

Con: Getting distracted is actually easier, I think, because in my head I'm thinking "Oh, I don't have that much work to do. I can afford to blow an entire day on a Glee marathon." And this just isn't true. Work needs to come first. But it feels true. And I want it to be true so bad. (Curse you Glee!!)

Pro: I can play around with all these awesome ideas I have, writing the first few chapters and spending some time outlining as I develop the story for the synopsis. I LOVE to brainstorm.

Con: SO MANY SHINY IDEAS!!! I still need to focus. Focusing is hard.

For the most part, I'm having a blast. I love swimming around in my idea file and pulling out a few that I think will make great stories. I love spending a little time with each one and I love that I have an amazing editor to share them with.

I just. Need. To. FOCUS.

And things like kids who are bored because it's too hot to play outside, cute new kitties running through the house, fun friends to talk to, awesome pages from awesome writer peeps to read, a never-ending TBR pile, and finding shows on Netflix that have three seasons of twenty-something hour-long episodes a piece that I must watch immediately *coughcurseyougleecough* sometimes make focusing on work a little difficult. Even when deadlines are looming :)

How is your summer going?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Embrace The Suck

There are certain things that are a given:

1) Day turns into night.

2) I like chocolate. And cookies. And cake.

3) First drafts can suck!

I know suck may be a harsh word, but they call them first drafts for a reason. They have a certain amount of suckage built into them.


The pacing may be off. You might introduce a secondary character only to forget about them halfway through. Oops. Hasty addition time! Been calling your love interest Jensen for 20k, but then discover your MC making out with some dude called Jake? Hmmm. Adverbs bleed from the page. Purple prose That brilliant plot twist doesn't quite fit. Darn it. Who says it needs to be logical? *giggles*

What to do?

Write on! Embrace that suck. Get the words out.

There's a reason books get polished in revision. You can't revise an empty page, but you can revise through the roadblocks and errors to uncover the shiny prose beneath.

Happy writing!

Monday, July 16, 2012

First Draft = Batmobile Golf Cart

Confession: I want this Batmobile Golf Cart. No, I don't play golf. No, I don't have the money to purchase a Batmobile Golf Cart.


Second confession: I reached 50k on my WIP a few days ago. While skimming through my 50k first draft, I realized two things. 1) It is in the Major League of OMG Suckage; 2) It is in said League because it has what I like to call the Batmobile Golf Cart Issue.

Batmobile Golf Cart Issue
--a first draft that consists of a bunch of stuff you want to include in a first draft, but ultimately, you sure as hell don't need. 

All my first drafts have the BGCI. Usually, I think Main Character should make This Decision. I also think Villain should take down Main Character using This Punk Move. I also also think Main Character and Love Interest should Make Out during This Scene where All The Giraffes Are Eating Bananas (disclaimer: there are no giraffes in my WIP, and I'm not entirely confident giraffes eat bananas at all). The thing is, when I come back to the WIP after some distance, I notice the level of suckage for what it truly is. 

You might want your giraffes to eat those bananas like total bosses, but if they do, what purpose does it serve your story? Do you need them to eat those bananas like total bosses at all? Or are you living out a childhood fantasy for the sake of living it?

Folks, I can't have the Batmobile Golf Cart. It hurts, but it's the truth.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must continue filling my first draft with Things It Doesn't Need But Will Disappear During Revisions.

Your turn: do your first drafts have the BGCI? If so, what's your most common offense?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July Mystery Agent Winners and Reveal

Unveiling our July Mystery Agent: 

Michelle Humphrey of Martha Kaplan Literary Agency

Before returning to the Martha Kaplan Agency, where she was previously an agent 2009-2010, Michelle Humphrey was an agent with International Creative Management and Sterling Lord Literistic. She has served as an assistant for Renee Zuckerbrot Agency and Anderson Literary and worked as an English teacher, proofreader, and freelance book reviewer.

For this month's contest, Michelle requested a first line contest instead of a one-line pitch, and she explains what grabbed her in each winner. Without further adieu, the winners!

Michelle's Picks and Comments

Runner Up #3: Ari Susu-Mago / UNFAMILIAR SPELLINGS. First line: "It was way too early to be awake and this idea was stupid." 
First, I should say, I'm drawn to first lines that both establish an interesting character and set a plot in motion, and this opener definitely does both. I already like this protagonist because she's not a morning person (something I rather subjectively connect with) and I'm enamored with the humorous notion that she's embarking on something she feels is a bad idea; my interest is piqued to discover what this bad idea might be, and I'd like to read on.

Runner Up #2: Janice Sperry / SHE CAME FROM THE HILL. First line: "Nothing thrived at the far end of the park." 
Interestingly, this line doesn't quite follow my formula of establishing character and plot, but rather evokes what is, to me, a very intriguing setting. I have a sense of what this section of the park looks like -- dead trees, junkyard stuff on the ground,  lots of shadows -- it successfully conjures a mood and an archetypal place that has an immediacy and makes me want to read on.

Runner Up #1: Nikki Urang / BROKEN. First line: "Red and blue lights dance off the roof of my mother's car." 
I love the duality of the line: we are about to encounter the police and the tension that follows, as well as meet the character who caused the trouble in the first place. I also suspect the narrator is a counterpoint to the mom, and likely a reasonable sort of young person with a wry sense of humor. (I'm particularly enamored with the way the police are evoked -- a concise, light-hearted description of their lights dancing. ) Well done.

WINNER: LL McKinney / COVETED. First line: Caleb learned long ago being friends with Martin MacMurty required two things, inhuman patience and a tolerance for impromptu fashion shows. 
This is the line that made me (and my intern Aimee) laugh out loud. Martin MacMurty, in one line, successfully comes across as a quirky and humorout character; as a counterpoint, Caleb comes across as tolerant and cynical, almost Martin's "straight man" buddy. And, I suspect that tension between the two will follow shortly. So: we have the establishment of two characters, really effective humor (which is partly effective because the line is so concisely worded), and the promise of conflict. Really nicely done.

Congrats to the winners! Runners-Up should send a query and 10 pages to Michelle at Winner, please send your full.

Michelle also answered a few more questions about what she's looking for and is open to other queries as well.

On to the questions!

What kind of books are you most interested in seeing right now?
Middle grade and Young Adult contemporary. Also, I'd love a murder mystery, something intricate, like an Agatha Christie YA or middle grade. I'm also looking for non-fiction picture books -- perhaps a biography about someone from the 20th Century who accomplished something important, but who appears to be a bit overlooked by the history books.

Rejections often say "I couldn't connect with your character." What makes a main character appeal to you?
In the first three pages or so, I look for a character's nuances: specific details that make her/him both likeable and flawed, as well as a sense that this is a character who very clearly desires something, and they're nowhere near getting it.  As a writing teacher, I loved doing an exercise where the class would read the first five pages of a book, and make a list of all the memorable details about the main character - things that were really quirky, unusual, contradicting, and surprising (and thus, human.)  The more "quirky" details I get about a character, the more likely I'll connect. 

Can you tell us about any recent or upcoming client books you're excited about?
I'm very excited about Denise Jaden's NEVER ENOUGH, a young-adult novel about two sisters, one of whom struggles with bulimia. It's a poignant, moving, and very page-turning story; I'm also excited about 37 THINGS I LOVE by Kekla Magoon, which came out last spring, a young-adult novel about a girl who deals with a quickly-changing friendship with her best friend while her family goes through difficult times (her dad is in a coma and she and her mom are at odds over the decision to remove him from life support). Both books have been getting great reviews.

Other than client books, what other recent books have you enjoyed?
I'm in a book club, so other books would include what we have been choosing to read as a group: QUIET, by Susan Cain, POSSESSION by A.S. Byatt, and DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Eric Larson. We read a lot of adult fiction and non-fiction, but I'm hopeful our next pick will be a YA. :)

Thank you to Michelle and all the participants, and congrats to the winners. Come back August 1 for our next Mystery Agent contest -- get your pitches and first lines ready. You never know when you have a chance to pitch!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Amarok Contest Alert!

J.L. Spelbring is hosting our own Angela Townsend with a fun interview and awesome contest with even awesomer (yes that's a word! :D ) prizes. Head on over and enter - and spread the word!! Contest ends Saturday!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Share it Maybe?

I decided that it's time for some Wednesday fun. Just a little something to, hopefully, make you smile.


Monday, July 9, 2012

What I Learned From A Bachelorette Party

So. A friend of mine is getting married later this week, and last night, she hosted a bachelorette party. There were no Magic Mikes in attendance. We weren't in a nightclub or in Vegas or InTheMiddleOfNowhere. My friend opted for dinner by the sea, accompanied by the ladies in her family and girlfriends. I thought it was great of her to want something on the low-key side--it gave us tons of chances to just... talk

At one point, my friend's mom asked everyone in attendance to do a sort of roundtable and dispense advice for the bride to be. Most people told her to make Patience her new best friend, and to never let an argument live longer than it should. 

I told her to cling to surprise. To keep things unexpected, not monotonous. But not just for her marriage, but for herself as well. I want my friend to be happy, and to me, happiness comes from magical things like love (romantic and non-romantic), art (of all kinds), and Channing Tatum experiences I haven't had yet but am willing to pursue.

Don't fall into a rut, folks. And when you do, remember That Thing You Haven't Done Yet But Are Aching For. Then go ahead and do it. :)

Now tell me: how do you keep things surprising and fresh in your writing?   

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Short Thoughts on Short Stories

Lately I've been writing in short formats -- short stories, picture books, magazine stories.

I started out in college writing short stories, like most creative writing majors, but the genre didn't appeal to me that much as much as novels -- they are often too open-ended for me as a writer and reader. But now I'm writing for children, from preschool to YA, and stories are more tightly structured and compressed, with a real beginning, middle and end. As a reader and writer, that contained story has its appeals and challenges -- character, voice, plot, and (in the case of spec fiction) world-building in a few pages or even a few dozen pages? Hard!

Why short formats?
It may be that my attention span or commitment isn't there for another novel, but the ideas that have been calling to me are short. I hope it helps me in my novel writing and revision -- it's easier to pay attention to every word when their are fewer of them. I tend to write long, I'm hoping I can retrain myself to be more succinct and precise even in longer works.

But mostly, I think there are more opportunities for shorter formats now because they are so effective  on e-readers. There are more markets -- anthologies aplenty in addition to magazines, and stand-alone e-publishing, whether self-published or small press. Five years ago, a novelette or novella had few options. Now novellas are hitting the New York Times Best Sellers lists (Cari Quinn's NO DRESS REQUIRED, Entangled Flirt) and being optioned for film (Hugh Howley's WOOL, self-published sci-fi series). Established writers are self-publishing story collections, previously published, or those that otherwise might not have found a home. Traditional publishers and self-publishers alike are releasing free or inexpensive digital prequels or shorts to build interest in new titles.

Do you write or read more short fiction lately? What are your thoughts on the new markets and trends?

If you write shorter fiction, here are a few interesting calls for submissions I've come across

Luna Station Quarterly - speculative fiction written by women, including science fiction, space opera, new fairy tales, deadline August 15.

Real Girls Don't Rust, Pugalicious Press - YA steampunk anthology for short stories 5500 to 7500 words, deadline September 1.

Science Fiction/Fantasy, Chamberton Press -  Short fiction with SF/fantasy themes (YA and crossover) new worlds, alternate universes, fairies, vampires, werewolves, deadline August 1.

StoneThread Fantasy & Science Fiction Short Story Contest, StoneThread Publishing - anthology honoring Ray Bradbury, deadline July 31. 

Young Adult Anthology, Chamberton Press - YA shorts that "inspire hope, feature main characters that have overcome great odds/obstacles, or leave the reader inspired," deadline September 1.

Friday, July 6, 2012

I Dream of Genies


Much has been written about them, but they're still this magical, little-understood miracle in our lives. They can be deeply disturbing, simply shocking, or absolutely blissful. Sometimes they don't make a lick of sense. Other times, we get our stories from them, carefully crafted by someone other than our own conscious minds.

This is how Twilight was born.

I've read of other authors who use their dreams exclusively in writing their fiction. They've even learned to manipulate their dreams, follow different story lines, back up and start again when it veers off in the 'wrong' direction.

As for me, I am not in control of my dreams. Occasionally I have one that's too disturbing to continue and I wake up with a horrified gasp, slightly less dramatic than in the movies.

But most of all, I notice a spike in storylines in my dreams when I haven't written anything new in a while and my mind really wants me to start imagining again.

In the past month alone, I've dreamed of time travel, whodunit murder mystery on a cruise ship, a love triangle involving a seemingly ordinary girl and two brothers, animals that foretell the future in an ominously human voice, and explosions of major landmarks.

I find myself in the shower afterward trying to weave these separate points into one cohesive story. It's enough to make me laugh out loud at my own subconscious. Some elements shouldn't be combined into a single story, and the attempt is nothing short of hilarious.

You probably won't be reading my "Dr. Who meets Agatha Christie with talking animals" for young adult readers any time soon. But it's opened up my imagination a bit to contemplate the idea. And I never would have dreamed of combining those elements... if I hadn't dreamed them first.

What role do your dreams play in your writing life? 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pseudonym or No Pseudonym...That is the Question

I write historical romances for Entangled Publishing. But I am also getting ready to turn in proposals for two paranormal romances. I know several authors who write different genres under different names and also some who write different genres under the same name.

I have no idea what I should do :D

Do you have a preference? If you had a favorite author who wrote Genre A, and then you did a search to find more Genre A and found Genre B, would you assume they no longer write Genre A and not keep up with their books? Would you try a different genre by an author you like even if it's not one you usually read?

Or does the name not matter at all? My main concern has always been confusion when trying to build my "brand" or for my readers when looking for my books. However, maybe that isn't such a big concern anymore (at least when it comes to searching.) After all, when you search for an author on Amazon or google, it pulls up all their books.

I'm just not sure :) I can see the merits for both using a pen name and keeping everything under my own name. This is a question I've bounced around a lot over the years, but it's something I may have to make a decision on soon and I'm a little stumped :)

If you were to write more than one genre, would you write them under separate names? Why or why not?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Van Der Faces of Queries

I was thinking that it's been a while since I did a GIF post. So here is a little bit of something to, hopefully, make you smile.

You get an email from an agent you queried:

It's a form rejection:

It's a partial request:

It's a full request:

The wait is over. An email from the awesome agent lands in your e-mail. 

The form rejection:


The personalised rejection:

The "I'm not quite in love with this as much as I wanted to be, but send me your next project" face:

There's the "Can we arrange a time to talk" face:

And the "I'd love to offer you representation" face: 

Happy 4th of July! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

J.K. Rowling's New Cover....What do you think of it?

So I know that this is two posts from me in one day. I just couldn't help myself this time. Have you all seen the cover reveal of J.K. Rowling's new book. If you haven't here it is!!

Tah DAH!!!!

Hmm....  Can you imagine the conversation that took place between the publisher and the artist.


Publisher: Hey! I have some exciting news for you!!

Artist: Yeah? What's that?

Publisher: We want YOU to do JK. Rowling's new book cover!!!

Artist: (Screams and jumps up and down, wetting himself on the floor).  REALLY?!!!

Publisher: Yeah! Isn't it awesome!!

Artist: WOO HOOO!!! So, what do you need me to do?? (His creative juices start flowing.)

Publisher: Well....We want you to make... (dramatic pause) a red cover...

Artist: And.... (growing more excited)

Publisher: Yes, a red cover with white writing.

Artist: (leans forward in his chair)

Publisher: And then, we want you to make a black square and but an "X" in it!!

Artist: (Waits for the publisher to continue.)

Publisher: Well?

Artist: Well what? Aren't you going to tell me the rest?

Publisher: I told you the rest. 

Artist: That's it? Just a square and an "X"?

Publisher: And a red cover...oh, with yellow trim.

Artist: (crickets)

Publisher: You still there? Aren't you EXCITED!!

Artist: Um... yeah sure. 

Publisher: We'll need it in 2 months. Think you can get it done by then.

Artist: I just sent it. Finished it already.


Just for fun, I did a quick mock up of the cover. What'cha think?  (grin)  Oh, and tell me what you think of Rowling's cover. And regardless of the simplicity, I will SO be there to buy it when it comes out. :o)

Writing a Synopsis and Cleaning Toilets

So, in case you haven't heard yet, I have a book coming out next year (whoo hoo!) But with the good, comes the stressful. Soon, I have to write a synopsis for book 2.

If you're like me, you hate synopsis writing more than sticking splinters under your fingernails. Or probably a better comparison, cleaning 100 toilets. It's dirty, and nasty, but its a job that has to be done.

And, just like cleaning toilets, having the right tools can help you write a synopsis. It's not like we would clean all those stinky toilets with our bare hands. Right? So there are tools that can help you with the job of synopsis writing. For toilets, you have gloves, toilet brushes, cleaner.......ahem......well, you get the idea.

So, I'm asking you all: What is your favorite resource for synopsis writing?

And while your at it, what is your favorite toilet cleaning product. :o) Personally I like Green Works cleaner, because it feels lets toxic and vaporous than other cleansers.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monsters University And The Problem With Crossover Appeal

So. There's this movie from Pixar I really like. Well, there's a lot of movies from Pixar I really like--and love--but this post is about one in particular. It's called Monsters, Inc. Maybe you've seen it. Maybe you haven't. Either way, there's a sequel (which is really a prequel) coming next year. That one's called Monsters University

Here's the trailer:

You have your usual suspects (Wazowski and Sully) dealing with their usual stuff (mastering the fine art of creeping kids out). So far, so good. 

But now they're in college.

Studying like crazy for exams. Throwing parties in their dorms. With disco lights. 

And this is a movie for children. 

Or is it a movie for children?

That's the thing--Monsters, Inc. (along with plenty of other animated films) has huge crossover appeal. But at its core, that first film in the franchise stayed true to what it was about: kids getting scared, and the kindhearted monsters who do the scaring. Adults and young adults loved the movie because it was funny, heartwarming, and unlike anything they'd ever seen in animated films (that's what I'm assuming, anyway).

But how do kids--the real audience for these films--relate to college students? Sure, they're still dealing with monster-ly things like mastering the fine art of creeping kids out, BUT this movie isn't about the kids anymore. It's about the monsters and their shenanigans while obtaining a higher education. 

I am not saying Monsters University is going to suck. I'm actually looking forward to seeing it. What I'm saying is this: crossover appeal is a consequence, not a goal. If you try to please too many audiences, you'll end up losing sight of what your story is truly about. Of course, some authors set out to write something that catches everyone's attention and knocks their socks off, but most of the time? Total accident. They wrote a story for someone, and they wrote it well (or super passionately). 

My advice? Know who you're writing for, and write the best book you can for that someone. They deserve your best. You deserve your best.   

Now tell me: which books/movies have you read/seen that have crossover appeal, but don't seem to try hard in achieving it? 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July Mystery Agent Contest



If you missed this month's contest, another is coming August 1! Like us on Facebook, follow the blog, or follow us individually so you won't miss the announcement.

Don't forget to come back for the Mystery Agent and winner reveal!

It's time for our July Mystery Agent contest with a twist -- FIRST LINES!

Here's a quick reminder of what our awesome Mystery Agent is looking for:

Middle grade and YA novels, especially contemporary, historical, fantasy, and reinvented fairy tale.

The rules:

1) Entries must be left in the comments section of today's post (please
don't email us your entries!) -- don't pay attention to the comment
numbers. We'll close the contest when we've reached our limit.

2) You must have a completed manuscript that's ready to send upon request.

3) You can only enter once today (only one project). If you participated
or won previous MA contests, you can enter this one as well.

4) Please include TITLE and GENRE along with your first line.

5) Include your FIRST SENTENCE. The exact word count is up to you, but please remember to make it sing!

6) The contest will close when we receive 50 entries.

7) The winner will receive a FULL manuscript request! The Mystery Agent will request 10 pages and query from THREE RUNNERS UP.

8) If the rules aren't followed, your entry will be disqualified. Please read the guidelines and follow them.

Good luck to all who enter!