Saturday, November 30, 2013

Spreadsheet Trackers: I Need Your Help

It's almost 2014! Can you believe it? I can't. Life is just flying by. :)

I'm working on a new word tracker for next year that I'm hoping to have ready to post on December 28th, and I wanted to get some feedback from those of you who have used the ones I've made in the past. 

The first one I posted back in March, and then I did one specifically for NaNoWriMo. I'd like to use features from both for next year's tracker. I'm just wondering what you liked and what you didn't like. Anything you really hated? Any features you'd like to see that aren't included in either? 

Please leave any thoughts or suggestions in the comments. Or if you prefer to email me directly, you can do so by clicking here

Thanks in advance for any and all feedback! I really appreciate the help. :)

Friday, November 29, 2013

You found ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE OF MY HEART!


Buy Another Little Piece of My Heart
I'm so thrilled to be part of the Scavenger Hunt for Tracey Martin's YA contemporary Another Little Piece of My Heart, releasing December 1! Comment on this blog for a chance to win Harlequin TEEN books and swag, and collect all 12 songs on the Scavenger Hunt to win the fabulous grand prize. 

But more importantly, read the book, which is irresistibly sweet, bitter, and true.  

Here's what Another Little Piece of My Heart is about: 

What if your devastating break-up became this summer’s hit single? In this rock-and-roll retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, music can either bring you together or tear you apart.

At her dying mother’s request, Claire dumps Jared, the only boy she’s ever loved. Left with a broken family and a broken heart, Claire is furious when she discovers that her biggest regret became Jared’s big break. While Jared is catapulted into rock-star status, another piece of Claire’s heart crumbles every time his song plays on the radio.

The summer after her senior year, it’s been months since the big break-up, and Claire is just trying to keep her head down and make it through a tense trip to the beach with her family. But when Jared shows up, and old feelings reignite, can Claire and Jared let go of the past? Or will they be stuck singing the same old refrain.
  

Here are the scavenger hunt directions:

In my post, you’ll notice that I’ve linked to one song from the Another Little Piece of My Heart Claire’s Summer Survival Playlist. There are 12 songs on the playlist in total, and therefore 12 stops on the scavenger hunt (posting from November 29 – December 1). Find them all, and discover 12 chances to win great Harlequin TEEN books and Another Little Piece of My Heart swag.

But there’s more! One grand-prize winner will be randomly drawn to receive a $25 iTunes gift card in addition to books and swag! To enter for the grand prize, send the complete, 12-song playlist, along with your contact information (including the address where you’d like to receive your prize) to the author by using this contact form: http://tracey-martin.com/contact/. The winner will be notified by email after the contest ends on December 5th.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the playlist using the contact form above by December 5th at noon Eastern Time. Entries sent without the correct playlist or without contact information will not be considered.

Here's what I think about Another Little Piece of My Heart:

I first read this book as a beta reader, and I was in love. As an underestimated middle sister, I've always had an affinity for Anne Elliott out of all Jane Austen heroines. But what if Anne didn't fade away after disappointed love, but dyed her hair bright orange, moved to a beach town, and joined a band? That's Claire. She's funny, outspoken, and smart. 

And so is Jared -- her one-time musical match, but now an international rockstar, out of her league -- and her life, unless they can stop being outspoken and just say what they really want.

Martin is a great writer, and Claire is a likeable, realistic character, one whose head I like to be in.


Here's the scavenger hunt song:


Song #3 in Claire’s Summer Survival Playlist 
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, “Running Down a Dream”

iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/runnin-down-a-dream/id359171619?i=359171994&uo=4

Here's how to enter the Operation Awesome contest:


Comment here by December 5 to enter the Operation Awesome giveaway of three Harlequin TEEN backlist titles as well as ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE OF MY HEART buttons and bookmarks. Easy!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

May your Thanksgiving holiday be filled with lots of good food and even more good books :)



Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Operation Awesome!

Don't forget to top off your holiday weekend with our Mystery Editor Contest on Sunday, December 1st! Here are the details:
*50 entries, with one-line pitch and first 250 words.
*M.E. (Mystery Editor) is currently seeking Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult contemporary romance. *Not currently interested in YA paranormal.
*Grand prize winner gets a 10-page critique, and M.E. will request at least 2 full manuscripts for consideration.
*The contest opens on December 1st at 10am Eastern Standard Time.

Also, the awesome authors on my other blog, Scene 13, are doing a Gratitude Giveaway - you can enter to win a ton of awesome prizes (can you say FREE BOOKS!!) :D So head on over and enter!! CLICK HERE TO ENTER.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Successful Query & Another Query Crit Opportunity

Details on another opportunity to get your query critiqued are at the end of this post--just enter through the Rafflecopter!

But before we get into the critiquing, I thought I'd share the query that got me my agent (if you follow that link, be aware there are some f-bombs in the post--which I would never use on Operation Awesome!).

An even earlier version of my pitch for Crow's Rest is viewable here, in a video I submitted to Pitch University. A pitch I wrote before I'd even started the book, mind you. And there is some useful info in the comments, so be sure to check out those.

By the time I'd finished writing the book (and rewriting the ending), the focus of the pitch had changed to make it clearer that Crow's Rest is urban fantasy rather than paranormal:

Crow's Rest is a 72,000-word young adult urban fantasy novel with the wry humor of Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy series and the dark fantasy feel of Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series.

Sixteen-year-old Avery arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam's, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel. Instead, she discovers Daniel's body has been taken over by a corbin, a Fae which usually crosses into our world by inhabiting crows.

The corbin, Lonan, warns her that some of his kin are no longer satisfied with crow bodies. Or even the occasional accommodating human. They want to come here in their natural forms, with their full, terrible powers intact. It’s happened before, leading to the fall of Rome and the Dark Ages, but this time Lonan has been sent to stop them.

But in exchange for Avery’s help with his mission, she insists he bring Daniel back. They make a deal for the two boys to share Daniel’s body, switching between personalities in an uneasy truce. Until she starts to fall for the charming Lonan and realizes that even if they do save the world, only one of the boys will get sole custody of the body—leaving her heartbroken either way.


(Substituting an earlier version of this line here, since the one that ended up in this query is spoilery) Meanwhile, she discovers her family’s roots reach deeper into Faerie than she ever imagined, proving crucial to the survival of both worlds. 

I am a PAL member of SCBWI whose past publishing credits include a MG short story, “Hornworms", in Hunger Mountain, a YA short story called "Ebb Tide" which took third place in the WOW! Women on Writing Spring 2010 Flash Fiction Contest, and numerous nonfiction pieces in such magazines as Birds & Blooms and Sierra Heritage Magazine. In 2012, I received our SCBWI Regional Chapter’s grant to attend the International Conference in Los Angeles, based on sample pages of Crow’s Rest. I also contribute to the group blog, Operation Awesome, and started an auction in 2012 called Pens for Paws, which offers critiques and swag from agents and authors to raise money for a no-kill cat sanctuary, Fat Kitty City.


I had a pretty decent request rate with this query before agent/attorney Eric Ruben offered representation. And incidentally, Eric participates in both #AskAgent and #tenqueries on Twitter, which are great resources for writers polishing their queries.

And without further ado, the query critique details! Once again I'm calling for brave souls who would like to get their query critiqued by me (Angelica), and other OAers who will chime in as their schedule allows. Plus, the public can add their thoughts and encouragement in the comments.



The Rafflecopter will be open through December 1st, and the critiqued query will go up on December 9th. We need a contact in your entry, but it's okay to disguise your email from bots by formatting it like youremail (at) gmail (dotcom).

So if you're up for joining us in this experiment, you must sign up below. And then leave a comment telling us what age/genre your book is. This last bit has no bearing on whether you are selected since Rafflecopter does the choosing for us, but it's always interesting to see what you're working on. We will be emailing the winner and announcing their name on Twitter and Facebook on December 2nd, so it's worth your while to follow those accounts!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Another Spin of the Wheel

Many blog posts have come and gone while I have waited to share this news, and now I finally can. From Publishers Marketplace:
Kell Andrews’s DEADWOOD, when an ancient tree sends a message through carvings in its bark, seventh graders must break a code and a curse to save their doomed town…because the message isn’t just about the tree, to Jennifer Carson at Spencer Hill Press, by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

Woohoo! A new contract for my debut novel, DEADWOOD. But yes, DEADWOOD was contracted before. As one of my friends quipped, it's a book so nice I sold it twice.

I wrote about the story on my blog here -- how I took a chance on a new small press, and how even though the publisher folded, the chance still worked out for the best. My wonderful editor Jennifer Carson offered me a new contract at Spencer Hill Press, where she is now senior editor.

I took a good chance. But you know what? It was a good chance even before I got the new contract. I'm really proud that I put my book through a small press, even thought I knew it was a risk.

Certainly all small presses aren’t the same. There is a wide range in the category — new and old, tiny and mid-size, traditional, e-only, and POD. Some offer advances, and some don’t. Some are genre specialists, and others are literary fiction vanguards. Some are open to unagented submissions, and some are closed. Some have great bookstore distribution, and others sell chiefly online. There is a range of quality in acquisitions, editing, marketing, and covers, from the highest standards to strictly amateur. Inevitably, some will grow into the big presses of the future (look at Spencer Hill!), and others will disappear. Yep, a lot of them will disappear.

So I did my research. I had realistic expectations. And most importantly, I had a fair contract and I was working with people I trusted.

And lucky me -- I still am. I get work with Jenn again, and my middle-grade contemporary fantasy will reach new readers when the new edition is re-released by Spencer Hill, a fast-growing, dynamic publisher with greater reach and distribution than before.

Ready for another spin of the wheel...



Friday, November 22, 2013

From Mystery Agent to Real, Live Book!

The most exciting M.A. success stories for me are the ones I get to see become real, actual books! From pitch to agent to publisher! Nancy Herman's ALL WE LEFT BEHIND didn't follow that path exactly. After our very first Mystery Agent Contest, in which Nancy won a runner-up spot with her pitch for a story about a young girl in the Donner Party, I was optimistic that this unique, haunting story would someday be sold. Sure enough, Mandy Hubbard signed Nancy as a client! In my mind it was only a matter of time. But things don't always work the way we anticipate, and a year passed, then more time. Nancy was awesome to keep us posted on the status of their efforts, and when I learned the submission round had stopped I was afraid Nancy's book would disappear. 

At the start of September, however, OA was pleased to reveal the cover of ALL WE LEFT BEHIND by Nancy Herman! With her agent's blessing, Nancy was going ahead with indie publishing.

And now Virginia Reed's story is out in the world for you to read!

Goodreads  Amazon

It is 1846, and thirteen-year-old Virginia Reed is pioneering two-thousand miles from Illinois to California with her parents, younger sister and brother, and the Donner family. She’s proud to ride ahead of the wagon train each day beside her beloved father, James.

But enthusiasm turns to alarm when her father and other party leaders make decisions that put the families dangerously behind schedule. Provisions dwindle. Hardships mount. Anger erupts. In a frantic effort to reach California before winter, the Donner Party takes an untried shortcut, with heartbreaking results. 
Virginia painfully realizes the fallibility of the adults in her life and begins to rely on her own judgment. When the party becomes trapped in the Sierra by early snows, she must find the courage to defy her father in order to save the rest of her family.

We are so thrilled to see Nancy's book out and about! Congratulations, Nancy!

In her own words:

I asked Nancy for the highest and lowest points in her journey: 

There were so many of each. But the highest point was receiving the very first copy of my published book in the mail and actually holding it in my hands. It was a moment I had imagined for a long time. The lowest point was probably the very first time an editor told me my manuscript (first draft) wasn't ready for publication. And I thought it was perfect the way it was! What a reality check. I had so much to learn. I've lost count
of the rewrites and revisions that followed!


Advice for other authors?

The most valuable thing I did when beginning to write fiction was to join a critique group. We were all members of SCBWI, and we learned and evolved together by analyzing one another's manuscripts in a very supportive atmosphere. The surprising advantage of the critique group is that I learned just as much about
where I needed to improve by critiquing others' manuscripts as I did by getting helpful feedback from them about my own.


LOVE THE COVER! Who designed it?

Yes, isn't the cover fabulous! It was designed by Victoria Faye Alday of Whit&Ware Design. She really nailed the emotion of Virginia's story in that illustration.


Now that Virginia's story is out in the world, what's next for you?

Marketing this book! My career background is in marketing communications, so I actually enjoy this part of the process. And I'm researching my next novel, also based on California history. 


Awesome! Thank you for spending some time with OA and CONGRATULATIONS!!! 

Mandy Hubbard thinks you should read it!


Happy reading, everybody! And don't forget to get primed for December 1st:

Contest Basics: 50 entries, with one-line pitch and first 250 words. M.E. (Mystery Editor) is currently seeking Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult contemporary romance. Not currently interested in YA paranormal. Grand prize winner gets a 10-page critique, and M.E. will request at least 2 full manuscripts for consideration. The contest opens on December 1st at 10am Eastern Standard Time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dead Jed by Scott Craven


Today I wanted to put a plug in for one of my fellow authors from Month9 Books.




Dead Jed: Adventures of A Middle School Zombie  


Coming December 1, 2013. Preorder Now!



Jed is not your typical middle school geek. He is, to use the politically correct term, "cardiovascularly challenged." And though his parents attempted to shield him from the implications of being different for as long as they could, when Jed was eight and at a friend's sister's birthday party, he blew his lips off onto the cake in front of everyone, finally prompting the Big Talk—and an emergency SuperGlue repair by his dad. Now as a target of Robbie, the supreme school bully, and his pack of moronic toadies, seventh grade at Pine Hollow Junior High is rapidly becoming unbearable. From being stuffed in a trash can as "dead meat" and into a trophy case as the bully's "prize," to literally having his hand pulled off in the boys' room and a cigarette put in it to try to frame him for the recent reports of smoking in the school, Jed's had enough and is ready to plan his revenge. (Jed's always losing body parts, but luckily, with a good stapler and some duct tape, he's back in action.) But Jed finds that it's awesome what you can do when you're already dead! He goes from underground underdog to over-the-top hero and proves you don't have to be living to have a lot of heart. For every kid who's ever felt different, been picked on, or kicked out, this is a heartwarming and funny story about surviving middle school, making friends, and keeping your limbs.




Amazon Link
Goodreads





And here is the new book trailer for Dead Jed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November Mystery Agent Reveal + Winners!

Thank you so much to all who participated in the November Mystery Agent contest - we loved reading your pitches! And our fabulous MA is..

Kaylee Davis from Dee Mura Literary!
Growing up in The Middle of Nowhere, Ohio, Kaylee’s lifeline to sanity was the local library where she nurtured her love of all things literary. Kaylee received a B.A. in English Literature and a B.A. in Sociology from Miami University, and she is certified in Copyediting from Emerson College. Recognized for her obsessive-compulsive attention to detail and crazy-fast reading ability, Kaylee joined the team as a professional copyeditor, proofreader, and administrative assistant. She has recently been promoted to Associate Literary Agent.
Find her on Twitter at @kaylee_davis_  
And the winners are...
Grand Prize (1): full manuscript req (with query+synopsis) with feedback

GYRE

Honorable Mention (5): first 50 pages req (with query+synopsis) with feedback

PIECES OF ME
SATELLITE HEARTS
MACHA AND THE RIVER BLUE
REDWING
TOTALLY SUPER

Congratulations to all the winners! Please shoot us an e-mail at operationawesome6(at)gmail(dot)com for submission instructions!
 

And to learn a little more about Kaylee, see the interview below:


1. Any tips for writers struggling with their pitches? Common mistakes you see in them?


Think of a 140-character pitch as an opportunity to create a big impact while encapsulating the overall essence of your project. The most common mistake I see is when a writer is too generic and there’s nothing to really get excited about—the ultimate point of a pitch is to get your reader excited! Effective pitches are concise and evocative, and they focus on what makes your manuscript stand out.

Here’s a great example of a successful pitch*:

YA sci-fi: Sleeping Beauty meets Avatar in a world that pits cyborgs against humans, and Prince Charming is the rebel leader.

This pitch gave me goosebumps and I just had to know more. Immediate request.

*For more info on the fate of this pitch, please see below!

2. What books have you read lately that you've fallen in love with (your clients' or others')?

Of course I’m obsessed with all my clients’ work, and could never pick a favorite. But some other things I’ve read lately and have loved are The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Both have the character development and emotional depth that really sticks with me long after I’m done reading. And that’s pure gold.

3. What are you seeing a lot of in your slush pile lately? What would you like to see more of?

I’m one of those crazy people who actually loves my slush pile. I have found almost all of my writers this way, and even though it’s sometimes like finding a needle in a haystack, the process can be so incredibly rewarding.

That being said, I can’t say enough how often I see writers make the same mistakes:
- Not following submission guidelines. All writers deserve to start out on an equal playing field, no exceptions.
- Taking query rejections personally. I understand how getting a rejection can feel personal, but I promise it’s not. And ultimately you shouldn’t want to be represented by someone who’s not 150% behind you and your work.

- Querying too soon. My general advice for fiction is to get feedback from trustworthy people who aren’t family members or otherwise morally indebted to say you’re fantastic no matter what. Consider the feedback seriously and as objectively as possible. Revise. Then rinse and repeat until you’re convinced your manuscript is the absolute best it can be. Then it’s ready to send out.



      Things that I wish I saw more of in my slush pile: 
- Writers who mention following me on Twitter (and actually do). If you check out my feed, I guarantee you’ll have a much better idea of what speaks to me and what I’m likely to request. And you’ll have access to pitch parties I participate in, as well as query critiques and other giveaways I do. So if you query me traditionally, don’t be humble here. Tell me you follow me, or saw my #MSWL post that matches your concept, or something I mentioned that is relevant to your project. It shows me that you’re serious as a writer because not only are you carefully researching agents you’re interested in, but you are also actively building your social media platform.
- Fiction that explores alternate worldviews, from the conspiracy theories of Ancient Aliens to the survivalist mentalities of Doomsday Preppers. Think fun, fascinating, and psychological.
- Steampunk in MG through Adult. I’m still looking for an engaging concept that’s fantastically executed.



      4. I loved that, in your wishlist, you said that you'd like to see projects that explore character growth and identity. Could you talk a little more about that?



       The thing is, IRL no one stays the same. Identity isn’t this static force, this constant that never wavers. As we grow we change, and our interactions with the world influence our internal and external identities.



        No matter the genre, I think the strongest storytelling incorporates this change. The characters who show growth in ways both profound and mundane are the most evocative and real. And that allows readers to connect more emotionally to them.





      5. Any exciting agency news you can share?

 

    To that pitch I mentioned above. The author is Dina von Lowenkraft, and I’m very happy to announce that I just signed her! : )



      It’s incredible to say I found a client directly via a social media pitch event. Here’s the story.



       Dina’s pitch was strong, and I had just mentioned on #MSWL that I was looking for a cyborg project. Dina and I were already Twitter buddies so I knew she was very active in the industry, both as a writer and as Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium. Most importantly, however, Dina’s synopsis and writing in the first 25 pages really spoke to me. I requested the full, and ended up reading into the wee hours of the morning.



     I made “the call” after coordinating around my trip to the annual SFWA Reception and the ridiculous time difference between Belgium and Boston. Dina and I talked for hours about everything imaginable and could have easily talked for hours more. Most importantly, though we made sure we shared the same vision for her manuscript and that we were on the same page about edits.



       Dina hadn’t yet begun querying traditionally but already other agents had shown interest in her work. I was incredibly flattered she had done her research and knew so wholeheartedly that she wanted to work together. I always have a warm fuzzy moment when a writer accepts, and it will always feel like glitter and fanfare and magic.



   

6. And a few just for fun:



      Coffee or Tea? Both! In this weather, I’m gravitating to a hot honey latte (or two, or three) in the AM and Moroccan mint tea in the PM.

      Sea or mountains? Sea. The ocean’s the new frontier!

      Chocolate or bacon? Chocolate, on popcorn.  

      Ebook or print book? Print. And organizing my bookshelf like a crazy person.

     Favorite tv show? Sherlock and Doctor Who are pretty tied for me right now.


Thank you for joining us this month, Kaylee, and thank you to everyone for being a part of the contest! And be on the lookout for our next contest on December 1st. Stay tuned for more details!
 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Inspiration Along The Road


(Pacific Coast Highway - Big Sur, CA)


The past several months have been a very inspirational time for me. While most of my writing ideas usually come in the shower, or while driving, recently most of my inspiration has come while I've been traveling.


The idea for my current manuscript, a Young Adult Historical Romance, came while visiting the Field Museum in Chicago this summer. It was impossible not to be bombarded by ideas while walking through this incredible place full of mystery, history, and relics of untold value.


 
(Field Museum, Chicago, IL)


After I finished this manuscript, I knew I needed to separate myself from it for a while. There was months of research involved, and it was an emotionally draining story to write, so I put it to the side to marinate for a while.


November was slowly approaching and I had a lot of friends doing NaNoWriMo. While I thought about taking a break, I knew I wanted to write something new. I had no idea what my next story would be until inspiration struck again during a planned trip to California.


Sure enough while driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur (see picture above) I was struck with my next idea. This time the story would be contemporary and in a category I had never written in - New Adult. I'm not sure if this manuscript will ever see the light of day, but it has been tons of fun to write, and it has gotten me out of my YA comfort zone.


So what about you? Where do you draw inspiration from? Family? Friends? Travel? 


I'd love to hear about it in the comments!



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Evolution of a Snowman

In honor of the first real snow of the season, I'm re-posting this from my personal blog. It was originally posted in January 2011. Enjoy! :)

Our family moved from Arizona to Idaho at the beginning of last year, so my kids don't have a lot of experience with snow. As a result, they haven't built many snowmen.  ßThis is still true in 2013.

We came up a several years ago (2006, I think) to visit family and that was my kids' first real experience with snow. This was their first snowman:


It wasn't really their fault this one turned out so sad since the snow didn't want to stick together, but still, he looked like he was already melting before they even finished. Poor thing.

When we moved here, I thought the kids would be all excited to get out there and make some awesome snowmen, but apparently, it's cold outside when it snows, so they resisted. Then we had the great blizzard of Nov 2010 (not as blizzardy as they made it sound like it would be) and since we were on break, the kids finally attempted another snowman.

They worked on it for quite a while, so I thought for sure this one was going to be huge. I promised not to look until they were done. My patience was rewarded with this:


Not bad, though it looks more like a cake than a snowman. I'm sorry, snowwoman. And my daughter wasn't very happy with me when I started laughing. But it was so not what I was expecting and sometimes, the laughter just can't be controlled.

So when the response to snowman #1 was less than satisfactory, they set out the next day to make another one. This was the result:


And so begins the tale of the girlfriend snowwoman and the boyfriend snowman, as told by my 11-year-old daughter. The boyfriend (on the left) had to go out for some reason in a terrible snowstorm. It was so bad it buried him up to his neck. His girlfriend went looking for him and when she found him, she ran in circles, waving her hands around, screaming, "Help! Help!" And when no one came to help, she made a sign. And she lost her scarf.

Rough day.

As far as I know, the only help they got was our Great Dane eating their noses. Apparently, he likes carrots.

Have a great weekend, everyone! :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Permission to Unplug

Let me start with something you all already know: publishing is hard.

This isn't going to be one of Those Posts, though! If you're following us here, chances are you've experienced how hard it is already, and you've kept going. You've committed to keeping up on publishing Twitter and blogs, and you might even have a Publishers Marketplace subscription. You're learning about the business you're trying to break into, and that's awesome.

But even though social media makes it possible for us to maintain this amazing community, it means we have endless opportunities to compare ourselves to one another. Even though things happen at different speeds for different people, it's easy to look at one of your friends and wonder if you're ever going to make it to where they are. You can look at how long it took them to get their agent, or sell their first (or second or seventh) book, or sell hundreds of copies of their self-pubbed book - and then start to feel discouraged about your own process.

If you feel like that sometimes, that is totally okay. No one is a tireless optimism machine 100% of the time, and it doesn't mean you're not happy for your friends. I struggled with this a lot during some of the rougher periods when I was querying, where some days I felt like I'd cry if I typed 'Congratulations' one more time. And it's no coincidence that, at that point, I also felt like I had to stay plugged into the publishing world 24/7, so I could feel like I was doing something.

So let me just state, for the record, that when you start feeling like this, it's okay to give yourself permission to unplug. It's more than okay, it's necessary. I can be a better writer when I can focus on my story instead of the new genre craze, and I can be a better friend to my fellow writers if I don't bring my own baggage into their good news party.

The literary landscape is frantic and quickly changing, and I know I wouldn't have it any other way - but a little quiet and distance is good for the soul. So next time you feel overwhelmed, remember that you don't have to force yourself. Take a step away for a little while. We'll be here when you get back.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jackson Pearce on NaNoWriMo

I haven't done NaNoWriMo in a few years, mostly because I always seemed to be either moving or editing that month. However, this year, I have a book due in mid-December and as of Nov 1 I needed about 50k words to finish it. Soooo, there really wasn't any reason NOT to do NaNo since I would pretty much be doing it anyway :D

So....I'm going to get back to my manuscript and leave you with a few words on NaNoWriMo by the ever awesome Jackson Pearce :D




Are you doing NaNo this year? How's it going? You're not filling your ms with fluff, are you? :D

And here's another one that is just too funny not to share :D

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cover Reveal ~ DESCENDANT

I'm proud to announce the upcoming birth of my debut novel, 
DESCENDANT 
book 1 in a Makai series
available December 16th, 2013


For 15 years, Tristan has done everything he can to bury the maddening thoughts of others—blaring music, isolation, the occasional painkiller. In the end, it was a small thing that pushed him over the edge—his mother hocked his iPod for a carton of cigarettes.

His suicide attempt would have succeeded if not for an old woman who claims dragon ancestry makes him the rightful guardian of a powerful emerald containing the soul of a Valkyrie. With the emerald stolen and the woman murdered, Tristan must survive on his own in a world he never knew existed to get the emerald back.

Shadowed by a secret society and guided by an avatar falcon, Tristan's escape from the murderer lands him on an uncharted island in the Pacific. When the murderer kidnaps the island's caretaker, a feisty young Druid priestess, Tristan discovers he'll risk anything to save her, unleashing powers he can't control.



Find me at Goodreads!
SQUEE!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Wealth of Historical Detail

Research is one of my favorite aspects of writing historical fiction (my favorite part being taking that research and turning it into an immersive story), and I've come across some useful books I wanted to share.

Ian Mortimer has a great book focused on Medieval England

that takes you on a tour of the sights, smells, and daily habits of the English people during this time period. In general, it's a fun read, though you might wish to save the sections on medical care for when you're not eating. He apparently has one on Elizabethan England that I haven't acquired a copy of yet.


 Looks promising!

A nice followup is Bill Bryson's book--and I managed to score one of the illustrated editions at Costco for a good price!



This one goes into great depth (and on entertaining tangents) on the history of private life, using an historic house as a model. It's eye-opening how recent some of our homely comforts actually are.

What about you? Do you have a favorite history or nonfiction book you can lose yourself in?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Celebrating Unwanted Milestones


The other day a friend mentioned that she'd gotten her first bad review. I offered sympathy, but she
said no hugs were required -- it's a milestone for every writer.

So it is. There are many milestones that show we're writers -- finishing a first novel draft, getting that first agent. Those are worth celebrating.

But so are the milestones we don't want. Often writers get excited for their first query rejection -- they are real writers, with the rejection to prove it. We should celebrate those too with battle decorations of kind. They show we keep going.

So let's all celebrate all those unwanted milestones that prove we're really trying. 

First terrible critique

First query rejection

100th query rejection

First trunked novel

Fifth trunked novel

First ex-agent

First bad review

First snarky GIF review

First Internet kerfuffle

First royalty statement with unearned royalties

First royalty statement where returns exceed sales

First remaindered book

First time rights returned for lack of sales 


It keeps going. But that's because WE KEEP GOING.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

COVER REVEAL--Jaclyn and the Beanstalk by AJ Riley





When zombies attack in the city and devour Jaclyn Baxter's family, everything is lost. Everything except Nicolas Kerrey—a long-time crush who arrives with an army of his best men to rescue her. He takes Jaclyn to her grandfather's farm where she soon learns there's more than zombies and looters threatening the community—a clan war over territory has been brewing for nearly twenty years and Nicolas is a high-profile target. The Kerrey clan prepares to surrender when news of Nicolas' death arrives, but Jaclyn knows he is still alive... and she'll risk everything to save him. 



AJ Riley lives in a writing cave just off the coast of Reality. She is fueled by coffee and carbs and armed to the teeth with a vivid imagination, which is forever empowered by precious writing buddies who refuse to let her get a real job. Bless their hearts. 

 Links: 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Jaclyn-Beanstalk-AJ-Riley-ebook/dp/B00GK5NIBC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1383966175&sr=1-1&keywords=jaclyn+and+the+beanstalk 

 Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18760749-jaclyn-and-the-beanstalk



This is such an awesome and fun read. Hurry and get your copy today! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

I'd Rather Be Writing

Remember those bumper stickers that read, "I'd rather be fishing"? Whenever my life gets really outta control I think, I'd rather be writing. You could say my life is outta control these days. We've recently moved to a new state, got a contract on a quaint little cottage that needs a lot of work, and are in the process of finding a builder who won't charge us everything we've got. Every day since we got the fantastic news that our offer was accepted on the house, it seems there is more bad news. The absolutely awesome root cellar downstairs is riddled with plumbing and electrical jimmy-rigs from previous owners.



The lot is too narrow to add an attached garage within city ordinances. None of the contractors on my mom's list can take on our particular job. [Insert random unexpected expense here.]

I'd really rather be writing.

Writing is my therapy. Whether it's a blog post, a journal entry, a facebook update, a poem, or a novel, it's soothing in the same way holding a fishing pole must be for those "I'd rather be fishing" people. In fact, you can pretty much figure out how stressful periods of my life have been by how heavy the writing files are. My teen years are represented in storage by an overflowing three-inch binder packed with loose-leaf poetry. Ah, the angst! I remember it well.

If I didn't have writing as therapy, I'd probably be in a loony bin by now. Happily, I just got a new tool to use in my therapy.


1939 Smith-Corona (the green is a typing manual from the 40's)

Actually, my six-year-old asked for this for Christmas, but we'll be sharing. It makes me happy just looking at it, let alone pressing these antique keys. I plan to write lots of poetry this winter to get me through the building/buying process.

When you write for therapy, what do you most often gravitate toward? Journaling? Novel-writing? Poetry? Space-opera screenwriting? And do you use a computer, typewriter, or pen?

Please do share.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Love Your Antagonist via Loki

So how many of you are going to see the new Thor movie this weekend?

(raises hand)

Did you know that they added extra filming after it was finished, just to add more Loki scenes? There was such an outcry for the character (And Tom Hiddleston) that they added more of him to make the fans happy.

I admit, as much as I like Thor, I LOVED Loki. A good part of it was the actor. But also, the character himself. He is a villain with baggage. He's not evil, just for the sake of being evil. He found out he was adopted and not like everyone else. He was lied to. He lived under the shadow of his brother. And even though he was the antagonist, you felt for him. (And Tom's voice doesn't hurt either.)




So I have a few questions for you. Ready?

1. Is your antagonist sympathetic? Can you see a reason that he/she is bad, or did you just make them bad/evil?

2.  Who are your favorite sympathetic villains. Books. Movies. I don't care.

3. Team Loki or Team Thor. :o)


Here is something to tide you over while you wait for the movie to come out:







Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Blurbs -- make them work for you

It's that time again. Yep. Blurb time.

While many of you have submerged yourselves in the NaNoWriMo (productive) hole, I've been working on the blurb for my upcoming book, If I Speak True. If you haven't done so yet, writing a blurb is actually a good thing to do during NaNoWriMo, too. It took me a couple of years, but I finally learned that writing the blurb at the beginning of writing a book makes a major difference in knowing which direction the book is going. (Versus having no idea what is actually supposed to happen at all, and writing blind, which can be frustrating.)

So. Here's the universal formula (ish) for writing a blurb (A.K.A. a brief synopsis -- but blurb is less scary of a word than synopsis, right? Ha.)

1) Forget everything detailed you've written and separate yourself from your story. I know, this sounds hard and maybe a little mean, but it's necessary. Yes, it's good, yes it's the best you've ever written (let's be honest, we're proud of our work), but for now, step back a bit and imagine only needing to know a couple of key elements. Then prepare yourself to possibly not use all of those, even.

2) Start your blurb out with the current situation. Is Moe heading to the store to get a cup of Joe when a car falls from the sky, severing his toe? Then start there, using a quick, easy-to-understand summary no longer than a couple of sentences.

3) The issue. Now what? Imagine inserting the word "but" here, then hearing the dun dun dun... because something is about to happen.

Moe heads to the store to get a cup of Joe, when a car falls from the sky severing his toe. BUT.... without his toe, he can't prove he is an alien from Schmoe. If he can't prove he's from Schmoe he can't marry their princess visiting earth, Lady Doe. What will he do? How does he prove this? Where will he go?

Here's where you throw out the problem that gets things rolling.

4) A lot of times the thing the character is set to lose is mentioned here. (Think: stakes.) The more I read, the more I see there aren't always huge stakes, though... life isn't always like that. So use this to work for you, but make sure to pull in the reader and make them go: I need to know what happens after this. Now.

Remember: Make your words count. 

* Anything that stands out or goes with the title/storyline will bring your book back to mind again and again. That's a good thing.

* Don't go all crazy on the adjectives. ("Silly, exuberant, klutzy Moe and his big, swollen, alien toe...")

* Pretend you're watching a commercial for your new book on TV. What would stand out and make you go, I AM SO GOING TO WATCH THAT? Here's an example of an upcoming show I can't wait to see (Notice any key elements that get you anticipating the show's arrival?):


Last, this is the time to show off your writerly voice. Don't let the summary turn into a Ben Stein commercial. Give them a taste of who you are; set them up for what's to come.

Here are three blurbs I really liked -- you can see they're all very different (one is contemporary, one dystopian, and post-apocalyptic).

Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham 17, finally confronts her past. Hannah, the closest adult she has to family, disappears. Jonah Griggs, moody stares and all, is back in town. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future. ~ Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death? ~ The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Feel free to share blurbs you've enjoyed in the comments!