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Thursday Thoughts

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 05 September 2012 · 126 views

Yes, they're back. I know you missed them - three random thoughts from my week. Each week. Every week.

But before the inanity of my life takes over yours, check out this post from [url="http://leaguewriters.blogspot.com/2012/08/guest-post-anything-goes-attitude-of.html"]The League of Extraordinary Writers[/url] where I was a guest last week. I'm talking about why the characters in dystopian and post-apocs are so refined, yet gritty - and what that says about the human race. I sound much more intelligent over there than I will on this post here.

Thoughts lately are of a medical nature...

1) We need some kind of sonogram / UltraSound app for our smart phones. I woke up for the first day of work in incredible mid-section pain. I thought, "Well, I either have appendicitis, an ovarian cyst, or I just need to take a big crap." Not calling off work for a big crap.

2) Kid's vitamins taste good. Kid's medicine tastes good. Just because we're adults why do we get horse pills and throw-it-back-fast liquids? Is this the pharmaceutical companies way of telling us that the best years are behind us?

3) If we took everything out of our bodies we aren't technically using we could lose a lot of weight. My uterus, one kidney, appendix, tonsils, adnoids, little toes... that's gotta be like a quick ten pounds right there.



Justina Ireland, Author of VENGEANCE BOUND Talks Submission Process

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 03 September 2012 · 259 views

Before you get to the latest SHIT (Submission Hell - It's True) interview here on Writer, Writer - check out what my non-psychic librarian's intuition is telling me will pop next in YA over on [url="http://chasingthecrazies.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/mindy-mcginnis-and-the-ya-crystal-ball/"]Chasing the Crazie[/url]s.

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different.

I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's guest is fellow [url="http://thelucky13s.blogspot.com/"]Lucky13[/url]er Justina Ireland, author of [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13643222-vengeance-bound"]VENGEANCE BOUND[/url].

[center][url="http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1346144722l/13643222.jpg"][img]http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1346144722l/13643222.jpg[/img][/url][/center][i]Cory Graff is not alone in her head. Bound to a deal of desperation made when she was a child, Cory’s mind houses the Furies—the hawk and the serpent—lingering always, waiting for her to satisfy their bloodlust. After escaping the asylum where she was trapped for years, Cory knows how to keep the Furies quiet. By day, she lives a normal life, but by night, she tracks down targets the Furies send her way. And she brings down Justice upon them.[/i]

[i]Cory’s perfected her system of survival, but when she meets a mysterious boy named Niko at her new school, she can’t figure out how she feels about him. For the first time, the Furies are quiet in her head around a guy. But does this mean that Cory’s finally found someone who she can trust, or are there greater factors at work? As Cory’s mind becomes a battlefield, with the Furies fighting for control, Cory will have to put everything on the line to hold on to what she’s worked so hard to build.[/i]

[b]BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?[/b]

JI: VENGEANCE BOUND was my second book to go on submission…my first one didn’t sell *cue sad trumpet.* So for the second book I was kind of an old pro at the process.

For my first book I researched the submission process by reading author blogs and just about everything Google had to offer. And then I tried to estimate where I was at each point. It honestly just made me a little crazy. Okay, it made me more than a little crazy. It made me the Mayor of Crazytown.

Since that one didn’t sell (and my husband threaten to ship me off to a cabin in the woods for the next time), I decided to just close my eyes and pretend I wasn’t on submission for the second book. Instead, I read all of the books I’d been putting off for the past few months (after I opened my eyes, of course), and just enjoyed a self declared writing hiatus. I was only on submission for a month before I got an offer, and the time seemed to go quickly because I was focused on something else.

Okay, that’s a total lie. I was still obsessively checking my email and the days went by so s-l-o-w-l-y. But I did get a lot of reading done and I didn’t obsess like I did the first go round.

[b]BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?[/b]

JI: How hard it is to wait, and how little feedback I got on rejections. For the most part, my agent prefers to keep the rejections to herself unless I ask for them. Beyond a “Yeah, so-and-so passed,” I never got anything back.

And after asking for and reading the three pages of rejections from the first book, I can tell you I much prefer it that way. For me, rejections didn’t do anything but make me question my writing. Not all readers are going to love your book. But it’s hard to remember that someone liking a book is a matter of taste when the someone in question is an editor.

[b]BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?[/b]

JI: I did for the first book. I didn’t for the second. Now, I trust my agent to be able to figure out where my book would be a good fit. It’s part of her job.

Plus, it was a little weird Googling people the first go round. It made me feel a little like a stalker. And agent/editor stalking may be the unhealthiest form of addiction, ever.

So I don’t really recommend researching editors. It will just make you crazy when they acquire a manuscript that’s just like yours except with fairies and a prep school and set in Pennsylvania instead of Antarctica.

[b]BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?[/b]

JI: On the first book I didn’t hear anything back for about two months (even though my agent may have gotten passes before that). With my second I heard back pretty quickly, about a month after everyone got everything. And I think everyone came back at about the same time.

[b]BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?[/b]

Psychotropic drugs.


Sort of.

Stay busy. I always try to work on my next idea, or catch up on reading, or even just watch that season of TV I missed. Since I miss a lot of TV and my TBR pile is huge (I work full time so writing time is also everything else time), those are usually my default.

[b]BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?[/b]

JI: My editor rejections were about the same as my query rejections. Bland, polite and vague, with one or two sometimes offering some helpful advice. But usually not helpful at all. I wouldn’t look for much help in editor suggestions.

But even though they were vague, they were still a little demoralizing. I didn’t really think I’d internalized the rejections from the first book until I was revising my second book. I started to doubt my writing, doubt the stories I had to tell.

But finally I had to put all of that aside and just try to be zen about it. My stories might still suck, but they’re my sucky stories. And I don’t really think they suck. I think they’re awesome. But it’s taken me a long time to silence that inner editor and learn to write again.

So editor rejections? Yeah, generally a bad idea to read them.

[b]BBC: If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?[/b]

JI: In the first submission go round I tried to synthesize editor rejection into some kind of a rewrite. Unlike a beta reader’s suggestions, which are pointed and specific, most of the rejecting editor’s suggestions weren’t so much rejections as “this is why I didn’t really care for it.” Looking back, rewriting the manuscript just made it worse. After all, it was like taking an entire critique groups input and applying it wily nily. Not a good idea, and not something I will do again.

I guess I should clarify that there are exceptions to the above rules. If it’s a revise and resubmit or done after a long discussion with your agent, then go for using some editorial feedback. But for everything else I would just move on to the next manuscript. No sense in banging your head against the wall.

[b]BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?[/b]

JI: Carrier pigeon ☺ It felt pretty cool, but mostly surreal. I had a call from my agent that an editor was interested, and that turned into three editors being interested. The feeling was unreal after NOBODY wanted my first book (yes, I still have some residual grief over my unsold darling). We ended up going to auction, and when I found out that Simon and Schuster were the best bid, I was a little giddy. I never really thought my debut would be with a big house.

I think I’m still getting used to the idea that I’m going to have a real book. With pages! And typeface! And an ISBN!

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

JI: Nope, we shared the news almost as soon as we sold, and it was probably for the best. I have a huge mouth, and I always tell people not to tell me their secrets, because I will inevitably blab it to the wrong person. The internet is probably the worst thing to ever happen to someone like me.

Thank goodness it was on Publisher’s Marketplace a few days after it sold. I never would’ve been able to keep such exciting news a secret.

[i]VENGEANCE BOUND will be available April 2nd, 2013 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.[/i]



Genre Bending

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 02 September 2012 · 114 views

I'm lazy. So today you get a re-post from my appearance last week at From the Write Angle. :)

There are certain questions that make writers of all stripes both frustrated and frightened at the same time. What is it about your book that's so special? What distinguishes you from the rest of the crowd, either in the slush pile or on the store bookshelf? Is the market for your WIP over?

To my mind all of these questions are related, and boil down to the same word—genre. More specifically—your genre and how you've taken a small corner of it to claim as your own.

I recently had three separate but related online interactions that spawned this post. I'll tackle them each one at a time and draw them back together for the firework-inducing full-circle conclusion. Or at least a steepled-fingers-move from my reader and a thoughtful monosyllabic grunt.

[b]Interaction #1[/b]—A Goodreads reviewer commented that [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13112869-not-a-drop-to-drink"][i]Not a Drop to Drink[/i][/url] sounds more like a post-apocalyptic Western than a dystopian, which is both astute of her and also very gratifying to me, as that's how I felt about it from the beginning.

[b]Interaction #2[/b]—One of my [url="http://writerwriterpantsonfire.blogspot.com/p/query-critiques.html"]Saturday Slash[/url] participants (a query critique on my personal blog, [url="http://writerwriterpantsonfire.blogspot.com/"]Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire[/url]) asked if they should change the genre for their query project from "dystopian" to "post-apocalyptic," as they were afraid that dystopian was "over." My response was that I didn't think it made a difference. Agents and readers know that the terms can (for the most part) be swapped for each other fairly easily. To my thinking it's no more different than calling chick-lit "women's literature." I told the Slash participant to go whichever way they liked, but it didn't matter. A rose by another name, and all that.

[b]Interaction #3[/b]—Instead of re-hashing it I'm posting a screen-cap below of a Twitter exchange between myself, my fellow [url="http://fridaythethirteeners.blogspot.com/"]Friday the Thirteeners[/url] member [url="http://elsiechapman.com/"]Elsie Chapman[/url], my critique partner [url="http://crossingthehelix.blogspot.com/"]R.C. Lewis[/url] and her fellow Hyperion author [url="https://twitter.com/sharpegirl"]Tess Sharpe[/url].


Tess's reaction to the simple re-phrasing of my genre spoke volumes to me. Even though she already felt like DRINK had a new angle for the dystopian genre, the idea of it being more akin to a neo-western than its dystopian brothers and sisters were the equivalent of "magic words" to her.

And this reaction had me re-thinking my answer to the Saturday Slash participant.

She's not the first person to mention to me they think the dystopian ship has quite sailed, left the harbor, and perhaps already sunk. And if this is the case I'm going to cry a lot when next fall comes around, and that would be a very bad thing. I am not fond of crying.

So what if I do start referring to DRINK as a neo-western? Will that appeal to more people? Will it lift the ever-present curse of it's-been-done?

Quite a few people in my [url="http://bookpregnant.blogspot.com/"]Book Pregnant[/url] group of debut authors write what's referred to as Women's Literature. And they write it well. If their mss were marketed as Chick-Lit would they have died in their agent's inbox?

And what if my Slash volunteer chose the phrase "post-apocalyptic" to describe her ms instead of "dystopian?" Would the D-word close doors whereas "post-apoc" might leave room for a foot in the door?

I don't have the best answer to these questions, and I'm willing to bet that the answer changes depending on who you ask.

[b]So what's your opinion?[/b]



The Saturday Slash

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 31 August 2012 · 181 views

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description [url="http://crossingthehelix.blogspot.com/"]RC Lewis[/url] and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.


Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson


We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on [url="http://www.agentqueryconnect.com/"]AgentQuery Connect[/url]. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in [color=yellow]yellow[/color].

Today's query is a bit different, as it's a query for a picture book. I'm not the end-all-be-all of advice when it comes to picture book queries, but I'm happy to tackle it for a friend. Any advice from followers how might know more about this area than me? Definitely hop in!

Travel back in time with this Dragnet-inspired gangster tale about a toddler with a lot of spunk and a big imagination. [color=yellow]I really like the idea, I think the visual I'm getting off of this is fantastic. The one thing that's a little confusing is whether or not the book will take the reader back in time (setting wise) or whether the character actually travels back in time, or whether it's a modern tale with the look and feel of the past. Honestly, I think the most basic explanation (and what is most implied with the hook) is the first option, but there is possible room for interpretation here.[/color]

Lucky Sharp-tooth was on the loose and gangster detective Moxy Mae’s trusty sidekick Bugaboo Joe was shipwrecked on the wrong side of the baby gate. [color=yellow]That's hilarious.[/color] Time was ticking. Soon, Bugaboo Joe would become Lucky Sharp-tooth’s favorite new chew toy. Will Moxy Mae save him in time?

[color=yellow]I love the idea, and the voice. I'm getting all kinds of great visuals off of this. Two things stick out - I'd put it in present tense ("is" on the loose, "is" shipwrecked), and the mention of the baby gate brings me back to my question regarding the hook. Now I'm thinking that it's more of a contemporary tale with a 1930's look and feel. I'd definitely get that clarified within the query, but otherwise I think this sounds great. I'd pick it up to look at in a bookstore![/color]

MOXY MAE, GANGSTER DETECTIVE is a 155 word count picture book manuscript, ready for your review.



A BOA With the Girls of Honestly YA

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 30 August 2012 · 200 views

The ladies of Honestly YA were awesome enough to let me come over to their corner of the internet to [url="http://honestlyya.blogspot.com/2012/08/summer-flings-with-boobs.html"]talk about my boobs[/url] yesterday. Today I'm letting them play a little on my blog, as part of the ongoing BOA series.

My original intention for the series of interviews I do here was to focus on agents (BBCHAT) and successful authors (SAT). In the course of internet wanderings though, I’ve ran across a lot of really awesome people, and culled an enormous amount of information from blogs. As I raided my brain – yes, I picture myself on the prow of a Viking ship, approaching my own gray matter – for more people I’d like to interview, it repeatedly offered up names of bloggers. And so, the third series; Bloggers of Awesome. Yeah, it’s the BOA.

This particular BOA is even more awesome because it's a BOA WoW! (We're Ohio Writers). Yeah, that's right. We grow 'em here.

[url="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-YeXlUvW7oNE/UD-8q9GB4SI/AAAAAAAAAzg/-s8YOfuPYkw/s1600/Hon+YA.jpg"][img]http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-YeXlUvW7oNE/UD-8q9GB4SI/AAAAAAAAAzg/-s8YOfuPYkw/s1600/Hon+YA.jpg[/img][/url][b]BBC: So you run an excellent blog over at Honestly YA. What made you decide to take the approach you do on your blog?[/b]

[b]Melissa: [/b]We agreed from the get-go that the way to make our blog stand out from the masses was to keep it personal. We share secrets with our readers—embarrassing, poignant, and sometimes hilarious experiences from our teen years. And we have a helluva lot of fun doing it!

[b]Lorie:[/b] What Mel said.

[b]Carey:[/b] Author Shelley Coriell deserves some serious credit for the honestly approach. When we were first talking about forming a grog, Shelley shared her marketing plan that focused on organic activities. It fit into our overall concept of rehashing our teen angst, not to sell books or ourselves, but because teen experiences connect YA readers.

[b]BBC: I know a lot of aspiring writers who are intimidated by the idea of blogging. They want to, but they are worried it will cut into their (already precious) writing time. Honestly YA is a group blog, do you find that helpful in balancing the time investment?[/b]

[b]Melissa: [/b]Um, blogging every six weeks versus blogging every week? Yes, please! Group blogs are the way to go. You just have to find a combination that works.

[b]Lorie:[/b] Absolutely! Blogging on a six person rotation is not only helpful from a time budgeting standpoint, but it’s also a great moral support. I was extremely leery about blogging, especially on personal topics, but being part of a great team makes it easier.

[b]Carey: [/b]If helps that try to have our rotation topics locked in 6-12 months in advance. With Blogger, I can write my posts and schedule them to publish at a later date. So hypothetically, I could spend 1 day to write and load a whole year’s worth of posts. Geez-I wish I was that organized! But I do try to draft 3 or 4 posts at a time…What’s 6 weeks times 4 posts??? ANYONE? Well, anyone except Lorie. We’re so not math girls.

[b]*breaks down and asks hubby*[/b] ME: “What’s 6x4?” HUBBY: “24” ME: “What’s 24 in months?” HUBBY: “I don’t understand the question.” ME: “If I have 24 weeks, how many months is that?” Hubby begins a long explanation of why it’s not exactly a round number of months and how it depends on—[i]I wonder what unicorns eat? Did my son pack sock for gym class tomorrow?[/i] —blah, blah, blah—[i] Why are dust bunnies devouring that brain shaped eraser? Are they zombie dust bunnies?—[/i]hubby stops talking. ME: “So how many months was that?” HUBBY: “5 and a half.” Wow, that nearly half a year of posts!

[b]BBC: Do any of you have personal blogs as well? Do you approach them differently than you do your group blog?[/b]

[b]Melissa:[/b] Yes, my blog is called [url="http://melissalanders.blogspot.com/"]The Unrepentant Escapist[/url]. It’s where I promote my entire body of work (my adult romance in addition to YA). I don’t blog there regularly, but that’s where I run all my giveaways and link posts when I guest blog at other sites.

[b]Carey:[/b] Mine is [url="http://careycorp.blogspot.com/"]My Own Brand of Madness[/url] and it’s geared toward my indie publishing experiences as a YA author.

[b]BBC: Do you think blogging is a helpful self-marketing tool?[/b]

[b]Melissa:[/b] Eh…sometimes I think blogging helps. Other days, especially when nobody comments on a post, I wonder if we bloggers are just talking to ourselves. But you know what? It’s free, so why not partake? You never know who you’ll reach.

[b]Lorie:[/b] I was skeptical at first, but yes, Honestly YA has given me an online presence that I couldn’t have achieved on my own.

[b]Carey:[/b] What they said. Our agent/editor interview series does get us a lot of attention. But we’re also always eager to read our blogmates takes on a topic—so if we’re the only ones talking, that’s okay.

[b]BBC: Sometimes social media feels like a do-or-die. How do you approach Twitter or Facebook on days when you really don’t feel like you have much to say?[/b]

[b]Melissa:[/b] It’s simple. On days when I don’t have much to say, I shut up. [font=Wingdings][font=Wingdings]J[/font][/font]

[b]Lorie: [/b]I don’t say anything. [font=Wingdings][font=Wingdings]J[/font][/font] I post most days, but I don’t feel pressure to tweet or post on facebook every single day.

[b]Carey:[/b] Ditto – I take a weekly, when I’ve something of quality to say, approach. [font=Wingdings][font=Wingdings]J[/font][/font]

[b]BBC: What other websites / resources can you recommend for writers?[/b]

[b]Melissa:[/b] I highly recommend the Absolute Write forums for everything from connecting with beta readers to learning the best query strategies.

[b]Lorie:[/b] [color=windowtext][url="http://Storywonk.com/"]Storywonk.com[/url][/color] has excellent online classes that are entertaining and informative. http://seekerville.blogspot.com/ is a blog I’ve followed for years and it continues to be a source of inspiration for me.

[b]Carey:[/b] I’m a fan of [url="http://www.literaryrambles.com/"]Literary Rambles[/url]. And I visit the [url="http://owl.english.purdue.edu/"]Purdue Online Writing Lab[/url] or OWL on a daily basis.

[b]BBC: Any words of inspiration for aspiring writers?[/b]

[b]Melissa:[/b] Don’t get so bogged down with building an online presence that you neglect your writing. You can’t tweet your way into a book deal.

[b]Lorie:[/b] The keys for me are [b]discipline[/b] and [b]determination[/b].

Write every day, even if you have dishes piled in the sink or laundry to do, make it a priority to write at least one paragraph every single day. You’ll find that some days creating a single sentence is painful. Do it anyway. Most of the time once you start writing you won’t want to stop and you’ll end up writing much more than a paragraph.

I can’t stress determination enough. Don’t let rejection break you, stare it in the face and keep walking. Keep reading, writing, and perfecting your skills. In short, don’t [i]ever[/i] give up.

[b]Carey:[/b] One great project will net you more than a dozen mediocre ones. Don’t rush to submit/indie publish your early drafts or first manuscripts. Hide them under your bed and keep writing. Leverage your writing community to perfect your craft and ensure your manuscripts shine. Once you reach mastery, you can dust off the early stuff and rework it into something brilliant.

[b]Bios: Check us out on [url="http://honestlyya.blogspot.com/"]Honestly YA[/url] [/b]

[b]Lorie Langdon [/b]A few years ago, I left my management job with a Fortune 500 company to satisfy the voices in my head. Now a full-time author and stay-at-home mom, I spend my summers editing poolside while dodging automatic water-gun fire, and the rest of the year tucked into my cozy office, Havanese puppy by my side, working to translate my effusive imagination into the written word. My work is represented by the fabulous Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency. You can find me on [url="http://www.twitter.com/lorielangdon"]Twitter[/url] and [url="http://www.facebook.com/authorlorielangdon"] Facebook [/url] and [url="http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8596783-lorie-langdon"]Goodreads[/url] and [url="http://www.pinterest.com/lorielangdon"]Pinterest[/url]

[b]Melissa Landers[/b] is the author of ALIENATED, a [i]seriously[/i] foreign exchange coming in February 2014 from Disney Hyperion. You can learn more about her on [url="http://www.melissa-landers.com/"]www.melissa-landers.com[/url], and she’d love for you to add [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13574417-alienated"]ALIENATED[/url] to your Goodreads bookshelf!

[b]Carey Corp’s[/b] debut novel for teens, [i]The Halo Chronicles: The Guardian[/i], earned her national recognition as 2010 Golden Heart finalist for best young adult fiction. It is available in print and eBook. For more information, visit her at [url="http://www.careycorp.com/"]careycorp.com[/url].

[center][url="http://i1186.photobucket.com/albums/z367/honestlyya/slideshow/004.jpg"][img]http://i1186.photobucket.com/albums/z367/honestlyya/slideshow/004.jpg[/img][/url]l-r: Carey, Melissa, Lorie[/center]



Me, Honestly

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 29 August 2012 · 149 views

I'm guest posting today over at [url="http://honestlyya.blogspot.com/2012/08/summer-flings-with-boobs.html"]Honestly YA[/url], a great group blog that includes some of my fellow Ohioans that I get to hang with occasionally. They have fun. I have fun. Together, it's double fun. They're asking all their guest posters to talk about summer flings, but those are kinda alien to me. Why? Well, [url="http://honestlyya.blogspot.com/2012/08/summer-flings-with-boobs.html"]boobs of course[/url].

I'm also up over at [url="http://www.fromthewriteangle.com/2012/08/genre-bending.html"]From the Write Angle[/url] today, where I'm talking about [url="http://www.fromthewriteangle.com/2012/08/genre-bending.html"]genre bending[/url]. What does that mean? Head on over there to find out. But I'll give you a hint - the two posts aren't related. :)

And lastly, just FYI I'm giving myself the gift of sight tomorrow. Yes, LASIK and I are about to become close personal friends. As evidenced in this [url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJBaTMkxlSY&feature=g-upl"]vlog[/url], it's about time.



An SAT with CJ Flood, Author of INFINITE SKY

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 27 August 2012 · 207 views

[center][url="http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1345043443l/13450407.jpg"][img]http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1345043443l/13450407.jpg[/img][/url][/center]Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is fellow [url="http://thelucky13s.blogspot.com/"]Lucky 13er[/url] CJ Flood, author of [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13450407-infinite-sky"]INFINITE SKY[/url], a family story about betrayal and loyalty, and love. When a family of travellers move into Iris Dancy's overgrown paddock overnight, her dad looks set to finally lose it. Gypsies are parasites he says, but Iris is intrigued. As her dad plans to evict the travelling family, Iris makes friends with their teenage son. Trick Deran is a bare knuckle boxer who says he’s done with fighting, but is he telling the truth?

[b]Writing Process:[/b]
[b]BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?[/b]

CJF: I am a pantser, with [url="http://thelucky13s.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/to-plot-or-not-to-plot-that-is-question.html"]big splashes of planning[/url]. I tend to write and write until I get completely stuck/confused/lost and then I start drawing up colourful character arcs and trying to discover that mysterious Big Theme. Doing the character arcs is fun. Each character gets their own colour, and I draw a line with all of the things that happen to them, pyschological and physical, then I try to weave all the character arcs together in interesting/dramatic ways. You should definitely try it!

[b]BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?[/b]

CJF: Having only completed one, I will say, with total confidence and no need for maths, it takes three years. But, that was not writing full time. I’m hoping to complete my second book in half that time. (Wish me luck!)

[b]BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?[/b]

CJF: I have aspirations to be a multi tasker, but I seem to work best on one thing at a time. Certainly one thing is absolutely prioritised anyway. I’m not very good at multi tasking in every day life – I struggle to hold a conversation while cooking for instance – so this might be one dream I never achieve.

[b]BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?[/b]

CJF: Not really. I have always written so it felt completely natural. Reading my own stuff in public has been the biggest obstacle for me. When I started out I would get such a whack of adrenalin that I couldn’t remember what had happened afterwards, let alone remember to breath and pause in the right places as I read! I am so glad those days are over. It’s actually one of my biggest achievements, that I can stand up in front of people nowaways and talk and read and appear – hopefully – to be a normally socialised human being!

[b]BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?[/b]

CJF: I started two books, at least. Plus the [i]Famous Five[/i] rip offs I use to write in the school holidays. I finished none though.

[b]BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?[/b]

CJF: I quit on the ones I mentioned above because they were rubbish! I bored myself! It took me a long time to realise that you need to actually have a story to tell – whether that pivots around a simple change in a person’s outlook or a series of magnificently plotty events doesn’t matter.

Less easy was giving up on my first idea for my second book. When I started writing it (under contract) I did a lot of flailing around. I went a long way with my initial idea before I settled on something quite different. But all of the flailing brought something to the new idea: characters, events, scenes and places. None of it was wasted. (Except about 40,000 words…)

I knew it was time to give up because I didn’t know enough about what I was writing about. I felt lost, and not in that good, half magic way that is key to writing.

[b]Querying and Agent Hunt Process:[/b]
[b]BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? (traditional query process, referral, met at conference, etc.).[/b]

CJF: My agent is Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan Associates. I met her at a meeting organised by my university. (I did an MA at the University of East Anglia, and they have great industry contacts.) She reps some of my favourite authors, including Meg Rosoff and David Almond (though I hadn’t read him back then), and so we had a chat about them. I wasn’t ready to send anything – I couldn’t even talk coherently about my book at that point! – but we stayed in touch, and when my manuscript was ready I sent it to her. She loved it and offered representation, so the agent-hunt was all quite quick for me. There were more complications along the way, and it’s all a bit longwinded, but if you want to know anymore, I wrote this story up in much more detail recently [url="http://cjflood.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/how-i-got-my-agent.html"]on my blog[/url].

[b]On Being Published:[/b]
[b]BBC: What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?[/b]

CJF: Publishing takes a loooong time. There’s lots of waiting. Be prepared to work on lots of other things in the gaps between the many stages of getting a book out there.

[b]Social Networking and Marketing:[/b]
[b]BBC: [/b][b]How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? (I'll insert the links here)? [/b]

CJF: I have a [url="http://cjflood.blogspot.co.uk/"]blog[/url] and I blog as one of the [url="http://thelucky13s.blogspot.co.uk/"]Lucky 13s[/url] and I’m on [url="https://twitter.com/#!/cjflood_author"]Twitter[/url]too. I also have an author [url="http://www.facebook.com/pages/CJ-Flood/395518447158965"]Facebook page[/url]!

Saying all that though, I am not that confident/comfortable with marketing. Like most writers, I dream of the old (no doubt fictional) days when you just tap tap taperood at your desk and the pound coins and acclaim came looking for you. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy meeting all the lovely people I meet social networking (the Lucky 13s have been an absolute godsend).

I think the whole marketing thing will make more sense to me when I actually have a book people can buy.

[b]BBC: When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?[/b]

Personally, I would say focus on the writing first. If you want to be a good writer, that is.

[b]BBC: Do you think social media helps build your readership?[/b]

CJF: I don’t know yet. I suspect not if I am anything to go by, which I have to assume I am. I only follow authors online that I’ve already read. I only really buy books by new authors after I’ve read reviews or interviews or heard a prize shortlist/longlist or because they are referenced in a book or on personal recommendations. I have never yet bought a book [i]after[/i] discovering the author via social media. Maybe that’s just because of my expendable income though! I want to buy people’s books all the time!



Focus on Followers - Success Stories!

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 26 August 2012 · 152 views

Last week I made a general call for my followers to share their successes with me so that we could all celebrate them. And some of you took me up on that offer! Be sure to drop by their social media hangouts and let them know we're all proud!

Michelle Hauck signed with the small press Divertir last month to publish her epic fantasy, KINDAR'S CURE. The tentative release date is March 2013. Check out her [url="http://michelle4laughs.blogspot.com/"]blog[/url] or tweet to her @Michelle4Laughs to show her your support!

Lindsay Smith inked a deal! [url="http://goodreads.com/book/show/15673520-sekret"]SEKRET[/url] is a YA historical thriller, and it will be published by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children's in Winter 2014. It's about psychic teens in 1960s Soviet Russia who are forced to spy for the KGB. Sounds awesome, right? Check out her [url="http://lindsaysmith.net/blog"]blog[/url] and tell her so, or shoot her a [url="http://twitter.com/LindsaySmithDC"]tweet[/url].

Julie Anne Lindsey of [url="http://blog.juliealindsey.com/"]Musings From the Slush Pile[/url] has a lot of her plate! [url="http://www.turquoisemorningpressbookstore.com/products/bloom-seeds-of-love"]BLOOM[/url], the first in her Seeds of Love series, is available now from [url="http://turquoisemorningpressblog.blogspot.com/"]Turquoise Morning Press[/url]. The sequel LOVE BLOSSOMS, will be available 9/2. The last novella in the series will release in December. She also has two print length sweet romances coming to the Honey Creek line for TMP in 2013. Plus, TMP contracted her Contemp YA mystery for their Barefoot Books line. It will arrive in April 2013. AND she's got a YA suspense and a cozy mystery currently out on submission with her agent!





The Saturday Slash

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 25 August 2012 · 175 views

Meet the BBC Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description [url="http://crossingthehelix.blogspot.com/"]RC Lewis[/url] and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.


Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson


We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on [url="http://www.agentqueryconnect.com/"]AgentQuery Connect[/url]. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in [color=yellow]yellow[/color].
Prince Agmund dreams of a kingdom united, but a mysterious sorcerer pictures something else, and his visions don’t include the Ordinal prince. [color=yellow]Decent hook, the one thing that's not quite working for me is that we don't know what an "Ordinal" is. If it's explained later on in the query I think that's fine.[/color]

Agmund knows his kingdom’s past, how his ancestors conquered an evil king. He’s also painfully aware of the present, how Ordinals despise their neighbors, even after Otherkin assimilate the ways of mortals and lose their magic. [color=yellow]Looks good, this doesn't lay it out in black and white about what each race is, but it definitely covers a lot of area. [/color] Life is much colder [color=yellow]interesting choice of words. I like it.[/color] since the death of his mother, and in his father’s eyes, he does nothing right. Hope lies in the upcoming celebration of virtually [color=yellow]virtually 100? Like it's "not quite" 100 years? I'd drop "virtually." [/color]100 years of peace. It’s a chance to reconnect with his father, for races to come together, and for everyone to move forward.

But Agmund’s hopes mean nothing to the mysterious sorcerer. The sorcerer [color=yellow]for better flow here I'd combine these sentences and use "who" for the second "the sorcerer."[/color] invites the spirit of the dead king back to the land of the living, and the two become one. Their [color=yellow]It's not entirely clear who "their" refers to here. And is it really a reward, or more like a goal? [/color] reward…renewed health, revenge, and power, but every bargain [color=yellow]I don't see how it was a bargain. In a bargain someone is either losing something or not getting everything they want. Here it sounds like the sorcerer is getting power and the dead king is getting life back - so who is losing in their particular bargain?[/color] has a price, and someone has to pay.

Agmund’s father pays with his life [color=yellow]If the king's death is part of the bargain, the phrasing isn't quite working for me here. It doesn't cost the sorcerer anything for the king to die[/color], throwing the kingdom into turmoil. A despised uncle [color=yellow]why not our prince?[/color] is crowned King Regent, but the sorcerer pulls his strings. Promotion of Ordinals to preferred citizen[color=yellow](s)[/color] leads to nightly roundups and unexplained disappearances of anyone "different." Otherkins must pretend to be Ordinal or cease to exist. [color=yellow]This is a cool twist, I like it.[/color]

Agmund’s rebuttals are feeble. He looks forward to the day he replaces his uncle on the throne, but getting there and living is another matter. [color=yellow]Aha - here we come back to our prince. He really hasn't been in the query for a few paragraphs. [/color]
[/color][color=yellow]I think in order for this to work you need to explain why the uncle takes Agmund's place. Also what's the connection between the uncle and the sorcerer? The uncle comes out of left field and is suddenly in charge, with the sorcerer pulling the strings. Who is in charge? And why is Agmund's life in danger? Because he is arguing? What's his relationship with his uncle? With the sorcerer?[/color]
[/color][color=yellow]Keep your MC as the main focus, and pare down. I need you to add some elements and this query is already bordering on too long. A good goal for a query is around 300 words. There's plenty of room here for pruning, which will leave spaces for the elements I think are missing. Look hard at *every* word and see if you can't rephrase more simply.[/color]



BBC Book Talk - BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 23 August 2012 · 167 views

[center][url="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-hzdsKU_4xTw/UDL2v4XVYKI/AAAAAAAAAxk/fkjbpvjXOSY/s1600/Gray.jpg"][img]http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-hzdsKU_4xTw/UDL2v4XVYKI/AAAAAAAAAxk/fkjbpvjXOSY/s320/Gray.jpg[/img][/url][/center]Ruta Sepetys' debut [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11242034-between-shades-of-grey"]BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY[/url] illuminates a part of history that few people know about - Stalin's deportation of Lithuanian people in the 1940's. The main character, Lina, is in the middle of writing a letter to her cousin when her family is taken. Shoved onto a truck along with her little brother and mother, she is relieved when they stop at a hospital, thinking that the wounded who struggled with the soldiers are going to be treated. Instead, a young Lithuanian mother, still wearing bloody bedclothes and carrying her minutes-old infant is dragged screaming from the hospital.

That is only the beginning of Lina's journey. She finds emotional solace and a possible form of communication with her Father - separated from them in a men's work camp - in her artwork. Lina is a blessed artist, and she works in whatever mediums he can find, sometimes tracing in the dirt of the traincar floors or hasty sketches on a handkerchief to be passed from one hand to the next.

Not even the frozen Siberian tundra can take away Lina's determination, as her mother and brother both fall ill, she continues to dig beets, make holes that may be her own grave, and wrestle with others for the food to stay alive.

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is deftly delivered, with enough detail to be harrowing yet never gratuitous. The reader feels the passage of years along with Lina, as she grows up in a work camp. But everyday survived feels like a small victory.


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