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Writer, Writer Pants on Fire


The Saturday Slash

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 27 July 2012 · 192 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].
Born into one of the Big Three families of the Enchanter realm, 17-year-old Finna Claremont’s lineage—yeah, lineage—should mean she’ll make a great guardian…. Right. [color=yellow]The hook isn't fantastic, but I like the slight snark in the voice here, so I would keep reading.[/color]

Finna’s screwed up everything from transporting to blocking her thoughts since she was little, so when a fairy declares Finna has special responsibilities to protect her world [color=yellow]Whose world? Finna's, or the fairy's?[/color], it shocks everyone, including Finna. [color=yellow]I'm a little confused here - is this in an entirely different realm? [/color]To prove she can hack it as a guardian, Finna sets out to stop an evil politician threatening the rights of all Enchanters. [color=yellow]Hmm... yeah I don't have a good feel for this world right now. It feels all high fantasy with elves and enchanters and lineages, but now we're talking about politicians? And what does an Enchanter do? [/color]She’ll have to trust the last person she ever expected to befriend [color=yellow]Why? Why does she need his help? How is she going to stop this politician? Clearly more than holding a protest march, I guess.[/color] (not to mention fall in love with) to pull it off. And trusting Liam Monroe isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because he’s a Monroe. They’ve hated the Claremonts for a hundred years, and the feeling is mutual. There’s a lot more than family honor riding on the line if Finna fails to measure up. She’ll have to count on her fledgling powers or else watch the world she knows disappear.

The powerful family ties and strong adult characters set apart BLOOM, a YA fantasy novel complete at 86,000 words.

[color=yellow]I don't know that you want to use this as a sinker, because your query hasn't shown me powerful family ties or strong adult characters. If those are truly strong selling points for your book, get them out into the query. Right now, i think one of the more interesting aspects I see in this query is the idea of the bad guy being a politician, and that the threat lies in losing rights. Usually in fantasy we expect bad sorcerers and dragons as the threat... so I'd say that's another aspect that sets you apart.[/color]

[color=yellow]Build on those. Right now you're trying to sell a not-ilving-up-to-her-potential heroine who is supposed to save the world along with a Hatfield and McCoy romance. All those things have been done before, not necessarily all together, but they have been done. Build the query around your world, because I think that's what's going to set you apart. We need to know what an Enchanter does in the first place, what rights are being threatened, and how Finna intends to fix that with Liam's help in order to say - Wow! I want to read that![/color]



How to Distinguish Between 50 Shades of Grey and Between Shades of Gray

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 25 July 2012 · 204 views

Because it appears to be a problem.




Debut Submission Success with YA Author Bethany Crandell

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 23 July 2012 · 250 views

Before I jump into today's interview - the winner of the [url="http://writerwriterpantsonfire.blogspot.com/2012/07/reading-outside-your-genre-non-ya.html"]Non-YA Giveaway[/url] was Amanda Ray!

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 SHIT guest is a special friend of mine. Bethany Crandell slogged through the query trenches right alongside me, celebrated with me when I crawled on out, and then kept on slogging. We all know slogging makes one weary, but this slogger slogged it out. Bethany emerged with an agent and a deal for her debut [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13635790-summer-on-the-short-bus"]SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS[/url], which will be available from Running Press in 2014.

[center][url="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-yOfUyqcYfMw/T7pg4hecFQI/AAAAAAAAAhk/D2PU_-4_oac/s1600/0.jpeg"][img]http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-yOfUyqcYfMw/T7pg4hecFQI/AAAAAAAAAhk/D2PU_-4_oac/s1600/0.jpeg[/img][/url][/center][i]Cricket Montgomery was born with a golden spoon in her mouth (though Tiffany platinum would have been preferred) and the narcissistic notion that the world revolves around her. After a botched party attempt at the country-club lands her in hot water with her rarely-present father, it's bye-bye relaxing Hawaiian vacation, hello attitude-adjustment as a summer camp counselor.[/i]

[i]As if being left for dead in western Michigan with limited cell coverage isn't punishment enough, Cricket's horror increases when she realizes she's working at a camp for disabled teens. Thankfully there's one bright spot in handicapped hell; fellow counselor and Zac Efron lookalike Quinn, who Cricket falls head over heels for. Unfortunately for Cricket, Quinn is the one person who offers her the brutal truth about the kind of person she really is--and not even a platinum spoon can make 'self-centered, bitch' taste good.[/i]

[i]As wheelchairs, lazy eyes, and slurred speech begin to threaten her sanity, Cricket finds herself relying on the unlikely friendships she makes with the campers, and the strange connection the camp's director seems to have to her forgotten past.[/i]

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

BC: Thanks to one of my best pals allowing me fly-on-the-wall access to her sub process, I knew a fair amount. However, it’s a lot like the first few weeks of sleep deprivation after you bring your newborn baby home from the hospital. People warned you you’d be tired, but until you’ve experienced it first hand—no warning does it justice.

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

BC: I was surprised by how incredibly kind the editors were. We received a handful of rejections, but they were all lovely and encouraging. One actually made me cry! It turns out editors are not dream crushing trolls after all.

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

BC: Hello. My name is Bethany and I’m an internet stalker.

You bet I did. I am a control freak. Since I was on the sidelines waiting while Rachael communicated with the editors, Googling, Twitter-stalking and PM browsing were about the only things I could do that allowed me to feel like I was still a part of the experience. I’m not sure that it got me anywhere, but it did give me a sense of purpose. I wouldn’t not recommend doing it. I think you need to do whatever works for you to get through the process. (For the record, I never Google Earthed anyone. I had to draw the line somewhere).

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

BC: It varied. Some were as little as three weeks, others had it several months and never replied even after we got the offer from Running Press. I’m sure there are a ton of things that factor into their response time. Current lists, how full their in-box is, how many people in-house have to read…basically, too many to count. I tried not to fixate on the spurts of radio silence, but when you’re a big communicator, like I am, that wasn’t easy.

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

BC: Write, if you can focus long enough to do so, and talk to people. I wouldn’t have survived submissions without my author pals there to cheer me on, boost me up, and let me vent. Other writers are your greatest resource—utilize them!

[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]

BC: Whether you’re agent hunting or searching for a publishing home, rejections suck--period. The difference this time around is that I wasn’t taking the hits by myself. Rachael, my agent, was fielding the blows, too. Knowing I had someone who believed in my book as much as I did made the passes a lot less painful.

[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]

BC: I had a little spreadsheet where I tracked the date our query went out, when the material was requested, as well as any feedback they provided. Again, it made me feel like I had a little bit of control in the situation. (The stupid things we writers tell ourselves.) Thankfully, the worst feedback we received was completely subjective. (Subjective. That word gives me the shivers.) I think I’d have fallen on the floor and assumed the fetal position had there been something negative.

As far as the differences between betas & editors; it was hard, but I tried to remind myself that editors are looking for more than just a well-crafted book. They need something that’s going to sell. As much as market trends can hurt authors, that’s just the way it works. Editors gotta eat, too.

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

BC: Here’s the scenario: Ten minutes after I hung up the phone with my agent the phone rang again. I glanced at the display and saw it was her number. My initial thought was, “OH CRAP! Something really bad is happening. Why is she calling me again?” After a deep breath I picked up the phone…

ME: “Hello?”
AGENT: “Are you sitting down?”
ME: “Uh…”
AGENT: “They’re going to make an offer today.”
ME: Absolute silence immediately followed by hysterical, bordering on scary, laughter. “Shut up! Are you serious? Don’t lie to me ‘cause you know I can’t handle that today.”

The rest is a lovely blur. It took several days for the reality of what was happening to sink in. In fact…it’s still sinking in. Sometimes I’ll be doing something totally brainless like sitting at a stoplight or packing the girls’ lunches and it will hit me, MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE ON A SHELF—IN A BOOK STORE! And then I break into the giggles again.

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

BC: Thankfully, my editor contacted me within two or three days to let me know it was safe to let the cat out of the bag. The cat is now perched on a very tall mountain with a megaphone mewing like a lunatic!



Getting Sued Would Not Be Fun, So Be Smart

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 23 July 2012 · 148 views

There is a fantastic post today over on [url="http://www.roniloren.com/blog/2012/7/20/bloggers-beware-you-can-get-sued-for-using-pics-on-your-blog.html"]Roni Loren's blog[/url] about using photographs on your blog. In summation - yes, you can be sued for using a picture you didn't take yourself on your blog. It doesn't matter if you link back and name the photog, it doesn't matter if you acknowledge it's not yours, it doesn't matter if you don't make money off of it, it doesn't matter if it was innocent and you didn't know you were wrong.

As a librarian, I'm very aware of copyright issues. As a writer, I'm very aware of how they protect me. As a blogger, I'd love to be able to pop up whatever pretty picture my Google search presents me with to spice up the latest post.

But I can't - and more to the point - [i]I shouldn't[/i].

One reason I waited so long to create a [url="http://pinterest.com/bigblackcat97/not-a-drop-to-drink/"]Pinterest account [/url]was because I'm pretty sure the only way to be totally free and clear of Legal-Land is to only use your own pics and not re-pin. So that's what I do over there. Sure, it might be the paranoid way of going about it, but I'm a paranoid gal.

I'm fairly certain that the only pics I have on my blog are ones I took myself, or that I had permission to use. Even so, I'm going back through today and making sure of that fact.

You might want to consider doing that too, if you're a blogger.

What are the odds you get zinged? Small.

But I'm sure the 13 year old girl who used Napster thought that too, right? (God, what a fiasco THAT was).



The Saturday Slash

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 20 July 2012 · 177 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].
Avery isn’t as crazy as everyone thinks—her dreams really are coming to life. But ever since she lied about her parents’ kidnapping, she’s the girl who cried wolf. [color=yellow]Oh - nice. I'd consider switching your sentences around here. The first one isn't quite as "hook-y" as you want it to be. You start out with kind of an overused concept, but then you turn it around with the second sentence. Consider restructuring for strength, but it's still solid as is.[/color]
But one boy believes her. Mason knows Avery is a Dreamer—a regular person with the ability to bring their dreams to life [color=yellow]I'd drop "regular," as it sounds like being a Dreamer automatically discounts you as regular.[/color]. What he doesn’t know is she’s the future and hope of all mankind, and her dreams are bringing a sinister group of people, the Dream Catchers, one step closer to finding her and harnessing her power for evil. [color=yellow]Why is she the Special Dreamer of all Dreamers? How is she the hope of all mankind? Why is she special and different even among Dreamers? And how are her dreams bringing the Catchers closer to her?[/color]

As a Waker—a protector of Dreamers—it’s Mason’s job to help her control her dreams and shield her from the Dream Catchers. But learning to trust someone, especially a Yankee [color=yellow]Is this book set in the South? Why does it matter that he's a Yankee?[/color] who may just be the boy of her dreams, could be Avery’s biggest challenge.

Narrated alternately by Avery and Mason, DREAM MAKER, a YA modern fantasy, is complete at 61,000 words and is on multiple submissions. [color=yellow]You don't need to specify that you're querying more than one agent, they expect it.[/color]

[color=yellow]I'm definitely drawn in by the concept but I need more here in order for this query to escape from the "Special Girl / Protector Boy / World Might End" derivative machine. You really had me with the idea that Avery has lied about something - something HUGE - in the past... and then *poof* that totally left the query. Her parents aren't even mentioned again, or their kidnapping. Are her parents still around? What's the story with the kidnapping? Does it play into the larger plot? Why would Avery lie about that in the first place? You bring up some massive questions that sound like they have the potential to separate this from every other YA urban fantasy, but then you drop them.[/color]

[color=yellow]I also need to know why Avery is so special, even among Dreamers, and how her dreams are leading the Catchers to her. The concept is interesting, and I like the idea, but I need to see in the query that you've got the execution nailed - show me the details instead of these broad strokes and make it clear that you've got a unique twist on the "Special Girl" story.[/color]



BBC Book Talk - INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 19 July 2012 · 186 views

The first thing people talk about when they talk about [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8573642-incarnate"]INCARNATE[/url] is the cover. And yes, it's pretty gorgeous. I've seen birds fly into it.

[center][url="http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1307385651l/8573642.jpg"][img]http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1307385651l/8573642.jpg[/img][/url][/center]But what I find even more stunning about the book is the theme behind the cover, and somehow that never quite makes all the conversations. So I'll go ahead and start my own.

INCARNATE is the story of Ana, the first Newsoul to be born in Range for 5,000 years. For centuries the same people have been reincarnated over and over again, loves finding each other in different bodies, different lifetimes. Friends reinvent their relationships, 9 year olds serve as doctors by drawing on knowledge from their past lives, and everyone keeps journals of their previous deaths so that others can learn how to prevent dying in the same manner.

Into this society of knowledge and reincarnation comes Ana, a squalling, unlearned infant with nothing to contribute, no memories, no past loves to find again, no friendships to rekindle. Ana's father disappears in shame, her mother removes her from the main city of Heart to raise her in solitude and neglect. On her 18th birthday, Ana leaves the home she is not wanted in and heads for Heart, the city where a mysterious beat can be felt in the very walls, determined to discover what her birth means, and who she is.

On her journey Ana is rescued from certain death by Sam, a boy her own age, though behind his eyes she can see the memories of the thousand lifetimes before this one. As she recovers, she reluctantly shares what little she knows about her own life, and hesitantly mentions her great love of music. She later regrets this when she learns that Sam is the current incarnation of her beloved composer Dossam.

Ana is a new thing in an old world, a cigarette burn flash in the corner of a four hour movie. As she puts it - she's a butterfly in their world, a creature that will live only two days in comparison to their thousands of years... and who would bother to befriend a butterfly? Or dare to love her?

[url="http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1336406778l/13043180.jpg"][img]http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1336406778l/13043180.jpg[/img][/url]The relationship between Sam and Ana is the heart of the book, and deftly woven. His kind compassion is the only way to draw out her injured and reluctant self; her unsure demeanor and unmitigated love for music is the way to his heart - no matter what life he's on.

For readers looking for a good, clean love story this is a great pick.

For readers looking for the answer to what Ana is and what her existence means, you'll have to wait for [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13043180-asunder"]ASUNDER[/url] :)



Thursday Thoughts

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 18 July 2012 · 180 views

Thoughts this week have been of the natural world. It's effing hot here in Ohio but I know that in January I'll be irritated that I can't go outside because it's freezing. So I've been trekking outdoors anyway.

1) I've got a healthy colony of mockingbirds on my property. They're very attractive birds, and also incredibly intelligent. I recently learned that they [url="http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/may/18/mockingbirds-human-recognition"]attack people they see as threats[/url] - what if we did that? I'm picturing urban housewives bursting out of front doors and tearing hairs from the jogger's head that's passed by one too many times.

2) You might have noticed this about me already, if you follow me on [url="https://twitter.com/bigblackcat97"]Twitter[/url] or [url="http://pinterest.com/bigblackcat97/not-a-drop-to-drink/"]Pinterest[/url], but I have a weird fascination with buzzards. They are incredibly unattractive birds. Really, really ugly. But, God gave them some weight on the other end of the scale too, because those things can hover forever at incredible altitudes. Since they're not hunters, I can only assume they go way up there and glide for the fun of it. Such interesting, weird, ugly things.

3) If a bug gets inside my car and I drive 30 miles away and it flies out - is it lost? Did it have a real home that it would go back to every night? Or is it just like, "Oh what a relief! That girl [i]cannot [/i]sing."



A Cover Reveal Interview with Megan Shepherd, Author of THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 16 July 2012 · 188 views


[i]Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid and trying to forget the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he's alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she's determined to find out if the accusations were true.[/i]

[i]Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward, Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the secret of her father's new life: he experiments on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.[/i]

[i]Inspired by H.G. Wells's classic The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.[/i]

I love talking to debut authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest is my fellow [url="http://thelucky13s.blogspot.com/"]Lucky13s[/url] and [url="http://fridaythethirteeners.blogspot.com/"]Friday the Thirteeners[/url] member Megan Shepherd, to talk about her awesome cover for [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12291438-the-madman-s-daughter"]THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER[/url], available from Balzer & Bray, January 29, 2013. Megan's got a few e-hangouts, find her on her [url="http://www.meganshepherd.com/"]site[/url], [url="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Megan-Shepherd-Author/151819421593279"]Facebook[/url] and [url="http://www.twitter.com/megan_shepherd"]Twitter[/url].

[b]BBC: Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?[/b]

MS: You would think a writer might also have a good eye for visual arts, but I don’t. A few cover ideas came to my head for The Madman’s Daughter but they were all pretty terrible, so I was delighted to leave it to the professionals! I actually designed a fake cover for The Madman’s Daughter as part of a blog dare, and this is the train wreck that I produced:

Though I do think it has a certain, I don’t know, sophistication. Ahem. As far as the real cover, I put all my trust in the HarperCollins designers. I just knew I wanted it to capture the creepy, beautiful, Gothic feel of the book. I also hoped it would appeal to a wide range of readers: boys, girls, adults, librarians. And I think they did a fantastic job with that.

[b]BBC: How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?[/b]

MH: I first heard whispers about the cover design a year before the pub date. My editor kept me up-to-date with the process, which was pretty exciting for a debut author. My publishing house, Balzer + Bray, hired a photographer to do the photo shoot complete with model and outdoor setting. I got to see the model’s headshots, which was an incredible moment—looking at your fictional main character as a real person!

[b]BBC: Did you have any input on your cover?[/b]

MH: The design team at HarperCollins handled everything, thankfully—I’d have just given them some awful advice like “put a shirtless man on the cover” (ie, see my terrible design above). My editor did a great job keeping me informed; she showed me their original design plan, which included color schemes, inspiring images, and sample fonts. Everything was absolutely 100% spot-on; I really felt like they understood the mood of the book. Then she showed me the tentative mock-up and the ARC cover and asked my opinion on each along the way. I just loved everything, right from the start.

[b]BBC: How was your cover revealed to you?[/b]

MH: Thinking of seeing my cover for the first time makes me smile! It was in late April, and I was on a week-long writing retreat in Bat Cave, North Carolina (what better place for a top-secret writers retreat than Bat Cave?) with eight other MG and YA writers: Alan Gratz, Megan Miranda, Tiffany Trent, Beth Revis, Carrie Ryan, Laurel Snyder, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, and Gwenda Bond. I’m dropping their names because they are all so cool, and also inspirations of mine, and now I can tell you what they eat for breakfast ☺ Anyway, as we were winding down for the day, I got an email from my editor with the cover art! Immediately all the other writers crowded around, and there was lots of shrieking and happiness, followed by lots of wine.

[b]BBC: Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?[/b]

MH: Being a part of the Friday the Thirteeners blog, I’ve met some wonderful people. Ellen Oh (whose book Prophecy comes out in January 2013) and I are both with HarperCollins and both had a cover reveal date of June 18. So we thought it would be great to collaborate and have a joint reveal! Mandy at YA Book Central hosted an exclusive cover reveal, where we gave away ARCs and swag, and it was tons of fun.

[b]BBC: How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?[/b]

MH: My cover reveal was June 18, and I saw the tentative cover about six weeks before that. Then there were a few weeks of tweaking fonts and colors, but the basic feel of the cover remained the same.

[b]BBC: Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?[/b]

MH: It wasn’t just hard—it was impossible. Literally. I probably showed it to more people than I was supposed to, but I was just too excited! The “pre-cover-reveal” circle of trust mostly included my husband, the other writers at the Bat Cave retreat, my mom, and this waiter who accidentally saw it over dinner.

I wanted to show it to everyone! To stick it on my website and make postcards of it and generally proclaim to the world that my book has a beautiful cover.

[b]BBC: What surprised you most about the process?[/b]

MH: I had very few expectations about how the cover design process would go. The process itself wasn’t too surprising, but the feeling I got when looking at the finished cover was. It’s so strange and wonderful to put a real person’s face to the character in your head. I love the model they used, and the way she is peeking over her bare shoulder. There’s a hint of madness there, but also strength, and desire, and power. And I love that you only get a glimpse of the face, so readers can still use their imagination to picture Juliet Moreau.

[b]BBC: Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?[/b]

MH: Long before I saw it, I was irrationally worried I would hate my cover art. But once I looked at other Balzer + Bray titles, I realized that there was no reason to be anxious. All their covers are great and do a wonderful job of capturing the spirit and feel of each individual book. Designers are designers for a reason—they are really talented at what they do! I’m so glad that my editor and the design team were able to capture how I felt about the book and convert it into such a perfect, intriguing cover.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Mindy!



Reading Outside Your Genre & A Non-YA Giveaway

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 16 July 2012 · 297 views

I've talked a little bit before about a phenomenon I call [url="http://writerwriterpantsonfire.blogspot.com/2011/07/little-ya-departure-noir-style.html"]voice bleeding[/url], but for those of you who don't feel like clicking I'll re-hash here. We've all ended up with a fake British accent after watching [i]Downton Abbey[/i], or reading JANE EYRE. I think everyone walks with a little bit of a swagger or pretends that they're reading a horse after watching [i]Deadwood[/i]. Heck, some of us even find a way to slip the word "Tutanka" into our casual conversations after watching [i]Dances with Wolves[/i].

And while all these things are perfectly acceptable (if you're capable of doing a decent faux Brit accent, that is), the unique danger that such cultural interactions poses for writers is a voice bleed. When your tough chic starts extending her pinkie and sipping tea, when you picture your bad guy polishing a splintered bar instead of revving his Harley. When the jargon of war-torn upper-class England and the 1800's Black Hills starts infiltrating your contemporary YA... that's a voice bleed.

So how do we avoid this as writers?

One trick is to not read at all while writing. It's kind of like using abstinence to ensure you don't get pregnant. It's the sure-fire, hell-no-that-won't-happen answer.

But some of us aren't capable of keeping our hands off the papery spines, so the second option is to read something so far from your genre that there isn't much of a chance of the boundaries being crossed. I highly recommend a [url="http://writerwriterpantsonfire.blogspot.com/2011/09/voice-bleeding-remedy-staunch-it-with.html"]good non-fiction read[/url] for those times, but there are also plenty of fiction options that fit the bill, and I came across one such this past weekend.

[center][url="http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1336312974l/13513073.jpg"][img]http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1336312974l/13513073.jpg[/img][/url][/center][url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13513073-fobbit"]FOBBIT[/url] by David Abrams is a fantastic masculine satire set during Operation Iraqi Freedom. For those of you who don't know (and really, if you did you get Mindy-points) a Fobbit is a U.S. soldier stationed at a Forward Operating Base who avoids combat by remaining at the base. Each chapter sets you solidly in the boots of different soldiers and their perceptions of one another as they move through the sand-covered world of Iraq, with mortars flying overhead and situations so ridiculous they're only eclipsed by the fumbling efforts to control the public perception of them.

It's CATCH-22 for our generation, and I won't be the first person to make that comparison. Granted, there's a sly aside in FOBBIT where one of the narrators is reading Heller poolside, but it's a deserved nod and organic to the situation. I had Heller on my mind while reading FOBBIT for sure, but Chuck Palahniuk as well (another great genre-buster to read, b/c hey - none of us write like him). The writing is masculine and gorgeous at the same time, gut-wrenching and mind numbing. Abrams captures the ridiculous and makes the reader want to put their head in their hands right along with his characters.

So if you're looking for something to break you out of a reading funk, give FOBBIT a shot. But you'll have to wait until September 4th, when it's available from Grove Press. :)

In honor of getting outside your writing comfort zone, I'm giving away two books to a lucky person who wants to read something substantial this summer. [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/77203.The_Kite_Runner"]THE KITE RUNNER[/url] and [url="http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/128029.A_Thousand_Splendid_Suns"]A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS[/url] both by Khaled Hosseini. All you need to do to enter this giveaway is be a follower of my blog and comment below. Giveaway is US only and will run through Sunday, July 22 at 11:59 PM.





The Saturday Slash

  Posted by bigblackcat97 , 13 July 2012 · 328 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.

[url="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ys6toRSVJD4/UADeqdCGAKI/AAAAAAAAArg/zFHQIB3dYgs/s1600/NewestSatSlash.jpg"][img]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ys6toRSVJD4/UADeqdCGAKI/AAAAAAAAArg/zFHQIB3dYgs/s320/NewestSatSlash.jpg[/img][/url]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].
A flash of pain is all Jimmy Rickliefs remembers from the night he almost died. [color=yellow]Decent hook, but it does beg the question of how he almost died. [/color]Now he suffers from terrifying seizures and his shattered body can’t keep up with his career as a drummer. Once known for his turquoise hair and outgoing personality, Jimmy turns sullen and withdrawn as depression begins to take its toll. [color=yellow]Nice. So far, it's well written and succinct.[/color]

Through the nightmare of his recovery, Jimmy takes some comfort from his pregnant wife’s survival. [color=yellow]However, the idea of his wife surviving that same night continues to make me wonder what actually happened? Car crash? [/color]But as the stress of his recovery mounts, his daughter is born twelve weeks early. [color=yellow]The stress of his recovery, or the stress of the accident she was also involved in?[/color] She wasn’t breathing for two minutes after her traumatic birth. [color=yellow]Slight tense issue here - we were with "is" and now wepre playing with "was." [/color]Now [color=yellow]and back to present again[/color], seizures are a daily worry and brain damage is always on the horizon. Her chances for survival are slim. [color=yellow]Echo here with "survival." I feel like you got the point across that the infant is in danger without this last sentence, in any case.[/color]

With hospital bills mounting, Jimmy has a decision to make: return to the band despite his injuries, or lose everything. While his income can provide for the family, one misplaced strobe light could trigger a seizure and he could [color=yellow]echo with "could" [/color]be a vegetable. One fall [color=yellow]fall from what? or just fall down? [/color]and his career might truly end. He knows they can’t live on Allison’s [color=yellow]first use of her proper name here[/color] income alone, and could [color=yellow]another "could" echo[/color] be homeless if he doesn’t go back. Jimmy isn’t sure, however, that he wants to go back. [color=yellow]Why not? [/color]

Driven is mainstream fiction, complete at 91,668 words. [color=yellow]Give the a round number, always. But before you query I'd definitely look at shaving off the extras. 90k is high for mainstream breakout. And also, I'm not sure that "mainstream" is really used that much as a genre? I'm honestly not positive on that one to be honest, so look elsewhere for solid advice on that front :)[/color]

[color=yellow]It sounds like you've got an interesting plot but it's a little buried here. First off - we need to know what the accident was. I'm guessing by the title and the fact that the wife was involved is car crash, but you need to be explicit. Also, the idea of both the infant and Jimmy suffering from seizures is a little confusing. You need to be clear about what danger exactly Jimmy is in, what his recovery entails. Why would a strobe light cause a seizure? Why is a fall a concern? Is he losing consciousness periodically or do you just mean a fall caused by a seizure? You mention that he could be a vegetable, but it sounds like the infant is facing the same dangers, so you need to be very clear about what is ailing each of them, and how the two differ. [/color]

[color=yellow]It sounds like the real crux here is the question of Jimmy going back to work, finding his old self again. But we're not seeing this until the last para, and then at the last line. So why isn't he sure that he wants to go back? Is it purely the physical that bothers him? Is he worried about his health? Or does it have to do with your first mention of his "rock star" self with turquoise hair that he needs to recapture and can't quite, after the accident? Be clear about this, and make it happen sooner. We need the obstacles - emotional, physical, mental - tossed out earlier in the query.[/color]


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