Friday, March 30, 2012

Things To Know Before It's Too Late

Deadline #1: You have until 11:59 PM on April 30 MARCH 31 to enter the A-Z Blogfest Challenge. You know you want to. All the cool kids are doing it! I'm spending the month talking all about... myself. What, you're surprised? I might also mention a word or two about all the people and books that have made me the wonderful person I am today. Maybe.

Deadline #2: Right now, the YA Scavenger Hunt is going on. There are 60 books up for the grand prize and countless side contests with jewelry, swag, ARCs, books, and other loveliness to be won. Hop along one or all of three colored trails, collect the letters, unscramble the secret messages, [tell them to Robin, who cannot unscramble secret messages to save her life], and enter it into the grand prize drawing by noon on April 1.

Deadline #3: One year from yesterday, I'll have a 12-year-old son.

I hope he'll feel mature enough to go to a movie with his mother for his birthday.



I just couldn't let you go one more day without joining me in the agony of waiting.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lucky Seven Meme

My friend Kristin Lynn Thetford tagged me with this interesting/nerve-wracking blog... meme... thing.

Drum roll, please?

Here are the rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next seven lines, sentences, or paragraphs and post them as they’re written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know
 Fun, hey?

So here's mine. I interpreted "current MS" to mean "the MS I'm currently querying," since the one I'm writing is called a WIP (in my own little head), and, though I've written more than 77 pages, they're not all together yet (my first draft is written in sections).

I decided to go with the next seven paragraphs, since they're all short and end exactly at the end of chapter seven. Not lying.

“And you just trusted that they’d keep their eyes closed for a whole ten seconds? Brina! You’re fast, but ten seconds is still a long time!”

Brina thought back to the van, and to the certainty she’d felt that she could shrink as fast as London. She’d felt the Black pulsing in every cell, tense and waiting, then when the guy in the back scooted up to the front to talk to the driver, she’d thought Small and was instantly small enough to fly.
“No, Dad, London taught me how to do it faster. I can flash shrink, now.”
The expressions on the faces around the kitchen were priceless. Impressed mixed with incredulous. They all thought she was exaggerating.
She decided a demonstration was in order, and started gathering Black. She was feeling stronger, now, so she stood up and walked to the edge of the table, then glided down to the floor and thought Big.

This time growing was just as fast. Everyone gasped and stood up as she suddenly exploded to full size beside the table.

Her triumph lasted all of three seconds before her vision hazed over and she was forced to sit at the table. As she laid her head on her arms, she heard her dad sigh. “She’s been harvested, alright.” 

Sadly, I now want to edit it, since I NOW notice that I've used "the table" three times in seven paragraphs. *grumblegrumble* I'm leaving it as it was, since I don't want to cheat, but please pretend that "beside the table" is absent and "sit at the table" reads "sit down." I'm also wondering if I used the word "laid" correctly. Anyone know? Sheesh. I swear I edited this.

Anyhoo, now I get to pick seven authors whose books I want to read some of. Let's see....

  1. Chantele Sedgwick (from NYAFT, please?)
  2. Susan Jensen (I know you have at least 77 pages!)
  3. Shelly Brown (Do it or I'll turn you into a witch! Oh...)
  4. Chad Brown (Just so we can decide, once and for all, which Brown is a better writer)
  5. Jenn Johansson (Whichever MS has the creepiest page 77)
  6. Nancy S. Thompson (from TM, please?)
  7. Emily R. King (somethin' romantic?)
Naturally, there are tons of authors who should be on this list, but I hope I can get these to play.... :)

If you could force any author to reveal seven paragraphs of their upcoming book, which would it be?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kindles for Kids

And now, a special message from Danyelle Leafty. After my son's pseudo cancer-scare (turns out it was a virus that mimics lymphoma), this is a topic close to my heart. Please consider joining in.
What exactly is Kindles for Kids?

Kindles for Kids is my way of paying it forward. My goal is to raise enough funds to purchase 10 Kindle Fires for the pediatric unit of a local hospital in UT.

How does Kindles for Kids work?

From March 12th-31st of 2012, I will be donating the *royalties I make on THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA: CATSPELL--both in paper and e-book form--toward the purchase of the Kindle Fires.

Royalties are paid a month to two months after the fact. Factoring in that as well as putting in the order, receiving them, and getting them ready, I will be delivering the Kindle Fires to the hospital in June of 2012.

How can you participate?

If you are an author (published) or a writer (unpublished), this link will explain it more. A more detailed link can be found here. In short, I'm hosting an open call for donating **books you have the rights to for the hospital. One book per Kindle Fire. You can also participate by writing a ***short story for a fairy tale anthology I'm putting together for the hospital. If you're a reader, this link will give you a few ideas on how to help spread the word.

How can you help?

The greatest help of all is to help me get the word out. You can do this by talking to people--online and in real life, posting about Kindles for Kids on forums, groups, on your blog, and by printing out and posting fliers. More detailed link here, as well as details for a photo contest. Link for the flyer here.

I can't do this without you, so thank you to all who participate in any way they can!


*Royalties up to 249,000 copies. After that, I have to buy an extended license for the photographs I use for the cover.


**All books will be vetted by me personally for both formatting and content. Since the Kindle Fires are going to the pediatric unit, I would ask that any donations are formatted and edited well, and that they go no higher than a PG rating.


***As with the books, please keep the short stories at a PG or G rating. Again, all stories that are chosen for inclusion in the anthology will be vetted by me personally. Also, because digital copies of the anthology will be donated to the hospitals, and there will be no money made off of them, neither the editor (me) nor the authors will receive payment or money for them. However, everyone who is included will receive a digital copy as either a PDF, a kindle file, or epub.

Is This A Thriller I See Before Me?

I went to see Hunger Games on Friday. I went into it with a lot of worry. I was nervous about what I would see, which images would be stuck in my head forever. I predicted that I'd need a bunch of tissues.

Well, I shouldn't have worried.

***MILD SPOILER WARNING*** If you haven't read the book / seen the movie, and don't want to know details, stop reading now.
Fire is very thrilling, no?
First, let me say that the movie was overall very, very good. The acting was spot-on and I have absolutely no gripes about any of the talented actors. Katniss was awesome: a tight portrayal of the tough-as-nails heroine I remember from the book. Hard to relate to, perhaps, but honed by living in a world I'd never, ever, EVER want to experience myself. Rue was sooo cool. Their brief camaraderie was fun to watch. Peeta was just as he should have been: charming the crowds while wishing he could be above it all. Brave and vulnerable. Willing to sacrifice for the girl he loved. The supporting cast was just as good, and I loved getting the insider view of the "backstage" portion of the games, and the people who run the kill-fest. Especially Haymitch's dealings-and-wheelings. Fun, fun, fun.

I loved the spectacle of it all, too. The set and costume design was amazing, especially with the Capital's technology contrasted with the primitive atmosphere of District 12. The over-the-top fashions of the Capital citizens contrasted with the homespun garb of the tributes (before the designers got a hold of them).

The plot was faithful, the dialogue was authentic, and the emotions were just as they should have been.

So why didn't I cry more? I teared up a couple times at the beginning, but that was it. I didn't even cry when Rue died. What's up with that?

Hubby went with me, too (under protest, but with lots of friends to keep him company), and his main--mostly valid--gripe was that it d  r  a  g  g  e  d. Soo much more than you'd expect a movie to drag when the main plot is about children being forced to kill each other.

Now, I can easily see the justification for this. The point of this franchise, after all, is that we, as a society, wrongly glorify violence, voyeurism, and the uneven distribution of assets. If such a movie were to, say, provide a swell of music to prod the emotions of those watching a violent scene (while munching expensive popcorn), it might be accused of promoting the exact behavior it condemns, yes?

Or no. Emotionally connecting with characters normally serves to drive home the message--not interfere with it. If we love someone, we are more inclined to love what they love, to hate what they hate, and to desperately yearn for what they want most. Katniss and Peeta are the perfect heroes for this. Why handicap my ability to emotionally connect with them?

The main difference between a book and a movie is that a book can provide you insight into what the character is feeling by describing those emotions. A movie can't do that, but it can show those emotions through effective acting, cinematography, and use of music.

So why was the main sound in the background of Hunger Games the twittering of birds and insects? Well, when it wasn't the roaring of crowds, anyway. Where was the music? I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I need a soundtrack to tell me what to feel, but, seriously: Where was it? Why didn't they pull out all the stops to help their audience feel the tragedy of Katniss's situation? The one thing music has on words is its ability to easily evoke emotion. A few chords can do what what a page of text cannot. Why didn't the music show up to help me feel what Katniss was feeling?

Another thing I noticed that slowed things down was the cinematography. Now, I'm the first to admit that I know just enough about films to be dangerous. A few classes in college does not an expert make... but isn't it pretty basic that shorter shots make for a more exciting viewing experience? Why was so much of the movie edited using long shots? That's the sort of thing you use when you want to give your audience time to consider and ponder during the scene. (Same concept in writing, by the way: short sentences move the action along, while long sentences drag it out.) The message here was important, but why do I have to ponder it during the film? If you evoke my emotions, I'll ponder it long after. If it is exciting enough, I'll come back and watch it again and again, absorbing more of your message each time.

Few people re-watch documentaries.

In the end, I didn't hate it. They kept the graphic violence to an admirable minimum, considering the plot, and I don't have any images in my head that I need to try to hide from. (That might also be because the emotion was detached from a lot of the violence by virtue of the sparse soundtrack.)

To sum it up, though, this is not a thriller. It's a thoughtful piece about children dealing with violence in a world that thrives on their poverty, thrills in their tragedies, and capitalizes on their deaths. It spurs much thought, but little (not NO) change in heart-rate. It is important, but not entirely exciting. Which, again, is a strange thing to say about a movie where over a score of children are murdered.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Friday, March 23, 2012

To Hunger Games or Not to Hunger Games?

When only the first book was out, I first became aware of it because Stephenie Meyer posted a rare blog post praising it. I slapped it on my TBR list... and read the description. Twenty-four children pitched in a closed-compound battle to the death? Sounded... brutal. Terrifying. Agonizing. 

Good reviews poured in and still I balked. It's not that I didn't think it would be a great read or even that it wouldn't be an important read. It's just that I get plenty of exposure to the ugly side of life at my day-job and I don't need my entertainment to provide that sort of catharsis. I never felt like I was in the right mood for that sort of experience.

Then book two came out and I had the perfect excuse not to read them: Catching Fire ended on a cliffhanger. Obviously, I shouldn't start the series until all three were out, right? Right. So I waited.

Then, as Mockingjay came out, my book group started a Hunger Games marathon so we could discuss the whole series together. It was as brutal as I thought it would be. But also better. Filled with terror, but also humanity. Packed with awful people doing awful things to each other, but also with people who were just trying to be good in a horrible world.

I didn't have a blog back then, but this is what I said on my friend Susan's blog about Mockingjay:
I finished it a few hours ago and I'm reeling. Though I understand the criticisms about the anticlimax and the inevitable antipathy about her love life, this is a book about children reacting to war. How is that supposed to end well? In these sorts of books I have a love-hate relationship with realism, but I think it would have cheapened what Collins was trying to do if Katniss had emerged truly triumphant.

Like Plutarch says, humanity will always wage war with each other, interspersed with short, blissful periods where we swear never to do it again. There is no ending Collins could have written that could have erased that truth. Until humanity itself is different, war will continue.
The "unexpected death" was the least surprising thing about the book to me. As in the French Revolution, where the people rose up to meet brutality with savagery, and then had to purge the purgers before they could have real peace, there was (at least) one rebel savage who had to die for hope to have a chance. It frankly makes me a bit nervous that Gale has such an important job in District 2.

These books are powerful, and I'm still not sure what to take from them, but I can't separate them out into favorites. They're all about the horrors of war and the enduring (though imperfect) resilience of one girl who had to wade through the blood.

I'll be happier when I can get it out of my head.
Yeah, I pontificate on other people's blogs, too.

So now the movie is coming out and for the past year I've been fighting with myself on whether I want to see it at all. I'm not eager to revisit those emotions. I'm not happy that my brain, which helpfully protected me from Hunger Games images I didn't want to examine too closely, will now be filled with them.

Since one of my biggest tear-triggers is People Dealing With Death, I'm not sure I can fit enough tissues in my purse. I can't make it through a trailer without tearing up.

But I'm obsessed with the trailers. With the pictures. With this song, in particular, which haunts me. I wonder if this is what Katniss sings to Rue.



So I'm going. Tonight, with a group of adult couples.

My husband watched one trailer and declared himself so disinclined to see it, he'd rather watch any one of the Twilight films instead. He is not swayed by the list of his male friends who will be in the group. He is unimpressed by my assurances that this is not just a movie about children killing children. That there is a loftier message, and that, like We Were Soldiers (which he loves), it is an allegory denouncing the very actions it presents. Showing us what we must never allow to happen.

Because he loves me, he's going. He's planning on napping through it, but he'll be there to hold my hand as I weep.

So are you going? Will you need tissues?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Worry Got Me in the End, Dang It

So after last Friday's post, I'm sure you were all admiring my stalwart let's-wait-and-see attitude, right?

*Sigh*

I actually managed to keep that nice, healthy outlook until about Saturday afternoon. That's two days before we got the next blood test results. For those two days... well, it wasn't pretty. We had to open a new box of tissues. Hubby had to assume the role of optimist to keep me from going off the deep end. I was pretty much completely useless. Also, it turns out that I do NOT write when I'm super-stressed. I read mindless romances and watch mindless TV.

Saturday, hubby and I watched a marathon of InkMaster. All. Day. The whole season. (The best guy totally won.) Before Saturday, I had never watched a show that revolved around tattooing. I may never watch any more, but it was fascinating enough and mindless enough to get me through the day.

Sunday, our extended family had a special fast (that's going without food and water for two meals, then praying really hard). Because my father's family is still in England, this was international. My sister Heather reported that her seven-year-old participated in the fast voluntarily and without whining. That's phenomenal. We also benefited from the prayers and well-wishes of hundreds of friends--both online and IRL--and other family. Some who know my dear boy, some who haven't even met me.

We've been truly humbled by the outpouring of support.

Didn't stop me from being terrified as Sunday night rolled around, but it sure helped to know so many people were pulling for our little family.

So, after all that ado, I have good news: it's probably not cancer.

His white blood cell count is back up into low-normal range. They're testing for some viruses and they'll probably be doing regular blood tests to check into that white-blood-cell issue, but he went back to school Tuesday after a week and a half away. We're not out of the woods, and they haven't ruled much out at this point, but things are looking very, very hopeful.

Thank you to everyone who sent prayers our way. I can't say how grateful I am.

If you ever want to write a story with a stalwart, logic-first mother who thinks she can avoid worrying about the unknown where her children are concerned, feel free to interview me. :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Perception

My six-year-old is sick. He's been running a fever for more than a week. Not counting the last time he was sick, a couple weeks ago. That fever is normally around 99 degrees, but last weekend, it was spiking to 106 degrees. Scary stuff.

Monday, my husband took him in for blood work and we discovered that his white blood cell count was frighteningly low. He has swollen lymph nodes. This COULD be an indication that he has lymphoma, but, at present, we know nothing. It could be an infection. It could be almost anything. It could be nothing.

Next Monday, we're taking him in for more blood work, so we can compare the blood work from last time. After that, we might be referred to a pediatric oncologist.

(By the way, who in their right mind would ever want to be a pediatric oncologist? I'm sure they're needed and I'm grateful they exist, but shoot. Talk about a buzz-kill profession.)

Anyway, my husband is a wreck. When he tells people about it, he leads off with "my son might have terminal lymphoma." Yeah. I wanted to hit him. Bad enough he's not eating, sleeping, or keeping things in perspective! Does he have to get everyone else thinking worst-case-scenario, too?

By contrast, I'm a cold-hearted you-know-what. I don't like worrying, so I don't do it. I don't use the c-word where the kids can hear me. I don't break down. Ever. I'm not being strong, I'm not toughing this out, and I'm not ignoring the facts. We don't have any facts. Until we do, all the hair-pulling, tear-jerking, heart-wrenching, and fist shaking in the world will accomplish exactly nothing.

Time enough for that sort of thing when we have some actual news, methinks.

Or not, since I fully expect this to be nothing.

So where does the glass sit for you when possibly horrible news is looming?

(Oh, and if you know us and you want more info, don't call my husband. I'll be updating my Facebook page when we have news, and I'll probably tweet and drop a line here, too.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Idea?

Stephenie Meyer had a dream, wrote it down, expanded on it, and sold it in 6 months.

I'm pretty sure J.K. Rowling once said that the entire plot of Harry Potter just fell into her head one day.

Does that ever happen to any of you? Me, neither.

My first full MS started when I sat myself down (well, I was driving) and decided to try to write a story that challenged people's perceptions of things and that used a magical creature that hadn't been done to death already. So I decided to make people think pixies were cool--and not just for children.

That was the beginning. It took years to figure out what the plot would be.

My current WIP actually started with a scene that kept bugging me until I wrote it down... but the scene won't fit anywhere in the current book. The character in the scene won't fit into the book. I have all new characters. The only thing that's at all similar to the original scene is the magic system.

The next idea that's niggling at me deals with challenging established class systems. I have a vague idea who the hero and heroine might be (as in their societal roles) and I'm trying to flesh out the magic system... but I have no clue what they want or how the magic might help.

Nope, my stories come through blood, sweat, and tears. False starts. Deleted chapters. Rewritten endings and trashed beginnings.

How about you? Where do you get your ideas? (Might as well practice answering this question now, before you get published.) :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Back in the Saddle...?

See, last November, I wrote 50,000 words in a brand-new book. Yay me.

Then I ignored it for three and a half months.

It's not like I've been doing NO writing. I edited my first MS a bit. And figured out a way to edit it some more as soon as the agents who have it all reject its current form. (So frustrating! Hurry up and reject me already! Unless you don't want to....) I also spent countless hours forcing myself to daydream about what the heck the antagonist in WIP2 could possibly want.

Then, last month, I edited the first chapter for the Publication Primer class at LDStorymakers, coming in May. And my wonderful friend Susan made me realize that my MC didn't have a strong enough motivation. (Stupid wonderful friends, anyway.) So I rewrote MC's back-story a bit. Then a bit more.

And now I need to rewrite quite a bit of the first 50,000 words before I can possibly know what has to happen next. Because the new back-story screws all sorts of things up. In a good way. Unless you're averse to editing. Which I'm not. Really. (Beats writing the first draft!)

Because heaven knows I really ought to be doing SOMETHING with this WIP. Or move on to the other story idea that's been percolating for a few months. (But heaven also knows that I have no idea what anyone wants in that story yet.)

At least I have my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keys.
I rode the pony, too, but my pic made me "look" fat.
And, yes, it appears we're missing a saddle.
Saddles are overrated.
Do you ever have trouble motivating yourself to write?

Friday, March 9, 2012

LTUE Recap: Queries and Pitching

Okay, so I didn't get a picture of this panel, either. Sorry about that. Instead, I'm showing you a picture of what I look like when I think about querying--and what I'll likely look like when I do my first live pitch in May:

Torn-out hair, vacant stare,
lips that don't know WHAT to say
Querying and pitching are hard, yo.

So this panel was one of my favorites: you can never get too much query and pitching advice.

Lisa Mangum (author and editor at Shadow Mountain)
  • Use what you know about the agent/editor: Lisa is a heavy metal lover, so if your book has that in it (and you get it right), you'll catch her attention
  • Verbal pitch at conference: 
    • Need to have elevator pitch down (one sentence): be able to rattle it off in one breath. 
    • Also know what makes your book different from other books on the market--and don’t just repeat the elevator pitch if someone asks. 
    • Be excited, show passion for book—that's easier in person than in a query letter. 
    • Short and sweet: Frodo must take the ring of power to mt doom or all of middle earth will fall into shadow 
  • Don't include an implicit threat in your query [Shadow mountain is an LDS publisher]
    • I.E. "Just pray about this and I'm sure you'll want to publish it"
    • Don’t tie your testimony to your submission 
  • Write the best book you can, practice your pitch 
  • Deseret Book publishes 1+ books per year from debut authors 

Chris Schoebinger (acquisitions editor at Deseret Book)

  • He loves animals, so putting animals in your book appeals to him: mention it so he knows they're there
  • Find someone today to practice your pitch with – if you can’t sell me in 4 sentences, you've lost me (can have more than one, but not more than 4) 
  • Most surprising query: Bill Bennett: story of Jacob Marley: "how did Jacob get to be where he was and why did he get the chance to come back and warn Scrooge and why didn't he have the same chance Scrooge did… or did he?" 
  • Have beta readers before you submit, Know about marketing—blog followers, networking contacts, are you at liberty to do author tours? (That will increase publisher value) 
  • Taylor Whitesides: simple pitch: secret society of janitors… because he used to work as a custodian: they can use that detail in a publicity package 
  • More interested in building a brand than publishing an author: want multiple bestsellers 
  • There's a difference between annoying and assertive 

Jeff Scott Savage (whose querying days are recently behind him, but who will be selling his books forever)
  • Started writing books at 38, had 70 jobs, plumber, mall Santa 
  • High concept: take small idea and make it your hook (shoe store ONLINE): hero + DIFFERENT
  • Need likeable protag, goal, obstacles, consequences: if you don’t know what those four things are, you won’t be able to communicate it to the agents/editors 
  • Wants new stuff from Covenant rather than LDS exclusively (Sara Eden, regency romance) – going to conferences will help you learn what publishers/agents want 
  • Having an agent/editor ask for a rewrite or to have different projects is a good thing—jump on that right away: take that opportunity 
  • Don’t write Book 2 in a series while submitting Book 1: write Book 1 as stand-alone, then write another series – you’ll have plenty of time to write Book 2, but if you’re in the middle of Book 2 when Book 1 is rejected, nothing much you can do about that. Don’t focus on selling THIS BOOK. Get a career plan.  

Kirk Shaw (editor at Covenant Communications)
  • Almost majored in vocal performance, loves music (mention music in your query if your book has it)
  • Common mistake in querying/pitches: authors can hold back on what they give: agents/editors want to know what the story is all about, beginning to end. [I don't think he's saying you should tell the end in your query/pitch, but even if he is, keep in mind that other agents/editors say differently.] 
  • Take your subgenre, find titles that are strong, and associate your book with theirs 
  • Tiffany Fletcher’s agent came and said book “Tiffany’s memoir of dealing with a parent who had associative personality disorder.” At the time they weren't taking anything like that, so they decided to pass. A year or so later, Tiffany pitched it to Kirk's boss at a conference… a week after they decided to look into memoirs. Timing is everything.
  • Don’t give up. Sara Eden self-published 9 books before Covenant decided to publish her books 
  • If you’re writing a Rapunzel book and have long hair, that’s relevant: know what your platform is, etc 
  • Keep writing while the first book is out on submission: Sara Eden had multiple books written, so they can release 2 books each year: get in the habit of writing regularly so you can release regularly 
Donna Milakovic (writer)
  • Know who you’re pitching to – what they’re working on, etc. 
  • Can put your in-progress books in your query letter [Again, look at the specific agent's preferences: some don't like this.]
And that's all the notes I have.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Novel is NOT an Essay

Remember that structured essay format we all learned in high school English?


Tell them what you're going to tell them.


Tell them.


Tell them what you've told them.



In essays (and legal memos and briefs), this works for the document as a whole (Intro/Body/Conclusion) as well as for each individual paragraph (All flying birds have feathers. Feathers help them fly. Without feathers, birds couldn't fly.)

Following me so far? Good. Now forget all about that when you write fiction.

The main difference between an essay and a novel is that people read essays to learn stuff, so they don't mind it so much when you tell them the same information three different ways. They'll learn it better if they hear it more than once. This is not the case with people who read fiction.

Generally speaking, people who read fiction don't WANT to learn stuff. We want to experience someone else's life, watch someone else having the problems and struggles, and generally get taken out of our own lives for a while. If we learn something along the way, all well and good, but that's not what we're there for.

So don't tell me what you're going to tell me. Don't tell me anything. Don't tell me what you just told me.

Show me once and move on.

In short, don't do this:
(From an actual published book by an "award winning" author of more than 30 novels. 
I make no judgement as to the quality of his/her other novels.)

Telling me what you're going to tell me 
(This is part of a conversation between two people we already know):
She was informed by the housekeeper-cum-cook. "[Your crazy aunt] had that room completely remodeled about five years ago."
Yeah, I saw the passive language, too. There's very little that is right about this. Please remember that you don't need speech tags for every line. If one person just asked a question, I'm going to assume that the next line of dialogue is the answer, spoken by the other person. Two-person conversations are easy like that.

This is bad, too:
He heard himself asking, "What do I smell like?"
To his surprise, [Heroine] began to tell him. [Uninterrupted paragraph describing what Hero smells like.]
People normally don't just begin to tell things. "To his surprise, Heroine answered" would have been more than sufficient. We don't need the word "tell" to help me figure out that she's answering his question.

Telling me stuff:
He could tell [Heroine] was pleased by the compliment.
This tells me absolutely nothing except that Hero is mildly perceptive and that Heroine is a normal female. I don't know what it looks like when Heroine is pleased. Does she blush? Does she swoon? Does she hire a skywriter? Dance a jig? Blow a raspberry? WHAT?

Telling me what you've told me:
A hint of indignation surfaced in both her voice and manner. "Didn't you see the other vehicle?"
Hero stood there in the rain, feet planted shoulder-width, hands splayed across his hips gunslinger-style, thumbs hooked through the belt loops on his Levi's. "What other vehicle?" 
"The one that ran me off the highway," she stated in her own defense.
*Sigh* Say something interesting, okay? Again, there are only two people in this conversation, so I don't need a speech tag to know she's the one talking. "Stated" tells me nothing except that she's talking, which, as I might have mentioned, I already know. It gives me no clue as to her tone, her volume, or what she does while she flaps her yams. "In her own defense" is a duh-statement. I know she's defending herself. I got that. I'm pretty smart that way. I'll bet even all the readers who aren't defense attorneys picked up on that. No one wondered if she was defending someone else. No one stopped and thought to themselves "Why is she even saying that?"

This exchange would be worlds better without the speech tag and accompanying explanatory gobbledygook. It might even be improved by some sort of beat, like "she pointed a manicured finger back toward the wet road."

If you can't say something new, don't say anything at all. 

I'm going to put that in a sampler.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh, here? Anyone else notice a theme of me going off on books that assume I'm dumb?

Monday, March 5, 2012

LTUE Recap: What I Wish I Had Done Differently

I usually suck at taking pictures at conferences, but this one came out okay, don't you think?


This awesome group of photogenic authors was the "What I Wish I Had Done Differently" panel. I took LOTS of notes, so bear with me.


  • Stayed with writing group too long—tried to please everyone, felt like writing to committee 
    • Ruined a book for her, it became something she didn't like 
    • Now has to spend time figuring out what she loves before she shares it—finishes whole book before letting someone else read it 
  • Brand: if you want to create a brand, you are limiting yourself 
    • Publisher made her have princesses on covers, even when there is no princess in the book: she thinks the series is about the hound 
  • Once compromised by changing skin color from black to white to sell more books, wishes she hadn't 
  • A few agents offered to agent her, good friends reminded her that the money flows to the author: don’t pay a reading fee, etc 
    • Queried 20 different novels: tried to decide if “this is really good enough” and decided it was not yet good enough. Revised #6 or 7 and sold it – wanted big agent, didn’t want to compromise, waited until she had a manuscript that was good enough to get her what she wanted 
    • Don’t just keep sending out work that isn't good enough 
  • Uses blog to jump-start writing every day, uses internet as reward for writing 2 pages, limits how much she can surf before more pages 
  • Don’t write anything for at least a day after someone attacks you online 
    • Turn off Google alerts 
    • Can be hard when someone has a factual error, points out an “error” that isn’t there – rise above the fray: it doesn’t make you look good as an author 
  • Stupid stuff I did: After signed with agent, sent to an editor who asked for it at a conference, the editor talked to the agent about it, he yelled at her 
  • Publicity: people focus way too much time on publicity: need good product first 
  • Husband doesn't read her work at any stage: need supportive spouse, they don’t need to like your work [This is really good news for me. :)]
  • Can’t outline, but tries to write the first sentence of the next chapter before she stops for the day 
  • Can control how many times you send it out, not whether it is published
  • People have short attention spans 
    • Authors need short blurbs, quick book releases 
  • Brand: get short description that describes you and all your books ("Clean YA") 
  • Compromise: trend is to put certain content in books, her agent got her a contract at a big 6 publisher, she felt sick about it, she wanted to have a guarantee to have clean content, agent flipped out, publisher didn't agree, they wanted control, she turned them down, left her agent, went out on her own, has been pretty successful so far 
  • If considering indie, agents can help with that, movie contracts, etc 
  • Understand the publishing world. 
  • Even bad reviews are good
  • Husband is critical thinker, finds her plot problems: she reads books out loud to him before done with editing 
  • She's a chronological structured person, everyone different, find what looks for you
  • Stop rewriting: conclude when it’s the best you can make it, then move on 
    • Will learn more by writing something new than by excessive polishing 
  • Brand: write what interests you, your brand will emerge on its own 
  • Agents are dangerous because there's no school or vetting process. Anyone can stick their shingle out and advertise representation. Look to word of mouth to find a good one.
  • Agents aren't the only path anymore: if you’re not comfortable with an agent, you don’t have to have one 
  • Internet has always been a time-sink, is worse now. Get off the internet: you’ll never get that time back. Would have gotten so much more done if he’d gotten off the internet. 
  • One reviewer seems to be opposite his fans: the worse she likes it, the more fan-mail he gets on it 
  • Work on new stuff often: your first million words are crap – if you get stuck on the first thing and try to make it perfect, you’ll have a lot of heartache 
  • Wife reads books after they are published 
  • Pantser for small works, crash and burn at pantsing at novel length 
  • Submit to the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest!!!!
  • Got advice to change something that she didn't agree with, she changed it, made it to quarter finals of Amazon contest, then changed it back and queried. 
  • Brand: her name 
    • When you don’t have published works yet, you are just you, her husband is funnier, but he doesn’t have a blog, so no one comes to his 
    • Did a blog post on whether you’d buy a book because you like someone, lots of people said yes 
    • If you want to be a career author, write lots of books 
  • Compromised writing time for social networking: would not do that again 
  • Queried for 16 months, 2 different books, spoke on phone 5 times with agents before got offer of representation: if you keep working at it, you’ll find your agent 
  • Don’t engage in conversations with haters – find out that your book is either one people really like or really don’t like, she was getting hate mail, hasn't read a review since March 
  • Held onto first novel too long: not the next Twilight. 
  • Publicity: Simon/Schuester has bigger authors who get all the money, her marketing budget is small 
    • She looks at her life and decides what she can find with hours and dollars and that’s what she spends 
  • Husband despises YA love stories: he’ll read them in ARC form to show support, but then she endures vampire-like commentary 
  • She's a pantser, has documents she’s never finished, writes lots of scenes then pieces them together like a train wreck – tried outlining, it took 3 months, wrote book in 25 days, never tried that again (but she recommends that you try each of the different ways to see what works best for you) 
  • Write more. Writer’s write. If that doesn't work, write another book, don’t spend time on things that don’t advance you as a writer

Kevin Wasden (illustrator)
  • (came late) Learned needs to leave 30 minutes early :)
  • Agents will get you in doors with the bigger companies – depends on the market, what you want to accomplish 
  • Internet feedback is cool, but doesnt necessarily advance your career 
  • Always treat the little jobs as a big job 


Whew. Okay, that's it. Aren't they cool? Have they changed any of your plans / expectations?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Oh, Yeah, and a Cool Pitch Contest

My sons think it is cool to shorten words. So this is a "pitch":


Don't you feel cool? I should totally ask them how to shorten my actual pitches, too.

I totally meant to tell you about Brenda Drake's contest, too, but didn't remember it until this morning. There is only one very small window left, starting at 10 PM EST TODAY. They're accepting a very limited number of entries, and then they're having an agent auction. Nothing can be cooler.

Go here RIGHT NOW for complete details. You'll need a 35-word pitch and the first 150 words. Go! Go!

YOU Have a Full Request. Totally not kidding.

Yup, that's what it feels like to get a full request.
Janet Reid (also known as Query Shark) is doing a pay-it-forward "contest" that really sounds more like a general call for fulls. They're looking for the next Elizabeth Norris, whose debut novel UNRAVELING is coming out on April 24, 2012.

Any genre.

Contest opened March 1st (the same day Janet closed to normal queries) and stops accepting submissions on March 15th. The winner will be announced on April 24, 2012, which is UNRAVELING's publication date.

Go here for complete contest details and here to get your questions answered .

Best part? The prize. Trust me on this and go see. (But only if you're a debut author without an agent.)

So who's gonna play? *Gives stink-eye to the competition*