Aug 30, 2011

The success equation...or when the stars align

I’ve been thinking about timing the past few months. Both in the big scheme of things and in my MS.

Last week I was offered a job. It’s the perfect position for me right now: perfect place, time and expectations. The offer came about through two events: the fact that three years ago I changed careers and got an advanced degree so I could teach; and that four years ago, my son’s name was pulled from a lottery so he could attend a charter school. The first I definitely controlled. The second had nothing to do with me, other than the fact I entered his name in the lottery. The job offer came because preparedness met opportunity in my favor.

Luck = preparedness + opportunity + timing.

Back when I was a reporter in Seattle, I met Bret Lott, who wrote Jewel, one of Oprah's earliest book club choices. I told him that 99 percent of writers couldn’t possibly expect to have the same luck he did. “Of course not,” he told me (and I paraphrase bc this was a while ago). “But that’s no reason not to write. I never would’ve been lucky had I not been writing.”

Which was kind of nice to hear. Write, I can do. Revise, I can do. And if I can do nothing about timing, *shrugs* neither can anyone else.

Since my almost-finished WIP is a mystery, timing is crucial. I’ve got to build tension gradually, dropping clues like breadcrumbs at just the right intervals so I don’t lose/choke my reader. This is killing me right now – avoiding info dump in those first three chapters while keeping my word count low. There are certain things my MC must know right away and, since this is based on a true story, that translates to a lot of info.

It all leads to a really cool, suspenseful ending so there’s only so much I can cut or move to later. Which leads back to the info-dump problem.

It’s the revision catch-22, the endless merry-go-round I can’t get off.

So please, oh-gentle-and-more-experienced writer, what’s the equation to dropping key info in at the right time?

Timing = information + pacing + ???

Later this week or next, Cole Gibsen will share her publishing journey. Please join us!

Aug 29, 2011

Critique winners and upcoming interview

I had to prod Melvin the Magic Sorting Hat awake this morning so apologize for the delay in posting the winners of a query and first three chapter critique. Thanks all for posting and sharing feedback. I value each one!

So without further ado, the winner of a query critique is:

Sarah Pearson

And for the first three chapter critique:

Carrie Butler

Ladies, you're welcome to swap critique type with each other if you so desire. I'll be emailing details to you shortly.

Later this week, I'm interviewing upcoming debut author Cole Gibsen, whose book Katana comes out early next year. It's billed as a 'supernatural samurai' tale that looks to be a totally fresh addition to YA. We'll be discussing her writing journey so check back and join us!

Aug 27, 2011

Lindsay and Trisha, part deux!

I'm back again with the astonishing duo of Lindsay and Trisha, writing partners extraordinaire who, no doubt, will soon take the publishing world by storm! (You heard it here first folks.) Yesterday we learned how they met, how they work and revise together. Today we're covering what happened after the rough draft...

6. Your top three revision tips?

Lindsay: Trisha is the master at revisions so I’m taking this straight from her mouth. Read the suggested set of revisions. Walk away for a few days and let them simmer. Come back to the manuscript with fresh eyes before reworking. For the record, her process kicks all kinds of ass.

Trisha: That about sums it up, except for the copious amounts of wine. That and always ALWAYS save every version of your MS. You’d be surprised how many times you come back to the first, the second, heck even the tenth revision of a manuscript searching for that one line, that one scene that you want to put back in.

7. On your blog, you mention doing agent research. How much agent research do you do - did you cyber-stalk for weeks or just read their web site, or interviews like those on Literary Rambles?

Lindsay: Yes, we did a ton of research. Literary Rambles is awesome as well as sites like QueryTracker. And never underestimate the value of Twitter! Following agents you are interested in to watch for their personal tastes, wish-lists, and turnoffs is a great way to get to know who might be a good fit for your manuscript.

Trisha: No matter what avenue you take,, be sure to do your homework. Agents receive hundreds of queries a week so it is important to do your homework, make sure the MS/ genre you are querying them with is one they actually have interest in representing.

And don’t be afraid to query your top-five dream agents; you just may be surprised. We were!

I'm always amazed to hear from agents who give stats about how FEW of their queries actually follow the guidelines. *rolls eyes*

8. You had multiple offers. What was it about SILO that hooked them? (I'm sure it was the whole package but if you heard one thing continually from agents about what they loved, please share that.)

Lindsay: Our dystopian is unique – this is what we heard time and time again. It was grounded in reality, based on events that could happen today, tomorrow, or next year. It is also written from a male POV and explores the darker side of human nature. It was a combination of these things that attracted the agents, and fortunately, landed us the amazing Ginger Clark.

Trisha: Well, it was obviously my winning personality and Lindsay’s fabulous blog photo. Yeah, no. Silo is simply a unique take on a dystopian. Grounded in reality, written in the voice of our male MC, and set in a contemporary environment, it walks that fine line between complete fiction and oh crap, that could really happen.To me.Tommorrow!

I keep hearing how dystopian is so hot right now. Congrats on writing a great MS that's also timely! If only we could orchestrate timing like we can pace chapters...sigh.

Fast and furious five:

1. Dog or cat person
Lindsay: Dogs, dogs, dogs. Cats stare and freak me out.

Trisha: dog, although if mine continues to chew up the couch, I’m going to switch my answer to cat!

Yeah, that's why I'm a cat person. *stares creepily at Lindsay*

2.Song that gets stuck in your head most often.
Lindsay: Viva la Vida. I used to make fun of Coldplay, but I guess the joke’s on me now!

Trisha: Peter Gabriel – Salisbury Hill

That title Salisbury Hill makes me think of the song that gets stuck in my head: Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkle. *hums the annoying tune* Crap!

3.Person you'd go back in history to meet.
Lindsay: I’d have to say Shakespeare. I was very influenced by his work in college and would love to know exactly who he was and how he came to write such amazing things.

Trisha: Seriously . . . Shakespeare? I guess I can see the draw. For me, probably Catherine the Great.

See folks? Writing partners can be different and still get along!

4. No. 1 thing on do-before-I-die list (non writing)
Lindsay: I’m not a big risk-taker so that takes parachuting, bungee jumping and virtually anything involving an early death out of the mix! I’d have to say traveling with my family. I love being in new places and seeing them through my kids eyes.

Trisha: I want to walk the great wall of China.

5. Best movie you've seen this summer.
Lindsay: Harry Potter – all the way!

Trisha: Smurfs 3-d. Particularly the scene where Brave Smurf (sporting a Scottish kilt) steps onto the ac vent and says something to the effect of “Ohh . . . this really cools the giblets!”

Wow. The fact Trisha's choice is the Smurfs isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the choices Hollywood is making these days.

So that's it folks! Put your questions/feedback in the comment box and check in Monday to see if Melvin has chosen your name for a free query or first-three chapter critique. Good luck and thanks for playing! :))

Aug 25, 2011

Writing in twos, with Lindsay and Trisha

I'm so excited to be talking with writing partners Lindsay Currie and Trisha Leaver this week.
The whole idea of writing in twos is really intriguing, possibly because to me, the idea of finding someone compatible writing-wise sounds trickier than finding a husband/partner! Seriously, that is letting someone waaayyy into your psyche.
According to Lindsay, the two met in a critique group, got bored and presto! wrote a novel. Okay, it took a leeetle longer than that. But the bored part is true; that's what made them bounce ideas off each other. Trisha wrote the first chapter, sent it to Lindsay who wrote the next and presto-for-real-this-time: SILO was born. Hmmm....*eyes critique group speculatively* talk about working smarter not harder.
Anyhoo, they buffed SILO (a dystopian YA) so it shined, sent it off and got six offers before signing with Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown.
And they're super eager to tell you what's wrong critique either your query OR the first three chapters of your MS. To enter, please follow this blog and/or tweet about the contest, then let us know about it in the comments. Comments close Monday, Aug. 28.
Without further ado, heeerree are Lindsay and Trisha!

Describe how the writing process works for you two. Is one of you the plotter, the other a descriptor, etc?

Lindsay: Ah, yes. SILO was written with the amazing Trisha Leaver from beginning to end. Neither one of us are plotters and I can’t imagine us trying to write that way. We had a strong beginning and a vague idea of where we wanted to the ms to end, but we let our characters lead the way through the middle.We actually alternated writing chapters - she would write one and pass it to me for editing and then I’d write the next and pass it back to her. It was a fantastic process, but not one that would work for everyone. Trisha and I have very similar writing styles and shared a common vision for the novel, so we meshed very well together.

Trisha: Yeah . . . so not a plotter. I have a mental whiteboard that I use to keep track of my characters and plot threads, but to most people it would look like a giant mess of color-coded scribbles.

At least your scribbles stay in your head. Mine are all over my house.

2. What are the advantages of writing with a partner?

Lindsay: Well, for one it’s fun! I had a blast writing SILO with Trisha and sharing the road to signing with an agent was much easier with a partner-in-crime – someone who completely understands the waiting and the fears because they are literally wading through it with you.When it comes to writing, it’s nice to have someone else to finish a scene when you’re stuck or flesh out a plot-line that you might otherwise leave a hole in. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.

There were plenty of times when I got stuck and had to ship off barely a couple of hundred words to her, rather than a whole chapter, because I hit a wall. Fortunately, if you work well with someone, these moments aren’t a problem because it’s a give and take relationship. Sometimes you give and others you take . . . but in a good writing partnership, neither of you keeps track.

Now I just need to get her to Chicago – we’d be a whirlwind if we were writing together in the same city

Trisha: Knowing that there is somebody, who is mostly impartial, filtering though my often dark and insane plot ideas to find the one that will actually work. That and you never get stuck. When your muse decides to call it quits, there is somebody else there to pick it up.

Oh and there is absolutely no reason why Lindsay can’t fly here to see me!! I do live Cape Cod – summer vacation capital of the East Coast!

Ummm....I have to go with Trisha on this one. I used to live in the Midwest and there are two words for summer there: Hot. Humid. Cape Cod on the other hand, if you can put up with the crowds, has: Ocean. Sand. (Notice how I'm not mentioning Alaska. That wouldn't be fair to either place. ;)

3. The disadvantages? (yeah, be honest. I'm sure you each know them already! :)

Lindsay: Quite honestly, I’m drawing a bit of a blank here. The only thing I could potentially categorize as a disadvantage is that you are always writing to impress. When you’re writing solo, you’ve got only yourself to satisfy in that first draft, but when you are going chapter for chapter with a writing partner, in a way you are writing to impress, hoping they like what you wrote. It keeps you at the top of your game. So, from that angle, it’s honestly more of an advantage than anything.

Trisha: Disadvantages? Sure, I could see how there possibly could be some -- different voices, different writing styles, different ideas of how the story should unfold. Those were all concerns I tossed around before I jumped into this relationship. But to be completely honest, they haven’t come up. Lindsay has a remarkably similar voice and work habits. Plus we both share an affinity for exploring the darker, more desperate side of human nature.

4. How did you work through the revision process?

Lindsay: Multiple phone calls and Skype conversations a day along with copious amounts of wine. Okay, just kidding – there’s more to it than that, though there was a lot of wine and chatting involved in our revisions.

Revisions were based primarily on our own gut reaction as well as the reactions/feedback of our CP’s. We were lucky to have a very talented group of writers reading SILO as we wrote it, catching small glitches before they had a chance to take root.

Trisha: Pretty much copious amounts of wine, although I am sure Lindsay made good use of the mute button on her phone as I screamed and cursed my way through revising some of the more difficult scenes.

Oooh, wine and revision. They even sound like they go together, don't they? Especially if you put an 'h' in wine. *giggle*

5. It's hard enough for one writer to know when a MS is ready for querying. How did you two decide?

Lindsay: I think this was really a matter of us feeling satisfied with it personally. Once we got the reaction from our CP’s that we wanted, and we felt comfortable that the manuscript was as complete and polished as we could make it, we began sending out queries.

Trisha: When it is ready you just know. Then you take a risk and send it out. As my mom would say: you can’t learn how to swim if you never get your butt in the pool!

You heard her, people! Substitute 'read' for 'swim' and 'chair' for 'pool'...oh, never mind. Stop by tomorrow to learn the rest of this daring duo's writing secrets. Who knows - they may rub off on you. Especially if you win one of the critiques!

Aug 24, 2011

Critique giveaways coming up!

This Friday and Saturday, enter to win a query critique OR first three chapter critique by the lovely Lindsay Currie and Trisha Leaver. These agented writing partners are willing to share their publishing moxie with a few lucky random winners. So stop by, check out their interview and comment to get your name put in Melvin the Magic Sorting Hat.

Also, if you write fantasy, romance or historical fiction, stop by Lisa Regan's blog for upcoming Hook for Your Book contest dates. Her agent, Jeanie Pantelakis of Sullivan Maxx Agency will be choosing a lucky winner(s) in each category.

Aug 21, 2011

Upcoming post, reality check and platform building

So this last week was crazy! My day job is ramping up with the start of school and it's always an adjustment to juggle those duties with everything else. Loving it but still feel like a huge pile of responsibility was dropped into my lap. That, plus feedback from CPs (including the fantabulous Taryn of Teen Eyes whom I interviewed last week. I repeat - she's fantab) has thrown me back into Saving Andromeda for a total rewrite on my first hundred pages. Eep!

This means I now have much less time to blog because seriously, between work, family and revising SA, blogging comes last. As it should. I have to ditch my summer schedule of Wednesday book reviews and Friday interviews to just Fridays. (The other option is to keep it up and have my posts read like: jlkjd jkl jikljla sdafjij. Which nobody would appreciate, least of all me.)

This Friday, plan to meet Lindsay Currie, an aspiring author of YA spec fiction who, along with her writing partner, received SIX offers of representation before signing with Ginger Clark. (WOW!) We're going to talk about what it's like to write with a partner and learn more about Lindsay's journey along the publishing path. It'll be super-de-duper so be sure to stop by!

Rachel Harrie is hosting her third Writers Building Platform campaign over at her blog. It's all about linking virtual arms to network, brainstorm and raise our blog visibility. I LOVE these kinds of events so if you're a newbie like me, head on over to check it out! Sign ups end Aug. 31, I think, and the campaign runs until Oct. (If I'm not mistaken.)

And now *serious face* I must discuss the school year rush. Every August I'm surprised to rediscover how busy life and stressed my life normally is. Last summer was a huge, long soul-stretching lull...and now it's over. I'm alternating between loving the routine and stimulus and feeling like this:

As an introvert, I need lots of time to think and lots of space in my head for writing. (Space where my brain should go, heh heh.) All these other demands mean I'm facing a much longer revision time to do it right and that's frustrating. The challenge for me this year is to keep on. Just keep writing, just keep the little engine who could. Ugh. I want to be done NOW.
Please tell me, gentle reader - how do you stay motivated through the hard, uphill work of revision? Especially when there's so much else on your plate?

Aug 19, 2011

Interview with Teen Eyes, part deux

Aaaaannnndd, we're back with another edition of the Teen Eyes interview, part deux. Yesterday we learned the reading habits of the lovely Kate and Taryn, their ambitions and whatnot. Today we're delving ever deeper into their tortured writerly lives to discover what critique services they offer and their sterling credentials. Oh, and also how to survive on a desert island with just a monkey and a ball.

8. Tell us more about Teen Eyes - why you think you're qualified and what you offer. (Obviously, this is all on your site but a quick bullet list is helpful.)
Taryn: As a lit agency intern, voracious reader, and critique partner of writers with book deals and agents, something about the way I critique is working. But Teen Eyes is about more than a critique--it's about something only a teen can give: what your future reader would like to see. Obviously teen tastes vary, so I try to look at manuscripts with a general teen view rather than my preferences.
Here are the services we offer:
-Reader Report: We read straight through the MS without leaving in-text notes. On a separate document, I write my thoughts as I go as a sort of "live reaction" thing. Then, after I'm done, I write a couple pages about plot, pacing, characters, premise, writing, and any other thoughts.
-In-depth critique: This means in-text comments about everything in the reader report, just more specific.
-Line edits: Grammar, word flow, etc. The mechanics.
-Query/synopsis help: this is free :)
-Double Teen'd: Kate and I will both critique your manuscript for a discount of our combined prices.

Kate: Although you initially have to impress editors and agents, your ultimate goal is for your story to resonate with teenagers. The ability to connect with your audience will determine whether or not your book will sell once published.

Good point, mes amies. (snuck a bit of HS French in there, as I am wont to do when excited.)

9. Do you offer a time guarantee with Teen Eyes - ie, you promise to respond a week out, etc. (OR - brain flash - you could charge MORE money for a faster crit. Hmmm. I'm a marketing genius.)
Taryn: We do! If you purchase our services, you will receive your critique in 5-7 days (depending on the service).

Kate: What she said.

10. Explain WHY we elderly folk should choose you to critique our MS.
Taryn: While there may be more experienced editors out there, Kate and I have the most valuable commodity in YA: the right age, in addition to publishing and writing experience. It comes down to two things: you're writing for a market of teens, and your characters are teens. To have the most realistic story which can speak to the most readers, you need to have a teen tell you if it works.

Kate: Since Taryn already went over the packages we offer, I’ll just state my credentials. Like Taryn, I’m a critique partner of writers with book deals and agents. In May 2011 I signed with Edward Necarsulmer IV of McIntosh and Otis. My debut YA novel, currently untitled, is undergoing revisions at Scholastic Press and I spent the summer as an intern at Scholastic in NYC. My experience at Scholastic has given me a unique insight into the publication/editorial process. And lastly, I’m a teenager. Taryn and I offer a dual perspective - we are both strong writers/critiquers, yet we are also part of your future audience.

Not to mention inexpensive. At least for now! *stares creepily into distance* I see greeeaat futures for these young females.

Fun, fluffy questions of no particular purpose to which you give witty, optionally truthful and erudite answers - pick as many as you want. Except 7. That one's mandatory bc I need suggestions for my Netflix queue. :)

1. If you were a vampire, which celebrity would you sink your teeth into?
Taryn: I hate vampires. And I don't do celebrities.

Kate: I’m also not a huge vampire fan, but if I had to choose I’d say Orlando Bloom.

2. What's your middle name? Your REAL middle name.
Taryn: Amelia. After Amelia Earhart.
Kate: Marie.

Well, those are better than my middle name. Which I'm not telling. But it rhymes with marmalade.

3. You're stranded on an island. You have a monkey and a ball. A ship passes by. How will you attract attention?
Taryn: Swim out to it. Says the swimmer.
Kate: Swim out to it. Drown.

But you have a monkey and a BALL. No flippers. The ship isn't going to see your tiny head bobbing in the ocean before a shark eats you. Make the MONKEY swim out to the ship. If it dies, at least you still have Wilson the ball.

4. What secretly scares you?
Taryn: Falling. And sharks. So maybe that swim-to-ship thing wouldn't be so smart.
Kate: Failing, serial killers, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks. I’m a somewhat irrationally anxious person.

Talking balls scare me. Wait...did I write that out loud?

5. Describe your best friend in five words.
Taryn: Too independent / no time for one. (That's six. Oops.)

Kate: Skinny dipping caffeinated dance parties.

6. What's your current fav song? And the one stuck in your head most often?
Taryn: I don't really care about music. I'll listen to whatever's on. That said, I like country b/c most songs tell a story.

Kate: Similarly, I’m not a huge music person, nor am I picky about what I listen to. But I’d have to say a Disney song (Mulan, Hercules) or a song from my mom’s band, Stonecircle, which is Celtic fusion (Celtic music mixed with contemporary/jazz/classical styles). if someone wrote a country-style Disney song in a Celtic-fusion style, you guys would listen?

7. What's the best movie you've watched this summer?
Taryn: CAPTAIN AMERICA. I went because my parents made me and OMG IT WAS AMAZING.

Kate: I’m going to have to go with Harry Potter on this one. End of an era.

Oh, HP. We mourn thee.

So be sure to stop by the blogs of Taryn and Kate to see what awesomeness they can inject into your MS!

Aug 18, 2011

Interview with Taryn and Kate of Teen Eyes

I found a reference to Teen Eyes at Authoress's website and was instantly hooked. Taryn and Kate, two book-hungry/edit worthy teens are offering their services to kidlit authors for extremely reasonable prices. So I hopped on over to Taryn's page and lo and behold, they were launching their service with a contest. Great idea, thought I, entering my pitch and also asking for an interview-pretty-please.
Despite being crazy/super busy with the start of a new school year, the young ladies graciously acquiesced. They're open for business, folks, so after you discover their wondrousness, head over to their site and have a look-see. Ask your questions in the comments OR, if you're very brave,
post your query. Taryn and Kate may have questions about it to help out the process!

1. So you're 18 and you want to critique. Please explain from whence this crazy notion came.
In other words, tell us about yourself.

Taryn: Well, I've always loved books, writing, reading, whatever. As I became more involved in the writer blogosphere, I noticed how many adults wanted to know What Teens Liked. They'd ask me to read their manuscripts, and since I loved reading, I acquiesced. After the Help Write Now auction during which some teens and I gave a teen critique, I realized people were willing to pay for such a service. Since it's something I love, I thought Teen Eyes would be the best way to help out (and get money for my book-buying addiction, lol).

Kate: Like Taryn, I’ve always loved books and reading and writing and blog-stalking. Teen Eyes actually started out as two separate companies....I created my own critique service because I felt like older writers might benefit from a teen’s perspective on their YA novel. Taryn and I ended up combining our companies, and thus Teen Eyes was born.

2. You're majoring in creative writing with an eye to being employed in publishing. What made you choose this career field?

Taryn: Same as the above--I love, love, love books. Being involved in the whole journey is a really exciting option. Interestingly, I've always pictured my main career as a swim coach, but I keep that info away from my writing-centered blog.

Kate: I’m not majoring in creative writing, as the university I’m attending this fall only has a regular English major. I’ve thought about being an’s a position I’m sure I would enjoy, but I find it rather difficult to switch from editing to writing on a daily basis.

Speaking as a former English major...nah, don't want to rain on your parades. It's all good!

3. How many books do you read a week?
Taryn: Oh gosh. It totally depends on the week. One week in the end of July, I read 16. Too many. Usually it's around 5-8, depending on what I have around, plus a couple manuscripts.

Kate: Not nearly as many as Taryn.

I was with Taryn on the 5-8 books a week but 16 is a lot. Seriously. *jealous of Taryn's amount of free time*

4. Fav authors, genres, etc?
Taryn: All time favorite book is ENDER'S GAME. I also love A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY, and ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER, MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN, and all sorts of stuff. If I had to pick one genre to read forever, it would be mysteries.

Kate: I pretty much love all genres. Some of my favorites would have to be HIS DARK MATERIALS, THE BARTIMAEUS TRILOGY, MILES FROM ORDINARY, CORALINE, and (like Taryn) MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN.

I saw Miss Peregrine's while shopping for bargains at Borders. Looked spooky!

5. *taps chin and looks earnest* So what really makes you tick reading-wise? Are you a character girl? All about the action? Or *blinks eyes rapidly* are you into romance?
Taryn: I like action and a mystery. I used to not notice characters at all, but as I've started critiquing, that has changed. Still, I read more for the plot.

Kate: I think I focus equally on action and character. I love books that are high-concept in terms of plot but still character-driven (THE BARTIMAEUS TRILOGY is a perfect example of this). Although I love a good romance, sappy and/or unrealistic love affairs are a big turnoff.

Ooh, good reader mix between you two: one for plot, one for action/character.

6. What are your reading pet peeves? Or what will you NOT read, ever, no matter how cool the book jacket?
Taryn: I'll never say never! I hate lazy characters, or whiny characters, or characters who can't get over a boy. OMG MOVE ON. There have been two books I put down this year, two very acclaimed books. One for the lack of action (in a YA!) and one because I couldn't connect with the voice. Soooo, I don't really have pet peeve :) OH! I also hate vampires. Other than TWILIGHT (Which I read only because I had to see what the fuss was about), I've only read one vampire book, and that didn't count because she turned back into a human at the beginning.

Kate: Honestly, I don’t really like books set in outer-space, or any “hard” sci-fi for that matter. Like Taryn I’ll never say never, but I’m just not a fan of books with tons of science-y gadgets and whatnot. Also like Taryn (can you see why we get along?), I can’t stand a female heroine whose life centers around a guy. It’s hard for me to respect a character who has such an unhealthy emotional dependence on another person.

Preach it, sister! What is up with all these clingy, guy-crazy heroines? That is so last century.

7. What kind of stories do you want to see in YA?
Taryn: More mysteries and thrillers! YA is heading that way, though, so yay. I'm also still on the dystopian bandwagon. Dystopian offers a way to take an issue today, intensify it, and then explore consequences. I'd also like stronger characters, and less romance. Guys, every book does not need a love interest.

Kate: I agree, more mysteries and thrillers! There’s a lot of it on TV and I think it’s starting to carry over into commercial literature. In addition, I’d love to see more historical fantasy/historical magical realism, particularly set in countries we don’t often see (someplace in Africa or South America, for instance).

Oh, you are girls after my own heart! Not just sayin' that bc my latest WIP is a mystery.

Join us tomorrow for more about Teen Eyes, their credentials and tips for surviving on a deserted island with just a monkey and a ball! Hey, you never know what life's going to throw at you...

Aug 17, 2011

Little Princes

Blurb: In search of adventure, 29-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Children’s Home, an orphanage in war-torn Nepal.

Conor was initially reluctant to volunteer, unsure whether he had the proper skill, or enough passion, to get involved in a developing country in the middle of a civil war. But he was soon overcome by the herd of rambunctious, resilient children who would challenge and reward him in a way that he had never imagined. When Conor learned the unthinkable truth about their situation, he was stunned: The children were not orphans at all. Child traffickers were promising families in remote villages to protect their children from the civil war—for a huge fee—by taking them to safety. They would then abandon the children far from home, in the chaos of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu.

For Conor, what began as a footloose adventure becomes a commitment to reunite the children he had grown to love with their families, but this would be no small task. He would risk his life on a journey through the legendary mountains of Nepal, facing the dangers of a bloody civil war and a debilitating injury. Waiting for Conor back in Kathmandu, and hopeful he would make it out before being trapped in by snow, was the woman who would eventually become his wife and share his life’s work.

Little Princes is a true story of families and children, and what one person is capable of when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. At turns tragic, joyful, and hilarious, Little Princes is a testament to the power of faith and the ability of love to carry us beyond our wildest expectations.

What I liked: I'm a huge fan of armchair adventures and when the adventurer actually starts making a real difference in the world, that's frosting on a delicious cake. Conor has a sly sense of humor that pops up all over the place; he never falls in love with his own awesomeness. As Conor sets up his nonprofit, finds a house and miraculously finds ALL seven lost children (he'd originally rescued them, starving and filthy from a hovel but the aid workers couldn't reach them - civil war going on -before the original trafficker moved them) in a series of miraculous events that illustrated supernatural timing. The scenes where Conor reconnects parents with their lost children made me tear up. While this is not a religious book, God's fingers are all over this story, both in Conor's growing love for Nepal and the children, and in the way everything comes together - relationships, money and grace.

What I didn't like: I would've loved to have heard from Liz, Conor's now-wife. The story includes their love story that began via email and blossomed into a serious relationship almost despite themselves. While Conor was the driving force behind forming the nonprofit, Next Generation Nepal, Liz could've given good insights on what things looked like from the outside and her own decision making process as she mulled over taking a leap of faith.

Worth checking out: Conor's website, as well as the Amazon page with an essay he wrote about the book.

Aug 14, 2011

Best. Week. Ever.

I've been looking forward to this next week for MONTHS (okay, actually years. Five years and nine months to be exact) because three things happen. 1. My youngest goes to kindergarten. *dancing a jig while clacking castinets in one hand and swigging plastic cup of sparkly grape juice in the other* Words cannot convey my utter, complete, delirious sense of relief on that one but I'll sum up: he's a bonus baby. In every sense of the word. *sniff*

2. The WriteOnCon 2011 conference starts tomorrow. My so-far fav offering is the Ninja Agents forum, where we can all post our query letters and dozens of agents will randomly drop by and critique or request after reading. Seriously. Fabulous. There are a ton of other offerings - and a great recipe to quiet feed your starving kidlets while you are carrying around your laptop in a baby sling so you don't miss any virtual excitement. Be sure to sign up for the forums ahead of time. (Also follow them on Twitter bc that's where they're posting updates.) See you there!!

On Wednesday, I'm reviewing Little Princes: One man's promise to bring home the lost children of Nepal. Yes, this is a departure from my usual YA but this book literally brought me to my knees. All I can say about this one is a string of hyphenated words: life-checking, jaw-dropping, tear-inducing, attitude-changing. You. Must. Read.

Friday, I'm hoping the lovely Taryn of Teen Eyes, a teen critique service for all us

oldsters writing YA, will join me for a scintillating interview dissecting her life choices. Sounds fun, no? She's currently critiquing my WIP (because I won a FREE critique! ME! The eternal loser-of-all-contests!) and I can't wait to read how her comments line up with my other CPs.

Which brings me to the last reason I'm so excited about this week. I've been waiting to hear back from various CPs on Saving Andromeda and they're trickling in with all kinds of helpful comments and encouragement. I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to recapture my excitement about this MS since I've moved on to another creation but no! I LOVE this story. I want to dive into its world. That's a good sign...right?

So what are your tips for staying jazzed about your tattered, crying-out-for-revision MS? YA Muses has an awesome list I've been using but I'd love to hear your tips!

Aug 12, 2011

How I snagged my agent Part II with Lisa Regan

Welcome back, dear blog viewers, to the second part of Lisa Regan's how I snagged my agent interview. Yesterday we learned about her incredible tenacity in pursuing her goal of publication, her query experience and her revision techniques. Today we're in touch with Lisa's bubbly side (oooh, a pun!! *snort* you'll get it when you read on)

AND, if you write mystery/thrillers don't forget to click on Lisa's name to enter her Hook for Your Book contest with her agent Jeanie Pantelakis. The clock is ticking: you've got one week to enter with your 50 best room-rockin' word pitch.

If you could travel back in time and kick someone's butt, whom would that person be?

Whoever came up with the M'Naghten Rule. It's like legendary FBI Profiler, John Douglas says--you can be crazy or mentally ill AND guilty. It shouldn't be one or the other.

Can I be crazy and innocent? I'll go with that.

And what song would you butt-kick to?

Stop by Matchbox 20

My most shameful writing secret is:

I write in the bubble bath! I love a hot bath and sometimes it's the only quiet, alone time I get so I often take a pen and notepad into the tub with me. I've done some of my best work in the tub!

Wow - you must be able to spend a loooong time in there. *thinking of own household with kids, hubby pounding on door, phone ringing* Jealous.

My most favorite nonwriting blog is:

It's a blog called Adventures in Kidneyland run by a woman I went to high school with. I'm not sure she has kept up with it in recent months as she's had another kidney transplant but it is very riveting. Just after high school she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and this blog is about her journey in dealing with kidney disease. I never knew her well although she was always very nice. Last year I found her blog through Facebook and couldn't stop reading. I just think she's amazing. She really should write a book.

And now *drumroll* Lisa's QUERY:

Dear Ms. Pantelakis:

I am currently seeking representation for my novel, Finding Claire Fletcher, complete at 108,000 words. I believe my novel would appeal to readers of authors such as Karin Slaughter, Harlan Coben, Greg Iles and Lisa Gardner.

Detective Connor Parks unwittingly spends the night with a woman whose family reveals has been missing for ten years. Newly divorced, with his career in jeopardy, Connor Parks takes solace in the arms of a woman he meets at a local bar. The next morning Claire Fletcher is gone, leaving behind an address and a decade-old mystery. The address leads Connor to the Fletcher family home, where Claire’s siblings inform him that their sister was abducted from a city street ten years ago and is presumed dead.

Convinced that the beautiful, mysterious woman he met is indeed Claire Fletcher and driven by his desire to see her again, Connor begins his own investigation. He is determined to find her and unravel the mystery of her abduction and odd reemergence.

For ten years, Claire Fletcher endured the cruel torture and depravity of the man who abducted her. Paralyzed by fear, too ashamed to return to her family, Claire is resigned to her life as Lynn, an identity her abductor created and forced on her. Every time she attempts escape or betrays him in the smallest way, someone dies. Even now her clandestine run-in with Connor Parks may have put Connor's life at risk, as well as the lives of her family.

As Connor works to solve the mystery of Claire’s abduction, Claire makes a stunning discovery that leaves her no choice but to return home and enlist Connor’s help. When police fail to apprehend Claire’s abductor and another young girl goes missing, Claire and Connor take matters into their own hands.
As per the instructions on the Sullivan Maxx website I have attached a one page synopsis and the first three chapters of the manuscript as Microsoft Word documents. I would be happy to provide you with more sample chapters or the complete manuscript for your consideration. Thank you for your time and attention.

Aug 11, 2011

How I snagged my agent, Part 1 AND Hook Your Book contest

This week's spotlight is on Lisa Regan, an aspiring crime/thriller author who's represented by Jeanie Pantelakis of Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency. Her blog is filled with her own writing journey so check it out.

And while you're there, be SURE to enter the Hook Your Book contest sponsored by Ms. Pantelakis. You've got 50-words to catch her interest; when you've buffed them to a shine, throw them in Lisa's contest sometime this next week. The contest ends next Friday. All the details are on Lisa's blog.

How many manuscripts did you write before the one that hooked your agent?

I wrote one full manuscript before I wrote Finding Claire Fletcher. I had written several YA novels when I was a young adult myself and I had started a bunch of novels that I didn't finish as an adult but I only finished one manuscript before I wrote the novel that got me an agent.

How did you know this MS was the one?

Well unlike the novel that I had written before, FCF was not trying to do too many things. It had a very simple premise. It took me several drafts to really make that simple premise shine--I still had to cut a lot of extraneous elements--but on the whole I just felt it was a much better book than my last one. More than anything though, the main character's voice was so strong and so compelling to me that I really wanted to see her story through to publication.

Will you share your revision techniques?

The first thing I do is make an outline of what the book looks like as it stands. I go chapter by chapter and list the main events so that I have an overview. That way if I have to cut things out or rearrange things to make the pacing better, I know where everything fits. It's like having an aerial view. Then if there is major cutting to be done, I do that first. I go right through selecting and cutting. I make a separate Microsoft Word File called cuts and anything I cut, I keep there in case I need something from it later. Then I go through from the beginning and make any major changes that need to be made, including writing any new scenes. Then I go back through and smooth out all the transitions. Finally I walk away and come back a couple of weeks later and read it without making any changes to it. I pretend I just pulled it off a shelf and see how it reads, making notes on what I want to change as I go along. And I always, always use critique partners.

How long did you query?

I queried for four and a half years. I sent out 155 queries for Finding Claire Fletcher. I got 16 requests. I queried for my next novel for a year and a half while I was still querying for Finding Claire Fletcher. I sent out 85 queries on that one and got 4 requests. After I signed my contract with my agent she asked to read my next book and offered me a contract for that book as well (after I made revisions).

You'll see Lisa's query letter tomorrow!

Most difficult part of querying?
The most difficult part is the waiting. For me it was especially excruciating as I had three different agents make me wait a very long time before rejecting me. One agent rejected me after four years, another after about two and a half and another after a year and a half.

Or best rejection, if you had one with lots of advice?

My best rejection was one where the agent said, "This novel is a home run" and then went on to list twenty-three things in my book that needed major work! Fortunately the twenty-three suggestions were great ones which I used to make the book better. But that agent passed on the book anyway--even after reading the revised version based on all of his fabulous suggestions.

Was there ever a point where you gave up? What made you keep trying?

Oh yeah! There were many times I almost gave up. I think I probably would have given up very early on if those three agents in particular hadn't been holding onto my book for so long! Once I felt my next book was suitable for querying, that kept me going for awhile--it felt good and gave me hope to have another iron in the fire, so to speak. There was a point a few months before I got my agent where I was ready to throw in the towel and give up on writing completely. It was definitely rock bottom. It was my daughter who made me keep trying. I didn't want her to grow up and have family members say to her, "Oh your mom was quite the writer back in the day. She wrote all the time. She could have really done something with that." I don't want the example that I set for her to be one in which you give up on your greatest dreams. I decided I'd rather be twenty years older and still trying than be someone who almost did something with my writing.

Wow - talk about stubborness
perseverance and grit! My jaw is still on the floor at the 4.5 years you spent querying the same MS. Holy toledo, batman. We've had presidents in office for less time than that.

Be sure to check in tomorrow for Part Deux of Lisa's journey, including her successful query and the music to which she butt-kicks.

Aug 9, 2011

Beauty Queens review

I've heard so much about Libba Bray that, when I saw this cover, I snatched it up and devoured it one evening. I cannot wait to read her others, including Going Bovine, which makes me think of Far Side cartoons.

Blurb: Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to e-mail. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

What I liked: Everything. I LOVED this book - the sly parodies in each footnote of the author's alternative world, the over-the-top characters (one girl had an airplane tray lodged in her forehead the whole time!), the unflinching way Ms. Bray looked at teen sexuality and all its pitfalls, the jars of exploding exfoliating cream, the bodacious reality TV pirates who were vanquished in every sense of that word...Libba Bray's sense of humor is sarcastic, skewering and completely soft. Her writing snaps with life. She's on her characters' side, even when they make horrific mistakes. Or accidentally overdose on tranquilizer darts and go completely crazy. Whatev. There's room for them all in this book.

What I didn't like: Ummmmm...nothing? Is that acceptable to say in a review? *taps chin, stares into distance* Well, the ending is a bit out there. I guess. If you're twisting my arm to write something.

Fun stuff: Check out Libba Bray interviewing herself here. And her book trailer here.

Aug 8, 2011

Critique winner, upcoming posts and bling

Thanks to all of you who commented and entered Becky's drawing for a free, ten page critique. The totally random winner is:


I know Becky will have fabulous advice!

The week ahead will be tres exciting (snuck a little high school French in there as I am wont to do in times of high excitement) because 1. on Wednesday, I am reviewing Libba Bray's Beauty Queens, which is so funny my throat is sore from snorting, 2. aspiring author Lisa Regan talks with me Friday about how she snagged her agent AND 3....wait for it...

Lisa's agent, Jeanie Pantelakis of Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency is sponsoring a 50-word Hook for Your Book contest!!!
*minor hyperventilation followed by chocolate intake*
This is for finished manuscripts only, in the mystery and thriller genres.
The contest begins this Friday so you have several days to get your editing groove on and buff up/spin down your hook to 50 soul-snagging words. When it's so shiny you need sunglasses to read it, head over to Lisa's blog and toss it into the comments. She'll have more details there. In her interview here, Lisa will share insider information tips on catching Jeanie's interest, or at least what worked for her. Be sure to check the Sullivan Maxx site as well, accessed by clicking on Jeanie's name. Contest deadline is August 19.

Thanks to Marcie for nominating me for the Liebster (aka newbie blogger) award. She's got an incredible tale of perseverance and pluck she's turning into a memoir. I can't wait to see it on the shelves!

Per the award guidelines, here are my nominees:

JJ DeBendicitis, aka Query Goblin. Check out her interview in this very blog and then go submit your query to her. She's a Mistress of Query Art.

Tracy Jorgenson, who is hosting a stupendously creative contest on her blog where she films a scene from your book! *blinking in awe* SOOO cool, words fail me.

Rebecca Hamilton who offers free editing on a regular basis on her blog, Free Editing for Writers (just so you get the drift right away). She's also very close to getting her MS published in a nontraditional way. Check out her author blog - linked from the site above - to read her story but I'll sum it up on one word: fearless.

The wondrous Taryn Albright
who puts my (former) 18 year-old self to shame. This girl writes, edits and blogs like a maniac. If I'd had an ounce of her gumption when I was her age, I'd be the freakin' president. Seriously. She's generous with her critiques so if you need a teen eye to assess your stuff, ask her. She works cheap. For now.

Aug 5, 2011

Interview with Becky Wallace part two, crit giveaway continues...

Yesterday, aspiring author Becky Wallace filled us in on her revision process and query stats. Today she's sharing about snagging her agent. She's willing to give away one, 10 page critique. To join in on the random drawing, please do three things: be a follower of this blog and post a link to this post either on Twitter or your own blog. Then in the comments, include your name, genre, title and email.

What made you choose to query Jennifer Laughran?
I did a lot of research about agents. I read blogs, comments, interviews, stalked client lists, and finally bought a Publisher’s Marketplace subscription. If you’ve read Jenn’s blog (, you’ll notice her truly awesome/hysterically funny personality. Then you’ll look at her sidebar and realize how incredible her clients are. I was flattered that she would even consider me.

And if we’re being completely honest (and that’s the sort of girl I am) her sales record was freaking phenomenal for my genre. Jenn is agent-rockstar-extraordinaire and she was excited about my book! How could I not pick her?

Tell us about The Call.
Imagine sprinting through the Everglades at noon. It’s humid, the air is close, trees with twisted limbs and draped with moss snag your hair, and you’re pretty sure an alligator is stalking you. But you keep running because something totally life-changing is waiting for you in the next clearing. Yeah…that’s how I felt when Jenn called. Sweat literally dripped off my body (I know…eww). I was pumped full of adrenalin and terrified at the same time. What if she doesn’t like me? What if I say something stupid? What if I can’t think of any questions to ask? What if I can’t remember what my book is about?

I was shaky and stupid throughout the entire conversation. Even though I had a list of questions, I could barely read what I’d written. The words, “I’m-on-the-phone-with-an-agent-and-she-wants-to-represent-my-book-Is-this-for-real?” kept cycling through my head.

Honestly, it’s a good thing I didn’t go into cardiac arrest. I hope I sounded a little bit professional. A little. Maybe.

Ooh, I totally get sweaty when I’m nervous, too. I’m not a fan of sticky so the Everglades image made me wince. I’m guessing the elation set in after the phone call…

And now what? Are you on submission yet? If so, how many versions of your MS did you write? And how long did that take?

Yes, I’m on submission now. I think it’s been ten whole days. And it’s every bit as awful as querying. Maybe worse. I’m trying not to get my hopes up.

See the thing that no one tells you that even if you have an agent (even an agent-rockstar-extraordinaire) your book may still not sell. An author I totally love and respect has had five excellent books on sub and none of them ever got picked up. She’s had an agent for four years and just sold her first novel. That’s my new biggest fear (well…that and my completely unreasonable fear of the ocean because sharks live there).

So after my six initial drafts, I rewrote SIC following Jenn’s notes. It was the hardest revision because it was the most severe. I removed four characters (one that was practically my true character love), added one new character, changed the villain completely, and rewrote the ending.

I was on a pretty tight deadline to get it done—not one Jenn gave me. When I got her revision notes, I was seventeen days from my due date with my third baby. I wanted my book finished and sent to her before Critter No. 3 joined us. And somehow I managed to get it done.

Nothing like an impending baby to get your groove on. Smart woman to push thru…haha, a little pun there…*snort*

Most important thing ever to share with the agentless-but-hopefuls?

Can I give more than one important thing? Please? Okay, good.

1. Find a good critique partner. This person needs to be completely honest with you—someone who is liberal with criticism and light on praise. Someone who will poke holes in your plot, tell you when your characters are blah, and when your imagery fails to do its job. This person will become one of your best friends and assets. You may not like your crit partners all the time, but you will love them for the ways they make you better.

2. Put on some armor. This is a tough industry and it’s so, so easy to give up when someone tells you that your work sucks. And it will happen. Don’t quit. Toughen up.

3. Realize that everyone is better than you at something. Every time I read Cassandre Clare, John Greene, Kiersten White, or any of a dozen other authors, I think, “Holy crap. I suck so bad. Why can’t I produce those images or make my readers laugh or have such an awesome voice.” But you have something—you can do something that other writers can’t. Find that something and WORK IT. Then work on your weak areas.

4. Go with your gut. Although other people’s opinions are important, sometimes you just have to stick with your instincts. I don’t even want to think about the hours I poured into writing and rewriting my query letter when the original letter would have done the job. The same thing goes for your story. At the end of the day it’s your work. You need to be able to live with your final product. If you aren’t proud of it, you won’t stick with it. And you need a story you’re going to stick to.

I especially like this last one. You are a class act, Becky, and may The Book Deal be soon!
So post away, ducklings mine, and perhaps you’ll be the next of Becky’s critters to snag an agent.

Aug 4, 2011

How I snagged my agent AND crit giveaway!!

Today I’m joined by the lovely Becky Wallace, an aspiring author repped by Jenn Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. I’ve been following Ms. Becky’s blog for a while, caught by her upbeat, positive attitude in the midst of raising three young children at home…including an adorable new baby. Her book, Saw it Coming, a YA paranormal romance, is currently out on sub and to keep her mind off this terrifying/mind-blowing exciting fact, she’s willing to crit the first 10 pages of YOUR MS. You lucky ducks! To enter, please do three things: be a follower of this blog and post a link of this opportunity to Twitter or your blog. Then in the comments, post your name, genre, title and email address. Becky will pick a random winner!

How long were you seriously writing Saw It Coming before you decided it was time to query for your agent?

I’m a super sloooooooooowwwww writer. It took eight months of real, hard-core writing to get through the first 30,000 words. Then I participated in NANOWRIMO and wrote 35,000 words in November and the first two weeks of December. I was very, very, very lucky to find a critique partner who believed in the story as much as I did. She pushed me to write three chapters every day. It was insane. I was insane (probably still am a little). I ordered all my Christmas gifts from Amazon and fed my kids grilled cheese or mac n’ cheese pretty much every day. Then I spent two months rewriting, revising, beta-ing, and rewriting some more.

And this will probably sound crazy-masochistic, but I’d do it all again.

Well, we writers are all about masochism enjoying the creative process.

How did you know your MS was ready for querying?

I don’t think a manuscript is ever actually ready. I wrote six drafts, read it aloud a half-dozen times, sent it to five different betas, poured over every word. When I got to the point where I was quibbling over adjectives (or debating whether or not to rewrite the entire thing) I decided it was time to query.

How many drafts of your query did you do? Did you use any sites for feedback or just beta readers?

When I say I wrote 27 drafts of my query, I’m not kidding. The craziest part: the query that landed Jennifer Laughran was almost identical to the very first one I wrote. I posted my queries on AbsoluteWrite, Nathan Bransford’s forum, and on Writer’s Digest.

What were your query stats? Did you ever go back and revise your query based on those stats?

I sent out 35 queries, had a lot of form rejections, ended up with ten requests for fulls, and six offers of representation. I sent out two different versions of my query. A really, really short one (180 words total) and an average length one (256 words). I got three requests from the short query, but also the majority of rejections. Then I sent out the longer query and had much better results.

Good to know! I’ve heard the best length for Qs is right around 250 words…

To enter Becky's critique giveaway, please do three things: be a follower of this blog and post a link of this opportunity to Twitter or your blog. Then in the comments, post your name, genre, title and email address. Becky will pick a random winner!

Check in tomorrow for part deux!

Crit giveaway, agent contest, WriteOnCon AND what I wish I'd known

*drum roll* Becky Wallace is joining me tomorrow for a two-parter interview on how she snagged her agent. This lady is soo talented she received SIX - count'em 6!! - offers of representation for her YA novel, Saw It Coming. She's giving away a 10-page crit so stop by over the next few days and sign up.

Upcoming debut author Rachel McClellan is hosting a summer contest with agent Lauren Ruth from BookEnds, the agency that hosts one of my all-time fav writer blogs. You have until Aug. 11 to submit.

Also coming up is WriteOnCon's annual conference with extremely cool opportunities to network and capture agents' notice. If you haven't already bookmarked/joined their site, go on over and check it out! Be sure to sign up for their forums so when it comes time to get agent feedback on your query on Aug. 17, you're ready to go.

Thinking about submitting to contests makes me think of querying, which now has the same connotations has going for my annual exam. *shivers of dread* Because even if I write a jaw-dropping query letter, that's not going to hook me an agent. It's all about the pages...and the concept. I knew the former, of course. But nobody told me there's such a thing as market saturation. Agent extraordinaire Holly Root tweeted today that: Telepathy has become so common in my query pile that if it's stated the MC is unusual, I think, "Why? Is that weird?" And my last MS, the one I've laid to rest, had a MC with telepathy. Sigh. So as you, my handful of followers, look over your MS, don't do what I did. Don't even start writing until you're sure your idea is unique. Write what you know but be aware that if everyone else is writing about the same thing, your chances of publication (unless you are the vaunted exception to the rule, which I am not) are slimmer than they already are for aspiring authors.

Aug 2, 2011


My son and I went dipnetting this weekend. It was a first for both of us and a hellacious/satisfying experience. Kind of like writing.

The photo above illustrates how dipnetting works. It was taken by my friend Stephen, who also took us to Fish Creek and showed us the ropes. Basically we stand in the water with a gigantic, five-foot net and wait for fish to swim in. This year we’ve had a record red salmon return . (Some say that’s due to the fact the Japanese fishing fleet was wiped out from the last tsunami. I felt so awful for that nation but there is a silver cloud to every lining…especially for those of us who love salmon. More survived this year and now we’re reaping the benefit.)

But I digress. The photo above is taken in Kenai, where dipnetting is akin to a Hawaiian vacation. Here is a link to a slideshow of where I went this weekend:
One word: mud. To my waist. Not just any mud – the kind that traps you and slowly kills you as the tide comes in. And when the creek’s tide came in all the way to the tree line (photos in link are of the creek at low tide) I had visions of drowning via glacial mud stuckage. Or I’d lose my waders, my pants and undies and have to swim for my life, arriving on shore nekkid to explain to a trooper why he shouldn’t cite me for indecent exposure.

To avoid this fate, I left my son to carry the net and our 30 lbs of fish (he wore overall waders and is much taller than I am) and wrestled my way through the woods back to the car. No trail. Lots of devil’s club. Despite our fishing success, I wondered WTH I was doing. Was the experience really worth all this trauma?

The day was hard, embarrassing, filthy and also rewarding, exhilarating and a privilege. Only Alaska residents get to do this. We caught four salmon – not many, comparatively, but we’re the only two who eat fish in my family – and my son and I had periodic fits of laughter at our own incredible filthiness/fish blood coverage. He had a blast. I know it’ll be one of his favorite summer memories. And I’m in it!

And yes, my writing life right now is just like dipnetting. I’m wondering WTH I’m doing. It’s hard, it’s periodically embarrassing in a kind of nekkid-in-a-crowd-of-fishermen way. People around me are catching fish and I’m not yet even ready to put my net in the water. I worry my timing is off, that I’m not strong enough to haul in that huge net when I do hook an agent.

But writing, like dipnetting, is addictive. I’m going for it. The rewards are worth the risk of getting in over my head.

Aug 1, 2011

Hereafter review

I picked up Hereafter by Tara Hudson a few days ago because a) the cover was awesome (I'm shallow like that) and b) it's about ghosts. There's a wee ghostie in my MS and I've started reading other YA to see how authors treat them. It took me about four hours to read the whole thing.

Blurb: Can there truly be love after death?
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live.
Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.

What I liked: The debut author did a great job with her first three chapters. Her cliffhanger at the end of ch. 1 was a super hook. She's nailed her audience by focusing all about the boy because this MC's main drive in her afterlife is to connect with another human. And later, to avoid the baddie.

What I didn't like: At times the writing drags, then speeds up unpredictably. There were a few anachronisms within the ghost context: why couldn't the MC float through walls, etc.? Why does gravity still work on her? Obviously, my idea of how ghosts work is different from Ms. Hudson's, which is part of the fun of supernatural fiction.

In the end: There are still a lot of unanswered questions at the conclusion, which made me think the author is setting up for a sequel. Examining my reaction to this pointed out the fine line between leaving loose-ends and frustrating a reader. It's difficult to do, especially for a debut author and in my case, I was left more with frustration than can't-wait-for-the-sequel taste in my mouth.

But if you've read it and have a different opinion, do share!