Oct 30, 2011

True ghost stories

So I had a post on overwriting scheduled and then realized that, in fact, I'd rather write about ghosts. Because of Halloween and all. Since popular fiction includes those based on a true story (why do we love The Blind Side? And Sound of Music? And all those animal-in-peril-until-dramatic-rescue movies? Because they're true...mostly) I had to share one of my own creepy paranormal encounters.

When I was in second grade, my parents divorced so my brother and I moved to Lawrence, KS, with my mom. The only place she could afford to rent was this seedy little duplex that smelled bad and had ratty carpet. But it had three bedrooms and was in walking distance of an elementary school. My bedroom was in the back, next to the bathroom. We'd been there about a month when, late one night, I was awoken by something jumping on my bed. I thought it was our cat and sat up. Nothing was there. So I tried to fall asleep and it happened again. And again. I got up to tell my mother, who was taking a bath in the bathroom that shared a wall with my room. She told me I'd been dreaming. So I went back to bed and fell asleep. Mom told me later that she started to hear this banging against the wall. She yelled at me to be quiet. It kept up, literally shaking the whole wall. Mom assumed I was jumping on the bed and got out of the tub to tell me to knock it off. She opened the door to my room to see the bed jumping 1-2 feet off the floor while I snoozed, oblivious, in the middle of the mattress. My mom - an Ivy League grad who holds a PhD in biology -  was a brand-new baby Christian at the time and believed in the supernatural. She commanded whatever it was to be gone in Jesus name, and it stopped. We weren't bothered again. And the smell in the duplex went away. We found out later that the duplex had come up for rent after a huge drug/prostition ring bust on the previous renters. (Comforting news, no?) 
That's the least shocking of my two paranormals. The second tale involved an exorcism.  Both have shaped my view on evil/demons/ghosts. Do I think they're real? Yup.

So do you have any favorite true scary stories? Have they shaped your belief in the supernatural? Or, like the photo below, in the impossible?

Oct 29, 2011

Blog hop winner and upcoming events

Thanks to all who participated in the Casting Call character blog hop. I had a great time checking out everyone's entries and commented on as many as I could. Blogger was a bit selfish so if you didn't get a comment from me, I tried. :)

Random.org chose Jon Paul, of the blog Where Sky Meets Ground. Jon Paul, I'm unable to find contact info for you on your site so please contact me, Carrie or Lisa. Your prize is a three-chapter critique by all three of us on whatever you'd like to submit. Yay you!

Check back Sunday for a post on common overwriting characteristics, and on Friday, I'll be interviewing the lovely Eowyn Ivey. Her literary novel, The Snow Child, is a fairy-tale retelling that, although it doesn't release in the US until Feb. 1, has already climbed to the bestseller lists in Europe.  She's awesome, so talented and happens to live near me. You won't want to miss her!

Oct 23, 2011

Casting call!

Thanks to all of you who commented on the rough draft of this book trailer. With help, I figured out how to adjust my titles. Hopefully this new version is an improvement!

The pictorial post of my characters is here.

And thanks for joining our casting call this week! The linky should be below, but if it isn't and you want to join us, sign up at Carrie Butler's blog for this weeklong, one-post hop. Carrie, Lisa Regan and I will randomly choose one lucky winner for a three-person, three-chapter critique - that's three pairs of eyes for the price of...well, nothing. :)


Oct 20, 2011

Guest post - Maximizing Word Choice

Writer Sarah Belliston joins me today in a guest post about word choice. She received her BA in English from Brigham Young University. She lives in Kansas City with her husband, daughter, mother, and one pug in a never-big-enough apartment. Sarah's at the beginning of the road to publication with her manuscript Conduit, which she blogs about here.

Take it away, Sarah!

 I thought about this topic when reading A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. Here’s one example of what I mean: “We didn’t breathe for listening.” There are a million ways to say this, but these words are unique to this character.
After pondering, I came up with five different ways authors can consciously use word choice.

1. Ground  the reader.
I have trouble with this. Give enough setting detail to get your reader in the scene, but don’t bore them into skimming or worse, closing the book. The answer is not necessarily more details, but the right ones.
Take Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: “and there in that pleasant corner of the world they plied their well-ordered business of living, and they heeded less and less the world outside where dark things moved.”
You can probably guess he is describing the Hobbits and the Shire. They ‘plied’ their ‘business’ of living and the outside world was where ‘dark things moved’. Tolkien is not a short-winded author, but his words do their job of bringing you into the Hobbit’s laissez-faire lifestyle and land.
Another image is from Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth: “No one remembers where the paths go. Some say they are there as escape routes, others say they are there so that we can travel deep into the Forest for wood. We only know that one points to the rising sun and the other to the setting sun.”
She doesn’t describe the paths here (though she does in other places), but you get the feelings of hopelessness and despair that this narrator associates with these paths.

2. Set the tone.
“He stood now among the opening flowers and the new leaves, looking at a dead man, hanging by his neck from the limb of a tree in the park, on Indian Hill, overlooking the harbor.”
This is from the first paragraph of Robert Parker’s High Profile. From this sentence you can probably guess his main character is a detective and will solve this murder. But you also know the main character (MC) is going to do it in an objective way, no personal involvement, taking in all the details both good and bad. He talks about the flowers and the dead man with the same plain words.
The narrator from above wouldn’t go on to describe the victim’s clothing as ‘retro’ or ‘so last season’. And he’s probably not going to describe the bruises on the man’s neck as ‘pressure points of passion’ or ‘the color of a blood moon rising through a mist of fog’.
Authors present a tone in the beginning of their book and need to keep it throughout. When a writer fails to do this, readers say “That’s not what he would say/do.” Word choice is key to keeping that tone.

3. Narrative distance.
This is similar to tone, but emotional distance can change throughout a book. Cassandra Clare has six books out right now. My example comes from City of Fallen Angels because someone borrowed my City of Bones. Here’s the quote: “A shining blade split the night, slashing down inches from Clary’s face, severing the dog’s head from its body.” I love that phrase ‘split the night’. Clary is about to die, surrounded by darkness, and an angel blade comes to save her. The blade of light literally cuts the night away from her.
If you do it right, the words can put your reader with you every moment of your emotional scenes. You can also change from distant to close over the course of a scene to increase the impact.

4. Unique characters.
The words we use can add depth to a character that otherwise seems two-dimensional. Gloria Naylor has a great book called Mama Day. It starts off with a prologue of the legend of Sapphira Wade.
“A true conjure woman: satin black, biscuit cream, red as Georgia clay: depending on which of us takes a mind to her.”
Don’t those words sing? This woman is a mix of myth and reality. She’s anything and everything. The adjectives Naylor uses don’t just speak to the color of Sapphira’s skin, but everything she is. Smooth as satin, fluffy and soft like batter, or hard and slick like clay.

5. Narrator’s voice.
My final point ties everything else together. Voice affects every part of our writing. Our author’s voice colors all of our works, but the individual narrator’s voice can be distinct as well. This is especially important in works that have multiple POVs. The example that jumped to my mind was William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. “Then the dark began to go in smooth, bright shapes, like it always does, even when Caddy says that I have been asleep.”
“I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it.”
“I'm bad and I'm going to hell, and I don't care. I'd rather be in hell than anywhere where you are.”
Each quote was from someone different in gender, education, emotional state. And you get that from the words they use.
The examples I’ve included here are not necessarily the best, but what I had on my bookshelf. In fact, I’m sure there are better ones, but the points are the same. More words may not help, but the right words will paint a picture, open a soul, and take your readers to the heart of your story.

What are some examples of word choice that have stuck with you after you’ve read a book?

Oct 18, 2011

Monster on the beach

The third Campaign challenge is afoot!! Yahoo! This one sounds like the most fun. The rules are below...let's see if I can pull this off. *cracks knuckles*

Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:
  • that it’s morning, 
  • that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
  • that the MC (main character) is bored
  • that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
  • that something surprising happens.
Just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: "synbatec," "wastopaneer," and "tacise."   (NB. these words are completely made up and are not intended to have any meaning other than the one you give them).
It is SOOO hot out here. Seriously, hello global warming. I fan myself and eat a Tacise, which is so cool and pepperminty I want to rub it all over my body. 
Especially the peppermint because something kinda smells.
I peer at the woman sprawled out on the beach towel beside me. She's spilling out of her red Synbatec bikini like an overstuffed bratwurst.  An open tube of coconut-scented sunscreen lies next to her.
On the other side of me, a bunch of kids are making a sand castle. One little boy is crying, yelling something that sounds like 'wastopaneer.' I listen carefully to realize he's saying he 'wants to play here.'  
The smell isn’t from the fat woman or the kids.
I put my hand up to stare at the horizon, where Gull Island is just visible. When I was a kid, horrible smells used to drift inland from that place. Rumors said the government was experimenting on animals out there, turning them into freaks. But that was years ago.
That smell is horribly familiar, though – rancid and greasy, as if someone mixed rotting fat with manure.
Sand grits between my teeth. I should move downwind.
I rise to pick up my towel, snapping it to dust off the sand. And then I scream.
There’s a claw attached to a skeletal hand poking up right where I sat. It’s a human hand…but the claw could belong to a dinosaur. It twitches.
I scream again and the kids come running over.
“Cool!” one of them yells and then the sand erupts. There’s a blur of huge, skinless body, of  a snapping, beak-like mouth and blazing red eyes. Everyone scatters…except the crying boy.
He wasn’t fast enough.
He’s gone.
And I don’t think anyone will want to play here ever again.

Oct 16, 2011

My very first book trailer!

I've suffered book trailer envy for the past few weeks and finally decided to do something about it. One google search and voila!  Saving Andromeda has its own video.

Okay, it wasn't quite that easy. But almost. It took about three hours to put this together - it's not  perfect, or fancy or really really high tech, but I did it aw by mysef.  :)

And as a tip for those of you who've never tried to make one, you can use iMovie (for Macs) and Windows Movie Maker (for PCs). Both programs are similar, user-friendly, etc. One suggestion: pick your music first! It'll help your pacing, mood, etc. There are free sites that give away free clips. DM me for suggestions.

Please leave suggestions on making this better...and if you have one of your own, consider signing up at our Casting Call blogfest over at Carrie Butler's blog TODAY. It's a one-post fest to share trailers and pictorial character representations from your MS that'll run next week. (Is pictorial a real word? *shrug* I like it.)

What are pictorial character representations, you ask? Click here for an idea.

Oct 13, 2011

Paying it forward with Heather Lende

In honor of Alaska Book Week, I'm interviewing Heather Lende,  an author whose considerable talent with words is matched by her generosity, kindness and quiet humility. Through her lyrical writing and focus on small-town life, she is Alaska's version of Garrison Keillor...only way better looking.  Her books, If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name and Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs, are ones to curl up with at night and feature stories you'll savor long after you read the last page.

1. You're from the east coast. Talk about how living in Haines (pop. 2,271)is different than New York. (NOTE: You can get to Haines by ferry, by driving through Canada or taking a small plane.)

Let's see. Haines is about as different from suburban NYC as a place can be - in lots of ways. In New York, bears and moose are in the zoo and here we eat them. Also in New York, you buy bagels and lox and here we make them. There's more, too - in bigger places people live with like-minded neighbors. They send their chidlren to school with other children who have the same values, socio-economic standing, etc. In Haines because we're so small, this is all mixed up. One public school is a great leveler, as is one clinic, one golf course, one gym, one boat harbor...you know?

best thing about living in Haines:
The people, the isolation and its extreme environment/location.
 Okay, actually there is also a great library, bookstore, public radio station, pool, new school, theater, weekly independent paper and in the summer, great places to eat.

and worst thing:

Fall in Haines, AK
 The people, the isolation and its extreme environment/location.

2. Your obituary writing is a key component behind your story making. Tell us how writing obits has trained you to be a better writer.

In all ways. In school they say to write what you know or show, don't tell. Well, what does that mean? When I write obituaries, my one unspoken question is 'prove it.' That is why I don't write: 'she was nice.' I write: 'every Christmas for 37 years she baked cookies for the crew at the post office.' I also think that writing obituaries teaches you to listen carefully and get all the details right. You don't want to spell someone's name wrong in the last thing that's written about them. For me, writing is more about paying attention and being fundamentally curious than anything else I'm not a great writer in 'each sentence sings' kind of way. It's the stories I tell.

 And I have been very very lucky to write about a long list of diverse and interesting subjects (and sources) through my work. It has also given me a huge amount of empathy. People are loved for all kinds of reasons, by all kinds of people and when you write an obituary, you're always looking for the good in people.  I've been criticized for that but I'd rather add a positive voice to the world than a negative one.

3. I've said this to you before - you are the mistress of the lyrical, meaningful ending. How do you do this so consistently? Do the words just 'come' or are you missing chunks of hair trying to find the right phrase?

I feel very strongly that if you write what many people read, you have an obligation to say something more than what you think about the new picture on the Cheerios box. That's journaling. Writing is taking that observation and making it mean something - or actually, realizing that something so normal, so un-newsworthy, as much of my material is - has meaning. It is not so much a deliberate way to write a piece as it is my way of thinking and observing.

4. Both of your books have been on shelves for a while.  Is it easier or harder to keep up promotion momentum than it was with your first book?

View from Haines
 I'm very lucky in that my publisher promotes my books so I don't have to. What I have done (at their advice) has been pretty easy once I got over my initial terror. I maintain a web site and blog and Facebook presence. It also makes any promotion I have to do much easier. I can say 'just take that interview off my site' or picture or whatever. I don't have to spend time saying stuff I've already said again.

5. What are your favorite book promotion tactics?

The ones I have liked the most are the radio tours my publisher has booked for the launch of the paperbacks. It is so nice to stay home and answer quick questions Sometimes it can be pretty funny, though, since the time change hangs me up. I have had calls at 4 a.m. and sort of bolted up and said God knows what to some person I haven't caught the name of. Mainly, I find the best thing and most rewarding book promotion (not sure it's the right word since it doesn't sell more books) is talking to book clubs and classes via Skype. It's easy and fun and I'm always amazed at how appreciative the audience is to talk to a 'real author.' It's a huge gift to me that they're interested and yet they act like I'm doing them a favor. I still can't quite believe that.

6. You write about people you live with in a small town. How do you avoid offense?

Haines boat harbor

I don't know. I hope I do. I do, however, always do my best to write about people in a way that first transcends some local issue - that has a wider significance in the point I'm trying to make and to me personally. In other words, this is my story so I share how their action in words, life, etc., impacted mine, rather than tell their story for them. And I do it in the same way I write obituaries - in the way they would like and that their friends and family agree with. So I wouldn't quote someone's enemy saying: "She shot at me everytime I cut through her yard and  was crazy as a loon." Instead I'd have her best friend say, "She was a real character; she'd actually shoot at trespassers. Thank goodness she couldn't hit the broad side of a boat shed." It's the same thing, just a different way to say it.

7. Your blog is also filled with life details. How do you decide what to share and what to keep private?

By the time I write about it, the news is not private to me or my family or friends. For instance, I have not written about my youngest daughter's pregnancy until now because she's not married and it has been a bit emotional. But now that she's four months along and posting photos on Facebook and we're all feeling happy about it, I will. When I do write about it, I will at first try to re-create that initial response to bring the readers alongside me and connect with many other parents who have had similar life-changing moments. 

8. On your first book tour, you mentioned the mystique people assign to being Alaskan. Do you use that? Or are you quick to dispel it?

Both. I'm very proud to be an Alaskan and to know how to do the stuff we do and live the rural Alaskan life. At the same time so much of it - local foods, shopping, volunteering for hospice or the Humane Society, getting outdoors, hanging around with people who disagree with you, sending your kids to public school, using the library - can be done anywhere. Here in Haines, a lot of this happens by default - we have no choice. In bigger places, people who want to live like this can do it. They just have to be more intentional about it. I encourage that.

9. What are you working on right now? Title yet? Or pub date?

I'm finishing a novel, A Hole in the Middle of a Pretty Good Heart. It has been accepted by an agent and needs some small revision before it goes out in the world to hopefully be published (after what no doubt will be a long list of rejections. That is what happens to all good books, right?) Luckily my nonfiction has a good track record and Algonquin Books will be publishing a third book of essays, as yet untitled (and not finished) in about two years.  Also I'm a Woman's Day columnist now and a contributing editor, which means when they say 'jump' I say 'how high?' and I still write local obituaries.

 10. Weirdest thing a reader has ever said to you about your books?

"Too bad my husband didn't die sooner or he would've been in it," speaking of If You Lived Here...

Fast five: (Alaskan version of optional questions - except the salmon recipe request bc I'm on the hunt for new ones.)

Do you prefer moose or caribou?

Sitka black tail deer

Favorite smoked salmon recipe?Creamy smoked salmon fettuccine
Fishing near Haines

Most fish you've ever caught dipnetting? (or gill netting if that's how you roll.)

About 20 gill netting. But the family record is 36. I wasn't on the boat that day. If I had been, I would've quite at 15 - that's my ideal weekly limit.  The smoke house holds about eight fish and I have two big canners. We can eat the rest fresh if the family are home. But after 20 it's crazy. I'm processing fish for days and days.

Biggest vegetable you've ever grown?
Down here we don't grow huge vegetables but my strawberries are the size of plums.

NOTE: Heather specified 'down here' bc Haines is hundreds of miles south of where I live in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. Here we are world-renowned for huge veggies. Seriously. Check your Guiness BOWW. We grow cabbages as big as small houses.

What you splurged on using your PFD*? (I'll go first. I'm getting a vacuum sealer. Also we're going to Cancun.)

I gave about half of it to the Haines Library Community Foundation and animal rescue kennel through the PFD Pick, Click & Give charitable gift program. I bought a ticket to Mexico with the rest.

 So we are both sourdoughs, the definition of which is: sour on the weather with enough dough to get out. *snort*

PFD: permanent fund dividend, a yearly cash amount paid to each Alaskan out of the Permanent Fund Endowment. Yup, we get paid to live here. Thanks big oil! :)
And thanks Heather, for hanging out with me today.

Blogs I love:

Anita Grace Howard: she's creative, fun and sophisticated. She posts great book trailers, query success stories and beautiful poems.

Sleuths, Spies & Alibis: A brand-new blog aimed at MG/YA mystery writers and readers.

The Authoress: Her blog, Miss Snark's First Victim, offers monthly agent contests and the upcoming Baker's Dozen auction.

Oct 11, 2011

The elements of setting

Matanuska Peak and Lazy Mountain

My house is surrounded by two ranges - the Chugach and Talkeetnas. Mat Peak and Pioneer Peak are over 6,000 feet. You can hike them if you dare but there are no roads through either range. Each year, a dozen or so people die from reckless snowmachining - usually bc they caused an avalanche. And avalanche beacons don't work in 50-feet of packed snow.

My parents live in Nova Scotia on the other side of the continent.

Random Nova Scotia fishing village

Their 'mountain' is a 3,000-ft gradual slope in the middle of the province. I didn't notice it for years until my mother told me about this snowstorm that stranded about 50 motorists. Apparently cell service got knocked out and people waited for hours in their car for help that never came. Of course, it being a maritime province at all, the storm passed, the snow melted and nobody died. (Thankfully, you can't die from a hissy fit.)

Alaska: rugged, trackless terrain. 85 mph winter windstorms that last for days are common.
Nova Scotia: gentle, road woven coast-line. Windless, foggy winters are common.

So how does this setting affect people? In a very general way:

Alaskans (non-Native): ornery, independent, occasionally on the lam or half-crazed with stubborness, gun-toting individualists who are always on the move.
Nova Scotians: polite traditionalists, insular, law-abiding, family centered folks who live in the house their great-grandparents built.

While I started to write my last MS, I knew I had a lot of culture clash to work with. What I didn't know was how the conflict would develop my setting. Or how the setting would push my conflict. My MC is yanked out of her Alaskan lifestyle and into a new Nova Scotian family. On the surface, they're her blood relatives. But underneath, she couldn't be more different. One of my goals was to show how setting, where you live, the culture whose values you share, drives character.

Beyond knowing the basics of each culture (which is key before any of the rest of this will work) here are a few techniques I used:

Weather. My characters' moods were mirrored in the weather. If the scene was happy or romantic, the sun was shining or setting. For murder/mayhem - fog/wind/rain.

Speech patterns. Check idioms and regional phrases - do people say 'some' instead of 'very?' How would someone from Australia say, "That's really cool" ? Authenticity will deepen the appeal of your writing.

Architecture. What's the typical home look like in your location? What makes it unique - high roofline, arched windows, cedar siding, big porches? Is there a widely known building/location you could write a scene around?

Local customs. Do people kiss each cheek when greeting each other? Do they kick off their shoes before entering a stranger's house? Maybe there's a favorite bumpersticker a lot of people from one area have. (Where I live, it's "Alaska Girls Kick A&*" among others....) How could you work those customs into your writing?

Food. If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, the same is true for a reader. Tell us everything about a meal - the scents, the flavors, the textures and colors - and we're right there with you. Everybody loves a good meal. Think: Under the Tuscan Sun. Mmmmmmm....if you can make it work with your plot, go for it.

Clothing. I hesitated to add this last bc seriously, nobody walks around naked even in fiction, but I think clothing is an important part of setting - especially if you write anything but contemporary. From Katniss to Scarlett O'Hara, what our characters wear says a lot about what's happening to them and when.

IMO, these are the writers whose worlds make mine fall away, whose setting wraps me up in a nice blanket of escape: LM Montgomery, Elizabeth George, Beverly Cleary, PD James, Rosalind Pilcher, Maeve Binchy...plus two Alaskan writers, Dana Stabenow and Heather Lende. (Heather is joining me Friday in honor of Alaska Book Week. *squeal!* Check out this link for more goodies showcasing authors from the Last Frontier.)

So who are your favorite atmospheric writers? And how do they do it? What are the elements of your setting? (And DO sign up for the Casting Call blogfest over at Carrie Butler's blog. It's going to be a blast!)

Oct 9, 2011

Casting call!

In between working on my newest WIP and researching agents to query, I've decided to have a wee bit of fun. Today, I'm taking a page from the delightful Anita Grace Howard, who described a protagonist in pictures, and playing dress-up with my own invisible minions. My visions are below.


She's my MC, tall, strong, athletic, able to hunt/butcher a caribou and pack it out by herself. Her basketball team missed nailing the state championship but she still got a full-ride scholarship to the University of Alaska. She's got it all figured out...except she's not who she thinks she is.

Emma's long time boyfriend, an Alaskan fisherman who's going with her to college. He's the boy next door who's always had her back. But like all young love, it's never been tested.

Emma's famous bio-dad never stopped loving Andromeda but has no idea what actually happened the night 19 years ago when everything changed. (yup, this is actually Third Day's Mac Powell. I couldn't resist...)

Emma's birth mother who's been in prison for murder since before Emma was born. Untangling her story almost gets Emma killed. (Anyone recognize this awesome singer?)

Michael's protege, an up-and-coming country rocker who makes Emma reconsider her choices while the rest of her world is falling apart.

That was FUN! And kinda weird. So to help me avoid feeling silly, I'm asking you to join a weeklong Casting Call Character blogfest hosted by me, the awesome Carrie Butler and Lisa Regan. The fun starts the last week of October. Just post your own casting call (or book trailer - more on that next week!), leave your link at Carrie's blog and then hop to see others' visualizations of their book characters. We'll have a grand critique prize you won't want to miss.

Oct 6, 2011

Anita Grace Howard and the splintery world of Wonderland

It's been a really great year for Anita Grace Howard but it didn't start out that way. Last December, she parted ways with her agent and hit a low point literally speaking. Then, in February, she received THREE offers of representation before signing on with superstar agent, Jenny Bent. (Read about that journey here.) And everything changed.

Jenny sold Splintered, a Gothic Wonderland re-telling to Amulet, who initially put publication at Spring, 2013. But yesterday, Anita got the exciting news her pub date has been moved up six months. Squee! *cue racing heart* AND, Anita is on sub for her newest MS, a gothic/literary romance called The Architect of Song. She's posted an amazing book trailer you shouldn't miss - click on her name above to watch. (BTW, if anyone knows how to do these, I would LOVE to learn. *googling how to make a book trailer*)

1. Now that you're on the pub list, share the deets about any research you did for Splintered. I ask bc there are a TON of books out there on Alice Liddell - including ones that suggest Lewis Carroll was a bit of a pedophile. Did you come across any of that? And did it affect your plot at all?

The main thing I did for research was re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I hadn’t read them in years and wanted to revisit how he wove underlying threads of eeriness into his nonsensical scenes and characters. My main goal was for this book to be a tribute to his genius, and to have the funkiness/creepiness evolve from subtle nuances to take center stage. I’m hoping it will inspire a whole new generation of readers to seek out the original. The actual idea came to me when I went to see the Tim Burton Alice movie. I watched it a couple more times while writing, so I guess that could count as research, too. I found a book called ALICE, I HAVE BEEN that clicked it all into place. It’s a historical fiction account of Alice Liddell’s life. The “pedophilic” rumors did not play a part in my story. Instead, I went strictly with the Alice Liddell slant. I needed something to tie my heroine into today's world, and some way to make the story different than it had ever been done. So I decided to have my heroine be a descendant of Alice Liddell. Everything else just came from my own warped imagination. :)

2.Fairy tale retellings are hot right now. Do you think there are specific rules to this subgenre? If so, what are they?

I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules. But in my personal favorite retellings, the author doesn’t make light of the original fairy tale. They’re less spinoffs and more adaptations. They make the most of the original author’s vision by giving the characters/details a deeper meaning. They expand on them, if that makes sense.

3. How many revisions did you do with Jenny?

We did a small revision at first, and then after a few passes, ended up cutting more wordage from the beginning of the book to get my heroine/hero to Wonderland faster.

Did the process help you identify your strengths/weaknesses as a writer?
I don’t really feel that it isolated any of my weaknesses. It was more of a nod to what publishers are looking for right now. Faster paced books with less set up and more punch.

4. How does that self-awareness help you now? Is it easier or harder than it was to write Splintered?

Ha. Ask me that in about a month or so. I’m just now starting a WIP, and this is the first thing I’ve written in about six months. I’m hoping I still remember how to write at all. LOL

5. For your next MS, you're branching out into adult. How will switching genres help your career?

I’d like to have both an adult and YA audience that can cross over. It’s a win-win, expanding my readership, and feeding my eclectic muse. I’ve always been drawn to fantasy/paranormal, but that is my one and only constant. Other than that, I like to spread my wings, and having books in both the YA and adult markets will allow me that freedom. It helps that I have an incredible agent who is rather eclectic herself. ;)

6. You've launched your author blog it is SO COOL. Thank you! It’s totally unofficial at this point. There’s still a bit more work to do. Talk about how that happened - did you hire a designer and if so, how did you choose one?

I design my own pages, just like I make my own book trailers. It’s a nice outlet for the more visual/artistic side of my creativity. My husband is my webmaster (although I suspect he does it just so I’ll call him master … heh). Right now, he’s learning all about animation because I have something very specific and cool in mind for my homepage. We’re hoping to have it ready for an official launch in a few months.

7. Does Splintered have any author blurbs on its jacket? If so, talk about the process of approaching an established writer to get a quote.

Too soon for this, but I’ve heard that both the publisher and the author can play a part in getting blurbs. I have a couple of author acquaintances in mind that I’ll be asking for props when the time comes. That’s another reason it always pays to network, online or at conferences.

8. When will your promotion machine kick into high gear?

It’s already started. The minute I signed w/Jenny, she told me to get a blog going and a twitter acct. What's involved for you as your book b-day nears? Blog tours, book tours, what?? I’ve joined a group called TeenShiver, a joint blog that promotes Texas YA paranormal authors. I’m hoping to use it (and line up blog tours/book reviews via some of my fellow bloggers).

9. Has your agent filled you in on what to expect as a debut author? Yes, in fact she wrote an amazingly detailed article on that very subject that I’d love to share. It’s here: What are your expectations? To work hard, and be flexible. To be diligent and professional. But most of all, to be grateful and never forget how hard it was to get here, so I’ll always be sympathetic/helpful to other writers still in the trenches and on their way to the shelves.

10. Best thing about being you right now.

I can finally look back at the last seven years of my life and know I was going in the right direction.
And worst thing...
When I look ahead seven years, I see the pressure of deadlines and advances to fulfill. Little nerve wracking, but totally worth it.

Fast five (questions to which you give fun, fluffy and erudite answers. All optional except for #5 bc I need suggestions for my Netflix queue.)

Favorite kind of sausage? Weiner dogs. They’re just so CUTE.

Biggest pet peeve while driving? People texting / talking on cell phones while driving. Unless it happens to be someone I’M texting/talking to.

Where you went on your last vacation? Unless you count the short time my sanity took a hiatus during the submission process (yes, I officially lost my mind), Kansas City, MO.

Historical character you'd travel back in time to meet? Christina Rossetti. Does she count as historical? I’d like to just sit at her feet and drink in her brilliance. NO ONE could write description like her. She’s my literary crush (but if you happen to leak that to Neil Gaiman, I’ll swear that you’re lying and he’s my one true love).

Best movie you saw last summer? The Fall. (HUGE fan of brilliant/vivid cinematography, and this movie had it in spades). Not to mention, there was an incredible soundtrack. Candy for the eyes and ears.

Speaking of metaphorical candy, Anita inspired the Casting Call bloghop (see button above and below) with this post, in which she puts her fashionista sense to work for her characters. Read it over and then get inspired...I did! Use that inspiration to sign up Monday over at Carrie Butler's blog to share your own casting call. What do your MCs look like? How do their personalities come through as you put together your cast? We'll have prizes and fun and it's only one post. How can you resist??

Oct 3, 2011

Winner, a festy button and upcoming (secret) interview

I poked Melvin the Magic Hat awake this morning and he spat out the name of:

which is very appropriate bc Deana is a Queen Blogger in her own right. She and the awesome Emily Rittel-King are hosting a Killer Characters blogfest at the end of the month. They've got prizes, multiple days to hop and lots of fun going on. Do check them out.

Which brings me to another blogfest coming up. *looking right* Do you see that shiny new button over there? Carrie Butler, Lisa Regan and I are hosting a one-post fest that same week. What does that mean, you ask? It means you post once then hop around to see everyone else's on the same topic during the week. So you'll still have plenty of time to get your creep on, if you so desire. The linky will up next week at Carrie's site bc she's a comment magnet. (A magnet, I say.) I'll explain it more fully next Monday but let me just say two three words: virtual dress up.

Speaking of casting call, this week (hopefully) I'll be hosting an interview with another QB* who just sold her first book and is already on sub with another of a different genre. She is quirky, witty and totally on the literary ball. I've been on awe of her for months and am honored she's gracing my site with her wisdom. Her identity will be revealed later this week (hopefully) but let me just say two words: goat posse; and share a graphic:

Finally, I was thwarted this weekend in my attempts to comment on my blog rounds. Blogger kept erasing my comment as soon as I pressed 'comment.' *frustrated frown* Has that ever happened to you? Because it's STILL happening. I've even tried different computers (we have three at my house) and nothing works. Helpful hints are humbly accepted.

*Queen Blogger