Jan 29, 2012

Upcoming pitch contest with Tricia Lawrence of EMLA

I am very excited to announce that Tricia, my shiny new agent, is willing to read any/all entries in a query/250-word submission window from Feb. 13-17.  Erin Murphy Literary Agency does not accepted unsolicited queries so this is your in, folks.

Go here to read a recent interview she did with another client.

Go here to find out about her literary taste.

And stop by NEXT Monday to read an interview I'll post for even more info. Tricia has been in publishing for quite a while and, while Erin Murphy Literary Agency is well established in YA/MG, there's not a lot of online stuff about her yet because she's such a new agent.

Now, here's where you come in.
 I need your help in 1. getting the word out about the pitch contest (because I've never hosted one of these before and I'd really like to avoid the metaphorical egg all over my face should Feb. 17 arrive with only two entries *red face*) and 2. coming up with questions to ask Tricia in next week's interview.

If you choose to become an Honorary Marketing Partner, I'm offering two prizes. TWO!! The first person chosen by Rafflecopter will get to choose between them. The second will win the other choice or give it to the next in line, etc. I'll announce the winner Feb. 13.

Prize #1: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This is a hardcover, signed, first-edition that is coming out Feb. 1. Eowyn is almost my neighbor, has been interviewed on this blog and her book is an Oprah Magazine Top 10 pick for Feb. It's also number one in various European countries and will no doubt make Eowyn very famous. *crossing fingers*  Mark my words, some day this first edition will be a collector's item.

Prize #2: a year's subscription to Query Tracker

Many of you know that, had it not been for the awesome QT and the forums offered there, I never would've connected with the agents at EMLA. It is a must for any serious querier and yes, the premium membership is totally worth it. If you win this prize, you'll get to enjoy all the premium membership features, including agents with similar tastes, rollover of your query list for various projects and much more.

So, will you help me?? If that's a yes,  increase your chances through the typical blogging ways:

+1 to be a follower of this blog or on Twitter
+1 tweet about the giveaway
+2 if you suggest a question for Tricia (Feb. 3 deadline)
+5 if you blog about this contest

The Rafflecopter widget is below. Take it away! (If you can't see it, click on the title of this post and it should show up when the page refreshes.)

Jan 26, 2012

Friday Funnies for Jan. 26

This first one has some inside jokes so you need to know a few things to get them.

1. Wasilla is literally the duct tape capital of the world. Wal-Mart here sells more duct tape than anyone else in the nation. (Also, it comes in about 20 pretty colors.)
2. The Carr's on Gambel Street had to put their mouthwash behind locked cabinets bc the winos/druggies were stealing it to get drunk.
3. Snow machine. Period.
4. Anchorage charges zero tax.
5. The Bush Company is actually a...wait, you should be able to figure this one out...

Kristin Baker Przybyla (who needs at least one more consonant in her last name) has a consistently writing funny blog. Check out this post for some great pics.

And if you haven't yet visited Slush Pile Hell, I hereby recommend a trip forthwith.

Finally, since I promised funny cats and have yet to deliver:

Have a great weekend! Then stop back by on Monday. I'll have some exciting news for the not-yet-agented.

Jan 22, 2012

Elements of a great hook

First chapters are problematic for me. I rewrite them dozens of times – especially those first paragraphs, because they must do  many things well. Of course, they must hook the reader but ‘hook’ is a pretty big, generic word when applied to writing.
So what elements are there in hooking a reader?
I’m using 100-word (give or take) excerpts from three YA novels as examples – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, and Looking for Alaska by John Green. Two of these are considered YA classics; Suma’s book just came out this year but her first few paragraphs are so well done, I'm including her.
As you read, watch for subtle manipulations of your psyche. The writer will go straight for your heart with his/her hook. They’ll appeal to your emotions – either through your feelings for your family, your friends or your pity.  They want you to fall in love with their MC and these 100 (or so) words are their first of a barrage of manipulation arrows aimed at making you react in certain ways.
1.       Identification. Look for the MC to be in a situation that you’ve been in or can picture yourself in.
2.       Emotions. The MC will react to the situation in an understandable way, a way that illuminates their character and makes you like or pity them in a good way. You need to root for the MC.
3.       Situation foreshadowing. There are clouds on the MC’s horizon. She/he may not know what they are yet but they know change is coming.

Imaginary Girls

Ruby said I’d never drown – not in deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk into someone’s bottomless backyard pool. She said she’d seen me hold my breath underwater for minutes at a time but to hear her tell it you’d think she meant days. Long enough to live down there if needed, to skim the seafloor collecting shells and shiny soda caps, looking up every so often for the rescue lights, even if they took forever to come.

It sounded impossible, something no one would believe if anyone other than Ruby were the one to tell it. But Ruby was right: the body found that night wouldn’t be, couldn’t be mine.

1.       We all know a Ruby – a charismatic character so confident, life itself seems to bend to their will.  We’re naturally intrigued by such characters.
2.       We want to have such a character on our side.  If this person said something, it often became true.  People like Ruby open doors in life and being under her wing means safety.
3.       There is water everywhere in this scene, and now the assurance (the over assurance?) that no drowning would occur. Or at least, not to the narrator.  Then why mention rescue lights so early?

Looking for Alaska 

The week before I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party. To say that I had low expectations would be to underestimate the matter dramatically. Although I was more or less forced to invite all my ‘school friends,’ i.e., the ragtag bunch of drama people and English geeks I sat with by social necessity in the cavernous cafeteria of my public school, I knew they wouldn’t come. Still, my mother persevered, awash in the delusion that I had kept my popularity a secret from her all these years.

1.       Those who've attended a public high school know exactly what Miles means here. The rigid clique system hasn’t changed much in fifty years.  The small group of ‘popular kids’ is far outnumbered by kids like Miles. Chances are, the reader is like Miles.
2.       We’ve all felt the terror of throwing a party where nobody shows up. Or imagined the humiliation.  Miles’ stoic acceptance of this – his lack of whining or hatred – move him out of pity territory and into admiration. We’re on his side.
3.       Miles’ life is about to change. He’s going to boarding school in another state very soon.  Also, that count down tells us there’s an ‘after’ and it probably isn’t good.

Hunger Games

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

I prop myself on one elbow. There’s enough light to see them. My little sister, Prim, curled up on her side, cocooned in my mother’s body, their cheeks pressed together. In sleep, my mother looks younger, still worn but not so beaten down. Prim’s face is as fresh as a raindrop, as lovely as the primrose for which she was named. My mother was very beautiful once. Or so they tell me.

1.       Katniss and her sister share a bed, which suggests poverty.  Katniss wakes alone because her sister has abandoned her in favor of a parent, who offers more safety. ‘Or so they tell me’ suggests a rift between Katniss and her mother because Katniss has to be told of her mother’s beauty by others. She can’t see it herself.  There is something wrong there.
2.       Katniss wakes alone and observes them as one apart. Her mother is ‘worn but not so beaten down’ which, again, suggests poverty and a hard life.  The picture of the mother/child cuddled together cements their vulnerability as well as Katniss’s apartness.
3.       The word ‘reaping’ here could mean crops but the fact Prim has nightmares the night before suggests something more sinister.

Most importantly, notice what the writer does NOT include in these excerpts. They TELL us nothing.  Suma doesn't say that Ruby is dangerous. Green doesn't say that Miles's loner status is about to change. Collins doesn't say that Katniss loves Prim or has issues with her mother.  They give us just enough to figure this out, and now we want more.   
So, what else should a writer accomplish in the first 100 words? What have I missed? What examples can you recommend?

Jan 19, 2012

Uptown Downstairs Abbey and the Spork of Doom

CJ Redwine arranged an interview between the Spork of Doom and Incarnate author/Apocalypsie Jodi Meadows. It is Hil.Ar.I.Ous.

And for all those Downton Abbey fans (me!) *waves arms excitedly* do check out the very plummy BBC spoof, with Dumbledore doing the voice over. It's jolly good.

Finally, this video has apparently been everywhere already but if you haven't seen it, check it out now:

Jan 15, 2012

Critique winner and how I got my agent

The winner of the full MS critique offered by Tawdra Kandle is: Suzi!! Congratulations!

And now, I'm very excited and happy to announce that Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency is my agent!
Honestly, as I type this, part of me feels like I'm living in an alternate reality. I'll wake up tomorrow and realize it was a dream and I'm still querying. :)

Anyway,  huge thanks to Patrick, the mastermind of  QueryTracker and everyone who posts on the forums. Without QT, agent Ammi-Joan Paquette wouldn't have seen my query posted there for advice and she wouldn't have passed it on to Tricia. (EMLA is closed to queries except for referrals or conferences.) Read all the deets here.

Moral of the story: Post your query for critique. Enter contests - especially those over at Miss Snark's First Victim or Mother, Write, Repeat. Agents troll the Internet, people, and they're always hunting for gold.

A few of my statistics:

Started querying: Mid-October
Queries sent: 25 or so
Response rate: around 45 percent  
Stopped querying: beginning of Dec. with 10 fulls or partials out. I worried it would take too long to hear back from everyone if I got an offer.
Offer: Dec. 23 from another, wonderful agent.

Dec. 23 was when everyone went away for the holidays. The offering agent and I agreed to speak after the holidays, and then I gave the other agents another ten days to respond. Tricia emailed me, we talked the next day and I signed with her immediately.

Because when it's right, there's no point in waiting.

She's suggested some great revisions for SA, which I can't wait to tackle. And I'd love to introduce her to you...perhaps through a pitch contest or something else fun? Hmmm. *mental note to strong arm convince Tricia to play along*

For those of you wondering when this news will be your news, I'm sharing this post from one of my favorite blogs. I don't talk about my faith much here but today I must say this: God keeps His promises. Always. And not just to me.

Jan 12, 2012

Talking with Tawdra and a critique giveaway

I first met Tawdra Kandle last summer, when she graciously invited me to participate in an online critique group. I quickly picked up on Tawdra's encouraging nature. She's also a brave, ambitious writer who's not afraid to put herself out there and try something new. Fearless is her debut fantasy YA ebook she's published via Amazon; it's to be the first of four in the King series.

Because she's a generous soul (and has a ton of experience critiquing) she's offering up a free, full MS critique to one lucky commentor! Just include your email address below so I can contact you if Melvin the Magic Sorting Hat coughs up your name Sunday night. A winner will be announced Monday...along with some REALLY exciting news!!! *hyperventilation followed by chocolate intake*

1. Your MC in Fearless can hear thoughts. Agents have said this characteristic is very common in their query box, so how does your MC stand out from the crowd?

 First of all, this ability is not really the point in the book; it is just one aspect of the main character, and it informs some of her decisions and choices. I think that may be part of what makes her stand out.  Also, Tasmyn was born with this particular gift; it's not a recent acquisition, as it is in some books, where the character has to adjust to a new and possibly frightening talent.  In some ways, her ability is representative of any of a thousand other traits that might serve to isolate a teenage girl.

2. How did you get this MS ready for publication? Did you hire an editor or just depend on your critique partners?

I re-tooled this work several times, based on advice from my critique group, from certain key agents and editors and from a few beta readers.  My most critical readers were my own three daughters, who are now 16, 20 and 23.  They are all discerning readers and were able to point out any weak or questionable areas of the story.

3. You mention the pros and cons of e-publishing in your blog. What made you decide the pros outweighed the cons?

 It wasn't an easy decision.  Of course, I think every writer dreams of a traditional publishing contract, of seeing her work in print and of having the backing of a publishing house.  That was certainly my hope and goal.  I began re-examining that goal after I attended a writers' conference.  I came away from the weekend with a renewed sense that the traditional publishing world is a state of major flux.  I also realized just how subjective the whole process is.  We were in a group setting, and we saw one group of agents in the morning and another in the afternoon.  Our entire group was astounded by how completely contrary one set of agents' advice was to the others.  Not long after, I had the opportunity to chat on-line with a few well-known published authors who told me that if they were selling their initial works today, they would go with independent publishing.  That really pushed me over the edge.  I like the idea of having more creative and financial control over my work and of being able to make it available to a larger audience. 

4. What kind of promotion are you going to try for Fearless? So far, what's your favorite option?

 Well, that can definitely be the down side of independent publishing--no publishing house to help an author with PR.  Of course, nowadays even traditional publishers have scaled back significantly on the promotion they offer first time authors.  I am open to any and all kind of promotion! I am doing a blog tour, several interviews and guest posts.  I am working hard on my author and series Facebook pages, Twitter and my author website. It is a steep learning curve, but I am blessed to have gifted people to help me at about every turn.  Social media is something I really enjoy, and I think the possibilities there are limitless.

5. What's your ultimate goal with the publication of this book?

I would definitely like to cultivate name recognition and a following, since I have a lot of other works in process.  But my main goal for writing this book was just the telling of the story, and it is definitely gratifying to hear from people who have read and loved it.

6. What advice would you give an author considering epublishing? Any must-know tips?

Find someone who knows their way around the process.  Put yourself in her hands and do whatever she advises! Seriously, there is so much more to epublishing than what is presented on most websites.  From book covers to blurbs to formatting. . .unless you are very well-versed in all of this, it's a good idea to solicit help from someone who is. The best way to find such a person, other than hiring her, is to spend a lot of time on good writing sites.  There are some wonderfully supportive groups out there, and women writers in particular (in my opinion!) tend to be very nurturing to each other. Most are willing to help each other with PR and some of the technical aspects of epublishing.  I know I have amazing fellow writers in my corner, and I am excited to be able to return the favor!

7. You also head up a monthly critique group over at A Writer's Block's Facebook page. Talk about guidelines for a good critique.

I've learned so much in my years with A Writer's Block!  I think the most important part of critiquing is knowing what the writer needs.  We frequently encounter writers who have amazing stories and yet their form, grammar and spelling are so lacking that it undermines that story. It can be hard to give them the advice they're seeking--the worthiness of the plot, development of characters--without addressing the more glaring flaws.  But we've found that pointing out repetitive errors can be discouraging.  So it's a balance.  Mention the issues once and then move on.  And we've also found that it's important to ask the writer what she wants from her critique and giving it to her. That doesn't mean only giving glowing reviews--that would be worthless--but it does mean being sensitive to where she is as a writer. I also think that it's vital to give a balanced critique; it's easier to accept the hard words when there are also some that are encouraging.

8. How has being the author of Fearless changed the way you draft other works? Do you write more quickly, have tighter plotting, etc.?

I definitely think my writing is tighter.  There are three other books in the King series, and they were far easier to write.  Some of that is because the characters were already established, but it was also just an easier process.  I don't know about the faster part!  When I wrote the first book, my life was in a much quieter place.  The other books have had to be written around editing Fearless, dealing with the query process, learning about publishing (both traditional and independent) and just plain life stuff. While I was able to write Fearless at home, late at night and in free afternoons, for the subsequent books I've had to get away on my own in order to get in some good solid days of writing.

9. Will you go for epublishing for your next book, or do you continue to query even as you branch out?

My plan is to independently publish the rest of the King series.  I would love to see the books in solid print as well, and that might happen, one way or another.  The next series I'm working on is very different from the King series, and so I'll probably query the initial book, but I won't spend as much time doing that as I did with Fearless.  I'd love to someday have at least one book go through the traditional publishing process, but it's not as important to me as it once was.

10. What's your next project?

My next project is an adult book with tremendous series potential; it's much lighter than the King books, and although it has a supernatural element, it's not an urban fantasy book per se. At the same time that I'm working on that, I'm mapping out two other books related to the King series.  One is a very pre prequel--it is the history of Gravis King, the founder of the town of King, and it tells the story of how he gathered his carnival together and eventually established King.  I love the relationship between Gravis and Sarah, a Romany witch he rescues from a burning stake in Europe. I'm looking forward to that one.  The other is Nell's story; what happens to her after Tas and Michael's story is over.  I'm excited about this one, as well.  Nell is one of my favorite characters!

Thanks for stopping by, Tawdra! She's always willing to answer questions so fire away - and don't forget to include your email address if you'd like a full MS critique!

Jan 11, 2012

Believing the Lie review

Before I jump into my reactions to Elizabeth George's latest mystery (which comes out Friday!)  here's what's coming up:

On Friday and Saturday, stop by for an interview with the awe-tabulous Tawdra Kandle, a debut author who's epublishing her book, Fearless. We'll talk about her journey, her story and she'll be giving away one free full MS critique to a lucky random commentor. You won't want to miss!

On Monday, I'll write a short post on some exciting news. (For me, anyway. :)

Believing the Lie blurb: Twenty-five years after George wrote her first Inspector Lynley novel  (and 16 novels later) she brings another installment in the Lynley saga:
Inspector Thomas Lynley is mystified when he's sent undercover to investigate the death of Ian Cresswell at the request of the man's uncle, the wealthy and influential Bernard Fairclough. The death has been ruled an accidental drowning, and nothing on the surface indicates otherwise. But when Lynley enlists the help of his friends Simon and Deborah St. James, the trio's digging soon reveals that the Fairclough clan is awash in secrets, lies, and motives.
         Deborah's investigation of the prime suspect-Bernard's prodigal son Nicholas, a recovering drug addict-leads her to Nicholas's wife, a woman with whom she feels a kinship, a woman as fiercely protective as she is beautiful. Lynley and Simon delve for information from the rest of the family, including the victim's bitter ex-wife and the man he left her for, and Bernard himself. As the investigation escalates, the Fairclough family's veneer cracks, with deception and self-delusion threatening to destroy everyone from the Fairclough patriarch to Tim, the troubled son Ian left behind.

What I liked loved: One of the reasons I love George's writing is the way she develops her characters. There are no cardboard cut-outs, no cliches or straightforward individuals in her books. Everyone is as layered as an artichoke, with defense mechanisms, hang-ups and hurts carefully concealed. These stories are definitely character driven and the plot only serves as a stick of dynamite to all the cords of deception, selfishness and desires of everyone involved. In this case, the plot is a murder-that-may-not-be. Lynley and his friends' digging uncovers a lot more than a possible conspiracy, and the reasons/reactions to this are when George peels back those layers to reveal all facets of her characters' psyches. While they're rooting around in Cumbria, Lynley's faithful work partner Barbara Havers is tasked with helping Lynley at the same time her neighbor - for whom her crush is buried so deep, I'm not sure Barbara even realizes her feelings for him - is having a family melt-down. The book ends not with Lynley, who has taken yet another step in the grieving process for his late wife, but with Barbara and her reaction to her neighbor's stress. If the clue is correct, George's next novel will take a huge detour into Barbara's virtually nonexistent personal life. (Yay!)

What I didn't like:  In my opinion, some of the sub-plots were weak, especially the one involving Zed Benjamin, the Jewish tabloid reporter sent to dig up dirt on the Fairclough family prior to Lynley's involvement. In one scene, Zed resorts to using a hotel computer to type up his story because he doesn't have his laptop. !!!!! Seriously, this would not happen, especially not for a reporter on assignment. There are also a few issues with character choices, particularly one that seemed contrived to give that story thread the right amount of pathos.

Recommended: Yes! Although if you haven't read George's work before, I suggested starting with any of her earlier work (This Body of Death, for instance) before diving into this one.  If you enjoy cerebral mysteries, you won't be disappointed.

Jan 8, 2012

How much tech is too much?

For Christmas this year, I got an iPhone and a Kindle...two things my oldest children say were long overdue. Both of them fell on the iPhone like it was a raft in turbulant waters, despite the fact they also have a Wii and a PlayStation. They've managed to upload more than a dozen free games which they take turns playing until the battery wears out. Which doesn't take very long, unfortunately. (They also scoff at my own game playing abilities whenever I try to wrest it out of their clenched fingers. Seriously, how am I supposed to get better if they hog it all the time??)

As for the Kindle, the kids don't get to touch that. Ever. I've had it embedded into my arm so my favorite book is never more than twelve inches away from my face. Kidding. (Or am I?) Combined with Netgalley, my Kindle is the best thing ever. I'm reading Elizabeth George's new release a full week before it's released. *happy squeal* I know!! It's amazing.

Which brings me to my point - and thanks for sticking with me this long. My life is crowded with technical stuff. I spend about four hours on the computer each day, whether I'm writing, doing research, blogging, Facebooking, emailing or looking up the recipe for Eggnog Fudge. My husband, son and I text often - even to the point of, when hubsy's in Belgium, I'm texting him at son's hockey game while hubsy is listening to the game online via the local radio station. o.O

Technology is everywhere. So how much of it should I include in my WiP? (This is definitely a problem Charles Dickens or LM Montgomery didn't face. Unless of course, they had to wrestle with the intriguing problem of electric vs. gas lights and which would fit better in their story.) Tech is changing so fast, it's a pretty sure bet that whatever we include will be dated in say, five years. But for contemporary writers - especially YA writers -  leaving it out is a HUGE omission. Like leaving the nose off a character's face.

On the other hand, including too much of it will probably be a bit like watching a movie when a rotary phone rings or a character develops film in darkroom. As a reader, this details pulls me out of the story for a moment, if only to mentally reassess my mental pictures of the characters' appearances, surroundings and mindsets. I do this going into reading a classic novel but for contemporary fiction, this can be a jarring transition.

As authors, we not only have to create our world, we have to determine which parts of the real world are likely to be around long enough to become standard. Like cell phones. I think all of us can agree that, barring a nuclear catastrophe or an asteroid hit, cell phones are here to stay. As are personal computers. But what about the process of 'renting' a movie? Amazon already streams them, as does Netflix, which means the slow death of external rental places (perhaps including RedBox). And the terminology may change as well to simply 'streaming' a movie. Why is this important, you ask? Well, for contemporary YA authors, how often do teens watch movies on the weekends? Yeah, a lot. This is a tiny detail but nevertheless, the kind of detail that can date your story. I'm sure you can come up with other, better examples.

The fact is, we have no idea what's coming tech-wise in the next five years. I just read that a dude in Japan invented the first touchable hologram...so imagine what gaming could be like in the next decade.  People who own iPhone 4S can already talk to it...so imagine the way voice interface will affect keyboards. (Imagine not having to type!) The Ford Focus can parallel park itself...so imagine an auto-drive feature. And forget paper maps or phone books. Anyone with a GPS or a computer no longer needs to read them. This kind of speculation is a playground for dystopian authors but contemporary authors are stuck with what IS.

So how do you handle technology in your story? How do you write a good dose of reality without shortchanging the future?
at least, not right now...

Jan 7, 2012

Rebecca Hamilton and Immortal Ink Publishing

Yesterday, we learned all about Rebecca Hamilton's debut novel, The Forever Girl. It will be released later this month as the first of Immortal Ink Publishing's offerings. Rebecca will also act as the company's acquisition editor when they go live for queries in May. She talks about how that happened below, as well as tips for other aspiring self-publishers.

And don't forget, you can sign up here to get a .99 release copy of The Forever Girl. For every ten who sign up, Rebecca will give away one free e-book. So get your ereaders ready or dust off your bookshelves and sign up today for this exciting paranormal fantasy.

7.  You're also acquisition editor for Immortal Ink (using the name Shana Raywood). Is it weird being on the other side of the virtual desk? What's your goal for the company this year?

          We’re not open to queries yet, but we’ve gotten a few, including one person who became irate when I let him I know we weren’t open yet. So, is it weird? Not really. But sometimes it’s bizarre lol. We open for submissions in May, hopefully, and we’re excited about it! There’s so much talent out there. I hope some of them will consider submitting to us! Our goal this year is to publish around 6 books. Ultimately, we may publish as many as 12 books a year. We know that is LOT less than even the smallest of small publishers currently out there, but we want to really put everything we can into the books we do sign. This is, IMO, in everyone’s best interest. Authors deserve time and attention to their novels. Readers deserve a quality read—not just a selection of books thrown at the wall to see what sticks. And we deserve to not run ourselves into the ground!

8. Your blog has a lot of visual effects - moving words, a great book trailer. Do you have a background in design or computer graphics? If not, how did you learn to do all the cool technical stuff you do?

You’re too funny! Google is my friend. I have no background in graphic design, but I used to do photography and I do ENJOY graphic design. I think I have a knack for it, but I was never sure until you just confirmed J There’s a lot of tutorials out there. I’m also very picky and very stubborn and I refuse to give up until I figure out how to get something done.

9.   Getting back to The Forever Girl - your launch is very soon. What kind of publicity do you plan?
          I’ll be doing a blog tour in January, and I might have a twitter release party, too. I’ve also arranged for some book bloggers to receive free copies of my book for review. I hope word of mouth will spread and I hope that word of mouth will be from happy readers! I am also looking into some forms of advertising. This will be a learning experience to see what pays off. Having wonderful bloggers like yourself invite me to yammer on is a great help, too. I can’t thank you enough for having me here!

10.  It's obvious you'll have a lot to juggle in the coming months. What's your strategy to keep your creativity while wearing so many business/creative genius hats?

       All I can do is keep a reasonable schedule. Try what works and rearrange things if things are too much of a struggle. I try not to overdo it. I tell myself I don’t have to do everything every day. That helps keep me from getting to stressed. I try to keep time for writing, time for editing, time for marketing, and so on. And, of course, time for family, which I’ve mentioned last but always comes first.

Fast five - New Year version

Pumpkin pie or chocolate cream pie?
Chocolate Cream!

Me, too! *gains 5 lbs just thinking about it*

Favorite read of 2011?
Amy L Kinzer’s Girl Over the Edge, available on Amazon for only .99!

Proudest moment?
           When my oldest son started showing an ability to respond to frustrations in a healthy way. It’s still a battle for him, but I’m so proud every time he is able to overcome his immediate reaction and make a good-but-hard choice to stay in control.
          Also when my daughter made the gymnastics team at her gym. I’m proud of her because not only did she do so from practicing ALL the time (and she will tell you this much herself) but also because I knew it was a big girl step for her to accept the invitation. She loved her coach in her little girl class, who wouldn’t be in the big girl class. It’s why she didn’t move up when she was first ready to move up. But she ultimately decided she wanted to be there for the sport. She also started trying to make friends with the girls on her new team, which is great!
         I’m also proud  that my youngest is potty trained now and has finally stopped smearing poop on the walls. That was a long two and half year phase!

Wow - 2.5 years of poop for wall paper? I hate to think what that child's teen years will be like. :)

The time you almost quit?
         I am very persistent and refuse to give up even when it would probably be better if I did. I think it drives my husband and everyone else around me crazy, as they tell me to stop trying to do impossible things. I just keep insisting it IS possible and I’m going to do it. Then, eventually, I get it done. It doesn’t stop them from trying to talk sense into me the next time, though.

Top goal for 2012?
          I want to read more. I looked at how few books I read this year compared to all the years before, and I realized that I’d been so busy working that I’d stop making time to just relax and do something I love. In 2012, I want to read at least 1 book a month. It’s not as much as I used to read, but it’s a sad year for me that in 2011 I didn’t even read that much. 2012 will be much better!

I agree! Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca and best wishes for your debut and your new editing gig.

Jan 5, 2012

Rebecca Hamilton and The Forever Girl

This week, I'm featuring aspiring author/editor Rebecca Hamilton, whose debut The Forever Girl comes out this month.  Today, we're discussing how this story evolved, along with the experiences that convinced Rebecca to launch it herself. Stop by tomorrow to learn how Rebecca co-founded Immortal Ink Publishing, which will open to queries in May.

Either day, you can sign up here to get a .99 release copy of The Forever Girl. For every ten who sign up, Rebecca will give away one free e-book. So get your ereaders ready or dust off your bookshelves and sign up today for this exciting paranormal fantasy.

1. Your blog states you're a mom of three, including one child with autism spectrum disorder. Talk about how you organize your writing day - are you a scheduled or on-the-fly writer?

I try to have a schedule, but it’s really not working out so well. Mostly I write at nights, and use daytime for social media and editing, as I don’t mind being interrupted when doing those things. A lot of days, however, there’s so much to do with the kids that I don’t really get anything done. Maybe that will change once they’re all in school .

 2.  2011 has been a big(ger) year for you. You've started Immortal Ink Publishing and are getting ready to launch The Forever Girl - first in the FG series. What made you decide to go into publishing in the first place?

         The seed first planted itself before I started writing. I have always loved reading, but not only that, I was also amazing at picking out books that me and all my friends would like, no matter how different we were.
         This feeling intensified some time after I started writing, when I got into editing. I used to do paid editing for very cheap, but only for novels that I was personally interested in. Many of the books I edited later went on to agents and/or publishers. I knew I had a knack for editing, but I also knew I had a knack for finding the right stories to edit.
         Meanwhile, my closest writing partner and I had been discussing some kind of literary venue. We didn’t know what at the time—literary magazine? A website to feature authors? Something else? We were always discussing, but no idea ever stuck. In the end, with some additional experiences coming into play, we decided to open Immortal Ink Publishing.

 3.  I've read the first chapter of The Forever Girl on your blog and have to say, I was hooked. You've discussed the impact your MC's religion has had on some readers (Sophia is Wiccan) - talk about how this story grown from its first draft.

            Thanks ! The final draft is completely different from the original. There’s not much the same except for the characters and the very bones of the story. The religion has been the biggest hurdle, especially being an American author. A lot of people now assume I’m Wiccan. (I’m not; I’m agnostic, though I’ve studied many religions including Wicca and Christianity.) It wasn’t until I started writing this novel that I realized there was still such a judgment against the Wiccan religion. Some were upset also that there are some not-so-great characters who call themselves Christians in the novel, but I also have flawed Wiccan characters in my story and Christian characters who are kind-hearted, so I think the balance is there to anyone open to see it.Hopefully the free sample I provide has enough there to convey that the good and bad in my characters come from the characters themselves and not the religions they associate with. 

4. What made you decide to go the epubbing route instead of traditional - snagging an agent, going on sub, etc.?
          This goes back to why Rudy and I started Immortal Ink Publishing. Over the course of the last year, several publishers and agents approached me regarding my book after reading a sample online. I knew my book wasn’t ready, but in several of those cases I was persuaded to send anyway because “things can always be revised”.
           Ultimately, both agents and 2 of the 3 publishers passed, all asking to see future projects. They said I had a great writing style and “voice”, but all had different reasons why they didn’t have room on their list for The Forever Girl. Some hated parts others loved, and vice versa.
         I figured I might be onto something but knew the book needed more work. I hired some well-regarded editors, two of whom mentioned the idea of resubmitting. I’m not Stephenie Meyers or Amanda Hocking, but I had enough that I worried I might I start LOSING interest instead of gaining it if I didn’t make my book available, so I decided it’d be wiser if I didn’t put my book in limbo for another 6-12 months.
          Getting my novel ready meant I had a lot to learn. I figured…what a waste for me to learn all this just for me. As Rudy was also looking to self publish, I suggested we start our own publishing house. We agreed to use our own books as guinea pigs for the publishing house to show what we can offer. I still suspect self-pub will be the preferred option for many, but we hope to be a small publisher that is a good option for authors who don’t want to do the behind-the-scene work themselves or can’t afford to invest in themselves but still want to give their readers a high quality product.

5.  What are some technical details behind epubbing you didn't know before you started the process - the cover, the ISBN number - etc? How hard is it to get it all done these days? How expensive is it?
           I knew a fair bit since I’d seen it talked about so often online. The biggest hurdle for me has been more on the business end—registering a business, for example. The next has been formatting. Sure, there’s some fast and easy ways to do it, but I want to put out the best quality I can. I don’t think it’s really hard (aside from getting formatting done the right way). It’s just time consuming. And, in some cases, it can be expensive to some people. For me, paying what I did for my book covers was no big deal. A few of the covers in The Forever Girl series are done by the same person who designed the overseas covers for the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.

6.  Now that you're familiar with the process, what advice do you have to other authors thinking about epubbing?

           Get a great cover artist. Get opinions on your cover from people you can trust to be honest with you. Get an excellent editor. Be sure they provide quality editing, and remember you will need to do several edits on your manuscript from large scale to small, preferable in that order ;) Do your research and don’t be in a rush.

Other epublishing authors have told me that the importance of a great cover can't be overstated. And the one for TFG is really great.

Thanks, Rebecca. Join us tomorrow for part two to find out more about submitting to Immortal Ink Publishing.

Jan 1, 2012

Logline and first 250-word critiques

This week, I'm hosting critiques for nonwinning (adult genre) entrants to the Baker's Dozen auction, hosted by Miss Snark's First Victim last month. Five brave souls have volunteered to have their words ripped apart  analyzed. Helpful suggestions ONLY please! Our aim, as always, is to encourage each other.

If your post is below, please comment on all the others. If you're just stopping by, we'd love to hear constructive criticism on how to polish these entries to a shine. And do swing by the lovely Lauren's blog, as she's hosting additional entries for critique over there.

Coming up: on Friday and Saturday, my interview with Rebecca Hamilton will post. She's a debut author of The Forever Girl, as well as acquisition editor for the fledgling Immortal Ink Publishing. She's going to be giving away a fantabulous prize you won't want to miss.

Post #1

In contemporary London, 25 years old paranormal consultant Robyn Wise joins forces with the ancient spirit living inside her, to fight the Dark Cloud, a malevolent entity determined to absord Fairyland's power. If Robyn fails, all good magic will disappear from Earth and our world will be turned into a hopeless desert.


“Do you think he will come, Miss Wise?”
“Of course he will, Mr Wilson, no worries.” I say, trying to hide my concern with little success; dissimulation has never been my best feature,after all. That's probably why my client doesn't seem at all reassured; he keeps twisting his fat fingers while his piggy eyes dart around the place.

He’s nervous and I'm terrified, which is perfectly normal when you consider that I'm here, at night, in the middle of nowhere ... with a werewolf. A very nasty werewolf.

To make things even worse, there's not a single cloud in the sky, it's oneof those clear winter nights that show up in London once or twice a year.

My usual luck. Of course there's a full moon tonight, so a few drops ofrain wouldn't hurt, in case things go wrong. But they won't, let's be optimistic for once shall we? After all, Mr Wilson is a werewolf determined to be cured, that's why we are here in the middle of nowhere,waiting for a shaman to perform a healing spell on him. Let's just hope he's punctual, please, I've never counted  on English punctuality so much in my entire life. That's probably because my entire life depends on English punctuality, in this particular case: to work, the spell has to beperformed before the moon rises and my client transforms into a blood-thirsty monster. Thirsty for my blood, of course. In this particular case.

Post #2

Title: Shield & Crocus
Genre: Fantasy

Aging superhero First Sentinel finally has a chance to overthrow the oligarchs who have ruled his city for fifty years, but it means making a bargain with his oldest enemy, a gangster who has schemed her way to the top. His team takes the offer, plotting a mission to destroy the Rebirth Engine, a machine that wracks the city with magical storms. If the team cannot turn the oligarchs against one another, they will hunt his team down and crush their rebellion.

First 250:
Wonlar’s apartment was a carefully constructed ruse.  Papers, schematics and yet more papers covered the floor, spotted with yard-high stacks of books, delicate arrangements of spare parts, and sealed bottles of reagents.  Bookshelves filled the walls from floor to ceiling along three sides of the apartment, broken only by a closet, the hall to the bedrooms and the opening to the kitchen.  Over the last twenty years, the apartment had settled into Wonlar’s image: scholarly, brilliant, and scattered.

That was the intent.  His neighbors wouldn’t expect that Wonlar Gonyu Pacsa, absent-minded artificer and handyman could also be First Sentinel, leader of the Shields of Audec-Hal, the only major force standing against the rule of the oligarchs.  If they thought he was barely organized enough to keep track of whose oven he had to fix by Monday and mumbled to himself incoherently, they wouldn’t ask questions about why he was up at all hours and never seemed to be around for parties.

Wonlar stood above a table, squinting to focus on the job at hand.  He was approaching his seventy-first birthday, but he looked no older than any other Ikanollo.  He had the same square jaw, the same high forehead, sun-yellow skin and dark brown hair.  For other races, cadence and personality were most of what set Ikanollo apart, since each man looked like every other, each woman a perfect copy of one another in features and build.

Favoring his left leg, Wonlar stepped over a short pile of books on rare reagents.


Post #3

TITLE: Spirit Weaver
GENRE: Fantasy

When the man she loves unexpectedly disappears, Lora abandons her high post in the army and sets off alone into enemy territory to search for him. This choice turns her king against her and inspires an oppressed people who become convinced she is destined to save them from tyranny. Captive to a prophecy she doesn’t believe, she must accept leadership or risk the life of the man she gambled everything to save.

First 250 words:
Lora thrust her ski poles into the knee-deep snow, raising a mittened hand to shade her face from the glare of the sun. She stared past the wolverine ruff of her parka hood, down the slopes to the evergreen forests rolling out like a legion of the king’s Honor Guard.

Now that she was here, the fear turned her gut into clenching coils—like a snake consuming itself. The snake twisted at the thought of what she might find in the valley below, twisting tighter at what she almost certainly would not find.

Yet she had to know what had become of Gaern. He was the only man—the only person, even—to have somehow found a way through her inner-most defenses.

She searched for the smoke-haze of Eloedir rising up through the crowns of the distant conifers, though she knew all signs of her village would be hidden beyond the valley’s bend. Her own frozen breath was the only sign of life now, drifting back past the unstrung shaft of her wooden bow protruding above her right shoulder. Over the other shoulder gleamed the mottled bronze hilt of a curved saber engraved with the swan of the king.

Lora adjusted her pack, stamping her feet in their bindings to warm her toes. She pushed forward down the slope, finally letting her eyes settle on the place below where five years ago her father and brother had been slain.


Post #4


Special Agent Alexandra MacPherson can't decide which is worse - a witness who dies or a suspect who won't stay dead.

First 250:

Sometimes it all comes down to the gun you choose. SIG Sauer P226 .40 S&W or Rossi .357 Magnum revolver with a six-inch barrel. I’d picked the SIG. I should have gone with the Rossi.  
I sneaked a look at the battered clock on the wall of the loading dock. Doyle was only five minutes late. Not so long I worried he’d had second thoughts. I needed him to show soon, though, before my unease fermented into something harder to conceal.
The SIG was a cop’s gun. I knew if anything tipped off Doyle, it would be the gun. 
“He’s late,” Mike said.
I shrugged. Played like I didn’t care, hadn’t noticed. 
“You see the game last night?” Mike asked.
“What game?” 
“The Sox.”
God help me. A Sox fan. I’d happily watched the Phils beat the Braves the night before, but Kate Campbell didn’t give a shit about the national past time. “No,” I said. “I don’t follow baseball.”
“They play the Yankees tomorrow.”
“Well, I do hate the Yankees.”
“Who doesn’t?” Mike dropped the remnant of his cigarette to the floor of the dock and crushed it under his shoe.
Kate Campbell was a vegetarian who sold lattes at an internet cafe and lived in a dump near Temple University. A fugitive from the United Kingdom for alleged involvement in a train derailment in North West England, she fancied herself a modern day Guy Fawkes. 
I was ready to be done with Kate Campbell.


Post #5

Logline: Border Crossings tells the story of three women from three different worlds whose lives intersect as they enter the world of organ transplant and egg donation.

First 250 Words:

Two years of opening hospital-room doors hadn’t eased the dread of seeing her tiny son lying vulnerable as a soft-bellied fish on the starched white sheets of the bed, wires and tubes surrounding him like the tentacles of a giant squid. Knowing that those mechanical tentacles monitored his fragile heart and fed him the medicine that kept him alive didn’t stifle the anxiety: How will Koji be today? Is it a good day or a bad day? Yuki counted silently to three and pushed the door open.

Koji’s crooked, five-year-old grin beamed out from his moon face, and she could tell right away it was a good day. Even better: the mechanical tentacles were stored neatly away. Her little fish was free. Yuki scooped him up into her arms, pressing his small, bony chest to her. She nuzzled into his neck, searching for his smell underneath the hospital antiseptic.
“You’re squishing me, Mama,” Koji said, squirming from her embrace.
“Sorry, sweetheart. I’m just so happy to see you.”
“I’m always happy to see you, silly.”
“Oh,” said Koji and he looked nervously at Asana, the nurse, who was fussing around the room, rolling up a piece of plastic tubing and stowing it in the cabinet.

Yuki stood up and bowed in greeting, silently chastising herself for not acknowledging the woman sooner.
Asana handed Yuki Koji’s chart and said, “From a heart standpoint, it was a good day.”
Yuki nodded vigorously, her excitement building as she looked at his numbers: