Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boo-fest

Halloween...putting my two cents in to say I love it. My blogging tribute to this fact is to participate in Boo-fest  hosted by Quinn and Patricia.

seeing, dreaming ... writing

We're supposed to share true ghost stories. Mine isn't worth telling around a campfire late at night, but it is totally unexplainable, at least by the accepted rules of reality as it stands right now.

It happened when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I had a slumber party, and my mom introduced something none of us had seen before: A Quija Board.



Now, I wouldn't know that this thing was supposed to be evil or help people contact spirits until many years later. My young self and my friends mainly asked it things like how many boys liked us and who we would marry (Chris Fields, never met him).

But that night, that first night, Mom picked two of my friends at random and set them cross legged in front of each other. She told them to put their fingers on the plastic platform with the window in it and ask the board how many kids she had. The platform moved directly to five. But that was wrong, we all said. She only had two kids. Mom said nothing, just directed two more of my friends to sit down and repeat the process. The board said five again. Then my mom revealed, "I had three miscarriages before I had Jennifer." She was the only one in the room who knew that fact.

Okay, so you won't lose any sleep tonight over this one, but it did really happen. I was there.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday



The question this week: Favorite Book(s) in October

For YA, I've already written about

The Sky Is Everywhere    AND     The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1)

So, I'd like to add an adult book

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, #1)  
 
Warning teen readers, this does have adult Romance content.

I love historical stuff. This one has some nice twists to it, including past and present storylines. Well worth reading.

BTW, I haven't forgotten about my Mp3 CD Audiobook giveaway of The Red Pyramid...will announce the winner soon. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Never-ending Story Blogfest

Sorry I'm late to the party. Here is my entry for Sandra Drake's Never-Ending Scene Blogfest. 
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_FU_CMvk6FB4/TMSS-2UWKWI/AAAAAAAAAJE/xqniP34OlDE/s1600/Never-ending+Scene+Blogfest.jpg
It's fine if the judges decide I'm too late for the contest. I mainly entered to share my WIP and read others' stuff. 
This is from the middle of the work, so the average reader would know way more than you will going in...but I'm going to resist explaining and see if the scene can stand on its own.


I needed to see where the stone got the warmest. At the next stop light it did. Only I didn’t realize it until the bus moved again and the stone got cooler.
I fairly leaped for the stop button. We went another one, two, three blocks to the next stop. Not a bad walk. It could have been worse, I told myself. Only, as I tripped on the last step on the way off the bus, I thought even three blocks would challenge these wobbly legs.
For the moment, nerves and excitement about meeting another Dalarian here on Earth had replaced worry for Aidene.
The stone got warmer as I crossed the street at the light then cooler again after the first house. A corner house on a bus line. Must be a mentor, looking to be found.
Only, when the heavy front door swung open an old lady, shaped like a question mark, peered out. A mentor? We’d started coming here over a hundred years ago, so it was possible.
Her crumpled state reminded me of the tail end of this mission I’d signed up for. Not only a shortened life—barring freak accidents, all Dalarians made it to one hundred and more—but an uncomfortable end without our advanced medical technology.
“Can I help you?” the woman asked. Still plenty of life in her eyes.
“I’m not sure,” I answered then waited for the code phrase.
Instead, the lady’s eyes went weary, and she peered into the dark behind me.
“I’m sorry. I must have the wrong house.” I felt the rock. Hotter than I’d ever felt it. This couldn’t be the wrong house.
She swung the door shut.
“Does anyone else live here?” I asked.
The deadbolt slammed home.
“Please,” I yelled.
“Upstairs,” she yelled back.
Upstairs? In her house?  What could that mean? Then I remembered Dale’s family rented the downstairs of his home while someone else lived upstairs.
Sure enough, on the left side I could just make out some white stairs. I felt my way up, hoping for a motion light. But that wouldn’t do for those of us trying to hide out.
Almost to the top, I remembered my rock could be used as a flashlight. Or for night-vision if held to my eye. A noise amplifier if held to my ear. And lots of other things even Dale might consider it worth getting excited about if he knew, but I figured I’d never need any of it. I’d come here to be open and helpful, not skulk around.
And yet, here I skulked.
I felt around for a doorbell. Finding none, I opened the screen and knocked on the narrow door.
“Coming,” someone yelled from inside, and I heard something else. Electronic firing, like from those video games at the community center.
I felt the rock again. Near scalding. But I must have the wrong house. I turned to go, making it to the first step before the door swung open and faint blue light spilled out and hit me.
“Wait,” a male voice said. A young voice. Not a mentor voice.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Teen Read Week (ending tomorrow)

 trw logo color
 
Almost missed this one. Audiobook Community sent me an email about it.

Check out the festivities at YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Assoc.) HERE, and, hopefully, at your local library.


Anyone do anything for teen read week? Any new ideas on how to get more teens to read for fun?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Comps (market comparisons). To use or not to use, that is the question. Well, not really. The YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday question this week is: What are your comp books?

Overall, I'd love to say my books have a similar tone to Ally Carter, HEIST SOCIETY style, and Lauren Myracle in PEACE, LOVE AND BABY DUCKS.  
                                                                            Heist Society                Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks

In plots, I love to write about dating issues in general instead of romance as a means to an end (the protag getting the perfect guy/finding true love). In this, I aim toward Deb Caletti's work, like SECRET LIFE OF PRINCE CHARMING and Pamela Wells with THE HEARTBREAKERS.

                                                                            The Secret Life of Prince Charming                 The Heartbreakers

But the more important questions (IMO) are: Is it important to think about these things? And, should market comparisons be included in agent queries?

The first question is linked to the most important rule of writing, READ, READ, READ. Knowing what books are out there, especially in your genre, and knowing where/how your book does and doesn't fit will help you pitch it to others.  It can also help you avoid character/plot situations that are cliche already or quickly heading that way.

As for the query, I think the strongest thing market comparisons give you is a sense of professionalism. You're letting the potential agent know that you're aware the market is part of bookselling, and you know where your book could fit in that market.

Here are my market comparison lines (some of the books will date how long ago I started querying). I also like to use the market line to throw in something about the broad themes of the book.

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               Similar to What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones and The Dating Diaries by Kristen Kemp, FROG KISSES AND NEAR MISSES delves into the dating jungle, where a girl may or may not get the guy, but she can still find herself.


Like Reality Chick by Lauren Barnholt and Thirty Guys in Thirty Days by Micol Ostow, ONE HUNDRED TO-DOS puts another new twist on being a freshman in college, but the list, combined with Liz’s vulnerability, gives the reader a broader view of campus life today.

Like How to be Popular, by Meg Cabot and Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, SOCIAL DISORDER shows that you shouldn’t let a little thing like fitting in keep you from finding yourself.

               Combining the detective work of I’d Tell You I Love You, But then I’d Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter with the relationship insights of The Heartbreakers, by Pamela Wells, CHEATER BEATERS shows that solving the little mysteries in life can sometimes help you with the big ones.

*******
Okay, in retrospect, some of these are a little cheesy (especially the repeated "finding yourself" thing), but I hope, in sharing them, you can get some ideas. 

Notice, ONE HUNDRED TO-DOS is the only one that implies that my book might be better than the others, and that is only in the breadth of the subject matter. I think bringing the theme into it keeps you from implying that your writing is better or even the same as the books mentioned.


What about you? To comp or not to comp? 

BTW, there's still time to enter a comment for the signed Mp3 CD audiobook of THE RED PYRAMID, by Rick Riordan (see previous post).
 
                                                           

Monday, October 18, 2010

Signed Audiobook Givaway and Review-Rick Riordan

THE RED PYRAMID- Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1)
The Percy Jackson series, Egyptian God style.

As a Reader:

I was told this book was more serious than the Greek god series, but I found that the lighter, entertaining tone of the first series still prevails in this one. I do think this one has more backstory/history in it. I'd be curious to know if it holds the young reader's interest. I wanted to be an archeologist in fifth grade, so all the Egyptian stuff worked fine for me.

As a Writer:

I loved the sister character (Sadie), but I wish he would have done more to make the brother (Carter) a little less Percy-esque.

If you like this you might also like:

Crocodile on the Sandbank (ebook)Crocodile on the Sandbank- The Amelia Peabody Series- Elizabeth Peters (for older teens and adults...nothing too racy, but the reading level is probably up there)


******
As for the Givaway:

I have a signed Mp3 CD (you can listen to it through the computer or any Mp3 capable stereo or boombox)  for someone who comments here about which fascinates you more, Greek or Egyptian history and why.

******

Saturday, October 16, 2010

250 Word Blogfest- My WIP

I'm participating in Elle Straus's 250 word Blogfest today (go check it out). We're all sharing the first 250 words of a book...I was sorely tempted to wimp out on this one and share one of my shelved books, but here it is...my gaping wound of a WIP opener. Feel free to be brutal. I could use the feedback. 
 
The boy slid his tray over to sit across from the girl in a story as old as this world and, no doubt, many others. Both ignored the jibes from his friends and the barely suppressed excitement from her friends as his green aura reached out for her yellow one. I couldn't see any of their friends’ auras. Only hers and his.
Just like yesterday when they'd connected, auras first, across the center aisle of the cafeteria. So thrilled to see two whole-body glows instead of the usual spark or spot, I'd pushed my energy toward them. Not to change the connection, just to make the couple more aware of it. Their auras blended, and they smiled. Then a friend of his slapped him on the shoulder to get his attention, and zap. It all disappeared.
But it had to mean something. I’d seen couples flirt and even hook up right in front of me with no auras in sight. I had to do something, for their sake and my own. Never mind my two previous aura-reading debacles—not caused by of my sight, exactly, but my reaction to seeing.  
So, I’d approached the girl, Maria, in Biology class. Yes, she liked him, but her brother and parents would never approve of her dating a white boy.
But you’re yellow and he’s green, I wanted to say. His practical side will balance your spontaneity. But she didn’t see this. I barely could. Still, I told her to follow her heart.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Award!


Me?

First off, thanks so much, Ishta Mercurio @Musings of a Restless Mind for giving me this award. Rainbows and cupcakes are always appreciated, even cyber ones!

I guess this award has some requirements. First off, I have to thank the person who gave it to me (see above). Then I have to answer the following question: If I had the chance to go back and change one thing in my life, would I, and what would it be?

*****
I do wish I would have started writing sooner since breaking in now seems to be tougher than ever (okay, not as tough as Jane Austen had it, but you know what I mean).

The problem is, my first book ideas were for adult genres. It wasn't until our basement flooded and I had to go through some wet high school stuff that I thought to write YA. From there, I plunged into my first book, head first.

So, if I could have started writing YA sooner (like if my basement would have flooded sooner) then maybe I would change that...

But then, I was my wonderful agent Suzie Townsend's first client, so starting earlier would have meant not having her...

Okay, guess I'll just have to trust that everything is happening just as it ought to:)
*****

Phew! That wore me out. Don't think I'll be writing a time-travel book anytime soon...they must be killers to plot.

Now, for my last requirement, I must pass this award on to five of my favorite blogs:

Laura Pauling ,who offers balanced/solid advice about writing.
Elana Johnson, who offers great blogging advice, plus the most important thing to share on a blog (as I learned form her), herself.
Shallee McArthur, at Life, The Universe and Writing, who has the coolest title and design for her blog.
Elle Straus, who's doing a first 250 word blogfest for writers tomorrow. Check it out!
Confessions From Suite 500, where my agent and two of her colleagues offer their perspectives on the publishing world.
And Rebecca Behrens, my agent mate, at Vicarious Reader, who often has posts with a curious historical slant to them that I enjoy.

(okay, I cheated and that's six, but I'm an award-winning blogger, right? I'm allowed.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

Beginnings:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."- Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
"All this happened, more or less." Slaughterhouse-Five- Kurt Vonnegut
"It was a pleasure to burn." Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
"I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story." -Ethan Frome- Edith Wharton
"The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new." - Murphy- Samuel Beckett

Read more: Best First Lines of Novels — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ipea/A0934311.html#ixzz12FKTUNRx
 
The YA Highway Road Trip question this week is about beginnings, first lines of books. Our favorites and how we write our own.


This is a topic I've agonized about in my own books more than thought about in others, which is probably why I agonize since Read, Read, Read is the first and best rule of writing. So, I went to a few of my all-time favorite writers for some instant inspiration this morning (see above).

It seems, as I suspected, that I'm not hung up on wanting a certain beginning when I read. If it fits the narrative voice of the story then just shout it out like Vonnegut and Wharton did above with "This is a story" type beginnings. If the story is out of the ordinary then a shocking and/or puzzling line like Bradbury's works. If tone is important then show it, like Beckett's line.

Personally, I lean toward Jane Austen's approach with a broad statement related to the book as a whole and the first scene I'm heading into.

These are my first lines as they stand right now, but nothing changes more often in my books than the first few paragraphs and pages:

****
"I’ve often thought that it’s too bad our lives don’t have a musical score in the background so we would know when the scary parts are coming, the momentous and the sad." Frog Kisses and Near Misses


"I always put in the same wish. Over the years, I’d written it as a plea, a demand, an affirmation and even a foregone conclusion." One Hundred To-Dos


"In a teen movie, I’d be some sweet, misunderstood girl who’s only one Garnier and Maybelline makeover away from getting the guy." Social Disorder


"All my boyfriends have cheated on me. I’m not exaggerating. Every single one." Cheater Beaters


"The boy slid his tray over to sit across from the girl in a story as old as this world and, no doubt, many others." Earthbound (WIP)    

*****

So, right now, I'm agonizing over my WIP opening. I think because it's the first time I've ever gone straight into the scene, but I should probably stop agonizing because it is still early days for this WIP. Things will, no doubt, change.

As far as overall advice for writers, I'd say:
1. Aim for something that fits the main character and tone of the book. No false advertising. Don't go for shocking or witty unless that fits for your book. 
2. Having trouble coming up with an idea? Think of the protag first. What is her/his main issue in the book. Start with a statement that hints at that.
3. Aim for something that, if it's not of or about the first scene can easily lead to it.
4. Don't start with dialogue. I know this is a rule that can and does get broken effectively, but I lean away from it because it feels like shouting into an empty, dark room. Your readers have nothing to ground the words with.

What about your beginnings? What do you like to read? To write? Any of mine you love or hate?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Debut Author Challenge #4 Audiobook Review

The Sky Is Everywhere- Jandy Nelson

The Sky Is Everywhere In the aftermath of her sister's death, Lennie must face the loss of their runaway mother years ago, the finding of herself, and her attraction to two boys...one who wants to share her life and the other who shares her loss.

As a Reader:

*slight spoiler alert* As a friend pointed out to me recently, my feelings are black and white (okay, maybe charcoal black and egg-shell white) on the issue of cheating/infidelity. Probably part of why I wrote my book, Cheater Beaters (see bio). So, it's a testament to Jandy Nelson's story that I was able to sympathize with and even route for someone after they cheated. But that's just one small part of this book. The characters are everything else. You romanticize them, not because they're perfect or grand (okay, maybe one of her love interests is all that and a composer of songs just for her;) but because they're so real, living and breathing in your heart as you read.

As a Writer:

The writing is beautiful...the sigh as you take the line/paragraph in with a hint of wish-I'd-written-that aftertaste kind of writing...Yeah, that bout covers it:)

If you Like This, You Might Also Like:

 Losing FaithLosing Faith-Denise Jaden (sorry, no audio)
Tell Me A SecretTell Me A Secret- Holly Cupala (free podcast audio- see sidebar)
Thirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why- Jay Asher
Before I Die (Paperback)Before I Die -Jenny Downham




    

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

  On YA Highway, this week's road trip question is, What would I pack, as a reader/writer, for a month-long stay on a deserted island.

In an effort to keep it simple (if not light), I'd take:

My unabridged works of Shakespeare
(since I haven't revisited him much since college)

William Shakespeare - Sämtliche Werke in einem Band (This is the cover on my edition, only my title is in English)

Notebooks and pens (say, 15 and 30 of each to be optimistic)



Twizzlers (at least 15 bags)

See full size image





What about you?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Writing Myths #1

I'm no publishing expert, so take this advice for what it's worth (or not worth). It just seems that on my meandering path to publication so far I've seen some contraditions (or maybe misinterpretations is a better word) between popular writing advice and reality. I thought it would be interesting to explore some of these ideas.

The Myth:

Don’t write to trends.

Why?

By the time you finish a book, do the agent hunt, the publisher hunt, and the publishing process, it will be a minimum of (realistically) eighteen months before your book hits a store bookshelf. If you’re writing for the trends on the bookshelves right now, you’ll be so two years ago before your book gets there. Also, books written to fit a trend can feel forced. The story that comes from your heart will be the one most likely to be the best book you have to give.

The Reality:

While all the above is true, trends do matter, especially in this economy. Editors are looking for certain things. More important (at least from what I’ve found), the sales and marketing people are, understandably, super picky about what is selling right now and what is not.

On the over-popular side of things, the “but my vampires are different” plea might work at some points in a trend, but there comes a tipping point when vampires are “over” in most editors’ minds, no matter how different they are.

At the other extreme, unpopular genres or out-of-the-box books that are incredibly written still have hope of finding a home somewhere, but for most of us mere mortals, trends will impact whether or not we sell.


The Solution:

Buy a crystal ball on eBay (I wish). Short of that, like with every other area of writing, the best solution is to read, read, read. Know your genre. Know what is and isn’t popular right now. Look for recurring themes that could be two books away from becoming a total clichĂ©.

Think about where these trends might lead in the future…Like, vampire, vampire/werewolf, werewolves to demons, angels, dragons and zombies. Ghosts, ghosts/mediums, mediums to psychics, witches, dream-catchers, fortunetellers and knowers of death. Fantasy, fantasy/dystopian to time travel, sci-fi and ?

Figure out where your manuscript/WIP/fledgling idea fits into that market or potential future market. Or, if you’re still trying to figure out what to write next, let that possible future market be your brainstorming tool. Just make sure it’s still a story you can write from the heart.


How about you? Any experiences/advice to add?

Friday, October 1, 2010

SPEAK Library Donations

I'm a little late to the show, but thanks to Theresa Milstein's post on Banned Books I've learned that Laura and Lisa Write are offering to donate a a copy of SPEAK to a library for every twenty-five comments they get HERE.

http://improbablefiction.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/speak.jpg    


****
As for my writing diary. (See Patti Nielson's blog HERE)

Wednesday: 10:00-11:05pm- Finished two fresh pages with a tad bit of editing/revising along the way.
Thursday: A big fat nothing, I'm ashamed to say.

I have a friend coming to visit from Oregon this Sunday, so I've been getting ready for that, but I know how fall and the holidays are for me...it will just be one deadline after another. This writing diary thing has made it clear that I need to carve out some larger chunks of time.

I'm commiting to at least four hours a day on my WIP, and will find a way (with my minimal blog design skills) to post my progress.