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Monday, August 31, 2009

Contemporary is Where the Heart is

Hope everyone had an awesome weekend! I know I did. :D You will NEVER guess who I met Saturday. THE Steve Vander Ark. You know, the one that created the Harry Potter Lexicon. *faints* I got my picture taken with him. I’m going to stop fangirling now and try to remember what I was talking about…

Other than that, my weekend was pretty blah. Moneigh finished fourth in her maiden, Quality Road finished third in the Travers (losing to Summer Bird who’s definitely taking after his sire in my book), actually I don’t think any of my horses actually won this weekend. Indian Blessing lost…Quality Road lost…Moneigh lost…I think that’s all I was cheering for this weekend. Oh, need to go look up that filly that beat Rachel so I can keep an eye on her.

Okay onto things that you actually care about. I really need to try to keep the horse racing to my horse blog.

This week we’re going to talk about genres. No, I’m not defining them all. I don’t even know what half of my own books are let alone know how to tell you if you’re book could be such-and-such genre. I’m going to talk about finding your voice in a genre.

Everyone has a genre that they write best in. Could you imagine Nora Roberts writing horror or J.K. Rowling writing thrillers or Steven King writing romance? Sure, they might branch out into other genres now and then, but they tend to stay closer to home. Closer to the things that they are used to writing and are talented at.

I recently discovered where my own voice is. For years I’ve written fantasy. It’s always young adult, of course, since I fail at adult, but I still stayed around fantasy. I could create my own little world and do whatever I pleased with it. It wasn’t like I knew enough about reality to write contemporary, anyway. And then Krista told me that she thought I’d found my niche in contemporary after reading one of my Jump snippets. (Thanks so much Krista, you’re awesome!)

I screeched to a halt. What? I read it again. And again. I’d found my niche in contemporary? Sure, I enjoyed writing it, but fantasy had always been my thing. Jump happened because Hannah wouldn’t shut up. Then I thought about it and the figurative light bulb appeared above my head.

My voice really is in contemporary. I love it. I love writing Jump and playing with No Kissing. It just comes naturally. When I was revising Destiny, my favorite parts were the ones that contained more contemporary elements than fantasy. But it was scary. Fantasy had always been my genre. Everything I attempted was fantasy in some way, shape, or form. Most of my ideas were fantasy and I won’t give up on those. But contemporary is my thing now, and I love it.

The moral of this story is: don’t be afraid to try new genres. Who knows, you might just find your voice. And while fantasy was my first love, contemporary is my calling. Of course, just because your voice might be, say, literary fiction, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on that humor story brewing in the idea bank.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Week in Short

And what a short week it's been! I can't believe Friday is here already. And what a rainy, nasty Friday it is...

Probably not going to get much done this weekend. Going to a very big, very expensive college tomorrow with my uncle and the youth group and then going hiking Sunday if it ever stops raining. Finished reading Nation last night, review of that coming up on Thursday. Now I get to turn my attention to Confessions of a Serial Kisses. By going tomorrow, I'm missing out on Moneigh's maiden race and Quality Road's Travers. Of course, I can always watch them on replay when I get home, but I like to watch races live...

Not a lot of posts this week, but we do have a must read!

Must Read: Rachelle Gardner had a great post uncovering some of the myths and facts of publishing this week.

Contest: Rachelle Gardner is hosting her own guest blog challenge to choose guest blogs for every Thursday through the end of the year. Entries close Friday, September 4th. I'm off to brainstorm and see if I can come up with anything great.

BookEnds agent, Jessica,
has her opinions on idea theft and a very interesting post regarding an author's question on why agents don't just request fulls instead of partials to save time.

GLA
has some examples of awesome hooks for YA books. I'm tempted to add a few of these to my 'must read' list.

Nathan Bransford as his own post about how a book gets published.

Querytracker has explanations of children's books from picture books to young adult.

Pimp My Novel has a post on Border's trouble. *panics* You'll have to excuse me while I run to the nearest Borders and make sure it doesn't close. All my book shopping happens at Borders! The nearest BN is a half hour's drive away in a city that I go to maybe two or three times a year.

Pub Rants with Kristin tells us about auctions.

I'm off to try to stop procrastinating and actually work on something while I have the opportunity. My notebook will be with me Saturday and Sunday (of course) but I still prefer the laptop when writing.

And one last rant...WHY is it that the nearest bookstore that has Break in stock is over an hour's drive??? I can't wait until I can order books off Amazon... That is all. :) Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Interview with Bethany Griffin and Handcuffs Review

EEK I'm so excited to announce that I was able to get Bethany Griffin here for an interview with us! :D If you don't know Handcuffs or Bethany, you should. They're both made of awesome-ness.

Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin
Summary: Parker Prescott is an ice princess. Cold, aloof, and a snob. At least, that's what everyone says on Marion Henessy's blog. And everyone reads Marion Henessy's blog.

Parker Prescott is a middle child. She's the good one, the dependable one, the one her parents trust. Well...she used to be.

Parker Prescott's parents want her to break up with her boyfrined. But she already did, two weeks ago. And then she realized it was a mistake. He came over. He had the handcuffs in his pocket. Everything went downhill from there. Sort of.

Parker Prescott's world is changing and she no longer knows who she is. Does anyone?

Review: First off, I want to say I love this book! And I'm not just saying that either. The characters were awesome and most of the time I didn't even notice that it was written in present tense. Present can be a weird tense to read somethings, but this wasn't at all. I also loved how 'the ex' is just called 'the ex' or 'him' through the entire book instead of giving him a name. There's never a doubt who Parker is talking about. I can really relate with Parker. Not because I have a boyfriend with handcuffs, but because I'm a bit of an ice princess myself. I sepnt the entire book rooting for Parker and even yelling at her a little when she went to do something crazy. Whenever I got called away, I definitely didn't want to leave. Overall: 9/10

***

And now let's see what the genius behind Handcuffs herself has to say. *cue applause*

Bethany Griffin is a high school English teacher and an avid reader of teen fiction. She teaches and writes in Kentucky, where she lives with her three cats, her two children, and her husband -- the first guy she met who had read more than three of her favorite books. Handcuffs is her first book for young readers. She has an awesome website and blog.

I'm sure you get this question a lot, but where did you get the idea for Handcuffs?
The original concept was about a girl who plays internet pranks and finds out stuff she doesn't want to know...sort of an internet version of the 'eavesdroppers never hear good things about themselves' adage. I needed to get her grounded...I wrote the handcuffs scene, and the book sort of reconstructed itself around that.

How long did Handcuffs take you to write?
I wrote the first draft in 6 weeks. I revised for two months.

Do you write from the hip or outline?
No outline, I hate them (except for the pretend ones I write for my agent...don't tell her, she wants me to be more organized)

How do you develop such great characters?
I dunno? Parker started out with some elements of me...and I developed her from there. I guess I just watch people a lot (tries not to be creepy). I find people pretty fascinating.

Was it intentional naming Paige, Preston, and Parker names that started with "P" or did it just happen? Was that part of the "perfect" family mentality?
It was on purpose. As a person with kids, I generally think about the parents when I name characters. What did the parents want for the kid and how might that have affected who these people are? So the Prescott names are all upwardly mobile names, and of course they all start with P! It is part of their perfect family mentality.

Did the ex always not have a name and do you call him 'the ex' in your head too?
I made up a name for him when I was writing a synopsis, because it was impossible to write a good synopsis without using a name (in fact, I find it impossible to write a synopsis anyway). This was about a month after I finished the book, it was for a full request that sent me a form rejection. I blame the synopsis. So he had no name while I wrote the book, but he does sort of have a name now. There's a guess the name contest on my website that gets some WEIRD guesses.

What made you want to write Handcuffs in present tense?
I love present. It makes everything so in your face and intense.

What was your journey to being agented like?
I queried for about 3 and a half months. I think she was my 9th full request?

What did you do when you found out that Delacorte was publishing your book?
We'd had a couple of close calls with editors, and a revision request. We had several rejections and had decided to do some revisions. Anyway it was a terrible day. Just bad weather, grumpy kids, I had to go to the funeral home on the way home from work.
When we got in I checked my email, and there was one from my agent. It said this means you can stop revising! I was like, what? So I scrolled down, and found the email saying that we had an offer. I jumped up and down and freaked out the kids...

Do you have anything in the works right now?
I have one completed manuscript, one on hold manuscript, and one manuscript I'm just starting on that I hope to finish by Christmas. So, yeah.

What would you like to say to all the aspiring authors out there?
Read a whole bunch, especially Handcuffs... well, it worked for me... at least the reading part. Read everything you can, and don't give up.

And finally, what is your favorite book?
My all time favorite book that I've read the most times in my life is Lord of the Rings. My mom read it to me when I was 4, and I read it to myself (for the first time) when I was 7.

Let's give a big thanks and round of applause to Bethany Griffin for taking the time to answer my PMs and be here with us! Now, what are you waiting for?? If you haven't read Handcuffs, go get it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Writing Wednesday

REVISIONS ARE FINISHED! :D Just finished a few minutes ago in fact. Okay, now that I'm done squealing, let's see how things are going...

I didn't have a very good morning. I woke up from a somewhat great dream that made me mildly depressed, had a headache most of the morning, and then found out that Mine that Bird has been scratched from Saturday's Travers (where I expect Quality Road will outclass most of the field) and Nicanor is on 60 days turnout rest for an injury.

Anyway...it's really hard for me to tell which day was my best and which was my worst because of the revisions. I didn't do a lot of writing this week, even when I did have time. My best day for writing was, of course, last Wednesday when I finished Destiny with a 5,571-word writing spree. My worst days were Friday and Monday with no words both days. My best days in terms of revisions were Friday and Saturday with five chapters each. Last Wednesday was my worst with only three, but I think I should be able to get away with that...

Destiny:
Status: Querying!
Queries sent: 10
Rejections: 3
I still have seven queries out so fingers crossed! Now that revisions are done, I can set her aside and concentrate on my other projects. I plan to spend the fall and winter querying and just see how things go. I'd forgotten how much I love Destiny until I went back and reread it.

Assassin's Wife:
Status: Trunked
You read that correctly, AW is being trunked. It's NOT forever, I promise. I'm just putting it away for a couple months. It hasn't been progressing well at all. I already know that I'm going to need to partially rewrite the beginning so I decided that I'm going to take some time away from her.

No Kissing:
Status: Trunked
This one is also being trunked temporarily. I figure that I'll take a month off and then start all over with a clean slate. I really don't like how this one's wandered off without me and I haven't written on it for what, a month now?

Jump:
Status: Minor WB, but NOT being trunked!
Last week: 15,000 words
This week: 16,500 words
Jump is still coming along quite well. I definitely don't have plans to trunk this one any time soon. It's actually part of the reason why AW and NK are being trunked -- because I want to spend more time with Jump without feeling guilty. I've got some minor WB, but I'm hoping to break through that in the next couple days.

Shipwrecked...with a Boy:
Status: Coming out of the trunk!
Maria's finally come out of hiding with Dylan and has started bothering me again. So after a few months of trunking, I'm going to start Shipwrecked's rewrite soon! It's not going to be a total rewrite because I just want to concentrate on working on the plot a little without losing the great characters. So in the next couple of days, I'm going to give Shipwrecked and read-through and take some notes on what needs to be fixed.

Jump looks so lonely now that it's the only thing in my WIP folder...I'll have to move Shipwrecked over there so it doesn't look so empty. :D I have a very special surprise tomorrow so make sure you come back and check that out!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's Talk Favorite Books

I couldn't think of anything that I wanted to post today, but I have been thinking about my favorite book/series/authors lately, so I figured that it would be fun for us to share what all our favorites are. Plus I have a TWFT post to do today so I really need to be brainstorming for that...

Been procrastinating most of the morning. Spent a lot of it talking to friends, watching stakes races, writing a blog post for my horse blog, checking up horse neglect cases (Dang those take a long time), and updating my submitted agents sheet. I received two query rejections so far today and it's only one. The agents are on a role today.

Now, for a brief rant over Breaking Dawn and some fangirling over Harry Potter. (Don't worry, there will be no spoilers.)

Let's get Breaking Dawn out of the way. With Eclipse's filming underway, they are considering making a movie out of BD. Okay, seriously, you want to make a movie out of that? Just take the beginning of BD, hook it onto the ending of Eclipse and leave it at that! And that's not all I've heard about Breaking Dawn. They're thinking about breaking the movie into TWO parts. Guys! Just because Harry Potter can get away with that, doesn't mean you can.

Okay, I'm going to put that out of my mind and move onto DH... OMG I've got some spoilers! If you want them click here! They've finally revealed where the two movies are going to be split (with an awesome cliffie I might add) and there's going to be an extra death. Though I don't think the character who's death has been added is actually going to be in the movie. Not entirely sure. The specifics are a little confused.

Now that that's over, here are my top five favorite series and authors. Note that there is a very close margin between the first three in both lists. Most of the time I say it's a tie. As soon as I get through reading my library books, I'm going to go through these lists and read them all from a writer's perspective.

Series:

  1. Harry Potter (of course)
  2. Percy Jackson and the Olympians
  3. Immortals Series (Tamora Pierce)
  4. Inheritance Cycle
  5. Twilight Saga (please don't hit me)
Authors:
  1. J.K. Rowling
  2. Rick Riordan
  3. Tamora Pierce
  4. Christopher Paolini
  5. Sarah Dessen
There's my list. Now what's yours?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Week in Short

I don't have a lot of links this week. I'm not really sure why...just don't. I've been working on revisions the last three days. They're going well and I hope to have them complete by WW. Then I get to send her off to Query Land and turn my attention to Jump. Hannah's waiting not-so-patiently so I can't wait to go back.

No Must Read this week. Not enough links for me to need to feature one.

Blood Red Pencil has some tips on blog tours this week.

GLA has a 2010 Guide to Literary Agents excerpt: How NOT to get an agent. I so need to get that book... They also have an interview with Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary.

Pimp My Novel continued their series of taking a look at genre specific sales this week covering literary fiction, historical, women's fiction, and romance.

Querytracker has a wonderful post on character vs plot driven novels.

Rachelle Gardner has two great posts, one on how to tighten up your manuscript and another on whether or not you should go to writer's conferences.

Now I'm off to continue working on my revisions. I've got three more chapters to go today before I'm allowed to watch my reward movie (haven't figured out what movie I'm going to watch yet.) Everyone have an awesome weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Release - Break

Break by Hannah Moskowitz
Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before. And Jonah wants to be stronger—needs to be stronger—because everything around him is falling apart. Breaking, and then healing, is Jonah's only way to cope with the stresses of home, girls, and the world on his shoulders.

When Jonah's self-destructive spiral accelerates and he hits rock bottom, will he find true strength or surrender to his breaking point?


Sounds cool, doesn't it? It's times like these that I wish I could buy books off Amazon. It's already in stock!

Hannah has a blog and a website if you want to know more about her and Break. Now I'm off to search for my wallet and hope that it's in the bookstore when we go...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I have awesome news!

Okay, this news is far too awesome to wait until tomorrow. You're never going to believe it!



DESTINY IS DONE!

That's right! The rewrite is complete at 78,000 words! Did I have any idea when I wrote my WW post this morning that I was going to be making this announcement? NO! I knew that I wanted to get some work down on Destiny today, but at that point I didn't even know how it was going to end, let alone know that I was going to finish it!

Now begins the process of editing and querying. I'm going to celebrate this afternoon and then decide if I'm going to query while I polish or polish and then query. (Normally I would suggest the second option, but I'm afraid I'm going to explode if I don't start querying soon.)

Writing Wednesday

And it's that time of the week again. It's been a pretty good one. I'm about ready to kick the laptop this morning though. It's being very slow and I almost had a panic attack this morning because I thought that I'd lost everything that wasn't backed up, or at least everything I did last night. But thanks to Word's Autorecover I managed to save everything and it's all backed-up now.

I had a pretty decent week this week writing wise. My best day was yesterday with 4,108 words and my worst days were Saturday and Sunday (but I have excuses for those days) with 0 words both days. Last night I went on a total writing roll. I remember looking at the clock around ten-thirty and then the next time I glanced down at it it was midnight.

Destiny:
Status: Progressing slowly
Last week: 69,000 words
This week: 72,000 words (I decided to knock off the polished part since I'm concentrating on the rewrite and my beta's disappeared again)


If you'd asked me a couple days ago how Destiny was going, I would've said very badly. In fact, I was expecting to come in here today and tell you all that I was trunking her for a couple weeks. I was planning on waiting to receive a couple beta comments on chapter one and then I was going to trunk it. Destiny just wasn't going well at all. The rewrite was going terribly and I dreaded working on it. The query was consuming all my attention to the point where I obsessed over it. so I thought a short break was just what I needed. But then I got an idea for a new query that's voicier than the other versions and I think this is going to be the one I mail out. The rewrite is coming along slowly again, but I still don't know how this story ends.

Assassin's Wife:
Status: Writers' block
Last week: 17,000 words
This week: 17,000 words

I did do a little bit of work on AW this week. I finally broke down and wrote a scene that I've been dying to write out of order and now I have to figure out what comes before that. I know what needs to happen, I just don't know how yet. That, and I haven't figured out how to describe the room that they're in. I'll figure it out eventually, but in the meantime I have writers' block.

No Kissing:
Status: Severe writers' block
Last week: 11,000 words
This week: 11,000 words

I'm seriously considering trunking this one for something that's actually going to show progress. I had an idea for a new plot detail that brings a minor character into a bigger position, but it didn't seem to help my writers' block much. I just don't know where this story is going right now and even if I do manage to figure it out and finish, it's probably going to require a major rewrite to fix the meandering plot. I might trunk it for awhile for a time when I'm less busy and I can start all over with a clean slate.

Jump:
Status: Going very well!
Last week: 10,000 words
This week: 15,000 words

As I think you can see, Jump has been going very well! If Destiny's trunked, this one's going to become my main project. I just love this story and Hannah, even if she is a bit of brat sometimes and messes up my plans. I'm hoping that this one will continue to progress and that I can be querying soon. Depending on how Destiny goes, this one could be my entry to Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest (I didn't get to enter this year so I really want to enter next year.)

That's all for this week! Hope everyone has a great day :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Beating "the Block"

Had a pretty good weekend this weekend and I hope you all did too. :) Saturday I spent most of the day with family members that I only get to see a few times a year, including my now eight month old niece. She's so cute! Both her and her nine month old cousin are cutting teeth though so they were pretty grouchy Saturday.

Sunday my mom decided to wake me up and announce that instead of going to the reunion we were going on a day trip hiking. We ended up only going hiking on one trail, instead driving all through a bunch of little towns trying to find the place that we were supposed to hike at. Still, we saw a lot of pretty scenery and I got a lot of reading done. I read Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce and I'm happy to report that I like the book as much, if not more, as a writer than I did as a non-writer. I also started Nation by Terry Pratchett, but I'm having a lot of trouble getting into it. The worldbuilding and writing style just aren't my kind of thing.

I couldn't think of anything to write about today and then I got the idea to write about beating writers' block. I've had this a lot lately and I decided to share a few suggestions.

WARNING: These ideas usually don't work on writing depression. If anyone knows how to get rid of that, let me know. I've got it right now. Again. They also don't work for everyone. Everyone has their own method of beating the block and these are just a few suggestions.

Set a schedule -- This works quite well for me. Set aside a period of time that you are going to write. Turn everything off (except music if you like to write to it) and then work until time's up. If you want to work past that, then great! Don't allow yourself to procrastinate. I have a system where at the start of every hour, I turn off the internet and I'm not allowed to turn it on for 15 minutes. It doesn't matter if you write, brainstorm, outline, polish, or just stare at the word doc as long as your concentration is on your work. This also works very well for beta reading.

Set a goal -- Set a word count, page count, or editing goal for each day. Mine used to be 1,000 words a day and then I changed it to 250 words per day because of the writers' block. Set it small so you can achieve it. Because saying 'I wrote 500 words today which is two times my goal' is a lot better than saying 'I wrote 500 words today and didn't come close to hitting my goal.' A goal is great motivation for writing. It's great to have writer friends that you can report to and encourage each other.

Skip ahead to another scene -- If you've having trouble with a particular scene because you just don't know how you want it to go, skip ahead. Sometimes I write out of order because I have an idea for one scene and I really want to write it. That gives me something to aim for when I go back and write in between.

Take a break -- if you're really struggling and not making any progress, take a break. It could be for a few hours or even a week or two. For a shorter break, watch a movie, read a book, go for a walk, do something else. If you go for a walk, take a piece of paper and a pen with you though. I've been known to come up with random ideas while walking and then writing them down while I keep walking. Movies and books that you love are also great for getting rid of writers' block. It was while watching Prince Caspian that I got over my writers' block for Assassin's Wife one day.

Work on something else -- this goes with 'take a break' as well. Get out another novel that you're working on if you have one or work on a piece of flash fiction or a short story. Sometimes working on another WIP can really help you get past writers' block. Which is part of the reason why I have four. Just try not to go overboard like I did...

Brainstorm -- if you're stuck on where to go next with a story, sit down with a blank Word doc and do a little brainstorming. Make a bulleted list of ideas. Write them all down, no matter how silly. It's just a brainstorm sheet and you don't have to use any idea that you write down. No one else is going to see it so don't worry about anything that sounds stupid. I seemingly stupid idea can lead to a great idea that gets rid of your writers' block.

Do a 100 Questions for Your Character sheet -- This has actually been very helpful for me. You can use the '100 questions for your character' sheet that I link to at the top of my 'Sites for Writers' widget or you can google that or create your own. Answer the questions in your character's voice. You don't have to answer them all and you don't have to do them in order. Just a few can give you a great idea of your character's personality and help break through writers' block.

Listen to music -- if you don't always listen to music while you write, try listening to some now. The most random song can give you an idea that gets rid of the writers' block. If you have a playlist for your story then listen to it. If you don't, think about creating one. If you're like me and don't have a story playlist because you don't know enough songs, then just listen to the radio or your regular playlist or Ipod set on shuffle.

I hope you find those useful! Now I'm off to see if I can get a little writing down myself. :)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Week in Short - Firebrand closes, Kristin's story, and more

We're going to start this weekly post off with some bad news. Yeah, I'm sorry too. Then we'll get to the good stuff and hopefully you'll be all cheered up before it's over.

Firebrand is closing! That's right, the agency that we all know and love, that created the Query Holiday earlier this year, is closing. This does, however, explain last week's news that three agents had left Firebrand to create their own agency.

In much happier news, MSFV is holding another Secret Agent contest. Genres included this month are romance -- including paranormal and historical, -- urban fantasy, historical fiction, high-concept women's fiction (what is that?), and literary fiction.

Must Read: Here's a wonderful post on what keeps writers from writing. I think I've suffered from all of these at least once. A week. And Kristin's very inspirational journey to agented-ness. I'm going to go read it again once I'm done with this post. I need some kind of motivation to write today.

Bookends has some answers for random questions (including memoirs, thank you notes for personalized rejections, magazine response times, and more), some funny occurrences at BookEnds this week, and tips on obtaining cover blurbs.

GLA has a guide to advances and royalties.

Moonrat has some reasons to get your manuscript in on time.

Nathan Bransford's glossary of publishing terms.

Pimp My Novel's poll results are in and here are the posts on how certain genres are selling. He covered four this week and there'll be four more next week. This week's are: fantasy, children's (PB, MG, YA), mystery/thriller, and science-fiction.

Queryshark
critiques an urban fantasy with lots of rhetorical questions at the beginning, women's fiction, and a huge historical fiction. I can't imagine writing anything with 250k... That's like five novels for me.

Rachelle Gardner
has a wonderful post on how writing is subjective, and a series on things that don't help your query: part one and part two.

Writer Unboxed
on how to treat your publicist. This may also work for your agent, publisher, beta reader... (just kidding)

That's all this week! Everyone have a great weekend and we'll see you on Monday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sent, Fire, and Sucks to Be Me

It's Thursday which means some new releases. I went through B&N and Amazon and found some awesome ones this morning! I actually planned to have something very special to share with you today, but it looks like that might have to wait until Monday. It's a surprise. :) Don't worry, it'll be great.

Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Not sure on the release date
"I think it's probably safe to say, given when you should have landed, that you're...um..."
"Tell me!"
"I think, right now, you're the king of England."
Thirteen-year-olds Jonah and Chip are reeling from the news that they're both missing children from history, kidnapped from their proper time period. Before they can fully absorb this revelation, a time purist named JB zaps Chip and another boy, Alex, back to the fifteenth century, where they supposedly belong. Determined not to lose their friends, Jonah and his sister, Katherine, grab Chip's arms just as he's being sent away. The result? Jonah and Katherine also end up in the fifteenth century, where they decidedly do not belong.
Chip's true identity is Edward V, king of England, and Alex is his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York. But Chip is convinced that his uncle, Richard of Gloucester, plans to kill them and seize the throne for himself.
JB promises that if the kids can "fix time," he will allow them to return to the present day. But how can they possibly return home safely when history claims that Chip and Alex were murdered?
In a riveting tale that climaxes on the battlefield at Bosworth, master storyteller Margaret Peterson Haddix brings readers back in time to an unforgettable moment in history and plunges them into the adventure of a lifetime.

Fire by Kristin Cashore
Companion novel to Graceling
Release date: October 5th
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe) by Kimberly PauleyMina Hamilton's parents want her dead. (Or undead to be precise.) They're vampires, and like it or not, Mina must decide whether to become a vampire herself. But Mina's more interested in hanging out with best friend Serena and trying to catch the eye of the too-hot-for-high-school Nathan Able than in the vampire training classes she's being forced to take. How's a girl supposed to find the perfect prom date and pass third-year French when her mom and dad are breathing down her neck--literally?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Writing Wednesday

Ahhh WW. Until yesterday I was sure that I was going to have very disappointing progress to report and then it just sort of took off. Hoping the same thing happens today.

I don't have anything random to say, other than the fact that whenever I start working I usually get distracted by my masochistic desire to look at horse classifieds. I found out that my favorite horse sold, but came across a very beautiful gray Irish Draught mare. She wouldn't fit my mom's bill, but she'd be perfect for me....Anyway...

I've had a strange itch to work on Shipwrecked and her sequel lately. I'm not allowed to until I at least finish Destiny's rewrite, but Maria's starting to get bored. As much as I want to tell her and Dylan's story, I have to put it on the sidelines for now.

I've had a very lackluster writing week. I went from the writers' block of last week, to a busy weekend, to a rather severe writing depression. My best day was yesterday with 1837 words and my worst were Saturday and Sunday with 0 each.

Destiny:
Status: Coming along slowly
Last week: Polished at chapter 7 and 65,000 words
This week: Polished at chapter 7 and 69,000 words


I'm not entirely sure how I made that much progress since this is where my writing depression is the worst right now. I'm concerned that Destiny is lacking in voice. Monday I finally figured out what's wrong with my query, but I have no idea how to fix it. If anyone knows how to get voice in a query that sounds like a flat summary, please let me know. I've already gotten really close to sending out the "weird" one twice. The second time I actually opened up my 'to query' list and started to look up the submission guidelines of one of the agents, but I never followed through. Yesterday I tried out the new text to speech thingy that I installed, but I couldn't do a lot of editing with it. I was giggling too much. I'm getting close to the end though and I can almost taste it. Hopefully before I return next Wednesday, I'll be bouncing around announcing that it's done.

Assassin's Wife:
Status: Coming along slowly
Last week: 15,000 words
This week: 17,000 words

The writers' block is finally gone! I was seriously thinking about trunking this one Tuesday morning, even if it was just for a couple months. Then I got an urge to go and write this one scene that I'm really excited about, but I didn't even make it that far. Hoping the progress continues. I really like this story and I think with a partial rewrite on the beginning it could be promising.

No Kissing:
Status: Stuck hard
Last week: 11,000 words
This week: 11,000 words

I'm very seriously considering trunking this one. It's stuck hard and I can't see that changing anywhere in the near future. I know how it ends and I know how it began, but I don't know what happens in the middle. I have a rough outline, but I don't think that's how Raven wants it to happen and since she doesn't know what happens, neither do I. If I do trunk it, it'll only be temporary. A few months maybe, until Raven decides to talk to me or I'm a little less busy.

Jump:
Status: Minor writers' block
Last week: 10,000 words
This week: 10,000 words

There's no change in the recorded word count, but I did do some writing on it yesterday. Hannah's been bugging me for several days and I finally had to give in. I came up with a new plot point a couple days ago that's going to kill me to write -- it's heart-wrenching just to think about it -- but it's brilliant. If Destiny isn't the one, then Jump is probably my best shot. It may be even better than Destiny.

That's all! I'm going to go watch all the Harry Potter movies and see if I can get some writing done. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Being a Beta Reader

Well my day started off rather horrible and then turned to a pretty dang good day.

Good:

  1. I got an email from my sister-in-law. She got things covered at work and so she and my baby neice are coming up this weekend! :D I only get to see them a few times a year, so I'm very excited.
  2. I caught up on the weekend stakes races. Added Flashing, Gio Ponti, and Zensational to my watch list. Zenyatta went 12 for 12 with her thrilling win in the Clement Hirsch. Sad to hear that one of my favorite geldings, Commentator, is retiring now after his third in the Whitney. He was a great horse and will be missed. I just hope that he has the quiet retirement that every racehorse deserves.
  3. I finally got it arranged so that I can use text to speech with Word 2007. So when I stop sulking, I'm going to listen to it read my chapters and do some editing.
Bad:
  1. Writing is not going very well. I'm in a writing depression over Destiny and her query. More on that Wednesday of course.
  2. Reading 1984. Do all classics have unhappy endings? Seriously, Animal Farm, Romeo and Juliet, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Scarlet Letter, the Great Gatsby, Grapes of Wrath is kinda sad... Oh, wait, Odyssey has a happy ending doesn't it? Well except for all the people that die... Okay that's one out of eight of the ones that I can remember.
Anyway, enough of my ramblings. Let's talk about being a beta reader since for the last five weeks we've been talking about getting one.

Being a beta reader is fun. You get to read novels (or short stories or whatever you like) for free, help someone improve their work, and maybe improve your own in the process. It also teaches you how to be critical and identify mistakes that could pass over into self-editing your own work. So how do you become one?

Well, the first step is to find writers that need beta readers. You could start with joining a critique group or writing forum. AW has a section for beta readers and writers looking for beta readers to advertise. If you have writer friends, they could need a beta reader. Critique groups are another good place to look. Just like a writer, make sure they fit your needs. There are some websites that I've discovered in the last week that take manuscripts and let their collection of beta readers read them over. Critique Circle and critters.org are two of these. Critters only takes fantasy, sci-fi, and horror though I believe, so if you read or write contemporary then you should avoid sites that don't accept it.

My beta reading got started when I participated in AW's annual beta reader event. I thought it would be fun to enter a piece of Destiny's early draft and in return, critiqued three first chapters. Looking back I don't think it went well, but I was hooked. The more I read and sent, the more I learned.

Once you've found someone that is looking for a beta, make sure you fit the bill. If they're hoping to get it back within a week and you're busy, then you might not be able to make the deadline. If they're writing horror and you want to beta sci-fi, then your probably not going to enjoy their story as much as someone else. You don't want to have to force yourself to read it, so if it's not something you'd be interesting in, say so.

If the writer asks you to go easy on their manuscript, then try to be a little softer with your criticism. The best beta readers are strict, but tactful with their criticism. Whatever you do, Don't. Lie. Say everything that you like, don't like, and give suggestions on how to fix it. Write down everything that you think as you write on a separate word doc. You can always go back and edit through as you read and things change.

Most of all: BE HONEST.

If you've promised your critique by a certain date and you aren't going to make it, let the writer know! I perfectly understand how life can get in the way of your lower priorities like beta reading, but I hate when I go for weeks and even months without a single notice. I have two projects that are out with two different beta readers. One I sent out months ago and never received a reply or even a note that they'd received it. (Don't think they stole it. This particular manuscript sucked so bad that I wouldn't even care if they tried.) The other is with a beta that disappeared for a long time, returned and told me they would have it to me, and then disappeared again. I have another beta that disappeared for two weeks to the point where I was worried that something happened to her. (You know who you are. If you're reading this, come in and say hi!) Even if you don't have a set deadline, try to send updates every once in awhile. If you're struggling to get a critique back in a reasonable amount of time -- even with a self-imposed deadline (I'm going to finish this critique by such-and-such date), I find that emailing the author and letting them know what day I hope to have it back helps. It's a lot more concrete when you know that someone's waiting for it. Of course, it doesn't work as well if the author doesn't answer because then you don't know if they're waiting for it or not.
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So go out and find a manuscript and enjoy! Sometimes you'll find the truly awesome manuscript that makes you feel like a horrible beta because you can't find anything wrong. And those and helping people improve their writing is what makes it all worthwhile.

Oh, and one last note. As a beta reader, try not to overbook yourself. I personally have one project that I'm working on, one more on the shelf, one that I'm waiting for the rest on, and one that I've called dibs on (we do that a lot at AW) that the writer is almost done with. I'm probably going to have to cut back even more when I go back to school unfortunately. So even if someone approaches you with a really awesome manuscript and it kills you to say no, sometimes you just have to do it. Just politely say that you're busy and hope that you get another chance.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Week in Short

You never really know how many blogs you're following until you miss three days and spend about three hours catching up.

So guess what came yesterday? HANDCUFFS! They put it in the mailbox so I've probably had it for like the last two days and didn't know. Except I'm not allowed to read it until 1984's done and that book has an annoying tendency to make me start yawning and not be able to stop. It's literally put me to sleep on a couple occasions. Not sure why, it just does. So review of Handcuffs will be coming up sometime next week. I was hoping to finish 1984 today and then read Handcuffs over the weekend, but that probably isn't going to happen because I'm spending this weekend with my sister and niece (the one that's older than me, not the little girl. Crazy, I know).

Anyway...

We had some exciting news down at TWFT this week. Kody was FINALLY able to announce who's publishing her book! Here's her official announcement! EEK CONGRATS KODY! Don't forget you have to do your journey to publication for the TWFT blog when you return from the land of no internet. :D

And Colleen Lindsay is accepting submissions again! But check this out to make sure that you qualify if you intent to query her. She's only accepting certain genres, of which mine is not included.

Must Read: Another post at Kody's blog, her guest blog by Joanna Stampfel, her very own agent!

BookEnds has a beautiful post about being true to you when you write.

GLA has an interview with Leah (I'm not going to try to write her last name for fear of butchering it), Dorchester editor of the Immortals series! *fangirl squeal*

Janet Reid has her opinion on exclusives, a post for anyone that's querying or getting ready to or might in the future.

Jodi Meadows has a couple of made-up queries she critiqued this week. Great advice on what not to do.

Nathan Bransford had another guest blog week. They were all awesome posts and here's one on working as a writer's partner and another on blurbs. Not the summary on the back or inside flap of the book that people call a blurb either.

Pimp My Novel has what the writer can do in twelve steps and a glossary of publishing terms.

Rachelle Gardner has a post on how rejection stinks for agents too.

Writer Unboxed has a wonderful post on finding your inner voice that I totally get.

YA Highway, not a blog I normally show here, has a great guest post on worldbuilding. It's not just for fantasy writers either!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

New Release Thursday

My new release list is running dry. I'm probably going to have to go on amazon or B&N and see if I can find some more. Had a rather depressing night last night. Gangbuster finished fourth in the Cougar II and then I spent about three hours working on my query which is rather depressing in itself. Planning on working on it some more today. If anyone has some awesome query vibes that they don't need, I could use them.

I also discovered that the 2010 Guide to Literary Agents is now available. Now I just need to dig up about $14 and a ride to the bookstore to buy it...

This first one was a nice surprise. I vaguely remember reading one of the Landover books are a few years ago. I need to see if I can find them so I can reread it.

A Princess of Landover by Terry Brooks
Release Date: August 18th
Ben Holiday, Chicago lawyer and mere mortal turned monarch of enchanted Landover, has grappled with scheming barons, fire-breathing beasts, diabolical conjurers, and extremely wicked witches. None of whom have prepared him for the most daunting of challengers–a teenage daughter. Sent by Ben and his beloved sylph bride, Willow, to an exclusive girls’ prep school, headstrong (and half-magical) Mistaya Holiday has found life in the natural world a less than perfect fit. And when her latest rebellious antics get her indefinitely suspended, she’s determined to resume her real education–learning sorcery from court wizard Questor Thews–whether her parents like it or not.

But back home in Landover, Mistaya’s frustrated father is just as determined that the precocious princess learn some responsibility, and he declares her grounded until she successfully refurbishes the long-forsaken royal library. Mortified by the prospect of salvaging a king’s ransom in moldy books–and horrified by word that repulsive local nobleman Lord Laphroig seeks to marry her–Mistaya decides that the only way to run her own life is to run away from home.

So begins an eventful odyssey peppered with a formidable dragon, recalcitrant gnomes, an inscrutable magic cat, a handsome librarian, a sinister sorcerer, and more than a few narrow escapes as fate draws Landover’s intrepid princess to the last place she expected to go, and into the thick of a mystery that will put her mettle to the test–and might bring the kingdom to its knees.

Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer
When Dara Cohen was little, she was a bright, shiny star. She was the cutest seven-year-old who ever sang Ella Fitzgerald, and it was no wonder she was crowned Little Miss Maine.

That was then. Now Dara's seventeen and she's not so little anymore. So not little, that when her classmates find out about her illustrious resume, their jaws drop. That's just one of her many problems. Another is that her control-freak mom won't get off her case about anything. Yet the one that hurts the most is the family secret: Dara has an older sister her parents tried to erase from their lives.

When a disastrously misinterpreted English project lands her in the counselor's office--and her parents pull her out of school to save face--Dara realizes she has a decision to make. She can keep following the rules and being misunderstood, or she can finally reach out to the sister she's never met--a sister who lives on a collective goat farm in Massachusetts. Dara chooses B. What follows is a summer of revelations, some heartbreaking, some joyous; of friendship, romance, a local beauty pageant; and choices. And as autumn approaches, Dara finds she may have to let go of everything she's taken for granted in order to figure out who she really is, and what family really means.

Soul Survivor by Andrea Leininger, Bruce Leininger, Ken Gross
This is the story of James Leininger, who-- a little more than two weeks after his second birthday-- began having blood-curdling nightmares that just would not stop. When James began screaming out recurring phrases like, "Plane on fire! Little man can't get out!" the Leiningers finally admitted that they truly had to take notice.

When details of planes and war tragedies no two-year-old boy could know continued-- even in stark daylight-- Bruce and Andrea Leininger began to realize that this was an incredible situation. SOUL SURVIVOR is the story of how the Leiningers pieced together what their son was communicating and eventually discovered that he was reliving the past life of World War II fighter pilot James Huston. As Bruce Leininger struggled to understand what was happening to his son, he also uncovered details of James Huston's life-- and death-- as a pilot that will fascinate military buffs everywhere.

In SOUL SURVIVOR, we are taken for a gripping ride as the Leiningers' belief system is shaken to the core, and both of these families come to know a little boy who, against all odds and even in the face of true skeptics, harbors the soul of this man who died long ago.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Writing Wednesday

This is going to be a short post since I haven't actually done much writing in the last week. So let's allow me to have a quick fangirl moment over horse racing.

EEK I saw Rachel Alexandra's Haskell victory last night! AMAZING! And I can't believe Mine That Bird lost the West Virginia Derby. I didn't want him to go the same way as Giacomo, but it looks like he might be headed in that direction. Gosh I hope the match between Rachel and Zenyatta happens. Who's bright idea was it to hold the Breeders' Cup on a synthetic track two years in a row anyway? Everyone root for Gangbuster in tonight's Cougar II Handicap! If he wins, I'll be on cloud nine for a year.

Sorry about that. If you didn't understand any of that, then you don't know horse racing like I do. Which very few people I know actually do... Anyway (yes I might need to start a blog for my horse racing fangirling) let's get back to what today is actually about. Now that it's August let's take a look at how last month went writing wise.

These figures aren't actually correct since I didn't start recording my numbers until the 10th, but they're close enough. The total words written was 35,000. Too bad they weren't all on the same book or I'd have half a novel. My best day was the 24th with 4,147 words. I had 5 days with 0 words.

Now let's take a look at the last week and see how my WIPs are doing.

The last week did not go at all well writing wise. I spent three days with my cousins and then went into a writing depression all day yesterday that I couldn't seem to get out of. I'm in one of those 'my work is crap, why am I even bothering?' moods. My best day was Wednesday with 3,046 words and my worst were Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Destiny:
Last week's count: Polished at chapter 7 and 62,000 words
This week's count: Polished at chapter 7 and 65,000 words

I'm almost done, but every time I look at the outline and realize how much I have left to go I start dragging. This is the one my depression is worst over. It just isn't flowing like it used to and now that I'm past my deadline I can't seem to find any motivation to continue. At this point it could be another week or two before it's done. The good news is my beta came back yesterday and sent me chapter 8. I went through it and now it just needs a final polish.

There's been no change on any of my other WIPs. AW and NK are currently at risk of being trunked and I've been itching to work on Jump, but I wanted to finish Destiny first. I'm thinking about letting myself loose on Jump and seeing if that helps Destiny's writers' block much.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Beta Readers Part Five: You've Got Mail

OMG guys! Spent the weekend with my cousins and ended up staying an extra day than originally planned. I just now remembered (five minutes before midnight, probably not going to make it) that I haven't done my Monday blog post yet. My time clock is way off; I keep thinking it's still Sunday. Probably not going to be a Teaser Tuesday this week. :( I can't figure out anything that I can post. Okay if I think of something cool, maybe I'll post it.

Discoveries of the weekend:

  1. Three days with cousins = three days with no writing
  2. Coffee is good
  3. McDonald's coffee is not
  4. I'm pretty good at the guitar in Rock Band
  5. My mom can be irritating
  6. Knowing is a good movie, but very...strange. Just mentioning the ending makes my mom give me a long lecture.
  7. 50 First Dates is the cutest movie I've ever seen.
  8. Disadvantage of ordering books from the bookstore = it takes them forever to get here. (Handcuffs still hasn't come. You'll know when it has.)
  9. 1 pm is now my new record for sleeping in. Even though I woke up several times, I still think it should count.
Well, now that the clock says it's midnight and it's officially Tuesday, I'm going to answer a few questions from last week's post before I start this week's.

Has anyone ever asked you to sign an agreement before doing work?

Never. I'm not really sure that's even possible unless you know the beta reader personally because then you'd have to mail them the agreement, have them sign it, and then someone would have to pay for it to be mailed back, all before the work could begin. I can understand where someone would want one, but a lot of the time I don't even know the real name of my beta readers.

How many readers do YOU have?

It varies and I'm still trying to find a good system that works for me. Destiny's had...six. The first was a total mistake (sent out Destiny's very first draft. I'm ashamed now that anyone had to endure my 100,000 words of suck.) Joined AW, ran Destiny through a couple edits, and sent it out to three more beta readers. I wish I could remember exactly who they were because I have a few questions for them. Right before my first query round, I had my fourth beta. She was great and part of the reason why I made the decision to rewrite the whole thing. The last two are still reading the new draft. Well actually there are three reading the new draft so I guess that makes seven. (One reason not to have too many betas = you can't remember who they all were.) Shipwrecked was sent out to three betas at the same time and that seems to be a pretty common method that works well.

Who would you recommend?

I can't actually recommend anyone. Mostly because the people that come to mind are all busy at the moment... All my beta readers for right now come from TWFT and OPWFT (two threads in the YA section of absolutewrite), but I've been hanging out with them for weeks now so I think I know them and their writing style pretty well. If they're all busy, then I got to the beta readers section of the forum and look for someone that might be interested.

Now let's move on to the last part of our series. An email from your beta sits in the inbox. You pause with your cursor over it and take a deep breath. You consider procrastinating, reassure yourself that it's going to be fine, and click.

There are the comments waiting for you. Hopefully they're in the correct format and ready for you to read.

Begin by reading through all of them. Try not to take any criticism to heart. I know that's hard (trust me, I really do), but they're criticizing your book and not you. You may have poured your heart and soul into the book, but it's not perfect. It never will be perfect, but it should be the best that you can possibly make it and that means getting it out there to a fresh pair of eyes.

Remember that you don't have to use all the comments. Read through them all and use what you may, but keep them all in mind. If you have more than one beta reader that has the manuscript at a time, don't make any major changes yet, especially if you aren't sure. This is why you have more than one. Because while one reader might hate the ending, another might love it. It's all subjective so compare opinions before making major adjustments.

Feel free to ask any questions. If there's anything in particular you want to know if your beta reader likes/dislikes/was confused by/etc, then ask about it. We don't mind answering questions. Well, most of us anyway. :D

And last, but certainly not least, THANK. YOUR. BETA. READER. Even if what they said wasn't what you wanted to hear. Don't challenge your beta reader's opinion. If you don't want to take their advice, then don't. But there is a shortage of honest beta readers in the world and the number is getting smaller because some of them get fed up with readers that can't take the honesty. I know, I've met one that quit for this reason. I know that if your reading this blog you probably aren't like that, but I'll say it anyway. Imagine reading a 300 page novel, giving up hours of your time to help someone else, and never hearing from them again. Happens to me all the time and sometimes I wonder if the writer even got my reply or if it's lost in cyberspace somewhere.

And that's the end of my Beta Readers series. Next week we'll look at the other side of the coin and I'll give some advice for being a beta reader. And it's 12:30. Didn't make it in time, but better late that never I guess.