Tuesday, December 20, 2011

All It Takes Is One Yes

As writers, we've heard this saying many times--at least I have. Those words kept me going, especially during the times that I wanted to hurl my manuscript at the wall, or chuck it entirely, in order to finally start that epic vampire space monkey series. Luckily, we unpublished writers tend to be a persistent bunch. We keep going and persevere despite the brutal work hours, non-existent pay, and lack of a 401(k). Our love of writing and the amazing support from fellow writers power us through the ups and downs of this crazy business.

"All it takes is one yes," is true, and sometimes that yes turns into more than one yes, and your world turns upside down in the span of twenty-four hours, and it feels like it's all happening so fast, when in reality, it wasn't fast at all. It was years--years of blood, sweat, tears, and words. Drafted words. Edited words. Revised words. Deleted words. So remind yourself of this phrase as often as necessary. Keep working, keep writing, and keep revising, and most importantly, "Never give up!" You'll never get that "yes" if you quit.

I will kick off 2012 with my official "How I Got My Agent" story, and my awesome agent will be doing a Q & A on the blog as well. My blog Sisters have some exciting things brewing as well, and I can't wait for them to share with you. We here at Sisters in Scribe will be taking a brief holiday break from now until after the New Year. We wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and an amazing 2012! :) 


Monday, December 19, 2011

Contest Monday featuring an agent-judged contest and book giveaways

Krista V. over at Mother. Write. Repeat. is hosting An Agent's Inbox Contest TODAY (12/19)!. You submit your query and first 250 words which will be evaluated by an agent. That agent will pick the winners (and prizes) the following week. Your manuscript must be complete and polished in order to enter. Accepted genres are listed in the rules, but YA is one of them. Good luck! 

The PageTurners Blog is giving away prizes to 9, yes 9, winners. The prizes feature the "best I've read in 2011" and include City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, to name just a few. Click here for the details, and enter by Dec. 23.

Happy Monday!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab

Happy Friday! Our book recommendation this week is THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab:

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.
But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget.

Kristi's take: I love a good, creepy ghost story all on its own, but this one also involves witches. Ghosts and witches together? Um, yes please. I personally don't think you could have a more perfect combo, so I was hooked on the premise alone but the author's writing is what brought it all home--it's lyrical, haunting, and gorgeous. This was reminiscent of the stories we used to tell each other in my neighborhood when I was a child (often when trying to out-scare each other). The setting in this book was so richly imagined that it felt like a character in itself, and don't get me started on the wind--let's just say I'll never hear wind the same way again. If you haven't read this one yet, I highly recommend it!    

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I had the best of intentions, I really did. I started out strong and racked up 17K words in a week. Yeah, it pretty much ended there. However, despite the fact that NaNo was a bust, I'm not considering the month a failure because a) thanks to the magic of Scrivener (yes, I devoted a whole post to this wonder program) I have the entire book outlined and b) I worked really hard the rest of the month on a different ms. I'd say the detour worked out okay in the end, as December was officially the best writing-related month of my life so far. Details are forthcoming, but suffice it to say that I'm still pinching myself.

So for those of you who finished NaNo this year, you rock! 50K in a month is a huge commitment. And for those who tried, but feel bad because you 'only' got 20K or 30K written, you rock too! That's 20,000 more words than you had in October. Goals are fun, but make sure you're having fun in the process.

How many of you did NaNo and finished this year? How many tried but didn't quite hit 50K? How many of you decided that no way in hell would you attempt such craziness?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Book Rec - THE SPACE BETWEEN by Brenna Yovanoff

This week I'm recommending THE SPACE BETWEEN by Brenna Yovanoff. Look at this gorgeous cover. It's reason enough to rec it but what makes this book so awesome is that it's just as gorgeous on the inside as it is out.

The Blurb:
Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped - and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.

This second novel by rising star Brenna Yovanoff is a story of identity, discovery, and a troubled love between two people struggling to find their place both in our world and theirs.

Why you should read this book: This book is gorgeous. Every part of it. From the cover, to the prose, to the world it's set in. (Seriously, as odd as it sounds, this book made me want to visit hell, well, Pandemonium, maybe not the rest.) Brenna has a way of making the fantastical so real that after reading the book you're sure you've been there and seen those things for yourself.

Daphne and the world she comes from are fascinating. Both she and Truman (the boy in the blurb) are relatable, and realistic despite all the ways they maybe shouldn't be. This is a story about love and hope and loss and finding yourself and so many other things.

Even if you're not into paranormal I think you will still love this book. It's one of those that will stick with me for a long time. Add it to your Christmas list while there's still time!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Nonfiction in Fiction

Most of the time, though not always, people tend to write either non-fiction or fiction. Every week in my local paper, there are "top ten" lists separating books by these two categories. However, I'm always amazed at how much research goes into writing fiction. Have you ever read a really great historical fiction novel and been in awe of how much they had to learn about the time period before they wrote the book? I've read author interviews where they spent years--years--researching before the actual writing part took place.

As a total research and science nerd who geeks out over NatGeo and the Discovery channel, I loved doing research for my book. I had some great conversations with professors at a respected astrophysics department and learned a ton. One of them told me I inspired him to write a new question on his graduate student exam. The great part about using non-fiction in fiction is that you can get creative in how you implement it. You have more leeway than you do with non-fiction, plus the obvious--you can't have vampire space monkeys in non-fiction and they're plain fun.

What about you? Did you enjoy the research part of your book? Anyone who has written non-fiction and fiction?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: WITHER by Lauren DeStefano

I've been lucky to read some great books lately. I'm currently in the midst of another great read that I'll recommend shortly, but my recommendation for this week is: WITHER by Lauren DeStefano. It's the first in the Chemical Garden trilogy and I can't wait to read the next one.

From Goodreads:
Obviously, something went terribly wrong. Genetic mutations have festered, reducing human longevity to twenty-five, even less for most women. To prevent extinction, young girls are kidnapped, mated in polygamous marriages with men eager to procreate. Sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery, a recent victim of this breeding farm mentality, has vowed to break loose from its fetters; but finding allies and a safe way out is a challenge she can only hope she will survive. 

Kristi's take: If you love dystopian and strong female MC's as much as I do, you'll love this book. I don't want to give anything else away, but seriously--it's a must read.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Building Secondary Characters

Valerie had a great post yesterday about people and their many layers. It got me thinking (see how awesome it is to have great crit partners?) about my secondary characters. Do they really have all those layers? In my head, sure, but am I showing that on paper? **See Kristi's post on Being a Visual Writer** 

My protagonist and her love interest, even her parents have all these layers. They see themselves one way, but are perceived differently by others, they have different mannerism, great motivation for their actions, even though the reader doesn't fully see it right away. But what about the best friend? The boy who wants the girl, but surely won't get her? Why does the cop do what he does? I mean, what's in it for him?

Every character is important. If they aren't, they probably shouldn't be in your story. Even if your reader never reads about why this minor character finally decided to come forward and admit that he's a cyborg, they need to feel that motivation. See it in his actions, even if your protag doesn't. Truck loads of backstory don't belong in your manuscript, but you should know every detail. Some authors even suggest that you sit down and interview every character. Ask them questions both big and small and see what they say. It'll give you a better understanding of who they are, why they do what they do, and that will reflect in your writing. If you don't know these people, they'll feel like paper to your readers. But you already knew that because you're awesome. ;)

Now. Back to adding those layers.

On a side note, I want to wish my agency sister Miranda Kenneally a very happy book birthday! Her debut novel CATCHING JORDAN hits shelves today! *confetti*

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

People Have Layers

For the last few holiday seasons I've worked at a book store. One of the things we do every year is a book drive for area children. Our goal is massive, around 400 books. In order to meet this goal, the store has a simple, but effective strategy. Ask EVERYONE. Even if they're frowning, even if they only bought a .50 newspaper, even if they're in a rush, even if they've said "no" to everything else you've asked them.

As a somewhat why person, this took some getting used to, but once I did, I noticed something fascinating. You never know who's going to say yes. Mr. Crankypants might just stop in the middle of his rant about rising costs, blink at you a few times and say "Sure." The sweet grandmother with the kind eyes might scowl at you and act offended you had the nerve to ask.

This is something I keep in mind when developing my characters, and writing my scenes. People have layers. There are all sorts of tiny things that affect them from moment to moment. What they show on their face or their body language might not be a true indicator of who they are or what they're thinking. They might be frowning because they can't remember a lyric to their favorite song, with no idea that they look angry. They might've just found out their kid got arrested while shopping for his expensive present.

So I try to make sure I have little moments like this in my book. Scenes where a character is thinking one thing but showing another, scenes where a character is completely misjudged or misinterpreted, because that's real, and I think it's always interesting to see the difference between the way a person is perceived, and the way they perceive themselves.

What about you, do you have any little tricks or reminders like this when you write?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Problem of Being a Visual Writer

I literally dream my book ideas. They play out like movies in my head while I sleep--vivid, engaging movies that makes me say "Whoa, cool," when I awake (because I can't speak more than two words until I've had coffee). The problem comes when I try to translate said dreams onto paper (er, laptop).

I tend to write more like a screenwriter. I hear the sounds happening around the scene and see the exact spot where the light filters through the trees, just like in the dream. I have the picture so clear in my head that I don't always feel the need to translate it, as though my reader should be psychic. A beta reader will make a comment about something they didn't understand, and I'm like "Well, clearly the intergalactic space station is perpendicular to the planet, which is why the three suns rise in the formation of a isosceles triangle." Okay, it's not that bad but you get the point.

Then, I came across this great article by Patricia Wrede. She talks about how writing a scene is different than filming it, and though you can never make it read the way it would be filmed, you can have an enormous impact by how you write it. It's something I'm still working on, and I found this article really helpful.

Has anyone read this article? Anyone else out there a visual writer?   

Monday, November 28, 2011

Contest Cyber Monday

We hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving break! Can you believe it's almost December already?

UNTREACABLE by Shelli Johannes-Wells releases at midnight tonight!!!! YAY, Shelli! If you're not familiar with Shelli, her blog Market My Words is an excellent resource for writers. I recommend you check it out. To celebrate the release of her book, Shelli is hosting a "Launch with Love" celebration at her blog. She's giving away a slew of different prizes, including books and a critique session! Ends Tuesday Nov. 29th at 11:59pm.

Casey and Natalie at Literary Rambles has a great interview with Scott Tracey, and a copy of his book WITCH EYES to give away! Ends Midnight Dec. 10th. They have a lot of interviews and giveaways coming up on the Literary Rambles blog, so keep checking!

As always, if you have a contest to share, please link us in the comments! Also, great Cyber Monday deals on books and bookish things are also appreciated. ;)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

In honor of Thanksgiving, the Sisters in Scribe are taking the week off to enjoy time with family and friends. We hope everyone has a wonderful and relaxing holiday weekend! See you next week. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Awesome NaNo Poem by Jacqui Robbins

Those of you who are my Facebook friends know I've dealt with a plague upon my household this week. High fevers, aching body parts, and severe croup have afflicted us, and as of tonight, no one in my family was left untouched. Needless to say, I have not met my NaNo weekly word count quota--but I have met my lifetime quota of 3am steam showers with the kiddos. I shuddered when I hopped on Twitter and saw the flurry of #1Kin1hr hashtags. If someone had started a #1Win1hr, I might have succeeded. Maybe.  

But I'm back in the swing of things today, and am once again plugging away at my ms. I came across the best NaNo poem today while reading Jill Corcoran's blog. The poem is titled Working is in Progress by Jacqui Robbins from her blog, Jacqui's Room. It only takes a minute to read, so you can get inspired and then get back to your novel. I'm going to type quickly (maybe even #1Kin1hr), because I probably don't have much time before the next steam shower.

Happy NaNo'ing!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Contest Monday featuring Regal Literary

Literary Rambles pointed me to a fabulous Winter Book Giveaway by Regal Literary. They are giving away some great books, including Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger which I've been dying to read. Enter through the end of November.

Anna Staniszewski is hosting an August/September debut giveaway. Enter to win one of several incredible books by 2011 debut authors. A few of these, which are already on my TBR list, include The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Check out the link for other great titles and enter by Nov. 28th.

Good luck, and happy Monday!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Dark In Here

I am deep in the bellows of my revision cave. Really, I'm sitting at the kitchen table staring at the breakfast dishes and willing them to wash themselves. But you know what I mean.

Because my brain is spent, today I am just going to pass along a blog post by Anita Nolan, on revising your manuscript, that my dear friend Rebecca Sutton shared with me. Enjoy.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNoWriMo Incentive and Inspiration

As we move into the second week of NaNoWriMo I thought I'd share a couple of great posts I've read recently that talk about persevering far better than I can.

The first comes from Chuck Wendig and his Terrible Minds blog. I like to think of it as incentive. You know, yes I can so finish my book!(Please note there is a fair bit of swearing in the post, so if that's not your thing, you've been warned.)

25 Reasons You Won't Finish That Story

Number 18 is one that is usually true for me.
18. Haven’t Answered Any Of The Critical Questions

Ask yourself: what is this about? Why am I writing this? Why will anyone care? Asking yourself some fundamental questions before you write — plus several others while you write — can help keep your nose to the grindstone and allow you to feel settled in both direction and purpose.

Also check out his list of those questions. He's got some really great ones.

The second is totally inspirational. It's about sticking with it when you've got that horrible feeling that you have completely failed at writing the book you wanted to write. It's a great guest post by Sara Zarr on Nova Ren Suma's blog:

What Inspires Sara Zarr

I bet you can't guess what it is. Failure. Yep. Go read why. If you've been feeling stuck, you'll be inspired to keep going, I swear.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How is the NaNo'ing Going?

It's less than a week into NaNo, and I'm already realizing what a LONG month November is going to be. I'm just shy of 14,000 words, so the word count is going well, but two thousand words per day is a big commitment. Also, did the people who thought up NaNoWriMo realize that Thanksgiving is sort of a major holiday? I'm trying to get ahead because I know how crazy my Thanksgiving week will be, not to mention the baby shower I'm hosting for a truckload of ladies next week. How do other people plan their NaNo writing around life events? Any tips that don't involve getting up at 4am, or ingesting large quantities of methamphetamines would be greatly appreciated.  

On the plus side, this is the first time I've used Scrivener to plan out and write a novel, and that has helped a ton. Things seem to be flowing better than in previous novels, and having a beat sheet has kept me on track with where I want to go next. Being a former pantster, I thought outlining would stifle my creativity but I'm actually having a blast with this book. I've also had time to shower this week--several times--and even cook a few meals, so my family is on board with my holding a laptop at all other times of the day.

How about other NaNo'ers out there? How's it going? How are you staying motivated? Anyone else scouring their kids' Halloween baskets for writing fuel?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

  • I recommended this one a while back, but I haven't had much time for reading anything new, so I thought I'd give a favorite a bump. 
  • ***
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile (March 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067001110X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670011100
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Get it on Amazon here

  • Buy Indie
"Dead girl walking," the boys say in the halls.
"Tell us your secret," the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend's restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.


“We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us in to wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.” WINTERGIRLS, page 99

WINTERGIRLS beautiful, inside and out. The hardcover is gorgeous (and I do recommend you get it in hardcover, it's one of those). The metaphors that Anderson uses are so vivid and strong, you can't help but read passages like the above over and over. I highly recommend this book to any and everyone. It's one of those that should not be missed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's NaNoWriMo Time

Today, November 1st, is the official start day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). If you're in need of some great tips and free downloads of things like blank beat sheets, check out the NaNoWriMo posts over at Storyfix.com. Even if you think you know what you're doing, the story-planning advice there is well worth going over. I laid out my entire novel for the month ahead of time, and used many of those posts for guidance.

For those of you NaNo'ing along with me, I wish you the best of luck--it's an exhausting, yet satisfying endeavor. My goal for this year is to make my first draft tighter than in previous years, so that I'm not spending another six months in revisions. It's good to have goals, right? Try to have fun with it, and use a NaNo buddy to keep yourself accountable. Now stop reading and get to writing!

How many others are NaNo'ing this year? If you've done it before, are you approaching it differently this time?  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Contest Monday! Happy Halloween!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I assume most of you aren't in a sugar coma yet, so here are a few Halloween(ish) giveaways I found around the blogosphere. 

Our sister Valerie is having TWO giveaways this week! Check out her blog (click the links) to see enter to win the fun middle grade novel THE WHITE ASSASSIN by Hilary Wagner AND the latest House of Night book DESTINED by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast! Both contests end Thursday, November 3rd.

To celebrate all she's thankful for, Beth Revis is giving away 19 signed books to one lucky winner! Details.

Young Adult Books blog is giving away 5 copies of the YA paranormal, THE MEPHISTO COVENANT. Ends Nov. 11th. Details.

Bells has a great interview with author Shona Husk, and she is giving away 2 copies of Shona's adult book THE GOBLIN KING. Ends Nov. 7th. Details.

Today is the last day to enter to win this awesome "witchy-boo" charm bracelet at On The Broomstick.

Play this fun Halloween quiz and be entered to win a signed copy of MONSTERS in the MOVIES.

Hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween! And if you have any contests or giveaway, seasonal or not, please share them in the comments! 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Book Rec: THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

From Goodreads:
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Why you should read this book: Well, first of all, it's written by Maggie Stiefvater, and if you've read anything by her, you know this book will be amazing. I had the opportunity to read this book several months ago, and I still can't get it out of my brain. It's gorgeous, moving, exciting, and not like anything else out there right now. Really. THE SCORPIO RACES belongs in a category all to itself. It's just a fabulous read. Just read it. You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My NaNoWriMo Necessities

It's almost that time again, can you believe it? NaNoWriMo starts November first. And after taking last year off, I've decided I have a goal I want to meet, and NaNo is going to help me do it. I'm just getting started with my prepping (well, sort of), so I thought I'd share my process.

Here's what I personally need in order to have a successful NaNoWriMo experience:

- A Notebook (I like Mead 5-star college ruled, because I'm particular like that.)
- SCRIVENER (They have a 30 day free trial! Perfect for NaNo.)
- Write Or Die (I have the desktop edition, but you can also use it for free online.)
- A set block of writing time each day.

And of course, none of this is even remotely helpful without an idea. Which I have.

So, how do I use these things? I've found that NaNo only works for me when I know exactly what I'm writing. (And by "exactly" I mean, I know what my story is about, the basic plot, and usually the beginning and end - all of which may change once I actually start writing.)

I am not an outliner, but what I do is in the months leading up to NaNo, I fill a notebook with plot ideas, scene ideas, and character info. It's a lot of rambling, but it is SO helpful. And I find that handwriting this, rather than typing it, helps in a couple of ways. One, it feels very free. I'm just playing around. I'm not officially attempting to write a book, which is of course, scary, and difficult. Two, I find that when hand writing, I remember things better, and I tend to sort of ask and answer questions, which helps to flesh out my idea.

Once I've done that, if there's still space in that notebook, I write down a brief description of every scene I know is going to go into the book. If there's not room, I start with a brand new one, because brand new notebooks make me happy. I use this list as my jumping off point for NaNo. I find that if I have a chunk of things that I know I'm going to write, it feels much less scary getting started. Usually these scenes skip over many events I haven't figured out yet and sitting down to write them helps me figure out the rest. (Once I'm on a roll though, I try to save any pre-planned scenes for those days when I feel like I can't possibly write at all.) Also, I find it satisfying to open up that notebook each day and see whch scenes I've already written, and how far I've come. When I get new scene ideas I will also jot them down in the notebook just so that I have them and can cross them off when they're written.

And that means that yes, I'm one of those crazy people that sometimes writes out of order. This is where Scrivener comes in! With Scrivener I can organize as I go. I make each scene I write a separate file in Scrivener which makes dragging them around in index card mode (or just regular binder view) very simple. I also make notes on each scene in the "Documents Notes" section that let me know what information I haven't figured out yet, or what effect this scene has on what I've already written.

So how do I get those scenes written? I like Write Or Die. (Write Or Die is a writing app that you type in. It counts your words and prompts you with flashing colors and awful sounds, and even deleting your text if you're brave enough to use kamikaze, whenever you stop typing and start staring into space.) I usually set it at 40 minutes and 1000 words on "Normal". I find if I have a general idea of the scene I'm writing, I can keep writing all the way through, and often I will go over the 1k, or I will write more than one scene to reach that 1k with time to spare. When I'm less certain about what I'm writing, I'll do 500 words and 20-25 minutes. The prompting from Write Or Die is usually enough to kick me back into writing. I find that I can get more done by not stopping and trying to find the absolute perfect word. And a lot of times I discover that by having to write something, I end up figuring things out I would've spent hours pondering.

And that brings me to my final necessity. Time. I have to set up a specific time each day where I do this writing. I like first thing in the morning. I will sit down at the computer with my coffee, and my ideas fresh from sleep and just type those 1666 words until I'm done. I don't go over what I wrote the day before first, although usually I'll wake up with thoughts on what to do next fresh on my mind. And I find if I address those first, I'm more focused than if I've checked my email, and read blogs, and seen what's going on on twitter. I'm not normally this disciplined, but it's something about the idea that it's just for one month, that allows me to do this.

And that's my approach to NaNoWriMo. How do you NaNo? Do you find it easier to focus during that month than other times of the year?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Retreat Rehash

I think I've finally recovered from my exhausting, amazing, and inspiring week in Breckenridge at the Writing Away Retreat hosted by this fab lady: CICILY JANUS
(NOTE: All photos in this post were taken by the lovely and talented Maureen Benes, a fellow writer at the retreat who knows her way around a camera way better than I do). Here's the link to more of her beautiful photography.

Cicily and Sue Ellen cooked their way through the whole week, and I haven't eaten that well in a really long time. After having amazing meals prepared for 5 1/2 days, it was really hard to get my butt back in the kitchen when I got home.  

This was the view from our front porch, and it was even better when we went hiking in the mountains:

And this was the last of the beverages on the final day of the retreat....

 The wine, vodka, rum, etc. were long gone at this point. CONFESSION: my roommate and I alone finished a case of Diet Pepsi--cuz we're wild and crazy like that.

The writing time was incredible. Those of you with jobs, kids, etc. can understand the joy of uninterrupted writing time. Aside from the occasional (okay, frequent) Diet Pepsi run, I wrote all day long. The 1:1's with staff were more helpful than any conference I've ever attended. Seriously. It was more than worth the money just to have those critique sessions. Plus, they were a captive audience as we all shared the same house. They were always happy to answer questions about the publishing industry or just talk about life, kids, etc. I couldn't have picked more amazing editors to spend my week with than Abby Ranger, Kevin Doughten, and Katie Gilligan. Also, don't tell anyone, but Kevin can sing (and dance).  

I have so many great memories: karaoke night, Maritess' magic show, Folio agent Scott Hoffman's rendition of Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive", Lee Ann's Southern-tinged stories, laughing with my roommate until 5am when we finally fell asleep, and Chris' amazing take on "Kiss" by Prince. Also, did I mention the hot tub? My first night there, the moon was full and we watched the snow-capped mountain peaks glow from the hot tub. The hot tub was a relaxing way to end the day, and my roommate and partner-in-crime, Sue, spent a lot of time there with me...I'm still waiting for that meteor shower.

Overall, bonding with other writers was the highlight of my week. It was a truly magical experience, and I'm already saving up for next time. If you've ever considered a retreat, I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--BLISS by Lauren Myracle

I'd already planned on recommending this one by Lauren Myracle in October because it makes for a good creepy, Halloween read:

As I was basically was under a rock for the past week (e.g. no internet), I didn't hear all the kerfluffle over her book SHINE until yesterday. The fact that she handled the incident with such grace and professionalism makes me want to recommend any book of hers even more. I plan on reading SHINE ASAP, and hope you enjoy BLISS as much as I did.

From Goodreads:
Lauren Myracle brings her keen understanding of teen dynamics to a hypnotic horror story of twisted friendship:
When Bliss’s hippie parents leave the commune and dump her at the home of her aloof grandmother in a tony Atlanta neighborhood, it’s like being set down on an alien planet. The only guide naïve Bliss has to her new environment is what she’s seen on The Andy Griffith Show. But Mayberry is poor preparation for Crestview Academy, an elite school where the tensions of the present and the dark secrets of the past threaten to simmer into violence. Openhearted, naïve Bliss is happy to be friends with anyone. That’s not the way it has ever worked at Crestview, and soon Bliss is at the center of a struggle for power between three girls—two living and one long dead.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I *Heart* School.

My Tiny Human started school in September this year. She and I went from being together 24/7 for all four years of her life, to being apart for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Now. This is where I could tell you that I cried the day I dropped her off and I've missed her and she had terrible separation anxiety. But I'd be lying.

It is GREAT! She loves school, her teacher is fantastic, and I have 6 hours to exercise, write, read, whatever I need to do. I told myself that my revisions would be done so fast and my house would never be cleaner, but yeah, that hasn't really happened. Still, this extra quiet time has done wonders for my mental health (and physical health, since I've had time to exercise).

But the downside to having school aged children, is remembering all the special dates. Good golly. And I volunteer for things, so I need to remember those dates, times and places as well. Oy!

I've been asked to come in and do a school visit next week with her class and talk about writing, so I will definitely let you know how that goes!

Anybody else with Tiny Humans that started school this year? how are you spending that time? Writing, I hope!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Staying Focused?

So I've been going through some house drama. My bathroom essentially fell apart while I was in Amsterdam and since then I've had it ripped apart, my house filled with potentially hazardous dust, and have not been able to stay there. FOR THE LAST MONTH. It is extremely frustrating. Especially since where I've been staying doesn't have wi-fi and my macbook won't connect to the modem using the wire. Which means I have to go to my house, and attempt to accomplish things online while workers are stomping through my house, making all kinds of noise and I'm choking on dust. It is... not fun.

Top it off with the fact that I had a pretty important deadline looming, and my nights were filled with anxiety dreams of floods and toxic mold. It's been difficult, and I know my writing has suffered from it. I've been trying all kinds of things to help me focus, such as focus brainwave audio, which is basically the sound of waves crashing on the shore while underneath it tones that stimulates gamma or alpha waves play. I have to say that I was surprised that they sort of seemed to work. I don't know if it was just the fact that it was white noise, or if the brainwave thing was actually happening, but I did find myself able to focus more despite what was going on around me.

What kinds of things do you do to stay focused? I am sort of desperate for more tips. I tried the library, but they don't really have any "quiet" spaces there (plus they're doing construction, hello!) and I'm not so good in coffee shops where there's so much going on. Is there anything special that works for you?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Retreat Fatigue

Next week, I'll be posting all the details (and hopefully pics) of the best writing-related thing I've done in my life. Due to averaging 4 hours of sleep for the past 5 nights, then being snowed in at the retreat yesterday and getting home later than expected, I'm way too tired to write coherently at the moment. I can say that the other writers and editors/agents I spent 6 days with are some of the coolest people in the universe. If you ever get the chance to go to a retreat, I highly recommend this one, hosted by Cicily Janus. Okay, off to drink more coffee and/or try to talk my kids into playing Sleeping Beauty--I can sleep while they try to wake "the princess." Think it will work? 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Second Draft = First Draft - 10%

This is a formula learned by Stephen King back in his early years of multiple (multiple!) rejection slips. Like Mr. King, I find my writing style to be the opposite. I write a fast paced, skimpy first draft, and then add the meat later. But I'm just now figuring out what that really means.

I'd worry about themes, and character arcs and motivations, all of the things a good writer should be worried about. But I'm realizing now that I think I worried about them at the wrong time. I don't outline. I don't plot my first draft. I can't. I've tried, and it kills my creativity. Just...*bang*. Dead. I start with something--a situation, a character, a first line--and I go with the flow from there. Granted, I would probably save myself some revision time if I thought ahead, but that's just not how I work. I'm noticing now as I'm on draft # (I care not to mention the number) that I DO have themes! Or at least, snipits of things that I can make resonate, things I can flesh out and bring to the foreground and make thematic! OMG! And I have symbolism! What!? For real. It's all there. And I didn't even try.

I wish I'd come to this revelation sooner, and had I finished this amazing book called On Writing a little sooner, I probably would have. But I'm not one to dwell on shoulda, coulda, woulda.

I'm not saying every story needs themes or symbolism nestled in there. I don't think they all do, but if you find it, go with it. Why not, right?

Another question we tend to stress over is the "what's it all about?". What was my book all about? What was I trying to say with it? Why did I spend so many hours hunched over my keyboard, forgetting to eat, or shower, or wear suitable clothing? This is another question best saved for draft #2, not the first draft. At least, in my case. I can't speak for the rest of you.

During the first draft stage, you might keep this one tucked away in the back of your mind, I try to. But I personally can't decide what I want to say until it's done. You don't want to sit down before you write and think to yourself, "Well, I'm just going to teach these kids that doing drugs is a bad idea." Because then your manuscript of going to reek of morality. And if you want to write an honest work of fiction, you don't want to do that. I mean, unless that the sort of book you want to write. I don't want to step on any toes or anything.

So that's basically it. Often bringing these things to light in what you've already written takes a great deal of cutting (killing those pretty little darlings) and moving, shaping, rewriting. But when you sit back and read what you've written, and it actually resembles a real story, it's so worth it.

Does anyone here follow this formula? Start of with a whopper and file it down to the good stuff? Please share!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Smart Chicks Kick It Tour Recap

Last week I went to the the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour at Schuler's Books in Lansing, Michigan. It was awesome. This was the biggest signing I've ever been to. There were 7 YA authors!

Kelley Armstrong
Melissa Marr
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Rachel Caine
Melissa De La Cruz
Simone Elkeles
Carrie Ryan

It was so much fun. They gave away tons of goodies, one lucky winner even won an ARC of Jennifer Lyn Barnes' new book Every Other Day! (I was SO jealous, that book looks awesome.)

They answered a ton of questions, some serious, about writing, and some fun, like which character of theirs would they have had a crush on in high school. (Okay, that was my question.)

We also learned lots of info that we're not supposed to share online, such as release dates of upcoming books, and new projects. (Wait til you see the cover of Jennifer Lynn Barnes' next Raised By Wolves book, Taken By Storm!)

One of the coolest things was seeing so many people (there were over 100 there) with massive bags of books to be signed. I could barely carry mine! (And yes, I got some signed for a very special giveaway I'll be doing soon!)

I love seeing YA authors and hearing them talk about their work and their books, but what I love even more about signings is seeing old friends and making new ones. Writing is so solitary, even with the internet, it's always great to see people in the flesh who are doing what you're doing, and understand what it is to love YA. I was especially excited to see Carrie Ryan, who I had not seen since we were snowed in in Branson back in February (and who is made of awesome). I also had a great time getting to know Kristi (The Story Siren).

Below are some pics from the event. I didn't get a picture this time, but I wanted to give a shout out to the very awesome DJ DeSmyter whose first book HUNTED was published by Pendrell Press this summer, and who is still in high school!

Me and the Smart Chicks Authors
(Simone Elkeles, Kelly Armstrong, Me, Carrie Ryan, Melissa De La Cruz, Rachel Caine, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Melissa Marr)

Signing stock.

Me and Carrie Ryan

Me and Kristi aka The Story Siren

Unfortunately (for you, not me) Michigan was the very last stop on the Smart Chicks tour this year. But they're considering possibly doing another one next year.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Internal versus External Motivation

No, I'm not talking about character arcs, which is an entire post in itself. I'm talking about your own motivations as a writer, be they external (e.g. editor deadlines) or internal (e.g. desire to hit the NYT Bestseller list). I've always responded really well to deadlines, whether self-imposed or other-imposed. I knew I needed to finish revising (okay, re-writing) the second half of my book for a writing retreat I'm attending this week. I finished yesterday with two days to spare, but as excited as I am about the retreat (my external deadline), that wasn't the only motivation behind my late nights this week. 

Last week, I mentioned my obsession with Shiny New Idea. I was so motivated to start it, but wouldn't let myself until I finished my "old" manuscript. Last night, I literally hit the "compile" button in Scrivener (coolest program EVER) for my old document, then opened up a new one and wrote the first chapter of SNI. The internal motivation to get my new idea on paper is what helped push me through the torture of a bazillionth revision (only a slight exaggeration) of my last ms. I get so geeked out over first drafts that I'm going to enjoy this time while it lasts...after all, I know that first revision is just around the corner.

What about you? Are you motivated more by external or internal factors?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Contest Monday: The Lazy Holiday Edition

Our Scribe Sister, Valerie, is giving away a copy of My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody at her blog! Ends Oct. 13th.

The early info for October's Secret Agent contest is up at the Authoress blog! This is not the call for submissions, that opens next Monday, October 17th. This is just the info, so get that manuscript ready!

And because today is a holiday (whether or not it really should be a holiday is totally debatable, but it is) I really don't have much else in the way of contests for you. Hopefully most of you are still snuggled up in your beds. I would be if my Tiny Human wasn't such an early riser.

Enjoy your day off! But not too much. You have work to do.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Living In The Now

I'm in one of those moods this morning--the sun is shining, the air is crisp, there's a crow out my window--where everything feels a bit euphoric, I suppose. And I've been thinking.

Don't be scared.

I've been thinking about life and creativity and spontaneity. In my last post, I mentioned I'd hit a wall and I asked you all for advice on how to jump over it, or smash through it. You offered great suggestions! But for some reason they weren't working for me this time. This time, I was allowing non-creative thoughts to consume my mind, especially when I sat down in the quiet to write.

I'll skip the long story on how I came to this realization, and get right to it. Most people replay the same thoughts over and over in our minds (total "bag-lady moment", as Dean Winchester might say). Rarely do we stop thinking and just enjoy what we're doing in that moment. Think about something you really like to do, like read a book, watch a movie, or listen to music, or for most of us, write. When you're doing that thing, you're immersed in it. You're not thinking about anything but that thing you're doing, right now.

Unfortunately, when we're down to draft #25 or so, really enjoying writing can be difficult.

I'm finding that creativity comes easier when I stop thinking those obsessive thoughts over and over, and just live in the moment no matter what that moment is. For example, I'm drinking a cup of coffee. I am enjoying that coffee and I'm not thinking about getting an oil change, or washing the dishes, or buying laundry soap. I'm just drinking coffee. I go for a walk, I listen to the birds and look at the trees and again, push those nagging thoughts and concerns aside.

Of course, we can't do that ALL the time. We'd all be a bunch of care-free vagrants (which is great, if you want to be that). But I think it's healthy to just let go and live in the now.

And now that I sound like a hippie, I'm going to go write.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fight Your Way Through

I love what Ira Glass has to say in this video about that feeling of disappointment we can sometimes get when the vision we have for our work is not what we manage to create, and how the only way to make it what we want is to fight our way through that disappointment, and keep on writing.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

This backs up something I truly believe, even as I struggle with it. And that's that if you can dream it, you can do it. If you can imagine a book, full of amazing plot twists, and gut-wrenching emotion, and all the things you love in a book, YOU CAN WRITE THAT BOOK. It might feel like you can't. It might feel scary, and hard, and impossible, but trust me. That book is already inside you. It's already written. You just have to sit down and spit it out.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When to Ignore Your Muse

You'd think it would be great to have a Shiny New Idea (SNI) fall into your lap, but it's not always a good thing. Don't get me wrong--I'm super excited about SNI and the hubby thinks it's a really cool premise. But...I haven't finished revising my current manuscript. The same ms I'm bringing to a writing retreat next week in order get feedback on it from editors/agents/etc. Yet the lure of this pretty, new thing is so tempting. I'm one of those writers who loves first drafts, and er, intensely dislikes tenth drafts. First drafts are fun for me, and all the drafts after it are more like work. I know some writers love the revision part of the process, and while I do love watching my book evolve and become better, I've discovered I have a slight problem with impatience.

I'm solving this problem by jotting down notes on SNI...and occasionally obsessing about it in the shower. But  for now it's back to work on revision number gazillion of my current ms. I guess there's something to be said for having motivation to finish it, so I can move on to the next thing.

Anyone else struggle with this issue, or does everyone love revisions more than I do?  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Contest Monday

Agent Mary Kole is giving away Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going on her blog today. Contest ends Wednesday, October 5th, so hurry over and enter!

Also, Miss Snark's First Victim is taking entrants for this year's BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION, she just posted the list of participating agents today, and it's VERY impressive! There are still two more chances to enter, the first is tomorrow, October 4th and the final is next Tuesday, October 11. Get all the details about the BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION on her blog. Good luck to those of you entering! Last year was a great success and ended with, I believe, three signings!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--Craft Edition SAVE THE CAT

As I'm in the midst of two YA's that I'm sure I'll be recommending to you, I thought I'd post a recent read on craft that I loved. SAVE THE CAT, written by screenwriter Blake Snyder, is about screenwriting but can easily be applied to books. As a former pantster, it even inspired me (along with Scrivener) to do some outlining before starting my new manuscript. He has tips on everything from loglines to scene breakdowns. It's an incredible book and I highly recommend it to all writers out there.

One of Hollywood's most successful spec screenwriters tells all in this fast, funny, and candid look inside the movie business. "Save the Cat" is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying - and saleable. This ultimate insider's guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who's proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat.

Anyone else read this? What did you think?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The No-Writing Funk

Lately I have had no motivation for writing. There. I admitted it. For the first time since I started writing, I feel like I have nothing to say. Nothing to create. Just...nothing.

This is a very bad feeling.

So today I ask you, how do you get yourself out of the no-writing funk? Does reading help? Do you force the words out of you? I've tried that and it just ends up with more cutting. I have a lot of things I'd like to blame for this lack of motivation/creative energy, but blaming things doesn't fix it! So what does?

Please have a magical answer for me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Smart Chicks Kick It In Michigan!

Michigan people! Have you heard? Next Tuesday, October 4th, the Smart Chicks Kick It tour is coming to Schuler's Books in Lansing (Towne Center)!

There will be an amazing lineup including Kelley Armstrong, author of the Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising trilogies, Melissa Marr, author of the bestselling Wicked Lovely series; Jennifer Lynn Barnes, author of seven young adult novels including Raised by Wolves; Rachel Caine, internationally bestselling author of over 30 books, including the Morganville Vampire series; Melissa De La Cruz, author of the bestselling Blue Bloods series; Simone Elkeles, author of the NYT-bestselling Perfect Chemistry series; and Carrie Ryan, author of the bestselling Forest of Hands and Teeth series.

Including signing their own books, they will also be celebrating the release of the new HarperTeen anthology Enthralled: Paranormal Diversions edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong, which features short stories by several of the authors on the tour. (And many more, like Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, Ally Condie, and Jeri Smith-Ready.)

The event starts at 6 pm, but you can get (FREE) tickets in advance over the phone or at the store to reserve your spot in the signing line. Get all the details HERE.

I'm going to be there, are you?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why Book Banning is Wrong

From classics like A Wrinkle in Time and Catcher in the Rye, to modern day works like Harry Potter and Twilight, there have been attempts to remove books that are considered inappropriate by some people. People who have decided the "not right for me" should really mean "not right for everyone."

I fully support someone's right to buy or not buy a certain book based on their preferences, but when people push their values onto others by saying certain books shouldn't be allowed on the shelves at all, it usually speaks to fear, ignorance, or a combination of the two. Just look at how many books with LGBT themes or characters end up on challenged/banned lists. I've heard statements like, "Well, it could lead young people to believe that [being gay] is an acceptable lifestyle." Seriously? All that demonstrates is a complete lack of understanding of human sexuality. 

As a parent, do I have the right to temporarily "ban" a certain book for my 7-yo if I feel he's not old enough for it yet? Absolutely. I'm his mom.  I also "ban" him from R and most PG-13 movies, despite the fact that most of his friends are allowed to see them (I tell him they'd be called PG-7 movies if they were meant for his age). But I allow him as much freedom as possible to choose his own books, because at some point, he'll be able to read whatever he wants. My job will be to keep the communication lines open when he has questions, and I realize that at some point his questions will involve deeper issues than how a fake tail was attached to a dolphin.

But all kids are different. What's right for my kid might be wrong for someone else's, and vice versa. Trying to control what all kids read based on my personal perspective would be extremely ego-centric on my part. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ego-centric folks out there, who cloak their book banning attempts under the guise of "trying to protect our children." I'd rather empower my children and give them all the knowledge they need to make their own informed decisions.

It's interesting that most of the books that have had the biggest impact me, books that made me think about them long after I read them, have been on these sort of lists at one time or another. Why is it that books that make you question things--or heaven forbid, make you think--are the dangerous ones? 

What about you? What is your favorite banned/challenged book of all-time? Mine is probably a tie between The Giver, and Go Ask Alice (which I read at a very young age BTW, and it had a tremendous positive influence on me. It was part of what motivated me to become a psychologist.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Contest Monday featuring Banned Books

There are some great giveaways going on in honor of Banned Books Week.

Lady Reader's Bookstuff is giving away several hardcover copies of The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith.

Jen at I Read Banned Books is giving away several banned books, including And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Crank by Ellen Hopkins, and David Inside Out by Lee Bantle.

Kathy at I am a Reader, Not a Writer is giving away the option of 1) a $10 Amazon gift card in order to purchase a banned/challenged book, 2) $10 for a banned or challenged book from the Book Depository or 3) a box of 20 books, some of which have been banned/challenged. Some of the Option 3 books include The Mockingbirds, Twenty Boy Summer, Compulsion, and The Hunger Games.

All contests end Oct. 1st.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Today's awesome book rec is DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth:

From Goodreads:
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

Kristi's take: This is one of those "unputdownable" books. I loved Tris' vulnerability and strength, and her relationship with Four was complex and fascinating. The plot is fast-paced and exciting, so much so that I easily read this in one sitting. Elements of this book reminded me of Ender's Game, Uglies, and even Harry Potter, but they were combined in a unique and totally fresh way. I'll definitely be reading the next one in this series.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Character Arcs

If you're not following Dear Editor you really should be. She takes all sorts of writing questions and answers them on her blog. Today she's got a great post on Character Arcs. I won't post everything she said, because you should check out her site yourself, but this really stuck out to me. About your MC:

"When he reaches The End, extract him from that last scene and drop him back onto Page 1. He should handle himself so well that you wouldn’t even have a story if this were the guy to really start it."

I thought this was a really great way of putting it. I'd never thought of it quite that way. But I can see this is an easy quick check to see if you've created growth in your character. Not the be-all end-all by any means, because of course every story is different and some characters might change in a way that still doesn't allow them to easily handle the problem, but you can still determine whether or not they would handle the situation differently. Because your character needs to have picked up some new skill, or way of thinking, or understanding that would allow them to take a different approach to the same problem.

I'm going to use this line of thought from now on when plotting. What about you, what do you do to ensure your character is growing an changing? Do you have a trick? Do you plot or outline or whatever you do with the character arc in mind?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An author's self-publishing journey featuring Rick Daley

I pride myself on being somewhat knowledgeable about many aspects of the publishing world, but confess to knowing almost zilch about self-publishing. I've noticed recently that several writers I know through blogs/etc. have chosen the self-publishing route and I was curious about their decision. I thought I'd pick the brain of one such person so they could share their thoughts about self-publishing. He has also graciously agreed to answer any reader questions in the comments, so ask away!

I first "met" Rick Daley through Nathan Bransford's blog, and those of you who know him already know how funny he is. When Rick contacted me to let me know about his book The Man in the Cinder Clouds, I was very excited for him and wanted to know more about his journey. His blog (link below) details his journey more comprehensively, so be sure to check that out and follow him after you read this. You can get Rick's book through Amazon here. This is the book:

this is Rick:

...and here is the interview:
1) Hi Rick. Thanks so much for talking to us today. Tell us what your book is about and the target audience/etc.

The Man in the Cinder Clouds is a must-read for anyone who has ever believed in Santa Claus.  Boys and girls ages 9-12 will relate to the characters especially well.  At 35,000 words—the story is just over 160 pages in print—it’s a quick read for an adult…something you can easily polish off in a night or two during the busy holiday season.  It’s also a great book to read with your kids. Here’s a short summary:

The freezing temperature is the only thing cool about Jason’s trip to the North Pole, but things heat up when his father discovers a book buried deep in the ice.  This is no ordinary book, mind you. For starters, it was written by an Elf. And if that’s not enough, the book proves the existence of Kris Kringle—you know, Santa Claus.  It’s a story you have to read to believe, and once you do Christmas will never be the same. 

Young Kris Kringle, orphaned as an infant, sets out on a quest to find his real family by bringing gifts to the children of Oldenton on Christmas.  There he finds two orphans who are about to lose everything they have to a greedy uncle.  With only days before Christmas, Kris must try to help the kids, deliver his presents, find his family, and prove that human virtue does exist…even in the most unexpected of human hearts.

2) What made you decide to self-publish your book?

Many things.  This was not a decision to take lightly.  Here were the key factors:

-         Speed to Market.  A traditional publisher would not be able to get my book on a shelf this year…in e-book or print.  I’d be very lucky if was available next year if I had gone the traditional route…more likely it would be 2013 before people could read it.  Now I have it in both formats, ready for Christmas 2011.
The Market Environment.  The traditional publishing industry is in a transitional period, and no one knows how long it will last or what will come next.  I don’t think it is dying, but it’s at a crossroads between old ways of doing things and new markets, and it’s deciding which way to go. While the traditional publishing industry considers its options, writers also have their own choices to evaluate.  Writers used to be at the mercy of the publisher, but self-publishing gives full control to the writer.  Not to mention higher revenue per book sold.  Now the trick is selling a lot of copies, something publishers have excelled at due to their large, coordinated sales forces.   But the times, they are a-changin…A few self-published authors (e.g. John Locke, Amanda Hocking) have generated envious sales volumes without the corporate sales and marketing machine.  With the rise of social networking, word-of-mouth is showing its true power in marketing. 

While the self-publishing market does still carry a general stigma of low-quality vanity projects, many readers are starting to realize that a good story can come from anywhere.  Self-publishing is better respected than it was two years ago, and will continue to evolve into a competitive vehicle for writers to consider for publishing.
-          My book.  I believe it’s a great book, and the story is very special to me.  I’ve been through extensive edits, critiques, and revisions and I think the story is as high a caliber as one you would find traditionally published.  It’s getting great reviews from adults and kids, and I am glad that people have the opportunity to enjoy the story this year for Christmas.

3) For those readers who have no idea about the process of self-publishing (like, ahem, me), what resources did you find most helpful for "learning the ropes."

I learned most by watching my peers who self-published before me.  I followed their blogs and read posts about the different stages in the process.  I bought copies of their books in print and Kindle to see the quality of the writing and the formatting / design of the finished book. 

I chose CreateSpace on a friend’s recommendation and I’m happy with their quality and service so far.  I’d love to test their high-load capacity ;-)

Consider your goals.  If you hope to sell a ton of books and you want to self-publish, it’s possible, but you must be prepared to take on the role of publisher and promoter, not just writer.  You are the sales and marketing department, the administration and finance department…basically the CEO of a start-up company.  You will need to set aside a budget for cover art, promotional copies, and marketing.  It will take time and money.  If you try to self-publish just because it’s fast and cheap the end result will reflect that. 

If you just want to see your book in print and make it available for your family and friends, please take the time to make it a quality product.  The worst book I’ve ever read was a self-published eBook (I read it several months back.  I won’t reveal the title, but it was an adult murder-mystery that was so bad it was almost, but not really, funny).  There is a stigma about self-published books being slushpile vanity projects, but the tides are turning, and there is opportunity for those who are willing to take it seriously and put the time and money into it.

4) What was the trickiest/most difficult part of the process for you, and how long did it take you to have a complete book?

I guess completing the book is the trickiest part.  Knowing when it’s done, and when changes aren’t making things better…just different.  The book took years to write, and you can read more about the story-behind-the-story here: http://mydaleyrant.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-path-to-publication-part-one.html

5) Is there anything you learned along the way that you'll do differently next time?

I am impatient.  I will always struggle to learn to take my time and not rush things.

6) What are you working on next, and do you plan to self-publish again?

I am currently outlining a sequel to The Man in the Cinder Clouds, and preparing to have illustrations made for my book Rudy Toot-Toot, a story about a little boy who was born on a bean farm and has a special power, almost like a super-hero: he can fart.  But after a monstrous emission scares all the customers away from the family bean market, Rudy must learn to use his…talent…in a special way to lure the customers back, otherwise the bank will take  away his home.

I plan to self-publish Rudy Toot-Toot, and the sequel to The Man in the Cinder Clouds, but after that, who knows?  I’m not opposed to traditional publishing.  I just think self-publishing is right for me and for these specific books.  Future books may have a different fate.

7) Do you think the trend towards electronic publishing helps those who want to self-publish?
Absolutely.  There are fewer headaches in e-books, particularly in delivery.  Create the file once, then people can download it instantly and begin reading.  It makes an author’s works more accessible, not to mention lower priced (without sacrificing any $$ in royalties).

The biggest thing writers need to be aware of is the quality of their final product.  If we are going to truly pass the hump of dis-approval for all books self-published, we the publishers need to police ourselves and ensure our work is competitive to the other books available on the market.

8) Random fun question: What's something about you that not many people know?

I kick butt at Sudoku.  It’s due to the way I make notes in the cells, it allows me to see patterns and set up a bunch of answers that fill in like dominoes once one number is found.  Maybe I should write a book about it!

Thanks, Rick!!! Please enter any questions for Rick in the comments.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Contest Monday With A Thank You Note

My Scribe Sisters and I would just like to say thank you to those of you who spread the word or bid on our crit auction at Read For Relief! You guys are seriously awesome, and to our super awesome auction winner, we can't wait to dive into your manuscript!

Thank you all!

Now, here's what's going on around the web:

Our very own Valerie is giving away a copy of DREAMLAND by Alyson Noel at her blog! Ends Sept 22nd.

The info is up for the September Secret Agent contest! This is such a fun contest and a great way to get honest feedback on your work (and really awesome things might happen if you win!). Definitely worth entering! Contest opens for entries TODAY Sept. 19th

Novel Novice is hosting a fab book giveaway! Two winners will each receive the LEVIATHAN trilogy by Scott Westerfeld! Ends today, Sept 19th, so get over there and enter!

And there you have it. If you've got any giveaways or contest to share, Mr. Linky wants your love.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Win A Crit From Us!

Once again, the writing community has come together to raise funds for the American Red Cross, this time to provide relief for Hurricane Irene victims. And Kristi, Valerie, and myself are happy to be a part of it!

Read for Relief opened the bidding  for a 30 page crit from EACH of us! That's three 30 page crits on your YA or MG manuscript! Come check out the auction website and browse the other items up for grabs, along with ours! Happy bidding and good luck!

Bidding closes at 10:00PM EST, Saturday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

This summer, I wanted to do something exciting. Something I'd never done before. So I decided, rather on the spur of the moment, to go to Amsterdam (The Netherlands) for a month. Alone. To explore and to write, and to see if I could.

And I'm so glad I did! I rented an apartment a bit outside the city center with a gorgeous rooftop terrace that, once it stopped raining, I sat outside on and wrote longhand. I had forgotten how much actually writing helps me think through things.

I also met up with the awesome Corinne Duyvis, YA writer and Amsterdam inhabitant. She showed me the city and we even got a chance to do some writing in a coffee shop (the kind that actually serves coffee). The coffee shop had this cute little cubby upstairs where you could sit, but you couldn't stand.


When I wasn't writing, I spent time just wandering around, and taking in the city. I don't think I could ever get tired of looking at the canals.

I had an amazing time. I didn't write the Great American Novel, but I did figure a lot of things out, explored ideas, and worked out a solid outline for a story I'm really excited to tell. I want to say thanks so much to my Sisters in Scribe for their patience while I was out of the country and not blogging. How about you? How did you spend your summer vacation?

Also, my short story THE LAST BEST DAY is up this week at Tangled Fiction!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Scrivener Heaven

I finally bought it for my Mac! I'll admit I'm not even halfway through the tutorial and have a lot o' learning to do before I'll feel comfortable with it, but it's SO cool. You can create a separate "file" for each chapter so that you can move sections of your manuscript around, which should make revisions/edits much easier (hey, a girl can dream, can't she?). The virtual corkboard is also something I can't wait to try out, even though I'm more pantster than plotter. You can test drive Scrivener here for 30 days free.

As my blog Sisters know, I'm not the most technology-proficient person in the word (e.g. I still don't know how to do much on my smartphone, aside from, um, calling people). But this program seems so intuitive and fun that I might actually get the hang of it sooner rather than later.

Anyone else out there use it? What's your favorite feature? Any tips for a newbie?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation: The Near Witch

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab.

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Book CH (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423137876

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget. 

Seriously, go buy this book. It's so rich and timeless. Beautiful storytelling, with a setting as vivid as the characters. I could say a zillion wonderful things about it, but really, after reading that description, how could you not already want to read it?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Summer Is Officially Over.

My Tiny Human started pre-k today!!!! Granted, it was only one hour, orientation for parents and students, but it was amazing. She was right at home, and because her school is around the corner from our home, I feel okay too.

So. Summer is over, and the publishing world is in high gear! My agency sister, Miranda Kenneally just announced her knew TWO BOOK deal! On top of the Dear Teen Me anthology! How awesome is that? So if you want, you know, go congratulate her. She rocks.

As for my scribe sisters and I, we are in full-on write mode! Kristi and I have now sent our tiny humans off to school and Valerie returned home from Amsterdam safe and sound. Unfortunately, I don't think she brought us pictures of pretty Dutch men. *sigh*

Hope y'all are having a productive week!
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