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:

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!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Contest Monday on Tuesday

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday weekend. We just got back from the mountains and I have a truckload of laundry and work to do, but I found a great contest that I had to pass along. Kody Keplinger, author of THE DUFF (fabulous book if you haven't read it), has a new book and a new contest. Her new book is SHUT OUT and you can check out the trailer here. To enter, just leave a comment on her post--that's it. One winner will have a character named after them in her fourth book. How cool is that? I'm just wondering how she'll pull it off if the winner's name is Humperdink or something equally bizarre (no offense intended if your name is Humperdink--I'm sure your parents didn't mean it). Deadline: Fri. Sept. 9th. Good luck!

Also, our sister Valerie is giving away a copy of HADES by Alexandra Adornetto - the sequel to last year's Halo - on her blog. All you have to do is comment to be entered.
Contest ends Friday, September 9th. GO HERE to enter!

Oh, and I'll have another fabulous book recommendation for you on Friday! Happy Tuesday!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Book Recommendation--Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This week concludes the summer edition of Friday Book Recommendations--school is back in full swing here and my time for pleasure reading has already decreased. *sighs*  However, I'm ending with a book that I loved, loved, and then loved some more. Yes, it's creepy and yes, the cover is made of awesome. Check it out:


Summary from Goodreads:
A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Kristi's take: Though it's hard to top the levitating girl on the cover, the vintage photographs woven throughout the book are eerie, strange, and haunting. I loved how the photos tied in with the story, and the setting in rain-soaked Wales was perfect. I couldn't even begin to explain the world-building, with its time loops and shape shifting, but luckily, the author does a great job of it--and makes it seem believable. My only quibble is with the psychiatrist character. NOTE: This isn't a spoiler because it's rare to find a psychologist or psychiatrist in ANY book or movie that isn't a) incompetent b) nuts c) a psychopath/murderer d) sleeping with their clients or e) some combination of the former. Most of us are actually ethical, competent, and hard-working. *steps off soapbox* Aside from that, I couldn't put this book down and will definitely be reading the sequel. FINAL NOTE: If you dislike clowns as much as I do, one picture in the book is downright freaky. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gettin' Back In The Groove!

Summer is winding down. My big kid is back in school (2nd grade!!!) and my Tiny Human starts pre-k next week, so I am back in writing mode! Of course, writing mode never truly stops, but my blog hiatus has been long enough. I've missed you all.

You'd think after taking about a month off that I'd have something awesome to blog about, but alas, I do not. I could ramble on about my mandatory evacuation, thanks to Hurricane Irene, that turned into a party with my folks out in the sticks, but you don't want to hear about that.

*whispers* Husband is no longer a tattoo virgin.

But I want to hear about you! How was your summer? Did you get a lot of writing done, or are you a total summer slacker? Did you attend Write On Con? My super awesome agent, Sara Megibow, was a guest during one or more of the chats! What have I missed in the blogosphere?!

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