Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy last day of the decade and the Wonderful Wizard of Plotting

A few ruminations:
Yeah, yeah..the first decade of the twenty-first century is over. I guess it's been a mixed bag as far as these things go. This country has lost its innocence and a good bit of its exuberance. I think we have tempered our expectations, but within that realized that happiness can still be pursued and found.

I suppose in my own way, that has been my journey as well. I started writing midway through the decade, at rather a late point in my life. I'd already committed myself to the visual arts. As I became more and more engrossed in writing, my dream of publication became all-consuming. It also happened to be timed with the meteoric rise of the Young Adult Book sector (initially spurred by Harry Potter then fueled by Twilight). It seemed in 2007-08 that getting published was an easily attainable goal. I got pretty close. But my timing was a bit off. I signed with an agent in late 2008, one week before the near collapse of the American economy. And that was the week that for the country, and for me, things started to change. It became difficult for agents to sell books to a skittish industry. Many agents closed shop. Things soured quickly.

My agent and I parted on good terms six months later. I bear her no ill will and am pleased to see that things are turning around for her. They seem to be turning around for the industry as slowly, the economy returns to life. But either way, the industry is changing as e-readers become more popular.

As for me..I am the furthest thing from discouraged. I am still in hot pursuit of the publishing dream. But as I read books that I admire, such as Hunger Games and Beautiful Creatures, I realize I am in even greater pursuit of writing excellence. I am more interested in upping my game, and improving my writing. I don't even want an agent until I am certain I have reached a higher level. When I signed with my agent, I thought I'd gotten as good as I could. I was wrong. Now don't think I am stalling. I am revising and hope to begin querying in the early part of 2010. But I am in no hurry. And I am content writing, critting and blogging. I never expected to love blogging like I do! Thanks to all the people who have chosen to follow me and listen to my blatherings!

Now, for my find of the year (thanks to my blog-sistah Christine Fonseca for the lead) I am now officially addicted to the PLOT WHISPERER. This genius blogger has just completed the month long, day by day plotting plan. It is SUPERB. I am posting the link to DAY ONE. Now, with the whole month of steps posted, you can follow at your own speed.

Thank you Plot-Whisperer, you magnificent Wizard of Plotting!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Scones Contest WINNERS!

Okay. I know I promised three winners, but you know, we only had five contestants! They were all great, btw. So We decided we would pick two winners. The grand prize winner, who gets one signed copy of Scones AND a ten page crit from two or more Cudas. The second place winner gets a ten-page Cuda crit as well, but most likely from just one Cuda (which is most likely to be me!).

So congrats to our GRAND PRIZE WINNER:
Steena Holmes!
We loved the characterization of the elegant chocoholic vs. the rather banal veggie guy. The dainty chocolate sipper reminded us of one of Linds' characters in Scones!

so congrats, Steena!

Second Prize goes to:
You had us after Booger Flickr!!!

And thanks, everyone else. It was a tough decision!

Winners..get in touch at
mommatoo (at)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday BlogNog

So the contest is over. I wish we'd had more contestants, but the ones we had were splendid! Judging begins and we should announce our winners sometime next week.

Just want to give a shout out to Christine Fonseca and Elana Johnson for naming this blog as one of their faves of 2009. Did I already do that? If so, I'm saying it one more time for good measure. It gives my blog authenticity because I usually repeat my good stories at least twice (so my mother is quick to tell me.)

Elana gave me this award!!! I am so honored. My little blog is a newborn, but hopefully in 2010 will grow to maturity. (Well, since it's my blog it's never going to be that mature.) I'm passing this on to:

The Bloodred Pencil
Deb Salisbury
The Bookshelf Muse
To end off the year I'm going to list my favorite books of 2009.

And yeah, I admit it. ALL I ever read is YA with an occasional MG thrown in.

These days, we've been remodeling our living room and have just built two giant-sized floor to ceiling bookshelves (yes!). I unloaded all my old books from college days and even earlier, and realized I have some GOOD ONES in there, like Ursula LeGuin THE DISPOSESSED, and Robert Heinlein's TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE. Anne Rice's vampire books. (Man, am I dating myself). I'm itching to re-read some of these.

But let's get back on topic—2009 faves:

1) CATCHING FIRE—by Suzanne Collins. (It think I read Hunger Games in 2008).

This series has got to be my all-time favorite. When I started reading Catching Fire I had to force myself not to read the whole thing in ONE SITTING. I managed to spread it over two days, I think. This woman is everything I want to be as a writer. Descriptive. Imaginative. Poignant. Suspenseful. She has it all. Bless you, Suzanne Collins. Keep em' coming.

2) CITY OF GLASS—Cassandra Clare. How do I love thee, Cassandra? Let me count the ways. She is my icon of urban fantasy, plain and simple. The master.

3) FIRE—Kristin Cashore. Again, I love her books. She does so much telling, yet somehow gets away with it. It fascinates me. And her romance is exceptional, her world unique. This one started off slower than GRACELING, but in the end, I loved it just as much.

4) GOING BOVINE—Libba Bray. I haven't seen this on too many fave lists, but I adored it. As I've mentioned on the first post on this blog, I love Libba!!! How she has leapt from a Victorian fantasy to a modern day Jack Kerouac teen road trip that was wrenchingly sad and gut-splitting funny at the same time, I'll never understand. Can't imagine what's next.

5) BEAUTIFUL CREATURES—I'm not done, but the creep factor and the southern small town gothic makes a wonderful combo.

These five books have something in common—great writing and great characters. I crave this. If anyone has others they can recommend, please share.

In other news:
Don't forget to check out Lindsay Eland's newly released SCONES AND SENSIBILITIES. It is a hoot!

Now for 2010 coming attractions:
Three critmates have books coming out.

Heidi Ayarbe's second book COMPROMISED The tale of an escaped foster child and her harrowing road trip in quest of a long lost relative. (her first book FREEZE FRAME won acclaim and awards. Check it out!)

Christine Johnson— CLAIRE DE LUNE, young adult fantasy
A story of forbidden love and coming of age as a werewolf. She has a sequel due out in 2011!!

Kate Milford— THE BONESHAKER, steampunk fantasy
Devilish happenings at the crossroads at a turn-of the century medicine show. This book is life-altering. Kate is one of the most original voices around. Just wait. You heard it here first.

I'll be interviewing all of these fascinating ladies and more...

Have a great holiday and be well!!!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Scones contest deadline TONIGHT at midnight

and...I am tickled and honored to be mentioned by Christine Fonseca as one of her FIVE FAVE blogs for the year. Wow! This blog is only three months old. Thanks, Christine!

Now everyone go follow her if you don't already. She is a BUNDLE of energy and smarts. If I ever feel lazy I read her blog and realize it's possible to do eight million things in one day and do them well. I'm kind of hyper, myself, but I think Christine has me licked!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Plot issues never take a holiday

At least in my head.

My characters don't really care what's going on in my life or the "real world" around them, so lately, wading into the deep waters of the mucky middle of my revise, I'm stressed. I sat for two hours last night listening to my computer read my ms to me, on high alert for tension and sufficient foreshadowing, all the while worrying—Does anyone care? Is there enough romance? Enough spookiness? Or too much? Is my MC proactive enough?

Argghhh. I'm probably due for some intensive crits, but I want to untangle all the threads as best I can first.

Elana Johnson had a fabulous post on the Querytracker blog once about how to approach the daunting revise, which helped me loads.

I just stumbled across another post from Janice Hardy about how to push your characters to make hard choices. Thanks to Deb Salisbury for that cool link! This sparked an idea for me, so let's see how it goes...

Anyway, I'd love to hear from people. Any advice you have for working out plot kinks; either links to other blogs or your own thoughts are welcome. Thanks!

In other news:
Christine Fonseca is holding a comment contest on her blog in honor of the one year anniversary of her blog! (and pssstt...she has another one as well). Christine is an energizer bunny of a woman, writing, working, parenting and I often find myself wondering if she is a cyborg. Anyway, visit her and join the fun!

Friday, December 11, 2009

In honor of Happy Agent Day and reaching 60 Ode to Sarah Davies

I figured I'd weigh in.
Nope. I don't currently have an agent, though I did have an amazing agent once who I hold in the highest esteem.

It's simple. We NEED agents. We WANT agents. And agents have to deal with lots of whining from the writing community. But I am not going to whine. As a design professor who is in the position to judge the merits of other's work, I can sympathize with agents and their plight.

So instead of praising agents wholesale as a group, I am going to single out ONE AGENT who is not my agent or even close to becoming my agent. But this particular agent has treated me with absolute kindness and fairness and given me amazing advice. She has a blog where she treats other striving authors with the same kindness.

That would be the wonderful Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary.

SO this post is for you, Sara, in celebration and appreciation of your awesomeness. I don't know if I'll ever be lucky enough to become your client, but even still, just knowing there are agents like you out there gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

I raise my coffee cup to you, Sara Davies, agent extraordinaire!

here's the link to her blog:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Interview with Lindsay Eland on the blog

YA writer, Suzette Saxton, Querytracker blogstress extraodinaire interviews Lindsay!
Head on over:

and don't forget to enter the Super-fabby Scones and Sensibility book giveaway and Cudawriters critique contest.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Announcing the SUPER-FABBY Scones and Sensibilities Challenge! First Prize, a signed author's copy of SCONES plus a killer Cuda critique!

In honor of the December 22 release of Lindsay Eland's SCONES AND SENSIBILITY (aka Lindsay, the Nice Cuda) Why A? is holding our very first contest! With prizes!

SCONES tells the story of Polly, the dreamy, Jane Austen-obsessed tween who sets out to make a love match for all the lonely souls in her sea-side town, with hysterical results.

Entry Rules:
All you have to do to enter is choose the Follow button, if you haven't already (on your right hand column of the blog) and leave a comment describing a poorly conceived love match, set-up or blind date in 1-3 paragraphs. Humor is encouraged.

For example:
Describe a love match between
  • a cat person and a dog person
  • a germophobic vegetarian and a carefree meat-eater
  • a roller coaster fanatic and a carsick person
  • a tightrope walker and someone with a fear of heights

Use our samples or make up your own!
You get the idea!

December 22 or the first 50 entries, whichever comes first;
Winners announced December 27th.

First Prize:

Signed Author's copy of Scones and Sensibility
Full-toothed Cuda crit (with bite marks) from 2 or three actual Cudas of the first ten pages of your YA or MG manuscript

Second Prize:
Cuda crit (with bite marks) from one Cuda of the first ten pages of your YA or MG manuscript

Third Prize:
Full-toothed Cuda crit from one Cuda of the first five pages of your YA or MG manuscript

Good luck! email with questions

AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artists: Exhibition Opening; 50 Books 50 Covers

50 Books/50 Covers

This exhibition opens on December 10. All of you New Yorkers who are interested in design or publishing (or like me, both) should make it their business to get down there. I am, so maybe I'll see you there!

There's an art to this cover design thing! It does not simply occur as if by magic (ask my students). Here's the link to the show info. You can also link to the AIGA website and view previous shows on bookcover art (and all kinds of other award-winning graphic design).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Interview with Sally Shields, author of The Daughter-in-Law Rules and publicity specialist

Hi all. For a change of pace, I've interviewed my friend Sally, a local author and publicity specialist. I even designed the header on her blog so take a look. Sally wrote a self-help book called The Daughter-in-law Rules and it went on to become an Amazon best-seller. You can visit Sally on her blog at >

Q: What is the concept behind the DIL Rules and how did you arrive at that name?

Sally Shields: The Daughter-in-Law Rules is based on the 7th spiritual law of success, which is: the quickest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. By that I mean, be a loving, kind-hearted, sensitive person, and the world will reflect that back to you, even in the form of your mother-in-law! I loved that book The Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. I patterned the Daughter-in-Law Rules on that book.

Q: What motivated you to write the DIL Rules?

SS: Like a lot of women, I got married and got a mother-in-law. But after a couple of years, I was left scratching my head, thinking, where is the manual for this?!!! I wrote to the ladies that wrote the bestselling book The Rules, and told them that since they helped all these women meet and marry the men of their dreams, they then needed to provide some advice on how to get along with the other woman in their man's life—his mom! These two authors told me it was the best idea they'd ever heard. I honestly just wanted some advice on the topic! "You should write it," they said. At first I thought they were crazy since the last thing I'd written was a term paper in high school English class! But, the gears started turning in my mind. So I started to jot down all the troublesome incidents that would pop into my head in regards to my MIL, and came up with a rule and a solution to deal with each and every one. When I put a few of these rules into practice (and saw that they actually worked) I thought maybe I could help save other young wives years of needless contention!

SS:Q: Have you published any other work that you've written?

SS: I have three music books; Modern Jazz Piano (Hal Leonard, 2004), The Pianist’s Jammin’ Handbook and A Baker’s Dozen: 13 Jazz Etudes for the Intermediate Sight-Reader. I've also written The Collaborator Rules: 101 Surefire Ways to Stay Friends with Your Co-Author as well as a poetry book called "A Pond Beneath the Moon.” And I’m currently working on two other books; The Million Dollar Author Club and Naturally Thin or Discipline? Insider Secrets of the Super-Slim.

Q: What makes you unique as an author?

SS:I am very focused on solving a problem in a very short period of time. I don't mind telling people what to do or how they should do it. Here's the Rule. Now do it. Sometimes people tell me that they don't want to do these rules because it seems like too much work. Then I give them the Dr. Phil answer which is, "Well, how's THAT workin' for ya?!!" These rules are problem-solution oriented so give them a try!

Q: What inspires your work?

SS: I love being creative and just coming up with stuff that I think will help people, or bring humor to a situation, while at the same time solving my own life's problems! My vision is now to create more harmony among mothers and daughters-in-law around the world while at the same time raising money for breast cancer. I am currently working with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation on a unique fundraising idea with Estee Lauder, who also supports breast cancer.

Q: Has your book been featured in any national publications or on television?

SS: Yes! I've been in Star Magazine, Girlfriendz, For the Bride, and Obvious Magazine. I've appeared twice on the nationally syndicated The Daily Buzz, Fox & Friends, Rachel Ray, Tyra Banks,, as well as having appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio . As well, The DIL Rules was recommended as Book of the Week by Dr. Laura Schelssinger.

Q: Are you self-published or through a publishing house?

SS: I started off self-publishing with Outskirts Press, a print on demand company, but have re-released The DIL Rules under my own imprint, Safflower Publishing Inc. with a new cover, subtitle, foreword, interior design and illustrations, and am working on a DIL Rules board game and calendar.

Q: Who or what personally inspires you to push forth with your career?

SS: I've been a musician ever since I was a kid, and I just get a lot of energy from performing, speaking, being out there in the media and expressing my ideas in my unique way fuels and motivates me forward.

Q: Have your book sales been positively/negatively affected by the financial changes in the country and if so how you come up with ways to divert from it (if negative)?

SS: I notice that the more radio and TV appearances I do, I can keep the sales up. It seems to be more about continually letting people know about the book that makes more of a difference than the financial state of affairs. It would be fun to compare current sales to what it will be like when Obama whips this country back in shape eventually! :-)

Q: Do you have any events coming up that people should know about or book tours?

SS: As I have 2 small kids, I have been doing virtual book tours from home and doing national radio tours via telephone. I do some local book signings here in New York, and I speak at various events such as the ASJA, and the Catholic Writers Event asks me to speak at their events. I also do a weekly radio show called Blurb! that is a book contest for authors. For more information on how authors can apply to be on the show, check out As well, the head of the African Women’s Business Network has purchased the foreign rights to the DIL Rules and she has invited me over to speak in Lagos Nigeria sometime in 2010.

Q: What advice would you have for young entrepreneurs and authors?

SS: I would say keep it fun, because otherwise all those hours you put in wouldn't make any sense! And remember that there are only two elements that you need to succeed in any endeavor: a passion for your topic and a sincere desire to help people.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

SS: I see myself with my own reality show, as a Daughter-in-Law Rules seminar leader, a speaker at Bridal events, fundraiser and spokesperson for Breast Cancer fundraising, and continuing to partner with corporations such as Macys, David's Bridal 1-800-flowers, Estee Lauder, and Martha Stewart Weddings.

Q: Any final words of wisdom?

SS: Never give up on your dreams. You don't have to know the how, but focus on the why. Don't set limits and reach for the sky. Do positive affirmations morning and evening, and you will see your thoughts transform into things. You can manifest your desires by focusing on the things that you want. Don't give up because it takes a while for the universe to prepare the meal that you've ordered, but know that it is in the oven back there so make sure you don't leave the restaurant!

Thanks, Sally, for joining us today and for the great information. Readers, here's your chance to get some personal advice from Sally—about getting along with your daughter-in-law, marketing your own book, living your dream. Just click on the "comment" line below and let us hear from you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interview with Neesha Meminger, author of SHINE, COCONUT MOON

Neesha Meminger, author of SHINE, COCONUT MOON joins us today to hang a bit. Neesha is a warm, funny and brilliant woman whose works are deeply moving and poetic, yet starkly realistic, dealing with themes of coming of age, race, and cultural identity.

1. Hi, Neesha. Your first book, the young adult novel SHINE, COCONUT MOON came out last March. Can you tell us about the book and what prompted you to write it?

SHINE actually started out as an epic story of the bonds and fissures created between mothers and daughters through migration, culture, tradition, and the Great Generational Divide. After many ground-up revisions, the 9/11 layer was added, Uncle Sandeep entered the scene, and the story became more focused, more clearly about how relationships, in general, weather all sorts of storms.

2. I know this is not an autobiographical book, but can you tell us about your background, and how, perhaps that has informed the events in the book.

It's not autobiographical, but there is much in SHINE that reflects my own experiences growing up, the experiences of my family, my friends, and people I knew. There are several scenes in the book that are based on events I either witnessed or lived through. And the characters are all amalgamations of people I know and love. Including Mike :).

3. How long have you been writing?

I've been journaling for as long as I can remember. But writing, and reading, were always about survival for me. They were about *communication*--and when you don't speak the official language in your new home, your very survival hinges on communication. My parents both did not speak English fluently when we first moved to Canada from India, so as the eldest child, I became the default interpreter. It was critical that I learned, FAST, how to speak, understand, read, and write the language (and, by extension, the *culture*) that we were all immersed in.

When my mother lost my younger brother in a crowd, it was really a matter of life and death for her to be able to communicate that to a police officer. And, if she couldn't do it adequately, it fell on me.

So, I developed the habit, early on, of reading EVERYTHING--instruction manuals, signs in windows, ingredients lists . . . and packing every single second of each day scribbling words I'd learned.

I would say that was the beginning of my journey.

4. What have you been working on lately?

I've been deeply absorbed in a paranormal YA that I am *very* excited about. I would say it's eighty-five percent of the way there.

5. Can you share with us a bit about your path to becoming a published author?

My path was not easy, nor was it quick. I first saw my work published in my early twenties--mostly poems, essays, and short stories. It was a thrill, but it was not enough. I never felt my true self shone through in so few lines or so few pages. I had so much more to say and I knew it would take many, many more pages for me to say it! *grin*

So, I started to write longer and longer pieces, focusing on fiction. I knew I wanted to write book-length works because those were what had affected me so deeply. The books that really shaped the way I saw the world, books that taught me something about people, life, the emotions, how to navigate through difficult terrain -- not by telling me how to do it, but through *story* . . . those were the types of books I wanted to read, and those were the ones I wanted to write.

I completed my first manuscript when I was in the MFA program at the New School in NYC. It was a crappy manuscript, to be sure, but through writing it, I learned how to write a book-length work. How to stick with something and see it through until it was finished. And how to shape and mold small segments so that when you were finished, it was one, long, cohesive story.

After that, I took many years to learn how to revise. How to find more stories, give them form, and refine them. Then, began the years of querying agents and editors. Finally, after more polishing and refining, I caught the interest of two agents. I signed with one and, together, we worked on what would become SHINE, COCONUT MOON.

6. What advice would you like to give to fellow writers?

Honestly, the best advice I have is to keep going. I know it has been said many times before, but it is always worth repeating. You have to be as stubborn as my ornery father to get anywhere in life, I think. And writing is no exception.

The other advice I'd give is to find a community of writers. A good network of supportive writers, who are open and generous, is worth its weight in gold.

7. Name a book that influenced you the most, as a writer and an individual.

Hmm. For fiction that would have to be Tuck, Everlasting. It's MG, but it had a *tremendous* impact on me when I read it all those years ago. I had no idea you could write things that (a) weren't *true*; and (b) didn't even seem *possible*. So, that book really opened up, for me, one of the most important things a writer can possess: a vivid imagination.

In non-fiction, I would have to say Bird by Bird, by Ann Lemotte. I loveloveLOVED that book. She infuses humor, spirituality, and so much truth in each page of that book. I find it inspiring every time I read it.

8. Tell us something unexpected about yourself.

This may not seem unexpected to your readers, but it is unexpected for *me*. [whispers] I am horribly addicted to The Tudors series by HBO. When hubby is still at work and kiddies are in bed, I am watching episode after episode, back to back. I am deeply mesmerized.

Thanks for stopping by, Neesha! That was wonderful. Since we are actual *real-time* friends, and neighbors (yes, we literally live across the street from each other and have our regular pow-wows at the local Starbucks. How we met is quite a story in itself, though. We live in a very busy citified community where could have easily remained strangers) I am privileged to *hear* this in your lovely voice, which is as wonderful as your writing voice.

Love you, lady. and I am beyond ecstatic that you are finally writing a paranormal. Now I am dying to know more. Guess I'll find out at our next Starbucks meetup!

Reblog: Fiction Groupie; Roni England gives Title advice

I stumbled on this blog quite by accident and I'm glad I did. Roni England gives excellent advice for tackling one of the most dreaded aspects of novel writing; choosing a title! I happen to freak out until I get a title for a WIP as those who know me well will attest. I am just as bad when a friend is in need of a title and tend to barrage said victim with endless, usually bad attempts. I'm happy to say that I was about 30% responsible for naming SCONES and SENSIBILITY (I called it Crumbs and Sensibility, which kind of lacks that catchy ring, but did lead to the current fabulous title.)

From Fiction Groupies, the blog of writer Roni England

The Title Struggle
Many writers say not to worry about the title of your WIP because most of the time, the publisher's marketing department changes it from whatever your name was anyway. However, I have also read that agents (can't remember which agent blog this was on) sometimes ask to see pages even if the query was only alright because the title was really great. So, I think it's worth giving more than a passing thought.

Coming up with a title is HARD. How are you supposed to come up with a few words that a) make a reader want to pick up the book b) relate to some important aspect of your book and c) hasn't been used before? It's daunting.

Some writers say that a name pops into their head before they even start the story--that the title itself was part of the inspiration. This was not the case for my first two novels. Shadow Falls was titled The Scholarship until I got through the second draft. I didn't like the working title, but I needed something to call the thing besides "the book". Wanderlust was the same way. I started off calling it Rockstar. However, with my most recent WIP, the title finally came to me first: Exposure Therapy. Now that third one could change since I'm just starting the book, but I kind of like it.

So what can you do to help come up with title possibilities?

Brainstorm a list of words that come to mind about your book. Don't edit yourself, just make the list.

--Some obvious things that could inspire the title

* Character names (Carrie)
* Character career
* Setting (Twilight)
* Theme (Atonement)
* Conflict/Turning Point (Marked)
* Time Period
* Special object that plays role in the story (The Sword in the Stone)

--There are some titles that aren't so literal and this is a good way to come up with them. For those of you who have read Hush, Hush, you know that those words aren't uttered in the book. So why is it called that? According to the author, it's because the book is about secrets.

Look for inspiration in unexpected places.

--Music: song titles and lyrics have been used for titles (Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True and She's Come Undone; In the Still of the Night has been used multiple times, Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts). However, do note that song lyrics are subject to copyright laws but song titles are not. Either way, this doesn't come into play until you get published.

--Nursery Rhymes: James Patterson has used this as a theme--Along Came a Spider, Jack and Jill

--Cliches & Puns: something to avoid in writing, but if twisted a bit for a title it can work. Tall, Dark, and Dead by Tate Hallaway, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy and Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

--Classic Literature/Shakespeare: The Sound and the Fury, A Rose by Any Other Name

Alright, I hope that gets your brain cranking. In case your wondering about my titles, here's where I got them from:

Shadow Falls is the name of the town in the book, but is also a play on the fact that something dark is trying to consume the character

Wanderlust is the name of the hero's band, but also a play on the fact that he can't settle down. It also plays into the MC because although she has the desire to see the world, something in her past keeps her stuck in one place (emotionally and literally)

Exposure Therapy is from the MC's job as a social worker. She has something to overcome in her past and exposure therapy is a technique used by counselors to work through phobias and such. It's also a play on the fact that the book will be sexy and well, things will be exposed, lol.

So what's the title of your WIP? How'd you come up with it? What are some of your favorite book titles?

Also, don't forget my Amazon gift certificate contest is still open until midnight (central) tonight, so if you missed yesterday's post, check it out to enter.

**Today's Theme Song**
"I'm Like A Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying To Get You Off"-- Fall Out Boy
FOB are masters at the unconventional yet awesome punny titles
(player in sidebar, take a listen)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reblog: Heidi Ayarbe's Awesome Author's Visit

I decided to visit my dear friend Heidi Ayarbe's (author of FREEZE FRAME, 2008 and the forthcoming COMPROMISED)blog expecting to find something entertaining and I did. So I am sharing the splendor and the wonder that is Heidi.

This year my author visits were with Kindergarteners, second and third graders, who, in my opinion, had some of the best questions and comments ever!

1. Did you write your book in pencil or are you allowed to use a pen?
2. Do you have lots of pictures in the book?

I asked how long they thought it took me to write the book:
Student A: Ummm, like ten hours.
Student B: No way. At least two weeks.
Me: About three and a half years. So I started when you were still wearing diapers and finished when you were in first grade.
Students. Whoaaaaaaaa ... (whispers -- she's really slow.)

3. Do you read your book after you're done?

I talked about revision and making corrections and how my editor had pages and pages of notes on how I needed to make my book better.
Student A: Oh. Did you forget your capitals and periods?
Student B: I bet you missed a lot of spelling words.

4. How did you draw the picture on the front?
5. Do you really like your job?

And my favorite ...

6. How did you get the pages in the book? (Comments afterward included: Geez. If she had to put her book together in the garage she'd never get done.)

Thank you Fritsch School for welcoming me and making me smile. Thank you for your amazing attention to detail.

PLUS, I loved the hugs. (High Schoolers and Middle Schoolers usually don't hug me.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interview with Becca Fitzpatrick, author of HUSH, HUSH

HUSH, HUSH is a dark and dangerous YA fantasy set in a town in coastal Maine involving a romantic liason between a high school girl and a fallen angel. The plot is involved but the action kept me completely riveted and never confused. I read through the book in less than a week, which is a big thing for me, because it takes a VERY engaging book for me to give up writing time. I just had to know what happened. So, I am so thrilled to introduce Becca Fitzpatrick, the author of HUSH, HUSH, who will give us some surprising insights into the book's origins.
Patch the fallen angel from Hush, Hush is such a dark and seductive creature. What gave you the idea for the book?

The very first inspiration for the story came from an experience in my own tenth-grade biology class. We must have been studying human reproduction, because my teacher asked me, in front of the whole class, to name characteristics I would be attracted to in a mate (yikes!) I sat next to a really cute boy, and the thought of naming characteristics I might look for in a mate was a humiliation I was not about to subject myself to. I told my teacher, “pass,” but the experience always stuck with me, and when I sat down to write Hush, Hush, that little piece of my history evolved into an early scene in the book.

Hush, Hush is set in coastal Maine and makes much use of it’s moody terrain. What is your connection to this area?

When I was in high school, I was pretty sure I would grow up to be a marine biologist. I had posters of whales and dolphins pinned up all over my bedroom, I had a huge collection of whale/dolphin T-shirts, my Christmas present from my parents in 9th grade was a whale-watching vacation to California, and my aunt and uncle adopted a humpback whale for me named Tanith. Every so often, the whale adoption agency would send me photos of Tanith in the wild, and once I even got a humpback whale calendar. As I was flipping through the photos in the calendar, I came across this amazing photo of a breaching whale, and in the background was the Maine coast, dense with evergreens. I hung on to that picture for years, and it was my dream to someday move to Maine. Eventually I forgot about that dream, but when I started writing Hush, Hush I found myself writing about a girl growing up in a small, atmospheric Maine town without even realizing that of course I'd picked Maine as the setting because of my childhood dream. It's funny how something so seemingly small as a photograph I first saw when I was fourteen years old could have such a big impact on Hush, Hush, but there you have it.

You wove your intricate plot so deftly, yet you left some loose ends that I can only assume are deliberate. I’m talking about the mystery behind Nora’s father’s death. I’m feeling this is going to be explored in the next book, CRESCENDO. Am I right, or is that top secret?

Without ruining anything, I will say that in Crescendo, you'll find out what happened the night Nora's dad was murdered. Let's just say he was living a secret with ties to Patch...

Nora Grey is a pragmatic girl who shuns danger, yet is drawn into Patch’s dangerous web. Do you relate to Nora in anyway or is she strictly a fictitious character.

The only thing Nora and I have in common is our curly hair. (If I remember one thing about my teen years, it was how much I hated my hair. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to torture Nora with the same big, curly hair. Ha!) While Nora claims to be a sensible person who shuns danger, she's a pretty unreliable narrator. She's actually very lured by the idea of danger. Since her father's death, she's tried very hard to create a safe, comfortable life for herself. She's terrified that what happened to her father will happen to her. But underneath everything, she's a very reckless, impulsive, and spontaneous girl.

As a follow-up; is Patch based on anyone you know or would like to know?

His character was inspired by a guy I knew long ago. And that's all I'm going to say about that!

How long have you been writing? Is Hush, Hush the first book you’ve written?

I started Hush, Hush in the fall of 2003. After receiving several rejections for the manuscript, I put it away and started another YA novel called The Tornado Interviews. In the end, I came back to Hush, Hush, and found someone who believed in it as much as I do.

What was your road to publication?

Long and bumpy! It took me five years to write and sell Hush, Hush. I probably have around seventy five rejection letters.

What is the best advice you can give aspiring authors?

Keep a journal. You never know when your own life experiences will inspire a story.

What are some of your favorite reads? Which influenced you most as a writer?

Oh, wow. I love so many different types of books. I love Jane Austen, Diana Gabaldon, Karen Joy Fowler, Laurie Halse Anderson and Sandra Brown. This year, I really enjoyed Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Tell us something unexpected about Becca Fitzpatrick.

Hmm. In high school, I could run the mile in five-and-a-half minutes.

Are you doing a book tour? Where are some of the places you are scheduled to visit?

I'm touring in January and February, but my schedule isn't finalized yet. I'll post cities on my website as soon as I can.

Can you tell us the best place to visit you online?

My website is

Thanks so much, Lisa, for the interview!!
You are most welcome, Becca. Stop by again when CRESCENDO is due to come out.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Cudas Speak, Part Two: Dhonielle Clayton, aka Baby Cuda

Before the interview I want to make an exciting announcement: In honor of the December release of Cuda Lindsay Eland's SCONES AND SENSIBILITY, the Cudas are hosting their very first ARC contest!!! Details and entry information coming soon!

And now, join us as Baby Cuda, Dhonielle Clayton swims to the top of the tank.

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hmm, I am a twenty-six year old 3rd grade teacher. I have my masters in Children's and Young Adult Literature and haven't read an adult book since I graduated college four years ago. I love Asian foods, particularly clumpy white rice, sauteed onions and the taste of sesame oil. I am plagued with chronic heartburn due to my penchant for spicy foods. I haven't grown an inch since 7th grade, maxing out at 5'1''. I love to travel, having lived in Japan, England and France. And my favorite thing to do is sleep in hammocks. I have puffy, brown hair. I am scared of whales and most sea mammals. My Irish heritage has made me obsessed with all forms of cooked cabbage. I don't enjoy the smell of fish. I am so happy to be part of the Cuda camp, they are my surrogate mothers, friends and confidantes.

2. You have an interesting agent story. Can you tell us?
I researched and obsessed over the whole "land an agent" thing. I wrote and re-wrote my query letter. I sent it to the Cudas who chomped on it. Then, I sent my agent an excerpt from my little 30,000 word terrible first novel. She told me she loved it AND it needed a lot of work. This wonderful, stellar, spectacular and patient woman signed me, sent me gigantic revision letter and off we went into a failing children's book publishing economy. But two years later we are still going strong and now I must hurry up and give her something new to sell.

3. You write in a few different styles. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I am scatterbrained and get bored with myself easily so I try to switch things up and continue to try different writing styles. I tend to write first-person, lyrical prose loaded with strong images and the internal machinations of the main character (which often leads to NO plot, my big problem). I am drawn to people who write that way and most of the time it's the way the words come out. But, I am trying to dabble in the third-person with an plot-oriented and high-concept novel. Wish me luck!

4. In your young life, you've been a bit of an adventurer. Can you tell us a few highlights and also tell us how these adventures have informed your writing?

I travel because I thrive on exciting isolation to help my writing: sitting in Parisian cafes alone with my notebook, sipping cafe au lait and nibbling on a crepe while staring at fashionable French ladies; perched over a 24-hour ramen noodle bar slurping up tonkatsu ramen with chopsticks and a chugo spoon while curious Japanese onlookers steal glances at me as I write; wandering the cobblestone streets of North London marveling at the way people speak; laying on pink-sand Bermudian beaches asleep instead of writing. I like to borrow small details from each place I have spent a significant amount of time in to pepper into my writing. I tend to produce more written work when I am traveling versus when I am at home, teased with millions of distractions.

5. What books/ people/ experiences inspired you growing up?

Harriet the Spy
by Louise Fitzhugh
The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin

I was mostly inspired by my grandparents and parents habit of dragging me down South every summer. Going to my grandmother's Mississippi farm and my mother's hometown in North Carolina has really shaped my imagination. Southern imagery, people, food, and preoccupations live strongly in my imagination even though I was raised slightly below the Mason Dixon line in the Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC. I have written strong scenes and loads of pages from the sticky booth of a Waffle House (one of my favorite places on Earth).

6. Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I still leap onto my bed every night afraid there is someone underneath it who will grab my ankles (I should not have watched "IT" as a child).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meet the Cudas

We Cudas have decided the best way to celebrate the release of Lindsay Eland's fantabulous book, out this December, SCONES AND SENSIBILITY, is to let the readers of this blog meet us all. We are quite a crew (or chew, some might say) and each of us is distinctly different from the other fish in the tank.

Have no fear, you will be hearing from Becca Fitzpatrick and Neesha Meminger. They are kind enough to fit my interview into their seriously frantic schedules and it will be a treat! In the meantime, while we await Baby Cuda Dhonielle Clayton's arrival, let me introduce you to the creatures that swim in our pond.

Lisa: Mama Cuda. Sometimes goes by the name of The Bottom Feeder or Fang
Lindsay: Nice Cuda, who could possibly nibble you to death. Also known as Love Bites Cuda
Dhonielle: Baby Cuda, Baby Genius Cuda
Cyndy: Longtooth of the West
Kate: Snaggletooth of the East
Pippa: Our newest Cuda, but no less sharp in the tooth. Quickjaw of the North
Our Cuda on hiatus:
Cathy: Eagle-eye Cuda or one who swoops down to eat wayward fishies
And lastly, our Cuda Emeritus:
Linda: Wise Cuda, or fondly known as Yoda Cuda.

Wrestling the Plot monster, change of plans and Meet the Cudas

My interview schedule is getting pushed back slightly. I now hope to interview the other four members of my killer critique group, The Cudas. So far I've interviewed the wonderful Lindsay Eland, last month. (Don't forget to pre-order Lindsay's new book, out in December, Scones and Sensibility.) Linds is known as the "nice Cuda", though through years of exposure to we sharp-toothed fishies, she has certainly added an edge to her critiques!

Next Cuda on tap is Dhonielle Clayton, aka, "The Baby Cuda" or sometimes dubbed "The Baby Genius". Dhonielle is the writer all other writers might be tempted to hate: She landed a big-time agent on HER FIRST QUERY. Yep. But if you read her brilliant writing, you'd know why. And you wouldn't hate her either. You'd love her and beg to read more. And beg her to PLEASE WRITE MORE.

That being said, expect to hear from this fascinating lady very soon. (maybe later today).

So far, we are skimming the upper levels of the Cuda shark tank. But as the weeks go by, we are going to be doing some deep sea diving and meet the fiercer, bottom swimming Cudas. I'll introduce them as they surface. Oh..I guess I should fess up. As the founder of the Cudas, I'm one of them. Mama Cuda they call me, but don't let that kindly name fool you. My critiques are also on the savage side. Of course my graphic design students at Bronx Community College are not the least surprised about this, I'm just as demanding when it comes to art.

But don't get we Cudas wrong. It's all about one thing. Excellence. Our commitment to each other is fearsome; our only goal to help each other reach our fullest potential. And that is a beautiful thing—to know that you will get an honest appraisal of your work, even though it may leave a few teeth marks.

So far, with two contracted authors and most Cudas signed with an agent, you might say our tough approach is working. (yeah, and it's also working at BCC—hey guys!!!)

Now about that plot monster.

The plot of my WIP has grown extra arms. I'm afraid if I don't lop some off (you know, as Stephen King says—kill those darlings) they will strangle my entire book. And the Cudas might have to go on a feeding frenzy. They are a very hungry group. I'd like to avoid becoming their next meal if I can.

I am well-known for my convoluted plots. So wish me luck as I interview my characters as well today and try to make sense of their motives. Hopefully it will dawn on them that they NEED the plot to work if they want to see the light of day.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Upcoming Interviews

I have two very exciting interviews lined up and coming to you in the next week or so.

First, I have Becca Fitzpatrick, author of the new YA hit, HUSH, HUSH. Becca is ready to roll, but I asked if she minded waiting until I finish her excellent book so I can discuss it intelligently. I LOVE it so far and am so excited to talk to her about it and all kinds of other authorly things.

Next I will be welcoming Neesha Meminger, author of the critically acclaimed SHINE, COCONUT MOON. Neesha is going to stop by to share her thoughts on coming of age, cultural identity issues other tidbits about writing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Muse Musings

I am very happy to have published the two previous posts on this blog. For one, I'm happy to share and I hope those of you who visit here have found the information useful, but also, I am continually utilizing the resource myself.

I am following Elana Johnson's prescription for editing my monster WIP and it IS REALLY HELPING. I've divided the beast into chunks which has miraculously allowed me to focus and to stop RE-READING and revising the first three chapters. Like Lady Macbeth washing her hands, I've read, rinsed, repeated way too often.

Thanks to Elana, I've gotten out of my rut and moved onto—woohoo—chapter 6! And, to bolster my confidence as I plow ahead, trying not to balk at the monumental task, and trying not to let doubt cloud my vision, I have been re-reading Kathryn Craft's pronouncements. They have become my EIGHT COMMANDMENTS OF CONFIDENCE. If anyone wants to voluntarily embroidered them on a sampler so I can nail them to my wall, please let me know.

So, hat's off to my Blog Muses and may the force be with us all.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wisdom from the Blood Red Pencil

Another amazing post I just had to share. Visit the BLOOD RED PENCIL blog at

Ten Affirmations to Bolster Optimism

Economy got you down? Try optimism. It can help you get published.

Doubt it? Read on: More than thirty years of research in high-rejection endeavors, from athletic competition to life insurance sales, suggests the statement is true. There is more to optimism, however, than The Little Engine’s “I think I can.” Optimism is the practice of framing what has already happened in a positive light.

To raise your optimism quotient, try the following ten affirmations. Meditate on them, speak them, and copy them down in your own hand until you are convinced of their truth. Once you own these concepts, your writing will be less about the absolutes of success and failure, and more about gleaning the benefits of every step on your path. And who knows—you may end up appreciating the process of getting published as much as you enjoy the writing.

1. Agents, editors, and authors all love to read and all have the same goal: to increase our country's wealth of good writing. Agents and editors need writers to keep them in business.

2. The book industry is super tough right now, but I am doing what I can to improve both my craft and my knowledge of the publishing industry.

3. I believe that being a published author is my destiny and I will start my journey down that road, but factors beyond my control will affect the timing of my arrival. I will get there when I get there.

4. While pride is the first of the seven deadly sins, optimism is a blessing for myself and for all of those around me. I love my work, so I will share my enthusiasm for it with others.

5. Rejection is the badge of honor I must sometimes wear to prove that I am boldly putting my work out into the world. No one ever got published by keeping her manuscript safely in her desk drawer.

6. Rejection may be a matter of personal preference—my work didn't connect with that reader—or it may simply mean "not yet." It is better to learn that I am not quite ready for publication by being rejected by an agent or editor than to get slammed publicly by critics, realize poor sales, and never be published again.

7. Every experience is a good experience for a writer. Victory, failure, acceptance, rejection—they are all part of the human experience, and stoke the creative fire within me.

8. If I am an optimistic fool, so be it. The real fool is the person who stops doing what he loves just because it is difficult.

9. Worst case scenario: it never happens for me. My epitaph: "She died pursuing her dream." What stronger, more beautiful statement could be made about my life, published or not?

10. I am committed to learning. Learning can be uncomfortable, but ignorance will not move me forward along my path. If writing is truly my passion, I must not give up. If we writers stop pursuing our dreams, who will write all the books?

Kathryn Craft is a free-lance editor at, partnering her clients through project development to line editing to honing marketing materials. She prefers "Advocate for Writing Excellence" to "Nit-Picking Perfectionist," thank you. She hosts writing retreats for women and blogs at Healing Through Writing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some more kernels of wisdom from Elana Johnson

First a disclaimer: No Elana is NOT paying me to post all this info from her and about her. Elana is just a font of information and I found this post on the Querytracker blog (tidbit: I am one of querytracker's earliest members, from back in 2007. Elana joined after me!) and it was SO useful and timely for me, I just had to share. Don't worry, I asked Elana first.

The Blog is part of Learn more About the QT Blog Team, check out Essential QT Blog Posts, or Subscribe to our Feed!

Editing: How To Avoid Staring Into The Great Black Abyss

Okay, so imagine you've finished the fifth draft of your amazing NYT bestseller. You've let some time go by. And now you're ready to edit the manuscript. Again. (*Note: for the purposes of this post, editing and revising are synonymous.)

You sit down, open the document, and...proceed to stare into the great black abyss like somehow your MS will edit itself. Oh, sure, maybe you're like me and you immediately click on gmail when something earth-shattering doesn't hit you about your novel. Or Farmville. Or Cafe World. Or a writing forum. Heck, maybe you even distract yourself with Hulu and Free Rice. And when you get really desperate, well, let's not go there.

I know (trust me, I KNOW) the thought of editing an entire manuscript is overwhelming. Daunting. Like climbing the mountain--again.

So today, I'm going to give you some pointers that have helped me tackle my 320-page manuscript, edit it, polish it, get it to betas and then out the door in less than 30 days. Strap yourselves in.

1. Set goals. Not only a "finish-by" goal date, but goals for what you want to accomplish in the edit. Does character A need more depth? Do you need to introduce the antag earlier so readers know who/what the MC is up against? Do you need stronger world-building? Faster pacing? A sub-plot that needs fleshing out? What are you trying to accomplish with the edit?

Know what these are. Don't freak out that there's SO MUCH that needs to be done. Just make a list.

2. Chunk your MS. It's much easier to wrap your mind around 100 pages rather than 350. So chunk your MS into manageable sections. I split mine into three distinct pieces and worked on them individually.

Okay, so you really haven't opened the document and started yet. This is all the "behind-the-scenes" stuff that you can do in a notebook or in your head. It usually takes me 2-3 days to make my list and chunk my MS. Take some time to do this. It helps things settle in your head before you actually start.

3. Read. That's right. Hopefully, it's been a while since you've read or worked on your MS. You'll be able to see things with fresh eyes this way. I printed the first chunk and sat down to read. Yes, I had a pen (it was black, not red) in my hand. During this reading phase, I was doing three things:
  • Line-edits (for awkward phrasing, repeated words, word choice, paragraphing, funky formatting, etc. Everything looks new and different on paper. I strongly encourage printing the chunk and editing on paper.)
  • Outlining (I don't outline before I write. So I create my outline as I edit a finished draft. I have a pad of small (2-inch by 2-inch) post-it notes next to me. After I finish reading a chapter, I write the main focus of that chapter on a post-it and place it neatly in my manila folder. Can't sum it up? Maybe you don't need that chapter. Every chapter must advance the plot. Even if you write from an outline, you can do this to see if you've really used every chapter, every scene to advance your plot. And hey, maybe your outline has changed.)
  • Making Notes (I know my goals for the edit, so as I'm reading, I draw a star and make myself a note. Like, "Insert a memory about character B here." Or "This would be a great place to reflect on plot point G." Or "Introduce antag here by way of video." Or "More world-building/setting here." I don't actually write the insertions. I simply make notes of places where they could go.)
4. Transfer from paper to computer. Remember, this is only for the first chunk. For me, it was about 115 pages, and it took me about 3 days to read, line edit and make notes for the section. Then I finally opened my Word document and started with page one. I entered the line edits, written changes and deletions. When I got to spots where I had a note for new material, I wrote it. Everything is done with the "Track Changes" feature on, so I can see what I've done. Actually transferring the changes is easy. And since you have something tangible to do, you don't waste any time staring at the screen, wondering what to do and where to do it. Transferring only takes 1 day. Maybe longer if you have large sections to add/rewrite.

5. Rinse and repeat. After section one is transferred into the computer, print section two. Read, pen in hand, post-it's nearby, computer off. Transfer to manuscript. Print section three. Read, transfer. Since I only had three sections, I edited my entire novel in about 12 days. With the goal-making, I finished a round of (major) edits in two weeks.

(*Note #2: Some of you might stop here. If this is say, the second draft, and you're not ready to send to readers yet, you're done! In only 2 weeks. Leave the MS for a while, write something else maybe. Then come back and start with #1 with new goals for another edit.)

6. Send to readers. Now, this could be an entire post by itself. But I don't have time for that, so I'll just say to choose people who you A) trust and B) love and C) will read FAST. I mean, you only have 16 more days. I recommend recruiting a few (meaning: 2 or 3) readers who will critique as you finish chunks. So really, you could have stuff out with Beta readers after you transfer the first chunk. When they finish, send them the second, and so on. This way, you're not stalled at this point in the process, waiting for reads. You've been getting them back on shorter sections. Which is how you want to work anyway.

7. Go over crits, make changes. Add stuff, delete stuff, etc. This is just a polish. You've already done the major reconstruction. Now you're just smoothing over the edges, based on what your readers have said. If you have fast readers, you can probably get this done in a week or so. I think I had my chunks back and crits incorporated in about 8 days.

8. Leave it alone. Which means, leave it alone. Don't open it. Don't read it. You can think about it if you want. I didn't. 2 days. I actually did this immediately following the final transfer (step 5), while waiting for reads to come back on chunks. It doesn't matter when you do it, but it's vital. Seriously, leave it alone.

9. Send entire, repolished MS to trusted readers. These are NOT the same people who read the chunks. Different people. I had 4. I sent them the "final" MS as well as a list of my goals so they knew what I was trying to accomplish with the edit. (*Note, I did this because with one exception, my readers had already read my book, so I wanted them to know specifically what I was trying to do this time around.) Again, they need to be A) trusted B) loved and C) fast.

10. Final edits based on final reads.

11. Done!

This system worked for me. I managed to edit my 83,000-word novel, get reads, and polish it up in under 30 days. Hopefully, you've seen something in this list that can help you focus your energy into accomplishing an edit (no matter if it's your third draft or your, um, eighth) of your manuscript without falling into the great black abyss. What do you do that helps you get the editing done?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

So here's the lowdown

I do believe the online novel was launched as a fundraiser. Ms. Valente's work, both poetry and fiction has already been extensively published.

Here is her background. Either way, she is quite young and is an incredible and resourceful person. This little find fuels my interest in uncovering many more publishing gems, known and unknown. Everyone has a story to tell!

I think I'll move on now. If anyone digs up any more tidbits on CMV, please let me know! Maybe she'll find her way here and speak for herself.

HOW I learned to research my blog posts better...

After posting the last tidbit about Catherynne Valente, I implied and actually believed myself that Ms. Valente was a first-time novelist whom published her works online and was miraculously plucked from cyberspace and given a book deal. Further research reveals that Ms. Valente is an award-winning published author.

This still does not negate the fact that Ms. Valente did, indeed, first publish her work online before landing a book deal. However, I'm not sure how well her tactic would work for a lesser-known author. I am still impressed with her method and now I'd like to learn exactly why she did this and what her goal was. I was equally impressed with the writing. I'm going to see what I can find out, so stay tuned!

Monday, October 26, 2009


From Publisher's Marketplace, 10/26/09
Catherynne Valente's THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING, an Alice-in-Wonderland-like YA fantasy adventure, originally published chapter by chapter on the author's website, and THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE, to Liz Szabla at Feiwel and Friends, by Howard Morhaim at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency (NA).

This is incredible! After publishing her entire book, chapter by chapter, online, Catherynne Valente landed a book deal with Feiwel and Friends. I don't know the particulars, but this is awesome! Here is the link to her website where you can read for yourself...

I think the writing is wonderful. Hats off to the talented and resourceful Catherynne Valentine.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

From the Query to the Call with Elana Johnson

Meet Elana Johnson, YA writer and Blogstress Extraordinaire. Elana also wears another hat: Query Ninja. Elana decided to sum up her knowledge in the new Ebook, From The Query to the Call, available at her website

Tell us about yourself, Elana.

I’ll be brief. Or at least I’ll try.

I am many things: A mom. A wife. A teacher. A US citizen who breaks the speed limit (shhh). A blog addict (I read at least 40 blogs a day. And I comment). A reader. A reality TV watcher. A friend.
And an author. I love to write. It provides a release from my real life. Not only do I write novels, but I love to write on my own blog. And I also co-author the QueryTracker blog. Oh! And the Query Ninja blog. I run that too, in conjunction with my ebook, From the Query to the Call.

How long have you been writing? What kind of fiction do you write?

I’ve been writing since December 2007, so coming up on two years now. I write YA, anything from science fiction to fantasy to paranormal to straight-up high school mayhem. There’s nothing better than YA. My current favorite genre is dystopian fiction, since that’s what I’m currently querying.

You have an ebook; what is this book about?

My ebook is called From the Query to the Call and it’s a guide for everything a writer needs to know after they finish their novel. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with the whole “query” side of writing. I researched for hours, attended conferences, read agent and publisher blogs.

And then I compiled it all into a handy guide that shares what I know and have learned. It’s basically got three sections:

1. How to write a query letter. And not just any query letter. A killer query letter. One that will set yours above the other slush the agents are getting.

2. Entering the query trenches. This covers everything from e-queries, cover letters, submitting partials and fulls, corresponding with agents, and of course, fielding “the call.”

3. Query letter samples. I take the reader through progressive queries during the letter writing section. In addition to that, I have a whole section devoted to letters that worked. I think studying something that is successful helps you develop something successful of your own.

And that’s the ebook. You can check out my website for more information.

What prompted you to write it?
I wrote this ebook because I wish wish wish I had something like this when I started. From the Query to the Call is 63 pages, and it contains everything a writer needs to know from the time they decide they want to query literary agents to the time they sign with said agent.
There’s so much conflicting information out there, and the sheer volume of it is enough to scare away Hercules! I remember feeling like I was treading water, barely keeping my head above the crashing waves, as I searched for the information I needed on how to find a literary agent. I literally spent hours and hours searching for a single piece of information. Thus, I wrote this book so authors could have the one guide that has everything they need in one convenient place.

What advice do you have for writers who seek publication?

I have a three-step process:
1. Work hard.
2. Don’t give up.
3. Finish strong.

Tell us something unexpected about yourself.

Oh, dear. I feel like I have no secrets from the blogging community! I attended four universities before I graduated, is that unexpected?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Love Triangle: Words, Images and Me

This is ground zero for where I direct my restless mind...

Should I write?
Should I draw?

or, maybe I should design something, like a website or a logo. (after all, I am a graphic design professor and dream in typography).

For most of my life it was all about art, (see Fairy-tale book, Exhibit A: early influences) with a random scattering of words thrown in for fun. But now my two loves, art and writing, have to share a room (or a bed) in my frenzied mind. It's not always pretty. Sometimes they fight, throw things around and compete for my attention. Art is kind of jealous of Words. But I feel I owe her some quality time. For the past years, Words were hogging all the face time. But that just didn't seem fair. Or natural. So I decided the best way to unite my two true loves is to write and illustrate a picture book.

This is the one illustration I've done so far for a book I'm calling BREATH, based on a dream I had as a very small kid. I'd like to self-publish. I'm thinking this is the best way to do them all; draw, write, and design. Will anyone want it? I don't really care, to be honest. At the very least I'll have a cool gift to give to my future grandkids.

So tell me what you think. I could use some encouragement.

This would be the half-title spread

Monday, October 12, 2009

Introducing the Adorable and Brilliant Lindsay Eland

Okay, so I'm a little biased. Linds, as I call her, and I have followed each other across the internet for about five years now. Back in the day when we were both newbie writers, we joined our first critique group which later broke up. But I dragged Lindsay with me on my online quest for editorial feedback. For the past three years, Linds and I have been members of a killer critique group (killer for our editorial savagery) that I moderate. We fondly call it The Cudas (for barracudas). Linds is undeniably the "nice Cuda." But don't let that perky smile fool you. Behind that smile is a mind that churns out original and comic works of middle grade fiction faster than you can say cutie-pie.

Lindsay's middle-grade humorous novel, SCONES AND SENSIBILITY, comes out this December from Egmont. I can tell you, having witnessed it's nearly fully-formed birth—it is a hoot! So I'm going to turn the mike over to Linds and let her speak for herself.

Tell us about yourself.

Let’s see. I’m a thirty-year-old mother of four. I love to laugh, drink iced mochas, and sing really loud in my car. I don’t like brownies with nuts and I’m extremely sentimental and will probably keep this interview just because it’s been given to me by a dear writing friend!

You have a book coming out this December, the middle-grade novel 
Scones and Sensibility. Can you tell us about it?

Sure! Scones and Sensibility is about an overdramatic and overromantic twelve-year-old girl who, using her heroines Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Shirley as her guides, sets to match-making in her small beach town with disastrous and hilarious results.

You have a great sense of humor and a brand of wit all your own. 
What is your inspiration ?

Life! I grew up with laughter all around me. Listening at my Grandparents table to the roaring laughter and the pee-in-your-pants stories my parents, my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles told. And really, life is full of funny mishaps, hilarious witticisms, and knee-slapping adventures.

What advice can you give aspiring authors?

Write and read. And then read and write. A writer is first and foremost a reader…so read! And don’t ever, ever, ever give up! No writer would have gotten to where he or she was if they had given up after the first or even the twentieth rejection.

What books inspired you growing up?

Matilda by Roald Dahl
Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Patterson
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

These were the books that first gave me the deep yearning to want to create stories that were filled with magic.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

Let’s see…I hate the sound of someone eating a banana or stirring a bowl of macaroni and cheese…it’s extremely gross to me. I’m also probably one of the only women on earth that wishes her hair wouldn’t grow….yes, I like it short and I wish it would just stay like that.

Visit Lindsay at

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What to expect

The delightful Lindsay Eland, whose middle grade humorous novel, SCONES AND SENSIBILITY will be released this November, will be visiting here soon, so stay tuned. I'm hoping to have a few other interviews lined up in the weeks and months that follow.

Friday, October 9, 2009

OMG!!! I knew I loved Libba Bray.

Thank you, Libba Bray

I think it's high time I created a blog, something I have studiously avoided for quite some time. Everyone says aspiring authors should have one. I am part of Sharing the Brain, the blog my critique group, the Wordslingers share, but I have been pretty lame of late.

I've been toying with the idea of what I'd like to speak about in my blog. I can't imagine dispensing daily, or even weekly words of wisdom that anyone would want to read. I totally admire the noble efforts of my friends Mary Lindsey and Elana Johnson who spout consistently great bits of blog advice that I gobble up religiously. And then there is the amazing Heidi Ayarbe (Freeze Frame, 2008) who bubbles with humorous tidbits and has me laughing constantly.

And another thing I don't want to do is whine. Lords knows I could whine from sun-up till sundown. It's my birthright. But no. I don't want to do that(well, maybe just a little). So, I was left thinking I have nothing I want to say to the world until I can say...hey, I have an agent and my book is coming out...not. Not yet, anyway.

Another thing I refuse to do is post negative reviews of books I have read. I respect the work ALL authors put into their writing and who am I to dash their hopes when I am struggling myself?

So, this morning, while tearing through the pages of Going Bovine (while I should really be putting the final touches on a massive project for work with an ominously looming deadline) I had a revelation. I want to tell everyone how this book has me absolutely floored. How lately I've bought one YA book after another (no names, please) only to slam them shut after 50 pages, with the notable exception of all things Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire). Of course, Libba's previous series, The Gemma Doyle Trilogy, are my absolute favorites. How I've been on a quest for something to read that will remind me why I WRITE.

So THANK YOU, LIBBA BRAY, you funny, brilliant, poignant and wonderful woman for sharing your genius with me. For giving me something to blog about. For reviving my excitement for writing. I'm not nearly half way through and my only fear is that I will read it too fast.