Monday, May 28, 2012

How I've been influenced by the movie Donnie Darko and never even knew it.

Okay--so I wasn't aware of the fact that the film Donnie Darko, released in 2001 and ignored because it features a chunk of a jet engine falling out of the sky, and a kid who thinks the world is going to end in the very same year as 9-11-- has become a cult classic. I watched reluctantly when my hipster son told me I'd probably like it.

Understatement. Like it? Unknown to me, it's been informing my YA sensibilities in much the same way the guy in the rabbit suit stalked a very young and adorable Jake Gyllenhaal. My book BREAKING GLASS is about a troubled kid who may have brought a girl back from the dead or may be a hallucinating the whole thing---I've been influenced, indirectly, without even knowing it.

This movie came out before the young adult novel craze took hold, but I suppose, if I were a student of film I would be able to trace its roots to this film and others like it. It's probably not the first of its kind, or the last--but you see--at the time I was neither a college student or even a writer. I was just a young mom trying to cope with the insanity of 9-11 and this movie, I suppose got lost in the shuffle.

But there it is, a gem of weirdness (and I can see its connection to very weird movies and TV shows of my past such as Eraserhead and Twin Peaks). I'm sure there are others--as I said, I am not a scholar in this area. It's just so exciting for me to see a movie that really captures the vibe of my books.

But, Darko is really out there. I have been working hard to dial my tendency toward zaniness back--to focus on one strange event that sends all the characters in my books spinning out of control.

Darko is an enigma, so dense the director has a website and a director's cut to explain all the strange sci-fi gibberish that underscores the movie. But I guess that's not really what I love about this film. I love the idea of the ordinary boy toggling back and forth between the extraordinary and the mundane---I love how the adults in his life are woven into the tale, each with their own secrets and parts to play. I love how Donnie, distant and disaffected, discovers what life and the people around him really mean to him and just how far he'll go to protect them. has all the elements of the best YA.

So if you haven't seen it---DO---if you have---share your insights thoughts, whatevers. I'd love to hear them.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Merry, Merry Month of Mayhem and the Shiny New Idea

“They … set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing about it many days together, inviting the Indian women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking together, (like so many fairies, or furies rather,) and worse practices. As if they had anew revived & celebrated the feasts of ye Roman Goddess Flora, or ye beastly practices of ye mad Bacchanalians.”
Governor William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation

I wish I could say I'm having as much fun this month as those Maypole dancers. In my case it's more like "Mayday! Mayday! We've hit an iceberg!"

Yes, we have had a nice run of lovely May days here in New York City (well, not today or yesterday--which may (may?) be why I'm a little cranky. Or MAYbe I'm cranky because in about an hour I will be heading in to collect the final projects from my Typography class---and have already received a not-so-promising email from a student who is not finished with the work. Oh--sigh--for most college professors, it's all over by mid-May and the past semester a fading memory as they delve into their scholarly pursuits.

My university seems to start later in the Spring and run later---so finals this week, graduation in two weeks. And there are so many other things going on which I won't bore you with.

Am I complaining? Not at all--don't get me wrong---I LOVE my job--and I am so, so lucky to have a job that I love, pays the rent AND (usually inspires me--except for the month of Mayhem). But May--oh--May---it's the time when all good deputy chairs must do their deputy jobs---which means, writing reports, planning ahead, leading cats to a bath (that would be other faculty members) and get chased by hysterical students as they try to best each other with the most believable excuses for not having their work done.

Yes---so I am still in the throes of this--and as a result have not been able to write a single word of fiction (oh, I AM writing--writing and writing and writing---reporting actually--for the College). Hence, I am PENT up with new ideas--splitting, bursting at the seems with the need to create!

I have a shiny new idea just waiting--screaming, having a tantrum, begging me to pay attention to it---but I can't just yet.

But I wanted to share because--well, at least I can get the chance to talk about it.

For now I am calling the new WIP—EXCEPTIONAL---and it is vaguely autobiographical--lifted from the memory of my senior year in high school when I---dated the bad boy, and cut class (with the help of my dearly departed art teacher who believed in me with such fervor, I'm probably still living on the fumes) to hang out in the art room all day--where I reigned supreme. That was me then--exceptionally good at art and my academics, but exceptionally inept in almost everything else.

EXCEPTIONAL features Lydia Wilson, self-avowed art geek and Queen of the Art room, but a nobody once she enters the busy hallway. There is the torrid romance with the smart-alecky bad boy (yep--true--my parents are still scarred from this), the cool art teacher (very fictionalized--I don't want to sully the memory of the real man, Mr. Baldo, the Owl Prince), the nifty art buddy dude (also true--whose semi-famous identity shall remain a secret). But where the (stretched like salt water taffy) "truth" ends, the story begins--- When Lydia discovers a collection of genius-level artwork stashed away the art class storage room, the enigmatic new girl, Rachel has already begun to turn the school's social hierarchy on its ear. As Lydia grows more and more suspicious of Rachel and her motives, everyone assumes she's just jealous. Until people start to die.

Okay---I have not written a word of this. I just wanted to get it out there into the Universe because it's been whispering sweet nothings in my ear, and until the Mayhem subsides, I can't respond.

Do any of you have times of the year when life overrides your creative flow, and you feel as though you may burst at the seams if you can't write soon? I'd love to hear your stories!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Snogging myself for a change. Check out my guest post on the Querytracker blog...

The Story Behind The Success: Lisa Amowitz

Query Tracker is a site devoted to helping writers who seek agent representation. In addition to the huge database of agent listings, Query Tracker also has a lively forum, full of writers and authors, each on their own journey toward publication.

There's also a section reserved for success stories. Each writer who signs with an agent is welcome to share his/her success story. The interviews are quite informative but sometimes they don't quite reflect the emotional details novice writers crave.

Success stories are about success. For many writers, however, the journey is discouraging and writers often feel alone in their struggles. Those stories can be cold comfort to a writer who feels passed over.

Lisa Amowitz was one such writer. She shares her story today because she knows, all too well, how important perseverance is when choosing the path of publication.

From Clueless Wannabe to Soon-to-be Published Author--The Eight-Year Saga of Lisa Amowitz

I got into serious writing pretty late in life. Though I’d always dabbled, I’m an artist and graphic designer by trade. But after reading the first three Harry Potter books to my daughter (in a very tacky British accent—yes—three entire books) something got under my skin.

I think it was a story.

So I wrote that story, hiding my activities like a CIA operative. It was two years before I admitted my now-overwhelming compulsion to write. My characters spoke to me at random moments—I was obsessed with writing that story.

But guess what? That first book was horrible. It has its fans but, plot-wise and premise-wise, it was unsalvageable. Subsequently, I joined an online critique group who really helped me to clean up my writing. But I still couldn’t plot to save my life.

Fast forward a couple of years—I had shelved my first book, which did get some nibbles but nothing much, written a second book, now had two wonderful online crit groups (which have since merged into one killer group called The Cudas and boasts published authors Heidi Ayarbe, Lindsay Eland, Christine Johnson and Kate Milford and a bunch of other up and coming writing stars of the future.), and I joined the Query Tracker forum (aka JustWrite—or JW as I became known), which at the time had about twelve members, including Leah Clifford (aka gypsy gurl).

We all became quite close, chatting day and night. I am still very good friends with a few of the originals (Michelle McLean (eknutswife) and Colleen Kosinski (Coll)—two very smart and determined ladies). The next wave, as QT grew brought in people like Jessica Verday, Elana Johnson, Bethany Wiggins, and Mary Lindsey.

I’m dropping names here, because you should note that these ladies are all published. We all started together, whining, grasping at straws, dragging each other along. A number of them got lucky early on.

It’s not really luck—it’s just timing. Their time had come. And then, back in 2008, it seemed like my time had finally come, too.

I signed with a big agent for my third book. I thought I had arrived and would soon be ascending the steps to Writer Nirvana. Game over.

Was I wrong. The agent and I did not see eye-to-eye. She hated my revisions but didn’t really seem to know how to explain what she wanted from me. Her vision of my writing did not seem to mesh with the vision I had for myself. She liked my realistic style and characters but hated my fantasy. I started another book (my fourth book), which was not the one she wanted me to write. She preferred my other proposal, which, ironically became the book I eventually sold, my fifth book, BREAKING GLASS.

Yeah, yeah. She actually was right. But that isn’t the point—the point is that she tried to tell me who I was—she imposed her own wishes on me, which totally shut down my muse. I couldn’t write a word.

When she suggested we part in March of 2009, I was actually relieved.  But by summer, I was DESTROYED. Devastated. My QT buddies were signing with agents and landing great deals, one by one—and I'd gone nowhere. I’d hit rock bottom. A shameful has-been.

It was hard. I was depressed and truly discouraged. With the help of my QT buddies and my crit groups, I just kept at it. Kept writing. In the winter of 2010, I submitted the first 150 words of my fourth book, LIFE AND BETH, to a Writer’s Digest contest and forgot about it until I won runner-up for second place out of 400 entries. Best of all, the contest judge--another very well-known but more down-to-earth agent—really liked my book.

However, I had a revelation. A very major revelation. I had to stop writing for others. I had to stop judging my worth as a writer by my outside success.

I had to write for me.

There it was: February 2010, the moment I came into my own.

I started to submit LIFE AND BETH. I got help from the esteemed Elana Johnson to perfect the best query ever (I designed her blog header in return—best barter I ever made!). And I broke ALL the query rules. You see, I didn’t care—I was going to write, and write, and write—and work on my craft. And NO ONE—no agent, editor, no arbiter of good taste was going to stop me.

I sent out NINETY queries over the span of five days. Yes—I knew my manuscript was polished to the best of my ability. Yes—my query was spot-on.

But 90? All at once? I got a request rate of about 27%.

Then came the phone calls from agents wanting to talk about revisions. At one point I had about fifteen manuscripts out for review. I was getting closer—I could feel it. All because I didn’t care. I was going to write my brains out, even if every agent in North America rejected me. The world of publishing was changing—you could smell it in the air. Indie publishing was growing in popularity and offered a new, attractive option.

During the summer, I got a phone call from the agent who had judged the Writers Digest contest. She gave me amazing tips on what I needed to do to make my book better. I began a major revision in hopes she might sign me.

But that never happened. In July 2010 I got an email from Victoria Marini, who'd requested my manuscript. She had about a hundred pages left to read of my ms and planned to finish the WHOLE thing that night. She did—and emailed requesting a phone call. I was expecting another revision song and dance.

Nope. She offered.

I asked for two weeks to consider the wisdom of signing with an untested novice. After contacting the bazillion other agents who had my full, they all stepped aside, including the contest agent (who was moving at the time and couldn’t read my revision that quickly.)

It took a lot of deliberation (Victoria was young, new—completely unknown) but my gut was screaming: YOU LIKE HER. SHE GETS YOU. SIGN WITH HER. I decided that Victoria, who would inspire me to WRITE and stand by me and cheer me on, was preferable to an agent who just didn’t get me, who made me question my skill as a writer.

Fast forward another year to 2011—Victoria went on to submit LIFE AND BETH with gusto. However, times were hard and it just never gained any traction. We both still love that book and have plans for it.

But here is the most important lesson to be learned: I DIDN’T CARE. I'd found my muse. I had an agent who passionately loved my writing, believed in me, and was going to sell my next book, or the one after that. My time would come.

In record time, I wrote BREAKING GLASS. It was almost a year after signing with Victoria, who in that year built her list and skyrocketed from unknown to a name brand. She’d made a good amount of sales and had networked her brains out. The woman is charming beyond belief and I felt so proud knowing that she was the one who would represent me.

We got very close to a huge deal with BREAKING GLASS. Then came an offer from Spencer Hill Press. They were small. I was skeptical. It felt like a repeat of my agent experience. But that had turned out okay. Better than okay.

So we went with Spencer Hill and I am thrilled with them. Now, not only do I have an agent who believes in me—I have a whole team. They even let me design my own book and trailer and gave me all the help I needed. From the incredible Kate Kaynak who has creative ideas streaming from her pores, to my supportive fellow writers like Kimberly Ann Miller, (TRIANGLES, 2013) to my editor, Vikki Claffone—they rock. They are not a publishing house---they are a family!

Am I rich? No. Will I get rich? Who knows. Do I care? Not at all. Money is not the reason I started writing in the first place. I started writing because I want people to read and love the stories in my head.

Thanks to my supporters, I’m going to write, and write, and write until the bones in my fingers crumble from overuse.

And that, dear people, is what it is all about. Love your craft. Don’t judge yourself against the successes of others. Persevere. Take advice. Understand the marketplace. Change, Grow, be fearless. Be a warrior. Love yourself and someone will eventually love you back.

You will get somewhere. Maybe not where you expected—but remember, it’s not the destination that matters—it’s the journey.

Lisa Amowitz's novel, BREAKING GLASS, will be released by Spencer Hill Press in July 2013

Facebook author page:
Goodreads page:
View the BREAKING GLASS trailer on YouTube:

Ash Krafton is a speculative fiction writer who resides in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region, where she keeps the book jacket for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" in a frame over her desk. Visit Ash's blog at for news on her newly released urban fantasy "Bleeding Hearts: Book One of the Demimonde" (Pink Narcissus Press 2012).
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Friday, May 4, 2012

Heidi Ayarbe WANTED release Blog Snog---interview with Stephen Barbara

I'm going to link here to the blog of YA author Cindy Thomas who has an interview with super-agent Stephen Barbara about Heidi and why he signed her. And I have to laugh about his mention of being surprised how nice she was after reading her gritty writing style. I was too! But now that I know her for seven years, I'm kind of used to the snarl of her hard-edged writing as contrasted to the super sweet caring person she actually is. Haha--we are not necessarily what we write, thank goodness!

Okay--you know--I actually met Stephen a number of years ago. Great guy. And I have the distinct honor of being rejected by him four times (in typical flash response Barbara style)! But it's okay--Stephen is the kind of agent you want--someone who only signs people he believes in 300%. And that is how he felt about Heidi. And I know why. I critted that first book he signed her for, FREEZE FRAME. And it blew me away. Back then, Stephen himself was a new agent--but he was a new agent with vision. He recognized a good thing when he saw it. He recognized genius.

So, even though he rejected me umpteen times, I still love the guy. How can you not?

So here is the link to Cindy's blog and Heidi's.

And don't forget to read WANTED.

Heidi's blog
Cindi's blog