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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Calling

At one point in time we all hear it. For writers its through the words of a book that grips us and won't let go. One author changes our whole world and molds our future. Thanks to them we know that we must write. Some of us recieve the calling at a very young age, some a bit later. Depending on who we heard the call from, it gives our writing a certain tune. My writing is often fast paced with a lot of action and adventure. It isn't hard for me to discern where that came from.

A co-worker of mine joked that since I was a sci-fi/fantasy writer I didn't have much of a literary background. I was appalled and contemplated seriously wounding him, or at least throwing a stapler at him. But instead I stopped and thought about all the books I'd read in my youth. It made me think back to the author who's words called out to me and showed me my future. For me it was Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan and Red Sonja. The first Conan book I read sucked me into a world that I never wanted to leave. I voraciously read every piece of his work I could get my hands on. Because he was my first, my writing definately has a spice similar to his, as you'll find yours probably has something in common with your mentor. There were others that strengthened the call for me. I found Frank Herbert and though I was confused by him at a young age, I was also intrigued. Margaret Wies & Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance series sealed the deal and made me realize there wasn't anything else in the world I wanted to do besides write fantasy.

Then teachers intervened and I was forced to branch out to Shakespere, George Orwell, and Mark Twain. In a way these great writers affect the calling of all writers because most of us have no choice but to read them, which is a good thing because they're brilliant.

Take a look at who you first heard the calling from, think about whether or not they've affected your writing style. Do you write the same genre as they do? It may surprise you.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Publishing today: Timing, Talent, or Luck?

I'm told there was a day when talent alone got your book published. Apparently that day was long before I was born. Today you must possess the big three. As any of you who have been trying to get your work published for any amount of time know, getting all three elements can be like finding an endangered species. So is reaching for a literary career as unrealistic as reaching for the presidency of the United States now? No, but you do have to work harder at it and want it really bad.

So what are you to do?

Timing: Know your genre. Meaning read it, check the bestseller list frequently, visit the bookstore (or web site) often. Come to know what kind of books are selling in the genre you write. Now here's the tricky part. If you've written something that is selling like mad you may run into a lot of agents and publishers who don't want to buy it because they've already purchased or sold books similar to it. On the other hand, if you write something completely different you might here that's it too ahead of it's time and they may be unsure the concept will sell. This comes down to a matter of choosing your agent and publisher carefully. A big house may not be buying say vampire stories at the moment because they are flouding the market. But a smaller house might read yours and pick it up because it's kind are selling like hot cakes. The right agent will be willing to search for the right publisher, which will help your timing.

Talent: This can be worked on by simply writing every day. Of course it helps if you can attend writers retreats or college classes. If you don't have the funds then recruit someone to help you read your work and look for errors, inconsistencies, or confusing parts. Join or start a writers group, they can be a huge help. Expect to edit your own work. Get good at it. View your work with the critical eye of a literary agent. It will surprise you how differently you see it in this light, and how many more errors you'll catch.

Luck: This can be as elusive as love if you don't know how to track it down and capture it. There is a way you can increase your good fortune though. It's simple and complicated all at the same time. Network! How if you can't afford to go to conferences or retreats? You're probably staring at the answer right now, your computer. Meet people through sites for writers, readers, agents, and publishers. Meet people through your blog, through Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace. Seek those in the industry out.

What to do if you've tried all this and still not managed to get your book published? There is always self publishing. But be sure that's something you've researched completely and have decided you're ready for. For tips on self publishing check out this post on one of the great blogs I follow: http://kenatchity.blogspot.com/2009/06/further-observations-on-self-publishing.html And as always, best of luck!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sarah's Big Idea

Those of you who have read my earlier posts have heard me rave about Sarah Rees Brennan's new book, The Demon's Lexicon. Am I just shamelessly promoting a friend? You bet I am. However, here is the perfect example of why she's so amazing. Sarah has commited to writing a short story every week if her book climbs to a certain number in the sales ranking. So, don't wait for paperback folks, rush out and buy this because I must have more of her short stories!!! Once you start reading her work you will be hungry for every little bit extra you can get your hands on too!

This week she did a story on the history of one of the characters in The Demon's Lexicon. It's fantastic, and a great backstory we wouldn't have otherwise received. It's marketing genius, you've got to love that! Not only can she write, this Irish girl's got brains and beauty too. Watch out America!

So first jump on here and read the first few pages of the Demon's Lexicon (warning, you'll be hooked once you do :) http://www.sarahreesbrennan.com/demonlexchapter1.html

Then go to http://sarahtales.livejournal.com/148663.html to read the short story.

I love this idea so much that I think I may do this once my book sells. As a reader I can't imagine anything greater than more of a story that I love. It's like being rewarded for buying the hardback. Love it!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Way Writers See the World

We see the world differently from those who don't write, which is both to our benefit and our detriment. A sunset isn't just beautiful, or breathtaking to us, it's a wash of pink and orange all fading together to create an unforgettable spectacle. If you're at all like me, the world seems fuller, crisper, as if everything is in vivid color. We see beyond the obvious, deeper into the 'why'. Life is words to us and many of us can't help but think of how we'd describe something we're seeing. We're often quiet and contemplative, not because we're shy or withdrawn, but because we are sort of in our own world, a world of words.

So how is all this to our detriment? It can cost us relationships if we aren't careful to nurture them as much as we nurture out creativity. Don't worry, there's good news; both can be done at once. Take vacation for example, you get to relax, have a good time with your loved one's, and it can spark your creativity.

I don't know how many times I've been told to get my head out of the clouds or to come back to planet earth. But I don't mind, those people don't know the wonders that go on inside my mind, and don't really care. Thankfully, my husband has come to understand my blank stare to mean I'm working out a scene from my book rather than fear I'm going crazy. It didn't start out this way. There was a time when I think he contemplated calling the folks with the white coats. I had to patiently explain to him that I was fine, no nothing was wrong, I was just thinking about my book. Since we see the world so differently its easy to forget that our loved one's and friends don't experience life the same way we do. It's important to reasure them that we're sane (or close enough to pass a psych test at least) and that no, nothing is wrong with them, we just have our book on our mind almost 24/7. It takes a special kind of person to understand a writer and be able to put up with all our quirks. In our pursuit to write the next New York Times Bestseller we must not forget those who support us and the impact they have on our lives!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Genre Does Your Book Fit In?

Sounds like an easy question, until you start realizing how many elements are in your book. It took me a while to figure this out for one of my first books. Since I was talking to a friend about it on twitter it brought the issue back to the forefront of my mind. I recall this coming up last year when I went to my first writer's retreat. We all sat down around the table and our teacher (a NY Times Bestseller who seemed very intimidating at the time) asked us to tell the class what genre our book was and talk a little about it.

The only reason I didn't crawl under the table and try to hide was because I was already knee deep in the query process trying to find an agent and kind of had an idea of how to answer the question. So went around the table, everyone described their book and said what the genre was. Some had trouble, they weren't sure, just like myself in the beginning. Our teacher told us to think of where we might find it on the shelf in a bookstore. That really helped clarify it for some. Others still weren't sure so we went into a discussion about the main driving theme of the book. What is the most important thing about your book? Is it the love story? The mystery? The adventure? Or is the main theme a fantasy world, or futuristic? This sealed the deal and suddenly everyone knew what their book was.

Don't worry about all the crazy sub genres you hear about out there. They are enough to leave you realing in confusion, I know they often do so to me. Find the heart of your book and you will have found the genre. I once read an agent's blog who said, if you do not know the heart of your book, how can anyone else?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Waiting for Your Muse

Many writers wait for the inspiration to hit them. Truth be told, it is when we write our very best work. However, if you're at all like me you have the job from hell, your boss stresses you out, maybe your kids run you ragged all day long, you have a house to clean, errands to run and people to feed. At the end of the day you have no energy left at all, let alone feel up to inspiring thoughts. In other words, your stress has strangled your muse into submission.

So what do you do in a world that refuses to pause for you or give your muse a moment to come up for air? You fight for it. Treat your muse as one of those important people in your life that you must take care of, because after all they are important, they're you. Play music you love, watch one of your favorite shows when you get a chance, read a few pages of a book. You deserve a few moments of the day for yourself, even if that's all it is.

My book is always on my mind. I love my husband and am dedicated to my job. But, the book is always there, be it at the forefront of my mind or at the back. I carry a notepad or notebook everywhere I go so that if I get inspiration for even one sentence I write it down. And the more I keep my book on my mind, the more I get inspired. When you go on break or when the kids are down for a nap, pull that notebook out. Try it, you might find your muse singing to you a lot more often!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Goals & Deadlines

The two are interwoven. In the past I was never one to set goals. I just wrote when the inspiration struck me and finished my work whenever. That was in the blissfully pressure free 'before'. Now that I've decided I want to make a career out of this writing thing I realized I was going to have to step things up.

Setting goals for yourself now, long before you reach the publishing stage is like preparing for the battle. You won't be ready if you don't do it. If you sign on for a three book series they will likely be expecting a book from you every year. Can you write a book in a year, can you write a book in six months? Chances are if you never set goals for yourself you may not know. Trust me, you want to know the answer to that question before you plunge into the river.

A friend of mine missed their deadline for their sequel. Publishers don't like this, it throws off their entire plan and can cost money and effect sales. Upsetting a publisher is like jumping in the river to get a close up of watching pirahnas feed. It can go horribly wrong.

So now I set goals for myself; at least two pages a day. Two pages a day guarantees you'll get your book done in a year. Unless you're writing the next War & Peace, in which case you'll need much better advice than mine! But if two pages a day is too daunting considering your hectic life, don't sweat it. You don't have to be that industrious in the begining. Shoot for a paragraph a day if that's all you can get. The point is to start setting goals and meeting them so you're already well practiced at it for when the time comes for you to meet deadlines. Time to practice what I preach and write something!

Best of luck!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What I'm Reading

Why the heck should you care what I'm reading? Well, because it's fabulous. Alas, that is not the point of my post, though I'll come back to it. At the retreats and conferences I go to I keep hearing this great piece of advice so I thought I should pass it on to all my writer friends: read! Seriously, that's it. More to the point though, know what's selling in your genre, get a feel for the competition. I love reading fantasy to the point where I read it almost exclusively. But, when I started writing my YA novel I realized I had to read YA first. I'm glad I did because it has helped tremendously!

So, back to what I'm reading. I just finished Aprilynne Pike's Wings (which has since hit the bestseller list, whoo hoo!), but it was so great I have to rave about it too. If your writing YA you should really read this book because it's fresh, different, and has already become hugely popular. Aprilynne captures the 'voice' of a 16 year old girl so acurately that it's amazing, and she makes the unbeleivable completely beleivable. Loved it! I am now reading The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. The first page absolutely blew me away. Sarah is like a force of nature, wild, all-consuming, and completely unexpected. You will love her. Besides, she's Irish and that really comes through in her writing which makes it a blast to read! These two ladies have completely changed the way I think of YA and they're the reason I started writing it in the first place! Check them out, you won't be sorry you did.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

God Complex?

I can't count how many times I've heard someone say, 'writers have a god complex'. So the question we must ask ourselves is, do we? We must take a good hard look at our writing to see if we're directing the characters where we want them to go or if we're allowing them to take the path their personalities would actually take. This is harder than it sounds. I came to the end of a trilogy and had a problem deciding how to end it. Would this character of mine die or wouldn't she? The question wasn't really could I do that to her, but would she do that to herself? It took me a while to figure that out. She had to decide, not me.

Once I figured this out it was actually kind of liberating. I then realized I didn't have to think quite so hard on how to guide the story, it kind of guided itself. Of course we as writers still have to lay the foundation but once you create your characters, give them a bit of rein and they will propell the story into something great.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why do writers write?

The simple answer of course is because we have to. I write because my characters can't and their stories deserve to be told. I just read a blog by someone who will remain unmentioned that said writers are not artists. Now of course they were talking about the cover of a book and how a writer should have input but not get overly involved, so I'm taking it a bit out of context. However, I still don't like the statement in general. We are artists, you only have to read a truly moving book to know that. However, the reason why you're writing (and of course your skill level) will determine whether you're a paint by numbers artist or Michelangelo.

Do you write what you love, do you write what you know, or do you write what sells? You can pretty much tell which method a writer followed by reading their book. When writers write what they love it's usually a very compelling story, one that keeps you up at night turning pages. Writing what you know can resonate with a bit of the god complex if you're not careful though. Certainly not always, I often enjoy reading books by authors who write what they know. As long as the writer allows the story flow on it's own path rather than the one they think it should flow on, then it reads true. Writing what sells can be hard, especially if it isn't something you'd normally write. I can really tell when I pick up a book if it's been written for this soul purpose. They're often dry and feel forced.

The best scenerio is to know about what you love to write and it just happens to be what's selling at the time. How lucky would that be?! The good news is, most of us know about what we love because we read about it or live it. So, as difficult as all that sounds, you most likely already have the first two down, which is the recipe for a great book. The rest is all up to timing and the market!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The First Dragonwatcher

At seventeen all Thornos could think about was women and fighting, but that was before his mother was nearly killed by a dragon. Now his every thought is about how the Dragon Empire isn't doing enough to make sure the dragons who live outside the Dragon Isles are obeying the creeds that protect the races of people.

Grendar, an old friend who helped save his mother's life offers Thornos somewhere to direct his frustrated energy; become the first dragonwatcher. At first it sounds like exactly what he needs; a chance to amass a bit of wealth and fame, and do something about the dragon problem at the same time. But, as with all things where dragons are concerned, this dragonwatcher idea of Grendar's is far from simple. He must spend an entire moon with each type of dragon. With twelve types of dragons this means his training won't be complete for the entire turn of seasons.

Between lessons on astronomy, geography, storms, and fighting, Thornos spends time with a local tribe of shrakee elves who are tasked to teach him how to fly a creature called a teraptor. As much as he hates it, flying may be the least of his worries as he starts to fall for his instructor’s daughter. Worse yet, his only competition for her affections is assigned to travel with him to the Dragon Isles to continue his training. But Thornos's troubles are only beginning. Chemier, a dragon cursed to live one hundred winters trapped in a human's body, is searching him out to destroy both him and the Emperor's dragonwatcher idea.

The Secret Of Spruce Knoll

On Eren Donovan’s sixteenth birthday she discovers she has access to a power that is latent in most humans. As if being orphaned and forced to live with an aunt she’s never met wasn’t bad enough, now she has to figure out what being a channeler means. Worse yet, the fate of channelers is tied to the fate of the world. Because it is slowly dying, so are they.

The tiny Colorado town of Spruce Knoll is populated solely by channelers from four different countries who immigrated there when they were driven out of their own lands. Not long after arriving Eren meets Aiden, an Irish boy who makes channelers seem more fascinating than frightening. With him Eren finds solace and a happiness she thought she’d never find again. Things get complicated when she and Aiden realize both of their parents’ deaths were not accidents. They become drawn into a dangerous game that could end in either justice for their parents' murders or their own deaths.

~a novel by Heather McCorkle

Career or Hobby?

This is the question we all must ask ourselves at some point in regards to our writing. Do we wish to make it a career or are we happy keeping it a hobby? As you can probably tell from my posts, I've decided I want to make it my career. This is not a decision I've made lightly and neither should you. There are questions we have to ask ourselves before taking the step towards a writing career. Are we going to be able to keep a schedule? How hard are we willing to work to promote ourselves (bad news for any who don't know, a publicist can't do it all without you!)? Don't worry, this is not to say that we all have to be Stephen King or Ashton Kutcher. But you do have to want it really, really bad. The road to an agent and to publishing is filled with a lot of work, disapointment, rejection, and then responsibility. Sounds like life right? It can be done. I have quite a few friends in the industry who are doing quite well. They remind me everyday that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

All you need is to develop a tough skin (like adamantium strength), learn to use criticism positively no matter how it's presented, set goals and keep them, be ready to promote yourself, and keep loving what you do. Sounds easy enough right? Easy like a triathalon. But so worth the journey. . .

Links for Writers

I've put together a bunch of great links that I've come across this month. Here's an insider view on what agents hate in a manuscript: http://writersdigest.com/article/what-agents-hate/
This is some really good advice from one of the agent blogs I read:
http://www.johnsonliterary.com/blog/2009/6/9/advice-for-writers-from-the-nyc-rwa-panel.html
If you've ever wondered what agents think about self publishing check this out!
http://writersdigest.com/article/the-reality-of-self-publishing-an-agents-perspective/
The future of publishing is explored here by a speaker at Book Expo America (BEA), a huge renowned Expo in New York that draws a lot of agents, publishers, booksellers, and writers!
http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-shift-speech
These tips for querying an agent are absolutely priceless:
http://writersdigest.com/article/10-submission-tips-for-querying-an-agent/
If you're ready to take the plunge and start your own website there's some great advice in this article: http://writersdigest.com/article/the-anatomy-of-a-writers-website/

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why Twitter

To Twitter or not to Twitter? That's the question on a lot of writers minds. Heck it was on my mind. So why did I take the plunge? A couple reasons. The first was to connect with other writers and follow agents & publishers who tweet. Sounds a lot like networking right? And we all know how necessary networking is for us writers. The second was to further build my platform. Agents & publishers love their writers to have a platform, it helps sell books! The platform thing sounded very foreign and intimidating to me at first until one of my published friends explained that it's just different ways of gathering readers. With the mystery taken out of it the whole idea made sense. Then suddenly twitter made sense too.

You don't have to jump on there and think of something witty every day. Use it as a networking tool and it will have served it's purpose as part of your platform! You don't have to take my word for it though. Check out what Publisher's Weekly is saying: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6664354.html

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No More Nails

Nope, I've chewed them all off. This fantastic agent out of San Francisco (yes, great agents can come from somewhere besides New York!) has asked to read my entire young adult manuscript. I can't decide if I should throw up first or do a happy dance. Really it's just the first step in the courtship so to speak so I'm trying not to get too excited yet but it's hard because she's really great! Having read only a synopsis and five pages there is still a chance that she could pass. Maybe I'll just hold my breath until I pass out then I can at least sleep for a while. ;) Not just her, her agency is fantastic, her clients are fantastic and she likes my story, my story! Okay the hyperventilating had begun. Sorry folks, I'm too excited to impart any words of wisdom today.

The good news is I'll be drug back down to earth soon because she said she's hoping to have it read by mid-July. Those of you who've submitted know that's a pretty short time frame to wait for a response on someone reading your whole manuscript. Think happy thoughts for me!

First Few Pages of The Secret of Spruce Knoll


T


he bus flew like a rollercoaster through the wooded landscape, flinging Eren toward a new, unwanted life. All too soon it pulled into the bus station of a tiny town on the outskirts of nowhere Colorado. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she and an aunt she’d never met were going to have to drive another hundred miles into nowhere to find the town of Spruce Knoll.
Eren’s stomach turned as she entered the tedious crawl of sweaty bodies exiting the bus. What if her aunt didn’t like her? Or worse, what if she was an unbearable tyrant who was furious that child services had saddled her with an unwanted niece? It was too much. She had to remind herself to breathe.
Clutching her duffle bag a bit tighter, she reminded herself not to overreact.
See the bright side until you’re forced not to. That’s what her mother always told her. The memory helped slow her breathing and she was able to regain a bit of calm.
Not willing to stand in the press of rank smelling bodies any longer than she had to, she waited until the crowd around the luggage dissipated. When everyone walked away her big blue suitcase was the last one sitting on the sidewalk. Pulling it up onto its wheels, she turned to follow the retreating crowd toward the small bus station. The sight of a woman who could have been her dead mother brought her to a jarring halt and she sucked in a deep breath.
At five foot six, this woman was a bit taller than her mother and slender almost to the point of looking anorexic. Her black hair was cut into a cute bob that framed her round face. At first glance one would assume she was Hispanic, but a closer look revealed a more exotic ancestry that was harder to pinpoint. She was Maya, as was all of Eren’s mother’s family.
“Erendria! It’s fabulous to finally meet you!” the woman exclaimed.
It was hard not to cringe at the use of her full name. Back in California, Eren had never used it. The name had just never fit into her ‘it’ girl persona. Before Eren could respond the woman dashed forward and pulled her into a tight embrace. Everywhere Sylvia touched her sent a tiny electric shock like static electricity across her skin. It wasn’t unpleasant, just strange. It faded quickly but left Eren feeling charged.
When Sylvia finally let go she began chattering about how much Eren resembled her mother, touching her face and hair as she squealed in delight. Eren could only stare at her in wide-eyed wonder.
“Oh you have your dad’s blue eyes, how beautiful!” she gushed.
She’d never really thought of it that way, but Eren supposed her aunt was right; her eyes did look like her father’s. That kind of made her sad and she wasn’t sure how to react. Sylvia continued on without missing a beat, talking all the way to the black JK Wrangler halfway across the parking lot. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trouble With the Dragon Empire

There's trouble in the Dragon Empire, the kind of trouble that could start a war. Despite being only an architect class, emerald dragon, Grendar is willing to risk banishment and death to stop it.

When Grendar sees Sidean and his friends eating the corpses of shipwrecked sailors he fears it may be the death of him. The races of people are protected. Such a horrible secret would ruin Sidean and get him banished from the Dragon Empire. Unsure of how much Grendar saw, Sidean leaves it at a good beating and Grendar considers himself lucky. But his luck soon runs out.

After too much fighting and drinking at the spring festival Sidean attacks Grendar and his friends, nearly killing them. The Empire banishes Sidean forever. Grendar fears banishment will not stop him from terrorizing others. His fears are realized when his best friend Ashanti confides in him that she sees visions of the future. Those visions reveal Sidean will start a dragon war which will decimate not only dragons, but also the races of people. There is a way to stop it but it means he will have to leave the Empire without permission to save three children who are in danger from banished dragons. These children could grow up to stop the war, but if they die Sidean's reign of terror will cover the world. Grendar will have to challenge the very foundations the Dragon Empire is built upon to stop Sidean, save the children, and bring about change that is long overdue.

Grendar's Tale

Being the most advanced species in the world isn't all its cracked up to be. All that knowledge and power comes with enough responsibility to weigh heavy even on a dragon's mighty shoulders. Don't get me wrong, the Dragon Emperors handle all the really big decisions and are responsible for keeping peace between all the races. However, even a lowly emerald dragon like myself feels the weight of such things.

Our society is carefully balanced and maintained by twelve emperors, one for each type of dragon. We live almost exclusively in the Dragon Isles located at the top of the world. It isn't because we don't want to live among the races of people, it's because we want them to be able to evolve without our interference. You see, we weren't always so advanced.

I probably shouldn't tell you this but there was a time when dragons were very savage. There was a war, one which nearly wiped out all the races of people. We made them forget, not because we didn't want to be known as monsters, but because it was the only way to keep peace. I don't necessarily agree with them having done that but that was over a thousand years ago, long before my time.

Now we're having trouble with some of the dragons that choose to live outside the Dragon Isles and with those who are banished. They're doing terrible things, reverting back to their savage natures. But there is good news. The Empire is changing for the better and my generation is a big part of why.

For writers: Reading Submission Guidelines

I've been noticing a trend in the agents blogs that I've been reading lately. Many of them are complaining that writers who submit are not reading their submission guidelines closely enough.

Naw, we wouldn't do that, would we? Well, in the past I have been guilty of this myself. I got to the point where I was submitting to too many agents and wasn't thoroughly reading through their guidelines. Then I realized I was wasting both their time and mine by doing this because if you don't meet the guidelines they immediately reject you. No questions asked, no materials read, into the shredder!

Considering that many agents get hundreds of queries a week this doesn't seem like a harsh response. They barely have time to read those that do meet their guidelines because they're lost amidst a pile of those that don't! And I contributed to that, argh!

Save yourself time and a few horrible form rejections and be sure to read the guidelines of each agent very carefully before submitting. Not only will you save time this way, you'll ensure that you get the best agent for your work.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Launch party!

My blog is officially live & public and I've invited all my friends. Whoo hoo! Who brought the rum? Oh yeah, that'd be me. ;) I've moved a lot of my material from authornation to here as this will be my new home base. Welcome everyone from authornation, please check in with me here often as I'll be at authornation less & less as I get further into the publishing process. Don't worry, I'll still be checking my e-mails from y'all. I'll be talking about writing a lot (for my non-writer friends, skip those posts if they bore you, I won't be offended!) and might even post some of my own work once my agent(s) allow me to!

For writers: Hawaii Writer's Retreat

After a lot of deliberation and looking over funds I've decided to attend the Hawaii Writer's Retreat (formerly known as the Maui Writer's Retreat) again this year. Again, you say? My God she's crazy! And I am, crazy dedicated to my career.

Last year I learned so much that I got every dollars worth out of it. I sat down with a NY Times bestseller in a room with only six other students and got one on one critiquing from him. He helped us practice pitching to an agent, both in query form and in person. He also helped us improve our books and take a good honest look at them. Which beleive me, if you've never done it, you need to! My book improved exponentially. Everyone's book can use improvement. If you disagree, ask an editor and do a reality check.

With the state of today's economy and my own finances, this was no easy decision to make. But, it's an investment in my future. The fact that going will help the economy and support the industry I want to work in did weigh into my decision. We must support the industry we want to work in folks, or it will not recover, I can't say that enough! It doesn't mean you have to go to conferences or retreats, just buy a book now and then if that's all you can afford. But the one thing we writers must remember is this, if you aren't willing to invest in your future, why should anyone else? https://www.hawaiiwriters.org/ for those who are able check it out, you won't be sorry you did, and hey, maybe I'll see you there! Best of luck!

For writers: A little secret about agents. . .

Okay, so it's probably not much of a secret, I probably just took way too long to figure it out. But, since I did I should point it out. A friend of mine told me she found her agent by reading her blogs. I suddenly felt terrible. Here I'd been blindly submitting to anyone and everyone with an e-mail or physical address, not really finding out much about them at all. Mistake!

My friend sent a VERY casual e-mail to this agent and got picked up by her immediately. I asked her how on earth she could have impressed an agent with such a non-chalant query. It was because she got to know the agent by reading her blog. She figured out what that agent liked not only in a book, but in a writer, and in a query.

Now that I've started reading agent's blogs I've realized there is a load of information out there about the agents themselves. And, as we all know, it is much easier to contact someone once you know a bit about them. More importantly, this way it is easier to figure out if you're book will be right for them and if you will mesh well with them. Not every agent does it, but I highly recommend looking into those who do. They tend to be the one's who are really scouting for new talent and want to help them out. Best of luck!

For writers: Offers of Representation

So what happens when an agent finally offers to represent you?

You should carefully research anyone you submit to before ever sending your work to them. Check their website, if they don't have one, be suspicious. That doesn't mean their iligit, it just means you'll have to work harder to find out about them. Check their client list then research their clients. If you can get a hold of some of their clients and talk to them, even better! Make sure you have good solid contact information for the agent. Ask your writer friends in the biz if they've heard of this person, or ask on forums like AN. Check http://www.writerbeware.com/

An agent should never ask for money. NEVER. Period. A ligitimate agent gets paid once you get paid, not before. An agent shouldn't recommend a copy-editor. They may recommend that you have your manuscript copy-edited, but if they try to give you the name of someone then that probably means they are getting a commision and that the agent may not be entirely legit. Most legit agents will absolutely not charge a reading fee either. The only thing that should cost you is sending your query or manuscript to them (postal charges, ect.)

Once an agent offers to represent you, be ready to work hard! Most will recommend changes and expect them to be done before they begin trying to sell your manuscript. Then get ready, because the wait starts all over again while they submit your work to publishers!!

As always, best of luck!

For writers: Never stop improving your novel!

Like many of you I submitted query letter after query letter. Literally by the dozens! Its nerve wracking and depressing. After dozens of rejections what do you do? Well after twenty rejections I took a good hard look at my book and thought about why people weren't interested in it.

First, my query letter was terrible, so I had to work on improving that. Once I did agents started asking for the first few pages, but were still rejecting me. That was the point where I realized I needed to take another good, hard look at my manuscript.

This is harder than it sounds. To be completely honest with yourself is not easy. Think of how harshly you judge your appearance. Its safe to say you aren't nearly as honest with yourself about your writing as you are about your appearance. I know I wasn't. A good friend of mine was wonderful enough to wade through the mess that was my manuscript and give me some great advice. I immediately applied it and began sending it out again. I also decided to go to a writer's retreat and work even further on it. I learned so much I'm still processing it all, and every bit of it has improved my novel.

Its very important that we never stop evolving as writers. Don't finish your manuscript (especially the first draft) and then set it aside thinking your done. Truly, once the first draft is done, that's when the real work truly begins. Diamonds look like just a hunk of ugly rock before they are chipped away at and polished.

Happy writing and best of luck!

For writers: The 1st Ten pages, edit!

When submitting to agents I came across many who wanted either the first five, or first ten pages of my manuscript. Fantastic, I thought! Someone who will read at least a bit of my writing before immediately rejecting me! And it is great, if you're prepared. I wasn't and didn't know it. I began submitting immediately, at great postal expense I might add.

After many rejections I finally printed out my manuscript and took a red pen to it. I was appalled at how many errors I found and embarrassed that I had sent it out in such condition. But I had gone over and over it on my computer, I couldn't believe I had missed all those errors. Well I had.

For many of you, reading and editing on your computer will be the way to go. For myself, it was printing it out and taking a red pen to it. Either way is great, you just need to figure out which way works best for you and do it. If you have a friend you trust that will help, by all means recruit them.

Never send your work out without extensive editing on your part. That said, don't just apply this to the first five or ten pages that you're submitting. Be confident that they will ask for the whole thing and do it all in preperation.

Must one use a copy-editor, I wondered? If you aren't decent at editing, or can't be unbiased towards your own work, it wouldn't hurt. Do you have to? No, definately not. It depends on your level of competency when editing, and of course on your finances. Copy-editors are expensive, ecspecially when you write everything over 120,000 words like myself. So give it a go, you might find that you're your own best editor. To a point of course! At any rate, you'll end up with a much better manuscript that reads like you put a lot of work into it.

For writers: Conferences

Last year I attended my first writers conference, which I LOVED! That could be in large part because it was located in Hawaii, but not entirely. Don't get me wrong, that certainly didn't hurt! But, you don't necessarily have to go to a tropical place to enjoy an excellent conference. There are many great conferences all across the states.

If your looking for an agent I encourage you to attend conferences. All too often it is nearly impossible to get an agent to read your material just by submitting query letters. I easily submitted over thirty queries and only had two agents ask to read any of my material. However, when I went to the conference and pitched to an agent he didn't just ask for the first few pages, he asked for the entire manuscript! I learned that once they meet you and hear you pitch your idea, they are much more likely to ask to read the manuscript.

To use a conference to your best advantage you need to research the agents who are attending and be sure to only approach those who represent your genre. If you take the time to learn about them they appritiate it. Once you've researched, practice your pitch! I found this to be very nerve racking, but with practice I pulled it off quite well. A good rule of thumb is to have your query letter memorized and much (if not all) of your synopsis and use that in your pitch. That way you get across all the highlights and hopefully impress them.

Best of luck everyone!

The YA Plunge

My first--and last--love will always be fantasy. That said, I've decided to delve into the world of YA. At first you couldn't drag me kicking and screaming--I can really kick--into that genre. I'd never read it, refused to write it, and had a billion misconceptions regarding it. Then I went to the Maui Writer's Retreat and Conference last year, where I met two outstanding new YA writers. They assured me that I was totally misguided in my beliefs about the genre. After reading the work they had brought to the retreat I was astounded. Adventure, romance, intrigue, it was all there. YA deals with more adult themes than it ever did before, but in a tasteful way. I'm no longer against the idea of writing YA and I've begun to read quite a bit of it. In fact, I finished my first YA novel, edited & revised it and have begun submitting it. Guess I'm converted (as my friend says). My friends' books debut this summer. If you enjoy dark fantasy and a very original twist on an old theme, you'll love them. Check them out on the sidebar under my favorite blogs.

My little push.

My horse gave me a swift kick to the head. That's what really started it all. I've been writing since I was twelve and had a manuscript which I'd revised at least three times. The banks of the publishing industry river looked like they were edged in ice so I wasn't about to take the plunge. I figured it was something I'd do when I retired. No rush right?

So that fateful morning came. My husband and I were out feeding our horses and I was walking along merrily behind them (stupid I know!). They didn't know I was there (yes I win the gold medal for stupid). Something got them excited and they took off running, kicking up their heals. It's a horrible, hollow kind of sound when death comes knocking. I'll never forget it, the way his hoof sounded when it collided with the side of my face.

After the wonderful surgeon put my face back together I had a lot of time to think. I pulled that old manuscript out and started working on it again. Waiting for a retirement that may never come to pursue my dream suddenly seemed like a horrible idea. Then an old friend contacted me and told me he had been published. He asked if I had anything ready. I did. He read it and things took off from there. I now have an agent for the book (trilogy actually) and he's showing it around New York. I couldn't stop though. Since then I've wrote three others and am working on my fifth novel. Now I'm looking for a YA agent. Got a really good bite, I hope she likes how it tastes. But regardless I will keep writing and this dream will wait for nothing!