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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Banned Books Week~Blood & Chocolate

This week is banned books week, a time when readers and writers celebrate and support the books that have been banned. There is a list at this link of books that are currently banned but it is by no means all inclusive. Books are banned for a number of different reasons at a number of different places. You might be surprised and appalled by the reasons. There are books that are banned simply because they involve paranormal elements. The Harry Potter books are banned. Really. What does banned mean? Some stores, libraries, and schools won't carry the books. On the flip side of the coin, many libraries and stores fight to keep books from being banned.

Today I'm featuring a book that isn't on this banned list but it is banned from many schools and some libraries. It is Blood And Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. It is a young adult novel about a young girl~Vivian~who struggles to find her place in a world that doesn't accept her kind. It is a very mature read for a young adult novel but it deals with many problems teenagers struggle daily with, acceptance, identity, and a less than perfect family. So why is it banned in some places? Vivian's family are werewolves and the tough subject of teen sex is addressed. I loved this novel. Would I want my fourteen year old sister to read it? Maybe in a year. And I would discuss it with her after she read it. But I want her to have the option to read it should she choose to.

It is up to us as parents, sisters, brothers, and adults to moderate and discuss novels with the kids in our lives. It is not up to us to ban novels so they are unavailable to anyone. That is stealing a touch of someone's freedom and that isn't acceptable.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Time And Place For Backstory

There is a time and place for backstory and the beginning of your novel is not it. Beginning with backstory is a good way to get automatically rejected by many agents and editors. However, backstory is not the same as a prologue. Backstory is talking about something that has already happened where a prologue is something that is happening~even if it's in the past. The difference is action. Most agents and editors want the story to start right away. Readers want a sense that something is happening, there is something at stake, and there is a way to save what is at stake.

The inciting incident should be as close to the beginning of your novel as you can get it. This doesn't mean it has to be in the first chapter so long as what comes first is pertinent to the story and is exciting, suspenseful, or interesting enough to start the novel with. Not sure what the inciting incident is? It is the event which occurs and sets the entire novel in motion. Example: In Harry Potter it was the arrival of the letter from Hogwarts.

Backstory should come in later, after the reader is invested in the character and is hooked enough to keep turning pages. Only then will they tolerate or enjoy the lull of backstory. At conferences, workshops, and on blogs I've heard many agents advise that you should wait as long as you can to put backstory in your novel. Most say they don’t mind seeing it after five pages, even more say they prefer it after ten pages into the novel. I've found that waiting that long is a lot harder than it sounds. The key is to hook the reader quick and get them wanting to know more. As soon as you accomplish that, bring on the backstory!

For advice on backstory and more from editor Anica Rissi check out 9 Must-Follow Manuscript Rules.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Getting Published, Contests & More

Now that I'm editing instead of writing I've spent a lot more time on the internet, which of course means more time on Twitter! It isn't all play. I'm researching my next novel and I drop in on Twitter for a break now and then. The result is a bunch of excellent tweets for you! If you're on submission or plan on submitting any time soon you must read this one:
@V_Motter 86% rejection rate. Learn how to be in the 14% request. http://tinyurl.com/2eo5nkm

If you're thinking about submitting to the Sandra Dijkstra agency you must read this! If you aren't thinking about submitting to them, you should. ;-)
@Natalie_Fischer Check it out!!! Official new SDLA sub guidelines UP AND RUNNING! http://bit.ly/akkt0B  #agents, #amwriting

Do you write young adult or are you thinking about writing it? You should read this:
@WritersDigest I wanna write YA - Yeah. So there's no denying that YA and books for teens are where it's at these days. Everyone's ... http://ow.ly/195iP4  

Golden advice about getting published from one of my Twitter friends:
@V_Motter The difference between writers and authors: authors researched how to get published. http://tinyurl.com/2eo5nkm

Super agent Nathan talks about a writers platform:
@NathanBransford What "platform" means and why it's important:     blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/09/what-p…

This is a must read about something writers must not do:
@jsubject RT @RachelleGardner Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent: 10 Ways to Annoy a Literary Agent http://bit.ly/9zcTrh

Here is an excellent contest you don't want to miss if you write paranormal romance or urban fantasy for adult or YA:
@WritersDigest Sixth ''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest: Paranormal Romance & Urban Fantasy http://ow.ly/1977PA

Another great contest for writers:
@WeronikaJanczuk New blog post! Do You Know . . .: about the Secret Agent contest on Miss Snark's First Victim blog?Nearly every mo... http://bit.ly/ckn5mq

It was an excellent week on Twitter for writers! Do any of you know of any great contests I may not have mentioned? For writers or readers?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday's Muse~The Red Pen

This week I've entered the red pen portion of my editing process. Though I love the entire editing process this is by far my favorite part. There is something very satisfying about seeing all those red marks across the pages. It's like a reward for me to get to mark something out or add something in that brilliant red color. I think it makes me feel like I'm improving my work and actually getting somewhere. Polishing away the blemishes, chipping away the rough parts, and fleshing it out where it needs it are all a lot of fun to me. I'm told that I'm the minority when it comes to feeling this way, that most people enjoy writing the rough draft more. But I'm okay with being odd. I have been most of my life, why change now?!

The music that is feeding my editing muse if very different from the music that I listened to while writing this novel. I'm not sure why that is. I'm listening to a lot of Dropkick Murphy's.

I'm still reading Shadow Hills and it gets more intriguing with every page. I wish I had more time to sit down and read it. But then again, this way I get to savor it slowly rather than devour it! How about you? Do you love or hate the editing process? Reading anything you want to savor slowly or are you looking for a good book?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Literary Agent Judged Contest

Over at Chuck Sambuchino's fabulous blog there is an excellent contest going on. It's called the "Dear Lucky Agent" contest and it's for paranormal romance and urban fantasy, adult or young adult! The judge is Marisa Corvisiero of Lori Perkins Literary agency. The main prize is a ten page critique by Marisa and a one year subscription to Writer's Market. For all the details click on the embedded links for the contest above. But hurry, the contest is only open until Wednesday October sixth! Read the rules closely and best of luck to each of you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Writing For Your Audience

The first person you have to write for is yourself but there is someone else you must keep in mind while writing, your audience. If you don't know your audience and keep them in mind, chances are they won't connect well with your novel. Genre can help you narrow it down and identify who they are.

If you pick up a young adult novel you'll notice they have a particular tone to them, the tone of a teenager. The language is different, the thought process is different, and the plots of such books are focused around what would interest a teenager. A woman's literature novel will read with the tone of woman. It will play to women's interests by focusing on subject matter they want to read about. There is often a more emotional feel to these novels. Thrillers tend to read with an exciting edge that appeals to men. Men have their own language to a point and operate more on action and literal thinking, this is reflected in novels written for them.

There are always exceptions but more often than not you'll notice a different tone for books that are meant for men, women, or children. If you are writing something less obvious like fantasy, sci-fi, or something that appeals to both genders then the best thing you can do is make sure your tone is gender neutral so it doesn't exclude anyone. A good balance of action and plot development is another good way to please a general audience. Think of The Notebook, Jonah Hex, Harry Potter, or The Lord Of The Rings. Each is very distinctive and appeals to a particular audience, save for the last which spans across all ages and both genders. For research and to get a better idea of this read a few books outside of your genre.

For more advice on the subject check out this post by Writer's Digest.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Your Novel's Affect On Readers

Authors are only half of the equation that makes a novel successful, readers and the affect our work has on them, is the other half. We must never forget that latter half and it's importance. This doesn't mean you have to write your novel differently but it does mean you have to be prepared. Not everyone will love your work, in fact some will hate it. Count on that and accept it now that way it doesn't break your heart when it happens. We can't please everyone and we shouldn't try.

Readers buy your book because something about it sparks their interest. They keep reading your book~and hopefully buy your future books~because they connect with it on some kind of emotional level. Before you ask, yes this goes for men as well. Excitement is an emotion, just not a warm and fuzzy one. That emotional connection is the thing you need to keep in mind when you're writing your novel. Ask yourself if you've engaged the reader by evoking emotion. Good characters development, suspense, excitement, these are all ways to make that connection with the reader.

The connection can be positive or negative. The reader might love it so much that they become a loyal fan and end up buying every book you ever write. On the other hand, they might thrown the book across the room, curse at it, then come back for more. Then there's always the chance that they might truly hate it. If this happens try to remember that however negative, you did evoke an emotional response from them, therefore you did what you set out to do.

This has recently happened to an author in the young adult community, Laurie Halse Anderson regarding her novel Speak. The negative reaction to this novel saddens me deeply because someone is now trying to get it banned. This is a book about a young girl who speaks out after she is raped. Such a thing should not be silenced. The good news is the young adult reading/writing community is coming together to spread the word. Don't be silent and don't encourage others to be. I'm buying Speak and making sure every woman and girl I love get's a copy as well. See, an emotional connection.

Stop by the Scribe Sisters blog tomorrow to enter for a chance to win Speak.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~WriteOnCon, Websites & Agents

I've been crazy busy this week working on completely the rough draft of my manuscript so I didn't have much of a chance to get on Twitter, or any of my other social networks. I missed you guys! For those who aren't on Twitter or Facebook, or Scribblerati, I had a bit of good news yesterday. Nephele Tempest asked for my full manuscript for The Secret Of Spruce Knoll! I'm really excited because she is beyond awesome. Back to business though! Here are a few of the links I managed to catch.

WriteOnCon is an amazing writers' conference for young adult and middle grade writers that started this year. It is completely on line and the first conference was completely free. If you missed it I'm so sorry because it was beyond amazing. The great news is, they're gearing up to do it again! Check out the announcement here:
@Casey_McCormick A WriteOnCon announcement! http://bit.ly/ck1nhp #writeoncon

If you're like me you've had moments where you wish literary agents would be more specific as to what they are looking for. After reading this link you'll understand why some of them are more vague and gain a new appreciation for them!
@RachelleGardner If you wonder why agents don't give more specific info on what they're looking for, read this! http://bit.ly/aaUQRs

As an aspiring author I've often wondered if I should hire someone to design my website or if I should do it on my own. This post helped me answer that question:
@JaneFriedman Should you hire someone to design your website? Why I think you should save your $$: http://bit.ly/da7NVx

How was your week? Were you all as busy as I was? If not drop me a comment with any of the great links I might have missed!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday's Muse~Finishing


The First Dragonwatcher is finished! Well, okay, finished isn't exactly accurate since it still has a four step editing process to go through. But the rough draft is done, and that is worth celebrating! Hence the confetti. I plan to have the editing process complete by the end of the month. But the best laid plans often go awry as you know! Case in point: I had planned to have the rough draft of this book finished by the first of September. But eighteen days late isn't all that bad I suppose. Once I've run it through my editing process I'll send it off to my beta readers and wait. But finishing in itself is inspiring!

Though I still have a long road of editing ahead of me I'm going to pause for a day and celebrate the monumental success of finishing a first draft. All too often we writers get caught up in the pursuit of getting published and we forget to celebrate our successes along the way. It is a very long road and if we don't take time out to celebrate our progress then it's easy to get discouraged. So I'm going to take a day to relax and raise a toast to the accomplishment of having finished my rough draft!

Is there anything you're celebrating this week? Remember, it doesn't have to be monumental. Maybe you made it through a particularly rough chapter, reached a certain word count, or even finished your novel. Whatever it is, remember to reward yourself!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Movie Rights To Vampire Academy Sell

If you read young adult you've probably at least heard of Rachelle Mead's Vampire Academy series. If not you need to check it out! Due to over saturation of the market, it takes an outstanding vampire novel to even remotely turn my head. I'll be honest, I wouldn't have even picked this book up if I hadn't been in the airport bookstore absolutely desperate for something to read on my upcoming five hour flight. I opened this book and read the first sentence, then the first page, then I HAD to buy it. This book is anything but clique.

The main character Rose drew me in and wouldn't let go. I'm huge on good character development and she didn't disappoint. Everything about her was so tangible and real, despite the fantastic situation. And it only got better the further into the book I got!

Enough raving about how fantastic the book is though, go check it out for yourself. But hurry, with any luck there will be a movie very soon and you know the book is always better!

You can read all about the sale of the film rights here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Power Of Language

The way a writer uses language in their novel can either make it distinctive and fresh, or dull and uninspired. It's one of the weapons in your writer arsenal so make sure you know how to handle it like a pro.

Slang is one way to use language to your advantage. However, you have to be careful that it isn't something that will be obsolete or unpopular by the time your book comes out. Don't forget, finding an agent, then a publisher, and getting published can take years. The beauty of slang is that you can create your own, the catch is that you have to make sure your readers understand what it means. Anyone who loves sci-fi can tell you what frakkin means and from which series it originated. In my novel there are no clocks and time isn't thought of in minutes and hours. They use sundials and think of time in shadows of the sundial instead. I had to clarify that so the reader understood it.

Use your character's ethnic background to add flavor to the language of your novel. Throw in words from the language of their ancestors now and then in conversation when appropriate. If your character grew up speaking or hearing more than one language then there's a good chance that will come natural to them. Do your research and get it right though!

Be careful with offensive language, and I'm not just speaking from a young adult writers perspective. Sometimes by putting too much offensive language into your novel you run the risk of limiting your audience. Just like exclamation points, adverbs, and adjectives, cussing is more powerful when used in moderation.

Have fun with language, you're a writer, use it to your advantage!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Defining And Knowing Your Genre

What genre do you write? This is a tough question for many writers to answer and yet it is vital to writing a successful genre book. You must know what genre you're writing. If you don't agents and editors will think you haven't done your homework. To be a successful writer one must read. You can't do a marathon if you don't run and you can't write a novel if you don't read. You don't have to strictly read the genre you write but you do need to read a lot of it. That way you'll know what the trends are and who the top authors are. This will come into play later when you're ready to submit.

How do you figure out what your genre is? If there is an element of fantasy, it's fantasy. Such as dragons, faeries, elves, angels, etcetera. Sci-Fi is a completely different genre. Sci-Fi means the novel is based off probability and possibility, technology and advancement in essence. Paranormal falls under fantasy unless we break things down into sub genres which I'm not going to get into now. I'll save that for another post. If there's a mystery to be solved, it's mystery. Pulse pounding action or drama means it's a thriller. If the main theme of the novel is a love story then it's a romance.

You can combine genres but when you do make sure you know what the main genre is. I write young adult, which is a genre in and of itself based around the age of the protagonist. Young adult is my main genre but the secondary one is fantasy. Young adult and middle grade are easy to mix with genres, others are not so easy though. You can have a romantic mystery or a sci-fi thriller, just be sure you know which one is the main genre and keep that your main focus.

For more excellent advice on genre check out this post by Writer's Digest, The Do's and Don'ts of Combining Genres

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Queries, Agents, & More

I didn't spend a lot of time on Twitter this week but I did manage to catch quite a few great tweets for writers. This one from Weronika, an agent with D4EO literary is great insight into rejections and what they mean:
@WeronikaJanczuk New blog post! The One Thing You Should Be "Reading Into" (Queries): I hear the phrase "I don't know how to analyz... http://bit.ly/asup65

Author Elizabeth Craig gives us this warning about why it is so important to meet your deadlines once you have a publishing contract. You don't want to miss this:
@elizabethscraig This is Why You Always Meet Your Deadlines: http://dld.bz/uvmx

Here is the tweet of the agent reader opportunity I posted about last Friday:
@WeronikaJanczuk New blog post! An Opportunity to Read: I'd like to find someone who's interested in both a) reading some partial (... http://bit.ly/c2gDjJ

A bit of excellent advice straight from an agent:
@Jolina_Joy An agent answers writers' questions: http://dld.bz/uEeB (via @elizabethscraig) #writing #writetip

An excellent link on polishing your novel:
@WritersDigest 5 Tips To Polish Your Fiction - http://ow.ly/2CoS0

I love these "Agent Advice" interviews. There is always something fantastic in them!
@WritersDigest Agent Advice: Scott Mendel of the Mendel Media Group - "Agent Advice" is a series of quick interviews with literary ... http://ow.ly/18WTL1

A writer shows us that getting published really isn't just about luck after all. Learn why here:
@lkblackburne Writer Beware® Blogs!: Getting Published is Not a Crap Shoot http://bit.ly/9s9YYN  <-- a dose of reality

Anyone else have a great link or tweet that I missed last week?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday's Muse~Elmore's Red Dragon

This painting by the fabulous Larry Elmore has inspired me since before I reached my teen years. Larry had a huge hand in defining the way I see dragons. I chose this picture for last week because I'm working on the climax chapter of my young adult fantasy novel in which my main character has to battle a dragon. While the battle ends up looking nothing like this, the metaphor worked perfectly. It's hard to believe I'm only a chapter away from finishing the first draft of this baby! It has been a fun book to write and I look forward to editing it!

I'm still reading Shadow Hills though I'm starting to zip through it now. I love the mystery and suspense in this novel, and the character development is very compelling! Click on the picture of it on my right sidebar to learn more about it.

I don't have a song link for you today because I've been listening to pretty much anything and everything, a lot of Manowar, the Braveheart soundtrack, LOTR soundtrack, and much more. I tend to do that when I get to the end of a work in progress. How about you? Do the needs of your muse change when you approach the end of a novel?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Reader For A Literary Agent Opportunity

A fabulous new agent with D4EO literary, Weronika Janczuk, is looking for a reader to perform a literary intern-type job for her. It will be unpaid but the rewards are better than mere monetary. You will get the opportunity to ask an agent in-depth questions about writing and publishing.

So what do you have to do? That's the beautiful part, you get to read. As fun as that sounds there is more to it than that. Weronika will send you 2~5 partial or full manuscripts a month and you will have to read them in a timely manner~two days tops~then write a one-paragraph reader's report.

Weronika has listed specifics on her blog as to what kind of reading she expects you to have done in the past. Details as to how to apply for the position are on her blog as well. Be sure to stop by and check it out! Just click on her name to get there.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Agent Hunting Tips

Hunting for an agent isn't like trophy hunting where you want the buck with the biggest rack. Hmm, I see where that could be taken wrong. Moving along. You want, no, you need to find the agent that is right for you. Not just any agent will do. Trust me, I'm speaking with the voice of experience on this one. Connecting with the right agent starts in the querying process.

Do NOT blanket query. What that means is sending out generalized query letters to pretty much everyone who calls themselves an agent. Take your time and do your research. Make sure the agents you submit to represent your genre. Just because someone takes urban fantasy does not mean they'll take fantasy. Just because they take young adult does not mean they'll take middle grade. Read the agent's bio's carefully. That is your introduction to them, your chance to get to know them a little. Then read what they're looking for. If it isn't under their bio it is almost always under the submission guidelines.

Follow submission guidelines to the letter, literally. There is no room for error here. If the agent says cut and paste ten pages because they don't accept attachments, do it and don't send attachments. Those who don't follow guidelines are the first to be rejected. Be confident, don't talk too much about yourself, don't sound whiney, and don't forget to be polite.

You need an agent who communicates the way you want to communicate. Maybe you want an agent who is a hard copy kind of person who prefers limited contact via phone calls. Or maybe you want more of an on line person with a blog, Twitter account, Facebook account, one that's easy to reach in many ways. A good relationship all comes down to communication so make sure you and the agent communicate in the same way.

Not all agents are the hands on type who help with editing, story building, or brainstorming. If you need or want that kind of agent make sure you ask how involved they'll be in those processes. These are good things to ask at the offer of representation stage. Some list this type of thing on their websites. Explore their websites thoroughly to learn all you can about them. Don't have time for that? Then you don't have time to submit.

For more great tips check out this article by Writer's Digest: Get The Inside Track To Agents

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Choosing A Point Of View

The point of view you choose to use could be what makes your novel stand out or what makes agents and editors pass it up. There are many things to consider when making the decision of which point of view to choose. First you must choose the most compelling character. Sometimes a stable hand's point of view is more interesting than a prince's. Explore each of the characters in your novel thoroughly and decide whose point of view would interest you the most.

The next big decision you have to make is what kind of point of view do you want to tell the novel in.

First person is literally in the head of the main character. It is the kind of novel filled with I, me, and my type of phrasing. This is very popular in young adult. This point of view has its up and down sides. On the plus side, the reader is immersed fully in the story by experiencing everything the main character does down to their very thoughts. Its can be easier for the writer because you only have to deal with one mind and you can fully develop their internal voice. On the minus side, you're limited to what the narrator sees and experiences and you can't go into the mind of other characters.

Second person is rarely done and even more rarely done well. It is a removed point of view with you and your type of phrasing. The best way I can put it is that it reads like a choose your own adventure book. Jay McInerney is known for writing in this manner those his novels are definitely not choose your own adventure books. Most people in the literary world will tell you don't even try it unless you are a genius. It is by far the hardest point of view to do.

Third person is an omniscient point of view where you're more removed from the characters head and it is the most common. The phrasing is he, she, it, they. I love third person because the writer isn't tied to the point of view of one character like they are in first person. Though you do have to be careful not to jump around too much and confuse the reader. Many people have trouble reading the Dune novels because they jump from viewpoint to viewpoint on nearly every page. Its still in third person, the author is just giving you the thoughts and feelings of more than one character. Third person is most often done in one point of view at a time.

Have fun with it. Try writing in each different point of view and try different characters. You'll know which one to use because it will feel natural to you. You might surprise yourself!

Here are a few great Writer's Digest links on point of view: What Point Of View Should You Use? and The Inns and Outs of Third Person.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Publishing Industry People Dish on Twitter

If you haven't taken the Twitter plunge yet don't worry, I've been keeping an eye on it for you. Writers you don't want to miss these Twitter highlights from last week! For non-Twitter peeps, the @ symbol indicates someones Twitter name.

Alice Pope from Writer's Digest shares this insightful round table discussion between agents and editors about breaking into the young adult genre:

@alicepope Check out this @WritersDigest agent and editor round table on breaking into YA http://tinyurl.com/25rnnx6

Here is a tweet from Alice with a bit of inspiring news about the publishing industry:

@alicepope Today on the SCBWI blog--In the News This Week http://tinyurl.com/25wzdlr

This Tweet from Writers Digest opened my eyes to how agents are being affected in the changing publishing industry:

@WritersDigest The Evolving Role of Literary Agents - Today I'm a guest interviewee over at Jungle Red Writers, on the evolving rol... http://ow.ly/18QVtI

My friend Julie was kind enough to tweet a link to super agent Nathan Bransford's week in publishing post:

@juliemusil This Week in Publishing 9/3/10 blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/09/this week...  via @NathanBransford
If you aren't convinced of Nathan's brilliance take Molly O'Neill's~editor for Harpercollins~word for it! She tweeted this link to one of his great posts on first ideas:

@molly_oneill Writers, this is a very wise post & you should read it! RT @nathanbransford On the pernicious momentum of first ideas: http://bit.ly/bf0Oaw

My friend Eisley reminds us why every writer/author needs to have Google alerts and gives us a tutorial:

@EisleyJacobs Why you need Google Alerts: http://eisleyjacobs.com/v2v5

Did you catch anything great on Twitter last week? Or are you like a few of my friends who haven't taken the Twitter plunge yet?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Monday's Muse~Hidden Ice City

I found this inspiring picture at Fantasy Art Design, a site of free wallpapers. It transported me and put me in exactly the right frame of mind for my latest chapter. This week my main character comes to realize the importance of team work and good friends that you can rely on. I'm nearing the end of the first draft and am picking up momentum as I go. As if that wasn't keeping me busy enough I completed my 'final' read through edit of The Secret of Spruce Knoll and have begun submitting it to agents! Now The First Dragonwatcher has my complete and undivided attention.

The book that is feeding my muse is Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus. If you missed my feature on it last week take a look at this link. I'm loving it so far! It's mysterious, creepy, and has sucked me right in.

My MP3 player and I haven't had much time together this week because I've been so busy so I don't have a song link for you this week. What inspired you last week?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Importance Of Grammar

How important is grammar to a writer? That's like asking how important water is to a fish. Yet you might be surprised by the number of writers that don't take it serious enough. Considering there are agents and editors out there who will shape and change your book, how important is it really though? How much editing can you expect an agent, and especially an editor to do? You might not like the answers.

Grammar is to your novel what air is to you. Without it your novel cannot breathe. Agents get thousands of submissions every month. With such a high volume they are looking for two things. The first of which is a reason to reject your work. The second is outstanding writing. Because of that first reason, good grammar is vital to your chances of getting out of the slush pile. Agents may help with minor grammar if your writing is powerful enough and your story is compelling enough.

The English language is one of the hardest languages in the world. With words like their, they're, there and reign, rain, or rein it's easy to see how someone could get confused. And those are just the tip of the iceberg as all writers know (no, now?!). What are you to do if grammar isn't exactly your strong point? If you can take a class or two on grammar or composition do so. Don't have the time or money? Then pick up a book on the subject or borrow your kids English text book. Find a critique group that is willing to help.

Another idea is to hire a freelance editor. Don't just rely on them for every novel. Analyze and learn from what they do to your manuscript. Just like agents, when it comes to the point where your manuscript is put before an editor of a publishing house, they will expect it to be polished and professional. If it isn't they may lean toward another novel in their pile that is.

Want more advice on grammar? Check out these posts from Writer's Digest: How To Handle Animal Pronouns, Don't Use Adverbs & Adjectives To Prettify Your Prose and Reign Vs. Rein. Any more tips out there anyone wants to share?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Debut Author~Anastasia Hopcus

This month's featured debut author is Anastasia Hopcus. She has graciously taken time out of her busy schedule to stop by and tell us about about herself and her novel. Anastasia's debut novel Shadow Hills is now available! First a bit about this intriguing novel.

After her sister Athena's tragic death, it's obvious that grief-stricken Persephone "Phe" Archer no longer belongs in Los Angeles. Hoping to make sense of her sister's sudden demise and the cryptic dreams following it, Phe abandons her bubbly LA life to attend an uptight East Coast preparatory school in Shadow Hills, MA — a school which her sister mysteriously mentioned in her last diary entry before she died.

Once there, Phe quickly realizes that something is deeply amiss in her new town. Not only does Shadow Hills' history boast an unexplained epidemic that decimated hundreds of its citizens in the 1700s, but its modern townies also seem eerily psychic, with the bizarre ability to bend metal. Even Zach — the gorgeous stranger Phe meets and immediately begins to lust after — seems as if he is hiding something serious. Phe is determined to get to the bottom of it. The longer she stays there, the more she suspects that her sister's untimely death and her own destiny are intricately linked to those who reside in Shadow Hills.

Doesn't that just give you chills? Now to learn more about this intriguing author. Welcome to Heather's Odyssey, Anastasia! Thanks for stopping by and sharing the excitement of your debut book Shadow Hills with us.

Hi! I'm happy to be here.

From your bio on your website I see that you love horror movies and Joss Whedon. I've just got to say I love that about you! With such great work as Joss's feeding your muse I'm dying to know what inspired you to write Shadow Hills.

I’ve always loved paranormal stories, and I love the sense of menace and suspense that you get in horror films. Joss Whedon has a gift for mixing genres, and I really admire his ability to meld action, comedy, romance and horror into one compelling story. I wanted to have that array of different ingredients in my books because it keeps things from being static and predictable, and I definitely wanted it to center on the paranormal, since it allows for more exciting events. But I didn’t want to write about vampires or werewolves or slayers because, as much as I love Joss, I didn’t want my books to be just a pale imitation of Buffy. So one day when I saw a 60 Minutes segment about a gifted savant that really set me to thinking. What would it be like to be so gifted and what limitations might come with those abilities? What if there was a whole group of people who had strange abilities-what event might have set that off? And that's how my idea for the town of Shadow Hills started.

Having started to read Shadow Hills already, I've got to say, I think you definitely acheived an excellent blend of all things Joss. I love it! Off topic a bit. You worked as a receptionist in a dojo? Sweet! Is there anything you retained from that job to use in your novels?

I didn't take karate for very long. Although I loved the precision of the movements and the grace of the katas, I never could get past orange belt because I hated to spar. I just couldn’t bring myself to hit the other students, even in a non-aggressive way. But I do remember some of the terms and moves, so I think that helps a little in choreographing the fight scenes. One thing I really took away from that job was a new understanding of preteen and teen guys. While I knew what it was like to be a girl that age, it was the first time I really got to talk to guys about first girlfriends and issues with their parents. I talked a lot with one guy who had ADD and some impulse control issues, and I really started to empathize with him even though he was someone I would have probably considered a bully if I’d gone to school with him. I got to know several of the guys pretty well just talking with them as they waited for class to begin. I think that's one of the reasons I decided to try YA literature because I’d seen a new side of guys that age.

From your writing I can tell you have excellent insight into guys. Now I know why! Have you always known you'd write young adult novels or did it just kind of turn out that way?

No, in fact, I didn't even know I wanted to write books until about five years ago. When I was a teen, my ambition was to write screenplays. Then that changed to wanting to act. It was only after I decided that acting was not for me that I thought about writing books. First I tried an adult mystery, but after a while I figured out that YA was more my field. I love reading young adult and I really relate to teens-maybe because I don’t think I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve completely resolved the issues that came up during that stage of my life. It’s a really huge time of growth, and I’m still interested in exploring and understanding the changes we start going through then. Personally, they just started for me at that time; I certainly haven’t worked through it all yet.

I love the idea of writing for teens to explore such a time of huge growth. What was your favorite part of the writing process?

What I like best is creating characters. It's so much fun thinking of names and descriptions and backstories for all of them. I love to figure out what their personalities are and how they would talk and relate to each other.

Me too! Characters are the best. Can you tell us a bit about Shadow Hills that we may not know from the synopsis?

I think the synopsis doesn't reveal that Shadow Hills is also about the friendships that Phe forms at her new school. She makes friends with several very different, complex, and interesting people. I hope readers will really enjoy getting to know them as well as Phe and Zach.

I definitely have! By your writing I can tell how much you love the character building process. They really come alive. Are there plans for another novel in the works? A sequel or stand alone perhaps?

Both! I'd love to write a sequel to Shadow Hills. I have lots of other ideas in mind for the students at Devenish Prep. But I'm also interested in pursuing another idea. This one will be set in London in the early 1800's and will be a YA, too. Knowing myself and my interests, I’m sure it will also involve some paranormal elements.

That sounds awesome! I hope you end up doing both! Is there anything in the publishing process that surprised you?

I was surprised by how many people were interested in Shadow Hills because they liked the color of my hair. Who would have ever thought that my love for crazy hair colors would have been a marketing tool? *grin*

Too funny! But seriously, your hair color does rock. Any closing thoughts you'd like to leave us with?

I just want to thank all the bloggers and readers who have taken such an interest in Shadow Hills-they’ve exceeded my wildest expectations! Every single time someone tells me they liked Shadow Hills is just as wonderful and exciting as the first time I heard it!

How sweet, thank you for writing such an excellent book! Thanks again for taking time out of your schedule to join us its been a lot of fun. Now I'm off to finish reading Shadow Hills. Click on the title to order yourself a copy of this fantastic book!