Friday, February 26, 2010

An ARC I Can't Wait To Dig Into

The ARC (advanced reader's copy) for Still Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley was waiting for me in the mail when I got home from Tulsa! I was so excited I almost dove right into it despite being in the middle of another book. Finally I finished Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead (and loved it) and today I get to start reading Still Sucks To Be Me!

The first book, It Sucks To Be Me was such a fun read that I was going crazy waiting for this one! Here's an exerpt of the first book from author Kimberly Pauley's website to give you a taste of her fabulous style (used with persmission from the author):

So, you think your life sucks? Try being Mina Hamilton. Her parents are vampires, which would sound cool if they weren’t so bo-ring and parent-like. And now Mina has to decide whether or not she wants to be one too…in a month. As if high school wasn’t bad enough, now she’s got to go to vampire classes with a bunch of freaks who actually want to drink blood (Gross! As if sushi wasn’t bad enough.). And she can’t even tell her best friend about any of it, not with a bunch of red-tape-loving vampire bureaucrats breathing down her neck. How’s a girl supposed to find a prom date and get through school with all this blood-sucking drama going on?

Keep an eye out because when I finish Still Sucks To Be Me I'll be doing a review! In the meantime, stop by Kimberly's website and check out the first book:
FTA disclaimer: I did receive this ARC for free. I am not being paid or compensated in any way, shape, or form to read, review, or support it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Point Of View Problems

Telling your story in a certain point of view can make or break it. In fact, that's what broke my first book. I had six key characters that each felt equally important to me. I told the story from all points of view. Can you imagine how confusing that was? I was switching back and forth on every page and I never really got the reader inside any one character's heads with good monologue. Can an author tell a story from multiple points of view? Sure, Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson all pull it off beautifully in the Dune series. For any of you who have ever tried to read Dune and had to put it down, point of view is probably why. While it can be done that doesn't mean you should do it. Once I realized I was no Frank Herbert I knew I had to change the way my first novel was written.

The question you have to ask yourself is, whose story is it? Among your characters, who is the most important to you? Upon asking this of myself I realized the answer was obvious. Problem was, it was still two characters. That I can deal with though. With only two main characters it's easy to switch points of view from one chapter to the next. Just remember not to do it within the chapter or you could lose the reader and jumble the story.

Now that I've had this epiphany I'm really excited about pulling that manuscript out and giving it an overhaul this year. Two bad it isn't written on my calendar's to do list until August! But that's okay. In the meantime it's percolating in my mind and becoming something richer and deeper with each passing day.

Here's a great link from Writer's Digest titled 21 Tips to get out of the slush pile (in which they talk about point of view):

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Querying Agents

Since many of my writer friends are at the agent querying stage I wanted to share some tips that helped me not only land an agent, but find the right one. The first and most important thing you must do it make sure your work is the very best it can be. Don't submit after writing only one draft. My rule of thumb is four edits. I do a mini-edit right away because I hand write everything first then do a little edit as I put it into the computer. Then when the entire manuscript is done I do a read through edit on the computer. After that I print it out and take a red pen to it. I put all my edits in the computer, then do another read through edit. After my workshop in Tulsa I've decided I'll be adding a fifth edit where I read it aloud to myself (you'll be amazed at what you catch!).

Once the editing is finished you need to decide who you're going to submit to. Treat this as carefully as you would the selection of a job you plan to retire from. You need to be able to work with your agent well on all levels. Look at how they communicate. Are they on Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace? Do they blog? If they don't have a strong web presence chances are they won't keep in contact by e-mailing you. If that's fine by you then they might be a good fit. However, if you're like me and practically live online, you want someone else that does too.

DON'T mass query. By that I mean, don't mail the same query to several agents at one time, within the same e-mail with a general 'to whom it may concern' or 'dear agent' opening. That will get you auto rejection from them 9 1/2 out of 10. They're people and they want to be treated as people and individuals. Research them and make the query letter personal to a degree so they know you're submitting to them specifically for a reason. Check around agent websites. Some post successful query letters. Agent Kristin Nelson does this.

If you've researched the agent you're submitting to the next part will be easy. Make sure you follow their submission guidelines! If you don't many of them will auto reject you. They have far too many queries to worry about the people who can't follow guidelines.

Probably the most important piece of advice I can give you is, learn to take rejection in stride. Don't get mad, don't demand to know why, don't ever get snippy with them (all of New York will know if you do. Agents talk to each other!), and don't get discouraged. These are tough times and there are a lot of good writers out there trying to find an agent.

Another great piece of advice I picked up from NY Times bestselling thriller writer James Rollins is this: Send out ten queries at a time. When you get one rejection, send out another query to another agent. Do this every time you get a rejection. That way you'll always have ten prospects out at a time. This helps keep your spirits up. I'd add to that, if you get a request from more than one agent for a partial or your full manuscript, let them know who else is looking at the partial or full. It doesn't really matter if other queries are out, only if other partials or fulls are out. It's common courtesy because now they're really considering you and giving you their time. Be considerate of them and the relationship will get off to a much better start.

Keep writing while you wait to hear back, it will help keep you sane. Check out these articles by Writer's Digest on submitting:
and the basics of a query letter:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Chuck Sambuchino

I found Chuck Sambuchino when I did a search for people using my name on Twitter. I like to do that occasionally to see what comes up. If you've never done it, try it, you'll be surprised! Chuck was asking others if they knew how to get a hold of me. I then noticed he was a new follower of mine. Knowing that Chuck is the editor of Guide To Literary Agents and curious as to what he could want, I was quick to follow him back and direct message him.

Chuck was looking for me so he could ask me to do a guest post on his blog for his column How I Got My Agent. I wrote the article and he posted it last month. During the process I discovered Chuck is a really nice guy who's very dedicated to helping new authors. If you've never checked out Chuck's blog you don't know what you're missing. Writers aspiring to become published authors will greatly benefit from his wisdom and advice. Chuck spotlights new authors, new agents, and blogs all kinds of great advice. The best part about it is he uses guest bloggers all the time. Check out Chuck's fabulous blog here: 
And find him on Twitter here (priceless tweets for writers): 
And here's my guest article on his blog:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday's Muse~My Friends

Last week I was lucky enough to spend the entire week with my friends workshopping our novels. They were my inspiration, and wow, what inspiration they were! My novel is monumentally better in so many ways because of their critiques and suggestions. In fact, I think I'll go back over a prior novel I wrote with their ideas in mind. When you're open minded and willing to learn the possibilities for your novel really start to bloom. Not only my novel, but my writing as well improved by leaps and bounds. Thank you ladies! Check out my critique group's blog here and meet these fabulous ladies:  One of the Scribe Sisters (I'm still working on the other two) is on Twitter. Check her out here:

Another huge inspiration to me is my good friend~and writer~Lindsey Edwards. She is always there to encourage and push me as we share our journey to publication. Today just happens to be her birthday too! Stop by her blog and wish her a happy birthday!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What's Different About Your Novel?

If you write about a hot topic like I do agents and editors are going to want to know what’s different about your novel. What makes it stand out from the masses in a way that introduces something fresh but still manages to grab readers that are looking for that type of novel? Yesterday I came across a novel that on the surface sounded a lot like mine. I was horrified. What publisher was going to pick me up when there was a book out there just like mine? I immediately clicked on the link to read more about the book.

Turns out this book was nothing like mine! Whew! But on the surface it had looked like it was exactly like mine. It dawned on me that if I thought that a publisher considering buying my novel might too. I needed to change the ‘surface’ of my novel, or more to the point, bring to the forefront what was different about it.

For starters, pointing out that the protagonist was a sixteen year old girl about to discover her life wasn’t what she thought it was is a huge clique. True, that’s how it starts, but many young adult novels start that way. I was putting the emphasis where it didn’t belong. The really interesting part that makes my protagonist stand out from others in paranormal/urban fantasy YA is that she’s multi-racial and the story behind why. What makes my story stand out isn’t that it’s a werewolf story. The unique part about it is that it centers on a species that’s going extinct because they’re tied closely to the dying Earth.

When you’re getting ready to submit and market your story focus on what makes it unique from other novels of its type. Find your individuality and agents and publishers will too!

Launch Of My Critique Group's Blog

My critique group decided to do a group blog because they're all very excited to talk about their writing journeys. Just like me, they want to share what they learn along the way to becoming published authors. These three ladies have a lot of valuable information on the writing industry to share. Karlene Petitt is a pilot (like airline pilot! How cool is that?) who writes thrillers, inspirational, fantasy, and is thinking about diving into young adult. Linda Gray writes mystery/suspense novels and Jule Rowland writes thrillers. All three ladies are some of the best critiquers I've ever come across. They're the type that find the good in a manuscript and can pull it out and make it shine. You'll love these ladies and the advice they have to share about writing and publishing. Stop by and check out our group blog when you get a chance! There are several great entries already so be sure to scroll down and check out older entries.

Hope to talk to you in the comments there!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Your Novel's Climax

Today, on our final day at the writer's workshop, we worked on the climax of our novels. Before this workshop I thought my novel was pretty solid and I thought my climax was in great shape. Now I know differently.

The climax is where all plot points converge and your characters complete their arcs if they haven't already. Its the big finale, though it can~and often is~followed by a wrap up chapter or two. This is the point that the catalyst inevitably led up to.

In my climax I realized I hadn't quite completed one of my character arcs as much as I had planned. Reading it aloud to the ladies and getting their feedback really helped me realize that. It also helped me see how I was slowing down the action with internal monologue (character's thinking) a little too much. Both the act of reading it aloud and the feedback helped me see this. I never used to be a believer in reading aloud my manuscript but now I definitely am. If you've never done it you should really try it. You'll be amazed at what you catch!

Above is my fabulous critique group, the Scribe Sisters. From the left: Jule Rowland, Heather McCorkle, Karlene Petitt, and Linda Gray. Look for our group blog to launch soon! I'll be announcing it here!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Mid Point Of Your Novel

Yesterday my critique group worked on the mid points of our novels. The big question is, what is a mid point exacatly? Well, since you asked... Think of it as the point in your story where your protagonist (main character) becomes completely committed to the course of action that utlimately leads to the climax of the book. While it can be a low point as far as action is concerned, its a very important point as far as the arc of your protagonist is concerned. Put simpler, the mid point is like the point of no return.

So knowing all this, mine must have been perfect, right? Wrong! I'm a firm believer there is always room for improvement and its a good thing because there was room to spare on every page. The main thing I learned today is that even when you think a chapter is pretty solid a critique partner will catch things you didn't even realize were wrong. With three critique partners like I'm lucky enough to have this week, you'll catch even more.

There were some pretty big things missing from my mid point that I didn't even realize I forgot to put in. I know my story inside and out so much that sometimes I forget what's in my head and what's on the screen. My critique group pointed out the areas that were lacking and now I'll be able to solidify the mid point and make the manuscript that much better. If you don't have a critique group try reading out loud. Just doing that made several problems jump out at me! Best of luck.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Plot Point 1 Of Your Novel

It occurred to me that those writers who read my earlier entry and have never attended a workshop might be wondering what Plot Point 1 is. I'll try to do my instructor justice by recapping it in a way that makes sense. Plot points are areas of the manuscript where something changes for the protagonist. It's a pivotal point in the story, a twist you might say.

Typically a novel will have the inciting incident (or the catalyst, the thing that sets the whole story in motion), a plot point, or two, then a mid point (where your character arc really starts to develop), then another plot point or two, and finally the climax. My instructor teaches that three plot points are pretty typical though some say four or five. So when I say I'm working on plot point one that means I'm editing the first chapter where something major changes for my character.

Tuesday night I discovered my plot point one needed to be broken into two chapters. I had too much going on. The action rose and fell then did so again. Both parts of the chapter were important enough and dramatic enough to stand on their own. The ladies in my critique group helped me see that. If you've never read your work aloud to someone you really should. It made me see it in an entirely different light and helped me identify the need to break those chapters up and fix my plot point!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

First Day Of The Writer's Workshop

My friends and I arrived in Tulsa on three different flights all around the same time and found our way to each other. Things seemed to be off to a great start. We found our accomodations fairly easily, a charming old mansion called the Kennedy Mansion B&B. After a few phone calls home and an all girls Valentine's party, we succumbed to jet lag and crashed for the night. Monday, weirdness ensued.

There seemed to be a black cloud hovering over my head. Everyone was able to connect to WiFi but me. My computer adamantly refused. Need I mention, I'm addicted to the internet?! Then my files wouldn't open. I forgot to print out and bring my homework. I forgot a folder, a red pen, and a few essentials I shall not name. This is not like me. I'm chronically over prepared for this kind of thing. Regardless, I was going to make the most out of our first day.

Extenuating circumstances kept our instructor away on Monday and unfortunately, ultimately resulted in the cancelation of the official workshop. My friends and I returned to the B&B determined to do our homework, discuss it amongst ourselves and make progress in leaps and bounds. Guess what, we did. The four of us sat around eating chocolate and reading our plot point 1 homework aloud to each other. Everyone gave great feedback, analyzed the good and bad parts, and decided on what they were going to change.

The first day may not have turned out like we expected it to but it turned into exactly what we needed. My three friends and I couldn't be happier with the progress we made and the night helped solidify our critique group in a way nothing else could have. Every writer should be so lucky as to have a fabulous critique group like mine. You ladies are the best!

Twitter Tuesday~Author Sarah Winters

Like with many writers, Sarah and I met on a Twitter chat. We started following each other and for a while I just sort of sat back and watched to see what kind of things she tweeted about to get a better feel for her as a person. I was surprised in a very pleasant way. Sarah isn't one of those people who tweets about her breakfast or what she's picking up at the store (by the way, I don't follow people who do that a lot. I don't have time!). Sarah talks about writing, and life a little bit but in a way that is relevant to writing and interesting. She's very supportive, never hesitates to help others, and has great advice on writing. Did I mention she's a fabulous author who's book just hit the market?  Be sure to check out The Strongest Fire by Sarah Winters!

You can find Sarah on Twitter:
Sarah's website with information on her book & much more:
Sarah's blog:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday's Muse~Strange Worlds

This captivating picture is by writer and illistrator James Gurney from his world of Dinotopia. Talk about transporting you to another world! This picture helped keep me focused on the latest chapter of Grendar's Tale. This was a tough week of writing for me because I was also working hard on finishing the edit of my third YA urban fantasy which I'm taking to the writer's workshop next week. I didn't get as much new work created as I wanted to but I did accomplish about 1500 new words. The progress meter is moving and that's what counts!

I also finished reading Beautiful Creatures and absolutely loved it. What a refreshing read, so different from anything I've read lately, and in a very good way! Look for a review of it the last Monday of the month! As for music or shows, no time for that this last week.

Check out more of James Gurney's fantastic art at:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

I know, I'm a day early! But, I'll be on a plane all day tomorrow-starting at a very uncivilized hour-and I didn't want to miss wishing all of you a happy Valentine's day. For the ladies I've posted the delicious picture of Vin Diesel as Riddick. I don't think I need to explain why it's better than wine, chocolate, or even diamonds. Cause girlfriends, I just love you that much and want you to be happy.

Not to forget the guys-yep I see you over there in my followers-cause you're the bomb for following or just stopping by. What could be better than Laura Croft for V-Day, huh fellas? Yep, that's what I thought. A chick that carries guns and kicks butt rocks. No shame in admitting that! Have a great holiday everybody, be sure to check back next week as I blog about my experiences at the writer's workshop!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Seminar Vs. Self-Publishing

As I'm preparing to go to another writer's seminar it occures to me that I could have self-published with all the money I've spent. But then I knew that from the beginning. With the money I spent on my first seminar/writer's retreat I could have published my entire trilogy. So why did I choose to go instead of publish? I wanted my book to be the best it could be and I figured I had room for improvement.

I know what you're thinking. A ton of great books get passed over because publishers are looking for something specific, and that is true. Trust me, that's not why they were passing over my book. First I must say, I'm a huge supporter of self-publishing. Several of my friends are self-published and their work is fantastic. The literary world would be lacking without their books. I'm glad they chose to self-publish.

So how did I know my money would be spent better improving my craft rather than self-publishing?  A good friend of mine was kind enough to read through it and point out several issues, big issues. He recommended the Hawaii Writer's Retreat (Maui Writer's Retreat at the time). I figured if there were big issues with my novel there were no doubt little ones too. I went for it.

My work improved so much if you read the two different versions of my book you would think they're by different people. In the pre-retreat draft I had severe issues with adverbs and adjectives, point of view problems, and voice and pacing issues. That one retreat fixed all of those issues, and taught me how to pitch in person. One retreat! So when it came time for it in 2009 I jumped on the opportunity to go again. I wanted to improve even more! Why settle for just getting writing a publishable book when I could write a bestseller? The second retreat helped me improve even more.

As many of you know, I'm now I'm getting ready for a different kind of seminar alltogether. It's an advanced class taught by New York Times Bestselling thriller writer, William Bernhardt. I can hardly wait for Monday to take my writing to the next level again!

What has all this investment done for me so far? Besides improved my writing exponentially, it has helped me get a fantastic agent who is now shopping my YA trilogy around publishing houses. Those of you who are querying for agents know that is priceless.

Check out Mr. Bernhardt's seminar here:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Sugar Doll Blogger Award

The fabulous Lorel Clayton over at I'm Blogging Drowning Here has given Heather's Odyssey the Sugar Doll Blogger award! (please click on Lorel's name to check out her blog) From what I understand it is an award given to a blog that you love but whose author you'd love to know more about. It comes with the requirement of telling ten things about myself. This will go down in Heather's Odyssey history because I don't often reveal much about myself! Here goes:

1) I wrote my first book when I was twelve. It was awful and no, you'll never see it!

2) My love of fantasy began with a Time Life series of old faerie tale books that my grandmother had.

3) I played Dungeons and Dragons in high school. And I loved it. Yes, I did just admit that.

4) I was voted most likely to be wanted by the FBI by my fellow classmates my senior year. If you knew my proffession you'd love the irony of that. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is!

5) My first hero was Conan, he was all over my bedroom walls. I devoured every one of Robert E. Howard's books.

6) I read the first Dune book when I was thirteen, and loved it though I barely understood a word of it.

7) The first series of books I wrote-and got an agent for-didn't get published and I parted ways with that agent. I have plans to rewrite the series this year.

8) I refused to read young adult books until I met Aprilynne Pike and Sarah Brennan at the Hawaii Writer's Retreat and read their work. Upon realizing how fantastic the genre was I knew I had to write YA.

9) I love horses, despite three pretty bad riding accidents that all resulted in broken bones. I own two of them and ride every chance I get.

10) The tropics are my favorite place to be. I've been to Jamiaca, St. Lucia, and Hawaii. There's just something about them that kicks my writing muse into high gear!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Dark Faerie Tales

Dark Faerie Tales and I discovered each other on Twitter. The name alone made me eager to click over to her profile page. The moment I clicked on her blog link I knew I was going to like this lady. She's a book lover after my own heart, one who loves the darker side of fiction, be it young adult, romance, or fantasy, or science fiction. The best part, she has phenomenal taste! There isn't a book she recommended that I didn't like, and considering how picky I am, that's saying something. If you love great books with an edge you should be following @darkfaerietales on Twitter!

You can find her on Twitter here:

One look at her site and you'll see what I mean about her fabulous taste in books! Check it out here:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday's Muse~Ice City

I've had a crazy busy week and my poor muse has been working some serious over time. With the upcoming writer's seminar in Oklahoma I'm not only writing my work in progress but also doing one last edit on the book I'm taking to the seminar! Am I crazy to do so much at once, yes, yes I am. This picture was taken at an ice festival in Alaska. It made me think of a city in my latest book and helped keep me in that wintery mood despite the fact that it's looking like spring where I live.

This is a picture of Kaui Hawaii. Looking at this it's not hard to imagine what the world must have looked like before we took over as the dominate species. Which of course leads me to start thinking of other worlds entirely…

One of my fantastic followers here prompted me to start listening to more music as I write. It’s a habit I've gotten out of. I never meant to, I love music, it just happened. But, armed with a new MP3 player after the holidays, I now have no excuse. So here's the song of the week that inspired me: I want to love you by Shelly Fairchild off her debut album Ride. You can check out a bit of it here:  (while I don't support Amazon, unfortunately they had the best link to this song).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Food For My Muse

What feeds your muse and keeps it strong? Some know the answer to that quesiton, others couldn't tell you. For the longest time I belonged to the latter catagory, I really didn't know. Ideas seemed to fall out of the sky and that isn't a good thing. You can't exactly make them fall when you want them to. Then one day I woke up and recalled the most vivid, amazing dream. It stuck with me so much that I wrote it down. I bought a journal and put it beside my bed. Everytime I woke up and could recall them, I wrote down my dreams.

A few book ideas have developed out of my dreams and even more ideas for chapters and characters. Recalling isn't always easy. I've realized it helps if I fall asleep focusing on remembering my dreams in the morning. Alarm clocks don't help, neither does sleep deprivation. It doesn't always work but when it does the effort is usually well worth it.

Think of your muse as a muscle in your brain. Like any muscle in the body, if you don't work it and feed it, it will whither away. The more you work it, the easier using it will be. A strong muse equals a strong writer. Try a dream journal. You might be surprised at the ideas that come out of it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Importance Of Tension

Regardless of what genre you write one truth is universal for all writers: You must make the reader want to turn the page. The reason doesn't matter so much as the actual desire for them to do it. If you cannot keep them reading chances are they won't make it out of the store, or offline with your book in hand or downloaded.

How do you achieve that golden element needed in a novel? That's easy, tension. Okay, it's not that easy, but if you keep that one thing in mind at all times and work it into every page you will have succeeded. I know what you're thinking, 'no way Heather, I don't write thrillers, or suspense, or mystery (fill in any genre you like)'. But any book and every book has tension, because it must. Widen your definition of tension.

Grab any book off your shelf and read the first page. Now think about what made you want to turn it. Something was going to happen, something was at risk, or there was a key element you were dying to know. That's tension! Someone could be in physical peril, mental peril, a relationship could be at stake, or a life, but the imporant thing is something is happening. Tension doesn't have to be something huge, it can be something small if it's important to the character. Just as every page must have tension, every chapter should end with it as well. The reader has to look forward to finding something out when they come back. Will he kiss the girl? Will she survive the accident? Who killed the man? Will she dance with him? It doesn't have to be huge, just leave them wanting to know
Check out this Writer's Digest article on making your book a page turner:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Twitter Tuesday~Saundra Mitchell

I met Saundra on Twitter through a mutual friend, author Aprilynne Pike. Saundra was one of the Deb's, a group of fantastic young adult authors who debuted in 2009. Saundra and I frequent many of the same chats on Twitter, #YAlitchat and #scribechat. She is incredibly generous in sharing her experience and advice to help others and she isn't shy about answering a question honestly.

Aside from being generally an all around sweet gal, she's a fantastic writer as well. Her debut novel, Shadowed Summer is a fantastic read that will keep you on the edge of your seat rapidly flipping pages. She leaves you wanting more but in a very good way. Not one to disappoint, she has another book coming out soon called The Vespertine. I'll definitely be on the lookout for it! Saundra wields more than one type of pen, she's also a very accomplished screenwriter.

You can find Saundra on Twitter here:
Check out her website to learn more about her and her work here:
And find her book Shadowed Summer here:

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday's Muse~Dark Dragons

This dark picture drew me in and inspired me the moment I came across it. I searched and searched but cannot find the artist for the life of me. If anyone knows who painted it please leave me a comment so I can give them credit and attach a link to their website. Not to mention, I'd love to see more of their work. It was a dark kind of week for my book so this picture fit perfectly with what was going on with my characters.

To keep my mind working when I'm relaxing I'm still reading Beautiful Creatures. Hey don’t judge normally I read a lot quicker, but it's kinda long and I'm distracted by my own story! Besides, it's one of those books that you want to read slow and really enjoy. You know the kind, the ones you don't want to end!

No time for TV but that doesn't break my heart. It means the words are flowing so good I don't want to waste my time in front of the TV. Hopefully the words are flowing just as smoothly for everyone else!