Monday, May 30, 2011

Posie & Mosey Mondays

A posie is a tiny flower bouquet typically given as a gift. In medieval times, they were carried or worn around the head or bodice to keep the bad smells away and the nose happy.

Well, that's kind of what poems are for me. Word posies: little bouquets of words that though smaller than novels, keep my inner reader happy with powerful sensory and emotive cues.

On Mondays, I like to share these word posies with my readers. Comments are disabled so you can enjoy the gift of poetry then mosey on along to your list of daily do's.*

Please drop back by on Wednesday, my interactive blogging day of the week.  Until then, have a lovely and productive Monday and Tuesday.

*Hungry for more in-depth Monday posts? Visit any or all of the entertaining and insightful blogs on my sidebar. ;)

My Star
~Robert Browning (1812-1889)

All that I know
Of a certain star
Is, it can throw
(Like the angled spar)
Now a dart of red,
Now a dart of blue;
Till my friends have said
They would fain see, too,
My start that dartles the red and the blue!
Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled:
they must solace themselves with the Saturns above it.
What matter to me if their star is a world?
Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

QueryTrackers Making Tracks, #10

Today is installment number ten of my Friday series on successful authors from QueryTracker. Some of my guests have agents, others have found success in less conventional ways. But one thing they all have in common is the utilization of the QueryTracker website to help make their tracks in the publishing world.

After an astounding SEVEN offers (whew-wee, I know!), today's guest, Lisa Iriarte, signed with agent Amy Boggs of Donald Maass Literary Agency. Much like me, Lisa found herself querying again after having parted ways with her first agent. You can read her incredible call story in detail on her QT interview and on her blog.

Now, without further adieu, let's welcome Lisa to the interview box.

AGH: Hello Lisa! So, what genre(s) do you write?

Lisa: I write science fiction/romance, and science fiction. I'm also thinking a paranormal may be in my future, since I have some coursework done in parapsychology.

AGH: Could you give us a quick summary of the book which snagged your agent?

Lisa: Well, VICIOUS CIRCLE is science fiction/romance. I pitched it as "Xena Warrior Princess in space." The protagonist is a female assassin. The antagonist is a demon-calling, power hungry maniac masquerading as a priest. Throw in some space pirates, some healing magic, and some not-so-subtle subtext, and you have VICIOUS CIRCLE.

AGH: How long did you query it, and what were your stats?

Lisa: I queried VICIOUS CIRCLE for approximately three months. I was actually querying two different novels at the same time to different agents. I sent out about 145 queries for VICIOUS CIRCLE alone. I won't say how many rejections I received, because I like to pretend they don't exist. :-) But I will say that I ended up with six offers of representation for VICIOUS CIRCLE (and one offer for the other novel I was querying.)

AGH: What inspired your book idea?

Lisa: I've always been fascinated by the assassin mentality. As I said, my protagonist is an assassin, so she only kills those who would harm/kill countless others. Still, even working for the greater good, I like to consider the psychological make up of such a person. How does she live with what she does? Who would her friends be? Who would love her, and would she be able to allow herself to love in return?

AGH: How did you come up with the title?

Lisa: Hah. Actually, I thought I was being so clever with this title. The character leaves (gets thrown out of) the Assassins Guild, and by the end of the story is forced to return there, hence the VICIOUS CIRCLE. Of course, since finishing the manuscript, I've discovered that this is a pretty popular title. There's at least one other novel currently on the shelves by that name.

AGH: Before you signed with your first agent, how many books had you tried to query?

Lisa: Yes, my current agent is my second agent. Prior to signing with my first agent, I had queried one book. The second book got me my first agent. After she left the profession, my third book got me my second agent.

AGH: What books / authors have most influenced your own style and concepts?

Lisa: Too many to list here. The main ones would be Elizabeth Moon and Tanya Huff for my pure science fiction, Linnea Sinclair and Ann Aguirre for my science fiction/romance, and Vicki Pettersson and Gini Koch for the science fiction/superhero novel I'm currently working on. Right now I'm reading the latest in the VALOR series by Tanya Huff, and I've ordered Pettersson's last book in THE SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC series. Can't wait! Several of these authors are also personal friends who've critiqued my work or given me advice, and I value their input tremendously.

AGH: How did you find QueryTracker, and how did it help you in your effort to get inside the publishing doors?

Lisa: I actually don't remember how I found QueryTracker initially, but I'm going to guess it was through an agent's blog. The website was a huge help in narrowing down my list of agents to query, guiding me to agents' websites and information on each one, and keeping my queries and submissions organized.

AGH: Have you recently learned anything about the business side of publishing that you can share with up and coming writers, something you wish you’d known in the beginning?

Lisa: Well, not so much about the business side, but I will say this: I wish I'd realized how close I was when I queried for the first time, many years ago. I sent my first science fiction novel to about 75 agents. I got a lot of rejections, but also several requests for partials and fulls. In the end, I did not get any offers of representation, and I quit writing for a couple of years. Oh, if only I could have those years back! I had no idea what a full request meant. If I'd gone ahead and written another book right away, I probably would have found representation much sooner. So, bottom line, don't give up, and don't stop writing. Each book will get successively better, and your chances of catching an agent's attention (or six or seven agents' attention) will increase.

AGH: Do you have any news you can share, or new projects you can tell us about?

Lisa: Not too much yet. I'm working on a science fiction/superhero novel with romantic elements that is turning out to be a heavy action/fun romp. As this is being posted, I'm up in New York, meeting my new agent face-to-face for the first time. We're all heading off to Ninja New York for dinner (an appropriate choice for a writer of assassins, I think.) My husband, also a writer, won a scholarship to the Backspace Conference, so I'm accompanying him. Actually, I won the same scholarship a year and a half ago, and I highly recommend the Backspace conferences for networking with agents. It's where I was offered representation, in person, the first time I got an agent.

**Five for fun**

AGH: Which would you rather do: carry an umbrella or sing in the rain?

Lisa: I'd sing in the rain. Prior to changing my college major to Creative Writing, I was a Studio Music and Jazz Voice major and also sang opera with several companies.

AGH: Are you Team Dog or Team Cat?

Lisa: I am totally Team Dog. We have two Chinese Crested Powderpuffs at home, both named after characters from my books. Don't get me wrong. I also love cats, and we have a "porch cat" who comes by for some food and affection on a regular basis. However, I am horribly allergic to cats, so we can't have them in the house.

AGH: If I were at your house right now, what would I find in your refrigerator?

Lisa: Oh, you're supposed to store FOOD in there? I thought it was just for Coke Zero and other sources of caffeine.

AGH: If you were tight with one of the Greek gods, which one would it be and what favor would you ask of them?

Lisa: Xena. Yes, I know she wasn't a Greek god, nor was she an actual part of Greek mythology, but I really want to learn how she twirls that dang sword. That is so cool! The hubby got me shooting lessons for my birthday, so I can accurately fire a 9mm pistol, but you don't find sword twirling lessons in the Yellow Pages, at least not around here. Maybe in Greece. Hmm . . .

AGH: Drinking tea … pinky up, or heavy on the Long Island?

Lisa: Um, both. I hate plain tea, unless I'm sick and need it to settle my stomach, so the Long Island version would be much more fun. But my grandmother always drank with her pinky raised, and I picked up the habit from emulating her as a child, so I drink everything, and I do mean everything with my pinky extended, and yes, I know that's weird. Can of Coke Zero? Pinky extended. Glass of ice water? Pinky extended. Here's to you, Grandma!
Lisa: Thanks again for the opportunity to share my writerly path and pinky raising quirks with you!


Thank you, too, Lisa! And for the record, I'm partial to quirks, especially the ones passed down by grandmas. ;) Your book sounds AWESOME (I mean, Xena? Can't beat a kick-bootie heroine like that).

Congrats on all of your successes so far, and I wish you much luck and happiness on the rest of your writing journey! BTW, I should let all of my readers know that Lisa is out of town so she'll be responding to comments here when she gets back.

That said, I hope to see you all next week
. Until then, have a wonderful, safe, and relaxing weekend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Today's Fresh Catch: A Super Secret Surprise Special Guest

Earlier this week, I constructed a sneaky snare trap and captured me a special guest: Mr. David Kazzie.

You might remember David from his prior visit on my QueryTracker Making Tracks series, due to his unconventional leap into representation. His agent, Ann Rittenberg of the Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency, came to him (instead of the other way around) after his "So You Want To Write A Novel" video went viral in the writing/publishing community.

You can read the detailed play by play on David's blog here.

Recently, David made another huge and unconventional leap to further his publishing career, and I dragged him over to talk about it because his savvy and courage so inspired me that I wanted to share it with you. Even if I had to fight him tooth and nail! Okay, small exaggeration. He didn't put up too much of a fight.

That said, I will take off David's gag, and give him the floor. ;)


About a year ago, as I was making my peace with my last manuscript, The Jackpot, reaching the end of the line, I started taking note of the developing eBook situation. As a reader, I loved my Kindle, but as a writer, I didn't want to believe what I was seeing. I wanted - no, I needed to believe that everything I'd learned about publishing still applied.

J.A. Konrath was a crazy person, I told myself. He was a known quantity, a writer who, via his traditional book deals, had laid the groundwork for success with self-publishing. I felt like the only option for me or any other unpublished writer was to query and hope for the best.

But as the calendar pages turned, as he began featuring writers I'd never heard of, people who hadn't had traditional publishing deals, people with no agents, but who were still selling eBooks like crazy, I had to pay closer attention to what he was saying. Still, my heart didn't want to accept what was happening, what my head told me was happening. I didn't want to accept there was a tectonic shift in publishing underway.

Then my animated videos took off last fall, and I started to think about how I could best use the exposure to further my novel-writing career. As the weeks and months went by, the evidence that publishing was changing radically continued to pile up. And then I had an epiphany - if I want to be in the business of writing, I needed to be making my writing-career decisions with an eye toward what was best for the business, not based on what my preconceived notions about publishing had been.

As J.A. Konrath (or maybe it was Barry Eisler) put it (paraphrasing here), a print book is merely a delivery system for a story. And for the first time ever, there is a viable alternative delivery system in place, one that had put down the necessary groundwork to give writers an option other than pursuing the traditional route to getting published. There's nothing wrong with print books and big publishing companies and so on, but you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't examine ALL your options.

I took a long look at the state of my writing career. I had these videos out there, plowing the road for me. Collectively, they still get about 2,000 hits a day. But the Internet being what it is, that probably won't last forever. A year from now, will people remember or care about a handful of short animated videos? Should they? Is that what I want to be remembered for?

And so when I looked at it as a business decision, the answer quickly became clear.

Self-publishing was the answer.

Isn't NOW the time for me to take advantage of the exposure I'm fortunate enough to have, especially when talking about my career as a novelist? Isn't that what any smart businessperson would do? And self-publishing provides me the vehicle to get my product to market as fast as possible.

So after discussing it with Ann, my agent, I set my sights on self-publishing The Jackpot. And I really enjoyed running the entire show myself. I worked closely with a really good freelance editor. I had total say over the cover, all the way down to the spacing of the letters. It was a ton of work, but it was well worth it.

Click cover for Amazon details and book blurb

But let's not forget, we're writers because we love to write and because we love books. 

And so all cold-blooded business aside -- seeing my book on Amazon for the first time last Friday afternoon, with a cover I loved, was the best moment of my writing career.

Thank you so much, David. And yes, that's a FANTASTIC book cover! :)

Now I'm opening up the floor to our readers. Are any of you out there considering going this route? If you'd like to know more about the process, this is a great time to ask our guest. (Not sure how long these ropes will hold, so get your questions in quick!)

Also, please support David by tweeting, face booking, and chatting up his blog and new book. Let's get the buzz started for him.

And make sure you drop by here on Friday when I'll be having my last QueryTrackers Making Tracks interview until mid July. I'm taking off from interviewing for six weeks to make time for family vacations and home renovations. ;)

This week's QT guest will be Lisa Iriarte, a lady who had a whopping SEVEN offers of representation. Stop by to find out how she decided between them, and to learn what fluffy powderpuffs have in common with her book's characters.

Until then, have a great rest of the week!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Posie & Mosey Mondays

A posie is a tiny flower bouquet typically given as a gift. In medieval times, they were carried or worn around the head or bodice to keep the bad smells away and the nose happy.

Well, that's kind of what poems are for me. Word posies: little bouquets of words that though smaller than novels, keep my inner reader happy with powerful sensory and emotive cues.

So on Mondays, to keep my blog from getting cobwebs but still maintain my no blogging rule for the day, I'll be gifting you with word posies. Comments will be disabled so you can enjoy the poems then mosey on along to your list of daily do's.*

Also, please drop back by on Wednesday this week. I have a special guest who will be visiting my blog (for the second time) with a REALLY big announcement. Until then, have a lovely and productive Monday and Tuesday.

*Hungry for more indepth Monday posts? Visit any or all of the entertaining and insightful blogs on my sidebar. ;)

~Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

THEY told me you had been to her,
And mentioned me to him;
She gave me a good character,
But said I could not swim.
He sent them word I had not gone.
(We know it to be true.)
If she should push the matter on,
What would become of you?
I gave her one, they gave him two,
You gave us three or more;
They all returned from him to you,
Though they were mine before.
If I or she should chance to be
Involved in this affair,
He trusts to you to set them free,
Exactly as we were.
My notion was that you had been
(Before she had this fit)
An obstacle that came between
Him and ourselves and it.
Don't let him know she liked them best,
For this must ever be
A secret, kept from all the rest,
Between yourself and me.

**Reprinted from The Hunting of the Snark and Other Poems and Verses. Lewis Carroll. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1903.

Friday, May 20, 2011

QueryTrackers Making Tracks, #9

Today is installment number nine of my Friday series on successful authors from QueryTracker. Some of my guests have agents, others have found success in less conventional ways. But one thing they all have in common is the utilization of the QueryTracker website to help make their tracks in the publishing world.

Today’s guest,
Kaylie Austen (KAusten to us QTers), is not only a prolific writer (it's rumored she can whip out 6-10k words a day--WOW), she also managed to land an editor without an agent. Amazingly, this same publishing house (kNight Romance Publishing--e-books and trade paperbacks) only accepts agented authors now. So, the lady also has really FANTASTIC timing. ;)

Welcome Kaylie!

Kaylie: Thanks for having me! I feel so honored.

AGH: And I'm honored to have you here. Seeing as you're about to be sitting happily on the shelves, you have a lot you can teach those of us still climbing our way up. I'm very excited to pick that prolific brain of yours. For starters, how many books had you written before you found your publisher?

Kaylie: Two poorly written sci-fi books. They had interesting concepts, but bad writing. I've learned a lot about writing since.

AGH: When was your first book accepted, and what is its title/genre?
Kaylie: Ravens was picked up last summer. It's a YA urban fantasy (with a smidge of sci-fi and romance). Ravens are those who are sought out by portals and dragged into a parallel dimension where they acquire superhuman powers. The have white eyes and black sclera, an uncanny look which earns them the name Ravens. Liam and Julie vanished 10 years ago, and Liam's illusions haunt Kendra. When she moves closer to the brink of sanity, he appears through his telepathic ability and coerces her into the portal. She is the last human to portal into a world where Ravens are hunted by humans. Kendra has ill-controlled powers, is trapped in a torrid affair with Liam, and desperately struggles to find a grip on her new reality.

AGH: Sounds like my kind of read! ;) Did you try querying the book first?
Kaylie: I queried Ravens for several months. I had a few bites from agents and publishers, but mainly rejections. As soon as I found a publisher who offered a contract, I accepted.

AGH: It's so wonderful that you found a home! How many books do you now have available to the reading public?
Kaylie: Ravens will be my debut novel, but I am contracted for three other series in the upcoming years in the genres of YA fantasy, sci-fi, and dark fantasy.

AGH: Wow. That's an amazing line up. Congrats! Are there any marketing tips you’d like to share for others who are venturing out into publishing?
Kaylie: Do your homework to see where your novel will find the best exposure. Large publishing houses have entire marketing teams, and trade publishers have small marketing teams. All I have to do is say is that I'd like to go here or there, and the team will try to set up a signing or appearance. They send out ARC's to reviewers, and work out business with bookstores. I've been known to approach local libraries and grocery stores to ask if they'd like to carry my work. If you do this, check with your publisher first. They might have a deal going already and don't want their authors doing the leg work.

My publishing house actually prefers that their authors concentrate on writing and they'll handle marketing, which was new to me. I've also gone after radio stations. Definitely look for free advertising like interviews, social networks, and sites which cater to your genre. Take advantage of connections. I know several business owners who are willing to put my books out in their stores, coffee shops, bakeries, and other businesses.

AGH: What books / authors have most influenced you (either in your writing or in your publishing decisions)?
Kaylie: I like almost anything that is fantasy or sci-fi, so I set out to look at publishers who are big in those genres.

AGH: How did you find QueryTracker, and how did it help you in your effort to get inside the publishing doors?
Kaylie: I don't remember how I came across QT! But I'm glad that I did. I enjoy the community, the positive and informative feedback, and the new connections. It's good for new writers to learn about the experiences of others, no matter how long it took them to find writing success. It's very up building when QT'ers cheer you on and help you to keep going. Likewise, it's beneficial to learn about their struggles. You realize that you are not the only one who has difficulties. Actually, a friend from QT pointed me toward my publisher.

AGH: That's a really great friend. What advice on the business side of publishing would you give to up and coming writers … something you wish you’d known when you first started?
Kaylie: Read and research. Know the craft, know how to edit, find a critique partner to catch what you've missed. This saves your butt from a major spanking when the pro's are editing your manscript. Research the market, know what goes into contracts and rights, and get thick skin! This is a business. We may find friends along the way, but the publishing world wants quality books that make money, and they are not afraid to tell you what they expect from a writer. Being a writer is hard work even after the contract. You have to dedicate a lot of time and energy into your work including edits and marketing.

As you know, it's not as easy as people expect it to be.Take deadlines seriously, and don't do a half-butt job because you're busy, lazy, tired, or just stumped. If you truly want to be a published writer, consider it a career and not a hobby, but always remember that you do it because it's a passion, a skill, and you have a story to tell.

AGH: So true. Writers really have to be in it for the long haul. Do you have any current news to announce? A new book or books you’re working on?
Kaylie: Ravens will release in paperback and eBook on June 11, 2011 at local bookstores.

Currently, I have multiple projects that I'm working on. The release of Ravens will be followed by a YA fantasy series where mermaids and other mythological creatures destroy mankind and take over the world. This is a two-book series. There's been a lot of hype about my zombie mermaid joke prompted by the arrival of the Lady Washington (featured in The Pirates of the Caribbean). I didn't give in to turning my mermaids into zombies, but I started a different YA dark fantasy about mermaids, the secret of Atlantis, and zombies--err--sirens (who just happen to enjoy a succulent human or two). This is my "just for fun novel', but maybe it'll get picked up. Who knows?

Also, I'm working on a different YA dark fantasy which incorporates Egyptian mythology. This was sparked by all those History Channel documentaries (because I'm a nerd), and oddly enough, the TV series Vampire Diaries. Instead of vampire brothers, I use immortal Egyptian "gods" who are after something important that has fallen into the lap of an Egyptologist's daughter.

**Five for fun**

AGH: Which would you rather do: carry an umbrella or sing in the rain?
Kaylie: Carry an umbrella! However, I live in the rainy state and no one carries an umbrella. They just wear hoodies, hats, or get wet. No thank you, I don't like getting rained on, plus I can't sing.

AGH: What’s your favorite breakfast?
Kaylie: New Orleans French Quarter-Cafe Du Monde. A simple cup of cafe au lait, and a side of beignets (French powdered donuts). I'm literally moving there for this!

Are you Team Dog or Team Cat?
Kaylie: Team dog. Cats are cute, but they're so independent and sometimes cranky. Dogs love attention and they are always excited to see you.

AGH: What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
Kaylie: Lots of veggies and fruits, juices, and an assortment of cheeses. Oh, and Mike's Hard Mango Punch! Which I didn't know they made until it mysteriously showed up in my fridge.

AGH: If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
Kaylie: The same as my characters in Ravens: Agility, superhuman strength, hyper-regenerative healing, heightened senses, telepathy, and the ability to fly.

Kaylie: Thanks so much for having me! This was really fun, and I hope to get to do it again! For anyone who's interested, you can become a member on my website and read about all of my projects as they come out; read my rants on; follow my randomness on Twitter @kaylieausten, or friend me on Facebook I look forward to hearing from you.


And thank you for the interview, Kaylie! That book cover is lovely. I'll bet you're looking forward to holding it in your hands. J And after seeing the kinds of food you keep in your fridge, no wonder you have enough energy to write so many words each day! I need to start eating more veggies. ;)

Congrats on all of your successes so far, and I wish you much luck and happiness on the rest of your writing journey! If anyone would like to show your support or ask Kaylie a question, please leave a comment below. I know she would love to hear from you.

I hope to see everyone next Wednesday on my new
weekly blogging day. Until then, have a wonderful, safe, and relaxing weekend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Writing Wednesday-meme and award COMBO

I'd been planning to partake in Lori M. Lee's brilliant Writing Wednesday-meme for several weeks now, and since I've been bestowed The Versatile Blogger award again, along with The Irresistably Sweet Blog award, I've decided to incorporate an improvised version of the meme into this post. 

Yes, I'm changing the rules of these particular blog awards, folks! Or, at least giving the recipients the choices between ye ol' rules, and some shiny new ones. I'm a rebel, what can I say? ;)

So, off we go!

Thank you, Caitlin Vincent

Bequeathed to:

The original rules:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2. Share seven random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 5 deserving blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them


My new rules...

Replace #2 above with this improvised meme from Lori's post: List the first and last lines of the first five chapters from one of your manuscripts. Can you see a story taking shape? Does it intrigue and intensify, making you want to read what's between?

I chose chapter snippets taken from my historical literary love story, Forgotten Silences (think Jane Eyre meets A Certain Slant of Light) with a unique love triangle between a deaf woman, the ghost that only she can see and hear, and a dark and mysterious viscount tied to the ghost's death.

Chap 1:

Melancholy ... melody; separate words, separate meanings, united by a memory pressed upon my heart.

Taking a breath of cold air, I opened the door and crossed the threshold, alone.

Chap 2:

In my youth, a spot of hot chocolate savored in tandem with a cranberry crumpet could evaporate the rain from the soggiest afternoon.

Then, using the grosgrain ribbon for protection, I picked up the flower, grabbed my lantern, and scrambled along the path and into my home, locking the door behind me.

Chap 3:

It took me half of the hour to plant the blossom, as I wore thick gloves to avoid getting pricked by its stem or touching the poisonous pollen within the raised cone.

“Either I am having a vivid hallucination, Sir, or you are a ghost.”

Chap 4:

I did not have to be a lip-reader to analyze the skepticism within his expression.

Then, as I clasped the chain around my neck and the locket fell between my breasts beneath the throw, my ghostly companion reappeared … this time to stay.

Chap 5:

Morning broke with a reluctant sunrise.

How could anyone withstand the vision of their own grave, knowing what lay beneath the dirt?


Thank you, Cherie and Lisa Ann

Bequeathed to:

And along with the strawberry goodness comes these original rules:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated me.
2. Share seven random facts about myself.

3. Pass the award to 15 blogging friends.
4. Contact the winners to congratulate them.


The new rules...

Replace #2 with: List three of your favorite sentences from a WIP or finished MS. 

And, in the interest of time, you can be creative with #3 and pass the award to as few as five friends.

My favorite three lines (from the same MS as above):

1. Winter had settled in her heart, and was freezing her from the inside out.

2. Yet I could not shake the foreboding sense that each page turned would be another ribbon snipped away from Pandora’s box of beautiful misery.

3. Flames of fear have crisped the memory to a nightmare, which snows like ash over my dreams.


Congrats, nominees! By now I've contacted you. I hope you enjoy the award. You earned it!**

On Friday, my QueryTrackers successful author interview will be with Kaylie Austen. Kaylie's story is atypical in that she's found a trade publisher sans an agent. She has several new books coming out in the near future, so be sure to drop by and congratulate her!

**Award winners: Please don't feel obligated to post the award or partake in the rules unless you're so inclined. The gesture on my part is like a thank you card, and I don't expect everyone to save their cards unless they want to. We all have our own decorating tastes and expectations for our "online home." But, if you choose to post it, here are some helpful hints:

Right click on the picture here and "save picture as." From your dashboard go into 'design' and 'add a gadget' and download the picture.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogfest

Click  for a list of other blogs participating in this blogfest.

Yes, I know! I said I was only going to blog on Wednesday and Friday this week, but I already had a commitment (albeit a fun one!) to my blogger pal Leigh at That's Write for her laughter blogfest.  Lydia Kang of The Word is My Oyster is her cohort in this endeavor.

If you haven't visited Leigh's blog yet, please pop by. A couple of weeks ago, at my First Bi-Annual Wonderland Bloggy Awards, she was a recipient of the Instrumental Blog award for being instrumental in helping others navigate the choppy and murky waters of both publishing and public image. I'm not very familiar with Lydia's blog, but after visiting today, I've found it's lovely and informative, so I'll be following her now, too.

Now, without further adieu, here's my writer's joke for the day (then we'll get back to my regularly scheduled writing haitus).  ;)

A linguistics professor was lecturing to a writing class one day . "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative."

A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."

Heh. I lurv me some sarcasm.

And my own contribution (because I stink at writing jokes but rock at lists) in true Jeff Foxworthy redneck form:

You might be a writer if...

•Your idea of exercise is “running" to Office Depot to stock up on paper and ink.   
•Your car’s navigational system has a special alarm to alert you of approaching coffee shops with wireless internet.   
•Your quiet walk through the woods is preempted by an argument between two colorful characters when there’s no one else around. 
•Your idea of getting out and “bird-watching” is sitting in the mall and eavesdropping on other people’s private conversations so you can polish up a rough stretch of dialogue in your latest WIP. 
•You consider it a good night’s sleep when your head falls to the keyboard without hitting the delete key and erasing a two-thousand word scene. 

Okay, I LIED *evil giggle*. I'm not closing this blog post until I share a link from Agent Goddess's blog from a few years back that I stumbled upon recently. It's fitting for today, since laughter inspires us to feel better. Something else that inspires writers are stories of other writers overcoming adversity and rejection after rejection before finally scoring that win.

By now, most of us have heard about a little book called Prada & Prejudice. The book's author, Mandy Hubbard, did a guest post on my agent's blog back in 2009. At the time she was interning for Jenny when she sold the book. Jenny asked Mandy to share her tumultuous path to publication, and how she and her awesome agent never gave up. Here's the link. Hope it inspires you as much as it does me.

And don't forget to jump over and get a list of blogs to visit today so you can enjoy more writer's jokes and meet some great new bloggers in the process.

Have a FABULOUS Monday, everyone!

Friday, May 13, 2011

QueryTrackers Making Tracks, #8

This is the eighth installment of my Friday series on successful authors from QueryTracker. Some of my guests have agents, others have found success in less conventional ways. But one thing they all have in common is the utilization of the QueryTracker website to help make their tracks in the publishing world.

Today’s guest,
Beth Cato, had two offers before signing with agent  Rebecca Strauss of McIntosh & Otis, Inc.  You can find the details in her QueryTracker success interview.

Welcome Beth!

 BC: First of all, thanks for inviting me here today! I truly appreciate it.

 AGH: Absolutely my pleasure. Let’s start off with what genre(s) you write.

BC:  I mostly write fantasy and science fiction, but I dabble in literary short fiction and have had several poems published. My non-fiction stories can be found in a number of Chicken Soup for the Soul books. However, fantasy is my greatest love.

AGH: Interesting about the Chicken Soup stories. When I first read your interview on QT, I thought your name sounded familiar. Maybe that’s why? So, could you give us a quick summary of the book which snagged your agent?

BC: Sure! When goody-two-shoes healer Celeste Reed wakes up to find her superpower is gone, she turns to the government for help so she can get back to work ASAP. Things take a sordid turn when she discovers she's been their unwitting guinea pig all along, and that a mysterious terrorist is taking advantage of other test subjects like her. Lives on the line in her city? Not on Celeste's watch.

AGH: That’s an original premise, losing a superpower instead of gaining one unwittingly. How long did you query, and what were your stats?

BC: I sent out 22 queries, and had one partial requested at a conference. Agents then requested five partials and three fulls. I started querying at the end of January and had two offers in mid-March, which still flabbergasts me. I expected to be at it another six months. I bought a full membership at QueryTracker two days before I had "the Email" about setting up a phone call. I ended up having two offers, which is awesome and terrifying all at once.

AGH: That’s very exciting! I understand what you mean about the fear. You want to know you’re choosing the right agent for you. Back to your book, what inspired your idea?

BC: A dream. The basic concept for the novel was told to me in voice-over, with one brief scene that followed. That scene is still in the book, too.

AGH: That’s so cool! Some of the best books get born through dreams. How did you come up with the title?

BC: The title emerged the very next day as I jotted down detailed notes on the dream and the expanding idea for a book. Since the story is about a super-powered character becoming normal, the word "Normal" seemed a natural fit as a working title. It also fits a theme where Celeste's version of "normal" is constantly challenged. Her entire life, she could never touch people bare-skinned without being compelled to heal them. Then her power is gone. Staying conscious while touching people is something foreign and frightening for her.

AGH: Hmm. That could make for some good tension between Celeste and the other characters. J Before you signed with your agent, how many previous books had you tried to query?

BC: Two, but I gave up on the querying process very fast. Probably a good thing, as those books are horrendously flawed.

AGH: What books / authors have most influenced your own style and concepts?

BC: I had a hard time finding Celeste's voice. C. E. Murphy's Walker Papers series taught me all about urban fantasy pacing and voice. Some of my other influences include Elizabeth Moon and Mary Doria Russell.

AGH: Have you recently learned anything about the business side of publishing that you can share with up and coming writers, something you wish you’d known in the beginning?

BC: You have to market yourself from the time you even consider writing a book. I did a few things right--like I had my website set up before I had a single short story sale--but I had no idea how much marketing and publicity is handled by the author. One of my agent-siblings recommended a book for me to read, BOOK LIFE by Jeff VanderMeer. It's all about balancing public and private worlds as an author, and how to market yourself. A lot of the material in there was all new to me.

AGH: Wow, thanks for the rec! So, are you involved in any new projects you can tell us about?

BC: I'm revising a novel that's the start of a different urban fantasy series.  It's an homage to the old school RPGs I loved growing up, like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. It features two middle-aged adults who are thrown together and realize that their favorite childhood role-playing game is really an instruction manual on how they're supposed to save the world from an invasion of parasitic dragons. I'm also outlining sequels for NORMAL and writing short stories. Plenty to keep me busy!

AGH: Speaking of busy, you mentioned you already have a website up and running. Could you share that link with us so we can follow your journey to the shelves (and beyond--J)?

BC: My web site is and my blog can be found at

**Five for fun**

AGH: Which would you rather do: carry an umbrella or sing in the rain?

BC: Oh, carry an umbrella. I hate for my face to get wet! This presented a constant challenge when I lived near Seattle for a few years.

AGH: Are you Team Dog or Team Cat?

BC: Team Cat all the way. I've always had cats around. My two fat tabbies are named Palom and Porom; Porom is snoring under my desk right now.

AGH: If I were at your house right now, what would I find in your refrigerator?

BC: A whole chicken that's leaking onto a plate, milk, soy milk for my son, OJ and Diet Pepsi for my husband, and a whole lot of strawberries and grapes. Oh, and I can't forget my Mountain Dew. I have one can a day.

AGH: When would you go to if you had a time machine, and why?

BC: I'd want to go all over the place. I love history, and it'd be amazing to see it with my own eyes. This is probably a very unusual answer, but I would love to see my home region of Central California before widespread settlement. It's a beautiful place, but consists of farms and orchards; the old grasslands and marshes are gone. A 70-mile long lake no longer exists. I would love to do a true compare and contrast and see what has changed in 150 years.

AGH: What would be the first thing you would do if you woke up to find you were a fish?

BC: Get in water, fast! Then I'd go and take out Nazi submarines, like Don Knott's did in my old favorite movie The Incredible Mr. Limpet. If I could talk to people, I'd try and find a way to change back. If that failed and this was the modern era... well, I'd find some way to be useful and avoid being someone's dinner.

BC: Thanks again!


And thank you for the interview, Beth! That’s so funny you’d say that about Mr. Limpet. That was my all-time favorite Don Knott’s movie. I always thought he had the perfect face for a fish (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). J

Don’t forget to visit Beth’s website and blog to stay abreast of news and announcements. Also, you're welcome to leave her questions, comments, and kudos below.

Congrats, Beth, on all of your successes so far, and I wish you much luck and happiness on the rest of your writing journey!

Everyone else, I hope to see you next Wednesday on my new
weekly blogging day. Until then, have a wonderful, safe, and relaxing weekend.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Finding my Zen...

I've learned something about myself as I've been out of pocket healing from surgery.

I'm totally unbalanced.

I don't mean mentally. (Well, maybe a little. But aren't we all? We wouldn't be writers without those voices in our heads.)

What I'm referring to is my inability lately to balance my writing schedule. I used to put out 2K words a day. When I had a part time job even. I could write a book in six months. But since I left my first agent back in December and signed with a new one, I’ve only written 7K new words. In FIVE months. That’s it. And every single word was work.

Writing didn't used to be work for me. It used to be a passion. But now I'm spending that passion and creativity on posts, blogging, and interviews, etc... instead of doing what I'm hoping to one day be paid to do.

Donald Maass, literary agent extraordinaire, said in this interview: "Promotion and “platform” are much bigger considerations for nonfiction authors. Novelists starting out need to put their focus on great stories. All the blogging in the world won’t build an audience if your fiction is weak. The best promotion in the world is a strong second novel, followed by an even better third novel. But, hey, let’s assume your fiction is superb. You never write a weak novel. (That’s you, right?) Okay, how much effort to put into online promotion? Remember that promotion is cumulative. The effect of any promotion on sales of an individual title is going to be small. If you are a self-promoter you’ve got to commit to it for the long haul."

If I'm going to be in this for the long haul, I'm going to have to ease off the gas pedal a little or I'll end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with an empty tank and a blank screen.

You guys are just way too charming and fun, and I'd rather hang out here in the blogasphere with you than buckle down and work on my writing. And you AMAZE me, how you can keep up with families, twitter, work, blog three or four times a week, and still get your writing in. But now that I've had a little time off from the internet, I'm realizing that's just not me.

So, I've decided that after the month of May, I’m only going to do my QueryTracker interviews one Friday a month. And I’m only going to post on my blog once a week (I'm thinking maybe Wednesdays). But I promise not to abandon any of you! I will still visit blogs. I'll just have to limit that to once a week, too. ;)

It's time to find my writer's zen again. And this is the way to get there for me.

I'm curious ... am I the only one who's been struggling to manage my time? Or are there others out there?*

I'd love to hear about it so I don't feel so completely inadequate.

And a heads up: this week, my QueryTracker Friday interview will be with Beth Cato, one of my Stylish award nominees from Monday's post. We'll be discussing that snoring sound coming from under her desk, and her urban fantasy NORMAL, which really isn't so normal, after all. ;)

*Kalen, you are officially exempt from the above question since you already showed your superman colors in this previous post on your blog. Heh.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why my MC is way cooler than me...

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend! I'm feeling like a new girl after ridding myself of the ol' half-life gallbladder. And to make my weekend even better, I come back to the blogasphere to find I've been bequeathed the Stylish Blogger Award again, this time by Jessica LeSaicherre, Kaya Koban, and Mandie Baxter. Thank you, lovely and generous ladies!

Along with this award comes a few responsibilities.

1. Thank and link to the person(s) who nominated you.
2. Share seven random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to five blogging buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

I'll get to steps 3 and 4 later. First, number 2. As fate would have it, I was planning to join in Ashley Graham's fun game of: 7 things you might find interesting about my MC, so I'm changing the rules just a bit. After all, my MC is sooo much more eccentric and intriguing than me.

So here are 7 random facts about Alyssa Gardner, my heroine from SPLINTERED. And, taking a cue from Ashley, I'm adding some visual aids. ;)

1. Alyssa's been blessed, or cursed, with the power to talk to bugs and hear their whispers, the very thing that sent her mother to the asylum. So to keep herself from going crazy, she does the only thing she can to silence them: capture and smother them in bug traps. But, being a frugal and artistic gal, she doesn't waste the corpses ... she preserves them and uses them in her mosaics. Needless to say, the girl's not squeamish.

2. Since Alyssa can hear bugs, she can also hear them scream when captured by a cat or dog and chomped to death. So, in place of a traditional domestic pet, she opts for eels. In her words:  "They’re elegant and mystical, and use a shock organ to stun their prey. It’s a quiet and dignified death, like the bugs dying by asphyxiation in my traps." Oh, and their names are  Aphrodite and Adonis. Romantic, right? *shudder*

3. Alyssa's father is frugal, too. He bought her a used Gremlin for her sixteenth birthday and named it Gizmo after the cute little creature from the eighties movie (which he took Al's mother to on their first date).

4. For exercise, Alyssa likes to skateboard, but she has a deathly fear of heights. She's always trying to get up the nerve for stunts, but her phobia keeps holding her back.

 5. Speaking of phobias, Alyssa has another debilitating one: the fear of being constrained. This formed early in her childhood, after seeing her mother bound in straitjackets and drugged out of her mind.

6. Alyssa won't leave the house without wearing a pair of fingerless gloves. It's more than a fashion statement. She has scars on her palms that she wants to keep hidden. The way they came about is too weird and humiliating to share with anyone, especially her friends.

7. Though Alyssa's heart belongs to her best friend and secret crush Jebediah, she is inexplicably drawn to the hero from the 90's movie The Crow. Sometimes when she's looking at the poster, the hero seems familiar somehow, like he's the only one who really understands her. Her words: "The emo guy looks back at me, his eyes bleeding black tears like he knows my pain, intimately. Something about him comforts me and I have a weird longing to be in his arms—wrapped up in leather." Well, you know what they say about being careful what you wish for, Luv. 

Okay, so that's some of what makes Alyssa tick (thank you Ashley for the excellent idea!).

Moving on to steps 3 and 4 ...

I bequeath the Stylish Blogger Award to four of my pals from LiveJournal, ye old blogging haunt, and to one of our fellow bloggers here on blogspot:

Congrats, nominees! By now I've contacted you. I hope you enjoy the award. You earned it! 

And to everyone else, have a wonderful Monday. :)

Award winners: In case you're techno-challenged like me, you can post your award on your blog, just right click on the picture here and "save picture as." If you're on blogger, from your dashboard go into 'design' and 'add a gadget' and download the picture. I'm not sure what the process is for LJ; might take some investigating. ;)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Are The Gardeners

Mothers are the gardeners
Of wind-blown wild flowers.
They water them with happy tears,
Happy with them many years,
Even as the hours
Ring with sweet, sad melodies
Sighing through their bowers.
~Nicholas Gorden