Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy Holiday Contest!

 Hee. Okay, a little premature. But it will be here before we know it.

I want to give my readers a special Christmas gift this year, but it's going to take a little input from you. On the first Friday of December (Dec 2nd), in lieu of my usual Query Trackers Making Tracks interview, I'll be welcoming Mr. Patrick McDonald (QT's always kind and helpful creator/moderator) to sit inside the interview box.

What I need from you, is a list of questions to ask him. There are the obvious ones: how Query Tracker came about; how long it took to develop; how many people were involved in the beginning phases; etc... But I want to make this interview fun.

Here is Patrick's bio taken from the Query Tracker website:

The idea for QueryTracker came to me in 2007 as I sat with a fellow writer discussing the difficulties involved with the query process, especially the problem with keeping accurate records of who we queried and who we hadn't.

As a day-time computer programmer, once the idea was formed, actually executing it was only a matter of time. Thus, a few months later, QueryTracker was born. It was the first site of its kind, and continues to lead the way in the query management arena.

Although I don't write much any more, when I did, I focused on contemporary fiction, with an occasional sci-fi or fantasy thrown in now and then.
Currently, I am collaborating with a friend on a YA fantasy (though, to tell the truth, he's doing most of the work.)

These days, much of my time is spent adding to and improving QueryTracker, with my dreams of publication lived vicariously through QT members.

After reading that, what questions come to your mind?

Here's where the contest comes in: Anyone who leaves a question below in the comments (OR you can email a question: anita at aghoward dot com) that ends up being used in the interview will go into a drawing. I'll be giving away one full year's Premium QT Membership, and will announce the winner next Wednesday (Oct 5th).

Want to know what a Premium Membership entails? Hop over here for a gander.

The comment section of this post will be closed midnight central time this coming Saturday (Oct 1st), and I'll stop taking entries then. So put on your thinking caps, or your Santa hats -- whichever gets those creative juices flowing -- and post those questions!

Best part of all, no matter who gets their name drawn, we each get to enjoy learning more about a brilliant advoacate for writers. So we're all winners. (No Charlie Sheen pun intended). That's the Christmas gift part.

Now, I'm off to sample some eggnog. It's always in season. (◕‿-)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Posie & Mosey Monday

On Mondays, I like to share word posies with my readers. Comments are disabled so you can enjoy this 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, or hop over to TeenShiver and see what's new with the Texas gals. ;)

Clark Dunbar, Moon over Ocean
The Moon and Sea
~George Darley (1795-1846)

Whilst the moon decks herself in Neptune's glass
And ponders over her image in the sea,
Her cloudy locks smoothing from off her face
That she may all as bright as beauty be;
It is my wont to sit upon the shore
And mark with what an even grace she glides
Her two concurrent paths of azure o'er,
One in the heavens, the other in the tides:
Now with a transient veil her face she hides
And ocean blackens with a human frown;
Now her fine screen of vapour she divides
And looks with all her light of beauty down;
Her splendid smile over-silvering the main
Spreads her the glass she looks into again.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


First, I want to apologize to those of you who haven't received a blog visit this week. I'm hammering out the last of my revisions on my literary ghost romance so my AWESOME agent can send it out on sub. I will try to hit everyone's blogs before next week.

As for my title up there, remember when I promised that the SECOND my deal was listed on PublishersMarketplace I was going to paste it over here?

Well that day has come! Oh, and I guess now I can finally share that we also sold to Germany. I've been keeping that one under my hat for a while.  ;)

For those of you who've never seen PM announcements, here's what they look like (albeit scrunched up to fit in my skinny column):

September 22, 2011
Young Adult
AG Howard's SPLINTERED, an urbanized gothic retelling of ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, in which a sixteen-year-old descendant of Alice Liddell (real life inspiration for the Lewis Carroll novel), realizes the story was true when she is pulled into the darker side of Wonderland to fix the things her great-great-great grandmother Alice put wrong, to Maggie Lehrman at Abrams Amulet, in a good deal, in a two-book deal, at auction, by Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency (World English).
German rights to Bertelsman Juvenile and Heyne, by Friederike Biesel at the Thomas Schlueck Agency.

Me's a very happy writer today (and the fact that it's my mom's birthday, too, only makes it sweeter). I've dreamt of this moment for years, and can't wait to be celebrating each of your PM announcements in the near future!

Thanks for indulging my impromptu silliness, and have a wonderful weekend. Hope to see you on Monday for some poetry. :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fusion and Illusion...

Okay, the Illusion is, I'm not actually here today. It's a trick of smoke and mirrors. :) I actually posted at TeenShiver yesterday, so that's my post for the week. If you are on submission w/publishers, or plan to be in the future, hop over and find out the six steps a MS goes through and has to pass before the actual OFFER is offered.

Onto the Fusion part of my title. A very sweet angelic pal (with a halo of lovely ringlets to prove it) has an awesome series going on at her adorable blog, The Inner Owlet.  It's called Fusion. A.M.'s description of the project: "Tell me what you want your story to be about. Together we'll create a short story combining your idea and my words."

I tried to challenge A.M. with a different concept for our story. I thought I was being tricky, because I didn't give her an idea. I just gave her three pictures, and four nouns.

Abandoned mineshaft
Crushed roses 

What she gave birth to is both lovely and morbid. Which makes it the perfect candidate for hanging out at my blog. ;)

A.M., take it away, my dear!


 Raven Lullaby
~by A.M. Springer

            Rocks cracked and crumbled as they screeched at one another. Deadened plants already withered by winters cruel touch disintegrated and dusted the clean snow with ashes.

            Anita, eldest sister of the remaining sirens, looked around at her squabbling siblings. Each had black feathers tucked in their hair, and their noses all looked rather beakish. Disgust curled her lips. “Silence,” she hissed. The forest quieted. Nine pairs of eyes turned to her, and Anita waited until she’d looked each creature in the eye before continuing. “We cannot afford to stand here and debate. We only have until moonrise to find a human, sisters. Let me make this choice simple: west or west. Choose.”

            Defiance clouded each girls gaze, but Anita ignored that and turned west, towards the closest human town. They would follow. She let her arms spread, her body change. The magic cast upon her by a blighted human of centuries past seized her, and feathers sprouted from her once-pristine skin. A beak grew where her delicate nose had been. Claws crippled her hands.

            As a raven, a black beast of dark omen, she swept toward the crowded city. Night fell like a curtain across the forest she’d called home for most of her life. Animals scurried away from her shadow, sensing her sinister nature. Squawks and croaks caught the wind, and Anita glanced over her shoulder in time to see her sisters swoop through the air in looping whirls. The silly creatures didn’t have the sense to be afraid. They didn’t realize how weak they were becoming.

            A mewling howl wrenched Anita’s attention away from her siblings. A baby… it was a baby. Someone had ventured into the park near their home! A black baby carriage with old-fashioned wheels was parked near the lake.

            Using her compact body, Anita careened toward her victim’s child. No parent would leave such a helpless creature alone! How easy this trip had turned out to be! A loud caw ripped free of her beak, and victory arched her wings as she dramatically descended upon the ancient carriage.

            Anita spread her talons and glared around, daring the baby’s parents to scream and shoo her away. Come save your precious offspring, mortals! Come and let me sing to you…

            But no one emerged from the snow-laden bushes. No shrieks or howls of outrage reached her. Only a soft gurgle. Anita cawed again, and then screeched up at her sisters to fly around the area. Surely the wayward parents were near.

            The sirens needed to feed. Only the soul of a mortal, sucked out and consumed with the siren’s song, would sustain them, and they only had one evening a year in which to find their food. They had unwisely fed from a witch’s husband many years ago, and she, wretched woman, had cursed them.

            Cruel creatures, your voices are as rotten as the hearts of scavengers and thus you will become. Ancient Gods formed you and claim your deaths as their own, yet I will bind your appetites to one short evening. Feed beyond that and condemn your bodies to resemble your ashen souls.

            Blasted curse. Growling as no normal raven could, Anita glanced down into the baby’s carriage.

            Surprise loosened her grip on the iron frame, and she almost plummeted to the icy ground. A porcelain doll with a cracked face leered at her. One glass eye was missing, and the other was encircled with soot or dirt. The toy’s tiny face reflected the age of the carriage, yet a newborn infant lay nestled into the contraption. A grimy blanket swaddled the baby, its color mirroring crushed rose petals.  Anita squawked. Poor kid. The parents obviously had no taste…not that it would matter soon.

            Humming in anticipation, Anita glanced to the sky. Her sisters flew overheard and croaked disappointing news; no other humans were near. Their voices split the air and then softened back into oblivion as the moon’s face peeked over the horizon, proving their time was short. Defeat and anguish plucked at her heart. She, eldest of the sirens, had failed. She’d doomed her sisters to a slow death.

            A caw of sadness clogged her throat and a ragged half-sob broke the frozen silence of the forest. Her sisters all murmured their love, their forgiveness, but death clung to their raven tongues. They’d not live out the year without sustenance.

            Laughter swirled on the wind.

            Anita felt nine pairs of eyes turn toward her, and she, in turn, looked to the baby. No longer cushioned between the hideous doll and the plush blanket, now it stared up at her with a smile.

            Had it…heard them? Could human children hear a siren’s voice? Did such small creatures have souls?

            Anita let one long breath warm her chest before crooning to the infant. Hope fluttered beneath the ebony wings protruding from her body, bushing them out like a scared cat’s tail. The child dribbled drool down its chin, then giggled. Miniature hands reached up and tried to clutch at Anita’s clawed toes.

            Pushing into the air proved challenging, but, once aloft, Anita let her feathers retract. Ice formed diamonds on her skin and her breath clouded around her face. Her human eyes detected a blue tinge to the baby’s face.

            Croaking timidly, Anita sang tunelessly for the abandoned child. Her cursed throat stumbled over the notes of a lullaby, but the baby didn’t seem to notice. Happy gurgling washed over the snowy forest and filled Anita’s soul with the nourishment she’d been so long denied.

            Her sisters dropped to the ground and huddled close. Each girl joined in the erratic humming, all trying to please the infant. Anita watched lines of hunger fade from around their eyes. She watched the beakish noses slim, returning every face to its former glory. Each girl outshone the next in an endless circle of beauty.

            Faint moonlight glittered on their skin.

            Spinning in alarm, Anita watched the luminous globe inch toward its zenith. If caught outside at the peak of its trip across the sky, the sirens would crack and whither to dust, much like the rocks and plants they’d encountered upon leaving their cave. No one would mourn their passing from legend to myth. 

            Anita shoved her sisters roughly back into the sky and turned to grab the baby. Its laughter wobbled, then stopped. Small sniffles protruded from the blanket-wrapped bundle, but Anita didn’t think to comfort her newest obligation. She ran back toward home, wheezing as ice formed in her lungs. How the infant was still alive in this cruel cold, she had no idea.

            It was lucky that the horrible parents of this mortal had left it so near Anita’s home. The caves she haunted most of the year were the reason the forest was deserted – toxic gas had been excavated while miners had searched for coal. The noxious poisons had long-since evaporated, yet still humans avoided the area. It made feeding difficult every year. But, somehow, this baby was a meager distance from their home.

            A black hole in a snowy hill up ahead resonated with the wretched voices of her siblings. They were singing for her! Anita clutched her bundle and stretched her legs, but as the cave came closer, a tingling sensation tickled the back of her head.

            Her body lurched into the darkness of the cave. Cool air whipped around, but the icy death of winter stayed beyond the cave’s entrance. Anita gently set the infant down and watched the creepy doll slide to the floor. She reached down to pick it up but gasped before her fingers touched the horrid thing. Cracks lined her hands. The porcelain face mocked her with its disfigured beauty in comparison.

            Anita reached her trembling fingers to her face and dug her nails into the crevices deepening there. Her sisters screeched and screamed, but Anita just looked at the baby. Its smooth face had lost the blue tinge of cold and its eyes watched her with too much sadness.

            As her skin crumbled, Anita crooned for the infant one last time…


I shiver in delight each time I read that last line!

If any of you are interested in A.M. writing a Fusion for you, please hop over here for her email addy.

Thank you for coming by today, and have a fabulous rest of the week and weekend!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Posie & Mosey Mondays

On Mondays, I like to share word posies with my readers. Comments are disabled so you can enjoy this 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, or hop over to TeenShiver and see what's new with the Texas gals. ;)
~Francis Scarfe (1911-1986)

Those who love cats which do not even purr
Or which are thin and tired and very old,
Bend down to them in the street and stroke their fur
And rub their ears, and smooth their breast, and hold
Them carefully, and gaze into their eyes of gold.

For how can they pass what does not ask for love
But draws it out of those who have too much,
Frustrated souls who cannot use it all, who have
Somewhere too tight and sad within them, such
A tenderness it flows through all they touch.

They are the ones who love without reward,
Those on whom eyes are closed, from whom heads turn,
Who know only too well they can afford
To squander love, since in the breast it burns
With the cold anguish every lover learns.

So they pass on, victims of silent things,
And what they love remains indifferent
And stretches in the sun and yawns, or licks the rings
That sheathe its claws, or sleeps and is content,
Not knowing who she was, or what she meant.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Putting on my cowgirl boots and stepping out...

I'm guessing some of you popped over here in hopes to see me riding a mechanical bull. Sorry! Not today, although I might be willing to try that closer to my book's release date as a promotional event.

Hmm. On second thought, I'd like to keep my spine intact. ;)

I don't normally post on Fridays, except for Query Tracker Fridays, but I have a few exciting announcements to share before my weekend haitus.

First, I've been invited to take part in a joint blog where Texas YA paranormal authors hang out, write posts, and cross promote. The blog is called TeenShiver, and "will feature & nurture Texas YA books that make you shiver." (Thanks to Jordan Dane--one of our featured authors--for that excellent catch phrase!).  I'll be posting over there about twice a month, and during those weeks, it will be quiet here in the land of madness and whimsy. I'll give you a heads up when my posting days will be as soon as I know myself.

If you'd like to meet the TeenShiver authors, hop over to this link and say "howdy!" And anytime you're curious what's new over there, you can just click on the TeenShiver button on my sidebar (color coordinated to fit my blog's motif), and much like Aladdin, you'll be magically transported by magic carpet. Okay, you'll be transported via routers, servers, cell phone towers, satellites, etc... but it's the next best thing! And you don't have to worry about frayed edges. :)

My second announcement: I now have an official GoodReads author page. And Splintered even has a page of it's own where people can mark it as to read right now! And then wait patiently for ... oh, a year and a half-ish. :)

Click Me

This was so fun to set up, because it made me feel ... authorly. I know, it's not a real adjective, but what say we make it one for today? If any of you are on GoodReads, please friend me and I'll friend back! I'd love to see what you're reading.

And lastly, this Sunday (September 18th) I'll be hanging out at my good friend Mindy's blog: Writer Writer Pants on Fire, sharing my submission experience. So please drop in if you'd like to read a few behind the scenes details about my journey to finally snagging that elusive publisher.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you all have a wonderful, restful, and safe weekend! And I'll see you again next week. :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The me I used to be...pre-writing.

The other day, a friend of mine gave a run-down of her recent trip to some thrift shops around her town. It sounded like so much fun.  I used to love to "junket for junk".  Thrift stores, flea markets, garage and yard sales ... antique shops.  Wow.  I didn't realize how much I missed it. I'll have to do some antique shopping again soon.

It got me thinking about how many of my pastimes fell by the wayside once I started writing.

1. Baking/decorating cakes and cookies for profit. What started off as fancy birthday cakes for my kids' parties ended up becoming a side business: "Anita's Creative Confections".  My customers were mostly PTA moms and referrals by teachers, but it made a nice little allowance now and again. Here's a picture of a cake I made for a class of 2nd graders going onto 3rd grade:

Hmm. Not sure what I was thinking by putting the storm clouds there. Maybe it symbolized what the 3rd grade teachers were feeling. Heh. I did improve with practice. I even entered a "bird house" cake in the tri-state fair and won first place and best of show ribbons.  The prize?  A twenty dollar bill and a king-sized bottle of vanilla.  Oh, and a certificate and write up in the newspaper, both of which I still have somewhere in the attic, along with the ribbons.  But the vanilla  and the twenty ... well, they've seemingly disappeared along with my desire to ever bake for profit again. :)

2. Sewing. I used to make dresses and outfits for my daughter. This victorian dress won a second place ribbon in the tri-state fair:

And yep, that sweet little model is my daughter. She's eighteen now, and not the least interested in letting me play fashion designer.  I still have the dress and the sewing machine.  But one is gathering dust in my daughter's closet, and the other taking up space in my office that could/should be used for the colossal new bookshelf I need to store my massive collection of "how to write" books.

3. Watching TV. I vaguely remember that big, black box in the living room. It's more of a trophy now.  A tribute to a time long gone when I actually cared about Rachel and Ross' love life.  Or figuring out Kramer's first name.  (Of course, bring back X-files with the original Fox and Mulder, and I'll reconsider). Unless hubby is home or the kid's are inside, the black box stays off. And the only background noises I hear are my WIP's playlist and the lovely hum of my faithful computer's heart. Hummmmm. Love that sound. It's so inspiring.

4. SLEEPING. I used to get in bed at a proper 10:30 or 11. Now, when I'm on a writing stint, I'm lucky to be in bed before 12:30.

The hobbies which haven't fallen away are the ones I can still do while my characters traipse about in my mind, playing out scenerios or arguments that will later make their way on the page.

1. Rollerblading.  I don't go as often as I once did, but when I'm stuck in my story, all I have to do is skate for about thirty minutes and the blood starts pumping ... magically my mind is cleared.  Nine times out of ten, the problem is solved and I pick up my story threads right were I left off. 

2. Gardening is my latest indulgence. Probably because when I'm sifting my fingers through the rich soil, or saturating my senses with vivid petals, moist earth, and fresh breezes, my muse is rejuvenated.

Do you have hobbies you gave up once the writing bug bit? Personally, I don't miss the ones I left behind. I still dabble in them from time to time if the mood strikes, but it's a rare thing.

For me, as a hobby, writing transcends all others.  Instant gratification on a level no other pastime supplies. And as a lifestyle, it fulfills every part of my psyche.  The intellectual side, the emotional, the creative, the curious, the human as a whole. 

Hmm.  Maybe I'll wait on getting out those gardening tools today.  An idea for a new scene just popped into my head. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Posie & Mosey Mondays

On Mondays, I like to share word posies with my readers. Comments are disabled so you can enjoy this 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. ;)

~Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820)


WHEN Freedom, from her mountain height,
Unfurled her standard to the air,
She tore the azure robe of night,
And set the stars of glory there;
She mingled with its gorgeous dyes
The milky baldric of the skies,
And striped its pure, celestial white
With streakings of the morning light;
Then, from his mansion in the sun,
She called her eagle bearer down,
And gave into his mighty hand,
The symbol of her chosen land.
Majestic monarch of the cloud!
Who rear'st aloft thy regal form,
To hear the tempest-trumpings loud,
And see the lightning-lances driven
When strive the warriors of the storm,
And rolls the thunder-drum of heaven--
Child of the sun! to thee 't is given
To guard the banner of the free,
To hover in the sulphur smoke,
To ward away the battle-stroke,
And bid its blendings shine afar,
Like rainbows on the cloud of war,
The harbingers of victory!
Flag of the brave! thy folds shall fly,
The sign of hope and triumph high,
When speaks the signal-trumpet tone,
And the long line comes gleaming on:
Ere yet the life-blood, warm and wet,
Has dimmed the glistening bayonet,
Each soldier eye shall brightly turn
Where the sky-born glories burn,
And, as his springing steps advance,
Catch war and vengeance from the glance;
And when the cannon-mouthings loud
Heave in wild wreaths the battle-shroud,
And gory sabres rise and fall,
Like shoots of flame on midnight's pall;
Then shall thy meteor-glances glow,
And cowering foes shall shrink beneath
Each gallant arm that strikes below
That lovely messenger of death.
Flag of the seas! on ocean wave
Thy stars shall glitter o'er the brave;
When death, careering on the gale,
Sweeps darkly round the bellied sail,
And frighted waves rush wildly back
Before the broadside's reeling rack,
Each dying wanderer of the sea
Shall look at once to heaven and thee,
And smile to see thy splendors fly
In triumph o'er his closing eye.
Flag of the free heart's hope and home,
By angel hands to valor given;
Thy stars have lit the welkin dome,
And all thy hues were born in heaven.
Forever float that standard sheet!
Where breathes the foe but falls before us,
With Freedom's soil beneath our feet,
And Freedom's banner streaming o'er us?

"The American Flag" is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Seven ways my antagonist is way tastier than a cookie…

Meet Morpheus, aka His Royal Mothiness

One of the most important things to instill in your antagonist is layers. You want to keep him/her from being cliché, aka: a cookie cutter bad guy who’s like all of the other desserts at the buffet. Here are seven ingredients that I'm hoping will set my naughty hotty in Splintered, the mystical Morpheus, apart from the other cookies:

1.      He has wings.

Granted, there are lots of faerie stories where the bad boy has wings. But the way Morpheus “got” his wings is a bit different. Not to mention he uses them for more than flying. At any given point in the story they might become: a shield, a cape, a weapon, shade from the sun, and lastly and most fun, a means of seduction. Hee

2.      He thinks he’s a rock star. Could be because he bears a stunning resemblance to a smokin’ cult phenom: Brandon Lee’s The Crow, or because his wardrobe and swagger is inspired by Jareth from The Labyrinth. Maybe it's both.

Image by Heather Love King

Whatever the case, he has no self-esteem issues. In fact, he’s downright arrogant and narcissistic at times. But it only makes him more loveable; just ask him. ;) 

3.      He has unique quirks. For one, he collects moths by the thousands. Not only living ones, but moth corpses to embellish his hats. Which leads to his fashion obsessions. Morpheus, despite his obvious masculinity, is a bit effeminate in his retro-renaissance fashion choices. He’ll take a crushed velvet suit with lacy cuffs over a pair of jeans and t-shirt any day (thank you Jareth). Here’s an example of something he might wear on a casual afternoon strolling around Wonderland:

Amadeus, eat your heart out.

4.      He dabbles in dreams.

This characteristic actually inspired his name … well, there’s one other contributing factor, but you’ll have to read the book to discover it. Heh. The Morpheus in Greek mythology is the god of dreams and has the ability to take any human form and appear in someone’s sleep. His true semblance is that of a winged daemon. All the more reason for my bad boy to have wings.

5.      He has a  hidden soft spot for the heroine. It makes an appearance from time to time, but he tries to cover it up with self-adulation and snarky remarks aimed at the heroine's best friend/secret crush, leading back to point #2:

6.      He’s the master of weaseling deals through word manipulation. Like most fae-related creatures, Morpheus has a penchant for word wizardry: he takes everything said as literal, and twists it this way and that, making it mean what HE wants it to mean.

7.      He has fears. The most important thing in the world to Morpheus (other than Wonderland itself) is his freedom. Nothing terrifies him more than being bound and powerless. This is something he has in common with the heroine, Alyssa, which makes their relationship all the more complex, especially when her freedom threatens his own.


I've found in books I read that the layered villains/antagonists -- the ones with a variation of ingredients -- are the most affecting. Maybe because when they’re humanized and given relatable motivations and fears, I’m taken to that place of personal introspection … where I question if I were in a similar situation, would I take on the same characteristics and make the same choices? Often, I even start rooting for those antagonists in spite of my disdain for their actions, hoping that they’ll somehow redeem themselves in the end.

Have you given your antagonist any redeemable characteristics? Any personal quirks to intrigue or inspire the reader’s sympathies? The best books not only have fully developed heroes/heroines, but antagonists too. Because who wants a dessert buffet loaded with nothing but stale sugar cookies?

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great rest of the week!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Posie & Mosey Monday

On Mondays, I like to share word posies with my readers. Comments are disabled so you can enjoy this 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. ;)
 A Plain Life
~William Henry Davies (1871-1940)
No idle gold -- since this fine sun, my friend,
Is no mean miser, but doth freely spend.
No prescious stones -- since these green mornings show,
Without a charge, their pearls where'er I go.
No lifeless books -- since birds with their sweet tongues
Will read aloud to me their happier songs.
No painted scenes -- since clouds can change their skies
A hundred times a day to please my eyes.
No headstrong wine -- since, when I drink, the spring
Into my eager ears will softly sing.
No surplus clothes -- since every simple beast
Can teach me to be happy with the least.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Query Trackers Making Tracks, #12

Today is installment number twelve of my "first Friday of the month" 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, Miss Bethany Crandell, wears many hats. She's known as: #shakiragoat,
, or Rookstar on twitter, and BethanyMC on QT, or just good ol' Bethany over at her Rookie Riter blog. But underneath all those hats is the secret to her witty cynicism and hysterical charm: she has a brain hamster who keeps her creative wheels turning. And he's quite good at his job, considering Bethany has recently signed with agent Rachael Dugas of Talcott Notch Literary Services. Click here for her success story on QT.

This interview is extra-special to my heart because over the course of the past few months, Bethany and I have become very dear friends. It's almost like I'm having her over to the house for the first time, so I'm all nervous and aflutter trying to get the dusting done  and the cobwebs swiped away (ergo the huge award post last week). Now that the big day has finally arrived, I'll push up the special chair for her,

Offer her a margarita, and once she's all comfy-cozy, we'll settle in for the interview.

AGH: Welcome Bethany! Could you give us a quick summary of the book which snagged your agent?
BC: SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS: After a botched party attempt at the country club, seventeen-year-old Cricket has been sentenced to work as a counselor at a summer camp in Western Michigan. As if being left for dead in mosquito country with limited cell coverage isn’t bad enough, she learns that Camp I Can isn’t just an ordinary summer camp. It’s a camp for disabled teens. What she learns about herself, and her differently-abled campers, after three weeks of handicapped hell is inspiring, funny and life-changing. 

Side note: I’m the mother of a special needs kiddo, so I’m personally connected to this topic. This isn’t a book with a message. It’s just a story about people being real—P.C. be gone!

AGH: Before you signed with your agent, how many books had you tried to query?
BC: One. STALKING PEGGY FLEMMING was my first attempt at a novel. I had no idea what I was doing. It's actually a pretty good story, but it needs some special lovin’ that I am not prepared to give right now.

AGH: What were the responses to those queries (stat-wise: fulls, partials, etc.)?
BC: Actually, not bad for a first effort. As I recall, I had a handful of partials and six or seven requests for the full. (I think I sent out about 90 queries). Most of the feedback was the same, though. Great concept, strong voice, but they didn’t know how to market it. The protag is 17 but the story is set in the late 1980s. A contemporary YA is usually current—was it YA? Was it women’s fiction? Oh the drama. J 

SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS was around 90 queries, too. I think there were a total of 12 requests for the full over ~6 months of query time.

AGH: What genre(s) do you write?
BC: Based on my answer to question #3 I’m probably not in any position to answer that. *hee* I write YA, and that’s what I considered the first novel to be, too.

AGH: What inspired your very first book idea?
BC: Growing up the youngest daughter to a Christian Reformed minister, I was well aware that the world’s expectations of who I should be didn’t mirror who I was. Thankfully my parents didn’t subscribe to that notion. I was given a ton of freedom to be myself—no matter how contradictory to my dad’s profession that seemed to the outside world. That’s ultimately what led to my first novel—the idea of what it would be like to have your parents wish you were someone else. STALKING PEGGY FLEMMING was about a girl whose mother was so obsessed with a former Olympian that she raised her to be just like her—instead of letting her be who she was.

AGH: How do you come up with titles?
BC: Usually while under my hair dryer. It’s true. I have a whole lot of hair, and my Revlon Ion Pro Stylist (I’m hoping to get paid for product placement someday) provides the perfect combination of solitude and white noise. I do my best thinking under there.

AGH: What books / authors have most influenced your own style and concepts?
BC: The first book I remember falling in love with was LORD OF THE FLIES. We read it freshman year of high school. I remember feeling anxious and uncomfortable while I read that—how chaotic it became when the boys started turning on each other, and then when they dropped the rock on Piggy…Poor Piggy! But as shocking as it was, it was also incredibly liberating. Up until then my reading fixes were through safer books: Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, etc., but that book allowed me entrance into a world that felt a little dangerous, but because it was on paper, I knew it was safe.

AGH: How did you find QueryTracker, and how did it help you in your effort to get inside the publishing doors?
BC: I was having a private Google party one day and stumbled upon it. I used QT with my first book, but was too insecure about what I was doing to dare comment and actually “engage” in conversations with other writer’s about my book. (I didn’t even dare call myself a writer at that point.) As the rejections came in, and my skin grew nice and thick, I started revising, going to conferences, working with a writing coach, and then I got some courage to put myself out there. QT was the perfect format for that. When I was ready to query THE SHORT BUS I dove in head first; engaging with other writers, following comments, searching for new agents, looking up stats.

Bottom line: QT was a great place for me to get comfortable being a writer.

AGH: Have you recently learned anything about the business side of publishing that you can share with up and coming writers?
BC: I’ve learned that agents aren’t evil, manuscript-hating trolls who feast on the dreams of hopeful authors for dinner. They’re actually cool people who want your book to be as successful as you do. (Who knew?!)

AGH: Do you have any current news to announce?
BC: We are officially on submission. So far it’s going very well.

                                     **Five for fun**

AGH: In your opinion, what was the best thing before sliced bread?

BC: This is a toss-up. Either the DVR or guacamole.

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

BC: I have LARGE hair. (My fro was frisked by airport security—no lie) Venturing out without an umbrella is completely out of the question. I’d be targeted as a terrorist for sure.
AGH: What’s your favorite breakfast?

BC: Mmm…maple & brown sugar oats topped with blue & blackberries with a banana on the side.
AGH: Are you Team Dog or Team Cat?
BC: I have no use for a cat. I have a nine-year-old daughter. If I’m in the mood to be ignored, glared at, or judged for things I’ve yet to do—I will just barge into her bedroom. GO TEAM DOG, WOOF!
AGH: Drinking tea … pinky up, or heavy on the Long Island?
BC: Neither. Pinkies will be wrapped around the beer bottle right beside the other fingers.


Thank you for the interview, Bethany! LOL about the airport security frisking your hair. That would actually make a hilarious scene in a book. ;D 

Don’t forget to visit Bethany’s blog and follow her on twitter to stay abreast of news and announcements. Also, please leave her any questions, comments, or kudos below. I know she'll be thrilled to see them!
Bethany, I'm so excited your book is on sub, and hope the submission trail is short and lucrative for you! I wish you every success. Everyone else, have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you next week.