Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends

A combination of my (black) and Jennifer's (orange) edits
for Fatal Threads, V9
It seems like most days, if I'm not writing, I'm reading about writing. The one thing I've learned, the absolute truth I can count on, is writing is rewriting. If you don't like to rework something, then don't even bother attempting the writing process. Me, I like to work on something until I love it. And even then I'm not always satisfied. A little tweak here, a better word choice there. But the single most effective way to learn to be a better writer is to let someone else read your work. Someone else you trust. Or even better, someone else you think secretly hates you. Having the skin of a rhinoceros doesn't hurt either, because your early readers will tell you what they think, at least the good ones. Other writers I know are less inclined to freely hand their work over. Some fear being judged; others say they don't feel their work is ready. I say: go on and judge! Judge the heck out of my work, because if what you have to say is valid, I will take it into consideration. It makes my writing stronger. Several people read early drafts of Fatal Threads. I mean, really early (sorry, Meryl. I know V3 was probably not the best cut). Others were lucky enough to get later versions. Many of my early readers were punctuation freaks; others had a ninja eye for spelling. Some rewrote sentences, and often their restructure or wording was better than mine, sometimes not. My husband and my friend Michelle both printed and bound not only their copies, but one for me as well. That was great. But in the end, by the time I'd reached V12, I had cut around 12,000 words and reworked the opening over a hundred times. It had to be right.

My friend Jennifer really went the distance with my manuscript, though. You can see from the markup how enthusiastic she was about my story, and how determined she was to help me get it right! She found plot flaws, grammatical errors, and inconsistencies. The woman is an editing powerhouse. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude! I got it now, Jenn. You're = you are. I swear I won't make that mistake again! I laughed way too hard to ever forget! 

So, to all my early readers, thanks! You've made me a better writer.  

A few things I keep close at hand

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Post-It Note Saves the Day of Weary Writer

Nine crows studded the top of a Torrey pine in an arc, like an ominous crown, heralding the death of a king.

Today, I was visually drawn to a tree. The massive Torrey pine sits at a corner where I turn multiple times a day to make my way home. I looked up into the grey sky and saw a flock of crows, perched at the top in an arc. Racing home, I grabbed the nearest Post-it note and jotted down how much they looked like the gems of  crown, studding the top of the tree, ominous and beautiful. You never know when inspiration will strike. 

Note to self: keep your eyes open. Experience sights and sounds. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hello! My name is Demetra and I am an obsessive list maker—PART I

Hello! My name is Demetra and I am an obsessive list maker—PART I

There, I’ve said it. I am an obsessive list maker. I’m talking about multiple lists. There’s the grocery/shopping list, broken down by store, which comes complete with household mantra “If it’s not on the list, I don’t buy it.” Unless of course it’s something I see on whim and absolutely have to have. Then…so what…I’m the one out shopping. There’s the plain old TO DO list, used for anything unrelated to writing or eating, making it the list I frequently blow off. I reserve that list for things like: call the passport office and schedule an appointment.  There’s the bedside list, comprised mostly of the backside of old manuscript pages. I keep this list next to my bed to take notes while reading books by other authors, which is a great way to learn about writing. There’s the online networking list, because honestly, I need a plan for keeping up with my Etsy, Linkedin, Good Reads, Facebook, Fatal Threads | Facebook, Why I ya, and online writing group, Writing in Depth; a marketing plan. Yes, my marketing friends. I admitted to needing a marketing plan.

Post-it notes are the tiny rulers of my world. I love them so much I purchase them in bulk at Costco. They are in every room of my house.  Along with a black, fine-point RSVP pen (the reformulated, rereleased version of my favorite pen stinks – so glad I bought the mother load of them at the dollar store when it was rumored they were going to be discontinued), and a Papermate mechanical pencil. Very important note: Papermate mechanical, sharpwriter #2. Accept no substitutions. I jot down anything of importance that pops into my mind on the Post-it notes, which I stick onto the appropriate separate list or wait until I can’t see my desk and compile them, knocking off one pastel-colored task dictator at a time. I know there’s probably a better, more electronic way to handle my obsession, but for now, I’m good with the handwritten list. It’s fast. And, it gives me a good use for the twelve printed versions of my manuscript. Save the trees!

In Part II of this post I’ll let you know how using my obsessive list making might benefit my novel plotting.  See you soon!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tera Lynn Childs on Why She Writes YA

I have a very special place in my heart reserved for Tera Lynn Childs. She is the author of several books based in Greek Mythology, something dear and near to me. When I start thinking "maybe my book (FATAL THREADS) won't sell. Maybe there isn't a fan base for a story based in mythology," I go to Tera's site as inspiration and turn to her as a reminder that there is an audience for books based in Greek Mythology. She is a witty, fun author and I would recommend her books to anyone who loves a fast, fun read that will keep you laughing. 

Tera Lynn Childs is the award-winning author of the mythology-based Oh. My. Gods. and Goddess Boot Camp, the mermaid tales Forgive My Fins and Fins Are Forever (coming June 28, 2011) and a new trilogy about monster-hunting descendants of Medusa beginning with Sweet Venom (Fall 2011). Tera lives nowhere in particular and has spent time fleeing hurricanes, making character profiles on MySpace, blogging on her own and with the Buzz Girls, and writing wherever she can find a comfy chair and a steady stream of caffeinated beverages.

Here's what Tera Lynn Childs has to say about writing for young adults.

"I write YA because I love the teen audience. There is great freedom in writing for readers who don't have the same kinds of rules and expectations as adults. Teens have open minds and are still trying to figure out how the world works and how they work in it. That makes them receptive to new and different worlds and to investing themselves fully in those worlds."

Coming soon from Tera Lynn Childs:
On Lily Sanderson’s eighteenth birthday she’ll become just a girl—still a mergirl, true, but signing the renunciation will ink Princess Waterlily of Thalassinia out of existence. That leaves plain old Lily living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to master this being-human deal once and for all.

Now that Lily and Quince are together, mer bond or not, she’s almost content to give up her place in the royal succession of Thalassinia. But just when she thinks she has everything figured out, the waves start to get rough. Lily’s father sends a certain whirlpool-stirring cousin to stay with her on land. What did Doe do to get herself exiled from Thalassinia and stuck in terraped form, when everyone knows how much she hates humans? And why why why is she batting her eyelashes at Lily’s former crush, Brody?

The seafoam on the raging surf comes when a merboy from Lily’s past shows up—Tellin asks Lily for something that clouds her view of the horizon. There’s a future with Quince on land, her loyalty to the kingdom in the sea, and Lily tossing on the waves in the middle. Will she find a way to reconcile her love, her duty, and her own dreams?

SWEET VENOM (Medusa Girls Trilogy):
A fun new kick-butt trilogy that inches a little closer to the dark side.
Separated-at-birth triplet descendants of the gorgon Medusa reunite and discover it's their destiny to guard the door between the world of monsters and the world of man.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Book Review of Freefall by Mindi Scott

Mindi Scott’s debut novel made a great addition to my YA book collection. Freefall, the story of a young man coping with loss and learning acceptance, will captivate even the most reluctant reader. Having a teenager at home has taught me her voracious reading habits are a part of her nature as much as nurture. I can’t say the same for many of her friends who wrinkle their noses at the very idea of picking up a book, something that sets my teeth on edge. But main character Seth McCoy’s honest and fresh perspective is sure to lead to some reading converts. In an effort to alleviate his pain over his best friend’s death, Seth turns more readily to alcohol; though this is in no way a change in Seth’s behavior. The prevalence of drinking shouldn’t dissuade you from reading Freefall, or from buying it for the young adult reader in your life. Teen drinking is, and has always been, a reality. Turning a blind eye to it doesn’t make the problem go away. Mindi was just brave enough to put it on the page. In fact, it helped assuage my nagging fears over how the drinking in my own writing might be perceived (thanks, Mindi). Following along as Seth makes positive, self-directed choices in the face of peer pressure is inspiring. He learns to cope and accept things he has no control over, becomes a better communicator, and finally lets go of his guilt, bringing the novel’s title to light.
Being married to a musician, it was easy for me to relate to Seth and the many personalities he’s forced to deal with being in a band. I literally jumped out of bed to show my husband the following passage, which is just one example of how flawlessly the main character hits the nail on the head.
“What a loudmouth that Xander guy was turning out to be. I vaguely remembered him saying something at Pete’s party about being in a band, and I was getting a good idea that he must be the drummer. Drummers can never just shut the hell up.”
The supporting characters maintain a balance of strengths and weaknesses in the social pecking order. No, there aren’t S.E. Hinton’s Socs and Greasers. But there are the country club elite and the trailer park trash, and their worlds blend perfectly in Mindi’s writing. She shows teen insecurities have no socioeconomic boundaries. Rosetta and Seth’s relationship adds just enough sweetness to the mix, as they help each other move past the things holding them back in their lives.  It is a story of growth, self-acceptance, and trust. I would recommend Freefall to any reader looking for a fresh story about real issues affecting teens today.
MY TAKEAWAY AS A WRITER: Reading Mindi Scott’s book solidified the idea of a huge audience available for books that are outside the paranormal or fantasy. The break within the genre was a welcomed change, and teen issues can and should be addressed openly. Not everyone is pretty, cruel, talented, giving, harsh, or self-possessed. The very best characters are a combination of a few personality traits? I mean, who roots for perfection? The underdog is the hero. And in this book, have no fear; the underdog is here!


Why I YA: Why do you write Young Adult books?

I was a big-time reader as a tween and teen, so I hoped to one day write stories that would appeal to readers in those age ranges. As an adult, I spent one summer reading over one hundred books of all different types to decide what to focus upon for my writing. Contemporary YA was the best fit for me.

Why I YA: What was the most difficult thing about writing this story for you?

Having patience! I'm not a fast writer, so I was often frustrated by my slow progress. Other writer friends were finishing drafts in a few months. FREEFALL took six months for my first draft and a year to revise.

Why I YA: As a debut author, you must have learned a lot throughout the process of writing Freefall. What, if anything, would you change about your writing process if you had to start from scratch?

For all that I've learned, I really don't know what I would -- or could -- do differently. I wish I were quicker. I wish I were less of a perfectionist (or that I could get it perfect on the first try). I wish that my ideas came to me fully formed and awesome every time. Instead, I have this process. MY process. I'm always learning how to make it work.
Why I YA: Who was your favorite character to write?

Seth, my narrator, was my favorite character overall. But that's a boring and obvious answer, right? :-) My second-favorite character to write was Kendall. I felt that the backstory and the chemistry she had with Seth were interesting and (mostly) effortless to write. If only all characters were so easy!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Young Adult Authors Weigh in on Why They YA.

“I write for young adults because I clearly remember the books that I read as a teenager. They had such an impact on me and have continued to hold an important place in my heart. Having the opportunity to connect with young people at such a critical time in their lives is a privilege. I'm honored to write for them!”

Michelle Zink, author of Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the gate. Her debut novel, Prophecy of the Sisters was named to Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for Youth, 2009.Michelle lives in New York and has always been fascinated with ancient myths and legends. Nice doesn’t even begin to do Michelle justice. When reading her blog or communicating with her via email, I find her to be genuinely caring and and sincere in everything she does.

 “I write the kinds of books I like to read.”

Rachel Vincent, author of the Shifters Series, and the young adult urban fantasy series, Soul Screamers. She is almost fanatical about plotting and outlining her books and is happy to share her process on her blog. Rachel is a consummate professional, evident in the number of novels she’s written, while juggling her blog, publicity and events.

“I was a big-time reader as a tween and teen, so I hoped to one day write stories that would appeal to readers in those age ranges. As an adult, I spent one summer reading over one hundred books of all different types to decide what to focus upon for my writing. Contemporary YA was the best fit for me.”

Mindi Scott lives near Seattle, Washington, with her drummer husband in a house with a non-sound-proof basement. Freefall, her first novel, was published in 2010. Her second novel, Live through This, is scheduled for release by Simon Pulse in fall of 2012. She is one of the coolest authors I’ve ever had the opportunity to connect with.

“Well you know the saying 'you're as young as you feel'? I've always preferred Young Adult fiction because for me, it's a bit of a magical time machine that transports me back to an age I still feel very connected with. Only this time around, I'm wiser and can see the blind spots I didn't when I actually was a teen. Being a Young Adult author allows me a sort of power to rewrite events. I can get back at the mean girl, claim the captain of the football team as my own or stake a vampire if I want to. It allows me to meet the girl I used to be within the pages while remaining steady and thinking like the grown up I am now.”

Jennifer Murgia is the author of Angel Star and Lemniscate. After receiving recognition for her poetry, she went on to use her talents to bring characters to life in fiction novels that are authentic, intriguing, and personal. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children –AND, someone I’m proud to call my friend.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lying, dogs, and other drugs

In my welcome post I mentioned that I once convinced my mother I won a dog in a spelling bee. She knows, now, that it was a big fat lie, and sent me a photo of the dog in question. So, here she is...proof of my first tall tale, or rather tail!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Are you getting it published?

If you've ever wondered "Okay, so you wrote a book; don't you just get it published?" Or my favorite question of all time: "Are you getting it published?" Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
Click on the link below for an inside peek at the world of  literary agent, Jessica Faust as she examines an author's query submission in an effort to help other aspiring authors put their best foot forward. Literary agents receive hundreds, if not thousands, of queries weekly. They are the people behind the scenes, helping authors reach their dreams.
BookEnds, LLC — A Literary Agency: Workshop Wednesdays

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Alyson Noel on book signing tour

Young Adult Paranormal author, Alyson Noel is coming to town for a signing. My daughter Zoe and I met her on the Smart Chick Kick-it tour last year. She's the nicest person in the world. She will be promoting her book Shimmer at this signing! More to come following the event.