Monday, December 3, 2012

And so it begins - HOW I GOT MY AGENT

Let's take a moment to just stare at the title of my post.


All right now. Here we go:

For the majority of this year, I spent most of my time staring at my inbox waiting for the e-mail that would change my life. Most of you know how that story ended. And in the month since I posted about the way my R&R ended, I amassed a good handful of crushing rejections from agents and contests alike. And somewhere toward the end, I resigned myself to the fact that my two years of hard work writing and revising, this MS might not go anywhere, and that even if that happened, it would be okay. I decided to work even harder on my WIP to get it query-ready by next summer.

And then last Tuesday came along. I was home sick with the immortal sinus infection from hell, and in the middle of a work week so intense that when I thought about everything I needed to do, I'd involuntarily groan "Oh God" out loud. I was in bed with a cup of tea, focused on something else besides my writing career for once, when the e-mail showed up in my inbox. "Re: Requested materials: [manuscript]."

I didn't have time to do the usual pre-rejection ritual, where I circle the room a few times psyching myself up before I open the e-mail, before the auto-preview popped up: "Rebecca! I missed my stop last night because of [protagonist]."

"Oh wow," I said, "it's a really nice rejection!"

I had to read the e-mail at least three times before "I am certain that I am the best agent for you" sank in.

Yep. After three years of waiting and working and tears, I got an offer of representation on November 27th, 2012. And it completely blindsided me.

And the day after that, after I got home from work, my phone rang, and the second offer blindsided me even more.

I've blogged here about the value of being a pessimist when it comes to the submission process, but there is one downside! When more than one lovely, talented, amazing agent is passionate about your work, you are so not prepared for it. I dreamed about things like this, where I had more than one dream agent to choose from, but I never thought they would actually HAPPEN. So this weekend, I entered the Decision Bunker (capitalized for dramatic emphasis), and thought about it.

And thought about it.

And thought about it some more.

And watched a lot of Lord of the Rings and ordered a lot of takeout.

And this morning, after lots of agonizing and making lists and rending garments, I came to my decision, and I finally signed that contract. So I can officially say to all of you that I am represented by the fantastic, the incredible, the wonderful Sara Crowe of the Harvey Klinger Agency.

I can't think of anything else to say, because I am still so thoroughly stunned and happy and grateful for this opportunity to take the next step with such a perfect partner. I am so excited to work with Sara and I can't wait to see what the future holds. I will be going on submission next year, and I know I wouldn't have gotten this far without such an amazing group of writers in my corner. Thank you, thank you, thank you all so much!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dear Teen Me

Hey all! Nothing much out of me today, but you should all go read Erin's Dear Teen Me bloghop post and watch her amazing video, with cameo appearances from my face, my prom dress, and my terrible handwriting.

Check it out here!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Starting over

Important lesson: life isn't fiction. Just because something looks nice on paper, just because it'd be such a perfect, symmetrical ending to a very long story, just because you've paid your dues and it's your turn to celebrate - that doesn't necessarily mean that thing will happen.

For example, it would be fitting if, after a year and a half of revising, I ended up signing with the first agent ever to request a manuscript from me - albeit a different manuscript, one sent over two years ago - but that did not happen.

Yes, this is to say that Secret Agent Man was not able to take me on due to time constraints. He passed it on to a colleague, but said colleague sent a rejection last week. That door may open again in the future, but right now, I am in full agent-hunting mode.
It's a complicated feeling, and I debated whether I wanted to post about it here, in part because I do like to present myself as this sort of Zen-ish aspiring author who just lets the rejections roll right off of her. But my journey thus far has been long, twisty, and rather unique, and it has always helped me throughout this process to read accounts by people who have been through the same things.

So yes, it's complicated. I have a shiny, revised MS that no one but Secret Agent Man (and his colleague) have seen, and I have already been in contact with some fantastic people who requested material, not to mention a referral and some other outstanding queries. I am pretty much starting over again, which is exciting, too.

But it's sad. Of course it's sad. I'm sure you guys know what I'm talking about when I say this, but being an ambitious person who hasn't achieved her dream yet comes with a special kind of ache. Some days it's not too bad, and sometimes it creeps up on me every time I pick up a book. It can be really hard to shake on those days, when the voice in your head reminds you that you haven't made it yet.

And yet! If I may act the part of the Zen-ish aspiring author for a moment: I believe nothing is wasted. I could never regret this past year and a half. My writing is better for it, I got to work with some amazing people, and I got a taste of what it's like on the other side. Maybe someone else will love this manuscript enough to take it on, but if not, I am a little over halfway through my WIP as of today, so I can try again. I am very, very good at trying again.

And hopefully one of these days, I will get to write that 'my success story' post that has always been on the tips of my fingers. Although that post may well be very different than the one I have drafted in my head.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and whichever part of the process you're in, best of luck to you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trick or Treat

All those affected by Hurricane Sandy, I hope you're doing okay out there! I am just fine over here in the DC area - I've had my fair share of experiences with intense storm systems, and my power even hung in there this time. And I don't have to go into work today, so I have some time to catch up on blogging.

Anyway. What even was this month, you guys? I had planned to celebrate Halloween the way I always do - by babbling about it all October-long - but life supremely got in the way. And by life, I mean a time-consuming new job, the sinus infection from hell (and subsequently, an antibiotic that made my symptoms worse and then made my tongue swell up), submission drama, more submission drama, and trying to find time to write all through this.

So to make up for the rec-fest that never was, we will condense it. Because I am holding Halloween right here on this blog, and inviting y'all to come Trick or Treat!

So here's how it goes. Ring my doorbell, and request a medium (movies, tv shows, books, webcomics, campfire stories, etc) and a scariness-level (anywhere from 'mildly creepy' to 'balls-out terrifying,' or just 'non-scary Halloween-themed' if lying awake at night isn't your thing.) You can throw in an optional detail if you so desire, such as your favorite thing that goes bump in the night. And taking your preferences into account, I will find some great Halloween entertainment for you. Because everyone knows the best part of Halloween is the stories we tell!

Ready, set, go!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The WIP Meme

... well, it was actually called "The Next Big Thing" meme. And I certainly hope so, but let's keep it a little less ambitious, shall we? ;-)

What is the working title of your book?Tick Tock. Some days I like it, and some days I'm sure I could do better, but today I think I like it.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The setting, a town built around the ruins of a once-prosperous factory, had been on my mind for several weeks, as well as the desire to write a sort of Sherlock-and-Watson relationship between two teenage girls. It wasn't until I was marathoning Downton Abbey one weekend, that the class conflict aspect came into play, but once I decided to set the story in America, I had a little trouble figuring out how to make that aspect work. After a talk with my friend (in which she shot down most of my fledgling ideas), I remembered the old watch factory in the town I went to college in, and the rest was (alternate) history!

What genre does your book fall under?
YA historical/gothic horror - my first straight-up horror manuscript. Everything else has been fantasy, mystery, or paranormal.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I don't tend to cast actors for my books, because I have fantastic artist friends who illustrate my mental pictures for me. But if you'd like to see my friend's AMAZING art of my two MCs, look no further.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Ooooh, I so do not have a good one-sentence pitch yet, but off the top of my head: "After housekeeper Nora saves heiress Claire from an attack by a vicious, unseen animal, she's offered a job in the wealthy Moreau household - as Claire's research assistant."

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Err, hopefully represented. Its big sister manuscript, The Hungry Ground, has been in an exclusive revision situation for a little over a year now - but no one has seen the revised version other than Secret Agent Man and now some of his colleagues, and I only queried twenty-or-so agents to begin with, so HG still has quite a bit of querying life left in it if it gets rejected.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?
I'm still drafting! This is taking quite a while, because there was a big chunk of HG revisions in the middle of the early Tick Tock chapters. I wrote the first four earlier this year (in April, I think?) and wasn't too sure about it, but strangely enough, when I sent off my HG revisions and came back to it, it all clicked for me. I'm at about 45k of a projected 80k.

And the first line is: The scar was hard to see if you weren't looking for it.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The Monstrumologist series - with less gore and more female characters, to be sure, but that's my most direct YA comparison. (Although Claire and Nora are the same age, as opposed to mentor and student.)

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
As I said above, Sherlock Holmes and Downton Abbey, and probably a bit of Tim Burton's version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for dreary Northeastern atmospherics.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
It's got a creepy setting, a core mystery, some romance, a truckload of ambiguity, and two teenage girls bonding and hunting monsters. You know you want in!

And I tag anyone who wants to play. I hope to hear about your WIPs!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's the mooost wonderful tiiiiime of the yeaaaaar

... no, not that one. It's October! Time to celebrate creepiness wherever I find it! HUZZAH.

Alas, though I'd wanted to do a proper Horror Blogging Month like I did last year, between the new job and my WIP, I have no life. But I am hoping to supply y'all with as many goodies throughout the month as possible: creepy writing music, some scenery inspirations for horror stories, whatever good recommendations I can scare up, and maybe even some flash fiction. Who knows!

But even more fun, I am going to have myself a little horror/mystery/thriller/paranormal reading marathon! Here's my fabulous list so far:

THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire Legrand (accidentally read it last month... womp womp.)

TEN by Gretchen McNeil (read it on a flight this weekend, actually)

THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray

LONG LANKIN by Lindsey Barraclough

GIRL OF NIGHTMARES by Kendare Blake (having devoured the first book of the duology, ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, last year)

And I'll probably stop there, lest I do nothing but read for the entire month.

I hope the rest of you are enjoying this time of the year as much as I am!

(And for those of you wondering about the revision status... it's complicated! It looks like I'll have to wait a bit longer for my happy ending, but I am moving forward - though not quite in a straight line. Cross your fingers for me?)

Monday, September 17, 2012

New review up at Afterglow!

October is coming up, and as a horror lover, I am SO READY. But if you'd like to get a jump-start on your Halloween reading, check out my new review at Afterglow on deliciously creepy MG horror debut THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire Legrand. And enjoy!

Do you have any favorite Halloween reads? At this rate I'm going to burn through most of mine before October even starts...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WriteOnCon 2012

Hey guys! It's August, and you know what that means. It's WriteOnCon time!

The funny thing about WOC is that I've never actually posted any of my projects there - two years ago I'd just shelved my manuscript when it rolled around, last year I'd just signed on to revisions with Secret Agent Man, and this year I am similarly in Revisions Land (albeit on round two.) But it is such a cool opportunity - I mean, a free writers' conference? That is just amazing - and I love to get in there and see what everyone's got in the pipeline.

In fact, I'd love to see what y'all are working on now! So if you feel so inclined, leave a comment with a link to your query, your first 250, or your first five pages, and I will definitely go take a look. <3

And my profile is here, so friend at will!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Je ne sais quoi

Good morning, everyone! Are y'all as stressed out as I am right now? :) I have quite a few balls in the air, so to speak, so it's been a bit hard to relax lately.

Though my R&R has kept me out of the querying trenches for the past year (!) or so, I've been thinking about that rejection I'm sure we've all received once: "I just didn't fall in love the way I'd hoped." It's a frustrating one, for sure, because maybe there's nothing wrong with the manuscript. Maybe it just didn't cross over from like to love.

It got me thinking about my own reactions to fiction. As I said on Twitter a while ago, I basically have four possible responses to a movie, TV show, or book:

1. Ugh - This is not only bad, it's offensive or problematic in some way, and thinking about it annoys me.

2. Ehhh - Most bad or mediocre fiction falls into this category, and I won't waste energy hating it.

3. I like this! - Fiction in this category ranges from good to excellent. If it's a movie or TV show, it's something I enjoy having on in the background while I do line-edits or work out, and if it's a book, I'll usually spend a nice weekend afternoon reading it. Sometimes I forget it as soon as I'm done, and other times I will idly ponder plot points and relationships on my commute.

4. LYING ON THE FLOOR, INCAPACITATED BY EMOTIONS - I love it so much I cannot actually deal.

Gif is from this album.

Being in love with a piece of fiction is a wonderful thing. I giggle incessantly at the funny moments, I bawl my eyes out at the emotional moments, and I make giant heart eyes at all the characters. Sometimes I'm able to write long, loving reviews about why it's so good, but as a rule, the more I love something, the less coherent I will be about it. My insightful commentary generally adds up to "OMG, [CHARACTER NAME]."

The difference between 3 and 4 is so, so small, but most things I like don't make it to that 'love' stage. And that has nothing to do with quality. Sometimes I will read or watch something, and intellectually I will recognize how well-crafted it is, but it's a solid 3. Then I will read or watch something silly and fluffy and absolutely fall in love with it. It might be a trope that falls into one of my narrative kinks, or a character I completely and utterly fall for, but most of the time, it isn't something I can articulate. The spark was just there for me - and yet, for someone else, that same work of fiction might be a 3. 

Or even a 2.Which I respect. Even if it makes me sad. ;)

So just because your manuscript was a 3 with one agent, don't give up! There might be someone else out there who thinks you wrote a very, very emphatic 4.

What separates like from love for you? Any recent examples?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A lesson on dramatic scenes from the JSA

Good morning, blogosphere! Today, we are flashing back to collegiate Becky and my time as a budding bilingual in the JSA. The JSA, or Japanese Student Association, had a vague enough name that both students from Japan and students of the Japanese language were welcome therein. During our heyday, we had all kinds of great activities: the Spring Festival, Iron Chef night, and, of course, the dances.

In this video, we are performing a yosakoi dance, a subset of dances performed at Japanese street festivals and characterized by lots of dynamic arm movements and yelling. This is also not a perfect run, because SOMEBODY ignored our instructions to wait for us to get into the opening pose before starting the music - okay, sorry, I will never get over that.

(And yes, I am right there toward the front, powering through the sore throat from hell and coming in a liiiiittle too early on some of those wave movements.)

Anyway! The point is, to our fearless leader - the gentleman front and center - the worst thing you could do was halfass the moves. The temptation was certainly there, if only because some of them were a little silly, and if you were self-conscious, the temptation to make the moves as little as possible was strong. The problem with that was, if you make the moves tiny and halfhearted, they will look ridiculous. We had to come in there bellowing and punching and swinging for the fences, because unless we did, it just wouldn't look that impressive to the audience.

While I was idly plotting the denouement of my WIP last night, Fearless Leader's advice popped into my head again. I have always had some trouble with the big dramatic scenes, because that self-consciousness is still there. I worry about making it too big, too melodramatic, and having the scene come off silly because of it. My initial instinct is to shrink back, to make the details vague, to use as little exclamation points as humanly possible.

But when I started revisions on THE HUNGRY GROUND and read through Secret Agent Man's notes, I realized how problematic that was. Even if you like your dramatic scenes on the subtler side - and I do - there's a difference between halfassing the scene and very deliberately dialing back the volume, while still keeping that powerhouse of emotion in play. And sometimes, it's okay if that scene is loud. Sometimes you have to come in swinging for the fences just to match the high intensity of the conflict.

It's still not something that comes naturally to me, for sure. But it's definitely better for me, on my first draft, to try as hard as I can to pour everything on the page. Then after that, I always have my CPs and my betas to help me refine it!

Do high emotion scenes come naturally to you? What's your approach to writing them?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Seasonal atmosphere

I love this weather. I mean, it's awful, but I love it. There's something so rich about a summer setting, in real life and in fiction. Sometimes I just spend the day lying on the floor moaning "I'm so hooot, let me diiiie," but other days, the summer weather is very inspiring.

Summer, for me, means telling stories. Of course, everything for me means telling stories, but as a lover of all things creepy and fantastical, my 24-summers-and-counting have been informed by some wonderfully rich settings.  My childhood summers in New England meant nights on the lake, games of hide-and-seek and flashlight tag in the thick, dark woods. When I moved to the Deep South, summer meant oppressive heat, massive insects, and towering clouds signaling the impending storms.

And then there was Tokyo. Japanese summers typically mean three things: fireworks, festivals, and boiling to death. (Okay, no, the last one is only partially true - despite my initial skepticism, a midsummer trip to the hot springs actually is very refreshing, in a weird way.) But because a Tokyo summer day is typically filled with heat and humidity, if not torrential rainfall, you save your energy for the nighttime. You strap on your yukata, a cotton summer kimono, and make a picnic on the city streets to watch the fireworks.

The only thing better than the fireworks are the gorgeous nighttime festivals. O-bon, which will take place at the end of this week, is a Buddhist festival originally established to send off their ancestral spirits, who visit the living every July. Now, it is mostly for visiting family and celebrating.

So while spring and autumn may be my favorite seasons to actually, y'know, exist in, summer has to be one of my favorite seasons for writing. It provides such a wonderful canvas, no matter where I am!

What does summer mean to you as a writer? What kind of summer stories do you gravitate to?

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Hello all!

Sorry this blog has been far too quiet lately. That whole sequence of "work on revisions, send revisions to beta, implement beta's changes, send revisions to Secret Agent Man, spend next two weeks terrified about revisions while re-watching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer" takes up a surprising amount of brainpower.

So I am trying to distract myself. Sadly I am all out of Buffy episodes to watch, but there are other things! Planning my two WIPs. Looking at cute accessories on the internet. Stockpiling tasty-looking recipes. Entering this giveaway for THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR by Mindee Arnett (and click the link to look at her awesomely creepy cover.) Watching this adorable video of debut author Susan Dennard receiving a copy of her book (okay, yes, that brings me back to publishing again, but in a good way!) Adding upcoming books to my Amazon Wist List, then trying to devise a method of time-travel so I can read them before everyone else. Job-hunting -- oh no, wait, now we're back at terror again.

But you get the idea! As realistic as I am about my chances in the publishing world, it's hard not to daydream - about what my cover would look like, or my first signing, or the fabulous outfits I would wear to BEA (of which I have several!) Sometimes those daydreams are good to have around. And other times, I just need to put them out of my mind. It's much better for my blood pressure.

What do you do when you need to distract yourself?

Friday, May 4, 2012


As I do believe I've mentioned before, I don't believe in fairy tales.

One of these days, I may have to alter that statement, but though I am an unflinching optimist in most other walks of life, my realism is my armor when it comes to submitting my work. I started querying my first novel in February 2010, and I had visions of signing my contract before my 22nd birthday in late March. It's been over two years since that first query, and since then I have learned how to take a more measured approach. The submission process is full of rejections and disappointments, after all.

But once in a while, a girl just has to celebrate. It is somewhat hard to celebrate when my work computer keeps crashing every time I try to load a .gif, but I will substitute wacky colors instead.


Whew. Okay. Now that I got THAT out of my system...

We all know about the R&R, or 'revise and resubmit.' This is an R&R&R&R, or a 'revise and resubmit and revise and resubmit.' And you guys, editorial letter #2 is awesome. I wish I had taken a video of my reactions while reading it to put on YouTube; I was sort of worried that someone would come over to my desk and ask what I was doing! In any case, I am beyond thrilled with Secret Agent Man's feedback, and ready to get back to work.

In any case, a huge thank you to all of you for your support, and stay tuned for the continued saga...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Drafting and story playlists

Hey guys! So I sort of have news on Secret Agent Man? Or rather, I have been told that I will have news before long? So watch this space! Hopefully I will have some HUNGRY GROUND news to share with you soon!

In the meantime, though, I have finally gotten back to drafting in these recent months, after repeatedly running into a brick wall with the project I was originally going to work with. (You know how some stories just have to percolate in your head for years before they get to a place where you can write them? Yeahhh. Every time I try to start that story I get closer, but I'm not there yet. Next time, for sure!)

In any case, though I have a long list of story ideas on the back-burner, I decided I wanted to start completely from scratch, and after working out some initial kinks, I decided on my new project: a YA mashup of gothic horror and period drama, set in pre-WW1 Massachusetts. The working title is TICK TOCK, but who knows if that'll change later!

When I started, though, I didn't even realize how long I'd been in editing mode, to the point where I had to get used to the process of drafting again. I eventually re-learned to embrace the fact that I was going to fix everything later (and I hit 16K yesterday!) but I've been doing a lot more tweaking and trimming as I go.

It's also been interesting to switch gears between projects this time around, especially since I know that more HG revisions are on the horizon, but a big part of that is my brainstorming playlist. My playlists tend to expand the longer I'm working on the project, but it all pretty much starts with two or three songs I listen to on repeat as I'm planning the project. So far, my new playlist is mostly comprised of my standard horror-writing songs, like Haunted by Poe, but the two big ones have both been from Florence + the Machine's most recent album: Seven Devils and No Light, No Light. (Incidentally, the two big ones for HG are Howl and Rabbit Heart from Florence's previous album. Clearly she needs to come out with something new every time I write a new project?)

How about you guys? How do you get in the mood for a new project?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Boring Invincible Heroes and Heroines

I watch a lot of TV. Mostly because I like having the background noise while I'm working, but occasionally I will pull my attention away from whatever I'm doing and watch whatever's on. My weakness tends to be the procedural-type shows, because I'm a sucker for a good mystery.

There's one thing I've noticed, though. The writers really, really don't like it when their characters lose. Their typical protagonist will casually go about their business with gaping bullet wounds and broken bones. They're abrasive, but their boss doesn't care, because they gets RESULTS, dammit. They easily outsmart the murderers and their convoluted plans - and if this is an amateur sleuth or a brilliant consultant, the actual police will just look on with their mouths agape. And if it seems like the antagonist HAS gotten one over on our hero, it will secretly be part of the master plan, and it will be revealed in the last ten minutes that the hero was only pretending to be vexed.

This is your garden variety Boring Invincible Hero - and while the example above is from your typical TV procedural, you'll find iterations in every genre. These characters can be fun to watch sometimes, but I can't think of the last time I ever really related to one of them. I think it's definitely possible to write a larger than life hero who the audience can get invested in, and there are great examples out there (my overpowering love for Sherlock Holmes is well-documented), but that aspect alone isn't what makes a character appealing.

I always joke that I can't fully fall in love with a character until they fail at life a little, but there's a lot of truth to that. If there's one thing that the Boring Invincible Hero illustrates, it's how important it is for the audience to see a protagonist really struggle, both physically and emotionally. Without that struggle, the character just sort of glides through the conflict without truly becoming a part of it. If we can't get into their heads and see how terrified or furious or insecure they are, there's no real weight to their victory.

So no matter how much you love your protagonist, don't let them become a Boring Invincible Hero. Let their flaws get them into trouble, and don't let them get out of it easily. Let their relationships be brutally difficult once in a while. If you give them an injury, let it weigh them down. And show us what they care about the hard way. To paraphrase Donald Maass a bit, think of the experience you want to avoid putting your character through. What would happen if you put them through it?

That's all from me today. Happy writing, everyone!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Lucky 7 Meme

Yay! This one looked fun, and since Hart Johnson tagged anyone who read hers, I am going to join her in rebelliousness. I hope you enjoy!

1 -Go to page 77 of your current MS
2 - Go to line 7
3 -Copy down the next seven lines –sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written . No cheating.
4 -Tag 7 authors
5 -Let them know

Since my current WIP hasn't reached 77 pages yet, I am going to show y'all a little of THE HUNGRY GROUND. I hope you enjoy!


Kalinda’s footsteps crackled in the air around her. The quicker Isha explained himself, the quicker they could go. “How long have you been here?” she said.
“Oh, since this morning,” Isha said. “I had to take measurements—”
“You measured the room?” Dev rubbed his forehead.
“Of course not,” Isha said. “I measured the entire floor. And it doesn’t add up, just like I said. I was right.” He watched them both expectantly.
“Right about what?” Dev said. “Pretend for a second that I’m not as smart as you.”
“You’re not, Deva,” Isha said. Dev bristled. “Come on, you don’t notice it at all?”
      “Just tell us,” Kalinda said – the sky was getting redder, they had to go now. When Isha flinched, she sighed, “Please.”
 And as for tagging, I tag anyone who wants to play and hasn't yet! Can't wait to see your excerpts! 

Monday, March 5, 2012

New review at Afterglow!

Heyyy guys! You want to see me make flaily hands at a really good book? Go check out my review of THE PRICKER BOY by Reade Scott Whinnem. And then go read the book, because it is uh-may-zing.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Contest linkspam!

Happy March, everyone! Wow - is it really March already? I feel like February just blew by in a haze of hyperventilating and constantly refreshing my e-mail.

Okay, that's an exaggeration. (Sort of.) But since I started my revisions last summer, I got back into that groove of proactively working toward my goal, and now, five weeks after submitting my revised manuscript to Secret Agent Man, I am finally starting to readjust to submission mode. Otherwise known as waiting. Otherwise known as wild swings between periods of extreme optimism and periods of HE HATES IT HE HATES IT OH GODDDDDD. Y'all know how it is, I'm sure!

For those of you in proactive mode, however, I have seen a bunch of super-amazing contests around the blogosphere. If you have a finished manuscript, think about submitting to one of them! I will be there to cheer you on!

Operation Awesome's March Mystery Agent Contest. I can't believe it's been a year since I first entered a one-line pitch here! I did the Mystery Agent Contest a couple of times last year, and I met some really fantastic agents through it. And the Operation Awesome ladies are, to be uncreative for a moment, AWESOME. Slots are going fast, though, so hurry up! And make sure to check the Mystery Agent's desired genres!

The Liz Norris Pay It Forward Writing Contest opens today! Do you want to put your manuscript in front of sharkly super agent Janet Reid, and possibly win a trip to a writing conference? Of course you do. Head over there and check out the rules!

The Authoress' March Secret Agent contest opens on Monday. You'll want to be ready for this one. You can get tons of feedback on your first 250 words, and possibly even a partial or full request from the Secret Agent hirself. Details, including submission windows, are over on the MSFV blog.

Best of luck to all of us!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Recipes and outlines

I am a foodie, to put it mildly. I am a foodie to the point where I don't understand how I was ever a picky eater. These days it feels like I'm constantly craving something new and delicious... which is really too bad, because I'm an assistant on a budget.

So I try to cook as much as possible. I don't make very elaborate recipes most of the time - by the time I get home from work, I just want something that's quick and not terribly labor-intensive. But on the weekends or when I have company, I love going all out!

Last weekend, I had some friends over, and I made them salmon cakes and goat cheese mashed potatoes. I had to look up the list of ingredients for the salmon cakes, because I've only ever watched my friend M make them, but I played it by eye in terms of proportions. As for the potatoes, it's a simple recipe, so I improvised and played around with the spices and herbs I've had on hand.

In some recipes, like spinach and artichoke dip, the proportions and the order of the ingredients is important, so I keep the list on hand as I cook. But in other recipes, like risotto, I've made it so many times it's like second nature to me, and there's plenty of room to tweak the flavor as I go. My recipe repertoire is ever-expanding, but within my mental cookbook, each recipe requires something different.

I'm sure you've all heard this question in the writing community: are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you outline, or do you improvise as you go? I almost always have a bare bones outline, but for me, different scenes are like different recipes. In some scenes, there are several points I need to hit before moving on, and I need to write down those points in order. I make notes for future events that need to be foreshadowed, but the timing of that foreshadowing depends on where it'll fit naturally. And for dialogue-heavy scenes, I write off the cuff, and edit/rewrite them later as needed. It all depends on how complicated the scene is, and whether the primary purpose (character development, action, exposition, etc) is playing to a strength or weakness of mine. It can be hectic, but somehow it all comes together!

And now I've made myself super hungry, and I still have half an hour until lunch. Happy writing (and cooking), everyone!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Open thread: characters and gender

Good morning, everyone! I hope you had a fabulous weekend and MLK Jr. day.

On my post about narrative "kinks" a few months ago, I talked a little about how I love when writers switch up traditional gender roles. Last night I was talking with a friend about adaptations or remakes where a previously-established character was written as the opposite gender. I can think of a couple examples off the top of my head: Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Kono from Hawaii 5-0, and most recently, Emily Thorne in the new soap Revenge, which is very loosely based on The Count of Monte Cristo.

So for today's post, I'd love to hear from you: what would your current WIP be like if you flipped your protagonist's gender? What would change? What would stay the same?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Suggestions: stop writing."

I have been lucky enough to have access to writing workshops since high school - I took classes for about six years straight! So as you can imagine, I've gotten all kinds of different feedback. I've met people who are amazing at constructive criticism. Those people could tear my story or poem apart, but they were so specific about their problems and suggestions, I never had trouble figuring out where they were coming from. And most importantly, they were always polite. Real constructive criticism doesn't discourage me - it energizes me to get back to work and make my writing better.

Not all critiques are like that, of course.

There's feedback that has stuck in my mind if just for how much it made me want to crawl under my desk. Some days, out of the blue, the worst ones will just pop into my head. I think the one that hit me hardest was the one scribbled on the back of a screenplay I wrote for a class. I will be the first to admit that it was not a good script at all, but I still almost choked when I read the verdict:

What was good: nothing.
What was bad: everything.
Suggestions: stop writing.

Ughhh. My stomach still goes into knots thinking about it!

It hurt like hell at the time, but the more I looked around, the more I realized that all my favorite authors had one of these: the critique equivalent of a punch to the stomach. It may not have taught me anything about my subpar screenplay, but it did teach me that I didn't have to take everyone's word as truth. Once of the hardest things to do as a writer is look at all the feedback you get and figure out what to take away from it. If someone tells me to "stop writing," there's nothing to take away from that. I'm obviously not going to stop. So la dee dah.

I wanted to post this here today to encourage those of you who might be down on yourself, whether it's because of feedback that stung, or the little voice of self-doubt in the back of your head, which can be even harsher. It hurts, and you're not weak or thin-skinned for that. We're all going through this process of trial and error together, and sometimes it's important for me to let myself feel discouraged. But pursuing this dream of mine is an adventure. If adventures were easy, we wouldn't have anything to write about.

And besides: there's no better revenge than success.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In which I set my cap at a jaunty angle and ride into battle

Happy 2012, everyone! How were your holidays? Mine were eventful and relaxing at the same time - it kept me busy, but purely with fun stuff. But now it's back to work, both for the book (yay!) and for the day job (... eh.)

Every year, I find it harder and harder to make real New Year's Resolutions. When I was in school, it was much easier: get good grades, and stop screwing around on the internet so much. (Until I realized that the second one would never happen, and I just found a better way to balance studying with screwing around on the internet.) But my goals are moving further into a place where they're not quite in my control. I can't guarantee that I'll make everything happen, but I can promise myself I'll try.

But you know what? I've got some really awesome stuff on tap for this year. My manuscript will be ready to go in a couple of weeks, and I'll be sending it back to Secret Agent Man. I've FINALLY decided on my next writing project, which I will start in February, and I've got a couple fun ideas still developing. I might even see some exciting new changes on the personal front by late summer. It's daunting to have so much I'd like to accomplish, but it's also so thrilling. It's great to be this psyched for what's ahead!

So watch this space. 2012 will be the Year of Getting Things Done. So hopefully I'll have news before long!

Did you make any resolutions?