Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Let There Be Happy Dancing

I did it, I did it, I really really did it! *DANCING*

I beat my goal (December 31) and finished the first draft of SALVAGED today! Just now! WooHOO! Boy this draft is a DRAFT and will need a real major cleanup, but yeeHAW. I have a real end and everything!

So you want to know what this book is about? Don't you? Don't you? *happy grin* Here 'tis:

by Susan Adrian

Sixteen-year-old Annika (Annie) has never used a computer or a cell phone. She's never watched TV, slept in a real bed, or kissed anyone but Xander. Until now.

Annie's always lived in The Community, an ultra-environmental commune tucked in the canyons of San Diego, led by her idealistic, maybe-crackpot dad. What they can't grow or raise they salvage from the wasteful people of "the wild". You'd be amazed what you can find back of a restaurant. But Annie's sister Zilla runs away with Xander, and Dad sends her to drag them back.

To find them Annie has to venture into the wild by herself, into an alien culture of excess. When she crashes a company picnic she meets Bryan, a cute, rich boy who thinks she's homeless. She lets him think it, lets him help. All she needs is a couple days to get Zilla and Xander.

But once she finds them, Annie's not so sure she wants to return, much less force her happy-go-lucky, impulsive sister back under the strict Community rules. The wild is much more complex and captivating than she imagined. And there's Bryan, who's also just a tiny bit captivating. But if she doesn't bring them home soon, Dad will come after them himself. And the last time that happened...that's the one thing Annie won't let herself think about.

Can Annie be salvaged? Does she want to be?

Almost there!

I'm here! I had a LOVELY Christmas, and hope you did too (if you celebrate)!!

I'm just headdown trying to finish this draft. If all goes *well*, this week, my pretties.


(of course I'm in my right mind, sheesh)

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Eeeeee!! It's almost Christmas! It's almost Christmas!!

*bounces around the room*

I adore Christmas--it always has been my favorite day of the year. Yet I really had no idea how magical Christmastime could be until I had Child.

Every morning, when I go in to wake her up and give her morning hugs, I point to the calendar right next to her bed.

"How many days until Christmas?" I say.

The past few mornings, she didn't even have to look. "THREE!" she would say, give a little squee, and throw her arms around me. Her eyes are so alive with pure happiness they hurt, in the way that all aspects of parenting hurt just a touch--the knowledge that this lovely, perfect moment will pass.

But I savor those moments. And her excited discussion about where Santa might be *now* (she loves the NORAD tracker), and reminders that she needs to make sure to go to bed early tonight so Santa can come, and LOOK there are presents under the tree ALREADY but there will be MORE and will I help her wrap her presents for Gram and Opa tonight?

Last night, curious, I asked her what she was looking forward to most about Christmas. She's 7, almost 8, and a sharp little kid--I never know what's going on in that head. Did she love the music, the candles, the decorations? One year she told me she loved the Christmas lights best. Or was it the hope of presents? The excitement of surprise?

She thought carefully, her arms around her knees. Then she said, "Spending the day with my family. And giving other people presents."

"Yes," I said, and gave her another hug. "That's really the best part of all, isn't it?"

And it is. May all of you who celebrate it have a magical, merry Christmas filled with family and giving, and love. I feel so, so blessed--because I will.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Craziness..& the Antidote

My workplace has exploded with insanity.

See, we're moving to a new building over the next 2 weeks. Yes, CHRISTMAS weeks. And the Bureau I work for has been in our current building since our inception in 1919. A passel of geologists in the same place for 90 years.

You think we have some stuff? Maybe some rocks? Rooms full of equipment and publications?

You'd be right. And geologists don't want to throw ANYTHING away.

It's an all-new building, and most of the furniture isn't set up yet. But the campus has decided to go the cheapest way and hire students to move us over Christmas break. So we have 30 football players and U-Haul trucks ready to move--with only 2 weeks to do it--but we can't move in yet. Servers are going today, I hear, so we'll have no access to printers or networks anymore. The geologists, seeing the truck, are realizing they finally have to pack up their (ahem) STUFF, so they're scurrying like mad ants.

Oh, and it's 3 days to Christmas. *eeep*

Anyway, all is not lost, because I have the antidote to all this insanity:

--Christmas Cheer
--and CANDY.

Christmas Cheer consists of filling my office with Christmas music as I pack and soothe staff, of pausing to check if my packages have arrived yet...and most of all, remembering Child's happy squeal-and-hug this morning when she counted off the 3 days left.

The candy? Last night, to help soothe, I made My World-Famous English Toffee.

Here's the recipe, if you'd also like to be world-famous! (especially for jmartinlibrarian!)

Susan's English Toffee
(make on a dry day: humidity messes with the consistency)

1 cup roasted unblanched almonds (the bags of slivered almonds at the store will do nicely)
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or a little more, because it's chocolate)

Sprinkle 1/2 almonds in a 9 x 13" glass baking pan. Melt butter on the stove, over medium heat. When completely melted, add sugar, brown sugar, and water to butter, mix. Cook and stir occasionally to boil to 300 degrees (hard crack) on a candy thermometer. (you DO need a candy thermometer! It needs to be exactly that temperature) Remove from heat, stir in soda fast. Pour & spread over almonds. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate pieces over the toffee, spread evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the almonds on top.

Note: I always panic when I make this and think the consistency is wrong, because at first it's chewy. But if you let it sit until morning, it will be *perfect*. Should melt in your mouth!

Let me know if you make some. Enjoy!!

Monday, December 21, 2009


Good morning!! In spite of the fact that it's Monday, I am awake and fairly cheery.

It took me a good 2 hours to get that way, but NEVER MIND about that. :)

I LOVED your stories. They made me smile too! Thanks for playing. The winner of OTTO GROWS DOWN, offered by the lovely Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, is...


Congrats, Trish! Send me an email and we'll get the book to you.

You guys, I am so excited about Christmas. I'm just saying.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are you Ready for Another Contest??

You know you are!!

Joanna Stampfel-Volpe generously hosted a contest here with me last week, but she's decided THAT'S NOT ENOUGH. She wants to give away MORE to you guys!

This one is for some lucky kiddo--so moms out there, get on this! Joanna and I are giving away one copy of OTTO GROWS DOWN, a picture book by Michael Sussman.

From an Amazon review:

"Michael Sussman's first children's book is a humorous take on sibling rivalry and suitable for preschoolers and up. In the story, six-year-old Otto is celebrating his birthday when he gets upset at all the attention being given to his infant sister Anna. He wishes that she was never born and soon enough finds his wish coming true in the strangest manner - time moves backwards, and very soon, Anna is sent back to the hospital and Otto finds himself getting younger and younger. As he grows 'down', Otto begins to grow 'up' and learns the lesson of appreciating having a sibling." (reviewer z hayes)

Doesn't that sound cool?

This contest will be open a little longer, since we're all busy: until 8 am MST Monday morning. So you have all weekend to link, and get yourself more entries!!

  • For 1 point, post a comment below with at least ONE thing that makes you smile about any member of your family: sibling, child, spouse, parents, whatever. It's a celebration of what's good about families, even crazy ones!
  • An additional 1 point for tweeting OR Facebooking the contest
  • An additional 2 points for linking to this contest on your blog!
Contest will close at 8 am Monday, and we'll do a random draw. Ready? GO GO GO!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Kelly Gay contest winner!

And the winner of a signed copy of The Better Part of Darkness is:

Christopher S. Ledbetter!

Congratulations, Christopher!! Email me at susan dot adrian at yahoo.com to claim your prize!!

Don't forget, tomorrow I'll be giving away a copy of a lovely picture book, OTTO GROWS DOWN by Michael Sussman!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interview & Giveaway with Author Kelly Gay!

I'll announce the winner in a bit! Stay tuned!

Hi all! It is a giveaway FESTIVAL here. So let's dive in to an interview with Enchanting Urban Fantasy Author Kelly Gay, who stopped by to tell us about her debut novel (on shelves now!), THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS. We're also giving away a signed copy!

Susan: Hi Kelly! First, congratulations on the release of your first book! How's it feel so far?

Kelly: Thanks Susan! And thanks for having me on your blog! My book being ‘out there’ in the world feels awesome, scary, exciting, surreal… you name it. A book debut fits that whole rollercoaster analogy incredibly well. 

Susan: I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy yet (I will, ASAP!), so could you tell us a bit about the story?

Kelly: Sure. The book is set in Atlanta about a decade after the discovery of heaven-like Elysia and hellish Charbydon, two alternate dimensions, which are home to beings that inspired our myths of angels, demons, gods, and monsters. Now they live among us, and it’s Charlie Madigan’s job to police the off-world sector and keep the peace, but when a new off-world drug is released, an ancient threat emerges, and her ex-husband makes a terrible bargain to win her back, there’s nothing in heaven, or hell, for that matter, that Charlie won’t do to set things right.

Susan: Charbydon and Elysia…aha. A student of the classics, eh? Can you talk about how classic mythology shaped the world you created? How have you diverged?

Kelly: Yeah. I’m a sucker for all things ancient and classical. I was reading Herodotus when I was ten years old. The Histories is still one of my all time favorite reads.

I really wanted to base my world on the ‘what if?’ questions I always had when reading mythology. What if some of these myths were based in obscure ancient truths and these truths were passed down, generation after generation, traveling across cultures until they became the foundations of many different civilization’s myths? Myths diverged, became different, expounded upon, but what if originally they’d been based in fact, in early man’s sightings, in visitations, in the meddling of Elysians and Charbydons in our early history? That question is answered in my fictional world and in the city of Atlanta. The Elysians and Charbydons have been visiting our world for eons, meddling, using our world as a neutral ground and sometimes as a battleground. And now that science has discovered the existence of these dimensions from which they hail, they can no longer hide, they had to come out and admit their presence. Each being in these worlds inspired different myths. The nymphs of Elysia along with the sidhĂ© fae and the darkling fae from Charbydon inspired some of the Celtic myths. The angelic-looking Adonai and sirens inspired tales of angels. The jinn, demons, and so on…  

Susan: I'm fascinated with the idea of an urban fantasy heroine who's also a single mother (I love Vicki Pettersson's take on that too, but I'm sure it's very different). Can you talk about the balance she has to strike? How has your experience as a mother influenced that part of the story?

Kelly: Ooh a Vicki Pettersson fan? Me too! LOL. But, yeah, mine takes a totally different path to motherhood. The thing that makes Charlie who she is at the start of BPOD is that fact that her personal life has been very much like someone you might know; someone who has gone through school, gotten married to their high school or college sweetheart, had a child early on, and who works for a living. Charlie has been a mom to her daughter for eleven years now. It has shaped who she is and defines what is important to her. It’s made her a mature, determined, protective woman. And since she’s been in the workforce while also being a mom, she’s already found a decent balance between work and motherhood. It’s become second nature—hard some days, but it’s the norm where Charlie is concerned. (Thought, events in BPOD change the norm somewhat.) 

But the balance nowadays is shifting as her daughter, Emma, approaches the age where she wants independence and will fight for it. Charlie is in the midst of learning how much to let go while still maintaining her tight bond with Emma. It’s a scary time for Charlie because she knows things happening now between them could define their relationship later in life. It’s a struggle for sure, wanting to protect but knowing you have to let go of some strings in order for your kid to grow and learn from their own mistakes. And, in this regard, I do find I draw on experiences with my own mother and with my daughter as well, a daughter who is getting very close to the stage Emma is at right now. Lord, help me! J     

Susan: I'm not *cough* unfamiliar with the balance of motherhood and writing myself. How do you juggle those roles, which can both be so time-demanding?

Kelly: Oy. It’s hard, I won’t lie. When my son, who just turned 2, entered the mix, it really became a struggle to carve out quiet time, and enough time to be productive and turn out material at the pace I’d been used to. One of the things I’ve learned is that I have to accept it. I can’t stress and fight against that fact that I must stop writing to tend to a need that arises. I used to get frustrated when I had to stop mid-creative streak. But, I’ve since learned to chill, and I stopped trying to work when they’re home, or even when they’re playing quietly (though I will do things like blog posts, email replies, and answering interview questions, LOL). And since I’ve made that little rule, I’m able to enjoy the time spent with my family without wanting to finish that sentence or rework that paragraph. When they’re at school and daycare, that’s when I sit my butt in the chair and work. If there’s a tight deadline and I need to work in the evenings or weekends, then I make sure I’m not the primary caregiver at that time, and I’ll go outside of the house, wake up early, or wait until everyone is in bed.

Susan: Now. Tell me about this YA series. (please)

Kelly: Yay! I’m so excited about this project! DARKNESS BECOMES HER is the first novel in the series, and it will debut in Spring 2011 from Simon Pulse, with a second book a year later. I call the series, ‘GODS & MONSTERS’, but I’m not sure yet if that will change. It’s dark, urban fantasy, set in a post apocalyptic-like New Orleans that has been forsaken and abandoned by the government and most of its inhabitants due to two massive hurricanes that destroyed the city a decade earlier. It's now become a sanctuary for the supernatural, a place run by the Novem, nine of the oldest (and strangest) families in New Orleans.

My heroine, Ari, is a pretty tough and independent teen, with some unique qualities. She’s searching for answers, clues to an obscure past that leads her to New 2 (what folks now call New Orleans). With the help of some misfit kids and teens living in an abandoned Garden District mansion, Ari discovers a curse that has stood since the time of the gods, one that is beginning to stir inside of her and ignite the age old war between gods and monsters.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this story. It’s dark, lush, and has a gothic feel. The city is decaying, ebbing back into the swamps, so the atmosphere is very creepy. And I'm blending some ancient mythology (the gods) and the vampire, witches, & shapeshifter mythos (the monsters) together, connecting them with an ancient curse that lives inside of my heroine.

Susan: What have you found different about writing YA versus adult UF? Does one voice or the other come more naturally to you?

Kelly: So far, I‘ve been able to fall quite easily into the voices of both Charlie and Ari. I’ve been writing young adult for a few years now, so I feel really comfortable stepping into the YA role. In fact, the manuscript I was shopping before BPOD was a YA, and I figured eventually I’d hit with one of the genres and either debut as an adult author or as a YA author. But I think it turned out just right because this new YA is much stronger than the one I’d been shopping earlier.

There’s not a big difference to me when I write one or the other. I’m aware of the differences in things like themes, relationships, and goals and motivations, but my style is naturally dark and paranormal, and since both genres allow me to explore that to my heart’s content, I’m pretty comfortable in both roles.  

Thanks so much, Kelly! Now, let's give away a copy of that lovely, dark UF, shall we? For this one I'm going to make you work...well, a TINY bit. With the holidays, I won't make you work hard.

To enter:
  • For 1 point, post a comment below with the name of your favorite mythological creature. Classic myths, modern myths, whatever you like!
  • An additional 1 point for tweeting OR Facebooking the contest
  • An additional 2 points for linking to this contest on your blog!
  • This is a one-day-only thing: Entries must be in by tomorrow at noon mountain time.
Ready? GO!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why I Love Ya

Dear Fabulous Agent Shark (not-so-secret identity Janet Reid):

I've always loved your enthusiasm. The way you chuckled to yourself when you read my opening pages, standing there in the lobby of the Sheraton. The request for a full, given only the way you could give it. (Remember, it started out, "What the hell is wrong with me that I wasn't leaping all over this the day you sent it?" I laughed out loud.) The way you gulped down my book in one day and offered that night. That unbounded enthusiasm, that love for MY story...the way you *got* it, even the tiny little references...how could I ever turn that down?

I couldn't, of course. You made me wait for the other agents, but in the end I knew who I'd choose.

I love the way you've stuck with the book, with me. It hasn't been easy, I know. It didn't go right away, and still didn't, and still didn't. Not for lack of trying. I bet a lot of other agents would've given up by now, figured they were wrong and it was a lost cause. Not you.

I love that when I email you, fretting, you may very well roll your eyes over there in New York, but I can't tell it from your emails.

I love that every time I talk to you on the phone I get the renewed sense that you love this book, that you're not done yet.

I love that when I fret about the book I'm writing now, you get all Buddha-like and say "I have confidence in you." And when I worry that it's not commercial enough, you remind me that you love what I write.

I love that you have a close-knit cadre of clients I can hang out with on Twitter, that feel like my brothers (and couple of sisters). I love that you're on Twitter too.

I love that you're on my side.

I'm so very glad to be on your team.



**Note: This is part of Unofficial Official Agent Appreciation Day, a fabulous idea of Kody Keplinger's. Because sometimes agents get a bad rap, we wanted to join together to surprise our agents with a little love. A list of participating blogs will be available here:  http://lisa-laura.blogspot.com/2009/12/happy-agent-day.html/**

Thursday, December 10, 2009


TWO Winners this contest, thanks to the generosity of Joanna. Each winner will receive a package of books and one query critique by Ms. Stampfel-Volpe herself.

The winners, by random draw, are:

Mechelle Fogelsong!

Happy Holidays Jeni and Mechelle! Email me at susan (dot) adrian (at) yahoo.com to work out how to get your prizes to you!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Guest blog, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe: BNFFs

***CONTEST IS CLOSED. Thanks, guys! ***

Eeee! You guys, I am SO excited to be hosting a guest blog from Fabulous Agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary. Joanna read my manuscript when she was working as an assistant at FinePrint Literary, and she's been a fantastic friend/sounding board/cheerleader ever since. Anybody would be lucky to have Joanna in their corner. Listen to what she has to say! Oh, and did I mention that she's giving away a query crit AND books? Read on!

BNFF – Best Networking Friend Forever
by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe

I need to make a bold statement. One that some of you may disagree with, but nonetheless, I stand by it.

Agents are human beings.

That’s right! We’re not evil goblins who survive on the unhappiness of others. We’re not creepy elves who sit in our offices churning out form rejection letters day in and day out. And we’re certainly not slithery snakes, or sharks.

Well.  Most of us aren’t.

I’ve decided to come out as a human being at this time for three reasons: 

1.    It’s the holidays.
2.    I don’t like it when writers approach me at conferences (especially in the bathroom) with their manuscript in hand, suggesting that I read it on the plane ride home. They charge you by the pound for luggage these days so I usually try to travel light.
3.    I REALLY don’t like it when writers approach me at conferences as if they’re so below me that at any moment I’ll sneeze and mistake them for a tissue. I am not more important than you. Except maybe to my dog, PeeWee, because hey, I control his food.

So there should be no reason not to hang out with us agents at a conference and share a laugh/drink/crazy story/etc. In fact there is a very good reason to hang out with us at conferences—networking, of course! 

I definitely have more than a few writer friends who are not represented by me, and some not represented at all (yet), but that doesn’t mean we don’t have things in common. And most of them I met at conferences, just like the ones you attend. We laughed over dinner, exchanged vacation stories over a glass of wine, played board games and ate popcorn, we talked about movies, food, pets, good books, crazy family and celebrity gossip.  But the one thing we didn’t talk about was their manuscripts.  Because it wasn’t about pitching at that time.  It was about making a connection that had some lasting power.
If and when they do send me something to read (whether it’s a submission or not), you better believe I take it very seriously. And even if they don’t (because they’re already represented, or I don’t work on their genre), I am definitely going to cheer them on from the sidelines. You never know when you might attend an event with a client of mine. You may need a blurb for one of your books (or I might ask you for one!). You may need a critique group suggestion.  And I might send you a book to review on your blog.  Who knows what a wonderful connection like this could bring, right?  But you’ll never know unless you try.
All that being said, as fellow human beings, us agents don’t appreciate being stalked, hunted down or followed around all night. Just like with any connection, you have to make sure the feeling is mutual.

Moral of the story: Treat agents (and editors!) as you’d like to be treated. 

Follow this advice and you just might make a BNFF.

And since it IS the Season of Giving, I’d like to give two lucky people a present!  The two winners of the contest will be picked at random—all you need to do is leave a comment and tell me what your favorite genres are (ie-paranormal YA, adult historical romance, political thrillers, etc). The winners will receive a small package of books to read over the holidays and one query critique.

Cheers & Happy Holidays!

Bio: Joanna Stampfel-Volpe is an agent with Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation.  She is looking for juvenile (up to YA) fiction and non-fiction, adult genre and mainstream fiction and some nonfiction areas. She accepts hard copy or e-mail queries--e-mail address:LiteraryNancy2@gmail.com. Send snail mail queries to 240 West 35th Street, Suite 500, New York, NY 10001. Joanna's specific interests are: chapter books to upper YA (non-fiction, contemporary, paranormal, romantic, humor, post-apocalyptic, historical and fantasy *fantasy/sci-fi needs to really stand out, unique), adult romance (historical, paranormal, contemporary), fantasy (urban fantasy, steampunk, unique), up-market fiction (dark, literary, horror, women's fic, commercial thrillers, historical, magical realism, speculative fic), narrative non-fiction (pop culture, environmental, foodie).

She is NOT interested in: cozies, cookbooks, academic nonfiction, epic fantasy for adults, hi-science fiction for adults, poetry, collections/short stories, screenplays.


Thanks so much, Joanna!

 So, CONTEST!! As Joanna said, just post a comment below, and list your favorite genres! Also, let's spread the word. You'll get one additional entry (+1) for tweeting about the contest OR posting on Facebook, and another additional entry (+1) for posting on your blog and letting us know about it!

Note: Eeek, I didn't put an end date on this! Let's do until Thursday at noon mountain time!

You KNOW you want to win a query critique from Joanna. Plus...Books!

Monday, December 07, 2009


It's 20 below here right now, with a wind chill of -34. For what that's like, I refer you to a 2007 post, The Sensation of Cold. It's still the same. :)

I've got a got-to-be-turned-in-this-week report on my desk, in addition to trying to get ready to move and finish my first draft of SALVAGED. This kind of busy-ness energizes me, though I realize that's insane.

I still have TWO fabulous interviews/guest blogs coming up, perhaps this week...each one with a contest!! Better keep checking back!

Later! Those of you sharing the cold front with me, stay warm!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Holiday Tiara Day!

Okay, all. We're in need of a Tiara Day. But not just ANY Tiara Day...it's the holidays now, right?

Friday, December 4th, will be a Special Holiday Edition Tiara Day. (wow, that's a lot of initial caps)

You can still dress up your avatar in a tiara to play, OR add a hat! Any kind of holiday hat will do. Like this:

Or these:

Or, you know, ANYTHING you want!

I hope you play. Join in on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, or anywhere you play online!!

Monday, November 30, 2009


Well, it's Monday after a 4-day weekend, as you ALL KNOW. And I, like you, have many reasons to WHEW.

--Thanksgiving went beautifully! Turkey and lingonberry sauce (I prefer it to cranberry), green beans and mashed potatoes and stuffing. Most important, a tableful of people I love.

--We were very busy this weekend. Over three days, we bowled, played tennis, boxed, ski-jumped, downhill skiied, figure skated, luged, bobsledded, and played a few games of skee ball, darts, and hoop shoots. We even did a little Disney Princess journey-ing.

Yes, we bought a Wii. :) OMG, the fun! It is crazy. We played with my parents' Wii on Thanksgiving Day, and went right out and bought our own on Friday. Played with the thing ALL Weekend. Laughed ourselves silly.

I am very sore in odd places, but it is good.

--Last but not least, I made my 40k on SALVAGED today! I am going to finish the first draft by December 31. It will be a complete and utter mess, but I will FIX IT, yes I will.*

*Please ignore any moanings and mutterings in January and February while I'm wedged in the second draft. Right now I do not want to think about that, but I'm sure there will be some!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Candied Pecans!

I'm posting this because I somehow lose the recipe every year and must find it again, and this will be easier to locate. And I'm making them tonight, to bring to Thanksgiving tomorrow!

These pecans are *scrumptious*. The only problem with them is it's very, very difficult to eat just one or two.

Holiday Candied Pecans

2 cups whole pecans
2/3 cup maple syrup (real, not imitation)
Brown sugar, white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the maple syrup and pecans into a bowl, and stir to thoroughly coat pecans.

Spread pecans in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan (with sides) and sprinkle with brown sugar and white sugar. For a little kick, add a dash or two of Cajun spice (optional). Bake in middle of oven 15 minutes, then stir and bake 5 minutes more.

Transfer to wax paper or foil, separating as best you can. Let cool.

Eat all the sugar/maple residue yourself. Enjoy.

Still here!

Still writing! Still working! Still not much time for blogging. :)

You guys, I can see the next few bits of SALVAGED! The fog cleared away this morning, and it's fairly clear. And since I'm almost at 40k and my goal for the rough draft is about 50-55k...

I can *almost* see The End.

For seat-of-the-pants writers like me, this is thrilling. I never know The End until I actually write it, or just before. If things have worked as they should on first draft, The End will seem a natural, though not obvious, conclusion to all that came before. It will tie in pieces I laid down without thinking much about them, resolve plot arcs big and small, and be satisfying.

Of course there also will be bits that don't fit, characters that didn't arc right or are still flat because I didn't know what to do with them yet, whole sections of plot that consist of characters talking to each other and not much else, and all that will have to be cleaned up. Second draft is when I make it a book.

But first draft endings are magical. :)

I predict you won't be seeing much of me in December. Excuse me while I finish this book.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh, hello, blog

I keep *thinking* of things I want to post, but Life is rather swamped just now. So it hasn't been getting any further than my head!

Mostly it's work stuff keeping me occupied, but there's also been concerts up the wazoo, social events, Girl Scout stuff (a city-wide "pinning" ceremony for Child last night--she is now a proud Official Brownie), writing (remember that vow last post), and the insanity that is keeping up with events. And, you know, watching the Finale of ANTM. (squee!) Whew.

HOWEVER, Dear Blog, I have some fantastic things coming up for you!

  • First up, around December 1st, will be an interview/giveaway with fabulous debut author Kelly Gay. Kelly not only is a great UF author--The Better Part of Darkness is blurbed by the superstar Vicki Pettersson, so it must be kick-ass--but she just sold a YA series!! Now she is my genre-sister. :)
  • Sometime in early December I'm also going to be hosting a guest blog by...drum roll...another Agent Fabulous, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe!
So stay tuned. If I'm being quiet in-between I'm probably writing or working, but don't go away!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Contests you don't want to miss, and a VOW

First, two fabulous book-winning contests you guys should check out!!

Suzie Townsend is giving away a copy of Kelly Gay's debut, A BETTER PART OF DARKNESS. The UF fan in me *wants* this book. I bet you want it too. Go enter!

Second, Victoria Schwab is hosting an innovative contest. Go watch her vlog, check out her bookshelves, and pick which book you'd like to have! If you win, she'll send it to you. Any book, people! ENTER!

(I totally typed that "entere", which I think should be a word.)

And the vow?

I PLEDGE to finish the first draft of this book, SALVAGED, by December 31. There, it's public now.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Who would make you go fan-girl?

Meg Cabot posted a delicious link to a Mary Stewart fan site I'd never seen:


Just browsing through the titles made me giddy. I LOVE those books. It started when I was about 12--I found a battered copy of WILDFIRE AT MIDNIGHT in a box of my mother's, ready to go to the library sale. I snuck it out and devoured it in a couple hours.

I was in love. Reader-love.

I quickly hunted down every book of hers I could find: read, re-read, treasured. I remember the moment, reading THE MOON-SPINNERS, when I first felt what it *might* be like to fall in love, that giddy sense that all the world is possible.

I walked around the house repeating to myself "Bryony...Bryony...Bryony Ashley", the opening lines to TOUCH NOT THE CAT.

I drove two hours to see Lipizzaner stallions two decades later because of AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND. I still want to sit with my back against Hadrian's Wall (which is where the name "Adrian" happens to come from, by the way) like Mary Grey did in THE IVY TREE or visit the caves and crashing surf on Corfu.

And that's not even touching the Merlin novels. I've probably read THE CRYSTAL CAVE ten times, and all the others at least three or four.

Her books--the combination of adventure, love, a touch of magic, and a smart, strong heroine--helped to shape me, who I am today. Who I try to be as a writer.

If I ever had the chance to meet Mary Stewart, I don't think I would be able to speak. I think I would melt utterly into a fan-girl puddle of worship and not come to my senses for a couple hours after she was gone, shaking her head.

I bet most writers have someone like that who inspired them, who is a real hero/heroine. Share the admiration. Who would make you lose your little writer/reader mind if you met them?

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Yipeee! Thanks so much for joining in, everybody. I hope all you entrants who *didn't* win this time will go and check out DANI NOIR anyway!!

Winner of a signed copy of DANI NOIR: Mike Jung!!

Winner of a DVD of Rita Hayworth's fabulous GILDA: Sean Ferrell!

Send me an email and we'll get those prizes out to you!

Hope y'all had fun. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interview with Nova Ren Suma and Contest!!

Sorry, contest is now closed!!!

Here it is, peeps! The DANI NOIR interview, with the Most Fabulous Nova Ren Suma!!

Nova is the author of DANI NOIR, a tween novel about noir-movie-obsessed Dani and the lies she uncovers in her small nothing-ever-happens town, out now in hardcover and ebook from Simon & Schuster / Aladdin. IMAGINARY GIRLS, Nova’s YA debut, is the story of two sisters and their bond that can’t be broken. It is due out in hardcover tentatively in Summer 2011 from Penguin / Dutton.

Also, Nova is immensely cool. Just so you know.

Susan: Tell me your summary of Dani's story.

Nova: Speaking of fabulous, first off, thank you so much, Susan, for having me on your fabulous blog!

DANI NOIR is about liars, cheaters, and all things Rita Hayworth. It follows 13-year-old Dani the summer her best friend has moved away, her brother's away at camp, and her dad's left her mom for another woman. Classic black-and-white film noir movies and the stunning femmes fatales that star in them are Dani's only escape from her boring small town where nothing ever happens, or so she thinks. But when she realizes that someone's been lying, and not in the movies but in real life, she sets out to uncover the truth, no matter who gets hurt on the way...

Susan: I was so impressed with Dani's authentic voice, the authentic headspace of a 13-year-old. Tell me about how you slipped into Dani's skin.

Nova: Oh, thank you! You know, the whole time I was writing the book I felt like I was channeling Dani herself, like she was a real girl. She's a very dramatic character, so it turned out to be a very dramatic summer and fall for me while I was writing this novel. I may have acted out a little, so anyone who knows me, please forgive me! To get inside her head and slip into her skin I sent myself back in time to age 13. I remember the summer before eighth grade so clearly—too clearly—so it felt natural to speak from that voice. And when I felt myself feeling distant from Dani, I'd turn off the lights and watch a scene from a noir movie. Also, copious amounts of ice cream helped.

Susan: There is such a fabulous interplay between two different pieces in the book: Dani's troubles, including her parent's divorce, and her love of film noir movies. How did you come up with that combo?

Nova: I can't separate Dani from her love of film noir movies. I can't imagine a story about her without that interplay, it's so much of how she sees the world. I guess this is why, when I look back at the start of the writing before I decided to write about noir movies specifically, the story was completely flat. She was flat. Sure, Dani existed, but she was nobody special. She could barely carry a scene. Then I had one of those click-worthy moments watching a particular scene in a certain classic noir movie called Gilda. It's the scene where you first see Rita Hayworth.

I saw it through Dani's eyes, imagined her watching it from her lonely seat in the Little Art movie theater, looking up and meeting eyes with Rita Hayworth, and it all sort of fell into place. Once I knew where I was going, I went crazy with it. The "if this were a movie" diversions were my favorite parts of this book to write... could you tell?

Susan: Do you have favorite film noir bits? Are they the same as those in the book? Why?

Nova: If you asked Dani, she'd say her favorite thing about noir films are the femmes fatales, such as her hands-down favorite Rita Hayworth, but she'd also give props to Barbara Stanwyck, Lauren Bacall, and Lana Turner. And if you asked me the same question, I'd have to agree with Dani. Maybe that's why it was so easy to write her: We connect to the same things. So I think you could say that the scenes mentioned in the book are scenes that resonated with me personally, and that's why I shared them with my character.

Here's another scene that stuck with me from Gilda and that Dani also mentions loving:

In one point of the book, the projectionist, Jackson, insists on showing Dani the opening shot of Touch of Evil, which he says is genius because it's one camera moving through the streets without cuts, one of the first times that was done in movies. (View the Touch of Evil opening scene here) In real life it was my husband, an NYU film school grad, who insisted I watch that scene. I remember how excited he was by how skillfully it was done, not a cut until the car blows up at the end—and it sure was pretty impressive—but when I was watching I had the kind of reaction Dani might have had. The whole time I'm going, Yeah, yeah, that's great, but where's the femme fatale?

Susan: I understand you'd ghostwritten some projects before writing DANI NOIR. How many books did you complete before this sale?

Nova: For a few years, I did write a lot of books for kids and tweens under different pseudonyms and house pseudonyms—I lost count at seventeen. That amount probably sounds ridiculous, but only four were novels; the rest were shorter. Before DANI, I also wrote two adult novels of my own that were never published. At one point I remember counting up the pages I wrote in the span of two years—and it was more than a thousand. Let me tell you something about those years: I was tired. Very, very tired.

Anyway, I guess DANI NOIR is technically my seventh novel, but it feels like my first. It's the first original tween novel I ever wrote, and it's the first time someone actually gave me a real shot to publish my own story under my own name. Thank you, Simon & Schuster! Now that the book is out, it's also the first time people are actually reading what I wrote, reading and responding, and that's all new to me. It's a wonderful, exciting, frightening feeling. It took a while, and a lot of pages, to get to this place, but I'm glad it waited to happen with DANI NOIR.

Susan: Talk a bit about your writing process. Outliner or seat of the pants? Quick draft or revise as you go?

Nova: Outside my various day jobs, I am at heart a very disorganized person: scattered, messy, easily overwhelmed and terribly forgetful. This is why I need an outline to write a novel. It's important that I know what I'm in for, that I plan out my story in order to reach the end. Now, what I call an "outline" may look more like a rough or quick draft to another writer, but I like calling it an outline because I don't consider it real writing. I'd prefer not to show these "outlines" to anyone except my husband, who reads everything I write at every stage and helps me make it better (I'm so lucky to have him). No one else should see the outline though. I'm afraid it would make someone who didn't know me not want to read the book!

As for revising as I go, this is exactly how I write a first draft. What I consider a first draft has already been gone over multiple times—so it's maybe a third draft, technically. I do this chapter by chapter, so after writing to the end of one chapter, I spend days (sometimes weeks) rewriting it before hitting the next chapter.

I know that wise writers and writing teachers say that, for a first draft, you should just let your words flow and not get hung up on shaping your sentences at such an early stage, but I can't work that way. I do realize this is a waste of time when big chunks are cut later, or big plotlines changed, but I can't help it. I write in layers: I go over it and over it and over it and the story and the characters come clearer the longer I've spent carving them out. The first words I spit onto the page are never the ones you'll find by the end.

This method may sound painful, but I love it. The rewriting process between my private first draft and the official first draft I'll show readers is the most thrilling, delicious part of writing a book for me. 

Susan: You were one of the leaders of the "twitter-break" last week. Can you talk a bit about your love/hate with social media? Do you think it's valuable to you, or too much of a time-suck?

Nova: I'm so very conflicted about Twitter, mainly because I like it so much. Too much. I'm a very easily distracted person, so I tend to misuse it. I tell myself it's perfectly okay to tweet (or check Facebook) while writing, and then I spend much of my writing time clicking back and forth between windows, reading people's updates, commenting... and there I've lost an hour and my scene feels dead on the page. I have no self-control.

Last fall, while I was writing DANI NOIR, I forced myself to give up Twitter for about two months. And that was before so many people were using Twitter; I followed maybe 20 people. So imagine how much worse it is now to follow hundreds!

Fact is, Twitter is a wonderful tool for authors and, through it, I've connected with so many people in the industry: writers, editors, agents, librarians, reviewers, not to mention it's a great way to keep up with my faraway friends. In fact, Susan, I'm pretty sure that Twitter is how I first connected to YOU! I just need a way to find balance—to write when I'm writing and not let Twitter call me away. That's how this week off Twitter came to be. For me, abstaining like this has been cleansing. I hope to come back to Twitter refreshed and focused, and not let my bad habits hold me back from writing the best novel I can. Fingers crossed.

Susan: What are you working on now? Is there any more to Dani's story?

Nova: I'd love to write another book about Dani—in my mind, her story certainly continues, but there are currently no plans for a sequel. However, as we speak, I am in the midst of developing some new tween novels and there's one especially insistent 13-year-old who's making herself known in my head. I'm excited to try to find her story.

But that's for the future. Because the novel I'm writing under deadline now—the one that's so important to me, I even gave up Twitter for a week!—is due this winter. It's my debut YA novel, and it's called IMAGINARY GIRLS. It's the story of two sisters, their strong bond, and the dead body that threatens to break it. Even though it's for an older audience, you'll find some echoes of DANI NOIR in there: the first-person voice, since I always write in first person, and the place, as IMAGINARY GIRLS is also set in the Hudson Valley, where I'm from. I'm at the point in writing this novel where it's completely taken over all my senses. It feels more real to me than the real life I'm walking around in. This is dangerous, like when I'm outside crossing the street and don't pay attention to oncoming taxicabs, but it's been great for the novel so far. Assuming I make my deadline, look out for IMAGINARY GIRLS from Dutton in, tentatively, Summer 2011.

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Susan! I appreciate the chance to connect with your readers. And if anyone wants to find me elsewhere, my main website is http://novaren.com, and all things DANI NOIR can be found on http://daninoir.com. And... guess what? I'm on Twitter. Feel free to follow me and distract me, within reason!, at twitter.com/novaren.

And now....CONTEST!!

We are giving away TWO prizes:
  1. A *signed* copy of DANI NOIR!
  2. A copy of Rita Hayworth's classic film noir, GILDA, on DVD. (In case you weren't sure you wanted this, go watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzg_1XwzG08&feature=related
Yeah. You really want that, huh? (I DO!)

  • Contest will be open until noon MST on Thursday, November 12.
  • Each point will enter you in the contest once--at the end, I'll do two random draws.
  • You get 1 point for answering the question (comment posted in this thread): What's your favorite noir movie/scene? Or favorite old movie star?
  • 1 point for retweeting my announcement of the contest or tweeting your own
  • 2 points for posting about the contest and interview on your blog (please note in the comments or on twitter the link to your blog!)
Ready? GO!!!

Monday, November 09, 2009


You've heard me rave about DANI NOIR.

You've heard Courtney Summers rave about DANI NOIR. (and here, with fabulous interview!)

It's a 2009 Amazon.com Editor's Pick: Top 10 Children's Books for Middle Grade.

You want to get in on this action, don't you? Well, tomorrow you'll get a chance!!

Stay Tuned, My Pretties. Tomorrow I'll be posting my interview with Nova Ren Suma--and we're going to give away TWO fabulous prizes. A signed copy of DANI NOIR, and a DVD of:

You know you want both of those, right?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Why I write YA

I have a couple of big-ish blog posts in the works (a new sock-knocker and the interview with Nova Ren Suma), but I was a little stuck on what to talk about in the meantime. So I begged on Twitter, and Courtney Summers told me what to do.

Guys, if Courtney Summers tells you what to do, DO IT.*

*unless it involves Lady Gaga or Twilight or horror movies I couldn't watch from another room. But otherwise, listen!

Anyway, I am ruining my Serious Post.TM Courtney said, "tell 'em why you write YA." And I thought, hmmm. Why DO I write YA?

Part of it is as simple as "that's what comes out". There was no initial greater YA plan. My first book, The Murderess's Tale, was meant to be straight-up historical fiction. It didn't hit me until long afterwards that the heroine was 16 and it really was a coming-of-age book that just happened to be set in England of 1387. I'd been writing historical YA without even realizing it.

But then I decided I didn't want to write historicals for the rest of my life. I wanted to write a book that *I* would read, that had everything I loved poured into it and shaken up. When I sat down and started brainstorming that book, I listed out all the characteristics of books I loved. And I wrote this paragraph in my writing journal:
So all together, if we have all this stuff, this is some sort of YA. A funny YA, with some sort of fantasy/alternative world element to it, but without the predictable portal crap. A powerful, real voice. A girl who faces things as they are and deals with them—who is having a tough time, and then it gets way tougher and she has to figure it out.
And what came out of that was The Weirdest Thing about Jenna, which got me my most fabulous agent and is out under submission now.  And that was it...bing! I'd found my most natural voice.

But the other side of that question is what do I like about YA, about reading and writing it. I certainly take my fair share of guff from other grown-ups about my reading choices ("Why can't you read books for adults?"), so there's got to be a reason I head for the back corner of the bookstore every time.

YA books--well, the best ones--resonate with the inner me (who is apparently 15). They have an immediacy and a lack of pretense. Sometimes I think kids are the most honest, and as we conform and take places in society we learn to adopt masks for different situations, to pretend, to do the socially correct thing. Teenagers are very aware of the masks, which is perhaps the source of some of the scorn for grown-ups you see popping up at that age. They realize they're probably going to have to use them too, and they try a few on. But they're still figuring out who they are.

There's more drama, but there's also more possibility. And far more honesty, both good and bad.

So the reason really is as simple as that, I guess. I write what I love, and I love YA books.

It doesn't hurt that I think the community of YA writers is the best and most supportive (and funniest!) group of people I've ever come across. I keep finding other writers who feel like soulmates, who are Just Like Me.

I sure didn't find that in high school.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The WINNER is:

Girl with One Eye!!

There were 54 entries with all you guys tweeting and posting and commenting, and random.org picked #27!

Thank you guys SO MUCH for celebrating with me! This was fun.

Girl, send me an email with your choice of book! The rest will go to the teen room at my local hospital. :)

Monday, November 02, 2009


First, you guys are amazing. I popped in over the weekend to find a zillion hits and 50 comments (thanks to Janet Reid's link). At first, I admit, I thought I'd been spammed. But no. REAL PEOPLE! Hi real people!

So I also ended up surpassing my secret Twitter goal, which was 500 real followers. Hooray!

Twitter note: This came up in the comments to the How Not To Act post, but I *don't* actually auto-follow. Though I use TweetDeck on one computer, at home and on the road I use apps that don't do lists--so more than 200 people swamps Twitter's usefulness for me. BUT I do always (always) respond to replies, and I often update my lists and drop off/add interesting people. I LOVE Twitter.

To celebrate belatedly the 500-mark, I'm going to give away...a book! Or two. I have a big stack of YA books just sitting here--some of them old-ish, some not. So it's SHARING TIME!! 1 point for commenting here, 1 point for RT'ing. 2 points for announcing on your blog. I'll pick tomorrow this time. Winner can choose from:

EVERMORE, Alyson Noel
BLUE MOON, Alyson Noel
THE HUNGER GAMES, Suzanne Collins

You want *one* of these at least, right?

Please enter and spread the word!

Monday, October 26, 2009


So baseball's over for the year.

I know, there are a couple other teams still in the mix, but nobody I want to watch. Time to pack up my pom-poms until April!

The new pic over there on the left is a little guy at a county fair, sitting on the prize pumpkin. Just in time for Halloween!

I admit I'm not super into Halloween like many writer-peeps are. Not sure why. I definitely enjoy getting Child gussied up in her costume (this year: Egyptian QUEEN) and doing the rounds trick or treating, even in the below-zero weather that always hits on Halloween. But I don't usually dress up much myself.

Am pondering buying an Actual Costume for next week, though, as I'm running the cake walk at Child's school Halloween party. Hum.


Will let you know what I come up with, if anything!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tiddy bits

Randomness today:

  • The Angels didn't do so well last night. Boo.
  • I'm about to head out to the doctor to see if I have pneumonia...the cough from the swine flu has persisted for almost 3 weeks, and is getting worse! We shall see.
  • Conference info for the SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference in New York is UP! http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/2010-Winter-Conference I'm going to be there. Are you?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pic of the week

I'm here! Just busy. Researching and scribbling away, and doing regular Life stuff. I am slowly working on the Nova interview questions, so SOON.


Anyway, this week's pic of the week is in homage to the MLB playoffs (go Angels). Did you see A League of Their Own?

You know you did. Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Tom Hanks? Geena Davis? Women playing baseball?

This is a picture of Dottie Schroeder, one of the real women who played baseball during World War II.

From the Flickr Commons tag: Dorothy "Dottie" Schroeder was born on April 11, 1928 and became the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League's youngest player at age fifteen.

I still don't understand why women don't play professional baseball instead of just softball...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dani Noir

Let me tell you the story of a girl.

She's 13. She lives in a small, isolated town where nothing happens, especially during the summer. But this summer is especially excruciating. See, she found out not long ago that her dad had been having an affair, and her parents are now divorced. The divorce was messy and awkward and awful for the kids, as it always is no matter how the parents handle it. Especially at that age, when you're just figuring life and romantic relationships out for yourself. To find out at 13 that your Dad, who's supposed to be your model of future husband, has been lying to not only your mom but you, for years? And then have him walk out and go live with another woman, another family, while you try to pick up the pieces with your mom? HARSH.

Especially when your mom isn't taking it very well. And your dad somehow expects you to not only forgive him, but act like everything's normal. Like he has a right to still be your dad.

That girl is Dani Callanzano, the star of Nova Ren Suma's fabulous debut middle-grade novel DANI NOIR.

But that girl was also me.

So much about this book paralleled my own experiences at exactly that age that a few pages were almost hard to read. It was like dipping into my own brain at that time--an awful time. It was so real; she captured that experience so well. I cried during a couple of scenes that might even surprise Nova, because they were so true.

But fortunately, Dani is also a wonderful girl with a whole, well-rounded world, and there's far more to Dani's story than that experience of divorce. There's old movies, and friendships, the love of Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner and the excitement of sneaking out to do a little detective work herself. I adored Dani, and I loved spending time with her: facing up to challenges her way, with her own noir twist.

Nova's skillfully balanced the tough and the funny, the snarky voice of 13 with the real emotions she's battling with, the helplessness inherent in being that age and the ways to take your own back.

I loved DANI NOIR, and highly recommend you check it out too. And like Courtney Summers says, make popcorn.

(also, I am so excited to be hosting Nova Ren Suma soon for a fantastic interview and giveaway!! STAY TUNED, people)

FTC notice: I bought this book myself, so there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Not to Act

There's something that's been needling at me lately, and I think I need to let it out this way.

Let's look at two writers. Let's call them both "she". Yes, these are both Real Examples.

WRITER A: I've been following Writer A's progress since she was on the agent hunt, since before I had even completed my second book. She was funny, witty, and her book sounded intriguing...so I was interested. I bookmarked her site and checked back on her progress. I made encouraging comments. I cheered when she got an agent, when her book sold. I was all ready to support her, buy her books, help spread the word.

But she never replied to me. Not once. Not on the blog, not on twitter. From the very beginning she projected an attitude I can only describe as snooty. Like she had to shelter herself from "fans" (she even called them fans before her book came out!). It certainly wasn't just me, either. She communicated back only with a select group of writers who were already published, famous. She didn't respond to all those congratulatory messages. She gave the impression, always, that she was above all the unwashed, unpubbed, unagented writers. Again, not just to me. When I mentioned her name to another writer, I got a nose wrinkle.

Do you think I bought her book?  Do you think I even read her book? Do you think I will?

WRITER B: Writer B was different. Always approachable, at every stage. She's released two books into the wild, very successful ones, but she never projects that "above-you" image. She makes a point to answer every comment. She replies to most @ tweets, no matter who the commenter is. She seeks out other writer's blogs and makes comments. She hosts and celebrates other writers, at lots of different stages. Her tweets and blogs aren't all about her--they're also building a community.

Yes, it takes more time to be like Writer B. Absolutely. But did I buy Writer B's books? HELL, YES. Did I tweet about them, write about them, hand-sell them to other people? HELL, YES. When I'm looking to give away a book, whose book do you think I'll pick?

It might not make that much of a difference, you say. You're just one person. So somebody rubbed you the wrong way--so what?

The thing is, if you're in the YA community (yes, there is one) and I named you these two writers, I would bet you $20 that 90% of you (at least) would have the same reaction. One is "eh" and one is "I love her!" All those writers are also readers, powerful readers who spread the word. I'd also bet you that if Writer A is like that with other writers, she's probably also like that with readers.This will hurt your sales. It will also forever hurt how people see you.

Writers, it isn't just one person. It's important how you connect with people before, during, and after the publication process. It's important that you've got some humility, remember your manners, reach out.

  • Be an active part of your community. Take the time.
  • Other writers are not beneath you because they haven't reached your place on the road yet. Talk to them. Encourage them.
  • Readers never, ever, ever will be beneath you. Don't condescend. Don't be rude. They are and always will be critical to your success.
There. I feel better now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I love this little picture on my sidebar!!

It's from Flickr Commons, of course, and from World War II. The caption says the cat's name is Bobby, and it's a soldier saying goodbye. I love the cat, the sepia, the buttons on the man's pants...but especially the woman's shoes. And the fact that she's stretching up on her toes...

Someday, I'm warning y'all, I AM going to write a WW II story. Maybe a short, maybe something longer. But it's brewing in there. :)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Snow Days

It's Tiara Day!! Join in by Photoshopping a tiara on your avatar for the day. Or, you know, actually put one on your head for a while. :)

Today it's only 18 degrees, F. It's also the first day of snow-that-stuck. This means the first day of driving to work in snow-that-stuck.

Think *adventure*. Creeping on ice-slick roads saturated with layers of oil from the summer. With a large percentage of drivers on the road who (a) have lost all memory of how to drive in this stuff and (b) haven't put their snow tires on yet. Navigating around all the unfortunates stuck on The Hill, honking and weaving and swearing and praying you won't be one of them.

This morning it was almost comedic that The Sorcerer's Apprentice came on at the moment I headed up the hill and finished just as I pulled in to work. So apropos.

(can anyone hear The Sorcerer's Apprentice and *not* think of Mickey and the brooms?)

(edited to add the link to the Fantasia version! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2Rfriax4DY&feature=related

Anyway, I made it. And it's Friday. And downhill is MUCH easier. :)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Suzie Townsend: 5 most common YA subgenres

YA authors, pay careful attention! Here's Suzie's look at the most common subgenres of YA submissions, and what's still fresh/what's getting tiresome.

Most Common Subgenres of YA Submissions
---Suzie Townsend

I read a lot of queries – as an assistant and junior agent – and sometimes it seems like every query is claiming to be the next best thing or something that hasn’t ever been done before. But in reality there are some genres or subgenres that stand out. YA is hot right now, which means I’ve seen a lot of YA submissions, and within YA there are certain subgenres more common than others. Here’s my countdown of the top five most commonly received subgenres for YA submissions, including what’s hot (still love it) and what’s not (over it).

5. Fantasy
(Similar to Graceling, Forest Born)

It’s important to note that YA fantasy is different from Middle Grade fantasy.
Over It: standard fantastical beings such as wizards, elves, goblins, and orcs, and standard fantastical quests involving the Orphaned Child of a shepherd with a name no one can pronounce and magickal weapons, who sets out on a journey only to find they’re actually royalty and the subject of a thousand year old prophecy, destined to defeat the Dark Wizard about to plunge the kingdom into darkness and is also responsible for killing Orphaned Child’s parents.
Still Love: creative, thoughtful, detailed, and unique world-building that gives insight into the historical and cultural background of the world and characters and a well paced blend of storytelling, fight/battle scenes, action, adventure, and internal struggle.

4. Girly Romance
(Similar to The Truth About Forever, All-American Girl, 13 Little Blue Envelopes)

Feel-good, sweet, girly coming of age and possibly first love stories – the “chick-lit” for teens.
Over It: catty, gossipy, or whiny protagonists too hard to relate to.
Still Love: strong characterization is a must, it’s okay if nothing much seems to happen in the plot in terms of action, but the characters have to be involved in an internal struggle, the more range of emotions the better.

3. Dark and Edgy
(Similar to Wintergirls, Tricks, Thirteen Reasons Why, Cracked Up To Be)

YA that pushes limits in terms of style and content, it pushes the boundaries of what is socially acceptable, takes a taboo subject and tackles it head on without apologizing for making readers uncomfortable.
Over It: manuscripts that are generic copies of books already published that don’t handle teen issues in a new way – copies of Ellen Hopkins just don’t live up to the original.
Still Love: edgy manuscripts that do something new whether in rhetorical style or taking on a new issue or approaching an old issue with a new perspective, manuscripts that don’t necessarily tie everything up into a neat ending yet still have some sense of closure.

2. The Post Apocalyptic Thriller (and Romance)
(Similar to The Hunger Games, The Forest of Hands and Teeth)

The apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it, and the survivors have managed to hang on despite the insurmountable odds stacked against them.  Characters are dealing with every day teen issues, while struggling to stay alive, and probably falling in love.
Over It: a virus or something not well explained has killed off everyone but a select group of survivors or turned the masses into zombies or some sort of flesh eating facsimile, gladiators or reality show contestants who have to kill each other – it’s just not going to be as good as Suzanne Collins
Still Love:  complex and introspective characters in a multi-layered story – thrilling action that also delves into deeper philosophical and political issues (without being didactic!), and creative and unique world building combining science fiction or steampunk elements.

1. The Paranormal Romance
(Similar to Twilight, Evernight, Evermore, Shiver)

The most successful books out there are the tried-and-true YA formula (a coming of age story and a love story) with some sort of supernatural element (vampires, ghosts, fairies, etc).
Over It: manuscripts featuring a kind of boring Plain-Jane-Girl-Next-Door narrator who meets Tall-Dark-Dangerous boy who’s also a vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter/fallen angel/evil fairy and who may or may not be trying to kill her.  Plain-Jane falls for Tall-Dark despite his creepy stalker habits and values him more than her own life and despite his desire to kill her, something about her makes him change his ways.  He falls in love with her and together they defeat the real Bad Guy.
Still Love: I’m a sucker for all things paranormal and all things romance so I do still love reading manuscripts in this genre, but some agents and editors are trying to move away from this subgenre because there are just so many manuscripts and books out there now.  I can’t help but love steamy romances featuring a strong teenage girl, maybe a girl with powers coming into her own, supernatural beings other than the overdone vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter/fallen angel/evil fairy combo, particularly beings with mythological roots, and a strong voice that can incorporate the typical danger, action, and romance with a dose of witty humor. 

Last, but not Least, What I’m Clamoring For:
Genuine humor in any subgenre of YA that’s written by someone who is still in touch with today’s teenagers, a writer who can create a voice that understands the slang, technology, music, and other cultural aspects centered in today’s teenage experience.
Great characterization – no matter the subgenre.  I want to fall in love with characters, get beneath their skin, and watch them come alive while I read.  The best manuscripts and novels I read have characters that still exist for me long after I close the book, characters that keep me awake at night because I’m still so caught up in their lives and their story.


Thanks again, Suzie!!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

*cough cough*

So...I'm at home. I've got the flu. Possibly even the porcine flu, but it doesn't matter much. I had a fever (which I don't anymore) and a yucky cough, and I'm taking one more day at home before heading back out in public.


Anyway, I am still going to post a guest blog from Suzie Townsend, tomorrow or Thursday! So watch for THAT. And Friday is still Tiara Day!!!

Friday, October 02, 2009

You're Still in the Running towards Becoming America's Next Author

I watch America's Next Top Model. I've admitted it before. (I actually get an absurd number of hits from that one mention of ANTM and bikinis, and now I expect I'll get more!)

You might think it odd that I'm obsessed with this show. I'm 5'3". I'm not model age, nor remotely model-like--I've never for an instant wanted to be a model. I'm not even girly! The show is kinda wacked, and the shoots they get up to are pretty...kooky.

Not situations I--or, um, anyone I know--is going to be getting into in everyday life. So why the fascination?

I finally figured it out: because I have empathy with these girls. Because America's Next Top Model is Just Like Publishing.

I'm serious.

Let's break it down, and you'll stop mocking and see what I mean.

1. The first step for wanna-be models in ANTM is to be good-looking. Not in a typical "pretty" way, but some original take on beauty: an unusual mouth, odd-shaped eyes, the ability to walk on a runway with a "trademark walk" and pose well for the camera. This is equivalent to WRITING A BOOK. Your book also must be more than what's already on the shelves, something still "pretty" (entertaining) but different. Something that will make readers ooooh. Sure, it's a little more labor-intensive than...being born...but the similarity is THERE.

2. ANTM hopefuls make videos of themselves, trying to convince Tyra that they are not only beautiful but interesting, have a life story that will inspire others, and can handle themselves. This is THE QUERY LETTER. I don't even think I need to explain this one.

3. Hopefuls are then culled to a small group that will compete for the final prize. These girls are just like writers REPRESENTED BY AN AGENT. These select few get special advice and training from experts (revision), and then they have to put that advice into practice in photo shoots. In photo shoots they may have makeup and wardrobe and helpers, but in the end it's all up to the individual to perform, to show the best side of themselves. This is still revision, taking all the advice given to you and finding a way to weave it into the manuscript to make it the best possible work you can achieve. 

4. After the photo shoot we head to the judging panel, where each model's fate is decided. This, of course, is SUBMISSION. Fortunately, we don't have to stand there in person while the judges critique not only our photos (our books) but the outfits we're wearing to panel, our hair, and that unfortunate scarf. Our agents handle both the submission and the possibly-brutal feedback. But we do have to remember that when we're putting ourselves all over the internet, blogging and tweeting and facebooking, we're still kind of standing there in panel. That unfortunate comment we made about a book that editor happened to love is just as bad--or worse--than an unfortunate scarf. I've seen girls get eliminated because of what they wore to panel being consistently bad week after week, when they didn't listen to judge's suggestions. Listen to your agent. Pay attention to how you appear. Don't be an ass.

Actually the judging criteria parallel submission and acquisition even more closely. Here are some qualities that are important both in ANTM models and wanna-be authors, if they want to seriously compete:

  • You have one chance to make an impression. The most important factor to the judges is that week's photo. Even if you rocked last week (last book), it doesn't really matter. What's in front of them right now, the book you're submitting, is what matters.
  • Presentation and personality do count when there is a decision to be made. ANTM judges will often favor the girl with a more positive, engaging personality. If you were an editor, would you choose the author who was easy to work with, upbeat, and willing to compromise, or the one who is always whining and complaining?
  • I said this above, but don't be an ass. Difficult, mean people never make it far.
  • Persistence matters. Attention matters. Judges look for improvement, for girls who listen to the advice of their experts. Who are willing to revise and revise and keep trying and striving, who put themselves into their effort wholeheartedly.
Now thank God, it's not *all* like ANTM. Authors on submission don't all have to live in the same house, on camera, and bicker at each other. We don't have to be naked on a horse (usually) or roll around in weeds or dirt or wear big poofy clown wigs. Usually. That stuff's just fun to watch.

But I'm in that critical SUBMISSION phase, standing there in front of the judges day after day. And every time I get a positive email from my agent, or even news that we're still out there, still under consideration, this goes through my head, in Tyra's voice. And I smile (smize), because I'm still IN there.

You're still in the running towards becoming America's Next Published Author.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

I am such a tease

Three things to look forward to around here!

  1. Tomorrow (unless I get swamped) I'm going to do a post on why publishing fiction is just like America's Next Top Model. No, really.
  2. Next week I am SO pleased to be hosting Suzie Townsend, Fabulous Junior Agent at FinePrint Literary, as a guest blogger!! Eeee! My first guest blogger, and I'm very excited. 
  3. Next Friday, October 9, will be Tiara Day! Polish your tiaras, peeps.
It never slows down, and I like it that way. :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New duds

So you may have noticed (if you're not reading this on Google Reader), that I changed things up here a little yesterday.

I get bored pretty quickly with a particular color scheme or design, so every couple months I feel the need to play. Yesterday, in poking around the Internetz for pictures, I discovered Flickr Commons.

Yee-HAW. How could I resist this? Or this? Or (*giggle*) this? But I wanted to use them ALL.

So I'm going to rotate!! Every week (for a while) I'm going to change the big picture on the left. Stop by the actual page once a week and check it out!*

*okay, I may be more excited about the Commons pictures and the rotating than y'all will be. But it PLEASES me. :)