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! 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 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!

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. :)