February 24, 2012

Real Life Superheroes! (Or, what I did for Nanowrimo)

So, that contest I was in? Turned out well. I wasn't an official winner, but an agent did come back around after it was over and asked for a partial. Lovely way to end my week!  In celebration, I thought I'd post a scene that I cut from my Nanowrimo 2011 novel.

Setup- Blake and his family have just moved to Nashville, where he is hoping to reinvent himself as A Chick Magnet. He's always had a little trouble with girls, not because of his looks (he's hot) or his personality (he's charming). His problem is his parents- they're Real Life Superheroes. You've heard of them, right? Real people who dress up in costume and go out into the cities to fight crime? Running into your dad wearing bright green tights and a black eye mask will put a damper on any date. Poor Blake.

Enjoy.

Mom rolls down her window to pay for our food. The girl behind the register is sifting through a pile of coins cupped in her hand, shaking her head and muttering. I watch while she sorts the quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies into separate piles on her palm. I can’t see her nametag very well. M-something. Mary? Macey? Marty? She looks about my age. Pretty. Her blond hair is tucked up into her cap, and I can’t really see her eyes….but yeah. She’s pretty.


Mary Macey Marty closes her hand and exhales, obviously annoyed. She shuffles the coins back together and counts them again. After the recount, she huffs and leans out the window to stare down the BMW in front of us. It was parked at the next window, waiting for food. “Tell her she didn’t give me enough money,” she says into the microphone that hangs from a cord dangling near her chin. I can see an older guy standing inside the second window. He waves to let her know he’d gotten the message.

“That car didn’t pay for their meal?” Dad sits up straighter.

Oh no.

Mary Macey Marty rests her forearms on the window’s edge and nods. “Should’ve been two-eighty, she gave me two-sixteen.”

Dad’s already pulled out the dark blue spiral-bound notebook and starts jotting down the car’s color, make, and model. Mom calls out the license plate number for him too. “Five-zero-three…honey that looks like an S…okay, five-zero-three, alpha, zulu, bravo.”

I sink down in my seat.

Two-eighty minus two-sixteen…

Sixty-four cents? My parents are about to bust out the Captain America routine over sixty-freaking-four cents?

The man at the second window is talking to the lady driving the BMW. He points back toward us, and I can see the driver’s head shaking.

“What?” Mary Macey Marty speaks into her microphone while she looks down at the change in her hand. “No, I’m sure she didn’t. I have two-sixteen.”

Dad pushes a button in front of his knees and the glove compartment pops open. I have to do something. “Dad?”

He holds up his hand to shush me. He leans across Mom to talk to Mary Macey Marty. “Is she going to pay?”

“She says I must’ve miscounted.”

He pulls a piece of black stretchy fabric from the glove compartment. I grip the back of his seat and lean forward, speaking quickly and quietly. “Uh, Dad? Please…don’t. I mean, not…not here.”

He totally ignores me. I look at Mom, and she just smiles at me sympathetically. There’s no stopping him, and we both know it. I turn to look at the line of cars behind us. Ugh. There are going to be so many witnesses.

Dad slips the band of fabric over his head and maneuvers it around until the two oval-shaped openings are centered over his eyes.

Mary Macey Marty arches an eyebrow, suddenly more interested in what’s happening in our car rather than the criminal mastermind behind the sixty-four cent heist.

“Look, I’ve got some money. I’ll take care of it.” I lift my hips and pull my wallet from my back pocket. “Here.” I pass a dollar behind Mom’s head through the open window.

Mom swats my hand. “No, Blake. It’s not your debt to pay.”

“It’s less than a dollar, Mom! We don’t need to alert the Justice League over it.”

Too late. Dad’s already opening his door.

“Wait!" I point through the windshield. The lady in the BMW is handing something to the man at the next window. He looks at Mary Macey Marty and gives her a thumbs-up.

I exhale. It’s been paid.

Crisis averted.

Dad brings his foot back inside the car and shuts the door. It doesn’t click, and he opens the door and slams it a little harder than before. “Okay then,” he says, removing his mask. He’s disappointed.

“Another time, honey.” Mom pats his shoulder.

Of course there’ll be another time. With any luck, there’ll be a million opportunities to embarrass their sixteen-year-old son and ruin his chances of ever getting laid, EVER.




February 21, 2012

I Blame My Parents...

See, I have these GREAT parents. Wonderful. They somehow balanced pushing me to do my best without putting too much pressure on me, and it worked. Growing up, I was just...good at stuff. Academically, I mean. Athletically, I was a bit of a disaster--but we'll save that for another post.

They never really had to put pressure on me, because I put plenty of pressure on myself. I wanted to be good. I was okay with not being the best....I mean, there were a few people who were just better at me than just about everything, and I could deal with that. I just wanted to be up there in the same circle as them, you know? And for the most part, I was.

When I wanted something, I got it.
If I set a goal, I achieved it.
The only reason I couldn't do something would be lack of trying. If I put my mind to it, it would HAPPEN.

So my whole life, I wanted to be a writer. I took boring jobs that would help me write. I even published a few nonfiction articles in a journal you've probably never heard of. I wrote one book, which was crap. So I wrote another, which wasn't. Found an editor to take a look at it. Edited. Completely re-wrote. Sent out to beta readers. Made more edits. And finally (FINALLY) felt like it was ready to query.

I've been seriously querying for about 3 months. I don't query in large groups...I haven't really sent out many queries at all...but still.

It's just so dang HARD to be told "No" so many times. If I didn't truly believe in my book, maybe the disappointment wouldn't be so crushing.And I blame my parents- they should've told me "No" more often. I should be more used to this.

See? I'm just, in general, too lucky. And I think it's coming back to bite me in the rear. ;-)

But thanks to my fabulous parents- I'm almost ridiculously optimistic. There's no reason to be, really. Do you have any idea how many books are being queried at any given time? Well, I don't either, but I do know that one of the agents who currently has my full received nearly 2,500 queries from July to December of last year. And that's just one agent. Some agents report receiving anywhere from 50-100 queries PER DAY, sometimes more.

So the odds, to say the least, are stacked against me. But I'm still trying, because of my silly optimism, and my unwillingness to believe that it won't happen. Maybe it won't happen for this book (which would be a tragedy, because you guys NEED to know these characters), but it will happen.

It has to.

February 20, 2012

Even Crazy Dreams Come True

Heard this song on SMASH the other night (are you watching it? Please, everyone, WATCH it. It will break my heart of it doesn't make it. I love shows like that!) Anyway- the girl sang this song at the end of the show, after winning the part of Marilyn Monroe in her first major role in a musical. The song, like most things, made me think of writing. I downloaded it immediately. (I downloaded the SMASH version, sung by the beautiful Megan Hilty- who, incidentally, has an awesome name- but apparently it's originally a Carrie Underwood song.)

I'm posting the lyrics here for  myself, and for all of  us who might need a reminder every now and then that it's not always easy, but even the craziest of dreams can come true. A redheaded chick from a tiny, eight stoplight town in Kentucky can grow up to write and publish a book. Really. Who says it can't happen?

I'm listening to it on repeat tonight....hasn't been the best day. **I found it on youtube for you guys!! Oh I'm so happy about this. I'm still posting the lyrics though, in case the video gets taken down.


Crazy Dreams

Hello you long shots--You dark horse runners,

Hairbrush singers, dashboard drummers.

Hello you wild magnolias just waiting to bloom...


There's a little bit of all that inside of me and you.

Thank God even crazy dreams come true.


I stood at the bottom of some walls I thought I couldn't climb.

I felt like Cinderella at the ball just running out of time.

So I know how it feels to be afraid; think that it's all gonna slip away.

Hold on, hold on.



Here's to you free souls, you firefly chasers,

Tree climbers, porch swingers, air guitar players.

Here's to you fearless dancers, shaking walls in your bedrooms.


There's a lot of wonder left inside of me and you.

Thank God even crazy dreams come true.


Never let a bad day be enough to go and talk you in to giving up.

Sometimes everybody feels like you, oh, feels like you, just like you.

Yeah.



I've met some go-getters, Some difference makers,

Small town heroes, and big chance takers.

I've met some young hearts with something to prove...

Oh, yeah.


Here's to you long shots--You dark horse runners,

Hairbrush singers, and dashboard drummers.

Here's to you wild magnolias just waiting to bloom.


There's a little bit of all that inside of me and you.

Thank God even crazy dreams come true.

Thank God even crazy dreams come true.

Yeah.

February 15, 2012

Books to Love: Anna Dressed in Blood

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood Amazon
Author:
Kendare Blake
Summary (straight from the flap):

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story. . .

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

What I Loved as a Reader: The COVER. Did you see that cover?? And the text inside the book is a deep, dark red. It's perfect! And the TITLE! Did you read that title?? It's perfect! And the WRITING! Okay so there's just nothing I didn't like about this book.

But seriously- I haven't read much horror in years, and never YA horror. Back in high school I loved Dean Koontz and Stephen King, but that's been (just a FEW) years ago. I never even think to look for horror anymore. I randomly saw the title of Anna Dressed in Blood and thought, "That sounds cool..." and then when I realized it was the name of a ghost, I was sold. And THEN I saw the cover, and well, you know how that goes.

What I Loved as a Writer: Just like other horror books I've read- this book has some disgusting scenes. People are literally ripped in half. There's a particularly gross scene that takes place in the basement of Anna's house. There are corpses and blood and intestines and oozing and rotting and...ick. But none of the horror I've ever read is like this book. It's like, a literary horror story. Which I just never really knew existed until now.

Favorite Line: I kinda wish I'd never added the "Favorite Line" section. I'm learning that it's entirely too difficult to choose just one.

But hey! Who says I have to choose just one? It's MY blog, and I do what I WANT!

Kendare Blake has a gorgeous way with words. I want to be her when I grow up. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
  • The light is starting to get golden, coming at us sideways, and getting ready to turn sunset colored.
  • The scenery changes every few blocks, from trees ripe with golden and reddish foliage to streetlights and bright plastic signs, and finally to railroad tracks and stark, unlabeled cement buildings.
  • I'm staring up at Anna's house again. The logical part of my brain tells me that it's just a house. That it's what's inside that makes it horrifying, that makes it dangerous, that it can't possibly be tilting toward me like it's hunting me through the overgrowth of weeds.

February 14, 2012

I've been tagged! 11 Things You Didn't Know About Me

So I was just clicking around, minding my own business, catching up on my blog reading, when I discovered that the lovely Ashley has tagged me! This means you get to learn all kinds of things about me that you didn't even know you needed to know!

But you do. Need to know, that is. Knowledge is power and all that.

So here are Ashley's eleven questions, and my answers.

1. Writing or reading, who is your favorite character and why? There are a LOT of great characters in recent novels that I could name here, but I think I'll go with a classic. Elizabeth Bennett, Pride and Prejudice. I love the kind of girl she is...she's ballsy, good at figuring people out, and not afraid to go after what she wants even if it goes against social conventions. And she's funny. I always like funny.

2. What's your favorite color? Red. I'm a redhead,...so...obviously.

3. Your favorite book-to-movie movie? The Princess Bride. No contest.

4. Favorite book? It changes daily. Since you guys are all well aware of my love for a certain book that you're probably tired of hearing about (it rhymes with Manna sand Huh Smench Miss), I will choose something else. Tomorrow I'm posting a "Books to Love" entry about Anna Dressed in Blood, so I won't pick it for this answer either. (You like how I've already kinda named two books and still not answered the question, don't you?) So. Officially. At this very moment. My answer is...(deep breath)...(this is stressful for me)...(like you're making me pick a favorite child)...OH!

If You Lived Here I'd Know Your Name by Heather Lende. It's nonfiction, written by a journalist who lives in Haines, Alaska. Basically it's just a collection of various stories of what life is like in Haines- which is 90 miles north of Juneau and you can pretty much only get to it by water or air as long as the weather is good. Alaska, in general, fascinates me, and I can read this book over and over.

5. Do you have a pet? If so what kind and name. I have a black lab, Storm, and an extremely large orange cat, George. Actually, Storm is extremely large too...but she's more sensitive about it. George owns it.

6.Aside from writing, what's another hobby you enjoy? Reading. But I think that pretty much goes along with writing, so I'll pick another one too- making stuff. Like, currently I'm obsessed with making things to decorate my daughters' rooms. I'm all over Pinterest trying to get ideas of wall art that I could replicate.

7. Have you ever visited another country? If so, where did you go? Yep. I've been to Mexico, Canada, England, and France.

8. Have you ever went sky diving or bungee jumped or something crazy like that? No. I believe that all normal people in the world, with correctly functioning systems of common sense, can have fun with their feet ON the ground. And the rest of you are insane.

I *might* have a *teeny* fear of heights.

9.What's one word you would use to describe yourself? Organized. (Sometimes to the point of being completely inefficient.)

10. What is something you have to have on you at all times? Clothes.

11. What's your favorite website? (Maybe writer's resources?) Oh man, it depends on my mood. The website that gets the majority of my time is probably Twitter. I have this morning routine of checking twitter, checking email, checking facebook, and then making the rounds of the news web sites (CNN, MSNBC, AOL, in that order. And I know AOL probably isn't considered a "news" web site, but that's what I use it for). I don't generally browse writer's resource sites, i.e. AbsoluteWrite, VerlaKay, etc, unless I have a specific question that I need an answer to. I did a LOT of that when I was just starting to query. But I do love blogs. Any blog. Writer, reader, random person, I do not care. I love them.

Thanks Ashley!

What's the hurry?

**QUICK NOTE: I made it to the second round in the Agent Blind Speed-Dating contest over at Cupid's Literary Connection!! Woohoo! Next week the literary agents start looking at the entries. Super excited. I'm not going to tell you guys which post was mine, because I think the contest is supposed to be anonymous (since it says "Blind" speed dating and all) but it wouldn't be hard to figure out which one's mine since the title of my book and my MC's name are all over this blog. Feel free to check it out. Just don't "out" me over there. Thanks!**

I remember when I first started writing a book with the intent of getting published. I distinctly recall having this serious sense of urgency- like that I needed to hurry, hurry, hurry to get that book finished.

Because, in my mind, the only reason I wasn't published was because I hadn't written the book. Obviously, as soon as I finished the book, agents would be falling all over themselves to work with me.

I'll give you a second now to laugh at that. Go ahead. I will too.

You finished? No? Ok, I'll wait.

Seriously. That's enough.

So as I was saying- I was just SURE that I would be published. In between chapters and editing, I would research agents. I would read all about querying. I ordered books about writing the perfect query letter. I read article after article about agents. I would read about how hard it is to get published, how very few people get their first novel published, how stinkin hard it is to land an agent....and I would think, "Well, I'm sure it's hard for all those OTHER people."

REALLY. I AM NOT GENERALLY THAT MUCH OF A SNOB. I look back on it now and I think, "Wow, Megan. You were such an idiot."

And I also wonder WHY I was in such a hurry. What's the rush? Because the more you rush it, the less perfect that book will be. If you don't take the time to make that manuscript as absolutely flawless as you can, then there's absolutely no point in trying to get it published! First impressions are everything. If you start querying agents with a less than perfect novel, you're shooting yourself in the foot. You won't get another chance to query that agent with that novel. And then you'll find yourself back where you started, wanting to rush through another novel just to try to get published again.

So based on all these thoughts I've had about people, including me, who may have started off in some kind of weird rush....I came up with a few suggestions to follow.

After you've finished your novel...
  1. Let it sit for AT LEAST a month. In that time, you'll think of things that you never thought of before- new twists, different storylines, various solutions to problems. Your novel will be better for it.
  2. Get somebody else to read it, and your mom/best friend/true love don't count. If possible, find someone who at least reads a lot in the genre you write.
  3. Read the latest greatest books in your genre.
After you've done all that, then go back and read through your novel again.
  • If you can read it and not have the urge to change a SINGLE THING, go ahead and send a query out to 5-10 agents. Don't send the query to all your top choice agents-- test the waters and see how well your query is working first. Query slowly.
  • If you read it and DO find ANY SINGLE THING to change (I mean, even if it's just adding/removing a comma), start over on that list above. Let it sit again. Find a new person to read it. These things matter. Your book probably isn't perfect fresh out of the womb, people. Rushing the process could completely blow your chances. Why on earth would you take that risk?
Nothing in publishing seems to happen fast.....writing your book doesn't have to be a race. (Um, unless you're Kiersten White, who writes entire novels in A WEEK. But she's superhuman, and it would be silly to compare yourself to her.)

Did anybody else start this journey with obnoxiously high expectations of themselves? (Please say yes. Please say yes. Please say yes.)

February 13, 2012

How do you write?

Writerly people- when you sit down to write a story, do you start at the beginning? Or the end? Do you have it all figured out when you start, or do you just start writing and see what happens?

When I wrote In the Between (the novel I'm querying right now), the very first scene I wrote doesn't take place til page 26. For whatever reason, when I was thinking about the story, that's just the first scene that I could see clearly. At that time, I wasn't even sure where the story would go. I just wrote what I knew.

That's pretty much how I wrote the whole book. I knew some of the big things that I wanted to happen, so I would write those scenes, and then I'd go back in a fill in the gaps to get from scene A to scene B.

It. Took. Forever. And lots of rewriting. Lots and lots of editing.

I think if I could write a story from beginning to end, it'd be much simpler. But the problem for me is that I can never decide how exactly to start a story. Even with the Cooper book I'm currently working on- I skipped ahead to a part that I knew would happen early in the story, but it's not the beginning. Right now, I just have no idea how it begins!

I'm also not much of a plotter. I know the general direction of the story- I know the main conflict- I pretty much know the solution. But that's about it. I LOVE sitting down and writing and just seeing what happens. I know I sound like a crazy person when is say this- but when I was writing In the Between, there were times that I'd be caught up in the story, writing and writing, and all of a sudden something would happen that would even surprise ME! Me! The person who's creating the whole thing! I know. It's weird. But it's so fun. I love it when my characters do something that I don't see coming. It's like the idea flies into my head just as I type it and then I'm like, "Oh! Wow!" There were a few pretty major reveals in In the Between that happened like that. They turned into excellent story points that took my characters in completely new directions that I hadn't planned on.

LOVE that.

I remember reading somewhere on Stephanie Perkins's blog that she doesn't like to outline a story from beginning to end because then it's like she's already written everything/figured everything out, so it's not fun to write anymore. I totally get that. When I try to plot out a story, I feel confined by it. I have much more fun just flying by the seat of my pants.

So what do the rest of you do? I'd love to hear about it.

February 12, 2012

Randomness...

So.

The Grammys are tonight. I'm SO. EXCITED. I love the Grammys. It's the only awards show I absolutely can't miss- just love to watch the performances. I don't actually care who wins. Because you know what? When so many of my favorite artists perform music in one place, on one show-- I TOTALLY WIN.

The show is actually on right now. And I'm not watching. I've recorded it, and I'm not letting myself watch until I reach my writing goal tonight. See how grown-up and dedicated I am?? :)

There are also so many reasons to watch this year's Grammys- 1. LL Cool J is hosting. I mean, come on. 2. Adele's first post-op performance. 3. The Whitney tribute. 4. The Etta James tribute. 5. Will Kanye do anything crazy?

Random change in subject-

The second group of entries over at Cupid's Literary Connection goes up tonight, I think. Last week they went up around 9, so I'm assuming it'll be about the same this time. I'm nervous. I wasn't, and then I was, and then I wasn't, and here I am again- nervous. Now that I've looked at the query I submitted, I hate it. Of course. It's entirely too long. *sigh*

Another random change in subject-

It is really, really, really hard for me to get my head out of In The Between. When I started working on my Nanowrimo book, the YA contemporary, I purposely wrote from a guy's POV just so I could tear myself away from the voice of Harper, the MC of In The Between. And it did help- and it was pretty fun to think like a guy.

But in the fantasy novel I've started, the MC needs to be a girl. And it's hard to tell Harper to shut up so I can write a new story. :) Maybe if I can officially decide on a name for the new MC in the new book, it will help me separate them.

Plus, I miss the world of In The Between. I love those characters so much. I really want to write another book about them...but I figure there's no point in any kind of sequel unless the first one gets published. So that's hard too. On the other hand, I may not have a choice. My brain might not let me let go of the sequel, no matter what. We'll see.

And LAST RANDOM THOUGHT-

It's so much fun to have new followers thanks to the Writers Platform Building Campaign! If you're a writer and you haven't signed up yet, you should!! I think you have til Wednesday. But I'm not sure. You should probably double-check because these days it seems that I very rarely know what I'm talking about. :)

February 10, 2012

Writers' Platform-Building Campaign

Hello lovelies!

I'm participating in a Writers' Platform-Building Campaign started by the really smart Rachael Harrie (http://rachaelharrie.blogspot.com.au/). Here's info on it directly from her blog:

What is the Campaign?
Basically, the Campaign is a way to link those of us in the writing community together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms. The Campaigners are all bloggers in a similar position, who genuinely want to pay it forward, make connections and friends within the writing community, and help build each others' online platforms while at the same time building theirs.

As the Campaign kicks off, you'll have the names and blog addresses of the Campaigners on my List of Campaigners page (above), so you can keep in touch with the other Campaigners. That way you’ll have a list of bloggers in the same position as you, who genuinely want to help you succeed. And you'll be able to meet those who have the most in common with you. You can visit their blogs and other places they haunt, follow along, leave comments galore, and share your highs and lows as you journey through the blogosphere and build your online platform. And they'll be doing the same for you.

If you're interested in joining the campaign as well, it's all very easy to do. Just go to her web site!

I've had a hard time finding writerly-people in my area, although I did meet some great folks in my local Nanowrimo group. I'm really looking forward to getting to know more of you guys through this campaign!

February 9, 2012

Writing again...

I've been pretty busy over the past few months getting my current manuscript in the best shape possible and preparing the query letter. It takes a lot of time to query, and to keep track of which agents have partials and fulls and which ones I haven't queried yet.

I started working on a YA contemporary during Nanowrimo last year, and it was a fun break from my current work. But it also taught me something- I LOVE reading YA contemporary....but if I'm writing, I want it to be fantasy.

My voice is distinctly YA. I'm not sure I could write for the adult audience. (I mean, I'm barely able to hold an adult conversation anyway. It takes concentration to keep myself from adding "Word." or "Dude." or any other phrase that makes me sound like I need to grow up.) I just can't help myself. I'm still waiting for the day to come when I will act more like a grown-up.

ANYWAY- So I'm going to write YA because I can't imagine writing anything else. But YA fantasy/paranormal/dystopian is one of the hardest genres to break into right now (Thank you, Twilight, Harry Potter, and another hardly popular, you may have never even heard of it trilogy, the Hunger Games). The market is so saturated, there are hardly any NEW ideas (uh, other than my Super Fantastic New Idea). So agents are super, super picky when it comes to YA fantasy. They're not going to take on a manuscript that they can't sell.

So that kinda blows, and I thought I'd try my hand at YA contemporary to see if I could at least get into the market that way.....but it's just so hard for me to keep it straight with no fantasy. I keep wanting people to sprout wings or something. Or read minds. Or control the elements. Or throw fire.

Normal people are so boring.

Having said that- there are some outrageously talented YA contemporary authors out there who have no trouble at all with these stories and come up with some really amazing stuff. (Have I mentioned Anna and the French Kiss? Yes? Oh.)

Here are some other YA contemporaries I've read lately- check them out.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (who, also, if you're on Twitter, you should follow. Hilarious.)
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

You know I'll be doing "Books to Love" posts on all three of those right? K.

Remember how the title of this post was "Writing Again?" After my pretty unsuccessful try at a YA contemporary, I've decided that I'm just going to write YA fantasy and DEAL with the fact that writing in this genre means I really may never get published- I started working on a new story tonight. I took a lot of the things that I loved from that YA contemporary I never finished, and I'm turning it into a story with fantasy elements that I am SERIOUSLY EXCITED about.

I can't wait to tell you more about it. All I can say for sure right now is that there's a guy named Cooper in it. So for now, this is the Cooper book.

February 8, 2012

Cupid's Literary Connection

I mentioned the contest going on at Cupid's Literary Connection in my last post. There are fifty entries up today, and the bouncers are going through them to pick which ones they think should go to the next round. As I type this, 32 entries have been selected to go on to round 2.

It's interesting to read all the different entries. For one, I love seeing what other novels are out there in the querying trenches along with mine. There are several YA, which I would expect since it's one of the most popular genres right now. There are some really great-looking YA contemporaries too.

Reading all the entries gives me a new perspective on what agents deal with every day. Some of the queries were perfect, some were not. I love contests like this, because they're helpful to writers who struggle with the query.

There will be 50 more entries to go up next week, mine included. I can't wait!

February 7, 2012

Some of my favorite sentences...

**Check out cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com! "An undercover cupid who specializes in bringing talented writers together with astounding literary agents in not so romantical but magical ways." Cupid's set up a contest in which 100 writers sent in queries and the first 250 words of their manuscripts. Then there are four bouncers who decide who goes to round 2. In round 2, twelve literary agents review the entries and decide which ones they'd like to see more of. My entry goes up next week!**

And now back to the regularly scheduled programming!

The agency I sent a query to today had an online form to use to submit the query. One of the fields on the online form asked that I tell them one of my favorite sentences from the manuscript I was submitting to them.

Ok, so we all know how hard it was to decide on my favorite line of Anna and the French Kiss, right? (Which, by the way, I've changed my mind about repeatedly ever since I wrote that post. But oh well.) Can you imagine how hard it was for me to decide on my favorite line of the book that I WROTE? I thought it was super cool of the agency to include that question, and super mean too. So hard.

Here's what I went with:

"You know this is a LOT?! That's the super Seeker comfort speech you've prepared?!"

I don't know if that's the best pick for a query, but it is one of my favorite things that my MC says. It's just SO Harper. (My MC.)

And here were some other contenders....

  • I'm no expert or anything, but I'm reasonably sure they don't make boys like this back home.
  • I'd perfected the ability of mixing sweetness with sarcasm, to the point where the other person could never be quite sure if I was being rude or not. It's an art, really. 
  • "You think he doesn't know he's hot? Guys that good-looking always know it, Harper. They expect us to stare at them. They'd be all freaked out if we didn't."
  • "I'm," Lord help me, "a fairy."

All of those are faves just because of what's going on in the story at the time that those lines appear. They make me laugh.

February 3, 2012

Are you a new author just starting to query?

Because I have something to say to you, if you are. And if you're not, well...congratulations. Your self-esteem must be in fantastic shape because you're not being told "No" every. Single. Day. Just imagine opening your email and receiving a form letter that says something like, "No. Your story's been told, I don't like your characters, and your hair looks really terrible today."

So anyway. Here's what happens when you query...

You create a query letter. The query letter is supposed to entice the agent to read your book. It's your first shot at getting the agent's attention. You know the quick summary that's inside the flap on books? That's what you're shooting for. That summary makes the reader want to buy your book. Same idea. You want the agent to want to read more. Trying to condense your own 60,000+ word novel into a 250 word summary is pure hell. I know it. I'm sorry. But those are the rules. Don't be one of those people who thinks they're too cool for rules. This is not the place for it, I promise. Hey, I'm all for rule-breaking in the right circumstances, but NOT HERE. (If you don't follow the rules, you might end up on here, and I will giggle at it. People amaze me.)

Anyway. You send your query letter in individual, personalized emails to literary agents that you'd like to work with. (But RESEARCH each agent first. Make sure the agent your querying represents the genre your book falls into. Don't waste your time, or the agent's, by sending your awesome young adult fantasy novel to an agent who only represents nonfiction. You'll look dumb, and the agent will roll her eyes at you and call you names through her computer screen.)

Then, the rejections start rolling in. Because that's what agents do. They live to say, "No." (I am TOTALLY kidding. I get the impression that rejections wear on agents after a while too.)

But every now and then, you get one that says yes. It sounds like this....

"Great sample pages, Megan! I'd really love to read the rest." Actual response. My very first positive response from an agent, which sent me into my very first "Oh crap an agent actually wants to read my book!" panic attack.

For anyone who doesn't know, here's how it generally works:
  1. You send a query letter.
  2. If the agent likes the query, she'll ask to read a partial...which might be the first three chapters, or the first 50 pages, or the first 2500 words...it varies.
  3. If she likes the partial, she'll ask to read the full manuscript. 
  4. And THEN, if she likes all that- she'll offer representation...meaning she'll take the book to the publishing houses. (If it makes you feel better, agents have to go through their own querying process when they submit books to editors. So they get told "No" a lot, too.)
But anyway- my whole point in writing this- when you start receiving rejections, you're going to have a moment where you think, "My book sucks. I'm a terrible writer. I should quit."

DON'T DO THAT. They're not even reading your book, silly! They're reading your query. So, well, yeah...it is possible that your query sucks. But I think it's a lot easier to face the job of rewriting your query than it is to deal with rewriting your book. (And- if you're unsure of your query- there are all kinds of sites where you can post your query letter for others to critique. Querytracker.net, verlakay.com, ladieswhocritique.com, agentqueryconnect.com, absolutewrite.com, just to name a few.

For my young adult fantasy novel, there are roughly 300 agents I can query (according to querytracker.net) for representation. Three hundred! And I only need one agent. So if I give up and stop querying too early, I might miss out on that one perfect agent who loves my book as much as I do. So yes, querying is hard, but do it anyway. It'll be worth it, I promise.

February 2, 2012

Books to Love: Anna and the French Kiss

I thought I'd start a feature on the blog about books I love. It'll focus primarily on YA books, since that's mostly what I read...but every now and then I'm sure I'll throw in other genres since I do manage to find my way into other sections of the bookstore every now and then!

So. I know I already touted my love for Anna and the French Kiss in an earlier entry. But that was before my NEW BEGINNING! :)

And besides, I love this book so much that I just can't say it enough. Anytime anyone asks me for suggestions of a good book to read, I start with this one.

Title: Anna and the French Kiss Amazon Goodreads
Author: Stephanie Perkins (naturalartificial.blogspot.com)

Summary (straight from the flap): Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she's not too pleased when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new friends, including the handsome Etienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he's taken--and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she's been waiting for?


*One thing- I NEVER would've picked this book. I didn't think I liked YA romances. I stumbled across the author's blog and liked her so much that I thought I'd check her book out. And obviously, that worked out well.

Why I loved it as a reader: Again, I know I said it already, but Etienne St. Clair. He is such a crushable love interest....and British. And Stephanie does a great job every now and then of reminding us that he's got the hot British accent by adding in details like, "Eh-t-yen says my name like this: Ah-na." and "St. Clair pronounces it die-rections..." As a die-hard member of the "If you have an accent you must be hot" club, I loved those little reminders!

Why I loved it as a writer: The PACING. Oh my gosh. I read this book over and over and over again just to remind myself what fantastic pacing looks like. There was never a part of this book where I started to skim things in a hurry to get back to the action. I didn't want to miss a beat. Part of that has to do with Anna's great voice also. It's fun being in her head. Whenever I'm working on my current work-in-progress, I'll actually think of Anna and remind myself to pay careful attention to pacing. I really think pacing is one of the hardest things to get right. There are several books out (even some that I love) that I find myself skipping pages as I read because I just want to get back to the scene or whatever it is that I'm missing. If a book is perfectly paced, the reader won't even notice things like that.

Favorite Line:

Huh? Oh. Oops. I started looking for my favorite line and got caught up in reading the book again. AGAIN. You have to read this book, you guys.

This is so hard.

Ok. FAVORITE LINE: For the moment, I'm going to pick the one that keeps popping in my head and making me laugh. It's from an email that Etienne sends Anna while they're on Christmas break. Anna had previously emailed Etienne to let him know that her dad gave her a gold ring in the shape of a heart for Christmas. Etienne's return email:

Subject line: HAHAHA!
Was it a PROMISE RING? Did your father give you a PROMISE RING?

I just loved that. And imagining it in his British accent is even cuter. He's so dang ADORABLE. And I love the flirtation between the two of them. Sigh.

February 1, 2012

Ok. Let's DO this.

Obviously, I am not the world's most prolific blogger.

But it's a NEW YEAR. (Actually, I'm even late in starting my NEW YEAR, apparently. But whatev. Yay for new beginnings!)

I thought about deleting all previous entries and having a fresh start on the blog, but that sort of felt like lying and I don't want to start out lying to everyone! That comes later! Ha!

So. Remember how last fall I was querying? I'm still querying. I stopped for a while.....read about a million (give or take 822,985) successful query letters, and then started back up again toward the end of December. I'm querying in small batches, 5-10 agents at a time....because, wow, querying takes a long time! Doing research on different agents, finding out exactly what they're looking for, scouring agent interviews to find some type of connection.....it takes forever! But I'm convinced it will be worth it in the end.

Maybe someday I'll do a blog entry about querying tips. But I think I'll wait til I'm a successful querier. Querier? Queryer? Odd.