Monday, August 31, 2009

A Matter of Taste

I remember pressing my copy of Alice Sebold's THE LOVELY BONES on a friend a few years ago.

"Read it! It's beautifully written--you'll love it," I said.

My friend hesitated. "It's about a kid who gets murdered, isn't it?"

"Well, yes..." I said. "But it's brilliant. Really. You should read it."

But my friend refused. There are some subject matters that we all find ourselves unwilling to read, no matter what. For my friend, it was child murder. I've seen others shy away from child abuse (A CHILD CALLED IT was a hot debate topic among my readerly friends not so long ago), from rape (even when not graphic, such as Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK), and other topics that touch a nerve. Even if the material is written brilliantly, as THE LOVELY BONES is, or even if the ultimate message is very positive, such as in SPEAK, the subject matter itself is something that some people cannot breach.

For me, none of these real-life topics bother me.


For me, it's a matter of genre.

Although I love a good paranormal or fantasy novel, there are some subjects that, no matter what, I just won't be able to enjoy. I try. But--with very few exceptions--there are some topics that just turn me off.

First: vampires. Never been a fan. And even though there's some truly brilliant vampire stuff out there (especially now), I just can't be bothered. I've got a few vampire books that I consider wonderful, a few that I think might be wonderful but haven't touched because of the subject (THE HISTORIAN being top of that list). There's just something about the whole nature of vampires that is...unappealing to me. I wouldn't say boring, but it's a subject that just simply doesn't interest me.

Second: angels. But for an entirely different reason. For me, I've got some very specific beliefs about angels--one of the top being that they're not people with wings, and therefore unlikely to fall in love with teenage girls. And although some of my favorite authors have written quite well on the topic of angels, I haven't been able to enjoy most titles dealing with angels--in fact, I rarely get past the subject description before putting the book back on the shelf.

Of course, there are exceptions. The wonderful Cynthia Leitich Smith has written about both vampires and angels, and I found both of her novels wonderful. And while I rag on Stephenie Meyers constantly, I do consider the first volume well done. But in general, books about either vampires or angels tend to turn me off the same way my friend was turned off by a book dealing with child murder.

It's just a matter of taste.

So, what book topics out there are just unappealing or uninteresting to you?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Organizing Submissions

I thought I'd share a method I've been using to keep track of agents and submissions.

I first started getting serious (i.e. writing chapters instead of notes) on my current work in January of this year. Now, I know that I'm not good at keep records straight, but I also know that when I'd get to the point where querying got serious, I'd need more than the standard submissions guidelines.

I subscribe to a lot of publishing blogs and websites, and I read them using my Google Reader. Whenever I got to an article where someone interviewed an agent I had my eye on, I'd just "star" it. Starring an article keeps it in a special file in the Google Reader--easily accessible, but not in the way.

Since January, I've amassed close to a hundred articles. Not all of them are specifically agent related--quite a few were writing tips, general information, etc.

But when it got time for me to query, I turned to my starred folder first. Scrolling through those posts gave me a quick starting point. I was able to scan them, find the information quickly, and use those interviews and "looking for" posts to rank agents. I also noticed patterns. I'd starred five different articles on one agent. I never would have noticed it before--in fact, it was an agent I had not heard much of, depsite the fact she's at a reputable agency. However, by going through the articles I've been amassing for nearly 8 months, and seeing five about her, made me quickly move this agent to the top of my list of agents to query.

In addition to using the articles to rank agents by who I most want to query and who is most actively looking for what I've got to offer, I was also able to pick up some great details that I plan on using in my query. This is going to make personalization so so SO much simpler. Pull quotes from interviews where the agent specifically stated a book she represented or an idea he'd like to see in print will really help my query stand out from the pack.

Is this the best way to do it? All I can say is, it was incredibly simple for me to just star articles in my reader that mentioned agents and what they wanted/repped. I know I wouldn't have kept track of it if it weren't so simple--in the past, I'd just scour the internet once I was ready to query, not keep vague track of info before querying. It took me a solid two or so hours to skim through all the starred articles I had to pick out the ones best suited for my work, but now, at the end of it, I've got a list of over 40 agents, with specific links to what they want, and a clear idea of who I think would be best for my work. This is something that would have taken me several days, not several hours, in the past.

Not bad for taking a few seconds out of my blog reading days to click on that little star beside the article.

So, how do you keep track of agents you want to query?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Today in Class: Not Quite the Same Thing

We're starting religious studies. The kids are working in groups, comparing the different religions of the world.

Kid 1: I know this guy who read the whole Bible. Every word.

Kid 2: So?

Kid 1: It's, like, HUGE!

Kid 2: So? I read Twilight, and it's practically the same size.


On Being Stubborn

That's me.

I blame my German heritage, but I am certainly Little Miss Stubborn.

I get it stuck in my head that I'm right, and that's that, and ain't no one gonna change me.

And :P to all you haters who disagree.

Of course, that's not the right attitude to have. Especially when it comes to writing.

See, I'll often hang on to beginnings. I always think I have the *best* beginning, and I am very resistant to changing that beginning...even changing it from the rough draft form. I can mutilate middle chapters like nobody's business, but I despise changing the beginning ones.

Lemme back up and explain myself. First: the Massive Revision Plan is going quite well. I've sent to Alpha, Beta, and Gamma readers, have cut out 10k words, have completely mushed together the middle into a more cohesive unit, have made the characters consistent and the clues stronger. I certainly didn't do *everything* they each suggested, I'm just saying big things were changed.

But, somehow, I missed a series of suggestions.

  • Alpha Reader: You know, that opening's not as strong as it could be...
  • Beta Reader 1: Oh, I really like all this stuff after Chapter 4!
  • Beta Reader 2: Ugh, hated this character until well after that first scene.
  • Gamma Reader 1: Doesn't your character sound weak in the opening?
  • Gamma Reader 2: Are you starting in the right spot? Maybe you should make Chapter 4 be Chapter 1...?

Ugh. These ladies are all much more polite than me, but what they all--each and every one of them--were essentially saying was simple: YOUR OPENING SUCKS WITH AN ALMIGHTY SUCK FOR THE LOVE OF TNR CUT THE FIRST CHAPTERS!!!

But I wasn't hearing that. Sure, I tweaked things. I added a paragraph explaining the character, I changed a part of the scene, I added some more information.

But it was like putting a Band-Aid on the side of the Titanic.

I'm stubborn. Especially with opening chapters. And I'd gotten it into my head that the opening of my WIP wasn't the best way to open the book--it was the *only* way. I had truly, 100% convinced myself that I *could not* start the book in any manner other than with the original opening.

And part of me being stubborn is believing that it was "good enough." Those two, innocuous words are the bane of all writers everywhere. Good enough. If you look at a scene and think to yourself, "Hey, that's good enough," then you are WRONG. It isn't. Cut that scene and start over. NOW.

So I did.

I cut the first three chapters, moved Chapter 4 to Chapter 1, and changed the primary scene with the male main character.

Part of it was because of the day I did my read-through of the novel. I noticed that with those first three chapters, I was still partially thinking like a writer, marking a few typos, staring off into the distance with a sullen look on my face. But when I hit Chapter 4, *I* became absorbed enough to forget the red pen and forget the castle in front of me.

Clearly that's the better opener.

So it might take 5 critiques, wallowing in my own self-doubt, a massive red pen, and a castle to make me realize that I need to change something, but at least it's good to know that Little Miss Stubborn *CAN* actually change!

So, how about you? What are you stubborn about in your writing?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Color Me

So, as you can tell from my last post (man, are you guys happy to see me slave away in the public school system ;) I am back in school.


Goodbye sleeping until noon. Goodbye lazy days. Goodbye all-day-writing-in-my-pjs-swilling-coffee days.


So...if I'm scant on commenting on blogs, I'm sorry in advance! I've already hit "mark all as read" twice since teacher workdays, and now I've got 75 kids in my classrooms, so I don't see things settling down until I'm back in a regular schedule.

But! BUT! I am still going to try to keep up with my own blogging schedule! And today I give you something that I read during teacher workdays, thought was cool, and then promptly forgot to post about.

Daphne Unfeasible first posted about this here. The main page to it is here. Basically, you plug in your name, the Intarwebs does magic, and it pops out with a graphic (like mine above) that shows you what your name's online presence is. Considering mine is mostly "online," "books," "education," and "entertainment," it does seem fairly accurate (although not, apparently, if you have a fairly common name. For example, I suspect the green "medical" block in mine above comes from a yoga instructor who stole--STOLE--my name. *cough* Let's not mention how she's older than me.)

Now, I'm not being all crazy paranoid, but I did feel a tinge relieved that there's a strong book presence in my chart. It's the same concept as Googling my name--I want me to be first, not that Beth Revis who's a yoga instructor. Developing an online presence that's recognizable is important, especially for a break-out artist of any type.

So, what color are you? What does your name say about your online presence?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Today in Class: Translations

They're baaaaack! The hordes of students!

I'm teaching World Lit again (yay!).

ME: In this class, we'll be reading literature from around the world, as long as it wasn't originally written in English. So nothing from America, nothing from England or Australia, or anywhere where the native language is English.

KID: *eyes wide, but too scared to speak on the first day*

ME: We'll start with the Ancient World, and read things from GILGAMESH and THE BOOK OF THE DEAD. We'll do three plays from Greece, then focus on China and Japan, and wrap up with Europe from the Middle Ages to the Holocaust.

KID: *eyes wider, practically trembling*

ME: Is something wrong?

KID: You're going to make us learn all those languages?! I can barely speak English! I can't read nothing in Chinese!

Bookish Memes!

Steph Su from Steph Su Reads tagged me in a book meme! And since I'm starting school this week (and therefore INSANE and incapable of THOUGHT), I thought I'd ease my weary brain by answering questions instead of actually writing something creative and, yanno, entertaining. (Corollary: I'm actually skipping around on all of Steph's brain really is melting and I don't think I could make it through all of them!)

Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback?
Hardback--if I can afford it. I like the look and feel of them. And you never know which first edition hardback will be worth millions in the future! I missed out on Harry Potter first edition of the first volume, but I'm making up for it now!

Barnes & Noble or Borders?
Neither. My local bookstore--Fireside Books--has my heart (and money).

Bookmark or dog-ear?
Bookmark...but usually I just use the flap of the dust jacket, if it's hardback. And my bookmarks aren't fancy. They're whatever scrap of paper or thin thing I can find.

Alphabetize by author, or alphabetize by title, or random?
My system isn't random--but it looks like it. I have three large bookshelves (and a couple of smaller ones). One shelf is for my favorite books of all time, organized by how much I like them. The other is for MG/YA fiction, organized by order of how much I like the book. The other is nonfiction or adult fiction, organized by time periods in history.

Keep, throw away, or sell?
Keep or trade!

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
Why would you throw away art?

Read with dust jacket or remove it?
With--it's a great bookmark.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
HARRY POTTER! I'm something of a fangirl.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
Depends on how good the book is.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
I like them to start "Once upon a time," but end with a dark and stormy night.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse?
It takes a combination. If I hear about the book a lot, especially from people whose recommendations I trust, I'll go out of my way to get the book.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Neither. I don't want a cliff-hanger, but I don't want everything to be perfect, either. I want a bit of a mess, a bit of broken-ness.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
Usually night, but the mark of a good book is one I'll read from morning to night.

Favorite series?
Narnia, then HP.

Favorite children’s book?
I agree with Steph--Ella Enchanted is great. I also personally adore all the Narnia books, especially THE SILVER CHAIR.

Favorite YA book?

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
DOOMSDAY BOOK by Connie Willis. Brilliant. I cry every time.

What are you reading right now?
STORM GLASS by Maria Snyder

What are you reading next?
Hmmm...maybe finish THE HOST, or start WINGS.

Favorite book to recommend to an 11-year-old?

Favorite book to re-read?
THE HERO AND THE CROWN. I used to read it every year on my birthday, until I started to memorize it.

Do you ever smell books?

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?
Umm....right now, HUSH, HUSH. The cover looks good, the reviews are amazing...but the plot sounds eh to me. I think there's some supernatural creatures that I'm getting sick of. Also, SHIVER. Same reason.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
Oh! Um...Doon from THE CITY OF EMBER...I'd like to pick his brain for awhile, ask what it was all like. Conn from THE MAGIC THIEF--he'd be hilarious and I'd have him show me the underworld of the cities. And finally...Meg from A WRINKLE IN TIME. She sounds like home.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
You should know this about me: I actually have a real list of Most Hated Books in the World. Number one on that list? MOBY DICK. NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE STUPID WHALE, MELVILLE, JUST SHUT UP.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?
I've never read THE SCARLET LETTER, despite the fact that I taught it in my American lit class.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?
Probably something by Tanith Lee. I was obsessed with her books for awhile as a kid, but now I can't remember which I read and which I didn't.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalize the VIP.)
THE HERO AND THE CROWN, THE THIEF, or THE BOOK THIEF. If you don't like these books, you're not a VIP, and you're not my friend.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
Ancient Greek. Possibly Hebrew or Aramaic. For religious reasons.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?
THE HERO AND THE CROWN. I do that anyway :)

What author do you own the most books by?
CS Lewis.

What book do you own the most copies of?
THE HERO AND THE CROWN and A WRINKLE IN TIME. I've been given copies of these books--nice ones--but I also have the original copy I originally read, and I can't bear to part with them.

What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Bartimaus from The Bartimaus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. Although I'd prefer him to be human first.

What book have you read more than any other?
Probably all the books in the Harry Potter series. They're one of the few audio books I own, so I listne to them during housework. Add that all up, I've probably "read" those more than anything else.

What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
The Narnia books.

What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
I shouldn't say.

What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
I'm going to repeat Steph word for word here: "Anything by Faulkner. Hah! Take that, you dead old white Southern man!"

Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Ugh. The British.

Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
SHAKESPEARE. Hardcore, yo.

Austen or Eliot?
Bronte (Charlotte). Then Austen.

What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
None. I read what I like, and don't really care about people who think I "should" read something/someone else.

What is your favorite novel?
Narnian series, then Harry Potter, then THE HERO AND THE CROWN.

What is your favorite play?
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. I met my husband on set.

What is your favorite poem?
I like Emily Dickinson, but also Robert Browning. "My Last Duchess," and "Porphyria" are brilliant. Modern poet love goes to Ted Kooser for "Tattoo."

What is your favorite essay?
Eh. I'll steal Steph Su's answer and go with "A Modest Proposal" by Swift.

What is your favorite short story?
"All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury

What is your favorite non-fiction?
Books on the Pre-Raphaelite art movement.

What is your favorite graphic novel?
Oh, I love manga. Hmm...right now I'm working through Fruits Basket, although it's getting a bit too long for me. Escaflowne was nice, and I actually went a little Sailor Moon crazy back in the day.

What is your favorite science fiction?
I like the SF that doesn't read like SF. Such as THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX. Or THE HITCHIKER'S GUIDE by Douglas Adams

THE THINGS THEY CARRIED by Tim O'Brien. Or does NIGHT by Elie Wiesel count?

Favorite History/Historical Novel?
I love any Tudor historical novel.

Favorite mystery or noir?
Love me some Agatha Christie.

Favourite romance?

Favourite teen book?
*eyes bookshelf* Too many to count!

Who is your favourite writer?
CS Lewis, Patricia Wrede, Marcus Zusak, Mary Pearson, etc., etc.

Who is the most over rated writer alive today?
Stephenie Meyer. There. I said.

What book do you wish someone would write so you could read it?
I want something like CS Lewis's TILL WE HAVE FACES or Jane Yolen's BOUND, but the story of Rapunzel. Something really unique, really deep, really beautifully written with that fairy tale.

Feel free to copy these for your own blog! Link back here and let me know your answers!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Castle: King of Marketing

Have you seen CASTLE? Oh, it's brilliant. Of course, I might be a bit biased, considering it starts Nathan Fillion, who I like to look at with indecent thoughts. It stars a thriller-mystery writer, Richard Castle (Nathan Lusteyes Fillion), whose writing life is ludicrously unrealistic. He follows a real-life cop and helps solve crimes as he "researches" his next series.

I highly recommend it. First for the simple fact that Fillion is a gorgeous piece of man who has sexy eyebrows (YES. Eyebrows. Sexy everything else, too, but I'm rather impressed with the eyebrows.)

But there's also the clever writing--there's real wit in the dialog that will absolutely leave you envious as a fellow writer. And there's the fantasy of it--I highly doubt any writer lives the lifestyle of Richard Castle.

But look beyond the television show. This is a show that's marketing to its target audience: writers.

First you have twitter. Richard Castle, fictional writer of the series, has his own Twitter account (@WriteRCastle). While this may sound lame--and let's be honest, with the exception of K. Duey, most Twitters run by people who aren't real people ARE lame--it's actually quite brilliant.

See, there's a story being told on Twitter. In real-time, with an established character. The fictional Richard Castle is completing a mystery on Twitter! And his Twitter followers can contribute (to an extent).

And, y'all--this is elaborate. This is a mystery with as many twists and turns in it as you'd expect from Agatha Christie.

And it's something really new--not only is a story being told, it's being told in an entirely new way (even apart from Duey's Russet book). The Twitter version of Richard Castle is as funny and womanizing and reckless as the one on the show.

And it's incredibly realistic--not just in the voice of the character, but also in the details. There's notes from other characters--just little asides, but they add to the realism. There's pointless tweets that are perfectly inline with the character (i.e. comments about beautiful women nearby). And then there's things like this: "real" photographs from the "actual" mystery the character is currently solving. (PS: You can read the whole mystery--so far--on the Facebook fanpage.)

Now, there's not only these elaborate details just to make a Twitter account for the fans of the show, there's also something else.

Yup. "Richard Castle," fictional author, is writing a real-life book.

One you can buy

The premise of the first season (currently in re-runs on ABC) is that Richard Castle has writer's block, but is inspired by the hot female cop to write a new series ostentatiously based on her. Got your head wrapped around that?

Well, the show's taken this to the next level. Now the book's real--really written, really available from Amazon. The author's credit is "Richard Castle," and the plot is the one the character sketched out during the show's season. (You can read the first two chapters online here.)

From Amazon:
Product Description

A New York real estate tycoon plunges to his death on a Manhattan sidewalk. A trophy wife with a past survives a narrow escape from a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with no shortage of reasons to kill trot out their alibis. And then, in the suffocating grip of a record heat wave, comes another shocking murder and a sharp turn in a tense journey into the dirty little secrets of the wealthy. Secrets that prove to be fatal. Secrets that lay hidden in the dark until one NYPD detective shines a light.

Mystery sensation Richard Castle, blockbuster author of the wildly best-selling Derrick Storm novels, introduces his newest character, NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat. Tough, sexy, professional, Nikki Heat carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City's top homicide squads. She's hit with an unexpected challenge when the commissioner assigns superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook to ride along with her to research an article on New York's Finest. PulitzerPrize-winning Rook is as much a handful as he is handsome. His wise-cracking and meddling aren't her only problems. As she works to unravel the secrets of the murdered real estate tycoon, she must also confront the spark between them. The one called heat.

About the Author

Richard Castle is the author of numerous bestsellers, including the critically acclaimed Derrick Storm series. His first novel, In a Hail of Bullets, published while he was still in college, received the Nom DePlume Society's prestigious Tom Straw Award for Mystery Literature. Castle currently lives in Manhattan with his daughter and mother, both of whom infuse his life with humor and inspiration.

So, what do you think? Personally, as a fan of the show, I'm loving this. It's the ultimate--between interacting with the "author" on Twitter and reading the novel, it really immerses the reader in the world of CASTLE. this effective marketing in YOUR opinion? Is this what shows/books/media *should* do...or is it a gimmick that will never succeed?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Nomination!

Holy cow, you guys! One of you super-cool-awesome-amazing people nominated me for Book Blogger Appreciation Week in the category of Writing!

I'm really thrilled to be nominated and would like to thank whoever it was who did nominate me. :)

Now I'm off to gather a sample of my blog posts to submit to the judging panel! Are there any writing posts, interviews, reviews, or writing stuff that you guys particularly liked that you think I should submit to the panel?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Author Interview: Pearl North, author of LIBYRINTH

Recently, I reviewed Pearl North's LIBYRINTH here at Writing it Out. Pearl was gracious enough to return here for an interview about herself, her book, and her writing habits. Thanks so much, Pearl!


We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

 I once worked at a doggy day care. It was a ton of fun!

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?

My favorite book as a kid, believe it or not, was CHARLOTTE'S WEB. That's why I use it in the first scene of LIBYRINTH. I figured if it was important to me, a lot of other people probably have fond feelings for it too.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An author, actually, though I had to rediscover the ambition all over again in my twenties. As a young adult, I let peer pressure convince me I couldn't write fiction. Fortunately, I got over all of that, and here I am.


How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?

I think all of my characters tend to reflect different aspects of my personality. Haly is the shy part of me that wants to fit in, and Clauda represents my more rebellious side.

The idea of being able to hear books has been with me for a very long time. At the age of six or so, I thought of it and it just sort of made a home for itself in the back of my mind, where it stayed until I started writing LIBYRINTH.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?

 I wrote a very rough draft of LIBYRINTH several years ago and then set it aside because I wasn't sure where I wanted the story to go. Then I joined a wonderful writer's group and I started work shopping it with them. The feedback I received was indispensable in shaping LIBYRINTH into what it is today. There were times when I felt a bit overwhelmed by what I'd taken on, with a whole world to invent and all those different cultures and religions to think through. However, now I find I'm quite pleased with the way it came out. Once my agent sold the book to Tor, it was about a year before it came out in print. It's hard to describe how it feels to see something you've worked on for so long finally emerge into the great wide world. It's exciting and a little scary, but hearing from readers that the book gave them new insights or helped them through a bad day is the real reward. That makes everything worthwhile.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?



What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?

One of the things I love most about writing is the fact that you are always improving and there's no endpoint. In 5, 10 and 15 years, I want to be writing and growing and becoming more skilled and productive and honest with every book I write.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?

How simple it really is, after all is said and done. I used to have a lot of misconceptions about plot as this big complicated thing and the truth is that all you have to do is create a character the reader can believe in, and then confront her with a problem. Have her attempted solution fail and make everything worse, and then repeat that process until you get to the climax. By then she's proven herself worthy of her goal, and you finally let her win. That's it. It's obvious to me now but I hate to admit how long it took me to realize it. I call it my stupidest discovery about writing!

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?

Get lots of exercise. Seriously. Human brains are supported by human bodies, and we are not designed to sit still for hours on end. Get a good workout in and you'll find your concentration and productivity vastly improved.

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?

I am blessed with imagination. I can always come up with a new idea. That's also my weakness. I have so many ideas, it sometimes makes my job harder because I have to discipline myself not to go overboard and cram too much into one story.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?

Writing a novel takes an enormous amount of work and a great deal of skill, but writers on the whole earn very little money. Only a very small percentage of published authors can support themselves through their writing alone. A publishing business model that revolves around the bestseller compensates a few authors extravagantly while leaving the vast majority to find other work. Since the more time you have to devote to your craft the better a writer you become, this scheme stunts the growth of literature as well as the careers of mid-list authors.


I can't help myself...I've got to ask you about the character's names. I suspect you've got a story behind some of those names. Did you intentionally link Selene and Endymion? Does Haly's name refer to Alcyone? Are you trying to tell another story through the characters' names?

Ha ha! I can see why you might think that. The truth is I name my characters by ear. I select for them the name that sounds right to me. In fact, in an earlier draft of LIBYRINTH, the character of Scio was named Helene, and it wasn't working out, because I needed her to do things that a Helene simply wouldn't do. Haly is short for Halcyon. With Selene, I was thinking of the huntress, because the character is very disciplined, except for when she's not, and then, she's quite wild and unmanageable. But when I named Endymion, again, I was going by ear, and not considering the mythic undertones that readers versed in the classics will probably read into the story.'s so cool to see how CHARLOTTE'S WEB really had a personal connection to both you and Haly...and that my guess about the names was completely off! :)


Monday, August 17, 2009

Guest Blog!

Hey all! Frankie from The First Novels Club and from Frankie Writes, invited me to do a guest blog on The First Novels Club!

My blog post was on the revision process--go check it out!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

WHAT a contest!

I've not posted about contests in awhile because...honestly, it just got to be a bit much. I mean, I like books as much as the next girl, but I felt that it was a bit silly to post about individual contests unless it was something really special.

Well, holy flippin' cow, check out this contest.
The Winner Will Get All These Books.

1. Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick ARC
2. Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen ARC
3. Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters ARC
4. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater ARC
5. Troy High by Shana Norris ARC
6. Love You Hate You Miss You by Elizabeth Scott ARC
7. Reincarnation by Suzanne Weyn ARC
8. Lovestruck Summer by Melissa Walker
9. Death by Series by Linda Gerber (3 books total)
10. a 5 dollar giftcard from Walmart (you can buy yourself half of a book with it, lol)
11. 3 Sarah Dessen books ( Just Listen, This Lullaby, Someone Like You)
12. Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
13. Fire By Kristin Cashmore ARC

14. Last but not least, I have some extra amazon cards, so I will also include a preorder for CATCHING FIRE BY SUZANNE COLLINS. It will be shipped to on or around Sept 1st (whenever they ship it)
AND a book of your choice (under $15.00 please and it can be a preorder as long as it comes out in September-so many good books get released)
And, y'all...that's just the grand prize. There are *tons* of other great runner-up prizes!!!

Go! Enter! And tell her I sent you!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words

Wanna know what it looks like to tell a story without words?

Here ya go.

(via Janet Reid, who, when she tells me to drop what I'm doing and watch this, I listen.)

More info here, by the way.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Changes in Altitudes, Changes in Attitudes

So....I forgot to post for the past little while. Sorry about that.

See, I was reading this book. Mine.

Although I'm done with the big edits, I realized that I had, um, never read my book as a book. I'd never sat down without a pen in my hand, without a clear idea of what I should change, just to read it as it's meant to be read--as a book.

So, since this is my last week of blissful freedom, I took a day to go up to the Biltmore House, sit in the lush gardens, and read my book.

Wait, what?! You've never heard of the Biltmore House?!!! Well, here it is:

Heck, yeah. That's a castle. In America. Take that, Europe!

Why did I change my location? Well, if I read it at home, I knew I'd be tempted to jump up and change something in the manuscript. Or, I'd be tempted to skim--I'd rush. But if I went somewhere else, with the sole intent of reading, I'd focus on just that: reading.

But, although there was a castle, yanno, right there, I ignored it.
Yup. This is what I ignored.

In fact, the closest I got to the actual Biltmore House was:

Instead, I went straight to the garden.

Lookit this little guy! He kept peeking around the petals! (OK, you might have to click on the pic to see it up close, but that black speck in the petals is a little bug with his antennae sticking out.)

I may be allergic to bees, but tell me that's not a cool picture.

So, after strolling around the gardens for a bit, I set up office. Here.

It was nice--it was a little out of the way, and shady.
Um. Oops. Don't know how to rotate this now that it's in Blogger. Image it rotated, though.

And I settled down to read. Now, it's basically impossible for me to read without my trusy red pen of doom and destruction, so I can't lie--I did fix a few typos (dear LORD, how many typos did I have?!) and changed about five lines of dialog and wrote a new very short scene that I'd been playing around in my head for ages (it was only a few paragraphs long). To be fair, though, I've been known to correct published books, too, so I think it's still kosher.

But all was not well in paradise.

See? See those ominous clouds? Well, before I could get very far into my manuscript, the SLUECES OF HEAVEN OPENED UP and poured down the WRATH OF AN ANGRY GOD ON MY HEAD. For reals. Lightning broke open the sky. SHEETS of water CASCADED down upon me and my hapless manuscript.

Clearly, I was not meant to edit in a castle.

So, I changed location.
After a Noah-worthy downpour, I *deserved* the large Tag-along Blizzard and side of fries, no?

So, anyway, moral of the story: read your book as a book, and be prepared for adventure that ends in ice cream!

Monday, August 10, 2009

August Writing Blog of the Month

I am pleased to announce the very first Writing it Out Writing Blog of the Month! Lois at Lotus Rising is the recipient of this brand-new award. Although Lois did win the contest I posted in July, her blog is truly a great writing blog for everyone to check out.

Blog Review: Lotus Rising does everything right--neat, clean blog design, clearly organized, and a fun voice. Lois posts encouraging and informative posts about writing, as well as Wednesday book reviews (that also feature her daughter's opinion!), but my favorite posts of hers are the ones that feature her photography in conjunction with writing. A skilled photographer, Lois is able to frame writing problems in context with pictures in a way that perfectly--and beautifully--explains how to solve the problem. (My personal favorite post? The one that compares the shadows in photography to adding depth to writing.)

Get to know Lois from Lotus Rising a bit more!

Why did you start blogging?
Once I had finished writing my first novel I thought I would send it around to agents or publishers or something to see if I could get any interest. I started looking for places online for information about queries. The more I looked, the more I learned through different blogs. At first, I thought of it as a way to learn the business, network with other authors and give myself a "web presence."

What do you hope people get from your blog?
I hope they find helpful book reviews and laughs sometimes, good advice and friendship.

What kinds of features or memes do you try to do with your blog?
The main regular feature is the weekly book review on Wednesdays. (They will return again in a couple weeks. The summer has been very distracting to my blogging and writing.) On Mondays I often feature photography and compare it to writing. It's interesting to me how the creative process overlaps in very different forms of expression. Fridays tend to be a catch-all day--whatever is on my mind that week.

What have been the best advantages of blogging? The biggest downfalls?
Making friends has been the best part. Writers can be so friendly and helpful. We all seem to struggle with a lot of the same things. It's nice to have the support of fellow writers. The biggest downfall is the time drain. I have less time for writing, and that is problematic when I'm trying to make serious progress on projects.

What is your favorite blog on writing or reading? Why?
It's hard to pick just one. I like different blogs for different reasons. I could give you a list of several that I really like and why, but I can't pick just one. I'm the same way with music and books and characters. Who can pick just one favorite? I only decided on one favorite color when my kids wouldn't let me waffle about it. Purple.

I so sympathize Lois! It really is hard to pick favorite blogs...they are all so interesting and unique!

Thank you again, Lois, for being Writing it Out's very first Writing Blog of the Month!

Friday, August 7, 2009

YOUR Interview with Debut Novelist Christine Marciniak!

Wow, this was so much fun! First of all, thanks everyone for the questions you posted for debut novelist Christine Marciniak--and thanks, Christine, for taking the time to answer them!

From Robyn:
Christine, How did it feel to hold your book in your hands? It must be an awesome, awesome experience. I can't wait to read it, girl. :)
It was a very cool, rather surreal experience to hold the book in my hand. Of course, the experience was tempered some by the fact that the shipping box had coconut oil spilled on it in the UPS truck, so the box was opened quickly by the UPS guy, with me looking on and my main concern was to see that the books were not damaged. They weren’t. I brought them inside and I finally got to have a good look at them with my family.

From Pen Pen

I actually have a question for her about being a debut novelist. Here we go: "After you found out about your book being published, who was the first person you told?! A family member?! Or- Did you roll down your car window and scream it out to everybody on the highway?! :) Thanks!! Can't wait to read her work!!!
First person I told? Let’s see. It was Columbus Day and the kids were home from school. I think the first thing I did was send an e-mail to my critique group (it was very short and typed with shaking fingers). Then I told my kids and then when I could keep my fingers from shaking I called my husband at work (but ended up having to leave him a message.)

From Christina:
Once you began your marketing program, did you feel that was taking time away from your writing? How have you been able to balance promoting your new book and get that next one ready for the shelves?
My marketing program so far has been blogging about the book – and since I already maintained a blog prior to this, it didn’t take that much extra time. But there are things that take time – interview questions for example – that do take away from writing time. As a mother of two, my writing time has always been a little catch-as-catch-can, so it’s hard to quantify how much time other things have taken from it.

I’m not sure I’m doing enough marketing and promoting, I’m very new to all of this, but I am still writing new books. There’s one I thought was done, but I’m revising again before re-submitting. And there are a couple of others in first draft version waiting for me to get the chance to tackle them again.
From RKCharron
Has being a published author changed your life in any way?
Is your family more accepting of the time alone writing, or were they always accepting of it?
Did you query an agent first?

Unfortunately my life has not changed in any significant way, other than a great feeling of accomplishment and knowing that “I can do it”, I’m still responsible for the laundry and the meals and making sure my kids get up in the morning and go to bed at night and end up at whatever activity they are supposed to be at on any given day.

My family has always been pretty accepting of my writing time, though I do tend to get most of my writing done when they are otherwise occupied (ie children in school or asleep).

I did query an agent first and I am still hoping to get an agent – that is something that has eluded me so far. I’m hoping that the project I’m working on now will be the one to get me an agent.

From Angela:
What is probably the most unexpected thing that has happened as a result of your book coming out? Do people you know treat you differently?

Most unexpected thing? I can’t think of anything particularly unexpected. For the most part I didn’t and don’t know what to expect from all of this so that makes nearly everything unexpected. But at the same time there were certain things that are easily anticipated: the book being available, there being reviews. If the book had suddenly hit the best seller list or someone offered movie options on it, that would be unexpected – but those things haven’t happened. Maybe once the book is officially released and more reviews come in, something unexpected will happen (I just hope it’s something good!)

People I know don’t treat me differently. Everyone has been very excited for me and very supportive, but there’s been no great change.

Thanks for all the great questions, everyone!

Still have questions? Check out Christine's blog!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Writer's Book Review: Christine Marciniak's WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA

I've had Christine Marciniak's debut novel, WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA, on my mind for awhile now, but I've waited to review it until you could purchase it. Although the official release date is a bit away, Amazon say you can have it now, so I'm giving you the book review now!

Why I Read This Book: How could I not? The plot is charming, the cover is incredibly sweet, and the author's fantastic!

Five Sentence Summary: Emma's not looking for the starring role of Maria in the school's production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. She want to be Leisel and sing "When You're Sixteen" with her boyfriend. But when she's cast as Maria--and Biker Mike the school reject is cast as Captain von Trapp--she starts to question how much of their romance is for the play and how much is real...and whether someone like Biker Mike can fit into her life at all.

So, what can we, as writers, learn from this book?

[Note: As always, highlight the passage to show spoilers!]

1. A Lesson Without Being Preachy: By the end of the novel, the lesson is apparent: don't judge people by their appearances. However, there's not an ounce of preachiness in this novel--this is a lesson I can easily see a teen realizing or discovering--but it won't hit the teen over the head with morals. Kids are turned off immediately when they see the lesson in a story, but they won't see it here, they'll discover it with Emma, and that is infinitely the better way.

2. Subtle Mix of Genres: Ostentatiously a romance, WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA has a bit of everything: there's humor (don't tell Emma to break a leg!), drama (I'm still a bit mad at Emma's sister, to say nothing of her boyfriend...and was on the edge of my seat to discover how the fight with the best friend got resolved), and even theatrics (this *does* take place during a school play, after all). There's not a dull moment in the book, because it doesn't follow the tired cliches and tropes of any one genre. Even when the characters are sitting around, waiting for play practice to begin, there's still something going on--a joke, tension between characters--to keep you on the edge of your seat.

3. A Sweet Romance: I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sick of a lot of what passes for "romance" in teen literature. Too often, it's a blown-out-of-proportion wish-fulfillment obsessive infatuation...not real romance. A quick skim of my most recently read or to-read books shows vampire obsessive love/lust, werewolf obsessive love/lust, a girl obsessed with a boy that ends in death, a boy that wants to possess a girl, and so on and so on. And while that does appeal to teens, it's not typically something they can *relate* to. The love in WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA is real. From the idealistic Emma who wants to sing "When You're Sixteen," to the somewhat opportunistic boyfriend, to Biker Mike's self-awareness, the romance presented is both very realistic and charmingly sweet. Spoilers: It will come as no surprise to readers that Mike is the better man for Emma, and the man she ultimately chooses--but the fact that Mike sticks up for himself, at the potential cost of being with Emma, and that Emma must has her own bias and prejudice in order to win back Mike, makes this romance even more real. This is not obsessive love/lust--this is a scenario that could perfectly well happen in high school, and one that every teen I know can identify with.

Quibbles: My only quibble is a spoiler: but I sure wish Emma had thrown some punches at Trevor! I was rooting for a brawl! But that's more of my character, not Emma's ;)

The Bottom Line:
The perfect back-to-school book, one that will leave you smiling and happy, but one that's not so sickeningly sweet that there's no substance to it.

Don't forget! Christine has agreed to answer your questions about WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA and what it's like to be a debut novelist! Answers are coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Your Chance to Interview a Debut Novelist!

As you can see from my post below, Christine Marciniak, debut novelist of WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA, is launching her new book! Although I interviewed her last year, clearly a lot has been happening since then.

Christine has graciously agreed to update her interview this week.

So here's your chance! If you have any questions for Chris, would like to know what it's like to be a debut novelist, or want to ask about WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA, ask here before Friday! Chris will go through and respond to your questions in a new interview on Friday!


You know who that is? That's Christine Marciniak. You know what she's holding?


Her debut novel, WHEN MIKE KISSED EMMA.

It's finally here!!!

If you're a fan of Meg Cabot or Maureen Johnson, you're going to love this new title.

Haven't heard about this one yet? Then be sure to check out:
Not only that, but here's the trailer for this fantastic YA romance:

Now, if that's not enough for you, below is a copy of the interview I did with Chris last year. BUT a lot has changed in a year, and Chris has agreed to update her interview at the end of the week.

Christine Marciniak is more than just the author of two succussful blogs: The Simple and the Ordinary and Simply Put. She's also the author of upcoming book When Mike Kissed Emma. Recently, Christine agreed to do an interview for this blog and tell us all about it.

We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

The book isn’t published yet and I’m still creating a website – so I don’t have a FAQ yet – but a completely random fact? I used to work as at Title Searcher during the summers when I was in high school and college. That is not someone who looks up titles of books or songs – it’s a person who checks records in the county courthouse to make sure that a seller of a piece of property has clear title to it – that they really own it and no one has any other claims to it. It involves looking at deeds, mortgages and sometimes copies of wills to see who owned a piece of property when.

As a child, what was your favorite book?

As a child I totally loved the Bobbsey Twins. I read every one the library had. But a book I loved as a child that really stood up to the test of time was Mandy by Julie Edwards. I was enchanted by that book and when I was an adult and found it again I read it with some trepidation – would I still love it. And you know what? I did.

As far as reading tastes changing over time. I’ve always liked stories with realistic characters that have a certain amount of adventure – but not a lot of horror type situations. And I love a good happy ending. I do read more non-fiction now then I did as a child, that would probably be the one place where my tastes have changed.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was very young I wanted to be a nurse – then I saw something on TV that featured an operation and I saw that blood was involved so that ended that.

Later I wanted to be famous. Starring in Annie on Broadway would have been nice.

In high school I planned on being a lawyer – but all the time I knew I wanted to write.

Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?

I think there is always a little bit of me in all my characters. But other than the fact that my high school did the musical The Sound of Music when I was a freshman, there really isn’t anything based on reality. I didn’t act in any of my high school musicals – though I would have liked to. I did work backstage on them though – so I have a feel for the backstage workings of a high school show.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?

There isn’t a really clear timeline for this book. Several years ago I was writing another book entirely and a friend of mine was critiquing it for me and she brought to my attention that there was an entirely separate story within my book – one that could be removed and be a stand alone (turns out she was right).

In order to prove her point she pulled out all the parts of the file that were part of this story line and sent me that file. I took the file, changed the characters names and fleshed out the story line. When I was satisfied with it I submitted it to a few places. No one bit.

I revised it some more – changed third person to first and made some other changes and submitted again. This time there were a few bites. One agent requested I punch up the plot a bit – so I did. But in the end she thought it was too old-fashioned a story. I heard about Wild Rose Press and decided that their Climbing Roses line might be the perfect home for my book. I sent them the punched up version – but they wanted it toned down a bit. That was kind of the head banging stage where I went around mumbling to myself. “It’s too much for these people and not enough for these people.” But I got over it.

After one more revision I had a winner.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?

Don’t be afraid to find love in unlikely places. Look with your heart, not with your eyes.

What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?

My goal as an author is simply to have a lot more books published. I have several works in progress that I’d love to see in print. I’d like to find an agent to help facilitate the process.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?

This is a hard question to answer. I feel that I’ve always been a writer. And since having a contract to be published is so new I don’t know that I’ve learned anything from that yet.

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?

Write. Write a lot. And don’t be afraid to change things. When Mike Kissed Emma went through three or four distinct revisions (as opposed to simply smoothing out an existing story line.)

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?

I think I do dialog fairly well, but I find that sometimes I leave the description out. Perhaps I would have been good writing radio plays. I have to go back in and make sure my characters aren’t simply talking heads in a blank room.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?

I’m not sure I have a writing pet peeve – but I do find question marks troublesome. Ask anyone who has read my works in progress – I tend to put question marks where they don’t belong and leave them off of the end of questions. I don’t know why I do this – I’ve been doing it since high school – but I can assure you I do know what a question is. It’s the punctuation that seems to throw me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rose Would be Ashamed

I only *just* posted about Rose's inspiring words proclaiming housework optional (I might be paraphrasing here), but I have a confession to make.

Yesterday I cleaned.

The whole house.

Top to bottom.

Even the toilets.

Why? The answer's simple: my partial was requested by the Miss Snark's First Victim contest.

Here's the strange thing about me: when I'm writing, housework gets ignored so bad that I have sometimes mistaken the dust bunnies for my dog, and vice versa.

But when I'm rewriting, I need 100% focus. And for some reason, I can't focus if there's a speck of dirt in the house.

This isn't to say that I hadn't already rewritten (several times). But I'm paranoid, and want to make sure that my best foot is forward. So, after seeing the partial req, I did a happy dance that would have made flamenco dancers proud...and then I looked at my desk. At the three empty smoothie cups and the countless empty soda cans littering it so bad that I sometimes knocked them over when I used the mouse. At the hardwood floor growing a carpet of dog hair. At the three-day pile of dishes in the sink.

And then I looked back at my manuscript, my lovely little manuscript, and all the clutter in the house made me think of all the clutter that might still be clinging to the pages.

So I went crazy (literally).

First the house.

Then the manuscript.

I e-mailed it off at 4am! Now, fingers crossed, prayers winging to heaven....and I'm off to take a nap in my (entirely clean) house!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

No More Housework!

Do you subscribe to The Writer's Almanac? I do. Every day I get a message from this organization that has a poem at the top, followed by famous authors whose birthdays are that day, with snippets about each author. I've learned quite a bit from it--and it's fun. Highly recommended.

But that's actually not the subject for today's post. Not entirely. See, at the end of July, I got my daily email from TWA, and one of the authors featured was Rose Macaulay. Here, let me just show you the snippet:

It's the birthday of the writer Rose Macaulay, (books by this author) born in Rugby, England, in 1881. She wrote 23 novels as well as travel books and biographies. Her family were all scholars and Anglican clerics. She studied at Oxford and then began a career as a writer. During WWI she worked as a nurse and then in the British Propaganda Department, where she met Gerald O'Donovan. He was a married man, a lapsed Catholic priest, and a novelist. They had an affair that lasted until his death. In her novels, she writes about mystical Christianity and about trying to reconcile adultery with religion. She said, "At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived."

OK, so Rose had herself a pretty fascinating life. But you know what I like best? That last quote:
"At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived."
--Rose Macauley
HA! Take that pile of dirty dishes, dirty laundry, and overall filthy house!

Yanno, I sometimes feel bad about how I let my housewiferly duties slide...and slide... I have been known to eat chicken with a spoon because there were no clean forks left, or to just order a pizza because I can't be bothered to cook (or, if I could be bothered, had no clean pots or pans with which to cook). And I feel a bit guilty about that--it's my job to keep the house clean, especially in the summer when I'm not working.

But I'd be much unhappier if I didn't live my life the way that makes me happy: playing with my dog, being with my husband, and writing my books.

In the end, who cares about that unkempt house!?

Critique Session #7

Hey all! This is mine--and the last of the critique round--but it's only fair that I throw mine into the gamut, considering I put you all through the wringer :) I also entered this one into the Miss Snark's First Victim contest, although I've revised it based on their comments for a newer one here. This is also the last of the queries--sorry to add some on the weekend, but I wanted to be sure to let each person have a full day on the blog for their queries.

Title: LONG WAY HOME (currently)
Genre: YA SF
Name: Beth Revis
Website: This one :)



Sixteen-year-old Elder has always known that he was going to one day lead the space ship he was born on. Despite the fact that he longs for planet-landing more than anything else, he knows his responsibility lies in becoming the leader his people need during the long journey.

What he doesn’t know is that the current leader isn’t telling him everything. Such as the fact that there’s a hidden level on the ship containing cryogenically frozen people.

Then Amy wakes up fifty years early.

Amy has no desire to become one of the first colonist on a new planet—but her parents do. So she agrees to be frozen for the journey, even if that means giving up the life she loves on Earth.

As Amy adjusts to life on a space ship without her still-frozen parents, she and Elder discover that her cryo chamber didn’t malfunction—someone had tried to kill her and is now succeeding as he unplugs more and more helplessly frozen victims. Desperate to find the killer before he gets to her parents, Amy must combine her knowledge of the past with Elder’s knowledge of the ship and technology. Their digging leads to discoveries about how the ship’s leaders have maintained control in the past…and why one man thinks the answer is to kill the cryogenically frozen people before they have a future.

Complete at 80,000 words and told in the alternating view points of Amy and Elder, LONG WAY HOME is a YA science fiction intended for teens who like modern, character-drive speculative fiction such as Mary Pearson’s THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX.

I am currently a high school world literature teacher and an active member of SCBWI, having been publishing in and working as the copy editor of the state SCBWI magazine. Additionally, I run a blog on writing for MG and YA audiences ( which has over 250 subscribers. I can be found online at or I am prepared to submit the entire manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Beth Revis

First 250 Words

My name is Elder, even though I'm the youngest one on the ship. Not that I'm young. Sixteen years should mark me as an adult. But still, I'm youngest by a decade.

I lay on the cool metal floor of the Keeper Level, the only level with a window to the uni outside. Above me, the stars are abbreviated dashes in the sky, with streaks of faint colors―mostly reds and yellows, but sometimes blues or greens―within the lines of the stars.

I wonder, sometimes―I can't help but wonder―what it will feel like to stand on Centauri-Earth and look up at the stars and see only dots of light, not trailing splatters of delicate colors. It'll be a long time, I know―I'll be really old by the time we land, but when we do, I hope it’s at night. I want it to be really dark with no clouds or moons, and I hope before we set out to make our new world as the first humans on another planet, we all take a moment to stand still on the planet and look at the sparkling stars.

But I try not to think about it too much. Planet-landing is a long way away, and I don't like to remember how much time will pass before I go from being a traveler to a settler.

Above me, the stars glow brightly.

And then one of them dies.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Critique Session #6

YA Science Fiction
Abby Annis

Dear Ms. Revis,

On your blog, you expressed an interest in queries to critique, so I'm hoping my novel, EMBROL, will appeal to you.

Every teenage girl likes to think she’s the center of the universe. Eighteen-year-old Olivia Ryan is about to find out she really is.

Just six more months of the torture better known as high school, and Olivia can finally choose how she lives her life. But after her mother’s sudden death, her only concern is getting through each day.

When Jack Ellis—the infuriatingly gorgeous boy responsible for the car accident that took her mother’s life—declares she’s an alien from the planet Hielos and the only hope for saving the universe, Olivia’s convinced he’s crazy. Despite desperately wanting to hate him and ignore the unearthly pull she feels to him, her mother’s journal confirms his claims.

Olivia fights to resume her normal, boring life, but the appearance of a rogue Hielosian, bent on world domination, forces her to embrace her alien powers. To protect Earth, the universe, and everyone she loves, Olivia must learn to trust Jack and accept she can be the superhero the world needs her to be.

EMBROL is a work of young adult science fiction, complete at 88,000 words.

I am a worker bee at a magical place full of plants and flowers, and I derive creativity from my surroundings. If you are interested, I’d be happy to forward the complete manuscript to you. Per your submission guidelines, I have included the first 250 words in the body of this email.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Abby Annis

First 250 Words:

Boring. Monotonous. Mind-numbing. There isn’t a word strong enough to describe my classes. With only two weeks until winter break, everything was a review for finals. Herr Davis droned on forever about the importance of the German language in history. I rested my head against my palm and struggled to keep my eyes open.


I turned to the boy sitting next to me in the passenger seat. His golden hair hung in curly layers to just below his ears, and his eyes were the palest blue I’d ever seen. My lips turned up at his perfect face. He smiled back at me.

I opened my mouth to ask him who he was, but my subconscious whispered I already knew the answer. If I could just remember.

“Olivia. I’m sorry.” Pain flashed in his eyes.

“Why--” I choked on my words as a truck slammed into his side of the car, triggering an alarm.

My eyes flew open, and I lifted my head, wiping the corner of my mouth. I glanced around at the other students as they filed out of the room. No one appeared to notice me slobbering all over my desk. Stupid dream.

I gathered my things and walked outside, stopping a few feet from my locker. Trevor and Mark stood there, wearing ridiculous grins. Do they have to do this every year? I sighed. Might as well get it over with.