Thursday, May 31, 2012

COOLEST contest EVAH.

I wasn't planning on posting today, but when I saw this contest, I just had to share.

Wendy Higgins is a hosting a COVER ADAPTION CONTEST. And I seriously think this will be SO much fun.

Wendy's debut novel, Sweet Evil, hit the shelves one month ago. She's an extremely talented author and is an equally awesome person.

Here are the deets from Wendy's site:



Recreate any Young Adult or Middle Grade book cover!  



  • You may submit up to three digital still shots. Up to three entries per person - they can be the same cover or differing ones.
  • By "recreating" I mean it has to show some similarity to the actual cover, although you can feel free to elaborate and get creative.
  • Email your entries to wendyhigginswrites@gmail.com and then comment on this post so that I know you entered (be sure to include your blogger screen name in the email so I can keep track of who is who)
  • Deadline for entries is June 10th - that doesn't give you much time, so get busy!
  • I will choose the top entries and post them to my blog by June 15th.  
  • The final winners will be chosen through public voting in the comments.
  • Prizes include: a signed copy of Sweet Evil, signed bookmarks, autographed bookplate stickers, and Sweet Evil T-shirts similar to the ones worn in these pics.

Here's one example from the lovely Wendy herself:



     
So FUNNY, yes???? So who's going to participate? Spread the word! I know I'm going to get a kick out of this!

Red. Head. Out. :D 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Travel to Write? Or Write to Travel?


Have you ever been somewhere where you knew you had to write a story surrounding that location?

I’ve traveled A TON. But only certain places have really caught me, and left an emotional imprint forever in my memory… where if I wanted, I could go right back to that moment and draw from the emotion and rewrite it.

Some of those places include: Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, The Cobblestone streets of Latvia, seeing the Bolshoi ballerinas in Russia, and Stonehenge, England. 

Hubby and Me in Stonehenge------------------->

Location matters. It can affect the mood of a story, a character’s personality traits, the basis for a plot, and the whole vibe of your book. (To name a few)

So what I’m curious to know is: Has a certain place inspired a book you’ve written? Is there a certain place you’ve written or read about that you’re dying to visit? And what is it about different locations that affect us so? Where there seems to be a bit of extra magic in the air that speak to our inner writer?
                                                                                         
I’d love to know your thoughts.

Red. Head. Out. :D

Monday, May 21, 2012

Decoding the Rejection Letter


I’m a firm believer in celebrating small victories. You have to find the success even in the bad, or you’re in for a long, hard ride.

One thing I’ve noticed in my fabulous querying adventure is seeing the positive in the negative. It’s there, even though the all around answer may be no.

So how does one decode a rejection letter? Well first, you have to know and be aware of the different types of rejection. There are all kinds of clues that tell you a great deal with how close you are to landing an agent. Let’s list them, shall we? (And if I leave any out, please feel free to add in the comments)

No response: The worst kind, in my opinion, is the no response means no. I get that agents are *insanely* busy, but I have so much respect for agents that respond, even if it takes them a while. (I just got a R on a full from my first novel I sent last May! Yes, a year later, but it was a response, regardless)

Standard form letter: I think early queriers can’t tell the difference between a form letter and an agent’s actual input. You catch on pretty fast, but here is a classic example:

Dear Author,
Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to read your submission.  We appreciate you considering us for representation of your project. Unfortunately, after careful review, we have decided that we might not be the right agency for your work.  This industry is incredibly subjective, and there are many agencies out there with many different tastes.  It is for this reason that we strongly encourage you to keep submitting elsewhere, in the hopes of finding an agent who will be an enthusiastic champion for you and your work.

And there are different sub-types of a form letter. Some insert your name or the title of your book around the form, others just send off the “Dear Author” letter. Again, not the kind of rejection you want to get, but better than a no response. (IMO)

The other day, I got a form, but at the end of the letter, the agent had written in: “What a cool concept! And the writing is fantastic!” ßThose two sentences made my whole day, LOL. It means you’re not way off base, but just have a product that the agent isn’t looking for at that time.

A short, but polite, “No, thank you.” I actually prefer these to the form letter. It makes me feel more like a person instead of another number that’s flooding the agent’s inbox.

Detailed reason for the “no.” These are the best. We’re in this business to improve, and to get even just a glimpse into the agent’s reason for the no means the world to us slushpilers.

**Unless your detailed response doesn’t make sense. I once had an agent tell me that she was rejecting my novel because she didn’t like openings that started off with a dream. Er… My novel DIDN’T have a single dream in it, LOL! I know that’s a big no, no. I wouldn’t EVER do that. It was fine though. I just figured she had accidentally sent me the wrong letter or she was half-dreaming herself. *smile*

Now there are different variations to this. If it’s a query, a simple: “I’m not looking for fantasy now” is great. Or even better, if it’s on requested material, the reasoning behind the no is like gold. Which leads us into:

The Encouraging rejection. This of course is what we all want. (As far as rejections go) We authors have egos. And heh, sometimes they need to be fed. If they’re not, it’s soooo easy to slip into a rejection depression. Which is why, the other day when I got an encouraging phrase that said, “I have no doubt you will find an agent soon that will share your vision for this novel.” Followed by some compliments, I could smile on the rejection, because I know that those small words—even though it was a no—are a mini success.

I know in the ballet world, when a teacher is giving you corrections, it means that she/he sees potential there. It’s the same in the writing world. So the more detailed rejection you can get, the closer you are.

What do you think? These are of course just my opinions, whether to rationalize my own feelings, or to create a coping mechanism for my own sanity. Regardless, I’d love to hear about your rejection letter experiences!

Red. Head. Out. :D

 ***Oh! And I must give a special shout out to EJ Wesley and Andrea for their kind shout outs to me this week. They both rock. Go check out their sites and say hi! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Your WIP's Location... Been There?


Goodness… I took an unexpected week-long blogging break! Glad to be back. This past week I’ve beta’d 3 awesome MS’s for friends, continued querying my second project, and finished the first chapter for my new WIP. All great.

But what I want to ask you guys today is: Have you ever visited the setting where your story takes place?

Westridge, the story I’m querying, is a rehab facility that I based my last project on. A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of driving through and visiting this facility. To prepare for the story, I took a lovely couple out for dinner that had a son admitted and interviewed them to get the scoop on what happened within the walls.


What’s crazy is that while I was visiting the facility, I saw and heard things I had put in my story that I hadn’t previously known: The way buildings were located, experiences I had written that were actually true... It made the whole event eerie, fascinating, and downright cool.

When I was there, I could see my characters… almost feel them breathing. It was a surreal, emotional experience... 

Has this happened to you? Have you visited a place you’ve written about after-the-fact? What was it like? Any uncanny experiences? I'd love to hear about it. And I hope things are all well on your end. I feel cheesy saying this, but meet your writing goal for today! I'm itching to dive back into my WIP.

Red. Head. Out. :D

***Oh! And thank you, Adam for the award on your blog! Every one go check out his site. He's hilarious. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

What I've Learned


I think this is the most important post out of the three for this Dust It Off bloghop. If you missed it, Day 1 and 2 were sharing our shelved project's short pitch and a 300-350 word excerpt. Today I get to talk about what I learned.


Writing Shadow Watchers (my first book) changed my life. I feel like I've lived the whole writer's cycle with this one book. And I want to share a bit of my journey with this story. Not too many authors are open/blunt about querying and rejection, but I want to be.

I learned how to write while crafting Shadow Watchers. I LITERALLY woke up at 3:00 am six-days-a-week and wrote until seven in the morning until the kids got up so I could complete this book. (A must with 4 kids under the age of 6 at the time--though I strangely recommend it--those early morning hours are magic)

When it was finished, I knew (thought) I had a winner. How many of us newbie authors think we have the next best thing on our hands? (Ha! Well, you might)

So I started querying.

It was never an option to "fail" while querying Shadows. I was convinced I'd get an agent. The amount of requests I got was sick. The total was up to 28 full requests... a lot of them partials upgraded to fulls. Even had one agent tell me my opening chapter was one of the best she'd ever received. (I don't say this in a cocky way at all, I'm only trying to convey how hard it is to have your hopes so high only to fall and have them dashed) So each time I thought, "This will be the one. The one agent that will want to take me on."

But it never happened.

So I learned how to face rejection. Learned that I am a small fish in a very, VERY big pond. It was hard (very, very, VERY hard). So much so that I never wanted to write again. What was the point when it hurt this bad?

But somehow I kept going. (Phew! Good thing. And this is the part where I wish I could go on and tell you the rest of the success story, but I don't have one yet!)

Because of rejection, I took a step back and was more determined than ever to find out what was wrong. Combining the advice I received from agents, I knew it was a pacing thing. I think three whole books were shoved into one, and I needed to learn how to space things out. How to focus on character. Not be so plot driven. It's not just about being a good writer. There are soooo many other factors that make a story exceptional.

So I dove into my next book with those thoughts in mind. Have I done it this time around? Not sure. But we'll see if I've done a good enough job. If not, I know my next book will be better. And the next.

So what have I learned? Everything that matters right now in my writing life. I've learned how to balance my writing obsession, I've learned how to face rejection head on, and I've learned how to improve and persevere regardless.

In a strange way, I think I owe it to my first novel to keep going. So someday I can rewrite it and let the characters in my first book shine like I know they deserve to shine.

Phew! Are you still here? If so, to sum up, I think everyone needs a first novel. Whether it's successful or not. Because regardless of what stage you are in with the writing game, you're going to have to face all of the emotional ups and downs that come with being brave enough to call yourself a writer.

Thanks Theresa and Cortney for putting this awesome hop together! 

Red. Head. Out.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dust It Off Bloghop: Day 2


That's right.

It's Day #2 of this fabulous bloghop hosted by Cortney Pearson and Theresa Paolo. Today we get to showcase a 300-350 word excerpt from a shelved project. It was hard to choose! I have so many favorites from Shadow Watchers:



I stood panting in the rain, my thoughts churning at an alarming rate. It was him. There was no mistaking the distinct lilt that accented his tone. Just the thought about how his voice had rolled against my body instead of inside my head made my cheeks flush with heat.
With a sudden rush, the fog lifted and the sounds of battle diminished. The sudden silence shook me, my heart beat loud in my ears. Mom sat a few feet away, one of the soldiers hunched over her. The shadow army regrouped and I saw who I knew was my savior, either by his air of command or by the graceful way he moved.
The soldiers remained alert, ready to spring at any sign of threat. My rescuer stood apart from the group, his dark head tipped downward as if in thought. He paced for a time, covering the length of the small clearing in a couple of strides. When he paused, he spoke low and quick, an unfamiliar language flying though his lips. The shadow army bowed their heads and disappeared, vanishing like smoke.
I took a breath. And then another.
We were together. Him. Me. After years of hearing his voice in my head and wanting to see him so much I thought I would shatter from the pain it caused, he was here.
The rain had stopped and the moonlight trickled down through the branches, making his silhouette look like an extension of the long shadows under the trees.
I was staring. But so was he. Intensity radiated off of him, mingling with my fascination in the air between us. Time had no meaning. It could have been hours, minutes, or seconds that we faced each other in silence. Then he moved and the connection broke. I felt as if I had been hurled back into my body.
***
Thanks, guys! Hope you enjoyed! Now I'm off to go read the other excerpts! 

Red. Head. Out. :D 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dust It Off Bloghop!

Yay for Bloghops!

This fabulous hop is sponsored by the lovely Cortney Pearson and Theresa Paolo. Thanks gals for putting this on! This is what it's all about:

We've all had those manuscripts that we poured our heart into, fell in love with the characters and still think of them at random, but unfortunately had to shelf. Now it's time for a little spring cleaning. Take out those manuscripts and Dust It Off!

The first day, May 3rd: We want you to post a 1-2 sentence pitch (Great way to practice pitches) about the shelved WIP.

The second day, May 5th: Post your favorite excerpt (300-350 words)

The third day, May 7th: Post what you learned from this WIP. You become a stronger, more rounded writer which each manuscript and we want to know what this particular work taught you. 



So my short pitch? Here it is: 

The storms come like clockwork. Every day the dark cloud descends upon the town, erasing the memories of every person. Except Clara. 

I know it's not the "usual" pitch, but it's a hook that worked really well while querying. Someday I'm totally going to rewrite this story. It had the unfortunate experience of being my first novel. I think I was trying to put too much into it and wasn't focusing on character enough. Plus, the pacing was crazy fast. 

Thank goodness for learning, eh? Now I'm off to check out the other pitches!

Red. Head. Out. :D 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My WIP and a HUGE thank you!


I want to thank all of you with your thoughts in my last post—about whether or not it’s important to label yourself as a writer. It was pretty split—everyone definitely having their own opinion on the matter. But it *did* help. I now know with clarity the angle I want to take with my WIP.

Though I don’t want to go *too* fantastical, I’ve decided my WIP will be a modern day twist on the Phantom of the Opera—but Ballet style. So I can take the realistic edge I’m drawn to, but still have the ghostly element my soul craves while writing. I’m stoked!

I’m also dabbling my hand at present tense, which is actually quite refreshing. So all in all, I think the majority of your opinions are spot on. It’s important to create what your inner self is screaming at you to write, but to try and switch it up—make a challenge for yourself whether it’s changing tenses, POV, how you approach the story, or even genre.

Because I’m so excited, I wanted to share my first draft page with you of my WIP:

I lift my leg higher, wincing at the burn in my lower back. Shoulders down. Stomach pulled in. Head tilted. I bring my leg around, focusing on my standing hip, until my working leg is in front of me, inches from my face. With an excruciating push that I am all too familiar with, I stretch my limb higher until I descend it to the ground.
The music tinkles to a stop and I lower my arms, finished. My heart hammers in my ears and sweat clings to the inside of my leotard. An itch tickles in the middle of my back, but I hold frozen, waiting for permission to move. The judges scribble behind their clipboards, the sound grating along my bones.
I slide my eyes over to Beth. She nailed it. Just like me. Her eyes stay fixed in front of her, but the corner of her mouth twitches so I know she’s aware of me. Dozens of other girls stand alongside us, not including the hundreds that have auditioned across the country.
“That will be all,” the judge in front says. He has dark, thick-framed glasses that look more like an accessory than for actual use. Kind of like the pencil behind his ear.
The room seems to breathe at once as we quietly head over to the sides of the studio where our bags are located. Pointe shoes click on the Marley floor and the air is hot and sticky on my skin. None of the judges watch us depart, like we’re not human beings who would cut off a limb to be part of their program. If we didn’t need the limb to dance in the first place.
We are only clinical objects to them. How long are our legs? How defined is your arch? Can you add an extra turn to your pirouette? Or most important: How much do you weigh?

***

A few posts back I talked about how I didn’t feel the “magic” with my previous WIP. Which is interesting. I love the story, but didn’t feel the huge excitement like I did with my first novel. The magic is back. I know this current story is one I’m supposed to write and I can’t wait to get to it.

What are you working on now? Is it different from what you normally write? Do you have that spark of excitement as you have with past projects? 

Red. Head. Out. :D

 
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