Friday, December 21, 2012

Baby Update and a Merry Christmas to All!

First of all, I just want to say ‘thank you’ to all the well wishes, thoughts and prayers for my sister and niece. Baby Kendall made it through the initial operation beautifully and they were able to remove the whole mass. This is my little sister’s facebook announcement from Wednesday:

‘I can't even begin to tell everyone how thankful I am for all of the prayers this week. They worked! Kendall is 100% healthy. God is good. We are also so thankful for my parents who have been with the big girls for a week now. I don't know what we would do without them! Thankful for my inlaws that they were able to come here and give us some family support that we very much needed at the beginning of all of this. Thankful for the Ronald McDonald house and all of the wonderful things they provided for us this week. And last but certainly not least, I am so thankful for the amazing staff at NC Children's Hospital. The nurses and doctors of the NCCC and ENT teams were absolutely amazing. I am so relieved to close this chapter in our lives and begin our lives as a family of five!! God bless you all. This will certainly be a Merry Christmas for this family.’

The whole family is at home resting now and getting ready for the holidays, which is a huge relief and the best present I could have this holiday.

As for me- after nearly four months, fifteen rewritten chapters, 20k of new material, a changed ending and several rounds of beta notes incorporated, I’m happy to announce that I have finally FINALLY sent off the revision of FOSSEGRIM to the agent. And before the end of the world, at that!:) Whether she offers representation or not, this has been one hell of an experience!

That said, I’m happy to finally have #projectrevise&resubmit behind me for a little while so I can focus on the holidays and my family. I know my blogging presence has been sparse these last few months, to say the least, and I’m looking forward to finally being able to take up a normal schedule after the new year!

Until then, here’s wishing all of you a fantastic holiday! 

Merry Chrismas, Happy New Year and God Bless!


Monday, December 17, 2012

Just Katie

I don’t usually make a habit of talking about personal stuff on my blog, give-or-take a few anecdotes or life-changing events. But ever since Friday morning, the Creepy Query Girl hasn’t really been able to concentrate on anything other than the recent national tragedy and a personal struggle my younger sister and week-old niece are up against in the hospital right now. This weekend has left me drained of tears and energy, leaving behind a very tired, very fragile, me

Just Katie.

My younger sister gave birth by c-section to a beautiful 8lb 2oz baby girl, Kendall Reese on Tuesday morning. But in the night between Thursday and Friday, she informed everyone through facebook that a growth had been diagnosed in Kendall’s throat, which was making breathing and eating uncomfortable for her. She was taken by emergency-helicopter to a different hospital while my sister and her husband followed by ambulance. An ENT showed the tumor was a continuation of her tongue tissue and is wrapped around some of her vocal cords and esophagus. The first (and hopefully last) surgery is scheduled for today.

Then Friday night, France time, I read the very first facebook comment about the tragedies befalling Sandy Hook Elementary and began following coverage. I was born and raised in Connecticut, just visited there this summer, and the majority of friends and family on my personal facebook page live there. Some of them just minutes away from Newtown. Some of them knowing or having frequented the older victims in passing. It is a small world, after all. And I watched and cried with the rest of the nation as the details grew more devastating and unimaginable. 

The story made the headlining news here in France, as well. The sorrow in losing such young lives so senselessly is universal and many of my French friends and family are asking me difficult questions about how I feel: about the tragedy in my state, and our president, and especially about gun control in the U.S.- the 2nd amendment seeming forever foreign and unnecessary to the French. 

And the truth is, while I’m not sure what measures will be most effective or what the true debate here should be, I understand that all of the uprising of opinions and the pointing of fingers are coming from the same place

The cry for less guns, more guns, better mental health care, better preparation for schools and teachers...I know that all of these people raising their voices in debate, no matter what their stands, are reacting to the same deep, universal pain, sorrow, anger, and incomprehension residing in each and every one of us. We all feel the same things. And we all have different ways of showing it. Of coping. And seated even deeper than the pain and outrage, is compassion, empathy, and a desire to help others- in short, it’s love.  

And as long as it’s coming from a place of love, I will try to understand. I will not judge how others choose to cope during this difficult time, even if it differs greatly from my own. I’m choosing to stay tolerant and open and compassionate to every person on each side of the spectrum because I know that everyone is struggling to make sense of it all, in their own way. 

Today I’m praying hard for my baby niece, my sister and her family- praying that this first operation is successful so that baby Kendall won’t need anymore.  And I’m praying for the souls lost, the families and community left broken in the wake of this tragedy. And for the parents, children, and teachers of my nation who are facing a most difficult Monday morning- filled with grief and questions that may never have answers. 

God bless.


Monday, December 10, 2012

The Best Characters

It has begun, that most wonderful, magical time. The Christmas tree is up, favorite holiday movies out, and classic carols prepped on the Bluetooth from now until the long-awaited holiday. 
Of course, with all the Christmas cheer often comes the good, bad and the crazy of trying to put together the perfect holiday. Which is why, while watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation last night, the writer in me couldn’t help analysing the character of Clark W. Griswold. 

Some of the best characters, I think, are ones that a lot of us can identify with. And never has there been a more authentic or genuine portrayal of your stereotypical American over the holidays. With a high regard for all that is tradition and family, Clark holds an idealistic and morally sound vision of what the holidays should be, and does his best to make that vision a reality. 

However, when things don’t go his way, we catch unfiltered glimpses into his many facets; 

His deep distain for injustice.

Unwavering determination to finish what he started. 

Impulsive no-holds-barred language

And an inability to think straight when presented with a fine specimen of the opposite sex.

I like to think there's a little Clark W. Griswold in us all. In any case, Christmas Vacation definitely reminds me of my family Christmases growing up in the 80's.

Tell me, what are your favorite Christmas characters of all time? Are you more of a Grinch/Scrooge fan?  A Ralphie?  A Charlie Brown? ;)

Monday, December 3, 2012

The End of the Story

‘As for me,when I was finally back where I belonged, and as I looked into my husband’s smiling eyes, I finally understood what happily ever after could really mean.’

Me: *rolls eyes* ugh. Too sappy.

‘There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore. I am thawing.’

Me: Realistic resolution. But a little depressing.

‘His lips finally sear mine, more powerful than ever before. Wow. The solar system is finally in alignment, and I got my Do Over without even asking for it.’

Me: Not bad. Happily-ever-after with just the right amount of voice. Hmn...

‘In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.’

Me: Nice. But a little too philosophical for my taste.

See, I’m facing kind of a dilemma. One of the agent’s requests is that the ending of my story reflect the book’s ‘stand alone’ status. And, while I wrapped up all  the questions I could think of for my initial MC, the very last scene and the very last sentence of my book leaves the future of the secondary MC hanging.

Now, even though I do intend to present this back to the agent as a stand-alone novel, the truth is, I really, really don’t want to change that scene. Not because I envision writing more novels with these characters. But because I enjoy the excitement of letting the readers fill in the gap with their own imagination when it comes to this. Maybe our secondary character will turn Fossegrim. Maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll only turn long enough to heal from his injuries and then he’ll take measures to regain his humanity and go back to life as he knew it. We don’t really need to know. But it doesn’t hurt to wonder. And I feel like leaving those possibilities open will incite the reader to think about the book after they’ve put it down.  


Leaving a raging question at the end of a book does lead one to believe that others will follow. So, technically, it really should be changed. But no matter what I came up with during revisions, the ending just felt wrong. So I looked to my bookshelf to inspiration and was disgruntled to find very few books that were stand-alones. Today’s YA market is inundated with series (thus why the agent prefers an author try their hand at a stand-alone first).  

But finding that perfect balance of resolution, characterisation, and satisfaction has proved, well, absolutely flupping frustrating.

So, I ask you, my friends. When are some of the endings that leave you feeling satisfied as a reader? Do you prefer when everything is all wrapped up right down to how many kids the MC’s will have and what their dog is named, leaving no room for questions about their future?  Do you prefer vague endings, leaving some things open to the imagination? Realistic or happily-ever-after? And how do you think the ending of a book should change in regard to the genre? 

(The above quotes were taken from Kristan Higgan’s ‘One and Only’, Laurie Halse Anderson’s ‘Wintergirls’, Simone Elkeles ‘Perfect Chemistry’ and Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ respectively.) 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Common Writing Syndrome

Right now my house is suffering from a case of revision-provoked dirtyhousewrititis. So, today I will be folding, washing, and dusting my poor dwelling back to its pre-project state.

What's the worst thing you ever let slide when you were in the throws of a writing project?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ding Dong My Kindle is Dead

So, yesterday, I FINALLY finished the initial draft of edits for project Agent Revise & Resubmit.  These last two months of revision have been long and hard, with various interruptions and hair-pulling moments. So I can’t tell you how relieved I was to finally have the bulk of my efforts over with. Naturally, the first thing I did was contact a few beta readers in hopes of getting an outside take.

The second thing I did was look for my Kindle. Oh yes. I was oh-so-ready to enjoy one of the numerous books off my to-be-read list and get lost in somebody else’s story for a change. 

Alas, when I grabbed my kindle from its place on the bookshelf, I knew something was amiss. The screen was blocked on an audio book page I don’t remember opening and there was an overlaying message:

‘Collecting information.  May take a min.. Will restart when done.. Please wait..’

Those were- *sniff*- the last words my kindle ever uttered.

I tried CPR, mouth-to-mouth, and electric pads. 


My kindle wouldn’t reboot, turn on, charge, or change screens. And the computer wouldn’t even register anything was plugged into the usb. 

She totally flatlined.

I put out a cry for help on facebook and thankfully, my dear friend Dianne Salerni advised me to call kindle 911.

After trying everything the tech support advisor asked me to do, he regretfully declared my kindle ‘dead on arrival’.  And told me I’d have to package her up and send her through the valley of the shadows of death, all the way back to the Amazon Returns Center.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Since this is apparently a battery-charging defect issue, Amazon is sending me a replacement kindle, free of charge:) So, as much as I’m going to miss my ole’ ereader (we really have been through so many great stories together), all is not lost!

Have you ever had a problem with your kindle or ereader? Was your provider as helpful as you’d hoped? (In my case, I was totally flabbergasted when he told me they’d be sending a replacement.)

Thanksgiving Blues

So, this year’s Thanksgiving is going to be depressingly low-key. 
I say ‘depressingly’ because, in a country where Thanksgiving is just any other day, it’s difficult to be anything but low-key.

Truth is, I didn’t realize until now how much working in the French school system kept my American-holiday spirit alive every year. Explaining the history and traditions behind Halloween and Thanksgiving to hundreds of kids made me feel kind of like an Autumn Holiday Fairy, spreading the before-Christmas cheer wherever I went.  

My colleagues and students always enjoyed learning about Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday. Because it was so different from anything they have here. Their eyes would go wide when I told them we had a whole day dedicated to being thankful for what we have. (Not something that comes easily to the French:) Then we’d go around the room and offer up examples of things we were thankful for. We’d watch the Mayflower Voyagers as a class (I have a copy in French), and I’d show them the Macy’s Day Parade book with fold-out posters of the balloons over New York City. They’d ‘ooh and aah’ over the never-seen before pictures of spider man and snoopy floating amidst the sky scrapers and ask me if they’re ‘really that big?’  

They’d listen with mouths agape as I told them what’s involved in our annual feast, raising their hands whenever they thought something sounded ‘good’ or ‘gross’.  The little ones would make colourful hand-turkeys and the older kids would come to class later that week with stories about trying to make their first pumpkin pie with the recipe I handed out.

I feel like, in my own little way, I made the holiday real, not just for them, but for me, too. And being out of work this year, I’ve missed the build-up and excitement that comes from sharing Thanksgiving with people who know nothing about it. It was a really great feeling, and I hope to be able to do it again someday.

Until then, I’m thankful to be sharing the holiday with my own little family and for the little things. There may not be cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie filling at the grocery store, but there’s also no mad rush of people looking to buy last-minute ingredients, crowded parking lots or lines, or panic attacks over finding a turkey in time. So, I guess sometimes low-key isn’t so bad:)

I hope all of you back in the states have a wonderful holiday! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Playing Manuscript Jenga

So, this weekend was spent rewriting entire chunks of FOSSEGRIM for project agent revise & resubmit. And, while I’m still not an adept of all that is revision-love, I have to say it was kind of interesting to go back and actually change the direction of a manuscript. 

In this case, I needed to add a new plotline revealing more about my MC’s roots and who his parents were (Basically material I’d hoped to include in book II).

And the line begins about midway through the book and then needs to be woven in throughout the story until it gets its piece of the newly-written climax. This was not easy, and I still have a lot of clean-up to do once I’m done with the initial rewriting.  

My manuscript has jumped 17,500 words and 58 pages in the last six weeks, bringing my total close to 92k. Which is a lot, me thinks. So there’s going to have to be some scenes weighed and clipped.

This whole experience has me wondering- how do you structure your novels? I mean, there are so many things to take into account, like:

Sequence of events
Various Plotlines
Character Arcs
Relationships and Interactions
Important Revelations
Anti climax

And then you throw chapter marks and pacing into the mix, and it’s like trying to put together a very tricky recipe. You slip up on the temp, or the measurements of certain ingredients and the overall taste can be affected, tipping the whole dish too sweet, bitter, or spicy. 

How do you find that careful balance? 

I think a lot of my initial structure is based on ‘feeling’ as I’m reading through a draft. I get a pretty good notion (most of the time) as to which scene would flow well, where. And I usually write and organize my scenes with an outline (or several outlines) based on the themes above to try and keep things going in the right direction. 

However, now that I’m faced with a situation where I have to weave in, not only new material, but changed material, and a whole other point-of-view with its own arcs and revelations, I find myself spending a lot of time playing critical-scene jenga with my manuscript. 

My chapter breaks have flown out the window, because if I kept them as they were, I’d end up with some 6 page chapters and some 18 page chapters.  Finding a way to break off from the original story and move on with a different character without tripping up the pacing has been its own can of worms, too. And don’t get me started on the right-time-for-revelation hokey pokey. *sigh*

How do you go about structuring your novels and finding that careful balance?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh, How I Miss You!

Maybe it’s because the focus on blogging as a form of self-promotion has waned amidst publishing professionals. Or maybe it’s because newer, faster, easier forms of networking, like facebook and twitter, have gained in popularity.

In any case, the blogging community as a whole has felt the transition. We’re posting less often. Visiting and commenting less. Participating in less contests, bloghops, blogfests, and blog tours.

Do I miss the good ole’ days when I would hit up over fifty blogs a day? Keep my finger on the pulse of all that was happening in the writer/agent/publishing community through blogs and shared articles alone? Look forward to my favorite bloggers’ daily posts?

Of course! 

Those early months of blogging- when we were all building up our following and getting to know new and interesting people was a total blast!

But I don’t think the kind of time and work it takes to keep that up is feasible for most people on a long-term basis. Especially if you’re a writer. So, like many of you, I’ve cut back. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. Or that I don’t miss certain blogs that have had to cut back as well. 

Today, as part of the Oh, How I Miss You Blogfest hosted by Alex, Andrew and Matt, I’m highlighting (some of) the blogs and bloggers I miss the most, whether from their having to cut back or from my own lapse in bloggy participation.

Three bloggers whose postings I miss:

And three bloggers who are still fighting the good fight but who I’ve been missing due to my own lack of bloggy participation.*blushes* 
Know that you are loved and missed I will try to pop in more often, my friends!

Do you ever feel like you're missing out on some great blogs because of time constraints and cut-backs? Let them know you still think about them! You can check out the rest of today's participants here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tied to the Roof

Not much to report today. The hubs and kids are home (no school on Wednesdays in France. -Which is both a blessing and a curse). And running the kids to judo and CCD classes takes up most of the day. 

Therefore, my online-self is basically gagged and tied to the roof of our car as we accomplish most of the day’s errands.  (see above)

BUT, I will make it up to you on Friday, when I participate in the Oh, How I Miss You Blogfest, hosted by Andrew, Alex, and Matt

There’s still time to sign up so take a look:

The bloggers we really miss…
and the ones we would really miss! 

Do you have a couple blogger buddies who aren’t posting as often? Those who’ve pulled back and seem absent from the blogging world? Do you have blogger buddies you are grateful they are still around and would miss if they vanished? Now is your chance to show your appreciation and spotlight them!

On November 16, list one to three bloggers you really miss and one to three bloggers you would miss if they stopped blogging. Then go leave a comment on those blogs. 

Our blogger friends are special – time to let them know!

Hope you guys have a great rest of the week! I’ll see you on Friday!


Monday, November 12, 2012

I Call Foul!

I know that, as a writer, I’m supposed to have an undying reverence for all that is 
*cue backlighting and sparkles and choirs of angels*

Revision is where the magic happens, right? Where you take that undefined lump of clay that is your first draft and mold and carve it into a masterpiece.

Problem is, one run-through never provides the kind of glimmer and shine that will get a manuscript through the mill and out into the world.

Not even close.

There’s the first revision where you fix any major problems, obvious typos, plot holes, etc.

Then the second one, where you do all that again, but better and more in-depth.

Then there’s the third draft that comes from incorporating beta-reader notes.

And the fourth draft that comes from incorporating more beta-reader notes.

And then maybe a fifth draft that comes from incorporating agent notes.

And, if you’re lucky, maybe editor notes.

And copy-editor notes.


Revision is where the magic happens. Where writers prove their true grit. It’s something we all must aspire to revel in and adore.

Well, I call foul!

Revision isn’t magic. It’s work. And it blows goat cheese. 

I've tried. Really, I have. But sometimes I suspect writers as a whole try and make revisions sound a lot more fun than they are because, well, they're such a huge part of the writing process.

I admit, however, to being one of those unfortunate writers whose creativity caps out in the makings of that first draft- where characters surprise me and the story elates me and I can revel in that indescribable feeling of power and awe over the words I’ve pulled from the etherlands and put together to form something that didn’t exist only weeks ago.

Going back over those magical words, and realizing they kind of suck? So not as much fun, imo. Don’t get me wrong, big changes I can handle. I don’t mind writing new scenes and rewriting old ones. 

It’s the little things that drive me crazy. A character quirk here, an over-used expression there. The same word spelled wrong a million times. A slow in the pacing. A confusing feature that you can’t seem to explain right now matter how many angles you tackle it from. 

And spelling. And grammar. And punctuation. I want to stab them all in the eye. You think you’ve got something down pat, but then every person who reads it has a different way of doing things. Even books and websites disagree. 

And so you fix it, and you fix it, and you FIX IT! But it’s never right. You read the same scenes over and over until you wonder why you even wrote them to begin with. Changing just a few paragraphs feels like you’re walking through thick mud. Every word weighs heavier and heavier until you can barely lift your fingers off the keypad.

And you think, how in God’s name can anyone enjoy this? It’s absolute torture! 

Yet, I see other writers who get all excited about revisions. They post about their rewritten chapters, and their dropping word count, and their gleaming prose. And I sit back and scratch my head. Are they in denial?

Maybe something’s wrong with me. Never in my life have I woken up and said ‘Gee, I can’t wait to revise today!’  Of course I feel fabulous once it's done. Because, well, it's done.

But for me, revision's always been a necessary evil. 
Like bathing my children. 

I mean, am I weird? (don’t answer that) But am I the only writer out there who doesn’t think revision is a magical ride through musical valleys of accomplishment and glee? 

Is there anyone else out there who thinks it's one of the most tedious and laborious of activities of being a writer?

Monday, November 5, 2012

When Amazon Opens Up Shop...

When Barnes & Noble announced that they wouldn’t shelve books published by Amazon imprints (Createspace, Amazon Crossing AmazonEncore, Amazon NY, Thomas & Mercer, 47North, and Montlake Romance) the first thing I wondered was ‘What if Amazon opened up their own brick and mortar bookstores?’

Low and behold, Amazon did release press in February that they were developing their first physical bookshop in the Seattle area, but any further developments have been kept on the down-low.

I can't be the only one who's wondered how this development could affect B&N?

Let us ponder...

Amazon would have the heavy advantage of knowing what appeals to buyers in the selected area beforehand, based on online sales. 

They’d know what books and titles are selling well, who’s buying what, and how they should stock their shelves for maximum profit. Trial and error would be online-based and involve little room for physical financial loss- unlike what traditional publishers face with current brick and mortar booksellers every time they launch a new book into the world. So, not only would Amazon be able to serve customers the same (if not better targeted) stock as B&N, but they’d probably do so at a more competitive price.  

Not to mention the monopoly they would have over books published under the above Amazon imprints, - the ones that B&N simply refuses to sell on principle.

Years ago, Barnes & Noble and Borders swept across the nation, targeting areas where independent booksellers were already thriving. They opened up their bigger, more comfortable, cheaper bookshops and slowly squeezed the life out of independents and smaller chains like a some kind of death weed.

But Amazon’s online business continued to grow and thrive as more and more people turned to internet shopping. And it wasn’t long before their business began detracting from the power that was the brick and mortar. Borders paid the price when they couldn’t adapt fast enough (or enough in general) and B&N is currently struggling to maintain some sense of competition with the monster that is Amazon. 

But I have to wonder, will they be able to compete if Amazon ever decides to adapt the same business practices that B&N employed twenty years ago and invest in physical stores on a massive scale?

Not that I think Amazon will take this route. Truth is, they don’t really need physical bookshops to succeed and don’t seem to have an interest in become THE central bookstore chain of America. But if B&N doesn't stop trying to save their own business by blocking Amazon’s, I’m afraid it won’t leave them much of a choice.

Do you think/hope Amazon will somehow become the next big physical bookseller? If not, how are you hoping the tide will turn when it comes to B&N? Do you think that independents will rise to the forefront with the decline of the chainstore?  Or that B&N will somehow find a way thrive?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Some Library Love

On Wednesdays, while I wait for my kids to get out of their judo lessons, I decided it would be easier and more economical to stop at the public library instead of going all the way home.  I mean, there’s internet access. And a decent children’s department with toys and little bean-bag chairs and enough books to keep my kids occupied in between driving around (with the added bonus that they keep their shoes on and their coats close and can no longer trash the house in the 30 minutes we’re home between lessons). In fact, all this place really needs is a coffee machine and it would make a great second residence. 

Maybe it’s the smell of these musty books (don’t you love that smell?), or the Halloween weather (my library used to host an annual haunted house) but I find myself thinking about the little town public library where I grew up. 

Unlike a lot of the bigger, more modern libraries in the surrounding districts, Aldrich Public Library first opened its doors in 1896 and, while the main Victorian-style building has undergone various paint-jobs and renovations, the truth is it hasn’t changed much in the last 116 years. 

I loved this library. The structure was so old, with sharp angles and shadowy corners and that lovely  smell of old books. In the summer, I’d participate in all the reading contests; devouring whole series of The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High, and RL Stine’s Goosebumps. 

And when I was thirteen-years-old, I began working there (for free). I shelved books, organized the catalogue and prepped newly received books for service for about two years until I was old enough for a real ‘paying’ job and started working at our local video store. 

Throughout all that time, the place totally gave me the creeps.  And I totally LOVED it. The best part of this creepy old library was the creepy old librarian.  Actually, she wasn’t that old, if memory serves. But she was petite and soft-spoken, and had that haunted, never see the sun or change with the times look (long, dark 60’s style hair, powdery pale skin)- like she had just stepped out of a Jane Austin novel and would be totally out of place outside the late 19th century library dwelling. 

So tell me peeps, what do you love best about your local library?  Is it different from the library of your childhood? Do you get to spend any time there? And for all my East Coast friends and followers, I hope you stay warm and safe during the monster storm ahead.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wait- That Can Happen??

Maybe I’m naive. But I never really thought about the dangers of sharing one of my book ideas on the internet. To be honest, I don’t usually share ideas for my work-in-progresses. -Not because I’m wary, but because I never know if the idea will actually turn into a real book until the book is completely written. 

I do, however, often share pitches, queries and blurbs for my full manuscripts. Because, what are the chances that someone takes that information and writes a whole new book using the same premise? Or actually pitches that book? And gets an agent with that book before I do? Or an actual BOOK DEAL before I do, using that premise? After all, I’ve got a head start and have put my blood, sweat and tears into that book. No way could someone just come along and write a book from scratch using my premise and get to the finish line before me. Right?

I didn’t think the chances were that high. But apparently, it can happen!

I read this post over the weekend that had many writing bloggers shocked and appalled at a situation that arose when the author discussed a premise, outline, and partial manuscript with an online friend. The friend then cut off contact for awhile and when she re-appeared, it was with an agent and book deal in hand...using the original author’s premise and pitch! 

Holy Crap!

I mean, of course I’ve experienced idea envy. There were a few queries up for WriteOnCon that had me salivating at their premise, thinking ‘OH! Why couldn’t I have thought of that!’. But to then go on and write a whole new book using their premise and pitch it to agents would be theft, really.

In the situation above, it wasn’t a full manuscript in question but a pitch, unfinished partial, and discussion of the premise. Writers will write, and sometimes, especially if you’ve been in a rut, it can be tempting to jump on someone else’s idea if it finally gets you writing again. I think, though, if  you find yourself really really really inspired by someone else’s idea (like, it keeps you up at night and has characters talking to each other in your head) then you should, at least, approach the original author. 

Be Honest.

There’s no shame in asking.  Or just letting the author know with a ‘Hey! Your book idea really has my creative juices flowing and is keeping me up at night and is basically writing itself in my mind beyond all control. I may or may not write a book using the same idea, but in any case- I just wanted to be honest and let you know.’


‘If you ever decide not to go through with writing the book about _____, or are moving on with something else, or putting it on the back burner, please let me know because the idea has really taken hold in my mind and I’d like to write about it.’

There’s no need to put on your sneaky, devious, guilty pants and go behind a fellow author’s back. We are all in the same boat and struggling with the same things. This community is about support and even though we all want to climb out of the pit and into the light, stepping on a fellow writer in order to get closer to the top isn’t the way to do it.

What would you do if you found yourself with an all-consuming desire to write using someone else’s premise? Ignore the impulses and try to move on? Write the book as long as the creativity lasts but never pitch it? Would you tell the original author or just keep it to yourself?  Are you guys wary of sharing your book ideas on the internet before they’re written? What about after you have a full manuscript in hand?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Back to School Resolutions Revisited

Before the beginning of the school year, I wrote this post about my school year resolutions. Basically my back-to-school goals were to:

*File for French citizenship
*Find a job
*Finish writing and revising my current wip in time to start something new for nanowrimo
*And find an agent

Just to show how much some things can change in a month’s time, I decided to revisit this sad little list.

Filing for Citizenship.  I’m getting closer to this goal every day.  I completed the prerequisite French proficiency exam in Paris at the end of September and scored two levels higher than what was needed to pass (yay me!), which meant I could finally move on with the process. I’ve since sent out for all the necessary documents from back home and I’m really hoping to get the whole thing in before Christmas. 

Finding a Job. This goal, however, has been left to the backburner for the moment. Not a lot of employers are looking to hire someone who’s visibly pregnant. And, after working part-time for the last four years, I can’t imagine diving into a full-time position only a few months before baby arrives. As long as I’m still covered financially by unemployment, I am accepting the title of domestic consultant and grounds keeper (otherwise known as a stay-at-home-mom:).  And, of course, a full-time writer. Once my citizenship is squared away, I plan on enrolling in a teaching certification program and passing the exams to become a full-time English teacher here in France. (you have to be a member of the European Union to acquire teaching certification here. Which is why I need to get my citizenship done first.)

Finish writing and revising my current wip in time to start something new for nanowrimo. Yet another goal left to the backburner. But with good reason. I’m currently working on revisions on an older manuscript for ‘zee agent’.  And while I have no idea if this will lead to representation, I’m actually enjoying the process (gasp!).  In the last two weeks, I’ve added nearly 10k of new material and will soon be ready to attack the overhaul of the last half of the book, bringing in a new plot string and changing the ending.

Finding an Agent. Well, I guess you could stay I’m one step closer to this, even though there are no guarantees. I continue to send out queries for FOSSERIM and KISSING FOR COFFEE whenever I happen upon an agent who looks like they might correspond.  

What are some of your goals for this school year? Have any of you come any closer to reaching them in the last month and a half?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Stranger Than Fiction

Something a little different for you guys today. With Halloween right around the corner, I couldn’t help clicking on the link for ‘a creepy story’ when someone mentioned it on another forum.  I’m all about creepy and I was expecting ghosts or goblins. What I found, however, was much more terrifying and tragic: 

‘On August 2, 2011 our 19 year old daughter’s stalker made his presence known to her. He was a stranger stalker, he did his very best to never be seen, and never tried to directly communicate with Morgan. We don’t know how long he had been surveilling her before that date, but from then on all he did was to try his best to terrorize her.

On December 2nd she was found dead. Her death was declared a “mystery” by the investigating officers. Many mistakes were made and her family has been on a path to correct these mistakes.’  -

After her daughter’s death, Toni Ingram began blogging about the episodes that preceded the event. Her story is like something out of a suspense mystery, with surveillance footage revealing a hooded figure, the possibility of untraceable gps trackers, noises and tapping on the windows at all hours of the night and the following inability of the police to find any trace of the stalker, putting Toni and her family's mental health into question. Lurking in every scene is the ominous presence and looming fear of whoever was following Morgan’s every move. But it’s the reality of what this family went through that’s the true source of everyone’s goosebumps. 

Toni’s story brings to light the seriousness of stalking, the trauma it can inflict, and encourages more effective measures to be taken by law professionals. Thanks to her blog, the affair has received international attention and the sheriff’s department is keeping the case open. But several mysteries remain:

Who was stalking Morgan Ingram? And how did she really die? At first, the medico legal doctor declared natural causes. But just how does a healthy 20-year-old girl die of ‘natural causes’? After further prodding from the parents, a toxic amount of Amitriptyline (an anti-stress/depressant) was detected and the doctors then ruled it a suicide. 

But Morgan was never prescribed nor was she ever taking amitriptyline, according to her parents.

Did Morgan really kill herself in an attempt to end the day-to-day terror and paranoia that accompanied her stalking? Or did the stalker somehow manage to administer the drugs the night of December 2nd 2011 and put an end to his victim? I, along with so many others, am praying the family will someday have answers...

Until then, this story unfortunately remains stranger than fiction:(

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are Agents Still Worth It?

Let’s face it. Being in the query trenches...well, it sucks. Yup, that’s the word. It totally sucks. It’s time consuming and chuck full of highs and lows, (okay. mostly low low lows) rejection and disappointment.

And sometimes I wonder: why do I do this to myself? Why do I bother? I’ll never get an agent. Especially now that publishers are cutting down their lists, and agents are taking on less clients. And with all the options writers have today- an agent isn’t even essential anymore if you want to be published! So, why put myself through this torture?

Sometimes I feel naive, or pig-headed in my determination to find an agent. I wonder if I’m being old fashioned or that my quest could be detrimental to my career, especially when I see other self-pub authors coming out with two or three books a year and already making a living self-publishing. That could be me!- if I’d just give up the ghost and concentrate on making a self-pub career happen. 

 In today’s publishing climate, it’s true that agents, editors, and traditional publishing houses may be losing some of the power they once wielded. Authors can take things into their own hands now a’days and publish their books, however and whenever they want. They have the option of contracting out copyediting, formatting, and cover design or going it themselves. They can choose the price of their books, how much they want to market and what avenues they’ll use for such. 

And just like in traditional publishing, there are ‘break out’ novels and bestsellers, and authors who are able to gain a decent wage writing books, which is all any author can really hope for. So why bother with an agent at all?

I’ve heard it said that signing with an agent isn’t worth it anymore. And for some authors, this might be true. Why pay someone 15% of your profits when you can publish your books without their help? Why go traditional when you can earn a higher percentage of royalties through self-publishing?

Well, despite this logic, I’ve come to the conclusion that having an agent is worth it, especially after reading this post by Kristi Helvig, YA writer. 

And it’s not just because I hope to publish traditionally one day. Like most other writers out there, I’ve given self-publishing some serious thought. But after contemplating both sides of the coin, I feel that having an industry professional in my corner has so many more advantages than disadvantages. It’s what I want and it’s what I’ll continue to strive for, even if it means feeling like I’m voluntary wading through writer’s purgatory for a few more years (God, please don't be more than a few more years!:).  For those of you like me, determined to find an agent come hell or high water, please check out Kristi’s post. It definitely gave me food for thought and renewed motivation.

Does still being in the query trenches and looking for an agent ever make you feel like a boob?  If you've decided to jump start your career without an agent, do you think you'll still pursue an agent in the future for things like rights negotiation or a tradi contract?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Are Blog Tours Losing Their Promotional Power?

When I first started blogging three years ago, I witnessed firsthand the power of the blogosphere promotion

If you’ve been around as long as I have, you may remember the massive community machines that pushed books like Kiersten White’s PARANORMALCY, Elana Johnson’s POSSESSION, Beth Revis’ ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, and Lisa & Laura Roecker’s LIAR SOCIETY out into the world.

There were twitter wars, contests, vlogs, prizes, and blog hops galore and it seemed as though everyone and their mothers were a part of the festivities, all sincerely excited for the fellow blogger who made it into the big leagues. 

In just a few short years, however, self-publishing and small publishers have made book launches and releases so much more frequent! Instead of one book-release a month, or every few months, to support and celebrate: there are now several book launches throughout the blogosphere a week. 

More and more writers are taking the leap into self publishing. Small publishers are putting together their ebook releases a lot faster than traditional.  Established indie writers get a groove going and are able to come out with four, five, even six books a year! 

And, of course, we as a community want to offer support and positivity to those authors however we can. 

The problem is, the magnitude of book promotions happening every month makes it hard for any one book to really achieve the recognition it might have gotten three years ago. You know the old adage: ‘saying everyone’s special is another way of saying no one is’? Contests, free books, interviews, bloghops, etc…they may still spread the word, but I fear they’ve lost the originality and enticement they once held. Promotional posts are getting less and less comments. Contests are earning less entries. The buzz is feeling more and more forced.

We've got to face it- blog-blitz enthusiasm has wained:(

In the last year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that having everyone post about one book or the author all at the same time gets old for readers fairly fast. I don’t know about you, but when I’ve seen the blurb and the cover once, most often my mind is made up about whether it’s a book I’d like to read based on genre, premise, characters, and yes- if it’s a writer I’ve been following or an author I’m friends with, that definitely counts for something too! That said, I’m afraid the repetitiveness of the run-of-the-mill blog tour often defeats the point, since a reader is more likely to pass over blogs that are re-sharing the information or have the same theme as a million other blogs that week. 

So where does that leave authors hoping to promote their new releases? If blog tours are losing steam, how else can an author create a buzz? I’ve come up with a list of things I’ve seen working these last few months despite the recent decline in enthusiasm for ‘another new release’. 

* Cover reveals taking place on one major site, and only one site, with authors asking for a twitter, or facebook mention and prizes to be one. (like an arc;)

* Vlogs are still cool ways to promote, especially if they’re unique or funny. They aren’t over-done (yet) and it helps build a connection between the potential readers and the writer behind the book.

* Book trailers. I actually like seeing a book trailer for an upcoming release featured on a bunch of blogs at the same time, as long as the actual posts have a different theme (ie- don’t just focus on the trailer or the blurb for the book) I like to be surprised and have the choice about whether I click on the trailer or not, so it’s not the same as a regular blog tour promo. And having the actual posts differentiate makes the reader less likely to skip them over.

* On that note -Related bloghops with a fun theme still work, imo. Is your book about a character making a big-fat mistake and the consequences? Invite everyone to share their biggest 'oopsies' and how they overcame. Got a futuristic theme? Create a blog hop where everyone shares their dream-gadget. Setting a theme that relates to your book gives bloggers a chance to do what they do best, all while second-handedly promoting your new title. 

* Promoting your book only AFTER release. I’ve actually seen this work for a lot of authors recently. Instead of the buzz created before hand, it’s like BOOM! The book is HERE! Positive reviews speak so much louder than the blurb or cover or a bunch of people promoting your book weeks before hand. The option to BUY is already there, so it doesn’t get pushed to the back of the reader’s mind like ‘oh, yeah, I should think about ordering that when it comes out.’

Do you feel like blog tours are slowly losing their promotional power? What other forms of promotion would you recommend to modern-day authors? Author friends out there, what do you think has made the biggest difference in sales for you when it comes to promotion?  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Stage Fright!

So, I’m not officially signed up for Alex J.’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, but with the amount of posts dripping in self-doubt that splatter this blog,  I might as well be.

In Monday’s post, I announced I was going to dedicate this month to reworking a manuscript for an agent. 

Yesterday I took the first step toward revisions.

And froze.

Holy hopping hell hole! I could't help thinking -'It’s too much! I’ll never be able to make the changes and somehow mold this novel back into a coherent, well-paced, flowing story.' 

I feel like I’ve gift-wrapped a present and handed it over to someone who undid the paper, cut the ribbon and really liked what they found inside, at the heart of the gift.  But now they’re asking me rewrap the present in a new way, using the same crinkled paper along with a few new strips. And, at the same time, make the whole package gleam as though it was never opened at all. 


 I can’t help feeling like no matter how tirelessly I iron out the pieces, and try to match the old paper with the new, the wrinkles will still be there, marring the package as visible evidence of my total and complete inaptitude. 

Now, deep down I know this is ridiculousness- insecurity talking, pure and simple. Plenty of writers manage to do revisions and have a better, stronger, novel for it and I will too! Right? Right! *averts conviction-less gaze* 

It’s daunting, and painful and scary. But, despite all the emotional turmoil, I have a plan. And I’m going to follow it, one step at a time, and do my best (because that’s all we can really do, right?). 

As of right now, like many writers, I feel like my best will never be good enough.  But I guess the important thing is to keep trying, despite those feelings.

 I’ve always envied people who get passionate about revisions and feel comfortable and confident in their ability to make efficient changes in their work.  I, on the other hand, am the kind of writer who is constantly wondering if ‘I’m doing it right’. How do you feel when presented with revisions? Do they bring out your love of a challenge? Or do they place a direct call to Madame Insecurity?


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