Welcome! Please sit down, make yourself comfortable, and have a brownie or three...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tweets From The (Agent) Streets

Here are a few agent Twitter gems from the last half of April (as usual, I encourage you to follow agents on Twitter~ it's a great way to learn more about them):

EvanJGregory Evan Gregory (with Ethan Ellenberg Agency) by grimmlit (Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates)
Authors...queries...the ellipses abuse...must...stop...comprende? You know when you should use ellipses? ...never.

(*Jess cringes* But I love ellipses!)

ChrisRichman Chris Richman (with Upstart Crow Literary)
In other news, when you say you're looking for books for boys, sometimes you'll get submissions with the words "explosive boner" on page 1.

ChrisRichman Chris Richman
I can say this across the board, I think: I'm not interested in explosive boners.

ChrisRichman Chris Richman
Although, @MarthaMihalick, "EB," as it will henceforth be known, would be a pretty good name for a all-girl alt-punk rock band.

ChrisRichman Chris Richman
To clarify, and in case the author reads this and gets mad, the sample sounded mostly authentic, aside from the 1 poorly chosen phrase.

literaticat jennifer laughran
@HaleyWhitehall Have I mentioned that I truly hate, and never read, synopses? They make me want to take my own eyes out. (sent by Jennifer as a response to another tweeter in the #askagent hashtag)

literaticat jennifer laughran
@AmandaSanges Teasers are fine, a brief description is fine, but I don't like when ppl put whole chapters up. But THAT'S JUST ME. #askagent *
(*In reference to whether or not bloggers/aspiring authors should post a chapter of their current manuscript in case of lurking agents*)

sarahlapolla Sarah LaPolla (of Curtis Brown) by KOrtizzle (Kathleen Ortiz of Lowenstein Associates)
Parents writing YA: Even if you would never, ever let your child do a particular thing, sometimes your characters have to (and should).

The following tweet is from yesterday:
WeronikaJanczuk Weronika Janczuk (of D4EO Literary)
A call for manuscripts: http://bit.ly/lflaVt. Still *actively* looking for women's fiction, romance, lit fic, thrillers, + epic fantasies.

One more item:

Agent Irene Goodman is requesting Historical Fiction pitches~ winners will be offered representation. You have until July 1, 2011 to submit. Click HERE for more information. I know her agency takes YA, but I’m not sure if this opportunity includes it or not. I would think so, but read the fine print. Best of luck to anyone sending her a pitch!


On another note, today is my anniversary and I will be making the annual trip to the “fancy” grocery store for our evening meal (If I could get away with it, I wouldn’t hesitate to set up a tent and live in Whole Foods. It’s beautiful and I could live on the free samples). Any suggestions for recipes that include seafood and/or steak will be greatly appreciated!

The hubby and I thought about hopping over to England and crashing Will and Kate’s wedding, but decided to give them a year to settle into marriage. Maybe we’ll take a joint anniversary trip with the royals next year.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Help, There’s A Pirate In My Manuscript! Should I Abandon Ship?

I recently saw a commericial for the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides. It made me think of the first movie and how someone I thought was kind of a secondary character (or a co-star at most) absolutely stole the franchise. In the first movie, we were supposed to care about the love story between Elizabeth (played by the lovely Keira Knightly) and Will (played by the equally lovely Orlando Bloom).

Somehow, I thought the love story was the main plot (I should have known better—the movie features Jack so much). I thought Will was the the male lead, and Elizabeth was the female lead, with Jack Sparrow playing the foil to their more serious characters.

But I really didn’t care about those two much, because Jack Sparrow (pardon me, Captain Jack Sparrow) was so much more interesting. The franchise is, in fact, about Jack’s journeys, not some sappy love story. Jack is the star, which is one reason the story didn’t follow Elizabeth and Will to domestic bliss.

Have you ever had a character show up in your manuscript that tried to steal/pirate your plot away from you? This probably won’t bother you if you’re a Pantser, but Plotters tend to be more confused about such rogue characters. (Read this great post from Lisa Gail Green on Pantsers Vs. Plotters).

I had that happen recently, and I’m not quite sure what to do. I had a specific story and outline notes on paper, but this little beastie of a character keeps sticking his nose into everything. He’s become more fun to write about than the plot I had in mind. Do I give him a ration of authorial rum and tell him to go for it, or do I slap him on the wrist and tell him to get back in line and play his part? I’m just wondering what role the writer plays in being a disciplinarian to particularly cheeky characters. (Read this great post by Jen Daiker on Unleashing the Beast)

Being creative and going with the flow is a wonderful thing, but part of me is afraid it might lead to hanging onto a manuscript that no longer holds your heart. “I’m just going to see where this goes, and then I’ll get back to my outline” or “I’ll rewrite chapter five and six again to make this make sense” is fine and good and necessary, but what about the fourth or fifth time it happens? What happens when you’ve added 50,000 words of scenes to justify a few events by your clever pirate beastie and now your tight Lake Erie-sized manuscript has become the Pacific Ocean?

At some point, it might be best to accept that you may want to abandon the ship you first set sail on. There are worse things in writing than having to walk the plank with your pirate friend and swimming to a mysterious shore in the distance. You may have to start anew when you get there, with nothing but a soaken protagonist and a coconut tree for plot material. But you might be a bit happier.

And guess what? You’re more likely to find firm footing on an undiscovered island than on a sinking ship of a manuscript.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day (with a message from Spock)

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d post a photo of one of my reasons for hoping that we don’t forget to take care of this planet. Her Tinkerbell shirt has some blue and green, so it’s somewhat festive:

This is my Charlotte, age 2.

We kept a few pumpkin seeds from last year's crop and planted them inside~ we'll transplant them when it gets a little warmer outside. Here's her first attempt at gardening:

And here's to you, Mother Earth~ Live Long And Prosper!

(This is Charlotte as a baby~ she randomly flashed this sign and I caught it on camera. I don't even watch Star Trek, but I thought it was funny)

Have a wonderful weekend! Stay tuned next week for Pirate-Question Tuesday and another Agent Tweet Friday to round out the month!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Chat With Roald Dahl, Part Three

Oh, Roald Dahl (1916-1990), how do I love thee? Let me count the ways/posts. One, two…this is my third post (click for Post 1 and Post 2) dedicated to interview questions and answers found in the back of my copy of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More .

*Yes, I’ve posted this photo before—it’s Mr. Dahl in his inner sanctum.

Since writing the first two posts, I’ve heard more than one agent mention the difficulty of defining the “voice” of a novel. They say that “voice” is not your protagonist’s tone or dialogue patterns, but rather the word choice and word order and something special about the novel’s delivery that makes it distinctive and gives it AUTHORITY. I never feel safer as a reader than when I’m curled up with Roald Dahl and a cup of hot something (coffee, hot chocolate, soup). I immediately feel as though I'm in the hands of a master storyteller and fall submissive to his role as Narrator.

But enough slobbering and blubbering like the fan I am.

The interview was conducted in 1988 by a family friend. Not too many people were allowed to come into his inner sanctum, especially not people from the media. Dahl himself said, “I have worked all my life in a small hut up in our orchard. It is a quiet private place, and no one has been permitted to pry in there.”

Question from Todd McCormack: What is your work routine?

Answer from Roald Dahl: My work routine is very simple and it’s always been so for the last 45 years. The great thing, of course, is never to work too long at a stretch, because after about two hours you are not at your highest peak of concentration, so you have to stop. Some writers choose certain times to write, others choose other times, and it suits me to start rather late. I start at 10 o’clock and I stop at 12. Always. However well I’m going, I will stay there until 12, even if I’m a bit stuck. You have to keep your bottom on the chair and stick it out. Otherwise, if you start getting in the habit of walking away, you’ll never get it done.

I love that even Roald Dahl talked about the importance of butt-in-chair :)

The next segment with Roald Dahl will include his method of creating interesting characters and his thoughts on the subject of chocolate.

Click HERE to read a GalleyCat article about Roald Dahl’s words being distributed on cereal boxes in the UK!

HERE is a link to his official website.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Contests And Mid-Month Agent Tweets

I'm sure many of you have already entered the cool contests floating around the blogosphere, but here's a reminder about two great ones:

Agent Pitch Contest on Yatopia: Judged by agent Natalie Fischer, this is a two-sentence pitch that will close at 150 entries (there were already 80 or entries as of 7:00 am Monday morning) or April 21.

Agent Pitch and Page Contest on Ebysswriter: a 140-character pitch and your first 250 words. Contest ends April 17. The judge is the incredible agent Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch!!! And this is a big plus for those of us still working on a WIP—your manuscript DOES NOT HAVE TO BE FINISHED for this contest! *NOW CLOSED*

OH, AND BY THE WAY~Ms.. Panettieri tweeted (ginapanettieri) this in reference to the contest, which already had several entries by mid-Tuesday: @ebyss That's great! This is really drawing some quality work and I know some editors will definitely be checking it out!

~ ~
And now, here are some fun/informative Agent Tweets from the month of April so far:

SarahGreenhouse Sarah Davies

A tip for today. Avoid using major brand names in your ms. Trademarks tend to be guarded by very litigious attorneys; don't mess with them.

Natalie_Fischer Natalie M. Fischer

Seriously. ANSWER damn questions you start in a novel. >:( (knows I'm probably freaking ppl out, lol)

MoWritersGuild (tweeted by a rep of the MO Writers Guild Conference)

Agent Kristin Nelson loves great writing but she'd love a middle grade novel for boys. #MoWritersGuild
**I'm sure that's not supposed to indicate that MG novels for boys aren't well-written, it was just kind of phrased that way :) **

tehawesomersace RT by ElanaRoth

Okay Twitter, looking for dystopian stories featuring people of color and not by Octavia Butler. Go!

StaciaDecker Stacia Decker

If you reference my age in your query letter, you've pretty much already pissed me off.

kate_mckean Kate McKean (this was retweeted by several agents too!)

You must resist all urges to turn your diaries into a novel.

MarleneStringer Marlene Stringer

Using "gonna" in your Q might not be the best word choice to demonstrate your writing skill.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Deadlines: A Double-Edged Sword

“I hate writing. I love having written.” ~Dorothy Parker
(Photo of Dorothy Parker at her typewriter, 1937)

I used to enjoy running--in graduate school I would go to the gym during cold months and get extreme satisfaction by running 6 miles on a treadmill. Did I ever really want to? Of course not—I'm not that kind of person. By "enjoy running" I mean the results, not the action of running for an hour and getting nowhere. It wasn’t pleasant to have people gawk at the unique maroon color my face became after a certain amount of exertion. I never actually liked riding my bicycle in the icy slush to the gym. But I was always proud of myself afterward. Of course, that phase only lasted a few months--until I got a social life, but it was a good exercise in discipline.

Now writing is different. I actually DO enjoy creating a story in my mind, hearing the characters' dialogue in my mind, and rushing to a computer to record my thoughts when a plot twist occurs to the little voice in my head ("oh, he's actually her Grandfather??? And he's gonna leave her a bunch of money if she refuses to enter the Army/Yale/Roller Derby??? Why didn't you tell me that sooner!"). I love the feeling when my fingers are flying off the keyboard and I can't type the scene fast enough.

It was only when I became serious about finishing a manuscript and started setting deadlines that it stopped being fun all the time. Sure, I KNOW that I'll feel good afterward, but it's extremely easy to be undisciplined when there are a million other things to do—like laundry, like grocery shopping, like unloading the dishwasher, like changing diapers and making snacks (pesky kids—always bugging you for attention)—that are necessary. With only a limited amount of free time, it's easy to make the excuse that because my writing time isn't bringing in money, it's expendable. Plus, who doesn’t like making “ants on a log” for kiddies?? Come on, people, it’s good stuff.

Not to mention that fact that if you do get BIC (Butt-In-Chair), the internet awaits, daring you to browse around a little, which leads to browsing more, which could lead to you learning new and exciting things about Lindsay Lohan's latest court dates, but little in terms of your manuscript's development.

Deadlines can be a double-edged sword for the unpublished writer—they make you think of writing as a job which increases your discipline, but, then again, they make you think of writing as a job (and let's face it, a job is called "work" for a reason--it's not always a choice and it's not always fun).

Increasingly, articles are saying that this line of thinking is necessary for unpublished writers--if you don't think of writing as a career, nobody else will ever think of it as your career. It's a hard claim to make for many humble beginners, but taking yourself seriously is a major step in your growth as a writer. Plus, once you do get published, the ability to keep a deadline is extremely important. Might as well get some practice!

Do you keep deadlines for yourself? Whether it's writing 500 words a day, 2,000 a week, or 50,000 in a month (for you crazy folks who crank it out for National Novel Writing Month), the importance of making and keeping a writing schedule is more important than you might think.

While I certainly don't LOVE deadlines, I definitely appreciate them and get satisfaction by keeping them. And I'm grateful that I don't have to ride my bike through icy slush to get to my computer.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cool Contest and One Announcement

Happy Friday~ Just a couple of things...

SPRING CONTEST- Disgruntled Bear- Enter by April 15 Disgruntled Bear is hosting an "awesome line" contest. The winner will receive an in-depth critique of his/her query letter AND the first 10 pages of his/her fiction manuscript.

This contest is too fun to pass up, so click HERE for details!

QUERY HIATUS- Kathleen Ortiz Lovely agent Kathleen Ortiz of Lowensten Associates is taking a query hiatus, effective yesterday. She plans to open at some point during the summer. See her post HERE.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Query Opportunity!!!

Hi all, I usually don't post on Wednesdays, but thought some of you might want to take advantage of a cool opportunity. Check out this Tweet from agent Louise Fury of Lori Perkins Agency:

-Louise Fury I'm closed to unsolicited submissions,but will be taking submissions from writers who comment tomorrow-

Which means TODAY~ THURSDAY!!


*By the way, part of the interview states that she'll accept the queries + 5 pages TODAY only!!! I'm not sure if that means you just have to comment today, or if you have to send the query today, so read the fine print!

Bitten By Books is holding an interview with Louise on April 7 (TODAY) and commenters will be open to querying her afterward. Since she's currently closed to submissions, this is a wicked awesome (yes, I typed that) chance to get in touch with an amazing agent.

She's looking for lots of stuff (MG, YA, romance, horror), and will probably mention her most up-to-date preferences in the interview.

A few links: Agent Spotlight, Louise Fury: Literary Rambles

Agency Website: Lori Perkins Agency

Agent Blog: Louise Fury's Blog

Best of luck to anyone who takes advantage :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Smells Like A Novel~ Writing With The Five Senses

Several months ago, I read an interview with an author I can’t remember (great intro, right?...keep a'reading, the point is coming up).

BUT, I remember what she had to say about writing descriptions, which is something I’ve struggled with over the years, either overdoing it with too many adjectives/flowery language or writing too sparsely to place the reader into the scene—i.e., “It was Tuesday. It was hot.”

I happen to love food and cooking, so I enjoy reading scenes that reside around a dinner table or café. I find myself slightly disappointed when a specific food is mentioned, but not described. I want to hear the crunch of the lettuce and red onion slices in a salad, feel the creamy mashed potatoes pressed against the roof of my mouth, smell the delicious aroma of garlic, marinara, and basil melding with mozzarella and parmesan, and see the perfect symmetry of a well-laid raspberry tart.

I’m gonna stop with the food angle because it’s making me hungry (and don’t worry—I would never serve mashed potatoes with lasagna). The point is (YAY—here it is!), you can do the five senses thing in ANY scenario in your novel and leave your reader with a more satiable read.

Was your main character caught in a random summer thunderstorm? If so, describe the smell of fresh water on hot concrete. And what does it taste like when a drop hits his face and drips on his lips and tongue?

Are a bunch of kids sitting in the school classroom during your scene? Maybe it smells like adolescent B.O. and the teacher’s reeking cologne-of-the-week.

What does it sound like when your character is at a girlfriend’s house, waiting for her parents to confront him about staying out late with their daughter? Perhaps there’s a low hum from the ceiling fan and the sound of Jeopardy is in the background. Is the couch stained and stiff in spots from old spills?

These things all help to set your reader firmly into the your story; they get the reader involved (“Hey—that’s totally what rain smells like!” or “Oh my God, that reminds me of the school locker room that smelled like dirty shinguards and stale pee!”). There's such a thing as overdoing it, so use a little restraint and make sure you don't go on for pages about the food on the table instead of the conversation or the suspicious dude at the next table who wants to kill your protagonist (Mary Kole did a great post HERE on the topic of focus and description issues).

So without further ado, I give you… The Traditional Five Senses (a classification attributed to Aristotle)-






Take a look at these, check your manuscripts for scenes that can take a little plumping, and have at it. Even if the taste of rubber in your eraser-chewing protagonist’s mouth doesn’t make the final cut, thinking about this stuff helps put you, the author, in the scene as well. Which is exactly where you should be...unless you’re in the kitchen making lasagna and mashed potatoes.

*There's a list of related links on the top right of this blog*

**By the way, my lovely blogging friend Beth (Of Muses and Meringues) has fantastic posts about her global travels, the people and places she’s seen, and FOOD.

The woman is an incredible baker and loves it so much that she gave up baking for Lent~ an enormous sacrifice in her case. Her post on Sunday was regarding food in literature (click HERE) and that's why I reposted one of my older musings that touched on same topic (or at least mentioned food descriptions). My post today was originally written last autumn.**

Friday, April 1, 2011

On High Alert

This April Fools Day, I'm on high alert. My teenager pulled a good one last year and has promised that we're in for more fun sometime today.

You know how some sinks have a spray nozzle on the side? Our does, and our sweet 15-year-old secretly got up at an ungodly hour (for her~6:00 AM or so) and, leaving the water off, secured a rubber band around the pressy button thing (technical term). Then she strategically aimed it toward the average sink user. Can you guess what happened? Have I mentioned that we get great water pressure?

I'm usually the first one using the sink in the morning and, sure enough, I came along to be the first fool of the day. Nothing says good morning like a blast of cold water to the neck. I like to think I took it well. I kept fairly quiet and did what any good wife would do.

I set the thing up again to get my husband too. But the kicker? My husband didn't use the sink until about 11:00 in the morning. In between that time, I fell for the rogue sprayer trick three more times. Three. And I was the one who reset the stupid thing!

Bottom line: If you don't mind a little water on the kitchen floor, I highly recommend this April Fools prank.

Kudos to my stepdaughter Quincy for her initiative. I just hope she enjoys her donut filled with ketchup this morning :)

**By the way, all those creepy little toads are images I had to insert in order to get paragraph breaks into this post. I'm having space issues too, as you can see..Blogger doesn't like me this morning.** And now, because this is a children's lit blog, I give you a poem by the incomparable Shel Silverstein:

Oh have you heard it's time for vaccinations?
I think someone put salt into your tea.
They're giving us eleven-months vacations.
And Florida has sunk into the sea.

Oh have you heard the President has measles?
The principal has just burned down the school.
Your hair is full of ants and purple weasels—