Friday, January 31, 2014

Darkly Delicious Details About How I Sold My Book! by Joshua David Bellin

I should begin by mentioning that my current agent, Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency, isn’t my first agent for Survival Colony Nine. I had another agent who seemed to really click with me (and my book), but the relationship fell apart once we started preparing the manuscript for submission. I don’t want to go into too gory details, but suffice it to say we didn’t share the same vision of the book or where it needed to go.

So I took a deep breath, crossed all my fingers and toes, terminated our contract, and went looking again. In the end, exiting that relationship was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, because Liza has been the book’s best advocate and got me a great deal with editor Karen Wojtyla of Margaret K. McElderry Books.

But that deal didn’t come without some last-minute anxiety! Liza had sent out the manuscript to a number of editors in late 2012, and though a couple had shown interest in the writing, they weren’t ready to make an offer. Then, in early 2013, I got an email from Liza telling me that Karen was going to bring Survival Colony Nine to an acquisitions meeting at McElderry. I freaked out, of course, only to be told that sometimes, even with a top editor’s support, books get turned down due to marketing concerns. That made me nervous, but Liza told me to relax and wait for word from her.

This was right before the weekend, and Liza was expecting to hear something--yea or nay--by Friday. But Friday afternoon came and went, and no word. Liza sent me an email saying she was sure we’d hear any minute, but by this time I was totally freaking out (and not in a good way). I asked about emailing Karen; Liza said that wasn’t proper etiquette and we’d just have to wait until Monday. So now I was TOTALLY freaking out, and advising my wife and kids to stay as far away from me as possible over the weekend!

But as it turns out, there was nothing to fear. Liza did email Karen, whose meeting had gone long and who hadn’t wanted to call us too late in the day or to send us the good news by email. From that point it was anticlimactic (though still terribly exciting): the offer was made and accepted, the contract drawn up and signed, and we turned to the business of publishing a book!

I have no idea if my case was more or less smooth, dramatic, or anxiety-ridden than other people’s. All I can say is I’m beyond thrilled that it worked out in the end!

For more information on Joshua and his books, click here.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dishing Secrets about the Children of the Gods Covers by Jessia Therrien

I'm lucky. Some authors don't get much of a choice when it comes to their covers. One of the coolest secrets about mine is that I had a hand in the design. Of course, I can't take all the credit...(more like 5% of the credit) but I did get to sit down with the CEO of ZOVA Books to discuss my ideas. We drew out a sketch, and although it wasn't exactly what we had in mind, the end result came out so much better than I could have ever imagined.

Oppression (Children of the Gods, #1)Uprising (Children of the Gods #2)
It's no question that the face on my covers is really what catches the eye.

Want to know a secret?

The model's name is Rowena Radings (aka the perfect Elyse). She’s very nice and has a whole portfolio of photos to share. For me, and anyone who has read my books, it's a lot of fun to see my main character in such a different light. It's almost as if she's real...

Wait. Maybe she is...maybe Rowena is a code name, and she's really a Descendant with the power to heal.

Or maybe not. I guess we'll never know. Some secrets must stay secret ;)

For more information on Jessica Therrien and her books, click here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rebecca Taylor’s Deep Dark Secret

Okay, so I’ll be honest, I struggled to come up with an answer for this post. How deep? How dark? And most importantly—how personal do you want to get Becky?

In the end, I decided to go with a secret that is actually relevant to what I’m doing here—writing. Also, since I’ve spent several years working with struggling students in special education, I think it’s a secret that, if shared, might actually be helpful to some aspiring writers out there who maybe don’t feel they themselves are exactly 100% amazing at some of the most basic skills necessary for writing.

So here it is—I am a mediocre speller.

And, actually, that might be giving myself too much credit.

Here is a sad truth; my ten-year-old daughter could spell better than me when she was eight.

My whole life, I have had a phobia about my spelling. It’s so bad that I hate with a passion having to handwrite anything (no spellchecker) in front of others. Greeting cards, white boards, personal letters, or grocery lists with someone, or many people, hovering over my shoulder?


People seem to often use your capacity for spelling as a benchmark for your entire knowledge base. As if this disability in my brain has something to do with my ability to grasp concepts great and small, pay attention to details, or organize my thoughts both spoken and written. Especially in publishing, of course.

If I ever have to give a big book signing (God willing) never mind public speaking­—misspelling the dedications in people’s books will be my biggest fear.

I mean, how bad will it look, me sitting there with a pocket dictionary looking up every other word? But for me, what would be even worse is someone going home and discovering that, “Geez, that Becky Taylor can’t spell ‘definetly’ right.”

It is especially difficult when it comes to editing my own work—I don’t often see the spelling problems. Thankfully, technology is pretty amazing and catches many, many things. But not everything. Over the years I have learned to compensate for this weakness by going over things repeatedly. REPEATEDLY.

But here is the thing—not being able to win a spelling bee does not mean a person can’t write. I know this because I have met plenty of people who are excellent spellers who can’t craft an entertaining story. Good spelling is one tool that helps communicate your thoughts clearly to your audience—one tool. Thankfully, if you realize this is a tool your brain is not equipped with, there are many options out there to help.

Thank you, thank you

Now, having said all of that, I wish I were a better speller. I wish that when my kids ask me how to spell a multisyllabic word I didn’t have to look it up almost every time. But here’s the thing, it turns out, that not being a very good speller comes in pretty handy when I’m in schools speaking to kids (especially when I was working with kids in special education.)

Lots of kids don’t feel they are good at many, many things—spelling is oftentimes one of them. Admitting to a child that you have a flaw (and let’s face it, I have many) is a pretty powerful point of connection to make with a kid who feels they: don’t read well; don’t write well; don’t remember well; don’t know math well; don’t (fill in the blank) well.

To be able to say to them, “Hey, I’m not perfect. There are many words I don’t spell right without trying really, really hard. But guess what—I write entire books anyway,” tells them it’s okay to have faults and those faults don’t have to stop you from doing the things you want.

Not unless you let them.

Know your strengths, play to those, and find ways to work with and overcome those things that are more difficult for you. If you want to do something in this world, go after it and realize that not a single one of us is perfect—especially not this writer.

For more information on Rebecca and her books, click here.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Teaser: A First Look at “Glitch” by Wendy Russo

On the spectrum of authors, I’m what is commonly referred to as a “plotter.” At the other end are the “pantsers.” I used to be one, and today I envy their word counts with my every breath. Years ago, I could spit out epic length novels in ten months. Now, I spend that much time writing down notes about characters and fragments of scenes to be stitched together later. Finally, after a year, I have the first 10,000 words complete on my current work-in-progress "Glitch," the first book of a paranormal series. I hope to have a complete first draft by this summer.

The scene below is part of chapter two. Micah’s scenes are told in 1st person POV, and present tense.

“Whaddya got?”
I keep my eye on the scope of the rifle. Trigger finger rests against the gun, above the trigger guard. Behind the crosshairs is the most beautiful animal I’ve ever seen in the wild.
“Strange stag,” I reply.
My dad asks, “How so?”
The old buck turns his head toward me and looks up across the water of the stream. Ears are wrong for a mule. Color is right for whitetail this time of year, but my gut says he’s not.
“He’s still got his fall rack. Thirteen points.” In April.
I’m a hunter. I have been since I could aim a rifle. Four years old, I was, or so my dad says. The memory is lost to me now, replaced by farm chores, gospel, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Filling in the spaces between are bits of trivia about deer that tells me this one doesn’t belong in my woods.
He dips his snout back toward the water and takes another drink. I adjust my aim once again to a spot behind his shoulder and watch his chest pulse with each breath. The woods around him are peaceful. He’s calm.
I raise my hand from the trigger and wrap my thumb around the bolt. Slowly, I swing it up, pull it back, and then push it forward. I lower my hand and wrap it back around the stock, returning my trigger finger to the guard. My lungs draw in a deep breath, which I hold for a long moment.
My parents have a picture of me with my first kill. I’m wearing an orange vest over my coat. My knees are pressed in the dirt. It’s cold. I can tell because my cheeks are pink and I have a knitted cap pulled down over my ears. In my left hand is a .22 bolt-action rifle. I still have it, that gun. It’s in a case under my bed. It’s just the right size for a child, and I hope to have one someday.
My father is kneeling next to me in the photo. His hand rests on my shoulder while I stroke the bloodied fur of the animal in my lap.
“Ready when you are,” my father says.
I exhale the breath in my lungs and move my finger to the trigger.
Through the scope, I see the stag lift his head. I’m too far away for him to have heard the dry fire, but he looks straight at me. He sniffs the air, then turns to his right and walks away.
I push myself up to my knees and sit back on my heels. Something hard taps my shoulder. Looking toward it, I see a scuffed silver flask. The cap is hanging by a chain over my father’s calloused fingers and I can smell alcohol.
Holding it out to the woods, I tell the stag, “Good day, Old Man.” The small sip I take goes down like liquid fire and I give the flask back. Dad nods at the woods as well before taking a drink. The flask goes into a zipped pocket of my dad’s backpack.
With my rifle in one hand, I take my dad’s hand with the other and let him pull me off the ground. I have an AR-15 slung around my shoulder, hanging on my left. It’s good for getting attention should I need to, and the .40 cal holstered on my right hip is for just-in-case a badger gives me no choice. In all my years up here, that’s never happened.
The AR and the .40 are loaded, but the rifle’s not. The freezer’s stocked and hunting season’s half a year away. I have ammo in my pack, but we’ll only need it if we have to shoot dinner, which does happen.
That picture, the one of me and my dad and the dead rabbit, hangs at eye level above my light switch. Every time I see it, I hear my father say, Never for sport, Micah. You shoot it. You eat it.
And my reply, he says, was, Thank you, Mr. Rabbit.
“Day’s-a-wastin’,” Dad says. “Whaddya say we get at that cave?”
I smile. “Yes, sir.”
I follow my dad into the cave.
Into darkness.
We know this cave well, having explored miles of subterranean caverns over the years. Once, we got caught in a snow storm and sheltered here for several days. My dad’s flashlight shining up ahead is all I need until I secure the rifle to its sling. Something is wrong.
With each step, the cave gets darker, the space around me stiller, until the world is pitch black and dead silent. I stop in my tracks and turn my head, first right, then left, before turning around in a circle. No flashlight. No daylight. No light at all.

(First Draft of a) Glitch Blurb: Ruby Sakai isn’t supposed to have friends over when her parents aren’t home, but when her almost-boyfriend, Micah Hartman, is taken out of her house in an ambulance, there’s no hiding that she broke the rule. She might even care about the trouble she’s in, if the doctors at their small town hospital knew what was wrong with Micah. As the hours roll by, she worries that he may not wake up at all. When he does wake up, the shy farm boy she’s fallen in love with is gone, replaced by someone who looks like him but is confident, even sexy, and ready to seize life for all it’s worth, starting with her. She buys into the new him. At first.

For more information about Wendy S. Russo, click here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hermione Granger: Seven Years of Deep Dark Secrets by Monica Ropal

Hermione, in all seven books of the Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling, remains one of my most favorite characters and part of one of my most favorite romances—Ron and Hermione—impressive considering that neither is the main character. All that we know of Ron and Hermione we learn through the eyes of Harry, either overtly understood, or observed and dismissed, leaving the reader to interpret.

Poor Hermione! Best friend to two boys and alienated by most of the Hogwarts population, there seems to be a lot that Hermione either blatantly lies about, or withholds, choosing to deal with on her own. I can hardly blame her. Some of her lies are to protect or help her friends or to gain a personal win, but many, I think, are to protect herself.

Below is a list of such lies or omissions by book. See if you can come up with more!

Book ONE: Hermione starts her string of deceits with a lie about a Troll.

Book TWO: Lies to the Nurse about the appropriate size of her teeth during a shrinking spell

Book THREE: Withhold info regarding Prof. Lupin. And then the whole Time Turner Fiasco. Poor Ron. I don’t think he still knows what happened that year.

Book FOUR: The whole International Quidditch Star thing. This is where we see Harry avoiding to sully his hands with anything having to do with Hermione and her personal life. He avoids asking, and she avoids telling.  Also hold back that she is holding reporter-turned-beetle hostage! And blackmailing her into silence. I mean she deserved it, but . . .

Book FIVE: Hermione is co-leader of a secret band of misfits. In retrospect there is holding back all through the book about her feelings for Ron. Just for Good Luck kiss? Really?

Book SIX:  Interferes with Keeper Tryouts then, despite the emotionally moving scene in the movie version, in the book doesn’t say a single word out loud to Harry about how she feels when Ron makes out with Lav in front of the whole common room.

Book SEVEN: Where do I start? By now the trio are bandits on the run. Again with the not divulging feelings involving Ron, and she puts a major memory charm on her parents. Which makes one wonder: Has she done it before? What parents would send her back after the danger that befalls the students each and every year she’s been there?  I mean, I would imagine Dumbledore would have to be writing a letter home each year. “It is my duty to inform you that your daughter Hermione sustained life threatening injuries AGAIN this year at Hogwarts . . . ”

To find out more about Monica and her books, click here.