Thursday, July 31, 2014

What's So Controversial about WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE?

When someone says the word “controversial,” my ears perk up. I rub my hands together and lean in so I don’t miss a word. I’ve never been a strict “rules follower” kind of person, which has gotten me into a fair bit of trouble over the years, so let’s just say I enjoy hearing stories about others like me.

Even as an adult, I despise rules that don’t make sense––rules that someone deemed necessary but aren’t really. For example, recently I was in a public bathroom and I saw the note, “Only one towel per person” taped to the hand towel dispenser. I was like, “Seriously? You’re going to dictate that?” So of course I took two. All right, three. But I wanted to take like 50, to show that unknown rule maker that she can’t boss me around. (Hopefully I’ll mature one day soon…)

So when you ask what’s controversial about my novel, “Wanted:  Dead or In Love,” my immediate answer is EVERYTHING. Starting with the main character, Monroe. She swears a lot, has been arrested three times in the past year, she makes snap decisions, and worst of all, she inadvertently starts falling for a guy who would make any parent scream, “He’s no good for you!” But my response is, “Hey, busybody. Monroe represents real girls who are confused about who to love and who make decisions without consulting their parents first.” And who’s to say Monroe’s decisions are wrong­­? They’re just different than ones her parents would make. (Okay, some decisions of hers might be wrong, but she’s under a lot of pressure.)

I expect there will be some (maybe even a lot) of readers who will get all “Barney Fife” over my book, bustling about in overblown indignation. After all, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow––downright nasty criminals from the 1930’s who were in love––come back to life, and they’re not necessarily typecast as “the bad guys.” No doubt about it, Bonnie and Clyde did a lot of horrific things in their day and were eventually gunned down for it by a posse of tough crime fighters called The Texas Rangers.

I’m not making excuses for Bonnie and Clyde––they deserved to have been stopped. I think what I tried to show is that most of us––Bonnie and Clyde included––are not solidly “all good” or “all bad.” Many of us make decisions that seem like a good idea at the time that later turn out to be not-so-great. Monroe has always lived by the motto, “You Only Live Once,” but when she faces the counterpart to that, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” she starts to reconsider. If she could do it all over again, she might say, “Yes, you are in charge of your own destiny. Just make sure it’s the destiny you really want.”

            That’s the thing with Monroe––sometimes she’s in too far to heed her own advice.

Tell me about your book, or a book you've read - what were you most worried about?

Kym Brunner
Wanted: Dead or in Love, Merit Press, May 2014
One Smart Cookie, Omnific Publishing, Spring 2014


Kym Brunner's method of creating a manuscript: write, procrastinate, sleep, repeat. She's addicted to Tazo chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she's not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time. She lives in Arlington Heights with her family and two trusty writing companions, a pair of Shih Tzus named Sophie and Kahlua. She's repped by Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pacing—adding intrigue to your writing by Lisa M. Basso

If you follow any agents, editors, or authors on blogs or social media, you’ll have heard about the importance of pacing—the speed and timing of your story. We’ve all had both positive and negative experiences with pacing while reading. Either the pacing has us flying through pages so fast our fingers are practically on fire, desperate to see how the conflict is resolved, or slogging through page after page of headdesk bashing boredom, waiting—begging— for something juicy to happen.

I won’t lie. My life is busy. Too busy to waste time on a book that’s slow (page after page with little to no character development, story, plot, or importance happening on the page). I’m the kind of reader that will put a book down if it isn’t engaging me somehow. And I know a lot of agents, editors, writers, and readers feel the same way. So, how to make your writing stand out? One way is to make sure your pacing is on point.

Good pacing doesn’t, by any means, translate to a non-stop action thrill-ride from beginning to end. No. We don’t want the entire book to keep the reader’s head spinning so fast they won’t remember what they read. Good pacing is speeding up, slowing down, and adjusting as needed. Now to the hard part, how to do this right.

Knowing when to speed up and slo-o-oow it down is something you can learn from re-reading some of your favorite books.

Pick up one of your favorites and read the first chapter. Be warned, I’m going to be using a lot of fish analogies. Because they work. And because sushi is amazing (and now I’m kind of desperate for a spicy tuna roll, but I’ll wait because I’m doing this post for you guys). The beginning of a book. This is the hook, ideally it should contain something intriguing, making you froth at the mouth for more. Hooks can be any pace you like, just remember, the beginning of the book is a first impression. Would you tell a complete stranger your life story the very first time you meet them? Probably not. So please don’t info-dump in your hook. Small bits of info are great, in fact, they can help increase pace by slipping them in here and there.

Now, read the next few chapters. I like to call this the momentum. Ideally, within the first few chapters, the writer has baited the hook with something delicious, something you—the awesome fish in this analogy—can’t wait to bite onto and ride to the surface. You should, hopefully, be learning the big problem that will want to propel you through the middle, toward the climax, and ultimately, the conclusion. What keeps you engaged while reading? Characters, story, plot—the ultimate trio. And pacing. If this part of the story all strolled along at the same pace, you risk boredom. To keep the reader engaged, something needs to kick up the pace.

Action, drama, mystery, intrigue, emotion—all of these things have the capability to increase the pace. Shorter sentences. Intense dialogue. Amped up heart rates. The threat of pain. Injury. Even death.

See what I mean?

Let’s move on. Keep reading. You should be near the middle of the book now. You’re introducing new characters or getting to know the ones you’ve met better, you’re learning what more about this big bad issue that the main character(s) needs to overcome, or you’re following them on their chosen path, knowing something bad is coming. All of these things are good, as long as you’re still on the hook, riding through these bumps in the water and not struggling desperately, wishing you never bit the hook to start with. This is because the pacing of the book is varied, increasing then slowing.

Here is where pacing gets really important. It’s time to start building momentum for the big climax. Usually the pacing leading up to the climax gets quicker, like a racecar. This is the moment to let your pacing skills to shine. Action, adventure, romance, whatever, as long as the tension is there and the conflict is resolved.

The resolution. The final place in the book to tie up all the loose ends. This becomes the perfect place to slow down. It’s your last opportunity to savor living in this world.

A few other examples of great moments to slow the pace down.
  • Romance. Yes, it’s no secret I lurve me some romance, but it’s best when there’s a build-up. A great way to do that is focus on feelings and details. Slow those seconds down. This is the perfect example of how slowing down can actually add tension.
  • An ah-ha moment. When your character uncovers something s/he didn’t know before. Your characters needs a few moments to process what they have learned, what this new information could lead to, and how it makes things worse—because these moments should almost always make things worse. ;)
  • Too-much, too quick. To take a breather during a quick-paced moment. Occasionally, the reader can get overwhelmed. This is when it becomes necessary to press pause and look around. Clarify the stakes, use this moment to find a way to raise them even further.
  • An injury. This could be physical or psychological. Nothing ever goes perfect. Someone’s bound to get hurt. Whether it’s your main character(s) or a secondary character, injuries are serious, even if it’s an injury of the heart. Show this emotion.


Whew. That was a boat-load of information. And, with any luck,  the author has left you, the reader, flopping on the deck—and hopefully threw you back in so you get do this over and over again with their next book.

Now that you have the building blocks to great pacing, I hope you guys are off to go pick up your pace. (Ah! See what I did there? Heh. Okay…yeah, I’m off to spicy tuna roll heaven).

Lisa M. Basso was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She is a lover of books, video games, animals, and baking (not baking with animals though). As a child she would crawl into worlds of her own creation and get lost for hours. Her love for YA fiction started with a simple school reading assignment: S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. When not reading or writing she can usually be found at home with The Best Husband that Ever Lived ™ and her two darling (and sometimes evil) cats, Kitties A and B.

You can also find her prowling the internet (when not writing)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TIP OF THE DAY: Stay Flexible by Kat Ross

I used to be obsessive about writing stories in order. I would start at Chapter One, Line One and plod my way through to the end, and if I got mired down, I would just tread water and force myself to put words on paper until I somehow got through it. Those times, which happened fairly often, were no fun at all. In fact, they really sucked the joy out of writing. I'm sure what came out was not my finest effort, either. But I had written two books that way and I knew it worked in the sense that it would get me to the end, even if it was sometimes utter misery.

I should note that I'm a plotter, so I know what's going to happen—in detail. I was just afraid to jump ahead because I worried that the story wouldn't flow right. But then I finally got tired of writing scenes just because they were next on my list, and starting writing whatever scene I was in the mood to write. The scene that was burning a hole in my brain and seemed like it would be SO much fun to jump straight into with both feet.

I only took the plunge about a month ago with my latest WIP, so it's an experiment in progress. I know that my first draft is going to be a lot messier than I'm used to. It will have more bits that need to be stitched together, and will need more polishing. But you know what? I'm having a great time. I'm looking forward to my writing time again, instead of procrastinating by any means necessary. And that's the ultimate point, right?

You probably have your own habits and rituals and systems to get you from point A (awesome idea) to point B (finished novel). Or maybe you're still learning—I certainly am. Habits and rituals and systems are totally necessary for what we do. But when they're broken or just not working the way they used to, don't be afraid to toss them out the window and try something different.

You can find Kat on Twitter and her website.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dear Author Dearest

Dear Author Dearest...

“I’m an aspiring author. I’ve finished my manuscript, but keep getting rejections. What do I do?
                 -Sincerely, Stuck in Query Land 

First of all, every author has received his or her share of rejections. Isn’t it nice to think even the greatest best-sellers were told… “Nope. Not good enough” at one point in their career? That always gave me hope. Just because Ms. Agent is being a picky-pants on the day she scanned your query doesn’t mean you should toss out your book baby.
Despite all the “stay positive” mumbo jumbo, it still stings when you get that form letter in the mail.

So…what do you do when you can’t hook the big fish agent?

In my experience it’s all about who you know. Now maybe that’s just me. Maybe there are a ton of authors who queried, agented, and sold, but that isn’t my story. 

I got picked up at a writer’s conference.

A writer’s conference can help in a ton of ways. First, it will put you face to face with agents/editors who can clue you in on why they think you're getting turned down. The other awesome thing about the conference is it will give you the opportunity to revisit and work on your query, synopsis, first ten pages, etc. It’s always nice to have fresh eyes review your work. Not to mention you might actually meet some pretty amazing people.

Hope my advice helps! Good luck, and keep writing.

Remember, this is actually the fun part. You have all the free time and creative license in the world right now. No deadlines, no redrafting the storyline. Enjoy the freedom of writing when you please. It’s never the same with the pressure of a deadline stressing you out… 

-- Jessica Therrien, author of Oppression (Children of the Gods #1) and Uprising (Children of the Gods #2)

Connect with Jessica Therrien

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Writing Space—Rebecca Taylor

For some writers, the place they go to in order to create is sacred to them. Maybe it’s a private office, maybe it’s a favorite coffee shop, or even propped up in bed. Wherever their space, it NEEDS to be that space, the same space—ALWAYS.

I get that.  Working in psychology, I know how powerful setting events can be with regards to prompting behaviors.

For me, I have always been able to read pretty much anywhere and under almost any conditions. Growing up in a chaotic household and now having one of my own, I have become something of a master at ‘tuning-out’ the external world.

Fortunately, I can usually do the same thing with my writing.

I do have a loft-space office in our home, but I will tell you that there is no door and it is used for pretty much everything except writing. I do revise there because the monitor screen is bigger and it’s easier to work on multiple documents at once.

But as far as the initial writing, I do it everywhere:

My backyard
In the car (when husband is driving)
Various coffee shops and restaurants
In my family room (sometimes during commercials when I’m watching a show)
In bed
In the bath (paper and pen propped on the side of the tub)
Airplanes and airports
Once, in line at Six Flags (paper and pen during a 60min line!)
On a bench at Six Flags while my kids are riding a rollercoaster I won’t
At the pool
At the beach
On the bus commuting to work
Etc, etc

I have two kids (11 and almost 10), I work full time as a school psychologist, and I am hell bent on creating a successful writing career. (as I personally define it J ) My life is busy, and fast, and highly prone to colossal interruptions.

And I love ALL of it.

I take my laptop (MacBookAir so it’s small) and a pen and notebook with me everywhere so that if and when a ‘writing-time opportunity’ presents itself, I’m prepared to take advantage.

It’s not a method that would work for everyone—but if it didn’t work for me, I probably wouldn’t ever write at all.