Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

This Week's Topic:
What was the best book you read in March? 
Road Trip Song of the Week:
(because I'm pure evil and if this song got stuck in my head I shall make sure it's in yours too!)
"I Like it Like That" by Hot Chelle Rae

I'm going to have to go with a book I haven't technically finished - but I'm one train ride to and from work away from "the end", and tomorrow is still March, so I'm going to count it. I won it on Larissa's blog and actually just started reading it yesterday, but it's a really fast read :) 

It's one of those books that isn't breaking any new territory, and doesn't make you think terribly hard to see where things are going, but it's still a great story and keeps me turning the pages. And it made me realize something - a book doesn't have to have a mind-boggling, never-been-seen-before concept or style or "something" to be a great book. I keep seeing really cool ideas get shot down because they aren't unique enough or they sound too familiar. But MATCHED proves that "uniqueness" isn't really as important as having a great story, one that people are drawn to and want to follow until the end. 

And you know, sometimes it's nice to pick up a book that doesn't seem so concerned with doing something "new" or "different". MATCHED (so far - but I'm alllmoostt done) is a dystopian romance with a typical love triangle and a very familiar future "feel" to it. Nothing new there. But the story itself belongs to the characters, and even if they might be a bit stereotypical, they're still unique. It's like settling down to watch a romantic comedy - you pretty much know what you're signing up for and if you like romcoms, then chances are you're going to like this one. 

What was the best book you read in March?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend Progress Report

You might have been wondering where I've been lately. It's true - I haven't been posting as regularly, and that will continue through next week. But, there's a good reason: I'm preparing for the A to Z blogging challenge starting April 1st. So prepare to be dazzled, or at least to have what I hope will be an interesting writing/reading-related blog post to look forward to every day!

 Other than preparing blog posts, I also got some story writing time in last week too. And although I didn't want to start anything new until I'd finished my current project, I got an idea which wouldn't let go until I'd done some outlining, research, and drafting. I love the rush of a those first few thousand words on a shiny new idea :)

The DAUGHTER OF THE MOON sequel did get a bit neglected due to shiny new idea, but I managed to get a couple of chapters in. Here's where we're at (getting dangerously close to the halfway mark!):

23990 / 50000 (47.98%)

What about you? What reading/writing progress did you make this week?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bologna Recap

Yesterday was the last day of the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy. The book fair was a place where publishing professionals met up to buy and sell copyright and to discuss the latest trends.

The fair isn't a place for aspiring authors. It isn't even a place for published authors, unless they're invited. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything for us to learn from it! I followed the #Bologna12 twitter hashtag over the past few days and wanted to share the more exciting information revealed by agents and editors.

1) Trends in Young Adult ("melty" romance, fractured fairy tales, thrillers)

Wanted - 'melty' romance at heart of YA. Melty is our new go-to word. Make us melt! 

Shelley Watters  @Shelley_Watters
Hey, look at that! :D RT   tendwatch part 2: people want fairy tale retellings. And again, want more ya thrillers.

My fave pitches of the day: "It's like Jason Bourne for teenagers. In the future. In space." and "Faeries...with benefits." 

2) Middle Grade is picking up steam, in a big way:

A LOT of folks seeking Middle Grade! Quality but great premise.#Bologna12

 trendwatch, part1: the uk wants middle grade more than in previous years. As do other markets.

 was a great fair in a beautiful city. Many left our table w/a big reading list! Delighted to see the shift to Middle Grade books.

And then there was this (yikes!):

To the authors who keep wandering the agents centre looking for representation--approaching agents at  isn't the way to do it.

So if you are currently writing (or querying) a melty YA romance, YA thriller, YA fractured fairy tale, or anything MG - this is your time :)

The next big fair for publishing is the London Book Fair from April 16th - 18th. It will be interesting to see if the trends from the Bologna book fair are confirmed or if new ones emerge.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Public Slushpile

I was one of the lucky few to be chosen by the Bot for the Public Slushpile going on over at Miss Snark's First Victim! This means that my query for DAUGHTER OF THE MOON is posted HERE and you are all invited to head over and evaluate it :) Here are the rules (taken from Authoress' blog):

  • Each comment needs to begin with YES or NO, followed by one sentence (one!) explaining why.
  • One comment per reader.
  • Comments that do not begin with YES or NO will not be included in the final tally.
  • The 5 queries with the most YES responses will be invited to submit their first 500 words for critique.
As for your "yes" and "no" reasons:  Try to encapsulate the main strong or weak point of the query into your sentence so that it is as helpful as possible to the author.

NO.  I could not determine what the main conflict of your protagonist is.

YES.  You've taken a tried-and-true premise and given it a unique twist that makes me want to read more.

NO.  Your main character's name reminds me of my ex-husband.

YES.  Wow! Awesome! I read this before and I've also line-edited your manuscript twice, as you know (hee hee!), so of COURSE you also already know that THIS QUERY ROCKS and you're the BESTEST!

Have fun! Voting will be open until 9:00 am EDT on Thursday.  Winners will be announced later that morning.

I hope you'll all head over and participate :) And if your query made it into the slushpile too, let us know which is yours in the comments!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Exercising the Right Brain

Yesterday's post led me into some information about how to stimulate the right brain. As a writer, it is important to use both sides of the brain to their fullest potential. The left brain is responsible for language, logic, keeping track of details, and organization. All of these things are crucial to a coherent story. But, those things don't add up to an amazing story. Creativity is needed for that. And that's where the right brain comes into play.

The problem is, our society places higher importance on the left brain than the right. So our left brain is constantly being exercised and growing (not literally), while our right brain my not be getting the attention it deserves.

In the video below, author Whitney Ferre talks about her book "The Artist Within: A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit" and her Creatively Fit Program. The program's goal is to develop right brain thinking so that our left and right hemispheres operate in perfect balance.

I found her comments about "setting the mood" for the right brain to be particularly interesting. If lighting a scented candle or incense, listening to music (or practicing an instrument), or even placing a bouquet of fresh flowers on my desk before I start writing could help my creative process, then I'm all for it! And when I think about it, I have noticed that I'm particularly inspired to write after going to the theater or opera or visiting an art gallery.

Do you do anything to stimulate your right brain before you start writing (painting, drawing, listening to or creating music, singing)? Or while you write (filling your writing space with art, lighting candles or incense, placing fresh flowers or plants on your writing desk)?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Right Brain, Left Brain

Today I read about research where the brain was studied while subjects wrote using a computer versus using a pen and paper. Significantly different parts of the brain were triggered when writing by hand versus typing. 

This makes sense to me. Writing by hand requires a different skillset than typing does and I can understand that different instructions might be stored in different sections of the brain. But the researchers took that into consideration too and the differences were still too large to be explained by motor skill differences alone. It was concluded that we think in a significantly different way when typing versus when writing by hand.

I never really considered this possibility. I do nearly all of my outlining by hand and nearly all of my writing on the computer. And now I'm wondering if I'm maybe not reaching my full creative potential. I think I'll try writing the same scene by hand one day, and on the computer the next, to see if I make connections or associations using one method of writing which I didn't make using the other method. I don't know if it will end up being beneficial, but it's certainly an interesting idea.

What about you? Do you do all of your writing by hand? On the computer? Or do you use a mixture of the two methods?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend Progress Report

This week I won a 50 page critique as part of Larissa's 200 follower giveaway. I also received critiques from my Scribophile friends on the first two chapters of the DAUGHTER OF THE MOON sequel I've been working on. So, this weekend I worked on revisions for the first two chapters and prepared the first 50 pages for Larissa. I'm really excited to hear what she thinks and to receive her critique :)

Also, I started reading Stephenie Meyer's, THE HOST. I had started it awhile back but never finished it and I'm looking forward to getting back into it - so far, the story completely has me hooked!

My goal for next week is to make some actual progress on the unwritten chapters of my DAUGHTER OF THE MOON sequel WiP. So hopefully I'll have an updated word count for you next weekend :)

What reading/writing progress have you made this week?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

YA novels set in Ireland

Happy St. Patrick's Day! In the spirit of the holiday, here are a few YA books set in Ireland. Have you read any of them? What do you think about reading books set in another country in general? I don't really mind where my books are set, as long as I can connect with the characters and understand the setting, but I've read that a lot of readers prefer to read books set in the country they are from or live in.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Query Time!

I've been working on getting my Agent Tracker Spreadsheet updated so I'm strategically ready to send out queries for DAUGHTER OF THE MOON. I thought I'd share my process with you and ask the writers out there about your processes as well.

1) Create the spreadsheet template:

2) Find the agents to fill in the list. I've compiled my list based on information from The Agent Spotlight at Literary Rambles, checking my favorite author blogs/websites to see who represents them, using lists of agents who participate in blog and Twitter pitch contests like the ones on Miss Snark's First Victim (contests are a really great way to see what sort of material the agents are interested in), and Agent Query. Then, once I have my list, I check the Bewares, Recommendations, and Background Check Forum on Absolute Write to see what sort of information about the agents comes up. I try to fill up the list with at least 50 agents.

3) Now that I have my list, I check the official website for each agent and copy their submission guidelines, average response time, and what they are looking for into my spreadsheet. I also paste their website into the "Additional Info" column.

4) After this, I do some in depth research on each agent. I check to see if they have a blog, twitter account, or recent interviews. I use these resources to find the most up-to-date info on what the agent is looking for and what their personal tastes are. If I can find a list of their favorite books at the moment, and my manuscript is comparable in some way to one of those books, perfect! I'll mention this in the query. Any of this sort of information which will help me to personalize the query will go into the "additional info" column.

5) I send out queries in batches of 10. I have an idea of which agents are my "dream agents" and I don't include all of them in a single go. I like to stratify the batches accordingly and wait for feedback on the first batch (just in case my query is bombing out there) before I send out another. If I don't receive a single positive response, then I might tweak my query before I send out the next batch.

That's it! How does your process compare? Is there anything you would do differently?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I've been Tagged! Lucky 7 MEME

J. W. Alden has tagged me to take part in the Lucky 7 Meme. If you're unfamiliar with the meme, the rules are:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

Here are the 7 sentences from page 77 of DAUGHTER OF THE MOON:

Selina stood on the shore of the river watching the canoe glide toward her. A short figure, robed from head to toe in dark velvet, was its only cargo. She’d been watching for awhile, trying to decide what to do. One moment she itched for the safety of the trees, the next she wanted to call out to the man in the boat.
As he neared the shore, he lifted his long staff from the water and the canoe came to an abrupt halt. Murky, blue light drifted from a lantern swinging from the vessel’s bow, washing Selina in its melancholy hue. She tucked her iPod into a pocket and stepped forward. 

In the spirit of the meme, I'm tagging these people with no forewarning, so there's no guarantee they'll be able to participate. Even so, you should check out their blogs! 

Ilima Todd
Cortney Pearson
Clare Dugmore
Carissa Taylor
Crystal Schubert

Hope you liked the exerpt and I'm looking forward to reading everyone else's :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. 

This Week's Topic:
In honor of the release of Kirsten's WANDERLOVE yesterday--which is amazing, by the way; get yourselves to a bookstore if you haven't!--we bring you a travel-themed RTW prompt today! If you could wander anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?

Road Trip Song of the Week:
Let Go" by Frou Frou

My Answer:  Bora Bora, Tahiti in an over-water bungalow with a glass floor! I didn't even have to think about this one - I've been dreaming of staying in one of these bungalows for awhile. As far as I can tell from the photos, Bora Bora is paradise and I would love to soak in its beauty, without a care in the world. Where would you go?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Was it me, or was it you?

Subjectivity refers to the subject and his or her perspective, feelings, beliefs, and desires.

This post is about rejection. Having a manuscript rejected doesn't make anybody happy, but that's not exactly what this is about. As a writer, you expect a certain amount of rejection (the majority of the feedback a manuscript receives will likely be in the form of rejection). And I do. I crave it actually, so I can find the problems in my work and fix it.

The thing is, there often isn't a specific reason for the rejection. And even if there is, it's rare to find a literary agent who has the time (or isn't so scarred by backlash received from writers he/she was trying to help) to share the specific reason for rejection. Most often, the response received will be some form of the sentence, "It just wasn't right for me, but I'm sure there's another agent out there who it would be right for." This could mean anything from, "Wow, that was the worst POS I've ever read, but I just don't have the heart to tell you" to "You didn't follow the submission guidelines" to "The piece is well-written and the premise isn't bad, but I just don't feel like your genre is selling right now".

And this is frustrating. I don't want to send out a query that isn't working to all the agents on my list and then have them all pass on my manuscript. But, if I don't send out my query to a large number of agents at once, then how will I ever reach enough people to overcome the subjectivity factor? How do I know if I just need to keep sending it out there until I find "the one" or if there is actually something fundamentally wrong with my query? What do you all you writers out there think about this - agree? disagree? What have your query experiences been?

And in case you're wondering about my inspiration for this post - I'm getting ready to start querying DAUGHTER OF THE MOON, and I've been entering contests to test the water. The first contest, March Madness Agent Pitch, didn't go so well and I didn't make it into the agent-judged round. I've entered another one over at Cupid's Lit Connection, so we'll see how that goes!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cover Reveal for My Super Sweet 16th Century, by Rachel Harris!

Today I have a special treat - The cover reveal for MY SUPER SWEET 16TH CENTURY and an excerpt! Without further ado, I give you the goods:

On the precipice of her sixteenth birthday, the last thing lone wolf Cat Crawford wants is an extravagant gala thrown by her bubbly stepmother and well-meaning father. So even though Cat knows the family’s trip to Florence, Italy, is a peace offering, she embraces the magical city and all it offers. But when her curiosity leads her to an unusual gypsy tent, she exits . . . right into Renaissance Firenze.

Thrust into the sixteenth century armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat joins up with her ancestors, the sweet Alessandra and protective Cipriano, and soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around, Cat realizes that an unwanted birthday party is nothing compared to an unwanted suitor full of creeptastic amore. Can she find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?

Alessandra jerks back like I just suggested she prance around the square naked or something. “No! I believe I understand your meaning, and Lorenzo is certainly not my suitor. He is like a brother to me—the three of us grew up together.”
She resumes walking and I fall in step beside her, understanding there has to be more to the story. And as we near the end of the row, I finally ask, “If you’re not into the guy, then what’s the problem?”
At that same moment, a rich, deep chuckle hits my ears. My stomach involuntarily clenches and my gaze sharpens on the back of this mysterious Lorenzo.
Alessandra sighs. “That is the problem.” She places her hand on my arm and solemnly looks me in the eyes. “You must be careful. Lorenzo is beautiful, and it is not uncommon for a girl to walk away from meeting him with a piece of her heart left behind. But he is just eighteen, and not yet ready for marriage.”
I roll my eyes and laugh, then realize she’s serious. “Yeah, I assure you, there’s no danger on my end. I’m not exactly looking for marriage myself.” Because that would be crazy-town.
Alessandra wrinkles her nose as if she doesn’t believe me, but she removes her hand. We close the distance and Cipriano flashes me an open, honest to goodness, lighthearted smile.
“Lorenzo, this is the cousin I was telling you about.”
Slowly the guy turns and I fall head first into the richest chocolate-brown eyes I’ve ever seen. He blinks and long, luscious lashes feather across his bronzed cheeks. I can feel myself gawking, but I physically can’t drag my eyes away. Lorenzo doesn’t smirk or act all conceited, either. He simply stares back, his eyes casually skimming over me, causing my skin to warm and break out in a whole body tingle.
Time seems to stop, and the sounds of the market mute. Alessandra was right. This boy is beautiful.
And he’s looking at me.
What do you think? The cover reminds me a bit of Anne Hathaway (after the transformation) in The Princess Diaries. And doesn't Lorenzo sound like the perfect love interest already? If you liked what you read, you'll only have to wait until September 11, 2012 until the release!

My Super Sweet 16th Century, by Rachel Harris is available for pre-order on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble Be sure to add it to your TBR pile on Goodreads

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Weekend Progress Report

This weekend I've taken a break from my new WiP (sequel to DAUGHTER OF THE MOON) because I received my first chapter critique for DAUGHTER OF THE MOON from literary agent Gemma Cooper. Her feedback was extremely helpful and I've been busy making edits :) And once those are done, I can start querying!

Other than that, I've been catching up on my Scribophile critiques, researching haunted places in Illinois and Indiana for the WiP, and spending way too much time on Twitter.

And now I want to hear from you, what progress have you made this weekend?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What's a novelogue?

Last week, I heard about a whole new kind of reading experience: the novelogue. So what is a novelogue?

The definition, according to

Novelogue(n.): A story told almost exclusively through dialogue. Character descriptions, and settings are minimally provided. Novelogues provide a fast-paced, easy-to-read alternative to prose novels. 

A Novelogue is designed to be read in the same amount of time it takes to watch a movie, or fly from New York to Florida.

HUNK, by Alex Harris, was my first Novelogue encounter. It was certainly a quick read, as promised, and the story itself was fun and fresh with a very current feel to it. The novelogue format, which reads a lot like a script, fit well with the story which followed a new actor and included movie scenes. But the format made it difficult for me to get into the story. The writing itself was very functional and I missed beautiful metaphors and words which perfectly described a feeling, thought, or place.

I don't know of any other novelogues out there, but I'd like to try another before I make up my mind on the format. What about you? Will you try reading, or writing, a novelogue? And had you heard of a novelogue before?