Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Countdown: 9: Third Submission

October 2008

Precisely one year after my previous submission, I submitted Perilous again. This company took email submissions and required the entire manuscript. I had spent the year removing POVs, getting down to three: Jaci (the MC), Ricky (the boy MC), and the villain. I was quite happy with the change, and felt certain that this time I would be offered a contract.

The company's website stated to expect a response within six months. I anxiously waited through the first three months. Well, as anxiously as I could. I kind of put writing on hold for a bit, since I was busy working full-time and trying to be a mom and wife in my spare time. Ha ha!

After six months I assumed I'd been rejected. I never received any notice, but that's how it sometimes is in the publishing world.

In May 2009, I quit my outside job and resumed my roll as a full-time mom. Within a week I had pulled open the book open. It had been eight months, and I decided I needed to make a drastic change with my novel. I'd been considering the change for some time, but now I realized, it wasn't quite publishable the way it was. It lacked some tension, something that would take the book to a new level of suspense and terror.

So I killed off a character. It was very, very hard to do. At one point, she had been the main character, but over time, I had many readers comment that she and another girl had very similar personalities and reactions. And she didn't have a very pivotal part.

Killing her had an immediate, intense affect. I worried that the book was no longer appropriate for young teens, but more for 14+. Kind of like making it a PG13 book now. Yet it made the action and tension that much more, for now the stakes were high. There was no longer any guarantee that any of the characters would live. It brought new life to the novel as I rewrote it without her.

This time I wouldn't wait a year. As soon as I finished these rewrites, I would submit again.

Monday, January 25, 2010

2010 Debut Author Challenge

I've been wanting to post about this challenge since I read it, but of course I've been too busy sleeping. There are several challenges out there, from reading local authors to reading unsung YA authors. I looked into both of them, but this is one I'm excited about.

Here is a link to the challenge on the Story Siren's blog.

Description from The Story Siren:

What is the 2010 Debut Author Challenge?
  • The objective is to read a set number of YA (Young Adult) or MG (Middle Grade) novels from debut authors published this year. I'm shooting for 30 books. I'm also going to include debut authors from 2009, because in my opinion, they are still debut authors. And I don't know all the authors yet-to-be-published in 2010!
  • Anyone can join, you don’t need a blog to participate. If you don’t have a blog you can always share your views by posting a review on Amazon.com/BarnesandNoble.com/GoodReads/Shelfari, or any other bookish site.
  • The challenge will run from January 1, 2010- December 31, 2010. You can join at anytime!
Here's where I'll be keeping track of the books I want to read for the 2010 Challenge. I don't know debut authors that well, so I'm stealing titles from other bloggers. Have a suggestion? Please tell me in the comments! Really, the only way I'll know if you're going to be a debut author is if you tell me! (And remember, if all goes well, I'll be a debut author this year when my book Perilous comes out!)

  1. Ghost Waves by W. Everett Prusso
  2. Heroes of the Fallen by David West
  3. Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
  4. The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
  5. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  6. Sea by Heidi R. Kling
  7. Iron King by Julie Kagawa
  8. Wish by Alexandra Bullen
  9. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
And the rest of the list is TBD (as I get suggestions...).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sleeping, Sleeping, Sleeping all the Time

I do apologize for not being here more. I spend 90% of my time sleeping or laying down right now. No joke. Sad, huh? I miss doing things. Like going to the gym. Swimming. Writing. Blogging. Scrapbooking. Putting on make-up. Even laundry.

The good news is, this is the week (according to babycenter.com) that I'm supposed to start getting my energy back. I'm waiting for it. Waiting...waiting...

You'll know when I'm back. I'll blog more than twice a week.

In the meantime, I've got to figure out if it's just me, or if it smells like cat pee in here...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A New Genre: New Adult

A few week's ago Steph mentioned on her blog that she writes for a young and new adult audience. That intrigued me, because that's how I think of my writing: for older teens and younger adults. Well, I started googling it, to see if it's actually a genre I could include in a query letter. And folks, it's an up and coming sub-genre.

That is how I would classify my own writing. I am thrilled that there may be a definite category for it soon. After all, we've all read about authors trying to get a book published with a 20-something protagonist, and being shot down because the book isn't "YA" but also isn't adult. So either the author dumbs down the character, or writes the age up to appeal to a genre. I agree that there should be and is an audience for characters in between ages.

How many of you would write new adult? How many of you would read it?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Purses? Duh!

Oh man, I was laying in bed this morning (because I swear, that's all I do these days) and I realized something.

Teenage girls don't go to the mall without their purses.

The problem is, in the first two chapters of Perilous, I have four teenage girls at the mall. None of them have purses on them. How on earth did I not catch this before?

I was one of those unfortunate teenagers that always seemed to be a step behind my peers. Maybe because my parents weren't very materialistic in the fashion sense. We didn't watch TV, listen to radio, or have magazines. So I just wasn't aware of what the next fashionable item was until everyone else at school already had it.

In junior high, everyone had one of those giant binders. The vinyl kind that held seven different folders, a pencil case, and velcroed shut.

By the time I got myself one of those cool binders, everyone had abandoned them in favor of backpacks. Backpacks??? My mom said she wasn't buying me a backpack since my binder still worked fine. Good thing, too. Because one day in ninth grade, I come to school to discover that the backpacks are gone. Three of my friends are sporting the exact same brown leather purse. Lockers are being used again, with only one folder being brought to each class.

By the end of the week, all of my friends had this brown purse.

Of course, I wanted one.

My mom fished around in her closet and found--this.
An authentic Guatemalan handbag.

My friends did not think it was cool. Neither did I. But it was my purse. And a teenage girl cannot go anywhere without her purse.

Luckily, this is easily fixed in my story. I just need to write in some purses.

And oh--about a year later, I got a brown purse that looked very much like the ones that had been in style the previous year. Still have it, somewhere.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Testing, Testing

Okay, I deleted Intense Debate. It looks like the posts I made with the program still can't receive comments. I'm checking to see if a new post can.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Intense Debate?

Well, folks, what do you think of the new commenting system?

For me, it works really well. I can read and reply to each comment from my email box. It means I don't have to have my blog open all day long!

But how well does it work for you all? I didn't get very many different commenters, which could mean my post didn't lend itself for commenting, or readers weren't sure how to use the new system. Let me know what you think. I can just as easily go back to the old way.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Intense Debate and The Master Plan

Thanks to Mireyah's suggestion, I've added a program to my blog to help with commenting. It's called Intense Debate, found at intensedebate.com, and was very easy to add. Of course, I'm not sure how well it works. Today will be the trial run. If I don't like it, I'll get rid of it.

Here's the plus side for me: I will be able to respond to each comment individually without getting back on my blog. It emails the comments to me, and when I respond, it starts a 'thread' on the blog. And here, I believe, is the plus side for you. In the past, if you wanted to know if I responded to your comment, you either had to come back and check my blog frequently, or check the "email follow-up responses" box before you sent the comment.

I did the email thing a couple of times. The problem was, I'd get twenty emails from one blog, all from different people responding to the blog, none of them responding to my comment. It ended up being more burdensome than helpful. I haven't tried it yet, obviously, but I think with this program, if you select "subscribe to replies" or whatever it says, you'll only be emailed what happens in your comment thread.

Again...today's the trial run. I haven't seen it in action yet, so we'll see. Oh, one thing I've noticed: you can't see the comment form unless you click on the blog post. There's no 'add comment' link on the main page.

On to the group blog! Steph's blog today is about planning your journey. In her case (and mine), it's writing. So, let me share with you a brief history and my master plan.

I wrote Perilous in junior high and lost the manuscript for several years. I figured it was a dead novel. After college, I started writing again. I wrote Branca (whose title I am about to change) and loved this book. It is the first of a planned fairy tale series. My immediate plan was to get Branca ready for publication.

In the meantime, low and behold, I found an ancient copy of Perilous. The book needed a lot of work, but I enthusiastically felt I could do something with it. And thus, my game plan emerged. I saw Perilous as being a niche book, something for a smaller audience. I would get published as a starter novel (kind of like a starter home), and then work on finding a national publisher for Branca.

So far, it's working, but a little differently. My publisher had a much bigger vision for than I did. We're marketing it and publishing it for a national audience, not a niche audience. I'm still on track with Branca, which I am at the moment re-writing and preparing to query sometime this year.

From there, I've got lots of novels. I see all of them as being young adult fiction, and I don't worry about genres. Fads go in waves, and if nobody wants a certain genre now, they will in ten years. I'm excited by the prospect of working with different publishers, as each one has a different plan to help me reach my goals.

And you? Whether it's writing or your chosen career path, what's your master plan?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Miscarriages and the Media

This is such a sensitive topic, and yet one I've been wanting to do for awhile. You see, it seems that many women (and especially men) have no idea how common a miscarriage is. There is this idea that as soon as you see that BFP, you know that nine months later there will be a baby.

For some women, this is 100% true.

For other women, this turns out not to be true once in their child-bearing years.

For another, much smaller sampling of women, that BFP means you are probably going to have another miscarriage.

Before I got married, I knew women had miscarriages. Of course! I'm not going to post any statistics up here (go search the internet yourself if you're that interested), but the truth is that as many as 50% of pregnancies end in a miscarriage.

Usually miscarriage seems ignored in the media. People don't realize the mourning that mother must do, for the loss of her baby, of her dreams of a child. But I saw two movies last month that accurately pinpointed the suffering a woman feels at the death of her baby.

The first, of all things, was Up. This cutesy little animated film by Disney has a section in it, with no sound, where the new husband and wife are laying on their backs, pointing to the clouds and imagining what they look like. Dear husband makes the mistake of pointing to a cloud and saying it looks like a baby. Dear wife's eyes light up, her smile goes big, and when the camera pans to the sky again, all the clouds are babies. So cute! The next few scenes show her painting a nursery, buying baby things, preparing for baby.

And then the next scene is in a hospital. She's sitting in a chair, head in hands while she bawls, husband and doctor holding on to her.

There are no words, but that pain, that loss, is tangible.

The next movie was Marley and Me. If you've seen this movie, you remember the scene. Wife and husband are in the doctor's office, tape in hand, ready to listen to the heartbeat on the doppler. The nurse can't find it, but it's not a big deal, because the wife isn't quite ten weeks. So they move straight into the ultrasound. While the nurse looks for the baby, the husband and wife kiss each other's hands and giggle over what they expect to see. Interrupting them, the nurse says, "I'm going to get the doctor. Be right back, okay?"

The husband and wife look at each other. She licks her lips. He looks down. Everyone knows this isn't good.

And the doctor comes in and breaks the news to them. There's no heartbeat.

Somehow, that woman holds it together until they get home. She sinks onto the couch inside the house, letting her husband make tea for her. When he comes back into the living room, she is holding their dog (Marley), head buried in the fur, sobbing.

I cried over this scene for about ten minutes. It's extremely accurate. It's very similar to how my first pregnancy went. At ten weeks, the doctor couldn't find a heartbeat. Again, no big deal, it's still early. We scheduled an ultrasound for the following week.

The tech didn't say a word to us during the ultrasound. Then she sent us into the lobby and said the doctor would send for us. The receptionist looked at me and my husband and said, "Oh, you don't need to wait here. The radiologist will call you with the results."

And I said, "But the tech just told us the doctor would want to see us."

"Well, that's strange," the receptionist said, and she called into the tech's office. The tech's office was right next to where we were sitting, and we heard every word of the following phone call.

Receptionist: "Did you send this couple back into the lobby to wait?"
Tech: "Yes. Something's wrong with the baby. The doctor will want to talk to them."
Receptionist: "Oh, okay." Hang up. "It'll just be a few minutes."

My husband looked at me and said, "Did you hear?"

How could I not? I remember how I focused on the wall in front of me, concentrating on breathing, trying to ignore the heat behind my eyes. I did not want to cry right there, in front of all those people.

Miscarriage happens. Yet it is so often played down, the woman's grief minimalized or ignored. To those of us who experience miscarriage, a BFP no longer means baby. A heartbeat means baby.

Since I'm baring my soul to the whole world here, I'll admit that I've had four miscarriages. This is my seventh pregnancy. Yes, I'm pregnant. And this morning, at 9 weeks and four days, we heard a heartbeat. God willing, folks...this BFP equals baby.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest 2010

It came to my attention yesterday that once again, Amazon.com is preparing for their ABNA contest. This is where I break my Amazon boycott and jump headfirst into the contest.
For those of you who don't know what ABNA is, a quick recap: It began two years ago, give or take, in 2008. You must have a completed novel, which you upload to Amazon.com's self-publishing agent, Createspace (this is free, with no commitments to self-publish). The novel goes through a couple of judging rounds, with the final winner receiving an advance and publishing contract from Penguin books. The logo up there is a link.

I have entered every year. There are some major differences between each year. In year 1, the advance was $20,000. There was one publishing contract offered. Each entrant had the first 5,000 words read by Amazon top reviewers, and semi-finalists were selected (or semi-semi-finalists, to be exact). Each of these semi-semi-finalists also had the entire manuscript read by Publisher's Weekly, and were given a critique on their novel. There was some silly thing where each person tried to get as many votes for their novel as they could, but in the end the votes didn't count for anything, so a lot of writers felt a bit conned by that.

I got my book read by Publisher's Weekly that year. They gave me a lot of ideas for revisions.

ABNA changed their policy in 2009. Apparently they had overloaded their top reviewers and Publisher's Weekly the year before, so ABNA decided entrants would be judged solely off of their 300 word pitch, rather than an excerpt. Of those that made it, only the would have their books read by Publisher's Weekly. The voting thing was done away with except for the finalists, as well.

My pitch wasn't good enough. I didn't make it in that year.

This year, the biggest difference I noticed is that there are TWO publishing contracts being offered. One for general fiction, and one for (yay!) YA. Finally! It's like YA was ignored the previous two years. Because of this, I'm sure, the advance for each is $15,000.

I will be entering, of course.

This is a great way to get feedback. And there's the small small chance you'll get published! This year, here's how the judging works.

1) Submit. Do this fast, as soon as it opens for submissions on Jan. 25. It's only open to the first 10,000.

2) It is once again based on pitch. So make your pitch as good as you can. On Feb. 8, the judges will choose 2,000 semi-finalists, based on your pitch.

3) On Feb. 25, top reviewers will read and judge your excerpt of 5,000 words. The top 500 will move on.

4) On March 23, your excerpt and the reviews will be posted online for all to see. People can read and comment on your excerpt. Publisher's Weekly will also read and review your entire manuscript.

5) Based on the Publisher's Weekly score, the top 50 will advance.

6) On April 27, Penguin will select 3 finalists from these 50.

7) On May 25, readers can start voting for one of the three finalists.

8) Finally, the two people who get publishing contracts will be announced.

Give it a go! You've got nothing to lose!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Query Round #2

I took all of your suggestions and reworked Mark's query. (Mark and I did, of course.)

Here's the latest version. Tell me what you think.


Dear ??:

Keeper of the Key, my young adult adventure fantasy novel, is complete at 58,000 words. This is my first novel.

Peter is barely seventeen when dreams of his father’s death begin to plague him. Soon after the dreams start, his father reveals that he is really the Keeper, leader of an ancient city and holder of a mystic key. The power of the Keeper is passing; the key has chosen Peter as a new Keeper. It calls to him.

Peter leaves his home to follow in the old rites of the Keeper, training to be a leader and protect his people. But the key has its own agenda, and Peter’s path is different than previous Keepers. An enemy has arisen, one that wants the key—and the vault of power that it opens—for himself. Peter must protect the key, even as the elders of the city turn against him and divide his family.

Desperation sets in when Peter realizes if he succeeds, he will keep the key safe—at the sacrifice of everyone he loves.

This book fits right next to books such as ?? and ??, which you represented. If you are interested, I will gladly send you either the first three chapters of this story, or the complete manuscript. I have enclosed a synopsis and a SASE for your reply. If you prefer, you can send an e-mail. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gathering Agent Info

I've started the tedious task of getting all my agent info together. I'm doing this for my husband, but it's good for me, because hopefully by next month I'll be using this information for my own book. (Crossing fingers!)

I've come up with some nifty ideas as I do this, and I want to share them with you, since many of you are also researching agents.

1) Make a spreadsheet. I included all of these as headers: agency, agent name, member AAR, physical address, phone number, email address, blog/twitter site, website, preferred genres, requires synopsis (y/n), books represented, turn around time, preferred query method [snailmail/email], format of query [attachment, first five pages, etc], date query sent, response. Did I miss anything? Of course, we haven't sent out any queries yet, but I like being able to see everything about the agent (and the other agents) all in one spot. There are some agents that after I research them, I get that warm fuzzy good feeling inside. Crazy, huh? Those agents get their names highlighted.

2) Google your agent. They're going to Google you, if they take you on (you might want to try that too. See what's out there about you). Googling your agent comes up with all kinds of fun stuff: what other clients have said about them, interviews they may have done, and personal information that gives you a kind of understanding about them that you may not get otherwise. (We could probably add a "Comments" section to the spreadsheet so you can include this information as well.)

3) Go to their blogs/Twitter account. Of course, this is pretty obvious, but if you really want to know your agent, take a look at what they're putting out there for you to read. They may have some major pet peeves or preferences not listed anywhere else.

4) Use a tracking website. This is optional, especially since we're keeping track of it all in our spreadsheet. I did find an interesting tracking website. I haven't used it, so I can't provide any real feedback. For $20 a year or $4 a month, this literary website will allow you to keep a list of agents you're querying, track submissions (they do have an email service, but that is NOT RECOMMENDED. Do you own emailing), store templates, keep notes on agents, etc. Basically the same as our spreadsheet, so I may try it for a month and see if it's worth the effort. It does give you access to 1000 different agents to search through (and you don't have to pay to see those).

That's what I've come up with. Any other tips?

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Tale of Two Beds

Jacen, our oldest child, has always been good about bed time. Perfect baby, really. At 18 months, he'd kiss us goodnight, then put himself to bed. Now, at 3, he likes to play quietly in his room after we've put him to bed. When he's tired, he turns off the light and goes to sleep.

The problem arose a few months ago when the baby, Asher, became aware of the playing situation. Still crib-bound, he'd screech and holler and bounce around, angry that he couldn't play.

Jacen was in a toddler bed by the time he was 14 months. Asher isn't nearly so disciplined with bedtime. We debated long and hard about whether it was time to take the crib away. Finally, we decided it just wasn't fair to Asher, who is now 18 months. So we took the crib away, gave Jacen a real bed, and put Asher into the toddler bed.

That's when the nightmare began.

Asher just wants to play. He won't stay in his bed. Jacen stays up longer than he would have, because he has a playmate. Even after he's put himself to bed and turned out the light, Asher climbs in bed with him and tackles him. Every night I go in three or four times to get Asher back into his bed and let Jacen sleep. Nap time is the same issue.

The only solution I've found is to sit in their room and glare at them, daring them to lift a head or make a peep. It works; usually within twenty minutes they are asleep.

I'm so tempted to put that crib back up.

I'm sure this is normal little boy behavior--but what have you done to bed-train them???

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mark's Query Letter

I know Saturday is a dead day, so I'll leave this up until Monday.

This is my husband's query letter. Please tell me what you think! Suggestions, etc. It's a generic query letter, once we have it really good we'll make it specific, depending, of course, on which agent we query.

My address



Agent address

Dear ??:

I am submitting my novel Keeper of the Key to you for consideration because…????. Written for a young adult audience, the completed story has a word count of 58,000. An adventure novel with elements of fantasy, the book bears similar characteristics with C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

Peter is the oldest son of a hard-working farmer. What he doesn’t know is that his father is really the Keeper, leader of an ancient city and holder of a mystic key. When the key begins to speak to Peter, he is forced to leave his home and become the new Keeper. He’s thrown into a world of secrecy, betrayal, and danger, and he learns quickly to fight for himself and those he loves.

But the key has its own agenda. It’s waging a war, and Peter has been chosen to lead the survivors.

I earned my BA in History from Brigham Young University. This is my first novel. I anticipate this book being the first of a four-book series. It fits right next to books such as ?? and ??, which you represented. If you are interested, I will gladly send you either the first three chapters of this story, or the complete manuscript. I have enclosed a synopsis and a SASE for your reply. If you prefer, you can send an e-mail. Thanks very much for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Projects

First of all, I'm having a hard time getting myself out of vacation mode. My husband's work schedule changed, and now he's home Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It's going to take some getting used to, finding time to sit and write when he's hanging around watching me.

Second of all, I've got so many things I want to do this year! Here's a brief list:

1) Revise and finish Branca.
2) Revise and finish Altercation.
3) Query 100 agents for Branca.
4) Write Priceless.
5) Query 100 agents for my husband's book.

Those things aren't necessarily in order. Mark's book is up next. In fact, watch for the query letter next week. I'll post it and ask for critiques. I'm very excited for his book and planning to help him a lot. His query will be the practice run for when I query my own book.

Happy new year! More from me later.

But do share. What are some of your goals/projects/resolutions for twenty ten?
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