Sunday, February 28, 2010

Awesome Agent Contest for Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Writers

The Guide to Literary Agents Blog is having another awesome contest and this time its for all of you YA and Adult Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Writers! Check it Out!


Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance



Welcome to the third "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest on the GLA blog. This will be a recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here's the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. So if you're writing a novel-length work of urban fantasy or paranormal romance, this third contest is for you!

HOW TO SUBMIT

E-mail entries to thirdagentcontest@gmail.com. Please paste everything. No attachments. (Also note that I do not check this account. Only the agent does. Looking back over old e-mails, some people have wrote to say hi to me, or perhaps ask a question. Contact me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com.)

WHAT TO SUBMIT

The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of urban fantasy or paranormal romance (adult or YA - both accepted).

Joanna says: "Please keep it to these two subgenres specifically. While you can incorporate a variety of fantasy elements, they still have to fall under these two categories. For those of you who are unsure, keep in mind that both urban fantasy and paranormal romance have a strong base in a real world setting (like Jim Butcher's Dresden Files or J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood or Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy). So no stories that take place solely on another planet or world!"

You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with your entry.

Please note: To be eligible to submit, I ask that you do one of two things: 1) Mention and link to this contest twice through your social media - blogs, Twitter, Facebook; or 2) just mention this contest once and also add Guide to Literary Agents Blog (www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog) to your blogroll. Please provide link(s) so I can verify eligibility.

CONTEST DETAILS

1. This contest will be live for approximately fifteen days - from Feb. 27, 2010 through the end of Sunday, March. 14, 2010 EST. Winners notified by e-mail within seven days of end of contest. Winners announced on the blog thereafter.
2. To enter, submit the first 150-200 words of your book. Shorter or longer entries will not be considered. Keep it within word count range please.
3. This contest is solely for completed book-length works of urban fantasy and paranormal romance (either adult or YA). To know more about what falls into these genres, look at the bold text above.
4. You can submit as many times as you wish.
5. The contest is open to everyone of all ages, save those employees, officers and directors of GLA's publisher, F+W Media.
6. There are more rules (most of them dealing with legal stuff) that you can find in the comments section of this post.
7. By e-mailing your entry, you are submitting an entry for consideration in this contest and thereby agreeing to the terms written here as well as the terms added by me at the beginning of the "Comments" section of this blog post.

PRIZES!!!

First place: 1) A critique of 20 pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com.

Runner-ups - second and third place: 1) A critique of 10 pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com.



MEET YOUR (AWESOME) JUDGE!



Check out the GLA Blog for more details and rules! Good Luck:-)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Minimum Wage Magnificence: Money and the High School Job in YA

Raise your hand if you had a crappy job in high school.

It's ok, Laney Boggs did too.
(She's All That was just added to my Netflix queue, BTW.)

Giving your main character a part-time job is a great way to keep your contemporary novel from becoming repetitious. Besides the usual school/home settings, it adds another element to your protagonist's life and offers plenty of plot complications, character development, and who knows what other possibilities. (How about hooking up with a hottie co-worker in the supply room? Yowza.)

THE SUPER-DUPER PART-TIME JOB CATEGORIZER
*Because I couldn't think of a better title.

Family Business Flunkie
Who wants to work with their parents? Too frequently, this goes unpaid.
YA example: Elizabeth Scott's Perfect You
 
Kate Brown helps her dad sell vitamins at a mall stand. And he wears a bumblebee costume.

Mall Rat
Cranky shoppers, screaming children, one longgg weekend.
YA example: Robin Benway's Audrey, Wait!
Audrey works at the Scooper Dooper, an ice cream shop at the mall. Sticky mess.

Customer Service Hell
YA example: Ann Brashare's The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Tibby spends her summer at WallMan's, the local drug store. Cleanup in aisle five!

Hobby Heaven
YA example: Laurie Faria Stolarz's Deadly Little Secret
Camelia works at a pottery studio and gets to practice her art for free. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

Resume Builder
YA example: Robin Brande's Fat Cat
Science-lover Cat works at the Poison Control Center--and doesn't mind at all.

Sweet Escape
YA example: Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver
Sam makes his part-time dinero at a small bookstore where he disappears into his favorite poetry.

Babysitting Maven
Ah, the tween/teen girl staple. Could be horrific or a moneymaker.
YA example: Ann M. Martin's The Baby-sitters Club (Of course!)
Kristy and the gang raked in the dough. 'Fess up -- you totally tried to start your own BSC.

Food For Thought
Even if your character DOESN'T have a part-time job, you as the author should know why not. Where does he/she get all-important spending money? Realistically, does their weekend spending match up with their income or allowance?

A job also hints a lot towards family dynamics and your character's personality. Do the parents need monetary help? Is it a "you have to learn responsibility" thing? Does you character pay for his/her own cell phone bill? Is he/she saving up for something important? And what is the hard-earned dough being spent on?

And Just Because...
What if Hogwarts had work-study?
Harry would be equipment manager for the Quidditch teams, keeping the Beaters' bats in tip-top shape.
Anyone else want an Oliver Wood cameo in the last movie? He was cute!
Hermione would totally man the reference desk in the library. Gotta love that Restricted Section.
It's alright, Hermione. Books make me giddy, too.
Ron would be a member of Mr. Filch's custodial staff, cleaning up Peeves' latest mess. Face it, he always gets the broken end of the wand.
Quality time with Mrs. Norris. Oh yeah.

What was your high school job? (I cleaned instruments at an orthodontist's office. So glamorous.)
Your favorite example from YA lit? Or, what jobs did you give your characters? I have Nina giving phone surveys because it's the most miserable job I could think of for someone who hates being fake-polite. (And yep, I had that job too, and I probably called your house during dinnertime.)

* AND FOR FUN FURTHER READING: This week, YA authors who blog at MTV Books wrote about their high school job experiences! Jennifer EcholsDanielle Joseph, Barbara Caridad Ferrer, and Jen Blazanin have great stories!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Music Recommendation: Steve Mazza

Hey Guys--So the post today is a little off topic but I couldn't resist sharing, because I'm so excited! My friend's brother just released his second album and on top of being a wonderful singer/song writer, ALL of the proceeds go to charity. Seriously, how cool is that? Plus his songs are really fun.

He's already raised over $11,000--oh and did I mention he's a major hottie?

Meet Steve Mazza.
You can download both of his albums by visiting his website HERE! They're totally worth it. I've got mine:-)

And here's a short video on some of the charity work he's done for orphanages in Africa.



Seriously, what's not to love? Go check Steve out!

If I Stay: THE SEQUEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You need to go to Gayle Forman's Blog RIGHT NOW! She has finally announced IF I STAY: The Sequel!!! Currently titled:


WHERE SHE WENT


And...it's from Adam's point of view.

I think I just fainted in excitement.

Ok I can't help myself...

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Yeah...I'm a little excited. Ok I'm A LOT!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Gayle Forman is one of my favorite writers and If I Stay is one of my all time favorite books--it holds the high honor of being "The book I wish I had written." I don't think I could possibly be MORE excited right now If I Tried (lol).

For more Gayle Forman fun, check out our interview with her from the summer HERE!

Gayle, you are AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Summer 2011 cannot come soon enough!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

You guys are the EXTREMIEST followers around! And one of you is a winner!

Want inspiration? Check out your fellow followers. For our GOING BOVINE contest, we asked the entrants to list their "extremiest" goal or recent moment in their lives. We were WOWED by the answers, and you will be too!


Titania is finishing two literature-heavy school semesters in only one in order to graduate on time.

Jon Paul literally risked death in Baghdad to scribble down a breakthrough moment in a short story he was writing... during a duck-and-cover alarm that meant incoming rockets. Holy cow!

Mariah finished NaNoWriMo AND wrote a ton of papers for her college finals that month!

Dani wants to get a perfect grade on her AP US history test and read 150+ books this year.

Heather broke out of her writerly comfort zone and wrote a kickass poem!

Pepsivanilla's ready to move out and go to college! Hello, real world.

One Pushy Fox completed NaNoWriMo by ONLY writing from 5:30-7am daily.

Ann got a rockin' 98/100 on a super tough oral Spanish final.

Megan's pushing past her writing fear and finally penning that picture book she's been wanting to write for five years!

MBee left the security of a full-time job and apartment to move back home and return to school to become a teacher.

Blacksheep is ready to throw herself into the world of acting -- poor or not, she's going after her dreams.

Jeniwrites took a huge monetary leap of faith in herself and her writing. Talk about bravery!

WilowRaven's goal is to save for a beautiful future.

Tsukiko's just begun writing her novel, and she's determined to finish it, despite all the unknowns.

Marissa wants to own her own bookstore one day! Yayyyyy books!

Chris didn't let illness and overwhelming schoolwork stop him from completing his NaNoWriMo novel -- in just half the month!

Heather moved from California to Colorado. Heck yes, new beginnings.

Veronica made multiple 4-hour round trips to meet Jason Wright, her favorite author. That's dedication!

JustPeachy is writing through the fear, beginning the novel she's wanted to write since childhood.

52 Faces... well 52 Faces drove 12 hours in 1.5 days to get pizza in Phoenix, moved to and from NYC (cross country) in two months, and adopted a dog from a shelter.

Paige ran the DisneyWorld Marathon in freezing weather! (And thought of Going Bovine during it.)

Uprobablydontknowme wants to become a bestselling author.

Lindsay's having a marathon library book reading session -- 88 by her return date!

Raspberry wants to take an artsy class while she's pregnant. Heck yes for doing something for yourself, mama!

Lydia's aiming to lose 100 pounds this year -- on top of the 70 she's already dropped!

Sherry's ready to get her bachelor's degree!

Miss Eliza's ready to be a better blogger and balance it with school.

Audrey, if you're reading this, get off the computer and do your homework! (That was your goal, BTW.)

Lea's going to blog more, get better grades, and do more community service.

Kelly met Leila Christenbury, a teacher and writer she seriously admires.

Elisabeth wants to go to Ireland. Have a pint for us!

Elizabeth had an epic toy sword fight with her friends in the park. Seriously, I want to be at the next one.

Justine's gearing up to ace her English exam.

Julie climbed a mountain in Barcelona!

Shelli made it through her son's throat surgery. Hope all is well!

Ashley went skiing in Boone for the first time.

Angela's quitting her job and going back to school to become a high school English teacher.

Aly's studying abroad in France and living with a family there.

Emily's trying to finish three novels, and she wants to be accepted into Brown University.


But only ONE person can be a winner of the super awesome personalize signed copy of GOING BOVINE. And that person is...

52 FACES!!!!!!!!!!!
Who will drive the distance for that pizza, move across the country and rescue a dog from an animal shelter!

Congrats!

You have 72 hours to claim your prize!

We STILL wanna know!
What's your extremiest moment or goal? And what's your favorite of this list?

SCBWI: Picture Books with Allyn Johnston

Though we call ourselves the First Novels Club, we’re not all only novelists. My first-love is the picture book, so at the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York a few weeks ago, I was sure to attend Allyn Johnston’s presentation on picture book writing and publishing, and I was not disappointed.

Allyn Johnston is the vice president and publisher of Beach Lane Books, a small imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, just launched in Summer 2009. Johnston has worked with authors and illustrators such as Mem Fox, Lois Ehlert, and Avi.

Throughout her presentation, Johnston read several books aloud, sharing insights about picture book writing along the way. Here they are:

On Emotion: Picture books are an emotional medium—they are nothing if they do not cause an emotional reaction (be it laughter, anger, sadness, joy) in the reader. Picture books should engage the emotion, or as Mem Fox says, “change the emotional temperature of the reader.”

Picture books are often shared between a child who cannot read and an adult who reads the book to the child. Johnston says it is so important to keep this in mind while we write picture books. An emotional play occurs between those two people. It’s fun; it’s private; and it’s very very intimate. (Wow. What a beautiful image! And what a privilege it is to create such a moment between adult and child.)

On Form: The form is so important. Here are a few thoughts on form:

  1. A picture book is a theatre—a 32-page stage. The text is a play for the reader to perform for an audience of children. We should keep this in mind as we write—and write stories that will create an exciting performance by the reader.
  2. Think about the page turn of the book. The reader should really want to turn those pages to see what happens next.
  3. The text should have rhythm and repetition—and appropriate breaks in both.
  4. The text comes first, then the pictures. The words must be so fabulous that readers want to read it again. And again, and again, and again.
On Opening Lines:
  1. Avoid sounding like a chapter book.
  2. Avoid descriptions and background information.
On Writing Illustrated Text (that is, picture books):
  1. Trust and let go. As picture book writers, we are only contributing half of the project. We must trust our illustrators and leave out the descriptions.
  2. Do NOT give directives for the illustrators. Do not describe everything. Leave something for the illustrators creativity. Leave lots! Illustrators love the challenge and the freedom to create.
  3. Leave out the stuff illustrators can fill in--these things can drag down the language.
Has the point been made? We picture book writers need to cut the descriptive crap.

On Revisions: Make a 32-page dummy, leave a few pages for the title, copyright, and dedication pages, then map out your book by page. See where the page breaks are working/not working. Let this reveal passages that may need to be reworked or cut.

I found Johnston's presentation riveting--she's a great reader. She does all the voices. I found her insights equally helpful, and my work has already benefitted from them. I hope you can glean from them as well.

Thanks, Allyn!

Friday, February 19, 2010

PART TWO: The One With All the Dialogue Tips.

Because our dialogue deserves the very best.

Did you miss part one? Check it out! There are five whole tips there, along with references to My So-Called Life, 10 Things I Hate About You, Friends, Encino Man, and my unrequited crush from age 9-16.

Go ahead, tips six to ten will be here when you get back!

6. Setting
Where and when your book is set affects dialogue a lot. In visual mediums like movies and TV, there's no CHOICE but to 100% embrace a setting in time and place, and viewers are used to this. AKA, why we can now giggle at the ensemble choices in Dawson's Creek.
 
(I totally had this poster taped up on my bedroom door.)

Because books rely so much on imagination, it's easier for them to be timeless.

What to drop:
- Slang. In real life, it changes week to week, and unless you keep it at a minimum (or use your own), your book will be dated before you finish revisions. Plus, it can sound way too forced.
- Clothing. See Dawson's Creek image above. Again with dating your novel. If you're looking for longevity, lose the Uggs.
- Pop culture references. Ditto. Plenty of authors have their MCs listen to widely recognizable, timeless artists like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones --- instead of the Jonas Brothers or Lady Gaga --- for this reason. Or you can invent a band or celebrity crush.
"All I wanna do is graduate from high school, move to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die. Now, that may not sound too exciting to a stone-head like you, but I think it's swell. And then you come along and, and tell me I'm a member of the hairy mole club so you can throw things at me? I don't THINK so!" -- Buffy (the original)
Ok, Joss Whedon's dialogue is brilliant, but high school girls today aren't drooling over Christian Slater anymore.
(Honestly not quite sure why they ever did...) 

What to keep:
- Regional vocabulary. If a certain vocabulary is native to an area, be sure to include it for accuracy. For example, in Philadelphia, you drink soda with a hoagie, not pop with a sub.
- Time-relevant slang/references/clothing. If a novel is historical, or even set in the 80s, "what to drop" becomes "what to keep." But again, if you overdo it with the Madonna references and "bedazzle" is your most common verb, it gets old.

7. Roles
People in roles of power tend to speak more than those not. For example, a teacher giving a lesson would have much longer sentences than a student because they're explaining something. Or a friend telling a sob story would say more than the listener. These visual cues of longer vs. shorter statements help a reader understand who's speaking without dialogue tags.

No wonder Giles is so long-winded!

8. Punctuation
Another way to keep dialogue interesting is to break it up. I love listening in on strangers' conversations to learn natural rhythms of speech. Don't be afraid to use punctuation to your advantage -- people don't speak in complete sentences, and neither should your characters.

Murray: Your man Christian is a cake boy!
Cher, Dionne: A what?
Murray: He's a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde reading, Streissand ticket holding friend of Dorothy, know what I'm saying?
Cher: Uh-uh, no way, not even!
Murray: Yes even, he's gay!
Dionne: He does like to shop, Cher. And the boy can dress.
** Follower suggestion: In the comments of part 1, Lisa and Laura Roecker mentioned reading your dialogue aloud to see if it sounds natural. Excellent tip, ladies!

9. Entry/Exit of Conversation
Only start with "Hi" and end with "Bye" if they're relevant. You're not obligated to start a conversation at the beginning or cut it off at the end. The details in real life conversations would be mind-numbingly boring if they were transcribed exactly, so you might as well jump right into the meat of the dialogue.
Ron: I'm Ron by the way, Ron Weasley.
Harry: I'm Harry. Harry Potter.
Ron: So... so it's true! I mean, do you really have the... the...
Harry: The what?
Ron: [in a hushed tone] The scar?
Harry: Oh. [shows him the scar on his forehead] Yeah.
Ron: Wicked!
10. Accomplishment
No matter how funny or entertaining dialogue is, it must accomplish something. A conversation is not an excuse for an info-dump-for-the-sake-of-info-dumping. Dialogue can pass on information, and it should also reveal something about your characters or further the plot, but not in an obvious way.

AKA Why this Mean Girls scene is brilliant.


I PRESENT YOU...
MORE of Linkovich Chomofsky's 
Actual Relevant Links from Smart People:
Weezin' the ju-uice!
I think I need to watch Encino Man again.

All of Janice Hardy's super helpful posts about dialogue.
Marianna Baer's post on creating distinct voices for similar characters.
Varian Johnson's post on dialogue-heavy scenes.
Nicola Morgan's posts on dialogue in historical fiction and showing-not-telling in dialogue.


Anything I missed that you consider when writing/revising dialogue? Any other great dialogue links from around the blogosphere? Leave it in the comments!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

PART ONE: The One With All the Dialogue Tips. (Ten, to be exact.)

Because awesome dialogue makes me do a happy dance, and I love a good happy dance, here are ten things I consider when writing or revising dialogue:

In no particular order...

1. Speaker
Each speaker has a unique personality and background. They come from a certain income and education level. All of this affects how they speak. When they greet people, do they say "Hey," "Hi," or "What's up?" How about "Yo," or even just a curt head nod? Or the even more abrasive "What?" What does this say about them?
Jordan Catalano is famous for being a guy of few words.

2. Audience
You wouldn't speak to your grandmother the way you'd speak to your best friend, or to your best friend the way you'd speak to your worst enemy. Your audience affects how you tell a story, what parts you exaggerate, and how honest you are.

If your grandmom asked you what you did last night, your answer would probably be, "I went out with some friends," whereas you'd tell your BFF, "I finally hooked up with [Insert Superhot Crush's Name Here]!"
Answers to "How are you?"
To Polite Stranger: "I'm fine, thanks."
To Worst Enemy: "My life is excellent."
To Doctor: "I have a problem with excessive flatulence."
To Patrick Verona: "Sweating like a pig, actually, and yourself?"
Because every post can use a little 10 Things I Hate About You.

3. Subtext
Anything unspoken that occurs below the surface of the conversation. Meaning, what are they REALLY saying? Is your character sobbing but claims, "I'm fine"? Tone can be used to convey this well. Or how about the parallel conversation that's not about what it's actually about.

And because subtext can be strongest in one-sided romance, here's an example from my own unrequited adolescent crush from the 90s:
Me: Hi, John! That's a really cool trick you did on your skateboard.
Subtext: I'm madly in love with you. You're the hottest guy ever. Please don't reject me. Oh my God, I can't believe I'm talking to you. This is it. I know it. You'll tell me you like me too. We're so meant to be.
John: Thanks.
Subtext: ...
4. Tags
"Said." That's it. And maybe "asked." But be aware that a question mark doesn't always indicate a question. Sometimes it's still a statement.
SAID.
** Clarification from my brilliant commenters: Sometimes "said" isn't the absolute strongest choice. But use sparingly. Keep the non-"said"s to 1% of your tags. Maybe 2%. And oftentimes, you don't need a tag at all. I've spent a good chunk of my latest round of novel revisions on REMOVING my tags altogether -- and I can't believe I forgot to say that in the first place. Thanks guys!

5. Action
Here's the reason you don't need anything but "said." The actions you slip in between dialogue will SHOW what's going on and how people are speaking. This is a delicate balance. Don't try to describe everything you'd see in a TV show. If you note every. single. movement. it slows down your dialogue and ruins the flow of conversation. And don't OD on the sighing, shrugging, hand gestures, swallowing, eye rolling, turning, and lip biting. But inserting just the right amount of action allows a reader to envision the scene and adds depth to the conversation.

SCENE: Rachel panics after locking herself and Ross out of their apartment while their baby is sleeping inside.
How would you write this scene to keep the pacing and the humor while showing some of it?
 


I PRESENT YOU...
Linkovich Chomofsky's Actual Relevant Links from Smart People:
Bud-dy!
If you actually got this Encino Man reference, I applaud you.
- Tips for Writing Effective Dialogue.
- Barry Lyga's 5 amazing posts on dialogue advice: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.


That's all for part one! Check out PART TWO -- featuring Dawson's Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV show and movie), Clueless, Harry Potter, and Mean Girls!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Guest Post: Balancing Writing, Life, and Multiple Projects

What aspiring or fledgling author doesn't wish for more time to write? The reality is, achieving the dream of publication only means that you'll have more responsibilities, deadlines, and people counting on you -- and less time to do everything!

Now is the time to figure out that writing-life balance, and here to talk about her experiences is debut author Holly Schindler. A BLUE SO DARK comes out this May, and she has two other novels scheduled for 2011!

A Few Words On Juggling Multiple Projects
By: Holly Schindler

…To start off with, I have to say I am THRILLED to be able to write on this subject.  And I mean.  THRILLED.

A bit of background: when I obtained my master’s degree in ’01, I decided to devote myself to my writing full-time.  After wearing out half a dozen or so keyboards drafting too many manuscripts to count, I sold my first book, a YA novel, to Flux last year.  I was also lucky enough to then sell a second YA to Flux (which is tentatively being called PLAYING HURT, due out in ’11), and my first adult novel (FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS—also a tentative title—to Blooming Tree Press, also due out in ’11).  Yep—in one year, I went from being a writer ACHING to sell her first book to a writer who had sold three!

While ’09 was The Year Of Intense Celebration, ’10 is gearing up to be The Year Holly Wears Her Nose Off On The Old Grindstone…Yay!

Anyway, here’s where I’m at right now: A BLUE SO DARK is due out May 1, 2010…over the winter holidays, I read the proofs for A BLUE SO DARK and sent my comments to the production manager at Flux.  I hadn’t any more than pressed “send” on the email when I received the editorial letter from my editor at Flux for PLAYING HURT.  I also, in the first week of January, met my publicist at Flux for the first time (publicity is now in swing for A BLUE SO DARK). So, right now, I’m juggling global revisions for PLAYING HURT along with a little bit of preliminary publicity for A BLUE SO DARK.  (I have to admit—I was anticipating publicity to be much more work for me than it is.  Flux is taking care of a LOT of it…the publicity director actually told me on the phone, “We want you to focus on your craft.”  Double yay!)  I’m also anticipating that revisions for FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS will be coming down the pike soon, too…AND I’m dying to get back to the YA novel I was writing (a book the acquisitions editor at Flux expressed interest in) before I received the editorial letter on PLAYING HURT…WHEW!

Seems to me, most people have this preconceived notion that writers lead leisurely lives.  But writing’s rough!  It doesn’t get any easier once you make that first sale, either.  The work load just keeps piling up!

So how do I personally keep up?  First, I gotta admit, I have a cheat.  I’ve got some incredible financial support from my family…so my full-time job right now is my writing.  I know—how lucky can a girl get?  Very ROOM OF ONE’S OWN.

That having been said, though, life still intrudes: you know how it goes—the sink decides to spew, the computer crashes, the dog’s sick, there’s a strange layer of condensation in the attic…or it’s your best friend’s birthday, or it’s Christmas, or you’ve got the WHOLE family coming over for dinner.  Life doesn’t wait because you’ve got a deadline.

SO—how do I manage to balance it all?  In the first place, I PUT NOTHING ASIDE UNTIL TOMORROW.  NOTHING.  The instant I got the letter from my editor for PLAYING HURT, I attacked the manuscript.  I had a plan of action before I even went to bed that night.  And I work on it every day.  Sundays, too.  I NEVER take a day off—I’m doing my best to try to get the rewrite of PLAYING HURT finished before the March deadline.  I strive to do my best work as quickly as I can, because I’ve learned that another project and another deadline is ALWAYS coming…

Also, as soon as I understand what I need to do to a manuscript overall—once I see the big picture—I toss that big picture aside and I DEAL ONLY WITH SMALL, TACKLEABLE CHUNKS.  That way, I’m not thinking, “Expletive, expletive, expletive!  I’ve got to rewrite this entire expletive book in two expletive months!”  I just think (in a breezy, relaxed manner), “I need to rewrite this chapter today.  That I can do.”

I also USE LIFE’S DISTRACTIONS TO MY ADVANTAGE.  I get some of my best ideas doing something physical—I swear, nothing brings on more epiphanies than painting windows—it’s true!  I allow physical work, whatever it may be—vacuuming, driving, disassembling a carport—to be my think time.  I NEVER turn off the writer.  I mean, so much of writing is thinking.  So I think my revision or draft out while my hands are busy.  Then I scribble (or type) everything I’ve thought of all at once—kind of like a free write.

This practice allows me to NEVER, NEVER LET THE BLINKING CURSOR GET THE BEST OF ME.  Essentially, what I’ve thought out while my hands are busy is my plan of attack (character sketches, chapter outlines, dialogue fragments).  I lay those jotted-down plans next to my keyboard when I start typing.  That way, I don’t feel like I’m starting from absolute zero when I sit at my computer.

…Of course, when A BLUE SO DARK officially hits the shelves, I know I’ll have a bit more to do as far as publicity is concerned.  But here’s the thing: I really did learn to integrate my writing into my life during those LONG years before any of my work was accepted.  My family got used to listening to me scream, “Shut-up a sec!  Let me finish this chapter!”  As a result, once I started to get those acceptance letters (and those deadlines that go along with them), life just kind of moved forward seamlessly.  I have no doubt, once I start to do a little publicity, that I’ll still be able to move forward with my writing.  Any publicity work I do won’t UPSTAGE my writing…because I’ve learned to write while life goes on around me.

…Sometimes, though, I still find it hard to believe I’ve got three projects to juggle!  When things change, man, do they change…

I just wanted to wish everyone the best with their writing.  I personally can’t wait to read your own published work!

Thanks, Holly! This is great advice from someone right in the thick of the action!

Ok, your turn:
When do you find time to write? How do you balance your writing life with the rest of life?

For more Holly:
Check out her BLOG. Visit her WEBSITE. Pre-order A BLUE SO DARK.

About A BLUE SO DARK:
Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, Grace, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura's dad left them. Convinced that creative equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked---and together offer an escape from her fears.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Awesome Linger Giveaways!!!

It's no secret that the FNC has a huge author crush on Maggie Stiefvater--she's just one of the best writers, story weavers, artists we know, plus she's just pretty darn cool. She's currently having a contest to win an arc of the highly anticipated sequel to Shiver--Linger!

The FNC was fortunate enough to get a copy--which we'll be co-reviewing closer to release time. But if you can't wait for our review or for your own copy, go enter Maggie's contest and pre-order Linger! You know you want to! Check it out!


Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.


Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.


P.S. At my other blog Frankie Writes---you can win another copy of Linger there until March 2nd.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vampire Diaries: Episode 14 Fool Me Once

Anna’s Place
Welcome to the opening credits, Elena Gilbert, this does not bode well for you. This does not bode well for you at all.

Elena: Ow my head hurts. Why can’t I wake up in my own bed anymore? I miss my diary. Sigh. Ew, sleeping vampire guarding me. Should I try and escape without my shoes? Nah

She makes it to the door and fumbles with the locks....Behind you, Elena! Look behind you! And …

Ben: Oooh look into my eyes. You’re feeling veeery sleepy.

Elena: You’ve compelled me.

Ben: Sweet.

Elena: Psyche!

She unlocks the door to run out and is blocked! By Anna.

Anna: What is wrong with you, Ben! I told you to watch her.

Ben: I was! I totally did the eye thing you showed me last night. You know when you wiggle your eyebrow just a little and bat your lashes. I even added a wink.

Anna: You idiot! She’s screwing Stefan Salvatore. You think your eye wiggle can compel her? You’re an extra! And you, Elena! Bathroom!

Elena is thrown into the bathroom where she finds… Bonnie! In the tub!


Salvatore Mansion

Stefan: Damon you have to help me. Anna has Elena and I can’t find her anywhere.

Damon: Where did you look?

Stefan: Everywhere! Everywhere I can think of!

Damon: Everywhere?

Stefan: Yes, everywhere. First I checked The Only Restaurant in Mystic Falls! The Mystic Falls High School. And then The Only Restaurant in Mystic Falls!

Damon: You went there twice?

Stefan: 20xs actually?

Damon: …

Stefan: Well Mystic Falls only has 3 set pieces.


At Anna’s Lair:

Elena: Bonnie! Wake up! Wake up! Please wake up OMG!

Bonnie: I finally get a freaking date and then I got dragged off in the last episode and now I’m in a tub? Seriously? I want a new contract.

Elena: Look, they kidnapped you so you can witch Katherine’s tomb open.

Bonnie: I’ll never witch it open.

Ben: Oh yes you will!!!

Bonnie: Will not!

Ben: Bonnie, get with the program. Why do you think we kidnapped Elena?

Bonnie: Because she's the main character?

Ben: Exactly Captain Smarty Pants.

Elena is brough out of the bathroom so she can’t conspire with Bonnie on ways to escape and she meets Anna for the first time.

Elena: Are you an extra?

Anna: No! I’m a guest star. I’ve been in the last 3 episodes.

Elena: Well I’ve been in the last 13.


At the Only restaurant in Mystic Falls

Caroline: Hey Jeremy, where’s Elena? I’ve tried calling her, and texting, and facebook stalking and I may or may not have peaked inside her window…where is she?

Jeremy: Since when do you care where my sister is?

Caroline: Duh, I’ve always cared and I’m not at all asking because saying Elena’s name is the key to getting more screen time. Hmmm, you’re related to Elena, I wonder if I can stay in this scene longer by inviting you a party tonight.

Jeremy: You’re inviting me?

Caroline: Preens for the camera. OMG it’s working! It’s totally working. Jeremy let me tell you everything about this guy Duke who’s throwing the party, I mean Duke isn’t even his real name and…

The Camera: Moves on

Caroline: Ugh fine I’ll go and have some more awkward romancing with Matt. Are you happy now? Matt? Do you like me? Check yes or no.

At Bonnie’s Grandwitch’s:

Damon: Can I come in?

Grandwitch: NO!

Damon: Oh yeah? Come out here and tell me that.

Grandwitch steps outside and she totally witches the meanest headache ever to Damon.

Damon: AAAAHHH! My eyebrows! My eyebrows! WTF was that?

Grandwitch: That was don’t mess with the witches Damon Salvatore. I have your number!


Meanwhile back at Anna’s Lair Motel Room:

Elena: So why do you want to open the tomb? You like Katherine too?

Anna: No. I hate Katherine.

Elena: ?

Anna: You know for being the star of the show you sure miss out on a lot. Like all of last week’s flashbacks.

Elena: There were flashbacks?

Anna: Yeah and my mom is in the tomb. Ok?

Elena: My mom’s in a tomb too.

Anna: If you try and hug me now, you’ll die.

Then Anna tells Ben to watch the hostages while she goes to meet Stefan to cut a deal and Elena asks for a glass of water and then Bonnie demands a sip but Elena only decides to give her the water after they make the most OBVIOUS eyes in the world at each other.

Elena’s Eyes: You’re going to witch the water?

Bonnie’s Eyes: Not for much longer! Stop looking at me like we’re making a plan! Use stealth much?

Elena’s Eyes: Not really.

Then Bonnie witches the water into something nasty and throws it on Ben and he’s burning and Bonnie escapes to the door but Ben grabs Elena and threatens to vampirize her if Bonnie doesn’t return.

Bonnie: Crap Elena, being your friend kind of sucks lately.


Mystic Falls Town Square:

Anna’s on her way to meet Stefan but before she can get there…

Anna: Oh Hai Jeremy.

Jeremy: Hey…so…look, you’re weird and kind of creepy and lurk around and stalk me and you’re not really all that pretty and totally the opposite of everything I like in a girl. In fact I don’t even think I want to introduce you to my friends, not that I’m sure I have any anymore, plus you read weird books and spend time in the library like a total loser, but basically what I’m trying to say is…I like you.

Anna: You finally like me and you decide to tell me this by insulting me?

Jeremy: It worked in Pride and Prejudice.

Anna: Fine.

Jeremy: Great! There’s a big party. Tonight. Right by the tomb.

Anna looks totally perplexed, either because she really does like Jeremy, or wonders if her powers of compulsion are finally working, or because she doesn’t know what to wear to the party. Not sure. Then she sits on a bunch waiting for Stefan and…oh Hai Damon!


Anna: I work alone!

Damon: So do I.

Anna: Well I have the witch.

Damon: I have her book.

Anna: Fine! I’ll work with you.


Meanwhile back at Anna’s Lair….

Elena and Bonnie are sitting on the bed in captivity. When…EPIC DOOR OPENING LIGHT SHINES IN and Ben falls to the ground.

Elena: Stefan! Epic swoon.

Stefan: When it gets dark, GTFO of my town! The 3 set pieces aren’t big enough for the both of us.


Back at Bonnie’s Grandwitch’s:

Elena: Can we just open the tomb already? We’ve been talking about it since episode 6 and…

Bonnie: No! We can’t help Damon. Why should we give him what he wants?

Elena: Because if we don’t he might kill you the next time you piss him off.

Grandwitch: Ok I’ll do it. I’ll witch the tomb open. He gets his girl and all the other vampires die!

Stefan: Deal!

At Salvatore Mansion:

Elena: Damon, look I’m so super sorry I hurt your feelings in the last episode. I mean, I’m not sorry for what I did, but I…please forgive me and trust me even though I’m totally a backstabbing doppelganger of your ex-girlfriend.

Damon: Don’t make me utter some cliché line about fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Oh crap! I just did! Now I really hate you.

Elena: You can trust me. I promise. Look. I’ll even offer you my favorite piece from the Anti-Damon spring collection.

She takes the necklace off.

Damon: Puts the necklace back on her. It’s ok. I already have this in gold.

Elena: You do realize that the intense way you’re looking at me right now is totally foreshadowing a love scene between us.

Damon: Wiggles eyebrows. I foreshadowed that scene weeks ago.


Party Over the Tomb!

Elena and Damon show up to the party together and see….Caroline and Matt!!! Together!!! And holding hands… and its SO awkward.


Then Tyler-Douche-Bag who hasn’t been seen since his epic close up by the moon possibly foreshadowing his werewolf status like 4 episodes ago is at the party and wants to party with Jeremy and Jeremy’s all like umm no dude. We’re not friends. Remember Vickie? And the night your dad almost made us fight. Which btw was soooo weird. And Tyler-Douche-Bag is all like Whatever Man! You don’t even have any friends. Loser. And then Anna is there—let’s take a walk, baby!

Jeremy: You know…this area reminds me of…

Anna: Someone who died?

Jeremy: No, my ex-girlfriend. I see what you did thar Kevin Williamson! Anyway since I don’t have a girlfriend anymore and you’re still hanging around me…do you like me? Check yes or no.

Anna’s Eyes: Go all Vampire on her!

Jeremy: Your eyes….they’re all…

Anna: Shut up and kiss me!

Ben: Wonks Jeremy on the head and drags him away to be used as leverage for Anna.

And OMG! ELENA!!! Seriously…between you, Stefan and Damon…no one thought to warn Jeremy about Anna or put a watch on him? Vampires LOVE to use leverage and they love to go after you. The unprotected nature of Jeremy in this episode has officially put you in Too Stupid To Live Territory Elena! I’m putting you on notice!

Meanwhile….Bonnie and her Grandwitch are casting a circle

And Damon has a bag of blood to give Katherine…awwwwwww. And Ew!


And Back at the Actual Party which is Starting to Look Way More Fun Than This Tomb Business…

Tyler steals a drink from Matt and whines about him spending too much time with Caroline and I’m more and more convinced that Tyler’s hiding a secret bigger than being a furry creature once a month on the full moon.

Tyler Douche-Bag: Where’s Caroline. Honeymoon over already?

Matt: No…it’s just…I think she’s really clingy.

Tyler: But she’s not even with you right now.

Matt: I know!

Tyler: Right…so that’d make her the opposite of clingy. Hello!

Matt: Look man, Kevin Williamson won’t let me play the Elena card anymore so I need to find a reason to create tension in our relationship or I lose screen time.

Tyler: Yah I tried that and they vampirized my girlfriend and killed her off the show and now I’m hardly around anymore.

Matt: What’s your name again?

Caroline: Hi Matt! Got you a beer.

Matt: Stop crowding me, woman! OMG!

Caroline: Do you like me? Check yes or no.


Back to Witches Chanting:

Elena wonders what language the witches are chanting in. Is it Latin? Is it Greek? Is it Hebrew? Sanskrit? Gangsta Slang?


Then there’s a crash!

The Tomb: Opens

Stefan: I’ll start the fireworks.

Damon: I’m going in there and Elena’s coming with me!

Bonnie and the Grandwitch: NO!

Elena: It’s cool. He needs me as leverage so you don’t seal him in there. Also…the tomb scene will lose all of its tension if I’m not in there.Plus scenes without me are totally boring.

Bonnie: I think you’re starting to let this star of the show thing get to your head.

Elena: I know.

Then Stefan goes to the Vampire-Fire-Gun and sees Anna!

Anna: I’m getting my mom!

Stefan: Nooooooooooo.

Anna: Well Ben’s over there and he’s going to eat Jeremy, so either save him or stop me. Your choice.

Stefan: My name is Stefan Salvatore. You kidnapped my girlfriend. Prepare to die. Vampire Punch.

Ben: Come at me bro!

Stefan: Fire!!!

Then back at the tomb, the witches let Anna through because….No One is coming out! OMG!



Inside the Tomb of Vampire Death!

Elena has lost Damon and is ALONE. In a Tomb! Full of Vampires. Starving Vampires. Vampires who haven’t eaten anything in 200 years. And now Elena is screaming and flashing her flashlight and OMG the minute Damon left you you should have gotten the hell out of that tomb. Elena! I already put you on notice. That’s it! Welcome to the township of Too Stupid To Live. Population: You!

And…Anna bites you.


Stefan: Where’s Elena?

Bonnie: Damon took her into the tomb.

Stefan: Are you serious? My lady love? In there. I’m going after her.

Bonnie: No! We only half witched the tomb. Vamps can go in, but no vampires can't come out.

Elena: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Stefan: Nooooooooooooooooooooooo! And he runs into the tomb. Never to come out.

Inside the tomb:

Close up of Pearl, Anna’s Mom and OMG! I knew Vampires needed Anti-wrinkle cream!

Anna: Mom, here drink this…it’s essence of Katherine.

Then Stefan saves Elena and gets her the hell out of there, and Elena leaves the tomb but Stefan can’t come out…

Elena: Stefan…what are you…why are you still in there.

Stefan: I can’t leave. The witches only half-witched the spell.

Elena: You went in there for me…knowing you’d never come out?

Stefan: You screamed.

Elena: I scream in every episode.

Stefan: Hindsight…

Bonnie: Grandwitch! We have to witch the spell so he can leave! If we don’t-- I’ll have to listen to Elena whine and sob for the rest of eternity and I just can’t handle that kind of stress in my life right now.

So the witches get to work on re-witching the spell to reunite Stefan and Elena

Stefan goes in to get Damon…

Damon: Epic Blood Bag Throw

The Wall: WHY do vampires always throw things at me. These stains will never come out.

Damon: SHE’S NOT HEEEEEEERRRRRRRREEEEE! Katherine’s not in the tomb!

Stefan: WTF! We need to leave!

Damon: She’s not here! She’s not here! She’s not here!

Elena: WTF are you doing back in the tomb! Stefan imprisoned himself for eternity to get you out and now you’re back in! We need to leave Damon! Now!

Back at the Real Party:

Caroline: Matt? Do you like me? Check yes or no.

And then they kiss…almost.


Back at the tomb:

Poor Damon is crushed beyond belief. The love of his life that he spent 150 years making diabolical plans to save is not there and has betrayed him and his entire evil nature has now made him a fool.

Damon and Elena: Epic Hug!

Stefan: Is Jealous

Back at the Gilbert’s:

Jeremy: I don’t know how I passed out or remember anything. I know how this looks. And I’m sorry. I really wasn’t even drinking. Awwww if I could just reach through this tv screen right now and hug the crap out of Jeremy I would. He’s becoming my favorite character.

Elena: Gotta bounce bro. Glad you’re not dead.

Then Jeremy, who has graduated from reading really old journals and was attacked by his ex-vampire girlfriend and saw her staked and read all the proof of vamps in his Great Gilbert’s journal and saw Anna’s eyes changed and then was almost eaten by Ben…finally gets his google-search on and goes to the website: http://www.howtotellifyourentiretownisfullofvampires.com/

Back at Anna’s Lair:

Damon grabs Pearl as she and Anna come through the door.

Damon: You knew! You knew she wasn’t in the tomb! Where is she?

Anna: She bribed some guard who had a crush on her and she escaped. I saw her in the 80’s and dude, she totally fell prey to the bad fashion and hair. She even neon blue streaks and…

Damon: I. Hate. Everyone.

Scenes of Epic Sadness!

Damon sits by a fireplace, crushed. Stefan watches.


Bonnie’s Grandwitch Dies!!! And Bonnie is hysterical!

While the saddest version of the song Run is playing.

Meanwhile back at the tomb:

Some vampire licks Katherine’s blood bag remains off the wall…and is strong…and punches through the tomb wall and…dun dun dun!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Final Hunger Games book cover, article links, and squees of joy!

MOCKINGJAY releases on August 24th

And in case you missed the news all around the blogosphere, here's the cover!


Mark you calendars, people!

For more information, check out Scholastic's blog and USA Today.

Anyone else totally freaking out with joy?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The best free lesson on revision -- and it's FUN. (Non-writers, read this too!)

At some point, your favorite book was just a crappy first draft.

[Hope floods aspiring authors everywhere.]

Most writers would love to see this rough copy AFTER reading the brilliant finished product, to learn what changes brought the text to that publishing-worthy level of awesome.

No, I'm not offering a bunch of never-before-seen drafts of novels. But what about movie scripts?

Yes, scripts are a whole different ballgame, and they offer a different set of challenges and limits (aka nothing internal and a boatload of showing-not-telling). BUT they still build a world with appealing characters and a plot that hooks you.

What if I told you that originally, in 10 Things I Hate About You
(aka the PERFECT teen movie*) ...
Kat and Bianca had a mom named Sharon who still was married to their father, and she was the erotica writer in the movie -- not Ms. Perky, the guidance counselor?
" 'Undulating with desire...' "

That Patrick (the adorable Heath Ledger) sang "I Think I Love You" by the Partridge Family to woo Kat back -- instead of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You"? (And there was no high school band backing him up, thus denying us the brilliance of the scene.)

That the beginning was completely different?

That some of your favorite lines ... weren't there? Or were spoken by a different character?

And that doesn't even cover the altered characters and extra scenes.

Together, these small changes affect the overall feel and effectiveness of the movie. More significantly, Kat and Bianca's mom's absence, which happened in Kat's freshman year of high school, shapes who the sisters are -- and how their lovable-but-insanely-paranoid obstetrician father parents them. Cutting this character added depth to the entire Stratford family -- and having Ms. Perky be the erotica author made her even more hilarious.

Mr. Stratford: Kissing isn't what keeps me up to my elbows in placenta all day long.

Awesomesauce.

Anyway, Daily Script has a TON of movie scripts in every genre at varying stages of revision. Pick your favorite movie, the one you can quote backwards and forwards, and see what might have been if it hadn't been revised over and over again. Analyze how it was made stronger and what you wished they hadn't cut/changed. And laugh and cry at all the best parts, because reading scripts can be just as fun as watching the movie.

Talk about learning by example.

Anyway, here's the link to that version of the 10 Things script. And for added learning fun, here's a TV Tropes list of tropes in the movie. (Proving that you can, in fact, use recognizable character and plot elements to your advantage by giving them your own twist.)

You can thank me later. Or now, in the comments. Now's good. :0)

What movie(s) are you going to read?
* Feel free to argue with me here. What do you think is the perfect teen movie (or TV show)?

Monday, February 8, 2010

AMAZING Agent-Judged Contest Opportunity

The Guide to Literary Agents Blog has an incredible Dear Lucky Agent contest going on from February 7th-21st. Each month the niche and agent changes, and kidlit writers, it's our turn!

The Prizes
First place: 1) A critique of 25 pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) A query critique from your agent judge. 3) Two free books from Writer's Digest Books (I will give you several choices and you pick the books your want).

Runners-up - second and third place: 1) A critique of 10 pages of your work, by your agent judge. 2) One free book from Writer's Digest Books (I will give you several choices and you pick the book your want).

The Judge
Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency
(To see some amazing books she's repped, check out the contest page!)

Eligibility Rules
You have to submit your first 150-200 words of your completed middle grade or young adult novel. Plus a couple other easy things. Chuck lists them on the contest page. (Hi, Chuck!)

Now, I'm hoping that you all are following the incredible GLA blog and that the info in this post is old news... but if you don't, what are you waiting for?!

Let us know in the comments if you're planning on submitting! And if you don't have a completed YA/MG novel to submit, never fear! You can still enter our contest to win a signed copy of Libba Bray's ever-fabulous GOING BOVINE!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Let Your Writing Thoughts Marinate for 24 Hours, Minimum

Confession: Patience is not one of my virtues. I thrive on efficiency and deadlines and goals.

In this way, Writing is cruel. Writing operates on its own schedule. Writing doesn't care that you, say, desperately need to pen a query letter that will bring the publishing world to its knees.

MeWhy, Writing, why do you do this! And why do I keep coming back for more?
Writing: Shhh, I'm trying to watch Lost.

You can Butt-In-Chair it all you want to combat a writing roadblock. But it doesn't always work. Words come, sure, but they're not necessarily the ones you need. The right ones.

Sometimes you must be patient.

I hate being patient.

In fact, when writing gets the best of me, I become supremely productive in all other areas of life, as if to prove to myself that I am not, in fact, an epic failure.

Then I remember that sometimes, even when your conscious mind is all "Huh?" your unconscious mind is all "I got your back, yo."

(My unconscious mind is kind of a tough guy. He could totally beat up your unconscious mind.)

Case In Point (or, Case In Brief Story):

I realized after the Query Shark workshop that a chunk of my query letter needed an overhaul. I wasn't presenting my novel in quite the right way. But I had no idea HOW to fix it.

Fastforward two weeks, past the emergency retinal procedure, straight to the SCBWI NYC Conference. Friday night, I drank an energy drink to prevent yawning and general comatosity* at KidLit drink night. It worked. But I slept about four hours. And in the three or so hours I lay awake in a groggy half-sleep, a sentence popped into my head. And then another. And another.

An Illustrated, Super Scientific Version of Why This Happened:

I reached over to grab the pen and paper by the bed (even traveling I keep this tradition!) and scrawled out (in complete darkness) my ideas. I had my shiny new query letter.

Well, I had a barely legible mishmash of sentences and phrases. But it was amazing. And surprisingly coherent, come daylight!

So what have we learned, dear readers?
Trust in your writerly right brain. Trust in Writing. And be a little patient. But not a lot. The whole time I was NOT rewriting the query letter, I was thinking about it and working on other writing.

My World-Changing Food/Writing Metaphor:
Marinating pretty much makes any food better. And the longer you marinate, the better it tastes. But if you let it marinate too long, it'll go rotten.

Fellow Writing Chefs:
Any good marinating stories or midnight inspiration? Share, share!

* Comatosity: adjective form of comatose. I'm totally copyrighting this.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Vampire Diaries: Episode 13: Children of the Damned

Mystic Falls: The Year That Stefan Was Human

Late at night on a dark deserted road in the good town of Mystic Falls a horse-drawn carriage stops to hear the desperate pleas of a beautiful woman whose husband has been hurt. A man gets out to help her husband and the driver steps out too.

Driver: It’s not safe to be out here in the middle of the night.

Katherine: No sir, it’s not safe….FOR YOU!! And she vampirizes the driver.

And then she goes to vampirize the other guy helping…oooh look it’s Damon and he’s human and he doesn’t know how to eat and kill yet. Awww (well, ew, but awww).

Katherine: And that’s how we vampire. Cool huh?

Damon: Awesome. I’m ready. Turn me.

Katherine: Kiss me.

Damon: Um, well wait…you’re kind of slobbering blood all over the place (he actually tries to wipe her face with a handkerchief!)

Katherine: Get used to it! Love the blood baby! Love the blood!

And then they share a bloody-vampire-slobber-kiss


Mystic Falls: The Year Elena and Stefan Are Sexually Active

Damon totally walks in on Elena and Stefan in bed sharing the post crazy-vampire-sex-glow.

Elena: OMG Damon! I’m almost naked except for my awesomely sexy camisole that conveniently covers everything you can’t show unless you're on cable.

Damon: Puh-lease. I’ve slept with your doppelganger, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. I bet you also have that birthmark right over your—

Stefan: OUT!

Damon: Relax. I just came to call to order the first ever meeting of the Super Secret Diabolical Planners Club. The SSDPC for short or the S squared DPC. I’m president. Stefan, you can be secretary, and Elena…no Elena should be the secretary because she’d look really cute in little secretary glasses and…

Stefan: Get to the point.

Damon: Rolls eyes. Wiggles eyebrows. Fine. Elena, you’re a Gilbert and we need your great great great great Gilbert’s journal to find Emily’s spellbook. So go get it.

Stefan: Elena, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

Damon: Exsqueeze me? I’m the president. Not you. Elena, journal. Stefan, look into getting us some club buttons, maybe matching t-shirts. Me…I’ve got to go work on my diabolical plan: the trilogy. Man, I love our club. Just the three of us. Not kinky at all…

Stefan and Elena return to the vampire nookie under the sheets and the sheets flashback to…

Mystic Falls: The Year Katherine and Damon Were Sexually Active

Damon: Do you want a visit from the….TICKLE MONSTER???

Katherine: Do you want a visit from the….VAMPIRE MONSTER???

Kendra the Vampire Slayer Emily: Ms. Katherine, Pearl’s here to see you.

Katherine meets Pearl downstairs.

Katherine: Emily, tell Mr. Salvatore I’ve stepped away.

Kendra the Vampire Slayer Emily: Which one? The cute one? The cuter one or the old one, the older one, or the one that’s probably going to die today from fever?

Katherine: All of them. And tell the dog too while you’re at it.

Pearl: It’s getting dangerous for us here, Katherine. I went to the beauty store today to buy a new jar of anti-wrinkle cream--

Katherine: Anti-what cream?

Pearl: Anti-wrinkle cream-- so I don’t look old.

Katherine: You’re a vampire, what part about eternal youth don’t you understand?

Pearl: I’m pushing 1,000 here and you saw what those vampires in Volterra looked like. Not pretty.

Katherine: Ok, so what’s your point?

Pearl slaps the lotion on her.

Katherine: AAAAH! It burns, it burns! OMG…its Pre-Damon-Anti-Damon!

Pearl: They know about us!

And OMG Anna is Pearl’s daughter!!!


Mystic Falls: The Year Anna Stalks Jeremy

Anna: on the phone Jeremy, it’s Anna, your girlfriend stalker chic, I love you call me.

Ben: Please note that he is wet, shirtless, and wrapped in a towel Hey baby.

Anna: Shhh, I’m reading.

Ben: Oh did you find that old journal thing you’re looking for?

Anna: No, now drink some blood. If you’re hungry on your date the witch will know.

Ben: Fiiiiiine. Hey! What about that book over there? Is that the journal? That looks REALLY old.

Anna: That’s a first edition Harry Potter, you moron.

Ben: And this journal you’re looking for is even older? I don’t know, Anna, are you sure pens even existed back then?

Anna: If you weren't dead, I'd kill you again.

At Elena’s:

Elena: You know, Damon is really romantic. Every single thing he’s ever done in the last two hundred years has been for love.

Stefan: What? You think killing and torturing and controlling innocent people and children and all of the other vile and cruel sins against all that is good in this world is romantic?

Elena: So you’re saying you wouldn’t kill and torture and control innocent people and children to prove your love to me?

Stefan:…

Elena: Ok…. Look, it’s my great great great great Gilbert’s strange muzzle device.

Jeremy: Oh cool, great great great great Gilbert’s things. I read his journal last week. Wrote a paper on it. Got an A…not to brag or anything, but did you know that A is the first letter of the alphabet?

Stefan: You WHAT?

Elena: Where’s the journal now, Jeremy?

Jeremy: Why are you all so obsessed with this journal? Alaric called it history teacher porn. And now you two want it? I must have skipped the good parts.


Mystic Falls High School/Mystic Falls: The Year The Founders Played with Vampire Compasses

Alaric alone in his classroom reads the journal of Great Gilbert/FLASHBACK

Giuseppe Salvatore: Where does this compass lead to? Treasure? Gold? Our heart’s desire?

Jonathon Gilbert: No, you idiot! It leads to vampires.

Giuseppe Salvatore: Vampires? We have vampires in this town?

Jonathon Gilbert: Dude, that’s why we called this meeting and I made this compass.

Giuseppe Salvatore: Is the compass magic? Can it grant me wishes?

Jonathon Gilbert: No! Its science and it leads to vampires. Just vampires! No wishes, no treasure, just vampires.

Giuseppe Salvatore: Oh...ok. How does it work?

Jonathon Gilbert: Well how should I know? I’m a writer, not a scientist.

Back to Alaric…making photo copies…alone in the high school, in the dark! He hears a noise…and he goes outside his office leaving the journal alone on his desk… OMG! Alaric! You’re in a Kevin Williamson production and you kill vampires! Did you really just leave your office to investigate a strange noise? Abort! Abort! I think Anna’s around and OMG Anna IS around! Oh she so totally stole your journal.

Alaric then goes and gets some kind of crazy stake-gun machine that he totally built in his basement one night after a lot of drinks and too many action hero movies and shoots and…Stefan catches the stake in his hand! Yeah…he used to play football in episode 3.

Stefan: Dude! WTF? What is that? Did you build it yourself?

Alaric:….

Stefan: Ok whatever, so tell me who you are.

Alaric:…

Stefan: All right. We can do this the easy way, or we can do this the vampire way. And trust me, you won’t like it that way.

Alaric: I came here to avenge the death of my paranormal psychologist wife who was vampirized and disappeared and is probably a vampire now sired by your brother. Or not. But she probably is one. I’m here to find out the truth.

Stefan: Anything else I should know about your dead wife?

Alaric: The year she was born, she was the only person named Isabel and is Elena’s birth mother and the shit’s going to hit the fan when she finds out that Damon killed her. No.

Stefan: Ok good. Where’s the journal.

Alaric: Right….here….Well it was here! A second ago.

Stefan: epic sigh


Mystic Falls, Anna’s Joint/Mystic Falls the Year Anna’s Mom Wasn’t In The Tomb


Ben: Kiss me.

Anna: Ew! As if! I’m reading….flashback to

Pearl: Katherine we have to get out of here. They put Pre-Damon-Anti-Damon in the eye cream, in the night serum, in the daily moisturizer, AND in the suntan lotion!

Katherine: Vampires don’t wear suntan lotion.

Pearl: Wait until your 1,000!

Jonathon Gilbert: Oh Ms. Pearl, might I speak with you?

Kendra the Vampire Slayer Emily: Gilbert wants to do your Mom!

Anna: Ew.

And we switch to…the Salvatores taking a walk.

Giuseppe Salvatore: Damon you are a worthless piece of crap, a deserter and the bane of my existence bringing shame upon the name Salvatore!

Stefan: Dad! Do you realize that what you’re saying right now can potentially create 150 years worth of daddy issues for Damon?

Giuseppe Salvatore: Don’t worry son, your daddy issues talk is coming too. Also we’re going to kill all the vampires in town! Don’t disappoint me.


At Elena’s: Present Day:
Damon is cooking dinner for Aunt Jenna? And flirting with her? Ok…

Damon: Oh my dad never approved of my girlfriends.

Aunt Jenna: Yeah, parents suck.

Damon: Aren’t you like Elena and Jeremy’s “parent” now?

Aunt Jenna: Oh…right...yeah….everybody should totally listen to their parents…

Damon: So they ever find the body of your ex-newscaster boyfriend?

Aunt Jenna: Huh? He’s like in the Bahamas getting a tan. The jerkwad.

Damon: Riiight….oh hi Elena! So where is my dear brother, Stefan? He’s missing family night which is SO much fun. Are you having fun? Because I am!

Elena: He’ll be here.

Damon and Elena alone in the kitchen…

Damon: moves super close to Elena and looks into her eyes. Can I trust him? Is he trustworthy?

Elena: I’m wearing my Anti-Damon collection.

Damon: Fall?

Elena: Spring actually. So you can’t compel me.

Damon: I’m not trying to compel you. I’m asking as a friend, who never ever tried to kill you and only ever killed one of your friends who you were only sort of friends with, if my brother is a big fat liar or not.

Elena:…

Damon: Because once I used to trust him. I even let him borrow my snuggie in 1885 and it was brand new and my favorite color--Afternoon-Sky-Blue…matches my eyes;) Anyway I still can’t talk about the stain situation I found when he finally returned it to me. And I’ve never looked at him the same.

Elena: Um, I don’t think snuggies were around in 1885.

Damon: You’re 17. What do you know? Anyway the point is I love Katherine and I’ll do anything…ANYTHING to get her back.

Elena: That’s hot.

Damon: I know. And if you’re lying to me, I will totally kill you—club secretary or not. Capiche?

Then Damon and Jeremy play video games together while Aunt Jenna gushes over Damon unaware that he has super vampire hearing powers. Elena remembering that he can hear her, calls him an ass. And then Anna calls Jeremy and he ignores the call even though Damon swears being a hottie trumps being weird and Jeremy ought to tap that.


At the Only Restaurant in Mystic Falls:

Ben and Bonnie bemoan the fact that Metallica is never a good choice for karaoke. Obviously he should have gone with a Wham! Song. Next time, next time. And then they launch into a five hour conversation about who's Bonnie’s best friend and how she’d die for her, because we can’t possibly have a scene where Elena’s name isn’t mentioned 30 times.

Back at Elena’s:

Stefan tells Damon the bad news…another vampire stole the journal before he could get there. But Damon’s not having it.

Damon: Jeremy, who did you tell about your great great Gilbert’s journal? Who else knows?

Jeremy: OMG, you want it too? I must have totally missed the porn in there. Damnit! I just told that weird chic Anna.

Damon: Anna? OK come on Jeremy, we’re going on a date tonight.

Jeremy: You guys are SO weird.

Damon and Jeremy leave and then Stefan reveals that he stole Alaric’s photocopy of the journal. Sneaky, sneaky! Man, I’m trusting Stefan less and less these days. And then Damon gets to the Only Restaurant in Mystic Falls and sees Jeremy with Anna and OMG he knows who she is! While at Elena’s, Stefan reads from the photocopy.


Stefan: “The secret for how to get into the tomb is in Emily’s spell book. A secret I will keep and a secret that Giuseppe will carry to his grave.”

Elena: I take it that’s not a figure of speech.

Stefan: Flashback…to the conversation that gave him his daddy issues.

Giuseppe Salvatore: Ah my son, come in, come in. I’m thinking very grave thoughts. Thoughts that have left me in a grave mood.

Stefan: So you packed everything you want to be buried with?

Giuseppe Salvatore: Well you don’t want to be unprepared. Just need to fit this spell book into my suitcase for when I travel to the great beyond. But what about you, my son?

Stefan: Dad…I have a dream. A dream where vampires and humans can be friends. A dream where you can shake a vampire's hand on the street and not fear they will bite you. A dream that one day I will become a celibate vegetarian vampire and have my story written down by some woman in the 1990s in a popular book series that will be resurrected in a tv show when vampires become all the rage 10 years later and I will stand out among the masses because I look the best without a shirt. I believe that some day, vampires won’t be considered the villains, but the heroes. They won’t be scary. They will be sexy. It’s time for the world to know the truth: not all vampires are evil. Some are just emo. This is my dream, Dad.

Giuseppe: You moron! They are demons from hell and no woman will ever write a story about them! And so help me God, Stefan if you become the star of a vampire tv show than I will haunt your thoughts with this conversation for the next 200 years. Now if you’ll excuse me. I need to fit the wine glasses into my grave-site suitcase.

Flash to modern day Stefan…

Stefan: I know where the spell book is!

Elena: rolls eyes. Was a flash back really necessary for that epiphany?

At Anna’s Joint:

Anna comes home and waiting in the doorway for her is Damon! He vampire-grips her neck and she vampire-grips him back.

Anna: Say uncle! Say uncle!

Damon: No you! You!

They both let go and rub their necks. OW!


Mystic Falls: The Year Katherine and Stefan were Sexually Active

Stefan: Is that a new necklace? Did Damon give it to you?

Katherine: Why do you care? Jealous?

Stefan: Obviously. Just pick me, Katherine, I want you to myself.

Katherine: But I get to make all the rules, because I know exactly the way you like it. And then she vampirizes him and falls off the bed! AAAAAh! Pre-Damon-Anti-Damon.

Giuseppe: I knew it! Stefan, I fed you full of Pre-Damon-Anti-Damon to expose her and now I did! Go get the police! (oooooh so that’s where you learned that trick in episode 4) And then Stefan runs off.



Mystic Falls: Present Day: Anna’s Joint

So basically we find out that Anna has been hanging out in Mystic Falls since episode 2, but she kept a low profile and also, she’s the one who turned Logan into a vampire thinking if she got her hands on the Fell journal she’d be able to open the tomb and release her mother. But now she has the Gilbert journal and Damon takes that away from her because he works alone thank you very much. Also, no one invited her into the SSDPC.


At The Only Restaurant in Mystic Falls:
Bonnie: calls Elena. OMG, Ben is like so totally hot and yummy and a perfect gentleman and I just want to kiss him.

Elena: Bonnie, I’ve got to go dig graves. Just kiss him already sheesh.

Bonnie: Ok! Goes to Ben and Lip Smack….psychic witch senses start to jump around and Bonnie pulls off some massively good acting. Oh darn I should have waited to the end of the night to kiss you and I’m tired, but let’s keep going and have some coffee and hold on while I pee….and Ben vampire speed runs behind her and drags her away.

Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!


Mystic Falls: The Year Elena and Stefan Open Graves

Elena and Stefan dig deeper and deeper and then…Houston we’ve hit the coffin. Stefan opens it and there are gross daddy dead bones and…Emily’s spell book. Huzzah!

OMG Stefan GTFO of there! You know Damon’s going to be there ANY second and…ooooh crap, there he is.

Damon: I knew it! I knew you weren’t really ordering secret club buttons. How could you lie to me?

Stefan: I’m sorry. I couldn’t let you bring her back. Some vampires are emo, but she’s just evil.

Damon: Whatever. I knew you were a liar. But you, Elena…I want my pink shirt back!


Wow Damon kind of looks like he’s going to cry…but then he grabs Elena. He means business. Stefan if you destroy that spell book he’ll see how good her blood really tastes.

Elena: Stefan, now is the time for you to kill and torture and control people to save me and prove you love me.

Stefan: Just hand her over.

Damon: Ok fine! I won’t kill her. I’ll do worse and then he cuts himself and is bleeding all over Elena’s mouth and ewwwww she has to drink it…

Stefan: Nooooooooooooooooo. Fine take the spellbook!

Elena: Is thrown back to Stefan and they leave in a huff and are taking their toys home with them.


Mystic Falls: The Year the Vampires were Locked in the Tomb

Katherine is unconscious and all muzzled up in Jonathon Gilbert’s muzzle thing and they’re rounding everyone up

Damon: This is all your fault! You told dad. I can’t trust you with anything. I want my snuggie back!

Stefan: But…but…I didn’t think this would happen!

Mystic Falls: Present Day: Gilbert House

Stefan: It’s all my fault. I thought my dad would understand and he didn’t and Damon trusted me and I broke that. I destroyed his faith in everything.

Elena: Vampire blood makes my head hurt

Stefan: So no crazy vampire sex tonight?

Elena:…

Stefan: I’ll get aspirin.

I have a baaaaaad feeling about this…. 2 minutes of episode time remain...

Jeremy: Oh hey! Where is she?

Stefan: Where’s who?

Jeremy: Anna. I invited her over OMG!!!! Jeremy should not be allowed to talk to people ever!!! First Black Hoodie and now Anna!!???!!??? Dude! Anybody could be a vampire!

Mystic Falls: The Year the Vampires Are Locked in the Tomb

Pearl: Anna get Emily, she’ll help!

Pearl then goes to get help or something…she might just like the way her dress swishes in the moonlight when she runs and she finds Jonathon Gilbert.

Jonathon Gilbert: Pearl! Check it out. We’re rounding up the demons. Awesome, right!

The Vampire Compass: Points to Pearl

Pearl: Oh crap!

And then the founders shoot her down and muzzle her up and throw her in with the other demon abominations of Mystic Falls while Emily holds Anna back who is screaming and now Stefan KNOWS, he KNOWS who Anna is and she’s in the house and Elena has vampire blood in her and oooooooh crap! She’s gone!!!!!!!!!! Aaaaah! Elena is MISSING!

Meanwhile….

Bonnie: WTF!!! I was dragged away by an angry vampire and there’s been no resolution to my storyline and no one even knows I’m gone. FML.

Caroline: Quit whining. At least you were in this episode.

Elena: Can you two shut up? I’m the one in danger of becoming a vampire  here and check out the preview for next week.

Bonnie:…

Caroline:…

Elena: See, it’s all about me.

Bonnie: I am SO screwed!
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