Saturday, September 22, 2012

Game of Tomes

Epic fantasy is so not my thing.  At all.  Elves and dwarfs and impossible to pronounce names like Thworesselynyn = not for me.

But after watching the first season of HBO's Game of Thrones (via Netflix because Husband and I are too cheap to pay for HBO) and Husband telling me how good it is, I dug into the Song of Fire and Ice series.

That was in April.  I'm now almost finished with Book 3.

Why, you ask, has it taken me five months to read three books?  Because they are HUGE.  And the description.  Well, hello description.  If I put that much description in my books, my partials and fulls would come back with the words HA HA WTF? scrawled across the front page.

But - as long as it's taking me to read these books (and despite the ten straight pages of naming every single ship in the bay in Book 2), I'm really enjoying them. 

No, really.  Here's why:

1) Plot twists I could only dream of creating. And that's all I'll say, because almost every plot twist has been ruined for me so far. (Thank you, local newspaper features section. And thank you, Husband, who kept asking me pointed questions about who was doing what.)

2) The characters. The books are told from multiple POVs, which sounds insane. It is, for a normal writer. But George RR Martin must have entire rooms of his house devoted to character arcs.  Pieces of paper taped to the walls, with little strings connecting the intersecting plotlines. Somehow, he's managed to create a whole barrage of characters, each with a unique voice.  They aren't confusing and they don't all sound the same. I'm excited to read from each character's viewpoint. I don't go, "Ugh, not another Sansa chapter." (Although people who have read the books often don't like Sansa. Why? I don't know. I love Sansa. Heck, I was a Sansa when I was a kid. I cannot possibly be the only girl on the entire planet who liked to dress up and not get dirty and dream about romance. There are others out there. They just won't own up to it.)

3) The books read more like historical fiction than epic fantasy.  Minus the made-up places, they could pass for something like Arthurian legend.  And I love (LOVE!) historical fiction and Arthurian legend.

4) Back to the descriptions. Yes, I could've done without the gazillion and two ships named one by one in Book 2, but I like luxuriating in the food and clothing descriptions. They feel like a guilty pleasure. (Seventy-seven courses at a wedding feast? Oh, yes, please tell me every single one!  Nom Nom Nom.)

5) The little nuggets of great writing. Every once in a while, I stumble upon a phrase that is so perfectly written, I nearly swoon. My favorite is from Book 2: "Arya watched and listened and polished her hates the way Gendry had once polished his horned helm." Swoon.

So, yeah, I'll keep reading.  By this time next year, I might be finished with Book 5.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Color me embarrassed...

So you know how in my last blog post, I was all, "Wah, nobody follows me!"

Yeah.  That's because I didn't have a follow button on my blog. (Thanks to @akossket on Twitter, who let me in on that fact!)  Am a total noob.

<-----------Over there, somewhere on the left, is a follow button now.  Yay!  I also added a twitter stream, so I'm feeling pretty up on the blog design thing.

One day soon, I'll add a picture or something really exciting like that.

(I know you're all jealous of my blog design skillz.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reader Appreciation Award

The awesome Tamara gave me the Reader Appreciation Award.  (You should visit her blog - she's a friendly, talented writer.) I'd love to pass it on, but since my blog is pretty new, I have no actual followers! (I know people read it, because I get hits...but if you follow me, I won't feel so lonesome;)

Anyway, I still want to play along, so here goes the 7 things you don't know about me:

1) When I was about 12 or 13, I wrote a "book" (it was 35 handwritten notebook pages) entitled The Ghost In the Attic.  It was not about a ghost in the attic. Go figure.

2) My ancestors were among the founding families of Salisbury, Massachusetts.

3) I am addicted to the following foods, in no particular order: brie, Runts candy, these fried cheese things with mint chutney from my local Indian restaurant, dark chocolate, this peanut butter and chocolate ice cream Husband and I call "peanut butter crack", Pringles Cheese 'Ums (I can't ever remember the new name for them), pesto, and pad thai.

4) I'm two days older than Heath Ledger (RIP).

5) I'm generally not a fan of sci-fi, but I love (LOVE!) Firefly

6) I minored in French. Just don't ask me to say anything that isn't in present tense.

7) I know all the words to Rent and Les Miserables.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Writing Highs and Lows

These past two weeks have been full of writing highs and writing lows for me.

Right now, I'm winding down (or trying to wind down) from a crazy, fun, inspirational, busy day at the SCBWI Midsouth Conference.  I thought I'd take a moment and reflect on the past couple of weeks, writing-wise.

Writing Highs!!

1) Today, I found out I received an honorable mention for the first ten pages of my most recently-completed middle grade novel.  You guys - I got an AWARD!  At an SCBWI conference!  They called my name, and it literally took me a few seconds to process it.  It's not a huge award, but still - they picked me!  Even more awesome, the award comes with an invitation to submit a full to the editor who judged the competition.  I can't use enough exclamation points to describe how I feel about this!!!!!!!!!!

2) I participated in #PitMad on Twitter this past Thursday and got three requests.  One of those agents has already asked for a full. (Excuse me while I squee! and re-enact my happy dance from Thursday)

3) I got the world's most awesome rejection yesterday (this was from a query unrelated to the #PitMad requests).  I don't feel comfortable posting specifics online (in order to respect this agent's privacy), but it was the most ego-boosting rejection I've ever received.  It revived my belief in this particular manuscript.

4) Conferences.  I love, love, love conferences.  The energy, meeting other writers, talking about things only other writers get (ie. awesome personalized rejections).  Being here is one of the best things I could do for my writing.  I challenged myself by signing up for a pitch session with an agent, and I'm so glad I did it.  She was friendly and encouraging, and so much fun to talk to.

Writing Lows:(

1) I entered a few online contests, and haven't made it past the first round yet.  I've gotten some very useful feedback on my work, met some fun & talented writers, and I'm proud of myself for putting my work out there.  And, God knows, I've gotten tons of rejections on my writing before.  I have a thicker skin than I used to, but - I won't lie - rejection does still hurt a little.  It does, however, make me determined to enter more contests!

2) A critique.  I signed up for a paid critique session with an editor at this conference.  And she was...very honest (though quite nice about it & full of helpful suggestions).  I always appreciate honesty in a critique, as opposed to the ever-so-unhelpful "This is nice."  But still...ouch.  And to show how subjective this industry is - the ten pages from this critique are the exact same ten pages that won the honorable mention from a different editor (see #1 in Writing Highs).

I know this industry doesn't get any easier.  If anything, it gets harder.  Once you break in, there are revisions stacked upon more revisions.  Then the submissions process.  Then, if you survive that, more revisions.  Then stress about marketing your book and fear that it won't sell.  Then the pressure to write something just as good, if not better.  And on and on and on.

And, the highs will always trump the lows.

Monday, September 10, 2012

GUTGAA Pitch Polish

Just a quick post to mention that the query and first 150 words of Ex-Drama Queen have been posted on Deana Barnhart's blog for critique. 

So hop on over and have at it!  I'm number 21.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

It's conference time!

This is my cat, Nutmeg.  She has nothing to
do with this post.  But she is awfully cute.
Well, almost.  Next week, I'm off to the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference in Nashville.  I'm really excited - and a little nervous. 

SCBWI Midsouth is full of talented and friendly writers, so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing those I know and meeting new people.  And I can't wait to get a critique on the first few pages of my WIP (Don't Fall Down).  There are some great editors, agents, and writers on the faculty, too, and the sessions all sound really interesting.

So, what am I nervous about?  I signed up for a one-on-one pitch session with an agent.  I've never done this before, and just thinking about it makes my heart race.  I read this agent's blog and I follow her on Twitter.  She seems like a really nice person, so I doubt she'll be all like "OMG, your ideas suck." 

But I'm still nervous.  I think it has more to do with selling myself than with talking to an agent.  I've chatted with other agents at conferences, and they've all been friendly and easy to talk to.  It's the talking about me and making my writing sound like the best thing ever that's giving me palpitations.  Plus, when I get nervous, I start to laugh too much and say "um" and "you know" and "like" a lot.  I want my pitches to sound conversational (as opposed to memorized), but I have a hard time doing that without rambling.

Have you guys ever pitched an agent in person?  If so, how did it go?  Any advice? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

GUTGAA Meet & Greet!

GUTGAA (Gearing Up to Get an Agent) is this awesome blogfest hosted by Deana Barnhart (who also happens to live in Kentucky, like me!).  This week is Meet and Greet.  Below is my bio and my nswers to the M&G questions:

I'm 33, married to the guy I started dating in 12th grade, and mama to an almost one-year-old baby girl.  For lack of any other direction in life (read: I got a master's in US history and didn't want to teach or get a PhD), I went to law school.  I practiced for a little while, but now I work at a great non-profit.  I write upper middle grade/tween contemporary girly novels.   And, yes, my husband has read them all.  :)   And, he's playing with the little one right now so I can steal a few moments to write this blog entry! 

Like most other writers, I wrote as a kid and a teenager (mostly, I tried to emulate RL Stine and Christopher Pike), but I re-found (is that a word?) writing in '06 when I was neck deep in law school and tired of reading cases.  One day in the law library, I closed my Real Estate Law book, popped open my laptop, and began pecking out the beginnings of a middle grade novel.   Then I found SCBWI, the Verla Kay blueboards, and couldn't stop writing.

On to the questions...

-Where do you write? On the old couch in my living room.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?  The TV and shelves of such fabulous film fare as Young Guns, Ice Castles, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Three Amigos, Wayne's World, 3:10 to Yuma, Knocked Up, and Husband's extensive anime collection.

-Favorite time to write? Definitely morning, but since I'm working most mornings, I write in the evening by default. 

-Drink of choice while writing? Husband and I swore off buying Diet Pepsi, so now it's either some variety of Crystal Light, water, or wine.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? Silence. 

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it? The manuscript I have in revisions is a skating novel that came from my years as a skater.  The Shiny New Idea was inspired by my travels out west.

-What's your most valuable writing tip?  Go to conferences and writing workshops.  I always find myself full of of ideas and energy after a conference.  I went to this great plot workshop with Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine books in April.  I learned SO much, and I can say that my WIP is 10x better now because of that workshop.  I use all my Christmas and birthday money for these things - so worth it!