Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Learning from the Classic Authors

At the moment, I'm rushing toward a deadline: 60 articles on children's and YA authors due Nov. 30, so I wanted to share some of the inspiring things I've discovered as I researched.

As writers we often face rejection letters and may start to doubt whether our work is any good. If you're smarting from a recent rejection, here are a few anecdotes to keep you going.

When Jane Austen's father sent her manuscript (which later came out as Pride and Prejudice) to a publisher, the editor sent it back unopened.

And when Ursula Le Guin's agent sent Left Hand of Darkness (considered by many to be one of Le Guin's greatest masterpieces), she received a scathing reply. The letter opened with:

"Ursula K. Le Guin writes extremely well, but I'm sorry to have to say that on the basis of that one highly distinguishing quality alone I cannot make you an offer for the novel."

The editor then went on to criticize the novel's complicated details and information and called the legends "a nuisance." The editor's overall opinion was that "the very action of the story seems to be to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable."

Many other criticisms followed. To read the whole letter, see Le Guin's website.
Yet that book went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards and is still in print more than 40 years later.

I also found it heartening to read some of the poor reviews many classic authors received. Any authors who have been stung by negative reviews of their work can take heart after reading about Kenneth Grahame's experience.

Have you ever heard of Wind in the Willows? Are you familiar with his characters Mr. Toad, Ratty, Mole, and Badger?

When Grahame tried to get Wind in the Willows published, no one would touch it. Finally, one publisher agreed to put it out, but refused to give Grahame an advance. When the book came out, it got horrible reviews: 

 "Grown-up readers will find it monstrous and elusive," wrote the New York Times critic. "Children will hope, in vain, for more fun."
 "Arthur Ransome judged it to be an out-and-out failure: 'like a speech to Hottentots made in Chinese.'"

In spite of the critics' opinions, Wind in the Willows has remained a children's classic for more than 100 years. And children still love it.

So take heart, if you're struggling with rejection letters or critics who are tearing your book apart. Even the great authors faced rejection, but they discovered that editors, agents, and critics aren't always right. Nor are they the last word on what will be popular.

The public often defies the critics' judgments and loves the very books that have been panned. And that's the audience we're really writing for.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm Thankful For...

Photo by Shannon Kringen
This year is the first year my two-year-old daughter has been really cognizant of holidays and in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, I kept telling her, "This is the holiday where we eat!" 

Yes, it's true - it's the holiday where we eat.  Though, as an Italian, any holiday is a holiday where we eat.  It's also the holiday where we stop and really think about what we're grateful for, and give thanks.

I try to be grateful for something every day.  When I peek in on my daughter every night before I go to bed, and I lay my hand on her stomach and feel her breathing, I'm grateful.  When I tuck my toes and lift my hips into the first down-dog of the day, I'm grateful.  When I have three unencumbered hours to write, I'm grateful.  When I lay my head down on the pillow before I go to sleep, I try to remember to think of five things that I'm grateful for that day.  It's not hard to come up with five things: my family, my friends, my health, the fruit trees in my backyard, and Starbucks Skinny Peppermint Mochas.  (See, it all comes back to food...)

But it's really easy to forget to be grateful every day.  I often do.  We get so busy and wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that it can be hard to stop and say, "Thank you."  We get so stressed out about money and work and kids and traffic and waiting in lines that it takes conscious effort to step back, close our eyes, and feel blessed.

So I'm taking this moment to be grateful for these things that make my writing life rich and productive (in no particular order):

-my face-to-face writing group (Anne Van, Romina Garber, Lizzie Andrews & Jen Klein)
-my online writers group (Linda Gerber, Barb Aeschliman, Julie O'Connell & Ginger Calem)
-my laptop
-Republic of Pie in North Hollywood
-Starbucks
-my amazing agent, Irene Goodman
-my book contract with Medallion Press
-the wonderful YA community here in Los Angeles, and online
-my current WIP that's 20,000 words away from the end
-my laptop
-my part-time work schedule that allows me time to write
-the wonderful daycare my daughter goes to so that I don't have to worry about her while I'm writing
-my husband who has been known to tell me to get off my butt and write my &*(!@# book
-my daughter who has opened my heart in ways I didn't know was possible
-and of course, the Downtown YA blog!

Nicole Maggi writes YA - paranormal, historical, and beyond.  Her debut novel WINTER FALLS will be released in 2014 from Medallion Press.  She's represented by the fabulous Irene Goodman of The Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband Chris, their daughter Emilia (after the Shakespeare character), and two cats Sawyer & Hurley (after the LOST characters).  Yeah, she's a geek.  Check out her website and follow her on Twitter!   


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks


It’s Thanksgiving day and the table is set. The guests are on their way and before they arrive I think about what I’m thankful for. On the personal side I’m thankful for: a wonderful family and friends, that everyone is healthy and happy, ditto for my adorable pets, and living in a wonderful neighborhood with terrific neighbors.

On the writer side I’m thankful for: another year of publishing success, a fabulous and supportive writing community including my fellow Downtown YA writers, and a terrific agent who loves and believes in my stories. I truly have a lot to be thankful for!

Wishing you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Anne 
www.annevan.net

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shameless Promotion!


November 19, 2012
Greetings All!
My second murder mystery in the Mel Thompson series, IF IT’S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE TROUBLE will be out by Thanksgiving (I hope) so watch for it. Here’s the book trailer and cover:
My YA Greek mythology take on the moon goddess story, MOON PRINCESS will be free Thanksgiving weekend. Here are the links to it:



I am in the process of finishing up the edits on the second Lore of Fei book, WAR OF FEI to be released in Feb. 2013. I need to write the final one and I was going to do that for NaNoWriMo but changed my mind and wrote something else instead. I’ll get back to the third faerie book one of these days.
I am still hoping to get an agent but lost out on a contest I entered my YA thriller into. There are more contests coming up I am entering. #pitchmas Dec. 4-6th and #pitchwars beginning Nov. 26. Check them out and enter if you dare!

If you are in America, hope you and yours have a great Thanksgiving this week!

Take Care, Until Next Time,
Kathleen

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Work-in-Progress

Last time I blogged, after forgetting that it was my blogging day, I said I would update you on my new work-in-progress. I'm writing a YA novel about a transgender boy who is thrown out of his house for being psychic.

Because of some family crisis stuff, I haven't been able to write as much as I usually do the past couple of weeks. But I'm still about 21,500 words, or about 67 pages, into the book. I've found out some interesting things about Danny, my main character, in addition to what I already knew.

What I already knew:
1. Danny is sixteen and is a transgender male, which means he was born in a female body but identifies as a guy and is really bothered by the fact that his anatomy does not match up with the rest of him.

2. Until he was kicked out, he lived with his mother, stepfather, and three younger half-sisters. His mother accepts that Danny is transgender. His very fundamentalist stepfather isn't happy about it, but deals with it because Danny's mother stands up for Danny. The sisters are all too young to really care one way or the other; if they're told Danny is their brother, so it is.

3. The church Danny's stepfather--and therefore the rest of the family--belongs to calls itself fundamentalist Christian, but is more of a cult.

What I'm learning:
1. Danny never knew his biological father. I'm just not sure why yet. (Either the father died before Danny was born or it was a case of his mother not knowing for sure who the father was.)

2. In addition to having psychic abilities like being able to tell the future to a degree, Danny is a pyrokinetic, which means he can set fires with the power of his mind. When he feels threatened, he doesn't have very good control of the ability and might accidentally set a person on fire to defend himself. (See below.)

3. Danny's mother always raised Danny as a Christian, and even though Danny doesn't agree with his stepfather's church, he does believe in God and prays often. (It isn't preachy, I promise, and this isn't a Christian novel; it's just part of Danny's character. It caught me by surprise, to be honest.)

4. Danny was forced to leave home because he "burned off the hands" of a man from the church who tried to sexually assault him to "cure you of this transgender crap and show you how to enjoy your body." (He doesn't know whether the man actually lost his hands, only that they were on fire and so at the very least are badly burned.)

5. Because of #4, Danny's stepfather and other men from their church are looking for Danny to "bring him to justice." Their version of justice has nothing to do with the law...

So that's where I am so far with this story. Right now, Danny's on the highway somewhere between Denver, Colorado, and Chicago, Illinois, with a guy named Shad who offered to make the drive as long as Danny pays him. Not that Danny makes a habit of taking rides from strangers, but after what happened in Denver, he had to get out of there quickly. And I'm not going to tell you what happened...

I'll be back on December 3 with another update.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

VBT: Gilded Wings


Choosing a Theme Song For Your Favorite Characters

 

There are so many choices that a writer has to make. From the very beginning with plot, location, characters, names, time periods, etcetera - the choices for the actual material come first.

Then…you head into the realm of editors. Who is the best one who will love your manuscript as much as you do? Then, we have agents…although, that’s kind of a choice they make and not the writer. And then, you head into publishing. Indie? Small press? EBook? Self? Again, a great many choices to be made.

But there are a lot of choices that writers make inside their own heads that no one knows about. Most writers would all like to see their work onscreen one day and become half as big as the vamp versus werewolf ‘event’ of the 2000’s. When it comes to theme songs, you always think about what would truly suit your characters. You want that theme to become so well-known that readers, movie-goers, the public, in general - will think of nothing besides your characters when they hear that music come on the radio.

Celine Dion’s, “My Heart Will Go On,” will always and forever bring Leo and Kate to mind. We will see the Titanic take the chunk of ice off that berg and we will remember that Leo is far beneath the freezing-cold surface just waiting for his true love to return.

For 1980’s movie fans, “The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing will always bring forth the image of Patrick Swayze (God rest his fabulous soul) lifting ‘Baby’ in his arms and proving that love can work no matter what background you’re from.

My favorite, The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” has appeared in many places, but where romance is concerned it will always be Mr. Swayze, once again, holding Demi Moore as they make pottery look beyond thrilling in Ghost.

“Endless Love” is still a crowd pleaser; and “Have You Really Ever Loved a Woman?” was perfect for Depp’s, Don Juan.

My personal favorite is, “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. I will forever remember John Cusack holding up that boom box outside her window in Say Anything and having that stunning song echo through the quiet neighborhood.

There are so many options to choose from when you’re thinking about what it would be like to see your characters on the screen falling in love to a song that will never be equaled. Your fans will cry, laugh, and more as they travel beside the people who came from the depths of your own mind. And, like the cover of a book, the theme music becomes a source of popularity. That song, that cover - those are a part of popular culture.

So…what would Emily and Matthew be known for? Is there a song out there that fits this strange friendship/soul mate/possible romance…or is the perfect song yet to be written that brings forth all the work, anger, love and mystery that the angel/warrior team have in their many lives?

One of the most poignant songs I’ve heard over time was sung by Michael Buble. He, of course, has that romantic tone anyway no matter what he sings; even if he’s “Walking in Memphis” because of his love for Elvis. But with, “Haven’t Met You Yet,” it’s almost a song made for Emily and Matthew - in a completely ironic way. They’ve known each other forever, yet when they are doing their work - they meet up as totally different individuals each and every time. They must wait and see, along with the reader, if the real Emily and Matthew will appear, so this song is actually very poignant for their relationship.

Yes, this is all a fantasy. But remember, the fun part of being a writer and having those characters grow inside you mind each and every day, is the fact that there’s always hope they will be end up on the big or small screen where everyone can enjoy what you have for so long. And any recommendations readers have for Emily and Matthew’s theme - I’d be thrilled to hear them!

Until Next Time, Everybody,

Amy

 Read Along:
Emily could feel her eyes roll into the back of her skull. “I understand that. But if they freed a nation of people then that must have been the right thing.”

He nodded. “No one should ever be persecuted for...anything.”

“I can’t wait to get there.” Emily smirked. “At least they’ll be nice to me. The people on the boat say that the streets are paved with gold.”

Gabriel laughed. “Yes, I’ve heard that one before. In America people can go from ‘rags to riches.’”

Emily tilted her head. “What does that mean?”

He shrugged. “Something Mark said yesterday. It’s a phrase he’s hoping will catch on.”

“It’s nice,” Emily said. Her eyelids grew heavy and a yawn escaped her lips. “Sounds like Matthew and I will be in a perfect world.”
The Angel Chronicles web site:http://www.the-angel-chronicles.com
About the Author:Amy Lignor began her career at Grey House Publishing in northwest Connecticut where she was the Editor-in-Chief of numerous educational and business directories.

Now she is a published author of several works of fiction. The Billy the Kid historical The Heart of a Legend; the thriller, Mind Made; and the adventure novel, Tallent & Lowery 13.

She is also the owner of The Write Companion, a company that offers help and support to writers through a full range of editorial services from proofreading and copyediting to ghostwriting and research. As the daughter of a research librarian, she is also an active book reviewer.

Currently, she lives with her daughter, mother and a rambunctious German Shepherd named Reuben, in the beautiful state of New Mexico.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Deep End of the Pool

Photo by Thomas Nugent
Yesterday at my writers group meeting (which is a small, tight-knit, incredibly supportive & generous group), one of the other members asked me, "Do you think about your characters when you're not writing?"

I gave her the short answer.  "Yes."  But the real answer is, all the time.  Every minute while I'm awake.  When I'm standing in line at Starbucks, when I'm driving, when I'm in down-dog in yoga class, when I'm picking up my child from daycare, when I'm digging through files at my job, when I'm talking on the phone to my sister, my dad, my best friend, when I'm watching television, when I'm filing my nails, when I'm cooking dinner, when I'm eating dinner, when I'm brushing my teeth, and in those last moments before I fall asleep.  When I'm sleeping.  All.  The.  Time.

That's particularly true of the stage that I'm at in my current book.  I'm over 50,000 words into an estimated 75,000 word novel.  I'm in the third act of the story, and I'm writing this one chronologically so I'm far into the journey with the main character. 

It's like a swimming pool.  When you first start a book, you wade into the shallow end, just testing the water.  Is this plot going to stick?  Am I going to like these characters?  Is this a plunge worth taking?  When those questions have been satisfied, you venture further out, to your calves and then to your waist.  Do I like the way this story is going?  Do I need to change my vision for this story?  Does this character really need to be here?

By the time you get to the place I'm at, you're in the deep end, well in over your head.  And the thing is, you should be in over your head.  You should be worried about your heroine, you should be completely in love with your hero, you should be petrified of your villain.  You should be so deep in your story that you can't breathe...like you're underwater.

It sounds terrifying, but it is actually exhilarating.  Instead of drowning, I'm flying.  The words are pouring out of me; I regularly write 10-12 pages in a two-hour sitting.  A few days ago I had the sudden fear that it was all coming too easily.  I dismissed that fear.  This is the first draft, the don't-look-down draft.  The draft where you let yourself drown in all that story.  This is the only draft where you can truly let yourself go all over the page.  And anything can be fixed on a rewrite.

So if you come looking for me, come to the deep end of the pool.  I'll be at the bottom, happy as a mermaid.

Nicole Maggi writes YA - paranormal, historical, and beyond.  Her debut novel WINTER FALLS will be released in 2014 from Medallion Press.  She's represented by the fabulous Irene Goodman of The Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband Chris, their daughter Emilia (after the Shakespeare character), and two cats Sawyer & Hurley (after the LOST characters).  Yeah, she's a geek.  Check out her website and follow her on Twitter!  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My First Review

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This week I received my very first review of one of my works of fiction. It’s for a steampunk short story I wrote, The Unseen Wonder, which is due out this week as it’s own mini-ebook. It is also included in Gaslight: A Golden Light Anthology. I have to admit I was a bit anxious. I think all writers are nervous when we send our babies out in the world. Will people think she cute as a doll or will they politely say I’m sure she’ll grow up to be pretty one day.

In fact a little nail biting did happen when the reviewer, told me he was ready to post the review on his blog. Although I think the story is a lot of fun and would appeal to most people, you just don't know how readers will react. I was thrilled when the reviewer gave The Unseen Wonder a very complimentary review. I could tell he really enjoyed spending time with the Worthington family and their house filled with crazy inventions scattered on every imaginable surface.   

I felt flattered when he said my writing reads like collaboration between Anne Bronte and H.G. Wells. How awesome is that! I have two more reviewers that are set to read the story. I hope they will enjoy The Unseen Wonder as much as Mel, the first reviewer did. Will I bite my nails again when I hear the reviews are going to come out? I might be tempted but more than likely not. Thanks to Mel I have faith that they too will enjoy my steampunk tale about the Worthingtons of Packenman Square. 

Here's the wonderful review. 

Anne
www.annevan.net

Monday, November 5, 2012

It Begins!

Greetings All!
And, yes, I am talking about NaNoWriMo. Is anyone participating? This is my third year doing it and I thought I wanted to write my third faerie novel in the Lore of Fei series. I am about 5K in and have zero motivation to write it. I just finished editing book 2 and it's off at the editor's house/apt./condo/mansion/castle for further editing. I imagine I'll be getting the second round back soon. So, why am I not motivated? I can't seem to get the momentum going this year. I wanted to finish the third book and be done with the series. Is my non-motivation tied up in the fact that I don't want to leave the land of Fei? Probably, in part. I have another WIP I have been struggling with and I thought I might do that one instead. Or, the other NEW SHINY IDEA I just thought up! In NaNo land we call these, PLOT BUNNIES. Maybe it's because I feel like I've won NaNo twice now and it's not a big deal to write 50K anymore. It was so wonderful that first year to try and write a WHOLE novel in one month. Now I do it with one hand tied behind my back and blindfolded while whistling Dixie. Well, not really but the newness of it has worn off. I am jaded with NaNo. I am a jaded NaNoWriMo-er. When I first started NaNo I wondered if I ever could write a novel in one month, and lo and behold, not only could I write a 50K one but I went on to increase it to 82K during the editing phase. And then I wrote another novel, and another and well, you get the picture. I know that if I don't finish the third faerie book now, I will eventually finish it. So, for right now I am taking a break from NaNo and concentrating on the WIP or maybe the SHINY NEW IDEA. Or I might not do either. The nice thing about this is that IT'S UP TO ME TO DECIDE. If you are doing NaNo, then more power to you. I hope you finish and are proud of your accomplishment. I may still participate. Heck, last year I wrote two novels in the month of November (THORNFIELD MANOR at fanfiction.net, a mashup of Jane Eyre and vampires) and the second Lore of Fei book now being edited. So, maybe once I get my motivation back, I'll churn out 50K on something. I mean, it's only November fifth, right? I got TONS of time to catch up.

Meanwhile I am still querying my YA thriller/Dystopian and my MG humorous zombie book. I have the second murder mystery coming out at the end of November with a blog tour the first week of December (watch for it). Maybe I'll write the next Mel Thompson book instead. *thinks* Or maybe I'll just wait and see if any plot bunnies show up.

Take care and until next time,
Kathleen

ps/If you want to be a writing buddy on NaNo my name on the site is: kathleea (it's also my Twitter handle).

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Oh, man. It's the third!

Have I mentioned how easily confused I am? I didn't even realize today was November 3. Which means I'm supposed to post here. Which I hadn't done because I hadn't realized today was November 3.

Yeah.

It's late afternoon here, a bit late to be posting. So I'll leave this one short. I apologize--AGAIN--to my fellow Downtowners for spacing things.

I'm working on a young adult novel now about a transgender boy who's thrown out of his house. Not because he's transgender, but because he's psychic. I'm still in the planning stage now, but should be starting the actual writing this week. So when I blog here again on the 17th, I'll update you.

And I'll remember the date!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Low Country Beach Retreat




I'm not posting today. I'm getting ready to head out for the Low Country Weekend Beach Retreat. Anyone else going? If so drop me a quick line, or leave a comment so I can look for you.

~*~
When I remembered last night, heat crept through me. The puma witnessed my change.
He’d remained motionless. His beautiful ocher eyes glittered, while I’d stood naked in the moonlight. It seemed so natural at the time. Only now did I feel embarrassment.

But why? What difference does nakedness make to a cat…unless, like me, the puma is a shifter? MINDER