Welcome 2013: Please Be An Awesome Year

welcome20132Welcome 2013, please be an awesome year. It’d be highly appreciated, I assure you. I’ve made my New Year’s Resolutions this year and I hope to keep them all.

I can’t fully control most of them, but I can do my best. I don’t want to reveal them all (I totally believe in jinxing myself!) but I will share a few. I wrote them all last night, sealed them up, and put them in a box in my desk drawer so I won’t be able to see them until I open them next year… and I don’t remember all seven off the top of my head. How bad is that? It was just last night.

Some of my 2013 Resolutions:

  • Read at least a 100 books (genres to focus on: YA, contemporary, horror, steampunk YA, pretty much anything YA, actually…)
  • Do something productive toward my goal of getting published EVERY DAY (things like writing, revising, plotting/outlining story ideas, reading, researching, etc)
  • Get a literary agent this year! (‘Cause that’d be awesome)
  • Start my career (as a recent college graduate, I have a job that’s OK but definitely not something I want to make into my career.)

2012 hasn’t been a bad year. It was the first full year I’ve been out of college. Sometimes I find myself regretting my decision to graduate a year early and not go to graduate school. But I didn’t graduate early or did go to graduate school I wouldn’t have been able to travel and intern in Australia and New Zealand for the first half the year. I made awesome friends and saw beautiful things. I did some ridiculous things that I never thought I’d do like swimming with jellyfish (so scared of those things!) and sharks at the Great Barrier Reef and jumping out of an airplane at about 14,000 ft over the Australian rain forest.

While all of that was amazing, I’m happiest about how much I’ve developed as a writer this year. I’d say I’m considerably better than I was this time last year. I’ve begun to reach out to other writers, attended my first writer’s conference, made some very good friends, and joined a few critique groups. The latter has really helped me see the errors in my own writing. I also finally figured out how the publishing world worked. At the start of the year, I was so scared of query letters, synopsis, and researching literary agents, but now I’m not. Granted, I still don’t like synopsis so much (but I learned the trick is to write them before you write the story!) and I’ve actually developed some love for writing query letters. And I love researching things. I really do, so the whole literary agent research work wasn’t so bad once I reminded myself that. It’s different doing research for something you love versus forced-research-college-stuff.

Overall, 2012 was a good year. I’m not really a big fan of odd numbers (I know, weird) so I’m weary of this oncoming year for no good reason. I do think that more good things are in store for this coming year. I hope that there are a lot of great things in store for you, too!

Good luck!

Libraries Are Awesome: LEVEL 2, CREWEL, & LANDRY PARK

Everyone pretty much already knows that libraries are awesome, right? I happen to live in a lovely county that has a lot of libraries and they are all very, very nice. I was away for a while (college… then that year in Australia) and just recently got my library card back. I’ve kind of gone crazy with it lately. I have ten books checked out now and a couple on hold… but they are all really good books and I’ve been dying to read them. If only there were more hours in the day! (Or, preferably, I didn’t have to work…)

OK, aside from the amazing selection at my library, yesterday they hosted a panel (Drama & Dystopians) which had two YA debuts. Really, it was three because the person who set it all up and was asking questions — while a librarian — is also a debut YA author herself. Her book is coming out later than the other two, though. Which is unfortunate… because it sounds really good.

The first debut author was Gennifer Albin author of CREWEL. I already saw her (and got her to sign my copy of CREWEL!) in an earlier author event. CREWEL was amazing to read and while I was listening to her talk about it last night, I kept thinking how much I wanted to re-read it. Luckily, I will be able to do so with a little different twist to it. At the end of the panel, they pulled a few names to give away early copies of LEVEL 2 and the new British release of CREWEL. While I would have loved to read LEVEL 2 for the first time, I was equally happy to get the British copy of CREWEL. It’s just so fun to see how different a British book is from an American one–all the weird spellings and formats.

I’ve heard some about LEVEL 2, it’s a debut that sold in a major deal to Simon & Schuster. How amazing is that? It’s a thriller set in the liminal place between our world and heaven, about a 17 year-old girl who spends her days reliving her memories from the security of her pod until she gets broken out by a boy from her past life. I cannot wait to read this book! The author of LEVEL 2, Lenore Appelhans was the other debut author at the event. Her experience with the querying/selling process was similar to Albin’s. They both got stellar agents fairly quickly, then sold the books within a week of sending out proposals to editors. Both of those aspects of the publishing process are highly unusual, but it’s always fun to hear about. Both Albin and Appelhans are represented by agents from Foundry Literary + Media (which sounds like a really stellar agency).

This is the British cover for CREWEL. Isn’t it beautiful?

Bethany Hagen put the panel together. She wrote LANDRY PARK which has been pitched as “Gone with the Nuclear Wind”. She, too, has an agent at Foundry Literary + Media (keeps sounding better and better, doesn’t it?) and sold LANDRY PARK in a major deal to Dial. Hagen talked some about her book and even read from a part of it. It sounds amazing.

Even though the panel was called Drama and Dystopians, I don’t think that any of these books are just dystopians. It’s just a trope within them, like how not all books that have romance are romance books. CREWEL was pitched as Mad Men meets Hunger Games (which I didn’t get when I read the book) but it’s not either of those stories. It’s so different from Hunger Games that, aside from strong female leads and a evil authoritarian government, nothing else really is the same. And those evil authoritarian governments? They couldn’t be any farther from each other and how they formed. LEVEL 2 is more speculative fiction than dystopian, from what I hear, but I haven’t read it… though I’m dying to. CREWEL is more sci-fa/drama and while I haven’t read LANDRY PARK, I wouldn’t restraint the story by labeling it as a dystopian either.

See, aren’t all that libraries offer amazing?

The Next Best Thing

This is the first meme I’ve done on this blog, but it seemed like fun and I got tagged (by Larua Wardle) so I decided why not?

What is the working title of your book?


Where did the idea for the book come from?

It’s going to sound a little silly, but I work with cash at my day job and sometimes when I turn my back on the customer to get out the cash I can’t help but think ‘Man, it’d be so easy for them to just shot me or something right now‘. I’m generally not a paranoid person and doubt that will ever happen to me, but my mind tends to jump to rather horrific situations from the most mundane tasks. Not out of fear, probably out of the fact that I read/watch a lot of horror/deadly stories.

Anyway, that idea just came alive one day at work. I thought it’d be interesting to have a character that always had horrific thoughts invading her head, thus Tora Kuragawa was born. I wanted a new story to write for NaNo 2012 and the rest of the plot just flowed out after Tora got into my head.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA Paranormal Thriller/Suspense

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This is really hard for me. I never think about actors/other people when I’m thinking about my characters… So, this question took the longest for me to figure out.

Tora Kuragawa would be a young Aoi Miyazaki (like, Virgin Snow Aoi Miyazaki):


The second main character is Delaney Gunvald and I really can’t think of anyone, and after doing some searching, the only one I can think that would sort of work would be a teenager Chris Hemsworth:


Guy would be Logan Lerman, just imagine him constantly having a really bad case of bedhead and then you’d have Guy:


What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence…? That’s so hard. Here’s my best go:

As a victim of an unnatural death, sixteen-year-old Tora Kurosawa is stuck in the In-Between and is forced to play the reapers’ game: conquer her death and let go of her life and they’ll let her crossover, fail to do so in seven days and she’ll be banished to the Netherworld for an eternity.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Represented by an agency. I’ve always thought of going the traditional route. Not that there’s anything wrong with self-publishing, it’s just not for me.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About seven days. I didn’t realize until I was done how fitting that is (since Tora only has seven days to save herself). It was for NaNo2012 and I had a pretty thorough chapter-by-chapter outline so I didn’t have to wonder what to do next? Now it’s time to revise, revise, revise. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I would say it’s like ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD / GIRL OF NIGHTMARES by Kendare Blake in the horror quality of the book and because of the Gunvald family.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Kendare Blake, I really loved her books and it inspired me to try something horror-esque. Also ASHES by Isla J Bick, which also has a lot of horror in it and just the burning desire to keep reading until the very end of that book stayed with me. Except the ending really irked me (freaking cliffhanger…). THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers is a thriller/suspense (with zombies, which is awesome) inspired me as well. I really loved it. Summers’s voice is just so there and the pace of that book was remarkable. I loved it from start to finish. I would also say POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil. I loved her voice in that book and it was probably the first YA Paranormal Thriller that I consciously read because of the genre.

Plus, the classic Stephen King (CARRIE, IT, THE SHINNING). One of my favorite horror writers.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Tora can’t control where her soul stays, if someone thinks about her hard enough she’ll be pulled to them. Her parents never bother to mourn for her, but a stranger cries for her constantly. A boy that she saw right after her death, the boy that let her die. At least, that’s what he (Delaney Gunvald) believes. The only other person who pulls her is her murderer, where she is forced to watch him torture other innocent girls.

And now I get to tag some people…

Delancey Stewart
Jessica Nichollas

NaNoWriMo 2012

As many of you might know, this month is National Novel Writing Month. This year is my first entering it and I think I’m doing pretty good. I read a lot of posts on how to prepare for it (Publishing Crawl has a good one). For the most part I followed them, even without thinking.

But, as you can see, I’ve already achieved the recommended 50,000 words. So, technically, I win, I guess. How did I manage this in just seven days?

First I didn’t write all of October. That was pretty rough. I don’t think I’ve ever gone an entire month without writing or revising one thing or another — well, at least, not for a long, long time. Instead, I spent all the time I would be writing reading instead. The story I’m working on now, Terrifying Tora is the working title, is a paranormal thriller. I guess. I’m not 100% sure on that. I want it to horror elements, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s horror in genre. So, I read a lot of horror stories. October, the month of Halloween, seemed like a great time to catch up on all the horror stories I wanted to read.

I love zombies. They’re my guilty pleasure, so I read Rot & Ruin, This Is Not A Test, Ashes, and a few other zombie/people-turning-into-zombie-esque-things stories. Reading such great books always makes me want to write… but I resisted the urge and picked up another book. I also read a few fantasy YAs (such as the amazing Daughter of Smoke & Bones).

Maybe it’s not fair to say I didn’t write at all in October. In September I got the idea for Terrifying Tora and started outlining the story. I worked on that outline throughout October so that I had a pretty thorough one. I knew how I wanted to start it, the main ideas I wanted to get to in each chapter, and how to end it. That’s a form of writing, right?

Honestly, out of everything, I think that outline helped me the most. I didn’t have to wonder “What next?” because I always knew. And once November hit I finally allowed myself to write, so I wrote… a lot to make up for the fact that I didn’t write at all. I also set the whole first weekend of November aside to write — I’m lucky my life isn’t as hectic as some. I barely looked at the word count and then when I finally did it was pretty high already.

The stories not finished yet, I still have a couple chapters to go but I’m getting there, thanks to NaNoWriMo.

Learning From Others

As a YA writer, you’d think I’d have joined SCBWI already, wouldn’t you? But I hadn’t. For some reason I had it in my head that you had to already be a published writer in order to become a member. Turns out I’m wrong, which is wonderful. I suppose it was officially a week ago that I joined SCBWI. Now I’m a member of the local chapter and a critique group here. It’s an online one, like the other critique group I’m a member of, but it’s small and filled with only YA members. My other critique group is constantly growing (I currently have no idea how many members there are…) and from all sorts of genres, which is nice because of the variety of prospective that comes along with that. I think the SCBWI one will trun out to be great. I’m also working on joining an in-person critique group.

I joined at just the right time for this. The third weekend of October, the local SCBWI chapter is hosting a writer’s conference. Of course I quickly registered to attend it, which is super exciting. It’ll be my first writing conference. This is going to be a great experience, both the critique group and the conference. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot and grow as a writer.

Also about a week ago I decided to give a Writer’s Digest course a try. I’m a VIP at WD and do some of their webinars from time to time, which are always interesting and insightful but I don’t think I’ve ever really learned something new about writing. I just like to do them to hear a literary agent’s POV on things. But I decided to the the First 10 Pages of Your Manuscript bootcamp anyway. It was one weekend and three literary agents, two of the three were YA enthusiastic, would look over the first ten pages and give insight into what worked and what didn’t.

I really think I learned a lot from that. I had been thinking about tweaking my manuscript in a certain way, but unsure of how to go about doing it. The literary agent I got, the lovely Paula Munier, was extremely nice and extremely helpful. She really went above and beyond to help everyone who attended. Another great thing came of it, all the YA writers who were attending decided to get together online afterwards and continue critiquing each other’s work.

Writing can be done in solitude, and for a long time I did it just that way, but the more I open up the others and share the more I learn about my own writing style and the more I grow. I’m really glad I joined SCBWI and very glad I did WD’s Bootcamp. Getting other people’s perspective is invaluable.

The Not So Pretty First Draft

I’m officially finished with the first draft of my WIP, which is currently nameless. Coming up with compelling, meaningful, titles has never been a strong suit of mine. It’s 85K words and a YA urban fantasy (no shocker there, right?). It’s considerably different from my complete manuscript (Vanishing Valerie) which is currently out in the land of partials and queries. Unlike VV, it’s first-person and present tense. I’m not sure if it’ll stay like that through the revision stage. I mean, it’ll probably remain first person but the verb tense may change.

For the most part, it turned out like I had expected. I’m sure you all know it goes when you’re writing, sometimes the story takes a completely different turn. A couple characters turned out differently than I had envisioned, but that’s fine since it took the story to where I wanted it to go. But… really, Hemingway’s quote couldn’t be more right. It’s decent, but really nothing remarkable. I need to take a big step away from it before I can start to revise it. I need fresh eyes and to figure out how to make it better — and, mostly, whether I’m going to change the verb tense or not.

So what am I going to do with that time? Focus some on the querying process for Vanishing Valerie, of course, but mostly read. Read, read, and read some more. I really think that it’ll help me with revision more than anything else. I was reading an article, Envy or Inspiration, over at Magical Word today and it really was perfecting timing for me. Sometimes I struggle with being envious over the amazing books I read, but I just have to keep reminding myself that it’s their final products. Their polished work that took them multiple drafts to get to, so of course my lousy first draft is nothing in comparison.

What about everyone else? Do you feel your first drafts are pretty good or just awful? What do you do to prep yourself for the revision stage?

Writers Shouldn’t Blog About Writing…?

I’ve come across the “writers shouldn’t blog about writing” thing in a couple different places this weekend. It’s not a new debate by any means. Author Roni Loren talked about it back in 2011, as did Anne R. Allen. Even though they are dated, the points they make are still valued. I’d recommend their posts for anyone to read.

This weekend, Writer’s Digest opened all their tutorials to customers for free for four days. I checked them out and some are intriguing, but I don’t think any of it was eye-opening for me. The tutorials made by Jane Friedman were some of my favorites. It was interesting learning about her point of view on internet networking. She’s one of those that advocates against writer’s blogging about the process of writing.

Hearing that just makes me think “wtf?”. On the one hand I get her point of view. She’s talking about published writers and it makes sense to have a reader friendly website and blog instead of just one oriented towards writers. After all, there are a lot of readers out there that don’t write. That being said, writers write — I know, I’m stating the obvious but it’s true.

Trust me, if someone is really dedicated to writing — so much so that they even get published — then writing is a major part of their life. How can you ask them not to talk about it? It’s always said you should blog about something you love and have a good amount of knowledge on. If you’re a writer… then that’s writing. I’m not saying that all writers should just blog about writing but they shouldn’t be told that it’s a “no-no”.

I think that Roni Loren has a good mix on her site. There’s a massive amount of helpful tips about writing on her site, for her fellow writers, and still posts that are non-writer friendly.

I’m not saying that they’re wrong and I’m right. Jane Friedman has extensive knowledge in this area, for all I know she could be very right. Still, I don’t think I could not post about the writing process, even if I were a successful published author. It’s an important part of my life, a major part that I enjoy talking about.