RTW: Bring Your Blurb

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on their blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This week’s topic: Blurb it! Write a blurb for your favorite book or your own work.

This is way hard! Maybe because I feel like I’m totally tooting my own horn. But if I can’t say wonderful things about my story, then why would anyone else bother? Right? So, I’m opting to share the blurb from the story I’m currently querying, Where Poppies Bloom. I came up with a one-line pitch before ever I began to write the story, which turned out to be quite helpful in keeping myself on track while writing, and while crafting my blurb. Here’s the original one-line pitch:

 A guilt-ridden girl chooses between life with the golden boy who dulls her pain, or eternal escape with the ghost who holds secrets of his own.

From there, I expanded to a three-line pitch, which I’m also going to use as my blurb. My CPs helped a lot here. I tend to err on the wordy side, and so many aspects of the story felt important enough to include. It was difficult to condense, but eventually we came up with this:

Drowning in guilt that stems from her younger sister’s tragic death, seventeen-year-old Callie Ryan travels to the Oregon coast to spend the summer with her aunt. Cheerful yard boy, Tucker Morgan, manages to resurrect a glimmer of the girl Callie used to be, but she also finds unlikely companionship in mysterious Nathan Stewart, the dark and ethereal ghost bound to her aunt’s house. When Callie discovers a chilling, decades-old connection between Tucker and Nathan, she must choose between life with the golden boy who dulls her pain, and eternal escape with the ghost who may harbor sinister motivations.

I spent forever working on my full query blurb. My CPs were extremely helpful with this phase as well, and I revised those two little paragraphs more times than I care to recall. I’ve had some decent success with my query, and I’m currently waiting to hear back on several requests. If you’re curious about my query blurb, you can find it in the sidebar.

As far as a cover blurb? One word:

“Unput-downable!”

Don’t forget to stop by YA Highway to check out all the other fabulous blurbs.

Friday Five: What’s Up This Week

1) Queries – I’ve sent out several. Two (at least) every day this week. It’s tedious business, but exciting too. I found a great database of middle grade and young adult publishers and agents over at Jay Eckert’s Sharpened Pen blog. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the querying trenches like me. I found some agents on his list that, while they don’t have a huge web presence (Twitter, blog, etc.), seem to be pretty amazing. Here’s to some positive responses in the coming weeks!

2) Six Feet Under – Best. Show. Ever. (With the only exception being, possibly, Dexter.) My husband and I started watching Six Feet Under sometime around July. We started with Season One (thank you, NetFlix!) and have been plowing through the series ever since. I LOVE IT. Fully realized, terribly flawed characters. Completely unpredictable. It’s heartbreaking and funny and pushes all sorts of envelopes. Plus, it’s got Michael C. Hall, who is nothing short of fabulous. You know what cemented my Six Feet Under love, though? The series finale. The strongest of any series I’ve ever watched. Total and complete closure, which I appreciate because I’m the kind of crazy that wonders what happens to characters I love in the future. Seriously. I can’t sing the praises of this show enough. 

3) Authors vs. Writers – I read a lot about this debate… What makes you an author? What makes you a writer? When do you get to call yourself either? I’ve always gone with this: You’re an author when you manage to get a book traditionally published. You’re a writer until then. In other words, writers are the people who haven’t quite made it yet. Well, today I read literary agent Sarah LaPolla’s wise blog post, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, and completely changed my tune. Here’s what Sarah said: To me, a writer is a person who is serious about his or her craft and has the drive, knowledge, and skill to someday get published. An author is someone who has been published. See? I like her take so much better, and therefore I am officially adopting it. You should check out the rest of her post as well.

4) Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott – I finished this book the other day and I’m still thinking about it, though I struggle with words to describe it. Horrifying, definitely. Beautifully written, yes. Also courageous, heartbreaking, graphic and important. And the ending… Though it was a quick read, this book kept me up most of the night because I could not get “Alice” and her story out of my head. Do I recommend it? Yes… but perhaps not if you are easily disturbed.

  
5) Tangled – Rapunzel’s story might be my new favorite Disney movie (and I’m a Disney fanatic!). It is amazingly well done. My three-year-old daughter has seen it twice and is completely obsessed. The other day we bought the soundtrack and have been listening to it CONSTANTLY in the car. And you know… I don’t even mind. In fact, I’d venture to say that I enjoy the songs just as much as my Munchkin does. They are that cute. That clever. If you haven’t seen Tangled, you should. Even if you don’t have little ones. 🙂 

New Year, New Phase

First of all, Happy New Year! Somehow I flaked on posting a friendly New Year message, but please know, I wish you nothing but the best in 2011.  

Second, I’ve just started querying again. Weirdly enough, I feel excited about it. Before I get into all that though, let me update you on my last querying effort.

It began last July, after I’d written, revised (and revised again) Loving Max Holden. I’ll be the first to admit, MAX  is what most would refer to as a “quiet book.” It’s about relationships and growing up and finding yourself. It’s not hooky or high concept. Still, it garnered several partial requests from some pretty fabulous agents, and even some full requests after that. Then the responses started to come in. I got a lot of “tremendous writing!” and “this flows so well!” and “you are so talented!” BUT that positive stuff was always followed up with something along the lines of “unfortunately, this isn’t right for the competitive market.”

So, I absorbed that (and complained about it, initially) until the light bulb in my head flickered on. I needed to write something bigger. Something that might be more appealing, easier to hook agents, and (hopefully) eventually editors. I thought hard about what I wanted to write throughout August until I started to flesh an idea out. A ghost story. A ghost story that was a flying leap out of my very contemporary comfort zone.

Still, I sat down to begin writing at the beginning of September and spent the next two months typing away, alternately thinking this WIP was the most amazing thing ever, and also the most moronic. I think my CPs thought I was nutty every time I talked to them about it. When I finished, I put it aside for several weeks, then read over it again and ended up kind of loving it. What I’m now calling Where Poppies Bloom needed some work, of course, but when my writing mentor and CPs finally read it, they kind of loved it too.

Now, I’ve taken their feedback to the manuscript and incorporated their thoughts and brilliant ideas, and this baby is finally ready to go.  I sent a few queries out this morning, and I feel cautiously optimistic about responses. In fact, I’ve already started checking my inbox obsessively. (What? I’m not the only one who does this, right?)

And in case you’re wondering, I haven’t given up on MAX just yet.  Thanks to one of my genius CPs, I’ve some ideas about how I might be able to rewrite that story in a way that’s bigger. The only problem is, I can’t decide if I want to tackle that next, or begin something completely new…

Seven On Sunday

Yep, Seven on Sunday… Or maybe just a more organized method of posting all my random thoughts for this last week. 🙂

1) I’m on vacation!!! Well, really, I’m visiting my parents in Phoenix, but it’s in the eighties, sunny and my parents are eager to cook and clean and entertain my daughter. So, yes, it’s just like a vacation. My original goals for this trip were: revising, writing, and reading. I’ve done a fair amount of revising, some great reading and zero writing. Poor WIP. Still, who wants to be cooped up inside with a laptop when this awaits outdoors:

 

2) While flying from Seattle to Phoenix, I sat next to a wriggly and very cute three-year-old (okay, I’ll claim her) and, awesomely enough, an aspiring screenwriter. When I pulled out the paper copy of my MAX manuscript to start a (hopefully) final edit, he asked if I was an editor. Um, no. Not officially, but I am editing my own book for the billionth time, and better yet, I totally do it for free! That’s when he began to tell me about trying to break into screenwriting, and it turns out we had lots in common. Let it be known: I usually like to be left alone during flights, but it was cool to talk to a “real” (read: not online) person who shared similar goals and motivation.

3) I mentioned editing MAX above. I just finished a fairly extensive revision of it, where I converted the whole 74,000 word manuscript from present tense to past tense, and expanded on many of the supporting characters. Why would you do that? you might be wondering. Well, a lovely agent who I greatly respect recently read MAX and suggested that the supporting characters weren’t as well-developed as the main characters, and that (in her opinion) the book would flow better and be more “reflective” in past tense. While she passed on the manuscript, she invited me to revise it with her feedback in mind and resubmit it to her. So yeah, that’s what I’m doing. It’s hard, but you know what? It’s coming along, I appreciate her feedback more than I can express, and I look forward to sending it back to her! 

4) On a similar note, a week or two after receiving the revise and resubmit email I mentioned above, I got an email from another absolutely awesome agent who had read the first three chapters of MAX. She liked the voice of MAX and, surprisingly enough, thought it flowed really well. She requested that I send her the rest of the manuscript. Honestly, I have to say, I kind of agree with her. I love MAX in present tense (though I certainly like it a lot in past tense too, especially now that that’s done!) and I think voice and flow are two of my strong points as a writer. I can’t wait to hear back from her on what she thinks of the rest of the story. Anyway, my point here is: Writing (and reading) are so subjective. What works for one person sometimes doesn’t work for another. More often than not, you have to trust your gut.

5) Just wanted to link to this awesome post by the lovely Hannah Moskowitz who, I’ve decided, is wise beyond her years. Read it. You’ll feel better.

6) I’ve read two really great books recently (well, three actually, but I already raved about Mindi Scott‘s Freefall here). The first, Dirty Little Secrets by CJ Omololu, and the second, The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney. Both are excellent, and both are must reads for anyone who enjoys contemporary young adult fiction.

7) Daylight Savings: Ugh. Hate it! SO unnecessary! I am such a summer person. Such a lover of warm weather and sunshine and a golden tan. I so hate when it gets dark at four-thirty in the afternoon. I hate the cold, rainy Pacific Northwest winters. I hate soggy grass and umbrellas and rain boots. I hate… okay, let’s just say that I’m already looking forward to April. 🙂

Another vacation pic... me and my Cutie Pie at the Phoenix Zoo (which was fabulous, in case you're wondering!). 🙂

RTW: If I Ruled Publishing…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing or reading-related question and answer it on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: If you were made supreme ruler of the publishing world, what would be your first ruling?

My first ruling would be easy (and crazy and self-serving and totally unreasonable, but hey, I’m in charge!) and has to do with the querying process. Currently, it’s hard. And frustrating. And sometimes depressing. So I say, let’s make it easier on writers! With a shake of my all-powerful publishing scepter, I declare a complete flip of the querying process.

Why not create some kind of huge and very well-organized database where aspiring authors can post their query, sample pages and synopsis under a specifically narrowed-down category and genre? Then, when agents have a spare minute (they have lots of those, right?) they can troll the database for prospective clients and request partials/fulls through each aspiring author’s clearly posted contact information. Authors can link their data base profile to their Twitter/Facebook/blog/whatever, and have an individualized profile ID that they can pass on to agents they meet at conferences. That way, their information can later be accessed at the agent’s leisure. 

So, I’m a genius, right? I’ve completely revolutionized slush, and I haven’t even had breakfast yet. 🙂

What about you? What changes would you make to publishing if you ruled the world?


 

Friday Five

It’s a random one today… Five things I’ve been thinking about all week:

1) If You Really Knew Me – MTV’s new reality show (actual reality! not Jersey Shore-like trash!) is so thought-provoking and authentic and heartbreaking. Real teens are featured. Though they’re stereotyped at the opening of the show, as things progress we see that they’re layered and often troubled. Many have had rough childhoods and are carrying more baggage than I am at almost thirty. The show’s message is acceptance and empathy, encouraging teens to “be real,” without the usual preachiness of adult produced “helpful” television. Anyone who writes YA or is considering writing YA should give it a shot for a up-close look at teen issues today.

2) Agents/Querying – Funny how querying can almost be–*gasp*–fun! At least, that is, when you’re getting a decent response to your queries?submissions. My first querying effort with a novel that went nowhere was nothing but discouraging. Though I know the query was well-written and the first pages had voice and conflict, I only got two requests for additional material (both went nowhere) out of about two dozen queries. Yeah… that book, though it still holds a special place in my heart, had a fatal flaw: Lack of compelling hook.

The book I’m querying now (have been since mid-July) has had a much more positive response, for which I’m grateful. Five agents are currently considering it (two of them would be absolute DREAM agents!) and though the waiting game is no fun, I’m in a much more optimistic place.  Even if this particular book doesn’t land me an agent, I know now that I’m moving in the right direction and that makes me think that someday (fingers crossed!) I’m going to get there.

3) Stolen by Lucy Christopher – Oh. My. God. THIS BOOK. So beautiful and genius! Here’s the twisted thing: I read Stolen, about a kidnapping and a crazy, damaged, delusional villain of a man and at the end… I don’t know… I actually wanted the protagonist, Gemma, to end up with him. There was a deeper connection there. A mutual understanding. An intimacy. Yes, it’s so totally wrong, but Lucy Christopher layered these characters so brilliantly that the ending left me just as confused and torn as  Gemma was. I’m passing this one on to my mom and my sister-in-law, just so I’ll have people to talk to about it!

4) Conversely, I read another book this week that I didn’t like much at all. It’s a recent release with an awesome premise that’s gotten all kinds of attention: great blurbs from authors I respect, tons of twitter/blog love, I’ve even seen it in magazine ads. Some of my writing friends have read it and were totally into it. So, yeah, I was all pumped up about buying and reading it. Then I did and I was… disappointed? I found the plot fairly predictable, the dialogue annoying and the voice too snarky. 

I make a point to feature amazing books on this blog (see #3 above!), but when  I read a book I don’t care for, I usually just let it go. I’m not one publicly trash the work of someone else, which is why I don’t do actual book reviews. Still, I’m mentioning this book today because I can’t help but wonder what all of these people are seeing that I’m not. I mean, I know we all have differing tastes, but I was just SO disappointed by this read. Yet, others loved it.

Has this ever happened to you? Do you question the taste of those who thought differently from you? Do you trust their future recommendations?     

5) Preschool – This is writing related… I swear! My beautiful and adorable daughter started preschool last Friday. She cried the first two days when I dropped her off , then (and this is a direct quote from her!) “dried her tears and felt much better.” So, I get four extra quiet hours of writing time a week now! Not much, but I’ll take whatever I can get. I spend those hours at Borders, soaking up the awesomeness of the published books around me. Plus, my daughter is making new friends and coming out of her shell a bit. And that makes me a very happy mama!  

What’s New?

I recently realized that I haven’t done an update post in a while, and thought this might be a good time. But, before we begin, if you haven’t had a chance to take a look at the improvements I’ve made to this little corner of the internet, please do. Above, I’ve added ABOUT ME, LOVING MAX HOLDEN, and WHERE POPPIES BLOOM tabs. Check ’em out!

First, I’m stilling querying and waiting on replies for my YA romance, Loving Max Holden. I’ve had some good responses and have gotten several requests for pages. I’m currently waiting to hear back about two full submissions (both requested from partials) and two partial submissions. My absolute dream agent is currently reading my full. I can’t fully express how much this both terrifies and thrills me. I also have four recent queries still out and am hoping for more requests. Fingers crossed!

Second, I’m beginning a mentorship program through Savvy Authors with romance writer Lori Wilde. During the six month program, my classmates and I will: Learn the nuts and bolts of creating a novel from start to finish, emerge from the class with a completed, revised novel, learn the ins and outs of marketing our fiction, and have fun while developing new writing skills.  I’ll be working on my new paranormal YA romance, Where Poppies Bloom, and I’m so excited to begin. I’m absolutely thrilled about getting feedback from an author with so much experience and success. If you’re interested in learning more, click HERE.  

Finally, I just got home from a mini-vacation with my husband and daughter. We drove about four hours southwest to the Oregon coast where we enjoyed fun in the sun, sandcastle building, kite flying, yummy food, and great shopping. This trip was two-fold. First, we packed in some lovely family time, and second, I saw first hand the small, touristy coastal towns I’ve based the setting of my next book on. Astoria, Seaside, and Cannon Beach were all on my radar when I started building fictional Bell Cove for Where Poppies Bloom. Now that I’ve spent time in each of these cities and absorbed their ambience, I’m certain I’m on the right track. We detoured to Portland on the way home, specifically to visit Powell’s Bookstore, an enormous independent new and used bookstore. One word: AMAZING. Now that I’ve been, I’ll be tempted to drive south for all of my book buying. Anyway, here are some inspirational photos from our trip:

 



And because I can't resist... Me, my fabulous husband and my cutie pie daughter.

So, that’s what’s new with me. Still on the agent hunt, ready to begin a new project, fresh from a wonderful family trip. What have you been up to?