Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Good Night's Sleep

So, we’re thirty days from the release of THE FAR EMPTY, and some nights I sleep better than others.


Some nights I don’t sleep at all.

It’s an interesting and nerve-wracking experience. And for all the daydreams I’ve had about my first book’s release, none of them included the anxiety I’m struggling with. Of course, in some ways, it’s silly. The book is written, it is what is, and even if I could go back and change it, I wouldn’t.

I’ve been lucky to have met some tremendously supportive author friends over the last eighteen months, and my publisher and publishing teams have been fantastic every step of the way. I know they’re doing everything they can to make the book a success, and no matter what happens, I can’t say I didn’t get plenty of exposure or a helluva of a push. I’m going out a on book tour! What more could any debut author want?

The best way I’ve found to deal with the nerves, is to throw myself into some other books. Here are a few things I’m reading now:











Like every other time in my life, I've found my greatest escape in books. Even though my own novel is coming out soon, there's nothing I'd rather be doing than reading someone else's words.

There are tremendous authors, amazing writers, putting out great books each and every day. I'm fortunate that I've gotten to know a few. 

The publishing business is a strange one, unlike anything I’ve experienced in my twenty+ years of federal law enforcement. It’s both incredibly satisfying and frustrating (and that’s saying a lot from someone with the job I have), but right now, I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.

Not even a good night’s sleep...

Monday, May 9, 2016

Are You Listening to The Oral History?

Hello, readers! It's Kate here. Today I want to let you know of one of my new favorite things. It's a podcast-- The Oral History from authors Christa Desir and Carrie Mesrobian.

If you've read Carrie and Christa's books, you already know you'll love a podcast about them discussing sex and books. And if you haven't read their books, you'll want to listen to this podcast anyway. Carrie and Christa's discussions are hilarious, honest, and insightful. Each episode tackles a tough topic, like first times, cheating, body image, illicit relationships, and sex without romance. The podcast offers book recommendations on that theme, asks tough questions, and works through the content from frank, sex-positive, feminist perspectives. Plus, it's sponsored by The Booklist Reader, a book blog from the American Library Association's Booklist Publications.

I've started listening to the podcast while I do dishes or laundry (it gets me through both of those tasks), and I've added tons of books to my TBR because of it. It's also making me a better writer to hear other writers talk through these issues so thoroughly, and helping me analyze how I both present and address these things in my books.

And guess what? Now there's a TinyLetter for the podcast, going deeper into each episode. You can get it here: Going Deeper.

So if you're looking for a way into some of these tough topics, The Oral History is your new best friend.

And while we're at it, since I"m new to podcasts, any other great ones you recommend for writers? Let me know in the comments here.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Pragmatist: Fighting Nature

My kids were on spring break this past week. Like many of our friends, we did the staycation thing: mini-adventures around town, a day trip to Washington D.C., a free ride on the city bus and some time exploring the secret gardens on the UVa grounds, lunch with friends. And we went to see Zootopia.

In case you haven't seen the movie--well, I won't attempt to summarize the whole story, and I don't want to give anything away--but what you need to know for the purposes of this post is that the movie spends some time exploring the natures of predators and prey. The creatures who live in the city of Zootopia believe they have evolved past their animal instincts; in fact, many of them aren't even aware that they once had such instincts. And then something happens and predatory animals begin to revert back to their natural state.

There's a lot to think about as you watch the movie: diversity, tolerance, social justice. But as I sat there in the semi-dark, I wasn't thinking about those things. I was thinking about writing.

This month I've been participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, the April version of the annual writing frenzy that takes place in November. I set a goal based on a daily word count and I joined a virtual cabin and I filled out my profile, and on April 1st I started adding words to my work-in-progress. Here's the thing: writing a certain number of words every day is one hundred percent against my nature as a writer. Every other time I've set a daily word count, I have quickly fallen behind or found myself writing total nonsense just to get to the number that would allow me stop. I start to resent the project, the characters, myself. I convince myself that this is not how I'm meant to work.

Has this time been different? Well, sort of.

There have been days that I haven't hit my goal. There have been scenes I've written that sounds terrible even as I'm putting the words on paper. There have been dark moments where I've looked at the daily word counts of my cabinmates and gone into a spiral of total despair.

But...I'm adding words. My WIP is growing. I'm discovering things I didn't know about my characters and their plotlines. I'm getting better at blocking out the overly logical inner voice that tells me I'm not being careful enough, that I'll have to cut a lot of this new material, that I'm following too many rabbit trails. This isn't my usual method. This isn't my nature.

Maybe I'm evolving. Maybe it won't last. But it's working for now.

What's your writing nature?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Secrets of Success: Eight Writing Contest Finalists Share How They Make Time To Write


The Secrets of Success: Eight Writing Contest Finalists Share How They Make Time To Write

by Martina Boone

One of the biggest problems that aspiring authors face is finding the time to write. When I was starting out, I kept scouring blogs and books and interviews with my favorite authors for the secret to the perfect writing routine. But as I’ve gained new insight working under deadline on my series these past years, I’ve come to realize that the truth in this, as in most things that relate to writing, is that there is no right answer to the perfect routine. There is, though, always inspiration in seeing how other people make it work. 

The finalists in our recent Red Light, Green Light WIP contest at AdventuresInYAPublishing.com
show how diverse the processes are for people who are on the cusp of success. Sandra Held, Sarah Glenn Marsh, and I asked some of them to share their thoughts, so read on to see how they squeeze in time for creativity and butt-in-chair. 

Interested in test-driving the opening and pitch for your own WIP? The next agent-judged Red Light, Green Light contest opens for entries on 4/7/16. 


Eight Finalists Tell Us How They Do It

Joan Albright: I have writing days and off days, depending on my other commitments. On writing days, I start with 60 minutes of 'brainstorming', which is basically aerobics. I try to play music that fits the story, but having a good range of emotions represented in the mix always helps me move forward. On my off days, I'll slip in whatever writing I have the energy for, but I've learned not to push it. I do try to have a second, lighter project in the works for when I get burned out or stuck. That way I never feel like I've wasted a writing day.

Laurine Bruder: My writing routine is thus: write whenever possible. Monday evenings are set aside for write-ins with my friend Ashley Hearn, but there are times when I can't make it, so instead I'll write sporadically during the week. I'm old-school and I like writing my rough draft in a notebook first before I transcribe it into a Word document. For me, a notebook allows me to make mistakes. I can tell that little critic over my shoulder, “It's a notebook, it doesn't have to be perfect” and that silences it long enough to where I can get through the first draft/word vomit. Writing in a notebook is also more flexible. It increases my writing because I can take it anywhere. Nifty idea? Write it down. Perfect dialogue crops up? Get the notebook and get it on paper. Even if it's not for my current manuscript, I find that having a notebook with me at all times helps tremendously in getting down ideas and making progress.

Holly Campbell: My writing routine? Hmm...well, to be honest, I don't really have one. I work full time and have two kids. It's not easy fitting a writing routine into my schedule. But I carry a notebook with me wherever I go, and also write on my phone. This way, I manage to write at least a little bit almost everyday.

Dan Lollis: When I'm drafting something new, I set the timer on my phone and write for 30 minutes a day. I usually write around 500-600 words, but I don't worry if I write less. And I don't worry if I miss a day. Writing is like running to me. It's not important how far or how fast I run -- it's the daily routine that produces results.

Patti Nielson: Since I work four days a week, I don’t have a definitive writing routine. I do try to spend at least an hour a day on my projects whether it be writing, editing, researching, or plotting. I find that writing is a lot like exercising. The first ten minutes are difficult, but if I push through then I get into a rhythm and can go for hours.

Lana Pattinson: Routine? What’s that? ☺ Seriously, it changes day by day. I’m juggling my Marketing consulting & teaching work, volunteering, writing, and social media. Oh, and family life! Being a mommy is round-the-clock. I try to set aside blocks of time (2-3 hours), because it takes a while for my brain to get into writing mode. I lay out goals for the week: write X number of words, or revise X number of pages. Daily goals don’t always work for me, because life. I like to use the Pomodoro method – setting my iPhone for 25 minutes and trying to concentrate on just one thing for that block of time. Taking a 5 minute break, and then back into it. I’m a deadline-driven person, so I use NaNoWriMo (and NaNo camps) as a motivator to get words on a page, and contest deadlines to drive my revisions.

Ellie Sullivan: I usually write at night. After dinner, I'll shut myself in my room and open up my word document. Sometimes I'll write to songs, sometimes I'll set a timer, but I'll always limit myself to a sprint of 5-30 minutes, at the end of which I take a short break, and then start that process again. Sometimes, if I'm really struggling, I like to use the online version of Write or Die to make sure I'm getting words down. I find it easier to focus in bursts like that. Sometimes I try to write during downtime at work, but honestly, I find it hard to focus in public places.

Cassidy Taylor: I have a full-time job and two kids, so I write at night for at least an hour while everyone is sleeping. I power through the first draft in about a month with little to no editing, and then dedicate another couple of months to editing.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lessons in Captivating Storytelling from Vince Gilligan


I'm sure many of you have seen some or all of the Vince Gilligan TV show, Breaking Bad. And I'm sure even a few of you have started watching the spin-off series, Better Call Saul.

It's pretty riveting stuff, right? If you're like me, you binge-watch as much as you can on weekends. You let Netflix go automatically to the next episode more times than you can count, until it runs out.

Vince Gilligan, writer and creator, knows his stuff when it comes to addictive TV. I couldn't put my finger on why until a friend of mine pointed out that Vince is a master of compelling storytelling, and you can see it in every single episode.

Since then, I've listened to all of Vince's interviews and talked with my geeky, plotty friends about his techniques, and how to extrapolate them to writing fiction. I try to glean as much as I can from Vince's boundary-pushing style of storytelling to use in my own work.

After tweeting about some of this the other day, I decided to compile my favorite lessons from Vince into something long form. These methods have helped me to grow as a writer immensely over the last few years. In my latest novel, it also helped me discover the story that was hiding inside me—the one I didn't even know was there.

Lesson #1: Let your heart, or your gut, guide you. (Whichever you prefer.)

Don't be afraid of the story taking you places you didn't expect it to go—that's when some of the most magical plot twists and character developments happen. Your instincts are right more often than you think.

I understand that it can be scary, especially for the outliners and plotters out there, to hand over control and let characters dictate their own trajectories, instead of obeying the ones we've laid out for them. Especially when it flies in the face of what we've planned, or when it could alter the carefully manicured ending we'd been imagining. We worked so hard on that outline, on those beats, on that powerful, final image!

But as Vince would say, sometimes it's good to second-guess yourself; to leave the door open to something better, smarter, and cleverer than what you originally imagined. When something—or someone—speaks to you, why ignore it? When a character reaches out to you for a bigger role in the story, maybe that person has something of value to say.

Sure, we created them. But characters still have the power to become their own people on paper. They're great at surprising us and amusing us, and often, they take our stories to better, or darker, or more complex places when we let them show us what they can do.

Vince talks about how the character of "Gus" in Breaking Bad was originally only a minor character. But when extenuating casting circumstances placed Gus at center-stage, some serious fireworks came out. Most people who have seen the show all the way through will agree that it wouldn't be the masterpiece it eventually became without Gus, and it's a good thing Vince took the chance on him.

Lesson #2: Don't be afraid to dig deeper.

So you've created a monster. Now it's time to get to know it.

Vince tells another story about the character of Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad. He'd originally intended to kill off Jesse (played by Aaron Paul) at the end of Season 1. But Vince couldn't ignore the on-screen chemistry between Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter White—so he kept Aaron on, and didn't kill him.

Jesse—a character who'd originally had very little importance to the story—demonstrated that, just maybe, he had a lot to contribute to the show's future. So Vince ran with it. He delved deeper than ever into Jesse, pushing him into corners to reveal more about his past, and stretching him to his limits to see how he'd react. Over the seasons, Jesse grew increasingly complicated and nuanced, and by extension, we became more invested in what happened to him.

It was a huge success, and Jesse is one of the defining poles of conflict and power play later on in the series.

The marvelous thing about this choice was how accepting Jesse's new role not only allowed Vince to get to know Jesse better himself, but his gamble on Jesse created some unexpected, fantastic plot forces. Jesse raised the stakes for Walter White, and by extension, for the whole show.

There's a lot to be said here for the power of letting characters slowly reveal themselves, for digging deeper into characters and plot elements that speak to us. Vince never shies away from peeling off more layers, or allowing a character he likes a greater share of screen time. He even created an entire series called Better Call Saul that's a spin-off dedicated to this purpose—to exploring a character that Vince created on a whim, but found interesting and compelling enough to warrant his own series.


(Spoiler: it's an awesome series.)

And this leads me into the next great piece of writing wisdom we can all gain from Vince Gilligan:

Lesson #3: On the importance of following a thread through to its conclusion, but never predictably. 

One of my favorite things about watching Vince's TV shows is how they never, ever leave a stone unturned. Even minor details can come back swinging later—and sometimes, how minor they are contributes a lot to how delightful the plot twist feels on the audience when it does land.

But Vince's plot twists and turns aren't just surprising (an essential ingredient in today's media-saturated climate, he often says). What makes them really stand out is the way each twist and turn is seen out to the very, very end, and never in a way that you expect.

Nobody in Vince's TV shows are ever let off easy, unless they're dead. (And even then...) Whenever he ruptures the status quo and sends a character spiraling off in another direction, Vince always resists the urge to pan the camera away. Instead, we get to watch that character go farther and farther, down and down, into the hole they've dug for themselves. The intensity naturally ratchets up to nearly volcanic; and still, the camera never pans away.

Major characters aside, there are also dozens of minor characters and set features that Vince clutches and explores and makes an integral part of the texture of the show. No stone left unturned.

Go back to the image above of Saul with his ugly yellow beater car. That car isn't just a part of the background; it's loved by Saul, and regularly plays the part of symbol. It's not the prettiest car, or the newest, but some to-do is made over it being comfortable and suitable. Keeping with his style, Vince sees the car out to the very end, when Saul sends it to the junkyard, then graduates to something else—only to discover that his beloved coffee mug no longer fits in the slick new car's coffee holder. Maybe that old piece of junk had some intrinsic value, after all.

The result of all this exploration? We become even more invested in the characters' outcomes. And if you read my posts often, there's one thing I can't harp on enough: characters are the key to hooking readers and keeping them.

When you show that you'll not just give readers texture and depth in your protagonists, but you'll see those protagonists to their inevitable destination? Readers will stick with you as far as the road goes.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Rambler

I had the chance a couple of weekends ago to drive down to the Tucson Festival of Books and spend some time with a ton of great writers. 

Ace Atkins, Me, David Joy, Robert Knott

Although I wasn’t there in any “official” capacity (with my debut still two months away, I wasn’t booked on any panels/signings ), I did attend a Putnam-hosted dinner, and got to grab a seat at several of the panels just so I could listen in. I was there purely as a spectator, a fan, but on several occasions, the authors I’d met made a point of singling me out of crowd, and telling their audiences to keep an eye out for my book in June.

These were extremely generous gestures, and hopefully someday I’ll have the opportunity to return the favor to other up and coming authors.

Throughout the entire weekend, I enjoyed a feeling of community and support that I generally don’t get to experience. I’m not part of a writing group; I don’t have Beta readers or critique partners. None of my friends or family have an interest in writing as either a profession or a hobby. I don't interact with any other writers other than those I've met through Twitter and the internet. For a profession often characterized by its solitude, I take that “lone wolf” role to a whole new level. In fact, that Tucson weekend was my first “real life” exposure to other, professional authors, and I didn’t realize how much I needed it until it happened. I received loads of great advice, got to ask a thousand questions, commiserated about writing and the peculiarities of the publishing industry, and generally gained some allies I hope I'll have throughout my career.

This is a hard, at times, unforgiving thing we do. Sometimes, it's good to get on the road and find a few friends...

Finally, I wanted to leave this video right here. It's from a Kentucky (where I'm from) band, Black Stone Cherry, and their new album is due out April 1. Just a great song, and worth a listen.



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In the Life of An Agent: Mental Health Edition

The job of a literary agent — like most jobs — is a hard one. Of course there is the upside of doing what you love — for me this is the best job in the world — and working with quality writers who you help sell quality work. However, it's not all fun and games. Conferences, traveling, and all that jazz is amazing. But beyond the edits, the reading, the pitches to editors, and whatever else people imagine a literary agent does is the hint of stress.

We, as literary agents, deal with people's dreams. The verbose baby they've been caring for and spending every moment with — emotionally, at least — for months, or even years. There's a certain kind of pressure that comes with knowing that. The idea I shouldn't be tweeting, because I have material to edit, or queries to read, or emails to answer, or dragons to slay. Pick your poison.

Anyway, I could go on some nonsensical ramble about all of this but, my buddy Laura Zats — associate agent — from Red Sofa Literary, tweeted about this yesterday, which inspired this post. She said it a million times better than I ever could. So here we go!




























That's it for today. Let's give a SPECIAL shoutout to Laura Zats for making such poignant posts! Happy Tuesday and remember to subscribe to Pub Hub for future posts from myself and other butt-kicking authors/agents.


And don't forget to write on!



Lane Heymont is an associate agent at The Seymour Agency, representing science fiction, fantasy, romance, nonfiction, and attempts to write his own stuff under a wonderful pseudonym. You can follow him on Twitter at @LaneHeymont

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Spells for Writing: An Interview with Award-Winning Novelist Katherine Marsh

Today I'm honored to host award-winning middle-grade novelist Katherine Marsh on Pub Hub!




Katherine's fourth novel, The Door by the Staircase, draws from the traditional tale of Baba Yaga and has received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and BCCB. It's also a March Junior Library Guild selection. Katherine is the author of Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, The Night Tourist (an Edgar Award winner) and its sequel, The Twilight Prisoner.

I asked Katherine about her process and her inspiration for this story, as well as the importance of fairy tales and the secret ingredients for writing.

Tell us a bit about your process. Are you an outliner? A daydreamer? A fast-drafter? Is your process the same for every project?

There is always this illusion that there is one way of writing that works best: the three-act structure, the outline, the write 500 words a day no matter what approach. While it’s helpful to get a sense of the range of ways in which writers work, the most important quality for a writer to have is the openness to allow yourself and your process to change and evolve. DOOR is my fourth published book and I feel like I’ve probably used every trick—outlines, free writing, character portraits, starting with a theme I’m interested in etc.--to get a story going. To me writing is a lot like being a parent: just as you adapt your parenting to a particular child, you adapt your process to the particular story you have to tell.

How do you know when you have a marketable story?

I’m old-fashioned on this: Generally it’s when you have something to say. Does your story distinguish itself from others on the market? Does it make the reader want to know what happens next? Does it make the reader understand something about human nature or experience? These are the type of questions I ask myself.

At what point in the process do you know this?

Sometimes I don’t know this until I’ve finished an entire draft. This is very important to understand: I’ve published four novels but I have two completed ones in a drawer and countless partials. This is not because I’m a crap writer (though many days I feel this way), it’s because even the most successful authors have false starts. And come to think of it, I don’t even like that term false starts because the manuscripts I haven’t published have taught me as much, if not more, about writing. When you’re frustrated by rejections or dead ends, it’s important to come back to the idea of writing as a practice not as an end.

The Door by the Staircase was partly inspired by the Baba Yaga story. What did you find so fascinating about the original tale?

From Grimm to Baum, Western witches are usually either good or evil (mostly the latter). What I love about Baba Yaga is that she’s both. She eats children and anyone else who mistakenly wanders into her forest kingdom but she also will sometimes help a visitor —especially one she finds morally worthy and clever. To me she harkens back to the pagan nature goddess who can be both cruel and kind. I love her ambiguity and feel she represents a more complex and contemporary portrait of femininity than her Western counterparts.

Do you think fairy tales should be required reading for modern-day kids? Why?

I do. Fairy tales are a great way for kids to process human nature and emotion. But I think too many fairy tales are over-sanitized. This started happening hundreds of years ago when male collectors such as the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault transcribed and abridged the dark and symbol-rich oral tales told by women and continued into the 20th century when fairy tales became vehicles for all sorts of patriarchal social engineering. A good fairy tale allows kids to experience fear, violence, grief, love, loss while at the same time cushioning these difficult themes in symbolism and fantasy.

What are some books/stories that have stayed with you from when you were young?

I absolutely loved, and still love, The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. I am an only child and the isolation that Karana faces living alone on that island was both my greatest fantasy and my greatest fear.

In your book, Baba Yaga does several powerful spells. If you were to compile the spell for writing, what three ingredients would be the most essential?

1) Time, not only to write but to read, daydream, and observe the world—which are also key parts of the process. 
2) If you have a family, it really helps to have a supportive partner, someone who takes your commitment to writing as seriously as you do.
3) A sense of worth, faith that you have something to say and that the world needs to hear it.

About The Door by the Staircase:

Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes can't stand her orphanage for another night. But when an attempted escape through the stove pipe doesn't go quite as well as she'd hoped, Mary fears she'll be stuck in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies forever. The very next day, a mysterious woman named Madame Z appears at the orphanage requesting to adopt Mary, and the matron's all too happy to get the girl off her hands. Soon, Mary is fed a hearty meal, dressed in a clean, new nightgown and shown to a soft bed with blankets piled high. She can hardly believe she isn't dreaming! But when Mary begins to explore the strange nearby town with the help of her new friend, Jacob, she learns a terrifying secret about Madame Z's true identity. If Mary's not careful, her new home might just turn into a nightmare.

For more information, visit Katherine's website: http://katherinemarsh.com/.



Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fiction Peeve #476


Hello, I'm Tom Hardy. And I have the most adorable ears in show business.


We all have our peeves when it comes to bookish stuff: this cliche, that trope, this device, that plot arc.

I have lots of peeves. I try my damnedest not to put them in my books.

Some of them are silly. I don't like certain words, for instance. I don't use the word "stinky" if I can help it. I hate that word; I hate how it looks on the page, how it sounds coming out of a mouth.

Some other words I dislike irrationally:

kiddos
hubby
pertain
teens
the phrase "to boot" or "for heaven's sake"
the internet expressions "welp" and "all the feels"

I could go on. I will not. It'll make everyone self-conscious and wonder WHY I have these tics and I really don't know why. They're really just some snobby visceral reactions I've developed over the years. Writing poetry makes one sort of sensitive to diction, I guess.

However, here's something that could be eradicated from all novels henceforth:

"I pushed the thought from my mind. I couldn't think about that now."


NO. NO NO NO NONONONOOH GOD PLEASE STOP

I cannot stand this kind of phrasing. I get what the author is trying to do; she's trying to change the subject, transition to the next thing, show that her character must get on with other concerns. Fine. Yes. That's good.

BUT THIS IS A TERRIBLE WAY TO SAY THAT.

You cannot 'push' thoughts away. You can compartmentalize, you can try to focus elsewhere, you can change the subject of conversation. But thoughts persist in one's brain. They hover in the background, running unawares, keeping your body at a low grade of anxiety or stress or anticipation or anger or whatever the fuck. They don't get pushed away; that's nonsense you learn in yoga class where you're trying to meditate. Notice how the thoughts keep coming, even when you're sitting in the savatsana pose and wishing they'd just stop floating across the sky of your mind like annoying fucking clouds?

Wish all you want. Thoughts don't get 'pushed' away, regardless of how much we wish they would. And I have NEVER read this dumbass phrase in a book where the narrator was finishing up her yoga class and making a concerted effort to push her thoughts somewhere else.

In addition to this not being how I understand actual thinking to function, it's a boring and shopworn phrase. It shows that you need to sharpen up your prose skills a bit so that the movement from internality to externality is less of a leap. It may be a matter of mixing more action sentences with thought sentences in a paragraph. Which is definitely a fix I recommend, because if you are pushing thoughts away, I can see your writer pantylines, as it were. I can see how you, as the author, now want to jump from this issue to another, and I shouldn't see that. I know how that feels, and that we have that urge, while drafting. But I should not be aware of the leap. I should just follow you, instead of having to hop over a big puddle.

So, ergo, hence, thus: find another way to show that the character wishes a thought would behave like a daemon running in silently in the background of her mind's computer. That, or transition to the next topic. Throw a wild pack of jackals in front of the character so she has more pressing matters than her interior distress to handle! I don't know. And I don't really care. Just don't have them "push thoughts away." It sounds dumb, it interrupts me as I read, it feels lazy.

Now, tell me why I'm wrong, Internet.





Monday, March 7, 2016

Dream A Little Dream

It’s been a brutal month with my move from one lovely Southwest state to another, a trip with my oldest daughter for a scholarship competition, and assorted other life events!


However, I read with great interest this blog post by Chuck Wendig (as well as all comments): How Much Should Writers Pay To Be Published? Now, I don’t know Steve Alten (and have only read one of his books, MEG), and until Chuck’s post had never even heard of A&M Publishing. Is it a "traditional publisher" (with some non-traditional ideas), a vanity publisher, or worse, an outright scam? I’ll let everyone decided that on their own, but the whole thing served to remind me how easy it is to prey on people’s hopes and dreams, and how very, very lucky I am.

I’m now three months away from THE FAR EMPTY's release, and my publicist is just starting to put together tour information, and ARCs are being sent all over the place...



This dream I had – of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book there – is really going to come true. I beat the odds, slipped by the guards, got struck by publishing lightning…whatever you want to call it. There are thousands of better writers who haven’t been so lucky (at least not yet), and there’s no guarantee that this opportunity (because that’s all it really is) will pay off. After my book comes out, after all the reviews are written and the court of public opinion weighs in, I could just as easily slip right back into the querying trenches, looking for a new agent or publisher. But if I'd never gotten my break, would I be as willing and quick to dismiss the sort of “package” A&M is offering? One could very easily argue that it’s really just another kind of opportunity, another chance to see a dream realized. It's true value can only be measure by how much that dream is worth you.

As I’ve said here before, everyone’s publishing path is different. Now more than ever, there are so many publishing models (Indie, Traditional, Hybrid, and everything else) that it's hard to call one necessarily better than the other. There is no one way, and there are very few “right” ways: there are only the ways that you’re comfortable with and that meet your criteria for success. While I think it's important for professional writers who have already blazed the trail to warn others of the pits and dead falls (and I think Chuck does a great job with his cautionary examination of A&M Publishing), and although I personally have reservations about any sort of pay-to-play publishing venture, I think it's also important to remember that at the heart of all this are writers just trying to get their work out in the world. They're proud of what they've accomplished, and they're still just looking for their lucky break, their lightning strike, their opportunity...

And that’s what dreams are made of.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Extroverted Writer: A Survival Guide

I always thought I was an extrovert—I was nourished being around other people. I loved big parties and going out on the town, spending my free time with my best friends playing board games.

But I've never quite been able to reconcile this part of me with the part that can spend hours alone in front of the computer, building a world from scratch. The part that can invest hours at a time in a project, happily not seeing or speaking to another human being from dawn until dusk.

So that's why in this post I've used the word extroverted, instead of simply extrovert. I don't know that I believe any writer, anywhere, is a 100% extrovert. It's simply too antithetical to what we love doing: researching, thinking, writing. Creating. Sitting in silence alone for hours at a time—and loving it so much that we come back to it, over and over again.

---

I do, however, believe that a huge part of me is an extrovert. On the daily I crave human interaction, like I crave food. I thrive at parties where I don't know anyone. I love going to concerts full of strangers. I can carry on a conversation with just about anyone—I'll totally be the girl on the bus who talks to that weird guy—and I'll likely enjoy myself.

Social interaction rejuvenates me. I can start out in a terrible mood and, after a good stint joking with buddies over drinks, emerge a shining unicorn again on the other side. But how does that mesh with a mostly solitary career path?

I don't know about you, fellow extroverted creative-types, but figuring out how those two pieces fit together has been the most challenging part of my journey so far.

So I decided to put together a nifty little guide, containing what I've learned so far, for the creative types out there who know in their hearts that they're at least part extrovert. How do you get what you need, while maintaining your time and space for writing? It's a tough balance.

And I still haven't mastered it yet.

Reward Systems

The great thing about having a little extrovert inside you? She's easy to coerce with social incentives. She's craving getting away from the computer and goofing off with her friends—so why not use that to your advantage?

- Task lists. Achieve everything on the task list (or enough of the things), and you get to select a social reward. (Go out for a drink that evening. Have a friend over, or visit one.)

- Word goals. Reach a certain word count on your project (whatever seems reasonable to you in a day, which for some writers I find lies anywhere from 500 words to 5,000) and select a social reward. I like to choose a reward proportional to the work completed. Oh, you manage to spew out 4k tonight? Nice job. Let's take the day off tomorrow to go on a hike with a friend.

Combining Activities

Obviously, one who craves social time should, occasionally, dedicate themselves to that social time. Don't be looking at Twitter while hanging out with a friend, or trying to write while watching a movie together. (This is basic, I think.) But in the life of a working writer, when a huge amount of time is required to simply do our jobs every day, there are some easy ways to slide in some social interaction without taking away from that dedicated writing time.

- Co-working. This is my favorite of the bunch, because it takes me back to my days in the office—I never liked my job, but I do miss having colleagues.

Co-working performs a number of functions at once. It forces me to stay on task (I try to pick co-workers who will question my giggling over Facebook, or ask me how far I've gotten in my word count goals), and it makes me feel a little less alone while doing my job. It can also be super helpful in plotting and brainstorming.

- Exercising. I hadn't even conceived of this idea until other writers mentioned it, but I think it's a genius idea to fill your social interaction quota alongside your other daily routines whenever possible.

If you already dedicate an hour of your day, three times a week, to the gym or a martial arts class, why not make some friends there? Everybody's sweating together already—you've passed the bar of sharing something intimate by default.

- Parenting. This isn't something I deal with personally, but I hear about quite a bit from my writer buddies. Your kids come built-in with some incentives to be social: they have friends with parents, required park time, and need you to occasionally walk away from the computer and build a couch fort. Just like they can be distracting, they can also be a force for balance and mental health.

Snacks and Meals

It seems like everyone has a different opinion about the role of online friendships and interaction in a writer's life. For some, online friendships are deeply satisfying and rewarding; for others, they're delightful and nurturing, but are still only the snack between meals.

However, I'd never discount the value of a friendship, online or offline. Especially in the world of a writer, where our colleagues live anywhere from 2 to 2,000 miles away, a partner in crime is a partner in crime, no matter how far away.

If you're finding your social needs aren't being met, spend some time getting to know your online colleagues. Adopt Google Chat or Facebook Messenger to give each other updates—"I wrote 2,000 words today." "Great work! I wrote 1500!"

My online critique partners save me day in and day out. When I'm stuck or lost, they're perfect for talking something through with me—and often, they're willing to give me a boost when I'm feeling a little lack of confidence.

There are great resources for finding CPs online. Maggie Stiefvater often hosts a "Critique Partner Love Connection." Twitter is also a great place to go looking. Check out if your city has a writer's group on Facebook—I found my old writing group that way and, by extension, some fabulous critique partners.

Finding Balance

If you're anything like me, letting myself be social and finding time to write is a delicate balance. Especially now that writing is my job, it's hard sometimes to back away from having too many social activities planned, and carve out enough time for my writing. I want to play, not work! Even if I love what I do, I start to procrastinate when I get stressed—and my friends are the first place I go to do it.

To this end, I offer my fellow extroverts some tools.

- Goal-tracking in Scrivener, or on an external website like Write Track or 750words. I haven't used 750words myself, but I hear good things. I have, however, used Write Track, and highly recommend it. Scrivener takes the cake, though, for ease of use. I'm already in it 24/7 to work on my WIP, and I don't need to be online to take advantage of it.

- Freedom or SelfControl. Freedom can block your internet completely, while SelfControl allows you to block certain social media websites. This is great for focus, and for those (like me) who struggle a bit with good self-discipline. (I prefer SelfControl because the guy who makes Freedom is kind of a jerk, and it also costs money, whereas SC is free.)

- Find someone to keep you accountable. Whether it's a friend, partner, or spouse, having someone who asks about your work, encourages you, and keeps you loyal to your goals can be incredibly helpful. If you're the kind of person who hates being beholden to anyone, though, this might not be for you!

I hope this helps, my fellow extroverts-in-the-trenches. And I wish you good luck in meeting your goals!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Author Vlog: Kicking off my Debut Year


A “behind the scenes” look into the craziness and excitement an author feels a few months before book release, plus encouragement for fellow writers and dreamers.

*Since the video, I revealed the cover and first teaser trailer for FLASHFALL here. If you're interested in winning a signed ARC, you can enter the giveaway until 3-11.



Jenny Moyer is the author of YA sci-fi/fantasy FLASHFALL (Holt/Macmillan, 11-15-16 ) She studied writing at Seattle Pacific University, and currently lives in Iowa with her filmmaker husband and three boys. She's currently at work on the sequel to FLASHFALL.

Where to find Jenny: Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube 
Where to find FLASHFALL: Amazon |  Goodreads | View Book Trailer

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

In the Life of An Agent: How to Be a Writer, Told in Poetry Edition

Write ye who dream to write

of words and stories

sit your arse in that chair

write ye who dream to write

set your clock by sun or moonlight

write ye who dream to write


Starting to get it? You know how to be a writer?


WRITE


Everyday.


STUDY


Your craft.


HONE


Your writing by reading...


....in the genre you wish to write.


TREAD CAREFULLY


Where you find your information...


...the advice of published authors often outweighs


....the advice of unpublished authors.


KEEP WRITING


That's it.


Just do it.


THE END









Lane Heymont is an associate agent at The Seymour Agency, representing science fiction, fantasy, romance, nonfiction, and attempts to write his own stuff under a wonderful pseudonym. You can follow him on Twitter at @LaneHeymont

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Matchmaking: Novels that Belong Together

With several book festival appearances coming up in March and April, I've been reading lots of new young adult novels written by authors I know and others I don't (yet). When I'm on a book panel, I like to have read the work of my fellow panelists because a) it makes listening to them talk about their books more fun, and b) it saves me from sticking my foot in my mouth. Most of the time.

So, I've been studying up, and I've noticed something. While each novel is a distinct work with distinct characters and plotlines, there are echoes between certain pairs of books, like a call and response effect in my mind. One book reminding me of another, one main character saying something that I know the protagonist of another book would find hilarious or moving. Here are a few examples:



 
Julie Murpy's DUMPLIN' is like the big sister of Shelley Sackier's DEAR OPL. Both are novels with intense heart and humor, and both are about girls who are under a considerable amount of pressure to change and manage to not only stand their ground but win readers over completely on their own terms.
 

 
 
Kelly Fiore Stultz's THICKER THAN WATER and Meg Wolitzer's BELZHAR are about secrets, about dark and guilty pasts, about teens who are far from home and desperate for connection. They're also heartbreaking, suspenseful, and beautifully written.
 

 
Kat Spears' SWAY and Robert Cormier's CHOCOLATE WAR might seem like an odd pairing on its face, but they both feature smart, incisive, unapologetic narration. And they both put their main characters (and thus, their readers) in uncomfortable but inevitable moments that make us confront our preconceptions about what it means to be a teenaged boy.
 
So, sure, you could spend tonight watching the Oscars. Or you could take my advice, skip the movies, and catch up on your reading.
 

 




Thursday, February 25, 2016

Conference Announcement: The Seymour Agency Writers Winter Escape Cruise 2017


Picture yourself ...

...sitting poolside with Hollywood producers.

...gazing at blue Caribbean waters as you  hone your story ideas, proposals, and pitches with published authors and literary agents.

...relaxing with a cool drink as you network with editors from the Big Five New York publishing houses.


THE SEYMOUR AGENCY WRITERS WINTER ESCAPE CRUISE 2017

Set sail with us February 26th - March 3rd, 2017 

Departing from Miami, Florida for Nassau, Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico!





Join The Seymour Agency on her 2nd Annual Writers Winter Escape cruise — on a 5-night cruise, leaving from Miami, as we indulge in the beauty of the Caribbean Sea, embrace the wonders of Cozumel, Mexico and bathe in the sunlight of Nassau, Bahamas while learning about the industry and making connections of a lifetime. 

Mark your calendars for February 26th –March 3rd, 2017 to join us on Royal Caribbean's newly updated Navigator of the Seas.  Not only will we have fabulous editors to meet with poolside, we will also be featuring two HUGE Hollywood producers who are coming along to hear your pitches and hopefully turn your novel into a feature film or TV series!  You won't want to miss this opportunity! We'll also have top editors from the Big Five publishers, representing the full spectrum of genres: YA, MG, picture books, Romance, Mysteries, Thrillers, SF/F, nonfiction and memoir.


Our past editors have included: 

  • Deb Werksman and Cat Clyne of Sourcebooks
  • Christian Trimmer, Executive Editor from Simon & Schuster Children's
  • Liz Pelletier from Entangled Publishing
  • Kat Brzozowski from Thomas Dunne Books
  • Whitney Ross and Melissa Frain from Tor
  • ...and MORE!
There is ALSO a $100.00 on-board cabin credit per cabin available ($50 per person) for a very limited time, if you register by March 10th. This is an incredible chance for you to meet with industry leaders and connect with other writers. 

We are limiting the number of participants this year and want all of you to have the chance to join us.  The link to register is NOW live! It was such an awesome event this past year; we can't wait to see you all aboard the Navigator of the Seas in 2017!




In the Life of An Agent: Interns Edition

At The Seymour Agency we make good use of interns, pooling them from the local collegiate population. It's a win-win for both parties, not to mention when I was in college I would have "killed" for an internship at an agency or publisher. Any who, our local intern is one Lesley Sabga and she ROCKS.

Instead of me prattling on about some nonsense or whatever, I had Lesley write up a post on her experiences as an intern. I'm double-dipping here by posting it, because she actually wrote it up for my current pool of interns, but c'est la vie.

You might also think hey this is about an agent's life, not an intern's! But there's this line of thought among some writing circles that interns do all the work, an agent never even reads the manuscripts, and you need to escape the all mighty gatekeeper. So I thought it would be neat for us to hear from said mighty gatekeeper. And here'ssssss Lesley:


"I have been an intern at a literary agency and a publishing house for a little over a year. When I first started, I was at the tail end of my senior year, and to say I was more than ready to graduate and pursue my dream of becoming an editor would be an understatement. Immediately I was thrown into a world full of reader reports, editorial passes and letters, copy edits, line edits, and acquisitions. I found myself a little over my head, thinking I possibly bit off more than I could chew. But in those first few months, I learned more about the industry than I ever thought I could. 
I came across three essential facts. First, I learned that in order to make it in this industry, you must have a strong sense of time management, especially if working remotely. It is so easy to fall behind or procrastinate on projects, and in this trade, deadlines are crucial. I also learned that you can’t take anything personally. If an editor says that your proofs are unusable and gives you no sort of recognition for your efforts, making all of your hard work and long hours essentially worthless, you use that feeling of frustration to motivate yourself to improve on that certain skill set. Take every criticism as a learning experience, never personally. If you do, you won’t last very long in this industry. The final lesson that I learned is that if you want to establish a name for yourself, you must make the effort to make yourself known to as many people as possible. Never hesitate to ask a question, even if it may seem dumb or embarrassing to you. Editors or whoever you work for always want to be informed on what you are struggling with or have questions on. It is always better to be annoying and ask a dozen questions and turn in great work instead of guessing what you think they want or how to do something, and turn in something mediocre and wrong. Communication and networking is key, and the only way to accomplish this is to reach out to your superiors and connections. 
When it comes to mastering reader reports, editorial passes and letters, or anything else concerning a manuscript, the best ally to have is experience. Through trial and error, you’ll find that your voice and skills will develop into something completely unique and invaluable for yourself. You’ll learn your strong points and the areas you still need improvement on.
        There are many components that make up a reader report but I found that characterization and the author’s voice is key. Authors sometimes have difficulty keeping the characters in line with the plot. The characters stray and form their own separate storyline, and soon enough the original story is nothing like the end result. Characters need to grow with the plot and the conflict always needs to be referred back to the reader through them. The author’s voice is what essentially makes the characters distinguishable and one of the best ways to figure this out is to cover up each name in a sequence of dialogue and see if you can tell who is talking. To me, this is the simplest way to determine if the author’s voice is strong and distinctive. 
In regards to editorial letters, I found that constructive criticism is a very delicate process. It is always important to compliment the author and to point out the aspects of their book that you enjoyed. Concentrating on what needs improvement within a story can often overpower a letter and make it more hurtful than helpful. One of the most brilliant pieces of advice I was ever given by an editor was the analogy that a book is like an author’s baby, and you never want to call a person’s baby ugly. This couldn’t be truer within this industry and it is so easy to make this mistake. Learn the balance between stating the positives of a book and how the negatives can be improved, and definitely remember that these letters are a very personal aspect of this job.  
Although the publishing and editing industry can be tough to break into and to learn, I have yet to talk to an individual in this business that does not love their job, and I think that speaks volumes for this field. There is no greater feeling than helping an author’s vision and words come to life; it is the most rewarding task and one that I, and everyone else in this industry, am passionate about. If you put in all of the work and push to learn and improve, there is absolutely nothing that will hold you back in this field. Everyone has to start somewhere and getting your foot through the door is always the first step."


Well, that's it for now, so remember to keep writing on!



Lane Heymont is an associate agent at The Seymour Agency, representing science fiction, fantasy, romance, nonfiction, and attempts to write his own stuff under a wonderful pseudonym. You can follow him on Twitter at @LaneHeymont

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hannah Barnaby on SOME OF THE PARTS, Character Love, and Music

Hello, readers! I had the chance to read Hannah Barnaby's anticipated new release (out THIS WEEK) Some of the Parts, and I could hardly put it down. It's funny, thoughtful, and wonderfully genuine. Since we're lucky enough to have Hannah as part of the blogging team here at Pub Hub, I asked her if I could interview her about the book. So please help me congratulate Hannah on the new release!

For months, Tallie McGovern has been coping with the death of her older brother the only way she knows how: by smiling bravely and pretending that she’s okay. She’s managed to fool her friends, her parents, and her teachers, yet she can’t even say his name out loud: “N—” is as far as she can go. Then Tallie comes across a letter in the mail, and it only takes two words to crack the careful façade she’s built up:

ORGAN DONOR.

Two words that had apparently been checked off on her brother’s driver’s license; two words that her parents knew about—and never revealed to her. All at once, everything Tallie thought she understood about her brother’s death feels like a lie. And although a part of her knows he’s gone forever, another part of her wonders if finding the letter might be a sign. That if she can just track down the people on the other end of those two words, it might somehow bring him back.
 
One thing that surprised me about Some of the Parts is how often I found myself smiling at the humor in it. Why did you choose this as an element of the tone, and can you talk about the effect it has on Tallie's voice and character?

I knew from the beginning that sibling death and organ donation were heavy subjects for a YA novel, and it was important to keep the story balanced, both for the readers and for myself. I couldn't have faced working on it every day if there wasn't anything funny in it. And even when there's sadness in your life, there's humor and absurdity, too. Tallie is mourning her brother but she's also trying to re-enter a normal existence, so there was a natural swing between those two places in the action of the novel.

Mel is such an interesting character as a friend for Tallie, especially at this stage in Tallie's life. What can you tell us about her?

Mel was partly inspired by a friend of mine in high school. We had very different personalities and we weren't the most obvious social pairing, but she made me braver and more adventurous and I . . . well, I'm not sure what I did for her. Kept her out of trouble sometimes. Her parents loved me. Like my real friend, Mel is artsy and headstrong, but she's also vulnerable in her own way. She's protective of Tallie even though she doesn't totally get her. They serve a real purpose in each other's lives at this point, but it's a slightly uneasy bond. (For the record, my friend and I are still in touch. And she never put taxidermy in my locker.)

Chase has his own role to play, and his goes a bit farther that Mel's--at least it seems that way. Can you talk about the impact they have on Tallie?

Chase and Mel have only one thing in common, really, which is that they care about Tallie and they each want to be the one who fixes things for her. So they're a little competitive with each other. Chase feels a connection with her because of his fascination--which she begins to share--with keeping records of people who died and also because they're both hovering on the fringes of normalcy. The fact that Chase's father is both a resource and then a hindrance to Tallie's plans adds another layer to what's going on between them.

How Tallie feels about both Chase and Mel is a bit more complicated. She gets to know Mel and meets Chase during a time when she's really not herself, so the version of her that they connect with is left of center. In the end, Mel has more trouble with that than Chase does, which is why he goes the distance in ways that Mel can't.

There are a number of key adult figures in this book, and they're all so distinct and often funny. A lot of the humor I found in the book had to do with the adults, their quirks, and Tallie's perception of them. I'd love to hear what you have to say about writing adults in YA, and particularly in Some of the Parts!

I think a lot about the adults in my protagonists' lives. In many YA novels, there aren't a lot of adults around or the adult characters are less fully-developed than the teens. There are good reason for this--we can't have well-intentioned grownups swooping in and saving the day, or running the show and overshadowing our main characters. But it's unrealistic to have teens operating in adult-free worlds all the time, especially when their story involves family dynamics, as Tallie's does. It was important to me that her parents and teachers be sympathetic and real, but they were also a good chance to bring some levity into the book. A few of the teachers are named after my own high school instructors, as a nod to how my own life informed the story.

Music- bands, playlists, specific songs-- plays a significant, almost character-like role in the story. Can you talk about why that is, and how it helped shape Tallie, the themes, or the book itself?

Tallie's emotional journey in Some of the Parts is based on my own experience, after the sudden loss of my younger brother in 1999. My brother, Jesse, loved music and after he died I spent a lot of time listening to his favorite albums as a way of keeping him close. I needed to give Tallie a way of connecting with Nate, across the empty space of his absence, and music felt like the right way to do that. I also look to music--the lyrics as well the atmosphere it creates--to help me when I get stuck in my writing. Drafting and revising this book was really hard, for a lot of reasons, so I leaned on music a lot throughout the process. And I wanted to honor that in the final product.




Bio:
Hannah Barnaby is a former children's book editor and bookseller, and was the inaugural children's writer-in-residence at the Boston Public Library. Her debut novel, Wonder Show, was a Morris Award finalist in 2013. She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her family. You can find her online at www.hannahbarnaby.com and follow her on Twitter @hannahrbarnaby.