Monday, November 30, 2009

OFFER ENDS SOON...ACT NOW!!!!!!

I was cleaning out my daughter’s backpack this morning because (HURRAY!) she’s the school district’s problem again, when I came across these beauties:



Just take a moment to admire the detail…

So all this time I’ve been pouring over proofs of posters and stickers, when all I really needed to do was consult my 8-year-old…apparently she had it all figured out. A pencil and some yellow sticky notes. Sheer. Marketing. Genius!

Who cares that third graders aren’t my target demographic. Let’s just say she’s thinking outside the box, right?

Although, I have to wonder…if these are what was left of her inventory, how many do you think she passed out at school? How many members of THE BODY FINDER CLUB are there???

By the way, check out the back…sticky notes might not have been the best choice for “Club Cards”. Unless their dual purpose was to pick up all those pesky cookie crumbs from the bottom of your backpack. If so, then, mission accomplished, Abigail!

And as far as I can tell, these are the last two, so if you’re serious about joining you’d better act fast!!! I’m not sure what the member benefits are (aside from these sweet card/crumb magnets, of course), but it probably comes with some sort of secret handshake. Or maybe even a free vaccine against the cooties.

I’ll have to ask when she gets home.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A THANKSGIVING TO REMEMBER...

I’m grateful for finding these in my drawer today after my husband folded laundry this week:


How could I *not* be thankful for a husband who thinks I can fit into a little girl’s size 6???

Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, honey!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

THE WHISPERING EYE


The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Wicked Lovely
The Shining
Shiver
Water For Elephants
The Hunger Games
The Time Travelers Wife
Hush, Hush
Beautiful Creatures


Sometimes even before the cover image, the title is the first impression we have of a book. And whether we want to admit it or not, they’re important. HUGELY important. And you know what? I kinda suck at titles.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my title. Love, love it, and maybe even want to marry it. But it was an accidental title, a placeholder title that ([insert sarcasm font here] with my vast knowledge of the publishing industry) I was sure the publisher was going to change anyway. THE BODY FINDER…it was what my main character could do, not a well thought out title of a YA novel. I even had a short list (a VERY sort list) of alternates, just in case I was consulted in the matter. But that’s the weird thing…I wasn’t consulted. Because my publisher—the editorial staff and Sales and Marketing—they loved the title too. Thus, THE BODY FINDER it was.

And I was left standing there going: “What the hell just happened…?”

For book two I was more careful. Thoughtful. I spent a lot of time thinking about what meaning I wanted to convey. I weighed the feel of the book and the path that my main character took. And I came up with the perfect title. My agent loved it, and my editor too. Close your eyes and imagine it: *waves hand dramatically*

THE BEAUTIFUL DEAD

It had everything, it was evocative and dark and a little mysterious…

Umm, yeah, well apparently it was the perfect title. For a series of books in the UK. And it was way too close to Francesca Lia Block’s book (also by HarperCollins) titled PRETTY DEAD. (I wish someone would have told me before I bought http://www.thebeautifuldead.net/. Yeah, it works…)

So it was back to the drawing board. And then one day I was going through my edits and I came across a line that stood out to me: “…the desires of the dead.” And that was it, my title: DESIRES OF THE DEAD. Another accidental title. But, again, I love it. And again, a possible impending nuptial. (What can I say? I’m fickle like that!)

My current project doesn’t really have a title yet. And I’m struggling to come up with the one. S-T-R-U-G-G-L-I-N-G! I’ll know it when I find it. But I haven’t yet.

One morning after watching the movie Role Models, I woke up and my husband had renamed my manuscript “THE WHISPERING EYE” as a joke. If you’ve seen the movie you’ll get the reference. If you haven’t, then you’re on your own to figure it out. But I wonder what my editor would think if I sent it in like that. I can just imagine the Sales and Marketing meeting for that one. I’m guessing it would be fairly controversial…

So, I want to know what titles you love and why. And if you’re a writer, I wanna know how you’ve come up with your titles.

Because this title thing, it daunts me. Because, like I said, I sort of suck at it…

Sunday, November 22, 2009

STRUTS AND FRETS: Meet 2009 Deb Jon Skovron

You know how I get cover envy? How I talk about loving this cover or that? Petting, lusting, coveting?

Yeah, well this is one of those. It has that Juno-esque feel about it. The lined paper, the doodle-style font. Plus a man with a guitar…what’s not to love? Okay, so maybe he’s more of a boy. Ish. Whatever. Let’s not play word games. Let’s just stare at the cover and admire...

Plus, the book itself, STRUTS AND FRETS, check it:

More than anything, Sammy wants to play guitar in a famous indie rock band. The problem is that his front man is a jerk who can't sing, his bassist is a burn-out who can't remember the songs, and his drummer is just out to lunch. But Sammy needs this band because it's the only good thing he's got going. His father skipped out before he was born, his mother is an overworked therapist with a drinking problem, his grandfather is slowly losing his mind to Alzheimer's, and the girl of his dreams is dating his jerk lead singer.

Now that jerk lead singer has entered them in a Battle of the Bands contest to win free studio time and guaranteed radio play. Sammy has two weeks to get them to sound like a real band, or face public humiliation in front of the entire local indie music scene.

See? More awesome.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve stopped thinking of the author as Jon Skovron and replaced him with Jonny Skov, mostly because I think it’s a much more kickass indie rocker name. So for the rest of this interview, that’s what we’re going with.

You ready, Jonny? All you have to do is answer five simple questions and a ONE-WORD bonus question.

And…GO!

1) Would you rather be the Bestselling Rockstar Author or an Acclaimed Literary Award Winner?

Bestselling Rockstar author for sure. To paraphrase Garp, I want readers, not acclaim.

2) Make people laugh, cry, or hide under the covers?

All three, preferably at once if possible. That's my favorite place to be.

3) Retire early or just keep writing from your beach house(s)?

I may reach a stage where I choose to stop publishing, but I will always write.

4) FaceBook or MySpace?

Twitter.

5) After a period, one space or two?

I used to be a two spacer, but broke myself of the habit when I started tech writing.

And your bonus question: What ONE WORD of advice would give to any aspiring writer?

Persist!

To find out more about Jonny Skov and his books, check out his website at www.jonskovron.com (or www.jonnyskov.com also works…I checked!).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Someone Spilled The Beans...

So, today I was browsing around on HarperTeen’s Facebook site and I saw that they were already announcing their Supernatural Summer Tour lineup for next summer. And guess what…????

OMG...YES! I am on it!!!!

*jumps up and down* *screams like a little girl* *throws up in mouth (just a little)*

Did I know Harper was sending me on tour? Yes!

Did I think it was a secret that I had to keep to myself? Why, yes. Yes, I did.

Did I have any idea that HarperTeen was going to publicly announce the tour on their Facebook page??? Umm...no, I did not. (And is it terrible to admit that I kinda wanted to say it first???)

But you know what HarperTeen didn’t have on their site??? Pictures that show how exciting it’s gonna be…

Like this one:




Or this:

Or even this:


So if anyone asks, just tell ‘em you heard it here first. And that my announcement party was way cooler than theirs…

Monday, November 16, 2009

NATURE vs. NURTURE

I pretty much knew I wanted to write by the seventh grade. Of course, in my version of “writing” I wanted to be a Journalist traipsing through jungles and war-torn regions trying to scoop some story that would land me on the cover of Time magazine, possibly win me a Pulitzer. And maybe it would be in the midst of gunfire? Maybe in an insect-infested rain forest with snakes and feral predators and giant spiders? Maybe, even, without a shower?

Can you picture me there? No, not so much? Right…me either. Plus, there’s all that fact gathering and truth-telling. I found it much simpler and far more satisfying to just make stuff up. And to shower daily.

But what was it that made me think I could write? What made me want it? Is writing something you are just born to do, some innate ability you either have or you don’t? Or is it something taught, some skill that must be honed and mastered?

Honestly, I believe it’s both.

But, just like everything else, what I don’t believe is that there is only one “right way” to get there.

I didn’t go the MFA in Writing route (which probably would have been a much smarter and much less potholed route). In fact, when I was in college, I was a Biology major. Um, yeah, not so much to do with the writing. More to do with Anatomy & Physiology, Chemistry, Physics, and a whole lotta math. But I could write a kick-ass paper on cellular mitosis or Newton’s Law. Because all along the way, even though I was studying Biology, I was also "studying" the craft of writing. Whether I was writing mid-term projects and essay problems, or writing and re-writing (and re-writing) my first novel, or just reading everything I could get my hands on, I was always learning about sentence structure and vocabulary and how to best use words for impact. Even if it wasn’t a highly formalized masters program.

Because here’s the thing: while I think I would have learned a TON from a writing program, I also don’t believe that a degree means you will be a great writer*. I think you can be taught all of those things I mentioned above…and a lot, LOT more! I think you can spend hours studying linguistics and dialogue and pouring over the words of every author who’s ever lived and died by the pen, but that does not, and let me just repeat that: That DOES NOT a great writer make! And it certainly does not guarantee a career in writing. Because what can’t necessarily be taught is a *feel* for good storylines or a keen sense of timing or the life experiences that are necessary to understand the way your characters should (or should not) relate to one another.

For me, I think that, yes, I was going to find a way to be a writer (one way or another) and it was called: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Did I have something there to begin with? Hell yes, I did! It’s called drive, desire, and ambition. And I’m not sure where that comes from exactly. Maybe growing up without made me work harder. I’m almost certain it did. But I would never discount the determination of those who were raised with more. There are probably just as many authors who have come from means as those who came from nothing.

Because here’s the deal, if you’ve got that fire then nothing can stop you. I truly believe that writers are as often born as they are created.


* I am not, in fact, referring to myself as a "great writer"...just making a reference to writers in general. Please do not send hate mail!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hang In There, Baby!

I wonder sometimes about the people who “make it” in this business. Sure, I think there are those who stumble into it ass-backwards and make a killing. They write a manuscript (and maybe their first draft is super stellar), they find an agent on their first try, the book goes out on submission and editors everywhere want it. An auction ensues. Instant overnight success ala Stephenie Meyer, right?

But that’s not the real world. And I have a hard time believing that even those rare “overnight successes” didn’t have their own stumbling blocks along the way.

And what about the rest of us? Most of us?

It certainly didn’t happen that way for me. Sure, The Body Finder sold quickly, but it also wasn’t my first book. Or my second. And I had (ehem…have) stacks of rejection letters to prove it.

I had my first agent when I was twenty. Yeah, you heard me, twenty. And I thought, that’s it, I’ve made it! Now, I can sit back and wait for the bags-o-money to roll in.

Umm, yeah…

Still waiting…

My book didn’t actually sell. My dreams of lighting my cigars (that’s right, I probably would have started smoking cigars) with hundred dollar bills went up in smoke (pardon the pun!).

But I didn’t give up. I rewrote my book, and found yet another agent. And this time I was in my mid-twenties…much older, and much wiser. *cough*yeahright*coughcough*

And, again, my book didn’t sell. So this time I tucked my manuscript away in a drawer. And every few years I would pull it out, dust it off, rewrite it, and resubmit it to agents. The technology got better. I moved from a typewriter to a word processer to a computer. Searching for agents got easier, The Writers Market moved from doorstopper-sized hardcopy to an online version. But, alas, my poor little manuscript just didn’t have what it took to find a publishing home. It had something, just not quite the right thing.

Unfortunately, I was stuck. I’d gotten just enough positive feedback to keep me clinging to it like it was my last, great hope. Hell, I’d had two agents. I even had a two page, single-spaced critique letter from an editor at William Morrow who was kind enough to read my entire manuscript despite the fact that I’d blindly sent it to her without knowing I needed an agent first. I had just the right amount of encouragement to keep me from letting it go.

And then one day I made a decision. One more revision, I decided. The last one, and then I was done with it. Then I was moving on. If I was going to be a writer, then by god I was going to write. New stuff. Even if it never found a publishing home. Even if I was only writing it for me. I was tired of the old book. I wanted to write!

It was very freeing, that moment.

And I did it; I revised the old manuscript, sent out a few more queries, gathered a few more rejections, and moved on. I wrote a second book, and sent out new queries. Got some nibbles, requests for fulls, definitely a lot more positive this time. Could it be that my writing had improved?

Again, I didn’t waste any time, and I started on a new project: The Body Finder. It came together quickly. I was working two jobs, I have three kids, and a busy household. And somehow I would squeeze in a couple of hours every day. My husband did the dishes and got the kids ready for bed. I got up early and stayed up late.

I finished it, and had a feeling that this was something. I was supposed to pitch my second novel at a writer’s conference just weeks away, and instead decided to pitch this new project.

It was like the stars had finally aligned.

But you know what? That wasn’t it at all. There was no fate or kismet involved. It was a lot of hard work. It was dedication and sticking with it, even knowing it was quite possibly a pipe dream. It was believing in myself.

The people that make it—and I believe this about almost any industry that’s difficult to break into—aren’t really the ones who accidentally stumble onto the scene and make a splash (yes, there are those rare exceptions). Instead, they are the ones who bust their asses! The ones who find the time, who never give up, who look past the rejections and keep on working, learning, growing.

I might be the Paula Abdul of writing, but never let the Simons get you down. Not if you really want it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!! (Run, Don't Walk...)

Okay, so remember that I mentioned how much I love Melissa Marr? And remember that she gave The Body Finder a beautiful blurb? And then remember that I actually got to *meet* her when she was in Seattle back in May???

Well, guess what?!?! I think I actually love her more now. AND SO SHOULD YOU!!!!

Melissa is giving away six (yes, SIX) autographed (by me!) copies of The Body Finder on her website during November and December!!!

Did I mention that there are six copies?

And that I love her...?

So what are you still doing here? Get on over there and win you some books!!!

Oh, Almost Forgot...

Head on over to Lisa and Laura's place to win...wait for it...

A shiny new KINDLE!!!!


That's right, friends, they're giving away the good stuff! But hurry! You don't want to miss out, and the contest ends November 13th!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Not-So-Secret Agent Stuff


Another question I get asked a lot is:How did you get published?"

There are several variations of this question:
Did you send your book to a lot of publishers? How did you know where to send it? And my personal favorite: Did you pay a lot to get it published?

The obvious answer is: I got an agent. And she sold my book.

This is a subject I am much more comfortable talking about/giving advice on. In fact, this is where you and I become BFFs. I will give you websites (Agent Query; Predators & Editors*, The Writer’s Market) where you can search databases of agents, and I'll even tell you a little about query letters (although I’ll neither write it for you nor critique it). Boundaries, people. Boundaries.

And why am I so accommodating when it comes to discussions of agents? Because this is not only a topic I feel I can be useful on (I’ve done a little research, you know?), but something I feel rather strongly about.

There are plenty of people out there (and I know at least one personally) who have decided to go the less-traditional, non-agented route. And I think that’s great for them. Really, I do. They have their reasons. Some feel they have exhausted their resources trying to find an agent to represent them, others have just gotten fed up with waiting for an agent to notice them, and some of them have gotten lucky and found a publishing house to represent them all on their own. And I am first to applaud their decision! I’m a big fan of the no-right-way-to-get-things-done school of thought.

Me, personally, however? There are some really good reasons I want an agent standing behind me.

First of all, most (and I do mean MOST) publishers won’t even look at a manuscript from an unagented author. Especially first-time authors. And even if their website says they will (sure, go ahead and send your manuscript to this generic address!), an agent will get your manuscript out of the slushpile and onto an editor’s desk. The right editor. And trust me when I say, your agent does his/her research before they ever send out a manuscript. They’re not sending your Vegan Cajun Cookbook to an editor who acquires only MG adventures for boys.

Secondly, besides negotiating a better monetary amount for the sale of your book, you want to have an agent for the down-and-dirty contract negotiations. These are sticky and messy. Even with my agent, the first contract that HarperCollins offered was not the contract I ended up with. There are lots of things to consider: who will hold foreign rights, e-books, merchandising, film/TV rights, how long/for how many books are you under contract? The list is endless. These are not things the average person should ever navigate on their own.

And then there are all of the things your agent does for you after the sale. Your agent will be your go-to person for pretty much everything. Don’t like your new cover? Call your agent. You and your editor disagree about edits? Call your agent. You want to throw a hissy fit about…well, anything? Please, do not call your editor…call your agent! She’ll talk you down and figure it all out. She’s willing to put on her black hat and be the bad guy so you don’t have to.

If she holds your foreign rights, she’ll sell those. She’ll sell audio. She’ll find your film agent, handle merchandising, and don’t even get me started on video games! Seriously, please don’t…I have no idea about them. Zip, zilch, nada…

My point is, there are good reasons to pay out the 10-20%** for an agent, she’s worth the money! So polish your query letters*** and start-a-pitchin’. You’ll be glad you did!

* Please-oh-please-oh-please, never sign with an agent that wants you to pay them money up front. These are scam artists, people! SCAM ARTISTS!

** Industry standard seems to be 15%.

*** Query Shark – A blog about query letters. You can see examples!


Aside from the links I’ve already given, here are some blogs and websites that I think are useful:

http://www.aaronline.org/ (The Association of Author’s Representatives)

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/ (Absolute Write – Online Forums for discussing writing)

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/CategoryView,category,Nonfiction.aspx (This is generally a non-fiction site, but has great general information!)

http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/09/my-favorite-books.html (A great literary agency site!)

http://misssnark.blogspot.com/ (Miss Snark…enough said!)

http://editorialass.blogspot.com/ (An editor’s perspective.)

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/ (Don’t pretend you’re not already stalking, er, I mean following him!)

Now get out there...I fully expect to see more posts like this, and this, and this!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Awkward Conversations...

Yesterday Kiersten White did a really great post about something that happens to me all the time. (I loved her post because she managed to formulate everything I’d been thinking and somehow put it to words. On paper! It’s like she’s a professional writer or something!)

Anyway, it’s always amazing to me how a conversation can go from “You’re a writer?” to “My second grade teacher said I should be a writer” in about 2.4 seconds. Flat.

And it’s all good. Great, in fact. I’m happy for you, really I am. I’m not all that comfortable talking about myself in the first place. Especially when that same conversation starts to steer into what I like to call “awkward territory”. And, no, I’m not even talking about the ballsy “So, how much was your advance?” conversation, I’m talking about the other…”How ‘bout I send you some of my stuff and you can tell me what you think?”

Umm, no.

Okay, I didn't mean for that to sound bitchy, let me try again…umm, no.

How about this? Umm, no!

No? Still not any better?

Yeah, well, that’s because I’m probably not gonna read it. For several reasons.

Besides the obvious legal ramifications (you know that pesky being-accused-of-plagiarism thing), I’m busy. Really busy. Really, REEAAALLLY BUSY! I think there’s this misnomer that a writer sits in his or her office (or in a really comfy “reading chair”) and writes a book, and then they just send it in to their editor, who edits it, and voila! A book is born!

Not so.

Here’s what really goes down: Said editor sends said writer editorial notes, with which said writer busts their freaking hump in an effort to satisfy said editor’s needs, wants, and innermost desires for that first draft. Oh yeah, you heard me: First. Draft. Because, yes, there will probably be a second, and possibly a third, round of revisions.

You: And then the writer gets to just kick back and collect royalty checks, right?

Me: Umm, yeah, not so much.

Then you do your copyedits. You learn phrases like “Stet” and you decide how many “whom”s a YA novel can withstand, grammatically correct or not, before it sounds like a throwback to Jane Austen. You pour over each and every single line until your eyes feel like they're hemorrhaging.
You: And then you’re done…?

Me: You’re getting closer now, but not quite. Next your lovely little manuscript is sent off to the typesetter, and you receive these gorgeously crafted pages as they will (eventually) appear in the bound books. Beautiful fonts, pretty little art designs created just for the pages of your book, your Acknowledgements in all their glory. Every single page of it!

But, wait! You see mistakes on those pages! That’s right, these are just your First Pass Pages. And yet again, you get to go through character-by-character seeking out every little error in need of correction. You send those in, and depending on your publisher, you will receive Second Pass Pages as well, another opportunity to work until your eyes bleed.

In the meantime, you’ve been working on your next book, or maybe that one’s already done and you've reached the revision stage. In the meantime, you’re also working on another book.

What I’m saying is that it’s never finished. I’m always working. On something. Ask my husband. Or my kids. Look at my house…the proof is in the laundry. (Or the poorly stocked kitchen).

And if that isn’t enough to deter you from trying to pass me the poem you scribbled on the back of your Denny’s napkin, here’s another: I’m not very good at it. There’s a reason I never joined a Crit Group. I’m like your mom, I’ll try to frame it and hang it on my fridge. I want to see the good in everything you do (especially if I like you), which isn’t at all useful to someone who is serious about getting published. I am the Paula Abdul of writing.

So, save yourself (and me) a lot of grief. For the love of god, ask me about my advance. Just don’t ask me to read your manuscript!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Winding Road

This latest re-run post is scheduled to be a post on the incredible roller-coaster journey that is publishing.

But before we get started, I have news (and I LOVE NEWS!):

The fabulous duo that we call LiLa, has just announced that they will see their book, THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN, on bookstore shelves in Spring 2011. YAY, LiLa! You girls rock!!!!!!

So in honor of publishing news, here's a look back at my journey (so far):

1) How I Found My Agent...

2) I'm Getting Published!!! (One of my favorite moments was *finally* being able to make this announcement...three months after the sale!)

3) Getting "The Call"

4) My Road To Publication (Notice that it lists the OLD release date since I wrote this post back in February...so many things have happened since then, but this is a great timeline of the process from sale through edits.)

5) My Sad News, With A Silver Lining... (The day I learned my release date was pushed back six months.)

6) Some really Cool Stuff...

7) In My Husband's World (What my Acknowledgment's Page would look like if my husband had written them.)

But here's the thing: you always expect it to get easier. If only I could get an agent...If only I got published...If only they sold foreign/audio/film...

The "What-ifs" are endless. There's always another hurdle, another goal. Like I said, it's a roller coaster. A thrill ride. And sometimes, when I least expect it, I get one of those calls or emails that take me plunging down the tracks with my arms raised and a scream lodged in the back of my throat.

And, really, what more could I want?

More About Writing...

Okay, yes, it's another "clip-show," but like I said before: I'm in re-run mode. And this time the focus is less about poking fun at my poor, unsuspecting family and more on digging through past posts about writing. Or as a more serious writer might say (*and I think you should picture me with a distinguished-looking pipe in my mouth*) "The Craft".

Aw, c'mon! Don't look at me like that. These were good posts. Consider them...recycled. And recycling's a good thing, right? Sure it is!!!

(Oh, and the picture...no, I do not think any monkey can pound away at a keyboard. Okay, yes...yes, I do. But can they put together an entire manuscript? Of course not. Is it funny to imagine? I'd be lying if I said it wasn't!)

So, here are my prized (or maybe not-so-prized) writing posts from the past:

1) What Kind Of Writer Are You?

2) Edits, Edits, and More Edits...

3) Is "Sell-Out" My Middle Name?

4) And a newer one that some of you may recognize: The Six Stages of Revision Hell...

5) And this one, less about writing and more about my addiction to all thing internet: Hi. My Name is Kim, and I'm a Blog-O-Holic...

See? Didn't I tell ya, recycled material isn't all bad. Plus, it can't last forever. Eventually it'll be Sweeps Week again and I'll have to bring out the big guns, the whole sparkly dog-and-pony-show, and then it's GAME ON!!! You guys won't know what hit you!

Or, you know, there'll just be some new posts and stuff...