Friday, May 3, 2019

Back in the Saddle: New Releases and Querying Again




Phew! After two crazy back-to-back semesters of university life, I am happy to be taking the summer off from my studies. Next Fall 2019, I'll be back at BYU, diving straight into my new major, NEUROSCIENCE! To be honest, I'm feeling totally Hermione about it. 


The Hermione we love, doing advanced magic in the girls room.

I already bought my textbook for Neurobiology and, I kid you not, all the reviews on Amazon are raving about this textbook. Apparently, it's a real page-turner! It's called Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, 4th Edition, in case you want to pick it up for a bit of light reading...

Books on my desk right now... all the light reading you could wish for

I know you're dying to know what I'm up to now that school's out for the summer! Well, aside from pre-reading my Neuroscience textbook for fun, I'm writing again.

Phew again! I have missed this!

I recently published my first adult self-help/inspirational book, The Healing Bucket: How to Invite the Power of Intentional Growth into Your Life this Year! It's available as an ebook wherever ebooks are sold, and in paperback through Amazon. The audiobook will be available later this year.

A Christian inspirational journaling aid


This past winter I hired an incredible voice actor, Jay Spaulding, to narrate Drats, Foiled Again!, my first middle grade superhero novel. He did an enviable job! Seriously, I wish I could do voices half as well as he does. We've listened to him perform my characters half a dozen times already!

The most adventurous audiobook ever, fun for the whole family!

My sweet little almost-seven-year-old thinks audiobooks are an automatic thing. As I've been working on finishing up Bombs Away!, the evil twin's version of the story, I read a little bit of Chapter 1 to my three oldest kids. The seven-year-old didn't mind my reading too much... "But," he asked, "can I listen to this book tonight on your phone?"

What do you think, Jay? Want to read my kids to sleep from an unpublished manuscript? You're not too busy for that, right? Right?

My kids are totally into audiobooks. The donation I received to allow me to hire Jay is definitely my biggest blessing all year. It has been surreal to hear my story retold in such a dynamic, living way. I'm grateful--through the roof grateful--for the opportunity.

Bombs Away! will be available digitally in June 2019, and in paperback about a month later. So long as Jay agrees to voice it, and I wouldn't have it any other way, you can expect that to happen (hopefully, fingers crossed) by the end of 2019.

Pre-order here


Since the name of this series is The Drats Universe, people have asked me just how many installments they can expect. Well, the truth is I'm not sure yet. I know for sure there will be at least three books because I have another plot cooking right now in the back of my brain. (It gets hot in there!) 

My Van-Gogh-inspired rendition of the active brain: Alive and Awake

The uncertainty comes about mainly because of time constraints. I'm officially a junior at my university, so there's really only a couple years left of material for me to learn before I earn my bachelor's degree. 

Buuuut...

Since I am the doting mother of five children whose education and upbringing is my number one priority, I will only be able to attend classes/labs part-time. 

BYU Eyring Science Center
The Neuroscience Center is on the bottom floor


Therefore, what could take two years will likely take four. The good news is that my oldest will be dipping his toes into the AP testing universe, so the fact that I'm taking all these science and math courses now will enable me to be a killer (I mean, not killer because we don't kill in our family) AP tutor.

No killing. Srsly.


Writing again for the middle grade audience is like coming back to my childhood playground and finding the swings empty and waiting. I am enjoying it immensely!

However, that part of me that is brimming with picture book ideas is still alive and well, too. So today I sent my first query letter in years! I sent it to a children's book publisher with whom I would absolutely love to work! I can't divulge too much about the picture book project, but it's about dragons and it draws on what I've been studying about neuroscience and behavior as I prepare to enter the program at the Y. All the studies that have been done on how to manipulate your own biochemistry and maintain a peaceful, productive mental and emotional state really need to be made available to children and families in ways they can understand and use. The family is where children receive their first instruction in emotion management. If parents never learned effective emotional management techniques, then the automatic dysfunctional habits they learned from their parents end up being passed along to the rising generation. 

The boys helping me pick up my St. George Marathon packet - 2018

As a mother, I speak from experience. Kicking my own bad habits and teaching effective emotional management is a personal mission for me in my own family. They say this generation deals with more anxiety and depression than any generation before it. There's much work to be done, and I believe we can usher in an era of optimism and health when people who care work together to raise awareness and teach mental hygiene skills.

As I continue to learn, I hope I'll have opportunities to share the useful tips and tricks of the trade with readers everywhere! That's the dream!

Tell me, what are your dreams and projects this year?
                                                                                                

Saturday, March 9, 2019

How to Invite the Power of Intentional Growth into Your Life this Year


Exciting news! I have a new book out and it's available for pre-order now!
 I'm so happy to be able to offer this to readers who are looking forward to some serious and intentional personal growth in 2019! Read the ebook with a journal or notebook handy because this book is meant to give you ideas...

The Healing Bucket: How to Invite the 

Power of Intentional Growth 

into Your Life this Year

by K.L. Lantz

This is my first foray into the realm of nonfiction as well as into the world of Christian motivational books. I personally love inspirational books of all kinds, and have read excellent books by Evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons (Latter-day Saints) like me, and those of no particular faith. In fact, a few of these authors are referenced in my own book because a book without references is a sad, lonely island. As such, my book is rich with references to scientific studies, wisdom from other books I have read, as well as personal experiences that have informed my perspectives.

I've written this book because I believe that every person's experiences qualify him or her to share unique perspectives on universal wisdom. We all come at this big, blue world from different angles. It's through our differences that we discover the most powerful truths about what makes us human and what that even means. My faith informs every decision I make in my life, so it wouldn't have felt right to write this book without it. The main reason I had to include a fair dose of God in a book about overcoming personal challenges is that all of the amazing personal achievements I had in 2018 were gifts. Yes, I am the one who ran the marathon in the rain. I am the one who busted my butt until twenty-five pounds fell off. I am the one who wrote and published my first middle grade novel. I am the one who, terrified though I was, squeezed myself into a leotard and took an adult ballet class every Friday at 10am. I am the one who signed up for science classes and went back to college. But you guys, God is the one who gave me the breath from day to day enabling me to take these frightening paths. God is the one who lined up the ducks and made it easy(er). God is the one who comforted me and guided me through the lowest points of my journey--and every journey has 'em. Yes, it would have been ungrateful not to include God. 

I hope that those who pick up The Healing Bucket discover in themselves strength they never knew they had, and power to change their lives. I also hope those who journal their way through this book will acknowledge all of their angels, the mundane and the divine, who help them along the way. As I mention in Chapter 11, gratitude is the secret to lasting happiness. Oops, I'm giving it all away. Just don't forget to pick up your digital copy. At $4.69, it is a steal! Enjoy!


Here's the blurb:

Prepare yourself for the future life you want to live. While there may be bucket lists full of items that sound exotic or alluring, the best goals are the most personal ones. What you want is not a bucket list, but a healing bucket. The items you add to your healing bucket will not come from a travel website or a fashion blog. They will call to you from within your heart as you use the power of prayer and this unique journaling aid to find the fulfillment you've been longing to find. This isn't just a journal and it isn't just a Christian motivational book. It's a little of both. And it's an invitation, a guide to a journey that ends with a greater sense of purpose and meaning, the kind that can only be found on a journey with Christ.

Katrina Lantz is the author of the middle grade book Drats, Foiled Again! She is also a wife and mother to five rowdy boys. Finding peace and a fulfilling purpose in the midst of a sometimes crowded and chaotic life has not been easy for her, but with God all things are possible. Writing as K.L. Lantz, Katrina leans on her faith as a member of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints and shares her experiences after an intense year of goal-setting and miraculous fulfillment in this unique inspirational book, The Healing Bucket. Some miracles are big and some are small, but all have the same source. Lantz invites you to lean on Christ while daring to dream of a bigger and brighter life for yourself and those you love.

And the COVER!!

Pre-Order Now

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Different Kind of Cover Reveal: DRATS, FOILED AGAIN!



After six years of sitting on this manuscript, I've decided--with plenty of encouragement from those closest to me--to self-publish DRATS, FOILED AGAIN! and let it find its readers!!

The book and I are really excited about this.

So yesterday I sat down with some paintbrushes and a lot of yellow and green paint, and made my own cover art. Right now, I have some dear friends and family reviewing the latest revisions of the manuscript for readability and consistency. Early next month, I'm having a freelance editor copyedit it, and we have a tentative release date of April 20, 2018!! This has been a long time in coming.

Without further ado, I give you the cover art for DRATS, FOILED AGAIN!

Robert Gilbrinkle is blind in one eye, which makes dodging punches in his Anti-Hero Maneuvers class especially difficult, but his lack of depth perception is the least of his troubles. Nox Academy’s senior project deadline is fast approaching, he's failing three classes, and, naturally, his evil twin Rupert keeps trying to kill him every chance he gets. 

But the real trouble begins when Robert’s pathetic superpower--a very unwicked superwink that fixes anything broken--starts to evolve. The kids at Nox used to laugh and call him "Rob Repairman" but nobody is laughing now. His wink threatens anyone who threatens him. 

Robert has always known where he stands - on the other side of the hall from Rupert. What haunts him the most is the revelation that maybe he and Rupert aren't as different as he thought. Battling a common enemy brings them closer than either twin can handle, but the lives of their friends are at stake and the thirst for revenge is strong. Maybe even stronger than their disdain for each other.

With the playful cartoonish style and broad crossover appeal of Disney’s SKY HIGH, and the coming of age heroic drama of Matthew Cody’s POWERLESS, Robert’s story will resonate with kids from 8 to 14 who love to escape to that comic book world of good vs. evil and often wonder where in the midst of that universe they fit in.


What was the clincher? And why six years later? Well, here's the exciting and perilous story behind the non-publishing and eventual self-publishing of DRATS, FOILED AGAIN!

First, the reason I finally decided, the CLINCHER for my self-publishing decision, was my eight-year-old son, Layne James. Oh, he's adorable, and he loves comic books more than life itself. He is often found with a stack of white paper and a pen, drafting his own hero-vs.-villain stories. I wrote DRATS, FOILED AGAIN! when he was only two years old, and his big brother was five. I had always intended to share it with them, but they were a little young for a readaloud this thick at the time. Trust me, I tried reading WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS with Sam, the big brother, and all it did was put him to sleep (which is in itself its own kind of win!). But somehow it came up this year and I started reading it with Layne James. That fun bonding experience led me to pick up the old manuscript and finally see what it needed. The rest is history, and here's that story for those who desperately want to know:

DRATS, FOILED AGAIN! got the most attention from literary agents, out of all of my work. One agent optimistically referred me to another agent she thought might really dig it, and the feedback was flatteringly positive, except for one thing: THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHERE IT FIT IN THE MARKET. I was advised to rewrite the whole story to make it so the characters weren't in high school, but in some sort of junior academy for villains instead. And I did!

It was painful to go through and make the changes, and at the end, the story felt like an empty shell of its former self. I couldn't understand why changing the age made such a difference until I thought a good, long while about it. The answer was obvious, and I don't know why I didn't see it before. DRATS, FOILED AGAIN! is primarily a coming of age story. While there are great coming of age stories written with an MG-age protagonist (A WRINKLE IN TIME and THE GIVER, to name a few of my favorites), this particular coming of age story is about that scary, exciting, and confusing year between senior year of high school and the big wide world that awaits after graduation. That inner conflict of "Where will I live, and how will I make my mark on the world?" is absolutely central to Robert's struggle between good and evil (and Rupert's, in the companion novel coming soon).

Given this disconnect between my story and the traditional publishing scene, I guess the question really is, why did I wait so long to go it alone? The answer is that I have a lot of faith in the traditional publishing route. It's what I know, having worked with literary agents, authors, and editors on writing conferences and pitch contests at Operation Awesome. I have become very comfortable with my vision for my own success story, and it always involved, in my mind 1) get represented by awesome agent, 2) shop my novel to awesome editors at awesome publishing houses, 3) get picked up for a huge advance, and 4) celebrate!

My faith was strong in the traditional publishing route, and honestly, I still think it's a good idea to go that route in a lot of cases. It provides you with a team of people, some marketing resources, and often a nice little chunk of change in advance. But, and it took me a long time to accept this, DRATS, FOILED AGAIN! is just the type of story that agents and editors are hesitant to take on because of what they see as a marketing challenge. If it isn't straight-up middle grade and it isn't straight-up young adult, then what is it?

The characters are all teenagers. Some of them are middle grade age (Star and Shepherd, for instance), but the main characters are young adult age, almost adults. And unlike the very distinct differences between contemporary MG and YA, where young adults are dealing with very adult stuff and middle graders are dealing with bullying and fitting in, DRATS, FOILED AGAIN! has characters of all ages all dealing with the same big thing: the ongoing battle between good and evil. Because of its very playful MG tone and plot, and characters with a YA age, DRATS, FOILED AGAIN! actually has a broad crossover appeal. In fact, like Disney's Sky High, it could appeal to all the kids in the family as a readaloud (that's how we roll at my house), or kids 8-14 years old reading alone. When I queried it, I categorized it as middle grade, and that's still where I'd place it in the market.

BUT WHAT I'M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT with self-publishing is that you, the readers, get to decide! There isn't a big hullabaloo about which shelf to put it on, or just what type of cover art will express both the high stakes and the playful tone. And all that's left is just to read the story and, with any luck, fall deeply in love with its characters.

I hope you'll enjoy the twins, Robert and Rupert, their goofy insatiable dad, Famine Mouth, the mischievous tech genius Patsy Spendlove, and the heroes on the other side of the forest: Everest, Morphea, Star, and Trueblue. I hope you'll relate, whatever your age, to Robert's struggle to find where he belongs on that spectrum between good and evil, and to choose for himself where he wants to be.


RELEASE DATE: APRIL 20, 2018


(It will be available on Amazon Kindle and as a paperback.)


More pictures from the cover art process:



Thursday, October 19, 2017

How To Cyber Stalk Literary Agents

Okay, don’t actually cyber stalk anybody. That’s creepy. I mean, don’t try to find somebody’s home address or birthday or the names of family members. Seriously, just don’t do that.

Psh! Why am I worried? You guys are normal. Right?

Right.

No, this article isn’t about actual stalking, but about literary agent research. Far less creepy and infinitely more important to your writing career.

You’ve written the next Twilight. Or Hunger Games. Or Paranormalcy. Or The Inquisitor's Tale.

All you need is a literary agent to get those big publishers to take notice of you. But there are hundreds of them listed on sites like querytracker and agentquery!! How the heck are you gonna find the right one for you?

This is why the agent hunt is likened unto dating. Because there isn’t just one right agent out there for you. There are lots of right ones, lots of agents who could fall in love with your work and be effective, tireless champions for you in the face of publishers who rarely take direct, unagented submissions.

Unlike dating, though, one party is at a distinct disadvantage in the agent hunt.

You. The writer.

It’s not, “Hey, let’s have dinner.” It’s, “I have something here you might like, but I know you get a thousand of these letters every week, but still, would you please look at mine for a second?”

It doesn’t have to go down like that.

Agents have said in interview after interview that a professional query letter personalized to them rises to the top, while Dear Agent varieties get automatic deletes. How important is the personalization?

To some, it’s more important than others, but all agents agree they want to feel like you’ve done your research and you’re not just taking a shot in the dark, hoping something will stick.

I’m not a querying professional, but I am a writer of professional queries. I’ve written a lot of them. And I’ve had some positive responses, mainly from agents who knew I’d specifically sought them out for what they represent.

One agent agreed to read my book after a query workshop on her blog. Two kind souls on the querytracker forum invited me to query their agents because we wrote in similar genres. Another awesome agented writer gave me a referral to her agent after she read my pitch. Mentioning that query workshop and those client names got my foot in a door that was sometimes barely ajar, sometimes completely closed.

But it’s not because this business is all about connections. No. It’s because agents get slammed with queries from all sorts of writers in all different stages of their writing careers. Some are just starting out. Maybe, like me, you sent out one of those newbie queries to an agent who didn’t rep what you were selling just because you liked his blog (*cough* Nathan Bransford *cough*). Even if you didn’t, you probably know agents get those kinds of queries all the time. It’s a breath of fresh air when they get a client referral or a query from someone they recognize as a regular blog reader/commenter (in the right genre for what they rep).

Finally! I imagine them saying, as they sip their mysterious dark-tinged beverage. Finally, somebody who actually wants to be represented by me and not just any old agent!
See, for them it might be just as frustrating as for you. They want clients who take writing seriously enough to care who represents them. They want clients who want to be their clients. Makes sense, right?



So here’s how to cyber stalk them (again, not actual stalking):
  • Read any interviews linked there. Visit their websites. Take actual notes on your favorites. If they give submission guidelines, follow their instructions.
  • Keep up on the market. Read the genre you write in. If you read an awesome book that’s similar in tone to yours, check the acknowledgements or “[author name] represented by” in your favorite web search engine.
  • Read books represented by the agents on your list. (When I first started my agent hunt, I thought this was going the extra mile, but it really, really helps you to personalize a query if you can say your book has similar elements to [published book by client name] and actually know what you’re talking about. And besides, the reading doubles as writing research, as well.)
  • Search their name at absolutewrite.com forums and verlakay.com forums. If they’ve done a Q&A or just been talked about by other authors, this info is priceless. 
What about you guys? Any cyber stalking tips for newbies?

Originally published on Operation Awesome, January 2011, links updated.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pot Holes and Aha Moments in Your Writing Career

A writing career, just like any other kind, starts at the bottom and works its way to the top. It's a journey, filled with pot holes (hee hee, plot holes), and Eureka moments. 


My first Aha moment as a writer came after I penned my very first novel. It took me from 2003 to 2008 to finish it. Yeah. No, I wasn't working on it the whole time. I belonged to the someday-I'll-write-a-book club. My pot hole was that I didn't have any discipline. From August to October, I finally finished it.

In 2008, my Aha moment said, Writing on a daily schedule yields faster, better results.

Duh, right?

When you write every single day, or close to it, your story simply has more cohesiveness, more natural flow, than it will when you put months between each chapter. Not to mention how your writing style will change over time, even if you're not writing regularly. If you want to see what it looks like when 19-year-old me writes Chapter 1 and 23-year-old me writes Chapter 27, I've got a manuscript that can demonstrate it palpably. An unpublished manuscript. A terminally unpublishable manuscript. I will never do that again.

Another pot hole I faced as a writer was my essay training from high school, which told me to seek out the fanciest word to drive home my point. Never, ever use was or said, my teachers said. If you try to take every was and is/were/are out of a paper or manuscript, you will end up with some funky variations on sentence structure and some even funkier word combinations. Or maybe it's just me.

(e.g. It was proven that the chicken pox are contagious.
becomes-- The researchers found that chicken pox bore communicable properties.)

Stilted much? Yeah, this won't sound good in your YA novel. Thus, my next Aha moment came after my third book (we'll skip right over the sequel I wrote to the first book which had all the same problems as the first, but with a catchier ending).

It said, Stop trying to sound smart.

I am smart. You are, too. But we don't have to prove that to our readers by using words like ruminated where it would sound more natural for the character to say thought or pondered. Sure, if you've got a narrator or character who would use that word, like John Green's child prodigy in An Abundance of Katherines, then by all means, say ruminated all you like. But not because you're too good for boring words.
A Pot Hole 
A meandering hell of word-vomit at the end of that book taught me this:

A rough outline is better than no outline at all.

Which leads me to today's Aha moment. Two books later, I am still learning the importance of story structure and planning in creating the elusive perfect novel. Meandering? Still happens to me, unfortunately. I'm finally frustrated enough to do something about it. Enter Larry Brooks of storyfix.com:

"In essence, story development separates into two sequential realms: the search for story… [followed] by the rendering of story."

otherwise realized as...

If it took you half the book to figure out your plot and character arcs, the reader has no hope.

Smart guy, that Larry Brooks.

What Aha moments have you had lately? What road blocks or pot holes have you hit?

If you're about due for another epiphany, check out Larry's article: A Mindset Shift That Can Get You Published, which inspired this post.

Originally published on Operation Awesome, January 2011.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Finding the Strength in Your Writing Weakness

Are you a storyteller or a wordsmith? 


I've noticed lately in my reading that some people truly excel at story, like Frank Baum of Wizard of Oz fame, or Rick Riordan of the Percy Jackson series; and others weave words like master artisans in the households of kings, like Libba Bray of Going Bovine and A Great and Terrible Beauty, or Gayle Forman of If I Stay, or my critique partners. ;)

Of course, it would be nice to have it all, but nobody starts out that way. That's why we call writing our craft.

So which part of our craft is your strong suit? Storytelling, with its plot structure, twists, and revelations? Or wordsmithing (how can that not be a real word?), with its heart-piercing phraseology and dew-from-heaven gloriousness?

It's an important question because the answer can tell you where you need to focus your practice. 

Me, for instance. I've got wordplay down to an art. Okay not really, but I became a writer because people told me I write well, not because people said I come up with the most air-tight plots ever. So I fall in with the wordsmith lot. For me, this means my current focus has to be plot. And not just plot. Storytelling includes characterization and setting, so you can see I have my work cut out for me.

My 3-year-old is a wordsmith already. Aw!

Knowing where my strengths lie as a writer gives me focus, but it also reminds me to allow myself a little failure in my weak areas. 

It's okay if my first draft is filled with plot holes. For me, revision is less about crafting perfect sentences and more about re-imagining the story... over and over again, until it all fits. And, of course, since this is my cross to bear I think storytelling is much harder than spinning beautiful phrases. Which is more difficult for you?

Now you know what to work on this weekend.



Originally published on Operation Awesome in December, 2010.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Finding Your Voice in the Literary Industry Cacophony


When I first started devoting serious time to becoming (my romantic notion of) a writer, my biggest worry was that I had no voice.

Yeah, you read that right.

I'd read something online about Finding Your Voice and I worried I needed to develop my voice. It's actually kind of silly if you think about it, because just about everybody is born with a voice. You don't question it or think about it. You just speak and words come out in your own unique voice. Sure, you have to coo or babble when you're a baby (not to mention all that bawling). You have to listen to your parents and siblings speak, and you mimic them to some extent. But in the end, the only way to develop your voice is to practice speaking.

Writing is the same way, but I didn't know that. I thought I needed a special guide to teach me how to be myself.  This stems from a fear that's haunted me my whole life, and I'm probably not alone.


Is being myself good enough?


It turns out that the only way NOT to have a personal writing voice is to try too hard to be like somebody else. Don't do that.

Finding my voice in an all-women's choir
that performed in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle!! Woot!
While the guide I linked above has good ideas, like reading a lot of different books or practicing writing like your favorite authors, or writing to prompts--all this is effectively the baby listening to conversation before she tries to make words on her own, and then awkwardly copying words like "No" and "Don't" and "Stop that" (this might just be my babies).

Writing in someone else's style is fine, but don't try to be Meg Cabot. Yes, she is awesome. Yes, she is witty. Be awesome and witty in your own way.

How do I propose you do that?

Blog.

For writers, blogging is like a warm bubble bath. It's the fun and relaxation of writing without the cold shower of pass-or-fail judgment. Especially when you're first starting out. For a long time, I had 33 followers on my personal writing blog, and only about 8 hits a day from different viewers. Reaching more people is awesome, but starting small is good, too. I got into my own writing groove whenever I blogged, and even though I never turned my internal editor off (is that even possible??), I did allow myself some indulgences you simply can't do in printed fiction...

:) SQUEE!! LOL. ;) ROFL b/c That is made of awesome. OMGoodness! :p

...and the result in my novels has been palpable: I actually have a personality. Letting my hair down on my blog has freed up that personality more than copying Shakespeare or Mark Twain ever could. Not that I SQUEE in my books (though a character might at some point). They are definitely different formats, unless you're writing one of those MG books in chat format, which I think has been done to death, people.

The greatest key to finding your writing voice is to be yourself. 

Let that snark, incurable optimism, or witty cynicism seep into your novel. That's what people will relate to. Learn from others, try out new ways of expressing your themes and your characters. But don't bend over backward trying to achieve the oh-so-marketable and ever-elusive VOICE agents are always talking about. When they say that, they're really saying THAT BOOK connected with them on a personal level. Across the publishing universe, voice is as subjective as romantic chemistry. You can't fake it.

Be yourself, let your voice shine through the printed page, and trust that someone, somewhere will like you.


Originally published on Operation Awesome in December, 2010.