Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Editorial Ass: some very quick thoughts on the present tense

What did the big teepee say to the little teepee?

"Relax, Relax! We're two tents!"

Okay, I butchered that already bad joke, but as you can see, I'm fascinated by tense today. Past tense. Present tense. Vinyl tents (Actually am taking the kids camping tomorrow night!).

This article, however, is specifically about PRESENT TENSE. It's the most succinct and practical explanation I've seen about the uses and abuses of present tense in novels. Pay attention and it might help you as much as it helped me:

Editorial Ass: some very quick thoughts on the present tense

edittorrent: Passive voice-- just some thoughts

Do you need a refresher on passive voice? Or maybe somebody accused you of using passive voice and you were like, "Passive whuh?"

Do yourself a favor and check out this post on the very enlightening edittorrent blog. I've known about it for one day, and already I've become a better writer because of it.

Why do you want to use active voice? Alicia has the answer:

Drama, power, conflict: Those are all in the active voice, and so you should default to active construction for livelier prose.

This short post was written by me (<--passive voice). But Alicia (active voice) wrote this longer, more useful one:

edittorrent: Passive voice-- just some thoughts

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

YOU WISH fan-made cover (Mandy Hubbard's newest book!)

My mock cover art for Mandy Hubbard's YOU WISH:


What if all your wishes really came true?

Kayla McHenry’s sweet sixteen sucks! Her dad left,
her grades dropped, and her BFF is dating the boy
Kayla’s secretly loved for years. Blowing out her candles,
Kayla thinks: I wish my birthday wishes actually
came true. Because they never freakin’ do.

Kayla wakes the next day to a life-sized, bright pink
My Little Pony outside her window. Then a year’s
supply of gumballs arrives. A boy named Ken with
a disturbing resemblance to the doll of the same
name stalks her. As the ghosts of Kayla’s wishes-past
appear, they take her on a wild ride . . . but they
MUST STOP. Because when she was fifteen? She
wished Ben Mackenzie would kiss her. And Ben is
her best friend’s boyfriend.

Above is my fan art cover remake of Mandy's exciting book. (photo credit to M@tty1378 on The real cover (which I love) is pictured to the left. 

The book is coming out August 5th! Pre-order your copy now!

If you'd like to see more fan-made covers, go HERE.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Honorable Mention--It's not a Paranormalcy ARC

Remember that embarrassing contest entry I created and then posted as a permanent fixture at the top of my blog?

The results are in!

I did not win. :-( But I can't feel too bad because the winners were particularly spectacular! <--Say that five times fast. No, don't. I don't want to be sued when you sprain your tongue. ;-)

Check out the winners for yourself at Kiersten White's lovely, lovely blog.

I did get an honorable mention, complete with a link to my silliness on youtube, so I'm pretty excited about that!

Kiersten White knows I exist!

In other news (ah, who am I kidding; it's more about Paranormalcy): THE BOOK comes out in thirty-five days!!

The Joy of Community: a writer's haven from the cruel world

Didn't know what I was missing, till I found you...

I love my critique group. We just got started and my own work hasn't made the rounds yet, but the sense of community already has me smiling--and working harder on my writing. There are six of us in Operation Awesome, which is just the perfect size for a writing community that won't overwhelm its members. I've joined a few writing sites in my day, but have always been overwhelmed by the obligation of reading and critiquing dozens of other authors in order to receive critiques in kind. Writing novels is hard enough without adding that kind of unnecessary load. Of course I love reading other people's writing, but if you've ever tried the quid pro quo atmosphere of,, or, you see what I mean by OVERWHELMING. It's like this:

And only after climbing that stack can you actually get back to your OWN writing, which is kind of important if you plan on making a career out of this.

A well-organized critique group has writers taking turns submitting portions of their novels, or the whole thing one at a time. As a member, I have weekly "homework" of reading and critiquing two other writers' work (a chapter or two) plus working on my own WIP. It's manageable, it's fun, and it's educational. In between, we have discussion about each book in an online forum one of our members created. This model has already proven itself to be awesome (Operation Awesome, hee hee). We're only one week in, and I've been introduced to two very exciting books, done some serious revision on my own WIP, and had time to read some of the published books in my TBR pile. I couldn't be more excited to be part of this group.

How did it come about? It was magic. Well actually, it was Kristal's idea. :-)

I was hanging out on --a very cool place to be! And Kristal mentioned needing a group to motivate her to write. Don't we all need something like that? It took me a while to get back to her because of summer vacations, but when I did, everything moved really fast. I invited Amparo, who invited Lindsay. Kristal invited Angie and Kelly. After some entertaining name discussion, we settled on OPERATION AWESOME and Kristal made our forum on

Two of our members are agented. One is multiply-published, and one has professional experience as an editor. All are talented writers, just from what I've seen so far! I'm feeling lucky/honored/unworthy to be part of this group, but I ain't gonna complain. Here they are if you want to check out their blogs/websites and support their writing journeys:

Angie, agented by Jill Corcoran of the Herman Literary Agency
Kelly, agented by Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Kristal, in the agent market
Amparo, in the agent market
Lindsay, in the agent market
and then there's me, Katrina, also in the agent market. :-)

*whispers* We have a secret plot to take over the published world.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

8-mile Runs, Hills, and Sunburns: My Muse

Mi Papa y Yo

I'm a runner. Did you know? I guess I keep it pretty much to myself. I think I've mentioned it on the blog once or twice before.

It doesn't have anything to do with my writing. Well, except that it's my one source of inspiration that never quits until I do. I have a favorite loop that runs about eight and a half miles around and back home. When I was working on my query for Drats! that's where the hook came from. Later, when I had the chance to pitch to an agent in person, that's where I practiced my pitch.

Yep, out loud. I practiced for 6 or 7 miles, repeating it over and over until my pauses were more for effect than for the fact that I forgot the next line. I went through it by the rhythm of my gait, feet rolling, people staring. It was so worth it. My delivery wasn't perfect, but at least I didn't feel totally unprepared.

Now that I'm working on a new story, I'm using the 8-mile-loop to brainstorm details, plots and subplots, credible motives--all the stuff that evades me as I stare into the white screen of Word. And though it's hard to focus on story when my knees ache and the street swoops upward in a never-ending, gradual climb, this is prime time for my subconscious to seep into my consciousness.

The ideas don't enter in a straight line. It's more like chaos. But my brain stores the chaos in its own way and when I sit here in my computer chair with a word count goal, the story unfolds. It's amazing the details I remember, from crisp leaves chasing me to the color of the ghost in the woods haunting an entire town. The ideas are all there, and they wouldn't be if not for my muse: the noisy quiet of the sidewalk going puth, puth, puth--my own inner metronome manifest on concrete.

If only I could find a way to get these results minus the sunburn. No muse is perfect.

Friday, July 23, 2010

No, no, no, no, NO! Shoe on the other foot.

It's the Rejectionist's blog anniversary and we're celebrating by writing about rejection. Cheerful, isn't it?

Don't worry. I'm not going to twist you into a disheartened mass with my word magic.

I'm going to pretend we live in an alternate reality where agents are more like scouts than gate-keepers, making initial contact to request the work of authors they've discovered online. This is in NO way intended to offend literary agents, for whom I have immense respect. I just think it would be fun to imagine a world where authors, agents, and publishers interact in a totally different way. After all, I do write speculative fiction.

Dear Agent, 
Thank you for requesting to see Not Quite Nirvana in full. I am flattered by your attention and impressed by your vision for my project. However, in this competitive market, I feel your publishing contacts aren't unique enough for this particular book, as two of your contacts have already requested publishing rights from me directly. I encourage you to request elsewhere as authors in a different situation will certainly feel differently. 
Best Regards,
Author Extraordinaire

And just to show I'm not a bitter writer, here's the YES version of the above query response:

Dear Agent,
Thank you for requesting to see Not Quite Nirvana in full! PublishersX and PublishersZ have already requested publishing rights, and I am eager to see what your illustrious contacts think, as well. Your vision for my project matches mine to a T, and I'm excited to be working with you. Please send your initial contract and I'll have my lawyer go over it this weekend. Thank you again.
Best Regards,
Author Extraordinaire

Ah, alternate realities are so fun. Okay, back to reality. I haven't received a form rejection letter in...*runs to check gmail*...ah, my birthday, two weeks ago. Waiting patiently on a few partial-submissions, but I rest assured that I have not seen the end of The Rejection Monster.

Some things in life are certain: death, taxes, rejection... and sunrise. Happens every time. Yep, even after death.

Haven't you heard? Hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Proof I'm Excited About Paranormalcy: A Contest Entry

Per the ARC contest on Kiersten White's adorable blog, I'm creating something to show my excitement about her upcoming debut novel: PARANORMALCY. (contest ends July 24th)

First of all, take a moment to click on the cover to your left. GORGEOUS, isn't it? Okay, now go ahead and read this bleeping awesome little pink poem that goes with the music video:


Evie's in the city and it's time to rock.
She's wearin' pink, tasing vampires on-the-clock,
But when she's done reading spooks their para-rights,
She's off to chill and watch some Easton Heights.

It isn't normal at all what she can do,
But it's a trick we humans wish we knew
'Cuz when the ghosts and ghouls come out to play,
They think we're food--oh bleep--as E would say.

Will she choose Lend, or go back to her faerie?
Is Lish's fish-scaly a little scary?
Please don't tell (if you have read the book),
I want to give her world a fresh-eyed look.

HOOK: Peep if you're paranormal. Peep! Peep!

(Oh, and I made this t-shirt before I saw the contest:)

If you think I'm a silly fangirl (sometimes true), be sure to check out the reviews on goodreads.

SPELLS by Aprilynne Pike: My Review

Incredible, enjoyable, romantic, whirling, other-worldly:


It's the sequel to Aprilynne Pike's debut novel, WINGS, and it's head and shoulders above most YA fantasy I've read lately. My complaint about WINGS was a slow start (my same complaint about Twilight, incidentally), but the storytelling in SPELLS is so tight and seamless, that any slowness in its prequel was instantly forgiven.

(THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THE BREAKDOWN BELOW- depends on your definition.) :-)

Magic: The magic was ever-present in this installment of the series, which is what I really wanted from the first one. Naturally, I ate it up and am now craving more Avalon!

Choices: A recurring theme, but there was a definite choice made by the end of this one, and I found myself really conflicted over whether or not Laurel made the right one. There's a battle going on inside her, not mainly between two boys she loves, but over which world owns her. She has this idea that she gets to choose to be human or fae, an idea I had trouble understanding after all the talk of duty and the sense of fate (being a Fall faerie). She was placed with humans for a reason, but she puts her emotional attachments way above that purpose, which--I got the sense--is in stark contrast against her previously dutiful personality. After all, she wouldn't have been chosen if she didn't feel that same emotional attachment to Avalon. She just can't remember, which is truly sad for Tam and Avalon.

At the same time, I felt bad for David because he will never understand her completely. He wants her to think about what she wants to be when she grows up, but even Laurel admits she only wants to help people (something she will naturally do as a faerie), and has no real career ambitions. That's something David wouldn't understand, though--the idea that she already made her choice. She chose to save Avalon, and the consequences of that choice aren't going to fade, even if she does "choose" to act human.

Love: This story is full of love. Family love, friend love, and of course romantic love. Aprilynne Pike does LOVE so well! I cried at the end, and felt pretty soft at several points in the story, especially concerning her relationship with her mom. The mother's initial response to learning about her daughter is so real, it grounded the fantastic tale for me, made the whole story seem more real.

Props to Aprilynne Pike for creating such a vivid world, and successfully making it exist parallel with contemporary California. I would recommend SPELLS to anybody craving a bit of magic and romance.

Next up? Still reading SOULLESS by Gail Carriger (my first read on the Nook). It's taking me longer to read than usual because I seldom pick up the device. But I can't wait to finish it. Whatever the format, Carriger's humor and wit is delicious!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

WIP it good: share your reading and writing adventures

WIP it good! Or not.

What are you all working on? What's your WIP (Work-in-progress, for the uninitiated)?

Our brand-spanking-new critique group, aptly named Operation Awesome, just kicked off yesterday. I'm really enjoying reading the work of some fabulous upcoming writers. It's a breath of fresh air to read somebody else's imagination! I think it's something that benefits all writers, no matter our career stage. Reading somebody else's stuff does three things for me:

  • Cleanses my palate from my own stuff, which is all starting to sound like peanut-butter-mouth.
  • Teaches me skills others have mastered, like twisty, layered plotting or vivid characterization.
  • Allows me to join society, whether it's the community of aspiring authors or the collective voice of the reading world. This is one of the biggest things for me. In a critique group, I have a chance to give back. If I'm reading a published novel, I have a chance to participate in the discussion, both in spontaneous book chats with friends, and on the blogosphere. 
So what are you working on? If the answer is "umm, I'm sort of working on [ ] but I've been busy," I suggest you take a break from writing (as you might already be doing) and do some fun reading instead. 

Read that manuscript you promised to beta but never got around to. 

Read the sequels to WINGS and EVERMORE, if you haven't. 

Read LITTLE WOMEN or ANNE OF GREEN GABLES for the umpteenth time.  

Read OF HUMAN BONDAGE just to make your 11th-grade self honest at last (getting an A doesn't justify not reading a classic, I'm told).

And then, get back to work-in-progress.

Please post your WIPs and TBRs in the comments. I'll start:

I'm writing a young adult paranormal romance about a boy whose personality changes after his first heartbreak, and the girl who's tasked with saving him. 
I'm also re-reading and playing with an old science fiction manuscript of mine (see Movies That One-Up Me: Inception).
Critiquing for three other truly gifted authors.

To-Be-Read or Currently Reading: 
SOULLESS by Gail Carriger
SPELLS (sequel to WINGS) by Aprilynne Pike
BLUE MOON (sequel to EVERMORE) by Alyson Noel
LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott
PARANORMALCY (okay, so it's not out yet, but I'm dreaming about it) by Kiersten White

Monday, July 19, 2010

Movies that One-up Me: Inception

I wrote a book in 2008 during Nanowrimo, right after I finished reading the Twilight Saga. It wasn't the first book I'd written (actually, the third), but it was my first attempt at a stand-alone science fiction novel. And it was my first attempt at 1st person storytelling, which is really a whole other animal.

I loved my premise! It was a fresh take on something that had been done: dream walking.

I loved my protagonist. He was an anti-social, comic book-obsessed, novel-writing savant with crippling anxieties and a brilliant imagination: the key to his unique position for saving the world.

But my plot was weak. At 27, I still consider myself a new novelist, one learning the craft. I think I've written some interesting books, but I'm not one of those writers who thinks everything she writes is perfect genius. I know it is not. So a book I wrote two years ago is bound to have plenty of story flaws, and this one definitely does.

I recently printed it out so I could read it straight through and figure out just what it needs. It's been sitting on my computer desk, a huge mound of literary fail, for a couple of weeks now as I work on other things: my latest YA paranormal romance, social networking, blogging, raising kids. I've been meaning to get to it, but there are too many good uses of my time competing against it.

A few nights ago, my husband called over to me from the couch: "When you have a minute, you should watch this trailer for Inception. It reminds me of your Neurosurfer book."

From that statement alone, I knew.

"Oh great," I said. "There goes another great idea." (great, great, great) The book I've been sitting on for years has just been one-up-ed by the movie world. After watching the trailer, I knew it even more:

My plot-weak, high-concept book has just been trumped. And that means that if I ever try to get it published, I'll have to compete--not just with other books about mental travel, but with a universally-loved, mind-titillating thriller.

Fan-freaking-tastic! :-)

I'm not bitter. Seriously, I'm not. It's just one of those facts of life I've come to accept. If I sit on a high-concept idea too long, it will be done...and better than I can presently do it. There are only so many ideas floating around in the universe. As a child, I thought it was insane that an animator could have thought up the exact same idea as me about the mud-crack world of ants and other bugs.

Now it makes perfect sense.

High concepts are meant to be twisted, redone, and shared with the world. Sitting on them is not an option. The universe's collective creativity is far greater than any one man or woman! Which is wonderful, really! But now I have a daunting decision to make. Do I ditch the 80,000 words I've slaved and anguished over for so long? Or do I read through it one more time to see if I can make it something wholly fresh? After all, my writing has grown by leaps and bounds since its first writing. It is possible to save this novel. But with Inception creating a new bar for mental thrillers, can my more literary science fiction offering really compete?

I give the conundrum to you, my faithful readers. I'm too close to it to decide. Please send your advice in the comments.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It's like dating all over again: The Agent Hunt

Peacocks: the quintessential dating metaphor

Finding the right agent for you and your work is kinda like dating and courtship. It has a lot to do with personal taste and, sometimes, fate.

I was a bit of a serial dater, I must admit. I never had trouble finding somebody to hit dinner and a movie with.

But that doesn't mean I didn't get rejected...a LOT.

Now that I'm happily hitched to my hubz (that's way too many H's in one sentence), I look at that previous life with not a twinge of longing. You couldn't pay me enough to go back in time to those years. Nope. Not even that much.

I'm finding the agent hunt to be quite similar, with one very clear difference so far:

I can hardly even get a first date!

It's all about the, I mean query letter. If it doesn't sparkle like a vampire (without actually mentioning vampires), then it's an automatic NO. And sometimes, they don't even call you back!!

(Wow. This metaphor is working horrifyingly well.)

If they do call you back because they think your makeup's pretty, then you get to go on an actual first date: the partial submission (sometimes they request the full right off, but it's the same as a partial request b/c they can still read five pages and decide you stink).

Then you get to wait, which is kind of like waiting for a call from that boy you just gave your phone number to. Sometimes he never does call.

If you're lucky and he likes you (or she, as is maybe more often the case with literary agents), you'll get a second date: THE FULL MANUSCRIPT!!

This is the holy grail of the dating/querying metaphor.

Not only does your makeup sparkle, but you ordered more than a salad and dazzled him with your obscure Duke Nukem computer gaming knowledge (apparently, we're dating in high school in the 90s). He like-likes you! He's just not ready for any kind of commitment yet. Who would be after only one date?

So you move past dinner and a movie to the really-get-to-know-you specialty date! This can be anything that really lets your personality show, like paint-balling in some hay (10 Things I Hate About You), a beatnik poetry reading (So I Married An Axe Murderer), taking a ferry to meet his family (How to Lose A Guy in Ten Days), or even skinny dipping (Hair, the movie).

Any one of these activities could represent your full manuscript. But at this point, agents are not just reading your book. Nuh uh. Not if they're really interested in you. They're also twitter-stalking you, just like you twitter-stalked them before you queried. They're checking out your blog to see if you share their ideals, passion for animals (mainly cats, I'm told), and maybe even political leanings (yikes--I hope not). And they're googling you to read every review you ever wrote on

If they like what they see, you might just get....THE CALL.

This is not a myth.

I'm pretty sure it's not. I've never received THE CALL myself, but I hear it is fabulous. Like a marriage proposal. And now we reach the end of our metaphor. At this point, you get to pick an agent, accept his or her proposal of marriage representation, and live happily ever after....

and--we all hope--never be single again.

(Any agented writers out there, or agents, feel free to set me straight if I'm getting this wrong. I'd love to read your true stories, especially if they're romantic. *tweengirl sigh*)

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Won an Award!! (from BDCWB)

You may not have heard of this award, but you are about to....

 (My blog post on #dearpublisher is HERE.)

I'd like to thank The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog for gracing me with their mention.

Thank you. *curtsies* The now semi-famous tweet is HERE.

@BDCWB (twitter) is a blog after my own heart. From their "Who We Are" page:
We LOVE (!!!!!!….yes, seriously LOVE) writers and everything that they do.
To be honest, we are just a bunch of college nerds/English majors who have nothing better to do than obsess over writer celebrities. While we won’t spend too much time talking about John Grisham, we will spend an exorbant amount of time highlighting up-and-coming/literary writers who publish in magazines and small presses. We also love poets and creative nonfiction writers because they deserve some recognition too.
Their mission includes acting as a one-stop resource for writers who have no time to scour the webs for relevant industry news/buzz. They bring it all together in a delightfully absurd web site, complete with pictures of random dogs. In their own words:
We started The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog…Period because, quite simply, we feel like writer news, writer issues and writer resources are too spread out over the internet. There are thousands of scam websites, sites that are done for promotion and sites that are just too messy to wade through to ever be truly effective. Looking for a legit contest to enter? Done. Wanna know what your favorite writers and poets are up to? We’ve got you covered. Looking for well written articles about issues like self-publishing, what to read this month and how to improve your writing in general? You’ve come to the right place.
Oh, and...
He is not a random dog. His name is Rokki and he is our editor-in-chief’s Boston Terrier. He is also our mascot. 
In honor of this award, I shall write you all a little poem (if you liked "books have babies", you'll love this):

Rokki the dog
Is rockin the lenses
Chillin on his moo-bag
In the present tenses
Is he lookin at me?
Or is he lookin at you?
Cuz he's a terrier, yo
And he looks serious, too.

Okay, so apparently Boston Terriers wearing sunglasses inspire rap-ish poetry. Take note, dear readers. If you want rap, send me pictures of dogs in summertime eye wear.

Busy weekend ahead (meeting agent Natalie Fischer at the Ventura Book Festival tomorrow, grocery shopping, toddler birthday party, and squeezin some writing time in), so until next time, I shall bid you all adieu.

Adieu. To yu and yu and yu.

Okay, goodnight. *trips on her way out*

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why I Love Nathan Bransford (platonic-ally)

I have no reason to suck up because Nathan doesn't pick up what I'm putting down--I mean, he doesn't dig my middle grade goodness. Thus, there's no conniving reason for me to sing his praises.

I just like him. And this is one big reason why: (re: people trash-talking bestsellers)

Nathan Bransford has left a new comment on the post "You Tell Me: Why is it So Hard to Tell if Our Writ...": 


Yeah, this is definitely a topic on which I get snappish. 

In response, I'd point again to this post, which explains in detail why I bristle. 

But really, I think there are a couple of factors at work:

1) People compare apples to oranges when it comes to books. If you're reading THE DA VINCI CODE and hoping for DUBLINERS that's your fault, not Dan Brown's. Dan Brown did what he set out to do really, really well.

2) Saying a bestseller is trash is kind of like saying a bench warmer on an NBA team is a terrible basketball player. Um. Yeah. He's no LeBron, but he's in the top 0.000000005% percentile of basketball players in the entire world.

3) A book has to do something really, really well to make it through the publishing process and to attract readers in huge numbers and prompt people to wait in line for the next one. 

4) We're smarter and better than that. We're writers, right? Use your words, say something a little more nuanced than "That book sucked." 
THANK YOU, Nathan!

I appreciate people like you.

Save Publishing? I'd Like to See an Easy Transition is all.

ShelfAwareness posted an article this morning called Hashtags Could Save Publishing.

At the bottom, they include some of these increasingly popular twitter hashtags:
Other tags on reading and the book industry, some more (ahem) playful than others:
  • #askagent, in which agents field questions from writers and readers
  • #bookrageous, chronicling some of the outlandish things readers and booksellers are doing in honor of their favorite books
  • #bookstorebingo, which tracks some of the crazier things customers say to booksellers
  • #followreader, featuring weekly conversations exploring the evolution of publishing as an industry
  • #fridayreads, which encourages Twitter users to exchange notes about what they're reading on a given Friday
  • #pantyworthy, the book version of throwing panties at your favorite band
  • #pubQT, in which publishing veterans Ron Hogan and Ed Nawotka answer questions and encourage conversation about the future of publishing.--Jenn Northington

The one that got me going all yesterday afternoon is the one that started their article: #dearpublisher

It's like Dear High School Self (#gimmeacall), except that publishers were actually tracking the conversation, and your high school self was completely oblivious to your well-intentioned advice.

There were many valid and interesting comments by readers, authors, agents, and publishers (and it continues today). #dearpublisher has been an industry-wide forum...mostly for complaints. But there have been a few gems, and I was surprised and honored when one of my tweets became the most retweeted comment in the bunch. It's nice to know so many people agree. Here was my request of #dearpublisher(s):

Katrina Lantzkatrinalantznov 
#dearpublisher Combine ebooks with hardcovers, but please don't stop printing books ever. The book is not dead. It just had babies.

It's not a new idea, and I suppose that's why it resonated with so many people. They've all been thinking it. Bundling ebooks with paper books is a concept plastered all over the web, for people with eyes to look. And now twitter has made it especially easy for publishers to see the demand. 

The second part of that tweet was born out of my frustration with people saying the book is dead. Uber-agent Nathan Bransford wrote eloquently about this in his blog post: Buckle Up! But even as optimistic as he is (God bless him), he's still predicting physical/paper books will wane and bookstores/libraries as we know them will be no more. 

I don't see why this has to be the case. Certainly public demand has shifted to include a new format for receiving books. There are now hard backs, paper backs, ebooks, audio books, and even book apps. But nobody decided, when books on CD became popular, that they should give up printing paper books. It's simply another format. 

A shift in demand calls for a dramatic shift in publisher and bookseller business models. I'm not knowledgeable enough to pontificate about what that change should include. I leave it to the experts. But I steadfastly believe that the culture of bookstores and libraries is one still loved and cultivated by millions. Bookstores are not the ghost-towns we are being led to believe. My husband and I walk around a local bookstore almost every weekend, perusing the new selections and often buying multiple books, in spite of the tough economy. For those of us who read, these places are a sanctuary against outside stresses. We still have to wait in line at the checkout.

So if people are frequenting bookstores, why don't book sales reflect the crowd? 

Conundrum: Booksellers must pair wandering bookstore patrons with the books they're craving.

Answer: Creative marketing, continued market research, and accessible technology coupled with (not replacing) human in-store service.

About marketing: When I log in to facebook, a series of out-of-my-way boxes along the right side of my screen advertise things that actually interest me. Every time I click on one of those links, I'm thinking, This is brilliant marketing. They've really made it easy for me to find stuff I like. Advertisements are only annoying when they're pushing stuff you don't like. So keep looking, booksellers, and find the people who like your stuff. There's probably a huge group of them on or elsewhere just salivating for what you have to offer.

Inside the store: Let there be some sort of kiosk, as in the library, where books can easily be found as soon as you enter the store. But bring back the days, if they ever existed, when bookstore clerks recommended their favorite books based solely on a generic request for historical romance or something scary with spiders in it. That last one wasn't very generic, but you get my drift. Culture in a bookstore does not mean coffee and donuts (though some people will riot at my saying so). Create your own pleasant culture as a store and watch people wander in, fall in love, and tell all their friends. 

There's room for new formats for voracious readers without ousting printed books completely. Those of us still clinging to our bookshelves aren't doing it out of ignorance or intense anti-technology hatred. It's not a "book fetish" as one commenter on Nathan's blog insists. 

Books in print have stood the test of time for centuries. Many, many, many new and brilliant formats have emerged and been embraced. Still, books remain. And unless our society makes a conscious, deliberate decision to do away with them (a poor decision, in my opinion), they will remain for centuries to come. 

We don't need to save publishing. It's populated with friggin' geniuses (seriously, people!) already adapting to the fast-changing demands of its customers. Let's let our voices be heard and help them transition smoothly.

Cooperation benefits us all.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Write Like... [insert famous author here]

I'm a fan of quizzes, widgets, and other personality-divining web devices. Don't ask me why because I'll be forced to psycho-analyze myself, always a dangerous endeavor.

They're just FUN!

Here's one I stumbled across on twitter today:

I encourage you to do what I did, which is insert several different types of writing samples. See if you get the same author multiple times, and pay attention to the type of your writing that's similar to H.P. Lovecraft or Rudyard Kipling or Margaret Atwood.

My blogging and dialogue frequently comes back Chuck Palahniuk, whom I've actually never read.

My poetry came back once Margaret Atwood and once Rudyard Kipling.

My prose came back Stephen King, Dan Brown, and J.K. Rowling.

Obviously, this doesn't mean I have their talent. It's a style thing. When I was at BYU, I had the pleasure of being taught by Wayne Larsen, one of the creators of Wordprint technology, a method of statistically measuring the words authors unconsciously use most often, supposedly as unique as a fingerprint. Though there are criticisms of the specific methods (which words are used as indicators of style: to, the, that, which, etc.), it has been touted as an effective way to discern between two or more authors writing in the same book.

I find this fascinating. I'd like to see more research done in this area. Perhaps, we could discover which authors' styles throughout history were influenced by each other. Most authors admit to their style being a conglomeration of books they've read. I wonder how reading affects writing statistically.

Now, I have no idea what algorithms this Mac software linked above is using. It's not likely to be exactly the same system as the Larsen group of BYU. But it is certainly FUN, no?

It may even be a way of noting inconsistencies of style in your own work. In the future, software for writers could be developed to red-flag portions that read differently--ones with excessive "that"s and "the"s.

Try the widget:

Who did you get?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Unrealistic Goals

Well, my birthday came and went without an offer of agently representation. Time to set another beyond-my-actual-control goal:


These little goals (nab an agent by my 27th birthday) may seem arbitrary and unrealistic, but it's little markers like this that keep me moving forward. Not a New Year's Day goes by without my writing/publishing goals inked solidly onto printer paper in my neatest (still messy) hand. The writing ones are all met. The publishing ones, not so much. And while this type of goal-setting can drive you to quit if you set your expectations too firmly, I believe there's value in them, if only for the daily affirmation they require.

Artists, almost by definition, are unrealistic goal-setters. If we weren't, we wouldn't be trying to make a living or leave our mark through art. We'd be doing something a lot more practical, like growing potatoes.

But art is our calling, or so we believe, and so we write--or paint, or sing, or whatever. Besides that, we feel it's worthwhile. As unrealistic as some people may believe our goals to be, we know for us they are necessary. What would the world be like if Robert Frost believed poetry was a waste of his time? Or if Judy Garland or Julie Andrews thought singing and acting were for pitiful dreamers.

Which crazy dreamers inspire you?

Feel free to share your unrealistic goals in the comments. Nobody here will laugh (or they will be BALEETED!).

Writing is Like Yoga

Yes, Writing is just like goes perfectly with Running.

Not what you were expecting, huh? This post is about complementary exercise, including my theory that Running/Writing are the best exercise buddies, arguably second to Running/Yoga.

I started writing when I was six...seriously. I could write my name at three or four, but six is when my earliest journal entries/poems are dated.

I started running way back then, too. It's a family hobby to this day, something that my brothers and dad do when they get together in the same state for a few days. We don't all run marathons, though I'm doing my best to train for my second one this year. But we all enjoy different things about running:

  • Endorphins. This is one of those DUH reasons. Best high ever.
  • Weight loss, or maintenance.
  • Fresh air and sunshine
  • The social aspect: running with a partner or team is one of the most efficient ways to share cooperative energy. Oh, and it's fun to chat and laugh at each other, too. 
  • Conversely, the quiet solitude: running alone provides peace, time to relax from outside stressors and focus inward.

That last one is the inspiration for this blog love fest. Wonder Agent Rachelle Gardner posted 11 Non-Writing-Related Ideas for becoming a better writer. One of these is exercise, the kind that gives you time alone--quiet time--to think and flesh out ideas.

As a lifelong writer and runner, I can attest to the incredible effectiveness of running both in inspiring ideas and in providing time to flesh them out.

Just yesterday, during a much-needed eight-mile run, I came up with two entire novel story ideas. TWO. That's way better than my average of half an idea per week. During some runs, I come up with more than that, too. Sometimes they fill my head so full, I go straight to the computer when I get home (much to my husband's chagrin) just to expel the awful things.

I think it's the combination of new sights, sounds, smells, and people PLUS the time to play with these ideas without the commitment of writing anything down just yet. It's the perfect equation for magic.

Of course, there are a million ways and places to get inspired. Just ask agent/author Mandy Hubbard. She recently wrote about it on her blog. I've got the same question for you with a little twist.

What are you doing when you get your best ideas? Shopping? Jogging? Dancing? TV-watching? Babysitting?

Do share!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heartbreak: a glimpse at my WIP

Sweet Sixteen

The park gazebo sparkled with strings of icicle lights, white light against white paint. In fading daylight, the effect was charming. I wiped the sweat off my nose, scrambling off the ladder to reach my phone in time. Suits and summer don’t mix well. Sara’s “Never Without You” ringtone was almost through, and I ached to hear her voice again.
“Hey birthday girl, where are you?” I smiled into my phone.
“Hi babe, we’re at Prue’s house. She just finished my hair for tonight.”
A five-foot string of lights slipped off its nail and sagged, breaking my concentration. “Great, sweetie. I’m just about done with your surprise. Can I pick you up in fifteen minutes?”
“Umm, sure.” Even distracted by faulty decorations, I heard the waver in her voice.
“Is everything alright, Starlight?”
“Yeah,” she said, too fast, her voice higher than usual.
I chalked it up to nerves. It’d been two years since we first saw each other at the Fall Fair—a cheesy first meeting in line at the Ferris wheel. To be honest, I was only standing there because of a stupid dare. Brody bet I wouldn’t toss my drink from the top. Juvenile, I know, but we were fifteen back then. Sara was a year younger, but always more sophisticated.
Brody got his ten bucks, and I got Sara.
Two years later we still hadn’t kissed…I mean, not really kissed. Her parents were super strict. She wasn’t even allowed to date, technically, but we found ways around that. Tonight the sneaking ended. She was sixteen now, old enough to hold hands in public, go on full-fledged dates, and call me boyfriend—even in front of her regimented parents.
“Don’t worry,” I almost whispered. “Everything will be perfect. First, your surprise. Then, the party will really start. Can’t wait to see you.”
“Me, too,” she said. The line went dead.
That was sudden. Maybe I’m making her nervous with all the build-up to her surprise. I shrugged it off and got back to work. The errant lights back in place, I stood back to survey my art.
Several of the swooping lights looped lower than the rest.
I’m a musician, not an artist.
It still looked awesome against the coming darkness. Sara will be blown away.
After a quick call to Brody to check on the status of the rock band we hired, I stopped by my house to pick up my clarinet. Dorky, I know, but Sara thought it was cool. Granted, her reasoning was a little off (“It sounds just like a saxophone.”), but at least she didn’t think I was a dork for playing in the woodwinds section.
Prue’s house was the only purple house on the block.
“It’s lavender, Gabe,” she insisted when I pointed this out years ago.
“Okay, Prue. Whatever floats your boat.”
Prue never liked me much, but Brody wasn’t bonkers about Sara, either. We weren’t dating each other’s friends, so it wasn’t usually an issue.
Before I could knock, the door swung open. Prue, Tara, and Sara stood waiting in Three-Musketeers formation, smiling except for Sara.
“Hello, ladies. Might I borrow fair Sara for an hour?” I winked at her friends, who rolled their eyes at my sentence structure.
Cheerleaders. Sara was one of them, but I didn’t hold it against her. She, at least, knew charm when she heard it.
She took my arm and looked back at her friends with a strange mixture of regret and excitement. “See you guys at the party.”
“Good luck,” Tara called after her. Prue elbowed her in the shoulder. “What?” Tara whined, rubbing her arm.
I didn’t comment to Sara about her bizarre choice in friends. Tonight was all about making her feel like a goddess.
“So what’s my surprise?” she asked once we were on the road.
I shook my head. “Like I’m going to blow it when we’re two blocks away.”
“That close?” Her blue eyes widened just a little, and I could almost see her stomach flutter. I couldn’t imagine what made her so nervous, but I guessed the sixteenth birthday was kind of like the wedding day—anticipated from childhood, played out with Barbies, all that weird girl stuff.
I reached over the gear stick and squeezed her manicured hands. “You look beautiful tonight, Starlight. You always look beautiful. Tonight I’m gonna make you feel like a princess.”
She smiled. “Gabe, I have to talk to you about something.”
“Shoot, kid. I’m all ears.”
Her hand weaseled out of mine, and she stared at the dim road ahead.
“What’s wrong, Sara?” She used to love it when I called her kid, but maybe turning sixteen changed that.
For a long minute, she said nothing, but her face bent in earnest concentration over something. “Uh, nothing,” she finally muttered. “Just nervous about the party.”
“Well, hey, it’s just gonna be close friends. Your parents are even coming. I guess they don’t hate me as much as I thought.” I grinned, trying to quell her anxieties with a look. If only it were that easy.
“My parents?” she sputtered. “What possessed you to invite them?”
I pulled into the parking lot, trying to think of some way to answer this sudden hostility. Sara had never yelled at me before.
“Obviously, I made a mistake,” I apologized immediately. My eyes darted up again at the sound of her gasp.
“Oh my gosh, Gabe. You didn’t have to…”
My smile returned as I watched her take in the sight of the lit gazebo. “Starlight for my Starlight,” I whispered, then got out to open her door.    
My extended hand went unnoticed for what felt like forever. “Sara?”
When she looked up at me, her face streaked with tears. Black makeup ran from her eyes across her perfect skin, threatening the white dress.
I retrieved some Kleenex from the glove box and gently dabbed the stains from her cheeks.
“I hope those are tears of joy.”
But then there was a sob from her lips that didn’t go away. It kept building. I reached for her, guiding her to the benches, my clarinet clasped firmly in my other hand. There was absolutely nothing I could do about her tears. They were coming too fast.
Stick to the plan. It was all I could do. The low, slow melody of “Never Without You” waltzed from my instrument as she sat beside me, quieting.
My eyes closed as the sweetest part of the song played through my mind. I knew she was thinking of those words, too, feeling what I felt.

Never far,
We dance on
Holding tight
To this song
Stars twinkle
We become
One heartbeat.

Never far,
We become
One heartbeat.

At the end of the last long note, I opened my eyes, setting the instrument down beside me on the bench. But my smile evaporated as my gaze came to rest on Sara’s face.  
She glared at me.
“Why do you have to make this so difficult?” she asked, every word tense through her teeth. There was nothing lovely about the way her reddened, black-smeared eyes flashed now.
The stupid faulty light strand slipped off its nail again, an echo of my heart’s downward motion, and I gulped at thin air, struggling to reconcile her reaction with my actions. “I’m sorry. I-I-I thought this was what you wanted. What did I do wrong?”
Eyes closed and head bowed, her frame trembled with emotion, and even I could tell it wasn’t the good kind. There were a million ways I imagined her responding to my song: smiles, kisses. Nostalgic tears, maybe. Anger and disgust were nowhere on my list.
Her eyes continued to avoid mine. “It’s over, Gabe.”
The light in the gazebo dimmed. The air held stock-still. The easy breeze that played with Sara’s hair two seconds ago vanished.
I sat still, too stunned to speak.
Her voice filled the empty air instead. “Look, don’t…I can’t stay chained to one person anymore. My parents expect me to date other people. I mean, we’ve been together so long, I don’t even know who I am anymore. With Tara and Prue, I’m one person. With you, I’m just Starlight, this perfect picture of a girlfriend you made up sometime between the Ferris Wheel and this godforsaken gazebo. I’m sorry, but we’re not soul mates. And I can’t waste anymore of my teen years acting the part somebody else made up for me.”

I’m sure my jaw dropped, but I don’t recall exactly what my face did after that. All I knew was Sara dumped me. Her scripted break-up speech crashed into the lingering glow of my love song, and by the time the band showed up—and our friends started arriving at the park—I was long gone.

My tie and suit jacket lay balled up in the corner behind my bedroom door, atop my sealed clarinet case.
“Gabriel? Home so soon?”
I slammed the door before my mom’s feet hit the stairs. No way was she going see me like this. Nobody would. Not now, and not ever. 

I'm Baaaack (from family vacation)

Arizona temple, aka the building where my husband and I were married

My 3yo son took this picture of the reflection pool on temple grounds

Vacation over!

I'm sure you've missed me. :-) I've missed you, too.

Now it's back to mountains of laundry, unpacking suitcases, re-reading my WIP synopsis and trying to figure out what the heck I was going for before my five-day hiatus.

And back to blogging. *happy sigh* I missed this.

While it was heavenly to spend time with my family, close and extended, the greatest reprieve my little vacation offered was from myself. Yes, I checked my email for query communications. No, no offers magically appeared (that would be a good story). But I didn't think (much) about plotting the perfect story. I didn't feel guilty for going a few days without lifting my proverbial pen. I just lived. I enjoyed my sons' cuteness, my husband's sense of humor, my brothers' competitive spirit, and my parents' unconditional acceptance. I basked in the July Arizona sunshine and went down the water slide TWICE! I got a necklace from my mom's trip to Hawaii (though I've still never been there myself), and a pair of yellow and white sport Skechers at Ross for $25. I read SOULLESS by Gail Carriger on my brand new Barnes and Noble NOOK (both fantastic products, btw). In short, I ditched my computer tether and saw a few of the things I like to write about: people, places, and pluck (courage or resolution in the face of difficulties.).

Almost the moment we returned home, my stories began invading my mind again. Mostly, it's Azalea and her antics that keep me up at night. Oh, Zales, what are you doing to me?

I'm washing the dishes while my husband talks to me. Somehow I don't realize he's asked me a question until a few seconds of silence follow. Luckily, my brain stores that information in temporary files, so I'm able to retrieve the question to answer it. "Oh yeah, let's have a light dinner tonight. All that junk food definitely needs some health food to wash it down."

Then she's back. Azalea's doing flips, zapping around (her kind does that), making snarky remarks to Tabitha, who sighs deeply at the teenager's disrespectful ways. Oh, the shenanigans. This is why I write. To get the darn voices out of my head and onto the page so I can get some REST!

Oh, and because it's delightful, good fun.