Wednesday, January 14, 2015

An Afternoon with Librarians

I always knew librarians were cool people, but never realized just how immensely cool they were until yesterday, when I went to an event at my local library called the Best Books of 2014.

Katie Jane Morris, who is an outreach librarian at the Hoover Public Library, gave a fantastic over view of staff picks for juvenile and teen fiction books of 2014. Librarians from the Birmingham area and local writers attended. What amazed me about Katie Jane was first how she categorized the books: scary books, animal books, serious books, funny books, etc.. She could pick up almost any book from the list and talk about the characters and the plot off the top of her head as if she had just finished reading the book that day. She confessed to reading about two to three hundred books per year and her enthusiasm for children's literature was absolutely infectious!

It was also interesting hearing about books from a librarian's perspective. When a teen book was discussed, librarians in the audience wanted to know which titles would be appropriate for older middle grade readers. Katie Jane talked about also how certain titles were shelved. For example, PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS by Rick Riordan is actually a non fiction title, but the library decides to keep it in the fiction section along Riordan's other books to make it easier for fans of his books to find.

What was really cool was when Katie Jane started talking about HALLEY, a novel by Faye Gibbons, and Ms. Gibbons was actually in the audience. Ms. Gibbons is such a sweet lady and I was honored to have had the opportunity to chat with her afterwards.

Here is a link to the list of Hoover Library Staff Picks of 2014 for juvenile and teen fiction. There are so many books on here that I hadn't even heard of, but sound like fabulous reads.

Here are some from the Juvenile list that I am looking forward to reading:

SPACE CASE by Stuart Gibbs
Dashiell Gibson, who lives on Moon Base Alpha, has to solve a murder of one of the moon's most prominent doctors.

TESLA'S ATTIC by Neal Shusterman & Eric Elfman
With a plot combining science and the supernatural, four kids are caught up in a dangerous plan concocted by the eccentric inventor, Nikola Tesla

ICE DOGS by Terry Lynn Johnson
In this survival story set in Alaska, fourteen-year-old Vicky and her dog sled team find an injured sledder in the wilderness.

Here are some from the Teen list that I am looking forward to reading:

ILLUSIVE by Emily Lloyd-Jones
I actually won a copy of this as a door prize!
After a vaccine accidentally creates superpowers in a small percentage of the population, seventeen-year-old Ciere, an illusionist, teams up with a group of fellow high-class, super-powered thieves to steal the vaccine's formula while staying one step ahead of mobsters and deadly government agents.

JACKABY by William Ritter
Katie Jane couldn't stop talking about this one. She said this title was one of her favorite books from last year, which I think is saying a lot coming from someone who reads as many books as she does.

Newly arrive in 1892 England, Abigail Rook becomes assistant to R.F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with the ability to see supernatural beings, and she helps him delve into a case of serial murder which, Jackaby is convinced, is due to a nonhuman creature.

Hayley Kincaid and her father move back to their hometown to try a "normal" life, but the horrors he saw in the war threaten to destroy their lives.

There are so many other awesome titles on the list so I encourage you to check it out. And if you ever get the chance to spend an afternoon with a group of librarians-- DO IT. I had an amazing time.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Fav Books of 2014

What better way to start off 2015 than to talk about the books that I loved last year.

Books That Took Me To Another World
I'm talking about those books where you are so absorbed you feel like a part of the cast of characters. Anything that happens to them, happens to you.

Books That Let Me Know That Everything Was Ok
A few of my favorite "series" came to an end in 2014. I enjoyed reading these books and finally knowing how everything turned out.

Books I Loved From Authors I Hadn't Read Before
Kendare happens to be an agency mate. And Natalie, who debuted this past fall, has been a mentor to me the past few years.

Book I Loved That Just Might Happen (Hopefully Not!)
Mindy who is also an agency mate (I'm surrounded by so much talent!) addresses the question what the world would be like if we didn't have access to water as we do now.

Books That Enchanted Me Although They Didn't Have Any Enchantment
I love contemporary just as much as I like any genre. But I always have to give my hats off to contemporary authors who weave tales with rich characters, settings, and plots rooted in the real world.

Looking forward to all the great books to read in 2015!

Friday, November 14, 2014

I've Been Tagged!

Kristin Rae and I became friends over the years through our love of FRINGE and figure skating. She's the author of WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN and her second book, WHAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED comes out in early 2016. She's been an exceptional mentor and friend, so when Kristin tagged me in a blog hop, I found it perfect for a mid NaNo November blog post.

What are you working on?

Last week I finished what I believe is the next to last round of revisions on a middle grade fantasy. After that I decided to give National Novel Writing Month a try and I'm working on a young adult fantasy. I'm using some world building concepts from something I wrote three novels ago, but drawing up a fresh new cast of characters and conflict. I'm really enjoying the project. Sad to say though, I'm not quite keeping up with the NaNoWriMo pace. According to the stat tracker on the website, if I keep writing like I am, I'll finish the novel February 17, 2015. And that'll just be the first draft!

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I love unique and strange stories like Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN CYCLE trilogy or THE SCORPIO RACES. I'm always aspiring to write that never-done-before story and I hope that shines through in my writing.

Why do you write what you do?

I love music because of the lyrics. And I love books because of the characters. If a story has real, fleshed out characters, then I fall hard. So for me, regardless of something being contemporary or fantasy (which are the two genres I write), it always comes down to writing characters that come off the page and that I can't live without.

What does your writing process look like?

My writing process has consistently evolved over the past ten years. But, I'll share what I did with my past two novels.

  • I make a beat sheet. If you don't know what a beat sheet is, check out SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. OR I fill in the blanks on a plot diagram sheet, planning out every high point and low point. OR I do both.
  • I write about 20-30k words of the manuscript.
  • I revise.
  • I put that 20k words through Natalie Parker's Crit Camp.
  • I revise again based on my Crit Camp notes.
  • Now, that my novel has a strong 20k foundation, I write the rest of the novel.
  • I let that novel marinade for about 6 weeks. I don't open the document. I don't think about it. And I usually catch up on my reading pile during this time.
  • I print out the manuscript, read through it, and edit with a red, purple, or green pen (has to be one of those colors).
  • It's been 6 to 8 weeks by now, and I'm finally opening the document on the computer to implement edits.
  • I send to three or four critique partners.
  • I receive critiques and decide which suggestions I want to use to make the story better.
  • I revise.
  • Send new version to different crit partners/beta readers.
  • Decide which suggestions I want to implement in story.
  • I revise again, and then will let my agent know I have something new to share with her.
For the past two novels, this entire process takes about a year. Around bullet point #12 I start thinking about and planning for the next novel.

Thank you Kristin for tagging me in the blog hop. It's alway fun to chat about writing! Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

So I've Decided to Do the NaNo

Did you know November is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month? It's when people buckle down and try to pump out a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. I tried to do this many years ago and epically failed for several reasons:
  • I hadn't given my story idea any thought prior to November. So there was no character sketching. No pre-plotting. Nothing. It's pretty daunting to come up with an idea and write it to completion in 30 days.
  • I had the misconception that 50,000 words was a full length novel. It isn't.
  • I didn't have enough time.
  • I was too tired.
  • I thought I wanted to do it, but it turns out I really didn't.
  • I thought my brain was incapable of churning out creativity in such mass quantities.
So when writer friends asked me if I was doing it this year. I was like, no. Nope. Definitely not. And I listed my reasons about how my writing method did not conform to NaNo. Or about this or about that. Blah, blah, blah.

But then I got caught up in all the NaNo pre-hype. 
And all my writer friends were doing it. 
And I already have an entire novel pre-plotted, characters all dreamt up, and worlds ready to be built. And I felt this itch to do NaNo. I didn't want to be left out of all the writing fun.

So I signed up for NaNo today and plan to join the drafting frenzy. My NaNo name is: AnitaSk8. If you're doing it, add me as your buddy, and we can cheer each other on.

Do I expect to complete an entire YA Fantasy novel this month?
Heck no, considering your average YA Fantasy can be almost 80,000 words.
Do I expect to write 50,000 words?
Probably not.
Do I plan to have fun and enjoy the camaraderie of writers striving to put words on a page?
Absolutely, yes!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another Mega Book Gossip Time

I'm excited to gossip about the books and audiobooks I've been spending my time with.

I met the author of TALKER 25, Joshua McCune, on the interwebs a few years ago. He'd comment on my blog posts and I'd comment on his, and a writerly friendship developed. Not only is he a fantastic writer, but has an excellent editorial eye.
Goodreads has a summary of the novel here.
I love the concept and pacing of this novel. As I was reading I kept thinking it was kind of like PLANET OF THE APES crossed with ERAGON, but set in an alternate militarized reality of the contemporary midwest.
I also always get wrapped up in stories about humans vs animals. My heart ends up in my throat and my brain screams, why can't everyone just get along? Ok?
This story is intense. So much so, I had to put the book down when I reached the end of Part One. I just couldn't believe the predicament the characters and the dragons were in. Thankfully, I found the courage to jump back in and finish it. Can't wait for Book 2!

Mindy McGinnis, the author of NOT A DROP TO DRINK, happens to be an agency mate. And I'm so honored to be in her company. This is an amazing book.
In fact, on October 19th, NPR interviewed Mindy and some other authors about dystopian worlds in which water becomes the most valuable commodity.
I always gravitate towards character driven books. Every character in NOT A DROP TO DRINK is so fleshed out, and you can see how by the end of the book everyone irrevocably changes. It's a truly excellent read.

Goodreads has a summary of the novel here.

IN A HANDFUL OF DUST is the sequel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK. And I am not going to put the link to the Goodreads summary here because it kind of gives away (in my opinion) what happens at the end of NOT A DROP TO DRINK.
IN A HANDFUL OF DUST released on September 23rd, which happened to be the day I was in NYC and met our agent, Adriann Ranta. And I remember Twitter was buzzing with the release, and rightly so.
My friend and I often talk about good books that fall flat in the end. How the endings just aren't satisfying. IN A HANDFUL OF DUST has one of the most satisfying endings I've read in a long time. And it was an absolute delight to go on another adventure with the characters from NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

I'm humbled to say the author of GIRL OF NIGHTMARES, Kendare Blake, is also an agency mate. This book is the sequel to ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD.
Not many people know this, but ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is responsible for me signing with Adriann. After I finished listening to the audiobook of ADIB, I was so blown away by this unique ghost story, I turned to the interwebs and read everything about Kendare. I discovered Adriann was her agent and the agent of another writer friend, Ron Smith. So ANNA played a hand in me sending out my query letter.
But, now let's talk about the book! I don't want to say too much because I don't want to give away anything from the first book. But let's say I found myself sitting in my car long after I reached my destination just to hear what happened next to Cass and the crew in this next installment.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Loving a Flooded Genre

So I'm searching for my next book idea. And they say you should write something that you're passionate about. Well, I LOVE fantasy books! I love dragons, vampires, wizards, werewolves, people with super powers, pigs that can mind read, cats that can predict the stock market.
I just eat it up!

So one would deduce that I should probably write that next big story about the house cat that took over Wall Street that falls in love with the vampire next door that has to hide his dragon in the basement to keep the werewolves from eating his exotic pet. Yes, that is what one would logically deduce I should write.

The problem is that there are sooo many stories about magicians and dragons and vampires. And I know that it is possible to take an over done concept like a vampire and to execute that story so uniquely (like the COLDEST GIRL IN COLD TOWN by Holly Black) that it becomes something hot and exciting. But to have that unique vision about something that has been written about so much is not an easy thing to do.

A writer that has a stupendous ability at doing this is Maggie Stievfvater. Have you ever hear her Ted Talks? Well, here it is.


Ok, I got a little off subject there. Because Maggie's talk actually doesn't have anything to do with what I'm talking about here. But, why I like to bow down to Maggie is she is so good at coming up with unique fantasy ideas. One of my all time favorite books that she wrote is THE SCORPIO RACES. It's about man eating horses that come out of the sea. And people race these dangerous creatures. Well, it's about more than that. But, still, what a cool concept.

So wish me luck as I search for that next amazing idea in a flooded genre that I love.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Met My Agent!!

It's hard to imagine as I type this from my kitchen island that last week, I was chilling here:

And I was sitting here:
Just enjoying the fall breeze, writing for fun, and playing with new novel ideas.

After playing at Washington Square Park, I met up with my agent, Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services, for a lovely lunch. I had spoken to Adriann on the phone and we had exchanged e-mails, but there was just something about meeting her in person that made everything seem so REAL.

She's exceptionally sweet, smart, professional, and just fun to be around. While she ate her falafel and I chowed down on a delicious chicken salad, we got to know each other better, and she answered my questions about publishing.

Here we are at lunch. (I'm thankful for the back light blurring my face because it hides my awful hair day in contrast to Adriann's amazing hair day. I lost a pony tail holder in a toilet at a cupcake's a long story.)

After our lunch I left feeling quite lucky to have Adriann representing my writing career.