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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Importance of Waiting Before You Revise

It has taken me years to actually do what the title of the blog post says.

Writer Anita of 10 years ago: OMG. I just finished writing a book. An ENTIRE book! Revise? Huh? Nah. My writing teacher said it's good. *as I print out copies and snail mail to every publisher on the planet*

Writer Anita of 5 years ago: I just finished writing a book! I have to fix it! NOW. There's no point in waiting four to six weeks before diving in revisions. What if the world runs out of agents because I took too long to revise my book?!? What? You say I need fresh eyes? Dude, my eyes are so fresh.

Writer Anita of the Present: I finished writing a book! Yay! Celebrate with cookies. Forget about manuscript for at least a month. Send it out to my trusty critique buddies. To keep my mind off of marinading novel, I read all those books I didn't have time to read while I was writing. Then after four to six weeks, I read a hard copy of my novel. Mark up my own edits. Then take a look at critique buddies' comments and see what's similar and what's different. And THEN I dive into revisions.

Why is it so important to wait before revising?

1. It's true. You need to look at your novel with a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective. Distancing yourself from the world and characters of your novel are only going to help you later truly figure out how to make everything shine. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right?

2. What's the hurry? The publishing industry is SLOW. And it's seasonal. Even if you snag that super star agent, you might have to wait before you go on submissions because it's just not the right time to send your book out. And when you're book is on submission with a publisher, it may take weeks, or months. I have a writer friend who's book sold after being on submission for eighteen months!

3. Revision is a step wise process and can not be rushed. It's more than just checking for typos and making sure all your commas are in the right place. It's about making your characters and their motivations as real as you can make them. It's about making sure the world you've created doesn't have any holes in it and testing your plot. Do your settings have enough detail? Do they have too much detail? Does every scene move the story forward or do you have a lot of filler scenes? So many things to examine and think about.

So in closing, take a chill pill after you finish writing that novel you've poured your heart into for months, maybe years. You and the novel deserve not to rush the revision process.

Happy writing!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Writers Series: Interview with Dr. Barbara Darling Saxena

Today is a very special Writer's Series because I get to interview my amazing aunt, Dr. Barbara Darling Saxena. She has been a constant source of support as I pursued my writing career, and when she decided to write her own book I was deeply inspired. 

A couple years back Aunt Barbara created a bucket list and one of the items was to write a book. A lot of people say they want to write a book, but nothing actually happens. But she did it! And her novel SOUVIENS is full of history, suspense, science, love, and plot twisting deceit. I flew through the book! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to write?

I frequently share with others that writing this novel was on my bucket list. I also use this endeavor as an example to my patients of “stepping out of the box” and trying new things. Writing this book helped me get through the “empty nest” sadness of my daughter leaving for college and my husband being on the road a lot. Researching and writing SOUVIENS was a creative adventure that re-energized me again!  

I often hear people say they don’t have time to do something creative. Being a solo practice Family Doc, I work very long hours, seven days a week. Yet I was able to finish the book in two years.  SOUVIENS was a novel written in stolen moments. While doing housework, I imagined character dialogue. While eating my lunch at Subway, I jotted down notes on paper napkins.  I actually looked forward to standing in lines or waiting for appointments as precious creative time!

Before you created the Bucket List had you dabbled in writing before?

I have been making up stories in my head since I was a little girl in bed, afraid of insomnia. As long as I could watch “a movie” in my head, I would not dwell on being the only person in the world who was awake! Over the years, I came to enjoy  “the movies” so much that I would forget to sleep.

And here is SOUVIENS! I love the cover!

SOUVIENS is part medical mystery, part historical fiction, with a tincture of romance. The novel explores the heroine’s belief that she has inherited actual memories from her ancestor. The plot revolves around the 1934 Hotel Kerns fire, a real life tragedy that killed thirty-four people, including seven Legislators, in Lansing, Michigan. The novel alternates between the present day and the 1930’s,  weaving the two story lines together. SOUVIENS is a 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award winner.
You can find it available on Amazon here and here.

What inspired you to write SOUVIENS?

Several years ago, while researching my own genealogy, I had this strange sensation that my ancestors’ stories felt familiar. One night while in bed, a idea popped into my head—could actual memories from our ancestors be passed down through the generations? Soon, I began making up “movies” on this topic.

Also during my genealogy research, I ran across the story of the 1934 Hotel Kerns fire in Lansing, MI, that killed 34 people, including seven Michigan legislators. Five bodies were never identified.  I  wondered who were these poor souls who never returned home. Soon, “movies” about fictionalized identities began to form in my head.

Then, one night, these two ideas—ancestral memories and the unidentified victims—morphed together in my brain, and the genesis for SOUVIENS was created.

What does SOUVIENS mean?

The word souviens is French for memory. This is where our word souvenir comes from –memory of a trip. The book explores the idea of ancestral memories. The characters also grapple with whether families are united by common memories or genetic material. Souviens is also the name of a memory research facility which plays a central  part in  the book’s plot.

When I write a novel, sometimes it's smooth sailing and sometimes It's an emotional roller coaster. What was writing SOUVIENS like for you? And if you did hit any roadblocks during the drafting process, how did you over come them? Are you a plotter or a pantster (write by the seat of your pants)?

I knew the beginning and the end of the novel, along with major milestones, at the start of the project. But I ran into several road blocks along the way. The most challenging problem was trying to make an imaginary idea, “ancestral memories”, seem real. I tried to weave enough legitimate science into the plot to make the premise seem plausible. Another writing challenge was placing fictionalized characters into a real tragedy. Many people in my community still have memories of the fire.  I wanted to be respectful of those memories, as well as of the victims of the fire.

Any advice on how to write a compelling character (you've got a couple good ones in SOUVIENS)?

I talk to people all day long in my job, and I have discovered that everyone has interesting character traits and has an interesting story to tell. The characters in my novel are conglomerations of people I’ve met over the years.  I mixed in my own experiences as well. For instance, one of the characters in the book describes discovering his direct descendent in the 1600’s was hanged in England  for his religious convictions. This was also one of my own discoveries during my genealogy research that left an emotional impact on me.  

Are you working on any other projects?

I continue to make up “movies” in my head most nights.  But nothing yet has grabbed me enough to want to live day and night with these characters for two or three years.  I greatly miss writing, and I hope soon my next idea will take hold!  I have never enjoyed an endeavor as much as I enjoyed writing Souviens.

Thank you for spending time with us on the EDGE Aunt Barbara! And go check out SOUVIENS!