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 shop...it'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! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mega Book Gossip Time

I was so busy this summer that I didn't really get a chance to read much. So to end the summer with a bang I've been tearing through some awesome books.

I can not say enough how much I love Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series. I can't believe I'm saying this (gasp) I may have fallen in love with it more than the Mortal Instruments Series. I may have. Reading a story about Shadowhunters set in Victorian England was enchanting to say the least. I've always loved character driven novels, and the characters and their complex relationships are so rich and real in this series. Will, Jem, Tessa, Charlotte, Henry, Jessamine--they're all characters that stayed with me way after I finished reading. And the ending was absolutely beautiful.

I had actually started reading City of Heavenly Fire before I read Clockwork Princess. That was a bad idea. If you haven't started the Infernal Devices series, then go ahead and read the Mortal Instruments Series. But, if you're in the middle of reading the Infernal Devices Series, like I was, and then you read City of Heavenly Fire before finishing Clockwork Princess, well, in my opinion, it gives away what happens to some of the characters in Clockwork Princess. So I actually stopped reading City of Heavenly Fire, read Clockwork Princess, and then went back and finished reading CoHF.
But Brava on a fantastic, unpredictable ending to the series! I bow down to you Ms. Clare for tying up the everything like you did and placing my heart in my throat as many times as you did!

I had marked the release date for this book in my calendar almost a year in advance. I simply couldn't wait to see what had happened to Anna & Etienne and Lola & Cricket and return to Paris for another school year through the eyes of Isla. I devoured this book. If you haven't checked out these books by Stephanie Perkins, I HIGHLY recommend them. Start with Anna and the French Kiss, then proceed to Lola and the Boy Next Door, and then sit down with a box of tissues as you finish things off with Isla and the Happily Ever After. Sending cyber hugs to Stephanie Perkins for tugging on my heart strings like she did.

And last, but not least, I just finished reading Hexed, written by my agency mate, Michelle Krys. This book was hilarious and dark and is a completely fresh take on witches and sorcerers. I immediately fell in love with Indigo's voice and I loved the fact that the story took place in LA. Some of my besties live there and so as I was reading I could see all the places in my mind's eyes. Fabulous read and I can't wait for the sequel, Charmed, to come out!