Monday, June 6, 2011

Amazon and Smashwords!!!

My novel, No Use for a Name, is now available online at Smashwords and Amazon.

You guys, this is so much fun, I can't even tell you. You have to try this! Even if you're still enjoying the whole Agent Search thing, take one of your older novels and toss it up there, at least on Smashwords. (It's totes easy to do. Kindle: not as easy. Smashwords: yeehaw!)

Or write a 1,000 word short story and put it up there for 99 cents, or for free. Just do it because it's fun!! I can't believe I waited this long!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blogs I'm enjoying

I've found several new blogs lately that I'm enjoying, and I also wanted to post links to some of my old tried and true favs. This blog I found through a contest they're currently running, and the content is great. Here is a link to the contest: I also really enjoy the Mother.Write.Repeat blog. The hostess is very nice and her interviews with agents are great: Kat Zhang's blog is always full of good info: Literary Rambles is a wealth of info: There are dozens more that I could post, but these are just a few that came to mind. I hope you find great info for your own writing journey at these blogs!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I've Started a New WIP

Yes, yes, I know, the ink was barely dry and blah blah blah.

I am so incredibly thrilled. You know how when you finish a book you spend weeks feeling like you're never going to have another original idea ever again? (Even though your "idea" file is three pages long. In 10 pt. font.) But you don't want to write any of *those* ideas. Not right now. You want something shiny and new. And it's Never. Going. To come to you.

Well come to me it did. The idea has been germinating for a few days, but the opening wouldn't come to me. Everything that ran through my mind was discarded almost as quickly as I thought of it.

And then, finally, it happened. I was riding the elevator up to the 7th floor, I had my salad in one hand and my coffee in the other, and BAM! It was there. The opening five pages.

I ran to my desk. A couple of nurses were there early. They asked me how I was doing as I blazed past.

"Me? I'm AWESOME," I practically shouted. "I can honestly say I haven't been this happy in days!"

[Sits and keyboard, starts tapping frantically.]

"New book," one nurse says to the other.

Yay! Yay! Yay!

Friday, March 18, 2011

An Edgy State of Mind

Something I've been wondering lately...what, exactly, is Edgy YA?

I've read that if your YA novel has elements like swearing, or teen sex, or drinking, or drugs, then you've got yourself an Edgy YA.

So I think about the YA books that *don't* have any of those elements, and I think to myself what you've got there is a boring book.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I suppose there are plenty of books out there that don't include any of the "racy" elements I listed above, but they're becoming the exception, not the rule, at least from where I'm standing.

Which brings us back to the question. What makes YA edgy? I've been thinking about it a lot, since my most recent YA novel has swearing, some sexual situations, drugs, drinking, homosexuality, and atheism, but I don't really think of it as Edgy. (You want what I think of as Edgy, you go pick up a copy of Beautiful by Amy Reed. Excellent book.)

And then it hit me. Maybe edgy is a spectrum, and it roves around depending upon who YOU are. Or, in the case of a teen reader, depending upon what your parents think edgy is. Some adults think Britney Spears is edgy, while I find her...oh, occasionally entertaining, but mostly...meh. (That Baby One More Time song was pretty freaking catchy though.) Some people think Insane Clown Posse is edgy. I don't particularly, though juggalos have been known to freak me out occasionally.

So...edgy YA. I think what I've written would be labeled as edgy by some people, and would be called contemporary YA by others. And it doesn't necessarily matter. I think teenagers will like it. I think they'll find it entertaining. I don't think they'll label it as an Important Work of Literary Fiction. I don't think anyone will speak of my book in a hushed voice. I think they'll just dig the story. And I'm really happy that I feel that way.

What do you think? What constitutes edgy for you? And why do we even have an edgy YA category? I don't hear anyone talking about edgy adult fiction. What is it about teenagers and reading that we're so scared of? Pretty much everyone I know has seen American Pie, but I haven't heard ANY anecdotal stories of ruined baked goods. Why do we fear what our teenagers read so much?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Animation Inspiration - Or, How Disney Taught Me to be Tense

Everything I needed to know about writing I learned by watching Disney movies.

Okay. That's not entirely true. It was really more Pixar.

But in all seriousness, you really can learn a lot about pacing and tension from a good Disney movie. Take the Toy Story series. Those movies are incredible about racheting up the tension. Just when you think Woody's home free *something* heightens the tension, until you are finally, FINALLY given a satisfying conclusion that ties back to something we've seen previously. For example, in the first movie, when Andy's moving, and the toys barely miss the truck, Woody races after them, but time after time they're foiled. First the other toys refuse to help, thinking Woody is still a bad toy. Next, Slinkydog can't reach. Finally it looks like they're out of options, when they remember the rocket strapped to Buzz's back. After some tension-heightening troubles with lighting the fuse, they fly into the air, and Woody exclaims to Buzz that they're flying. Buzz replies that no, they're not flying, they're "falling with style," circling back to something Woody said to him earlier in the movie, only then it was a derogatory comment.

We see this repeated very successfully in the second movie, and again in the third. (In fact, when the characters are finally saved, it references a very well known scene from the first movie.) Genius!

We're told to put our characters in greater and greater peril. Don't give them easy outs. Torture them. Disney/Pixar does a GREAT job of this. Whenever I think about letting my characters off the hook, I kind of think to myself, "if this was Woody, would he be out of trouble yet?" Then I take a deep breath and emotionally pummel my characters a little more.

Man, I have been watching a lot of animated movies with the kids. For my next post, I *might* write about why I believe The Little Mermaid is the greatest love story of all time. Maybe.

How about you? Do you get insight from animated movies, or am I just desperate to find inspiration in my toddlers' television preferences?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Long Do You Give a Book?

I have a book sitting next to me on my desk. It's an award winner, and it's on the "best books ever" list of many people that I respect. I probably never would have picked it up, because the title doesn't do much for me, but I bought it because I'd heard such good things about it.

I made it to page 8. I set it down on the desk.

Then I went back to my bookshelf and picked up Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. After 40 pages, and a very tepid tub of bathwater, I finally forced myself to put it down because my kids wake up the same time in the morning, regardless of whether I've gotten 2 hours of sleep or 6.

So what was the problem with the first book. Oh, I don't know. It was in first person present tense, which I don't typically like, unless it's mind-blowing (I'm looking at you, Hunger Games). It also felt kind of...self-indulgent? I can't pin the right words on it. Any book that has a late-teens protagonist that still calls her mother "mama" gives me a creepy feeling, like the author is trying WAY too hard. Of course, I don't like it when my own kids call me mama, and they're four and two and a half. It all goes back to a deep loathing for a little program that used to be on in the 80s.

So what was so good about Life as We Knew It? Again, it's hard to put my finger on. You just got sucked in, immediately. You believed everything the main character said. When she mentioned the asteriod that was expected to hit the moon, almost in passing, you were like, "Miranda! Come on! This is a big deal!" Yet you were not mad at her for being stupid and naive, because you know you would have felt the same way about it. I guess it just smacks of reality, whereas contemporary teenagers calling their moms "Mama" and refusing to use contractions just doesn't.

But it's an award winning book that lots of well-respected people love. So I'm going to try to give it another chance. In a few years.

And it made me realize how impossible it must be for agents, who don't have a TBR pile on their desks. They have a "should I champion this book to the world" pile. And it's probably way bigger than my TBR pile will ever be.

What about you? What makes you put a book down? Do you ever pick it up again, or are you a "when I'm done, I'm done" person?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Lack of Middle Grade?

It seems that everywhere I turn, I'm reading blog posts about the huge hole that agents see in good middle grade submissions, that there is an enormous, hungry, beast-like market ready to gobble up anything that a good middle grade writer can churn out.

I definitely do understand how hard middle grade is to write. I wrote a middle grade in between my last two projects. It was the hardest thing I've ever tried to pull off. I'd get going, and I'd write a ton of words, and then I'd read over what I read and I'd say "Dammit Penelope! You just wrote 5K of YA. Super." delete delete delete

The voice is very difficult to nail.

But I am also a tad confused, because if there is a lack of middle grade out there, why is the middle grade section at my local Barnes and Noble at least twice the size of the YA section? Is it simply stuffed to the gills with Harry Potter books? Or are there so many timeless middle grade classics (i.e. Harriet the Spy, anything by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, the Phantom Tollbooth, etc.) that the shelves can stay full without really requiring the production of new material?

Even though I wrote a middle grade, I don't spend a ton of time in that section. My favorite author of all time, Gordon Korman, is solidly middle grade. He wrote a few YA books, some were better than others...A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag and Don't Care High are two notably good YA books he wrote, but his genius is in middle grade, and I pick up anything new that he writes. I also loved When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. The Gregor the Overlander series was very good too, but I found that via The Hunger Games, a YA trilogy.

What I'm getting at is I don't really *browse* the middle grade section. I go get what I'm after, and I don't spend very much time picking through titles, the way I do in the YA section. (Or, if I'm feeling particularly melancholy, the adult fiction section.) So maybe it *IS* full of copies of The Westing Game and Bridge to Terabithia.

What do you think? Do you read middle grade? Has anything spectacular come out lately, or is your middle grade section full of timeless classics? What are you looking for in a hot new middle grade novel?