Monday, 26 March 2012

Peace at Last

Peace At Last (Picturemac)Peace At Last by Jill Murphy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read this book A LOT over the years. My sister owned it when we were kids and we had it read to us, and then I read it to myself and to her.

I took the same copy and read it to OriginalBoy, then Boy2, Boy3, and finally Girl.

Like The Cat in the Hat, I can quote it.

But I never thought about what is says to adults before. Today I did, and what it says is this:

Insomnia? Deal with it. 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sunshine Award and Lucky Seven Tag

Thanks Dana for the Sunshine Award and Lucky Seven Tag!

Favorite color: Green. Grass and leaves and pandora beads. Oh, and wine bottles. Yes. Green is good.

Favorite animal: Red Pandas are good. Sea horses and snow leopards. Orang-Utans!

Favorite number: 8

Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Fresh orange juice, diet coke. Am I supposed to stick to one? I don't suppose blogger will delete my account for going renegade on orange juice.

Facebook or Twitter: Twitter!

My passion: Stuff I love (excluding kids and Mr S?): WRITING (surprised? I know, I thought you would be), reading, my laptop, my Blackberry, my Kindle. I'm partial to a trip to the cinema too - mmm, fake popcorn.

Getting or giving presents: I feel vaguely self-conscious about both, but I like both.

Favorite pattern: Stripes are nice.

Favorite day of the week: Friday - as tribute to when I was a teenager and Friday held the most promise.

Favorite flower: Yellow roses. Orchids! Freesias and lavender and sweet-peas and I'll shut up now because I like ALL the flowers : )

Here's where I'm supposed to go to page 77 of my current ms and give you the 7 lines following the 7th line down.

Here's the problem: My WiP only has 63 pages so far. Um. Why can't I seem to follow the rules of these award thingies?!

And here are the seven blogs I'll pass this on to. Check them out!

Michelle Krys

Emma Pass

Natalie Parker

The Word Counter

Lori M Lee

Amy Christine Parker

Stephanie Winkelhake



Wednesday, 21 March 2012

I'm a slow reader and I don't care.

No, not like that. I mean it takes me AGES to read a book. Most of the time. And that's often not as a consequence of me not liking the book. I'm just a slow reader, and that ok. Yeh hear me Michelle, it's OK *shakes fist at speedy-reading friend*.

I'm trying to read more this year. But that, for me, is about making sure I always have another book to read and don't leave big gaps between books. Because you know what? I like taking my time. I like reading every single word, and going back to re-read passages I loved and think about them. I like taking a day before starting the next book to think about the book and what I can take from it.

One of the many incredible things about being a writer is that I get to mooch around a bookshop for hours at a time (like Sunday, which was Mother's day in the UK) and call it market research. I couldn't have a better job than this.

So I'm going to keep that number on my Goodreads shelf ticking up, and I'm never going to reach the end of my t-b-r pile.

At least I hope not : )

Here are the last two books I read (slowly) and loved:

Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Brilliant. Masterful. Read it!

Anna and the French KissAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

HEA *happy sigh*

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Ooh, I have an award!

Yes, I've got a little award! Amy Christine Parker has very kindly gifted the Liebster Award to me. It's an award given out by bloggers for favourite blogs with less than 200 followers and is meant to increase the traffic going to that blog. Now I have to pass the award to five other deserving blogs and tell you five things about myself that you might not know.

So here are the blogs I've chosen:

Amaleen Ison who is a writerly friend of mine. We met on Scribophile and she writes YA. Go and visit her!

JDField writes a YA urban fantasy series and is also part of my circle on Scrib.

ED Martin um, another Scrib member I know. Check her out (well, not like that).

Ok, so I can't find two more blogs that fit the criteria. Does that mean I have to forfeit telling you five things about me and only get three? So be it. I'm not going to to tell you to check out blogs I don't look at myself!

And here are five three things about me.

I like orchids. A LOT. I'm generally rubbish and forgetful when it comes to plants. I like them, but they don't appreciate my sporadic over/underwatering. But when it comes to orchids, which are notoriously tricksy creatures, they flourish! You might have been subjected to my triumphant tweets a couple of weeks ago when all five of my orchids started flowering at the same time and there was much wonder and smugness.

This does not do them justice. They are GORGEOUS!

 I make a mean birthday cake. A few years ago I decided my kids should have home-made creations and set to work after a lifetime of near-religious non-baking.

I love a self-imposed deadline and set them CONSTANTLY. There's nothing I respond to better than something I decided to achieve myself. And I rarely let myself down. Bonus!

More about the agent-judged contest coming soon. The next post about it will reveal the agents and prizes on offer!!

Monday, 12 March 2012

A few more details on the AGENT-JUDGED CONTEST :)

So here's where I made the first announcement about the contest. And because I want to give you plenty of time to prepare, here are the next set of details.

I'll be having two submission windows open on the 18th April, which is the day I started my blog last year with this scintillating post.

You'll be needing a query letter and the first five pages of your ms to send to me. At least 10 entries will be chosen  - by me - to skip the slushpile and be seen by an agent. Winners will then be chosen by said lovely agent!

I'll post again soon with details of the submission windows and instructions of where to send your entries!

Friday, 9 March 2012

In which I worry about worrying, try to take a more enlightened approach, and fail OR Embrace the Uncertainty!

I started writing this post a while ago when I was feeling a little differently than I do now (hence the two titles), but I thought it would be good to post it with both ways of looking at it.

Here's what I was thinking when I started the post:

I suppose it's natural to worry a little, or a lot, sometimes, that you won't reach that next goal, whatever it is for you.

I didn't know if I could finish an entire book when I first started writing. And until I wrote The End, I still wasn't sure. After that I worried that I'd never write the perfect query letter, never get any agent interest, never write a second book, never write a perfect query letter for that...

Well, you get the picture.

I LOVED doing all those things, and of course, I did do them (well maybe not the perfect query, but still) but at the same time, I was also uncertain a lot of the time. Sometimes that crossed over the bordeline into worry. And sometimes it ran screaming through border control like a crazed drugs mule.

Here's what I'm thinking today:

Isn't that uncertainty fun? It's full of hope. I mean, you already achieved so much, right? And you enjoyed writing that short story, that novel, that query, that synopsis (bear with me, you did - in some way - otherwise you wouldn't have done it. It's not like this is compulsory). And with the uncertainy, all smushed together with that little bit of worry, is that fizzing excitement of the possibility that the next big thing you're striving for is going to happen.

This is how I feel today. And I say that from the depths of the third revision on my book. I have a TON of work to do. Lots of it will involve deleting my pretty, pretty words. Lots of it will involve writing new pretty, pretty words. I'm up for it. Look at me, I'm all grown up!!

Here's an example of one of my uncertainties:

It's one of my background fears that I won't even be able to think of a Book 3 (note: I have background and foreground fears - it's a complex system designed to ensure that I'm anxious at all times).

 So what's your biggest worry at the moment, and how do you deal with it?

Monday, 5 March 2012

Query Tips. Get ready for the AGENT JUDGED CONTEST!

 Next month it's my blogiversary and to celebrate, I'm holding an agent-judged contest!!

It will be open to all MG and YA fiction, and to enter you'll need a completed manuscript and a query letter. This will be open to EVERYBODY - it doesn't matter if you've entered one of my competitions before.

Now I can't help you with the completed ms (not even if you bribe me with Rocket Dog shoes or orchids), but I can offer some QUERY TIPS so you have the best chance of winning one of the fabulous prizes.  

My first tip is this: Read the Query Shark blog. ALL OF IT. I'm a big fan of the Query Shark Formula, which goes like this (and no I don't have to look it up - it's committed to memory and internalised):

What does the mc want?

What's going to get in her way?

What choice/dilemma does she face?

What terrible thing is going to happen if she chooses A; what terrible thing is going to happen if she doesn't.

You can see how I used that formula here and I'm going to give you another example that will let me talk about what WON'T work too.

This is the query I wrote (and edited, and edited, re-wrote, deleted, wrote, edited, re-wrote and edited) for my first novel.

 Ana’s had her foot on the gas pedal of the self-destruct truck ever since her mother’s murder. In a last-chance foster placement before she turns eighteen, Ana vows to dust off her self-control and keep her big mouth shut. Blending in at school is easy. Even a spot of casual stalking can’t hurt - unless her new best friend is crushing on the boy in question too.
 When Ana overhears said gorgeous creature, Dev, talking with her own shrink, and about her no less, she ditches her new policy of thinking before acting. A recon mission takes Ana to the graveyard adjoining Dev’s place. Instead of answers, she gets a run in with a Dark Angel whose sole purpose is making Ana a permanent resident of the cemetery. Dev saves her life, and Ana learns her fascination stems from a link stronger than attraction; Dev is her Guardian Angel. Ana’s at the epicentre of a battle, and if she wants to save herself and Dev, she needs to find out why.
 As Ana’s schemes lead toward her final confrontation with the Dark Angel, she discovers Dev has concealed the real purpose behind his protection. If that’s not messed up enough, she finds out the angels are connected to the reason she’s spent a lifetime in foster care. To bring down the Dark Angel, Ana must make a choice: trust Dev and face her long-suppressed past, or sever their bond and shatter a love that would define her future.


And in case you're wondering, it got three requests for partials and seventy two rejections before I shelved it. The reason I'm showing you this is so that you can see that following the formula and writing what, if I'm honest, I still think is a half-decent query, is not the only thing that matters.

The reason this query failed is because the premise of the book wasn't unique enough. I hadn't read many YA books at the time and I didn't know this. 

I also think this query has a voice that wasn't present in the pages. Poor Ana - she just didn't have what it takes. 

There are lots of places where you can find out that your query should be about 250 words, and that you should type it straight into the email rather than copy/paste because that will screw with your formatting. I'm not going to repeat all that here.

What I am going to say is that you should use the tone and voice of your ms to write your query.

You should know what's out there on the shelves already.

And you should read agent's submission instructions and blogs - you can find out a lot about what they're looking for and what they've seen a lot of.

More details on the competition will follow soon! In the meantime, polish up your query, make sure your MG/YA ms is in the shape you want an agent to see it in, and tell anyone and everyone who writes to come and join in because there may be more than one agent judging, and there WILL be more than one prize : D

Friday, 2 March 2012

Exciting super cool news!!

So you all know that Michelle Krys is my critique partner and general internet bff, and that she signed with Adriann Ranta recently? These are excellent things and good reasons why you should follow her blog, but on top of that, there's this from Publisher's Marketplace:

Michelle Krys's THE WITCH HUNTER'S BIBLE, in which a snarky sixteen-year-old cheerleader is forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers only to uncover the first of many dark truths about her life, to Wendy Loggia at Delacorte, in a good deal, in a two-book deal, by Adriann Ranta at Wolf Literary Services (World).

News like this calls for this:

I'm pretty certain Michelle won't mind if you visit her blog post about it. Or if you send large expensive gifts. Either is fine : D