TO HAVE AN AGENT OR NOT?
That is . . . sooooo not the question! Of course I want an agent!
I’d love that one person that sees the money in the story and knows I bring more than my pen to the table. That I bring an understanding of marketing and a deep love of my particular audience.
So yeah, I’d LOVE an agent.
That said, however, UNDERTOW has a pretty good fan base, so if I must, I will self-publish the sucker.
And when it comes to self-publishing, the key is knowing HOW to sell your story and who your audience really is. I’ve been pitching stories for different publications for fifteen years and the key to selling each and every one of those stories? KNOW THY AUDIENCE.
For UNDERTOW, I wrote for the upper YA market right out of the gate. What I found, however, was that the fans (including the roughly 500 readers it acquired in five days on FictionPress) represented a HUGE age range. (If by some miracle you ARE an agent reading this, I only posted the first five chapters then pulled the sucker on the advice of Mr. Fishman out of NYC).
Anywho, I know the story is solid (in no small part to a legion of Betas who told me exactly what should be tweaked, removed, added, etc). But any story can fall through the cracks if you don’t know how to network.
So, I got a Twitter account (@sharkprose) and I tweet regularly to agents and insiders. I started a blog (this one) that reposts to both FB and Linked In. I am a member of the Cape Cod Writers Center (and now on their Board of Directors) and part of the Cape Cod Fiction Fanatics. I am also on Agent Query Connect near daily.
I started reviewing lots of YA books and was thrilled to have the authors contact me back (all those posted below got in contact with me and some reblogged my reviews to their own sites).
I revised, revised AND REVISED the ms, so the wording and feel is as flawless as it can get. I read tons of books, not just for fun, but for the voice an author brought to the page and honed my own characters based on what I learned.
I welcomed criticism – demanded it – because anything less does not improve the story. I am lucky enough to have a thick hide from years in the industry :)
I started playing with cover art and tag lines for UNDERTOW. I contacted a local graphic artist who is willing to help design the real cover if needed with REAL BHS students. I have a computer guru ready to launch a book trailer on YouTube (and considering my french bulldog and son went VIRAL at 3 million hits, I think I can equally sell a great trailer).
More than anything else though, I am a native Cape Codder and my connections here are invaluable. I know when to launch a book, where to launch it, how to spin it for maximum sales and why it would be a killer summer read by the beach. Inside the book are local landmarks (some disguised) so if you are a tourist or a local, suddenly you are INSIDE the story:
You can jump from the Town Neck bridge where Eila is nearly killed.
You can offroad in a Jeep on Sandy Neck.
You can bonfire on the beach at night.
BHS exists as do its students and cheerleaders.
Cape Cod is a tourist mecca, attracting an array of people, many of which have that YA group in tow. This is their chance to fall into a story that surrounds them and feels real – as though it could happen to them. And pulling in roughly five million beach-goers each year, I’d say it is my nirvana for sales.
So, for anyone reading this, do yourself a favor:
KNOW THY AUDIENCE.
KNOW WHY YOUR STORY WILL SELL.
NETWORK. NETWORK. NETWORK.
READ ALL THE TIME.
NEVER STOP IMPROVING YOUR WRITTEN VOICE.
NEVER STOP DREAMING.
HOWEVER, I never stop writing or reading AND I have read some insanely awesome books lately. I will try to post reviews by the end of the day, but first . . . *drum roll* . . .
I want to announce that the CAPE COD WRITERS CONFERENCE has its dates set (August 4th – 9th, 2013). This is a fabulous conference in a spectacular locale! Deets are here and registration will be a bit later: WRITERS CONFERENCE. So, why is the week-long Cape Cod Writers Conference the best out there? Because Cape Cod is a destination in itself!!!
Bring the family and make it your summer getaway while staying at the Cape Cod Resort and Conference Center! Attendees get a special rate for the duration of their stay! Join the Cape Cod Writers Center and your registration fee is WAIVED for the conference!
While you learn your writing skills and publishing avenues, the family / spouse can getaway to the beach, sip tea at a tearoom, stroll Main Street, enjoy the art galleries, listen to live music at night, visit the islands for the day and even bonfire on Sandy Neck. THIS IS YOUR SUMMER VACATION!
The Center (which is technically an organization, since they have no set “home base” per say), also hosts WRITERS NIGHT OUT and TOMORROWS WRITERS TODAY. You do have to dig a bit to get the info you are searching for on the site, but it is worth it (AND . . . it will be tweaked so digging will no longer be needed).
Cheers fellow writers! See you in August!
Gandhi once said that “strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” As odd as it may seem, that quote defined our Tom.
Because he was indomitable when it came to all aspects of his life.
In fact, to even remotely keep pace with Tom meant that you were either Superman . . . or a mutant. He never stopped moving, always up to something. It was as if we mere mortals were watching a living flame, hopping from one thing to the next. It was awe-inspiring to watch, and we shook our heads in wonder.
He had a fierce tenacity with which he tackled life, love, work and . . . well, pleasure. And, if you spent a day at his beloved Duck Puddle campground with him, or even at a rowdy family get-together, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
He had an infectious, beautiful laugh that drew people to him and a downright devious mind. Everyone loved him and no one could resist that Conway charm. Of course, he also used that like a lure, dragging un-witting pals (or gullible family members) into some half-baked plan that would leave everyone roaring with laughter.
He loved his family passionately. And although he always claimed his wife Linda finally went out with him for his killer, baby blue Bonneville, she will deny it . . . most of the time.
She is, and always will be, his goddess. He would do anything for her and Linda never doubted his promises, which were always fulfilled.
They laughed together. Fished together. Camped together. Even crashed Vegas together. They met the mouse in Disney World and they watched the falls from Canada.
Their parties were amazing, their house flawless and their devotion to their children and each other endless.
We aspired to be him. To be them. And his sons have lived up to the man they called “Dad” as fathers, husbands and beloved friends.
Their love echoed like a physical hum though anyone who met them. Watching them – watching him – made us better people simply by his presence.
He lived an incredible life, never wasting a moment in idle stillness. For us, those he now watches from afar, we must learn from him, strive to be like him, and seize the world with his same conviction.
With his passing, we have become acutely aware that each day, each moment, is a gift. That life is not a dress rehearsal, but a single, glowing, unforgettable chance at the stage.
He has left a legacy of life, memories, and love that will carry on for him and for us. I leave you now with a quote from author Augustine Mandino, who summed up the truth of life so beautifully:
“I will greet this day with love in my heart. And how will I do this? Henceforth will I look on all things with love and be born again.
I will love the sun for it warms my bones; yet I will love the rain for it cleanses my spirit.
I will love the light for it shows me the way; yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
I will welcome happiness as it enlarges my heart; yet I will endure sadness for it opens my soul.
I will acknowledge rewards for they are my due; yet I will welcome obstacles for they are my challenge.”
We love you Tom, but you already know that full well.
DEFIANCE will hold a special place in my heart since it was the first thing I ever bought on my NOOK Color (and, realizing that I am a MAC girl at heart, it is saying something that I even GOT a NOOK . . .).
Aside from being my first purchase, however, it is a brilliant example of how to create fabulous chemistry between characters. Told in alternating 1st person POVs by heroine Rachel Adams and her assigned protector, Logan McEntire, DEFIANCE epitomizes the truth of young love that is rarely achieved in YA fiction.
In Logan and Rachel’s world, a creature known as the Cursed One, trolls under the ground. Dragon-like and spewing fire, it burns to death anyone who wanders into the barren expanse outside the city walls, known as the Wasteland. Leaving her city of Baalboden is basically suicide – but Rachel doesn’t care, because she is sure her father isn’t dead.
When her missing father (a courier for the Commander who brutally rules and protects Baalboden), is declared dead per the law, Rachel is assigned a protector in the form of her father’s young apprentice, Logan. All women must be protected by a man and are not allowed to go anywhere without their protector. When they come of age, they can be “taken” by another man at the “claiming.”
Angry that she is now under the guardianship of a boy who she had declared her love for only a few years before (and was shot down in flames) Rachel decides to breech the wall and search for her father. When Logan finds out, he decides to help her – and nearly dies in the process.
The Commander, learning of their attempted escape into the Wasteland, tells both they will not be killed for their treason if they can locate the package Rachel’s father was carrying. Twists, turns and betrayals ensue thanks to the Commander and Rachel is placed in the Claiming prematurely. Logan pledges to “claim” her, but it all goes to hell when the Commander finds out what they are planning. Trying to protect her, Logan gets flung in prison and Rachel is forced to enter the Wasteland without him. Assigned one of the Commander’s “guards” to accompany her, Logan finds out that her companion will kill her when they locate the package. Knowing her life is on the line, Logan makes a break for it . . .
While I did enjoy the storyline, it wasn’t what made this book so brilliant in my opinion. For me, it is this deep, painful affection that Rachel and Logan develop for one another and how Redwine is able to weave their povs seamlessly together. She relays a dark, brutal world in vivid prose and pulls no punches on the Commander’s brutality . . . or that of Rachel’s. Worth the read for Logan and Rachel’s relationship alone, DEFIANCE is a fabulous story and worth every penny.
And yes . . . I smell a series ;)
So, I have not fallen off the face of the earth (at least, I don’t think so. Sometimes I question my sanity and hence, my reality).
Anywho, life has been BUSY. Driving the beast, shuffling kids, juggling boobs – I mean, breastfeeding questions – and, as always, writing. Journalism assignments keep me busy as does my fiction work. Therefore – a cheat sheet of sorts I leave to thee:
Sites for the budding and established writer:
Agent Query Connect: http://agentqueryconnect.com/
Preditors and Editors: http://pred-ed.com/
Publishers Marketplace: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/
Query Tracker: http://querytracker.net/
Writer’s Digest: http://www.writersdigest.com/
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: http://www.sfwa.org/
National Association of Memoir Writers: http://www.namw.org/
Fiction Writers Review: http://fictionwritersreview.com/
Mystery Writers of America: http://www.mysterywriters.org/
(For info on what a hashtag is, please check here: https://support.twitter.com/articles/49309-what-are-hashtags-symbols)
- #WriterWednesday (or #WW)
- #LitChat (every M/W/F)
- #MemoirChat (every other Wednesday at 8 pm ET)
- #BookMarket (Thursday’s at 4 pm ET)
- #RWA (Romance Writers of America)
- #ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers)
- #MGLit (Middle Grade Lit)
- #SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators)
- #IndiePub (or #IndiePublishing)
- #WIP (work in progress)
- #1K1H (write one thousand words in one hour)
SHADOW AND BONE by LEIGH BARDUGO
When I was a child, my grandmother used to make the most decadent, velvet smooth chocolate sauce in the world. I remember pouring it generously over vanilla bean ice cream and watching it turn the snowy mounds into a river of milky goodness. The best part was always dragging my tongue over the spoon, removing every remnant of rich, black chocolate.
The memory of edible nirvana was triggered in the pages of SHADOW AND BONE, a delicious tale of darkness and light. Bardugo can write – really, REALLY write.
You see, I am 100% impatient with any book, film, or even TV show that simply cannot convey the story (no matter how stellar the premise). If an author cannot write, I simply toss the book. This is more of an issue than one would think. NOT an issue for Bardura! DAMN this chick can wield the elusive Sword of Scribes like a robust gladiator.
Perhaps it is my age, but when I first started reading SHADOW AND BONE I was reminded of a very strange muppet-like film, known as THE DARK CRYSTAL . . . dropped into a fantasy version of pre-WWI Russia. Yeah, I know – a wild mix, but it works brilliantly. It also brings the setting to life as it’s own character – a rare gift to the reader.
SHADOW AND BONE follows the journey of former orphan and simple mapmaker, Alina Starkov, from King’s army soldier to legendary Sun Summoner. There are, of course, two boys: The Darkling and her fellow orphan, Mal, who she has always had a crush on, but he seems oblivious to. Typical dude.
There is the Grisha (magic-wielding people) who are seen as the most powerful of soldiers (though still under the King’s rule) who are led by the Darkling (the most powerful of Grisha). There is the Unsea (also known as The Fold) – a dark, swath of dangerous, desolate land that is bathed in constant, black fog. Inside the Unsea are abominations called Volcra – think of the winged, underworld creatures from Fantasia’s NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN. Travelers who attempt to cross the Unsea do so knowing that the Volcra may rip them to pieces (making the crossing highly unappealing . . . and rarely attempted by anyone without a Grisha guard). Supposedly, the Darkling’s ancestor created The Fold, which makes him, well, FRIGGIN’ SCARY to the lay people. He is trying to undo the hell created by his family.
Alina becomes the world’s most valuable asset when it is revealed she is the one who may be able to undo the Unsea with the light she can call to her. She is snapped up and placed under the guard and tutelage of the Darkling and his Grisha. Her life goes from poverty to extreme wealth and, though she has been separated from her beloved friend, she begins to fall for the Darkling. Mal, however, gets dragged back into her life . . .
Because I don’t want to reveal spoilers AND because it is a fairly complicated story, I will not get into further detail. SHADOW AND BONE, however, is a most unusual story with rich details revealing a dark world at war. This is the first book in the Grisha series (Siege and Storm is due out next).
I will absolutely be buying a copy.
As a writer, I do wonder . . . I think this may have been longer, but was condensed by the publisher or editor. I would love to ask Bardugo if a few scenes were trimmed down and, if so, will the full scenes ever be published online? Say, as a “director’s cut” sort of thing? Great story and I would have loved it to delve even deeper into Alina, Mal and the Darkling.
Of course, it IS a series . . .
THRONE OF GLASS by SARAH J. MAAS
A++ Brilliant! Must, MUST be read.
I first heard about THRONE OF GLASS on an agent’s blog and will admit, I wasn’t instantly dying to buy it. Assassin? Eh. Glass Castle? Eh. THANK HEAVENS I DID BUY IT! Want to know just how good it was? When I got to the end, I waited a day and STARTED READING IT A SECOND TIME. Yeah . . . that level of addiction.
Basically, a young girl is a famed assasin in a fantasy world and she is enslaved in a mining prison. She gets a chance to win her freedom by competing against other killers in a Champion’s Tournament held by a ruthless king. Of course, freedom means that she will become the king’s lead henchman, but still . . . it’s better than the prison. There are two men who start to fall for her: the Captain of the Guard, who acts as her trainer, and the Prince, who seems like a superficial playboy, at first.
There is a whole, additional plot line of the evil king, acting as a warlord over the land and conquering countries. The outlawing of magic, a portal to a dark world, a warrior princess who befriends her . . . you get the gist.
Oh yes, and there is something roaming the castle, tearing the other champions apart, eating their brains and gutting their organs. Yup – I would have checked out of Casa De Creature too, but not our assassin. She is determined to win her freedom (and figure out why the other bad-boys are getting filleted). What she is completely thrown by is the love she feels for the Prince and the slowly blooming affection for the Captain.
The boys, as well, seem to have a hard time coming to terms with what they feel for her and what they know she has done in her lifetime. They slowly begin to fear that she may not win and will be sent back to the prison . . . to die.
Truly a kick-butt story and strong, STRONG written voice. Ms. Maas – you’ve earned the right to brag ;)
FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by DIANA PETERFREUND
ENGLISH TEACHERS TAKE HEED! This book should – no, MUST – be on the classroom reading list. I’d say it is best for the 8th grade and up crowd due to size, but on a reading level, it is not at all difficult. I’d dare say this should be required reading (perhaps ditch that puker of a novel known as THE SCARLET LETTER – gag – and replace it with Peterfreund’s tour de force). This is a literary gem with rabid appeal to the teen.
The story is a dystopian retelling of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION. In the future, humanity has nearly reached extinction. Man’s race to create a better human and world – live longer, run faster, less disease, greater bounty – has resulted in a cataclysmic error. Those humans who have partaken in these genetic alterations lead to a race of humans that are mentally limited and child-like.
Heroine Eilliot North and her family, however, have escaped this fate as they (and their fellow believers, known as the Luddites) shunned such advances as an affront to God. They hid, underground during the times of the Reduction (which produced the limited individuals known as the Reduced). When they returned to the surface, they took it upon themselves to care for the Reduced, however . . . the Reduced became more like slaves to the Luddites, who saw themselves as nobility.
Years after this Reduction, the Reduced are starting to give birth to children who are not, themselves, Reduced. The children are entirely normal. While the Luddites call the children CORs (Children of the Reduced), these new generations reject the term, believing that time of the Reduction is over. Instead, they call themselves Posts – Post Reductionists. Needless to say, the North family relies on the work force of their Reduced and COR workers. They do not want to buy into the idea that the Reduction is over and they cling to their beliefs, outlawing all technology, medicines and any interference with nature. Elliot, however, is wavering on her Luddite beliefs and has even gone so far as to secretly develop a stronger yield of wheat through genetics. A big no-no. Elliot is also childhood friends with Post child and servant, Kai, who runs away to a Post enclave.
Years passed since Elliot last saw her beloved friend and she is shocked when the fabulous and technologically advanced Cloud Fleet (solar-powered ships) asks to lease the North family’s ship-building facilities. Elliot agrees (and managed to sooth her strict, Luddite father with a bribe of amazing Cloud Fleet horses) and is shocked to come face to face again with Kai, who is now Capt. Malakai Wentforth, a Cloud Fleet Captain.
The majority of the novel is spent on Elliot coming to terms with her renewed affection for Kai, who has obviously tampered with nature and therefore risks the wrath of God in the Luddite’s eyes. But as Elliot begins to see the truth of what she has always been taught, she starts to question the reality of the Reduction and if, in fact, the Luddites are clinging to an ancient, erroneous belief. She also starts to question who she truly is at her core and the strength to stand up to her domineering father who treats the Reduced and Posts so badly.
A literary gift for the mind. A true masterpiece for the classroom and a story in which teens will actually be enthralled :)
GREAT AUNT SOPHIA’S LESSONS FOR BOMBSHELLS by LISA CACH
I simply couldn’t put this down – read it cover to cover in one day. Lisa Cach is riotous. While it is entirely possible I understand the feminist humor in this because I am a fellow graduate of the oldest all women’s college in the country (like Cach), I LOVED THIS BOOK. If I could buy a copy for each and every one of my gal pals I would! I was busting out laughing. If you want a taste of her dry-humored wit, pick up the book at the store and read from 79 to 81. LOL!!!!
So, premise: Grace, a 26-year-old graduate student, is working on her thesis for her PhD. In what? Women’s studies. Her working title? “The Belle of the Ball Cries Alone: How Beauty Brings Unhappy Endings in the Emotional Lives of Women.”
To help with her thesis, she decides to take up her ancient, B-movie actress of an Great Aunt (Sophia) on an invitation to stay with her at her beach house in Pebble Beach, CA. Beach house turns out to be a mansion and Sophia turns out to be loaded. Two men – Declan (drop-dead, movie star handsome MBA and Sophia’s financial advisor) and Andrew (cute in a Birkenstock way and Sophia’s personal physician) hang about the house. Declan immediately tries to put the moves on Grace, who is determined to prove that she is a feminist and, therefore, detests men like Declan. Only problem? She is somewhat attracted to him and she finds her most basic desires trying to overthrow her brain. But, DAMN IT! She SHOULD be attracted to the doctor who obviously thinks with his brain and not his . . . .
Anyway, to make matters FAR WORSE, Aunt Sophia is determined to prove that the thesis is a load of crap and challenges Grace to let her transform her into a bombshell over the course of the summer. Sophia believes that beauty = power and that a woman who believes she is beautiful, and acts like it, also becomes beautiful on the inside and strong as hell.
Anywho, insanity ensues, the thesis goes to hell and Grace learns that Aunt Sophia is one devious old lady . . . but also damn brilliant.
Go. Now. BUY. No way you can put it down. JUST TERRIFIC!
UNDER THE NEVER SKY BY VERONICA ROSSI
Oh man – I got sucked into this one fast. First of all, I am not really a big dystopian reader (DESPITE the fact that most of the books I have been reading lately of the YA genre fall into that category). In Rossi’s novel, I found many great stories tossed together – snipets of DUNE, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE MATRIX – really, quite an impressive mix. Even on occasion, I found a bit of LORD OF THE FLIES.
UTNS is told from the perspective of the two main characters in alternating chapters: Aria and Perry. Aria is a Dweller who lives in the protected domes of Reverie, though not for long. She gets tossed out into the wasteland that has become of the world, scorched into a dead landscape by the relentless, brutal Ether sky. Aria’s world within the dome is a sterile environment of perfection and its inhabitants live within fabricated, virtual realms that they connect with through devices that attach over one eye. Think Star Trek Borg on the Holodeck (yeah – look it up).
Perry on the other hand, is an Outsider – considered a savage by the Dwellers. True, some of the Outsiders are not so nice (the cannibals aren’t very pleasant) but they are real people living in a non-virtual, dangerous world. They are rough and rugged, compared to the Dwellers who seem downright fragile by comparison.
Aria and Perry’s worlds collide and an uneasy trust is formed between the two – both need something only the other can provide. Hidden mysteries, interesting characters and dark secrets are revealed as they trek across the land (known as “the death shop”) and attempt to survive. Through their journey they find more than trust with each other – they find a passionate bond.
Great storytelling, vivid prose. Can’t wait for the next installment!