It is possible that I have been asked to write a Bombeckesque memoir about being a bus driver at least fifty times. And yes – the tales from the road could fill an encyclopdeia. But I am a professional writer (and driver) and believe it or not, my time is somewhat squeezed. So yes – someday I hope to gather the tales of craziness from my fellow school bus drivers, but for now I will stick with just a few posts from our crazy profession.
So, in honor of BUS DRIVER APPRECIATION DAY (yes – it is real. Go figure), I have culled the Top Ten Things a Driver Never Wants to Hear Again (names have been changed OBVIOUSLY and thankfully, not all are MY BUS but are all REAL). For another great tale, check out an older post about my bus eating the kids.
10. “Bus Driver!! I think NEMO is going to hurl! Ah crap – too late.”
9. “YOU MISSED A STOP!”
8. “Ariel just flung my gum out the window and it hit that passing car in the windshield!”
7. “Holy Sh*t! SULLY just jumped out the back door! What a moron – thank God we’re still at the school!!”
6. “Do you smell something burning?”
5. “Mike just tied Frank’s shoelaces to the seat and now he is STUCK!”
4. “YOU MISSED A STOP! AGAIN!!!!”
3. “OMG! That dude is PEEING in front of his car! LOOK!!!”
2. “I just found a shot-gun casing on my seat. Can I keep it?”
1. “Did you know there is a code blue at the school – RIGHT NOW?”
This is just too good not to reblog :) Hee hee
I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this every week. I was very uncomfortable as I wrote the reasons why I passed, knowing I was putting them up on the blog. I don’t want folks to feel bad or embarrassed if they recognize their query. I know it’s supposed to be helpful to them and to others, but it feels kind of like airing dirty laundry, somehow. Let’s see how it goes. Perhaps I’ll switch to “Why I asked to see more.” You know, I always say I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of girl.
Query 1: In the first paragraph, which should basically let me know what kind of manuscript is being pitched, the words, “espionage thriller” and “Gospel” keyed me in pretty quickly that this wasn’t for me. How many times do I need to re-state that I do NOT do thrillers and I do NOT do Christian…
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So, it ain’t no secret that I loved UNDER THE NEVER SKY, Rossi’s first book in this fabulous dystopian series. Of course, being that I adored book #1 meant that I had high standards set for book #2 (THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT). Dang it all, Rossi actually outdid herself.
In THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT, Perry and Aria reunite and are determined to join forces to find the “Still Blue” – a fabled area of the Earth, unmarred by the vicious Ether Sky. Perry, now a Blood Lord, wants his tribe to accept Aria, a Dweller, but the tribe is resistant. When someone attempts to poison Aria during her marking ceremony, Perry is enraged but Aria knows if she stays Perry may lose the support of his people. She leaves with Roar, a friend to both her and Perry, in an attempt to find both Liv (Perry’s sister who has been betrothed to another Blood Lord) and the map to the Still Blue (which the Dwellers are also after).
The entire book is one terrific ride and hard to resist reading until your eyeball fall out. Rossi paints such a vivd world laced with rich characters that one cannot help but fall into their scarred land and lives.
Some books we read from the outside looking in, only acting as the audience.
Other books erase our own reality and demand we become part of the story.
THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT is undeniably the later.
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 ;)