Friday, July 29, 2011

First 200 Words-Winner!

So, great news: I was one of the winners of the First 200 Words contest over at Deana Barnhart's Blogfest.
I will get a ten page critique from Monica Bustamante Wagner. Check her out, she lives in Chile and has chickens, just two of many things that make her awesome in my book. She's also represented by Wolfson Literary Agency, so I'm hoping she'll impart serious how-to-get-an-agent knowledge.

Congratulations to my fellow winners, Lisa and Lindy.

And a huge, tremendous THANK YOU! to Deana for engineering, hosting and delivering the best blogfest-ever!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Did it; A Blog Award AND Rejection Widget?

I did it. I pushed the button. Sent the first 100 pages to an agent who requested them. It's my first submission ever. I feel like I've stepped off a ledge.

Also, I got a lovely blog award from Jen at Jen's Bookshelf. Thanks Jen! See below for blog award details.

And finally. Now that I have stepped off that ledge (opened the door, whatever image you want to use) I need a way to keep track of my rejections. Anyone know of a widget for this kind of thing? One that lists number of queries, requests, rejections received? A place to put medicinal gin&tonics/cookies (pick your poison) would be helpful too. I'm keeping track on Querytracker, but wanted something on the blog.

The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

So here's my list of five blogs that are uber cool:

1. Lisa over at Kicked, Cornered, Bitten and Chased - She's an awesome writer and there are cute animal pics on her site.
2. Bird's Eye View - Michelle gave the most detailed, line by line feedback during a recent query contest. She's on it!
3. Crit group bestie, Laura Campbell at Writing Unleashed.
4. The lovely and talented Jenna Cooper at Finding the Write Way
5. Bryce at the Bryce Daniels Preservation Society. He needs to be preserved. Probably in aspic.

Go forth, lad and lasses and have bloggity fun.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I've Got a Map, AND First 200 Words Contest

I've been revising, that's old news. But this week I've been polishing. As I've mentioned before, I got a request for the first 100 pages of my ms at a conference I attended in May. The agent is on submission hiatus until Monday. I'm sending my pages tomorrow.

So I've been tweaking the ever-living stuffing out of this thing for the last few days. One of my beta readers is tardy in returning my pages because he's moving across country (lame excuse, Greg) and I'm checking the mailbox every 2.5 seconds. But, aside from anything earth shattering I get from Greg, I'm done.*

So, late last night, I drew a map of BookEnd. Sorry, I can't seem to stop the top from being cropped in the scan.

Here it is:

It's missing some stuff, but it's generally accurate. What do you think?

And HEY! I'm a finalist in the GUTGAA First 200 Words Contest. Much love to Deana for setting it up. Fingers crossed!

*I'm done with the shiny first 100 pages. I can polish the remaining 250 pages ad infinitum.

Monday, July 25, 2011

GUTGAA Week 4- First 200 Words

We're in the home stretch of Deana's Blog-extravaganza! Head over there now to enter her contest for a critique on part of your novel. Details here. Below is my entry. Good luck to everyone!

A. N Villasante
YA Fantasy


I: The Farm

Chapter 1

     It’s early, before dawn but at the bakery everyone’s been up for hours. I stand where I always stand, down the alley in back, opposite her window and out of sight. I want to see her before she can see me, before I go in and buy the morning bread and a cinnamon knot for Story. Story got another tooth last night and needs something to gnaw on while I finish whittling her teething ring. But the bakery isn’t open yet and I need to see Jane first, get over her loveliness before talking to her. I don’t want to sound like a stunt-brained QR, or worse, like a little kid. 
     Right on time, Jane pushes the window out on its hinge and rests her chin on her hands. She always looks up, never down to where I am. I think maybe she’s looking at the last of the night stars as they fade, but she could just as easily be looking at the early morning clouds, judging the weather.

     Jane is smart. She knows things about the stars and the 
weather and the world that I don’t know. Though she’s the baker’s daughter now, before she came to BookEnd she was something else.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Need a Map

For someone who has a ridiculously excellent sense of direction - I hardly ever get lost, I can 'see' the layout of new cities I visit after a couple of hours roaming and I wish the career of map-maker were more lucrative - I'm having a lot of trouble mapping my world.

BookEnd has a specific geography. Things it needs in certain places. The River, the Rish Sea, and places like RiverTown, Idyllia and Finis Terra City all need to interconnect the right way.

Don't get me the wrong. I routinely ignore the maps at the beginning of books, be it Lord of the Rings or The Princess Bride. I'm not that kind of reader. I'm good at suspending disbelief. If you tell me the hanging tree is north by northwest of the sacred rock, I'm like, whatever, when's the hanging and how is the heroine going to escape?

But while revising I keep hitting the 'where am I?' wall. I'm imagining two people by the North Pasture and I can't figure out if they look left or right towards the river. That's bad. So, to rectify that, I tried to draw a map. People, I have a masters degree in Fine Art. How come I can't do this?

Nothing looks right. It's more frustrating right now than correcting typos. Not sure if I'm concentrating on it as a distraction from revising, if it's imperative to sort out now, or both. So, anyone have any map-making ideas or resources?

Oh and some nice news. I was selected as a finalist for the GUTGAA Blogfest Query Contest. Nice! Thanks Deana and Lora.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Revised Query - GUTGAA - and BOOK ENVY

So I've submitted my revised query to Deana, the blogfest maven and here's hoping it wins the contest. Not to sound so sappy that I must be killed, but I've already 'won'. Not only do I have a brighter, shinier query, I also met more people, got more agent information and made more connections. I'm happy*. (I know, the saccharine content in this post is dangerous to your sarcasm's health)

*Except. Call no writer happy until she's either dead or published (and maybe not even then.) I'm fidgety. I'm ready, I know I'm ready. I'm waiting for my beta readers to get back to me this week with some final feedback and then I will be submitting partial and full requests come August. Then, when I get rejected (shoot low, people, that's my motto) I will continue on, querying, suffering, querying, suffering until I take a break at the end of October, picking up my bruised ego and throwing myself into writing something else during NaNoWriMo. That's my plan.

I finished Maze Runner last night, unfortunately. Unfortunate because 1) I was left with the gruesome image from chapter two of the sequel The Scorch Trials, 2) because the book is so damn good I have to run out and buy The Scorch Trials TODAY and 3) because I am doubting my own book. I know you can't help but compare, it's human and artistic nature - part of the 'art doesn't happen in a vacuum' thing. But I know my book isn't like this and that makes me ask, is my book as good as this book? Is it even close? Where's the danger, the excitement the BODY COUNT? Should I kill some more people?

It's stupid, I know, to think about revising your book based on another book, no matter how good it is, how much you enjoy it, how much you want your book to evoke the same feelings. I know it doesn't even make sense, that my story is very different and happy being so. But the niggly thought is there.

How do you get over book envy? And more importantly, how do you not let it effect what you're writing?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gearing Up To Get an Agent - The Query

It's week 3 of GUTGAA Blogfest over at Deana Barnhart's site. This week, it's about helping and getting help for the almighty QUERY.

I hate queries (though I hate the synopsis more.) It's something about it being the one chance you have to get an agent's attention that makes me break out in a cold sweat. I have had my query letter critiqued by Agent Barbara Poelle at a conference, and I'm going to share her comments with you later in the week, but I really want your feedback because her suggestions, while good, were not that extensive and I think she was more swayed by the accompanying material than the query. Come the fall, I'm going to be querying everyone and their dog, so I want it to be tight. What do you think?

Dear [Agent Name]
I am seeking representation for my Young Adult novel, BOOKEND, complete at 75,000 words. I am enclosing a synopsis and sample pages. The sequel, BOOKBEGIN, is currently in outline form.
Finial Smith lives in a world  where discarded book characters, called QRs (Quasi-Reals), come to be recycled or pressed into servitude. The Smiths are the last natural-born family living in a village of QRs. The Farm is renowned for the fine quality of Qr workers they produce. But being the only real boy for miles is getting on this fifteen year old’s nerves. Fin’s missing his dead mother, bored at school and tired of hearing his Da tell him about Nobless Oblige – the duty all natural-borns have to care and defend the dependent and weaker QR creatures.

When Fin meets Anne, a QR who breaks away from the herd, he finds a girl who is more alive and real than anyone he's ever met. A revolution is brewing in BookEnd with QRs determined to fight for the same rights as natural-borns. Fin has to decide whether to stand with his family and let Anne be destroyed, or to endanger the world he knows to save her.  

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wotcha Doin? REVISINGrevisingREVISING

I tried to post something intelligent today, but failed, so if you don't have a lot of time, skip to the links below. You have been warned.

I'm in revising hell. I know there are people who enjoy it, and I can tell why, I even feel some of that revelatory joy myself, when you chip away at something and, seemingly just like that, it becomes better.

Still. It's a massive pain. When I talked in an earlier post about my inner editor, I think I misspoke. I don't hate the inner editor, she's just doing her job. But letting the inner editor in let's the inner critic in and that just doesn't feel nice. She's the kind of frenemy who's in truth all enemy. Because every time I look at my book with a editor's eye, evil inner critic whispers, "Go, eat chocolate. Abandon this piece of nonsense. It's crap and you have carbs to eat." She's the voice I have to throttle, and I get tired of doing it. I DO it, because I won't give up, but man it gets tiring. That's why the blog posts, she don't come out so sparkly lately.

You know what is sparkly? These links:

Deana's Gearing Up to Get an Agent Blogfest is really awesome and fun. I'm just sorry I couldn't participate in the story chain - click here to get a full list of what everyone is writing. A fun, inspiring exercise.

Harry Potter - Come Hell or High Revising Water, nothing shall keep me from my appointed task, which, at 12:02AM tomorrow morning will be to see HP7pt2. I'm going out to buy junior mints at the Target in a minute. What, if any, are your HP7pt2 plans?

Jenna Cooper had a lovely post a couple of days ago on growing up with the HP books. I didn't grow up with them, waiting for the next book to come out, believing that magic was real. My daughter, though into HP won't experience the full phenomena like Jenna did. It's a once in a lifetime thing.

Speaking of revising and getting help from my friends (which I wasn't but I was thinking about it, which is close enough), you should visit How Many Pages Did You Write Today on facebook. It's an awesome group, open and friendly and I posted a problem I was having there with my revising and in like a nano second I had responses - good, smart responses. You should totally check it out. The moderator is Ramona DeFelice Long, who I met at Pennwriters and is totally fabulous.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Being Stupid...On Purpose

So, I'm going to open myself up for criticism here. Some of  you guys might know that I've had a partial request (first 100 pages) for my book by an agent. Woot. I've been polishing and revising for three months since then and now, in the deadline I've created in my mind, I've got another month before I have to submit.

Why, when everyone, even the awesome and extremely published Jonathan Maberry, has told me not to submit until it's ready, am I going to risk it?

Well, one concrete and one ephemeral reason. And a caveat.

Caveat - The same way I believe I'm not short, I believe the book will be ready.

Concrete - the agent who requested my partial is closed to submissions until August 1st. On August 1st, the floodgates (again, in my imagination) will open and the slushpile will become slushier. I want to take advantage of being allowed to submit while she's on hiatus (a conference request).

Ephemeral - If I don't give myself a deadline - a real, on fire, deadline, I'll choke. I'll sputter and stop. I'll just sort of peter out. I am not one of those writers who feels they have to write or they will die. And I can easily see my life slipping into more practical, household concerns once my kids start school again. In fact, I'm afraid that will happen, unless I have that deadline.

So, I'm revising like a maniac. And I will (unless I change my mind, of course) be pushing the send button at the end of July.

Want to talk me out of it?

Oh, I'll be guest posting on Misha's Blog Sylmion on August 19th, so watch out for that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Just Have To Ask...Stupid Question

As part of Deana's Gearing Up to Get an Agent Blogfest, I have to ask a question. This is hard for me. I'm by nature a lurker. I like to find my answers without raising my hand. There are countless times I've heard "There's no such thing as a stupid question," by a teacher or advisor only then to be given a look that clearly said, "oh, except that one." So before I ask my question about writing/publishing, I will give you a short list of stupid questions I've asked before:

From high school:
"Wait, how can these numbers be imaginary? Aren't all numbers imaginary?"

From art school:
"How do I paint the clear bottle in the still life? Is there, like, clear paint?" (I was only sort of joking.)

From child bearing:
"Ow. This does not BLEEPING tickle. Why did I do this?" It is a stupid question, when asked at the 40th week. The second time around.

On my daughter getting contacts:
"Wait, can she get these wet?" (in fairness, I think I meant, can she go swimming with them on?)

Now for my writing question:

How do you come to terms with your evil Inner Editor? I have read a lot about it and I've worked on it for a while. my IE usually strikes, not when I'm writing, but when I'm editing. And she's smart enough to get me when I'm vulnerable (um, all the time) like when reading about another author's amazing trajectory and fabulous project. In other words, as soon as Writer's Digest hits the mailbox, she sharpens her knives. So, any out of the ordinary ideas for dealing with the evil wench?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gearing Up to Get an Agent -Blogfest

Just a reminder that Gearing Up To Get an Agent Blog O Rama starts with a mini blog-hop tomorrow. Head on over to Deana's blog to sign up. You just need sign up here and post on Wednesday (tomorrow) on "I Just Had to Ask" - that is, any wonderfully, stupid, obvious, deep, insightful, strange and/or interesting question you have on writing or publishing. Then you hop on over to the other players' blogs and try to help them answer their questions. Hopefully everyone gets some answers they can use.

That's it, simple, right?

Any good blogfests you're participating in this summer that I should know about? Do you love blogfests? Hate them? Wonder how useful they are?

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Don't Brake for Unicorns

Credit: People Mag

While I try to keep this fact hidden during job interviews, I'm not a perfectionist. In fact, I hate when people say they are (apologies if you are a perfectionist.) It's because I don't believe in perfection that I have a bone to pick with it. I believe in good, great, transcendental, adequate and wicked, among other adjectives, but not 'perfect'.

Perfect, like unicorns (again, sorry if you believe in unicorns), doesn't exist. I get the message, really I do, that aspiring to perfection, even knowing it's unattainable, is how you can get to the best you/your project can be.

But I think this is so misleading as to be criminal and, in my case, paralyzing. Also, I could see myself using the lack of perfection as an excuse not to submit just yet...wait one more day/week/lustrum.

When do you send in your manuscript if someone has requested it? When it's perfect.

Well, don't hold your breath, because mine's never getting to P-Land.

What I aspire to is completeness, trickier than waiting for unicorns, but infinitely more attainable. I believe that everything has a tipping point, a point where you stop having to create it because the darn thing is alive. Could you gild the lilly after it's complete? Absolutely. You can spend forever waiting for that sound of one hand clapping too, if you want.

While I haven't achieved this goal yet in writing, I have achieved it in other areas, so I have an idea what it feels like: A giddy, teenage feeling followed by serenity.

What do you think, does perfection exist? Do you seek it?
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