Category Archives: Funnies

PNWA Conference 2014!

Hi all-

So the PNWA 2014 Conference is all over. I’ve swapped my dresses for yoga pants and pitch sessions for dirty diapers. Let me tell you, my feet are killing me! Stupid heels. But I’m so glad I went.

I think it went really well. Five (FIVE!) people asked to read either my full MS or a partial. It was incredibly exciting to send those off, even when I realized I sent the wrong version to a few and had to resend like a big ol’ lunatic. Hopefully that doesn’t count against me! What can I say, I’m over eager at this stage in the game.

The most exciting part was getting to know the agents between sessions. I sat next to an agent and editor for dessert on Thursday night, and not only were they ridiculously friendly, but they also had wonderful insights on the industry. Jennifer and I found that incredibly helpful! On Saturday we were able to speak with another agent and her client, who had a lot of input on the YA market. It was really interesting and she was so nice! Sprinkled throughout the conference were little interactions with an agent here, an editor there. Every single one was friendly, helpful and genuine. Who knew?

I think as writers we assume that agents and editors are these superhuman rock stars who don’t have time to interact with us little people. But the truth is, if you just offer a smile and say “hi,” they’ll probably respond in kind. Just don’t crawl under the bathroom stall to pitch them.

No. Really. I’m looking at you!

I did have one hilarious interaction with an agent that I just have to share. I had only a few minutes left in my pitch block and decided to pitch to [Name withheld to protect the hilarious]. I already had four people ask for pages, so I was pretty confident. I plunk down with a big smile, introduced myself, and dove in. “MY NAME IS 13 is best described as a cross between ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and THE LYING GAME. 13 is a slave…”

I get about three sentences in before he holds his hand up.

“Stop. That was terrible.”

“Oh. Okay. Would you like me to-”

“No. I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know those books, and I think you need to breathe. Here’s how you should pitch me-”

Let’s just say he was right about the breathing! I smiled and nodded, took notes on how I should properly pitch him, and then was promptly dismissed. I thanked him and walked away, smiling dazedly.

“Did it go well?” the guy in line behind me asked.

“No! It was terrible!” I said, smiling. His face fell. Oops. Good luck, dude!

Needless to say, that’s not what I wanted to hear, but I was smiling because he was honest and he tried to help me improve my pitch for next time. Really, he made some valid points about the pitch. And I kept smiling all day because I had a hilarious story, and you know what? After as many rejections as I have had between FIVE manuscripts, I have reached that point where it no longer matters. It’s disappointing, but you know what? You just have to keep going and take the constructive criticism. Any help from a real live agent is great!

So the lesson, kids, is that you can’t get mad if someone rejects you. Especially when he’s hilarious and makes you do the walk of shame halfway through a pitch session.

So all of my fingers and toes are crossed that someone will love MY NAME IS 13 as much as I do. I’m happy to be home and back to writing my next YA manuscript.

D’oh!

So I’m researching a new book and dove head-first into the inter-tubes. Ah yes, interesting stuff there. Did you know people ACTUALLY BELIEVE that there are humanoid-type beings living in Mount Shasta? Yup. For realz. And they have a nice PayPal account you can deposit into and get some fancy power crystals. They have like a million members of these ‘churches.’

(She crosses herself several times as a good Catholic with no irony whatsoever.)

Anyway…So this conversation happened at the dinner table yesterday:

Me:…And they believe that these people have a British accent – A British Accent? Now how can you have a British accent if you are descended from a tribe of people that lived on an island before the time of Christ, more than a thousand years ago, then migrated to live inside of a mountain, and somehow you acquired a British accent? Where the hell did that happen?

Husband: Um, you just told me that there is a religion where 7-foot tall benevolent aliens live in a mountain and the British accent is what’s got you all worked up?

Me: ….Well, yeah.

Husband: Okay. Just checking.

I’m going to go pray a rosary now.

NaNoWriMo! Are you doing it?

So are you doing it? All the cool kids are 😉 NaNoWriMo is the month long exercise in torture that tons of people sign up for. The plan: Write a 50,000 word novel in a single month.

For real. But people do it! Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder, wrote the book for NaNoWriMo, and I’m sure many others have too. So come on, all the cool kids are doing it!

As for me, I’m finishing up my latest book. So my goal this month is to complete the manuscript. But to my friends who are out there, plugging away and banging their heads on their keyboards late into the night to meet their daily word count goal, I say cheers!

And hey, don’t forget to shower. Seriously.

Movie Review – Looper

OMG I just watched Looper. Thanks JAS for recommending it. It totally blew my mind. For real.

I won’t spoil it, but I will say that this movie doesn’t wuss out in the end (thank goodness) a la Powder.

Remember Powder? Seriously, if you’ve never seen it, don’t. It was ridiculous and 111 minutes that I will never get back. EVER. I will curse Victor Salva on my death bed for robbing me of that precious time I could have used vacuuming or cleaning toilets.

Anywho, I’m happy to report Looper was awesome, JGL (that’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt for y’all that haven’t been keeping tabs on him), was awesome. It weirded me out that they used prosthetics and makeup to make him look like Bruce Willis, but other than that, he was great. He really had the mannerisms of Bruce Willis down, which is to say he was kinda John McClane-like.

 

And sorry every woman who thinks Bruce Willis is a dreamboat riding the waves of the 80’s, but JGL looks way better with his own nose. I think most women under forty were pleasantly surprised when he grew up after Third Rock from the Sun:

Um….

So, yes – you should rent it or buy it. Great movie! It was good enough to keep me from doing a review on Starters, which I just finished and was very impressed by. More coming soon on that 😉

 

 

Reached – Where are you?!

Reached (Matched Trilogy Series #3)

Okay peeps, I pre-ordered Reached and it is still not here. Supposedly it will be delivered today by the post office, and since I just finished The Adoration of Jenna Fox (which was brilliant, see my review below), I’m chomping at the bit for another book.

Patience is not my virtue. Hurry Postal Service! Check out this amazing video by the band, “The Postal Service.” One of my favorite songs ever :)

Silhouettes By the Postal Service

Which vs. That (GRAMMAR WARS)

 

Let’s look at a new post on Writer’sDigest.com:

Q: I’ve been writing for a long time and always assumed which and that were interchangeable, but I’ve recently been told that isn’t the case. How do I make sure I’m using the right word? —Anonymous

The battle over whether to use which or that is one many people struggle to get right. It’s a popular grammar question and most folks want a quick rule of thumb so they can get it right.

Here it is:

If the sentence doesn’t need the clause that the word in question is connecting, use which. If it does, use that. (Pretty easy to remember, isn’t it?) Let me explain with a couple of examples.

Our office, which has two lunchrooms, is located in Cincinnati.
Our office that has two lunchrooms is located in Cincinnati.

These sentences are not the same. The first sentence tells us that you have just one office, and it’s located in Cincinnati. The clause which has two lunchrooms gives us additional information, but it doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence. Remove the clause and the location of our one office would still be clear: Our office is located in Cincinnati.

The second sentence suggests that we have multiple offices, but the office with two lunchrooms is located in Cincinnati. The phrase that has two lunchrooms is known as a restrictive clause because another part of the sentence (our office) depends on it. You can’t remove that clause without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Let’s look at another example:

The time machine, which looked like a telephone booth, concerned Bill and Ted.
The time machine that looked like a telephone booth concerned Bill and Ted.

In the first sentence (thanks to the use of which), the time machine concerned Bill and Ted. It also happened to look like a telephone booth. In the second sentence (which uses the restrictive clause), Bill and Ted are concerned with the time machine that looks like a telephone booth. They aren’t concerned with the one that looks like a garden shed or the one that looks like a DeLorean (Marty McFly may have reservations about that one).

Now that you’ve learned the rule, let’s put it to a test:

1. The iPad (which/that) connects to the iCloud was created by Apple.
2. The issue of Writer’s Digest (which/that) has Brian A. Klems’ picture on the cover is my favorite.

The correct answers are:

1. The iPad, which connects to the iCloud, was created by Apple. (All iPads connect to the iCloud, so it’s unnecessary information.)

2. The issue of Writer’s Digest that has Brian A. Klems picture on the cover is my favorite. (Your favorite issue of Writer’s Digest isn’t just any issue, it’s the one with me on the cover.)

OK, so I’ve never been on the cover of Writer’s Digest, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s necessary for you to understand the context of your clauses, a key covered in most grammar books. If the information is essential, use that. If it’s just additional information that’s useful but unnecessary, use which.

 

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Phew! That was confusing! Grammar is a petulant mistress, isn’t she? This brings me to a larger question. Some of us (ahem…) stick to archaic rules that were taught in school ten…thirty, forty, even fifty years ago! I’m always going to vote with what makes sense in your situation. In that way, you can say that I’m a situational grammarian. I swear, I can stop anytime!

Some people, however, stick to rules because THOSE ARE THE RULES. What are your thoughts? Do Oxford comma’s butter your biscuit, muffin, or pancake? Are ending sentences in a preposition not something you can get behind? Does grammar sometimes make you want to lie your pen down completely?

Bonus points if you can point all those beautifies out! How do you feel about grammar?

What are you reading?

Recently, I found myself on a crowded 737, flying from California to Seattle. As I stood in line, waiting to use the restroom, I found myself covertly eyeing book covers. I’m pretty short, so at least I don’t have to lean over too far to see the jacket!

A random sampling: The Hunger Games, Clear and Present Danger (and oldie but a goodie!), Game of Thrones and various magazines. US Weekly must do a swift business. It’s always interesting to see what people read as an escape while in a giant flying tube.

So, what are you reading? Have you ever read a book that you thought would be terrible, just because everyone else is reading it? Did you end up liking it? Why or why not?

I was a strongly against Harry Potter. Like, I wanted nothing to do with it. I was an English major and only read literary fiction. Commercial fiction was so bourgeois. I know, I know. I want to smack my younger self, too.

Then, my friend M insisted that I read Harry Potter. I borrowed the first book. Then the second. Then, I borrowed the rest.  I couldn’t read them fast enough. I (obviously) ended up loving them, and realized how snobby I had been for so long. There was absolutely nothing wrong with commercial fiction. It can be well-written, emotional and beautiful. Sure, some of it isn’t great. But, it opened my eyes to so many great books that I would have missed because of my snobbery. Thankfully I’ve seen the light!

So, what have you read that you were surprised by? Discuss!

Also, here’s a shout-out to LOLcats – one of the funniest places on the net.

 

funny cat pictures - Lolcats: Shakespeare Cat

How to Write a Novel!

 

Stewie: How you uh, how you comin’ on that novel you’re working on? Huh? Gotta a big, uh, big stack of papers there? Gotta, gotta nice little story you’re working on there? Your big novel you’ve been working on for 3 years? Huh? Gotta, gotta compelling protagonist? Yeah? Gotta obstacle for him to overcome? Huh? Gotta story brewing there? Working on, working on that for quite some time? Huh? Yea, talking about that 3 years ago. Been working on that the whole time? Nice little narrative? Beginning, middle, and end? Some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer from the experience? Yeah? Yeah? No, no, you deserve some time off.

So a friend asked me today, “Hey D? How DO you write a novel?”

Well, let me take a break from writing and rewriting my synopsis to tell you. You spend every day banging on a keyboard like a monkey, and eventually the skies part and your book is published by a Big 6 publisher and you make a bajillion dollars. See illustration of it here:

That’s me on the right, cigarette in hand.

Okay, okay. Just kidding. Let me start with a caveat: I am no a published author. Yes, I write every day for work, but I’m a hack and that’s different. I have not published a novel. No, most people who write novels do not get them published. Yes, I have thought of self-publishing and no it is not an option for me right now. I have stars in my eyes, y’all.

Bleached is my fourth novel. Usually I get an idea for a novel from a dream/nightmare, or something that really moved me in the news or current culture. My first novel, The Twelfth Kingdom, was based on a nightmare I had of a princess jumping out of a window to escape a murderous lunatic. Bleached was borne (get it? Bourne/borne? ha!) from news coverage of Russian spies living among us as ordinary citizens.

Next, I start talking about it out loud. Why is the idea of foreign agents posing as Americans scary? What does that mean for our country? How does no one notice they have thick Russian accents, and are supposedly native to Colorado? For real, America. Use your brain!

Then, I ask questions. What if you were born in to an agency that bred people to be spies, living around the world? What would that life be like for that person? I’ve always been fascinated by the mind and how our brains don’t always work as they should. This formed by main character, Kendra. She’s a teen girl with no memory of her past life as an asset for the Agency, a powerful military/political group.

Once I have a character, I start interviewing her. I know, that sounds weird. It’s not, I swear! I sit down and write a list of questions that you would ask any person in a regular interview. What’s your favorite food? Where do you live? Do you have a boyfriend? Then, I go back and answer the questions as Kendra would answer. This helps shape the personality of the character. Even if her favorite food never comes up in the novel, it’s nice to know it exists.

Then, I sketch a rough outline of the entire book. That means an intro, middle plot points, a big exciting peak in action, and the denouement. That, by the way, is just a fancy French term for ‘ending,’ or tying up the strings of your plot. Sometimes I like to use big words to offset my intake of pop music.

Then, I write. Every. Single. Day. I start at the beginning with the first scene. I place the character in situations that follow my outline, and sort of watch how she reacts.

I’ve also found that writer’s block is just your brain’s way of telling you that what you are writing is just not…right. While following my outline, I’ll inevitably come to a point where nothing sounds right. Then, I have to sit back and ask myself what I don’t like about the manuscript. I rewrite the heck out of it, and suddenly my creativity flows again.

Once I’m done writing the entire manuscript, I set it aside for a few weeks. When I re-read it, I make edits and rewrite scenes. Then, test readers give me feedback. I rewrite scenes. Then test readers read it again. Then, I rewrite scenes. I review notes from my partner in crime (thanks, husband) and rewrite scenes.

2012-08-03 21.21.10.jpg

Are you sensing a theme?

When I’ve rewritten it to death, I add my chapter divisions. Then, I send it out in to the world to hopefully not be rejected.

So, to review:

1. Idea

2.Research

3. Outline

4. Writing

5. Re-writing (Repeat ad nauseum)

6. Eat pasta to cope with re-writing

See, six easy steps to write your own novel. Seems simple enough, right?