Researching your setting

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Today’s guest post is part of the From Australia With Love blog tour, and is by YA urban fantasy and fantasy author, K. A. Last! There’s also a giveaway as part of the tour, which you can enter HERE!

Fall For Me, the first book in the Tate Chronicles, is set in Australia. It’s all fictional, but the places are based on real towns. Writing about them was easy, because I’d been there, and seen what they were like with my own eyes. When it came to writing Sacrifice, I was a little out of my comfort zone. I wanted to tell the story of how Grace and Seth got to where they are in Fall For Me, but to do that I had to go back to England in the 1600s. Yikes! I’ve never been to England, and obviously not in the 1600s.

That is where the research came in.

My knowledge of England was limited to what little I soaked up in school, what I’ve seen on TV, and perhaps what people have told me during social discussions. In short, it didn’t add up to much. So, I devoured everything I could about the English countryside, the people, the castles, events of 1642 and so on. My eyes went blurry from scouring through web article after article, until I was confident I knew enough to sound like I knew what I was talking about. I even learnt a few things along the way.

Nothing can beat visiting a place and seeing it with your own eyes, but just because you haven’t been somewhere doesn’t mean you can’t write about it. Even though I have never been to England, I thought I did a pretty good job of building a convincing setting based on the research I’d done. At the end of the day, I write fiction. My stories are my interpretation of all sorts of factors melded together, and they draw from all different types of resources and research.

A great example of writing about somewhere you’ve never been is Heaven. Things such as religious beliefs, what we’ve seen in movies, or read in books, will influence our own personal depiction of the afterlife. In Sacrifice, my two MCs are angels, so Heaven plays a pretty big role in their lives. My Heaven research consisted mainly of staring at paintings and artworks for a long time. This made me happy, and really excited to write about Heaven. I love art, and I found so many pieces inspirational.

When Sacrifice was close to release, I had someone tell me that my depiction of Heaven was the most ridiculous she’d ever read. I took it with a grain of salt, because who is to say I’m wrong? Then I had three other people tell me it was fresh, and new, and one even said it was “the best description of the great above I’ve ever read”.

Research is an important step in the writing of any book, but we have to remember that some things can’t be researched as thoroughly as others. In the end, when we build the worlds within out stories, we have to go with what we think works best.

SACRIFICE IS FREE AT iBOOKS UNTIL FEBRUARY 19th

Title: Sacrifice – A Fall For Me Prequel (The Tate Chronicles #0.5)
Author: K. A. Last
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Date of Publication: May 24th 2013
Number of pages: Paperback – 114
Word Count: 23,000
Formats available: eBook and paperback
Cover Artist: KILA Designs
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/jBk-qTPc91c
Purchase Link Amazon eBook: http://amzn.to/11ipsxG
Purchase Link Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/13k7QG3
Purchase Link iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sacrifice-fall-for-me-prequel/id694910275?mt=11

Book Blurb:

Seth’s heart is breaking. He knows his decision will hurt the one person he keeps breathing for, but he can’t take it anymore. He can’t be near Grace knowing she will always be just out of reach.

Grace is oblivious to Seth’s turmoil. She loves him unconditionally, but not in the way he wants. They both know that in Heaven physical love is forbidden, and to break the rules is to defy everything they’ve ever been taught.

When Grace and Seth are sent on a mission to save a young mother and her unborn child, Grace must face the fact that Seth won’t be returning home. She doesn’t understand Seth’s decision and hates him for it. But what neither of them realise is how big a part that single decision will play in shaping their entire future.

What would you sacrifice for the one you love?

About the author:

KALast_HeadshotFINAL_LRK. A. Last was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, and moved to Sydney with her parents and older brother when she was eight. Artistic and creative by nature, she studied Graphic Design and graduated with an Advanced Diploma. After marrying her high school sweetheart, she concentrated on her career before settling into family life. Blessed with a vivid imagination, she began writing to let off creative steam, and fell in love with it. K. A. Last is currently studying her Bachelor of Arts at Charles Sturt University, with a major in English, and minors in Children’s Literature, Art History, and Visual Culture. She resides in a peaceful, leafy suburb north of Sydney with her husband, their two children, a rabbit named Twitch, and a guinea pig called Squeak.

You can find her at her website, or on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads or Amazon.


Memory in Fiction

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Today’s guest post is part of the From Australia With Love blog tour, and is by the FANTABULOUS YA sci-fi author, Stacey Nash! There’s also a giveaway as part of the tour, which you can enter HERE!

Memory is an important part of life. It shapes who were are, where we came from, and even where we are headed in life. Losing one’s memory is probably one of the most horrifying things that can happen to a person as it strips them of all sense of identity. Actually it’s probably more horrifying for their loved ones than the actual person in question.

My upcoming YA release FORGET ME NOT centers around memory loss. The theme of memory is one that runs through the whole four-book series; it’s even featured in all of the titles. For me as a writer, memory was a tricky thing to deal with, but I made use of a few writing techniques.

Flashbacks

A flashback is a memory. You know when you’re sitting in class / at work chewing on you pen and staring not at what’s in front of you but at the image in your mind of that cute guy you had a date with last night, while you play over all the details. That’s a flashback.

Flashbacks are a useful tool for writers, whether there are memory loss issues in the story or not. It’s something that can be used to show an event that happened in the past. (Read: backstory.) I think it’s important to be careful though, because flashbacks can turn into info dumps if not written well and, hence, slow the story down. My general rule is keep it short. A 200 word excerpt is enough; otherwise the reader will get bored and the flashback loses its impact. Some flashbacks are written like the character is watching them happen, and other are written as if the character is remembering them.

Here’s an example of a flashback.

The sight of it brings back so many memories. The only time I ever saw my parents fight… Mom shouted so loud I covered my ears, and Dad responded in a low emotionless voice. Young and scared, I hid in the curtains while she screamed. Her last words were punctuated by her yanking the pendant off and tossing it across the room. Dad scooped it up, crossed the room in long strides and pulled her to him. His fingers traced the edge of her face before he kissed her. He lowered the pendant over her head, and the angry lines on her face melted into a smile. It’s not exactly a good memory, but it was her.

(©2014, Stacey Nash, Forget Me Not)

Dreams

I think we all know what dreams are, so I’m just going to jump right in. I used dream sequences on several occasions throughout the books, with the character either having a flashback through a dream or having a dream that had an obvious meaning of something that did happen in the past. They’re a little trickier to use than flashbacks, but boy they read well when they’re done right. I think the big thing to remember is the dream needs to fit the character and the story. If you plop a dream in that is too abstract you’ll wind up confusing readers. It needs to be simple, short, and reflect what’s already happened in the story. Basically, the dream needs to feel like a dream.

Here’s an example of a dream combined with a flashback, so that the dream was like a memory but it wasn’t quite right. That’s because there’s some foreshadowing there too. 😉

A soft rap sounds on my door, but I ignore it. I need to finish Mom’s letter. My gaze burns into the last sheet of paper, but for the life of me I can’t remember what’s happened this past year to tell her.

The rap sounds again, only this time it’s louder, more insistent.

“Not now, Dad.”

He doesn’t stop, just knocks and knocks and knocks.

Dear Mom

My concentration pounds, then shatters. Argh. I can’t do this.

I can’t even think.

My pen, poised over the paper, refuses to move. I push against it, trying to guide the nib into an M, but it’s like the nib is glued to the page.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Heart pounding, ears ringing, the dampness of sweat cakes my whole body.

Knock.

My eyes spring open. It’s dark.

Knock, knock.

My heart beats in time with the knocks, a rapid, thudding beat.

Knock, knock, knock.

(©2014, Stacey Nash, Forget Me Not)

Other ways of dealing with memory

There are lots of other ways to deal with memory in fiction. Déjàvu is probably the method I used the most. It’s also the most subtle. Then there’s inner dialogue; almost like flashbacks but shorter, just a sentence here, a thought there. Reminiscing through dialogue is another method; multiple characters having a conversation about the past.

No matter which writing technique is used for dealing with memory, I think the trick is not to overuse any one. For me, that was really tricky when there were multiple characters…ah, no. I won’t spoil it – read the book and you’ll see. 😉

About Forget Me Not

ForgetMeNot_1800x2700 (3)Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother’s favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. When the brooch and the pendant are worn together they’re no longer pretty pieces of jewelry — they’re part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewelry’s power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device — and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she’s Enemy Number One.

She’s forced to leave her father behind when she’s taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

Releasing February 17th from Entranced Publishing. Add it to your Goodreads TBR now!

Stacey Nash (3)About Stacey 

Stacey Nash writes adventure filled stories for Young Adults in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. When her head isn’t stuck in a fictional world, she calls the Hunter Valley of New South Wales home. It is an area nestled between mountains and vineyards, full of history and culture that all comes together to create an abundance of writing inspiration. Stacey loves nothing more than spending her days writing when inspiration strikes.

Her debut novel, Forget Me Not releases 17 February 2014 from Entranced Publishing and its sequel Remember Me releases in August 2014.

Website || Twitter || Facebook Page || Pinterest


The Dream Journal – One Writer’s Inspiration

Today’s guest post is by Mary Crockett, co-author of Dream Boy, which is due for release in mid-2014.

When Cassandra invited me to do a guest post, I used the title of her manuscript, Lucid Dreaming, as a springboard. I’ve always been obsessed with dreams—not surprising for someone whose upcoming co-authored novel is named Dream Boy, right?

But it’s not just me who’s obsessed. Fascination with dreams is as old as dreams themselves. Ancient Egyptians looked to dreams for portents of the future, while Australian Aborigines saw dreams as the secret to understanding the past. There’s Aristotle’s On Dreams, Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, the Biblical representation of dreams as God’s cosmic telephone, the zillion weird dreams that figure in folklore and fairy tales, the zillion more books that interpret the symbolism of dreams… and of course let’s not forget Leonardo DiCaprio going all dark and broody as the lovelorn dream thief in Inception.

As a writer, though, I’m perhaps most interested in how we can allow our dreams to inspire and shape creative works.

That’s where the dream journal comes in.

One of the characters in Dream Boy keeps just such a journal. Drawing a line down the middle of the page, she writes everything she remembers about a dream on one side; on the other, she jots notes about real life events that may have triggered her subconscious.

In the notebook, reality goes in one place and dreams go in another; a clear line is drawn between the two. Of course, very little in life is quite as tidy as that—certainly not our creative processes.

So, why keep a dream journal in the first place?

For one thing, it’s fun.

For another, all the weird stuff that floats around in your subconscious can be a good place to go when your work-in-progress gets blocked up. Make a game of it: choose some random element from a recent dream and work it into a scene you’re writing. It will keep you going—and in writing, if you just keep going (somewhere… anywhere!), you often end up headed in the direction you genuinely needed to go.

(Plus, here’s a secret: the random element you select is probably not that random, even if it seems downright absurd. What happens when you dream and what happens when you write is not so different, really. They both connect to the subconscious. And the images that feed the subconscious have a way of making their own sense, regardless of your intentions.)

Perhaps most importantly, however, using a journal to map out the chaotic terrain of your dreams can feed your over-all imaginative life in very rewarding ways.

As you go along—recording your dreams—you are essentially trying to make sense of something that is by its very nature senseless. That process inevitably opens you up to contradiction. (Real world says X and ONLY X is true; Dreamworld says Y and Z and X’s second cousin Arnie is true. On Tuesdays. On other days, it says that baseballs turn into feathers when you sneeze on them. And your favorite dog never really died, but was just trapped all this time in a bomb shelter with elves.)

Contradiction, as you can see from the above, is pretty noisy. But it is also (at least in my experience) inspiring.

Think of it this way: the tension between two opposing ideas is often the wire on which good writing balances. So, exploring the boundary between reality and dream allows us to perch for a moment on that wire. When we return to our work of fiction, we see more. We see better. We see connections we might have missed otherwise.

But what about those who don’t even remember their dreams? How can any of this help them?

Unexpectedly, I have found that the very act of keeping a dream journal stimulates the recollection of dreams. So the more you plan to remember, the more you remember. Weird, but true.

Here’s how it works in two super-easy (super-cheesy?) steps:

  1. Put a notebook and pen beside your bed. Before drifting to sleep, remind yourself that you intend to remember and record your dreams. You might even say something as socially uncomfortable as “Hey, you are going to dream, and you will remember your dreams! They will be interesting dreams! Enjoy!”
  1. In the morning, before you get up or start thinking about your day, write down whatever scraps of dream you remember.

And at first they may be just scraps. But as you go on, exercising both your memory and tolerance for awkward conversations with yourself, you may find that you can build up to a pretty impressive recall. And remembering your dreams is a good thing—not only for the creative advantage—but also because your dreams can be an important shaping influence in your life.

I recently tweeted my two-year-old’s dream: “The cat was in my dream, and he was happy to be with me.” (Of course in real life, the cat barely tolerates my son, so this was pure wish fulfillment.) I was amazed at how many people tweeted back to share their own dreams—from the workaholic who dreams only of work to the woman who dreams of resuscitating zombies with a friendly Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Dreams are something we take with us into our day. Whether we entirely remember them or not, they are there, an essential part of us—telling us who we are. (Maybe in some ways even making us who we are.)

So listening to dreams—paying attention to wildness of the mind at moments when it answers to no master—is a worthwhile endeavor. And a dream journal is a great place to start.

About DREAM BOY (coauthored by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg)

Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.

One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.

Pre-order DREAM BOY today: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Add DREAM BOY to your Goodreads list.

About Mary

A native of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Mary grew up as the youngest of six children in a family of misfits. She has worked as everything from a history museum director to a toilet seat hand model. In her other life, she’s an award-winning poet, professional eavesdropper, and the person who wipes runny noses. If you tweet at her @MaryLovesBooks, chances are she will tweet back.

Connect with Mary: Website | Blog |TwitterFacebookGoodreadsTumblrPinterest


Writing for Young Adults

Today’s guest post is by Lauren K. McKellar, whose debut YA novel, Finding Home, came out on 1 October. Yay!

I have to confess: I wasn’t a YA author by choice.

I’ve always loved writing and reading, and my taste has always been to read up. When I was ten, I read Lord of the Rings. At eleven, there wasn’t anything ‘mature’ enough for me in the school library, so I read the dictionary.

1013-Finding-Home_1400Yep, I had all the friends.

When I decided I wanted to try writing again, like I used to when I was younger, it was natural that I should try my hand at my current flavour of the moment: chick lit. I tried it during NaNoWriMo of 2011 and, needless to say, like many good first forays do, it sucked.

Badly.

Then I saw a competition advertised, Hardie Grant Egmont’s The Ampersand Project. It looked perfect: run by Aussies, a comp for first-time authors…it had everything! The only thing that didn’t quite fit with my master plan was the age group: it was for Young Adult writers.

‘No worries,’ I told my partner. ‘I’ll just write a YA.’

Ha! Like it’s that easy.

My first attempts at YA were terrible, so much worse than my first chick lit novel. I gave up. I deleted documents, I scrunched up pieces of paper and I threw my virtual competition entering spirit in the bin.

Then, something crazy happened.

I read a YA book.

It was completely by accident and, to be honest, I don’t think I knew it was YA before I picked it up.

And what happened? I was hooked.

I loved it. I loved it so much that I went out and bought a stack of other YA books, gorging myself on these teenage novels like a starving person at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Possibly with less restraint.

At the eleventh hour, I went back and attempted a complete rewrite of my Ampersand attempt. This time, I was armed with knowledge. I knew things, things I didn’t know before, including:

  • Don’t write down to your audience. Who likes being spoken to like they’re a little kid? Not me.
  • Try to avoid trends, e.g. brands of phone, social media specifics and current bands/movies. Trends change quickly for us all, but not so much as they do for teenagers.
  • Don’t preach. My novel does feature a lot of teenage drinking, and it was hard to straddle the line between positive message and lecturing on the evils of booze. I’d like to think I’ve achieved it. Or, if not, I’ve given it a damn good shot!
  • Research your genre. The kind of YA books I liked showed me things, things that some people might frown upon but that I loved reading about when I was a teenager. I wanted to read about sex. I wanted to read about drugs. I didn’t want them glossed over; I wanted details.
    That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do, and Finding Home (my debut novel) doesn’t feature a whole heap of graphics on either matter. But they both feature. And I think that’s okay.

I didn’t get chosen for the Ampersand project. Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed when I think back to the copy I handed in then.

LaurenLuckily for me, though, I did get a publishing contract. I actually had two publishers who I tricked into thinking that Finding Home was worth putting to print.

And, after much hard work, deliberation and excitement, Finding Home is on sale now, for young adults, through Escape Publishing, a Harlequin Australia imprint.

And do I read chick lit anymore? Hell to the no.

For a chance to win one of two $5 Amazon cards, one $10 Amazon card or a copy of Finding Home, click HERE!

Lauren McKellar is a writer and reader of Young and New Adult books. Her debut novel. Finding Home, is out now, and can be bought from all your usual eBook sites (links available here). She also works as a freelance editor for novels for all age groups and you can chat to her on Twitter or Facebook any time you like!


Re-imagining A Myth: ‘Endre’ Blog Tour

I don’t know if you guys will recall my posts from back in July as part of Team Ull. I even wrote limericks. Four of them. Well, Ull is the tres sexy main man in The Elsker Saga by ST Bende, and — in case you also missed yesterday’s post — the second book in the series, Endre, came out yesterday. I’m very pleased to have ST herself here to talk to you about re-imagining a myth.

Hei hei. I’m ST Bende and I write about Norse gods with a good clean dose of romance on the side. I love spending time with my imaginary friends in Asgard (and I really love spending time in their secret lair in the Cotswolds, England!). And I love learning about the world they come from. Researching Norse mythology was one of my favorite parts of writing the books of The Elsker Saga, but it was also one of the most difficult. Because when you have an endless supply of amazing stories you could re-imagine, how do you possibly choose between them?

I strongly considered re-imagining the incredibly silly story about everyone’s favorite Norse God, the God of Thunder himself. When Thor’s beloved hammer, Mjolnir, was kidnapped by an evil jotun (who naturally would only return the hammer in exchange for an Asgardian bride), Thor dressed in drag and traipsed off to Jotunheim in full bridal regalia. He returned, Mjolnir in hand and a trail of dead jotuns in his wake.

I also thought about sharing the story of Loki, Odin’s blood-brother, who seriously ticked off the God of Thunder when he cut off Sif’s gorgeous hair.  In order to avoid death-by-Thor, Loki had to convince the dwarves to weave Sif some new hair made of actual gold. This eventually led to the creation of the mighty Mjolnir.  (It always comes back to that hammer with those gods.)

In the end, I chose to tell the story of the relatively unknown God of Winter, Ull. He was the son of the Goddess of Beauty (Sif) and the stepson of the God of Thunder (Thor). He was once worshipped pretty widely across Scandinavia, but there aren’t many stories out there about him. He made the perfect blank page — I got to create the god of my dreams, and make him the perfect match in every way for my human heroine, Kristia.  And then I got to give them the perfect Asgardian wedding. (I nearly lost myself in Pinterest for a few weeks. Best. Research. Ever!)

I set Ull and Kristia’s love story against the heartbreaking tale of Ragnarok. The fall of Asgard and Midgard (Earth) was fated long ago, a necessary evil for the redemption of humankind.  But my version of Ragnarok has more than a few surprises, courtesy of the newest Asgardian. After all, sometimes finding your destiny means doing the exact opposite of what the Fates have in store. Don’t you think?

Now tell me in the comments — if you could re-imagine any myth or fairytale, which would it be? And why?

The gorgeous ST Bende

The gorgeous ST Bende

Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, ST Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of McVities cookies. Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired the books of The Elsker Saga (TUR, ELSKER and ENDRE). She is an audio co-host of #NALitChat, and helps compile indie new releases for the USA Today HEA blog. She hopes her characters make you smile and that one day, pastries will be considered a health food.

Find ST on Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest, her blog, or send her an e-mail at stbende(at)gmail(dot)com. While you’re at it, introduce yourself to @UllMyhr on Twitter — when he’s not saving the cosmos from dark elves, he loves meeting new friends. Especially the human kind.

Endre is availalbe from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Giveaway:

CLICK HERE TO WIN STUFF!


Why I have an agent

Today’s guest post is by Amy Reichert. I’ve had a few posts on indie publishing and small presses, so I’m really happy that she and Emery (see previous post) have provided us with the other side of the coin. I’m all about “fair and balanced”. 😉 

When Cassandra asked me to blog (and a huge thank you for that), she suggested I write about why I chose to go the agented route—I’m represented by the talented Rachel Ekstrom of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. My initial response was, “Why wouldn’t you?” But with the rise of small publishing houses and self-publishing, many do feel finding an agent isn’t worth the hassle. The queries, the rejections, dear God, the waiting. It can crush your writerly dreams like Snuffaluffagus on a grape. So, dear reader, your path to publishing is your own, but here are few reasons why I wanted an agent.

  1. Reassurance. You know that kid in school who always wanted the teacher’s approval. Or your co-worker that needs the pat on the head from the boss to feel good about his work? That’s me. I want someone in the publishing industry to read my book and say, “I read a lot of books and this is so good I will convince people to buy it and print it.” I don’t have the confidence or the balls to do that myself. I need the approval.
  2. Guaranteed Critique Partner. Critique partners are essential to making a manuscript better. If you don’t have some, get them. However, until you establish a solid circle of beta readers, it’s hard to tell if you’re getting the honesty you need. Many people aren’t comfortable telling you your writing sucks. Since my agent has a vested interest in my book being its best, I know she’ll give me high quality, blunt if necessary, feedback.
  3. Options. With an agent, I have all the options. I’m not limited to small presses or self-publishing. I could get a book deal with a big house, or medium, or still end up self-publishing (though that isn’t my preference—see the following reason). Together, my agent and I will discuss what is best for my book and my writing career, then work as a team to make that happen.
  4. Publisher. While having an agent leaves me with all the options, I really do want a publisher for my book. One that comes with an editor, a beautiful-cover designer, and people who know about paper, ink, and fonts. And maybe a little marketing on the side would be nice. I don’t want to do it all. I want to focus on writing and interacting with readers. Working with a publishing house gives me a team of experts who are there to help my book into the world. I’m willing to give up some creative control to have all that publishing knowledge.
  5. Negotiation. Unless I’m at a street market in Mexico (in which case I’m a badass negotiator), I suck at negotiating things. I don’t even like calling the cable company and asking for a refund when service goes out. My agent knows the industry and what would be a fair offer, what rights to give up, which rights to keep. She knows everything is open for negotiation. She will also play bad cop if I’m not happy with my publisher. This is good because I also don’t like conflict. I’m a midwesterner, I like to be agreeable and feed people.
  6. Knowledge. Legal contracts are complicated, nuanced beasts that even regular lawyers don’t understand completely, but agents eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As boring as they are, it’s what makes the publishing world clunk along. I want someone who will have my back and make sure I don’t give away my left kidney in exchange for an ebook deal.
  7. Money. I like money and I’d like more of it so I can take fun trips with my kids and maybe pay for their books when they finally go to college. Yes, every dollar I make will have a slice removed for my agent, but I’m more than OK with that. I feel that with her support in selling my book and future books, her knowledge of the industry, her negotiations skills, etc… I’ll make more money in the long run than if I went it alone. Maybe even enough for a fancy treadmill desk.

Have any questions for me? Ask in the comments, I love to share my wisdom. If I don’t know, I’ll just make up an answer.

Amy Reichert is a first-time novelist, mother of two (three if you count the dog—and you should), beloved wife, spectacular procrastinator, die-hard Harry Potter fan, and amateur baker. She earned her MA in English Literature and worked for several years as a technical writer. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s taking the children somewhere, drinking hard cider, or collecting more cookbooks than she could possibly use. Amy is represented by Rachel Ekstrom of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

You can find Amy at Twitter or her blog.

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What I wish I knew before my book deal

Today’s guest post is by Emery Lord, whose first contemporary YA novel is out with Walker/Bloomsbury next April. I’ve had a few posts on indie publishing and small presses, so I’m really happy that she and Amy (whose post will go live on Sunday) have provided us with the other side of the coin.

Hi y’all, I’m Emery! Cass was kind enough to invite me to talk about what I wish I knew before my book deal.

My biggest Wish-I-Knew? That the querying process was giving me tools I needed for the rest of my publication path.

(Just for clarification, I’m going to be talking about the way I pursued [traditional] publication: wrote a book, revised it a lot, queried agents, signed with one, revised some more, went on submission to houses, sold. Also, add in some rejection, angst and brownie-gobbling during and between every step. 😉 )

I guess I thought of querying as a wall—a tall gatekeeper set up on the road to publication. For some people, it’s a glass wall, easily demolished with a few thrown query-rocks. For others, it’s a brick wall that is chipped away at over years. It can be laborious and time-consuming and sometimes disheartening. I think it’s easy to wish that an agent would magically pick you from on high, before you even struggle through the querying.

But the querying process isn’t just a way to get an agent. It’s a way to get vital practice for what’s waiting down the publication road. If I’d known that at the time, I think querying might have felt a bit easier to handle!

Pitching

When querying, you write up a few-paragraph pitch, maybe a synopsis, and possibly a one-line “elevator pitch.”  Learning how to describe your story with brief but distinct details is vital once you sell a book. Plus, your agent may actually pull from your query text to create the submission pitch! So, all that time laboring over my query and synopsis? I now see it as a training ground for a skill I needed to start learning.

Waiting/Radio Silence

It’s so hard. But waiting is a reality of every step of traditional publishing. It’s good to learn your coping mechanisms sooner. (Mine: whipped cream straight from the can, shoe shopping, and diving into a new project.)

Rejection

It happens with editors much the same way it happens with agents: inevitably–some quickly, some slowly. You might get feedback; you might get a generic ‘not for me’.

These are hard messages to receive, but I’m glad I’ve gotten a taste of that. Because writing is so personal … but publishing makes it public consumption. There will always be rejection or disinterest from someone, and that’s okay. It’s still worth it. (Can you tell I’m trying to emotionally prepare myself for the 1-star Goodreads reviews…? 😉 )

Feedback

Sometimes you get feedback from agents you queried; sometimes you don’t. Same goes for editorial submissions. I learned not to judge that feedback from my first week’s reaction to it. Sometimes it rang true once the sting wore off. Some agents (and likewise some editors) will give you an R&R (revise and resubmit). Even if they don’t ultimately sign you, they’ve given you experience in revising with/for someone, which is a huge part of the post-book-deal process!

So, there you have it: the fruitful moments I wish I’d recognized when I was in the querying trenches! Happy writing to all of you, and thanks to Cass for having me!

Emery Lord is a 20-something American girl who writes stories about high school and best friends and weird families and the crushes that make you feel combustibly alive and also more awkward than you thought was possible. If you’re not sure how to pronounce Emery, try slurring the name “Emily,” and that will get you really close. Her first book, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, will be out in Spring 2014 with Walker/Bloomsbury.

Emery Lord


Why editing is like streaking

I’ve seen a lot of writing metaphors in my time. But this one is totally new to me. I hope you enjoy this guest post by Lauren McKellar!

If you’re a sports fan you’ve no doubt seen a man naked before. Of course, I’m not referring to the locker room or some more extreme version of sumo wrestling, but more to the one sport that seems to get everybody talking: streaking.

Recently, us Aussies watched a rugby league game where two of our fine states went head-to-head in a battle to win the shield. Or it could have been a plate. Maybe even a trophy. Have I mentioned I’m an editor, not a sports journalist?

So, they battled it out to win. It was the series decider and the question on everyone’s lips was: Will Queensland take it out for the eighth year in a row?

Yet the day after the match the winning state wasn’t the most reported on topic of conversation; instead, it was the guy who streaked.

Which got me to thinking (and I should warn you, this is a stretch): editing is like streaking. Do it well, and you notice it. Fail to have it, and you’re left with a lack of exposure and no chance of going viral.

That’s not where my loose connection ends. When preparing your book for an editor, there are a few leaves you can take out of the streaker’s book to enable your expert to focus on the bigger elements at play. These tips include:

Shedding those outer layers, baby. If there’s one thing a streaker does well, it’s delete excess items of clothing. You need to ask yourself if, as a writer, you have any.

Is every paragraph, every scene, every chapter moving your story forward? Are you telling us some new information we need to know with every sentence you craft?

Because if not, it’s time to make like a streaker and delete, delete, delete! Your editor will thank you for it.

Break the rules. Yes, there are rules of grammar and no, you don’t want to look like an idiot and use ‘there’ when ‘their’ would have been a better choice. Still, there are times in writing when you’re allowed to break the rules.

Technically, you’re not supposed to start a sentence with the word ‘and’,

And I guess you’ve never done that, right?

If there were a naked man at every game we’d quickly get bored and lose attention. But a well-timed streaker can take a rugby match from dull to damned interesting in a heartbeat!

Sometimes, being a literary badass can give your writing character and help get your point across. Go against the grammar grain and run naked across that football field; you deserve it.

Eliminate the backstory. One of the most common editing issues I come across is excessive chunks of backstory just vomited throughout a manuscript.

I have to confess; I am guilty of committing this crime in my own work. I’ll be all ‘What? No! Never!’ and then look at the highlighted paragraph in question: a quick little explanation on my childhood best friend, my family dynamics throughout history and a short snippet on how I used to be a nerd but now I’m a crime-fighting superhero, and realise I’m guilty as the next person.

Search your manuscript for backstory and include it naturally through relevant dialogue, pertinent flash backs or a subtle sentence here and there. Remember, as readers, we’d like to think we’re pretty smart. We get it, already.

And how is this like streaking? Well, just like you don’t want to have too much backstory on the record in your manuscript, a streaker doesn’t want to have too much of a streaking history on his criminal record. After all, get caught streaking once, face a hefty fine. Get caught for streaking twice…now you’re a crazy man who thinks he’s the emperor wearing a new suit.

Lauren McKellar is a freelance editor currently taking on new clients for late August and beyond. With over six years publishing experience, she is currently a Senior Editor for digital romance house Entranced Publishing. For more information on her services, visit her website here.

Lauren


Why self-publish? And ‘The Last Knight’

A little while ago I posted my four reasons why I chose not to self-publish. I made the point, though, that I don’t jude self-publishing or those that do it, just that it wasn’t the right decision for me at the time. So, in the interests of balance, my guest post today is by Nicola S. Dorrington, about why she chose to self-publish her debut novel, THE LAST KNIGHT.

Nicola S. Dorrington

Nicola S. Dorrington

I never planned on self-publishing. Like most writers I dreamed of the ideal. Securing an incredible agent, then getting a fantastic book deal with one of the big publishers. After that is was all fame and fortune and ‘the next J.K Rowling’.

Funny how dreams don’t work out the way you expect them to.

When I tell people I’m self-publishing the first question I get asked is why.

The fact is, my reasons for self-publishing are mine alone. It’s not the right path for everyone, but it is the right path for me.

Let me break my reasons down for you.

The first reason is that the publishing industry is first and foremost a money-making business. I get that and I respect it. But it does mean that publishers are not risk-takers. I don’t blame them. Why risk large sums of money on an untried and untested new author – or a new idea?

The problem with that is that the market is sadly dominated by a lot of similar books – I could count on one hand the number of YA books I’ve read recently that have broken out of the mould.

And The Last Knight doesn’t really fit that mold. So I’m taking the risk that publishers won’t take. The joy of self-publishing my ebooks is that the risk is only to my reputation – not to my pocket.

Which brings me to my second reason. I’m not in this for the money. I’m not going to make my millions self-publishing. And I’m OK with that. For me it’s all about just getting my book out there. If I sell ten copies or I sell ten thousand – I don’t mind. If just one person reads and enjoys The Last Knight I’m happy.

And then we come to my third reason – control. Maybe I am a little bit of a control freak but the best part of self-publishing is that I have final say – on everything.

The cover is my choice. The book blurb says what I want it to say. I decide the price I sell it for and how I market it. And I decide what content stays and what goes.

Admittedly it means I am missing out on a professional editor (and don’t get me wrong, there have been times – about the 30th edit when I was still finding typos – when I regretted that), but it also means that I don’t have someone trying to change my idea of what the story should be. I am almost certain that had this book gone through an editor at a publishing house they would have wanted more romance. I don’t. I like it the way it is.

This book is my baby, my creation – and succeed or fail it will be down to me.

So those are my reasons. That sometimes it’s worth taking a risk, that it’s about the readers not the money, and that ultimately it’s my book, and my vision.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments when I wonder if I’ve made the right choice: when I look at the stigma still attached to self-publishing, or when I wonder if the book could have been improved by a professional eye. But at the end of the day I’ve taken my future, and my career, into my own hands. Succeed or fail, no one can say I didn’t try.

About The Last Knight

Stonehenge rune small center v2 final size 1767x2500Seventeen-year-old Cara Page Knows what mark she’s going to get on her English test next week. She knows in three days her history teacher is going to be late because his car broke down. She knows she’s going to give the new boy a nose bleed on his first day.

She knows because every night she dreams of the future, and every day those dreams come true.

Now she’s dreaming of a boy, and a future that can’t be real. Because if it is, then everything she thought was myth and legend is actually true, and there is an evil coming that will tear the country apart.

Lance Filwer is a boy with secrets of his own, and a past full of mistakes he can’t undo. Cara is his second chance, his chance to succeed where he failed before – if only she’ll trust him enough to let him help her.

Cara needs to know what’s happening, but the answer lies in a long-forgotten past, and an ancient legend. To find it Cara will have to travel into the depths of Wales, and the heart of ancient Britain.

With Wraiths, creatures from the darkest of myths, dogging her every move, Cara knows it’s only a matter of time before they catch up with her. And, myth or not, they will kill her.

Her only hope is Lance, and the birthright she must claim, if she is to prevent the future she has foreseen.

You can buy The Last Knight on Amazon, or add it to your to-be-read shelf on Goodreads.


Finding inspiration, and ‘In Stone’

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Today’s post is by one of my mates from Twitter, the gorgeous Louise D. Gornall. Her debut novel, IN STONE, was released on Monday, so the first thing I wanted to say was HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!

Massive thanks for having me on your blog today, Cass!

So, I’m here to tell you guys the inspiration behind In Stone. Of course there was music, various breath-taking landscapes and thousands of hours spent searching through pictures on Pinterest. Then there were the emails between me and my CP, as well as the countless 4am brainstorming session with my twin sister. All of these things were inspirational, and the book would have undoubtedly sunk without them. However, if I HAD to single out three things that were inspirational in the pre-writing stages of In Stone, they would be:

In Stone_cover1. This quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

2. Then there was a conversation I saw between two agents on Twitter that amounted to ‘stakes in a story are significantly lowered when immortals are involved because immortals, after all, can’t die.’

3. And then there was the plot of The Lord of the Rings.

I’m not going to go into too much detail because I will undoubtedly—however inadvertently—end up giving away the plot of In Stone. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that. I just wanted to tell you a little bit about how these things wormed their way into my imagination and helped me cook up a story.

So, I think the first point is pretty standard. Who doesn’t find inspiration in a good quote? This one spoke volumes to me. I’ve read a couple of academic articles that all ponder its meaning, but I took it at face value when I applied it to my plot. To me this quote says that if you’re going to hang around with bad guys, eventually some of that badness is going to rub off on you…

The second point was something I’d been thinking long and hard about for a while. I knew I wanted my MC to be an immortal, but I didn’t want my stakes to be significantly lower because of it. This conversation really got me thinking about how I could avoid compromising my stakes, and that in turn helped me to develop a huge element in my plot.

Finally, The Lord of the Rings is my favourite film of all time. I love everything about it. I would have loved to have had the balls to attempt a retelling of Tolkien’s epic tale…but I don’t. So instead I borrowed some aspects of LOTR. Location, for example. One of my favourite things about LOTR is that it is as much a physical journey as it is a mental one. Plus, you know, I’m a writer. I like to add to my characters hell whenever I can, and dumping them in unfamiliar landscapes while they had this epic task to undertake was just too perfect. And then of course, there was the idea that this one tiny thing (a ring) could cause so much trouble and make even the most loyal of people turn rogue.

…and I’m going to stop now because my spoiler senses are tingling.  I’m a bit of a sponge when it comes to inspiration. I find a little bit of something in everything, but these three things were definitely responsible for shaping In Stone.

BOOK BLURB

Beau Bailey is suffering from a post-break-up meltdown when she happens across a knife in her local park and takes it home. Less than a week later, the new boy in school has her trapped in an alley; he’s sprouted horns and is going to kill Beau unless she hands over the knife.

Until Eighteenth-century gargoyle, Jack, shows up to save her.

Jack has woken from a century-long slumber to tell Beau that she’s unwittingly been drafted into a power struggle between two immortal races: Demons and Gargoyles. The knife is the only one in existence capable of killing immortals and they’ll tear the world apart to get it back. To draw the warring immortals away from her home, Beau goes with Jack in search of the mind-bending realm known as the Underworld, a place where they’ll hopefully be able to destroy the knife and prevent all hell from breaking loose. That is, provided they can outrun the demons chasing them

In Stone is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. You can also add it to your Goodreads list here.

EXCERPT

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Louise. I told you she was gorgeous.

As a general rule, nobody walks the Switch on account of the overgrown nettle bushes, a pungent aroma of foot infection, and a collective fear of encountering something feral. However, the Switch shaves at least ten minutes off my journey, and lately I don’t trust the dark. I blame my encounter with the almost-corpse, two nights ago. Before then the dark was just a natural progression: something to be slept in, a different color in the sky. Now, shadows make me jump, and the dark carries a silence that makes me think of funerals. It breathes life into creatures that had always been safely contained behind a TV screen. I make my way down the Switch, striding over vicious flora and trying to ignore the occasional nip that sinks straight through my jeans.

“Hey, Beau!” A voice from behind startles me. When I turn, Gray is jogging in my direction, thwarting thorn bushes with his bare hands. “I was looking for you.”

The hairs on the back of my neck bristle. My hand is in my pocket, and my fingers are wrapped around a slender cylinder of pepper spray as he reaches me.

“Well you found me. What’s up?”

“There’s something I need to ask you,” he says sheepishly. He hammers his toe against the ground, grinding it nervously into the dirt and crushing several stems of dandelion into gold dust. He giggles; it’s a soft, sweet sound that suffocates my hostility. He reminds me of Mark moments before he’d asked me out on our first date. Maybe this guy could be the one to liberate me from my social network sabbatical. Maybe my slightly-too-heavy eyeliner and my reputation as the mortician’s daughter hasn’t freaked him out.

“Really?” Surprise raises my pitch. “What’s that?” The pepper spray is abandoned in my pocket.

“Where’s the knife?” he replies, snatching my throat and slamming my back up against the concrete wall. It’s so forceful, so hard, that my spine ripples. Red flashes across my vision. The muscles in my neck go slack, and my head flops forward. He stabs his thumb up under my chin, forcing me to look him in the eye. His eyes are like the moon; cold, giant circles of icy-silver. But a change in his eye color is nothing in comparison to the change happening on either side of his head. I don’t understand it. It makes me wonder, briefly, if what I’m seeing is a side effect of the migraine pills Leah slipped me at lunch. Gray is growing horns. Giant grey horns that slide out of the side of his skull and then curl like springs around his ears. They’re animal.