Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NaNoWriMo - Come and join me!


No surprises what I'm blogging about this month; that’s National Novel Writing Month to those unacquainted. Quite simply, the idea is to write a novel in the month of November. You join up via the website, set up a little profile, make some buddies if you like, and then write. Every day, or whenever you manage to get your fingers to the keyboard, you copy and paste the text into the verification box in your profile and the website tots up the word count. Then it makes these lovely colourful little graphs and tables and everything; plotting your progress, telling you which days were your most productive and so on.

It’s known as a global writing ‘contest’, but it isn’t. Not really. The only contest taking place is, writer vs a blank page; but in a light, fun and new approach to creative writing. The aim is to write 50k words or more and a lot of people taking part succeed. But at the same time, a lot don’t. No-one ‘wins’ and no-one ‘loses’. Simple as that.

Throughout the month, you receive encouraging emails and pep talks. The organisers cheer you on, they root for you. They want you to win. And if they can help you beat up the word demons that picnic in the middle of your path, they will.

Along with over 700,000 writers, I took part last year, my first time, and loved it. I was a quiet contestant, I buddied with only a handful of participants and approached the entire experience as exactly this, an experience. I’m the kind of writer who walks away, abandons the keyboard when the ideas won’t flow. I refuse to let myself get stressed. So Nano, for me, was a chance to see if I could force through writer’s block and smash through the odd plot barrier.

And after one month of some serious hard graft, I learnt that I could. OK, the manuscript was pretty shabby by the end of November, and there were quite a few ‘XXXX’ and ‘blah blah blah’ and ‘fill this in later’, plus my characters seemed to like shaking their heads and nodding, but my story was complete. 35k words on the page, smiling back at me. A novel, with a beginning, a middle and an end. How cool is that?

On top of this, all my Nano buddies succeeded, too. One didn’t finish her manuscript but she made some great progress. One took part to help her finish a WIP and managed it. And one wrote approximately 90k words! Different outcomes yet, at the same time, just one. Each one of us triumphed.

There’s more information on the website www.nanowrimo.org, including snazzy merchandise to purchase, and you should definitely follow them on Twitter @NaNoWriMo for up-to-date information and a chance to interact with fellow contestants via the hashtag.

My writing approach has now changed thanks to Nano. I’m delighted I took part and I plan to again this year. Other commitments might stand in my way of actually completing this next book, (although, in truth, it's more of a rewrite) but I’m not bothered. If I make it to the halfway point, or finish with plenty of holes in the manuscript, either way, progress will be made, and that’s all that counts.

If you’re not sure about whether to take part, then I nudge you to give it a go. You might decide after a week that you don’t want to continue, so don’t. But you never know. Next year, that book you write might be published! Good luck and see you on the other side.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Are you conning?

At the moment I scurrying behind the scenes with the organising committee for the 2015 Sugar City Con. Needless to say, I am just a tad uber excited about this awesome opportunity. It debuted in 2014 and had a strong turn out of around 1200 people. Pretty awesome for a small event that had very little advertising compared to larger events.

So it got me thinking about writers and Cons. Many of writers are also self confessed geeks who love pop culture, especially if you write anything in the speculative fiction realm. I see writer friends on Twitter talking about Cons. Before Sugar Con, I'd only been to specific writing Cons, not pop culture Cons.

So - I've got some questions for you:

1) Do you go to Cons as a regular Con going, and if so, what do you get out of it?

2) Do you go to Cons as a vendor (with a stall for your books), and if so, what do you get out of it?

3) Do you go to Cons as a panelist, and if so, what do you get out of it?

4) Do you go to Cons as a guest, and if so, what do you get out of it?

5) What are your favourite Cons and why?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Going Purple for Spirit Day and Taking a Stand Against Bullying!

Today is #SpiritDay, an annual event created by Glaad to draw awareness to bullying, specifically bullying of LGBT+ youth. Given the recent anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, this day of purple-wearing solidarity against all forms of bullying seems apropos of everything.

Bullying has long been a topic in YA novels, be it the more traditional physical bullying typical amongst boys or the emotional and verbal bullying more often associated with girls. In recent times, cyber-bullying has become a thing and is in no way limited to teens. People are bullied for any number of reasons, but it usually boils down to the fact that the victim is different in some way: different race, religion, gender identity, socio-economic background, physical appearance or even for having interests that might run counter to the supposed 'norm'. Having been on the receiving end of both physical and verbal/emotional bullying during my school years, this is a topic close to my heart, one that I find difficult to read about, but extremely necessary.

There are tons of YA novels across genres with a bullying theme, but here are just a few that are on my radar:


These are just a few books, some old some new, dealing with the very real teen issue of bullying in all its various forms. While #SpiritDay is mostly about taking a stand against the bullying of LGBT+ teens, I think this is a day for everyone to stand up against all forms of bullying, regardless of who the victim is. It's also important to understand that bullies are people too, and sometimes they're the ones who are in the most pain and in the most need of help.

What are your favourite YA  bullying books?


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Eugie Foster

 Sorry for missing last month. I was sick with that bronchial mess that is going around and I still have a bit of a cough almost a month later. Original I was going to write about how you never know when you are going to touch or effect another person. Though in a way I am still going to be doing this.

We lost one of the best of us, Eugie Foster. I am still in shock over this and cannot wrap my brain around her passing. I can’t imagine not sitting on another panel with her at a convention. I can’t imagine putting together another Writers for Relief anthology without one of her stories in it.

For those of you who knew her know what I am talking about. She was not only an incredible writer but person as well. Whenever I needed anything; she was there for me. When I didn’t believe in myself or didn’t think I could have pulled of the first Writers for Relief anthology; Eugie knew I could and would. When I asked for stories for it she was the first one to send me a story. It was just there in my in box minutes after I asked for it. She then helped get authors for the 2nd and 3rd volumes of the anthology. She was such a part of it. Again I can’t imagine doing another anthology without her.

If you have never read a story by her do yourself a favor and get your hands on one of them. There is a reason why she won a Nebula and had been nominated and won other literary awards. Like I said she was the best of us.

I knew Eugie for a decade. I can’t believe it has been a decade since I started down the path of writer. I can’t remember the first convention we met at, but whenever we were at a con together we had a great time. And the two of us together at a table to could sell books like no one had ever seen.
I have so many wonderful stories to tell about Eugie. I could fill a book with them. Not a very large book, but a book. I wish it was a larger book.

When I first found out she had cancer I couldn't believe it, but I knew if anyone could beat it... It was her. When I heard she was going to go through chemo. I told her I was going to shave my head in support. She wouldn't have it and I didn't. But I have since cut my hair donating it for wigs for cancer patients.

Honestly do yourself a favor and read a story by Eugie, get to know her through her words and stories. You will understand why she will be greatly missed and see the talented author we have loss. 

The world is a little less shiny with her passing. And I am a far, far better person for knowing her. I can only hope I can be half the person she was.

From her husband, Matthew Foster: 

Eugie Foster, author, editor, wife, died on September 27th of respiratory failure at Emory University in Atlanta.

In her forty-two years, Eugie lived three lifetimes. She won the Nebula award, the highest award for science fiction literature, and had over one hundred of her stories published. She was an editor for the Georgia General Assembly. She was the director of the Daily Dragon at Dragon Con, and was a regular speaker at genre conventions. She was a model, dancer, and psychologist. She also made my life worth living.

Memorial service will be announced soon.

We do not need flowers. In lieu of flowers, please buy her books and read them. Buy them for others to read until everyone on the planet knows how amazing she was.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rejection: A Hard Look at a Tough Reality

The other day I biked to work. It was a grueling seven mile ride made even more difficult because all I have is a mountain bike and the surrounding area wouldn't be what you'd call cyclist-friendly.

On my way home I came to a mental crossroads. I was berated by the voice of some lazy, tired part of me to stop. "Enough with the biking already. These hills are killing me!"

At that point I was about four miles away from my house--less than half of the trek completed. What were my choices? Was stopping and looking like a schlub on the side of the road an option? Would I walk my bike the rest of the way and have the little free-time I get wasted because I decided to go for a slower option?

No. What I did was ignore that stupid voice and pressed on.

I knew that it would be difficult, yes, but the reward at the end was greater than the temporary relief of stopping. I knew that if I kept going, my muscles would be made stronger. My next trip would be easier because my anatomy and my spirit would have been primed for it. I knew the only way to get better was to keep going.

Now, let's talk writing.

Every author whose books fill bookstore shelves has faced, received, and been pummeled by rejection. Rejection is one of those things that is talked about in the writing community as a necessary evil and a "thems the breaks, kid" brushing off of the shoulder.

But that doesn't mean it doesn't sting. It doesn't mean that it's easy to take.

But if this gig was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Some authors are more vocal about their early struggles than others and I'm sure it's easy to forget the battle of first starting out, or we might not fully realize or appreciate that all these big wig writers have been said no to.

I can't speak for self-publishing, but let's look at the traditional route.

Some people may say, "Huzzah! I've got an agent. Life has now been made easy."

Oh, boy.

Well, congrats on getting representation, but don't forget that now that agent has to submit to editors and rejection is still a very real possibility. If this was a video game: You've finally found someone who has agreed to let you into the dungeon, but you've got a long road until the boss battle. And then you have to win.

So, you've gotten an editor who loves your manuscript. Again, hooray for you! But that editor, more than likely, has to take it to a meeting of people who make the decision of what their publishing house will be printing that year. Your work now has to impress at least a majority of those at this gathering.

You're going to be published!. Hip hop hooray. Now, I'm sure this is a wonderful feeling that no one can take away from you. But, again, rejection is a very real thing. If your book doesn't sell well enough in the eyes of the publisher, they might not take another chance on you. And then you basically have to go back to Level 1. I know that no one plans on this happening and, if you and the agent and the editor have busted tail to make the book the best it can be, it's out of your hands.

But rejection is still real.

Your book and your writing career are in the readers' hands. This is a fact that applies to both traditional and self-published endeavors.

So, Sean, what's the point? I mean, with all this rejection why should I even try?

I remember when I told a family member I wanted to become a fireman. They said pretty much the same thing. "A lot of people go out for that job. It's hard to get in."

Two months ago marked four years of me being a professional firefighter.

Just because something is hard, does it mean it's not worth the pursuit?

I believe it makes it that much more cherished and wonderful when you finally do succeed.

Rejection gives you tough skin, a badge of honor in your attempt. It weeds out those who didn't want it bad enough. It strengthens those that press on. Being told no should build up the appreciation of the inevitable yes.

And it is inevitable.

I firmly believe that those who never give up learn a vast amount more than those who never start. With that hard-earned knowledge, you become better. You find new ways of telling stories and try things that no one else can.

You become a professional.

I am not here to tell you that rejection becomes easier. It absolutely doesn't go away. What I'm saying is that, like burs on a cotton plant, like a hangover from too much fun, it goes with the territory. And those that want to live on these crazy, hard-toil plains have to learn to accept it.

- Sean


Sean's Hydra Querying Technique

Remember the tale of Hercules and the Hydra and how every time he whacked off one head, two would grow in its place? Here's a trick that can help you during the rough days logged in the query trenches.

1. Query an initial set of agents. Most people say 10.

2. If you get a rejection, query two more agents in place of that one who passed.

This promotes momentum and helps you cast a big net. Please, still do your research and make sure the intended agents rep your kind of manuscript.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Traditional vs Self Published Books

As the world of publishing grows, evolves and mutates, the net is cast ever wider on the methods of publication open to writers - self publishing, traditional, indie, hybrid. There are lots of opinions on the matter of whether this new direction of publishing is a good thing or not, and the debate has raged on many sides of the argument.

Some say that the traditional mode of publishing is stuffy and constricting, that it limits authors' productivity and creativity, and that it gives an author less control over their own work. Others argue that it upholds a certain standard, gets professional eyes on a book to make it the very best it can be, and knows how to handle the market.

Others argue that self publishing gives an author freedom and full control of their books and allows them to publish on a schedule that suits them.

Indie authors love the closeness they have with their publishing team and how connected they are at every step of the process...and some say that the lack of marketing and publisher reach can be an issue.

Yet more go for a hybrid mix of the two, taking what they need from each avenue. Still more think that becoming hybrid can lead to inconsistency within their "brand".

So, YATopians...what do you think?  Is there a perfect publishing route for a writer? Tell us here!

** Also, on the flip side - for anyone who'd like to, there is a poll over at Debate It asking whether you prefer to read books traditionally, self, hybrid, or indie published. Feel free to come over and join us.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Agentopia: Uwe Stender

Welcome to the October edition of Agentopia! For more information and to see other Agentopia posts, click here.

This month Dr. Uwe Stender from the President TriadaUS Literary Agency is in the spotlight.

Literary Agent Uwe Stender is interested in all kinds of commercial fiction, especially: Mysteries, Young Adult, Middle Grade and Women's Fiction. He is considering literary fiction, but only if it has a strong narrative. He is also interested in all kinds of non-fiction projects.

His favorite five novels right now are "Eleanor And Park," "Thirteen Reasons Why," "Code Name Verity,"High Fidelity," "The Big Sleep."

Uwe also kindly answered a few questions for our readers...

What are you looking for in YA submissions right now?
I connect with great narrative voices, so that is a must. I also love clever plots, especially when they have a component that is timeless (i.e. a heartbreaking love story like "Romeo and Juliet"), yet not overtly derivative.

What's an immediate turn-off in a query, something guaranteed to get the author rejected?
If the query just rambles and does not get to the point right away.

What's the story got to have to make you want to represent it?
If it makes me laugh or cry A LOT, and/or if I forget about anything else while reading, then it grabbed me emotionally to the point that I would move heaven and earth to represent it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Loud and Clear: Finding Your Voice: Part 1: What Is Voice

You’ve likely heard it. Agents and editors saying the number one thing they are looking for is something with voice.

You’ve probably experienced it. That feeling when you pick up a book, open to page one, and are immediately sucked into a world you don’t want to leave with characters you swear you’ve known forever.

That’s voice. Is it subjective? Maybe? Is it some elusive thing? Some talent you either have or don’t have?

I don’t think so, and I’m kicking off a five-part series to show you why. To show you that voice is simply another tool in your writer’s belt that you can pull out and slam readers over the head with (in a very good way).

For this first part, I’m going to try to define what we mean by voice.

Song Covers

Song covers are a great way to think about voice. The exact same song sung by two different artists can be radically different. Take the original “Womanizer” by Britney Spears and compare it to this version by Postmodern Jukebox. One is all pop. The other is a retro forties jazz number. The artists took the same raw elements, but the end results are vastly different. From the vocalization to the musical arrangement, they put their individual stamptheir voice—on the song.

The same is true in writing. You can give two writers the exact same characters, plot points, and setting, and you will get two entirely different stories. Because all writers come to the work with their own preferences, thoughts, and styles.

Voice is the way you tell a story that no one else can tell in the exact same way.

Is Voice the Same as Tone?
Short answer: Not exactly.
You can consider tone a subset of voice. If voice is the personality of a story, then tone is the mood. A writer may describe their voice as funny, but the mood of their individual piece might be dark or biting or silly or sarcastic.
What About Style? Is Voice the Same as Style?
Though voice and style are likely used interchangeably, I think of voice as encompassing more than just your writing style. It’s not just your unique way of putting words together. Voice is bigger than that; voice is your unique way of looking at the world. It’s your perspective, your outlook. It influences your style, but voice represents more than just the words on the page.
Every time you type a word or a line of dialogue, you are making a voice decision. The trick is finding your own distinct voice and letting it shine.
So How Do I Find My Writing Voice?
By reading this series on voice, for starters!
Over the next four posts, I’ll cover first the technical elements of voice you need to be aware of and then offer some specific tips and exercises you can do to find your own voice.
All writing is craft, and voice is no different. Once you know what goes into creating voice, you can begin working on honing your own. But first, you need to trust that your voice is just as good as anyone else’s. That your voice matters. That your voice is worth sharing.
It’s safe to emulate another author’s style. But you can’t build or sustain an enjoyable career by writing like someone else. You have to be true to your unique sensibility and trust that your distinct voice and way of looking at the world is “right” because it’s yours.
As a writer, it’s exhausting to write like someone else—to write like someone you’re not. Once you let yourself fill your pages, the readers will come.

This series on voice is the first step in understanding and crafting your writing voice.

Whose voices do you love? Share your favorite authors and why you love their writing voice!

Lori Goldstein is the author of Becoming Jinn (now available for preorder; Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan, May 12, 2015, sequel, Spring 2016). With a degree in journalism and more than 10 years of experience, Lori is a freelance copyeditor and manuscript consultant for all genres. She focuses on the nitty-gritty, letting writers focus on the writing.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Scream! for the Cure

The lovely Cate Peace is hosting an auction (with lots of great swag, books, etc from some fanTABulous authors!) called SCREAM FOR THE CURE. The auction starts in THREE DAYS and the proceeds benefit cancer research, so check out the deets below and click the links to learn more. :)

What it is:
The first-ever Scream! For the Cure is a multi-genre, multi-author online auction to benefit Stand Up 2 Cancer, hosted on the official Scream! For the Cure blog.
Beginning October 5th readers will have an opportunity to bid for baskets. The categories are Erotic Romance, Urban Fantasy, YA & Adult paranormal romance, and Horror/Suspense. We’ll be showcasing the baskets the week they go up for auction—detailing what’s in each basket and the contributing authors—with the auctions taking place on that Friday. In-between, we’ll also have guest posts on the blog from different authors and bloggers talking about their personal struggles with cancer, some who’ve battled the disease themselves, and some who have witnessed the ongoing struggle through someone else. It’ll also be a forum for people to talk about their experiences and maybe share some uplifting stories as well. Check out the official Scream ! For the Cure blog for more details!

Who it helps:
 Stand Up 2 Cancer is one of leaders in supporting cancer research, and 100% of donations goes directly to research to end this horrible disease.

Auction Dates:
October 10
October 17
October 24
October 31

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ten Ways to Grab Writing Inspiration

Unless you just started writing five minutes ago, you know what it’s like to lose inspiration. There are tons of reasons this can happen. Good news, though! There are tons of ways to get that inspiration back.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not controlled by inspiration. Sure, feelings of inspiration come and go, and we don’t have control over that. But those are just feelings. The secret sauce is that you control inspiration. It’s in your fingertips when you type without abandon. It’s in your heart and your passions and dreams. It’s in that awkward high school memory. Open your eyes and watch the world around you. What do you have to say about it all?

But sometimes it’s a little harder than that to get myself going, so I have a whole arsenal of ways I reach out and grab inspiration.

1. Remember what made you fall in love with your idea in the first place. Take that idea out for dinner. Whisper sweet nothings to it. Light some candles. And then maybe stop there so it doesn't get weird...

2. Keep an updated Brag Book. This book is a place for boastful words about YOU. Yeah, okay, you’re humble and your favorite food is humble pie. No one will see it but you! And if you want, you can put a disclaimer that says, “I promise I’m not as full of myself as I seem.”

Every writer has highs and lows. The lows make us want to give up some days. You’re not a perfect writer? So what! Raise of hands, who is? JK Rowling, we see you. You can put your hand down now. When you feel like you suck, open your Brag Book and BAM. Proof you don’t.

3. Read about writing. Oh, look, you’re doing it now! It never fails that when I read tips from other writers, it gets me fired up. It’s just something about learning (or being reminded of what we already know) that lights the fire of a book nerd. Yay, learning!

4. Set measurable and attainable goals, both big and small. When I meet small goals, it fuels me and takes me one step closer to meeting the bigger goals.

An example of a goal that won’t fuel you: “I want to get super rich from my multi-book deal!”

Why is that no good? Because there’s no check box next to “super rich”. Who says what “super rich is”? JK Rowling, put your hand down.

A better example: “I will work on this book until I land an agent or until I reach 300 rejections.”

That’s better because you either will land an agent or you will get that three hundredth rejection letter, and you’ll know you accomplished what you set out to do.

5. Share your work. You can do this all sorts of ways! Beta readers, critique partners, public readings, querying, etc. Feedback and rejections ignite my passion for my work like nothing else. When I know what I need to work on, I have something to work on. Sounds simple. But if you never share, you might reach that point where you think your work is perfect, and you become stagnant. No matter where you are, please don’t become stagnant.

PS. Sharing is scary. Waiting is nerve-wracking. And feedback won't always be sunshine and roses.

6. People-watch. Go outside and sit on a bench. Or set up in a coffee shop and pretend you’re not eavesdropping. Listen to what people talk about. Watch the way they interact. What do they wear? Why do you think that is? Imagine their background. Play with thoughts of their future. People are interesting.

7. Read. Appreciate other authors’ hard work and send an email or tweet telling them so! Who knows? Someday someone could do that for you and make your day.

8. Read some more. There are two types of books. Books by authors more talented than you (JK Rowling, sit down), and books by authors you feel share about the same level of talent as you. The more talented will inspire you to dig deeper into the craft. Authors as talented as you will inspire you because they are proof you can make it–they are hope for us embodied.

9. Dream big. Dream bigger than is realistic. What would you do if you became a published author? Could you finally quit that day job you hate? Could you buy your dream home or travel the world? Could you touch just one heart, and know all your hard work was worth it?

10. Take a break to live. Take a break to dance and eat good food and talk to your family. Take a break to write something new. Take a break to write something bad. Take a long break from your work so you can go back to it with fresh eyes. If you never do this, you'll write yourself dry.

I don’t think any of these are new ideas. This also isn't a complete list. These are just the things that help inspire me, and I hope will inspire you, too. Go out and grab that inspiration and suck it dry for all it’s worth. But first! Tell us what inspires you.

Tons of high fives,