Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm Back From LA and Depressed About It Giveaway

So I just got back from a weekend trip to L.A. for book research. It was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I just can't do the promised blog post about the trip. It's just too depressing to reminisce about all that fun.


But there's good news here, folks. A giveaway! 

Just how are these two things related, you ask? Well, Kendare Blake makes me happy, as do giveaways, therefore I've concluded that a giveaway of Girl of Nightmares, the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, will probably restore me to my former cheery, exclamation-mark-abusing self. I'm giving away two copies for good measure. Two winners=better than one, right?

So, how do you enter? 

Simple!  (see, it's working already)

Rule #1- You must be a follower of my blog.

Rule #2- Following my blog? Great. Now type your email address into the comments section to count as one entry. It's as easy as that, folks. But if you'd like to earn additional entries (up to five), you can do one of the following things:

-Follow me on Twitter, and type your Twitter handle into the comment box.
-Tweet about this giveaway, and copy a link of your tweet into the comment box
-'Like' my Facebook page, and type your Facebook name into the comment box
-Add my debut, The Witch Hunter's Bible, to your Goodreads to-read list

If you already do all these wonderful things, that's great! Just let me know in the comment box so you get your extra entry in. 

Contest is open worldwide.

Giveaway ends on Thursday September 6th, 2012 at 8 p.m. EST. The winner will be chosen by Randomizer.

Fun times!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Overused words and fun times ahead

I recently started revisions for The Witch Hunter's Bible after having not read the book in quite some time. This break allowed me some much-needed perspective, and with this perspective came the realization that I'd really abused the crap out a few words. Take snort, for example. 33 snorts in my book. And huff. Over 40 instances of angry/annoyed huffing in a 300ish page book. Which is weird, because I didn't even realize I was doing it. Also, I don't particularly like either word. But I'm happy to report that there are now fewer than a handful of huffs and snorts in The Witch Hunter's Bible. The book is better for it.

Fellow authors, do you have any clutch words/phrases that you tend to abuse?

On a related note, I'm off to L.A at this very moment for book research! Also, to initiate Plan Locate and Stalk Ian Somerhalder. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bad Writing Advice

A few weeks ago (I'm behind on the times! I blame the revisions cave), author Colson Whitehead wrote a hilarious article over at a little magazine called The New York Times on the subject of writing advice. If you haven't already read it, you should do that now.

Done? Great.

So Colson's advice is obviously sarcastic. But as I read (and laughed!) at this article, I got to thinking about some of the bad writing advice I've been the recipient of in the past, which sadly wasn't sarcastic:

-This sounds too conversational. Avoid narrating like how a teenager actually speaks and save that for the dialogue (This in reference to The Witch Hunter's Bible).

-Agents don't like first person present tense. It's the mark of an amateur (Also in reference to The Witch Hunter's Bible).

-Readers don't like scene-jumping. They find it jarring. Try to think of something interesting to say about everything the character does throughout the day. (This was advice Ruth Lauren Steven once got because she hadn't described the character's shower or something else really boring. Seriously.)

Okay, so these are some prettty extreme, stand-out examples. I've received plenty more advice through the years that was only moderately dubious, along with way more that was fantastic and completely invaluable. I suspect, though, that for some newer authors it might be pretty hard to distinguish the good advice from the bad.

So now we've come to the portion of the evening where I share my thoughts on writing advice.

Writers are like parents, in that anyone with a lick of experience thinks they're an expert (Okay, so maybe that's a gross generality, but whatever. It's my blog :D). Someone will always be there ready to tell you what you're doing wrong and how you can do it better. Perfect strangers feel compelled to offer you advice. Often times this advice is conflicting with what others have already told you. Sometimes this advice is good, and sometimes a mom tells you to wake your seven-month-old baby up at least twice in the night until they're a year old or else they'll become dehydrated and fail to thrive.

So where am I going with this, you ask? Should you ignore all the advice and just flounder about until you maybe or maybe not get it right? (whatever that is).

No, definitely not. Like with a new, inexperienced parent, advice can be very helpful and welcome at a time when it seems there's just so much to learn and everything is very daunting. It's simply a matter of taking it all in and, as you learn and grow, choosing what works best for you. No one knows your baby (book or otherwise!) better than you do.

Aside from that, be cautious of 'You must do this or else' types of advice. Writing isn't black and white; anything can be done if executed well, and what works for one person might not work for another. Good writing advice takes gray areas into consideration.

And lastly, if you're the recipient of bad writing advice through a critique, please remember that that person still took their precious time to read your work and give you their thoughts. That alone is worth a big thank you.

(Fun fact: my son's hydration status is just great, thanks for asking :) )

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wherein my blogging frequency is sketchtastic

I apologize for the infrequency of new posts as of late. I’m stuck in the revisions cave and I’m not coming out for a few days yet. Sketchiness to clear up soon. 

Stay tuned, my lovelies! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Almost as fun as when someone recounts their dream to you

So my sister Brandy got together with our childhood best friend Chantale and my most loyal blog follower Paulina last weekend (Boo to work, because I couldn’t join L ).

Chantale reminded my sister about a most hilarious childhood memory, which I will now recount to you all.

When we were eleven and the movie The Craft came out, we became obsessed with witchcraft. We started our own ‘coven’. It was called The Hallow Hunters. Each of us represented a corner of the circle—North, South, East, and West. I took out books from the library on witchcraft. We ‘levitated’ each other in my bedroom. There were shouts of ‘I think I saw her move!!!’


Chantale pointed out that it was hilarious that I went and wrote a book about witches, since I’ve always been interested in them—extra hilarious/weird/mind-blowing because I completely forgot that I was ever so interested in them!

This memory is the best thing ever. It somehow makes me love The Witch Hunter's Bible even more. (If you haven't already added it to your Goodreads to-read list, you should do that now! Pwetty pwease?)

So there you have it, people. I bet you all can sleep sounder knowing this about me. *off to rent The Craft* 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In which I drone on about book titles

So you may or may not have heard me whining about my book title recently. In case you’ve somehow missed it, I’ll fill you in: The Witch Hunter’s Bible, my 2014 debut from Random House (you know I just had to do that), is changing titles.

I thought I completely loved my title and would hate if someone suggested changing it, (fun fact—it was the title that inspired me to write the book in the first place!), but all that was before I heard the reasoning behind the suggestion. Now I couldn’t agree more: that title needs to go. It’s not that I don’t love it anymore. Not at all. But this book is fun, adventurous, girl-centered, and snarky (er, so I’m told), and the title just doesn’t reflect that.

So after this realization occurred a week of stress, eyelash pulling out, and internet research whilst I tried to find the perfect name. And during this week of nachos (did I mention there were nachos? Also, cheese sauce), I came across some great advice on how to title a book, which I will now share with you.

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has such great tips for titling your book that I'm not even going to try to paraphrase her. Just go here and do as the lady says.

And here’s an additional link from Rachelle highlighting the importance of a great title, even during the querying phase.

Happy reading!

Oh, and if anyone wants to come up with a title for me, have at ‘er. I still don’t have one, despite the rockin’ advice. WAH!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Naming Characters

It's that time for another reader question!

Q:  How do you go about naming your main character(s)? 
I know some authors can't start writing unless they have chosen a name, claiming it helps them to get to "know" the character. Others, couldn't give a firecracker about it.

A: I don't consider myself to be firmly in either camp. Allow me to explain:

I don't/won't wait until I've found the perfect name to start writing a story. Mostly because I'm impatient. If the right name doesn't come to me fairly quickly, I'll pick a placeholder name and just change it later if/when a more suitable one strikes me (or as the character evolves), using the trusty 'find/replace' function.

Most of the time the right name just pops into my head. Sometimes I use the internet to find it. Occasionally I scroll through Facebook for inspiration. Rarely do I use a phone book, because that involves actually having one.

But don't let my impatience lead you to believe that I don't think picking the perfect name is important. I do. The right name can do a lot of the author's heavy lifting characterization-wise, and I'm nothing if not a lazy bastard (Just kidding! hehe..).

But seriously. Take the name Misty: it calls to mind a certain personality, right? A totally different personality than the name Eleanor? Is Helga not a completely different woman in the mind’s eye than a Kimmy or a Brittany?  A Summer or a Willow or an Autumn-Sky?

But wait a minute, Michelle. Isn't that stereoptyical? I know a neurophyscicist named Mistylynn and a prostitute named Eleanor.

Yes, it's stereotypical. But sometimes stereotypes can work in your favor. Sure there are always going to be exceptions, but does that mean it would be in the reader's best interest to name a character something completely out of the realm of what's expected? (It could be. Depends on the story. Sometimes a twist on stereotypes can be fun. Sometimes a strange name is memorable. Anything can work if executed well. But I digress…) Let's say that's not my goal. Let's say my goal is to immerse the reader into my fictional world, to build the character up in the reader's head, and to make it easy for him/her to suspend disbelief. Well then I don't want to make my readers work harder than they have to in order to make those things happen. Because I love them (these hypothetical future readers).

And now comes the portion of the evening where I give tips that no one asked for that are quite possibly obvious:

-Pick a name that reflects your character's personality

-Avoid giving characters similar sounding names (Jack, John, Jane, Joan, Jean). Sure, there are two Alexei's in Anna Karenina, but unless you're Leo Tolstoy, that's probably a bad idea.

-Avoid cutesy spellings that are hard to sound out/pronounce. If your reader is constantly tripping over your character's name, it can have the unpleasant effect of pulling them out of the story.

-Use names that fit the period. As in, don't name your 19th century priest Kayden. (I bet you couldn't figure that out without my expert guidance. You're welcome.)

-When in doubt, the name Michelle is cute :)