Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Cut my finger on a can the other day and realized that getting stabbed is probably just awful.

2) When you do the, "My name is AIIEEEEEEEEEE....." reference from Splash and nobody gets it, it's incredibly awkward for everyone.

3) I have no idea what it's like to live in a non-writer brain. The other day I was having a normal conversation with an acquaintance who had read an ARC of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST and in the middle of the convo she stops and says, "I'm sorry. I just can't help but wonder what you're actually thinking about right now. I feel like it's probably just awful."

Well... sometimes it is, yeah.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

YA Author Emery Lord On The Second Book Baby

Welcome to another of my fabulous acronym-based interviews. The second novel is no easy feat, and with that in mind I put together a series of questions for debuts who are tackling the second obstacle in their career path. I call it the SNOB - Second Novel Omnipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie.

Today's guest is Emery Lord, a 20-something Midwestern 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. Emery's debut, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, is available now from Bloomsbury. Her next offering, THE START OF ME AND YOU releases March 21, 2015 from Bloomsbury.

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

For me, it wasn't. As daunting as it can be to stare down the blinking cursor of a blank page, I think- I hope- every new project is an opportunity to improve as a writer. I was ready for a fresh start and new voices/themes/settings to play with.

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

You know, I ducked in and out, and I think I'll keep doing that. When drafting was making me crazy, I'd stop and take care of swag, return emails, do guest posts, etc. And when promo felt overwhelming, I'd go back to writing. And, actually, I believe the best promo you can ever do is honing your craft on a second book! in the same sometimes :)

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

Always myself first. Haha- that sounds terrible on its face! But it's because I can't hope anyone else will even *like* my book if I don't love it. Now that I have an agent and an editor/team of awesome people at my publishing house and readers who I really connect with, I feel all the more passionate about making sure I give them something I believe in.

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

Absolutely. The main thing is juggling multiple books. Still work to do for released Book 1, promo for Book 2, edits for Book 3 and drafting Book 4. And there are many emails, haha. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance it all! (If anyone has figured this out, give me advice! And coffee. Give me coffee.)

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I did two things differently. First, I used my "perspective of a published author" to make a huge rookie mistake. I was editing my second book while being publicly reviewed for the first time. And I kept letting those voices in- which was paralyzing. I could hardly make choices about my writing because I kept subconsciously lingering on what people would ultimately say. But, then, it finally clicked for me- the actual perspective of a published author that I needed: people are going to criticize me no matter what I write. So I might as well write balls-to-the-walls about the things I care about most. That's what I did differently for my third book. *shoots pistols into the air* No regrets.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Of All The Books In All The Stores & Libraries In All The World...

I get dizzy when I go into bookstores and libraries. Physically dizzy.

Granted, I do have vertigo but I don't think that's necessarily what sets me off every time. I think it's the limitless possibilities I see in front of me, the stacks and piles of books that I couldn't plow through in an entire lifetime even if I dedicated every minute that I have to just reading.

And yes, there's an element of bittersweetness to that. I'm highly aware that I won't ever make it through my TBR pile, and that if my tombstone listed all the books I wanted to read but didn't get to it would be bigger than the Washington Monument. That makes me a little bit sad, but it's also a testament to the nearly inexhaustible choices all readers have.

And of all those books, quite a few of you have picked me.


No, seriously. I'm not lying when I say that I sometimes walk into bookstores with full intent to find my stock and sign it, then I end up browsing, reading, lounging, buying, and walking back out having never even glanced at my own book. And I'm the author.

So HUGE thanks to everyone that went into a bookstore or library with the intention of picking up something with my name on it, and equal thanks to anyone that browsed, spotted my cover, read the flap and thought, "Sure, I'll give this McGinnis girl a try."

You're awesome.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

I am submitting to you because ______________ At just over 70,000 words, The Kavanagh House is a YA mashup—a haunted house with a mechanized past. This is strictly personal opinion, but I think it's better to start with a hook than with your ms specs. Also I'm not clear on how it's a mashup, unless what you're saying is that it's a paranormal steampunk.

Parker, who feels ghosts, enters the Victorian stone house her mother chose, and is attacked by the spirit of Vincent, the designer of the house, who mistakes Parker for Eleanor, the girl he holds responsible for his death. This sentence has me untangling plots and names right from the beginning. That night Parker discovers the journal of Eleanor Kavanagh with the cryptic note: My father’s house is haunted and it’s my fault. Now THAT'S a hook. Let's get this front and center. Also the casual mention of "Parker, who feels ghosts," kind of throws me off. I'm definitely interested in how the haunting is Eleanor's fault, and what the connection between Eleanor and Parker is.

At first she avoids the rotunda where Vincent is trapped; however, when he attacks her family, Parker enlists the help of Miles, who can see the spirits of the dead, to help her get rid of Vincent. Lots of commas, more names, much untangling. How does she know Miles? Is this an across-town move? And across-state move? She and Miles must solve puzzle locks, clues to hidden compartments where journal pages are kept, and face her own fears. Unfortunately for Miles, Parker has developed a crush on her father’s campaign manager, the tall, available, and devastatingly good-looking, Declan. This is unfortunate for Miles b/c he likes her, I assume? Also, why does that even matter? Is it relevant to the paranormal plot? Meanwhile, her friend, Abbi contrives to have a Halloween party at Parker’s house. But two days before the party, her mother has the rotunda floor torn up, and Vincent is set loose. At the party, after Parker enjoys a romantic dance with Declan, Vincent terrorizes the guests and nearly kills Parker in the pantry trap. The next day she and Miles find Vincent’s body and bury him. But all is not at peace. That night, Parker again hears music playing in her room. Vincent has not left. This is definitely starting to feel more like a synopsis than a query. The level of detail here is using up way too much space, and it looks like all the characters are being drawn into it, which is unnecessary in a query. You need to boil this down to the actual problem and the most pivotal characters.

After the first four, the chapters alternate between Parker’s POV and Eleanor’s journal entries. This could definitely get confusing. The Kavanagh House is the first in the planned Mechanized Gears series. Each book has a different mechanized location, a depot, a lighthouse, a library, etc., in one of the model cities of the Gilded Age. The six members of the Innovator’s Club are destined to haunt the places they created. Parker and Miles (in the next book) learn that to break the force that holds their souls captive, they must collect pieces of a machine from each location to free the six condemned souls. While this sounds really interesting, the query isn't showing me how the house is mechanized or why that matters at all. Also, pitching a series is going to be difficult in any case. You need to focus your query on pitching one book, not the plot that arches over six. See if you can turn this book into a standalone with series potential, and focus the query on selling that first book.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE COMPOUND by S.A. Bodeen

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

The past six years of Eli's life have been spent underground. The compound that his super-rich father built in order to protect his family in case of a nuclear attack saved their lives... most of them, anyway. Eli's grandmother and twin brother were lost that night in the panicked rush to the hatch. He lives with regret, and the haunting suspicion that the better brother is the one that died.

The rambling compound has everything they need, but the family struggles to keep their connections strong. Eli's father spends most of his time in his office, the door locked securely behind him. Eli's mother tries to put a good face on everything, even though her continued pregnancies drain her energy. Eli has always kept his distance from his siblings that were born after the hatch shut behind them. He knows well enough that they're not even supposed to have names, especially considering what the contingency plan for them is if the hatch food supply runs low.

When Eli's laptop picks up a wireless connection one day outside of his father's office, he has to wonder where it could be coming from. If everything outside the compound has been destroyed, it shouldn't exist... and neither should the instant message he's getting from people he knows are dead.

At least, that's what his father told him.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) How did people describe the texture of overcooked pasta or vegetables before the invention of rubber?

2) The best way to cut a passive-aggressive person out at the knees is to say, "Are you being passive aggressive?" Usually you'll get the chance to use the follow up question, "Are you being defensive?"

3) My bottle-fed kittens respond to the sound of my voice with panicked glee. My fifth grade classes respond to my voice with abject terror. I wondered what a combination of the two would get me, and then I realized it would be drunk Ewoks.