Archive | February, 2011

The Parts of a Good Query Letter

28 Feb

by Susan Dennard

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I have a popular post on my personal blog that’s part of a series I did called How I Got My Agent.  I thought I’d take out the “good bits” from Part 1, and share them with you here.

Much like in the How to Write a 1-page Synopsis, I’ve drawn up a “worksheet” that you can use to format and write your novel’s query letter.

And if you’re interested in reading about WHY my query worked from my agent’s point of view, you can read about it on the NCLit blog.

~~~

The Query

I started querying on October 6, 2010.  But before that, I spent a loooooooong time honing my query letter.  Like, I took workshops, read books, and got feedback until my eyes bled.

But it all paid off!  Out of the 12 agents I queried, 9 requested a full or partial manuscript.  WEEEEE, right?  (Note: part of my success rate has to do with my research, but I’ll talk about that in Part 2: The Prep.  Nonetheless, a good chunk of my success was thanks to my kick-booty query.)

The thing about query letters is that there is a general standard for what should be in a query and how it should be presented. Above all else, you must include a summary of your book — you must show your book’s plot. Next, you need to keep the query professional.  This is a business letter — remember that!

A few other rules to keep in mind:

  1. Be brief, be brief, be brief! Your goal is to snag the agent’s attention immediately and only share enough information so they want to read more.  Keep the story summary under 250 words.
  2. Do not tell the ending! The purpose of a query is to show an editor/agent that you can tell a story from beginning to end, but you want to leave the end unknown. This is much like the back of book – you want to sell your story and entice them to read more.
  3. You must lay out,
    1. the MC’s goal,
    2. why the MC is choosing to act,
    3. what’s at stake if the MC fails.

The Parts of a Good Query

Below, I have written out the building blocks of a strong query letter.  I’ve filled the formula in with my own query, and I hope you find it useful!

Opening lines — Why are you contacting this agent/editor? What is the title, genre, and word count of your novel?

(I’ll get into this more tomorrow and explain why I suggest starting here.)

I read in an interview that you seek strong female leads as well as steampunk.  As such, I thought you might enjoy my 90,000 word young adult novel, THE SPIRIT-HUNTERS.

Hook — What is a one sentence zinger that introduces the MC, sets up the stakes, and is (most importantly) concise?

After her brother is kidnapped, Eleanor Fitt – a sixteen-year-old with a weakness for buttered toast and Shakespeare quotes – must leave the confines of corsets and courtesy to get him back.

Summary Paragraph 1 — Briefly describe the ordinary life of the MC. Follow this with the inciting incident and why the MC must pursue it (i.e. what is at stake?).

It’s 1876, and Philadelphia is hosting the first American World Fair, the Centennial Exhibition.  It’s also hosting rancid corpses that refuse to stay dead.  When one of those decomposing bodies brings Eleanor a hostage note for her brother, she resolves to do anything to rescue him. But to face the armies of Dead that have him, she’ll need a little help from the Spirit-Hunters.

Summary Paragraphs 2 & 3 — List/show in 2-3 sentences what the MC must do to solve the problem before him/her. What choices must he/she make? Be sure to end these  paragraph with a sentence explaining what will happen if he/she fails.  You want to leave the agent with a perfectly clear idea of why this story matters.

The Spirit-Hunters, a three-man team hired to protect the Exhibition, have a single goal: return the Dead to their graves. Yet, what began as a handful of shambling bodies has escalated beyond the team’s abilities, and time is running out. Whoever rules the Dead is losing control, and when the leash finally snaps, Philadelphia will be overrun with ravenous corpses.

Now Eleanor must battle the walking Dead and deal with her growing attraction to the team’s inventor, Daniel, an exasperating but gorgeous ex-con. From the steampunk lab of the Spirit-Hunters to the grand halls of the Exhibition, Eleanor must follow the clues – and the bodies – to find her brother and stop the Dead before it’s too late.

Conclusion — List your qualifications as a writer (societies, publications) in one sentence. If you can, try to find 2 works similar to your own (this shows the agent what audience you believe will read your novel).  Then thank the agent for his/her time.  Sign off.

Though the novel has been written as a trilogy, it can stand alone.  I believe it will appeal to fans of Libba Bray’s GEMMA DOYLE trilogy or Cassandra Clare’s CLOCKWORK ANGEL.  I’m an active member of RWA, SCBWI, the Online Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop, and YALitChat.  I live in Germany and am working full-time on my next YA novels.  You can learn more about me at http://susandennard.com.

So there you have it: a simple way to start building your query.  Again, I hope you can use it.  Be sure to read Part 2: The Prep — or all the preparations needed prior to actually mailing your queries.

BOTTOM LINE: A good query can do wonders and instantly pull you to the surface of the slush!

Do you have any tips to share?

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, The Spirit-Hunters, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

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Saturday Grab Bag

26 Feb

  • Advice For Bloggers Who Review Books
    Some fantastic advice on how to write a great book review and spread enthusiasm for the things you’re reading.
  • Book Reviews
    A great post from our very own Susan Dennard about how writers need to be careful when reviewing books.
  • Be Nice
    NYT best selling author, Becca Fitzpatrick, talks about the importance of being nice to your fellow readers and writers.
  • Judgmental Bookseller Ostrich
    It’s like lolcats, only for people who like books!

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What We’re Reading

Vanessa: THE FALSE PRINCESS by Eilis O’Neal

Susan: A CURSE DARK AS GOLD by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Savannah: ALMOST FRENCH by Sarah Turnbull

Sarah: ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis

Mandy: NOTHING LIKE YOU by Lauren Strasnick

Sammy: JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë

Jenn: WITCHES ABROAD by Terry Pratchett

~~~

Upcoming Debut Releases

CLARITY by Kim Harrington (3/1)

THE LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa and Laura Roecker (3/1)

LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard (3/8)

WITHER by Lauren DeStefano (3/22)

~~~

What books have you gotten excited over lately?

QOTW: Villain Theme Song

25 Feb

You may remember, about a month ago, we shared with you our personal theme songs. Today’s question, posted by Heather, is in a similar vein:

In the movie of your life, what are your villains’ theme songs?

~~~

So, the villain of my life’s movie has this theme song: “Space Dementia” by MUSE. It’s deliciously creepy and dark, but hauntingly lovely at the same.  A truly tormented villain in my life’s movie. 🙂

~~~

My life’s villain is called Procrastination. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? This is his theme song: “Living Dead Girl” by Rob Zombie.

~~~

My movie nemesis is definitely my evil twin/doppelganger, and “Maneater” by Nelly Furtado is most definitely her theme song.

~~~

I don’t really have one overarching person who’s been a villain in my life. As for personal flaws, of course I have some, but none that have really held me back from my dreams [so far]. I think the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered are people who don’t take me seriously because of my age, or who tell me that I’m too young to know what I want. I feel this conflict is best expressed through Alanis Morissette’s Right Through You.


~~~

What about you guys? What’s your villain’s theme song?

Book Recommendation: StarCrossed

24 Feb

by Vanessa Di Gregorio
~~~

“I couldn’t think. My chest hurt from running, and I wasn’t even sure I was in the right place.”

Thieves are awesome. If you’ve read Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (which you really should read), or loved Aladdin, or adored “Flynn Rider” from Disney’s Tangled (which you really should watch), or are charmed by the prince in The Prince of Persia games (which you really should play) or enjoyed books by Tamora Pierce (there are a few thieves in her worlds, like George Cooper from the Alanna series), then you probably know what I’m talking about.

I love thieves. Somehow, when they end up in a story (be it in a book, or a movie, or a video game), they end up stealing my heart (ahaha, sorry… I couldn’t help myself).

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s new YA novel, StarCrossed, doesn’t have a title that sounds like a story centered around a thief; it sounds more like a Romeo & Juliet type of story, with star-crossed lovers and tragic endings. But Bunce’s novel is full of courtly politics, intrigue, deception, rebellion, forbidden magic, and quite a bit of stealing and sneaking.

Want to know more? (Of course you want to know more!) Here’s the summary I swiped from Goodreads:

Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so. Accepted as a lady’s maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold–as well as plenty of jewels for the taking. But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren’t as apolitical as she thought… that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.

~~~

See? Rebellion! Spys! Dead lovers! How can you not want to read that? But as exciting as that is, there is so much more to this novel.

First, the world-building is phenomenal. Set in a land full of political intrigue and danger, Digger’s world is rife with numerous gods, multiple moons, religious wars, a frighteningly powerful Inquisition, and castles with secret passageways. And the magic! It adds to the secrecy surrounding Digger and the others.

Unfortunately, the story begins with a few too many characters (some of whom never make another appearance, though I imagine they might play a larger role in the sequel) and a few too many coincidences that just don’t feel right. The way Digger is able to escape the city with a group of nobs (nobles), or the way she easily becomes a lady’s maid – even though the nobles around her know nothing about her – comes off a bit heavy handed. But if you can look past the awkwardly contrived beginning, the story really fills out into an epic adventure with compelling characters. I, for one, am incredibly glad I was able to look past it and just get swept up in the rest of the story.

Bunce is wonderfully talented at creating multi-dimensional characters- and Digger is a wonderful protagonist. Though truth be told, there were times where I felt her character fell flat in comparison to other characters, but midway through the novel, Digger really starts to shine.  What I really enjoyed was how unreliable a narrator she is – how she keeps things from even us, the reader. It makes for some great twists and delightful surprises. She is talented, resourceful, and wonderfully independent. Her curiosity gets the better of her, as does her greed – which makes her a wonderfully flawed character. Digger is definitely not perfect. And though at times I felt frustrated and a bit confused by her wavering loyalties, by the end I was completely endeared to her. And her lack of loyalty is justified – being a thief, she knows firsthand just how devious people can be.

Merista is another well-written character. The daughter of the wealthy noble family who has taken Digger in at Bryn Shaer has one of the most gratifying coming-of-age arcs. Beginning as a girl who doesn’t even seem comfortable around herself let alone around her estranged (but loving) parents, Merista blossoms into a strong women capable of taking things into her own hands. From a meek little girl she becomes a proud young woman.

I could probably go on about all of Bunce’s characters. One of my favourites appears halfway through the novel – but to avoid spoilers, I won’t start naming names! Suffice it to say, he’s a character worth the wait. And he brings out a side of Digger that makes her even more compelling.

The plot is intricate and full of twists and turns. And while the first half of the book doesn’t have much action (and instead focuses on building the tension and suspense, and developing the characters), the second half truly delivers all the action you could want. The buildup is definitely worth the wait.

The first in a trilogy, StarCrossed is a wonderful read. From the wonderfully detailed settings and lush descriptions, to the bright characters and suspenseful plot, it is definitely a must-read. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Liar’s Moon! Fans of Tamora Pierce and Megan Whalen Turner won’t be able to put this magical book down.

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also blogs about all things geeky at Something Geeky.

If It Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Force It

23 Feb

by Susan Dennard

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In Germany, there is a saying:

It it doesn’t fit, it can be made to fit.

While this phrase is appropriate for suitcases, skinny jeans, and dishwashers, it does not work for your novel, memoir, short stories, etc.  In fact, I have recently learned that the opposite is true when it comes to creativity:

If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.

I did NaNoWriMo last year (2010). I wrote 52,000 words in a YA dystopian called Screechers.  Of those 52,000 word, about 20,000 have been revised into Something of Moderate Quality.

But I hate it — hate Screechers, I mean.  I hate the story; I hate the main character; I hate the stupid world building; and I hate the fact that it’s a dystopian and high concept when neither of those things interest me.  It’s just one big BLEH.

So after two months of knowing I should get back to Screechers but not wanting to; knowing that if I just made a butt-in-chair for a few months, I’d finish; and knowing that my agents would be very happy if I handed them my high concept MS all polished and pretty,

I am letting it go.

Sometimes I think writers (read: ME) are reluctant to throw out manuscripts (um, raise your hand if you insisted your first novel would be publishable…only to realize much later that it wasn’t even close).  Heck, no one wants to throw out anything they’ve worked hard on — be it a novel, a painting, or a crooked bookshelf.

It’s like when you’re making a cake but you royally screw up the recipe (maybe you added 3 egg yolks instead of 4 egg whites), and the only solution for you is to START OVER.  (Well, there is another option: eat a wretched cake. But no one wants to eat wretched cake.  No one normal, anyway. ;))

Sometimes we really just gotta let it go. You know, in one fell swoop like an awkwardly placed band-aid (wait — aren’t all band-aids in bad spots?), hit delete, toss it in the trash, and say “good-bye”.

I realized (like 4 days ago) with Screechers that no matter what, I will never like the story as it currently is.  And the only way to turn it into a story I love is to start over. And this time, I’m not going to do the stupid things I did with the first draft.

What were those stupid things?  And how do you know if you’re committing them too?  Answer these questions and let’s find out.

Are you:

  • Writing in a style that is popular, but isn’t your own?
    • I wrote in first-person present.  While I think some people can pull this off really well, I am NOT one of those people. I struggled (read: was clawing my eyes out and screaming) to make first person present work. Present tense just isn’t natural to me, so it never felt natural on the page.
    • Plus, I had MAJOR problems with too much narrative distance (1st-person present ≠ immediacy, contrary to popular belief) and filter words.
  • Writing something high concept?
    • Screechers is high concept premise — complete with action, irony, an instantly sympathetic heroine, and more.
    • BUT, I had so many problems trying to hard to fit into my high concept logline that I just couldn’t tell a good story anymore (high concept ≠ good story, contrary to popular belief).
  • Writing it FAST?
    • A lot of the speed was because of NaNoWriMo, but the speed-revising had more to do with my own insane determination to finish revising Screechers by April 2011.
    • Sometimes, taking it slow works better — especially when the story isn’t coming naturally and you need time to think.
  • Writing in a popular genre?
    • Dystopian ≠ automatic WIN, contrary to popular belief.  Some people handle it really well (Suzanne Collins, George Orwell, John Wyndham, etc.), but again, I am NOT one of those people.
    • I like fantasy more thank I like dystopian. I like sci-fi more than I like dystopian.  I like paranormal more than I like dystopian. SO WHY THE HECK WASN’T I TRYING TO WRITE THOSE GENRES?
  • Writing an MC with whom you can’t connect?
    • I could not find my MC’s voice — partly because of the first-person present thing and partly because I didn’t like her (even if she was immediately sympathetic).
    • She was a Tough Girl, and some people write Tough Girls well (Suzanne Collins, Holly Lisle, Cherie Priest).  I don’t.  My Tough Girls just come across 2-dimensional.
    • Plus, I just didn’t want to tell a dystopian story, so I found I couldn’t care about my dystopian heroine.

Are you running into any of these?  If so, you’ve got a problem, and more importantly, you have to decide:

Is the manuscript worth it?  Should you try to salvage this cake or just bake a new one?

For me, starting over is definitely worth it because somewhere in the premise for Screechers is the story I originally wanted to tell.  If I get rid of all the crap I don’t like about it and add all the story-telling sparkles I love, then I’m going to wind up with a better book.

So if any of the above questions above apply to you, then take a long hard look at you MS (or your cake…or your leaning bookshelf).  And if it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.

Have you ever had this happen?  Is there something you’re working on now that just isn’t clicking for you?

~~~

Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, The Spirit-Hunters, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

Cover Lust: Coralie Bickford-Smith

22 Feb

By Sammy Bina

~~~

I thought I’d do something a little out-of-the-ordinary today. Bear with me — it will hopefully be as awesome as the vlog I’d planned to do, but had no ideas for.

Moving on, how many of you have heard of Penguin (as in the major publishing house)?

Okay, good. That looks like most of you.

How many of you have seen the Penguin Classics series that grace the shelves of your local bookstore?

Looking good. Still got your attention? Excellent. Now for the kicker:

How many of you have seen the covers for the Penguin Hardback Classics?

If you haven’t, then I’d like to direct you to the website of London-based designer, Coralie Bickford-Smith. She’s the genius behind these gorgeous covers, as well as numerous other Penguin series. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, feast your eyes:

You’re already imagining them on your bookshelf, aren’t you? That was my first reaction when I saw them, too. They’re beyond gorgeous, and really hearken back to the days of old, cloth-bound books. The fact that these ones are all classics adds to the experience. Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m curled up with one of these on a chilly evening, a cup of cocoa in hand, I feel like I’ve been transported back in time. There’s something magical about a great book and a stunning cover. Coralie Bickford-Smith certainly helps with that. (I guess Jane Austin and Charles Dickens help, too.)

We all know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I’m fairly certain many of us disregard the rule. I know I do. If I’m in Barnes & Noble and I see a gorgeous cover, I’m going to pick it up. Even if it isn’t something I’d usually read, there’s a good chance I’ll buy it. Certainly something so gorgeous on the outside has to be brilliant inside, right? (Take Beth Revis’ ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. Stunning cover, awesome story.) Coralie Bickford-Smith’s covers are enticing. They make you want to pick up the book. Maybe even read it! In this day and age, where people are so worried about the book-pocalypse, it’s great to see people still turning out incredible looking books that encourage people to read. I’ll admit, I’m horribly under-read in the classics for someone who majored in creative writing, but these books have been remedying that problem at lightening speed. They’re a little hard to come by in the U.S., but Amazon sells them, and the almighty Book Depository has them in stock as well (and free shipping, too!). Stores like Urban Outfitters also carry them randomly.

So whether you just want your bookshelf to look sexy, or actually need a reason to pick up that book your high school English teacher suggested, now’s your chance. And you’ve got Coralie Bickford-Smith to thank for that.

~~~

Sammy Bina is finishing up her last semester of college as a creative writing major. She’s currently revising her YA dystopian, SILENCE, and is an intern for the Elaine P. English Literary Agency. You can follow her blog, or find her on twitter.

The Grieving Process

21 Feb

by Biljana Likic

~~~

Sadness can be tough, I find. It can be hard to see when you’re going overboard. And since everybody handles grief differently, it can be tricky to suspend disbelief so much that everyone reading believes in the sadness, and not just the people that would react similarly. For example, if somebody found out their pet had died, and they went into the kitchen and blindly broke every plate and glass, an animal lover who’s been in that position before might understand why they did it, but somebody who hasn’t known that type of relationship might not. Personally, I would consider it an overreaction, but how can I judge the bond between pet and master when I’m not an animal person, and don’t have any conception of what the pet meant to them?

So the first thing to do would be creating a deep connection between the griever and the thing lost. If the reader doesn’t believe that the lovers love each other, when the woman dies and the man throws himself off a bridge they’ll think it’s contrived and silly. You need to show throughout the story that what they have is special, and I find one of the best tricks for doing this is subtle repetition. This means keeping the woman in the man’s thoughts. If you can have him naturally think about her, you’ll remind the reader about all the things he sees in her, which leads to a subconscious understanding that he loves her and that losing her could potentially crush him.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

He walked through the crowd, hands in his pockets, and the sun warmed his face when he stepped out of the shadow of a building. Fiddling with the keys, he crossed the street to his apartment and slipped sideways between two parked cars. His eyes followed a blonde briefly before remembering that she was out of town for the day. Letting himself into the lobby, he called an elevator and tapped his shoes against the carpeted floor.

Little things like this happen to everybody. You have a girl or boy on your mind and suddenly everyone with the same hair colour could be them. But you have to use this in moderation. In real life our thoughts move too fast for them to seem repetitive about stuff like this, but written down they’re painfully obvious if you overdo them. Hence, subtle repetition.

So they’re in love. But now she’s gone.

How does he find out? Is he at work? Does he hear about it the next day because his cell phone ran out of batteries? Does he watch her die? Did he have time to kiss her one last time, to say goodbye, hold her hand, believe that it could still be her on the sidewalk by his apartment?

Then there’s his reaction. His devastation, numbness, denial, whatever fits his character or stream of events best. It’s something that should come naturally. If you don’t know what his reaction should be, maybe he doesn’t know either. Maybe he flounders in a desperately emotionless void until those around him think he’s inhuman. Maybe that’s followed by inexpressible anger at everybody who dared imply that he didn’t love her, and general fury that she left him in the state of things as they are. Perhaps he starts analyzing the day of her death; if he’d convinced her to stay for coffee, the car would’ve just driven by. If he had noticed her fever, he could’ve gotten her to a hospital in time. If he’d realized how icy the sidewalks had been he would’ve forced her out of the heeled boots.

A person can drive themselves insane with if only’s. And notice how each one puts the blame on his shoulders.

Underneath everything though, there is a constant, aching sadness. The numbness is just the mind trying to protect itself from the acute sense of loss. Behind it all there’s the knowledge that something was taken away forever. Even if he finds it again in another person, it won’t be the same. And that’s where the deepest grief comes from.

But the most soul-stirring part, for me at least, would not be his anger, or his tears; it would be his acceptance. The strength he would need for this isn’t something that can be put into words, because accepting loss doesn’t mean forgetting it. It means continuing life, adjusting where he can. It doesn’t mean learning to live without her, but admitting the pain of loss, allowing himself time to mourn, but not letting it control his life. With acceptance comes the gift of being able to breathe without the air hitching in your throat, and being able to think about the future without the grip of total fear wrapping itself around your heart.

If the man can grasp that, or even just give us the hint that he will, the story is complete. Grief comes around full circle and the reader reaches a forlorn closure. But most importantly, they’re given the awareness that the man will go on. That it’s possible.

Along with the sadness, the reader is given hope.

That’s something I don’t mind walking away with.

~~~

Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.

Saturday Grab Bag

19 Feb

Mashup

Friday Randomness

18 Feb

Soo… It’s that time again. (what time? No idea, really. I just couldn’t think of any other way to start this post.)

Kat here! Welcome to Friday Randomness. I really, really wish I could think of a word starting with the letter “F” that means “randomness,” because I am a big fan of alliteration, but no such luck 😦 Ah well.

Program for today: two books I want to read SO BAD and then “Who the LTWF girls would be if we lived in a steampunk world.”

The following books aren’t really “recommendations” per say, since I haven’t actually read either of them, but they’re definitely ones I want to read soon!

In no particular order:

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love — the deliria — blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

I’m in love with this concept. I love, love, love “what if” books like this. What if Love was a disease? What if it could be “cured”? I can’t wait to see how Oliver handles this.

ON THE JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta (just JELLICOE ROAD in the US)

My father took one hundred and thirty two minutes to die.

‘I counted.

‘It happened on the Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’d ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-La. We were going to the ocean, hundreds of kilometres away, because I wanted to see the ocean and my father said that it was about time the four of us made that journey. I remember asking, “What’s the difference between a trip and a journey?” and my father said, “Narnie, my love, when we get there, you’ll understand,” and that was the last thing he ever said.

‘We heard her almost straight away. In the other car, wedged into ours so deep that you couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended. She told us her name was Tate and then she squeezed through the glass and the steel and climbed over her own dead – just to be with Webb and me; to give us her hand so we could clutch it with all our might. And then a kid called Fitz came riding by on a stolen bike and saved our lives.

‘Someone asked us later, “Didn’t you wonder why no one came across you sooner?”

‘Did I wonder?

‘When you see your parents zipped up in black body bags on the Jellicoe Road like they’re some kind of garbage, don’t you know?

‘Wonder dies.’

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books I devour and then spend the next week mourning my own prose, which will look like kindergarden babble next to the kind of writing in the book. Maybe that’s why I’ve put it off so long, hahaha. Soon, though. As soon as I have time, I am getting my paws on this.

And now…! Who the LTWF girls would be if we lived in a steampunk world? Susan put up a quiz on her blog recently, and a good number of us took it! Here are our results!

Kat: No-nonsense, Tough-as-nails Officer

Sarah: No-Nonsense, Tough-As-Nails Officer

Savannah: Downright Bonkers Scientist

Billy: Swashbuckling Airship Pirate

Susan: Inventive (and slightly befuddled) Tinkerer

Vanessa: Swashbuckling Airship Pirate

Jenn: Perfectly Polished Aristocrat

Vee: Swashbuckling Airship Pirate

Sammy: Swashbuckling Airship Pirate

Go take the quiz and let us know what you get!

The Unspoken Rules of Publishing: Twitter

17 Feb

By Sarah J. Maas

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So, it’s been nearly a year since I found out QUEEN OF GLASS will be published, and a bit longer than that since I started this crazy journey towards publication. So I think it’s been long enough that I can look back and give some advice about the things I wish someone had told me when I was starting out…or even just at any point during this journey.

There are a lot of Unsaid Things in the industry. Rules that no one ever tells you, lines that you didn’t really know existed until some poor soul has the misfortune of crossing one of them, and everyone gossips about it, and you think “Holy crap, I almost did the same thing! That could have been ME they’re gossiping about!”

Don’t get me wrong—this is a wonderful, wonderful industry, and the YA community is absolutely fantastic. I wake up every morning and pinch myself. But there are some things that writers (regardless of what genre you work in) should be aware of. I actually started writing this post intending for it to be a list, but my first point warped into an entire article, so I think I might just do a series on this over the next few months…

So, without further ado…Twitter.

Sometimes, Twitter can feel a lot like high school. This was probably the most shocking thing for me to learn, because I didn’t really HAVE a typical high school experience. I never bothered to cozy up to the popular kids (in fact, I think I spent my time rolling my eyes at them), there weren’t really cliques to navigate, and I certainly didn’t give a crap about what people thought of me.

But Twitter sometimes feels like you’re in the middle of a giant high school cafeteria, looking for anyone you can sit with, wondering who will sneer at you if you dare approach their table, and contemplating if eating in the bathroom by yourself, or just skipping lunch all together, is the best option. When I first joined Twitter, I didn’t know who I was allowed to talk to, who would respond to me, who to even APPROACH. When I first joined, barely a blip on the radar, I kinda felt like I was standing in a field of landmines.

While the YA community is super-welcoming as a whole, there are definitely people who will not speak to you just because You Are A Nobody. Of course they won’t ever admit it, but there are people who won’t talk to you or follow you until you have an agent, or a book deal, or until you wind up on the NYTimes Bestseller list.

It took me a while to get used to that, to realize that some people do not consider all writers to be created equal—and truth be told, sometimes those distinctions are a good way to weed out the random spammers. But the best bit of advice I can give you is this: 1) If someone won’t acknowledge you because you aren’t agented/pubbed/a bestselling author, then perhaps they aren’t worth your effort, anyway and 2) it doesn’t reflect on YOU—it reflects on THEM. Don’t let it get to you.

There are cliques, too. I’m a fairly outgoing person in real life, but online, I sometimes feel like I come across as SUCH a creeper if I randomly say hi to someone, especially if they’re a part of a tight-knit group of besties who spend all their time on twitter just talking exclusively to each other. I used to be afraid of crossing into the BFFers-Only Zone—but at some point, perhaps after getting some confidence thanks to landing an agent and a book deal, I stopped caring if I dared breach clique lines. And you know that? I think a lot of my previous hesitation was all in my head. Most of the people (and groups) I’ve approached have been incredibly warm and kind.

Sometimes, people only talk to their friends just because they’re shy, and don’t really know how to branch out. It’s kinda intimidating to just say hi to a stranger and strike up a conversation, especially on a public forum like Twitter! But I always forget how great it feels to be approached by another writer—to know that another writer is interested in talking to ME! And you know what? I’ve made a bunch of fantastic friends thanks to Twitter—thanks to those random conversations where I bit the bullet and just replied to a tweet of theirs.

Despite that, Twitter isn’t for everyone. Every other week, there’s a study out that either says Twitter doesn’t sell books, or that Twitter is an invaluable marketing tool. Some authors HAVE had success thanks to Twitter, but some authors have had it without using Twitter at all (I’m looking at you, Suzanne Collins). Ultimately, I think you have to decide what you are the most comfortable with.

I know authors who have left Twitter because the (occasional) high school atmosphere got to them. They didn’t like the public ass kissing, or the cliques, or they got upset because some Big Author didn’t follow them back. I know authors who have never once felt like it was a high school cafeteria, and who think Twitter is the best thing ever. Twitter’s different for everyone.

I personally use it for making connections—for chatting with friends and readers, meeting new people, and just getting play-by-play updates on what’s happening in publishing. I do a little self-promotion, but not much, and I honestly get really turned off by authors who self-promote all the time and just RT every bit of praise they get.

Twitter is time-consuming, and definitely isn’t for the faint of heart (not that it’s a horrible, soul-crushing machine, but I think it definitely makes you get out of your shell, which is kinda good for us writers). And sometimes it can be frustrating. And, yes, if you get into a fight on twitter or start badmouthing someone, it WILL get around, and people WILL talk. Everyone loves to gossip, so don’t think you’re flying under the radar, even if you consider yourself to be a “nobody.”

Use your judgment when tweeting (Drunk tweeting? Not the best idea), because even if you have 12 followers or 1200, someone is probably watching. Things never disappear forever on the internet.

And, okay, this post has become way more intense and scary-sounding than I intended. Twitter is awesome—it really is, but I think the point of this post is that it is OKAY if you’re not comfortable joining, and don’t have a Twitter account. You won’t make or break your career with or without Twitter. Twitter really is what you make of it—and while it can feel like high school, it can also feel like you’re hanging out with the coolest people you’ll ever meet. But, if you’re still on the fence…get a Twitter account—be brave. You’ll never know unless you try.

And who knows? That clique of writers that you’re afraid to approach? That awesome author whose debut novel you absolutely adored? They might wind up becoming your best friends.

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Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in fall 2012. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.