All Pennwriters Eve

Tomorrow’s the day!

I have my pages printed out. I have more pages (and entire books) in a special file on my jump drive. I have the most beautiful God-given query ever (check out my updated Yellow Bike page to see the pitch!). I have the most beautiful business cards ever, designed by my talented husband. I have workshop names scratched in my day planner in brown extra-fine Sharpie. I am so ready for this.

After a friend’s recent critique of Bleeder, I’ve decided to take it too! As part of the conference, I get a one-on-one session with an industry professional and I want to pick his or her brain about my beloved acid-blood disease book.

One thing I’m a little concerned about: I have ten minutes to do my pitch for a blind pitch panel.

My reaction to that: TEN MINUTES?! In acting, at a regional cattle call, if you’re singing AND acting, you get 90 seconds. 90 seconds. Most of my audition monologues are about that long. Directors know after about 20 seconds whether they want you or not, just like agents know after the first paragraph of your query if they’re interested. What the heck am I going to do for ten minutes? Tap dance?! I’ve been in plays shorter than that! Any suggestions? It’s the first thing tomorrow morning!

Off to google “How to pitch your book in ten minutes…”

I’ll let you know how the whole thing goes!

I accidentally published this with no title. Oops. :)

So how’s the writers housework rhyme working out for me?

Well… I’m not going to beat myself up about it. One of my not-so-healthy tendencies is to beat myself up about every little thing. This time, I’m not gonna do it! Ha! Instead, I’m going to celebrate a few minor accomplishments:

1) I painted my dining room. Yay! It was an ugly oatmeal color. My husband went away for the weekend and I wanted to surprise him. My friend Brittany came over and we spent the entire weekend painting. Now it’s a lasting beautiful.

2) Book 2 is marinating. I have been encouraged! (This post from Writer Unboxed was especially helpful). No, the first draft is not great. Yes, the first draft is a first draft. I’ve learned a lot from it and the fresh ideas in which it is soaking are top-notch. I’m excited to get back to it.

3) I’ve started querying again. I read the Query Shark archives for about 3 days over the span of a week, re-wrote my query about 4 times, and sent it off to the Shark herself! In the meantime, though, her archives helped me so much that I took the new query out for a spin, querying 3 agents.

4) I read the first five-star book I’ve seen since… well a long time. My review on The Fault in Our Stars is here.

5) I’ve been averaging a little over 20 hits per day on days that I don’t touch my blog. That number used to be 7 (again, on un-touched days). Now that makes me happy.

6) Shakes is going really well. I love these kids. The show is going to be spectacular.

7) Look! It’s a picture of my doggie!

All in all, I think that living life is a necessary component to making art. I have been living a lot of life lately. I’m excited to spill it out onto a page really soon.

Happy summer! Go swimming for me!

This is the Voice!

Since I started pursuing writing, one of the things that has been most confusing to me has been Voice.

Here are some of the notes I took at Backspace that involve voice:

“You have a voice! You have a voice! You have a voice!”

“VOICE! Lalala. VOICE! Lalala.”

Oh! You want more helpful notes? Here:

Voice is what makes your story believable, intriguing. It’s someone you want to live with. You find yourself reading the book in your head in a different voice than your own. It’s what makes your characters come alive on the page.  How do you get voice? Harness your own uniqueness.

But in short, for a long time I was concerned that I didn’t have a voice. My book is not in first person (which is not a necessity for voice, but it gol-durnit helps). It is not flowery or staccato or street punk.

“Do I have a voice?” I quavered to one of my beta-readers.

“Yes,” she said soothingly. “Don’t worry. You have a voice.”

“What is it?” I asked. “What is my voice?”

After a long conversation, we came to the conclusion that my voice is direct, no-nonsense, action-driven, almost sparse. Example? Bleeder  starts in a school hallway. Do I describe it? No. We’ve all been to school. I am perfectly happy with my readers placing Angela in whatever school they went to. So I don’t describe the clang of the lockers or the squeak of sneakers. There is no smell of leftover school lunch food clogging the trash cans. The lockers have no color- they aren’t chipped, faded, or brand-new. Why? Because it doesn’t matter! We are in that school hallway for about 3 pages before we never see it again. I do describe some locations in detail- Angela’s house, the hospital… all are locations that mean something. There is a reason for their shabbiness or their grandeur. And most of the architecture I describe actually figures into the plot in some way.

As a result, I wonder sometimes (after reading something like Jasper Jones, the perfect book for atmosphere) if my book is lacking in atmosphere. Hm…. *thinks about it* I don’t think so. I think that atmosphere simply takes a backseat to the plot. Anyway, the book is out with somebody new now- maybe she can take a look at that for me. *wink wink*

Now, I know that my voice on this blog is way different than my voice in the book. That’s for darn tootin’. For example, I would never say “darn tootin'” in my book. Bleeder is way too cool for that. My blog voice I would describe as cute or quirky. Hopefully it’s approachable and interesting.

So how about you-all out there- What is your voice like? Is it different or the same as your blog voice? Have you ever tried to describe it? Have you ever had someone describe it for you?

Lucky 7 Meme (or… 7 paragraphs from Bleeder 2!)

Oo! EB Pike tagged me in this Lucky 7 meme!

I don’t know what a meme is, but here are the rules:

1) Go to page 7 or 77 from your current WIP (that’s “work in progress.”)

2) Go to line 7

3) Copy down the next 7 lines- sentences or paragraphs- and post them as they’re written. No cheating!

4) Tag 7 authors

5) Let them know

Bleeder is done until an agent or editor gets his or her hands on it. Here are 7 paragraphs from the 7th page of Bleeder 2. Keep in mind that this is total first draft stuff! Never once been edited! So it definitely isn’t my best! And don’t worry, it will someday have a better name than Bleeder 2. That’s just what I’m calling it for now.  *All shaky and nervous* *or maybe it’s just the coffee I had for lunch.* *This is like exposing a raw nerve.* Ok, here goes…

 

“We fell asleep…” she said, “watching a movie…”

He nodded once, face unreadable. “Ok.”

Auger’s hawklike gaze fixed her. “Thought we’d let the kid have a little fun,” he said, his eyes showing a fierce amusement.

Angela shook her head and yawned. “You might have to step in and save his life now.”

“Kenneth!” the old man took a few steps toward the other room. “Leave him alone! And sit down for heaven’s sake. What the hell does ‘limited physical activity’ mean to you?”

Kenneth straightened up as he walked out of the second bedroom and into the common room, still favoring his left side. Edan darted out behind him and bounded onto a couch, crouched in a corner, still grinning ear-to-ear. The couches were in an “L” shape around a coffee table. There was an armchair, too, and each seating space had a view of the front door.

Kenneth sat in the other corner of Edan’s couch and tried to look nonchalant, but the pain was evident on his face. Running after the younger boy was the most he’d moved since he’d been helped into the van outside the hospital. The guys wouldn’t even let him carry stuff into the hotel room. His helplessness was killing him.

 

So that’s it. Go here if you want to see what Bleeder‘s about, and go here if you want to see what everybody looks like. I promise the writing is better. 🙂

Time to choose 7 authors. Here goes!

Scott J. Clemons

karmicangel

Molly Spring

Ryan M. Murphy

Amanda Leigh

Ash Silverlock

Belle DiMonte

Pre-Conference Ego Boost

As you all know, I am going to the NYC Backspace Writers conference in two days. Two days! This is my first conference and to say that I’m nervous is an understatement. A few things have helped- mostly preparation- getting everything formatted and printed, with all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted (those are actually pretty easy since the computer is very conscientious about dots on i’s and crosses on t’s- it the manuscript formatting that has me seeing stars).

Another thing that helps is a quote from a blog that says basically this: Don’t go to the conference as a crusading knight, ready to beat unsuspecting people over the head with your book. Think of yourself as your book’s chaperone, accompanying it to the conference and showing it off the best that you can.

When I think of the book I’m chaperoning, this whole conference thing gets a lot easier.

A few weeks ago I held a facebook contest regarding my blog and the prize was a free pdf of my book, Bleeder. Now, before this experience I had given my book to a teen girl I’d never met. You can read the whole story (including parts of her review) here.

I was thrilled with the winners of the facebook contest. All six of them are avid, discerning, honest readers, and they gave me in-depth, specific feedback.

Wanna see what those beta-readers said? Here you go!

“I’m about halfway through and there are two problems: 1) I am already upset that I won’t be able to read through the whole trilogy right away, and 2) I can’t tell people to go buy it.”

“The plot is great: Good pacing. There’s a nice balance of action and rest.”

“It was very effective in making me pay attention to every detail. I never knew what might come back and be important later.”

“Edan is probably my favorite. Give him more dialogue!” (to see the cast, go here)

“Okaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyy, just read your book. In one sitting. I expected it to be good, but I absolutely love it!””

“I like Angela… she’s self-aware yet not- very likable and real.”

“It’s a story that will definitely stick with me for a while.”

“Basically, whenever your book goes on sale, I will be buying it. And the next 2.”

“Very anti-stereotypical.”

“It took serious self-control to put it down and go to bed each night.”

“…I really can’t imagine this book going unpublished.”

“If it was in the store, I’d buy it and send all the other YA geeks I know to buy it too!”

“My younger cousin asked me what I was reading. I told her a little about it, she asked if she could read it.”

“…I am literally out of breath. AWESOME story, vivid characters, natural dialogue… I just loved it.”

And finally? I asked them all to sum up the book in two sentences. It’s a tall order, so most bowed out, but Leah was up to the challenge:

“Bleeder gives us the gift of a complex female heroine with motivations far deeper than the shallow concerns we’ve come to expect from a teenage protagonist. Angela’s personal struggles with her own illness segue seamlessly into a multilayered plot involving prejudice, fear, and government conspiracy that will keep the pages turning.”

With encouragement like that, how could I be nervous about accompanying this book to the Backspace conference? I henceforth banish all sweaty palms and wobbly knees!

New York City, here I come.

LaNoWriMo RULES! I won my own prize!

I did it!

*insert manic laughter here*

I did it! After a very intense 6 weeks (and a real sprint to the finish of this marathon) I am finally done with the first 50,000 words of my second book. I met my goal. I met it with gusto.

So take THAT crazy life! Take THAT car that won’t work and teen that won’t behave and thousands of miles driven and tons of meetings and thousands of lattes (made, not drunk) and jungle-lawn and concerts and shows and workshops and dishes and meals and laundry and doggie! I met my goal on time!

My own, personal LaNoWriMo (Laura’s Novel Writing Month) was a SUCCESS!

I will post more about this on a day that I haven’t already written 5000+ words. For now, I will rest my tired eyes and FINALLY get to read my 3-week overdue library books (contradictory! I know!). Oh yeah, and get ready for the Backspace conference on Thursday. And sleep! Mostly sleep, actually. I am definitely about to sleep.

Whoopee!!!

PS- I fixed about 4 typos just now. I bet if you look real hard you might be able to find more, but no promises.

Because I. Am going. To bed.

Playlist of Champions

As I pound out words like a fiend, I’m always listening to music. Here’s a sampling of the songs that inspired Bleeder 2:

Remember the Name (Fort Minor) (5% pleasure, 50% pain, 100% freaking-out-trying-to-finish-this-book) 😉

Mr. Tangerine Speedo (Caviar) (It’s Kenneth’s song)

Creep (Radiohead) (Billy’s song. Angela too.)

Almost Lover (A Fine Frenzy)

Mad World (Michael Andrews) (Oftentimes this one is for Tristan)

Jar of Hearts (Christina Perri) (One of Angela’s songs)

Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana- although the Muppets version pops every once in a while, too, just to make me happy)

The Sweater Song (Weezer)

War Pigs (the cover by Cake) (Battle song)

Hurt (the cover by Johnny Cash) (Auger’s song)

Handlebars (Flobots) (My “being a writer gives me ultimate power. I must be on the right track.” song)

Feel Good Inc (Gorillaz)

I Will Follow You Into the Dark (Death Cab for Cutie)

Video Killed the Radio Star (the cover by The Presidents of the United States of America) (Edan’s song)

The Hardest Button to Button (The White Stripes)

Meant to Live (Switchfoot) (for all the bleeders out there)

Comptine d’un Autre Ete (Yann Tiersen)

Rockin’ the Suburbs (Ben Folds) (for all the suburban teens out there)

There are a ton more songs- in fact, this morning I started typing to Going the Distance by Cake and it made my morning! Those, though are the general gist of what I like to listen to. Sometimes I’ll put one on repeat for a specific scene. Sometimes I’ll skip around until I find one I want. But this is what you have to look forward to.

The first book’s list was almost identical. 🙂

Updates shmupdates!

*The website that I write for (www.brocouncil.com) is auditioning for Shark Tank (tv show on ABC), so I’ve been trying to put some kick-butt articles together for them. (PS blogger friends- they take outside articles, too- just click on “submit your stuff” and upload whatever file you think could pertain to guys! You can ask for a link back to your blog, if you want.)

*I gave pdfs of Bleeder to a few discerning friends. Hoping for honest feedback. Adding that to the pile of things I wait for.

*I wrote about 3000 words yesterday. And it’s about time! In the process, a friend complimented me on my writing playlist. I drank iced coffee and ate grapes. Later, when I was done with my 3000, I ate pizza and watched The Mentalist. It was spectacular.

*This is what my mind screams as my characters are still in the woods and all of my sentences start with “She”: “FIRST DRAFT FIRST DRAFT FIRST DRAFT! JUST GET IT OUT! THIS WILL BE CHANGED!!!!” Yes, it’s that manic.

*The Backspace conference enters my mind sometimes and makes my palms sweat. Then my stomach jumps around until I pretend it doesn’t exist again.
*Speaking of that, I need to order business cards. Like, yesterday.
*I won a book in a goodreads giveaway and have been trying to read it for about two weeks now. There are just too many characters in too many locations and too many time periods. They’re all squished together and I don’t really care about any of them. I feel like I have to read it, though, since I won it with the understanding that I would review it. Maybe after today’s 3000…
Blogger friends: Do you give bad reviews? I didn’t realize this was a topic of contention until recently. I just thought you should write what you think, no matter what. What should I do? Help a newbie out!
*Thank you and good lunch! Happy weekend!

Oh the places you’ll go…

So when I began writing, I  thought “This should be easy, I’ll just write what I know! None of this messy research stuff…”

And before you knew it, I was looking up information on genetics, teen mental health, and the Vietnam War.

Now, on my list of things to do for the next book:

*Learn how to shoot a pistol

*Research Army basic training

*Visit a hotel suite (not a room, a suite)

*Tour a high ropes course (or take part! Agh! Heights!)

*Attend at least one karate class and maybe watch a tournament

…keep in mind the book isn’t done yet.

Suffice to say: It’s gonna rock your socks off.

Photo Inspiration

So… when I write, I like to know what the person looks like. Like, in my head. So I can see their facial expressions and stuff. Sometimes I see a person that I know and write it for them. Sometimes I see the character first and try to find a picture to match. Anyway, here are some photo inspirations for my first book, Bleeder. (To the people I know personally- remember, it’s the look I’m using- not you yourself!)

Angela Brandt: 16- the one the whole story’s about. Determined. Quick-thinking. Broken, but healing.

        

 

Kenneth: 16- punk. Reckless. Self-sacrificing.

        

 

Billy: 17- Shakespeare fan. Stoic. Capable.

        

 

Edan: 12- mega-hacking millionaire. Incorrigible. Bouncy. Confident.

         

 

Tristan:  14- sensitive, unsure, the golden boy

          

 

Sgt. First Class Franklin Auger: Vietnam Veteran. Ex Green Beret. Out for revenge.

       

 

Dr. Lucinda Ferrera: The head of CARI. Conniving. Brilliant. Evil. A handprint is burned across her beautiful face.

         

If you were to read my book, these are the people you would read about. And I do know most of them! All but good ol’ Mr. Liam Neeson and Billy’s first picture- a friend gave me that picture.

Now off to write the second one…