Monday, December 30, 2013

Transitioning Into Next Year - the Highlights of 2013 & the Wishes for 2014

 I think this year I'm going to approach my life in list format. It works pretty well for me in the "get stuff done" category, but I also love to have a snapshot of the past year in blog format.

So here goes - impressions of things I loved and things that gave me joy

Creative Life

Hiking into Lost Cove for story research
Taking a commute photograph once a day from Jan-June last spring
Silkscreening t-shirts for friends
Doodling in ARCs
Attending SCBWI Carolinas meeting new friends and spending extra time with old.
A writer's retreat with nine amazing women
Editing No Place To Fall and falling in admiration and respect for my editor
Seeing my cover comps
Having letterpress business cards made by an artist
Mentoring for PitchWars
Teaching wonderful teenagers
Writing, writing, writing

Personal Life

A vacation with my extended family for my parent's 50th anniversary
Time spent with Emily, Abel and their families
Getting my horses trained and resuscitating my riding mojo
Renovating the bathroom and fixing long broken things
Being happy with the choice of living simply
Loving on R, my dogs, and my sweet country home

Book Life

Reading so many wonderful ARC's soon to be released into the world.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog and The Night Circus - my 2 favorite adult books this year
All The Truth That's In Me, Hold Still, & Paper Covers Rock - my 3 favorite YA reads this year
Reading a total of 86 books in 2013 plus manusucripts for CP's - not bad


So what do I want for 2014?

It really only boils down to this. Health, happiness, and graciousness as I enter my debut year. As a new author it's easy to become narcissistic and tunnel blind to all of the amazing that's happening, but I hope to approach this year with balance, gratitude, and humility. I want to keep my friends close and my family closer. I want to remember that, though monumentally exciting, this is only a blip on the radar of my abundant life. 

(I do have a few tiny resolutions - I plan on keeping a visual journal in the year 2014. I'd like to do my daily photograph again, though this time on @instagram, and my horse & house goals continue)

And I do hope that you,  my blog reader, will stop in for more great author and librarian interviews, along with the occasional reckless musings. Happy New Year! Anything you want to share about your year or the one to come?





Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Conversation with AdriAnne Strickland, author of WORDLESS


Hi AdriAnne! I'm so glad you agreed to stop by the blog! I was poking around on your website and saw you'd called one of your characters "your beloved Tavin." This peeked my curiosity. Has your WORDS MADE FLESH trilogy been with you for a while? How did it feel when you found out a character you cared so much about was going to come to life? And do tell! What makes Tavin so beloved? I guess that's three questions, but they all seem related to me, so let's call it one! :0)

April 2014 - Flux - Pre-order Soon!


Thanks so much for interviewing me--I'm excited to be doing this!

And awesome question(s)! The WORDS MADE FLESH hasn't actually been with me for that long--it sort of burst into my mind like a weed when I was trying to write something else a couple years ago. The idea wouldn't stop growing, and so I had to start writing it. How it happened: in my research for this other project, I came across the oft-quoted line, "the Word became flesh," and I could stop thinking... what if a word was flesh? What would that mean? How would that look? What could these words do? The book isn't religious or anything, but that's where the seed came from. And I was relieved (plus ecstatic) when I found out the book would be published, because I wouldn't let myself write more of the trilogy until then--and I so wanted to finish Tavin's story! It was painful to hold myself back, and at that point I didn't have to anymore. And I love Tavin so much because, when I was tapping my inner "boy" for his voice, I essentially channeled my older brother. My brother and I grew up together and are really close, and I put quite a bit of him into that character. So of course I adore Tavin--he's like another brother, almost.

So did you have a trilogy mapped out already? As a standalone writer (thus far) I'm amazed at writers who can not only have story arcs for each individual book but somehow wrap them into a broader story arc of a multi-book series. How was that for you?

I had a trilogy hazily mapped out in my mind when I first started writing, because I knew the idea was too big for one book (I'd made that mistake before with a 200k+ rough draft...). My plots tend to be big. But this one wasn't so much a map as some slurred directions that a drunk guy would give you in the middle of the night. I mostly focused on the arc for the first book and made sure I was vaguely pointed in the right direction for the overall trilogy arc. I only solidly put it all down on paper when my agent requested an outline for book two and three to give to editors if they wanted them--this was after book one was already finished. And knowing where I'm going has been great. I started out writing as a pantser, letting my stories take me where they wanted, but I realized this led to a lot of revision time, not to mention spots where I just got stuck (my version of writers' block). Plotting it all out lets me write and revise much faster, so I've fully switched to this method.

Yeah. I'm still kind of in the middle. I'm a plotser, I guess, but at about the halfway point I have to start plotting or I end up with muddy middles. So I'm curious, any favorite trilogies you've read over the last 5 or 6 years? Or just favorite YA books in general?

Recently, one of favorite trilogies (well, set-of-three since they're not chronological) has been the Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore. I've read all of them at least twice. And then, while I haven't finished it--since it would be impossible--I'm deeply in love with Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy. I enjoyed the first one, but the second one simply blew me away, and now nothing will stop me from getting my hands on the third as soon as it comes out! I've also been enjoying the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness, the Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu and the Grisha by Leigh Bardugo, none of which I've finished but only one the author hasn't finished (hey, there's a lot to read!). Favorite stand-alones have been: The Book Thief, Eleanor and Park, and Looking for Alaska. The single titles must be where I get my realistic fiction...

Yes, yes, yes! I love all of these. Except Patrick Ness. I mean, I loved The Knife of Never Letting Go until we got to Manchee, down by the river. That voice will stay in my head forever, and on principle, I won't read the others. He made me too mad with that little bit of author-ly evil. Some things are meant to be sacred! And to keep from being a spoiler I'm not saying what, but here's a hint. Manchee is a DOG, people. A dog.

Any sacred cows for you? Pet peeves or things that make you say "nope, not for me"? Or just tropes you're tired of reading?

The dog-rule nearly holds for me. And Manchee is not just any dog! He's noble and funny and one of my all-time favorite characters. I was SO angry, I actually ranted to my husband about it (over the course of several days, no less), and quit reading for two months. It took me that long to forgive Patrick Ness enough to continue, but I don't regret it. Otherwise, let's see... religious preachiness makes me stop immediately. No thanks. So do YA characters of either gender who are basically pretty props with the sole purpose of bolstering the MC's ego. Especially if the MC is a boy and the props are girls, since there has already been an overabundance of that throughout literature (though either case is bad). I never made it through I Am Number Four for that reason, among others.

Well, our conversation is coming to an end (sad face, this was fun), and I hope you're not too disappointed but I've ditched our Exquisite Corpse story. It was too hard to get interviews stacked up correctly. So I'm ending with this instead! (How does it feel to be guinea pig number one?). Tell us the next three books in your TBR pile, what liquid is in your cup, and what's playing on repeat.  Thanks AdriAnne! I cant' wait to read Wordless now!

Happy to be a guinea pig! The next three books in my TBR pile (which is a literal pile next to my couch, here) are all sequels in preparation for writing the second book in the Words Made Flesh series: Veronica Rossi's Through the Ever Night, Veronica Roth's Insurgent and Holly Black's Red Glove. I
currently have two bags of PG Tips English Breakfast tea with a dash of 1% milk in my favorite (very large) mug, and I am currently listening to my husband play a piano song on repeat for practice: one of Yann Tiersen's amazing compositions from Amélie, "Comptine d'un autre été."  (I also listen to the .mp3 version on repeat a whole lot.)

And thank you so much for the interview! It was so fun!

I've loved it, too! And you can bet I'll be lined up to meet Tavin in April.

Next week, I'll be on a blog break, but be sure and stop back in on January 2nd when we'll be celebrating with Robin Constantine during her RELEASE WEEK for the adorable contemporary, The Promise of Amazing.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Introducing PitchWars #TeamOnFire

When I told Brenda Drake I’d be willing to be a mentor for PitchWars, I truly had no idea how gratifying it would be. From the fun of being checked out by mentees and meeting new writer folks, to the teasing taunts as we worked our way through our inboxes, to narrowing down those final selections, each step was exciting and I found myself being a bit obsessed by it all.

Now that the mentor selections are in, I felt it might be of interest to hear my reflections. First, I had outstanding entries in my inbox. Out of 59 pitches:

6 ended up being chosen as mentees
8 were chosen as alternates.

That was 23% of my Inbox!


Of the 13 pitches I requested more pages from:

5 ended up being chosen as mentees
5 ended up as alternates

That was 77% of those I requested pages of!

I’m not sure if others’ statistics were similar but I did have some strong stories and writing come my way.

As I read through there were three things that made me not choose a story.

  1. The writing didn’t have the level of sophistication I look for. I highly recommend Renn & Browne’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. There’s a whole chapter on sophistication that will help refine your words. Not that the writing was bad, it was perfectly serviceable but it didn’t have that special something  to catch this reader’s eye.
  2. The story was muddled at the start. Either the world wasn’t explained well enough, or the characters jumped around, but the first pages left me feeling a bit confused as to what I could expect as a reader. In those first pages, I want a contract from the author on what I can expect as I read on.
  3. Pacing. Beautiful writing, stories that intrigued, but my attention wasn’t held.
  4. Just not for me, either a voice I couldn’t connect to or a story I felt like I’d seen before. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong but I knew I wasn’t a fit as a mentor.


So who did I pick, and why?


Introducing #TeamOnFire

Nina Morena and HURRICANE DAUGHTER

When I started reading Nina’s contemporary southern Gothic romance, I was immediately pulled in. Her characters literally lifted off the page and into my imagination. I knew them and cared about them by the end of her first page and reading her first three chapters it got even better. Her story had the heart and soul and nuance of family and friends and setting that makes a story my favorite kind of read. I wanted to travel with Beau and Daisy (and their dual POV’s) till the fiery end. She made that promise to me as a reader right off the bat and there were moments that I wanted to squeeze her sentences they were so perfect. In addition, when I stalked Nina, her website was just as charming, and her musical taste like the soundtrack to my life. I figured we’d work well together. She also personalized her query letter in such a way that I felt like she got me and had given careful consideration to me being one of her possible choices.

Sarah Cannon and CELERITY

I’m not sure Sarah and I would have found each other until she tweeted something about “Anybody interested in teen male protagonist, Browncoats, and a female captain sci-fi?” I immediately pinged her back with a “Go ahead and kill me with your brain.” I’m a huge Firefly fan, I love boy POV, and Mal as a girl?, sign me up. Hers was one I hoped I’d find in my inbox. And I did! Her writing didn’t disappoint and I waffled and even pimped her out to Ninjas in hopes somebody would take her as their mentee, but lucky for me, I got to keep CELERITY and Sarah. This story has a killer plot line (and she was ready with a synopsis when I asked) and a realistic scientific future issue. If I’d lost her to another I’d already planned on begging to read it. That folks, is a sign you’re a match. Like Nina, Sarah sent a well-personalized tight query and though her web presence was slight, her tumblr page and Pinterest page were full of things that made me say, “oh yes, we will be friends.” So I’ll get to sail with Sarah on the Tethys as it fires across the night sky!

Chelsey Blair and DISSONANCE

Chelsey woke me up from boring lunch duty with this first line: “I came to in an ambulance with a drag queen holding my hand.” Boom. She had my attention and I was ready to ride. Then as I grew to know Meridian in those first 5 pages, I wanted more. Wry wit, great emotion, well-rounded characters, and poetry - not to mention music. I wanted this manuscript from the first day. Plus I really thought the subject matter was something not touched on much in YA contemporary. I liked the fact that Meridian was dealing with a new-found disability after she loses her leg, learning not only how to cope with the disability, but how to keep on being musician Meridian, pursuing her passion and firing up her guitar on stage. Like Nina and Sarah, Chelsey had a tight query letter and a well-personalized note to me. Chelsey also runs the blog, Sense and Disablity, about her own issues with being disabled. In my mind, this made her somewhat of an expert to write this particular book. Like Sarah’s manuscript, I waved DISCORDANCE like chocolate in front of a tired teacher, hoping a NINJA would snatch her away from me, but the winds were blowing toward me, and Chelsey remains mine.

I still feel pinch me lucky. These three manuscripts stood out to me early on, all have a way with language and that nuance of character and voice I love, and they were always on my shortest list. I had others I loved, but as they were chosen by other mentors my list tightened and tightened until #TeamOnFire became reality.

And we’re going to burn the competition!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Contests and Favoritism and Maybe Wisdom?

I felt compelled to write this post because one time over the past few years of my online life I heard someone say that such and such a contest was all just people who were friends anyway.

So I thought I might dispel that myth before anyone thinks about snarking on the lovely Brenda Drake and her PitchWars tribe. (AMENDING TO ADD: I have heard NOTHING from anyone along these lines - everyone has been awesome, but it seemed an appropriate time to write about something I've thought about since I heard it a few years ago - now that I've seen contesting from the other side.)

Point A.

For the mentors, just like agents and editors, it really is all about the writing. If your writing is there, then you're up for consideration.

Point B

The mentors are ethical. I, personally, had three people that I've CP'ed for or who have CP'ed for me in the contest. I don't think that is so unusual. But before you point a finger and shout "See! See! This is what I'm talking about!", none of the mentors accepted submissions from our CP's (at least not that I'm aware of.) I even discovered one of my fellow @5amwriter friends in the slush pile because she'd been so close-mouthed about being a potential mentee, I didn't know she'd entered (and she didn't pitch to me).

Point C

Well, you knew them from Twitter so that's why you picked them. Again. False. In my case, I had followed one of my three mentees for a while, but we'd hardly ever had a conversation. The other two, I wasn't aware of till I read their pitches. But, being nice on Twitter helps, sometimes, which brings me to...

Point D

If it comes down to two equally well-written manuscripts that both sing to you in some way, just like you'd ask a friend about a potential date if they knew the person, you might get some feedback from other mentors. Conversely, if someone's been putting themselves out there in the writing world, making connections, gaining CP's, and doing the work--it shows. It's not about who you know, it's about the work you've been doing. I've never been an agent, but I imagine checking out a potential client is a lot like checking out a potential mentee. But Megan Whitmer said it better than me:



Finally, Point E

If you didn't get picked, use this as an opportunity to dig back in. This group of people you're contesting with and gathering CP's from, chances are, EVEN IF YOU DIDN'T GET PICKED FOR THIS CONTEST, some of you are going to be in the debut classes of '15, '16, & '17. Keep at it, because even though it's all about the writing, it never hurts to have friends to help make it better. And knowing people helps, because it shows you're doing the work and willing to sweat some words!

Thanks for those who pitched to me. I am forever grateful.

A Conversation with Skylar Dorset, Author of BREATHLESS

Skylar Dorset, author of BREATHLESS

Hi Skylar, thanks so much for joining me for a conversation. Your description on Goodreads for BREATHLESS makes me want to buy it immediately. But mostly it sounds like it's chock full of super fun characters (love the description of the aunts!). Can you tell us about a couple of your favorites? Who was the most fun to write?


THAT IS LIKE ASKING ME TO CHOOSE MY FAVORITE CHILD!  (Disclosure: I don’t have children. But I *imagine* that’s what it’s like.)

I had a blast writing all of the characters, but I was in Selkie’s head, and I came to really love it there: She is lost and bewildered sometimes—because crazy things happen to her—but she never stops being stubborn and fierce about who she is, inside, underneath all the outside craziness. And I love that about her, because I think it’s something we can all relate to. Or I can, anyway. Sometimes life throws stuff at you that you totally didn’t expect and you have to deal with it the best you can. And Selkie deals with it pretty awesomely. And she’s funny on top of it, which I like. If you’re going to spend a lot of time in someone’s head, you hope that she makes you laugh!

Ben, who is the main male character of the story, is another of my favorites, and not just because I was in Selkie’s head and Selkie is in love with him. Ben is charming and wry and adorable—okay, that *does* make me sound like I’m in love with him. But! There are other awesome things about Ben!  He is not just constantly sweeping Selkie off her feet! Actually, he spends a great deal of time not doing any sort of sweeping off of feet. And he is not afraid to be vulnerable. Much like Selkie, Ben doesn’t have all the answers and is just sort of muddling through, and he’s willing to admit that. And he’s willing to admit it cheerfully, which is pretty irresistible. Cheerfulness can be a rare commodity when unaccompanied by chocolate, and Ben manages to be frequently cheerful *without* chocolate!

As much as I love both Ben and Selkie, populating the canvas with the other more secondary characters was also a delight. My favorite might have been Will, who’s a Salem wizard who thinks of himself as the voice of reason in the face of Selkie’s determination. Will views himself as being constantly put-upon by the insane people all around him, and I love his world-weary sighing, and the fact that he never quite grasps that he is the source of just as much insanity!

I love my MC's too, but secondary characters are so fun to write. Who are some of your favorite secondary characters in books you didn't write? 

Oh, gosh, that is such a hard question! There are so many! Some of my absolute favorites that are standing out to me right now as I think about this:

(1)    Sirius Black from the Harry Potter series: Okay, possibly my favorite secondary character of all time, I have to admit. I just loved Sirius. Rowling was a genius at all secondary characters and I feel like there are a million I could have put here and been proud of, but Sirius really appealed to me. I loved the tragedy of his story, and I loved that he got to redeem himself, and I loved that he developed into a father figure for Harry, but that he wasn’t perfect, and you never really forgot that he wasn’t perfect. I loved that, despite the fact that he was a secondary character, you had a very real sense of him as a whole person, not just him in relation to Harry (which is a hallmark of all of Rowling’s characters). I thought he had a sense of humor (which is a recurring theme of what I like in a character!) and I also thought that he was very sweet and clearly loved the people who were important to him in his life a great deal (another recurring theme of what I like in a character!). There are a lot of deaths to mourn in Harry Potter, but his was the one that cut me the most (is that still a spoiler?).
(2)    Marmee in “Little Woman”: Speaking of parental figures, Marmee is the literal parent in “Little Women,” holding a family together through trying times, with a husband at war and children going through various crises, and she never wavers. She is always there, supportive, loving, and to me she is the glue that holds all of “Little Women” together as a narrative: You know that Marmee is going to be there.
(3)    Cinna from the Hunger Games series: He’s clever and witty and kind and courageous and incredibly creative, and his death is crushing. In fact, let’s move on from that…
(4)    Mrs. Rachel Lynde in the Anne of Green Gables series: Initially an abrasive woman who turns out to have a heart of gold, and whose support of Anne always means so much more because she started out opposed to the idea of her, I love Mrs. Rachel Lynde. Matthew and Marilla are, of course, lovely and wonderful secondary characters, but Mrs. Rachel Lynde is so vividly rendered in the role of the town gossip who nevertheless means well and remains likeable. She’s a tricky character, and could easily devolve into a stereotype that we all love to hate, and she never does, and I love that about her.
(5)    Reepicheep from the Narnia series: I was always so excited whenever Reepicheep showed up on the page. Dashing and courageous, Reepicheep never shies away from adventure, and there is a way in which he has the most perfect character arc in the entire Narnia series, heading out into the vast unknown to keep adventuring and discovering for as long as we wish to imagine him doing so. Plus, HE’S A BIG MOUSE WITH A RAPIER. WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE.

Wonderful characters. I have to say it was Hedwig and Snape that cut me the most in the HP series (and no, I don't think that can be a spoiler anymore!). And I loved what you said about Mrs. Rachel Lynde in Anne of the Green Gables. It is so easy to slip into stereotype with side characters. How do you avoid it in your own writing?

I think I try never to think of anyone as a “side character.” I like to think that every character I write could be the star of a book. Maybe not *this* book, but *a* book. And, in fact, I’ve thought about what each of their books would be about. So I think that helps to make them feel less like just The Best Friend, The Love Interest, etc., and more like characters who are starring in their own life movies but also making cameos in the one I’m writing, so to speak.

And this seems to be the perfect place to ask about what's next after BREATHLESS. Any of these "not side" side characters making appearances? Or books you want to write?

I have seven million ideas for books, and a few of those actually do involve some of the characters in BREATHLESS. I’d love to explore a bit more the Salem wizard who plays a role in helping Selkie out. In my book, he’s been around Boston a long time—since its founding—and I would love to delve a bit more into what it was like to be a young, reckless wizard in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. There are also a couple of other side characters—goblins and such—who I think have really interesting stories to tell. I’m flirting with the idea of their stories being historic, too. Like, wouldn’t it be fun to see what Boston was like around the time it was deciding to install its first subway? I think that would be really interesting!

As for other books I want to write, oh, gosh, the terrain of my brain is a very crowded one!! I would love to try something with time travel (apparently I’m really into the idea of writing something historic). I would also love to do something Mardi-Gras-related. I lived in New Orleans for a few years and I’d love to incorporate that experience into a future book.

Oh those sound great! All of them! Get to work, lady! (I'm with you on the Mardi Gras thing. I grew up in Mobile, Alabama which has an old and active Mardi Gras of which my family is a part of - but shhhh, those things are SEKRET!)

It's been so great talking to you and getting to know you and your book a little bit better! Thanks so much for chatting. But now is the time I'll ask you to add a line to our Exquisite Corpse story. 

Oh, and Mobile has the oldest Mardi Gras event, right? Believe it or not, New Orleans is very sensitive about that! Added my sentence below!

Yesterday, at the asylum, Johnny got lost in a hole. One moment he was occupying stall #6 of the third floor boy's restroom, the next he was gone, nothing but a flush and a startled scream in his wake.  Briefly, he wondered how he'd talk himself out of this mess when they found him...if they found him. But a howling sound suddenly echoed through the surrounding darkness and he knew; there wasn’t time to worry. He'd landed on his hands and knees on a stone floor covered with a foul-smelling, slimy liquid that made him glad he'd skipped lunch. When the howling sounded again--this time much closer--Johnny scrambled to his feet. 

He felt a blast of hot wind. No, not wind. Breath. He turned slowly, hoping that he was wrong, but he knew what he would find, what he's always been warned about but never believed truly lived in these dark recesses. A pair of eyes emerged from the tunnel, dark and somewhat bulgy. The beast snorted. It's tongue hung from the corner of its mouth. It was the biggest WerePug he had ever seen, and worse, it looked hungry. 

Everyone knew that WerePugs couldn't see too well - their bulgy eyes found it difficult to focus on anything, so they relied on quick movement combined with sound from whatever object they were chasing. Johnny knew there was only once way out. Taking a deep breath and holding it inside puffed cheeks, he slowly got down on his belly and began to push himself, using the stinky, slimy liquid to slick his way, under the beast's heaving belly and out the other side. Unfortunately, once he got out the other side, he realized it was a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, because on the other side of the WerePugs was…WerePuppies.
  
And, sadly, this concludes our Exquisite corpse segment, though the conversations will continue! It was a scheduling issue problem - so the saga of Johnny and the Were pugs is complete. Be sure and stop in next week when I'll be chatting with Adrianne Strickland, author of WORDLESS.




Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Conversation with Leigh Ann Kopans, Author of ONE, TWO, and SOLVING FOR EX.

Leigh Ann Kopans: Author of One, Two, and Solving for Ex

Hi Leigh Ann! I'm so excited you agreed to a conversation! I've really enjoyed watching your career grow over the past couple of years. I loved your first novel, ONE. Now I have TWO and the soon to be out, SOLVING FOR EX, to look forward to! If you could name the highest point and lowest point of your publishing career so far, what would they be?



Ahhh thank you so much for having me! You've been such an awesome support and friend, and it's been fun to grow into authors together, hasn't it? :)

And I have to say, I so appreciate your reading my books. It really does mean the world to me. On one level, I guess a more meta-level, that's been the highest point. People I respect, and people I don't know, are reading and enjoying my books. That's really the dream, isn't it? But more specifically, hitting the bestseller lists in Teen Science Fiction on Amazon was pretty awesome too. :)

The lowest point, honestly, was right before I decided to self-publish. I really felt like I would never be a published author, and for me, it was really hard to keep going. I was trying to make it in traditional publishing, but I didn't thrive in that system at all, in so many ways.

It has been fun! What's so cool to me is the absolutely real friendships that develop through social media. It's like finding your people and, to me, is the adult equivalent of going to college where there was a much bigger pool of like-minded folks to find and connect with.

I feel like this is probably a been there, done that sort of question, but I think it's one people are still interested in, which is the decision to self-pub. It's exciting to see it becoming more and more accepted, along with all the crossover that's going on with people trad pub'ing some work and self pub'ing other work. For you, are you firmly in the self pub camp now or would you still consider some sort of mix of avenues? Reasons?

I'm pretty firmly in the self-publishing camp now, just because it has made such a difference in my writing life, and I like my new one better. For me, the quest to become traditionally published was very painful. I was constantly wondering if writing what I was writing was a waste of time, whether it would please agents and then publishers, and if it didn't please agents and publishers, how did I know it was any good? Was I improving at all? Was any of this worth it? It was all about writing a book that would sell.
As a self-published author, I know that anything I write that I would like to be published...will be published. I make editorial decisions that I feel are true to the story, I choose a cover and marketing plan based on my vision and instincts. I release books on my timetable - I write quickly - and when I do publish a book, I make 70% of the sale price in profits.
In my view, self-publishing only  has 2 drawbacks - the money you have to spend up front, and the fact that your book will likely not be in a bookstore. I'm okay with both of those things. 

It makes me so happy to hear it's working for you! It's something I never discounted as an option. I just managed to be in the right time, right place, right story situation for my publisher, but I have to admit, I'm happy not to be doing the front end work I know you have to do for marketing, etc. So hoorah for perfect paths and best personal decisions!! And I loved ONE, so you have nothing to worry about.

Oh, totally. Asking for reviews and planning blog tours and ordering swag takes up a LOT of time. It's pretty intense. At worst, it's a slog, at best, it's creative fun. But it always takes up a lot of time (and  money!)
So, yes, hoorah for perfect paths! 

Okay, since I brought up ONE--one of the aspects that I thought was remarkable was your world building. Do you have any tips for writers building near-future science-filled worlds like yours?

Thanks for the props on One's world-building! My CPs had a heavy hand in challenging me to go deeper with the world building in each draft. I think my best tip is to think about the stuff you use every day - phone, cars - and how it would change a hundred years from now. That'll provide the richest world building, because it bleeds into every area of life. 

That makes sense. It's hard to predict isn't it. Some things happen faster than we'd ever expect, some things don't happen. I read Ender's Game about a year ago and what amazed me was how it still felt relevant and sci-fi enough for today's market. 

But you next release is not future set, is it? Tell us a little bit about Solving For Ex and how it was to write a contemporary versus your One Universe series.


Ahhh, Ender's Game! One of my favorites! Yes, that's a great example.
So, no. My next release is not future set. Funnily enough, that comes with a whole new bunch of worldbuilding considerations. I didn't want to mention tech, fashion, or pop culture in great detail, because (maybe hubristically) I didn't want the book to ever seem dated. So I had to be careful to describe the fit of clothing as opposed to its actual style, and mention a phone but not the look of the buttons on it. I know some things will inevitably be dated, but I tried to minimize that as much as possible.
In terms of the plot, it wouldn't have been much different writing it, had it not been a romance. I remember calling my friend Gina Ciocca and telling her that this book was crap because nothing happened in it. "Stuff is happening," she said, "just not the kind of stuff you're used to." I learned quickly that even if there were no literal explosions and action in romance, there was still a lot of metaphorical destruction and upset going on. 

The age old internal versus external issue. And by the way, I saw your postcards for Solving For Ex on Instagram and they are adorable. Really professional job on the part of your graphics person. So yay!

Okay, it's come to the end of our blog time together, but before you go, will you add a line to our Exquisite Corpse story? Here's what we've got - and for now, this is seeming more plot driven than character driven, and perhaps, a middle grade? Thanks for visiting Leigh Ann! 

And readers, at the end of the Exquisite Corpse passage is a Rafflecopter giveaway for your choice of one of Leigh Ann's three books! 

And next week stop back in when I'll chat with Skylar Dorset, author of Breathless!

Exquisite Corpse
Yesterday, at the asylum, Johnny got lost in a hole. One moment he was occupying stall #6 of the third floor boy's restroom, the next he was gone, nothing but a flush and a startled scream in his wake.  Briefly, he wondered how he'd talk himself out of this mess when they found him...if they found him. But a howling sound suddenly echoed through the surrounding darkness and he knew; there wasn’t time to worry. He'd landed on his hands and knees on a stone floor covered with a foul-smelling, slimy liquid that made him glad he'd skipped lunch. When the howling sounded again--this time much closer--Johnny scrambled to his feet. 

He felt a blast of hot wind. No, not wind. Breath. He turned slowly, hoping that he was wrong, but he knew what he would find, what he's always been warned about but never believed truly lived in these dark recesses. A pair of eyes emerged from the tunnel, dark and somewhat bulgy. The beast snorted. It's tongue hung from the corner of its mouth. It was the biggest WerePug he had ever seen, and worse, it looked hungry. 

Everyone knew that WerePugs couldn't see too well - their bulgy eyes found it difficult to focus on anything, so they relied on quick movement combined with sound from whatever object they were chasing. Johnny knew there was only once way out. Taking a deep breath and holding it inside puffed cheeks, he slowly got down on his belly and began to push himself, using the stinky, slimy liquid to slick his way, under the beast's heaving belly and out the other side.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 2, 2013

KEEPER OF WONDER: An Interview with Laura Blankenship


Today's Keeper of Wonder was recommended to me by author, Kelsey Macke. Librarian, Laura Blankenship, wasn't always a librarian, she was an English teacher. Kelsey's English teacher to be precise! But today she's here to talk to us about her new role: Librarian!

Tell us about your job (age level, where, school or community and the name I should use)
I work as a school librarian at Plano West Senior High in Plano, a suburb north of Dallas. Our school serves about 2,750 juniors and seniors. In the library, we may see 300-400 students a day and have the opportunity to help with book selection as well as research and technology questions.

Tell us what you love the most about your library?
I love that we can help kids every day. “I want a survival book.” I can help you with that. “How do I complete my works cited page for these articles?” I can help you with that. “I need to send this project to my teacher.” I can help you with that. “Where can I find research for this project?” I can help you with that. We aim to help in whatever way we can so that students know they have a welcoming place to ask their questions.

What makes you purchase a book for your collection?
Professional reviews from Booklist, SLJ, Voya, and LMC. Galleys of new books that I read and think I can promote. Requests from students and teachers.

What was the most recent book request?
I rushed out to get House of Hades and Allegiant on their book birthdays and haven’t seen them since!

What was your most recent book suggestion to a patron?
Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano. We were discussing the government in Allegiant, and I thought she might like something similar yet completely different. I also gave Two Boys Kissing to a patron who was sure we did not have books about gay characters in our library. (very cool)

If you could sit down to your favorite beverage with any current kidlit author, who would it be? And why?
I would love to go on a writer’s retreat with Maureen Johnson, Libba Bray, Maggie Stiefvater, and Beth Revis. I can serve up the drinks and treats needed to keep the words flowing while I get the inside scoop on Shades of London, Diviners, and The Raven Boys. And Beth and I can dish about The Doctor and Cap’n Mal. Oh, and Maureen can bring Zelda, and I will play with her while serious writing happens!  Because I ‘know” all these writers on Twitter, I am sure we will have many laughs!

What was your most recent book suggestion to a friend?
I handed One Second After by William Forstchen to a friend and colleague yesterday morning. By 6:00 pm she was texting me that she was heading out to stock up on water and canned goods! (this book is set very near where I live, so I could picture all the places, etc. - I had the exact same reaction as your friend. A very frightening book.)

Five favorite books of the past five years. 

Well, Neil Gaiman says, “Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d like most not to lose,” but here goes.  (Ha, great quote!)

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (FANGIRL will probably rank up there, but since I am not quite finished, I will refrain from adding it yet.)
Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga


AHHHH! That’s already 5!

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Laura! Writers love librarians! And readers, if you know a librarian you think might participate, please steer them in my direction!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Devil's in the Details: The Difference between Fine and Fabulous in your Manuscript

As Pitchwars submission day looms nearer, I find myself thinking about what makes a manuscript sing when I read. What makes me perk up and say "oh this writer has it" versus "this is good, but I'm not quite feeling it." True for me, and I'm sure all of the mentors, is the excitement of these days leading up to submission day. It's kind of like speed dating on Twitter, but here's the thing, as fun and interesting and awesome as each of you are, the pick will really come down to the manuscript and your words and the marketability of your story.

So, if you've followed the mentors' wisdom of "Is your manuscript truly ready" then here's what I bet you have going for you:


  • Grammar, spelling, and mechanics. The basics you've got down pat.
  • A pretty decent plot line. You have a solid beginning, middle, and end that make sense.
  • A main character we can travel with.
Assuming, you have all of the above, what are going to be the things that set your manuscript apart. 



  • A good handle on showing versus telling (Monica B.W. wrote a good post HERE)
  • Well-rounded characters. As fun as stereotypes are to write (raises hand - I love making bad guys so bad they're ridiculous), characters are far more interesting when they're nuanced. If you watch Justified (if you do, we can be friends) - both Raylen Givens and Boyd Crowder are great examples of characters who are neither all bad or all good. Also backstory plays a role, think of Draco Malfoy, the favorite platinum blonde you love to hate. When you know his life, the pressure and prejudice he was raised with, you can, if not forgive him, at least empathize. PRO TIP: I create backstory for every single one of my characters. At times, NONE of it ends up in the book, but it helps me write them real.
  • Plausible motivations. Sometimes when we write and we need a character to get from point A to point B, whether emotionally or physically, we throw our writer hands up in the air and go "Oh, I'll just do this." Fine for first drafts. Mine are filled with ALL CAPS PLACEHOLDERS THAT SAY THINGS LIKE YOU WILL REVISE THE SNOT OUT OF THIS MOTIVATION. But by this draft, it should be pretty smoothed out.
  • A nice blend of exposition to dialogue to interiority. Hunger Games is a great example of this. My recommendation? Go through the first couple of pages with three highlighters. One for exposition, one for dialogue, one for interiority. See how it balances.
  • A cool setting. This could be your cousin Ephau's single wide trailer. But if we get a clear picture of the wood paneling, the collection of Velvet Elvis paintings, the vase of fresh flowers he buys every week at the SuperFoods, all of a sudden it's more than just a trailer. PRO TIP: Every detail you put in your setting should be a stage for either character or plot.
There's more, there's always more, but I'm going to move on to talk about marketability. This is the part that sucks. Here is a real live quote, about a real live manuscript I once had submitted to editors:


This story has such a compelling premise, and a truly unique world which I can tell Jaye put a lot of thought into constructing.  Roan’s emotions feel very authentic, and I found myself really rooting for her.
However, I’m afraid it’s not an ideal fit for me.  The truth is, Penguin already has so much dystopian on our list that for us to sign up more, it’s got to be just staggeringly unique and totally unlike anything else in order to compete for the marketing muscle.

And this is another part of the truth. PRO TIP: Publishing, especially big 5 publishing, is a business. Plain and simple. It is about the money. You may have the best damn sparkly vampire book ever written, but right now, if Big 5 is your goal, it probably isn't going to happen. Yes, it sucks. It bites, it's horrible. But you know what, I haven't given up on the manuscript referred to above. It was subbed to a small group and it's not dead to me. One day, I'll pull it out of a drawer, revise it yet again, and try to sell it. But the thing is, marketability does matter. And as mentors, we want to pick mentees who HAVE THE BEST CHANCE RIGHT NOW of getting picked up by an agent. So we're going to pay attention to agent wish and editor wish lists as well as our own. It may be the deciding factor in some cases, and we may pick manuscripts that aren't our personal favorites in lieu of picking one that has a better chance of agent action. Because we want our mentees to GET ALL THE REQUESTS!

Hope this helps and have a great Thanksgivukkah!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Some Random Jro Trivia for Pitch Wars participants

My pre-teen sulk was perfected.

In stalking looking at other mentor's sites, I realized I didn't give you much trivia, so here goes!

I can touch my nose with my tongue. 

I once worked for a company that had non-gambling poker tables set up at bars for people to play but THEY COULD NOT BET. Most annoying job ever. 

I'm a biologically half-Jew (whole according to the Torah - mom) who grew up Episcopal, going to Passover at my aunt's house and attending Catholic high school. I still pray but mostly out in the woods and to something greater than me that I cannot name (because I'm not really down with the whole white-bearded man in the sky routine but I'm okay if you are - I'm very faithful about faith). 

I like pesto. A lot. 

I'm not a gamer. I'd rather read or bake or take hikes or ride horses.

I'm not a superhero fan (except for Wonder Woman and Cat Woman who kick ass). 

I tend toward quirk like Wes Anderson films and my favorite type of party is one with a project, like an annual Peep carnival party I go to where we drink and build scenes with Peeps. Best. Time. Ever.

I love Lady Gaga but I also love the Avett brothers. My musical taste is sort of like my religious upbringing. (Electric Guest is a new favorite - Trouble Man - best song Evah!)

I think Disney princesses are the ruination of young girls' minds. Yeah, so I'm sort of a feminist. (But I love a good male protagonist) 

I do LOVE Firefly, Game of Thrones, the old Star Trek and the new, Harry Potter (Ravenclaw, represent!), Justified!. Give me nineties movies and I'll give you gold. 

I loved Banksy before he came to NYC last month. My phone cover is one of his pieces. I love the concept of art for the masses (Bread and Puppet theatre anyone?)

I'm a liberal. There may be other l words that apply to me, as well. ;0)

If I could be a current actress it would be JLaw because she says it like she needs to. 

I live in 14 acres in rural western NC which is sort of wacky considering it is the peg that is in the buckle of the Bible Belt, but there's an awesome artist's community here because of Penland School of Crafts. I have 4 Morgan horses, a goat, 3 cats, 4 dogs, a guinea hen, a Silver Laced Wyandotte rooster, and 3 old hens that don't lay anymore. No partridges but there are a couple of pear trees.

Want more? Ask a question below and I'll give you an answer :)
Want to jump to my wish list? CLICK HERE.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Are Online Pitch Contests for You? Prepping for PitchWars and Should You Enter?

This is my first year as a mentor for Brenda Drake's PitchWars contest and already I can feel the buzz of excitement and anxiety in the air as I follow the #pitchwars thread on Twitter. Because I've been in the shoes as a contest participant before (not PitchWars but others), I thought I'd share a few thoughts.

Are Contests For You?

Is your manuscript truly finished? As tempting as it may be to fling that Nano project to the winds, it's probably not going to stick. In my own process for No Place To Fall, I went through a rough draft, my first pass draft, front line CP who did chapter by chapter, beta readers, and agent R&R's before I signed with Alexandra. My first draft wasn't ready and it's the rare writer's work that will be. For myself, I wouldn't want to enter a contest like PitchWars if I hadn't had a few other sets of eyes on my work first. If you feel like your manuscript is truly ready, then YES!

Can you handle rejection? Because here's the thing. Readers are subjective. Agents have personal tastes, good days, bad days, bad hair days, whatever. Same with PitchWars mentors. You may have a perfectly good manuscript but YOU CAN'T KNOW what other candidates are showing up on the same day as you. So if you can approach it with a zen attitude of "hey if this works, great, if not, move along", then YES, you are ready.

This is about a mentor/mentee relationship. Can you work with another writer? Do you thrive on feedback and suggestions or do you bristle at the mere thought of someone thinking your work isn't perfect? There's no point in entering if you're not willing to take and act upon sound advice. (But you also need to be true to your vision - and the relationship should be a two-way conversation)




That's what it really boils down to. And if you can say yes to these questions, then why not go for it? What I love about PitchWars is that all rejection takes place off the airwaves. No one has to know you've entered, no one has to know if your mentors passed. But if chosen, either as the pick or as an alternate, it's an opportunity to get your work in front of agents quickly.

And, I think agents pay closer attention to contest requests than slush requests. Why? Because they know other agents are reading, too. And that, my friends, is a very powerful reason to be brave.


Now, here are some tips on what I'll be looking for. 

  • good writing mechanics
  • the ability to show, not tell
  • voice, right off the bat
  • a sense of space and time and what I can expect within the first page
  • something that snags me immediately
What will make me request more pages?
  • All of the above
  • Plus, a character that I care about.
  • Or a world that intrigues me.
  • Also, gorgeous sentence structure.




Friday, November 22, 2013

A Conversation with Kristen Lippert-Martin, Author of TABULA RASA

Hello and Howdy - If you stopped in for PitchWars, HOORAH! Take a minute and read this interview with the lovely Kristen Lippert-Martin (@klipmart) before jumping down to the next blog entry. Her thriller, Tabula Rasa, comes out next fall! Whoot!
Kristen Lippert-Martin, author of Tabula Rasa

Hi, Kristen! I'm almost nervous to have you on my blog. You seriously raise the funny bar. So I've got to know. Your debut novel, Tabula Rasa, is a thriller. Please tell me your wicked sense of humor shines through in your characters!

Here's the thing, thriller and funny don't necessarily go that well together because you're trying to build tension, not deflate it. So it was a real challenge to keep my inner wiseguy in check, especially when I was creating Sarah's (my MC) voice. Sarah does a few things that are unintentionally funny, but she's the first character I've ever created who does not use humor as a defense mechanism. Of course that left me with a problem: What to do with all the leftover wisecrackery that builds up in my blood stream on a daily basis? I ended up dividing it between two other characters, one of whom is the villain.

Yep, I can see how that would be tricky. But a wise cracking villain is awesome! Which begs the question, who are some of your absolute favorite fictional bad guys?

Gosh, I must admit that I have a soft spot for the Wicked Witch of the West. I mean, dude, she's waited and waited forever and those ruby slippers were all but hers and then some upstart farm girl drops out of the sky and JUST TAKES THEM? What is that, I ask you?

I also like Hans Gruber from Die Hard, mostly because, duh, Alan Rickman is awesome and I also appreciate a nattily dressed villain with a great b*tchface. I like villains like Khan from Star Trek, Tom Ripley (The Talented Mr. Ripley), Voldemort, and that badass Queen Alien from Aliens. These are people (or giant lizard creatures) who don't see themselves as villains at all, and in some alternate, twisted tale could be considered the hero. They're just quietly going about the business of world domination and some lesser somebody/jerky kid with green eyes comes along and messes it all up for them. TOTALLY NOT FAIR AT ALL.

Poor little alien lizard lady :0(, and Alan Rickman, Yes! I love him. So speaking of awesome characters. Which comes first for you, characters or plot? How did Tabula Rasa come together?

It's so hard to tease character and plot apart, but I will say that TR is the first time I consciously set out to write a certain kind of book, in this case, an action-thriller. I guess making that choice created certain creative parameters to start from. I guess that's what genre does for you, gives you some rules to follow initially. 

From there, I got this image of my MC tied to a chair with restraints. I had to figure out who she was and how she ended up in these circumstances. I decided she was an angry person who couldn't remember what she was angry about or what she could do about it even if she could remember. She's beaten, she's given up, she's kind of indifferent to being alive at all, really. It was hard to balance her moody introspection with the action-oriented story I'd imagined, but I guess that became the challenge: How do I get this character, who seemingly doesn't care about anything, to stand up and fight for her life?

Man, that sounds like a potent character arc! That balance of inner arc to outer physical arc is one of my FAVORITE things about writing, and a thriller that does it well...golden. Now I'm even more excited for Tabula Rasa. Which brings up the obvious question, what other YA genres are you interested in exploring? Any cool new ideas in the brain closet?

As a matter of fact, my WiP is a YA fantasy, and I've never written fantasy before. Some days I wonder if I've gotten in over my head. Other days I'm certain I've gotten in over my head. But it keeps things from getting stale. I figure if I'm having fun writing something it'll show in the story.

In some ways I think the world-building in a fantasy might be easier than figuring out how to make a thriller convincing and suspenseful - oh, who am I kidding it's all difficult! And fun! Anyway, thanks, Kristen, for stopping in for a chat and now it's your turn to add to our Exquisite Corpse game! Please add your own sentence to the following paragraph (or start a new paragraph if it's time!).

Thanks, JRo! 

Exquisite Corpse:

Yesterday, at the asylum, Johnny got lost in a hole. One moment he was occupying stall #6 of the third floor boy's restroom, the next he was gone, nothing but a flush and a startled scream in his wake.  Briefly, he wondered how he'd talk himself out of this mess when they found him...if they found him. But a howling sound suddenly echoed through the surrounding darkness and he knew; there wasn’t time to worry. He'd landed on his hands and knees on a stone floor covered with a foul-smelling, slimy liquid that made him glad he'd skipped lunch. When the howling sounded again--this time much closer--Johnny scrambled to his feet. 

He felt a blast of hot wind. No, not wind. Breath. He turned slowly, hoping that he was wrong, but he knew what he would find, what he's always been warned about but never believed truly lived in these dark recesses. A pair of eyes emerged from the tunnel, dark and somewhat bulgy. The beast snorted. It's tongue hung from the corner of its mouth. It was the biggest WerePug he had ever seen, and worse, it looked hungry. 

Next week I'll be on a Thanksgiving blog break, but be sure and stop back in for my chat with Leigh Ann Kopans on December 5th when we talk pub decisions and world-building. And a giveaway of your choice of her 3 books!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pitch Wars Is Here!!!! And I Want You to Pick Me!



Not sure what Pitch Wars is? Click HERE!
Hello! I’m supposed to razzle & dazzle you and make you beg to be my mentee. But here’s the deal, I’m begging you to pick me! Why? Because nothing is going to make me feel more fantastic than having a chance to give back to this amazing community of young adult writers.

But First, Have you seen the list of fantastic agents???? SUPER WOW!!!

1. LouiseFury – Bent Agency 
2. SuzieTownsend – New Leaf Literary 
3. NicoleResciniti - The Seymour Agency 
4. JohnM. Cusick – The Greenhouse Agency 
5. SarahLaPolla – Bradford Literary Agency 
6. VictoriaMarini - Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency 
7. JessicaSinsheimer - Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency 
8. Pamvan Hylckama Vlieg - Foreword Literary 
9. QuinlanLee - Adams Literary
10. JenUdden – Donald Maass Literary Agency 
11. EmilyKeyes – Foreward Literary 
12. Brianne Johnson – Writers House 
13. CarlyWatters – P.S. Literary 
14. LanaPopovic and Natasha Alexis - Zachary Shuster Harmsworth 
15. MollyJaffa – Folio Literary Management 
16. EvanGregorgy - Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency 
17. Stefanie Leiberman - Janklow & Nesbit
18. Rena Rossner - The Deborah Harris Agency





So, who am I? I’m Jaye Robin Brown, or Jro, which is what most people call me. I’m a writer, a public high school art teacher, an animal lover, and an avid reader. My writing is fueled by coffee, chocolate, and laughter! My debut novel is a young adult contemporary set in the mountains of North Carolina (where I happen to live!). It’s about family and mistakes and truth and longing.  But mostly it’s about Amber Vaughn who dreams of singing on stage but whose circumstances keep getting in her way. And let’s not forget the cute boy with the banjo. (No Place To Fall - Harper Teen 2014)

I don't have a degree in writing or even English, but I've been at this for a while now, including an entire editorial process with my editor at Harper Collins. I've seen one CP get two huge book deals, another sell her own memoir to Sourcebooks, another sell a YA trilogy, a non-fiction book, and a NA series all in two years, and two more get agented, who are now out on submission. I'm a firm believer in the power of opening yourself to feedback! So yay you for risking this!

What do I like in writing? I like fully realized characters, VOICE, and big hearts and pretty words.  Think commercial fiction with a literary bent to the writing. I love characters who grapple with the question of life and how to best live it. I also love setting as character - transport me! Make me live in your world! And smart humor makes me weak in the knees. 

So what's on my wish list? It must all be Young Adult.

If you can make me feel like this, I want you!
I love contemporary fiction that involves a larger cast of characters. Give me families and parents. I also love a good romance. Serious subject matter is fine, as are LGBT characters and twisty thrilling plot lines. The hard stuff doesn’t scare me, but as you can see by the following list, I like a good summer romance, too. (Contemporary faves are A.S. King, Sara Zarr, Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, Holly Cupala, Sarah Dessen, Ashley Elston, Emily Murdoch)  I’m not wild about mean girls or snarky gossip style contemporaries or dark just to be dark (rather than tackling a real social issue), I’m probably not your best bet there. Smart with heart is my jam. Choke me up!



Does this need more words?
Zombies or really just any great Survival Tale- I freaking love a good zombie story. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, Ashes by Ilsa Blick. I really do love zombie survival tales. But in this marketplace it's going to have to be stand out in some way for me to pick it. Some new take on this done trope. 


Give me a ripping plot like this baby and his balls!
In Science fiction/near-future - Sociological sci-fi (versus hard science sci-fi) - think Beth Revis’ trilogy or The Adoration of Jenna Fox. I love things that question political structures, medical issues and environmental issues (fracking anyone?) but I am super tired of the enslaved future woman trope where they have to marry a certain guy and it's like the future has harkened back to the victorian era for women. No. But most important is a sizzling fast pace and suspense and thrills that keep me turning the page.



Got horses in your fantasy novel?
Fantasy - I say this with a smidge of hesitation as I'm not a huge fantasy reader, but if someone has their sights set on me as a mentor, I'm open to a look-see. Books I've loved: Kristin Cashore's three books, especially Fire (I think because of the horses), The Scorpio Races (horses), City of A Thousand Dolls (which sort of breaks my rule above in Sci/Fi but...talking cats) - (I do love Game of Thrones but I've never read the books) if you've got a gorgeous world and characters I connect to and animals play a role in your world - thumbs up. I struggle with super high fantasy and crazy made-up names that are so odd they make me want to throw the book, I also don't love faeries or things that harken straight back to medieval times. Revised to add: Urban Fantasy ala The Mortal Instruments or Holly Black's White Cat series also floats my boat! I can't believe I forgot to add this. Magical Realism - is awesome. Although I think I've read it more in Middle Grade than in YA - would love the equivalent of Savvy or Scumble in a YA!!!!

I also like what's going on upstairs in the saloon - mix in some romance with your gun play!
I also love Historical, especially if it has a new twist to a much done time frame, but I love the old west, the civil war, WWII having to do with the camps (a gay Holocaust story! - yes!). I'm also open to something in an exotic locale. I can't promise to be a help on your historical facts, BUT if you’re looking for story, character, voice, pacing feedback, then YES! (Jennifer Donnelly is a favorite and I loved Jenn McGowan’s Maid of Secrets, Megan Shepherd's Madman's Daughter, and just had my mind blown by Julie Berry’s All The Truth That’s In Me.)

If retellings, mythology, freaky/scary horror, and elementals are your thing, then I’m probably not for you.

How am I as a critique partner?
My CP’s often preface their e-mails with “I know you’ll be honest with me,” and that’s true. If I see areas that need work, I’m not going to skip it. But I’m not going to be an ass, either. I’ll point out your strengths and what is all “Heck Yeah!” and “Gorgeous!” but I’m also going to point out where you might think about reworking. My notes are often in forms of questions. I don’t want to tell you how to write your story, but sometimes I might want to get you thinking about things. I’ve just been through an amazing editorial process with my editor at Harper Collins, so I feel like I’m even better equipped than ever before to be your mentor.

So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I hope you pick me! There’s a bit more about me on my website, jayerobinbrown.com.  But truly, you can’t go wrong with anyone on this list. I look forward to reading your work! It's also true I only get to pick one of you, but I promise I will give each person feedback as to why I didn't pick them. And I imagine it may just boil down to market or personal taste because I feel pretty certain I'm going to be reading some AMAZING entries! FOR SUBMISSION GUIDELINES PLEASE VISIT www.brenda-drake.com.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

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