Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times...Getting your Editorial Letter.

Keep Calm and Carry On.

Ok, so it's really very wrong to equate getting an editorial letter to a world war, but on the most minute, warped, internal scale--especially to a debut author--it might not be that far off the mark.

You're going to open your inbox and be super excited that your awesome editor is actually writing to YOU! With even more awesome notes that is going to turn your humble little novel into a fantastic work of art! The world won't know how to handle the sheer level of your utter brilliance!

Of course, then you actually open said edit letter, and um, yeah, you might just panic. A little bit. Or, maybe, even a lot.

First off, this reaction is absolutely normal. You're being asked to make changes to something you've worked on for months, if not years. It's going to hurt, and it's more than likely going to be hard. At this first editorial pass, these changes might be major. We're talking theme, character overhauls, maybe getting rid of a character. Fitting in backstory, taking out backstory. Plot holes. Jiggling timelines. You know...pretty much your whole book (or so it feels like). Then there's still line edits and copy edits, the ones that deal with all the minor glitches like plot consistency, word choice, sentence structure--but this is a different kind of editing altogether, and comes later.

So have your moment (Now Panic and Freak Out)--eat a truckload of chocolate, have a good cry into your (hopefully very caffeinated) drink of choice--and then let it go.

Because you can do this.

You've already written an entire novel, one so good it made an actual publishing house give you money for the right to print it. That a real live editor wants to spend their time working with you. That in itself is an incredible accomplishment. So just think of these edits as tweaks, refining what's already there, like shaving off the fat to get to the good stuff. And when it's 3 am in the morning and you've only done half of what you meant to get done yesterday and you've got to get up in less than four hours...keep calm and carry on (meaning go to sleep already, it'll still be there in the morning).

Your editor already really, really loves your book. They only want to make it better, the best it can be. And with edit notes, they are giving you an opportunity to see your novel in a new light. How and where things can be improved, tightened, made absolutely amazing.

Your book's going to rock.

Elsie Chapman's debut YA novel DUALED will be released Spring 2013 from Random House. Follow her on twitter , find her at her blog, and she's also on facebook.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What to expect from an editorial letter - LINKED

I sold LINKED, my YA science fiction, to Simon & Schuster on June 17th.  After the celebrations, the incoherent emails to friends, and the utter shell-shockedness of "OMG they want my book", I felt quite ready for the next stage.  No, not the sale of the film rights (although, you know, I wouldn't mind if that happened too!): the editorial letter.

Although I've had edits - ranging from sketchy to substantial - for books before, I was a novice when it came to edits with a major New York publishing house.  I'd heard stories of eight-page editorial letters, and editors who totally rewrote your sentences for you.  I'd also heard - in a "friend of a friend" way that I tried not to take seriously - of bestselling authors who refused to let themselves use the word "was" more than once a page, or who never used dialogue tags, or who avoided all adverbs.

I knew my editor, Navah Wolfe, loved the book.  We'd already talked over some revisions she wanted and I was absolutely in agreement with them. I was very willing to do whatever she asked to turn the book into a product Simon & Schuster could sell, but I was a little nervous that the process might clean my voice out of the book or make it feel less "mine".

The editorial letter arrived, in an attachment to an email from my editor, on September 22nd.  It wasn't eight pages.  It was eleven.  Thank goodness, my kind editor (who may possibly have dealt with authors before) opened both the email and the letter by saying how much she (still -  phew) loved LINKED, and how much she'd enjoyed working on it.

But I still had to skim through the letter then put it away and hyperventilate for a bit.  My editor was really kind, and really complimentary, but all the same, seeing all the changes she wanted did leave me having to remind myself that she'd bought the book, so she must like it despite all its flaws.

The next day I took the letter back out and read through it properly.

It was very thorough: a mix of line-edits for grammar, punctuation, typos and other small things ("this reads awkwardly - can you recast?"), plus bigger content issues.  A small thing that I somehow hadn't expected was the change from my natural British English to American English.  I'd always intended the book for an American market, and it's set in a future universe that definitely isn't meant to "feel" British, so I'd excised anything I felt was too obviously British.  I'd also put the whole thing into American English spelling before it went out on submission.

But, still, there were several points in the manuscript where my editor picked up on a particularly British turn of phrase that I hadn't even known was British.  There were also places where I'd used a phrase that I'm sure most British people would understand, but which simply didn't communicate to my editor (and presumably wouldn't communicate well to American readers), so those too needed changing.

Although the prospect of so much work was daunting, it was reassuring to see that nothing my editor was suggesting would affect the voice of the manuscript.  And I could see how all the content edits would deepen the book, or give certain aspects more impact, or fix inconsistencies and gaps in the world building.  And there were quite a few points at which I thought, "Yeah, I should have done that for myself." And at no point did my editor do anything like rewriting sentences.  Even when the sentences were kind of horrible, she just asked me to reword.  She didn't ask me to cut out my "was"es or "said"s or adverbs either.

Two of the biggest content issues were that my editor wanted the romance to have a more organic trajectory, and she wanted some of the secondary characters to be better developed.  There were quite a few other content issues, but those were the two that I found most challenging.

As well as the editorial letter, my editor had sent me a fully marked-up copy of the manuscript through the post.  I wasn't used to the mix of email and post (I've done edits entirely electronically before), and wasn't sure where she wanted me to make the changes, but she let me know I should make all the changes to my electronic copy of the manuscript - I didn't need to track them in Word or anything like that - and send it back to her via email.

I had just over a month to get the edits back.  I went through the letter, numbering all the issues I had to work on, then I devised a schedule for myself, allocating a certain number of issues per week - making sure to mix the most challenging stuff with the not-so-challenging.

First, I fixed the small stuff, the line edits.  They took less than a week, and it was a useful process, because I had to work through the manuscript and in doing so I re-familiarized myself with it.  And, with the editorial suggestions in mind, I ended up noticing all the places where I could work on the romance or add a bit of characterisation for a secondary character.  I made notes and moved on through the line edits.

Then I started work on the content issues, which took me two to three weeks.  Some were relatively easy, some were just as challenging as I'd feared (when I sent them back to my editor I also emailed to say (several times) that I was really happy to work further on them if I hadn't got something right).

After I'd completed all my edits, I printed the whole thing out and read through it, partly to see how it read, partly to try to pick out any inconsistencies in choreography or chronology or worldbuilding I'd introduced during the revision process.

I sent it back to my editor (with the aforementioned slightly anxious email) in mid-October.  And then I tried to forget about it, and got on with writing the sequel.

On November 23rd, I got a mention on Twitter.  My editor had tweeted: "Dear @imogenhowson, thanks for making me cry on the train this morning. Love, your editor."

And shortly afterwards, I got my second editorial letter.  This one was four pages, all really easy stuff to fix, and my editor said she loved the book and was really happy with the work I'd done on the first edits.  I'm working through the second edits now, with a deadline of December 5th.

After that, I guess, will come copy edits.  Now, what scary rumours have I heard about copy editors...?

Imogen Howson works from her home near Sherwood Forest in England, as an editorial assistant and occasional editor at Samhain Publishing.  She drinks a lot of coffee, she reads a lot of books, and she hangs out with her partner, two teenage daughters, two black cats and one fluffy tortoiseshell demon-in-disguise.

LINKED, her young adult science fiction, in which a girl finds out the source of her terrifying visions comes from her telepathic link with the twin sister she didn't know existed, releases from Simon & Schuster in spring 2013.

You can catch up with Imogen at www.imogenhowson.com and www.twitter.com/imogenhowson.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What’s Your Book’s Soundtrack?

Whether we’re writers or readers, the addition of music to a story can hugely impact our experience of it. Movies really demonstrate this, with music adding an unforgettable element to deepen the emotional punch of the action and dialogue on screen.

Compiling the Soundtrack for MAID OF SECRETS proved to be an intriguing challenge. The story is about a wry, resourceful thief forced to join an elite group of spies in Queen Elizabeth’s court – to solve a murder, save the crown, and resist the most dangerous temptation of all… falling in love. But the book is set in Sixteenth Century England, and just for the record, that time period is NOT given to super fun music.

I already knew the girls had a bit of a rocker/punk vibe—much more A KNIGHT’S TALE than CAMELOT. Even my brief ‘book video’ is backed by a tune that wouldn’t make it to the Queen’s concert hall.

So instead of a true soundtrack, I’ve gathered a series of songs that speak to some element of each of my spy girls and a few other key friends. I include them below – and then want to know… what’s YOUR soundtrack to your favorite book… whether you wrote it or read it?



Meg Fellowes, the heroine of MAID OF SECRETS, has been living a role her whole life… first as a thief, then as an unofficial actress for her traveling acting troupe, and now as a spy to the Queen. But who is Meg really?


Rafe's song: Way Cool Jr. - Ratt

Meg gets some unexpected (and unwanted) help from a mysterious Spanish spy, Count Rafe de Martine. Rafe is the original bad boy, and definitely not someone you can trust… which is why we’re throwing him back to the Hair Band rockers of the 80s to find his song.


Beatrice's song: Material Girl - Madonna

This one will also take you way (way) back to the 80s, but no one captures Beatrice’s confidence and style like Madonna. As the darling of the Queen’s court, Beatrice knows everyone’s secrets. But there’s also a secret of her own that she’s desperate to hide.

Anna's song: Firework - Katy Perry

Anna is the smartest girl in the room—even when she doesn’t want to be. Lost in her world of intricate puzzles and mysteries to solve, she sometimes feels on the outside looking in when it comes to being a part of a group. Her inner light, however, is just beginning to shine.

The youngest spy, Sophia is rumored to have the Sight… only her powers haven’t manifested yet. Despite that, she’s already up to her ears in danger that lurks just beyond the shadows.

Jane hasn’t had it easy. As the assassin of the spy group, she’s seen her share of tragedy, beginning with a deadly attack on her village that haunts her still. Now she must fight the demons in her memory… even as she defends the Queen.


Queen Elizabeth's song: Super Girl - Hillary Duff

Speaking of the Queen: in MAID OF SECRETS we find an Elizabeth I who’s just come to power… at only 25 years old. With half the kingdom praising her and half wanting her dead, it’s going to take a Super Girl to stay on top.

So once again, what about you?? What’s your fav read’s Soundtrack?

Jennifer McGowan has been writing fiction since well before she knew any better. A past Romance Writers of America Golden Heart winner and 2011 Golden Heart finalist, Jenn is represented by agent extraordinaire Alexandra Machinist, of Janklow & Nesbit.

Jenn's debut novel, MAID OF SECRETS, will be published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 7, 2013. You can find Jenn online and on twitter.

A Writer's List of Gratitude

We're talking gratitude this week, and I have a lot to be thankful for. This week was my year of new things...a new husband, a new puppy and a new book contract (hot diggity dog!).

There's also a lot of writing things this I'm thankful for. You know, those things that keep you going when the words just might not be coming.

So here's a big old shout out to the following:
  • My Husband: Who fills me with encouragement and puts up with all the times I might retreat into my writing cave
  • My Family and Friends: Who pull me away from my writing when I really need a break
  • My Puppy: Who has taken to lying near the door in my writing office, best writing companion ever
  • My MFA Program: I'm so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing and talented writers
  • The Kenyon Review Writing Workshop: Every summer I go to week long writing workshop full of people who love nothing more than words and stories
  • My Blog Readers: You rock...I love your comments and encouragement
  • Coffee with Italian Cream Creamer: It is addictive
  • Gummy Candy
  • Super Soft Slipper Socks
  • Mumford and Sons, The National, Coldplay, Adele and The Swell Season: My current writing playlist...background music that inspires me
  • Electric Blankets
  • Gel Pens
  • Legal Pads
  • My iPhone: I love the ability to write notes and ideas on the go
  • Jersey Shore, Top Chef and The Millionaire Matchmaker: My mindless background noise that I often keep on while writing (hey, don't judge!)
  • YA Writers Who Inspire Me to Want to Write Better: Including...John Green, Courtney Summers, Jandy Nelson, Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Twitter: To connect and talk with my writing peeps and remind myself that I'm not going through this alone
  • Facebook: To pull me away when I need a little bit of writing distraction
And you can't forget my favorite...five days off for Thanksgiving which equals lots o'writing time!

I could go on and on about all the things I'm thankful for, but the turkey is kicking in and I think I need a nap. What about you? What are you thankful for?

Rachele Alpine is surrounded by words! She's a high school English teacher by day (10th grader American Literature), MFA fiction student by night and tries to find whatever free time she can in between to write, write, write.

She's represented by John Rudolph from Dystel and Goderich and her young adult comtemporary novel CANARY will be published in the summer of 2013 by Medallion Press.

She blogs at http://freckle-head.blogspot.com/, or you can find her onFacebookand Goodreads.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for...

As you may have noticed, the Lucky 13s are expressing our gratitude this week. For me, I could probably give you a straight list of folks I owe thanks to and you'd be scrolling for a solid 30 seconds. But, I won't subject you to the long and awkward Oscar speech partially because I've still got an acknowledgements page to write so I gotta save something. Also, this opportunity dovetails nicely with a post I've been meaning to write anyhow. A post about my agent, the incomparable Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

I've written about my years of agent-less strife, as well as the day I got the call that ended said strife, but I don't know if I ever wrote much about the agent herself, and she most certainly deserves thanks this holiday season. Jamie sold my book this year which is, of course, her job, but Jamie has a way of making you feel less like a client, and more like a teammate. A friend. She's in it with you, fully committed, and while that may sound like a standard part of the job description, you'd be surprised how many authors have relayed agent experiences of a different nature to me.

I'm so very thankful for my agent/teammate/friend who expressed positive energy that I couldn't muster during the bad submission days. I'm thankful for how she's constantly padding my to-be-read list with great books time and again. I'm thankful for how she treated me to the best burger on earth during my first visit to California. I'm thankful that business and strategy only make up a small part of our conversations. As much as we talk, and as great as she is at what she does, Jamie doesn't treat me like a business obligation.

For that, I can't thank her enough.

Happy Turkey Day! Until next time...

Lamar "L. R." Giles writes for adults and teens. Penning everything from epic fantasy to noir thrillers, he's never met a genre he didn't like. His debut YA mystery WHISPERTOWN is about a teen in witness protection who investigates his best friend's murder and stumbles on a dark conspiracy that leads back to his own father. It will be published in Summer, 2013 by HarperCollins. He resides in Virginia with his wife and is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Find out more on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Monday, November 21, 2011


At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. - Albert Schweitzer
Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, for counting our blessings, and for singing: "We gather together." As a chosen profession, writing has the reputation of being a lonely, solitary pursuit. I find nothing father from the truth. This Thanksgiving week, I am grateful for the wonderful friends, the wonderful community of writers who surround me and light the flame within me.
I am grateful for my poet high school English teacher Bruce Boston, who first saw and gently blew on the creative spark he saw in my work. I am grateful for Gary Braunbeck and TIm Waggoner, who write horror for a living, but encouraged the gentle humor in my fledgling short stories during my first writing workshop. I am grateful for Charlie Finlay and Paul Melko and Tobias Buckell who modeled what it means to be an emerging professional writer and taught me that it takes more than craft to succeed; that persistence in the face of rejection is part of the apprenticeship. I am grateful for Mike Resnick, who is the most awarded sci-fi author ever, and still takes the time to encourage newbies. I am thankful for Abby, who is always up for a cup of coffee, a scone, and a morning write-in; for Bob, who gave me the tip for my first published short story; for Heidi who has read so much of my work and opened my eyes to self-publishing. I am grateful for Linda Gerber and Cinda Williams Chima, my very professional friends, who've always coached me along the steps they have already taken. I am grateful to people I have never met in person, Gio and Jodi and Crash and all the others who have become critique partners on the SFF Online Writing Workshop as well as supportive friends. I am grateful for new and aspiring writers like Glenn and Meredith and Tracy, who look to me for advice and make me feel that I have learned something over the years.
We gather together to tell you our stories.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Liz Coley writes young adult novels and science fiction/fantasy short stories for anthologies and magazines.

Her novel Pretty Girl-13 from HarperCollins Katherine Tegen Books will be debuting in 2013. There are secrets you can't even tell yourself.

For more about Liz and her work, visit lizcoley.com and LCTeen.com or follow her on Twitter at LizColeyBooks.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Music to Die By: My Post-Apocalyptic Mash-Up!

When I first started writing my 2013 YA debut, THE TORCH KEEPER, I had very specific ideas about what kinds of emotions I wanted to convey on the page. Scenes played out quite vividly in my mind as if I were sitting in a crowded movie theater, my large buttered popcorn bucket resting in my lap, sipping on an ice-cold soda, watching the movie unfold on the silver screen (after having the manager eject annoying talkers and/or texters of course ;-)

As I was writing, I anticipated certain sections long before I actually got to them, so by the time I did, I felt they were old friends. Perhaps it’s my love for film that quite literally had me cobble together my own soundtrack directly from the source itself—Hollywood!

You see, I was creating a very dark, dangerous post-apocalyptic world, (yep, even worse than the Democrats losing in 2012), and modern pop-tunes just weren’t going to cut it. Instead, in order to get myself in the mood for some literary foreplay, I turned to motion picture soundtracks to inspire me.

And what were the three most influential soundtracks for my Muse-zak?

BEN HUR - Miklos Rosza's Academy Award-winning score to the 1959 blockbuster film was the cornerstone of my soundtrack, from its epic, sweeping overture, trumpeting processions, and melancholic romantic cues, I felt it captured the scope of my novel’s tale of childhood betrayal and the endurance of the human spirit despite terrible adversity. Here's a taste of the overture.

LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY – Howard Shore’s beautiful music also helped to inspire me, particularly its solemn cues of sadness and loss, as well as the mournful melodic choral tracks featuring Elvish lyrics. One of my favorites was used in THE TWO TOWERS and it's called EVENSTAR.

TITANIC – What better way of channeling epic, romantic Young Adult angst than listening to James Horner’s Academy Award-winning 1997 score? My favorite tracks are ROSE, which reminds me of the blossoming romance of my two male leads, and UNABLE TO STAY, UNWILLING TO LEAVE, which counters with the moment where obstacles conspire to separate them despite their undying passion for each other.

I also drew inspiration from the following tracks from other motion pictures which I felt captured the majestic, melancholic feel I was going for in my novel.

GHOST – Maurice Jarre’s Oscar nominated score featured the track MOLLY, which reminded me of the pangs of first attraction that soon give way to chaos.

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE - John William's score for the 1977 film featured the track LEAVING HOME, which conjured images of my protagonist leaving his loved ones behind as he embarks on a quest that will take him far away to face unknown perils.

CARRIE – Pino Donnagio's score to Brian DePalma's 1976 movie (vocals by Katie Irving) featured the song I NEVER DREAMED SOMEONE LIKE YOU COULD LOVE SOMEONE LIKE ME, which I thought perfectly exemplified my main character's doomed romance with the boy of his dreams and the one brief moment of happiness they share before their lives take a horrible turn.

INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE – Elliot Goldenthal's 1994 score provided the track BORN TO DARKNESS PART I, which I felt inspired the moment in the novel when my protagonist and his fellow recruits realize they are adrift, alone, and have no one to rely on except each other.

As I write this, I'm in the middle of putting together a soundtrack for the sequel novel I'm currently working on, even as I'm standing in line at the box office to see it! ;-)

Steven dos Santos is represented by Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown, LTD. He loves movies, particularly ones about things that go bump in the night, as well as sci-fi and fantasy. Chocolate, Cheesecake, and Happy Endings are nice, too! When not glued to his computer coming up with innovative ways to torture his characters, Steven can be found skulking away on his website, amassing an army on facebook, and sending unanswered tweets to celebrities who, for some inexplicable reason, choose to ignore him on twitter. His debut novel, THE TORCH KEEPER, a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic thriller, will be published by FLUX Books in early 2013.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Music for a Haunted World

My 2013 YA release, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, is the story of a teen girl mourning the loss of her first love in 1918 California, where a flu has turned deadlier than a world war and spirit communication has become a dark and dangerous obsession.

Does writing about 1918 mean I only listen to music from that particular year for inspiration? Not at all. I've familiarized myself with songs from the era to get a solid feel for the time period, but my soundtrack for In the Shadow of Blackbirds consists of music from various decades.

Descending backward from the newest song to the oldest, here's my list of tunes that have helped me dig deep into the emotions of my characters and breathe life into a haunted historical world.

The Cave, Mumford & Sons
The first time I heard Mumford & Sons belt out, "I will hold on hope," I felt the same passion I experience when writing about my sixteen-year-old protagonist's battle to survive during her terrifying moment in history. The song perfectly exemplifies her perseverance and her fight to help others along the way.

People Say, Portugal. The Man
A song that questions a modern-day war, but it reminds me of my character's growing bitterness toward government leaders when the first world war takes away her loved ones. In 1918 America, protestors of WWI would have risked arrest, their safety, and their very lives for singing a song like thisbut that didn't mean there weren't plenty of Americans who felt sick about sending their boys off to battle.

The Fine Art of Poisoning, Jill Tracy
I've loved this song ever since I first met Jill Tracy through my Suburban Vampire blog a few years ago. The music and its stylish video epitomize In the Shadow of Blackbird's dark, gothic flavor so well that I'm going to attach the clip here:

Ouija Board, Oujia Board, Morrissey
Ah, Morrisey's sweet ode to spirit communication. Reverse the genders of the singer and the ghost he's trying to reach, and you'll get a feel for my main character's desperate longing to find someone who "has now gone from this unhappy planet."

Catch the Wind, Donovan
The lyrics of this 1965 classic are absolutely gorgeous. The song provides the perfect emotional fuel for creating a character who's aching during the darkness and craving the companionship of an unattainable loved one.

Keep the Home Fires Burning, composed by Ivor Novello, words by Lena Gilbert Ford
All right, here's a song from my novel's actual time period. Many WWI songs were written to boost morale and inspire men to march off to battle ("Over There," "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag," etc.), but I found myself listening to this 1914 hit the most. I know I keep bringing up the word "longing," but that's an emotion that runs throughout In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and you can palpably feel that same sense of yearning in "Keep the Home Fires Burning." Here's a lovely version of the song from Katie Melua, with clips of young WWI soldiers.

Be sure to check out book soundtracks from other Lucky 13s authors all this week.

Cat Winters lives near Portland, Oregon, but she was born and raised in Southern California suburbia, just a short drive down the freeway from Disneyland. When she was around seven years old, she found a book about "real" ghosts in her school library and was both terrified and mesmerized by the idea that ghosts might actually exist. From that point forward, she became hooked on dark tales.

Her debut YA novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds (a ghost story, of course), is coming Spring 2013 from Amulet Books. She's represented by the fabulous Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. You can catch Cat online at CatWinters.com, Twitter, and Facebook.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The 13th Day: Your Book Summary in 13 Words

Some people may think that the number 13 is unlucky, but not those of us at The Lucky 13s!

In fact, we're celebrating the 13th day of each month by featuring a blog entry that celebrates all of our members.

Here's how it works... I'll ask a question, and they'll answer.

It's a way of making the 13th day of each month a little bit more special!

The question I asked this month seemed simple, but it soon proved to involve a little bit of thinking and word play. I asked everyone to Describe your debut book in 13 words (no more, no less).

Here are our short blurbs...

Rachele Alpine describes CANARY as:
Kate has a choice: stay silent or expose her school’s corrupt basketball stars.

Emma Pass describes ACID as:
Jenna's running from ACID, a corrupt police force who want her silenced forever.

Jessica Corra describes AFTER YOU as:
When her twin sister kills herself, Camilla rewinds time to try stopping her.

Steven dos Santos describes THE TORCH KEEPER as:
Two brothers surviving under a post-apocalyptic regime face the most horrific choice imaginable.

Kristen Kittscher describes THE WIG IN THE WINDOW as:
Two tweens suspect their school counselor is a fugitive -- and might be right!

Jessica Young describes MY BLUE IS HAPPY as:
A young girl discovers that colors can mean different things to different people.

L.R. Giles describes WHISPERTOWN as:
A tough teen in Witness Protection must solve his best friend's grisly murder.

Elisabeth Dahl describes GENIE WISHES as:
Fifth grade--highs, lows, and hamster erasers--seen through the class blogger's eyes.

Tara Lazar describes THE MONSTORE as:
What happens when your new monster is broken...and you can't return him?

Elsie Chapman describes THE ASSIGNMENT as:
Teenage assassin in a world where everyone has an Alternate--only one survives.

Megan Shepherd describes THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER as:
Juliet finds murder, romance, and a mysterious island while searching for her father.

Brandy Colbert describes A POINT SO DELICATE as:
A ballet prodigy must come to terms with her part in friend's abduction.

Ellen Oh describes PROPHECY as:
Kira Kang, demonslayer, must use her unique abilities to stop a demon invasion.

Sarah Skilton describes BRUISED as:
A teenage girl skilled in martial arts freezes up at an armed robbery.

Jennifer McGowan describes MAID OF SECRETS as:
A resourceful thief joins an elite group of spies in Queen Elizabeth's Court.

Kristin Halbrook describes NOBODY BUT US as:
Lovers turn to desperate measures when they can't flee their pasts fast enough.

Cat Winters describes IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS as:
In 1918, a girl deals with war, a deadly flu, and a ghost.

Alison Cherry describes RED as:
Will blackmail stop a redheaded beauty queen from winning the Miss Scarlet Pageant?

Debra Driza describes MILA 2.0 as:
Teenager discovers she’s a military experiment; an android whose humanity might prove deadly.

Chelsey Flood describes INFINITE SKY as:
An absent mother, an illegal gypsy camp, a friendship, a fight, a tragedy.

Caroline Carlson describes MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT as:
Pirates duel on the High Seas with tinned beets and enchanted crochet hooks.

Ashley Elston describes THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING as:
No matter what, I'm getting the hell out of the Witness Protection Program.

Imogen Howson describes LINKED as:
Elissa’s visions are caused by telepathy with a twin she didn’t know existed.

Corey Haydu describes OCD LOVE STORY as:
Bea loves Beck, but she is not ready to give up her obsessions.

Liz Coley describes PRETTY GIRL-13 as:
Angie vanished for three years. There are secrets you can't even tell yourself.

Rachele Alpine is surrounded by words! She's a high school English teacher by day (10th grader American Literature), MFA fiction student by night and tries to find whatever free time she can in between to write, write, write.

She's represented by John Rudolph from Dystel and Goderich and her young adult comtemporary novel CANARY will be published in the summer of 2013 by Medallion Press.

She blogs at http://freckle-head.blogspot.com/, or you can find her on Facebookand Goodreads.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Cop/Doctor/Lawyer Show Cure

I'm interrupting your regularly scheduled blog for this Public Service Announcement...

Are you there? You need to read this. They've been lying to you. There's more to TV than you think, better shows than the re-treads clogging the prime time slots on the major networks. But be warned...your grandma may be reading this over your shoulder, shaking her head, and tsk-tsk-tsking. Don't trust her, okay. She watches TV too, and worse, she's probably a fan of Cop/Doctor/Lawyer shows (an ailment known as CDL Show Syndrome). Which means the networks have her, and it's too late to save her. Your best bet is to distract her with the 423rd Episode of Law & Order that she DVR'd during the ten hour "We Catch the Bad Guy" marathon they run on TNT every Tuesday, then you can make a run for it.

Run where? To the second or third TV in your house. Once you find another set (preferably a flat-screen 1080p LCD...the plasmas burn so hot) you'll need to inoculate yourself against CDL Show Syndrome. The following is my personal cocktail of prescription programs that protect me from the Nielsen-backed epidemic that has plagued our nation for my lifetime and longer. You may find another combination works best for your particular Creatological makeup. Whatever the proper dosage, I pray it's not too late for you:

Breaking Bad

A high school chemistry teacher with terminal cancer resorts to cooking crystal meth to provide a cushion for the family he'll leave behind. Creator Vince Gilligan describes the show as 'Turning Mr. Chips into Scarface'.

I recommend large doses of this.

The Walking Dead

Zombie Apocalypse. Weekly basis. 'Nuff said.

Moderate doses, but back off if you develop any sort of nausea or panic attacks.

Any Post-1990 animation featuring DC Comics characters 

Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Superman, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice, etc. These are the absolute gold standard for super powered humans on television. Live-Action attempts like The 4400, Heroes, and No Ordinary Family have proved that the costumes and scope mean something.

Massive doses of this (dosage does not need to be reduced for younger patients)

There's more, but I'm afraid I'm out of time. The networks don't want me telling you this, but you have enough knowledge to go forward on your own. Check your local listings and start working on your personal cure for CDL Show Syndrome today. While there's still time.

Join the movement: #nomorecopdoctorlawyershows

Lamar "L. R." Giles writes for adults and teens. Penning everything from epic fantasy to noir thrillers, he's never met a genre he didn't like. His debut YA mystery WHISPERTOWN is about a teen in witness protection who investigates his best friend's murder and stumbles on a dark conspiracy that leads back to his own father. It will be published in Summer, 2013 by HarperCollins. He resides in Virginia with his wife and is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Find out more on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's All Thanks To Those Dinosaurs…

This might sound strange, but if it wasn’t for films – or should I say, one film in particular – I might never have realised I wanted to be a writer at-all.

When I was a kid, and people asked me what I was going to do when I was older, I’d immediately tell them I wanted to be a musician. Although I enjoyed writing, it was something I did for fun: the odd poem here and there; perhaps a few more pages than everyone else when we were asked to write a story for school. My life was taken up with piano lessons and junior orchestra (I also played the oboe), practise every day after school, concerts, and exams.

Then, during a summer holiday when I was thirteen years old, a film was released that was hailed as revolutionary for its special effects. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. In fact, it is still, as I write this, in the top twenty highest-grossing films of all time.

It was Stephen Spielberg’s JURASSIC PARK.


The film's about a theme park on a tropical island populated by real live dinosaurs, cloned from fossil DNA, which get loose after an act of sabotage and terrorise a group of visitors invited to the island by the park’s rich, eccentric owner. Afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about it; about this abandoned island off the coast of Central America which was still overrun by dinosaurs, and what it might look like in ten or twenty years time. I decided to write a story about it. And a few days later, with notebook pages filling rapidly, realisation hit. I was going to be a writer.

In that instant, everything I thought I knew about where my life was going to go took a new direction. I knew, in a way I’d never known before, what I was going to be. And it was all thanks to those dinosaurs.

These days, I’m still inspired by films. I love anything with a great story – the genre doesn’t matter. My stories always run through my head like movies as I’m writing them, so the more I watch, the better I’m able to ‘see’ the scenes I’m trying to construct and how they should play out. And although I don’t watch a lot of TV, I absolutely love Shane Meadows’s THIS IS ENGLAND 86. It’s so heartbreaking. So real.

I guess if had to pick favourites, though, it would be the work of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. I’m obsessed with their work, especially LAPUTA, CASTLE IN THE SKY and NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND. The imaginative scope of these films is simply breathtaking. I reckon if you’re a writer, and Miyazaki makes a film of one of your books, you’ve really made it!

Emma Pass grew up at an environmental studies centre near London, went to art school in Cornwall and now lives in the north-east midlands with her artist husband, where she has a day job at her local library. She's also minion to The Hound, a retired racing greyhound with whom she appears to have signed a contract in her own blood agreeing to attend to his every need – even if those needs include getting up at 3am to remake his bed because he's scratched it up so much he can't get back in it. 

Emma is represented by Carolyn Whitaker at London Independent Books and her YA dystopian thriller ACID is out from Random House Children's Books in early 2013. You can find her blog here, and catch her procrastinating on Twitter here.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Today we are chatting with Leanna Renee Hieber, announcing and celebrating this week's release of her debut Young Adult novel DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul.
Early reviews promise: "A lush, Gothic tale that begs for reading." "Spooky, tense, and wonderfully romantic." And look at this beautiful cover, luring you in to the portrait that imprisons Lord Denbury, falsely rumored to have committed suicide.

Leanna is a Renaissance woman, with a brush on several canvases--adult novels featuring gothic/paranormal romance, short stories, stage plays, and screenplays. She's been well recognized, with an RWA award, among others, for The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. The other novels in the Strangely Beautiful oeuvre have won similar high accolades. Add to this her acting talent, her television, movie and stage appearances, and you've got the whole picture--an author who can make her stories come to life, and in her own voice.

Leanna, first of all congratulations on crossing over into the world of YA literature. What tempted you to write specifically for teens?
LRH: It's where my voice was leading naturally, my first series is YA-friendly (pg-13 rated content) so I just wanted to continue sharing my love of historical fantasy and the Gothic style for the teen market specifically.
I've noticed that your titles have a common lyric rhythm to them, as if the title is almost the first line of a narrative. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? Do you begin with title, character, or premise? Do you already know where you are heading when the story starts?
LRH: I begin with characters and premise hand in hand. Sometimes one drives more than the other, but they're entwined. For example, Lord Denbury's character was always entwined with the premise that his soul was trapped in a painting. The titles come much later and have always changed a lot, with each book. I tend to know the general parameters and then as I write, the characters actually tell me where to go and how to get to the end-point I have in my mind.
How about your writing process? Are you a disciplined outliner or a headlights writer? A procrastinator or a scheduler? Any special rituals to get you going for the day?
LRH: I am a "pantser" for life! (Writing by the "seat of my pants") I am very disciplined about writing consistently, but I don't write every day. I have target word-counts that help with progress. My ritual? Each of my series has a different tea I drink while writing, whatever tea smells like my hero. Lord Denbury is addicted to Earl Grey tea so thusly that's what I drink while writing, it's a little trick to keep me connected in a sensory way to their world.
Your website includes a wonderful portrait of yourself as the protagonist of the Strangely Beautiful series, Miss Percy Parker. As an actress, do you generally identify with your leading lady? Do you "method" write, living in her skin? If I peeked into your study, would I see you acting out gestures and scenes?
LRH: I totally use theatre in every aspect of my writing and all my heroines are some facet of me, none of them ARE me, though, maintaining some distance is important. But I do spend a lot of time thinking what they think and feeling what they feel, I don't act out scenes, but I imagine how I would. I also own a great many corsets and period clothes. So I also know how it feels to be in their physical world a bit, which is an important detail.
With several books under your belt, albeit in the adult market, what advice would you offer to authors hitting the world stage with their first books? What have we gotten ourselves into?
LRH: I wish you all the luck in the world! Stay sane! Rest! Steel yourself, it's hard to be sensitive in a tough business. It never gets easier to write a book. There are always challenges, but don't worry, it remains rewarding too!
One of our quirks here at The Lucky 13's is to confess a superstition to our blog readers. What brings you the luck?
LRH: I pray a lot but that's not superstition that's religion. : ) From all my ongoing work in theatre, I do not say the name of "The Scottish Play" as it's bad luck to say it. : ) If you don't know about this tradition, it's the Shakespeare play about the murderous Scottish king, and you can't say his name in a theatre (unless you are DOING said play) or it's major bad luck. Seriously.
Leanna was interviewed today by Liz Coley, author of Pretty Girl-13, coming winter 2013.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Words on the Page

When I saw the topic for the week, I got really excited. I dreamt of making a timeline of my perfect day and contrasting it with my real day. I thought of cheeky activities and silly ways to talk about it. Then I kind of really thought about the topic and it all went out the window in a bout of Seriousness. Spoils all the fun, doesn't it? So...

My perfect writing day is the same as my real writing day. Because any day I write is a perfect writing day. Make sense?

For me, writing is the joy. I complain and waste too much time on the internet just like anyone else, but no one's making me write. So to say, gosh, my ideal writing day looks nothing like what I actually do would presume that the part about writing I enjoy is the circumstantial differences between the reality and the ideal. It's not. Sure, I enjoy expanses of time to write, and no distractions, but they're beside the point.

My perfect writing day is the day I get words on the page.

If there's a martini and cake afterward, so much the better.

Jessica Corra is only nominally crazy. She grew up in the Pennsylvania Coal Regions and escaped to Philadelphia for college, where she has stayed since. She does, however, miss the pierogies. Her debut YA magical realism, AFTER YOU, will be published in Spring 2013 by Dial BFYR. Find her on Twitter and the blogosphere.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Perfect Revising Day

Dorothy Parker said, "I hate writing. I love having written."

First drafts are often agonizing for me. After six months or more of torture, self-doubt and occasional, fleeting moments of elation, I count myself lucky if the words "The End" appear at some point in my manuscript.

My perfect writing day actually involves a lot of reading. Revising is where I really hit my stride, where I dig my hands in and feel the story take shape. To do that, I need to be inspired, and nothing inspires me like reading other people's terrific prose. Reading a good book makes me want to jump in and join the great writing conversation. It dares me to challenge myself, and it makes me yearn for something better in my own words. And when I'm chomping at the bit to get back to my own work, that's when I know I'm ready to revise, and that's when my writing tends to soar; when I take the most risks and feel my scenes coalesce.

As Jessica Young mentioned in her post on Monday, having an entire day, without any distractions, is key to the process. For my perfect writing day, I'm not online. I'm not even at the computer. I'm probably sitting outside or in a quiet room by myself, with notebook, printed manuscript, novels I love, and research books scattered around me.

I start with a nice breakfast (and yes, the requisite mug of coffee). Then I spend an hour or two reading a few chapters of a favorite book or a classic. This puts me in the right frame of mind to create, and makes me eager to improve my current project.

Next I go through any research materials I'm using and pull out the phrases I'll need to add to my manuscript. After that it's time for a lunch break (probably salad, bread, cheese, ice tea, dessert). Post-lunch, I tackle my own work with the red pen of No Mercy. I scribble all over the margins, draw X's through superfluous scenes, rearrange descriptions and add any research items from the list I put together earlier.

For dinner it's nice to get out of the house, maybe walk to my destination and take a bit of a break (read: wine). During a three-day writing retreat in 2010, my friends and I spent the post-dinner period reading brief passages aloud from our work. It was lovely to get feedback and share what we'd accomplished.

In fact, the only time I've actually enjoyed a "perfect writing day" as described above was during a retreat. Otherwise I'm lucky to get a half-day on the weekends, and an hour before work during weekdays. But that's okay, too -- I like letting my writing settle and percolate over long stretches, because when it's running through my mind for weeks and months at a time, that's when the best ideas usually come to me. It's not about a perfect writing day, it's about trusting that the day-to-day efforts will pay off, that putting the story on simmer for a few months will result in something worthwhile bubbling to the surface.

Sarah Skilton grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated with a TV/Radio degree from Ithaca College in upstate New York before moving to sunny Los Angeles, where she's worked as a production assistant, a TV extra, a film reviewer, and a script analyst. She has also studied Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do, both of which came in handy while writing her martial arts-themed debut YA novel, BRUISED, due out Spring 2013 from Amulet Books. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. Check out her blog, Twitter, and Facebook page.