Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Back to Square One

So my very first full request ended in rejection. And not just any rejection, but a push-button form rejection with no feedback at all.

Sigh. The rejection itself didn't surprise me, but the lack of commentary did. The agent had seemed genuinely excited to read my story, so the run-of-the-mill "thanks but no thanks" felt like an extra kick in the pants.

I immediately got back on the query horse, but folks, this probably wasn't such a good idea. I was exhausted and depressed, and the Full R came on the heels of my 8 billionth negative pregnancy test (yes, I'm exaggerating, but it really does feel like that many). And you know what happened?

I made my first Big Querier Boo Boo. I got distracted, and instead of addressing the query Dear Ms. Agent, I addressed it Dear Ms. Last Name of the Agency Name. Oops.

If I didn't know any better, I'd say my Full R set off a flurry of bad luck. Because once it came, another FOUR query rejections followed on its heels after more than a week of radio silence. Exactly what you want when you've just had your hopes crushed, right?

But it's like I told the lovely Leigh Ann: if it's going to rain, it might as well pour.

Do you agree, peeps? Would you rather have all your rejections blast in like a hurricane, or endure a light but steady drizzle?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ignoring Real People: When Reading Becomes Rude?

I used to have a really bad habit.

When I was younger, I'd bring a book with me to the parties and picnics my parents dragged me to. I'd find a chair, crack open my book, and completely lose myself in the world it offered so I could tune out the boring adults surrounding me, and quite frankly, the kids my own age, too. I mean, hello - volleyball? Tag? Sweating? Nope. I'm perfectly fine over here, alone, lapping up the newest installment of my Babysitters Club book, thank you.

Unfortunately, there were only so many times I could sit through my mother's lectures on being social before I had to admit it was kinda rude. So, I stopped.

But folks- it appears I've relapsed. I was just skimming through some pictures on Facebook and I came across this:

This was taken at a picnic this summer, when my grandmother's niece and great-nephew were here from Italy. I'm the 4th one from the left, with the weird-looking chicken legs. But it's not the legs that are important.

I'd like to call your attention to what I have in my hand:

I know the resolution is poor, but you'll have to take my word that the item I'm death-gripping is my ARC of Everneath by Brodi Ashton.

That's right. I brought a book to a picnic. And I fully admit that I snuck off to a chair in the far corner of the yard for a few minutes of quiet reading time during said picnic.

In my defense, my visiting relatives don't speak English and I don't speak Italian, so it's not like I could have communicated with them anyway. And everyone else at the party? I see them all the frickin' time. So I didn't feel too bad.

But then I came across THIS picture, and I was mortified:

That's me in the lower right hand corner - gulp - checking Twitter. Go ahead. Throw eggs at me. I deserve it.

Until I got a Smartphone, I never understood how people could treat their phones like appendages. I used to go hours without so much as a glance at my cell, and I'd give dirty looks to people who couldn't seem to put theirs down. Especially in public. So when did I become THAT girl?

I suppose the more important questions are these, though: Why would I rather immerse myself in imaginary people when I'm surrounded by real ones? And how can I possibly be concerned with online conversations when there are actual conversations happening right in front of me?

Does anyone else find themselves zoning out of the real world at inappropriate times? Or am I just really, really rude? (P.S. - I know it's rude. And I'm beating myself up right now, so try not to be too hard on me!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Interview with Upcoming Debut Author, Chanelle Gray!

Hi peeps! So today I'm doing something I've never done before (but thoroughly enjoyed and plan to do again): an interview!

I'm happy to announce that fellow blogger and writer Chanelle Gray landed a book deal recently, and agreed to stop by and chat about it. Without further ado, here's the lowdown on Chanelle and her book!


Congrats on your upcoming debut novel, MY HEART BE DAMNED! Tell us a little bit about it, how you were inspired to write it, and most importantly, when we can get it!
My Heart Be Damned is an urban fantasy that I started at the end of 2009 and finished early 2010. It's about a girl who is part of a blood line of females who hunt Damned - evil souls from Hell who possess the living. Amerie, still stung from losing her mother to the job, is thrust back into a world she wanted so badly to leave behind when she is caught up in a long lasting grudge between her dead mother and one very powerful Damned. And of course, there's Marshall. The guy who she may or may not be able to trust with her life, but will help her seek revenge for her mother's murder.
I've always loved reading stories where a girl can kick some serious butt, and I wanted to write one where the heroine is actually pretty flawed and messed up, but overcomes her issues to do what she must in order to protect the ones she loves. And, if all goes to plan, it should be in stores around October 2012!

How long have you been writing, and what types of stories are you drawn to?
I've been writing for forever. Actually, I'm not one of those people who can pinpoint the exact moment I started writing at the age of, like, six or something. I've always liked to read, and I used to write little stories every now and then. I think I was maybe thirteen or so when I first completed a full sized novel. It was about the Olsen twins, who I adored back then, and they were trapped in a haunted house. Very cringe worthy, but I'm quite proud that I managed to complete it. And then I found a new addiction in my life: The Sims. The Sims isn't just about the game itself, there's a whole other side to it where you can use the camera option to tell a story. And that was it; I was hooked to story telling. I'd think of a story, get the Sims to act out scenes from the story and then upload the album online with the writing beneath the picture.

My love in writing has always come from Urban Fantasy and Paranormal, mostly. I'm a plot driven novel kinda gal. I like when things blow up. When there's action and violence and gore! I love horror films, so I massively enjoy horror novels, just to see how they play out in words. I do enjoy contemporary books too. But again, I like plot driven ones as opposed to the character ones. I've found that, although I try, I'm not much of a fan of books where it spends the whole time about a character getting over some kind of tragedy. I like for there to be something keeping me on the edge of my seat. Recently, the books I've enjoyed have been The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Ashes, The Near Witch, The Body Finder, Anna and the French Kiss, Unearthly, Stolen and He's So Not Into You.

*Since Chanelle mentioned Unearthly and The Body Finder series, two of my faves, I'd just like to mention that you can click here and here for my disturbingly fangirlish reviews to see why we love them! Ok, why I love them.*

Tell us about your road to publication, and how you hooked up with your agent, Victoria Marini.
My road to publication was a long, emotional one!! It goes back to my Sims experience. As much as there are a lot of Twilight haters out there, there is one thing we cannot deny, and that is how successful it was in getting more teenage girls to read novels. I'm not saying they didn't read before, but everyone wanted to know what the fuss was about, and therefore picked up the book. It made paranormal fiction more popular.
So when my idea for a Sims story came to me, I'd managed to upload it online during a time where everyone was looking for their next addiction after Twilight. HAUNTED was the story of a girl who could see ghosts and joined a supernatural fighting organisation, only to fall in love with a guy who happened to be the vampire she'd been hunting all along.
It was a success with the Sims community and a lot of people encouraged me to get it published. So I thought, heck, why not? I researched into the business with another writer pal of mine, and together we set out to get published. I'll admit, I made a lot of errors at the beginning. I won't even begin to elaborate. I had some successes with HAUNTED, but I got a lot of the same results. Vampires are out. Write something else and submit to me.
So I did and then that wasn't what they wanted, so I wrote something else, which happened to be MY HEART BE DAMNED. I queried it slowly this time. I picked out agents who were specifically looking for that kind of thing. I actually really researched. And it paid off. In January of this year, Victoria offered representation. She wasn't the only one, but she was the one I really meshed with. I haven't regretted my decision once. And ultimately, she led me to kNight Romance, who are pretty new on the scene but watch out! They're going to be big.
What do you think is the most important advice for aspiring writers?
Read loads of the books in the genre you're writing for. A lot of rejection comes from books not standing out in an oversaturated market. So you're going to need to know what competition you're facing and how you can better differentiate your novel from the others. You'll need to know what you're up against! With that comes perseverance and patience. I was guilty of being impatient at the beginning of my querying stage. Don't finish a novel and get one opinion before querying. You want it to be as good as it can be. Because if you send it out to an agent and then realise 'crap, I could have changed this', or you get some more beta feedback that all highlights the same thing, you've pretty much ruined your chance with that agent who already read and rejected your previous version. They might take a look again. But don't risk it.
Where can we go to stalk -er -follow you on the web?
Haha! Well, I'm pretty much everywhere!!
I don't have a Facebook fan page set up yet. But I will closer to the release date of my book. Until then you can find me here:





Oh, and a bit of a plug (cheeky, I know!) but if you could add MY HEART BE DAMNED to your shelves on Goodreads and also vote for it on the lists its been nominated in, I would be FOREVER grateful.
Tell us 3 random facts about yourself
Okay, here is where you learn how uninteresting I am...

- I HATE cheese. Like, if you ask me to hold it, I won't go near the stuff. But, I like cheese flavoured things, like snacks and pasta sauces. Oh and I love pizza, but only if there are other toppings.

- Sometimes I prefer animals to people. I'm hugely into animal rights. I'll debate and argue with anyone about the unfairness of animal cruelty and hunting and aimless killing. You don't want to get me started on that!

- I don't really like to snack. I much prefer meals to chocolate or cookies or something. If you offered me a bowl of my favourite pasta or a bowl of my favourite ice cream, the pasta would win out every time!

Thanks so much for your honest and inspiring answers Chanelle! I can't wait to add MY HEART BE DAMNED to my TBR pile. Best of luck in the next steps of your journey : )

Monday, September 19, 2011

Writing Sex Scenes: AKA My Fear of Mortifying My Mother

- "Oh, the things I'm going to do to you, woman!
-"Things? I know nothing of said 'things.' What kind of girl do you think I am?"
I have a confession. When it comes to writing sex scenes, I'm a huge chicken.

It's not that I have a problem reading them, as long as they're realistic and not terribly raunchy. It's not even that I feel my characters are too young, because they're in college and let's face it - there are 14-year olds these days who could teach us all a thing or two where sex is concerned.

So what's my first thought when I debate whether or not to put sex into one of my own stories? My mother will die if she reads this!

My lovely crit partner Leigh Ann was the third person to read my completed MS, but the first to hold me to the fire for taking the implied route when it came to "the deed." She'd invested a lot of time and emotion in these characters, damn it, and she wanted the payoff (see why I totally heart her?).

I sent Leigh Ann a scene I'd had a ton of fun writing, but had no intention of putting in the novel. I'd toyed with the idea, but in the end, it just didn't fit. Not to mention I kept thinking, What if this book really does manage to get published one day? What would my mother say to the fact that his hands are not only on her boobs, but she's the one who put them there?

Don't get me wrong. My mother has obviously had sex, or I wouldn't be here. And with my 5 year wedding anniversary coming up, it's pretty obvious I'm no virgin either. But my mother is SUPER OLD SCHOOL MODEST. We never had "the talk." She never got dressed or went to the bathroom with the door ulocked, let alone wide open like I've heard some mothers do. And she's insisted, ad nauseum, that I'm to put her in a nursing home when the time comes, because she'd rather die than have her daughters bathe her, or worse, change adult diapers.

And she kept me in Catholic school for eight years. Does that tell you anything?

So how am I supposed to imagine this woman - the same woman who refused to relieve my bewilderment every time a pad or tampon commericial came on, until I was almost old enough to need them - reading a scene that I wrote, describing such an intimate act, and not blush?

Maybe in future novels, it won't bother me if my mother has proof that I think about sex. But for now, I'll take the copout fade-to-black (sorry Leigh Ann!) Do any of you get sex scene stage fright, or am I crazy?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Best Form of Rejection

There's been a lot of buzz in the cybersphere lately over the issue of The Form Rejection vs. The Silent Rejection.

It started with agents Rachelle Gardner and Jill Corcoran giving their reasons for NOT responding, which you can read here and here.

Then the ever-fabulous Janet Reid shot back with reasons why these ladies had the wrong idea, prompting Nathan Bransford to ask his readers to give their opinions, and did they ever.

I recently had two queries that never made it to the intended recipients. Both agents were kind enough to ask me to re-send when I followed up, and one of those wound up being my full request - a request I would have missed out on if I'd assumed her lack of response translated to lack of interest in my project.

So here's what I think: if an agent wants to adopt the "no response means no" policy, that's fine. But at the very least, they need to give a time frame in which we can assume they've passed, and have an auto-response in place to let queriers know their e-mail was received. There's simply too much uncertainty (and anxiety) otherwise.

In all honesty, we as queriers are expected to do our homework on these agents. We're expected to flatter them, to demonstrate knowledge of their client list. And since professionalism is a two-way street, I do think writer's are at least owed the peace of mind to know their query made it safely into the agent's inbox in return.

That said, I don't hate the Silent No policy, not after all the rejections I've received. Having a heart attack every time a new e-mail pops up in my inbox isn't fun, and neither is having yet another agent tell me that my dream agent is out there somewhere... but it's just not them. With the no-response-means-no policy, you'd automatically know the e-mail contained good news, because they wouldn't be contacting you otherwise. Then again, I have received some personalized feedback with my non-silent rejections, and I do get a certain sense of closure from knowing the reason behind the "no."

So what say you, peeps? Is silence better than the impersonal words of a form rejection? Or are empty words better than no words at all?

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Which I Need Book Recs... And Other Random Thoughts

So today should have been the day when I giddily posted covertly shot videos from the Lifehouse concert on Saturday night. Except, thanks to that dumb beyotch Hurricane Irene, the band shell at the venue was damaged and the concert was cancelled.

Not. Happy.

In fact, I've kind of been in a funk all weekend. It started on Thursday, when I learned a friend from high school had passed away. I haven't seen him in years, but we stayed in contact on Facebook and I enjoyed seeing the adoring words he'd write about his wife and infant daughter. I can't imagine being a widowed mother at 31 years old, or growing up not knowing my dad, and my heart absolutely breaks for his family.

Then, as we all know, yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. The photographs and video footage still give me chills to this day, and forget watching the tributes or documentaries. I cry my eyes out. I'm fortunate to be able to say I didn't personally know anyone who lost their life that day, but my heart goes out to all those who did.

And maybe it's all this funkiness messing with my head, but with the exception of my ARC of EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton, I can't seem to enjoy the books I've read lately.  

I've finished two or three books recently that left me disappointed. They were best sellers, so the last reaction I expected to have was Blah. Yet, that's exactly where I stand on them. And the one I'm reading now? Beautifully written and a very compelling story, but there's not a single romantic aspect. Not a cute boy in sight. I need me some romance, people, especially when I'm in a funk.

So if you don't mind, I'd love your recommendations. Which books have you read lately that grabbed a hold of you and wouldn't let go? (But make sure there's some luuurve involved, 'kay?)

*Speaking of lurve* Congratulations to Anthony, one of my oldest and dearest friends, on his engagment to a total keeper! (Hi Emily!) And... A VERY HAPPY 31ST BIRTHDAY TODAY TO MY BELOVED HUBBY!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Update from the Query Trenches: I'm a Moron

So I wasn't going to say anything on my blog, but considering the amount of whining I've done over rejections, I think it only makes sense to finally share some good news: I received a request from an agent for my full manuscript. And not only that, she told me she's very excited to read it (with an exclamation mark!)

I read her e-mail on my phone, and immediately ran to my computer to give my ms a last-minute once over before sending it off. My CP, Leigh Ann, had pointed out a long time ago that I had two Chapter 13's, and in my certainty that no agent would ever read it, I hadn't bothered to fix the error.

Once the chapters were in sequential order, I gave the rest of the document a quick scan before attaching it to an e-mail. Given it had been beta'd three times and re-read by me at least a million, I didn't want to get too in-depth and start second guessing. So, I hit send.

And then, I did the stupidest thing I could have possibly done.

I went through the manuscript again. And almost immediately found a typo. D'oh!

Okay, okay, I thought. Just one typo. No big deal. It happens. She's not going to think you're unprofessional or careless over one little typo.

But then it got worse. Just when I thought my chapter numbering malfunctions were over, I discovered I'd skipped right over Chapter 11. Uh-huh.

As a writer, numbers ain't my thang. BUT HOW COULD I NOT NOTICE I'D MISSED THE NUMBER BETWEEN TEN AND TWELVE? It's my freakin' birthday, for crying out loud!

I know these mistakes are probably inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but I feel like an idiot for making them. And honestly, I've re-read this manuscript so many times that I don't know HOW I made them. The last thing I want an agent to think is that I didn't care enough to pay attention to detail, when in reality, I've paid more attention to this novel than I have to my husband in the last few months.

Join me in hoping the greatness of my story, or at least the hotness of my male mc's will serve as damage control, won't you?

Has this happened to anyone else? If not, I'll be over in the corner with my dunce cap on. Happy querying, peeps!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

That BITCH Irene!

Since hurricane Irene robbed me of electricity the last FOUR WHOLE DAYS, I wasn't  able to direct you all to my guest post on Get Busy Writing, the blog of the lovely Emily Rittel-King. Better late than never, so please stop by and say hi to Emily while you're at it! (And a big whatuuuuup to all my new followers!)

Most of you know the East Coast took a beating this weekend from my now mortal enemy, hurricane Irene. She breezed in Saturday night and took our power around 3:00 Sunday morning.

Our power went on at 4 a.m. today, and I've been so excited I couldn't sleep. So, I decided to share my pics with you.

When I first surveyed my yard on Sunday I thought, that's what they call a hurricane? That was lame! And here's why:

That's my driveway, scattered with lots of random leaves and branches. My lawn was more of the same. Whoop-dee-doo. But as the day wore on and my husband and I ventured out for a walk, I realized this storm hadn't been lame at all. We'd just been lucky as all hell.

At the edge of our neighborhood, one side of the road was flooded:

On the other side, the road was blocked off due to tree splintering off its trunk, much like this one:

A few more feet down the road, a branch dangled from the power lines (and yours-dumbass-truly slowed down while driving to take a photo of it. Safety first, people):

Speaking of power lines, we weren't the only ones without power, not by a long shot. There were over 700,000 people in the state without it by the time the skies were as sunny and blue as you see in the picture above.

And of course, for God knows what reason, I happened to have a ridiculous amount of ice cream in my freezer on this particular weekend. It pains me to show you exactly how much, because it all turned to soup in my lifeless icebox:

Neopolitan Klondike, anyone?

Fortunately, my grandmother had power and I was able to transfer all my frozen meat and chicken to her house before we lost it. Everything else, unfortunately, had to go. My freezer now looks like this:

I should also mention that when you have well water like we do, not having electricity means no running water. So once again, it was Grandma to the rescue, or we would have been taking sponge baths and making a habit of this:

That would be my husband, shaving on the living room floor. And as inconvenient as all this was, I am just glad we are all safe, and our house is intact, and OUR POWER IS BACK ON!

Have a great day everyone!