Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Query Monster and All Its Minions

What does a query, tagline, blurb, logline do?

Taglines are a tease in twenty words or less.

Melts in your mouth. Not in your hand. 
Got milk?

It is your first, your very first marketing tool. It creates interest, hooks your potential audience, and gives them a glimpse into your world.

You’re in good hands with Allstate. 
Don’t leave home without it.

Loglines. This is a bigger tease than a tagline. It tells the reader about your book in as few words as possible. It must have four elements: character, conflict, and stakes.

Tagline: In space, no one can hear you scream.

Logline: After the crew of the deep space vessel Nostromo investigates a distress signal, they discover that death has followed them back to their ship. No one is safe.

A query/blurb is an expanded view of the tease and can incorporate both the tagline and logline. It gives just a bit more information. 

During my week on Unicorn Bell, I will crit queries, taglines, and loglines. Send subs anytime to:

unicornbellsubmissions[at]gmail[dot]com with Loglines and Queries in the subject line.

If you can’t send this week, don’t worry. I’ll get to it next month.

Until then, keep this cheery thought in mind:

You will probably put more work into that tagline/logline/query than you did in your manuscript

Monday, December 30, 2013

How to Create Feedback, Recognition, and Branding

Recognition. In this business, identification is everything. I cross paths with many authors and writers in the blogosphere. Maybe I haven't met them face to face, but I *know* them by their blogs, comments, and pictures.

Create a brand. Make it your own. For me, it is colors and my avatar. On my blog, Spirit Called, I use burnt orange. Not many blogs have this. 

My avatar or icon is unique. Created by my brother, it is a photoshopped picture of me as a one year old.

An author headshot is great. A must in this business. But create something out of the norm as well so folks know you instantly.

Feedback. Comments on my blogs are sent to my email inbox so I can respond to questions or posts. Do you want a personal response in answer to a question? A private critique? 

On your profile, enable your email so you can be contacted. 

I realize that privacy is king. But if you want to be an established author, you must have name recognition. To do this, people must be able to contact you. Get a Gmail account rather than a personal one if you want. 

But create a contact point. 

Remember, you want people to find you and your books. Make it easy for them to do so.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Times, They are a-Changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen.
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again.
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin.
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win.
For the times they are a-changin’.
- Bob Dylan

Unicorn Bell, the product of writers, is a-changin’...er, making a few adjustments.

A regular schedule. Our team at UB has individual talents.
  • L. Blankenship is gifted at critiquing 1500 word submissions. She takes subs anytime of the month.
  • Marcy is expert at First Pages and interviews.
  • I, the Huntress of Fantasy, like taming the Query Monster and all its minions including loglines and blurbs.

To give our followers time to submit their chapters, loglines, and first pages, a weekly schedule is in order. Submit with the appropriate request title in the subject line.

Blogfests and book tours. So you want to create a presence online. How to do it?

My publisher, Musa Publishing, suggests bloghops/fests. Enter as many as you can manage. Comment and participate. This gets you out there, puts your name in front of people.

So why shouldn’t Unicorn Bell conduct a regular bloghop too? Good question and now a two word answer: 
  • Charity Bradford. She intends to hold a bloghop during some of her weeks.

Book tours. Excitement is building. You have a book coming out! Now you want everyone to get the message.
  • Elizabeth Arundel takes command of book tours. 

During her week, she will post all the info you send about your book. Send all pertinent info to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com. In the Subject line, write Book Tour.

Lastly, do you have any special gifts that need an outlet? Would you like to join our team and build a writing platform to impress agents and publishers?

We are taking applicants for Unicorn Bell moderators. Send requests to our email with ‘Moderator Request’ in the subject line.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Guardians

Yay! A first page for you and me! I know, you're probably not there, off celebrating the holiday or whatever. But if perhaps you are there and care to check out this first page from Liz, I hope you'll offer your opinion...and Have a Happy Christmas if you're celebrating. I'll be back on Thursday with my crit of this this first page.

The Citadel’s towering gray stone walls loomed over the crowd streaming inside.(I liked Liza's suggestion about this first line.) These walls had been designed to keep people out, and yet crowds still came whenever the Guardians deigned to hold a Blik. Never mind that the Guardians held a Blik once a week.What's a blik?
The man behind me bumped into me when I stopped.(I wonder if this sentence could be re-worded so there's one less 'me') He forced his way into the stream of people who wound around me. I took a deep breath and continued to move with the crowd.
I had sworn I would never enter these walls again.(Ooh, why? Inquiring minds want to know...) As I passed through the massive front gate, I focused on the reason I had to break that vow. The crowd pushed me along until we made the vast meeting chamber. Then I resisted the pull towards the center of the room. I needed a place near the back, near the doors.
I pulled out my com. I reread the message from Troy: “Please come. I need you.” I traced my fingers over the words which only highlighted the text, so I shut the thing off and stuffed it back into my pocket.
The last time we spoke, we’d argued. I yelled. I called him a coward. He called me a traitor. It had been two long years since I’d seen him, but I’d come when he called. My brother was the only family I had left.This is good, short and succinct.
“Are you okay? Do you need something?” the man seated next to me asked.
“I’m fine,” I said.
“They can be a little disconcerting the first time you see them,” the man continued.
“I’ve seen Guardians before,” I said. Now I want to know what a Guardian is...
I prepared for the next inane comment from my neighbor, but then I heard a whirring off in the distance. The entire hall went silent. The sound got louder and louder. Every person faced the front of the hall. Liza had a good suggestion here, too, imo.
The meeting chamber held a few hundred people, but the stage area looked too large for the room. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that someone had forgotten to set up folding chairs on that shiny black floor. That stage held nothing, but we all watched it anyway.
Then the side panel along that stage opened, revealing a gap that could admit giants.  The only sound came from the motors propelling the Guardians forward. I heard a couple gasps.
A line of large, oddly-shaped, metallic things rolled in. They had the semblance of human form, but with all the humanity smoothed out. The base of the creatures, which stood taller than a tall man, was cone-shaped with the pointy end on top. Balancing on top of the cone perched a nearly spherical object that could have been called a head, but its only feature was a pair of large, black, circular eyes that took up a good third of the object.
Each Guardian was exactly the same shape and size. The only difference between each individual was how the outside of the contraption was decorated. Some were brightly colored.  Some were heavily patterned. All looked like they were trying too hard to look friendly.

This is a good first page. You've set up a number of questions and mysteries which will propel readers forward AND given an interesting glimpse into this strange world. I would definitely read on to find out more about these Guardians, what a blik is, and what caused the separation of the siblings? Initially I assumed they were both male but now I realize our narrator could be female. Interesting.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Peace & Forgiveness

Huh. That's a fairly appropriate title for this time of year. However, it is actually the name of my new wip, PEACE & Forgiveness, which I am going to share with you. I would prefer to be sharing your work here - ahem - but sadly no one sent me anything :(

The good news is there's still time to send me something for this week(and if you want to get it to me quicker, send it here: marcy@tidewater.net with UB in the subject line). Otherwise I'll have to subject you to the rest of Chapter One...and we don't want that, now do we?

Chapter One – Peace

Everything was the same when she got back. Not that she’d expected it to be different but still…it was disappointing. She hadn’t even gotten three steps inside the door before her dad disappeared into his study. The door closed with a click behind him.
Peace sighed and went out back and down to the cellar where the washer and dryer were. She emptied out all her dirty clothes from camp and set the washer. Then she went upstairs to her room in the attic.
She was supposed to have shared it with her twin sister. Forgiveness. That was going to be her name. They were a matching pair: Peace and Forgiveness.
“You mean like a set of chairs at a dining room table,” she’d asked her dad once.
He’d looked at her for a while before answering. “No,” he said. “Not like that at all.” He disappeared into his study before she could say anything else.
Sometimes she hated him for that. His disappearing acts. His absence. His lack of anything approaching parenting skills. And even though she didn’t mind as much being overlooked now, it had hurt when she was little.
Peace took a shower in the bathroom she would’ve shared with her sister. She had asked if they were identical but her father said he didn’t know and supposedly her mother had died along with her twin. He wouldn’t say much more and as there were no other living relatives to ask, Peace made up her own answers to all the questions she had.
She decided that her sister did not look like her, but was in fact fair-haired and blue-eyed, just the opposite of her. She imagined how pretty they would be together – day and night – and all the secrets they would share. That’s what sisters did. They talked about everything.
There was a period where Peace pretended that Forgiveness hadn’t died. She would talk to her as if she were alive, tell her how awful their father was, how cold. She even told people she had a sister – something she had never done before – and the school had contacted her father.
After that, she didn’t mention Foregiveness anymore, but she still talked to her.
“How can he be so nice to all the people at Church and then treat us as if we don’t exist.”
Of course, that wasn’t strictly true. There was always food in the fridge, cash in the kitty, and a few set times each day in which she could count on being able to see him, speak with him if necessary. One was at breakfast and the other at supper. Not that they ever ate together, but he always microwaved something around six every morning and night. And of course she could always see him at Church on Sunday – if she wanted to go listen to him. Not.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Your first page here

Interested? It's my week here at Unicorn Bell and I'd love to crit your first page. It could be something you've just started or something you've been working on  - maybe a NaNo project? Whatever you've got, I'd love to see it and offer my opinion, for what it's worth. Oh, and a first page is approximately 300-400 words. Just send your first page to unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com along with anything specific you'd like me to comment on.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Must Eat You!

Let's end the day with something a little less cute. The likeness between these two photos is a bit creepy when you think about it. Here are today's photos. Please share a caption for one or both in the comments.
Found on Google Images 
From Jurassic Park 2 The Lost World

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I've Got You In My Sights

Here are today's photos. Please share a caption for one or both in the comments.

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cupcake Ninjas!

Here are today's photos. Please share a caption for one or both in the comments. I just love the first one to death!!

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lightsabers and Too Cute!

Here are today's photos. Please share a caption for one or both in the comments.

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Welcome to Captions Week!

With Christmas and other holidays filling our time, I thought I'd keep things simple. You're probably busy running around shopping, going to parties, surviving storms and whatnot. Maybe you just need a brief moment of creativity in your day. Or if nothing else some extreme cuteness.

So, this week I aim to bring you the opportunity to enjoy both! Every day I'll post an extremely cute picture of puppies and kittens. All you have to do is write a caption for one or both of them and share it with us in the comments.

All photos were found on Google images with a search. I do not own them, and have no way of finding the original owner.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Final Words

I'm not quite to the end of my current work-in-progress yet. That is, I have written it, but that was for a previous draft. I'm still working on the current draft.

Is the last line as important as the first? At the moment, the last two paragraphs of my novel are:
I leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “You better not.” 
The conductor approached the front of the stage and bowed. Then he turned to the orchestra and dropped a downbeat.
Okay, I shared mine. What's the last line of your novel?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Secrets and Lies

The ending is the place where all must be revealed.

Of course, any secrets the main character is keeping might be revealed earlier. The lies that were told to the main character could come out before the climax. But it's more likely that if there's a secret or a lie that is driving the plot, that won't come out until the last possible moment.

The worst possible moment.

If the story is based on a secret, then a major player in the story must not know the secret. The other characters must keep it from him/her. Actively. But we'll all be disappointed if that character never learns the secret. It must come out sometime.

Same with a big lie. It must be kept from someone. That someone might be the reader. But we'll all be disappointed if we never learn the truth.

What secrets and/or lies are your characters keeping?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ending Badly

Endings are tricky things. They need to conclude the story in a reasonable and satisfying way.

Both. Not one or the other.

A bad ending colors the whole story. There are movies that I hate based solely on how they ended. (Pay It Forward. Seven. The English Patient. Project X...)

Am I putting too much pressure on myself?

Deep breaths. I can do this. I won't muck it up. I think.

How about you? What stories (movies, books, TV shows, what-have-you) have had endings that soured you on the entirety of the story? Or is that just me?

Monday, December 9, 2013


I've been thinking a lot about endings lately. It's December. I have finals this week (on Thursday--wish me luck!). And I'm yet again coming up on the end of my novel.

I know what I want, but at the moment it feels kind of abrupt. I'm working on it. What does an ending need? What makes for a good ending?

Have I tied up all the loose ends?

I pretty much knew how the novel would end when I started it. Someone tried to kill the king. We should learn the identity of the perpetrator. The villain should try one more time. And perhaps succeed...

The whole story leads to the end. All sorts of details should now make sense.

It's scary.

I feel like...

I don't know if I've done my job. I guess that's what beta readers are for. (Note to self: get beta readers.)

Anything coming to an end for you? Do you have your story's ending in mind when you begin it?  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pictures say a Dozen Words...

This is the prompt for the day.

I love the lore of fairy rings...and what possibly comes out of them...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Dialog only please!

So I'd like to try a DIFFERENT type of prompt...

What if we only continued the story with conversation?! (And very minimal "he said" tags to distinguish between characters?)

Can we do it? Can YOU do it in your writing??

I'll start us off...

"I told you to drink it fast. Shit burns going down."
"WOW! Don't it ever! So. You always come out behind the bleachers of a Friday?"
"Duh. Losers don't"
"Yah. Losers."

"Sides, drinkin' ain't all we do..."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Prompt Princess

I'm almost reluctant to leave the last prompt! It was just getting good! So feel free to keep adding to it...


Here's another one if this is more along your taste...

"For the first 10 years of my life I always imagined myself as a princess. Then, just as I turned 11 I got my first wart and..."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Writing Prompts and SCIENCE!

This is my week for posting at UB! So we're going to be doing Round Robin Stories!

I love those.

I love the Collaboration and it's always interesting to me how other people think. Generally they Zig when I would have Ducked. Or curled up in a ball, rocking in a corner...

But before we get to our Prompt...I'm not sure if anyone reads the NYT and saw this pretty AMAZEBALLS experiment going on?!

Arnon Grunburg Is Writing While Hooked up to Electrodes

It's going to be some time, I think, before the whole thing is played out...but essentially he's writing a novella while hooked up to electrodes that measure his brain patterns. Or read his emotions that he's putting out while writing it. (Awesome just by itself!!) THEN...Wait for it...50 people will have Their brains scanned while they READ it. They're trying to see if the emotions that people feel when they read a book coincide to what a writer feels when writing it.

So. Fricken. COOL!

I think they need a bigger test field...but oh well.. :)


So the writing Prompt...

"The sweet scent of lilies mixed with day old whiskey made me want to retch. But I forced my way..."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Food Coma Week

No excuses: I forgot this was my week at UB. For us Americans this is also the week of the big food-induced coma known as Thanksgiving. And a lot of you out there are NaNo-ing furiously as well. (How is that going? Update us in the comments!)

Per my tradition, I will gladly crit any chunk of 1500 words you may have lying around that needs a second opinion. Want an opinion on the macro-level voice, characterization, world-building? A line edit? Just ask. 

Sex, gore and other socially unacceptable things welcome, but the crits for those will be posted over at Shadow of the Unicorn with a link here. 

Send submissions to: unicornbellsubmissions at gmail dot com. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Gem and Duds

We interrupt our usual schedule...

Sorry that I didn’t post on Thursday as I normally would. A colicky horse and a fifteen-year-old cat ruled my day. The horse needed walked to ease his severe belly pain and the cat was very ill. Both required my attention. I’m still not sure how they coordinated their actions though.


Books that didn’t rock my boat, like the Black Dagger Brotherhood by JR Ward are probably excellent reads. They just didn’t match my personality. The same with Fifty Shades by EL James. Yes, I did read it to do a review but couldn't get past the first chapter in the next one. I realize some folks love them. It just wasn't for me. Or as one says in a bad relationship, “it’s not you. It’s me” kind of sentiment.

And then there are books like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Larsson Stieg. Holy cannoli, I do not see what turned people on about that book. *shiver*


The last of my quiet winners is another book about the Yukon, Mrs. Mike by Nancy and Ben Freedman, a true story.

Katherine is a sixteen-year-old city-girl sent to the cold climates of Alberta for her health. There she meets and falls in love with Mike, a member of the Canadian Mounted Police. She isn’t ready for life in the wilderness and it nearly breaks her.

This might seem like a YA but don’t let the age of the protag fool you. It isn’t for the faint of heart. Prepare to weep.

I see that it is still listed at Amazon and ranked darn high too.

Check it out if you want a true story that you won't put down until the last page is turned.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Gems. The Unlikely Bonuses to Life

Today, one of my Beloved. And it isn’t even fantasy. Yeah, shocks me too.

Everyone’s heard of Jack London and The Call of the Wild. I received this book as a present from a teacher. It took a while for me to read and understand what it was about since I was six at the time but White Fang followed it soon after. Both were excellent and I dearly hope kids still read stuff like them now.

But neither book is my Beloved. Mr. London wrote many stories. Tales of the sea, prizefighting, and a dystopia novel called The Iron Heel that I’m going to check out. The one that I found in a bin of second-hand, well-used books holds a distinguished place on my oak shelf.

It is Burning Daylight.

The height of the Klondike Gold Rush has not hit yet, only small nibbles of gold to tease men and women into giving up their civilized lives. It is 1896 and Elam Harnish is about to become rich. No one knows him by this name. They call him Burning Daylight or Daylight, and life can’t hold him back from anything that he desires.

He fights men, the elements, and faceless conglomerates who would take everything from him. Daylight goes from a man who enjoys life to a hard-bitten, fearsome creature who needs no one and nothing.

Dede changes that. In the end, he sees the man he has become.

I am not a bodice-ripping kind of writer or reader, but I do like romance done right. To me, the less description in the boudoir the better. Let me fill in the blanks, if you please Ms. James.

For me, the most erotic line in any novel is in Burning Daylight. This is just after their marriage:
She heard the footsteps of Daylight returning, and caught her breath with a quick intake. He took her hand in his, and, as he turned the door-knob, felt her hesitate. Then he put his arm around her; the door swung open, and together they passed in.

Burning Daylight is free on Amazon

Check it out sometime.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Duds. Or let the Rant Begin

Today and Thursday, I give you the two famous books that did nothing for me.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is pure D Sci-Fi. It begins with Ender who the military picks for a special project and put through a training exercise for young cadets. He is only six but from the start, manipulation by his superiors causes him to grow up fast. The world is fighting a terrible enemy, and they look to Ender to be the one who turns the tide in the war. They don’t have time for niceties.

Although I grew up adoring sci-fi, I never found the time to read Ender’s Game until this year. I read Mr. Card’s Memory of Earth series. Loved them. But this tome didn’t rock my boat like I expected. The storyline was great, the ending unexpected, lots of conflict and twists along the way. But it didn’t hold my interest and I found myself skipping whole paragraphs.

I really think it was more to do with Mr. Card’s writing style. To me, it was choppy. Hard. Skimmed the surface of the better story beneath the waves.

And that, my children is the definition of the word, “subjective”. This book is too well loved for it to be anything else other than not jiving with my nature.

Got a famous book that didn’t trip your trigger?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gems of an Unnoticed Nature

Books have a way of infiltrating society. We talk about them when they make the NYTimes Bestseller list. Actors throw themselves in the way of casting directors when the tomes are made into movies.

But what about the priceless book that doesn’t receive recognition? The ones that don’t make the news?

This week, let me know which books fit that description, a book no one knows about that rocked your world.

Today I want to highlight a book that I read as a kid. It started me on the Sci-Fi/Fantasy kick and literally changed my reading circle.

The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key is a YA Sci-Fi about a young man who falls through a broken door into an alien world. The people and a culture he doesn’t understand frightens him. He runs, chased by strange, violent beings who only want to harm him. 

He gives up hope of ever finding his way back to his world when a family who guesses he isn’t like them rescues him. They guard him at their own peril while the authorities search for the young man. He hopes his people will find him and save him from the strange planet called Earth.

Find this book if you can. It’s out there and waiting for you.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Eighth Day author Dianne Salerni

So there Dianne was, in a pretty good position as a new author, two books under her belt with the second one garnering some very favorable reviews. And then she got this idea about an eighth day...

In this riveting fantasy adventure, thirteen-year-old Jax Aubrey discovers a secret eighth day with roots tracing back to Arthurian legend. Fans of Percy Jackson will devour this first book in a new series that combines exciting magic and pulse-pounding suspense.
When Jax wakes up to a world without any people in it, he assumes it's the zombie apocalypse. But when he runs into his eighteen-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare, he learns that he's really in the eighth day—an extra day sandwiched between Wednesday and Thursday. Some people—like Jax and Riley—are Transitioners, able to live in all eight days, while others, including Evangeline, the elusive teenage girl who's been hiding in the house next door, exist only on this special day.
And there's a reason Evangeline's hiding. She is a descendant of the powerful wizard Merlin, and there is a group of people who wish to use her in order to destroy the normal seven-day world and all who live in it. Torn between protecting his new friend and saving the entire human race from complete destruction, Jax is faced with an impossible choice. Even with an eighth day, time is running out.
Stay tuned for The Inquisitor's Mark, the spellbinding second novel in the Eighth Day series.


Tell us how you got the idea for The Eighth Day.

Well, the order of events is slightly different than you describe. I wrote The Eighth Day (originally titled Grunsday) in 2012, around the same time I was working on editorial revisions for The Caged Graves – so over a year before that book came out.
But I had the idea of the premise at least 18 months before that. It came out of a common household joke in my house. My daughters would ask when we were going to do something, and my husband would teasingly reply, “Grunsday. We’ll do it on Grunsday.” One night at dinner, I asked my family, “What if there really was a Grunsday in the middle of the week, but most people didn’t know about it?”
My husband and daughters enthusiastically said I should write a story about that, but it took months and months before I came up with a plot to go with the premise.

What did your agent think about it when she read it? Did she love it as much as I did?

When I sent Sara the pitch (a little self-consciously, because I’d only ever given her historical fiction before this), I got an enthusiastic response. Something along the lines of “Wow! Send it right away!” It only took her a few days to read it, and then she wanted to talk. She loved the idea and told me she’d already pitched it around the office and to an editor over a lunch meeting. Everybody was thrilled by the idea, but they all had the same comment: I’d written it as YA, but they thought it should be MG. And as soon as Sara said it, I knew she was right.

Tell us about the deal and how it came about.

First, I reduced the age of the protagonist and removed some YA elements. Then Sara put the manuscript on submission. Within a few days, Sara called me with two questions from HarperCollins. 1) Would I be willing to take out another element they considered unacceptable for MG? 2) Would I be willing to write more books in a series?
Uh … YES and YES, of course!
Then there was about a week of nail biting before the offer came in for a 3-book deal with an option for other books in the series. It was late on a Friday afternoon, and Sara warned me she might not be able to close the deal until the following week.
Half an hour later, while my husband and I were celebrating the “almost deal” with Prosecco, Sara called back to tell me she’d closed the deal in a pre-empt.  I screamed in her ear and probably deafened her, I think.

Most people would say you're in an enviable place but no matter where we are in our journey as writers and authors, there's always a hard part. What's the hardest part of where you are right now? What about something unexpected? 

The hardest part is worrying about meeting deadlines for contracted books – and worrying if my editor will like the next book I write for the series, or if it will disappoint her. I also have to juggle this writing with a full time teaching job that has gotten more stressful this year thanks to changes outside my control.
And the place I’m in might be enviable, but there’s no guarantee that this series will be a hit, that HarperCollins will pick up the option for additional books, or that I’ll ever have another deal like this again. I enjoy what I have right now, but I know there will probably be uncertainties in the future.
Something unexpected? The HarperCollins team. I worried that working with a big six publisher would mean a less responsive editor, unreturned emails, and feeling left in the dark all the time. That is NOT the case! I am very lucky to have landed where I am.

Finally, what advice would you offer those who would like to follow in your footsteps?

I know the standard advice is Don’t Give Up and Keep Writing.  Those two things are the biggies. But along with that, I’ll add Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket.
Write multiple manuscripts. Try more than one genre – and more than one audience. Don’t expect things to happen when you want them, or in the order you want them. My agent has sold two books for me – the second and fourth books I gave her. Numbers one and three have not found their home yet, but that doesn’t mean they never will. It just means their time hasn’t come. All writers need to have a diverse body of work, because they never know which one will be THE ONE.

A huge thank you to Dianne for coming by this week to inspire us all :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Caged Graves author Dianne Salerni

The year is 1867, and seventeen-year-old Verity Boone is excited to return from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, the hometown she left when she was just a baby. Now she will finally meet the fiancĂ© she knows only through letters! Soon, however, she discovers two strangely caged graves . . . and learns that one of them is her own mother’s. Verity swears she’ll get to the bottom of why her mother was buried in “unhallowed ground” in this suspenseful teen mystery that swirls with rumors of witchcraft, buried gold from the days of the War of Independence, and even more shocking family secrets. 

As promised, author Dianne Salerni is back to answer a few more questions about her journey from writer to published author...

Tell us how you acquired your agent, Sara Crowe? What did you do right?
I realized shortly after signing a book contract un-agented that I needed someone looking out for my interests. No matter how nice your editor or how small your publisher, they have a business to run, and the author needs a representative.
I started querying shortly before We Hear the Dead was released. In spite of one self-pubbed author’s prediction that “With a book contract and a film option in hand, all you have to do is wave at agents,” it took months of rejection to find Sara. Agents aren’t interested in deals you’ve already signed; they want to know what you have for them to work with.
What did I do right? I kept revising my new manuscript throughout the querying process. I give that advice over and over, and I know a lot of people don’t want to hear it. With every rejection and every bit of feedback, no matter how tiny, I tweaked and polished that manuscript before sending out more queries. I deleted chapters. I took a really good scene that was planned for a proposed sequel and moved it into this story.
By the time I queried Sara, the manuscript was something worth reading. I admit, when I queried her, I thought she was out of my league. But she responded to my query with a full request within 24 hours and made an offer in under a week. If I’d sent her the manuscript that I started querying with, I’m positive she would have passed.
How long before you sold The Caged Graves? Tell us how it happened. Did you scream? Cry? Celebrate?
The first book Sara submitted for me didn’t sell. Yup, that one I worked so hard on. The Caged Graves was the second book I sent to Sara. (Querying took so long that I almost had it finished by the time I found Sara. I signed with her in December 2010 and sent her The Caged Graves at the end of February 2011 while the other book was out on sub.)
We went through a couple rounds of revision with CG and waited for responses to the first book before submitting this one. I think it went on sub in the beginning of June 2011. In early August, Dinah Stevenson of Clarion/HMH expressed interest, but wanted a R&R of the first few chapters due to reservations she had. I spent three weeks on the revisions, and Dinah offered for the book shortly after Sara passed my changes along to her.
Celebrate? You bet I did! My husband took me out to dinner. There might have been champagne.
One of the things writers sometimes forget is that once you – or your agent – has sold your book, there’s still work to be done. What did you like best about working with an editor? Least?
A good editor is very demanding. All those little details that you think aren’t important? They are. In fact, what I’ve learned in conversation with other authors is that the more revisions an editor demands of you, the more they’re invested in your book. The time to worry is NOT when you receive a 20 page editorial letter. The time to worry is if your editor’s notes come in a single paragraph in an email.
That said, there’s always a small panic attack when opening the 20 page edit letter. That’s the part I like least – not knowing what’s going to be in there.
What was the highlight of seeing The Caged Graves in print with that gorgeous cover? (I must admit I might have squealed a little.)
I squealed too! I just couldn’t get over how pretty the book is. The gold ornamentation around the title is textured and shiny. And when you take off the dust jacket, the book inside is gorgeous, with purple end papers, a green cover, and more gold decoration on the spine. With or without the jacket, it’s a darn good-looking book to have on the shelf!

I must agree; it's a beautiful book and a fabulous read. Friday, I'll have the third and final part of my interview with Dianne, and we'll talk about her upcoming release, The Eighth Day, an MG book due out next April.

Monday, November 11, 2013

We Hear the Dead author Dianne Salerni

This week I have author Dianne K. Salerni here to tell us about her journey as a writer, from her small beginnings as a self-published author to being picked up by one of the big six for a three book deal - every writer’s dream.

First off, tell us what you were doing before We Hear the Dead –

Before I published We Hear the Dead as an un-agented author with Sourcebooks in 2010, I self-published that same book under the title High Spirits with iUniverse. This was back in 2007 – before the explosion of e-books … before iUniverse was bought out by Author Solutions … and back when self-publishing was still a dirty word.
High Spirits wasn’t the first book I’d written. I’d previously written two MG novels and attempted a couple more, as well as a non-fiction book on the Revolutionary War in Pennsylvania. I made several half-hearted attempts to seek publication, but I was prone to giving up quickly.  My husband was the one who suggested self-publishing as a way to get a book to readers and find out how it was received. We engaged iUniverse without seeking any other route to publication for that particular novel.

How did you get from there to see the book in print under its new name We Hear the Dead?

As I said, self-publishing was still a dirty word in 2007, and marketing self-published books was really hard. But I made a pretty good attempt at it, and even helped establish a cooperative of like-minded authors for the purposes of cross-promotion and emotional support. High Spirits received a number of really good reviews, but sales were slow.
Then, in 2009, the book caught the attention of an editor at Sourcebooks – and a producer in Hollywood. (Amazon Recommends gets the credit in both cases.) Within a few weeks, I signed a book contract to publish a revised version of High Spirits under the title We Hear the Dead and, almost simultaneously, a film option with One Eye Open Studios.
We Hear the Dead released in 2010, but fruition on the film option took longer. A 10-minute short film titled The Spirit Game premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and the producer is now pitching the premise as a possible television series. There is still hope!
A trailer for the short film can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/64738099

Did you make any mistakes along the way?

My biggest mistake was that I had no idea how to negotiate a contract, and I made several mistakes related to option clauses. I had no professional advice and no advocate. I did ask one of my self-published author buddies who’d also scored a contract with a small publisher if I needed an agent, and she said no. I believed her. She was wrong.
However, if I had gone seeking an agent with a contract in hand, I might have ended up with someone who wanted an easy sale – not someone who was really good for me. Things looked dark for a while, but months later, I ended up with the right agent.

What was the highlight of that experience?

The highlight of my publishing experience with Sourcebooks was participating in the launch event for their new YA imprint at Books of Wonder in NYC – followed by a memorable dinner at a nearby Cuban restaurant, where I (accidentally) sent the son of the company owner looking for olives to put in my martini. (He asked if I was enjoying my drink. I said it would be better with olives. When he ran off to talk to the bartender, the editors and authors at my table were quick to clue me in to who I’d just sent on an olive run. Ooops! Well, he asked!)


Want to know how Dianne acquired her agent and sold The Caged Graves to Clarion Books? Come back on Wednesday for part two of how Dianne moved from self-published, to big-six.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The QueryCon 2013 Loop?

I hope you enjoyed getting to know some of our guest agents this week. Personally, I'm motivated to finish some of these half finished manuscripts completed.

Isn't it great to know that there are wonderful people out there as agents. Real people even that like Rice Krispie treats and chocolate chip cookies. Super nice people that love to read for the sake of a well written phrase or well developed character.

Let these agents give you hope that there is an agent, editor, or reader out there waiting to hear from YOU!

And along those notes...

We had several requests for partials or fulls handed out during QueryCon this year.

Have any of you heard back yet?

I know it's still too early for contracts to be signed, but give us a clue if things are still looking good. We'd love to know and celebrate with you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Interview with Natalie Fischer Lakosil

I hope you've enjoyed getting to know some agents this week. Today we have the amazing Natalie Lakosil from the Bradford Literary Agency.
 Feel free to ask any questions you might have for this agent in the comments.

What was your first favorite book ever and why?

Oh boy. FIRST favorite book. Well, from what I can recall, it might have been MINOU (I love cats, it almost made me cry every time, AND it came with a plush cat – score!), THE AMAZING TRAVELS OF INGRID OUR TURTLE (so fantastical and funny, but inspiring and amazing), or PETER RABBIT (pretty sure because it ALSO came with a plush toy).

What is your current favorite book and why?

It is impossible for me to pick one!

If you could only eat one dessert for the rest of your life what would it be?


If you were not a literary agent, what would you be?

A computer programmer/engineer. I’m fascinated by code.

What kind of book(s) are you hoping to find in the next few months?

I’d love more adult (contemporary romance and NA, magical realism general fiction) and darker YA.

Please tell us a bit about your agent style, how you prefer to be queried and why you love your agency.

I think the words to describe me as an agent are: responsive, pragmatic, honest, and driven. I only accept queries to our general query box (queries@bradfordlit.com), with the query, synopsis, and first ten pages in the body of an email. I love my agency because I have room to really grow and explore my personal style, while backed by years of experience and knowledge.

Will you be open to queries over the holiday season or taking time off?


A bit more about Natalie:

Natalie is an agent and Laura’s assistant at the Bradford Literary Agency. An honors graduate of the University of San Diego, California, Natalie holds a B.A. in Literature/Writing. After nearly four years at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and a brief dabble in writing author profiles and book reviews for the San Diego Union Tribune, Natalie joined the Bradford Agency in February of 2011.

Natalie is drawn to talented, hard-working new authors with a fresh, unique voice and hook. Her specialties are children’s literature (from picture book through teen and New Adult), romance (contemporary and historical), cozy mystery/crime, upmarket women’s/general fiction and select children’s nonfiction. Her interests include historical, multi-cultural, magical realism, sci-fi/fantasy, gritty, thrilling and darker contemporary novels, middle grade with heart, and short, quirky or character-driven picture books. She is always drawn to an open and positive attitude in an author, professionalism, good grammar, and fantastical, beautifully written, engaging and sexy plots.

Natalie is not looking for: Inspirational novels, memoir, romantic suspense, adult thrillers, poetry, screenplays

Natalie is a member of SCBWI.

Blog: www.adventuresinagentland.com 
Twitter: @Natalie_Lakosil

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Interview with Agent Suzie Townsend

Today we have another interview with one of my favorite agents. Suzie Townsend is with
New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
Feel free to ask any questions you might have for this agent in the comments.

What was your first favorite book ever and why?

The Lord of the Rings was my favorite book as a kid. My dad was a huge Tolkien fan and he inspired the rest of our family to get into Middle Earth as well.

What a cool dad! That's so much nicer than my dad paying me to read Atlas Shrugged in the 7th grade.

What is your current favorite book and why?

I can't ever pick one favorite. There are just too many. Recently I've really loved Alexandra Bracken's new series, starting with The Darkest Minds.

If you could only eat one dessert for the rest of your life what would it be?

Chocolate chip cookies. Simple but always good.

If you were not a literary agent, what would you be?

I might have gone back to teaching if I wasn't an agent. Before getting into publishing I taught high school English.

Last month I visited with some local HS English classes and thought I'd really enjoy that as well. 

What kind of book(s) are you hoping to find in the next few months?

I'm really interested in seeing more romantic suspense in the New Adult genre and I'd love to see more magical realism in YA and middle grade. I try to update my wishlist periodically here. Really though I'm open to fiction from middle grade through adult. Anything with great characters can really hook me.

Man I wish my YA fantasy was finished!

Please tell us a bit about your agent style, how you prefer to be queried and why you love your agency.

My submission guidelines are here.

I love New Leaf for a lot of reasons. The people I work with are amazing. They're smart and hard-working and I would be absolutely lost without them. We work together as a team. We read each other's projects and share opportunities and ideas with each other, which ultimately benefits our authors.

Will you be open to queries over the holiday season or taking time off?

I'll be open.

Thanks Suzie for taking the time to answer our questions!

From the agency page:

"My favorite books are ones that keep me up all night with characters that I can't stop thinking about long after I've finished."

After teaching high school English for several years, Suzie Townsend started publishing at FinePrint Literary Management in January 2009 and worked her way up from intern to agent. Now an agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, she represents adult and children's fiction. She is actively looking to build her list. In adult, she's specifically looking for romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, epic fantasy). In Childrens' she loves YA (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie SUPER 8). She's an active member of AAR, RWA, and SCBWI.

She's interested in strong characters and voice driven stories: she's particularly keen on strong female protagonists, complex plot lines with underlying political, moral, or philosophical issues, and stories which break out of the typical tropes of their genre. Some of her favorite novels (that she doesn't represent) are Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Jeaniene Frost's Vampire Huntress series, Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series, and Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series.

She drinks too much diet orange soda, has a Starbucks problem (those soy chai lattes are addictive), and lives in New York with two dogs who know that chewing on shoes is okay but chewing on books is not. More information on Suzie can be found on publisher's marketplace here.

Blog: Confessions of a Wandering Heart
Twitter: @sztownsend81

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Interview with Katie Reed

Today we have a new agent from Andrea Hurst & Associates--Katie Reed.
She has a Facebook page you can go stalk.
Feel free to ask any questions you might have for this agent in the comments.

What was your first favorite book ever and why?

One of my earliest memories is of reading The Boxcar Children at a young age, and those books are the first ones I can remember reading. But I think the first book I ever really fell in love with has to be Lord of the Rings.

I remember the Boxcar Children! And what's not to love about Tolkien? 

What is your current favorite book and why?

Hmmm...tough question! My favorite series will always be Harry Potter. Those books simply can't be topped in my heart. As far as current goes, I am currently reading Allegiant and really enjoying it.

If you could only eat one dessert for the rest of your life what would it be?

Tillamook Rocky Road Ice Cream.

If you were not a literary agent, what would you be?

I would be a career writer. I guess anyone who loves to write is a writer, but if I could pick I would be able to pay the bills as a writer. :)

Lots of us would like to pick this one! ;)

What kind of book(s) (themes, genres) are you hoping to find in the next few months?

I am particularly interested in YA fiction right now. What I really want is something I pick up and can't put down. Something I get really excited about. I love anything that inspires me or makes me view my own world in a new light. I'm a sucker for fantasy or anything magical and can't resist a good love story with tension and characters with compelling voices.

Please tell us a bit about your agent style, how you prefer to be queried and why you love your agency.

I am so blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of Andrea Hurst Literary. Andrea has a wealth of experience and knowledge, and she is very generous with it. I am learning a lot from her.

As far as queries go, the shorter, the better. If you can hook me in the traditional 3 paragraph format, chances are good I will request it. Agents get a massive amount of queries daily, so the ones that are brief and concise are preferable to the ones that are long and packed with information.

Style...style...I will say that (besides my interest in the book itself) the person behind the book is very important to me. Publishing is a long process, and I want to make sure I am working with someone who is enjoyable and someone who is a good fit.

Will you be open to queries over the holiday season or taking time off?

I will be spending time with my family over the holidays. In this (convenient) age of smart phones and tablets, my work is always at my fingertips, so I think it is really important to set some limits when it comes to time off.

I think you are very smart on this point. Enjoy your fun time so that work stays enjoyable too. 

About Katie from the agent website:

Katie Reed can’t resist a good story. One of her greatest joys is opening a book and being held captive by it till the last page, often staying up all night because the riveting plot and brilliant characters won’t let her put it down. Katie obtained her Bachelor’s in English from California State University, Sacramento, but the most enlightening part of her college career was her internship with Andrea Hurst Literary Management. There she discovered her passion for being part of the process that connects compelling stories with book-hungry readers.

Katie has worked as a freelance editor and enjoys helping writers develop their novels in preparation for pitching and publication. She understands how challenging the writing process can be and strives to help her clients through it. Katie resides in the small town of Durham, California with her incredible husband, her joyful son, and Snoodles, her loyal cat. Besides her addiction to reading, she is also a diehard Miami Heat fan and obsessed with all things Disney.

Katie is looking for stories that demand to be read, having characters that transcend the page and remain in her thoughts long after the book has been closed. She represents all areas of young adult and adult fiction and nonfiction, with a special interest in YA and fantasy.

Katie’s Wishlist:

All areas of YA fiction, particularly:

  • Commercial, with a compelling hook and a protagonist who battles real life teen issues
  • Science fiction (soft)
  • Fantasy

Commercial and Literary Adult Fiction in the following genres:

  • Book Club Women’s Fiction
  • Science Fiction (soft)
  • Fantasy
  • Suspense/Thriller
  • Contemporary Romance

Nonfiction in the following genres:

  • Memoir/Biography with a strong platform
  • Self-help
  • Crafts/How-to
  • Inspirational
  • True Crime (I would prefer to avoid this unless it is high profile and current)
  • Parenting

Books I Love:
If I were stranded on an island and could only bring one book with me, I would cheat and bring one large book containing the entire Harry Potter series. My runner up list would feature The Hunger Games trilogy, Mercy Thompson series, Divergent trilogy, The Fault in our Stars, The Time Travelers Wife, Water for Elephants, The Shack, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Thirteen Reasons Why, P.S. I Love You, The Red Tent, A Song of Fire and Ice series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and anything by C.S. Lewis or Jodi Picoult.