Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Five things you might not know about Andrea Cremer and an AUTOGRAPHED BLOODROSE contest

Imagine my surprise to see a tweet from my editor sister Andrea Cremer announcing that she was in St. Louis last week. No one comes to St. Louis, especially not in January! Then again, Andrea grew up in Wisconsin and lives in Minnesota, so she's used to even colder weather.

Andrea read a passage from Bloodrose and then took questions for close to an hour. Here are a few fun things you might not know:

1. Andrea feels that as much as 50% of her readership is outside of the 'teen girl' demographic.

2. Her characters can shift from human to wolf without ripping all their pants because of a physics idea known as String Theory.

3. She used to (still does?) play World of Warcraft.

4. She is currently writing a book with awesome author/Scholastic editor David Levithan, a gig she got when she made a joke on her blog about the two of them collaborating someday. *Fiona raises her hand* Hi David. Can I be next? ;)

5. Andrea started seriously writing after a horse stomped on her foot and left her housebound for the summer. Fifteen or so months later she had a deal for Nightshade. Yay for serendipitous accidents!

Andrea and me. She's the one with the pretty red hair and awesome writer glasses. I'm the one with the awkward, camera-shy smile and stylish blue fingernails. And look, there's your AUTOGRAPHED copy of Bloodrose down in the corner.

So how do you win? Write me something 150 words or less that uses all of the following words:**

wolf's (or wolf or wolves)

Post your submission in the comments. One entry per person. I'm going to leave this open until the end of the month. You're welcome to edit or repost, but if you don't delete your old comment I'll consider your latest post your official entry. I'm making this open internationally, but if it takes three trucks, a ship, a bus, a helicopter, and a yak to go from me to you, I can't guarantee it will ever make it. Hey, all we can do is try :)

Don't freak out--this isn't an assignment for class. If it's 152 words, it's okay. It can be a story or a poem or a scene or a joke or manifesto. (I love me a good manifesto. Don't you?) Bonus points for funny or cool or creative or anything that makes me go OMG. Selection of the winner will be completely subjective, kind of like how an agent or editor reads submissions.

Questions? Tweet to me @fionadarkwaters

**I borrowed this idea from Janet Reid's blog, but it's okay because she probably borrowed it from someone else. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

We. Must. Chill. (Seriously. It has been mandated.)

Has January got you wound up tighter than a tightly wound, wind-up thingie? Is the Stress Yeti coming after you? Trust me. You are not alone. Here's what I've been doing:

*Clumsily juggling first-draft work on multiple projects when I get the email that it's time to work on the outline for the third book in the Dark Waters Trilogy. Yikes. Either something's gotta give or I need to become a better juggler. Pretty sure it's the first one.

*Debating all sorts of Big Life Changes (do I go back to school? work less? work more? work someplace different? live someplace different?) which all feel like they're hinging on pending stuff over which I have no control.

*Exercising myself to the point of exhaustion on a regular basis only to have the heart rate monitor tell me my pulse is 85 (LIES, ALL LIES!) and the scale tell me I'm gaining weight instead of losing (*sigh* probably true.)

*Made the mistake of thinking I had the time/sanity required to start dating someone. Sorry, dude. I tried

*Made a second mistake of perusing the copy-edited draft of Venom to answer a crit-group style question. (Sidebar: it is toward, not towards, at least in the US.) There, on one of the first pages was a sentence I decided I didn't like. Yes, after a zillion read-throughs by various experts, this sentence now feels awkward and wrong to me. The more I stared at that little pile of words, the more glaringly out of place it became, kind of like a hydra at a high school dance. And it's too late to change it.

*Resolved never to look at copy-edited manuscript again.

*Started freaking out over financial paperwork. Estimated taxes? Business expenses? Self-employment tax? This is the first year since I was fifteen that I won't be able to do my own return, and I can already see the guy at H & R Block shaking his head in dismay.

*Did I mention the pending stuff over which I have no control?

*And what is that noise? Is that...? Yes. My cat is currently barfing up an Olympic-sized pool of vomit all over the rug. Thank god for catfood-colored carpets.

So is January stress stealing years from my life and adding inches to my waistline? Probably. Am I seriously considering a mostly-not-serious offer to temporarily relocate to Sweden and shack up with a hot guy from my past? Maaaaaybe. I do like the dark. And I could change my name to Inga and sell sandbakkels out of a little blue and white striped street cart...

Or I could just chill. An aromatherapy producer is trying to get everyone to have a collective National Moment of Chill on January 23rd? Uh, can we start early? I say YES! Chill early. Chill often. Get started with the following chill-o-rific pix, snapped by yours truly:

Oooh, redwoods. They make oxygen. Oxygen is good, unless you are a raging inferno. You are not a raging inferno, right? You are a cool cucumber, an iceberg of chill. 

How chill to be a tired little ferret adventuring through the Great Swamp of Cluttered Bedroom and finding the perfect snuggly spot for a nap. Rest in peace, little Biner.

 The jellyfish--posterchild of chill. He goes where the current takes him.

Ooooh. The Oregon Coast is one of the prettiest places in the world. Too bad the water is usually too chill-y for swimming.

High-end designer chocolate breastesses?? Only the Europeans could be chill enough to sell those.

Sunset over New Zealand, absolutely the chillest (and most insanely gorgeous) place in the world.

The runner-up poster child of chill.

There's just something about a sleeping kitty...

That makes your blood pressure go d-o-w-n.

One of my most chill moments. What about you? Where is your chill place? What do you do when the Stress Yeti comes for you?

PS If you're wondering why that lady has cornrows, all I can say is that there's something about a cruise that makes everyone think questionable hairstyles are a good idea. Cruises, they are very chill like that.

Adorable yeti pictures by SCARLETTVEITH. You can even be cool like me and get the top yeti on a tee shirt.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Twelve in '12: How to raise your writing game this year

Most people who find out I'm getting paid to write are like: 'Oh, you're so lucky.' And okay, there is a certain amount of luck that fits into being published. Maybe you write something timely without knowing it, or maybe you sub your sea-monster love story to an agent who is best pals with an editor who has been clamoring for a sea-monster love story. Maybe you just have a dream about sparkly vampires.

But before you can benefit from luck, you still have to write a publishable book. And luck's got nothing to do with that. I wish there was a secret I could share with you. Hell, I wish there was a secret someone would share with me, a failsafe way to guarantee publication for all of the 241 manuscripts living in my brain. There's not. Or if there is, the cool kids aren't talking. But there are a few things you can do to increase your chances. (And yeah, these might seem really basic, but you'd be surprised how many people I know who are committed to getting published but don't seem to be doing these things.)

1. Read. A handful of books does not count. Your nursing school textbooks do not count. Books you read in 1987 do not count. Most people probably need to read at least fifty current books in their chosen genre in order to assimilate what is successful in today's market.

2. Write. Every day, or close to it. It seems impossible, but it isn't. Once you get in the habit, it'll actually feel weird if you skip a day, kind of like sweating your ass off on the treadmill but way more fun.

3. Take a class or go to a conference, if you can afford to. I met my agent at the Oregon Coast Children's Book Writers Workshop. My Mediabistro teacher was an instrumental part of my first book deal. I'm just sayin'.

4. Read industry blogs--at least five but no more than twenty. Five is enough to at least keep you up-to-date on major happenings. More than twenty will cut into your writing time.

5. Make a twitter account and follow agents, editors, and authors you like. You don't ever have to tweet or have a single follower. You learn a TON just from twitter-eavesdropping.

6. Join a message board like Verla Kay's Blueboards. Want to know how to use 'who' and 'whom'? Want to know if kids still say 'fo' shizzle'? Want to know how long it takes Agent X to respond to a query? Someone knows, and that someone is on Verla Kay's Blueboards.

7. Participate in a crit group. Let's face it--your mom/spouse isn't going to tell you if your main character is an annoying Mary Sue or more shallow than a shot of tequila from the chintzy bartender. Find writers to swap crits with on the above message boards, or start your own group.

8. Nurture new ideas. Got horrible writer's block? Set your manuscript aside but don't reach for the TV remote. Brainstorm. Seek new perspectives. Start a new book. Most people don't sell their first manuscript, and if you've got multiple projects going you'll be less likely to get into that mindframe where your whole life seems to depend on whatever you're writing. (It doesn't.)

9. Write complete crap. My first drafts are a combination of a seventh grader's notebook doodles and the insane rantings of someone who doesn't speak very good English. I would never let ANYONE see them. But when you free yourself from the constraints of fixing typos and misspellings and whole paragraphs that, frankly, just don't make any sense, you'll be surprised how much you can accomplish. And you can fix it all later, when you're feeling polish-y.

10. Set small goals and reward yourself. Set daily writing goals in word count, not writing hours. When I look up at my whiteboard and see that after I crank out 2000 words I am off for the rest of the day, well, that's motivation. And remember: these are rough-draft, crappy, for-your-eyes-only words. If you revise and re-revise each sentence as you write you will never finish anything. Reward yourself every 500 or 1000 words with a quick check of email/twitter. If you feel the need to flip to twitter for each new tweet, you're better off finding a place to write without internet access.

11. Take a break. When you start to feel like working the express checkout at Wal-Mart would be more fun than writing, it's probably time to let your brain rest. Just set an end-date for your writing 'vacation' and if you still can't face that soul-sucking vampire of a work-in-progress then write something else. Like a different book, or maybe just a long rant about how writing is evil, but you love it anyway.

12. Don't forget to eat. And sleep, and pay bills, and exercise, and pet the occasional tiger. Don't forget to fall in love with that guy who is oh-so-not-your-type. In short, don't forget to live. The mundane stuff keeps you in clean socks and underwear (which we appreciate.) The magical stuff is great fodder for stories.

(I was way more scared than I look.)

Happy New Year! :)