Friday, December 23, 2011

My latest accepted poem, "Storm Shelter," was published today at the e-zine Daily Love. You can read this fiction-in-verse piece HERE.

Sometimes when I'm drafting, I find it helpful to try out a scene in verse format as a way of getting to the emotional core of the action. This is one such experiment with a scene from my second novel.

Happy Holidays, all! I'll be back in the new year.

Do you even rearrange or play with material you've already written, just to try it out?
Friday, December 23, 2011 Laurel Garver
My latest accepted poem, "Storm Shelter," was published today at the e-zine Daily Love. You can read this fiction-in-verse piece HERE.

Sometimes when I'm drafting, I find it helpful to try out a scene in verse format as a way of getting to the emotional core of the action. This is one such experiment with a scene from my second novel.

Happy Holidays, all! I'll be back in the new year.

Do you even rearrange or play with material you've already written, just to try it out?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Google searches in the research process. They can be an efficient way to fact-check aspects of your story. I've at times used Googlemaps street view to walk around neighborhoods I hadn't forayed into deeply enough on a prior research trip. Heck, I've even used street view to roam cemeteries in France in search of a geographically appropriate surname.

The truth is, I'd never have bothered with the graveyard walks if it weren't for an expert. A French ex-pat I work with once offhandedly identified one of our magazine contributor's home region based on her surname alone. If any native would know regional ties to particular names, I couldn't pick a surname for my characters willy-nilly. An inaccuracy would make my reader lose confidence. Were I more fluent in French, I could have searched regional phone directories, surely. But the graveyard walks yielded what I needed easily enough.

My point here is to not limit yourself to Internet research alone. More often than not an actual human being will have insider knowledge that will keep you from making embarrassing mistakes. And a ten minute phone conversation might just save you from hours of trawling through page after page of useless information.

Just as importantly, you need the right kind of expert who can speak to your story's particular situation. Your family doctor might know the standard procedure for treating a broken leg, but his knowledge is likely limited to treatment best practices under ideal conditions. You know, in a clean, shiny hospital. But what about injuries in non-ideal conditions, when X-rays and surgery are not readily available? Your family doctor isn't going to be much help--partly because he will fear opening himself to legal liability by dispensing advice that isn't clinically defensible. Your better bet would be to find a military field medic, or a mountain climber trained in first aid--someone who has experience with non-ideal conditions.

One golden truth I learned in journalism school is that people LOVE to be considered experts (well, eight out of ten; take into account a certain percentage of natural jerkiness in the general population). Start by approaching people you already know, and be as specific as possible with the kind of information you're seeking. Your personal contacts can lead you to other experts as well. But don't be afraid to take a leap and call or e-mail a stranger. The worst they can say is "Sorry, I can't help you."

Approach your sources as if you were a reporter doing fact-checking--in other words, there will be no pressure that your source's name will splashed across a front page. For more tips on contacting and interviewing experts, see THIS helpful site, created for student journalists.

Have you made use of experts in researching aspects of your fiction? How might expert insights help make your story stronger? If you could shadow someone for a day to get insights for your story, who would it be?

**Repost from February.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 Laurel Garver
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Google searches in the research process. They can be an efficient way to fact-check aspects of your story. I've at times used Googlemaps street view to walk around neighborhoods I hadn't forayed into deeply enough on a prior research trip. Heck, I've even used street view to roam cemeteries in France in search of a geographically appropriate surname.

The truth is, I'd never have bothered with the graveyard walks if it weren't for an expert. A French ex-pat I work with once offhandedly identified one of our magazine contributor's home region based on her surname alone. If any native would know regional ties to particular names, I couldn't pick a surname for my characters willy-nilly. An inaccuracy would make my reader lose confidence. Were I more fluent in French, I could have searched regional phone directories, surely. But the graveyard walks yielded what I needed easily enough.

My point here is to not limit yourself to Internet research alone. More often than not an actual human being will have insider knowledge that will keep you from making embarrassing mistakes. And a ten minute phone conversation might just save you from hours of trawling through page after page of useless information.

Just as importantly, you need the right kind of expert who can speak to your story's particular situation. Your family doctor might know the standard procedure for treating a broken leg, but his knowledge is likely limited to treatment best practices under ideal conditions. You know, in a clean, shiny hospital. But what about injuries in non-ideal conditions, when X-rays and surgery are not readily available? Your family doctor isn't going to be much help--partly because he will fear opening himself to legal liability by dispensing advice that isn't clinically defensible. Your better bet would be to find a military field medic, or a mountain climber trained in first aid--someone who has experience with non-ideal conditions.

One golden truth I learned in journalism school is that people LOVE to be considered experts (well, eight out of ten; take into account a certain percentage of natural jerkiness in the general population). Start by approaching people you already know, and be as specific as possible with the kind of information you're seeking. Your personal contacts can lead you to other experts as well. But don't be afraid to take a leap and call or e-mail a stranger. The worst they can say is "Sorry, I can't help you."

Approach your sources as if you were a reporter doing fact-checking--in other words, there will be no pressure that your source's name will splashed across a front page. For more tips on contacting and interviewing experts, see THIS helpful site, created for student journalists.

Have you made use of experts in researching aspects of your fiction? How might expert insights help make your story stronger? If you could shadow someone for a day to get insights for your story, who would it be?

**Repost from February.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Today is D.L. Hammons's Deja Vu blogfest, when we were invited to repost something we wish had gotten a little more attention. Swing by DL's blog Cruising Altitude to check out the other participants. (And if you want to know why the possessive of D.L.'s name looks like this, check out THIS POST to get up to speed about creating singular possessives correctly.)

My repost, "Gene pool: fun with secondary characters" went up in August 2010, arguably a bad time of year for garnering comments, when everyone is on vacation.

====

Creating a fully realized cast of characters is for me one of the most fun aspects of writing. Part of what makes fictional characters seem real is their webs of relationships--including relatives.

Unless your main character is adopted, she will share certain characteristics with other members of the family. And this is where some of the fun comes in. As Bill Cosby joked in a comedy sketch, having children is like conducting a chemistry experiment--you mix a little of each parent and see what you get. Some kids are strongly like one parent, while others are an amalgam.

Now imagine working backwards. You have a main character. What do his parents look like? Is he a younger version of his dad? A male version of his mother? Or have the sets of genes combined in an interesting way? The genetic combo is, of course, the most fun to extrapolate ancestors for.

One thing to keep in mind when dreaming up your character's genetic heritage: you need a grasp of heredity basics (remember high school bio?). Certain traits are dominant and will most frequently reappear in offspring. Others are recessive and won't appear at all unless someone in the line has the trait. Tone deafness, for example, is a dominant trait. Your piano prodigy character must have ancestors who can carry a tune (a recessive trait).

Here's a good refresher on the basic science of heredity.
And here's a list of traits (and also here) known to be dominant and recessive.

How might heredity shape your character building? Have any characters you might alter to make your protagonist more plausible?
Friday, December 16, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today is D.L. Hammons's Deja Vu blogfest, when we were invited to repost something we wish had gotten a little more attention. Swing by DL's blog Cruising Altitude to check out the other participants. (And if you want to know why the possessive of D.L.'s name looks like this, check out THIS POST to get up to speed about creating singular possessives correctly.)

My repost, "Gene pool: fun with secondary characters" went up in August 2010, arguably a bad time of year for garnering comments, when everyone is on vacation.

====

Creating a fully realized cast of characters is for me one of the most fun aspects of writing. Part of what makes fictional characters seem real is their webs of relationships--including relatives.

Unless your main character is adopted, she will share certain characteristics with other members of the family. And this is where some of the fun comes in. As Bill Cosby joked in a comedy sketch, having children is like conducting a chemistry experiment--you mix a little of each parent and see what you get. Some kids are strongly like one parent, while others are an amalgam.

Now imagine working backwards. You have a main character. What do his parents look like? Is he a younger version of his dad? A male version of his mother? Or have the sets of genes combined in an interesting way? The genetic combo is, of course, the most fun to extrapolate ancestors for.

One thing to keep in mind when dreaming up your character's genetic heritage: you need a grasp of heredity basics (remember high school bio?). Certain traits are dominant and will most frequently reappear in offspring. Others are recessive and won't appear at all unless someone in the line has the trait. Tone deafness, for example, is a dominant trait. Your piano prodigy character must have ancestors who can carry a tune (a recessive trait).

Here's a good refresher on the basic science of heredity.
And here's a list of traits (and also here) known to be dominant and recessive.

How might heredity shape your character building? Have any characters you might alter to make your protagonist more plausible?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tomorrow is DL Hammons's Deja Vu Blogfest, a chance to recycle a post you love, or one you wish would've gotten more attention the first time around. I hesitated signing up because tomorrow is my daughter's school program, and I'll be away from the computer all morning listening to cute kiddos singing. Hopefully I can manage to catch up in the afternoon!

To me, the holidays are incomplete without music. Participating in choirs (and also band in high school) meant months of practicing, practicing, practicing words and tunes that always shifted something inside me. I can live without the lights, the sweets, the gifts and cards. What I can't live without is that resonance of joy and mystery, the mighty made weak and rich made poor for our sake.

And speaking of things I can live without--one of my biggest holiday pet peeves is the misuse and misunderstanding of the Twelve Days of Christmas. People, these are NOT days PRIOR to Christmas day, they are AFTER Christmas day! The twelve days are the period between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan 6; also called Three Kings Day, in remembrance of the Magi's arrival and gift-giving). During this period, the liturgical colors switch from advent purple to white. You can read more about them HERE (includes an interesting explanation of the song, too).

It's the third week of advent right now, not the "second day of Christmas." OK? Thank you. I needed to get that off my chest.

What do you consider a holiday essential? Do you have a holiday pet peeve?
Thursday, December 15, 2011 Laurel Garver
Tomorrow is DL Hammons's Deja Vu Blogfest, a chance to recycle a post you love, or one you wish would've gotten more attention the first time around. I hesitated signing up because tomorrow is my daughter's school program, and I'll be away from the computer all morning listening to cute kiddos singing. Hopefully I can manage to catch up in the afternoon!

To me, the holidays are incomplete without music. Participating in choirs (and also band in high school) meant months of practicing, practicing, practicing words and tunes that always shifted something inside me. I can live without the lights, the sweets, the gifts and cards. What I can't live without is that resonance of joy and mystery, the mighty made weak and rich made poor for our sake.

And speaking of things I can live without--one of my biggest holiday pet peeves is the misuse and misunderstanding of the Twelve Days of Christmas. People, these are NOT days PRIOR to Christmas day, they are AFTER Christmas day! The twelve days are the period between Christmas and Epiphany (Jan 6; also called Three Kings Day, in remembrance of the Magi's arrival and gift-giving). During this period, the liturgical colors switch from advent purple to white. You can read more about them HERE (includes an interesting explanation of the song, too).

It's the third week of advent right now, not the "second day of Christmas." OK? Thank you. I needed to get that off my chest.

What do you consider a holiday essential? Do you have a holiday pet peeve?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

While laid low with a cold over the weekend, I rewatched the old Winona Rider version of Little Women, an odd mix of wonderful and terrible acting, and a sentimental journey for anyone who writes.

For some reason, this watching I was most struck by Prof. Bhaer's opinions about Jo's first novel. He assented that yes, sensational, exciting stories sell. But Gothic romance seemed to not admit any of Jo's best qualities: "There is nothing in here of the woman I am privileged to know." I'm not entirely sure if Alcott intended this as a smear on pulp fiction; perhaps so, perhaps not.

But whether you write literary realism or more fantastical work, I think there's something to his assertion that the very best books, the one that are loved for generations, are works of extreme courage. "There's more to you than this," the professor says, "If you have the courage to write it."

In Jo's case, she doubts that her life experiences are worthy subjects of fiction. The most courageous thing for her is to expose her "quiet" upbringing for all its humor, beauty and drama. But another writer might have been raised in an environment that shunned imagination and was always thoroughly Philistine. In his case, it would take great courage to write light, humorous fantasy. In so doing, he'd have to own up to suppressed desires and embrace what he fears others might not value as much as he does. Honesty is the supreme act of courage.

Do you have a story you lack the courage to write? I do. It's been niggling at me for years, and Prof. Bhaer's wise words have again it pinned front and center on my imagination's notice board. Even the holiday busyness hasn't been able to push it into a closet it this time. For once I have a sense of just how the story wants to be told. So here's to courage!

What does courageous writing look like to you?
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 Laurel Garver
While laid low with a cold over the weekend, I rewatched the old Winona Rider version of Little Women, an odd mix of wonderful and terrible acting, and a sentimental journey for anyone who writes.

For some reason, this watching I was most struck by Prof. Bhaer's opinions about Jo's first novel. He assented that yes, sensational, exciting stories sell. But Gothic romance seemed to not admit any of Jo's best qualities: "There is nothing in here of the woman I am privileged to know." I'm not entirely sure if Alcott intended this as a smear on pulp fiction; perhaps so, perhaps not.

But whether you write literary realism or more fantastical work, I think there's something to his assertion that the very best books, the one that are loved for generations, are works of extreme courage. "There's more to you than this," the professor says, "If you have the courage to write it."

In Jo's case, she doubts that her life experiences are worthy subjects of fiction. The most courageous thing for her is to expose her "quiet" upbringing for all its humor, beauty and drama. But another writer might have been raised in an environment that shunned imagination and was always thoroughly Philistine. In his case, it would take great courage to write light, humorous fantasy. In so doing, he'd have to own up to suppressed desires and embrace what he fears others might not value as much as he does. Honesty is the supreme act of courage.

Do you have a story you lack the courage to write? I do. It's been niggling at me for years, and Prof. Bhaer's wise words have again it pinned front and center on my imagination's notice board. Even the holiday busyness hasn't been able to push it into a closet it this time. For once I have a sense of just how the story wants to be told. So here's to courage!

What does courageous writing look like to you?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I am currently buried under an enormous pile of proofreading at my paying job, but I thought I'd pop over here with a recent insight from the experience.

Changing page layout will make a text read differently. I am always, always finding new errors when I proofread digest-sized pages of material that I'd already proofread on letter-sized pages. This is partly because the eye tracks differently on shorter lines. I've also noticed that some spatially-related issues like paragraphing (specifically, overly long blocks of text) are much more apparent on smaller pages.

I highly recommend that you do your final manuscript proofreading in a size other than letter size to give yourself fresh eyes. It's pretty simple to do this. Go to the "page layout" menu in Word, select "paper size" and choose "A5"--which is roughly digest size. When you're ready to print, open the print menu, go to the "pages per sheet" drop down menu in the bottom right, and select "2 pages."

You'll be surprised how different your manuscript looks--and how many errors slipped past you when you always saw pages in the same size draft after draft.

What other tricks do you have to give yourself a fresh perspective?
Tuesday, December 06, 2011 Laurel Garver
I am currently buried under an enormous pile of proofreading at my paying job, but I thought I'd pop over here with a recent insight from the experience.

Changing page layout will make a text read differently. I am always, always finding new errors when I proofread digest-sized pages of material that I'd already proofread on letter-sized pages. This is partly because the eye tracks differently on shorter lines. I've also noticed that some spatially-related issues like paragraphing (specifically, overly long blocks of text) are much more apparent on smaller pages.

I highly recommend that you do your final manuscript proofreading in a size other than letter size to give yourself fresh eyes. It's pretty simple to do this. Go to the "page layout" menu in Word, select "paper size" and choose "A5"--which is roughly digest size. When you're ready to print, open the print menu, go to the "pages per sheet" drop down menu in the bottom right, and select "2 pages."

You'll be surprised how different your manuscript looks--and how many errors slipped past you when you always saw pages in the same size draft after draft.

What other tricks do you have to give yourself a fresh perspective?

Thursday, December 01, 2011


Today is Vicki Rocho's "Well, I Never" blogfest. She invited us to share something we'd never done, never thought we'd do (but did) or something that simply puzzles us. Go swing by Rambles and Randomness to see the other participants. Rather than a list, I'll share one quick story...

I never went to the prom. It wasn't because I wasn't asked. No, it was largely because I didn't want to go with the guy who asked me. We had a history, one I didn't care to repeat.

I briefly considered asking a friend who went to another school, but as fun and cool as he was, the fact he was a freshman and I was a senior gave me pause. Too much potential to get really awkward. I was also kind-of-sort-of seeing someone at the time, a junior from my own school. Our daily walking-home-from-school flirtation would really go nowhere if I asked someone else to the prom--someone even younger than he. I had a real knack for relationship muddles like this at 17. Is it any wonder I write YA?

From what I could tell, the prom would be just like the school cafeteria but with formalwear--every clique keeping to themselves, everyone carefully guarding his or her established image. Honestly, why bother? So I decided to throw an anti-prom party instead. I had a fantastic night watching movies and hanging out with my favorite underclassman and a senior or two, who, like me, decided the prom was one of the "high school necessities" we could happily live without.

Funnily enough, my friends who did go to the prom ditched early and came to my house instead. Apparently, annoying classmates become even more so under the influence of cheap beer and Jack Daniels. More genuine fun was to be had with us sober, soda-sipping geeks.

====

In other news, there's a wonderful new e-zine now accepting submissions: Vine Leaves Literary Journal. This publication features vignette writing--short pieces that deeply explore character, setting or description rather than being a traditionally plotted story. You can read more about the editors' vision and submission guidelines HERE.

Vine Leaves Literary Journal is the brainchild of Jessica Bell (author of String Bridge) and her critique partner Dawn Ius, a Canadian writer and marketing/communications pro. They felt this subgenre of literary writing deserved a venue of its own.

I'm thrilled to have a piece accepted to the premiere issue (January 2012). I'll post a link when the issue goes live.


Did you go to the prom? Tell me your story!
Thursday, December 01, 2011 Laurel Garver

Today is Vicki Rocho's "Well, I Never" blogfest. She invited us to share something we'd never done, never thought we'd do (but did) or something that simply puzzles us. Go swing by Rambles and Randomness to see the other participants. Rather than a list, I'll share one quick story...

I never went to the prom. It wasn't because I wasn't asked. No, it was largely because I didn't want to go with the guy who asked me. We had a history, one I didn't care to repeat.

I briefly considered asking a friend who went to another school, but as fun and cool as he was, the fact he was a freshman and I was a senior gave me pause. Too much potential to get really awkward. I was also kind-of-sort-of seeing someone at the time, a junior from my own school. Our daily walking-home-from-school flirtation would really go nowhere if I asked someone else to the prom--someone even younger than he. I had a real knack for relationship muddles like this at 17. Is it any wonder I write YA?

From what I could tell, the prom would be just like the school cafeteria but with formalwear--every clique keeping to themselves, everyone carefully guarding his or her established image. Honestly, why bother? So I decided to throw an anti-prom party instead. I had a fantastic night watching movies and hanging out with my favorite underclassman and a senior or two, who, like me, decided the prom was one of the "high school necessities" we could happily live without.

Funnily enough, my friends who did go to the prom ditched early and came to my house instead. Apparently, annoying classmates become even more so under the influence of cheap beer and Jack Daniels. More genuine fun was to be had with us sober, soda-sipping geeks.

====

In other news, there's a wonderful new e-zine now accepting submissions: Vine Leaves Literary Journal. This publication features vignette writing--short pieces that deeply explore character, setting or description rather than being a traditionally plotted story. You can read more about the editors' vision and submission guidelines HERE.

Vine Leaves Literary Journal is the brainchild of Jessica Bell (author of String Bridge) and her critique partner Dawn Ius, a Canadian writer and marketing/communications pro. They felt this subgenre of literary writing deserved a venue of its own.

I'm thrilled to have a piece accepted to the premiere issue (January 2012). I'll post a link when the issue goes live.


Did you go to the prom? Tell me your story!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Editor-on-call,

Recently I wrote, "He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was about a year older than I was" on the first page I presented at a SCBWI critique session. I was told it should read: "He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was a year older than me."

I think the editor is wrong. What do you say?

Sincerely,
Woe am I
(aka Carmen Ferreiro Esteban)


Dear Woesome,

This is a two-pronged issue. First, we have to consider the grammar rules for comparisons. Second, we should discuss the issue of audience and diction.

Comparisons using "than"
For the record, your instincts are right. Using the objective case--me, her or him--in "than" comparisons is grammatically incorrect.

The rule to remember is that the two things being compared must have parallel grammatical form, tense, voice, case.

Examples:
Incorrect - She is taller than him. (Noun cases don't match: one's subjective, the other objective.)

Correct - She is taller than he is. (Note the verb is repeated for clarity. )


Incorrect - I like Mona more than him. (Both unparallel and ambiguous.)

Correct - I like Mona more than I like him. ("Mona" and "him" are both direct objects.)

Alternate - I like Mona more than he does. (This is a shorthand for saying "I like Mona more than he likes Mona.")


Incorrect- It will be faster to go this way than going that way. (Verb forms don't match: one's an infinitive, the other, a participle.)

Correct: It will be faster to go this way than to go that way.

Voice and diction
When is it preferable to break grammar rules to keep character voices authentic and unstuffy? That depends on a number of things including genre, audience and character voice.

If you write for emerging readers (the under-9 set), consider how teachers will perceive your work. From their perspective, it's more important that proper grammar be continually reinforced so that their students internalize it. They will curse your rule breaking.

As readers age, their grasp of language becomes more sophisticated and fluid. They can better discern a fictional character's voice from, say, a textbook narrator voice. They become aware of dialect and can point to how Huck Finn sounds different from Harry Potter.

In my opinion, the most compelling reason to make a character speak ungrammatically is to convey their lower social class and lack of education or sophistication, or to create contrasts.
A kid raised in the slum is more likely to botch grammar than who attends a posh boarding school. But either kid might assume the speech of the other as an affectation, a mask, to fit in or stand out in a particular environment. Rule breaking for this purpose can be an effective characterization tool.

There certainly are some forms of grammatical correctness that have almost entirely disappeared from speech. Taking the high road means your character's voice will be perceived as uptight and stuffy. You're unlikely to hear a teen use "whom" much anymore. And following the bogus rule that you can't end a sentence with a preposition (which is a Latin grammar rule, not a genuinely English one) will similarly nerdify character voice.

I'd rather spend 300 pages with someone who asks me, "Who should I send this letter to?" than one who asks, "To whom should I send this letter?"

Your example sentence ("He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was about a year older than I was") reads naturally enough. It doesn't seem to me to fall into the "uptight grammatical prig" category. Keep it as you wrote it.

So, readers, what do you think?
Tuesday, November 29, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call,

Recently I wrote, "He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was about a year older than I was" on the first page I presented at a SCBWI critique session. I was told it should read: "He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was a year older than me."

I think the editor is wrong. What do you say?

Sincerely,
Woe am I
(aka Carmen Ferreiro Esteban)


Dear Woesome,

This is a two-pronged issue. First, we have to consider the grammar rules for comparisons. Second, we should discuss the issue of audience and diction.

Comparisons using "than"
For the record, your instincts are right. Using the objective case--me, her or him--in "than" comparisons is grammatically incorrect.

The rule to remember is that the two things being compared must have parallel grammatical form, tense, voice, case.

Examples:
Incorrect - She is taller than him. (Noun cases don't match: one's subjective, the other objective.)

Correct - She is taller than he is. (Note the verb is repeated for clarity. )


Incorrect - I like Mona more than him. (Both unparallel and ambiguous.)

Correct - I like Mona more than I like him. ("Mona" and "him" are both direct objects.)

Alternate - I like Mona more than he does. (This is a shorthand for saying "I like Mona more than he likes Mona.")


Incorrect- It will be faster to go this way than going that way. (Verb forms don't match: one's an infinitive, the other, a participle.)

Correct: It will be faster to go this way than to go that way.

Voice and diction
When is it preferable to break grammar rules to keep character voices authentic and unstuffy? That depends on a number of things including genre, audience and character voice.

If you write for emerging readers (the under-9 set), consider how teachers will perceive your work. From their perspective, it's more important that proper grammar be continually reinforced so that their students internalize it. They will curse your rule breaking.

As readers age, their grasp of language becomes more sophisticated and fluid. They can better discern a fictional character's voice from, say, a textbook narrator voice. They become aware of dialect and can point to how Huck Finn sounds different from Harry Potter.

In my opinion, the most compelling reason to make a character speak ungrammatically is to convey their lower social class and lack of education or sophistication, or to create contrasts.
A kid raised in the slum is more likely to botch grammar than who attends a posh boarding school. But either kid might assume the speech of the other as an affectation, a mask, to fit in or stand out in a particular environment. Rule breaking for this purpose can be an effective characterization tool.

There certainly are some forms of grammatical correctness that have almost entirely disappeared from speech. Taking the high road means your character's voice will be perceived as uptight and stuffy. You're unlikely to hear a teen use "whom" much anymore. And following the bogus rule that you can't end a sentence with a preposition (which is a Latin grammar rule, not a genuinely English one) will similarly nerdify character voice.

I'd rather spend 300 pages with someone who asks me, "Who should I send this letter to?" than one who asks, "To whom should I send this letter?"

Your example sentence ("He must have been thirteen at the time, as he was about a year older than I was") reads naturally enough. It doesn't seem to me to fall into the "uptight grammatical prig" category. Keep it as you wrote it.

So, readers, what do you think?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I just realized--with a sinking feeling--that there are only 40 days left in 2011. That means I need to really get cracking to meet my year-end goals.

At the beginning of the year, I'd planned to work hard at building up publishing credits. I've had a few small victories: "Tribute" (flash fiction) in Motley Press; "The Lost Coin" (verse fiction) in Drown in My Own Fears; "A Writer's Parable" (poem) in Rubber Lemon: short Christian writing; "New Friend" (poem) in Joyful! (forthcoming). Two of these are UK e-zines, which means I've published internationally. :-)

I have two MG stories out on submission, and have about a dozen poems I need to fine tune and submit. I'd love to have two more acceptances before year's end. Impossible? Time will tell.

What year-end goals are you trying to reach? How are you doing?
Tuesday, November 22, 2011 Laurel Garver
I just realized--with a sinking feeling--that there are only 40 days left in 2011. That means I need to really get cracking to meet my year-end goals.

At the beginning of the year, I'd planned to work hard at building up publishing credits. I've had a few small victories: "Tribute" (flash fiction) in Motley Press; "The Lost Coin" (verse fiction) in Drown in My Own Fears; "A Writer's Parable" (poem) in Rubber Lemon: short Christian writing; "New Friend" (poem) in Joyful! (forthcoming). Two of these are UK e-zines, which means I've published internationally. :-)

I have two MG stories out on submission, and have about a dozen poems I need to fine tune and submit. I'd love to have two more acceptances before year's end. Impossible? Time will tell.

What year-end goals are you trying to reach? How are you doing?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's been a very long time since I participated in a blog fest. I think the fatigue from my severe anemia had a lot to do with it. But now that I'm power-loading iron and feeling more perky, I'd love to get folks together for another fest.

The question is, what theme? With the holidays fast approaching, it can't be something requiring participants to invest gobs of time. And I've seen a growing reticence to share bits of one's works-in-progress, for all sorts of reasons.

Here are a few possible topics I've brainstormed:

A: Making a list
Write a wish list for yourself or for one of your characters. Think especially of experiences (restaurants, vacations, concerts) and gifts of service (babysitting, book trailer creation) pined for. Be as practical or as fantastic as you like.

B: Writers in Toyland
Describe the coolest toy from your childhood, or a creation you wish existed. Or post a favorite fictional quote about toys (e.g., 1-year-old Harry Potter's toy broomstick).

C: Holiday help
Imagine you had a house-elf's services for a day. What would you ask Dobby or Winky to do for you?

Which one of these ideas appeals most to you?
Thursday, November 17, 2011 Laurel Garver
It's been a very long time since I participated in a blog fest. I think the fatigue from my severe anemia had a lot to do with it. But now that I'm power-loading iron and feeling more perky, I'd love to get folks together for another fest.

The question is, what theme? With the holidays fast approaching, it can't be something requiring participants to invest gobs of time. And I've seen a growing reticence to share bits of one's works-in-progress, for all sorts of reasons.

Here are a few possible topics I've brainstormed:

A: Making a list
Write a wish list for yourself or for one of your characters. Think especially of experiences (restaurants, vacations, concerts) and gifts of service (babysitting, book trailer creation) pined for. Be as practical or as fantastic as you like.

B: Writers in Toyland
Describe the coolest toy from your childhood, or a creation you wish existed. Or post a favorite fictional quote about toys (e.g., 1-year-old Harry Potter's toy broomstick).

C: Holiday help
Imagine you had a house-elf's services for a day. What would you ask Dobby or Winky to do for you?

Which one of these ideas appeals most to you?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dear editor-on-call,

I always forget when certain words should be capitalized, like sir (Sir?). Can you help?

Sincerely,
Case sensitive
aka Janet Sumner Johnson at Musings of a Children's Writer

Dear Case,

My quirky post title is a good mnemonic device: Don a cap[ital] if you're proper. In other words, capitalize proper nouns, but leave common nouns lowercase.

A proper noun is a NAME. For the most part, this is pretty simple to understand. Anne Shirley loves Gilbert Blythe, not gilbert blythe. (She might IM with gil_blythe, but I digress).

Trademarks are names (Barbie, Kleenex, Lycra), weekdays and months are names (Monday, September), artistic work titles are names (The Shining, Evita, Mona Lisa), specific places have names (Yosemite, London, Lake Country, Serengeti Plain), specific events have names (Lycoming County Fair, Little Bears Fun Run, Easter, Rosh Hashanah).

The tricky thing is when common nouns behave like proper nouns, or transform as part of a compound proper noun.

Let's look at your example, "sir." It's one of those courteous words waiters use when talking to men, hoping for a big tip: "And what will you have tonight, sir? May I recommend a wine to pair with that, sir?" That's the most usual use in our culture.

But once upon a time (and once upon today in certain social circles), there existed men of noble rank whose name was always preceded by a "sir," and the title was considered part of the name. Therefore, the common noun shifts to proper noun when it becomes part of a name. (You picking up a theme here?)

So, for example, your historical (or fantasy or upmarket) fiction might have sentences like this:
Sir Wallace stomped into the house, furious. "Where is my son?!" he bellowed. "Where is Sir Reginald?"
His servant bowed low. "I know not, m'lord, sir. If you please, sir, I have not seen Sir Reginald since breakfast."

Generally, sir will be lowercase unless paired with the nobleman's name. The only exception would be if a character refers to someone using a title in place of a name. In Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Celie refers to her abusive husband as "Mister."

Let's tackle some far more common examples of problems making the common/proper distinction--family members.

The common nouns dad, father, mom and mother become proper when substituting for or acting like a name. My daughter doesn't call me Laurel; she calls me Mommy, Mama or Mom.

Hobbit Girl might say, "Mommy, I think you are the coolest mom ever."

In the first instance, she is addressing me "by name," that is, her name for me. In the second instance, she is talking about the role of mother, a common noun.

Here are some other examples:
"Dad!" Betsy called. "Where are you, Daddy?"
She turned to Hazel with a knowing smile. "My daddy can fix anything, just you wait."
"Aw, hogwash," Hazel said. "All your daddy can fix are martinis."
"I'm gonna tell Dad what you said. He'll whup you good, Hazel Dawkins."

Extended family such as aunts and uncles often have these titles appended to names in a fashion similar to sir.

For example:
Aunt Jo was the nicest sort of aunt. A cushiony couch of a woman, Auntie kept her hearth fire burning and all her candy jars full. Liesl wished she could live with her aunt forever and ever. She'd stop calling her Aunt Jo and start calling her Mama.

Hope that helps clarify things for you!

What capitalization conundrums trip you up most?
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear editor-on-call,

I always forget when certain words should be capitalized, like sir (Sir?). Can you help?

Sincerely,
Case sensitive
aka Janet Sumner Johnson at Musings of a Children's Writer

Dear Case,

My quirky post title is a good mnemonic device: Don a cap[ital] if you're proper. In other words, capitalize proper nouns, but leave common nouns lowercase.

A proper noun is a NAME. For the most part, this is pretty simple to understand. Anne Shirley loves Gilbert Blythe, not gilbert blythe. (She might IM with gil_blythe, but I digress).

Trademarks are names (Barbie, Kleenex, Lycra), weekdays and months are names (Monday, September), artistic work titles are names (The Shining, Evita, Mona Lisa), specific places have names (Yosemite, London, Lake Country, Serengeti Plain), specific events have names (Lycoming County Fair, Little Bears Fun Run, Easter, Rosh Hashanah).

The tricky thing is when common nouns behave like proper nouns, or transform as part of a compound proper noun.

Let's look at your example, "sir." It's one of those courteous words waiters use when talking to men, hoping for a big tip: "And what will you have tonight, sir? May I recommend a wine to pair with that, sir?" That's the most usual use in our culture.

But once upon a time (and once upon today in certain social circles), there existed men of noble rank whose name was always preceded by a "sir," and the title was considered part of the name. Therefore, the common noun shifts to proper noun when it becomes part of a name. (You picking up a theme here?)

So, for example, your historical (or fantasy or upmarket) fiction might have sentences like this:
Sir Wallace stomped into the house, furious. "Where is my son?!" he bellowed. "Where is Sir Reginald?"
His servant bowed low. "I know not, m'lord, sir. If you please, sir, I have not seen Sir Reginald since breakfast."

Generally, sir will be lowercase unless paired with the nobleman's name. The only exception would be if a character refers to someone using a title in place of a name. In Alice Walker's The Color Purple, Celie refers to her abusive husband as "Mister."

Let's tackle some far more common examples of problems making the common/proper distinction--family members.

The common nouns dad, father, mom and mother become proper when substituting for or acting like a name. My daughter doesn't call me Laurel; she calls me Mommy, Mama or Mom.

Hobbit Girl might say, "Mommy, I think you are the coolest mom ever."

In the first instance, she is addressing me "by name," that is, her name for me. In the second instance, she is talking about the role of mother, a common noun.

Here are some other examples:
"Dad!" Betsy called. "Where are you, Daddy?"
She turned to Hazel with a knowing smile. "My daddy can fix anything, just you wait."
"Aw, hogwash," Hazel said. "All your daddy can fix are martinis."
"I'm gonna tell Dad what you said. He'll whup you good, Hazel Dawkins."

Extended family such as aunts and uncles often have these titles appended to names in a fashion similar to sir.

For example:
Aunt Jo was the nicest sort of aunt. A cushiony couch of a woman, Auntie kept her hearth fire burning and all her candy jars full. Liesl wished she could live with her aunt forever and ever. She'd stop calling her Aunt Jo and start calling her Mama.

Hope that helps clarify things for you!

What capitalization conundrums trip you up most?

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:
jessica.carmen.bell(at)gmail(dot)com

She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!



You can purchase String Bridge here: Amazon.com, or here: Amazon UK

Get that? Buy a book and get a free soundtrack album. How cool is that?
Friday, November 11, 2011 Laurel Garver

Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:
jessica.carmen.bell(at)gmail(dot)com

She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!



You can purchase String Bridge here: Amazon.com, or here: Amazon UK

Get that? Buy a book and get a free soundtrack album. How cool is that?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am a sucker for grammar humor, so I just had to repost this hilarious list of jokes from McSweeney's.

Seven bar jokes involving grammar and punctuation
by Eric K. Auld

1. A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.

2. A dangling modifier walks into a bar. After finishing a drink, the bartender asks it to leave.

3. A question mark walks into a bar?

4. Two quotation marks “walk into” a bar.

5. A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to drink.

6. The bar was walked into by the passive voice.

7. Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They drink. They leave.


And if you're not sure when "also" is a better word choice than "too," check out this cautionary tale. (Helps if you know some rudimentary chemistry.)
















Source: Hermant Parkhe


What has tickled your funny bone recently?
Thursday, November 10, 2011 Laurel Garver
I am a sucker for grammar humor, so I just had to repost this hilarious list of jokes from McSweeney's.

Seven bar jokes involving grammar and punctuation
by Eric K. Auld

1. A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.

2. A dangling modifier walks into a bar. After finishing a drink, the bartender asks it to leave.

3. A question mark walks into a bar?

4. Two quotation marks “walk into” a bar.

5. A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to drink.

6. The bar was walked into by the passive voice.

7. Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They drink. They leave.


And if you're not sure when "also" is a better word choice than "too," check out this cautionary tale. (Helps if you know some rudimentary chemistry.)
















Source: Hermant Parkhe


What has tickled your funny bone recently?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Dear Editor-on-call,

I'm weak when it comes to run-on sentences. Can you help?

Sincerely,
The On-Runner
(aka Bish Denham at Random Thoughts)

Dear Runner,

You are in good company. Run-ons are one of the three most common errors I see in academic writing. PhD programs in English seem to encourage jamming as many ideas as possible between full stops. I once broke an 11-line sentence into FOUR parts. Clearly this was a case of reader distrust--an anxiety that the reader wouldn't comprehend the way ideas were linked unless crammed together. Keep in mind that a paragraph is the best unit for clearly and readably holding together a series of linked ideas.

The biggest danger of run-on sentences is incoherence. The reader will lose the thread of what you're saying if information isn't parsed into manageable pieces.

The most common form of run-on is the comma splice. This term refers to two complete sentences joined with a comma when they should either be divided or have a conjunction inserted (i.e., and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet).

Example:
It will be clear and hot today, you should put on sunscreen.

Possible fixes:
It will be clear and hot today. You should put on sunscreen.
It will be clear and hot today, so you should put on sunscreen.

Another cause of run-ons is misuse of conjunctive adverbs like however, moreover, nonetheless.

Example:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities, however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

Possible fixes:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities. However, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities; however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

I am no fan of the semi-colon and would recommend against using the latter method. These two ideas--"children in ivy-league" and "working long shifts"--are not so tightly bonded they need to be in one sentence. The semi-colon version also contains so much information in such a large chunk it can lose a reader.

And speaking of overload, the worst kind of run-on is the clause-a-thon--too many clauses strung together.

Example:
She read the letter from the insurance company that said that the claim we had filed as a result of our accident in center city on May 3 had been sent on to a review committee which would consider the matter and render a decision within a month.

Possible fixes:
She read the letter from the insurance company. It said the claim we'd filed for our May 3 accident had been sent to a review committee. The committee would review the matter and render a decision in a month.

Note that some unnecessary details are dropped and phrases condensed. The claim is for an accident (less wordy than "as a result of"). Where the accident occurred is unimportant. What matters most is whether the insurance company will pay.

The sentence could be further condensed to hit only the most important information:
The insurance company's letter said our car accident claim had been sent to a review committee. We'd have to wait another month for an answer.

The clause-a-thon is the most likely form to occur in fiction. When you run across sentences that are trying to do to much, look for ways to trim details and parse the information into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Example:
My best friend Nancy, who lived down the hall from me and who I first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event, wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Possible fixes:
My best friend Nancy lived down the hall from me. We first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. She wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Leaner:
I first met my best friend Nancy at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. Smoke from her clove cigarette had curled around her onyx braid and wafted toward her boyfriend-du-jour.

In some cases, your best fixes will come from deeper level rewrites like this. Instead of using a list to describe Nancy, I turned the descriptions into an active flashback.

Which of these areas trip you up most?
Wednesday, November 09, 2011 Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call,

I'm weak when it comes to run-on sentences. Can you help?

Sincerely,
The On-Runner
(aka Bish Denham at Random Thoughts)

Dear Runner,

You are in good company. Run-ons are one of the three most common errors I see in academic writing. PhD programs in English seem to encourage jamming as many ideas as possible between full stops. I once broke an 11-line sentence into FOUR parts. Clearly this was a case of reader distrust--an anxiety that the reader wouldn't comprehend the way ideas were linked unless crammed together. Keep in mind that a paragraph is the best unit for clearly and readably holding together a series of linked ideas.

The biggest danger of run-on sentences is incoherence. The reader will lose the thread of what you're saying if information isn't parsed into manageable pieces.

The most common form of run-on is the comma splice. This term refers to two complete sentences joined with a comma when they should either be divided or have a conjunction inserted (i.e., and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet).

Example:
It will be clear and hot today, you should put on sunscreen.

Possible fixes:
It will be clear and hot today. You should put on sunscreen.
It will be clear and hot today, so you should put on sunscreen.

Another cause of run-ons is misuse of conjunctive adverbs like however, moreover, nonetheless.

Example:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities, however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

Possible fixes:
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities. However, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.
Rocco has sent his three children to ivy-league universities; however, he has sacrificed his health working long shifts at the foundry.

I am no fan of the semi-colon and would recommend against using the latter method. These two ideas--"children in ivy-league" and "working long shifts"--are not so tightly bonded they need to be in one sentence. The semi-colon version also contains so much information in such a large chunk it can lose a reader.

And speaking of overload, the worst kind of run-on is the clause-a-thon--too many clauses strung together.

Example:
She read the letter from the insurance company that said that the claim we had filed as a result of our accident in center city on May 3 had been sent on to a review committee which would consider the matter and render a decision within a month.

Possible fixes:
She read the letter from the insurance company. It said the claim we'd filed for our May 3 accident had been sent to a review committee. The committee would review the matter and render a decision in a month.

Note that some unnecessary details are dropped and phrases condensed. The claim is for an accident (less wordy than "as a result of"). Where the accident occurred is unimportant. What matters most is whether the insurance company will pay.

The sentence could be further condensed to hit only the most important information:
The insurance company's letter said our car accident claim had been sent to a review committee. We'd have to wait another month for an answer.

The clause-a-thon is the most likely form to occur in fiction. When you run across sentences that are trying to do to much, look for ways to trim details and parse the information into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Example:
My best friend Nancy, who lived down the hall from me and who I first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event, wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Possible fixes:
My best friend Nancy lived down the hall from me. We first met at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. She wore her onyx hair in a braid, smoked clove cigarettes and went through boyfriends like Kleenex.

Leaner:
I first met my best friend Nancy at a departmental wine-and-cheese event. Smoke from her clove cigarette had curled around her onyx braid and wafted toward her boyfriend-du-jour.

In some cases, your best fixes will come from deeper level rewrites like this. Instead of using a list to describe Nancy, I turned the descriptions into an active flashback.

Which of these areas trip you up most?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

It has been quite awhile since I last did a post in my editor-on-call series. I got the idea a few years ago after one of my CPs called me late one Friday night with a punctuation emergency:

"Help me with quotes within quotes, STAT!"

I suspected there were others out there with questions about some sticking point of grammar or usage that tripped them up. And as someone who's been editing professionally for *gulp* 20 years this month, I'd like to think I have a decent handle on both the basics and the more esoteric aspects of grammar. Oh yeah, I also took top honors in my master's program in journalism (magazine editorial concentration). Enough "edit cred" to give you good answers, and my sassy side usually keeps the advice entertaining.

Here's a sampling of topics I've covered:

Apostrophe usage
Capitalization
"And then..." -- conjunction usage
"If I were you" -- subjunctive mood
No lie: why we misuse lay (lie/lay usage)
Misplaced modifiers
Maintaining verb tense
Using numbers in fiction
Overwriting repair: Diction, Babbling, Tangents

A few ideas I have for future posts are comma usage (2-5 posts), run-ons and punctuating dialogue. Which of these would help you most?

What are your biggest grammar and usage woes and pitfalls? What "rules" confuse you? I'm open to covering topics that will make your manuscripts cleaner today. Ask away!
Thursday, November 03, 2011 Laurel Garver
It has been quite awhile since I last did a post in my editor-on-call series. I got the idea a few years ago after one of my CPs called me late one Friday night with a punctuation emergency:

"Help me with quotes within quotes, STAT!"

I suspected there were others out there with questions about some sticking point of grammar or usage that tripped them up. And as someone who's been editing professionally for *gulp* 20 years this month, I'd like to think I have a decent handle on both the basics and the more esoteric aspects of grammar. Oh yeah, I also took top honors in my master's program in journalism (magazine editorial concentration). Enough "edit cred" to give you good answers, and my sassy side usually keeps the advice entertaining.

Here's a sampling of topics I've covered:

Apostrophe usage
Capitalization
"And then..." -- conjunction usage
"If I were you" -- subjunctive mood
No lie: why we misuse lay (lie/lay usage)
Misplaced modifiers
Maintaining verb tense
Using numbers in fiction
Overwriting repair: Diction, Babbling, Tangents

A few ideas I have for future posts are comma usage (2-5 posts), run-ons and punctuating dialogue. Which of these would help you most?

What are your biggest grammar and usage woes and pitfalls? What "rules" confuse you? I'm open to covering topics that will make your manuscripts cleaner today. Ask away!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

by Susan Kaye Quinn, author of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)

image source

The very first image—the first brain spark—that inspired Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) was filled with the effects of intolerance. The idea of a world where everyone read minds, except one girl, sprung into my mind as a setting: the girl, sitting in a high school classroom, surrounded by her mindreading classmates, but as isolated as one human being could be from another. She didn’t speak their mind-language, but it was more than simply being a deaf-person in a hearing world. She was mistrusted, shunned, because they couldn’t understand her. They feared her, because she was the definitive other in their world.

The idea of other has always fascinated me. As a girl, I grew up on aliens in Star Trek and sentient robots in I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. Embedded in those stories was the idea that a being who looks, acts, and thinks nothing like you could still be a person—this is an enduring tradition of science fiction and one that I wholeheartedly embraced. I liked this exploration of what it meant to be human, and I think the best SF has always been about the human in the technology.

In Open Minds, someone who can’t read minds or be read by others is called a zero, a not-so-subtle pejorative that reminds them of their value in the society. Zeros are mistrusted in a world where every thought can be known, except theirs. In this mindreading world of the future, trust is built on complete openness—every thought you have is known by everyone in the room. There are no secrets, no white lies, no social niceties. It’s a rather coarse world in many ways, but also a credulous one. Of course you tell the truth; how can you not? So someone who is capable of keeping a secret is feared as someone completely outside the normal social structure. How could you ever believe a thing that person said? How could you trust them to run the cash register, much less do anything of importance?

Kira, raised in this society where trust and truth are intimately connected, discovers she has a giant sized secret—one that might finally allow her to fit in. All she has to do is lie and mindjack everyone she loves.

Although the theme of intolerance in Open Minds was there from the very beginning, it definitely evolved as I wrote the book. I began to discover all the ways that the intolerance of Kira’s world affected not just her, but the other characters in the story, and eventually the society as a whole. Kira handles her secret and the choices that go with it in one way, but the other characters handle it much worse (or some better). In spite of being mindreaders and mindjackers in a future world, the characters were all still human, subject to all the weaknesses and inner strengths that come with being human.

I’m working on Closed Hearts now, and as the title suggests, the theme of intolerance gains ground in the second book. It fascinates me to create characters that can play out all the possible ways that people can react to an evolving world. Sometimes it feels like our world of 2011 is moving ahead at warp speed, but when the world truly shifts, you can tell the character of a person by how they shift with it. I hope, throughout the Mindjack Trilogy, to honor the fine tradition of science fiction in exploring all the ways we are human.

=====
See more guest posts about Open Minds at the Virtual Launch Party!

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace).

========
PRIZES!

Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! Check out the prizes here.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011 Laurel Garver
by Susan Kaye Quinn, author of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)

image source

The very first image—the first brain spark—that inspired Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) was filled with the effects of intolerance. The idea of a world where everyone read minds, except one girl, sprung into my mind as a setting: the girl, sitting in a high school classroom, surrounded by her mindreading classmates, but as isolated as one human being could be from another. She didn’t speak their mind-language, but it was more than simply being a deaf-person in a hearing world. She was mistrusted, shunned, because they couldn’t understand her. They feared her, because she was the definitive other in their world.

The idea of other has always fascinated me. As a girl, I grew up on aliens in Star Trek and sentient robots in I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. Embedded in those stories was the idea that a being who looks, acts, and thinks nothing like you could still be a person—this is an enduring tradition of science fiction and one that I wholeheartedly embraced. I liked this exploration of what it meant to be human, and I think the best SF has always been about the human in the technology.

In Open Minds, someone who can’t read minds or be read by others is called a zero, a not-so-subtle pejorative that reminds them of their value in the society. Zeros are mistrusted in a world where every thought can be known, except theirs. In this mindreading world of the future, trust is built on complete openness—every thought you have is known by everyone in the room. There are no secrets, no white lies, no social niceties. It’s a rather coarse world in many ways, but also a credulous one. Of course you tell the truth; how can you not? So someone who is capable of keeping a secret is feared as someone completely outside the normal social structure. How could you ever believe a thing that person said? How could you trust them to run the cash register, much less do anything of importance?

Kira, raised in this society where trust and truth are intimately connected, discovers she has a giant sized secret—one that might finally allow her to fit in. All she has to do is lie and mindjack everyone she loves.

Although the theme of intolerance in Open Minds was there from the very beginning, it definitely evolved as I wrote the book. I began to discover all the ways that the intolerance of Kira’s world affected not just her, but the other characters in the story, and eventually the society as a whole. Kira handles her secret and the choices that go with it in one way, but the other characters handle it much worse (or some better). In spite of being mindreaders and mindjackers in a future world, the characters were all still human, subject to all the weaknesses and inner strengths that come with being human.

I’m working on Closed Hearts now, and as the title suggests, the theme of intolerance gains ground in the second book. It fascinates me to create characters that can play out all the possible ways that people can react to an evolving world. Sometimes it feels like our world of 2011 is moving ahead at warp speed, but when the world truly shifts, you can tell the character of a person by how they shift with it. I hope, throughout the Mindjack Trilogy, to honor the fine tradition of science fiction in exploring all the ways we are human.

=====
See more guest posts about Open Minds at the Virtual Launch Party!

When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace).

========
PRIZES!

Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! Check out the prizes here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Today my special guest is Jessica Bell, whose much anticipated fiction debut, String Bridge, releases officially on November 1. Jessica generously agreed to share a bit about her experiences preparing to launch her first novel.

About String Bridge
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a “proper” career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she’s been seeking fulfillment in the wrong place.

E-book available at Amazon.com, Amazon UK
Paperback available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble
Soundtrack "Melody Hill: On the Other Side" available at iTunes, Amazon.com, Amazon UK

The Interview

What marketing activities did you decide to pursue to launch String Bridge?
I think nowadays the best thing to focus on is web presence. Not only is it cost-effective, but it’s fast. So, of course, I’ve organized a blog tour and Amazon Chart Rush. I’ve also released an all-original soundtrack to accompany the book, which can also be purchased as a separate item from over 150 different digital outlets. I’m hoping this album with create a little more interest in the book, than the book itself is capable of, as I can actually market the music to an audience that probably wouldn’t look twice at the book without the album existing.

How did you prioritize them?
I actually didn’t. Each thing seemed as important as the other. It was just a matter of reaching deadlines.

What did your schedule look like?
Hectic. I made sure I did everything I needed to as it came in. I never put anything to the side that could be accomplished within a 24-hour period. Not sure that was such a good idea as it tampered with my sanity. I had to fit these things in around my day job, but thankfully I work from home so I suppose creating my own schedule wasn’t so hard now that I look back. But I think I was too "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants." I got stressed. Really stressed. I think my jaw was perpetually clenched. Even now I have to remind myself to loosen it up.

Which activities have taken more time or been trickier than you anticipated?
The hardest thing was organizing the blog tour. Over 90 blogs have signed up to participate, some posting reviews and some interviews, or both, and some signed up to plug the Amazon Chart Rush only. Keeping track of everyone’s preferences and emails and blog addresses, and post dates has been a challenge. I have Excel to thank for that! But nothing has really been "tricky," only time-consuming. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it though. I guess that’s the key to getting through so many tasks without having a nervous breakdown! Implementing the final edits to the novel and writing the album took a lot of time. But that was a creative part. And time shouldn’t even exist then, right?

What are some lessons learned from this launch? Things that worked well? Things you’d like to do differently with the next book?
One: Never underestimate the importance of making friends online! Their help and support has been invaluable to this exciting and important time in my career. I can’t thank them enough!
Two: Don’t burn yourself out. Find time to spend AWAY from your desk to maintain sanity.

There were a few weeks there where I thought I was literally going to fry my brain. I took a couple of days off after weeks of constant rigorous juggling of tasks, but it was too late. I spent the whole time staring at the wall just trying to find some inner-quiet. I could hardly lift a finger. Seriously. Pace yourself. The slower you move, the faster you’ll get things done. Trust me.

About Jessica

Jessica Bell is a literary women’s fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

Help spread the word about the String Bridge Amazon Chart Rush, November 11th!
Help Jessica Bell's debut novel STRING BRIDGE hit the bestseller list on Amazon and receive the all-original soundtrack, written and performed by the author herself, for free! All you have to do is purchase the ebook or paperback on November 11th, and then email the receipt to jessica(dot)carmen(dot)bell(at)gmail(dot)com. She will then email you a link to download the album entitled, "Melody Hill: On the Other Side," at no extra cost! Visit www.jessicacbell.com to hear samples from the album.

What take-home tips did you pick up from Jessica?
Thursday, October 27, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today my special guest is Jessica Bell, whose much anticipated fiction debut, String Bridge, releases officially on November 1. Jessica generously agreed to share a bit about her experiences preparing to launch her first novel.

About String Bridge
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a “proper” career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she’s been seeking fulfillment in the wrong place.

E-book available at Amazon.com, Amazon UK
Paperback available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble
Soundtrack "Melody Hill: On the Other Side" available at iTunes, Amazon.com, Amazon UK

The Interview

What marketing activities did you decide to pursue to launch String Bridge?
I think nowadays the best thing to focus on is web presence. Not only is it cost-effective, but it’s fast. So, of course, I’ve organized a blog tour and Amazon Chart Rush. I’ve also released an all-original soundtrack to accompany the book, which can also be purchased as a separate item from over 150 different digital outlets. I’m hoping this album with create a little more interest in the book, than the book itself is capable of, as I can actually market the music to an audience that probably wouldn’t look twice at the book without the album existing.

How did you prioritize them?
I actually didn’t. Each thing seemed as important as the other. It was just a matter of reaching deadlines.

What did your schedule look like?
Hectic. I made sure I did everything I needed to as it came in. I never put anything to the side that could be accomplished within a 24-hour period. Not sure that was such a good idea as it tampered with my sanity. I had to fit these things in around my day job, but thankfully I work from home so I suppose creating my own schedule wasn’t so hard now that I look back. But I think I was too "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants." I got stressed. Really stressed. I think my jaw was perpetually clenched. Even now I have to remind myself to loosen it up.

Which activities have taken more time or been trickier than you anticipated?
The hardest thing was organizing the blog tour. Over 90 blogs have signed up to participate, some posting reviews and some interviews, or both, and some signed up to plug the Amazon Chart Rush only. Keeping track of everyone’s preferences and emails and blog addresses, and post dates has been a challenge. I have Excel to thank for that! But nothing has really been "tricky," only time-consuming. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it though. I guess that’s the key to getting through so many tasks without having a nervous breakdown! Implementing the final edits to the novel and writing the album took a lot of time. But that was a creative part. And time shouldn’t even exist then, right?

What are some lessons learned from this launch? Things that worked well? Things you’d like to do differently with the next book?
One: Never underestimate the importance of making friends online! Their help and support has been invaluable to this exciting and important time in my career. I can’t thank them enough!
Two: Don’t burn yourself out. Find time to spend AWAY from your desk to maintain sanity.

There were a few weeks there where I thought I was literally going to fry my brain. I took a couple of days off after weeks of constant rigorous juggling of tasks, but it was too late. I spent the whole time staring at the wall just trying to find some inner-quiet. I could hardly lift a finger. Seriously. Pace yourself. The slower you move, the faster you’ll get things done. Trust me.

About Jessica

Jessica Bell is a literary women’s fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

Help spread the word about the String Bridge Amazon Chart Rush, November 11th!
Help Jessica Bell's debut novel STRING BRIDGE hit the bestseller list on Amazon and receive the all-original soundtrack, written and performed by the author herself, for free! All you have to do is purchase the ebook or paperback on November 11th, and then email the receipt to jessica(dot)carmen(dot)bell(at)gmail(dot)com. She will then email you a link to download the album entitled, "Melody Hill: On the Other Side," at no extra cost! Visit www.jessicacbell.com to hear samples from the album.

What take-home tips did you pick up from Jessica?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Giving a name
Since I last posted, I've had some pretty weird stuff happen. One I suppose is mostly positive--I at last know WHY I've been so run down for the past seven months. I've been diagnosed with anemia. Really severe anemia. Severe enough that I had cravings to suck on rocks and got winded just going up stairs. So my doctor has put me on a crazy-high dose of iron that's like swallowing barbells (okay, maybe not quite, but it is 50 times more milligrams than my trusty One-a-Day contained).

I have to say, it's a huge relief to give my general bleh feeling a name. And even though I still get winded and cold too easily, I have hope again. Because naming the illness put parameters around it. It stopped being some amorphous malaise that could eat my life. It's just a mineral deficiency.

Taking a name
The bad weird thing was having my wallet stolen out of my office. I work on a college campus on a floor with both classrooms and offices, so it's not hard for a pickpocket to slip through the crowds unnoticed, pop into an unlocked room, grab and go. (Believe me, I now lock up even when I use the drinking fountain.)

In hours between when the thief took my wallet and I noticed it was gone, he or she had run off to do a little shopping spree in my name. With my accounts, my credit. One bank flagged the fraud attempts immediately, the other let one charge go through, which I now must dispute.

Among the many calls I had to make to stop the fraud was a call to the credit agency Equifax. They now have flagged my name, so that would-be thieves can't use my name to apply for credit and ride my good reputation as someone who pays bills on time.

The $10 they took from my wallet could never hurt so much as their potential power to destroy my name. (I think there might be a good shapeshifter plot in this story somewhere, for one of you paranormal fantasy writers.)

Both for good and for ill, names are powerful. Names contain and define.

It's something to keep in mind when we write. Nothing is quite so chilling as a widespread plague that no one can name; a good name lost is far harder to restore than a lost fortune.

How have you seen the giving, withholding or taking of a name used powerfully?
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 Laurel Garver
Giving a name
Since I last posted, I've had some pretty weird stuff happen. One I suppose is mostly positive--I at last know WHY I've been so run down for the past seven months. I've been diagnosed with anemia. Really severe anemia. Severe enough that I had cravings to suck on rocks and got winded just going up stairs. So my doctor has put me on a crazy-high dose of iron that's like swallowing barbells (okay, maybe not quite, but it is 50 times more milligrams than my trusty One-a-Day contained).

I have to say, it's a huge relief to give my general bleh feeling a name. And even though I still get winded and cold too easily, I have hope again. Because naming the illness put parameters around it. It stopped being some amorphous malaise that could eat my life. It's just a mineral deficiency.

Taking a name
The bad weird thing was having my wallet stolen out of my office. I work on a college campus on a floor with both classrooms and offices, so it's not hard for a pickpocket to slip through the crowds unnoticed, pop into an unlocked room, grab and go. (Believe me, I now lock up even when I use the drinking fountain.)

In hours between when the thief took my wallet and I noticed it was gone, he or she had run off to do a little shopping spree in my name. With my accounts, my credit. One bank flagged the fraud attempts immediately, the other let one charge go through, which I now must dispute.

Among the many calls I had to make to stop the fraud was a call to the credit agency Equifax. They now have flagged my name, so that would-be thieves can't use my name to apply for credit and ride my good reputation as someone who pays bills on time.

The $10 they took from my wallet could never hurt so much as their potential power to destroy my name. (I think there might be a good shapeshifter plot in this story somewhere, for one of you paranormal fantasy writers.)

Both for good and for ill, names are powerful. Names contain and define.

It's something to keep in mind when we write. Nothing is quite so chilling as a widespread plague that no one can name; a good name lost is far harder to restore than a lost fortune.

How have you seen the giving, withholding or taking of a name used powerfully?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Busy day today, folks, so this is going to be a quickie.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says:
"The more scared we are of a work or a calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.... the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and the growth of our soul."

What do you think? Discuss.
Thursday, October 20, 2011 Laurel Garver
Busy day today, folks, so this is going to be a quickie.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says:
"The more scared we are of a work or a calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.... the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and the growth of our soul."

What do you think? Discuss.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My critique group meets tonight and it was really tough for me to not send bits of my rough draft in progress off to the gang for feedback. But I had to ask myself whether feeback at this stage would be a help or a hinderance. I tend to have only the loosest sense of the trajectory of the story when drafting, leaving lots of room for discoveries, but also for wrong turns and deadends. Those wrong turns sometimes don't reveal themselves as such for chapters and chapters. Getting feedback too soon might tempt me to keep in a well written scene that takes the story the wrong direction, or alternately, to abandon an idea that needs more development but could flower into something amazing.

With my previous book, I had two people who served as "alpha readers": folks who read chapters as I finished them, cheered me on and with whom I could discuss problems that perplexed me. Their purpose was not so much to critique as to be an accountability mechanism and sounding board.

Only after I had a complete draft did I ask for critiques, starting with broad-strokes issues like characterization, plot and pacing. Those folks were "beta readers." In the revision process, I leaned on my critique groups to help me do the next sets of revisions (I jokingly called them "gamma" and "delta" readers).

I now wonder if that could have been a more efficient process. I fear I became a bit too much of a feedback junkie, and got addicted to having "enough" praise before I felt good about a section. What I lost was a sense of my own vision and confidence in my instincts.

How about you? How many people see your work and at what stages?

image from www.morguefile.com
Tuesday, October 18, 2011 Laurel Garver
My critique group meets tonight and it was really tough for me to not send bits of my rough draft in progress off to the gang for feedback. But I had to ask myself whether feeback at this stage would be a help or a hinderance. I tend to have only the loosest sense of the trajectory of the story when drafting, leaving lots of room for discoveries, but also for wrong turns and deadends. Those wrong turns sometimes don't reveal themselves as such for chapters and chapters. Getting feedback too soon might tempt me to keep in a well written scene that takes the story the wrong direction, or alternately, to abandon an idea that needs more development but could flower into something amazing.

With my previous book, I had two people who served as "alpha readers": folks who read chapters as I finished them, cheered me on and with whom I could discuss problems that perplexed me. Their purpose was not so much to critique as to be an accountability mechanism and sounding board.

Only after I had a complete draft did I ask for critiques, starting with broad-strokes issues like characterization, plot and pacing. Those folks were "beta readers." In the revision process, I leaned on my critique groups to help me do the next sets of revisions (I jokingly called them "gamma" and "delta" readers).

I now wonder if that could have been a more efficient process. I fear I became a bit too much of a feedback junkie, and got addicted to having "enough" praise before I felt good about a section. What I lost was a sense of my own vision and confidence in my instincts.

How about you? How many people see your work and at what stages?

image from www.morguefile.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

I've been reading this book about gratitude called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It talks a lot about thankfulness as a key to living more fully with joy in the difficult now.

I also lost a colleage this week. She'd been ill for a year and I know near the end got to hear at last all the gratitude people had for her. And it struck me, why wait until someone's dying to express how you're thankful for them?

So, yesterday I wrote a brief note on Facebook to an old high school buddy, just a quick thanks for one of the many positive influences she had on me. And you know what? That small bit of thanks opened up something. Not only a mutual warmness between my friend and me, but also a whole well of good stuff that I haven't been able to access in a long time. The kooky, fun geek girl I once was started to resurface. Now I realize where that joyful version of me had gone. She'd become imprisoned by ingratitude. The key to unlocking her was merely to say "thanks."

So I challenge you, reader, to tell someone in your life thanks. Be specific: their kind words at the right moment, a book they recommended, some life event you shared that shaped you. Gratitude is light in the darkness, friends. It is a powerful weapon against despair, a powerful creator of joy.

And speaking of joyful things, if you're in the Philly area, you don't want to miss the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill. Germantown Ave. will become a mini Hogsmeade. A muggle quidditch tournament will be held. Gotta love this awesome promo video!






Who are you thankful for today? Did you tell them? What joy did it unlock for you?
Friday, October 14, 2011 Laurel Garver
I've been reading this book about gratitude called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. It talks a lot about thankfulness as a key to living more fully with joy in the difficult now.

I also lost a colleage this week. She'd been ill for a year and I know near the end got to hear at last all the gratitude people had for her. And it struck me, why wait until someone's dying to express how you're thankful for them?

So, yesterday I wrote a brief note on Facebook to an old high school buddy, just a quick thanks for one of the many positive influences she had on me. And you know what? That small bit of thanks opened up something. Not only a mutual warmness between my friend and me, but also a whole well of good stuff that I haven't been able to access in a long time. The kooky, fun geek girl I once was started to resurface. Now I realize where that joyful version of me had gone. She'd become imprisoned by ingratitude. The key to unlocking her was merely to say "thanks."

So I challenge you, reader, to tell someone in your life thanks. Be specific: their kind words at the right moment, a book they recommended, some life event you shared that shaped you. Gratitude is light in the darkness, friends. It is a powerful weapon against despair, a powerful creator of joy.

And speaking of joyful things, if you're in the Philly area, you don't want to miss the Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill. Germantown Ave. will become a mini Hogsmeade. A muggle quidditch tournament will be held. Gotta love this awesome promo video!






Who are you thankful for today? Did you tell them? What joy did it unlock for you?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

As I write this, a work colleague is losing her year-long battle with lung cancer. Her son had written last night to say she was unresponsive and likely to pass on in the next day or so.

What has impressed me most about her final months has been her determination to keep on editing, even when she needed to nap frequently and struggled to type e-mails. It's been kind of a kick in the head, especially when I think how badly I've responded to setbacks by doubting, getting derailed, moping. Especially lately, even while this amazing, dying woman was giving such a clear picture of how to be alive--by moving forward.

I honestly had gone into blogger a few minutes ago thinking I'd recycle an older post, and then I realized that was the stuckness talking. I can't go on borrowing from yesterday's energy, or last year's or some golden age in the past. There's a degree to which the stuff of creativity--joy, life energy, what have you--is like manna in the wilderness. It is a gift that must be gathered fresh daily. God gives it, but we have to gather it. We can't hoard it. There's enough for today. Just enough. We take in the mystery with thankfulness, and tomorrow there's more.

If you were dying, how would you live differently now? How might the idea of manna help you in your creative work?
Tuesday, October 11, 2011 Laurel Garver
As I write this, a work colleague is losing her year-long battle with lung cancer. Her son had written last night to say she was unresponsive and likely to pass on in the next day or so.

What has impressed me most about her final months has been her determination to keep on editing, even when she needed to nap frequently and struggled to type e-mails. It's been kind of a kick in the head, especially when I think how badly I've responded to setbacks by doubting, getting derailed, moping. Especially lately, even while this amazing, dying woman was giving such a clear picture of how to be alive--by moving forward.

I honestly had gone into blogger a few minutes ago thinking I'd recycle an older post, and then I realized that was the stuckness talking. I can't go on borrowing from yesterday's energy, or last year's or some golden age in the past. There's a degree to which the stuff of creativity--joy, life energy, what have you--is like manna in the wilderness. It is a gift that must be gathered fresh daily. God gives it, but we have to gather it. We can't hoard it. There's enough for today. Just enough. We take in the mystery with thankfulness, and tomorrow there's more.

If you were dying, how would you live differently now? How might the idea of manna help you in your creative work?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Whether your ultimate goal is to secure agent representation or to simply get paid for writing (even a pittance), establishing a publication history will help you.

The best way to get started is with short-form work--articles, short stories and poems. If you think you don't have time to generate material while pounding out novels, think again. Some of my most recent publications were pieces I rescued from the cutting room floor.

"Tribute," published in Motley Press vol. 1, issue 3, is a flash fiction piece revised from a scene I'd cut from a novel.
"The Lost Coin," published in Drown in My Own Fears, issue 16, is a fiction-in-verse adaptation of another cut scene, one that I'd unsuccessfully attempted to sell as flash fiction.

For more on giving new life to unused material, see my post Giving Life to Peripheral Stories.

I'd also argue that taking a break from your long projects to write new work in multiple forms and genres will keep you creatively fresh and flexible. It's also a great way to try out germs of ideas that could become novels.

Once you have some material to submit (critiqued and revised first, of course), how do you go about submitting?

As Angela mentioned yesterday, there are Writer's Digest market books to help you: The Poet's Market and The Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. These are both decent, comprehensive guides to publications seeking submissions. They have the disadvantage of being paper rather than databases. For a more searchable list of markets, you want the website Duotrope's Digest.

There are several schools of thought about how to break in to magazines. One school says always aim high first--that is, submit first to publications offering professional payment and high prestige. Personally, I don't think that's the best idea if you have no history at all. Aim a little lower first--markets offering semi-pro payment. If you don't have luck there, aim lower--to token payment and then to nonpaying markets. (Yet another school says start with "low-hanging fruit"--the non-paying, take-almost-anything pubs--just to have something to put in your bio. )

Another factor in a publication's "prestige" is its acceptance statistics. Duotrope provides that information for most markets. A magazine that accepts 1% of submissions is tougher to crack than one that accepts 40%. Whether payment or presitge matters most depends on your ultimate goal--do you want to be considered a "serious" poet or story-writer, or do you want to build audience and look mass-marketable?

Fit is one of the most critical considerations when deciding where to submit. Above all else, you need to see a publication's content to know what styles and themes the editors like. Most publications have at least one back issue online for perusal. A local university library would be another place to peek at issues.

If you find a high-prestige market that might be a fit, but you're intimidated about approaching, Duotrope can help you find parallel markets. Let's take, for example, Ancient Paths, a pro-paying religious market. They accept about 5% of submissions, making them fairly discerning. Duotrope provides this data on Ancient Paths's page:

Work submitted here was also submitted to...
[Fiction] The New Yorker; Harpur Palate; Ninth Letter; Cream City Review; ShatterColors Literary Review; GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator; Relief; The Midnight Diner; Fifth Wednesday Journal; Birkensnake; Ashé Journal; Mobius: The Journal of Social Change
[Poetry] The Toucan; The Electronic Monsoon Magazine; Time Of Singing; Palettes & Quills; Rock & Sling; Boulevard Magazine; Raleigh Review; Three Line Poetry; The Pedestal Magazine; Dappled Things; A Public Space; Poetry Magazine

Users accepted here also had work accepted by...
[Fiction] Insufficient data.
[Poetry] The Pedestal Magazine; Foundling Review; The Ante Review; Rufous City Review; Barnwood Poetry Magazine; Boston Literary Magazine; Pirene's Fountain

Wow, look at that! A host of other markets that have parallel tastes. Take a gander through these other listings, and you should have a plan of where to submit.

The thing with publication history is that it tends to snowball. So don't be too quick to turn your nose up at nonpaying publications. If you rack up a half dozen, the more prestigious magazines are apt to sit up and take notice--and give your work more than a passing glance.

Remember, too, that e-zine publication can increase your blog readership. Self-published writers find that getting their name out there helps drive book sales as well.

Have you started building a publication history? How might you approach doing so?
Thursday, October 06, 2011 Laurel Garver
Whether your ultimate goal is to secure agent representation or to simply get paid for writing (even a pittance), establishing a publication history will help you.

The best way to get started is with short-form work--articles, short stories and poems. If you think you don't have time to generate material while pounding out novels, think again. Some of my most recent publications were pieces I rescued from the cutting room floor.

"Tribute," published in Motley Press vol. 1, issue 3, is a flash fiction piece revised from a scene I'd cut from a novel.
"The Lost Coin," published in Drown in My Own Fears, issue 16, is a fiction-in-verse adaptation of another cut scene, one that I'd unsuccessfully attempted to sell as flash fiction.

For more on giving new life to unused material, see my post Giving Life to Peripheral Stories.

I'd also argue that taking a break from your long projects to write new work in multiple forms and genres will keep you creatively fresh and flexible. It's also a great way to try out germs of ideas that could become novels.

Once you have some material to submit (critiqued and revised first, of course), how do you go about submitting?

As Angela mentioned yesterday, there are Writer's Digest market books to help you: The Poet's Market and The Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. These are both decent, comprehensive guides to publications seeking submissions. They have the disadvantage of being paper rather than databases. For a more searchable list of markets, you want the website Duotrope's Digest.

There are several schools of thought about how to break in to magazines. One school says always aim high first--that is, submit first to publications offering professional payment and high prestige. Personally, I don't think that's the best idea if you have no history at all. Aim a little lower first--markets offering semi-pro payment. If you don't have luck there, aim lower--to token payment and then to nonpaying markets. (Yet another school says start with "low-hanging fruit"--the non-paying, take-almost-anything pubs--just to have something to put in your bio. )

Another factor in a publication's "prestige" is its acceptance statistics. Duotrope provides that information for most markets. A magazine that accepts 1% of submissions is tougher to crack than one that accepts 40%. Whether payment or presitge matters most depends on your ultimate goal--do you want to be considered a "serious" poet or story-writer, or do you want to build audience and look mass-marketable?

Fit is one of the most critical considerations when deciding where to submit. Above all else, you need to see a publication's content to know what styles and themes the editors like. Most publications have at least one back issue online for perusal. A local university library would be another place to peek at issues.

If you find a high-prestige market that might be a fit, but you're intimidated about approaching, Duotrope can help you find parallel markets. Let's take, for example, Ancient Paths, a pro-paying religious market. They accept about 5% of submissions, making them fairly discerning. Duotrope provides this data on Ancient Paths's page:

Work submitted here was also submitted to...
[Fiction] The New Yorker; Harpur Palate; Ninth Letter; Cream City Review; ShatterColors Literary Review; GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator; Relief; The Midnight Diner; Fifth Wednesday Journal; Birkensnake; Ashé Journal; Mobius: The Journal of Social Change
[Poetry] The Toucan; The Electronic Monsoon Magazine; Time Of Singing; Palettes & Quills; Rock & Sling; Boulevard Magazine; Raleigh Review; Three Line Poetry; The Pedestal Magazine; Dappled Things; A Public Space; Poetry Magazine

Users accepted here also had work accepted by...
[Fiction] Insufficient data.
[Poetry] The Pedestal Magazine; Foundling Review; The Ante Review; Rufous City Review; Barnwood Poetry Magazine; Boston Literary Magazine; Pirene's Fountain

Wow, look at that! A host of other markets that have parallel tastes. Take a gander through these other listings, and you should have a plan of where to submit.

The thing with publication history is that it tends to snowball. So don't be too quick to turn your nose up at nonpaying publications. If you rack up a half dozen, the more prestigious magazines are apt to sit up and take notice--and give your work more than a passing glance.

Remember, too, that e-zine publication can increase your blog readership. Self-published writers find that getting their name out there helps drive book sales as well.

Have you started building a publication history? How might you approach doing so?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Today my special guest is Angela Felsted, a fellow crossover writer of fiction and poetry who blogs at My Poetry and Prose Place. Her poetry chapbook Cleave is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2012. It is now available for preorder from the publisher, HERE.

Here is Angela's beautiful book trailer, which features music by Saint-Seans:



Today Angela is opening a window for us into the world of poetry publishing, and I'll be chiming in periodically. Take it away, Angela...

Ten things you ought to know about publishing poetry

1. Unless your name is Billy Collins, there’s little money in poetry. Most journals do not pay. Granted, there are some paying markets, but we’re talking about small sums.

LAUREL: Very true. And the markets that pay best are NOT poetry journals, but large-circulation magazines and trade journals. Prepare to wax poetic about tractors, the rosary, diaper rash or your last colonoscopy.

2. Competition in the poetry world is fierce. So fierce there’s an online journal called Redheaded Stepchild that publishes poems which have been rejected at least once. Think these poems suck? Think again. Go check out the great stuff that gets rejected every day at their site.

3. Most agents won’t rep poetry.

LAUREL: You generally don't need one for poetry. Academic and small presses still lead this publishing niche, and they handle queries directly from authors.

4. Poets who want their work published need to do their research. I always read what a journal publishes before submitting my stuff. Even then I often get it wrong.

LAUREL: If you're just starting out, Duotrope's Digest is a good place to find e-zines in which to break in.

5. Beware of vanity publishers. You know the kind, don’t you? The ones who offer free poetry contests, and then publish every poem regardless of quality, in a book they sell for big bucks, largely to the contributors.

LAUREL: Ouch. I fell in this trap once, when I was in high school. And yes, my parents bought the book for a princely $30, back when most paperbacks cost $4.95.

6. Purchase a copy of Poets Market. I sleep with mine under my pillow at night. It is my most intimate friend. :P

LAUREL: Keep in mind things can change in lag time between when Writer's Digest compiled the information and when the book was printed. It's always a good idea to check every market's website before submitting. Some journals publish by theme, and some open and close reading periods throughout the year. And small publications fold all the time.

7. It helps to join a poetry group. For one thing it makes you feel less alone, and for another it’s an invaluable tool for honing and improving your skills. Laurel would know, because she and I are in a group together, and there’s no way I can adequately express how much her feedback has helped me.

LAUREL: Aw, shucks, I'm blushing. Like fiction has genres, poetry has "schools"--ways of approaching content, form, tone. It can take time to find like-minded writers.

8. A chapbook is a book of poems 18-28 pages in length. There are several routes a person can take in order to get a chapbook published. The four most common ones are these: (1) enter a contest and win, (2) get in good with the editor of a journal that also publishes chapbooks, (3) self-publish, or (4) submit to a small press and cross your fingers.

That last one is what I did, with lots and lots of finger crossing. Okay, so maybe there was some prayer in there too, a few superstitious chants, a dance I performed with all my blinds closed. *sigh* I digress. I still had to pay a ten dollar reading fee. That’s the thing about entering contests and submitting to presses, it’s normal to pay some kind of reading fee. Sticking to a budget is key.

9. A poetry collection is a book of poems 48 pages or longer. And these are published in much the same way a chapbook is, except most people who publish collections have already published their work in journals and chapbooks and usually have some kind of following.

LAUREL: That's a helpful distinction. You can attempt a chapbook with only a few publications under your belt. Collections are for more established poets.

10. Poetry readings, open mic nights, and other such venues can be great for poets as well. I confess to being a rookie where this is concerned. But I’ll be dipping my toe into poetry reading on my youtube channel starting this Friday. So . . . anyone willing to watch my sad attempt at dramatic reading is welcome. Just, please, promise me one thing—that you won’t laugh.

LAUREL: It's been more than ten years since I've delved into my local poetry scene. I do know you have to search a bit to see where you fit. Some groups are very academic, some more avant-garde, some steeped in urban music traditions like rap.

Thank you, Laurel, for having me on your blog.
LAUREL: My pleasure. I'm excited to get a copy of Cleave in my hot little hands!

Willing to give poetry a second look? How about trying your hand at writing it?
Tuesday, October 04, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today my special guest is Angela Felsted, a fellow crossover writer of fiction and poetry who blogs at My Poetry and Prose Place. Her poetry chapbook Cleave is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2012. It is now available for preorder from the publisher, HERE.

Here is Angela's beautiful book trailer, which features music by Saint-Seans:



Today Angela is opening a window for us into the world of poetry publishing, and I'll be chiming in periodically. Take it away, Angela...

Ten things you ought to know about publishing poetry

1. Unless your name is Billy Collins, there’s little money in poetry. Most journals do not pay. Granted, there are some paying markets, but we’re talking about small sums.

LAUREL: Very true. And the markets that pay best are NOT poetry journals, but large-circulation magazines and trade journals. Prepare to wax poetic about tractors, the rosary, diaper rash or your last colonoscopy.

2. Competition in the poetry world is fierce. So fierce there’s an online journal called Redheaded Stepchild that publishes poems which have been rejected at least once. Think these poems suck? Think again. Go check out the great stuff that gets rejected every day at their site.

3. Most agents won’t rep poetry.

LAUREL: You generally don't need one for poetry. Academic and small presses still lead this publishing niche, and they handle queries directly from authors.

4. Poets who want their work published need to do their research. I always read what a journal publishes before submitting my stuff. Even then I often get it wrong.

LAUREL: If you're just starting out, Duotrope's Digest is a good place to find e-zines in which to break in.

5. Beware of vanity publishers. You know the kind, don’t you? The ones who offer free poetry contests, and then publish every poem regardless of quality, in a book they sell for big bucks, largely to the contributors.

LAUREL: Ouch. I fell in this trap once, when I was in high school. And yes, my parents bought the book for a princely $30, back when most paperbacks cost $4.95.

6. Purchase a copy of Poets Market. I sleep with mine under my pillow at night. It is my most intimate friend. :P

LAUREL: Keep in mind things can change in lag time between when Writer's Digest compiled the information and when the book was printed. It's always a good idea to check every market's website before submitting. Some journals publish by theme, and some open and close reading periods throughout the year. And small publications fold all the time.

7. It helps to join a poetry group. For one thing it makes you feel less alone, and for another it’s an invaluable tool for honing and improving your skills. Laurel would know, because she and I are in a group together, and there’s no way I can adequately express how much her feedback has helped me.

LAUREL: Aw, shucks, I'm blushing. Like fiction has genres, poetry has "schools"--ways of approaching content, form, tone. It can take time to find like-minded writers.

8. A chapbook is a book of poems 18-28 pages in length. There are several routes a person can take in order to get a chapbook published. The four most common ones are these: (1) enter a contest and win, (2) get in good with the editor of a journal that also publishes chapbooks, (3) self-publish, or (4) submit to a small press and cross your fingers.

That last one is what I did, with lots and lots of finger crossing. Okay, so maybe there was some prayer in there too, a few superstitious chants, a dance I performed with all my blinds closed. *sigh* I digress. I still had to pay a ten dollar reading fee. That’s the thing about entering contests and submitting to presses, it’s normal to pay some kind of reading fee. Sticking to a budget is key.

9. A poetry collection is a book of poems 48 pages or longer. And these are published in much the same way a chapbook is, except most people who publish collections have already published their work in journals and chapbooks and usually have some kind of following.

LAUREL: That's a helpful distinction. You can attempt a chapbook with only a few publications under your belt. Collections are for more established poets.

10. Poetry readings, open mic nights, and other such venues can be great for poets as well. I confess to being a rookie where this is concerned. But I’ll be dipping my toe into poetry reading on my youtube channel starting this Friday. So . . . anyone willing to watch my sad attempt at dramatic reading is welcome. Just, please, promise me one thing—that you won’t laugh.

LAUREL: It's been more than ten years since I've delved into my local poetry scene. I do know you have to search a bit to see where you fit. Some groups are very academic, some more avant-garde, some steeped in urban music traditions like rap.

Thank you, Laurel, for having me on your blog.
LAUREL: My pleasure. I'm excited to get a copy of Cleave in my hot little hands!

Willing to give poetry a second look? How about trying your hand at writing it?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Periodically I fall into these ditches of apathy, where I have no desire to write or even blog. Every idea strikes me as stupid and I'm absolutely certain I have nothing of value to add to the already burgeoning blogosphere. I read thirty blog posts and comment on three. I feel afraid to be honest about it, because I worry it might be catching. Who wants to be the person turning others' inner worlds into one big "whatever"?

I can stupidly assume others don't get tied up in these neurotic knots. But who's to say they don't? Nothing like apathy to keep you from breaking the silence.

Instead, they (and I) can pretend. "Fake it till you make it," right? Confidence is really just a big con, after all. Pretending you have what it takes. That you're invincible. That death isn't lurking closer than anyone wants to admit.

I don't know about you, but this approach to confidence never works for me. My own soul screams at the fakery. I can remember Samuel picking a king for Israel and having God tell him, "man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

The word "confidence" literally means "with faith," believing something is true. But believing what? There's the rub.

One can be quite confident that life is futile. Or that suffering is an illusion. Or any host of things. This kind of "negative confidence" leads, as one might expect, to negative outcomes.

Your confidence is what you believe. Not a mask you put on, but a set of truths you live into. Becoming more confident doesn't involve developing a better facade, but discarding lies and genuinely discovering and hanging onto better truths.

Here are a few I'm hanging onto today:
~No one is alone; If I'm in this world, I have a part to play.
~Evil prevails when good people do nothing.

What ideas have given you "negative confidence"? What better truths do you desire to hang onto?

Thursday, September 29, 2011 Laurel Garver
Periodically I fall into these ditches of apathy, where I have no desire to write or even blog. Every idea strikes me as stupid and I'm absolutely certain I have nothing of value to add to the already burgeoning blogosphere. I read thirty blog posts and comment on three. I feel afraid to be honest about it, because I worry it might be catching. Who wants to be the person turning others' inner worlds into one big "whatever"?

I can stupidly assume others don't get tied up in these neurotic knots. But who's to say they don't? Nothing like apathy to keep you from breaking the silence.

Instead, they (and I) can pretend. "Fake it till you make it," right? Confidence is really just a big con, after all. Pretending you have what it takes. That you're invincible. That death isn't lurking closer than anyone wants to admit.

I don't know about you, but this approach to confidence never works for me. My own soul screams at the fakery. I can remember Samuel picking a king for Israel and having God tell him, "man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

The word "confidence" literally means "with faith," believing something is true. But believing what? There's the rub.

One can be quite confident that life is futile. Or that suffering is an illusion. Or any host of things. This kind of "negative confidence" leads, as one might expect, to negative outcomes.

Your confidence is what you believe. Not a mask you put on, but a set of truths you live into. Becoming more confident doesn't involve developing a better facade, but discarding lies and genuinely discovering and hanging onto better truths.

Here are a few I'm hanging onto today:
~No one is alone; If I'm in this world, I have a part to play.
~Evil prevails when good people do nothing.

What ideas have given you "negative confidence"? What better truths do you desire to hang onto?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Today my special guest is Elle Strauss, one of my first blogging buddies when I started Laurel's Leaves back in 2009. I'm delighted to have Elle here to tell us about the release of her new book CLOCKWISE: “A teen time traveler accidentally takes her secret crush back in time. Awkward.”

Elle Strauss writes time travel and merfolk chic-lit, light SF and historical YA fiction. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, hanging out with friends and family, and sometimes traveling. To ward off writer's butt she does a bit of hiking, biking and yoga.

You can visit Elle's blog at Elle Strauss Books.

Tell us a little about your main character, Casey.
Casey just wants to be normal like her friend Lucinda and the other kids at her school. She could deal with minor inconveniences like being over-tall and crazy hair, but she’s just focused on this other problem, and how to keep a low profile because of it.

Casey treats her ability to time travel like an embarrassing malady on par with acne or bad hair. Why is it such a curse for her?
Well, uncontrolled trips back to the 19th century would be an issue for most people, and when you’re fifteen going on sixteen, it can be so embarrassing.

If you could play casting director, who would you want to play Casey in a film of Clockwise?
I really had to think about this, but I think I would choose Demi Lovato.

Casey ends up bringing along her secret crush, Nate, on her travels to the past. Tell us a little about Nate.

Nate’s an easy going guy, a good student and excellent athlete. He’s a fairly new student to Cambridge High, and as such a very exciting addition as far as the girls are concerned. He’s used to being part of the popular crowd so found it easy to slide into this group once again. Unfortunately, he let himself get caught by a pretty girl who lacks heart.

Who would you cast for the role of Nate?
Alex Pettyfer would make a good Nate (though he may be getting kind of old for this role).

What were some of your favorite discoveries while researching the historical aspects of Clockwise?
Researching the Civil War and the events that led up to it was fascinating. I wasn’t raised in America so I missed out on detailed teaching of this historical event in school.

Where can readers get a copy of Clockwise?
So glad you asked! CLOCKWISE is launching electronically this week and it’s only 2.99 on Amazon! Click HERE for more information and to purchase.

Thanks so much, so much for having me, Laurel!

===

To celebrate the release of CLOCKWISE, Elle is giving away five debut books by authors that you can meet on her blog tour, going on now.

LOSING FAITH by Denise Jaden
THE CLEARING by Anne Riley
THE SECRET OF SPRUCE KNOLL by Heather McCorkle
PERILOUS by Tamara Hart Heiner
THE HATING GAME by Talli Roland

How to win? Sign up for Elle’s newsletter to enter. For extra entries, just comment on any blog in the tour. The more blogs you visit and comment on, the more chances you have to win.

Five books, five days, five winners!

Any other questions for Elle?
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 Laurel Garver
Today my special guest is Elle Strauss, one of my first blogging buddies when I started Laurel's Leaves back in 2009. I'm delighted to have Elle here to tell us about the release of her new book CLOCKWISE: “A teen time traveler accidentally takes her secret crush back in time. Awkward.”

Elle Strauss writes time travel and merfolk chic-lit, light SF and historical YA fiction. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, hanging out with friends and family, and sometimes traveling. To ward off writer's butt she does a bit of hiking, biking and yoga.

You can visit Elle's blog at Elle Strauss Books.

Tell us a little about your main character, Casey.
Casey just wants to be normal like her friend Lucinda and the other kids at her school. She could deal with minor inconveniences like being over-tall and crazy hair, but she’s just focused on this other problem, and how to keep a low profile because of it.

Casey treats her ability to time travel like an embarrassing malady on par with acne or bad hair. Why is it such a curse for her?
Well, uncontrolled trips back to the 19th century would be an issue for most people, and when you’re fifteen going on sixteen, it can be so embarrassing.

If you could play casting director, who would you want to play Casey in a film of Clockwise?
I really had to think about this, but I think I would choose Demi Lovato.

Casey ends up bringing along her secret crush, Nate, on her travels to the past. Tell us a little about Nate.

Nate’s an easy going guy, a good student and excellent athlete. He’s a fairly new student to Cambridge High, and as such a very exciting addition as far as the girls are concerned. He’s used to being part of the popular crowd so found it easy to slide into this group once again. Unfortunately, he let himself get caught by a pretty girl who lacks heart.

Who would you cast for the role of Nate?
Alex Pettyfer would make a good Nate (though he may be getting kind of old for this role).

What were some of your favorite discoveries while researching the historical aspects of Clockwise?
Researching the Civil War and the events that led up to it was fascinating. I wasn’t raised in America so I missed out on detailed teaching of this historical event in school.

Where can readers get a copy of Clockwise?
So glad you asked! CLOCKWISE is launching electronically this week and it’s only 2.99 on Amazon! Click HERE for more information and to purchase.

Thanks so much, so much for having me, Laurel!

===

To celebrate the release of CLOCKWISE, Elle is giving away five debut books by authors that you can meet on her blog tour, going on now.

LOSING FAITH by Denise Jaden
THE CLEARING by Anne Riley
THE SECRET OF SPRUCE KNOLL by Heather McCorkle
PERILOUS by Tamara Hart Heiner
THE HATING GAME by Talli Roland

How to win? Sign up for Elle’s newsletter to enter. For extra entries, just comment on any blog in the tour. The more blogs you visit and comment on, the more chances you have to win.

Five books, five days, five winners!

Any other questions for Elle?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

By Melissa Sarno, Hufflepuff

Honeywater Press announces the release of WHO AM I by award-winning author Gilderoy Lockhart.

The 1,045 page book hits shelves on September 23rd and features the psychological musings of the man who accidentally erased his own memory. One of the few permanent residents of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, Lockhart uses the book to reflect on who he is, who he was, and, even, who he might become.

“We took a risk,” says Ebenezer Coolidge, a representative from Honeywater. “We want readers to open this book and find a new Lockhart. A little less refined. A little more undone.”

But early reviews of the book have not been kind.

Popular book blogger Winnifried Littlewock calls it “a nonsensical, babbling mess,” and goes on to say, “I’m not even sure [Lockhart] knows what the question is. Never mind the answer.”

According to a small group of existentialists at the Magical Who Institute, however, that kind of ambiguity is what makes the work so appealing. “We are all walking around asking the same question of ourselves. The fact that Lockhart never quite gets to an answer is refreshing.”

And many others are rallying for Lockhart, pleased that Honeywater Press took the author under its wing when none of the other big houses were willing. “I’m not going to read it or anything,” says one fan. “But I like that it’s out there.”

“We’re not expecting a huge crowd tomorrow,” says the owner of Flourish and Blotts Bookseller, where, years earlier, people were lined up around the block to get to a Lockhart signing. “But, hey, we’ll serve some Nettle Wine. Maybe that will lead to some sales.”

Melissa Sarno is Thestral Gazette’s celebrity reporter and co-president of the Herbology Club. When she’s not up to her ankles in mooncalf dung, you can find her accompanying the Frog Choir on harpsichord or writing Witch Lit in the Hogwarts Library. She blogs at http://melissasarno.com/.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Can this doomed book launch be saved? What creative ways would you market if you were on Lockhart's promotions team?
Thursday, September 22, 2011 Laurel Garver
By Melissa Sarno, Hufflepuff

Honeywater Press announces the release of WHO AM I by award-winning author Gilderoy Lockhart.

The 1,045 page book hits shelves on September 23rd and features the psychological musings of the man who accidentally erased his own memory. One of the few permanent residents of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, Lockhart uses the book to reflect on who he is, who he was, and, even, who he might become.

“We took a risk,” says Ebenezer Coolidge, a representative from Honeywater. “We want readers to open this book and find a new Lockhart. A little less refined. A little more undone.”

But early reviews of the book have not been kind.

Popular book blogger Winnifried Littlewock calls it “a nonsensical, babbling mess,” and goes on to say, “I’m not even sure [Lockhart] knows what the question is. Never mind the answer.”

According to a small group of existentialists at the Magical Who Institute, however, that kind of ambiguity is what makes the work so appealing. “We are all walking around asking the same question of ourselves. The fact that Lockhart never quite gets to an answer is refreshing.”

And many others are rallying for Lockhart, pleased that Honeywater Press took the author under its wing when none of the other big houses were willing. “I’m not going to read it or anything,” says one fan. “But I like that it’s out there.”

“We’re not expecting a huge crowd tomorrow,” says the owner of Flourish and Blotts Bookseller, where, years earlier, people were lined up around the block to get to a Lockhart signing. “But, hey, we’ll serve some Nettle Wine. Maybe that will lead to some sales.”

Melissa Sarno is Thestral Gazette’s celebrity reporter and co-president of the Herbology Club. When she’s not up to her ankles in mooncalf dung, you can find her accompanying the Frog Choir on harpsichord or writing Witch Lit in the Hogwarts Library. She blogs at http://melissasarno.com/.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

Can this doomed book launch be saved? What creative ways would you market if you were on Lockhart's promotions team?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

As little as I've been able to be online these days, I keep coming across stories that have clouded my sense of what publishing path would fit me best.

Like this one: He Beats Me, But He's My Publisher

And this: Author Polly Courtney Quits Big 6

And then there's the whole productivity issue, as explained here: How Fast Do You Have to Write to Build a Successful Career?

Suddenly I'm feeling my inner brakes squealing, my inner turn-signal clicking and my hand about to pull hard to the left.

After all, the Indie side has its proponents: Revenge of the Rejected

And proponents with many caveats: When NOT to Go Indie
And Why Self-Publishing is Better Than You Think
And somewhere in the middle: When you don't care - more Indie thoughts

Of course, there's always "the middle way"--small press publishing

Michelle's small publisher series at The Innocent Flower covers lots of the pros and cons.


When it comes down to it, there are a number of questions to ask yourself when trying to navigate through all this information.

1. What does success look like TO ME?
Quitting the day job to write full time might be your goal. Or having a loyal following. It might mean having a certain level of control. Producing work that you feel proud of. Reaching a particular target audience with something helpful and life-giving.

2. What are my no-go areas?
What sacrifices am I not willing to make in my career? This might involve decisions about genres and approaches, financial risk, public exposure, associations. Where are you unwilling to compromise?

3. What kind of writing lifestyle can I maintain?
This question is perhaps the toughest to answer. It has to do with your stamina, your level of self-motivation, your ability to deal with outside pressure and to some degree the strength of your ego.

What do you think? Have you chosen a particular path? Why? What went into that decision?
Image credit: morguefile.com
Tuesday, September 20, 2011 Laurel Garver
As little as I've been able to be online these days, I keep coming across stories that have clouded my sense of what publishing path would fit me best.

Like this one: He Beats Me, But He's My Publisher

And this: Author Polly Courtney Quits Big 6

And then there's the whole productivity issue, as explained here: How Fast Do You Have to Write to Build a Successful Career?

Suddenly I'm feeling my inner brakes squealing, my inner turn-signal clicking and my hand about to pull hard to the left.

After all, the Indie side has its proponents: Revenge of the Rejected

And proponents with many caveats: When NOT to Go Indie
And Why Self-Publishing is Better Than You Think
And somewhere in the middle: When you don't care - more Indie thoughts

Of course, there's always "the middle way"--small press publishing

Michelle's small publisher series at The Innocent Flower covers lots of the pros and cons.


When it comes down to it, there are a number of questions to ask yourself when trying to navigate through all this information.

1. What does success look like TO ME?
Quitting the day job to write full time might be your goal. Or having a loyal following. It might mean having a certain level of control. Producing work that you feel proud of. Reaching a particular target audience with something helpful and life-giving.

2. What are my no-go areas?
What sacrifices am I not willing to make in my career? This might involve decisions about genres and approaches, financial risk, public exposure, associations. Where are you unwilling to compromise?

3. What kind of writing lifestyle can I maintain?
This question is perhaps the toughest to answer. It has to do with your stamina, your level of self-motivation, your ability to deal with outside pressure and to some degree the strength of your ego.

What do you think? Have you chosen a particular path? Why? What went into that decision?
Image credit: morguefile.com

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I've been trying to learn all I can about book trailers and came across this nifty site, which collects a bunch of MG and YA trailers, called Book Trailers for All. Created for librarians and teachers, it has plenty of samples to watch and learn from--things you might want to emulate or avoid. I think the coolest one, which has custom animation, is below, for Tell Me a Secret by Holly Culpa:



When I consider how I'd invest in marketing a book, I think shelling out for a really superb trailer looks like it ought to give a lot of bang for one's buck. Videos can be released widely, even go viral, without any additional cost beyond the initial outlay for art and music. Printed matter has a role to play in marketing, too, I suppose, though with book signings becoming less common, paper swag might not be the best place to put most of your promo dollars.

What are some things you like to see in book trailers? Dislike?
Thursday, September 15, 2011 Laurel Garver
I've been trying to learn all I can about book trailers and came across this nifty site, which collects a bunch of MG and YA trailers, called Book Trailers for All. Created for librarians and teachers, it has plenty of samples to watch and learn from--things you might want to emulate or avoid. I think the coolest one, which has custom animation, is below, for Tell Me a Secret by Holly Culpa:



When I consider how I'd invest in marketing a book, I think shelling out for a really superb trailer looks like it ought to give a lot of bang for one's buck. Videos can be released widely, even go viral, without any additional cost beyond the initial outlay for art and music. Printed matter has a role to play in marketing, too, I suppose, though with book signings becoming less common, paper swag might not be the best place to put most of your promo dollars.

What are some things you like to see in book trailers? Dislike?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

After all anybody is as their
land and air is. Anybody
is as the sky is low or high,
the air heavy or clean
and anybody is as there
is wind or no wind there.
It is that which makes them
and the arts they make
and the work they do
and the way they eat
and the way they drink
and the way they learn
and everything.

--Gertrude Stein,
“An American and France”
(1936), n.p.

I came across this quote while copy editing at work and felt Stein had hit on something important about the intersection of setting and character.

Where you are makes you who you are.

At a picnic last weekend, my friend Shareen spoke of loving to visit the American West and feeling most at home in wide-open spaces under an endless sky. She grew up in Africa's vast grasslands. And she made it sound so very compelling. But alas, I'd feel exposed and terrified in Shareen's grasslands. I grew up in a river valley surrounded by mid-size eastern mountains and lush forests. She'd likely feel claustrophobic and oppressed where I feel safe and free.

What feels safe or good or beautiful or desirable is something shaped in profound ways by setting, by milieu (that is, the larger context of social relationships within a setting). Whether your character wears her nails natural or paints them black, fire-engine red or pale mauve is shaped by where she comes from. Whether he drinks Coors or Courvoisier is likewise due in part to his milieu.

Granted, we live in a very mobile society. People often leave their home settings in young adulthood, never to return. But Stein draws us back to the truth that "you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." In the best characterizations, the person's roots will show, often in subtle ways--a silent head-bow before a meal, the secret stash of CDs, an odd rock used as a paperweight.

As you develop characters, remember to think about where they come from and how the current setting fits or doesn't fit with that early experience. Let that homeland be the filter through which they imagine and make mental associations and draw colorful metaphors and similes. Let it shape their choice of housing and hobbies and confidantes.

What are some of your favorite characters shaped by their setting? How might you try to show setting shaping your characters?
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 Laurel Garver
After all anybody is as their
land and air is. Anybody
is as the sky is low or high,
the air heavy or clean
and anybody is as there
is wind or no wind there.
It is that which makes them
and the arts they make
and the work they do
and the way they eat
and the way they drink
and the way they learn
and everything.

--Gertrude Stein,
“An American and France”
(1936), n.p.

I came across this quote while copy editing at work and felt Stein had hit on something important about the intersection of setting and character.

Where you are makes you who you are.

At a picnic last weekend, my friend Shareen spoke of loving to visit the American West and feeling most at home in wide-open spaces under an endless sky. She grew up in Africa's vast grasslands. And she made it sound so very compelling. But alas, I'd feel exposed and terrified in Shareen's grasslands. I grew up in a river valley surrounded by mid-size eastern mountains and lush forests. She'd likely feel claustrophobic and oppressed where I feel safe and free.

What feels safe or good or beautiful or desirable is something shaped in profound ways by setting, by milieu (that is, the larger context of social relationships within a setting). Whether your character wears her nails natural or paints them black, fire-engine red or pale mauve is shaped by where she comes from. Whether he drinks Coors or Courvoisier is likewise due in part to his milieu.

Granted, we live in a very mobile society. People often leave their home settings in young adulthood, never to return. But Stein draws us back to the truth that "you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." In the best characterizations, the person's roots will show, often in subtle ways--a silent head-bow before a meal, the secret stash of CDs, an odd rock used as a paperweight.

As you develop characters, remember to think about where they come from and how the current setting fits or doesn't fit with that early experience. Let that homeland be the filter through which they imagine and make mental associations and draw colorful metaphors and similes. Let it shape their choice of housing and hobbies and confidantes.

What are some of your favorite characters shaped by their setting? How might you try to show setting shaping your characters?

Thursday, September 08, 2011


by Abby Gabby, Ravenclaw

Dear Abby Gabby,
I’ve accidentally scheduled two dates with two boys for the same night! What do I do?
~Split in two from Slytherin

Dear Split,
Well, it’s no surprise to me a sneaky Slytherin would do something like that. Get yourself a time-turner so you can be in two places at once! There may be one available in the school, but you’ll have to find the bearer, which shouldn’t be too hard. Just check all the advanced classes and if you see the same student twice— that’ll be your girl.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
Is there a way to guarantee I won’t eat a bogey flavored Bertie Bott’s bean?
~Snot-shy from Ravenclaw

Dear Snots,
Yes. Just offer Ron Weasley a few— he’s notorious for getting bogey flavored beans every time. Then you should be fine to eat the rest without getting a bogey one. Just watch out for the vomit flavored bean—usually orange-speckled pink. That one’s a doozie.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
I really want the guy I like to win a spot on the Quidditch team, but my Gryffindor conscience is not letting me do anything sneaky. What do I do?
~Honorable from Gryffindor

Dear Goody Goody,
Unwad your panties and perform a Confundus charm on the competition. Live a little—you never know how fun it is until you try. Besides, you can use it as an excuse to practice your charms. You never know when you might need this spell in a real battle.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
There is this girl I really like in my Potions class. But I’m too shy to approach her! What do I do?
~Nervous from Hufflepuff

Dear Nerves,
Brew yourself some Felix Felicis potion to give you the confidence to ask her out! It will need to stew for six months, however, so during that time practice your smile!

Word of warning: it may make you overconfident, so I’d get advice from some who has had experience with it like Harry Potter or Ron Weasley. (There is a rumor going around that Ron was tricked and did not actually consume the potion the day of his best-ever Quidditch match, so take his advice with a grain of salt.)

Thestral Gazette advice columnist Abby Gabby, a member of the Ravenclaw house, prefers to keep her true identity a secret (for the sake of her trusted advisees, of course). She loves divination, lending a shoulder to cry on, and quite possibly has the slightest crush on Professor Firenze. She blogs as her alter ego, Abby Minard at Above Water.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

How would you advise these Hogwarts students? Any new questions for Abby?
Thursday, September 08, 2011 Laurel Garver

by Abby Gabby, Ravenclaw

Dear Abby Gabby,
I’ve accidentally scheduled two dates with two boys for the same night! What do I do?
~Split in two from Slytherin

Dear Split,
Well, it’s no surprise to me a sneaky Slytherin would do something like that. Get yourself a time-turner so you can be in two places at once! There may be one available in the school, but you’ll have to find the bearer, which shouldn’t be too hard. Just check all the advanced classes and if you see the same student twice— that’ll be your girl.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
Is there a way to guarantee I won’t eat a bogey flavored Bertie Bott’s bean?
~Snot-shy from Ravenclaw

Dear Snots,
Yes. Just offer Ron Weasley a few— he’s notorious for getting bogey flavored beans every time. Then you should be fine to eat the rest without getting a bogey one. Just watch out for the vomit flavored bean—usually orange-speckled pink. That one’s a doozie.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
I really want the guy I like to win a spot on the Quidditch team, but my Gryffindor conscience is not letting me do anything sneaky. What do I do?
~Honorable from Gryffindor

Dear Goody Goody,
Unwad your panties and perform a Confundus charm on the competition. Live a little—you never know how fun it is until you try. Besides, you can use it as an excuse to practice your charms. You never know when you might need this spell in a real battle.

***

Dear Abby Gabby,
There is this girl I really like in my Potions class. But I’m too shy to approach her! What do I do?
~Nervous from Hufflepuff

Dear Nerves,
Brew yourself some Felix Felicis potion to give you the confidence to ask her out! It will need to stew for six months, however, so during that time practice your smile!

Word of warning: it may make you overconfident, so I’d get advice from some who has had experience with it like Harry Potter or Ron Weasley. (There is a rumor going around that Ron was tricked and did not actually consume the potion the day of his best-ever Quidditch match, so take his advice with a grain of salt.)

Thestral Gazette advice columnist Abby Gabby, a member of the Ravenclaw house, prefers to keep her true identity a secret (for the sake of her trusted advisees, of course). She loves divination, lending a shoulder to cry on, and quite possibly has the slightest crush on Professor Firenze. She blogs as her alter ego, Abby Minard at Above Water.

Thestral Gazette is an unofficial publication for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Founded by Luna Lovegood and Colin Creevy, the tabloid continues its fine tradition of yellow journalism under the editorship of Laurel Garver and a large staff of student reporters. To join the reporting staff, contact us at thestralgazette (at) gmail (dot) com.

See all the back issues at our archive site:
THESTRAL GAZETTE

How would you advise these Hogwarts students? Any new questions for Abby?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Taking a five-week hiatus from blogging didn't turn out quite like I'd expected, but it was just what I needed.

August turned weirdly chaotic, full of those mini-disasters that felt like I was living farcical chick lit or something. Seriously, an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week? In Pennsylvania? What was up with that? Even more fun, the day I dropped off my spouse to live on campus for a week to teach an intensive college-prep class, my daughter got violent stomach flu and was awake until 1:30 AM, unable to keep even water down. She nailed my oriental rug and five rental places had no available carpet shampooers--this two days before a house guest was due to arrive (and she was six hours late!). Spot cleaning and vanilla candles barely held the stench at bay until we could shampoo the rug--a week later. When my hubby came home from his program, he caught a different GI virus that lasted five days, including his birthday. The printer at work went kaput. I can't find my cell phone anywhere. All our pets got fleas, and the dog, a UTI. It won't stop raining and my daughter's schoolbus was 25 minutes late this morning and how come every other recycling can on the block was emptied but ours?

In the midst of this, small windows of writing time were a nice escape. In the back of my mind, I know I need to make some decisions about which writing project will take priority and how or if I'll proceed with the others. But today isn't the day.

Today I need some chocolate. And my cell phone. And something nice to happen for a change.

Have you ever had disasters cluster like this? Tell me your craziest stories!

Image source: Florida Center for Instructional Technology
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 Laurel Garver
Taking a five-week hiatus from blogging didn't turn out quite like I'd expected, but it was just what I needed.

August turned weirdly chaotic, full of those mini-disasters that felt like I was living farcical chick lit or something. Seriously, an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week? In Pennsylvania? What was up with that? Even more fun, the day I dropped off my spouse to live on campus for a week to teach an intensive college-prep class, my daughter got violent stomach flu and was awake until 1:30 AM, unable to keep even water down. She nailed my oriental rug and five rental places had no available carpet shampooers--this two days before a house guest was due to arrive (and she was six hours late!). Spot cleaning and vanilla candles barely held the stench at bay until we could shampoo the rug--a week later. When my hubby came home from his program, he caught a different GI virus that lasted five days, including his birthday. The printer at work went kaput. I can't find my cell phone anywhere. All our pets got fleas, and the dog, a UTI. It won't stop raining and my daughter's schoolbus was 25 minutes late this morning and how come every other recycling can on the block was emptied but ours?

In the midst of this, small windows of writing time were a nice escape. In the back of my mind, I know I need to make some decisions about which writing project will take priority and how or if I'll proceed with the others. But today isn't the day.

Today I need some chocolate. And my cell phone. And something nice to happen for a change.

Have you ever had disasters cluster like this? Tell me your craziest stories!

Image source: Florida Center for Instructional Technology