Monday, May 31, 2010

Soul crushing humility, here I come!

Well, maybe just ego crushing?

I've finally finished reading and commenting for my first two beta readers, and so now I can open their comments and read without worrying that I'll get carried away and ignore their manuscripts or be unnecessarily harsh to them as payback! I'm ready to have my nearly-perfect-in-my-mind-manuscript ripped up. I can't wait.

Here's the thing about writing- You're always improving. Every word you write (type?) teaches you something more about how to do it. So I should be better than I was even a month ago.

I think the biggest thing I have learned about writing is that the real beauty comes out in rewriting. Sure, I get a rush when I'm pouring out that rough draft, but to polish something and for the words to cut right through to the heart of the conflict, to open that space where you just become the character- that takes revision. I love when I read back over something and it's what I intended it to be, or occassionally even better.

I try to look at every error as an opportunity for growth. So far, most of the people I've traded crits with have been very gracious and helpful. Even the crits that have been less tactful or downright unpalatable have taught me something important: humility.

Humility isn't thinking, "I'm a terrible writer and I'll never get published and why am I torturing myself with this?" Humility is acknowledging where your strength comes from. I'll have a good story, but not because I have mad skillz or magic in my fingers. It will be good (all the way through, too!) because my strength comes from revision and from a willingness to learn. A hunger, not a grudging one either.

Sometimes you have to accept that others do not 'get' your story. Writing fantasy, I run into this from time to time. But even the critiques from the non-fantasy readers gave me some invaluable insight into my story and where it needed to go. (Though I still pity people who don't read fantasy. I once suggested Ender's Game to a book club that had been reading 'The Life of Pi' and 'the Virginian' and 'Count of Monte Cristo'. Nothing wrong with those books, and the ladies did rather well with Ender's Game!)

A casual reader once commented that he was glad that he hadn't paid to read an early draft of a chapter. I'm not saying it didn't hurt, but I considered the source (he never reads novels, so he's never willing to pay to read it!) and got back to work. And now reading that early chapter, I can see what he meant. I still wish he'd worded their crit a little more kindly, but oh well.

How do you feel about getting crits back?
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Great Books With Crappy Endings. What is the Deal?

I've read a few books in the last sixth months that I loved...until. I'm going to talk about the endings of Poison Study, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, Skin Hunger, and Gracelings. I won't be getting into many specifics, just things you should be able to guess by about 50 pages in, but if you remember details better than I, you may want to read with one eye closed.

I'm starting to see a pattern, and I wonder if I'm all alone. Here's the scenario-
Guy and girl fall in love. They face overwhelming obstacles, death on every side, they risk their lives, their reputations, their futures so that they will have a chance to be together. Then they win, and realize that they can't be together because of such and such small problem.

Bull crap.

I've been in love. I still am. NOTHING would have kept Mr. Bryson and I apart. Not a stupid job, not some political intrigue, not the pursuit of some esoteric knowledge. I just don't buy it.

You want examples? Okay. Here goes-

Poison Study- an excellent book, one I might even read again. They fell in love, won their battles, they're so happy, now they can have a happy life together, then a political figure shakes her head no, and they say goodbye. I know that everything isn't going to be perfect for them, but at least let me think they will fight to stay together. There had be a darn good reason why they part ways after the whole book has led to their being together.

Graceling- I loved this book- a yong woman blessed with the Grace to kill, and she is good at it. She and another Graced warrior try to change the political landscape (lots of bad kings in Graceling). this author really pulled me in. She made me think that maybe I DO want a guy with gold rings in his ears and tattoos that only a wife is meant to see (they're on his arms, but they're to please his future wife, so he says. And I believe him.) It was a great book. Until the last page. There was no reason they couldn't be together. None. If authors want to pull junk like that, death has to be the only other option. Not, "Well, I want to start some schools to teach girls how to fight in the seven kingdoms. I guess I'll see you around." Bull-oney.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel- this one could almost get away with it because Jonathan Strange was distant and preoccupied during his whole marriage, but I was hoping that after he fought to free his wife from the fairy entrappment, that he might, you know, care about her. Ol' Jonathan gave her a peck on the cheek and disppeared into the mystical darkness, dreaming of books on magic. Stupid ending. Seriously, where is the happily ever after? I guess I need that. Maybe not everyone does.

Dragonfly- a YA novel about an arranged marriage, kidnappings, and love- had great resolution. I wish the princess had been a little more proactive and not been willing to let some political/religious figures ruin her life, but at least the guy knew that he wasn't willing to live without her! It was more satisfying to me, even though it wasn't quite as perfectly written.

Dear blog friends, I want you to know that I would never do that to you. I would give them their happy ending, then introduce conflict in the second book of the series. Seriously, this bothers me so much that I want to rewrite the last few pages of these books. Like Un-fanfic. Like, you got this wrong Ms. Author, even though you're brilliant and you got published and you're miles ahead of me, but you got it wrong.

What say you? Did I watch too many Disney movies growing up?
Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Branding: This is How it's Done.

So this post was supposed to be a quick plug for PARANORMALCY, so I can have a chance to win a free copy. But then I was thinking- why do I even want this book? I mean, no one I know has read it, unless you count Kiersten and I don't really know her, and she's a bit biased, isn't she? I mean, she could be just telling us it's a great book.

So what am I basing my hopes about this book on? First, Kiersten's blog is hysterical. She comes across in a very real way, and I think we could be friends in real life. (And I want you, dear blog friends, to know that we are friends. I love when you say hi.)

Second, the cover. Nice dress, the grass seed things in the foreground, the stormy clouds in the background. Just kidding. The real hook for me is a nice girl next door outside in a storm. There's conflict. And it fits a genre I already like.

Third, the blurb.

Sixteen-year-old Evie's job is bagging and tagging paranormals. Possessing the strange ability to see through their glamours, she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. But when someone--or something--starts taking out the vamps, werewolves, and other odd beasties she's worked hard to help become productive members of society, she's got to figure it out before they all disappear and the world becomes utterly normal.

Normal is so overrated.
I love the phrase 'bagging and tagging'- like she's a scientist measuring the wolf population. I want a 'Save the Vampires' sticker for my car. Ok, I don't like bumperstickers, but I would slap on a window decal in a heartbeat.

Fourth, I just read Lips Touch, Kiersten's latest book recommendation, and I loved it. I wished each of the three stories was a full length novel, actually. And the art inside was gorgeous. Which makes me trust her a little. Maybe she knows what makes a good book. We shall see.

There've been some good blog posts out there on branding. Try here with Tribal Writer and here at the blog.

Anything else to add, blog friends? What makes you want to read someone's book/stalk them in a totally fun and lighthearted way?
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Interview with M.R. Bunderson, author of The Mark

Today I welcome the Marilyn Bunderson to Bookreadress. Marilyn's book The Mark is about a group of four teenagers who discover that besides being adopted, they each they have microscopic tattoos on the backs of their hands. But a mysterious stranger is willing to do anything -- including murder -- to stop them from finding out what the marks mean and from learning how to use their emerging powers. I think that readers who enjoyed The Dark Divine would love The Mark.

Me: I saw on your website that you have a large family. (Aren't they lovely?) When do you write and have you had any struggles balancing writing with your 'real' life?

Marilyn: I don't write well when my children are home from school so I try to get it done when they're gone. I also try to do some writing when the younger ones go to bed. It's not easy to find time but if writing is a priority then you make the time instead of trying to find it. It is definitely a hard balance, but worth it (as long as my family doesn't suffer too much).

Me: Not making them suffer too much is the key! Would you tell us a bit about your road to publication and how you chose your publisher?

Marilyn: Once I finished my book I did a bit of research on how to publish. I looked at other author sites to get started and then looked for publishing companies and agents that I thought might be interested in my book. I sent off query letters to a few agents and a few publishing companies (about ten to fifteen) but was rejected by all of them. I decided next to try a local publishing company and sent a query to Cedar Fort since they are the second largest publishing company in Utah.

In hindsight, I probably should have worked on polishing the book more before I submitted it, gone to at least one writers conference, and had a better plan from the start. I did not go to any writing conferences or take any kind of creative writing class before I wrote and published The Mark. I wish that I had and would highly recommend that route to others. There are classes at these conferences on how to do things right and opportunities to meet agents.

Me: Well, that's great advice to new writers. Which character did you enjoy writing the most? A nice one like Tori or one with a lot of room for growth like Sebastian?

Marilyn: I had a clear picture of who Tori was from the beginning and I felt I knew her well. However, my favorite character was Amanda. There was a lot going on for her, motivations and experiences, that I didn't get to because this book was written from Tori's frame of reference. So I knew some background stuff that I didn't share that influenced her behavior.

Me: Maybe that will go in the next book? You're writing a sequel, right?

Marilyn: I am, but honestly I'm having trouble with the balance thing right now and it's going slow. I'm hoping to push it over the next few weeks.

Me: Yep. I'm lucky that everybody in my house likes frozen pizza! You did a great job balancing romance with responsibility, and your characters come across as realistic for mature, level-headed teenagers. I've known many teens like that, but they're seldom portrayed in books. Do you think that writers have a responsibilty for the examples they put forth?

Marilyn: Absolutely. I think any author's hope is to connect with the reader. If I have young girls connecting with my protagonist then she had better be someone worthy to be connected to. There are plenty of books on the shelves with examples of kids with low moral standards. It is my goal to get more out there that pattern good behavior and high moral standards. That is not to say that everyone has to be sweet and have no issues. But my characters should be able to meet their challenges in responsible and realistic ways.

Me: The Mark was chosen by the 'Around the World Tours' blog to be reviewed. How cool is that? How are people responding to your book?

Marilyn: I'm thrilled to have it on tour. I've only read one review on that tour so far and it was fairly positive. I'm excited to see how it is received. I've had mostly positive reviews so far but there have been a couple (two that I know of) that thought the romance element was too much. That's okay, romance is not for everyone.

Me: True, to each his own!Thanks for spending some time with us, Marilyn. Check out the first chapter and Marilyn's website.

Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

You, Too, Can Win Friends and Influence People

Special Announcement- Interview with author of The Mark, M.R. Bunderson, next Wednesday. We're going to talk about how she chose her publisher, if authors have a responsibility for how they portray romance (lots of that in the blogosphere, (e.g. Kiersten White) this week.) and more!

I now feel qualified to write about pitches since I have now done one. Wait, I mean, I am just barely not unqualified and such a newbie at this, but I have some experiences/thoughts to share.

I am one of those writers who writes because I am not the world's most gifted gabber. I stumble. I am bad at a party. At meeting people. At thinking of approriate questions to ask people. But if you want to talk to me about a Big Idea, I have a million things to say.

Take this info and put me in a writer's conference meet-n-greet. It took me a few minutes, but I got used to talking to the other authors. Tip- Just ask, "What do you write? Tell me about your book," and you're set!

Once I listen to someone else talk for a while, then I'm a little more comfortable and can give a semi-intelligent description of my book. Except I couldn't talk in a coherent manner at the meet-n-greet, probably because I was short on sleep and a bit (haha!) nervous about my pitch. I was surprised none of their brains fell out trying to follow my practice pitches.

Enter Mr. Agent, standing alone. I decided to just get over myself and meet him. Actual simulated transcript of our conversation:

Me: Oh, snakes. What do I say?  Uh, hi. I'm Kelly Bryson. I have a pitch with you tomorrow. Do Not Giggle. Don't do it!

Mr. Agent: *nods*

Me: Uhhhh, Uhhhh, Uhhhh. Uhhhh. Wow. My mind just went blank. Did I just say that? Oh, man, say something smart, quick. How do you like Atlanta?

Mr. Agent: Well, I've only been to the airport and here. *glances out the window where we can see the planes landing, maybe 300 yards away.*

Me: Riiiight. So, where do you live?

Mr. Agent: New York. I can walk to most of the major publishers in less than 5 minutes. *said with excitment, like he can't believe his good fortune, not in a snotty way at all.*

Me: That's great. We went to New York once... *proceed to tell really brief yet non-scintillating tale of our 20 hour visit to NY*

Mr. Agent: Umm, I think I hear someone calling me, excuse me... (Not his words. My extrapolation based on deepest fears. He didn't say much at this point.)

Okay, we also talked about some books he listed as favorites that I also love, and briefly about him running marathons, but I considered this conversation a DISASTER. I lay in bed that night thinking. I don't think I can do this anymore. Maybe writing is not for me.

So here's how The Pitch went. For those of you who don't like thrillers, it had a happy ending.

Me: You're not going to bite are you?

Mr. Agent: Haha. *not very amused. Not grim either, just waiting.*

Me: So, did you get a run in today?

Mr. Agent: Oh, yeah, I did. But the treadmill wouldn't go fast enough.

Me: Holy crap. He's fast! Wow, you must be really good.

Mr. Agent: Oh, no. It only goes up to four and a half miles an hour.

Me: Haha. Are we done with small talk? Can I move on? Yes, he's ready to move on. So, are you familiar with the mythology of Lilith? He's nodding, good. In my book, Lilith is still living in the Garden of Eden, stealing girls out of the modern world and raising them as her own children. She erases their memories of their pasts for two reasons: one, to protect them from the abuse they suffered and two, so that they will be pure enough to nurture the emotionally sensitive geroth trees, whose fruit gives them eternal life. He's nodding. Okay, just don't screw this up. But the brainwashing and mind control... Dang. I only meant to say one or the other there. Oh well... don't last forever.

Eventually, the girls know that they will remember their pasts. When they do, Mother forces them into an eternal Sleep, since they can't die anymore and can't stand to live with their perfect recall of the past. Mother takes the bodies and dumps them back in the modern world and steals a new child, and the cycle continues. Lara, my main character, is tired of losing her sisters, and travels through a portal in the caves to the modern world, where she hopes to discover a way to truly heal her sisters. He's engaged, got eye contact, nodding along, all good. In this world, the FBI realizes that something is going on because...

Mr. Agent: The kidnappings.

Me: And the bodies that Mother is dumping. He nods, as if to say of course, the BODIES. The FBI agent assigned to interrogate her, agent David Hatton, is an expert in nonverbal communication. He realizes that the suspicion and hostility of the other agents are physically harmful to Lara and that she is incredibly sensitive to emotions. So, to both protect her and to gain her trust, he "rescues" her from the field office and takes her to a secluded area. They end up falling in love and Lara has to choose between the worlds, between staying with the man she loves but who has betrayed her, or to return to the garden and the safety that Mother offers.

Mr. Agent: That's great, but you lost the conflict with Mother.

Me: Wow. He was really following my story. No, no, it's in there. That's the big climax.

Mr. Agent: Do you have a writing sample?

Me: Y-y-y-y-es. Stares out window while Mr. Agent reads the first few pages. Way worse than getting a shot. I always look when I'm getting a shot, but I couldn't watch this. 

Mr. Agent: Why don't you mail me 50 pages? Hands me his card.  

*Thump* (That's me, hitting the floor.)

So, that's pretty much it. I did ask a follow-up question and then I high-tailed it out of there before he could change his mind.

The next few minutes are really hazy, but I made it downstairs to where my hubby waited in the hotel lobby. After he realized I was serious, his question: Can you buy me a car?

Hmmm. I'm not sure if he understands how lengthy this process can be!

So, even socially awkward people can get up there and explain their book and get good results. And I didn't turn red, so that was a bonus. I hope you don't freak out like I did before, but it can be done!
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I've made the sudden and jarring switch from triumph to apprehension. It was as easy as dropping my submission packet in the mail.

How can the high of three days ago be so quickly forgotten? All it takes is a few unaswerable questions.

What if I missed something really obvious? What if he hates ? What if the action is too actiony? Or the romance too romantical? What if the world building is overcrowded? What if he just requested pages out of pity? Do agents do that? I hope not.

I read through and smoothed out my first 50 pages. Then I printed them, marked them up, had my mother-in-law go over them with me (she had the brilliant idea to change dribbled to trickled, much better word choice. This was a big deal at 11 PM last night.), cut a thousand words!!! (how did I miss the excess the other 15 times I've gone through this thing?), inputted all my changes by 2:30 AM and then printed it out again this morning, popped it in an envelope and sent it off.

I felt a little nervous, but not nearly as bad as I did before my pitch. Mr. Agent likes my idea. He likes my writing enough to ask for 50 pages. I've done my best. If he doesn't want to represent me, then I'll find someone else who will love my book.

This is me letting go. I will enjoy this process. I will, dang it! How do you let go?
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, May 17, 2010

YA vs Adult fantasy vs crossover

I've had a little problem figuring out what market I'm writing for. Here's what I THOUGHT was the problem. My MC is immortal, her body is perfect and youthful (making her look about 17), she's terribly innocent. She finds out that her chronological age, from before she became immortal, is 28. And her love interest is 27. I've had some questions about a girl who is presented as a 17 year old falling for an FBI agent, who is obviously older than 17, and told to be careful because that could be really icky. But she's mentally mature, I swear, and it's not icky. Really. Lolita is not my scene.

So, right after the agent asked me for pages (Still can't believe it!!!), I started to walk out, then remembered my question. Is this YA or adult:?

I'd been thinking I would query agents who rep either adult fantasy or YA fantasy. And I have found an agent who specifically wants crossovers between YA and adult, so I was excited about querying her.

But Mr. Agent said, "No, you're adult. The language is adult."

Oh. You mean the complexity of the writing is the major factor?

I had thought since there's no profanity and no sex that I could make a case for YA, so I could query YA agents, too. But I was thinking about it wrong. And this is not exactly a coming-of-age story. There is some self discovery, but that's not the main conflict. So maybe someone else will benefit from this tidbit, too.

Am I the only one that didn't get this?

Happy Writing! 
Glutton for Punishment?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Atlanta Writer's Conference

First up- Wheeeee! My pitch has been pitched, and it went as well as I had hoped it might in my dearest, happiest dreams.

I explained my premise, answered a few questions, handed over a writing sample and said, "Heck yeah! I'll mail you 50 pages!"

I told my husband that this might be enough to help me overcome my fear of the post office. I hate the post office. Maybe it's from some bad experiences taking the kids with me to mail Christmas presents.

I met some very nice writers, handed out my little cards and was given a children's book about how not to get abducted by aliens.

Happy Writing!

Me with my sample pages and
an agent's business card!
Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

T minus two and counting

Last night I remembered that I hadn't gotten any business cards made. Dang it. At the Columbia Book Festival a few months ago I'd met some local bloggers and one of them had business cards with their blog web address and I was stuck tearing pieces of paper off my legal pad, trying to remember if my website was a or a I've never been confused about that before or since, but I was a little flustered at the time.

Lesson learned. Last night I designed some simple business cards and printed them on my friend's color copier (I only have a high volume black and white printer, which I love dearly. The color copier dried out since I never use it.) I trimmed them down to size this morning and they will be perfect to hand out to other conference-goers that I meet.

Other preparations: I am going to buy a professional-looking outfit, maybe a grey pencil skirt, but that would not be comfortable to wear during the hours of workshops before the pitch, so I'll see what I can find. I am determined to avoid frumpy at all costs. Well, within a certain range of costs.

My friend Shannon has agreed to go with me, the same friend that listened to my pitch about ten times yesterday after watching me scribble and chew on my lip for half an hour AND printed out the cards for me this morning. This woman must have done something really awful to me and is trying to make it up to me before she confesses!

Truly, I tried to explain yesterday how much I appreciated her vote of confidence and the critiques and that she's willing to go shopping with me and our combined three kids. (It will be awesome to chase them through the racks! I predict lots of giggling kids today. At least I hope they're giggling!)

There are so many people who have supported me in this and I could cry in gratitude for each of them. And I do. You just can't see it because I'm on a computer and you're not here in my house. Thank you.

I think I need to get on some meds. Any suggestions?

I'll be at Kohl's if you need me!
Glutton for Punishment?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wind up to the Pitch

My friend Teresa sent me this great link to Rachelle Gardener's blog yesterday about how to pitch. It was the clearest set of instructions I've seen yet, so definately check it out if you are pitching anytime soon.

I get diarhhea...of the mouth when I try to pitch. It happened last night when I was practicing the pitch with my husband. But it might be that I was a little flustered because, playing the part of an agent, he said something like, "What are you willing to do to get a book deal?" and put his hand on my knee. Or something like that;)

Today, I've practiced my pitch on two long-suffering friends. Bringing my pitch down to two or three minutes seemed impossible yesterday, but I wrote down some talking points, practiced my presentation, and got feedback. I'm down to 3.5 minutes. Then I did it again and again. I feel silly, but I'm doing the whole scenario, shaking hands and introducing myself.

I do this terrible thing where I blush BRIGHT red when I'm embarassed, but it's kind of random, even happening with people that I thought I was comfortable with occassionally. So I'm going to go a bit heavy with the makeup, say a few prayers and hope I don't turn red.

I can stand up in front of my whole church and not worry about speaking too much, so I don't think it's the talking in front of an audience that scares me. It's the pressure. I've been writing this for a year and a half, but I also feel like selling this book will validate all the time and energy that I've diverted away from other things- like my kids- and tell me that it was worth it.

It's not that I will be disappointed a ton if the first agent I pitch doesn't want to marry my book. But I will be disappointed if I show up with the proverbial spinach in my teeth. I just want to know that I explained clearly and in an entertaining way what my book is about. That will be enough.

Of course, I would attempt a back flip if pages are requested. But I'm trying not to set my sights so high that I will end up disappointed unless something totally miraculous happens. Let's hope practice makes perfect!
Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why not to finish your book after everyone else is asleep

Last night I finished up my edits on PULSE at 11:30 and then, like a dummy, I hung out in the blogoshpere since I haven't been doing much of anything except rewording perfectly good sentences for the last week or so. I think I wanted someone to throw me a party right then, for a hundred of my closest friends to knock on the door and give me high fives. Even Nathan was asleep (spin claas at 5:30 this morning for him, so I guess I understand. No, wait. I will never understand getting up that early. Even when I was going to spin class with him, I was continually asking myself WHY I was doing it.)
Sample book cover. Notice the clever double titling designed to thwart
sticker attacks. I hate it when I can't see the whole cover
because of a 'Summer Reading' sticker.

I told my kids this morning and they were excited until I explained that I still have to get beta reader response and query and make additional edits that the agent, editor copyeditor, line editor, etc. all want. I wonder why they looked at me funny. (Done? Is she kidding herself? She's just halfway there! they thought)

I said over breakfast that I was going to take a week off soon, but that I have two full manuscripts to review first. We're going to the beach in two weeks and maybe I'll be ready for a break by then. OR I have this really great idea that I want to develop. Maybe do some character sketches, an outline... Who am I kidding? I want to write the full rough draft!

But for now it feels so good to have the story done in time to go to the Atlanta Writer's Club Conference next weekend and to have this burst of confidence. Maybe it will be good that I won't get my beta readers' comments in time for the conference. I'm not sure I want reality to set in yet. *wink*

I've had some amazing friends help me with my preschooler for several days the last week and a half so I could meet my goal and all I can say is, I'm in their debt and they've got their spot in my acknowledgements when I get published! (Hey, we're thinking positive here. I have no rejections on this project! Haha!) And while I'm at it, there are several of you who have looked at queries or the opening chapters, and it really helped me to see what I needed to focus on, so thank you, too. And I have been taking a break from the Online Writer's Workshop of Sciance Fiction, Fantasy and Horror while I did my line edits in PULSE, but I really appreciate my writing buddies over there, especially my good friend Teresa, who I have learned so much from.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm thinking up some questions to ask the Super Agent in my pitch session, mostly having to deal with YA versus adult fantast and the fabled existance of a 'New Adult' or 'College age' group. I've found a few agents - okay one -who is interested in borderline or crossover YA/adult fiction. (Catherine Drayton, if you're interested.) Anyone know of anybody else? Any amazing questions that will mark me as a sophisticated, market-savvy author?

Thanks for the encouragement and Happy Writing to you!
Glutton for Punishment?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Interview with Carroll Morris and Nancy Anderson

Thanks for stopping by, blog friends, because the word of the day is 'co-author' and I've got a treat in store. Have you ever wondered what would possess someone to co-author a book? (I'm a teensy bit possessive of my scenes and imagery and characters, basically all of it, so I'm talking about myself here!) Sisters Carroll and Nancy have co-authored Leaning Into Curves and have co-authored three previous books with YA co-author Lael Littke in the Company of Good Women series, which has been a best seller in the LDS (Mormon) market. I learned so much from their responses that I'll give you as much of it as I can here. I have a hunch that 'pantsers' such as myself aren't likely to co-author, at least not repeatedly, because the other co-author would end up with no hair. Have I said co-author enough yet? Ready to learn how they divide and conquer? Here we go!
The Cover. It's a perfect match to the story, which is about an older woman, Molly, and her husband, Hank's, relationship as he enters retirement and she adjusts to his new deathtrap, er, motorcycle.
(Deathtrap is Molly's idea of a motorcycle, not necessarily mine.)

Kelly: So, I'm having a hard time imagining how co-authoring works. How do you get a first draft? (You like my hat, readers? I had to find a picture that would be distinct from Nancy and Carroll. I wouldn't want you to get confused about which one was me;) And in a very quick side note, any copy editors out there know if the proper punctuation should be smiley face AND closing parenthesis or does the smile close the parenthesis? Ahem. Sorry. What were we saying about first drafts?

Nancy: Writing a first draft is all about getting it down on paper. You can't move forward until you have something to work with. We call it throwing up on the page. When we're first starting out we sometimes write parallel version of the same scene. For example we each wrote our own versions of the first chapter.

Further on in the manuscript we each took scenes we were most interested it, editing and refining each other's work in turn. Particularly difficult and intense scenes were often worked word for word over the phone. The final fight scene was rewritten half a dozen times until the tension and pacing were acceptable to both of us. Sometimes a scene would have my words and vision and Carroll's pacing or visa versa.

During the final rewrites of Leaning with deadline looming large we availed ourselves of I was in Atlanta and Carroll in Arizona. We had the googledoc up on each of our screens and speaker phones on. It was quite a production!

Kelly: It sounds like it. I've never used Googledoc, but that sounds like a perfect application. What advantages do you see in working so closely with another writer? Any disadvantages?

Nancy: The biggest advantage to having a co-author, besides the obvious one of having an excuse to take long visits to my sister's, is drawing on two different skill sets. My strengths lie in generating ideas, finding alternate and concise ways of stating a scene, fleshing out characters, and adding humor. Having been a copy editor for many years, Carroll has prodigious skill in cleaning up a page (syntax and grammar) plumbing the depths of interpersonal relationships (see Broken Covenant, Deseret Book's first women's issues novel written by Carroll), and murdering our darlings.
We also compliment each other's work style. Carroll is more of an ectomorph-high energy, can stay up all night kind of gal. I'm more the round chubby bubba endomorph, need a nap in the afternoon, kind of grandma. She lives on caffeine--one can has me swinging from the rafters. She gets me going and I keep her calmed down. Our energies seem to feed off of each other in the best manner. We also share a love of quiet mediation, breathing in the desert air and playing our Native American Flutes together. So despite our vast differences, our down times together are wonderfully refreshing.

The biggest icky in being a co-author is loss of autonomy and control over one's personal vision for the story. This was a bigger issue for me in Leaning than in the trilogy. With the first three books we each had almost complete control over the path our individual characters, and shared control over the scenes in common.

Carroll: I’ve learned that it’s important to listen to what a co-author or member of a critique group has to say. Even when I think I’m right, a compromise solution usually turns out to be better than the original text.

Despite the distance between us—Nancy’s in Sandy, Utah, and I’m in Green Valley, Arizona—the technical part of working together is actually quite easy. We use the e-mail a lot for exchanging files, comments, and To-Do lists. And thanks to unlimited long distance calling, we can talk as long as we need to when making corrections or working through issues.

Kelly: Whose brain child was this? How did you decide to start the project?

Nancy: The idea for Leaning was completely my baby. I had asked Carroll to come on board while we were finishing up on the last book in the trilogy, but I had not intended to begin work for a least a year due to health issues. However, Carroll revved up her engines and had fingers to the keyboard without taking a breath. She also had very definite ideas about the direction the story should take, ideas that varied a great deal from my original intent.

Her ideas were good ideas and were the starting point for new and different scenes and conversations we generated together that enriched the story. It is also important to note that without her jumpstarting the project we would still be in the talking stage instead of having a new novel on the shelves. And that's all good and I'm glad for it.

But bringing in another author when you already have a firm story line in mind and as a result having to compromise every step of the way feels rather like knowing you gave birth to a blue eyed blonde baby and being sent home with dark eyed child with red curly hair. Everyone's assuring you that indeed that's your child and on some level you know it's true but you can't help but wonder what in the world happened.

That being said, co-authoring this book has taught me a lot about standing up for myself and my characters when I need to, acknowledging a better idea when it comes along, understanding that while this may not be exactly the book that I planned on, it's a better book for all the shared work and ideas, and realizing that producing a successful novel with another author is more about telling the story the best way you can and than it is about ego strokes. Although I'll be happy to accept any ego stroking I can get!

Carroll: Nancy had the idea for the book first. Then when I saw an article about the 20th anniversary rally of the Temple Rider’s Association, I got the bug, too. It was a story just waiting to be told. But while Nancy wasn’t thinking about jumping right into it, I was concerned that if we didn’t get a proposal in, someone else would beat us to it.

So I send a proposal to Jana Erickson of Deseret Book. She said they were interested in it and gave us a target date to have the manuscript done. For various reasons that turned out to be a shifting target. Right up until the book went to press, we weren’t actually sure when it would be printed. And then we ran into a problem because we’d neglected to get some permissions. The book sat in the warehouse a couple of weeks while we got people to send back signed forms to Deseret Book.

Kelly: Thank you both so much for sharing your process and your story with us!
I like all kinds of books, but tend to savor my YA fantasy and science fiction the most. I wasn't sure if Leaning Into Curves would be a good fit for me because it is about a woman's fear of her newly retired husband's motorcycle and how it fits into their Mormon lifestyle. But when I got into the relationship between Molly and Hank and how beautifully Carrol and Nancy got the dynamics between them, I forgot my preconceptions and really enjoyed the story. And yes, there really is a Mormon motorcycle gang, called the Temple Riders Association. Who knew? And, for full disclosure, I received a free copy of Leaning Into Curves but I wouldn't tell you that I liked it if I didn't.  

Also, check out this post about finding your twist on their blog, Crusty Old Broads. Good stuff to think about as you start cooking a new idea!

Glutton for Punishment?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Eavesdropping with Class

***Interview with sisters Nancy Anderson and Carroll Morris***
***co-authors of Leaning Into Curves on Friday! ***

A few weekends ago, Nathan and I went away for our anniversary to Aiken, SC. Aiken is horse country. There's a lot of old money, which means lots of gardens and wide streets. Beautiful shops with furniture I want but can't afford and clothing that costs more per item than I spend on my wardrobe in six months. But it was fun looking and we found something special: a t-shirt with Chuck Norris posing as a weather forecaster. Caption? Cloudy with a 90% chance of pain.

On Sunday morning we went to Davor's, a little restaurant that serves Bananas Foster french toast, which Nathan LOVES.  (Wow. That makes us sound like Jack Mormons, but we had to eat somewhere, and the alcohol burns off, I swear. Okay, I don't swear, I assure you)

I've heard that it's okay to eavesdrop if you're a writer, so here's what happened. There was a middle-aged couple in expensive, understated clothes at the table next to us. Another man came in. The couple greeted him and the three proceeded to talk about a variety of things including:
  • their cotillion club and how the last gentleman should join. "It's only two hundred a year and we have two events, the bands are great!"
  • A dinner party/fundraiser they are throwing to support Andre, South Carolina's Lieutenant Governor, whom they are on a first-name basis with
  • Then the last gentleman showed them pictures of the 'craft' he was working on. He referred to it as his craft several times.
 After we left, we couldn't help laughing. Wow. People really talk like that.

I've had that experience in Georgia, too, at the other end of the spectrum. We went camping once at the Okeefenokee  Swamp (motto: We got alligators. Lots of 'em. Want to rent a canoe?) and literally could not understand anything this old man said to us. Nathan's mom's RV broke down (can you tell where we fit in better? *wink*), and we were trying to get a mechanic out there, but we couldn't understand a word out of his garbled mouth. And he had no teeth. Maybe that was part of the problem.

Happy Eavesdropping!

Also, come back on Friday when I will interview Nancy Anderson and Carroll Morris, sisters who co-wrote "Leaning into Curves," which has just been released. They have some great insights into how to work with a co-author, and some comments on editing styles that I appreciated them sharing with me, so I hope to see you back here on Friday!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Checking In- the last 10%

In reviewing my manuscript, I find a lot of conversations that are okay, but on rereading, don't 'pop'. That's what I'm fixing right now. Adding bits of humor, deleting the jokes that don't work, adding little details and motivations for minor characters. Pulling all the threads together, answering all the questions.

I find myself getting really excited as I take details that I'd already written in and understand why there were there. There's a specific character who's chewing gum all the time, and I realized it's because she's just quit smoking, and when she lapses, it explains her intense reaction to something else. Piecing that together made me so happy and it really helped that scene to shine.

I've gotten most of my grammar bugs/plot issues worked out and am surprised to find that this stage is fun. I am shocked at how giddy I feel. It's almost as much fun as the first draft when I thought I would be done in a few months. Don't laugh. I really thought I would do some light edits and it would be ready. Thank goodness I didn't start querying then.

I'm about 25 pages shy of being half-way done with my last major edit. I've called in some babysitting favors for my preschooler so I can work through some entire school days and then I will be sending it out to beta readers, hopefully by Friday.

I'm a bit anxious about my pitch session in 13 days, and haven't been sleeping as well as I'd like, but every chunk I get done makes me less anxious. I think I could sit down with said agent and say that I've written a story that he will be interested in. And believe it. That feels good.

Happy Writing!
Glutton for Punishment?