Friday, July 30, 2010

Slave to the Story

*reminder to leave a comment by midnight EST tonight on the interview with Maria Snyder
for a chance to win a copy of Inside Out*

I like to critique, especially writers that have gotten the mechanics down and are trying to find the heart of their story. I think that's the key. You have to find the biggest problem, the most emotion-packed part of your idea, and focus on that.

By focus, I mean relate everything to it. Your main conflict has to be the center point that everything else ties to.

My hubby saw the Avatar movie with some friends (husbands of my friends that I went with to see Twilight! I think the guys got the better movie, but that's a different post.) He came back and was telling me about the aliens, that they lived in the trees and had tails.

And I said, 'Why do they have tails? Did their tails 'do' anything?'
He then told me how cool the whole concept was, that the tails were an interface between the aliens and the animals on their planet.

You see, I thought it was just an empty detail. A detail that didn't mean anything except 'Hey. I'm an alien. Look at my tail.'

But it was more. The tail meant "Hey, I'm an alien. I can use my tail to link with the brain of my cool flying beasties and into the soul of the planet. It defines how I relate to the world and explains my deep connection with nature."

See the difference?

Every detail must be a slave to the story. Relationships to other characters need to be shown in relation to the conflict. Don't let your characters get to know each other for ten or twenty pages, then get to the conflict. Start your story on page one, then work in the details around it. Let the reader get to know your characters as they work to stop the giant asteroid falling towards the earth.

Integrate the back story in only when their previous experiences cause them to do something unusual! For example, in Avatar, EVERYTHING we learn about James Sully is necessary to explain why he is on the Navi's planet. He's a soldier, now a parapalegic, whose identical twin brother was killed, and Sully was asked to take his place in the Avatar program. That's all we know about his backstory. The rest of who he is he shows us as he interacts with the Navi.

Not details, but telling details. Details that make us care and have an emotional response to the characters and their situation.

Stick to the story and the reader will stick with you. How do you make sure you're using telling details?
Glutton for Punishment?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interview with Maria V. Snyder!

 Maria V. Snyder is the author of the acclaimed Poison Study (awesome book!) and the accompanying, equally awesome Magic Study, Fire Study and the related Glass series, the third of which, Spy Glass, will be coming out in September 2010. InsideOut, a young adult dystopian novel, came out in April 2010. Can I say she is prolific and celebrated? And she has been gracious enough to offer a FREE COPY of Inside Out to one of my readers, so don't forget to leave a comment and a link for additional chances to win it.

Let's bring her out. [Applause.]

KB: Maria, welcome to BookReadress and please have a seat. Have some water. No? Okay, I'll jump right into the questions. In your research for previous books, you've done glassblowing, food tasting, and learned to ride a horse. Your new YA book, Inside Out, opens with a girl crawling through duct work. Did you actually do that? I was especially curious because family members have worked cleaning industrial ducts, and I've seen how nasty they get! Do you take anybody along with you on your learning adventures?

MS: I didn’t crawl through any ducts for Inside Out, but I did climb a rock wall to get a sense of how difficult it is to scale a vertical surface. I usually go on my research/learning adventures by myself, but they have involved other people like my friend who taught me how to ride a horse.

KB: Your Poison Study and Glass series are pure fantasy, marketed to older teens and adults. Inside Out is a dystopian, and seems more directed squarely at teens. I love a good dystopian novel- so I'm not complaining, but I wondered if you have a master plan here, or if you get an idea and just go with it? How far out do you plan what your next project will be?

MS: I would like to have a master plan - that would save me a lot of trouble! Actually, I get an idea and go with it. Both the Study books and Glass books grew from one idea for one novel. Inside Out came to me from a dream. I usually know what my next two book projects are going to be and have a couple short stories to write. Right now, I’m finishing Outside In and then I have the go ahead to write another fantasy novel for older teens/adults about a healer. After that, it’s undecided – although I would like approval to write this urban science fiction YA set in today’s world that would be fun and different for me.

KB: You sold Poison Study without an agent, but have found an agent since then. What's the difference between your agented/unagented writing life? At what point do you take a new idea to your agent? Since Poison Study, have you run with an idea even though no one else 'got' it?

MS: There’s not much difference in my actual writing, but having an agent has helped me with revisions and when I get stuck. And I don’t worry about contract negotiations and any money issues as I leave that to my agent. I present many new ideas to my agent after I’ve run out of “approved” books. He sorts through them and sends the best to my editor. I’ve so many ideas, that I haven’t “run” with any that haven’t been approved by my editor. If there is one, I can try and sell it to another publisher before I spend the time to write it and then try to sell it. That is definitely one of the perks of being a published author with a good track record.

KB: Travel. Where are you going next? Where do you dream of visiting? Do you share my dream of hiking up Macchu Picchu in Peru?

MS: I just returned from a Baltic Sea cruise with my family. We spent a few days in Stockholm, Sweden and then boarded our cruise ship for Helsinki, Finland, St. Petersburg, Russia, Riga, Latvia, Gdansk, Poland and back to Stockholm. Lots of history, sights, museums, walking, cobblestones, heat, humidity and shopping – I need a vacation! My next trip is to Orlando, Florida for the national RWA conference and then to Los Angeles and San Diego, California for a promotional tour for my next release, Spy Glass.

I would love to go to Australia and New Zealand. My husband has actually been to Macchu Picchu when he was down in Peru for business and from what he says, I would love to go there as well. The Galapagos Islands is another place on my wish list.

KB: I'd love to go to the Galapagos, too. Now, Maria, we'll get into some of the tougher questions, questions that by their nature will make some of us squirm and try to justify our actions. Do you write by an outline or the seat of your pants? Has that always been the case?

MS: I’m a seat of the pants writer and have always been one.

KB: I knew it! I knew I wasn't the only one!

A-hem. Sorry. *sits down, quite demurely*

I saw on your blog that you went to Book Expo of America. How was it? Did you meet anyone that blew you away? Get any ARCs that you want to gush on?

MS: I always enjoy BEA – lots of like minded people (i.e. book lovers) and free books. Plus I have a chance to sit down with my editor and agent and talk business and where we’re headed in the next year. I met the Duchess of York, Sarah briefly – she didn’t blow me away, but it was fun to meet her. And since she was in the middle of a scandal, she looked really tired. I didn’t have much time to get ARCs, but my daughter snagged a signed advance limited edition of Cornelia Funke’s September release: Reckless. She’s my daughter’s favorite author. And my son got a signed copy of Rick Riordan’s latest book, The Red Pyramid. He’s my son’s favorite author. So they were both very happy.

KB: My son is completely jealous of your son's connections! Maybe one day, I will get a prize like that. That's what we aspiring authors dream about- autographed copies of books our kids want.

Like me, a lot of my blog readers are aspiring authors. Any warm, fuzzy advice? Any advice that's we might not exactly want to hear, but it's for our own good?

MS: My warm and fuzzy advice: it’s possible. Combine hard work with talent and persistence and it’s just a matter of time. Advice that’s hard to hear: it might take awhile to find a publisher for your book. And some books are just not publishable. But don’t give up, write another book and then another and send each one out to every single publisher who publishes your type of fiction before you put it aside. I also have a bunch of writing advice articles on my website at:

KB: Thank you so much for coming to BookReadress and meeting us. And congrats on the cover of Sea Glass winning the 2009 Annual Cover Contest in the Alternate Reality cover category. Isn't it beautiful? Seeing all of these beautiful covers makes me salivate.

Blog friends, leave a comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of Inside Out from Maria. The cutoff time is Friday, July 30, 2010 by midnight EST. Link to this post with whatever social media you prefer and leave a link in the comments so I can find it for additional chances to win (one additional chance per social media. So if you FB and Tweet it, you get your name in the hat three times.) I'll announce the winner on Monday August 2nd. Thanks!
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Presents and such

Today is my birthday and I got to thinking about presents and how I am the world's worst present giver. I think I'm afraid that it has to be this amazing gift that they'll treasure forever, I don't know. It's a lot of pressure, but I can't imagine it away. I even feel that pressure picking out Barbies for my daughter's friends. Will she love this Malibu Barbie FOREVER?

Art from
Cute, but there are some cruddy words on there, so now you're warned.

Has everybody on the planet read 'The Five Love Languages' yet? Good book. The theory is that different people express love and sense it in different ways: gift-giving, quality time, acts of service, physical touch and words of affirmation.

I am a quality timer, followed by words of affirmation. There have been very few presents that actually meant something to me, one exception from our first anniversary, my hubby put a jewelry box with little diamond earrings inside of a cake (chocolate on choclate, of course). I was digging in with the knife, trying to cut a piece and actually pierced the box. Nathan had to clue me in that it wasn't a really tough piece of cake, but that perhaps there was something hidden, you know, inside the cake. I teared up when I opened the box, but I think that's the only time I have.

Those earrings were eventually lost on the way back from my cousin's wedding and I have this suspicion that the baggage handlers helped lighten my suitcase. The point is, I lose jewelry. Books seem like a safe present to give me, but I rarely find a book that I love enough to want to buy it (although lots of books are worth reading, I am EXTREMELY picky about which ones I buy. Limited budget and shelf space are the main reasons.)

I was given a Barnes and Noble gift card for Christmas, and couldn't bear to spend it until I read the Hunger Games, but then I had no problem using it. I'd found a book worth the price. Thinking about it that way, I can understand why agents are so picky about what they represent. And I desperately hope that this kind of stinginess will not turn into book sales karma. 

The best present I have been given is to have the love and support of my family, especially my husband. My 9 year old has pretty much stopped asking me if I'm EVER going to be done with my book and my husband has changed from tolerating all the hours that I spend cozied up to my computer to encouraging me to write more. It is a special gift to have people believe in you, and I have been truly blessed. I apologize for the rambles. I tried to edit out them out, but then there would have been nothing left! But hey, it's my birthday!
Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Upcoming Interview with Maria Snyder, author of Poison Study and Inside Out

I'm so excited! Maria Snyder is coming to Book Readress! I've read many of Maria's books and love her strong heroines and magical worlds. Her young adult novel, Inside Out came out in April and she's offered an autographed copy to one of my readers! I'll post the interview next Wednesday, so come meet Maria and leave a comment for a chance to win! I think I need another sentence with an exclamation point!

Glutton for Punishment?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Charisma and Giant Bears

I love to flip through a book while eating dinner and last night it was "Touching Spirit Bear". I flipped to the back flap and was immediately in awe. Below various awards and publications was this line.

Ben lives in a log cabin near Bozeman, Montana, with a 750 pound black bear that he adopted and has raised for the last twenty five years.

And a picture similar to this one, which I found on the author's website.

I'm feeling a bit boring. All I've done is get married young and have some babies! Maybe I can raise albino alligators or live with wolves for a year. Otherwise all I'll have to recommend me is my writing.
Glutton for Punishment?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Airing Dirty Laundry

Hey there blog friends! We are back from our tour of Arizona and Southern Utah and I just wanted to check in. What is your family up to this summer? Anything you want to share in the comments below?

The books on CD from the library were great, but I'd suggest checking for scratches before you pack them. We couldn't listen to 'A Wrinkle in Time' because it was damaged.

And we started Kira-Kira, but got a few surprises! That book talks about older sisters showing their boobs to boys and has a few curse words in it, although said with a Southern accent, so it was partly obscured, but my kids speak Southern! So make sure you know what you're listening to before it goes in everyone's ears.

I was glad we had all the Magic Tree House books to fall back on.

The family plus my niece (her head is hidden behind Emma's)

I have a tip for feeling loved by your fellow travellers, works every time.

We were at this park in Oklahoma on our drive back (they had a herd of buffalo and a lake, so we stopped and at some pb and j's) and my youngest pooped his pants. I know, that goes against my no-potty-training-anecdotes-on-the-writing-blog rule, but bear with me. When all was cleaned up, I had a bag of really nasty, stinky clothes, so we stuffed these in a plastic grocery bag, tied it to the handle inside my back hatch and shut the hatch. Perfect. The bag was secure and outside the car.

We're rolling down the highway, I'm using another wipe to make sure my hands are really really clean, and this car pulls up next to us, honking and waving (the car, not the people inside. It was very exciting). They want us to know we have a bag on our bumper. We wave, and thank them. Next a guy with a legal pad emblazoned with 'BAG ON BUMPER' does the same. We smile and thank him. We stop to eat dinner, and when we're leaving Taco Pronto, this guy sprints after our car, yelling at us to stop and we explained that there was a real smelly mess in the bag, and it's tied on, everything's fine. 

We had close to twenty people tell us about the bag, and each instance made us laugh hysterically. It felt like we were engaged in some kind of bizarre social experiment. Anyhow, those midwesterners sure are nice. I'm wondering if we would get the same response in New Jersey or Miami. Hmm. 

Now back to work!   

My brave explorers at the Navajo Bridge in the Vermilion Cliffs.
Note the arrowhead necklace pulled up over Eli's ears.
And I just noticed all the silly bands. I love these guys. 

Glutton for Punishment?