Friday, January 28, 2011

First Grave on the Right -- Darynda Jones Takes the Writing World by Storm

In 2009, Darynda Jones won the Paranormal Category for FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT in RWA's prestigious Golden Heart. Since that time, she's secured a three-book contract from St. Martin's Press, published a YA, and received accolades from numerous bestselling authors. How did she do it? By creating a protagonist who's out of this world. Five Scribe Readers, I'd like you to meet Charley Davidson, part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper. J.R. Ward writes, "The best debut novel I've read in years! Hilarious and heartfelt, sexy and surprising...I'm begging for the next one!!" I can't say it better, so I won't even try. Please welcome Darynda Jones.

D.B.: Darynda! Welcome, and thanks for the Advanced Reader Copy! With the popularity of vampires, werewolves and wizards, what inspired a grim reaper as a protagonist?

D.J.: Thank you so much for having me!!! And the only thing that inspired me to write a grim reaper was desperation. As an aspiring writer trying to catch New York's eye, I wanted something different, something that would grab an agent's and editor's attention. Thankfully, Charley did just that.

D.B.: She did indeed! Speaking of Charley, she's so multi-dimensional I feel like could invite her out for margaritas. Her sarcasm drives the story, but so does her compassion, her love for family and her need for justice. She's such an amazing protagonist whose job it is to help dead people cross. And sometimes when they have unfinished business, Charley ends up solving their murders, plus that woman ends up in one scrape after another. How difficult was Charley to create? Also, in what way is she like Darynda Jones, and how is she different? (excluding of course that Charley's a grim reaper;))?

D.J.: Charley came from so many different places. From people I know to characters I've read about and seen in movies. I wanted a heroine whose flaws made her lovable, whose supposed lack of compassion made her true nature even more endearing, whose quirky habits were fun without making her TSTL. I must admit, she is very much like me in two ways: her ability to see the cup half full and her near-debilitating ADD.

D.B.: In this case, I would say ADD served both of you well. I noticed immediately your gift for characterization. For creating both the living and the dead. Love that Cookie [Charley's assistant] couldn't complete a sentence without a coffee cup in her hand; Mr. Wong, a dead guy who refuses to cross simply hovers in Charley's apartment facing the corner as though in a perpetual time out. Then there's Charley's Uncle Bob, who has this amazing solve rate in the Albuquerque Police Department, thanks to Charley's ability to commune with the dead. Do characters just come to you as you create, or do you outline character sketches? Do you consider yourself a panster or a plotter?

D.J.: While I'm a plotter through-and-through, oddly enough, I never create character sketches. So that part of my writing process, the character development part, is purely a panster trait. They just pop into my head and jump onto the page. Sometimes, I do have to hold them back or mold them into something they don't really want to be, but for the most part, what you see is what you get. I love books where I fall just as much in love with the peripheral characters as I do the main ones. That makes a fun, well-rounded book, IMHO.

D.B.: I heartily agree. You also write fantastic sexual tension and emotional sex scenes. I also have to tell you that Reyes Alexander Farrow is about the sexiest creature I've had the pleasure to read. I put him in the same category as J.D. Robb's Roarke as far as sex appeal. I loved how you showed Charley his past and how he came to align with hers. That was breathtaking writing with a very satisfying conclusion. Will you talk to us about Reyes and how you created him? And I take it he will be a big part of Charley Davidson books?

D.J.: First of all, thank you so much! Reyes will definitely play a pivotal role in Charley's life. I have to admit, I have a weakness for tortured, brooding heroes. I love them. Can't get enough of them. But they also have to have a pretty darned good reason for being that way. When Reyes formed in my mind, I envisioned a man haunted not by one past, but by two. A man driven and desperate and reckless. Charley is like air to him, like a salve to tame the wild beast. And it helps that he's super hot.

D.B.: Oh, yeah, he is. Besides sexual tension, this book exudes tremendous emotional depth, and yet it is filled with wit and humor. I found myself thinking about how difficult it must be to pull that off for 310 pages. Are you intrinsically funny/sarcastic? What happens if you don't feel particularly funny on certain days? How do you psyche yourself out to write? And now that you're facing deadlines, how is that affecting you?

D.J.: Oddly enough, while I find myself hilarious, those around me often don't. And if sarcasm were a mountain, I'd be Mt. Everest. I'm sarcastic at the most inappropriate times. A trait my family doesn't always appreciate. But life's too short to take seriously. You aren't going to win.

Still, there are days when I don't feel particularly funny. When everything I write is poop. Not a lot I can do about it but keep writing and hope tomorrow is better. I have found that the more I write, the easier the humor flows. I hardly have to think about it anymore. I just finished book three of the Charley Davidson series, and while writing is never easy, the humor was much more attainable.

And right now, the only thing deadlines do is force me to actually finish what I started in a decent amount of time. I have a process. I don't mess with it. I just go through the steps that much faster. I feel very fortunate to be able to say that, by the way.

D.B.: You wrote this story in first person. Did you experiment with third, or did first person simply lend itself to your voice? How long did it take you to write FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT? Have you written other novels? If so, what is their status?

D.J.: I felt like this story demanded I write it from Charley's POV. I wanted us to see her internal thoughts, her random musings and her constant battle with ADD that makes her quirky personality shine. I'd actually written one other manuscript in first person, a young adult called GRIMSIGHT that has also sold to St. Martin's. That one I experimented with. I wrote the entire thing in third person, realized it just didn't work, then went back, and rewrote the whole thing in first. I do not in any way, shape or form recommend doing this. Figure out what the story calls for and go from there. It was much harder than I'd anticipated.

The first manuscript I wrote took me four months. It was over 400 pages long. Yet First Grave took me almost two years. I'd started it then put it aside for over a year. Why? I'd done the unthinkable. I'd messed with my process. I'd tried to change my writerly ways. Learned a valuable lesson. When I went back to it, I basically started from scratch, did all my bizarre little outlines, then picked up where I left off. I have written five manuscripts so far. Three in the Charley Davidson series, the one YA that will be an April 2012 release, which I wrote many years ago, and my first manuscript, a historical romance that will never see the light of day.

D.B.: LOL, Love your "not recommended" quote. Hear that, Readers? Get it right the first time, and if you have a process that works, don't mess with it;) Great advice all around, Darynda, and don't be so sure about that historical romance. Now that you've developed a series, does it feel easier that you have your main characters in place? How many months will there be between books? And are you in the process of setting up book signings?

D.J.: I would love to say yes, it is easier, but it has actually proven quite a bit harder. There is a certain trick to bringing in the same characters book after book, offering pertinent details from earlier books for new readers while not boring previous readers to tears. I am still learning, and, thank god, I have an editor like Jennifer Enderlin. She is amazing. And patient. Very, very patient.

Right now, the books are being released six months apart. I'm not sure what the future will hold in that regard, however, I am setting up book signings and will not have a free Saturday for quite sometime. LOL. And actually, book signings terrify me. I've considered hiring an actor to play me, but that would probably be expensive.

Probably so, plus your fans would know and be disappointed. You place FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT in Albuquerque. Since I'm from the Land of Enchantment, it was like sitting down with an old friend. You know the court system and police procedure. What kind of background do you have, and what kind of research did you do to write this book? Are people in Albuquerque excited about the series?

D.J: I've had a terrific response from my fellow New Mexicans. I love NM with a firey passion, and the people are wonderful. Unfortunately, I don't have any cool law-enforcement accolades on my resume, unless you count that sociology class I took in college on deviant behavior. Though as a sign language interpreter, I do pick up a lot. Basically, I did tons of research and went to a couple of law-enforcement workshops. One was a chapter meeting in which the State Medical Examiner spoke. That was a real eye-opener. I learned so much and got to see a real autopsy. I've never been the same. I also read books on police procedure and private investigations as well as keep a couple of friends in law enforcement on speed dial. Oh, and I watched a few episodes of Magnum P.I. That was hard. :)

D.B.: Thanks for going the Tom-Selleck-extra mile for us ;). In FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, you mention that Charley is "a" Grim Reaper. I'm curious if she will meet other Grim Reapers in future novels. Personally, I can't wait to see how the Big Bad plays into all this. You have set up quite a cliffhanger for book two. Without giving too much of the plot away, an obstacle stands in Charley's and Reyes' way. Further, I don't see how you can develop a happily ever after. Do you have one in mind, or is this still to be determined. What a nail biter you left for your readers!

D.J.: It's funny you should mention the grim reaper status, because my editor actually had me pick. Is Charley "a" grim reaper or "the" grim reaper? I decided to go with "the" for the moment. But who knows what lies down the road?

And happily ever after for Reyes and Charley will be a long time coming, but there are definitely happy moments, some hotter than others. Let's just say that book one barely scratches the surfaces of all the obstacles they will face. I take the torture of my characters seriously. LOL.

Sheesh, there's no way in **** I won't pick up book 2. Finally, I loved the way you came up with your title of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT. There was such poignancy in this book, and I think readers are going to adore your storytelling (says the interviewer who had people looking over my shoulder on an airplane, because I was laughing so hard.) Speaking of Book Two, what's its name?

D.J.: I'm so glad! But I have to admit, I didn't get the title from the book. Quite the vice versa, actually. I made sure I worked the title into the book. I like doing that. Book two is called SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT, and three is THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD.

D.B.: Your promo and marketing department sound like a savvy, 100 percent-behind-you bunch. Since Five Scribes is a blog for writers, do you have any advice you'd like to share? Any advice that has been particularly helpful to you in your writing career?

D.J.: First and foremost, believe in yourself. Then, get your butt in the chair and write. That character isn't going to torture herself.

DB: Well, there you have it! Darynda, it's been a pleasure! I'm so excited about this series debut. I know readers will be, too. Readers, Darynda Jones would like to give away a copy of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT. All you need to do is question or comment, leaving us with your e-mail address or a way to reach you, of course. We'll draw the winner on Friday night, February 4th. To learn more about Darynda Jones, check out her website at


It's a Great Time to be a Reader -- er or a Listener

I just finished a road trip with my daughter, Audra (Audie) not to be confused with Five Scribes blogger and author Audra Harders. In a case of true role reversal, my daughter knowing how much I hate to travel by car, surprised me with one of my favorite author's. As we began our trek, she slipped in Daniel Silva's THE REMBRANT AFFAIR into the CD player, and off we went beginning our travels from Seattle to Colorado Springs.

At first, I was like a petulant two year old. Let's face it, when we read, our minds form the voices of these characters. I had it firmly set in my head what Gabriel Allon sounded like as well as Chiara, Ari Shamron, and the rest of Silva's fantastic secondary characters. When you listen to books on tape, the narrator is on his own. He's the narrator, the protagonist, the antagonist, each and every secondary character in the book, including the females. It does take some getting used to.

However, by the end of the first CD, I was hooked. Phil Gigante, the narrator of more than 70 audio books, and an accomplished actor, according to his bio, had me hanging on every word just as I do when I'm flipping through one of Daniel Silva's novels. Brilliance Audio did an amazing job of bringing THE REMBRANT AFFAIR to life.

In between breaks on our journey, I thought about the luxuries and advantages readers enjoy today. People have choices, whether to buy the bound book for their shelves or their e-readers. People who suffer from macular degeneration or other disabilities can listen to books on tape, or like me, during a tedious drive, can escape into a fantastic novel. It's truly a great time to be a reader or a listener as it were.

So how about you? Do you enjoy books on tapes, do you have a Kindle, a Nook or other e-reader? Or are you a dyed in the wool confirmed "hold a book in your hands" type?

I guess, thanks to my daughter, I'm evolving after all. I'm falling in love with all three--a book in my hands, I now own a Kindle, and I'll never hesitate to listen to a book on tape again.

Happy Reading & Listening.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Romance & YA Writers, St Martin's Press Editor Wants Your Best Books!

Holly Blanck is the final judge for The Sandy writing contest (Deadline 2/13/11) AND is attending The Crested Butte Writers Conference June 17-19, 2011. Check her out!

Interview with Holly Blanck

Bio: As an Assistant Editor at St. Martin’s Press, Holly is acquiring both adult commercial fiction and young adult novels for all parts of the list and for all formats. Her current authors include Ellie James, Gina Robinson, Diane Kelly and Manda Collins. Holly graduated from Ramapo College of New Jersey and began her publishing career at BookEnds Literary Agency.

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?

    Answer: I acquire both adult commercial fiction and young adult novels for all parts of the list and for all formats. I’m actively looking for all areas of romance, strong commercial women’s fiction, urban fantasy and humor. On the young adult side, dark, edgy, issue-driven novels are definitely a passion of mine.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: I prefer a synopsis to be no longer than 5 pages. I have a personal love for 1.5 spacing. J (though I generally don’t care about the spacing of the synopsis)

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: I’m sick to death of vampires and damsels in distress. I’d much rather a strong, kick-ass heroine with a sense of humor. J On the paranormal side, I am completely into zombies at the current moment, and am reading anything zombie-related I can get my hands on. I’d like to see more of anything that has a strong, fresh hook.

  1. What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
    read? What particularly grabs your attention?

    Answer: Strong narrative voice and vibrant characters are extremely important to me. I want to become emotionally invested in the world and the characters. I want to FEEL something as I’m reading. I want to think about the story, the world, and the characters when I’m not reading, and to be itching to be back in the story. What really grabs my attention is when an author has the ability to really suck me out of reality and I’m so into what I’m reading that I look up to realize that I’ve missed my subway stop, or hours have flown by without my noticing.

  1. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?
    1. Voice - terminal
    2. Weak Grammar – it really depends HOW weak.
    3. Common plot – if it has potential, I will absolutely offer advice and ask to see a revision if they decide to go that route.
    4. Poor character development – again, depends HOW poor.
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) – controversy is NEVER an auto-reject for me. I will work with an author to make it work for the right market.
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing – Usually terminal.
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing - fixable
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building – I would be willing to look at a revision, but it would have to be an extensive one if these elements are missing.
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow – fixable as long as the plot is intriguing.
    10. Story starts in wrong spot – I’m not sure about this one. It would really be a case by case basis…
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory – fixable
    12. Other

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: Unfortunately as much as I love meeting authors face-to-face, the only thing that really changes is the rejection process. My response time goes by first come-first served, and agents do get priority over unagented submissions. However, I am more likely to offer a more personalized rejection if I’ve discussed the story with the author already.

  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: Willingness to work together to make a story the best it can be, no matter how much work is required. Open-mindedness. Knowledge of the publishing industry is always helpful, as are affiliations to groups such as RWA, but they are not make-or-break material.

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Publishing-wise? When authors have clearly not done their research.

Otherwise, I can’t stand when people use the word “like” as every other word when they are speaking…It makes me want to punch them. LOL J

  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Cherry chapstick

  1. What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: Travel the world. J

  1. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: “Life is too short to be anything but happy.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Now that I'm done....

I'm done with school! I graduated last week, and after three years of hard work, I'm ready to party.

But I need your help. What have I missed in the last three years? I read a lot during school, but my focus was pretty narrow, and now I want to broaden my view once again.My focus has been on urban fantasy, romance classics, and horror, but if you think I might have missed a book/series even in one of those genres, let me know!

One random commenter will win a copy of Allison Pang's A Brush of Darkness (because she rocks!). I'll draw a name at the end of the weekend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Fiction Book Deals From Publisher's Weekly

For several months I've invested in a subscription to Publisher's Weekly so that I could research agents and editors for The Sandy and for the Crested Butte Writers Conference. It gives all kinds of valuable industry information on who is working for whom, contact info, and what they're acquiring.

Only catch is it's $20/month. I'm about to cancel my subscription--at least until I need to find editors and agents for next year, however it occurred to me that you guys might enjoy seeing the kinds of books that are being bought now--last week's deals reported by Publisher's Weekly. Sorry I didn't think to share these weekly reports months ago, but take a look at the stuff below. It shows what types of stories are being bought, it has brief pitches of them and which agents and editors are doing the deals. Very interesting market info for the experienced writer looking for a home.



Nora Zelevansky's THE PFEFFERNOOSE CHRONICLES, a humorous and touching tale of a directionless college student who against her will is sucked into the wildly opulent and magical vortex of a charismatic socialite, to Dan Weiss at St. Martin's, in a two-book deal, by Anne Bohner at Pen and Ink Literary (World).

Bennington MFA grad Megan Mayhew Bergman's BIRDS OF A LESSER PARADISE, a story collection in which women's choices and relationships are shaped by the menace and beauty of the natural world, exploring the ways we rely on each other, and on animals, for protection and love, featuring stories which have won awards from Zoetrope, Narrative, and Glimmer Train, to Samantha Martin at Scribner, at auction, for publication in 2012, by Julie Barer at Barer Literary (NA).

BookCourt bookseller and blogger Adam Wilson's FLATSCREEN, to Michael Signorelli at Harper Perennial, for publication in 2012, by Erin Hosier of the Dunow, Carlson & Lerner.

Bonnie Paulson's WHISPERS OF ME, in which a woman finds that suicide slams one door, but running from trauma opens another to love, to Angela James at Carina Press, for publication in Summer 2011, by Rachelle Gardner at WordServe Literary Group.


Janet Lee Barton's SOONER SUNSET, the follow-up to her SOONER SUNRISE, in which love is lost (and found) during the Oklahoma Land Rush, to JoAnne Simmons at Barbour, for publication in Fall 2011, by Chip MacGregor at MacGregor Literary.


New York Times Notable author of books including BLIND SUBMISSION and THE GRIFT, Debra Ginsberg's WHAT THE HEART REMEMBERS, a novel of psychological suspense centering on the unlikely - and dangerous - friendship between two young women: a wealthy young widow, and the recent recipient of a heart transplant, who are drawn together by forces they don't understand; neither woman is who she appears on the surface; and as their complicated friendship deepens, so too do their secrets and lies, to Danielle Perez at NAL/Signet, by Nancy Yost of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency (world English).

Law and Order: SVU executive producer Neal Baer's KILL SWITCH, a series featuring a female forensic psychiatrist who joins with a former police officer to look for a former patient turned serial killer, written with co-executive producer Jonathan Greene, a co-exec producer on the series, to Kensington, in a three-book deal, by Lydia Wills at Paradigm.

Darcy Scott's MATINICUS, the lobster wars on the tiny island of Matinicus off the coast of Maine are the setting for this strange and frightening tale of murder, both past and present, to Jeremy Townsend at Publishing Works, in a nice deal, for publication in March 2012 (World).

Author of CODE BLUE and MEDICAL ERROR Richard Mabry, MD's LETHAL REMEDY, in which a doctor finds that a highly touted miracle drug is attacking more than just bacteria, to Barbara Scott at Abingdon Press, for publication in 2012, by Rachelle Gardner at WordServe Literary Group.


Eldritch John Joseph Adams's THE BOOK OF CTHULHU, a reprint anthology featuring stories from the most popular and respected authors in the field, to Jeremy Lassen at Night Shade Books, in a nice deal, for publication in Fall 2011, by Joe Monti at Barry Goldblatt Literary (World English).


New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger's next two novels following the forthcoming Darkness, My Old Friend and another thriller in 2012, to John Glusman at Crown, by Elaine Markson at Markson Thoma (world).

Jaden Terrell's debut RACING THE DEVIL, featuring a private investigator, who has a son with Down Syndrome, a best friend with AIDS, an ex-wife he can't fall out of love with, and a weakness for women in jeopardy (until one frames him for murder), and A CUP FULL OF MIDNIGHT, to Martin Shepard at The Permanent Press, for publication in January 2012 and February 2012, by Jill Marr at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency (World).


ALWAYS THE BAKER, NEVER THE BRIDE author Sandra Bricker's ALWAYS THE WEDDING PLANNER, NEVER THE BRIDE; ALWAYS THE FASHIONISTA, NEVER THE BRIDE; and ALWAYS THE BAKER, FINALLY THE BRIDE, to Barbara Scott and Ramona Richards at Abingdon Press, in a nice deal, for publication through 2012, by Rachelle Gardner at WordServe Literary Group.

Saachi Green's LESBIAN COPS: Erotic Investigations, to Brenda Knight at Cleis Press, in a nice deal, for publication in April 2011 (World).

Cynthia Thomason's WINNING IT ALL, where one man's return to his southern home town as the new high school football coach brings back painful memories for the girl who loved him and threatens to reveal her long held secrets, to Charles Griemsman at Harlequin Special Editions, by Kevan Lyon at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (World).

DiAnn Mills's PRIME TIME, in which a news anchor is recruited to join the FBI by another agent; she is eager to help solve a case that she reported on during her news days, but she has no idea that the man guilty of the crime has held a grudge against her since she covered the story, and THE TIE THAT BINDS, to Sue Brower at Zondervan, for publication in April 2012, by Janet Kobobel Grant at Books & Such Literary Agency.


Eva Stachniak's THE WINTER PALACE and THE EMPIRE OF THE NIGHT, about Catherine the Great of Russia, to Kate Miciak at Delacorte, for publication in 2012 and 2013, by Helen Heller at Helen Heller Agency (US).

The follow-up to the debut novel HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE, Margaret Dilloway's THE ROSE OF GALILEE, about a solitary amateur botanist who's on the path to perfecting a new breed of rose has her world turned upside down when her wayward niece comes to visit her, to Marysue Rucci at Putnam, for publication in 2012, by Elaine Markson at Markson Thoma.

Stand-up comic and author of FOLLOWING POLLY, Karen Bergreen's PERFECT IS OVERRATED, featuring an imperfect mother who works through her own post-partum depression by finding out who's killing the alpha-Mommies in town, to Elizabeth Beier at St. Martin's, by Victoria Skurnick at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency (NA).

Author of Smilla's Sense of Snow, Peter H√łeg's THE ELEPHANT KEEPERS' CHILDREN, about three siblings and their eccentric parents who have gone missing, as told from the perspective of a precocious 14-year-old and set on a fictional island where people of all faiths co-exist, to Judith Gurewich at Other Press, by Sofie Voller of the Gyldendal Group Agency (NA).

Winner of Le Prix Femina 2010, Patrick Lapeyre's LIFE IS SHORT AND DESIRE ENDLESS, which explores the inexhaustible, ineluctable suffering of love through the story of two men and the woman they both love, to Judith Gurewich at Other Press, by Vibeke Madsen at P.O.L Editeur (world English).

Gemma Burgess's UNION STREET, the first in a series of novels about a group of young women living together in a brownstone in hip, downtown Brooklyn, and trying to figure out love, life, and adulthood, to Dan Weiss at St. Martin's, in a three-book deal, by Jill Grinberg at Grinberg Literary Management on behalf of Laura Longrigg of MBA Literary Agents.

Sarah Rayner's ONE MOMENT, ONE MORNING, the story of three women's lives-and the way they become inextricably linked -- following a tragedy on a commuter train, to Lisa Senz at St. Martin's, with Sara Goodman editing, by Vivien Green at New Island in association with Valerie Borchardt (US).

Author of The Writing on my Forehead and finalist for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award, Nafisa Haji's THE SWEETNESS OF TEARS, in which a young Christian woman uncovers the secret her mother has been keeping from her: that her biological father is Muslim; on a journey from California to Pakistan and Iraq, she must find a way to reconcile her faith with family secrets and the role political culture can take in our lives to find compassion and love, again to Laurie Chittenden at William Morrow, by BJ Robbins at BJ Robbins Literary Agency (World).

Audrey Schulman's THREE WEEKS IN DECEMBER, two interconnected stories of two Americans who have taken on dangerous, fraught missions in Africa for idealistic reasons, to Kent Carroll at Europa, in a nice deal, for publication in 2012, by Richard Parks at the Richard Parks Agency (world English and Italian).

Mitzi Szereto's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: Hidden Lusts, in which Mr. Darcy has never been more devilish and the seemingly chaste Elizabeth never more turned on, the entire cast of characters from Austen's classic are here in this rewrite that goes all the way, to Brenda Knight at Cleis Press, in a nice deal, for publication in July 2011 (World).

Children's: Middle grade

Robin Mellom's THE CLASSROOM, pitched as MODERN FAMILY for middle graders, in which a documentary crew descends on Westside Middle School to chronicle the life of a seventh grader and epic worrier, and his classmates, to Christian Trimmer at Disney-Hyperion, in a six-figure deal, in a 4-book deal, for publication in Summer 2012 by Jill Corcoran at The Herman Agency (world English).

Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrator Suzanne DeSimone's MY PRINCESS BOY, a mom's story about a young boy who loves to dress up, the challenges he faces, and the family that supports him no matter who he becomes or what he chooses to wear, to Bethany Buck at Simon & Schuster Children's, with Fiona Simpson editing, by David Vigliano and David Peak at Vigliano Associates.

Children's: Young Adult

Debra Driza's debut, a three-book sci-fi thriller series, to Claudia Gabel at Katherine Tegen Books, in a very nice deal, by Taylor Martindale at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

THE CABINET OF WONDERS author Marie Rutkoski's ME AND THE SHADOW SOCIETY, when a mysterious boy arrives at her high school, a girl discovers that she is not human and that her parents were terrorists in an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn't happen, to Janine O'Malley at Farrar, Straus Children's, in a very nice deal, for publication in Fall 2012, by Charlotte Sheedy (NA).

Writer/comedian and I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR BAND: WHAT I LEARNED FROM INDIE ROCKERS, TRUST FUNDERS, PORNOGRAPHERS, FELONS, FAUX-SENSITIVE HIPSTERS, AND OTHER GUYS I'VE DATED author Julie Klausner's debut young adult novel, MUSES, the story of a fifteen-year old visual artist, set at a performing arts camp for girls, which despite its pristine, competitive exterior, is host to lewd summers filled with back-stabbing, back-rubbing, and heady nymphet/instructor affairs, to Cindy Eagan at Poppy, by Scott Mendel at Mendel Media Group (NA).

Mitchell Kriegman and Lisa Daly's BEING AUDREY HEPBURN, the story of a 19-year-old New Jersey teen from a broken home who is mistaken for a debutante when she wears an Audrey Hepburn dress (yes, THAT little black dress!) to an event at the Met; in order to fit into high society she then immerses herself in Hepburn's films so she can better pull off the charade, resulting in a journey toward finding herself, to Brendan Deneen at Thomas Dunne Books, in a two-book deal, by Kenneth Wright and Barbara Marcus at Writers House for Kriegman; Stephany Evans at FinePrint for Daly (NA).

Heather Burch's HALFLINGS TRILOGY, hunted by men and demons, a seventeen-year-old entrusts her life to three half-human, half-angel young men; the halflings are sworn to protect her at all costs, but when two fall for Nikki, it's puts more then their lives in danger; their very eternal souls hang in the balance, to Jacque Alberta at Zondervan Children's, in a three-book deal, for publication in 2012, by Jennifer Schober at Spencerhill Associates (world).

Friday, January 14, 2011

POV Violations

Some Point of view (POV) changes are disruptive and obvious, others are subtle and debatable. It’s the ones that deal with actions that I have trouble with. In the 6 examples below, we are supposed to always be in Skye’s POV. Which ones would you consider POV problems?

For example in #1, do you believe Skye can be aware of her eyes popping wide as she stares at her boss, or is this something another would be observing about her? What are your thoughts about the following examples?


1) “Dear Darlene?” Skye’s eyes popped wide as she stared at her boss. An advice column?

2) An indulgent smile lifted her lips as she crossed her arms and stared at her sleeping sister.

3) Her scowl deepened.

4) Skye’s face crumpled into lines of disgust.

5) Her eyes widened.

6) Faith opened her mouth as if to explain, but then frowned and changed her mind.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mind over Matter

"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired...You've always got to make the mind take over and keep going."

~ George S. Patton, U.S. Army General and 1912 Olympian

Friday, January 7, 2011

Underline or Italicize--Is Either Wrong?

My judges for The Sandy constantly correct authors over whether it is proper to underline or italicize words intended to be emphasized. Is one or the other really correct?

I suspect it's a stylistic preference that agents and editors really couldn't care less about. If it's not done the way they prefer at their publishing house, the copy editor will correct it. I've never heard of an agent or editor rejecting a wonderful story because the author didn't know this picayune point of grammar.

What do you guys think?

Monday, January 3, 2011


What a great way to start 2011!  We've been talking about personal power, losing it, and using it.

Nancy takes this a step further as she guides us to finding the power we already own, and how to NOT lose it.
Additionally, she's offfering a $10 Barnes and Noble gift card to one lucky "commentor" (I know that's not a word, but it works.)

 So POWER ON with Nancy Haddock.
Happy 2011! Hope you celebrated the New Year safely and in good health, and I thank LA for inviting me to be with you today!

Let’s dive into our topic: Personal Power. For the record, this is no soft and lofty concept, nor is it a magic pill waiting for you to find and pop it. Like a writer’s unique voice, personal power is purely and profoundly you. No matter how you change or what your circumstances, personal power is always there, and yes, it does evolve as you do!
Ready to identify, take, and hold your power?

Snag a standard sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. Neatness is optional in this exercise, and I encourage you to write anywhere at any angle on the paper as we go along. Also, let go of what you might be but perhaps aren’t (yet), and embrace all that you are! Here we go!

 Identifying Your Personal Power

 1. Write the words “My Power” on your paper.
  • Look at where and how you’ve written those words.
  • Are they in capital letters?
  • Are they neatly arranged at the top of the page, or are they splashed boldly across the middle?
  • Cursive or print?
It doesn’t matter, but pay attention for a moment to how you wrote “My Power.” You may want to change it later.

Now you’re going to identify your powers. For the sake of ease, we’ll categorize powers into body, mind, spirit, and personality. As you begin thinking about your attributes and interests, skills and talents, record them no matter what “step” you’re doing. Write fast without editing or second guessing yourself.   Shine your light!

2. Powers of the Body.
  • Begin by recording your hair and eye color. Is your hair curly, wavy, straight?
  • Are you tall, short, of medium height?
  • Do you have good vision? Good hearing? Good senses of taste, smell, touch?
  • Have good posture? Have healthy teeth, hair, nails, skin?
  • Are you comfortable in your skin?
  • Healthy? Fit? Athletic? Limber? Can you pick up a pencil with your toes?
  • Are you smoke-free? Caffeine-free? Gluten-free?
Record every single body-related attribute you possess, no matter how insignificant it might seem.

3. Powers of the Mind.
  • Include intellect, common sense, wit, memory, and education in the broad sense.
  • Do you hold one or more degrees? Are you self-educated? Are you widely-read?
  • Are you organized? Are you analytical, or do you make logic leaps, or both?
  • Do you have a lively sense of humor? A dry wit?
  • Are you inquisitive? Do you enjoy word play, puzzles, codes, solving mysteries? Do you like to know how and why things work?
  • Are you more math or language oriented?
  • Do you have a great memory for events, details, what you read or hear?
Write down every attribute of your mental prowess that springs to mind.

4. Okay, now for your Powers of Spirit.  And this is a broad category.
  • Are you spiritual? Do you embrace specific religious beliefs? Do you pray or meditate or both?
  • Are you kind, considerate, caring? Do you ever let people go before you in a check out line?
  • Do you like making people laugh in a way that lifts both your spirits?
  • Do you send cards just because, sincerely congratulate others?
  • Does spending time in nature, or with children, or with animals feed something in your soul?
  • Do you think green?
Whatever you perceive your Powers of Spirit to be, record them.

6. Time for your Powers of Personality.
  • Are you friendly? Do you make acquaintances easily?
  • Do you have a positive, glass-half-full outlook?
  • When bad things happen, do you look for the lesson without blaming others?
  • Are you the life of the party or do you have more fun listening and observing?
  • Are you a dreamer? An inventor? An innovator?
  • Are you meticulous and neat? Are you a planner, or are you more spontaneous?
  • Are you determined, persistent, pragmatic, frugal?
Whatever you see as your personality traits, note them.
As you’ve continued this exercise, more attributes in all the categories may have occurred to you. That’s great! Write them on your paper. Record everything that pops to mind, because these are not just words. You are identifying all the facets of you that make up your personal power.

Taking Your Personal Power

I hope you’re now thinking, “Why do I have to take my power if it’s already me?”

Kudos!   You don’t have to take your power, but you do want to consciously, deliberately own it.

This part of the exercise is going to sound goofy, but please indulge me.

1. Take your Power Paper in hand.

2. Now hold it to your chest.

3. Take at least three long, deep breaths and imagine your power entering your heart and flowing through your blood stream to each cell. Infuse yourself with the knowing that you are your power.

Finished? Okay, here’s Part Three of our lesson.

 Holding Your Personal Power

1. Fold your paper and toss it over your shoulder.

2. Did you just throw your power away?

Eeeks, you did!   How did that feel?

In understanding what our true personal power is, we’re less likely to trash it, forget it, or give it to someone who doesn’t know what it is, doesn’t know what to do with it, and probably doesn’t want it in the first place.

How can you know when you’re giving your power away? A huge red flag is blaming others. The truth is that very few people in the world are vested in holding you back, so remember the powers of you and forge on!

 Using Your Personal Power

You already use many of your personal powers, but perhaps without awareness. That’s okay, but when life happens, it can lead to feeling overwhelmed and impotent.

Using your powers consciously and deliberately breeds confidence and even more power! Let’s look at a few examples of giving up your power versus using it.

You get a rejection letter in which the editor says your plot or characters are weak. Do you blame the editor for having a wrong professional opinion?
  • Okay, you might while you give yourself grousing time, but then what? If you continue the blame game, you’ll get nowhere. If you instead take a second look at the critique and add plot and character dimension, you’ve used your powers of analysis and revision skills to strengthen your work. You may not sell to the critiquing editor, but you have done your job as a writer – you’ve sharpened your book.
Here’s an example of acquiring a power you want but may not now have.
  • When I sold, I was reasonably prepared for what being a published author would entail – at least in a theoretical sense. However, my knowledge of marketing and promotion sucked. Did I fret? Not for long! I found classes on branding, on creating a marketing plan, and on book promotion. I asked questions and weighed advice. I examined my finances and personality to decide what I was comfortable spending and what I was willing to do to promote my books.
In the end, I achieved the goal to educate myself and be able to promote my books, and I now list “able to promote” as a personal power.

All right, my friends, one last thing.  Have another look at how you wrote your name on your paper. Did you write it in a way that reflects your level of empowerment? If not, write your name again - but leave the original. It will remind you of how you've just expanded your perception of your personal power!
If you have questions, please ask away. If you have comments, I’d love to read them. Meantime, power on, power up, and power through the year 2011 … and far beyond!

Thanks Nancy!!  Awesome way to approach one's own power.   I know I have questions!  And I've already started my list. 

Nancy is giving away a $10 B&N gift card to one reader who leaves a comment or question. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator, so comment multiple times if you like.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rocky Mountain Hero by Audra Harders

Just bought Rocky Mountain Hero by fellow Five Scribes Author, Audra Harders. Can't wait to read it. Maybe she'll grant me an interview.

Congratulations, Audra!