Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The In-Between

I just recently turned in a manuscript to my agent for what I hope is her approval, and then for what I hope is soon to be a submission. I have a few ideas on the side that I could tinker around with, but I kind so stink at the in-between.

You know, that time period when you've completed one project, but may still need to tweak it, so you're not sure if you should start a new project or just "enjoy" the downtime. I say "enjoy" because I never really do enjoy it. I'm always waffling back and forth, trying to decide what would be best to do with my time. I usually read a few books, first. That part I actually do enjoy, but after that,  after I get that urge to write again, I often end up talking myself out of it.


Well, mostly because I'm sure that the moment I really get into the new project I'm going to receive the old one back from my agent and then I'll have to drop it and somehow get myself back into my old character's heads again. That's not always easy for me. Or, at least, I tell myself it won't be. See what I mean about talking myself out of it?

So, tonight, that's where I find myself. I (not so) patiently wait for feedback, and I know at some point I'll give in and begin the writing process on the new idea. I always do, and yes, once I do begin, it's almost like clockwork that I'll hear back about the old one. Such is life. :-)

What do you do in the "in-between?"

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's March 4th, Have You Purchased This Book Yet?

I'm supposed to be posting an interview this month (all of us Tangled girls agreed), but I did my interview last month (scope it out here if you missed it) and think that you guys deserve to know that the book-baby is born.

(Isn't that a beautiful cover? Check out Jeremy West. He's pretty awesome.)

Erica Cameron has taken a wonderful journey to birthing this book. And she's included a crap ton of extras. As of today here are all the wonderful things that you can do: buy the book! view all the "extras" here! review the book online after you've read it! So many options. 

Personally, going on my editor's binge, I will be reading SSN again in bed. Before I sleep. Which could be the worst place to read it. 

Is it safe to go to sleep?

Happy reading :)

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Effects of Piracy

*deep breath* As the last one to post in the month of free topics, I’m going to blog about a topic that is a pretty sensitive subject for me: ebook piracy. As a reader and writer, I feel it’s a pretty important topic. And it does have an effect on the industry.

For those who don’t know, ebook piracy is “the illegal uploading of digital copies of copyrighted works to a website, or the illegal downloading of such material.” So why is this bad? Well, skipping over the ‘illegal’ part as it pertains to copyrights, let’s look at some of the negative effects of piracy.

To start with, authors work tirelessly to write, rewrite, revise, edit, and publish these books. A lot of them are working full-time jobs on top of this because, well, let’s face it, writing books doesn’t make nearly as much money as some people think it does. Not everyone ends up being the next Stephen King or JK Rowling. Their time and effort is just as important as, say, that chef in the restaurant you’re eating dinner at. Would you think to just walk out without paying the tab? No, not usually. So why would an author be any different?

When a book is pirated, it isn’t a one person, one download situation. It is done by the (tens of) thousands, as people keep passing it along. For every book that is pirated, that is a sale the author will never see royalties for. That is someone else reaping the benefits of an author’s hard work. For free.

Along with stealing sales, piracy also impacts an author’s future. If book sales are weak, it is less likely an author will continue getting contracts with publishers. And you know what else? It is less likely for books to show up in bookstores, as bookstores look at previous book sales for that author when ordering their new books. Some authors have even had to discontinue series because of this. So not only are authors not getting paid, their writing careers are at risk.

We all know an author’s time is precious. With ebook piracy on the rise, more authors are spending countless hours hunting out piracy sites offering illegal downloading of their books, reporting said sites, and sending cease and desist notices. This, of course, takes away from the task at hand: writing new books.

And here’s one for the readers- ebook piracy contributes to the rise in ebook pricing as publishers attempt to recover losses due to piracy. For all those people who are reading for ‘free’, they are screwing things up for those of us who do to support authors by buying their works.

I could go on and on. But because I am known to go off on tangents when it comes to such a sensitive subject, I’m going to link to a few other posts that have covered the topic from various angles.

Have you come across a great stand against piracy? I’d love to read it!

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Monday, February 24, 2014

"So I accidentally wrote a book..."

I can’t start writing a book on purpose. I only realised recently that every single book I’ve written (twelve, counting my current WIP) I never actually intended to start when I did – it just sneaked up on me. The idea of actually sitting down at a blank page and starting a book terrifies me. Starting’s the hardest part for me, because I spend so long planning and gathering notes together on world-building that the idea of typing the first words completely defeats me. It gets to the point where I have a fully detailed outline just waiting for me to turn it into a book, but I still can’t do it! That is, until I stop trying...

Then, usually when I’m knee-deep in editing or something equally time-consuming, I’m woken up at night by a scene demanding to be written. Or sometimes it happens when I’m on the train. Whenever I least expect it. The strange thing is, once I have that first scene – even if it doesn’t end up being the first scene in the book, I’m fine. It’s the actually starting part that makes me draw a blank.

Another part of it’s a fear of running out of ideas, which is completely irrational, but we writers are an insecure bunch. ;) I manage to convince myself I’ll never think of a good novel idea again…and next thing I know, I have another five clamouring for attention! So I write notes down, which sometimes turns into a scene. Now I have so many projects on the go that new ones have started invading mid-draft. I never really got struck by the curse of the Shiny New Idea before last year, but I’ve actually written two whole books based on ideas that came to me when I was working on a totally unrelated project, and refused to let me go. Funny how the idea of starting can be so daunting, yet as soon as I stop thinking about it, that’s when it happens!

So now I try to write all my books that way – I do all the planning and then just let it go (*resists urge to sing the Frozen soundtrack*) until the first scene comes into my head and I just have to write it.

Am I the only one with this (rather strange) problem? How do you start a book?

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

You've been Con'd: Author & Reader Cons 2014

Last month, I wrote a blog post about 2014 writer conferences worth checking out. This month, I decided to set my sights on some fun 2014 reader and author conventions. Many authors and fans know about the large conventions such as Comic-Con and Book Expo America, but there might be some smaller conventions that are perfect choices because of their location and cheaper registration fees. After all, what could be better than meeting your favorite author or your number one fan?

UtopYA Con: Held in Nashville, TN from June 20th-22nd, UtopYA celebrates women writers of supernatural YA and NA, and their fans. There will be book signings, parties and write-ins. Tickets start at $75.

RomCon: Held in Denver, CO from June 20th-22nd, RomCon is a big convention for fans and authors of romance. According to the convention website, RomCon is large enough to draw plenty of NYT bestselling romance authors and intimate enough for fans to engage with their favorite authors one-on-one. Registration costs $199. Indie authors might be interested in attending RomCon University on the 19th and 20th.

RT Booklovers Convention: Held in New Orleans from May 13th-18th, the Romantic Times Convention is a large romance convention celebrating all genres of romance and age groups. There are a ton of unique workshops for readers and bloggers such as the YA Spooky Sleepover and author chats, as well as craft workshops for writers. Although convention hotels are currently sold out, anyone interested can plan ahead for next year's convention in Dallas. Day passes for teens cost $30. A full convention pass costs $484.

Malice Domestic: Held in Bethesda, MD from May 2nd-4th, Malice Domestic (the name is enticing enough) is a fan-favorite convention celebrating the authors of traditional mysteries (in the spirit of Agatha Christie). Basic registration starts at $270.

Wild Wild West Convention: Held in Tucson, AZ from March 7th-9th, WWW3 celebrates Steampunk. This year, the convention and festival will be held in a western-themed town. A three-day pass starts at $59.

YA Fest: Held in Easton, PA on April 19th, YA Fest is a FREE event held at the Palmer Branch of the Easton Area Public Library. Books will be available to purchase and there's a long list of impressive YA authors in attendance including Jennifer L. Armentrout and Cyn Balog.

Authors After Dark: Held in Charlotte, NC from August 6th-10th, AAD is a convention that celebrates the reader-author relationship and focuses on romance, fantasy and horror genres. There will be a 100 featured authors. This is an adult only convention for fans 18 and older. Registration costs $240 and includes some meals at the convention.

This little list doesn't even scrape the surface of the number of conventions available to attend in 2014. If you know of a fun reader/author cons, please comment with the information. You never know which convention will be near you.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Life Lessons from Geometry and Cookies!

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to post today, and then I remembered this post. It's from a few years ago on my personal blog, but it really spoke to me. So I edited it (slightly) and reposted it here. It's funny how, even years later, you can be dealing with the same thing in a new way.

And that thing right now is shapes.

Things are "simple" with shapes. Square. Triangle. Circle. Rectangle. Pentagon. What you see is what you get. Count the sides and there's no room for question. A square is a square is a square is a matter the size or color or location.

But when you think about it--really think about it--it does matter. 

If you flip a rectangle over a few degrees, you get a diamond. If you make that loop in the circle a little too long, you get an oval. There are other types of triangles: obtuse, acute, right. I think math-people would say all those are very different things, even if they are essentially the same.

That's the whole point of this post: everyone is different. Every blog, every book, every writer is different. Even if they are essentially the same.

Why am I talking about this? A few reasons. (stick with me)

1) I overheard a customer talking about books. She said that all books are a formula in certain genres, so she was going to read that genre anymore. It stuck with me because even if there are similarities in the way things unfold, each story is different. The words and rhythm of Author A are different than Author B. The character has a unique story to tell.

2) I stumbled in a conversation that someone only needed to read one blog--because they were all the same anyway. This, of course, isn't true. Every blog is different. Sure, they may share meme's and review the same books, but the opinions, ideas and voices of each person are so incredibly different and the experience and connection with each blogger will be unique.

3) I'm an author now (ha, still weird to say) and that means people get to read my books. There are people who will love SALT, people who will like it, and others who will hate it. This is the nature of the beast. And I'm okay with that, because reading is subjective, but just because a reader hated SALT doesn't mean a reader who loved it was wrong. Or vice verse. We all have different tastes.

4) With NoVa TEEN Book Festival just weeks away, I'm getting down to all the nitty details. All the small moments that build into the big event. I'm not the best at the small details. I know them all, I see them, but I'm not always the best at implementing them. I'm a dreamer. In life, in writing, in editing, I like the big picture. But I have to do the small things, to be detailed, even if it makes me occasionally feel like a square peg that's trying to fit in a round hole. Does that mean I shouldn't do them? No, it just means I should know my weaknesses and find people who have those qualities in excess. (Which is what I've done in life, in editing, in writing and in event planning.)

I was thinking about ALL that. About how we put ourselves in these boxes. About how we make life this checklist and force all the things around us to fit into it. And it doesn't fit. But we shove anyway. We twist. We pull. We push. We trim. We shape. We want it to fit. And then we wonder why, in the end, we're tired and broken.
Here's why:  a square cannot be a circle.

Well, &%^#! What now? What do we do when we can't be the fill the kind of need that exists? When we can't be the type of blogger who brings in 15 bazillion unique visits in a day? When we aren't the kind of writer that makes words flow and dance and hearts stop beating and tears fall because the lines are so good?

You're right. We quit. We don't try to find a place to fit. We don't create something new. We stop existing and disappear.

I bet that's what Augustine Rodin did he got the idea for The Thinker--he laughed and threw away the design because it was too different.

I bet that's what Oatmeal Raisin cookies did when they couldn't be Chocolate Chip--just stopped existing because they weren't good enough.

And when JK Rowling had an idea about a little magical boy named Harry with black hair, a scar and glasses, she completely scrapped that idea because it was too hard and too scary.

Oh wait. They didn't? You mean, The Thinker is one of the most famous sculptures of all time? And people actually eat Oatmeal Raisin cookies? And--what??--JK Rowling is like the twelfth richest woman and one of the most influential women in Britain?

Fine. But what does all this have to do with shapes and blogging and writing and event planning-- I'm so confused?!

It has to do with this: BE YOURSELF.

We're taught that in elementary school, but somewhere along the way we forget. We become so obsessed with fitting into the mold, we forget that we are supposed to be different! We are different. Every person has something about them that's unlike anyone else, even if sometimes it seems essentially the same. No two people are alike. And you know that saying, "Opinions are like noses. Everyone has one." And they are all uniquely different.

So what if your blog only has 200 followers--that's awesome! Remember when it was you and your best friend and some random kid who entered a contest? You've come far! And no one comments on your reviews? Oh well. The four people that are reading them are listening to you. And that post you wrote last week really affected someone. Don't stop speaking out.

SO WHAT if the words in your novel don't make you want to cry at every line. Who wants to cry at every line? Just write the book! Just tell the story. Let it suck...and then fix it. And take criticism. And then fix it. And fix it some more. And make the words flow. EVEN IF it doesn't sound like author A & B. I'd say that's good! I don't want all my books to sound the same. I don't all my characters to have a dead mother or a dead sister or a crazy boyfriend. I want different. That crazy aunt who talks to the flowers in her closet--I'd read that. Write it. Find your voice---YOURS.

And so what if those ten people hated your book. Remember that email and that tweet from that girl who LOVED it? It matters. This story matters and the next one matters. Every story you write matters to someone so keep writing.

No one else can tell your story or fill your role. Only you. And if you don't do it--if you don't step up and be yourself and take a chance--then no one else will do it for you.

Not me because I can barely do it for myself.

Not that whole team of people who are helping you accomplish this big dream. They wouldn't even have a dream without you.

Not that girl who doesn't know there's an entire world of blogs out there and she's missing out and people who could be her friends for life because she won't even look around.

Not that girl who thinks all books are the same.

Not that agent who's waiting for a story just like yours. Or that editor who's been dreaming of your book and didn't even know it.

Only you.

Everything has a place it belongs. And eventually, even the square finds a place to fit.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Confession: I Never Wanted to Be a Writer

I love reading other people's path to publication stories. I love seeing how there are so many different paths and so many different types of writers out there. But I have a confession: sometimes, these stories make me feel like an interloper. Sometimes they make me wonder what I'm doing.

You've probably all read them, the I've Always Known I've Wanted to Be a Writer Since FOR-EVER stories.

Mine isn't one of those.

The I've Always Been a Creative Type/Artist/Marcher to the Beat of My Own Drummer stories.

Mine isn't one of those either.

Here's the thing--I never thought about being a writer. Even back when people learned that I'd decided to drop the poli-sci/pre-law major and only go with English, I'd get the question, "Oh, so you want to be a writer?" My answer was the same. "No," I'd tell them. Just no.

Because I was reading writers and didn't have enough self-confidence or ego or Chutzpah to even think "Yes, maybe."

Maybe once, back in eighth grade when I learned that S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was a teenager, maybe then I thought about being a writer...for like five minutes.

I started writing fiction out of desperation. I'd spent 7 years getting a PhD that didn't net me a job. I'd spent 10 years reading literature and writing criticism. I'd always written. I loved the essay, never understood how someone could not finish a seminar paper in grad school. I was good at it. And never once did I think of myself as a writer. Not even knowing that to get tenure I'd eventually write a book.

But there I was, 7 years later, unemployed in a new city and I needed something to do with my brain, because singing to my 9 month old wasn't cutting it for me. So I tried writing. I'd been reading a lot of romance and YA and thought, I could do *that*. (Cue derisive laughter.) So I did it. I wrote a meh contemporary romance that got a couple of hits from publishers and then a YA that got me an agent.

And still, I didn't feel like a writer. Definitely not an author. I felt like an interloper. I felt like at any moment someone would discover that I had not slaved since I was 6 toward this one dream and call me out on it. Poser. Fake. Lucky Break.

I always thought once I've finished a manuscript. And then, once I have an agent. And then well, maybe if my agent can sell the stupid thing. And then...

Partially, this goes back to my own fear of owning up to what I can do well. I'm horrible at accepting a compliment. I'm horrible at admitting that I kick ass at something.

It is not false modesty. It is not fishing for compliments. It's fear.

Because it's beaten out of us, isn't it? You're not supposed to brag (especially if you're a girl). If you stand out in middle school and high school because you're smart, you get pushed down pretty quickly and often pretty ruthlessly. So little by little you learn not to have any ego about what you're doing. You fly under the radar. Do your work. Gather your successes like secrets. Keep going. Keep your head down.

Or maybe that's just me.

Because even two agents later and one sold book later, I still don't feel like I'm really there yet. Once I accept I'm a writer, I listen to these narratives of artistry. "We artists...."  "We creative types..."

That doesn't feel like me either.

I think of myself as a worker. A laborer. Writing is a joy, yes, but it is also labor. I work at it, I whittle it away, I craft it. I don't feel like an artist. I feel like a craftsman. Some days, I feel like we should all start a union.

Craftsman. Laborer. These are not labels that bother me. These are labels that feel more real, more true to what I do for myself, for the craft.

There are words, and I know how to shape them. There are stories and I struggle to tell them. And little by little, I'm learning how to own that. Little by little, I'm learning that maybe that's enough.

I'm happy for those writers and authors who have known since the beginning of time, who have dreamed of the moment when their name is on a book-shaped thing since they were babes. But I'm equally happy for those of us who work because we don't know how not to work, who write because we're compelled to--even when we didn't know what we were working toward. Even when we don't know where that work will lead.

And I'm learning that's okay, too.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Free topic : Writing Mistakes

Oh goodness. Today was my day to post and I completely forgot. Can I blame that on pregnancy brain? Yes? Well, I am. Apologies for the late post. Also, because I'm an unprepared slacker, this post may end up on the shorter side. Again, I'm sorry.

This month is a free topic over here for us Tangled Girls, so I decided to write a post about the top writing mistakes I see when editing.

1. Telling instead of Showing.

         Here's an easy example of telling:
              The thunder scared Sandy.
        With a little tweaking, you can add depth to it by showing. Ex.

               A loud boom reverberated through the sky, shooting ice down Sandy's back and freezing her in place.

  2. Comma splicing. This is when two independent clauses are connected with a comma. Ex.

               I dropped my phone, the screen cracked.

      This should be:

               I dropped my phone. The screen cracked.

       Or you can add a bit to make it:

               When I dropped my phone, the screen cracked.
                I dropped my phone, causing the screen to crack.

   3. Nauseous/Nauseated. Most of the time, I see this:

                Rotten eggs permeated the room, making me nauseous.

         It should be:

                Rotten eggs permeated the room, making me nauseated.

        "Nauseous" actually means to cause the feeling of sickness, whereas "nauseated" means to feel sick.

      4.   British English vs. American English. A lot of times, I see British English and American English mingled together in one manuscript. Here are some of the more common words I see mixed together.

     British spelling: Towards/Backwards           American:  Toward/Backward
                                 Grey                                                      Gray
                                 Colour                                                   Color
                                 Realise                                                   Realize
             Since I work for an American press, I always change anything to the American spelling, however, regardless of which you choose, try to stay uniform throughout your m/s.

     5. Dialogue tags. Now, this may simply be my personal preference, but typically, you'll want to keep your dialogue tags simple. Such as:
                                          "What kind of desserts do you like?" Dan asked.
                                          "I love macaroons," Christina said.
                                          "Anything chocolate," Hannah replied.

          I say keep the tags simple because the more complicated your tags are, the more they tend to pull the reader out of the story, focusing on the tag rather than the dialogue. (Also, side note - try to keep your dialogue tags sparse, and when possible, use an action tag instead since they help to show more.)

       There you have it. Those are my top five writing mistakes. I, myself, am so guilty of them, and it's the reason only my trusted CPs get to see my first drafts! :)  How about you all? What are the top writing mistakes you see? What do you do to correct them?

       And, since I couldn't find a gif to match my topic, here's one of Brett angry dancing. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Interview with the ever-awesome Erica Cameron!

Hello Lovely Readers!

I’m excited to bring you a quirky, but awesome (always awesome) interview with my good friend and basically my sister, Erica Cameron (me, with glasses; her, without):

She has a book-baby in ARC form right now that’s slated to come to press exactly one month from this date (that would be March 4th!) called Sing Sweet Nightingale, book one in The Dream War Saga series brought to you by the wonderful Spencer Hill Press. See the picture below for the gorgeous cover or click here for the cover AND a synopsis of the book.

I’ve the immense privilege to see the many stages of this particular book as well as its growth into a truly amazing book. Take my word for it when I say that you will be addicted to this series!

Asja: First off, congratulations! I know it’s been somewhat of a roller coaster ride, from the beginning of Sing up to now. Can you talk about what this past year has been like for you? And please, do include the juicy details.

Erica: Just the past year? Sure! I started the year out by attending the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (aka, SCBWI) Miami conference in January. This particular conference is amazingly well run and I highly recommend it to anyone who can get down to Florida in January. It was here that I met Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary. I paid for a critique and he read pages of a fantasy novel I had started working on. It was called THE TRIAL then. It’s now titled DESERTED and I’m hoping someone buys it because I love this world. Sword fights and magic and desert islands and sarcastic boys and just omg. Anyway, Michael loved the pages and he introduced me to Danielle Chiotti, another agent at Upstart. She signed me less than a month later. A couple of days after our partnership was official, I received my first official edit letter for SING SWEET NIGHTINGALE from my editors Danielle Ellison and Patricia Riley. I emphasize official because I had already been revising the book for a few months based just on conversations I’d had with my editresses. Still, this letter was epically long. As in, I currently hold the record within Spencer Hill for longest edit letter. It’s a dubious honor. With agent-Danielle’s help, I only minorly freaked the eff out and managed to essentially rewrite the book in six weeks. Then there was another round of edits. And another. And another.

In between all of that, my editresses were lovely enough to invite me to attend the photo shoot for the cover of my book! The concept for the cover changed quite a few times, but we’d finally landed on something the Spencer Hill team, me, and photographer/designer Jeremy West were all pleased with. Being there to meet the models and watch Jeremy and his team (aka his twin brother Jeffrey and his girlfriend Lauren) work was so fun! Even being there, seeing the final cover was still a shock. His work is gorgeous! I am so pleased with how it all came together. I got to share his work with the world at Book Expo America 2013 (with my Asja there to be my entourage this time!). Spencer Hill set up a cool cover reveal, I did an interview with Jeremy in Central Park where we talked about the cover (click here, click here!) and the series, and I was able to read half of the first  chapter of the book without passing out, which I felt was a huge accomplishment given how nervous I was about the whole thing.

After that, guess what? More editing. In between all of the editing on SING, though, I was also writing book 2 (title will be revealed after SING releases!), writing the second book in a contemporary series I co-authored with Lani, working on DESERTED, and bombarding my agent-lady with more project ideas and drafts than she could possibly handle from one client. I turned in the first draft of book 2 in The Dream War Saga in June right after BEA. Edits for SING finished with a quick turnaround on copyedits in November and then, with my brain firmly melting out my ears, I gave up for the rest of the year and slipped into some kind of mental hibernation…. Until mid-December when I got the first edit letter for book 2 and the process started all over again.

A: Can you tell the story of how you got to where you are right now? You know, the one where you pitch this epic story at a party and then magic happens?

E: I swear this story will never get old.  

A: It really, really doesn’t!

E: So I was in Manhattan for Book Expo America even though I had NO REASON to be there. I wasn’t an author (just a wannabe) or an agent or an editor or even a blogger. I blogged, but not book reviews. And my number of followers could be counted on my hands and feet. I was there to serve as support and entourage for my friend Lani Woodland. One night after BEA, Lani had this party to go to in Tribeca. Since she hasn’t spent much time in the city and didn’t know the subways at all, she asked me to come with her to make sure she got there all right. The problem was that I hadn’t been invited to this party and there was a strict guest list because of fire code (the party was being held in this rooftop solarium in a building right on the Hudson River… which I should have seen as a sign considering my male MC’s name is Hudson). I didn’t want Lani getting lost, so I decide to escort her down there. Then when I got there I had to use the bathroom, so I talked my way past the guard on the door and then I kind of just… didn’t leave. What can I say? The sun was setting and the view from that rooftop was gorgeous. The first sign that something magical was in the air that night was when Lani and I started talking to this girl from London, Lizzy, the fiancĂ© of a YA author whose first book was about to launch. Through a strange conversation Lani and I discover that Lizzy is best friends with a girl I went to middle school with. In Fort Lauderdale. Small world, right?

A bit later, while I’m trying very hard to stay to the edges of the party so no one realizes I’m not supposed to be there and asks me to leave, Lani starts up a conversation with Danielle Ellison on the other side of the roof. She talks about her books and then, because she is the awesomest best friend ever, she starts talking about mine. Danielle is intrigued, so Lani pulls me over to meet her and Danielle says, “So tell me about your book.” And, of course, my mind goes completely blank. So blank, I swear I almost asked, “What book?” I must have managed to say something interesting and semi-coherent because Danielle gives me her card and asks me to send her the manuscript when I have a chance and then drags me across the roof and introduces me to Patricia Riley, her co-editor, she says.

“Tell Patricia about your book,” Danielle says. So I do. And then I get this moment:

Patricia: “Oh my God!”
Danielle: “I know, right?!”

And that’s when I fell in love with both of them. I was completely giddy for the rest of the evening and, of course, emailed them the manuscript as soon as I had a stable internet connection. Less than a month later, I had an offer. Very soon after that, I had a contract. All because I crashed a party.

Even weirder? Though I didn’t know it at the time, also present at the party that night were my future cover designer/photographer, my future cover model, and my future editorial assistant. I swear there was something in the air that night.

A: So, what are you going to do on March 4th?

E: What would I like to be doing? Somehow connecting with readers who have just discovered my book! What will I actually be doing? Working. Probably editing the sequel to SING and then heading in to the day job. *sigh* Oh the glamorous life of an author! However, I will be attending the NoVaTEEN Book Festival in Arlington, Virginia on March 8! I am very excited to be taking part in that whole event and I think it’s a phenomenal way to cap the official week of SING’s release. :D

A: What was the first book-like story you wrote? What happened to it and could it make a reappearance as you come into your own as a full-fledged author?

E: Well, first first is the mystery novella I wrote for a school assignment in eighth grade. And, no. That will NEVER appear in public. Then I attempted a fantasy novel in high school that was really well-disguised fanfiction of Tamora Pierce’s work, but I never finished it because I really had no idea what I was doing. I wrote short stories in my college writing classes, but didn’t attempt another book-length original work until I had almost graduated. In 2007, I wrote a story about these beings of energy who were where the mythology of angels came from. They were secretly the guardians of humanity, but they followed a very strict set of rules concerning what they were and weren’t allowed to do. My angel Xander broke all of those rules with the human girl, Sam, he was guarding. I queried it and got a fair amount of positive feedback from agents (one almost signed me), but in the end it went nowhere. Which is a good thing. There were a lot of corners I’d written myself into within that universe and I realized halfway through writing book 2 that I didn’t know how to get out of them and the whole thing needed to be scrapped and restarted. This world will probably never come back in the form I originally imagined it, however I have realized that I pulled some of the concepts I’d pictured for this universe and incorporated them into The Dream War Saga. So, in a way, we’re getting a version of the story now. A better one.

A:This is your first full book (cue the happy dances and boy band fan teenager-like screaming). How’s that feel?

E:There are really no words, so:

Yep. That about sums it up.

A: Can you talk about the color blue? I’ve read some of your rough work and we’ve spoken about your tendency to have blue pens, blue notebooks, blue hair (yes, I’m talking about Aisling, who makes her first appearance in the already published short story “Whatever It Takes” from the anthology Doorways to Extra Time and then comes back for us in the Dream War Saga). What is this default and how do you accommodate for it come editing time?

E: Of course. You would bring up the blue, wouldn’t you? ;)

A: I really couldn't resist.

E: Blue is my favorite color. Cobalt and cerulean and that bright, brilliant turquoise-ocean-blue color top the favorite shades list, but really any blue will do. I find it soothing and beautiful. What I didn’t realize until my editors pointed it out is that it’s also my default color for ANYTHING. Cars, pens, shirts, whatever. It all ended up blue. Now I’m more careful about when I use the color, but the early draft of SING was incredibly blue. Which is a bad thing because there is actual significance to the color blue within the book and all those extra blue things totally diluted that. So they had to go.

Aisling’s hair, however, stayed. :D

A: What’s next?

E: Well, I have a contemporary series and a fantasy series out on submission right now, so hopefully one (or both) of those sell and THAT will be what’s next. As for works in progress, that’s up in the air right now. I pitched a few different contemporary ideas, a post-apocolyptic idea, a thriller idea, and a co-written quasi-historical quasi-fantasy idea at my agent. I’m waiting to see which one she goes for before I start writing.

A: What are you reading right now?

E: I just finished Phoenix Island by John Dixon and now I’m working on The Violet Hour by Whitney A. Miller. Both of these are intense, creepy, and beautifully written 2014 debut novels by other members of the OneFour Kid Lit group. It’s a fantastic collection of young adult and middle grade authors and everyone should check out the site to find some amazing new talent!

A: Tell us a bit about the editing process. What kills you? What makes you a happy writer?

E: I actually enjoy the editing process a lot. The initial shock of seeing a huge letter that explicitly explains all the things you did wrong may still suck, but I really trust my editorial team and my agent. If they say something isn’t working, it isn’t working. I start fixing it. As opposed to drafting, when I’m editing, I already know the characters and the world and where the story is going, so shifting things around and bringing out some traits and subplots or maybe suppressing others is a lot easier. It’s fine-tuning, adjusting, instead of trying to come up with everything from scratch. The thing I hate most is getting rid of characters. Not necessarily killing them (sometimes, that needs to happen), but cutting them out of the book. Completely erasing their existence. I love my characters, so deleting them entirely is even harder for me than killing them. What makes me happy is getting through the revisions and seeing the book take a shape I didn’t even realize was buried underneath, like my editors gave me a map and I found a new place none of us had ever seen before. It’s a beautiful thing.

A: What are the perfect writing conditions for you?

E: Writing or editing, I like to be somewhere with just a little bit of distraction. I tend to work well in places like Panera or Starbucks, somewhere I can pick a chair, plug in my Surface, and not worry about anything but getting as many words in Word as possible in one day.

A: Do you keep a journal or is there another way that you continue to practice your art?

E: I am so bad at journaling. Really. I’ve tried several times to make myself do that, but it just… doesn’t happen! I’ll start off okay but then it trails off. For me, drafting a new book is practice and the editing process is honing the craft. Reading is research and looking for inspiration and real life is fodder for the rest of it.

A: Who’s on your wishlist for back-of-book-blurbs?

E: For SING or my fantasy series, Tamora Pierce, definitely. She’s one of the first authors I fell in love with and I’ve read almost everything she’s ever written. Stephenie Meyer, too, because her books got me back into writing during college and she’s just an amazing person. I’d also love to have Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Cinda Williams Chima, Suzanne Collins, and Cassandra Clare. For my contemporary, Elizabeth Eulberg, Simone Elkeles, Ally Carter, Jay Asher, and Libba Bray are all incredible.

A: How/Where did Erica-the-writer begin?

E: So early I can’t even remember. Although that mystery novel in eighth grade, I’ve been a reader since before I realized there was any other way to be. Books have always been my favorite pastime and writing my own stories was a natural evolution of that for me.

A: What do you do for the always dreaded writer’s block?

E: My brain tends to work on a feast or famine system. I will go through stages where all I want to do is write. Or read. Or watch TV on Netflix while I’m making jewelry. And then, suddenly, I’ll be tired of that one thing and I’ll want to switch to something else. Although there was a period of a few years in between my first novel and SING (which is my third completed original book) where I didn’t write much, I’ve never been so blocked that when I sat down with the intention of working on something, nothing came out. It may be slow going some days, but the words are still there. And every time I have an idea for a book, even if I’m not sure if it’ll go anywhere, I write it down. Whatever comes in to my head with the idea—whether it’s a scene or a basic plot or a character or whatever—I write that down and stick it in it’s own folder in a file I have that’s called The Back Burner. There are twenty folders in there right now with ideas in various stages. And then I have my Novels folder which has the more fleshed out projects. There are eleven folders in there, including The Dream War Saga folder. And then I have the folder for my co-written projects. And there’s two series and one standalone in that folder. In other words, if I get stuck, I go through all of these folders until I find something that calls to me and I start working.

A: Do you have a writing routine? What is it and could you walk us through a typical writerly day in Erica Cameron’s life?

E: Right now I am working at a live-in rehab center for teens, I teach English there, but because of the way their system is set up, I only work two and a half hours a day. Plus extra time for tutoring if the kids sign up for it. So in the mornings, I’ll wake up and go to Panera, work on whatever my current project is (most recently it has been the edits on book 2), then I’ll come home to have lunch and go to work. Now that SING is so close to releasing, that time in the morning may be spent updating my website or posting on Twitter about the contest I’m running right now (contest, yay!) or answering interview questions (like this insanely long one).

A: What are some of your favorite books/authors?

E: I’ve heard it said that asking a reader to pick a favorite book is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. It depends on the day you ask. In general, though, I adore Tamora Pierce, Stephenie Meyer, Jacquelyn Carey, Jim Hines, Dan Wells, A.R. Kahler, Garth Nix, Brandon Sanderson, Jasper Fforde, Jay Asher, Laurie Halse Anderson, and… yeah. I could keep going and going, so I’ll stop there.

A: Any last words of wisdom or advice that you’d like to leave our readers with?

E: Life advice? I’m not really sure I’m the one to offer that, but…. Do what makes you happy. Life is too short to be miserable. Sometimes you may have to make sacrifices you’re not thrilled with to get where you want to go, but don’t let that cost outweigh the benefits of finally reaching your goal.

As far as writing advice goes, ask questions of authors when you get the chance to meet them, listen to what they have to say, and if something resonates with you, try it their way. However, there is no correct way to write and no one path to publication. The correct way is whatever way works for you and gets the story you want to tell on paper. The path that will get you published is the one you pave yourself. No one else’s will work for you.

A: And finally, give us the speal. Tell us the important details, how we can follow you and the beginning to your wonderful series. Everything but your social security number.

E: I am all over the interwebs! (seriously… you may regret asking this question…) I have two websites, one for me and all of the books I will one day write, one for only Dream War Saga related things. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook (again, for myself and for The Dream War Saga), Tumblr (on here I have three: Mine, Dream War's official page, and The Mystical Demystified  which will become my go-to place for fan questions on the Dream War Saga), and also Pinterest

Annnnd there you have it! Leave a comment, follow Erica, buy her book when it comes out, buy her book when it comes out. BUY IT...

Thanks for reading friends, hope you enjoyed :D

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014 Challenge

***Before I get started on my post, I just want to take a quick moment to make sure you've checked out Kimberly's post, which has a fantastic list of writer conferences in 2014, as well as an ARC giveaway of the highly anticipated Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith!***

For the past two years, I've participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I haven't hit my goal yet. But this year, on top of my Goodreads goal, I'm also participating in a 2014 Challenge with my younger brother, who shall hereby be referred to as Sunshine. For anyone who has a brother--or a sister, for that matter--you know how big a deal this is.

So here are the rules, in no particular order:

  1. Books must be added to and tracked on Goodreads to count, with a special 2014 Challenge shelf.
  2. Books must be published (so my critiquing doesn't count, nor do my read-throughs of my own drafts). 
  3. Only novels count toward the total read (no non-fiction, comics, graphic novels, etc.). 
  4. Every two audiobooks listened to equals one book read.
  5. Only one book started before January 1, 2014 counts toward the total for 2014 (for me, this was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, started December 30th). 
  6. Revamped books will only count if added to the 2014 Challenge shelf. 
Simple enough, right? So far I think Sunshine is winning. But there are some books from 2013 or books being released in 2014 that I'm pretty excited about. I'm fairly confident my anticipation will help me pull this off. 

Books I still want to read from 2013: 
  • Champion by Marie Lu. 
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth. 
  • Deception by CJ Redwine. 
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

  • City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare. Enough said. 
  • Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas. In case you didn't already know about this, you're welcome.
  • Breakable by Tammara Webber. If you haven't met Lucas yet (Easy), YOU MUST! 
  • The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings. 
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. 
I'm sure I'm forgetting a few books and I'm sure many others will be picked up too. In any case, Sunshine is going down.

Are you participating in any reading challenges this year? What books are you most excited about in 2014? 

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