Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fun with Word(le)

Someone on twitter (sorry I can't remember who!) pointed me to this cool word site--www.Wordle.com puts text into beautiful puzzles of your most common words.   I used the first 8 pages of my current MS.  I have to say, I find it pretty appropriate and it doesn't look like I'm using a ton of passive words. 

I love it!  The only challenge was figuring out how to get it to reappear here--no convenient "share" button.  But, hey, I learned how to make a screen shot and convert it into a .jpg.  :)

Go try it and report back!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bobby Sherman and saddleshoes

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words--cliche, I know.  But it's true.  Take an old picture of yourself and look at it.  Really look at it.  What is that little person thinking?  What about the old Bobby Sherman lunchbox does she particularly love?  What is that first day of school going to be like?

In honor of second graders everywhere, I give you: me.  On the first day of second grade.  Complete with Bobby Sherman lunchbox and saddle shoes.  I honestly don't remember having an undying love for Bobby--but there it is.  Just look at that lunchbox. That's love.  No second grader carries a lunchbox like that without love.  There must be a story there somewhere.

I think I need to look up Bobby Sherman's greatest hits on iTunes. In the meantime, enjoy this video performance of "Easy Come, Easy Go." 

Positively swoon worthy...those moves are made of awesome.  That hair.  The leather pants.  I'm having a flashback of why I must have loved Bobby Sherman.  I dare the Jonas Brothers or Justin Bieber to pull off that look. :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Making history come alive in nonfiction

I visited Boston with my family this week--we took a ferry out to George's Island (if you're not familiar with the area, there are 30 small islands in Boston Harbor) and Fort Warren, a defense position for Boston from 1850-1950.  On the way out, the USS Constitution happened to be taking a short sail into the harbor--and while she's seaworthy and still a commissioned ship in the US Navy--not a regular occurrence.  It took our breath away to see this 200+ year old ship--both beautiful and fierce.

Earlier in the week, I visited the Old North Bridge and the Minuteman National Park.  The Park Rangers there are wonderful in their vivid descriptions of what happened at the Old North Bridge between the Minute Men and the Redcoats--"the shot heard round the world."  

I'm working on a nonfiction work-for-hire piece right now about the colonial period--and it's been challenging to make the text fun and interesting for the target grade-level.  Witnessing history so vividly helps make it come alive and will hopefully help me make it come alive for my readers! 

The research is important, but sometimes getting out of the house and out from behind the computer can help break through the writer's block.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My first review--School Library Journal

Ok, so this may  not be a huge deal, but I just found out that my book was reviewed by School Library Journal as part of the ZODIAC FUN set.  Well, maybe it is sort of a big deal...

The things you discover when you Google yourself...:)

from April 2010

ASSELIN, Kristine Carlson. Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn: All About the Earth Signs
ISBN 978-1-4296-4013-8. LC 2009029192.

Gr 3–9—Trendy design and casual, almost slangy word choice ("stylin'," "crush-worthy") fit the lighter-than-air subject. Each sign is outlined in terms of style, career ideas, personality pluses and minuses, and examples of famous people born under that sign, including a profile of one particular celebrity. Compatibility with other astrological signs and specific relationship advice are also given. Celebrities chosen are all entertainers (e.g., Beyonce, Robert Pattinson) with the exception of Barack (Leo) and Michelle (Capricorn) Obama. Photographs tend to show people (mostly girls) in action. A low word count and large pictures in a magazine format are aimed at hi/lo readers. A different quiz in the back of each book gives these titles pass-around appeal.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How I Write: Interview with Children's Author John Lance

Anyone feel like this summer has flown by? I'm still trying to figure out what to do for fun this summer, and school starts next week. This week brings us to our last installment of the How I Write series, brainchild of Ansha Kotyk.  A group of writers posted about how we write on Wednesdays from mid-June through August.  If you're interested in participating next year, email Ansha. And click here for the list of all the writers participating and links to their blogs.

This last week we have a free post so I thought I'd interview my friend, John Lance, author of CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE and PRISCILLA HOLMES, ACE DETECTIVE.

John Lance lives in New England with his beautiful wife and daughters. His picture book PRISCILLA HOLMES, ACE DETECTIVE and his middle reader novel CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE were both published in 2009. He has also authored a collection of short stories, BOBBY'S TROLL AND OTHER STORIES, and has appeared in a number of anthologies, most recently ALL ABOUT EVE in 2010.

CHARLOTTE CAULDRON (see my review here), published by Sam's Dot Publishing in 2009, is available here.  PRISCILLA HOLMES, published by 4RV Publishing in 2009, is available here.  Join me in welcoming John to my blog for the first time.

KA:     Thanks for being here, John.  The first book of yours that I read was CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE. Was that the first book you wrote?  Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?

JL:       I suppose we should distinguish between "wrote" and "successfully published." Prior to CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE I wrote two full blown fantasy novels. Neither found a home, but I did get just enough positive feedback to keep me going.  I then dabbled in short stories, having some success with some small magazines and anthologies before my next book HOME IS WHERE THE DRAGON IS was published. After that I was fortunate enough to have a collection of short stories BOBBY'S TROLL AND OTHER STORIES published by a small publisher Yard Dog Press. Then CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE was published. Since Charlotte has come out I have had some additional success, appearing in several anthologies and, more significantly, having my picture book PRISCILLA HOLMES, ACE DETECTIVE published in late 2009 by 4RV Publishing. A sequel, PRISCILLA HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE GLASS SLIPPER, is slated to come out in late 2010.

KA: Getting that positive feedback is such an incentive! What made you start to write seriously?
JL: I always loved to write. A bit cliche, I know, but there it is. All through grade school I wrote stories, even attempting an "epic poem" in 7th grade. In college, I took all the creative writing courses I could and started the first of my unpublished fantasy novels, even taking a lighter class load the last semester of my senior year to focus on it. That manuscript was the first thing I really tried to get published, so I suppose that is my first "serious" work.

KA: I love hearing about that first “a-ha” moment.  Can you tell us anything about your current work-in-progress?

JL: Currently I'm working on another Priscilla Holmes book. I'm trying something a little different with this installment. The other books have been written from Priscilla's point of view. This one has a different narrator, and I'm still trying to figure out if its going to work or not. I think I'm on the 58th draft.

KA: Ha! I think we can all relate to the endless revision process. You chose to go with a small press for CHARLOTTE – was that a conscious choice? Can you tell us about it?

JL: Charlotte is an interesting case of "right time/right place." I had just placed a short story in a magazine that Sam's Dot publishes called Beyond Centauri and was corresponding with the editor. I mentioned that I had Charlotte and asked if he was interested in giving it a look over. He said yes, and the rest is history. Interestingly enough I had a similar experience with Bobby's Troll and Other Stories. In that case I had contributed to several of Yard Dog Press's anthologies before approaching the editor. So I think that is an advantage of working with small presses, the editors/publishers are more accessible.

KA: So much of what we do is “right time, right place”—great that it worked out for you. A lot of the readers of my blog are looking for agents. Do you have an agent?

JL: Not yet.

KA: Where do you find your inspiration?

JL: Whenever someone asks me this question I always feel like I should respond with "in the beat of a butterfly's wing" or something else that sounds suitably deep. Sadly the truth is more mundane. My story ideas come from my family, or quirky things on the news, or while listening to music, or while I'm mowing the lawn, or driving to the mall, or, well, you get the idea. The one thing I have found is that I can't force ideas to come. The other thing I've found is that sometimes ideas are initially incomplete and you've got to leave them on the shelf to mature.

KA: I think your inspiration is fabulous! Are you a full-time writer? What is your non-writing life like?

JL: I have not yet achieved enough success to write full time. So my non-writing life is like that vast majority of folks out there as I struggle with "work/life balance" only with the added twist of trying to shoe-horn in a little writing on the side. 

KA: I think most writers out there can relate to that. What is your biggest challenge with your writing?
JL: Finding time and keeping motivated. After a long day at the office it's hard to sit down at the computer and write. I have found that when I can get into a regular rhythm that will help, but a lot of time "real-life" intrudes.

KA: It’s always interesting to me to know what writer’s like to read. What are your favorite books?
JL: I have always enjoyed reading fantasy the most, though I also enjoy science fiction and history. Early on I fell in love with THE HOBBIT. I think my favorite author of all time is Terry Pratchett, whose humorous Discworld novels are fantastic. Most recently I have started reading Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, which is one of the most exciting series I've read in a long time.

KA: And lastly, just for fun, do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you can share?

JL: I thoroughly enjoy zombie and monster movies, the cheesier the monster the better. I'm holding out hopes that someday there will be a mutant-flying-zombie-anaconda movie.

I hear zombies are the new vampires in the publishing world, so you may get your wish!  Thanks, John, for joining me today.  I hope everyone will check out CHARLOTTE CAULDRON and PRISCILLA HOLMES.  I can’t wait to see the new Priscilla book this winter!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Summer Reading List

If I stop to think about it, I've read more than I thought this summer.  I thought I'd share!

ETERNAL ON THE WATER by Joe Monninger - this was a book I read for my book club, but Joe also happens to be related to a friend of mine and I've read several of his YA novels.  It's a wonderful and sweet love story.

PROPHECY OF DAYS by Christy Raedeke - I earned this book with my WIBIJ win back in June.  It's a fun, action-filled novel about a contemporary girl who finds herself chasing a ancient Mayan mystery. She emails, texts, had a hot guy friend and a pet monkey.  I'm looking forward to the sequel!

NATHANIEL FLOOD: BEASTOLOGIST by RL LaFevers- my daughter and I read the first two in the fun MG series and are waiting happily for the third to be out this fall. 

SEPTIMUS HEAP by Angie Sage - we've had this series on audio book in the house for the better part of August.  It's slower paced than Harry Potter and it's a more distant third person--omniscient narrator.  I don't feel like I know the characters really well--but it's a good story, with characters who are likable.  My precocious seven-year-old likes it--and the narrator Gerard Doyle is wonderful.

THE SISTERS GRIMM: FAIRY TALE DETECTIVES by Michael Buckley - we listened to this whole series (except #8) on audio CD as well.  The aforementioned 7 yo loved it--and listened to each book several times, but it was probably my least favorite book(s) of the summer.  I didn't love the narrator (he read with an almost sarcastic quality to his voice), and the subject matter sometimes delved darker than I was expecting fairy tale characters to go (addiction, pregnancy loss, death of Sleeping Beauty). 

WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan - this book seemed to be everywhere I turned for a while--I finally picked it up at the library.  It was sweet, poignant, and funny.  I loved it.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS by JK Rowling - I've had the audio book in my car all summer and have listened to it again in preparation for the movie coming out in December.  I find that I cry at different points every time I listen--this time the biggest cry fest came when Lupin announces the birth of Teddy in Shell Cottage, and when Percy comes out of the hallway in the Room of Requirement--and I cried for Snape for the first time.  Oh, and I always sob when Ron comes back--but then I'm a Ron fangirl. I just love Jim Dale's narration--and the story is so deeply satisfying and rich. 

So for someone who didn't have a lot of time to read this summer, I did pretty well.  There were bunches of books I didn't get to that are still on my table--I just cracked SETH BAUMGARTNER'S LOVE MANIFESTO by Eric Luper because parts of it take place on a golf course.  And LINGER by Maggie Stiefvater is waiting for me, as is HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins (I know, I'm the only one who hasn't read it yet.)

What have you read this summer?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How I Write: Classes and other Resources

It's been a great and productive summer. We've been to writeoncon.com, I'm waist deep in a work-for-hire project, and I'm querying my first novel!  I can't believe we're at our tenth installment of the How I Write series, brainchild of Ansha Kotyk.  A group of writers are writing about how we write – scheduled for Wednesdays through August.  Please check back weekly. And click here for the list of all the writers participating and links to their blogs.

This week we're talking about classes we've taken, and resources we've used.  Where do I start?

I haven't taken a ton of writing classes, but what I have taken has been great. Keep in mind, you don't have to spend a ton of money, enroll in an MFA program, or travel out of your living room to take a great class.

1. Rose's Colored Glass -- I took a plotting class with these ladies and it was great.  Great excel charts to use (best dig them out for the WIP, me thinks).  Very affordable.
2. WriterU -- a wonderful resource of great online classes--very affordable.  The class I took was on rhetorical devices w/ Margie Lawson.  Fab-U-Lous.
3. Kinship Writers In-session. Boston area writer's resource. Critique session with nine attendees and a local industry pro (in our case, in February, 2010, Lauren MacLeod of Strothman Agency spent the day with us).  Less than $100 for the day. Fab-U-Lous times Awesome.
4. SCBWI--workshops and conferences.  Well worth the money.  Do it.  And pay for a critique.  I go to my regional annually.  The workshops are high quality, networking is stellar.
5. Writeoncon.com--I've got to mention it, even though it's over for this year.  Bookmark the site, and go next year if you didn't this year.  FREE. And made of Awesome. :)
5. Don't sneeze at a regular 'ole critique group--can be as good as a class.

Reading books on craft can also be helpful--thought I have to say I work better in the classroom, even if it's virtual.  I mentioned books last week--I think I was a week early.  Here they are again, my favorite craft books, er, I mean books on craft (doesn't 'craft books' sound like I'm going to whip out the origami or knitting needles?  But I digress...)

1. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
2.The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
3. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
4. Novel Metamorphosis by Darcy Pattison

Writing is a craft. It is something that can be learned, improved, perfected, enhanced.  But you have to practice your craft.  Take a class. Read a book. Google "how to write a novel" if you have to.  Join a critique group. Go to a conference. I promise you will learn something. :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Writeoncon Aftermath

Whew.  I can't believe how drained I am after Writeoncon.  It makes me even more amazed at the energy and dedication of the organizers.

I made some great connections with new friends, read a ton of fabulous YA queries and first pages, watched a couple wicked cool live chats by agents Natalie Fischer and Jennifer Laughran.  And read a bunch of great advice from industry professionals. 

I'm still surfing over to the forums page to read! 

Things I  learned:
1. I'm not the only one writing a sporty-girl book (yeah for sporty girls!)
2. After participating in a query critique offered by Natalie, I'm rewriting my query to focus more on my protagonists journey rather than "getting the boy ". (Thanks Natalie--it's going to be much better!) 
3. I really like the writerly community--and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Thanks to the organizers, the participants, the agents and editors, and the behind the scenes crew who made it all happen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How I Write: Knowing When to Query

Welcome to the ninth installment of the How I Write series, brainchild of Ansha Kotyk.  A group of writers are writing about how we write – scheduled for Wednesdays through August.  Please check back weekly. And click here for the list of all the writers participating and links to their blogs.

Does anyone ever know when to query? The standard advice is DON'T. Query that is.  Until...

1. you have a finished manuscript
2. your ms has been read by your crit group and revised accordingly
3. you've shelved it for six weeks and then read it out loud to yourself
4. you literally can't make it better

But really, when is it ready?  I think my ms is ready--it's been in Queryland since June.  I've taken a wee break from querying for Writeoncon.com.  But it's full speed ahead next week.

I think it's also about knowing when you're ready yourself.  My dh pointed out last night (as I was on my way to my book club) that the querying is taking a toll on me.  "You're supposed to be the calm one. Have a glass of wine.  Or two."  Now I hadn't realized my stress was leaking out of me.

Does that mean I'm not ready? No.  It just means I need to give myself permission (thank you Molly O'Neill) to step away from the computer and relax. And work on other things.

How do you know when your  ms is ready? How do you know when YOU are ready?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Agent Dreams

Has anyone had one?  I mean, an honest-to-goodness, real-deal, agent dream?  Not just a daydream you have when you're waiting for the blog to load, or twitter to update.  One that you wake up and remember.

Yeah.  I did.  Have a dream about an agent, I mean.  I won't tell you who I dreamed about it, but suffice to say the person is a stellar agent.  Who. I. Would. Love. To. Rep. Me.

She was in my house, on my laptop, giving me advice about my blog. Wish I could remember the advice. :)

I think I'm not getting enough sleep.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Getting Back in the Game

It's so easy to be distracted while querying--all the pretty lights blogs and twitter accounts and querying websites and forums, etc., etc.

I've had a really hard time getting used to the TIME querying takes.  Yes, there are the quick agents who come back with "NO" very fast.  But I've decided I like the ones who take their time more.  Yeah, it's great to get a lightning-fast reply...but really, did that agent who responded in 20 minutes really read my sample pages? Even if I did target well?

I've been lucky enough to be assigned a work-for-hire project this summer.  Actually two.  And I've had to get myself to the library--force myself to do the research--write and update an outline--put my butt in the chair (pandora.com blaring on my headphones)--actually write words on a page.

It feels good.  And I'm working.  Of course I still check twitter, but hey, going cold turkey is hard.

Anyway, my advice for the day--try to distract your subconscious. Work on something else.  Even if it's a blog post. ;)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

You Wish Contest

Did that get your attention?  Well, it should have. CA  Marshall is hosting a contest and giving away a signed copy of Mandy Hubbard's YOU WISH--and unless you've been living under a rock, you know how cool this book is going to be.

I've been pretty lucky recently with book giveaways--I won at the SCBWI blog a couple of weeks ago and I also won a couple of books at Tara's Bodacious Pen.  So I hope my luck continues.

On a personal note--Mandy is a class act.  She's not only a writer, but a literary agent active on twitter and her own blog. And while she won't be my agent, at least not for the current MS, she did give me some nice compliments on my writing after she read my full. And I love her for that!

If you're a YA writer--I'd encourage you to query her. Check her blog for what she's looking for (I believe YA romance, in particular!)  Oh, and read her work--she's a great writer!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How I Write: Revision Part 2

Welcome to the eighth installment of the How I Write series, brainchild of Ansha Kotyk.  A group of writers are writing about how we write – scheduled for Wednesdays through August.  Please check back weekly. And click here for the list of all the writers participating and links to their blogs.

This week, we're delving deeper into Revision - first pass, resources, critique groups. We've talked about writing a first draft and revising it--how do we delve deeper into revisions?

I'm sure my colleagues will have more comprehensive strategies for deep revision--I'm still making my way through the journey of novel writing and I'm still figuring this thing out.  I've got a shelf full of craft books -- some that I love, some that haven't helped so much.

These are my favorites:

1. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
2.The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
3. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
4. Novel Metamorphosis by Darcy Pattison

Better than all the books in my library are the ladies in my critique group--my cheer leading team, my writing partners, my task force, my confidantes, my beta readers.  If you don't have a critique group or partner--do whatever you can to get one.  Check on absolutewrite.com, or Verla Kay's "blue board"--lots of people advertise for critique partners.

These friends are responsible for the major revisions and breakthroughs I've had on my novel this past year.  ::hugs:: to Ansha, Laura, and Jennifer.

Other great resources? Agent blogs (see my sidebar for helpful links), Querytracker, VerlaKay.com, and countless author blogs and websites.  Browse, google -- you've got to find what works for you. 

I firmly believe that writing is a craft--one that you can practice and improve.  We should always keep learning from our peers, our mentors, our partners, and professionals in the field.  They make us work harder and get better all the time.