friday5 for November 30, 2012

1. Lots of Hunger Games-y news this week (which I'm always a fan of), including these incredible pics out of Hawaii where they're currently filming the quarter quell scenes for Catching Fire. The outfits aside (which fans won't recognize from the books as they're quite different, though spiffy nevertheless), things are looking EXACTLY as I'd pictured them when reading. I know that's not hard to do (water water everywhere, let's all have a drink), but I feel like I'm re-reading the book just looking at these pictures. I'm already beyond excited for this film! As an aside, have you checked out any of the promo for Silver Linings Playbook? Could Jennifer Lawrence be any funnier/more down to earth? LOVE that girl.

2. In related (sort of) news, Suzanne Collins' (author of the HG) next book has been announced and it's not likely to feature kids violently killing--unless they're "killing" illiteracy. Year of the Jungle is a picture book, aimed at children 4 years and older. I think HG fans will be a bit disappointed by this news, but hey, if J.K. could follow-up Potter with The Casual Vacancy, then why not a children's book for Collins? It doesn't mean she won't go on to write more awesome YA one day. Maybe her writer brain just needed a break after the heaviness of Mockingjay.

Hmmm...maybe this new protagonist also likes Mockingjay pins? Yes, my Photoshop skills are 2-legit-2-quit.

3. I don't know why exactly, but this totally made my week. The song is great. And no description I can give you would do the video justice. You just have to watch it.

4. You didn't think I'd write a post on the last day of NaNo without a single mention of NaNo, did you? I'll do more of a follow up sometime next week with my final stats, thoughts, etc, but for now, a important tip to reiterate for those of you who have managed to finish a 50k novel during this month we call Novemeber: No matter how happy you are with what you've written, it's not ready to be published (if that's your goal). Take December and revise. Take January and revise (because you know December is going to be waaaay to busy to revise properly) and maybe even take February to make it shiny. Then, and only then, should you consider sending it to an agent or publisher for their consideration. A 50k book (aside from being on the short side) written in a month, no matter how brilliant you are, is not ready to go.

5.  I know I usually reserve #5 for my YA book rec of the week, but this week I want to give a special shout-out to a new site that recently launched called The Secret Life of Writers. It's run by five awesome young authors, who will be posting their own "insider" stories over the next little while and will be hosting fantastic giveaways as well. It's a blog launch party extravaganza! Definitely check it out. It's shaping up to be a great site and should be a good resource for aspiring young writers and book enthusiasts alike!

One final note before I sign off for the weekend--a big Happy Birthday to my friend, Emily! Go find and follow her on twitter @storyphile. Her tweets will make you wiser, I promise :)

in the nano homestretch

Cyber Monday? How am I supposed to get any writing done with all these online deals? This is terrible. Just terrible. Clearly, some sort of reward system is in order. If I write 2k, I can shop online for a bit... something like that :)

So here we are in the homestretch for NaNoWriMo. How did that happen? In a year that has flown by at a shocking rate (I'm told maternity leave will do that to you), this month has disappeared right before my eyes. Weren't we just doing the costumes and candy thing?

I'm definitely not on track to hit 50k. Back on November 1st, I knew there was a 95% chance this would happen. I have a baby to care for after all, plus, I do almost all of the cooking and cleaning (and grocery shopping, etc) at my house. I have a pretty full schedule and it's the kind that you can't just ignore, as much as there are times that I'd like to. I also found myself under the weather this past week, which does not do much for the writerly brain :(

As things stand today, with only five days left, I'm sitting at a mere 27, 079 words--that's just over half of where I "should" be by the end of the week. I know I won't catch up. I'm not going to pretend that I might. If I didn't sleep and ignored a lot of things that I really shouldn't ignore, I probably could, but I know I won't...

Way behind, but my overall slope isn't too bad! I'm staying fairly consistently behind.
All of that said, I'm still quite pleased with what I've done so far this month. I'm not going to "win" NaNo, but I am carving out a good chunk of a book I'm pretty happy with. What matters to me as we wake on day 26, is that by the end of the week, I'll hopefully have managed to write over half (I'm aiming for 60-64k total so my goal is 30-32k) of a book I think has real potential. To me, that's more valuable than 50k words I feel unsure about. And I'll gladly sacrifice "winning"for what I've written already.

I know NaNo is an all or nothing thing in terms of the "official rules", but I'm definitely in the camp who sees NaNo as an opportunity to get a little extra support and feel the encouraging embrace that only comes with an entire community of authors writing at the same time. It's a time to do what you can with the time that you have, and shoot for your own personal goals, regardless of what those are. A time to forge ahead instead of hesitate, to write instead of plan. And I think there's plenty of value in that no matter where you find yourself on November 30th.

How is your NaNo project going as we head into the homestretch? Are you happy with what you've written? Was it harder/easier than you thought it would be?

(black) friday5 for November 23, 2012

Happy Day After Turkey Day, American friends! And thank you for making Black Friday such a force-of-shopping-nature that it's made its way up here to Canada, where we're having an otherwise very normal week.
"Just a normal week at my Canadian place of employment..."

"Ahhhh! Everything is suddenly crazy on sale for no reason!!!!"

I always thought of Black Friday as the US equivalent to our Boxing Day (December 26th), but it looks like we now get to double up and share in the insanity of pre-holiday season blowout deals.

So in honour of Black Friday (and if you like your bargain shopping to be online and trample-free like I do), here are some great places to track the deals today and throughout the weekend:

1. Up here in Canada, I've heard it referred to as Red Friday, Black Frid-eh! (my personal fav) and of course, Old Navy is referring to it as Cheermageddon (because happy...end of the world?). Regardless of what you call it, we are seeing our fair share of deals north of the border and if you need to kickstart your holiday shopping, there's no better place to scope out all the deals than Canadian Daily Deals. I have no way of knowing if they've captured absolutely everything, but there's way more than enough to get you started!

2. Of course, this isn't about us Canadians (not really). It's about our dear pals to the south, who are hopefully so full of delicious turkey that sitting in front of the computer shopping their hearts out is all they can manage. My search for an American Daily Deals turned up nothing (I guess there isn't a sister site), but I did find what looks to be a pretty comprehensive list at Deals of America. Have at it, my American friends! Tis the season and all that!

3. Now that we've covered all the self-indulgent shopping options, you're probably feeling the need to give back a bit (assuming your heart isn't as black as the day itself). Better hit up Free Rice and start clicking! Bonus: improve your vocab at the same time!

4. Better yet, during this time of glutenous overkill, why not make a charitible donation to one of the following charities that are fighting to make the world a better place for everyone:
5. You've shopped, you've alleviated the guilt with a little charity--now it's time for a little R&R, right? This week's YA book rec is Elemental by Antony John.

I don't have much to say about the cover. It's kind of ho-hum. And kind of familiar. I know it's a genre thing, and I'm sure it's backed by market research, but there's nothing to write home about.

What the book does have going for it, is its plot:
Sixteen-year-old Thomas has always been an outsider. The first child born without the power of an Element—earth, water, wind or fire—he has little to offer his tiny, remote Outer Banks colony. Or so the Guardians would have him believe.

In the wake of an unforeseen storm, desperate pirates kidnap the Guardians, intent on claiming the island as their own. Caught between the plague-ridden mainland and the advancing pirates, Thomas and his friends fight for survival in the battered remains of a mysterious abandoned settlement. But the secrets they unearth will turn Thomas’ world upside-down, and bring to light not only a treacherous past but also a future more dangerous than he can possibly imagine.
(Summary from
The idea of using elemental powers to drive your plot isn't a new concept, but we have a protagonist who's an outsider (which I can totally dig), forced into a dangerous situation that could determine the future of his world. And it's not just any dangerous situation, it's one that involves pirates! How can you say no to that? You simply can't, my friends. You simply can't.

Have a great weekend!

finding a good home for your creation

I recently received some heartwarmingly positive feedback on a short story I wrote for a contest. As happy as I was with the story I'd written, it hadn't won. So I'd sadly moved on. But after the feedback I unexpectedly received recently, I'm now putting some thought into what else I can do with this story. I know it seems shortsighted, but it hadn't occurred to me to submit it anywhere else. My focus has always been on writing novels. The odd short story I've submitted for a contest here or there was always in a separate space in my mind. But just because a story didn't serve its initial purpose, doesn't mean you can't still find it a good home.

For a lot of people, a book that didn't survive the querying trenches (or ensuing the submission stage) eventually gets shelved. It's viewed as a learning experience, having served its purpose as a book that needed to be written before an author could go on to write the book that gets them where they're going. For others, shelving a book they've slaved over is too heartbreaking, and self-publishing is an option.

Which route is better? Well, that depends. If you're still pursuing a traditional publishing career, self-publishing could potentially hurt you down the road, especially if the book you self-publish is vastly different in style and genre than the book you're eventually signed for. It's hard to develop a strong debut author brand when an old self-published novel is kicking around. The power of your debut is diminished, especially if the self-pubbed book really wasn't up to snuff.

But if you've decided the traditional publishing route isn't for you, isn't self-publishing better than letting your story collect dust in a drawer? Again, that depends. Personally, I'd never recommend that someone invest their savings into self-publishing a book (unless they're an established author who has a strong following and is making the jump from traditional publishing to self-publishing, but that's a whole separate issue). If you have the money to do it (without the spend having adverse effects on your family/life) then I'd say self-publishing is a good option if you'd really like to see your story in book form (or ebook form).

"I'm so glad I decided to self-publish my book about reading with your eyes closed..."
A story is more than just words on a page (yes, even the muddled NaNo story you may or may not be avoiding as you read this). It's something special. Even if you write as a hobby instead of in pursuit of publication, finishing a book is a huge accomplishment and beloved creations deserve good homes, whether that be through self-publishing, submission to contests, submission to magazines, or just a special spot on your bookshelf. If you're proud of something you've created, you should take it as far as you can. And if the route you dream of doesn't work out, find another good home for your creation. It never has to be an all or nothing thing.

Do you have prior works of art that didn't achieve their initial purpose? Did you go on to find them a good home elsewhere?

Anybody have good lead on where I should submit my YA sci-fi short story? :)

friday5 for November 16, 2012

Let's be honest here, I haven't spent a lot of time around the web this week. When I haven't been busy with life things, my attention has been squarely on all things NaNoWriMo.

I'm not "on target" according to the 50k standard, but I am keeping a good pace and more importantly, I'm happy with what I'm writing.  It feels like it's going somewhere (most of the time) and as I knew would happen eventually (even as I navigated those first, scary, very-loosely-outlined chapters), my characters are now telling me what's up. Their voices are distinct, their motivations are clear and I have a very good feeling about where things are headed.

...But I'm not where I "should be" in terms of word count. At first I started to feel stressed about that, but then I re-read some of the NaNo posts I've linked to recently, and I reminded myself that 30-35k of a book I can polish into something publishable is worth far more to me than 50k of a book that goes off in the wrong direction and has no substance. There is absolutely a place for NaNoers (or Wrimos as we're apparently called) who are primarily concerned with quantity over depth, but I'm just not one of them (I say depth rather than quality because sometimes the quality/potential is evident--it's the layers nobody has time for). And maybe that means I'll never be able to "win" NaNo (at least not while I have a baby). I can live with that. I have my own goals for the month--and while one of them is to get a lot of words on the page, a more pressing one is to spend quality time with my daughter as I find my maternity leave disappearing before my eyes.

That's all a long way of saying I don't have my usual variety of links for this week's friday5 so instead, here's a rapid-fire publishing/nano edition of the friday5!

1. It's that time again--best book of the year lists are popping up everywhere. Amazon's Best Teen Books list has pointed out just how little time I've had to read for pleasure this year. I don't know much (anything) about batting averages, but I'm only batting 4 out of 20 (convert that into whatever makes sense, sports fans!). Do I get bonus points for having read the #1 book? No? Because John Green is amazing and how could anyone not read his books? Okay, fine.

2. Another great post by Beth Revis as she live-blogs a day in the glamorous NaNo life. Doesn't it feel good to know you aren't the only one shopping online when you should be writing? Hey, at least I'm chipping away at my holiday gift list...

3. Okay, this is only semi-publishing related, but Deadline is reporting that they're narrowing in on an actor to play Four in the Divergent film franchise. Going purely off looks (because I have no clue who any of these guys are), Jack Reynor is my top pick. Luke Bracey is second. Brenton Thwaites is not how I picture Four at all (that guy looks like he should be on the Disney channel) and Lucas Till is even further from how I picture Four. So Jack Reynor for the win!!! (even though I'm basing this solely on thumbnail pictures of these guys...)

4. Scholastic is being awesome by donating one million books to schools and libraries that were affected by superstorm Sandy. Very cool of them. Yes, moves like this are good PR, but that doesn't mean they aren't also good deeds. This is about getting books to kids. They can have all the good PR they want.

5. Of course I can't leave out my YA book rec of the week! For those who've read the first two books in Allie Condie's dystopian Matched trilogy, book three, Reached, is out (and somehow managed to make it onto that Amazon Best Teen Books list I mentioned above, even though the book had only been out for one day when the list was posted...). I haven't read these books (yet!) so I'm not really in a position to talk about book three excitement (yet!). Instead, let's take a look at Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara. You're probably learning by now that I'm a sucker for a gorgeous cover and oooh! look what we have here:
I'm not ready for real snow, but this I can get behind.
A resonant debut novel about retreating from the world after losing everything—and the connections that force you to rejoin it. Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
ummary from
Many of the reviews are calling it "lovely, dark and deep" so I guess the title did its job :) But seriously, I always think of myself as primarily a reader of paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian YA, but then I find myself drawn to contemporaries. Especially literary ones like this. The plot doesn't sound revolutionary, but when a story is beautifully told, it's worth hearing again. Plus, it's a debut and debuts are always worth a read--not only are you in a good position to discover a new favourite author, you're giving new authors the much needed support they've worked extremely hard for. Win-win!

Was this post actually shorter than a normal friday5? I'm pretty sure it wasn't... Oh well! Happy weekend!

the writer's arsenal: query letter dos and don'ts

Over time, I plan to look at certain specific aspects of the query letter (and query process) in a little more detail. But you have to start somewhere, and I think the best place to start is with a top line list of dos and don'ts when it comes to querying. Query letters seem like they should be straightforward and there's certainly plenty of information on them around the web, but in my experience some of the info is conflicting and some of it amounts to few actual takeaway tips. I'm hoping to keep the tips in this post clear and concise. And then we'll get into more detail in future posts (let me know in the comments if there's an aspect of querying or anything publishing-related that you'd like to hear more about down the road). I'm going to stick to tips that mainly apply to querying fiction. I'll cover non-fiction in another post, as it's a whole different ball game.

I apologize ahead of time for typos--it's a long list and I'm doing the bad thing by posting before I proof. I'll fix it up as I notice the inevitable errors :)

  • DO finish your book before you query. This should be a no-brainer, but people often get excited and want to start the process as soon as possible. But please, don't do this. You should be focusing all of your efforts on finishing, then revising, then polishing your book. Then, and only then, should you start querying agents and publishers. 
  • DO ensure you're only reaching out to reputable agents/agencies/publishers. Check out the services offered at QueryTracker. Use Preditors and Editors, an online resource for writers to help them avoid being scammed. Also check out the Thumbs Down Agency List at SFWA and the forums at Absolute Write. These resources exist for education and support. You'll need a lot of both as you attempt to enter this crazy business.
  • DO your research. Know whether or not the person you're querying represents your genre. Querying someone who doesn't is only going to make your rejection/non-response rate go up. Keep to the people you might have a shot with. They're the ones who know their stuff when it comes to your genre. They're the ones you'd want representing you anyway.
  • DO also research the person you're querying beyond just which genres they represent. Do they have a website? Twitter? Blog? Do they have preferences when it comes to query letters? If they do, ALWAYS follow them. ALWAYS. They've provided those guidelines for a reason. Respecting them will get you started off on the right foot.
  • DO include sample pages ONLY IF the agent has asked for them in their guidelines. Otherwise, keep it to just the query letter itself. Most agents will say how many sample pages, chapters, etc they would like to see included, but if you come across a set of guidelines that simply say "sample pages are fine", keep it to the first 5-10 pages, or if your first chapter lands somewhere in that range, cut it off there. It's enough to get a taste, and it's certainly enough to help them decide whether or not they want to read more. 
  • DON'T select sample pages from what you believe to be "the best" part of your book. Sample pages should always be from the beginning of your book--not an exciting passage from chapter nine (even if it is awesome). The opening pages of your book should be attention-grabbing enough. If they aren't, you have more revising to do. 
  • DO send your query letter via email whenever possible. It's faster and more environmentally friendly. Very few agents/publishers still prefer submissions via snail mail, but if they do, adhere to that request. Include a SASE and remember to actually put a stamp on it. An envelope with your address on it is worthless without the stamp.
  • DON'T send your query letter on weird stationary (this goes for email and snail mail). For snail mail, don't include anything other than the query letter, SASE and sample pages (if they were asked for in the guidelines). No glitter, no spritzes of perfume, no sample marketing materials, and no sample covers you've designed yourself.
  • DO send email queries from a professional sounding email address that identifies who you are. will make you look ridiculous. If you don't have an email address that is some variation of your name, make one.
  • DO keep your content in the body of the email. No attachments unless the person has specifically said it's okay. That includes sample pages. Paste them into the body of the email, below the query letter.
  • DO format email queries as emails. Don't try and use the snail letter format in an email. It looks silly. The subject line should read, "Query: <title of book>" unless an agent specifically requests otherwise.
  • DO prepare your subject line and body of the email first and then add the recipient's email address last. This will prevent you from accidentally sending it off before it's ready to go. Hitting send won't get very far with a blank To: field.
  • DON'T send query letters out in big batches to multiple recipients, even if a bunch of agents have identical guidelines. Their names aren't identical and that's reason enough to separate them out. Nobody wants to be reduced to a name on your mass query mailing list.  
  • DO address your letter to the specific person you're querying. Dear Sir, Dear Agent, Dear Publisher, To Whom it May Concern, etc is not a good first impression (especially the Dear Sir--you're just going to offend somebody with that one). Since you've done your research on the people you're querying, there is no reason to not address each letter you send to the person it's indented for. If an agency asks that you send one query letter to the agency and they'll decide who it's right for and no name of contact is given, simply address it to the agency: "Dear Agents of <insert agency name>". Don't just leave out a salutation. You have one shot at a first impression. Make it count.
  • DO keep in mind that a query letter is a professional letter. Keep it that way. It certainly can be genial and polite, but don't let it slide into casual territory. Keep your language professional, clean, concise and on point.
  • DON'T lose sight of what the query letter is about--your book. It's not a platform for you to talk about yourself, your family, your pets, your dreams, where you grew up, where you traveled in your youth, any adversity you've overcome, etc. It's about the book you've written and your specific, non-emotional qualifications to write said book. The person you're querying isn't your pen pal. Don't tell them about your life. This isn't a personal correspondence. It's a business letter.
  • DO keep to this format: intro or hook (if you have one), brief but enticing plot summary, brief author bio/qualifications, thank you, sign off. The letter shouldn't be longer than 3-4 paragraphs. Some agents would also like to know how you found out about them and why your book would be a good fit for their list. If they mention this in their guidelines, then go for it, otherwise, keep it short and sweet.
  • DO make sure you include the following vital pieces of information in your letter: title, genre, word count and what the book is about. Those are the things agents/publishers need to know. 
  • DON'T mention future books in a series, or other books you've written (unless they were published). A query letter should be about one book. Even if your book is book one of a planned trilogy, don't mention this. If the agent is interested in the book, that's something you can discuss when you speak on the phone. 
  • DON'T write one huge book and talk about how it could be broken into shorter books. When you query, your book should be ready to stand alone as one cohesive unit. And the word count should be reasonable (90-100k for adult fiction; 60-80k for YA, 50-60k for MG. There are exceptions but don't stray too far).
  • DON'T even think about mentioning the word film. Or movie. Or merchandizing. Your query letter is about the manuscript you've written. That's it. The time to talk about anything beyond the book itself is not now. That may come  later, after you've actually sold your book to a publisher, and even then, let the conversation come to you. Publishing is not the film industry.
  • DON'T praise your own book in your letter. Just don't. It may seem harmless to refer to it as a hilarious tale of blah blah blah, but just don't. The book should speak for itself. The plot summary should hint at the themes and give a sample of the voice (I'll discuss the plot summary in more detail in a future post), but it should do these things without you having to spell them out.
  • DO include information about any relevant writing awards you've won, writers' groups you're a part of, and/or relevant education you've completed. If none of these apply, don't try and find things to force in their place. Just keep your letter simple.
  • DO mention it if you've been published before. If you have, always include details (title, pub date, publisher).
  • DO remind an agent of who you are if you've queried them in the past, especially if they've requested material from you.
  • DON'T feel the need to point out that this is your first book. Nobody needs to know that. Your lack of publishing credentials will speak to that.
  • DON'T feel the need to copyright or get a patent for your book. It's not necessary and it makes you look paranoid. As long as you are querying reputable agents and publishers, nobody is going to steal your book. 
  • DO mention comparable books if the agents asks for it in their guidelines, otherwise, don't feel the need to do it unless it's a fantastic comparison. Don't say it's the next Harry Potter or Twilight or whatever. Don't compare your book to bestsellers just because you want it to sound awesome. Only compare it to books if the comparison is pitch-perfect. Otherwise, you just look silly.
  • DO include your contact information at the bottom of your letter--email, phone number, address.
  • DO proof your query letter before you send it. Even if you've saved it as a template somewhere on your computer and you know it's been proofed. Check it again.
  • DO proof your query letter before you send it. Oh, I just said that? Well, do it again. The last thing you want to do is hit send and then realize you've made a silly typo. Most agents will be forgiving of an easily-missed typo, but more than one starts to get you in serious trouble.
  • DO send your query letters out in batches and wait to hear back from a few before sending more. Many people will recommend you don't query your top choices right away in case the first version of your query letter isn't your best (it's probably not). Query agents you are interested in, but maybe aren't your top choices and based on their feedback, revise your letter before sending it to your top picks. If the query letter seems to work and you receive some requests, feel free to stick with it and send it along to those top agents. But don't query 100 agents at once or you'll be sorry if you realize the query could be stronger. Again, you only get one first impression.
  • DO keep track of who you've queried and when. I like to create a spreadsheet in excel that also includes info on expected response time, whether or not sample pages were involved and any other relevant info on the agent or agency.
  • DON'T reply to rejections. Not even to say thank you. Just read them and move on. Agents don't expect or want replies to rejections, especially form rejections. If you receive a rejection on requested material, a simple "Thank you for your time" email is acceptable, but don't ever ask for more feedback. Don't ask if you can send a revision. If an agent would be open to seeing a revision, they will mention it in their reply.
  • DO respond to requests for more material in a timely manner, usually within 24 hours. Follow instructions carefully. If they only want to see a few chapters, don't send the whole thing. When you are ready to send along your materials, change the subject of your email to something along the lines of "Requested material: <title of book>" so that it stands out in the agent's flooded inbox.
  • DO be patient. Patience is HUGE in publishing. You're always waiting for something and the wait starts now. Agents/editors are busy. Very busy. Give them time to get to your query or submission. If they are a non-responder, they'll usually mention it in their guidelines (ie: if you don't hear back within six weeks, consider it a pass). Respect that. If they say it's okay to follow-up, then do so. If they don't specify a time, eight weeks is a good rule of thumb. I know that seems long, but trust me, it takes that long sometimes. Sometimes it takes even longer. After eight week, a polite, "Just wanted to follow up on my query from <date>" is acceptable. Include the original query in your email. If you still haven't heard back after another six-eight weeks, follow-up again, but after that, it might be time to start thinking about moving on.
  • DON'T re-query a book to the same agent after they've rejected you. They'll remember and they'll be mad at you for trying to trick them. Only send a revised manuscript if it's been requested, the only possible exception being if you've done a major overhaul and have received some positive reactions to it from other agents, then it's okay to see if a previously semi-interested agent would like a second look.

I'm certain I've missed a few things but I'll definitely add to this list as I think of more. If you have any questions about any of the above, or anything I didn't cover, please ask away in the comments!
I will cover the next step, a.k.a. what to do when an agent offers representation, in a future post.

For today, I will leave you with my query letter for Unnatural (titled Unnatural Disaster at the time), the book that snagged me my fabulous agent:
Dear <agent>,
November "Ember" Edwards is not a witch. She can't successfully perform a single spell, which would be a total non-issue except that everybody else can. Ember is what The Ravendale Finishing School for Young Sorcerers labels a "dud", a weak link in the gene pool, and it's sink or swim when she and a group of fellow non-graduating students are led into the woods for the post-academic culling, an annual event that pits the duds against a series of so-called natural disasters, forcing them to either summon their latent magical abilities or die trying.
Thankfully, Ember is not alone. Her boyfriend Ren Hargrove is also a dud, and Ember thinks they have a good shot at surviving if they stick together. But first, she'll have to find a way to get Caden Rowley, the mysterious stranger who turns up in the woods, out of her mind, a task that's much easier said than done when he causes her to feel the first sparks of magic she's ever known—something she's learning she can't live without.
I’m seeking representation for my young adult novel, Unnatural Disaster, which is complete at 63, 300 words. I graduated with an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Professional Writing from the University of <redacted>. I'm currently on maternity leave from my position as an editorial assistant for <redacted>.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Warm regards,

Kate Pawson Studer

friday5 for November 9, 2012

I totally should be working on my NaNo book right now, but I'm taking a break to bring you the friday5--this is how dedicated I am to you, faithful blog readers! All ten of you! Okay, there's more than ten of you, but even if there was only one of you, I'd still do the friday5 because let's face it, there's news a brewin':

1. Let's kick things off with another fantastic post about NanoWrimo, this time from the immensely talented Beth Revis (whose Across the Universe series is fantastic in audiobook format! The husband and I listened to books one and two in the car while on long drives and both give it two thumbs up. That's four thumbs, people!). Anyway, Beth points out, much like Carrie Ryan did in her post, which I linked to on Sunday, that it isn't about winning NaNo. It's about enthusiasm, support, and most importantly, writing a book! Check out A Corollary to NaNoWriMo, or, Why I'm Prouder of 600 Words than 10,000.

2. I never got the whole zombie romance craze. I like my zombies all mindless, erratic and murder-y. I'm talking Carrie Ryan (girl's getting lots of play on this blog lately!), Sophie Littlefield (ZOMG soooo good!) and of course, The Walking Dead. When somebody (I won't pretend to know who) decided to make zombies the new vampire by turning them into sentient (?), desirable (??), swoon-inducing objects of teen girl affection (???!), I just couldn't get on board. There's the undead and then there's the undead, you know? But then I saw the trailer for Warm Bodies. And I have to admit, it looks fantastic. I missed out on the book the first time around, but now I'm thinking I might have to check it out. This doesn't change my stance on zombie romance, but I think the story in Warm Bodies might be something I could get behind, especially if it's as funny as it looks. I can't say no to funny. Have any of you read it? Reviews?

3. Let's talk news I'm waaaaay more excited about than I should be. As a card-carrying Veronica Mars fan (yes, I made the card myself, what of it?), I squeeeed at the top of my fangirl lungs when I read that Kristen Bell (who I'm pretty sure I'd love even if she wasn't our dear Veronica), and her fiance Dax Shepard (who I used to refer to as the poor man's Zach Braff until I saw the guy act--now he's just a super cool, funny guy who happens to resemble ZB)...where was I? Oh right--they're having a baby! Ahhhh! A Veronica Mars baby!!!! Is it wrong that I'm already hoping it's a girl and she grows up to star in some sort of awesome reboot of Veronica Mars? No? I didn't think so. But seriously, how cute is that baby going to be? Satyana Denisof may have some competition...

4. I'm not going to try and pass the results of the US Presidential Election off as some news story you may not have been aware of, but aside from Obama's victory, some very big things came about from Tuesday's vote. Those very big things have me feeling rather proud of my neighbours to the south. And I hope they're a sign of more good thing to come. Hope and optimism are alive! I can't help but think it has something to do with the awesomeness of young voters, demonstrating their desire for change. Hooray!

5. YA book rec of the week time! Days of Blood & Starlight by Liani Taylor. It's book two in a series (after 2011's Daughter of Smoke & Bone) and it's looking pretty damn amazing:

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas. (Summary from
Admittedly, the description doesn't say much about the book, but that's kinda how it often goes with sequels. So let me also share the description for book one since that's where you should start before motoring along to book two:
Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
(Summary from
Kick-ass titles, gorgeous covers and brilliant writing. What more do you want?  

Time to get back to the old NaNo WIP... I'm still convinced I won't make it to 50k, but I'm pretty thrilled with the progress I am making and I'm starting to feel really excited about the story itself. As far as I'm concerned, those things are what NaNo is all about! 

no post today (err, other than this one...)

Just a quick post to say there won't be a regular Monday post today. NaNo is forcing me into an out of the ordinary routine, so I'm posting when I can (like yesterday's NaNo focused post with links to some of the best writing advice on the web) and writing when I can. Since yesterday was better for blogging, I did, and since today is better for writing, I'm going to. I hope to be back with a regular post next Monday in which I'll address query letters and the query process as part of the writer's arsenal. After four years of reading query letters, not to mention my own experiences writing them, I have a few tips I want to share :)

In the meantime, my word count is calling...

verbose seductress...

and the only prescription is all the nanowrimo advice you can find

Here we are on day four of NaNo and I'm already falling behind on my word count. But I knew this would happen. I mean, let's face it, 10-month-old babies and long hours of uninterrupted writing time don't exactly go hand in hand. I'm not at a point in my life when I can selfishly shut the door on everything for a month. But I am writing when I can. And I am staying at least close to my goals. The gap will undoubtedly widen as the month goes on, but that's okay too. I'm writing every day. I'm making some sort of progress on a novel. Isn't that what NaNo is all about?

Coffee is involved for a reason.

Also as I knew would happen, I'm struggling to keep my inner-editor at bay. Editing-as-I-go is such an entrenched habit of mine that I can't just turn it off. I have to catch myself doing it and then slap my own hand. I expect that aspect of things will get easier as the month goes on, but it'll take some time.

In addition to writing, I've also been reading, and there are a few links I want to share because they're worth a read whether you're participating in NaNo or not:

The first is a post by the extremely talented Carrie Ryan, whose brilliant and breathtaking The Forest of Hands and Teeth started as her NaNo project back in 2006. And you know what? She didn't write 50k that month. But she did write the beginning of what would turn out to be her big break. Read all about it here.

Former-awesome-lit-agent-turned-awesome-writer Nathan Bransford (whose entire blog is worth a read if you have the time, which, if you're doing NaNo, you clearly don't, but add it to your RSS and thank me later) wrote a post collecting several of his most helpful past writing posts in one place. These are must-read material if you've never written a novel before or if your novels never seem to go anywhere and you can't quite pinpoint why.

Finally, Galleycat's Jason Boog is offering up more advice than you bargained for in his post titled NaNoWriMo Tip #1: Read Two Years' Worth of Advice in a Single Post. It doesn't get much more comprehensive than that. There's a lot of content here so you might want to start by reading the first few tips when you need a writing break and then keep going back a forth. You do want to spend some of your time writing after all :) I find the best time to divert a little attention toward these NaNo tips is when I've hit a mini roadblock in my writing and I need to let the active part of my brain switch to something else for a few minutes while the back of my mind sorts out my next move writing-wise.

Well, I'm going to get back to it. If I can manage to keep the old inner-editor locked up, I might even catch up on my word count, but I'm going to be disappointed if that doesn't happen. This point is, I'm writing a book!

friday5 for November 2, 2012

What a long and crazy week it's been! Though it was big news, I won't cover the details of Hurricane Sandy here. It's not that kind of blog. But if you're able, please donate to your local Red Cross. A lot of people out there need help right now and it's up to those of us who were lucky enough to just have a really windy night (or nothing at all) to pull together and be there for those in need.

That said, let's get to the less humanitarian things that happened this week:

1. Disney has purchased Lucasfilm for over $4 billion. You know, as one does. You can put me firmly in the camp of people who were not remotely surprised to see this happen. In fact, I think a part of me assumed this already happened a few years back. I've certainly seen plenty of associations over the years. I'm not enough of a Star Wars superfan to weigh in with my thoughts on whether or not Disney can pull off future contributions to the film franchise with any success (I saw Episode I; it's not like the bar hasn't been lowered). Besides, that's not the part that caught my eye. In fact, like Sandy, this was such big news that I almost didn't bother to mention it, but then something truly intriguing happened: Lucas announced that he plans to use the bulk of the Disney money to fund education. I tip my proverbial chapeau to you, Mr. Lucas. That's some serious philanthropy. Hey, this story turned out to be rather humanitarian after all!

2. TV NEWS! A few things to mention so I'm grouping them ;)

a) Everyone's favourite offensively insightful comedian Louis CK will be hosting SNL this weekend. I'm not a regular SNL viewer (because I have a baby and I'm tired), but I know that either I or my PVR will be tuning in to see CK on the show. Even when he's bad, he's good. I do feel a bit sorry for the guy, having to host in the wake of Sandy, when many in the country aren't necessarily up for comedy, but a good laugh goes a long way to help people heal and CK absolutely has what it takes.

b) Community has a return date! Community has a return date! It's a miracle! And it's not scheduled for a Friday! It's a double miracle! (And it both is and isn't October 19th!) Okay, yes, a February 7th return doesn't bode well for the network picking up the balance of this season, but it's taking over after 30 Rock peaces out so maybe they can somehow turn that into more viewers and get picked up for a 5th season. #sixseasonsandamovie

c) This is a short one: The new season of The Vampire Diaries is rocking my socks. That is all.

3. Big publishing news this week. HUGE! (Didn't I say it's been a long and crazy week? This news already feels like it happened months ago!) The Random Penguin is a thing. Okay, it's not called The Random Penguin, but I think that's what the cool kids are gonna be calling it so I'm getting in on the first floor. Big time biggies, Random House and Penguin, are merging. Honestly, I'm still digesting this news. I've read quite a bit about it this week and I thought by the time I wrote this post, I'd have formed more of an opinion, but I'm just not there yet. And I think it's going to be a while before I am. I'm going to sit back and quietly reserve judgement. The deal isn't set to close until later in 2013 and what changes to the publishing landscape will result remain to be seen. I know I'll be keeping a close eye on things as they develop.

4. The US Election is everywhere you look right now (yes, even here in Canada). Since I'm not in a position to vote myself, the best I can do is share this brilliant video from the one, the only, His Royal Jossness: Whedon on Romney. Think about the future.

5. This week's YA book rec is for Rootless by Chris Howard.

Robot trees!!!
17-year-old Banyan is a tree builder. Using scrap metal and salvaged junk, he creates forests for rich patrons who seek a reprieve from the desolate landscape. Although Banyan's never seen a real tree—they were destroyed more than a century ago—his father used to tell him stories about the Old World. But that was before his father was taken . . .

Everything changes when Banyan meets a woman with a strange tattoo—a clue to the whereabouts of the last living trees on earth, and he sets off across a wasteland from which few return. Those who make it past the pirates and poachers can't escape the locusts—the locusts that now feed on human flesh.

But Banyan isn't the only one looking for the trees, and he's running out of time. Unsure of whom to trust, he's forced to make an uneasy alliance with Alpha, an alluring, dangerous pirate with an agenda of her own. As they race towards a promised land that might only be a myth, Banyan makes shocking discoveries about his family, his past, and how far people will go to bring back the trees.

In this dazzling debut, Howard presents a disturbing world with uncanny similarities to our own. Like the forests Banyan seeks to rebuild, this visionary novel is both beautiful and haunting—full of images that will take permanent root in your mind . . . and forever change the way you think about nature.
(Summary from

This description has me thinking twisted, post-apocalyptic environmental fairytale = awesome. Plus, male protagonist! They're so outnumbered in YA. We need to pay them some attention.

Okay, bloggies, that's it for this week. I need to get back to my NaNo project, Skin Deep, which, like Rootless, also features a strange tattoo--or five. Yes, five. With potential for more. I'm hoping to hit the 4k mark today so I'd better get to it! Happy weekend and I'll see you on Monday!