Wednesday, March 28, 2012

TANGLED TIDES, by Karen Hooper

This week's feature is TANGLED TIDES, by Karen Hooper. Karen is also one of the co-founders of the YA Confidential blog.

 Here's the premise of TANGLED TIDES, from Goodreads:

Yara Jones doesn’t believe in sea monsters—until she becomes one.

When a hurricane hits her island home and she wakes up with fins, Yara finds herself tangled up in an underwater world of mysterious merfolk and secretive selkies. Both sides believe Yara can save them by fulfilling a broken promise and opening the sealed gateway to their realm, but they are battling over how it should be done. The selkies want to take her life. The merfolk want something far more precious.

Treygan, the stormy-eyed merman who turned Yara mer, will stop at nothing and sacrifice everything to protect his people—until he falls for Yara. The tides turn as Yara fights to save herself, hundreds of sea creatures, and the merman who has her heart. She could lose her soul in the process—or she might open the gateway to a love that’s deeper than the oceans.

Young Adult fans of Mermaids, Selkies, Sirens and Gorgons will love this tale of the sacrifice one makes for genuine love. Love that could be lost at any moment to the ever-changing tides.

Here's the trailer:

Below is my interview with Karen:

According to your website, you're currently living in Florida. Did this setting have an influence on TANGLED TIDES?

Oh, yes. I love living near the water. Many times I've walked the beach or watched the sunset while imagining all kinds of magical worlds beneath the surface.

 I see you're part of a writing group called The Indelibles. (I featured another Indelibes member, Michelle Muto, a few months back.) Can you tell us more about how this group was founded and how it's helped you and your writing?

The group was founded by Shelli Johannes and Megg Jensen. Basically, they wanted to create a group where authors could share, learn and support each other in closer and more in-depth way than just blogging. I have learned tons from them, everything from formatting an ebook to coping with bad reviews. We're a great team, and we keep getting stronger (as writers and friends) as we get to know each other better.

That's great! I've heard a support group of writers can be extremely helpful. I love the pitch for TANGLED TIDES. What do you feel is the most difficult part of writing a good pitch?

Thank you! I love it too, but I have to give credit to my editor because she really helped me strengthen it. The pitch is a topic I struggle with a lot. As the author, it's sometimes tough to know what concept or area to focus on, but you always want to establish the conflict and what's at stake. And you want to give enough details to paint an enticing picture, but not so many details that you give the whole story away.

 Great advice--and one I plan to use to make my pitch pop a bit more. What do you want readers to take away after they finish reading TANGLED TIDES?

I hope they feel like they've had a magical and exciting escape from reality, but I also hope they take away the message that with love, anything is possible.

Absolutely! What other projects are you currently working on?

I'm writing the sequel to Tangled Tides (things didn't end as happily ever after as they seemed), and I'm also preparing to release the first book in my YA reincarnation series, Grasping at Eternity. 

TANGLED TIDES is now available for purchase through the following retailers:
Rhemalda Bookstore:
Barnes & Noble:

And here's Karen's author information if you'd like to find out more:
Author Website:

Monday, March 26, 2012

365 Days of the Query: The Benefits of a Businesslike Email

Recently, Janet Reid pointed out the importance of a businesslike email on her blog, and I started to reconsider the gmail account I've been using for my writing. My username included the phrases "cloud" and "hime" (Japanese for princess), which, I realized, probably wasn't going to get my writing taken all that seriously.

So I created a new email through my website, (linked through Outlook), and I've already noticed the following benefits:

1. The new email includes my website in the address

This will help my raise the prevalance of my site when I query. Plus, it looks more professional and indicates that I take my writing seriously.

2. Outlook allows me to better manage my task load

This was a huge revelation. Until now, I've been fielding conference preparations, agent lists, blog responses, websites with useful info, and writing correspondences in gmail, which is also a landing ground for a lot of my more general email. I was getting overwhelmed trying to manage everything I had to get done. Lesson: Never use your email inbox as a to-do list. However, Outlook has a very handy task tool that lets me set my to-do list separate from my email, and I'm already breathing a lot easier. 

3. No more formatting issues that hinder progress

Gmail does a lot of great things, but something it doesn't do naturally is double-spaced formatting (which, from what I understand, is the format manuscript pages should be in, even when they're embedded in email). With Outlook, this is no problem, which lessens the number of steps to get a query sent (and makes mistakes less likely).

What benefits have you had from changing your writing email to something more businesslike?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

UNRAVELING, by Elizabeth Norris

This week's feature is UNRAVELING, by Elizabeth Norris, which has a very unique premise and should prove to be a fantastic read. Heck, I'm already posting about it, even though it doesn't release until April 24th!

From Goodreads:

Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.

Here's the trailer:

Liz was also kind enough to answer some questions I had:

On your website, you said THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING was one of the books that influenced your writing. What other influences did you have, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

I had an amazing English teacher in tenth grade, and her passion about literature and writing really made me feel connected to books. That year we read THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, which I loved, and The Great Gatsby which is one of my favorite novels of all time, and it's certainly influenced me. It was one of the first books that I read multiple times (the binding of my paperback started to fall apart!) and every time I read it, I took something new away from it. For a long time I tried writing Gatsby-esque literary fiction, but that had already been done before and it wasn't really me.

I had the same experience my senior year of high school--it's great when teachers can open up new worlds through books. I've also tried literary fiction--and feel the exact same way. 
UNRAVELING has a great premise, and I can't wait to read it! What about the story do you think is most compelling and what do you want readers to take away from it?

Thank you! Janelle is an ordinary teenager that finds herself caught up in something a lot bigger than herself, and she has to do a few extraordinary things in order to stay alive. She makes mistakes sometimes, but she's smart, she works hard, and she's determined to make it through. While the mystery and the plot are (hopefully!) compelling, to me the heart of UNRAVELING is a love story about two people who fall in love despite their differences and despite the fact that they might not ever be able to stay together.

It's wonderful that you're able to link your plot to an overall theme--that in and of itself is compelling, especially with the other plot elements you have going.
You mentioned on your website that UNRAVELING will have a sequel. Can you tell us a bit about it, as well as other projects you're working on?

UNRAVELING will have a sequel! It's already written, and I'm excited about how it's taken shape. I'm not sure I can tell you much about it without giving something away, so I'll leave it at that. As for other things I'm working on, I try not to talk about them too much until they're finished, but I have YA mystery project I'm particularly excited about at the moment.

Sounds promising! What advice do you have for writers wanting to break into YA science-fiction or fantasy? Do you think those genres have staying power? Why or why not?

I think it's a great time for anyone who wants to break in to YA science fiction and fantasy. There are a lot of great books out there that have opened doors and made fantasy cool. My advice would be to write the book you're passionate about--the book you'd want to read if it was on the shelves. As genres YA science fiction and fantasy definitely have staying power. The tough part for writers is that because they're popular genres right now, a lot of books are coming out in those genres and maybe not all of those books will have staying power.

Very useful tips. Thanks, Liz, for agreeing to be interviewed!

Be sure to keep on the lookout for UNRAVELING. Here's the countdown to the release:

Monday, March 19, 2012

365 Days of the Query: Give Them a Taste, Not a Mouthful

This past weekend, I attended a NARWA (Northern Arizona Romance Writers of America) mini-conference. During a session on query letters, I read mine aloud and found out my query was still too long, even after I'd taken pains to shorten it.

Take a look at the draft and see if you can spot where I went wrong:

"The land of Anderli is dying; a recurring fungus is killing crops, and men are disappearing. Many fear An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger, will recur.

According to Rags, a beggar with a sense of Anderli’s place among worlds, the land’s fate lies with fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke from Spring Oak, California. Unfortunately, Marnie’s latest claim to fame is colliding with a parked Ford pick-up on her bike.

When Marnie is transported to Anderli by way of a Triskeleon, an ancient bracelet linked to her bloodline, she doesn’t believe she can save an entire land. But she soon discovers the skills she inherited from the ancient Momenta; abilities to manipulate time and space. Quinn, a warlock-in-training, offers support, but Marnie can’t stop blushing when he shows her defensive tactics.

Before Anderli disappears, Marnie must locate the impostor who works for Terrsarah, a powerful sorceress fueled by her hatred of Momenta. But when Marnie discovers Rags’s true identity, she realizes that if Anderli is destroyed, she will not only lose the people she loves; the universe will ultimately unravel."

A bit longwinded, right? When I took a closer look at the page I realized why: the middle paragraph didn't need to be there at all. Take a look at the revised query, with the middle paragraph omitted:

"The land of Anderli is dying; a recurring fungus is killing crops, and men are disappearing. Many fear An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger, will recur.

According to Rags, a beggar with a sense of Anderli’s place among worlds, the land’s fate lies with fifteen-year-old Marnie Sayebrooke from Spring Oak, California. Unfortunately, Marnie’s latest claim to fame is colliding with a parked Ford pick-up on her bike.

When Marnie is transported to Anderli by way of a Triskeleon, an ancient bracelet linked to her bloodline, she doesn’t believe she can save an entire land. But she soon discovers the skills she inherited from the ancient Momenta; abilities to manipulate time and space. Quinn, a warlock-in-training, offers support, but Marnie can’t stop blushing when he shows her defensive tactics.

Before Anderli disappears, Marnie must locate the impostor who works for Terrsarah, a powerful sorceress fueled by her hatred of Momenta. But when Marnie discovers Rags’s true identity, she realizes that if Anderli is destroyed, she will not only lose the people she loves; the universe will ultimately unravel."

ee how it gets to the crux of the story without dragging it down? Sometimes doing something as simple as omitting an entire paragraph can make all the difference in the world.

Writers always want to be sure we include enough elements to make the query interesting. But I've learned that it's much better to be clear than thorough. Only give enough to spur someone's interest. If you bog everything down with too much detail, you'll get tuned out.

Take a look at your query. Which details need to be there? Which don't? Which sentences sound like summary? Which get to the point quicker? How does your query change when you omit sentences you used to think were absolutely necessary?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

ABOVE WORLD, by Jenn Reese

This week I'm happy to feature ABOVE WORLD, by Jenn Reese. This MG novel (first in a projected series) has a great premise!

Synopsis, from Goodreads:

Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people.

But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true.

Jenn was also kind enough to answer some questions:

I understand that you study martial arts. What do you enjoy about it, and has anything you learned made it into your writing?

I could fill a book on this topic! I’ve written many blog entries about both of these questions over the years, many of which are no longer accessible online. Let me pick just one topic to talk about now: mindfulness.

As a writer, I’m scattered. I’m one of those people who goes to the Internet to look something up for a story, and doesn’t realize she’s spent three hours surfing until it’s too late. Distractible and prone to procrastination, that’s me.

But in martial arts, there’s no room to focus on anything except what you’re doing in that moment – the position and shape of your hand, how your weight is distributed, the angle of your spine, your breathing, your eye focus, the intent behind the thrust of your spear. Martial arts requires all of you, your entire mind, body, and spirit. It demands mindfulness.

I’d love to report that I am now a perfectly disciplined writer whose brain never gallops off in six directions at once, but sadly, that is still far from the truth. However, having now tasted those moments of pure focus, I strive harder for them. Because when you’re in that place? Oh, boy. There’s nothing more magical.

For just a few other instances of how writing and martial arts intersect for me, try these blog entries:

The Luxury of Slow

The Art of Deception

An Ode to Bruises

Mindfulness can be a very therapeutic technique--I just finished an Insight Meditation class, and I can already see a difference in my daily life and work.
ABOVE WORLD has a very unique setting. How did you build the world for it, and what do you want readers to take away from the story?

Once I realized I wanted a science fiction story that felt like an epic fantasy, and that I wanted bioengineered mythological creatures such as mermaids and harpies and centaurs, my old-school Dungeons & Dragons training kicked in. (I should probably credit my degree in archaeology, but truthfully, that degree owes its origins to D&D and Raiders of the Lost Ark!)

I taught myself to play Dungeons & Dragons when I was 12, and spent all my free time (when I wasn’t reading, of course) creating characters and designing new worlds and cultures. I had notebooks full of maps, boxes full of index cards detailing magic items and their histories. Later, before I ever started trying to write short stories or novels, I wrote histories of my characters, drew out their family trees, and sketched their armor and weapons.

So in almost every sense, the world-building for Above World was simply an extension of my early D&D training. A good friend once said, “I want to play a role-playing game set in your world,” which remains one of my favorite compliments ever.

As for what I want readers to take away from the story, I can only talk about what was important to me while I was writing — the sense that any person can make a difference in the world, the idea that your true family is the one you build for yourself through friendship, the belief that we need each other, as individuals and as communities. For the most part, I simply hope readers are entertained. Everything they get from the book beyond that is icing on the cake.

Very insightful--I'm also learning how vital communities can be, especially for writers. What are some of your favorite genres to read, and why?

I will always be a die-hard fantasy and science fiction reader. When I was young, my home life wasn’t the greatest and books were my escape from reality. In those distant worlds, a girl could be plucked from obscurity and go on to save the world. A boy could be the center of a magical prophecy. I wanted to live in a place where monsters were clearly labeled as such, and where heroes could slay them. Where a person could fight hard and actually win.

I can definitely relate! Can you tell us about other projects you're currently working on?

I’ve just turned in revisions to the second book in the Above World series and am brainstorming for the third, which has not yet been sold. I also have a contemporary middle-grade fantasy in the works, and a YA “portal” story involving an alternate dimension.

Your portal story sounds exciting! If you were stuck on a desert island and could choose any two books to read, what would they be?

This will always be an impossible question for me as my favorite books change depending on my mood, but let’s assume that I’ll want something comforting and something challenging. For comfort, I’d take Ellen Raskin’s brilliant Newbery book, The Westing Game. I re-read this book every year and am always astonished at Raskin’s mastery of craft. The second book is trickier. Lord of the Rings is great and bears up to many re-readings, but there aren’t enough female characters. I think I’ll make up a book and take “The Collected Works of Octavia Butler.”
Thanks Jenn, for agreeing to be interviewed! ABOVE WORLD is currently available, and also be sure to check out JADE TIGER, Jenn's Kung Fu action adventure!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Just When You Think You're Invisible...

Congratulations to @whatisjuanoscar, winner of MY FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS!

If the writing contests I've entered lately are any indictation, the competition out there is very fierce. To the point where I'll let myself get intimidated if I'm not careful.

Perhaps this is why my last few posts have centered upon the thickness of the slush pile--how to make your work stand out--and how to find support networks while you're waiting to get noticed.

But what I forgot are the surprises that can happen. How they fall out of the sky when you least expect them.

After those posts went live, an editor of a book I'd reviewed contacted me through my website asking if I wanted to contribute a chapter to her next book. I was flabbergasted, and happily agreed.

So--just when you're feeling discouraged, feeling like there are too many talented writers out there for you to stand out, thinking that you can't take any more rejections...know that there will always be opportunities out there, if you're willing to look. And most of them will come in shapes you won't expect.

I leave you with this quote:

"Dwell in possibilities." ~Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Interview with Beth Barany, author of HENRIETTA THE DRAGON SLAYER

This week's book feature, HENRIETTA THE DRAGON SLAYER, is by Beth Barany, published author, writing coach, and professional speaker.

AUTHOR BIO (courtesy of Beth):

Beth Barany has been making up fantasy & adventure tales all her life. She writes to empower girls & women with her kick ass heroines who have to save the world against great odds. When she's not writing novels, she runs a concierge consultancy as a book coach & editor, speaker & consultant, helping other authors succeed in their careers.


Henrietta, the legendary Dragon Slayer of the Kingdom of Bleuve, can't stomach the thought of one more kill. Yet, in order to save her dying mentor, she must go on one last quest. But will misfit companions, seasickness, and an ego maniacal king derail the quest for the healing stone? And will she be able to cut past her conscience and kill the dragon?

Beth was kind enough to answer some of my questions:

You grew up in Sonoma, CA (right near where I grew up--hi, neighbor!) and wrote your first book at age seven. What originally inspired you to pursue writing?

Hi neighbor! That first book was about our cats, of course! I decided to originally pursue writing just like I dove into all my interests as a child: just because. Also, stories were always a huge part of my life. My parents were always reading to us. They loved movies and TV shows, too. Lastly, being a writer wasn't foreign because my great grandmother, Meridel LeSueur, was a writer.

On your website, it says that you're a creativity coach. What exactly does this entail, and what can aspiring writers expect from your services?

Well, there's a long answer but I’ll just give you the short answer! I help authors create successful careers at every stage: the writing, publishing and selling. I help them through coaching, consulting, workshops, products and talks.

That's a great service--writing alone can be tricky, and it's better to have support in the process. I understand you also offer a manuscript critique service. What, in your opinion, gets in the way of a book's marketability and what would you recommend to aspiring writers trying to get their books sold?

Really what gets in the way of marketability is poor editing and poor storytelling. So, writers, learn your craft, and the art of good writing. I recommend all authors get their work critiqued as soon as they can handle such feedback. It really helps having a kind and knowledgeable person giving you feedback on your writing. When I was first starting to write fiction, it was so helpful to hear what was working and also what wasn't in my writing. The feedback gave me confidence to trust my instincts on the one hand, and to pay close attention to the craft of writing, on the other.

A good critiquer is worth their weight in gold! I'd love to hear more about the science fiction and fantasy books you're writing. Can you tell us more about them?

Oh, sure! I love talking about my fiction, almost as much as I like writing it! My current novel is Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, book 1 of the Five Kingdoms Series. I'm really proud of this book. It recently one the 2012 Grand Prize in the California Book Fiction Challenge.

I'm working on the second book now, which should be out this summer. It follows Henrietta's adventure right after book one finished. I don't want to tell you about it, yet! You have to read book one first!

I've been working on a contemporary paranormal novel for teens set in Sonoma, California, and in my high school, Sonoma Valley High.

I've started a few time travel novels with cool physics explaining time travel. I've also written a few bizarre stories where my main character hallucinates he's won a million dollars, but it isn't what he thinks it is. I set it in my neighborhood in Oakland.

Thanks for interviewing me!! Thanks for being interviewed! I'm especially intrigued about the paranormal book based at Sonoma Valley High!

Go to the links below to find out more about Beth:





Selling outlets:

Monday, March 5, 2012

365 Days of the Query: Why a Crowd of Many Isn't Always a Bad Thing

In my last post, I talked about the disadvantages of being one in a crowd of many writers.

But strength in numbers has its advantages, too. Take the following advertisement (meant to encourage people to take the bus):

Just like all these worker ants, each aspiring writer is doing what he/she can to get by. And sometimes, forces beyond our control pull us down, much like the ant who almost got vaccuumed up.

What saved him were his allies.

The point: Instead of fighting in the crowd of masses, try to find allies within it. Find people to rely on when things get rough. Find others who can help you network and make connections. Join regional chapters of national organizations (like SCBWI or RWA). Find other writers in your area. Take a class. Join a group. Meet online.

I've been meeting the same writers online every week for the past four years. Not only do we make time to write, but we support one another too.

Writing is a tough business. But together, we can pull each another through.

REMINDER: This is the last week to enter for a free giveaway of MY FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS. Tweet an embarrassing moment to @WriterLibrarian with the hashtag #FrYrDisasters, or leave your moment in the comments section of this blog.

Friday, March 2, 2012

365 Days of the Query: One in a Crowd of Many

REMINDER: Free giveaway of MY FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS to a random commenter or tweeter who shares an embarrassing moment. Either leave a comment in the blog or tweet to @WriterLibrarian with the hashtag #FrYrDisasters.

The hardest part of the query process is not figuring out how many queries to write, or finding who to write them to, or even composing a synopsis or pitch. No, the hardest part is this: How to stand out among the deluge of writers trying to get published.

Agents receive hundreds of queries a month, and thousands a year. And that doesn't include the inquiries publishers get. I liken this to the large crowds at Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear-- Stewart and Colbert are the publishers and agents, while we aspiring writers are in the massive crowd, each one raising a hand and trying to be noticed.

Some people do strange things to get attention. You know, the idiot who paints himself blue, streaks across the lawn, and makes everyone else look bad. (See examples herehere, and here). But despite all that, agents are still taking on new clients and publishing houses are still signing new authors. So there's hope.

Unfortunately, I don't have any easy solutions to standing out, other than what most aspiring writers are doing already: building an online platform, putting their work out there, and figuring out the best way to market their material.

But most importantly, above all these things, we must remember keep writing. There's a great quote, and I forgot who said it, but it goes something like this: "There's a word for a writer who doesn't quit writing: Published."

What different things have you tried to stand out? Have any of them worked?