Thursday, December 27, 2012

Toodles, 2012

It has certainly been a year. Between the never-ending election folderol, the pseudo-panic of a non-pocalypse, and hurricanes hitting New Jersey, it has been quite a ridiculous year.

I sent my first horrible query letters (and thank goodness they've improved a little since those original attempts), written 2.5 novels, and for the first time ever, I read more unpublished novels than published novels! Thank you to everyone who let me read their works in progress, and then didn't unfriend, unfollow, or send mail bombs after reading my comments. You people are the best! And I can't wait to see all your books published in the next year or so! I have occasional fits of fluttery heartbeat and bonus feelings just thinking about it.


Thank you also to everyone who has read and offered advice and opinions on Running Down the Dragon. I haven't given up on it yet, and I'm grateful to all of you for your support. Let's hope for more great things for all of us in 2013.

And now, on to the last week or so, including Christmas. First of all, I hope y'all have had a great week (either a week of vacation, or at least a few extra days off work. For a lot of us, that in itself is the Miracle of Christmas), or a great holiday, or a great whatever you celebrate.

It was a very Doctor Who Christmas around here. I think a full half of all presents exchanged in our house were somehow related to Doctor Who. I made Helper Monkey a giant TARDIS mug (in addition to the TARDIS travel mug I bought him, and the t-shirt, get the point). But I am especially proud of the one I painted myself:

I even painted the "time vortex" inside. It didn't come out as well as I hoped. You never know what the paint is going to do when they fire it:

Still, it's kind of cool, considering I usually kind of suck at arty things.

 There was also some of this:


It was also a White Christmas for the first time in a while:

And Lulu got a hat that makes her look like a squirrel. Oddly, she loves this hat. It does look cozy.


The worst thing about the last few days, other than my personal anxiety over letting Helper Monkey drive to work at night on winding country roads plagued with black ice and high winds, is arguably this:


Yes, that is, or was, the neighborhood mailbox. We guess it was hit by a snow plow, but it could have been an inebriated sleigh operator. You know how jolly and out of hand things can get this time of year. I'm just glad MY mailbox is in one of the boxes that's still standing. *fingers crossed! We're expecting more snow tomorrow night!*

I hope your year was filled with Amazing Things, and that 2013 greets you with warm hugs and cookies, and then takes off like a rocket to the moon. I eagerly await all your reports of overwhelming success in the new year.


Love, hugs, and mesmerizing eagles of wonder,


Friday, December 21, 2012

Mehpocalypse, and other fun

So we all survived the Mayan Apocalypse. Well, I assume if you're reading this you survived, too. The worst thing that happened all day, at least near my house, was a bit of light snow. Meh.

I finished wrapping Christmas presents, so at least the world won't come to an end for a lack of appropriate gift giving next week. At least not on my part. I hope y'all upheld your gift-giving duties.

I also realized that for the first time, I might be tempted to tweet about Christmas morning. There might even be pictures. Then I realized how crappy the rest of my living room looked, and figured I should tidy up a bit. It was a good thing I did. I found some interesting (read: appallingly embarrassing) things while going through the junk that's built up on the coffee table. Here's a partial list:

  • A bag of Dr. Pepper Jelly Bellies that Lulu bought in Savannah. In July. Jelly Bellies don't go bad, do they?
  • A gift certificate to Baskin Robbins she got for making the honor roll at school. Time to go get ice cream!
  • An Irish penny
  • The original notes that sparked the idea for my Untweetworthy posts (which in turn inspired this list).
  • A Jack Skellington foam ball thing for the top of the car antenna. I bought it at Disney in 2010. Maybe I should actually put it on the car, huh?
  • The last two car insurance cards I got for my truck. That's a year's worth of proof-of-insurance. Maybe I should put those in the truck. That would probably be a good idea.
  • The unopened copy of Rachel Ray Everyday magazine from October 2011. That's not a typo. 2011.
So that was most of my day. Now that we're past the Solstice and the days are getting longer again, I feel excited about finishing my WIP. I'm finally past the painful sticky-spot that I'd been unable to get through for so long. We're tumbling ever closer to 2013, and I'm tumbling ever closer to a full first draft. Things are looking up.

Or, they will be. I have more exciting critiquing work to do before I go back to writing. So here's the last of my #ApocalypseConfessions. There's nothing more exciting then doing an emergency critique. Think about that. An emergency-level read-through. It always precedes exciting things, you know? So off I go. I hope y'all have something just as exciting to tackle this weekend. You know. Now that we're sure there will be a weekend at all.

Stupid Mehpocalypse.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Untweetworthy, Part the Third

Once again, it's time for another installment of my semi-regular feature, Untweetworthy. Here I get to share some random thoughts that are either too long or too weird for Twitter (where I spend an inordinate amount of time as it is).

But first, I had a post up here on Friday night with my feelings about the atrocity of the Sandy Hook School shooting. All I'm going to say on that is something needs to be done. Mentally ill people are mostly non-violent, and I have enough trouble without having the label "Possible Mass Murderer" attached to me because I have a DSM code pinned to my shirt. Crazy didn't kill those children, a violent man with an assault rifle did.

Now that's out of the way, on to a little more pleasant stuffnfluff. Images courtesy of rage comics.

*Lulu was reading Tumblr over my shoulder the other day and suddenly spouted, "Hey, is that a rage comic? I love rage comics!" I replied, "You do?" "Oh yeah, they're funny." I see. (How can I make this event into a rage comic?)

*I took my laptop to a Girl Scout holiday event and hunkered down as far from the merriment as possible. Wrote 1500 words in an hour and a half. Sitting quietly alone at home, wrote 200 words in four hours


*I have now spent more time tracking holiday gift shipments than I spent purchasing those gifts in the first place.

*Morgan the cat seems to have figured out which present I labeled "To Lulu, From Morgan" and has taken it upon himself to sit only upon that gift under the tree. He might be trying to hatch it like an egg. He also removed the bow for more convenient cat butt placement. Also, he now knows that some of the ornaments on the tree are indeed breakable, and that breaking one causes terror when I come screaming and stomping into the room.

*I have been to the grocery store three times in the last five days. Once for the BIG SHOP. Once more for items forgotten on the big shop. And again for items forgotten during the first two shops. I still have a list with four items that I forgot to buy on ALL THESE TRIPS COMBINED. I should have made a list the first time around...or at least the second time. Definitely by the third.

*So MANY friends got new agents this week! All the joy, cheers, and happiness to Tamara Mataya and Marisa Cleveland, as well as Kelsey Macke and Jessica Sinsheimer on all the agenty collaboration! You know what this means, right? MOAR GOOD BOOKS IN OUR FUTURE, LOVELIES!!!


 This brings us to the end of another edition of Untweetworthy. I hope you found it edifying, somehow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pitch Wars and Critique Partners

On this, the eve of Pitch Wars mentor announcements, I've been thinking a lot about what the real purpose of this contest has been. Sure, it's fun and immeasurably helpful to get help from an agented author. It's also helpful to get your query and novel polished to perfection (or as close to perfection as any novel can get). But what is the real benefit here? Learning about critiquing.

When I first started writing, this was my biggest stumbling block. I read sites that advised you share your work with your "writer friends." Hah! What writer friends? I didn't have any, and I was darn sure I wouldn't have any until I was a Successfully Published Writer. Where the heck could I meet all these potential writer friends, when I was a complete nobody who never wrote anything?


Turns out, lots of places.

I met writers online, through other contests, through their blogs (and eventually through this one right here), through Twitter, and even through Facebook. There are always writers who are in the same place in the process that you are. You just have to know where to look for them. Pitch Wars has been a great way to connect with many new writers who are in the query trenches, too. Make nice, and they might read for you if you read for them.


Initially, the thought of sharing my writing with others, and asking for their honest opinion and critique, was a little intimidating. Even more intimidating was asking to read their writing and offer my own opinions. What the heck did I know about critiquing? The idea of making with the judgy on someone else's writing gave me the cold sweats. Who was I to tell them they didn't need that comma there (BONUS COMMAS, as I call them now), or that they shouldn't use the same word three times in two sentences, or that their phrasing at a critical moment in their beloved story came across as clunky and jarring instead of inspiring and enlightening? I was terrified of saying the wrong thing, of coming across like an ass, and of not doing a good job.

To be honest, the first time I ever critiqued something, I got lucky. I wasn't the first person to edit the manuscript, and there wasn't all that much to do to make it shiny. It was a gentle introduction to the fine art of being a merciless nitpicker. Also, as I've since been informed, as long as it's done with love, merciless nitpicking is actually a valued trait in a CP.

Not only have I benefited from the opinions and ideas of a wonderful group of people who read my writing and offered advice, but my writing has improved through helping others, too. It's all good for you.

And on that note, I want to sincerely thank all the mentors in Pitch Wars, and all the writers who've jumped at the chance to earn such an experienced CP. Just remember, your fellow Pitch Warriors would also make fine CP's. Even if we don't end up with a shiny new mentor, we still have each other. Extend a hand to a fellow writer, and be patient and understand as you learn the ropes of this valuable skill together. We all have it in us to be great mentors to each other.


And now, back to the fantastic manuscript I'm helping to add a spit-shine to. Because this one deserves all the polish it can get.

**NOTE: There's a great new website,, set up by @Fizzygrrl's talented husband. It's a great place to connect to other writers seeking a CP (as the title should make quite clear!). Go check it out!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Editing, With Cookies

I've been doing a lot of baking this week. I made about 300 Christmas cookies, most of which I will be giving as gifts to friends, family, neighbors, and anyone else, because otherwise I would eat all 300 of them. But that's another story entirely.

This morning while I stood in the kitchen, rolling out yet another pan of cookies, I realized how much it reminded me of editing. I'll get into that in a second. First, for non-writer friends, or anyone who clicked through just to see pictures of baked goods, a little anecdote.

On Sunday, Lulu helped me bake the first batch of cookies, and I thought for sure it would take twice as much time to make today's batch by myself. Not so. Turns out, I'm pretty efficient on my own. It was, however, a lot less fun to bake alone. I guess that's why my mind wandered so far from baking.

So here goes, my doughy mashup of holiday baking and editing.

Sunday's cookies were green. We cut out trees and holly leaves, and dipped them in white chocolate. Snow, y'all! Today's cookies were SUPPOSED to be red, but even after using most of a bottle of red food coloring, they still look a little pink. I figured they'd darken up a bit in the oven. Yeah, not so much.

Sort of red.
So this is the raw material I had to work with. My original draft. I could have just wadded it up and shoved it in the oven as-is. It would probably taste okay, but there would be no beauty. Not to mention, it wouldn't bake evenly. There'd be doughy bits in the center, and the bottom would certainly burn. It needed zazz. It needed editing. BRING ON THE COOKIE CUTTERS!

I started the job with dough that was ALMOST the right color, but there wasn't really much I could do with it. I tried adding more food coloring, but it seemed to get a brighter and brighter pink, rather than deepening to a rich red. I stopped before I turned the stuff day-glo fuschia, at least. Knowing when to stop walking down a path that isn't turning out right is half the battle in editing, too.

So finally it was time to cut. I intended to make a batch of stars and then dip them in dark chocolate. I have a half a dozen different star shaped cookie cutters, so I got them all out. Some have five points, some six, and one even has eight points! Variety! I picked one out and set to work. Between the strange dark pink color and my indelicacy with a spatula, most of the first batch reminded me of Patrick Star.

Just add green shorts and a confused facial expression.
I saw my mistake. The points of this star were too long and thin. They tended to bend a little when I transferred them to the cookie sheet. I tried to straighten them out, but then I ended up with bloated blobby points. Not to mention in that first pan, I don't think I rolled the dough thin enough. They were still puffed up too much.

Same goes for editing. The first pass through a manuscript will be rough. Even the basic shape of it might be a little off. Big things are easy to spot and fix. The obvious. The glaring. Like, "Hey, that looks like a beautiful daisy!" "Uh, yeah, but it's supposed to be a STAR!" You see smaller things you need to fix, but you have to be able to see all the problems before you can fix them all. It was time to try again. Second round!

On the second try, I used a different shape. It had shorter arms, and they were less likely to end up looking like Patrick, but they were also more likely to end up looking blobby. Live and learn.

Sometimes in editing you make a change, and take it too far. You wouldn't want to remove ALL the adverbs, for example. The rules of writing exist, but that doesn't mean they are etched in stone and you'll be thrown out of the Temple of Publishing forever if you bend them a little. In fact, if you don't bend them a little, you may as well be writing technical manuals, not fiction. You don't want to give up the essential look of a star just so you won't have to worry about bending the arms a bit. Blobby stars were a no go. Time for round three!

This time, I tried yet ANOTHER shape. This one wasn't half bad. It was much larger than the first two, so I could fit fewer on the tray at a time. I started to worry I'd be in the kitchen forever unless I did something drastic. I crammed as many of the large stars as I could on the tray, and lo and behold, problems arose.

Same goes for editing. Work too fast, or try to cram too much in during one revision, and it starts to blur together in your mind. You have to keep characters, subplots, and scenes separate, or they start looking like one big character, one big muddle of scenes. Editing is not a time to rush. Your characters should be evolving and becoming more distinct, and your scenes should be clearer and more concise with each round. If you're racing through edits at a blur, that's how the story will look to your readers. On to round four!

Finding a satisfactory plan B.

By this point, I was sick of stars. They were hard to cut out and force them to hold their shape. What had become of all my brilliantly laid plans? Screw it! Time to make stockings instead.

Sometimes it's easier to just make a change when the reality of all the faults of your original plan seem to hit you at once. Sometimes a character needs to go. Sometimes, after several rounds of editing, you'll realize that one of your subplots goes nowhere. Sometimes you need to add in a new character, one who will help tie the story together. Whatever's wrong, sometimes it takes a big change of shape to set you back on the right course.

My stocking cookies will taste just as good as the stars, and they'll still get a chocolate coating, but won't they be a nice change from a mountain of stars? Okay, now that I'm really getting the hang of this, I'm ready for round five.

Sometimes things go awry. When baking, it's easy to dispose of the evidence. Om nom nom. When editing, sometimes it's best to do the same. Eat those plot holes! CHOMP!

Eventually the ball of dough you have to work with gets smaller

and smaller

and smaller...
Until you don't have enough to cut any more cookies. With each pass of edits, there should be fewer and fewer problems. Less to work with, not in the sense that there are few words in total, but in the sense that there are fewer WRONG words to fix. It's quite satisfying when a pass through only leads to minor tweaking.

In baking, I take that scrap of dough and mush it into a flat blob, and bake it with the rest of the cookies. It's the BONUS COOKIE! My reward for finishing the job.

Now all the hard work is done. It's time to add the decorations. In the case of my cookies, that means chocolate and sprinkles. In the case of my manuscript, it means showing it to my critique partners. They will spit shine it for me, and point out all the problems I'm unable to see for myself. You wouldn't go to all the trouble to bake up those tasty cookies and then leave off the final decoration, that last step. Don't think your manuscript is complete without running it by a few trusted writer friends, either.

I haven't had time to dip all the cookies from today's round of baking, but the ones we finished on Sunday look adorable (and taste quite nice, too). I need to take a break from the kitchen for a bit, but when I go back, I'll be fully engaged with putting the finishing touches on those cookies. Just like putting the finishing touches on my manuscript. Sometimes you need to walk away for a bit, let things cool down, and take everything in with fresh eyes. The cookies will have had a few hours to firm up, or they would crumble when I try to coat them in heavy chocolate. By the time I return, they'll be able to stand on their own. :D

Hope y'all didn't get a stomachache from too many cookie metaphors. Now I'm off to dispose of the evidence that I'm clumsy at handling fresh-baked cookies. And then I need to do some editing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hi. My name is

A strange thing occurred to me a few months ago, and since then I've been flummoxed. I'm turning to you, the People of the Internet, for advice.

I am a writer, and I hope to be a published writer someday. Maybe even a well-known writer. Or at least a writer with an ongoing career in the business. The problem is my name. You see, there are at least two other writers I've heard of with the name Laura Hughes. *cue panic attack*


How can I stand out in the world of publishing if I'm constantly being mixed up with those other Laura Hughes writers? Not to mention the artist, the physician, the web developer, the actress, and the several dozen other Laura Hughes-who-are-not-me who turn up in a google search. I can't even stand out in a FREAKING GOOGLE SEARCH?! Yikes!

Well, I thought innocently, I can always publish under my maiden name. It's certainly not a common name. Herbenick. You likely don't know anyone by that name, unless you maybe heard of my sister, Debby Herbenick. It's not entirely unlikely. She has a Wikipedia entry AND an Amazon page. And no one would EVER mistake her books for mine. She writes nonfiction, and her alter-ego is The Sex Professor. So.

So I googled Laura Herbenick. I found a few references to myself, and a gajillion entries for Debby. At least there were no other Laura Herbenicks to confuse me with. But who knows me by that name? I've been Laura Hughes for more than 15 years!

I must have been a little slap-happy, because for a whole three minutes I considered publishing under the name Mittens Morgul. Ahem. I don't think so.

This is actually Mittens Morgul. No, kitty doesn't write.
And now on to the Reader Interaction Portion of today's post: (no, you don't actually have to do anything if you don't want to. But you made it this far, and I want to love you, so please share if you have any advice.)

I hope to someday have an agent, and I'm sure this is the kind of thing that they will help me decide. In the mean time, is your "real" name so common that you're considering publishing under a different name? Or have you already done that? Did you choose a pseudonym for another unrelated reason? Why? What would you do in my shoes?

A. Keep your real name. It's my name, and I don't care who else uses it.

B. Use the maiden name. No, I swear we aren't getting divorced, sweetie.

C. Pick another name entirely. Yes, that really is me. See? That's my picture on the back cover! No, I don't look that good today because I don't pay a professional hair and makeup artist to spruce me up every day. YES FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME, I SWEAR THAT'S REALLY ME!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

#SipSwap WIN!

I got my Sip Swap mug in the mail today. Well, technically today is Sunday, so I probably got it yesterday, but the mail was late, so I didn't get it until this morning. It spent a chilly night in the mailbox.*

*My neighborhood is strange. There's one little clump of mailboxes for the entire neighborhood. We have single lane roads that were only paved about two years ago. It was originally planned as a vacation destination, rather than a residential community. It makes life here quite nice, but accessibility wasn't a priority during the original street layout forty years ago. Thus, it's a quarter-mile hike up a rather steep hill to the mailbox. If the mail's late, it's often the next day before I try again.

So anyway, I found this today:


Inside this magical parcel, this awaited me:

 Yes, it's a rather plain looking mug. My coffee (in the pink mug in the background) was feeling kinda smug and confident. BUT THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED.

AAARGH!!! My coffee is screaming in terror! Or possibly squeeing with glee.

THERE'S AN OCTOPUS IN MY COFFEE! How awesome is that?!

**DISCLAIMER: I love octopodes. In fact, one of the favorite characters I ever invented while writing is a kraken. He was supposed to be an incidental character in one manuscript, and he rapidly became a character I wanted to know better. He will be central to the next story I write, because I can't just let him go. :D So I hereby name the little octopus in this mug Stewie. He'll be my little tentacled buddy while I write that manuscript.

***SECOND DISCLAIMER: Morgan approves of the wrapping job:

Seriously, he spent like five minutes ensuring the paper was not explosive, nor filled with cat treats, nor live rodents. He pronounced it safe after a thorough inspection.

Thank you so much to @araenvo (also known as Simon P. Clark). Go compliment him on his fine sense of style.

So, who else got their #SipSwap mug? I can't wait to see all the posts! :D

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I was going to tweet this stuff, but it is too much for tweeting. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. If you're not in America, Happy Thanksgiving anyway. It's never a bad thing to be thanked. So thanks to you, too. :D

Here's some stuff I'm thankful for today. If I forgot something you think I should be thankful for, please let me know in the comments. I welcome the chance to feel even MORE thankful, at least as long as the egg nog holds out.

I'm Thankful for my family. They accept that I'm not quite right, and love me anyway.

Helper Monkey is thankful I didn't use the ambush photo I took of him.

Thanks, Tim, for putting up with me for the last almost 17 years. Love.

Lulu is not as thankful, since I used her ambush photo. Morning, hon.
I am thankful for Lulu, who is helping me cook today. I'm thankful she's growing up to be an awesome person. I'm thankful she hasn't yet devolved into rebellious teenagerhood. *fingers crossed*

Morgan. High on catnip.
I'm thankful for the fuzzy lumpkin.

I'm thankful for this pie.

Okay. This post seems to be devolving quickly. I have to go make stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, biscuits, mashed potatoes, and probably other things that I forgot about completely.

But I wanted to also thank everyone I've met on my writing and publishing journey. To everyone who read my manuscript(s), THANK YOU. You have given me insight, advice, and encouragement. To everyone whose manuscript I read or critiqued, THANK YOU! You have given me hours of entertainment, and none of you have actually stabbed me yet! *fingers crossed*

Thank you all for being who you are. Now go enjoy some pie.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Art of Compromise

Right. So I've known my husband, the Helper Monkey, for nearly 17 years now. We've been married for 15. And every once in a while, I learn something completely shocking about him. Sometimes it leads to snort-drooling laughter.


I decided to make pasta for dinner tonight, since I forgot to make up a shopping list for Helper Monkey to get the ingredients for @Fizzygrrl's crock pot curry recipe. This sort of mental lapse is typical. We eat a lot of pasta as a result.

So, I ask the Monkey and Lulu what kind of sauce they want. I have two jars, one regular marinara type sauce, and one of vodka sauce. Vodka sauce is one of my favorites, by the way, so I consider it a treat whenever I make it. I was personally leaning toward it, and had convinced Lulu it was the option to choose. Helper Monkey did not agree.

For the last seventeen years, I've made vodka sauce countless times. I knew it wasn't his favorite, but he always ate it with minimal grumbling. I don't know why tonight was any different, but The Truth has finally come out. Turns out, Helper Monkey equates vodka sauce with vomit. Lulu promptly renamed it Vomit Sauce, and hilarity ensued.

I laughed at his response, but then realized he was completely serious. This made me laugh harder. I was stomping around the living room with the reviled sauce, wondering how anyone could repeatedly eat something that they equated with puke. I have no idea why I found this so entertaining, but I was literally floored. I fell to my knees, laughing so hard I was drooling, all the while berating the Monkey for keeping his vitriolic hatred a secret so long. The mind boggles. Truly, if someone served me something I didn't like once, I'd probably eat it and be polite. I might mention that it wasn't exactly to my taste if they suggested they make it again. If they tried to foist such horror on me a third time, I'd put my foot down. There is no way in hell I'd repeatedly eat something I detested for seventeen years without opening my fat yap and screaming. No. Way. In. Hell.

The Monkey knows I like it, so he never said anything before now. O_o

Hello, people?! Compromise isn't about torturing yourself to make someone else happy. It's about having your needs met while also meeting the needs of others. Sure, I eat foods that aren't my favorite, but I do not eat foods I hate. I feel like I should bake the Monkey a cake. He's apparently suffered greatly in my culinary equivalent of Guantanamo. I'm pretty sure he likes chocolate cake, but I think I'll ask first, just to make sure...

I'll say one thing for sure, I am now eternally convinced of the Monkey's love. He suffered in silence all this time for me. Granted, I'd rather he'd have told me, but shoot. I can't be mad about it. He did it for love. :D


How far would you go to keep your dearest love happy? Would any of y'all really go this far? What's the nuttiest thing you've ever done for love? Or, if you're one of my writerly friends, what have you made your characters do for love? I'd love to know.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I'm happily nervous to be participating in the NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop! In case you haven't heard, aspiring writers and published authors have been answering ten questions about a work in progress or a recently published novel. Since I don't have any of the latter, and I'm in the boggy middle of my current WIP (i.e., can't answer questions about it yet), I'll answer them about Running Down the Dragon, the novel I'm currently querying.

Huge Major Thanks to The Writer Librarian, AKA Karen McCoy for asking me to participate! Since I am even later to this party than she was, I will leave it open for anyone who wants to participate. If you want to be tagged, please let me know either by commenting below or by sending an email to the address in my profile (the super original LauraHughesAuthor at gmail address) and I will update this post with your details and links to your blog.

What is the working title of your book?

 It's changed a few times, but it's currently Running Down the Dragon. It was originally called Dragon Hunter, and before a few rounds of edits, it was a finalist in Janet Reid's Liz Norris Pay It Forward Contest under that title. Then I found out Dragon Hunter had a lot of weird baggage (google it, if you're interested).

Where did the idea come from for your book?

 I was writing a high fantasy series (which was the first attempt at writing a novel I ever made), and realized I wanted to write something that took place in a world more like the one we all live in, with a few major exceptions. I'd just finished the first draft of the second novel in my currently-shelved old series, and decided to try something completely different. It was terrifying, because I wasn't sure I even had another original idea in me until I dreamed up Thalia, the main character. Once I knew who she was, everything else flowed from there.

What genre does your book fall under?

 This is one of my major problems. It's most easily classified as "speculative," but that's such a broad umbrella. It's also a crime thriller, a race against the clock to stop a serial killer. I've been told by some folks that it's not really urban fantasy, but neither is it a standard thriller (you know, since the main characters are shapeshifters who can use elemental magic). I usually call it a crime thriller with urban fantasy elements. Or an urban fantasy with crime thriller elements. Or maybe an urban thriller with crime fantasy elements? Nah, that's just silly.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

 I might be the only author on the planet who hasn't even thought about it. I really, truly haven't given it a single moment of thought. I've looked through pictures of models and actors for inspiration on the way the characters look, but as far as playing them on film, I haven't a clue!

***EDIT: It occurred to me I could at least give you an idea of how I see Thalia:

The lovely Tonia Sotiropoulou.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

 It's two sentences. I cheated:

Thalia Drake, U.S. Military and world's last dragon, must stop a serial killer from exterminating shapeshifters. But stopping him means exposing the dangerous secret she's hidden for thousands of years - her true identity.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

 I'm currently querying agents, so hopefully it will be represented by the Most Awesome Agent On Earth (aka the agent who loves the story as much as I do, whoever you are).

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

 I don't even remember! Six or seven weeks maybe? Once I started writing, it all sort of fell into place. It's been through about eight months of editing, though, so it's a far, far cry from that first draft!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 I have called it the love child of a Patricia Briggs novel and NCIS.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

 My need to keep writing, despite the fact that I didn't want to keep writing my first series at that time. I had to test my limits, to find out if I could write something else entirely.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Who would've thought this was the hardest question to answer?

I'd have to say uncovering Thalia's history. She's been alone in the world for centuries, even though she's been surrounded by folks that adore her. When she watched the only other dragon she knew slaughtered in battle, she knew the only way to save herself was to hide her identity. Almost no one knows her real form, and if they did, she fears they would kill her just like they did the rest of the dragons. There are good reasons dragons were exterminated in the past. There's also the difficulty of fessing up to centuries of lies. How could anyone ever trust her again? She's kept herself emotionally isolated for centuries, until a killer sorcerer's spell accidentally unmasks her to the one person who might be able to help her.

 So, who's next? I don't know! You tell me? Is it YOU?


AND WE HAVE A TAKER! The Next Big Thing will be Alexander Pierce, and on Twitter as @RedAntisocial. Be on the lookout!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ever: Team Frankie and Team Toby

That lovely banner above features the absolutely beautiful cover of Jessa Russo's debut novel, Ever. If the cover isn't enough to draw you in (in which case you are either vision-impaired or hopelessly unromantic), I wanted to share my favorite aspect of the entire novel. Before I start, I thought it best to introduce you to Ever and her friends.

In case you can't bring yourself to look away from that breathtaking cover, here's what the back side of the book says:

Seventeen-year-old Ever’s love life has been on hold for the past two years. She’s secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he’s completely oblivious.

Of course, it doesn't help that he’s dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible.

Frustrated and desperate for something real, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever’s life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer.

Some girls lose their hearts to love.

Some girls lose their minds.
Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul.


Just as spectacular as the front, right? But here's the hard part for me. In nearly every book I read where our heroine has a difficult choice between two boys, I almost immediately know which boy's Team I'm signing up for. I've read Ever twice now (and also read a few snippets from Ever Two! Shhhhh!) and I STILL HAVE NO IDEA IF I'M TEAM TOBY OR TEAM FRANKIE! (!!!)

Each of them has their merits. Frankie is the love of Ever's young life. He's been her best friend as long as she can remember, and throughout that time she's harbored a secret love for him. When he's killed, his ghost follows her home and stays with her. How can she ever have a relationship with a ghost, no matter how much she loves him? But none of that matters to her. As long as Frankie is with her, even as a ghost, can she ever move on?

But hold the phone! Because Toby will come along and sweep Ever off her feet. She's never met anyone like him before, and the mystery of her new neighbor becomes irresistible to her. The more she gets to know about him, the deeper she and Frankie are drawn into a shadowy world they never knew existed, but could be the undoing of all three of them.

I am definitely not the only one who feels torn between Frankie and Toby. In fact, it's such a common phenomenon that when Jessa had tiny charms made from her cover, she had to feature THREE designs, instead of just a Frankie and a Toby design. The third is "Team Undecided," and has Frankie's glasses and Toby's wing. So at least I'm not alone in my inability to pick a team.

If you've read Ever and were able to choose a side, I'd love to know your reasoning. Also, if you've read it and can't make up your mind, I'd love to commiserate with you about our shared dilemma.

But if you haven't read Ever, you'd better get on the ball! It's time to find out who YOU think is the right guy for our girl.

You can get your very own copy this very minute! Here's the links:.

EVER on Amazon:

And you need to follow Jessa, too, because you don't want to miss out when the second book in Ever's journey is released. I'm on pins and needles for it!

Jessa on Facebook:
EVER on Facebook:
EVER on Goodreads:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Writer Friends

I remember back about a year ago, when I first realized I might want to publish all those novel-length things I was writing. First I went to the library to see what I could learn about publishing there. That's where they keep the books, after all. I figured I'd find a ton of stuff about getting published. Most of what was there was sadly out of date, so I turned to the trusty internet in search of information. I searched every publishing topic from A to Z, and was slightly (okay, more than slightly) overwhelmed by it all.

One of the first and most frequent bits of information I read was you should edit and edit and revise and edit. The most recommended strategy for success was to have your writer friends review your work. You know, all your writer friends you have when you're first starting to write.

funny gifs

Yes. I hadn't even told my sister I was writing at that point, let alone tried to make friends with other people like me. People in caves huddled over their laptop, churning out word soup. Riiiiight.

I had been on Twitter for a while, but it was more a way for me to follow other people, rather than actually communicate with anyone else. I think I followed about 30 people, most of whom were celebrity-types, and I had a grand total of six followers, including my sister's dog. (Her dog is @Jezebelthedog, in case you were wondering. She doesn't tweet much. Maybe because she's a dog?)

So I trudged along, trying to edit my own work, doing the best I could. I felt so deprived because I didn't have any writer friends. And then I heard about a few writing contests. I heard about The Authoress, I heard about the Query Shark, Janet Reid. And then Cupid. Things kind of snowballed from there.

I made it into a few contests, and made friends with people I met in the comments sections. There was manuscript trading, and then learning how to critique and edit someone else's work. It was my entry into an amazing community of writers.

I didn't think a thing about this journey until I saw a series of tweets today about how much the twitter community of writers means to all of us who are a part of it. And how difficult it would be to get up every day and sit down to write without knowing all those other folks are out there right now doing the same thing. And without being able to pop over to twitter for a chat or a laugh when we get stuck or frustrated. It's the absolute truth. Writing might be a solitary activity, but being part of a group makes it that much easier and more fun.

Everything is better when you have folks who understand what you're going through to celebrate and commiserate with. So go forth and write, and celebrate the internet, because without it, we'd all be alone at our writing desks.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Untweetworthy, Part Deux

The second in a continuing series of bizarre little snippets that proved too long, too silly, or too irrelevant for Twitter, but needed to be written down somewhere (if only to get them out of my overcrowded thinker).


 Without further ado, here we go:

1. Facebook calls it a timeline. Why? It's not even linear. I wish there were a way to make the posts reflect the accurate passing of time. The same handful of posts seem to stick to the top, and interesting things get buried deep in the pile. This is why I like Twitter better. At least it uses linear time to post updates instead of the mish-mosh method FB uses.

2. Rape jokes: NEVER FUNNY. Rape APOLOGIST jokes: BAZINGA!

3. Oh, Florida. I thought I left you because I was sick of hurricanes. Turns out, you were too disorganized even for me to tolerate living there. Someday you will learn how to hold an election at least as well as Washington, D.C. can (and DC was woefully underequipped, but still managed to get everyone to the polls and tally up their votes on election night).

4. Just when I thought I was done with political ads, I remember how far behind I am on the TiVo. Just watched a show from two weeks ago, and realized every show for the next few weeks will be progressively more stuffed with campaign ads. At least I'll be fast-forwarding through all of them.

5. I'm starting to get distracted from my WIP by the first novel I ever wrote (and then imprisoned under the bed with an armed battalion of dust bunnies to prevent its escape). I am SO TEMPTED to rewrite it, you know, without all the adverbs this time...

6. Why was this blog so lacking in funny .gif images before?


7. I love the people of Twitter. I think I got kinda lucky in the imaginary friend lottery.

8. Having manuscripts on submission during election season was awful. I reflexively answered the phone every time it rang, JUST IN CASE IT WAS AN AGENT. I can't tell you how many political robocalls I hung up on, but I think the number was in the kajillions*.
*In the interest of mathematical accuracy, this is a number larger than a berjillion, but smaller than a squintillion.

9. I'm not the first person to say this, but WHY is it always the tweet with the typo that gets the most retweet love?

So there you go, the random overflowings of my sad little mind. To make up for it, please enjoy this gif of a slow loris having its little armpits tickled. Thank you.

Slow loris loves tickle