The votes are in!!!

Brenda Drake conducted another great blogfest last week…Can you Hook a Teen?

Each person had to enter the first 250 words of their YA novel and get it critiqued by the talented teen editors/authors of Teen Eyes – Taryn Albright and Kate Coursey.  There were a lot of entries and they all were really, really good.  I know there were a few that blew me away.  But as with all contests, a winner had to be chosen and it was Tracy Jorgensen with her novel The Girl with the Brown Eyes.   I have to say it was one of my favorites and I am so glad she won.  I wish her lots of luck in getting published.

I also wanted to give a shout out to all the other writers that didn’t win.  Try not to take it personally or feel that your novel is no good.  It is.  Remember, stories and novels are subjective and you’re not going to please everyone with your writings.  I’ve talked to a lot of people who absolutely despised the Harry Potter series.  As a reader of adult fantasy, I love Raymond Feist but don’t care for George R.R. Martin though they write similarly.

The same goes for editors and publishers and all readers.  Your novel may get rejected 60 times (like Katherine Stockett), but if you hold true to yourself and your novel, you’ll get published.  If you don’t know Katherine’s story: The Help was rejected 60 times, but look where she is now – a best-selling author and her novel was turned into a movie.  You just can’t give up.

So, congrats to Tracy for her fantastic, well deserved win, but remember we’re all winners because we participate in great events like this and in turn, get wonderful critiques, perhaps make new friends, and get our works out there for others to see.  Someone out there is going to like what you’ve written.  You just have to believe in yourself.

I know I do.  Next contest/agent/publisher please….. 🙂

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Giveaway!

Liza Kane is giving away a copy of “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the first few pages of this novel and I am interested in reading the rest.  The novel certainly has folks chatting and tweeting and it’s getting major play on blog sites everywhere.   If you’re into fiery handprints, mythical beasts, magical tattoos, wishes and teeth, then you’ll probably like  “Daughter of Smoke and Bone.”

Here’s the link to Liza’s blog where you can enter to win a copy.

Good luck to all of you who enter!

What do YA editors and publishers want?

I write Young Adult fantasy.  I love it.  I don’t have any elves in my novels, but I do  have sorcerers and sorceresses, mages, meadow gnomes, dragons, knights, squires as well as some made up creatures of my own, such as the shime and sestras (you’ll have to read the books to find out what they are *wink*).

My novel takes place in both the real and a parallel world.  My protag, David, and his best friend, Charlotte, live in the fictional town of Havendale, Tennessee, a small dot on the map buried in the mountains near Bristol, Tennessee.  He would like to think he’s normal, but when he discovers his parents may not be dead and he can make himself invisible to animals, David soon realizes there’s more to being him than the obvious.  Before he can make heads or tails out of his predicament, Charlotte and David are kidnapped by a rift traveler and ferried to the parallel world of Fallhollow.  Now stuck in the realm, David soon learns what he must do if he ever wants to see Havendale again…and it’s not pleasant.

The first novel in the trilogy, In the Shadow of the Dragon King, focuses on David’s struggle to complete the first mission in his quest to return home.  The cast is a mix of colorful and sometimes dangerous characters, and the emotional and physical battles are intense and revealing.

While I love my story and my beta readers have given me big thumbs up (though I’m still making changes to make the text richer and tighter), I have often wondered if there is an audience for this sort of novel in today’s YA market.  What exactly are editors and publishers looking for?  I think most debut authors have all asked this question as they are putting the final touches on their manuscripts.  I came across a great blog post by author/agent Mandy Hubbard.  In her blog from May 17, 2011, she clears up this mystery for us.

As to fantasy, she had this to say:

“Fantasy, in general, is of interest, though few editors want the truly epic LORD OF THE RINGS style fantasy—being accessible to a wide range of readers is important.”

“Boy YA is still tough, and needs to appeal to girls in at least some regard, or it may get shot down at acquisitions.”

May I say I know this last statement to be true as I have experienced this firsthand.

I did find her comments that sci-fi may be the next big wave/trend.  I know some YA sci-fi authors who will grin ear to ear with this news.

My 16-year old son asked me this morning if this news made me second–guess myself and my novel.  I smiled and said “No, no more than I did before (he knows I’m a perfectionist and nothing I write will ever be perfect to me).  It all boils down to if an agent or a publisher believes I wrote a kick-butt novel.”

I’d like to think I did.  Only time will tell.  What I do know for sure is the journey to becoming a published author has been amazing and humbling, and I look forward to following this passion for many more years to come.

Words, smurds…how many to use

When I was hosting my local writer’s group meetings, one of the most frequent questions to come up was ‘What is the average word count for xyz type novel?’

The answers have been pretty consistent over the years, however, there seems to be a few minor changes, according to CA Marshall, Freelance Editor, Lit Agent Intern and YA writer.  You can find her complete blog here but I’ll share the highlights with you below.  Remember, there are always exceptions to the rules. When in doubt, check and double-check the Agent’s and/or Publisher’s website for submission guidelines.  Happy writing and editing!

Average Word Counts

Micro-Fiction – up to 100 words
Flash Fiction – 100 – 1,000 words, usually no more than 500.
Short Story – 1,000 – 7,500 words
Novellette – 7,500 – 18,000 words
Novella -20,000 – 45,000 words
General Novel – 50,000 -110,000

Genre Guidelines

Picture Books -200-500 words
Early Readers – 500-2000 words
Chapter Books – 5,000-10,000 words
Middle Grade – 25,000-45,000 words, most averaging 35k.
Young adult – 55,000-90,000 words
– YA contemporary tends to be on the shorter side, 60-70k
– YA fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal tends to fall on the longer side due to world building, 70-90k
Adult – 70,000-115,000 words
– Romance – 85,000-100,000 words
– Cozy Mysteries – 70,000-85,000 words
– Mysteries, Horror, Crime – 75,000-95,000 words, most averaging 90k
– Sci-fi and Fantasy – 80,000-120,000 words, most averaging 100k-115k
– Literary and Women’s Fiction – 80,000-100,000 words

Brenda Drake Blogfest Entry

Okay, folks, it’s time for another Brenda Drake Blogfest Entry.  Yay!!!  For those of you interested in learning more about this event, you can find out all about the blogfest here.

With that said, here are the first 250 words of my novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King.  I hope you enjoy and I can’t wait to read all the other entries!  Please feel free to leave your comments here!

Title: In the Shadow of the Dragon King
Genre: YA Fantasy

“Nightmares are terrible enough when they invade the safe confines of our dreams  They are even more unpleasant when they decide to hang around like annoying house guests and wreak havoc on our conscious minds”.Islabelle Fenton, The Imaginarium Solarium

Chapter 1

David Heiland put the final touches on the amber, cat-like eyes staring back at him from his drawing.

Just like in his nightmares, the dragon clung to the castle’s battlement, a body clutched in one talon. Small horns jutted from the top of its head and two leather-like whiskers protruded from both sides of its snout. Crouched in the shadow of a turret were a man and a woman. Their arms were raised like shields above their heads, terror etched into their eyes and mouths.

Charlotte leaned in from behind, her arms folded across his shoulders. “That is so creepy. I can’t get over how real it looks.” She kicked off her shoes and climbed into the center of the carved, four-poster bed. “Who are those two people supposed to be?”

“My parents,” David said, adding a few lines to the beast’s tail.

“No way. That’s so twisted.”

No kidding, David thought, slumping back in his chair. “You know, it’s funny.  When I was a little kid, I used to have all these amazing dreams of them being alive.  Now all I dream about is this and my mom telling me my time is nigh and I have to be brave.”  The drawing floated from his hand to the desk.

Here’s another ‘take your breath away’ moments

I’ve had many people ask why I like Facebook and Twitter and why do I ‘friend’ folks I don’t know.  When I see videos like this, the answer becomes all too clear.

Please take the time to watch this incredible speaker and what he did to bring the world together through music.  It is a positive message and simply takes my breath away.  Here is 14 1/2 minutes of wonderful.  The virtual choir actually starts singing at 6:30 and 12″15, but I strongly recommend listening to the speaker.

You can watch the full video of ‘Sleep’ here:

and ‘Lux Aurumque’ here


And then…

I recently submitted my full manuscript to a publisher for review. After three weeks I received a response. It wasn’t a rejection, exactly. In fact, it was a gold mine of information. They returned my manuscript properly and sufficiently bled on, and it contained some amazing advice along with an offer to re-submit if I decided to make the changes. Hmm, let me think. Of course I’ll make the changes! Duh. I mean, they weren’t things I couldn’t live without.

I did, however, find an interesting comment they made about the conjunction ‘and then’.

Apparently, I used these two words together a lot, and I didn’t realize it. They properly commented that and then is not a proper conjunction and I needed to fix it. Can do. No problem. However, in defense of these two little words, there are times when and then must be used, and like with all English grammar rules, we need to know when to use it.

We all know conjunctions are used to connect two independent clauses and they are usually preceded by a comma. We all recognize these conjunctive words: and, for, but, nor, and yet. Many writers believe the word ‘thenworks the same way but it doesn’t. Take for example the following sentence:

David shoved Charlotte out of the way just as the beast lunged, then passed right through him as if he wasn’t there.

This sentence is incorrect. Why?

You can tell the difference between then and a coordinating conjunction by trying to move the word then around in the sentence. We can write “It passed right through him, then, as if he wasn’t there.” Or “It then passed right through him as if he wasn’t there.” Or “It passed right through him as if it wasn’t there then.” In all of these cases the then can move around within the clause. Try that with a conjunction and you’ll see that the conjunction cannot move around.

David shoved Charlotte out of the way just as the beast lunged, and then passed right through him as if he wasn’t there.

The conjunction and is stuck where it is and cannot move around like then, which makes it more of an adverbial conjunction than a coordinating conjunction. The original sentence without the and is commonly referred to as a comma splice. Comma splices are faulty sentence construction in which a comma tries to hold together two independent clauses by itself. The comma needs a coordinating conjunction to help out, and the word then doesn’t work that way.

Let this rule not be confused with:

David rubbed his chin and then said, “I have an idea.”

In this case, and then is not a proper conjunction because you can remove the word then and still be left with a complete sentence: David rubbed his chin and said, “I have an idea.”

So, if you’re ever wondering whether to use or not to use and then…take a look at your two independent clauses…and then fix accordingly.

What’s stopping you…really…?

“It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you’ve forgotten about. ~ Alan Ball, American Beauty

I was talking to a writer buddy (whom I’ve never officially met) last night about a few blogfests and magazine contests coming up soon, and I asked her if she was going to enter this one particular contest that pays some miniscule amount ($25) for first place.  The short story would also appear in the e-zine in February 2012.  She said, “Nah, I’m no good at the type of stories they’re looking for.”

I said, “What?  You can’t write a 2500 word uplifting, yet tragic story?  Come on.  We all have events in our lives that seem like they’re going really, really well and end up in tragedy.  Look at the stories that came out of 9-11.”

“Oh, it’s not my style.  I write goth mysteries.”

Now this is coming from the same person who told me last summer she couldn’t learn to water ski because she was 47 years old and those sorts of sports are best left to the young.  She also forfeited a bunch of money she paid to go to a Writer Conference because the thought of standing before the agent she wanted to see and pitching her novel literally made her sick.  It made me sick thinking she threw away $800.00 on an event she didn’t attend.  The thing is, this gal is a fantastic author.  She’s got it going on. There’s only one thing standing in her way…


I even told her so.  I mean, we all get down.  We all question our abilities at times.  Sometimes we get so depressed and downtrodden and discouraged, especially when the rejections come, but we have to keep pushing. We have to keep going and not take ‘No’ for an answer.

This sweet girl got rather terse with me.  She asked if I’d ever pitched to an agent before in person.  When I said, “No,” she kindly told me to not pass judgment because I didn’t know what it felt like to have my insides turned outside and my soul revealed to a complete stranger while standing naked in a rainstorm without an umbrella, and the ground I’m standing on is flooding and there are no freaking boats.  Not even a life raft.

I chuckled and said, “In that case, I’d take a deep breath, stop talking and swim.”

The conversation went on, no feelings hurt.  Toward the end of the call, she sighed and said “I wonder if I’ll ever get published.  There’s not a lot of publishers out there who accept goth mysteries.”  So I asked her if she’d consider dystopian, YA urban fantasy.  “Nah, I can’t write Young Adult.  It’s too hard.”

“What about romance or cyberpunk?  Fantasy?”

“Nah.  Too cheesy, no following and fantasy is dumb.”

And so it went on until the phone call ended.  Excuses, excuses, excuses.  I e-mailed her afterwards and asked I could discuss our phone call in my blog today and she said yes, as long as I didn’t mention her name, soooo…..

I’m going to tell her what I tell my kids:  Miss Goth Mystery, you’re a wonderful writer.  You are a wonderful storyteller and you have talent.  I have enjoyed everything I’ve ever beta read of yours, but stop making excuses.  Life is not about performing a set of routine events.  It’s about living.  It’s about taking risks.  It’s about testing yourself, your abilities.  It’s about striving to be more, to be better than you are.  It’s about setting goals and taking yourself to the next level.  It’s about stepping out of the safe little box you’ve built around yourself and testing the waters.  Yes, it may feel like you’re drowning.  Yes, you may take three steps forward and get pushed twenty back.  Yes, there are going to be times you want to bang your head on the wall and scream “Why!!!”  But if you don’t take the chance, then you’ll always be sitting in your comfortable little box saying “I wonder…”

Stop wondering!  Get your butt up, challenge yourself, and do it!  Learn to ski or sky dive if you want and if goth mysteries aren’t working for you, try your hand at chick lit, young adult or fantasy.  You may find out you love it but how are you ever going to know if you don’t try?  Go to the conferences if you can afford them, and bring your own life raft to the pitch session.  If nothing else, it’ll be a conversation starter and ice breaker.  Remember, the only one holding you back from life’s rewards is you.  Go for it, and shine.  You owe it to yourself.

(Time to follow my own advice) 🙂

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover is yourself.  ~Alan Alda

Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.  ~ Dr. Alexis Carrel

Time for another Blogfest contest from the amazing Brenda Drake!

It’s time for another blogfest contest! The summer is nearing its end, kids are back to school, and agents are starting to accept queries again. So how about we kick off the querying process and have a contest to see if you can hook a teen reader? There was such a great response to my book girls’ contest that I thought I’d do one with some talented teen editors at Teen Eyes Editorial Services who critique and edit as a business.

Read more here.  You can bet I’ll be entering this one!


New goals to get out of the rut

Someone once said “If what you’re doing isn’t working, change your approach.”  That means thinking outside the box.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but this is something new to me, outside of writing.

Yes, I can weave you a yarn about an elephant riding a bicycle, or a murderer who likes to wear women’s underwear while he commits his crimes, but to come up with creative ideas on how to land a job, an interview or lose weight…I gotta tell you…I come up empty.

Some of my problem (no, I should say a BIG part of my problem) is that I’m in a state of depression due to many, many reasons, and can find no motivation.  My life for the last year has been difficult to say the least.  No matter how I keep telling myself that others have it worse than me, this is just a down time and things will turn around, it is so difficult to believe it when the depression has a hold of my brain.  I find it hard to focus on anything and finding positive aspects in life are getting fewer and farther in between.  Thank God I have my writing, my kids and my dogs to keep me going.

But putting the depression aside, I’m also overweight.  My doc says I have 35% BMI!!  Okay, I knew I was chunky but 35% BMI?  I about hit the floor.  This news, coupled with the fact I’m a Type 2 Diabetic is nothing more than a heart attack waiting to happen.  Something has to change, and the change has to start with me.

So, I’m starting Suzanne Sommer’s program today (haven’t tried that one before), and I’m going to start walking more.  And not just any walking like what I’ve been doing, but power walking – one minute brisk walking, one minute power walking like I’m about to miss the bus.  It’s the least I can do since I can’t afford a gym and my knees won’t allow running.

I figure, what have I got to lose but pounds and depression.  Great motivational factors for me.  And maybe while I’m shedding some of these nasty critters lingering in my head and around my body, maybe my life will turn in a  more positive direction.  Maybe I’ll land  that job I desperately need so I can provide for my family and not lose my home.   Maybe I can finish the edits on my book and turn it back into the publisher.  Maybe…maybe I’ll find happiness again…and getting out of bed everyday won’t be such a chore.

I took the first step today to get out of the rut…to change my life.  I stepped outside the box.  There are no more excuses.  I put it out there to the universe.  Now it’s not just me watching.  The world is waiting for me.  All I have to do is stay the course and hold on tight to my dream.