Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Before there were shoes ...

Some of you may not know that this blog didn't always have shoes. It had no theme. It had no direction. It was, well, blah!

For some reason, I've been reflecting about how this blog started, the path it has followed, and where it is now. I've decided I need a fresh perspective. And what better way to gain that than to look back at the beginning and appreciate how far this blog has come? Over the next few posts, I'm going to take you on a walk in this blog's shoes.

When I first started this blog, it was purely personal. I never thought anyone would actually read it. It was a diary of sorts where I could write down all my thoughts and feelings about my writing journey. It was bare of shoes and filled with emotion. Nothing wrong with that. At least not back then. It served its purpose at the time, but times changed. A few fellow writers started following and commenting. It was no longer personal. It was public. So, the blog had to change. Thus the shoe theme was born.

What about you? How did your blog start out? And what did it mean to you?

Monday, November 28, 2011

These Shoes Are UNTRACEABLE!

They are also the shoes of Grace Wells, the main character in UNTRACEABLE by S.R. Johannes. (Scheduled for release tomorrow.) I'm thrilled to have Ms. Johannes here with us today. And what, you may ask, is she going to talk about? Well, shoes of course. So let's get started. (I apologize in advance for the the formatting. I can't get it to all stop jumbling together.) You make several references to shoes in UNTRACEABLE. Dr. Head wears Vans. Wyn wears Converse. Les wears worn out, old boots. What do these shoes say about the characters? I never understood Vans – they seem like an ugly slipper. I would say it’s retro relaxed with a slight nod to fashion. I see Dr. Head as a man from the 60s – the hair and the horn rimmed glasses. Wyn wears tan converse. He’s a little more fashionable than most people in his town - though he pretends not to be. I think Wyn doesn’t belong there in that town anymore. He’s the guy who has bigger dreams than to live in a small town. His converse imply he has a fashion sense yet they are not that reliable or durable. They are a little soft and don’t have much function. This is the total opposite of Grace. Yet Converse have a classic style and are very comfortable and casual. That is Wyn. 2. As for Grace, you only mention her boots. In one scene, she chooses to wear her "best" boots to impress Mo. I'm dying to know, though, what shoes would Grace wear with her vintage Sesame Street t-shirts (if she's not out in the woods)? What would she wear if, God forbid, she ever had to go to a formal event such as prom? Or a wedding? And what do Grace’s shoe choices say about her? Grace is practical not fashionable. Her hiking shoes are all about dependability, reliability, and comfort. Yet they are about adventure and nature. I think that says a lot about her. If it were summer – she would probably be in Keens – part sandal, part outdoor, part hiking. Grace wouldn’t go to prom – especially not a in a dress. But if she did – she would be in converse and somehow make it go with her dress. Since she is only 16, I’m sure her tastes would change. But I could see her wearing cowboy boots under her wedding dress. Even if they are white. Grace is practical not fashionable. Her hiking shoes are all about dependability, reliability, and comfort. Yet they are about adventure and nature. 3. Okay, we've talked about Grace's shoes. Now let's talk about your shoes. Take us on a little walk in your shoes. How good does it feel to finally see your book in print? How long of a journey has this been for you? What have been the highs? The lows? Any advice for all the aspiring authors out there? For the last 8 years – I’ve been trying to get published. I’ve had 4 books go to acquisitions. Two of those - a MG and Nonfiction book – went before I got an agent. After I signed with a top agent and a top NY agency, I had 2 more books go to acquisitions – a tween paranormal and this YA thriller – Untraceable. Last spring, at some point early in the submission process of Untraceable, after only a few rejections, my agent felt I should shelf my book after the first round. Most books get about 3 rounds and I was determined not to give up on Untraceable. After some back and forths - we decided to part ways so I could get a fresh perspective on my writing and the Book. I believed in this book that much. Over the next couple of months, I queried a handful of my top agents to see if they would pick up Untraceable for a couple more rounds. Unfortunately, since the book had already been seen a handful of editors – even thought it had gone to acquisitions at one house– no one wanted to touch the book. They were all more interested in my WIP that was still in its first draft and at least 6 months away from being complete. During that whole time, my anxiety and frustration mounted. I knew in my heart I was good enough and that Untraceable was good enough. But I could not convince anyone to stand by me. I had been working on this book for so long that after much thinking – I decided Grace deserved to go out into the world. Even if I had to put her out there myself. She had no future in traditional publishing due to everything that happened. I just figured I would use all my marketing skills to put out a product I was proud of in my own way. It wasn’t an easy decision – I wanted en editor so bad, I wanted a publishing house behind me. But that was not in the cards for Untraceable or me at the time. And to be honest, I was tired of someone else being responsible for my dream. It was time I take charge. But I will say – indie pubbing is not the easy way out. It is a long uphill battle and you have to be prepared to do it the right way with little reward. Untraceble was in my heart and I needed to put it out there. I’d work hard for 8 years, been patient, and almost made it – this was the only path for me at this point.
Summary: (from goodreads) 16 year old Grace was reared in the wilderness. Her first pet was a bear named Simon. Her first potty, an oak tree. And, her first swing, a forest vine. Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her everything he knew about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival. When Grace's dad goes missing on a routine patrol, unlike everyone in her sleepy mountain town, she refuses to believe he’s dead. After finding a Cheetos bag and stolen government file, Grace is convinced she’s one step closer to proving all the non-believers wrong. One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from imminent danger by Mo, a hot guy who has an intoxicating accent and a secret. Grace has never felt a connection like this before, certainly not with her ex-boyfriend, the adoring, but decidedly unrugged, Wyn. After a few run-ins with the town's police chief, her father's partner, and some new evidence, Grace travels deeper into the wilderness that has always been her refuge only to learn that her father's disappearance is not a mere coincidence. Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to emerge from an epidemic that’s spreading like wild fire, threatening everything and everyone she’s ever loved. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, it is. I fell in love with the characters and the plot. Johannes does an excellent job of bringing the setting to life. It has so much to offer--romance, adventure, emotional trials. Just read it already! You'll see what I mean.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Yes, it's Turkey Week...

I won't be around much this week, but I did want to tell you about this awesome contest K.M. Walton is having. In an effort to get some buzz going about her debut contemporary YA novel, CRACKED (Simon Pulse ~ Simon & Schuster January 3, 2012), she has launched a live action book trailer contest. Prizes include the opportunity for budding filmmakers to get their one minute trailer critiqued by ten top industry professionals (an Oscar nominated producer team, writers for the MTV Movie Awards, the director of Entertainment Tonight, an award winning independent filmmaker, two accomplished television producers, a film agent, and the director of the movie THE MIGHTY MACS). There is also a top cash prize of $500. The Filmmaker’s Kit, promotional flyer, and complete contest details can be found at Good luck to anyone who enters, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hanging Up My Shoes Worked Again!

I figured since I posted a pair of winter boots Monday, I should balance it out with some flip flops today. And what better way to do it, than to talk about how every time I hang up my shoes (take a blogging break) someone I know around here gets good news.

For you new people, this post from last December will explain the phenomenon:

This may be my greatest Tuesday Tip ever! Don't believe me? Well, just keep reading. If you've been around here long enough, you know that when I get overwhelmed with the whole blogging thing, I take a break. What you may not know is that these breaks benefit you (my followers) as much as they benefit me. You see, every time I go on a break, someone who follows me (sometimes more than one person) signs with an agent or sells a book. Really, I'm not joking. During one of my breaks, my friends Roni Loren and Kate Walton both signed with agents. During my next break, my friend Tere Kirkland signed with an agent. The following break, Roni and Kate both sold their books. Most recently, on my last break, my friend Sherrie Petersen signed with an agent. (If you haven't already, you should go congratulate her.) See what I'm saying? My breaks bring good fortune to my bloggy friends. So, my Tuesday tip this week is this: if you want to find an agent or to sell a book, just follow me and strongly encourage me to take a break. I guarantee one of you will get exactly what you want.

Here we are almost a year later and my latest break brought this good news: My crit buddy, J.B. Chicoine (Bridget) signed a contract with Rhemalda Publishing for her novel, UNCHARTED. If you don't already know Bridget, go by and congratulate her here. It will be well worth your time.

So, anyone else get good news during my last break?

Monday, November 14, 2011 all time favorite shoes ever!

Now, let me set one thing straight. I hate, I mean really, really hate, cold weather. But I do love my Ugg boots! Who doesn't? Stylish on the outside. Comfy-cozy on the inside. Oh, and the best part is, they make me feel young. You wanna know why? Because teenagers wear them too.

Okay, those of you who know me, know that this isn't a plug for Ugg boots and that I'm actually going somewhere with this. So, I'll get to it.

As you can see from my profile, I write young adult fiction. I'm drawn to this genre because it's where I feel my author's voice fits best. I'm no expert in the genre, but throughout my journey, I have learned a lot. One thing that I've heard over and over again is the importance of using strong verbs. I understand the concept, and I do see the importance. But I also feel that the use of a strong verb sometimes undermines the voice. In my opinion, voice trumps rules any day.

Have you ever heard a teenager tell a story? It's always something like...

"So I was walking down the street, and this kid comes out of nowhere." or "I go into the kitchen, and someone freakin' ate my chocolate pudding." or "I'm already late, so I head straight to my first hour class."

Notice it's always verbs like "walk", "comes", "go", "head". Personally, I don't think they can relate to words like "promenade", "lollop", "perambulate". These are exaggerated examples, but I like to exaggerate when making a point. Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't try to use stronger verbs, but I am saying, I don't think we should sacrifice voice to do it.

Bottom line is, the best scenario is to find verbs that are both strong and fit with a teen voice. Like the Ugg boots. They can be enjoyed by adults and teens alike.

What do you think? How would you rank the importance of the use of strong verbs? Got any examples of good, solid, strong, teen verbs?