Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Excerpt from Billycan: Book Two of Nightshade City + My friend's debut release!

Wow! The New Year is almost here! Along with the new year, I'd like to give a quick shout out to Jill Myles! Her debut novel, GENTLEMEN PREFER SUCCUBI, released today through Pocket Star! She will be visiting my blog on January 12th, so be on the look out for that! So happy for you Jill!

With the new year on its merry way, I've started back to work on Nightshade's sequel, Billycan: Book Two of Nightshade City! I wanted to post an excerpt, but nothing that will give anything away! The excerpt below is a flashback of sorts, which happens before the story of Nightshade City. How two friends met, a rat and a bat.

xoxo -- Hilary

Juniper was glad to see Dresden. It was a cold night in Trillium City, colder than usual, the night they met.

Dresden and his colony had lived on the outskirts of Trillium in Lex County, a farming community. While on a hunt for insects, the thunder had grown so frequent and deafening Dresden had lost his bearings, his sonar useless. The blurring storm and never ending lightening had rendered the bat temporarily blind. He was lost in the Battery, the epicenter of Trillium City. Barely able to navigate through the skyscrapers, he ended up in an alley behind the colossal Brimstone Building.

Hearing a high pitched siren in the distance, he thought it was a member of his colony calling. Following the sound, he jerked his head around and crashed straight into a street sign. He was lucky the flimsy sign was all he hit. Anything harder surely would have been his end. Dresden's limp body slapped the wet pavement of the alley, landing directly at the feet of Juniper Belancort.

The brown bat was knocked out cold. Juniper had never seen a bat up close. He had always wondered why humans referred to them as "flying rats", now he knew why. Other than the obvious differences, the resemblance was uncanny. He knew he couldn't leave it lying in the street. He could never leave a fellow rat, nor could he leave the flying creature that so closely resembled one. Growing up, he'd heard rumors of their kinship and rumors that rats and bats weren't kin at all, but family or not, the injured bat would not be left to die.

Juniper, thickly built, had little trouble carting the bat back to his home, just a few blocks away. Back then, Nightshade City did not exist, in fact it had not even become an idea. Juniper was just starting to feel like himself again, finally getting used to the idea of having only one eye, his face nearly healed from Billycan's brutal attack, the night of the Bloody Coup.

Juniper and his Council had been living in an abandoned textile warehouse. He carried the bat through a broken window, being sure not to nick its wings, one of which steadily bled. Juniper called out for help upon arrival. Cole and the others came to his aid, gently setting the bat on a mound of soft fabric. They dried him off and cleaned his wound, covering it with a makeshift bandage, made from scraps of cloth.

The small group of rats sat around the bat, patiently waiting for it to wake up, all entranced by the similarities it possessed, its face so similar to their own. Finally, the bat awoke and slowly stretched out its wings. The first thing it noticed was its awkward position. Sleeping on the ground, as a bat would never do, it started to squirm.

"Now don't be frightened," Juniper said reassuringly. "You're among friends. You've been injured. I found you in the alley and brought you back here, so we could fix up that wing of yours."

Dresden looked blearily at Juniper. His hazy vision had him thinking he was speaking to another bat. Seeing the plain, gray walls of the warehouse, he realized he was not in his Lex County colony. "What colony am I in? What type of bat are you?" he said, straining to focus on Juniper's face. The other rats stared blankly at Juniper, wondering what to do. The bat clearly did not have his full wits. As he lay helpless, the bat craned his short neck as far as it would reach, still trying to make out a face.

"Now friend," said Juniper, "I don't want to worry you. You are among allies. You are among rats."

Dresden was a practical bat, afraid of very little. He knew of rats. He also knew of their proclivities for meat. He narrowed his miniature eyes, finally able to make out Juniper's face. He could see there was something not quite right with it, as Juniper's fur had not grown back yet on the one side, still bare and wounded from Billycan's attack, not to mention the patch over his eye. "Are you going to eat me?" Dresden asked directly.

Juniper chuckled. "No, of course not, if we were going to eat you why on earth would we have bandaged your wing? I know certain rats can be cruel, but that's a bit much, even for us."

Dresden looked over at his wing. "Oh dear, I see," he said, raising it slightly as he examined the dressing. "Thank you for coming to my aid. I'm Dresden," he said weakly, "leader of the Lex County, Brown Bat Colony, First Chapter..." His voice tapered off. The wounded bat could stay awake no longer.

In the weeks it took the brown bat to recover, he and Juniper became close. Dresden learned all about the takeover, the Bloody Coup it was called, brought on by Killdeer and the infamous white rat, Billycan--the one who carved out Juniper's eye. Juniper learned all about the bats trouble in Lex County and how the exasperated farmers were trying to smoke them out with pesticides and other means. It seemed the two had a lot in common. Juniper had lost his home and it looked as though Dresden would soon lose his.

The two stayed loyal, meeting quarterly each year in the same alley where their friendship started. Each knew if the other did not show up they were most likely dead.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New HobGobble Excerpt and the Return of My Hijacked Blog!

Hello Everyone!

I want to thank all who participated in Marietta's recent open Q & A and I know she thanks you too! Hopefully everyone's questions were answered! I certainly know firsthand all the obstacles attached to finding an agent, so I'm glad this took a little of the mystery out of what Marietta is looking for and how to query her! As soon as the agency's website goes live next month, I'll be sure to post the link! I know Marietta had great fun answering everyone's questions, not to mention hijacking my blog! Never have I seen so many comments on one post! It was around 70 some! Lots of fantastic info for everyone to go through before they query! :)

In celebration of the return of my beloved blog, I've posted a new excerpt to my hobgoblins of HobGobble, or hobgobbies as I so lovingly call them!

Happy Friday and enjoy!

"More!" barked Scrod.

Two servants dashed over, each gripping a handle of an immense cooper pot overflowing with dead hagfish. Slimy eels dropped to the floor as they heaved the pot onto the table, plunked it down between Mox and his father, and scuttled out of sight.

"Eat," said Scrod, nodding at the pot. He grabbed a handful of reeking fish and flung them into his mouth, grunting contentedly as he chomped them into mush. Bits of chewed flesh sprayed from his jaws as he spoke. "You want to look like a hobgoblin, you must eat like one." He pushed the hagfish towards Mox. "C'mon then."

Mox eyeballed a rotted eel, whose gray, eyeless head peeked over the lip of the pot. He'd rather starve than eat more oily hagfish or oily anything for that matter. Hobgoblins lived off fat, oil and grease, and in Mox's estimation, all things disgusting.

A long while back there'd been a food shortage in HobGobble. London was under lockdown, the whole city blanketed in piles of snow. The hobgoblins did their best to procure food, anything to keep HobGobble from starving. Mox remembered one night quite clearly.

He sat hungrily at the long table, waiting with his forty-two brothers and sisters. The servants came round, plopping an open tin can in front of each child. Mox was expecting pickled pig ears, deviled ham or perhaps greasy canned hash, but instead, the can contained something bright and yellow. To that day, Mox didn't know food came in such a cheerful color. He cautiously took a spoonful--little bits of sweet golden heaven popped in his mouth with each chew. He read the can's label under his breath, "Royal Crown Vegetables, Extra Sweet Whole Kernel Corn Niblets."

Mox's brothers and sisters got up from the table in disgust at their dinners. Mox's oldest brother, Gash, took his can and flung it at a servant bashing him upside the head, corn spraying everywhere. The others followed suit--a food fight like no other. Mox smartly crawled under his chair, taking two of his sisters' unwanted cans with him. He laughed as niblets flew through the air around him, whipping past his head, his brothers and sisters so incensed by the sight of the crisp, yellow morsels. Niblets fell like rain. Mox happily gathered them up and ate and ate until he could eat no more.

That night his belly was full. He never saw the words 'vegetable' or 'corn' on a can in HobGobble again and to this day has never seen food of such a vibrant hue. The food set before him was brown, tan or gray, all slippery with grease, sodden with fat, rancid to be sure, and far from cheerful.

Scrod stared at his son. "Why do you have such a disheartened look on your face, Mox? You must eat to be strong--to one day be strapping like your brothers--to be like Gash. Your eldest brother is the strongest hobgoblin in all of HobGobble."

Mox crinkled his nose. "Father, what if I'm not like Gash or the others? What if I can't be big and strong like them?"

Scrod's baggy lips stretched into a hint of a smile. "Mox, attention to my children has been lacking in many ways. HobGobble had been my responsibility well before you little ones were ever even a glimmer, and without HobGobble my family--my children would not be safe." Scrod motioned to the torch lit caves around him. "So in order to look after all of you, all this had to come first, my duty as Lord Hob." Scrod sighed. "Even with my obligations to HobGobble, I've always managed to keep an eye on my children--especially you, Mox. To be sure, you are distinctly different than your siblings, and I'm not just speaking of your looks."

Mox knew he was different without his father telling him so, but the fact that his father noticed anything at all, other than his unusual features, was a revelation.

Scrod pushed the pot to the side. "I know you're not particularly fond of hagfish. For years I've spied you mashing it up on your plate, hoping it would look eaten." He chuckled softly. "Don't think I haven't seen your elbow edging over ever so slowly towards your fish, silently knocking it to the floor when you thought no one was looking."

Mox's face flushed with heat. No one ever paid him mind or so he thought. "Sorry, father."

"It's all right. In that way, you are very much like your mother."

Mox raised his eyebrows. "You mean mother didn't like hagfish either?"

"Your mother loathed the slippery eels. She despised the food we steal from up top, always in their greasy bags, soaked with butter and cooked in fat. I told her she was crazy for it! Why hobgoblins love the oily aftertaste of fish and chips, the scent of a greasy hamburger, the thick fried potatoes soaked in oil!" He laughed. "Yes, your mother was very much like you. She too was slight in frame, her features small, her stature leggy. Some hobgoblins might even have whispered among themselves that she was not a fetching specimen of hobgoblin. Luckily, no one ever said it to me. A benefit of being the Lord Hob, I suppose. Wouldn't have mattered in any case, I thought your mother was beautiful--perfect even."

A shiver ran down Mox's spine and his skin rose in goose bumps. His mother was just like him, was it even possible? He tried to hide his smile, but didn't succeed.

"Ah," said Scrod, "for once a happy look on my youngest son's face."

"Why do you think mother and I aren't like the other hobgoblins? I don't want to be different...I just am."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Welcome to HobGobble...Hope You Like Ick! Teaser Tuesday!

So, I've decided...green is my new favorite color...at least until this new venture is finished! This is going to be one of those whirlwind stories. I can feel it coming! Welcome to HobGobble! As always, blame the hobgoblins for any and all first draft typos. They're crafty little fellows!

xoxo -- Hilary

The ancient hobgoblin slogged passed him. His father's once emerald skin now a sallow brown, like the greasy fish and chips bags they pilfered from the veiled alleys of London.

Old Scrod flopped into his throne and slumped down, wrapping himself in his tattered cloak. He looked tired--tired of ruling, tired of worrying, tired of even breathing it seemed. His wooden staff hung limply from his gnarled claws. Scrod slowly lifted his head and looked at his son.

"What is it that you want, son?"

"I don't want anything, father," said Mox.

Scrod gave his son the once over. "You've grown, Mox. You're much taller than your brothers and sisters--and so skinny." He looked up. "More like them."

"Yes," said Mox, his skin bristling. "I hear it ever day. I'm built like them, I know, but I'm hobgoblin through and through."

"And don't you forget it," said Scrod. "Now, why have you come? Your siblings only come to see me when they want something, so out with it, boy. What do you want?"

Mox looked at his feet. He loathed his brothers and sisters all forty-two of them, gruesome crew--always griping and sniping over who would take over the throne when their father finally had the good manners to die. "I suppose I just want to spend some time with you, nothing more." Mox knew his father would not be the Lord Hob much longer. He didn't care about the throne. Unlike his siblings, to rule over HobGobble was the last thing he desired. He shifted uncomfortably. It just didn't feel right--not knowing your father at least a little before he passed on. "You're always so occupied...I only wanted a moment to talk."

Scrod's drooping ears suddenly straightened. His spine uncurled, as he propped his wilted body up with his staff. "Well, why didn't you say so straightaway?" He snapped two slippery fingers. "Servant, bring a chair for my son." A stubby hobgoblin with arms longer than his entire body skittered out from the shadows carrying a wooden chair high over his head. He slapped it down on the dank ground, sloshing water as he did so, and ran off into the dark as quickly as he'd arrived.

Mox sat. He smiled halfheartedly at his father. Growing up, he was in awe of Scrod, the great Lord Hob, so incredibly commanding and noble--now so frail. His once robust arms and legs had all but withered down to bone. His brawny chest, stained with liver spots, had caved inward, leading down to a bulbous round belly. Scrod's dominant jaw had decayed into a sagging sack of rotted teeth. Once so feared, now so feeble, it saddened Mox to look at him.

Scrod patted Mox's knee. "So, my boy, what would you like to discuss?"

Stiffening, Mox took a deep breath. Even in his father's delicate state, Mox still got the jitters when he addressed him. "Well, father, there is something I've been wondering about."

Cocking his head, Scrod leaned on his staff. "Oh? And what might that be?"

Mox cringed as he spoke, unsure how his father might react. "Well..." Hesitantly, he pointed a slender finger at the cavernous ceiling. "I've been wondering about them."

Scrod did not move. He sat firm and silent. The last time Mox had seen his father sit so still it did not end well. The unlucky hobgoblin sitting before him received the lashing of a lifetime. Mox should have known better than to ask. "I'm sorry father," he blurted. "I'm just curious about them, the hu--"

Scrod held up his hand for silence. Mox obeyed. Scrod leaned in, closely studying his son's strangely angular face, his slight curl of a mouth, and his short rounded ears. He spoke slowly.

"You know the tragedy that befell our family the night you were born, don't you?"

"Yes," said Mox, swallowing. "My mother died."

"Yes," said Scrod. "She died. It was awful and terrible and a dark day for HobGobble. A day no hobgoblin will ever forget, least of all me. But do you know what she told me before she died? Do you?"


"Your mother held you in her arms and kissed your small forehead." Scrod chuckled. "My word, you were a tiny thing. As a child, I thought you'd pass away just as your mother had, too weak to survive in our world. Now look at you, still scrawny as a fish bone, but taller than all of us. In any case, you're mother looked me square in the eyes and told me your name was to be Mox, her father's name, the first Lord Hob, and you would one day rule."


"Yes, Mox, that is what she claimed. My latest string of wives are as softheaded as a heap of three eyed potatoes, but your mother...she was a smart one." Scrod smiled. "When she said you would rule--she meant it--she believed."

"You mean rule, as in rule HobGobble--become the mighty Lord Hob?" Mox bolted from his chair and began to pace before his father. "But I don't want to rule! Leave that for one of my brothers or sisters. They'll do whatever it takes to keep hold of the throne. Moreover, I'm not fit to rule." Mox flung his arms up in disbelief. "I don't even look the part. You said so yourself. I'm tall and gangly, my jaw is undersized and my teeth dull. I loathe scaring children and I certainly don't want to eat them! That's all my brothers speak of--when one day they can eat the fleshy, pink children that live above us! I'm unfit to rule and no reasonable hobgoblin would listen to me anyway!" Mox suddenly froze in his tracks. Here he was ranting in front of his all powerful father, the Lord Hob, telling him everything he hated about being a hobgoblin--about ruling over HobGobble--about taking his great father's place. His eyes widened in fear.

The Lord Hob stared flintily at his son. He looked about to lose his temper. Mox's green hue drained to gray. Suddenly, Scrod roared with wild laughter, nearly tumbling onto the floor. Mox seized his father by his shoulders and helped him back into his seat.

His father's laugh had turned into a coughing wheeze as he tried to catch his breath. "It's high time we had this talk," Scrod huffed, as his shriveled lungs settled. "Sit down, Mox. There is much you don't know--much indeed."

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Agent Marietta Zacker!

ATTN: Scroll to the bottom of this post. Marietta will be answering any and all questions until Dec. 16th!! So writers and illustrators, ask away!!!!

Okay, not everything, but I had to get your attention! And isn't she just lovely in blue?

So many great writers have emailed me lately wondering if it's okay to ask me about my agent. Yes, it's okay! I too was once in that same creaky, unstable, agonizing boat and I'm happy to help if I can. Here are some basics about the amazing Marietta Zacker.

What the heck does she want? Marietta is looking for great writing for children and fantastic storytelling, plain and simple. She doesn't want to give a blanket 'no' to anything. She's interested in everything from miraculous picture books to chapter books and novels about the world's unique ethnicities to cutting edge YA. She believes you should write what moves you! In other words, don't write about vampires and werewolves just because you think they're hot! In my opinion, that's kind of crazy anyway! By the time you finish your book and actually get it to agents/editors a hot trend will most likely not be so hot anymore, right? So, write what YOU love, not what you think everybody else will! Case in point, I love rats, rats got agent, rats got published! Passion about what you're writing is so very key!

What on earth is she like? I feel so blessed and lucky to have Marietta as an agent. She is everything I could have hoped for and more! She's wildly intelligent, funny, creative and dedicated to her job and all her clients. She answers all my emails (and there are plenty of them mind you) and calls me as needed, sometimes just to say, "Hey, how are you doing? Wanted to see what you've been up to." Lots of agents don't do that. She has schooled me on the publishing industry and really helped me understand how the "other side" of this crazy business works, like the agent/editor relationship, contracts, offers, etc. And I still have so much to learn from her. Marietta is a great person to have in your corner. She sincerely wants the best for you and wants you to succeed. She cares about her clients for more than just their writing. She is my friend! What more could you ask for in someone who is helping to shape your writing career?

How long does it take to get a response? I was just talking to Marietta this week actually and we were discussing the number of queries in her inbox. Holy cow, there is a lot! Please be patient. She will get to your query. When I sent my submittal package to the Nancy Gallt Agency way back when it took about 4-5 months to get the request for my full--in other words, be very, very patient! What's the old adage? Good things come to those who wait (and wait, and wait)!

If you don't hear back should you assume that's a rejection? I honestly don't know how Marietta addresses that. I'd think she'd let you know once she had the opportunity to read your query, but like I said, her inbox is a traffic jam--think of a number around 1000 give or take.

In summation: Well, I hope I've given you a bit more information on this lovely little lady! The basics to remember: Write what YOU love! Be very patient! And for all that's good and holy in this world keep writing!!!

xoxo -- Hilary

NEWS FLASH! From the woman herself! Marietta Speaks!!
MBZacker said...
This may be unorthodox, but since my wonderfully, talented client sends new ideas without warning all the time (brilliant ones, I might add) and dedicates one of her postings to information about me (also without warning or even a heads-up), I thought I would surprise her with a posting on her blog!And, since I don't feel it's necessarily fair to Hilary to have her speak for me, I think it only makes sense to use this forum and open up the "floor" for questions.So... from now until December 16, I will check Hilary's blog daily to answer questions from those who want to ask. I am not as mysterious as Hilary's characters, so if you have a question, by all means, feel free to ask. I will do my best to be as thorough as possible with my answers.A shout out to all in the blogging world! Marietta

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Teaser from Academy for Dead Girls!

Well, it's been a crazy year for me! I have lots to be thankful for. My family of course ranks number one. I am so lucky to have such a supportive hub, who didn't go insane during the whole road to publishing process! I'm so thankful for my happy, healthy, hilarious little ones, Vincent (6) and Nomi (almost 2). Without them, life would not be as sweet.

I'm super thankful to my agent, Marietta Zacker. She is a wonderful person and truly cares about her clients. She never makes me feel like I'm alone and she puts up with my 'crazy needy writer syndrome'!

I'm thankful to Craig Virden and Nancy Gallt. Without Craig, I can honestly say, I don't know where I might be with Nightshade City. I'm so lucky he took a chance on me back in April...so very lucky. Nancy has been a pillar of strength and I'm blessed to be a part of her amazing agency.

I'm thankful to my editor at Holiday House, Julie Amper. She's been amazing to work with. Seriously, if any of you ever get to work with her, you'll know what I'm talking about. She puts you at ease right away and her edits are incredible. My rats thank her too!

Okay, I'm off to eat way to much food! I can't wait! I've posted a short teaser of my new MS, Miss Lily White's Academy for Wayward Dead Girls!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

xoxo -- Hilary

The sky was gray. Go figure, it was always gray. Farina walked swiftly. The cold air gave her skin a bristle, a feeling that resembled what she felt in life--a faint whisper of it anyway. Meandering through the thick network of trees, she made her way to the only entrance she knew of. Souls stayed away from it, worried they might get sucked in or something stupid like that. Farina wasn't afraid. Frankly, she didn't care much. She needed to see it.

"Farina!" called a voice from behind her. "Farina, where are you going?"

Farina cringed. She kept walking, pretending she didn't hear Nan Nelson, of all the dead girls, calling after her.

"Farina, you better stop," called Nan. "I know what you're up to and I'll be forced to tell Miss Lily."

Farina turned around. "Tell her what, Nan? I'm not doing anything."

"You know you're not allowed to go near The Caves," said Nan. "You're cruising for a bruising, if Miss Lily finds out." Nan died in 1955, so practically everything she said had some stupid 1950's expression in it. Had alcohol been available, Farina figured she'd have picked up the habit for sure by now, having Nan as a roommate.

"I wasn't going to The Caves, Nan. I was just going for a walk, which you rudely interrupted. How very un-1950's of you."

Nan folded her arms, peering at her roomie suspiciously. "You and your walks," said Nan. "You know, there is more to do down here than brood and act all dark and creepy."

"Oh, yeah," said Farina, faking a smile. "Maybe we could go to the drive-in with Biff and Chad after the big game, and then all hold hands and share a malt at the ice cream parlor!"

"Very funny," said Nan. Her lips twisted into a sulk. "I was only trying to help." She turned and began to walk away.

Farina rolled her eyes. Now she felt bad. After all, Nan was being helpful in her annoying way and Farina always pegged her for dumb, which made her feel even worse for snapping at her. "Nan--wait up."

Nan whirled around, her sulky face, now a beaming smile. "Oh Farina, I knew you weren't mad at me. You're such a kidder! Let's go back to the dorm and I'll let you see the new pages of my scrapbook. They'll knock your socks!"

Farina gulped hard, forcing down the insult which so wanted to escape her lips.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday! Being Sick Has It's Perks!

So, I've been under the weather. Every November, without fail, I fall ill from something or other! Saturday night I had a fever, something around 102. Surprisingly, that night, I came up with an idea for my next novel. So I suppose being sick has it's advantages! I'm feeling much better today, so I wanted to post a teaser of my new endeavor. And yes, I wrote this while sick, so I've decided if you don't like it you have to blame the flu, not me!

The title of this manuscript is, MISS LILY WHITE'S ACADEMY FOR WAYWARD DEAD GIRLS. Need I say more?


xoxo -- Hilary

Chapter One -- A Very Dead Girl

"I'm dead as a freaking doornail!" shouted Farina. "I'd rather go to Hell for all eternity than be trapped in this idiotic school!" A few of the more prissy girls gasped at the declaration. Farina Rathbone bolted from her desk, nearly knocking it over. She hurled herself through the wall and out into the hallway.

"Stay put," said Miss Lily to the other girls, wiggling a spidery finger at them. She calmly drifted after Farina.

"Now Farina dear," said Miss Lily White, in her soft Italian accent. "Even dead, we all need to mind our manners. I do understand your discontent, but that does not negate the fact that you still have yet to discover what you've been sent here to learn." Miss Lily took Farina gently by the shoulders and steered her in front of the hall mirror. "Yes, your young life was taken from you. It's horrible and it's true, but that doesn't mean you are allowed to carry on in death, as you did in life. That's what got you into this predicament in the first place."

Farina stared at her raggedy reflection in the mirror. "I didn't mean to get myself killed. Why am I being punished?"

Tall and skeletal, Miss Lily leaned down and put her gaunt, white face next to Farina's. "Dearest, you are not being punished. I know it's hard to understand, especially only having been here a year. But when a person dies young they stay trapped in that age, unless they can learn to grow inside. That's why the powers that be opened the academy, to help you understand why you're here--to help you grow up--to move on."

"What does it matter if I stay trapped in my age? I'm plenty grown in my opinion. Not to mention, I'm dead. Why can't I just be left alone?"

"That, my darling, is not for me to answer. Everyone's calling is different." A smile branched across Miss Lily's withered face. "I died over three hundred years ago. I surmise my calling was to help girls like you. You know, not everyone is as fortunate as you. Not all young souls get a chance such as this."

Farina snorted. "What, are they too wayward to join your wayward academy?"

"Don't be smart," said Miss Lily, flashing a look in the mirror. "But in a way, you are right. They must be too wayward for they are sent to the place where the bad ones go."

"You mean The Caves?"

"Yes, my darling, The Caves. I gather there are even young ones with spoiled souls, already too far gone to be saved. They don't get a second chance like you did. That's why you need to make the most of your time here."

Farina changed the subject. "What did you die of, Miss Lily?"

"A broken heart," said Miss Lily. She sighed. "The baron I was madly in love with did not return my sentiment. Utterly hopeless, I let myself wither away to nothing and I died as a result. So you see, my dear, I was foolish once too. I believe that's why I care for you girls so much. Feelings run deep when we're young. As we grow older, it still hurts, but it's manageable." Miss Lily patted Farina's shoulder. "Now my dear, why don't you take what's left of today off? You can start fresh on Monday."

"Thank you, Miss Lily," said Farina.

Miss Lily smiled sweetly and vanished from the hallway, leaving Farina alone in front of the mirror. She looked at her tattered uniform, black and white plaid skirt, with an equally unattractive sweater vest. Apparently the dead had no more fashion sense than the living when it came to school attire. "So ugly," she muttered. Her once smooth hair was now a tangled bramble of platinum dread locks, held at bay by a massive ponytail sitting atop her head. Farina always liked her looks, even more so with her scar--her battle wound. She ran a finger over it, thinking she looked pretty good for having her entire face split open by a windshield. Most of the girls in the academy weren't exactly stunners, and their faces were still in one piece. She snickered. In any case, Farina supposed it served her right, stealing her mother's SUV that icy December night--angry she'd been grounded--for once truly innocent of her mother's accusations. Of all the irony! A year later, the thought of that night still goaded her. Maybe her parents had sound reason when at sixteen years old; they refused to let her get a driver's license. She was what the adults called, reckless.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Agents & Authors & Editors, OH MY! IL SCBWI -- News You Can Use!

Okay, finally, news you can use from the IL SCBWI Prairie Writer's Day!

Turned in my new edits for Nightshade yesterday, a day earlier than planned! So, now I can tell you what I learned at the SCBWI IL Conference, known as Prairie Writer's Day! I guess I'll go by topic and let you know what one and all had to say.

Picture Books: Yolanda LeRoy, Editorial Director at Charlesbridge, used Where the Wild Things Are, as an example of a great picture book. She read it to us in fact! She said as an editor, she maps out the picture books she's working on, making sure she knows the best place to turn the page! She noted how important that is and that PB writers should do the same, making sure something valuable happens on every page, and each page is turned with a sense of anticipation. She said she wants authors to choose a subject they are passionate about. That's what she wants to see! At the end of her talk, Yolanda sang to the audience! She is an actress and a singer, and has amazing voice. It was quite unexpected!

Children's Non-fiction: Stacy Cantor, Editor at Walker books for Young Readers, mentioned how important it is to have a strong voice in non-fiction. She said non-fiction can and should be beautifully written. She enjoys seeing non-fiction that teaches a lot, but is written so well, kids don't even know they're learning! Of note, she also mentioned it's important to write about topics that can't easily be found on the internet. If someone can look it up for free, why would they want to buy a book? If it is a common topic, you need to have a standout book to get noticed, something that makes it different. Stacy said finding an amazing story about World War II "would make her day!"

Middle Grade: Alisha Niehaus, Editor at Dial Books for Young Readers: Alisha said middle grade fiction needs to have a special voice. What sets this girl or boy apart? Why are they special? She said children like secrets and are good at keeping them. They like knowing things that no one else knows. She also mentioned how death or other life altering events can shape the voice of a middle grade character. Alisha would like to find a story with "wicked humor" and has "a soft spot for this wild land and loony Americana." After Yolanda showed off her mad singing skilz, Alisha finished her speech with a cartwheel and a good one at that!

YA: Nick Eliopulos, Assistant Editor at Random House, who should be a standup comedian if he ever leaves publishing, would like to see different types of MC's, other than the stereotypical one's out there. If you're going to write a multicultural novel, he'd like the story to be about more than just the multicultural aspects. He says it's important to have a clear sense of your audience and "know what they're buying." Nick is particularly interested in middle grade or YA genre works with commercial appeal. Oh, and he's a writer too!

The Agent/Editor Relationship: Michael Stearns, Agent and Founder of Upstart Crow Literary, gave a talk on what it's really like to work with editors. He knows firsthand, as he used to be one at Harper Collins and Harcourt! He said it's interesting how one editor will want a book completely different than another. He mentioned how Mary Cash, from Holiday House (my publisher!) will want something totally different than the editor at another house. He also said the lunches editors and agents have are not really as glamorous as we think them! As for his agency, Upstart Crow, love that name, they are still building their lists. Since they just opened don't expect a quick response. He said normally one month, but with all the craziness of a new agency, they are a bit overwhelmed. They are doing their best to keep up with the queries that apparently number in the thousands (good gad!), so please be patient. Michael says the agency is fairly hands-on when it comes to editing, as they all come from a writing and/or editing background and they work hard with authors to get things right before sending out to editors. Michael has a wry sense of humor (the very best kind) and just seems to be one of those guys who "gets it", so be patient if you query him. I'm sure it will be worth the wait! http://www.upstartcrowliterary.com/ Be sure to check out the Writer's Toolbox page for helpful advice on query letters, dialog for children, and a must have reading list!

Be Your Own PR Machine: Cynthea Liu, Author of Paris Pan Takes a Dare and The Great Call of China, gave a breakout session on public relations. She spoke about everything from using the power of social networking (Facebook, Twitter, JacketFlap) to identifying niche organizations and outlets who might be interested in your book, not just bookstores! She said go to libraries, booksellers, schools and tell them what you can do for them, not the other way around--offer them something! Make your own business cards, get a free website, start blogging, make unique items to giveaway at conferences and schools at speaking engagements or signings, and believe it or not, you can do all this on the cheap! Cynthea was a ball of energy and had lots of great ideas! Please check out her website for loads of tips on self-promotion. Get yourself out there! http://www.cynthealiu.com/

Cynthia Leitich Smith: Last, but certainly not least! Cynthia Leitich Smith, acclaimed author of Tantalize and Eternal, among many more great titles, gave an inspirational opening and closing to the IL Prairie Writer's Day. I talked to her briefly and she's just lovely! She has an award winning blog and website, full of useful information for children's writers of all genres. Please be sure to check it out if you haven't already! http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/

Okay, I'm tired! This was like doing homework again, but I've got to be good for something, right? I hope you all found something useful here! There were some other fantastic speakers that I did not get to see, but hopefully you'll have enough to get started. If any other attendees have anything to add on the info above or some of the other speakers, please leave it in the comment section. Every little bit helps!

All right then, I'm done with Nightshade edits, Edwin Copperpot is finished too. What the heck do I do now? Hmmm...I have a few new book ideas to mull over! ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SCBWI Update Coming Soon...Finishing Nightshade Edits!

Hello everyone!

Just wanted to let you know I'm a little MIA this week trying to finish my NIGHTSHADE CITY edits for my editor. They are complete, but I'm doing a final read through, catching any of those niggling little typos and things like that! With any luck, I'll be handing them in Friday morning to Julie Amper, hopefully for the last time...copyedits here I come! ;)

I've a lot to tell you about the SCBWI last weekend, tons of helpful tips from editors on what they're looking for, from picture books to YA. It was a great day and I met so many people! Such a great way to connect with other writers. I promise to have a post for you on Friday, so stay tuned!

That's it for now! Back to Nightshade edits for me!

xoxo -- Hilary

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Edwin Copperpot Site & IL SCBWI Today!!

So, now that Edwin Copperpot is finished I finally gave him a site! I'm no pro, but I like to have a static site for all my books! You can take a peek at www.edwincopperpot.com

I'm off to the IL SCBWI Prairie Writers Day! I'm hoping to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones! I can't wait to hear the speakers! I'll be sure to share any juicy tips! The conference is in a far north suburb of Chicago, so I have to get going or I'll be late! Talk soon and get writing!

xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writers, It Only Takes One YES!!!

So, update on my waiting! Yesterday was one of those great days where everything you're waiting on flows in at once!

Julie Amper let me know she read my Nightshade City edits and thought I did my rats proud! A few minor changes here and there and she thinks will be all set! So no more long AQ's asking for clarification or big changes, just a few things in the margins and some line edits! Yay!!! I was so nervous, it being my first time out! Julie's direction for the manuscript was so valuable and helped me so much. As writers, I think we all get too close to our manuscripts and it's hard to see the forest through the trees, as to what needs work and what doesn't. Having her guidance was fantastic!

Marietta, my agent, called me too. She finished Edwin Copperpot and couldn't say enough about it, luckily all good! Yet another big "phew" and sigh of relief! I always get goose bumps when I talk to her and this was no exception! She is a very inspiring agent and really has encouraged me to work that much harder, not to mention, she cracks me up! So Edwin will be going to NYC as soon as next week!

This time last year was around the time when Craig Virden wrote me asking for the full manuscript of Nightshade City. Little did I know, just one year later I'd be finishing up its edits for Holiday House, with two more complete manuscripts under my belt and Nightshade's sequel well underway.

It's odd how life can change so much in such a short amount of time and how much you can owe one single person for taking a chance on you. For all you writers out there searching for an agent or submitting to editors, remember, you may get hundreds of no's, I certainly did, but it only takes one YES!

Long story short--KEEP WRITING!! Seriously, I'll set my rats on you if you don't! ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Saturday, November 7, 2009

All Edits...Edited...now what?

My Nightshade City edits are off to my editor and now, my finished manuscript, Edwin Copperpot, is off to my agent. I feel slightly lost having nothing to write! Don't get me wrong, I had a great day with my husband and kids, it's just been so long since I've had a writing break, even a brief one, I feel a little strange...like when you leave your cell phone at home and you suddenly feel disconnected from the entire planet!

Okay, I'm going to relax for the rest of the weekend and try not to go crazy waiting on word from both my editor and agent. Frankly, I'm not sure which I'm more worried about. I'm confident with the job I did on both, but then again those second guesses creep up on me the minute I click the send button! Nothings worth doing if you don't have to work (or pull your hair out) for it, right?

All right, putting my frazzled brains on holiday for a few days. Having a few cookies now and watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with my son and husband! Willa Wonka can take a girl's mind off anything!

xoxo -- Hilary

P.S. The IL SCBWI conference is next Saturday! Who's going? I am, I am!!!! Can't wait!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Simple Matter of SEND and New Excerpt!

So, NIGHTSHADE CITY has officially been delivered to my editor, on Halloween night to be exact. As every writer knows, whether you're trying to snag an agent or sending your finished product off to your editor, clicking that infamous SEND button can be a fear provoking ordeal!

I'm very happy with my edits and I love the story more than ever now, but of course, I've already started second guessing myself, as I'm sure every writer does, but there comes a time when you just have to throw caution to the wind and just hit SEND!

I already have a new SEND goal for this week, which I will meet. I've promised my agent EDWIN COPPERPOT and now that my rats are off safe and sound, somewhere in New York, I can finish my ghoulish edits and get Edwin off to Marietta in New Jersey, no later than Friday! Edwin is a steadfast Londoner...hmmm...I never pictured him as a Jersey boy, but what the heck!

Do you have a SEND goal too? Best of luck to anyone hitting their own SEND button! If I can do it, you most certainly can!

Now, in honor of my rats, I've posted an excerpt from NIGHTSHADE CITY, one no one but a few people have read. Any of you who've read Nightshade's other excerpts, know Billycan is one wicked ol' rat...need I say more?

xoxo -- Hilary

Clover was preparing the fire pit for dinner when she heard a slow, methodical scratching against her door. She hadn't heard Billycan calling down the corridor. Immediately recognizing the sound of his billy club against the wood slats, she sprang up towards the door.

"Get out of sight," she whispered. A tall, cloaked figure rose from the table and concealed itself in the shadows. "Stay back and stay covered. He only wants Stipend. I'll be back promptly." She gathered herself, swallowed hard, and opened the door.

"My, my, running late today, aren't we Miss Clover?" said Billycan, his voice acidic.

Clover kept her eyes to the ground and put her items into a wheelbarrow. "I'm sorry High Collector. I'm making dinner. Lost in my recipe, I did not hear your call. It won't happen again," she said.

Billycan had little patience for her excuses. "Very well, very well, Billycan is sure it won't happen again." He glared at his lieutenant. "Mark her off the list, Lieutenant Carn," barked Billycan. Carn silently marked her off the list and stepped back in line with the other soldiers. Billycan turned back to Clover. "I have more pressing matters today, my dear." Billycan reached into a wheelbarrow and retrieved a stiff scroll. He unrolled the discolored paper, signed at the bottom with Killdeer's three pronged mark.

Clover eyed the parchment and backed into her quarters. She prayed to the Saints for the Collector to move on. Please, she thought, let the scroll be for another.

"Not so hasty, little one," said Billycan. He beckoned her back, curling a gnarled claw. "Billycan has something to share with you. Something I think you and your lovely family will be rather delighted with. Are they in?" He poked his mangled snout into her room.

"No sir, they are hunting Top Side," she replied. Clover tried to block Billycan, who easily lurched over her like an oversized ivory sickle, examining her small quarters.

"Where are your brothers and sisters then?"

"My brothers were sadly killed in the Great Flood. As for sisters, I have none."

He carelessly pushed her out of his way and stepped into her quarters with his scaly, hairless feet. "Pity, pity," said Billycan. He had spotted the rat, whose feet were simply too large to conceal. "Billycan wants to know who that is, in the back." He pointed a spiny digit at the shrouded rat. "Who is that hiding shamelessly in the corner? Billycan would like to know and he would like to know now." She could not answer. Unprepared for the inquiry, she stood speechless.

Billycan's blood began to pump as he thought of a potential conspiracy in his midst. Her clan could not be trusted. Abruptly swooping down to her level, he displayed his barbed, yellow teeth in a crooked scowl. "Now for the last time, girl, who and why is this brazen rat hiding in your quarters?" His eyes bulged and his torso heaved. "Out with it!" he hollered.

Her heart thumped in her elfin sized chest. Through her young life, Clover told many tales to the Ministry, just not with Billycan towering over her, his teeth dripping with icy drool. A thought finally came. "I give you my word High Collector, he is not hiding. This is my Grandfather, Timeron, he is stricken with plague, unsightly to behold and highly contagious. My parents won't let me venture within an arm's length for fear of infection. It's so hard not to hug my dear grandfather, as I fear he will soon be at rest with the Saints, but as my father always says, the living must do just that--live."

As much as Billycan wished otherwise, her explanation sounded reasonable. He composed himself. "Yes, they must indeed live, as must Billycan," he said. He took a step backward, wondering what ghastly deformities awaited under the mucky shroud. He resisted his urge to check.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rats & Dead Guys & Cake, Oh My!!

So, life has been busy! I just finished the edits for NIGHTSHADE CITY last night, on my birthday no less. By birthday law the edits have to be great, right? Of course Nightshade will be getting one final read through before sending off to my editor, but they are done! I'm thrilled with the changes I made and hopefully my editor will be too. My rats are dear to my heart and I hope I did them proud!

EDWIN COPPERPOT should be off to my agent this week. Editors will finally meet my dead friend Edwin and I couldn't be more excited! He's got a lot to say, and quite eloquently I might add, for a guy who kicked the bucket in 1788.

Last but not least, my super thoughtful husband had our bakery make me a birthday cake out of my business card! They did such a nice job! And yes, if you couldn't tell, it's Halloween themed! Normally, I wouldn't put a severed finger, brains or eyeballs on a cake, although I might write about them! In fact, in Edwin I did!

If only there was more time in the day or I didn't need to sleep! Happy almost Halloween everyone!

xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Translating Editor Language...

I'm exactly half way through my NIGHTSHADE CITY edits. When I first saw all those funky editor symbols on the page, I'm not embarrassed to say, I had no clue what several of them meant! Hey, I'm not an editor, so how would I know? We don't know things until we know them! So, I did a little searching and quickly figured things out. I Googled it! Yes indeedy!

I found a great resource on the University of Colorado at Boulder website. It demystified all those mysterious marks, making something that resembled ancient Egyptian into plain English! The symbol that confused me the most looks like a simple fraction with an I on top and an M on the bottom. I had no idea what it meant. I thought semi-colon, colon? I had no clue. Found out it's an em-dash. "Ah-ha!" I said! Now it makes sense. Long story short, you may want to bookmark the link below. It spells out all the symbols in simple language that even I can understand and I'm blond! Ha, ha!

One symbol that is not on there is "AQ". If you see an "AQ" in the margins, that stands for "Author Query". It's a marked off area of the MS that needs clarification of some sort. Your editor will send along separate notes with corresponding page numbers to the AQ. My editor sent 4 pages of AQ to me and I'm about 75% through them, yay! The tricky part is making sure when you clarify or change the specific AQ segment, that you do it throughout the entire MS. I recently changed a character completely. He went from a short and quiet rat, to a tall and jovial fellow, who likes to crack jokes. So, clearly, I have to carry that through the whole MS or things will make no sense! My rats aren't shape shifters after all!

Without further ado, here is the link for the Proofreader’s and Editor’s Symbols guide on the University of Colorado at Boulder website.


Hope it helps!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, October 9, 2009

Edwin Copperpot Edits Done + New Mysterious Excerpt!

So, I love finishing a manuscript, but it's never truly done until the edits are finished, and I'm thrilled to say, yay, I'm done! I'm so happy with the way Edwin Copperpot has turned out! Can't wait to share with the world! I'm so glad Edwin is complete that I'm going to bother you all with another little excerpt. This novel has been a whirlwind in many ways! Now my rats will get the full attention they so greatly deserve!

xoxo -- Hilary

In this excerpt, Edwin has found the cellar of the mysterious House of Warrants. Things are growing stranger by the hour...

The spirit hovered around the bookshelves, waiting until Edwin followed. The books all had the date painted on their spine; Edwin noticed the last book read 1888. A hundred years he thought, maybe that's how long he'd been down here, or maybe there were more books somewhere, there was no way to be sure. The Phantom Spirit fluttered in front of another case.

As if impatient, the spirit aggressively rammed itself into the spine of a book several times. "I gather you want me to look at that, don't you?" asked Edwin. The spine of the book read 1788, in gold lettering. With a hard jerk, Edwin yanked the book from its shelf, expelling what must have been lifetimes of dust. "Just wonderful, more dust, thank you kindly." He coughed, fanning it away. "1788 was not a good year for yours truly."

He cracked open the book, revealing more of the same: Missus Elvira Tarkington, strangled while asleep, C-Mr. Jonathan Willington, brother, M.B. Edwin read a few entries aloud, "Sir Tobias Remington, gutted from stem to stern, C-Miss Lorna Remington, daughter, M.B." He assumed 'C' stood for culprit. "Gutted, by his flesh and blood?" Edwin thought of his father. He shrugged. "I suppose he must have deserved it. Luckily, my father was murdered before I had the chance to consider such an option." He flipped through several pages. "Well, whoever M.B. is, he's certainly a most prolific note taker. He has more entries than all the other M's combined, whoever they are." The pages were dated chronologically. "October second 1788, poor Monsieur Duvall did not meet with a peaceful reckoning in any fashion, apparently drowned by his servants, frightful business that must have been." The month, October, suddenly struck him. He looked at the spirit. "That's what this is about. My reckoning is in here, isn't it?" The spirit hovered in place.

Edwin madly turned through the pages, nearly tearing them from the book. "October 30th, 1788." Running a nervous finger down the page, he read the names off one by one. "Mr. Samson Todd, hanging, Miss Lucy Whittington, bludgeoned--" He skipped to the next entry, pushing out a shaky breath. "Lord Edwin Copperpot...Lady Celia Baskerville, eviscerated with an axe, C-Lord Leopold Baskerville II, husband, M.B." The book dropped from his lifeless hand. Holding the desk for support, he crumpled onto a stool.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Glimpse at an Editor's Edits!

So, I recently received a hardcopy of my manuscript, NIGHTSHADE CITY, from my editor, Julie Amper of Holiday House. She marked it up nice and pretty with her editorial notes. The snapshot is of one of the worst looking pages I could find. I came across it flipping through the MS and thought, wow, this is a bad one! Thank God that's only one of a few that look that! Most pages have a few little things and some have none at all! Seeing pages coming back clean surprised the heck out of me. What? You think it's good the way it is? The rats were happy too. See the white one in the picture? He's smiling, you just can't tell!

Now I'm just getting into the edits and things are going well. I was very intimidated when the FedEx arrived last Friday. I waited until Saturday morning to look at it, expecting everything to be crossed off in bright red marker! Thankfully, no such luck!

I can't wait to have Nightshade finished, perfect and off to the copy editor. That will be a good day!

xoxo -- Hilary


Monday, September 28, 2009

My Original Query Letter Revealed...SCARY!!

Recently, I've had a few writers email me asking about query letter advice and any tips I can share. I don't feel qualified to give advice on writing the perfect query, so all I can honestly say is come up with something, anything that will set your letter apart, follow each agent's explicit query guidelines, and above all write truthfully. Don't try and give an impression of yourself that is not true. There is no need to lie or to stretch the truth. While there are agents who care about previous publishing credits, they won't give a pig's eye about them if they don't like your query and/or sample chapters. In other words, don't be afraid to be honest. As far as publishing credits, I had not a one!

So, in order to fully embarrass myself this beautiful fall Monday, I've posted my original query letter. Because of it, I received about 15-17 requests for partials and 10 for fulls, eventually getting me signed with Nancy Gallt Literary Agency and one other offer of representation.

Trust me, I know it's hard to cram everything you want to say into a one page letter, but doable, to be sure. I started with a two page letter, and edited down to one. I read my query now and know it could be far better, still too wordy! After all, it was my first query letter! I remember when I began querying; I searched for query letters online. The infamous query was so mysterious to me! I found a few other authors who posted theirs, which helped take the unknown out of the forever daunting query! One query I found came from YA Author, Heather Brewer. I thought hers was great, so you may want to google her and see if she still has it posted somewhere, excellent query! So, here is mine in all its bare, ratty glory! Enjoy and absolutely no snickering about my query! ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Dear Elusive Über Agent,

As a girl, still at the age when toys were the appropriate gift, I hated getting dolls. I did not want to pretend to be their mommy or make up pleasant conversation surrounded by tea and biscuits. I found them more than a little annoying, with their perfect noses and pristine curls.
Instead, I loved animals, particularly of the rodent variety. I would sit in my room for hours, stuck in between my toy rats, mice and moles, spinning their next exotic escapade in the odd and mysterious world in which they dwell. Animals have emotion and depth, offering much more than companionship, especially when given a voice on paper. NIGHTSHADE CITY combines this voice, with the realm of YA animal fantasy, character driven fiction, and our continuing, albeit creepy fascination with the cryptic, four legged creatures that overrun our great cities and homes. Outwardly just vermin, but are they?

The rats of Trillium City are underground and have been so for years. Little do the weary humans of the steely city realize, an ancient throng of strangely intelligent rats exist right under their very feet, thriving in the intricate Catacombs excavated lifetimes ago.

Barely escaping alive, rat brothers, Vincent and Victor Nightshade, flee their underground home, the Catacombs, dodging mandatory recruitment by the Ministry run Kill Army. They make it to the surface, disappearing into the dark, human metropolis of Trillium City, where they stumble upon a hidden rat made tunnel, and trek down to a concealed world, buried farther in the earth than even the Catacombs. Founded by a group of rebel rats, the covert city’s residents are set on derailing the corrupt Ministry of the Catacombs, and freeing its many citizens from death and torment at the hands of the narcissistic Killdeer, the charming and decadent leader of the Ministry, and Billycan, a peculiar and slightly demented ex-lab rat, who commands the Kill Army with a bloodthirsty fondness for butchery. When the Nightshade brothers join up with Juniper, the ardent leader of the newborn city and despised adversary of Billycan, they soon unearth the demons that have haunted Juniper since his youth and learn how their father, Julius Nightshade, really died. Working with Juniper and his rebels, a fearless Ministry seamstress, and a relic tribe of earthworms, Vincent and Victor Nightshade battle for retribution and redemption against Killdeer and his army, realizing their future and releasing ghosts from their past.

Writing stories since childhood, I've completed my Bachelors in Fine Arts from the University of Kansas. I'm a professional visual artist from Chicago, hoping to take my creativity to the next level. I've completed NIGHTSHADE CITY, an 80,000 word novel, focusing on fighting for what you believe in, the true meaning of family and refusing to let a few decide the fate of many.

Thank you and take care,

Hilary L. Wagner

P.S. I did not really address the agent as Elusive Über Agent! Ha!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED! Holiday House contract signed!

Everything has been worked out and I have a signed contract with Holiday House! And, yes, I did take this dorky picture of myself! It was unavoidable--had to be done! ;)

My awesome agent, Marietta, did NOT tell me it was on its way, the little sneak, so there it was in my mailbox when I got home last night! So, I'd like to give a super big thanks to her! She has just been extraordinary on so many levels and I'm a very lucky writer to have her and Nancy Gallt in my corner.

It was amazing back in April when Craig Virden decided to take me on and even more amazing to get an offer on my book from such a prestigious children's publisher only two months later! As I look up to the sky, all I can say is thank you, Craig! There will be a little surprise in NIGHTSHADE CITY, only for you! Many, many thanks to Holiday House, I can't wait to get started on the edits and make my rats the very best they can be!

Last, but certainly not least, thank you needs to go to my husband. He is my very free, freelance editor/husband/friend/critic. Without him, Lord only knows where I'd be.

What a great way to start the fall season! Happy fall everyone and to everyone who's given me support and encouragement thank you as well. It means so much! Not just as writers or readers, but as people, we are all in this together. Kind words mean a lot! Yes, yes, I know that last part might ring a bit corny, but I don't care, it's true! Thank you.

xoxo -- Hilary

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Hey you, I'm a Writer!" Business Cards

So, I ordered my "I'm a writer" business cards today. What fun! I have to say, the back side is my favorite, love that line about some book coming out. What was it called? Oh yeah, NIGHTSHADE CITY! Ha, ha! I really adore these cards. I think they really show who I am and hopefully the kind of writing you're in for with me, creepy, but fun! I may be going to the IL SCBWI conference in November, so I figured I needed something to give out other than scraps of paper with my name scribbled on them in purple and orange crayon. Please note: My phone number is not 555-5555. I felt a little weird posting it for all to see...but what an easy number that would be to remember!!

Alright then, plenty of work to do on Edwin!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, September 18, 2009

I was on the news (sort of)! CBS 2 Chicago liked my tweet! ;)

So, yesterday, it's about 6am, I'm sitting in my PJ's, checking email and lo and behold there I am on the big screen TV! I nearly spit my coffee out! To be clear, it wasn't actually me, it was a picture of me along with my Tweet. Needless to say I was pretty surprised to see CBS 2 Chicago's weather man Ed Curran pointing at my big ol' smiling face and talking about my tweet on Twitter! I knew I'd be on TV someday, but I was hoping it would be about my book and I'd actually be there! Oh well, I'll take it for now! Click the picture if you'd like to see the clip, too funny!

xoxo -- Hilary

Monday, September 14, 2009

EDWIN COPPERPOT -- Put a fork in him, he's done!

I'm happy to report the story of EDWIN COPPERPOT is complete! I wrote the ending just last night and I love it! It turned out exactly how I pictured it in my head, perhaps even a bit better! So, the story of Edwin is finished, but technically I still have to edit. I'm one of those bizarre people who actually loves editing, so I'm excited to dig into this. There are not too many changes I need to make. I tried to go back and change things as I went along this time, making my life easier when all is said and done.

All my books are close to my heart and Edwin is no exception. This story is about fate, asking if it's possible to change our own. When I finished the story last night I now understand why I so needed to write it. Mulling things over, I realized I changed my own fate when I wrote my first novel, Nightshade City, having no idea when I finished it, that it would someday be a published novel being read by others. I just kept working and hoping, even praying, that it would someday see the light of day. It made me understand not only the importance of following our dreams, but the significance of doggedly working to achieve them, even when you start to think the only word you'll ever hear in regards to your efforts is "no". I'm a stronger person for it and for that I will forever be thankful.

Alright, no more dramatic introspection! Time for fun! Halloween is soon approaching, making now a perfect time to take a bite out of ol' Edwin (in the editing sense of course) and all his creepy, rotting cohorts. I'm so excited to wrap this one up completely, handing it over to my agent in a cobweb covered trick-or-treat bag, sprinkled with icky spiders! Too much, you say? Okay, maybe I'll just email it instead...

xoxo -- Hilary

Walking along a steep embankment, Edwin looked up at the sky. "No stars," he said. "That's one thing I dearly miss of our living days--stars."

Stopping along the water's edge, he leaned against the railing and peered down at the choppy waves below, wondering what dead creatures from long ago swam in its murky depths. He watched intently as a decaying hagfish leapt from the water. It had a wolf eel clenched in its teeth. Edwin supposed even dead fish felt the urge to eat. He swore the thing eyeballed him before plummeting back into the purple sea.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

EDWIN COPPERPOT nearly done! New excerpt, Teaser Tuesday!!

I realized recently that I started writing EDWIN COPPERPOT on June 7th. Somehow, in the middle of that night, the idea for the story hit me. No longer able to sleep, I got up and started this novel. I must have been dreaming about something dark, funny, romantic (it seems that dead rotting folks can have romance too) and oh yes, a bit gruesome, because what's the point of being deceased if you can't have some creepy, ghoulish excitement now and then? I love black comedy and Edwin has no shortage of that.

So, completing a book in three months...hmmm...how do I feel about that? Well, great! Clearly, when I finish the last chapter (hopefully this week) the editing begins, but I'm really proud of old Edwin--really proud. This book is me in every way from start to finish and the story seemed to write itself at times. A lot of research went into it, more than you'd think, so I suppose this is a historical fiction too.

EDWIN COPPERPOT questions everything. Where life actually ends and what happens when we die. Do we have a chance to better ourselves, maybe even change our fate? Is death really death or just another layer of life? Can we go back to the world of the living? Heaven and Hell...yes, that's in there too I'm afraid. What's a book about dead people without a little fire and brimstone?

I've posted a new excerpt below, hope you enjoy it!

xoxo - Hilary

The fog had dispersed. Edwin sucked in a deep breath, holding it in for a moment. He stared up at the high moon which punched the dark like a glowing beacon of optimism. He came upon the café, hoping against hope that Maura would be there, sitting at their usual table, musty book in hand, but with all that had transpired, he could only guess where she might be. He peered through a window, trying to spot her.

With any luck, if Maura wasn't there, Bunny Black and Percy Poole would be. Maybe they would know her whereabouts. The two were always chattering about some silliness or another, babbling on about topics that made little sense to anyone but them.

The last time Edwin made the unfortunate mistake of sitting with them sans Maura, they jabbered on endlessly about the many varieties of decaying spiders the café had to offer. Bunny brought up the question as to which part of the spider its web expelled from. Bunny suggested its mouth, while Percy insisted it was the other end. Needless to say, this heated tête-à-tête went on for what felt like an eternity, until Maura at last arrived. Seeing the pained expression on Edwin's face, she quickly explained spiders' silk is released from their spinnerets, having nothing to do with their mouths or their backsides. Edwin chuckled as he skimmed the room for her. Thank God for Maura Lancaster.

It was a funny little café. One of those peculiar places where if you sat in a certain spot, you could distinctly hear the conversation coming from another. From time to time, when their usual table was occupied, Maura and Edwin would slink to a corner by the door, and snicker wildly as they sat behind a dead fig tree, listening to the colorful conversations of the kitchen in crystal clarity.

On one such occasion, an irate Scottish cook admonished Didier, the stubby little French waiter, with the personality of mud, for mixing up all the orders. Instead of defending himself, Didier merely grunted back at everything the cook said, grunting louder with every insult. Consequently, the cook's ire rose to a whole new level of Scottish fury, producing arcane vocabulary, presumably curse words, Edwin and Maura deduced could only be from the days of William Wallace.

There was yet another spot, three tables down from where he and Maura usually sat, slightly hidden from view. If you sat just near the front of the cafe, just under the washed out painting of Henry VIII, you could hear every syllable uttered at this veiled table as distinctly as if the speakers were sitting next to you. A group of surly Frenchmen frequented the spot, but as Maura and Edwin knew very little French, the conversations were not nearly as intriguing as the kitchen banter, barring the times when the Frenchman snorted raunchily, laughing about some lewd anecdote. Even with a French tutor from Paris, Edwin never learned to speak a lick of French, but somehow managed to recall the translations of all the dirty words.

Craning his neck, Edwin eyed the table. The Frenchmen were not seated their today. However, Maura Lancaster and Charlie Redgrave were.

Edwin held himself back from interrupting them, not certain what he might do. To be sure, clocking Redgrave in his oily puss would be gratifying, but it would only incense Maura and after the party, the conversation they'd had, he knew such a move would not be wise, however pleasurable. If there was one thing he learned from his father, it was how to throw a devastating punch. He opted to eavesdrop instead, not exactly noble, but far less messy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Realm Lovejoy's illustration of Billycan!

Realm is a fantastic writer and illustrator, represented by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe. She did an incredible illustration of my wicked, white rat Billycan and I want to give her a big hug for doing such an amazing job and then go hide under my covers because I'm scared of my own character!!

Realm, thanks so much! He is perfect, creepy, and downright terrifying! Yikes!

Here is the link to her interview with me and evil Billycan!!! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!!

xoxo -- GG

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teaser Tuesday -- EDWIN COPPERPOT

Here is another excerpt from my book of the dead, Edwin Copperpot, which is nearly complete. This is an unusual scene. Our hero, Edwin Copperpot, is nowhere to be found, at least not yet, and everyone is very much alive, for now that is!

xoxo -- Hilary

Pulling down the peaked cap over his ears and thrusting hands in pockets, the man walked briskly down the alleyway. He was eager, excited, his heart racing like a rabbit's. Food, he thought, you must eat first. Last time you went out on an empty stomach, you nearly got pinched.

He took a sharp left out of the alley, onto a street lined with ramshackle houses. Men and women lurked in clusters, their numbers growing as he neared the city square, cackling, drinking, laughing, cursing, all swathed in soiled, tattered attire, ripped shawls and patched trousers, none of them seeming to mind the cold drizzle, all comfortably numb on gin and beer.

One of the women called to the man as he trudged past the front steps of her boarding house. "Looking for a bit a company? You're a sailor, aren’t you? I like your kind, I do." She paraded her figure, spinning in a circle on the stoop, but he kept walking. Her girlfriends pushed her playfully, laughing giddily. "Me and my sister share a room, but it can be ours for the night if you be changing your mind later on. Long Liz, ask for me," she called as he disappeared from view. No, he thought, too risky with a sister creeping about. He liked her though, Long Liz. Her size, close to what he preferred.

Two streets later, he arrived at the market district. Music skirled from the public houses, loud voices bouncing off the pubs and cracked cobbles, the air flushed with flickering gaslights. Working girls, beggars and street vendors lingered about, quack doctors selling cure-all oils and elixirs, costermongers selling scarcely edible fruits and greens. Even children, a shrill and boisterous group, scrounged for farthings, a scrap of bread, pick pocketing drunkards, too far gone to look after their change.

The man cringed, forced to knock arms and shoulders with the grimy populace as he made his way to a public house. Ah, finally, he thought, The Five Angels. He stared at a woman, blocking the doors. She smiled back at him with a chocolate toothed grin. By his stoic mug, it was plain he wasn't interested. She slowly sauntered out of his way, flashing her cockeyed teeth at another prospective customer.

He headed inside, again rubbing against the masses as he pushed his way to the back. He made his way to a small table by the back door. A wobbly old gentleman approached the table at the same moment as he. They swapped glances. The swaying man stared an extra moment, took his glass of whatever spirits he'd had far too much of and left.

Settling into a chair, the man pulled down his scarf from around his mouth and pulled down his cap a little more, shadowing his eyes entirely.

A portly man in an oil stained apron came to the table. "Ah, back again, eh? You must really love my stew. You're the only one!" He laughed jovially. "Same as last time then?"

Unbuttoning the top buttons of his pea jacket, the man nodded at the pub owner, who jaunted off to the kitchen. Stew tastes like entrails, thought the man, probably serving up the customers, snatching them up as they keel over on their pickled feet.

He scanned the room. Not a soul seemed sober, everyone half in the jar or nearly there. He spotted a woman, men swarming around her, different from the other trash that marred the place, looked to be about twenty or so, maybe less. She teetered on her stool, laughing excessively at the jokes of her adoring horde. He studied her, watching as she inspected her perspective suitors. She seemed to have her eye on a particularly inebriated fellow with a nice pocket watch, as she surely wasn't infatuated by his oversized belly or rotting teeth. Greedy tart, thought the man.

The proprietor came back, plunking down a bowl of reeking stew and a glass of gin. The man grabbed his arm, pulling him close. "Who's that?"

Looking over his shoulder, the pub owner snickered. "That there is Bonnie. A sweet one, isn't she? Goes by Bee, but I call her Busy Bee if you know what I mean!" The pub owner laughed again, the man did not. "Me and Bee, we help each other out, both with a business to run, so to speak. You got more than a pocket full of halfpence she can be yours. That's for sure." He tipped his head towards her, raising an eyebrow. "With a little persuasion, I might be inclined to put in a good word for you. Treats her customers real nice, that one."

The man reached into his pocket, slapping down two paper bills on the table. The pub owner looked around suspiciously, quickly snatching them up. His eyes widened. "Stay here then, eat your stew. She'll be yours tonight."

The man smiled.