Monday, December 27, 2010

If You're in Chicago this week...

I will be reading about our favorite bad rat!!
...and are not working this Wednesday the 29th, well then, come see me! Starting at 2pm, I'll be at the Beverly Arts Center in Chicago for an Author Afternoon. Penny Golden will be interviewing me about NIGHTSHADE CITY and I'll be reading an excerpt from the book and signing copies thereafter. It should be a lot of fun and I'm super excited to be at the BAC. I was in several plays there as a child, being a Morgan Park Academy alum (and a drama nerd), so it will be great being on the same stage again! I'll have some copies of the book available and it's also available at Barnes & Noble everywhere, if you'd like to get one beforehand. I have no idea if they'll be 10 people or 100, so it will be interesting to find out! Just decided what excerpt I'm going to read...may or may not involve the bad guy above! ;)

Hope to see you there!!!!

xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2nd Printing of NIGHTSHADE CITY!!!

Illustration by Omar Rayyan for
Nightshade City
This is a short, but very sweet post! I spoke with my editor from Holiday House today, Julie Amper, and she let me know that NIGHTSHADE CITY is going into its SECOND PRINTING!! I nearly fell over. I'm thrilled and relieved. You just don't know until you know! Long story short, I just had to share it with all of you!

Thanks to all of you for your awesomeness!!!!!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's YOUR Lucky Cat???

This is Lucky Cat. He sits next to me at all times. Okay, not at all times, but at least while I'm on my laptop writing. It would be a little weird if I always had Lucky Cat sitting next to me, though my 2 year old daughter would think it was awesome! So, it got me to thinking what's your Lucky Cat? A favorite coffee mug? A beloved pen? A lucky snack? (Love a lucky snack...aka Cheetos) Maybe a favorite sweater or T-shirt?

We all have that thing that we need or at least we think we need when we write. What's yours?

xoxo -- Hilary

Thursday, December 2, 2010

ILLUSTRATOR SHOUT-OUT! Realm, Niki and Stacey!

So, when NIGHTSHADE CITY debuted in October, some very sweet writer friends of mine sent me a big bag of goodies which included a hand painted frame of rats (still need to find out who painted it), an adorable mug that reads "Rats Rule!" (which of course they do), a bag of Cheetos (my favorite) and a slew of awesome cards! Of those, three were had drawn by some super fancy illustrators, Realm Lovejoy, Niki Smith and Stacey Vaughan!
Realm Lovejoy's card!
Realm is not only a super amazing illustrator, but a writer as well, represented by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe. Her illustrations are to die for and she has a crazy cool blog, wherein she does her own version of a cover for writers with books on submission! You must follow her!
Niki Smith's Card!
Niki is another brilliant illustrator/writer who recently won a webcomic contest from DC Comics! Her webcomic (illustrated by Niki and written by Michael Jasper), In Maps and Legends, has its first season up now! You must check it out!
Lisa and Laura Roecker's Card, drawn by their sister, Stacey Vaughan!
And I know you all know fab sisters Lisa & Laura Roecker! Well, there is another talented sister attached these women, Stacey Vaughan! Stacey has her own business, Poochie Prints, where she designs stationary, as well as crazy cute prints for your baby's nursery! shopping anyone?? She has uber cool stuff ready to buy or you can order custom work if you want to feel even cooler! ;)

Long story short, thanks to you talented ladies for taking the time to do these gorgeous cards for me AND to everyone else who supported and helped me with my book launch!! It's been crazy, scary, awesome and everything in between! I wouldn't want it any other way! Pretty soon I'll be doing a post listing everyone who's had a part in my will be a very long list! You all have been AMAZING!

xoxo -- Hilary

Monday, November 29, 2010

Killer Cover Monday and the NCTE! Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen

Okay, just got back from the NCTE/ALAN Workshops at Disney World, which my awesome publisher, Holiday House, was kind enough to send me to! It was a wonderful conference, not to mention a great Thanksgiving vacation for my family! Oh, and when I presented to the 300+ educators on Tuesday they actually laughed at my jokes! Phew! I was so nervous, expecting nothing but tumbleweeds and rotten tomatoes! What a relief!

So, in my many travels through Disney World a book kept catching my eye. The cover was to die for, the Wicked Queen from Snow White. The book is called Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen, a fractured fairytale (very hot genre right now) by Serena Valentino. I just started reading it last night. Long story short, I had to share this uber cool cover with you. On the dust jacket, the evil, yet beautiful Queen. Remove the dust jacket and here's what you get! GAH! Quite a shocker!

BTW: Loving this book so far. Valentino writes it in a very traditional fairytale style, so nothing like WICKED or other fractured fairytale novels I've read, but so far just as enthralling!

Hope you ALL had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I didn't have to cook or clean, so mine was amazing! ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, November 12, 2010

IN LIVING COVER...what's your favorite cover?

Whittington, by Alan Armstrong, cover by Kenneth McMillan

Have you ever read a book, loved the book, but also literally fell captivated by the cover? Basically to the point where you can't stop staring at it and every time you look at it you find something new to wonder about?

The cover of the Newbery Honor book, WHITTINGTON by Alan Armstrong, does that to me. This version of the cover was created by Kenneth McMillan and it just draws me in (no pun intended). You start with those eyes--that mesmerizing stare that makes you realize this animal is much more than your average feline. Then you see that sad limp ear--what happened to this cat? Who or what hurt him? Was he born that way? Did he deserve it? He's large and burly, with a scruffy chest and bold confident stripes--who is this cat? McMillan does a fantastic job of making what most people would think is simply a typical housecat into anything but. Every time I look at this cover I see more.

What covers do it for you? Is there something new--a book you're reading now that has a cover that just strikes you or maybe something you read as a child--a cover that you can still picture in your head after all those years and sometimes do?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Just in Time for Halloween! UNEARTHLY ASYLUM, by PJ Bracegirdle!!!

It's that time again for all things creepy! My favorite time of year! In celebration, I'm reviewing a new middle-grade novel UNEARTHLY ASYLUM, by PJ Bracegirdle (provided by Simon & Schuster).

UNEARTHLY ASYLUM is the 2nd book in THE JOY OF SPOOKING series. But don't despair if you have yet to gobble up Book I, FIENDISH DEEDS. UNEARTHLY ASYLUM can stand on its own two feet! I had no problem digging into this book and Bracegirdle does a quick and seamless job of catching the reader up on what transpired in Book I.

Joy Wells isn't like most other girls - not that she much cares. Obsessed with famous horror writer E. A. Peugeot, Joy spends her time dressing up in a dead woman's tweeds and investigating paranormal activity around her hometown of Spooking. Meanwhile the mayor's assistant Mr. Octavio Phipps has also trained his sinister sights on the mysterious asylum. As Joy already knows, the embittered ex-punk rocker will stop at nothing in his nefarious quest to destroy her beloved town. When her pet frog Fizz becomes trapped behind the walls of a mental asylum, Joy must mount a rescue operation that brings her into conflict with Mr. Phipps again. Along with her brother Byron and their strange playmate Poppy, Joy soon uncovers mind-bending secrets straight from the pages of her favorite author. Can Joy get everyone out alive, or will they be trapped in the unearthly asylum forever?

The Writing. Bracegirdle is very literary. No spoon feeding in this book, which I love!

The Spooky Factor. This is perfect for readers who want to read under the covers with a flashlight. It's spooky enough to get kids' minds whirling with the supernatural, but not enough that they won't be able to get to sleep.

The Villain: Those of you who know me, know I love a well rounded villain! Bracegirdle's Mr. Phipps is just that. He has layers. You want to know more about him (for example, Phipps is an ex-punk rocker, which I think is pretty cool). Best of all, you love to hate him.

The Author: PJ is one cool cat! He has pretty much the craziest (creepiest) bio ever! He's worked in a haunted Scottish theatre and pushed laundry carts along dark tunnels under an insane asylum, just to name a few creepy jobs! You can find out more about him on his site at, along with the official JOY OF SPOOKING website,

Oh, and one last thing: There will be a 3rd book in the Joy of Spooking!! Go PJ!


xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Birthday Shout Out!!! THE BOY WHO HOWLED by Tim Power


Happy Book Birthday to Timothy Power, author of THE BOY WHO HOWLED (Bloomsbury USA Children's)!! My friend and fellow Project Mayhem blogger Tim Power finally gets to scream to the rooftops about his fantastic middle-grade debut!

Here is the scoop on The Boy Who Howled: As far back as Callum can really remember, he's been living in the Wild as the furless mascot of a wolf pack. But when his pack sends him back to live with his own kind—humans—fitting in is quite a challenge. He doesn't remember English very well, so he accidentally says his name is "Clam." He's spent most of his life eating fresh-killed elk, so dining with vegetarians is tricky. And when he tries to impress the Alpha student in the school cafeteria by stealing food, people seem offended!

A mix of wildness and humor, Timothy Power's inventive writing makes him a debut author to watch. And Callum's quest to find his place in a strange world will have readers rooting for him—when they're not howling with laughter.

Author Tim Power
Is he not a handsome devil??
In his AWESOME book!!!! Also, stop by the Project Mayhem blog and wish him and the Boy Who Howled a very merry birthday!!!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, October 15, 2010

Toot Your Horn Friday! What's in a name?

Killdeer from Nightshade City
Illustration by Omar Rayyan
It seems there are two camps when it comes to naming characters and books. One camp (my camp) loves it! The other camp can't stand making up names or titles.

For me, I think names are extremely important when it comes to my characters. I painstakingly pick each one out, some have a personal meaning (Vincent Nightshade, Vincent is my son's name), while others are purely for effect (if Killdeer doesn't sound evil to you, I don't know what does!). I think names are just as important as the world your characters exist in.

As for titles, I went back and forth briefly on what NIGHTSHADE CITY would be called. At one point, I really liked The Rats of Nightshade City or The Rats of Nightshade. My husband told me no way! He said Nightshade City has a lot more muscle to it and I should go with my first instinct. I think he was right... ;)

So, how about you? Do you think names are important? Do you think Harry Potter would have been as successful if he was Hank Putt? Would the Artemis Fowl series be such a hit if it were entitled Artie Feldstein? Would Redwall have wowed the world if it were called Cute Mice in an Abbey?

xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Post: Author Janice Hardy's Query Quest!

Hi Everyone! Today we have a very special guest, Janice Hardy, YA author of The Shifter and its newly released sequel, Blue Fire! Every author's road to finding an agent is unique and Janice has offered to share hers, which is very inspiring! So, take it away, Janice!

A few years ago, I wrote a book and queried eight agents. I got four manuscript requests and three offers of representation. (I know, you all hate me, but hang with me a little longer). If “The Shifter” had been the only book I’d ever queried, I would have thought this whole publishing thing was easy. But it was the fourth “real” book I’d ever written (written with the intent to try and sell). The other three didn’t go nearly so well. Like thirty form rejections each. Very few page requests. Certainly no fulls.

So what was different about this book?

For one, it was a better book. A lot of attention is placed on writing the perfect query letter, but truth is, the best query in the world can’t sell a book that isn’t working. With my first submission attempt, I never got past the query stage. My second attempt, I got a few page requests, but all were rejected (including the agent I would later sign with). Clearly something was wrong with the book, since the pages weren’t grabbing the reader. I revised and tried again, with the same results. By this time, I had a nice, thick file full of form rejections and a few encouraging words.

Then came “The Shifter.” I knew early on I had something better than I’d ever had before. It just felt different when I was writing it. I started to think I might have an actual shot, and – dare I say it – get a full manuscript request. That was really my goal at this point. I just wanted one more step forward in the process to prove to myself that I was making progress.

I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I’d made on those earlier books. I knew my query had to rock. I knew I had to send it to the right agents who might like my work.

I had no clue how to do any of that.

I figured the best place to start was to make a list of agents to submit to. I used and cross-referenced those names against Preditors & Editors. I cut any who had warnings, and wound up with 25 agents. Then I read agent blogs, especially those agents on my list. I Googled them to see what interviews they’d done or any articles they’d written. I checked out their client lists and read the books that seemed similar to mine. I was able to split my list into three parts based on this research. A) Agents who represented what I’d written, had sold a lot of books in my genre, and liked books like mine. B) Agents who represented what I’d written, had sold some books in my genre, and C) Agents who represented what I’d written and sold at least one book in my genre.

Now it was time to write that query.

I read everything I could find on writing successful queries. The most helpful advice came from Miss Snark and her Crap-O-Meter query contests. Seeing hundreds of real queries and reading her comments on what worked and what didn’t was an eye-opening experience. I started to get a feel for what a good query sounded like. Remarkably like cover copy on a book, but with details instead of being vague. So I went online and read cover copy of books in my genre. I analyzed the ones that grabbed me and made notes. I used the “here’s a person with a problem and here’s what they have to do to solve it” template and wrote my query.

And it was so-so.

I know this because at that time, an agent was doing a “post your query and I’ll give you feedback on it” session on her blog. I jumped at the chance and submitted mine. She had all kinds of issues with it. She couldn’t get behind the premise of the story (buying and selling pain) at all.


So I went back to the drawing board. This time, I focused more on the protagonist and what she needed to do, and less on world building. It felt much more interesting, because it was about a character with a problem, not “this is the book’s plot.”

Right about this time, one of the agents on my list announced she was doing a “Back to School” open query for YA. Writers could bypass the regular submission process if they had a YA book. Well, I had a YA book, I was ready to start submitting, so I sent it in. I figured this was a good time to send in the rest.

Then I saw another post online from another agent who was just starting to take on clients. She was working under a well-known agent on my B-list. I queried her as well, figuring she’d be more open to new writers since she was a new agent. And since she had a great agent mentoring her, I’d get the best of both worlds – experience and the need for new clients.

Both requested pages, then fulls. A third agent also asked for the full shortly thereafter (she was a standard snail mail query). I was ecstatic.

I was also just about to attend the Surrey International Writers Conference. Conveniently, several of my A-list agents were going to be there, so I’d be able to meet them and see what they were like. I got a pitch appointment with the last agent on my A-list and pitched her in person. She also asked for the full.

I was beyond excited at this point, and when I got home from the conference I had an offer of representation in my email. After the screaming and jumping for joy subsided, I contacted the other agents with my fulls and told them I’d gotten an offer. How much time did they need to read my manuscript? Was by X date long enough? They read them and got back to me. Three were interested in representing me, one passed, but wished me luck.

Now I had the tough job of making a choice. All three were fabulous agents, so I really couldn’t have chosen wrong, but I wanted the one that was the best fit for me and my book. I spoke to them, listened to what they thought about the book, and made my decision. (The fabulous Kristin Nelson)

The entire querying to signing process took six weeks. The agent I signed with (the one I pitched) took ten days. This is why they say don’t query until your manuscript is as good as it can be, because you never know how quickly you might need to send it to someone. When it happens, it can happen fast.

The process was easy compared to my earlier submissions, but if I hadn’t gone through that and made my newbie mistakes, I doubt I would have put in the effort or had the skills to write the book and the query that got me my agent. Whenever I’d get rejected, I tried hard not to tell myself I wasn’t good enough. It was, “I’m not good enough yet.” That slight change in thinking made it easier to pick myself up and keep going.

And the only way to get ahead is to keep moving forward. Even if it’s one small step at a time.

About Blue Fire:
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

Janice Hardy Bio:
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Find Janice at:
The Other Side of the Story Blog:

Janice, thanks for sharing your road to finding an agent! We are so excited about your new release!!! I can't wait to get reading!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, October 8, 2010

INDIE LIMELIGHT -- Old Towne Books in Oswego, IL!

I was honored and thrilled when Old Towne Books & Tea in Oswego, IL (western suburb of Chicago) offered to host the Nightshade City book launch party (this Saturday)! My husband and I stopped by a couple weeks back to drop off a few things (like my ginormous Nightshade City poster!) and of course check the place out!

Well, it did NOT disappoint! It's a lovely house converted into a store in the downtown area of Oswego. The two owners we met, Joe and Mary, couldn't have been more gracious. Joe took me around the store and his eyes lit up as soon as he started talking about his love of books and how happy we was to be able to share them with others! He's also a huge fan of Redwall, so it was pretty cool to see all the rodents already lining Old Towne's shelves! ;)

Old Towne Books & Tea
 Old Towne has a fantastic kid's section, which I know my daughter could spend hours in! They made the store exceptionally cozy and welcoming. Along with their vast selection of new books, they also have a huge used books section at amazing prices--my husband might have attacked these while we were there!

Old Towne has hosted some amazing authors, among them, Kristen Walker, author of A Match Made in High School, and I know you all know her!

So, if you live in the Chicagoland area, I highly suggest you check out Old Towne Books. Not only do they have a great selection, but they know their stuff! They are bookavores, like the rest of us and absolutely love what they do!

I will be at Old Towne Books & Tea this Saturday, October 9th, from 2-6pm! I will be signing copies of Nightshade City (of course!!) and will also be passing out fun book swag and Halloween treats for the kids! If you live in the area, please come say "hi!" and grab some rice crispy treats and candy corn!!! See how I lure you in with my tasty wares?? ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Signed Nightshade City winner is JM Need!!!!!!!!!!

JM, YOU WON!! Please email me your name and address and a signed copy of NIGHTSHADE CITY will be on its way to you next week!!!! w00t!!! Thanks to all who took part in the fun!!!! ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, October 1, 2010


Finally!!! The rats have arrived!!! In honor of their arrival, I'm giving out 2 signed copies of NIGHTSHADE CITY! One here and one on the PROJECT MAYHEM blog! So, you have 2 brilliant chances to win! To enter, follow each blog if you don't already and leave a comment telling me your favorite book of all time!!! That's it!! Contest ends at midnight tonight!
I love you guys and thanks so much for
your support!!! I can finally relax now--NOT!!! ;)
xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Win a hardcover on Market My Words Blog!!! Hilary Wagner and Nightshade City!

Please visit Shelli's awesome blog, Market My Words, for a chance to win a hardcover of Nightshade City!!
Contest ends at midnight tonight, so go, go, go!!!!!!!

Also, check back here on Friday!!! The rats and I will be giving away a signed copy for my book birthday!!! HOORAY!!!!!!!

Juniper from Nightshade City

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Bookinistas: NIGHTSHADE CITY by Hilary Wagner (comment and win!)

Illustration Copyright Omar Rayyan for Nightshade City

Please check out my interview from Lisa and Laura Roecker today! These fabtastic Bookinistas are hilarious and asked me some great questions! Oh, and win a copy of my book too!

YaY fOr fReE kIDs BoOks!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rat Blackjack Anyone?

I'm going to Vegas, baby! ;)
Two nights ago I was updating my blog with those fancy new pages you see at the top. I scrolled down to change something and there was my cute little NIGHTSHADE CITY debut countdown widget staring me in the face. It read, 21 days, 21 hours, 21 minutes and 23 seconds! So right quick I hit the 'PrtSc' button and captured the moment!

Hmmm...Blackjack times four for my rats??? I'll take it! ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

NIGHTSHADE CITY -- IN STOCK at Barnes & Noble Nationwide!

At my local B&N store!
My rats are right next to the Magic Thief!!
There is a day in everyone's life when you just can't help but flush with happiness and say to yourself, "I did it!" is my day! On Monday, Nightshade City got a fab review from Kirkus AND NIGHTSHADE CITY is now in stock at all Barnes & Noble retail stores nationwide, even Alaska and Hawaii! I needed an excuse to go to Hawaii and I think this qualifies! My book does not officially debut until October 1st, but it's not uncommon for retail stores to sell a first time author's book up to a month in advance! Once it hits their doorstep, it hits the shelves and mine got printed early (specifically for stores like B&N) so there ya go!

A bunch of my favorite Indie stores will carry it too (including my agent's!) and I'm just so amazed that my book is sitting on shelves across the country!

My 2 year old, Nomi, with Nightshade City!
She calls the book Juniper since he's on the cover!
Guess what she'll be for Halloween! ;)
You know, a nice iced Americano sounds good for lunch today...guess where I'll be going! ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Do You Handle a Critique? OR Here, Take My Bunny!

I only want to help! Here, take my bunny!

So, today, on the Adventures in Children's Publishing blog, I'm a Mentoring Author giving my take on five queries. All of these queries are good in their own right. It's so hard for me to give advice! I know my own query wasn't perfect, that's for sure! I want to be helpful, but I always worry what if my advice or critique puts someone on the wrong path?? Gah! I'd feel so bad! I suppose that's the risk you take though and I have mad respect (yes, I wrote "mad respect", sad, I know) for those who do!

I've never been a member of a critique group. I'm hard enough on myself! Errr...what is a Beta anyway? Still don't know, other than it's the second letter in the Greek alphabet. For those of you who are or have been in a critique group how do you handle the critiques? What do you do if someone is really rough on you--shreds your work into itty bitty throbbing pieces of pulp or what if everyone in the group has the same opinion of your MS and you completely don't agree with it? How do you respond?

xoxo -- Hilary

Monday, August 23, 2010

Win a signed copy of Dee Garretson's WILDFIRE RUN!! w00t!

Win a signed hardcover of Dee's debut!!!
Show a debut author some love today and maybe get a little something for yourself! Hop over to the PROJECT MAYHEM blog and win a signed copy of my friend Dee Garretson's debut  middle-grade novel, WILDFIRE RUN (Aug. 31st, HarperCollins)!! Read about her crazy road to middle-grade publishing and see the Wildfire Run trailer!!!! Go Dee!!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Project Mayhem is coming!! MIDDLE GRADE WRITERS...You have been warned.

The Manic Minds of Middle Grade Writers

So, a group of us manic middle grade authors have come together to form PROJECT MAYHEM! Think Fight Club with way less blood and little to no swearing! We wanted to create a fun blog where both writers and readers of middle-grade books can gather and maybe learn something or at the very least have a good laugh! We are asking you all to give us a follow or even stalk us, whatever works, so when we have our first official post, we'll be rockin' and a rollin' with a great group of middle-grade enthusiasts!

Project Mayhem Team Members will be talking about writing for middle-graders, reviewing (you guessed it) middle grade books, giving away signed copies of said books, spotlighting some killer indie bookstores and hoping you'll all join us as our books debut one by one! Our blog is all about being positive and helping ALL writers succeed in this nutty publishing world of middle-grade mayhem!

Our first "official" post will go up this Monday and will feature Dee Garretson, whose debut middle-grade novel, WILDFIRE RUN, releases on August 31st!!! She will be talking about the book and her writing AND give away a signed hardcover of her fantastic novel!

TEAM MAYHEM (in order of release):
Dawn Lairamore, IVY'S EVER AFTER, 5.15.2010
Dee Garretson, WILDFIRE RUN, 8.31.2010
Adam Jay Epstein, THE FAMILIARS, 9.7.2010
Andrew Jacobson, THE FAMILIARS, 9.7.2010
Hilary Wagner, NIGHTSHADE CITY, 10.01.2010
Tim Power, THE BOY WHO HOWLED, 10.26.2010
Rose Cooper, GOSSIP FROM THE GIRLS’ ROOM, 1.01.11
Jen K Blom, POSSUM SUMMER, 10.2011
Marissa Burt, THE TALE OF UNA FAIRCHILD, 01.2012

Please share this post and the PROJECT MAYHEM link and follow are blog!!! We need your support to get this blog going! ;)

xoxo -- Hilary

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ten Things to Consider AFTER Your First Book Deal...

1. Don't be scared of working with your editor! You'll do fine!

2. Be prepared to take what you consider the most special parts of your book...OUT!

3. Concerns? TALK TO YOUR AGENT! He/she knows the business and they will tell you if you're concerns are justified or you're freaking out for no reason. (I would fit into the freaking out for no reason category).

4. Don't be afraid to ask your publisher LOTS of questions-- if you don't ask, you won't get.

5. Your publisher may change your release date several times--this is totally normal, especially for a debut.

6. Know that you have NO control over the cover art...but be happy when your publisher does ask for your input and gives your book a fabulous illustrator (Omar Rayyan!) and if they don't, have a nice piece of cake (preferably chocolate) and tell yourself, they know what they're doing.

7. Bear in mind that Barnes & Noble, along with Indie stores, do NOT pick up every book, even from big publishers! There is nothing you can do if they decide not to carry your book in their brick and mortar stores, so don't worry about it--it does not mean your book won't be successful at all, but be joyous when they say, YES, we want this debut author's novel hanging out by our Starbucks counters!!

8. Don't fret if you start on a one book deal (becoming the norm these days), but be merry when they buy the sequel six months later--off a proposal no less! That means they like you, they really, really like you!

9. There are a lot of things out of your control in publishing--in fact--most things. Before giving yourself a facial tick, take a step back, inhale a deep solid breath, and realize no matter what's in store for you, you made did're a first-rate writer--YOU!

10. Now write another book. ;)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kirkus Fall Supplement! My Rats and others get a Shout-out!

My rats are fat and happy today!
Illustration copyright Omar Rayyan
So, just when you think it's a hum-drum day, something really nice happens! Today, Kirkus Reviews released their Fall Preview Supplement! Nightshade City was mentioned in the Debut Fiction Kids & YA Section, along with other great books, such as The Duff (Kody Keplinger), MATCHED (Allie Condie), Zora and Me (Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon) and some other fantastic kid's titles, that I'm just dying to read!!!

From the Kirkus Fall Supplement:
Nightshade City, Hilary Wagner
Holiday House / October / 9780823422852 / $17.95
The smell of a rat, who’d have thought it would be so sweet? “Why rats?” says Hilary Wagner of her debut. “Well, I’ve always loved animals, especially the strange and creepy ones. When doing research for Nightshade City, I discovered how misunderstood rats are. They are quite intelligent, able to come when called by their names and even lick their owners like dogs to show they love them. They can laugh in ultrasound when tickled, and they dream, too.” Of course, there are also dastardly rats, depraved and sadistic rats, like Killdeer and Billycan, who stage a bloody coup to gain control of the Catacombs, once a democratic, thriving rat metropolis. But better rats will have their day, a growing band of revolutionaries sharply drawn with rich histories and adventurous, vivid characters, all in a fully imagined fantasy world with some important dangling threads that promise good things to come. (Ages 10-14)
Okay, so what fall debuts titles are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Badly Written Ode to My Agent, Marietta Zacker, on her Birthday

Below is why Hallmark Cards has never and will never request my services...

The Birthday Girl
Badly Written Ode to My Agent, Marietta Zacker, on Her Birthday

Oh, dear agent, nice and shiny
You are so sweet, though I'm so whiny
You toil so hard to sell my work
Though your client is quite berserk
You answer my calls, every one
You make me laugh, yes, you're fun!
You read my stories, every letter
And like my words, even flummery and fetter
You tell me news with the greatest elation
And keep me sane--even on your vacation
So, in closing, all I can say
Is thank you, thank you, thank you
Have a nagging-client free wonderful day!

Happy Birthday, MZ!!!
¡feliz cumpleaños!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's Up with YOU???

That's me, hiding behind the little blue bunny! I've been crazy swamped...only posting once a week these days, busy finishing Kings of Trillium, Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles, almost there! Then I have a book proposal to work on, something so super secret I've been told not to talk about! I feel all super spy! Not to mention, as we speak a new blog is cooking up with some amazing middle-grade authors which I'm so thrilled to be associated with, just think FIGHT CLUB, only without the swear words and violence! So I've a lot on my plate!

So, what's up with you?? What's keeping you busy? Are you finishing a story, starting one, or are you stuck somewhere in the middle?

xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rejection, Reviews & Reggae...sort of the same thing.

For those of you currently on the road to publishing you all know how hard rejection is to take. It really hurts to have agent after agent (form letter or personal) tell you your work is of no interest to them. And many of you know how many times I had to hear that when I was querying (175 times *choke*). Now that I've conquered that trial by fire and my book will soon be hitting the shelves, I have reviews to agonize about.

It's something I rarely if ever thought about when querying, because it just seemed so unattainable. So, all these thoughts keep going through my manic little head. 'What if people hate the book and say mean horrible things about me, my writing, the story? What if they think it's the worst book in the history of books? What if they say my rats are as exciting as old cheese?' You get the picture. With reviews, not only do you get the not so warm and fuzzy feeling of someone not liking your work (go to agent rejections above), but the added bonus of it being a public flogging of your work for one and all to see (change *choke* from paragraph one to *puke*)! So, after some serious soul searching on the matter I've decided I'm going to try and stay positive, even if someone dislikes my baby. I simply have to or I will lose my mind.

Just like in querying, not everyone is going to love what we write. It's like music, some people love big band and hate jazz, loathe reggae, but adore rap. I guess my point is whether you have your first book coming out this fall or your dream agent just rejected you, you're still a talented writer, that agent just preferred disco.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Strange and Horrible Day...

Have you ever had one of those days that you can only classify as a total fail? Well, I had one of those days yesterday. Not that anything bad happened, no deaths, no mortal wounds, just a really cruddy day where everything seemed to go wrong and the people I needed to help me where all unavailable, unable to help a desperate (and slightly manic) writer in need...I digress.

I need to give a very special mention to my super awesome (even if she likes possums) friend Jen K Blom. All the way from Germany, this amazing writer chum helped me through my angst and virtually held my clammy hand! xoxo -- Jen!

Anyway, today has been a different story--completely! Yesterday's problem is fixed! My editor called me bright and early and made me feel super special (thanks Julie)! And last but not least, I woke up to two fantastic reviews of Nightshade City! It's amazing how one day can differ from the next SOOOOO much! Frankly, it's kind of scary!

Today was the launch of the Bookanistas book review bloggers! Not one, but two of these lovely reviewers reviewed Nightshade City! I have to say, my coffee tasted soooo good this morning, as compared to yesterday!

Thanks to Bethany Wiggins and Christine Fonseca, the two gorgeous Bookanistas who reviewed Nightshade City!! Please follow these lovely ladies around, both with books of their own coming out soon!

Major hugs and kisses to anyone out there who is having a "fail" day of their own. It can only get better, I promise! :)

xoxo -- Hilary

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Maddening Summer Writer's Slump! Who's got it?

So, I don't know if it's the dog days of summer, the opening of the Harry Potter theme park or the fact that LOST is over forever, but many writers these days are reporting an inexorable writer's slump. Though I'm over mine (Yay!), many writers are still stuck deep in the doldrums of this maddening affliction.

When I'm in a slump, I just ride it out. It's usually because my mind is searching for a story breakthrough and it just hasn't reached it yet. I love doing research and that usually has a way of shaking something loose, as it did a few weeks ago in regards to Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles, which meets its deadline in three short months! Gah!

So, what about you?  How do you kick that block or that 'I have no clue what to write about and never will!' feeling to the curb and get going on your story again or heck, start a new one? I think knowing that so many of us have been feeling terminally slumped lately, it would be of great help to hear how each and every one of us deals with it.

Happy writing (despite that infuriating slump)!

xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Writing Creepy for Kids Without Scarring Them for Life! | helluo librorum

Today, I'm lucky enough to be the guest poster on Teresa Frohock's fantastic blog, Helluo Librorum! Teresa is not only an uber cool, boot wearing librarian, but she's also a super talented horror writer! Her challenge to me, how do you write for kids without scarring them for the rest of their ever living lives! Good question!

Please check out the post and give Teresa a shout out and follow! Her blog is filled with author interviews of both adult and kid writers and on honing your craft, no matter what genre you write in!

Writing Creepy for Kids Without Scarring Them for Life! helluo librorum

Oh, and of note on this post: I got a hold of Stephen King's IT, when I was about nine. Let's just say...NOT GOOD! I didn't sleep for months! Still gives me shivers!

Happy writing!

xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Welcome to Nightshade City! Let's Meet Our Players...

The Nightshade City hardcover arrived at my door last Friday! I have to tell you, holding the ARC in my hands was amazing, but holding the actual hardcover, the book that will be sold in stores, feeling that raised gold font on the jacket, heck, even seeing the bar code, is an unforgettable experience! On top of that, I finally got to see the amazing interior illustrations Omar Rayyan created. Below are some key players I'd love to introduce!

Killdeer is the High Minister of the Catacombs. He is large and in charge and someone you don't want to mess with--rather a nasty rat, who's quite convinced the world revolves around him. He is suave and charming and the only thing worse than being out of his Oshi berry wine, is having to actually run his kingdom.

Billycan is Killdeer's second in command.  He's left with the duties of running the Catacombs, not to mention cleaning up after Killdeer's messes. He is the Commander of the Kill Army and the High Collector of Stipend. He's an albino. To be exact, the only albino left in existence.  An ex-lab rat, Billycan has a fondness for brutality, not to mention collecting a misplaced tongue or two. In other words, not a kindly fellow.

Coming of age in the oppressive Catacombs, brothers Vincent and Victor Nightshade finally escape, avoiding mandatory recruitment into Killdeer's Kill Army. They soon realize their father, Julius Nightshade, was a very important rat--whose memory still shines brightly. They also learn life is meant to be lived, not just survived.

Mother Gallo is a kindly soul, forced to work as the High Mistress of the Robes, a seamstress for Killdeer and his army.  She does her job and she does it well, but she's hiding a secret--and a very dangerous one at that. 
Juniper Belancort--a rat among rats. Juniper knows to well of Killdeer, Billycan and their crimes against the rats of the Catacombs. He is a rat of principle, a rat who believes in doing what's right and never letting a few decide the fate of many.
So there you have it.  A few of the Nightshade City players! Only 3.5 months until they are sitting on a shelf near you!

Happy reading!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment: NIGHTSHADE CITY

Today, I'm a guest on Matthew Rush's fab blog, The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment. Try to say that really fast a hundred times!

We are talking about my query letter for Nightshade City that landed me at the Nancy Gallt Agency and with my uber awesome agent, Marietta Zacker!

My query letter is far from perfect, but it did the trick! Please show your support for Matt (err...and rats) and check it out! Every Friday he has a new query letter ready for review, one that nabbed an agent, which I think is so valuable--a great way for writers to figure out what works for them and what does not.

Happy Friday one and all and of course, happy writing!

xoxo -- Hilary

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hey! What's Your Favorite Line of All Time?

So, when I think about all the books I've read, certain lines, phrases come into mind--words that have always stuck with me. Some have touched my heart, others have made me laugh out loud and some were just so darn bizarre I couldn't get the words out of my head!

One of my most favorite lines of all time is from The Meaning of Night, by Michael Cox. I loved this book so much, but what really captured me was the first line of the book. It's so matter-of-fact and by the by, it surprised me to say the least, because who isn't a little hungry after offing someone? “After killing the red-haired man, I took myself off to Quinn's for an oyster supper.” Enough said, Mr. Cox, please tell me more! I highly recommend this book, by the way--brilliant!

Currently, I'm reading The Somnambulist, by Jonathan Barnes and absolutely LOVING it. I can't get enough. It was the first line that got me with this book! "Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever." All I can say is, SOLD! At least he's telling us the book has no literary merit, honesty counts for something, doesn't it? And by the way, Mr. Barnes totally lied. This book is full of all types of merit! I'm addicted to it!

Okay, so I suppose I like first lines! Anyway, what is your favorite or most memorable line from a book you've ever read? If you don't have one, what's a favorite line from something YOU'VE written?

xoxo -- Hilary

Monday, June 7, 2010

And the Winning Rat Name Is...

This was a very tight race! The winner nabbed it by one vote! Every time I thought a name had it locked in, a few more people would cast their vote and change things up! While Finnegan, Snug and Cotter got some serious love, there was overwhelming favor going to Milo, Rooney and Topher.

So, without further ado, our little friend, whose name will be published in Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles, will be called TOPHER! Thanks so much to the lovely Valerie Kemp, who suggested the name. My little son is especially happy about this because Topher is the name of the actor (Topher Grace) who plays Venom in Spider-Man 3! Ha, ha! Although, my son did like Milo and Snug too!

I'm so glad I ran this contest when I did, because I'm about to start writing about our dear old Topher and had nothing to call him! I liked so many of these names I might end up using them anyway!

Thanks so much to everyone who participated! This was a lot of fun!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, June 4, 2010

And the Winning Rat Name is...errr...still don't know! YOU DECIDE!

Okay, so first I have to tell you my news! Nightshade City will officially be in hardcover in one week! We've run out of ARC's, so my publisher decided the rest of the Advanced Reading Copies will be in the form of the actual finished bound book, which is so exciting! All that hard work and editing is done! I'll have the real deal hardcover in my hands before Father's Day and since the book is dedicated to my husband, you can only guess what he's getting!

Now, onto the rat naming contest, so you guys totally ROCKED the name game! So much so, that I had a terrible time deciding what name are little friend will have! For those whose names are not on the list below, don't feel like I didn't like your name--please! I've entered character naming contests before and have never come close to winning! The names I chose were not just interesting names, but names that go along with the feel of Nightshade City. Below are my top picks in the order of the entries, not ranked in any way. Since I love them all, I'd like you guys to decide! The top pick will be our loveable, although not too brilliant rat's permanent moniker to be published in next year's book! Since I'm leaving it in your capable hands, I've reposted our friend's description below for reference. Please only vote once and anyone can cast a vote, not just people who entered the first time around.

I'll leave the voting open all weekend, announcing the winning name on Monday, so lots of time to drum up some support for your favorites!

Our John Doe:
He's a sweetheart through and through, but let's just say he's not the sharpest knife in the block. He's the kind of rat who knows not to give out a secret, but can be easily swindled into giving it up without even realizing it. He looks up to grown rats like him, but sees them more as parents than equals. He's lanky, with a gawky build, long necked and unkempt brown fur. He's chews on his claws quite a bit and pulls on his ears when he's nervous. His favorite food is a very sour root called Waterchip and he's been known to fall asleep in the strangest of places!
So I ask you...what is his name????














Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Name that Rat Contest for Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles!

Okay, so I'm writing part two of Nightshade City's sequel which is due to my publisher on October 1st, the same day Nightshade City releases! Gah! So, in honor of that, I want to do something fun and get your help naming one of my characters, who will appear in the sequel!

Who is this nameless rat?
He's a sweetheart through and through, but let's just say he's not the sharpest knife in the block. He's the kind of rat who knows not to give out a secret, but can be easily swindled into giving it up without even realizing it. He looks up to grown rats like him, but sees them more as parents than equals. He's lanky, with a gawky build, long necked and unkempt brown fur. He's chews on his claws quite a bit and pulls on his ears when he's nervous. His favorite food is a very sour root called Waterchip and he's been known to fall asleep in the strangest of places!

Rat Naming Rules:
Please no goofy names like Mr. Pickles or Peanut Butter. It can be a common name or something unusual, but I'm going to tell you that Doug the rat will most likely not win! Ha, ha! I like unusual, but not too weird--a name that could translate over to our world, even though it might be considered a bit odd. It really just needs to be something that suits his description. Some examples of my characters names: Juniper, Billycan, Killdeer, Texi, Virden, Suttor, Vincent, Victor, Clover, Cole, Cobweb, Montague, Thicket, Stono...hopefully this will give you an idea of the kind of names that work! Please follow my blog if you don't already by clicking on the google followers link. You can put your entry in the comment section, but please only give one or two name ideas.

On Friday, I'll post the winner and that name (maybe the one you came up with) will be published in Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles!

Naming characters is a favorite part of writing for me, so have fun with this!  I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!

xoxo -- Hilary

Thursday, May 27, 2010

BEA goers! Be sure to grab the ARC for Nightshade City, Booth 2752, Holiday House!

Sadly, regular life has gotten in the way of me going to the Book Expo America 2010, but that doesn't mean I won't be there in spirit! If you happen to be lucky enough to go, please be sure to stop by the Holiday House booth, #2752 and ask for an ARC of NIGHTSHADE CITY! There will be a big poster of the Nightshade City cover at the booth, so if you see that, you're probably in the rat right place! This is the last of the ARCs, as the hardcover prints this week and I'd love one and all to nab one!

And I mean seriously, who doesn't like middle-grade fantasy novels about super smart talking rats who fight for what's right in the world? :)

That's all!

xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stranger than Fiction...HOPE!

Like most writers, when I was searching for an agent, I devoured every agency's website, I googled until my fingers yelled at me and endlessly scoured the writing boards and forums for info on agents until my head throbbed and my eyes wanted to go on strike. Why? Because that's what we have to do in order to land an agent.

I still have subscriptions from the forums, which alert me via email when someone posts on certain agency's threads---the ones that I was waiting for feedback from. Just this morning, I received an alert from one of those threads, because I new post had come through. The poster, a writer of course, was down because she'd received a call from this agency a couple months back. The agent she spoke with was very excited about her writing and told her she'd hear back from her right after Bologna, which sadly she never did, even after sending a few gentle email nudges she's gotten no response. Even though this post has nothing to do with me, my heart sank when I read it, because I've certainly been in her shoes. When you want something so badly, the waiting turns from nagging to all consuming. Even with family, friends, jobs, it's hard to think about little else.

Well...I have hope.

Some of you know, Craig Virden, Nancy Gallt's husband was my original agent. He was a wonderful man and a powerhouse in the publishing industry and it was a great loss to everyone when he passed away last year. Well, Craig was the agent I desperately wanted. You know what I mean...THE agent--the one. He'd had my requested full for what seemed like forever and a day (or about 6 months), I'd sent a couple email nudges hoping for an update, but with no response. Then finally a letter from the Nancy Gallt Agency arrived at my home. I nervously opened it, my heart beating like a rabbit's. What did a find? A rejection from Craig. Mind you, the nicest, most personal, genuine rejection anyone could ever get, but a rejection all the same. So there it was. What did I do? I immediately starting writing. He told me to send him whatever I had "moldering" in my desk that he might like. So I picked up the pace on a manuscript I'd been working on, finishing it about a month after his rejection--right after the 2009 Bologna, where he happened to be.

That's when I got the call. It was Tuesday. Just after returning from Bologna, Craig called me out of the blue. He'd changed his mind. He couldn't stop thinking about NIGHTSHADE CITY and wanted to represent me. He said he didn't care about the market and that my book needed to be published. The rest you know.

So, please, to this writer and to everyone else who's struggling to find an agent, keep having hope, even if you're down to your last agent or have subbed your third manuscript with no bites--keep having hope. Strange and wonderful things happen every day. Trust in whatever it is that forces you to be a writer. There is a reason why you're here.

xoxo -- Hilary

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Who Won the Signed Copy of Ivy's Ever After?? Drum roll, please!

Giles is our winner!
Giles, my main man, you won the signed copy of Ivy's Ever After from the lovely Dawn Lairamore! Please send me your contact info via the email link on my profile and I'll send it off to Dawn! Giles was chosen using Randomizer. I highly recommend it for contests! Congrats Giles and happy reading one and all!

xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Meet Debut Author, Dawn Lairamore and win a signed copy of Ivy's Ever After! w00t!

Hello everyone! We have a very special guest today, my buddy Dawn Laraimore.  Not only do Dawn and I share the same brilliant agent, Marietta Zacker, and publisher, Holiday House, but her debut middle grade novel, IVY'S EVER AFTER hits the streets THIS Saturday, May 15th! So, in honor of her looming debut, we are going to talk to Dawn about Ivy, her take on writing for the wee ones and her road to finding an agent! She also has a nice surprise for you! She'll be giving away a signed copy of Ivy's Ever After. Just leave a comment and you're entered! The winner will be announced this Saturday--contest closes at midnight on Friday, so leave your comment ASAP! Let's get this party started!

All right, Ms. Dawn, in a nutshell, what's IVY'S EVER AFTER about?

IVY is my version of a fractured fairy tale for middle-grade readers. According to tradition, Princess Ivy is to be locked in a white tower guarded by a dragon. The prince who slays the dragon and rescues her will, of course, win her hand in marriage. The problem is Ivy doesn't want to be rescued. And Elridge, the rather unferocious dragon sent to guard her, most definitely doesn't want to be slain! Neither wants anything to do with Romil, an unscrupulous prince from the frozen North who will be the doom of them both. And so IVY'S EVER AFTER is a fairy-tale-with-a-twist in which the princess and the dragon actually team up to thwart the handsome prince. I think it's a lot of fun, an adventure with a sassy heroine and a light-hearted, humorous tone. You can read Chapter 1 on the Ivy's Ever After website (if you have a low screen resolution and only see the menu, be sure to scroll down), and watch the book trailer here.

What are your tips for making a fairy tale into something unique--something that's not already been done to death?

I love fractured fairy tales, which are fairy tales where some element of the traditional story is changed. As entertaining as stories of old can be, I think it's quite obvious to modern readers how outdated some of the mentalities behind these tales can be. I think it's a lot of fun to shake things up and revisit these stories with modern sensibilities in mind. If you're interested in creating a fractured fairy tale or retelling of a traditional story, try challenging some element of the story that you find archaic or superficial by today's standards--the role of female characters, the focus on wealth or materialism, the emphasis placed on beauty and good looks, etc.

How do you think writing for kids varies from writing for adults? How do you make it work?

I love writing for middle-grade readers! They are such an imaginative and fun-loving audience. When writing for kids, I think it is important to keep in mind that many members of your audience are going to have a much shorter attention span than your average adult. For this reason, I think kidlit typically needs to be faster-paced than stories geared toward adults. Focus more on the external (action and events) than the internal (emotions, inner dialogues, etc.). This keeps things moving. Not that you can't have quiet moments of inner reflection, but you're probably going to lose the interest of a lot of middle-grade readers if your characters spend a lot of time doing nothing but thinking. And humor helps--kids love to laugh!

Was it hard for you to find an agent? What advice can you give to writers who are in the process of finding one?

My journey to finding an agent was pretty straightforward--I just kept sending out queries until someone made an offer of representation, lol. It was a lengthy process, as it is for a lot of writers, and involved a fair number of rejections, which are never fun to get. I feel so incredibly lucky to have ended up at a literary agency I love! Finding an agent is all about finding someone your story resonates with, so do your research. Visit agents' websites, read interviews with them, find out their likes and dislikes. An agent who hates horror is obviously not the best match for your slasher novel. Find books on the market that are similar (but not too similar) to yours--and then find out who represented them. This is usually pretty easy to do by reading the acknowledgments, visiting the author's website, or simply Googling. That agent might be a good match for you. Above all, don't get discouraged and don't give up!! Rejections are inevitable, but what one agent dislikes about your manuscript could very well be what the next agent loves about it.

Dawn, thanks so much for giving us the skinny on Ivy, you, not to mention giving away a free signed book! w00t! Reluctant dragons rule! :)

Well, that's it kiddos! Please be sure to check out Dawn's uber cool website and way awesome book trailer and for goodness sake, buy Ivy's Ever After! You won't regret it--it's fantastic!

Keep writing and be sure to enter the contest for your signed copy of Ivy's Ever After, ends Friday at midnight so enter NOW!

xoxo -- Hilary