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

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blogging Pet Peeves and Sound Advice! Eh, What's YOURS?

So, recently I was asked to write an article for the Prairie Wind, which is the online newsletter of the SCBWI IL Chapter. My article was all about blogging and what I've learned along the way, entitled: Ma’am, Put Down the Laptop and Step Away from the Blog! Okay, well...I thought it catchy! Anyway, it was great to share with others what I've learned about blogging as well as share the knowledge of such great writer/bloggers as Cynthia Leitich Smith, Elana Johnson, Shelli Johannes-Wells and sisters, Lisa and Laura Roecker.

My question: What are your blogging tips? Don't be shy either! You don't have to have been blogging every day for the last four years or have six gazillion followers to have great insight. Now if you’re still too bashful to give your two cents, than tell us what bugs you about blogs you've been on recently, obviously don't name the blogs that bug you--but tell us what bugs you about them! It can be very helpful to other bloggers, just hearing what you don't like! Please though, don't say anything bad about my blog, you will hurt mine its feelings! Ha, ha! ;) 

Here's what I'm talking about: About two months back I had a reader comment that my blog (black background at the time) was super hard on her eyes. It never hurt mine, but I starting asking my friends and they ALL agreed the black background and light font did a number on their retinas! Gah! I had no idea! It never bothered me a bit, but apparently it's killer on everyone else's eyeballs! So there's my tip--ditch the dark colors! Trust me, I know it's hard, it's like shaving your head or something, but think of all the visits to the eye doc you'll be saving your readers!

So, what's your blogging tip, trick or big fat no-no?

xoxo -- Hilary