Monday, November 2, 2015

Concert Inspiration

Emalee & Lana
at Breaking Benjamin/Shinedown concert
in West Valley City, UT on 10/30/2015


Breaking Benjamin is the #1 band on my book playlist. They have so, so many great songs about angels, demons, living forever...and it was like they wrote Ashes of Eden just for me. Well, of course when I stumbled across their concert tour online and saw that they'd be playing in SLC, I wanted to go! I'm in the middle of a major revision (my personal Nano is to finish Part2 of 4 in November...starting today), so I thought I could use the inspiration of a live show.

I asked Emalee (my writer daughter in case you're new here) if she thought we should go, and naturally she was all over it. I bought the tickets. And then I freaked out a little: "What have I done???" How were we going to drive all the way to Salt Lake by ourselves, find the venue, and maneuver the traffic in and out of the parking lot? And then things started falling into place. My husband was not only able to go with us, but also got a Salt Lake run from his part-time driving job. Em and I followed him through the big city traffic, he dropped off his truck, then he drove us to the hotel...which, by the way, I chose b/c it was right across the street from the Maverick Center! Our bodyguard daddy walked us over and then went back to relax at the hotel while Em & I went to the show. We stood in line in the parking lot for over an hour. That part wasn't handled so well. They had a handful of employees patting down 7,000 people.

We missed Nothing More, the opening band, which was a bummer. They're from Texas, my home state. Barely got inside and found our seats before Breaking Benjamin came on stage. Wow, they were amazing! I was so happy they played When Angels Fall, So Cold, and best of all, Ashes of Eden. That one made the show for me. I was curious to see who does the deep screamo voice on the new album and found out it's guitarist Aaron Bruch. He did great. And Benjamin Burnley's voice was rich and stronghe didn't let the pain from his illness stop him. Very impressive. Early on, Ben gave a heartfelt tribute to our military service members and dedicated Unknown Soldier to them. He said none of us would be there enjoying a rock show if not for the courage of our military keeping us safe. That was awesome. But then shortly after that Ben started dropping f-bombs all over the place. The profanity put a damper on things. Thinking they'd do the same, I even tried to talk Emalee into leaving before Shinedown.

Luckily, she wouldn't hear of it, and Shinedown put on an amazing show and kept it clean. Their guitarist, Zach Myers was so fun to watch. He really got into the music and rocked out. I have no idea how he managed to jump around so much and not miss a note. I wish I had been more familiar with their songs beforehand. They didn't perform the only one I know, Her Name Is Alice (Em was writing an Alice in Wonderland-themed manuscript awhile back so that song got played a lot at our house). It's thanks to her that I even discovered Breaking Benjamin, btw. Credit where credit is due. She hand picked the tracks she knew I'd like from their first couple of albums (some of the heavier rock songs caught me off guard at the show because Em sheltered me so well). When Dark Before Dawn came out, I pre-ordered it and shared with her for a change.

So glad we got to have this experience together. Another fantastic mother/daughter adventure! :)

And now, back to my book.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Interview with Debut Author,
Rosalyn Eves

Wow, hard to believe my last post was almost a year ago. And there was even WIFYR with Jeff Scott Savage in between. Awesome, btw. I meant to blog about that. Well, my excuse is that I've been focusing on my manuscript...and I'm getting close! The end is in sight; in fact, the end is being rewritten and will be completed (hopefully) by this year's Storymakers.

But today I'd like to talk about a friend of mine who recently a) got an agent and b) signed a 3-book deal with Alfred Knopf Publishers! I wanted to hear all about it, and then realized that you might, too (if you're still there). So here's my interview with Rosalyn Eves, author of the upcoming romantic fantasy adventure, The Blood Rose Rebellion.


Lana: How did you find your agent?

Rosalyn: My agent hunt was a combination of things: conferences, querying, and online contests. I met my agent (Josh Adams) at the LDStorymakers conference last spring, in an intensive workshop where we looked at first chapters. He requested to see the full manuscript when I was finished polishing, but it took a few more months to get there. At the end of July, I entered Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent contest in the hopes of getting some feedback on my first chapter. To my surprise, I wound up getting two full requests on the manuscript (one was from a ninja agent), and that jump-started my querying. To be honest, the manuscript probably wasn't ready to be queried then. All of those early submissions came back rejections. At the end of August, I entered Pitch Wars and was lucky enough to be picked by a fabulous mentor (Virginia Boecker—her historical fantasy will be out in May). She gave me some terrific feedback that resulted in rewriting a significant portion of the manuscript: I'd already cut about 10K to get into Pitch Wars, and I cut another 25K and added 27K in the two months we worked on my revision.

Just before Pitch Wars started, I also entered another online contest (Pitch Plus Five, at Adventures in YA publishing). For both contests, my primary aim was to get feedback on my pages. I got some great feedback, but beyond that, I met some fabulous fellow writers, so even if I hadn't gotten requests, I'd say that those contests were worth it. As it turns out, I got several requests: between the two contests, I ended up with just over twenty full and partial requests—above and beyond what I'd hoped for!
Because I'd done well in the contests, I knew my pitch and first pages were working, so I also sent out a bunch of queries just after Pitch Wars ended. I got my first offer (from a Pitch Plus Five agent) about two weeks after Pitch wars ended. That prompted a bunch of emails (seriously, I didn't quite realize how many queries I'd sent until I had to contact every agent I'd sent something too—I wound up notifying agents who just had my query, and several of those requested to see the full). I asked the offering agent for two weeks, which is a little longer than normal, but it spanned Thanksgiving.

Lana: Did you have interest from other agents, and if so, how did you choose?

Rosalyn: I wound up with five offers (plus a couple of requests to revise and resubmit). Choosing just one was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. The agents I talked to all seemed like terrific individuals, and honestly, I think I would have done well with any of them. Three were newer, two were more established—I wound up going with Josh Adams, partly because he represented a friend of mine and I was impressed with the way he'd stuck with her through two unsuccessful submitted manuscripts, and also because I'd met him in person and knew we'd get along well.

Lana: After signing with the agent, how long did it take for the manuscript to sell?

Rosalyn: My experience was actually pretty fast (although apparently there's really no normal for submissions). I signed with my agent in early December and did some minor revisions over the holiday break, and wrote up synopses for the next two books in the series. Josh sent the book out on submission in mid-January, and we had an offer about a month later.

Lana: This is a 3-book deal. How much material did you have to submit for the second and third installments? What kind of timeline do you have?

Rosalyn: I submitted a short blurb for the other two books—basically a glorified query letter. As far as timeline, I don't know exact details, but the first book comes out Fall 2016, and the sequels come out each succeeding year (so 2017 and 2018).

Lana: What is the series about?

Rosalyn: Here's the Publishers Weekly blurb for the first one, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION: The romantic fantasy adventure set during the political unrest of 19th-century Europe follows a 16-year-old British socialite exiled to Hungary and swept up in a revolution to overturn world order.

I'm not sure how much I can say about the others, save that they continue Anna's confrontation with the Hapsburg empire and the consequences of the magical turmoil unleashed at the end of the first book.

Lana: How long were you working on the first manuscript?

Rosalyn: It took me about nine months to draft, and another nine months or so to revise. I'm hoping the others are faster!

Lana: How did you come up with the idea?

Rosalyn: The idea evolved from several things. I love the 19th century (British and American—I wrote my dissertation on 19th century American women's rhetoric), and I'm a long time fan of several series set in 19th century England and America (Patricia Wrede, Gail Carriger), so I wanted to try my  hand at something historical, but with a magical flair. I also served an LDS mission in Hungary, so I wanted to try and use what I'd learned about the culture and the language while I lived there. 1847-48 was pretty pivotal across Europe, and especially in Hungary, when they broke away from the Hapsburg empire, so that seemed like a natural starting point. Much as I have loved stories about the chosen one, or a teen with phenomenal powers, I was intrigued by the opposite possibility: what about a teenager who didn't have any of the abilities common to her society? What would she do? And so the seeds of the story were born.

Lana: What's your best writing advice?

Rosalyn: I don't know that I have any great advice—only that you have to keep at it! Writing means working through discouragement, rejection, writer's block and so much more. But there are few things that compare with the high of wrapping up a story that came out of your own head.

Lana: Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with me and my readers. :)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Storymakers

I got home from the Storymakers conference late last night. There were several experiences that stood out for me. The neatest thing happened at dinner on Friday. My daughter, Emalee and I shared a table with four ladies we'd never met before. As we ate, we went around the table and "pitched" our books to each other. It was so much fun to hear about everyone else's stories! I almost felt like we were cave-girls sitting around a campfire for the evening's entertainment. And I realized that this is what it's all about. This is why we write. This is why these published authors come back and share their time and talents to help others succeed. So cool.

Speaking of authors. Then there was Amber Argyle. I was in her Publication Primer group a couple of years ago, and she was incredibly encouraging about my manuscript pages. I mean, she raved. And then she raved again every single time she passed me at the conference. Talk about a confidence booster. I've never had anyone be so nice about my writing. Well, as I was walking down the hall on Friday, I saw her and decided not to stop, thinking she wouldn't remember me. But as I smiled and walked by, she stopped me. Amber said she has thought about my book and wondered how it was coming along. Wow. What a gal. And btw, her new book, Winter Queen looks awesome. Can't wait to read my signed copy.

And there was J. Scott Savage, too. A couple of weeks ago, after much deliberation and hesitation over the expense, I registered for his boot camp workshop at this year's WIFYR. So I went to his presentation on horror at Storymakers, and came away confident that I had chosen wisely. I'm stoked and ready to be "a lean, mean novel machine"! He not only knows his stuff, but knows how to teach it.

My pitch session with Heidi Taylor at Shadow Mountain went well. I think. It's not like they're going to be mean, right? Then again...some people can be. On his Skype Q&A with Jeff Savage, James Dashner talked about that issue a little. He said, "I don't understand all of the negativity. If I had listened to all the people saying 'you'll never make it' and all that garbage, I wouldn't be here." If his son came up to him and said he wanted to be a movie director, James couldn't imagine replying, "You stupid kid! You will never make it as a movie director!" He believes we should all keep writing. Jeff agrees: "A big part of success is knowing inside your head, 'I can do this.'" Great guys. Smart, too.

More quotes from the conference:

"Don't be too hard on yourself. Remember the reason you wanted to be a writer in the first place. Don't make it so much of a big deal that you stop creating. You're going to get better with each project. Keep hanging onto that. Go create!" —Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary

"If you're writing scary stuff and it doesn't scare you, something's wrong." —J. Scott Savage

"You cannot hide yourself from your own stories. Your choices reveal what you believe." —Orson Scott Card

"I tried to quit my day job, but the kids kept coming home from school." —Sarah Eden

"Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Write the book that you're afraid to write. The best thing you can do is write the book that you're not entirely sure you can write." —J. Scott Savage

"Formulas will fail because you can only write a story that you care about and you believe in. Your stories will never work until they feel true to you." —Orson Scott Card

On the writer's toolbox: "You can't do everything all the time in your writing. It would get overwhelming." —Brandon Sanderson

On revision: "I had to learn to take a good book and make it great." —Brandon Sanderson

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sorting: Ravenclaw!



I will be going to London and Edinburgh on a Harry Potter study abroad program with Emalee this summer through Southern Utah University. A special sorting ceremony was held last week with the quite lovely American Sorting Hat, spiders and all. As predicted, both of us are in Ravenclaw. But I was wrong about the close seconds, which were the exact opposite of my guesses: my test score put me one point off from Gryffindor, and Emalee was almost a Hufflepuff! :)

I figured it would be the other way around for sure. She's the brave one who mountain bikes and dangles off cliffs, not me. But of course, the hat knows what it's doing. And, I scored higher in the Slytherin column than she did, bwah-ha-ha-ha. I'm pretty proud of that. Fun, fun, and the best part is that Em and I are in the same House and will be sharing a room.

This should be an exciting, inspirational adventure for us...except for the flying part. Personally, I'd rather apparate.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood, award-winning author of The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, and many, many other novels, spoke at the Grace A. Tanner Lecture at Southern Utah University today. I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions last night, too. She is a talented, spunky, and amazing lady with a great sense of humor. Below are my notes:

 * When asked about her writing process, Margaret said she first starts writing with the original idea. "It might be a line, image, or piece of conversation." Not until after she has explored and developed the story does she try to plan the plot. "You can't make a structure in the abstract...Plotting emerges from characters and what these people are to one another."

*  "The best detective stories give you a chance, but not an obvious one."

* On writing the first draft: "It's the rolling mirage. I write the beginning and start revising and adding to that until I'm done."

* About her publishers: "I never tell them ahead of time what I'm writing about because they would just think I'm crazy."

* When asked, "Where do you live?" Margaret replied, "Do I live? That's the question."

* "I take infinite pains with my covers. I have no contractual say, but I have a lot of say. It is the front door of the book."

* Margaret does "at least six drafts with the text before the editor sees it. I'm picky. That doesn't mean that all of the words are different. I'm moving stuff around and building stuff out."

* She told a story of riding on a train in Ireland: "I was listening to four Irish women who didn't know I was me, discussing my books. It was fun. One of them said the last one was too long."

* Her take on Las Vegas and Elvis impersonators: "However, I can tell you that there are many of those roaming the streets...and many other things as well."

* About all the awards she has won: "There is a running commentary in my house about which of those would make the best murder weapon. Some of them are very pointy."

* On the zombie craze: "There are other monstrous things you can turn into in literature where you get superpowers instead of subpowers." "No sooner has a new monster peaked, but we have to make it cuddly." (Talking about sexy zombies in the latest movies.)

* On apocalypse in the Bible: "People do come out of their graves. That's supposed to be a good thing. I'll leave you to judge."

* Discussing potatomancy as a divination method: "Maybe it would be a good cure for writer's block. After days of gazing at a sliced potato, your manuscript may begin to look more attractive."

* In 1955, the only place to get published was the high school newspaper with no pseudonym, knowing that your parents, teachers, and friends would read it. "So where were you going to put your throbbing vampire romance?"

* At the beginning of her writing career: "The most electrifying experience was selling a poem to people I didn't know."

* "If you're not all in, then you probably shouldn't be writing it."

Friday, March 22, 2013

End of an Era




Top: the last piece of Caramel Tiger Cake
Bottom: me, Emalee, & Erin with Ally Condie


In February, the Pub Club, our little critique group consisting of myself, my daughter Emalee, and our good friend, the amazing, talented, and hilarious Erin Shakespear got together for the last time. The end of an era was unexpectedly marked by the simultaneous end of Caramel Tiger Cake at the Pastry Pub. The scrumptious cake that came to symbolize the Pub Club was discontinued on the very night of our final meeting and the last piece went to us. Talk about closure! "All good things must come to an end," as the saying goes.

*sigh*

But as per a longstanding pact, Caramel Tiger Cake will live on in each of our first published novels. That should give us renewed motivation to finish those drafts. We owe it to the cake.

On March 1, the three of us met up again at Braun's Books in Cedar City for Ally Condie's book signing. She drew a big crowd, as you can imagine. Afterward, we were invited to an informal Q&A at her sister's house. Ally talked about how she researched and developed the plague for Reached. She also touched on her writing process and the role the editor played in bringing out the best in her.

A few highlights:
  • Ally is both a plotter and a pantser: "I discover a lot of the story as I go."
  • Her solution to writer's block: "I always have a back burner project, another novel I'm writing...I go and play with that."
  • If that doesn't work, she uses reverse psychology on herself. "I tell myself I'm taking a week off" and that makes her want to write again.
  • Ally gets writing ideas as she's falling asleep, and: "Showering is really good for epiphanies." (Running, too...it clears her mind.)
  •  Her editor asks tough, thought-provoking questions during revision. "My editor put me through my paces and I pushed myself really hard."
  •  "There's no politics in the [Matched] story. It's about choice and how we screw up when we have it, but we should still have it."
And there you have it.