Going 'Behind the Scenes' with Dahlia Adler!

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 20:28 -- Linda

I am very excited this week to congratulate Dahlia Adler--talented writer, brilliant blogger, social media maven, and all around sweetheart--on the release of her debut YA novel, BEHIND THE SCENES!

To celebrate, Dahlia is having a fun release tour where she has asked all of us who are participating to share a little bit about her book and then share a "behind the scenes" peek into some aspect of our own writing. 

First things first! Here's the deets on Dahlia's book:

Behind the Scenes

High school senior Ally Duncan's best friend may be the Vanessa Park -- star of TV's hottest new teen drama -- but Ally's not interested in following in her BFF's Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally's ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father's mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van's on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors' publicist arranges for Van and Liam to "date" for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she's capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can't play by Hollywood's rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

Want to read it, like, yesterday? I thought so!

Check it out on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and don't forget to add it to your Goodreads list!

Now, for a quick peek behind the scenes at my writing routine. I work full time and am an active volunteer with my church and two local writing groups, so people often ask me, "When do you find time to write?"

The answer: First thing in the morning. In fact, that's the only time I can write. By the time I get home from work (where I do a lot of writing, BTW), I am wiped and want to do nothing that requires more brainpower than watch "Wheel of Fortune" (which I totally rock at, BTW).

So, as soon as I get up, I take a half-hour walk. This wakes me up and gets the blood flowing to my brain. Here's a shot from this morning's walk:

Looks peaceful, huh? Great way to start the morning. 

Next,  I spend about 40 minutes writing. Here's where all the magic happens ... on my bed, on my Mac, with Little D beside me:

Granted, 40 minutes a day is slow going (that's why it takes me so long to write novel, folks!). But every book ever written was written one word at a time. For anyone out there who is struggling to find time to write, start with 40 minutes. Heck, start with 20 minutes. Carve it out of your day, and stick to it. And if you do that every day, eventually you'll have a book. Having an adorable puppy by your side helps, too.

Lucky 7: A Sneak Peek at My Next Novel

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 19:05 -- Linda

The brilliant and talented C.J. Burright has tagged me to participate in the "Lucky Seven" meme that's going around in the writing community.

Here's how it works: I have to turn to page 7 or 77 of my current work in progress, count down to the 7th line, and print the next 7 lines. Fun, huh?

This is from page 7 of my manuscript, a young adult contemporary which shall remain unnamed for now and which is about three-fourths of the way finished (woohoo!):

“Everyone, this is Ember. Ember, this is … everyone.”

“Everyone who matters,” one girl said.

Ember could swear she saw Claire roll her eyes.

As she sat down, she could feel them watching, sizing her up. She was glad she’d let her mom talk her into toning things down here. She’d penciled on a little less eyeliner than she wore back home, sported a cami under her shirt to cover up her cleavage, and lost her ever-present silver mermaid ear cuff. If anyone looked closely enough, they might have wondered why she had three tiny tan lines circling the cartilage of her right ear.

What do you think? Want to know more about Ember and that mermaid ear cuff? Well, I'm hoping to send this manuscript to my publisher by the end of the summer ... and we'll see where it goes from there!

Now, it's my turn to tag some folks. I hereby tag:

Lisa Amowitz
Rachel Schieffelbein

Cassie Mae
Lindsay Eland

Queries That Work: My Own!

Sun, 06/01/2014 - 09:58 -- Linda

For this edition of Queries That Work,  I thought I would share the query I wrote for THE FUNERAL SINGER. I've talked a bit about my path to publication on this blog, but I haven't yet shared the "pitch" I made for the book.

I wrote a few versions of my query--all somewhat similar--but the one I'm going to share is the one I wrote for an online contest called Pitch Wars. The point of that query was not to woo an agent or publisher, but to convince one of the contest's mentors that they would want to work with me and my manuscript.

There are a couple of reasons I picked this query to share. First, it contains the fewest spoilers. Second, it was successful in attracting the interest of not just one, but all three of the potential mentors I "queried." And third, it ultimately succeeded in hooking one of the mentors--Erica Chapman, whose mentorship proved critical in improving the book--and led to my connection with my agent, Andrea Somberg

QUERY: The Funeral Singer by Linda Budzinski (Swoon Romance YA, 2013)

Dear Erica:

Singing part-time at her father’s funeral home, seventeen-year-old Melanie Martin has witnessed her share of lame eulogies and uninspired epitaphs. She knows one thing for sure: She's going to make her mark on the world. She'll be remembered as more than someone's "loving mother" or "devoted wife."

When Mel's impromptu rendition of "Amazing Grace" at a local rock star's graveside service goes viral on YouTube, she realizes her aspirations, and then some. Overnight she's transformed from the Freaky Funeral Girl into an Internet phenom.

In her rise to celebrity, Mel turns her back on the things that once mattered most to her -- chorus, family, even one of her best friends. But fame can be a fleeting fantasy, and when Mel makes a very public (and of course videotaped) fool of herself at her high school prom, she discovers that creating splashy headlines as the pop star du jour is not at all the same as creating real, lasting memories.

Mixing humor, romance and a slight dash of the macabre, my 53,000-word contemporary YA novel THE FUNERAL SINGER takes AUDREY, WAIT! and drops it onto the set of SIX FEET UNDER.

I have worked for nearly twenty-five years in non-profit communications and marketing, including eighteen years at the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association -- an experience I've drawn upon to add realistic detail to the novel's setting.

In writing this manuscript, I worked closely with former Dial editor Alisha Niehaus Berger, who called the story "commercial with a good heart and some serious core messages." My queries to date have resulted in many "positive rejections," and so I am excited about the possibility of working with you to take the manuscript from "almost there" to "yes, please."

Thank you for your consideration.

Best wishes,
Linda Acorn Budzinski

I lucked out with this query in that Erica loves rock bands, AUDREY, WAIT! and Six Feet Under. What a perfect match! And the rest, as they say, was history....

Queries That Work: Gail Nall

Sun, 05/18/2014 - 15:48 -- Linda

Welcome to the second edition of Queries That Work! This week, I want to thank Gail Nall for allowing me to share the query letter that helped her snag agent Julie A. Weber for her debut middle grade novel, BREAKING THE ICE, to be published in spring 2015 by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster.

Gail says of her letter: "It's fun to go back and read this, because not only has the title of the book and the name of the main character changed, but one of the plotlines I discuss in the query is quite different now."

Take heed, fellow writers: Writing the query and signing with an agent does not mean your work is done! It is simply the beginning of the next phase.

Now, onto the letter:

QUERY: Breaking the Ice by Gail Nall (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, Spring 2015)

Dear Ms. Weber:

Twelve-year-old Chloe Demirjian-Carter dreams of being a champion figure skater. She practices every day and does everything she's supposed to do. But when the judges award her perfect program with less-than perfect scores, Chloe lets them know exactly what she thinks.

As a result, Chloe's coach dumps her and she's kicked out of her prestigious training rink. No one wants a skater with a big mouth--no one except the misfit Falton Figure Skating Club. But joining Falton may be the second-biggest mistake Chloe's ever made. No one takes skaters from the "Fall Down" club seriously. If Chloe wants to win the Regional competition, she has to find a way to change the judges' minds about her new club. Which wouldn't be so hard if she was the loudmouth skater everyone thinks she is.

A middle grade novel complete at 50,000 words, DON'T FALL DOWN is a cross between Kate Messner's SUGAR AND ICE and the movie Stick It. The manuscript won honorable mention in the 2012 SCBWI Midsouth Fiction Contest. I am a member of SCBWI, and have experience in the world of competitive figure skating. The first three chapters and the synopsis are pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Gail Nall

Another fantastic query! Much like last week, we have a main character who is very passionate about her avocation and very good at it, and we have an obstacle that could get in her way of achieving her goals. We also have an author who has personal experience in the topic at hand. I like that in this one we also have what I suspect will be a group of underdogs ... kids in the "Fall Down" Club that we'll come to root for.

For more on Gail and her novel, check out her blog and add BREAKING THE ICE to your "to be read" list on Goodreads!

Queries That Work: Jessica Martinez

Sat, 05/10/2014 - 15:37 -- Linda

Welcome to the first edition of my new blog series, "Queries That Work," in which we'll take a look at ... wait for it ... queries that work. Specifically, queries that have elicited a "yes" from an agent or publisher for a published (or soon to be published) book.

Virtuosity CoverTo kick off the series, I am so excited to feature the query for Jessica Martinez' debut YA novel, VIRTUOSITY. This a great honor for me, because (a) Jessica was my mentor for WriteOnCon last year and is an incredibly talented author and a wonderful person all the way around (and those of you who read the acknowledgements for THE FUNERAL SINGER may have noticed her name in there); (b) I once took an online class with Jessica's agent, Mandy Hubbard, who is likewise very talented and wonderful; and (c) VIRTUOSITY is a wonderful, wonderful book.

So much wonderfulness in one little blog post!

So, without further ado:

QUERY: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez (Simon Pulse, 2011)

Dear Ms. Hubbard,

Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love.  Two weeks before the most important violin competition of her career, she has bigger things to worry about--like growing out of that suffocating "child prodigy" label, and not disappointing her mother.  But it isn't just the wrong time. It's the wrong guy. Jeremy is Carmen's most talented rival, and according to her mother, he's only interested in one thing: winning.

He isn't the only one.

Carmen is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to control performance nerves. But what started a year ago as an easy fix is now a hungry addiction. Her mother insists now is not the time to quit, but Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of doing what she's told.

In the end, [REDACTED HERE DUE TO SPOILERS].

VIRTUOSITY is a contemporary YA novel and is complete at 58,000 words. It is my first novel. I have degrees in English and Music from Brigham Young University, and I'm both a writer and professional violinist. I read about your move to D4EO Literary Agency on the SCBWI website and I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Jessica Martinez

There is so much I love about this query, I don't know where to start. Jessica had me with the first paragraph. What YA fan wouldn't want to read a story about a talented violinist falling in love with her biggest competitor? Throw in the additional conflict a la her demanding mother and an addiction to anti-anxiety pills, and you've got a fantastic premise for a novel. The beautifully written query and the fact that Jessica is a professional violinist tell us we're in capable hands. No surprise Mandy requested this one and Simon Pulse ultimately published it!

I did find it interesting that Jessica chose to include the resolution in her query (which I redacted because I didn't want to spoil the ending for you all, and you really do need to go out and buy this book and find out what happens!). It is my understanding that this typically is not necessary and may even be inadvisable. The point of the query is to make the agent/publisher want to read the manuscript, so typically best to avoid spoilers. Still, this obviously worked for Jessica, so I guess we should never say never.

What did you think of this query? Did it make you want to read the book?

It's a FUNERAL SINGER Book Trailer!

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 20:56 -- Linda

Last weekend at a get together for the Mid-Atlantic SCBWI, a wonderful speaker by the name of Tina Nichols Coury talked about author promotion, and one of the things she said was that every book should have a trailer.

In all honesty, I'm not 100 percent sure why books should have trailers, or what authors are supposed to do with trailers once they have them, but Tina made it sound easy to create one, so I figured, what the heck? I'd try it. I found an awesome site called Animoto that lets you create one pretty easily. I also found a great site called ShutterStock that lets you buy images fairly cheaply.

The result? Voila!

 

 

What Writers Can Learn from the X Games

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 21:22 -- Linda

One of my favorite parts of this year's Winter Olympics was the X Games sports -- the crazy skiing and the snowboarding, with all the huge jumps and the flips and the Half Nelsons. Oh, wait. That's wrestling. Well, okay, so I don't know the terminology, but it was fun to watch.

I liked it for more than the stunts, though. In fact, one of the things I liked best about it was what happened after each athlete competed. In those sports more than any others, teammates seemed to cheer each other on and celebrate each other's victories. Heck, even their biggest competitors from the other teams seemed genuinely stoked (ha!) whenever one of them would perform a particularly tough jump or finish a strong, clean run.

I loved seeing those world-class athletes, the top individuals in their sports, support each other and celebrate their successes. I would venture to guess that sense of excitement and camaraderie is one of the reasons those games have become so wildly popular in recent years.

If only the writing community would follow suit.

Too often, writers seem to feel the need to tear each other down -- to label each other and even call on other (highly successful, mind you) authors to stop writing. This is nothing new. It's been going on for years.

The worst part is, there's no reason for it. Publishing is not a zero-sum game. There is no need to divide and conquer. Authors aren't competing for the one-and-only gold medal. They're competing for readers, and there are millions of them out there, all with different tastes. The more variety we have to offer, the better.

We should all be working together to develop each other as writers -- to encourage each other to improve our craft and to find good homes for our work. By doing this, we will ultimately be helping to develop more readers. And readers are the one thing we cannot do without.

Now, lest this post leave anyone thinking authors are all a bunch of selfish jerks, I should point out that there are many, many folks out there who are incredibly supportive of their fellow writers. And I'd like to recognize a few of them here. Go check out these websites and blogs by these wonderful and very generous writers:

These are just a handful of people who have been supportive of me personally, who have taken time out of their busy lives to offer advice or cheer me on or provide moral support. There are many others out there who are doing the same and building up their colleagues. They know writing is not about winning and losing, it's about perfecting the run and expanding the fan base.

Tags: 

Book Club Bingo

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 20:20 -- Linda

I'm always slightly terrified when I find out someone I know is reading my book. How will they react? Will they like it? Hate it? Or worst case, feel nothing?

So when I found out that the Joy of Reading Book Club at my church had chosen THE FUNERAL SINGER as its March pick, I was torn. Part of me felt so grateful and humbled that they would take the time to read and discuss it. Part of me was psyched to have an opportunity to sit in a room full of book lovers and listen to them discuss the characters and scenes I'd spent five years writing and revising. And, yes, part of me was quite nervous.

Well, last night was The Big Night ... and I haven't quite come down from it yet. It was more fun and boosted my confidence as a writer more than I could have imagined.

Eight women braved the icy Northern Virginia roads to get together for almost two hours to talk about MY BOOK. Crazy, right? And so cool!

Everyone seemed to really like it--or if they didn't, they were gracious enough to pick out the things they did like and talk about those. But I could tell, at least a few of the women loved it. Like, really, truly loved it. They talked about how close they felt to Mel, how various themes in the book spoke to them, and how they were recommending it to their family and friends. I couldn't stop smiling. They GOT IT!

Now before I go all Sally Field on you, let me say: I tell you this not because I want to pat myself on the back (well, OK, maybe a little ... I am forever telling writers to celebrate even the smallest victories in this tough, rejection-laden profession, and I need to remember to do that as well) but because I want to make a point about why writers write.

We write for the people who get it.

There will be people who don't get it, and that's OK. Not everyone likes every book. Any time I get a less-than-glowing review or a one- or two-star rating on Goodreads, I go look at the ratings for THE HUNGER GAMES. See, I LOVED that book. Loved the whole trilogy. Got all my friends to read it long before the movies came out. But at this moment, on Goodreads, THE HUNGER GAMES has 7,629 one-star ratings. Granted, this is less than 1 percent of its 2.3 million ratings, but still. More than 7,000 people hated it. THE HUNGER GAMES! Crazy but true. So not everyone is going to love my book, and I am learning to be OK with that.

But, there are people out there who do love it. Maybe even people I've never met and never will. And I'm writing for them.

As writers, we tend to measure success in sales. Well, the number of people who buy my book may never even reach the number of people who hated THE HUNGER GAMES, but you know what? That's okay. If even one person loves my book, gets it, grows to care about my characters ... what more can a writer ask for?

By the way, my favorite comment last night came from a woman who was talking about Mick--a character who actually is dead throughout the entire book and whose funeral kicks off the book. She talked about how she had developed some misconceptions about him but as she got to know him on the page throughout the course of the novel, she realized he was more than just a druggie rock star.

Her comment: "I said to myself, 'You shouldn't be so judgmental.' It made me want to be a better person."

It made her want to be a better person.

My book did that? Wow. That's why I write.

Giveaways Galore

Wed, 02/12/2014 - 20:47 -- Linda

So Valentine's Day is just two days away, and you know what that means! 

No, not chocolate! Well, okay, chocolate, and I hope lots of it. And also roses and champagne and kisses and eternal love. But also -- Romance Book Bundle Giveaways!

THE FUNERAL SINGER is part of two great giveaways:

Ana Blaze is giving away a fabulous young adult gift pack:

  • Adorned by Georgeann Swiger
  • Vision of Shadows by Vincent Morrone
  • Shadow Born by Nicole Camp
  • Secondary Characters by Rachel Schieffelbein
  • The Funeral Singer by Linda Budzinski
  • Forget Me Not by Stacey Nash
  • Balancing Act by Heather Smith
  • An Unexpected Hunger by C. Rosa
  • 1 $5 giftcard from AJ Mathews (Author of Goodbye to You, available from Swoon Romance Fall 2014)

You can enter to win Ana's contest here

 

And Rachel Schieffelbein is giving away another:

  • Effortless with You by Lizzie Charles
  • King Sized Beds & Happy Trails by Becca Ann and Tessa Marie
  • The Funeral Singer by Linda Budzinski
  • Fraction of Stone by Kelley Lynn
  • Run for the Roses by Rachel Schieffelbein
  • Until We End by Frankie Brown

You can enter to win Rachel's contest here. 

Good luck! And a very Happy Valentine's Day to you!!

Getting into Your Character's Head

Tue, 01/07/2014 - 21:34 -- Linda

This post is for my writer friends. Does your writing ever feel distanced from your main character? Do your critique partners tell you they can't empathize with him or her?

Good writing--writing that draws readers in and makes them feel as though they are living the scene themselves--requires getting into your character's head. 

So how do you do that?

Envision the scene from your character's eyes. I'm a very visual person, so I visualize scenes as I write, sort of like watching them on an imaginary television screen in my head. And while I typically do this as though I'm watching from an "offscreen camera," when my writing is feeling forced and distanced, it's time to change perspectives and watch what's going on directly from my character's viewpoint.

Eliminate phrases that remove your reader from the scene. This includes phrases such as, "I saw," or "I thought," or "I wondered" (or, if you're writing in the third person, "She saw," etc.). Compare the following:

> Jane boarded the bus. She noticed a young girl, about her daughter's age, sitting in the back seat listening to her iPod. She wondered where her own daughter might be now.

> Jane boarded the bus. A young girl, about her daughter's age, sat in the back seat listening to her iPod. Where would her own daughter be now?

The story is being told in Jane's point of view, so we don't need to be told that she is noticing and wondering. We know that. The first version takes a step back from her, while the second puts us directly in her thoughts. We are right there, noticing and wondering along with her. Not to mention, the second version is tighter. Bonus!

Smell, taste, and feel the world. We hear it all the time as writers: Don't forget to use all five senses. And it does make a difference. Your characters experience the world through more than just sight and sound, and even an occasional reference to one of the other three senses can bring a passage to life.

What writing tips do you have for getting into your characters' heads?

 

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