Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Welcome Wednesday Guest Post: Terry Spear asks, "What Do You Do When Another “Girl” Wants Your Guy?"


Once Bitten, 1985 - A vampire Countess needs to drink the blood of a virgin in order to keep her eternal beauty. It seems that all is hopeless, until she bumps into Mark Kendall.
“The Countess has a problem. She is a 400 year old vampire who will cease to look young unless she is able to feed on a virgin three times before Halloween, a week away. She sends Sebastian, her servant and all of her lesser vampires out to find one. Finding a virgin is difficult in Los Angeles. Mark has a problem. He wants to 'do it' with Robin in the worst way, but she wants to wait. Jamie and Russ, Mark's goofy friends convince him to go to a Hollywood pick up spot where Mark meets the Countess, on the prowl. Robin's not going to understand.” ~Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>  

I loved this movie where Robin wants to wait to have relations with her first boyfriend, and poor Mark Kendall is dying to give up being a virgin. It shows strength of character on both their parts. Then here comes a vampire with an even bigger problem. She has to have a virgin to feed off so she can remain eternally young. It’s pretty difficult to say no to such an offer. Especially when the woman is willing and her powers of seduction due to her vampiric charms are so persuasive. What can a guy do? But drift away from his true love and give into a false one.
But Robin sees the woman for what she is…an ancient predator that only wants to use her boyfriend and throw him away. Or maybe keep him for her own. But he won’t be his own person ever again.

That’s the thing with teenage love, to learn to trust and respect and compromise. If her values are such that she wants to wait, if he truly loves her, he will respect her and wait.

Have you ever heard of: pick your battles?

When the issues are just not that important: where to eat, what to do on Saturday, who to see…then compromise, or don’t make it an issue.

But if it’s something that is at the core of the person’s belief system, for an instance, he doesn’t drink, either because of religious beliefs or maybe alcoholism in the family, so he doesn’t want to attend parties where there’s a lot of alcohol being served, then it’s time for his needs to be considered.

A lot of times it has to do with motivation. If he or she has a really good cause for feeling the way he or she does, maybe there’s a reason the girlfriend or boyfriend should give weight to their decisions.

Which all goes back to trusting and respecting each other.

If the person doesn’t respect their friend’s concerns when they have a legitimate reason for feeling the way they do, then perhaps the relationship isn’t right for them. In other words, if it’s something that they can’t deal with, she loves to drink with her friends and he abhors the idea, then the differences in their value systems might not be something they can ever overcome.

Mark wants his needs met in the worst way. But Robin wants to wait because it’s really important to her. In the end, if he gives up the ancient vampire sucker and sticks it out with the girlfriend that truly means something to him, their relationship will endure. But what if the only way to save him is to give up her beliefs? Well, that shows true love.

Finding the one that is right for you is the key. No one should feel they have to do what someone else wants in a relationship just to hang onto that relationship. It should be a mutually loving bond filled with trust, respect and compromise (when the compromise is for things that are just too unimportant to make issue with).

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde, The Dark Fae, where the fae rule…  

You can learn more about Terry at her website, or follow her on Facebook and on Twitter. And you can learn about her awesome books on Goodreads.

Thanks so much for visiting with us, Terry. This is such a great post and a wonderful life lesson, too! I know I learned this the hard way myself as a teen.

So what about you, gentle readers? Did you ever comprise on your own beliefs to get or maintain a relationship? As Dr. Phil would say, "How'd that work out for you?"

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Tale of the Evil Cheerbot and the Meddling Math Teacher


Once upon a time, there was a na├»ve teen girl who mourned the fact that she’d never had a boyfriend. In fact, she began to wonder what was wrong with her that in all her seventeen years she hadn’t been in love. Sadly, when she did find love, the experience was so painful that it left her afraid to give her heart ever again…

My first relationship lasted for all of four months. Rob was a tennis player, tall, athletic and painfully shy. Honestly, I can’t remember how we started dating considering I was quite the introvert in those days. It may have had something to do with me being one of ten spectators at several of his tennis matches, but I can’t be sure. ;-)

In any case, he asked me out and we fell into couple-mode almost immediately. He’d walk me to my classes, write me love notes (no texting or emailing in those days, my dears), go to movies, and make out in his parents’ basement. For those few glorious weeks, I reveled in walking through the halls of the school, holding hands with my guy, my heart blooming with the knowledge that I was no longer alone.


But just when I was becoming comfortable in my newfound romance, tragedy struck.

Unbeknownst to me, my loving boyfriend—along with every other male in the school—had a crush on the head cheerleader, Alisha. What Rob didn’t know was that Alisha and I had a history.

 Sophomore year our lockers were side by side. This was unfortunate due to Alisha’s locker being the designated hang-out for the entire cheerleading squad. I received more than one tardy slip, because despite my polite requests to get to my locker, the cheer-squad refused to acknowledge my existence. Finding Alisha alone one morning, I confronted her about my lack of access to said locker. After she consented to speak to me, she explained that she was not at fault because I was “nothing at our school”. Lovely, aye?

For the next three years, she made snarky comments about my fashion choices, my hair, my friends, and would giggle and point when I walked by. I ignored her. Until she went a step too far.

One afternoon, my geometry teacher (who was also the Tennis coach) pulled me aside and told me he and Alisha were playing a “joke” on Rob. He asked me to keep it to myself, so I wouldn’t spoil the fun. The joke consisted of Alisha writing my boyfriend a love note and slipping it into his locker. Mr. Math Teacher thought it would be a hilarious prank to make Rob think the head cheerleader wanted to go out with him. But we all know why Alisha played along with this little deception—to mess with me.

That's me with the wide, naive smile.

And it worked. After I gave Mr. Math Teacher a piece of my mind, Rob and I had a huge fight. I accused him of wanting to be with Alisha instead of me. He reassured me his crush on Alisha was old news and I was the only girl he wanted…yada, yada, yada. We stayed together a few more weeks and then he dumped me on prom night.

After that stellar experience, I dated a lot of guys, but never got serious with anyone. Not even in college. But then I met the love of my life, my Prince Charming. I smile as I’m typing this, because he didn’t put up with any of my commitment-phobic BS, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

Yep, I got my fairytale ending after all.

What about you? Was your first relationship full of hearts and rainbows or evil cheerbots and meddling math teachers?

Lorie

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Welcome Wednesday: Christine Fonseca's Take on Lessons from Teen Love

Aw Yes, Teen love. ..

I remember it well. The maddening, sickening, soul-crushing love that seems to only happen in the throes of adolescence. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED falling in love as a teen, despite the heartache that also followed.

It was in my senior year. I met him at club (yes, an underage dance club). And man, could he DANCE. We were from two different schools, two different worlds. And we were in love.

It hit hard and it hit fast for us. It was all-consuming and relentless. Every moment of every day I thought of him, imagining a future together.

We saw each other every weekend, went to the prom, and just "knew" we would spend an eternity together.

And then I went away to college. 3000 miles away. We saw each other whenever I came home, talked for hours on the phone. But it wasn't enough. 

The spring of my freshman year, we broke up. He said it was too hard watching me leave. Too hard having me gone.

I was crushed. 

We found our way back to each other a year later. But that didn't last either. My future had moved on, I had forged a new road. One without him.

I fell in love again a year or so later. It was just as intense. Just as complete. I thought I would marry him. But, like my first love, it proved to be just as temporary.

Eventually I met the man I would later marry, and the love I felt for him - that same maddening, soul-crushing, all-consuming love - would settle into something more permanent. 20+ years permanent.

Now, I look back on my first love, on that type of love in general, with fondness. I write about it in every story, remembering how it felt to feel with such intensity. It's so raw, so intense, so complete. And yet, it is oh so transitory too. I am convinced that such love is not meant to last. But the love that develops in its wake is more, somehow. Better.

If we can only get there...

School psychologist by day, critically acclaimed YA and nonfiction author by night, Christine Fonseca believes that writing is a great way to explore humanity. Her debut YA Gothic series, The Requiem Series, including DIES IRAE and LACRIMOSA, examines the role of redemption, sacrifice and love. Her nonfiction titles include 101 SUCCESS SECRETS FOR GIFTED KIDS and EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS.

When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she can be sipping too many skinny vanilla lattes at her favorite coffee house or playing around on Facebook and Twitter. Catch her daily thoughts about writing and life on her blog. 


Thanks so much for stopping by, Christine! This post brought back a lot of  intense memories. So what about you, gentle readers? Did you fall hard as a teen and experience the same "maddening, soul-crushing, all-consuming" love Christine is talking about? What happened? Was it happily ever after, or a stepping stone on the way to a bigger and better relationship?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Little ditty ‘bout Jack & Diane…or in this case, Becky & Tommy

Confession time. I’ve been dreading our current topic, "Teen Lover, Where are Youuuu?"

Why, you ask?

Because I have no firsthand experience with teen love or teen lovers.

Now, if the topic had been “Angsty, John Hughes-worthy, Unrequited Crushes” or “Wild, Stupid Stuff I did in High School” I’d be golden. But teen love, huh, that’s a toughie.

Becky & Tommy had matching hair.
The closest thing I have to draw from is the love life of my best friend. Rebecca and I were BFFs in junior and senior high. In tenth grade, she started dating Tommy. They quickly became serious and were together until the ratbastard dumped her just after prom. During their 2+ year relationship, I hung out with them on a regular basis, but I also spent a lot of time branching out, so I wouldn’t just be a third wheel. Thinking about Becky and Tommy made me ask myself, if I could go back and do things differently, would I?

I think every girl wants the Jake Ryan experience—that A-MA-ZING high school romance that makes you feel special and gives you intimate knowledge of what it is to love and be loved. So, were there times I was a teensy bit jealous of what my best friend had? Of course.


Yes, Becky had Tommy—a make out partner and guaranteed date every weekend—but I kissed a handful of boys, hung out with several groups of friends, did community college theatre, cut class for Chinese food and Broadway shows in the city, and spent too many mornings hung-over. Would I be the same person without those formative experiences?  

Becky graduated with a broken heart and I graduated never having had a real boyfriend. But I wouldn’t trade my loser life for teen love. I like my angst and knowing what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. It’s who I am. And eventually my Jake Ryan found me...but that's a post for another time.

Now dear readers, let’s play the game of life. There’s a fork in the road, do you chose the serious high school boyfriend path or the serious life experience single path? And why?

Happy President’s Day!
Carey

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Welcome Wednesday: Trish Milburn's Take on Lessons from Teen Love

Today we welcome made-of-awesome adult and YA writer, Trish Milburn to the Welcome Wednesday spot. Our theme is "Teen Lover, Where are Youuuu?" and we're talking about the lessons we learned from teen love. Take it away, Trish...

The Love You Least Expect

There’s something very powerful about falling in love in your teens. Even if it doesn’t end up being the forever kind of love, and it often isn’t, it certainly feels like that at the time. I think that’s why I still really love teen-centric stories, whether they’re books, TV shows or movies. You get to see and experience vicariously that intensity of first love all over again.

Interestingly, my two favorite kinds of teen romance stories are the “opposites attract” and “best friends fall in love” storylines. They suck me in every time.

One of my favorite opposites-attract stories is the movie 10 Things I Hate About You with Julia Stiles and the late Heath Ledger. Here you have the story of the super-smart but snarky Kat Stratford falling for the bad boy Patrick Verona. And even though Patrick is initially paid to get Kat to go out with him so her younger sister can date, he finds there’s a lot more to Kat than her thorny exterior. He starts falling for her, so it’s even more devastating for them both when Kat finds out the truth. Thankfully, they work it out in the end, but the movie shows the importance of not lying to the person you like and not assuming your true love can’t possibly someone way different than you.

Another movie that falls into this category is The Prince and Me, again with Julia Stiles, this time starring opposite Luke Mably. It’s actually a mixture of the opposites attract and friends falling in love types of stories. Julia plays Paige, a farmer’s daughter and pre-med student in Wisconsin who is very serious about her studies. Luke plays Eddie, another college student who is actually a prince in hiding and seemingly only interested in girls and having a good time. They initially become friends, but it blossoms into something more. Again, a lie comes between them when Paige discovers Eddie is a prince. Can you get more opposite than a girl who grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and the Prince of Denmark?

A new show that I’m currently enjoying is Jane by Design. Jane is a teenage girl who, through a case of mistaken identity, ends up living a double life as a smart high school student and an assistant to a bigwig in the fashion world. While she has potential love interests in the hot jock at school and the playboy designer at work, I’m really hoping that toward the end of the show’s run she realizes that the perfect guy for her is actually her best friend, Billy. He is the best friend ever, helping her conceal her double life any way he can, listening when she needs to vent, giving her a shoulder to cry on during the hard times. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he’s cute. I personally think the strongest love stories are the ones that start with friendship, so I suspect/hope that Jane and Billy are destined for each other.

Trish Milburn’s first book in the new Coven trilogy, White Witch, will be available soon from Bell Bridge Books. It’s the story of Jax Pherson, a dark witch on the run from her coven because she wants nothing more than to live a normal life as a normal teenage girl. Trish previously published two YA titles under the name Tricia Mills, Heartbreak River and Winter Longing.

You can learn more about Trish by visiting her website, checking her out on Facebook, and on Twitter

Thanks so much for stopping by, Trish! I must admit I loved me some Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate about You and Julia Stiles is great in everything she does.  

Okay, now it's your turn, gentle readers. Are you a fan of either of these types of romances? What is it about them that you think makes them work so well?



Monday, February 13, 2012

Teen lover...where are you?

Happy Monday, everyone! It's Melissa, and I have the pleasure of introducing our next topic: what we've learned from our experiences with teenage love.

But first I want to thank you for all the congratulations and sweet comments left in response to Friday's post. I feel very loved. And don't forget you still have until February 17th to win a copy of DEVIL'S KISS. (By the way, I've finished reading, and it's a-maaaa-zing.) So scroll down to this post and leave your email addy among the comments. Good luck!

Okay, now back to the topic of...

YOUNG LOVE!

Ah, l'amour. Of all my teenage experiences, first love is probably what I miss the least, because it was hella painful. Who doesn't remember the ache of unrequited affections? And even if the boy of your dreams loved you back, it was bound to end--usually with the whole school looking on, chattering excitedly about who dumped who. (Or at least that's how it felt.) Then after the breakup, there was the pressure to snag another date before he did, so as not to look like a giant loooooser. Yeah, like I said, I don't miss that.

As I'd mentioned in a previous post, I was a late bloomer. Thanks to a rigidly religious upbringing, I wasn't allowed to start dating until I was sixteen. So my first boyfriend, Derek, was also my first love, my first kiss, my first heartbreak, and most importantly, my guinea pig.

Poor Derek. I had NO clue how to communicate with the boy. The feelings I had for him were so overwhelming and scary that no matter how many times I rehearsed the words, I could never manage to shake them off my tongue while in his presence. Seriously, we barely spoke. He talked, I listened, and we kissed a lot. A whole lot. And when conflict arose between us, (usually in the form of another girl), I responded by breaking up with him instead of initiating dialogue.

Over the course of the school year, we probably broke up and reconciled five times. It was nutters. After eight or nine months of on-again, off-again lovin', we split for good and he quickly wound up with another girl...one who wasn't afraid to talk to him. Though I never let it show, it killed me to watch them together, and it took years before I could honestly say I didn't care about him anymore. (sniffle, sniffle)

So, what did I learn from my first experience with love? Losing Derek to a chattier woman taught me not to be a Wussy McFraidypants. To speak up! To air my grievances and ask for what I want! It was a lesson that served me well, though it took several years and a little trial and error to find my voice.

You'll be happy to know that I have zero problems asserting myself in a relationship now. Just ask my husband, who thinks I'm bossy. I may have drifted a bit too far in the other direction, but that's okay. Because people who ask for what they want are more likely to get what they want, and Melissa Landers is a doormat no more!

Now it's your turn. What lessons did you learn from your first love?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Melissa's big news...and another GIVEAWAY!

Happy Friday, everyone! It's Melissa, and I have wonderful news to share.

If you read this interview with agent Nicole Resciniti last week, you know she sold my YA sci-fi. At the time, we weren't able to disclose the deets, but now that the deal's been posted on Publisher's Marketplace, I'm free to tell you ALIENATED has sold to Disney Hyperion in a two-book deal!

Isn't that awesome? Woohoo! I told you Nicole's a superhero.

If you'd like to read more, I posted in greater detail on my blog, The Unrepentant Escapist. While you're over there, feel free to give me a "follow" as I'm going to start giving away Hyperion titles to celebrate my 2013 debut! I'm going to kick off the first giveaway right now on Honestly YA, but each one afterwards will happen on The Escapist.

If you'd like to win a copy of Sarwat Chadda's DEVIL'S KISS, just follow these simple instructions:

1. Be a follower of this blog. (Click the blue button on the upper right-hand side of the page that says "Join this site.")


2. Leave a comment to this post and include your contact information. (yourname (at) email (dot) com). I promise not to use your email for any purpose other than contacting you if you win.

3. Due to the high cost of international shipping, this giveaway is only open to US residents. By participating, you agree to the rules set forth on our contest disclaimer page.

4. That's it! The contest closes next Friday, February 17th, at 5pm EST. At that time, I'll assign each comment a number and use random.org to choose the winner. If the winner doesn't respond within 48 hours, I'll choose another winner, and so on.

Thanks for letting me share my wonderful news with you, and best of luck!

~Melissa

PS: I'm about halfway through DEVIL'S KISS, and it's an action-packed page turner. I can't put it down!!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Welcome Wednesday: Erica O'Rourke's High School Regret

There’s a fabulous song by the Austin/Chicago band Poi Dog Pondering that I was a huge fan of during high school, and to be honest, my enthusiasm for it hasn’t dimmed a whit in the intervening years. “Thanksgiving” is about the idea that you should be grateful for your past mistakes, because the bad decisions and regrettable incidents are what brought you to the place you are now.

“Would our paths cross if every great loss had turned out our gain?
Would our paths cross if the pain it had cost us was paid in vain?”


My teenage years were certainly a plethora of mistakes, from school to friends to guys. Some were annoying or inconvenient, and some were substantial and mind-bogglingly bad. But every single one of them set me on a specific path, and that path has led me here: married to a wonderful man, mother to three beautiful girls, rich in friends and family, and a published author. If that sounds too perky to be real, rest assured I have challenges and troubles. But they’re minor in the grand scheme of things. By and large, I’m incredibly fortunate to be living this life, and I have watched Back to the Future too many times to wish any part of my past away.



That being said, I do have one regret. And in true writerly fashion, I force Mo, the heroine of The Torn Trilogy, to face it in every book. It’s the decision to act or retreat. To choose what is safe and familiar over what is frightening and unknown. I don’t regret the things I did in high school; I regret not doing more. Not taking chances. It was always easier to play it safe – to not speak up for what was right, to not tell the boy I had a crush on how I felt, to not try out for the school play – than it was to take a big risk and put myself out there. Looking back, I wish I’d risked spectacular failure more often.

By design, Mo is a character who is happiest when she is observing. She was happy to let her best friend take the spotlight while she looked on. And when Verity dies, Mo is faced with two paths: to grieve her friend and continue her safe, sheltered existence or to risk everything – her life and her future and her heart – to find out the truth. At every turn, she has to make that decision again. Sometimes the gamble pays off, and she learns something crucial or enjoys a moment of victory. Sometimes she pays a terrible, terrible cost. But each time Mo takes a chance, she learns more about who she is and what she’s made of. It’s a difficult lesson, but an essential one.

I wish I’d known earlier that I would regret the things I didn’t do far, far more than the things I did. What’s a chance you wish you had taken, way back when?



Erica O’Rourke is the award-winning author of TORN and TANGLED,both available now. The conclusion to The Torn Trilogy, BOUND, will be published this summer. She lives outside of Chicago, where she drinks too much coffee and takes too few naps. To learn more, follow her on Twitter: @Erica_ORourke or visit her blog: www.ericaorourke.typepad.com





GIVEAWAY ALERT: As a special treat, Erica is giving away a copy of TORN and a copy of TANGLED to one lucky follower. How awesome is that? So how can you win?

1. Be a follower of this blog. (Click the blue button on the upper right-hand side of the page that says "Join this site.")

2. Leave a comment to this post and include your contact information. (yourname (at) email (dot) com).

3. Due to the prohibitive cost of international shipping, prize winners who are not US residents will receive electronic versions of the giveaway book. By participating, you agree to the rules set forth on the contest disclaimer page.

4. That's it! The contest closes Friday, February 10th, at midnight EST. At that time, we'll assign each comment a number and use random.org to choose the winner. If the winner doesn't respond within 48 hours, we'll choose another winner, and so on.
Good luck!

Monday, February 6, 2012

I was a Teenage Gutless Wonder

Here we are, at the end of another topic cycle. I'll admit it, I was a gutless wonder.  It's my High School Regret.


First let me clarify—I’m not talking about a general lack of guts, or what some people would call boldness or chutzpah. Because in many ways, I had that in spades. For example, I could get up in front of a theatre full of people and sing and act my heart out. I wasn’t afraid to speak up in class, make friends or date boys. The types of guts I’m talking about are kind that give you the strength to assert yourself; the fortitude to know your own mind and desires, and stick up for yourself when it counts. I didn’t have that. Not for a good many years.

Babyface McShortstuff was adorable. Blond, freckle-faced and be-spectacled, he made me smile the first time I met him. I was in the tenth grade, he the ninth. Witty, mischievous and cool, he wasn’t embarrassed to be in chorus, vocal jazz, and the drama club. And he made me laugh. We’d get together each week with a few other friends to watch Moonlighting and I secretly swore we were the real life (and much younger) version of David and Maddie. Because we bickered and teased each other just like they did. And we were secretly in love.

Sounds awesome, right? We must have dated and had a sweet teen romance. Yeah, not so much. And it was all my fault. The problem: he was shorter than me. By a lot. And that’s saying something because I’m vertically challenged myself—just five-foot-two. Anyway, my parents were vicious in their jabs about how short and immature he was. Surely I wouldn’t waste my time on such a little idiot, right? I was far too grown-up for him and, really, why would I want to be with such a tiny boy? I could do better with someone else. Preferably someone taller. Because no girl wants to be the Cher who looks down at her Sonny.

If my parents thought this, surely the rest of the school would too, right? Doubtful, but I let myself believe it anyway. Overwhelmed with fear about dating an infantile pipsqueak, I shoved my feelings for him deep down into my gut and swallowed them. Over and over again. Because Babyface and I shared this revolving cycle of on-again, off-again hots for two years. Imagine my surprise when he waltzed into school on the first day of his junior year—my senior year—having experienced the growth spurt that had eluded him for so long. He was six feet tall. And gorgeous. And it was too late for me. Because there were a ton of other girls who wanted him now and I didn’t stand up for him—or myself—when it mattered.

It took me a while and a whole lot of growing up (figuratively, not literally) to finally learn to be decisive and assert myself. Part of that is the natural maturation process I’m sure. But I did learn. Only a few years later I met my future husband and despite my parents’ reservations about getting serious so young, I forged ahead with what my heart told me was right. I’m happy to say we’ll celebrate our twentieth anniversary this summer.

I try to keep these and other life lessons in mind when I write. In Conjure, the first book in The Hoodoo Apprentice series debuting October 2012, the heroine, Emma Guthrie starts off shy and introverted, afraid to stake a claim on the hero, Cooper Beaumont, even though she’s been crushing on him for a year. But things change when they unearth a cursed pirate treasure and an ancient Gullah hex threatens the people she loves the most. To save them, Emma finds her voice and discovers untapped strength, and maybe even a little romance, with the much taller Cooper. 


~Lea


Lea Nolan can be found at her website, on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.  She is represented by the astonishingly fantastic Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.  


So what about you, gentle readers? Did you ever regret letting something as dumb as a guy's height keep you from pursuing true-for-now love? What potential "faults" did you find in your own Babyface McShortstuff? Throw me a bone, people, I hope I'm not the only one to be such a dummy!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Agent Interview: Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency


Happy Friday, gentle readers! Melissa here, and I'm thrilled to share an interview with my literary agent, Nicole Resciniti, (who also reps Lea, Lorie, and Carey.)

Working with Nicole has been a dream, and I can't recommend her highly enough. When I signed with her, I had two completed manuscripts under my belt...and she sold them both. If that's not enough to convince you she's a superhero, she's also a master brainstormer, a Mensa member, a top-notch editor, and a genuinely wonderful human being. I feel very blessed to have found Nicole, and I'm thankful she took the time to answer my questions today.

Enjoy, and I hope this is helpful.


1. We keep hearing how crowded the YA market is. How can aspiring YA authors ensure their work stands out from the masses?

YA is becoming increasingly more crowded. Seasoned adult authors are trying their hand at the younger market and more and more aspiring authors want to write in this genre. What does this mean for you? It means you need to seriously stand out from everyone else. Don’t do something that has been done before. Don’t chase trends (by the time they’re identified, they’ve passed). Don’t try to emulate someone else. Keep it fun and fresh. Tighten your writing as much as possible so that your voice pops off the page.

What do I mean by voice, that illusive, undefinable quality that we’re all looking for? Well, it’s easier to show by example than to explain. For sake of clarity, your “voice” is your unique way of telling a story. It is a reflection of YOU. Your thoughts, beliefs, background. It conveys a tone (dark, humorous, sarcastic, light). It is a calling card of sorts, because it identifies you as an author.

For those of you reading this blog, let me tell you something about Melissa Landers, one of the contributors. She has a FANTASTIC voice. I’m not saying that to blow sunshine into any nether regions. It’s a fact. It’s the reason I signed her as quickly as my little fingers could dial her number. It’s also the reason why she’s now writing for two NY publishing houses. Here’s the excerpt from her YA. This is literally the paragraph that told me ‘I want this! I will sell this!’ and I did, to Disney. Here’s a little peek at ALIENATED, coming from Disney Hyperion in 2013:

       Winning. Cara Sweeny had made it her business, and business was good. Honor Society president? Check. Young leader award? Check. Debate champion, two years running? Double check. And when the much-coveted title of valedictorian had eluded her, she’d found a way to snag that, too.
       Over the summer, she’d staged an academic ambush of such epic proportions, Midtown High’s geek-elite were still chewing their pencils in shock. Sneaky as a senator, she’d retaken Honors Calculus, raised her grade from 92 to 100, and usurped Marcus Toole as valedictorian. Her stealth attack had caught him with his Hanes down, and unless her grades tanked this year—which was so not going to happen—the sulking loser had no chance of reclaiming his title.

I mean, how awesome is that? I get a clear picture of this character, how she thinks, a little taste of her personality and attitude. And it’s fun. I found myself smiling as I read. That is a big secret of hooking an editor/agent—cause a visceral reaction. If we laugh/cry/shudder/smile/become afraid, you have physically made us FEEL something, and that means we’re totally immersed in your manuscript. Look at your opening chapter. Is the writing tight? Does your voice pop off the page? Do you make the reader FEEL?

2. What are some traits you look for in an “ideal” client? How do you know when the agent-client partnership is a good fit?

I’m married to my clients. It’s a polygamous relationship, but I love them all and talk to them frequently. We discuss ways to market/edit/promote their projects. As in a good marriage, communication is the key. As an agent, I am invested in my authors and their projects. I’m not looking for one-and-done. I want to build a career alongside my authors. A good fit is someone who is equally committed to succeeding. This business requires a lot of time, effort, and dedication.

3. Speaking of ideal traits, I’d crossed a few agents off my ‘to-query’ list after reading their mean-spirited tweets. Compassion and professionalism are important to me. What other traits do you think writers should keep in mind when deciding who to query?

I’m glad you mentioned the mean-spirited tweets. All authors should be very careful about what they tweet/blog/say online. The internet is vast and you never know who is reading. Editors WILL check the blogs/tweets/facebook of an author they are considering. I do too. If someone is unprofessional, I prefer not to work with them.

When querying, an author should look for an agent who shares their ideals, who represents the kind of book they write, and someone who will be a true advocate of their work. In this very saturated market, you need someone who will fight for your projects.

4. Is there anything on your current wish list? Anything you’re not interested in seeing at this time?

I am actively looking for more YA/MG and more romance. I would LOVE to find more UF/sci-fi/fantasy—with a fresh premise. I can’t say there is anything that I don’t want to see because if the voice is really great, I’ll consider it.

5. As an agent, you probably deal with more rejection than anyone. Do you have any tips on helping writers thicken their skins when faced with the dreaded, “Thanks, but no thanks”?

I DO get a lot of rejections. A whole lot. Remember, it only takes one offer, and what doesn’t sit well with one editor, another might love. This is a very subjective industry. When receiving a rejection, reflect on the ways that you can improve your manuscript. If you’re in the querying stages and you aren’t getting any requests, then you need to rethink your query letter. If you’re querying and receiving requests for the partials/fulls but no offers from an agent/editor, then you’ll want to look at the novel again and evaluate the possible pitfalls that are holding you back. Most aspiring authors simply make the mistake of sending out something prematurely. Try to wait until the book is polished and the best it can be before submitting. If you don’t belong to a critique group, you need to join one. Above all, keep writing. With each book, with every new page you type, your craft will improve. NEVER give up. With enough hard work, every author can make their publishing dream a reality.

Another big thank you to Nicole for answering my questions. You can find out more about Nicole at the Seymour Agency's website and also on querytracker.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I TURNED HIM DOWN...

 
I couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth. For three and a half years, I’d had a secret crush on this boy, and now he was asking me out.

We’d been recess buddies throughout Middle School. Every afternoon we’d walk around the playground making jokes about Ross Perot, Liz Taylor and “The National Enquire.” His braces made him spit when he talked. I wore my bangs pushed up in a way that only lasted until third period before gravity won the battle over hairspray.

We weren’t exactly social elite.

But now, we were in high school. The rules changed over the summer. And he was sitting in front of me, turned around in his desk, asking me to go with him to the Christmas Dance.

Me, the chubby girl whose glasses took up half her face, was being asked out by the only boy I’d hoped would.

I turned him down.

I don’t remember what I saidrecently my mother reminded me that I made an excuse about not being able to afford a nice dressbut I do remember the look on his face as he turned back around in his seat, embarrassed, never to turn around again.

That was almost 20 years ago. Today my reasons sound so pale, so hollow but it all felt so real then. I had two sisters, all practically the same age, and going out with a boy was uncharted territory for any of us. If I went first, I foresaw a future of endless, relentless, jealous teasing. Not the jovial kind that makes you red in the face but leaves you feeling loved. This was the epic, teenage girl “I hate you” kind that puts you in tight-fisted tears, heaving from the gut in a bathroom stall. The fear of it was so powerful that my refusal and the accompanying lie were out of my mouth before I could stuff them back in.

As soon as I said no I wished he’d ask me again so I could change my answer. But he never did. Not just that day; my playground pal never spoke to me again.
As an adolescent, I regretted losing my best friend. As an adult, I regret more that I had hurt him.

I don’t know if the truth would have made him feel any better than the lie. But I do know that he deserved the truth. And the full truth that I’d loved him secretly for years...?

Well, doesn’t every fourteen-year old deserve to know that someone loves you for who you are, awkward braces and all?

Bea and Ben from The Dreamer

These days I favor honesty to a fault. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable. We’re so used to living in a society of little white lies that little white truths can feel abrasive.

But they can be oh so liberating, as well.

People look at what I’ve accomplished and have their own expectations of what that means. But when they ask me questions about my success, I tell the truth. And they don’t always like it.

I had those same starry-eyed, rosy-cheeked misconceptions before I was published. And if only someone had told me the truth up front, I could have avoided a lot of heartache. But we all want to look successful and work hard to keep those fragile parts of us secret. Those parts that dream too big, want too deep, fear too hard are often the best parts of us, but are the parts we work hardest to conceal.

It wasn’t until I became a professional myself that other professionals began to speak candidly to me about their circumstances. We were all having similar experiences. But no one was honest with me until I was already “in the club.”

It was some comfort to me then to know I wasn’t alone. But it would’ve been a lifesaver to know before.

Today, I’ve been accused of being overly bleak when I talk about making a living as a writer. Sure, there’s the overnight success storythe American Idol tale. It’s certainly the better story. It’s the one people want to tell. The one they want to hear. The one they make movies about.

But it’s not the story that most of us live. It certainly hasn’t been my life. So if you want to hear from me, saddle up, cowgirl, because I’ve had to cross a few deserts to get where I’m at.

I don’t know if the truth will make aspiring authors feel any better than the lie. But I do know that they deserve the truth. Yes, it’s brutal. It’s exasperating. It’s exhausting. It’s unforgiving, unkind, but utterly, undeniably... alive.

And the full truth is...? I love my life as a writer, awkward braces and all.

Reader Question: What secret, hidden, vulnerable parts of you have you been reluctant to share? How can being honest about those things improve your writing? Can you put any of that into a character to make them more real and relatable to your readers?

Author Bio: Lora Innes’s romantic, time-travel adventure comic about the Revolutionary War, The Dreamer (IDW Publishing), has been nominated for three Harvey Awards, a CYBILS Award, and is the recipient of the S.P.A.C.E. Prize. The Dreamer Volume 1 is now in its second printing, and Volume 2 was released in November 2011. You can read the comic online at www.thedreamercomic.com where it updates twice weekly.


In addition to The Dreamer, Innes co-hosts the Paper Wings Podcast, an educational show for aspiring comic creators. www.paperwingspodcast.com

Currently she is writing and producing three graphic novel tie-ins for the upcoming Civil War television mini-series, To Appomattox, starring Rob Lowe, Will Patton, William Peterson, and Richard Dreyfuss. The first of Innes’s books will release in conjunction with the show’s airing, spring of 2013. http://www.toappomattox.com/Home.html