Friday, May 31, 2013

Quotes and Cookies: Am I really a writer?


I'm in the middle of a really tough round of revisions. Let's just say I needed this today. Anyone else?

And cookies. Yes, cookies. I'm sure we could use some cookies.

photo credit: Curtis McCormick via photopin cc

In fact, want even more cookies? My sweet hubby sent me this link for COOKIE WALLPAPER. How great is that? You should definitely check it out. (Especially the ones with M&Ms and the Oreos. They're both made of happiness.)

Have a fabulous weekend!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing Middle Grade: It needs SCARINESS!

Last Monday, I said that there are 5 things that, if you have them in your MG novel (or any other, really!), it will make the story more satisfying. Last week, I talked about Humor. Today, it's all about scaring your reader!

Photo credit: 4GIFs.com
(Take a moment to just sit and watch the baby. It'll make your life better. Doesn't it just kill you? Hahahaha! I could watch this for hours! Okay, maybe we should get back to the subject now.

Or in one more second...)

Ahem. You can add a little or a lot of scary to your novel. Just like every other element, some kids want more than others. As a general rule, though, every kid will appreciate some.


“I did funny books before Goosebumps, and then when I wrote my first scary book, it was an immediate, number-one bestseller. I started going to schools asking kids why they liked my books, and they told me it was because they liked being frightened. So I listened to them, and I've been scaring every since.”

~R. L. Stine


Of course, not every kid likes to be scared the way R. L. Stine scares kids. But if you’re not writing a scary book, you can still add scary elements without putting it in the realm of horror for kids.

Ways to add scariness:

With a creepy setting. Details as simple as a dark night, tree branches looking like grabbing arms, hearing a sound in a house when you’re alone, a pop quiz, a spider/snake/moth/preying mantis can add scariness. If you are writing horror (i.e. Goosebumps), then make your scary settings more prevalent. If you’re writing something lighter, make them fewer.

With Cliffhangers. These, of course, add the most scariness when you can change POV right after, so the cliffhanger isn’t immediately resolved. But even if it is resolved at the beginning of the next chapter, it can definitely can get a kid to read on when they might have otherwise not!

With suspense. Anytime you make your characters worry about what might happen, and then don’t have it resolved soon so they have to keep worrying (and the reader has to keep worrying), it’ll add scariness.

Running from a foe. Especially if the setting is getting more and more dangerous as they run. And as much as it seems every-horror-movie-ever-made, people actually do fall down more when they’re scared. All function is poured into large motor skills. Between that and the adrenaline, an uneven terrain makes it a bit harder to stay upright.

Ways NOT to add scariness:

Stay away from gore. Most kids cringe at gore. Teachers, librarians, and parents (the people who actually do the bulk of the MG book buying) cringe about a billion times more. It’ll hurt you every time.

And just remember that the reader doesn’t want to know what will happen— they want to worry about what might happen.

So how do you come up with ways to scare your reader? One way is to look at common childhood fears, and think about how you can use them in your book.

Common Childhood Fears:

Being late for school
Snakes and spiders
Finding out you're adopted
Storms and natural disasters
Someone in the family becoming ill or dying
Being home alone
Being alone in the dark
The house burning down
Fear of a teacher who's angry
School problems
Injury, illness, doctors, shots, or death– for themselves or someone they love
Fear of failure and rejection
Animals
Being followed by a stranger
Being kidnapped

You can use any of these things to small or large degrees to add scariness to your story. If your story is more light, you can go with the more light fears. Like being late for school or knowing that no one is going to be home when they leave school. And how much emphasis you put on each of these, and the characters reactions to them will make a big difference on how scary it is to your reader, especially if you set up the character's fear. I'm not afraid of snakes in the least, but if you sneak up on me with a picture of a spider, I cannot be held responsible for the amount of damage I will inflict on bystanders in my effort to get away. The point is, reading about snakes in a story isn't going to scare me, but if I know it will really scare the character, I'll be empathatically scared. Just keep your target audience in mind when choosing how big to go with the scariness. Kids who pick up a book because they know it will be scary want a lot more scariness than kids who pick up a book because it's going to make them laugh.

One thing to be wary of when writing scariness into a scene:

Unfulfilled plot promises. Especially if what you’re writing is not a plot point. For example, let’s take being followed by a stranger. If it’s a plot point, go ahead and make it as scary as is right for the book. If it’s not, and you have your character constantly hearing something behind them, turning to see a shadow, hearing a foot scuff, etc. and then you DON’T have there be a stranger following them, the reader will feel cheated. If you just want to set a scary mood and to amp up the scary tension, don’t make as big of a deal about it, and use distractions. For example, they could hear someone behind them and worry they are being followed, but when they turn, they see nothing. Then they hear a sound from another direction. Then a cat running across their path, etc. All those things will distract the reader from thinking that you are setting something up plot-wise, but will add to the ambiance.

Do you naturally put scariness into your story, or is it something you have to go back in and add later?

Next up, we'll talk MYSTERY!!

And just out of sheer curiosity which freaks you out more? Snakes or spiders?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kidlit authors come together for massive giveaway to raise money for Oklahoma disaster

I'm sure you've all heard about the massive devastation left in the wake of an F5 hurricane in Oklahoma. 1300 people area left without homes, and they need all the help they can get.

A massive group of debut kidlit authors joined forces from the Lucky 13s, The Enchanted Inkpot, and Friday the Thirteeners for an incredible giveaway. If you donate $10 to the Red Cross, you get an entry in the giveaway. For each additional $10 you donate, you get an additional entry. And the prizes? Ohmygosh, the prizes are AMAZING. Check this out.

One person will win this YA Readers pack:


One person will win this YA Readers pack:


One person will win this MG Readers pack:


One person will win this Ink Pot pack:


One person will win this Friday the Thirteeners pack:


And 17 people will each win one of these critiques:

Kara Taylor - 3 chapter and query critique
Liz Fichera - Query Critique
Brandy Colbert - 3 chapter critique
Chelsea Pitcher - 2 chapter critique
Sara Polsky - 3 chapter and query critique
Lisa Gail Green - 10 page critique
Kelly Fiore - Query Critique
Liesl Shurtliff - 3 chapter and query critique
Kit Grindstaff - YA or MG 2 chapter critique
April Tucholke - Query critique
Alexandra Duncan - 50 page critique
Mindee Arnett - 5 page and query critique
Christy Farley - 3 chapter and query critique
Natalie Whipple - 10 page critique
Renee Collins - Query and 10 page critique
Lenore Appelhans - 1 chapter critique of a YA MS
Erica Lorraine - Query or 1 chapter critique of a YA MS

Isn't that incredible? If you donate, not only will you get a chance to win one of these drool-worthy prizes, but you will be HELPING PEOPLE WHO, IN A VERY BIG WAY, REALLY NEED YOU. For more info on how to donate and how to enter, please click here to go to The Lucky 13s post about Kidlit Authors for the Oklahoma Disaster.

And if you're willing, please share! These people could really use all the help we can muster. Post about it on facebook, tweet about it (using hashtag #KidlitforOKRelief), blog about it (you are more than welcome to cut and paste all or parts of my post if you'd like, or use any of the images here for your own posts), tell your friends-- whatever! (In whatever way you decide to help, you can refer people to this link: http://thelucky13s.blogspot.com/2013/05/kidlit-authors-for-oklahoma-disaster.html)

Feel free to scroll back up and drool at the level of awesome (a total of 53 books, many with swag, and 17 critiques!!) being donated before you click away.  

Quotes and Cookies: Failing... And succeeding


“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot...and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that's precisely why I succeed.”

~Michael Jordan


So... you're saying, MJ, that you have to keep taking shots? And that those who are really successful keep taking A WHOLE FREAKING LOT of shots, and even when they fail, they keep taking more and more shots?

And that keeping taking shots no matter how many times you fail is the key to succeeding?

Thanks for putting it into perspective, Michael.

Here. Have a cookie.

It's a slam-dunk, just for you.

photo credit: hjhipster via photopin cc

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jenn Johansson: Top Ten Things You Could Say to Make Someone Think You're a Psycho Stalker

Guess who's here with me today? The fabulous J.R. Johansson! Welcome, welcome, Jenn! You and I have gone to a lot of the same conferences. That's probably how we first met, right?

Jenn: Yes...although the fact that it's a blur for both of us makes me wonder if we've just always known each other. ;-)

Peggy: I think probably what initially drew me to you was your copper curls and the I'm-not-a-stalker vibe you exuded. Which is amazing, considering the stalking that goes on in your books!

Jenn: Yes...I try to keep the stalking in public to a minimum. It's the hiding in the bushes in private that I really get my stalking vibe on. No, I actually fail at stalking. I'd get caught immediately. Watching Veronica Mars makes me wish I was better at being sneaky.

Peggy: In my other life, I am a ninja. But to really go full-on stalker, I'm going to need a few pointers. Hiding in bushes... check. Don't get caught... check. Be sneaky.... check. But what should I say?

Jenn's Top 10: Things A Stalker Would Say:

10 – Your hair reminds me of the dolls I used to set on fire.
9 – I liked the outfit you bought yesterday at 7:32pm.
8 – You are so much like this other girl I used to follow.
7 – You look cute when you sleep.
6 – I can seeee yooouuuu…
5 – I have pictures of you in every outfit, in case you can’t decide what to wear…
4 – If you want to come to my place, I can show you my restraining order collection.
3 – I’m always here for you, especially when you can’t see me.
2 – Any line of lyrics from ‘Every Breath You Take’ by the Police
And…straight out of Insomnia…
1 – My addiction is you.

Peggy: Hahahaha! Thanks, Jenn! You just totally made my day! And do you know what else made my day? That one time you let me be a stop on your ARC tour, and I got to read INSOMNIA. It sucked me in and pulled me at a break-neck speed every step of the way. Sigh. That rocked a lot.

Her eyes saved his life. Her dreams released his darkness.

After four years of sleeplessness, high school junior Parker Chipp can’t take much more. Every night, instead of sleeping, he enters the dreams of the last person he’s made eye contact with. If he doesn’t sleep soon, Parker will die.

Then he meets Mia. Her dreams, calm and beautifully uncomplicated, allow him blissful rest that’s utterly addictive. But what starts out as a chance meeting turns into an obsession; Parker’s furious desire for what he needs pushes him to extremes he never thought he’d go. And when someone begins terrorizing Mia with twisted death threats, Parker’s memory blackouts leave him doubting his own innocence.

And the amazing, awesome thing is, Jenn's doing an incredible preorder giveaway! If you order the book now, you can enter to win a NookHD 16GB with a case (a mother-of-all-prizes worth $250!!).

Here's some of the places where you can pre-order INSOMNIA:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


J.R. JOHANSSON is a young adult thriller author published with Flux and FSG/Macmillan. Her debut, INSOMNIA is coming June 2013. She has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. When she's not writing, she loves reading, playing board games, and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time. She has two young sons and a wonderful husband. In fact, other than her cat, Cleo, she's nearly drowning in testosterone.



Peggy: To thank you for joining us today, Jenn, I have your favorite-- peanut butter cookies!! *passes plate*

Jenn: If you give me plates of cookies, I may have to start stalking you...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Middle Grade: It needs HUMOR!

I taught a presentation at a conference a week ago about writing middle grade. I've had a lot of people ask if I would post some of the information from my presentation here. It's a ton of information, though, so I decided to do a MG Needs feature. Each Monday for the next while, I'll talk about some of the things a MG novel needs to be most satisfying to the reader, and cover all the same stuff that I covered in my presentation. With me? Let's start!

Let’s say you love salty food. When given the choices of food, you always go for the salty ones. Like dumplings with soy sauce. When you sit down for a meal, do you usually only want salty foods on your plate? Or do you like a little variety in your sides and dessert?

photo credit: haleysuzanne via photopin cc

The Chinese have a theory that there are five different elements of flavors— sweet, spicy, bitter, salty, sour. And that if you have each of these five elements in a meal, it will leave you much more satisfied than when ones are missing. Certainly more satisfied than if you have just one element.

photo credit: wEnDaLicious via photopin cc

Books are the same way. A kid might like mystery, for example, but that doesn’t mean he/she wants mystery as the only element in the book. A book will be more satisfying when it has the five elements that kids crave. Your book will likely have one of these five that's more prevalent. But just like everything else— if you get too much of anything, it becomes monotonous. Your book needs a break from the main genre that it is to slip in another element when it’s appropriate to make it more fulfilling.

I'll talk about each of the five--- one each Monday. Today it's...... HUMOR!!

Photo credit: gifbin.com

(Is this dog impressive, or what? He cracks me up every time!)

Scientists say that the fact that we laugh and that we want to laugh does two things: It helps us to bond with people, and to lessen tension and anxiety. Two things that are VERY important in MG fiction. We want our readers to bond with characters (which will in turn help the reader bond with you as the author). And at key points, like right after an intense scene or even during a stressful scene, we want to lessen tension and anxiety.

So let's talk about the kinds of humor kids like. They like:

Malapropisms
(misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound).
  • “He had to use a fire distinguisher.”
  • “Dad says the monster is just a pigment of my imagination.”
  • “He's a wolf in cheap clothing.”
  • “Don't is a contraption”
Non-sequiturs
(a statement containing an illogical conclusion).
  • “Sleeping in a tinfoil suit keeps me warmer and helps prepare me for my voyage to the moon. Would you care for some licorice?” -- Jarod Kintz
Things that are out of place.

The rule of three works particularly well with kids this age.
(Especially when you do it with things that are out of place)
  • Paper, pencils, and a penguin
Things that are taboo.
(Which is one of the reasons that books like Captain Underpants are so popular.)

Words with the K or the G sound.
So if you are making up words or names and want to add humor, try to use those sounds in the word, and it will make it inherently more funny.

MG kids don’t usually get written sarcasm.
Some kids, if they don’t grow up with moms like me, might not get it at all. I try to make sure my kids are growing up well-versed in sarcasm, but even kids this age who do grow up with those kinds of advantages ;) don’t usually get written sarcasm.

People like characters with a good sense of humor. So if you want a reader to dislike a certain character, then get rid of their sense of humor. You can take humor away from your bad guy, but that’s not really what I’m saying. For example, Dr. Doofenshmirtz on Phineas and Ferb: he brings a LOT of humor. But we aren’t meant to dislike him. Take humor away from any character that your MC doesn’t like, and that you want the reader to dislike as well. Like the mean kid in school. Or an awful teacher. If you give them a sense of humor, your reader won’t be totally on your MC’s side when they dislike that character.

A book will always be more satisfying when it has some of each of the five elements that kids crave, and next up, we'll cover BEING SCARED! :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Quotes and Cookies: Of eggs and patience

LOVE this:

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it."

~Arnold H. Glasow

Which I'm pretty sure translates into writer-speak that you should edit your book instead of throwing it out the window when it's giving you grief.

And then you can get the book version of this:

photo credit: Roger Smith via photopin cc

Something unique looking with awesome hair that everyone will Ooh! and Ahh! over. And who doesn't want that?

Just be warned that he/she will probably want a cookie. You better take two.

And then set about revising! And NOT throwing your manuscript out the window.

photo credit: scubadive67 via photopin cc

Have an awesome weekend, everyone!



P.S. Thank you so much to Neurotic Workaholic for the Liebster Award! I can guarantee my answers wouldn't be nearly as hilarious as hers were.

P.P.S. I'm at The League of Extraordinary Writers today, talking about using a sense of wonder in speculative fiction. Come hang out! Yes, you can definitely bring your cookie with you.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Storymakers!!

Tomorrow, I'm headed off to one of my very favorite conferences-- LDStorymakers. This is an incredible conference that so many fabulous agents attend every time. (My agent said it's her favorite conference she's ever been to.) And there is nothing like hanging out with hundreds of people who have the same obsessions interests that you do. If you've not been the conference-going type before, I highly recommend starting! It'll change your life. (Imagine me saying that in my most non-cheesy voice.)

Plus, I get to do a presentation! (Okay, so maybe I'm only 50% excited on this part, because the other 50% is filled with nervousness.) But but but! I get to talk about this:

Getting Inside the Head of a Middle Grade Kid. For anyone wishing they could jump into the head of an 8-12 year old to write MG, we’ll talk about the five elements kids crave in an MG novel, what kinds of things are most important to an MG protagonist, how to have your MG characters respond emotionally, and what your main character needs for MG readers to root for them.

And that kind of thrills me.

Especially because in my presentation, I get to use animated gifs. And just because I'm cool like that, here's a bonus one. (Well, that, and because they just make me laugh.)

http://gifs.gifbin.com/122010/tn_1291664377_camouflaged-cat.gif

Have you been to conferences before? If so, which is your favorite? If you're going to Storymakers, let me know! I want to make sure I see you.



Thank you once again to Deanie at Thoughts and Ideas from Deanie Humphrys-Dunne for awarding me the Shine On Award and the Super Sweet Award. Yum!

Monday, May 6, 2013

FRIDAY NIGHT ALIBI cover reveal!

Cassie Mae is a fun and awesome person, and I am thrilled to be a part of her cover reveal for her book that comes out in just 10 weeks! I love the premise of this book, and have heard so many great things about it. Without further ado, here's the brand-spanking-new cover!


FRIDAY NIGHT ALIBI
Written by Cassie Mae
Flirt | On sale July 29

Rising star Cassie Mae introduces New Adult readers to a practical soon-to-be college freshman who seems to have everything—until a special guy shows her what she’s been missing.
 
In the wealthy town of Sundale, Kelli Pinkins has hatched the perfect plan to capitalize on her sweet reputation. For a generous fee, she will be every trust-fund baby’s dream: a Friday-night alibi, the “girlfriend” or “BFF” that parents dream about. With college approaching in the fall, Kelli’s services are in demand more than ever, which means that her social life is nonexistent. But Kelli is A-okay with that. She’s raking in cash for school. Besides, relationships are tricky, and sometimes very messy. She’d rather be at home on Xbox LIVE, anyway. Then the unexpected happens: She meets college stud Chase Maroney.
 
Chase isn’t like the preppy, privileged guys Kelli usually meets in Sundale. For starters, he’s twenty something, always wears black., and he shoots back one-liners as fast as she can dish them out. But Kelli’s attempts to drive Chase away falter when she realizes that he treats her like he really knows her, like he cares about knowing her. When Kelli finally gives in to the delicious kiss she’s been fighting for so long, she faces a tough decision: make Chase a real-life boyfriend and risk her heart . . . or keep her clients and lose her first true love.



Advance praise for Friday Night Alibi

“Totally entertaining with as many swoon-worthy moments as hilarious ones, Friday Night Alibi is a must-read.”—Jolene Perry, co-author of Out of Play

“A fun, funny, and fantastic story, this is one you will read in a day, and pick up to re-read again the next.”—Kelley Lynn, author of Fraction of Stone


Pre-order Friday Night Alibi:

Amazon | Barnes &Noble | Google Play | Random House


Cassie Mae is a nerd to the core from Utah, who likes to write about other nerds who find love. Her angel children and perfect husband fan her and feed her grapes while she clacks away on the keyboard. Then she wakes up from that dream world and manages to get a few words on the computer while the house explodes around her. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with the youth in her community as a volleyball and basketball coach, or searching the house desperately for chocolate.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

First Pass Pages and News Alert: The hardback isn't dying!

Guess what? This is me, putting my very first First Pass Pages in the mail to send back to my editor. It may seem weird, considering it was edits, but I've been dying for this milestone! It's the first time my edits come looking bookish. With the title page, Library of Congress page, dedication, bio acknowledgements, correct fonts and layout and chapter titles-- everything! It's actually the first time I've read the book in six months, and one of the last times I'll see it before it's printed. It's a little strange to be in the middle of edits on book 2 and writing book 3, to go back to working on book 1. But it was also pretty cool to once again get grounded in what started it all.


Also, word to the wise: if you mail 300 pages and need it to get somewhere in two days, it costs somewhere around $10. If you mail it overnight, it costs somewhere around $45. Plan accordingly.

Not that I meet my deadlines at the very last moment or anything...

And in other news, I read an industry news article in Publisher's Weekly about MG & YA sales, and it had this graph.


People have been saying for the past while that hardcover books are on their way out. That they are going to be a thing of the past before too long. But check it out, peeps! SALES ROSE ON HARDCOVERS last year! And really, in nearly every category! And holy moley. Check out the rise in e-book sales. Incredible! People still want to buy books. And they still want hardcovers. And e-books like crazy. All is right in the world. (And if you don't believe me, stop doing things like watching the news, and come hang out with me in my protective bubble. There's rainbows and lollipops here. And occasionally unicorns.)

And a huge thank you to Deanie at Thoughts and Ideas from Deanie Humphrys-Dunne. She just awarded me the Liebster Award. Thanks, Deanie!