Friday, June 27, 2008

New Ideas

And then something like this happens.

The writing world is a strange strange place. You're working on one book, and then you get an idea for another. And then you get a bit obsessed with that idea. Suddenly you find yourself spending hours at the library doing research on this idea, and hours at home writing pages on this idea . . .

The brain is a vast and mysterious place my friends.

All this to say, I'm sorry I've been MIA this week . . . but honestly, I'm pretty excited about all this!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Rules . . .

A couple posts ago I wrote about how agent/editor blogs can confuse authors because of all the different and sometimes opposing advice they offer.

Jessica Faust at BookEnds has just written an excellent entry on the subject of rules and writing and stuff like that today. And she basically says what I've said, you have to take what works for you, don't try to be all things to all people, and to most importantly be thoughtful and professional. However, she not only writes more in depth about the whole subject, but she's also an agent so has more of an inside scoop than I ever will.

If you have the inclination, check it out!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Timothy excerpt

And another post! What's up with this girl?!

But first let us crown the King of Awesomeness, Jandroos, for his amazing "spot the differences" prowess! All hail King Jandroos of Awesomeness!

Another quickie show and tell:

Just for those who are curious, you can read the first two chapters of Timothy over at Scholastic Canada. So yeah, just so's y'all know! (Really hope you guys like it, seriously, it's like I never had Alex published, all the nerves are just as fresh this time around!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Alex the Paperback

Quick show and tell.

Alex is coming out in paperback (August in the States, and the fall in Canada), and I just got the cover from my publishers. It's not that different, but different enough that I wanted to share with you guys! In fact I thought we could play a little game called "spot the differences" where you guys can . . . spot the differences . . . between this and the hardcover version. The winner wins my unending respect and title of King/Queen of Awesomeness.

Enjoy! (btw, the title and my name I believe will be in foil - ooh shiny!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Book Expo Canada

Had a wonderful two days at Book Expo here in Toronto! Seriously awesome, and way more eventful than my hour long meander last year through the stalls.

On Sunday I met up with the lovely Lesley, along with authors Danielle Younge-Ullman and Tish Cohen (and Lesley's friend Shiraz who was there to pitch this awesome 3-D video game thing as well as his very cool MG fantasy book). We met at the top of the escalators to the Expo . . . and then went out to lunch.



Then we returned to the Expo where we agreed to meet at the Penguin booth at 2pm for the champagne thingy (Penguin is Danielle's publisher), and Lesley and I went off to interview Robert J Sawyer for Hardcore Nerdity. Well Lesley did the interviewing, I just listened. It was a great one, and will be up online soon.

With some time on our hands we then wandered over to the Harper Collins booth, where Lesley was greeted like the star she is, seriously, her book Wondrous Strange is going to be huge (I'm allowed to say that Lesley . . . it's okay)! EVERYONE at the booth had heard of the book, or read it, and were SO excited to meet her.

Finally we made it back over to the Penguin table where we had mimosas and the place got rather overcrowded. We met up with Chris Szego from Bakka-Phoneix Books (a fab SF bookstore here in Toronto), and I interviewed her about current trends in the market for genre work (again for the website). Next on our list was Kelly Armstrong, who Lesley interviewed, and I wandered off with Tish and Shiraz to see Danielle give a reading at the presentation stage. She did very well. But she's also an actress, so it comes very naturally to her.

We wandered around a bit more, and then went for drinks. Was very fun as we were sitting outside but under a roof and were perfectly covered when the rain starting pouring down.

The next day I returned to the event on my own in time to see a few more author friends give presentations of their books. Then I tried to get a signed copy of Danielle's ARC Falling Down, but fifteen minutes into the signing all of them were gone! So not fair! But excellent for Danielle of course.

Eventually I made it over to the Scholastic Booth for my 2:30pm signing, which was really great. There was a line waiting for me even before it started! Felt like a superstar! I'm not even sure how long I signed for, but I must have been close to an hour. It was really fun, and I met a lot of lovely people.

Photo courtesy of Q&Q Staff, Quill and Quire, Quill Blog

And then had a coffee with Danielle and Shiraz, before parting ways and returning home.

In all it was a really lovely weekend! Hectic, a little airless, but lovely!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chasing Trends

I have felt for some time now that agents/editors blogging is both a great and slightly unhelpful phenomena. It's great because it removes some of the mystique behind the publishing process, demonstrates, you know, that agents and editors are human beings. These blogs also provide practical information: the art of the good query letter, what that particular agent likes to represent etc. They also offer excellent networking opportunities through the comments sections.

They are less helpful when they confuse authors.

The problem with these blogs is that each agent has a slightly different philosophy on the industry. Each agent has a slightly different set of requirements for his/her query letters. Each agent . . . is different. And authors sometimes can find themselves trying to appeal to every agent in one magical query letter or whathaveyou. This is next to impossible. (I wrote about this idea in more general terms here).

What also makes life more confusing for authors are the posts about current trends. I personally find them very interesting, and love it when agents talk about what's hot and what's not. But unless you just happen to have a completed novel in one of those genres of the hot variety that you've been scared to send out and this news gives you the impetus to do so, I say, enjoy these posts on a "Well now that's quite interesting" level.

Because, seriously? Current trends are pretty darn meaningless.

The thing is - publishing takes a long time. A very long time.

Let's say you have an agent already. Let's say that agent has sold your work. It will still be close to TWO years before the book is on the shelves. And there is simply no predicting what will be popular in two years. Before the DaVinci Code came out, do you think editors were looking for religious conspiracy novels? Ah, no. In fact I would venture to say if such books crossed their desks the response would be along the lines: "Too controversial." Yet suddenly this book strikes it huge and every other book on the shelf looks like some cheap knockoff (yes, even those books knocked off by Brown himself somehow still managed to look like that).

I'm not saying it isn't important to keep up with what's hot in the industry right now. I think being educated is always a smart move.

But instead of freaking out trying to write an epic love story about vampire pirate time travelers, because some agent mentioned it once in passing, try freaking out about writing a really compelling novel. Something that interests you, something where your passion obviously shines through.

My personal experience is a pretty good example of this. Alex was rejected because it was "too old fashioned". In fact when you look at the facts, Alex is definitely not what you would consider trendy. First off it's long. Around twice as long as most novels in its genre. It's also episodic, which is an outdated form of storytelling. These days we prefer our soap opera, what happens next, kind of stories. The protagonist is a girl, and I know that many MG editors are looking for male leads to entice boy readers. The language is complicated, sometimes even archaic. And I use author intrusion, which while very popular in Lemony Snicket, really is not what is desired in novels in general, let alone children's books. In fact I have read articles advising strongly against it.

Yet . . . I still managed to find people interested enough in spending time with me to edit it and then eventually publish it.

There are so few things we can control as authors. We can't control what an agent/editor likes or dislikes. We can't control the economy. We can't control readers deciding they'd rather watch a movie. But we can control the words on the page. We can write our story, choose our words, play with characters. We can edit a manuscript over and over again until it shines. That, at least, we should feel some power over.

So I say instead of grasping at some trend's tailcoat, let's start our own! It will be brilliant! It will be delightful! It will be the trend to end all trends!

. . . and we shall call it . . . Carl.