Thursday, January 31, 2013

Getting Your Write On!

Hi, P. J. Hoover here, and it was back to the Lodge o' Death for a writing retreat earlier this month. Sure, we all turn up with thoughts on what we're going to work on, but part of being an author is being flexible. Like getting last minute revision notes and working on that instead of the planned activity. Still, when it comes to writing, there is no where else I'd rather be than off in the woods with some of my favorite writing gals, pouring out the words.

(For my last retreat post, check here.)

 Retreaters without antlers
Bottom (L to R): Jenny Moss, Christine (her daughter), Nikki Loftin, and Bethany Hegedus
Center (L to R): P. J. Hoover (me), Cory Putman Oakes, Kari Anne Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson, and Stephanie Pellegrin
Top (L to R): Sam Clark, Jo Whittemore, Salima Alikhan, Vanessa Lee, and Madeline Smoot

Retreaters with antlers

Highlights from the retreat include...

A gorgeous sunrise on the drive there!

 A great location and perfect weather!

The right people make the retreat what it is!

Fun writer peeps to hang with!
L to R: Madeline Smoot, Jessica Lee Anderson, Stephanie Pellegrin, and Kari Anne Holt

And more fun peeps!
L to R: Christine (Jenny's daughter), Nikki Loftin, Jenny Moss

 Food is a completely important part of any retreat!




The Lodge o' Death isn't called The Lodge o' Death for nothing. Sorry, baby deer.

 sniff, sniff

Other fun activities include chatting, reading, walking, yoga, and Zumba!

 Evening chatting and readings! with Cory Putman Oakes and Kari


After lunch with Jessica, Kari, and Stephanie

The whole crew (minus me) at the giant table

 These were the creepiest cows in the world!

And this sink gives me nightmares. I worry it will come alive.

 A diorama of a deer with sea shells (with Stephanie)

Thanks, Lodge o' Death, for another great retreat!


P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children's, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.'s website or blog.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy New(ish) Year

By Dan Haring

2013 already? Almost February already? Holy cow. Well, happy new year everyone! I'm sorry for this being my first appearance here in a while. Work and writing and life have been pretty busy lately. We have about seven weeks to finish up the movie Epic, which is what I'm currently working on. I'm really excited about it, and you can check out the trailer here.

As far as writing is concerned, I'm just finishing up a pretty major revision on my MG fantasy book. It feels like I've been revising this book forever and I'm pretty sick of the process, but I have to admit it keeps getting better. So I'm definitely glad I did it, it just wasn't tons of fun. But that's the life, right? So hopefully this will be the version my agent feels is ready to go out into the world. Fingers crossed!

At the beginning of the year, you know, exactly four weeks ago, I did a quick check to see how I did on my 2012 revisions. Overall I did all right. Still didn't hit some things I really wanted to, but if felt like I put up a pretty good fight.

So I'm sitting at the (almost) beginning of another year, and I'm trying to come up with new goals for this year. I don't know if it's a copout or not, but I'm thinking about just keeping the goals I didn't hit from last year.

Honestly, right now I'm pretty happy with life. I have an amazing family, great job, and I'm able to write and do side projects. There's always room for growth and progress, and I want to keep striving for those. But right now I really just want to enjoy life, enjoy each day for what it is. I want to enjoy the little moments and not always be hoping and wishing and waiting for things.

Because hey, I'm alive for another day, and that's pretty cool. All the best to you and yours this coming year!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kismet Book Tour Winners Announced!

Jordan Dane

Thanks to Heather & Danny at the always amazing Kismet Book Tours. They made the virtual tour so much fun for me. I appreciate all the great blogs who participated too. Each one had a unique community of active followers. I loved all the comments. Thanks for making me feel like a rock star, everyone!

The winners for Indigo Awakening books are:

  • Heather
  • Erin
  • Samantha
  • Len
  • Kai
  • Meagan
The Grand Prize winner of the HarlequinTEEN gift pack is:

  • Emmalee
Kismet has notified the winners and HarlequinTEEN will get the books and grand prize shipped. Thanks, Lisa!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

When Characters Get Too Wordy

by Amanda Stevens

I’m not the best person to blog on the subject of writing because I mostly do everything by instinct or trial and error.  I never stop to analyze why, when or how, and I don’t like to follow a lot of rules.  But there is one trick I’ve learned over the years that I’m more than happy to pass along, although I have a feeling it may be one of those things that doesn’t work for, well, anyone but me.  Nevertheless, here we go.

Years ago I attended a workshop where the speaker claimed that female writers often over-write their male characters, especially when it comes to dialogue.  We have a tendency to have our pretend men speak the way we would like real-life men to speak, i.e. more like us.  I don’t know if this is true for most or even a few female writers, but it struck a chord with me.  My male characters do tend to get a little chatty. 
So my trick is simply this: If I have a male character that is getting too verbose, I allow Clint Eastwood circa Two Mules for Sister Sara to slip into my head. To be clear, none of my characters look like Clint or sound like Clint or even speak like Clint.  I’m not even a big Clint Eastwood fan.  But having him 'talk' for my male characters allows me to trim their dialogue.  Then I simply go back in and tweak word choice, phrasing and tags to suit my real character.

Ta-da.  Tip of the day, for whatever it’s worth.

Oh, and Cillian Murphy seems to works for me, too.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Facial Recognition

As you recall, two weeks ago I posted about an upcoming book whose cover seemed to take its cue from the ASHES series.  This week, I'd intended to follow up with more examples of just how important a distinctive look is for any series author and talk, in very general terms, about branding,  the importance of both establishing a series "look" as well as cueing readers to the genre in which a book falls--because we all know this, right?  That covers follow genre conventions?  Yes?  Anyway, I had all these great covers for Lee Child's Reacher series lined up--but then, Kristine Kathryn Rusch beat me to it.  As always, her entire entry is worth reading; she covers not only this topic but the Patricia Cornwall court case; stats on kids' reading habits (good news for both ebook and print devotees, and to which from my n of two kids, I can personally attest is absolutely true); and--one more time--the importance of sustained and determined effort to writerly success.

Kris's comments and examples of branding follow her discussion of the Cornwall case, and to be honest . . . I really don't have much to add.  Clearly, her comments have more valence for those writers who are putting their own work out there, but I've certainly noticed how much the various overseas ASHES covers, which I posted about here, play into both a) prevalent trends in YA lit and b) romance conventions.  Neither observation is surprising given that many YA readers are female.  Anyway, the point is that if you're going to put out your own stuff, creating a distinctive style--a cover signature as it were--while also cuing potential readers as to genre expectations will not only help your fans find you but also alert new readers about what to expect when they crack open or download that book.  (Oh, and her point about the importance of interior design?  Also worth reflection: I can't tell you the number of times I've actually tried to read a particular book I would really LIKE to like--no, I won't tell you which one--only to give up because the interior design makes the bloody thing unreadable.  So not only will I probably never read it, I won't recommend the book to anyone either.)

Anyway, like I said, hop on by Kris's site; read what she has to say.  All true, and if I were putting out my own books at the moment, I would seriously consider signing up for that online design course both she and her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, offer.  Guys, you could do way, way worse.  These people know their stuff.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

And now for my turn...Resolutions!

I had every intention to blog about the fantastic writing retreat I just went on last weekend until I saw Jordan's awesome post from Friday. And it made me realize that even though I have a bunch of resolutions sitting around in my head, it's been a while since I've truly considered what my writing resolutions are. And it's important to distinguish writing versus publishing resolutions here. These are two very different things.

If you're planning on coming up with a list for yourself, consider the answers to these questions:

What kind of writer do I want to be?
How would I want people to describe me as a writer?
If I could revise my writing life, what would I do?

So, thanks to Jordan, here are my top three WRITING resolutions for 2013!

1) Remember when it was all about the writing? There was no marketing and no publicity and no submissions or queries. It was just me and the pages. I loved seeing them fill up with pretty words. And sure, there is more on my plate now, but that's no excuse to let go of the joy of actually putting the fingers to the keyboard and letting the words flow. So I vow to celebrate the writing, even...

2) ...when it gets hard. The better I get, the worse I get. I find myself criticizing every scowl and nod. I'm sure every piece of dialogue I type out is flat. I hit the middle of the story and get tempted by a new, shiny idea. All these signs point to the same thing. I'm getting better, and therefore I'm getting worse. If writing were easy, everyone would do it. Everyone would have a book. But they don't, and only those that stick to it, day after day, will succeed. Which leads me to...

3) ...the day after day thing. Nothing used to get in the way of my writing. An hour. Maybe two. If I had to miss a night, I got cranky. I saw my schedule slipping. I got even more cranky. That is what I intend to get back to (well, not so much the cranky part, but the writing part). Every day, I vow to make progress in my story, be it first drafting, revisions, or final edits. We've heard it a million times, but perhaps that isn't enough. Write every day.

So in summary (and in haiku)...

I'll write every day,
Even when it gets sucky,
and I'll enjoy it.

(I googled every to check on the syllable count. It is 2.)

(Thanks, Jordan!)


P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children's, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.'s website or blog.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Writing Resolutions for 2013

Jordan Dane

It’s that time of year when everyone is suddenly losing interest in their New Year’s Resolutions and having that slice of pie. Take this time to steal yourself for the year ahead. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s supposed to be fun and something we do for our souls and for self-expression. Writing is also the one thing we can control. So let’s talk about a solid set of resolutions for your writing and launch 2013 in style.
My FIVE Writer’s Resolutions for 2013:
1.) Carve out writing time and stick to it. Set attainable goals and make them part of your day. It’s easy to let life get in the way. And certainly if you have a sick child or pressures at work, it’s easy to forget about the passion you feel for the one thing you do for yourself.
2.) Set daily word count goals & track it. I keep mine on a spreadsheet for each book, so I can evaluate my progress and stay focused on my project. Even if you can only do 500 words a day, make it happen. Motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, said he wrote his non-fiction book doing it a page a day. He set a fire under me when I heard that.
3.) Cut out online social media until you get your daily word quota in. Being on facebook and twitter and Pinterest might seem like promotion and business, but it’s not the core of your business if you’re a writer. Writing is the one thing you have to do.
4.) Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a daily word count. Make it up the next day. Experiencing life and being with the people you love should be a priority too. Don’t take on too much and make writing an unhealthy obsession. It should be fun.
5.) Stay positive. When you find negative words coming out of your mouth, or in your own head, stop it. We get enough abuse from others.
What about you? Did you make any resolutions that you’d care to share?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I have friends who take the whole New Year resolution, fresh page thing seriously. They view the new year as the first fresh page of a new narrative. I like this notion, but I have to confess, I rarely follow through. This year, feeling inspired because someone actually asked me about my writing goals, I decided to put some thought into the question.

When I think about goals for this year I divide my writing goals into two kinds…writing and publishing. No matter what happens with publication, I want to become a better writer. So, I set specific writing goals for myself that come from critique group comments, reviews and reading books I love. For example, I want to get better at writing action scenes. They’re hard for me. I realize that in a movie, a fast paced action scene is often where I tune out. That tells me something. I need to pay attention to writers who do them well. No matter how much I long to get back to character and atmosphere, things I love to read and write, I need to linger in the action. So, I’m spending time with Elmore Leonard and read his 10 Rules of Writing.

That’s where I met the word hooptedoodle. Leonard got the word from Steinbeck who says Hooptedoodle should not get “mixed up with the story.” What is hooptedoodle, you ask? Steinbeck says, “Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language.” Anything fancy that takes the reader away from the dialog and action of the story. And I realize I’m a sucker for good hooptedoodle, but maybe there’s a time and place for it.

Publishing goals are different. I see them as much more sequential than writing goals. We’ll each have our own list depending on where we are on the journey. I like to think of them as the next step. What is the next thing I should do to move my career forward? Maybe it is to research agents or to get a chapter to my critique group. Mine for this year are to finish edits on my two contracted novels, Beyond the Door and Time Out of Time and make them the best books possible. This isn’t always easy because the book that compels me is always the one I’m writing now.  I’m currently near the end of a futuristic SciFi noir set in Seattle with the working title of Andrew and Emmaline.  I need to go back through the action scenes with a critical eye for hooptedoodle. No commenting on the weather, no matter how interesting the sky looks, during  a mob scene.

Here’s a  goal for all of us to consider. What’s one thing I can do to encourage another writer and help move her towards her goals? Happy New Writing year!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Okay, first up, before I forget: did everyone have a nice holiday?  See all the relatives?  Get rested up to start another year (which, for some of us, seems to be an artificial distinction because the day after is/was the same as the day before)?

Good.  Now, roll up those sleeves and let's talk turkey.

I'm unsure how this came to my attention, although I believe it was Twitter, but this past week, a friend--my publisher, in fact--posted the cover of an upcoming YA.  NBD, so far; people are throwing up covers for new releases all the time.

Except . . . the reason this particular book snagged my friend's attention wasn't for the content but the look.

Freaky, right?  And notice who's putting the book out there: Amazon Children's Publishing.  Which means that whoever designed the cover for the book had a lot of covers to look to and choose from for inspiration.

If you think this made more than a few fans unhappy or weirded out or mystified . . . you'd be right.  Some wondered what I could actually do about this--the quick and dirty answer is a whole lot of nothing because there's nothing to be done--and that made me feel good, to tell you the truth.  It's not often that fans get irate on your behalf.  

Yet if you think this is some kind of violation of cover copyright . . . you'd be wrong.  Because we all know copyright law as it pertains to using images, correct?  If you need a quick refresher, try this article and this one.  Right off the bat, I can tell you that this is not a violation of copyright in the slightest.  Granted, I don't own the copyright for my book covers; my publisher does (or the artist hired by my publisher).  If this constituted a copyright violation, then so would every book cover featuring, say, a silhouetted figure running across a landscape (I'll bet I saw two or three YAs with that cover last year) or a shot of a forest or a cityscape or girl/guy in profile . . . You get my drift.

If the cover on the left does anything at all--under copyright law, that is--then it comes closest to paying "homage" (and I use that loosely), and then just barely.  Really, all that's been "copied" is the positioning of the title.  Is it close enough to provoke a second glance?  Sure.  Is it a violation of copyright?  No.

But here's an intriguing question--to me, at least: what, exactly, is the cover on the left supposed to convey?  We judge books by their covers all the time.  In an earlier post, I talked about the reason the ASHES series changed; even though I adored the original hardcover, the book itself didn't pop off the shelf.  It tended to get lost.  So the cover had to change because the whole point of the cover is to induce you to pick up the book and start paging through.

To my eyes, the new ASHES look--and more specifically, SHADOWS--evokes menace and ambiguity.  You're supposed to wonder: who's running, and from what?  Who are those people in the background?  Are they even people?  Are they something else?  Shadows, at night and in the woods, are slate and purple and silver and blue, and of course, the thematic motif of smoke references the post-apocalyptic.  It's a lovely cover, and suggests precisely what you might find inside.

SKETCHY's cover is . . . well . . . interesting.  What does sketchy mean, anyway?  Here's what Wiktionary has to say about the word as it pertains to a person:

  1. (slang, of a person) Suspected of taking part in illicit or dishonorable dealings.
    Because he is so sketchy, I always think that he is up to something.
  2. (slang, of a person) Disturbing or unnerving, often in such a way that others may suspect them of intending physical or sexual harm or harassment.
    Jack is so sketchy, I think he's stalking me.

With that in mind, let's look at the cover again.  There's a girl there, right?  Lying on what looks like a bed?  Covered with a sheet (so you know she's probably naked)?  Only the image is partially obscured by the title itself; you really have to work to see this girl--which is precisely what I think this cover wants you to do.  It wants you to want to see her and, by extension, figure her out.  All that plays into the slightly dangerous, slightly come-hither, slightly illicit and sketchy story this cover promises.

So does the cover do its job?  Yes, it does.  If--and this is a big if--the person responsible for the cover took SHADOWS as a jumping-off point, then he or she might have wanted to capture some of that cover's disturbing and unnerving  elements.  In that way, SHADOWS served to inspire.  Of all the cover designs out there, that graphic artist chose SHADOWS to get his/her point across.  In the end, what I take away from this is the truth of that old saw: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  I don't think there's any way that anyone will get the two books confused.

Besides . . . we all know which book came first. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

V-Tour for INDIGO AWAKENING Jan 4-Jan 18


The fabulous people at KismetBT – Danny & Heather – are hosting my Harlequin Teen virtual tour for book #1 in the Hunted series – Indigo Awakening (now available). Each stop will have giveaways plus a great gift pack from Harlequin Teen as a grand prize.
There will be character interviews & movie cast images, a feature on psychic powers, photos of the real settings used to inspire scenes, and a peek into the dark sinister world of the Believers.
For the deets, check out this LINK.