Monday, October 29, 2012

The Most Underrated Genre is....

Lit Fic.

Yup. People say it's a tough market; it doesn't sell; it has to be incredibly, incredibly wonderful to be published traditionally.

Well, every book (we hope) has to be incredibly, incredibly wonderful to be traditionally published.

The thing is, Lit Fic is on the undeniable rise, and I would venture to say that, if done well, it is one of the most popular genres out there. (One of. Not the. DEFINITELY not the.)

"What?" you all say. "Lit Fic? What of paranormal romance, and fantasy? You lie!"

Well, here is the catch. Lit Fic is on the rise in one specific category:

YA Fiction.

Yup. I said it. YA Literary Fiction is on the rise. Teenagers have always been smart and strong; only now is the publishing industry really understanding that. And, most teenagers want to know how to navigate this world. That's a fact.

You've never heard of this genre pairing, I bet. I actually feel YA Lit Fic is hiding under the skirts of something called "coming-of-age" stories or "adolescent" books. (The Catcher in the Rye, The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and.... The Perks of Being a Wallflower.)

That last book recently made its movie (amazing, amazing movie) debut and is causing currents through the teenage audience. Almost every teen is talking about it; almost every teen has watched the movie. And, that book is an epistolary literary fiction novel. (I think.)

Teenagers are smart, and they want to know about this world even more than adults do because they are being flung off the cliff into the adult world; of course they would want to know more about know the world, and their frustrations are caught in YA Lit Fic.

YA Lit Fic is on the definite rise, but one must write it well for it to succeed; that's why there aren't loads and loads of Lit Fic on the shelves. Teenagers are experts at picking out false voices and phony messages.  It must be done well, but once done well, they succeed. Most of the most famous YA novels are in fact of the Lit Fic variety; The Catcher in the Rye, for instance.

Lit Fic is probably my most favorite genre... eh. I don't really have a 'favorite' genre. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE books with aspects of Lit Fic. If a book does not make me think in the way Lit Fic does, that book probably won't be in my favorites. I love Lit Fic themes -- I doubt I ever will write something without Lit Fic themes.

I do, sincerely, believe Lit Fic can become more successful in the adult market as well because there are so, so many more technical, 'adult' themes (like politics, health care, etc.) that can be explored. The current bubbling American social climate is just ripe for this. There hasn't been a 'classic' American novel written of this time period. Why don't we write it? It's amazing, this genre, and I'm just waiting for its rise.

So if you are a fellow tragedy, character, Lit Fic lover, don't give up yet. It's coming back; we just have to write something that makes Lit Fic come back. I might do a post on the Secret to making Lit Fic work later on, so subscribe, and keep in touch :)

Do you love Lit Fic? Do you feel there is a niche for it in YA literature?

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Secret to Overcoming Writer's Lag

writer's lag: n. a period of time when a writer just doesn't write for no apparent reason at all other than lethargy.

(Honestly, I have no idea how proper dictionary formatting is, so let the above formatting be adequete.)

Writer's lag is not writer's block. Lag is when the writer just doesn't write; they blog, they Tweet, they social-network-ize, they read, everything. But when they remember they should be writing, they get all fidgety and guilty. Yea, that sounds like me right now. I should be writing right now, and instead I'm blogging because I can't open the word document.

I just came across this quote on Twitter:

"The secret to getting ahead is getting started." -- Agatha Christie. That should be my motto, and NaNoWriMo's as well. That is one awesome quote.

Here are the steps to the secret of overcoming lag.

Step 1:


Just pull up the word document, and type the first word. It doesn't matter about the scene coming up and how you will set it up and how oh-so-hard it will be and how you don't know where to begin -- stop. Write the freaking first word.

Everything flows SOOOOO much faster after that first word. The 2nd hardest thing to do is pull up the document; the hardest is writing that first word instead of Youtubing Adele music videos.

However, we writers (at least, me) have only a little self-discipline, so we need something more tangible.

Step 2:


Just sign up.

If you're struggling through your edits and drafting because of writer's lag, sign up for NaNoWriMo. This is the perfect time to be a lagging writer because November is coming up! So start smiling, you lag-writers (me included), because this opportunity just fell in your lap.

If you get lag in March, pretend you have a PerMarchWriMo (Personal March Writing Month). Have as many as you want, and post a sign saying "1,667 words" (or maybe even 2,000) above your workspace.

Just do it. Don't overthink it.

(See Step 4)

Step 3:

A community.

If you don't have one, I strongly strongly strongly (STRONGLY) suggest you join one. Maybe you have a writers' group around your library? Maybe you can create one? Maybe you can just talk to your non-writer friends about it? Or maybe go here or here or the many other writerly websites around the Internet. ANYTHING! The groups will spur you on and keep you going; I owe Agent Query Connect a HUGE debt of gratitude for keeping me going. Huge. Also, many famous writers have had famous writerly friends: JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis; Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and many more.

Step 4:

Don't over think it. That is usually the root cause of writer's lag. Don't think, "Oh gosh, 2,000 words, oh gosh, will I have time, should I wait until night to start it, because my cousins are coming over in thirty minutes." Just write. Don't over think it!

The biggest, BIGGEST hardship in writers' lag (not block) is pulling up the word document and typing that first sentence. It's dreadful and foreboding. All you need to do is get comfy, pull up the laptop, and don't over thinking it. Just do.

Now I need to take this advice :) I'm hoping NaNoWriMo will spur me on, and I'm signing up as soon as I finish up this post! Wish me luck!

Have you guys ever experienced writer's lag? How do you overcome it? And who's doing NaNoWriMo?

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Create Memorable Characters

Memorable characters are crucial. They will ensure that your book stays alive through the ages; we take it for granted, but it is an achievement that characters such as Odysseus and the giant Polyphemus in Homer’s The Odyssey are remembered after thousands of years. It's a HUGE achievement (punny).

Now image one of your characters surviving until the year 4,000. Pretty insane, huh? That's what Homer did.

Literally, and logically, your character won’t live on if they aren’t remembered. Plain and simple. I tackled the how-to's in this post. And this one. And this one.

So if you want to know the HOWs of creating memorable characters, take a gander at those three links. This post will be all about the WHY.

It's like in math; once you understand the concepts, the details come to you. If you try haphazardly to memorize the details (insert quirk here, with a dash of fatal flaw -- or was that a helping of description?)  you'll end up floundering.

Memorize your favorite character. Learn every bit of them.

Once you KNOW your favorite character, basically 'discover' the rules on your own, and learn the methods the author used to create that character. Why do you love him/her/it so much?

My first and foremost favorite character is Albus Dumbledore. Yes, I even have a picture of him as my desktop wallpaper for the past few years; no sentimental family picture or pretty nature scene.

I don't own this.
(And this isn't the same picture as my desktop wallpaper.)

My second favorite has got to be Sydney Carton. I don’t want to spoil A Tale of Two Cities for you, but he is FANTASTIC. I love him, and I’ve studied him intensely for my own book.

(Sorry, no picture, because, well, I wasn't fond of the black-and-white movie, probably since I'm not used to black-and-white films, haven't seen the color one, and don't want to do injustice to Sydney. So enjoy this picture of a musical panda. I don't own this picture either.)
 I love, love, love, LOVE characters like Professor McGonagall and Ms. Pross. They’re old and strict, but, heaven help the man who threatens their loved ones. That kind of love and sacrifice is amazing to me.

I don't own this. But she looks so awesome!

I love Jay Gatsby as well; he’s tragic, and I love tragic characters (as you get tell by my choices).

The point of this is to try and inspire an in-depth study of your own favorites; what makes you love them so much? How can you use this knowledge in your own books? And, most importantly, what will make your character memorable enough to be talked about in year 4000?

There is a thing in painting (I paint) where artists basically copy a painting. There is no way this copy would be allowed in a contest or be allowed to sell the piece as an original. However, these studies help the artist master a skill they are weak in. Copying can incredibly helpful, but not profitable; don't call them originals.

Learn from the originals, but don't expect to send out queries for a book with a MC that is a carbon-copy of a famous character. Learn about characterization from the masters, not copy.

JK Rowling and Dickens are two of the greatest characterizers (dictionary, please?). With Rowling, we remember Professor Sprout, Snape, James and Lily Potter, the Malfoys, Umbridge, Lupin, and so, so many more. Same with Dickens (maybe on a less pop-culture scale in the present). We take it for granted, but in other books, we get confused if there are even a dozen characters. Rowling had hundreds (there's a list). Both of their secrets are revealed here.

Who are your favorite characters? How can YOU learn from them?

Friday, October 19, 2012

What Books do Famous Writers Love?

Well, obviously, the masters of writing had their favorites, and surprisingly, these were classics as well.

Here are some of them:

Leo Tolstoy: The Holy Bible and Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau were his favorite books. He said, "Rousseau and the Gospels are the two strongest and most positive influences on my life."

Mark Twain: Joan of Arc was his favorite book, although he did say that he reread A Tale of Two Cities at least once a year (he's my kind of guy in that aspect).

Ernest Hemingway: He had quite a list of favorite books, saying that he would "rather read again for the first time... than have an assured income of a million dollars a year" the books in the link above. Of his favorites, however, the works by the Russian greats (Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky) showed up a good few times.

JD Salinger: In 1995, Salinger answered that his favorite book was The Landsmen by Peter Martin. I know; I hadn't heard of this either, and it's Amazon page has only one (albeit, 5-star) review. However, Salinger was so passionate about this book that he lent it to the asker of this question, with a little note as well. Salinger is one of my most favorite authors, as a person and a writer.

Now, how about the more modern writers?

Suzanne Collins: Not really specific, but she loves works by Thomas Hardy, and she's reread The Lord of the Flies, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1984, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Germinal, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and A Moveable Feast to an "embarrassing" degree.

Stephanie Meyer: The best I could get was her favorite heroines: Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), Anne Shirley (Green Gables), Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre...), Harriet Morton (no idea), and Jo March (Little Women); Dashti of Book of a Thousand Days is on her list as well.

John Irving: Great Expectations by Dickens was his favorite. (Yes! A straight forward answer!)

Dan Brown: His favorites were a lot of nonfiction, but he has some fiction in there as well, such as Of Mice and Men. Check out his list.

And, of course:

JK Rowling: (Whose favorite book I didn't even have to look up :D)  Emma by Jane Austen. Her favorite childhood book (I had to look this up to be sure) was The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge (I knew it! Just forgot the name.) "Goudge was the only one whose influence I was conscious of," Rowling said. To see the rest of her picks, click here.
So that's all, folks!

My own favorite books are:

1. Harry Potter -- JK Rowling. These books are what got me writing, so it's placement at the top is a huge debt of gratitude. Plus, these books are just freaking fantastic, in literary qualities as well as creative.

Oh, this is tough. OH this is tough!!!!! How about I have two second-place favorites?

2a. A Tale of Two Cities -- Charles Dickens.

2b. The Catcher in the Rye -- JD Salinger. This is my go-to book when I'm not in a good place, and I would not edit even a word of this book (I only feel this way about this book).

But A Tale of Two Cities is my other favorite to go to whenever I want to read that last page again (and again), the most beautifully written page of all time, I think, with one of my favorite characters, Sydney Carton.

(Les Misérables will probably be coming in this list soon; I just have to finish it.)

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower -- Stephen Chbosky. I watched the movie, then read the book, and although I thought the movie was better than the book (I KNOW! But Chbosky played a big part in the movie as well.), I still loved them.

5. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. Yup, sorry guys, I really loved that book.

6. The Great Gatsby -- F Scott Fitzgerald. I just loved Gatsby (the MC) a lot.

Well, this is depressing. I need to start reading more classic books. Off to Les Mis and Great Expectations....

How about you guys? What are your favorite books?

Monday, October 15, 2012


Good gosh, I didn't want to get all depressing for today's post, but I saw a video Sunday night and I couldn't stop thinking about this issue. Although this does not relate directly to writing, it is a huge, HUGE part of the current YA trend going on; probably one of the central themes in so many YA books. Thus, it is necessary that we understand it.

Bullying was never a problem for me in high school, but I saw so many other people getting bullied.

People think that bullying is just beating someone up, and thus, writers write this thinking this way. Bullying is not just the beating people up. Bullying is everything that comes before.

No matter how many times people vow they will never bully, post comments on videos and Facebook saying, "Bullying is so horrible," they will end up, two seconds later, attacking Mr.Snugglepuff3 on Youtube -- strangers they never met and have never seen.

Bullies and abusers do not think what they do is bullying; they do not recognize it for what it truly is, and so, everyone bullies.

And then, so many teenagers kill themselves, and the only solution we can think of is, "I told them to take The Catcher in the Rye off their shelves, and now look what happened." Do I believe books have a part to play in influencing the teenager's mind? Yes. Definitely. Sometimes in a negative fashion? Yes.

But these books only magnify the feeling anyone has; the feelings must be inside to begin with. Good gosh, we just don't realize nor understand just how our actions can affect someone on the other side of the screen.

Out of sight, out of mind.

People are starting to realize bullying is not cool, or whatever. But the worst part is seeing one person who proclaims the horrible aspects of bullying, who devotes an epitaph online to commemorate a deceased person... and two seconds later, in 'real' life, laugh and abuse-comment at strangers.

We all need to be more responsible for our own actions. No matter who is on the recieving side, there is no justifying any action which leads to someone committing suicide. One of the worst things is seeing people 'justifying' their actions, AFTER the suicide, by using their prejudiced views of the victim.

Good gosh.

Just think, what if next time you witness something, it's all a part of this show?

And even if it isn't, standing up for someone in a less fortunate place than you is a huge deal. As I write all this, it's partially for me; I've only spoken up when I know I won't come in harm. I want to be able to stand up when doing so would lead to my harm, but I'm not sure if I would be able to. I would be too scared.

I'm sorry for going all depressing on you guys. I hope you can forgive me :(  We all just need take a little more care of our own actions.

"No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly." -- Socrates (Also the quote that preceeds my WIP :) )

If you do write about bullying, truly understand it, and, expose it for all it is.

Thanks for listening to me, and I'll see you Friday :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Secret to Great Book Cover Art

No matter how much lee-way an author has (traditional authors usually get to have their minute 'say' in the cover, but only nominally), there is one INCREDIBLY important aspect to a book cover which people usually glance over:

The tone.

You don't know just how make-or-break this can be.

Let's take for example The Casual Vacancy, since I just read it and it is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Milk your book cover for ALL it can give you. And here is the kicker/secret:

Your book cover can mask major 'faults' in your book.

The Casual Vacancy was incredibly grim, morbid, and depressing. If I had to read it without the jacket copy (I can't believe I'm saying this) but I bet I would have been much, much more depressed by the book than I was. The reason I wasn't was because of this beautiful little deceptive angel:

That book cover is NOT morbid.
That book cover is NOT depressing.
In fact, it is downright happy and cheerful.

Thus, I read, expecting something not depressing, not morbid, not cruel. And, thus, I found things that were happy and cheerful.

Here is a little method to cheat your way out of your book's one-major-unworkable-mood-related flaw, if you so please. Say you are writing a tragedy, or a very, VERY depressing book (I am). If your book cover is light and colorful, it will balance out the possible negative effects of the book's sadness. Now, this happened to me for sure with The Casual Vacancy, and I suspect it happened to many other people, but don't take it as a hard-and-fast rule.

This is NOT to say that you can write the most morbid, depressing, frustrating book in the world, and expect the book cover to make it uplifting.

The book cover only gives the book the small push it needs to get the message closer to the author's intention.

Say you've written a Bella Swam protagonist who has that bit of courage inside her, but you are afraid the reader won't understand it; make the cover display the heroine as a strong lady, and the reader will pick up on all her (possibly, small) displays of strength.

It is the ultimate trick, the ultimate technique. (I resist saying 'cheat' because I do not think it is a cheat at all -- only a method to point the book towards its true direction.)

Again, the cover only gives the book the push it needs to get the message closer to the author's intention.

This is a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL technique to give your book the push it needs.

If you are afraid your book's message will be taken in the wrong direction, make the cover opposite to the supposed theme, and closer to your intention.

If the reader comes to the book with expectations, if he/she comes to the book looking for something, he/she will find it.

This is what makes the book cover a work of art; this is what gives it, truly, a life of its own, complementing the life of the book. This is what makes it the ultimate book cover -- when it complements and helps the book and author.

Happy book covering :)

Should the words stand on their own merit, or can the author rightfully bend the packaging to make the product (the book) more appealing? Is this deceptive?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cover Reveal! GRAVE INTENTIONS -- Lori Sjoberg

Well, well, we have here the lovely Lori Sjoberg, writer and fellow AQCer :)

Her new book, GRAVE INTENTIONS, is graced with....

(Drum roll, please.)


beautiful cover! (The inclusion of the scythe mans it up a bit for me. Awesome touch.)

*Applause, applause*

Here is a little interview with Lori about her new book :) It sounds to DIE for (you'll see my cleverness in this when you read the interview. My humor is killing me).

Now for Lori:

1.  Give me one word describing your book. - ONE?

You're killing me here. (Yay :)  Score one for me!) Okay, I would say the one word that best describes Grave Intentions is "Rebirth."

1a. OK, now you can go a bit more in depth :) What's your book about?

 Grave Intentions is the story of David Anderson, a Grim Reaper who's lost his grip on humanity, and Sarah Griffith, a mortal woman who fears she's losing her mind.  When their lives become entangled, each experiences a rebirth of sorts.  Sarah breathes new life onto the dying embers of David's humanity, while David opens Sarah's mind to a reality she's never considered.  And just when things are looking great, Fate throws a wrench into the works...

TOLD YOU my above humor was clever!!!

2. What part of the cover do you love the most?

Two words: Man Cleavage. Is that some major eye candy or what?

3. What is the story behind this book? In other words, how was the writing journey, and what difficulties did you face in writing it?

I'm one of those writers who doesn't write in chronological order.  I write whatever scenes pop into my head and eventually stitch them all together to form a cohesive story.  For Grave Intentions, the end scene was the first to come to mind, so I had to reverse engineer the rest of the story.  That meant trying to figure out who these characters were, and why they were doing what they were doing.  (David came to me pretty quickly, but Sarah took a bit of fine tuning before I was satisfied with her character.)  Once that was accomplished, I wrote a very general outline and went from there.  The process proved difficult at times, especially when trying to stitch everything together and some of the pieces don't fit.  There were several scenes that simply had no place in the manuscript, so they're forever buried deep in the recesses of my hard drive.

4. What is your favorite scene in the book? (You CAN tease.)

At one point, Sarah assumes that David and his male apprentice are actually a couple. When David finds out, his reaction is priceless. (Actually, my favorite scene is the final scene, but I don't want to say anything to give it away.)
My favorite scenes are usually the conclusions as well.

5. Which is your favorite character? Why?

The heroine, Sarah Griffith.  I loved writing her because she's smart and strong, but far from perfect.  Her family has a history of mental illness, which is one of the reasons she's pursued a career in medical research.  She's fiercely analytical, and refuses to believe in ghosts, or ghouls, or anything that can't be scientifically proven.  Imagine her surprise when she discovers her next door neighbor is the harbinger of death.  

6. If you could compare your book to any other book in the world (or other worlds), which would it be?

 Jeez, that's tough. I haven't read any books that share enough of the same elements to draw an in-depth comparison to Grave Intentions. On A Pale Horse has some similarities in regards to the physical incarnation of death, while No Rest for the Wicked has similarities in character arc and tone. 

7. What do you feel would be the best compliment to receive on this book?

 That s/he loved the book so much they put it on their keeper shelf.

8. Main drive of your book: Characters, or plot?

Characters. The plot serves as a catalyst for Sarah & David's character arcs.

Ooh, I like the sound of that! That's one of my favorite types of books.

9. Best sentence ever from your book. (Hehehe, I'm evil.)

I'm going to cheat and use two. Not sure if they're the best, but I love the way they set the tone for the scene, and David's attitude about being a reaper:
"And then everything grew quiet, leaving only the smell of burnt rubber and the faint whimper of the dying."

"Time to get to work."

10. Lastly, what is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches. It's a meal and a snack, all rolled into one. What more could you ask for?

That's the end :) Thanks for allowing me to host your reveal!

My pleasure. That comparison question was brutal! Thanks again for the opportunity!


After graduating from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Lori worked for nearly a decade in retail management. When that got boring, she switched to financial planning, and then insurance. The writing bug bit a few years later. After completing her first manuscript, she joined the Romance Writers of America and Central Florida Romance Writers. Now she exercises the analytical half of her brain at work, and the creative half writing paranormal romance. When she’s not doing either one of those, she’s usually spending time with her husband and children of the four-legged variety.

You can socialize with the amazing Lori on:

Her Website
Her Twitter
Her Facebook

(And read her full bio on her website. It's funny :) )

Hope you had fun! What are your thoughts on the cover?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Reforming Amazon

(My review for The Casual Vacancy is still in the workings; I'm not done with the book yet D: )

So, first off, read the reviews for The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. "Gasp!" you might exclaim. "It has only 3 stars!" The 1-star ratings are about 60 in number (from the time I write this) and the 5-stars are only in the 40s.

But then look at the 1-star reviews.

And then realize that more than half of these are based ONLY on:

a. the price of the book
b. the formatting glitches of the e-book


I've seen this happen many times: to versions that are not the full, unedited versions of books; editions that are not the 'best'; glitches in the formatting.

The book should be reviewed, nothing else. For the most part, authors have no say over the price or the e-book formatting of their books. The book, basically, is NOT the price, nor the formatting; the actual product is the words.

This out to ALL Amazon products, but I've seen it affect mainly books so far. This is because in most other products, glitches in the product equal a failed product. However, the book's main 'product' is the words.

Readers and Amazon buyers form a negative opinion about any book based on the rating; if one only browses, one will skim over the lesser-stars and go for the 4 and 5 books. Basing a product on anything other than the product itself is illogical.

However, the opposition has a stance because who wants to buy a faulty book?

I think the best solution to this would be one of two things (and, maybe, a combination of both):

1. Reviews that garner below a certain 'helpfulness' rating, say, 20%, should not affect the overall starred rating. The reviews will still be visible, and thus the reviewer would not be censored, but the reviews would not play a part in the overall 5-star rating. Nearly all the 1-star ratings in The Casual Vacancy concerning price and formatting attained a very low 'helpfulness' rating; these ratings would not hinder the book's rating. This would also get rid of the infamous 1-star and 5-star spammers, who, for selfish reasons, rate down or rate up a book.


2. Create a separate 5-star rating system for the technicalities of the product. This will probably only play a part in books, because in other products, the 'technical' parts make or break the product. In books, however, this will result in only the content being reviewed. One 5-star rating for the 'Content', one for the 'Product' or something to that sort. I get tons of knowledge from reading the technical reviews. How else would I know if there is a superior version of the product? Using this method, the buyer will know whether the product is worth buying, and the buyer will be informed about the actual product as well without compromising on actual quality.

Also, the two proposed methods above don't hinder the interface of the Amazon reviewing system; it is almost as easy as normal reviewing, and if the reviewer doesn't want to fill out two reviews, it would be possible to give him/her an option of completing one or both.

I do think this would help immensely in skimming the fat from the otherwise helpful pool of Amazon reviewers. Just think if your own book was on the receiving side, getting hate for something out of your control. These methods would make it fairer and more democratic than the current system. As of now, without all the unhelpful reviews, The Casual Vacancy would probably have 4-stars.

Now, I know The Casual Vacancy set this all off in my mind, and I know I am a huge JK Rowling fan, but it is not only because of this book's reviews I thought of this; I was wondering about it when I read other reviews as well ;)

What do you think? Would this help?

(I don't know why I wrote this all up. I doubt it will help at all, hehe. But just for fun.)