Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Stars Fell Sideways Interview & Giveaway

It's Halloween, and since you stopped by, I have a treat for you. I interviewed Cassandra Marshall about her brand new book THE STARS FELL SIDEWAYS. Not only will you get the inside scoop on this author/freelance editor/lit. agency worker, but two commenters will be winning prizes. YAY! So ready, set, here we go...

What is your pitch for THE STARS FELL SIDEWAYS?
Alison Arroway takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. She has to, or she won’t get paid. Alison is a stunt double for pampered teen actress Pomegranate and when the director takes the shoot to Portugal, Alison is anything but thrilled to be rooming with Pom. But getting to hang around teen hearthrob Erik? Now that’s a plus. 
Erik invites both girls on a sunset boat trip and Alison manages to have a decent time. Until the storm hits and the boat is shipwrecked on a small island, leaving Erik missing and the boat captain dead. 

In the morning light, Alison and Pom find themselves on the lost island of Atlantis. Only one problem: now that the girls know the secret of the island, the Atlanteans don’t want them to leave. They're stuck with corsets, full-skirted dresses, and the strange steam-driven contraptions that are just a way of life for the islanders.
When a plot by the ruthless army Captain to take over the island and declare himself General over all emerges, an underground group promises to return the girls to the mainland if they can help stop him. They'll go through a mountain, literally, to find the Book of Blue, a book that will explain how to make ‘the stars fall sideways' in order to save the day and earn their freedom.
THE STARS FELL SIDEWAYS, a YA Steampunkish fantasy, from MolliePup Press!
How would you explain steampunk to a reader who is unfamiliar with the term?
The basic gist of steampunk is imagining a world where mechanical development stopped in the Victorian age with steam-powered contraptions. There's also an undercurrent of questioning authority and asserting your independence. Aesthetically it's about Victorian garb--top hats, parasols, corsets, heeled shoes, etc--and decoratively it's about cogs and gears, wood paneling, rivets, hodgepodge construction, reusing the finite, etc.
Your main character goes on a sunset boat trip with a hottie actor. If you could go to sea with any actor, who would you choose?
Oh, wow... Um... ?? Hopefully one that knows how to make the boat go, because I have no idea! How about Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes? I feel like he'd know how things work, plus he's nice to look at!
If you could play any character from any book in the movie version, who would you play? Hermione Granger! I'd get to play with magic, Crookshanks, and I'd curl up with Neville Longbottom!
In addition to writing, you work for a literary agency and do some freelance editing. What are some of your tricks for balancing it all?
Scheduling, compartmentalizing, and I stay in a lot. :)
Where can we buy your book?
ISBN: 978-0988264502

Amazon | Createspace | Indiebound

ISBN: 978-0988264526
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Apple iBooks Diesel
Signed print copies can also be purchased from thestarsfellsideways.com!

Thanks, Cassandra! I hope you sell a bajillion copies.

And now for the giveaway: Cassandra is offering one first page critique (up to 250 words) and an e-copy of THE STARS FELL SIDEWAYS as prizes. To enter, leave a comment telling us who your favorite movie star is. Make sure I know how to email you in case your name is drawn! For an extra entry, tweet a link to this post with @LauraRenegar in it. I'll draw 2 winners (one for each prize) out of a hat after Halloween's midnight. Good luck!

Monday, October 8, 2012

And The Winner Is...

All the entries to our BEING FRANK Birthday Contest had me giggling, but alas, there can only be one name drawn from the hat--although technically, I drew from an empty fruit roll-up box. The winner of Donna Earnhardt's fabulously funny picture book BEING FRANK is Maureen Wartski! Congratulations, Maureen! You will be getting an email soon so we can get your prize to your doorstep.

If your name wasn't picked, you don't have to miss out. You can buy a copy of BEING FRANK at  Barnes and Noble , Amazon, or your favorite bookstore. Thanks for visiting my blog and making it more fun with your comments!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Being Frank Contest

Today is a special day! It's the book birthday for my good friend and wonderful critique partner Donna Earnhardt's funny picture book BEING FRANK. Frank is an honest kid, but alas! Frank has not learned to be tactful. Anyone know a kid like that? I bet a few adults come to mind too! So to celebrate BEING FRANK's birthday, we're going to give away a copy of this hilarious picture book to one commenter. Here's how to enter:

Leave a comment below telling us about a time a kid you knew was a little too frank. You can have extra entries for sharing this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Just comment each time you share it with the link. As always, make sure I know how to get in touch with you if your name gets picked. We'll draw one lucky winner at noon EST on Friday, October 5th. This contest is open to U.S. entries only. Good luck!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Thanks to Jaye Robin Brown for tagging me in this fun post. It gives me the chance to talk about the manuscript I'm querying and pass the microphone to some fellow writers to do the same. I'm tagging Neely Simpson , Chris Ledbetter , Donna Earnhardt , and Cheryl Angst in hopes that they'll answer these questions on their blogs too. No pressure.

1. What is the working title of your book? INK

2. Where did the idea come from the book? I was walking around Southpoint Mall in Durham, NC. They have amazing statues of happy children playing. My YA mind started churning about missing children instead. Warped, right?

3. What genre is your book? It's a Young Adult mystery.

4. Which actors would you choose to play the characters in a movie? I have no idea,  but if we could work in a cameo for Matt Damon, I wouldn’t complain. ;)
5. What is a one sentence synopsis of your book? Fresh out of juvie and living on the streets, Mazie is searching for the kidnapped daughter of the firefighter that died in the flames Mazie started. 

6. Will your book be self-published or repped by an agency? I’m seeking representation for it and hope to see it traditionally published.

7. How long did it take you to finish your first draft? I think the first draft took about 6 months. I worked my tail off. I have spent many more months revising though.

8. What other books would you compare yours to in this genre? I think INK would appeal to fans of fast-paced contemporary YA, such as Lisa McMann’s WAKE trilogy. As for movies? It has a bit of a Shawshank Redemption feel to it—especially at the beginning.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? The story just came to me. I did name an awesome character in honor of my favorite high school teacher who passed away last year. I think she’d be pleased with her namesake and hopefully with my story.

10. What else about your book might pique a reader's interest? Much of the story takes place in and around a tattoo shop. I hung out in one to do field research. Tattoos fascinate me.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pitching Plot Bunnies

You know that point when you've decided to eat healthy, and then McDonald's advertises their Rolo McFlurry? Sometimes that happens in my writing life too. Focus meets temptation. And temptation looks like a mighty sweet treat. Sometimes we dive into a manuscript and are making amazing progress when a plot bunny hops by and catches our interest. Plot bunnies are story ideas that pop into a writer's head and beg for attention. I'm not one to ignore a plot bunny. I might need that fellow when I finish my current WIP. My fabulous writer friend Donna Earnhardt has a July challenge perfect for rounding up those critters so they'll be there when you need them. Check out Donna's Elevator Pitches Challenge .

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Agent Crush & Why You Should Play the Field

When I married Scott, I thought my days of crushes were over---well, not the celebrity crushes because we’re allowed to keep five of those, right? But on my writer’s journey I’ve discovered a new type of crush that brings back high school insecurities and squeezes my heart in an equally intense way. The Agent Crush. It’s inevitable that as we’re researching to find the best agent for our book someone wonderful will make our hearts cry “If only.” We’re checking websites and blogs and interviews. We’re watching Querytracker to see how they respond to other writers. And then there’s Twitter—a social network that helps us hang on their every word. *sigh*

For me, one of the toughest things about starting the querying process was querying the second agent. You see, I’m a loyal gal. When I commit to someone, I quit looking for other options. But here’s the thing: Until an agent has committed to you, it’s wise to “play the field.” Here’s why:

1.      Self-Preservation. You’re not going to give up if your top choice rejects you. There are other agents in the literary sea, and it will be balm to your soul to have seen that for yourself if a rejection letter pops up in your inbox.

2.      Choices. One of the advantages in sending out simultaneous submissions (querying more than one agency at the same time with the same manuscript) is the possibility of having more than one offer of representation. Talking to the agents will give you a feel for their level of enthusiasm for your manuscript. The fabulous agent to your favorite author may feel a little “Meh” about your writing and may not make selling it as much of a priority. A newer agent may be bursting at the seams to unleash your masterpiece.

3.      Finding an agent (for most writers) is a slow process. Sometimes it will be months before you hear back from someone. Sometimes you won’t hear back at all. You owe it to your manuscript…you owe it to the kid waiting to read your book to get your work in the hands of more than one possibility.

So go ahead, doodle your favorite agent’s name in gel pen on your hot pink Post-it notes. There’s no judgment here. But keep your options open. There may be an agent of awesome waiting in the wings.
How do you handle agent crushes? Comment below to share.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Capilocks and the Three Critique Partners

Once upon a time, there lived a young writer with stories worth gold bouncing from her head. She dreamed of an amazing house—a publishing house that would take her manuscript all the way to Happily Ever After. So after Capilocks trudged through the Forest of Revision, she set out to find a critique partner that was juuuuuuust right.
The first partner she found was a tough one. He flashed his red Sharpie and laughed a maniacal laugh as he slayed each sentence and made them his own. He belittled her ideas, told her to only write to the trends, and tweeted mean things about her crappy first drafts.

Capilocks shuddered. “This relationship is too hard.” She wished him well, gathered her tattered ego, and backed away.
The next partner she found was quite cuddly. She dotted her I’s with smileys and hearts, embraced every adverb, and proclaimed, “Brilliant! Send it!” whenever Capilocks scribbled out a new manuscript on the back of a phone message. Capilocks liked this new partner. She never criticized and always encouraged, but Capilocks' stories were still rather suckish.
“This critiquer is too soft,” she said. Capilocks looked around for someone new.
At last, she landed in a relationship with a fabulous writer and caring soul—someone who wanted her to succeed, but wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions. Someone who encouraged her voice, but hid the postage stamps and guarded the send button until manuscripts were polished and prime.
“This critique relationship is just right,” said Capilocks. And it was.
I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing critique partners and dodged a few that didn’t work for me. Where do you go to find great critique partners? Do you ever find it’s tough to critique in a way that’s juuuuust right? Please share in the comments below.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Surviving The Wait

You hit send. And so it begins. The waiting. You check your sent folder. Yep. It’s gone. Now what? Do you spend the rest of your days hitting F5 to refresh your inbox? If you don’t at least feel the pull, I question your humanity. But you know, there’s no guarantee of a response. So here are ten different things you can do while waiting.

10. Be a kid again. Go down a slide head first. Blow bubbles. Color a picture. Walk on your hands in the swimming pool. Do something fun, and practice not caring what anyone thinks about it.
9. Find fun songs about waiting & sing them loudly as you drive through town with your windows down and your hair tangling in the breeze. We writers don’t have to look like soccer moms, you know.
8. Volunteer. Come out of your writer’s cave and see what cause needs some love. Tutor a kid. Help out in an animal shelter. Serve others at a soup kitchen. It will help put things in perspective again.
7. Ketchup. No wait, I meant catch up. That laundry pile looming and threatening to bury you in your sleep? The kitchen floor confettied with Goldfish crackers and Cheerios? Take charge of it before paranormal elements emerge.
6. Create flash fiction. Can you write a mini story? There are some fun contests out there with prompts and prizes to get you started.
5. Let out that nervous energy in a way that feeds your soul. If it’s running, run. If it’s playing guitar, strum. If it’s dancing, twirl. Your family will thank you.
4. Create a spreadsheet. When responses come in, you’ll want to keep good records so you'll know who you sent what and how they responded.
3. Read. Read for fun. Let a stranger’s story dance in your head. And when you finish that book? Read another one.
2. Plot, plan, dream. Start thinking about your next writing project. It’s time.
1. Write something new.

So what do you do when the waiting starts? Comment below and let us know.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Query Flops Contest

After years of tweeting with each other, Donna Earnhardt and I finally met IRL (in real life) in March. She is every bit as fabulous and funny in person as she is online. One of the things that got us especially giggly was remembering and retelling some of the blunders of our submissions past.

You see, the more I learn, the more I learn I have to learn. If you’ve been seeking publication for a while, go back and look at your first letter to an agent or editor. *shudders* It’s bad, right? The more you follow agents and editors on Twitter and their blogs, the more you learn about how to make your submissions more professional.

With that in mind, I’m having a contest to celebrate our flops! What did you do when querying (We’ll all assume it was a very long time ago) that you wish you could take back? Make up the name of the agent or editor involved—we don’t really want it popping up in their Google alerts, do we? Then tell us what you learned from your mistake.

 On Friday, April 27th, I will put the names of the brave souls that entered into a hat and let my youngest pick a winner. One winner will win a pair of Old Navy flip flops, so you’ll know we are thankful you’ve learned from the flops of your past.  Be sure to include your email address or Twitter handle if I can’t find it through clicking on your name. U.S. entries only, please.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Books Hit the Big Screen

I am beyond excited about The Hunger Games movie. I devoured all three books in the series and love that it was filmed in North Carolina. If it wasn't for my "mom duties," I would have camped out, swung from trees, or whatever else it might have taken to land a part as an extra.

All this has me thinking about other books that became movies. We readers have great expectations and clear pictures in our heads, so I'm curious which ones worked for you. Two of my favorites were The Princess Bride and The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe. I've read both books too many times to count and was amazed at how brilliantly the story on the big screen reflected the one I'd grown to love.

What about you? What are your favorite book to big screen transformations? Will you be standing in line to see The Hunger Games on opening night? Comment and let us know!