Spring Books! (Or I Want Them NOW!)

December 4, 2009

It was seventy degrees here yesterday. Seventy! That’s crazy. Today it’s going to be fifty.

It feels like spring. Do you think we will just skip winter and go right into spring? I am probably just wishing because a) cold is no fun and b) it seems like there are tons of good books coming out in the spring.



Could you just DIE? I mean, hello! The tagline alone is just enough to sell the book. I heard about this when it first sold, and then I kind of forgot about it, and assumed it wouldn’t be out for forever. But now it’s on my radar again, and even though now it’s only a few months until it comes out, it still seems like further away than before!

What do you think Carrie was like in high school???? Was she dorky? Cool? Did she dress the same? Did she have all sorts of man problems even back then? We will have to wait to find out. Sigh. The good news is I have the whole series of Sex and the City on DVD, so I can just watch those while I wait.


I saw this one on Meg Cabot’s website under her upcoming adult books, although she hadn’t listed a description until a couple of days ago. This one is about vampires. Gasp! I don’t like vampires. Bella and I will just have to agree to disagree. But…I might be tempted to change my mind on my vampire stance since it’s Meg Cabot. Really looking forward to this one!


I love Sarah, and the concept of this one is adorable – a seventeen-year-old girl’s cell phone breaks, and she finds out she can only call her fourteen-year-old self. Can’t wait!

What books are YOU looking forward to (this spring or anytime)? Also, all this talk of books has reminded me I need to try and revive my book club. It never quite took off, hmm…

Anyway! Back soon with my promised entry about nanowrimo…

More later,

Posted by Lauren @ 8:22 am | 3 Comments  

On Agent Responses

December 2, 2009

So agent Rachelle Gardner put a post up on her blog the other day about writers griping about agent response times. It’s definitely worth a read, especially the comments. You can find it the post here.

Here’s the thing.

I’m not going to talk about how busy agents are, or if they should be responding to every query, or if two months is way too long to hold on to someone’s full manuscript. Really, it’s kind of not important. And when I say kind of, I mean, you know, not at all, if we’re talking about importance as it relates to the end goal of getting published.

I mean, I don’t understand why we’re wasting our time worrying about some agent we probably have never met, who’s never promised us anything, who’s not responding to an email we sent. It’s like sending your profile out to someone on a dating site, and then being like, WHY IS THAT PERSON NOT RESPONDING? THAT PERSON IS THE REASON I WILL NEVER BE MARRIED, THEY COULD AT LEAST RESPOND!!!! ALL MEN ARE HORRIBLE AND NOW I WILL THROW MYSELF OFF THIS CLIFF!

Newsflash: Agents not responding to your email is not the reason you are not getting published.

Also? Honestly, you might need to get a thicker skin.

If you’re going to get upset about an agent not responding to your query letter, if that is going to ruin your day, your life, your week, then ohhhh boyyy are you not ready to deal with the realities of being a working writer.

How are you going to deal with it when you finally do get an agent, and you spend months revising with said agent only to have that agent leave the agency the day before your book is about to go out on submission? What are you going to do when you finally sell a book, spend months and months revising it, only then it doesn’t sell so well, and so your publisher doesn’t push the second book on your contract, and doesn’t pick up your option, leaving you in the same boat you were BEFORE you sold, only now with bad sales numbers? What if your editor leaves, and your new editor convinces you everything will be fine, but then she leaves too, and your book gets cancelled? What if you sell a new multi-book deal to your long time publisher, only to have it cancelled? What if you’re told by a publisher that an offer is forthcoming, only to wait months to have it fall through?

All of these things have happened to me or someone I know. And I haven’t even been around that long.

Look, this is a hard business. Hard, hard, hard.

And honestly, there are really only two things you can do to make it easier.

Number one, (this is something I’ve heard Jenny Crusie say, and it’s helped me a lot) is to SEPARATE THE WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHING. Writing is so personal to us. We spend months, sometimes years, countless hours away from our families and friends, early mornings and late nights writing and pouring our hearts and souls into our books. But once you make the decision to try to make money from your writing, once you start querying agents, you’re talking about publishing. Which is a business. A business that will break your heart five million trillion times for five million trillion different reasons.

If you’re not ready for this kind of heartbreak, don’t send your stuff out. Keep it on your hard drive, or sell it on lulu.com.

Number two, if you want to get the best chance of getting a response from agents, the best chance of getting your book published?

Write a great book. Write a great query. Keep sending stuff out. And keep working on the next thing while you’re doing it. Agents not responding is NOT the thing that is keeping you from getting published.

YOU are, by spending your time worrying about agents and not focusing on the thing you CAN control. Which is the writing.

Write, write, write, write, write. Keep writing. Get better. Make every book you write better than the last. That is the only thing you can control about the business. And that goes for when you’re published, unpublished, any time. Focus on the writing, and try to let go of the things you can’t control. (Like, um, agent response times.)

This doesn’t mean don’t vent. Publishing is FRUSTRATING. It will make you cry. A lot sometimes. But vent to your friends. Drink a hot chocolate and eat a cupcake. And then brush yourself off and KEEP WRITING.

I know what you’re thinking. Easy for YOU to say, don’t you have a bunch of books coming out next year? Don’t you love your agent? Well, yes and yes. BUT. Once, I was querying. Once, I was getting no responses. Even AFTER I was published and looking for a new agent, some agents didn’t respond to my query.

Once, I had an agent in NYC leave my requested full IN A HAIR SALON. You know how I know? Not because I ever heard from her again, but because the hair salon called me to tell me they had my manuscript. It had my contact info on the title page, and they assumed that I was the one who had left it. Upsetting? Yes. (Especially since she seemed really excited to read the full and also because when that 212 area code from the hair salon popped up, I got kind of excited.)

But that agent leaving my book there was not the reason that book didn’t get published. The reason that book didn’t get published is because it wasn’t ready.

I wrote another book. One that WAS ready.

Please, focus on what you can REALLY do to give yourself the best chance. And that is not blaming agents, or debating whether it’s wrong that they don’t respond to every query or if they should be at home answering emails instead of twittering about how they went out for pizza.

Keep writing. Keep sending your stuff out. Revise. Write a new, better book. Learn. Don’t give up.

Focus on what you can control, and do your best to let go of the rest…

Happy writing!

More later,

Posted by Lauren @ 8:31 am | 20 Comments  

Thanksgiving and Chillin’ With Dylan

December 1, 2009

I cannot believe it’s December 1st! That’s crazy. December is officially winter and coldness, although it hasn’t’ really snowed here yet. Just once, and only for about an hour or so, and then it was gone. Not that I’m complaining – we’ll get it soon enough, and then I’ll really want it to go away. (My thoughts on snow is that it should be over after the holidays – it should be just swept away after the new year, taken out with the Christmas trees and put away with the holiday lights, not to be seen or heard from again until next year.)

My Thanksgiving was fun – we went down to the Cape to visit with the in-laws. My sister-in-law just got engaged, so it was fun to ooh and ahh over her shiny new ring.

We also played Pictionary. Probably none of you have ever seen me draw, but if you did, you would know that I’m not so good at this game. (One time someone asked me if I was doing the illustrations for my chapter book series, and I was thinking, “Um, no, not unless they want them to be stick figures.” But the truth is, I’m not even that good at stick figures.)

But somehow, this year I wasn’t that bad. My ten-year-old niece was on my team, and I swear it was like we had mind-meld. I drew this blob on the paper and then circled something in the middle, and she was like, ‘BRAZIL!” which was totally right! Do you think that’s why I like writing tween books so much? Because I am deep down ten years old?

But the best part was that we got home to find that while we were gone, SoapNet had DVR’d the Beverly Hills, 90201 Chillin’ With Dylan marathon. Hello, how lucky! (The Boy didn’t think so. But whatever. The DVR also has lots of UFC and boxing on it, which is unlucky for me, so it all works out.)

I turned in a book yesterday, so I’ve been catching up on the episodes. Some of them are really good. Um, the first episode where Dylan and Brenda meet? And the whole Brenda/Kelly/Dylan love triangle? When she yells, “I hate you both, never talk to me again!” Love it!

Some of them are not so good. Like, for example right now Dylan is in some kind of coma, and the whole episode is this really weird dream sequence where he’s making out with Kelly and then getting operated on by his high school principal. Creepy. And confusing.

Anyway. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Happy December! I’ll blog tomorrow about my nanowrimo being pretty much an epic fail…

ETA: Now the high school principal has a gun for some reason, and Dylan is chasing a little girl down some railroad tracks. This one might need to be deleted…

More later,

Posted by Lauren @ 9:30 am | 4 Comments  

Query Letter Clinic!

So a couple of days ago I put a call out on twitter, saying that the first three people who emailed their query letter to me would get it critiqued on my blog. It was the holiday weekend, and The Boy had friends over, so I was tucked away in our bedroom trying not to get in the way of male bonding time 🙂 Anyway, I turned a book in yesterday, so this morning I sat down to critique.

(Disclaimer: These are JUST my opinions. Feel free to take what helps you and ignore the rest. Also, I haven’t read the books these queries are for, so when I needed plot stuff, I just made it up or did an kind of thing. These are also rough, as I wrote them off the top of my head, and would definitely need a little smoothing before they were sent.)

Query Number One:

Dear Ms. X,

The monsters who lurk in the shadows might think Elle is a kindred spirit — they’re wrong.

Elle hates being a werewolf, hates that the blood of the beast who killed her family also runs through her veins. But now she has a new home and family, including Cass, her dhamphir foster-sister. The girls join forces to keep the local supernaturals in line and make their town as normal as possible.

It’s a job they treat like a hobby, until the night something attacks the high school quarterback, leaving him like a living zombie. As friends, enemies, and strangers alike fall prey to the soul-stealing demon spawn, Elle and Cass are forced to up their game. Rather than pinpointing a suspect though, Elle’s werewolf senses have her chasing her tail — and her cute new tutor, who smells a little too much like the demon spawn.

When her foster-mom is attacked, Elle’s home life is shattered. Armed with more attitude than experience, and running out of suspects, Elle must embrace her inner beast if she wants to stop the demon spawn from destroying her new family — or at least their souls.

PRETTY SOULS, a young adult urban fantasy, is complete at 85,000 words. It will appeal to readers of Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers series, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series.

I would be thrilled to send sample chapters or the full manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Writer Number One

My Thoughts:

Paragragh #1 – I think you need to cut the first paragraph. I get that maybe you’re going for something that will get attention right off the bat, but I think the next paragraph does it.

Paragragh #2 — There’s an intriguing set-up here. Unfortunately, I think it’s a little bit confusing. I like that Elle’s a werewolf, and that werewolves also killed her family. But I want to know how she came to live with a half-vampire foster-sister, and also how/why the two girls join forces. And to do what exactly? What kind of creatures are in their town and how do they keep it normal? Also, did she just move in with the foster family or has she lived there since she was born? I need a little more info.

Paragraph #3 — The third paragraph is good, but I think it needs to be streamlined and include just a touch more info.

Paragraph #4 –The last paragraph, I like — it’s like the last straw is her foster mom being attacked, the catalyst for her embracing who she really is. But I don’t know if the whole “home life shattered” line needs to be there. Obviously her home life would be shattered. Also, I like that she has now decided to “embrace” her inner beast, but I’d like to know a little more about HOW or WHY she decided to do this. Is there some power she has that she hasn’t used yet for some reason? Or maybe she has to infiltrate the group of wolves that killed her biological family? Also I think the “or at least their souls” can be cut.

Maybe Try Something Like:

“When sixteen-year-old Elle’s family is killed in a vicious werewolf attack, Elle is sent to x to live with x. Elle hates being a werewolf, hates that that blood of the beast that killed her family runs through her veins. But Elle has a new family now, including Cass, her damphir foster sister.

Once Elle is settled in to her new home, the two girls join forces, spending their days and nights keeping the local (specific supernaturals?) in line by (whatever they do that shows they are keeping the town as normal as possible, but that’s it’s still only a hobby).

But when the high school quarterback is found on the football field, brutally attacked and left as a living zombie, Elle and Cass are forced to up their game. Suddenly, the town is reeling, and as friends, enemies and strangers alike fall prey to the soul-stealing predator, Elle’s werewolf instincts have her chasing her tail. Her only suspect? Max, her cute new tutor, who’s setting off her senses with his weird behavior.

When Elle’s foster mom is attacked, Elle realizes the threat may be closer than she thought – and she wonders if she’s the real target. Armed with more attitude than experience, and running out of suspects, Elle must finally find a way to embrace her inner beast if she wants to stop the demon from destroying her family.

Query Letter Number Two:

Dear Ms. X:

Madeline, "Maddie" McGee hates cleaning. Always has – always will. Her motto? "I solve your mystery…you clean my room."

But when her messy room becomes an obstacle in her vacation plans, she needs a case…in a hurry! In the nic of time, a nerdy fellow student, Victor, comes to Maddie for help in finding Sylvia (his boa constrictor). Unfortunately, Maddie hates snakes almost as much as she hates cleaning. But since her room is even scarier than the boa constrictor – the search is on!

As the mystery deepens, Maddie learns that snakes aren’t always hidden in the grass…sometimes they are in plain view, wearing a suit and tie.

SEEKING SYLVIA: A Maddie McGee Mystery is a completed chapter book written in first person. I hope you will allow me to send you the entire manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Joy and peace,

Writer #2

My Thoughts:

Paragraph #1 — I like the concept of this! A girl sleuth, what’s not to like? The problem is, when you start with Maddie McGee hates cleaning, it makes it seem like it’s a book about cleaning. Also, it’s a little unclear — she solves mysteries, and every time she does, the person has to clean her room? If so, I think you need to make the fact that she solves mysteries front and center. Also, I didn’t get a real sense of Maddie’s age from the beginning, which was confusing. I was picturing this book as a middle grade, but later you say it’s a chapter book. So I’d put her age in here somewhere.

Paragraph #2 I like the set up for the mystery. I just think you need more info, and I think you need to make it more clear that Maddie

Paragraph #3 The suit and tie part is great – I love thinking that maybe there’s a mysterious man who has something to do with it! But the mystery, which is such a huge part of the book, is kind of buried here. How does the mystery deepen? We need a few more details, especially since otherwise there’s no real mystery – it’s just a search for a snake.

Side note: This is a minor thing, but I wonder if you need a snappier title. I don’t know if “Seeking Sylvia” is catchy enough for a chapter book. Something with the word “snake” in it, like SNAKE ON THE LOOSE! Or something that would appeal to kids more and is a little catchier might be better.

Maybe Try Something Like:

Eight-year-old Madeline “Maddie” McGee is a super sleuth. Whether it’s figuring out x or x, Maddie can do it. Her only request? You clean her room in return.

When Maddie’s parents lay down the law – clean her room or risk missing the family vacation — Maddie realizes she needs a case…and fast. So when Maddie’s classmate Victor asks Maddie to for help finding Sylvia, his boa constrictor, Maddie signs on. The only problem? Maddie hates snakes almost as much as she hates cleaning. Almost. Besides, how hard can it possibly be?

But soon a simple chase for Sylvia turns into a bunch of weird happenings as Maddie starts uncovering x, x, and x. And when a mysterious man shows up, one might know more about the case than he’s letting on, Maddie starts to realize that snakes aren’t always hidden in the grass..sometimes they’re in plain view, wearing a suit and tie.

Query Letter Number Three:

Dear Ms. X:

I am seeking representation for my 60,000 word YA novel Through Her Eyes

Leila Lefley is awkward. While the rest of the students in Eastbay High are panicking over prom and college applications, Leila struggles to come to terms with the real meaning of idioms, her peer’s lack of interest in van Gogh’s disfigured ear, and the need to wear heels. Why would someone willingly risk a bunion the size of a golf ball? Leila resigns herself to drooling over her crush Neil from a distance. What would the insightful, fashion savvy heartthrob want with Loony Leila? Especially since Leila has Asperger’s syndrome.

Then she bumps into the crude Thor, literally. He tells her that he is a nymph and she is his charge. His mission is simple– make Neil fall in love with Leila. Welcome to Dating 101. As a nymph, Thor is a master of seduction. A simple look from Thor and the school’s ancient Latin teacher is ready to drop her pants. But this nymph has his work cut out for him since Leila is different. Cue uncomfortable silences, unnecessary rambling and cringe-worthy situations.

The rules are straightforward. Follow Thor’s instruction, don’t like an idiot and most importantly, don’t fall in love with the nymph. Some things are easier said than done. The closer Leila gets to Neil, the more she finds herself longing for Thor. But Thor’s mission comes with a timestamp, and with it, his own expiration. Leila has to make Neil fall in love with her fast, or she’ll lose Thor forever.

Thank you,

Amna Mohdin

My Thoughts:

Paragraph #1 — Okay. I like that this girl has Asperger’s syndrome. I think that there’s a real lack of strong YA heroines with disabilities in YA fiction. However, this paragraph has two main problems. One, it’s missing a really great opportunity to set up exactly who this girl is, and two, the voice is a little bit off for YA.

I did some googling, and found out that people with Asperger’s have trouble with idioms, and that Van Gogh is thought to have maybe had Asperger’s. But I wouldn’t know that unless I knew something about Asperger’s. So right now it just reads that those are the things she’s into. I think you should change it up just a little, so that agents/editors who are familiar with Asperger’s would get some of the references, but that if they don’t have that much background in Asperger’s, they would still think, “Wow, Leila sounds like a really cool character.” Also, we can cut the first sentence, since it becomes obvious that Leila is awkward. I also think the words “looney” and “heartthrob” are dated, so they should be replaced.

Paragraph #2 — I like this set up, but I want to know a little more. Instead of saying “Welcome to Dating 101” can we see some examples of how Thor teaches Leila? Also, I didn’t really care for the school’s ancient Latin teacher dropping her pants. I think it would be more impressive if it were the hottest girl in school swooning ☺

Paragraph #3 – Like it! Good as is!

Maybe Try Somethingg Like:

While the rest of the students at Eastbay High are panicking over their facebook statuses and making sure the height of their stilettos is worthy of prom, seventeen-year-old Leila Leifley is researching the long-term implications of social networking sites, and debating whether or not Van Gogh’s early work showed signs of his depression.

Unfortunately, Leila’s differences haven’t left her immune to the torture that is high school crushes. Leila’s been watching Neil (last name) from a distance for what seems like forever. And she intends to keep it that way. Her Asperger’s Syndrome makes normal social interaction hard enough – forget about talking to the most sought-after guy at Eastbay.

Then Leila bumps into Thor. Literally. Thor’s a nymph, and his mission is simple. Make Neil fall in love with Leila. Thor is a master of seduction (one grin can make the hottest cheerleader swoon), but with Leila, he has his work cut out for him. She can’t flirt to save her life, she really does not get the point of short skirts, and she almost singes her hair off in an unfortunate incident involving hot rollers. Add her uncomfortable silences, unnecessary rambling, and tendency to take everything literally and Leilia wonders if she’ll ever get Neil to even look at her, much less fall in love.

But Leila’s determined to follow the rules. Do what Thor says, don’t act like an idiot and most importantly, don’t fall in love with the nymph. But some things are easier said than done. The closer Leila gets to Neil, the more she finds herself longing for Thor. But Thor’s mission comes with a timestamp, and with it, his own expiration. Leila has to make Neil fall in love with her fast, or risk losing Thor forever.


Thanks to all who sent their query letters! This was fun, and now that my book is done, I might do it again this week…

More later,

Posted by Lauren @ 7:54 am | 2 Comments  

Teaser Tuesday — ACES UP

November 24, 2009

My first Teaser Tuesday! I was writing this entry and then I realized I don’t know the rules.. Am I allowed to post something from a book that’s already done? Or do I have to post something from what I’m working on now? Hmmm…

This is from my YA novel ACES UP, which will be out in August…


“This is you, right?” he asks. He pulls a crumpled-up piece of paper out of his pocket. He’s still a few feet away, but I can tell what it is. An internet printout of an article from our local newspaper, The Whitinsville Eagle. ‘HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR WINS BIG AT MATH DECATHLON,’ it says. It’s accompanied by a picture of me, smiling into the camera and looking a little cross-eyed. Also, I’m wearing a white shirt, which has the unfortunate effect of making it look like my head is floating in midair.

Uh-oh. Is this some kind of trick? Is Cole actually casino security, trying to fool me into admitting I’m only seventeen? I square my shoulders and pretend I have no idea what he’s talking about.

“No,” I say, squinting at the picture and hoping I look super-confused. “I’ve never seen that girl in my life.”

“It says your name underneath it,” Cole points out. Damn.

“What do you want?” I ask again, letting the door go. It closes behind me. “If you’re trying to blackmail me, good luck. I have seventeen dollars to my name, so if you want to go through all this trouble for that, then be my guest!” I pull open my purse and shake my money onto the ground in a pathetic storm of fives and ones. I was trying to sound haughty, but it didn’t come out that well. “And where did you get that printout, anyway?”

“Googled you,” he says.

“Why were you googling me?” I ask suspiciously.

“We do a standard background on all the new employees.”


“Aces Up.”

“What’s ay says up?” I ask again. Definitely sounds shady.

“It’s a poker society,” he says. “And we want you to join.”

I frown. “A poker society? I don’t know anything about poker.”

“We want to teach you.” He looks at me intently, his dark eyes serious. “We think with your math skills, you might be able to win a lot of money.”

“How much?” I ask in spite of myself. I mean, I would never gamble for money. A) I can’t risk losing everything B) Gambling is shady and C) I’m totally underage. Lying to get a job is one thing. Lying to gamble is another thing completely. But still. Now that Cole doesn’t seem as dangerous, and my path to the door is clear, I’m slightly intrigued.

“Lots.” In this light, he looks a little bit like Casey Affleck. But I will not be swayed by mopsy hair and dimples. Especially when I’m smart enough to know that nothing comes for free, especially money.

“Yeah, well assaulting me outside the elevator? Not the way to get me to join your stupid society,” I say.

“I told you, it’s secret,” he says, waving his hand like it’s nothing. “We have to be careful who sees us together.”

“I don’t want to be a poker player,” I say. I open the door again, and my feet sink into the soft carpet of the hallway. “I don’t want to be a gambler of any kind. And so I’m leaving.” I take one step outside, waiting for him to call after me. “Aren’t you going to try to stop me?” I ask, turning back around.

“Nope,” he says. And then looks me up and down, like he’s sizing me up. But not the way guys usually do, like they’re trying to figure out if they want to hook up with you. It’s more like he’s giving me a tryout of some sort. In fact it’s kind of ….sexy. Way sexier than the other kind of sizing up. But then I remember there’s nothing sexy about accosting me in an elevator and trapping me in a hotel room.

And then I figure it out. He’s pretending he doesn’t need me, so that I’ll be all, “I want to be a famous poker player, oh, please please please!” Ha! He obviously doesn’t know who he’s messing with. “I’m leaving,” I say again, forcefully this time.

“Okay.” He shrugs again. Annoying.

“Well,” I say. “Bye.” I step all the way into the hallway then.

“Bye, Shannon,” he calls as the door shuts behind me. But something about the way he says it implies he thinks I’m going to be back…..

Posted by Lauren @ 8:17 am | 5 Comments