Author Interview with Sage Collins

I am really, really excited.  Why you ask? Well, today I have my first ever guest on my blog!

Author Sage Collins stopped by to spill some details about herself and her new book. Sage is just amazing. I would gush, but I’m sure you’d rather hear from her So, without further ado…

Hi Sage! *Waves* Tell us something random about yourself.

You cannot stop me from singing. Seriously, I do it without thinking half the time, which is kind of a problem at work. I have an okay voice, so it’s not like I sing out of tune, but I’m not exactly Adele. And, yeah, I do it all the time.

You have a new book, “Love Sucks,” what is it about?

Here is the official blurb:

Mailee is about to answer the age-old question: “How much love would a love sucker suck if a love sucker fell in love?”

Mailee’s greatest wish is to be an ordinary teenage girl, but thanks to one stupid demon gene she consumes love from any human she touches. The only person she can touch is her best friend Eric, a hot lust-drainer. Except for slight hand-brushes to keep from starving, she avoids humans.

Until she meets Logan, a diabetic and the first human who could understand Mailee’s diet angst. She grows closer to him, but each touch risks his love for her. If she wants a normal relationship, she’ll have to become human. But the only way requires her to free and be infected by demons representing the Seven Deadly Sins. Sloth? Pride? No problem. But when wrath-infected Mailee punches the cheerleader who’s making eyes at Eric, she realizes getting through the sins might cost too much.

Like Eric. Because if she turns human, he’ll be the only one she can’t touch.

That sounds really cool and is so fresh! Where did you get the idea for “Love Sucks”?

I was playing a game with another writer, where our characters answer and ask questions of each other. Her character drained something negative (sadness or fear or something), and mine exclaimed how horrible that was. Her character said, “No, it’s the love drainers you have to watch out for.” Instantly I had the idea of a love drainer, who had to eat love to survive, even though she was afraid to drain people completely. And what’s the biggest complication that could come up? Why she’d fall in love, of course.

Okay, so this is not a romance. How would you classify it?

Well, thankfully, my writer friends who are reading it now say I have nothing to fear by people calling it a romance because the romantic elements are strong enough. So, phew, that’s a big relief to me. But I have always classified Love Sucks as a YA contemporary fantasy.

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Eric, hands down. In fact, he’s one of my favorite characters of all my novels. Eric is that perfect combination of big brother figure and classic boyfriend for me. He’s confident, even though he doesn’t always know the best thing to do. But he always tries to do the right thing, even if that might hurt him in the end. On one hand, he seems really secure with his life as it is—he’s popular, he’s worked out how to drain lust without hurting anyone, his family’s great, he’s rich, he gets good grades and excels at football—but then we see all these little hints that life isn’t really that perfect for him, no matter what Mailee thinks about it. Plus, he’s fun to be around, joking when it’s appropriate but sweet when it’s needed. It’s a great mix. If it was me choosing a boyfriend, it would be Eric. I won’t tell you which one Mailee chooses.

Pick one character from any work of fiction you’d save and one you’d kill.

Oh, man, tough question. I think I’d save Professor Lupin in Harry Potter. I understand why he dies as one of Harry’s parent figures, but of the people who walk with Harry to meet Voldemort, I think he’s the one who least is needed as one of those figures, and then he can be there for his son, which would be nice.

One to kill, hmmm. I was going to get my Joss Whedon on and kill off some beloved character, but then I decided to kill off Bella and make so many people happy who either hate Twilight or who love it and want Edward for themselves.

So I mentioned this to my roommate, and she went off on this fantasy where, with Bella out of the way, Edward and Jacob fall in love and this heals the animosity between the vampires and the werewolves. She hasn’t even read the books and she’s making fanfic for them.

I would definitely save Lupin too! What else have you got in the pipeline and when can we expect to see it?

I’m currently querying two novels to agents. One is a YA superhero novel that’s told from the POV of both the hero and villain, who are obsessively in love with each other. The other is a middle grade fantasy about a girl who teams up with an elf to save the Pear Tree from falling into the hands of a tyrant known as the Grey Partridge, following a prophecy in the form of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

I’m also revising a YA sci-fi novel about a boy who is fighting alongside the girl of his dreams for the rights of androids that are built to be the perfect boyfriends. Then he finds out that he is an android built for her.

But as to when I’ll be published next, I don’t know. If I publish with Musa again, it could be next year, but right now nothing is actually in the pipeline for me.

Random question: if you were a dinosaur, what kind would you be?

I would be a pterodactyl (even if it’s not technically a dinosaur, shh). Any excuse to be something that flies, right? Although I would probably be the one pterodactyl that couldn’t fly at all, like Petrie in The Land Before Time. (Still, there’d be hope. After all, he flies in the end.)

Anyway, I think I’d make a great pterodactyl. The other day my cat was sitting there, naked without her collar, which makes it near impossible to catch her and put it back on her. Well, I swooped down from the sky and snatched her up. Totally pterodactyl-like. *nods seriously*

I love that you just whipped out a “Land Before Time” reference. (I’d totally be Cera!). Where can we find “Love Sucks”?

Right now you can find it at Amazon in Kindle format and on my publisher’s website in all formats. In a few weeks, it will be available on B&N and other e-book locations.

How can we find you? (And no, that’s not me in your bushes waiting for an advanced copy of your android book, “Taylor-Made.” *ducks behind a tree*)

Haha. I’d be honored if you were an early Taylor-Made reader.

You can find me:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Sagecollins
Blog: http://sagelikethespice.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sage.collins.16

Love Sucks- Sage Collins

Thanks so much for stopping by, Sage!  I can’t wait to nab my hubby’s Kindle and read “Love Sucks!”  Everyone, go check it out, and then stop by Sage’s blog for teasers and updates.

Contests!

I’m quite competitive so I LOVE contests.  I’ve stumbled across a few writerly contests and thought I’d share them with you, dear readers:

The first is a blog contest from Ruth Lauren Steven.  It’s an agent judged contest that opens on April 18th (judged by Gemma Cooper of The Bright Literary Agency, and Julia Churchill of Greenhouse).  You have to follow her blog to participate.  Submit a query and the first five pages of your manuscript.  It’s open to YA and MG fiction.  You can find the details here.

Next up is a logline contest. The winner receives free registration to the Backspace Writers Conference and tickets to the play “Seminar” featuring Jeff Goldblum, Alan Rickman, Jerry O’Connell, and Justin Long.  The loglines don’t have to be from a particular manuscript and can be something you created just for the contest.  If you don’t know what Backspace is, it’s a huge conference at the end of May.  Writers meet with agents, yes ACTUAL agents (like Janet Reid, Brooks Sherman, Kristen Nelson, Sarah LaPolla, and so many more!), one on one and in small group sessions.  The agents will critique your queries and first pages, AND there are lots of great speakers.  This year’s keynote speaker will be Donald Maass of the Donald Maass agency.  It’s a great opportunity!

Finally, the publisher Strange Chemistry is opening its doors for unsolicited (i.e. unagented) manuscripts from April 16 through April 30.  These entries must be YA science-fiction or fantasy.  They’ve got some pretty strict guidelines so check out Open Door, 2012 Strange Chemistry.  This isn’t exactly a contest in that there isn’t a winner.  They’ll just read your manuscript, which is a BIG thing!  Last year, they signed three authors from this opportunity.  This is also something you should do at your own risk.  If you get an agent later, and Strange Chemistry has already seen your manuscript, there is a good chance they won’t give it another look, even if you revise/rewrite, etc.

Other places you should continually check out are Cupid’s Literary Connection.  One contest is wrapping up there, but another will be coming along soon!  Janet Reid also frequently has contests and is famous for her 100 word stories.  She’s also wrapping one up now, so check there in the future. Gabriela Lessa also hosts contests, so check her out too.  Right now, she’s accepting submissions for a short story anthology, but has also offered query critiques.

Know of any other contests you’d like to share?  Good luck to everyone who decides to enter these!

An Award? Me?

                                

I am incredibly grateful and humbled to have been given a blog award!  Many thanks to my friend M.R. Jordan for the Liebster Award.  You can find her blog here. She also made the quarterfinals in ABNA, so go read her submission excerpt about a dog and a zombie and leave her some feedback!

Now according to the rules for receiving this award, I also have to pass it along:

1. Give to a blogger with less than 200 followers
2. That blogger will pass it on to 5 followers
3. According to Babelfish (which I didn’t check) and Google Translate (which I did), Liebster means Dearest.

So, the five dear bloggers I am awarding are:

1.  Commutinggirl

2.  Kana’s Chronicles

3.  L’ombelico di Svesda

4.  The Narrow Road

5.  Descent Into Slushland

They all have great blogs you should check out!  I must say, this is a fantastic way to connect and find bloggers I might not have stumbled across otherwise!  Thanks again, M.R.

Importance of Conflict and Why I Hate Forrest Gump

There is one issue in my marriage that has caused an impasse.  A conflict over, of all things, lack of conflict.  I’m talking about one of the worst movies ever made.  “Forrest Gump.”  My husband loves it.  He thinks it’s a fantastic movie about a man’s life.  I, on the other hand, despise it.  It’s a three hour snooze fest about some random guy.  To it’s credit, the movie had an excellent soundtrack, and to be honest, I’ve never read the book, but from what I can gather it’s just a longer version of the movie so I’ll spare myself the trauma.

This all came to mind when I was confronted with the question: Does a book have to have conflict?  My immediate answer was “Yes, of course it does.  What’s the point of writing it if there’s no conflict and who would even read it?”  Then I remembered “Forrest Gump” and how it’s lack of conflict stretched for hours.

Why is this such a bone of contention in my marriage?  I guess because I’m so stolidly against the stupid movie, and because so many people, for some strange reason, seem to love it.  Here are my main problems:

1.  It has no plot.  None.  From as early as I can remember learning about story structure, I was taught a story has five parts:  Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.  A good story forms an arc (This mnemonic is even used as another name for galley copies of books, or advance reader copies. Coincidence?  I think not).  “Forrest Gump” is linear.  My husband argues that the guy’s life is the plot.  But even stories about lives follow the arc or else they’re boring.  That’s why memoirs don’t sell well.  Just sitting down and reading about some random person’s life is boring.  “I woke up today and ate two Rudy’s frozen sausage biscuits for breakfast.  Fed the dog.  Brushed my teeth.  Dressed and left for work.  The drive was good.  No traffic.”  That’s boring.  Why do you think reality shows all have the same format (No tv, lots of alcohol, put them in dramatic situations, etc)?  Because every day people going about their every day lives is boring.  At best, “Forrest Gump” revolves around several episodic scenes, but those are typically called subplots.  I guess you can say the plot revolves around him and Jenny, but even romance stories have the five parts of a plot.

If we break “Forrest Gump” into the five parts we have this:  Exposition- We meet Forrest in small town Alabama, a puny kid with leg braces.  He likes a girl and he gets bullied.  That sets the scene.  Okay, I’m following so far.  Rising Action- He and the girl become friends. He loses the braces and discovers he can run.  He runs away from the bullies, championed by the girl.  He gets a football scholarship and he and the girl drift apart.  Here’s where it starts to crumble.  That’s as close to rising action as I can see.  Then it goes flat.  Conflict-  I’m just not sure.  I don’t think there is a conflict.  Finding and losing Jenny is as close as it gets, but that isn’t conflict.  It’s just two people living.  What is the main thing he’s fighting against?  Himself?  The perceptions of others?  That’s not good enough to drive the story.  There needs to be something he has to overcome, something that represents his internal conflicts if that indeed is the driving force of the story.  But no.  He just bounces from one scene to another without anything really changing.  With each scene Forrest meets a Character, and he does the same thing- he runs.  Whoopty-doo.  Falling action-  Perhaps returning home?   But that’s tenuous at best.  Resolution- He has a baby with Jenny, which isn’t really resolution at all.  More like another story altogether.

So we have a linear, episodic story, with no point.  I have no idea what he accomplished other than what every one of us accomplishes until day we die.  He lived.  That’s it.  I don’t know how the book sold.  I couldn’t imagine reading a book with no plot.  Yet somehow, it did.  Go figure.

2. It frustrated the heck out of me because I kept waiting for conflict that never came.  It’s like when “Marley and Me” came out.  I love animals and really wanted to see the movie.  My little sister, however, ruined it.  *Spoiler Alert* She told me the dog dies.  I’m a somewhat emotional person.  Especially when it comes to animals.  I can’t stand to watch those Sarah McLachlan commercials for the ASPCA because I cry every time I see those poor, pitiful creatures.   I used to like the song, but now I can’t even hear “In the Arms of the Angel” without welling up.   So there I was, watching the movie about an adorably bad yellow lab and every time something bad would happen, I’d brace myself.  Tears would start to form.  I’d turn my head and squeeze my husband’s hand…only to realize the dog was fine.  And it got worse as the movie progressed.  I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to die early on, so the longer it stretched, the worse I got, until I ended up just crying through the last quarter.

That’s what happened with “Forrest Gump.”  I kept bracing myself, waiting for the conflict, but it never came.  I kept thinking: “Surely the conflict is coming.  It’s getting close to the end!”  But the movie stretched on, and the conflict never appeared.  It was torturous.

3.  It’s not real, but people believe it is.  Forrest Gump was not  real person.  Greenbow, Alabama does not exist. There’s a Greensboro, and a Greenville, but no Greenbow.  Forrest Gump did not exist.  He never played foot ball at the University of Alabama.  Because he wasn’t real.  Yet, I’m amazed at how many people think he was.

I’m from Alabama and this is source of constant headache every time this movie is mentioned (and even though it’s old, it inevitably comes up when people discuss “great movies,” ugh).  Namely, thanks to University of Alabama fans who are proud “one of their own” had a movie about his life.  It blows my mind.  Especially because most “Bama” fans are extremely hardcore and obnoxious, yet don’t know their history well enough to know the man never played there.  Again, because he’s fictional.  (They also can’t grasp they don’t really have fourteen national championships, but good luck explaining that logic to them.  For those of you outside the state, I graduated from Auburn University, Alabama’s rival, so I say this from a completely unbiased viewpoint.  War Eagle!).

Bubba Gump shrimp doesn’t exist either.  Bayou La Batre does.  My best friend from college is from there.  And it’s a huge shrimping area.  Pretty much all the men in her family were/are shrimp boat captains.  Bubba however, completely fake.

I guess it’s a pride thing.  People try to latch on to something so they can say “Hey, look!  He’s from Alabama.  Go Alabama!”  They can say the story is set in Alabama (Yay, go Alabama!) but the story itself and it’s main characters, are fiction.

4.  One word.  Oscar.  As a rule, I immediately discount anything nominated for an Oscar.  If it’s something I’d been wanting to see, the moment it’s nominated, it drops down my list.  Why?  Because most Oscar movies suck.  Sure, there are a few gems.  “The King’s Speech” wasn’t bad.  “Titanic” was okay.  On the whole, though?  They’re typically horrible and terribly pretentious.  “Tree of Life” is close to “Forrest Gump” in a lot of ways.  They were both awful, plotless, Oscar nominees.  (Don’t even get me started on “Tree of Life.”  What a gigantic waste of an evening.  It’s like the director only filmed a scene from the first page of every chapter of a book and spliced it together with space scenes from National Geographic to form a mostly dialogue-less piece of gibberish.  Like “Forrest Gump” I hung in there, waiting for the story, the conflict, something, anything…and then the movie was just over.  Boom).  Bottom line, if a movie gets an Oscar nom, it’s pretty much guaranteed to suck.

So, I circle back around to my earlier question.  Does a book (or movie) have to have conflict?  My answer, after much debate is: no.  If it doesn’t have conflict it will be highly praised and critically acclaimed and people will love it despite it’s obvious flaws.  It will be nominated for lots of awards and probably make the author a lot of money.

In my mind the better question is: Does a book (or movie) have to have conflict to be good?  Yes.  Yes it does.  But don’t expect any Oscars.

The Times They Are A Changin’

Every generation says it.  Unfortunately it’s true.  Kids today are so different from when I was a kid.  I feel like teenagers are a world apart from my high school days, and that was only like ten years ago!  The world is changing and adults are flailing their arms trying to keep up.  My family is pretty spread out.  My mom is 45, I’m 29, my brother is 19, and my sister is 13, so it’s easy to trace the changes from one decade to the next.

My mom was in high school in the 80s.  You know, the days before computers and internet.  If you wanted to look something up, you had the encyclopedia.  Want to call someone?  Pick up the land line at home and if they aren’t there leave a message with their mom.  Music?  Cassette tapes.  Giant boom boxes or a personal cassette player with headphones.  There were a limited number of channels on tv.  MTV was just launching and played pretty simple, basic videos.  Sure, kids had problems.  Cocaine usage became big in smaller towns in the 80s, spreading from cities, to college campuses, and then to towns.  Teenage pregnancy was becoming more frequent.  Standard teenage drama.  But on the whole, life was easy and good.  The Cold War ended.  The Berlin Wall came down.  The economy was good.

I was in high school in the late 90s and early 2000s.  We had multimedia encyclopedias on CD Rom and floppy discs.  Pagers were the hot thing.  When I was sixteen I was one of the first kids in my school to get a cell phone because everyone wanted a pager for some reason.  Cells were the same price and could do more; I never figured it out.  Of course my phone was the size of a small car with an antennae that stretched to the ceiling, but I felt cool.  Cds were the preferred music format.  TV seemed infinite;so many channels!  MTV’s videos had bigger budgets, but were played less frequently.  Riding the wave of “The Real World,” shows were becoming more popular.  We had bigger problems.  Columbine happened.  There was a crack-down on clothes that could be considered weapons.  We started lock-down drills.  Prayer was banned in school.  Heavier drug use was more prevalent, like Oxycontin and something called Meth.  Several of my classmates dropped out because of pregnancy.  One girl missed our graduation to have her baby.  The economy wavered, wars were fought.  Life didn’t seem so bad, but maybe that’s because I looked at it through teenage eyes, it had a different tint.

My brother just finished high school and my sister is about to start.  Wikipedia and Google are the way to go and things are saved on USB drives.  People don’t call on cell phones as much as text…and do everything else.  Mp3 players carry thousands of songs in one tiny format.  TV isn’t only infinite, it’s moved outside its box with Netflix and Hulu and streaming on the internet.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a music video on MTV.  The economy is in the tank.  We’re still at war.  Kids can’t carry backpacks to school anymore unless they’re clear.  Drugs are everywhere.  Pregnancy almost seems to be accepted (and sometimes even glorified–see MTV).  School shootings are more frequent and have bled over into colleges.  Teen suicides are at an all time high.

If you’ve scanned the YA or Teen section of your bookstore lately, you may have noticed these changes reflected on the shelves.  Stories are getting darker.  They cover drug use, pregnancy, abuse and neglect.  Even the fantasy titles out right now are dark.  Dystopic worlds with teens killing one another and fighting/leading wars and rebellions.  This isn’t exactly new, I mean, look at “Lord of the Flies,” but they’re becoming increasingly prevalent.  Agents have been requesting darker, edgier, grittier titles.

This year is the 50th anniversary of “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle.  Sure the protagonists fought against a government of sorts, but there was a lighter feel to it.  I came away from that book feeling good and smiling.  Lately, while the books are good, they leave a darker sense of foreboding at the end.  It leaves me wondering: how far is too far?  There have been several discussions on the AW forum asking how far to push the envelope when it comes to drugs and sex with teens.  I think some of this grit is good.  It starts teens questioning the world as they know it and looking beyond themselves to see a bigger picture.  These stories help teens connect by showing them they aren’t alone.  There are others who cut themselves or starve themselves or inject themselves.  Others who have gone through it and found their way to the other side.  I think it’s important to meet teens (and everyone really) where they are.  But how dark is too dark?  Is there a limit, a line, that’s too far?  Or is the line constantly shifting and moving?

As I pointed out in the beginning of this post, the world is changing and teens are going through heavier things than they were a generation or two ago.  I think YA literature should match some of these themes, but I also think it should lift teens out of the grit.  One of my favorite things about reading is the escape.  You read a book like “A Wrinkle in Time” and you’re transported to other worlds and it takes you away from yourself and your struggles.  I don’t think we have enough of that in YA right now.  Don’t get me wrong, I love books like “The Hunger Games” and “The Fault in Our Stars.”  If you haven’t read them, both are about fighting to the death.  In the first, a dystopic fantasy, the main character fights others for survival.  In the latter, a YA contemporary, the main character fights the cancer killing herself and her boyfriend.  The themes in both touch on issues that are prevalent today, but they don’t do much to lift the reader out of it.  I think there needs to be a healthy mix and I would love to see YA focus more on the *lighter side of life and capture not just the current climate, but the feel of the 90s, and the 80s, and beyond.

What do you think?  Should YA continue down this trail and match the feeling of its readers?  Or should lighter, happier stories make a comeback to lift the readers out of their current situations?  When it comes to the dark, gritty stories, how far is too far?

*Writing this post brought to mind a song I catch myself singing when I’m down.  From Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” I give you, and urge you to listen to, this: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”  (Just a warning, without seeing the whole movie, you may think this scene is sacrilegious–as a Christian it made me uneasy the first time I saw it–but remember this scene alone is out of context.  If it bothers you, just minimize the window and listen to the words.  I couldn’t find a good video without the scene.  I also recommend watching the movie.)

Trending

Trending.  The word has become synonymous with current hot topics thanks to Twitter, and what’s trending changes constantly.  Over the course of a week, trending topics can vary between sports stars and events to celebrities to politics.  It’s a microcosm of how trends work in the real world.  What’s hot today may be cold tomorrow.  Like Heidi Klum says on “Project Runway”: “One day you’re in, the next you’re out.”

As a kid, my dad always tried to steer me away from being trendy.  He told me I’d look back on pictures of myself one day and think “what the heck was I wearing?” and regret it.  His rule was: I could by trendy things, as long as I didn’t spend a lot of money on them.  If I was going to buy expensive items, they had to be timeless.  (He also had a theory that if a woman was rich enough and pretty enough, she could wear a garbage bag and call it high fashion and other women would copy her.  I’m pretty sure he was spot on here.  Just look at Juicy Couture, Uggs/cowboy boots with mini skirts, should pads, and a myriad of other poor fashion choices rich, attractive women have steered popular culture toward).  Sure, I hopped on several trends back in the day, and they were glorious failures!  I went to a private Catholic school from kindergarten to the 8th grade, so I wore a uniform every day for nine years.  Suffice it to say, in my spare time, I had no idea how to dress.

In the early 90s, one of my favorite outfits was this fantastic over-sized t-shirt with a giant pink, puff-painted roller skate, with reflective discs glued in random places for some reason.  I’d take a shirt clip (you remember them, those great pieces of multicolored plastic specifically made for tying shirts) or a scrunchie and tie the shirt-tail to the side.  This would then be paired with a pair of jungle print bicycle shorts, Keds, and neon plastic sunglasses.

In the late 90s, when I was starting public high school, I still had no concept of fashion beyond plaid skirts with Umbro shorts underneath (per school rule, we had to wear shorts under our skirts, but specifically weren’t allowed to wear Umbros–I guess because they were loose, we also couldn’t wear anything in our hair that might damage our eyes so who knows what the school admins were thinking?  Umbros were my little act of private rebellion.  Plus, if anyone was going to turn me in, they’d have to admit they’d been looking up my skirt).  Naturally, I tried to fit in at public school–who knew Duck Head wasn’t cool?–and got a pair of Timberland boots and Tommy Hilfiger jeans, both were all the rage freshman year.  Later it was Birkenstocks, which my dad called “ping-pong paddle shoes” and to my immense sixteen-year-old frustration, actually demonstrated their usefulness for this purpose on several occasions.

For the most part though, I stayed true to my dad’s wishes and dressed how I wanted, not based on the trend, and he was right.  I can look back at the majority of my 90s wardrobe and not be embarrassed (at least the late 90s, those gigantic hair bows and floral dresses with the enormous collars my mom stuffed me in in the early 90s will always be terrible and border on child abuse).  To my dad’s credit, he also followed his own advice.  From the early 80s until the day he died he wore pretty much the exact same clothes: Levi jeans, a Polo, and Blucher Moccasins (I added the link in case you don’t know what those are–you’ll know them when you see them).  He loved those shoes so much he bought several pairs at once and stashed them in his closet.  When a pair wore out, he’d just toss them and whip out another.  My husband actually has a pair now that we found after my dad died.  Daddy was always in style, always classy.  My brother (age 19) dresses very similarly, if you take away the Bluchers and replace them with Polo tennis shoes or loafers.

Thanks to my dad, I learned to be my own person and wear and do what I liked, regardless of what was trendy.  (I originally had wear/do in that sentence, but reading back over it, it looked like weirdo, haha.  Just thought I’d let you in on what goes on behind the scenes.  I’m here all day people.  Tip your waitresses).  This is a lesson I will be eternally thankful for, and one that affected my life in more ways than just what I wore.  I never was the type to give in to peer pressure when it came to drugs, etc.  I didn’t care everyone else was doing it.  I didn’t want to, so I didn’t.  For a time, while I was in college, all the sorority girls were wearing Chanel “purses” around their waist–yes folks, high-priced fanny packs, see my earlier comment about rich, pretty women.  I equated the fancy fannies to drugs.  It cost too much money and made you look stupid to everyone who wasn’t doing it.  The hot thing in law school was to take Adderal to help you focus and study.  The same principal applied and I bucked the trend.  (Side story–yeah, I’m full of parentheticals today–my husband’s college roommate took some Adderal to help him focus and study for finals once.  My hubby walked in and found him completely zoned, staring at his computer, watching clips of Celebrity Jeopardy from Saturday Night Live.  He’d been at it for hours!  He focused alright!  And back to the chlorophyll–that’s an Adam Sandler reference, FYI.  Wow, I’m all over the place today!)  Currently, I don’t care that everyone has granite counters throughout their house or lives five feet from their neighbors.  I don’t like it, so I don’t do it.  (Weird how things change as you grow up, haha).

My dad’s lesson has bled into my writing too.  A lot of writers write to the trend, or try to predict the next trend, or catch the trend before it goes out.  They say “Paranormal Romance and Dystopian are on their way out, what’s next?  Ooh, Steampunk and SciFi are getting big, let’s jump on that!”  I say, who cares?  I write for me.  I write whatever story comes to mind.  If that happens to be popular at the time, great, hopefully someone will pick it up and it will sell.  If not, so what?  I’ll write another.  If you shoot for the trend, you’ll always be behind.  My husband and I just bought a house and the concept is the same.  Don’t try and predict the market–you’ll always get screwed.

For those of you who aren’t in the publishing community, did you know it takes years for a book to hit shelves?  Years!  Books that are out today were, for the most part, written around 2009.  Sure, there are always exceptions, but on the whole this is true.  This means if, say, Dystopian is hot right now for readers (it is), and you decide to catch the trend and write a Dystopian, by the time you write it (say 3 months), edit it (another 3), query it (who knows how long that could take?  Anywhere from a few months to a couple years.  We’ll say a year to make it a nice, even number), the agent edits it and you revise it (perhaps 6 months), you’re already at 2 years and it hasn’t even been shopped to editors yet.  That process is like looking for an agent all over again, then there’s editing, copy editing, ARCs/galleys have to be sent out, covers designed, booksellers contracted, printing, publicizing, and more.  After all that, who knows if Dystopian will still be hot?  Agents are already getting burnt out, so this trend is pretty close to done.  (The converse is true also, though.  If you just have a great idea for a Dystopian and that’s what you want to write, screw the trend, write it!  Everything cycles back around.  Vampires were popular before Stephanie Meyer–see Anne Rice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Dystopian was popular before Susanne Collins–see George Orwell and Aldous Huxley).

What I’m saying is, forget the trends.  In all aspects of your life, but especially if you’re writing.  Do what you like because you like it.  Don’t eat sushi because all your friends do.  Don’t cover your house in leopard print because animal decor is the hot thing.  Don’t wear something that makes your body look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man because all the girls (or guys I guess, it would be horrific either way) on tv are wearing it.  And don’t spend months and years of your life writing something to stay with the trend.  Eat what you want, decorate how you want, dress how you want, and write what you want.  Trust me, you’ll be happier, and who knows, maybe you’ll be the trend setter instead of the follower.

Nervous Wreck

*UPDATE* I made the first round cut of the Amazon contest!  I’m so excited!!  Excerpts will go up and the next round cut will be announced on March 20.  Yay!!

*UPDATE #2*  I got a request from the Cupid contest!  Double yay!

Today is D-Day.  I’ve currently got novels in two contests.  Cupid’s Literary Connection Blind Speed Dating, and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know all about Cupid’s contest.  So far, 26 entries out of 70 have had partials requested (4 entries were added after my last blog post on the subject).  The number was 27, but one of the entries was withdrawn.  Today is the day for fulls.  Every agent but one has used at least some arrows.  In case you’re curious, of the requested entries, I gave 11 a yes (12 if you count the withdrawn entry), 7 a no, and was split on 8.

So far, my little manuscript hasn’t had any requests (whomp, whomp), but there’s still a lot of day left so my fingers and toes and every other crossable appendages are crossed!  (And I’ve been praying pretty much non-stop that someone wants me.  In my head, I sound like Sally Field when she won her Best Actress Oscar.  Except it’s more “like me, please just like me!” but for some reason it’s in Sally Field’s voice).  The final results are posted tomorrow, but since today is the last day for requests, I’ll know by this evening whether my entry was successful.

As for ABNA, the first cut results are posted today.  Not sure when, since stupid Amazon is on the stupid west coast, with a stupid time zone difference, but I’m hoping at least by lunch.  I don’t think I stand much of a chance of getting through, but you never know!  I’ve written about the contest once before, here, but I didn’t go into much detail as to how it works.

They take 5,000 entries in two categories, General Fiction, and Young Adult (10,000 total).  The first round, Amazon editors review your pitch only and knock it from 5,000 to 1,000.  So there’s a 20% chance of making it through the first round (basically 1 in 4).  The second round, Vine Reviewers (still not entirely sure who they are) read 3,000-5,000 word excerpts of each manuscript and cut from 1,000 to 250 (25% chance).  Then Publisher’s Weekly reviewers read the full manuscript and cut from 250 to 50 (20% chance).  During the next round, Penguin’s editors read the full manuscripts and scores from the prior rounds and cut from 50 to 3 (.6% chance–yes, that says point 6).  The final 3 from each category have excerpts posted on Amazon and Amazon customers vote on the winner (33% chance).  I’ve got a .02% chance of winning.  But, someone has to win and I stand just as good a chance as everyone else.

Suffice it to say, I’ll be completely unproductive today as I continually refresh both Cupid and Amazon’s pages.  To all who read this blog who are entered in either, or both, good luck!  Let me know if you get through!