Sunday, January 30, 2011

New title

Whoo hoo!!!  My agent loved the revised version of the manuscript, and she even admitted she cried twice at the end.  She suggested three minor fix-ups, and I need to prepare a bio and other such info to help with the submission, but then the novel is heading out to publishers.

She suggested an altered version of the title:

In the Shadow of Blackbirds

The new name certainly adds to the dark tone of the book, plus it's more original than the single-word title (there are a few books already called Blackbird).  I switched the name in the "Books" section of this site, and I like how it looks sitting there in big, bold print.

While the novel embarks upon its journey into the world, I'll be keeping busy with a month of guests and giveaways at Suburban Vampire in February.  We'll be celebrating vampire love over there.  Come over for a visit.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Here Come the Angsty Fairy Tales

I have a weak spot for fairy tales.  I loved them as a child, and I fell even deeper in love with them after taking a fairy tale course in college.  The class covered everything from the historical reasons behind wicked stepmothers to the gritty original Brothers Grimm endings (did you know Cinderella's stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to fit into the glass slipper? And they dripped trails of blood?).  

Therefore, I'm highly interested in the angsty versions of fairy tales—geared toward the YA fantasy-loving audience—coming to movie theaters in the near future.  Even though I'm often a purist when it comes to classic stories, I find myself secretly trying to guess the human identity of the werewolf whenever I see the trailer for Red Riding Hood (see below).  Online tidbits about Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent pique my interest like a candy-covered cottage.

I admit, the finished projects might be best enjoyed if one is under the age of twenty.  Catherine Hardwicke, director of the first Twilight movie, helmed Red Riding Hood, and there is certainly a Twilight-y vibe in the trailer.  But I'm a person who's tempted by books and films that promise to be "modern fairy tales" or "bedtime stories come to life."  I'll be seeing these movies. 

Like my college course taught me, the oral fairy tale tradition means these well-known stories grow and change throughout the years.  Even the Grimms themselves might understand our modern enjoyment of Snow Whites who kick butt and the portrayal of woodsmen as heartthrobs instead of hairy axemen.  If these are the ingredients we need to deal with the dangers of today's world, then bring on the rebooted tales.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

When to stop revising a manuscript

This afternoon I finished the revisions my agent requested.  To celebrate, I took myself out to lunch at Arby's and read the Golden Globes wrap-up report in today's Entertainment Weekly (cue Puddy from Seinfeld saying, "Feels like an Arby's night").

Here are the telltales signs I'm ready to submit a draft: 

1. When I read the scenes that don't require heavy revisions, my mind starts to drift.  I find myself heading over to Twitter to see what's going on with people I don't even know, checking in with IMDB for new movie trailers, and snickering at viral videos I'd normally ignore when I'm submerged in a writing project.

2. The wording that's been bugging me finally sounds right to my ear.  I spent over an hour working on three short paragraphs in a scene the other night, fussing and polishing, and by the next morning the section finally read the way I'd hoped.  Typically, when I reach the later stage of revisions, there will be about five or so key scenes that bug me until I pick at them and get them just right.

3. I finally stop rewriting sentences in my head in the shower and instead remember that I did indeed use the shampoo before I applied the conditioner.

4. I feel like I've fully endured my characters' journeys with them and physically experience their emotions.  Yesterday, I felt queasy when I read a newer scene in which my protagonist vomits.  I had been struggling with the sentence mechanics, but when I finally got the scene right, I honestly felt sick to my stomach.  Today I also teared up in a place where I've never done so before.

5. I get the tingly sensation in my stomach that's telling me it's time to submit.  The possibilities are wide open; optimism is high. You reach a point where you have to force yourself to stop obsessing over phrases and send that puppy out the door.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

BLACKBIRDS update & 2011 books on my must-read list

I think Blackbirds will be ready to send back to my agent around the last week in January. I'm doing my second-to-last read-through and still tweaking some key scenes, but I feel it's almost there. :-)

As far as recreational reading goes, here are three books on the top of my list of must-have 2011 novels:

by Saundra Mitchell
I've read Mitchell's enjoyable first novel, Shadowed Summer, and featured her on my Suburban Vampire blog. Not only does she write about ghosts, which makes her a must-read author in my eyes, but she's now entered the world of historical fiction, which makes her ├╝ber-cool. The Vespertine involves a teenaged girl who experiences prophetic visions during sunsets in 1889 Baltimore. I love the cover and the premise, and I've already pre-ordered my copy through Powell's.

by Karen Russell
The book is adult fiction, not YA, but one of the narrators is a thirteen-year-old alligator wrestler named Ava who journeys through the swamps of Florida and the Underworld to save her sister from a ghostly lover. The book will be available February 1, and I can't wait to join Ava and her eccentric family on their adventures.

by Victoria Schwab
I learned about this particular YA read a few months ago on Susan Adrian's blog. Described as "part fairy tale, part love story," Schwab's novel includes "a boy who seems to fade like smoke," children who disappear from their beds, and "a witch that just might be more than a bedtime story." We'll have to wait until August for this one, but I'm looking forward to its debut.

I'm sure many, many more books will make it on my must-read pile soon. Happy reading to everyone in 2011.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I guess I'm officially a full-time writer

Since the 1990s, I've been sharing my writing career with other aspects of my life: working full-time, raising two children, freelance editing, co-owning a publishing company, managing a vampire blog, laundry (the latter of which wasn't usually a high priority until I reached the point of desperation). Writing time has always been something I've squeezed in between everything else. I couldn't even fathom having endless stretches of writing hours lying in wait before me.

Until today.

My youngest child just started going to school for six and a half hours each day. He was in half-day kindergarten, so I had been juggling my writing time, Suburban Vampire, and everything else within three quick hours of the morning. However, our school district allowed my son to advance a grade, and as of Monday, he started full-time school. (I'm not going to even go into the pros and cons of skipping a child; I'll just say we did thorough research for years and this decision is right for this particular kid).

Anyway, I joined him at school during parts of the day on Monday and Tuesday, but today I'm home, working. I've got plenty of Suburban Vampire work waiting for me, but I told myself today would be devoted to Blackbirds. I met my daily work goal before lunch even hit. And then I sat down for a lonely lunch...missing the kid I'd been juggling between writing for the past six-plus years.

My oldest child is now eleven, and I played the balancing act with her, too. But the absence of this littlest one marks the end of an era. The downside is that most of my lunches will be much more solitary. The plus side--if I can keep earning money by writing for Suburban Vampire and eventually sell a novel, I guess I can call myself a full-time writer.

It's a lonely profession, and I do plan to head back out to coffee shops now and then just to have some white noise surrounding me once in a while. But what a bittersweet day this is for me. I'm guessing I'll finish my agent-requested revisions in the next two weeks--something I wouldn't be able to do without this full-time schedule.

I'll miss my kids, but, like them, I'm probably ready to take flight and skip ahead to the next stage. Once summer vacation hits and lunchtime is bustling with activity again, remind me to revisit this post and remember how I once became wistful about my empty house.