Friday, October 29, 2010

happy halloween

i hope you are all reading something spooky this weekend.

however, if you are like me, you generally don't read horror, because your imagination is much more terrifying than anything hollywood can put on a screen, and you wish to sleep at night instead of stay up listening for spooky sounds you can't explain.
this is why i am about to give you a list of horror movies and not books.

on that note, i present to you my top 5 film picks for good halloween scares:

#5 - Poltergeist
good for folks who fear clowns and believe TV is evil.
personally, it's in my top 5 because i looked a lot like that little girl growing up, so of course i liked the movie when i was a kid, even though it was terrifying.

#4 - Exorcist
good for masochists or people who are lacking that part of the brain that feels fear.
i do NOT watch this movie. ever. i avoid channel-surfing in the month of October for fear i will stumble across a clip of this movie playing. i HATE this movie. if i were in Harry's class at Hogwarts, the girl from exorcist would have been my boggart. the fact that she is my biggest fear is what ranks this movie in my top 5 recs, even thought i hate it. HATE.

#3 - Scream
great if you're squeamish about true horror but like a good, "BOO!" surprise.
more campy than blood-curdling, the Scream films are fun for folks into all levels of horror. you can either laugh or hide under the covers. the closest thing to a cult classic since...

#2 - Halloween
hello! how can this not be on your halloween dvd list? the music! jamie lee curtis!
even if you're like me, and the stalker-serial-killer-who-keeps-coming-back isn't your thing, you have to see halloween just to say you've seen it.

and my number one fave horror film of all time is.......

#1 - The Shining
an amazing movie, regardless of genre.
i love the story telling and the build-up of intensity. i love how even the good characters are totally creepy. the setting is genius and the acting, well - Jack Nicholson - 'nuff said. this is an exceptional movie that just happens to be a horror flick.

whether you're watching movies, reading, partying or trick-or-treating... i hope you all have a happy halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


...word count wednesday!

i'm going to do a little feature every wednesday during november for everyone participating in NaNoWriMo. if you're still deciding whether to do NaNo, please see the post i did here for encouragement. (link! click it!)

on wednesdays, i'll post my running word count and invite you to share yours. (don't worry. if last year is any indication, my WC is bound to be embarrassingly abysmal. we'll lament our failures together. or celebrate your success or whatever.)

so right now, our word counts are a big collective ZERO. but that doesn't mean you can't be gearing up. folks all over the world are getting a head start on NaNo by writing outlines, making notes on characters, stockpiling M&Ms and stretching out their typing fingers.

personally, i am cheating a little bit. i am going to use my 50,000 words of NaNo to finish BILLY D. this is a project already started and fully outlined, but about 50K words from completion, so it works out. (i promise not to count a single word written before November 1st in my NaNo tally.)

my prep also involves finishing up any books i'm currently reading, because i know i will not have time to read... clearing my calendar of November commitments, particularly on weekends when i do the most writing... and researching local write-ins.

so i want to know - how are you prepping for November? do you know what you're writing yet, or are you a pantser to the core who's just going to wing it?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

one flew over the hitchhiker's guide to the lord of the fear and loathing in harry potter and the catcher in the watership down

let's talk about favorites.

my favorite color as a moody teen was black. in college, it was blood red. now it is a simple clean white. i feel no guilt over changing my fave color and reserve the right to love yellow tomorrow.

growing up, my favorite food was chinese. now it's a tie between indian and my mom's spaghetti sauce. who cares if i change my mind about fave foods, right?

so why do i feel like i have to have a favorite book?
for a long time, my go-to answer was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. i still adore that book because of the feelings it evoked, because of the way Ken Kesey brought every single character to life, because of the beautiful way he used a first-person narrator who wasn't actually the MC. i could go on and on.

BUT! - is it really my favorite if i haven't read it over and over the way i did the Harry Potter books?
OR! - maybe Lord of the Rings is my favorite, considering it has - in my opinion - the best world-building i've ever read and one of my favorite characters ever created (Tom Bombadil. and curse you, Peter Jackson, for leaving him out of the movie!)
AND! - how can Kurt Vonnegut be my favorite writer and yet none of his books standing alone would make my top-ten list?

i stood and stared at my shelves for a long time last night, trying to find just one book that jumped out at me, that had absolutely everything i need from a story. i couldn't do it.
my eyes went from spine to spine, and each new title gave me something different - a shiver, a smile, a knowing nod - as i remembered the pages and what i got out of reading them. i just ended up wanting to hug my whole bookcase.

and that's when i decided - i don't have a favorite, and i probably never will.
i don't think it's possible for a single book to give me the horror of The Road, the deliciousness of The Devil Wears Prada, the wordsmithing of Hocus Pocus, the humor of Hitchhiker's and the adventure of the Golden Compass all rolled into one. and i don't think i'd want it all in one book anyway.

so i am resolved to not have a favorite. but tell me what you're in the mood for, and i'll have a recommendation.

what about you? do you have a favorite? a top 5? how do you know, without a doubt, that you love one book above the rest?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

stuff i learned on sub

the one nice thing about publishing being such a slow business is you have plenty of time to absorb all of the lessons learned along the way - to really let them sink in. but rarely - very rarely - something will happen quickly, and instead of learning your lessons slow, you will suddenly get a crash course in publishing. this was the case with my submission process.
so i thought i would share some of the knowledge i acquired at hyper speed over the last month.

1) you want/need an agent!
at least, i certainly do. (perhaps you are a contract attorney with connections all over the publishing industry. this is more a lesson for the unknown, unconnected like myself.) i knew i wanted an agent before i set off on my path to publishing. it was always going to be my first step. but it wasn't until i went on sub that i truly appreciated just how much i need her. and here's why:
- agents know what editors are looking for. heck, agents know editors - period.
i am 100% positive that i would not have found my publisher without my agent. no amount of research would have landed me this editor at this house with this deal. i needed my agent to make the connection. a lot of people say you have to "know somebody" to get a foothold in publishing. well, that's obviously hogwash. but if you're lucky enough to get pulled out of an agent's query slush, like i was - well now you DO know somebody in the biz - your agent. and she knows everybody else.
- agents understand offers.
all i knew about offers going into sub was that they included an advance amount. i squealed when i heard "hardcover" - that was a term i could understand - but beyond that, i can't count the number of times i asked my agent: "okay, and what does that mean?" and every time she was able to cut through jargon and explain things to me in a clear, concise manner.
- agents are your cheerleaders.
if you read my post a few months back about choosing an agent, you'll know i stressed to the point of making myself sick. i never dreamed i'd have another difficult choice like that ahead of me. but this time i had my agent there to remind me this was all good news and good fortune. countless times she asked me, "are you happy?" - which reminded me to BE happy.

2) a LOT of people need to like your book before it gets published.
i had been researching publishing long enough to know about editorial boards and marketing folks and how they all had input in offers, but i sort of naively pushed those thoughts to the side and told myself: an agent has to like it, and an editor has to like it - the end. HA!
after an agent and an editor, it can go something like this: *editor gets second and third opinions from others (including, most likely, their boss). *all of those readers discuss the merits and drawbacks of the book at an editorial meeting with even more people. *editor takes the book to acquisitions, which includes possibly a whole new group of people who may or may not be more into business than books. they don't just have to like your idea. they have to decide whether they can sell it - and how much they can sell it for. now take all those people and multiply by the number of editors who are interested in the manuscript, and it's suddenly sort of crazy to realize how many people have already read your book!

3) that manuscript you were so sick of editing? yeah, now that you're on sub, you suddenly want to revise again!
that was the case for me, anyway. crazies started to set in like, "is this part realistic?" "did i take too much liberty with the real-life setting here?" and if you're lucky, as i was, to talk to amazing editors and be inspired by their ideas, you'll have to fight to keep yourself from jumping back into the manuscript and making changes right away.
i soothed this urge by starting a new document on my laptop with all of my possible revisions and tweaks - mostly based on my editor's awesome insight - to discuss with her when the time comes.

4) fourth, and finally, not everything in publishing is slow.
okay, that's a lie. everything in publishing IS slow - most of the time. but occasionally you luck out and something goes at lightning pace. i am so fortunate to have had a fast submission process. it saved some of my nails from being bitten down to the quick. it also, admittedly, was a heck of a lot of fun to have something new happening almost daily, which sure beats clicking "refresh" on the email inbox for days, hoping for news.
but the speedy sub also taught me to appreciate the slow periods - when i can stop and smell the roses and all that. and believe me, there will be lots of time for rose-sniffing over the next two years, but i plan to put aside my impatience and savor every minute, because you can only make your first trip down the path to publishing once... so i intend to enjoy the ride.

Monday, October 18, 2010

i'm back!

questions: where have i been? what have i been doing?
answers: Hogwarts. drinking butter beer.

sorry for the long blog break. i was on vaca in my happy place - Walt Disney World. i also spent a day in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which was shockingly packed with muggles. Voldemort would have been horrified by the sight.

so from now on, if anyone asks me what i did when i got my book deal, i'll be able to say, "I went to Disney World!" (i mean, the trip was already planned, so it was just good timing, but i'm still going to say it.)

i've also been reading reading reading. i don't know if this is the case for everyone, but one of the best little surprise benefits of being on sub for me was the stack of free books! and nothing like a few long plane rides to make a dent in that stack. i'll be working my way through the pile over the next couple of weeks, so i expect a few "best lines" posts are coming.

also to come: a post about the "stuff i learned on sub" and some NaNoWriMo fun!

i hope to post every day this week to make up for the blog silence. for now i'm off to unpack and do laundry. (in Disney World, these chores would have magically disappeared. le sigh.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010


...i have a small announcement to make.

because my book is getting published!

i am so excited to share this news: i am officially a Bloomsbury girl!

here is my fancy announcement from PM:
(click to make larger and less blurry)

"Erin Lange's debut BUTTER, about a lonely 423-pound boy who decides to eat himself to death live on the Internet, and the bullies who become macabre cheerleaders for his plan, to Caroline Abbey at Bloomsbury, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (NA)."

this is so completely unreal that i don't know where to begin.
i know a longer post will be in order soon, but if i tried today it would just be gibberish, and i might get tears all over my laptop.

so for now, i just want to say:
my agent rocks. my editor rocks. bloomsbury rocks.
and all of you writers and readers are pretty freaking amazing too. i'm so blown away to be part of the publishing community.

and now i finally have to suck it up and join twitter, like... today.

UPDATE: here is my agent's post about the deal. (link! click it!) it gives a summary of our "path to publication" and a hint of how crazy our submission process was!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

NaNo Love

it's almost november, which means i am starting to see some variation of this statement pop up all over the internet:
"You can't write a good book in 30 days."

to which i say: Bullshit.

..unless someone says it directly to me, in which case i say, "oh, you're totally right, i personally can't write a good book in 30 days... but i can get one hell of a running start."

in fact, i bet i could write most of a book in 30 days.
i bet i could write enough to be motivated to finish that book.
i bet i could spend the next few months revising that book.
i bet i could land an agent.
and i bet a year later i could be on sub to publishers with that book.

you see where i'm going with this? BUTTER was a NaNoWriMo manuscript. and it's a lot better than the book i spent a year writing before that.

i did not finish a book during NaNo; i did not reach the 50,000-word goal; but i did learn a lot. for starters, i learned i write better when i'm fast and focused. i also learned NaNo is a great way for me to get back in the habit after my always-busy month of october, when i rarely write a word. finally, i learned feeling accountable to a community of writers is good motivation for me. i never wanted to show up to a NaNo group-write or log on to AW without a new word count.

every NaNo veteran has their own reasons for participating - or not participating, if it doesn't work for them. but this post is especially for the writers who haven't done it but want to try. i just don't want anyone to be discouraged if they see or hear: "You can't write a good book in 30 days."

maybe you can't. but maybe you can. or maybe that's not even the point. but if you want to give it a shot, you shouldn't let anyone else's opinion discourage you.

plus, i just don't like that word: "can't."
yes you CAN!

Friday, October 8, 2010

the never ending story

question for you writers:
when do you consider your book DONE?

i started thinking today about all the times i've called my stories "done" and had to chuckle.
i said, "i finished!" when i ended the first draft of my last book.
i said, "all done!" after red-lining the manuscript (before shoving it into the "trunk").

when i got to 'THE END' of Butter? - "i'm done!"
when i revised and polished and started querying? - "it's totally ready."
when i rewrote for agents? - "finally finished."

obviously, there will be more revisions ahead if this book is ever to become - y'know.. a book. but if i'm so lucky to have edits and copy edits and final drafts and final-final drafts, i plan to say "DONE!" at the end of each one, because it feels so good! every step is an accomplishment. every round of revisions is a project completed. and at every stage, the book really is "done"... until the next round.

and the truth is, if we're all lucky enough to see our books on shelves someday, we'll probably still flip through the pages and think of ways we could revise. because as long as our writer brains are clicking and whirring, there will always be new inspiration and new ideas. but once that book is packaged and sold and sitting on a shelf - we have to take that inspiration and put it into something else... because when a book becomes a book - it really is "done."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

we interrupt this program... bring you my favorite YouTube vid in a looooong time.

- if foul language offends you, do not watch this.
- if you are a die-hard defender of apple products, do not watch this.
- if you are an android-loving techie google geek who wishes the iphone would disappear off the face of the earth... then just make sure you don't have any liquid in your mouth when you watch this, or you might spit it out your nose.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I before E.. and MG before YA

we have a special treat today! my often-mentioned beta reader and the much-praised literary intern, Gemma Cooper, has kindly agreed to guest post.

fresh off her internship with a New York agency, Gem is currently an intern at a children's lit agency in London.
thanks for guesting, Gem!

Writers of young adult books are often the most passionate readers of young adult books. And reading your genre is a great way to hone your skills. But you should also be reading outside your genre.

Many people take this to mean 'read adult books', but I believe that you can learn a lot more about voice, concise story telling and effective world building if you read middle grade, chapter/early reader and picture books.

Think about it. The authors of these books have fewer words to get voice across. Fewer words to make you care about the characters. Fewer words to immerse you in a new world. Fewer words to make a lasting impression.

What's prompted my new love of younger reader books? Well, the new internship I'm doing is much more focused on MG/early reader/picture books than YA, so I've read a ton in the last month. And this has lead to laughing. Lots and lots of laughing - something that as a YA reader, I don't do that often.

So, I put it to you to read some MG. My recommendations are the wonderful When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (an excellent lesson in voice) and Where The Mountain Meets The Moon by Grace Lin (impeccable world building).

Then read some younger MG/5-8. And if you only pick one, let it be the wonderful The Great Rabbit Rescue by Katie Davies. If a book was ever a lesson in pitch-perfect voice, it is this one. And it's hysterical.

Finally, don't forget to read some early reader/picture books. TRY to read them without paying attention to the pictures. Picture book texts should be stand-alone awesome without the need for the illustrations. My favourites are all by Mo Willems - the Pigeon series (especially The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog) and the Elephant and Piggie (especially I Love My New Toy).

Read these books and have a laugh. And while you're laughing, think about the writing and how much skill the author has to get the voice, character motivation and world building acheived in so few words. I bet you'll see it's harder than you think.

Gem's rec is the reason i read "When You Reach Me" - a wonderful book that made me want to pick up more MG on my next trip to the bookstore.
thanks again, Gem!