Author Archives: Danielle Poiesz

Danielle Poiesz

About Danielle Poiesz

Danielle Poiesz is a writer, reader, blogger, tea drinker, cat wrangler, pool shark, NYC transplant, and Book Country's Editorial Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @daniellepoiesz

Light a Fire Under Your Characters

Posted by August 11th, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (August 11, 2011)

Find out what bestselling author Karen Hawkins and “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books” blogger Sarah Wendell have to say about chemistry between characters.

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 One of the main things that draws a reader into a romance novel–or any novel really!–is the chemistry between the characters. Whether it’s a hero and a heroine, a protagonist and an antagonist, or a main character and a secondary character, the sparks should fly off the page. But it’s not as simple as it sounds to achieve! So how do you create that tension, that fire? And what even constitutes chemistry really?

Book Country turned to the pros for some wise and entertaining answers: Karen Hawkins(@theKarenHawkins) and Sarah Wendell (@smartbitches).

Karen is the New York Times bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance novels. Her characters, no matter what the time period, always sizzle and burn white hot!

Sarah is a reviewer, blogger, and author who runs the popular romance blogSmart Bitches, Trashy Books. Her taste is impeccable and she can smell the fire between characters from miles away. These ladies know their stuff!

Just check out these highlights:

@SmartBitches: Examples of no chemistry: People who end up together simply because they are the hero and heroine. YAWNNNN.

@TheKarenHawkins: You should thread the evidence of this chemistry through the book, and not dump in one place.

@Chumplet: Instant attraction doesn’t fly these days. Readers want to see deeper nuances than merely the physical.

@mamajalapa: tension will always exist in some form even after h/h are together. It’s human nature. How they deal w/it makse chemistry.

@SmartBitches: My fave: “I don’t want to like you, I don’t want to like you, I can’t stop thinking about your hair DAMMIT!” That’s chemistry.

@TheKarenHawkins: Villains w/depth – a real person – means they can be redeemed and that true chemistry is about POSSIBILITIES.

@anneholly2010: The ones that can’t live without each other are unrealistic and creepy. Co-dependence is not sweet.

@younglibrarian: clue #1 your story has gone off rails: your mc’s have more chemistry w/secondary characters than bet each other

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up.

Thanks to all who made this chat such a great success!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

 

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Meet Nevena Georgieva

Posted by March 28th, 2012

A hello and goodbye  (of sorts) from the Book Country roster.

 goldfish jumping out of the waterIf I’ve learned anything since graduating college and starting my career it’s that you never know what life is going to throw at you. The publishing industry, in particular, is full of people who bounce from house to house and from department to department, trying to figure out their niche and specialty. Sometimes new opportunities appear before you that you never even considered, and then you find yourself wearing a hat you didn’t know you could ever pull off.
I found myself in this situation a number of times since starting in the book business. From sales to editorial, and from editorial to launching a digital initiative here at Book County. And it’s with a bit of a heavy heart that I share with you that I’m in that place once more, donning a newchapeau as I prepare to move on from Book Country to a new role on the Penguin technology team.

While I will no longer be Book Country’s trusty editorial coordinator as of Monday, April 9th, I will still be a part of the community. With more time and energy to work on my own writing and freelance work, you will start to see me in a new capacity here on the site, while still participating and sharing my editorial expertise when I can. (I’ll also be working with BC when new features are added in my new role!) And I’ll remain a Book Country moderator, so don’t think I don’t still have my eye on you, friends. 😉

Nevena Georgieva - smallerThere will also be another set of careful and determined eyes on you very soon with the newest addition to the Book Country team as our intern Nevena Georgieva joins the team full-time! Nevena has already been participating on the site–having great discussions on the forums (like this one about Steampunk versus Victorian) and writing thorough and helpful reviews (check out her review of ELVEN SOUL for example.)

Nevena will be starting as Book Country’s assistant on Monday, April 23rd. She is bright, passionate, and just plain awesome, so let’s give her a warm welcome and get to know a little about her! You can also follow her on Twitter: @nevgeorgieva.

DP: Congratulations on joining Book Country, Nevena! Tell us, what made you want to be a part of this project? What’s your favorite thing about the community?

NG: Thank you, Danielle! I’m really excited to be staying on permanently.  When I applied to the internship in January, all I knew was that Book Country had something to do with social media, and that the website constituted a community for genre writers. It wasn’t until I talked to you and Colleen at the interview that I grasped the full scope of the project and was blown away. I wanted to be part of the new digital frontier of publishing, surely, but what really inspired me was the idea that Book Country was a safe haven for writers, a digital space for them to exchange ideas, give feedback, and polish their own writing prior to publication.

As you know, English is not my first language, so I am firm believer in the idea that every writer is on a continuum of writing skill: there is always room for improvement, but there is also the very realistic prospect that with hard work, a writer can reach new, previously unthinkable, horizons.

I used to be extremely self-conscious about my English, what with the signature Eastern European accent =), but with the help of many people – professors and friends – and through my own efforts, I became the writer and reader I am today. Of course, there is always more to learn, but now I know how to block the critical voices in my head and feel confident in my writerly voice.

So that is what pulls me the most: I read a work on Book Country and get really excited because I see the potential that through revisions can be molded into a truly beautiful work.

I am also really impressed and humbled by the level of discourse that goes on the discussion boards daily. I try to absorb that knowledge and use it to be useful to writers whose books I’m reviewing. It’s the true meaning of collaboration.

DP: You mention in your profile that you are originally from Bulgaria. How long have you been in the US? What made you decide to move here?

NG: I have been in the US for 6 six years now.  Back in Bulgaria, I haphazardly took private lessons in the language, but what counted the most was reading books in their original English. I was a voracious reader in high school, even though books in English were really hard to find. There was this foreign language library in my hometown the size of a NYC studio where I spent quite a bit of time. I went to a Math & Science high school, so moving to the US to study English literature was not a traditional career path to say the least. Most of my friends went on to become computer engineers.

It was my dream to move to the US, and New York in particular, so when I got a scholarship to St. John’s University, I grabbed at the opportunity.  I haven’t regretted it – what New York offers and what a small, beautiful country in the Balkans doesn’t is the promise of the myriad niche communities that one can discover and belong to. Book Country originated in New York but its online presence spans the globe. I hope it can be another community where I can belong and feel at home, even as home is thousands of miles away.

DP: You’ve spent a great deal of your time in grad school working with writers in an educational and more literary capacity. Have you always been interested in genre fiction too? How did genre woo you from that kind of work/literature to Book Country?

NG: Yes, I have been a writing consultant at the St. John’s for almost four years now and I am about to get my master’s degree in English.  I think that many of the principles that we have espoused at the Writing Center – focus on the big picture; being friendly; treating the students with respect; not being overbearing but talking to people as to a peer – are as true for the Book Country community. There is a lot I learned at the Writing Center that I will bring to this job.

I’ve always read genre while not necessarily being aware of the label. If you have a good story and tell it well, you have my attention. Because of my background in Utopian and Post-Apocalyptic fiction, I have a particular predilection for George Orwell, Nalo Hopkinson, Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Isaac Asimov, and yes, Suzanne Collins. I am now really delving into all kinds of genre fiction and having tons of fun.

But my way from academia into genre is a little circuitous. At the beginning of my studies, I was an Economics major. I initially took English classes as therapy, thinking that if I lost the accent I could inhabit the classrooms incognito, hiding my foreign identity. That’s how I encountered postcolonial and vernacular literature for the first time, and they helped me think through a lot of personal questions that I had about straddling a hyphenated identity. I still have a slight accent, but through my foray into English, I have confronted my uprooted condition, understanding it as a part of larger framework of historical and cultural discourses. I know, that was a mouthful…

My focus as a grad student has been the British novel, so a lot of dead authors from the Regency, Victorian, and Late Victorian periods! While this might seem irrelevant to genre fiction, I beg to disagree. The very standards of novel writing that we follow today originated in the Victorian era. The Victorians had a lot of interesting stories to tell, and I am not surprised that Steampunk, a subculture that that has excavated many Victorian themes, takes cue from people like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. Jane Austen, while seemingly now removed from the sexually inflected romance genre, was far more interested in love and sex than we tend to think. In fact, one of my favorite professors writes about the botanical vernacular Austen espouses as code to screen the romantic content of her novels at a time when sex was taboo.

Genre fiction wooed or hijacked me: for a long time I considered an academic track, but I think it’s the isolation of research is what turned me off eventually. I get excited about books, and I want to be able to share that excitement with other people now.

DP: Do you do any writing yourself? Genre or otherwise?

NG: I am definitely more of a reader. I wrote a couple of short stories for classes: for example, I once wrote an alternative history piece of Thomas More’s Utopia. For years, the academic voice has been what I’m most comfortable with but the idea of writing genre is definitely tempting now. I haven’t mustered the courage to do it yet, but I will probably do so in the future. I think I also owe it to the people whose work I have reviewed/will review. It takes a lot to subject yourself to the critiques of others, so I commend all the people on Book Country who do.

DP: What are you most excited about as you move into this new role at Book Country?

NG: I’m incredibly excited to start at such an intellectually stimulating company. I look forward to just absorbing as much as I can about publishing, genre fiction, and the people in the community.Book Country is relatively young, so there is something extremely invigorating about being part of a small team that will see it thriving and branching into different directions over the years. Few people get to have such a gratifying job.

Well, friends, I don’t know about you, but personally, I am thrilled that Nevena will be such a big part of the BC community. She’ll be an excellent addition to the site and I hope that you will trust in her as you have trusted in me over the past year. I truly appreciate all of you–your advice, your acceptance of my advice, your passion and motivation, and your friendship–and have a strong feeling that Nevena will too. 😉 I’ll miss being with you all every day as your editorial coordinator, but I can’t wait to interact with you all as a writer now as well!

Featured image: iStock Photo, © Mikael Damkier
Photo of Nevena Georgieva courtesty of Nevena Georgieva.

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Grammar: It’s Important!

Posted by March 8th, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (March 1, 2012)

Every writer needs to know the basics. That’s why Grammar gurus Mignon Fogarty, Patricia O’Conner, and Stewart Kellerman gave us a little lesson.

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Most people don’t like it. Some people are obsessed with it. But all writers need to know it….Grammar. It’s not just for copyeditors! Incorrect grammar and punctuation can change the meaning of your words. It can change everything.

That’s why we asked Mignon Fogarty (@GrammarGirl) and the writing duo Patricia T O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman(@Grammarphobia) to join us for a Twitter chat and talk about some common grammar mistakes and answer your grammar questions.

To give you a little background on our experts, Mignon is the founder/host of “Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.” She does posts, podcasts, the works to help people improve their writing by going back to the basics. Patricia and Stewarthave co-written a number of beloved writing guides, including the Grammar “bible” Woe is I and writing guide Words Fail Me.

Here’s are some of the chat’s highlights (You can view the entire transcript using the link following):

@GrammarGirl: Subject-verb agreement is impoartant and can be tricky. For example, people get confused by joining words such as “in addition to.” It can  make a subject sound plural when it’s not.

@Grammarphobia:  [There’s] nothing wrong with using a preposition at the end of a sentence. That’s a notorious myth.

@JonathanDalar: I always think of semicolors as dividing joined sentences of similar thought; it seems to work well for that.

@GrammarGirl: Sometimes a sentence needs a “that” to avoid a misreading: Aardvark maintains THAT Squiggly’s yard is too large.

@Grammarphobia: Creative writing doesn’t justify limp, flabby writing.

@asalinguist: My students constantly say “amount” intead of “number of” something for count and non-count alike

@GrammarGirl: I met someone once who worked on Word’s grammar checker. He said he was sorry.

@grammarphobia: Punctuation is supposed to make reading easy and writing more natural. Lack of punctuation can be bewildering.

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Remember though that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the end of the PDF and work your way up to page 1.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this lively discussion!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter: @Book_Country.

 

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Screenwriting VS Novel-writing

Posted by February 16th, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (February 9, 2012)

Ever think about trying to write a screenplay? We chatted with screenwriters Doug Richardson and Jeanne Veillette Bowerman to get some tips.

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For a novelist, trying new techniques, styles, genres, and the like is imperative. It’s how we learn and grow and find our voice. But it can also be helpful to try writing in different mediums, like drafting a screenplay, for example. Whether you try your hand by adapting your already-existing prose into a script or starting fresh, the process of screenwriting is very different than that of novel-writing. You have less room to play with subplot, with specific discriptors, and more of your focus is on dialogue and scene. Screenwriting forces a writer to get to the heart of the story quicker, more clearly, and with greater punch, perhaps, than other mediums.

To get a closer look at the screenwriting versus novel-writing process, we asked Doug Richardson (@byDougRich) and Jeanne Veillette Bowerman (@JeanneVB) to chat with us on Twitter.

Doug went to the USC Film School to learn the ropes, and then shot to success by writing films such as DIE HARD 2, BAD BOYS, WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT, and HOSTAGE. He’s also written a number of novels, including DARK HORSE and TRUE BELIEVERS. His experience and expertise is vast and valuable!

Jeanne spends a great deal of her time educating writers on screenwriting, in addition to writing herself (she recently wrote the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME!). She writes a monthly Balls of Steel column for Script Magazine and co-founded the weekly twitter screenwriter chat, #Scriptchat.

Here are some gems from the lively chat–you can also get the full transcript below:

@jeannevb: The hardest part [of adapting a novel to film] is the descriptors. In screenplays you cannot write anything that can’t be seen on screen. NO thoughts

@byDougRich: In book you can say “he stared into the void.” In a movie, it’s how big is the void, what color, how  many carpenters to build?

@MJLucey: This is a hard buisness. It isn’t eacy for those under 40 either. Being older means you have more to write about.

@jeannevb: fyi, it’s MUCH harder to get an agent as a screenwriter than a novelist. Just a reality.

@byDougRich: Screenwriting is about being efficient and getting to the point. Not much time to linger when blowing up sh*t.

@debhoudekrule: Scriptwriting format is pretty simple. Rethinking story structure and characterizations to visuals is more significant change.

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Remember though that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the end of the PDF and work your way up to page 1.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this awesome discussion!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter @Book_Country.

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Cover Art: An Aesthetic Marketing Tool

Posted by February 2nd, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (January 26, 2012)

Cover design masters Irene Gallo and John Picacio share some tips and experience about the aesthetic aspect of trade publishing.

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Judging a book by its cover. We’re always told not to do it, but that’s kind of a cover’s purpose. To hook a reader, to catch an eye, to express in an external way that which is internal to the book itself. So, how do illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, and art directors do it? What makes a strong cover, and how do they take the heart of a book and put it on the cover’s sleeve, in the first place?

With a lot of hard work, creativity, and passion, for sure. That much even I know. But to give us more details, Book Country chatted with some of the top pros in the business: Irene Gallo (@IreneGallo) and John Picacio@JohnPicacio).

Irene is the creative director at Tor.com and Tor/Forge Books, one of the largerst science fiction and fantasy imprints in publishing. She is also a member of the Society of Illustrators Board of Directors AND the Spectrum Advisory Board.

John, too, is brimming with experience as one of the the most beloved and well-known cover artists in the science ficton, fantasy, and horror genres. His covers have won multiple awards MULTIPLE TIMES, as well as received numerous Hugo Award nominations for his work.

Check out some of the chat’s highlights and/or find the full transcript embedded below for your learning pleasure:

@JohnPicacio: I think the most challenging [thing] is also the most central — it’s trying to connect the book w/ its audience.

@IreneGallo: [Cover artists] need to grab the readers attention _fast_. That’s usually more about tone than detail.

@JohnPicacio: I begin by listening to the art director’s brief. Then I go read the manuscript and start breaking down the text. The reality is though (and Irene knows this all too well) — the manuscript isn’t always available to the artist.

@IreneGallo: Authors’ can often be too close the project. Fixated on too many subtleties of the book.

@JohnPicacio: [The book’s] title can have influence [on design], but I’m looking @ spirit of the book & its strengths first. Macro before micro. 🙂

@IreneGallo: Talk to [freelance designers] frankly about the revisions stage. I think self-pub gets stickiest when authors want more revisions than is sometimes called for. Keeping everyone on point is important. Marketing image,not a retelling.

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Remember though that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the end of the PDF and work your way up.

Thanks to all who made this chat such a great success!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday nightfrom 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter@Book_Country.

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Meet Writer Kerry Schafer

Posted by January 24th, 2012

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

kerry_schafer_for_webWho exactly is Kerry Schafer? The new Penguin author and “old” Book Country member let’s us get to know the real Kerry.

There’s been a lot of buzz in the industrythe past couple of weeks about our very own Book Country member Kerry Schaferbeing offered (and accepting!) a two-book deal from Ace Books. But while it’s a wonderful, amazing success (both for Kerry and for Book Country, where she was discovered!), I want to know more about KERRY!

There are articles swimming around the internet about the book deal, how it happened, what the book’s about, etc. but no one has taken the time just yet to really talk to the woman behind the words about life, writing, reading–the fun non-businessy stuff!

Naturally, that means I’m going to.

That said, please welcome Kerry Schafer, an original Book Country “betafish” from northeastern Washington State, to our Book Country Member Spotlight!

DP: Let’s start from the beginning: How and why did you start writing?

KS: I grew up loving books. My mom read to me from the time I was a toddler, and I had my favorite books memorized and would insist on “reading” them to people long before I could read. I’m sure it all started there, although when I started writing it wasn’t stories – mostly poetry for years.

DP: The two books you have posted on the site, DEAD BEFORE DYING(paranormal mystery) and BETWEEN(urban fantasy) are very different in tone and genre. What appeals to you about each of these projects? What similarities do you see in the two, if any?

KS: Both books started with a concept that captured my interest. For BETWEEN, the whole idea of alternate realities was the trigger that led to developing the worlds in the book. And DEAD BEFORE DYING started with a Twitter joke about a geriatric vampire. Somebody dared me to write it, and I wrote the original first chapter just for fun and then got hooked.

Both books share an element of the strange and bizarre showing up in the real world, and this is my favorite place to write. Maybe because things are regularly happening in my job that make me and my co-workers look at each other and say, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

DP: Working in the field of mental health, you must get a great deal of insight into the human condition and motivation. How do you use your professional experience when crafting your characters?

KS: One of my favorite ways to get a grip on a new character is to find a defining life event for them. We all have these moments, the things that change everything – a death, a tragedy, a humiliation. That one event tends to color everything else about how your see your own life story. So how the character reacts to that event goes a long way to defining who they are as a human being. It’s also very helpful to have talked with folks who are dealing with things like PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. – if I want to write something like that into a story I can make it accurate and real.

DP: Every writer struggles with at least one aspect of his or her work. What has been the hardest obstacle for you personally? How did you (or are you trying to) overcome it?

KS: For me, the biggest thing is plot. I like to pants novels. There is a certain wildness and thrill of discovery in that. In fact, most of the rough drafts of novels I’ve done – including BETWEEN and DEAD BEFORE DYING – were written during Nanowrimo.  My plotting consisted of pulling an old vinyl album off the shelf, closing my eyes, pointing to a song, and using that as a chapter title. Not the best way to construct a tight and coherent plot, although it was a lot of fun. So I’ve revised repeatedly and adopted some methods of plotting that work for me. Last year I went to a James Scott Bell seminar, which was amazing and really helped me. I also use his book REVISION AND SELF EDITING, which includes some great advice on plot and structure.

DP: Now that you have an agent and a book deal (ok, I’m going to ask ONE book deal related question), you’ve begun interacting on a deeper level with such publishing professionals. What has surprised you the most about the experience? Or is it pretty much what you expected?

KS: Well, as an “aspiring writer” I always felt a little bit like I was standing outside the locked door to the inner sanctum. Inside, all of the agents and editors and other publishing people were having a party from which I was excluded. And then overnight I suddenly had email addresses and phone numbers for a number of these people, who were actually just working very hard at their jobs and not partying at all. I always knew they were just human beings like the rest of us, but it’s nice to have this confirmed. It’s been really fun to see what goes on behind the scenes before an announcement of a deal, or a publicity release.

DP: You don’t have any favorite books or writers listed in your profile–*gasp!*–why not? Have there been any particular works that have impacted you as a writer, or that you read again and again?

KS: Um, yeah. I’ve never been much for “favorites.” I read and love books widely across a lot of genres. I suppose if I was listing the books that have impacted me the most deeply, I’d have to say The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” books, Madeleine L’Engle’s “Wrinkle in Time” trilogy. These are all well-worn books I have on my shelf. Also LITTLE WOMEN, which I half memorized as a teenager, and the “Anne of Green Gables” and “Emily of New Moon” books by Lucy Maude Montgomery. Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Fionovar Tapestry” trilogy,  and Stephen R. R. Donaldson’s MIRROR OF HER DREAMS and A MAN RIDES THROUGH probably also have influenced my own writing a lot. And then there’s Robertson Davies, Martha Grimes, Jonathan Kellerman, Elizabeth Peters… you see my problem with the favorites thing.

DP: You have teenage kids, a busy, often on-call career, two blogs, and you write regularly. How do you make time for it all? Do you have a specific writing schedule you stick to, etc.?

KS: That is the million dollar question, and one I’m always finding new answers for. Since the book deal came through I’m looking at all of my commitments and shuffling everything around, trying to figure out how to make even more time for writing. I’ve been working on a self study RN refresher course and haven’t had time to look at it in the last couple of weeks. Basically, I just don’t have much of a life outside of the things mentioned. I watch very little TV, I don’t go out much. I spend time on Twitter, but I never see it as time wasted – I’ve learned so much there and met so many amazing and wonderful people. Making a schedule is hard because my work schedule is so erratic – I seldom have the same days off two weeks in a row, and I may or may not have writing time when I’m working call shifts. I try to make schedules when I’m feeling overwhelmed but I’m not so good at following them. Mostly I just slog away at writing whenever I have time. Lately I’ve been trying to get 500 words in before I go to work in the morning. If I can get away for lunch, I might manage another 500 then. More at night if I can stay awake. And on my days off I try to make up the difference.

DP: I hear that you’re from Canada (and share my love of hockey, naturally!). Are there any Canadian authors you love that us U.S.-born (or other-born!) folk might not know? Expand our horizons!

KS: Hmmm. I think everybody knows Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje and Charles DeLint. Guy Gavriel Kay seems to be lesser known here than in Canada – he’s an amazing fantasy writer. Margaret Laurence wrote some pretty cool literary type stuff. Oh, I know – Robertson Davies. I love his books and most people here don’t seem to know about him. Also, one of my favorite poets was a Canadian – Earl Birney.

DP: You call yourself a “denizen of alternate realities.” What do you mean by that exactly?

KS: You had to ask. I really do often feel that I’ve wandered into strange little bubbles of reality. Once you start watching for the absurd, you find it everywhere. Things like a Craigslist.org item from somebody in the Midwest looking for a “friendly female giraffe” to live in their barn. You meet three people in the same week with a name like Aberforth when you’ve never met a person with that name in your life before. Something you KNOW was true yesterday suddenly isn’t and nobody else seems to know what you’re talking about when you question this. I’m fascinated by these things, and it seems entirely natural to take it one step further in my writing and create intersections between worlds.

DP: As always, for our final question, let’s talk about something other than writing. We’d love to hear a random fun fact about you!

KS: I used to play the tuba in band. It’s a wonderful instrument, often slighted. Also difficult to manage when walking up stairs onto a stage while wearing a floor-length skirt.

Photo courtesy of Kerry Schafer

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The Elusive Author-Agent Relationship

Posted by January 19th, 2012

Author Laura Griffin and agent Kevan Lyon discuss how to build and maintain a strong author-agent relationship.

 twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteAlmost all writers who have publication aspirations have, at some point, queried an agent (or are planning to!). And sadly, a large number of those queries don’t get offers of representation. So when an interest agent reaches out, it’s not surprising that writers get excited and anxious to move forward. But it’s important to remember that just because you have an offer at represensentation, doesn’t mean he or she is the right agent for you. You have to be compatible with your agent on several levels and be willing to work through the bumpy patches.

What exactly are these “levels,” you ask? Just check out our January 12th, 2012 Twitter chat with author and agent team Laura Griffin(@Laura_Griff) and Kevan Lyon(@KevanLyon) to find out! They’ve been working together for five years and twelve books and have one of the strongest author-agent relationships I’ve seen. They also have some great tips regarding the best questions to ask a potential agent.

But first, a little backstory on our special guests…

Laura Griffin is a New York Times bestselling romantic suspense author. Since her first book published in 2007, Laura has been busy writing and developing her popular Tracers series, the fifth novel of which, TWISTED, comes out on April 17th. (Mark your calendars!)

Kevan Lyon is a founding partner of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. With a main focus on women’s fiction, romance, and young adult, she reps a number of clients and spends muchtime nurturing her relationship with each one of them. her background in book sales and distribution doesn’t hurt either!

Here’s a little preview of what our participants had to say on the topic:

@Laura_Griff: It is a bit like a marriage! Because it’s a partnership and you both have to be striving toward the same goal.

@KevanLyon: You want to try to get a feel for how they communicate, how often, how quickly. Their submission process, should you expect to hear from them during that process, how much information they share, etc.

@ColleenLindsay: Some writers are self-confident; some need a lot of handholding. An agent has to decide how comfortable they are with that.

@KevanLyon: When you recv an offer of representation make sure you are ready wi questions — make sure it feels right to you.

@Laura_Griff: Twitter and FB are great resources for [writers looking for the right agent]. Talk to other writers and hear what they think of diff agencies & publishers.

@allison_pang: Agent needs to be able to you give you the hard news as well as easy.

@KevanLyon: [The biggest mistake an author-agent can make is] not communicating honestly. I always want to hear from an author 1st if something is bothering them.

@Laura_Griff: Ask the agent what they like about your work. See if they seem sincerely excited. That’s important.

We’ve also posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles. Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up. Thanks to all who participated in this helpful chat!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

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Understanding Subsidiary Rights

Posted by December 22nd, 2011

Book Country Twitter Chat (December 15, 2011)

Literary agency masterminds Kathleen Ortiz and Tara Hart give some insight into the complicated–but important!–world of subsidiary rights.

 twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteEvery author holds a hand that s/he may not even realize s/he’s been dealt. How so, you ask? Because any project, published or not, has the potential to reach a broader audience in myriad ways through the power of subsidiary rights.

But what are subsidiary rights (AKA subrights)? What do you need to know about that? How do you use them to your advantage? We asked some of the best in the business–Kathleen Ortiz (@KOrtizzle) and Tara Hart (@Tara_Hart28)–to give us a little tutorial.

Kathleen is the subrights director at Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation, where she deals with a lot of foreign, audio, and digital rights. She also represents her own authors as an agent with an ever-growing list!

Tara is the contracts and permissions manager at Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, dealing with and negotiating subrights on a daily basis. She has a Masters in Publishing from Pace University.

Take a peek at some of the highlights from our chat, and/or download the entire transcript below:

@KOrtizzle: Subsidiary rights are, in a nutshell, all rights to your book outside of a domestic, physical copy: foreign, large print, audio, film/tv, theme park, enhanced ebook, calendars, merchandise, etc.

@Tara_Hart28: [Popular genres for translation rights] depends on the territory. I hear steampunk popular in Gemran–commericial women’s fiction in Netherlands, for example.

@SarahLaPolla: There’s a difference in royalties between download & physical CD, but both rights are sold together.

@KOrtizzle: Subrights for self-pub titles = very difficult unless sales are very high. Prepare to show numbers.

@Tara_Hart28: Remember: as creators you own all rights. You chose what rights to grant based on offer.

@LiteratiCat: Mostly only extremely popular books (Twilight, Alex Rider, etc) are being “translated” into [Graphic Novel]/Manga form.

@KOrtizzle: Audio rights are  bought by audio pubs who typically want both. Just like trad pubs want [eBook] and physical.

@Tara_Hart28
: Derivative rights is defined in copyright as any derivative of the original–which can mean prequels/sequels etc. AND they can exploit those prequel/sequel rights without your involvement!

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Bear in mind that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start on the last page of the PDF and work your way forward to the first page

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to participate!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

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Meet Charlotte Firbank-King

Posted by December 21st, 2011

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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Haven’t interacted with Book Country member Charlotte Firbank-King yet? Get to know her in our member spotlight!

Every time I read a book, a short story, a poem, or anything really, I wonder about the person behind the words. I ask myself a million questions, wishing I could know some of their true-life stories and how their experiences have shaped them. Why? Because what we’ve been through is what shapes our creativity. It’s not identical, of course, but it makes us who we are as people and as writers.

So, I decided to chat with Book Country member Charlotte Firbank-Kingabout some pieces of  her life, her process, and her writing to get a little insight into this recently minted member’s mind:

DP: The majority of our members are from the United States but I noticed you are not. I’d love to hear a little bit about what it’s like in South Africa where you live! What is the writing community like there?

CFK: South Africa is a complex land with 11 official languages and almost every ethnic group known to the World. We have wide open spaces of pristine bush with a staggering variety of creatures. And no, lions and elephants don’t wander down our streets—unless you live in a village in the bush. Here, a stark third-world existence rubs shoulders with gleaming first-world technology and opulence. Our weather is wonderful. We don’t get many earthquakes or tornados and snow only falls on mountainous areas. The writing community sucks. I personally don’t bother to explore its limited offerings. In that regard, we are definitely third world.

DP: You edit, write, and illustrate? What was your first creative outlet? How did you shift into the other two?

CFK: The illustrating, art came first. I studied art at Pretoria Art College. I visited England and France to see the works of old masters. There, my existing love of history was fuelled. I have always dabbled in writing, from childhood. First poetry expressed my angst, and then cheesy bodice rippers served as a release for raging teenage hormones. Finally, life turned out to be my greatest motivator and teacher. About seventeen years ago, I sent a very, very length novel to Sandy Tritt, CEO of Inspiration for Writers. Because of the poor exchange of SA Rand, I couldn’t afford the editing fees, but she offered to read my book anyway. She imparted her extensive knowledge freely and I honed the craft of writing under her guidance over the next ten years. She eventually asked me to become an editor and ghost writer for IFW.

DP: It says in your profile that you usually write from the male protagonist’s POV. Why’s that? What’s your favorite (and least favorite!) part about writing from the perspective?

CFK: Men are simpler. I love their direct, practical approach, and I think they are misunderstood and underappreciated by most women. (Not talking about your wife-beating jerk here) I especially love the warrior spirit in a man and that is what I concentrate on. My husband was a warrior and he was killed. I guess I just understand them. I have no least favorite part. Well, maybe when it comes to finer details like what is it like to make love to a virgin—tricky interview that.

DP: You have great attention to detail, especially when it comes to grammar and word choice, from what I can tell from your reviews so far. What is your greatest writing pet peeve? Why do you think it’s important?

CFK: That sounds like a no-brainer. Isn’t writing all about grammar and word choice? My pet peeve is manuscripts put out there when the author hasn’t even bothered to try to edit a single word. Would a person expect someone to live if they performed brain surgery on them without studying medicine first? This is my mantra and I write with it in mind always.The writer is forever searching for a brilliant phrase that will blow the reader’s mind away. They hunt among the bright pebbles of adjectives and adverbs, worn smooth by overuse, when all the while it is hidden under the boulder of brevity.

Below are a few of my favorite quotes that sum up how I feel:

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again” ~ Oscar Wilde

“When instinct fails, rules may guide us. But rules shouldn’t preoccupy the writer. The real job, the enduring task of the writer, is cultivating the instinct for language–even when language so stubbornly resists the precision we seek.” ~ George Orwell

DP: There is a wide variety of authors listed as your favorite writers–Dan Brown to Shakespeare! What do you like about them?  Is there a common thread you see in their writing? I’m intrigued!

CFK: Dan Brown and the like are light entertainment (they should edit their books more carefully, too). Shakespeare feeds my soul; Dickens and Oscar Wild teach me how to use words effectively. I have eclectic tastes, interests, what can I say! =)

DP: What brought you to Book Country? What is your own personal writing goal that the community can help you with?

CFK: I saw your site referred to on Kirsten Lamb’s blog. My goal, to get my first, of 12 novels, published. My inability to promote myself is my worst enemy. At first, I just wanted another point of view on my most completed novel Twilight Path. And most of the reviews have been helpful, made me look at the area that bothered me most, what genre is my book? And some things that I didn’t think were a problem, but then had to look at. Finally, as I did more reviews, I wanted to help aspiring authors. Yes, I am paid to edit, but when I see a really talented writer I can’t resist wanting to guide them.

DP: I read that your book, TWILIGHT PATH, is nearly complete and ready for publication. How many rounds of revision did you go through? What was your process? How do you know you’re nearly done? 

CFK: Not nearly, it is completed, but only to the best of my ability. I think what got me was the numerous rejection slips I received from romance publishers. I write for the thinking person. I don’t do wilting heroine on hunk’s arm. I doubt I could give an accurate estimate of how many edits, but I would not be lying if I said at least 150 of my own. So I’m anal, shoot me. =) My process starts with the story in my head, clamoring with a thousand others to be heard. The one that screams loudest gets first shot. First chapters are my thing. It’s like the first time you make love; it has to be good because that defines your love life (story) for the rest of your life (story.) As I go, I have a separate file called a story outline. This has all the details about various characters—eye color, hair, fears, habits, twitches, aspirations etc. It isn’t good to have blue eyes in one place then brown eyes. I guess I will never be done editing; there is always the lure of a better way to say something.

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.” ~Winston Churchill

DP: What kind of books do you edit versus what you write? What do you find appealing about them from the different roles?

CFK: I have edited anything from hard-core porn, romance, Christian inspirational works through to paranormal and some that have no specific genre. I write mystery/thrillers with strong elements of romance. I also write YA fantasy and kids’ books with illustrations. I guess I wear two hats, an editor hat and a writer hat. The editor hat puts aside self. I have no views or opinions that I am permitted to express, concerning the author’s views and opinions. My job is simply to help them grow as writers, be it porn of spiritual. In my own writing, I wear both hats and I sometimes hate my editor hat.

The editing appeals because I can help someone improve, if they are willing to learn. Some aren’t. My writing satisfies a deep, abiding compulsion within me to write—I can’t help myself—I need to write everyday like a junky needs a fix.

DP: What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse, if you will?

CFK: I believe God gives us gifts and those gifts become a compulsion if we let them, I let them. The stories that keep me awake at night won’t go away until I put them on paper, then they grow and consume me. Do I have a muse? A muse, by definition is spiritual, really. So if God likes Shakespeare and those of his ilk, then there is my multidimensional muse—there are ten, mythically speaking, aren’t there?

DP: For our final question, let’s talk about something other than writing. We’d love to hear a random fun fact about you!

CFK: I’m not random, so obviously, I don’t get the question, but here is what my one granddaughter and kids thinks is fun about me, if that counts:

I am into technology and play computer games, so that makes me fun.

Eldest daughter: Editing with me makes me fun.

Son: Woodworking and cooking with me, experimenting with different dishes, makes me fun.

Youngest daughter: I play computer games.

Is that random enough? =)

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Working with a Writing Partner/Team

Posted by December 7th, 2011

Book Country Twitter Chat (December 1, 2011)

Bestselling husband-and-wife team Ilona Andrews and editor Anne Sowards discuss the challenges of writing with a partner

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 Collaborating can be an amazing experience: you can take a project in directions you never conceived of before, you can get multiple perspectives to make a piece more relatable and realistic, you can divvy up tasks to focus your strengths, and so much more. But it can also be very difficult to work so closely with someone else in such a creative, traditionally solitary process. You won’t always see things the same way or have the same ideas of where a story should go. You might even have vastly different opinions on character motivation, for example. There are many areas where conflict could arise.


With this in mind, we decided to bring in one of the most successful writing duos today–Ilona Andrews (@Ilona_Andrews)–and Ilona’s editor–Anne Sowards (@AnneSowards)–to talk about their experiences.

Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife writing team–Ilona and Gordon. Together, they have written two New York Times bestselling urban fantasy novels, as well as a number of eBook originals.

Anne Sowards is the executive editor of the Ace/Roc imprint at Penguin Group, and works with bestselling authors like Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine,and many more, in addition to Ilona Andrews.

Here’s a sneak peak at some of the chat’s great discussion:

@Ilona_Andrews: The idea is not to compete but rather to create the best book possible.

@AnneSowards: Both author names are listed on the contract, i.e. “author x & author y, writing as author z.”

@Ilona_Andrews: We disagree frequently on characterization, but if it’s in the final book, it is a compromise.

@AnneSowards: I would be a bit more cautious (if approached by an agent with a writing pair) because it’s a more unusual situation, but love for the book overcomes fear!

@Ilona_Andrews: I don’t think the gnre matters that much. 🙂 It’s more what each of the partners brings to the table.

@AnneSowards: [It’s a] marketing decision [to use a pen name instead of both author names]. Less confusing for readers to have one name, and [for] UF, we wanted it to be female.

@Ilona_Andrews: Writing with a partner is very similar to working with the editor.


If you missed the chat, you can view or download the entire transcript as a PDF here. It will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start reading on the last page and work your way to the first page.

Thanks to all who took the time to share their experiences and ask questions.

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

Follow us on Twitter for more: @Book_Country 

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