Tag Archives: Peer review

Book Country Editor’s Picks for February

Posted by February 2nd, 2015

Book Country Editor's Picks for February

We’ve selected ten new manuscripts to be featured in the Editor’s Picks section on the Read and Review page. Check them out!
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New to the Book Country Workshop? Start Here.

Posted by July 26th, 2013

How to workshop on Book CountryWelcome to Book Country! You just activated your Book Country account. You filled out your profile, complete with an inviting picture, the genres you like, and links to find you on social media. You went over to the Introduce Yourself area on the discussion forums and said, “Hi.” Now, you’re thinking about sharing your manuscript for feedback.

We’re a writing and publishing community, and that means that we want you to get involved and support other members. In that spirit, we ask that you read and review one other book on Book Country before you can post your own. If you’re not that experienced at workshopping, this may seem intimidating, but don’t worry!

Here’s how to get involved in the community and get your book on the map:

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Atthys Gage

Posted by May 20th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead.  –Atthys Gage

Atthys Gage has been writing novels for the last seven years while living on the North Coast of California amid dogs, kids, redwood trees, and one long-suffering wife. He’s been a member of Book Country for about two years. The current tally is four and a half novels, a memoir about adopting a child from China, and a handful of shorter works.  

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Atthys. When did you start writing? What inspires you to carry on?

Atthys: Seven years ago I decided to try writing a book.  It was an out of the blue “I wonder if I can do it?” kind of challenge. It turned out I could. I wrote it all in long hand in a couple of spiral-bound notebooks before I even touched the word processor. Since then, I’ve had the bug.

Nevena: Is fitting writing into your life a juggling act?

Atthys: My wife works full-time (and then some), so I’ve got a house to run and three teenage kids to mismanage. But I get a few hours to myself nearly every day. Unfortunately, I’m a hopeless procrastinator, so most of that time gets wasted on a lot of nonsense, but I have no one to blame for that but myself. And the Internet.

Nevena: Haha, don’t we all… What’s your writing process like? Do you plot extensively or let the characters lead the way?

Atthys: I need to have a pretty good outline, but I’m always open to change. The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead. Once in a while, a character you thought was just a walk-on will force her way center stage and start grabbing all the good lines. When that happens, I try to get out of her way.

Nevena: The muse takes over! You’ve posted three fantasy books on Book Country. What is it about the genre’s tropes and conventions that speaks to you as a story-teller?

Atthys: Actually, I’m not all that fond of traditional fantasy. I am attracted to books where extraordinary or unexplained things happen. I like the tension, the way the various layers of reality rub against each other. Everyday life, of course, can be just as weird, just as beautiful, just as fantastic as the wildest otherworldly fantasy. It’s all about the writing. And those impossible, unexplainable elements, I try to write them just the same, always anchoring the magical in pure, vivid realism.

Nevena: What’s your “pet” project at the moment?

Atthys: I guess the book I’m most passionate and hopeful about at the moment is The Flight of the Wren.  It’s the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is given a flying carpet. Yeah. That’s the nutshell version. My formal pitch is a lot more exciting than that, but ultimately I think I lose a lot of readers with the words ‘flying carpet.’ Probably they are expecting something like a Magic Treehouse adventure and a lot of mucking around with Aladdin and his monkey.

Of course, it’s nothing like that. The protagonist is painfully ordinary—disaffected, disconnected, utterly disinterested in school, family, even friends. She is, in short, a typical teenage mess. She has no special powers, no special insights, not even a belief in herself. Because I am a benevolent (if inscrutable) god, I toss her a lifeline. A gift. An impossible gift: a magic carpet. But there are strings attached. With it comes both a community (other members of her flock) and a purpose, a mission.

Love, of course, also waits in the wind. Love is what drives everything that happens in the second half of the book. A flying carpet, once you get past the absurdity, really is a heck of a gift.  It represents two extremely valuable things for a young person: freedom and independence. For Renny, it also comes to represent two things she thought she didn’t want but which turn out to be a lot more important than flying: connection and responsibility. In other words, people she cares about.

Nevena: Which part of that book was the most challenging to write, and how did you handle it?

Atthys: Not to downplay the agony of creation, but the hardest part has been trying to get the book read and published, though I guess I have myself to blame for that one too.  All of the most cherished and repeated advice from agents and marketing people—make your book high-concept, write to a target audience, know your genre—I’ve failed at all of those things! My books don’t sit comfortably in any particular genre. I can’t even identify an appropriate age group.  I call my stuff YA because it concerns younger people as characters, but I don’t tailor my writing to that audience. Understand, I’m not saying I won’t. I’m saying I can’t. I admire the discipline that would be needed to write well within the constraints of a traditional genre, but I don’t seem to possess it.

Nevena: You’ve reviewed quite a few books on the site. How do you switch gears from writing fiction to reviewing it? Does reviewing change the way you see your own writing?

Atthys: I love reviewing, partly because I love the editing process. The whole process of vetting and re-vetting every combination of words appeals to my obsessive compulsive nature. I’m afraid it makes me a pushy sort of reviewer, but I find rewriting a lot easier than trying to explain in abstract terms why something isn’t working for me. I don’t know if it helps the original writer, but I think going through that process makes me a better writer. Of course there are lots of terrific writers on Book Country who need no help from anyone, and reading good writing is the best learning experience of all.

Nevena: So why are you on Book Country?

Atthys: Colleen and I go way back. We worked at the same brick-and-mortar bookstore back when such things were common. Fast forward twenty years. I’m querying agents for my first book and I see her name. We reconnect. She almost represents my book, then chickens out.

Needless to say, I’ve never quite forgiven her for that, but we stayed connected. When she started posting about this site, I decided to check it out.

Nevena: Haha. Is there anything else you want to share with the Book Country peeps?

Atthys: Eat well. Get plenty of rest. Go outside once in a while. You’re all welcome take my advice because I’m not using it.

Nevena: You’re a funny one. Hope Renny finds a home soon!

Connect with Atthys on Book Country and give Flight of the Wren a read. Follow him on Twitter at @AtthysGage.

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Meet Writer Rebecca Blain

Posted by May 13th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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“I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds.”

Rebecca Blain is a fantasy writer from Montreal, Canada; she’s also a speed-reader, freelance editor, artist, and fantasy fan girl. Rebecca has been a Book Country member since we launched, and we always recommend her wonderful how-to guide for new members. We wanted to catch up with Rebecca and find about her debut novelThe Eye of God.

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Rebecca. The Eye of God will be released in July. Congrats! Tell us more about the story.

Rebecca: Thanks for having me.

The Eye of God is the story of Terin and Blaise. Terin’s a slave in a world that’s reminiscent of ancient Rome, and Blaise is someone—something—that has been watching over the world and a few of its more interesting denizens for a long, long time. When the balance of power in the empire is shattered, it falls to the two of them to restore order before everyone close to them has their souls devoured.

Nevena: How has the novel evolved over time? What was it like working with an editor and a cover designer? (The cover is gorgeous, by the way.)

RebeccaThe Eye of God is the novel in which I really figured out how to write. “Showing versus telling” clicked for me, and I got a much better grasp of immediacy and limited third point of view. My developmental editor loved the story—the characters, the plot, and the general arcs, but it didn’t have the base writing of my other WIP, Storm without End.

My marching orders were simple: Rewrite the book from the ground up, but recapture the same plot and characters.

Working with my editor is a lot of fun. She’s a great sounding board for me, and she isn’t afraid to tell me when something just isn’t working. And, she deals very well with me when I’m bullheaded and don’t want to make changes I need to make, which is exactly what I need in an editor.

As for the cover art, this was my favorite bit of the process. I met the cover artist, Chris Howard, through one of my editorial clients. We hit it off right away, and I hired him. I told him a little about the world and about Terin, and he started sketching over his lunch break.

The sketch of the cover came back almost perfect; I asked him to change the style of shirt and make Terin’s hair a bit longer. The rest is history. A very short time later, I had cover art that I am really, really proud to have on my book.

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Nevena: So you have a great team helping you! The book you’re currently working on, Songbird, is a romantic fantasy, which is a new direction for you as a writer. What’s been the most challenging part of the writing process so far?

Rebecca: Writing the female perspective. The vast majority of my books have male points of view. Writing Kara has been a huge challenge. Ranik, the main male character, comes a lot more naturally to me than Kara.

Nevena: To say that you’re a huge fantasy buff wouldn’t be an overstatement. What draws you to it?

Rebecca: I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds, for things that make me ask questions, and that make me see a little bit of magic in our own world.

Nevena: That’s quite poetic. Are there any fantasy conventions or clichés you’d like to see disappear?

No. Even the most boring cliché can be turned to magic in the hands of a skilled writer. When I encounter a cliché in my clients’ works, I don’t tell them to remove it—I tell them to enhance it so that it becomes original to them. If they can’t do that, then they should consider cutting it out.

A cliché or convention exists because many people love the same thing. It isn’t that you use them that matters it’s how you use them.

A perfect example is Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. I didn’t realize it included zombies until he told me when we met at World Fantasy Con. That is skill, and turning something old into something new.

Nevena: Let’s switch gears. Tell us more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Rebecca: Me? I’m boring—okay, well, maybe not. I am a natural-born punster. (You got off the hook this time.) I have a spouse and four cats. I turn thirty on the 16th, and I’m really excited about it!

As for what started me wanting to be a writer, I blame Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. The Black Gryphon nailed the coffin closed for me. Valdemar just ensured I’d never leave the Science Fiction / Fantasy section of the bookstore ever again…

Nevena: Happy birthday! You work as a freelance editor and writer. How do you manage to fit your own writing into the mix?

Rebecca: A lot of dedication, discipline, effort, and heartbreak. That, plus 12-14 hour days.

Nevena: What’s your Book Country story? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Rebecca: I came to Book Country with one of the waves of beta fishes. I’d followed Colleen because I wanted to query her when I was ready, but then she upped and changed career paths! Still, it worked out for the better. I think Book Country has been a huge influence on me in terms of honing my writing skills.

I regret nothing!

Nevena: That’s awesome! You’ve written a couple of amazing pieces—on the forums and on your website—about how to use Book Country. What is the #1 thing you think new members should know about the peer review process?

Rebecca: Thank you!

All I can say is this: pour your heart and soul into the peer review process. Sure, your help doesn’t make your book immediately better, but it’ll help you open your eyes to your own writing with time. The more you help others with their writing, the more you will be helped. It’s true—it’s really, really true.

Let me say this again: Give your honesty, your integrity, and your professionalism to others. Pour everything you have into it. Give it your absolute all. Sure, you may not get a review out of it, or a publishing contract, or a job as an editor, or even a thank you, or some form of gratification, but you will learn. That learning will help you find the problems in your own writing.

Nevena: Amen. Is there anything else you want to share with the community?

Rebecca: Writing is hard. Don’t give up—good things happen to those who put in the effort and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and their fingers bloodied making their stories come to life.

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Rebecca. Good luck with The Eye of God!

Connect with Rebecca on Book Country and follow her on Twitter at @rebeccablain. Visit her on the web at her website. Oh, and Rebecca has graciously invited everybody to help themselves to a copy of the wallpaper of The Eye of God’s cover art.

*Cover art by Chris Howard

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One Year Since Michael R. Underwood’s GEEKOMANCY, Pt. 2

Posted by April 9th, 2013

Mike Underwood on the sequel, using Book Country & growing as a writer

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“Write a lot, read a lot, and give yourself every opportunity you can.” 

This is Part Two of our interview with Book Country member and speculative fiction author Michael R. Underwood. In Part One, we chatted about his debut novel Geekomancy and his path to publication—the book was discovered on Book Country by Pocket/Gallery editor Adam Wilson. 

Here we’re digging deeper into how Mike workshopped his novel on Book Country as well as talking about his second book, 
Celebromancy

Nevena: We’re excited that Celebromancy comes out this summer. How was writing the sequel different?

Mike: I wrote Celebromancy in less than half the time it took to writeGeekomancy. I’d been trying for years to break in as a novelist, and now that I’m here, that success has helped me develop my discipline. Now I work harder, longer, and more efficiently.

There were several factors helping that along. I had a deadline to meet. I had already done the heavy setting and character lifting. When I startedGeekomancy, Ree Reyes was mostly just a snarky geeky voice in my head. When I moved onto Celebromancy, she was a fully-realized character who had already survived a trial by fire.

Nevena: Did your writing process change from book to book?

Mike: My process definitely changed, and continues to change. I used to be more of a pantser/gardener, taking a basic idea and then launching into a first draft to figure things out and then clean it up later. With Geekomancy andCelebromancy, I had the main plot figured out by the time I got 20,000 words into each book, which gave me some guideposts. But since writing the second book, I’ve changed my process once again. I’ve been plotting more out ahead of time, filling out more beats along the way and seeing how that affects my process. I just wrote a 26,000 word first draft of a novella in about twenty days that way!

Nevena: That’s awesome! So what’s next?

Mike: In addition to the novella I’m working on, I’m in the pre-writing for a new novel, unconnected to the Geekomancy universe. I’ve got several pitches out in the world, and if/when one of them catches, I’ll dive into that. AndCelebromancy comes out on July 15th!

Nevena: I’ll mark my calendar! Your first book was found on Book Country. How did you get started on the site?

Mike: I first learned about Book Country through Colleen Lindsay (who was a former co-worker of my dad’s—I met Colleen when I was a bright-eyed teen volunteering at the Del Rey booth at Star Wars Celebration II). I saw her tweeting about a Sekrit Project, and I was intrigued. I begged my way into the beta, and was elated to find a critique group, a discussion board, and a new way of connecting with fellow writers. The Genre Map was a fantastic idea, and I was very excited to have the chance to get my work critiqued by writers with a wide range of perspectives and to give back in areas where I had some experience (since I’d been working in publishing already at that point).

Nevena: How has the site helped your growth as a writer?

Mike: The biggest thing I learned from Book Country was how to sort through critiques and figure out how to incorporate the feedback. With an in-person critique group, you get more feedback, faster, and can use non-verbal cues to sort out comments. Critiques on Book Country are more like reviews in the marketplace—they’re just text, and are based on the reader’s relationship to this one text, not with the reader in general. I found that in total, the reviews I got were totally contradictory—so I had to really dig into them and figure out how to reconcile the contradictory parts. That has changed the way I read reviews of Geekomancy: I acknowledge the criticism and try to figure out which bits of feedback to take to heart.

I don’t get to spend as much time on Book Country anymore, since there are many more demands on my time, but I love popping on now and again to see what other writers are doing and adding to the discussion. I’ve sent many fellow writers to Book Country to post their manuscripts and get feedback, because hey, it worked for me, it could work for them, too.

Nevena: Thanks, Mike! Could you elaborate about the process of getting critiques and making decisions from them?

Mike: First, I try to focus the attention of my reviewers by telling them what type of feedback I’d like. Early in revisions, getting line edits isn’t really useful. The earlier in process a work is, the more broad I ask for the feedback to be. Were you entertained? What parts confused you? Bored you? Thrilled you?

Later in the process, I zoom in on specific questions, about a plot-line, a character,  or another concrete issue. And right before a work is ready to go out, I’ll ask specifically for the grammar-checking, typo-hunting line edits.

Once I have that feedback, I try to honestly engage with the responses and decide whether they will help me make the story a better version of the story I want to tell, or will make it a different story—one I don’t want to tell. Most stories can be told in many different ways. And most stories I tell I could probably tell in a few ways. But most of the time, there’s one way of telling the story that best reflects who I am as a storyteller, and I try to dig out the feedback that will help me tell the story *that* way better.

Nevena: That’s really helpful. Any parting words of advice for other writers who are trying to get to where you are now?

Mike: Write a lot, read a lot, and give yourself every opportunity you can. It took maybe half an hour of my time to format a few chapters of Geekomancy for Book Country, and it ended up getting me a book deal. You never know what opportunity will be the one that connects. You can drive yourself crazy trying to find the magic formula or path to success, but if something comes up, I think it’s always worth asking, “What do I have to lose?” Sometimes the answer to that question will end up being too much time, more money than you want to spend, or something else that counts as “too much.” But other times, it might just be a bit of your time, and you never know where it might lead.

Nevena: It was really great catching up with you! Good luck with all of your projects.

Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeRUnderwood and visit his blog, Geek TheoryGeekomancy is now an audio book.

Micheal R. Underwood is represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency.

 

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New to Book Country? Start here.

Posted by March 29th, 2013

Please note: There is a new updated version of this post here

A quick and dirty guide about workshopping your book on Book Country and getting the most out of it.

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You’re writing genre fiction. You activated your Book Country account, filled out your profile information complete with an inviting picture, and uploaded your manuscript. You went over to the Introduce Yourself area on the discussion forums and said hi.

So, now what? Keep on reading. We’ll show you how to get involved in the community and get your book out there.

Before everyone can see your manuscript, you need to read and review three other books on Book Country. If you’re not that experienced at critiquing, this may seem intimidating, but don’t worry! Here are a few pointers to get you started on Book Country.

How to write reviews

Apply the golden rule to writing reviews: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Provide the level of detail and use the tone of voice you hope to receive from others. Be as specific about your feedback as you can. Refer to scenes, passages, and sentences from the book; make it easy for the writer to understand and act upon your comments and criticisms. These are all works in progress: writers are here to hone their craft, so they want real feedback to make real progress. Find the balance between constructive and honest.

If you want to see some examples of what good reviews look like, go to the Top Peer Reviewers tab and look at some of these folks’ reviews.

Even if you’re not an experienced reviewer, keep this in mind: you are a voracious reader in a certain genre. A writer who wants to be successful in that genre will find your insight immensely valuable. Trust me.

People sometimes ask me if they need to read an entire project uploaded to write a review. Not always. If a writer uploaded a full-length novel, it’s understandable if you don’t have the time to read it. Read enough to get a sense of the characters, the writing style, and the criteria the writer requested. In your review, mention that it’s based on the first “x” chapters so the writer isn’t confused.

Remember, a peer review is just that: honest feedback from another fellow writer.

How to rate books

Star ratings are not a reflection of how much you like or dislike a book. Ratings show the readiness of a manuscript for publication. Think of them as a scale of rough draft to final draft.

Here are the “official” Book Country ratings*:

1 star   — piece needs significant redrafting as well as reconceptualization
2 stars — piece needs several more drafts and maybe some reconceptualization
3 stars — piece needs significant revision, perhaps another draft
4 stars — piece needs some editing and minor revisions
5 stars — piece is publication-ready: you’re a star!

*One of our members, Herb Mallette, who also writes great reviews, articulated our thoughts about the ratings. Thanks, Herb!

About ratings

Not all ratings on the site are created equal. The more “thumbs up” a reviewer gets from other members, the more that member’s ratings will count toward a book’s overall rating. We’ve done that to reward helpful reviewers and make sure the quality of the review is taken into account. So if you see a review that you think is well-written and deserves kudos, thumb it up! This way the awesome peer reviewer’s opinion will weigh more than that of other reviewers who might not be as helpful.

How to get reviews

You’ve completed your three reviews, and you’re ready to share your manuscript.

First, make sure your Book Details page is in good shape. You’ll get more readers by providing a solid synopsis of your book. Think of it as the book jacket copy of a published novel. A well-written synopsis is the #1 way I personally decide which books to read. If you’re looking for specific feedback or you want to relay something to your readers, mention that in The Author’s Note.

Okay, ready? Click the “post” button to make your book visible. Now share the news with the community. Every Genre Talk forum contains a thread for new projects. If you’re a fantasy writer, go over to the fantasy topic and drop a line in the Have a new fantasy project on Book Country? Need readers? Share here! thread to let other people know that you are new to the site and would love some feedback. Include a link to your book so that it’s easy for people to find it. Get the word out on Facebook and Twitter—it’s the first step toward building an audience. Tweet a casual announcement about your new book or draft using the #readbookcountry hashtag to welcome readers and their input.

Talk to people on the site! That’s what the “community” part of Book Country is all about. Participate in discussions and write good reviews—it’s how you’ll get members to want to get to know you as a writer.

That’s it! Are you ready for some feedback? Take a deep breath.

How to read and use peer reviews

You’ve gotten a message the first review of your book is live. It feels strange and kind of surreal to see a stranger writing about your book. You scan every word and punctuation mark for the underlying message, “You’re bad! Your book sucks.” Nah, that’s just your insecurity talking. You’ll be fine. Give the review a read through and pat yourself on the back for putting yourself out there and letting other people dissect your work. I know there will be compliments there with the criticism.

It’s common courtesy to thank your reviewer in the comments section under their review, even if you’re not enamored with the opinions they expressed. They donated their time to read and write about your book, so it’s nice to acknowledge their efforts. If there is something you didn’t quite understand about their feedback, feel free to ask for clarification by commenting under the review. That’s how you’ll make new friends, too!

Be gracious about the feedback you receive. You want to be an author. You need to grow a thick skin and let things roll off your back. If the review was mean-spirited, find a way to say thank you anyways and let the reviewer know you didn’t appreciate the tone in which the review was given. If the reviewer actually insulted you, there are report buttons on every page—use them! Or let us know by emailing us at info@bookcountry.com.

You’ve gotten a few reviews. Now what to do about all the great feedback you’ve received? Book Country members approach that in different ways. To quote one of our members, GD Deckard, “You could save yourself time if you pay the most attention to the criticism you most dislike.” So ask yourself: does the feedback feel true to you? Is it something you’ve been ignoring? Or does it take you in a direction that’s not where you want to go?

Often, if you hear the same theme in multiple reviews, your readers are picking up something you may have missed. Pay attention to that. If, after careful deliberation, you disagree with the feedback, that’s okay too. At the end of the day, it’s your book.

Further reading for brand-new members

I’ve covered the basics. If you want to keep reading about how things get done around here, this is a compilation of great posts that will steer you in the right direction:

  • Our Community Guidelines
  • Our Privacy Policy
  • Member RJBlain talks about how she does reviews
  • Former Book Country editorial coordinator Danielle Poiesz explains how she writes reviews/uses star ratings
  • Member GD Deckard discusses how he uses reviews in revising his work

More questions? Ask us on Twitter at @BookCountry or email me personally at nevena@bookcountry.com.

 

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Meet Writer Jamie Wyman

Posted by February 25th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

jamie_wyman_author_sm1“I love that moment when lightning strikes and an idea just gels into perfection.” –Jamie Wyman

Jamie Wyman is a fantasy and horror writer from Phoenix who’s been with Book Country since the very beginning. Two weeks ago, she broke the news that her debut urban fantasy Technical Difficulties, which she workshopped on the site, was picked up by Entangled Publishing. We got in touch with Jamie to congratulate her and find out how she’s been doing since the announcement. (I highly recommend Jamie’s post about the book deal to all aspiring authors; it’s both heart-warming and informative.)

Jamie is known by many names. Here, she asked we call her “The Omnipotent Despot to All Things Peachy.”

Nevena: Congratulations on the acquisition, Jamie! What has your life been like since the big news became public?

Jamie: Thanks! Life has been mostly normal but with a lot more squeeing. There have been a few surreal moments, including my first piece of “fan mail.” Another editor who read the book on submission didn’t get it to her acquisitions board in time, but she emailed me to let me know how much she enjoyed the book. That made my morning! And I’ve been talking with publicists. Seriously? I have publicists. Totally surreal.

Nevena: It does sound surreal. Congrats again. Now, tell us more aboutTechnical Difficulties. What transformations has it gone through since the first draft? Did you have to kill any “darlings”?

JamieTechnical Difficulties is an urban fantasy following Catherine Sharp, an IT professional with a personal debt to the Greek Goddess of Discord, Eris. When Cat discovers that her soul is a chip in Eris’s poker game, she has to turn the tables on four trickster gods who are vying for her soul.

There have been more than ten revision passes on it at this point, eight of which I did before querying agents. The opening scene and the structure at the end are the only major changes from the rough draft, and those were based on feedback from my agent—the stellar Jennie Goloboy at Red Sofa Literary agency. She and my beta readers gave me spectacular critiques.

And yes, I had to kill darlings, but the book is better this way.

Nevena: What do you wish you’d been told about getting acquired and working with an editor?

Jamie: “No, seriously, Jamie. When I say you need patience, I’m talking epic amounts.” Patience does not come naturally to me. The past four years of working toward publication have helped with that, but sometimes it’s still not enough.

Nevena: Well, your efforts have paid off! What draws you to the urban fantasy genre? What cliché would you most like to see erased from it?

Jamie: If fantasy is all about escapism, urban fantasy is a staycation. It takes these old fairy tales and plunks them down into the middle of reality. This leads to all sorts of questions. How do wizards interact with technology? What happens when a satyr lands in Las Vegas with a trickster god? It’s such a fertile playground!

As to clichés, I think the one that bothers me the most is the “rape as initiation” trope. Male leads jump through all sorts of hoops to earn their stripes in the supernatural world, but it seems that women are—more often than not—tested with rape.  It’s ubiquitous and most times not integral to the plot.

Nevena: This is one cliché I’d like to see banished from the genre as well! Tell me, when did you start writing?

Jamie: I’ve been telling stories since I was in single digits. My grandma used to record me telling them. Later I filled notebooks with short stories, scripts, poetry…a lot of them terrible. I didn’t write my first novel, though, until 2008. It was crap. I got better, though.

Nevena: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Jamie: I love that moment when lightning strikes and an idea just gels into perfection. Sometimes this comes in the brainstorming/plotting/pre-visualization part. Sometimes during drafting. Other times editing. Usually it’s in the shower.

Nevena: Why did you join Book Country? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Jamie: I needed someone to look at my work with a craft perspective. When Colleen put out the call for betas when Book Country launched, I couldn’t volunteer fast enough.

Book Country helped me learn to trust my voice and my instincts. Many times the comments on the site would confirm what I thought was wrong (or right) with a piece. While it helped me develop a thicker skin, it also taught me how to take a compliment. Seriously, you don’t think about that, but I’m a very self-deprecating person. That’s what my whole sense of humor is based on. So when I started getting positive feedback, I had to learn to accept it rather than bat it away with the negative.

Nevena: Sounds awesome. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Jamie: What writer Neil Gaiman said once on an episode of Arthur: “Don’t judge your story; you’ve just started writing it. Trust your story. Tell it because you’re the only one who can.”

Nevena: What’s next? When will your novel “hit the shelves”?

JamieTechnical Difficulties will hit a digital device near you. (It’s early stages, so the release date hasn’t been set yet.) I’ve also just learned that one of my short stories will be appearing in an anthology later this year. But I can’t give details about that project yet. Stay tuned!

Nevena: So secretive! Get us the details when you are at liberty to say more. Is there anything else you want the community to know about you?

Jamie: I’m still not sure what the hell I’m doing. I make this up as I go along.

Connect with Jamie on Book Country, and catch up with news about her upcoming novel at her blog. Follow her on Twitter @beegirlblue

Image © Eric Fiallos

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