Out with the Old and in with the… Older?

Time to stop waiting and to start writing again.  I think I deserved that month break after finishing Trouble, Dance Me a Match, and Fireflies all in the course of four months, but now it’s time to work on something new.

Er, something old.

I’m going back, back, back all the way to my first novel.  This was about a pair of boy-girl identical twins (it’s magic), who are telepathically linked.  The boy, Jian, has what they call “loud mental vibrations,” which basically means that he thinks so loudly that anyone with a little psychic ability will pick up on it.  The girl, Michiko, is invisible to psychics, though.  And one of the things I found fun about it was that Jian almost never talks (because Michiko will do it for him).  There’s a portal and a prophecy, I know I know.  But I’m going to revamp it, and hopefully salvage it as much as I can.  Changes I see coming:

  • POV: Originally the POV was all over the place.  The MCs got most of it, but everyone in the novel pretty much got their say.  I’m narrowing it down incredibly.  Now only Michiko will have a POV, and it will be first person instead of third.
  • Backstory: Once upon a time, I had chapters and chapters of the MCs’ childhood.  Toddlers to twelve-year-olds (the real story starts with them at 16).  I didn’t understand how I could show how important a necklace with powers was without showing them getting it.  I didn’t understand how to introduce the love interest without showing her introduction to them (at 12).  Some backstory I had managed to cut before finishing the novel, but I just couldn’t convince myself that the rest didn’t need to be shown.  Now it will be great world- and character-building that I’ll incorporate other ways.
  • Length: When I finished the “first” draft of Echoes of Silence (keeping in mind I had already cut a lot of backstory before I finished), it was 130K.  I trimmed it down to 116K just with tightening and cutting one more scene, IIRC.  I’m thinking that losing the backstory and all the different POVs, plus all the skills I learned in writing a tighter story will help keep this in a more acceptable YA range.
  • Setting: I’m going to revamp the world the MCs live in a little.  The background behind why they’re boy-girl identical twins is already redone.
  • Jian: This is the big one, and why I got excited about it.  I was listening to this program on NPR about autism, and as the girl was talking about different ways people on the autism spectrum experience the world, I kept saying, “That’s like Jian.  That’s like Jian, too.  Oh, wow, a little tweaking, and Jian could be autistic.”  I’ve become a little more interested in autism lately anyway, as I hear more about it, and now I’m going to research into it and see if it’s feasible for Jian, my hero, to be autistic.

I’m really excited about this because I always was sad that this novel was totally trunk-worthy, but I think rewriting it from scratch and just keeping the parts that I loved about it (the climax will remain pretty much the same, just from one POV, and a big portion of what I mourn losing by trunking this novel is that) will let me save it.  Plus 85% of the world-building and all the character-building except for the autism changes are already done, and I know the story will last me into the YA range.

I’m really excited, guys.

Lots of love,

Sage

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The Naughty List and a Contest

Tired of the bitchy cheerleader stereotype in YA?  The cutest–in about every way–cheerleaders you’ll ever find are  in my friend Suzanne Young‘s The Naughty List, officially out on February 4, 2010.  I beta-read this novel ages ago, and I adored it.  The premise is that a group of cheerleaders, nicknamed the Smitten Kittens, investigate the boyfriends accused of cheating on their girlfriends at their school, and so far they have a 100% cheat-rate.  The MC is the perky, intelligent, and incredibly sweet head cheerleader, Tessa, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have asked for the book if I hadn’t “met” her in a game where we practiced our characters’ voices.  I fell in love with her and begged to read the book, and I’m glad I did.  It was so much fun.

Sadly it’s not out yet, but my friend Grace has a copy, and she’s getting it signed and giving it away on her blog.  All you need is a secret agent name. 

Have fun.

Lots of love,

Sage

Red Light, Green Light? No, Yellow

On my way to work, every light was yellow.

I think that sums up my life right now.

When I was first learning to drive, I was absolutely freaked out by yellow lights.  I still had my permit and was nearing my sixteenth birthday, when I came up to a yellow light and couldn’t figure out whether to go or stop.  I alternated between the brake and the accelerator.  Stop?  Go?  Yes? No?  I finally went through.

“You just ran a red light,” my dad said.  I felt like I had committed this cardinal sin.

And suddenly yellow lights were everywhere.  Every other light I came to seemed to be yellow. Do they time them for the speed of uber-careful new drivers?  “And if they’re going exactly the speed limit, they’ll hit the danger zone right… now.  Yellow light.”  It basically made me scared to drive for about a year.

I still hate yellow lights.  Every time the light is yellow as you approach that intersection, you have to wonder: do you have time to speed through that intersection before it turns red?  Victory if so, you’re on your way 😀  If not, you’re stuck, going nowhere 😦

Some authors have green lights.  Their careers are obviously going somewhere.  They have agents or editors, maybe even a book on the shelves.  They’re heading forward, and they have good reason to believe they can keep going forward (because at the very least, someone in the publishing world believes in them).

Some authors have red lights.  All they’re getting are rejections, whether it’s because their queries suck, they don’t have good ideas, or their first few pages show they don’t know how to write.  Most of the writers I know have a decent understanding of the English language, but I’m always appalled to hear that a good percentage of an agent’s slushpile is full of people who can’t string a simple sentence together.

But what if you were endlessly approaching that intersection with the yellow light?  Unsure if you’re getting through or going to have to stop.  Filled with the exhilartion of the possibility of racing through and the dread that maybe you should stop.

Every light was yellow on my way to work this morning. 

I have had a great response to my Fireflies queries, and every day I look at my e-mail hoping to be shown that I have a green light, but every day all I get is yellow.  This wouldn’t be so discouraging–I mean, it’s better than all red lights; I at least have hope–but Fireflies is the third novel I have requests out there for.  The first one, Love Sucks, has fulls that I’ve been waiting on for 4-7 months.  That’s a long time to be anticipating that intersection.  And to think that I might have another, say, seven months before hearing back on these Fireflies fulls?

Well, it’s enough to make a person scared of driving all over again.

Lots of love,

Sage

Teaser Tuesday – Step by Step

This is from Fireflies.  Context: Fiona’s brother, Troy, hit his head on the edge of a pool and has a traumatic brain injury.

Mom and I take Troy back after dinner, and before I can leave to find Luke, Troy begs me to watch him walk around the suite once.  I humor him because I don’t want to draw attention to myself from Mom if he makes a fuss when I leave.  I want him to be happy.

Mom’s in her room when he takes those first steps away from the hand he’s been gripping to keep him steady in the walk through the inn.  He’s awkward, but he’s walking on his own.  I see him thinking hard about each step.  Keep the left foot down.  Lift the right foot by bending at the hip and knee.  Put the right foot forward by bending at the knee the other way.  Put down the right foot.  When it’s solidly on the ground, then it’s time to do the same with the left foot.  He looks like a wind-up toy.  He watches his feet the whole way, only stopping when he puts down his right foot in front of the couch.  It’s blocking him from going any further in that direction.  This is where he proves he’s more than a toy.  He gets to reassess the situation, make the decision to turn.

Making decisions is something he has to reshape his brain to do.  It’s not something his therapist can teach him, or Mom, or me.  He just needs that part of his brain to be accessible again.  Either it will return to normal when the brain stops swelling, or the synapses will find a different way to go through the brain and get to where he needs them to be.

Mom says it’s a good sign that he’s been making more and more decisions.

Troy turns stiffly and starts his long trudge around the room.  It takes forever, and, oh, how I’m trying to hold onto my patience, but it’s flying away, little by little, with each deliberate step.  He only stumbles once the whole way around, thank goodness.  I don’t want to see him cry if he falls.  His hand hits the wall a few times, though, keeping him balanced and possibly guiding him like the wall guides me in the dark hallway at night.  Eventually, he ends up back in front of me.  When his shoes are only a few inches from mine, when his floor-bound vision captures my shoes in it, he knows he’s completed his circle.  He looks up at me.

“See, I can walk fine.”

Hope you enjoyed

Lots of love,

Sage

Sage, Seer, or Something else (My Weird Calm)

You might not know this, but I’m a little bit psychic.  No, not really, but among some of my writing friends, we made a joke that I was upgraded from Sage to Seer.  There are times when I just have a really good feeling about the day and then get a bunch of requests.  Or the time I said on our website, two days before Christmas, something about the next person to get an agent and added, “<looks at Elissa>,” and two posts later Elissa was posting about how a certain agent (who is now representing her) e-mailed her to tell her how much she loved the book and wanted to read another one of hers to see if it was more commercial.   Just to be clear, Elissa was not the only person querying or with requests, I just had a good feeling that she would be next.

Of course, sometimes I let my excitement get ahold of me.  Sometimes I’m really getting impatient, and so I just announce, “Today someone has to offer.”  Of course that doesn’t happen.  Also there are times, like two weeks ago when an agent sounded so excited about my novel that I was convinced she was going to read it overnight.  I convinced myself that I was getting an agent the next day.  I was sure I was getting one.  I knew it.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.  In fact, that was a pretty bad day (have I mentioned how I set off the house alarm on my Roomie and how our gutter fell off our house, taking part of the wall with it?  Yeah, that was the same day).  But it wasn’t a real prediction.  It was just excitement.

This Friday, however, I was driving to work, and I just felt this sense of calm and this warmth in my stomach.  And even after I decided that it meant good news for me, I didn’t let nerves or excitement get the best of me.  I just felt that glow in my stomach and calm.

Well, I got three requests that day.

And that’s pretty exciting.  But ever since then, I’ve kept this calm.  I haven’t felt the glow, but I’ve just settled down after two weeks of being stressed and overreacting to every e-mail and being convinced that it’s going to happen soon.  Inbox (1) still excites me, but it doesn’t cause me heart attacks like it had been before.

And, lol, I had planned for this next post to be about confirmation e-mails, and my appreciation of them, but how they were giving me heart attacks, but then the heart attacks stopped, so I told you about that instead.

So anyway, hopefully the calm continues…and my next good news prediction brings me an agent.

Lots of love,

Sage

Peer Pressure

Being part of an online writing community is great.  You get a lot of support when you’re feeling negative about your WIPs, you have a bunch of potential beta readers, you have critters around to help nitpick your query, and you have friends who understand when you need to complain (or celebrate) what’s going on in the writing world.

One thing that is both good and bad and supportive and stressful that writing buddies bring to the table is peer pressure.  You’re almost ready for querying, but not quite there, but one of your writing buddies is getting requests left and right, or maybe even an offer, yay.  Nothing makes you want to query more than hearing about good responses other people are getting, especially if they’re in your genre.  This might even have you querying before you’re ready to.  It might make you rush through some of your editing.

Don’t fall into this trap.  It can be exciting to send out those queries and get those responses (requests, we hope), but if you’re sending out fulls before the novel’s ready, you’ll regret it.  All those things you know need to be done will haunt you, either by full rejections or as you think about them while you wait the likely months for any response at all.

Then there’s more direct peer pressure.  Some writers like my friend Hannah Moskowitz who encourage querying even when you know you need to revise first or research the agents first (because, of course you know, I’m the world’s slowest querier) or wait for at least two months before you query the same agent again.  But sometimes it’s good to have her yelling “moar queries” at you all the time.  She’s right about one thing.  You can’t get an agent without querying (well, most of the time) and, assuming your novel is ready and you have a good query, sending more queries gives you a better chance of finding the agents that will love your novel.

So more queries, yes.  When you’re ready.

Lots of love,

Sage

Teaser Tuesday – Computer Problems

Waiting for e-mails suck, and as much as “Inbox (1)” can be exciting and disappointing at the same time, having no little “(1)” there for several days is way worse than a rejection.

But still, things could be worse.  I haven’t had the best week ever, but at least my weeks don’t look like Tia’s in AFTRLYF and HEVN SNT.  So I steal an excerpt from AFTRLYF about the hope that a file brings good news and what she found on her computer instead.  Some context: Tia is an Angel of Death, Shiva is a sword created by the gods that gives the CEO of Death his power, Celestia is where Heaven, Hell, and Limbo are, and Tia’s investigating Angel deaths.

The Reaper CD spun around in the CPU for a few endless moments.  “Come on, come on.”  There was the possibility it was corrupted or encrypted, or, as Taxet had suggested, music, but I had put all my hopes into this piece of evidence.  I thought I might cry if it didn’t contain any helpful information about the rogue Angel, whom I was beginning to think of as “The Reaper.”

Finally, a file folder appeared on the screen.  A single file was on it with a type of program neither I nor the computer recognized.  “The Great Reap,” it said.

“Twenty bucks says this is some kind of weird music file taken from an illegal download site.  You’ll click on it, and Windows Media Agent will appear playing a whole CD worth of The Reaper’s music.”

“No, I don’t think that’s it,” I said slowly.  I was hoping we would find a Word document with information, but I didn’t know what this kind of file was.

“Well, go on.  Let’s see what we got.”

A dull ache growing in the pit of my stomach, I clicked on the file.

The computer went black for a moment.  It returned with an image of the Grim Reaper, complete with black hood and scythe.  Below it was a message in white bolded font:  “THE REAPER WILL BRING DOWN ALL OF HEAVEN AND HELL AND CREATE A NEW AGE FOR ANGELS THROUGHOUT THE CELESTIAL PLANE.”

“That’s not good,” I said, just before the lights went out.

Now, a little thing about the celestial plane:  there were no light bulbs.  No light fixtures.  Nothing to explain the sudden strobing of the white light filling this room and the others in Celestia.  Those moments when the room was dark, only Shiva’s light remained, inconstant as it was, casting us in an eerie illumination that made our faces turn a pale gray.  I swear that for a beat a wide grin stretched across Taxet’s face, matching the one on the screen, but if it was there, he replaced it with an “oh” before the next strobe of light.

The lights returned, dulled, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  My relief came too soon.  Several “swoosh”s sounded around the room.  I couldn’t track the first until I saw the glow around what I could only assume were doors into the study.  I hadn’t imagined there were so many hidden in the vaporous walls.

“Taxet, quick, I think we’re being sealed in.”

I ran while Taxet flew towards the door to the Waiting Room, but as we passed Shiva’s case, the door to the case glowed similarly to the other doors and opened.

Shiva blinked out of the case.

“Damn, girl.  What did you do?”

Like I really needed the censure to realize how badly we had screwed up.  “Shut up and go.”

I gnashed my teeth together as he grabbed me by my arms and pulled me into his, flying faster, even with me in his grip, than I could run.  We burst through the door before it slammed shut and sealed behind us.  I hit the floor for the second time that day with only Taxet to cushion my fall.

Hope you enjoyed my first Tia-verse excerpt.

Lots of love,

Sage