Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kaya's Korner: "Lucia, Lucia" Review

Click to purchase
“Lucia, Lucia” by Adriana Trigiani

Lucia is an Italian-American living in Greenwich Village in the early 50’s.  She’s torn between being a dutiful Italian daughter and her own dreams of wanting a career in fashion.   She retells her story of love, fashion, and duty to a young playwright in her apartment building.  A story that is beautifully described and includes a dashing young man too good to be true, “Lucia, Lucia” is a story of heartbreak and hope, but ultimately of coming to terms with one’s self and the cards you’re dealt with.
 I loved the feel to this book and felt like I was in New York City in the 50’s.  I wished after reading this that I could have experienced a time like this when women wore gloves and men wore hats.  I read this book in a day – couldn’t put in down.
Grade:  I’m torn – Hardback & Paperback, but leaning towards Hardback.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kaya's Korner: Book Review Grading Scale

Book Review Grades

I’m new to this whole book review thing - I read books and talk about them with friends, but have never written about them, well except in high school and college.  So, I thought it would be fun if at the end of each review there was a grade.  However, this is not your ordinary grading system.


- Pre-order (The book is so incredible, that if I could go back in time and pre-order it, I would.)
- Hardback (I want a copy in hardback because the book is a must read and I would like to add it to my library.  I want this one to last and to show its importance and that it was a favorite of mine.)
- Paperback (It was a great read and I would definitely recommend it, but probably wouldn’t read it again.)
- E-Reader (It’s a good book, but there are other books out there to read.  You can get to this one eventually.)
- Discount (You know those books that never quite make it and end up getting slapped with a huge discount and wind up in a giant bin with a large red sign that screams “sale?”  Well, they’re there because nobody read those books, which means they probably weren’t that good.  So this term is given to the books I didn’t like, would pass up if I could, and would recommend reading only if you can get it for that ridiculous discount and have read everything else.)

Do you have any books that would fall into these categories?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Coming soon: Kaya's Korner

Not really balancing it all.

I took off February and I really focused on the blog, so it wasn’t really a month off.  March was supposed to be my month to jump back into my writing.  Unfortunately, I feel like I should have categorized March as my month off.  My family responsibilities are outweighing my writing ones.  As my husband says, “You’re not getting paid for your writing, yet.”  Well, neither am I for my housewife duties, but I guess I see his point.  There is so much I want to do writing-wise that I am almost getting discouraged because of my lack of time.  It is hard to pick which to focus on.  My family is my number-one priority, but I have made a commitment to make my writing a priority.  How do I balance the two?  Hence, the point of the blog!  I hope to one day answer this question, or at least come close to an answer.

I write a lot, but reading is very important to what I do.  For a while I have wanted to start doing reviews on the blog.  I haven’t been able to find the time to write them, with everything else on my plate.  I had a friend from high school come and stay with me last week.  It was fun to catch up and reminisce about the “old days”.  She just moved back from living in the Philippines; now she works in New Orleans and is single.  She has a little more free time (not saying she is not busy) but I reached out to her.  This blog is about how I balance it all.  Well, I decided to delegate, assign her something I wanted to do myself, but couldn’t: write reviews. 
Kaya and I have similar taste in reading and I knew she would be perfect.  I emailed her asking if she would be interested.  I was very happy when she quickly responded with a yes.  We instantly got on the phone and started bouncing ideas off each other. 

“Kaya’s Korner” will focus anything related to books.  We will also talk about books’ influence on television and film.  Kaya’s Korner will have reviews, discussions, giveaways, and much more.  We are very excited about this.  I believe it will bring a lot to the blog.  I will also get the poll questions from the books we are reading in Kaya’s Korner.  As always, please leave suggestions if you have any books you would like us to read and review.  Any authors who would like to send Kaya a book to read and review, please use the contact form.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!

I’m sitting on my couch with a HUGE bowl of ice cream as I type this dreaded post with tears in my eyes.  I know I sound dramatic, but it was my first rejection on a full request, so excuse me while I take this one a little hard.  I know you want to know what she said. Well, nothing really: 

“Thank you so much again for sending FLIGHT. I was able to read it over the weekend and think you are a talented writer. As I mentioned below, I like the premise for this novel a lot, but unfortunately, I did not feel that I could connect with Liz in the way I would have liked. I’m afraid that without a strong investment in the main character, I would not be the best person to represent your work. I am sure another agent will feel differently and wish you success in your writing career.

Thank you again for the chance to read your work.”
I love this agent. I mean, hello—we are best friends since I know her every move via Twitter.  I am thankful that this early on an agent requested my manuscript and complimented my writing.  But now I have the line that will haunt me, and probably not allow me to sleep: “I did not feel that I could connect with Liz [my main character] in the way I would have liked.”  Ouch. Where do I begin; how do I fix this? 

Well, I will fix it . . . but not tonight.  Tonight I’ll eat ice cream, watch The Bachelor and feel sorry for myself.  But tomorrow is a new day.  I will wipe away my tears and get to work.  I knew this would not be easy, and by no means will I give up.  I have one more full out there and five queries awaiting replies.  Not the end!

The Hubs came home with a card for me tonight! 
It read:
      "Sorry you didn't get an agent today.  She doesn't know what she's missing.  We believe in you."

This definitely put a smile on my face.  This was a hard post because I do not want to sound like a baby but this blog is about the process and rejections are common.

Back to normal posting next time...... Thanks for listening!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Which popular series do you like best?

To Kill a Mockingbird was the winner of our February poll.  I will hold semifinals and finals after getting the results of my monthly polls.  I can’t wait to see what will be voted as our favorite book to read.

This month’s poll will be based on which popular series you like best.  Not sure if everyone reading this blog is a book lover, so for this poll I picked the obvious: series that have been made into movies.  Tell me which book in the series is your favorite.  This poll may seem easy, but for me it is extremely difficult. I like all the series, but I love some of the books in each of these series.  Plus, if I let movie preference cloud my judgment, that would completely change my vote.  This may come as a challenge for this poll. I will have to think long and hard before I cast my vote.

I do plan on branching out my polls to include more books that are not in the spotlight, but should be.  But I wanted to try to get these widely-known books out of the way first,  so I can then introduce some amazing books that are out there and hopefully get you some new favorites.

I also encourage everyone to leave me comments if you have a book, subject, genre, or author that you want to see on a future poll.

Which Popular Series Do You Like Best?

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Twilight Saga, by Stephanie Meyer

Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling

Monday, March 7, 2011

Query Mad Lib

I just finished sending out four queries and one full.  The butterflies began as soon as I turned on the computer.  I think I was trembling as I personalized each one—scared to type the wrong name, have any grammatical errors and/or send the wrong requirements.  I even closed my eyes as I pushed send, which might prove to be bad if I ever hit the wrong button. 

I am hoping that these new queries help me get my mind off the reply from the agent that already had my full manuscript.  I know it will just add to my obsessive email checks and twitter stalking.  Maybe stalking sounds a bit creepy, but it isn’t what you think.  I just constantly check my twitter to see if any of the agents I have queried that I follow on twitter has mentioned anything about their queries.  Many agents will tweet things like, “I have caught up on all queries to this date; if you haven’t heard anything from me it is a no.”  Or they will say stuff like, “Wow, what a great (or horrible) query.”  In that case, anyone who has queried them begins to bite their nails. 

I have said many times how much research we do for our queries.  While looking for tips, I stumbled on a blog post that was brilliant. I only wish it were this easy.  I am going to steal a little bit from Sarah Mullen Gilbert's blog.

Query Mad Lib
What’s better on a car trip than doing Mad Libs? (answer: Playing cards with your sister, who doesn’t realize her cards are reflecting in the window behind her. But other than that, nothing.) So I thought we could all use some Mad Lib action in our Friday. Grab a writing utensil and scrap paper and come up with words for these ten categories:
(1) Emotion
(2) Number
(3) Number
(4) Noun (plural)
(5) Girl’s name
(6) Favorite Halloween costume
(7) Color
(8) Animal (plural)
(9) Fairy tale creature
(10) Number

Got all ten filled in? No cheating, now.

Now go to Sarah Mullen Gilbert blog: Query Mad Lib to read your query!  (Feel free to post your Query Mad Lib in the comment section below)

Check out these different ways to look at the query process:

Check back later this week for the new poll!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Parenting to Publishing

Karen Balcom is a wife, mother of two, lives in Chapel Hill, NC and like me, she is a writer.  She spent twelve years in the music business, first at Twin/Tone Records in Minneapolis, MN and later at Mammoth Records in Carrboro, NC.  She left music when she and her husband decided to have kids.  Now Karen runs her own business designing and making handbags (mintworkshop.com) and has done freelance writing related to sewing, textiles, and design.  Karen says she wrote a novel because she wanted to see if there was a way to sleep less, drive her husband crazy, and neglect her children, but still have something to show for it.
Let’s see how she’s doing it:

Karen my blog is titled “closet writer” I only recently came “out” about my writing.  When did you come out of the closet?  Ha!  I’ve been out of the closet for a while now.  I started freelancing seven or eight years ago and when I switched to fiction, I told my husband and close friends right away.

What genre do you write? What is your book about?  My book is called “Bring Me Back”, is women’s fiction and is about Claire, a music writer who gets a career-defining assignment to interview Christopher, the media-hating rock star she was obsessed with twenty years earlier, in high school.

Are you actively seeking an agent? What are your query stats? What is the most memorable feedback (good or bad) you have received about your book?  I AM actively seeking an agent!  And my query stats are about as bad as they can be—somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 sent, a handful of requests, still waiting on some, rejections on others.  I know my query letter is the problem.  The best feedback I’ve had came from Leigh Feldman, who wrote me an extremely encouraging rejection letter.  Sarah Dessen (YA author who lives in Chapel Hill) referred me to her.  Leigh said my book had such an appealing premise that she had no doubt that others would clamor for it.  I committed her words to memory.  Still waiting for clamoring.

Has any websites or articles helped with the query/synopsis process?  I think getting query advice on the internet is like spending the day on WebMD.  You’re only going to come away thinking everything is wrong or you have an incurable disease.  Read the stuff on Query Shark and then just start working on it.  I have written at least fifty versions of my query and I continue to revise.  Getting feedback is the most important part.

How do you feel about conferences? Have you been to any? Do you have any suggestions of which conferences are good?  I just attended my first conference, which was the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York in January.  It was great and I definitely recommend it.  I met some people, learned a lot, and participated in their Pitch Slam, so I now know that I can face a firing squad with a minimum of hesitation.  I am hoping to attend the Muse Conference in Boston in April.

Can you describe your writing routine? Any certain music, food, smells or atmosphere gets you in the mood to write?  I like quiet.  I do my best work at home when everyone else is asleep.  When I was writing “Bring Me Back”, I woke up at 3:30 or 4:00 every day.  I would write for a few hours, get the kids off to school, and then get back to writing as soon as I could.  I use music to put me in a certain scene or mood, but then I have to turn it off to do the actual writing.  

What are you currently working on?  I’m working on a second novel and a handful of short stories.  I recently finished a novella about Claire, my main character from “Bring Me Back”.  It’s a slice of her life in high school and how her general disappointment with boys led to her obsession with Christopher.  That was really fun to write.

What are you reading now? What is your favorite book? What is your favorite movie?  I’m always reading ten things at once.  The last few nights has been “Meant To Be”, which is unpublished and written by my critique partner, Karen Stivali.  It’s wonderful.  Even the third or forth time through, I still laugh and cry.  My favorite book of all time is either “The Trumpet of the Swan” by EB White or Judy Blume’s “Forever”.  Silly, I know, for a grown woman, but I love those books.  Favorite movie is easy—“Sixteen Candles”. 

What is your favorite writer’s resource?  I love Query Tracker.  I could not live without that website.  I also love love love Anne Lamott’s book on writing, “Bird by Bird”.  I read that when I get depressed about writing and it always makes me laugh.

Tell us about your blog, any blog advice you can give?  My blog is meant to be fun.  I blog about music a lot and have been doing a series called Rock ‘n’ Roll High School where I ask people five questions about high school and music.  My philosophy with blogging is that you shouldn’t talk about yourself all of the time.  It’s boring. 

What blog do you keep up with the most? Why?  Nathan Bransford blog.  I read that every day.  Nathan is funny and entertaining and although he concentrates on writing and books, he isn’t afraid of the occasional tangent.  I like tangents.

Is there an article you have read recently that helped in your writing? I read a hilarious blog entry on Terrible Minds about the reasons you shouldn’t be a writer.  Not helpful, but entertaining.  (warning: the article is vulgar)

What was easier to break into the music industry or the writing world?  I was so lucky to get my music industry job, but I worked my butt off and my enthusiasm for music definitely helped.  I am hoping that the same things will work with writing.  I’ll have to get back to you on that one. 

Tell me a little about your kids, husband and home life.
Steve and I have been married for 15 years.  He’s much more laid back than me and it sounds clich├ęd, but he really is my best friend.  He’s the one person who really gets me (although I try to keep him on his toes).  Our daughter, Emily, is 12 and has an incredible sense of self for her age.  She’s very creative.  She’s a LOT like I was at that age—boy crazy.  Ryan is 9, and we call him the rock scholar.  He is obsessed with music, but not normal stuff.  He loves The Beatles and the Black Crowes.  We’re pretty laid back at our house and we mostly just like spending time together, listening to music or taking a family dip in the hot tub.

What kind of support do you have from friends and family when it comes to writing?  The answer to this one could be a book in itself.  I have unbelievable support from my entire family.  There are many writers in my family, so everybody gets it.  My friends are incredible too.  Everybody’s always willing to read and offer feedback.  I’ve had more than 30 beta readers on “Bring Me Back”.

How do you balance running your own business, being a good mother/wife and pursuing your writing dream?  It is a constant struggle to keep all of the balls in the air.  I know there are days when I don’t do a great job.  I just try to spend some time on everything every day, even when it drives me crazy.  I prefer to focus on one thing and finish it, but that isn’t always possible. 

What has been your biggest challenge in writing so far? Any solutions?  Learning to accept criticism.  You can write in a bubble, but you can’t produce something worth reading in a bubble.  It’s like having kids—at some point you have to put them on the school bus, knowing that somebody, somewhere, is going to make fun of them.  The good news is that accepting criticism has its rewards because it helps you get better.

What is your guilty pleasure? Tell me something people wouldn’t guess about you.  I don’t know if this is something people wouldn’t guess about me, but I am obsessed with Duran Duran.  20+ years later and John Taylor still makes my heart go pitter-pat.  My high school crush on him was fuel and inspiration for “Bring Me Back”.

Any advice you can give to writers? Also, any helpful tips, tricks or websites?  By far, the most valuable tool I found in this process is my critique partner.  We are a great match—identical work ethic (crazy), same sense of humor (more crazy), and we have complimentary writing styles, but are still quite different.  We started querying on the same day and have helped each other through some very difficult days.  When you get a bunch of rejections in one day (and you will—that’s just the way the universe works), you need someone who feels your pain for real.  We IM almost every day and sometimes use Skype or talk on the phone.  We are in constant contact.  We met on the Nathan Bransford forum. Nothing I write goes out into the world without Karen reading it.  Nothing.  I meant it when I said it—no bubble.

We hope to be buying “Bring Me Back” at our local bookstores.  To learn more about Karen Balcom or her critique partner Karen Stivali check out their blogs.  I want to say a BIG thank you to Karen for being my very first interview for Parenting to Publishing.