Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New Cover Art--ASCENDANT

So, as some of you now know, Crescent Moon Press is going under. Consequently, I will be getting the rights back for ASCENDANT, and the soon to publish sequel, MIDHEAVEN, by the end of March.

This is very, very exciting!

CMP offered to sell the current cover design but I was thinking, since I would need art for books 2 and 3 anyway, maybe it made more sense to also have the cover art for ASCENDANT redone. I asked around, and there were several different opinions, but in the end, I chose to do what I really wanted to.

New art!

The amazingly talented Holly Ollivander (the very same designer who did my Carmen Espinoza book) was kind enough to make room in her schedule for me once again.


Drum roll please.

I love this AND there is also cover art for books 2 and 3.

But you're going to have to wait to see those ;-)

Monday, December 29, 2014

What It's Like to Work with Your Literary Agent

What is it like to work with a literary agent?

A few weeks ago, my agent sent me her revision notes for AFFECTIVE NEEDS. These notes are what I'm currently working on so I thought I would do a post on the collaboration aspect of working within the traditional publishing landscape.

Let me start off by saying, I hope this is THE ONE--the book that sells to a traditional house. I imagine that my agent feels the same way because while we have a wonderful working relationship, and are always so happy to chat on the phone or exchange holiday goodies, but she might be a wee bit over working with me for free by now (I'm just assuming here, seeing how important money is for LIVING and all :-) At the end of the day, she only gets paid from working with me if we can sell one of my books--and this will be the third one I've sent to her.

The first was, of course, ASCENDANT. This was the book I queried her with and the book she signed me up for. This was also the book where I learned about "The Land of Submission" which should be written about by Dr. Seuss and illustrated with befuddled and confused looking characters wandering, aimless, and wearing drab colors. The Land of Submission can stretch on for days, weeks, months, and unfortunately in my case with ASCENDANT, years. In the end, we were close but no cigar.

(Oh, just remembered, Seuss did writing about The Land of Submission but he called it The Waiting Place. *shudder*)

The second book, THE EXQUISITE AND IMMACULATE GRACE OF CARMEN ESPINOZA, I sent her this time last year. It was simply not her cup of tea. And while she offered to work on it with me and shop it around, I decided to self-publish this title and focus my traditional publishing efforts on a story idea of mine that probably had greater potential in interesting a traditional editor.

Now my third attempt, AFFECTIVE NEEDS. This has been my most intentional book so far. This was the book where I married "the story I want to write" with "what the industry is actively looking for." One thing I did take away from The Land of Submission was that if you are willingly going to enter into that submission desert with no clear idea of when you may exit, you should probably make sure you're armed with material that has a good shot.

While always remembering that, even with a wonderful agent, there are NO GUARANTEES a large traditional publisher will sign you.

A lesson I won't ever forget.

So, here we are with material that has a good shot. My agent loves AFFECTIVE NEEDS--but it still needs work :-)

Enter The Presub Revision Letter (or simply "agent notes" if you tend towards the less dramatic.) I am right now looking at this document as I write this post. It is a two page single spaced blow by blow that starts with the broad story problems and ends with page and/or line specific dial-in of particulars she feels needs revision.

What this document is:
  1. A map to making your book much, much better
What this document is not:
  1. An ego stroke
To say that you had better have a firm grasp on your writer self-esteem before opening this document would be an understatement because when you are to the point of managing this particular aspect of your project, hand-holding is NOT your agent's primary objective. Remember, the initial manuscript response sandwich came earlier. If you're not familiar with the critique sandwich model, it boils down to:
  • I love it
  • You need to work on some things
  • But remember I love it
This may be the type of response you get to your initial query letter if an agent is interested in working with you. It's feeling out the water to make sure you know that, while they like what they see, there is still much work to be done--Are you willing to dig deeper? Are you sure? Because it's more work than you think.

The Presub Revision Letter (agent-notes) is the next level. It is nothing but critique (the "love" must be implied--because why on earth would she put so much work, time, and effort into a project she hated? It's your job to simply remember that in the back of your mind and get to work on each suggestion, one by one (or Bird by Bird if you prefer ;-)

And it is more work than you think, but it helps if you have a few tricks to organize and manage the work load.

Up next: How to organize your revision process so you don't get overwhelmed and go crazy. (Maybe I'll have to think up a shorter title.)

P.S. one thing I didn't mention, not all agents get hands on and do editorial revisions--so I guess you shouldn't just automatically expect your agent, or any agent really, to do this. I'm just very fortunate that mine does :-)    

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Traveling to New York with Kids

Traveling with kids can be tricky, labor intensive, and baggage laden (literally and figuratively) but sometime in September, I got it into my head that I really, really wanted to take the kids to NYC between Thanksgiving and Christmas so they could see the city all trussed up for the holidays. As an ex-flight attendant and military kid, I have always loved to travel and have intentionally worked to instill that love in my kids as well. Maybe I'm weird, but there isn't anything I don't like about travel: the planning, packing, even the drive to the airport. The excitement of going somewhere else has always been a huge rush for me--even when it was my job.

Thankfully, (and luckily since I was barely into my twenties when I met him) I manged to hook my life up with a partner that feels the same. Rod enjoys the thrill of a distant city, shore, or exotic landscape just as much as I do (together we've been to Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, The Bahamas, and ALL OVER the U.S.) --which made heading to NYC with the kids an easy sell, even if the trip itself was not always such a breeze.

The Lady

Bryant Park

Grouchy outside the New York Public Library

New York Public Library

Who doesn't like a horse drawn carriage?

Horse drawn carriage through Central Park

Rock clambering in Central Park

Outside The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sometimes we still get a picture alone :-)

No time for a sarcastic expression, having fun


Catching him having fun when he wasn't looking

Looking up at One World Trade Center

Heading into FAO Schwarts--we were not alone

Wonderful Irish Pub near Times Square where The Boy played on my iPhone

86th Floor plus The Girl's signature "Really Mom?" look

From the 86th floor of The Empire State Building

One example of the 15 successful photo bombs The Boy executed
Some of the things they loved:
  • Central Park (all of it)
  • The subway (and making me crazy about staying behind the Yellow Line!)
  • NYC pizza
  • Times Square
  • FAO Schwartz
  • Cabs ("The yellow ones don't stop" --Elf)
  • Walking way out in front of me like they're all by themselves (also crazy making!)
  • Shopping (The girl)
  • Counting steps (The boy)
  • The M&M store 
The trick to traveling with kids is patience, deep breathing exercises, and occasionally heading down to the hotel bar with just your spouse to have a glass of wine while the kids watch ELF and eat NY takeout pizza up in the room.

Memories for a lifetime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Amazon Buys .book for 10 Million

Just found out that Amazon bought the rights to the .book domain name for 10,000,000. 

I have been waiting, and hoping, for those domains to be released so I could secure rebeccataylor.book (since rebeccataylor.com is owned by the highly famous, and expensive, fashion designer, Rebecca Taylor--no relation. (Or discounts on her beautiful clothes!)

Who knows what Amazon will do with the domain. Keep it for their own exclusive use? Sell it to individuals like me? They haven't yet said and my guesses would be mere speculation.

But I have a feeling, if they do release it for the public to buy, it's going to cost me more than Network Solutions was going to charge me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Is Maintaining Your Publishing Virginity Important?

Reading the YA review section of last weeks Publishers Weekly (11/3/2014) I was struck by how many times I read "debut author" or the equivalent. So I went back and counted and 6 of the 11 reviews are for debut authors (1 additional was listed as a "YA debut" since the author has written adult novels. Side note: this sounds like marketing fishery to me--something along the lines of me trying to reclaim my virginity on Match.com despite having already delivered two kids)

Anyway, It has me now thinking about if there is some marketing advantage of being a publishing virgin. Also, I'm now curious about the statistics and staying power of all these "debut" authors. Like:

  • What percentage of debut YA authors go on to publish a second book?
  • And then a 3-25 more books?
  • What percentage of newly published YA books are by these debuts? 
  • What is the marketing/psychological importance of being a "debut author" as opposed to say a "not debut" author?    
  • What, in general, do the publisher acquisition table conversations sound like for these debuts?  Is everyone more excited about a "new author" as opposed to a "used" author?
  • Is there some secret advantage? 
Why are we so enamored with firsts?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Write YA?

At the end of September, I had the pleasure of selling and signing copies of ASCENDANT at the Orange County Childrens' Book Fair. It's a wonderful event put on by some truly amazing people that clearly love kids' lit and kid lit authors.

During my time on the YA stage, a gentleman asked me a question that got me thinking, but first...PICTURES!

Here are some pictures of me with my now short, short hair, a rock musician, and Captain Tall Tale!
Rebecca Taylor and David Alpizar
My Table

Captain Tall Tale

Pic of me by Captain Tall Tale

Dangerous Selfie with Captain Tall Tale
While there, I did a little time on the YA speaking stage where I tried to not talk overly much about myself and attempted to divert the attentions of the audience to their own pressing questions about writing, YA, and the Universe in general.

There were some good questions!

But one in particular stands out in my memory. Partially because it was asked by a dad-looking fellow who appeared to have possibly been dragged to my event by his three daughters and partially because I think it's a good question for many YA writers to consider.

He raised his hand and tried to not look overtly smug as he asked, "Why YA?"

Now before we all start our collective moaning about YA not getting the appropriate amount of literary street cred (because there was that hint of disdain in his tone) I don't think this is a bad question for YA writers to actually answer for themselves (minus the staring down the nose, of course.)

After several seconds of ponder, here is what I came up with.

Hands down, I just love the love. The emotion. The rush. The first everything.

Secondarily, that whole phase of human development is just ripe for explosive story telling (sorry, my psychologist is showing.) The whole push pull of becoming an adult and leaving childhood. The confusion. The mistakes. The joy of new freedoms. The fear of new freedoms. Really, there are just sooooo many emotionally heady avenues to explore.

I love it, truly.

And finally, I love to write dialogue, body language, internal processing--all big ticket YA musts that are about the relationships between characters and the relationship we have with ourselves. I actually like that the YA character can be pretty centered on their own experiences and that doesn't make them completely self-centered because it's still developmentally expected (to a point, of course) for the 13 to 18 year-old.  

Maybe it's because I work with kids, maybe it's because I have them, or maybe it's because I'm a bit arrested development, but whatever the reason, It's a age range that comes naturally to me.

I don't write YA because it's easy (because it's not!) I write it because those teen experiences are so visceral for many of us--especially as adults looking back, adults that may still be trying to figure out exactly what happened to us during those years and why the hell we still care so much.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Success--Henry David Thoreau

I have been thinking lately about success. What it means. How it is measured. Where it can be found. I imagine the answers to these questions are as individual as the individual people who ask them.

"I have learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dream and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
 – Henry David Thoreau

What does "success" mean to you?
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