Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Author's Day Thursday: J. Anderson Coats

Good morning. Or After noon, or evening. What ever time it is when you read this!
Today right here on our blog we have an interview by J. Anderson Coats. I spotlighted her upcoming book last week.

And now on with the interview!


When did you start writing?

I wrote my first book before I lost my first tooth. My second-grade teacher shepherded twenty-nine seven-year-olds through the publication process, from idea to editing to cover design. The result was twelve pages, handwritten, meticulously illustrated, complete with a copyright date and a colophon. I was hooked!

When did you know you wanted to be an author?

It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t! I learned young that
authors were people who were paid to write books, and I couldn’t
imagine many jobs better than that.

How much did you write before you were published?

A lot. Ray Bradbury famously said that your first million words don’t count. I think it was more like two million for me. I wrote a total of twelve novels before I wrote and sold The Wicked and the Just, and I learned something new with each one.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love having a place to think out loud, to explore ideas and comment on issues in a concrete and useful way. My stories are often set in the past because it provides the environment that’s most conducive to the ideas I want to explore. Another part I love is the community. Authors in general and YA authors in particular have been the most welcoming, supportive group of people I’ve had the good fortune to fall into.

What's you least favorite part?

Definitely the waiting. You pour your effort and energy into something, then you send it into the ether and wait. You wait whether you’re querying agents or your book is out on submission or your revision letter is due or your ARCs are on the way. You’re always waiting. The only way to make it bearable is to immerse yourself in writing the next thing.

Can you describe your first book?

I wrote my first novel at age thirteen about a girl who was shipped off to summer camp and made trouble for the counselors by trying to escape. It was about a hundred pages long, typed, single-spaced, and it was really bad. Fortunately, no one told me that so I kept
writing. By age eighteen I’d written five more books, each slightly less bad than the last.

Are you planning on writing more in the years to come?

Absolutely! I’m working on several projects right now. One is a companion novel to The Wicked and the Just which follows Maredydd and Madog, whose father is the ringleader of the rebellion of 1294, as he negotiates the future his father wants for him and the future he wants for himself. Then there’s a standalone book that’s set in twelfth-century Wales about a warband, an abduction, a badly-timed war, a charismatic but mercurial king’s son and a girl who would do about anything for a chance at a normal life.

What does your writing process look like?

I write every morning from 5:30 till 6:30, and my goal is to hammer out as many words as possible before it’s time to jumpstart a surly teenager and ensure he doesn't eat frosting out of the can for breakfast. I’m happy if I can get two or three pages and absolutely thrilled if I get to five. During my coffee and lunch breaks at the Day Job I do social media, and on the weekends I hole up in the library to write and do research. But if I could write my own ticket, I’d write all morning and research all afternoon.

How did you get published?

I queried four different books over ten years. This means I sent letters to literary agents asking if they’d like to represent me and my work to editors. I kept hearing iterations of “thanks,
but it’s not for me.” I kept writing new books and querying and hearing “thanks, but it’s not for me.” For ten years. Then, in November 2010, I went from being unagented to having a contract for W/J in less than a month. It was a whirlwind!

Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?

Give yourself permission to write crap. Everyone’s first drafts suck. Your favorite writer? Her
first drafts suck. Your other favorite writer? His first drafts suck. It’s more important to just write. Get it on the page and repeat after me: “It’s a first draft. It’s supposed to suck.” You can fix things in a badly-written first draft, but it’s impossible to fix what doesn't exist.

Anything else you want to say?

Thanks for having me on your blog, Sarah!

Thank you for being here!

J. Anderson Coats
The Wicked and the Just
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 17 April 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesdays

Can you believe the week is almost half way over? Wow. I've been writing a lot lately, so I haven't read as many books as I normally do. However, I'm still on track to read 150 books this year. That's twenty more then I read last year, and I'm really hoping to make the goal.
The first book I read this week was Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson. I simply loved that title, and the book was just as good. I think it's my favorite one in the Max series yet, but I can't wait to get the next book. All in all, if you haven't read the Maximum Ride books yet, put them on your Goodreads To-Read list and get to it!

And then, over the weekend I read . . . wait for it . . . Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter! I was shocked at how fast our library got this book, but I had it on hold so I got the book Saturday at noon and finished it by eight. Honestly, I didn't like this book as much as others in the series. I felt like there weren't enough sub-plots to propel it. That being said, I would still highly recommend this series to any and every girl over the age of fourteen!

When I went to the library on Saturday, I had another book waiting for me. Is was a book I spotlighted a few weeks ago: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen. This book didn't disappoint my hopes for it at all! It's a wonderful re-telling of the classic Robin Hood story. I love almost all books set England, and this was no exception. Scarlet has been out for about a month and a half, and if you haven't read it yet, do!

Like I said, I haven't read a ton of books, but I'm in the middle of two that I'll talk about next week. What about you? What books have you read this week and what did you think of them?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mind the Writer Mondays

Is it really Monday already? Wow, it doesn't feel like it! I hope you all had a productive writing weekend. I guess you could call my weekend productive. So, what have I done this weekend?

1) Finished two book that were on my Goodreads to-be-read list. More about that on Wednesday.
2) Made a basket, went to church, baby-sat
3) Decided I needed to take a break from my WiP The Revellen (if you don't know what that is, click here), and
4) Wrote the first half of chapter of a new WiP!

Why did I decide to take a break from The Revellen? Mostly because I felt like I had the whole thing memorized. I knew there were problems with the plot and character development, but I was having a ton of trouble spotting them. So I chose to leave the story and try to get caught up in something else. Maybe when I come back to The Revellen, I'll have fresh eyes and be able to spot some of the problems.

In the mean time, I started a new series. It's called the Moonlit Altar series and the first book is Condemnation. Here's a peek about what it's about:
Nakeyda was the first born girl of the year and so, was selected at birth to be a pure sacrifice to her society's God on her fifteenth birthday. Now she is fourteen and she watches as her best friend -- who's exactly one year older -- willingly lays down her life.
With a year left to her life, Nakeyda begins to question her society and her destiny. She is only just coming to terms with her faith when she meets Refael. Rafael shows her how her life could have been if Nakeyda had been born a day earlier or a day later.

Think of sort of a dystopian Narnia story. And yes, I'm really excited about this book!

Be sure to check back here on Thursday, when we'll have our first author interview by J. Anderson Coats, the author of The Wicked and The Just.
How's your writing been this week? I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fridays with First Timers: The Wicked and the Just by J Andersson Coats

Happy Friday!
I haven't done a spotlight in over a month, so this Friday I thought we'd spotlight The Wicked and the Just by J Andersson Coats! This YA book comes out April 17th .

This author seems really interesting. So, a little bit about her:
J. Anderson Coats owns 194 books about the middle ages. This doesn't seem like very many unless you consider the fact that she’s never had a real job.
Jillian grew up in a houseful of books alongside two cats and an older brother. Her mother, a librarian, exposed her to the beauty and diversity of the written word. Her father, a scientist, taught her to question it. Both of them encouraged her to write, even when her stories were written in crayon and featured nothing but ponies.
You can check out her website by clicking here.

And a little bit about the book:
1293. North Wales. Ten years into English rule.
Cecily would give anything to leave Caernarvon and go home. Gwenhwyfar would give anything to see all the English leave.
Neither one is going to get her wish.
Behind the city walls, English burgesses govern with impunity. Outside the walls, the Welsh are confined by custom and bear the burden of taxation, and the burgesses plan to keep it that way.
Cecily can’t be bothered with boring things like the steep new tax or the military draft that requires Welshmen to serve in the king’s army overseas. She has her hands full trying to fit in with the town’s privileged elite, and they don’t want company.
Gwenhwyfar can’t avoid these things. She counts herself lucky to get through one more day, and service in Cecily’s house is just salt in the wound.
But the Welsh are not as conquered as they seem, and the suffering in the countryside is rapidly turning to discontent. The murmurs of revolt may be Gwenhwyfar’s only hope for survival – and the last thing Cecily ever hears.

Be sure to cheek out The Wicked and the Just when it hits stores on April 17th!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Author's Day Thursday

Okay, so I haven't actually had one of these before. When I decided to give The Author's Day to Thursday, I hoped to have author interviews at least once a month. So far I've contacted three authors about having an interview. None have gotten back to me. Now, I haven't asked any of the really big names in YA Such as Rick Riordan, Cassandra Clare, Ally Carter, or Suzanne Collins. I asked not very well know authors whose books I really enjoyed.
So! If you have written a book that's at least under contract with a publisher,or a book you self- published, you can leave me in a comment. Here are my rules for author interviews:
  1. I must have read at least one of the author's books.
  2. The author must have published Children's Chapter Books, MG or YA.
  3. I must have at least somewhat liked an author's book.
If the author so desires they may,
  1. Promote their upcoming book.
  2. Include link or links to websites.
  3. Have a book give-a-way.
If you or anyone you know would like to have their interview on here, leave me a comment. If my library doesn't have and of the author's books for children, I will need a copy. I would really love to have a few authors being interviewed on here!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesdays

In the last three weeks, I've started a grand total of five books. Like I said in the last post, last week was about as hectic as I can get. If I hadn't been able to squeeze in a few books, I might just have gone crazy.

So, the first book I read was Chime by Franny Billingsley. It came out a little over a year ago, but my library has only had it a few months. If you haven't read this book yet, do! There is so much raw emotion and it grips your heart from the first chapter and never lets go. That's my favorite kind of story.

The next book I read was
Maximum Ride: The Angle Experiment by
James Patterson. I must admit, I wasn't super stoked to read this. I sampled one of Mr. Patterson's Witch/Wizard books and didn't like it much, but Maximum Ride is a whole other ball game. I am very excited that this book is only the first in a long series.

And then I re-read The Son of Neptune, book 2 in the Heroes of
Olympus by Rick Riordan. The down side of re-reading books in an un-finished series is that you remember how much you really can't wait
for the next book to come out. October seems way too long to wait for The Mark of Athena, the next book in this series.

And I'm currently reading The Project, by Brian Falkner. I first read this sci-fi writer last summer, when he came out with Brain Jack. Almost as soon as I finished it, this book catapulted to the top ten of my favorite books. I then hurried to read his first book published in the US, The Tomorrow Code. This book was another great sci-fi. The Project so far, seems a little more on the thriller side of things then the sci-fi side, but I'm only 100 pages into it.

And I'm also still listening to Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever, the second Maximum Ride book. I'm listening to this on a very old cassette tape and although the sound quality is very bad, the material quality more then makes up for it. Avian American kids, evil genetic scientists and mysterious voices inside your head. What's not to love?

I also spent some time on Amazon yesterday and of course saw all the book I can't wait to read that don't come out until forever. The five most anticipated?

5. The Crimson Crown (A Seven Realms Novel) by Cinda Williams Chima
4. Mark of Athena by Rick Roirdan
3. The Invaders (Brother Band Chronicles bk 2) by John Flanagan
2. The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl book 8) by Eoin Colfer
1. Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter (okay, so this is already out, but my library won't have it for another few weeks)

What about you? What have you been reading and what book can you just not wait to be published?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturdays of Simple Referral

I know! Four posts in one week! How cool is that!
So, I'd like to direct any and all readers over to a great blog maintained by Sienna North. It's called A Christian Fantasy Blog: Of Faerie and Faith. She talks about all kinds of great mid evil fantasy stuff over there, from swords to dresses to chain mail. If you have a chance you should defiantly cheek it out!
Just FYI, next weekend is the performance of a play I'm in, so there is a good choice I won't be posting much between now and then.
I'm off to go write now. I've found I do my best writing between 11 in the morning and 3 in the after noon. What about you? Where and when does your best writing happen?
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What I'm Reading Wednesdays

I can't believe the school week is half over already! Lucky, I've still been able to squeeze in a few books.
The first was Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier. I read this book after three separate librarians (Yes, I exchange book titles with librarians, Be jealous!) told me about it, and -- to be honest -- the book didn't quite live up to my expectations. The beginning was predictable and I felt that the main character was a bit shallow and the supporting character's motives didn't seem clear at all. One minute he would be completely rude, the next all concerned for her health. Normally, I would think he liked her, but you see him kissing another character at one point. I will probably read the next book, but this one wasn't anything to write home about.

After that, I read
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. This book is my favorite writing book! I've read it three times and at some point during the book each time, I've either gotten an idea for something that should happen or realized an area that needed fixed in my novel. If you haven't read this book, read it. If you haven't read it in 2012, re-read it.

I've been putting off reading Wither by Lauren DeStefano for a long time. I first saw the cover a month or so after it came out and decided for some reason that I didn't like it and wasn't going to read the book. This just goes to show that you can't judge a book by it's cover, because I loved this story! Thankfully, because I waited so long to read this, I can get my hands on the next book fairly fast, as it came out a few weeks ago and is already climbing USA today lists.

I starting reading Sarah Dessen right after she published Along for the Ride and although that book is still my favorite, Just Listen was very good too. Although this book didn't have as much romance as some of her other books, it was still sweet and touching. I think Annabel Greene might just have become my favorite Sarah Dessen heroine, but Eli is still the nicest guy.

What's the Best/Worst book you've read this week? I'd love to know!
Happy Writing!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Tips: Motivations

Goodness, if feels like I haven't done a tip in forever! Glad I'm getting a chance to do one today.
So, what am I talking about? Motive and Motivations.
I've noticed a problem with character's motives lately, in my own characters and those of some of my friends. I've seen that some characters are realizing facts about themselves and them setting off on quests for no particular reason other then that's what the outline says they do. I'm not satisfied with this. So what if the girl learns she's adopted? I don't follow the logic between that and setting off on a search for true parentage. Why does she feel the need to leave? Why can't she just stay where she's at? These are questions I want answered.
How do you know when you need motives for the character? Ask yourself this question: If the character doesn't act on this, will the character and everything he holds important, still be okay? If the answer is yes, you need to do some digging and find out what need to change to give the character motivation.
Now, how do you come up with the right motivations? There are a couple of ways. First, put something they love at risk. So that if they don't act, there will be consequences. If you can't do that without utterly changing the plot, back your character into a corner somehow, so that the only choice besides the action is something the character fundamentally doesn't want to do. Give them the choice, slavery, death, or something equally unpleasant, or the action. You can often have your antagonist give this choice. And if all else fails, you could have them kidnapped and forced to do the action.
Just please, for the love of all great books, make is clear why your character is doing something! Otherwise, your characters become tools of the author to tell the story. I, as a reader can tell when and author is forcing their character to do somethings against their nature, and it makes me want to throw their book against the wall. That's not a good thing!
So, maybe you need to do some digging and find out why your character MUST take a certain action. Believe me, your book will be better if you do.
Happy writing!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mind the Writer Mondays

Happy Monday! I, for one, wish the weekend wasn't over, but oh well.
So, last Monday, we had a guest post my one of my writing friends, Hannah. You can cheek that post out here.
In fact, it's probably a good thing I didn't post last week because I hadn't touched my manuscript at all. Thankfully, I've gotten a good deal more done this week. In fact, I finished my second draft. This is not as impressive as it sounds.
When I finished my first draft, I made a list of things I wanted to change. Concrete things, but little things. Changing the beginning and the way a few characters feel about each other. Nothing huge.
Now, I'm taking a break from actual writing and working on something that was suggested in James Scott Bell's book Revision & Self-Editing. He suggests that before starting major revisions, you should make what he calls a scene chart.
I'm doing this on an excel sheet, and it looks something like this:

Scene Name
The Funeral

What Happens in the Scene
Zeldea is buried

Who is in the Scene
Jemma, Miken

What's the Point of the Scene
Sets up Main Story Problem

Word Count

Page Numbers

I'm finding that doing this is really helpful. Especially the column What's the Point of the Scene. This can be as simple as Adds to Story Problem to as complicated as Deepens SP (Sub-Plot) Duke/Sets up next scene/ Major Set back to MG (Main Goal.) It really helps you to see the fibers of your story and how each sub-plot and character enhances the story. When I first started working on this scene chart, I saw that I had three small sub-plots I hadn't even known about.
One more thing. If you like the idea of a scene chart, I would suggest starting and adding each scene as you write it. Going back through my book and charting the scenes get really boring really fast.
So my goal for the upcoming week is to finish the scene chart and maybe start developing my theme in more detail.
What are your goals for the week? I'd love to hear them!
Happy Writing!