Friday, November 30, 2012

Fridaydream: an extra hour

'Tis the season where, no matter your religious affiliations or lack thereof, you find yourself wishing for extra time. More daylight. More quiet time to power through that one project that needs your full attention. More time to deal with all the holiday-related errands. A little more sleep.

What would you do with an extra hour?

It's also NaNo check in day-- and the end of the marathon. How'd you do?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Plot bank.

I'm running around today (and posting very late!) but this looks handy:

Has anyone ever made use of this kind of thing? What's your experience been? A good jump-start to creativity?

Where do you get your ideas?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Updated list of my sales.


This won't be of interest to everyone, but because we are in the midst of a major overhaul of the main agency website, my list of sales has not been updated there in some time, with the result that a lot of my clients' deals don't appear anywhere on the site at all.

As a substitute, here's a list of my deals. Because this is primarily a placeholder post, I've closed comments for this post. Thanks!

Allison Ann Aller

Michael Alvear
NOT TONIGHT DEAR, I FEEL FAT (Sourcebooks, 2013)

Jessica Brockmole
LETTERS FROM SKYE (Ballantine Books, 2013)

Benj Clews and Michael Onesi
FOUR WORD FILM REVIEWS (Adams Media Corporation)

Erin Rooney Doland

Delphine Dryden
THE THEORY OF ATTRACTION (Carina Press/Harlequin)
THE THEORY OF ATTRACTION 2 (Carina Press, 2013)
THE THEORY OF ATTRACTION 3 (Carina Press, 2013)
GOSSAMER WING (Berkley Books, 2013)
GOSSAMER WING 2 (Berkley Books, 2013)
GOSSAMER WING 3 (Berkley Books, 2013)

Elizabeth O. Dulemba
SOAP, SOAP, SOAP! (¡JABON, JABON!) (author and illustrator) (Raven Tree Publishers)
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA (illustrator) (Sterling Children’s Books)
READY TO PLAY and READY TO TRY AGAIN (illustrator) (Free Spirit Publishing)

Shoshanna Evers
ENSLAVED (Pocket Star/S&S, 2013)
ENAMORED (Pocket Star, 2013)
ENTWINED (Pocket Star, 2013)
THE PULSE (Pocket Star, 2013)
THE PULSE 2 (Pocket Star, 2013)
THE PULSE 3 (Pocket Star, 2013)

Alison Ashley Formento
THIS TREE COUNTS! (author) (Albert Whitman & Co.)
THIS TREE, ONE, TWO, THREE! (author) (Albert Whitman & Co.)
THESE BEES COUNT! (author) (Albert Whitman & Co.)
THESE SEAS COUNT! (author) (Albert Whitman & Co., 2013)

Jason Good
UNTITLED PICTURE BOOK (author) (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2014)

Tim Gordon and Casey Rand

Gail Langer Karwoski
THANK YOU, TREES! (with Marilyn E. Gootman, authors) (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2013)

Jennifer Kloester
THE CINDERELLA MOMENT (Penguin Group Australia, 2013)

Catherine LaRoche
MASTER OF LOVE (Pocket Star/S&S, 2013)
KNIGHT OF LOVE (Pocket Star/S&S, 2013)

Laurie Perry

Kathreen Ricketson
WHIP-UP’S MINI QUILTS (Chronicle Books)
MODERN ART QUILTS (C&T Publishing, 2013)
FAMILY ROAD TRIP (Roost Books/Shambhala, 2013)

Scott Rigby, Ph.D. and Richard Ryan, Ph.D.

Pamela Schoenewaldt
SWIMMING IN THE MOON (William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2013)

Vicky Alvear Shecter
CLEOPATRA’S MOON (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books)
UNTITLED YA ON POMPEII (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014)
ANUBIS’S GUIDE TO THE DEAD (Boyds Mills Press, 2013)

Martha Sielman

Dan Wilbur
HOW NOT TO READ (Perigee/Penguin)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NaNoWriMo GUEST POST: one step at a time.

All, I'm pleased to share another guest post from my client Jessica Brockmole, who is a NaNoWriMo veteran and one of the best "NaNo cheerleaders" I know. Her debut novel LETTERS FROM SKYE will be published by Ballantine Books in summer 2013. Follow her on Twitter at

One November, I decided to take advantage of the discipline I was already imposing on myself for NaNoWriMo. I decided to take up running. 

Now, even though I’ve never done anything more strenuous than a brisk walk (I’ve never been what you’d consider an athlete), I had high hopes for my new venture. It sounded perfect! I had it all worked out: I would head out after dinner every night and get in an invigorating run, while clearing my mind and planning for the night’s writing. I plotted a mile course through my neighborhood, charged up my iPod, and, November 1st, I set off on my route.

I made it about an eighth of the way along the route before I collapsed, gasping. 

I walked the rest of the way home, cursing and vowing that I’d never go running again.

But I was out again the next night. This time, I cut myself a little slack. I probably wouldn’t get all the way around; I knew that now. Maybe I just wasn’t a runner. But surely I could go at least as far as I had the night before. And you know what? I did. Once I got to that point, I said to myself that surely I could go just a little bit further, to that lamppost. And, amazingly, I made it that far. To that crooked tree? There. To that house with the weird mailbox? I did it. To that…wait, wasn’t that my house? By setting little goals, I had made it the whole mile without even realizing it.

As you’re trying to get those last words, set small goals for yourself. Don’t think about the looming final word count you’re hoping to get. Just try to get another 500. Got that? Why not try to make it an even 1000? Well, since you’re already in the groove, just get another couple of pages down. Heck, since you’re this far, you might as well finish the scene. And, without even realizing it, you’re that much closer to your goal. 

Little steps. Little steps add up to a whole mile in the end.

Whether you've already crossed that finish line, whether you're still sprinting towards it, or whether you switched from a run to a very vigorous walk days ago, we’re all in this race together. Go, go, go!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday morning thought.

" I can always tell when you’re reading somewhere in the house, my mother used to say. There’s a special silence, a reading silence. "

--Francis Spufford, The Child That Books Built: A Life in Reading 

(via Eat Sleep Read)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers; the rest of you, hope you're having a pleasant Thursday.

I'll see you back here on Monday. Get lots of writing done!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nicholas Carr and Michael Clarke: how hardcovers are like vinyl records

Two smart and, I think, pretty innovative arguments for how book publishers can learn from the music industry-- specifically from how indie artists appeal to vinyl fans. This surprised me: 2012 is on track to have more vinyl sales than any year since 1991.

Nicholas Carr: Why publishers should give away ebooks

Michael Clarke: What can publishers learn from indie rock? 

(via Andrew Sullivan)

Do you buy music on vinyl? Would you pay a couple of dollars more for a book if you could buy the print and ebook version as a package deal? Or do you think the "bonus" format should be free?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fridaydream: armchair travel

Where have you always wished you could visit, but haven't (yet)?

This is a favorite website of mine-- it's also, I think, a really charming example of how efficiently one can craft a character "voice."

Iceland wants to be your friend.

It's also check-in day for NaNo: how's it coming?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNoWriMo GUEST POST: Don't get derailed!

I'm delighted to post another fantastic guest post in honor of NaNoWriMo.  Kara Bietz writes contemporary YA fiction from her home in North Georgia. Kara does not miss her job as a preschool teacher, where she was not allowed to say the F word even once. You can find her online at or on Twitter @KaraMB75. (Proud to say she's also an Agent Courtney client!) 

You’ve decided to NaNo this year! Good for you! Making the commitment to this kind of adventure should not go without recognition. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back a little, I’ll wait here.

All set? Feeling good? Okay, now let’s get down to business! Writing 50K in thirty days means that you will have to average just over 1,666 words each day, or six pages of solid text, give or take. 

On November 1st,  you might feel GREAT about this. All cylinders are firing and your fingers scramble over the keyboard like magic. Your ideas are all over the place. You write them all down. It’s wonderful. 

By November 15th, you may be struggling with the mucky middle of your manuscript, where characters have fascinating conversations about the weather, or debate the merits of apple juice vs. orange juice. But! You are still writing with gusto, easily clocking your 1,666 words. 

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, though, you wonder why in heaven’s name you ever agreed to such torture and wonder if you can just kill off all of your characters just so that you can write that ever satisfying THE END at the bottom of your Word document. 

Here are a few tips if you feel yourself getting derailed by your NaNo project:

1. Don’t sweat it. I know that’s hard to hear, especially if it is November 28th and you have put in a few hours of work each day, not to mention ignored your kids,let the Thanksgiving dishes get crusty in the sink and skipped Black Friday shopping with your husband. Any kind of project you undertake with this kind of extreme deadline is likely to wear on you after a number of days. Give yourself permission to fall down. Then get up and plow forward. If you miss a day of writing, try to be super productive tomorrow. Readjust your goals. Get out your abacus and recalculate how many words you will have to write each day in order to get that shiny “I Won NaNo” sticker for your blog.

2. Take a walk. Some of the best ideas come when you remove yourself from your work and give yourself a little bit of space to breathe.

3. Remember why you signed up in the first place. There are many reasons to sign up for NaNoWriMo. Some do it just to see if they can actually manage to write 50K words in 30 days and look forward to that sense of accomplishment when they finish. Some writers, such as myself, use it as a tool to begin the first draft of a new novel. The daily goals can help keep a first-draft-writer focused on the task at hand and give the ever-present internal editor a month off. And still others do it for the social aspect, the meet-ups and the feeling of camaraderie. 

If you’re feeling lost, sit down and decide WHY you decided to NaNo in the first place. If you did it as a personal challenge, then sit back in the chair and do your very best to finish. Channel your inner Bela Karolyi and remember the ’96 Olympics…”You can DO IT, Kerri. You can DO IT.” Then hobble over to that vault on one foot and fling yourself over. 

If you are first drafting, take a look at what you have written so far. Is it enough for you to know where your next draft should begin? Do you know your core story? If you feel confident that you can begin again and take your time, then don’t stress about not finishing NaNo. Begin again, with a deep breath, and know that NaNo served its purpose for you this year. If you are participating in the social aspect of NaNo, look for support and encouragement from your fellow NaNoers. There are online bulletin boards, regional meetups and several other ways to reach out to your fellow fast-fingered novel writers. Use the resources available to you.

4. Remember the number one rule. Even people who write for a living will tell you: this is supposed to be fun. Creating a world and letting pretend people run around in it all day long is The Best Thing about being a writer. Write a kissing scene. Add a road trip. A meteor shower. Writing a novel is the ultimate game of “What if…”

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Critique contest: announcing the WINNER!

At long last, I'm delighted to announce a winner from the Critique Contest! 

We had 23 entries altogether, so I plugged that into the Random Number Generator and here was the result: 

Lucky number 13 was slingsomeink, who posted said thirteenth comment on Halloween. Delicious, don't you think?

Congratulations, slingsomeink, send me an email and we'll talk about the details!

Thanks to everyone who entered. This was a lot of fun and we'll do it again soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NaNoWriMo GUEST POST: The terrible twos

All, I'm very pleased to bring you a guest post today from my client Jessica Brockmole, who is a NaNoWriMo veteran and one of the best "NaNo cheerleaders" I know. Her debut novel LETTERS FROM SKYE will be published by Ballantine Books in summer 2013. Follow her on Twitter at

I’m not only a writer, I’m also a mommy. On the NaNo forums, I’m “Past_Midnight”, as this is prime writing time. After everyone has been tucked in and re-tucked in and brought a drink of water and tucked in yet again and calmed down after a nightmare and then, naturally, re-tucked in, then I can get a bit of writing done.

Just like writing a novel, parenthood has its challenges and pitfalls, as well as its delights. There’s the initial falling in love, whether with a brand new baby or a brand new story idea. And infants really aren’t that hard to take care of (sleepless nights aside). You just watch and cheer them on as they grow and change on their own. The first year of life, like the first week of NaNoWriMo, is full of excitement as you wait to see what happens next.

Then come the Terrible Twos. And this is where the challenges really begin. Like a stubborn toddler, novels can dig in their heels in Week Two and Three, and refuse to budge. No amount of coaxing, bribing or, yes, threatening can convince the story to move forward. You begin to wonder (as I do all the time), whether you can do this, whether you’re really the best person for this job.

And then you wake up one morning and realize that, while you were mired in self-doubt, your little one was busy growing up. Whether child or novel, they all do move forward eventually. It’s hard to look at a group of wet-nosed, marginally potty-trained toddlers and imagine them as fully-functioning members of adult society. It’s also hard to look at 20,000 assorted words on the page and imagine them as the beginnings of a rollicking good tale.

You give everyone a good beginning, you keep at it even on days where you’d rather hide in the back of a closet with a bottle of whisky or a handful of Pixy Stix, and one day you realize that everything is working out. That character briefly mentioned in Chapter One suddenly becomes vitally important in Chapter Six. That child who never knew how to do more than draw an elaborate circle suddenly discovers she can write her own name. Everything falls into place.

So take heart! The Terrible Twos are over (or soon to be, I promise!). Although there will always be challenges ahead, things are going to get easier. Your little novel is growing up and showing you that it has a mind of its own.  So just relax and see what your baby can do. And cross your fingers that it’s potty trained.

- Jessica, who gets through both NaNo and the Terrible Twos with patience, sleeplessness, and a lot of whisky

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday morning thought.

"When you're stuck, those aren't the worst parts, those are the best parts - they're your chance to be creative."
-Po Bronson

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday check-in; abstainers and moderators, Write or Die

REMINDER: today is the last day to enter the critique contest. Get over there and post a comment, if you haven't already done so! 

How did you guys do this week? I'm embarrassed to admit that I fell off the NaNo wagon, badly; my word count is days and days behind schedule. I'm not going to admit just how bad it is here, as I write this on Thursday, because I have hopes of rectifying it (somewhat) before I go to bed tonight. I need to get my head back in the game.

Gretchen Rubin, who I've talked about here before, argues that when it comes to facing temptations and exercising self-control, there are two basic techniques: you can be an Abstainer, where you just give up the temptation entirely (this is the model for all twelve-step programs, at their heart), or you can be a Moderator, where you keep the temptation in check without resorting to strict rules.

Here's her most recent post on the subject. Gretchen is an Abstainer-- and I'm starting to think that might be the best fit for me, too, at least in certain things. How about you?

For the rest of NaNoWriMo, I'm going to do everything I can to get at least a few words written, every single day. I still want to hit that magic 50,000 words, if I can, but perhaps a better, more achievable goal would just be to write daily. No days off.

But what if you find yourself just staring at the screen, or constantly toggling between browser tabs, losing hours on the internet?

My client Shoshanna Evers is a big fan of an app called Write or Die. This is a program that, as their tagline says, "puts the prod in productivity." In the utterly brutal Kamikaze mode, which I think is what Shoshanna uses, if you stop writing for too long (a few minutes of no activity, or however you set the program), the program literally starts deleting words. By her account, it really seems to work; her daily word count would blow most people's minds. Every month is a NaNo month, let's put it that way.

I'm going to give it a shot and report back. Care to join me?

Also, it's Friday: time to brag or complain about your NaNo word count, if you're so inclined. Tell me how it's going.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday cop-out: two giant round ups of NaNo advice.

I'm writing this a couple of days early, as I often do my posts, and agonizing over the US election details even though it's hours before we'll know anything. (I hope it's only hours, and not 2000 reprised.)  I'm hoping to get a post done before week's end on my own NaNo progress, but I am not sure I can concentrate enough to write a real blog post today, let alone actually work on said NaNo project.

Here are two rabbit-hole links for you, to keep you busy till I get my head back on. As always, I'd love to hear which tips are your favorites.

Galleycat: sixty NaNoWriMo tips in one post

Nathan Bransford: NaNoWriMo Resources

And did you see that Avon Impulse is soliciting NaNo romance manuscripts in December? I adore Avon, but are they really looking for unrevised work? What do you guys think?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NaNoWriMo GUEST POST: A head start on a great story.

All: I'm delighted to share another guest post with you today, this one from frequent commenter Cathy C. Hall, who blogs at In her post, Cathy argues that you should think of NaNo as a starting point, a chance to get the words on the page-- and be proud of your efforts, even as you know you'll have lots more work to do later. 

The Tale of the NaNo Story 

By Cathy C. Hall

Like thousands of writers, I got sucked into National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo, as the veterans call it. And it was one of the best writing tools I ever used.

I don’t know if other writers would call churning out a complete novel in a month a tool. A challenge, a chore, a pain in the butt?  Yes, yes, and definitely yes. A tool? Maybe not so much. But for me, NaNo came in pretty handy. Here’s how.

I had an Idea for a story. I couldn’t say I had an Idea for an entire book because I didn’t exactly have an ending. Or much of a middle. But I had an Idea. And this Idea rattled around in my head for months. The months turned into a year, and still, I hadn’t written a single word about the Idea.

Then along came National Novel Writing Month, as it does every year in November. So I pulled on my big girl writing britches and decided that November 2009 would be the NaNo of my Idea. I told all my friends that I was “doing NaNo.” I told my family, too, even though they had no idea what I was talking about. I officially signed up, so there was no going back.

Now, I realize that many writers can go on and on and on and get those 50,000 words easily. But I come from a journalist/copywriting background. I like my writing short (and speculative). Flash fiction was made for me. Writing a novel—Come on. 50,000 words?! —seemed daunting.

Well, more than daunting. Impossible. But as you may recall, I had my big girl writing britches on. And I’d been writing bits and pieces of my Idea for quite a while. Mostly in my head, but still. I had a semi-outline floating around in the gray cells. On November 1st, I slugged through 1600 words. And thought, holy NaNo. I have to do this every day?

Pride dragged me to the desk, forced me to come up with sentence after sentence. I mulled over my Idea in the tub, I created characters watching a high school play, I figured out a plot while slapping food on the table. And in the end, I had a novel. It was 32,560 words but I was okay with that. I mean, honestly, I was thrilled.

Even knowing that only 1723 words were any good. That there were holes bigger than Black Holes in it. That characters sounded alarmingly like the kids from West Side Story. But, by NaNo, I had a manuscript in my hot little hands. I had something I could work on!

I did NaNo because I had an Idea I loved and wanted to develop. NaNo gave me the impetus to take the book out of my head and put it on paper. Now, three years later, after all the revisions, drafts, and rewrites, I think I have a pretty good story.

So if there’s a moral to my NaNo tale, maybe it’s this: Don’t be a tool. If you’re going to go to all the trouble to do NaNo, make that novel worth it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The 20 minute win.

The wonderful Jessica Brockmole sent me this a few days ago: The 20 Minute Win. Barbara O'Neal argues that if you can carve out a twenty-minute window in which to write, and guard that twenty minutes against all intrusions, you can make substantial progress.

It's a great piece, and a great idea. I'm going to try the technique today.

How about you? Do you ever set a timer when you sit down to write?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday morning thought.

"It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your 
headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." 
-- E.L. Doctorow

(via @chrisbaty on Twitter)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fridaydream: eight strange rituals of productive writers.

Love this list of strange writing rituals. I'm definitely going to try #8 this month. (Okay, probably not. I am a terrible lightweight.)

Which one is your favorite? Any to add?

Also, for the duration of NaNo, the Friday post comments section will be your chance to show off about your word count. How's it going so far?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo GUEST POST: A Plotter's Guide to Pantsing

Delighted to announce my first NaNo guest poster today: romance author and writer of the super-popular blog, Sonja Foust. (Pintester is hilarious but NSFW.) Sonja gave me permission to reprint a post from her blog, on how the planners among us can cope with the chaos that comes with NaNoWriMo.

In the fiction writing world, we tend to divide ourselves up into two distinct groups: the plotters and the pantsers. The plotters, well, plot. They outline, they plan, they do all the anal-retentive things you might expect. The pantsers write by the seat of their pants, hence the term. They often say, “If I know how the book ends, I’m not interested in writing it anymore.”

Nanowrimo cometh. Inherently, Nanowrimo tends to foster the pantsing school of thought. Chris Baty’s guide to all things Nanowrimo is even called No Plot? No Problem! It’s a great book, and pantsing really does work for some people… but not all of us.

I am, by nature, a plotter. I plan pretty much every aspect of my life, including what I write. That’s not to say that everything always goes according to plan, but I’m paralyzed without some idea of where to go and what to do. So how do I swing Nanowrimo?

I plot like a pantser.

If you’re a plotter, too, and the idea of Nanowrimo scares you crapless, here are my tips for getting started:

1. Outline in October. It’s not cheating to start your outline early. In fact, it’s encouraged! You can plan as much as you want, as long as you’re not writing.

2. If you happen to get to November without a plot, go day by day. Plan what you’re going to write in the morning when you start, or plan the next day’s writing the evening before.

3. Decide how serious you’re going to be about this. If you’re doing it just for fun, give pantsing a try! You might find that you like it, and that the freedom produces an altogether different (maybe better) result. If you know you’re a plotter, and you can’t stand the thought of not having a well-plotted novel done at the end of the month, you’ll have to be more proactive about plotting ahead of time.

4. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your plot. In the fast and furious pace of banging out 50,000 words in 30 days, you will find that you don’t have time to sit and mull things over as soon as you hit a plot snag. Be creative, get through it, and get writing again! You can always modify your outline.

5. Engage the community. Nano-ers are great at helping each other out with plot problems. Try the forums or the chat room.

Thanks, Sonja! Everybody share your own tips in the comment section.