Monday, June 28, 2010

Life Without Wireless


We're here in Palm Desert, thrilled with the warm temps, but astonished that this resort does not have wireless. Yes, you read that right. I checked into a place where the only way to access the internet is through a fraying ethernet cable.

One. Cable.

There are four of us in this family with laptops. We are used to checking our email. Several times a day. This is going to get ugly.


I'm not going to be around much. Because after all, the pool is lovely, the tennis courts are calling my name. And I'll just have to catch up with you all on Friday when I get back.

Have a lovely week!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy Dancing

I love to see friends do well and it seems that a lot of them have been celebrating this week. Here's some good news I'd like to highlight this week:

If you haven't been following Susan Quinn's amazing story this week of how she got her publishing deal, then you need to head over there. The publisher approached her and asked her to submit! Yes! I knew you'd want to read all about this!

I was also happy to discover a wonderful article about author Greg Trine. I've interviewed him here on the blog, but this article in the Ventura County Star is simply awesome.

Last summer I got to meet the Southern belles from Plot This. Katie and SF are two of the nicest people you'll ever come across and if you check out this vlog, you'll understand why you've been hearing happy sounds echoing throughout the country from Mississippi.

Now I don't know Kiera Cass personally. In fact, I just heard about her last week on Adventures in Children's Publishing. But her story is amazing. From self-published author to being repped by Caren Johnson Literary to even bigger news this week. I love this vlog from Kiera. Warning: You'll want to dance!

So tell me: what's your good news this week?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Read me a Smory

Last week a Santa Barbara writer announced that one of her stories had been selected for Smories. Intrigued, I followed the link and discovered, a website with free original stories for kids, read by kids. What a concept!

Run by a couple of British illustrators, Lisa Swirling and Ralph Lazar, is quickly becoming a popular site both for writers and children. Every month the couple records and uploads 50 new stories, 750 words or less, read on camera by some charming little narrators. Authors retain the copyright to their work, and thousands of people are exposed to their stories. Ralph Lazar took a few minutes to tell me more about this new idea.

How long ago did you start
We got the idea in February, quite literally in the middle of Kalahari desert in Botswana, where there are no paved roads, no people, and no mobile phone reception. We chatted about it for a couple of days and the moment we crossed the border into South Africa, we called a friend in London to check to see if the domain name was available, which it was! By the time we got to Cape Town the concept was well-formed in our heads, and the site went live a few weeks later.

I think it's pretty cool that your daughter actually recorded herself reading to her younger sister during this epic car ride, which of course sparked the idea. Were you surprised to find that no one was doing this already?
Yes, very surprised.

How many readers do you have? How did you recruit them?
We can't disclose any specific information about our readers for obvious reasons. There is not a fixed pool of readers, and they are recruited through word of mouth.

Why fifty? Isn’t that a lot of stories every month?!
We wanted to have a lot of content to get the site going. From 01 August we will be publishing a new smory every day. By October we hope to be publishing 2 or 3 new smories every day.

Why did you decide to make the stories available for free?
We want the site to be a destination for kids that's a safe alternative to the likes of youtube. Accordingly, it needs to be free.

In the beginning you hosted a competition with cash prizes. Why has that changed?
It's expensive to give away $1,500 per month!

Well, I can't blame you there! How many submissions are you wading through each month?
In excess of 500 per month.

Wow! Talk about a slush pile! How much traffic does your site receive?
Just over 35,000 films were watched in the first month. We're now in the second month and the trend looks the same.

Do either you or Lisa write for children?
Nope, we have never written childrens stories before. We illustrate quite a big a series of reference books for DK called The Brainwaves.

So those are your fun illustrations on the website?
Yes, they are mine.

The site is obviously still evolving. How do you see the Smories website developing in the next six months? In the next year?
Daily smories launch in August. More sophisticated filter functionality will be added to the site, allowing viewers to be more selective about what they are watching. Slowly it will will evolve to become a safe and user-friendly online channel for kids.  We expect to be launching multi-language versions of the site later in the year.

What has surprised you most since you started this venture?
Massive goodwill from writers, narrators, parents, kids, librarians & teachers. It has been an extremely positive experience for everyone involved.

If you write picture books and are interested in submitting your story to, go to their Submit a Story page. Authors retain the copyright to their work. To find out more about Lisa and Ralph and their vision for Smories, read their FAQ.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rewriting a Classic

When my son was in Kindergarten I read Stuart Little to him. We both enjoyed the story until the end. My son was convinced that E.B. White must have dropped the rest of the chapter on his way to the publisher. How could the story end that way? What happened to the little bird?

He was so upset with the ending that I suggested he come up with his own version of how the story ends. He was delighted. He sat down and wrote his ending and drew a picture to go with it. When he was done, I glued it into the back of the book.

Now I realize some people will be horrified that I would a) desecrate a hard cover book by gluing additional pages in there and b) allow my child to presume that his ending is better than the one written by the celebrated author of this classic story. But I loved how Drew was so into the story that he was willing to think of an alternate ending. He took it to school and showed his teacher (who was kind enough to read it to the class). It invested him in the book in a very real way.

Drew's ending is still in our copy of Stuart Little. The other day he pulled it down and re-read E.B. White's version. "I can see why he did it this way now," he told me. I was glad to see that time had given him a better understanding of the story. But truth be told, I thought Drew's rewrite was pretty good too.

He's still rewriting endings, creating fan fiction and scripting his videos. He's also writing stories of his own. And hopefully, thanks to the story a mouse and a bird, he'll grow up believing in the power of his own creativity.

Friday, June 18, 2010

SlushPile Hell

I stumbled across this funny site yesterday, SlushPile Hell. Apparently started by a frustrated agent, the site posts snippets from really bad queries, along with snarky comments from the agent. Don't worry. No names are posted :)

Reading that blog gave me flashbacks to the horrible queries I sent when I first started out. I sent some seriously cringe-worthy stuff like, "Do you believe in faeries?" as my opening line. *blushes*

What embarrassing missteps did you make on your first queries?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In the Beginning...

Famous first words, aren't they? I mean, even people who have never cracked open the Gideon on their hotel nightstand, recognize those three words from the bestselling book of all time.

This is part of my problem when I start a new story. I want that first sentence to be memorable, like these:

  1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
  2. It was a dark and stormy night.
  3. When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it.
  4. When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it's never good news.
  5. The Friday before winter break, my mom packed me an overnight bag and a few deadly weapons and took me to a new boarding school.
  6. There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.

These are brilliant opening lines from some of my favorite books. They set the tone for the whole story. They make you want to read more.

I haven't written anything this perfect. And yet, there are plenty of books that I love that don't start with a bang. In fact, The Hunger Games opens with Katniss waking up. How many times have we been told not to do that?

So tell me, what are some perfectly ordinary opening lines from some simply wonderful books?

Oh, and the first person to correctly name the six books I quoted above wins my ARC of the new Tony DiTerlizzi book, The Search for WondLa. (Curious about it? Read my review at GoodReads.)


Tricia O'Brien correctly named the books, but since someone asked, here are the answers:

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle OR Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
3. Savvy by Ingrid Law
4. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
5. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan (Book 3 in the Percy Jackson series)
6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Summer Visit

Summer is all about hanging with friends, checking out new places...

Well today, I'm doing just that. You'll find me over at Tabitha Olson's blog, Writer Musings. June is First Drafts month at her blog. Last week she had a guest post from Jennifer Hubbard, author of The Secret Year. This week she has one from me.

Stop on by. Tabitha has been known to bake some amazing cakes. I'll bring the sweet tea...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer, Luck and the Dystopian Future

Today is the first day of summer in our house, but before I dash off to enjoy the sun with the kids, I have a couple of fun things for you.

Unless you've been living on a different planet, you've may have noticed the rise in dystopian fiction. One of my critique partners pointed out this great article in the New Yorker about what's behind the rise. If you're a fan of the genre or you just enjoy reading it, you should check out the article.

And now, I know what you really want to find out is who won the Basket of Luck...

Congratulations, Marissa!! Email me at solvangsherrie at gmail dot com with your snail mail address and I will send some luck your way!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Page a Day Progress

When I signed up for the Page a Day challenge I knew I wasn't going to be working on just one novel or even just on pages for the novel. I didn't realize I'd end up working on three different novels at the same time! That's usually more than my pobre brain can handle!

I did four pages of free writing on my current WIP. When I free write I sit in front of a blank screen, type in the name of a character and write down everything I know about that person and how they relate to the other people in the novel. I love doing this. It helps me see the conflict between characters and figure out motivations for each person.

Additional pages written on WIP:
Rewrote three pages.
Wrote a whole new chapter (7 pages)
Wrote two more pages that I then turned around and cut.

"Finished" Novel
Is a finished novel ever really done? I went back to the novel I've been querying and made changes from a beta reader, then started submitting the pages to RLGL. Then before turning in the pages for the Sudden Death round, I rewrote big chunks of story, that combined came to about three pages of new writing. It paid off. I won!! Lucky #102 :)

From the Shelf
Then on a whim I decided to enter the Sourcebooks promo with an older book that has me stumped. I'm not sure what to do to make it better so I figured I should submit it for the critique. But when I read the opening chapter, it was clear why people rejected it. So I rewrote the first chapter to the tune of four completely new pages. (By the way, if you haven't already entered this one, you should follow this link to check it out. It looks like they've extended the deadline to July 30. Everyone who enters gets feedback on their pages.)

Total number of pages on Day 23 of the challenge: 23 pages

I'm happy. I've been writing pages, not every day, but equal to a page a day. I'm moving forward and I can see my writing improving.

And did I mention that I won RLGL? Sweet!! :)

If you haven't left a comment for your chance to win the Basket of Luck, make sure you do before midnight on Thursday. I'll be announcing the winner on Friday. I can't wait to send some good luck to one of my "lucky" readers!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Feeling Lucky

Back in March I won an amazing basket of luck from the wonderful StoryQueen, Shelley Moore Thomas. She had received it from the equally wonderful Jackee at Winded Words.

Now it's my turn to pass it on. And wouldn't you love to have this gift basket shipped to your home? It will have two books (see below), a yummy treat from the Solvang Bakery and a special lucky item, like the fantastic luck dragon Shelley sent me.

The books in this prize package are: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (Don't you feel lucky just knowing that the person you love isn't going to kill you? Always a bonus!) and Savvy by Ingrid Law (one of my favorite books and favorite speakers from SCBWI last summer).

If you'd like to have a turn with the basket of luck, just tell me in the comments something that made you feel lucky or why you think you're lucky. One lucky winner will be selected on Friday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Happiness is...

  • going to a book signing for a friend and critique partner. Yay Val!

  • going to a second book signing for another friend and critique partner. Yay Kim!
  • finding the new Nathaniel Fludd book at the book store and running into the author before we leave! Thanks Robin for the impromptu signing :)
  • discovering that my novel is in a 6-way face-off in RLGL. Woo-hoo!! 
  • substituting for 3rd Grade on the day of the talent show and Fun Day. I can't believe they're paying me for this today!

I guess you could say I've got a lot to be happy for :)
What's making you happy today?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Slash and Burn

Whenever I'm working on a story, I keep a file of cut stuff. Sometimes I'll go back and pull a paragraph or two, but usually the file is more of a reminder of the excess that my story doesn't need.

Yesterday as I cut yet another section from my book, I happened to look down at the word count: 13,251. I've cut thirteen thousand words from a novel that is only 30K! Wow. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing! A lot of the story lines in the cut stuff are in the final version. They're just written differently. Better I hope! But still...

How many words do you cut from a novel before it's ready to face the world?
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