3 S.R. Johannes: August 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

"The Familiars" - Book giveaway and Guest Post by Andrew Jacobson

Today, Andrew Jacobson from the new book, The Familiars has stopped by to talk about winning log-lines.

Comment and you will go into a drawing for the HB!

The Familiars Summary

Running to save his life, Aldwyn, the street-wise orphan cat, ducks into a strange store. Moments later Jack, a young wizard-in-training, comes in to pick out his familiar – a magical animal companion. Aldwyn’s always been clever. But magical? Apparently Jack thinks so—and Aldwyn is happy to play along. Anything to get out of town!

Once home with Jack in Stone Runlet, Aldwyn thinks that he’s got it made—a life of ease with a boy who loves him. He just has to convince the other familiars—the know-it-all blue jay Skylar and the friendly tree frog Gilbert--that he’s the telekinetic cat he claims to be.

Then, after the sky lights up with an omen, the unthinkable happens. Jack and the other young wizards are captured by the evil queen of Vastia. Together Aldwyn, Skylar and Gilbert must save them—but how?

On their thrilling quest across the land, the familiars will face dangerous foes, unearth a shocking centuries old secret, and discover a mysterious destiny that will change them all forever.

Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

ADAM JAY EPSTEIN spent his childhood in Great Neck, New York, while ANDREW JACOBSON grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the two met in a parking garage out in Los Angeles. They have been writing for film and television together ever since. The Familiars is their first book.

One day, Adam asked Andrew, “Are you familiar with what a familiar is?” And from that simple question, Vastia was born, a fantastical world filled with the authors’ shared love of animals and magic. They wrote every word, sentence, and page together, sitting opposite each other.

Adam Jay Epstein lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jane, their daughters, Penny and Olive, and a black-and-white alley cat who hangs out in their backyard. Andrew Jacobson lives with his wife, Ashley, and their dog, Elvis, four traffic lights away.

THE FAMILIARS will be produced for film by Sam Raimi and Sony Animation.

GUEST POST – “Telephone”

There was an old game we would play on the bus back in my summer camp days called “Telephone.” I’m sure you’re familiar with it. You would start by whispering a sentence into someone’s ear, and then they would whisper it to the person sitting behind them, and so on throughout the bus. When the message reached the person in the last seat, they would repeat what they heard out loud. So, if you started by whispering, “I took my girlfriend to the zoo today and saw pigs wrestling in the mud,” the last person might announce something akin to “My girlfriend is such a pig that she should wrestle in a zoo.” And everyone busts into a fit of giggles.

Now imagine you’re a literary agent or an assistant editor or an editor. A writer pitches you their manuscript idea over the phone or in a query letter. In order to get that idea sold, you will have to relay it up the ladder to your boss, and then to their boss, all the way to the person at the top of the company who can say, “Yes.” It’s no different than the game of telephone you played on the bus when you were 8, except now there’s nothing funny about your idea getting mangled and people passing on your ideas.

I’ve read a lot of query letters from aspiring writers pitching the ideas for their book manuscripts or screenplays. And most of them would be darn near impossible to pitch up the ladder. Before anyone ever reads the first page of your manuscript, I can guarantee that you will already put yourself head and shoulders above your competition if you can summarize your idea concisely so that it can navigate its way through the telephone game.

How? With a winning log-line. This is a Hollywood term. I don’t know if people in the book world use it as often – maybe here it’s referred to as a synopsis – either way, the principle is the same. Log-lines are where good, sellable ideas begin. They are the short blurb in TV guides that tell you what a program is about and help you decide if you’re going to watch it. On a cold call or in a query letter, the log-line is what’s going to determine if the person on the other side is going to read your manuscript or not.

Yes, ultimately it will be all about good writing and execution. Of course. That goes without saying. But I think people underestimate how hard it is to even get that gatekeeper to read your material in the first place. So why not stack the odds in your favor, and have that killer one-liner to hook a reader?

-- Andrew Jacobson

Learn more about “The Familiars”
See the book trailer
Watch an author video

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mary Kole Pitch Contest Winners!!

There were so many awesome queries it was hard for Mary Kole to narrow it down to one. WE have 2 winners and a few Honorable mentions. Mary Kole gave some feedback on each one in blue. (wasn't that sweet!)

There were many entries that went over 140 characters some even up to 200 characters!

To both winners - email me so I can put you in touch with Mary on your query critique!

If there is nugget you take away from this - whether chosen or not - it is this: I cannot stress how important it is to FOLLOW THE RULES when querying agents. Sometimes it can be the difference between a rejection or a request! They go through hundreds of queries a week and have to look for ways to say no. DON'T GIVE THEM A REASON to reject you just because you are going to fast or don't pay attention to the details/instructions!

WINNER 1: Blogger Wendy
Title: Burying Elsie
Genre: Contemporary YA
As Elsie dives into drugs, sex & even hardcore shows, goody-goody Shawna must decide if helping her BFF is worth risking all she believes.

Mary said: "I love the character conflict implied by this query and the high stakes. The title tells me that it might not work out for the best, but I’m really curious to see how the downward spiral plays out."


WINNER 2: Blogger Rachael Harrie

Title: From The Other Side

Genre: YA Paranormal

Misfit Verity is murdered by the boy she loves and awakens with strange powers, uncontrollable rages, and an unquenchable desire for revenge

Mary said: "This query kicks ass. It has punch and voice, which is really hard to do in 140 characters. This sounds like something I might really like."


Honorable Mentions!

Blogger Amanda J.

Title: The Sandman's Apprentice

Genre: MG paranormal

To save her kidnapped brother, Taryn must become the first female Sandman; venture into new realms; and, oh yea, save the world from monsters.

Mary said: "I like this pitch a lot and would probably request more. But to be fair to everyone else, this is not a winner since the character count was high."

Blogger Jess said...

Title: N/A

Genre: YA magical realism/time travel

The first time, Madelyn drowns accidentally. The second time, her twin sister Camilla lets it happen, a choice that could pull her under.

Mary said "Good concept, but unclear whose story it is. First sentence indicates Madelyn, second sentence indicates Camilla."

Blogger meradeth said...

Title: Colors Like Memories

Genre: YA UF

Julia’s secret: she killed the guy she loved. It was an accident—sorta. Now she must save her best friend, but her ghosts won’t make it easy

Mary said: "Really like this. Could’ve made a clearer connection…is the guy she loved one of the ghosts in her way?"

Blogger Nazarea said...

Title: FireFall

Genre: YA paranormal

Falling in love isn't easy, but when 17-year-old Alianna Clayton falls for a shapeshifting phoenix, everything in her life heats up.

Mary said: "Like the wordplay here. Could do without the generic “falling in love isn’t easy” bit and give the reader more of what makes Alianna unique as a character. Don’t need her full name and ID, would rather know who she is."

Blogger Pam Harris said...

Title: WANTS

Genre: Contemporary YA

When two girls discover that their boyfriends are lovers, high school cliques are reevaluated as this “love square” begins to unravel.

Mary said: “High school cliques are reevaluated” is a bit dry, but this gives us a great situation that launches the story. My imagination is sparking."

Blogger Meredith said...

Title: Four Stones

Genre: YA historical fantasy

Four Stones = (The Highlander - swords + sparkly gems) x (one spunky heroine + one reluctant hero) ^ 700 years of English history

Mary said: "I really like the format of this query, very unique to the constraints of the character limit. You take a risk when you break it down like this but it sounds fun."

Blogger Tracey J said...

Title: Alice and Olivia

Genre: MG Contemporary

Everyone thinks Alison's gone for good but twelve-year-old Olivia knows better, Alison would never leave--they pinkie promised she wouldn't.

"I love the emotional sweetness implied by the last line and this sounds like it would really resonate with the MG audience because of the friendship hook. But when you say “gone,” do you mean “dead”? That would mean the difference between realistic and paranormal/magical realism. That’s my one quibble with the query."

Blogger Steph Sinkhorn said...

Title: The Tick-Tock Hearts

Genre: YA Steampunk/Mystery

Pitch: In Edwardian Chicago, Clara must avenge her dead father & stop a group of cyborg immortals fueled by synthetic hearts before they cage her.

Mary said: "I like the idea here but the query, and title, focus too much on the cool idea for cyborg robot hearts that you had, and we get almost nothing about who Clara is as a character. This makes me wonder what else this story has to offer beside awesome cyborgs..."

Blogger Tricia J. O'Brien said...


Genre: YA urban fantasy

A teenager learns she's half-mermaid and must accept being an inter-species freak if she's to reveal mermaids exist & what's killing them.

Mary said: "The mermaid thing has been done but the mermaid species dying out gives this idea really high stakes."

Congrads to everyone! Take a look at the schedule - there is another pitch coming soon! Get your pitches and queries ready :) have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bookanistas Book Buzz!

Winner of Mockingjay is...

Paula Kay Mac!!!

Go ahead and email your address to sjohannes@bilaninc.com Congrads! I will do a huge run on Monday of all the books I need to mail out to date.

So I've gotten some ARCs lately. We've heard all about Matched (coming in Nov 10) and Paranormalcy (coming next week). But, WOW! there are some other awesome books coming out before next summer.

SPECIAL SHOUT-OUT! Let me talk about Across The Universe for a second by my blogger buddy Beth Revis. PW sent out a special edition this morning with her first chapter. Holy crap - you all have to read it. This is definitely in my top 3 for next year! Im so proud of her and its been so great watching her along the way. I started reading her blog a couple years ago. I predict a bestseller and a huge new trend in SciFi. You heard it here first :)

Today I wanted to give a Bookanistas Buzz shout-out to the books we are all excited about - some are obvious but some you may not have heard of yet (I marked the ones in red I'm most excited about :)

Obvious Winners (YA)
  • You by Charles Benboit (Just released!)
  • Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (new YA series) - Next week!
  • Torment by Lauren Kate (sequel to Fallen) - Sept 2010
  • Crescendo by Rebecca Fitzpatrick (sequel to Hush Hush) - Oct 2010
  • Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (sequel to Beautiful Creatures) - Oct 2010
  • The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (sequel to Maze Runner)- Oct 2010
  • Night Star by Alyson Noel (Evermore Series) - Nov 2010
  • Sapphique by Catherine Fisher (sequel to Incarceron) - Dec 2010
  • *Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (sequel to The Body Finder) - Mar 2011
Dark Horses (YA)
  • Halo by Alexandra Aldornetto (Next week!)
  • The Duff by Kody Keplinger (Sept 2010)
  • Plain Kate by Erin Bow (Sept 2010)
  • Firelight by Sophie Jordan (Sept 2010)
  • The Replacements by Brenna Yovanoff (Sept 2010)
  • TimeRaiders by Alex Scarrow (Sept 2010)
  • Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (Oct 2011)
  • Virals by Kathy Reichs (Nov 2010)
  • Hunger by Jackie Kessler (Nov 2010)
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - Dec 2010
  • Across the Universe by Beth Revis (Jan 2011)
  • Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (Jan 2011)
  • Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton (Feb 2011)
  • Demonglass (sequel to Hex Hall) by Rachel Hawkins (Mar 2011)
  • Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young (May 2011)
  • Liar's Society by Lisa and Laura (Spring 2011)
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth (Summer 2011)
  • Possession by Elana Johnson (Summer 2011)
Middle Grade
  • Radiance by Alyson Noel (Next week!)
  • The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson (Sept 2010)
  • The Limit by Kristen Landen (Sept 2010)
  • Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner (Oct 2010)
  • Selling Hope by Kristin Tubb (Nov 2010)
  • Sean Griswold's Head and Princess for Hire #2 by Lindsey Leavitt (Spring 2011)
Check out what other Bookanistas are talking about!

What other books are you looking forward to that are NOT on this list? Who did I miss?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mockingjay Giveaway!

Just bought Mockingjay (along with most everyone on the planet!) and plan to get off Internet and read it tonight.

And yes, I bought an extra one to give to you just because it's you guys that keep me coming back here and posting every day :)

Here is Suzanne reading the first chapter in Mockingjay

This was an interesting interview with Suzanne Collins on how she came up with the idea for The Hunger Games trilogy.

You can see the whole Borders interview here.

Scholastic also has an interview here.

To be entered in Drawing, you must be a follower of me here and on Twitter. Plus you have to leave a comment telling me:

Are you Team Gale or Team Peeta?

Enter by midnight tonight (PST time, 3 am EST)

Down with the Capitol!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Year, Another Wrinkle

So It's my bday today.

*pauses for cheers*

Birthdays and New Years always give me mixed feelings. They restore me some kind of renewed feeling yet dig up all ones. Sometimes, I feel a little sad one about the years gone by. A little regretful of the mistakes I've made. Even a little peeved I'm not where I said I would be by now. Then I feel thankful for what I have and sooo grateful for where I am.

Its a weird day - part of me is scared about getting older. B/c it means my parents are getting older. And my kids are getting older. Yet, part of me gets better with age. More comfortable, happier in my own skin.

Sometimes I just want to freeze time and breathe for just a moment, relishing in all the blessings I have and keep everything just the way it is in that perfect moment.

On the other hand, I have so much I want to do with this life, that time doesn't move fast enough. I have so many dreams that if life freezes, so do my dreams.

Therefore, I'm stuck in between, some days wishing my kids would stay babies, wanting my career to move forward faster. Wishing I could go back and redo some mistakes, yet knowing those mistakes got me here.

So what are my birthday wishes? I have a few...

For time to slow down - its going too fast.
For more patience - even a dose would be nice.
For my family to stay healthy and together.
To enjoy each moment more.
To get rid of some junk in my trunk. Just a few bags would be nice.
To give the girls a lift. (even just a few degrees :)
Connect more with friends (in person. I connect enough online :)
Be a great writer - wait let me be specific - to be a great "published" writer.
Appreciate the small things more and want the big things less.
Learn, Laugh, and Love.
To be a better friend.
To be a better human being.
To give back to this wonderful writing community.
To leave some kind of permanent impression on this world.

Hope you have a great day - on my birthday :)

If today was your birthday, what would be your greatest wish?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mary Kole's Agent Pitch Contest!

UPDATED:Contest Deets

Mary Kole, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary
At this time, Mary is only considering young adult and middle grade novels and truly exceptional, funny, quirky and character-driven picture books (she especially loves working with author illustrators). She's seeking fresh, unique voices and idiosyncratic characters who, by book's end, are more friend than fiction. Her favorite stories are upmarket, high-concept, character-driven and well-plotted...featuring a mix of fast pacing, emotional resonance, and beautiful writing. In essence: literary spark with commercial appeal.

While she's not interested in high fantasy (think Tolkien), she would love to consider realistic/contemporary, character-driven fantasy (think GRACELING), urban fantasy, action/adventure, light science fiction, absolutely unique paranormal (no vampires or werewolves or Greek mythology), and humor manuscripts. She is especially looking for horror, ghost, mystery, thriller and dystopian tales. One of her favorite genres is magical realism: a story set firmly in our world, only with a twist—something that turns "reality" on its ear—to make things more interesting. Favorite themes include: family, home, unlikely heroes, discovering one's voice, and finding one's equilibrium after a big life event. Mary adores manuscripts that make her laugh, make her tear up or punch her in the gut. She also loves stories of friendship, romance, betrayal, full of those "first time" moments that make teenage life electric and unforgettable.

Gets a query critique from Mary!

When: Today, Friday August 20th. Begins at Noon EST, ends Sunday 22nd at noon EST (I will close comments when it ends and go by the time stamp on blogger.)

What: Leave your 140 character book pitch (for MG, YA, and select PBs - see above list) in the comments.

  • If your manuscript is still in WIP - you can enter since this is a query critique.
  • Your pitch must only be 140 characters (not words!) so be creative. If it is longer when I test it in twitter, it will be disqualified. so be sure! You can check this either on Word, on Twitter if you have an account, or here.
  • This is for unagented/unpublished book writers only. (if you've published articles or essays - you can enter!)
  • You can only enter once so choose wisely!
  • You must be a follower of my blog. If I were you I would follow Mary's's blog and Twitter too just b/c they are awesome and she does a lot of contests there.
In the comments you must leave the following information to be considered: title, genre, your 140 character pitch, and your email.

Example: YA Survival Suspense - Grace Under Fire When her forest-ranger father disappears,Grace uses her survival skills to search the NC mtns & finds a secret group plotting against nature
Here are a few reference articles on writing one sentence pitches:

Nathan Bransford (agent)
Rachel Gardner (agent)
Query Tracker
Scribe Chat
140 character pitch

Good luck!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bookanistas - A dash of "Radiance"

Bookanistas discuss Radiance by Alyson Noel

I got this book at BEA and was excited to read it. First, I love Alyson (hello! who doesn't) and 2nd I was interested to see the other side of Riley. I've read the Evermore series so I wanted to follow Riley's experience from that fateful day. I also think its wonderful that paranormal is moving into the MG and tween market.

About the book:

Welcome to the Here & Now
Riley Bloom left her sister, Ever, in the world of the living and crossed the bridge into the afterlife—a place called Here, where time is always Now. Riley and her dog, Buttercup, have been reunited with her parents and are just settling into a nice, relaxing death when she's summoned before The Council. They let her in on a secret—the afterlife isn't just an eternity of leisure; Riley has to work. She's been assigned a job, Soul Catcher, and a teacher, Bodhi, a curious boy she can't quite figure out.

Riley, Bodhi, and Buttercup return to earth for her first assignment, a Radiant Boy who's been haunting a castle in England for centuries. Many Soul Catchers have tried to get him to cross the bridge and failed. But he's never met Riley...

My take on it:

If you are a fan of Alyson Noel's Immortal Series , then you will enjoy finding out more about Riley and what happened to her on that fateful day. If you haven't had the chance to read the series, it doesnt matter b/c this book stands on its own.

First I LOVE the cover. I'm kinda getting tired of the same ole animated or cartoonish covers that a lot of MG books seem to get. I think most Middle graders and tweens want books that are more like the cool YA books we see everyday. More books showing real people doing real things.

I also love the sassiness of Riley. She funny and spunky and like most tweens - you cant tell her what to do. If you do, she'll probably want to do it even more. I think it's rare to see this kind of sassiness in MG and I like that it is opening up to something more than just sugar sweet tweens. I think Riley shows us exactly what it might be like to be a tween and have your life ripped away from you. You would not be happy. You would be kinda annoyed. right?

I also love that Radiance seemed to "talk up" to tweens. It was a little more advanced in vocabulary and it was first person so you really got to know how Riley felt. I think some MGs today are too simplified for kids this age. (I wish we could see more MGs that have more layers - like Harry Potter. I think that's why kids loved HP so much!)

The book is a very easy read. You can read an excerpt of Radiance.

Question - If you died today, what do you think would be the first thing you would do in the AfterLife. Kinda morbid but kinda fun at the same time. (Am I sick?)

Here's what the other Bookanistas are up to this week:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mary Kole - Agent interview and Pitch Contest

Mary Kole's Agent Pitch Contest starts this Fri am at 9EST and ends Sun am at 9 EST. Winner gets a query critique from Mary. Come back Friday at 9 am EST for more deets on how to enter!

Hint - get your 140 character pitch ready!

Now, here is Mary Kole:

Hi Mary, tell us about yourself. How did you get into agenting?

I had been writing YA for about two years, got an agent, and went out on submission. When my manuscript didn't sell, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the business and see things from the "other side of the desk." I'm never really satisfied with what I know and always want to keep learning. I started reading for an adult agency, then started reading and giving editorial manuscript feedback for my now-colleagues at Andrea Brown. It was the first time I really felt completely at home doing in a job, and I've been an official agent with ABLit since August 2009.

As an agent, what would you say is the state of YA today? What are you seeing too much of? What aren't you seeing enough of?

YA is changing, I think. Paranormal is still strong with readers, but editors, who are MY primary customers, are clamoring for really unique paranormal, fantasy, and dystopian, as well as contemporary and realistic stories. I see way too many derivative manuscripts -- girl, sixteen, discovers she has powers (through a diary, book, dream, vision, amulet, ghost, etc.), right as the hottest guy she's ever seen inexplicably transfers into her class...and provides a key to her powers and her destiny. Yawn. I've read it hundreds of times. There are more interesting stories out there and I challenge YA writers to find them.

You are building a great resource/site – Kidlit? How did this come about and what is your goal?

Since you can only query one agent at Andrea Brown at a time, I wanted to differentiate myself and attract submissions. I have eight amazing colleagues and I'm the newest agent, so I wanted to stand out and get my name out there, right from the beginning. But aside from that, I also come from a writing background and really enjoy teaching. This way, I reach out to potential clients, provide valuable content for writers (see more on this, below), and talk about the publishing business and the writing craft -- all of my favorite things to do, wrapped up in one blog!

What is a queryfail for you? What is a query success for you?

The least successful queries fail to make me care about the character and story. Other, smaller failures, involve queries that are too long, opening with a rhetorical question or making hyperbolic claims ("This is the next TWILIGHT!"). Here's a formula for a successful query, from my Kidlit blog.

How do you help your clients promote their books? What is an agents’ role in that if any?

A lot of writers don't realize how important in-house support for a book can be. Publishing is a business of relationships, so I make sure that author, editor, marketing department, and more, are all working smoothly together, all while generating enthusiasm from everyone I talk to on a client's behalf. Having grown up in Silicon Valley, I'm very interested in the Internet's role in book promotion, too. I happily discuss strategy, provide blog/website advice, and brainstorm with writers. I also talk up clients at my own events and, since I travel so much, I try to make connections with booksellers around the country -- you never know when you'll need to plan an event!

What do you feel is critical when doing book publicity?

Most people are selfish creatures, and that's not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to promotion. Most readers ask themselves, "What's in this for me?" So when you do any kind of promotion -- running a blog/Twitter feed, a contest, having a reading or event, doing an interview -- make sure the reader gets something out of it, too, besides the super awesome chance to purchase your book. Do giveaways. Bring goodies to events. Give away bookmarks and book plates. Talk about writing, reading, your book's themes or subject matter -- not just about yourself and the product you're selling.

My favorite book promotion tactic comes from David Morrell, an adult author. At a writer's conference, he told the audience about his recent book, something to do with urban exploring. Except he didn't mention his book, his characters, or his story at all. He talked for five minutes about the practice of urban exploring -- sneaking into abandoned urban properties, like buildings, factories, and warehouses -- and why it's so interesting. I feel like I learned a lot during that talk -- new facts for my cocktail party repertoire, score! -- and it got me excited to give the author something in return: my money.

Give your readers and future readers something valuable or cool, even if it is just a fun factoid. I repeat, don't make promotion all about you, you, you.

Last question – what is your biggest fear and why?

I'm a pretty anxious person, so I could go on, but why air all of my neuroses? One of my biggest fears, and I never hope this interview becomes ironic, is becoming deathly allergic to something I love to eat. I'm a total foodie and I don't know if I could be trusted to choose between, say, the sushi roll or the ER.

Thanks Mary! :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Donut Days from Hell

Saturday was not a good mommy moment for me. Another #mommyfail to add to my long lists of #mommyfails.

So this past Saturday after my husband leaves for work (yes on a Saturday! But we wont get into that in this post) I decide to take kids for a donut run.

Donuts + kids = happy times. Right? WRONG! Donut + kids = Disaster waiting to happen.

Let me set it up for you

(main character tip: you must get the reader to sympathize with your Main Character so they care about the story and stick with them even when they do things the reader may not like)

(Backstory tip - don't do it unless it is critical to the story - This is so it's appropriate)

Here's mine - My kids have been out of camp for a couple weeks. After an exhausting week at LA, my dad having major spinal surgery, and my daughter being out of camp the same week. We spent the week at the hospital and American Girl getting her ready for school. Then when she went back last week, my son was out ALLLLLLL last week. Meanwhile, I am fighting a nasty cold and my hubby had visiting clients, therefore was forced to work long hours. All of this = NO REPRIEVE.

Needless to say, after the intellectual drain of LA SCBWI, the emotional drain of watching my dad, the financial strain of American Girl store, I was weak. Tired. Tapped. And over the week, I started to feel like my kids were slowing chipping away at my mommy armor, complaint by complaint, need by need, want by want. My invisible force field was weakening.

Mommy Offense #1 - Lacking in necessary equipment
(creating conflict tip - its important to provide the conflict up front so the reader is pulled into caring how the conflict is resolved. )

For the record, I do not have the latest model in the huge line of Mommy Force Fields. I have a very (VERY) old model that has been banged on, torn at, and picked at for about 6 years. So there are hairline cracks, fractures, holes and yes! it is totally MY fault that I have not upgraded to the newest and latest model. (or is it my husband's for not buying it for Mothers Day instead of seeds for the garden. Again, a whole other post.)

I have seen some woman who have been blessed with the upgraded model. I envy the capabilities: The always look cute and pulled together button, The everyday shower lever, the 24/7 smile-no-matter-what- feature, The nothing-cracks-me bonus addition, the one that comes with "100% patience guarantee" and the "lifetime guarantee". The one that promises to lasts for over 5,000 meltdowns while doing a million chores or you get your money back (and probably even a makeover!)

Of what model do I speak of? The MFF 5000 (Mommy ForceField 5000)

Unfortunately, I was suckered into leasing the one that was on clearance a few years ago b/c I could not afford an upgraded one. I got the used model. With previous owners. The one with no frills. No special tricks. The mainframe of Force Fields.

The FF100. (in case you don't know the 100 is the number of meltdowns covered. The number I go through in - oh lets say - a month?)

You see where I am going. (Are you sympathizing with me - The MC - yet?)

Offense #2 - Giving 6 and 3 year old Choices they are clearly not equipped to handle

Yes, for some reason, I have it in my head that kids deserve to make their own choices (damn you Dr Sears!) I made the critical mistake of asking 2 innocent children the age old question that still causes controversy in some adults:

Donuts or Krispy Kreme?

character arc tip - It is important to show some kind of emotional growth in your character over the course of your book. They must have learned something from the conflict.

My lesson? I've realized that I give my kids waaaaaaaay to many choices in life. My 6 year old and 3 year old have somehow gotten it in their mind that since I let them choose which plate they wanted or which Dora episode to watch, that they now are in charge of telling me how to drive, suggesting (demanding) ways for me to spend my money, and implementing new rules in the house around bath/bed time without parental consent.

Scene of the Crime
rising action tip - It is the events leading up to the Climax. Confused - Just read on and you'll get a good example.


Setting: In the car, songs playing, all of us singing along with Elmo
setting tip - its important to set the stage so your reader feels as if they are there. As if they are experiencing everything the MC is - the car, the kids, the donuts.

Me (hereby known as Defendant): "Ok Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme?"

Daughter, Age 6 (hereby known as Perpetrator #1) - "Dunkin Donuts"

Son, Age 3 (hereby known as Perpetrator #2) yells "Kwispe Kweme"

: "Well, do you want little round donuts or big ones."

1: "Big"

2: "Little"

Setting: Mom drives to Dunkin Donuts. Reasoning: b/c its closer, has small AND large donuts as well as big coffees. Family pulls into DD.

dialogue tip - it is important that you create real characters and dialogue that the reader feels is real including the appropriate dialect and word choice.

Perp2: "I don't want dis pwace (he's 3). I want da pwace where donuts go like dis" as he mimicks the big donut machine with his hands. (I know cute right? Lets see how CUTE he is later)

-" This is our only option . Other place is closed." (misdemeanor: lying in hopes of avoiding meltdown from perp2)

1 cheers with hands in the air - "Yay Dunkin Donuts!" (Again, don't her deceive you either.)

Setting: Inside at counter with poor lady serving donuts to loud family before 7 am.

Defendant: "A dozen donuts please. (proceeds to call out the 12 donuts. Lady fills in 5 of them .Defendant turns to Perp #1). What donut do you want sweetie?"

#1:" I dont want a big donut now. I want a small donut."

: "You said you wanted a big donut. Are you sure you want small ones now? B/c once I get them, you can't change your mind."

#1: "yes."

gets big donut.

#2: "no, I want a big donut."

(starts sweating) -"Wait, I thought you wanted SMALL donuts. (turns to lady frowning at counter). "OK so instead of 12 donuts, knock me down to 6 and add 25 munkins."

#2: (says "I want big donut" over and over and over and over and over again in my ear.)

pats his little head: "shhhh, I heard you. I got you a big donut."

#1 - "How many little donuts do i get to eat?"

- "I don't know, probably about 5?"

#1 raises voice: "5! that's it?Well then I want a big donut instead."

#2 yells at sister - "No! you get small donuts. Me get big donuts!"

grits teeth as lady hands over 6 donuts and munchkins. Defendant grabs bags and whispers to Perps with "THE LOOK" on her face. "Both of you stop it now or you will get NO donuts." Defendant turns to frowning donut lady. "Can I also get a iced hazelnut coffee?"

#2 - "No, I want an iced coffee."

- "You cant have coffee."

#2 - "I never get anyfing."

#1 teases Perp #2. "Yes you do. You got apple juice this morning."

#1 hits Perp #2. kids proceed to argue....LOUDLY.

speaks through gritted teeth. "Both of you better stop it and get in the car. NOW!" Defendant smiles at frowning lady and the long, long line of frowning people that have gathered impatiently waiting for donuts. "Sorry."

Both Perps continue to argue all the way to the car.

Setting: Inside car, which is a SUV but now suddenly feels like a really, really smallish compact car - with no air or room to breathe.

does deep breaths and blasts high air conditioner to cool off from sweating. Uses happy voice. "Does anyone want a small donut for the ride home?"

#2 starts to cry. "But I wanted a BIG donut"

breathes again.: "You'll get a big one when you get home. But do you want a small one now?"

#2 "No! Only big one!" This dialogue exchange repeats a few times.

Finally, after almost hitting a car and running over a woman, frazzled Defendant ignores Perp #2 and speaks to Perp #1 "What about you honey, do you want one of your small donuts?"

Perp #1 "Is it 1 of my 5?"

Defendant: "Yes."

#1 "Never mind, I want a big donut."

Defendant: "I told you if you chose small donuts, you'd have to live with your decision. I did not get you a big one."

Perp#1: Can I have your big donut and 2 small ones?"

Defendant starts to lose grip on reality. "No!"

#2: Still crying. Only its getting louder.

#1: starts crying too.

Pause for commentary.

OK so this all was much, much worse than this reenactment suggests but my fingers are getting tired of doing dialogue and my heart is starting to pump as I relive the trauma of that morning.

Anyway, you get the point.

So after days of exhaustion, sickness, hospital visits, no husband back up, and being beaten down by my little devils...I mean kids....I lose it in the car. Yelling at them. At. The. Top. Of. My. Lungs. (Now, I admit I do bark/yelp occasionally. But ever since Dr Phil said "Raising your kids does not mean raising your voice." I try hard not to yell....too much.)

Now, I know you all are saying "Thats OK. Every mom loses it sometimes."

But I'm here to tell you that, I REALLY LOST IT. I went from 0 - 100 in less than 5 seconds. To be honest, I don't even know where it came from. My kids are usually pretty good kids and Ive had days where they've done worse than this before I've simply hollered calmly or yelped loudly. But for some reason, this was the day, my FF100 decided to breakdown and meltdown with no battery backup. My FF100 shortcircuited for about 30 seconds. But enough time to do some damage.

Not only was my throat sore the rest of the day, casing me to be slightly hoarse (AKA a battle scar) I think I might have even spit on the windshield. I yelled at my kids sharing some of the following points of brilliance you can only get from a mom:

"do you know how many kids in Africa want donuts?"
"how can you be fighting over donut size? A donut is a donut."
There were also some mumbles about "how I do everything for them" and "how come they cant appreciate it when they get something" and "why cant we just get along".

Then I turned up the radio loud - so loud - loud enough to drown out the crying. I think I even blew out a speaker and I'm pretty sure Ill never want to hear California girls again. (I know bad right? I'm not proud of it I just couldn't take it anymore.)

As soon we get home, i practically fall out of the car, drop my coffee, and watch MY donut roll down the hill. Now I can't even be an Emotional Eater!? I stomp into the house with crying kids behind me (feeling like a complete failure and total loser, hungry with no caffeine in sight) and sentence my criminals for their offenses.

Good times....

Sentence: No donuts for 24 hrs, Solitary room confinement of 1 hour, total silence required until otherwise notified.

Both Perps are paddywagoned into their rooms. Doors slam. Crying conmenses. I go to my office and you got it - start crying. I call my husband who after listening patiently to my rant about ungrateful and spoiled kids calmly says "Honey, I don't blame you. I think you should talk to them but don't let them see you crack or they'll miss the whole point." Then I call my mom crying and tell her I'm sorry for all the times i complained about donuts (b/c I think I remember some. Or was it about cheese???). I try to call my best friend and my brother. But they are wise in not picking up. After I cool down (and sneak a few small donuts!), I go into each room with my strong, prepared "noncracking" speech.

"I am very dissappointed in how you two acted at the donut place and I'm also dissappointed in myself for yelling. I'm sorry for yelling. (Defendant starts to tear up and voice starts to shake.) Having a choice is a priviledge that you 2 no longer have that right today. You will listen to everything I say without a peep. If you argue, additional jail time will be required. If you groan, manual labor will be in order. And if you balk, lives may be lost. For now, you may come out of solitary confinement and play in your jails together until I am ready. If you are good and don't argue with each other, I will let you out on parole for "good behavior" and LET you accompany me to the bookstore. Where we will buy nothing - no toys, no food, no books. Today, you may do nothing but eat and breathe. Please nod if you understand the terms of which you are being granted."

2 slow nods and many apologies and hugs/kisses.

The rest of the day, they were angels.

When my husband gets home, he asks the kids. "I heard mommy got mad this morning."
Daughter: "Mommy lost it b/c we were fighting over donuts."
Me: "On a scale of 1-10 - how bad did I lose it?"
Daughter: "100"

Conclusion: I have already contributed 150$ to each of their therapy punch cards so that someday they can afford to discuss THE DONUT EPISODE with a licensed professional.

Oh yeah, and next time i get donuts, I go in alone.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Winners of Fabulous Follower Contest!

Winners of the 1000 Follower Giveaway
Thank you all so much for following and visiting!

Winners, please email me at sjohannes@bilaninc.com with your address. It must be a US address.

Grand Prize + query critique - Sherri Peterson
Firelight (ARC 9/10)
Red Moon Rising (ARC 11/10)
Revolution (ARC 10/10)
Body Finder (HB)
The Enemy (ARC 5/10)

Faithful Follower#1 - Deb Salisbury
Wings (ARC)
Wake (PB)
13th Reality HB
Meanicures (ARC/10/10)

Faithful Follower #2 - Tere Kirkland
Revolution (ARC 10/10)
Candymakers (ARC 10/10)
Dangerous Neighbors (ARC 8/10)
Daughters Break The Rules (ARC 11/10)

Blogger Buddy - Jamie Burch
Candymakers (ARC 10/10)
Songs for Teenage Nomad (ARC 9/10)
Death of Silas Winterbottom (ARC 9/10)
Who Killed Wesley Payne (ARC/2/11)

Lovable Lurkers - Anna
The Replacements (ARC 9/10)
Virals (ARC 11/10)
Girl Parts (ARC 8/10)
Jane (ARC 10/10)

Lovable Lurker #2 - Okapi
The INvisible Order (ARC 9/10)
The Exciled Queen (ARC 9/10)
Adios Nirvanos (ARC 10/10)
The Witch's Kitchen (ARC 10/10)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

1000 Follower surprise giveaway!

Wow - 1000 followers! seriously. Do I really say something interesting?

I must say, since Ive taken some time off, I miss you guys commenting so much.

Is that sad? Yeah, kinda is huh?

So to all my wonderful peeps - tell me "What book are you most looking forward to in the fall?"

Comment and I'll giveaway a ARCs/books :) I might just have it in my stack of free goods.

Especially you lurkers out there. If you are a lurker - comment and Ill do a drawing for one Arc just for you! (You have to admit you are a lurker though!) I dont get 1000 comments a day. Under 100 a day so where are the other 950 of you?

Come out come out wherever you are.

Don't forget to include your email so I can respond you each of you personally :)

WriteOnCon - Author Branding

Today, I stopped by WriteOnCon to talk about Author Branding.

Come by and say hi!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You should be at WriteOnCon 2 day!! Not here!!

As you know my dad is recuperating form major surgery so I have not been able to get my posts.

Look at the right side for the new schedule, including the upcoming agent pitch contest.

I'm sure you're not missing me since all of you are probably (or should be) attending WriteOnCon.

Is you can't afford to go to conferences like most of us, this is going on and its fabulous.

here's the schedule, so check it out!

*all times EDT, LIVE events are noted in blue and will take place here. Content will take place on the main WriteOnCon site. Click here for more info about how this will run. Click here for information on the live events.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010:

6:00 AM: Welcome Keynote by author Josh Berk

7:00 AM: Refining Your Craft with Each Book by author Janette Rallison

8:00 AM: Give Yourself Permission by editor Molly O’Neill

9:00 AM: Myths and Misconceptions by literary agent Holly Root, and editors Molly O’Neill and Martha Mihalick

10:00 AM: Illustrating Children’s Books by author/illustrator J.H. Everett and studio (series of 3, posted every 20 minutes)

11:00 AM: Bringing the Funny by author Rachel Hawkins

12:00 PM: Becoming a Career Author by literary agent Catherine Drayton

1:00 PM: Writing Middle Grade by author Jon Lewis

2:00 PM: Voice by literary agent Elana Roth

2:30 PM: Live chat with literary agent Suzie Townsend

3:00 PM: Writing a Query Letter by author Jodi Meadows

3:30: Joanna Volpe’s query critique

4:00 PM: In Defense of a Less Than Huge Advance by literary agent Michelle Wolfson

5:00 PM: Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Revision by editor Kendra Levin

6:00 PM: Pie in the Face (how characters react to situations) by author Rosemary Clement-Moore

9:00 PM: Panel of Professionals chat LIVE (Elana Roth, Kathleen Ortiz, Martha Mihalick, Paul Samuelson)

10:30 PM: Working with Agents and Editors, a live Workshop with literary agent Mark McVeigh

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

6:00 AM: Romance in YA by author Lisa Schroeder

7:00 AM: Plot and Pacing by author/literary agent Weronika Janczuk

8:00 AM: Using an Independent Publicist by author Lauren Becker

9:00 AM: The Revision Process by author Cynthea Liu (series of 3, posted every 20 minutes)

10:00 AM: Transition From Self-Published to Traditional Publishing by author Jennifer Fosberry

10:30 AM: Joanna Volpe’s query critique

11:00 AM: Live blogging event: Queries with literary agent Natalie Fischer

12:00 PM: Creating Memorable Characters by literary agent/author Mandy Hubbard

1:00 PM: Reaching Out to Schools and Libraries Before You’re Published by author Stasia Ward Kehoe

2:00 PM: Sex in YA: The ABC’s of Hooking Up by author Suzanne Young

Live chat with literary agent Natalie Fischer

3:00 PM: Keynote Address by author Lindsay Eland

3:30 PM: Writing Genre Fiction by author Julia Karr

4:00 PM: Do’s and Don’t’s of Querying by literary agent Kate Testerman

5:00 PM: Authentic/Edgy YA by author Kody Keplinger

6:00 PM: How to Make a Character Collage by author Tera Lynn Childs

7:00 PM: Live chat with literary agent Jennifer Laughran

9:00 PM: Panel of Professionals chat LIVE (Anica Rissi, Joanna Volpe, Suzie Townsend, Mary Kole)

10:30 PM: Building an Online Presence, a live Workshop with author Daisy Whitney

Thursday, August 12, 2010

6:00 AM: Writing With a Real Life by author Lindsey Leavitt

7:00 AM: Writing Advice from PJ Hoover and the Texas Sweethearts

8:00 AM: Writing Realistic, Captivating Dialog by author Tom Leveen

8:30 AM: Author Branding by author Shelli Johannes-Wells

9:00 AM: How to have a Successful Author Event at a Bookstore by Calondra McArthur

10:00 AM: Q&A by literary agent Steven Malk

10:30 AM: Writing a Complete Story Even Though it’s Part of a Trilogy by author Michelle Zink

11:00 AM: From Submission to Acquisition: An Editor’s Choose Your Own Adventure by editor Martha Mihalick

12:00 PM: Transitioning from Adult to YA by author Risa Green

1:00 PM: Rhyme in Picture Books by author Tiffany Strelitz

2:00 PM: The First Five Pages by Kathleen Ortiz

3:00 PM: Writing Thrillers for Young Adults by author Kimberly Derting

3:30 PM: Picture Books and Easy Readers by author Shelley Thomas

4:00 PM: Staying positive in the face of rejections by author Crystal Stranaghan

5:00 PM: Avoiding Character Stereotypes by literary agent Mary Kole

6:00 PM: Creating New Mythologies by author Aprilynne Pike

9:00 PM: Panel of Professionals chat LIVE (Michelle Andelman, Molly O’Neill, Kate Testerman)

10:30 PM: The Revision Process from Both Sides of the Desk, a live Workshop with literary agent/author Regina Brooks

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

UnPlugging for Dad

Hey guys - I know everyone is dying to hear about my LA trip :)

My dad had emergency spinal surgery and its much worse than I expected so I'm unplugging for the rest of the week to help take care of him.

Plus my daughter starts 1st grade - yes 1st grade!!! - on Monday.

The agent contest is moved until next week.

Have a great week and see you back here on Monday :)