Monday, September 30, 2013

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

After reading through a series of facebook posts incessantly complaining about a series of trivial things, I realized something really important. By worrying about every little small thing that goes wrong in our lives, we are stressing ourselves out. BIG TIME!

Believe me, I get it. I'm just as guilty as the rest when it comes to complaining about things. But you know what? While venting makes us feel better, odds are if we have time to complain about stupid stuff, we are really lucky in life. And should stop and remember that.

I came across an interesting study over the weekend about happiness. Know what the number one thing is that makes people happy? Well, it's sure not whining about dumb things.

It's showing gratitude.

Just think about that for a minute. (I'll wait)

By showing others how much they mean to us, we make ourselves happier.

So stop for just a few seconds and appreciate all the people and things in your life that are special to you. Forget the little things, that traffic jam, the barista that got your coffee order wrong, the fact that it's Monday morning, and remember all the good and wonderful in your life. You'll be much happier for it. And who knows, if you share it with someone else, you just might make them smile too!

Happy Monday all! I love you guys!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Review of Ultraviolet Catastrophe by Jamie Grey

Quantum Electrodynamics. String Theory. Schrödinger's cat. For sixteen-year-old Lexie Kepler, they’re just confusing terms in her science textbooks, until she finds out that her parents have been drugging her to suppress her outrageous IQ. Now Branston Academy, a school run by the world’s most powerful scientists, has tracked her down and is dying for her to attend - as a research subject.

She takes refuge at Quantum Technologies, a secret scientific community where her father works as a top-notch scientist, and begins her new life as girl genius at Quantum High. But the assignments at her new school make the Manhattan Project look like preschool - and Lexie barely survived freshman algebra.

Her first big assignment – creating an Einstein-Rosen bridge – is also her first chance to prove she can hold her own with the rest of QT's prodigies. But while working with the infuriatingly hot Asher Rosen, QT’s teen wonder, Lexie uncovers a mistake in their master equation. Instead of a wormhole, the machine they’re building would produce deadly ultraviolet rays that could destroy the world. Now Lexie and Asher have to use their combined brainpower to uncover the truth behind the device. Before everyone at Quantum Technologies is caught in the ultraviolet catastrophe.

*Summary from Goodreads

My Review
Sixteen-year-old Lexie Kepler has strange flashes of brilliance that she can't explain. Turns out she is one of the smartest teens in the country, but her parents hid it from her. Under the rouse of needing ADHD medication, her parents suppressed her extreme intelligence. But when some of the world's smartest scientists from Branston Academy come looking for her, her mom sends her away from the life she's always know to live with her dad who she barely talks to. Her dad lives in a town run by Quantum Technologies, a secret scientific research facility where the best and the brightest scientists and students research and learn.

On her first day at Quantum High, Lexie feels less than average compared to her super smart classmates, including the handsome Asher Rosen. Asher is the resident class hottie who dates all the girls in their small class. And as if feeling stupid in a class full of geniuses wasn't hard enough, Lexie finds herself inexplicably drawn to Asher and jealous of her classmates that seem to fawn all over him.

During their first big assignment on wormholes, Lexie is picked by Asher to work on the student team. When she discovers a mistake in the primary equation, it looks like someone may be trying to sabotage the project. Lexie must work closely with Asher and her classmates to figure out who is behind the plot, all the while wondering who she can trust and if Asher's flirtations are genuine or not. 

Lexie is a great lead in the story. She's a strong character. While she frequently doubts her intelligence and self, it's based primarily on her past and the fact that her whole life has been hidden from her to keep her safe. As she learns the truth about her life, she continues to grow confidence and learns to trust her instincts even when it comes to Asher. 

With girls dying to date Asher and his incredible skills in computers, one would think he'd be extremely arrogant. But Asher is the furthest thing from it. He knows he's smart but he doesn't flaunt it obnoxious way. He's charming, caring, and aside from his high level of intelligence, pretty down to Earth. I found his character refreshing and a fun addition to the story.

When Lexie and Asher pair up, things to do with the project seem to go well while their romantic interests are a constant struggle. Asher wants to know more about Lexie but she just sees the other girls and how smart Asher is in comparison to how far behind she is. There are many tense romantic moments between these two that I really enjoyed.

Overall Ultraviolet Catastrophe is a fun read filled with really smart kids, cool technology, a bit of romance, and a hint of mystery. I really enjoyed uncovering the truth and following along as Lexie's story unfolded. I'd recommended this book to anyone who enjoys light sci fi with some romantic elements. It's a solid 4 stars.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

MG / YA Blog hop

I’ve been tagged in a MG/YA blog hop and was asked to answer the following questions by the amazing Thomas Torre. 

1.      What are you working on right now?
I have a few projects going on right now. 
  • I’m querying a MG science fiction about 13y/o Gary Jones that gets abducted by aliens and gets telekinesis. He has to complete missions for the aliens in return for his ability, while trying to figure out what they are really up to. It’s Sky High meets Ender’s Game with young alien trainers reminiscent of Jedi masters.
  • I’m furiously editing a YA science fiction called Tracker 220. It’s a futuristic science fiction thriller that blends technology similar to Google Glass and a fast paced thriller world like Minority Report.
  • I also have a very baby WIP that’s also a YA science fiction. I can't say too much about it yet but it’s set in space.
2. How does it differ from other works in its genre? 
For the MG, there’s not tons of MG science fiction but there is a lot out there that has kids with superpowers. So I tried to set my story apart by making the origin of the powers from aliens and I made them come with a cost. I mixed in some cool advanced alien technology while putting a unique spin on how superpowers are used.

For the YA science fiction thriller, I combined advanced technology, with a fast paced thriller world. I threw in strong female characters including the protagonist and a cute nerdy boy.

For the baby WIP, well I can’t say much but I’m basically trying to take a popular space scifi tv show and spin it for YA while throwing in some other interesting and tricky elements. Do with that what you will.

3. Why do you write what you do? 
Why do I write science fiction? Two reasons. One, I’m a rocket scientist. I was brought up with scifi and I want to share it with the world. Two, I love the question what if. I love looking at things that could be even, if they are sort of out there. What if can take you anywhere.

Why do I write YA? Because it’s basically all I read. Despite never wanting to write, once I started reading a lot, I started having all these ideas of my own. One day they wouldn’t shut up so I started writing them down.

Why do I write MG? More details on that, on the fantastic MG Minded blog! Check it out.

4. How does your writing process work?
Oh there’s a loaded question. I would say several times a week I hear something or see something that makes me go what if… and I write it down. Usually that doesn’t go anywhere, but every once in a while, from that idea and plot, characters start to emerge. The more the ideas stew the more of the world and characters develop. So then I start an outline. Chapter by Chapter I usually write a handful of sentences about what should happen in that section. Every once in a while I’ll get a few paragraphs of prose and/or dialogue that I’ll include with that chapter.

When I have about a quarter to a third of an outline I usually start writing. I don’t typically know how things will end other than a general idea when I start. As I write, the back of the outline starts filling in. And I write in order until I finish. If a scene snippet comes to me, I fill it into the outline where it belongs.

Every time I sit down to write, I spend the first 10 minutes or so reading the prior section. If I find typos I fix them but mostly I just read to put me in the mindset of the story. Typically that’s enough to launch me into writing the next section. It also helps me maintain flow and pacing.

So that’s my writing process. We won’t talk about how brutal I get with my editing ;)

And that’s a little bit more about my writing. I’m going to tag a few MG/YA writers, Mandy P., Christina, and Michelle, so they can give your their answers to the questions above. :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Harsh Reality of Querying

I've been kind of quiet lately on Twitter about my writing and things going on. And it's because I've been pretty down lately. Okay not just down, I've been a miserable wreck. Honestly I hesitated to write this post because as writers we are often told it's best to keep quiet. We shouldn't talk about requests, rejections, or being out on submission. If we are feeling down we shouldn't blab on twitter, because that is something we should keep behind closed doors. So that's primarily what I've been doing because we aren't supposed to look crazy in public; even though everyone knows writers are crazy. But I've come across some hard truths that I thought I should share with everyone.

Querying is hard. No not just hard, it's soul sucking torture at times. I honestly never anticipated how gut wrenching it would be. I did my research before I even sent out my first query. I didn't make any of the standard rookie mistakes, I got critique partners, I workshopped my query, and I followed all the major do's and don'ts of querying. I figured because of this I'd have a little easier time in the querying trenches.

Boy, was I wrong.

Just because you studied what makes a good query letter, does not mean you will instantly get requests. And even though you may know what makes up a good query letter, it doesn't mean you wrote one. In fact you may get form rejections just like everyone else who does make those rookie mistakes. And that could be for a variety of reasons.

You aren't standing out in a crowd
So you had an awesome idea, you wrote a book, and you edited and polished it until it was ready. Now you're querying. So what makes your book different from every other book out there with a protagonist that has superpowers or is a ghost, or just discovered there's a secret world within their own? You may think you're idea is great and so different than anything out there, but if you aren't conveying that clearly in your query, an agent is most likely going to pass and may not even read your pages. Harsh? Yes, but it's the truth of matter.

Again you may have an awesome idea, and the agent may even look at the query and agree. But then they get to your pages and they don't connect with the voice, or the character or think you started in the wrong spot. There's any number of reasons an agent may pass and it may be because they personally just don't get along with your work. They don't love it enough to want to read your book a million times and that's what it takes.

Your query is too long
A lot of agents skim queries. It's seems unfair that you put countless hours into perfecting your query and an agent just spends half a minute on it. But the reality of the situation is, agents get anywhere from fifty to several hundred queries a week. And queries, are unfortunately at the bottom of their list of priorities. They read them in between working with their clients, trying to sell books, negotiating contracts, and numerous other things.

While agents love new clients, they have to take care of their current ones first. So when they open a query that looks long, they are probably just going to start skimming. Think about it, when you open a webpage or blog that has a lot of words, you skim too. So why would an agent who has a million other things to do take the time to read your six paragraph query? They aren't, unless they find something that piques their interest.

In fact, even if your query is short, they may have only a few minutes so they may start skimming. So do yourself a favor. Make your queries short, and to the point. Make your sentences snappy and pack a punch. Do everything in your power to make your book stand out in as few sentences as possible while highlighting the voice of your story.

Honestly that right there is where I'm getting hung up. It's not easy to paint a clear unique picture about your book in a few short voicey paragraphs that grab someone's attention. So even if you are doing everything they say in the do's and don'ts you still have a lot of work ahead of you. The harsh reality is just cause you're ahead of the pack and not making "rookie" mistakes doesn't mean you're where you need to be in the querying trenches to catch an agent's eye.

But I didn't write this post to scare anyone. I wrote it to put the truth out there and to talk about my experiences and lessons learned. I wanted to let other writers know they aren't alone in the querying trenches and it's okay to feel down. I'm right there with you! If you are getting requests pat yourself on the back. It's quite an accomplishment. And if you aren't, maybe it's time to take a step back, look at your query, and re-evaluate. I know it's been eye opening for me.