TIMELESS Giveaway and Interview with D.E. Atwood

Today I’m interviewing D.E. Atwood, fellow author in the TIMELESS anthology of young adult love stories by Pugalicious Press. Just enter a comment below for a chance to win your own copy!

Q: Congratulations on the publication of your story “In This Moment” in the TIMELESS YA anthology by Pugalicious Press! As a fellow author in the anthology, I know I began to brainstorm ideas as soon as I saw the call for submissions. Did you do the same, or had you already begun working on your story?

A: A friend passed along the call for submissions because she knows I write YA, and she wasn’t sure I had anything already written that might work for it. The answer was, I didn’t, but I really wanted to write for it. “In This Moment” isn’t actually the story I originally intended to write! I knew I wanted to write something crossing fantasy with a GLTBQ love story, and I had actually planned out something entirely different.

The first story I started to write was about a girl growing up on an army base in the 1960s who meets a water nymph in the lake behind the base. But the story, even though I could see it all in my head, wouldn’t flow. Then I woke up with the original first line for Roland’s story ringing in my head: The first time he escapes, he doesn’t know how it happens. And just like that, I had a story with fully formed characters in my head ready to burst onto the page and be written.

Q: No dates are mentioned in your story, but the details–including the doctor from Vienna and his practices–placed the story at the turn of the 20th century to me. I love this time period, and I assume you do, too. Care to share what inspired this particular setting for you?

A: Clockwork automata. The story grew entirely around Roland, I have to admit. I didn’t set out to write steampunk, but I quickly realized that Roland was a boy caught between two things in his life that hid him away from the rest of the world, and I wanted to give him hope on both fronts. I loved the idea of using both magic and steampunk technology to help draw him from his shell. The image of a future Roland, what he might be after the end of the story, was what drove me as I wrote it and helped formulate the world for me.

Q: I love how you threw us right into Roland’s POV and kept the reader turning the pages with all the mysterious aspects of the story. What had happened to him? Would he get well? Would he ever find real love? Did you outline these plot points, or did they develop more organically while writing?

A: I have to admit that outlining is the bane of my existence! I am an organic plotter, and I am a completely character-based writer. My plots are drawn from my characters needs and desires and goals, so making sure I knew exactly who Roland and Will were was the most important thing for me. Once I could put myself into their heads, the story grew from there. I knew what Roland was seeking from the start, but I didn’t know exactly where he had come from, or how he had arrived where he was. It was his conversations with Will that drew that out, so yes, definitely organic development there.

Q: Many books and stories alternate POV, but I found the way you used alternating past/present tense in your story to be an interesting and less-used technique. Did you find that this allowed you more freedom than if you had kept one tense throughout?

A: The tense shift was critical for me. I wanted it to serve multiple purposes. First, it’s a signal to the reader that the world is shifting between the reality (past tense) and Roland’s dreams (present tense). But it’s also about Roland’s point of view, where the dreams are immediate and very real to him, and very in the moment, but his reality is slow and more plodding. I wanted to show that shift in how life feels by changing tenses, so the world slowed down every time it shifted back to reality. I also wanted the distancing effect that seems to come with past tense. One reason present tense is so popular in YA fiction is because it places the reader right there with the character, while past tense sets a barrier of time between the reader and the character’s experience.

Q: Tell us a little more about your writing career. Any other works-in-progress you’re currently writing or revising?

A: In the past I’ve written, and had published, stories for adults under another name, but “In This Moment” is my first YA publication. But YA is where I want to work, writing novels and stories that mix fantasy and GLBTQ characters. I have one novel that needs to be revised, and one for which I’m currently seeking representation. I also have two more that I’m working on outlining. I’m hoping to have the first draft of one of those completed and ready for critique by the end of the year.

Q: What are your favorite YA books of all time?

A: I recently wrote a post about the top three novels that affected me as a teen! The full version is here: http://deatwood.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/the-top-three/. But in list form, the top three are:

RITE OF PASSAGE by Alexei Panshin
CHILDREN OF THE ATOM by Wilmar Shiras
THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH by Marilyn Singer

Q: A last question for a Timeless author: if you could time-travel to visit any time and place ever, where and when would you pick?

A: Hah, that’s a loaded question! I love historical time periods for fiction, but I have to admit, much of what I love is the romanticization of those time periods that happens when stories are told. The reality of history is darker and more difficult, and I’m not sure I’d actually be happy in most true historical locations.

But out of them all, my favorite era is probably Elizabethan, if only for Shakespeare. On the other hand, I’d want those story elements of Shakespearean fairy magic as well, unrealistic as that is. I want my history to have some fantasy in it, and if going back in time would get me that, I would love to do so.

Find D.E. Atwood on twitter and her blog.

Timeless is now available as an ebook through amazon and  Barnes & Noble. Love stories that transcend time. From a thousand years ago to the unknown future, Timeless will show how love is timeless. This anthology of love stories contains “The Storyteller’s Daughter” by Gayle C. Krause, “And The Nightingale Sang” by Kip Wilson, “A Light Of Victory” by Jennifer Carson, “The Angel Of The Bastille” by J.R. Sparlin, “Stella’s Hero” by Kristine Carlson Asselin & Ansha Kotyk, “In This Moment” by D. E. Atwood, and “It Lies Beneath” by Magda Knight. Hope you enjoy it!

Interviews with other TIMELESS authors:

http://krisasselin.blogspot.com/2012/07/timeless-interview-with-kip-wilson.html

Write Your Passion

I recently answered interview questions for an upcoming issue of the NESCBWI newsletter as the Ruth Landers Glass scholarship recipient this year, and I still can’t stop thinking about one of the questions.

I was asked about breaking into the magazine and anthology market, and my response was that targeting submissions–and continuing to submit in spite of the inevitable rejections–helped get my work published.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how true this is.

Magazines

When I first began submitting queries, my acceptance rate was pretty dismal. I really, really, really wanted my work to be published, so I tried many magazines, whenever I thought their submission calls or assigned themes seemed interesting.

Without realizing it consciously, I changed tactics in recent years, submitting queries almost exclusively in my field of expertise (languages). In my mind, I was taking the easy route. These articles would be easier to write, since I have an advanced degree and shelves of reference books in my own house. Having worked in the language software field for years, I’ve dabbled quite a bit in languages I don’t even speak, so I already have some understanding of the difficulties in learning them.

Yet every time I get an acceptance for one of these articles, I do a little jump for joy. Why? I realize now that it’s more than getting them published–it’s because they’re so much fun for me to write. In the end, it’s all about the passion. As an added bonus, my acceptance rate has improved with this change in tactics.

Anthologies

Anthologies are different from magazines because you generally need to write and polish the entire story before submitting it. For me, passion for a piece plays an even larger role with this type of writing.

My first published piece was a story called “First, un Bocata de Calamares” in the SPAIN FROM A BACKPACK anthology. I adore Spain; I love backpacking; I am currently drooling over the thought of a good bocata de calamares. Needless to say, I was thrilled when my piece was accepted and published!

My second piece is about to be published as part of the TIMELESS anthology of YA romance. As soon as I saw the call for submissions for historical YA stories, I knew it was completely up my alley and I threw myself into brainstorming ideas for a piece. In the end, the idea that formed in my head  drew on my passion for German Literature. My story, “And the Nightingale Sang,” is based on a poem by Walther von der Vogelweide, a German troubadour who lived from 1170-1230.

My main character, Elisabeth, is the fictional love interest who inspired “Under der Linden,” a poem von der Vogelweide wrote from a peasant girl’s perspective. As I worked on the story, I spent my free time re-reading his poems and listening to the medieval songs of Hildegard von Bingen to get in the mood of the story. Bliss!

I hope readers of my story will be able to see how much fun it was to write! Writers, do you have any similar stories about writing about your passions? I’d love to hear about them!

Writing or Querying? Try Road-tripping.

We all know that it’s a good idea to step away from the computer sometimes. But it’s so tempting when it’s right there, isn’t it? Especially when you’ve gotten in the habit of writing or revising every day, or when an agent might be tweeting something relevant. *coughs*

A couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed to physically step away (farther than across the room from my dear, darling laptop). Luckily for me, the timing was perfect to drive out to Wisconsin with my four-year-old twins to visit family, so we got the little Scion xA all gassed up and ready to go.

One of the best things about a road trip? Road trip food that’s different from what we get at home:

The trip couldn’t have been better. Not just the visit with family, which is always fun and doesn’t happen often enough, but the open road, the freedom, the time to think. (Yes, one can even think with two preschoolers in the back of a Very Small Car, having provided them with books, favorite stuffed animals, and the music of their choice.)

Of course I brought my laptop along (duh), but I used it sparingly. Instead, I read books (when not driving), scribbled outline notes on my next WIP in my notebook, and listened to my own music when it was my turn: Beethoven, Sigur Rós, Utada Hiraku. So peaceful, so free!

Now that I’m back, I’m digging back into drafting, but it sure seems like fun again after stepping away. Highly recommended!

Stats from #TheWritersVoice

Curious where your manuscript fell compared to the other entrants of #TheWritersVoice contest? Look no further!

My intrepid partner and fellow entrant Ann Bedichek (http://annbedichek.com/blog/) and I crunched the numbers and have the following lovely charts to amaze and amuse.

First off, this contest was open to adult, YA, and MG manuscripts, but the overwhelming majority of entries were YA. Have some YA pie:

As far as genre went, there was a very mixed bag, including a wealth of surprises! Genres in the chart are as close to what was self-identified as possible (some were not identified). Keeping that in mind, the three most-represented genres were fantasy, contemporary, and sci-fi. Wow! Check out the deets here:

And finally, the genre breakdown of the winning entries–looks like contemporary stole the show! Congrats to all the winning manuscripts!

TIMELESS Anthology

I’m thrilled to be able to share the news that my story was selected for the TIMELESS YA romance anthology being published by Pugalicious Press.

First off, the gorgeous cover:

Check out the full list of included titles and authors: http://pugaliciouspress.com/2012/05/02/timeless-short-stories-announced/

My story, AND THE NIGHTINGALE SANG, takes place in an Alpine village in the year 1188. I hope it’s as much fun to read as it was to write! Look for it as an eBook in June 2012.

 

Thank you, NESCBWI!

Thank you, New England SCBWI, for putting on such a fantastic conference! And by NESCBWI, I mean everyone involved: the faculty, volunteers, and members. The energy in those keynotes and workshops was amazing.

The highlights for me this year (because just saying “everything” would be a cop-out, right?) were:

  • Meeting Sara Zarr, Kate Messner, Jo Knowles and Jane Yolen in person. There is nothing like chatting with an author you admire! What down-to-earth and sweet people they all were.
  • Critique and craft. I got an in-depth, helpful critique from an agent–the effort she put into it amazed me! Likewise the information I learned in both the keynotes and workshops will stay with me as I return back home and begin writing and revising again.
  • The Blueboarder dinner on Friday night. So fun to actually meet people in person I “know” from Verla’s, as well as make new Blueboarder friends!
  • Finally, I cannot thank the NESCBWI enough for awarding me the Ruth Landers Glass scholarship for my YA manuscript. And apparently it’s perfectly acceptable to blurt out, “SHUT UP!” when they announce your name. Just in case anyone was wondering.
  • Thanks to Betsy Devany for snapping this awesome photo of me with Marcela Staudenmaier, who won the Ann Barrow scholarship for illustrators!

Can’t wait until next year!

Drafting and Revising: Finding What Works

When it comes to switching from drafting to revising, lots of people have advice.

“Push through with your draft!”

“Resist the urge to revise!”

I try. I really do. And I can usually make it–most of the way.

But I’ve discovered recently that I do the same thing with each manuscript. The good thing is that my method fits something else people always say, “Do what works for you.”

My drafting/revising process looks like this:

  • Get idea.
  • Go, “Oooooh.”
  • Try to forget idea.
  • If idea won’t go away, start drafting. Just a chapter or two.
  • Put draft aside.
  • After at least a week, look at drafted pages. If  reaction is “meh,” set aside. If  reaction is “oooh,” outline.
  • Prepare 9-point-plot outline.
  • Get some feedback. Apply to outline and first pages.
  • Draft. Draft a lot. Go as far as possible.
  • Keep getting feedback. Collect, save, set aside. Keep drafting. Resist the temptation.
And then it explodes. Kerplooey! Splat! Gaaaaah!
  • Give in. For me, this is usually sometime before the climax. I’m questioning my outline. I’m thinking of the great feedback I received. I go back to the beginning and revise.
  • Once I make it through the revision and back to where I was with the draft, I’m energized. I have a plan. I know where I’m going. At this point–and only at this point–I can finish my draft.

This is what works for me. But I only figured it out by breaking the rules that work for others. Best of luck finding what method works best for you!

Tagged!

The fabulous Jaye Robin Brown tagged me and some of the #wipmadness crew with a new set of questions in the latest question-asking tag game passing through the interwebs: http://jayerobinbrown.blogspot.com/2012/02/tag-youre-it.html

Her five evil questions aren’t actually all that evil:

1. What is the  best meal you’ve ever eaten – what, when, and where.

Not evil, but wow, this is a hard question for a foodie! I’ve had delicious meals here in Boston (most recently a five-course tasting menu at Upstairs on the Square in Harvard Square, drool), in Austria (bone marrow soup! Wienerschnitzel!), and Iceland (is it bad that we tried whale?), among other places. But hands down, some of the best foods I’ve ever tried were in Spain, and so here’s a photo of one of my favorite dishes we had last year, arroz a banda, a rice cooked in seafood broth and then served with the fish and of course aioli.

2. What is your earliest memory?

I was about three years old, and I’d wandered out into the tall weeds behind the house–well above my head–and before I knew it I was alone. I’d never been lost, and had never been completely alone. It both thrilled and terrified me, and I remember tingling with excitement. After reveling in my independence for a few minutes, I turned around and went home, feeling like I’d been forever changed.

3. If given your choice of a secret rendezvous with any fictional hottie – who would you choose?

Don’t laugh. But the love interest in my current WIP is about my favorite ever. I’d pick him over any fictional hottie right now.

4. What is your favorite joke?

OK, this question is a little evil. I guess I’m a fan of the oldie-but-goodie about the three strings who walk into a bar and end up with a frayed knot.

5. Pick three words to describe yourself (one is just too hard!)

Persistent, energetic, and open-minded

So! For the next part of the tagging, I have to hit up three other friends with five more questions. I’d love to hear answers from:

Kerri Maniscalco: http://kerrimaniscalco.com/

Elodie: http://commutinggirl.wordpress.com/

Ruth L. Steven: http://ruthlaurensteven.blogspot.com/

Without further ado, my questions:

1. Keeping with the foodie theme, what’s your signature dish? Something you make that blows people away and that you luuuuurve.

2. If you could be any fictional character, whose story would you want to live?

3.  If you won a magical trip to any destination and had to use the setting in your next novel, where would you go?

4. Your favorite five authors. Go!

5. What music are you listening to while working on your current WIP?

Writing Retreat of Dreams!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.
 
This Week’s Topic:
 
Describe your dream writing retreat. Where would you go? Who and what would you bring?
 
This topic is something I think about a LOT. Like many others, I squeeze writing into my daily life, and the idea of a writing retreat conjures up all kinds of images of productivity. Who wouldn’t want a a honeymoon with a WIP instead of a quickie?
 
Thus a dream retreat for me would really be anywhere that provided stretches of alone-time, plenty of tasty food and caffeinated beverages, and the opportunity for literary discussion, all in an inspiring setting.
 
The place that best fits the bill for me? Ronda, Spain:
 

 
Specifically, I’d choose the HOTEL REINA VICTORIA (http://www.hotelreinavictoria.es/es/hotel-ronda/main), a place that offered the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke the peace and inspiration he needed to write.

I’d bring my laptop of course, a stack of books, and a notebook and pencil for scribbling in the garden. I’d love to have a group of writerly friends along too, for those literary discussions after productive writing sessions. Anyone with me?

Pseudo-NaNoWriMo

First off, I’m not a “real” NaNoWriMo participant.

But … but … even though I’m not doing it for real, I love the idea of NaNo. The zest and spirit floating around on the interwebs as writers pile up the word count and advance their stories. The dedication with which they attack their manuscripts one day at a time. Every day. I just love it.

So I decided to do a Pseudo-NaNo this year. It feels a little like cheating, but I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to surge forward with so much company. My Pseudo-NaNo has two simple rules: 1K words minimum. Every Single Day.

Another thing I’m cheating on is that this is not a brand new manuscript. I had close to 20K and a detailed outline for this project when I started the month, which means that the 30K from November will put me very close to finishing the first draft.  Motivation, people! It’s all about sitting in the chair. Isn’t it? *blinks*

So cheers and good luck to all the real NaNo-ers! And same to any other Pseudo-NaNo-ers out there! Feel free to share any Pseudo experiences here. 🙂