I'm author ELLE STRAUSS and welcome to my website!
I write fun, lower Young Adult (teen) fiction to do with whimsical things like time-travel, fairies and merfolk.
When my serious side peeks out, she's called LEE STRAUSS. She likes to write upper YA about real things that have happened in the past, or made up things that could quite possibly happen in the future.
This blog is about books, mine and other fab authors', but occasionally I'll share about other topics.
Thanks for dropping by!
Friday, October 29, 2010
2. And yesterday I hosted Janice Hardy on her blog tour for her second book, BLUE FIRE in her Healing Wars trilogy. I’m offering my copy of the first book, THE SHIFTER. In order to send more people her way to discover her excellent blog (she also blogs a lot on the process of writing and publishing) you need to follow her blog as well as mine to enter to win. Easy Peasy. And since there aren’t a lot of entries right now, your chances are really good. Click HERE to enter.
3. I've added a list on my blog for Authors Who Blog About Writing and Publishing. There are way too many authors who blog for me to list, so I'm highlighting ones who focus more on the technique and business of things, plus share their own journey. This list will probably grow over time. Go check it out!
4. Next week is the beginning of the craziness known as NANO. Since I’m already crazy enough, I’m not officially entering but I will be surfing on the nano energy, writing away on my formerly trunked novel.
How about you, are you doing Nano this year?
Happy weekend, everyone!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.
Worth the Trip-- by Janice Hardy
I’ve often joked that had my MG fantasy, The Shifter, been the first book I ever wrote, I’d think this whole publishing business was easy. The writing went smoothly, the agent search was a breeze, and it sold fairly quickly. But I know better. I have a drawer full of unsold manuscripts and a stack of rejections, same as most writers out there.
So what made The Shifter different?
I could go the easy route and say I finally wrote something publishable, but that’s not going to help anyone. But maybe sharing some of the steps I took to get from un-publishable to published will.
I got objective about my work
I had a nagging suspicion for a long time that the novels I was trying to sell weren’t bad, were maybe even good, but not great. To make it past the hundreds of other good, sometimes great, novels in the slush pile, I had to be really great. I needed that spark, like a literary flare, that said “this novel is worth buying.”
Problem was, I had no clue how to do that. I needed someone or some way to shed light on why no one would read my work. I got lucky and a friend recommended going to the Surrey International Writers Conference. I didn’t have any critiques of my work or anything, but the sessions there – especially the how to pitch your novel session – really opened my eyes and made me realize what those flaws in my novel were:
No strong protagonist with a conflict capable of driving a whole novel.
What really drove this home was when I was unable to write a decent pitch for the book. (This is why I always write a query before I start a novel. To test the idea) Without a strong protag, solid conflict, and high stakes, it’s almost impossible to write a good query. It’s also almost impossible to write a good book without those pieces.
I studied what made books work
One of the things I took away from the conference was that I needed a fresh idea. Originality was key to getting attention. I found that fresh idea in an old idea file of mine, dusted it off, and tried to figure out how I could turn this idea into a story worth publishing.
I looked at some of my favorite books. What openings hooked me? What first lines drew me in? What plots kept me reading? And most importantly – why? Before long I started to see patterns. Humor in the opening line really worked on me. External plot problems held my attention. Unpredictability kept me reading. These were all things I tried to incorporate into my developing idea. It wasn’t about what I liked about my story, but what writing mechanics worked to keep me interested in a story.
I focused on the fundamentals
I tend to think up plots and situations first, then create characters to put into them. I knew I needed a strong conflict that could carry an entire novel. And that conflict had to matter, with high stakes. The core conflict of this new novel had to have enough inherent conflict in both the world and the characters to connect it to a lot of different subplots and problems that I could build off of and help increase the story’s tension. It had to be a conflict with layers, not just a one-punch situation.
Once I had a good idea of the core conflict, I focused on a protagonist to put into that conflict. I went back to the basics: who would be hurt by this situation? Who had the most to lose? Who was willing to risk the most for the most gain? I kept reminding myself that stories are about interesting people solving interesting problems in an interesting way. I needed to find that person, that problem, and that solution.
I got personal
My manuscript problems in the past had always been because my novels were premise novels, stories about ideas, not a person with a problem. For The Shifter, I kept it personal. It was Nya’s problem to solve, not a cool idea for me to explore. The problems mattered to her, and she had personal stakes if she failed. That helped me keep the goals strong, the stakes high and the story moving.
Once the book was written, the rest was about the same as any other novel I’d done. Write the query (which was FAR easier because I had all those solid pieces to work with), synopsis, and send out the pages. I did my research the same, checked out potential agents, read the blogs, made my lists. But the thing that was different this time was the book I was submitting.
I did learn a few new writing tricks between the book that didn’t sell and the one that did, but nothing that would have made that big a difference during submission. It wasn’t like something suddenly changed about my writing ability. I was the same writer while writing book three as I was when writing book four (The Shifter). But the book, and how I approached it, was different. It was written with a lot more attention to what made a successful book, not just what kind of cool story I could tell.
I think that made all the difference. Great idea + Great writing + Great story = Sellable book. Drop one piece and you can only get so far. Develop all three, and you can go all the way. Sure, it takes work, but it’s also something that can be achieved with hard work. It might not be the easiest path to take, but it’s one worth taking.
More about BLUE FIRE
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.
Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.
You can purchase your copy by clicking HERE.
Now here's how you can win my copy of THE SHIFTER:
All you have to do is be a follower of this blog AND a follower of Janice's blog The Other Side of the Story. Janice blogs a lot about the How To's of writing and publishing and I've quoted her more than once. So get over there and say hi!
+2 entries for following both of us, +1 for FB, +1 for Twitter and +5 for posting this contest on your blog.
Let me know in the comments how many entries you qualify for. Contest ends November 12.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
My blog is one year old! I can’t believe how much it has grown in one year—walking, talking, eating solids. I’m proud as punch; do you want to see a picture of it when it was born? Click HERE. (Actually, it looked much different, I kind of photo shopped it—new template—but the babble is authentic.)
Spiff has been with me all the way. He's changed a bit too!
So much has happened in a year. After I took that shaky first step and started blogging, I ventured out in Twitter and Facebook. I’ve made so many great on-line friends; I really don’t know how I managed to navigate the rapid waters aspiring writers need to conquer all alone.
I signed with an agent, sent out a couple ms’s into the wilds of the submission world, wrote another book, sent it out (okay, they seem to be taking the scenic route, but my babies are still out there somewhere), started writing How To posts (which is scarier than one might think) and I left my part-time day job to write full-time.
I wish I could add that I sealed a book deal as well, but I suppose I have to leave some fun for year two.
All this to say, we must celebrate!!! And what better way to celebrate my new friends than by sharing books. I’ve won a few along the way and purchased some too. You could win your choice of 4 of these books just by commenting. (I’d love to give them all away, but can’t cough up the postage, ahem, see point where I left my job.)
PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS by Michelle Zink
GUARDIAN OF THE GATE by Michelle Zink
BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver
INGO by Helen Dunmore
CINDY ELLA by Robin Palmer
WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED by Judy Bundell
KEEPING THE MOON by Sarah Dessen
SPELLS by Aprilynne Pike
And four books on writing:
WHAT A WRITER NEEDS by Ralph Fletcher
PLOT & STRUCTURE by James Scott Bell
CHAPTER AFTER CHAPTER by Heather Sellers
THE SELL YOUR NOVEL TOOL KIT by Elizabeth Lyon
You get +1 entry if you’re a follower (old or new), +1 if you FB, +1 if you Twitter, and +5 if you post the contest somewhere on your blog. Just let me know how many entries you qualify for in the comments.
Contest ends Friday, November 5th.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
OSTENSIBLE (ah STEN suh bul) adj apparent (but misleading); professed
* Blake’s ostensible mission was to repair a broken telephone, but his real goal was to eavesdrop on the boss’s conversation.
* Trevor’s ostensible kindness to squirrels belied his deep hatred of them.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I worked part-time in administration until recently. I’m fortunate that I have a husband who brings in the bulk of the bacon, so he’s willing to give me some time to work at building writing as a career.
Here's something I've wondered for a while now...why do you have your blog on two locations? (Blogspot and LiveJournal).
How do you cope with the stress of sales? I'm forever worrying I won't sell enough copies,
She's worried about people taking and sharing her work. Any advice about that?
information I've gathered from listening to other people:
I have no idea about children's books as ebooks, but I know Dragonfly
Publishing does them. She might check out their website (dragonflypubs.com) and see if they answer those questions.
Smashwords.com is the website I know a lot of people use for ebooks. I
think the format has to be a PDF.
As far as sharing, etc, I wouldn't worry about it. Once people own a book,
it's theirs to do what they want. They might loan it to a friend. They
might give it to a library. They might resell it. Same with ebooks. It
doesn't really end up making a huge difference when people let friends
borrow their books, and I doubt it will with ebooks, either.