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!
Monday, February 28, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
1) If you read Monday's list, you'd know hubby and his band mates were stuck in a snow storm in Minneapolis. Well, the funny thing is, the news crews did a story on all the cancellations and they made the news on two channels! What a worn out motley crew LOL!
And yes, they finally made it home not too worse for wear.
2. I got Rosetta Stone German Language for PC in the mail this week. You might remember that I had this program on the Mac that I used at my old job, but when that job went, the Mac went too and Rosetta Stone along with it. This means I've been without a language program since September. Time to get my gray matter working on a second language again! When you hang out in Europe you get funny looks when people find out you only know ONE language.
3. I love that I've written some new stuff lately. Even editing and revising isn't that bad when you're work is say under a year old. BUT, now I'm revising a ms I started in the fall of 2005. It was a hard book to write--subject and style way over my head when it came to my skill set at the time. This translates into endless revisions and versions of the same story. It's much, much better now, of course, but I am so sick of it. Facing the pages each day is like pulling off fingernails. Well, maybe not that bad. Still, after all these years and all this work, I can't give up on it. I'm getting too close to getting it right. Finally.
4. On a sadder note, you've probably heard the sad news that L.K Madigan passed away this week. I posted last month when I heard the news of her illness, how I was a little less than excited when I'd heard about the recent release of her mermaid book, MERMAID'S MIRROR, because, by golly, I had just written a mermaid book, and competition...well it brings the worst out in some people. This is a reminder to me of how petty we (I) can get about little things, and how big things like Living and Raising Your Children and Growing Old With Your Spouse, are the real rewards. Lisa taught us that with her life. My deepest sympathies to her family and friends in their loss.
5. My blog post from yesterday, A Self-Publishing Success Story, was picked up by an e-magazine. This is a first for me and is kind of cool. It's called the NascPublish Special. I'd never heard of it before, but it looks like an awesome site for writers and people interested in publishing. Go check it out!
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I had the privilege of reading early versions of LOST IN LEXICON (and she also read early versions of CLOCKWISE, soon out on submission), and so it is really exciting for me to see it printed and selling well. And the latest good news is that LOST IN LEXICON has just been picked up by a small press, Scarletta Press. Click on the link to read their press release.
I recently interviewed Pendred. You'll be inspired by her story.
ES: Unlike a lot of authors who decide to self-publish, you had an agent--why did you decide to self-publish?
PN: My agent sent LOST IN LEXICON around to children's editors for a year, but they turned it down as too old-fashioned or too didactic. By that time I had shared it with a good number of children, and I was convinced there was a market for a brainy, witty book that mixed words and numbers with adventure. So when my agent told me she didn't think she could find a home for it, I decided to take things into my own hands. In other lines of business, I thought, entrepreneurs fund their own dreams. Why not in writing?
ES: Do you still have an agent?
PN: No. My agent decided she didn't really understand the children's market anymore. However, she did help me pull together my freelance publishing team.
ES: What are the things you did that helped you succeed as a self-publisher?
PN: I hate to say this, but the first was adequate funds. I made the decision right from the start that I wanted the book to be published as professionally as it would be by a large publisher. That meant finding a great illustrator and top quality editing, art direction, design, and printing. I learned a huge amount about what goes into producing a book.
Second, I signed on with a distributor, Greenleaf Publishing Group, that could help market to the trade and get books into bookstores.
Third, with the help and prodding of my wonderful friend Rebecca Raibley, I made a huge marketing push. We decided to try everything. We began months in advance of the pub date, hiring both a traditional publicist and a young social media marketing firm called Nectar Creative Group. We designed an interactive website. I work in education reform, and when people have asked me to come talk about math or science education I've asked if I could also do a session on integrating math and literature at the middle school, using LOST IN LEXICON as an example. I began blogging, first in the names of my two main characters (http://ivansnumberblog.
ES: Are there things you did, that you'd now say weren't really helpful?
PN: Bookstore signings are very iffy. I made a special trip to a bookstore in Albuquerque that expected to bring in school groups of a hundred kids, and absolutely nobody showed up. That was expensive and disappointing. I think some of my radio appearances have been fruitless. I've probably done a few too many book giveaways on mommy blogs.
ES: You now work with a small press. How did you get involved with Scarletta Press?
PN: When I was looking for radio shows that interview authors, I ran across Write On radio in Minneapolis. I found that it was run by an old friend and writing teacher. I also learned that he was co-owner of a small press called Scarletta that was publishing adult literary fiction. Not only did I appear on the show, I asked him to work with me on editing another book. Over the course of our work together, he talked a lot about wanting to start a children's line of challenging books. Our visions were so well aligned that we finally signed an agreement.
ES: What are the advantages to working with a small press? In other words, why didn't you stay on your self-publishing route?
PN: My goal in self-publishing was to demonstrate enough potential for the book that a "real" publisher would want to take on the book and the series. I want to reach as many kids as possible, and working with Scarletta will open doors to more bookstores, trade shows, and conferences, along with excellent capacity in editing, design, and outreach. . Because the Lexicon books will be the cornerstone of its new children's line, Scarletta is devoting a lot of time and marketing talent to make the book a success. We'll have a new cover and I'll keep talking to teachers and librarians. I hope the momentum I've started can continue to build.
ES: Do you have plans to write outside of the Lexicon franchise? If so, can you share?
My next non-Lexicon book, THE BEECHWOOD FLUTE, is a YA coming-of-age adventure about courage, with echoes of the myth of the Fisher King. I have one or two revisions to go!
Thanks for the great answers, Pendred!
Be sure to check out her book website and her blog.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
BUT, sometimes the whole thing turns into a soul sucking monster.
You probably know what I mean. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook-- Love'em, but they're like baby chicks demanding to be fed. Must forage for food for my chicks. Must. Must. Oh, they're hungry again. Quick where's that unsuspecting worm I saw poking its head out of the earth this morning?
And when you're not scavenging to feed your social internet, you're WAITING. Translated this means, knee shaking, eye twitching, stomach churning, mind whirling seconds/minutes/hours/days/weeks/months of Wasted Life.
Is anyone here with me? Or am I alone in this?
So, very late in the day, it occurs to me...WTH? I can't live my life like this. Somethings gotta change.
That something is me. Or my approach to life. Like actually living it. Engaging in real life--the stuff that happens OFF the page. OFF the computer.
Does that mean I'm ducking out? Not at all. It means that I'm applying the life principle I try to apply in all the other areas of my life. Moderation. This includes time spent on non-writing computer activities. With no guilt added.
This also means I'm checking out of the WAITING ROOM. Not compulsively checking my email (Admittedly, this is difficult, but easier if you keep busy with other things). Not mentally or literally wringing my hands, mind consumed with what I'm waiting for. There is a whole big world out there. People. Family. Fun. Stuff To Do. I'm not going to waste my time waiting.
I know it's a daring proposition. What do you think? Have I finally gone off my rocker? Or is this the first sane thought I've had in a while?
You're a writer, but does your writing life own you?
Monday, February 21, 2011
1. I'm entering a particular stage of life that some of you may have ventured through, though I'm guessing a lot of you haven't. It's the prelude to empty-nesting stage. My daughter gets her full license in a couple months and my twenty-year plus job of Taxi Mom is effectively coming to an end. And yes, I'm joyous about this fact. But I'm also a little, I don't know, weirded out. Not being an in demand driver is going to open up a lot of space. And it just the road sign that says "full on empty nest ahead". Only one more year. It's still a year, so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I've been around long enough to know that a year is a sneeze in the whole scheme of things. My life is changing.
2. On a similar theme, I'm reading a non-fiction book called YOUNGER NEXT YEAR by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD. You know how every so often you see "old" people in really great shape. Unfortunately in our society it's a rare sighting, like spotting a whale's tale fin out on the ocean. I've always wanted to be that kind of old person. And I know that you don't just wake up at 70 thin and fit and engaged in life. If you want that at 70 and beyond, you need to make lifestyle changes now. Not that I'm in a bad way at the moment. I'm in pretty good shape for my age, and some people tell me I look younger than I actually am (I have to thank good genes for that), but I don't want to take anything for granted. If I really want that kind of life later, I have to live that kind of life now. I'm glad I started those yoga classes, but according to YNY, that's just the beginning not the end.
3. My husband is stuck in Minneapolis. A blizzard apparently. Trying to get home from Memphis where he played music at a Folk Conference of some sort.
4. I've done a good deal of writing/revising since the beginning of the year. Got two YAs up to snuff and made good progress on an MG. Today I will tackle an older ms. Revisions, revisions. I'm quite sick of this book so it's going to take discipline. My goal is to be more or less done with my writing projects by March and then I have to focus on other things. Like taxes and my husband's 50th birthday and preparing for our spring Europe trip.
5. If all goes well, I will be out on submission by the end of this week. I've been off the subs track for quite sometime, so I'm nervous/excited to get back out there again. Got close last year. Hope to get a lot closer this year.
So that's my musings for this fine Monday. How's your Monday?
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I never even thought about it until one blogger I read referred to her blog as Fan based and that it wasn't intended to be a resource for writers.
That made me think about my blog.
To say one's blog is Fan based assumes that one has Fans, preferably Fans of Published Material. So, since I'm not yet in that category, it's safe to say my blog is not Fan based. I do write blog posts for the benefit of other writers. It also benefits me to write this way, as I learn from having to research or ponder my thoughts on a particular writing topic.
But what about when that day comes? Not the book deal day, because (first) book deals are celebrated among writer friends, but book launch day. A book launch means people who don't necessarily write or even know you might (hopefully) read your book. What are they going to want when they visit my blog?
Probably not the same thing as the writer community wants.
I started looking for this demarcation on blogs by published authors. It seems like there isn't one right way to go. Some pubbed authors continue writing their blogs with the writing community firmly in mind. Others swing fully into Fan blogging. And yet others somehow manage to do a bit of both.
For example, Janice Hardy has sold multiple middle grade books. Her readers are generally between 9-12. She has recently redesigned her blog to be primarily a resource for writers. It's an excellent blog, and if you're a writer and haven't gone there, then what are you waiting for?
I would say that Kiersten White is a Fan blogger. I don't know if she'd agree with me here, but in my opinion her blogs, though vastly entertaining, promote her books and her brand as an author. Her followers include other writers, (but they're not just writers, they're fans) and I suspect a majority of her recent followers are readers. You won't find sites for writers on her page.
An example of someone who blogs for both writers and her fans is Lisa Schroeder. Though she doesn't have writing links, she does often write about writing and inspiring writers.
Honestly, I'm not sure which way I will go with this when (if) the day comes. It's certainly food for thought.
What do you think? Who do you blog for?
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Contest runs until 10 PM on Sunday, February 20th. Email DL your guess at the culprits name at dlh(dot)hammons(at)gmail(dot)com. Correct answers earn a SINGLE spot in the drawing to win a quarterly gift card of $25 for one year. Incorrect guesses will have their names included only in the general drawing for a single $25 gift card
Are you just now finding out about DL's celebration/contest? It’s not too late to play! First read his WHODUNNIT short story, then come back here and get started. If you guessed during round one and are unsure of your pick? You can guess again after reading all of the clues, a correct re-guess will earn you one more additional spot in the drawing.
Visit these bloggers for the clues!
Alex at http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
VR Barkowski at http://vrbarkowski.blogspot.com/
Ellen Brickley at http://ellenbrickley.blogspot.com/
Mason Canyon at http://www.masoncanyon.blogspot.com/
Jen Daiker at http://jennifer-daiker.blogspot.com/
Damyanti at http://amloki.blogspot.com/
Deniz at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/
L. Diane at http://circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com/
Michael Di Gesu at http://writing-art-and-design.blogspot.com/
Elle at http://ellestraussbooks.blogspot.com/
Jemi Fraser at http://jemifraser.blogspot.com/
Olivia Herrell at http://thatrebelwithablog.blogspot.com/
Elisa Hirsch at http://ecwrites.blogspot.com/
Jess at http://fallingleaflets.blogspot.com/
Jules at http://fragilemouse.blogspot.com/
Justine at http://justine-dell.blogspot.com/
Katie at http://creepyquerygirl.blogspot.com/
Leigh at http://leightmoore.blogspot.com/
Laura Marcella at http://lauramarcella.blogspot.com/
Stacy McKitrick at http://stacysrantings.blogspot.com/
Becky Miller at http://therainydaywanderer.blogspot.com/
Nicole at http://nicoleducleroir.blogspot.com/
Vicki Rocho at http://missvspeaks.blogspot.com/
Sara at http://sarablarson.blogspot.com/
Sarah (Falen) at http://falenformulatesfiction.blogspot.com/
Angela Scott at http://angelascottwrites.blogspot.com/
Shannon at http://shannonkodonnell.blogspot.com/
Sharde at http://www.sharde-richardson.blogspot.com/
Elena Solodow at http://elenasolodow.blogspot.com/
Stephanie at http://blog.stephaniemloree.com/
Su at http://cheekyness.blogspot.com/
Walk2write at http://learningtoheal-walk2write.blogspot.com/
Emily White at http://emilytwhite.blogspot.com/
Kari White at http://karimariewhite.blogspot.com/
Myne Whitman at http://www.mynewhitmanwrites.com/
Yaya at http://yayashome.blogspot.com/
Do you know whodunnit?
Monday, February 14, 2011
Here what bugs me about Valentine's Day: (disclaimer, I've been happily married for a lot of years. No thanks to Valentine's day.)
1. It coerces people in love to have to prove their love on THAT day. Who made Hallmark the love dictator?
2. It pressures new couples to make expressions of affection they may not be ready to make.
3. It makes single people feel like 'less than' because they don't have someone making unrealistic forced gestures of love to them on THAT day.
4. It presses people to buy heart shaped boxes filled with bad chocolate and other gifts that are sure to disappoint, and quite possibly are unneeded items they can't afford.
5. It strong arms half the nation to go out for dinner all on the SAME day.
6. It creates unrealistic expectations between couples of how to show their love on THAT particular day (see point 4 and 5).
7. HALLMARK is the beneficiary of the holiday. Hallmark LOVES Valentines day. Look at all those people emptying their pockets to put their money into theirs. I heard on the radio the other day that American's will spend 16 billion dollars on valentine's day related purchases. I don't know if that's true, but I wouldn't be surprised.
But to avoid being a total Valentine's Day scrooge, I want to shout out to Anne Riley who is giving away 5 copies of her book, THE CLEARING. You must enter before noon today, CST. So, suck back that bad piece of chocolate and go enter!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
I'm excited to share that there's a new agent with D4EO Literary Agency -- Kristin Miller -- who'll be repping both middle grade and young adult alongside Mandy Hubbard.
If you're looking for an agent, this could be good news for you. Because, new agents are hungry for clients and they don't have a towering slush pile yet.
THIS IS HOW I GOT MY AGENT. My first agent, Natalie Fischer was brand new to the industry this time last year. I jumped at the chance to get my material to her.
As Weronika states in her post, new agents are also willing to spend more time on edits.
This is true. Not only did I get a pretty quick request for a FULL, I got the coveted OFFER! And Natalie was great. I wasn't at the bottom of a big client pile. She gave me tons of great editorial feedback and responded to my emails within a day. Believe me all that is lovely. (And because some of you will ask, Natalie moved on to Bradford Lit and I stayed with SD and am now represented by the equally talented and wonderful Taylor Martindale).
Speaking of Mandy Hubbard, I saved a blog entry by her called Show Me the Money, wherein she adeptly attempts to remove the mystery that shrouds the money tree in publishing. If you have questions regarding the basics of getting your advance including tidbits on 'earning out' and 'world rights' check it out.
What are your views on new agents? Are you willing to give them a try, or are you sold on sticking with experience?
Monday, February 7, 2011
He also gives a few tips of what not to do.
But if you really want to know what equals First Paragraph Fail you need to read the post by Elena Solodow who somehow got the job as first reader of, remember the number? 1500 entries. That's a whole lot of paragraphs to read.
Of over 1500 entries, only just over 200 went into the worth passing on to Mr. Bransford file.
So what did the other 1300 entries do wrong. Well, Elana serves up quite a long list, but I'll give you a taste of a few of her no-no's.
-opening with weather
-opening with back story
-opening with a question
-opening with whining character
-passive boring writing
To name a few. It's so easy to default to these methods. For some reason we feel like we need to ease into the story, but this is WRONG. Don't ease in, get to the conflict right away.
Reading Elana's list (which you should do, since she elaborates way more) made me re-read all my beginnings. Just to make sure.
How about you? After reading Elena's post, did you see how you could do better?
Friday, February 4, 2011
I don't mind that.
I also tend to root for the under dog. Even when it's not the home team. This I experienced at a basketball game last night at my daughter's high school. Not just a game, but the Western Canada AAA Championships. This meant standing room only, excessive teen spirit and ear splitting noise. A wall of energy, throbbing, expectant. All cheering for the home team.
Only a little cheering section for the visiting team. Such an unfair psychological advantage. As the game progressed, it was clear that the home team was a stronger team.
Despite myself, I found myself cheering for the visiting team. What a traitor am I! It's not that I wanted my daughter's school to lose, I just wanted them to earn their win.
There was a healthy eight point spread at half time.
Which was the real reason I went. I like basketball, played it myself in highschool, but I went for the half time show. The KSS dance team. My daughter's team.
So, what does all this have to do with writing?
Heck if I know. Maybe it's a character study and I just happen to be the character. Quirky non-conformist who loves the under-dog, anyone?
Maybe it's just a plug to visit your local highschool and support their teams/art/music, if just to get a good soaking in YA subculture.
Maybe it's to remember to put your kids first. Watching them dance/play/work/etc is more important than writing all the time.
Yeah, that's it.
How about you?
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
But, you're not writing a screenplay are you? you ask. Well, no, but I'm a firm believer that understanding screenwriting techniques are a huge benefit to novel writers. In fact, you would do yourself a great favor if you wrote a screenplay simply as a writing exercise.
I did this. Twice. One was modern retelling of Annie that apparently I could never sell because of copyright issues (and yes, it was still worth writing for all the lessons I learned--no writing is wasted writing). The second one was a screen version of the book I had published in Germany about a woman who discovers her mother has a secret past, but she can't tell her anything because she's in final stages of Alzheimer's disease.
I'm not planning to write another screenplay but as I started this book I thought I try using Blake's Snyder's advice while planning and completing the Middle Grade I started in December.
His first instruction: Write a logline. Yes, you are to do this before you write one word of your screenplay.
According to Snyder, a logline should have four components.
1) Irony. This creates a hook.
A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists --Die Hard
A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hirs to be his date for the weekend -- Pretty Woman
2) A compelling mental picture. You must be able to see the whole movie in it. A good logline, in addition to pulling you in has to offer the promise of more
3) A built -in sense of who it's for
4) A killer title to go with the logline
Wow, that's a lot to expect from one line, don't you think? Snyder's claim is that your logline is your plumb line when you start writing. If you start writing something that's veering away from your logline you need to stop and consider what needs to change, your story or your logline?
He also goes on to say that we should test market our logline with friends and strangers. Their response will reveal whether your logline is working and if you have an idea worth pursuing.
So, I'm going to go all vulnerable here and take a cautious trip out on a fragile limb and give you mine.
Title: Owen True (Alternate could be The Twists and Turns of Owen True)
Update: Latest Title - HAYWIRE HECK, latest logline: A rich kid wins the heart of a poor town and has a change of heart himself.