Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Okay, I don't frequently post movie trailers on the blog (Read: This is the first time)....

But THIS is The HOBBIT!

Need I say more?

Enjoy it, Precious!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grammatically Yours – Common Misuses of Semicolons (5/5)

So far, we have discussed what a semicolon is, why it is important, and how we can use it. In this final post of the series, we are going to do a quick overview of a few of the most common misuses of semicolons.


1. Never use semicolons to introduce a series.

Incorrect:

The following people will moderate this discussion; Nina, Adam, Lindsey, and Trace.

Correct:

The following people will moderate this discussion: Nina, Adam, Lindsey, and Trace.

2. Never use semicolons to link independent clauses with dependent clauses. (Click here to view the post discussing the difference between independent and dependent clauses)

Incorrect:

As soon as I saw the look on his face; I knew it was bad.

Correct:

As soon as I saw the look on his face, I knew it was bad.

3. Do not overuse semicolons. If used too often, they become a distraction or, in some cases, a hindrance to the reader. Overuse leads to tedious, flat, or even choppy writing. Don’t be afraid of the semicolon, but do use it sparingly. If incorporated properly, it can strengthen your sentence structure and give you variety. Otherwise, it can and *will* be a detriment to your writing.

Remember: Semicolons are only used to link independent clauses or to separate items in a series.

This wraps up the final post in the five-part semicolon series. Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comment box below. As a reminder, I do take requests for future "Grammatically Yours" posts. Email me or leave a comment below if you have a grammar concept that you would like me to address.

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day Five: Common Misuses of Semicolons <you are here>

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Grammatically Yours – Linking Independent Clauses with Transitional Words (Semicolons 4/5)

Yesterday, we discussed using a semicolon to link two closely related independent clauses. The semicolon gives equal weight to the two clauses and establishes their balanced relationship.


Today, we are going to build on yesterday’s discussion by talking about transitional words and phrases.

Sometimes when joining two independent clauses with a semicolon, a transitional word or phrase is needed to further establish the relationship of the two clauses. For instance, the relationship between the two clauses may be one of agreement or disagreement. Or perhaps the first clause is putting forth a certain idea and the second clause is revealing the result or consequence of that idea. These simple words and phrases make it easy to establish these relationships in a way that is clear to the reader.

Examples:

The enemy was closing in on us; indeed they were practically within slashing distance.

Plunging into the middle of that conversation was probably not the best idea you’ve had; on the contrary, it was probably the stupidest.

Transitional words and phrases may or may not be followed by a comma. If they are so closely connected to the second clause that a pause in unnecessary, the comma may be left out. However, if the word or phrase causes a major break (a distinct pause when read), the comma should be included.

**Note: A few transitional words and phrases are always followed by a comma. These include for example, for instance, however, namely, and that is.

There are a *lot* of transitional words and phrases, but the following table contains a few of the more common ones:

Accordingly
Although
As a result
Consequently
For example
For instance
Furthermore
However
In contrast
In fact
Indeed
Instead
Likewise
Meanwhile
Moreover
Namely
Nevertheless
Of course
On the contrary
Otherwise
Similarly
Still
That is
Then
Therefore
Thus
Undoubtedly

**Note: Do not confuse transitional words and phrases with coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, yet). These are two very different groups of words.

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day Four: Linking Independent Clauses with Transitional Words <you are here>

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Grammatically Yours – Linking Closely Related Independent Clauses (Semicolons 3/5)

Yesterday, we discussed the difference between independent and dependent clauses. Today, we will be focusing on independent clauses, for they are the only type of clauses that can be linked together using semicolons.

Oftentimes, two independent clauses are linked by a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, yet). If they are not linked in this way, they frequently are not linked at all. Instead, the two clauses are made into independent sentences separated by a period.

However, when two independent clauses are closely related to each other a semicolon may be used to link them. In these cases, the second clause is an extension of the ideas contained in the first. The two clauses have a very particular, balanced relationship.

Here are a couple of examples that use all three methods discussed above:

I’m returning to the magistrate, and you are coming with me.

I’m returning to the magistrate. You are coming with me.

I’m returning to the magistrate; you are coming with me.

-----------

He was larger, but she was faster.

He was larger. She was faster.

He was larger; she was faster.

Usually, a semicolon is not used with a coordinating conjunction. But on rare occasions, this particular construction aids with readability and makes the break between independent clauses more clear.

There are two main reasons for this exception: 1) the two independent clauses are exceedingly complex or long, and 2) one or both of the independent clauses already contain several commas.

Example:

Their country had the largest fleet, the fastest cavalry, and the finest infantry of the three lands; but numbers, strength, or training would not aid them in this fight.

Though this exception exists, most of time it would be best to separate the two clauses and make them into independent sentences.

Their country had the largest fleet, the fastest cavalry, and the finest infantry of the three lands. But numbers, strength, or training would not aid them in this fight.

Tomorrow, we will be discussing how to link independent clauses using transitional words. I hope to see you then!

Note: In writing, punctuation can aid in the creation of mood just as easily as the words themselves. Keep this in mind when choosing when or where to add semicolons. Sometimes a semicolon will work; sometimes it won’t work.

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day Three: Linking Closely Related Independent Clauses <you are here>

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grammatically Yours – What’s in a Clause? Independent versus Dependent (Semicolons 2/5)

Before we go any further with semicolons, we need to address the difference between an independent and a dependent clause.

So, what *is* the difference?

The name says it all.

An independent clause is able to stand on its own, and it contains all the important stuff needed to make it a sentence – a subject, a verb, and a complete thought (complements, modifiers, etc., may or may not be present). A dependent clause has a subject and a verb, but it does not express a complete thought and is unable to stand on its own as a sentence.

Independent clause = sentence
Dependent clause = something else that isn’t a sentence

Here is an example of a dependent clause:

When we entered the room

Something is missing, right?

This group of words does not express a complete thought and cannot stand on its own. It has a subject and a verb, but it is “dependent” on something else to complete the thought.

When we entered the room, three large men holding three large knives attacked us.

With the addition of a secondary (independent) clause, this sentence now expresses a complete thought.

Dependent clause + independent clause = sentence of perfection

Dependent clauses are easy to identify because they do not express a complete thought. In addition, dependent clauses are usually introduced by certain key words. These words have technical names (subordinating conjunctions, relatives, etc.) based on the type of dependent clause they are introducing. For now, however, simply knowing that they exist is enough. The following table contains several of the most commonly used words:

After
Although
As
As if
As long as
As much as
Because
Before
If
In order that
Since
So that
Though
Unless
Until
Whatever
When
Whenever
Where
Wherever
Whether
Which
While
Whomever
Whose

We could go into much greater detail regarding independent versus dependent clauses, but for our purposes, we simply need to be able to identify the two.

After all of this, what do independent and dependent clauses have to do with semicolons?

Return for part three to find out!

I know. I’m mean.

*snicker*

I hope to see you tomorrow!

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day Two: What’s in a Clause? Independent Versus Dependent <you are here>

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grammatically Yours - Introduction to Semicolons (1/5)

I have heard a lot of writers express frustration as to the purpose of the semicolon. In many ways, this tiny little piece of punctuation causes more pain than bliss. Because of the confusion it causes, semicolons are often avoided with a vengeance – relegated to the trash heap of scary grammar.

But semicolons have a definite place in writing, and they can be very helpful if not misused (or overused).

So what’s up with the semicolon? What does it do, and why on earth do we need it?

Personally, I look at the semicolon as an organizational tool for sentences. It is perfect for grouping ideas – whether long or short – into a sentence that is easy to understand.

So, let’s take this in bite-sized chunks. Every day this week, I will upload a short (sort of) blog post containing one new piece of semicolon-relevant information. Deal?

Deal.

Let’s start with the easiest use of the semicolon:

The semicolon is perfect for organizing lists of items that already contain commas.

Take the following example:

Without the semicolon –

During our trip, Joe and I drove to San Diego, California, Austin, Texas, Denver, Colorado, Little Rock, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Ohio, and New York City, New York.

Okay, first of all, this sentence has a ton of commas. Second of all, this sentence has a ton of commas. Third of all, those people spent who knows how much money on gasoline for that trip. No thanks.

Now compare the original sentence with this one:

With the semicolon –

During our trip, Joe and I drove to San Diego, California; Austin, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Little Rock, Arkansas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and New York City, New York.

Don’t you think that’s a little cleaner and more organized? It's definitely easier to understand.

Here’s one more example just for fun:

Without the semicolon –

The following professors were at the meeting: Andrew Root, Professor of Botany, Andrea McDonald, Professor of Animal Sciences, Andre Genome, Professor of Genetics, and Andy Star, Professor of Astronomy.

With the semicolon –

The following professors were at the meeting: Andrew Root, Professor of Botany; Andrea McDonald, Professor of Animal Sciences; Andre Genome, Professor of Genetics; and Andy Star, Professor of Astronomy.

See how helpful the semicolon is already? *smile*

Well, that’s it for part one. Check back tomorrow for part two!

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day One: Introduction to Semicolons <you are here>

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grammatically Yours: Semicolon Series

Hello, my friends!

This is just a quick post to let you know that the week-long semicolon series will be live starting on Monday. I hope to see you then.

Sorry for the delay!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Writing by Music

Anytime I am writing, plotting, drafting, revising, editing, or simply thinking of new story ideas, I listen to music. I know some people enjoy silence when working on their novels, but I enjoy music. It puts me in the writing/revising mode and helps to clear my thoughts. My musical tastes range from rock, pop, country, and symphonic metal to soundtracks and classical music.

Since music is such a huge part of my life, both in and out of writing (I play several instruments and teach music), I thought I'd share some songs with you every once in a while.

Here are a couple of relaxing piano pieces by David Lanz:




Thursday, November 17, 2011

Agent-Judged Contest at Monica B.W.'s Blog

Hey everyone!

Monica B.W. is having an agent-judged contest with Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Literary over at her blog Love YA. The contest is open for individuals who have a completed YA fiction or non-fiction manuscript.

Click here to read Monica's interview with Carrie and to get a feel for what Carrie is looking for.

Click here to read the rules and enter the contest.

The contest closes once 50 people have entered. So, hurry! There are only a few slots left!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NAWS: Interview with Dan Haring

I’m so excited and honored to have my awesome Twitter buddy Dan Haring with us today! Dan has a cool blog that I would definitely encourage you to visit. Also, if you would like to follow him on Twitter, you can do that here. And you should. Seriously. :)


A bit about Dan (in his own words):

“I’m a visual effects/animation artist currently working at Sony. I love drawing and animating, but I also love writing. My debut Young Adult novel, Oldsoul, comes out April 2012. I also just signed with Kathleen Ortiz of the Nancy Coffey agency, and am working on a secret Middle Grade project. I love my family, comic books (especially Batman), cartoons, music and lots of other stuff.” (link)


Q and A:

First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you like to do for fun when you aren’t writing?
I'm originally from a very small farming town in Utah called Goshen, which has a population of about 900 people. I studied animation at BYU, then about five years ago moved to Southern California when I got my first animation job, I've been married for almost nine years, and have two boys and two girls. I love tons of stuff. Reading, watching movies, listening to music, sports, spending time outdoors. I love creating things whenever I can. But mostly I just enjoy spending time with my family.  Oh, and Batman is rad.

What inspired you to start writing? Was it always a dream? Or did a certain event get you going?
I've always loved reading and writing. I always enjoyed English class and hated math class. (I'm a firm believer that math should only involve numbers, not letters.) I wrote tons of rather emo poetry through high school and college, but other than a few creative writing classes and book reports, not very much prose. I'd started a few screenplays but hadn't really gotten very far. One night I was avoiding working on an animated short film, and for some reason I just started writing. I wrote the first chapter of OLDSOUL that night, without really knowing what I was getting into or where it was heading. I liked how it turned out though, and over the next little while I fleshed out the idea and just started writing.

Do you have a particular writing routine? A way to get yourself focused?
Not really. I wish I had a specific time and schedule to sit down and write. But with work and family, it's hard to set aside chunks of time. I usually end up writing late at night, so it's more a problem of staying awake than getting focused. I tend to listen to music while I write, but it has to be something I'm familiar with. New music is too distracting.

What would you say is the hardest aspect of writing?
Sitting down to write. Any given day there are many things that can get in the way of having the time to sit and write. But even when I have the time, it's getting myself to sit in the chair, crack open the laptop, and actually write. It's pretty silly, and I found myself doing it a lot on OLDSOUL, but I would get stuck on a story point, or be trying to figure out the best way for a scene to go, and I'd spend weeks sometimes trying to fix the problem in my head. But the majority of the time when I'd make myself sit down and write, I'd be able to write through whatever problem I was having. It would just kind of come out. So hopefully I learned my lesson for future projects.

I know you do animation work for Disney (one of those projects being the awesome movie TANGLED!!) Has this creative knowledge fed into your desire to write your own stories?
I'm glad you liked TANGLED! It's my favorite of the projects I've been able to work on. I've always loved animation, and I love doing it for a living. I've been lucky enough to work on some films I loved, but some I really didn't care for because the story was a letdown. To me that's a big source of frustration, because I can be proud of the work I did, but be disappointed in the movie.  So I've always had the drive to create my own things. I've definitely learned a lot about storytelling because of my film work, and as much as I've studied storytelling for the past ten years, it was a natural progression to want to tell my own stories.

The process of finding your agent was a very unique one. Can you tell us a bit about it?
It was really out of the blue actually. Before I began the query process I started following a bunch of literary agents on Twitter, because a lot of them give some really good advice. I had queried Kathleen Ortiz on my book OLDSOUL, but had gotten a form rejection from her. A few months later she mentioned something on Twitter about TANGLED, so I mentioned to her that I had worked on it. We chatted a bit, and she went to my blog and read the first chapter of OLDSOUL. She asked if I'd consider querying her. I was a little confused, since I'd already gotten the rejection from her. It turns out she was in the middle of moving to Nancy Coffey when I queried her at her old agency, and had actually never seen my query. So I queried her again, and she ended up turning it down. But we kept in touch on Twitter and a few months later we were chatting and she asked what I was going to be working on after OLDSOUL. I told her some of the stories I had in mind, and one in particular she seemed to really like. I didn’t think much of our conversation afterward, but then the next day I got an email from her. She said she had told the people in her office about the story and they thought it could be pretty cool. She asked me if she could give me a call the next day. I wasn't really expecting much from the call, but it turned out to be The Call, and she made me an Offer of Representation for the story.

When taking The Call, is there anything you would recommend a writer be prepared for?
Honestly, I wasn't prepared at all. When Kathleen asked if she could call, for a split-second I had the hopes that it would be for an offer. But since I didn't have anything actually written on the new project, I didn't think it had any chance of happening. But I should have been prepared to ask a lot more questions than I did. Ask about the agent, ask about the agency, their plans for your book, things like that. You want to have as much information as possible in order to make the best decision.

How did you know beyond a doubt that Kathleen was the perfect fit for you and your novel?
Actually if it weren't for Kathleen I wouldn't be writing this novel at all. My original idea was much shorter, and I had planned it as a graphic novel. While we were chatting, Kathleen suggested I do it as a Middle Grade book. I went home the night before she called and brainstormed with my wife and came up with the basic storyline for what I'm writing now. When Kathleen called I told her what we'd come up with and she responded well to it and that's when she made the offer. From the start she's been amazingly supportive and enthusiastic about the project, and I can't imagine working with anyone else on it.


So you are working on a “Secret Project” right now for your agent. How is that coming along? :)
I'm sorry about the secrecy. I'd love to tell you about it. I'm very, very excited about it though. I think it's coming along pretty well. I'm about 1/3 of the way through the first draft. I like the characters and the world and love exploring it all. But I don't think I can say much more than that :)

Your debut novel OLDSOUL is currently set for release on April 24,2012. Could you give us a bit of information about it?
Sure! OLDSOUL is a YA contemporary/urban fantasy (I don't really know if there's a difference). It's about a guy named Jason whose best friend is a dead girl in his mind. Jason is an Oldsoul, which is a vessel for the souls of people who have died. He's able to access their knowledge and abilities, all of which he'll need to battle a group of power-hungry immortals (not vampires though) bent on overthrowing humanity. It's the first of a planned trilogy and is being published by Pendrell Publishing, and I'm really anxious to see how it'll be received.


Based on personal experience, what final advice could you give to other writers? This can involve the querying process, general writing advice, or both.
Read. Read everything you can. I don't think you can be a good writer if you're not also a reader. And don't just read books in the genre you write. If you look at my Goodreads account you'll see everything from comic books to YA and MG to classics. I just read my first Louis L'Amour book a few weeks ago. I doubt I'll ever write a Western, but I guarantee I learned something by reading that book and it'll show up somewhere later in my writing.

I can't stress the importance of reading enough, but you also have to go out and experience life. Travel, try new things, get your heart broken, get out of your comfort zone. Everything you do and experience will inform your writing and will make it better, because every experience you have is unique to you. And that will work its way into your writing and give your voice something no one else has.

One last bit of advice that kind of goes along with what I was just saying. I was able to meet Robert McKee after a short seminar he did. He was gracious enough to sign my copy of his amazing book STORY, and inside he wrote "Write the truth." I take that as write your truth, whatever that may be.

Just for fun short answers:
Favorite book?
Oh man, that's too hard. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac is one of my absolute favorites, I can at least say that. But there are a bunch of others that could easily fit here.
Favorite music?
That's another really hard one, but at least you didn't just ask for just one band :) I mainly listen to punk and hardcore, stuff like Bouncing Souls, AFI, Sick of it All, Social Distortion, Hot Water Music, and on and on. But I love all sorts of music, from Johnny Cash to Regina Spektor to Radiohead to film scores. I don't listen to the radio much, other than country or classical stations. Yeah, I listen to country radio...
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?
Good question! Batman is my favorite fictional character, but he has a pretty sad life. I'd have to go with Jack Skellington.

Favorite part of the writing process: first draft or revisions?

I don't think there are many things better than when I'm writing the first draft and everything is flowing and my fingers are barely keeping up with my brain. That's definitely not always the case. Some nights every sentence is a battle. But my favorite part is when everything is clicking and the world and story are taking shape right in front of me.
What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?
People are often surprised when I tell them I have four kids, but I already mentioned that. Most people don't know I met my wife while we were both driving tour buses in Alaska for the summer. Folks don't usually see that one coming :) 


Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Dan! I wish you the best of luck on your current and future writing projects! :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Impatient for Books #1

You know that feeling you get when you’ve read a great book but then have an entire year to wait before number two comes out, and you don’t think you can possibly wait that long because you have to know what happens RIGHT NOW?

Yeah, that. :)

Well, last year, I read MATCHED by the amazing and talented Ally Condie (If you haven’t read this series… WHY NOT?). Suffice it to say, it has been a long year waiting for the sequel.

But the wait is almost over! On November 1, CROSSED is finally coming out! 

Yesterday, Ally released the link to the official trailer for CROSSED. You should definitely check it out. Just click here.

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

 In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.


So what books are you impatient for?

Friday, October 14, 2011

When You Don’t Know Which Way To Go – Part One

Once upon a time, I had a great aunt who was a phenomenally sweet and fun person. She was also a bit…um…scattered and gullible.

One day, while out driving, she came upon a sign like this one:



She couldn't figure out how to drive strait up, so she turned around and went home.

Okay, now that’s funny, right? You can go ahead and laugh. I don’t mind, ‘cause when I heard that story I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. :)

My great aunt came to a crossroads and couldn’t figure out which way to go.

How does this apply to writing?

Well, there’s actually many ways that this could apply to writing, and I’ll be blogging about a few of those over the next couple of weeks. Today, I want to focus on just one of them – one that is currently plaguing me, myself, and I to no end.

Settling on my next project.

A while back, I completed the first draft of my newest novel. Now I’m running that baby through round after round of revisions and integrating some great feedback I’ve gotten from my CP (critique partner).

Though revisions are occupying most of my writerly thoughts right now, I find myself thinking about which project to do next.

Now some people don’t understand how writers can get so many ideas. My question is, how do writers keep from getting ideas?? I think we’re wired to see a story in almost anything. For example, right now, I have at least ten different files sitting on my computer filled with possible story ideas.

But I keep coming back to two of them. And I don’t know which direction to go. They’re both calling to me in very different ways, and I can’t decide between the two because I feel so strongly about each one. Ah, what a dilemma. It’s a good dilemma. But still.

So what do y'all do when you don’t know which direction to take? Do you have a system for deciding which project to take on next or do you just go by gut instinct?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grammatically Yours - Oh, For the Love of Homonyms

Witch word is the rite word?

Let me try that again.

Which word is the right word?

It can be very easy to substitute a word that sounds the same (but is spelled differently) for the word you actually want to use. It happens. Everyone does it.

For writers, we obviously don’t want to make these mistakes in our manuscripts (that’s why we edit!!!). But there is another place that we really don't want to do this...

In our query letters.

After spending months or even years writing a novel then revising and editing it, don’t lose your focus when it is time to query. It’s easy to get excited and it’s easy to rush.

Don’t.

Edit that query letter just like you did your manuscript. If you don’t, you might make mistakes like these tweeted by Kate McKean, literary agent with Morhaim Literary Agency:

So far today, I’ve read about a “pen’s name” (i.e. pseudonym) and a novel that’s “fast paste.” Proofread those queries, folks. #pubtip (link)

This other query I read for a fast paste novel features a main character with a sorted past. At least he’s organized. (link)

Yep. Homonyms.

Don’t be unintentionally funny, people. Be hyper-aware of what you are writing.

Have you ever had homonym trouble? Do you have any stories to share? Have you seen any unintentional funnies?

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Am Ashamed...

Okay, I have been an exceptionally bad blogger lately. Many thanks to all my lovely and patient followers for sticking with me during this ridiculous month-long silence. The entire summer was a lot busier than normal, and I have been in and out of town way more than I usually am. So much going on!

I know, I know. Excuses. Sorry. *grin*

No more excuses.

I promise.

I’m back, and I’m looking forward to getting this blog going again. Next week there will be a new installment of Grammatically Yours. I am also working on a week-long series that I will be posting in October that will focus on semicolons. I have had several requests for semicolon info, so I am diligently putting that series together right now. I also have several NAWS interviews in the works. There are more awesome writers that I would love for you to get to know. Beyond that, you get to deal with all the other random things I come up with to post about. Some of them will be writing related and some not. Hopefully my craziness will not drive you away.

See you all next week! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

NAWS: Interview with Chantele Sedgwick

Hey, everyone! Today I am so honored to have the amazing Chantele Sedgwick with us! Make sure you stop by Chantele’s blog, My Writing Bug. It is loads of fun and very informative. If you would like to follow Chantele on Twitter, you can do that here.

A bit about Chantele (in her own words):

I am a wife, mother of three silly kids, a harp player and an avid reader of books. I enjoy reading and writing YA fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal. I’m repped by Uwe Stender at TriadaUS Literary and he is working to get my books published. If that ever happens you will be the first to hear about it! :) (link)

Q and A:

What made you start writing?

I've always had stories in my head, ever since I was a kid. I started writing a little bit in high school, just stupid stuff. And when I say stupid, I mean stupid! lol I sort of forgot about writing until I had my second child. I still had stories in my head, so I started to write them down. I wrote in secret, not telling anyone, even my hubby. When I finished my first book, I told him about it and he was so supportive. I don't know why I was so scared to tell him. I never even thought of trying to publish it until he told me to. So, I put myself out there and joined a critique group, made writer friends, and set time aside every day for writing. I love it. I realize now, writing has always been a part of me. I just didn't know it until I tried. And I'll never ever go back. :)

What genre do you write, and how did you get the idea for your novel?

I write YA. I love it. As in a specific genre, I don't really have one. I love paranormal, urban fantasy, classic fantasy, dystopian and I've even tried my hand at a contemporary as well. The only thing I can't write is sci-fi. I'm not smart enough! lol

As for my book that got me my agent, I read Janette Rallison's My Fair Godmother and had a thought. What if there was a fairy godmother that was a guy? And he hated it. That was the question that sparked my idea and turned it into a full length novel. :)

What kept you pursuing your dream of finding an agent even when you felt discouraged?

Oh, man. Rejection is so hard. For my first book I got one request and sent out fifty or more queries. I didn't think it would bother me so much to get that many rejections, but deep down it did. I knew it wasn't working, so I put that book aside and wrote another one. Which sucked, but I could tell it was better, if that makes any sense. Then I wrote my third novel and joined a critique group, got great feedback on it and researched agents and how to write the perfect query letter. You know, all that good stuff. I told myself if I loved writing as much as I thought I did, I would keep trying. Giving up is not an option with me. Even if the road seems SO hard at times. I still keep writing. Anyway, I sent out queries for that book and got requests almost immediately. It was crazy. I racked up plenty of rejections with this one as well, but I also had many requests for fulls and ended up with 2 offers of representation. Moral of the story? Keep writing, keep getting better and never give up.

What is one unique thing that happened to you during the querying process?

I got a rejection for a book that wasn't mine. The agent even went into a lot of detail and I felt so bad that I had read it, even though I had no idea who the person was that it was intended for. I ended up writing the agent back and telling him he sent me a rejection for the wrong book. He e-mailed back immediately and told me how embarrassed he was and that he hadn't even read my book yet. I ended up getting rejected anyway, but I had to laugh. Agents are people too, and they definitely make mistakes.

What resources did you use to help you write your query letter?

Honestly? I can't even remember! lol I do remember reading the querytracker blog and other blogs about query letters. Agent blogs and all that. There are so many resources you can find online now. It's crazy. I wish I could think of a specific one that helped me, but I can't. I know I researched though. I probably just won the award for lamest answer ever! :P

Would you be willing to share a copy of your query letter for learning purposes?

Sure! :)

Dear Mr. Stender,

Thank you for the chance to pitch my book to you. I've heard great things about your agency. I know you are looking for young adult projects and I would like you to consider NOT YOUR AVERAGE FAIRY TALE, my YA fantasy. It is complete at 57,000 words.

Ash Summerland has it all–good looks, popularity, and the best grades at The Academy of Magical Beings. Ready to complete his last assignment in order to graduate, Ash is confident he will get the apprenticeship he wants. When he opens the letter from the Council, he is shocked to discover he has been assigned to apprentice Lady Shenelle, Keeper of Happy Endings. A.K.A. the head fairy godmother. Armed with wings and a blue wand, Ash is forced to grant three wishes to a troubled human girl and ultimately give her a "happy ever after". Humiliated and furious, Ash is determined to get his assignment over with as fast as possible. Then he can become what he's always wanted to be–a Sandman.

Still grieving over the loss of her dad, Kendall is trying her best to move on. If only she could shake the panic attacks that haunt her nearly every time she even thinks of him. Not to mention, the accident that took his life was her fault. When she meets her fairy godmother, Ash, she believes he's a joke. He's cocky, insensitive, and not to mention, a guy with a girls job. After making her first wish, Kendall is beyond happy when her long time crush asks her to Prom. But, the more time she spends with Ash, the more real he is, and to her surprise she begins to heal.  Kendall doesn't believe in happy endings, but if she were able to have one, she'd choose the fairy over the prince.

Full of humor, romance, and a little mystery, Not Your Average Fairy Tale will appeal to fans of My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison. This is my first novel, with potential to become a series. I belong to several critique groups, and have gotten some wonderful feedback on my writing.  Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. Please know I am submitting to other agents as well.

When you received The Call, what were your reactions?

Uh ... 

Yep. That's about it. Ha ha! Actually, when I first heard his voice on the other end of the phone I thought he was a telemarketer. He has an accent, so I didn't even think he was an agent. I was so shocked when he said who he was, since I sent him a query two days earlier. It was totally unexpected. I had to sit down and didn't say much as he told me how much he loved my book. What do you say to that? When he asked me if I had any questions for him I started laughing and had to ask if I could call him back! I know. I'm totally smooth. ;) When I got off the phone I freaked out and called my hubby, my sister, my mom, everyone! Once I was able to think straight, he called me again and we talked. I'm such a loser! lol

When taking The Call, is there one thing you would recommend a writer be prepared for?

Be prepared to ask questions. Have a list you've made prior to querying. You never know when an agent will call. And don't just say yes to the first person who offers representation. Think about it. Give yourself a week at least to get back to them. Don't just dive in, even if you're so excited you can barely function. Ask questions, let other agents you queried know what's going on and then take a deep breath and think things over. :)

How were you able to determine that the agent you have now was the right fit for you and your novel? (To learn more about this part of Chantele's journey, read her post "Getting an offer of representation.")

The two agents who offered were totally different. Uwe was the first to offer and another agent offered a few days later. Uwe had such a fun personality. He absolutely loved my book. He answered every single question I threw at him without hesitating once. He was easy to talk to, gave me examples of editors he had in mind for my book and let me know about some of the revisions we'd work on.

I wasn't very comfortable with the other agent. She was very nice, but I just didn't click with her. And it's funny because I never in a million years thought I'd have a guy for an agent. Is that weird? And I wouldn't change it.

Based on personal experience, what final advice could you give to other writers? This can involve the querying process, general writing advice, or both.

Surround yourself with writer friends. This business is tough. You need people to support you. Even if those people are your online friends. The writing community is amazing. There are so many people working toward the same thing and they are all so supportive and friendly. Get a critique group as well. I wouldn't be where I am today without mine. And last but not least, love what you write and NEVER give up.

Just for fun short answers:

Favorite book?

Ha! That's funny. I could never ever pick one. And my list would be forever long! Oh, fine. Let's see. I loved Matched by Ally Condie. The Hunger Games, of course. Anything by Shannon Hale. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. And Harry Potter. That series is one I could probably re-read forever and never get sick of. :) Wow. This answer was so not short! lol

Favorite music?

Paramore, Foo Fighters, Collective Soul, Goo Goo Dolls, Taylor Swift, etc. I am loving the INCEPTION soundtrack right now. It's excellent.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I play the harp, so I'd probably just teach harp lessons. I wanted to be an English teacher when I was younger. Then I thought about the millions of papers I'd have to grade...

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?

Hmmm... That is a hard one. Katniss ROCKS, but I couldn't kill people. Or go through that much crap. I love Elizabeth Bennett, because, well, who doesn't? And I love Isi from The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Either one of those would be fine. ;)

Would you rather write during the day or at night?

I edit at night and write in the morning. I have to do them separate because I have a different mind frame for each. :)

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I've been a panster with my first 4 books. Book 5 is a little more plotted out. I guess it just depends on the project.

Favorite part of the writing process: first draft or revisions?

I LOVE first drafts. Even though they aren't even close to perfect, I love discovering the story for the first time. I do love revisions too, but first drafts are so much fun for me.

What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?

I sing. A lot. I started singing duets with my sister when we were 5 and 3. Still do. :) And I separate my M&M's into piles before I eat them. Like coordinated by color. Because I'm cool like that. He he. :)
  
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Chantele! :) I know readers will enjoy getting a glimpse into your journey as a writer. 

Thanks so much for having me!!