27 February 2009

Embracing Author Interviews: Carrie Ryan

I promised you something special, and I am here to deliver...an interview with 2009 debut author, Carrie Ryan!

A Little About Carrie: 

A Greenville, South Carolina native, Carrie is a litigator-turned-writer. (Come now, we here at Wuthering Life don't hold the past against people. What matters is that she's better now!). She and her fiancé currently live in Charlotte, North Carolina with their two fat cats and one large puppy. And apparently, they are not at all prepared for the zombie apocalypse. (Tsk, tsk!)

A Little About the Novel:

THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is Carrie's debut young adult fantasy. It arrives on bookstore shelves March 10, 2009. 

The Blurb:

In Mary's world, there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.

The Guardians will protect and serve.

The Unconsecrated will never relent.

And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?

The Interview:

(Note: When I asked Carrie to complete the following sentences, I gave her explicit instructions to not upstage me on my own blog. She disregarded those instructions. I'm currently trying to think of ways to get back at her.)

Writing...makes time stand still.

My favorite part of the publishing process (so far) has been...seeing people excited to read my next book and liking it when they do read it.

My least favorite part was...waiting. LOTS of waiting and not being sure what comes next.

Without my agent...I'd be utterly lost and confused!

The best thing my editor suggested was...to add contractions to the book (I'd originally written without any). It was a tough decision, but ultimately I think it reads better.

My greatest writing asset is...being in the scene I'm writing, seeing what the main character sees and feeling what she feels (hopefully!).

THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is like...The Village meets Dawn of the Dead.

Mary's biggest problem is...trying to figure out how to go after what she wants.

Don't read this book if...you're expecting "Buffy" but with zombies.

If I were a zombie and had to choose between brains and flesh, I'd eat...brains, though then I'd have to crack the head open, which could be a pain.

The best zombie movie EVER is...(Trick question! They all rock!)

Come zombie apocalypse time, I won't be able to live without...JP, my fiancé. And some sort of weapon.

If I had to be on a reality TV show, I'd choose...Amazing Race, that way I'd be able to really see some cool places!

If I had to be on a reality TV show with zombies, I'd choose...Man vs. Wild — that Bear Grylls could have everything under control in a heartbeat! Or Top Chef, for two reasons: lots of cutlery to use as weapons and a way to cook the brains!

Zombies...rule, unicorns drool.

(The opinions and views contained in this interview are not the opinions of the blogger...particularly since said blogger's own novel contains unicorns, and everyone knows that flesh is better than brains! Wait, that came out wrong...)

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed having Carrie here as much as I did. Class, say, "Thank you, Miss Ryan."

If you want to know more about Carrie or THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH (on sale March 10, people!!), her Web site and blog are great places to start.

Please stay tuned for more author interviews in the future, and don't forget to buy me...I mean yourself...a copy of FHT a week from Tuesday!

26 February 2009

Embracing Criticism

As you may well remember, I have posted Chapter One of ANJIDIA on CreateSpace in conjunction with ABNA. It's open to any and all comments, and I've been pleasantly surprised by the feedback. Most is incredibly helpful, and the rest is incredibly encouraging. Knowing how cruel people can sometimes be, and fearing for my ego, I was a bit hesitant at first. But, apparently the gods of criticism have been on my side and kept away anything that wasn't constructive.

Since I've always been a temptress of Fate, I have decided to post another part of my baby for public dissection. The venue is Miss Snark's First Victim, and the piece is the last 250 words of a chapter, a "strong chapter ending." I understand that some of you may not like spoilers, and if that's the case, I'll understand you not wanting to pop over there to read and leave comments. But, if you don't have that objection...

Visit my submission (Post 43).

Please also feel free to browse and leave comments for others. I'm sure they'd all appreciate the feedback. That is, after all, why we all submitted.

25 February 2009

Mini-Blog: Embracing Recommendations

I want/need/covet a good author Web site. 

As I'm becoming more active in the writing community, and redoubling my "getting published" efforts, I'm giving serious thoughts to creating my own site. I think it's a good idea. And I've even got a design team on board.

The question now becomes: What should it look like?

Since I have no idea, I'm going to shamelessly use you all as my research minions...uh, that is... I value the input of others and would like to know what you think.

So, let me have 'em! 

What are your favorites author sites? Or Web sites in general?

What works? What doesn't?

What would you like to see?

PS - Stay tuned for more on the ANJIDIA front tomorrow, and a special guest star here at Wuthering Life on Friday! It's been a busy week for Miss Sam.

18 February 2009

Embracing the Power of the Interwebs

Tweeting, podcasting, friending, pinging, blogging, e-mailing, message boarding, jazzercising... So many ings, so little time. Sometimes it can feel a bit--no, scratch that. Sometimes it can feel very overwhelming, especially for people who think of themselves as "computer illiterate" or even "non-technologically minded."

As someone who knows what a powerful ally the Internet can be, I try to stay positive. I try to make time for all the social networking necessary to keep up in Web 2.0 world. It's not always easy.

But, one of the things that I do to help myself stay focused and motivated is to remind myself of the success stories, the people who made the Web work for them. I thought I'd share a few of my more mainstream/public examples, in case you're feeling overwhelmed too.

PotterPuppetPals: These award-winning videos got me through many all-nighters in college. I'll always have a soft spot for 'Bothering Snape' and 'Trouble at Hogwarts.'
Tila Tequila: Myspace success story if ever there was one. I wouldn't want her life, but I'm hoping it's working for her. She's certainly achieved fame.
Red Versus Blue: This series has provided me hours of mindless entertainment and owes its success largely to YouTube and Internet word-of-mouth (er...fingers).
Colbie Caillet: Myspace success story number two. Colbie's music soared as her Myspace numbers did the same.
Marie Digby: I love her music, found her on YouTube, actually. She was just a girl with a camcorder and a YouTube account back then. Now she's got a CD out, and I regularly hear her songs play at restaurants and movie theaters.
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: If you don't know about this, take some time and watch it now. This is possibly the best musical I've ever seen. It's funny, smart, well-acted, and sounds great. And it is provided for free online. Thank you, Joss Whedon.

Do you have any Web successes (personal or otherwise) that you'd like to share?

Mini-Blog: Embracing Kindness

I'm not a Twitterer in the true sense of the (fake) word. (Though I do tweet, sir.) ((Ahem, sorry, bad Shakespeare allusion...))

ANYway, I feel that Twitter can be a slippery slope and must be treated with the respect due to it (which is not to say that I haven't seen it used very effectively). As such, I post when I have something to say, but otherwise lurk. And I'm an expert lurker. In fact, while lurking today, I noticed a theme: people can be jerks and/or sweethearts. Behold the human condition.

So, I came up with 7 days of random acts of kindness, effective immediately. I hope it's self-explanatory, but the point is that I'm try to be proactive in my randomness, and less self-absorbed and selfish, by doing at least one randomly kind thing for someone else with no end-game other than making someone else's day better (and maybe feeling good about myself afterward).

I'll be sure to keep you posted on what I come up with. In the meanwhile, please share the random acts you've done or had done for you. It might help give me, or others, some inspiration. I just get tired of hearing bad news all the time. Don't you?

16 February 2009

Embracing Stereotypes

A discussion today on the ABNA message boards got me thinking about stereotypes. I'm fairly well-versed in both sides of the stereotype debate: their role in community-building and their detrimental effects, which can lead to prejudice. But, I thought I'd open the floor to you all on the topic. What say you?

First, though, here I am. Sam Elliott reduced to stereotypes.

I am so blonde that: I got stabbed in a shoot-out; I put lipstick on my forehead to make up my mind; I told someone to meet me at the corner of 'walk' and 'don't walk'; I tried to put M&Ms in alphabetical order; I tried to drown a fish; they had to burn the school down to get me out of third grade, I tripped over a cordless phone; I took a ruler to bed to see how long I slept; I studied for a blood test... and failed; I thought Boyz II Men was a daycare center; I thought Meow Mix was a record for cats; I thought I needed a ticket to get on Soul Train; and I sold the car for gas money.

[Fiction! Boys II Men was the first CD I owned. I scored very well on my SATs, ACTs, GREs, ABCs (okay, maybe I made that last one up). I graduated Valedictorian of my high school class a year early and with an honors lit degree from a top 50 university.]

As a Southerner/Texan, I'll never say:
  • We don't keep firearms in this house.
  • You can't feed that to the dog.
  • I thought Graceland was tacky.
  • No kids in the back of the pick-up, it's not safe.
  • Honey, did you mail that donation to Greenpeace?
  • We're vegetarians.
  • Do you think my hair is too big?
  • I'll have grapefruit instead of a bowl of gravy.
  • Honey, these bonsai trees need watering?
  • Deer heads detract from the decor.
  • Spitting is such a nasty habit.
  • I just couldn't find a thing at Wal-Mart today.
  • Trim the fat off that steak.
  • Cappuccino tastes better than espresso.
  • The tires on that truck are too big.
  • I'll have the arugula and radicchio salad.
  • Little Debbie snack cakes have too many fat grams.
  • Does the salad bar have bean sprouts?
  • I believe you cooked those green beans too long.
  • Elvis who?
  • Checkmate.
[Fiction! I played (and won) my first game of chess when I was in 3rd grade. I LOVE bean sprouts and regularly have granola and yogurt for breakfast. I lived in Italy--don't even joke about coffee. My hair has never been higher than an inch off my scalp of my own accord. And, I think spitters should be slapped.]

And as a woman, I: am crazy, like really bad entertainment, don't understand sports, am impractical, want to settle down, and am like the Incredible Hulk while under the influence of PMS.

[Fiction! The voices tell me I'm as sane as the next woman. I only watch Gossip Girl (or GG, as I like to call it) for the great character development and attractive actors. David Beckham's totally hot! My latest shoe purchase was only $75, and they were on sale!! Aww!!!! Babies!!!! WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME?!!? That's really mean.... *sniff*]


If you'll excuse me, I need some hot tea to treat this scoffing-induced soar throat of mine and some ibuprofen for the constant eye-rolling.

13 February 2009

Embracing Me

I'm back for another ABNA-related update.

Today I thought I'd share a little about myself. You see, the entry form asked that we include biographical information with our entry. I believe that the information is intended for use with our excerpts on Amazon.com, should we get that far. But I could be wrong.

I know, I know. Yes, it does happen occasionally.

Anyway, for your reading pleasure, I give you...my bio (plus the added bonus of personal anecdotes and local interst).


By the way...you'll get to see my book's description when it's posted on Amazon, or here if I don't make it past Round 1. Let's all be selfless and pray for the former, okay?


Biography: I am a graduate of American University with a Bachelor's degree in Literature, and ANJIDIA is my first novel. However, my short story, THE ROSE, was published in American University's literary magazine, AmLit, in the fall of 2006.

I currently work as the office manager/Jill-of-all-trades at a small, woman-owned PR firm just outside of Washington, DC. My position there allows me to listen and learn and experience as many varied peoples, places and things as possible--as have every opportunity in my life. My aim is to soak up as much of our world and this life as is possible and then to use my creativity and education to share it with others in the most unexpected and entertaining ways imaginable.

Personal Anecdotes: ANJIDIA was a labor of possession. Aryli's voice, personality, and even look invaded my mind while I was working on another novel. I had to write the beginning of her story (about 5 pages) before I was able to return to my previous work. Then, 5 months later, Aryli was back. Within 4 weeks (to the day), I had told her story in its entirety. And I even showered, slept, and ate regularly in the meanwhile. Amazingly, very little of the story was changed throughout the editing process. Aryli knew what she wanted to say.

Despite my typically elitism-creating degree and the fact that I've been trained to read further beyond the page of any given text than is probably necessary, I adore young adult fiction. I proudly house my YA series on the same shelves as Shakespeare, Bronte, and Steinbeck. I even wrote my senior thesis on Lewis Carroll's Alice stories and managed to convincingly relate them to the theories of Freud, Lacan, and de Man (at least enough to get an A).

I had an amazing teacher in 3rd grade. In addition to my multiplication tables, she taught me taught me to have faith in myself and never think that I was too young or inexperienced to do anything. I firmly believe that children will rise to whatever heights we allow and that their failure is our failure to expect greatness. And that includes YA fiction.

Local Interest: I was born and raised in Texas, and I came to the DC-metro area for college and stayed. As much as I can imagine that those settings have influenced my work, ANJIDIA and its locales are a work of pure fantasy.

However, I travel as much as possible, and the places I've been are invariably incorporated into the landscapes of the stories I tell. In ANJIDIA, that includes the majestic Redwood Forests (inspiration for the Old One, aka Owan--the wise and mysterious tree Aryli meets soon after her return to Anjidia) and the beautiful, seaside town of Dubrovnik, Croatia (inspiration for the Arymarnia--Aryli's ancestral home and stronghold of Josthene, the murdering usurper).

My writing network (an incredibly helpful group of plot troubleshooters, readers, and editors) consists of respected college friends and acquaintances.

12 February 2009

Embracing Putting Yourself Out There

I come bearing a gift, whether it's a metaphoric "Cosby sweater" or a metaphoric (and iconic) powder blue box is completely up to you. Alas, I seem to be unable to compel people to love what I want them to love. I think I may have slept through "Get Your Free Superpower Day".

What's all the fuss about? I created a CreateSpace preview for Chapter One of ANJIDIA. You can read and review it here.

It's a very scary step, having it out there for anyone/everyone to read and say whatever they like about it. It's one thing to hear agents' opinions, it's another to actually be reviewed. But, I decided that if my pitch carries my ABNA entry through to Round Two, my excerpt will be reviewed. I might as well get used to it now.

Here's hoping people don't show me all the ways I could have made it better...now that it's too late for this contest. Then again, advice is advice, right?

Are all things better late than never?

No, seriously, are they?

Mini-Blog: Embracing Web 2.0

Starbucks tweets!

I love my current job, but... 

I. Want. That. Job.

11 February 2009

Embracing ABNA

In case you haven't been over to the Web site of ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award), here's the gist of the contest:

How the contest works

Enter your unpublished, English-language, fiction manuscript until 11:59 PM EST February 8, 2009 or until 10,000 entries have been received, whichever comes first. The contest consists of four judging phases by expert reviewers, publishing professionals, and Amazon.com customers. The winner will be announced on May 22, 2009.

Initial Round: Expert reviewers from Amazon select 2,000 submissions from the 10,000 initial entries based each novel's "pitch." The 2,000 entries are then rated and receive two excerpt reviews from Amazon Editors and Amazon Vine Reviewers.

The field narrows to 500 entries...

Quarterfinals: Excerpts of the 500 are displayed on Amazon.com along with the reviews from the previous judging round. Publisher's Weekly now reads, rates, and reviews the 500 remaining full manuscripts.

The field narrows to 100...

Semifinals: Penguin Group (USA) reads and ranks the 100 semifinalists, taking into consideration the reviews from the two previous judging rounds.

Penguin chooses three novels to move to the final round of judging...

Finals: The three remaining manuscripts receive reviews from industry experts, including authors Sue Grafton and Sue Monk Kidd. Amazon.com customers select the Grand Prize Winner for 2009.

Exciting, no?

Well, considering that right now some reviewers could be reading my pitch after finding out about the death of loved ones or breaking up with their significant others...or being drunk out of their minds, I thought I'd share my pitch with you.

If nothing else, this will have come out of the contest. Uh, maybe I'm the one who needs the drink. Excuse me.


By blending the rich world-building of high fantasy with the edgy chick lit voice of its protagonist (seventeen-year-old Aryli), ANJIDIA modernizes the "hero[ine]'s quest" and makes it accessible to gossip girls and magic-obsessed muggles alike. It is coming-of-age, thriller, adventure, romance, and fairy tale all in one uniquely contemporary mythical journey.

There may be a smart-mouthed phoenix that cries healing tears, but she also acts as Aryli's metaphorical spirit guide and, when needed, as her "reality check" giver. There may be talking dragons that breathe fire, but they also discuss politics and make great personal sacrifices to support Aryli. And Aryli may fit the mold of a flawed, journeying heroine trying to win back her throne, but she also relates her story, her flaws, and her pain in a raw and accessible way unlike any other. And then there's the fact that she's literally incapable of harming any other living being, can talk to trees, ages years in mere days...

In this "golden age" of YA literature, teens are a consumer force to be reckoned with. The creation, and success, of imprints like Razorbill Books and HarperTEEN attests to that. But gone are the days of short, formulaic novels that underestimate readers.

Today's YA fans crave originality and savvy; think OCTAVIAN NOTHING: TRAITOR TO THE NATION and CRANK. They want stories that reflect their struggles (finding the right clique, figuring out who they are, and just trying to make it to graduation). But they long for stories that temper that reflection. ANJIDIA does just that through high fantasy and the struggles of Aryli (deciding if it's better to trust the inexplicably helpful man working for the enemy or the resentful fairy-tale creatures joining your cause, having total amnesia, and literally trying to save the world).

Embracing Mini-Blogs

Just wanted to pop in to say a quick hello. I've been very sick and tired lately (and that's not a euphemism). So I apologize for the absence.

I'll be back to my regularly scheduled program tonight, with sneak peaks from my ABNA entry.

Stay tuned...

03 February 2009

Embracing the Incredibly Unexpected

This post is going to be short and sweet as I have to be up for work in four hours. But I wanted to update you all on the progress of the Quest for Publishing! (Is it just me, or should their be trumpet blasts whenever one reads that?)

As you all know, I've been agent-hunting (sans the gun) for my novel, ANJIDIA, for several months now, sometimes more actively than others. Lately, I've been on an active kick (7 queries this weekend and 5 mid-week last week). Well, that culminated today in my entering my baby in its first contest.

What's the prize of this contest, you ask? A publishing deal with Penguin Group.

What's the contest, you say? Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

I thought very seriously about the potential ways entering this contest would affect my long-term career. And in the end I decided it was a good choice for me. If any of you lovely vistors are unpublished authors with a spare manuscript and several hours of time lying around, then by all means, join me in the deep end.

If not, there may come a time in the not-so-distant future that I call on you all to rally behind me, to write Amazon reviews raving about my book (so long as you believe it rave-worthy), and eventually to vote for on Amazon.com.

Until then...

I'll definitely keep you posted. I'm slated to hear about the quarterfinals around March 16. Please wish me luck.

Oh, and because I think it worth mentioning, Penguin and Amazon have partnered with CreateSpace.com to sponsor the award. I'd never heard of the site before, but I find it intriguing. Though, the idea of self-publishing still terrifies me.