Youngblood Blog

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Blog Party: Dancing with Lemurs and Alex

Watching in the wings as Alex's book-launch catches fire


“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot”
Stephen King

Alex J Cavanaugh is one of those fortunate authors who never meant for it to catch on. But today promises to turn him into a household word, as his second Sci-Fi book to launch in less than 18 months catches fire.

Cavanaugh’s CassaFire is released today by Dancing Lemur Press.

Trained as a visual artist (with a degree in Fine Arts), he wrote for his own pleasure. He is still master of all he surveys in the design field. But his Heinlein-esque prose, deep techno-filled space journeys, military precision — and, dare I say, a misspent youth watching the ’70s cult series Battlestar Galactica — combined with a love of sci-fi from childhood reading, has turned the wheel of fortune in his favor.

Alex's CassaFirE launches today

His first book, CassaStaR (2010) hit the Top-Ten Bestseller list; his second, CassaFire launches today from Dancing Lemur Press. That’s what the blog party’s all about.

So, to celebrate an author whose blog always tries to help others –his modest acceptance of his own fortune gives him an edge to support fellow writers– some of his friends and I are joining his Catch Fire Blog Party. *

Alex and I ‘met’ in the ethers and while his blogs and mine diverge, we were both drawn to each other’s conviction that there is a whole starsystem of talented authors out there trying to mesh their writing with a reading audience; as well as a waiting world genuinely wanting to read our works of fantasy, adventure, and (in his case) hardcore Sci-Fi. Despite his assertion that he is only a humble designer, he has found a way to build a world around his success.

“I’m not as intensive a world-builder as most authors. I took notes on the basic structure, using a few science fiction movies as guides for the overall feel and details on spacecraft and alien vessels” Alex Cavanaugh, CassaStaR

Modesty strikes again.

I happen to know that Alex has method behind his apparent madness. He loves his characters, structures them deeply; plans them from the inside out. So, having given his main characters life in CassaStaR, he found that even when the story changes (CassaFire), their personalities and traits “just fell into place”.

There is more. Because of our shared conviction that reading, writing and creativity are essential to keep the human race evolving (he worked in the Adult Literacy Program for several years; he plays several musical instruments), Alex persists with his blogging to reflect his love of everything sci-fi: movies to books to blogs. It will not surprise me if he comes out next with a screenplay! A musical!

Dancing Lemur dancing for Alex's blog party

Alex is not one to sit back and wait while the rest of the revellers raise their champagne flutes to him and look around to see if any of this high-rolling might rub off. Today his nose is buried in a galaxy of supporting blogs (after all, that’s what we bloggers are here for, isn’t it?) — he’s taken the day off ‘work’ (design) to scan the fans. But today also marks the start of his blogtour, which runs through March 9th. When he’s not doing that, he’ll be back at the helm, steering his Insecure Writers Support Group to the stars.

Told you, he plans ahead. And we all wish him the utmost of great good fortune with CassaFire. Well done, Captain Alex.

*Today is the Catch Fire Blog Party, celebrating the release of Alex J. Cavanaugh’s CassaFire by Dancing Lemur Press. The goal is to help CassaFire “catch fire” on the best seller charts and achieve the success of his first book, CassaStar. There’s also a special package of prizes being given away at the author’s blogtour”>blog (copies of CassaFire, CassaStar, tote bag, mug, and bookmarks) as well as book giveaways during his two-week blog tour.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

February 28, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, fantasy, fiction, novel, popular | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Writing for Pleasure or Pitch?

January with the Gremlins

Wormholes in Time -- a dominant theme of my ABNA 2012 entry, 'Coco Bay: the Awakening'

Earlier in the year — mid-January, to be exact — I was panicking slightly because some of my blogging buddies were focusing not just on producing their regular blogs, but also doing edits and re-writes of their WIP (work-in-progress) for submission to ABNA. I’ve covered the finer points of entry to this annual award in my bloghop post, immediately below.

At the time I was mostly concentrating on encouraging other bloghop authors — younger/newer, published or not — to enter, just to get the ‘feel’ of an international competition. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is bigtime, but it’s also fairly simple to enter and before the fun begins — judging — it is not too taxing to come up with five (required) items that qualify you for entry:

1. Your bio — called ‘About You’
2. Your contact details: self-explanatory
3. Book description — ‘About your Book’
4. Your excerpt — up to the first three chapters of your book
5. Upload your MS — ‘Your Entry’.

Simple. You would think so, wouldn’t you?

It’s that last bit, ‘Your Entry’, that creates palpitations, anxiety, sleeplessness and sometimes compels the most fearless of writers to break down and cry. And it’s not because you haven’t edited your WIP to perfection, had three Beta Readers review and revise it, and rewritten the ending to your own plot-bunnies’ demands, see also below.

It’s the pitch.

Southern rim of the Bermuda Triangle, the Bahamas set in deep ocean trenches, as seen from Space

While on the submit-to-agents, submit-to-publisher circuit, it’s known as the infamous query letter. Ah, I hear you sigh, that. The query letter is that most difficult of all instruments for a creative writer of fiction to write, because s/he is tearing her hair to describe from a ‘marketing’ perspective what s/he has slaved over for the last —fill the gap— months, dreamed dreams over plot, character nuances and surprise twists in a story that was close to one’s heart. Now, to present it to the reading world, it must go through the hoops of the query circuit. We have to distill our fledgling work of 50k+ words into a 300-word bullet. Not only that, every line has to catch the eye of the destined agent. Or it gets rejected. All of us who have trodden that thorny path know how soul-destroying (ongoing) rejection can be.

Amazon use exactly the same method to get you to capture the essence of your newest baby: but instead of having to write them a query letter, they ask you to submit a pitch. That’s not the same as ‘about your Book’. More exactly, it’s a short ‘snappy’ catch-all to hook readers. More significantly, in the ABNA contest, your completed entry will be judged in Round One solely on your pitch.

Now that the competition is officially closed while first round judging takes place, five thousand writers in each category (general fiction and YoungAdult fiction) are biting their nails, comparing blogs and praying they hit the target with their pitch: one thousand of those praying will be chosen to go through to round two — *Round One ‘winners’ announced February 23rd.

My ABNA 2012 entry 'Coco Bay' combines deepsea breeding tanks with deepspace time-travel

So, just for laughs, here’s a link to the first chapter of my entry, ‘Coco Bay: the Awakening’, the second in my Green Turtle Cay trilogy of deepsea, deepspace, deeptime fantasies to cross the final frontier. If, after you have read my opening chapter, you want to compare it with my pitch, below, please be my guest.

But you will surely be able to tell, won’t you? that I still feel I wrote one, but not the other! It’s the perennial schizm that working authors face. No wonder they say we’re neurotic.

Coco Bay: the Awakening by Marian Youngblood — the Pitch:

Philadelphia Experiment witnesses say Navy destroyer USS Eldridge disappeared in a mist cloud in 1943

When Annabelle awakes from a scary dream of a WWII Navy ship returning through a time wormhole in the Bermuda Triangle with crew’s limbs stuck randomly to the bulkheads, she knows she’s in for an interesting week at the new Seaquarium.

In Green Turtle trilogy Part-1 she met the mysterious John, head of a Bahamian initiative to save world oceans, when she started work for the consortium in its ocean-floor lab.

In part two, Coco Bay, she discovers the marine project has endless resources — both financial and electromagnetic — somehow connected with 500,000 square miles of Bermuda Triangle on their doorstep. Harnessing electromagnetic Triangle energy could work miracles for her local Out-Island community and she finds herself drawn by the thrill of rescuing endangered species, without really understanding where these never-before glimpsed denizens of the deep are being rescued from!

When an entire human family returns through the wormhole to help John scale up the operation from eco-project to wholesale planetary migration, she dives in to help. These are John’s own children, missing in the time-fabric since the project began forty years earlier.

A random chain of events may save earth’s sister world, Europa, with its great mysterious deep, but may also redeem Earth’s inhabitants from destroying their own future.

Coco Bay — second in the fantasy trilogy — will appeal to a wide age/readership, within the present-day context of world concern for mass extinctions. Its scientific reality pulls readers into a scenario which crosses electromagnetic boundaries, suggested by exciting developments in plasma science current with astronomers and physicists.

Parliament buildings, Rawson Square, Nassau, Bahamas


The Bahamas’ unique setting and history will appeal to readers, travelers and piracy buffs alike.

Fantasy/borderlineSciFi novel along the lines of Cosmic Connection meets The Abyss, its final (electromagnetic) surprise twist should entice readers for more.

*ABNA first round neurosis ends February 23rd when they announce 1000 authors in each category who will go forward. Wish us luck.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

February 11, 2012 Posted by | authors, culture, fiction, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bloghopping and Plot Bunnies

MONTHLY IWSG
Plot Bunnies

ABNA ...like nursing your Plot Bunnies and then putting them out for Adoption...

I’ve spent the last ten days in the hutch with my favourite bunnies: the ones that usually come out when my mind is in full right-brain (Muse-driven) fantasy, mid-novel-draft, to help me plot. At those times the Muse seems sensitive to a modicum of left-brain tweaking by these slightly-controlling little guys. Contrarily, these latest fellas came and crawled all over my keyboard and tried to get me to change things in the novel* I wrote for NaNoWriMo last November: that’s the novel even NaNoWriMo veterans suggest is worth submitting only two months down the road to its first literary contest.

We’ve all heard the sound advice: to let a newly-completed novel rest for at least a month before tackling the arduous (less-writerly, more-editorial, left-brain) process of tidying it up.

Plot Bunnies to the Rescue
I had kept nose to grindstone all November — assisted mightly by the little guys, above and below — released my little fantasy baby* into the Word-Cosmos on November 30th (50k in 30 days), and wiped my brow. I hadn’t looked at the MS once over Christmas.

ABNA pops up its timely head at the end of January. I succumbed to its persuasive positive hype last year. I thought maybe I should try a second time. So, throwing caution aside, I went for it again this year.

Thing is, I should never have ventured near the bunny hutch, because what I was supposed to be doing in the last two weeks of January was ‘polishing’ my novel for submission — edit/re-write, i.e. left-brain mode. I had no idea they could switch sides so easily!

Right-brained Plot Bunnies can sometimes appear suddenly during the editing process


But, seriously, nursing one’s progeny (literally your 30-day Wonderbaby) thru NaNo and getting your beloved WIP ready (edits, rewrites, reading by a friend) for submission and then being brave enough to release it into ABNA’s clutches, is emotionally equivalent to raising all your bunnies in one basket and then putting them up for adoption. I kid you not. I am sure they sensed that their babies (the ones I’d allowed them to help nurture all through November) were suddenly being thrown to the lions. That’s why they popped up last week.

Nevertheless, brushing them off lightly with a ‘you’ll get your chance for another WIP again soon’, I succeeded in submitting within the (still open) window and want to share a few thoughts today, on Alex’s bloghop. Somehow, the little guys made me say that. All because I’m submitting to ABNA.

ABNA is not for the faint-hearted. It stretches the writer’s creative schedule to the limits while also tempting her/him with long-term incentive. Amazon must know the vulnerability of the writer –always to have a dream ahead in order to reach her/his goal– how else do we survive the rebuffs of the query circuit? And the prizes are indeed one-of-a-kind.

Small print below: thanks to my intrepid friend and ABNA cohort (she’s done so much better than me in past ABNAs), Hart Johnson.

She says –and she knows– “If you’ve written a sure best seller, don’t enter. i.e. James Patterson should not apply.** The contest would tie up your work for six months, during which time you can’t apply to other publishers.”

Her other caveat:

One-trick ponies with intentions to sell this and only this work NOW. The contest puts you on hold with this work.

“If this is your ONLY work and you want to market it to publishers, you will not be able to do that for six months. That seems a very long time if you only have one book. You can, during this time, seek an agent. You can also write other books, shop other books, polish other books– you can polish THIS book– the only time that isn’t helpful is if they loved the earlier version so much they won’t take your changes.”
Hart Johnson

During the period your work is active in the contest, you give up:

The right to negotiate IF YOU WIN. The contract is the contract is the contract. (Hart already HAS a Penguin contract, and she doesn’t believe they gain anything by not giving a FAIR contract to a winner).

Also, if you win, you take that with you through your whole career.

What sponsors Amazon and Penguin and PublishersWeekly are on the lookout for are new writers. If that’s you, and if you are still in two minds about submitting your latest novel — 50,000 words minimum — I would encourage you to give it a try. What do you have to lose?

The contest started January 23rd, 2012, with a submitting ‘window’ open until February 5th; or until 5,000 entries have been received.

Briefly, the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest timeline is:

From now till Friday midnight, February 5th
open for entry and submissions
February 5th – 23rd
qualifying period in which Amazon editors evaluate the submission Pitch,
February 24th – March 20th
Second round- Amazon editors and Amazon Vine Reviewers evaluate Excerpts from the submission,
March 21st – April 24th
Quarter-Final period Excerpts are posted online for public feedback (through ratings and reviews) and PublishersWeekly reviews the full MS,
April 25th – May 22nd
Semi-Final period where Penguin editors review the full Manuscript to select the Finalists, announced May 22nd. There is a (Final) final period when Amazon customers may vote to determine the Winners.

Seems worth a try, doesn’t it? Besides, there are all of Alex’s fearless bloghoppers here to cheer you along.

Once again, I am grateful to Alex for his supportive leadership in perpetuating this First Wednesday IWSG bloghop. Among its network of versatile scribes, we get to pick up and throw in a few pointers along the way. Following Alex’s lead, in this fiercely competitive world called Publishing, (deeply immersed or on the writerly periphery), it is wonderful to feel there is a support network out there to share our joys and sorrows; and to know they are the first ones to give praise, chivy us along, or render a timely piece of advice. I’ve met some new friends in this bloghop.

It’s catching.

'Coco Bay: The Awakening', 2nd in Green Turtle Cay trilogy, deepsea, deepspace, deeptime

Even the naughty bunnies hope they triggered some good.

In BunnySpeak, they want to wish all ABNA entrants, veteran or newbie, the best of luck both with ongoing works (WIPs), and especially if they enter the ABNA enclosure (BunnySpeak). They also offer to dig a BIG HOLE in the compound’s predator-proof fence, if you need to escape at dawn… … oh those bad bunnies.

*Marian’s Bunny-inspired Baby is ‘Coco Bay: The Awakening’, a deep-sea, deep-space deep-time fantasy and the second in her Green Turtle Cay trilogy. It is set in the azure waters off Abaco in the Bahamas, on the southern edge of the Bermuda Triangle.

**Alex J Cavanaugh will also not be entering because, hold your breath, :) his second novel CassaFire is being released by Dancing Lemur Press on February 28th. We wish him great good fortune.

©February 2012 Marian Youngblood
thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh’s Bloghop Wednesday and the
INSECURE WRITERS’ SUPPORT GROUP

February 1, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

   

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