Monday, November 29, 2010

So You Want to Write a Novel

Watch. Laugh. Then weep, because I've HAD this conversation with people.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Such a Tease

The bad news: I still can't show you my cover,'cause they're still doing artistic things to it. I don't see how they can make it any more awesome, but hey, if they can find another iota of space to pack some more awesome in there, I'm happy to let them.

The good news: I can show you the back cover copy! So here you are, folks, what A SHOT IN THE DARK is all about.


Jesse James Dawson is a Champion, putting his life on the line for those foolish enough to bargain with demons and fighting to save their souls. But even a Champion needs some downtime, so Jesse takes his annual camping trip to Colorado for some male bonding over friendly games of paintball.

Unfortunately, the fun and war games are interrupted by a pack of creatures summoned up from the very depths of hell by an entity Jesse prayed he’d never see again. With the lives of his friends and a teenager’s soul on the line, Jesse’s only hope may lie with an even more dangerous enemy—his personal demon, Axel…

It never fails to amaze me how they make my books sound so much cooler than I remember them being. I can't wait for you guys to read this one.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kari's Queries, part 10

This is our 10th Kari’s Queries! Woohoo! Snoopy Dance! Kermit Arms!


This also turns out to be one of my lengthier ones, proving that once you get me talking, I just won’t shut up. But really, I had important stuff to say!

News first! Today, I got my edit letter for A SHOT IN THE DARK, so my Nanowrimo days are at an end for this year. I have until January 1st to get these revisions done and back to The Editor. I’ve only done a cursory glance over the list so far, but it looks mostly cosmetic, which is good. The one big kicker (which I knew already) is that this book is coming up shorter than anyone would like. One of my big tasks over the next month and a half is to figure out if there is a subplot I can add, or expand on. The Editor has given me some ideas to think on, and I’m excited to let those stew in my cranium for a few days before settling in to work.

I am still waiting on permission to show ya’ll my cover art and back cover copy. I’m SO excited about this, guys, I can’t wait for you to see it!

And now, on to my questions.


How did you find and pick out your agent and publisher?

Hm. Trying to decide how much lecturing ya’ll can really put up with.

Ok, first off, I found my agent by writing a query letter. This is a letter of (typically) no more than three paragraphs, describing your book, and a little about yourself. The format will vary depending on whether or not you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, and there are a ton of resources around the web to help you learn how. My personal favorite is (as you all know) Absolute Write. Tons of info there on just about every subject imaginable, and if you’re not comfortable enough to participate, you can still lurk and learn a LOT.

Once I had my query letter, I used Agent Query and Query Tracker to make a list of agents who were accepting manuscripts in my genre. Using that list, I researched further online, making sure nobody was a scam, trying to get a better feel for who was really looking for the kind of thing I had written (agent blogs are a wonderful resource), who might be a good match for me personality-wise, etc. At the time, I was also really broke, so those who took email queries went to the top of the line, as opposed to those who only took snail-mail queries.

Over 6 months, I sent out 28 queries. One of the very last ones I sent out was to my agent, the wonderful and amazing Chris Lotts. He got back to me almost immediately, requesting the full manuscript, and a couple weeks later, he called to talk to me. We clicked on so many things, not only on his vision and enthusiasm for Devil, but for what I wanted to do with my career as an author.

(Note: An agent should never just want to represent only one book of yours. You should think of it like a long-term partnership, or dare I say it, marriage, which can span your entire writing career)

I did not choose my publisher. As part of what an agent does, Chris submitted my manuscript to editors at various houses that he knows are interested in urban fantasy like what I’d written. I don’t know who all he submitted to, because knowing would probably have made me more neurotic than I generally am. Really, I didn’t know what was happening until he called me to say “Hey, I have good news.”

HOWEVER… This is not to say that you cannot choose a publisher. While many publishers only look at submissions that come from agents, there are some who take submissions directly from authors without having an agent involved. In the sci-fi/fantasy world, Tor publishing is one of those. I know there are others, both in my genre and in others, but I’m not well-versed. A bit of internet research will do you wonders here. I know that most of the ones who do are generally slammed with submissions, and I’ve heard of people not hearing a word back for two years or more.

CAVEAT: Please please PLEASE do your research. There are a ton of “publishers” out there who are really just after your money. If they ask you to pay for “editing fees” or for your cover art design, or anything really, run the other way. A REAL publisher pays YOU, not the other way around. When in doubt, google the publisher you’ve chosen plus the word “scam” and see what pops up. Also check out Preditors & Editors, and on the Absolute Write forums, check out their Bewares, Recommendations and Background Checks section. This warning goes for agents too. Do your research, and don't pay ANYbody money.

What is the hardest part about writing a book?

The hardest part… Hmm… I think each book has its own unique brand of hell involved. (Can I say that to high school students?)

For any new book, there’s always the challenge of how to make the plot fresh and unique. There’s the intense interrogation of new characters to find out how they tick and why they do what they do. There’s the construction of a brand new world, sometimes, from the ground up. Everything from the geography, to the economy, to the theology.

(Tell you a secret, though, world-building is actually one of my favorite things to do. Shh. Don’t tell.)

For the JJD series, I’m finding that my challenge is in keeping Jesse’s sense of humor as his world gets darker and more dangerous. One of the things that has made the JJD series likeable is Jesse’s snarky wit, and sometimes I catch him sliding into a gloom and doom mindset, and then I have to step back and think, okay, how can I make this funnier?

I think humor is actually one of the hardest things you’ll ever try to write, because as anyone who’s ever told a joke knows, no two people will laugh at the same thing. What’s absolutely freakin’ hilarious to me may draw totally blank looks from others. (Ok, 90% of the time, DOES draw totally blank looks from others)

So yeah, I think writing humor is my hardest part.

What is your favorite or most influential movie to watch?

I guess that depends on what you’re wanting to be influenced to do.

As far as favorite movies… I have a few I fall back on when I just need something comfy on the TV. Crybaby is probably my very very most favoritest movie in the whole world. It’s the movie I want when I just need to let my brain relax, or when I’m banishing the zombies I just finished reading about. I have discovered, however, that I cannot watch it and write about Jesse at the same time. Jesse apparently does not like Crybaby. Big goober.

I also tend to stick Empire Records in for the same reasons, though Jesse doesn’t seem to avoid that one as much. If you notice, most movies that get my repeat business have a major soundtrack to them. Music seems to be the thing that draws me the most.

Influential… Hm. Well, I think that movies, like books, are something that you can always learn from, as a writer. There is a pattern to telling a story, be it on film or in print, and watching a wide variety of movies can help you learn to see that pattern. It can help you see what happens when you deviate from that pattern, why sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

One movie I saw recently that really struck me from a story-telling perspective (don’t laugh) was The Expendables. Now, this movie probably isn’t going to win any major awards, but it was highly entertaining, and several things really excited me about it. This movie had the potential to be a giant walking cliché. I mean, we had just about every major action star from my childhood (yes, I know most of you weren’t born yet when these guys ruled the silver screen, but even you know who most of them are) and guns and explosions and…! Wow! Boom! Bang! Kapow!

BUT, the writers acknowledged those clichés, paid homage to them even, and yet managed to avoid falling into them. I thought it was a great example of how to take a plot that’s been done a million times (like most plots, really), and still make it unique and entertaining.


Ok, I’ve babbled enough for one post.

Next week, Kari’s Queries will be on hiatus while we all go stuff ourselves with turkey and/or the vegetarian dish of your choice.

Everybody be safe, and I’ll see if I can’t come up with more fun and frivolity for you in the meantime.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kari's Queries, part 9

How do you think of your ideas for your book?

Oh wow... My ideas come from LOTS of places. It can be totally random stuff.

I have an entire book I want to write, totally based off of one song. In fact, I've been inspired by music several times. Sometimes it's a lyric...sometimes just a single word... ("Hey, that would make a great name for a pirate ship!" Poof, book idea.) Sometimes it's just the mood the song invokes, trying to imagine a scene with that in the background.

I've found ideas in "what if?" kinds of questions. What if there were no more muses in the world? What if there was a supernatural fire-fighter, and what kind of world would require such? What if King Arthur was reborn as a modern teenage boy? stuff like that.

It almost always starts with one key image in my head, and then I have to spend the rest of the time trying to figure out what kind of world/person/situation would create that image.

If you can't tell, world building is one of my favorite things to do. I could go on forever.

How long does it take you to write a book?

Well... The first draft? Or entirely? I'll just answer both.

I can usually come up with a decent first draft in two months. After that, there's the whole beta-reading and revision process, and really how long that takes depends on how long I have. Devil, which was written with no deadline in mind, took about nine months total. Shot was a bit more hurried, just because I had a deadline to turn it in to my publisher. And realize that I also started completely over on that one, halfway through. In it's current form, it took about five months.

Of course, that said, it took me the better part of a year to write Muse, 'cause I did it in fits and starts, and as soon as I'm done writing Book 3, I'll be heading back to Muse for a major overhaul. There'll be at least two years worth of work in that book by the time I'm done.

Really, a book takes as long as it takes. I know people who can write an 80K word book in a week. I know people who write a book every two or three years. Nobody's doing it wrong.

When writing a book does your publisher dictate your corrections or do they just let you do whatever and if they do not like it have you revise it yourself?

First off, I have to say that I love love love my editor. She sees things in my book that I miss, and we're usually pretty in sync as far as fixes go.

But she never tells me that I HAVE to do something. She'll point out a trouble spot, let me know what she thinks is wrong, offers her suggestions on how to fix it. Then, I have the option to agree with her and make the changes, to agree with her but fix it in another way, or disagree with her. It's a constant dialogue, all with an eye to making the book the best it can be.

Now, yes, if I absolutely refused to do ANY revisions, there would probably be some serious problems. There are a few authors out there who have decided they are above editing, and sadly, it shows. I will always need my editors. The reason they get paid for what they do is that they're good at it.

How would you go about picking beta readers?

Initially, my betas happened by accident. Miss Chie happened because she had skills that I thought could help me, since she was an English teacher. Most of my betas happened because they too read urban fantasy, and their reading experience helps me ferret out plot holes and lame ideas. Some of my betas are writers themselves, and they can offer me good advice on pacing, and word choice, and structure.

I try to use the same betas for every book. The ones I have now have been through three books with me (two of the JJD series and then Muse) and I know I can count on them for insightful opinions. However, now and then real life interferes and one of them doesn't have time.

Then, I'd try to choose someone who had something new to bring to the table. If I was going to write YA, I'd probably find a few teens who could offer their thoughts. If I wanted to write a... I dunno... A spy thriller, maybe. I'd find someone who likes those kind of books to give it a glance. Stuff like that.

I find that it helps to have both readers and writers as betas. They read differently, but both of their outlooks are vital to making a book a coherent whole.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kari's Queries, part 8

Another installment, and the kiddos are getting a leeeetle punchy.

Why are you friends with Mrs. Chie?

Because no one else will have me.

And sometimes, she comes to my house and makes me really good food. Seriously, have you had her banana bread? Ooh, or her oatmeal scotchie cookies? Om nom nom....

Sorry, where were we?

In all seriousness, though... She is someone I can count on to not only be brutally honest with me when there's something in my writing that isn't working, but she also knows how my mind works well enough to suggest logical alternatives. It's invaluable. That's the writing-friend part.

But she also listens to me whine about my basement flooding, or answers my cooking questions at weird hours of the night, or gives me advice on how to get stains out of a shirt.

That's what friends do.

Have you ever read somebody else's book and gotten inspired?

Every time I read a book, I get inspired. In fact, a lot of times when I'm having a stuck day, I'll sit down and read something, just to shake my brain cells loose.

Inspiration can take a lot of forms. Sometimes, it's the basic "Oh wow, I can do better than this!" Sometimes, it's the absolute certain knowledge that nothing I can write will ever be as good as what I've just read, but I'm sure as hell gonna try. (Shh, don't tell them I cussed.)

If you want specific books that inspired me? Hmm... The comic book ElfQuest. Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. More recently, my good friend Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts series. (might be a bit risque for you guys, but if you don't tell, I won't) The Dresden Files, of course.

Everything I read teaches me more about the kind of writer I want to be.

If you had never met Mrs. Chie, would your books be what they are now?

See, this is where I'm about to get all philosophical.

Imagine that you left the house one morning, and instead of turning right like usual, you turn left. And you pass a coffeehouse you've never seen before, so you go in. And inside, you meet the man/woman of your dreams, you get married, you have kids, you live happily ever after.

But if you'd have turned right, none of that would have ever happened. Maybe you turned right, saw a runaway bus and saved a kindergartner from it. You were a hero you went on Oprah, you became a world-famous author because of your heroic deed.

Both outcomes were pretty good, and the only difference was whether you turned left or right.

That's kinda how I look at the results any of my beta readers have had on my work. Without Mrs. Chie, I might have still been published. But maybe it would have been with a different book. Or maybe it would have been Devil, but the storyline would have taken on a whole different twist.

So, no, without her, none of my books would exist in their current form. They might still exist in SOME form. Or not. It's hard to say.

Everyone around me has an influence on what I write, from Mrs. Chie, to the crazy guys I ride the bus with, to some random homeless guy I pass on the street. And the results just depend on whether I turned left or right that day.

Wow. That was kinda deep.

That'll teach me to post this stuff late at night. You get the Deep Thoughts with K.A. Stewart version.

Have a great weekend, ya'll!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Heads Up Folk!

Pleased to announce that Book 2 of the Jesse James Dawson series, A SHOT IN THE DARK, is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

The official release date is July 5, 2011.

I'm so excited!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Just 'cause I've been talking about it... Here is my Halloween costume this year. A Mad Hatter, of my own design. (pieced together, not made)

And in writerly stuffs...

Over at The League, Kevin Hearne has the cover up for his upcoming debut! Go check it out and tell him how freakin' awesome it is!

NaNoWriMo started today, and I managed to get more than the daily goal, but less than my personal goal. I'll take it.

That's all I know, folk! I'll be typing my fingers to the bone until the end of November, whereupon I shall take the last day of the month off for my own birthday. So there. Nyah.