Inspiration from Author Lori M. Lee + Giveaway

The Infinite by Lori M. Lee

The Infinite by Lori M. Lee

I’m thrilled to have the fabulous Lori M. Lee on the blog today. She’s celebrating her latest release, The Infinite. It’s the follow-up to the action-packed Gates of Thread and Stone (which I LOVE), and it’s burning a hole in my Kindle even as I type this because I’m dying to start reading it. The Infinite looks just as thrilling as the first book, and Lori’s post below is truly inspiring. Be sure to read all the way to the end for your chance to win some great swag. Enjoy!

Take it away, Lori!

I’ve talked a lot about the Call or How I Got My Agent or the really great stuff that’s happened in my writing journey. But now I want to talk about the low points.

Lori M. Lee

Lori M. Lee, author of Gates of Thread and Stone and The Infinite.

I love reading Success Stories, but when you’re querying and slogging through the query trenches, watching as apparently everyone except you gets an agent can really start to mess with your head and crush your confidence. You start doubting your abilities. You start thinking how lucky those authors are. You start feeling resentful. All of this is okay—so long as, once you’re done, you remind yourself that luck has very little to do with it. They’ve worked just as hard as you have.

So I suppose this is a reassurance that it’s all normal. And that despite what rejections and setbacks you might currently be facing, never lose sight of your passion for words and remember that everything can change with a single email. (more…)

Chat with Suzie Townsend & Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary (Part II)

UPDATE: Great news! The fantabulous Danielle Barthel is now officially taking queries. Find query instructions here, her New Leaf profile here, and her Pinterest MSWL board here.

First of all, the winners of the query critique giveaway from the previous post have been contacted. Thank you to all who participated!

And now to continue our chat with Danielle Barthel and Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media. Like the first part, this was recorded and then transcribed by the awesome Danielle, so it’s more relaxed and conversational than a traditional interview. Enjoy! And if you missed part one, you can find it here.

New Leaf Literary & Media LogoMe: How much input do you give before a client starts a new project?

Danielle: I think that’s mostly…it’s not as much input as it is guidance. A lot of times a client will come with multiple ideas and you’ll sort of steer them in the direction of what you think a) they can write best, and b) what is most sellable in the current market.

Suzie: Yeah, I’ve given a few of my authors some ideas where they’re brainstormed or they’ve been like “I need an idea,” and I’m like “Oh, write something like this.” But it doesn’t always work quite as well that way. I feel like with some authors it’s just better if they come up with something on their own. And I’d say this is another one that kind of depends on the client. I definitely have clients that will be like, “Hey, I wrote this thing, I don’t know if it’s any good, but here it is.” Whereas I have other clients who really want to talk things out beforehand. (more…)

Chat with Suzie Townsend & Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary (Part I)

UPDATE: Great news! The fantabulous Danielle Barthel is now officially taking queries. Find query instructions here, her New Leaf profile here, and her Pinterest MSWL board here.


I have a special treat for you: the first installment of a two-part chat with agent Suzie Townsend and assistant Danielle Barthel (Bar-THELL) of New Leaf Literary & Media. (OR Danielle and Suzie if you want the really fun links. Aren’t these two fantastic???) We cooked up this post shortly after I signed with them, and I’m beyond excited to share it with you now.

You can also see the second part here.

P.S. The giveaway is now closed. Thank you to all who participated!

Me: It’s unusual to have two people representing one writer. How will you will be working together, and how did this came about?

Danielle: So, I am not open to queries. {NOTE FROM CARYN: THIS HAS SINCE CHANGED}

Suzie: Well, you’re not open to queries yet.

Danielle: I’m not open to queries yet, but the way that it works when you’re working with another agent on a project like this specifically…Suzie thought that I would like it, and so I read it and I did like it, and after we did the revise and resubmit, we both liked it equally and so Suzie agreed to help me, or co-sign it with me so we could work on it together. (more…)

On Finding an Agent (or Two): A Post with Pictures for the Visually Curious

You know what else is this way? Finding an agent. I like to tell myself that's what makes life interesting. ( also like to delude myself. Coincidence?)

You know what else is this way? Finding an agent. I like to tell myself all the mystery is what makes life interesting. (I also like to delude myself. Coincidence?)

Last April I broke up with my agent of nearly three years. It was necessary, and risky, and terrifying. It meant leaving the only person in publishing who’d thus far agreed to champion my work, in order to find someone else who would, you know, champion my work.

Writing that message was hard. It couldn’t be undone, and there was no guarantee I would find another agent. Worst of all, I don’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings, especially someone I like, and someone who gave me a chance before anyone else in publishing ever did.

Some things need to be done, however. This was one of them.

Because my newest book was ready to go — or so I thought — I jumped into the agent hunt fairly quickly. I had my query letter. I had two different synopses. I had a query-specific email address with a unique chime that gave me a miniature heart attack every time it announced a new message. I even had an agent spreadsheet so detailed that my writing buddies took every opportunity to tease me about it — and then asked me to share it with them when they, too, were ready to query. (Vindication feels good, by the way. In case you were wondering.) (more…)

How To Plot a Book in 16 Steps

I’ve recently entered the brainstorming stage of my next book. It’s a fun, crazy time. Sometimes my mood is rainbows. Sometimes it’s angst. Right now my mood wants lists (as it often does), so here you go: a step-by-step guide to plotting a book. All you writers out there, this is for you. You’re welcome.

1. Find the most inconvenient time/place. Showers are good. Cars, too. Lying in bed, comfortable, mostly asleep? Perfect.

2. Think about something else.

3. Bolt of lightning crashes above you, singeing little bits of your hair as it sizzles past. Geez, that was close.

4. You’ve got it! THE idea! (By the way, you’re brilliant. Good job.) (more…)

Don’t Look Down: On Writing a First Draft

"Don't Look Down" by Caryn Caldwell - On how to fool yourself into finishing your first draft.Here’s the thing about first drafts: They are fun, but they are also scary. They are messy and muddled and awkward and hard. They have no guarantee. And they can make perfectionists like me very, very uncomfortable.

But they are worth it for the times when everything works and, anyway, they have to be done in order to get to revisions. Even on the difficult days.

And those days do come.

Unfortunately, there’s no category for Personal Cheering Section in the help-wanted ads, and the cats would rather sleep on the couch than rah-rah-rah me into getting all the new words written. So when I’ve used up my last jar of inspiration, and my motivation has fled, I have to flail those pom-poms myself.

Throughout my recent two-month long frenzy of creative chaos — otherwise known as a first draft — I did just that. To be specific, I built a page of reminders to look at any time my typing lagged. As the manuscript grew, so did my list, because I learn new things every time I write a book or, more likely, I learn the same things over and over, forgetting in between.

Here, prettied up for your sake, and shared in case it provides inspiration (perhaps to those embarking on NaNoWriMo), is my memo to myself: (more…)

Word Nerd

In seventh grade, in the back of my parents’ car, on the way home from another disastrous school-wide dance, my friend Rebekah and I lied to each other in the nicest possible way.

“Nerds,” we told ourselves, “Are awesome.”

They were the most misunderstood subgroup in the high school hierarchy. Everyone should want to be one. Those snotty popular girls who had hurled insults down the school hallway toward us that night? They were just jealous. And they were wrong, too, because we were most assuredly not nerds.

Okay, fine, we admitted as the car turned a corner and a street lamp splashed yellow light into the back, highlighting our awkward hair and gawky arms. So what if we sort of were? It might not be permanent. If we could outgrow training bras, dollhouses with hand-painted shutters, and unrequited crushes, we could outgrow this. Nerdhood? Already speeding into the past, baby.

Only, that was a lie. The biggest of all.

Because now, two decades later, I have realized something. (more…)

The Time I Almost Went to Art School (Except I Had No Talent)

When my brother and I were children, my parents believed in nurturing our talents and helping us become whatever we wanted to be. Kindergarteners have a very small skill set, but they get to paint a lot, so one September day I brought home a roll of manila paper. It was heavy with paint, damp and creased from where my fingers clutched it on the walk.

Jackson Pollock No. 9 – It really does look like that long-ago painting, manila paper and all.

Prepared to gush over any bit of artwork, no matter how rudimentary, Mom and Dad watched me unfurl the paper and thrust it their way. Stunned, they stared at the masterpiece I’d so casually brought into the house. It was like something out of Jackson Pollock – The Kindergarten Years. Bright splashes of color dotted the paper, flirting and frolicking in an arrangement that dazzled the eye. Abstract and playful, it was the work of a confident painter, one much older than five.

The next day they quietly began saving for a fancy art school. I would be the first artiste in the family, and they wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to mix more media than crayons and fingerpaints.

Excited to show off their daughter’s talent, they had the picture framed and hung in a place of prominence over the dining room table, where we could admire it.

And then one night during dinner, as my brother kicked me under the table so my parents couldn’t see, my mom turned to me and asked, “What made you decide to put that dab of blue right there?”

“What?” I asked, more worried about Mom catching me kicking my brother back than about answering her. (more…)

Guest Post: How Dr. Frankenstein Inspired Two Totally Hot YA Heroes

Please welcome Liz Reinhardt! Not only is she one of my favorite bloggers, but I’m lucky to have her as a critique partner, too. She just published her first novel, a YA romance featuring snappy dialogue, a love triangle, to-die-for heroes (two of them!), and lots of humor. It’s the first in a trilogy, and is already netting some fabulous reviews. So read and enjoy her guest post, then go buy her fabulous book. Take it away, Liz!

20 or so people may be reading my book this very minute!

My newly published book is bumping around out in the world and, I don’t want to brag or anything, but a whole 20-something  readers (I can never remember the exact number…okay, I can! It’s 23 last time I refreshed the sales page!! WHEEE!!) are reading it! And tons of them are total strangers, NOT people who I shared Doritos and poetry and too many secrets with in high school, or who drank cheap keg beer at field parties with me and my husband back when he was my boyfriend, or who danced to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” in a fist-pumping-Jersey-girl-dance-athon at my wedding.

Okay, maybe just I wish tons of them were strangers…because as amazing, awesome, generous, fun, sweet, helpful, and gorgeous as all these life-long crazy friends are, they know a lot. And they think they know more! And they’re guessing about people and places and events that are fiction. But, you know, fiction that’s based on reality, because I’m not that creative. And I’m sort of lazy. And my friends know that.

Even in college I was a woman of great mystery. A deep thinker whose musings and philosophies were rare gems, carefully polished and doled out in specifically measured, thoughtful increments. This picture probably depicts a small break from typing my great Western/immigrant/romance/mystery/literary novel instead of doing my Biology paper. Deep.

Even my husband thinks he knows more than he does. When I was writing Double Clutch, I was in love. Like swoony, butterflies in my stomach, can’t sleep, obsessive love…with this book and Brenna, Jake, and Saxon, the main characters who lived and breathed for me, through me! The need to share this love was absolutely undeniable. And I had a captive audience in my loyal, loving husband, who has a very hard time saying no to me when I get that maniacal gleam in my eye. Also our house is too small to hide in, and he could only stay at work until the bosses forced him to go home, kicking and screaming.He wanted to relax after a long, grueling day, watch “Overhaulin’,” work on his truck, and sit on the back porch quietly contemplating life while the stars appeared in a slow speckle across the darkening sky. He wound up listening to me read AN ENTIRE novel in rushed, breathy spurts, stopping frequently to edit sentences that rang wrong in my ears, and often abruptly leaving him alone on said porch under said lovely stars so I could get down the entire scene that had just blossomed in my brain before I lost it. (more…)

The Trouble with Audiobooks

Warning: Moderately explicit imagery ahead. If you are young and impressionable, easily shocked, or my parents, feel free to move along.

This morning I kicked off my list of errands with a stop at the fitness center, where I pounded out a 55-minute suffer fest on their diabolical machines. I find that ignoring exercise is the easiest way to get through it, so I queued up an old audiobook that I bought last year based on an inexplicable number of five-star reviews and never could finish.

Almost immediately, the two main characters jumped into bed together (and by bed, I mean the shower). Since I’m not one for the, uh, more intimate scenes, I set the player to double speed and hoped the hero and heroine found quick gratification.

They did not. Their staying power was impressive, their stamina improbable. And the author described everything in such detail that even the most die-hard love scene fans would find it tedious. It went on. And on. And on. Annoyed, I finally gave up, stopping the book well before the big finish (if their recent performance was any indication).

Over the next hour Sunshine and I drove all over town, ticking through my to-do list. Just before lunchtime, when my exercise session and the accompanying book were a distant and unpleasant memory, we hit our final stop. (more…)