Sunday, April 29, 2012

April Awesomeness: Larry Brooks Workshop

Coldplay Concert @ Rose Garden Area

April is fast approaching conclusion and I have to say it's been a kick ass month & not just here on the blog. 1st, I finished my day job class from hell & feel a million pounds lighter having that behind me. 2nd, I saw Coldplay live for the 1st time. They are a great arena band to see and I would recommend going if they're coming to your neck of the woods. They gave out wrist bands at the door. When they lit up during the show I felt like I stood in the middle of a galaxy full of colorful stars. One of the most magical moments of my life. 3rd, yesterday we were in Spokane WA for a wedding for the weekend and spend the morning at Cat Tales Zoo. They rescue wild cats of all sizes and take very good care them. Being a feline lover, I was in heaven. Here is Apollo, a White Bengal Tiger. (BTW, I tweeted this picture under the incorrect name of Zeus. Zeus was there, but not in the picture.)
Apollo @ Cat Tales
I promise to post more pictures soon especially since hubby captured some great ones!

As much as I would love to talk about cats, concerts and show you pictures, you came here today to read my notes from Larry Brooks Workshop I took at the RCRW Spring Intensive. Your wish is my command, however I don't have a lot of notes, because much of what he said wasn't anything new for me. With that being said, there were some key points that I jotted down because I found them interesting. For more in depth notes click here, here, and here.

Ask yourself these questions:

What is the most important word in the realm of writing stories?  
Remember the moment when the seed of the story began?What sparked the story?
How did you turn the seed into a story?Why?
In one sentence what is your story about?
What is concept?
What is the most important moment in the story? (The inciting incident leading to the dark moment.)
What is the element about your book that will stand out of the slush pile?
Are you searching for your story, polishing your story, or optimizing your story, or searching for your ending?

Six Cores:
      Concept: the dramatic stage on with the character plot unfold.
       Story Structure: What happens, in what order and why? 
    Scene Writing: each scene needs to tell the mission.
       Writing voice. Ability to write a great sentence.

Three phases of writing. Designing, Implementation, & Optimizing.

Six key realms of story physics
1.      Compelling narrative premise. Evolution between seed to story.
2.      Conflict. Dramatic Tension. What are the stakes?
3.      Pace. Expositional pace.
4.       Heroic Empathy. Must like hero.
5.      Vicarious reader experience. Top Gun- cool jets.
6.      The x-factor that makes the book unique.

For more information on Larry Brooks visit his website:

Thanks again for reading & have a lovely week.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


I want to thank everyone for stopping by last week to meet Inara Scott & those who entered the contest. Huge thank you to Inara for being my first blog guest.  I also want to welcome my new followers. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

According to RANDOM.ORG the winner is:

Vonnie Alto

Please email me your mailing address to melania (dot) tolan (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll get your signed copies to you ASAP.

April Awesomeness: Entangled's Liz Pelletier "Magical" Workshop

Most of you already know at the end of last month I attended a writer conference put on by my local romance writing chapter. You can click here so see which agents & editors were present. We had quite the stellar group.

Along with Agent Lauren Ruth's query workshop, Liz Pelletier's talk regarding the "magic" of the publishing industry was worth it's weight in gold. I learned more about the business than I thought possible. Liz went through the possess of Entangled Publishing from submission to print. This is a brief summery from my notes:

Entangled Publishing Process:

1.      Query letter
a.       High concept proposal.
b.     Query letter needs to look like the blurb on the back of the book. Often that blurb will be used to sell it to the distribution market.

2.      Request full
a.       Full gets sent to two interns
b.      Two no’s from interns most likely reject.
c.       Sometimes she skips the interns (mostly from agents).
d.      If she likes it she’ll give author a call to talk and discuss the book.

3.      Editor creates APF (Acquisition Proposal Form):
a.       5 reasons the publisher wants to buy the book.
b.      The author name.
c.       Book title.
d.      Price comp.

4.      APF goes to senior editor and the acquisition board meeting.
a.       Discuss the profits or loss.
b.     Editor has 60 seconds to pitch the book. 
b.      Finance officer and senior editor must agree on purchase.

5.     Getting picked for a key title is AWESOME. Key titles are books the publisher puts more money behind because they are believed to have the potential for the most amount of sales.

6.      Book gets acquired. SQUEE!!!

7.      Editing!!! Grrr! 3 passes with editor, 1 pass with Editorial Director, & then Copy editor.

8.      Cover is picked. Entangled's policy is to get a cover that will sell not necessarily represent the book.

9.      Book is entered into the distribution catalogue.

10.  The book is pitched to the sales people for mass distribution (Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, etc). The editor as 60 seconds to pitch the book. The reps will either call out the number of books they want to purchase for their shelves or will say "skip."

11.  Digital only:
a.       Still have to sell to a digital distributor.

12.  Nine months is the fastest the book will release after sale.

Phew! And this is only the bare bones of what she covered. For more in depth notes click here. The biggest gem I got from her workshop was the "60 seconds to pitch" to the publisher & then to the distributors. Just cause the editor wants your book doesn't mean the publisher will acquire it and even if they do, the distribution sales reps also need to sold be as well. Basically your book needs to be insanely off the hook to grab these people's attention.

Not only is your editor working to make your book shine, they're working their tail feathers off trying to sell it to the rest of the world. And did you know the average editor, even at the big 6 in NY, makes about $25,000-35,000 a year salary? Sure, some of the senior editors of the NYT best-seller authors make more, but not that much.

The publishing industry is a complex machine and now I understand why not everybody that writes a book is published. Oh yeah, you can self-pub (nothing wrong with that). There are many success stories there, but if you're a nobody, whose going to go out there and fight to get your book on the shelf or advertised on websites where the potential for buyers?

During the coference I also got a chance to speak with Holly Blanck from St. Martin's Press. Their process to acquiring books is very similar, expect at their acquisition meeting she's pitching a romance, while the editor next to her is pitching a business guide. Pretty crazy, eh?

Hats off to the editors and agents who bust their butts for their authors. You are heroes in my opinion.

Monday, April 16, 2012

April Awesomeness: Inara Scott & The Marked.


Today is extremely special to me, because I am featuring my very first blog guest and she happens to be someone who has been and continues to be very instrumental in my writing career.

I met Inara Scott in 2010 at a book fair when I first spotted her YA novel The Candidates (which became The Talents, same book different title and cover) across the room and I knew I needed to read it. We ended up chatting and she suggested that I join RWA and the local chapter Rose City Romance Writers, which I did- the best decision EVER!

She's encouraged and supported me throughout my ups and downs in the pursuit of becoming a published author. Because of her kindness and generosity, I've come this far and haven't given up yet.

This spring I had the pleasure if reading The Marked, which is the squeal to The Talents, before it even came out and boy did she deliver on the second book as well. Loved! Here is a link to my review on Amazon:

So it is with great pleasure to welcome you, Inara. Thank you so much for coming and visiting with the fangs, felines, and fins.

Inara: Thanks for having me on your blog!

MT: So we'll start with a few questions. What inspired you to write The Delcroix Academy series?

Inara: I had always been an avid fantasy/sci-fi reader as a kid, and it occurred to me that all of the books in that genre seemed to pit a perfect good guy against a perfect bad guy. I wanted to explore a situation in which the good and the bad weren't black and white. The story was also inspired by the time when I wrote the book (2005-2006), when the United States was in a war with Iraq, and there was a lot of talk about preemptive strikes and government surveillance.
Originally, the book was titled "Taking Sides," because that's what I wanted my heroine to be forced to do--pick sides in a very complex and grey world of superpowers (with negative consequences) and cute boys (neither of whom were perfect). 

MT: Picking sides in a grey world is challenging no matter the age and you really did bring that out in both books, especially in The Marked. I first read The Candidates before it became The Talents, is there a difference between the two and why the name change?

Inara: No, the books are identical (except, of course, The Talents is paperback and The Candidates is hardcover). My publisher wanted to make the change to communicate a little more about what the book was about--they felt "The Candidates" didn't tell readers that this was a book with a paranormal aspect.    

MT: I personally LOVED  The Candidates cover. It's what drew me to the book and made me want to read it, but I have to agree the new covers do match the story better. So did you listen to music when writing The Marked? If yes, what songs/artists fueled the creative juices?
Inara: Actually, I'm sorry to say that I really can't listen to music when I write. I guess I'm just too distractable! If I listen to music with words, I end up singing along, and then I don't get anything done. :-) I do occasionally listen to Indian or French pop tunes when I'm writing, because then I have no idea what they are singing. But even that's a challenge for me.

MT: *laughs* That's funny, cause I'm completely the opposite. I HAVE to have good tunes to power through a scene especially if there's major action. Speaking of which, if you could have any super power or "talent" which would you choose?
Inara: I would really like to be able to breathe under water. My name means "mermaid" in Latvian, and I'm a huge swimmer. As a kid, I really thought maybe someday I'd be able to hang out with the fishes. I still kinda hope that's true... 

MT: Oh my, I'm going to have to steal your name for my mermaid series. Let it be known I have claimed it first. Last but not least, when is book 3 coming out? *nervously taps foot*
Inara: Gah! I don't know! I have made a pledge to myself and my readers that I will write book 3, but it's been a really crazy year and I haven't done it yet. But I will. Promise. :-) 
You heard her folks. She promised to write it and we're going to hold her to it. Thanks again, Inara, for stopping by. 
ALRIGHT!!!! Now comes the fun part. Yup, I have a set of The Talents and The Marked  to give away. Here are the rules:
  1. Follow this blog. You will need to follow the blog in order to do the next step. 
  2. Leave a comment below with an email address or where I can find you on the internet such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  3. Share: tweet, facebook, blog, email, knock on your neighbors door, and you could even tell your dog or cat. What four-legged friend doesn't like an action-packed YA thriller?
I'm keeping it plain and simple.  CONTEST ENDS SUNDAY APRIL 22 AT NOON & IS FOR USA/CANADA RESIDENTS ONLY. I will announce the winner soon thereafter. Now go forth and spread the word.

Good Luck!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April Awesomess: Query Workshop Notes

Happy April. Sorry I didn't blog last weekend. I was actually at RCRW Spring Intensive Conference and I have loads to share. First let me give you a brief overview of the weekend:
Friday- I checked into my hotel with writer/author friends Delilah Marvelle and Dana. After happy hour at the bar (all writers conferences must begin with happy hour, imo) we went to the agent/editor panel were we got to ask the industry titans questions.

Participating Agents:
Amy Boggs – Donald Maass Literary Agency
Natalie Lakosil – Laura Bradford Literary Agency
Lauren Ruth – BookEnds, LLC

Participating Editors:
Holly Blanck – St. Martins Press
Heather Howland – Entangled Publishing
Liz Pelletier – Entangled Publishing
Emily Ohanjanians – HQN/Harlequin

Yeah we had a fabulous group.

Saturday- Pitching to agents and editors in the morning and workshops all day. In the evening we participated in an informal round table with each of the editors and agents. All I can say is the industry knowledge I learned from these workshops more than paid for the admission fee. Plus I got to eat lunch with wonderful Heather Howland and Liz Pelletier. I KNOW!!! I'm still freaking out.

Sunday- Larry Brooks Writing Workshop all day. 

To say I was utterly exhausted by the end of the weekend is the biggest understatement of the year. Oh but so worth it.

Anyways here are my notes from Agent Lauren Ruth's workshop on queries:

She discussed the basic format for query letters as head, shoulders, knees, and toes:

Head- introduction

Shoulders- broad over-view of what the book is or the one sentence pitch


Toes- platform (twitter/blog, publishing experience), who you are, and goodbye

Query should be 250 words—not longer or shorter.

Do not compare big stories or movies in the query. You don't know if the agent or editor even will like them. Even if they do, they might not be interested in having something similar. 

Please put the title of your novel in CAPITAL LETTERS. It helps the agent/editor to find it easier.

Personalize the intro- Dear Lauren… It shows you've done your research. :)

Give the main conflict and the skeleton of the story in the blurb/synopsis.

Try not to ask questions when starting a query. 

What Lauren Ruth looks for:

1.      Main Character
2.      What she Wants
3.      What keeping her from getting it
4.      How she’ll solve the problem
5.      The connection between the hero and heroine.
6.      Show the character’s unique traits.
7.      Paranormal:
a.       How does the world work?
b.      Why is it different or special?
8.      YA: Show the issue that relates to teens.

Throughout the workshop we dissected sample queries which really helped us figure out what worked and what didn't. I've taken many query workshops but this one was the first to really help me know what agents are looking for. You can read more about queries on Lauren's blog

Okay, I have a lot of awesomeness coming this month:

April 16- I'm hosting the lovely Inara Scott and giving away a set of signed The Talents and The Marked. :)
April 22- Liz Pelletier's "magical" workshop notes. You won't want to miss this one.
April 29- Larry Brooks Writing workshop notes.

As always, thank you so much for reading!