W is for Write-Up (SCHISM Book Release)

I realize that today's doesn't exactly match the designated letter...in fact I had to work really hard to come up with something that came close...but the fact is I committed to interviewing a friend, who is one of my critique partners and a fellow blogger, on this date long before I knew I was going to participate in A-Z.  Why is this day so special...well, take a look at the banner below and you'll understand.

Author Interview

What inspired you to become an author?

I’ve always been drawn to stories and to making up my own or acting them out with my stuffed animals. As for actually writing them down, I blame my parents for naming me after an author—Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s like being named after an author gave me this bug in my ear. I would write lots of short stories or beginnings of novels, and after enough “starts” I finally began to finish them.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I was in college and watching a lot of anime at the time. I’ve always liked the “magical girl” shows where a normal girl is transported to another world. I took that key idea and tried to warp it, to find a different angle. So, I came up with the fourth-spatial dimension for my world Illirin. From there I created Gabe and Lea, and all of the conflicts rose organically from a combination of the setting and their personal goals/problems.

Tell us about your main character.

Gabriel Jones (Gabe) is the primary character, although Lea is a main character too. In the beginning, He’d think not much to say because he’s lost his memory. In fact, he’s obsessive about trying to recover it. The funny thing is that his true personality shows through regardless of remembering his past. He’s got a kind heart, he’s passionate, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he’s got a real impulsive streak. His passion has a bad side though, and he’s quick to anger. He’s basically a recipe for conflict.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on the sequel to SCHISM called UNITY as well as a short novelette prequel. I’m also drafting a geeky YA romance that has lots of awkward nerd love in it. I can’t wait to share all these projects!

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Twitter: @MaisanoLaura

SCHISM (Illirin Book One)

By Laura Maisano

Art therapy hasn’t done squat for Gabe Jones. A thousand sketches of his fiancée can’t bring his memory, or her, back to him. Nothing on Earth can. His past lies in another dimension, a world just out of sight.
Another student on campus, Lea Huckley, unknowingly shares Gabe’s obsession with the fourth dimension. The monsters from the other side attacked her parents and fled, getting her folks locked up in the loony bin. Proving this other world exists is the only way to free them. Lea and Gabe strike a deal to help each other, and together they manage to open a door to the world of Gabe’s true origin. She’d use him for proof—if she didn’t already care too much.
While Gabe tries to reconcile his feelings for Lea and his rediscovered memories of his fiancée, a much more sinister plot unravels. He uncovers his history just in time to become the unwilling lynchpin in a conspiracy to start a war. His memory holds the secret to the final riddle the would-be conqueror needs to get the upper hand. Gabe must protect the riddle at all costs, even if that means leaving Earth, and Lea, behind forever.

Lea packed light. Other than her phone’s GPS and a flashlight, she kept a small notepad, her lucky pencil, and the thermometer in her cargo pocket. She didn’t need to find data, now she needed proof.
She led the way down the alley where skyscrapers blocked the glowing moon and the lamps from the highway. Yellowed fixtures above each back entrance threw faint cones of light onto the cement, like holes in Swiss cheese.
Lea checked the coordinates on her phone while she walked, and the little red arrow crept closer to the flag icon she placed to mark the interaction point.
Gabe spent his time surveying the area for anything that might be a danger. He kept fidgeting behind her and turning around every few seconds, a twitchy meerkat on patrol.
“We’re only between buildings. It’s not the end of the world.” Lea checked her phone again to make sure they were headed in the right direction.
He glanced over his shoulder. “I still don’t like it. It’s night, people do get mugged, you know.”
“The statistics of that are so low. We’re really not in any danger, considering the population and how many times that sorta thing happens.”
He shifted uneasily behind her. “Whatever, we’re raising the chances by being out here at night.”
Lea rolled her eyes. “I’m not missing this opportunity.”
“I know that. Neither am I.”
They came to a cross section behind two major offices where the loading docks and dumpsters sat for both of them. A stream of water trickled down the concave cement into the large sewer grate. Old garbage left a fume hanging around, and the humidity only made it worse.
Lea double- and triple-checked her coordinates, cross-checking with her notes. “This is it. Within I’d say, a fifteen foot diameter, low to the ground.” She shoved the phone in her cargo pocket. “Perfect.”
“How long?”
“Roughly ten minutes.”
Ten minutes may as well have been six hours. She paced back and forth, her sneakers scuffing the gritty pavement.
Gabe continued to keep a watchful eye out for muggers or vagrants. What a dork.
She snickered quietly. For someone who didn’t know his own experiences, he sure seemed paranoid. She watched him standing straight, darting his eyes to the entrance and even up to the windows above them. Watch out bad guys, Gabe’s on to you. She smiled and turned to see what looked like heat waves rising from the cold cement. Crap. The interaction had already started.
“Gabe…” She waved him over next to the loading dock.
This interaction provided no shining lights or obvious movement. Not much stood out visually, except maybe the air glistening like summer heat waves if she squinted hard enough, but her digital thermometer found the coldest point.
“Here,” she whispered, not wanting anyone or anything on the other side to hear. She stretched her arms forward, and Gabe did likewise.
“On the count of three.” She waited for him to nod. “One…two…three.”
They both reached through the interaction point and grabbed at the thicker air. Nothing. They tried again, pulling, grasping, and making any sort of motion to trigger a rip. Finally, Gabe leaned in and pulled out at just the right angle, because the light tore across like a jagged line. Lea grabbed the edge of it and tugged, opening the tear wider until they both fell through.

About the Author
Laura has an MA in Technical writing and is a Senior Editor at Anaiah Press for their YA/NA Christian Fiction. She’s excited to release her debut YA Urban Fantasy SCHISM, and she’s finishing up the sequel UNITY.

Her gamer husband and amazing daughter give support and inspiration every day. Their cats, Talyn and Moya, provide entertainment through living room battles and phantom-dust-mote hunting. Somehow, they all manage to survive living in Texas where it is hotter than any human being should have to endure. Check out her blog at LauraMaisano.blogspot.com.

Twitter: @MaisanoLaura
Google + https://plus.google.com/+LauraMaisano

V is for Voice

What is it -- a writing voice – and how do you establish one that is uniquely your own?

Voice makes your work pop, and if perfected, helps readers recognize the familiarity. You would be able to identify the difference between Tolkien and Hemingway, wouldn’t you? It’s the way they write; their voice, in writing, is as natural as everyone’s speaking voice. Your voice should be authentic, even if you borrow a sense of style from your favorite author.

That’s all still really nebulous you say…what is an actual writing voice made of? Well, it’s a combination of common usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). One author may have a voice that is light and fast paced while another may have a dark voice. We all experiment with different literary styles and techniques in order to help us better develop our "voice".

If you read many agent submission guidelines, you’ll notice that a “unique voice” is sought after above all else. Is that right or wrong? Forget theme…disregard plot…toss aside fascinating characters…if you have a voice that stands out, you got a shot. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not too far from the truth. In this era where almost anyone can publish a book, and popular trends (i.e. vampires, zombies, angels, etc.) become inundated with new material at a much faster pace, it’s a distinctive voice that will help you be successful.

You know what the really hard part is? It’s making sure your voice comes across in something as artificially constraining as a query letter. I’ve said this many times before…the skillset needed to write a brilliant query letter is totally different than the one to write a book – that’s why so many times our voice gets lost when attempting to compose one. And no, I don’t have the secret for ensuring your voice stands out in a query letter, and if I did it would be a post much longer than could be tolerated during A-Z.

All I can tell you for now…is trust yourself. It may be easier said than done…but that’s all you need sometimes.

U is for Useless

Past history.
Final outcome.
Needless to say.

Redundant or useless words.  Whether you're drafting an email or the next New York Times bestseller, you should be on guard for phrases that can dull or weaken your writing. A recent article on the website Lifehacker by Melanie Pinola pointed out more than view examples:

That said or that being said.
I know you just said it. I just read or heard it.

As in "I literally shit my pants when he told me."
"That's terrible. You aren't still wearing those pants now are you? Were you able to wash them?"
"You shit them, literally, didn't you?"

Very unique.
Unique, meaning "one of a kind," is a binary condition. A thing cannot be "more one of a kind" than another thing.

Exactly the same as...
It's the same as, or it's not.

The reason why is because...
That one makes my head go boom. The reason my head goes boom is the redundancy. Because of the redundancy, my head goes boom. Why does my head go boom? Redundancy.

Advance planning
If you're planning, it's in advance.

Look ahead to the future.
Where else could the future be?

"In order to..."
Just use "to..."

True fact
Fact will do on its own, since there's no such thing as a false fact.

The fact that
Strunk & White point out this expression is particularly debilitating and you should edit it out everywhere you see it. For example: "I was unaware of the fact that" would be better as "I was unaware that" (or "I didn't know that"). Similarly, instead of "in spite of the fact that," just say "although."

Absolutely certain and Absolutely never
Certainty means without doubt, so you can get rid of "absolutely." Likewise, never is also absolute.

Author Diane Tibert says this is an unnecessary word 80% of the time and offers this example: "You should have seen the look on his face when I told him how sweet it was that he had sent you flowers. to You should have seen the look on his face when I told him how sweet it was he had sent you flowers."

Other words on her passive and redundant text red flags list include "very," "just," and "even."
Kind of, I think, basically, and similar words

These aren't useless or redundant words per se. They can be useful for adding an informal tone or for mixing up the rhythm of your sentences. As Judy Vorfeld writes, though, they can sometimes weaken sentences:

Old (adage, cliche, maxim, proverb, relic, saying)
You can drop "old" because that's implied.

Have any other examples?

T is for Tweak (or Transform)

You’ve sent off a few dozen query letters – yielding a couple of FULL requests – so you’re feeling pretty good about things. Then you receive a response from one of your dream agents, and although she likes the premise, she wants to see some changes made before she considers going forward. And these are SIGNIFICANT changes.

What do you do?

One of my critique partners recently faced this quandary – and you could too if you’re actively querying or preparing to. Have you thought about what you’d do if you were faced with that scenario?

I know…I know…it depends on the changes. What one person considers a tweak, another might see as an overhaul. I contend that is also depends how far along you are in the querying process. A couple dozen queries, especially if they’ve already hooked some FULL manuscript requests, is far too early to contemplate making drastic changes. Be patient. Let the process work. Then if you haven’t seen results after 50+ attempts (there are some that would say 75+), then think about it. Even still, only make the changes if YOU feel it makes the story stronger and can live with the results.

Because even if you do make the requested modifications, there is still no guarantee that the agent in question will want to sign you.

As far as my CP goes – she decided to hold true and see what future responses would bring, but she struggled with the decision. The instinct to jump at an opportunity, whatever the consequences is a strong one – fueled by a writer’s tendency towards self-doubt.

What would you do?
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