Thursday, March 31, 2011

Original Sin WINNER!!!

Thanks so much to all of you who entered my Personal Demons and Original Sin giveaway! I have the best followers! You guys rock!

As usual, there were a ton of you. I will announce the winner in just a second. But you know me. I can't help myself. There will be another contest. I'm not telling you the prize yet...because I'm tricky like that, but here's a hint:

The contest will post on Monday, but tomorrow I have a fun announcement involving the words sneak peek and Original Sin. :p
Before I get to the winner, there were some questions in the contest comment thread that I promised to answer.

@Lady Reader asks: Will there be a 4th book?
Nope! Book three is due to my editor tomorrow, and it wraps up Frannie, Luc and Gabe’s story. :p

@Mindy fangedmom asks: What is your favorite thing about your books? Tell me in one sentence why you think I should read them.
I love my characters. One sentence? I’ll tell you in one word: Luc.

@L8BloomerOnline asks: If you could go back and give your unpublished self advice, knowing what you know now, what would it be?
See this and this. =)

@Nicole asks: I just wanted to say I really liked an older blog post of yours that talked about how you have to know the basics of your whole series before you release the first one, with foreshadowing and all that. I'm having to deal with that a little right now. It's like I have strokes of genius with certain ideas that can really get the plot going, but then I'm worried I'll forget to mention it at a later or even earlier time. Is there any way to fix this or somehow make it less painful? Thanks!
Honestly, I keep everything in my head. I know a lot of writers who do story boards and keep character profiles. Me, not so much. I’m pretty much the last person to ask about writing strategies.

@Katrina W asks: I must say you have made it hard which of the boys to love the most I am torn. So I have a question, did you base any of your characters around anyone you know?
Not in the Personal Demons series. They’re all my made up pets. =)

@Birgit asks: Do you dislike revising or is it just part of the fun for you, like plotting and actually writing?
I have an amazing critique partner, agent and editor, so I really enjoy revisions for the most part. They help me make my manuscript into the book I thought I wrote.

@Kristi The Book Faery asks: My questions for you are how much research did you have to do to A) Angels and Catholicism and B) Demons and Hell?
Also, did you base any of the book on theory ---I mean partly, of course, because it was fiction but your descriptions were so vivid that I wondered how much of that came from your own personal concept of Hell or if you researched concepts of Hell from the Bible or other fictional accounts, i.e. Dante's Inferno etc...
The beauty of fiction is you can make stuff up. I did a ton of research into demon and angel hierarchies, religious concepts of Heaven and Hell (without deference to any one religion), biblical interpretations, and papal encyclicals, as well as fictional accounts such as Dante’s Divine Comedy. (Specifically, the middle of the three books, Purgatorio, from which I’ve pulled a quote that embodies each book for the epigraph.) I took everything I learned and put a contemporary spin on it.

@Safari Poet asks: How do you keep all the facts straight in your head? That can't be easy, especially if it's a series. Do you have a board that to others would look like you're planning world domination that is full of all the facts or everything in a notebook?
The truth is, I’m horribly lazy. I know writers who keep notes on everything. When I’m not sure about something specific, I pull up my manuscript (from the previous books) and search by key word for what I’m looking for.

@RachelJames asks: Does Gabe have a point of view in Original Sin? Does he? DOES HE!!!!?
Sadly, no. I write when my characters have something to say. I write what they tell me. I don’t get a say in who speaks up when. That’s totally up to them. Not only didn’t Gabe want a POV in books 1 and 2, but he got pissed off when I tried to make him talk. Finally, in book 3, he’s demanding a POV, and he’s got tons to say. =)

So, onto the winner of the Original Sin ARC, Personal Demons and the signed Rachel Hawkins/Sarwat Chadda tote.
The winner, as chosen my the randomizer is...

John the Bookworm!!!

Congrats!! I will be emailing you... :p

*blows virtual noisemaker cuz the real ones hurt my ears*

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How writing is like learning to drive. Just go with me again...

Quick reminder: you only have until noon PST tomorrow to enter for a signed ARC of Original Sin!

So yesterday you got my post on how a good critique partner should be like a tough volleyball coach. Today, you get my bit about how writing is like learning to drive.

My oldest just took her first driving lesson yesterday. Here she is:
(I snapped that picture out the window on the sly, cuz she was already so nervous.)

I remember the first time I got behind the wheel of a car. I was fourteen. (I so hope my mother isn't reading this...) I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person, whether it's true or not. I generally pick up new skills fairly easily. By the time I was fourteen, I'd been watching my parents drive for a long time, so I was pretty sure I understood the mechanics of the whole thing. One day when my dad was at work and my mom had taken my sister somewhere, I decided to take my sister's car out for a spin. (There was a reason my dad always thought I'd be the one they'd have to bail out of jail.) So, I got behind the wheel, stuck the key in the ignition, and started the car.

So far so good.

I put the car in reverse and managed to back it out of the garage and down the driveway. Then I put it in gear and off I went. I was quite responsible for being so irresponsible, and drove very slowly, cuz, let's face it, if I crashed, my parents would find out what I'd done. Now that I think back on it, I'd be surprised if I got much over ten miles an hour. I can't remember exactly how far I went, but I'm pretty sure I just went to the end of my road and back. Whatever it was, I was sure I was doing it with the utmost skill.

I never got caught (I hope my kids aren't reading this...) so there's no big moral, EXCEPT...this:

Just because I had a basic sense of the mechanics of the whole thing, that didn't automatically make me a great driver, just like understanding the basic mechanics of what goes into a novel doesn't automatically make you a great writer.

When I decided I was going to write a book two and a half years ago, I'd read a lot (just like I'd watched my parents drive a lot) so I had a sense of what needed to go into my novel. I had a general plot (my road map) and I followed it. When I was done, I had a 120K word masterpiece. The good news, I'd written it for my daughter, never to be queried. If I'd decided to query it, just like if I'd decided to take my sister's car out onto the highway that first day, I'd have crashed and burned.

There's more to great writing than understanding the mechanics. It's the intangibles that make a story sing, such as style and voice. And, those intangibles only come with practice. When I started Personal Demons eight months after I starting that first book, I had two novels under my belt. I'd read some more in the genre I wanted to write in. I'd read Steven King's On Writing, which gave me a sense of what those intangibles were. I'd invested in a writer's conference, where I met my amazing critique partner. In short, I had more experience and was ready for highway speeds.

So, my second bit of writing advice for those of you aspiring to publication: BE PATIENT. It's so hard, I know. You're truly in love with your book and your characters. You want to share them with the world. Reality is, you'll have a much better chance of that happening if you shelve it and work on a new project. Write another, unrelated book. You'll learn some things, get up to highway speed, and, like me, when you go back to re-read your original masterpiece, you may find what you thought was a Renoir is really a finger painting. You can bring your newfound skills to that work of art and make it into the Renoir you thought you wrote. By this time you'll also have found yourself an amazing critique partner or group that you can send it off to, and they can tell you were there are still smudges in the paint. And, best part, you'll have another novel that you can turn around and do the same thing with when you're done. How can you go wrong?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How writing is like volleyball. Just go with me...

So, it’s volleyball season. Which means I’m watching a lot of volleyball.

We were on the court at 7:30am Sunday, and finally left the venue at 6:30pm. My daughter’s team had another great day. But, something struck me as I was watching the matches.

My daughter’s team plays at a pretty high level for their age. (she’s 13 years old) They’re currently ranked 27th out of over 140 teams in the Northern California Volleyball Association league. So far this season they’ve only lost one match. Their coach is what I like to call passionate. She will openly scream (yes, that’s the right word) at them during a match when they screw up, because she expects a lot from them. But…she’s also the first one to give them a high five when they do something great. Sometimes she does these things all at the same time to the same player. (Very funny to watch :p)

When she screams, it's always constructive, and the girls know she knows what she’s talking about. They have a huge amount of respect for her. In the three months they’ve been playing together, the parents have watched them grow as individual players and as a team. (In case you haven’t figured it out yet, my daughter is #13--with the glasses :p)

So, you’re asking…what does this have to do with anything…?

I often get asked what advice I have for aspiring writers. I have lots, actually. (Fodder for a different post, maybe, when I’m done bragging on my daughter.) The thing that struck me while I was watching was how writing from the trenches can be a lot like this. Sometimes you do something brilliant. Other times, you suck eggs. If you don’t have someone who will be brutally honest and tell you these things, both the good and the bad, then you’ll never really grow as a writer.

I am the poster child for what not to do. I wrote for a very long time without any sort of critique from anyone. When I submitted Personal Demons to agents, my fab crit partner (Hi Andrea!), who I’d just recently found, had only read the first few chapters. I was basically terrified to put my writing out there in case it sucked. But, the thing is, if you don’t, and it does, and you submit it, you’re not going to get very far.

Every writer needs someone like my daughter’s coach: someone whose opinion you respect, who’s not afraid to tell you when you screwed up and exactly why, but also someone who will give you the huge high five when you’ve done something brilliant. Just like my daughter’s team, it’s the only way you’ll ever grow as a writer. (For a list of what I'm looking for when I critique, go here.)

Do you have a fab crit partner or group? If not, find one posthaste!

Friday, March 25, 2011

My latest WTF moment

Have you ever done something, and only days/weeks later, when you discovered your stupidity, thought to yourself, “What was I thinking?” only to realize that was exactly the problem. You weren’t.

Yeah…welcome to my life.

I shared with you in February my Polish contract snafu, in which I painstakingly dried and ironed contracts that had gotten left in the rain by UPS, only to send them back to my lovely agent in NYC sans signature.

My latest is almost as stupid, and once again, involves my lovely agent, who through it all, has never once said to me, “Lisa, wtf?”

This time it involves revisions.

Many of you have heard me lament about how impossible challenging writing The Novel Formerly Known as Hellbent was for me. Wrapping up a trilogy with a tidy bow turned out to be the bane of my existence. But, my agent and crit partner had some great suggestions, so I got to work revising. There was one point in particular my agent made which made sense, and I spent several hours revising a chapter to bring it in line with what she wanted. I really liked how it came out. I was so excited about it, I sent it to her that night, back on February 24. That’s a month ago, in case you’re counting.

A week later, I finished all my revisions and sent it back off to Suzie and Andrea, who once again, made some helpful comments. I made a few more changes and I’m reading through last night, putting on the final spit and polish before it goes to my editor next week. It’s one o’clock in the morning when I get to chapter 17—the one I rewrote for Suzie.

I’m reading it, and I’m like, “No. That’s not what this is supposed to say.” So I keep reading and realize it’s original chapter, before I made the changes. So I go back to the email I’d sent to Suzie in Feb. and open my attachment only to find it’s the same stupid chapter, unrevised.

I managed to cut and paste the original chapter 17 in place of the original chapter 17! And I’m just finding out about it NOW! A month later. Ugh!

In my defense, I was stressing at the time and had three different versions of my manuscript going, but still… Although Suzie never said to me “wtf?” I can’t believe she wasn’t thinking it—or at least something along the lines of, “Yeah, you really knocked yourself out on those revisions…”

So, after digging through my recycle bin, I found the revised chapter and plugged it in. Crisis averted—until the next one. O_O

Am I the only one? What are some of your WTF moments?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The First of Many CONTESTS-FOR-NO-REASON!!! Win OS, PD and swag!

I said the magic word! Contest!! I love my followers, and I LOVE giving stuff away!

For those of you who have been around a while, you’ll remember my monthly Debut Contests all last year to celebrate all the awesome YA Debuts. (Including mine!) My last Debut contest ended in December and I’ve been going through contest withdrawal ever since. So now I’m back with a vengeance!

Here’s the deal. I have tons of signed books and swag that I’m dying to give away. Instead of monthly contests, I’m going to run bi-monthly contests between now and Original Sin release! That’s two chances every month to win Original Sin galleys and other signed books/swag by some totally amazing authors! (Think: Rachel Hawkins, Gayle Foreman, Sarwat Chadda, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black and more!)

First up, we have a fabulous prize pack, including a signed copy of Personal Demons, a signed Original Sin galley, signed Original Sin bookmarks, Team Luc and Team Gabe temporary tattoos, and this totally fun tote bag signed by both Rachel Hawkins and Sarwat Chadda!

You know you want it!

All you have to do to enter is comment on this post by noon (PST) on Thursday, March 31st. Your comment doesn’t have to be fancy. You can just say hi or ask a question. (I love to answer questions, especially about my books!) In addition to commenting (for which you get one point) you can accumulate extra points as follows:

Old blog follower: +3 points
New blog follower: +2 points
Follow me on Twitter (@LisaDez) +2 points
Link to my contest post on your blog or twitter: +1 point
Dedicated post with link to my contest on your website/blog: +3 points
Add me to your blogroll: +2 points

Also on your entry, please remember to tell me how to find you (email address). And ADD UP YOUR POINTS because I can’t be trusted with math…just sayin’.

As always, the contest is open internationally. The winner will be chosen by the randomizer and posted on the blog after noon on March 31st. SQUEE!!

And, the next day, April 1st, I have a fun announcement scheduled. (Think: Original Sin and sneak peaks! :p)

So, enter early and enter often! (Joking! One entry per person please!) Good luck!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Original Sin ARC WINNERS!!! And another contest...

Wow! Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm in spreading the Original Sin word. There were so many entries, and some of you were so amazing: spreading the word far and wide! It took me all weekend to count up the points. Three of you hand sixty points or more, and the average was fifteen, so thanks for all the support! I really appreciate it! Don't be surprised if I show up at your house tomorrow and hug you! ;p

So, here goes...

Plugging numbers into the randomizer...

Clicking button...

And the first winner is...


Clicking button again...

And the second winner is...

Rachel (Fiktshun)!!

Congrats to our winners!!!! I will be emailing you soon =)

*throws virtual confetti* (because I don't want to pick the real stuff up)

If you didn't win, don't despair! I've gone too long without giving stuff away, and I can't stand it anymore! So, guess what that means for you. Yup! More chances to win Original Sin galleys and some other fabulous signed books/swag. (Think Gayle Forman, Rachel Hawkins and Sarwat Chadda :p) Check back tomorrow for the first of them! :p SQUEE!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What makes a book great?

Before I get off on my topic, I want to remind you all that the Spread the Word Contest in which two Original Sin ARCs are up for grabs ends tomorrow night, so don't miss your chance!

Dovetailing off of Tuesday’s post about beautiful writing versus good writing, I’d be interested to hear who some of your favorite authors are, which of their books pulled you in, and why. Loving a book has to do with a lot more than the writing style. As many of you commented Tuesday, you want to be pulled into the story.

I judge the strength of a novel by how long after I finish it I’m still thinking about it. This definitely has to do with the writing style—if I wasn’t living the story because the prose pulled me out of it, I’m not going to feel the same emotional investment. In writing circles I often hear authors say, “I’m not feeling it,” about their own work when they’re drafting. I know I’ve said that about mine. That’s when I know I’m not done revising. I think that’s really it in a nutshell. As a reader, we want to “feel it.” Whether it’s a romance or a thriller, we need to feel invested in the characters and the plot needs to feel real. If any of that is missing, the story’s not going to resonate with us.

For me, that boils down to these components:

Characters: There needs to be memorable characters who are developed in such a way as to make us care about what happens to them.

Plot arch: Said characters need to be propelled through the story by realistic events (even in a fantasy), most of which are out of their control. These events cannot feel contrived or convenient (nothing drives me more crazy) but need to flow organically. (I explored this concept in my post about critiquing.)

Stakes: I did an entire post on this a few weeks back. Something important (to the characters and the readers) needs to be at stake. This varies greatly between genres. In epic fantasy, often the fate of the world hangs in the balance. In quieter contemporaries, it can be as simple as the fate of a relationship. Either way, if an author has done their job developing the characters and the plot, we’re invested.

And, once again, writing style: Did the author get out of the way and let me live their story.

A benchmark for me is how fast I rush out for a sequel (if there is one). If I read a book, and months later, when the sequel comes out, I still care enough to go to the bookstore on release day and devour it before bed that night, I know the author has done all these things. My only examples of this so far:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling (and a few of the earlier ones)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I’ll put J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in here because I couldn’t stop reading until I finished all of them, and that was in seventh grade when I still hated to read.
And the next one will be Where She Went by Gayle Forman. (Now you know where I'll be April 4th.)

What does this for you? What is it about some books that leave you thinking about them days, and sometimes even weeks after you’ve finished?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Foreign cover reveal!

I think my post tomorrow might be a top ten list. There have been so many fun and exciting things throughout this whole publishing process, and in the top five would be foreign translation rights sales. As of now, Personal Demons has already been published in Portuguese (Brazil—Portugal still to come) and I can’t wait for the others! (For a complete list, see my sidebar.) Part of that fun is seeing how the foreign publishers will package my books. Some change the title, others the cover. Some give it a fun series name. (Like the Amor Infernal series in Brazil, which sounds very exotic :p)

I just got the okay from my Australian publisher to post my Australian Original Sin cover. So, *drumroll* here it is! 

It’s very simple, but very cool. I like the light and dark, and the font is way creepy. Original Sin isn’t listed in the Pan Macmillan catalog yet, so I don’t know the release date, but Personal Demons released there a few weeks after the US release, so, I’m speculating August, maybe.

Also, for those of you who may have missed it a while back, here’s my German Personal Demons cover.

My German publisher obviously changed the title. (Gabe loves it ;p) The tag line says "Between Heaven and Hell." The German pub date for Angel Eyes (Personal Demons) is August 1st :p

What do you think? I love them both =)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Good writing versus beautiful writing: Is there a difference?

Since December, I've been writing—every waking minute and some not-so-waking minutes—but this fall I took some time off writing to read. A lot. I caught up on everything I’d been wanting to read this last year but didn’t because I was absorbed with my own characters. I found some new favorite authors and read a few lemons. But, as I was doing all this reading, I was struck with something. Some authors take a lot of words to say something very simple. This isn't meant as a criticism, but an observation.

I tend to lean toward simplicity in my writing and truly believe that the author should be invisible. Two novels I've read in the last six months where this was the case were If I Stay by Gayle Forman and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

I love the way they write. Their styles, though very different, resonate with me. Simple and beautiful. Along with Jay Asher, John Green and a handful of others, they’re some of the least obtrusive writers I’ve ever read, meaning their words never distracted me from the story. And they had me crying, I don’t know, like twenty times.

That said, my favorite authors are still Melissa Marr and Kristin Cashore, who tend to be slightly more literary. I catch myself thinking about the writing while reading their books, but only enough to say to myself, holy cannoli, I wish I could write like that, and never enough to pull me out of the story. It's a very fine line.

There are some beautifully written stories out there that are sometimes too beautifully written. I know it sounds crazy, but if the prose is so beautiful that I start thinking about the prose, I’m no longer living the story. As a writer, I’m thinking that’s not such a good thing.

Am I wrong? Is there a difference between a well written story and a beautifully written story?

What do you think?

Friday, March 11, 2011

What you can do to help

By now I'm pretty sure everyone's heard about the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan. When I see the outpouring of support after a tragedy like this, it really warms my heart. All of a sudden, there's less snarkiness and more compassion on all the social networks. It's like suddenly everyone gets how important it is to care about your fellow human beings. What would be fabulous is if everyone could treat each other this way all the time.
There are a ton of ways you can help the Japanese devastated by this disaster. Here are just a couple:

Maureen Johnson is sponsoring a Shelterbox drive once again, and if you donate, you can win some fabulous prizes (think signed books).

There's always the American Red Cross, who sends relief all over the world. You can click the link above or text REDCROSS to 90999.

Please do what you can to help.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring has sprung!

This, my dear people, is the view outside my window right now.

I love this time of year. All those blossoms mean I will have fruit this summer. Well, really, those are almond blossoms, so I’ll have nuts—or am nuts…or something.

Anywhooo, the peach blossoms will be next, and, last I looked, they were fruit, yes? So, it’s all good. We had some work done in our yard this winter and they killed my Bing cherry tree (murderers!), but I still have my Rainier cherry. I also have a peach tree, an apricot tree, a plum tree, a nectarine, a pear tree, a fig tree, and a walnut tree. The last of the oranges, lemons and grapefruits are ripening in my backyard as we speak…or blog…or whatever. And, in a few weeks, I’ll get my garden going.

So, like I said, I love this time of year. I promise to share. =)

If it’s still cold where you are, I think you should all move to California. To my house! I have a spare room! Come eat peaches! ;p

Monday, March 7, 2011

More chances to win Original Sin!

Woot! I just gave away two Original Sin ARCs on Twitter this weekend! I love giving books away! If you didn’t win on Twitter, remember that you still have time to enter my “Spread the Word" contest here on the blog. There are already tons of entries and one entrant earned 66 points by posting links and voting on Goodreads lists. Not sure if that qualifies as stuffing the ballot box, but it's all about spreading the word, so... ;p

Also, Katie at Call Me Crazy Reviews is giving away a signed Original Sin ARC as part of her Birthday Bash, so head over and enter for your chance to win! =)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Spread the word and win an Original Sin ARC!

Woot!!!! So here we go! In honor of tomorrow marking four month to release of Original Sin, I’m launching the Original Sin “Spread The Word” contest here on the blog! Also, if you Tweet, we’re only 11 followers away from the 2000 Followers Twitter contest! I’m so excited! Can you tell! My exclamation key just exploded!!!!

So, here’s how the Spread the Word Contest works. From today until noon PST on Friday March 18th, you can earn one point for everyplace you spread the Original Sin word. Examples:

1. Post a link to this contest on any social network such as Twitter (hashtag #OriginalSin), Facebook or your own blog=1 point each
2. Link to any bookstore Original Sin pre-order page (indie or chain is fine—see my sidebar for links) on Twitter, FB, your blog, etc.=1 point each
3. Grab the Original Sin countdown widget (in my sidebar) and post it on your blog=1 point
4. Add Team Luc or Team Gabe buttons to your blog (in my sidebar)=1 point each
5. Add Original Sin to your Goodreads “to-read” shelf=1 point
6. Link to my Goodreads Original Sin page on any social network=1 point
7. Vote for Original Sin on any appropriate Goodreads list=1 point per vote
8. An Original Sin Waiting on Wednesday post on your blog=1 point
And anything else you can think of. Be creative!

Fill out the form below with the links to your posts by noon PST on Friday March 18th for your chance to win one of two Original Sin galleys and tons of Original Sin/Personal Demons swag. (Open internationally.) You must be a follower of this blog to win. Winners will be posted here after noon on March 18th.

(Update: Some of you are entering in comments. I'll try to check them, but the only way to guarantee your entry is to fill out the form.)

Feel free to stop back as many times as you need to list all your links and get all your points. Multiple Tweets, FB postings, etc count as long as they’re spread over time.

Enter early and enter often! Good luck and thanks for your help spreading the word! :p

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Who wants an Original Sin ARC?

This coming Saturday marks four months until the release of Original Sin, so I think it's time for some CONTESTS! How about you?

Here's what's brewing:

Tweeples, if you can get me to 2000 Twitter followers (that's just 69 more) by Friday night, on Saturday I'll give away two signed Original Sin galleys on Twitter! If you don't Tweet, you should! It's like a big pajama party! Set up an account and follow me at @LisaDez!

And, here on the blog, it's time to start spreading the word, so I'll be having a "Spread the Word" contest (So creative with the title, I know.) in which two more lucky winners will receive signed Original Sin galleys and tons-o-swag. Stay tuned for details.

That's four copies of Original Sin going up for grabs later this week, so don't forget to check back.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Little things that make my day...

You've all been along for the ride with my revisions of The Novel Formerly Known as Hellbent. I finally sent it off Sunday night to my truly fabulous agent, Suzie, and my amazing critique partner, Andrea. So, after all my agonizing and melting down, which you all witnessed here and here, to get this Tweet this morning from Suzie made my day. Also, I should mention that Tweet came somewhere around 3:30 am her time.

For those without Twitter accts: RT @sztownsend81 OMG. @lisadez is amazing A-MAZING! I'm swooning over the third books in the PERSONAL DEMONS series which I just finished reading. PHENOMENAL

Just thought I'd share =)