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September 2014
A Message from Kristin Nelson

Let's Do The Time Warp

Kristin Nelson

Last Thursday I did my ever-popular webinar Creating the Road Map for Your Novel. Of the ten participants, half had trouble with a powerful writing tool called the scene break. Now, scene breaks are awesome—unless they are overused or not used for maximum impact.

Why do writers use scene breaks? During the webinar, we came up with several reasons:

  1. To signal a shift in time (for example, to enter and exit a flashback, or to skip over a brief period of time during which nothing plotworthy happens).
  2. To signal a shift in point of view (POV).
  3. To build suspense, leaving one scene at a climactic, cliffhanger moment to switch to a new scene.

(To read some great examples, see Janice Hardy’s article on the topic of scene breaks.)

Here are three things about scene breaks to note:

  • Don’t use scene breaks too liberally. Think of POV as a movie camera. If you are constantly breaking scenes (moving the narrative camera), your reader is going to be pulled out of one scene and dumped into another. If it happens to often, your reader will get whiplash and lose the narrative thread of your story.
  • Scene breaks that signal shifts in time should be used judiciously and only when doing so actually moves the plot forward. Don’t use scene breaks as tools of convenience when they offer no other narrative impact. This type of scene break is the biggest culprit; when it doesn’t work on the page, it creates the most abrupt interruption in the logical flow of the narrative.
  • When breaking a scene to skip a period of time, ask yourself what happens during the time you’re choosing to skip. Are you skipping action that should be on the page? I’ve read manuscripts in which the hero conveniently gets conked on the head during a battle scene, only to wake up (after the scene break) once his buddies have defeated the enemy. New writers who are intimidated by writing action/battle scenes, or scenes in which the hero might have to come up with a brilliant plan to save the day, will sometimes conveniently skip them. Don’t fall into that trap!

In summary, whenever you are tempted to toss in a scene break, ask yourself: What is the function of this scene break? And what, if anything, am I skipping over that should appear on the page?

Pub Rants University

Agent Reads the Slush Pile Intensive – 2014-11-19

Wednesday, November 19 at 6:00 - 8:30 PM MT

Class Limit: 15

Requirement: Attendees must use a phone for audio to call in and actively participate.

Please note:

  • This Webinar is primarily a workshop and does not constitute a query letter submission for NLA to request sample pages.
  • This Webinar is for works of fiction only. Non-fiction works will not be considered.

Have you ever wondered what an agent is thinking when he or she is reading the slush pile? What makes an agent stop or read on? If you’ve ever wanted an inside look at this process, then this webinar is for you. During this webinar, Kristin Nelson will read a slush pile–sample pages submitted in advance by our fifteen webinar participants–and give honest feedback about why she would or wouldn’t request more pages.

Previous attendees of this workshop have said “Hearing a top agent reading the slush pile in real time gave an interesting perspective that was quite different from having one’s work critiqued by another writer or a beta reader committed to reading a certain amount of our work. Stakes are better defined!”

In this intensive version of Kristin’s popular webinar, every registered particpant’s sample pages will be read.

Registered participants will receive instructions for submitting the first two pages of their novels. Pages should include the work’s title and genre, but not the author’s name (submissions are to remain anonymous). In random order, we will display submissions on screen and read them aloud. If Kristin would have stopped reading, she’ll say so and explain why in an honest but constructive manner. If she makes it all the way to the end of the second page, she’ll highlight why she liked it enough to read on.

Warning: This workshop is not for the faint of heart. Participants need to be sure that they are ready to hear blunt, honest criticism, however nicely it is delivered. The point of this workshop is not to dishearten writers but to give them a clear, inside look at how an agent really reads the slush pile.

Register Now

eSpecial Price

Free 

           
Recent News
Think Like an Agent

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Is

By

As I was reading Digital Book World‘s daily email blast, I came across a press release in the form of an article called Writer’s Digest Inks Deal with Book Baby. It was about a new self-publishing imprint called Blue Ash Publishing.

What struck me was this bullet point:

  • 100% Net Earnings on all sales: Blue Ash Publishing takes no commission on any book sales. Authors keep 100% of their book’s net earnings. Once retailers are paid their percentage, all remaining revenue goes back to the author. BookBaby offers the largest eBook distribution network, including Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and many other popular retailers in more than 170 countries around the globe.

One-hundred percent of net earnings on all sales goes to the author. Sounds great, right? So immediately I started thinking like an agent. And the first question that pops to mind is, “What’s the catch?” There is no such thing as a free lunch. Just how exactly will Blue Ash Publishing make money in this venture?

Always follow the money…

I decided to do a little digging. First stop, check the source–Blue Ash’s website. Sure enough, right there on the home page was a link to Blue Ash’s publishing packages.

In actuality, writers need to think of this as a service or one-stop shopping for independent contractors to convert the book, do the cover, hire the editor, etc. This is not a publishing house. I repeat: This is not a publishing house. And from what I see on the website, they offer nothing that you can’t do on your own pretty simply, for a lot cheaper—and you’ll get paid directly rather than via a third party.

As my indie authors constantly remind me (and other writers who will listen), no one can publicize your book as well as you can. And it’s certainly not worth the $3,000+ for Blue Ash Publishing’s “Ultimate Package.”

Last but not least, because you are thinking like an agent, if you are going to explore this “service,” be sure to get a very clear definition of what “net” means to Blue Ash.

Bottom line? Pass. You can do this all for a lot cheaper than these price tags.

Kristin's Book Club

A Book Only Twitter Could Create

If you are looking for a light, quick, and entertaining read, this is probably worth picking up—just to read Charlie’s tweets (which are satirically funny). The story is about a guy who lives in the apartment below two vapid girls. As the result of an odd quirk, he can hear everything they say as if he’s in the room with them. He is privy to all their inner thoughts voiced aloud and tweets the rather inane and funny advice they give each other.

For me, this was not a must-read. The loner-bachelor schtick grows a little tiresome, but it’s interesting to find out about three-quarters of the way through the book that he is the son of two famous actors. I won’t spoil the rest.

Next up is Kate Atkinson’s LIFE AFTER LIFE –which I’ve already begun on audiobook.  Although literary fiction, Ms. Atkinson is drawing heavily on a speculative element to frame the story. It’s a fascinating narrative tool and expertly wielded.

New Releases

Radiant

by Karina Sumner-Smith

Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.

Buy It Here:

       

Falls The Shadow

by Stefanie Gaither

Cate’s sister may be a clone, but that doesn’t make her a killer. Does it? Murder, morality, and a slow-burning romance fill the pages of this futuristic thriller.

When Cate Benson was a kid, her sister, Violet, died. Two hours after the funeral, Cate’s family picked up Violet’s replacement like nothing had happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality by cloning them at birth—which means this new Violet has the same face. The same perfect smile. She even has all of the same memories as the girl she replaced.

She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school.

At least, that’s what the paparazzi and the anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that. She’s used to defending her sister, too. But Violet has vanished, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.

Buy It Here:

       

Forever Starts Tonight

by Roni Loren

“I can’t wait for Roni Loren’s next tantalizing story!” (Jo Davis). The wait is over. They fell in love in Melt Into You, but that was only the beginning. Now New York Times bestselling author Roni Loren dials up the passion as three lovers reinvent the meaning of togetherness and find out if love is truly enough…

Two dominant men, one beautiful woman. Jace Austin knows he doesn’t have what you’d call a conventional relationship with Evan and Andre, but it works. Boy, does it work–until Evan starts acting strangely and Andre’s ex-fiancée pops back into his life, unbalancing a perfectly happy threesome. Jace is forced to face the unthinkable: that the two people he cares most about in this world are in danger of slipping away from him.

So Jace plans a surprise getaway to a secluded mountain cabin for the three of them. And he knows exactly what he needs to do: give both his lovers a fantasy week they’ll never forget. And the possibilities for pleasure are endless. But when they get snowed in and the heat between them reaches a fever pitch, secrets come out. And Evan has one that could change all their lives forever.

Buy It Here:

   

Gun Shy

by Eleri Stone

Before the cure, Lieutenant Lyle Dalton’s job was simple: kill the Reapers. Now, under orders to inject all captured flesh eaters with the serum that restores their humanity, his Rangers at Fort Dougan face entirely new dangers. Someone wanted the Reaper cure badly enough to spill blood for it, and Lyle needs to steal it back if he hopes to hold the border.

Jane Fisher escaped Scraper crime boss Gideon Moore with only the clothes on her back. What he took from her can never be replaced, but her new home at Fort Dougan is the first safe one she’s known. Or was, until the remaining supply of serum was stolen, flown high into the mountains on Gideon’s command. Serving as Lyle’s guide through Scraper territory means revisiting her own personal hell, but it’s also an opportunity—for closure or revenge, Jane isn’t quite sure.

Beautiful, proud and haunted, Jane is a temptation Lyle’s worked hard to avoid. The mountains are the last place she needs to be. But if Jane can find the courage to face down a man like Gideon for the sake of the fort, no force on earth will keep Lyle from her side.

Buy It Here:

   

The Whatnot - Now Available In Paperback!

by Stefan Bachmann

The Whatnot is the acclaimed international bestseller and sequel to Stefan Bachmann’s riveting debut novel, The Peculiar, which Publishers Weekly called “an absolute treat for readers of any age,” and which the Los Angeles Times compared to “Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, and more recent classics, such as J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Twelve-year-old Pikey Thomas is missing an eye, a family, and friends of any sort. One day, running from bigger boys set on bullying him, Pikey finds himself in front of a grand, beautiful house. There he meets and helps a black-winged faery who is injured. It’s a small gesture of kindness and bravery in steam-powered Victorian London, where faeries, now banned, are on the run or imprisoned; where the human armies are preparing for war; and where the changeling Bartholomew Kettle, aided by Arthur Jelliby, still searches for his missing sister, Hettie. This is the epic, dark, imaginative, unforgettable, and ultimately hopeful sequel to Stefan Bachmann’s acclaimed debut novel, The Peculiar.

Buy It Here:

       

Shattered

by Mari Mancusi

A Girl at the End of the World. Two Brothers Fighting For Opposite Sides. And a Dragon Who Can Save Them All… Or Set the World on Fire.

A fiery, action-packed installment in Mari Mancusi’s heart-pounding Scorched trilogy

Trinity, Connor, and Caleb are trying to stay under the radar, holed up in an abandoned West Texas farmhouse. Their only problem is Emmy: a baby dragon that’s growing like crazy. When Emmy is caught on tape and the video goes viral, they find themselves on the run again.

Their only hope comes from an old map leading to a man who has come from the future to help them. But with the government hot on their heels and Caleb’s growing addiction to spending time in the Nether world, will they be able to reach him in time? And will keeping Emmy safe end up being too high a price for Trinity to pay?

 

Buy It Here:

       

The Burning Sky (available in paperback)

by Sherry Thomas

Magic, romance, and intrigue combine in this extraordinary novel—the first in the Elemental Trilogy—for fans of Cinda Williams Chima and Kristin Cashore. Publishers Weekly called it “a wonderfully satisfying magical saga” in a starred review, and Kirkus Reviews said it “bids fair to be the next big epic fantasy success.”
Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s been told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of the Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.
Guided by his mother’s visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission—and her life.

Buy It Here:

       

The Perilous Sea

by Sherry Thomas

Iolanthe and Titus continue their mission to defeat the Bane in this striking sequel to The Burning Sky—perfect for fans of Cinda Williams Chima and Kristin Cashore—which Publishers Weekly called “a wonderfully satisfying magical saga” in a starred review and Kirkus Reviews said “bids fair to be the next big epic fantasy success.”

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that throws into question everything he believed about their mission. Faced with this revelation, Iolanthe struggles to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother’s prophecies—or forging a divergent path to an unknowable future

Buy It Here:

       

Sword of the Bright Lady

by M.C. Planck

Christopher Sinclair goes out for a walk on a mild Arizona evening and never comes back. He stumbles into a freezing winter under an impossible night sky, where magic is real — but bought at a terrible price.

A misplaced act of decency lands him in a brawl with an arrogant nobleman and puts him under a death sentence. In desperation he agrees to be drafted into an eternal war, serving as a priest of the Bright Lady, Goddess of Healing. But when Marcius, god of war, offers the only hope of a way home to his wife, Christopher pledges to him instead, plunging the church into turmoil and setting him on a path of violence and notoriety.

To win enough power to open a path home, this mild-mannered mechanical engineer must survive duelists, assassins, and the never-ending threat of monsters, with only his makeshift technology to compete with swords and magic.

But the gods and demons have other plans. Christopher’s fate will save the world… or destroy it.

Buy It Here:

       

Unmade

by Sarah Rees Brennan

A modern, magical twist on the Gothic romance and girl detective genres, the Lynburn Legacy books will appeal to fans of both Beautiful Creatures and the Mortal Instruments series.

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end

Buy It Here:

       
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