Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Living (and Writing) the Questions

This post from Rachel Held Evans' blog absolutely inspired me today.

I especially love the quote she cited from Anne Lamott, who is also brilliant:

"The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later…Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go—but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages. "
The journey is a part of the process.

Definitely go read Rachel's post. And if you get a moment, read her whole blog. It's awesome.

Friday, May 27, 2011

This is what some people think being a writer is like:

The stereotype:
"I totally flew here in my private jet, guys."

The reality:

"It's been at least three days since I've been outside."
Oh, the glamor of being a writer :-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Definitions Part Deux: Storycrack


1. a particularly addicting idea or WIP.
2. an expression describing a situation in which the writer simply cannot stop thinking about, dreaming about, giggling about, or writing about a particular story.
3. the sort of thing that keeps writers coming back for more, despite all the abuse heaped on them from edits, betas, and the unflagging rejection of the writing world.

a marriage between the word story and the word crack, two addictive substances that together form an unstoppable force.

story addiction


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chapter One of The Curse Girl


My father drove me through the woods in his truck, the wheels shuddering over the dirt road while the air hummed with all the unspoken words between us. The tears wriggled down his wrinkled cheeks only to get lost in his beard. The mark on his wrist burned at the edge of my peripheral vision as if it were glowing.

I sat silent and immobile, a statue, a paper doll, a frozen thing of stone.

When we reached the gate I drew one shuddering breath and let it out, and my father put his hand on my shoulder. His fingers dug into my skin.

“He promised he wouldn’t hurt you, Bee. He promised.

I shifted. His hand fell limply on the seat between us. He didn’t try to touch me again.

Dad turned off the engine and we sat wrapped in the silence. I heard him swallow hard. I slid my fingers up and down the strap of my backpack. My mouth tasted like dust. The car smelled like old leather and fresh terror.

Nobody knew if the legends were lies, myth, or truth. But they all talked about the Beast that lived in the house. Some said he ate human children, some said he turned into a vicious creature in the night, some said he looked like a demon, with flames for eyes.

A trickle of sweat slipped down my spine.

“You don’t—” My father started to say, but he hesitated. Maybe he’d been hoping I would cut him off, but I didn’t. I just sat, holding my backpack, feeling the crush of responsibility slip over my shoulders and twine around my neck like a noose.

Through the gate I could see the house, watching us with dead eyes. Trees pressed close to the bone-white walls like huddled hags with flowing green hair, and everything was covered with a mist of grayish moss. I’d heard the stories my whole life—we all had—but I’d never been close enough to see the cracks in the windowsills, the dead vines clinging to the roof.

Magic hung in the air like the lingering traces of a memory. I could almost taste it. Voices whispered faintly in the wind, or was that just the trees? The knot in my stomach stirred in response.

My father tried again, and this time he got the whole sentence out. “You don’t have to do this.”

Of course I did. Of course I must. I wasn’t doing this for him. I was doing it because I had no choice. With the mark on his wrist, he was a dead man. Our whole family was doomed. He knew it and I knew it, and he was playing a game of lame pretend because he wanted to sooth his own guilt. Because he wanted to be able to look back at this moment every time it crossed his mind in the future and feel that he had offered me a way out. That he’d been willing to rescue me, but I’d refused.

Instead of responding, I opened the door and climbed out. The gravel crunched under my shoes as I stepped to the ground. I shouldered my backpack and took a deep breath.

The gate squeaked beneath my hand. I crossed the lawn and climbed the steps to the house, feeling the stone shudder beneath my shoes like the house lived and breathed. The door didn’t open on its own, which I had half-expected, but when I put my hand on the knob I could feel the energy humming inside it like a heartbeat.

My father waited at the car. I looked over my shoulder and saw him standing with one hand on the door, his shoulders pulled tight like a slingshot.

All I had to do was step inside. One step inside and the mark would disappear. And I could run home. I could outsmart this house. Couldn’t I? I sucked in a deep breath and rolled my shoulders.

Maybe I believed that. Maybe I didn’t. Why else had I brought a backpack full of clothes, toiletries?

“Bee,” my father called out, and his voice cracked. I paused, waiting for more. Maybe he really was sorry. 

Maybe he really didn’t want me to do this …

“Bee, I just wanted to tell you how thankful your stepmother and I—”

My throat tightened. He wasn't going to stop me, was he? I shook my head, and he rubbed a hand over his face and fell silent.

When he’d come home two weeks ago at 3 AM, the sleeve of his work uniform torn, his lip bleeding, and his eyes full of fear, my stepmother had cried. Really cried—wrenching sobs that made her double over and clutch at her sides. She almost looked as if she were laughing. I’d looked at him, and I could smell the magic on him. I’d known exactly where he’d been.

And there was a tiny part of me that knew then too that I’d be the one who would pay the price for his foolishness.

All I had to do now was step across the threshold. Then the mark on his wrist would vanish, and he would be free. Everything would be okay. That was all we’d promised, right?

I pushed open the door and stepped into the house. I held my breath.

Across the lawn, my father made a sound like a sob.

Was that it? Was the mark gone? 

“Daddy?” I choked out, not daring to move. “Is it—?”

“It’s gone, honey!”

I started to turn, but I wasn’t fast enough. The door snapped shut like the jaws of a hungry animal. I grabbed the handle and twisted, throwing my shoulder against the heavy wood. I shrieked, wrenching the handle harder.

It was locked.

I clawed at the wood with my fingernails until they bled. I pounded with my fists.

The door didn’t budge. It was strong as stone.

Through the slip of glass, I saw the headlights of my father’s car flick on, and the engine revved.
He was leaving me.

I slid to the floor. My sneakers squeaked against the shiny marble, my fingers slipped down the polished mahogany of the door. I didn’t want to look behind me into the mouth of the house, into the darkness that was going to be my home. Or my tomb. I didn’t want to think of how my father would go home and my absence would be like a ripple in the house, felt for a moment and then gone from their minds. I didn’t want to think about who would miss me at school. Violet. Livia. Drew.


Grief stuck like cement behind my eyes. I wanted to cry, but I had no tears. I never had tears. My eyes burned and my throat squeezed shut, making it hard to breathe. I crouched on the floor and put my hand over my mouth and thought of Drew’s hair, his eyes, his smile.

I might never see any of those things ever again.

Terror—real terror—charged through me like a storm. It pulsed through my body, pushing at my skin, wanting to get out. Like my own soul was fighting to be free of me, like my own self couldn’t stand to be trapped here at this moment. It was a surge of blinding intensity, like lightning. Then I fell, panting, my hands braced on the cool floor.

“Stop it,” I said aloud. “Stop this.”

I didn’t have to stay here. The mark was gone and we were free and I could go home—if I could just find a way out. The idea, planted in my fear-frozen mind, cracked my terror like spring warmth. Escape.
After all, I wasn’t dead.

“Yet,” I muttered, and the echo of my voice, soft and velvet, whispered back to me in the stillness. I closed my eyes tight, counted to five, and opened them. And I looked at the place that was going to be my prison.

The foyer stretched up like a bell tower. A shattered chandelier lay three feet away, crystal droplets spread like frozen tears across the marble. Light slanted into the hall through arching windows, illuminating the rest of the room and striping the broken furniture and torn books with golden sunlight. In the middle of the room, papers and quills lay scattered around on the floor. It was as if a great monster had gone into a rage and shredded the room, and then fallen into a peaceful slumber after exhausting himself.

Behind me lurked a gloomy hallway, lined with doors.

I was stuck in this house. My friends couldn’t help me. Drew couldn’t help me. My father wouldn’t help me.

A sigh slipped through my lips as I stood to my feet.

I was alone.

Alone in the house of the Beast.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Official Book Launch Day!!

Well, folks, it's time! The Curse Girl officially launches today!!

* confetti and balloons fall from the sky, zombicorns dance, trumpets blare *

The book is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords!

Also, I have goodies!

The first 10 people to email me stating they are willing to write an honest review of the book will receive a free copy from either Amazon (Kindle book) or a coupon for a free download from Smashwords (whatever format you prefer, EPUB, PDF, etc). Scout's honor about the review, since I can't make you do it or anything. You can post that review anywhere, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Goodreads, your blog ... I think Amazon is the biggest moneymaker in terms of sales for most ebook indies, but do whatever you like.

If you don't want to have to write a review or anything, but still want to do a good deed, feel free to pop over to Amazon and click "like" or click my book tags at the bottom of the page. This helps me somehow (increased visibility?) Here's a link to that page again. Remember, the zombicorns dance whenever someone clicks the like button.

Here's a summary of the book:

When her father tries to steal magic from the mysterious, beastly master of the "Curse House" outside her home town, seventeen-year-old Beauty is the one who becomes a prisoner. But Will isn't anything like she expected. He's the same age as she is, for one thing. He's also really handsome, contrary to local legend. 

Well, maybe the whole "beast" thing is meant to be metaphorical, because he's a total jerk.

Between the house's weird magic and Will's snobby attitude, the situation is nearly unbearable, and Beauty only wants to escape. But there are complications. The witch who cursed Will left him a riddle to solve and four years to figure it out. And now that Beauty's become a part of this messed up fairy tale, she'd better help Will figure out the riddle so they can break the curse, or she's going to remain a prisoner in the curse house too.

Because the four years are almost up . . .

Also, Emily White has an interview and a giveaway featuring me on her blog today. Head over and check it out! You could win a free digital copy of The Curse Girl!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

So ... SQUEE!

Guys, I am totally bookmooning with this new idea I had Tuesday. I've been writing like mad, neglecting my other projects (but I will not abandon them! ASWS is one of my top priorities this summer, definitely!), and daydreaming/gushing/squeeing.

I'm like that girl you knew in high school who was in love with a different guy every week.

Quintessential bookmooning face.

Of course, we all know how this is going to go.

Also ... THIS. (You can buy it now. It's not launch week yet, though!!!)

Monday, May 16, 2011


Well, folks, launch week for my book THE CURSE GIRL is one week from today! * throws confetti * Woot!! Honestly, this whole thing happened rather fast, but at the same time I feel like I've been gearing up for it for years. And I am SO excited to share this book with everybody. Next week is going to be fun. There will be contests and prizes and interviews and other fun stuff. So definitely swing by and visit!! 

Now today I'd like to discuss a topic I've been pondering lately: Pseudonyms.

Many writers use them, and before I got married I pretty much accepted that I'd have to use one because my name was Katie Hudson, and that was just too close to Kate Hudson for comfort (incidentally, Katy Perry chose "Perry" for the same reason, because she was born Katy Hudson too). I used to love making lists of possible pseudonyms as a kid. I was particularly pleased with the fact that I could change my first name, since I hated it at the time.

Then I got married, and my husband's last name is not attached to any "Katie" celebrities that I know of, at least. But I still hung on to that desire for a pseudonym. But my reasons had changed.

I actually have two very good reasons to use a pseudonym that have nothing to do with my name resembling a celebrity's. Trust me on this one.

Anyway, so I've played around with a number of different names, and I finally decided on one a few weeks ago. I will be using the name Kate Ellison on my books, and frankly, I love it. My twitter is currently still sort of set to my old name, as is my google ID, but I will be switching them soon.

Also, because I get tired of calling him "the husband," I've decided to choose a blogging pseudonym for hubby as well. He shall henceforth be known as "Captain Nemo," because 1) it's an old reference to an email address he used to use, 2) he likes that name and 3) if you squint really hard, he sort of looks a little bit like Captain Nemo from the old Disney version. (It's the beard!)

Do you use a pseudonym, or do you want to? Or do you love the idea of seeing your name on the book jacket?

PS Do feel free to call me Katie. I thought Kate looked more professional on the book cover, but Katie is what my friends call me!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Learning from the Stuff that Hurts

Today I want to talk about rejection.

The bad news is that rejection comes in all forms, in all parts of life.

When you’re in first grade, and you’re the only kid in the class that Susie (who you thought was your best friend!) doesn’t invite to her party.

When you’re ten, and your older brother won’t let you play street hockey with him and his friends.

Rejection feels like this sometimes.
When you’re a teen, and that guy or girl you like doesn’t know you exist, or worse, they DO know you exist and they scorn your interest.

When you’re in college, and your classmate gives you only dismissive comments during the “peer review” of a short story that you slaved over, and you are struck with how subjective this writing business can be sometimes.

THEN you grow up and decide to be a writer. Rejection, that’s just kids’ stuff, right? You grow up and start being accepted, right?

Unfortunately, no. The minefield of rejection just gets bigger and wider as a writer, no matter what path to publication you choose.

If you decide to go traditional, there are crit groups and betas and then queries and agents and maybe, if you’re really lucky/talented/persistent or maybe all three, editors and then eventually readers and reviewers and other authors. And a lot of these people are going to reject your work, and it will probably feel like they’re rejecting you.

Some of them will do it for professional, no-hard-feelings reasons. Some of them will do it graciously. Some of them will do it without thinking. Some of them will do it for callused or stupid or totally subjective reasons.

Rejection feels like this sometimes.
Now let’s say you go indie. In some ways you think the rejection might not be as bad (no queries, right?) and in some ways, you slowly (and with a sinking heart) realize, it might be worse.

Other writers might turn up their nose at your choices or think you’re lesser because you don’t have a lucrative book deal or a Big Six publisher or heck, a publisher at all. 

Book bloggers might refuse to work with you because self published books are too unreliable or they don’t want to be a “slushpile reader,” and some family or friends might not be quite able to hide the disappointed expression that flits across their face when you explain that your book didn’t find a publisher—you decided to grab life by the horns and publish it yourself. You might feel the sting of these slights and prejudices keenly. 

And then there will be your readers and reviewers and peers. Your critics and commentators and everyone who is watching you and judging your success by your Amazon rank or your Twitter following.

It’s gonna be rejection city, my friend.

But don’t give up. Please don’t give up. The good news … is there good news?

I really hope so!

First, not all rejection is personal. Not everybody will like your stuff—and that’s okay. Human beings are wonderfully varied and different. Some people love Twilight and some people love Flannery O’Connor, and some people love both Twilight and Flannery O’Connor.   

Some people will adore your work and gush about it to all their friends. And some people won’t give a crap about the books that you bathed with your blood, sweat, and tears. Or worse, they may be purposely malicious and mean about how they didn't like it—and that attitude may baffle you, it may hurt you, it may wound you deeply.
Not everyone will do this.

But learn to let it go, because there’s something you’ve got to understand. Everybody is different. That’s the way human beings are. There is a kaleidoscope of interests, tastes, and yearnings out there. There’s an incredible scope of perspectives, desires, and preferences.We need to respect that fact that some people love what other people hate.

Now, not everybody will be gracious about these differences of opinion. Some people will probably spew their disdain for your type of work all over the internet, for instance, by making blogs that mock your genre or rip the work of certain authors to shreds like sharks at a chum-fest (yep, seen it!) or writing a blog post about how book covers like yours are childish, embarrassing, or vapid (yep, seen it!) or claiming that your style of book is ruining society/publishing/young minds (yep ... seen it).

But you can be gracious, and if you are, that’s one less person being hateful.

And I think that’s something to strive for, don’t you?

Second, I believe that all the rejection is making me/you/us stronger. Every cut hurts, but we heal. When a stranger, a peer, or even a friend wounds you, take some time to process it. You will probably cry, or rage, or swear at your laptop. (I suggest shoveling mulch, actually.) You might take a walk or eat pancakes smothered in syrup and whipped cream. 

You will feel a tiny bit better. And then … 

Let it go. Please, let it go. Because there’s so much to do and be in this world, and if you hold onto the hurt and let it smolder inside you like a festering sore then you aren’t going to heal.

And finally, the good news …

The good news is, when you learn to accept the rejection and let it go and heal when it hurts, you’re going to get stronger. And better. And maybe even more gracious, because you’ve learned how much it hurts to be the recipient of a thoughtless fellow writer or a dismissive crit group or someone who has no time for a struggling peer or a reviewer who could only cared to list, in gory detail, every single thing he or she thought was ridiculous, absurd, and wrong with your precious book, complete with insults to your intelligence as the author.

So maybe you won’t be that person, because you know what it’s like. Maybe I won't do it either.
Now, I'm very sensitive, so maybe I get hit a bit harder by this than some. But I feel like lately the abuse has just been piling on. I wish I could forget a lot of the things spoken to my face over just the PAST MONTH (“I know you fancy yourself a writer, but…” from a friend, no less, “Fantasy books are going to be the death of literature” from another writer who writes literary fiction... 

And there were more instances than those.

Rejection and other hurtful occurrences are unavoidable.

But not everybody does it on purpose, or to be mean, or to be cruel.  But even when people are cruel on purpose … it’s an important lesson.

I can't stop everyone from being critical or cruel or thoughtless.

So I really hope I can learn from it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Choosing a Title

How do you choose a title? What constitutes a good title?

I have no hard and fast rule per say when it comes to naming my masterpiece scribbles of a genius magnum opus books.

But I have learned a few things over the past two years that I try to keep in mind.

1. A title should grab the browsing reader's attention.

This one is a bit really subjective, but there are certainly words that are more likely to snag a reader's attention than others. For me personally, words like thief, prisoner, blue, break, knife would all grab my attention over words like eternal, whisper, aspire, etc.

2. A title should be easy to remember. 

Have you ever read a summary for a book somewhere and wanted to read it, only to forget the title of the book completely when the time came for you to look it up at the library, Amazon.com, or the bookstore? I have the perfect example. The Perilous Gard was recommended to me, and I completely forgot the name before I could get my hands on a copy. If you can't remember the book's name, and you don't know the name of the author or what it's about, how are you supposed to ever find the book? Do readers a favor and make it easy to remember. I think part of my problem is I didn't know what a "gard" was, and perilous isn't a very grabbing word for me, so I had no way of storing that title in my memory other than route memorization.

In other words--what the heck does the title mean? Make it concrete. (I've read the book, and I still don't know. Can't remember!)

3. The title should evoke some sense of what the book is about.

This example bleeds into the last. I read the following example in the book Writing Historical Fiction. The author, explaining about titles, contrasted the first title of her book, Aspire to the Heavens, with the title she eventually replaced it with--Mount Vernon Romance. The first title means nothing, and is difficult to remember. The second is more concrete and straightforward, and gives the reader an immediate clue--this is probably a story about George Washington. According to her, the book sold much better under the second title (I believe it became a bestseller, actually).

I have to take this opportunity to say something about the romance stuff you see at the grocery store. The Millionaire's Virgin Bride, The Oil Sheik's American Mistress, The Garbage Man's Fiery Affair with the Widowed but Still Surprisingly Virginal Lunch Lady ... It is possible to be too descriptive in the title, I think. But then, I don't think that readership is looking for subtlety.

4. The best length is several words.*

I read this online somewhere (the article actually specified three words), and I don't have any data to back the assertion up. But it makes sense to me--three words are three opportunities to grab your reader with at least one evocative word, and there's more chance for your book to be the first thing that pops up in the search engine or on Amazon with a three word title over a one word title (have you ever tried searching for a book called something vague like Murder? Especially from an unknown author? You'd get a gazillion results from the non-fiction section on top of it).

Now, is more always more?

Well, no. I don't think it has to be a hard and fast rule. But I like to keep it in mind. Does that mean if you have a one word title, you need to change it? Again, no. Lots if one-title books have done very well. Twilight, for instance (although when I first encountered the book, the title didn't grab me, and I read it only based on the urging of a good friend**). Just consider what word you have chosen for your book, and how evocative/striking/memorable that word will be.

In Conclusion

Now, traditionally published authors have less control over their titles, I know. And if you're a well-known author, your title isn't selling your book anyway. Your name is, so I don't think it matters much what you call the book. Stephenie Meyer could call her next release Book Number Six or Another Book By Steph and it would still sell millions of copies.

But indies need all the help they can get.

What are some titles that grabbed your attention and then stuck in your mind until you read the book?


Memoirs of a Geisha
The Blind Assassin
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Thief
The Walking Dead
We, the Drowned

Also, some indie titles that grabbed me:

My Blood Approves***

* I wish I still had a link to the website where I read this. I thought I'd saved it in favorites, but apparently not. Sorry!

** In the end, word of mouth is always going to be more valuable than even a very striking title. So write a great story first and foremost!

*** You could argue that this is somewhat vague, but it has the word blood, which caught my attention, and I wanted to know WHAT the blood approved, and that lead to my looking the book up. Bingo. Goal accomplished, Amanda Hocking. It was a book about vampires, but the title wasn't simply a mimicry of Twilight. So it stood out to me.


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