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LItChat Has A New Home July 15, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in weekly topics.
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We've MovedWe’ve moved. You can find out what’s coming up in LitChat as well as peruse all of our archives from our new home at www.litchat.com. Please stop in and say hello.

Literary Agent Week July 1, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in guest host, literary agents, MediaMonday, Uncategorized, weekly topics, WritingWednesday.
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It’s literary agent week in #litchat. This week we’ll discuss the down and dirty of getting an agent. Here’s a sample of what we’ll discuss throughout the week:

  • When to know when an agent isn’t right for you.
  • What you can expect from an agent.
  • How much do agent’s likes and dislikes affect their choices of manuscripts?
  • How much does the market sway their choices of manuscripts?
  • What grabs them in a query letter?
  • Do the first five pages of a manuscript really matter that much?

#Litchat runs through Twitter at 4 p.m. E.T. on the dates noted. Follow the chat through our dedicated chat application at www.nurph.com/litchat.

Here’s the how the week will unfold:

Monday, July 1, 2013: Discuss the recent #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) feed from last week.

GalleyCat’s #MSWL curation of the feed in Storify is here.

A Tumbler with #MSWL feed is here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013: The Query Go Round

Today we’ll discuss everything about writing the perfect query, to making sure your manuscript is agent-ready, to finding the right agents to query, to record-keeping, to success.

How to Write a Query Letter

The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter
Brian A. Klem, Writer’s Digest

Anatomy of a Query Letter: A Step-by-Step Guide
Writer’s Relief Staff, The Huffington Post

Successful Query Letters for Literary Agents
Jason Boog, GalleyCat

9 Frequently Asked Questions About Writing A Query Letter
10 More Questions Answered
Chuck Sambuchino, Writer Unboxed

Query Shark [ed: The best damn query letter blog on the web]
Janet Reid, Literary Agent

Friday, July 5, 2013: Agent on Record

Lucy Carson, literary agent with The Friedrich Agency, will take your questions between 4-5 p.m. E.T. Read more about Carson from this interview in Writer’s Digest.

Follow Lucy Carson on Twitter: @LucyACarson.

Guest Host: Chris Cleave June 6, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, weekly topics.
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Chris CleaveThere are athletes and there are Athletes. Chris Cleave portrays a trio of athletes of the capital variety in his latest novel, Gold. Kate, Zoe and Jack met on the same day in an elite training program for promising young cyclists. They’re each 19, fit, and fabulous on their bikes and off. Though they are all bound for Olympic glory, rivalries and relationships follow them through years of training, competition and everyday life.

Chris Cleave is guest host of #litchat on Friday, June 7, 2013, 4-5 p.m. E.T.

As the novel slips up and down through time, we learn that Jack, the unwitting hub of this trio, is married to Kate, but has a complicated history with Zoe, who becomes Kate’s best friend. This history greases the gears throughout the story as Kate and Jack make sacrifices on behalf of their critically ill daughter, Sophie. Kate misses her first Olympics when she must stay home with infant Sophie, still in the danger zone from her premature birth.Gold Zoe, wild and tuned for trouble, goes on to compete and wins her first two gold medals. Four years later, Zoe gets the gold again in Beijing after her closest competition, Kate, leaves the games early for a health emergency with Sophie. Shift forward four more years and Zoe and Kate must go wheel to wheel again to see who gets a chance for London’s gold.

The complicated backstories of each character—including the wonderful child Sophie—transform Gold from an ordinary tale about Olympic success, to one of sacrifice, surrender and satisfaction.

Chris Cleave’s debut novel Incendiary won a 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize, and won the United States Book-of-the-Month Club’s First Fiction award 2005. It had an unusual start in life, being a novel about an imagined terrorist attack on London that was published, by awful coincidence, on 7th July 2005.  His second novel, published in 2008, is titled Little Bee in Canada and the US, where it is a New York Times #1 bestseller. It is titled The Other Hand in the UK, where it is a Sunday Times bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. Cleave is working on a new novel set in London and the Mediterranean and inspired by the lives of his grandmother, who drove ambulances during the war, and his grandfather, who was part of the fledgling SAS and who was once assigned to Randolph Churchill with the order: “Look after him, David, and if at all possible keep him out of trouble.” Cleave lives in London with his wife and three children.

Follow Chris Cleave on Twitter: @ChrisCleave.

Happy 4th Anniversary to LitChat January 16, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in weekly topics.
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Our #litchat friends are so talented. Take a look at this delightful video salute from our own Marianne G. Petrino, aka @ninetiger.

This week LitChat is celebrating our fourth anniversary on Twitter. We’re celebrating a week early, since we already have a terrific guest host scheduled for next week (Michael Kimball will discuss his new novel, Big Ray). LitChat’s first tweet appeared on January 29, 2009 announcing, “LitChat is all books. All the time. We exist to bring readers and writers together for fun and fast 1-hour Twitter chats, M-F, 4 pm est. Join us.” As much as we love reading, writing and talking about books, we just couldn’t keep up with a daily conversation, so we reduced the frequency to Monday, Wednesday and Friday after the second month.

In the four years since LitChat began, Twitter has grown from a small hive of pioneering microbloggers to a global colony of trendsetters, brand divas, politicos, and everything in between. LitChat is proud to be a part of the phenomenon that is Twitter. But more so, we are thrilled to have helped authors spread the word about their books through insightful literary discussion with intelligent and interesting people from around the world.

Join us in #litchat on Friday, 4 p.m. ET as we celebrate our fourth anniversary with author guest hosts from previous years.

Books Too Good To Finish December 17, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in historical fiction, weekly topics, women's fiction.
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MediaMonday for December 17, 2012: Michael Chabon Looks Back on 2012, source media from LA Times Sunday Conversation, December 16, 2012.

Patricia Harman in #litchat

Patricia Harman (photo: Bob Kosturko)

What was the last novel you read that you couldn’t put down, and yet dreaded the final page? A novel that occupied your mind like an addict jonesing for a fix? Was it the characters who grew to feel like friends, or did the setting draw you into a world of discovery, danger or desire? On Wednesday, December 19, 2012 we’ll discuss books too good to finish, but so good you can’t stop reading.

Friday’s guest host, Patricia Hartman, has written one of these books. The Midwife of Hope River, takes you into the hills of West Virginia during the depression, where a young midwife still reeling from her own personal tragedies, must overcome poverty, bigotry, racism, and the law itself on her journey to wholeness.

MidwifeofHopeRiverBabies are born in this novel, yet the story is about so much more than midwifery. Look at the setting, Appalachia during the Depression. Hartman forges conflicts such as steel mills, mines and the development of unions into the backstory and the present. Remember the era, 1930s, where divisions cut through all manners of society, from the rich to the poor, the immigrants and the native born, the whites and the coloreds.

Hartman deftly casts birth and death as the twin fires that refine people no matter their walk of life. Add historical elements such as the terrorist activities of the Ku Klux Klan, the work of the firebrand Mary Harris “Mother” Jones at unionizing labor, and even references to the anarchist revolutionary Emma Goldman.

Patricia Harman has spent more than 30 years caring for women as a midwife, first as a lay-midwife, delivering babies in cabins and on communal farms in West Virginia, and later as a nurse-midwife in teaching hospitals and in a community hospital birthing center. Harman still lives and works with her husband, Ob/Gyn Thomas Harman, in Morgantown, West Virginia at their clinic, Partners in Women’s Health Care. Though she no longer attends births, she provides care for women in early pregnancy and through-out the life span. She brings to her writing the same dedication and compassion she brought to obstetrics. Her two previous nonfiction books, Arms Wide Open and The Blue Cotton Gown, both of them detailing her experiences in childbirth and delivery.

Follow Patricia Harman on Twitter: @PatsyHarman.

What Makes Stories Tick December 10, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in weekly topics.
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Chatscript now available from December 14, 2012 conversation with Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story. Read the chatscript here.

Lisa Cron in #litchatWriters are a special breed. A light hovering on the ocean’s darkened horizon might be a ghost ship to a writer, while it’s only a buoy bobbing from its seaside anchor to others. Imagination is the key to writing fiction of all kinds. Is imagination enough though? This Wednesday in #litchat we’ll discuss what it means to be a writer and what compels us to spend hours in solitude scribbling—keying—scenes from imaginary lives. Then on Friday, we’ll have Lisa Cron as guest host in #litchat to discuss her groundbreaking book, Wired for Story.

Lisa Cron believes there is more to telling a good story than just coming up with an idea and arranging cohesive sentences on a page.  In her new book Wired For Story, Cron presents the science behind what makes a good story. Cron breaks this research into 12 chapters which focus on a specific function of the brain. Each chapter begins with what she terms a “Cognitive Secret” paired with a “Story Secret.” Chapter One begins with this:

Cognitive Secret: We think in story, which allows us to envision the future.

Story Secret: From the very first sentence, the reader must want to know what happens next.

Wired for StoryRecent breakthroughs in neuroscience confirms that our brains are wired to think in story. The most successful poets, playwrights, minstrels, bards and novelists have for centuries understood the power of story to spread news, share ideas, and entertain. Yet modern writing schools and workshops often stress wordplay over storytelling. Cron’s premise that craft alone isn’t enough to propel a good story suggests that storytelling techniques can be taught more effectively when one understands how the brain works in regard to story.

Take for instance this summary of the chapter covering cause and effect:

Story arises from the conflict between “this one thing we thought we knew would happen” and “what happened instead.” It then plays out in a clear cause-and-effect trajectory from start to finish—otherwise it would be “just one damn thing after another.” So in this chapter we’ll determine how to make sure your story follows one astonishing simple mantra; we’ll explore how to harness the external cause and effect of your plot to the more powerful internal cause and effect of your story; we’ll take a look at why “show, don’t tell” is a matter of why rather than what; and we’ll introduce the all important “And so?” test to guarantee that neither cause-and-effect trajectory ever goes off the rails.

Later in the chapter, Cron includes this:

Myth: “Show, Don’t Tell” Is Literal—Don’t Tell Me John Is Sad, Show Him Crying

Reality: “Show Don’t Tell” Is Figurative—Don’t Tell Me John Is Sad, Show Me Why He’s Sad.

Each chapter features several Myth and Reality juxtapositions to illustrate Cron’s points with intriguing accuracy and blatant facts which many writers may take as fighting words. Yet her assessments are sound and backed up with significant research in both neuroscience and publishing history.

Writers who rely solely on organic processes without outlines, plot trajectories, or character studies will appreciate learning how they can harness Cron’s principles in their storytelling. Yet those writers who outline will find concrete materials to strengthen their outlines.

Lisa Cron spent a decade in publishing, first at W.W. Norton in New York, then at John Muir Publications in Santa Fe, NM, before turning to TV. She’s worked on shows for Fox, Bravo and Miramax, and has been supervising producer on shows for Court TV and Showtime. She’s been a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency in NYC, and for Village Roadshow, Icon, The Don Buchwald Agency and others in LA. For years she’s worked one-on-one with writers, producers and agents developing book and movie projects. Lisa has also been a literary agent and for the past five years, an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, where she currently teaches.

Follow Lisa Cron on Twitter: @LisaCron.

MediaMonday for December 10, 2012: Most Overlooked Books of 2012. Resource media from GalleyCat, December 5, 2012.

Inside A Child’s Mind August 20, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, weekly topics.
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Matthew Dicks in #litchatLast Wednesday in #litchat we discussed children in danger and children as victims in fiction. We’re taking the discussion a step further on Wednesday by looking into what goes on in a child’s mind to signal danger or safety. Guest host on Friday is Matthew Dicks, whose brave new novel, Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend, goes deep into the mind of an unusual boy.

Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend is the first person story of Budo, the companion of eight-year-old Max. A fully realized boy in every way, Budo is every bit as real to Max as his mother and father or his beloved teacher, Mrs. Gosk. Although the narrative never comes out and names it, readers understand early that Max is autistic. Through Budo we learn that imaginary friends have short lifespans. They live only as long as the imaginer believes in them. Budo explains how imaginary friends are restricted to the richness of the imaginer’s imagination, that many of them are as simple as a hair bow with eyes, or as playful as a puppy. Budo’s friendships with other imaginary friends outside of Max’s perception provides some of the most poignant moments in a book alive with poignant moments.

Underlining the story is Budo’s own thirst for life–he lives only as long as Max continues to believe in him. At five years old, Budo is one of the oldest imaginary friends alive. Budo explains how most imaginary friends fade away as the imaginee matures and no longer needs them. Because of Max’s extraordinary imagination, Budo can walk through doors, wander around on his own, and learn from watching television and observing people. When Max begins keeping secrets from Budo, Budo sets out to find out why. What he learns forces the beginning of the end for Budo and the end of a harrowing experience for Max.

Matthew Dicks is an author, elementary school teacher, DJ, and a host of other interesting pursuits. In addition to Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, he is the author of Something Missing and Unexpectedly Milo. He is currently at work on a memoir, a rock opera and several children’s books. In addition to fiction, he writes poetry, essays and opinion pieces, and has been published in newspapers, poetry journals, and educational journals throughout the United States. At the request of his UK publisher, he took a pen name and is published under the name Matthew Green in the UK and its affiliated markets. Green is his wife’s maiden name. Dicks lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children.

Follow Matthew Dicks on Twitter: @MatthewDicks.

MediaMonday for August 20, 2012: The State of Book Reviews, discussion of recent complaints from some critics that book reviews are too nice. Source media by Laura Miller in Salon, August 17, 2012.

Midsummer Middle Grade Reading Madness July 30, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in animals, children's literature, e-books, paranormal, self-published authors, weekly topics.
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MediaMonday for July 30, 2012: Ebook Pirating. Source media from GalleyCat, July 27, 2012.

Kids and summer reading go together like watermelon and picnics. Don’t they? On Wednesday and Friday we have guest hosts to lead discussions on great summer books for middle grade readers, including their own recently published novels.

Maggie Dana

Wednesday brings Maggie Dana into #litchat to discuss her Timber Ridge Riders line of fiction for young horse-lovers. The series includes four titles, previously published in print, but revived and now available as ebooks. Timber Ridge Stables is the home away from home of Kate McGregor, her best friend Holly Chapman, and their arch rival Angela Dean. Filled with action and intrigue, this new series is a must read for savvy girls who love horses. Dana’s polished prose and insightful characters take readers along with Kate and Holly as they dive into a stormy summer filled with secrets and lies and impossible dreams.

Maggie Dana took her first riding lesson at the age of five and hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life. Her new riding stable was slap bang in the middle of Pinewood Studios, home of England’s movie industry. So while learning to groom horses, clean tack, and muck stalls, Maggie also got to see the stars in action. Some even spoke to her.

Born and raised near London, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline where she divides her time between hanging out with the family’s horses and writing middle grade novels and women’s fiction. Her award-winning women’s fiction novel, Beachcombing, is now available as an ebook, published with the new title, Painting Naked. She is currently at work writing the next book in theTimber Ridge Riders series.

Follow Maggie Dana on Twitter: @maggiedana.

Joanne Levy in #litchat

Joanne Levy

Friday’s guest host, Joanne Levy, is author of Small Medium At Large, her first published novel. Small Medium At Large features a cast of memorable characters from both sides of the grave. When she’s struck by lightning at her mother’s wedding, Lilah Bloom receives a special gift. She can hear and speak to ghosts. Her beloved grandmother is concerned for Lilah’s dad, who has still not rebounded from the divorce from Lilah’s mother. When her grandmother charges Lilah with helping her father find a new wife, and when word gets around that Lilah can communicate to the dead, Lilah’s life goes from ordinary to spectacular.

Joanne Levy’s love of books began at a very early age. Being the youngest and the only female among four children, she was often left to her own devices and could frequently be found sitting in a quiet corner with her nose in a book. After much teenage misadventure, Joanne eventually graduated from university and now spends her weekdays as an executive assistant at one of Canada’s big banks planning meetings and thwarting coffee emergencies. When Joanne isn’t working, she can usually be found at her computer, channeling her younger self into books. Joanne lives in Ontario with her husband and kids of the furred and feathered variety.

Watch the video trailer for Small Medium At Large.

Follow Joanne Levy on Twitter: @JoanneLevy.

Exploring Love July 23, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, literary fiction, science fiction, weekly topics.
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MediaMonday for July 23, 2012: Are the Rules of Engagement for Serious Novels Changing? Source media by Warren Adler for Huffington Post, July 18, 2012.

Love is a universal emotion. Some say it is what separates humans from lower life forms. Often misunderstood and misused, love has fueled storytellers, poets, playwrights and novelists for as long as humans have used words. How does love differ from devotion, admiration, attraction and lust? Can humans truly love entities that have no flesh and blood? We’ll discuss these questions and others this Wednesday in #litchat. Wrapping up this discussion on Friday is guest host Lydia Netzer, author of Shine, Shine, Shine.

Shine, Shine, Shine is a love story and so much more. It’s a study on how we judge people consciously and unconsciously, and how some people cover their differences, some people exploit them, and why it’s so easy to do this. It’s a journey into space, into populating the moon with robots designed to build perfect human colonies. It’s an odyssey of flashbacks from the jungles of Burma, to the heartland of America, through the robotic voice of the POV character, Sunny.

Sunny, however, isn’t a robot. She’s a normal woman in every way, except she was born without body hair. Her mother guides her into celebrating her difference by refusing to let her wear wigs to cover her bald head. Add to this mix her future husband, an awkward boy named Maxon, who we come to understand is a savant genius somewhere on the autism spectrum. It’s no surprise when their child, Bubber, is diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

When Maxon takes a job designing robots for NASA’s upcoming colonization of the moon, the couple moves to suburban Virginia, where Sunny begins wearing wigs, false eyelashes and eyebrows to fit in with the other SUV-driving mothers. Sunny and Maxon’s odd courtship and married life takes up much of the backstory, while the immediate action of the story begins as Sunny’s wig is thrown off her head when she has a minor car accident while her husband is on a rocketship heading for the moon, her mother is dying in hospice, and she is eight months pregnant. When Maxon’s rocketship is struck by a meteor and the mission is doomed, readers watch Sunny snapping and stretching with superhuman strength and resolve. Shine, Shine, Shine peels away the hearts and flowers of romance to explore the nature of love in its myriad types and shapes.

Lydia Netzer was born in Detroit and educated in the Midwest. She lives in Virginia with her two home-schooled children and mathmaking husband. When she isn’t teaching, blogging, or drafting her second novel, she writes songs and plays guitar in a rock band.

Follow Lydia Netzer on Twitter: @lostcheerio

Books for Children and Their Parents June 3, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in children's literature, weekly topics.
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MediaMonday for June 4, 2012: On Censorship, by Salmon Rushdie, drawn from his Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture given May 6, 2012 as part of the PEN World Voices Festival.

John Claude Bemis in #litchatC.S. Lewis once said, “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last.” Reading adults don’t have trouble remembering the books that affected them most as a child. When readers become parents, they relish the reading of these same books to their children, creating unbreakable ties between parent and child. Every generation produces new classics of children’s literature and on Wednesday we’ll discuss some of the old and the new. Then on Friday, we’ll visit with John Claude Bemis, author of The Prince Who Fell From the Sky.

The Prince Who Fell From the Sky features an animal cast set in an earth reclaimed by the powerful forces of nature. Something apocalyptic has happened, killing off the humans and wiping out the cities, factories, farms and roads built my their hands. The skeletons of skyscrapers still exist and the legend of mankind as tyrant and destroyer is ever-present in the culture of the animals who survived the cataclysmic fall. In this forest now dense with mighty trees, vines and undergrowth untouched by man’s need to carve and corral, the animals have a Kiplingesque society with laws and punishments, tributes and alliances. Enter into this “post-mordial” diorama a rocketship crashed into the forest with only one survivor, a lone young boy.

An inspiring speaker and entertaining performer, John Claude Bemis brings his passions for music, folklore, and spinning exciting tales to his novels and presentations. The first novel in his Clockwork Dark trilogy, The Nine Pound Hammer, was nominated for the North Carolina Children’s Book Award and was selected as a New York Public Library Best Children’s Book for Reading and Sharing. The trilogy continues with The Wolf Tree and The White City and has been described as “original and fresh” and “a unique way of creating fantasy.” His latest novel is The Prince Who Fell from the Sky. A musician and educator, John lives with his wife and daughter in Hillsborough, NC.

Follow John Claude Bemis on Twitter: @JohnClaudeBemis