What Makes A Quote Memorable?

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.
You had me at hello.
Life is like a box of chocolates.
Luke, I am your father.

Every year, a handful of movie quotes become integrated into popular culture. What is it about them that makes them so memorable? Is it just that they bring up fond memories of the movie, or is there  something about their structure that make them more likely to be remembered and passed on? A recent study from computer scientists at Cornell sheds some light on this.

Why I Signed With a Traditional Publisher

In April 2011, I had a conversation with my dad about changes in the publishing industry and what to do with my manuscript MIDNIGHT THIEF. By the end of our discussion, I’d decided to self publish.

My writer’s group was supportive, but suggested I query a few agents to keep my options open. Sounded reasonable, so I mailed some queries while I sent the manuscript to one last round of beta readers, figuring I wouldn’t lose time this way. Seventeen days later, I had five offers of representation and a lot of thinking to do.

As most of you know, I did end up signing with an agent and selling my book to Disney-Hyperion. Since I hang out a lot with indie authors, people have asked me why I went traditional. So I thought I'd outline my reasons here.

Bid on a Group Critique from Me and Other 2014 Debut Authors to Benefit Hurricane Sandy Victims

It's been a crazy week, with Hurricane Sandy.  I hope this blog post finds you all well and safe.  In an effort to help with the relief efforts, Jennifer Malone is organizing an auction of reading and writing related items to benefit the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. A group of 2014 Debut Authors (including me!) have teamed together to donate a group critique package.

If you win the package:
Two authors will critique your query
Three authors will critique your first 10 pages. (I'll be one of them)
Plus, a 20 minute Skype chat with three authors about publishing, writing, anything else.

The auction runs from now until Wednesday, November 7. Check it out if you want more details on the authors involved (They are fabulous!), and also look through the other very cool items offered!

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On Kissing (I Think Deeply About Making Out so You Don’t Have To!)

My first round revisions for MIDNIGHT THIEF involved ramping up a romance arc. Specifically, this required MOAR KISSING.

And it was kind of difficult.

Okay, okay, I know this is hard to believe, given the hot and heavy action MIT neuroscientists get on a daily basis, but really truly, it was. Maybe it says something about me that I wrote five unique fight scenes in my novel, but by my second kiss scene, things were already starting to feel repetitive.

(Those tempted to explain in the comments section exactly what that says about me, do so at your own risk. Did I mention that I write a lot of murder scenes? :-P)

I'm Back! And in LA!

Hi everyone,

Long time no see! A lot has happened since my last blog entry. I defended my dissertation in mid-September, and after that, promptly jumped into a car with my husband for a cross-country drive to our new home in Los Angeles. So now we're settling down -- him at his new job, and me in my new life as a freelance science writer/novelist. In the next few weeks, I'll be working on getting the blog back up to speed. In the meantime, how are you? And for those of you familiar with the Los Angeles area/writing community, any tips for things to do, places to see?

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Why "Please and Thank You" Mean Different Things in American and Britain

Hello all.  I recently completed a dissertation draft and I'm taking a quick breather before I dive back in to prepare for my defense.  So no actual blog entry, but I wanted to direct your attention to an interesting article written by an American linguist living in the UK.  It's about words like "please" and "thank you,"  and how they mean different things in the two different cultures.  It's a fascinating article (the video is worth watching as well), and useful to writers for understanding the interaction between culture and language.  Go take a look!

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How To Market Your Book At Cons

Guest post by Bryan Thomas Schmidt.

So, you’ve done all the research. Whether from online sites like Locus, or a general search for science fiction convention lists like this or this, through word of mouth or reading the back of Asimovs and Analog, you’ve identified several Cons for which the stars seem aligned (locations, dates, guests, size, costs, themes, etc. all seem to fit your needs, wants and schedule. Great. But hold on a minute. Before you make contact, first things first. And the first thing here is you need a good bio.

A good bio should be short but highlight the key things which would make you desirable as a panelist/guest and attendee.

Let’s start with mine:

Using Pinterest as a Reader, Writer, and Author

First, congratulations to Sam for winning the Near Witch Giveaway.

Second, MIT graduation was last Friday. Unfortunately, I wasn't in it. In the grand tradition of doctoral dissertations, my defense has been moved back a few months. I'm now shooting for the end of summer. My next few months will be split between dissertation writing and revisions of Midnight Thief, so blogwise, I’ll still be scarce for a while.

But even when time is scarce, there's always time for another social network! I've been checking out Pinterest recently (Here I am!), trying to see if I should integrate it into my social media strategy (Oh, who am I kidding? I just like the pretty pictures.). I thought I'd share some of the ways that it might be useful for book people: specifically readers, pre-published writers, and published writers.

Edit:  Since coming across Roni Loren's blog post on copyright violation, I've removed some of the embedded images on this post. For the moment, I'm still using Pinterest, but I'm looking into the copyright issue.

Point of View and Freewheeling Thoughts

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone for your well wishes and congratulations. I’m super excited about bringing Midnight Thief into the world, and I’m looking forward to sharing more details about the deal and process (BTW, if anyone has any specific questions, lemme know!). But first, for today, something different.

My freshman year of college, I took an expository writing class. One of the most important skills we learned was how to transition smoothly between different ideas. It was good, solid, advice, and improved my writing greatly. But like all writing rules, it doesn't always apply. I was reminded of this when I read Victoria Schwab's The Near Witch.

The Other Reason I Haven't Had As Much Time to Blog Lately

From Dystel and Goderich's latest deals roundup:

Livia Blackburne’s MIDNIGHT THIEF, a debut YA fantasy novel about a talented thief who joins an assassin’s guild only to find that what she thought was the perfect job is much more sinister than originally imagined was sold to Abby Ranger at Hyperion by Jim.

More details to come...

Operation Chest Hair Part I: In Which I Look at Girls Through a Manly Lens

I write about teenage girls. That's my comfort zone, but I recently got an idea for a story from a man's point of view.

This made me nervous. I'd written boys before (not without difficulty), but this new story was about a Man’s Man. You know, the kind of guy that drinks black coffee and crushes rocks with his bare hands.  To be honest, I didn't know if I had the balls to pull it off. And thus, Operation Chest Hair was born, in which I analyze Man Books in an attempt to raise my testosterone level. 

Lukewarm Cover Blurb Contest: Winners!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Lukewarm Cover Blurb Contest.  My husband, the original Lukewarm Blurber, has chosen his favorites, and without further ado:

Tied for third place are Unpublished Guy and  Dan. 

Unpublished Guy's entry:

A giant lateral leap in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Mutton Chops chronicles the way the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles rational theories of human history. 

Announcing the Lukewarm Cover Blurb Contest

We’ve passed the 1500 RSS subscribers mark! Thank you all so much for sticking around and participating in our discussions of all things writing. As has become tradition here, we'll celebrate with a contest. And I have a good one.

A while back, my dad asked my husband (aka astronomer and literary snob J Blackburne) if he liked Midnight Thief. J’s response was something along the lines of, “Yeah, I did! A lot of first novels have cardboard characters and plots that fall apart halfway through, but Livia's book was not like that.”

Later on, I teased him about having liked my book because it “was not horrible.” At which point, my secretly-supportive-but-very-mischievous husband got a glint in his eye.

“It's… serviceable fiction,” he said. “With every element needed to become a runaway bestseller amongst undiscerning readers.”

What Makes A Story Persuasive?

Poking my head out briefly to say hi. Dissertation writing is taking quite a bit of time... (surprise surprise)

What was the last time a work of fiction changed your view on an issue? For me, it was Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, which made me think seriously about government intrusion on privacy. Fiction to make a point is nothing new. But what makes a story persuasive? A study from researchers Melianie Green and Timothy Brock points toward one ingredient.

Starting the Second Novel: What I'm Doing Differently

It's crunch time in dissertation land. I’m aiming to graduate this June, so blog posts won't be as frequent this semester. Hopefully I'll come out the other side without too many dead brain cells. :-)

With the new year, it’s a good time to talk about new beginnings. Now that I’ve finished revisions on Midnight Thief for agent Jim, I'm starting a new novel.

It's a very different experience this time around. Three years ago, I was blissfully ignorant about the whole  process. Seven revisions, two years of critique group meetings, and 178 blog posts later, I’ve learned a few lessons.

These some things I've learned and/or am doing differently the second time around.