Author Archives: Kimberly G. Giarratano

About Kimberly G. Giarratano

I'm a YA author.

Good mail day

April 16th 2014

Today was an awesome mail day. First, I found a small box on my porch (coated in a thin layer of snow) with my new bookmarks! Pretty jazzy, right? I designed them myself and I triple-checked for typos. But I’m still paranoid there’s a mistake, so if you see one, don’t tell me.

Mah bookmarks!

Mah bookmarks!

And then this afternoon I went to my mailbox where I found a big box full of new books! A lovely gift from my fabulous CP, Leandra. The girl is an angel. She won several copies of these brandy-new YA hardcovers and gave me a set. I’m going to read them and then donate them to my public library whose YA collection is in desperate need of updating. It’s the ultimate gift for a YA author. I feel uber blessed. Now which one to start reading first?

A present from Leandra

A present from Leandra

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Writing charismatic characters: Guest post by Elizabeth Corrigan

April 15th 2014

I am uberstoked to have my publishing sister, Elizabeth Corrigan write a guest post as a stop on her Raising Chaos blog tour. She is the author of the urban fantasy series, Earthbound Angels. In Oracle of Philadelphia (Book One), Elizabeth introduced us to Bedlam, a charming and unforgettable chaos demon. And I’m pleased to say that he’s the main attraction in Raising Chaos (Book Two). [With respect to Elizabeth, I think Bedlam would be the kind of guy you’d love to date, just not the guy you’d want to marry.] Elizabeth has written an insightful post on how Bedlam became this magnetic, alluring character despite his many flaws. Take notes because the best characters are the ones you wish you knew in real life and I’d really like to have some sangria with Bedlam.

Raising Chaos (Book Two) in the Earthbound Angels series

Raising Chaos (Book Two) in the Earthbound Angels series

Writing Charismatic Characters by Elizabeth Corrigan

I’ve gotten a variety of reviews of Oracle of Philadelpia. People love it, hate it, or fall somewhere in between. But the lovers and the middlers often have one thing in common: They adore Bedlam. People have told me they want to date him, or at least be his new best friend. I gave one friend a poster of the Raising Chaos poster, and she said it rendered her husband irrelevant in her affections. (She was kidding. I hope.)

On some level, I find this puzzling. For one thing, Bedlam would be really annoying in real life. The demon of chaos is lazy and irresponsible, and my editor insists on describing him as a “man-child.” Yet somehow his wit, good looks, and almost complete loyalty to Carrie win everyone over. But I’m still pretty sure no one would actually want to date him. Even Keziel, the woman who’s been in love with him for centuries, doesn’t want to spend much time with him. And Carrie wants him around, but she is infinitely patient and has had 3200 years to get used to his foibles.

The other reason I’m confused is that I never intended Bedlam to be such magnetic character, or for him to take over the book the way he did. I added him because Carrie need immortal friends, and I gave her an angel and a demon, for balance. I didn’t even think I was being all that imaginative when I made him. But somehow he grew into a character who’s taken over the whole series.

So how did that happen? How did Bedlam change from a flat character concept into a well-developed and beloved character? I think I used the same process with him that I do with a lot of my characters—trying to see the story from their points of view. Oracle started out as Carrie’s story, but at some point, that version felt incomplete. I needed to know what Bedlam was doing when he left Carrie in the diner, both when he was angry with her and when he was just wandering. At one point there was an extra chapter from Bedlam’s point of view—and one from Gabriel’s as well—but extraneous POVs were removed during editing. Looking at the story from Bedlam’s viewpoint really made me see Carrie’s actions from a different perspective and, I think, made the ending more poignant. A side occurrence was that Bedlam’s motivations and actions became more compelling to me than Carrie’s were, and he jumped into a central point in the narrative.

Thinking in Bedlam POV makes it easier to get into his headspace when I’m writing his dialogue. Bedlam doesn’t think before he speaks. His thoughts are tumbling over each other—in conversation with each other, as we find out in Raising Chaos—and he just lets them come out. Consequently, I let his words pour out of my fingers and into the computer. Much of this is blather that I need to go back and edit into meaningfulness, but it’s usually accompanied by crystals of insight into Bedlam that are often unintentionally humorous.

Some parts of Bedlam are very deliberate, though. Specifically, the randomness. Often when Bedlam says something truly bizarre or out of the blue, it’s not something that came to me. I have to tell myself, “Think of something random!” and hope something good comes up. Usually it does. After all, it’s not too hard to think of anything.

I use Bedlam as an example here, but I do the same thing with all my characters. I invent them as vague concepts, then try to see the world from their perspectives. Some, like Siren and Bedlam, are pretty easy. Carrie is a little harder but not too bad. Michael I have to pay a lot of attention to, and I’m still trying to get into Gabriel’s head space.  Does this then correlate with character charisma and likeability? I’m not sure. Certainly I like Siren and Bedlam best, but Gabriel and Carrie have their fans, and I’ve had people ship Carrie and Michael. (People have also hypothesized a relationship between Carrie and Lucifer. I’m not sure what that’s about.) Regardless, I hope I succeed in making the characters come as alive to the reader as they do to me.

Elizabeth CorriganElizabeth’s website 

Find Elizabeth on Facebook

Follow Bedlam on Twitter @BedlamFTW !!

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @ercorrigan

Add Oracle of Philadelphia and Raising Chaos to your shelves on Goodreads.

Buy Oracle of Philadelphia and Raising Chaos on Amazon, BN.com, iTunes and Kobo.com

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20 years ago (April 5, 1994)

April 5th 2014

Twenty years ago today, Kurt Cobain killed himself. I was nearly 15 years old and a freshman in high school. I even remember where I was when I heard the news — in the backseat of my friend’s mom’s white Ford Taurus. Her mom was giving us a ride somewhere, to the mall maybe? The news must’ve broken earlier than that, while we were in school, but without cell phones none of us would’ve heard about it until we got off the bus around 3pm. Later, I remember listening to heartbroken Courtney Love read Kurt’s suicide note to a group of tear-streaked fans sitting in a park in Seattle. I remember these things. Not clearly, but they’re there in the back of my mind where I file away impactful historical moments that I was around for.

Truthfully, I liked Nirvana a lot, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I didn’t own one of their albums. When I was 15, I had a huge crush on Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day (even stitching the band’s name into my Jansport with embroidery thread). I listened to Dookie on cassette tape until the ribbon wore out. I loved angsty chick music like Sarah McLachlan and Hole (who had released their album, Live Through This, less than a week after Cobain’s death). My music tastes eventually evolved when I finally got a CD player for my birthday and discovered Radiohead, The Afghan Whigs and Tori Amos.

To be honest had I not just heard a piece about Kurt Cobain on NPR, the anniversary of his death would’ve missed me completely. And yet, the minute I hear Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio I’m transformed back to the early 90s. I’m back in high school. I’m thrashing my head back and forth and singing along like I’m 14 again and not a mom driving a white minivan.

There’s no question in my mind that the 1990s was the best decade for music. Even my favorite bands today don’t make albums as good as the ones they put out in the late 90s. And I could probably write a treatise on how downloading a single does not produce the same level of excitement as getting a new CD on release day. And don’t even get me started on the pity party I throw myself every time my favorite 90s band tours and I can’t go because I’m nursing a baby…

A reflection on Cobain’s death twenty years later feels like a reflection on who I am at nearly 35 years old. The 90s were my formative years. It’s the reason I set my novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards, in 1996. And why every chapter heading is the title of a song from that period, a band that had been influenced by Cobain’s genius. A band whose music influenced me in some way. Music that makes me feel like I’m 15 years old even when I’m driving my kids to an Easter egg hunt at the local park. That transports me to the past. That’s what Cobain’s legacy means to me. It’s a return to my youth no matter what age I am. Whether I’m 35 or 55. Hopefully, I’ll be able to thrash my head a bit when I’m 85 too.

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I can’t breath; I can’t write; I’m too pregnant

April 5th 2014

I’d like to think I’m not a whiny, pregnant lady. I mean, I’ve been strong. People ask me how I feel all the time and I say, “Good, thanks.” I try hard to keep my visible discomforts to myself, and reserve the biggest complaints for my husband (because let’s face it, he deserves it). But I’m eight months pregnant and this is my third baby and I’ll be 35 years old in ten days. There are days when I’m so tired (like today) where the idea of emptying the dishwasher seems comparable to climbing Mt. Everest. Just last week, baby girl’s foot was up in my throat giving me wicked heartburn. My poor boys are sick of eating cheese quesadillas and fruit because it’s the fastest meal I can do with minimal effort and even more minimal cleanup.

Truth is I am not just overwhelmed because I wake up three times a night to pee or because I can’t breathe when sitting down. I feel like I can’t write. My brain is mush. My body is huge. I’d rather browse Etsy and comment on Facebook than think. And I feel so guilty about it. Because I have the time. My kids are in bed by 8pm. My husband is content watching the myriad of crime shows on the DVR. He’d be fine with me disappearing for a couple of hours to work. I could be writing and I should be writing, but I’m….wait, Braxton Hicks contraction…sigh, tired.

I’m taking a mystery writing class online and I have a piece due before Tuesday for critique. I have a little bit done, but I need to work on it for a few hours. Critiques are too valuable to pass up.

Someone tell me it’s okay. That I’m too pregnant and I deserve to cut myself some slack.

I’d blog more, but I’m just too tired………

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Interview with an Editor: Part 2

March 27th 2014

My lovely content editor at Red Adept Publishing, Kris James, agreed to be interviewed for the bloggy blog! Kris and I had a really wonderful working relationship. Not only did she spot the flaws in my manuscript and then help me fix them, but she was also encouraging and complimentary. I finished my edits with renewed confidence in my work, which for any newbie writer, is crucial if you’re ever going to write a second book. Also, I’ve learned a lot of what-not-to-do the second time around. Thanks, Kris! And Ms. James is also a published author in two genres. So she’s knows her editing stuff and her writing stuff. I dare you not to learn something valuable here.

You’re a content editor. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the various editing roles, what does a content editor do specifically that a line editor does not?

A content editor deals with all the aspects of storytelling, while a line editor handles the elements of writing. I work with how authors tell their stories, as opposed to the actual words they use to do so. It can be a subtle difference, but I work with ideas and concepts, instead of phrases and punctuation. For example, I’ll tell you to add more setting description, but I won’t tell you which words to use. When you write that description out, I won’t tell you if you have a dangling modifier or if your verb tenses don’t match. (But I’ll notice.) I will tell you that you described the palm trees three times but never mentioned what kind of material made the path under your characters’ feet crunch, and since you mentioned the crunching, it’s going to seem like a worldbuilding point, and readers will be curious about its source–dead leaves, seashells, tiny fish skeletons? I keep your world vivid and harmonious, true to its own logic.

How did you become an editor?

I began at RAP in the Acquisitions department, reading through the slush pile. It was very informative. Only a small percentage of submissions are picked up for publication. Learning which manuscripts were and weren’t projects that would be a good fit for our publishing house, and why, was a big step toward better understanding the tools an editor employs to raise a manuscript’s storytelling to publication standard. I love to read, and I want to enjoy my time inside someone else’s world. My knack for not only seeing weak spots and suggesting fixes, but seeing what isn’t even there yet, helps me help authors tell the best stories they can.

What happens after you first receive a manuscript?

I create a notes page for that specific manuscript from our handy dandy content editing template, which is formatted to address all the major storytelling elements. I consider and comment on the overall health of those elements, even if my report simply states that the author is very good with pacing, or tone, or character arc, and needs no major edits in that area. Reassurance is a good thing–authors need to know what their strong areas are as well as which parts of their storytelling need improvement. Checking the notes page before I begin ensures that I keep all the elements of storytelling in the back of my mind as I read the manuscript, so I can better give the author an accurate assessment of their manuscript’s status and recommend targeted improvements during the editing process.

Do you have any suggestions for authors to facilitate the editing process either on their end or yours?

Since content editing takes place before any other editing services, I get the documents fresh from the authors, as they formatted it. It’s always nice to get a manuscript that’s double-spaced in Times New Roman 12 point, with paragraphs that have first-line indent instead of tabs. Words to be italicized are sometimes submitted as underlined instead–a holdover from older-style submission guidelines that are increasingly discarded by agents and publishers alike, including RAP. And it’s always nice to see smart quotes. Such modern formatting isn’t as common as you’d think. At some point, someone has to go through and change anything that doesn’t meet this list. I’m not a formatter, but I can’t begin to do my job until I can read the document clearly.

What are some common mistakes newbie authors make in their manuscripts?

The most common is simply a lack of experience in getting the images in their heads onto the page in such a way that everything they see (and nothing they don’t) is included in their scenes. Most new authors don’t realize that their description is too thin and/or vague to paint a clear picture for someone who doesn’t already know the story. Only with competent feedback on what’s getting across and what isn’t can an author improve their concept of what details should be shared and what is unnecessary–as in info dumps, a pacing-killer that lurks at the other end of the detail spectrum.

What are some words or phrases writers typically overuse?

That often depends on the author and the tone of the book they’ve written. Usually, it’s an opening word for too many sentences, like “Suddenly,” or a favorite phrase that gets assigned to several characters who all “took a moment to ponder” or “gnawed on his lip,” or some highly noticeable words (petrichor, toxicity, effusive, spongiform, etc–anything unusual to the story) that the author randomly uses often enough that the reader starts noticing them as individual words instead of part of the narrative.

Are there any manuscripts that you’d like to see in your editing queue? Are there tropes you’re tired of seeing?

I love giant fantasy worlds. I’d love to work on a book–a whole series–that had so many lands, I’d start to worry that I’d never get to read about them all. Different cultures, customs, foods, dress, transportation, magics, all of it. My brain runs on planet-sized ideas, so the bigger the story’s world, the happier I am. And I’m never tired of tropes. I love tropes. There’s always a way to change a cliché back into a trope. Some days, it’s my job to do exactly that, and those days, I’m ecstatic.

Do you have any author client from hell stories?

Nope. My clients are all awesome authors eager to learn and improve their craft, and willing to work hard to do it. The only hellish conflict I endure is plot conflict, and I inhale that stuff like chocolate crack. Characters hate me for what I insist the author put them through.

What makes you want to work with an author again?

If they get excited about learning some new trick, rule, or technique that improves their writing skills, I know they’re a keeper. I love the craft, and I love authors who love it, too.

How do you balance your editing job with your own novel writing?

Tag-teaming. My brain does this thing called hyperfocus, which is pure awesome for helping me immerse myself in an author’s world and catch all the little areas where the seams don’t match up. But it does mean I can’t work very well on two projects concurrently. So I edit someone’s novel, then I work on my own–say, I do the outline. Then another author’s novel, then my rough draft. Then another edit, then my second draft, and so on. Compartmentalizing for the win.

Thanks Kris for sharing your expertise! Anyone interested in submitting to Red Adept can check out their submission guidelines here.

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