Books Read in 2011

Tessa's books-read-2011 book montage

Clockwork Angel
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer

Books Read in 2011 »

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Icelandic Goals

Since I don't have time to blog this week (I'm going on a little trip), I'll just throw slap video on your screen. It's an Icelandic football (soccer) team doing goal-dances. I don't like to watch sports, but this had me laughing.

Here's also Krummavisur, very old Icelandic folk song sung in a very cool way by a German band called In Extermo. The singer sings in Icelandic, with a heavy German accent, but kudos for doing it anyway.'s the original music, if interested. Hearing it always reminds me of vikings.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Second Book


Goodness! Having the boys at home for their summer vacation is draining every ounce of energy from my mind. I meant to blog more often, but whenever I get a break, I just want to sleep or lie on the sofa and stare at the ceiling. Three year olds are loud, energetic, and attention suckers. I do hope you'll forgive me if my blogs seem a bit detached. Two more weeks to go...which means a month to go for Uni. Yup, that's right: I'm leaving a well paid job to go back to University in hope of pursuing my dream of becoming an author.

Since I've already had a two week break from the querying and writing, I've been re-thinking things a little. When the boys go to kindergarten again, I'll have two weeks until Uni starts (majoring in English this time, already have a bachelor's in marketing and administration). I could do what I was doing two weeks before the boys had their vacation: sit at the computer and read articles etc. and keep dreaming, or I could start writing the second book of the series. I think I'll go with the latter.

I'm both curious to see how the second book unravels, and I also think it's important to start writing it so that a) I can say that I'm already well on my way with the second book if I do get an agent interested, b) writing is fun and it's important to use the little time I have left to cram in as much writing as I can (I wrote the first manuscript in a month, so I should be able to get at least half of the book done in two weeks), and c) if I can't get a deal, I will feel more optimistic about e-publishing, because I've already started on the second book.

There's one other thing I haven't considered much, and that is to query publishers. There are many writers who query publishers first and then find an agent if they find an interested publisher. The other way would be more ideal, since the agent can negotiate the deal, but I think it would probably be easier to find an agent if you already have a contract ready to be signed from a publisher. Once I'm back at Uni, I'll probably spend some time compiling a list of publishers -- ones who consider unsolicited material. There's the problem, really, and the main reason writers try to get an agent first: not all publishers will consider manuscripts if the writers have no agent. This has put some unfair shift of work on the agents. Now it is they who have to sieve through the query letters, which seems more logical work for the publishers.

Anyway, as soon as the boys are back at kindergarten, I'll sit down and draft the second book. I already have readers related to me who are waiting for the continuum.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Paranormalcy Giveaway

This will be short today. Let the Words Flow is having a giveaway. It is the book Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White.

Summary (from
Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.

But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Fat in the Book

By Mytrueblood "Sookie is Mine"
A weekend out in the country is over. The sun was way too hot (something we don't get a lot here, and also something I don't thrive well in), and I saw five--FIVE-- spiders! Eugh! I suppose that with the weather warming, the number of insects increase. I don't mind flies so much (even the bees I used to be terrified of before I became a mother), but spiders, even though they're tiny = a squeal and a shudder + warily looking about everywhere I go and feeling tiny little itches everywhere.

Back on subject:

There are two things I'd like to talk about today: Cutting the fat out of the book and short endings.
As I've talked about before, I wrote my first manuscript without having read a word about how to write a book. I wrote it as I would like to read it. It was, after all, originally a book forme from my fantasy world. After reading several books on writing, I learned to stick to the plot and cut out trivial information that were just for fun. By doing that, I severely reduced my word count (which was way too high for a YA novel), and the story became faster. But! I have been reading a lot of YA books since, and there are books, like the House of Night series, where there is a lot (and I mean a LOT) of little things that could be cut out, but if they had, the story would be missing a lot of its charm. The plots in those books are relatively simple, but essential to further the series along (there are going to be 12 books), so I get that the authors have to put a lot of fat on the meat. They have Zoey (the heroin) eat breakfast, get snacks before watching a movie, having conversations with her friends that have nothing to do with the plot, and even a lot of interaction with her cat (that, for now, has very little to do with the plot).

Charleine Harris's books, The Sookie Stackhouse Series (True Blood), is also like that. The series is for adults. Sookie does her hair in a certain way, gets dressed in this or that, puts on makeup, does yard work, cooks, cleans. And I love it all. The books wouldn't be the same without it.

I wonder if adults prefer reading books that get right to the point, and in doing so, loose a lot of the little things that the teenagers might be more eager to read. Most (if not all) books about how to write books are written by adults. I wonder if the "How to Write YA Books" were different if they were written by teenagers.

And then there's the endings... I've noticed that in most of the books I've read, the final plot reveals itself when there's only a handful of pages left. It is natural to have it at the very end, but I always feel a bit cheated when, after the plot is revealed and the hero/heroin has saved the day, there are only 2-3 pages left for the aftermath. I want more. I want to read about everyones reaction and discussions about what happened. I want to read about what they're going to do next. I want to read about how they go on with their lives after the big event is done.

I'm writing a series myself (3 books, but could possibly become more), and there's a whole chapter dealing with the aftermath (my chapters are very long, around 8,000 words). In that final chapter, more is revealed about the big event: questions asked and answered, and then decisions are made. The heroin struggles with decisions, feelings about the big event, and one of her fellow travelers develops as a character. Some other characters deepen as well and there are hints to what will happen in the next book. I don't think the book is complete without all of this, and I'm going to fight for this chapter if I get a contract, because it is essential to further the series as a whole.

What are your opinions on this? Do you prefer a direct line to the plot, or more fat on the meat? Do you prefer curt endings, or do you like to see the aftermath?

Task for the day: Play with twins.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lord of the Rings meets Me

My twins are on a month’s vacation from their kindergarten and they’re wearing me out! Due to this fact, I won’t have as much time to blog (or write *whine*), but I’ll try to get in two-three blogs a week.

I‘ve been reading a lot of books in my genre (YA fantasy), and I‘m especially interested in the vampire series. It is important to read a lot in your genre to be able to compare your work and see what works and what doesn‘t. While I read, I also try to think about what makes the book interesting, what keeps me reading, how chapters end, the much important “voice” (which is something I hadn't heard of until two months ago), how each chapter is constructed, and I look out for hints throughout the book and then guess at the ending (which has spoiled books for me, since I can often guess at the ending in the middle of the book). I then compare these things to my novel. I can say this: I read books in a whole new way since I started writing.

It‘s hard for me to find exactly what I need to compare my books to, other than the technical factors. If I were writing a vampire book, it would be easy to explain how it is different from other vampire books. I’d like to be able to do the “meets” thing—you know: Lord of the Rings meets Ella Enchanted meets Morganville Vampires, but all I can come up with is the Lord of the Rings because my land is medieval and there are wizards. There aren’t even dwarves in the land or dragons (which is why I can't use Eragon as a “meets”).

I suppose I could say Lord of the Rings with a dash of humor, pinch of romance, two spoonfuls of mystery and three cups of sexy darkness. That’s still not a good way to give people an idea of what it is. I intend to do a lot of reading this month of exhaustion and maybe I’ll come across a book that I’ll be able to use as a “meets”.

I’m often disheartened when I read really interesting books and I think that I’ll never get there, but then I remind myself that a) Stephenie Meyer was a miracle case and most writers have been writing for years before getting published, b) their manuscripts go through serious changes and rewrites with the aid of the publisher’s editorial team before they are ready, and c) my manuscript is darn good, so there’s no reason to put myself down. Again, I wonder if I should change the first chapters, but I decided two weeks ago that it was good as it is and I’d just have to have some faith.

I’ve also been thinking more about e-books and Kindle. If I would publish the series that way, I could just write and write, and it would urge me onwards just to have the next book out there. I know myself and know that even if I only had one reader out there, I’d finish the series because I’d know that there’s a person out there who likes my story.

I figure that if I continue to write a lot and publish books on Kindle, eventually some people will like what I write and will want to read the other books as well. They’ll tell their friends and so on. Of course I’d try to market myself on the internet, but I’d have to promise myself to be patient and not to be worried about slow sales to begin with. I want writing to be my career and this is one way to start it. Who knows, maybe an agent/publisher would notice my work out there and offer me a deal. I know that’s a dream-case scenario, but it has happened and will happen again.

The rejection toll is up to 14 now. All polite form rejections (which I appreciate). I respect that those 14 had the courtesy to reply; I know that many won’t. I’ll also have to sort through which I’m allowed to re-query (a different agent within the agency). I already re-queried the very first one that I queried over a month ago, but I haven’t heard back from her since I sent the re-queried letter last week.

Task for the day: Read.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Writing a Synopsis is Fun!

I have finished sending out all the queries that didn't require a synopsis. I had already written a synopsis, but I didn't think it was good enough. I spent yesterday afternoon writing a very detailed 2,400 worded synopsis -- which is way too much (should be around 1,000 for a two-page synopsis, and 500 for a one page synopsis). One agent requested detailed synopsis and I'll send this one to her. Then I'll print it out again and hack and slice until I have 1,000 and then 500 words for the others. There are 14 agents on the synopsis list and I'll query them next week.

I still haven't made a list of the snail-mail ones. The reason is that I live in Iceland and I haven't been to the post office yet to see about SASE's or IRC's (Internation Reply Coupon). Most snail-mail agents request SASE, but some mention that if you live outside the USA, you might need an IRC. There are two agents in particular that I want to query via snail-mail, so I have to get going on this.

I also haven't made a list of the one-agent agencies (excluding a couple whose blogs I'm following). My three-year-old twins are taking their kindergarten vacation next Monday and will won't be back there until a month from now. That means that I'll have less time to query and write. It also means that I've been pressed for time this week to try to do as much as I can before next Monday, and making the one-agent list was one of the things I haven't had time for. Again, this doesn't mean that I don't want to work with them, it just means that I haven't had the time (I have them bookmarked). Apart from two snail-mail agents, I'll probably do the one-agent agencies first.

I know that many writers bite their nails when it comes to synopsis writing, but I enjoy it. It is all thanks to Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy, who wrote Writing Fiction for Dummies. How new a writer must I have been to have bought a Dummies book to write? I had actually written the manuscript before I bought it (along with other books), but this one was my best-buy. Their very simple advice on how to write a synopsis has helped me a great deal and makes writing it fun. I also feel that now that I have written the synopsis twice, I know my book better and I didn't have to look at the manuscript once to write the very detailed synopsis yesterday.

Randy and Peter's synopsis is made from the three-act structure one does when following the book. I seriously recommend this book if you're having trouble writing a synopsis.

I think that one other reason I think writing a synopsis is fun is because I'm a rule-girl. By that, I mean that I'm good at writing instructions and have a good eye for details. This is one of the things I have to do at my job, writing rules, guidelines and such. I also used to run a Harry Potteresque website and wrote all the rules and instructions there + I used to lead a guild in World of Warcraft (hey, I'm a geek and proud of it!) and wrote the rules and instructions on our website. So I have experience in writing sort of guide-like texts.

In other news:

I got one more rejection yesterday and one "we don't represent fantasy anymore". Still no tears. These rejection are mostly from big agencies and I sort of expected them. There are still a few big agencies who haven't answered, but I know that not all of them will answer. Might I mention that I think it's rude when agencies don't send form rejection letters to all they're not interested in? Writers spend months waiting and hoping and here the agent has deleted the query weeks ago without a word. How hard is it to reply with a standard text? I'm sure it's no harder than getting follow-up emails and re-queries, having to read through those and delete-again.

I highly respect those who reply to their emails (even if they're form rejections). I sort of think that the ones who don't reply to all queries sound kind of way up there and we are way down there.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More Agent Rejections!

I sent out 20 queries yesterday and got four prompt responses; rejections. I honestly have to say that I'm so proud of myself. I just read them and felt absolutely nothing but positive. No tears, no lurch in my stomach, no pinch in my heart; absolutely nothing. I don't know if it was the polite form rejections, the fact that I expect rejections by dozens before a "maybe", that I'm looking at this whole thing as a challenge, or that it was "4 down, 52+ to go" -- I don't know, but I'm proud.

I suppose that one factor of my optimism is that my book is going to be published one way or another. From the very beginning of my preparations to query (three months now), I've also been looking into self-publishing. I have read about companies that do the work for you, but, in my opinion, you get too little royalty that way. Then I've been reading about e-books. Did you know that Kindle allows you to keep 70% of the revenue?

When I see e-published books that are unavailable in print, I automatically think "he/she couldn't get an agent/publisher". Although I'm sure that's what happened to some, I think it's time I change my way of thinking. Randy Ingermanson wrote yet another brilliant post, and this time about e-publishing. His post is long, but it had my entire attention to the very end. He also links to a post by Joe Konrath that is a must-read.

Randy talks about the inevitable change in the publishing market and 9 different ways the market might change. He's very realistic and he talks about the positive way for both authors AND publishers. So far I've only seen negative posts from publishers/agents about e-publishing, likely because they're nervous. No. Not nervous; scared. But reading Randy's post, I honestly don't think they have to be scared of anything. In fact, this whole e-publishing thing might make their work a lot easier. Randy's one option was that writers will e-publish and the agent will watch what's selling and sign up those who are popular. That way they won't have to take some of the chances they take. As for the slush for the market, Randy says that the market is smart and will quickly find ways to get around the slush.

Yes, it will be hard to stand out and market myself if I e-publish on Kindle (or any other means), but I have a degree in business, and I should be able to cope. I'm confident in my writing, and I'm not scared of e-publishing. I actually find the possibility rather exciting.

There will always be printed books. There was one person who replied to Randy and said that he (the person) was old and had eye problems because of computer screens. He said that he wouldn't recommend reading books from a screen. There will always be people who will prefer buying printed books. I know that I'll be one of them, although I'm excited to buy a Kindle device and try it out. I like the idea of de-cluttering my shelves with the device. But I think that I'll always buy my favorite titles in printed form.

p-publishing or e-publishing? Either way, I'm optimistic about my future as a writer.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Query Synopsis
I have decided to finally reveal a little about what I‘m writing. I‘ve finished my query synopsis, and it is posted below, but I‘ve snipped out three sentences that would be too revealing. Agents/publishers need a more detailed synopsis that would be spoilers for readers.

--> Tell the agent what your book is about, revealing the end if you have to, and don‘t leave the synopsis with only a clue.

Wishes really do come true! At least for sixteen-year-old Eva Jones, who lives with her obnoxious foster parents in New Jersey and wishes for nothing more than to escape to a different place. What Eva does not wish for, however, is being chased by ghosts, having eerie dreams, and waking up with a nasty spider with wings on her face.

Stuck in the fantasy world of Mira Fir, Eva encounters a deviously handsome and evil young man of the deadly Myrkvera race. She is presented with two choices: help the Ljosvera, casters of light and life, obliterate the few remaining Myrkvera or help the Myrkvera defeat the Ljosvera empress and take over the world.

Snipped out are two final sentences and one and a half in paragraph two.

The names Myrkvera and Ljosvera are Icelandic (Being of Darkness and Being of Light). I started jolting down ideas for the book in January 2006 and up until the summer of 2009, I still didn‘t know what to call the two races. So I chose these names while my brain was hurting, but I like them now. They describe the races perfectly.

I had five words describing Richard, but then I ended up cutting him out of the synopsis entirely. Yes, he‘s a big deal to Eva, but I found that mentioning him was unnecessary.

--> Choose only one to two characters for your query synopsis. It can get a little confusing if you have more.

There‘s obviously more to the whole novel, but this is the essential plot of this book (first of least, I‘m sure I could write more from this world). I had a lot of fun with the world in the very first version of the manuscript, but then I had to chop out a lot to make the book more to the point (supposedly that‘s what publishers want). It‘s not a big deal though, I can always write a series of short stories later.

So, knowing that there are three sentences removed from the synopsis, what do you think? Does it grab attention? Is it confusing? ...Is the punctuation correct?...

Task for the day: Send out some query letters and take ten deep breaths!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fun Facts about Iceland II

Fun in Iceland! Photo: Holger Leue/Lonely Planet

I know, skimpy picture, but it's supposed to represent how fun it is in Iceland with pretty girls smiling. Picture is taken from the Blue Lagoon, which is just outside my hometown.

I got nice critiques on my query synopsis, so I'm still working on that (perfectionist here). Until then: More facts about Iceland!

Photo by Ómar Smári Kristinsson

- You can’t get lost in an Icelandic forest. The trees aren’t tall enough and the area isn’t wide enough. You can, however, get lost in the mountains and glaciers, and unfortunately it happens that foreigners sometimes die that way (three this summer that I know of, they were off to see the volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull - come on! It's not that hard to pronounce!).

- Iceland has a female prime minister. She’s gay, but nobody cares.

- I don't like the Icelandic prime minister because she's trying to force us into the European Union.

- Our most beloved pop star is also gay (Paul Oscar), but again, nobody cares.

- Earthquakes don't scare me. They’re too common and our houses are especially built to withstand them. A picture frame broke the last time, but it was a cheap frame anyway.

- There was a big earthquake two years ago in south of Iceland. That one would have scared me. Check it out! I‘m just glad nobody was standing in the aisle in the last bit.

- Most Icelandic candy is salt liquorish covered in milk chocolate (yummmmy).

- Our chocolate easter eggs are stuffed with candy (droooool).

- I'm on a one week candy probation (sigh).

- There are five Icelandic channels. The rest are American/English/Scandinavian.

- Every year we think we’ll win the Eurovision Song Contest. Every year we lose.

- Every man denies watching Eurovision, but 90% of them watch it.

- Most Icelanders have blood type O, and blood research suggests that most men back in the settler days (years 874 and up) were Norse, and most women Celtic. That also suggests that the women were slaves from Viking plunders.

The brisk trade in European slaves (Artist unknown)

- Talking of slaves, Icelanders were allowed to kill Turks on Icelandic ground until some years ago. In 1627 300 “Turks” (pirates from Morocco) kidnapped nearly 250 Icelanders, most from Vestmanneyjar (Westman Islands), and only a fraction of those were bought back years later.

- 15 people were kidnapped from my hometown, only one returned.

- Today, Icelanders are 320,000. Back in 1627 they were less than 50,000, so 250 Icelanders was a big chunk.

- Most Icelanders have blue eyes, and most children white hair. When the kids grow up their hair usually goes dark. I’ve also seen a lot of green and some amber (yellow) eyes. There are a lot of people in Westman Islands who have brown eyes and dark complexion (guess why).

- There are five universities for our 320,000 people.

- Most houses are heated by geothermal energy.

Sjósund - Jökulsárlón 2006 048 (Heimir)

- Swimming in the freezing sea is a sport and considered extremely healthy.

- I wouldn't be caught dead in an Icelandic sea. It's dark, bottomless, and has whales.

- There is only one beach in Iceland, and it's man-made (imported sand!). Most other shores aren't reclining, they just drop to being deep right away.

- We have very colorful roofs.

- We speak Icelandic (for those who didn't know). It's ancient Norse.

- There are no trains in Iceland.

- We got Toys'R US in 2007.

- There's no Starbucks here - don't know why, Icelanders are heavy coffee drinkers.

- I don't drink coffee, never have.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Calm before the Storm © TONIVC
I have completed the majority of my agency list. Phew, it was a lot of work! I recommend people start on their lists early if they intend to send out queries to many at a time. It took me at least 30 hours all in all to find the agencies, read through their submission guidelines and choose the agent I wanted (by reading the profile of each agent). I also wrote down their email addresses.

--> Start on your agency list early.

I had a whole Word page with names of last-minute agents that I found last Friday and decided to go through it yesterday. I’m so glad that I did! I ended up with 56 agencies, and that’s excluding the one-man ones and the snail-mail ones. Going through that list increased the number in my snail-mail folder though. Why do agents still request forests of queries/manuscripts? I simply love the agencies who request emails only, because they don’t want paper wasted.

--> Prioritize.

I haven’t personalized the query letters yet, but I intend to. They have very different requirements: some request the query letter only, some want 5-10 pages, some 50 pages, one wanted the entire manuscript as an attachment, and some want 1-2 page synopsis, etc. Most don't accept any attachments, but a couple do. I’ll have to read each guidelines very carefully to have a chance.

--> Read the submission guidelines carefully and personalize the query letters. Don't send out mass-queries (Cc's and Bcc's).

Some agencies request exclusive queries, and I decided to ignore those agencies. I might try them if all the others decline. There was actually one agency that said something like “We request that you query more than us. Writers shouldn’t query exclusively.” That made me laugh and the agency earned my respect immediately.

--> Query more than one at a time.

Some agencies forbid querying more than one agent at their agency (no from one means no from all), but some only forbid to query more than one at a time. Janet Reid says to query the others regardless. I suppose I might try it if the agency is big.

--> Query one agent within the agency at a time.

I have also decided to include a line in my queries saying that I’m sending out multiple queries, just to have everything upfront. Some specifically say they want to be told, but others don’t mention it. At first I thought that they’d put those queries aside and focus on the ones submitted exclusively (as some claim to do), but now I’ve come to a different conclusion. I think that they want to read the multi-submitted ones to be able to snatch up the writer before anyone else does, if the query letter sounds promising. I haven’t been able to verify this, but in at least three guidelines there was a text asking writers to let them know if they’ve gotten proposition of representation elsewhere, so that they might make a counter-offer. That means that, say, if I got an offer from Agency X and I also queried Agency Y some time ago, but hadn't heard from them, I’m supposed to send an email to Agency Y and tell them about the offer in case Agency Y wants to have a go. Maybe I'll ask Janet, Rachelle, or Kristin about it.

--> Let the agencies know that you're querying others, too.

The reason I checked the submission guidelines first was to put aside the snail-mail ones. I bookmarked them to list them later. Obviously I’ll try the email-ones first, because they're faster and don't cost anything, but there’s one in particular I’ll want to snail-mail, and that’s the agent of the House of Night series, since that’s my genre.

I also bookmarked in a separate folder “one-man agencies”. That doesn’t mean that I prefer the bigger agencies, it just means that I’ll do more background search on them, and that’s work I’ll have to put aside for a bit.

So what I did was I made five folders in my bookmarks and five Word sheets. I used the same names on the sheets and the folders (Contact 1, Contact 2, etc.) and bookmarked all the ones on Contact 1 sheet in Contact 1 folder. This is to help me later when I have to work my way through the submission guidelines of each agency. I didn’t write the agencies down in any specific order; I intend to query them all. Of course some seemed more like a perfect match for me, but it won’t hurt to send to others to see if they’re interested.

--> Keep a good, organized list on your agencies.

I searched through my genre on PublishersMarketplace, QueryTracker, and AgentQuery and listed them all down. Then I had a webpage of Predators & Editors open and checked each agency to see if they were legit, or had any specific warnings. There were only a few that I took off my list because they seemed iffy. I also eliminated those that take reading fees. I could have done this if they contacted me back to offer representation, but I decided to save myself time so that I won’t have to work my way through their submission guidelines only to learn that they’re dishonest.

--> Check your agencies in Predators & Editors.

So, what’s next? I got back the critique on my query letter and first five pages. I wanted to have the query letter edited to be absolutely error-free, and I got a few pointers with it. I also decided to send the first five pages, because I've made a lot of changes to it since I had the whole manuscript edited. Next up is to apply those changes and then my letter will be ready.

--> Make sure your letter + material is error free.

I have made a full proposal as well and wanted to be able to offer it in the query letter, but since something came up with the editor, I might have to give it a pass. It’s no big deal, really. The agencies only request a query letter, sample chapters/pages, and possibly a synopsis, but never a full proposal for fiction. I just wanted to show that I’d worked hard on the proposal, so less time would go into that after I’m signed.

--> Full proposals are not necessary, but nice.

Task for the day: Apply changes to the query letter and personalize 2-3 letters, but don’t send yet.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fun Facts about Iceland

Since I’m still working on my agency list, which is sneaky, time-consuming work, I thought I’d mention a few little facts about Iceland. They’re not all scientifically proven; this is just stuff from my head.

- If you walk through a field of tall grass, it is very unlikely that a bug will stick on you.

Garin Hay at MySpace

- Up until recently, Iceland only had very small spiders. A contractor I know of imported machinery and with them came rather large spiders with red and yellow bellies (eugh!). The contractor couldn’t be bothered to have them exterminated and so they’ve spread (thanks a lot).

- I have never seen a cockroach in Iceland. I’ve heard that there are some back at the old American base, and that they were discovered after the Americans left (thanks a lot).

- There are no ants in Iceland.

- When the American soldiers and their families left, they also left behind a lot of useful stuff, including playgrounds and gym equipment (thanks a lot!).

- There are not many rats in Iceland. In fact, I’ve never seen one with my own eyes. If I saw one, I’d probably think it was a big mouse.

Budget Baby: 10 More Ways to Live Green for Less by Rachael Brownell

- The largest wild animals (not including the very occasional polar bears that float on blocks of ice from Greenland/North Pole) are reindeers, but foxes are the second largest.

- Yes, I’ve seen a live polar bear. Not a wild one though. I’ve also seen live Orcas. The Orca was scarier.

- “Orka” is an Icelandic word for “energy”.

- Our clocks have 24 hours, meaning that we always write (and often say) 15.32 etc. Americans call it "military time"; we just call it "time".

- The northern lights (Aurora Boreales) are so common that I don’t really think of them as anything magnificent. I just think they're "cool". I grew up seeing the green lights, and I, with my wild imagination, could see little human figures walking upwards in a row. They peak every eleven years, and I’ve twice been awed by purple, red, orange, and pink lights dancing wildly in the sky (I’m not being poetic here, they were literally dancing). The lights in the pictures, by the way, are very cool.

- There is daylight 24 hours in June. That’s when Icelanders are very gleeful and chipper. That’s also when Icelanders go camping and drink a lot. I don’t drink alcohol and I haven’t - ever. No special reason, I just don’t want to.

- I know one other person who has never tasted alcohol in his life, and he happens to be my cousin.

- People always dress up before heading to the pubs/nightclubs.

- There is maximum 3 hours of daylight in December, when it is darkest. That’s when way too many Icelanders are depressed. We go to work in darkness and come home in darkness – but then we have Christmas to cheer us up.

- There was winter celebration in Iceland way before people were forced to take up Christianity here. The purpose was to cheer people up the gloom of darkness.

- People also dress up for clubbing in the winter - girls don't let the cold bother them and if short dresses/skirts and tank tops are in, they wear it.

"Dreki í nýju ullarpeysunni sinni"

- After the 2008 economic catastrophe, new and innovative businesses have been popping up everywhere. Every woman, it seems, was suddenly interested in knitting (including me), and former career women published a number of knitting books. More Icelandic knitting books have been published in the last two years than the last decade, and probably a decade before that, too.

Cartoon at

I'll post more of these later when I have no news of my writing. I've compiled a list of 42 agents so far and I have some more to go. I didn't list the snail-mail ones and the one-man agencies, but I bookmarked them and I'll list them down later. This doesn't mean that I'm less interested in them, I just decided to work in this organised order: list big/medium agencies (tons), list snail-mail agencies (a handful), and then list one-man/woman agencies (a few more than the snail-mailers). I intend to query everyone.

Just for the record, it has taken me two whole days to list down the medium/big agencies and choose the right agent from each one. This is a lot more work than I thought it would be, and it'll be a lot of work to personalize every query (read the query guidelines from everyone and make sure everything's spiffy). I think I'll send the queries out in batches, maybe 5-6 at a time.

Task for the day: clean the apartment and continue listing agencies.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Twitter-dee, Twitter-dumb

People who are trying to get published often talk about the need to have a platform. This is especially important for new writers who have had nothing published before, or in other words: writers like me.

A platform is basically a follow-ship of people who would likely buy your books. There are different kinds of platforms, but since the only way I can build a platform in America is by using the internet, I'll skip the talking at conferences, teach courses and such.

What are my optioins?

A blog. A nice feature in a blog is the follow button so that both the writer and possible agents/publishers can see how many are following your blog. It's important to keep blogging, every day or at least a few times a week and keep at it. People won't continue following you if you stop blogging for a long time.

You can write articles and/or short stories and have them published on a popular website/blog/ezine (online magazine). If you can do a number of these, eventually people will know who you are and might follow you on your blog. If you get to publish on a big, famous site then you could possibly mention it in a query letter.

You can create Facebook and Myspace, and any other follower-related accounts. Ten thousand followers on Facebook would be an impressive platform, though you'd have to be very witty and clever to build that kind of a follow-ship. I personally prefer Facebook (it's what all Icelanders and their grandma have - yes, my 78 year old grandmother is very active on Facebook), but I have created a MySpace page as well.

You can join writer-related chat forums and be active in the discussions. I recently joined She Writes, a community for female writers. I'm still getting into it, but they have excellent tips, discussions, and groups. I don't know if I'll join more communities since an awful lot of time is going into blogging and reading writing-related material on the internet.

And then you can use Twitter. Dum-Dee-Dum. Twitter is a tool I just cannot understand. I created an account earlier this week, but it looks like a jungle to me. I just don't see the point in Twitter. I much rather prefer Facebook. I was excited to get my first follower on Twitter though (I'm TessyQuin there), and I'm sure that, in time, I will be able to figure this Twitter thing out. Some people seem to be addicted and "tweet" many times a day. I suppose I'll have to alt-tab there every hour or so and try to say something clever.

All of these are tools I need to keep active to build my online platform.

What are you doing to build a platform? Do you have many followers yet?