Thursday, May 26, 2016

What's the ONE thing you should do to Jump-Start your Life TODAY?


Want to know what that one thing is?

It's very simple: take action. That's it! One small thing that no one else might see, but you know you accomplished. Eventually all the tiny, one-step tasks will add up to you meeting a goal. Here's what I mean:

Everyone has a goal: could be short-term, long-term, subconscious or fully on your mind. Perhaps it's:

·      More friends/different friends/ spend time with friends
·      A better job/ a more rewarding job/ quit your job
·      Leaving an abusive relationship
·      Acceptance (to a college, from a parent, of themselves)
·      Learn a new hobby/language/skill
 
The list could go on indefinitely. What’s your secret wish? (Close your eyes and think of something now. Got it in mind? Good. Read on.)

Now....do something about it. ONE THING. Take a single step in the direction of your goal. Right now. Today. It can be anything. Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re too busy. That's always going to be the answer though. Seriously, when aren't you too busy?

WE’RE ALL TOO BUSY – ALL OF OUR LIVES – AND UNLESS YOU MAKE TIME FOR THE THINGS THAT ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU, YOU WON'T REACH YOUR GOALS. 

You can:

·      Write a letter that you never send (or maybe one you do).
·      Send out an application to a job, a college, an award
·      Go DO the thing you wanted. Today. At least call and make a future date.
·      Send a friend request.
·      Research the one thing you wanted to do and sign up for a class.
·      Go get a jar right now to put extra money in to save up so you can do that ONE thing


So that’s it - start to blaze that path from WISHING to ACHIEVING with one small step in the right direction. I'll even help you. <push> 

Til next time, 
 KYM 

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Query that Landed me a Top NY Agent!




There is a TON of information out on the web about crafting a good query when looking for an agent. Heed the advice and do your homework.

ID-10038496While crafting an interesting query is super important, obviously writing a novel that has fabulous hook, interesting plot, and dynamic characters supercedes all of the letter writing factors in the world. That said, before I was agented, I enjoyed reading queries that actually worked.  So, with that in mind, here was my "golden ticket" - the email that helped that first door creak open just a tiny bit, which led to my eventual signing with Eric Myers with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (DGLM). The book title mentioned in my query letter was eventually renamed WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE and was published by Merit Press in July, 2014.

In summation, I followed the advice I had read online, had my query critiqued by my SCBWI pals, and went over it many times to make sure there were no grammatical errors. Here were the things I think I did right:
  1. Spelled the agent's name correctly (seems like a no-brainer, but I hear this happens frequently)
  2. Led with an interesting hook
  3. Told him how I knew of him and showed I had researched his preferences
  4. Gave a short description of the novel's basic plot, characters, and goals
  5. Kept my bio short since I didn't have any writing credits at the time
  6. Included a sample chapter in the body of the email, NOT as an attachment (I've read that agents delete all emails with attachments without opening, worried about viruses).

Dear Mr. Myers,

From inside the mind and coffin of Clyde Chestnut Barrow, circa 2012:

I let my anger fester like an infected wound until I reach a place of pure hatred for the son of a bitch who set me up. Someone told the coppers where I’d be and at what time, which narrows it down to about ten or so people, most of ‘em family. Soon as I learn out how to escape this hellhole, I’m going to figure out which rat squealed and I’m going to kill the bastard. Make ‘em suffer too. 

An eye for an eye my daddy always tole me, and I’ve always been a dutiful son.

Even if it turns out that it’s him that did it to me.

Your preference for thrillers as listed on the Literary Rambles website (and our mutual secret passion for Survivor!) makes me think we might be a great match. I’m hopeful that my YA paranormal romance-thriller, GANGSTER OF LOVE (devilishly complete at 66, 666 words) gets under your skin and infects your mind.

Following three arrests, seventeen-year-old Monroe Baker must stay out of trouble for a year or face a daunting felony conviction. When she impulsively steals the slugs that killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow from her father’s gangster memorabilia collection and shows them to Jack, a boy she meets at a party, the two unwittingly awaken the spirits of the dead outlaws. When Bonnie and Clyde possess the unsuspecting teens, it becomes a matter of life and death for Monroe and Jack, who must find a way to force the dangerous gangsters from their body, sending them back to the grave before they lose themselves completely. But when passions collide, alliances may change. Who will be left to reign as the true gangsters of love?

GANGSTER OF LOVE is a YA with crossover potential that mixes fact with fantasy to showcase the edgy grittiness of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, whose romanticized crime spree of the 1930’s continues to fascinate readers of all ages. The story is told in alternating first-person viewpoints––Monroe and Clyde’s––keeping the suspense high as secrets are kept and truths revealed.

During my non-writing time, I'm a full-time teacher and hold a Master's degree in education. I'm also the SCBWI district co-rep for the far north suburbs of Chicago. I've included sample pages below for your perusal. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, Kym Brunner

***** Sample pages - Gangster of Love ***** (Check out the actual first pages of WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE here: First Pages )

Thanks for stopping by! KYM



Kym Brunner dreams entire novels in her head, but needs about a year to write it all down.  She wishes there was an app for this. She’s addicted to chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she’s not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time. She lives in the Chicago area with her family and two trusty writing companions, a pair of Shih Tzus named Sophie and Kahlua. She’s repped by Eric Myers of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

Wanted: Dead or in Love, Merit Press, June, 2014
One Smart Cookie, Omnific Publishing, July, 2014
Flip the Bird, HMH Books for Young Readers, Coming Fall 2016


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Friday, January 29, 2016

This just in! Check out my FLIP THE BIRD cover!

Hey World ~

After many years––writing this novel, revising this novel, finding the right agent (Eric Myers from DGLM), and then finding the perfect editor (Julie Tibbot from HMH Books for Young Readers)––my dream has finally come true!

I CANNOT  TELL  YOU HOW EXCITED I AM TO KNOW THAT THIS BOOK WILL BE IN THE HANDS OF READERS COME NOVEMBER 1ST, 2016!!

Whoops, maybe I just did. :)

Want to know what it's about? Sure you do! Here's the brilliant blurb that HMH Books for Young Readers (okay, it was all me except the last line) came up with:

Mercer Buddie wants two things in this world: a girlfriend and the chance to prove to his master falconer father that he’s not a flake. With hunting season fast approaching, fourteen-year-old Mercer has only a short time to work with Flip, a red-tailed hawk he irreverently named to show his dad that falconers don’t have to be so serious all the time.
     When Mercer meets Lucy, he falls hard for her gorgeous looks and bubbly personality. He thinks his love life is about to take flight, until he discovers that Lucy and her family belong to a fanatical animal-rights organization called HALT—a group that believes imposing any sort of restrictions on animals is a form of cruelty. Mercer soon realizes that if he wants to keep seeing Lucy, he’ll need to keep his love of falconry and his family’s raptor rehabilitation center a secret from her, and Lucy’s involvement with HALT from his family.
     With humor and honesty, Mercer’s story shows how growing up means making difficult choices…and sometimes, being rewarded in unexpected ways.



And not only that, but the hugely talented New York Times bestselling author, David Lubar, read my book and wrote a wonderful blurb that the marketing team artfully displayed across the bottom! Squee!!


So now....with further ado...may I present the book cover to (pant, pant)....FLIP THE BIRD!





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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Want More Readers? Write SUSPENSE, not ACTION, Scenes


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I don’t want to harm anyone’s health, but everyone needs a jolt of literary CPR now and then. How to do it?
SUSPENSE. No matter what genre, no matter what age group you’re writing for, it’s suspense that make your readers’ hearts race and their anxiety ratchet up to high as they worry what will happen to the beloved characters they’ve been rooting for.
Yes, action scenes are important to add in occasionally because readers want to watch your characters ACT in some way, but to me, prolonged action gets dull. (That’s how I felt watching 90 minutes of Mad Max racing across the desert and back….zzzz). When the tension never lets up, the suspense goes down. One of the keys to writing suspenseful tales is to rev up the suspicion and then make the character move on to something “normal,” only to have the anxiety reappear. Think ebb and flow.

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 https://www.fbi.gov
In Wanted: Dead or In Love, an impulsive teen girl breaks into her father’s gangster memorabilia case and accidentally cuts herself with a bullet extracted from Clyde Barrow (impulsive character trait /stealing/consequences/outlaws all create suspense). As a result she awakens the spirit of Bonnie Parker in her own body, and then later that night, infects a guy she meets at a party with the spirit of Clyde Barrow (a pissed-off and unwilling companion adds suspense). They have a twenty-four hour deadline (a ticking clock) to figure out how to rid the outlaws from their bodies, or they’ll face changing places forever (possibility of death/crimes to be committed against their will). The reader feels compelled to continue reading to find out which of the four are successful and how all the problems will be resolved (multiple solutions / lots of questions). Whew! Hopefully the reader is breathless and their heart rate increases as the tension builds to the final scene.

HOW TO MAKE A SCENE COME ALIVE? MAKE US WORRY....

Here are a few tips:

  • SHOW, don’t TELL us that your character is anxious about something, have them sweat, bite their lips, swallow a lot, look at their watch. In fact, the next time you’re worried about something, check out how you feel inside, notice what you do (drink water, check for texts, pace around your kitchen) and incorporate it into your character’s actions). 

  • LET US HEAR YOUR MC’S THOUGHTS. We’re scared if your character is scared. Let us know specifically what he or she doesn’t want to happen (if we don’t get to Louisiana in time, we’ll be in their graves and Bonnie & Clyde will take over our bodies!) You’ll need to set these worries up earlier in the book and give the readers small reminders building up to the scene where “it” might actually happen, and then of course, make the worst possible thing happen. Oh no….not that!! Yes, that. Now the reader has to find out what your poor MC will do.

  • SET LOTS OF POSSIBLE TRAPS and SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITIES. And then, have your character dismiss them as things that could possibly never happen, but then make it happen anyway. For example, Mr. Nice would NEVER do that to his wife, who happens to be your best friend (oh, but he did) and your character saw it. Now what? Tell his wife, keep it a secret, confront him? Let your character worry and mull over the right thing to do over the course of the next chapter or two before deciding. Make her squirm when she sees her friend and she brags about Mr. Nice and how great he is.

    Good luck!

    'Til next time,
    KYM

Monday, September 21, 2015

Pay for Professional Writng Advice? It Depends....

These days it seems that everyone is writing a book. Many are writing books on how to write books, or how to sell books, or how to self-publish books, or even how to find the person who can help you to sell your book.

Let's just say there are a LOT of options and LOTS of ways to spend money.

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So many options it's similar to the assortment of goodies offered to kids in Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory. But which types of professional writing advice are everlasting gobstoppers and which ones are the candy bars that don't have a gold wrapper?

Here's my take on things:

1) Budget "some" money toward developing your craft. 

Unless your first name is William and your last name is Shakespeare, you probably won't improve your skills without getting some type of industry advice––either through a critique group, a professional editor, and/or books and conferences.

How much money you budget probably depends on where you are in your journey and your personal financial situation. And to be honest, it also might depend on how serious you are about taking your work to the next level. Reading books on the craft is great at a minimal level, but getting concrete advice about your own work is much more valuable. It's difficult to see our own strengths and flaws.

2) What's the best use of my budgeted money?

If you can afford it, beginners and pre-published writers should try to attend conferences in order to hear from agents and editors and find out what they are looking for. Also, what they are tired of reading and hearing about. If it's a topic that readers aren't buying anymore, you can bet that they won't want to acquire it either.

Those farther along in their careers might spend more on paying to have their revised WIP get a set of fresh eyes from a developmental editor. I still attend writing conferences, especially the well-attended kidlit conference in Los Angeles, but more to use that as a social springboard to to keep in touch with writers I've met over the years.

Joining SCBWI (for those writing for babies through teens) or a myriad of other writing organizations (Romance Writers of America // International Thriller Writers etc.)  geared toward your specific genre is a great idea. You will meet like-minded individuals (either in person or on a forum) and these people will become your confidantes, and hopefully, your cheerleaders.

3) Pay for a Professional Critique

There are different ways to do this. First of all, you should be in a critique group (either face to face or an online group) so you can get lots of free advice, as well as give it to others. But sometimes you're just not sure if the advice you're getting is meaningful, especially if all the writers in your group are beginners themselves. I'm not saying it's still not valid––they are telling you the way a reader views things-–but they might be giving advice that's too general (I like it! or It moves a bit slow here), or advice that really isn't helpful (you spelled there wrong).

Secondly, paying for an extra critique at a writer's conference can be iffy. Oftentimes, it's very expensive ($100 for five pages and 15 minutes of face time), but if your material is very close to being published, an agent might request the full and you're on your way. More often than not however, you'll get solid advice at a big cost. Still, I made some contacts that way but never grabbed the brass ring. Plus, they're only giving advice on five pages, which may or may not be your premier
work.



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So I suggest doing your research on finding a developmental editor in your price range that has lots of experience and having them read your entire novel. It's costly (anywhere from $500 - $2500), but you learn a TON and it can make your novel ready to be acquired. Ask lots of questions of several editors and gauge from their responses whether you think you'd be a good match. You might even ask to talk on the phone to them. Ask how much experience they have editing your genre and/or age group.

When I paid for developmental editing twice (both books were eventually sold to traditional publishers, btw), I searched for the right freelance editor and was rewarded greatly by getting excellent advice. **If interested, my amazing freelance editor for Flip the Bird (coming Fall, 2016 with HMH Books for Young Readers) was Maria Mooshil. She was an editor for the Chicago Tribune for many, many years and is now doing freelance work. She brought great insight to the motivation of my characters and was a fabulous sounding board of ideas. Contact her for rates and availability at: mmooshil@gmail.com***

I didn't do this large and more expensive project however, until I was very close to publishing my book and already had an agent. Meaning it might not be worth it if you are still a beginner and have a looong way to go to work on your novel. There's just too big of a window for them to hone in on fixing everything. Don't be surprised if the freelance editor asks for a sample of your work before they accept the job. Like I said, if you're too far off, it might be too big of a task for them to try and help you.

So do your homework, keep on perfecting your craft, write daily, and soon you'll be on the shelves and in the hands of readers! Good luck on your journey. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section. I hope that soon you'll be jumping for joy when your book is published.


Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/agree-terms.php?id=100146480


'Til next time,

KYM








Monday, July 20, 2015

Need More Suspense in Your Novel? Here's How to Amp It Up


SHH! CLANDESTINE SECRETS FOR WRITING SUSPENSE….
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You want to write a suspense-thriller, but you’re not sure how to keep the pages turning? Here’s what worked for me, and hopefully it’ll work for you too:

1.     FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU’RE MOST SCARED OF AND INCORPORATE THOSE EVENTS INTO YOUR NOVEL.

Don’t like to be alone at home at night?  Why not? Probably because you’re sure every small noise is something amiss… a break-in? A mouse? A burst pipe? Hate when you come home and the front door is open a crack, making you wonder if you did that or a stranger did…?Every time you realize that your heart is pumping in fear, make a note of it and incorporate a scene into your next book.

2.    TEASE BUT DON’T APPEASE

Just when the reader thinks the answer will be revealed, throw a wrench into the plan. Literally. Make someone appear that has a wrench and threaten to harm them, like I did in WANTED:  DEAD OR IN LOVE.  Or…come up with some other frightening alternative, one that makes your main character run.

3.     END CHAPTERS IN CHAOS

Never let the reader turn off the light and go to sleep feeling good about your characters. NO WAY! End the chapter BEFORE they open the door, get out of the way of the speeding car, or ask the micromanaging boss for a holiday off. I don’t mean mid-sentence, but bring the reader to the brink and have a small interruption make them delay for a moment…long enough to end the chapter and propel your reader to stay up past their bedtime.

4.     DON’T TROT OUT ALL OF THE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS


Keep the reader in the dark along with your main character. YOU, the writer, know how they’ll get out of this, but don’t make the solution so obvious that your twist is anything but predictable. If the solution will be found in the cemetery, have your character drive past it, always curious about the gravedigger with the limp, but make the actual answer the gentle loving cemetery director.

5.     MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SUFFICIENT (AND INTERESTING) SUB-PLOTS TO KEEP THE READERS ON THEIR TOES 


 No one likes to figure out the answer in the first one hundred pages. While you need to introduce the main goal in the initial pages, add a sub-plot or two along the way that makes the reader wonder what’s going to happen. Keep five plates spinning in the air, and the reader will enjoy watching and waiting for one, or more, to fall.


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Thursday, July 9, 2015

FLIP THE BIRD was acquired!!

Wahoo!! After many years of revision and letting FLIP THE BIRD sit patiently on my computer, it's finally going to be published. I can't even explain you how excited and blown away I am by this news. Anyone who knows me (friends, family, fellow writers) can attest to how I thirsted for this particular book to be published. Yes, I want all of my books to eventually be acquired by a big NY publisher of course, but this book took A TON of research and made me fall in love with the sport of falconry, so it sort of wound its way around my heart.

Here's the blurb from Publishers' Weekly:




I am so thankful to SOAR, Illinois for providing me a place to take falconry apprentice lessons, and to the many falconers (especially D. Troy Moritz) who answered my questions and let me tag along  during some of their hunts to fully appreciate the beauty of this sport. Hopefully one day you'll be able to experience this sport firsthand, but if not, I'm excited for you to read about it via my young adult novel. Thanks so much to my agent, Eric Myers, and to Julie Tibbott at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to share this book with the world.

I know my main character, Mercer, and his Red-tailed Hawk, Flip, would be super proud too.

'Til next time,

KYM

PS: Here's a video of a falconer working with a beautiful juvenile Red-tail if you're curious. :)