Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Debut Author Jasmine Warga Talks About The Cover For MY HEART & OTHER BLACK HOLES

I love talking to debut authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today's guest is Jasmine Warga, whose debut MY HEART & OTHER BLACK HOLES will be coming from Balzer & Bray on February 10, 2015.



Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner. 

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together. Except that Roman may not be so easy to convince.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

I had no set idea of what I wanted it to look like exactly. I actually felt stressed out for the cover designer because I thought it might be a challenge to graphically capture and represent the story since its dark, but hopefully not unrelentingly so since it has bursts of humor and romance. I was interested (and admittedly nervous!) to see how they’d capture that tension between intense subject matter and irreverent narrative voice.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

I saw the first possible comp cover design back in February. That design ended up getting pulled though. 

Did you have any input on your cover?

Yes, but I actually loved everything they showed me so my feedback mostly consisted of lots of exclamation points and squeals. Truly, I couldn’t be more impressed and thankful to the design team at B+B/Harper.

How was your cover revealed to you?

My lovely editor Alessandra Balzer emailed it to me.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

Yes! My friend Kristan Hoffman and the WE HEART YA blog hosted the cover reveal on June 19th. The art director shared a bit of the process behind designing the cover and we shared the jacket flap summary, an excerpt, Nova Ren Suma’s blurb, and gave away an ARC.

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

Only about a week or so because my cover had gone through many changes and we were working to have a version ready for the catalog.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

Not really since I didn’t have to wait more than two weeks, which didn’t seem too bad. But the more I think about it, I guess the truthful answer is yes since I was so excited to share it with everyone!

What surprised you most about the process?

How much time and care goes into designing every cover and how many people are involved in the process. I think the publisher really wants you to be happy and to give you the best possible cover they can for your book. It was totally evident that the people working on my cover had read the book and I think they did an amazing job graphically representing the tone and feel of the story. It was also interesting to me how much they zeroed in on finding a way to showcase the title and based a large part of the design around that.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

This is related to what I said above—trust that your publisher and design team want you to be happy with your cover. I was lucky enough that I really liked everything they showed me, but I trust that if I hadn’t, we would’ve worked together to come up with something everyone felt good about. It’s definitely a team effort. If I could do it over again, I would spend less time worrying and stressing about it, and more time enjoying how exciting it is to be seeing a cover.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Love Getting Mail

When I was a kid I was a huge fan of tearing out the order forms in the back of my paperbacks, hassling my mom until she wrote a check, and then mailing it off and waiting. Yes, I actually didn't mind the waiting. There was a lovely sweet edge to the anticipation of looking out the window everyday at noon on the hot summer days waiting for the mailman to go.

At 35 I'm still doing that, except now it's my own books coming to me. This weekend was a good one - finished copies of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST and BIS ZUM LETZTEN TROPFEN, the German edition of NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

Well played, mailman. Well played.




Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Remembering her childhood turned her into a killer. Burying it forever made her a better one. Totally awesome hook. I'm into it. 

Suzy wanders the streets of Hong Kong, her past in tatters, when a beaten woman hiding in an alley bring(s) back memories of an abusive childhood and a sister she failed to protect. She attempts to help, but when the woman is murdered in front of her, Suzy barely escapes with her life. That's when her nightmares return with a vengeance. I'm confused about the sequence of events here - when you say the woman she sees is "beaten" I assume she's already escaped her attacker. But if she is subsequently murdered right in front of Suzy, is it more like she's "being beaten?"

When the prostitution ring responsible tries to eliminate her as a witness, Suzy decides to fight rather than hide. She trolls the city's underbelly, human bait in a tight dress, getting answers with a knee to the groin and a call to the wife. Ha ha - great line. Her role as a prostitute hopefully you mean "role" as in she is pretending to be one, rather than actually fulfilling the position - perhaps it'd be better to rephrase as "act?" isn't doing her nightmares any favors, but that doesn't stop Suzy from discovering the dead woman was a model forced to blackmail a U.S. Senator on a junket. With a million dollars on her head and half of China on her ass, Suzy realizes a secretive organization is using sex to manipulate men in power—and she's going to do whatever it takes to end their abuse of women. Nice - I like the concept and motivation here.

After the Senator's car explodes, she has all the ammunition she needs to travel to America and lure the gang into the claws of an angry CIA. But if Suzy is to survive the coming bloodbath, she must bury her past, forget her fears, and become the nightmare others dread.

BLACK RAIN is a 100,000-word suspense novel set during Hong Kong's monsoon season, where the black rain alert can shut down the city. I love your concept, but I wonder if the word count might be a little heavy. See if you can pare down before submitting. Make sure that the ms is in as good of shape as this query is! Lastly - I'm curious about what role the black rain plays in the plot?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Talk & Giveaway: BEING HENRY DAVID by Cal Armistead

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

When your only possession is a worn copy of Walden and you can't remember your past, you make yourself a new one. Hank wakes up in Penn Station to a homeless man trying to steal the one thing he owns - his book. With no idea who he is or why he is there, Hank makes his way to the real Walden Pond, hoping to find clues to his past there.

As memories of his past trickle back he finds himself struggling harder to focus on what little he does know in the present. The few friends he has made have problems of their own. The homeless twins he meets in the city are trying to escape the drug dealer who has them under his thumb, and he only learns their real names while searching for himself in a database of missing children in the local library. And the girl named Haylee who can't quite live down an embarrassment from a year before... but Hank worries that his own past holds something much darker, some thing prevents him from committing to her in the way she'd like.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Authors Move In Groups For Our Mental Well Being

The best part about being a writer is meeting other writers.

People ask me all the time what my favorite published experience has been, and this is always my answer. Yes, seeing my name on a book for the first time was awesome, but much like Christmas, the best part about publishing is when it has nothing to do with what you're getting.

This past weekend I had the awesome experience of meeting some really amazing ladies. Joseph-Beth hosted the first of a two-part YA Beach Bash featuring myself, Mindee Arnett (THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, AVALON), Melissa Landers (ALIENATED), Kristen Simmons (ARTICLE 5), Saundra Mitchell (MISTWALKER), and Julie Kagawa (THE IRON FEY, THE BLOOD OF EDEN).

Authors are a different sort of people. If you are one, or if you've ever met one, this probably isn't news to you. The week before last I had the chance to sign with both Rae Carson (THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS) and Ann Aguirre (RAZORLAND, MORTAL DANGER). During the course of normal conversation I mentioned vomitoriums (as one does) and I didn't have to explain what those are. It's worth nothing that neither one of them blinked, either. I knew I was among my people.

So, meeting other authors is always welcome. It's an expansion of the realization that I'm-Not-So-F'ed-Up-After-All hangover from high school. Or at least, if I am F'ed up, I'm not the only one. Meeting people and maintaining friendships has become more of a driving factor to me when I agree to do events than selling books. Most authors will tell you that when we do a convention, festival, or signing, we do so not because we think we'll be moving copies, but because our friends are going to be there.

I like friends. Friends are good.

Kristen Simmons, Mindee Arnett, Julie Kagawa
Melissa Landers, Saundra Mitchell, Mindy McGinnis


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Fifteen year old Emmett Jaredson will be faced with one choice that will make or break the future of humanity in a crippled future where natural disasters and terrorists take reign. It's a good hook, but I need delivery on why Emmett is the key element.

Emmett wakes up to an earthquake, and the stark reality that his foster parents have been killed in a tsunami. Having a main character wake up as the first action in the novel (which, I don't know if it is or is not) is a faux pas that most agents and editors will tell you to avoid. I'd avoid using it as the beginning of the body of your query as well.

Petrified this means that he's completely unable to move, so it's not a good word to use here since he ends up running to Providence, enraged why is he angry?, and desperate to avoid another foster placement, Emmett runs to the heart of Providence, Rhode Island, in an attempt to use his stolen money stolen from where? to buy a used car hmm... I'm imagining chaos... why isn't he just stealing a car or looting? On the brink of the second earthquake he teams up with Melanie Austins after saving her life in the chaos. Together they struggle to remain alive, surviving through tidal waves, earthquakes, and explosions, but even then Emmett and Melanie don't realize the magnitude of their dilemma until a stranger approaches Emmett and tells him that he would be useful for his cause, and that Emmett should join him. I'm feeling a lot of vagueness here - there's definitely a lot of drama and danger, but I'm not seeing why we should care about Emmett or Melanie. Drama and adventure are great, but they matter for little if we don't care about the people it's happening to.

Shortly after, Emmett discovers the stranger is actually a terrorist attempting to destroy the government, and that he plays a key role in the natural disasters. Emmett will soon be faced with the choice to save his life or fight for the remains of society, but saving his life could mean utter chaos for the world—the fight for what is right could very well be his end. This raises a lot of questions, like how a terrorist organization would cause natural disasters, why would Emmett have anything to offer them (a special power? If so, that needs mentioned) Also, the first para sounded like the entire Earth was in an uproar, but this makes it look like a targeted thing against "the government." Whose government? Is it just the US under attack? What is Melanie's role here? It sounds like she's just a female who needs saved, yet you mention here in the query so she must have a more important role in the plot.

QUIETUS, at 80,300 words, is a Science Fiction Young-Adult Thriller that stands as the first in a planned trilogy. Your word count looks good, but you need to specify why this is science fiction. Also, it's very hard to sell trilogies right now. Work to see if you can make this a standalone with series potential.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Talk & Giveaway: BUTTER by Erin Jade Lange

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Butter weighs in at 423 pounds. His weight has ballooned to the point that he can't even play his beloved saxophone for long without losing his breath. School is torture, and life is exhausting. One of the only things that he looks forward to is talking to Anna, the pretty blonde cheerleader from school who he chats with online... only she thinks he's an athletic boy from another school, and she wants to meet - soon.

When the lists of the seniors "Most Likely To..." list is compiled for the year, Butter is listed as "Most Likely To Die From A Heart Attack." Butter reacts by creating a website and inviting everyone to come see it go down in real time - if they think that little of him, the least he can do is give them a show. Butter announces that he will eat himself to death on New Year's Eve.

The site get hits. Then comments. Suddenly, Butter is invited to sit with the jocks at school. Girls are talking to him - even Anna, who isn't quite as interesting in real life as she is online. Suddenly invited to parties and riding around with friends, Butter isn't drowning his sorrows in food anymore. In fact, he's losing weight. 20 pounds fall off fairly quickly.

Life isn't quite so unbearable anymore... until Butter realizes that his infamy has been won by promising to kill himself.

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