Monday, September 26, 2016

Keeping It Real

Often people ask what release day is like for an author. You have two choices. You can reload your Twitter feed and check your Amazon ranking constantly, or you can pretend like it's any other day and go about your business.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES released last Tuesday and I opted for the latter. First things first I went out and walked the yard because we had a decent storm a few days earlier and there were sticks that needed to be picked up. So I went about doing that and discovered a dead crow in the yard. Being a writer, I had a reaction.

Me: There's a dead crow in the yard.
Boyfriend: Do you want me to get it?
Me: I'm more concerned about what this could mean on my release day.
Boyfriend: *stares* Okay, I'll get it.

Then I checked my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

Then I did laundry, which has a particular zen to it because I hang my laundry outside to dry. I managed to forget it was a release day for about ten minutes, because nothing smells quite as good as wet laundry and sunshine. And then one of the cats came over to see me and and flopped over for a belly rub, so life was good.

Then I checked my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

Next it was time to do dishes, because there's a particular zen to that when you own a dishwasher. I had some mason jars that had herbs stuck to the bottom from the homemade pizza sauce that had been in them so I told the boyfriend we needed to go to town because I needed a scrubby thing on a stick.

Boyfriend: Right now?
Me: Or I could get on my laptop and check my -
Boyfriend: Okay, right now.

So I went "into town" (and yes, that's a phrase we still use out here in the country, all Laura Ingalls Wilder-like) and I got my scrubby on a stick, and Mr. Boyfriend decided he needed to buy some other things at the hardware store, so we went there. I remembered I wanted copper pipe for distilling essential oil out of my juniper bushes, so I distracted myself with a whole wall of copper pipe for about 10 minutes.

Then I pulled out my phone and checked my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

And then - amazingly - Paula Abdul was playing on the store music feed and I found out I still know all the words to "Straight Up," which led me down this path of thought about oral history and cadence, and how music and rhythm assist memory. It really is a particular kind of magic that you can hear a song you haven't heard in 25 years and still know every word. Boyfriend was attempting to figure out what size vent pipe he needed for a project while not listening to me sing and so...

I pulled out my phone and checked my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

Then we got coffee and I'm one of those people who rejoices at pumpkin spice time and doesn't mind that absolutely everything is pumpkin spiced right now. My road is being resurfaced as a I type this and I think they're using pumpkin spice. I'm thrilled.

I got home and pulled out the laptop. I had some emails from friends who also had books releasing that day, who were taking a break from checking their Twitter feeds and Amazon rankings to email me and ask me about my Twitter feed and Amazon ranking.

This is what release day is like.

It makes you neurotic and I enjoy every second.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Talk & Giveaway: THE GRACES by Laure Eve

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.

River's new school has the Graces' - a blue-blooded, old-money, super-attractive group of siblings who attained everything they have through witchcraft. Or so people say. River's heard all the rumors, and she wants to learn from them. But how does the awkward new girl get the attention of Summer, the most popular girl in school, and the twins Fenrin and Thalia?

By slowly, carefully, becoming their friend. The first step is to hide her attraction to Fenrin, because his sisters hate girls who only get close to them to get close to their brother. The next step is to play it cool when she gets invited over to their house - somewhere no one else has been since an ill-fated birthday party the town is still talking about.

The last step is to learn their secrets - and keep them.

The only problem is... River has a few of her own.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I want the humor of the 2000's and the humor of the 90's to blend into one with the overuse of "That's what your mom said."

2) If you want to turn it into a publishing joke you add, "in space."

3) If you want to make sure the sexual innuendo super clear you add, "last night."

That's what your mom said in space last night.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday WOLF

I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications. I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of another acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF.

Let's face it, some people are just outlandish. They blog, they tweet, they have tumblrs & a an eponymous website, they make their own book trailers and make vlogs of themselves being idiots, they are brunettes and have the initials MM. God... these people.

In connection with such folks, today I want to talk about the expression over the top.

World War I was kind of awful for a lot of reasons - large scale mechanized warfare, the introduction of chemical weapons, and of course, trench warfare. Barbed wire that lined trenches has become iconic of WWI in a lot of ways, because despite the new technology involved in fighting, some of the most lethal and horrific moments came when soldiers crawled from their trench to fight hand-to-hand with the guys crawling out of the opposite trench.

Anyone who took the fight to this extreme was said to have gone... over the top.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Finally! Today THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES hits the shelves, a book whose first draft I wrote over 15 years ago. Buy links are below!

First of all, I want to say that everyone always asks me what a release day is like for the author. It's utterly fascinating, I have to tell you. I'm sitting in my pajamas, have researched how to grow mushrooms out of coffee grounds, and need to call insurance to argue about medical bills.

Sexy. As. Hell.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

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.

Nothing ever happens in the town of Stillman Valley, until their secret keeper disappears. Hmmm... it's definitely not a bad hook, because I want to know what a secret keeper does and why a town would have one. But I can also see that it could be a little too confusing and cause the reader to stop reading. Honestly on the fence on that one.

16-year-old Mags is sure her brother, Elliot, will show up in time for dinner. That seems like a weird thing to be sure about. Instead it sounds more like it's an assumed. Like I'm sure that the sun is going to come up tomorrow, but I don't sit around aware of my surety. I just assume it will happen. But when he doesn't, and when the search parties get lazy, Mags gets suspicious. How do they get lazy? Why would it make her suspicious? And (oops, don't start a sentence with and) starts a private investigation of her own. Even if it means this phrase usually is paired up with something... like, I'll eat this whole tub of ice cream, even if it means puking later. So there needs to be more of a connection between one thought and the next teaming up with that bipolar guy from school, AKA 'Creeper', who thinks he's a detective.

As they question friends and spy on neighbors, they discover just who Elliot really was.  This phrase makes Elliot sound somewhat sinister. As the quiet eyes of the town, Maybe Elliot's quietness should be illustrated sooner? Elliot saw and heard things he shouldn't have, and was busy collecting expensive gifts in exchange for his silence. So he's blackmailing, but it still leaves the question of his personality out there. 

But nobody likes their secrets snooped. And (you did it again) even Mags' parents will do anything to keep her out of trouble, are they keeping her out of trouble or protecting themselves? and the garage--whatever it is they're hiding in there.

Now that they're the ones being watched, by who, and how do they know that? Mags and Creeper must expose just how deep the corruption lurks in their small and twisted town, before they, too, disappear.

But what kind of corruption? And who do they think is watching them? You've definitely got what sounds like an interesting story, but overall if you look at it in detail it's actually quite vague, which is the problem. Boy sees things. Blackmails people. Sister goes looking, discovers things. Is in danger now. Has a cooky partner. This could be any number of books. 

What specifically is being covered up? I don't know form the query. It could be environmental irresponsibility, sexual misadventures, animal abuse, corporate issues... literally anything. Details. Details. Details What makes this mystery different from all the others? 

Also - I have no feel whatsoever for Mags personality. Elliot is quiet. Creeper is vaguely creepy and possibly unstable. What is Mags? From this query, I don't know. You also throw in the parents out of left field, which feels awkward and inserted. If she feels like she can't trust anyone, cool. But the parents are present for literally only the words that surround the word "parents."

And what happened to Elliot? He's the impetus and then suddenly it's more about the secrets and exposing them than finding Elliot. He drops out of the query after the discovery of him being the secret keeper - which, btw, that phrase itself made me think not of blackmail and secrets but of "keeper," like someone who is responsible for the well being of the town... it had a bit of a fantasy feel to it. That could be my reading of it, but using that phrase at the beginning made me unsure of genre at the start.

BLACK KEYS is a YA Mystery of 68,000 words. The theme of siblings but how important is the sibling connection? will appeal to readers of Lauren Oliver's Vanishing Girls and Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere, along with a light investigatory flair for fans of the Midsomer Murders TV series.

Good comp titles, just make sure it's true to what the ms is.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway AFTER THE FALL by Kate Hart

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.

Raychel has always been best friends with Matt. She can walk into his house uninvited - it's way better than hers anyway - even sleep in his room knowing that she's safe there, with him. Even if Matt doesn't always understand her decisions - like applying to a local college because she can't afford anything else - he's always there for her. Sometimes a little too much. He's determined to save her  from herself, even when she's just trying to forget some of the facts of her less-than-privileged life.

His younger brother Andrew has always been just that - Matt's little brother. But lately she's been thinking about sneaking into his bedroom instead... and not to sleep. Whatever she feels for Andrew is something entirely different than what she has with Matt, and it's pretty clear after Andrew punches out a guy taking advantage of her at a party that he feels the same way.

With so much in her life falling apart - her mom, her home, her future, her friendships - Raychel doesn't know what she can hang onto and what is worth letting go. Or if they even have to be mutually exclusive.

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