Friday, December 15, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: BLOOD, WATER, PAINT by Joy McCullough

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

Joy McCullough's bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia's heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia's most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman's timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.


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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Here's an interesting little bit of language history that I happened upon the other day, involving silent letters.

I've always been kind of amused at the fact that you don't pronounce the "h" in ghost. It's kind of funny, if you think about it. It's there... but you never hear it, and no one dare say it... Oooooo. Anyway, why is that pesky letter there?

People were writing long before the dictionary existed. Mostly it was the monks who did the copying and writing of books, and pretty much everyone wrote words however they felt they should be spelled. Likewise, the printing press existed before the dictionary, and we ended up in the same situation. Lots of people from all different kinds of backgrounds were printing in the English language, but bits of their own heritage were filtering in to the mix.

The word ghost was originally spelled without the "h," nice and phonetically. But printers from Holland tossed an "h" in there because that's how they spelled it, and for some reason, it stuck.

Interestingly enough, the printers weren't only tossing in letters because of cultural differences. They also liked nice straight lines (who can blame them?) and so if they had to knock an extra letter off of a word or two in order to get a nice, tidy justification, they'd go for it. Words like, logic, magic, and music used to have a "k" at the end, but they got nicked.

In 1755 Samuel Johnson had enough of arbitrary spelling, and made the first English Dictionary. Shortly after the American Revolution, Noah Webster waged his own kind of war against the English by writing an American Dictionary, in which he knocked the "u" out of words like color, flavor and honor.

How do I know all this? Well, it's because I read books. Most of this stuff was news to me, I learned it from THE WORD SNOOP by Ursula Duborsarsky. If you're as big of a nerd as I am, you might want to check it out.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Savannah Hendricks On Combatting The Fear Of Never Selling Another Book

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?

Today's guest for the SNOB is Savannah Hendricks who holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice, an Associate degree & CCL in Early Childhood Education, and a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice/Criminology. She works full time as a medical social worker and writes because to write, is to listen, to everyone, including yourself.

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

For me it was easy to start on other work. My first book, Nonnie and I took seven years from draft to sale so I already was well on my way through other stories, even submissions. There was a lot of focus on sales, which kept me distracted around and after the release date. I felt as though I was always checking to see where the book stood and if it had any reviews yet, plus my own marketing kept me busy. I did get the nagging feeling when I was submitting my second manuscript that I would never sell again, and still feel this way some three years later.

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

I would say that today, I still have some energy focused on Nonnie and I. I think that unless you have a huge publisher (and even if you do), the work never ends. You don’t want your books to ever fall onto the “out of print list.” What writer doesn’t want their book to be considered a classic? I do have the fear as I work on a second book that Nonnie and I will be the only one I will ever have in reader’s hands. That can cause a lot of anxiety when you want to focus on other manuscripts. You don’t want to be a one hit wonder. 

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

I sold Nonnie and I on my own, without an agent. But, I’m in the process of finding one. The publisher I worked with only had minor editorial changes. For any book, this is kind of unheard of, but for Nonnie and I it just worked out that way.

My second book I’m writing for me, one hundred percent, but the feedback I’ve gotten from the industry has really helped me/pushed me to make it better so that it can sell. I’ve learned you can’t write for anyone but you, especially in a profession that is subjective as this one. Overall, I want readers to love my stories. That is how it was with Nonnie and I, and how it will continue. My worse fear is getting a book published only to have readers hate it. Reviews where a reader didn’t connect with the story. That the characters were flat and the reader didn’t care what happened to them.

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

For me time management has always been a balancing act since I have a full time job outside of writing. As a social worker, most of my evenings after work are “wasted.” Because I don’t have the energy to devote to writing, and if I do, I almost become wired and then can’t sleep, which causes issues the next day at work. I do try and use the week nights for reading and researching so that when the weekend comes I can devote most of the day to actual writing and editing. If I’m able to get a lunch break during work I will try and read, edit or create a new rough draft of a story idea, but this is pretty rare.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

The second time around, as I write I have learned that most of my drafts, which I thought were ready to go and perfect are not at all. I submitted too soon on so many of them. Also, I have thicker skin in a sense that I know it’s a waiting game, I just hope it’s not a seven year game. I have learned this second time around that it’s important to keep writing, when creativity strikes write it down. It’s important to have more than just one other manuscript, especially in the picture book world. The other day I submitted a picture book to an agent and the agent replied right away asking if I had any other picture books she could look at as well. If I only had that one, then I would have missed an opportunity. Regardless of the outcome of that agent, it’s important to have more than one thing in your portfolio, illustrators do, and writers should too.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Where To Get Signed Books For Christmas!

If you're finishing up your Christmas shopping (or just starting, I won't judge) and have a book lover on your list who might enjoy a signed book from yours truly, there are a couple of options for you.

There are signed copies of my books in Colorado at The Tattered Cover (Aspen Grove), Old Firehouse Books and BookBar. If you're in Ohio, try the Barnes & Noble at Sawmill or Akron - call ahead, as there may not be signed copies still available. If you're in the Cleveland area, try Loganberry Books, and take time to pet their beautiful store cat, Otis! You can also stop by the B&N in Pickerington on December 16 @ 11 AM to meet me.

If you're not near any of these stores, always feel free to contact my local indie, Fundamentals ((740) 363-0290 or to order in time for the holidays. I will sign and personalize for you!

The newest ep of the podcast is up as well. Listen to middle grade author Gayle Rosengren discuss how to patch together a freelance career through things like writing copy, copy editing and being a research assistant.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

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.

You wake up alone and scared. Probably not a good idea to frame the query in second person, unless the entire novel is written that way - which I doubt.  Finding your way back to your life, you find you've been missing for two years. To complicate matters, you know you're you, but everyone else sees someone completely different when they look at you. Literally? Or figuratively? Your family has broken apart and moved away, your friend is obsessed with finding you, but of course they don't know you're you, alone you decide to find out what happened to you. Honestly with the repetition of various forms of "you," this is becoming flat out confusing. I would definitely take this out of second person. You need a strong hook, and the concept of amnesia and disappearance has been done many times - what makes this story different from every other one? Get that into a hook, and start there.

During your investigation you uncover the town's dark secret, you're not the first person this has happened to. As you learn more about what happened to the other people you hope to learn more about what happened to you, even as the town you've thought of as home becomes more unwelcoming and the shadows grow thicker around you. Even as you find out that it wasn't a who that took you, but a what. Why did it take you? What does it want? Can you stop it before it takes someone else? Definitely don't end with rhetorical questions.

Combining the creepiness and terror of Daniel Kraus's Scowler with the mystery and suspense of Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train (although with a shot of supernatural not a shot of gin and tonic), The Disappearance of Desmond Willows is a supernatural coming of age story. A horror who-done-it, where the victim of the crime is also the naïve and inexperienced detective bent on solving his own kidnapping.

This is my first attempt at a true young adult book. And this is the very first indication of have that this is a YA book. I've tried my hand at micro-publishing my work on, where you can find several of my novellas and two novels published under the name ____. I wouldn't mention your self-published work until you're in a more personal contact level with the agent. If they're interested in your work they will request pages of what you are querying them with.  My short story Warm Blooded earned an honorable mention from L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future in 2014.  Most recently my play, The Last Stand on Mango Street, was performed at the Liminus Theater in Cleveland as part of the NEOMFA Playwright's Festival.  In May of 2016 I earned my MFA in fiction from the NEOMFA program where I studied with author Christopher Barzak.

The bio you have here is good, but you definitely need to scrap the query and start from scratch. Like I said, the very first indication I have that this is a YA novel is at the end of the query. The second person POV makes the main character whoever is reading the query. We need to know who Desmond Willows is in order to care about what happened to him when he disappeared. Look at other queries on this blog, and check out sites like Writer's Digest to see good queries in action.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: LOVE, LIFE & THE LIST by Kasie West

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.


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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wednesday WOLF

Before we do this week's Wednesday Wolf, I need some volunteers from the audience. I'm all caught up on my willing victims for the Saturday Slash, so if you think your query is ready to go out there, let me and my hatchet tell you what we think first. Remember you must be follower of the blog (through Google connect) to get slashed.

I'm such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. 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. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Recently I hit a deadline by the skin of my teeth, and my nerd brain immediately said, "Hey, what's that mean?" So, librarian section of nerd brain went to work and Religion Major section of nerd brain was humbled when I discovered the answer.

Turns out we get this handy-dandy close call reference from poor long suffering Job. Quoting Job, 19:20 (NIV) "I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth." If you're not familiar with Job's story, basically the man lost everything he had - family, wealth, possessions, health - but it seems he still had good teeth so that says a lot of the Biblical era dental hygienists.

Other translations have the verse reading as, "by the skin of my teeth," but either one translates the same. Old Job was saying he'd escaped something "by a very small margin" as we don't actually have skin on our teeth. If you do, I suggest your visit a Biblical dental hygienist, apparently they knew how to handle that. There is some argument that perhaps Job was referring to his gums being the only part of his body not covered in boils, which may or may not be the case, but the translation remains the same as the gums would compose a small margin of his body.

Either way, I doubt it was much consolation to him at the time that he was coining a phrase.