Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Talk & Giveaway: LANDRY PARK by Bethany Hagen

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.

Madeline Landry's fate has always been set. She will inherit Landry Park, passed on for generations since her ancestor developed supposedly safe, portable nuclear energy charges. To do her duty to her name, the gentry lifestyle, and the estate she loves, she needs to marry well - and behave.

Though Madeline's heart is tied to the land she loves, she feels an equally strong pull to attend university. Her domineering father will have nothing of it, and Madeline finds herself following the same routine - balls, parties, and looking down her nose at the working class.

But after she witnesses David Dana - supposedly the most gentrified of the gentry, and a boy she finds intolerable - help a working class girl who falls while carrying her nuclear charge, Madeline is forced to see both David and workers in a different light. Suddenly aware of the devastation her lavish lifestyle causes others - and the possibility that the famous Landry nuclear charges are not as safe as everyone says - Madeline's eyes are open to a new world... and the possibility that hers doesn't have to follow the path that has been set for her.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Interview Series - The SWAG (Shit We All Generate)

Today writers have to be more than just writers - love it or hate it, we are marketers as well. Most authors will agree that the creative part of the job is where we excel, the business and marketing side, slightly less. It’s lovely when the two can meet in the form of SWAG – Shit We All Generate. I’ve invited some published authors to share with us their secret to swag… little freebies that can sell a book longer after the author is no longer standing in front of a prospective reader. In order to create great swag, you have to be crafty – in more ways than one.

Today's guest for the SWAG is Demitria Lunetta, author of IN THE AFTER and IN THE END, both available now from HarperTeen, as well as the upcoming BAD BLOOD, coming in 2017 from Delacorte. Demitria is also an editor and contributing author to AMONG THE SHADOWS a dark YA anthology, available for pre-order now.

To help kickoff the SWAG, Demitiria is offering up a signed copy of IN THE AFTER, as well as her own (you guessed it) swag such as bookmarks, stickers and even a T-Shirt (size Ladies small)! I'm including a signed copy of NOT A DROP TO DRINK, and swag from various authors that I have lying around my house, including Kelly Fiore and RC Lewis. Want to see how other authors do it? Here's a chance at a grab bag of swag!

Finding something that represents your book and hasn’t been played out by a million authors before is difficult. What’s your swag?

Of course I have the standard bookmarks, stickers, and bookplates, but I also have notebooks, t-shirts, and tote bags.

How much money per piece did your swag cost out of pocket?

Bookmarks, stickers, and bookplates are pretty cheap…they’re only about five or six cents each (when you buy bulk.) The notebooks are a bit more expensive. I bought mini-pads and stuck a sticker on them…altogether those ended up being about 40 cents each. Shirts and totes are way more expensive, at about $12 a pop!

Do you find that swag helps you stand out at an event? Does your swag draw people to your table at an event or conference?

Definitely! People love free stuff, even bookmarks! Add a couple of notebooks and people are all about the swag. ☺ It also gives you the chance to engage with people as they’re grabbing your swag.

What do you think of big item swag pieces versus cheaper, yet more easily discarded swag like bookmarks?

Bookmarks are invaluable. Even though they’re cheap, they’re actually quite useful, and I’m not sure they’re so easily discarded. I’m always happy to get a bookmark and I have a drawer of them for easy use. The bigger ticket items are useful too, but it’s not always feasible to have loads of them. For the t-shirts I made sure they were soft and cute, so people would actually want to wear them. The totes I’ve only given out at my launch parties and I’ve actually seen people using them at other events, so they were definitely worth the hefty price tag.

What’s the most clever / best swag you've seen by another author?

Candy is always good! It gets people over to your table. I also already mentioned that I’m a sucker for bookmarks, so any unique bookmark will catch my attention, like something with an interesting charm dangling off the string, or even something shiny. I guess I have the attention span of a small child. ☺

Do you think swag helps sell books?

I think swag indirectly helps sell books. It acts as a reminder. It also gets your cover out there…the more exposure your book has the more people will buy it.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Extra Content For IN A HANDFUL OF DUST Paperbacks & Giveaway!

I got my author copies of the paperback of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST over the weekend. There's nothing like a big box on your front porch sealed in tape that says NEW RELEASES, let me tell you. But I don't need 25 copies of my own book, either, so I thought I'd give away a few.

What does the paperback have to offer that the hardcover doesn't? 

Extra content! There's an essay from me about the research that went into DUST (more than you think - polio, dehydration and horse hooves, oh my!), a little about what went into writing a 2500+ mile road trip on foot (and keeping it interesting for the reader - not easy, mind you), as well as an original short story about Mother, titled To My Mother

There's also a sneak peak at A MADNESS SO DISCREET, so if you're getting antsy for that, this can tide you over.

The paperback of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST releases on September 8th - and is available for pre-order now (you know, in case you don't win.)

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

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.

A job assignment in Italy is just what Mike needs to advance his career and bring passion back to his marriage. What kind of job is this? What does Mike do for a living? His wife is the only woman in Atlanta not flirting with him, and what better place for romance than the Tuscan countryside? His hopes shatter when his Italian partner definitely need to know what the job is that he has a partner falls ill what impact does this have on the plot? and his family so he has kids? does nothing but fight. After his wife and daughter head home How long did they stay in Italy? And how does he feel about this?,  a stunning Tuscan beauty captures the attention of everyone on the train. Mike thinks the goddess will remain a fantasy – until she introduces herself as his new assistant. She promises romantic adventure, if Mike can forget the cost.

You definitely need to have genre information in here, as well as word count, etc. Right now I don't know if this is romance, erotica, or a do-the-right-thing tale. You've got brevity here, but almost to an extreme. You've got 300 words to play with, and room to do some expanding. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER by Rae Carson

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.

Lee has always been able to feel gold - from the slightest coating of dust in riverbeds to the deepest veins in the earth, they call to her. Lee's gift has kept her family alive while others struggled, but their luck has raised suspicions. When her father and mother are killed by an uncle who knows of her talent, Lee flees to the only place she thinks she can survive - California.

Trains leave for the west every day, loaded with hopeful gold rushers. But with her family gone and her best friend weeks ahead of her on the trail, Lee has no one to travel with - and knows a lone girl will only be considered a burden. She chops her hair, binds her chest, and poses as a boy in order to be accepted as well as hide from the uncle who is coming across the prairie after her - and her gift.

The trail is hard, and not for everyone. Some of her companions are rough, and Lee guards her secrets - both of them - well. When she meets up with her friend in Independence, he's willing to help her hide her femininity, but it proves an effort for both of them as their feelings for each other grow. With danger on her heels and danger on the horizon, Lee has her hands full.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fearless Fifteener Madeline Dyer On Sources Of Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Todays guest for the WHAT is Madeline Dyer, a fantasy and science fiction writer, who has a special love for all things dystopian, paranormal and ghostly. Her debut novel, UNTAMED, was published by Prizm Books in May 2015.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

Normally, I can’t pinpoint exactly where my ideas come from—usually, they come from a mixture of things… but with UNTAMED I do have a specific origin point: the music video for ‘La La La’ by Naughty Boy featuring Sam Smith. More specifically, it was a scene in this video, where I saw what I interpreted as a human heart being sold at a market (whether it was actually a pig’s heart, I’m not sure) and I just thought what if people can buy emotions at an everyday market like that (as a human heart can represent love, passion, commitment, etc.)? And that’s where the idea came from really. Of course, it soon grew into something much, much bigger, as I combined it with research and imagination. 

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

So, once I had this premise worked out—that people would be able to buy the emotions they wanted to feel—I started thinking about characters. For me, characters always drive the plot, so once I’d created a handful of characters that I absolutely fell in love with, the plot came pretty fast. At this point, I started on the world-building, and decided I wanted a strong dystopian regime in place that tried to eradicate all negative emotions—at the expense of humanity. And I also wanted conflict. A lot of conflict. From then on, the plot just grew and grew, thanks to my characters and their actions. 

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Yes! This happens quite a lot. I’m just trying to think back to when I was writing the first draft of UNTAMED… there were quite a few plot points that changed dramatically when I went from my plan to the first draft. Mainly, these changes were caused by the characters not doing what I wanted. They all had different ideas, and a couple of them reacted totally different to how I expected, throwing the story off in a whole new direction. 

But most of my big changes occur when I’m going from the first draft to the second. Usually, by the time I’ve finished the first draft, I know the characters really well, and I’ve got loads of ideas about what needs changing. With UNTAMED, one of the major changes was who the love interest of my main character was going to be; another character just wasn’t happy about my plans at all—to the extent that the original love interest got written out in the second draft. 

And these changes happen all the time! I’m currently working on book two in the Untamed Series, FRAGMENTED, and I’ve just finished rewriting a massive section. It still leads to the same place, but uses different means to get there that are more appropriate to the characters and the story.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

I always seem to have ideas! And I can’t type fast enough! 

I’m currently actively working on three different projects (the next two Untamed books, and a new dystopian novel for adults), and I’m feeling a bit overloaded by just how much motivation and inspiration I have. Sure, I have days where I can’t be bothered to write and the thought of sitting down with my laptop again fills me with dread—but at the same time, I want to write, I need to. And when I have, I feel a lot better. It’s addictive. 

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

Ah, now this is something I still haven’t quite perfected. I always seem to be overrun with ideas, and tend to work on more than one story at a time—though, even then I always have one main one. Still, it gets a bit hectic, and I keep separate notebooks for each project so I don’t mix my ideas up. At the moment, I’m working on Untamed book two (as my main project), and then writing scenes and bits and pieces of Untamed book three, and my new work-in-progress.

I tend to just go with the story that I want to write that day. Unless I’m on a deadline! 

Sometimes the perfect word eludes me. If I can’t come up with it in the moment I usually write something in ALL CAPS like A GREAT WORD HERE and move on to catch it later in revision. Do you roll with the flow, or go find that word right away?

I do the ALL CAPS THING all the time! And you know what? I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I think that if I stopped every time I couldn’t find the perfect word, I’d definitely disrupt the flow of the story—particularly if it’s the first draft. And I’ve found I work best when I get the first draft down as quickly as possible. I completed draft one of UNTAMED in around 24 days, then spent the following 18 months fixing things, rewriting and revising, and working through edits with the lovely editor my publisher assigned me. 

So yeah, my first drafts tend to resemble a bit of a patchwork really. They’re filled with notes, comments, highlighted sections that need rewriting and lots of capitalized reminders. 

Anyway, the later drafts are for finding the perfect words, right? I usually don’t allow myself to start editing, changing words or doing major research (unless it’s absolutely necessary) until I’ve finished a draft for fear of disrupting the rhythm I’ve created. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

AMONG THE SHADOWS Available for Pre-Order & Signed Swag Giveaway!

Most writers have a couple of short stories banging around their heads, and no good place to put them. In a lot of ways shorts are harder to write than novels, and difficult to place because publishers don't necessarily want to produce anthologies.

Luckily twelve other awesome YA authors with darker sides have that same problem - little stories with nowhere to go. We've banded together to self-publish AMONG THE SHADOWS: 13 STORIES OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT - the e-book is available for pre-order now!

AMONG THE SHADOWS releases in a month and we're having a giveaway for 5 paperback copies (plus signed swag!) and 5 digital copies. The swag bundle includes signed bookmarks by Beth Revis, Joelle Charbonneau, Kelly Fiore, Mindy McGinnis, Lydia Kang, Kate Karyus Quinn, and Demitria Lunetta! There are also some extra goodies like postcards, bookplates, stickers, and more!

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