Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Cover Reveal Conversation with Alex Lidell, Author of THE CADET OF TILDOR


Having already survived six years at the Tildor's top military academy, sixteen-year-old Renee De Winter is determined to graduate, training day and night to compete with her male classmates. When the boys overpower her parries, she works harder. When a bully sabotages her gear, she fights without it. But when an underground crime group captures her mentor for its illegal gladiatorial games, she must choose between her career and her conscience. Determined to penetrate the group's inner circles, Renee will leap from academia to the crime filled streets, pick up a sword, and weigh law against loyalty.

THE CADET OF TILDOR will be available January 10, 2013 from Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin). Add it to your Goodreads shelf, or pre-order on Amazon today!

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

AL: Orange. And with a sword. The word TILDOR just feels orange.

I also had expected to see at least one of my characters on the cover.  Upon reflection, this wish had more to do with me wanting to see my character’s picture than with a genuine belief that the characters belonged on the jacket.  See, that’s why writers don’t design covers!

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

AL: When I first met my editor, shortly after she acquired CADET, she handed me a copy of GRACELING (Cashore is also a Dial author) saying that she thought I'd like the novel. The editor also pointed to the cover, saying that she imagined something similar for my book. "And glitter," she said.  "We like glitter."

And then that editor left publishing.

My new editor and I talked about the cover once the major edits were done. Glitter has not come up in conversation.

BBC: Did you have any input on your cover?

AL: On a scale of 1 (you'll see it when we're done) to 10 (draw your own), I'd put me at about a 5:  Enough to feel involved and considered, but not so much that I could mess things up.

BBC: How was your cover revealed to you?

AL: Anticlimactically. An email showed up out of the blue one day saying, "ok, cover time. Here is what we have in mind."

I was excited to learn that the designed had specifically asked to work on CADET and read the whole novel, which does not usually happen.

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

AL: Yes! We had a Cover Team of about 50 bloggers – including this one here – that all revealed together on June 11, 2012. It was a lot of fun and I’d love to do something like that again. Maybe with the trailer reveal in a few months?

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

AL: I had the general notion for months, but got the final art less than a week before the reveal.  Penguin knew and approved my reveal date - we based it around Penguin’s internal schedule.

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

AL: Impossible. I showed CADET’S cover to my mom and dad. I didn’t email it though - just to make sure one of us did not accidentally forward it along. Also, my agent was CCed on the cover, which was important because I had someone to legally talk about it with.

BBC: What surprised you most about the process?

AL: The number of people involved. There is the editor. And the designer. And the artist-who is not the same person as the designer. And the marketing folk. And me. And my agent. And the people at the press who need to adjust stuff to get the colors just right.  I'm sure there are others too…

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

AL: Write down all your thoughts, wishes, ideas. See a cover you like? Take a picture. Make sure you know what you like and can describe / show it to the editor if she asks. For example, at one point in my cover we were discussing color tinge. I applied a photoshop color filter to the mock-up to explain what I was talking about.

Another suggestion: Find out which audience your publisher believes will buy your book. For example, Penguin thinks THE CADET OF TILDOR would appeal to Tamora Pierce and George R. R. Martin fans, so I spent some time looking at those authors’ posters/covers and phrasing my comments to the editor in those terms.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Non YA Giveaway Winner

Follower Amanda Ray is the winner of the Non-YA Giveaway! Please email me at bigblackcat97(at)gmail(dot)com with your address and I'll get your books right out to you. If I don't hear back by Friday I'll have to pick a new winner. Congrats, hugs and kisses, and other things I would never do in real life.

In other news, my line edits came in this weekend, so I'm crawling off to the edit cave. In case you missed it, the edit cave is a glorious dark place of constant seclusion and butlers.

Ok, not really.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC 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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
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.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

Born into one of the Big Three families of the Enchanter realm, 17-year-old Finna Claremont’s lineage—yeah, lineage—should mean she’ll make a great guardian…. Right. The hook isn't fantastic, but I like the slight snark in the voice here, so I would keep reading.

Finna’s screwed up everything from transporting to blocking her thoughts since she was little, so when a fairy declares Finna has special responsibilities to protect her world Whose world? Finna's, or the fairy's?, it shocks everyone, including Finna. I'm a little confused here - is this in an entirely different realm? To prove she can hack it as a guardian, Finna sets out to stop an evil politician threatening the rights of all Enchanters. Hmm... yeah I don't have a good feel for this world right now. It feels all high fantasy with elves and enchanters and lineages, but now we're talking about politicians? And what does an Enchanter do? She’ll have to trust the last person she ever expected to befriend Why? Why does she need his help? How is she going to stop this politician? Clearly more than holding a protest march, I guess. (not to mention fall in love with) to pull it off. And trusting Liam Monroe isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because he’s a Monroe. They’ve hated the Claremonts for a hundred years, and the feeling is mutual. There’s a lot more than family honor riding on the line if Finna fails to measure up. She’ll have to count on her fledgling powers or else watch the world she knows disappear.

The powerful family ties and strong adult characters set apart BLOOM, a YA fantasy novel complete at 86,000 words.

I don't know that you want to use this as a sinker, because your query hasn't shown me powerful family ties or strong adult characters. If those are truly strong selling points for your book, get them out into the query. Right now, i think one of the more interesting aspects I see in this query is the idea of the bad guy being a politician, and that the threat lies in losing rights. Usually in fantasy we expect bad sorcerers and dragons as the threat... so I'd say that's another aspect that sets you apart.

Build on those. Right now you're trying to sell a not-ilving-up-to-her-potential heroine who is supposed to save the world along with a Hatfield and McCoy romance. All those things have been done before, not necessarily all together, but they have been done. Build the query around your world, because I think that's what's going to set you apart. We need to know what an Enchanter does in the first place, what rights are being threatened, and how Finna intends to fix that with Liam's help in order to say - Wow! I want to read that!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to Distinguish Between 50 Shades of Grey and Between Shades of Gray

Because it appears to be a problem.


And I know that was a lot of fun, but I also have a ton of common sense inside me. I'm spouting some of that about for anyone who'd like a dose over at From the Write Angle this week.

And - Hooray! I've been invited to participate in the Best Book Ever posts for Short and Sweet Reviews! This week's topic - best series ever. So what is it? Well, I have an opinion on that...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Debut Submission Success with YA Author Bethany Crandell

Before I jump into today's interview - the winner of the Non-YA Giveaway was Amanda Ray!

If there's one thing that many aspiring writers have few clues about, it's the submission process. There are good reasons for that; authors aren't exactly encouraged to talk in detail about our own submission experiences, and - just like agent hunting - everyone's story is different.

I managed to cobble together a few non-specific questions that some debut authors have agreed to answer (bless them). And so I bring you the submission interview series - Submission Hell - It's True. Yes, it's the SHIT.

Today's SHIT guest is a special friend of mine. Bethany Crandell slogged through the query trenches right alongside me, celebrated with me when I crawled on out, and then kept on slogging. We all know slogging makes one weary, but this slogger slogged it out. Bethany emerged with an agent and a deal for her debut SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS, which will be available from Running Press in 2014.
Cricket Montgomery was born with a golden spoon in her mouth (though Tiffany platinum would have been preferred) and the narcissistic notion that the world revolves around her. After a botched party attempt at the country-club lands her in hot water with her rarely-present father, it's bye-bye relaxing Hawaiian vacation, hello attitude-adjustment as a summer camp counselor.

As if being left for dead in western Michigan with limited cell coverage isn't punishment enough, Cricket's horror increases when she realizes she's working at a camp for disabled teens. Thankfully there's one bright spot in handicapped hell; fellow counselor and Zac Efron lookalike Quinn, who Cricket falls head over heels for. Unfortunately for Cricket, Quinn is the one person who offers her the brutal truth about the kind of person she really is--and not even a platinum spoon can make 'self-centered, bitch' taste good.

As wheelchairs, lazy eyes, and slurred speech begin to threaten her sanity, Cricket finds herself relying on the unlikely friendships she makes with the campers, and the strange connection the camp's director seems to have to her forgotten past.

BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

BC: Thanks to one of my best pals allowing me fly-on-the-wall access to her sub process, I knew a fair amount. However, it’s a lot like the first few weeks of sleep deprivation after you bring your newborn baby home from the hospital. People warned you you’d be tired, but until you’ve experienced it first hand—no warning does it justice.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?

BC: I was surprised by how incredibly kind the editors were. We received a handful of rejections, but they were all lovely and encouraging. One actually made me cry! It turns out editors are not dream crushing trolls after all.

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

BC: Hello. My name is Bethany and I’m an internet stalker.

You bet I did. I am a control freak. Since I was on the sidelines waiting while Rachael communicated with the editors, Googling, Twitter-stalking and PM browsing were about the only things I could do that allowed me to feel like I was still a part of the experience. I’m not sure that it got me anywhere, but it did give me a sense of purpose. I wouldn’t not recommend doing it. I think you need to do whatever works for you to get through the process. (For the record, I never Google Earthed anyone. I had to draw the line somewhere).

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

BC: It varied. Some were as little as three weeks, others had it several months and never replied even after we got the offer from Running Press. I’m sure there are a ton of things that factor into their response time. Current lists, how full their in-box is, how many people in-house have to read…basically, too many to count. I tried not to fixate on the spurts of radio silence, but when you’re a big communicator, like I am, that wasn’t easy.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

BC: Write, if you can focus long enough to do so, and talk to people. I wouldn’t have survived submissions without my author pals there to cheer me on, boost me up, and let me vent. Other writers are your greatest resource—utilize them!

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections? 

BC: Whether you’re agent hunting or searching for a publishing home, rejections suck--period. The difference this time around is that I wasn’t taking the hits by myself. Rachael, my agent, was fielding the blows, too. Knowing I had someone who believed in my book as much as I did made the passes a lot less painful.

BBC: If you got feedback on a rejection, how did you process it? How do you compare processing an editor’s feedback as compared to a beta reader’s?

BC: I had a little spreadsheet where I tracked the date our query went out, when the material was requested, as well as any feedback they provided. Again, it made me feel like I had a little bit of control in the situation. (The stupid things we writers tell ourselves.) Thankfully, the worst feedback we received was completely subjective. (Subjective. That word gives me the shivers.) I think I’d have fallen on the floor and assumed the fetal position had there been something negative.

As far as the differences between betas & editors; it was hard, but I tried to remind myself that editors are looking for more than just a well-crafted book. They need something that’s going to sell. As much as market trends can hurt authors, that’s just the way it works. Editors gotta eat, too.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal? 

BC: Here’s the scenario: Ten minutes after I hung up the phone with my agent the phone rang again. I glanced at the display and saw it was her number. My initial thought was, “OH CRAP! Something really bad is happening. Why is she calling me again?” After a deep breath I picked up the phone…

ME: “Hello?”
AGENT: “Are you sitting down?”
ME: “Uh…”
AGENT: “They’re going to make an offer today.”
ME: Absolute silence immediately followed by hysterical, bordering on scary, laughter. “Shut up! Are you serious? Don’t lie to me ‘cause you know I can’t handle that today.”

The rest is a lovely blur. It took several days for the reality of what was happening to sink in. In fact…it’s still sinking in. Sometimes I’ll be doing something totally brainless like sitting at a stoplight or packing the girls’ lunches and it will hit me, MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE ON A SHELF—IN A BOOK STORE! And then I break into the giggles again.

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details
being ironed out? Was that difficult?

BC: Thankfully, my editor contacted me within two or three days to let me know it was safe to let the cat out of the bag. The cat is now perched on a very tall mountain with a megaphone mewing like a lunatic!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Getting Sued Would Not Be Fun, So Be Smart

There is a fantastic post today over on Roni Loren's blog about using photographs on your blog. In summation - yes, you can be sued for using a picture you didn't take yourself on your blog. It doesn't matter if you link back and name the photog, it doesn't matter if you acknowledge it's not yours, it doesn't matter if you don't make money off of it, it doesn't matter if it was innocent and you didn't know you were wrong.

As a librarian, I'm very aware of copyright issues. As a writer, I'm very aware of how they protect me. As a blogger, I'd love to be able to pop up whatever pretty picture my Google search presents me with to spice up the latest post.

But I can't - and more to the point - I shouldn't.

One reason I waited so long to create a Pinterest account was because I'm pretty sure the only way to be totally free and clear of Legal-Land is to only use your own pics and not re-pin. So that's what I do over there. Sure, it might be the paranoid way of going about it, but I'm a paranoid gal. For more about the legal ramifications of using Pinterest, read this.

I'm fairly certain that the only pics I have on my blog are ones I took myself, or that I had permission to use. Even so, I'm going back through today and making sure of that fact.

You might want to consider doing that too, if you're a blogger.

What are the odds you get zinged? Small.

But I'm sure the 13 year old girl who used Napster thought that too, right? (God, what a fiasco THAT was).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC 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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
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.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

Avery isn’t as crazy as everyone thinks—her dreams really are coming to life. But ever since she lied about her parents’ kidnapping, she’s the girl who cried wolf. Oh - nice. I'd consider switching your sentences around here. The first one isn't quite as "hook-y" as you want it to be. You start out with kind of an overused concept, but then you turn it around with the second sentence. Consider restructuring for strength, but it's still solid as is.

But one boy believes her. Mason knows Avery is a Dreamer—a regular person with the ability to bring their dreams to life I'd drop "regular," as it sounds like being a Dreamer automatically discounts you as regular.. What he doesn’t know is she’s the future and hope of all mankind, and her dreams are bringing a sinister group of people, the Dream Catchers, one step closer to finding her and harnessing her power for evil. Why is she the Special Dreamer of all Dreamers? How is she the hope of all mankind? Why is she special and different even among Dreamers? And how are her dreams bringing the Catchers closer to her?

As a Waker—a protector of Dreamers—it’s Mason’s job to help her control her dreams and shield her from the Dream Catchers. But learning to trust someone, especially a Yankee Is this book set in the South? Why does it matter that he's a Yankee? who may just be the boy of her dreams, could be Avery’s biggest challenge.

Narrated alternately by Avery and Mason, DREAM MAKER, a YA modern fantasy, is complete at 61,000 words and is on multiple submissions. You don't need to specify that you're querying more than one agent, they expect it.

I'm definitely drawn in by the concept but I need more here in order for this query to escape from the "Special Girl / Protector Boy / World Might End" derivative machine. You really had me with the idea that Avery has lied about something - something HUGE - in the past... and then *poof* that totally left the query. Her parents aren't even mentioned again, or their kidnapping. Are her parents still around? What's the story with the kidnapping? Does it play into the larger plot? Why would Avery lie about that in the first place? You bring up some massive questions that sound like they have the potential to separate this from every other YA urban fantasy, but then you drop them.

I also need to know why Avery is so special, even among Dreamers, and how her dreams are leading the Catchers to her. The concept is interesting, and I like the idea, but I need to see in the query that you've got the execution nailed - show me the details instead of these broad strokes and make it clear that you've got a unique twist on the "Special Girl" story.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Talk - INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows

The first thing people talk about when they talk about INCARNATE is the cover. And yes, it's pretty gorgeous. I've seen birds fly into it.

But what I find even more stunning about the book is the theme behind the cover, and somehow that never quite makes all the conversations. So I'll go ahead and start my own.

INCARNATE is the story of Ana, the first Newsoul to be born in Range for 5,000 years. For centuries the same people have been reincarnated over and over again, loves finding each other in different bodies, different lifetimes. Friends reinvent their relationships, 9 year olds serve as doctors by drawing on knowledge from their past lives, and everyone keeps journals of their previous deaths so that others can learn how to prevent dying in the same manner.

Into this society of knowledge and reincarnation comes Ana, a squalling, unlearned infant with nothing to contribute, no memories, no past loves to find again, no friendships to rekindle. Ana's father disappears in shame, her mother removes her from the main city of Heart to raise her in solitude and neglect. On her 18th birthday, Ana leaves the home she is not wanted in and heads for Heart, the city where a mysterious beat can be felt in the very walls, determined to discover what her birth means, and who she is.

On her journey Ana is rescued from certain death by Sam, a boy her own age, though behind his eyes she can see the memories of the thousand lifetimes before this one. As she recovers, she reluctantly shares what little she knows about her own life, and hesitantly mentions her great love of music. She later regrets this when she learns that Sam is the current incarnation of her beloved composer Dossam.

Ana is a new thing in an old world, a cigarette burn flash in the corner of a four hour movie. As she puts it - she's a butterfly in their world, a creature that will live only two days in comparison to their thousands of years... and who would bother to befriend a butterfly? Or dare to love her?

The relationship between Sam and Ana is the heart of the book, and deftly woven. His kind compassion is the only way to draw out her injured and reluctant self; her unsure demeanor and unmitigated love for music is the way to his heart - no matter what life he's on.

For readers looking for a good, clean love story this is a great pick.

For readers looking for the answer to what Ana is and what her existence means, you'll have to wait for ASUNDER :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts this week have been of the natural world. It's effing hot here in Ohio but I know that in January I'll be irritated that I can't go outside because it's freezing. So I've been trekking outdoors anyway.

1) I've got a healthy colony of mockingbirds on my property. They're very attractive birds, and also incredibly intelligent. I recently learned that they attack people they see as threats - what if we did that? I'm picturing urban housewives bursting out of front doors and tearing hairs from the jogger's head that's passed by one too many times.

2) You might have noticed this about me already, if you follow me on Twitter or Pinterest, but I have a weird fascination with buzzards. They are incredibly unattractive birds. Really, really ugly. But, God gave them some weight on the other end of the scale too, because those things can hover forever at incredible altitudes. Since they're not hunters, I can only assume they go way up there and glide for the fun of it. Such interesting, weird, ugly things.

3) If a bug gets inside my car and I drive 30 miles away and it flies out - is it lost? Did it have a real home that it would go back to every night? Or is it just like, "Oh what a relief! That girl cannot sing."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Cover Reveal Interview with Megan Shepherd, Author of THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER


Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid and trying to forget the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he's alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she's determined to find out if the accusations were true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward, Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the secret of her father's new life: he experiments on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H.G. Wells's classic The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.

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 my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Megan Shepherd, to talk about her awesome cover for THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, available from Balzer & Bray, January 29, 2013. Megan's got a few e-hangouts, find her on her site, Facebook and Twitter.

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

MS: You would think a writer might also have a good eye for visual arts, but I don’t. A few cover ideas came to my head for The Madman’s Daughter but they were all pretty terrible, so I was delighted to leave it to the professionals! I actually designed a fake cover for The Madman’s Daughter as part of a blog dare, and this is the train wreck that I produced:

Though I do think it has a certain, I don’t know, sophistication. Ahem. As far as the real cover, I put all my trust in the HarperCollins designers. I just knew I wanted it to capture the creepy, beautiful, Gothic feel of the book. I also hoped it would appeal to a wide range of readers: boys, girls, adults, librarians. And I think they did a fantastic job with that.

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

MH: I first heard whispers about the cover design a year before the pub date. My editor kept me up-to-date with the process, which was pretty exciting for a debut author. My publishing house, Balzer + Bray, hired a photographer to do the photo shoot complete with model and outdoor setting. I got to see the model’s headshots, which was an incredible moment—looking at your fictional main character as a real person!

BBC: Did you have any input on your cover?

MH: The design team at HarperCollins handled everything, thankfully—I’d have just given them some awful advice like “put a shirtless man on the cover” (ie, see my terrible design above). My editor did a great job keeping me informed; she showed me their original design plan, which included color schemes, inspiring images, and sample fonts. Everything was absolutely 100% spot-on; I really felt like they understood the mood of the book. Then she showed me the tentative mock-up and the ARC cover and asked my opinion on each along the way. I just loved everything, right from the start.

BBC: How was your cover revealed to you?

MH: Thinking of seeing my cover for the first time makes me smile! It was in late April, and I was on a week-long writing retreat in Bat Cave, North Carolina (what better place for a top-secret writers retreat than Bat Cave?) with eight other MG and YA writers: Alan Gratz, Megan Miranda, Tiffany Trent, Beth Revis, Carrie Ryan, Laurel Snyder, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, and Gwenda Bond. I’m dropping their names because they are all so cool, and also inspirations of mine, and now I can tell you what they eat for breakfast ☺ Anyway, as we were winding down for the day, I got an email from my editor with the cover art! Immediately all the other writers crowded around, and there was lots of shrieking and happiness, followed by lots of wine.

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

MH: Being a part of the Friday the Thirteeners blog, I’ve met some wonderful people. Ellen Oh (whose book Prophecy comes out in January 2013) and I are both with HarperCollins and both had a cover reveal date of June 18. So we thought it would be great to collaborate and have a joint reveal! Mandy at YA Book Central hosted an exclusive cover reveal, where we gave away ARCs and swag, and it was tons of fun.

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

MH: My cover reveal was June 18, and I saw the tentative cover about six weeks before that. Then there were a few weeks of tweaking fonts and colors, but the basic feel of the cover remained the same.

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

MH: It wasn’t just hard—it was impossible. Literally. I probably showed it to more people than I was supposed to, but I was just too excited! The “pre-cover-reveal” circle of trust mostly included my husband, the other writers at the Bat Cave retreat, my mom, and this waiter who accidentally saw it over dinner. 

I wanted to show it to everyone! To stick it on my website and make postcards of it and generally proclaim to the world that my book has a beautiful cover.

BBC: What surprised you most about the process?

MH: I had very few expectations about how the cover design process would go. The process itself wasn’t too surprising, but the feeling I got when looking at the finished cover was. It’s so strange and wonderful to put a real person’s face to the character in your head. I love the model they used, and the way she is peeking over her bare shoulder. There’s a hint of madness there, but also strength, and desire, and power. And I love that you only get a glimpse of the face, so readers can still use their imagination to picture Juliet Moreau.

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

MH: Long before I saw it, I was irrationally worried I would hate my cover art. But once I looked at other Balzer + Bray titles, I realized that there was no reason to be anxious. All their covers are great and do a wonderful job of capturing the spirit and feel of each individual book. Designers are designers for a reason—they are really talented at what they do! I’m so glad that my editor and the design team were able to capture how I felt about the book and convert it into such a perfect, intriguing cover.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Mindy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Reading Outside Your Genre & A Non-YA Giveaway

I've talked a little bit before about a phenomenon I call voice bleeding, but for those of you who don't feel like clicking I'll re-hash here. We've all ended up with a fake British accent after watching Downton Abbey, or reading JANE EYRE. I think everyone walks with a little bit of a swagger or pretends that they're riding a horse after watching Deadwood. Heck, some of us even find a way to slip the word "Tutanka" into our casual conversations after watching Dances with Wolves.

And while all these things are perfectly acceptable (if you're capable of doing a decent faux Brit accent, that is), the unique danger that such cultural interactions poses for writers is a voice bleed. When your tough chic starts extending her pinkie and sipping tea, when you picture your bad guy polishing a splintered bar instead of revving his Harley, when the jargon of war-torn upper-class England and the 1800's Black Hills starts infiltrating your contemporary YA... that's a voice bleed.

So how do we avoid this as writers?

One trick is to not read at all while writing. It's kind of like using abstinence to ensure you don't get pregnant. It's the sure-fire, hell-no-that-won't-happen answer.

But some of us aren't capable of keeping our hands off the papery spines, so the second option is to read something so far from your genre that there isn't much of a chance of the boundaries being crossed. I highly recommend a good non-fiction read for those times, but there are also plenty of fiction options that fit the bill, and I came across one such this past weekend.

FOBBIT by David Abrams is a fantastic masculine satire set during Operation Iraqi Freedom. For those of you who don't know (and really, if you did you get Mindy-points) a Fobbit is a U.S. soldier stationed at a Forward Operating Base who avoids combat by remaining at the base. Each chapter sets you solidly in the boots of different soldiers and their perceptions of one another as they move through the sand-covered world of Iraq, with mortars flying overhead and situations so ridiculous they're only eclipsed by the fumbling efforts to control the public perception of them.

It's CATCH-22 for our generation, and I won't be the first person to make that comparison. Granted, there's a sly aside in FOBBIT where one of the narrators is reading Heller poolside, but it's a deserved nod and organic to the situation. I had Heller on my mind while reading FOBBIT for sure, but Chuck Palahniuk as well (another great genre-buster to read, b/c hey - none of us write like him). The writing is masculine and gorgeous at the same time, gut-wrenching and mind numbing. Abrams captures the ridiculous and makes the reader want to put their head in their hands right along with his characters.

So if you're looking for something to break you out of a reading funk, give FOBBIT a shot. But you'll have to wait until September 4th, when it's available from Grove Press. :)

In  honor of getting outside your writing comfort zone, I'm giving away two books to a lucky person who wants to read something substantial this summer. THE KITE RUNNER and A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS both by Khaled Hosseini. All you need to do to enter this giveaway is be a follower of my blog and comment below. Giveaway is US only and will run through Sunday, July 22 at 11:59 PM.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC 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.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
http://femboost.tumblr.com/
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.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

A flash of pain is all Jimmy Rickliefs remembers from the night he almost died. Decent hook, but it does beg the question of how he almost died. Now he suffers from terrifying seizures and his shattered body can’t keep up with his career as a drummer. Once known for his turquoise hair and outgoing personality, Jimmy turns sullen and withdrawn as depression begins to take its toll. Nice. So far, it's well written and succinct.

Through the nightmare of his recovery, Jimmy takes some comfort from his pregnant wife’s survival. However, the idea of his wife surviving that same night continues to make me wonder what actually happened? Car crash? But as the stress of his recovery mounts, his daughter is born twelve weeks early.  The stress of his recovery, or the stress of the accident she was also involved in? She wasn’t breathing for two minutes after her traumatic birth. Slight tense issue here - we were with "is" and now wepre playing with "was." Now and back to present again, seizures are a daily worry and brain damage is always on the horizon. Her chances for survival are slim. Echo here with "survival." I feel like you got the point across that the infant is in danger without this last sentence, in any case.

With hospital bills mounting, Jimmy has a decision to make: return to the band despite his injuries, or lose everything. While his income can provide for the family, one misplaced strobe light could trigger a seizure and he could echo with "could" be a vegetable. One fall fall from what? or just fall down? and his career might truly end. He knows they can’t live on Allison’s first use of her proper name here income alone, and could another "could" echo be homeless if he doesn’t go back. Jimmy isn’t sure, however, that he wants to go back. Why not? 

Driven is mainstream fiction, complete at 91,668 words. Give the a round number, always. But before you query I'd definitely look at shaving off the extras. 90k is high for mainstream breakout. And also, I'm not sure that "mainstream" is really used that much as a genre? I'm honestly not positive on that one to be honest, so look elsewhere for solid advice on that front :)

It sounds like you've got an interesting plot but it's a little buried here. First off - we need to know what the accident was. I'm guessing by the title and the fact that the wife was involved is car crash, but you need to be explicit. Also, the idea of both the infant and Jimmy suffering from seizures is a little confusing. You need to be clear about what danger exactly Jimmy is in, what his recovery entails. Why would a strobe light cause a seizure? Why is a fall a concern? Is he losing consciousness periodically or do you just mean a fall caused by a seizure? You mention that he could be a vegetable, but it sounds like the infant is facing the same dangers, so you need to be very clear about what is ailing each of them, and how the two differ. 

It sounds like the real crux here is the question of Jimmy going back to work, finding his old self again. But we're not seeing this until the last para, and then at the last line. So why isn't he sure that he wants to go back? Is it purely the physical that bothers him? Is he worried about his health? Or does it have to do with your first mention of his "rock star" self with turquoise hair that he needs to recapture and can't quite, after the accident? Be clear about this, and make it happen sooner. We need the obstacles - emotional, physical, mental - tossed out earlier in the query.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Big YA Giveaway!

Today is Friday the 13th, and while that might make some people feel squirmy, there's a group of gals I know who just love it. And I'm one of 'em.

Because today is our name day, the Friday the Thirteeners have a lot of fun going on over at the blog. We played with our names and the titles of our books using an anagram program. Some of us even made our own bookcovers for our fake selves and our fake books. It was silly, mindless, and an amazing amount of fun.

So hop on over there and see if you can guess who our fake selves are, and what fake book we wrote. If you do well, we'll give a bunch of real books that we WISH we'd written (as opposed to our fake anagram books which are... well, some of them are less than stellar titles).

What am I giving away that I wish I'd written? THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. And no, I don't just wish it because money is useful and fame is nice. As a librarian I knew about this book before the rest of the world had the name "Katniss" on their tongues, and I was envious as HELL that such an awesome premise wasn't born in my own brainpan.

Sigh. Stupid brainpan.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Because Really I Should Be Everywhere

In case you missed it, I took a Truth over at Friday the Thirteeners last week. One of our followers asked if there was anything that scared me more than having NOT A DROP TO DRINK out in the wild for people to read. Well, yes.

Velociraptors. Duh.


AND - now I have a Pinterest board for NOT A DROP TO DRINK. All the photos there represent the tone / mood / setting for the novel. And all the pictures were taken by me, not repinned. So if you repin - awesome - just make sure it credits back to my board. (Or whatever, I'm really new at Pinterest.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Cover Reveal Interview with Erin Bowman, Author of TAKEN


There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends . . . and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate—until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot—a structure that no one can cross and survive. 

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken—or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

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 my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Erin Bowman, to talk about her awesome cover for TAKEN, available from Harper Teen April 16, 2013.

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

EB: I didn't know what I wanted TAKEN's cover to look like so much as I knew how I wanted it to feel--dark, mysterious, ominous. I think Harper really nailed it.

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

EB: We started talking about cover art before I even had a pub month! Discussions began in November of 2011, and at the moment, TAKEN is slated to release in April of 2013. So that's a whopping 17 months in advance!

BBC:  Did you have any input on your cover?

EB: I did! My editor, Erica, asked me what I envisioned for the cover and I shared with her the moods I already listed out above. We also talked about how I’m personally not a big fan of faces that are front and center on a cover. I don't mind seeing people, it's just that when they fill 90% of the cover, I feel it takes away from the reader being able to visualize characters for themselves. I mentioned Robison Wells' VARIANT as being a great compromise on the people/faces debate, and also pointed out how well I thought it struck that dark/mysterious/ominous mood I envisioned for TAKEN. Erica took all this back to the design team and they handled things from there.

BBC: How was your cover revealed to you?

EB: Good 'ol email. Erica sent me the initial comp just before Christmas of 2011. While some elements were placeholders at this stage, the overall concept remained the same from initial comps to final cover! (And I must add that while the artwork was not what I was expecting, it absolutely struck the moods I had hoped for. The designer did a fantastic job!)

BBC: Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?
EB: Harper's winter catalog went live on June 25th, so I was instructed to "reveal" the cover the week prior (June 18-22). I ended up revealing it on Pub(lishing) Crawl on June 19th.

BBC: How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?
EB: I saw the final version of the cover (with highres photography and updated models) in February, so that's four months before the reveal. (Then again, the cover didn't change drastically between the initial comp and the final, so it felt like I had to wait more like six months. I was so anxious to share the prettiness.)

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

EB: It was near impossible! I was (and still am) so in love with my cover that I wanted to show it to the world the first day I first saw it.

BBC: What surprised you most about the process?

EB: How little I was involved. Harper did ask me for my thoughts before they began designing, and I was allowed to weigh in on the initial comp, but they ultimately owned this process. This shouldn't have surprised me because we hear again and again that authors don't get to pick their covers, but it was still somewhat shocking once I was confronted with it. Being a designer in my past life (web design), it was very hard for me to sit back, relax, and let someone else man the creative process. But publishers know what they are doing. They get the audience and what will sell. They know what causes a person to pluck a book off the shelves. In the end, I'm so happy I didn't design my cover; I wouldn't have created the gorgeousness Harper did, and I’m so grateful for the cover they’ve given my story.

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

EB: Remember that you’re the expert at writing the book and you publisher is the expert at getting people to pick it up. A cover is a piece of advertising. Yes you want it to accurately reflect your novel, but you also want as many people to pick it up as possible. If you're not in love with your cover art, try to pick one thing to focus on. What is the biggest thing you dislike or long to have changed? Have an honest conversation with your publisher about that element. They are more likely to tweak one element than a dozen, so pick your battles. And try to enjoy the whole process. It only happens once for each book, and it's quite a ride!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Listmaker, Listmaker, Make Me A List

I admit to being a compulsive stressball. I have a ton of energy and goals, but sometimes I need to remind myself where to direct all of that. Making lists has always been my go-to way to organize myself. And wow, lists have paid me back with some love.

I didn't even know NOT A DROP TO DRINK was on Goodreads until a fellow author pointed it out to me - what a neat surprise that was. Not long after that, I noticed that people started shelving DRINK, which is even cooler. But how was everyone finding it? I know my blog is partially to thank, but I think the biggest nod goes to the people who put together and vote on lists over on Goodreads.

DRINK has landed on quite a few lists over there, and I want to give a BIG thank you to everyone who added it to a list, or voted for it. We're still a year out from publication, and DRINK is on nearly 800 shelves. Wow. That's a convincing argument for the power of social networking and word of mouth.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped me out, by reading the blog, following on Twitter, watching my vlogs, or saying to a friend (or hell, an enemy), "Have you heard about this book coming out?"

I say that 10 to 15 times a day, but never about my own book. Thanks to you guys, I don't have to :)

And btw - the winner of my 4th of July giveaway is Mfantalis! Email me bigblackcat97(at) gmail (dot) com with your address and I'll get your Anglophile accoutrements in the mail!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet the BBC 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. Also, at the end, I'm going to tell you what I think your story is about, based on your query. I know how hard it is to get your ideas across succinctly, and how easy it is for your author's brain to fill in the blanks and not see the gaping holes that the average reader may very well fall into.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

And now for the next brave volunteer. For clarity, my comments are in yellow.

 Ava’s nineteen, but she feels like she’s thirty, and every one of those years has been lonely. Good hook, I like it. She never expected to find friends among the Greek gods, and she definitely didn’t expect the Garden of Eden to become home. Ava falls in love with this I'd use "the" world of Olympians, fauns, and centaurs, I'd set the net sentence apart to accentuate it. This is the crux of your plot.  but war looms on Eden’s horizon. Ares, god of war, wants Eden and the rest of Earth as his own. He and his witches are marching on the Middle East, and they vow to remake Earth as one monotheistic nation- where all people worship him. The Muses say only Ava can defeat Ares, but she’s not magical at all. She could barely handle her home life; Really? Why?defeating the god of war is hardly a skill on her resume.

When Ares kidnaps her and claims he loves her, Ava gives him a chance. He might not be the evil dictator she was told. In fact, he just might be able to unite humans and bring global peace. Marrying him will make her the enemy of the Olympians she loves, but mediating between Ares and humans might be the only way to stop the war.

When his witches sacrifice a human to raise Haides Is there an "i" in that name? from the Underworld, Ava realizes how wrong she’s been about Ares. With Haides as his weapon, Ares could destroy her newfound family and bring the world to its knees. Ava, non-magical already covered that but determined, must find a way to stop him, even though it means risking her life just when she found the family that makes her life worthwhile.

THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE is a 101,000-word fantasy novel with series potential. Readers who enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss may enjoy its base in mythology, magic, and history. I’m a high school English teacher and have written three short films, each placing first at the Prairie Grass Film Challenge. I earned my B.A. in English writing under James Calvin Schaap, award-winning author. I'd switch the phrasing here to put "award winning" first. 

A couple things. The writing here is good and solid, and the query does a good job of portraying a somewhat complicated plot. I would say though that  same really key points are missing. How does Ava become a part of this magical world? If she's not magical at all, why is she allowed to live in the Garden of Eden? It doesn't sound like the Muses determine she's the one who can deliver them until after the fact. 

Also, the hook, while good, is potentially misleading. Ava feels like she's 30 - that immediately makes her different from most teens and makes us wonder if there IS something different bout her, yet you insist (twice) that there's not. I need to know more about how Ava discovers this world, and is admitted into it in order to be really pulled in.

Also, you hint that her real life is quite bad. She's lonely, she couldn't handle her real life, etc. Yet, we don't know why. Abuse? Neglect? How can she be so easily absorbed out of the real world and into the magical one? I need to know there's a good reason, and not just authorial convenience.

Lastly - It's hard to break in with a book over 100k. You get a little bit of leeway for your genre, but I'm willing to bet you've got a couple thousand words in there you don't need. Same with the query, in a smaller amount. Streamline. In order to get the real world details in here, you're going to have to make some sacrifices. Kill your darlings, and you'll be fine. And last random question - what does the title have to do with the ms?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Submission Story with LEVEL 2 Author Lenore Appelhans

Today's guest for the SHIT (Submission Hell - It's True) is Lenore Appelhans, the blogger extraordinaire behind Presenting Lenore who stopped by last week for a BOA. Lenore's experience in the submission process certainly wasn't hellish, but a good dose of optimism never hurt any aspiring writers, either. And it certainly didn't hurt that her debut, LEVEL 2 sounds like it's made of everything you ever wanted, wrapped up in paper and topped off with a glorious cover.

Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow prisoners, Felicia passes the endless hours downloading memories and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and the boy she loved, Neil.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber disappears, and nobody but Felicia seems to recall she existed in the first place. Something is obviously very wrong. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, she learns the truth: a rebellion is brewing to overthrow the Morati, the guardians of Level 2.

Felicia is reluctant to trust Julian, but then he promises what she wants the most—to be with Neil again—if only she’ll join the rebels. Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself in the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.

BBC: How much did you know about the submission process before you were out on subs yourself?

LA: I did know a bit, mostly from scouring the blue boards (community at Verla Kay’s website) or from SCBWI resources/conferences.

BBC: Did anything about the process surprise you?

LA: My agent walked me through the process and he was incredibly confident that it wouldn’t be on sub long.  He told me he was pitching it on a Friday and that we’d probably hear first reactions mid-week the following week. So when he forwarded me some feedback on Saturday already, I was elated, but my anxiety level also rose considerably. I might not have slept that whole weekend.

BBC: Did you research the editors you knew had your ms? Do you recommend doing that?

LA: I had the submission list, and I googled all of their names, but I found precious little info about them. The main way to find out about which editors edit which books seems to be reading acknowledgement pages. So I did a lot of that to pass the time while I was waiting!

BBC: What was the average amount of time it took to hear back from editors?

Well, we heard that the first editor had interest in less than one day. We also got a couple of rejections by Monday. By Tuesday, my agent indicated that it would likely go to auction on Thursday, but then the preempt came in from S&S and we eventually accepted that.

BBC: What do you think is the best way for an author out on submission to deal with the anxiety?

LA: I wish I knew! Fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with that specific anxiety for very long, but I’m sure if it had been much longer I would have developed some coping strategies.

BBC: If you had any rejections, how did you deal with that emotionally? How did this kind of rejection compare to query rejections?

LA: The rejections we got were basically of the “this is just not for me, but I’m confident you’ll sell it elsewhere” variety, and the face of so much positive feedback, they really didn’t register much. You can’t expect everyone to love your book.

BBC: When you got your YES! how did that feel? How did you find out – email, telephone, smoke signal?

LA: It was all via phone calls on a chilly Tuesday night in March. It felt really, really surreal because I just couldn’t believe I would soon have an actual book published. By the time the deal was agreed to, it was nearly midnight here (in Germany I am 6 hours ahead of New York) so my husband and I celebrated by going to the grocery store and buying sparkling wine and Snickers ice cream bars.

BBC: Did you have to wait a period of time before sharing your big news, because of details being ironed out? Was that difficult?

LA: Because the publishing contract and the movie option with CBS happened at the same time, Deadline.com broke the news the next day and S&S sort of had to scramble to write a press release.  The deal was announced in PM and PW on Thursday, so it really wasn’t too bad of a wait.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Tongue-In-Cheek 4-of-J Giveaway

Hey, I love America, don't get me wrong. But I came across some things from a not-so-recent trip to Europe that I have yet to actually make use of, so I thought - I know, I'll have a sarcastic July 4th Giveaway!

So to celebrate our independence from the heinous British I'm giving away two keychains from the British Library, along with a dual American to English / English to American dictionary. It's so incredibly helpful. Take it with you when overseas so that you're not confused like I was when the girl at Subway asked me if I wanted salad on my sub.

All you have to do to enter is follow the blog and comment below. I'll pick a winner from the comments using random.org Contest runs through Sunday night, 11:59 PM EDT.



Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cover Reveal Interview With Ellen Oh, Author of PROPHECY


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 my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Ellen Oh, to talk about her awesome cover for PROPHECY, available from Harper Teen January 2, 2013.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope...

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

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

EO: Well, my kids did versions of the cover that I loved! But otherwise I didn’t have any real idea of what I wanted it to look like other than wanting an iconic cover. I was so happy with what HarperTeen produced.

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

EO: I’d say as early as the summer of 2012 was when we had the first conversations with my editor where she asked me what I was thinking about. I remember telling her that I really liked the Eon cover for the paperback version. There was the shadow of a girl holding a sword before an amazing dragon. And then I didn’t hear anything until I saw the first version.

BBC: Did you have any input on your cover?

EO: Not really, but then that’s probably a good thing as I’m not artistic or creative in the very least! I leave that to the professionals. The only thing I asked for was something iconic, which they totally delivered.

BBC: How was your cover revealed to you?

EO: My editor called me first and then it came via email and I was like WOW!

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

EO: Yes, the marketing team at Harper asked me to reveal my cover the week of June 18th. Being very literal, I revealed it, jointly with the wonderful Megan Shepherd, right on June 18th!

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

EO: I’d say I knew what the final cover was at least 2 months before the release.

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

EOL HELL YES! ;o)

BBC: What surprised you most about the process?

EO: That it takes a year to create a cover. That shocked me.

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

EO: I think the best thing is not to stress about it because it ultimately isn’t in our hands. Being able to give input on what you hope for is good early on, and I do think they take an author’s input very seriously. But after that, forget about it and know that you are in good hands with your publisher.

Monday, July 2, 2012

When Your Mom Calls At Five AM Wanting To Borrow A Gun...

... the first question out of your mouth isn't "Why?" But rather, "Which one?"

Well, it is if you're me, anyway.

Yes, life continues to be an amalgamation of the amazing. Some really awesome storms have been ripping through Ohio lately. If you've been following my Twitter feed you know that it's been above 90 degrees as late as 10 PM these days, and you've also seen pics of golf-ball sized hail. The one thing I can't take a picture of is the fact that around 300,000 people in my state do not have power at the moment. Well, I could take a picture but it would be rather... dark.

My parents are among the 300k, but we're resourceful people. You can imagine the same couple that has a backhoe at their disposal also has a generator, so they're doing alright. However, the generator cord isn't quite allowing the back door to shut all the way, and sometime around 4 AM a particularly curious mammal with opposable thumbs figured that out.

So what do you do when there's a raccoon in the kitchen? Call your daughter and borrow her rifle.

It seems pretty straightforward, but raccoons aren't really that excited about being shot at. Plus, Abby (yes, the Scottish Terrier of tunneling under the road fame) had it in her head that *this* was her redeeming moment and was doing her damn-it-all-best to kill the raccoon, which really just meant she was ruining any chance of my dad getting a clean shot.

Oh - and I forgot to mention that he only had one bullet.

And also - the flashlight was going dim because they've been using them constantly.

And yes - that flashlight was my Mag light that I still haven't gotten back after the Abby-Under-the-Road Incident.

One more thing - the person holding the Mag light was my mom, who kept having to scream and run the other way when the raccoon charged her.

It was a glorious, badly-lit circus.

To add to the fun, my parents' St. Bernard (appropriately named Boo, because he's scared of everything) would occasionally stick his head in whatever room the entire escapade had moved to, howl mournfully, and then back out because he didn't feel equal to the situation. Dad says it's just not in his nature to hurt things, and that's a good thing.

My dad is a really big, really nice guy (pretty much just like Boo). He gave the raccoon every chance to make an escape, but once it did find its way back to the screen door it refused to let go of a bag of bread (no, I'm not kidding) that wouldn't squeeze through the crack. So it was time to make use of the one bullet, and unfortunately the raccoon met its bitter end in the bathroom.

Mom says that's OK, because she was tired of the Harvest Gold colored tub anyway.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Sunday Surprise

So normally I don't blog on Sundays, but today is special. The Lucky 13s are celebrating the six month countdown to 2013 with a huge book giveaway. Quite a few of us volunteered to pick a YA title that inspires us to use as a giveaway. To see the other authors participating, and what titles they chose, and how to win, hit up The Lucky 13's blog.


I'll be giving away a copy of THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness. Why? Beyond the fact that the writing is awesome and the plot is razor sharp, the first novel in the Chaos Walking trilogy showed me that you don't have to talk down to write teen. You can write about difficult topics, you can cover the hard stuff and throw complex themes at them - and they'll love you for it. If you haven't tried out Ness, make this your first stop. Amazing.