Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Talk: THE S-WORD by Chelsea Pitcher

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.

The week after Lizzie kills herself, the words SUICIDE SLUT parade across her locker - in her own handwriting. Lizzie was the virgin queen of Verity High, the sweet, gorgeous girl with a flawless reputation - until she was caught in bed with her best friend's boyfriend on prom night. It started with a carefully placed word - SLUT - on her locker, and escalated until Lizzie couldn't take it anymore, leaving her best friend Angie to pick up the pieces of what was left behind.

Pieces of Lizzie's secret diary are starting to show up in people's lockers. Everyone is receiving pages relevant to them, and the role they played in Lizzie's life - and death. Angie tries to recover the pages, hoping to put together what - or who - finally drove Lizzie to make a decision that couldn't be undone. But Angie is finding out that everyone has their secrets, and Lizzie's might have been the biggest. To make things worse, if all the pieces are pointing where she thinks they are, Angie will have to face her own complicity in the events that pushed Lizzie over the edge.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

I've been spending the last couple weeks in the Elementary library as the school year rolls to a close. Thoughts this week are elementary-centric.

1) Heads Up, Seven Up is at first glance a very simple game, but in all actuality can reveal who has a crush on who. We should play it as adults.

2) Leading the line used to be a reward, but adults never want to do it. Its like, "You go into the board room first." "No, you go first."

3) I think I would love this book more if its title was Animal Fact / Animal Crap.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

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 (oh, how clever is she? She made an acronym out of her agency's name!) Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

The suggestion for today's WOLF comes from follower Warrior. He asked where the phrase heavens to betsy comes from. Great question. And by the way - you guys can ask me stuff, too!

I freely admit that I didn't know this one off the top of my head. What I did know was that there was a handy-dandy book by Charles Earle Funk going by exactly that title right outside my office. So I popped out there just now and read the introduction to discover that Funk also has no idea where the phrase comes from, which immediately made me feel better about not knowing.

And this one... well - it looks like it's stumped pretty much everyone. There are some theories though:



  • It refers to Betsy Ross, she of the American flag, and was originally used as a way of saying, "God bless Betsy," and somehow evolved into an exclamation of surprise.
  • Also relevant to Mrs. Ross, some believe that it derived from the Minna Irving poem "Betsy's Battle Flag," about said lady. But no one has been able to establish that for sure.
  • Another historical figure could have played a part in this little saying. Davy Crockett called his rifle "Old Betsy," and because he was a super-cool dude quite a few other frontiersman followed suit. Again, the blessing of a favorite gun could have evolved into an exclamation of surprise.

A similar expression - and one I've heard much more often because of my dear sister, and believe me it gets old really fast - is heavens to Murgatroyd.

This one we actually do have an answer for, and I'm supplying it here because of my utter failure in the Betsy arena. The phrase itself was popularized by the Yogi Bear Show character Snagglepuss in the 1960's. The show's creators based the voice for the character on actor Bert Lahr - better knows as the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. Lahr first spoke the line "heavens to Murgatroyd" in the 1944 film Meet the People, and the Yogi Bear creators liked it so much they carried it over as a character staple line that would cement the line into pop culture. 

Um, but where did the writers of Meet the People get the line from? There are references of in literature from as early as 1887 as Murgatroyd to hit on heavily for some comic relief, and it seems it was established as a family name in England way back in 1371. 

How we made the jump from Murgatroyd to Betsy is just one of those things we'll have to know we don't know.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Chelsea Pitcher, Author of THE S-WORD Takes the SAT

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is fellow Lucky13 Chelsea Pitcher, author of THE S-WORD. Chelsea is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light. THE S-WORD is available now from Gallery Books / Simon & Schuster.

Writing Process:
Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I have always been a Pantser! I love the thrill of discovering things along with the characters. Recently, though, I attempted to write a synopsis of a book I hadn’t written yet (except for a few sloppily drafted first chapters) and it ended up being eleven single-spaced pages. I couldn’t believe how much of the story I already knew, without having written it.  So now, I wonder… should I continue being a panster, or am I better suited to be a planner? Or is there some perfect balance between them?

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

Oh, man. There is no “typical” about it for me. The novel I wrote before THE S-WORD took several years to finish. THE S-WORD (or, the 50,000-word first draft) took a month. It all depends on how clear the story is in my head, much is going on in my life, and how much the Internet is distracting me!

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?

Oh, I miss the days of only working on one project. My brain is so full of projects right now, it’s a wonder I can do regular things like make coffee (sometimes, when I’m really distracted, it does end up spilling everywhere). Right now I’ve got one finished MS, four partials that I keep coming back to, 8 started-and-then-lost-interest-in stories, and several more ideas in my head. That said, one story generally takes precedence, and I’ll work on it as long as I can, until another one takes over and pulls me in a different direction.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Oh, no. I started writing long before I knew what good writing looked like! I was just a kid, and I wrote because it was a way to express my thoughts (I was very shy, introverted, the Middle Child—all that). It wasn’t until I started submitting my work that the fear set in. For the longest time, writing had been just for me, and suddenly these other people were going to see it—professionals, who read multiple submissions a day. But even that fear, I pushed through, because I loved writing so much. If I could do something I loved and make a living from it, well…why not try? 

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

Three and a half! I attempted my first novel at sixteen, and only got about a hundred pages in. The story was about a girl who went to hell and became the devil’s mistress. I wanted to do all this stuff about spirituality and religion and the way sex and shame get connected and… the idea just got too big for me. There was no way to pin it down on the page. I wrote three more novels after that, and I queried each of them, but none of them was quite ready, writing-wise (although I thought they were, at the time). Still (and this is so clichĂ©, but very true), if I hadn’t slogged through each of them, and learned how to take criticism, and edit, I never would’ve been able to write a novel that sold. 

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?

I don’t know that I’ve ever consciously said: “This is it, novel. I quit you.” “Quit” is a hard word for me. Rather, after some time had passed, another idea would start tugging at me, and I’d think, “I’ll just work on this new idea for a while…I’m still coming back to the old one.” Then, of course, once the new book was written, I’d look back at the old one and go, “Holy crap, this is terrible!” *hurls old MS across the room*

Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

My agent for THE S-WORD is Sandy Lu from L. Perkins, and she pulled me out of the slush pile! (I know, I was surprised too.) Going to a conference can be a great experience, but it’s not going to get you any closer to that “Yes” if your writing isn’t ready. Trust me. I speak from experience. 

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

Sandy was one of the first agents to request THE S-WORD, but I ended up querying twenty-seven total while I waited for her, and others, to read. 

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

The hardest part of querying is not knowing why you’re getting rejected: is it YOU, the MS, or the agent? And really, you can only control two of these things. There’s no possible way to make an agent love a MS that simply isn’t for them. So don’t worry about it. Focus on the two other things:

1. Follow the agent’s submission guidelines to a T (otherwise, you might be getting rejected because of you—i.e. your refusal to follow instructions). Don’t respond angrily to agents. Don’t badmouth agents or other authors in public spheres. Publishing is a small world after all.

2. Get that query and sample chapter(s) as sparkly as you can. Get peer critiques (Absolute Write and Critters.org are awesome resources). Use query sites (Evil Editor is my personal fave, and he crits EVERY query he receives). Listen to what other people are saying, especially if they’re saying the same thing. 

And then, after you’ve done all this, remember to trust yourself. Go with your gut. And keep rewriting. A refusal to rewrite is the number one reason writers don’t advance. But don’t worry. I believe in you

On Being Published:
How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?

Yeah…I might’ve cried, just a bit. The reality of being published is so overwhelming, and I really couldn’t believe it until I saw it for myself. There was this thought in the back of my mind, like maybe this was all a dream, or a joke, or a trick, and until I saw that book out there, I couldn’t fully wrap my head around it. But once I saw, saw that it was really real…Bliss.

How much input do you have on cover art?

My cover creation process was really interesting, because they pretty much nailed it on the first try. I didn’t even know they were working on it, and then my editor emailed me the cover Gallery’s design team had come up with, and we were both like… YES.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

I think, when I first heard about the book deal, I expected to feel like a little tiny author working with a mega massive publishing house. I had no idea how welcoming and encouraging people would be. They are AMAZING, and they made me feel like part of a team. Go Team Gallery! 

Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter?

I’ve kind of done all the marketing I could think of. Facebook, Twitter, a blog, a website, a blog tour, a book trailer…Maybe I went a little marketing crazy, ha. But it’s been great. I love doing giveaways, getting creative with swag, and all that. In the beginning, I thought marketing would be really awkward and scary, but so much of it is just connecting with people and talking about books. I love it!

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

On the one hand, it doesn’t hurt to have a platform before you start querying. At the same time, all the followers in the world won’t take the place of a well-created story and an original premise. Personally, I say focus on the writing. Then, once you’re on submission to editors, you can really delve into the marketing side of things. And, after you’ve made a sale, shift it into hyper-drive!

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

This is a really interesting question. It certainly seems like it would. And again, having lots of people looking at your book tweets and posts isn’t going to hurt you. But so much of building your readership is getting your book into the hands of teens (if you write YA, like I do) and there are plenty of teens who don’t use Twitter or Goodreads. So I do think getting your book into libraries, and getting it into schools is just as important as anything you can do online. Balance is key.

Thank you so much for having me!!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Meet the Muse, Part Two & IMPOSTER Giveaway by Susanne Winnacker!

As you can tell by my blog header, I've got a bit of a thing for black cats. If you follow me on Twitter you know that I lost my pet of almost 15 years a few months ago. Big Cat was a great writing partner, and a buddy who sat on me pretty much all the time. I called him my muse because he usually camped out right on my chest while I wrote, and I looked over his big hairy back while typing. His purr kept time with my tapping fingers, and we made a great team.

I started visiting shelters a few weeks ago, looking for the next buddy to crack out a novel with. But it was too soon, and while I met some wonderful kitties, I think part of me was still looking for MY cat - even though I knew he was gone. So I gave it up for a little while, deciding I wasn't ready yet. It wouldn't be fair to bring someone home expecting them to be someone they weren't.

Two days ago I popped by the local shelter to see a cat I'd spotted online. Sure, black cats can be found anywhere, but I need a certain type of personality to write with me. I brought this fella home, and as you can see... he seems to be working out.


And to celebrate the release of IMPOSTER by my League of Extraordinary Writers buddy Susanne Winnacker I'm reposting a Rafflecopter widget here - enter and enjoy!

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Book Talk: TRANSPARENT by Natalie Whipple

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.

Radiasure is the drug of choice in the fallout after the Cold War. It was supposed to protect the citizens of the US from radiation in the event of an attack that never came. The first mutations came years later - people who could fly, those with blue skin, and the occasional mind-controller. The Radiasure trickled down through generations - right up to Fiona, who was dropped by the Doctor the moment she was born because he couldn't see her. She's the first invisible person.

Fiona doesn't know what she looks like, and no one has ever seen her. Not her telekinetic mother, her sadistic flying brother, or her mob boss father, who uses his powers of persuasion to get whatever he wants - from anybody. Fiona has been his eyes and ears at meetings no one knew she was at and the thief that no one can catch. But when he gives her an order that would make her an assassin, his powers of persuasion fall short against her conscience.

Fiona and her mother flee, hoping that distance and time will allow his influence over them to fade. Setting up in the territory of a rival mob boss for protection, her mother insists that Fiona have a chance at a normal life. She goes to the small local high school, only to find out that being dropped at birth has left her with a learning disability her home tutors never told her about, and the tutor assigned to help her doesn't hold back the sarcasm when she can't remember how to multiply.

But his attractive brother - gifted with the power of crushing strength - definitely has Fiona's attention. Along with the other gifted students, Fiona begins to build a tentative home in the small Southwestern town, always fearing the her mother will cave to the desire to be back with her father and it will all be torn from her in moments. Fiona is finding out that she likes normality, and even her freckled math tutor is starting to grow on her when her brother falls from the sky, promising not to reveal their location as long as they do as he says.

Fiona remembers too well how her brother gets his way - flying anyone who goes against him thousands of feet into the air and dropping them. He's always caught Fiona at the last second in the past, but that doesn't mean she trusts him. She doesn't know whether to cut her ties and run now - or even if she can.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Last week I was driving through some hellacious early morning fog and imagining glib things to say to my superintendent about not getting a delay. The best I could come up with was, "They don't make road signs in Braille, you know."

2) Likewise, I get to school early (somehow?) and am setting at my desk not hearing footsteps in the hallway, not hearing the bells, not hearing announcements and I'm wondering if there *was* a delay and I didn't know it. Then I wondered if the Rapture had happened. THEN I thought it would be one hell of a slap in the face if a building full of teens were taken and I was left behind.

3) I've always been told that happy babies sleep with their arms above their heads. What does it mean when an adult sleeps in the fetal position?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cover Reveal Conversation with Natalie Whipple, Author of TRANSPARENT

Today's guest for the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) is Natalie Whipple, fellow Friday the Thirteener and author of TRANSPARENT. Natalie is offering a fantastic prize pack today - a copy of TRANSPARENT, a PopTart charm necklace (her MC devours blueberry PopTarts) and also a TRANSPARENT bookmark. Er... the bookmark *matches* the book, not that... you know... the bookmark is invisible. Natalie is sharing both her US (top) and UK (bottom) covers with us today, and you can see that they are vastly different from each other. She explains why in the interview.


Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.



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

Seeing as how my main character is invisible, I didn’t really have a clue how my publishers were going to handle that. Mostly I just wished them luck. Secretly, I hoped it wouldn’t look too much like The Invisible Man with the bandages and such. I figured either my covers would be horrendous or awesome—no middle ground. I lucked out on both, I think.

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

Hmm, I think I was first asked about input for around the late fall of 2011? So that was a year and a half before TRANSPARENT came out! Wow. Forgot how long ago that was. It took another few months to see the first comp, then a final. I had to wait maybe 4-6 months before I could share the cover with the public.

With my UK cover, I didn’t get any initial input. We sold to the UK in early 2012, and they sent me their plan of attack summer of 2012, I believe, and I got to share it a few months later.

And, interestingly enough, I didn’t get asked for input on HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW at all, either. I just got a lovely surprise email one day. But it was all good because the cover is absolutely stunning. I can’t wait to show it off!

I think it can be pretty common that covers don’t get talked about at all before they appear in your inbox.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Not really, in the sense of the general direction. But both my publishers were really good about listening to my input on the smaller details. The clothing colors on the UK edition, for instance, were changed several times until they settled on the right balance. The original US comp was much more red and teal, as opposed to orange. The background was pretty different as well. Both turned out great as they applied my little feedback to make it that much cooler.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Just through email, no real fanfare. That was exciting enough for me.

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

I was given a specific week that I was allowed to reveal my US cover, and of course I posted it on Monday because how could I wait any longer? Ha. It was the week before the catalog came out, so many of my imprint mates were revealing, too.

For my UK cover, it appeared on the Hot Key Books website before I knew it was available to reveal. I did a post after that to show it off more.

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

Oh, way too long, ha. I think it’s been 4-6 months for all of mine thus far, so sometimes a year before the book is out!

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

Um, YES. I will admit to sneaking it to a few friends and family members, because how can you not? It’s so exciting and if you can’t share it with the world you have to share it with at least a few people.

What surprised you most about the process?

That it went so smoothly. I’ve heard horror stories about authors and publishers not agreeing on the cover direction. Or booksellers saying they don’t like it, so the cover goes back for redesign. Maybe I’m just not picky, but it was probably the easiest process out of all the publishing things. Even my titles weren’t changed. Guess I got lucky.

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

I think it’s really important to remember that your cover is a marketing tool. Sometimes it may not be what you want, but it certainly fits the target audience. My UK cover is very different, obviously, from my US cover. That’s because the UK chose to play up the fun and comic aspect of my book, while the US chose to focus on some of the more intense, darker moments. Both aren’t entirely accurate to the book, but they highlight the part of the book my publishers think will grab their market best.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE by Jennifer Castle ARC Giveaway, Plus I Interview Myself- But You're Here For the Giveaway.

I completely neglected to write a blog post for you guys today. So I interviewed myself for your enjoyment.

Q: What kind of a blogger does that?
A: The kind that has a 5 acre yard and not enough time to mow.

Q: What's the most humbling thing that's happened to you lately?
A: I had a tick on my head and I had to call my mom to pull it off. I'm 34 years old. That's embarrassing.

Q: What'd you do this weekend?
A: I bought a piece of lawn art made out of an old frying pan and twisted metal welded together. It looks like a bird.

Q: You completely forgot to prep the blog for today. How are you going to make it up to your readers?
A: I thought I'd dig into my ARC pile and offer up something tasty. Enjoy!

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

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.

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!


Samia knows she is a dead girl walking. Great hook. I totally want to know why this is.

Two years ago, I think I'd eliminate this comma her life was that of any other teenager living in Fallujah, until her uncle turned her into a sexual assault victim. But right now that is the least of her problems. I get that the actual assault might not be the point of the book, but the dismissive tone of that line makes it seem like you're minimizing the event itself. Even though I totally get that your story focuses on the aftermath and not the event, you don't want to use blase language in reference to rape. Now all she knows is her life is over. Meh - you already said she knows she's a dead girl walking. This is repetitive. She has just discovered she is about to bring new life Echo here with "life" into this world, except they who is they? won’t let her. Like many women before her, her life echo again will end somewhere in the streets at the hands of her brothers, all in the name of family honor. Aha - so this is why she's a dead girl walking. Great contemporary issues focus, but eliminate some of the repetitive stuff before this so we see it sooner.

Just when all hope of living is gone, someone who? comes to her rescue and a few months later she finds herself in America the land of opportunities the phrase used here is very cliche. Previous sentence is a bit un-wieldly, pare it down. She is determined to make her a life echo again - you really like that word! for her(self?) and her child, away from the world she has left behind - a world filled with lies, betrayal, and bloodshed, all in the name of God and honor. For seventeen years, she manages to leave her troubles behind until finally her past catches up with her. Oh ok - big time leap here. This may mean you're looking at a re-formatting of the query.

Her brother-turned arch-enemy finds an even more powerful tool to destroy her – her son. Through him, he destroys echo not only her life, but the lives of two women closest to her - her boss and her best friend.

For a second time, she finds herself fleeing for her life, this time back to Fallujah what would possibly motivate her to go back?, her war-ravaged home with nothing to show for all her sacrifices except the scars she carries on the inside. Previous sentence needs pared down, it's bordering on un-wieldly as well. Will she find a second guardian angel to come to her rescue, or will she finally get the punishment she eluded eighteen years ago? Don't end with a question

Jar of Broken Hearts is a 125,000 words story that tells of hope in the face of despair, strength, and the ultimate forgiveness, as it follows the life of a young Middle Eastern woman struggling to overcome the hand life has dealt her.

The story itself sounds interesting, but you need to reconfigure this query, in my opinion. You start out with her being the young victim of sexual assault, afraid for her life. I assumed this was a YA title, but then we make the 18 year leap and that kind of threw me. Since it begins with her "knowing" something at a certain point in her life, the hook made me think we were going to be looking at that age / experience for the entirety of the book. But it turns out that's not actually the focus.

I can't help but notice you didn't specify a genre, which is something you definitely need to do. Also, since the focus of the book is NOT on a single event you need to get a hook that conveys that, one that makes it clear we're looking at a broader spectrum than the immediate fallout from this single event. I would also make sure that you're not being too vague - we need to see that you have a legitimate reason for her to be suddenly saved and taken to America, and then also to return to Fallujah. And how the heck is the son ruining her life and destroying the lives of other women? I need to know that in order to buy into the plot.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Non-Fiction Friday: THE DIET DROPOUT'S GUIDE TO NATURAL WEIGHT LOSS by Stan Spencer, PhD.

When you're finished with the Book Talk for this week be sure to head over to the Friday the Thirteeners blog for my newest vlog about how much I am (or am not) like my main character in NOT A DROP TO DRINK.

I've been liberally dosing you on Fridays with a non-fiction book talk here and there, and today I'm going even further out of the normal routine by talking to you about something I never really envisioned myself using my blog space for  - a diet book.

Yes, really.

If you're anything like me, you're thrilled that summer is so close, while at the same time totally pissed off about it because you don't look quite as awesome in your bikini as you did when you were sixteen. I'm not a fan of dieting. I try to eat somewhat sensibly and I get on the treadmill three times a week, but I'm still not-quite beach ready (not that I live near any beaches, but you get the idea).

I received THE DIET DROPOUT'S GUIDE TO NATURAL WEIGHT LOSS as a free e-book, thinking, what the hell, I'll read this and see. And for once in my life I was reading a diet book that made sense to me - mostly because this is not a diet book.

What I like about this book is not so much that it talks about food (although it does come up) but more about how for most of us eating is usually not in response to hunger. We eat because we're bored, we eat as an emotional response to our environment, and we even eat because the TV tells us to. I thought one of the coolest parts of this book were some great mental exercises to help you beat a craving, or even build up long-term abilities to stop yourself from eating emotionally.

For example, if you really want a cheeseburger, picture the most attractive cheeseburger you can think of - in the middle of the sidewalk surrounded by dirty stepped-on wads of chewing gum. This will make you want a cheeseburger a lot less than the image of a hot slab of meat with melted cheese running over it that your brain is craving.

Another aspect of this book that I thought was interesting was a section about changing your environment to lessen your ability to satisfy those cravings. This goes beyond the "no duh" moves of not keeping potato chips and pop in your kitchen, but also making signs or keeping a chart of exactly how much exercise you'd have to do in order to burn off that bag of chips or that can of Coke - consider it a profit and loss sheet for your body.

Lastly, there was the "natural" aspect of the book, which talks about how processed food is bad for us in so many ways (something I already knew, and you probably do too) but it also has some great recipes for snacks and meals that are quick and easy, and even a few little mental tactics to make eating vegetables seem more appealing.

Like I said, I never really thought I'd be taking up blog space to talk about a weight-loss book, but this one made a lot of sense to me and I'm super critical - so I thought I'd share. I'm glad to pass the love around if we can all meet in our bikinis and feel confident someday.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) Why when I'm struggling with weight-lifting does my upper lip curl? It's like I'm so intent on succeeding I've gone feral.

2) I can run through muscle pain, I can ran through fatigue. I cannot run through losing my breath. I have great respect for people that run long distances. I pretty much have respect for people that can run short distances too.

3) Related to yesterday's WOLF, if you suffer from charley horses you know that there is no relief. Well, there actually is - if you straighten your leg and pull your toes back towards your torso it forces the cramp out. I know this. I've known this since I was little. But somehow curling up in the fetal position and moaning always takes precedence.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Brit Takes The SHIT

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 guest for the SHIT is a long-time reader of all the SHIT's, someone I can always count on to help spread the word of a fresh SHIT on the blog. Simon P. Clark is a British children's author working and living in New Jersey. The recent sale of EREN to Corsair, Constable & Robinson made him a candidate for this interview - one of his lifelong goals, I'm sure.

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

Firstly, thank for having me. I always enjoyed reading the SHIT posts when I was submitting – it’s a great niche you’re filling here.

How much did I know? A fair bit. I first had the idea of becoming an author in my teens, so I’ve had enough time to learn a few things when I should have been doing real work. From books and message boards, I had a decent idea of what was to come – the nuts and bolts, at least. 

Did anything about the process surprise you?

That is wasn’t all a total slog. Editors are lovely people! A lot of the passes for EREN came with praise and comments that I really appreciated. I never felt a real emotional hit from a pass because they were professional but human, so maybe I was surprised that it wasn’t this brutal heart-wrench. Day to day, it’s actually kinda dull.

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

A bit, mostly because I’m on Twitter a lot anyway. There’s no harm, is there? Finding interviews is  good, but you can’t read too much into them since the questions don’t apply to your book, your submission. I do recommend it  – but only if you can stay detached. Write like a butterfly, stalk like a bee. Or should that be the other way around?

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

There’s no real average. We heard from some in just two weeks, and some hadn’t got back by the time the offer came.  Hearing news about books being bought in their first week or so was always frustrating, but I got my yes in the end.  The editor who offered went from first read to offer in a pretty short amount of time, so it’s more about finding the right person than counting the days.

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

Don’t deny that you’re anxious. Don’t cut yourself off. Follow editors and agents and writers on Twitter, get plugged in to the conversation and the latest news, keep engaged. And yes, write more. Submission isn’t sabbatical – there’s always more writing to be done. Perhaps the best tip is to not keep it a secret. Don’t be scared or embarrassed you’re trying to make it. Tell friends and family. Every so often they’ll ask you how it’s going. That’s a good thing.

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

I don’t know if I had to deal with them because they’re just as part of being a professional writer. It was all more positive than query rejections because Molly (Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency) was always so insistent that we had to find the right editor, and that person was out there somewhere.

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?

Editors’ feedback is so good. Make sure your agent passes it to you. Some of it I agreed might be true. Some of it I disagreed with, and that just meant they weren’t the editor for me.  Now, a small confession here – I don’t really go in for beta readers. I have my wife, who is brutal but wise at times, and that’s it. So I can’t compare to betas, but I bet editors are nicer and beat around the bush more that good betas do.

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

A dream. I was standing before a great library, and a voice cried out, saying –

OK, no. Telephone, but not as I thought it would go.  Just a few days before the call my agent had given me some feedback on a new book. When I woke up to an e-mail asking if I could chat that day, I really figured it was about that. Cunningly, she had made the email seem very relaxed. She rang, and started by apologising about not calling with her feedback on the book (it had been e-mailed). Then, she said she hoped this would make up for it – we’d had an offer. I said ‘Oh my gosh’ a lot and laughed. She made sure I was at the computer and sent over the editor’s email. I felt .. hmm. Vindicated? After so much work, it was happening.

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

Yup. It was a Big Secret, so naturally I told my family and closest friends and told them it was a secret.  Being able to share the fun in that self contained circle made the whole thing manageable. Of course I wanted to shout it out, but there were professional matters to attend to – contracts, negotiations. I partied with my loved ones instead. When the PM announcement went out, I had a blog post ready to go.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bikinis, Books & Sports Bras

If you follow my Twitter stream you know that I ran my first 5k this weekend. I'm not a runner. I never have been. I'm a softball and basketball player, which means there are bouts of struggling and diving after things in between running. That I can do. Straight running... well, it kinda takes me down. But as I get older I've noticed that there aren't a lot of mid 30's just randomly available for me to play barnyard games with, so running it is.

I've been running on the treadmill religiously for a year, and my stamina is better than it's ever been. I won't tell you my time from the 5k, but I will tell you my goals were:

1) Finish
2) Don't die.

I accomplished these. I also learned that if I want to keep doing this I probably ought to invest in a better sports bra. Why am I blogging about it? Because I have alternative reasons for running, too. It's that time of year. Emails and magazine covers are asking me if I've got my bikini body ready.

The short answer: no.

The long answer: I look pretty good with clothes on, but strip me down for the beach and we're looking at razor burn that might need medical attention and dimples in places that aren't so flattering. My fair Irish skin is pale like a post-mortem Scarlett O'Hara.

To quote Kevin Spacey's disarmingly frank line from American Beauty: "I just want to look good naked."

And that's the trick of the bikini - you're not wearing much, so everything's gotta look good. You can't cover up those flabby upper arms and hope the push-up bra will be distracting enough. You can't wear waterproof mascara and assume people are looking at your face. Everything is up for dissection by the public.

Same goes for your book.

The cover and first chapter are important, like your general silhouette. You might be able to reel them in, but are they gonna get closer and go for the casual nod instead of engaging? What if Chapter Two is the equivalent of starting a conversation to find out you've got bad breath?

Too often I hear writers say, "Yeah there's a downswing here but the next scene really picks up." Or, "I know there's a huge info dump at the beginning but if you can get past that, it's totally awesome." Right. And the obese chick with a good personality gets all the guys on the beach.

Your book is going to be naked. Every page is going to be turned (hopefully). Every word will be exposed to an eyeball. And you can't very well say, "Do me a favor and read this next bit in the dark."

With all this in mind, I'm declaring it something of a Fitness Week on the blog. Today I'm giving you a fitness giveaway, there will be a healthy non-fiction book review for you on Friday, and hopefully my Thursday Thoughts and Wednesday WOLF will conform to these parameters too.

What am I giving away? A SONY Fitness Walkman (specs here) It's a great, wireless way to run without being encumbered. Listen to the Rocky soundtrack, or be a nerd like me and load up some audiobooks. I got this without realizing that it's only PC compatible, and I'm an Apple girl. So, it's never even been popped into my nasty little ears. It's brand new, friends. Wear it, run and skim down your book while you're at it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 11, 2013

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.

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!

I've been researching agents and agencies for my work, and I like how Sally Smith described your tenacity with queries on her blog. I am an extremely energetic, hard working writer who is easy to work with. I take direction and input well, and I know we could make an excellent team to sell my book! I am willing to do what it takes to improve or edit it further so that you and I both are happy. Here goes: I would definitely not start your query this way. Yes, you're wanting to present yourself as a hard worker who is ready to do what is necessary to get this accomplished, but you can be the hardest working, most determined person in the world with a crappy idea that the agent isn't interested in. Put the idea first, they need to know that they're interested in your concept before they want to know what it would be like to work with you.

When sixteen year old Mae loses both her parents, she is forced to deal with the loss and to try to fit in at a new school. Loss, change... these are both themes that pop up fairly often in YA. What's so special about yours? She gets coerced into auditioning for a play in a summer theater academy where drama is spelled with a capital D. Nice line, and I think the theatre angle is part of what can separate you from the rest of the Loss & Change books. Get this front and center. She never intends to get cast in the show, yet with some pointers from her best friend, she wows everyone with her audition piece. The story starts to get more complex when she draws the eye of both the handsome set designer and the theater academy's diva, Mallory. Mallory casts a spell like, literally? Or is this a nod to her manipulation of people? over everyone involved with the theater to brand Mae a witch, a fitting title for the newly cast lead in The Crucible. Your references to spells and witches, in addition to the play in question makes me wonder if you're actually referencing paranormal activity or if it's more of a complicated re-telling of the human manipulation within Arthur Miller's source material. Mallory's opportunity to pounce presents itself when Mae gets caught in a compromising position with her gay best friend the night after the audition. A hunt this reference here again makes me wonder what the angle is ensues as to who snapped a photo of the seeming threesome threesome? I'm confused - where did a third person get involved? on a cell phone camera. While dealing with the tragic loss of her parents, a first kiss, and a best friend's secret, Mae must rise above the drama surrounding the production. Mae never dreamed her time at The Stage Summer Academy would turn into such a Wicked Summer.

The unique aspect WICKED SUMMER (50,000 words) is that the themes and plot of the play being performed are mirrored in the characters' lives. OK cool, that answers the question - but, I still think you might want to re-word the "casts a spell" phrase specifically. Paranormal school / camp stories are still out there in huge amount sand you don't want the agent to misread and drop the query before this is cleared up. In addition, I will define and reflect on aspects of theater history, dramaturgy, and terminology in each book. I love the idea of the contemp story mirroring the theatre production, however, this sentence here makes it sound like there will be info dumps, I'd cut this. There is great potential here for a series for YA, but also for middle grade and even emergent readers.  Think Sweet Valley High for theater lovers. You're definitely muddying the waters here -- you just referenced a high school series as a comp title while also saying the book would be great for MG and chapter book readers as well.  I've started with The Crucible because many high school English curriculums read that play. The next book in the series will focus on Romeo and Juliet, yet another play many teens have an understanding of.  While researching my genre, I have found some series that focus on either classic literature or theater in a more superficial or different way.  My book has a more serious tone and no magic or ghosts like the ones I've found. I think you're right in that the book would be a great help to shed light on aspects of plays, but you just wrote a really long paragraph about a series that doesn't exist yet, and the fact that there are not magic elements needs to be obvious in the query itself, not dropped her as an after thought.

As a high school English teacher in New Jersey, I feel that I know the audience as well as their interests. Let's be honest, I see more drama in a day than I ever could imagine for a book. I know what intrigues and engages teen readers. Having a strong background as an English and Theater major in college and teaching teens today makes me the perfect person to write and sell what is popular. I see what students are interested in reading, watching on T.V., and doing. I gage gauge their interest, and this aided me in my book idea. Look at successful tv shows like Smash or Glee and you will see there is a huge audience for my genre. If you look at your word count in this query, you're spending a lot of time saying WHY this book would sell. Yes, it's good to know your market and your audience, but you're really banging that nail on the head. It's part of the agent's job to know what will work. It doesn't hurt to make your point succinctly, but you're spending more time talking about the market and audience than you are talking about the actual product you're trying to get the agent to pick up.

Before becoming an English teacher I worked in public relations. I know how important a marketing strategy is, and I plan to be hands on with my own. I am already making my way through  Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. My following is growing with time;  I am still trying to sell a product that nobody can buy yet! Exactly - and you're doing it again here. Having grown up in love with theater and teaching teens, I am invigorated by my storyline and series. This is the book I would have wanted as a teen. I love acting and speaking in public, so a PR program with school visits and book talks at bookstores is right up my alley!  I am a born showman and speaker who will be successful as a writer and advocate for my work. This is all great, but now you're talking all about how you can assist in selling a product that you haven't really spent a lot of time pitching to the agent yet. 

I read that you do not want anything but a query letter at this stage. Please let me know if I can send you sample chapters. No need to state this - they will. I know this will be a sellable work and series! Kill this - of course you know it, it's yours, your believe in it. Make them believe in it. It could possibly work for spin off series' for middle grade or early readers' books as well. Nope - you're muddying the waters again. You just spent a lot of time talking about exactly how well you know your YA audience and now you're saying, but hey! Let's make it for younger readers too! Not going to fly - it's either for high schoolers, or it's not.

Your last few paras are a lot of talking about yourself and your marketing plan. Your key elements are this - you are a teacher, so you know your audience. You are comfortable speaking in public - great, but that's already implied in the fact that you're a teacher. You are out there in social media land - good, but honestly that's not important at this stage. Right now what's important is the story, and you're not giving it any room to breathe. Cut your first para, cut these last paras. Get the story front and center, then say, "Hey, I'm a teacher and a drama person." That in itself says you know your audience. You're covered.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Talk - MAID OF SECRETS by Jennifer McGowan

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.

Meg Fellowes is an extraordinarily gifted actress, able to memorize large chunks of narrative and repeat it back with astonishing accuracy. The only thing holding her back from an amazing career is the fact that women aren't allowed on the stage in Elizabethean England. Instead, Meg becomes her acting troupe's thief, working the crowd during their performances and lifting anything she can in order to supplement the troupe's income.

But fate has her picking the pocket of a court official, and she's hauled in front of Queen Elizabeth's spymaster with an offer - come work for them, or see her troupe destroyed. Meg is plunged headlong into court intrigue, all while trying to keep up with her lessons on how a lady should behave. Her fellow spies - the genius, the psychic, the assassin, and the flirt - aren't all overjoyed at their new companion, and she soon learns that she's not a new addition to the group... she's a replacement.

The girl before her was murdered after becoming too involved with the Spanish contingent at court. And while Meg can repeat verbatim anything the dashing Count Rafe says while she follows him through the dark corridors, she doesn't speak Spanish, and doesn't know if the translation she receives is true or not. The people Rafe meets seem shady, but her heart is starting to take precedence over her ears, and Meg isn't so sure she wants to know the truth anymore.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) It's pretty embarrassing to tell the lady at the animal shelter you're looking for a pterodactyl cat, and then patiently explain what that means and she says, "Oh, you mean a polydactyl." I almost said, "NO NO NO!! I DEMAND A PTERODACTYL CAT!!"

2) My shampoo bottle claims to have over 100 uses. I stared at it for a while trying to think of 99 other uses for shampoo. I felt like a real ass when I figured out what it was actually saying. Stupid misleading shampoo bottle.

3) Sticks are awesome. I can play with a stick and some mud for hours and be totally good.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

YA Author Jenn McGowan Shares her Submission Experience

Todays guest for the SHIT (Submission Hell - It's True) is fellow Class of 2k13 member - and Ohioan! - Jennifer McGowan. Yep, that makes this a SHIT WoW! (We're Ohio Writers). Jennifer is the author of MAID OF SECRETS, a tale of murder and intrigue in young Queen Elizabeth's court. MAID OF SECRETS is available today from Simon & Schuster.

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

I had submitted once before to a house on my own, and had gotten fairly far in the process before my manuscript was passed on, so I thought I knew a great deal. In fact, however, I knew next to nothing. I had to weigh my own insatiable need to know EVERYTHING with the desire to not irritate my agent within an inch of her life. I had no idea how long it could take, or how many steps a book had to go through prior to that sincerely awesome call to the author of “yes! We want your book.”

Did anything about the process surprise you?

How long three minutes can seem, since I seemed to be double checking my email about every 180 seconds for updates. I was ever so slightly neurotic throughout the process.

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

Honestly, I did not really do that research. I knew the houses, of course, and I did a cursory Google search whenever I had a name to work with, but in some cases I didn’t really know who was reading my manuscript. I had a basic list of the houses/editors that we were targeting, but despite my obsessive email checking, I tried not to get completely OCD about tracking the manuscript through every stage.

But I completely recommend DOING said research, and will the next time around.

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

I got my first rejections seemingly within moments ☺, but it took a little over a week before the good news started coming in. The entire process went, I’m told, fairly quickly: I went out on sub officially on February 8, received my first offer before the end of February, went into an auction scenario shortly after that, and had decided on an editor by March 2. I’m pretty sure those were the dates… it’s funny how much that sticks with you. ☺

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

Well, I tried to keep myself busy with my day job and freelance as much as possible, especially during the hours of 9 a.m.-5 p.m.. My weeks went like this: Mondays were high anxiety but low expectation; Tuesday, the anxiety lessened but expectation increased; Wednesday, the anxiety dipped again but expectation leveled off; Thursday, expectation and anxiety were lower but depression set in; Friday, expectation was low, anxiety was low, and depression was moderate. So the busier I could keep myself early in each week, the better. I was patently convinced that I would never hear anything on Mondays or Fridays, but I did finally get my first actual offer on a Friday.

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

My agent (Alexandra Machinist—who is amazing) and I worked out a system where I asked her to only pass along the bad stuff when she had something good to share as well, unless I hadn’t heard anything for awhile (at which point I’d ask). I was able to manage the passes pretty well because there was always the hope of something else positive – someone had taken it to second reads, someone had commented that he/she was enjoying the book, etc.

For me, query rejections were harder. At the querying agents point, nobody has said “yes, your book is awesome. We heart it.” Whereas with editorial review, you know the book doesn’t completely suck, because your agent actually SIGNED you based on the book… so it’s just a matter of whether or not it’s a fit with a given house. It’s still not a walk in the park, but it’s not as hard.

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?

I got hysterical feedback, so for me it was more the case of thinking “um… okay!” My favorite comment: “We don’t print pulp.” I’d never thought of MAID OF SECRETS as being pulpy, but I was rather pleased. ☺ I thought “you GO, you little pulpy manuscript!” Other editors thought it was slow (while still others praised its pacing), or not dark enough (okay, no one thought of this book as dark). Interestingly, while some of the agents who offered representation were nervous about there being five girl spies instead of four, none of the actual editors felt that way. (Thank goodness).

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

The moment we got our first offer, I felt intense relief—I heard through my agent, who immediately contacted the other still-interested houses to set up an auction, which made for a fraught few days. I knew that it would come down to two houses in the end, and I’d spoken to both editors and they were both amazing. When we finally accepted an offer, it was exhilarating and exhausting. I connected with my new editor via email after the dust cleared, then collapsed.

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

Well, amusingly enough, I never had a Publishers Marketplace announcement on the book, which was extremely sad to me, since I’d been waiting for that happy moment for so long. But the circumstances were a little strange with my sale since my agent was changing houses in the midst of the process (note, I do not recommend this for your first sales experience!), so the announcement never happened. As a result, I didn’t feel like it was “real” for several weeks, and then I slowly began telling other people. Word eventually got out, and it all became increasingly real over the next several months!

NOTE: I’m now on submission with a new book, and let me tell you… that Monday-Friday schedule I mention above? It still completely holds. I wonder if it will ever get easier!

Monday, May 6, 2013

YA Author Liz Coley Talks Foreign Editions for PRETTY-GIRL 13 + Swag Giveaway!

Todays guest for the CRAP (Cover Reveal Apprehension Phase) is fellow Katherine Tegen imprint author Liz Coley. Liz's debut PRETTY GIRL-13 is releasing in Slovakia and the Czech Republic today, and to celebrate that, Liz is going to share her experience as a debut author with foreign editions... including foreign covers! Don't miss the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom for a chance to win a swag prize pack from Liz with PRETTY GIRL-13 swag, and to make it a true pubhouse-sister celebration, I'll include a collection of NOT A DROP TO DRINK swag as well.


Angie Chapman was thirteen years old when she ventured into the woods alone on a Girl Scouts camping trip. Now she's returned home… only to find that it's three years later and she's sixteen-or at least that's what everyone tells her.

What happened to the past three years of her life?

Angie doesn't know.

But there are people who do — people who could tell Angie every detail of her forgotten time, if only they weren't locked inside her mind. With a tremendous amount of courage, Angie embarks on a journey to discover the fragments of her personality, otherwise known as her "alters." As she unearths more and more about her past, she discovers a terrifying secret and must decide: When you remember things you wish you could forget, do you destroy the parts of yourself that are responsible?

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

At the risk of making myself look totally lame, yes, I did. I love to mockup covers for my WIP, at least I did until my agent told me I had crazy ideas about covers and asked me to take them off my “aspiring author” website. My preconceived notion, inspiration piece if you will, was my computer desktop background for a long, long time. With attribution to the London Science Museum and photographer Gaetan Lee, here it is:

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

Talking? What is this talking? Fourteen months before release (Jan 2012), I met my US editor in person in for the first time and she had the cover art, literally wet off the printer, to show me. “Do you love it?” she asked. After I questioned one aspect of the coloring, I realized that the correct response to this questions is: Yes. I love it. Totally and completely.

Actually, I did love the imagery, the reflective quality, the suggestion of a portal. It felt like the artist had read the book and captured the significant metaphors. The “bleeding cowboy” font took me by surprise, but I’ve received great feedback about it.

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

My publisher isn’t big on staged reveals, so I actually got the news that the cover was out in July 2012 from an Australian book blogger who had seen it on Amazon. So that was the reveal. 

What surprised you most about the process?

I was surprised and yet not surprised at how little input the author has in the process. Having self-published a novel, I knew how many design decisions are required to put a physical book together. In traditional publishing, these decisions are largely made for you or you enter the scene only to give the final blessing. I just trusted that the professionals in marketing have way more experience than I do and would make good choices on my behalf.

You’ve got international editions coming out. Tell us about your foreign covers.

One of the coolest aspects of international publication is seeing how different cultures interpret and represent your work in the cover art. Don’t expect ANY input here. Just love each cover for what it tries to say about your story to a different audience. My UK cover emphasizes the idea of the innocent girl preserved/hidden/locked in a safe (but kind of spooky) place. The French cover seems to suggest the innocence of thirteen before anything goes wrong. The Russian cover, the darkest and most haunting, shows a live model in bondage. While her coloring is unlike the protagonist’s, it totally doesn’t matter. The helpless, lost look in her eyes tells the story.

Today, I’m thrilled to reveal the Czech Republic and the Slovakian covers. These editions are releasing today. They’ve used the same art as the US edition, but how can you not love Liz Coleyová as a byline?

One more unexpected aspect to international publishing is that the title translation is completely up to the foreign publisher. I didn’t even know, until I received cover art, that in France, my novel goes by ANGIE 13 YEARS, DISAPPEARED, and in the Czech and Slovakian editions, the title is RETURN 
FROM DARKNESS.

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

I’d suggest asking your editor explicitly what their roll-out philosophy is and let them know that you want to hold for a coordinated reveal if that’s your plan. Then relax and trust the people who’ve done this hundreds of times. Unless there is a huge disconnect between your vision and the artist’s or a factual error (historical inaccuracy, for example), the correct answer is: Yes, I love it. When can I show everyone?

Thank you to Liz for stopping by the blog today for one of her foreign release celebrations! Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter below to win PRETTY GIRL-13 swag (signed bookplate, post-its, mini-flashlight & a "bitty booklet" teaser chapter), plus a NOT A DROP TO DRINK swag package (cover postcard, signed bookmark, water bottle sticker, tent card with my big face on it).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 4, 2013

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.

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!

Cora Jane Delaney and her little brother, Coby, didn’t leave home for nine months after the virus hit. Not after the power cut out; not even after the sirens shrieking in the distance faded and died and the world outside their backyard’s Good hook - drop the 's here on "backyard" though fence fell silent.

They didn’t see the bodies piling up in the cobblestone streets of Savannah. They didn’t know the government’s ultimatum to survivors: become guinea pigs for dangerous medical experiments in the name of finding a cure, or get shot. OK - now I do need some clarification. Saying they didn't leave home is understandable, hey, I wouldn't either. But being totally clueless and not seeing anybodies outside makes me think they're not even looking out the window... so what's up with that?

Until the government kidnaps Coby.

Cora will do anything to get him back: bargain her stockpile of food, bust some heads, or blow them clean off. Oh, I like her. But saving Coby means going in after him, and if she wants to get them both out alive, she’ll need help.

She enlists the help echo here with "help" of Brooks, a shady — and drop-dead sexy — army deserter, who knows all about the government shelter Cora needs to infiltrate. Except he says it’s a suicide mission. He doesn’t get it. Coby is the one person she would die for. Kill for. I'd drop your last line here, maybe compress these last three. 

But the government has something to kill for, too — a secret Cora carries in her blood. Fantastic sinker.

Pretty fantastic. I'm just not getting the concept of them NOT knowing about the ultimatum, etc. Are they totally holed up in a basement or something? If so, cool, but tell us that. Also, I think it would help clarify a few other things. If Cora doesn't even know about govt. ultimatums, how can she have any clue who kidnaps Coby and / or why? Clear up these questions with the query and you're in good shape.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Talk: IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS by Cat Winters

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.

The streets are full of corpses, a cough can earn you alienation and everyone wears a mask, even in their own home. No, it's not a horrific dystopian cityscape - it's 1918 San Diego and the Spanish flu is killing people quickly, while the heartbreak over lost loved ones fighting an overseas war kills the rest slowly.

Mary Shelley Black has been sent to live with her aunt after her father is beaten and imprisoned for making unpatriotic statements. While those around her in the streets clutch their facemasks, she wears aviator goggles - the last present from her childhood friend and evidence of the romance blooming between them. Stephen always understood Mary Shelley's interest in science and technology, and his letters from overseas are her last connection to affection in the world degrading around her.

Unfortunately his older brother and renowned spirit photographer, Julius, has captured the interest of her widowed aunt. Mary Shelley finds herself spending time sitting for promotional photos for his business while her aunt swoons from the sidelines. At one such sitting, Stephen's spirit appears at her side... and moments later the fateful telegram comes.

Racked with grief, Mary Shelley attempts suicide in the most scientific way she can imagine - by lightning bolt. But her spirit refuses to leave her body and she's forced back into the cold flesh, bringing along with her a stronger connection to the spirit world than ever before... and Stephen's presence by her bedside, insisting he's alive in a trench being tortured by blackbirds.

Mary Shelley maneuvers her way through convalescent hospitals, new studies on shellshock, fakes, forgeries and lies in order to find out what really happened to Stephen... and if she can trust the brother who insists his spirit photographs are not fakes.

Book Talk - THE FLAME IN THE MIST by Kit Grindstaff

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.

Anglavia has been shrouded in the Mist ever since Jemma can remember.

Even though she has lived in Agromond Castle her entire life with the Agromonds who are her family, she has never felt that she belonged, or enjoyed the things they do. Cruel and dangerous, the Agromonds have ruled Anglavia for centuries, using pain and threats to keep the villagers under their power. Their vile Mist shrouds the land, and protects the Castle from anyone who would approach with intent to harm the Agromonds.

Jemma's thirteenth birthday, and the arrival of her Powers, is fast approaching. She has failed to produce magic dark enough to please her family in their rituals, and their patience is running short. A kind word from her only friend, the ancient housekeeper, sends Jemma on a dark mission into the depths of the castle where she discovers a chamber full of skeletons - small ones.

With her life unraveling and her Powers about to be bestowed on her, red-haired Jemma runs from her dark family out into the Mist. There are dangers in the wild she couldn't have predicted, and Jemma must defeat human enemies and supernatural ones in order to fulfill a prophecy made centuries ago - that she would be the flame that would burn away the mist of Agromond rule.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) The people at Jonestown actually drank Flav-R-Aid not Kool-Aid. While that might seem like a minor distinction to some, I bet the Kool-Aid people would appreciate it if more people knew this.

2) Given the vast preference of purple kid's vitamins over any other flavor (I dug out the last one for the nephew this weekend) why not sell bottles of just the purple ones?

3) What does a brain fart smell like?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

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 (oh, how clever is she? She made an acronym out of her agency's name!) Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

In keeping with last week's post about the life of a farm girl, I thought I'd share some wonderful farm origin terminology. Back in the day, bales of hay were secured with a type of wire that was of rather cheap quality, which only makes sense. Hay was baled with the assumption that soon somebody was going to cut it apart and use it, so quality wasn't a huge concern where baling wire came in.

A lot of farmers fastidiously kept their wire after slicing apart the bales, and used it for some quick-fixes around the property - like wiring up a broken gate, or fixing a bit of gutter. Even those of us with the best intentions don't always come back around to fixing something up properly if the slop-job is filling in nicely... and so we let it go.

Farmers with more than few pieces of rusty haywire holding everything together on the farm were said to have lost control of their outfit... they've gone haywire.