Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Talk: ASYLUM by Madeleine Roux

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.

Going to a college-prep summer camp is the one thing that could keep Dan Crawford sane. Being the smart kid in high school hasn't been easy, and the idea of being surrounded by his own type of people might be the one thing that can make his life bearable. List of medications in hand, Dan sets out for New Hampshire College Prep, where the kids are smart, the fog is thick... and the dorm is an old insane asylum.

Dan hasn't even moved his stuff in when he discovers an old photograph tucked into the desk of his room, the eyes of the subject mysteriously scratched out. Even though it's creepy, Dan dismisses it as a piece of trash left behind - after all, the entire lower floor has never been cleared out. The photograph slips his mind until he starts getting mysterious emails that disappear when he tries to share them with his new friends Abby and Jordan.

The basement is too much of an attraction for adventurous Abby to ignore, so she twists Dan's arm into accompanying her into the off-limits section of the asylum one night. An old office remains as it was left, dusty photos on the wall and all. Dan discovers old records signed by the last warden... whose name was Daniel Crawford.

Mysterious texts and emails turn into scrawled notes in his campus mailbox. Dan's hold on reality is slipping, even though he's keeping up with his meds, and Abby is suddenly obsessed with the picture of a young girl from the office. A young girl who had clearly been lobotomized. The present starts to blend with the past as Dan realizes there is a thing line between genius and madness, and crossing over can get you - or your friends - killed.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday Thoughts... And A Giveaway!

Thoughts lately:

1) I've been working in a library - A LOT - as one of our buildings was closed for budget cuts and we've had to bust down one library, then re-integrate that collection into two other building libraries. I've been getting a little punchy and making call number jokes to myself as I inventory this week. For those of you not into call number humor, it's the tag on the side with the F (for fiction) and the first three letters of the author's last name. So, for example I got giggly the other day when I had picked up an F HER.

2) So it seems we may all be wiped out by a solar flare sometime in the near future. You probably know I'm pretty well set when it comes to survival techniques, but... I would really, really miss my internet. Much more than I want to admit to you right now.

3) In fact, I never wanted to be one of "those people," but today I realized I was continuing to text while my hairdresser was leaning me back into the sink to wash my hair. And I was like, "Oh no I did. I'm HER."

What am I giving away today? Oh... just an ARC of THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday WOLF... & A Giveaway!

You're not even surprised anymore, are you?

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.

Yes, I'm still giving away books as I read them. My TBR pile still seems to be growing though. It's like mold. But before you scroll down to get all grabby-eyed on the giveaway, treat your brain with some word history.

I'll be going on tour soon and I'd like to be dressed to the nines - but... what the hell does that mean? Well, great question. I can't find a really satisfactory answer. What being dressed to the nines means is that you are dressed very nicely, decked out for a certain occasion. But that's pretty much where everyone stops agreeing about this particular phrase.

One theory is that it's a bastardization of the pronunciation of being dressed to thine eyes, but I personally  can't really see how being dressed right up to your eyeballs looks good on anyone. Certainly not enough for it to have slipped into a misheard common usage.

Another origin tossed about frequently for this phrase claims roots in the fantastically sharp uniforms worn by the 99th Lanarkshire Regiment of Foot, which was raised in 1824. They were all brass buttons and fire-engine-red wool. And while I'm sure they were damn sexy, most people can't help but point out that there's a pretty big difference between 9 and 99.

The best answer I could come up with is that the number 9 has always been viewed as a mystical number. It is viewed as the number of perfection, with many religious connotations and literary references sprinkled all over the place. To me, this answer makes the most sense. Because to say, "Wow, she's dressed to perfection," makes more sense than, "Wow! She's dressed up to her eyes. Well, what I mean to say is that she looks as good as an nineteenth century British foot soldier."

Today's giveaway is for fellow Dark Days tour and debut Amelia Kahaney's THE BROKENHEARTED.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Debut Author Out on Submission: Phillip Siegel Talks Truth

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 is Philip Siegel, author of THE BREAK-UP ARTIST coming May 2014 from  Harlequin Teen. You can keep up with Phil for book reviews and cat pictures (so really it's kind of like a male version of me) on Facebook and Twitter.

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

I had read about other authors’ submissions journeys around the web. (including here!) But most of them were positive; usually the people who write about sub are the ones who get book deals. The kidlit blogosphere in general likes to focus exclusively on the positive. Authors tend to stay quiet if their book doesn’t sell, and that leads to a one-sided discussion about submission. Luckily, I managed to read two honest, open, non happy-smiley posts about sub from Mandy Hubbard and Natalie Whipple. Those posts were the most valuable articles I read because they made me mentally prepare for the worst.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

Yes. I had no idea what acquisitions was before sub. I thought you submitted, and the editor bought it. I didn’t know there was an acquisitions committee that also had to be dazzled by your manuscript and that they could veto the editor. Later, I learned about writers who’ve been rejected at acquisitions.

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

No way! I knew only what publishers we were submitting to. My agent was willing to share, but for me, ignorance was bliss. I know myself. I’m usually a rational person, but I was a writer on submission for the first time. Let’s be real. I would’ve resorted to internet stalking editors and making myself crazy. I was already a nervous wreck. No good can come from stalking anyone on Twitter. My agent agreed to email me updates twice a month. If there was good news, she would share immediately, but I didn’t need to get bad news in real time.    

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

We heard from most people in a few weeks, probably no more than two months.

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

If you can muster the willpower, stay off the internet. (And if you actually manage that, tell me your secret.) I would hide my phone in the bottom of my backpack and only let myself check it once an hour. I would’ve only checked it once a day if I had better willpower. Look, it’s incredibly nerve-wracking, and there’s no two ways around it. I wasn’t one of those authors who got an offer within 24 hours. It took a few weeks. Most writers will tell you to write another book. My best advice, though, is to be social – in person. Hang out with friends. Give someone a call. Step away from the computer/smartphone. When I was social with people, I forgot about sub for a while.

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

I was fortunate in that I received a few nice rejections, and that boosted my confidence. “I loved the voice, but it’s not for us.” If I received any nasty rejections, my agent didn’t show me. I’ve heard of writers who want to be forwarded rejections emails from editors. Why do that to yourself? I managed to stay positive during sub. (Although, I’ll admit, nice rejections are still rejections.)

One of my favorite expressions is “You’re not a hundred dollar bill. Not everyone’s going to like you.” Rejection is a big part of this business, but just remember: all it takes is one yes. I’m always hearing about authors whose books sell in pre-empts and auctions and multiple offers. That did not happen with my book. But it doesn’t matter how much rejection you receive. All it takes is one yes. That’s it. Literary careers have been built on that one yes.

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 tried to view the editor feedback as constructive criticism. If they were nice enough to say what they didn’t like, then I took note. I was fortunate in that all of the rejections were hitting on the same 1-2 issues. Unlike with beta readers, I couldn’t ask for clarification. The key is to find the silver lining. Don’t just huff and puff over an editor rejecting you; find the positive, how this can help you.

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

It took me a full day to process. When my agent called and told me, I was like “Yeah, that’s cool.” Then the next day, I woke up and was like “Holy crap! I sold my book!” I wasn’t in total shock, to be honest. My editor was super positive throughout the acquisitions process, so that gave me a good feeling.

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

Compared to other writers I’ve spoken to, my wait was short. Less than a month. I had actually told a writer friend that my book was going to acquisitions. Then she asked if anything happened yet, and I was like “um…no…not really…” Right before the announcement went up in Publisher’s Marketplace, I emailed her and apologized for keeping it a secret. But she totally understood!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Making the Best Out of Stabbing Yourself in the Eye

So I stabbed myself in the eye last week. And I mean, like I stabbed myself in the eye. Not the eyelid. Not the eyelashes. Not the eyebrows. I stabbed myself in the eye.

When I tweeted this there were two recurring questions that came back at me:

1) How the hell did you accomplish this?
2) Can I see a picture?

Answers:

1) I was holding something and gesturing at the same time. It ended badly.

2) If you want to see a picture of my eye post-stabbing check out my Twitter stream. I know some people actually don't like to look at other people's bloody eyes (WTF, right?) so I won't just put a big jpeg of my bloody eyeball here on the blog.

The bad news: It hurt. Like a bad word. Also, I said a bad word. Not a huge surprise, but the fact of the matter is that the self-inflicted gesture-stab happened in front of the entire K-4 staff as I was doing a library presentation. So that means the bad word did too. I think they were torn between wanting to help me and wanting to send me to the office.

The good news: I'm alright. In fact, I finished my presentation while my eye seeped and then kind of forgot about the whole thing until I looked in the mirror later on and saw that I was bleeding underneath my cornea.

Some more good news: My mom happened to have some antibiotic eye drops on hand so I drove to her  place after work to put some in my bloody eye.

Some more bad news: Immediately after I put them in she said, "Oh, wait. Those might have been for the dog."

Despite having the bad luck to belong to someone who stabs themselves in the face during work hours and whose mother hands out veterinarian medications to humans, my eyeball is recovering quite nicely. It's a trooper.

Why am I blogging about this?

Now I know how it feels to be stabbed in the eye. Granted, it wasn't a stiletto, or a razor blade, or a rusty nail, but I get the idea. If I ever find myself in a writing situation where this kind of knowledge would come in handy, I've got it nicely tucked away in a brain folder marked @##$&*!!!

Right alongside that is a folder marked HOW IT FEELS TO NEARLY FREEZE TO DEATH WHILE WEARING YOUR CAT PAJAMAS, but that's a story for another time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Talk: THE BURNING SKY by Sherry Thomas

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.

Iolanthe is the greatest elemental mage of her generation, and she doesn't even know it. The Realm needs a savior, but her guardian has kept her safely tucked away in a remote area where she happily practices non-elemental magic, just like everyone else. With the Bane searching for the mage prophesied to destroy him, Iolanthe's guardian had his own memories of her past and keys to her nature removed from his mind, so that the Inquisitor would never be able to use him as a tool against Iolanthe, not matter how horrible her methods.

But the memory spell has taken its toll over the years, and her once sharp guardian has slipped into insanity, needing her constant care and unable to warn her of her own potential. When she accidentally calls down lightning, alerting the Bane and the Inquisitor of her existence, her guardian throws her into a trunk during a moment of clarity -- the only problem being that the trunk on the other end of the portal exist is locked... and there's no way back for Iolanthe.

Luckily, Prince Titus arrives at the lightning strike as well. The puppet ruler of Elberon, Titus wears a facade of pomp and bravado at odds with his inner-self. Titus knows what the lightning indicates, and he's spent his entire life preparing himself to die in the service of the Elemental Mage, as his dead mother had prophesied he must. As Iolanthe slowly suffocates inside the trunk located real-world Victorian London, Titus tracks her down.

Once she is released, the two team up to defeat the Bane. But the only place to hide Iolanthe is in plain sight. The Realm knows that Titus is enrolled in a all-boys prep school in London, and if he were to suddenly show up missing they would know he'd found the mage. Instead, Iolanthe's hair comes off and she is enrolled as his roommate -- a boy. As he teaches her to command all her powers and prepares himself to die in her defense, the two fight off a mutual attraction that can only end badly.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday Thoughts... And A Giveaway!

So usually I try to give you three thoughts from my head, but I'm grappling with one that has me quite perplexed at the moment. This week you just get one big thought, and I want your feedback and musings in return.

1) We know that it used to be considered attractive for women to be a bit plump, all you have to do is look at historical art to know that fat chicks used to be all the rage. I've been told this is because having some extra pounds was a sign of wealth and health. Of course we can all have a big discussion about how looking like you might die any second has become all the rage (although I sense the pendulum swinging back... oh please, let the healthy Cindy Crawford look come back in), but I'd rather talk about something else.

Men's bodies.

Actually - the historicity of men's bodies.

Here's what happened that made my thought gears click. I was watching a random movie set in a historical time and Mr. Dude Man was totally buff. And sure, he looked great in his breeches and all that, but I had to think... were guys really built like that back then? I mean... honestly.

My thoughts - anybody who was wealthy and healthy probably didn't do a lot of physical labor. Sure, some leisure sports might have kept the protein-fed in some semblance of shape, but not the finely-cut look that we're told is attractive these days.

Anybody who wasn't wealthy and healthy probably didn't have a fantastic diet. Men that had high labor jobs probably didn't have huge amounts of muscle-building protein in their everyday fare so what are the chances of them having bulging muscles? Furthermore - even those who did do a lot of physical labor - for example, a blacksmith - probably had one set of big muscles, but that's it. In this case I'm seeing a dude with great arms from manning the forge all day but a little paunchy and with chicken legs, because it's not like he's going for a five mile run after work to make sure he's well-honed all around.

So I have to wonder - did anybody (aside from The Strong Man at the circus tent) look like this dubious cinema god in breeches back then? Are we being fed 21st century sexuality along with a dash of our history lesson when we watch a movie like this?

What was considered hot for dudes, historically?

And hey guess what - I'm giving away another Dark Days tour mate book! ASYLUM by Madeleine Roux!

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday WOLF... And A Giveaway!

You're not even surprised anymore, are you? When I stop doing giveaways you're going to yell at me though.

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.

Yes, I'm still giving away books as I read them. My TBR pile still seems to be growing though. It's like mold. But before you scroll down to get all grabby-eyed on the giveaway, treat your brain with some word history.

Here's a quick and simple one, have you ever earmarked something to call attention to it or single it out? The word derives from an old custom for marking livestock (usually pigs) that involved nicking their ears in certain ways to indicate which pigs belong to who.

And hey, now you know.

Today's giveaway is an ARC of THE BURNING SKY by Sherry Thomas.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2014 Debut Lisa Maxwell Talks Submission Process

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 is debut Lisa Maxwell, whose title SWEET UNREST will be available from Flux in the Fall of 2014.

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

Honestly, not much. My agent gave me a list of editors and publishers, and kept me updated with replies, but otherwise, I didn’t know much else. That’s kind of the way I wanted it, though. That’s one of the biggest reasons I went through the process of getting an agent—I wanted someone else to worry about the business side of things, so I could write.

Did anything about the process surprise you?

One surprise was how lovely most of the replies were. After querying and experiences the “no response means no” or the typical “not right for me” responses that agents often rely on, it was a nice surprise to get kind words for rejections.

The biggest surprise, though, was how long the submissions process took. I went on submission for SWEET UNREST in July of 2011. It sold in May of 2013. I’d written two more manuscript drafts and had really, emotionally moved on from that story when I found out it actually sold, because I figured that if it hadn’t sold in a year, it wasn’t going to. People always say that publishing is a slow process, but I had no idea.

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

I didn’t research them. I felt like it was out of my hands at the time. I’m not sure what researching an editor would have done for me other than increase my anxiety.

That being said, I think that there are a lot of small, independent e-presses that some agents are starting to send things to more now. If we’d gotten that far, I think I would have researched the editors (and the publishers) and would have been more active in my opinion about where the book should be submitted.

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

In the first round, anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month or so.

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

The only way I dealt with it was to forget about it, which is so much easier said than done. But really, once a book is on submission, it’s out of the author’s hands. It’s either going to sell or it’s not. You really have to start writing the next book. If you’re working on something new, whether a book sells or not matters slightly less, because you have a new Bright and Shiny thing to play with, new characters to fall in love with, and—maybe most importantly—you know that the book on submission is not The One And Only book that you’ll ever write.

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

Quick confession: I am not a sunshine and lollipops optimist when it comes to this business. I think I went through this whole process not *quite* believing that it would work. I’m a researcher at heart, so when I decided to try writing fiction and getting it published, I researched like crazy. I read all sorts of best-selling authors talk about piles of trunked manuscripts or about how their first submission(s) didn’t sell, so part of me saw this whole experience putting in my time on the rejection train.

That’s not to say that the rejections didn’t sting, but most of them were lovely and complimentary, and many of them had more to do with market and timing than anything about the work itself. In that way, these were somewhat easier to deal with than query rejections. Not easy, but easier.

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?

Most of my feedback wasn’t all that specific in terms of problems with the story. I got a handful of “it just didn’t click for me” rejections and a handful of “we just bought a book too much like this” rejections. Mostly, I took them at face value, filed them away in my email archive, and tried to make the new story I was writing better.

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

I actually found out by email. I was sitting on my bed (because, apparently, I’m incapable of using a desk for anything writing related) and my husband was sitting there too, and the email came from my agent that I had an offer. It was just completely bizarre. Here, this book that I’d written ages ago, that I’d really not been thinking about as a possibility, and it was the thing that was going to go out in the world and make me an author. I kind of slapped at my husband’s leg and pointed at the screen…and then I called my mom. Telling my mom made it feel slightly more real, and I think that’s when I really started to get excited.

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

I, luckily, didn’t have to wait all that long. It was only a few weeks after I got the news that the announcement was up on Publishers Marketplace and I could tell people. But, yeah, even a few weeks and it was difficult not to tell everyone or hire one of those banner planes at the beach or something.

Monday, August 19, 2013

How I Name (Or Don't) My Characters

I know there are writers who put a lot of thought into naming their characters. Name origin, ethnic connotations, new and inventive spellings of old names - you name it (pun intended) it's been done. And yes, there are some pretty cool ways to go about naming your characters.

But, I'm just not one of those writers.

I'm what I call an extreme pantster. I don't do any planning or plotting, and there's sure as hell no outlining in my world. I generally know what's going to happen and how the story will end, but I don't know how it will unfold.

I don't even know my character's names.

When I was writing this post I was reminded of a Neil Gaiman quote from Coraline:

“What's your name,' Coraline asked the cat. 'Look, I'm Coraline. Okay?"
"Cats don't have names," it said.
"No?" said Coraline.
"No," said the cat. "Now you people have names. That's because you don't know who you are. We know who we are, so we don't need names.”

Not only is this a great example of how cheeky cats could be if they spoke English, but it's also how I think of my characters before I need to assign them a jumble of pronounceable letters that we call a name. Who they are is what's important, not what I'll call them.

I generally think of them as Girl Character, Boy Character, Quirky Friend, Silly Pedestrian... whatever the situation calls for. This is how my brain accesses that character file right up to the point in the manuscript where common sense demands they have a name, at which time I have them tell me.

I stop for a beat, and say, "What's your name?" And they tell me.

In the case of NOT A DROP TO DRINK I needed a name pretty quickly. I knew the first line of the book long before I started writing it -- "Girl Character was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond." But, that doesn't quite have what it takes, does it?

So I asked, and she told me her name was Lynn.

I was like - "WOW! That's a totally perfect name! Your mom would have picked a practical one-syllable name because she might have to yell for you in dangerous situations. She needed something quick, something that would carry in the wind. Yeah. That makes total sense. Your name is Lynn."

How serendipitous was it that much later - as in, months - I looked up the meaning of her name and it's derived from the Gaelic for pond or lake, and is usually used for someone who lives near water.

Um, yeah. She totally knew what she was doing.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Talk: DON'T TURN AROUND by Michelle Gagnon

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.

Noa is a sixteen-year-old who has been through the system, and learned how to beat it on her own. Shuttled from one foster home to the next after her parents were killed in a fiery car crash when she was very young, Noa has learned the hard way that she can't trust anybody. Nobody was going to save her, so she saved herself with her hacker skills, setting herself up with a fake ID and a fake father who does tech work online, while she cashes his paychecks. Noa thought she could take care of herself... until she woke up on an illegal operating table in a warehouse, with no memory of how she got there.

Peter's life has always been easy. Rich non-invasive parents, a massive house, and all the tech gadgets he could ever want. An easy life isn't necessarily rewarding though, so Peter set up a hacker group called The Alliance, whose goal is to defend the defenseless. Identifying pedophiles, finding animal cruelty videos and ruining the lives of those people through their computers makes Peter feel like he's actually doing something. But when he hacks into the wrong files on his dad's computer, the front door is kicked in before he can log out and he's warned in no uncertain terms what he can do with his curiosity.

But Peter has never been one for listening, and the files he saw only briefly made it clear that someone is searching for a cure for PEMA - the wasting disease that kills anyone who is infected, the disease that killed his older brother and turned his parents into the unaffectionate robots he inherited. When fate crosses his path with a street girl named Noa who has a scar she can't explain and no need for sleep or food, the two of them team up to find out who is pulling kids off the street... and what they're doing to them.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday Thoughts... And a Giveaway!

Thoughts lately...

1) I don't understand insurance. My premium goes up every year that I stay with the same insurance company, so that they can offer really low premiums to new people. To me this is the opposite of how it should be.

2) Corn on the cob is a summer staple, but it's not actually ready in my own garden 'til fall. What's up with that?

3) Also, corn on the cob actually tastes better and is healthier for you raw. So who the hell decided we needed to cook it?

Today's giveaway to celebrate fellow Dark Days authors is an ARC of DON'T LOOK NOW by Michelle Gagnon!

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wednesday WOLF... And a Giveaway!

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.

Yes, I'm still giving away books as I read them. My TBR pile still seems to be growing though. It's like mold. But before you scroll down to get all grabby-eyed on the giveaway, treat your brain with some word history.

I'm reading the books of my fellow Dark Days tour mates, and in honor of today's giveaway I thought I'd share with you the origin of the term hacker.

The word itself has been around for awhile, most always with a negative connotation. It seems that at one time a hacker was someone who made furniture using only an axe as their tool, with the end result being that their furniture... well, kind of sucked. Later on the word hack was used as a noun to describe someone doing routine drudge work, and I hate to tell you this but it was most commonly applied to writers. In turn, this may have influenced the usage of the word when it came to writing computer software, and it looks like that's where it made the jump from the page to the keyboard - as early as the 1960's.

With that in mind, enjoy Michelle Gagnon's DON'T TURN AROUND, It's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO for teens. Also with less tattoos.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An Interview with Shawn Proctor about Short Stories... Yes, Some of Us Like to Write Those

Today's guest is Shawn Proctor, a fellow author of short stories who is published in the latest anthology from Elephant's Bookshelf Press alongside myself. Shawn's writing resides at the intersection where the traditions of literature and pulp fiction meet. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College and is the book editor for Nerd Caliber. His work has been nominated for Best New American Voices and published in several literary journals and anthologies, including Apiary, Anthology Philly, Schuylkill Valley Journal and Summer's Edge. "The Whipsaw Napalm," a prequel short story to his superhero-novel-in-progress, is forthcoming from This Mutant Life.

Short stories aren't easy to write, and - if we're being honest - even harder to get published. So with a fellow short-scribbler to jaw with, I asked Shawn a few questions.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for SUMMER'S DOUBLE EDGE.

Do you find writing short stories to be harder or easier than writing novel length projects?

I started by writing short stories because I believed the power of storytelling went back to mythology and fantasy and horror stories, rooted in the oral tradition. They were the kind of tales that kept you awake. They were short and haunting.

Over time, I realized that novels have the same potential, but they immerse the reader more than a short story. The end goal is still to create a lasting impression. I have less experience writing novels, so crafting a longer yet focused story is an exciting challenge.

Do you tend to work in the same genre with shorts as you do with novels, or do you feel free to dabble a bit more?

In the last two years I have been writing more superhero fiction, including a novel and a prequel short story that's coming out next month from This Mutant Life. However, I tend to be much more experimental in shorter pieces and write fiction that straddles two or three genres, mostly because there's less plot to manage. I worry less about what to call the genre and more about telling a knock-you-on-your-butt story.

What has your experience of publishing with an Indie been like?

Generally, I have had positive experiences with Indies. As an author, you are your own best advocate though. Keep your head. Read the contract. Understand what could happen if things don't work out. In short: hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Matt Sinclair at Elephant's Bookshelf has been awesome. He communicates all of the details very well and is a great partner in all phases of the publishing process. Matt's gets it. He wants writers he works with to succeed. Better yet, he's a guy I could imagine talking with over a beer.

As a reader, have you ever discovered a new writer or genre that you like through an anthology?

Absolutely. I always read the "best of" anthologies that come out each year, including Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart. You get to see the new work from familiar names along with emerging authors.   

Indie anthologies are the center of publishing right now and for good reason. There are fewer journals and many of the ones left either running endless contests or charge for submitting, which I ethically oppose. Anthologies fill the gap where literary journals used to shine. They are where you're going to find the stars of tomorrow.

EBP's seasonal anthologies all fall under a theme. Did you write your short story "Just A Perfect Day" to fit the theme, or was this a story that already existed and it was a good fit for submitting?

This was a very odd horror story called "Leaving the American Sector" that I wrote a few years ago after a trip to Germany. I believed in the concept, but was never sure how to make the love-gone-awry beginning mesh with the Lovecraftian turn in the end. It turned out that by cutting the supernatural elements it became a surreal story about love tainted by delusion. 

"Just A Perfect Day" is about a relationship that is supposed to be working, but it's not. Do you think it's human nature to resent it when others fall short of our expectations?

We're fixed in our own point-of-view and that means even when we say in the moment, "It's not your fault, it's me," we mean, "It's totally your fault." It takes time to realize that maybe those failings weren't as monumental as they seemed. It takes perspective to consider that perhaps my expectations were unfair. 

What's next for you, as a writer?

I'm finishing up a revision of my novel Stand-In Heroes, which is a story in which two people receive half of a fallen superhero's powers. They have to learn to quickly learn to use their abilities because the man who killed the hero is coming for them next.

Tales of capes and costumes are obviously exciting, but the novel also examines the lives and relationships of two people who must find extraordinary courage to oppose a threat to the entire city.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Lazy Monday in MindyLand - So You Get Cat Videos

Summer is winding down, school is on the horizon, my book debut looms... and the yard needs mowed. Yet I'm not attending to any of these things. Instead I'm reading my fellow Dark Days author's books and being lazy. In fact, I'm so lazy that I didn't write a Monday blog post related to writing or the publishing industry, like I usually try to do.

Instead, I thought I'd provide you with some cat videos. Yes, THAT kind of lazy.

In the first video, I'm attempting to rescue a stray that I accepted earlier last week from a tree. It's like, the least dangerous cat-in-a-tree video you'll ever see. Also, I manage to fail at saving him, due to his complete lack of interest in being saved by me.

The second video is of the new man in my life, Samuel Wilderness. Samuel was discovered in the woods, completely ensnared in thorny underbrush. He's about three weeks old and has decided that I'm his mommy now. My rescue-mutt, Brutus, seems to think he's great fun.



Friday, August 9, 2013

Non-Fiction Friday: THE END OF SEX: HOW HOOKUP CULTURE IS LEAVING A GENERATION UNHAPPY, SEXUALLY UNFULFILLED, & CONFUSED ABOUT INTIMACY by Donna Frietas

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.

This is a Non-Fiction Friday post, a little foray into the world of reality -- somewhere I try to visit when I get the chance.

On many college campuses today hookup culture is the norm. Go to a party, find someone you'd be willing to be sexual with in on form or another, go home with them, do your thing... leave. No strings attached. No conversations. No phone calls. No expectations. You don't even need to know their name. In fact, sometimes it's easier if you don't.

It's supposed to sound like fun. Guilt free, moment-to-moment, uninhibited sexual expression. Except in Donna Frietas' interviews with college students across campuses she found that they weren't having fun. In fact, the vast majority of both sexes were finding themselves unhappy, unfulfilled and... bored in the bedroom. Worse than that, a lot of them were losing the ability to actually interact with the opposite sex in any social way other than anonymous sex. In fact, this type of lifestyle had become so prominent, and the students so confounded on how to counteract it, that one of the assignments in a Boston College class is to go on a date.

Interestingly, communication is the basic problem. The girls assume all the boys want is sex, and that they'll be branded as frigid if they don't comply. The boys fear they'll appear needy, or less masculine, if they actually want a relationship. To many, the only alternative to a hookup is to go to the opposite extreme and adopt ultra-conservatism, something that they might not find happiness in either.

Frietas' book makes suggestions for college administrators, professors, parents and students to help bridge the communication issue and find a middle ground between ultra-conservatism and hookup culture so that college students can have meaningful relationships instead of having to feel guilt about sexuality.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday Thoughts... And A Giveaway!

Thoughts lately -

1) If you follow me on Facebook, you know I have a new man in my life. He's three weeks old, furry, and was abandoned by his mother. The good ones all start out that way. This little kitten fits in my hand, yet when it came time to name him I used the same tactic I do when naming characters. I just asked, "What's your name?" And his name is Samuel Wilderness. I then thought, "Wow, that's a little ostentatious when you fit in my hand." And then he peed on me. So Samuel Wilderness it is.

2) I go to a really cool gym that has various people's workout playlists going at different times. Today it was an all Rolling Stones theme. Oddly, it totally works.

3) I think I've talked on here before about the fact that I have a 5 acre yard. I also mentioned earlier this year that I want sheep or goats so that I don't have to mow anymore. But livestock is a LOT of work. So my new plan is that I'm going to make the pond really REALLY big.

And -- the giveaway for today is.... THE BITTER KINGDOM by Rae Carson. Have fun :)

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dark Days Tour Dates! And.... A Giveaway!

Big news today!!

The Dark Days tour for Fall 2013 was announced today, along with scheduled stops! I'll be on tour with Rae Carson, Michelle Gagnon, Amelia Kahaney, Madeleine Roux and Sherry Thomas. The girls at Epic Reads put together a great Tea Time video to make the announcement.




And -- as I continue to rip through my TBR pile, I'm still looking for people who want my books. To celebrate my fellow Dark Days authors I'll be doing giveaways of their books over the next few weeks. Today -- CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An Interview with YARN Founder Kerri Majors, Author of THIS IS NOT A WRITING MANUAL: NOTES FOR THE YOUNG WRITER IN THE REAL WORLD

Today's guest is Kerri Majors, author of This is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World, out July 9 from Writer’s Digest. Publishers Weekly called TINAWM “Candid, honest advice and reflection from a writer who’s been there,” and Kirkus described TINAWM as “An upbeat and honest guide for teens already considering writing careers.”

Majors is also the founder and editor of YARN, an award-winning literary journal of YA writing. Her short fiction and essays have been featured in publications across the United States. She earned her MFA from Columbia and now lives in Massachusetts with her husband and daughter.

Mindy: One thing I really enjoyed about your book was the honesty. You talk about the goal of being published, but also about recognizing reality and the fact that it might not happen. I found that very refreshing from the "If You Believe In Yourself It Will Happen" mentality. Did you worry that being straight-up might cost you readers?

Kerri: Thanks, Mindy. I really did try to be totally candid in this book. Otherwise, what was the point? (That was what I thought, anyway.)

I hope that honesty won’t cost me readers! It’s funny—I never considered that till you asked, and I’m glad I didn’t because it might have made me think twice. I suppose I hope that younger readers who are turned off by the honesty might still keep the book, or remember it, and find/read it later, when they clue in to the fact that “Oh, yeah, this writing thing is hard…That Kerri Majors chick I used to think was full of crap had something to say about that…” ☺ And that’s fine with me.  

Mindy: You mention a lot about learning from other venues - TV shows, artwork, audio books - and of course, reading other novels. I agree with you 100% that reading can count as writing if you are paying attention to what is working (and not working) in any particular book. However, I know a lot of authors try not to read while they are working on a WIP for fear of accidentally adopting the voice of what they are reading. Do you read fiction while drafting?

Kerri: I am always reading something, and I probably read 80% fiction and 20% nonfiction these days, though that ratio is shifting to include more nonfiction. I’m not the kind of writer who is easily influenced by what I’m reading, but I have friends who are—and they just try to read writers who are totally different than they are while in the midst of a draft. Or, sometimes, they read for strategic influence. For instance, a novelist who’s really interested in language and beautiful prose might read poetry on purpose while drafting a novel or story.  

Mindy: Something else you are very straightforward about is having a day job. We all do! Very, very few people make enough off their writing to live on, something I'm not sure the general public understands. One of the things that resonated with me was the idea of making sure that any choice you made, career or hobby wise, wasn't going to "kill your creative writing." How can one tell before leaping in whether a certain job is going to be the knife to the brain of their writing?

Kerri: I think sometimes it’s just trial and error. I was convinced, after college, that working in museums would be the perfect kind of day job to complement my writing. I was wrong, but I never would have known that unless I tried.  

I hope that’s something the book liberates writers to do: experiment. If you are committed to your writing, and to taking the long view of the writing life, then you have time to figure out the right day job that will fit with your writing.

Also, the right day job will probably change over time, as you get older, maybe married, maybe have a kid or two, or you might want to travel more (or less!). There are lots of factors.

Mindy: Time management is huge. It's one of the first things you address in your book. Do you have any general advice for the on-the-go writers of the world to help get those ideas from mind to paper?

Kerri: Be consistent. Probably the worst buzz kill for a piece of writing is to neglect it too long. You derail everything if you work too sporadically or take breaks that are too long, because when you return to the project, you wind up spending more time reviewing than getting new words on the page.  

If you only have one day per week to work on your writing, do it—every week. Write it down in your planner and commit to it (if it’s early in the morning, don’t go out the night before!). Then, between writing sessions, try to think about the writing a bit (on the treadmill, driving to work, cycling to classes, etc). That will keep your head in the work, so that you can keep moving forward every time you sit down to it.

Mindy: Envy is something you talk about as well, quite openly. It's very easy for any writer - published or unpublished - to look at the bigger sales of someone else and wish it were theirs. We all deal with this emotion from time to time in real life, but what's the best way to handle this in the creative world?

Kerri: I’m not sure I have much to add to what I wrote in the chapter except that I think admitting you have envy is a good first step. Then cut yourself a break. As my friend said, it’s a natural human emotion. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling it. Instead, try to channel all that energy into something productive—more writing, or something that will lift your spirits in other ways (call an old friend, volunteer to babysit for someone you know needs help…that sort of thing). Being miserable is not going to help your writing, so you need to find a way to channel the envy or set it aside.

Mindy: Lastly, workshops and writer's groups are mentioned in your book as a great way to get feedback and grow as a writer while connected with people like you at the same time. You give some great advice for starting your own group in a face-to-face format, and also recommend some specific online sites. Can you tell us more about the importance of good writing buddies, and how to find them?

Kerri: I can’t say enough about the importance of community for the writer. In fact, the incredible support and warmth of the larger YA community is a big part of the reason I’ve stayed with it so long. Other YA writers are like, “You’re a writer? You published a book? Welcome to the party!” This just isn’t true for other categories of literature.

So community is essential for feeling part of something bigger than yourself—and since so much of writing is solitary, that’s really nice. And in the world of literature, no one cares if you’re a big dork, because, let’s face it, most of us were/are dorks, too.

The best way to find more writing buddies and writer’s groups, and to broaden your community in general is to put yourself out there. Go online—Twitter, Yeah Write, Figment, etc—and join the conversations. Ask your librarian and English teachers about writing groups. If you see an ad for a class or group of writers, sign yourself up! It’s mostly up to you. You need to put your hand up and say “Hi, I’m Kerri, and I’m a writer,” before anyone else will know or care. And then people will care, and it’ll be awesome. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Rely On Your Crit Partner... In All Things

So, after writing a post about how much we need to respect and rely on our crit partners, I then completely dismissed my own advice. I wrote a promotional letter to all the public libraries in Ohio, talking about how NOT A DROP TO DRINK is based in an Ohio environment. I had a 30 second time period where I thought, "I should send this off to RC and have her glance over it." Then I thought, "Nah, come on Mindy. You can write three paragraphs all by yourself - and you want to get this done!"

After thus reassuring myself I gleefully printed off 250 copies, signed them all, then stuffed (and sealed) about 175 of them with the letter, a shelf-talker and my business card. And on #176 I folded up that bottom section of the trifold, squaring up with the same line I'd done 175 times prior to that... except I actually looked at it this time.

And spotted a typo.

Yep. I printed, signed, stuffed and sealed a typo. Kind of a funny one too. I said that my book is about a time when water is scare. As in - BOO!!! No, it's not scarce. Don't be silly. It's SCARE!

The good news:
  • I didn't mail the typo letters
  • I didn't put address labels on them
  • I didn't put stamps on them
The bad news:
  • I wasted ink
  • I wasted paper
  • I wasted envelopes
  • I had to UNstuff all 175 of them to get my tent card and business cards back out
  • Most importantly I wasted TIME!
Time is something I don't have right now. School starts in less than two weeks. My garden is in shambles. I haven't done nearly enough research for my WIP. I need to prep my blog in advance. I have interviews to answer. And oh - I'm debuting soon. Time is the most important thing to me right now, and I just wasted it.

Oh if only I'd emailed RC and waited the three minutes for her to read, answer, and undoubtedly find my typo.

Big sigh.

But hey - in other news - it's not just text of me being an ass that you get today. If you want to see me on the catwalk (yes, on the catwalk) I'm participating in #NovelFashionWeek. I put together a little video about Dressing For Survival over on the Kindred Dreamheart blog.

Enjoy me being an ass - yet again.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Book Talk: THE GIRL OF FIRE & THORNS by Rae Carson

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Elisa has a Godstone in her navel, a gift from God that she can barely see over the folds of her stomach.

Bearers are only chosen once every century. Elisa was already born a princess, and the Godstone has marked her special twice over. If only she had the grace and bearing of her older sister Alodia, who is slim, beautiful, charming, and a warrior to boot. Instead Elisa is the smart fat sister, known for only breaking away from her studies of ancient texts to make a quick trip to the kitchen.

Nonetheless she is the Chosen one, and when the king of a neighboring realm needs a wife that will help secure his kingdom, Elisa leaves behind her lush home to be the queen of a desert land. Though Elisa's husband is attractive and kind, once she is securely settled into his court she discovers that she is to be his queen in secret only, for the time being.

Bored and lonely, Elisa delves into her religious studies, only to find that despite her drive for knowledge, it has been purposely hidden from her since she was born. She learns that the Godstone is a curse as well as a gift. Many Bearers have died without ever doing anything significant with their lives, apparently failing at whatever their appointed task had been. And most of the Bearers die very young.

There is a dark magic coursing under the skin of the earth that the Invierno people have found a way to channel using dead Godstones - stones pulled from the navels of their dying bearers. Even with a dead gem, blood sacrifices are required to unleash the power, and the Inviernos are ruthless in their sacrifices as they march upon Elisa's new kingdom.

Threats surround her on all sides, but when a group of kidnappers drag Elisa from her chambers into the heart of the desert, she finds her strength. As the daily struggle to wade through sand and heat begins to change her body, and the lingering eyes of one of her young kidnappers begins to change her heart, Elisa feels the Godstone awakening.

With trickles of power starting to course through her, Elisa believes she'll learn her task as a Bearer... the question is whether she will live long enough to accomplish it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday Thoughts... And A Giveaway!

Thoughts lately...

1) I was at the gym the other day and some boys in a class of small children were releasing barbaric YAWPs, running across the floormats and throwing themselves into the padded wall. I was thinking to myself that it looked terribly fun, and I wanted to join them. But when a middle-aged woman does that, it's not cute.

2) With the resurrected fandom of Sherlock Holmes screaming for more, I don't understand why there isn't a massive demand for a re-release of The Great Mouse Detective. I distinctly remember having a child-crush on Basil. But then again I was also in love with Justin from Rats of NIMH so I may have a rodent fetish.

3) I just signed my name to 325 letters that will be going out to Ohio public libraries. You know the point you hit when a repeated word has lost all meaning? When it's your own name it causes an existential crisis.

And today's Clean Off the Reading Table Giveaway is.... THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson. You'll have to excuse slight moisture curl on the first few pages - it was a pool read!

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