Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Tragic Mis-Reading of My Own Email

And... you're going to have to live without my blog this week due to a tragic misreading on my part.

I thought my editor's email said my edits were due in a month. It said "end of THIS month." So I have 'til Friday.

Which means I will be doing that instead of blogging for this week.

But don't worry. I'll be back.

Saturday, October 26, 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.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Ever wake up with a vague feeling of unease that you can’t quite put your finger on? In general starting with a hypothetical question that addresses the agent isn't a good idea. They see it used badly too often, so they may disconnect as soon as they see it. When your inner voice is screaming at you to be careful, for something is lurking in the shadows, stalking you. If it's Cendall, tell your loved ones goodbye, she’s about to check you off her list. However, I love what you have here at the end, so I'd recommend revising this so that it's not in question form at the beginning and isn't addressing the reader directly.

There are many times in a human’s life that they're given warnings that signal their soul is in a vulnerable state. It’s at these times that a battle is raging on between two forces that are invisible to the human eye. When the guardian angels Should this be possessive? side wins, you hear stories of humans escaping death. When Cendall’s side wins, there is no story to tell. Some call them the angels of death. She prefers reaper, but if you want to be technical you can throw the word grim in front of her name. Humans view them as the evil, but there are two sides to every story. This is well written and interesting, but you're not actually talking about your book here, you're simply saying that Cendall is a reaper. It can be established much more succinctly. I like your first line about instinct kicking for humans - maybe consider remodeling this to be your hook and melding it with what you have in the first para.

Cendall thought her biggest challenge was being the only female to ever finish training, and earn the title of grim reaper. See, we're in the last para of your query here, and just now learning what your book is about. Establish that Cendall is the "bad" side, then move on with your plot sooner. Though nothing could have prepared her for the unique challenge of collecting Lacie’s soul. Her soul is protected by multiple guardians, wanted by demons, and she can do the impossible: see Cendall. This is a very convoluted sentence. Tease out the details that you're trying to cram in here and give them more of the space that you used up above establishing Cendall's identity. It's a soul that screams, "extremely experienced reaper needed", but Cendall refuses to ask for help, afraid it would make her look unfit for the job. This ends up being the first mistake in a long list of reaper rules broken. That leaves Cendall blackmailed into working with her natural born enemy, to protect a soul that she’ll eventually need to check off her list. Interesting - I really like the idea that the reaper ends up protecting the target and it's not a romance angle. But I've lost your plot entirely here in the last para - how does she end up blackmailed? Why is she protecting Lacie and how does she actually feel about it? Are they friends? Or is she just protecting her because of the blackmail?

DEATH HAS A DAUGHTER is young adult paranormal novel complete at 61,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

I think you have an interesting twist on the guardian angel story given that it's about friendship and not romance. As I said before though, you need to give more space to explaining your plot and less about establishing Cendall's identity. There's enough angel literature out there that your reader will know what a reaper is without you having to explain it so much, which will free up space for the necessary plot explanations.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Talk: ANTIGODDESS by Kendare Blake

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.

Athena is growing feathers... inside her body. They poke through the roof of her mouth, slice their way through her eyeballs, and slowly fill her lungs. Her brother Hermes is wasting away, a fever eating him down to nothing. These supposedly immortal gods will die if they cannot stop their strange diseases and figure out who is causing them. They find Demeter, skin stretched thinly across the entire desert, reduced to a hole-in-the-ground mouth. She tells them to seek out Cassandra, Apollo's prophetess, who has been reborn and can help them prolong their lives.

Cassandra is an average high school student who can perform a parlor trick or two, but has no memory of her former life, no access to her powers, and no idea that her boyfriend is actually Apollo. He's returned to keep her safe and to make up for the past, and he'll protect her against anyone who wants to use her for their own ends - even his fellow gods and goddesses.

Hera has aligned herself against Athena, having discovered that by killing off the other Olympians she can leach their powers and prolong her own life. With their dwindling powers barely flickering through their failing bodies, Athena and Hermes have a small window of time to convince Apollo to let them kill Cassandra so that she can be reborn in her true form, and save them all.

Don't forget I've got a giveaway going on right now of my ARC of ANTIGODDESS!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) What happens if a mosquito bites a vampire?

2) This is Red Ribbon Week and I'm wearing one, because I don't do drugs. However, I did just slam two cups of coffee, which makes me wonder if I'm being hypocritical.

3) What happens if a vampire bites a mosquito?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Wednesday WOLF & 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.

I'm a pretty decent poker player, and the history of card suits is rather fascinating. If you've ever heard the phrase "in spades" - meaning that someone has something in abundance, or an extravagance - comes from the game of Bridge, where Spades is the highest suit.

But why is it called a spade in the first place? It's got nothing to do with shovels, just FYI. Decks of playing cards originated in Asia, arriving in Italy, Spain and Germany before making their way to England. Early versions of playing cards had different suits in different countries. In Italy the suits were Cups, Swords, Coins and Batons, which became Anglicized to our more familiar Hearts, Spades, Diamonds and Clubs.

The Italian word for is spada, which the French and English converted to Spades.

I continue to make headway on the TBR pile, and you reap the rewards. I'm giving away my ARC of ANTIGODDESS by agency mate Kendare Blake. Enter to win below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alison DeCamp Takes the SAT Along With (SOMEWHAT MANLY) STAN

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is MG author Alison DeCamp, whose debut, THE STUPENDOUS SCRAPBOOK OF (SOMEWHAT MANLY) STAN will be available in 2015. I've only read the first few pages, but I love it like only pre-teen girls are allowed to love things. Alison has a grown up bio, but instead of using it I'm going to use her requests for what she'd like her bio to sound like: Alison Decamp would like to sound reasonably intelligent and funny and like someone who has long legs and hair that doesn't frizz. Also, she works out a lot.

Are you a Planner or Pantster? 

I wish I had invented the term “Plantser,” because it’s so great! And pretty much what I do. I can outline, but it changes at least 5 times from start to finish because ideas come up as I write that I never could have anticipated.

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

I thought I had finished LumberStan (or whatever it ends up being called) at least three times before I actually even figured out (with lots of help from my agent) what the actual climax is AND the main character’s true dilemma. That being said, from start to finish, probably 10 months. I thought I was done in December after starting the book in September. Then I added 10,000 more words. And then I thought I was done. And then I signed with Sarah and added 15,000 more words, subtracted 5,000 and somehow ended up with around 43,000 words. And I’m still not done. (Also, why are my answers always so long?)

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

Just like I can read 2 books, 3 magazines and anything else in print (including toilet paper packaging and cereal boxes) all at the same time, I can work on different projects at the same time. The voice sometimes carries over, however, from one work to another, so I have to be careful about that. Or else my 8 y.o. girl MC sounds suspiciously like my 11 y.o. boy MC.

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

I really felt like I had nothing to lose. I wasn’t sure I could write an entire book, however.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented? 

Technically, none, although I have unearthed old SASEs from the time when you would send queries directly to publishers. They were picture book ideas. I had no idea what I was doing and they were really bad.

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

I quit every manuscript I ever write probably 15 times throughout the process. And then I pick it up again. But since this is the first “real” book I’ve ever written (not counting “Old King Harriss and the Three Trolls”—the evil character’s name was Bloody Eye, which was in NO WAY referencing your little pencil accident—which I wrote when I was 10), the short answer is “no.” But I have had ideas I’ve quit on.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency is my most excellent agent. She’s also the agent of one of my closest friends and critique partners, Kate Bassett, so prior to signing with her I got to see how she works with her clients and was so impressed with her editorial process and insight. I must have told Kate how lucky she was to have Sarah as her agent at least once a week. (She agrees, by the way). I actually waited to query her until I was 85% sure I was going to get an offer of representation because I really didn’t want her to say no. Then I sent her the query and two days later an email letting her know I had an offer of representation. She loved the voice of my MC and I signed with her the following week.

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

I started querying in January 2013 and signed with Sarah in March. It seemed A LOT longer than that during the process, however. Days in the query trenches are measured in dog years, right? So I think that’s equivalent to 4 years. That’s more what it felt like. And right before my first offer of representation I had gotten a rejection that left me literally with my head in my hands saying, “What am I doing? Why am I putting myself through this?”

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

I had four offers of representation, BUT I had at least 40 rejections and even the week that I signed with Sarah I got an email from an agent who had my full; all it said was that my writing wasn’t strong enough. It’s so very subjective. I know everyone says that, but that’s because it’s true. I think during the process you need to be humble enough to listen to people’s critiques (especially if you get helpful feedback from an agent—that’s a huge bonus, so don’t downplay it. I never got a rejection that said, “Hey, this isn’t quite working for me, but send me something else!” So if you get encouragement, it’s because you’re doing something right). And if something isn’t clicking with agents, rework your query, get help from others, enter contests, reach out to the community because YA/MG writers are amazingly supportive.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I have had blogs in the past, but mainly when I was making glass beads and jewelry, so the audience is not quite the same. As it gets closer to the time when my book will come out, I’ll get a blog up and running. I like blogging. For me it’s an easy way to write without the major commitment of an entire book. I’m also on twitter as @aliyooper (a “Yooper,” by the way, is someone born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan—the U.P.), and I check twitter a lot, but don’t always post things. I’m afraid of not being funny.

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

I think having a platform at any time is valuable. I simply am not very good at promoting myself, so I’ve been waiting until I actually have something to promote.

Do you think social media helps build your readership? 

I think social media can help build readership. I know I have bought books simply because of Twitter buzz. But I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary.

Monday, October 21, 2013

5 Words I Use To Look Smart, Then Mispronounce and Instead Look Stupid

It happens to the best of us. We like the big words, and we throw them out there just to seem all awesome and then we're corrected and instead look like big fat vocabulary-posers. Here's a quick list with pronunciation guide so that you don't look like an ass.

1) Behemoth - It's not just big, it's really, really big. So it's be-HEE-mith

2) Anathema - As in, I really, really hate you. Big time. a-NATH-eh-ma (NATH like "math")

3) Simpatico - As in, I really, really like you. We think the same. sim-PAT-eh-ko

4) Allegory - As in, that's really, really not what the story is about. You'd think in my college education as a religion major I'd be able to use this one about symbolism in literature correctly. Just so you know it's AL-a-gory

5) Tepid - It's not hot, it's not cold. It's really room temperature. Also doesn't sound anything like a Native American lodging. T-EH-pid

Saturday, October 19, 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.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Seventeen-year-old Cade Guthrie might as well be on the Endangered Species list. Decent hook, I don't think you need to capitalize "endangered species" though. The people of WEST clarifying what WEST is would be good here  - I assume from the CAPS that it's an acronym for something sinister, but whenever the phrase "the people of" is used I auto-assume that we're talking about a physical place, possibly a town. So there is some confusion there relentlessly pursue him for what he is: a being with the uncanny ability to harness the forces of nature, otherwise known as a Harbinger. OK cool, but why pursue him? To harness his power? To destroy him because they hate his kind? Hiding in plain sight in the middle of Tornado Alley, things are quiet until Cade runs into Lana Paros, a girl with an uncanny ability of her own, and, if WEST gets to her first, a girl who just might hold the power to destroy him and the rest of his kind forever. Interesting, but I think I need to know more about her power, whether it's a spoiler or not. Right now you're showing us a Chosen One story with elementals as powers, which has been done many times. Why is yours different?

Maelstrom is an 80,000 word YA Adventure fiction novel that sparks as the first in a trilogy with the last two sequels currently underway. This novel is told from two perspectives, male and female, which may appeal to both male and female audiences. Love the title, and good to mention that it is an alternating POV, but you don't need to add that it will have gender-netural appeal - that's an assumed with the statement. I also would try very hard to make this a stand-alone, which may go against your creative urges, but general a first time writer querying a trilogy is a hard sell anyway, and there has been reader-backlash against the glut of trilogies in the marketplace.

I have attended several writing workshops and English classes, and I am a writer for a review blog entitled Teen Librarian’s Toolbox that is dedicated to the Young Adult and Middle Grade reading community, and have had several reviews published. Nice - it's definitely good to show that you are serious about writing, and are well versed in the market. Well done on the bio!

Overall this is a decent query, but you need to give more time to your explanation of the story. It's *there* but it's also very bare-bones. Your bio and specs are nice and tight, so you've left yourself plenty of room to expand, and you should use that to differentiate your title from the fantasies that already exist.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Talk: THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN by Holly Black

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 world is as you would expect it, high schools, coffee shops, cars and cellphones. But there's also Coldtowns, places walled off from the rest of society where full-blown vampires, and those who have gone cold - become infected with the vampirism virus but have yet to taste human blood and so have not turned - are sent to live in order to protect the living.

Tana and her friends know the risks of opening a window after dark, but a house packed with hot bodies during a weekend party overcomes caution, and Tana wakes in a locked bathroom to find that all of her friends have been slaughtered overnight. The only survivor is her obnoxious almost-ex boyfriend Aiden, who has been tied to a bed to serve as a snack later. In the same room is Gavriel, a vampire, inexplicably also chained up and asking to be released before he is slaughtered by the others.

Tana frees them both only to discover that Aiden has gone cold, and an old wound of her own was opened when she helped the boys escape. The trio heads for the nearest Coldtown, a place Aiden will be safe - even if he is lost to the rest of the world forever. Once you enter Coldtown, you don't leave.

On their way they run into a brother and sister pair of bloggers who are voluntarily entering Coldtown, hoping to be turned themselves and to blog about the experience. Tana's wound is bothering her, Aiden's urges are getting harder to control, as are the feelings Tana has for Gavriel. The group arrives at Coldtown to find a decadent lifestyle, with costumed vampires and humans walking around with shunts at parties, hoping to feed vampires and maybe earn the goodwill to be turned into one themselves.

Gavriel's history is catching up with them in the form of a powerful vampire who wants him dead for deeds committed thousands of years ago. Tana's past - the story of her old wound - comes to the surface while they wander the streets of Coldtown, a place where the dead mingle with the living and everything is broadcast on a live stream to the rest of the world.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) There aren't many gender neutral insults, yet instead of being irritated by this I have found humor in it. For example, calling someone a douchebag is like saying, "You are a really useful hygienic tool." Calling someone a dickhead is like saying, "I don't need you. People have been cutting those off for centuries."

2) Now that DRINK is out in the world people are reading it (hooray) then meeting me in person and are vaguely confused by the fact that I'm nice and funny. I told a girl last weekend that I'm actually an out of work stand-up comedian that Mindy McGinnis hired to pose as her for public events because she has serious anti-social issues. She totally believed me and then I had to convince her I was a liar.

3) After flying six flights in four days on the Dark Days tour (wouldn't have missed it though) I came home with a fairly decent case of vertigo that had me on my ass while picking apples - literally, that's not some kind of country colloquialism. So I did some research and it turns out that the kind of symptoms I have means that there are loose crystals floating around in my head. Yes, really.

And to this I say, "Huzzah, reality! Suddenly you are interesting!"

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Successful Author Talk with Lisa Cresswell

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Lisa Cresswell, author of HUSH PUPPY. A native North Carolinian unexpectedly transplanted to Idaho as a teenager, Lisa learned to love the desert and the wide open skies out West. This is where her interest in cultures, both ancient and living, really took root, and she became a Great Basin archaeologist. However, the itch to write never did leave for long. Her first books became the middle grade fantasy trilogy, The Storyteller Series. Her first traditionally published work, Hush Puppy, is now available from Featherweight Press.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Total planner – outline evangelist. I cannot seem to finish anything without an outline of where I’m going.  An outline is like Peter Pan’s magic feather to me. I have to have one to fly.

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

It takes me a long, long time because of lots of reasons, but I’m getting better. To give you an idea how long Hush Puppy took, I wrote the initial outline and first few chapters just before my son was born. He’s seven now.

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

I used to work on one at a time, but the more ideas I get, the more I find that I must multi-task to some degree. Even then, some projects get higher priority than others based on my goals at the time. I might outline a book when I get a new idea and set it aside for a while until I have time to start writing it.

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

Not fears really. I’ve certainly had frustrations when my writing wasn’t as eloquent or polished as I wanted it to be, but I’ve never been fearful. My biggest fear is no one will read what I write!

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

I don’t have an agent actually. I’ve never had any luck with agents, so I started approaching small presses that were willing to give me a chance. And I don’t have any trunked books really. If they are, it’s because I never finished them.

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

I guess I have quit on one manuscript, but it was my first attempt. I didn’t have a good outline and I felt overwhelmed. I think I could go back and write it now if I wanted to. That’s the thing about me. I don’t throw anything out, so I can always go back to it.

How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?

Shocked.  My publisher told me the release date was August 30, but I discovered the e-book for sale on line on August 19.  I’m still not sure what happened. Maybe the retailers got it posted sooner than planned? After waiting so long for publication and expecting to wait even longer, I was delightfully surprised to find out I didn’t have to wait anymore.

How much input do you have on cover art?

A lot actually. Featherweight Press sent me some draft covers, which inspired me to respond with some other ideas I had. Lucky for me, they took my suggestion and made it the cover.

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

I was surprised to find out how many folks expect free books from you!  I’ve approached several local bookstores about hosting signings and carrying my book locally, and they all expect a complimentary copy for their review first.  If you want library journals to read and review your book, you have to send them free copies. And almost all of these folks want print copies. They haven’t moved into the digital age, for whatever reason, so there’s a fair amount of expense for the author involved.

How much of your own marketing do you?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? 

Featherweight Press is very small and I am expected to do all the marketing for my book. Basically, they get it to the retailers and I do the marketing. Knowing that up front, I started researching book marketing early.  I had a blog that I didn’t write much for and I knew I needed to “get with the program”, so I invested in a professional website and blog. It was a significant expense, but I knew I didn’t have the skills to make the site look the way I wanted by myself. After that was in place, I got in the habit of blogging more often and set up a blog tour for the book. I love twitter, so I do plenty of promotion there and on Facebook. I’m even on Goodreads and Pinterest.

When do you build your platform? 

I would start now, wherever you are in your career, with a blog at the very least. There are so many social media outlets now it’s easy to become overwhelmed. You need time to figure out which ones you enjoy using the most, that fit your writing style.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

It’s a bit too soon to tell. My audience is teens and I can pretty much guarantee you the majority of my friends and followers on social media are adult writers.  Some of them may read young adult fiction, but most are out there to promote their own books, just like I am. I look at social media as a way for my readers to find me online if they want and I hope that they will. I’m working now on ways to get my book into school libraries where I hope to reach more teen readers than I currently reach on social media.

Saturday, October 12, 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.

If you're looking for query advice, but are slightly intimidated by my claws, blade, or just my rolling googly-eyes, check out the query critique boards over at AgentQueryConnect. This is where I got my start, with advice from people smarter than me. Don't be afraid to ask for help with the most critical first step of your writing journey - the query. My comments appear in green.

Thirteen-year-old Nova Labelle knows eighth grade is going to be perfect. She will get straight A’s. She will start dating her prince charming. And she will continue very slight awkwardness in phrasing here - not bad at all, but "continue to be" makes this sentence longer than the ones before it, and messes up the rhythm of what you're trying to accomplish here to be school royalty. There’s just one humongous I'd consider striking "humongous" for the same reason, rhythm problem: that new girl, Stacy Winter.

Nova has always been the most popular girl in school. She’s got the looks, the brains, and the popular girl personality down to perfection. I think you established all of these things in your hook (and did it well). You're just repeating yourself here. Use this para to focus on the List She’s even remained at the top of the List, a piece of paper that keeps track of the top seven popular girls in school. Nova consults the List every day to make sure her rank stays where it belongs. But Stacy seems to have a knack of mercilessly destroying every single one of Nova’s eighth grade plans.

Stacy is threatening to steal all that Nova has, from her top spot on the sacred List to her future husband. She claims she has no reason to become the next Queen of Cadbury Middle School, but Nova knows better. Everyone wants to be number one; everyone wants to be her. So Nova’s got to guard everything she’s ever come to care about.

But the thing is, Nova’s life screw-up-er might not be Stacy after all, but something that lies in her own reflection.

WHO’S THE MOST POPULAR OF THEM ALL?, complete at 34,000 words, is an upper MG contemporary novel. I would describe it as a Mean Girls style retelling of Snow White in the POV of the Evil Queen.

Overall this is fantastic. You've got a great hook, establish a wonderful MG voice right off the bat, and you even have a catchy title. I'd clear up a few of the awkward parts and the slight repetition and then get querying!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Book Talk: THE BROKENHEARTED by Amelia Kahaney

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.

Welcome to Bedlam, the city where the line between the Haves and Have-Nots is drawn by a river. Anthem Fleet is at the top of the Haves, literally. Her father's penthouse in the highest building allows her to see the brutal differences between the two sides, especially after nightfall when the other side's flickering electricity leaves dark patches that hide darker deeds.

Her own world is bright and full of promise. A gifted ballerina with the possibility of a professional career in her future, Anthem has dedicated her life to dance. Until she falls for a bad boy from the wrong side of town. A kidnapping gone wrong leaves Anthem's body floating in the polluted river, where toxic water fills her lungs.

Illegal human experimentation is one of the practices in the shadows of New Bedlam, so when Anthem's body is pulled from the river she wakes up in an underground lab with a mechanical heart that has biological aspects of a hummingbird. When she heals Anthem is fast, strong, and her new metabolism won't let her stay still.

Her new abilities leave options open when her father refuses to cough up the money to save her abducted boyfriend from the wrong side of the river. Infiltrating the dark side of the city, Anthem works her way through organized crime regimes to try to save her boyfriend, accidentally resurrecting The Hope - a legendary rights activist who led a failed revolution against the one-percent a decade earlier.

As her life of plenty fades into the past and Anthem discovers her mechanical heart touched by the hopelessness of the poor, the two sides of her life will come into bitter opposition with one another.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately...

1) I've been in Cincinnati three times this week. Every time I think, "Not the Queen City... the Khaleesi City."

2) I was wearing slingback heels, carrying 50 pounds of reference books and trying to point out a book on the bottom shelf for a patron with my toe earlier this week when I fell over. Completely over. Ass in the air, skirt around my face over. These were 5th grade girls so there was a lot of sweet concern, followed by giggling. And I'm thinking, "They just saw my underwear, and now we're all standing here trying to continue a conversation about books while everyone is thinking, "OMG I JUST SAW HER UNDERWEAR." Honestly, I just wanted to say, "Hey let's talk about the fact that you just saw my underwear and get it out of the way."

3) It's Spirit Week at my school and today's theme is Hollywood. Everyone is glammed up. I'm wearing jeans and a hoodie and telling everyone I'm in the remake of The Outsiders.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Successful Author Talk with Elisa Nader, Author of ESCAPE FROM EDEN

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Elisa Nader, author of ESCAPE FROM EDEN, published by Merit Press on August 18th, 2013.


Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Total Pantster. I do know the beginning and the end (mostly) and I sometimes outline a scene before I write it, but I like to see where the writing takes the story. I’ve tried outlining before, and find that the writing is less fun for me, and I worry I may have lost a discovery I would have made if I wasn’t following the outline. 

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

My first novel took ten years. Yep. Ten. The second took three, and the third, the one that actually got published, took a year. I hope the pattern of it taking less and less time continues.  

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

My puny brain can only work on one writing project at a time. 

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

Not at first, no. Mainly because I was so naive about writing. I just sat down and wrote not knowing anything about craft or plotting, or anything at all really. Once I started learning those things by reading books on writing, then the fear came. All I could think was “I’m doing this wrong!” Well, I had to stop that crazy train before it left the station because I would have never gotten anything written if I thought I had to follow rules to write. 

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

One. I snagged my agent with my second manuscript, and we sold my third manuscript. 

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

Oh, girl. I have thrown out so much work! It’s depressing and horrible and evil but it has to be done. There were times where the story wasn’t working, or I found myself not excited about writing it — a sure sign no one is going to be excited about reading it . I just trashed a project a couple of months ago because my agent and I weren’t feeling it. It didn’t have that spark. They say kill your darlings but sometimes you have to murder them in the bloodiest way possible. 

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

I took a class on writing through Mediabistro. The instructor was an editor at Harper Collins and really liked my manuscript. Her friend was an agent and she told him about my ms. That agent ended up being Michael Stearns. He happened to be at SCBWI NYC conference the year I was attending so I introduced myself and he told me to send it to him. Michael liked the manuscript, but was too busy to take on new clients (he’d just started Upstart Crow Literary right around that time). So he passed it on to his partner at Upstart Crow, Danielle Chiotti and she loved it. 

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

I actually did query while I was waiting for Danielle to decide if she wanted to rep me. I queried a lot. And I got a lot of interest, but once they read the manuscript, they eventually said no. It sucked because I was sure if they said no, Danielle would, too. 

I didn’t figure out why I kept getting rejections until I had my first talk with Danielle. The manuscript wasn’t ready! It was big and bloated and over-written. But Danielle was an editor before she became an agent and she saw its potential. She worked with me to really get it into shape before submission. 

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

Make sure your manuscript is ready. Like, really make sure. Have people read it, give feedback - workshop it if you can! 

And once you send it out to agents, do what I did. Drink. 

It’s hell. And it’s hell again once you have an agent and submit to editors. But we all get through it, and you can, too. You are not alone! 

How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?

My first book just went on sale and it was weird and exciting and scary.

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

That they expect you to write another book! I mean, come on! 

Seriously, though, the hardest part for me has been my expectations vs reality. I thought my release day would come and it would be this huge, exciting thing. But it was just another day, probably because my book was released early by the publisher for whatever reason. 

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I’ve been using Twitter and Facebook since 2006, and Tumblr I think right after it launched. I work in the internet industry, and at that time specifically social media so I had to use those social networks for my job! 

My website is essentially my Tumblr. And I’m on Goodreads because how can you not be? Goodreads is a great place for readers (although kinda scary for authors when a not-so-great review is posted).  

I do a lot of my own marketing because I have to. I mean, you really can’t sit back and expect the publisher to do everything for you! 

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

I did build my network before I had an agent. I joined SCBWI, and took classes and made connections that way. Then started following other writers and authors on Twitter, retweeing their stuff, friending them on Facebook, etc. I did this a few years before having an agent.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Yes. Especially if you don’t have a big marketing and publicity team helping promote your book. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

This Is What Librarians Do

I've talked before about being a librarian, and how misunderstood the job is. No, we don't sit around and read all day. And I want to say right now that I've never shushed anyone. Being a librarian is a pretty unique job because it's like retail, stocking shelves and being a data analyst all at the same time.

Oh, and some of us are pretty muscular too, because being a librarian sometimes requires heavy lifting.

What? Yeah, it's true.

This past spring and summer I undertook one of the hardest tasks of my life - and yes, I count being published in that estimation. I reconfigured a K-4 library all by myself. It took over 200 hours, some of them unpaid. And I'm not posting about this so you'll tell me how awesome I am - I guarantee you there are many librarians that have done - and would do - exactly this many times over.

Without going into the sad, sad business of public school funding too far, I'll simply say that because of money issues our district lost the full time library position in the elementary building two years ago. The lady whose job this had formerly been was still in the library when classes were in there, but that was the only time. The solution to actually maintaining the library - shelving in particular - was to have high school students do it.

I know anyone reading this who is a librarian is probably cringing right now.

Cringe harder.

At the end of one year of having teenagers manage the shelving the elementary library looked like this.









I'm guessing I don't need to tell you that Dewey had pretty much gone out the window.

The district librarian and I are located in a different building, so when I went over to this library to do my end of the year report, I ended up saying some very bad words. I said them alone, because that's the proper thing to do, but I said them loudly. 

And then I proceeded to fix it.

First - discarding. This library hadn't been properly weeded in years. I ended up getting rid of about 3000 books that were beyond salvaging. Torn books, books whose spines were completely broken, and some books that were actually growing mold. Don't worry - these weren't dumpster fodder. These 3000 books went home with the children who picked them off the free book table. Even if they only had one more read left in them, they got the chance to prove it.

Second - re-cataloging. Hundreds of books were quite simply, nowhere near the places they needed to be. For example Attack of the Alien Fire Ants was in non-fiction. No idea what happened there.

Third - genre labeling. As many picture books as possible were put into categories - dinosaurs, dogs, holidays, etc - so that the little kids could actually find books that interested them, rather than rummaging through a colossal mess and hoping they hit something good in their allotted library time.

Fourth - putting all that crap back. Yep. This place was such a wreck that the best solution was to empty every single shelf and start from scratch. Obviously this was done one section at a time, but I made a HUGE mess before things got better. 

And lastly - I showed administration these pictures and explained that a library needs to be maintained, not just manned. And they listened. Even though we don't have a librarian in that building full time, we do have a staff member assigned there specifically for shelving and item maintenance, and teachers are handling the checkout process for their own classes -- which is a lot easier now that they can find books on their own. Ahem.

After Mindy-Monster pictures:










A lot of people have no idea the amount of work that librarians put in on a daily basis just because we want to make sure that people (especially kids) have the books that they want in their hands when they walk out the door.

During the summer when I was working the a/c in this building was turned off. So I'd spend hours covered in sweat and filth, come home sore from moving so many pounds of books around, and still have someone say to me at a party, "Shhhh!!!" when I told them I was a librarian.

And I'm like, "You know what? I think I'm going to punch you in the face."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An SAT With Romily Bernard, Author of FIND ME

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Romily Bernard, debut author of FIND ME and fellow Harper sister. Romily graduated from Georgia State University with a literature degree. Since then, she's worked as a riding instructor, cell-phone salesperson, personal assistant, horse groomer and exercise rider, accounting assistant, and, during a very dark time, customer service representative. . . . She's also, of course, now a YA novelist.

So don't let anyone tell you a BA degree will keep you unemployed.

FIND ME placed first in the 2011 YA Unpublished Maggie Awards (given by Georgia Romance Writers) and won the Golden Heart Award for YA Romance from the Romance Writers of America in 2012.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Ugh. A Pantster. I wish I weren’t. I have a lot of writer friends who talk about flow charts and outlining and character mapping and I…don’t do any of that. I wrote FIND ME, my YA thriller, with one question in my mind the whole way: “How can I ruin this?”
Oh, does Wick think she’s safe? How can I ruin it?
Oh, is the home life thing working out? How can I ruin that?
And then I would do it and we won’t reflect on what this says about me as a person.

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

I wrote FIND ME in about nine months then, after I was agented, we spent another four months re-writing it twice before Sarah pitched it at the Bologna Book Fair. I wish I had something witty to say about the process, but mine wasn’t exactly magical. It was work—a lot of nights, weekends, and staff meetings where I was supposed to be taking notes on new projects, but was actually coming up with places to hide bodies.

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

Multi-tasker…sort of. FIND ME’s sequel, REMEMBER ME, is with my editors right now so I’m working on a spin-off standalone. Once RM comes back, I’ll devote all my time to the rewrites, but having a project to work on during the downtime keeps me from pacing and petting the walls.

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

Not really. I wrote my first book when I was seven and had been messing around with writing ever since—now getting the guts to actually acknowledge I wanted writing to be my career…yeah, that took work.

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

I wrote four novels before signing with Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary. I couldn’t find where my writing voice fit until I tried my hand at YA and something just clicked. Suddenly, my heroines weren’t spiteful. They were spunky. And I knew I had finally found my people.

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

I’m too pigheaded to quit while writing something. I will finish a ms if it kills me and, often, it feels like it will. As far as quitting during querying, it’s usually somewhere around the 50-60 agent rejection mark. By that time, I generally had another project ready to go out so I would swap my queries around and start again.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?  

Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary—also known in my Tweets as Wonder Agent. She found me in her slush pile! Ahem. I’m rather proud of that.

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

How about how many rejections I have? Because, honestly, I think I’m still waiting on responses for my women’s fiction. I wrote four novels before FIND ME and I scored 246 rejection letters from agents and editors. I could wallpaper my bathroom with them—probably yours too.

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

It’s a numbers game. I would blitz 10-20 agents at a time. If one rejection comes in, another query has to go out. Every time. No matter if you’re sobbing, shaking, or convinced you have lost your mind for wanting to do this. I kept track of mine with an Excel spreadsheet. It’s available for download on my website if anyone wants it.

How much input do you have on cover art?

Absolutely none and I’m fine with that. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, but my cover artist, Joel Tippie, is gifted beyond belief.

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

For an industry that trades in dreams, publishing is all about product. That sounds heartless, but it’s not. Sometimes, we have to make hard decisions about what’s right for the book, but also what’s right for the market. Scary? Yes. But you have to trust the people you surround yourself with. I researched publishers the same way I researched agents so, when I accepted Harper-Collins’ offer, I knew what caliber of professional I was getting. The trick? I have to get out of the way and let them do their job.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I enjoy blogging and I love Twitter. Would really like to start vlogging too. Oh! I recently discovered Pinterest, which has been super fun for putting up character pics and random techie articles.

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

I didn’t start my online presence until after I sold. I had a website and blogged a bit, but nothing big. I concentrated almost entirely on my manuscripts. Not sure if this is the best way to do it, but it worked for me. Of course, I’m also one of the few authors who didn’t really consider people were going to read my work until after I sold. Yeah, I know. I missed the Clue Bus entirely. When readers tell me, “Oh, I read FIND ME!” I’m always like, “For reals?” And then I want to hug them because I am so flipping grateful.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

It seems like it’s working for me. I interact with a number of book bloggers on Twitter and they’re an amazing bunch. They love to talk about books and I love to talk about books so we can natter on for hours about Rainbow Rowell, Jay Asher, John Green, Courtney Summers, Megan Shepherd…you get the point.

Dark Days Recap!

I had an amazing time on my debut week as I toured the Southwest with Michelle Gagnon (DON'T LOOK NOW), Rae Carson (THE BITTER KINGDOM), Sherry Thomas (THE BURNING SKY) and Madeleine Roux (ASYLUM). Honestly if more fun would have been had, bail money would've been involved.

Because I live in the middle of nowhere, I had to start my travels by traveling. On the way to the airport hotel for a night of sleeping before flying, I stopped by the local Barnes & Noble to see my book "in the wild," as we say. One of my oldest friends met me there, and we showed off our mutual babies - (hers real, mine a book baby).

I think me stuffing a book up my shirt is what drew the attention of the sales clerk, but when I established that I'm allowed to rub NOT A DROP TO DRINK on my navel because I'm it's book mommy she was cool with it. And then I signed stock, which was pretty darn fun.

An obscenely early hour found me on the way to the airport to fly to our first stop - Las Vegas! I sat next to a very nice lady on the plane who was shocked that I'd been writing for ten years, since I "look like I'm twelve." I wasn't sure on the compliment rank on that one, but I still appreciated the sentiment.

Rae Carson and I arrived in Las Vegas with head colds from hell, but it didn't seem to bother the Vegas folk, mostly because none of them were awake at that hour. We ended up in fancy-pants hotel and I think the front desk must have noticed our virus level because they put is in a tower that was... pretty empty. Nothing as surreal as walking through a vacant 5 star hotel.

I told Rae they obviously built it just for us.

She agreed.

Maddie, Sherry and Michelle all arrived as Vegas started to awaken and we bustled off to our first signing at a Barnes & Noble. The bookstore owner had made mini-chocolates with the Dark Days logo and our covers, so Maddie and I decided that obviously those should not be left to their own devices post-signing, and filled our purses.

I'm really not sure why I thought having 30 mini-chocolates in my purse was a good idea. I bet the people manning the X-ray machines at the various airports we trundled through were curious as well.

We spent the night in Vegas and hopped over to Denver, where we signed at The Tattered Cover - a fantastic indie that I would like to go live in. Some of my in real life friends popped up there, including 2014 debut author Tara Dairman, and a couple of gals that I wish I lived nearer to!

You can spot round silver signed-by-the-author labels in this photo from The Tattered Cover. Sherry Thomas made personalized sheets of those for every one of the Dark Days girls. Mine has a vicious looking drop of water on it - go figure.


The next day was rather insane - we woke up in Denver and flew to Houston where we had hotel rooms reserved simply for us to pee in, as we would be flying back OUT to Austin after our book signing at Blue Willow Books. I've never peed in a nicer setting.

Before leaving Denver we decided we should re-enact the opening of Reservoir Dogs, as one does.

The folks at Blue Willow were awesome and we all signed the wall!




We shot out of Blue Willow and headed straight for the airport to catch a midnight flight to Austin to get ready for Austin Teen Book Festival! In our first appearance we went head to head with the Fierce Reads girls (Marissa Meyer, Leila Sales, Alexandra Coutts and SA Bodeen), much to the enjoyment of the crowd. I think the kids got a kick out of it, and I have to add that Rae and I kickass at her making me guess what's behind me on a screen.

Also usually they only let professionals into the green room, but exceptions were allowed in our case.


Shortly thereafter we had our second panel, (moderated by REBOOT author Amy Tintera), where we answered questions about writing and our books. Also, I sang a Weird Al song, Maddie talked about sacrificing lambs, Sherry shared Costco shopping secrets, Rae mentioned magical naval bling and Michelle casually clued us in to the fact that she used to dance in a Russian club.

Yes, we're that kind of fun.

Then we signed and great fun was had by all. In fact, a bit too much fun as the festival ran about forty minutes over allotted time and we were all kicked out by security. Except for Sherry Thomas who literally hid behind her stack of books and kept signing.


It was an amazing time. I had a TON of fun. In case you can't tell from the videos, we got along pretty well.