Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Talk: BRIANNA ON THE BRINK by Nicole McInnes

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.

Brianna Taylor had never been one of the cool crowd until she joined the cheerleading squad. Suddenly popular, she allows her best friend and alpha-female to call all the shots. A night out at the bar - courtesy of their fake IDs - finds Brianna with a stranger in her bed; a stranger with a health condition who has a heart attack shortly after they have sex.

Overwhelmed with guilt, Brianna follows the ambulance to the hospital and waits in the emergency room, only to discover why her lover had looked vaguely familiar. When her English teacher, Plain Jane, walks in and inquires about her husband, Brianna bolts. But being spotted in the ER is the least of her problems when Plain Jane's husband dies, and Brianna's cheerleading squad recognizes his memorial picture as the man she went home with from the bar.

Brianna wants nothing more than to leave everything about that night behind her, but that's impossible when she discovers that she's pregnant. Her own mother had never had much interest in her, and her older sister whom she'd been living with kicks her out after the whole story comes to light. Alone and abandoned, Brianna stays at a halfway house until an unexpected visitor comes for her.

Plain Jane had heard the rumors of Brianna's pregnancy, and who the father might be. Together, the two of them form an unlikely relationship and Brianna learns that when the people she thinks she can count on desert her at her time of need, help and a true sense of family can come in the most unexpected forms.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately are based on pets and transportation in the zombie apocalypse:

1) Why doesn't anyone on The Walking Dead have a dog? I feel like this would be a good early-warning system.

2) How about bicycles? Gasoline won't exist soon and highways are clogged anyway. Save what's left of the earth - ride a bike. Plus you'll build leg muscles and get good cardio - all useful later on when running for your life.

3) I'm always curious about why they don't grab a canoe and navigate waterways? It seems like an easy answer. I'm going to assume zombies can't swim and would be stranded on the banks while everyone floats by. Also I picture this happening to the song "Float On" by Modest Mouse.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Genre Jumping With Debut Author Lisa Ann Scott

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Lisa Scott, debut author of SCHOOL OF CHARM, available now from Katherine Tegen Books.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I was a pantser for my first few books (with a vague idea in my head where things were going.) Since then, I create outlines and find it much easier to work things out ahead of time (although surprises still pop up when I’m writing the first full draft.) I usually need to walk around with an idea in my head for a while before I start outlining—like literally going for long walks. My best ideas come to me that way.

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

It really depends on the story, the amount of research needed, if any. School of Charm took six months on my lunch breaks at work (and weekends,) but I’m writing faster these days, especially since I work from home now, splitting my time as a voice actor and writer. 

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

I’ve found that I’ve got a creative daily limit for each project, around 1500-2000 words. Recently, I’ve tried working on different projects at once. I’ll work on one novel in the morning, another in the evening. So far, so good. (I also write romance as Lisa Scott, so there are always lots of projects brewing.) 

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

I definitely had to put aside any worries about what other people would think. I also had to fight the nagging voice that would whisper, “You’re not good enough.” Stupid voice.

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

Two. One can’t be saved, the other needs some work and I may revisit it when I get time. (Ha!)

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

I’ve started and stopped at least half a dozen novels. Looking back on those abandoned projects, I can see that I had a premise without knowing the arc of the story and the character’s inner journey. (Another good reason to outline—you can find out if your story has legs.)

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

My agent is Jennifer Unter of The Unter Agency. I queried her the traditional way. She requested a full ms. a month after I queried her. It took another month to hear back. She’d sent me an email, and I remember my shoulders slumping before I opened it thinking she’d passed, because when you get an agent, you get the call, right? But no! She loved it and said she wanted to represent it. I love her. She has an editorial background and a legal background, and she’s very supportive and responsive.

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

Oh, it was a long, not fun process with lots of starts and stops. Short answer: 4 years. 
Here’s the long answer if you’re interested. I wrote a women’s fiction novel in 2007 and got 7 or 8 partial requests but no full requests. So, I did the logical thing and picked an entirely different genre—middle grade.  I finished the novel, and only queried a few agents, got no requests and decided something was off with the novel, but I didn’t know how to fix it. 

So I moved on to a new project! In early 2008, I wrote School of Charm and started querying that summer. I got a few partial and full requests. Then I lost my job in late 2008. I was a mess. Shortly after, I got a full request from an agent I was crazy about and I thought, “Look! It’s the new door opening for me.” And she rejected it. 

The job loss on top of the ms. rejection made me quit writing for a while. But I needed money and started writing romantic short stories for a magazine, then wrote my first romance novel and was submitting that to publishers. I was self-publishing some romantic shorts in early 2011 and thought about self-publishing School of Charm. A writer friend who’d read a bit of the book begged me to query again, so I sent out one more query. (I remembered how much I hated the process, and only sent out the one.) But that query got me my agent in mid-2011. 

So, no real easy way to answer that question! And honestly, I have no idea how many queries total I sent out. Dozens and dozens. (BTW, that romance novel got picked up by Bell Bridge Books.)

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

You’ve heard it before, but you only need that one person to love your book. I got lots of publisher rejections when we went out on submission. And the reasons they gave for passing on it ended up being the revisions my editor requested. But there was something about it she loved that she was willing to take it on despite the changes needed.

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

I’ve only seen it online. I’m certain I will freak out and cry and pose for pictures when I see it in a bookstore.

How much input do you have on cover art?

They incorporated a few touches I wanted, including the dandelion puff, so I was happy with that.

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

Just how nerve wrecking it can be even after the sale. The editor who bought my book left the publisher in the middle of the editorial process. That was really scary.  But the new editor assigned to me was great to work with, too. It seems like there’s always something new to worry about—journal reviews, customer reviews, sub-rights etc.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I do all my own marketing. I wish I were better at it. (Or that I didn’t have to do it at all!  It’s definitely a different skill set from writing fiction.) One of the best things I did was join a debut authors group. I’m a member of The Class of 2k14: Fiction Addiction. It’s so great to share the debut process with other people going through the same thing. And it’s a strong marketing opportunity, too.

I also have a site and am on Twitter and Facebook

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

Oh, before for sure. I wish I’d been more on top of that. Start making friends and chatting with people in your genre’s community even before you query.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I think it can, but I do believe most books that break through, take off from organic word of mouth.

Monday, February 24, 2014

In Which I Unabashedly Praise Adult Males Who Unabashedly Read YA

No really, I'm not kidding.

Something I've learned as NOT A DROP TO DRINK makes it way into the world is that my fan base has a very strong adult male contingent. Yes, really. One of the coolest experiences I've had so far as an author was to have my own work quoted back to me - and it was male dialogue coming from an adult male, wanting to know how I could write a man so well. And that was one hell of a compliment.

Recently my brother-in-law broke his wrist and was spending his downtime in the local bar / eatery with a group of winterized farmers. Having been laid up for awhile, the b-in-l had decided that he might as well read my book. And oddly enough he read it in two nights and really, really liked it. So he mentioned this at lunch with a group of farmers - none of them under 30 - and over the course of the conversation, each reluctantly shares that they too, had read it... and really liked it. In fact, my b-in-l returned to me with a list of book related questions from the group.

I really can't tell you how happy this made me.

Don't get me wrong, I've had lots of teen fans and adult women tell me they liked the book as well. But the longest and most in-depth conversations I've had about my book have been with adult males. In person, over email, through Twitter and Facebook, adult males are telling me how much they enjoyed reading a YA book with a female main character.

And that is so awesome.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

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.

When Princess Nel’s beloved Uncle Invidus vanished ten years ago, all she wanted was his safe return. Now that he’s come back and killed her parents, Nel wants nothing more than revenge. Interesting. Decent hook. I definitely want to know what's going on here.

With hopes of becoming an all powerful wizard, Invidus uses black magic to murder Nel’s parents, seize the Western throne, and awaken a deadly demon that will drain magic from every living creature and restore it within Invidus. When Nel sees how powerful Invidus is becoming she decides that she must stop the demon at all costs.

To do so, Nel must first uncover the demon’s tragic origin and she soon discovers that she is one of seven souls capable of destroying it. Despite her fears, Nel travels to an island of witchdoctors who agree to help Nel piece together the past by awakening Invidus’ deceased victims. Once Nel learns that the demon can only be destroyed through human sacrifice, she must decide if becoming a killer is worth saving her kingdom. Interesting. Yes, this is all well-written and very concise, but at the same time there's not a lot of emotional punch here. How does Nel feel, past the hook? Is she alone in this quest? Is there a love interest? You've done a great job of being concise about the main thrust of the story, and the protagonist's predicament is clear, but I feel like this is a very factual presentation that might need some more blood in it. For example - she awakens the deceased victims? Awesome!! Um... that includes her parents, right? Woah. Feels like a decent subplot there - is that the case? If so, maybe talk about it a little.

In short, there's really nothing *wrong* here. In fact, it's awesomely concise... maybe just a tad too drained of voice and blood. Give us a little more. Also, it might be good to state Nel's age at some point, we can assume YA but we all know what happens when we assume.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Book Talk: PANIC by Lauren Oliver

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.

Every year the seniors play the game, and no one talks. Because it's Panic.

The jackpot for Heather Nil's senior year is $67,000 With that money she can leave the trailer park behind and get her little sister away from their less-than-enthusiastic mother. In short - she can escape Carp, a town so small that everyone knows everyone and nobody amounts to much.

Dodge is playing too, and determined to win for reasons that have nothing to with money. Years before his older sister was a finalist in Panic, and now she's crippled, while the younger brother of the player responsible for her shriveling legs will be facing off with Dodge in this year's games.

People have died playing Panic. People have lost limbs playing Panic. And people who have won Panic don't always get the fairy tale ending they were expecting along with the cash prize. A series of escalating dares anonymously judged eliminate the players, whittling the seniors down to a handful: Heather, who wants a better future for herself and her sister. Nat, her best friend who wants a chance at a modeling job that won't involve her having to degrade herself. And Dodge, who only wants revenge.

Struggling with the danger involved and weighing her conscience against a chance to escape, Heather knows better than to talk to the police when something goes horribly wrong.

Because it's Panic. And if you talk, you're out.

Enter to win an ARC below:

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Behind the Scenes of a Cover Shoot with Erica Cameron Author of SING SWEET NIGHTINGALE

Today's guest for the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) is Erica Cameron, author of SING SWEET NIGHTINGALE, available March 4 from Spencer Hill Press.


Mariella Teagen hasn't spoken a word in four years. 

She pledged her voice to Orane, the man she loves—someone she only sees in her dreams. Each night, she escapes to Paradise, the world Orane created for her, and she sings for him. Mariella never believed she could stay in Paradise longer than a night, but two weeks before her eighteenth birthday, Orane hints that she may be able to stay forever. 

Hudson Vincent made a pledge to never fight again.

Calease, the creature who created his dream world, swore that giving up violence would protect Hudson. But when his vow caused the death of his little brother, Hudson turned his grief on Calease and destroyed the dream world. The battle left him with new abilities and disturbing visions of a silent girl in grave danger—Mariella.

Now, Hudson is fighting to save Mariella's life while she fights to give it away. And he must find a way to show her Orane’s true intentions before she is lost to Paradise forever.

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

While I knew I wanted my cover to be representative of the story and not just some pretty, but pointless, image, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted it to look like. My creative brain just doesn’t work like that!

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

The very first conversations I had with my editors were almost two years out. Just after they bought the book, they mentioned a few things about the plan for the cover. Over the next few months, we began clarifying our plans as the cover designer, Jeremy West, read the existing draft of Sing Sweet Nightingale. The cover shoot happened in March of this year, almost exactly a year away from the release date.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Yes! Spencer Hill was really fabulous about this. They asked for my ideas and my descriptions of the charters and the world as well as my thoughts on concepts they developed.

How was your cover revealed to you?

The first time I saw it was as a PDF attachment in email during a Skype call with my editors. They wanted to see my reaction!

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

Yes! I had a fabulously fun time revealing the cover and reading half of the first chapter at Book Expo America (BEA) in New York this past May. On the same day, the cover went live online and the response was amazing. Everyone loves Jeremy’s work.

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

I saw it for the first time about a month before the reveal.

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

OMG YES. I managed not to show it online, but pretty much everyone I see on a daily basis got to see it before the official reveal.

What surprised you most about the process?

For me, I was surprised when my editors and my cover designer invited me to the cover shoot. From what I understand, the authors aren’t generally there for that part of the process, but I wouldn’t change that experience for anything! It was so fantastic to see it in person and talk to the cover model. The whole day was a blast!

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

If you have concerns about the direction of a concept, be honest. In a polite, respectful way. Depending on your house, there’s no guarantee the art team will listen to you, but not saying something won’t help anyone. Often, the best way to go is to bring your agent into the mix and let them voice your problems. They’re more likely to handle the situation without getting emotionally invested in the answer, which is good for you in this case!

Below are Erica's pictures from the cover shoot session. What a lucky author to be present during the creative process!








Monday, February 17, 2014

A Cabin Fever PANIC Giveaway!

Well, I'm stuck in my house (again). Yes, things are not pleasant in Ohio, which means that I'm reading a lot. I could be writing a lot too, but that would mean being productive. Instead I continue to rip through the TBR pile, which works to your benefit. Enter to win an ARC of PANIC by Lauren Oliver below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 15, 2014

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.

It is the 24th century, and mankind is still shadowed by war. Decent hook. I don't know what kind of war, or why, but it's not a bad hook so it's worthwhile to keep reading.

Thanks to the heroic actions of thirty-year-old Captain Connor Crichton, the space colonies were victorious in the war against the Alliance and Reform Federation, declaring their independence from Earth. The colonies now live free from the cruel discrimination of the Earth’s world powers who still battle for the remaining territories on Earth. Interesting, it has a Revolutionary War type feel, but in space.

Detecting a strange anomaly close to the border I definitely have to wonder how a space border works / what it is separating the colonies from Earth, Connor is sent to investigate what could be an oncoming attack on the colonies. What he finds is much worse. Suddenly I'd kill "suddenly" it's implied by "ambushed" ambushed by an alien warship, Connor’s ship is sent crashing to Earth. His warnings of the approaching threat fall on deaf ears, and Connor can only watch as Earth is suddenly another use of "suddenly," again, implied by "invaded" invaded by alien cybernetic organisms – Sentinels. The machines are perfect soldiers, overwhelming both the Alliance and Reform Federation. Question - here you make it sound like Alliance and Reform Federation are two separate things, whereas before I was reading them as a single entity with a long name. This raises confusion - are there two Earth based groups / entities? And what are their roles? How are they different? If this isn't imperative to the plot, I'd consider only naming one for the purposes of the query.

When asked to become the voice asked by who? And why him? needed to unite the world powers of Earth and stop the Sentinels, Connor considers it a chance to use his cursed combat skills raises questions - "cursed" implies he doesn't like his combat skills, why not? Also, if he's being asked to be the "voice" it feels like a spokesperson role, but now his combat skills are key - explain. for good. But along the way, Connor makes a horrifying discovery, one that will make him question whether he’s a man – or a machine. There's a tease here, and a query is not the place to do that. What's the horrifying discovery?

A science fiction novel complete at 90,000 words, CYBER tells the story of a man who must decide whether to save the people that hated him, or leave them to their fate. And answer the riddle: What makes a machine, and what makes a man? Fantastic closer here. I like it. There are definitely some questions raised by the query, but overall it's concise and well-written.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Talk: AVALON by Mindee Arnett

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.

Space can be dangerous. That's something Jeth learned at a young age, when his parents were executed for treason by the uber-controlling government. Even though he's now leading a ragtag group of teen metatech thieves, he's still existing under somebody's thumb - the crime lord they work for.

When a job stealing a device that allows people to travel faster than light goes terribly wrong, Jeth accidentally learns that there may be more to his parent's deaths than he thought. Though the group escapes, Jeth is left shaken - and the next job his questionable boss gives him doesn't settle his nerves much.

If he takes his team into an unchartered and infamous region of space to recover a lost ship with metatech people are willing to kill for, his boss will give him what he's always wanted - his parent's ship - the Avalon. More than sentimental, the Avalon was specifically designed to travel into the Bermuda Triangle of space safely. With the Avalon, Jeth will finally be out from under the influence of his sketchy boss, and have the freedom he's always wanted.

But it means taking his team - including his younger sister and emotionally damaged uncle - into danger they've never faced before, and possibly learning some truths he doesn't want to know.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Thursday Thoughts

I think everyone knows I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to romantic love. Recently someone asked me what, if anything, could reverse my thoughts on the subject. I have three answers.

1) If I found a man who says my name the way Frodo says "Sam" every single time in Lord of the Rings.

2) If I found a man who yells my name when I'm in danger the way John Watson yells Sherlock's when he's on the edge of a rooftop.

3) If I found a man who said, "Clever girl" to me the same way the gamekeeper in Jurassic Park does to the velociraptor.

My stipulations:

1) Said man is also not allowed to say "po-ta-toes" every time we have them, because I'm Irish and that would get old fast.

2) I do not die (even fake die) at the end of this scenario at which point my man goes and finds another woman and marries her.

3) The man in question cannot be wearing shorts and khaki socks up to his kneecaps.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An SAT With Jessica Hayworth: Writing to Please Your Own Intentions

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Jessica Hayworth, author of MARTY MATTERS and MARTY MAYHEM, both available from Little Creek Books.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

Oh goodness!  Could I say both? I begin my novels with what I think is a good plan but quickly realize my mind has other plans! I usually do write in a rush, though, as I am so OCD…when I begin something, I cannot wait until it is finished! The words haunt me until they are on paper! 

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

Honestly, I can sit down and write a novel in about three weeks. Now, that does not mean that it is perfect at that point, by any means. After that, there are revisions upon revisions. 

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

I am definitely a one project at a time kind of gal. With that being said, ideas for other novels show themselves as I am writing. I simply write them down and promise to get to them later.  Some of them are still waiting on me…

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

Yes!  I still do. The very first time I wrote a novel, I was scared to show it to anyone! I was so afraid of failure. I quickly realized that I am not writing to please anyone. I am writing to appease the thoughts and intentions inside myself. Those intentions are always to tell the stories of those youngsters who can’t do it themselves. I just have to remember that I am writing for the right reasons, and the rest, well, I can’t worry about the rest.

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

No, I have never quit on an MS. I feel strongly that the idea was posed to me for a reason...maybe it was the story of a child in my classroom or one I saw on the news. It can, many times, be the combination of several observations from society. I work diligently to complete it the best I can. 

How long have you been querying? 

For my new project, I am currently querying. At this point, I have been querying for almost two months. I can’t say that my query is perfect, but it has undergone massive surgery…four times. I have learned that querying is no different than laying your heart on the line. Moreover, I have learned that rejections are not personal; the agent is just not the right match for the particular project. I know that as I learn more about the querying process, I will be led to the right agent. 

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

Research. Research. Research. As I am querying, I first do my research. In following many of the agents on Twitter, I have learned that their emails get bogged down by queries for genres they don’t even represent. They also have wish lists for a reason. Take time to research the agents, what they represent, and what specific projects they are begging to take on. 

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

Amazing! It’s wonderful to walk into a store and see the book on a shelf! As a reading teacher, I have watched my students read book after book. To see my own book in their hands is something I never thought would happen! 

How much input do you have on cover art?

Lots! The illustrator for both MARTY MATTERS and MARTY MAYHEM was wonderful to work with. She read my book and asked me what I envisioned. She worked super hard in order to get every detail correct. She would complete the cover and ask for any necessary revisions. She made me feel comfortable in doing so.She was so patient with me.  In the end, my vision became her vision. It was perfect!

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

Ha! The amount of editing!!! As a reading and English teacher of several years, I didn’t expect so many points of correction! Although the editing process takes several days, in the end, it makes the novel so much better!

How much of your own marketing do you? 

As my writing deals mostly with issues teens face, I attempt to hit them head on. I do as many school visits as time allows. I love to directly place the books into the hands of students. I also speak at reading councils and work with school systems that purchase the novels as instructional materials. I personally think it is important to do much of my own marketing. I want my readers to see that I am proud of my publications!

I also have a website and am on Twitter.

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

Personally, I think platform should be built as soon as possible. An author should know his/her audience and the situations they face in order to appeal to them. For me, being a teacher allows me an understanding of my readers and the issues they face daily. I don’t guess what they go through each day; I see it. 

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely! As an author, it is so important to reach out to potential readers. I feel it is important to give them a glimpse into your world. They can understand more about you and in turn, more about your writing. I know that I respect a book much more if I am able to identify with the author! Social media is great for building relationships! 



Monday, February 10, 2014

Breaking Up With Your Book

I finished my First Pass Pages of IN A HANDFUL OF DUST yesterday. For those of you who don't know, those are the printed, designed pages of your book that you read through to catch any last minute errors, problems, or general bad writing on your part before it goes to the printers to create ARCs (Advance Reading Copies). Doing your FPP's kind of feels like that last fight you had with your significant other - it's either going to be okay or it's not - and this is do or die.

In a lot of ways, it really does feel like a breakup. After this it's out of your life, and you both move on. To be honest, I'm 10k words into a fairly serious relationship with the WIP and DUST is already looking forward to having other people in its life who are going to take it to the next level.

So when we see each other again it'll be in a bookstore somewhere. DUST will be seeing other people (what can I say? I hope it sees a lot of other people and is flat out promiscuous), and I'll have my emotions invested in the book that will be coming out in 2015. It may or may not feel a flare of jealousy about that.

In the meantime, I'm reading in order to get over this breakup bump. And as usual, you guys are going to benefit. Here's an ARC of AVALON by Mindee Arnett up for grabs!

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Friday, February 7, 2014

IN A HANDFUL OF DUST Cover Reveal and ARC Giveaway!

Yesterday the cover for IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, a companion novel to NOT A DROP TO DRINK, was revealed on the YABC blog. Head over there to enter the ARC giveaway!


The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Thoughts lately feature enigmatic insults...

1) I recently became frustrated with a student and told them to "go buy a donkey." I don't know what it meant, they didn't know what it meant, but somehow it felt like I won.

2) When I get new books in series I hold them back for the kids that I know are reading the series at the moment, in order for them to escape the clutchy hands of what I call "Shiny-Grabbers." These are patrons that have no intention of reading the book, but like the reflection of light off the shiny new dust jackets. I liken them to Gollum.

3) I spontaneously called someone a "Seashell-Picker" the other day. I don't know why I believe this has negative connotations, but it definitely feels like futility and kind of alludes to boogers.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An SAT With Debut Author Frankie Brown

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Frankie Brown, author of UNTIL WE END, available now from Bloomsbury Spark. Frankie writes, sells and hoards books in Athens, GA, a funky little town famous for its music scene. But, as anyone who’s ever heard the fruits of Frankie’s musical endeavors can attest, her talents lie elsewhere. She’s turned her creative energy to crafting stories and can typically be found hunched over a keyboard in her neighborhood coffee shops.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

A little bit of both. I can’t write a scene without knowing exactly how it’ll end, but making lengthy outlines puts me to sleep. I usually have a few big scenes in mind to use as benchmarks and that’s as much planning as I do.

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

Well, UNTIL WE END was my first book! It took me a little less than a year to finish, edits included. Now that I know more about my process, I’m hoping it’ll be quicker. Six months is my goal.

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

I always get great ideas for new projects when I’m writing. Typically what I’ll do is bang out the first chapter of my Shiny New Idea while it’s still fresh in my head; that way I won’t lose the voice or concept of it. Then I’ll continue the project I was working on before, this time with incentive that once I finish, Shiny New Idea will be waiting for me...

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

Every time. My day usually goes: Stare at blank screen -> panic -> browse Twitter -> stare at blank screen -> browse Tumblr -> panic -> turn internet off -> write.

I wish I was kidding! Writing anxiety is a very real problem for me, so my writing process sometimes resembles a slow-burn panic attack. But when I have a plan (when I know exactly what I’m doing with a certain scene), nothing’s better than writing. Preparation beats anxiety every time.

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

I almost quit on UNTIL WE END! Before I even finished the book, people were telling me that it wouldn’t sell because dystopian was over -- and these were people who hadn’t even read it. But I did finish, and I tightened it, and I wrote what I hoped was a strong query letter (which you helped with, Mindy!) and here I am.

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

My agent is JL Stermer of N.S. Bienstock. I cold-queried her the “traditional” way.

I was actually in the somewhat bewildering and stressful position of having to choose between agents and manuscripts. A few agents were looking at my WIP for various complicated reasons, and I was talking to a few about UNTIL WE END, but I was so impressed with JL and her assistant Sammy that I had to say yes to them.

How long did you query before landing your agent?

I began querying in May and signed with JL in August.

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

Make your book as good as it can possibly be, and then make it better. Write a query that represents it (and your writing!) well. Don’t press send on anything less than perfect -- but at the same time, don’t get so caught up in editing that you never actually send a query. (Get on Twitter if you’re not already, and follow the agents you’re querying.) And don’t beat yourself up over rejection.

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

Exciting! And SCARY! But mostly exciting. Everything with my book happened very, very quickly, so it still hadn’t sunk in that I was a Published Author.

How much input do you have on cover art?

A lot. My editor, Meredith, is incredible. She included me in every step of the way, sending me very early drafts of cover proofs, asking what I thought about all of them, and making sure I was involved in the decision-making process. I couldn’t be happier with UNTIL WE END’s cover.

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

The supportive online community of YA writers and bloggers. I can’t imagine writing in a vacuum or going through this process by myself. The writer-friends I’ve made have helped keep me sane.

How much of your own marketing do you? 

I do a lot of my own marketing, as most writers do. I blog and Twitter handle is @frankiebrown25. Follow me those places and you’ll know what I’ve got going on.

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

I started Tweeting around the same time I started querying (May of last year), and I started blogging shortly before that. But I don’t like to think of my presence on social media as part of a planned platform. My Twitter and my blog are just places where I go to talk, like a water cooler.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely!

Monday, February 3, 2014

On Place vs. Space & Being A Writer & A Reader Plus INFINITE ARC Giveaway!

Many of you know I was trapped inside my house last week for quite awhile due to the polar vortex. So I opened up my Ask box on Tumblr, took questions, and answered them in a vlog. Enjoy!

And of course, while I was trapped inside my house I did some reading. Here's an ARC of INFINITE by Jodi Meadows from me to you. Enter in the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 1, 2014

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.

Invisible to the naked eye, the Haze flows harmlessly through the air. While it passes through most, there are those it gathers and thickens around who can harness its power—Deviants, the very people the governments of Earth have kept secret for centuries. I'm slightly confused by some of your wording in the hook. When you use the phrase "governments of Earth" it makes it sound like there are other planet governments to take into consideration as well, which judging from the other locations you use in the query, is not the case. I think using "of Earth" might make this sound more SF than it really is, and also... I think without being specifically told otherwise most people go ahead and assume that the location is, in fact, Earth. Also, some of the word choice here leans toward negativity - "harnessing power" is a phrase I usually think of as something a bad person does (might just be me, though) and that combined with the term Deviant (also has negative connotations) leads me into this with, "Oh no, Deviant = Bad" feelings, which might not be what you're going for. Lots of talk here from me already with the hook, but I think it needs pared down.

Eighteen years old and the only thing Cal Espers is good for is his sharp tongue and skills with a bow—little good that does in the tedious battle for social vitality. Still feeling like I don't quite have a grasp on genre here. A bow? Cool, but...  I felt tech-y SF coming with government controlled secrets, and now we've got a bow. And I'm unclear what "the battle for social vitality" means. Is this a true battle to keep humankind alive?  But when the mutilated monsters appear Again, alongside the "social vitality" phrasing I don't know if the monsters are a part of everyday life now or if this is a big, scary, new thing and ravage the streets of Mobile, Alabama, Cal’s sassy childhood friend, Nia, gets lost in the chaos. Cal risks his life to find her when he encounters one of the otherworldly abominations. His trump card: a stolen bow. Wait - I thought he already had a bow? Is this one special? Who did he steal it from? But it isn’t the arrow that shatters the creature’s invisible shield, it’s Cal’s ability to harness the Haze. Cal is a Deviant. Did Cal know this ahead of time?

The Haze is thickening, releasing more monsters by the second, What is the connection of the Haze to the monsters? I thought the Haze empowered Deviants- Cal is a Deviant and our hero, so... is the Haze a good thing or a bad thing? and the governments of Earth are left with one choice: find and annihilate all Deviants in hopes of dispersing it entirely. The only way Cal and Nia can avoid execution is to banish the Haze around them by completing their design—a goal they are given as Deviants. What does "completing their design" mean? 

If they can even figure out what the hell it is.

Monsters appear where the Haze is thickest, and that seems to be wherever Cal and Nia go. Until he can figure out his design, Does this mean like, his purpose / goal?  Cal must use his archery to stay alive and protect the one person he cares about. If Nia is also a Deviant why isn't she protecting herself? The governments want his head; the monsters want his blood. He’s never been hesitant to release the string, but he’s no longer shooting for self-satisfaction; now he’s shooting to kill.

Our 84,000-word YA urban fantasy, DEVIANT will appeal to older YA readers of the MORTAL INSTRUMENTS and WOLVES OF MERCY FALLS series as it is told from multiple viewpoints. Nia's narrative voice is reminiscent of Zoey Redbird in the HOUSE OF NIGHT series while Cal's witty, sarcastic voice will resonate with readers of John Green. Thank you for your time and consideration. I think you're right with the urban fantasy genre here, but as I mentioned earlier you need to take references to "Earth" out if there aren't other planets at work within the world-building, because it implies more of an SF slant than there actually is. Also, you've got a lot of comp titles here, too many - it makes it look like your book might be unfocused, or trying to do too many things at once.

There's a lot of clarity needed here - I'm unsure whether the Haze is good or bad. It makes Monsters, yet also gives our hero the ability to get rid of them. Our hero is also under threat of both monsters, and the government and he needs to find out a secret about himself in order to banish his own haze... I think. It looks like theres a lot of world-building involved with your story, and that's fine, but you need to re-read your query as if you were coming to it knowing absolutely nothing about your world and see if your brain isn't filling in gaps that it already knows the answers to, which your reader isn't able to fill.